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Quadrivium by Girldetective85

Format: Novel
Chapters: 3
Word Count: 9,687
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Drama, Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin

First Published: 02/14/2009
Last Chapter: 09/02/2009
Last Updated: 09/02/2009

Spectacular banner by chiQs09 at eHPF!

2009 Dobby Winner: Best Founders Era

Princess Helena has always dreamt of the world beyond her tower, a place utterly forbidden to her. So when the opportunity arrives, she embarks on a dragon hunt that quickly becomes something more: a chance to discover herself, to find a place to belong, and to meet the three people with whom she will create the very foundations of magic.

Chapter 1: The Dragon Hunt
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Author's Notes: I've been REALLY excited about this story for some time. Now that almost all of my other fics are finished, I am proud to finally post this!

Everything you recognize is owned by J.K. Rowling and everything you don't recognize is mine.

No attempt has been made at historical accuracy. I have borrowed elements of Arthurian legend and fairy tales which may not appear in their accuracy or entirety.

written by:

Chapter One
The Dragon Hunt

Once upon a time, in the faraway kingdom of Damaria, there lived a kind and beautiful princess. But before you brace yourself for a tale of how she sat in an ivory tower awaiting her true love, let me tell you first and foremost that Helena was not your average princess. She did indeed live in a splendid castle and sleep in a tower bedroom, but what made her different was the fact that she longed for the world below.

There were four windows in her tower, each facing a different direction and each more tantalizing than the last. Through the eastern window, she could see the sun rise each morning over the hazy mountains. From the northern window, she could hear birds singing in the woods that bordered her father's kingdom. The window facing west showed her the village below with its thatched-roof houses and chimneys, but the view to the south was Helena's favorite. She could spend hours staring out to sea, daydreaming of what lay beyond those glittering turquoise waters. Oh, how she wished she could find out for herself!

You see, princesses in those days were not free to do as they liked. Helena and her sisters had been born and raised within the castle gates, and there they would stay until they were married. "It's not safe for us to go out," Catherine would say whenever Helena brought up the subject. Geraldine would add, "There are monsters and dragons who will lock you up in towers." And Helena would secretly think, How is that different from where I am right now?

It was a different case for her three brothers, who could go wherever and do whatever they wanted. Each week brought them some fresh new adventure. They would gallop out of the gates with their knights, ready to defeat the latest ogre or rescue another fair damsel. Helena used to cry when she watched them go but as the years passed, she learned to keep her wishes to herself. She grew into a tall, serious-eyed young woman, but deep inside, she still longed for adventure and had never quite forgotten the old dreams of mountain, sky, and sea.

No one in her family understood her (except perhaps her eldest brother, but he could only sympathize and do little to help). Her father was a very busy man who had neither time nor patience for his girls, while her sisters were pretty, flighty things who cared for little beyond their looking-glasses. And as for friends, Helena had none; everyone was too terrified of the strange things that would sometimes happen when she was around.

In short, I'm afraid it was a sad and lonely existence for our poor heroine. Had fate not stepped in, it would have been a boring one as well. But as you know, in such stories and legends as these, fate always has a part to play.

Our story begins on a mild midsummer's day, when a messenger arrived at court with an interesting piece of news...

*   *   *

"Urgent message for the king!" the man screamed, tearing across the cobblestones on his horse.

The guard crossed his arms lazily. "Don't wet yourself. What on Earth is it?"

"A dragon is terrorizing our village!" shrieked the messenger, giving him a baleful glare. "I want to speak to King Richard immediately."

"You hear that, Thomas?" The guard smirked and elbowed his friend. "There's a dragon in this man's village."

Thomas chuckled. "Mummy's still telling him bedtime stories, eh?"

"Please!" the messenger whined.

"Dragons don't exist, you barmy fool," exclaimed the first guard. "Ogres, yes. Witches, yes. Trolls ... perhaps."

The man swung himself from the saddle and reached into his tunic. "Here!" he said triumphantly, whipping out something wrapped in a piece of muslin. "A genuine talon found in the wreckage of the church."

The two guards scrutinized it skeptically. "Looks like a chicken bone to me," said Thomas. He snatched it from the man's hand and tossed it in the air. "Here, Peter, catch it."

Peter caught it and threw it back to him, grinning as the messenger dashed between them in desperation. "If you want your little toy back, you'll have to work for it."

A girlish voice sounded from within the gates. "What's the matter?"

The demeanor of the two guards changed immediately as they bowed to the girl standing behind them. The talon fell to the ground and the relieved messenger snatched it up.

"Nothing, Your Highness," Peter said respectfully. "This man has a message for your father." He glared at the messenger. "This is Princess Helena, you ingrate. Bow!"

The messenger quickly bent at the waist, his eyes on the princess. She was a tall girl of about twenty with an open, sweet face and large brown eyes. Her long, dark blond braid hung over one shoulder of her simple wool dress. Had it not been for the guard's command, he wouldn't have guessed that she was the king's daughter at all. "Please, my lady," he begged, "I have important news for your father that cannot wait."

Helena frowned at the guards. "Why didn't you let him through?" she asked before turning to the messenger. "Come along, I'll show you to him myself." As they walked through the archway, the princess studied the balding, perspiring man beside her. He was clutching a piece of fabric to his chest as though it contained a treasure. "What do you have there?" she inquired. "I'm afraid it will have to be confiscated before you see my father. The guards inspect everything, you see."

He looked aghast. "No, my lady, it is absolutely vital that I show this to him," he declared. "This cloth contains the talon of Firetongue." He thrust it under her nose.

"Who is Firetongue?" Helena asked politely, staring at the strange object.

"The dragon that has been destroying our village, two days' journey from here. My son named it," he added proudly before remembering the gravity of the situation. "I came here hoping that King Richard would send one of his knights to help us. I wouldn't dream of asking for one of the princes, of course, although that would be wonderful -"

"A - a dragon, did you say?" Helena repeated, raising her eyebrows. "Well ... we'll see what we can do for you." Privately she was just as skeptical as the guards had been, but she pitied the poor little man. He obviously believed his story, however insane it sounded, and he would not be easy until he had seen the king.

