Dragon Guardian

Rating: T

Summary: Lucy is a princess locked up in a castle. Oh, and there's a dragon guarding it.

A/N: This is AU, and slightly based on The Dragon's Ward by Kieseru. I wanted to write my own version, taking a different direction. Other than the same premise, the two stories aren't alike. I was going to turn it into a very long one-shot, but I guess chapters are better.


Air.

Lucy needs air, desperately. She opens her mouth, breathing in, but nothing flows through her body—as if suddenly there's an invisible hand around her throat, choking her.

The man in dark long robes, tall of stature and clouded in mystery, simply smirks at her with glee. He's just finished chanting a strange spell in a language Lucy's never heard before, one that suddenly took her breath away. He seems to honestly enjoy the fact that Lucy is writhing on the floor, clutching at her pearly pink dress.

"Lucy!" he father yells, and rushes to her side.

Lucy's trying to gasp for breath, but no matter how hard the little ten year old tries, she doesn't feel any oxygen enter her lungs. There's so much air around her, but she feels as if she were drowning in an ocean.

"What ... what did you do to her!? You monster!" Her father yells at the mysterious man.

The dark robe rustles as the man takes a step forward, his face pulled in a hungry expression. It's an expression Lucy's never seen before, but eventually her eyes fall shut, having no more energy to keep them open.

"I'm going to make sure you will never have something precious again, so I took away her ability to live, just like you took away mine," says the man, his voice eerily calm. He chuckles arrogantly, now having the upper hand.

Lucy tries to open up her teary eyes to look at her father one last time—she's not going to make it, she can't breathe at all, and her consciousness is steadily slipping away. Her hand reaches out to him, desperate to touch him. Her father is about to grab her hand when the man interrupts.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," he says with a tut. "This little girl will find out that the only way to live her life, is to get away from you. From anyone." The man then smiles, before he bows in front of the king, and disappears in a cloud of smoke.

Her father takes a step back, and Lucy mouths to him; don't go! Don't leave her alone! Her father is torn between wanting to grab her hand, and taking heed to the stranger's warning. So he takes another step back, and another, and suddenly Lucy can feel a little air filling her lungs again. She takes in a big heap of air, her eyes wide and unfocused, but only a little oxygen manages to enter, but it's enough to sit up straight on her own strength at least.

The king collapses on the floor."No ... my darling princess. It can't be ... you can't be cursed with the Dragon's Kiss ..."

Lucy Heartfilia, only ten years old, and she was the first person to have ever been cursed with the Dragon's Kiss. A curse that would have her gasping for air the same way a dragon gasps for fire if its fire is constricted or taken away.

oOo

Lucy decides she hates dragons, even if she's never seen one before in her life, but she hates it regardless. The Dragon's Kiss is an ancient curse, so ancient, it's only ever been written about, and no one had ever encountered a real life case of it. In fact, most people believed it to be a fairy tale, a fable, a myth—but Lucy's violent spasms as her lungs try to breathe air whenever someone gets near her are very real.

She can't be around another person anymore, anytime anyone was in her vicinity, she would close up and fall to the ground, gasping for air. Her father, the king, tried his best to lock her in a room and communicate with her through letters—but even the room was too small for her. Lucy literally felt like she was always treading between the line of consciousness and unconsciousness; it was a constant painful battle for her.

Eventually, her father couldn't take it anymore, and devised a plan. A plan to try and find out a way to break the curse, and simultaneously protect Lucy from humans that came too close to her. He sent Lucy away, far away from anyone else where no one could find her and cause her suffering, and that meant she was locked up in a castle hidden deep in a forest.

Oh, and there's a dragon guarding her castle.

Lucy doesn't know how, or when—she thought dragons were fairy tales as well—but her father managed to get her castle guarded by a dragon, since she can't be around other humans. If knights couldn't protect her, a dragon will do, her father had written to her. Why did it have to be a dragon? The one who bears the name of her curse? It just seems like a bad omen to her; getting protected from something that causes her pain ...

Lucy really doesn't like dragons. Not that she's seen it around.

She cried all night and day when she first got to the castle, locked up in her new bedroom, sobbing herself to sleep. She missed her father, she missed her friends, she missed having someone to talk to. She was alone, scared and angry. Alone because she couldn't see her family anymore. Scared because there's a dragon in the castle. Angry because the mysterious man cursed her when she had done nothing wrong.

What had she done to deserve this life? Locked up in a castle, guarded by a dragon she hasn't even seen?

oOo

It's the second day, and Lucy is in her bed, hiding underneath her blanket and silently crying. When suddenly, she hears a chime—a bell. A bell? She sits up straight, and immediately thinks it's her father. He's come to get her back!

