Warning: This is a fusion of Rurouni Kenshin, Vivian Vande Velde's Dragon's Bait and several other dragon and maiden books and movies. If you don't like, don't read.

Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin. I also do not own Vivian Vande Velde's Dragon's Bait, Patricia C Wrede's Dealing with Dragon's and it's many sequels, Dragonheart, Dragonslayer, any fairy tales that may pop up or the dragon and princess book that I read in grade four that I no longer remember the name of (Although it may or may not have been called 'The Dragon's Princess'). In other words if you recognize it (and possibly even if you don't) then I don't own it. So live with it, because I do. RK and the other stories are the property of their respective owners. I'm just writing this for fun (it's fanfiction, it's supposed to be fun) and will make no money from it. Please do not sue me. You really wouldn't get anything anyway.

This is being reposted because someone didn't understand that this is a fusion. Also I goofed and put the full disclaimer in Part Two originally and I guess they didn't look.

Summary: Kaoru is the maiden, guess who the dragon is.

Rating: PG-13

The Dragon and the Maiden

By Colleen

Part One

The Maiden

Kaoru struggled against the ropes that bound her to the stake. Her wrists had already been rubbed raw by her attempts to escape and the ropes binding her were slowly being soaked with her blood. Despite the pain she pulled harder, hoping that the cords would loosen or that with enough blood as a lubricant she could slip free of them.

How could they do this to her?

She pulled again, crying out in pain and effort, then slumped in her bounds. It was no use, they had tied her well and there still wasn't any give to the rope. She looked off into the darkness, eyes seeking out the village where she had lived her entire life. The moon, three quarters full, and her position on a hill a little ways out of town gave her enough light and height to make out the rooftops of the town's houses. She closed her eyes, once again in pain although this hurt was in her heart and not her abused body.

How could they?

Of course the answer was, they were scared. In fact the entire countryside had been gibbering in terror for the last few months.

Dragons tended to do that to people.

She had felt the same terror the first time she'd seen it wheel across the sky. Her fear mixed with awe at the creature's beauty and power had left her on her knees when her legs had given out.

There had been dragons before, but never one this large. It was also the first one that had ever managed to avoid the hunters that the villager elders hired to kill and trap it.

She gave a bitter laugh at the thought. You would think it would be easy to locate something that was larger than half the houses in the village combined. Just how difficult could it be to come across a monster that was taller than the tallest tree with scales that reflected green and purple in the sunlight? That and the red markings she had been able to see even at a distance should have made the creature at least findable.

Instead the hunters came back tired and frustrated, except for the pair that never came back at all. She shuddered at the thought, realizing that their fate would soon be hers.

It had been those missing hunters and the dragon's reappearance that had pushed the villagers to do what they had done. The beast had come, roaring in apparent fury as it moved gracefully through the sky. The villagers found out the hard way just how dangerous it was to anger a dragon. He'd used his fire and while no one had been hurt or killed one of the blasts had ignited several of the rice paddies that the town depended on for food.

Terrified that the monster would soon destroy the village or the rest of their food stock the town's elders decided to placate the creature with an offering. Which is how Kamiya Kaoru ended up tied to a stake awaiting a grizzly death.

She wasn't actually upset or angry that she was about to give her life to save her village. No what enraged her was that the other villagers, people she had grown up with and thought of as friends, hadn't even had the decency to ask her to volunteer. Instead they had ganged up against her, tying her up and gagging her before dragging her out to this lonely hill and fixing her to a stake that had already been set up.

No one had tried to help her, the rest of the townspeople had barely even looked at her.

She knew why they had chosen her. She had no family. Her mother had died when she was young and her father had succumbed last winter to a cough in his lungs that had never gotten any better. And although she was old enough to marry she had not entertained any suitors since her father's death. She had no ties to anyone and that more than the fact that she was a maiden had probably decided her fate for her.

There would be no one to miss her. No one to avenge her.

After they'd left her she spent the first thirty minutes or so scraping the side of her face against the wood pole she was attached to. It was painful but she was eventually able to work the gag from her mouth. She spent the thirty minutes after that yelling as loudly as she could towards the village.

At times Kaoru's temper knew no limits and she would have gleefully kept the barrage of insults and curses going but it occurred to her that being staked out and yelling was probably a good way to get noticed by large scaly things that planned to eat you. So instead she turned her attention towards getting free.

That had been hours ago.

She forcefully stopped herself from looking towards her former home again and instead looked up at the moon and stars. It would probably be the last time she would ever see them. She sighed, saddened that she wouldn't get the chance to see the full moon. But then, there were a lot of things she would not be seeing.