They reached the doors of the throne room and were stopped by the two men who guarded them. "What's that?" one of them demanded, eying the small package.

"It's all right, Bernard," Helena said reassuringly. "It's a very small token he needs to show my father."

The guard bowed his head in deference to her and let them pass, though he continued to eye the messenger suspiciously.

King Richard sat on a raised platform at the front of the room, a magnificent banner of gold and black cascading down behind him. Both the banner and the tunic he wore depicted a badger surrounded by a ring of golden roses, the family symbols for courage and faith. He held his handsome head high, gazing down his regal nose at the newcomer. "Who is this, Helena?" he asked impatiently. "Can't you see I'm busy?"

Helena had just noticed the horse-faced man sitting on a lower chair beside him. "I'm so sorry, Father, but this man has urgent news for you. My apologies to you as well, King Humphrey," she added.

The horse-faced man smiled condescendingly at her, baring his yellow teeth. "That's quite all right, Princess."

"Your Majesty - Majesties." The messenger prostrated himself before the throne. "My name is Gideon and I come with a most distressing piece of information. Well, distressing for me anyway." He fiddled nervously with the muslin cloth. "Actually, perhaps not so very distressing after all, as people will be clamoring to visit our village for a look at it and we could probably make some money -"

King Richard cleared his throat.

Gideon came hastily to the point. "A dragon has been running wild through our lands."

There was silence for a very long time.

"A dragon?" King Richard finally echoed. He and King Humphrey looked at each other and burst into uproarious laughter.

The talon emerged from the cloth and was shown promptly to the two kings. "I swear to you that this is a dragon, as true as you see me standing here," Gideon said earnestly. "You must believe me. It has destroyed half our village and almost all of the forest beyond, leaving a trail of fire in its wake."

"I suppose it flies too?" King Humphrey interrupted, laughing at his own wit.

Gideon pondered this. "Well, it has wings, but I have yet to see it fly..."

"Enough," said King Richard lazily. "Well, man, what do you wish me to do? Will sending one of my knights satisfy you?"

The messenger's face brightened. "Yes, of course! What about Sir Hanslan? Or Sir Roderick?" He clasped his hands together. "Or perhaps Sir Gendron?"

"This is not a banquet table where you can decide between a goose or a leg of lamb," King Richard said sternly. Helena let loose a giggle that she quickly covered with a cough. "You will take whichever of my men I see fit to send and -"

"I'll go, Father." Prince Donovan, the king's eldest son, strode confidently into the room. Like Helena, he had their father's height and dark blond hair, but his commanding presence was all his own. "I am willing to find out whether there is truth behind this far-fetched story."

Gideon had nearly passed out from joy. Having come prepared to be satisfied with any of the king's knights, he hadn't even imagined the prospect of commissioning the king's favorite son.

"Why, Donovan, I thought you had other business to attend to." King Richard looked at this young man with more affection than he had ever shown any other human being. "That Duchess from Finbar ..."

"Rescued three weeks ago, wooed two weeks ago, got tired of her a week later," said Donovan, winking, with the charming grin that had melted many a virtuous maiden's heart.

King Richard chuckled. "Well, if you insist. What about Balloch and Cameron?"

Donovan shrugged at the mention of his brothers. "I'm sure they'll come too, just for the fun of it."

By this time, Gideon was practically convulsing with joy. "Oh thank you, thank you!" he said, looking as though he wanted to kiss the king's feet. "My village will be forever in your debt, sire. You are a kinder and better lord and master than anyone has ever known before."

The king, who was very susceptible to flattery, simply glowed. "My sons will join you on the morrow. You may stay here for the night. Helena, show him to a room."

"We have servants for that, Father," Donovan said reproachfully, putting an arm around his sister and winking at her. "Besides, Helena will be busy packing because I want her to come as well."

The princess's brown eyes widened. "Really?!"

"Stop your jesting, son," the king said, chortling.

Donovan raised his eyebrows. "I wasn't jesting, sire. My sister is quite grown now and I think she ought to ride out with us just this once."

Helena threw her arms around him gratefully. "I would love to go!"

King Richard shook his head immediately. "Out of the question. Helena stays here."

"Oh, Father!" Helena groaned at the exact same moment that her brother said, "Father, it's only for a few nights and just for some laughs. This dragon can't be real -" Gideon made an offended noise that everyone ignored.

"I said, out of the question," the king repeated. He gestured to King Humphrey. "We have some business to discuss with Helena and I simply cannot spare her at this time. Besides," he said, looking carelessly at his daughter, "whoever heard of anything more ridiculous than a princess going on a quest?"

*   *   *

After supper, Helena threw herself onto the bed and buried her face in a pillow.

Geraldine, who was sitting at the looking-glass brushing her long red hair, raised an eyebrow at her. "What in the world is wrong with you?" she asked haughtily.

Catherine let out a loud sigh from the window-seat, where she was cleaning her fingernails with a small twig. "She's probably upset that she can't go on that stupid dragon hunt tomorrow."

"What dragon hunt?" asked Geraldine, puzzled.

Her sister let out another exaggerated sigh. "Don't you ever listen? Donovan wouldn't shut up about it all through supper."

"I was busy talking to Sir Roderick, of course," Geraldine responded with a giggle. "Did you notice how much handsomer he's been looking lately?"

"He's dumb as a bag of rocks," Catherine answered, "and besides, Father would never agree to let you marry him."

Helena let out a loud, muffled groan from where she lay on the bed.

"Will you tell us what the matter is already?" demanded Geraldine, exasperated.

"I'm upset about the dragon hunt because Donovan told me I could go," Helena responded miserably.

