Disclaimer: *only uses one disclaimer throughout this entire story, because she hopes it's enough* I love the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I adore them, as much as I adore Patricia C. Wrede. However, I don't own anything, even myself. The government owns me.

City of Dragons
Chapter one: In Which Shiara has a Bad Day.
by Clara


"Really!" Shiara spat in exasperation as she picked through the rocky terrain. Both her hands were weighed down with heavy buckets of melted chocolate that sloshed dangerously close to the brim after every step she took. "Who ever heard of something as ridiculous as glaring politely at someone?" Her careful steps turned into half stomps, that is, until she almost tripped twice and got chocolate all over the bottom half of her dress. Then she gave up on stomping and resumed carefully walking again. The cat who was idly trailing behind her shook its head in resignation, then continued to follow its master's unpredictable steps. "And for crying out loud, who ever heard of a dragon liking chocolate mousse?!"

The cat glared reproachfully at Shiara's ankles as the fire-witch decided to clamber up something that was much to high for the smaller creature. It decided to bring the fuming girl back to earth by yowling loudly in indignation.

"Oh! Nightwitch, I'm sorry. I just got all caught up in my thoughts.." Shiara offered apologetically. She set the chocolate down on top of the rock she had just clambered up, then sat primly on her behind and slid to the shelf where Nightwitch sat. As soon as Shiara landed, however, the tiny cat clambered up her skirt and onto her shoulder. Then, in revenge, she dug her claws into Shiara's shoulder.

"Ow!" Shiara glared at the cat for a moment, then quickly skittered up the rock. "Cut me some slack, Nightwitch. I have every right to be annoyed. Imagine! That moronic Moranz, accusing me of thieving his pantry. He just wants an excuse to get rid of me, don't you think?"

Nightwitch purred reassuringly, then dug her claws into Shiara's shoulder again as the witch banged her knee against the rock and nearly lost balance. "Oh! This day is so stupid." She sat down abruptly between the two buckets of melted chocolate as she reached the top, then rubbed her battered knee, frowning. "It's as if everything that can go wrong IS!" She sniffled suddenly, having the uncomfortable urge to cry. She hated crying. It made her feel so.. so.. "Well, so much like that fluff-brained princess we ran into when we traveled with Daystar," Shiara barked in annoyance. All urges to cry vanished abruptly, and she sat there brooding. She didn't want to admit it, but seeing Daystar fawn all over the princess left her with a feeling of.. of.. well, something unpleasant. Nightwitch gave her a knowing look, then turned her head to look at the large mouth of the cave that lead to the main entrance.

Consequently, Kazul, the King of the Dragons, was lounging with her tail wrapped around a rock that was half her size. She was watching Shiara with much mirth, but as the girl turned to acknowledge Kazul, she replaced her look of amusement with, what she hoped, was a stern look.

"I see Moranz is once again up to his childish antics," Kazul rumbled. "But it would help if you didn't give him an excuse to be childish. Would you care to explain this new situation in your own words? I've already heard Moranz's side of the story, and somehow I think that you just being a 'disrespectful twit' is all that happened."

Shiara looked properly offended, pulling herself to her feet and grabbing the buckets. She was tired, she was sore, and she was sticky from the chocolate that spilled on her dress and arms. Of course, she had every right to be irritable, and of course, irritable for a fire-witch was generally five times more powerful than irritable for a normal person. Kazul rumbled cheerfully, but looked at her with encouragement.

"He," Shiara started matter-of-factly, "was in my way. When I asked him politely to move his tail out of my trail, he growled something about how you didn't need a princess, let alone one who wasn't really a princess, and he accused me of stealing this chocolate from his pantry, then said something about how he should just eat me. So I glared at him."

"Glared at him?" Kazul repeated as she watched Shiara carry the buckets with strained arms toward the cave.

"I did it politely!" Shiara snapped, glad that the ground was flat. A flat ground meant that she could stomp, and stomp she did. "Unfortunately, he apparently doesn't know the difference between a polite glare and an impolite glare, because he got all miffed and threatened to report me to you. Which he obviously already did." Shiara paused, realizing that she probably sounded rude. She couldn't help it, though! She was a fire-witch, and fire-witches were supposed to be rude, dragon or not. "I'm sorry, Kazul, but he really got me riled up. He didn't even get out of the way, and I had to take that blasted trail." She frowned despairingly at her stained and muddy dress, then at the melted chocolate. "It was bad enough that I had to ask the air-headed princess of Roxim's. They make a perfect match, though.."

