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Chapter one
A Dream of 
Drakes and Damsels

I, Meri Tideborne, Princess of Waterspire, was having a perfectly lovely day until I was rudely interrupted by a most infuriating stranger. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

As I stepped out into the lush, vibrant gardens of Waterspire Castle, I couldn't help but feel a sense of relief wash over me. The castle had been a flurry of activity all morning, with servants rushing to and fro, preparing for the arrival of the diplomatic envoy from Emberisle. It was a historic moment for our kingdom, considering our tumultuous past with our former rival nation.

You see, Waterspire was once ruled by my uncle, the Mad King, who had a penchant for extravagant water features and a complete lack of regard for indoor plumbing. His reign was a dark time for our kingdom, filled with flooded bathrooms and a severe shortage of rubber duckies. But thankfully, my parents, the true heirs to the throne, managed to depose him in a bloodless coup involving a well-timed flush and a strategically placed bar of soap. Now, we were focusing on mending fences and building bridges, both figuratively and literally (the Mad King's love for moats had left our infrastructure in shambles).

As the only princess of Waterspire, I knew I should have been inside, helping with the preparations and practicing my curtsy. But the truth was, I needed a moment to myself, away from the chaos and the pressure of being the perfect royal daughter.

It was no secret that I was the black sheep of the family, being the only water drake who couldn't actually transform into a dragon. My magic was weak, my coordination was nonexistent, and I had a habit of accidentally flooding the castle every time I sneezed. It was a miracle I hadn't drowned anyone yet.

Lost in thought, I wandered deeper into the gardens, admiring the way the sunlight danced off the colorful blooms and the gently babbling fountains. It was peaceful here, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the castle. I could almost forget about my troubles and just lose myself in the beauty of nature.

But of course, the universe had other plans for me.

As I rounded a corner, I heard a rustling in the bushes. Startled, I spun around, only to trip over my own feet and tumble gracelessly into the nearest rose bush.


"Ouch!" I yelped, feeling the thorns prick my skin. "Stupid bush, stupid feet, stupid everything!"

I thrashed and flailed, trying to untangle myself from the prickly branches, but only succeeded in getting more hopelessly ensnared. It was like the bush had a personal vendetta against me and was determined to hold me hostage until I surrendered my dignity and my favorite silk dress.


Just as I was contemplating using my limited magical abilities to drown the offending foliage, I heard a deep, amused chuckle from somewhere above me.

I froze, my cheeks burning with embarrassment. Oh great, I thought. Someone had witnessed my graceful acrobatics. Could this day get any worse?

Slowly, I lifted my head, dreading the sight of one of the castle guards or, even worse, my mother, come to scold me for my clumsiness. But instead, I found myself staring up into the most striking pair of blue eyes I had ever seen.

They belonged to a tall, dark-skinned man with a head full of white and black dreadlocks, his features chiseled and angular. He was dressed in fine clothing, the kind that spoke of wealth and status, and he carried himself with an air of confidence and authority.

But it was the smirk on his lips that really caught my attention. It was the kind of smirk that said he knew exactly how ridiculous I looked, sprawled out in the dirt with leaves and petals tangled in my hair.

"Well," he drawled, his voice deep and smooth like honey. "What do we have here? A damsel in distress, it seems."

I felt my cheeks flush even hotter, a mixture of embarrassment and indignation. How dare this stranger mock me in my own garden! I was a princess, for crying out loud, not some helpless maiden waiting to be rescued by a dashing hero.

Gritting my teeth, I struggled to my feet, ignoring the pain of the thorns and the way my dress caught and tore on the branches. I brushed myself off as best I could, trying to salvage what little dignity I had left.

"I am not a damsel," I said, my voice cold and clipped. "And I am certainly not in distress. I was merely...admiring the foliage. From a closer perspective."

The man raised an eyebrow, his smirk widening. "Is that so? Well, forgive me for interrupting your...admiration. I didn't realize the rose bushes of Waterspire were so fascinating that they required such a hands-on approach."

I bristled at his sarcastic tone, my temper flaring. Who did this man think he was, barging into my private moment and mocking me like some sort of court jester?

"I'll have you know," I said, drawing myself up to my full height (which, admittedly, wasn't very impressive compared to his towering frame), "that I am a member of the royal family, and I will not be spoken to in such a disrespectful manner. Especially not by some...some..."

I trailed off, realizing that I had no idea who this man was or what he was doing in the castle gardens. For all I knew, he could be some visiting dignitary or foreign prince, someone I couldn't afford to offend with my sharp tongue and fiery temper.