"See?" Catherine said triumphantly, then paused. "Wait - why are you upset if he said you could go?"

"Father won't let me go. He says I have to stay here and wait for three days."

Geraldine set down her brush and turned around curiously, her bright green eyes on her sister. "What do you mean, wait for three days? What will happen in three days?"

"I have to marry King Humphrey's eldest son. Father spent the entire morning bargaining me away." Helena let out a sob of despair and a small glass vial of rosewater on Geraldine's table suddenly exploded.

"Good lord," Geraldine muttered, choosing to ignore it as she did all of the strange things that occurred near an upset Helena.

Catherine came and sat on the bed, stroking her sister's hair sympathetically. "I'm sorry, darling, but at least he'll have hair even if he probably has yellow teeth and a horse face like his father. King Humphrey has all of his hair still."

Helena sat bolt upright, her eyes flashing. "I'm not angry because he could be ugly!"

"Then why are you angry?" Geraldine asked calmly. "I would think you'd be ecstatic. You keep talking about wanting to leave this tower..."

"Not to go and sit in another tower!" Helena cried.

"It'll be a change of scenery at the very least," Catherine said, trying to comfort her.

Helena let out a long sigh. Sometimes talking to her sisters was like trying to teach the dog how to read. "Never mind," she grumbled. "I'm going for a walk." She stalked out of the room angrily, her head held high. If only Donovan hadn't broached the subject right in front of their father! Had he come to her in private afterward, she could have had the chance to sneak out before the king even noticed.

As she walked down to the stables, Helena angrily scuffed her shoes on the cobblestones. Now that she was to marry this Prince Drustan or whatever his name was, she would lose all hope of ever seeing the world. Not that there was ever much hope to begin with, she thought bitterly. She would move from her father's castle to her husband's castle and spend her days weaving, moping, and raising a passel of babies. Helena was positive that her mother had died from sheer boredom, not from the difficult birth of Catherine.

The stables, Helena soon discovered, were the worst place to go at this moment. All of her brother's men were sitting inside with tankards of ale, joking and talking excitedly about the next day's dragon hunt.

Disgusted, she was about to return to her room when Sir Roderick's comment caught her attention. "Gendron isn't coming," he was saying in an amused voice. "He's pretending to be ill so he won't have to go."

"I can't blame him," said the lazy voice of Sir Hanslan. "We're chasing after air, I tell you. Can't imagine why Donovan wants to go."

"You can't? I can," said another knight with a smile in his voice. "That village two days hence is near Castle Kilbert."

Sir Roderick laughed knowingly. "I see."

Helena hadn't the slightest idea what was special about Castle Kilbert, but she continued eavesdropping. Sir Gendron, the knight who was pretending to be ill, was one of the few men she could tolerate. Smaller in stature than the other men, he was nevertheless one of Prince Donovan's greatest fighters and had always been genuinely kind to her.

"Well, we'll be short one of the party then," said Sir Hanslan carelessly. "Come on, let's go down the moat for some air. This place stinks of horse."

Helena heard a great clanging of metal and Sir Roderick's voice saying, "Guess he won't be needing this armor." She crept into the corner by the door just as all of the knights came walking out, talking loudly and waving their drinks in the air.

With the stables now deserted, she went inside and looked at Sir Gendron's armor that lay by the door. Gendron was a small man and Helena was a tall girl...

She lifted the chainmail with difficulty, as it was extremely heavy. She would have to improvise somehow. She caught sight of her own reflection in the shield and stared into her own eyes. Was this a crazy idea? Her father would be furious if he knew. But if she could go and return within three days...

As long as Helena disguised herself well, as long as she came back in time to marry that prince, maybe her father wouldn't even notice that she had been gone.

This is your only chance, she told herself sternly. Will you take it?

Slowly, a smile came onto her face.

Chapter 2: The Sword and the Dragon
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Author's Notes: Everything you recognize is owned by J.K. Rowling and everything you don't recognize is mine.

No attempt has been made at historical accuracy. I have borrowed elements of Arthurian legend and fairy tales which may not appear in their accuracy or entirety.

Hope you enjoy this chapter!

written by:

Chapter Two
The Sword and the Dragon

Shortly before dawn, Prince Donovan and his men galloped out of the castle gates and onto the Red Road heading north. The prince rode with Gideon in front of a group of knights that had grown significantly since the news had broken out the night before. Several young men (including Donovan's two younger brothers) had joined the hunting party, using the imaginary dragon as an excuse to shirk quieter duties around the castle. At the very rear of this jovial group rode a small knight on a piebald mare. Every now and then, the knight would nervously tuck a loose strand of long hair beneath his helmet. The other men knew him only as 'Herman' and had decided, after trying to talk and joke with him in vain, to leave him alone.

Helena was dying to rip off her helmet and ride up beside her brothers, but she restrained herself. If tthey discovered that 'Herman' was actually the king's eldest daughter, they would take her straight back home. Donovan spoiled her but he would never go against their father's wishes. Ignoring the beads of sweat that tickled her neck, Helena looked around rapturously, drinking in the feeling of being on the road. She had seen enough sky and tree and grass from her tower windows, but never like this! The smell of wildflowers and summer air was intoxicating and she felt like laughing out loud for joy. These three days will be the best days of my life, she told herself firmly, determined to remember every single detail.

It was late in the afternoon when the hunting party came to the town of Summerfield. "Finally!" cheered Sir Hanslan, stretching in the saddle. "About time we stopped for food and water!"

"Wait," murmured the knight beside him. "Something's wrong."

Helena craned her neck to see past them. Donovan and Gideon had both stopped at the front of the group, staring at something ahead. The men began talking excitedly amongst themselves, several of them pointing at whatever the prince was looking at.

"What? What is it?" Helena demanded, forgetting to deepen her voice. She urged her horse forward, trying to catch a glimpse of what everyone was looking at.