Kazul chuckled, causing Shiara to jump. Dragon laughter sounded appropriately dangerous. "Of course," the dragon said soothingly, "everything is okay now."

Shiara nodded and walked into the kitchen, ignoring the scratching and rattling of Kazul's scales as she followed her. "Of course."

Kazul must have picked up the weariness in the surrogate princess's voice, because she suggested something that, to Shiara, was totally random.

"You know," Kazul deftly said, stretching out her wings. Shiara finally set down those awful buckets and walked over to Kazul's side in curiosity. "After you make the chocolate mousse, I was thinking to visit the Enchanted Forest and.. it's certain habitants. I hear that Morwen is coming to visit the Queen and King. Didn't you say you wanted to talk to her?"

Shiara recalled no such time requesting to see Morwen, but when opportunity knocked, far be it from her to turn it away. She glanced appreciatively at Kazul, then offered her one of her very rare, brilliant smiles.

"I do believe I did."

They left after Kazul had gotten her fill of chocolate mousse.


By the time they reached the castle in the Enchanted Forest, then sun was already starting to set and the temperature was starting to drop. Shiara hated the cold, and the sooner they got into the castle, the better. As they reached the rambling courtyard of the castle, though, she started to feel slightly uneasy. It had been over a week since she had last saw Daystar, and for some reason, that was severely messing up her system. She had been rather used to seeing him every day.

So why was she, all of a sudden, nervous?

Disgusted, Shiara pushed her nervousness to the side and stomped through the courtyard and towards the main entrance of the castle, ignoring the bemused look Kazul was throwing at her back. She rather liked stomping in the Enchanted Forest, as it had such plush and springy moss.

"Ho!" someone called from the kitchen. "Who goes there, in the esteemed Highness's esteemed garden?! Show thyself!" As Shiara was closest to the kitchen door, she suddenly found herself nose to nose with the handle of a broom. The bearer of the broom was a sandy haired young man who had an upside down pot on his head as a helmet, and a smudged apron tied loosely around his waist. He looked around Shiara and Daystar's age.

Shiara, consequently, was developing a severe twitch in her right eye. Kazul's snorting laughter didn't help matters much. "You have five seconds to remove that broom from my nose before I burn you to a crisp," Shiara warned, her voice coming out much more nasally then normal, due to broom constricting her nose. That only caused Kazul to laugh harder.

Unfortunately, the blond idiot didn't seem to notice Kazul. The broom wavered a bit. "State thy name and business with the castle, and I shall release you."

Shiara wondered when the Queen and King started hiring such idiots. Shiara also wondered if she had been polite enough to fry this boy, as contradictory as that sound. The final thing that Shiara wondered about before she brutally shoved the broom from her nose was where the heck was Daystar to explain this... atrocity. "I'm Shiara!" she shouted in fury, stomping her foot. To her glee, a small burst of flames exploded from the tip of her foot. The boy flinched slightly, and his grip on the broom became tighter. "I've come to see the royal family, who are my friends!"

"Here, here," Kazul said. Her voice held much amusement, especially when the boy jumped at the first 'here'. It was about time she was noticed.

"A-a dragon!" The boy completely forgot about Shiara and thrusted the broom as if it were some sort of sword towards Kazul. Shiara let out a small groan of annoyance, then shoved the boy rather unceremoniously out of her way. He stumbled, then glared at her. "Well, now! That wasn't polite!"

"Neither is shoving a broom handle up my nose!" Shiara shot back.

"Now what on earth is going on here?"

The three (excluding Nightwitch, who was currently sleeping on Kazul's back) turned and looked in surprise at the new voice. Then, as fate would have it, they all started talking at once.

"I was just trying to protect—"

"We came down for a visit—"

"This bloody IDIOT—"

"That's quite enough," Mendenbar cut them short, shaking his head. "Kazul, could you be so kind to explain? NO interruptions."

"You've been talking to Morwen more often haven't you?" Kazul said jokingly, then shook her head. "Shiara was having a bit of a bad day today so I decided it would be a good idea for us to take a slight.. trip. My apologies for coming unannounced."

Shiara didn't think she could ever get used to hearing a dragon apologize to a human, even if he was the King of the Enchanted Forest.

"It's quite all right," Mendenbar said, smiling. "You know you're always welcomed to come and visit, uninvited or not. But I have a feeling you're not done with your story."

Kazul chuckled lightly, then explained how the boy had shoved his broom against Shiara's nose and demanded a name and an explanation. Throughout the entire explanation, both Shiara and the boy were exchanging dirty looks.