"Daddy!" Lucy yells out and she gets out of her bed and runs towards her big wooden door to open it. But there's no one there. Her heart stings with pain and she starts sobbing again.

Why did he leave her here all alone? She just wants to go home!

Lucy is about to crawl back in her pink bed, when she notices something. It had already seemed odd to her when she first came inside of the bedroom, but there's a small indent in her wall. A big square made out of stones. At first she thought it was just an area to place candles, but instead of there being a candle, there's a plate with an apple on it.

Food.

Lucy doesn't know how it got there, but she refuses to touch it; she doesn't want to accept it. Because accepting the food meant accepting her new way of life, and anything but that. Lucy is sure her father will break the curse in no time, and come back to pick her up. So she hops back onto her bed and pulls the covers over her. Yes, daddy will come get her soon. She doesn't need to eat.

Even when her stomach growls loudly late at night; Lucy doesn't touch the apple. She stubbornly refuses to get out of bed.

But then one night turns into another, and one apple turns into two apples, three apples—until there's a bunch of fruit piled up in what Lucy has figured out, is a dumbwaiter. Where does the food come from anyway?

The dragon, she thinks. It's the dragon that's giving her food, it couldn't be anyone else, because then Lucy would know; she'd stop breathing immediately. But how can a dragon even hold an apple? Aren't they big, body clad in scales and have big scary claws? Lucy squeezes her eyes shut and hides under the covers; she won't accept help from a scary dragon. Her father will pick her up soon. Soon.

However, no matter how many times poor little Lucy wished her father would pick her up, he never did. For three long days, Lucy had ignored any food sent up to her room, leaving it to rot and stench up the room that she refused to get out of. She was dehydrated and famished, it was painful, but not as painful as being so alone in this big castle with the thing she hates most guarding her. Eventually, Lucy is too malnourished to even move around, so on her fourth day, she collapses.

When she came to again, she was on her bed, and the scent of cooked food filled her nostrils. Suddenly it was the only thing her mind could think about; food.

Little Lucy hops off the bed and rushes towards the table in the middle of her big room where she could smell the food coming from. The rotten fruit was gone, and instead there is a silver plate on her table; a steak. Hungrily, she grabs it with her hands—princess manners substituted for pure raw instinct—and scarves it down as fast as she can. The steak wasn't that great, it was actually both a little burned and undercooked at the same time, but Lucy at the moment, didn't care. It was food her body desperately needed.

That day, with tears in her eyes as she finished up her steak, Lucy accepted her fate and her imprisonment inside of this castle.

oOo

Three times a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Three times a day, the magical dumbwaiter would chime, alerting her that food had arrived. Lucy doesn't know how it works; food just magically appears on a silver plate in her wall. When she's done, she puts the empty plate back in the dumbwaiter and pushes a little button next to it, that makes it disappear. She guesses this is the only way she can be fed by the dragon, whose help she has begrudgingly accepted. She still doesn't like dragons though. Besides, this dragon can't even cook!

Half the food that's sent up to her room is burned, and the other half is undercooked. Even any vegetables she gets are not properly cooked or prepared. Then again, what does a dragon know about cooking human food ... maybe his big tail just gets in the way, or something. It still annoys Lucy though, especially when burnt food is sent up, then she has to skip a meal and hope the next one will be cooked better. She can't tell if the dragon is guarding her, or trying to kill her with raw chicken.

Speaking of this dragon—Lucy hasn't seen it. Not once. Not a single glimpse. How does one hide a huge dragon in the castle anyway? Lucy assumes it sleeps outside, but from her window, she sees nothing. Perhaps she needs to be a bit more adventurous and explore the castle.

So after a week of being locked up in her room, Lucy finally walks out of her bedroom.

She's a bit scared, preparing herself to walk right into a fireball, but there's no one in the hallway. It's so empty, her footsteps echo as far as the eye can see. It's actually kind of scary, so Lucy shrinks down her shoulders and holds her hands together, worried some monsters might be lurking around. She takes a tentative few steps, until she's brave enough to walk up straight. She comes across a big entrance room, with a grand staircase leading down to the first floor. Lucy's at the top of the stairs, looking down at the huge front door.

Freedom, she thinks.

Eager to go outside, Lucy rushes forward, only to hit her head on something invisible, and falls back on her butt with a painful yelp. Lucy rubs her forehead and glares at whatever blocked her way; but there's nothing to be seen.

"Huh?" she wonders out loud. She picks herself up and throws out her hands, and feels them touch something solid in front of her, but she can't see it. It's invisible.

"It's a barrier," she mutters to herself. A ... a barrier? To keep her locked in? This is insane!