All around them, the village was empty and quiet except for a loud rustling noise that sounded very much like -

"Fire!" Gideon yelled, throwing himself from his horse. He jabbed a finger at the burning houses in front of them, eyes wide with indignation. "See? See! The dragon has been here!" He gasped and clutched his horse's neck. "The dragon may still be here!"

Donovan shook his head impatiently. "Calm yourself. It may be a cooking accident -"

"In five different houses?" shrieked Gideon, quite forgetting himself. "A fairly big coincidence, all right..."

"Remember to whom you speak," Sir Roderick snapped. "You -" He never managed to finish his sentence and trailed off, his eyes widening. He was staring at something enormous in the distance, lumbering behind a clump of trees. Even from where they stood, the knights could feel the ground shaking lightly as it moved.

"W-what was that?" Sir Hanslan quavered.

Prince Balloch was already turning his horse in the creature's direction. "Don't let it get away!" he shouted, tearing after it with his sword drawn.

"You idiot, get back here!" Donovan yelled fearfully after his brother. "Cameron, don't you start too!"

The youngest prince gave him a disdainful look and tore off after their sibling.

It turned out that there was no need for the two to chase after the dragon, for in the space of thirty seconds, the dragon had realized that it was being pursued. It spun around angrily and lumbered towards them, stopping about a hundred feet away. The knights stared up at it in mingled shock and curiosity. It was a monstrous, lizard-like creature with a luminescent pea-green skin, the scales alternately turning red in the sunlight. From head to talon, it stood six or seven times higher than a grown man and could probably span the width of three small houses. It had shining, serrated yellow wings folded closely against its back and intelligent dark eyes that surveyed them from above a mouth filled with teeth.

Prince Balloch stood closest to it and had already brought out his shield. "Well?!" he shouted. "Why isn't it breathing fire?"

"I expect it's used most of it up for the houses," Prince Cameron suggested.

The dragon cocked his head, watching the knights in front of him. One front leg lifted from the ground, the talon twitching threateningly.

Helena marveled at how human the eyes seemed and felt a tingle across her skin. Somehow she had the feeling that this dragon understood exactly what they were saying.

"Why isn't it doing anything?" questioned Sir Roderick, puzzled.

Prince Donovan shrugged. "Balloch! Cameron! Retreat at once," he commanded.

His brothers did so grudgingly. "It doesn't seem like it wants to harm us," protested Cameron, jabbing his sword in the dragon's direction. "It's just a stupid dumb lizard."

The dragon's nostrils twitched.

"You are, aren't you?" Sir Hanslan remarked to the dragon. "Big silly creature, bet it doesn't even know how to use those talons."

Several of the knights in front had gained courage from the dragon's seeming gentleness and began to approach it, examining its feet and talons. To Helena's surprise, it barely flinched, allowing some of the boldest men to dismount and stand near it. It was only when Sir Roderick foolishly poked its toe with his sword that it let out a deafening roar and grabbed him round the middle.

"Roderick!" the men yelled, watching helplessly as he dangled in its grasp.

"Put him down, you great brute!" Prince Balloch bellowed.

Gideon, who had begun screaming like a girl, started running away. Either this - or his annoying high-pitched screams - had attracted the dragon's attention. Just as Gideon was scurrying past Helena, the dragon made three thunderous steps forward and had scooped Gideon up in his other foot.

"Stop it! He hasn't done anything to hurt you!" shouted Donovan, preparing to stab the dragon's thick, swishing tail.

Helena and her horse were now almost directly beneath the dragon; one move and it would crush them both. "Look out! Please!" she pleaded.

The dragon seemed to have heard her and paused, a man clutched in each claw, looking down at her.

"Please, please put them down," she begged, jumping from her horse. "They don't want to hurt you! Please let them go!"

Donovan had heard her voice too. His face turned bright red with fear and anger. "Helena! Is that you?"

The princess pulled off her helmet and looked sheepishly at her brother before turning back to the dragon. It was still staring at her in surprise. Whether it had gotten tired of holding Sir Roderick, who was busy trying to stab its arm with his sword, or whether it was drawn to Helena's long bright hair, nobody knew for certain. But the dragon decided to let go of Sir Roderick and pick up Helena instead.

The princess's brothers were shouting and stabbing the dragon's legs frantically, trying to free their sister, but the creature simply folded its limbs beneath its belly, flexed its wings, and took off into the air with Helena and Gideon in each of his front claws, leaving the knights far below them until they were nothing but tiny black specks.

* * *

In a seaside kingdom far to the South, people were filing into Weymouth Castle to attend the wedding of King Constantine's most famous war captain. Nobles dressed in their finest clothing filled the chapel, eagerly anticipating the feast that would follow even more than the actual wedding. Everyone knew that Sir Godric Gryffindor would be given a spectacular celebration with the best food and music that could be acquired in the land.

The man himself was standing at the altar, beaming with pride and joy. Godric Gryffindor had always been handsome, but that day he looked particularly well in his gleaming tunic of scarlet and gold, the signature colors of his family crest. Well, he claimed they were the signature colors anyway. No one knew where he had come from originally. He had shown up on the castle doorstep as an infant and King Constantine's father had taken him in out of kindness. Despite the many hardships that Godric had faced while growing up - among them, disdain for his unknown birth and resentment for his high standing with the king - he believed that he had found happiness at last.

Not only had he singlehandedly led his men to yet another victory in the Battle of the Cormorant, Godric had finally managed to convince the beautiful Lady Gwendolyn Ansley to marry him.

"Congratulations, Gryffindor," said a cold voice beside him.

He turned to see King Constantine's cousin, Cynric, watching him shrewdly. "Thank you. It's a very happy day for me."

Cynric sneered. "Of course it is. A bastard of no birth and consequence enters the court of a great king," he murmured, "only to emerge with glory in battle and the hand of an exquisite noblewoman. Why should it not be a happy day?"