"Ah," Mendenbar said after Kazul finished the story. He was looking highly amused. "I apologize for the rude... greeting, but Loki has somehow got it in his head that he must protect the princess Kessa while she is visiting." Loki, the sandy haired boy, glanced at the king with a puzzled look on his face. Shiara had the uncanny feeling that the boy was trying to decide whether to be offended or not.

Princess? Kessa? "With a broom?!" Shiara spat. Her nose still smarted, and she suddenly wanted to see Daystar even more. "Where's Daystar?"

"I believe he's in the common room," Cimorene said, suddenly appearing by her husband's side. Shiara jumped, but relaxed when she saw the bemused smile Cimorene was giving her. "He will be happy to see you."

"I—" Shiara paused, then grinned slightly. "Thanks!" Almost forgetting to bow respectfully, she quickly hurried to the common room. Practicing no form of grace, she swung the door open. "Daystar, I..."

The girl that was in the room caused Shiara to choke on her words and automatically wish she was in a better outfit than the one she had used for cleaning earlier. She became conscious of the chocolate stains that were on her sleeves, and the twigs and leaves she knew were in her tangled mass of red hair.

She was obviously the princess Mendenbar had mentioned. Kessa fit the role of princess perfectly, with her huge blue eyes and tight ringlets of blond curls. She was slender and willowy, and looked almost as if she came straight out of a portrait. The perfect princess was standing in front of Daystar, having apparently been saying something before Shiara burst in.

Daystar, however, wasn't much different from Shiara in some aspects. He took an opportunity and went with it. "Shiara!" he said, voice holding much more cheer then normal. In two quick strides he cleared the distance between the two of them and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, giving her a one-armed hug.

Princes weren't supposed to do that, especially not in front of possible suitors.

"You've got to save me," Daystar murmured quietly in her ear. Oh, so that's why he hugged her. "I can't get away from her without being rude!"

Shiara resisted the urge to smack the back of her friend's head. Instead, she returned his one-armed hug with one of her own, making sure to get the chocolate she knew she had on her dress onto him. He winced slightly. "You're hopeless, Daystar," she informed him. "But since you owe me an explanation, and I owe you a complaint, I'll rescue you like the knight in shining armor I am." Letting out a slight snort, she released Daystar.

Suddenly, she felt a thousand times more beautiful. Until, of course, Kessa spoke.

"Really, Daystar," Kessa said haughtily before Shiara could think up an excuse to rescue said prince. "I hadn't realized you were so informal with your scullery maids..."

The easiest way to anger a fire-witch is to insult her. Shiara fell silent for a few moments, not believing her ears. Daystar had permanently imprinted in her brain that she should always be polite, and that the people in the Enchanted Forest would generally be polite to you, unless you gave them a reason not to be, but this.. this..

Well, it had been awhile since Shiara was rendered speechless.

She opened and closed her mouth a few times, trying to form a couple, hopefully, biting words. However, her tongue refused to work and lay uselessly dormant at the bottom of her mouth. So she snapped her unhelpful facial part closed and instead glared daggers at the princess. She couldn't say anything witty back, because in a way, she was a scullery maid, which made the situation ten times worse.

Idly, she wondered if she could bribe Kazul into eating the princess. Dragons were notorious for eating princesses, even though they never did.

What did Kazul say to do when you're mad, again? Oh yeah, count to ten. One..

"Oh, I'm sorry! Are you not a scullery maid? I was mistaken by your dress.."

TWO..

"You must be a stable mistress or something. That would explain your awful appearance.."

Daystar took a step towards Shiara. He didn't particularly like the look she was giving the princess..

"And that hair! It looks like it hasn't ever been touched by a lady-in-waiting. My word, if it's too much, I could lend you one of mine.."

"THREE!"

Both Daystar and Kessa jumped when Shiara suddenly shouted that word, then Kessa screamed as the hot-tempered fire-witch launched herself at Kessa's throat. Daystar was almost too late to stop Shiara from strangling the other girl but (un)fortunately, he was able to grab the back of her dress and pull her back.

RIIIIIIIIIIP

Shiara froze. Daystar froze. Kessa froze, then grinned evilly.

The fire-witch wondered if she could justify killing the heir to the Enchanted Forest and his possible wife. Unable to find a suitable enough reason for murdering the two, she opted for letting out a scream of frustration and yanking herself out of Daystar's grasp. Clutching the loose cloth to her chest, she whirled on Daystar. Daystar flinched.

"I hate you," Shiara managed, tears standing in her eyes. At that statement, she dashed out of the room, ignoring the surprised shouts coming from behind her.

