Far below Melissa, a fire blossomed that soon illuminated a gigantic cave. Melissa could finally see that she was held in the paw of a dragon. She forgot her fear for a moment. The dragon was breathtakingly beautiful. His green and blue scales sparkled in the light of the fire like precious stones, and his golden eyes seemed more sad than angry. But when she noticed that the teeth of the dragon were as long as her fingers, Melissa shivered with fear despite all his beauty. The dragon put her down in front of the fire and looked at her thoughtfully. He wound his scaly body around the fire till the tip of the tail touched his chin. He closed his eyes and sighed once more.
Melissa relaxed a little. Obviously, she wouldn’t be eaten right away. Secretly, she congratulated herself on not saying anything about her friends. Perhaps they can fetch help and save me somehow. She looked around. Golden objects lay everywhere: goblets, chains, rings and much more. When she ignored the pain in her foot and stood on the tips of her toes, she could see a whole mountain of golden stuff behind the dragon. She asked, “do worry because of the gold?”
The dragon snorted. “Leave me alone. If you have to talk, chat with dinner.”
Melissa turned round and discovered a girl in a lilac silk dress on the other side of the fire. She squatted on the ground with her face buried in her arms.
Melissa limped around the fire and crouched next to the girl. “Hello, I am Melissa. And you?” In a whisper she added, “Chin up! As long as he hasn’t eaten us, we have a chance to flee.”
“I am Crown Prince Victor of Engelstal.” The presumed girl raised her head.
Melissa bounced back. Middle-blond, short cut hair framed a face that had not yet been shaved. But the prominent Adam’s apple did not leave any doubt. It was definitely a boy.
“Go ahead, laugh at me. That doesn’t matter any more, either.” Prince Victor closed his brown eyes and laid his head back on his arms. “Soon it will be evening, then it’s my turn.”
“Why do you run around as a princess?” The dragon growled.
Melissa nodded. “I wonder about that, too.”
Prince Victor hesitated. He raised his head and looked at Melissa more closely. Finally, he shrugged and said, “it’s my birthday tomorrow. My father organized a masked ball where all women come as men and all men as women. He thinks that funny. I was trying my costume when this monster grabbed me.”
“I am not a monster, I am a dragon! And how could I know that you weren’t a princess? Am I clairvoyant?” The dragon raised his head and stared at them over the fire.
Melissa smiled as bravely as she could, although her face muscles cramped. “So, this is a misunderstanding. Couldn’t you let the prince go?”
“So he can come back with canned humans? No, thanks.”
“Canned humans?” Melissa was confused.
“They ride on horses and have extra big toothpicks to hurt me. They are obstinate creatures and damn hard to kill. They don’t taste good either.”
“He means knights”, Melissa and the prince said simultaneously.
The prince got up and raised his hand. “I swear upon my honor as an heir to the throne of Engelstal, that I will at no time and under no circumstances return here with knights.”
The dragon snorted. “Very likely.”
“A crown prince won’t break his word of honor, or he will not be respected as a king”, Prince Victor said.
Melissa got up and limped around the fire to the dragon. “What do you need a princess for anyway?”
“I am hungry. Dreadfully hungry. I haven’t eaten for a whole month.”
Melissa swallowed nervously. “If you favor eating princesses, you won’t like us. You should try something else.”
“I have. I devastated fields, burned woods and stole sheep. Sheep are disgusting! I always have wool between my teeth.” The dragon shook his scaly head at the memory. “At first, it worked quite well. People cared for me as well as they could. It wasn’t exactly delicious but I did not have to starve.”
“What went wrong?”
“Canned humans came, sometimes several on a single day. Soon, there were so many that I had to look for a new cave. Here are no … how did you call the canned humans again … oh yes … knights.” The dragon sighed again and put his head on the floor. “But there aren’t any other people either. There is only me and the mountains. Therefore I am hungry.”