Godric gave a humorless laugh. "I have long known of your dislike for me, Cynric. I will not let your bitterness affect me today," he answered. "If Gwendolyn wanted to marry you, she would not have accepted me."

"How could she help accepting you?" hissed Cynric. "You bewitched her, the way you've bewitched Constantine's entire court. Do you understand, Sir Gryffindor?" He spat the name as though it tasted vile. "Your time here is at an end. You cannot fool me and I know more about you than you believe."

Though he was disconcerted, Godric chose not to show it. "You're a fool," he said with disgust.

Cynric ignored him. "Have you forgotten that I grew up in this castle too? I have had ample opportunity to watch you, Gryffindor, and I know your weakness. You are nothing without ..."

The minstrels in the corner began their fanfare, the music successfully blocking out Cynric's poisonous words. Godric forced himself to face front. He had half a mind to drag the man out of the room and resolve their conflict outside, but that would have to wait until later.

A procession of little girls paraded down the aisle, throwing buttercups and hogweed from their baskets. Finally the bride came through the double doors with her father. Gwendolyn was the loveliest woman at court with her cascading chestnut hair and soft dark eyes. She was smiling broadly under her veil and Godric smiled back, all thoughts of Cynric dissolving as he looked at the woman he had loved for so long. Being a daughter of one of Constantine's councillors, Gwendolyn had also grown up in the castle, but Godric had never dreamed that he could marry her. His unknown birth, his lack of family and estate - but Gwendolyn had been willing to overlook those things, the sweet, loving girl that she was.

The bride's father released her and gave her hand to Godric. The couple knelt in front of the bishop and bowed their heads. The ceremony dragged on for Godric, whose eyes continually darted to his bride's glowing face. It finally ended amidst loud cheering and celebrating as the newlyweds kissed, and everyone retreated to the Great Hall for the feast.

"Well, Lady Gryffindor?" Godric said proudly, beaming down at his new wife.

"How grand it sounds! Gwendolyn Gyffindor," she remarked, her face lighting up.

He kissed her hand. "We will give all of our children names beginning with 'G,' " he said teasingly. They entered the already crowded Great Hall, divided into sections by the many benches lining its walls. At the head of the room stood the high table with seats for the king, queen, newlyweds, and their family. Godric noticed that Constantine was still absent, as was Cynric.

"Where is the king, Your Majesty?" he asked the queen, who was sitting alone.

She smiled, though her face held hints of anxiety. "He is holding council with some of his men," she explained. "I hope he will be here soon."

"Council?" Godric repeated in surprise. "Without me? I was not informed of this."

"I'm afraid my husband does not confide in me about these matters," the queen said gently. "Perhaps he is planning a wedding surprise for the two of you," she added, though she hardly looked convinced herself.

Godric bowed. "Perhaps you are right." Now that he looked around the hall, he realized that almost all of the king's men were absent. Why were they meeting in secret? Why had Constantine left him out? Godric had always been perceptive and if he trusted his senses tonight - which had never before failed him - he had a feeling that the secret council had to do with him and not in a good way.

"You look worried," Gwendolyn remarked. "I'm sure it is as the queen says. They must be preparing a surprise for us."

"I don't doubt it, my love," he lied.

The answer came almost instantaneously. Amidst the music and chatter, there came the sound of marching feet. Through the doors of the Great Hall came King Constantine, a formidable-looking man despite his relative youth, and about two dozen knights. Cynric walked directly behind the king, smirking at Godric, carrying something wrapped in a white cloth. The Great Hall silenced immediately, watching as the men approached the high table to face Godric.

"Constantine, what..." Godric began.

"Silence!" snapped Lord Beardsley, opening a roll of parchment. "Godric Gryffindor. You are hereby sentenced to arrest by the court of King Constantine ..."

The hall erupted in shocked murmurs.

"What!" roared Godric, rising from his seat.

" ... on this eighth day of the month of June," Beardsley continued, trying to speak over the din. "You are accused of enchanting not only the members of said king's court as well as witchcraft upon weaponry and warfare -"

"That doesn't make any sense!" shouted Godric. Beside him, Gwendolyn looked terrified and grasped his hand uncertainly.

Constantine raised his hands impatiently. "Beardsley, shut up," he said. "Godric ..."

"What is the meaning of this, Constantine?" Godric demanded, staring into his old friend's eyes. "Why do you accuse me thus, a man who has faithfully served and loved you all his life?"

The king didn't seem to want to meet his eyes. "Godric, please. Will you accompany us into a more private chamber so that we may resolve this matter?"

"No, I will not," answered Godric. "What you have to say, you may say in front of the entire court that I have supposedly enchanted and bewitched." He spat the last few words and looked directly into Cynric's face, for he knew whose words they were.

Everyone flinched at the way he had spoken to the king, but Constantine ignored it. "All right," he said, defeated. "We have found evidence that you have been dabbling into certain arts inappropriate for a God-fearing court. I have always feigned deafness to accusations about you, but I'm afraid I can do so no longer."

"What evidence?" sputtered Godric.

Cynric interrupted him. "There is no need for the king to justify himself to you, Gryffindor," he said coldly. "Being a blood kinsman of His Majesty, I am personally appalled at the way you have addressed him. When he says that we have evidence, you would do well not to question his word."

"Shut your mouth, you loathsome worm," exploded Godric. "I know well that it is you who have planted the seed of distrust -"

Constantine shook his head. "It is not only Cynric who has come to me with concerns, but almost every knight in my army," he stated. He finally looked up at his friend. "I am not willing to arrest you, Godric, but I cannot allow you to remain in my court. I will not have my men, my court, and my good name tainted by association."

Godric could only stare at his dearest friend in silence, his blood boiling at this betrayal.

"You will please leave Weymouth Castle immediately, taking with you all your belongings - save one."

Cynric held up what was in his hands and unwrapped the white cloth. The gleaming hilt of the famous Gryffindor sword shimmered in the candlelight, the rubies sparkling like drops of blood on gold.

