This is Part V of Princess for the Night. Part I of Princess for the Night is here
Avery had been training. He has vowed to put a stop to this madness once and for all. Despite the thick hide of the dragon, Avery thinks with a well placed slash to the throat, he could take the dragon down and end this.
Nobody else has dared. But nobody else has had his vengeance. Disgusted by Tonna’s death. Disgusted by the cowardice of his people. Avery has had enough.
For her fourth year, Isabella submits her name. The other girls do the same. An elder reaches into the box, scrambles some papers around and pulls out a name.
Several hundred people there. Yet, silence. Nobody utters a word. They all wait for the name to be called.
Everyone knows everyone. Every year, someone loses a family member. And everyone loses someone they know. A sister. A daughter. A granddaughter. A niece. A friend.
Every year, the older people become more numb. The young people get more anxious. That person must die for the survival of all the neighboring villages.
But why hasn’t anyone questioned this practice? Why hasn’t someone stepped forth and even attempted to be a hero?
Every year, the name gets called. And that girl becomes princess for the night as each village puts up the best party they possibly could for her. Then the next morning, they chain her in front of the dragon’s cave and the dragon feasts.
Avery witnessed last year’s carnage, to no one’s knowledge, except for Isabella’s. Not even his trainers knew.
Avery finally decided that he will put a stop to this. Or die trying.
At first, Isabella thought he was mad. Then as he described Tonna’s death in painstaking detail, Isabella almost shared his vengeance. But not at the dragon, for the dragon is just a beast. But for the whole process. The villages. The cowardliness.
Isabella watched Avery train and saw that Avery was becoming a monster. If anyone had a chance against the beast…
And if Avery dies trying, will the dragon attack the villages? That means the pact had been broken. Someone dared stand up to the dragon.
Avery considered this. But, he was confident that he would end this. Once and for all. No girl ever again will die the way Tonna died.
So, as I was telling you earlier, the elder reaches into the box, scrambles some papers around and pulls out a name. As he has done before for many years.
Each time he drew the name, there was a sadness in his eyes. A remorse. A helplessness.
As always, nobody uttered a word. Even the children, usually restless, knew that someone they know, they won’t see alive tomorrow. Even they kept still, and kept silent.
Unlike the other girls, Isabella came forward with a blank face. She neither cried nor collapsed. She simply moved forward. And bowed, accepting her fate. For she knew, the love of her life, her future husband, the greatest warrior this village has ever known, had a plan.