*

As fate would have it, Shiara found herself back in the kitchen. She somehow clung to the hope that Kazul would still be there, possibly terrorizing the castle cooks into cooking the large dragon something, or hopefully in the process of devouring that annoying boy. She had no luck, though, as the people in the kitchen were the Queen, Morwen, and that pesky boy.

"You know, this would be the perfect time for you to open up and swallow me whole," she told the floor. Unfortunately, talking to the floor tended to draw attention to her.

"Shiara! What happened?" Cimorene asked, surprised.

Shiara leveled Cimorene with a dark look, wondering if this was an appropriate time to burst into tears. "Where's Kazul?" she asked instead. "I think it's time for me to go home."

There was the dramatic silence where everyone tried to piece together Shiara's story in their head. Loki was the first to speak up, unfortunately.

"I know! You were attacked by a giant chocolate monster!"

Shiara resisted to bang her head against the table. "No, NO you bloody idiot! I was NOT attacked by a giant chocolate monster!"

"A taffy monster, then?"

It took both Cimorene and Morwen to hold Shiara back from attacking Loki. Daystar took that moment to walk in. "Hey, Mother? Have you seen.. Shiara.." His voice trailed off when four sets of eyes turned to look at him, one pair that shouted out "DANGER!"

"Ah..."

This time, it took Cimorene, Morwen, AND Loki to hold Shiara back.

*

As it was, there was no way Shiara could convince Kazul to take her home. The dragon was too busy discussing something with Telemain that sounded too important to be bothered, and when she tried to listen, she couldn't make heads or tails of what Telemain was trying to explain. For some reason, she had the uncanny feeling that Kazul was floating along the same boat with her—not being able to understand Telemain, that is. She made the mental note to pester Kazul about what she and Telemain were talking about later, after Kazul would finally be able to convince Telemain to speak in English.

Thankfully, to get back to the subject on hand (Shiara's clothing), Cimorene had had a closet installed in the castle that worked much like the closet in Kazul's old caves. After a couple of tries, Shiara had managed to get the rather stubborn closet to give her dresses in her slightly more petite size.

"You're also welcome to take a bath, if you'd like," Cimorene informed her as she bustled around the room. The Queen was plotting something, but far be it from her to let the others know what the plot was. Well, besides Mendenbar, and she was fairly certain Morwen had figured out her scheme, and if Morwen knew...

Cimorene snorted, drawing the attention from Shiara. "Well? The bathing room is over there."

Shiara nodded, dumbfounded, then made her way to the bath. She wasn't about to disagree with the Queen of the Enchanted forest, after all, as close as she was to the family. So she sighed, took her dress (while clutching the remains of her old one to her chest), and made her way to the bathing room. One of the many maids rushed to the bath and started pumping lukewarm water into the tub, all the while chattering about this and that to the disinterested Shiara.

"You're friends with the young Prince Daystar, are you not?" The maid sighed dreamily, clutching her hands to her chest and momentarily forgetting to continue filling the tub. "Oh, how I would love to be in your position! Mingling with royalty, conversing with dragons, and.. oh!"

Shiara was put upon. She still couldn't fathom why the usually level headed Cimorene and Mendenbar were hiring such silly people.

"Oh, I'm sorry!" the maid burst into tears, and Shiara briefly wondered if she had said anything. "Oh, listen to me, going on and on about how lucky you are.." The maid's sobs turned into wails, and for once, Shiara found herself in a position where she had no idea what to do. "I-I should be thankful I got so lucky to work at such a wonderful place like this, unlike my many brothers and sisters, but.. but.." The young maid sniffled. "But I've always wanted to be royalty! WAAAAAAH!!"

Shiara dropped her head in her hands. What on earth had she done to deserve this mess?

"Listen, would you do me a favor and.. go.." Shiara quickly thought up a reasonable reason to send the bawling girl off and save her head from exploding. "..go.. find King Kazul and.. tell her that I need to talk to her after I bathe?"

The girl squeaked. "You.. you wish for me to talk with a dragon?! She would eat me!"

One.. two.. "Well, then, can you find Daystar and tell him I need to talk to Kazul?!" Shiara fairly shouted. The twitch in her eye was becoming more defined.

"Y-yes, Miss.." The maid scurried off, shutting the door quietly behind her. Shiara let out a long, weary breath and pulled off the remainders of her dress, sinking into the warm bath. Suddenly, surprising Shiara out of her wits, the maid peeked her head back in. "Do you still want me to do your hair?"

"OUT!!"

"Yes, Miss!"

Shiara sunk all the way under the water, wondering if the tub was deep enough to drown herself in.

.:end chapter one:.