"NO!" shouted Godric, throwing himself over the table at Cynric, ready to tear him to shreds. He was immediately seized by four knights. "Give me my sword, you bastard!"

Cynric cocked an eyebrow. "We cannot have you using your magic against us, can we? I told you at the wedding," he said slyly, "that you are nothing without your enchanted sword. Take yourself and your sorcery away from here."

"Lead him out," Constantine told the knights, looking exhausted.

And Sir Godric Gryffindor, once the king's favorite, was hauled out of Weymouth Castle in disgrace, hearing the clamor of the crowd and the screams of his wife behind him.

* * *

Helena dangled helplessly in the dragon's left foot, clutching its talon and trying not to look down. She tilted her face upward instead, almost wishing she were back in her father's castle. She made a mental note to be more careful what she asked for in the future, since wanting adventure had landed her between the talons of a terrifying creature. They were moving so quickly that she had difficulty breathing. She tried to twist around to look at Gideon, who was still clutched in the dragon's other foot, but all she could see was the fluttering white of his tunic.

"Gideon!" she called feebly, trying not to irritate the dragon. "Gideon!" There was no reply and by the way his head lolled on his shoulders, she guessed that he had fainted dead away. Wonderful, she thought enviously, feeling her stomach lurch as the dragon began to descend. She bravely darted a glance downward and gasped, shutting her eyes again. It almost looked as though the ground were rising to meet them at an angle and she felt increasingly dizzy as the dragon began circling over its destination.

Eventually it began slowing its descent and she felt its feet hit solid ground. "Thank God," she whispered with relief, opening her eyes to find herself on a mountain covered with trees. There was a large stream emerging from the mouth of a cave, bubbling as it cascaded down the slope. From the way the dragon eagerly bounded towards this cave, Helena guessed that this was its home.

The creature lumbered inside and unceremoniously dropped both of its prisoners on the ground. Helena crawled over to Gideon, shaking him. "Wake up! Gideon!"

He grunted and pulled himself up weakly, a string of drool hanging from his mouth. "Where are we? I thought -" At that moment he saw the dragon and gave a terrified squeak.

"Stop it, you'll annoy it!" Helena hissed. "Don't start screaming again. We have to find a way to get out of here..."

But even as the words left her mouth, the dragon turned its back on them and paraded to the entrance of the cave. Gracelessly it threw itself upon the ground and fell asleep, its massive bulk blocking out almost all of the daylight. Helena looked at it in despair - there was now no possible way they could escape with the dragon obstructing the entrance.

"What do we do now?" Gideon asked desperately.

Helena looked at him and collapsed limply in one corner. "We wait," she said.

Chapter 3: The Tale of the Black Rose
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Author's Notes: I hope you enjoy this latest chapter! I'm having a terrific time writing this story and it is an honor to be nominated in this year's Dobbys. Thank you so very much for your support; you have no idea how I appreciate it.

Everything you recognize is owned by J.K. Rowling and everything you don't recognize is mine.

No attempt has been made at historical accuracy. I have borrowed elements of Arthurian legend and fairy tales which may not appear in their accuracy or entirety.

written by:

Chapter Three
The Tale of the Black Rose

Helena sighed and stared at the massive bulk of the dragon, effectively blocking their only way out of the cave. The sliver of sky that she could see was beginning to darken and still their captor showed no intention of waking any time soon. It was sleeping in the most ridiculous manner, lying on its back with its two front legs pointed at the ceiling, its head lolling over to one side. This dog-like sleeping position and the fact that it had not yet eaten them gave her courage. But why else would a dragon capture two humans if it did not intend to turn them into a meal?

She turned to look at her fellow prisoner and saw that Gideon was sleeping as well. Perhaps the hours of incoherent mumbling and crying had tired him out, something that Helena was very thankful for; he had quickly become a tiresome companion. Slowly she rose to her feet, wondering if the dragon would notice, but it remained motionless. She stared at its open, sharp-toothed mouth, weighing her options. I can stay here and wait for it to wake up, she thought, or I can try to find another way out. Her eyes had long adjusted to the darkness and Helena could see that the cave was very wide and stretched out far into the mountain. Perhaps there was another exit somewhere back there. She hadn't a single weapon or a source of light, but it was a risk she had to take.

Telling herself she would come back for Gideon if she found an escape route, Helena gingerly felt her way along the wall. Several times her foot hit a pebble and she cringed, imagining the dragon's hot breath behind her, but there was only silence. "What have you gotten yourself into, Helena?" she scolded herself. It seemed completely surreal to her. Just yesterday she had been moping in her tower room. Now she was the prisoner of a beast straight from the storybooks her mother used to read her, except those princesses always had a prince to save them and Helena was completely prince-less at the moment.

The cave seemed to stretch on for miles and just as Helena was about to give up and turn back, she noticed something odd about the opposite wall. There was a strange outline in the smooth rock as though there were a door. "Ridiculous," she muttered, "who would put a door inside a cave...?" But when she reached out and touched the odd shape, she could feel bronze hinges and a heavy, cast-iron knob with an elaborate keyhole. She tried turning the knob but it wouldn't budge. "Where does this go?" She stooped slightly and put her eye to the keyhole, positive that she wouldn't see anything but darkness. However, the scene inside surprised her.

There was a large, circular room beyond the door. A dim light filtered in from somewhere up above, illuminating what seemed to be a nest of plants below. They were tangled, thorny, and green, filling the room with their abundant leaves. Helena rubbed her eyes and stared, not knowing whether what she was seeing was simply a figment of her imagination. "This is turning out to be stranger than I thought," she mumbled, her eye still pressed to the keyhole.

"Indeed?" said a man's voice behind her.

Helena screamed and spun wildly in the dark. "Who's there!?"

