Penelope doodled in her sketchbook by the light of her bedside table lamp. It was a Saturday evening, and she’d rather be spending the time with her friends, but she was currently on house arrest by her parents’ command. She glanced at her clock and sighed. 11:59 p.m. it read. Maybe it was better to just try to go to sleep instead of waiting for tiredness to come save her.
She was about to turn out her light when the clock turned to midnight and what seemed to be an enormous bird crashed into her window and fell down. Penelope gave a small scream and rushed to open the window. She placed her hands on both sides of it and leaned her head out to scan the ground. There was nothing on the grass below, and Penelope thought that the bird must have flown away, until she felt a whoosh of air fly above her head, and heard the thunk of something landing in her bedroom.
Slowly, she pulled her head back in and turned to face the creature.
Penelope had expected a hawk or eagle of some kind, but instead saw a two foot long, one foot high lizard with dark green scales and two wings struggling to stand from where it had landed clumsily on her carpet. At last, it got to its feet and turned to face her.
“Princess Penelope!” it said.
Penelope blinked. “What the h-?”
“I am Doomhorne, dragon of the northwest, here to steal you away from this tower so
that you may become my bride!”
“I’m already dreaming,” muttered Penelope. “Resistance is futile!” yelled Doomhorne.
“OK! Stop shouting!” Penelope took a moment to gather herself, and then said, “I think you’ve got the wrong address, buddy.”
Doomhorne turned his head left, then right, then back to Penelope. “Aren’t you Princess Penelope of Pennsylvania?”
“That’s the right name and state, but I’m no princess.”
“But you’ve been locked away in the top of a tower!” argued Doomhorne.
“I’ve been locked in my bedroom, which also happens to be the attic of my house,
because I’ve been grounded for staying out too late.” Penelope eyed Doomhorne up and down. “If you’re a dragon, shouldn’t you be sleeping on a pile of gold or something?”
Doomhorne raised his head proudly. “I’ve amassed a rather sizeable mound of the coinage known as ‘pennies’ to lie on. Their shine is most dazzling.”
“Uh-huh,” Penelope said, her brows raised and eyes half-lidded.
“But don’t change the subject!” Doomhorne yelled. “You are to come away with me to be my wife.”
“The door is locked, buddy,” Penelope reminded him. “Unless you want to try to burn it down?”
Doomhorne’s eyes flitted to the ground and he twiddled one clawed foot against the floor, ashamed. “My flame is rather meager.”
“You gonna fly me out the window?”
“I can’t lift anything heavier than a small pig.”
Penelope scoffed. “You’re a terrible dragon.”
“Well you’re not much of a princess, Princess!” said Doomhorne. “You’re only feat is
being the captain of the leaders of cheer, you can’t even charm the forest creatures.”
“I’m not a princess!” argued Penelope. “And squirrels that live in the trees on the sidewalk do not count as forest creatures.”
“If you’re not a princess, then what are you?” asked Doomhorne.
Penelope did a quick mental evaluation of the sixteen years of her existence. “I don’t know,” she mumbled.
“...Would you like to be a princess?”
“No! I mean- I don’t know,” said Penelope. She walked over to her bed and sat down on it hard, causing the springs to bounce and creak. “I definitely don’t want to be your wife.”
The two were silent for a moment, and then Penelope added, “Sorry.”
Doomhorne sighed. “I don’t really want a wife right now, anyway. I’m just trying to be more dragonly because that’s what I’m supposed to be.”
“Maybe you should think about being something else,” said Penelope. “And I mean, I’m not saying I won’t eventually want to be a princess, but maybe I’ll want to be a knight. Or a squire.”
“Or a jester?” asked Doomhorne.
“Exactly!” Penelope fidgeted for a second. “Do you want a snack? I stole some pretzels from the pantry before Mom and Dad sent me back up here.”
“I do enjoy soured dough.”
Doomhorne hopped up on Penelope’s bed and the two shared the bag of pretzels while Penelope showed the dragon her sketchbooks. They stayed that way until three in the morning, when Penelope started to yawn.
“You grow weary,” said Doomhorn. He jumped off the bed. “I shall let you retire.” “You’re leaving?” asked Penelope, suppressing another yawn. “You don’t have to.”
“I need to return to my clan in the northwest. They may mock me for not bringing you back, but I doubt any of them have had an experience such as the one we shared.” Doomhorne bowed to her. “You have been a most excellent host, Princess Penelope.”
“Not a princess,” said Penelope.
“Right.” Doomhorne rose and looked at her sketchbooks. “Perhaps you should consider becoming a portrait painter, your works are quite captivating.”
Penelope gave an abashed half-smile. “Maybe. Come back in another six or so years and then ask me what I am.”
“I shall,” said Doomhorne. “Goodnight Pr- Penelope.”
With that, Doomhorne flew out of Penelope’s window and into the night sky. Penelope shut the glass behind him, turned out her light, and dreamt of dragons.