Furious that she wasn't just stored away in a castle in the middle of nowhere, but that there was an actual barrier preventing her from leaving, angered her more than the Dragon's Kiss itself. Lucy desperately tries to find other ways to get down, but each hallway is eventually blocked by the invisible wall again, and when Lucy tries to open a window and climb out onto the railing outside, she's stopped yet again.

A prison. This castle is her prison, Lucy thinks. She can't even get down to the first floor; how is she going to stay sane if she can't even go outside and enjoy nature? It is already torture she hasn't spoken to anyone in a week—but now she can't even go outside! This is the worst.

When she's back in her room, ignoring her raw dinner (raw chicken is deadly, her mother had once told her), Lucy wonders if the reason she can't go to the first floor, is because the dragon sleeps there. But isn't the dragon supposed to protect her? Not that Lucy wants to see it anyway. He can keep the first floor, she'll stay up here, and perhaps read some books as she came across a library when she was trying to find an exit.

Lucy hurriedly goes back to the library, taking her time to explore it. It's rather large, but obviously not as big as the one she had back home—that one was her mother's pride. Tall wooden cases line up against the stone walls, filled with dusty books. Lucy smiles weakly, and trails her fingers across the spines of the old books. She's always liked to read, her mother taught her how to at a very early age, so she's read quite a few books. But these ones, she doesn't recognize any of these names, they're probably far too old for her to have read them. Lucy selects a random green book from one of the large bookshelves, then takes it back to her room where she reads it.

It's a fairy tale about a princess waiting for her prince to wake her up with her true love's first kiss. Lucy yawns and throws the book behind her bed; romance never interested in her. It had always been the adventure stories that got her attention. Besides, those stories are always so unrealistic. She's a princess—but she's definitely not waiting for some prince to come kiss her!

When she was nine, her father made her meet a bunch of older boys that were princes, as potential suitors. To Lucy, they were all stuck-up and didn't know how to have fun. Lucy liked playing with wooden swords, but the boys were more interested in lifting up her skirt. She hasn't got many good experiences with boys, and just like dragons, Lucy doesn't like them. For ten year old Lucy right now, romance is the furthest thing on her mind. She just wants to go home again and hug her father.

If only her mother were here, she would know what to do with the curse. Lucy fondly remembers how her mother practiced magic, a beautiful kind of magic that used keys to open doors to the most extravagant landscapes. Lucy was forbidden to enter through those doors, but how she longed to explore with her mother. Little Lucy wanted to be just like her when she grew up. It's still the saddest day in her life when her mother had mysteriously vanished. No one ever saw her again.

Lucy hopes her father won't disappear on her either; he's all she's got left. And now she can't even see him.

She silently cries herself to sleep that night.

oOo

It's been about three weeks now. Lucy is getting better, tougher, and she's crying less—but the loneliness remains as strong as ever. She's got no one to talk to but herself, so she's gotten into the habit of reading books out loud, simply to hear a person's voice. It's silly, but it makes her feel less lonely, as if she were reading it for someone else. She even sings some songs that her mother used to sing to her. Every night, before she goes to bed, she will sing a song about a knight who has bravely fought in the war, and is on his way home. He tills his wife to keep on waiting for him, and to not lose hope. Lucy tries not to lose hope herself either. She will wait, in this dragon guarded castle, for her father to return.

The castle itself has some very odd enchantments. Sometimes Lucy wonders if the furniture is alive, with the way they seem to move and disappear every once in a while. One time she swore she saw a goblet jump off from a table, and hop out of the room. The trees in the paintings on the wall seem to softly move in a breeze that isn't really there. Her closet seems to always have a new, magnificent dress in her size when she opens it up. Her bathroom has running hot water and her towels are always clean after she uses them. All the candles in the castle will dim when she goes to bed. Perhaps the castle knows when she goes to sleep?

It's a lot to get used to; Lucy doesn't have these kind of things at her own castle. She wonders if a clergy of wizards used to live here, and that they practiced their magic on anything they could find.

Lucy is kind of interested in learning magic as well.

The kind of magic she sees daily, is the dumbwaiter. Three times a day she gets a meal sent up to her room, though most of the time it's inedible. A couple of times, breakfast was skipped, which made Lucy very cranky as she was always up early in the morning. She wishes she knew who made the food. At first she thought it was the dragon, but that idea seems kind of farfetched. Maybe the castle makes it for her? It doesn't seem that crazy of an idea when entire rooms suddenly manage to disappear.

She hasn't yet decided whether or not she finds the castle creepy, or fascinating.

oOo

One day, Lucy hears a strange noise.

Having gotten used to the creaks the castle makes, she notices this is a sound she hasn't heard before. It's far in the distance, and it's a low kind of grumble—but it's definitely from inside the castle.