"Just a moment, please," the man said pleasantly. There was the sound of fumbling and then something scraping, like metal on stone, and light flooded into the cave from a large torch. The man staring at Helena was of medium height, thin, and pale. He seemed old because of his hair - it curled on his head in a silvery white halo - but his pale blue eyes were young and alert. He was dressed in a plain brown robe like that of a monk and his feet were completely bare and dirty. "Well, young lady. I won't ask you what you are doing in my home because I already know."

"You do?" Helena stared and stared at this strange apparition. "And what do you mean by your home? You live here?"

"I have lived here for almost one hundred years," the man said matter-of-factly. "It's quite pleasant actually, once you get past the dark and the damp. No one ever comes up on this mountain so it is very peaceful."

Helena could feel her jaw hanging open but was unable, for the life of her, to close it. "But ... there is a dragon that lives here."

The man looked surprised. "Truly? I have never noticed it!" When Helena didn't laugh and continued staring at him, he sighed. "I thought that was funny. Of course a dragon lives here, young woman. He has lived here for almost one hundred years, the same length of time that I have lived here." The princess still appeared confused, for he sighed. "I am the dragon," he said patiently.

"Excuse me, sir," Helena responded, "I believe I heard you say that you are the dragon."

"You heard correctly," the monk-like man confirmed. "I want to apologize for bringing you and your companion here, but there was nothing I could do to control my urge to kidnap humans. When I am in the form of a dragon, my instincts often override my more human thought process." He smiled kindly at her. "I can see on your face that you don't believe me and that you almost want me to change into a dragon this moment. Alas, I have no control over that. My life is governed by the sun and moon; you see, I am a dragon by day and a man by night."

Helena blushed. "I don't intend to offend you, but it's a little difficult to believe."

"Oh, I know," the man said sadly. "I do not blame you. If I were you, I would also be in doubt. But how rude of me. Let me show you to a more comfortable place to sit where we can talk."

"All right. Gideon -" she began, gesturing in the direction of the cave entrance.

"Your companion will be quite safe," the man assured her, leading her a little further down the tunnel. With the torch in his hand, he lit a few others that had been hung upon the walls. Slowly a sitting room of sorts came into view. There was a small wooden table and a few tree stumps that seemed to serve as chairs. Dried herbs and vegetables were piled neatly into corners and Helena spied a large jug of water on a stand. There was even a bed in one corner with a pillow and a thin blanket. "Would you like something to drink?"

Helena nodded. "Yes, please," she said gratefully. The man poured a little bit of the water from the jug into a roughly carved cup and when Helena lifted it to her lips, she was surprised to taste ginger and lemon. "This is delicious."

"I made it myself," her host said proudly, beaming at her. "Many wonderful things grow on this mountain that can be used in just about anything."

The princess found herself warming up the kindly old man. "My name is Helena," she said. "I live in Damaria."

"Emrys," he replied. "Pleased to make your acquaintance. Was that prince your brother? I saw the crest on his armor and the flags his men were carrying."

"Yes, that was my eldest brother. What an extraordinary life you must lead, Emrys," Helena added, eying him with interest. "Have you always been a - "

"A dragon man?" Emrys chuckled. "Yes, as a matter of fact. It is the curse I bear for the sin of my mother." He poured himself a cup of the ginger water and sighed. "You see, Your Highness..."

"Call me Helena," she interrupted.

The man smiled. "All right. Helena it is," he said and looked at her thoughtfully. "There is something special about you, young woman. Even when I picked you up from the ground, I could see it in you. Somehow I know you will understand my story better than most people would." He raised his eyebrows at her confusion. "You have never known that you were different? That you could somehow do things, feel things, and know things better than anyone around you?"

"I - well, I have always been different," Helena admitted. "I have a way of making strange things happen without meaning to. My father can never stand to have me around him for very long."

"You and I are alike, then," responded Emrys, "although I am on a somewhat more drastic scale than you are. Have you ever heard of the great Merlin?"

Helena nodded. "Of course. I learned much about the Arthurian age from my father's history books," she answered. "Merlin was the confidante and adviser of King Arthur. And some say that he was -" She paused.

"A wizard," finished Emrys knowingly. "Don't ever be afraid of saying that word, my dear. Times have changed and people have become a great deal more squeamish about the idea of magic, but once upon a time, it was revered in these lands. In other lands, it still is revered, I daresay. Merlin was indeed a wizard, the greatest sorcerer the world has ever known, and it was thanks to his magic and wisdom that King Arthur was able to reign for so long. Merlin, you see," he added, "was my father."

"Your father?" she echoed in disbelief.

"When he was still adviser to the king," Emrys continued, "he fell in love with a beautiful maiden named Nimue. Though she was human, meaning that he would vastly outlive her, they married and were happy for a short time. However, my mother was a very greedy woman. She was jealous of Merlin's magic and longed to possess it herself. Over time she tricked him into teaching her his secrets and though she would never have his power, she had a great deal of talent and ambition and managed to learn quite a lot." He gave a deep sigh. "Eventually Merlin began to question her curiosity. I think he even refused to continue teaching her."

"What happened?"

"Nimue grew angry at his refusal. My mother had a terrible temper and she trapped him within the trunk of an oak tree," he explained. "I don't think she meant to kill him, but the spells she tried to use were incorrect and he died."

Helena shook her head slowly. "Poor man. What happened to Nimue?"

"My grandfather, Cadwellon, soon took care of her," Emrys answered regretfully. "Furious at the death of his son, he placed a spell upon her and the unborn child she carried. She would remain in a certain form forever, unless the spell was broken. It has been my duty since birth to protect her and my personal ambition to break the spell, despite its effect on me."

"So you have been a half-dragon ever since you were born," Helena said, looking at him with sympathy.

Emrys nodded sadly. "I have been unable to make much progress, since as I told you before that when I am in my dragon form, my animal instincts outweigh my human intellect." He spread his hands wide, gesturing to the cave around him. "And when I am a man, I am confined to this cave because I must protect my mother."

"Nimue is here?" Helena inquired, surprised.

