Once upon a time, there was a lovely princess who lived alone, high on the cliffs of a mountain, within the crumbling walls of an ancient castle. The castle hadn’t always been dilapidated. Once it had been a magnificent kingdom full of vivid flora and enchanted fauna who could speak to the inhabitants of the kingdom. But a scorned and hateful sorcerer had cursed the princess’s mother and grandmother, and all of the mothers before them because one vain ancestor had dismissed the sorcerer’s love and proposal, choosing instead to marry a prince just as arrogant as she. From that day on, any daughter born to their line would be cursed, killing instantly anyone or anything she touched. Over the centuries, the townspeople of the kingdom fled for their lives, fearful of their once peaceful home until none remained. When the new king died following his marriage to the cursed queen and she gave birth to the princess in solitary in the forsaken place, she abandoned the child to the decaying castle. The queen wrapped the princess in an old scarf, and pressed a kiss to the child’s brow. Tears dripped from the queen’s face, sprouting blackened and ashen colored flowers where they fell.
And so the princess had lived alone all these years with a broken heart for the family she had lost. The decaying kingdom turned pitiful shades of ebony and shaded silver to match the agony the princess felt. And the grounds of the castle were covered with charcoal and heather colored blossoms for everywhere the girl cried, a bloom of such shadow and despair would grow. The only color that remained in the lands was the bright red of the princess’s hair, forever conformed to unify with her shattered heart.
One day, the princess peered up into the cloudless sky and saw a great black beast hovering and soaring high above the castle towers. She watched as it tilted awkwardly, frozen in the air before plummeting to the ground. The princess, horrified, dashed to the spot where the creature lay. As she came closer, she could see that it was a tremendous dragon. It’s eyes were shut in agony but she could see the slight rise of it’s body that revealed the life within. The princess backed away, cautious, for she could do nothing to help the animal. Her touch would surely bring about it’s awful demise.
“Pleeeeeease,” it hissed at her as it opened it’s eyes a crack. The princess shook her head but still she stretched her hands toward the dragon. She could see the dragon’s wing was protruding from it’s body at an awkward angle. Desperate to help, she searched for anything she might use to glove her hand. Finding an enormous onyx rose, she reached for the flower and used the bloom to touch the dragon. She set the wing aright and bandaged it with the scarf left behind by her mother.
The dragon remained within the castle walls as he could not fly and take leave and he and the princess soon spent their waking hours together. One evening, as they sat watching the dusky slate sunset, the dragon spoke to her of his own curse. For he had once been a cruel and greedy prince who had been banished from his empire. One day while walking in the woods, he came upon an old beggar man. The man stopped and had asked the prince for a bit of bread and water but the prince refused, disgusted by the old man’s filth and appearance. As the prince shook away the beggar’s bony hand, the beggar transformed before the prince’s eyes into a sorcerer. “Because of your refusal to help a poor soul, you will be cursed to wander this lands as a loathsome creature no one could cherish. But,” the sorcerer told the prince once the curse was effected, “if you can change your ways and bring happiness to others, and love selflessly without wanting love in return, then, and only then, will your curse be broken.”
The princess was moved by the dragon’s story and offered her help in breaking his curse. But the dragon shook his head and told her, “the curse states that only I can free myself. However,” the dragon continued, “perhaps I can help you find your happiness. Surely, living alone here in the dark brings you no joy?”
Tears fell from the princess’s eyes and flowers grew at her feet. She nodded at the dragon’s words and told him of her own curse. “So it’s better that I am alone here, where I can harm none,” she said sadly.
The dragon thought deeply about the princess’s words before he responded, “but how do you know that your touch would cause one to perish?” The dragon looked around at the flora that bloomed at the princess’s feet. “It appears to me that your touch causes things to grow.” He flapped his wing for good measure and the princess stopped crying. What if the dragon was right? But, she thought, what if he was wrong?
“I’ve never tried to touch anything or anyone,” the princess said cautiously. The dragon stepped closer and offered her a clawed paw. “Take my hand,” the dragon said. But the princess shook her head. “But what if I harm you?” The dragon shook his head? “But what if you don’t? Be brave, princess,” the dragon said as he offered the talon again.
Fearful, but pushing the fear aside, the princess reached forward and took the dragon’s hand. Together, they were enveloped in an ink like dark cloud of sable and slate but as the cloud grew, colors appeared. Ruby and fuchsia, tangerine and coral, goldenrod and lemon, lime and pine, cobalt and azure, lilac and pomegranate. Mixing together, whirling and twirling about them until at once, the colors flew to all corners of the kingdom, lightening and brightening the darkness that had enveloped it. When the princess looked down at their hands linked together, she smiled, feeling joy for the first time in her life. But that joy fled from her soul as she recognized that the dragon was not breathing. She leaned closer, placing her hand upon the dragon’s heart, but she felt nothing. Her curse had indeed brought about his end. Tears leaked from her eyes and fell upon the dragon’s scales, each scale turning a different color, until the dragon was painted in a rainbow of teardrops.
As the princess placed a kiss upon the dragon’s head, she was startled to feel the dragon’s body shift and move beneath her embrace. She straightened, and watched as the dragon changed and returned to his human form. When his metamorphosis was complete, the prince stirred and awoke and peered up at the princess. “You saved me,” he whispered to her. The princess took his hand in his, feeling the warmth that flowed beneath his skin as their fingers laced together. “No,” the princess replied, “we saved each other.”