Kaoru started to work at the ropes again. Really, she was ready to give up but every time she stopped she found herself thinking about how she would be dieing. Of course it would be painful but she did hope that it would at least be quick. Beyond that she tried not to consider just how her end would be. The thought of being either burned alive or ripped apart and eaten while still aware had the ability to sent her into screaming hysterics. And she'd be damned if she would fall apart now.

Even if there was no one to see her she refused to give into her fear. She would face this with courage and dignity and she would go to her death with more of both of those qualities than the people who had placed her here would ever have.

She smiled a small sad smile and looked up again to view the moon. It must have slid behind a cloud because she could no longer find it in the night's sky. She tilted her head higher and saw the stars spread out in all their glory, without a cloud in sight to cover them.

Her heart gave a little lurch and she looked back to where the moon should have been. Whatever was blocking it was either getting larger or closer as moment by moment the stars that had been nearest the moon blinked out like a snuffed candle.

No cloud, it was instead a mass of glistening scale, sharp teeth and even sharper claws. Kaoru's breath caught in her throat as the dragon came, blocking the night sky with its sheer size.

The trees around the hill started to bend in the breeze caused by the fire serpent's wings. A barrage of dirt and grass blew up around Kaoru and she was forced to squeeze her eyes shut to avoid being blinded by the debris. When the wind settled she opened them to find herself face to teeth with the dragon.

She closed her eyes again, fear overriding all of her senses. She might have kept them that way but when the seconds went by and nothing happened she opened them again, the not knowing being worse than the knowing.

The dragon had tilted its head down so now when she looked at it again she was staring into the largest pair of eyes she had ever seen. They were amber and should have been reptile like, but weren't. What they were was incredibly angry.

The eyes were the last straw and Kaoru's body started to shake with all the pent up fear and grief she'd stored up over the last few hours. "Please," she whispered, hanging her head so she wouldn't have to look into those eyes, "just make it quick."

The dragon let out an enraged cry and wrapped its claws around Kaoru and the wood post. With a quick yank it pulled the pole out of the ground. A leap and a flap of its wings had it airborne with Kaoru and the stake held in its grasp.

Kaoru's stomach lurched as they took off. Thankfully she was spared the sight of the ground falling away as the dragon's throat and chest took up most of her vision. She wondered where it was taking her and worse, what it would do with her once they got there.

The fact that it hadn't already killed her terrified her. The only reason she could think of for still being alive was that the creature liked to play with its food. Bad enough she would be eaten but if the dragon decided to it could make her death a living hell. One of the thoughts that had terrified her earlier was that the creature might keep her alive while it took her apart limb by limb, stretching her out as a meal while enjoying her pain.

These horrifying thoughts would have followed her the entire trip had the dragon's flight not dipped a few times. Sudden airsickness claimed her and she gulped, happy for the first time that day that she had had nothing to eat since the morning. While it would serve the dragon right if she ended up throwing up on it she didn't want to make it any madder than it already was.

The flight seemed to take forever but in reality was probably only a few minutes in length. The foothills that surrounded the village of Kaoru's birth led up into the mountains and that was where the dragon took her. About a third of the way up the dragon dove towards the trees. Kaoru could hear the occasional scrap of pine boughs against scale when the dragon ventured a little to close to the greenery. If Kaoru had been turned the other way she would have seen the forest open onto a small clearing. The trees had held back in that area to encircled a small pond that was fed by a waterfall. To the left of the falls was a huge cave, easily large enough for the dragon to live in.

Wings beating backward to slow it's decent the dragon landed near the pond. It opened its claws and Kaoru and the stake tumbled out. She landed painfully on her side, though it would have been worse if she had fallen in any other position. The dragon stared quizzically at her for a moment before it turned and lumbered into the cave.

Kaoru lay there and worked at breathing. Even though she was down on the ground her body had yet to let go of the motion of flight and her head and stomach were still reeling from the experience.

Sensation came back to her a bit at a time. The grass against her cheek was noticed first, then the sound of water falling over rock. Smell and sight would have followed but her arms and legs, held in one position for far to long, chose that moment to clamp up. Gritting her teeth in pain she stretched her muscles out against the spasms as best she could while being tied to a pole

When her limbs stopped protesting she started to work at her bonds again, hoping that the recent rough handling might have loosened the ropes.

The cords were just starting to give when she felt a pair of eyes looking down at her from behind. Kaoru's breath froze in her throat when she realized that the only set of eyes around here belonged to the dragon. She hadn't even heard him approach and given his size he should have shaken the ground as he walked.

