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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!

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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.

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