Once upon a time, there was a young princess, beautiful as all princesses are. But this princess was also strong and smart. She was a free spirit in a time where women were encouraged to be anything but. She was called Adriana. Willful though she was, her parents adored her and taught her everything they knew. Her mother taught her weaving and sewing and music, and against the usual tradition, her father taught her archery and how to hunt, even sword fighting. She began sitting in on matters of state at an early age just for the exposure. She was going to make a strong and powerful ruler when the day finally came, but then the unthinkable happened: her father was killed in an incident involving a dragon, and her uncle came into power. While Adriana’s father was a kind and gentle ruler, his brother was not. He had no patience for Adriana, who was now growing up to be a beautiful woman, so the first thing he did upon gaining the kingdom was to send Adriana off to be married to Prince Julian of a neighboring kingdom. Adriana begged and pleaded with her uncle not to make her go, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. Now Prince Julian was a bloodthirsty sort and would use nearly any excuse to go into battle. He even had weekly tournaments of which he was nearly always the winner, although the prizes were great for those who could manage to defeat him. So when he ordered the capture of the dragon responsible for Adriana’s father’s death, it wasn’t just as a wedding present for his bride as he proclaimed. It was to satisfy the bloodlust of a violent man, for the winner of the tournament would earn the right to face the dragon in battle. Now you and I both know that dragons are fierce in battle, especially when defending their life, but what you may not know is that the dragons had been living in peace with Adriana’s kingdom for centuries, so Adriana knew that this dragon would not have killed her father, and therefore did not deserve what was to befall him. So Adriana struck a deal with the dragon and the deal was thus: Adriana would ensure that she would be the winner of the tournament if the dragon would fly them both to safety and help her to free her kingdom from her uncle’s tyranny. The dragon, whose name was Dimitri, agreed, and an accord was struck. Now Adriana, for her part, snuck a hunter’s outfit from the laundry while pretending to run an errand. The hood on the outfit would hide her face and hair, for there was no way that Prince Julian would ever knowingly allow a woman to compete, let alone his bride. On the day of the tournament, Adriana fought the fiercest she was able, and no man was able to defeat her. Finally it was time to her to fight the prince himself. He was a talented swordsman to be sure, but no one could beat Adriana this day. She had her sword to his throat in a matter of minutes and had him laying his own at her feet. “You have fought well, little one,” he told her with a bow. “May I know the name of the fierce hunter who has defeated the prince himself?” Without a word, Adriana turned to the dragon who was being led in. “Ah, yes, on with it then, and once he’s defeated, on with the pleasantries and party. You’ll tell me your name then.” They released the dragon’s restraints, and Adriana was off, but instead of thrusting with her sword, she leap onto Dimitri’s back before he rose up on his hind legs to let out a terrible fiery roar. Adriana tossed back her hood and proclaimed, “It is I, Adriana, your princess, who has defeated you, and I am your princess no more. My friend, the dragon and I shall return to my kingdom and free it from my uncle’s grasp. Your treaty will not hold if you harm another, man, woman, or dragon, so be warned.” And with that they flew out of sight, hovering above the clouds before landing in the courtyard of her kingdom. It is said that Adriana and her dragon were such a fearsome sight that her uncle surrendered without a fight, and her kingdom lived on in peace for many more centuries alongside their friends, the dragons who became their protectors. And Prince Julian, for his part, never fought another battle for fear that Adriana and her dragon would return as promised. He lived in peace as well, but not so happily, nor so long as Adriana and her dragon.