I live in a castle. A great big castle. My daddy left it to me. He left me Zirenth too.
Who is Zirenth? He is a dragon. A bronze dragon. He protects me, and my castle.
If not for Zirenth, I don’t think I could protect my castle, I am only seven years old. At least that is my best guess. My daddy died when I was five. I know that because we celebrated my fifth birthday in the spring, and daddy died later in the fall.
Daddy fell off Zirenth. Zirenth almost died too. He did not eat for weeks and weeks. I finally persuaded him I needed him. That I missed daddy too, and together we could get through it.
Zirenth flew off and was gone until night fall. I knew he’d fed, because his stomach was fat with whatever he ate. Daddy made him stop eating people, there are not many of them left. Daddy said that Zirenth’s cousins almost wiped out all the people. Daddy said all those little dragons are gone now. The few humans left finally killed off the ones who didn’t eat each other.
My castle has a name. It’s called All-O-Rica. That is what my daddy said the letters on the front of the castle spell. I can’t read very well. Daddy was teaching me, but now he is gone.
My castle has almost everything I need. It has lots of hiding places for me to play hide and seek with Zirenth. He is so big, its easy to hide from him. Daddy said he is the size of a tractor trailer. I didn’t know what one of those were, so daddy took me out to the old freeway and showed me one. It was abandoned like all the cars around it. There was more than one tractor trailer, but the one daddy showed me was about the same size as Zirenth. Only Zirenth is prettier. Not as boxy as one of those big ugly tractor trailers.
Within my castle, there are all kinds of strange things that daddy said no one makes anymore. They don’t work because their batteries are dead, and there is no more electricity. In one big room, with a blue and gold sign above the door, is all kinds of things with glass screens and little buttons with letters on them. There is a place for things with smaller glass screens, but no buttons. On one side of the room there is big metal and glass things. An old sign still hangs over them with the letters a-p-p-l-i-a-n-c-e-s. I don’t know what that spells.
I wish daddy was able to teach me how to read better. I dream of a prince charming coming to my castle and showing me how these things work, and what they were for. I dream that one day my mommy will find me, and she will teach me to read.
In the middle of my castle, daddy planted a garden among the rusty metal girders. He says the roof used to be glass, but weather, mini-dragons, and people broke it all out over the years. It allows the rain to feed my garden. I am getting better at the garden thing. Daddy showed me some stuff, but most of it is trial and error now. The errors suck, because it ruins what I get to eat.
On nice days, Zirenth will take me down to the river. It is just south of here, whatever that means. Zirenth will catch fish for me and make them so I can eat the pink meat without spitting out a bunch of scales or eating a bunch of icky guts.
There used to be fish in my castle’s dungeon, my daddy used to tell me, but when the electricity went out, the pumps failed, and the fish died.
Seems a lot of things died before I was born.
Zirenth is out hunting now as I wonder the corridors of my castle. I miss my daddy. I get lonely when Zirenth hunts. I wish I had friends, or a mommy. Daddy never did tell me what happened to my mommy. Zirenth probably knows, but he cannot talk. He can roar. Man can he roar. That is how he scares away the bad men who sometimes try to sneak into my castle.
Once, when he was away hunting, a bad man did come into my castle. Actually, it was several bad men. I hoped one was my prince charming, but the biggest one grabbed my arm, squeezed it hard, made me scream. He was saying mean things to me, asking where my mommy was.
I don’t know how far away Zirenth was, but it wasn’t long before I heard the swooshing of his giant wings, then through the garden roof he came, his roar making me ears hurt. The bad man released me but stood frozen in terror as Zirenth’s tail snapped out and cut off the man’s head.
The other two men tried to run, but Zirenth grabbed one with his front claws, while slashing off the leg of the other with his tail. Zirenth roared in triumph as the man in his claws died. I might have felt sorry for them, if not for the mean man. The man with the missing leg tried to crawl away, but soon lost strength. I think he was bleeding to death. There was so much blood.
One by one, Zirenth carried them off. I am pretty sure he ate them, even though daddy told him not to eat people. My guess is, since he killed them defending me, they were fair game.
As I wander past a room full of all kinds of shoes, I wonder if he scares away the good men too. My prince charming. I am a princess, I live in a castle. One day, a prince charming is supposed to come and sweep me off my feet.
That is how the stories my daddy used to tell me went.
Zirenth the bronze dragon is a name borrowed from Anne McCaffrey and her Dragon Riders of Pern.