It's scary. What if it's a monster that came to eat her? Lucy quickly runs out of the library and hurries back to her room, wanting to hide under her blankets.

"Daddy, please come back soon," she whimpers.

As much as Lucy wants to put up a strong front and pretend to be alright, she's still a lost ten year old girl, all alone in an enchanted castle.

oOo

Lucy doubts there's really a dragon guarding her castle.

It's been well over two months now—Lucy's been entertaining herself by reading the books in the library—and not once has she seen it. She found a few books that had some information about dragons, and it had pictures in it. They were large, reptile-like, had scales covering their bodies, and a pair of huge scary looking wings was attached to its back. It said that dragons haven't been spotted since two centuries ago, on a peculiar day when all dragons mysteriously vanished.

So Lucy figures there's no way her father could have found a dragon for her. For one, they're pretty much extinct now, and two—they're way too big to be in the castle!

Which means ... she truly is alone, and Lucy doesn't like that thought.

She spends her time trying to fold a piece of paper (which she found in a drawer that had never-ending paper coming out of it) into the shape of a dragon, but fails miserably at it.

oOo

Then one day, it happens.

It had been such a long time since Lucy last felt it, that she had forgotten she even had it; the Dragon's Kiss. At first her throat felt kind of itchy, and she thought nothing of it, but then suddenly it was pinching closed—she could hardly breathe!

Lucy rolls out of her bed, clutching at her dry throat, trying to breathe. Why now? Why did it suddenly appear again? She staggers over to her window; there must be someone close by! Is it her father!? Hopeful that her father might have returned, Lucy tries to scan the area around the edge of the forest. Then she sees it; a man clad in rusted armour, holding up his sword in a defense position.

No, that's not her father, that's just some idiot who managed to stumble upon her castle.

The knight let out a battler roar and charged towards the castle. Lucy started gagging immediately. No! He can't come closer! It'll kill her! She gasps for breath, falling down to her knees and staring up at the blue sky, hoping that the man will leave. She wants to scream and tell him to go away, but her voice is lost—she's too busy trying to take in air that isn't filling her lungs. Lucy's eyelids begin to feel droopy, and just when she's about to lose consciousness, that's when she sees it; a large gust of flames bursting out into the sky.

Not a second later, Lucy takes in a rush of fresh air, and then another, until her breathing is back to normal again. Her heart is racing, and there's adrenaline pumping through her veins. She didn't think people would come out here, she thought she'd be safe, hidden away from society. Yet, someone managed to find the castle. Lucy hopes it was a poor lost knight, and not someone sent to come after her and kill her. That would be bad, very bad.

Though at least, Lucy now knows there really is a dragon guarding her. The worst part? He saved her.

"Thank you ... Mr. Dragon," she whispers.

Maybe just for today, she won't hate dragons.

oOo

Keeping track of time while being locked away isn't always easy. Sometimes Lucy even forgets what day it is, so a few weeks ago, she started using a calendar to keep track of time, to count all the lonely days.

It's been more than half a year since she last saw her father, and since she last talked to another human being.

Today is Lucy's birthday, she is now eleven years old. Sad, and angry that she's still in this dusty old castle, she sings her own birthday song in the library. There's sadness in her voice, and Lucy can't help but shed a few tears, that splatter on the pages of her book. She tells herself she's older now, and she should act more mature. There is no time for crying anymore. She should be strong, resilient—just like her mother. Except poor Lucy yearns for someone to talk to, someone to laugh with, it's hard to be strong when you're all alone.

This is Lucy's worst birthday.

She returns to her room, having finished singing her song, and not interested in reading for the moment. When she opens her door, a surprise awaits her. There, in the dumbwaiter, though oddly misshapen and toppling off to one side, is a plate with a pink cake on top. There are eleven lit candles stuck on top, as if someone roughly shoved them in, causing the pink icing to crumble apart. It looks terrible, so terrible that Lucy's laughing yet crying at the same time. She walks over to the dumbwaiter, brushing the tears out of her eyes, and letting out the strangest sounds that sound more like a combination of a whine and a hiccup.

It really is a cake. Lucy is positive it will taste as terrible as it looks, but the gesture warms her heart nonetheless. It's a little less lonely knowing someone thought of her, even if it is a dragon. She closes her eyes and blows out all of the candles, making a wish to be reunited with her father again. As Lucy eats the very, very sweet cake—it was like eating pure sugar—she folds her napkin into the shape of a heart, and writes down 'thank you' on it. Lucy really is grateful for the cake, so she finishes the entire thing and sends the empty plate back down, along with her thank you note.

She wipes away the rest of her tears; no more crying. Starting from today, Lucy will be strong. If a dragon, of all things, can bake a cake, she can do anything as well.