I knew why my mother had come, but I still pretended to be surprised. Not moving my gaze from my watch on the valley, I spoke to her. “Careful, mother. This is the third time you have visited me in as many weeks. One would almost think us a close-knit family.”

“Olwen,” she simply said, coming towards me.

“I’m touched, of course, as much as I can be…”

“Olwen,” she interrupted me. “He is not coming.” She sat down next to where I stood, motionless, still looking down into the valley.

“Yes, he is,” I told her, clinging to the fading hope that the very next moment, or the moment following, or the moment after that, I would see him riding over the valley’s edge, coming to me.

“Olwen, it has been two full cycles of the moon,” my mother pleaded. “It is not meant to be.”

“Why not?” I snapped. “There is still time. He could simply still be mustering his forces, or maybe misfortune befell him on his quest to find me and he is still untangling himself, or maybe…” I broke off, for even I could hear the ridiculous desperation in my voice.

I expected her to offer a rebuttal, to tell me the road from his castle to my mountain was a short journey through pleasant country, and that the only calamity he might have met was that his horse could have thrown a shoe or a rain shower might have doused him. But she did not, for she knew that I knew.

She had always said I was the most cunning of all her children. I remembered the first time I saw him, how I knew instantly that he was the one I wanted. How I had used all my skills and wits to entrap him. I thought I had done everything right. I thought he would come for me, my prince, my knight in shining armor, and what games we would play before his end. And yet here I was, alone, spiritless and hungry.

I finally dropped my gaze away from the horizon, and stared down at the gray stone at my feet. “Why, mother?”

My mother let out a sound of contempt. “He is a coward, Olwen, plain and simple,” my mother told me. “He is afraid to face you, as he ought. He has always been afraid. Why else would he travel with so many guards, as you described? You told me that was why you did not go to him at once, when you first saw him. He is not worthy of your devotion”

I knew she spoke the truth, but I was not ready quite yet to let it go. “I thought I had done everything right,” I fretted. “I made myself known to his subjects, I displayed myself within sight of his walls, I even killed and ate his bride-to-be…”

My mother waved her claws. “He is a weak, fickle human,” she said, matter-of-factly. She rose on her hind legs and sniffed the air. “Come, my daughter. Let us go down into that valley of yours and catch us a deer, for I smell the scent of many on the wind.”

I got up and stretched, unfolding my wings. I let out an experimental breath of fire. Man or no man, I was still myself.

After the hunt, as we feasted on twelve of the deer that ran rampant through the valley, my mother turned to me and bared her teeth in a smile. “You will learn, my child. But in one thing you have done very well. You have chosen a good spot for your lair, my little dragonling.”

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