But the man just laughed, a rich, deep sound that sent shivers down my spine. "Oh, I'm well aware of who you are, Princess. Your reputation precedes you, even in distant lands. The clumsy water drake who can't transform, the royal black sheep who causes more chaos than a drunken troll at a tea party."

I gasped, my eyes widening in shock and anger. How dare he speak to me like that, as if he knew anything about me or my life! I opened my mouth to give him a piece of my mind, to tell him exactly where he could shove his arrogant assumptions and his stupid, perfect face.


But before I could get a word out, I felt a familiar tickle in my nose. Oh no, I thought, panic rising in my chest. Not now, not in front of this infuriating, gorgeous stranger.

But it was too late. With a mighty sneeze that shook the very foundations of the castle, I sent a torrent of water shooting out of my nose and directly into the man's face.

For a moment, we both stood there in stunned silence, water dripping from his dreadlocks and down his chiseled features. Then, slowly, he reached up and wiped his face, his expression unreadable.

"Did you just...sneeze on me?" he asked, his voice dangerously calm.

I felt my stomach drop, and I took a step back, my anger replaced by a sudden surge of panic. "I...I didn't mean to!" I stammered, my eyes wide with horror. "It was an accident, I swear! I have allergies, and the pollen count is really high today, and..."

But the man held up a hand, cutting me off. "Save your excuses, Princess. I've had enough of your clumsiness and your lack of control. I came here seeking peace and diplomacy, but I see now that Waterspire is nothing more than a kingdom of bumbling buffoons."

He turned on his heel and strode away, leaving me standing there, dripping wet and seething with humiliation and rage.

"Well, good riddance!" I shouted after him, my voice cracking with emotion. "And don't let the castle gates hit you on the way out, you overgrown peacock!"

But even as the words left my mouth, I felt a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach. Somehow, I knew that this wasn't the last I'd see of this infuriating stranger. And if the fates had any sense of humor (which, judging by my current predicament, they most certainly did), our paths were bound to cross again.

I sighed, looking down at my ruined dress and the puddle of water at my feet. It was going to be a long day. And with the arrival of the Emberisle delegation looming on the horizon, I had a feeling that my troubles were only just beginning.

With a heavy heart and a soggy hem, I squelched my way back to the castle, leaving a trail of wet footprints in my wake. I could only hope that my little encounter with the mystery man wouldn't come back to haunt me later.

But knowing my luck, and the twisted sense of humor of the universe, I had a sinking feeling that I was in for a lot more than I bargained for.

As I made my way through the winding halls of the castle, I couldn't shake the image of those piercing blue eyes and that infuriating smirk from my mind. Who was that man, and what was he doing in Waterspire? And more importantly, why did he seem to have such a low opinion of me and my kingdom?


I shook my head, trying to push those thoughts aside. I had more pressing matters to attend to, like changing out of my ruined dress and preparing for the arrival of the Emberisle envoy. I couldn't afford to be distracted by some arrogant stranger, no matter how striking his features or how much he got under my skin.


But even as I went through the motions of getting ready, I couldn't shake the feeling that my life was about to change in ways I never could have imagined. And that the infuriating, blue-eyed man from the gardens would play a much larger role in that change than I ever could have anticipated.

Little did I know, as I stood there in my chambers, fussing with my hair and trying to calm my frayed nerves, that fate was already weaving a tapestry of chaos and adventure, with me at the center of it all.


And that tapestry was about to be set on fire, quite literally, by a certain fire drake prince who seemed determined to turn my world upside down and inside out.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. For now, all I could do was take a deep breath, square my shoulders, and prepare to face whatever challenges the day might bring.

Even if those challenges included a diplomatic disaster, a magical mishap, and a certain pair of blue eyes that seemed to haunt my every waking moment.


But hey, that's just life in the royal court, right? Never a dull moment, especially when you're a clumsy water drake with a penchant for chaos and a destiny that seems determined to keep you on your toes.

And so, with a final sigh and a silent prayer to the gods of grace and poise, I stepped out of my chambers and into the fray, ready to face whatever the universe had in store for me.


Even if that universe seemed to have a twisted sense of humor and a sadistic streak a mile wide.

But that, my dear readers, is a story for another chapter. For now, I have a castle to navigate, a delegation to impress, and a mysterious stranger to try (and probably fail) to forget.

Wish me luck. I'm going to need it.

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