******The Dragon and the Glass Tower******

Author's Note—This is my first written fanfiction, but that doesn't matter. It is hopefully enjoyable anyway. The plot of this H/C fic is based on folktale forms that are found in many European folktales, with a lot of twisting and adapting. Miyazaki drew upon folktales and myths from many cultures, especially his own, when he created Spirited Away. I thought I'd draw upon them also in this little experiment. Enjoy!

Disclaimer—Spirited Away and it's characters belong to Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. Copyrights are being infringed, but the author, and all fans in every fandom everywhere, hopes that no one minds.

****** Prologue******

Once upon a time, but not long ago, there lived on an island of the people of Japan a young girl named Chihiro with her mother and father. One summer day when she was 10 she had a great and terrible adventure. She and her parents unwittingly trespassed on the world of spirits, and she had to do many things she was afraid of. But she did them. She worked hard, made friends, saved her parents from being pigs, and saved a beautiful white river dragon. As she left, she made him promise that they would see each other again. She went back to her parents, and made herself not look back at the 13 year-old boy who gazed at her with eyes that were much older. He would keep his promise.

And she lived a stronger girl ever after.

****** Ch. 1 - The First Office, the First Egg******

Once upon an even nearer time, there lived on an island of the people of Japan a girl in a glass tower. She worked there all day, and moved to a smaller tower to sleep at night, but always returned to the tower by day. Her name was Chihiro.

In the nearby but very distant world of Spirits, a lost river god decided that it was time he became unlost.

He went to the witch Yubaba, his employer.

"It is time," the young man said to the great-headed witch. She narrowed her plate-sized eyes, pursed her massive lips under her massive hooked nose, and glared at him. But he did not back down. "I have more than made up my debt to you, and I have learnt much as your apprentice. It is time now, I will go."

The witch didn't like this, "Oh, Haku? Is now truly the best time? How do you know?"

"My name is Kohaku," he said, his stern eyes unwavering. "Now is the time. I leave today."

She sighed. "Well then, as you have found shelter and protection under my roof for a good many years..."

"And have served you well," he stated with finality.

She snorted, and bath-house shook. "You've often been more trouble than you were worth."

"I ask for payment for these last 12 years' employment. I did not have to stay."

"Payment! You were my apprentice! Training and a roof should be enough for you!" His determined gaze did not waver. "Alright, I will offer this to you. Do not scorn it, it will help you on your quest."

Haku stiffened at her mention of 'his quest.'

"Oh yes. You think I am not aware of what you are going to try to do? Why you've stayed so long when you didn't have too? Why you have shot up all of a sudden?" she eyed the young man who now towered above her. "Changing an appearance you've been comfortable with for almost a century? You young men are so obvious—mortal, immortal, weak or powerful--you are all the same."

She rummaged around in her desk, and finally pulled out a small, ornate box. She opened it with a spark from her bejeweled index finger. She withdrew a small silk-swathed object, cradled it in her manicured hand, and closed the lid.

"Take this," she handed it to him.

He unwrapped it and stared with suspicion at the chicken-sized pink egg in his hands. He looked up at her untrustingly.

"I assure you, this is ample payment for you. It will help you." She scratched her broad temple. "Let's see...ah yes...

"When all roads are blocked, And all avenues seem barred, Crack open this egg, And it will clear the way," she recited. He cocked a skeptical eyebrow.

"In addition to this generous gift, I will give you one piece of advice. Be grateful for it. Until you succeed in your quest, do not stay in the mortal realm after sunset. If the sun sets with you on that side you will be trapped there, and unable to return to the Spirit World. Once you succeed, I doubt that you will care whether you are stuck in the mortal realm or not," she said with an unpleasant smirk. His eyes narrowed and he stood even more rigidly. "But until you do, you had better not risk being stuck there with no way to return. That would put you in a highly dangerous position, River-less River God."

"There, boy, that's all you are getting! Now get out of my face," she growled. "Once you leave, you are no longer welcome here, you are no longer my apprentice, and you will never find shelter under my roof again. Now get going, she's old enough as it is."

He did not press for more. She wasn't trying to stop him; that was enough. He re-wrapped the pink egg in its silk, bowed stiffly, turned on his heel, and walked out of Yubaba's office.