"She will be here forever, if it is left up to me to break the spell," he said with another heavy sigh. "I grow old, and being only half magical, I shall not live as long as my father. But come with me, Helena. I want you to meet her." Using a torch from the wall, he lit a small iron lantern that Helena had not noticed before. She followed him back into the tunnel and saw that he was leading her to the huge door she had been examining earlier. With a large brass key from a pocket of his robes, Emrys managed to get the door open. It creaked heavily on its hinges and the plant-filled room that Helena had observed lay before them.

"What is this place?" she murmured, looking around in wonder. It was extremely hot in the room and though a path had been carved roughly through the plants, leaves and branches brushed against her arm as she followed Emrys.

"My mother's prison," he answered.

They walked for quite some time and finally reached a clearing of sorts. Velvety moss carpeted the dirt floor and everywhere there was that strange light illuminating the scene, a light that was like the sun but paler and mistier. In the very center of this mossy clearing was a tree stump, and perched on the tree stump was a blooming rose. It was like no other rose that Helena had ever seen before, for its petals were an unnervingly vivid black that gleamed in the pale light. The thorns on its stem stuck out menacingly.

"Helena," said Emrys, "meet my mother."

*   *   *


Godric Gryffindor perched outside the castle gates, hiding in the shadow of the bushes. He watched two guards pace back and forth, talking in low voices as they performed their midnight watch. He knew that King Constantine would be listening to that poisonous kinsman of his, Cynric, and would be doubling the watch on Weymouth Castle for the foreseeable future. Godric's jaw tightened as he thought of Cynric. I will have my revenge, he vowed, and you will rue the day you ever crossed Gryffindor. But first things first, he told himself. He would save his wife and he would retrieve his sword, the two belongings that were most dear to him on Earth and yet still remained out of reach within the castle.

Gwendolyn had screamed and cried to go with him, but they had been parted on the night of their wedding. Godric had been thrown out unceremoniously, unable to even protest against the theft of his wife. That had been three nights ago. Where was she now? Was she still in the castle? What had Cynric done to her? If he so much as touches one hair of her head... Godric thought furiously.

He forced himself to focus. Tonight the moon was veiled by heavy black clouds, a circumstance he felt thankful for. He stared at one of the guards who stood in the very highest watchtower, crossbow at the ready. He blocked all else from his mind - the smell of the dewy grass, the sound of crickets, the feel of the crude blade in his hands - and steered all of his attention toward that guard and his crossbow. Move to the window, he commanded. Move to the window. Slowly, the guard in the watchtower moved towards the window. Lean over the edge, Godric ordered him silently, perspiring from his effort to concentrate. Lean over...
As though he were a dream, the guard began to slowly lean over the edge of the tower. With one great push from his mind, Godric urged him to fall. He fell.

"Help me!" the guard screamed, clinging to the watchtower with only one hand. The crossbow on his back disentangled itself and clattered among the stones of the gate, splashing into the moat below.

The two guards on the ground looked up in shock. "What in blazes is wrong with you?" one of them shouted. "Stay there - William, get help..."

Taking advantage of their distraction, Godric darted forward through the gate and across the bridge. One of the guards had rushed off to help the man in the watchtower, but the one who remained on the ground saw him. "What the -!"

Swift as a lion, Godric struck the blade into his back and the man collapsed instantly. He dragged his lifeless body into the shelter of a large shrub, knowing it would only be a matter of time before they found him and sounded the alarm. Silently he ran along the outer edge of the wall, sprinting for the safety of a grove of trees. He could already hear the raised voices of men by the gates, trying to save the watchtower guard. As fast as his legs could carry him, Godric ran to the north wall of the castle and searched desperately for an open window. He found none and was forced to break the kitchen window from its frame, praying that nobody would hear him. At that time of night, the kitchen would be empty.

The stairs creaked as he went up them and Godric cursed each one, but the onslaught of guards never came. He peered into the corridor, looking this way and that into the darkness. He crept past each closed door and made his way to the upper level he knew so well, the place he had lived since he was an infant. His chambers lay at the end of the corridor and he ran towards them eagerly, encouraged by his easy passage through the castle. The door was shut and he knocked on it urgently. "Gwendolyn," he whispered. "Gwendolyn, are you in there?"

He heard the soft pattering of slippers. "Godric," his wife whispered back breathlessly. She opened the door, her eyes filled with tears.

"Gwendolyn, my love, don't cry," he begged her, pushing the door open so he could embrace her.

"No! Godric! It's a trap -" she began to scream, but the man who was holding the knife to her back immediately killed her.

Godric let out a cry of fury and despair and rushed blindly into the room, but was instantly accosted by two men from the shadows. Someone lit a torch and it illuminated the face of the man who had killed Gwendolyn.

"Good evening, Gryffindor," said Cynric with a twisted smile. "I had a feeling you would be coming back here."

"Cynric, you evil conniving bastard," Godric raged, "you worm, you -"

"Oh, do stop with the tiresome insults," Cynric responded. From his belt he drew a light green glass vial filled with liquid. "Hold him down and open his mouth," he ordered, and the men holding Godric complied. "Drink this, Gryffindor. I guarantee that you will feel much better afterward." He reached forward and dumped the entire vial into Godric's mouth.

Spit and sputter as he might, Godric could not prevent the burning liquid from creeping down his throat. He cried out with agony, trying with all his might to do something, anything - but when his concentration was worn so thin, Godric's powers were useless. He lay helplessly on the floor, feeling the poison fill his body.

"Goodbye, Gryffindor. I would make some sort of pretty threat that began with 'If you ever show your face here again,' but I won't bother," his enemy jeered. "I know you won't be showing your face here again." He gave a terrible laugh and jabbed a finger towards the door. "Take him away."

The last thing Godric heard before he lost all consciousness was an order from Cynric to take the sword of Gryffindor and hide it away forever, where its owner would never find it.