She waited; body tensed and ears straining in an attempt to discern what was happening behind her. She flinched at the noise when it came, though she was uncertain what had caused it. It did however remind her of the sound a knife blade makes when drawn across a wetting stone. Her mouth lost what little moisture it had with the thought that the dragon was sharpening its claws.

The air at her back was displaced suddenly and she barely had time to register the sound of the wind that was created as something slashed down towards her. She pulled in a breath to scream but never managed to voice it. Instead she rolled free of the stake and found herself face down, attempting to inhale grass.

She staggered to her feet, cut rope shedding from her body like a bird moulting its feathers. She straightened painfully and looked up expecting to see the dragon still staring at her.

Her mouth dropped open in stunned amazement when the sight that greeted her was not a large scaly creature but a small redheaded man.

The first thing that struck her was that he was very beautiful. In fact he would have been almost feminine looking were it not for a large cross shaped scar on his left cheek. His eyes were a lovely shade of violet and his red hair cascaded freely down his back and around his shoulders, emphasising his slight form and height, though he was taller than she was. The man was dressed in an old magenta gi and white hakama, both of which had seen better days. He carried a sword at his left side and Kaoru realized with a start that the blade being drawn was the source of the noise she had heard earlier.

The girl fell to her knees and touched her forehead to the ground. Words of gratitude tumbled from her lips as she thanked the samurai, for that was what he had to be. Given the fact that he only had one sword then he must be ronin but even a master less samurai was still of a higher rank than a peasant girl without family.

"Don't."

Kaoru looked up at the samurai. "Excuse me?" She asked politely.

"Don't thank me," he said.

"Why?...... And then she looked into his eyes. The warm purple hue was briefly shaded over with the anger filled amber that she had seen in the dragon's eyes earlier. Shocked she crab- walked backwards a few feet, her motion only stopped when she ran into a boulder.

The redhead looked down at Kaoru like she was some odd bug he had come across in his garden. "I suggest you clean up a little," he said, waving a hand towards the waterfall. "When you are done come into the cave and I will find you something to eat and a place to sleep." He turned to head towards the cave and continued talking to Kaoru without looking at her. "I would not suggest trying to escape. It would be very difficult to get down this mountain in the dark and I would have no trouble catching you again," he looked back at her, "However I would be very unhappy to have to go chasing after you," amber flickered in his eyes again as he said this. He turned back to the cave entrance and walked towards it leaving a stunned Kaoru still sitting on the ground with her back up against a large rock.

She suddenly understood why it was so difficult to find the dragon. When chasing a large reptile you would hardly connect it with the small man that had just left her. She pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her head on them.

The dragon was a man. No, that wasn't right. The dragon was a dragon that could take on the shape of a man. Yes, that was it. Damn, what should she do?

She slowly got to her feet and headed off into the bushes a little ways to take care of a pressing need to go to the bathroom. She then headed to the waterfall. After washing her hands she pulled the top of her kimono down. She splashed water over her face and arms then cupped her hands into the water's flow so she could bring the liquid to her lips, drinking greedily. When she had quenched her thirst she pulled her clothing back on over her wet flesh and headed towards the cave.

Actually she stomped over to the cave. Taking care of a few necessities had given her enough confidence to let her temper come to the fore. Mostly she was angry with her self for brainlessly following her captor's orders. That and the helplessness of her situation could easily overwhelm her if she didn't focus her emotions somewhere else.

Her temper powered her through the entrance and into the cave proper. The main part of it was huge; the light from the few paper lanterns hung along the walls was lost in the sheer size of the space. She could see that smaller, room like areas had been carved into the cavern's walls by the processes that had created the cave in the first place. Lantern light flickered from one of these places and she headed for it.

It had promised her something to eat. Her steps faltered for a moment as she wondered if it was just feeding her in order to fatten her up before the kill. She pushed the thought aside with enough force to cause a headache and entered the smaller cave.

It was really quite pleasant.

Tatami mats were set in a square the size of a large room. A low table, with the promised food on it, sat off to the side. In the living area there were several cushions for sitting on, a lacquered screen to block off part of the grotto and two futons laid out side by side.

Kaoru found herself staring at those two beds on the ground. A new even more horrifying thought than all the others came to her, one she wouldn't have even considered if it wasn't for the fact that the dragon was also a man.

Why, she wondered, why do dragons always want maidens?

Kaoru concentrated on breathing while she tried to tell herself that she was worrying over nothing. She was getting far to good at coming up with worse case scenarios for her situation.

"After you have eaten you can sleep there."

Kaoru jumped when he spoke, once again not having heard him come up behind her. She turned to thank him but the words stuck in her throat and her body started to shake at the sight of him.

He was NAKED!

End of Part One