In 1930's Estonia, a strapping young soldier and his beautiful bride fled the pact which led to Estonia's occupation by the Red Army thanks to an agreement between Germany and Russia which ceded the state to Russian control only a decade into the fledgeling state's independence. With an eye to moving into the woods to avoid the new occupying forces until World War II was over, he and his wife packed up their four year old daughter ans what belongings would fit in their automobile.
In attempts to avoid a roadblock, he turned off onto a thorny and overgrown road through the primeval forest. It was veering to avoid the hale of bullets following the sound of round after round of ammo fired after them that saw the car crash into a tree, killing the man and his wife on impact. The little girl was thrown dozens of feet and found herself Lost in the undergrowth, a development that would save her life at the cost of her humanity.
A little girl named Lily Ann was fleeing the red monsters with her mother and father in a carriage full with all their worldly possessions. The red monsters sent their hunters after the brave knight and fair maiden and their carriage was destroyed when it ran into a tree. The little girl was left amid the brambles, hiding and clutching her doll as she waited for the men to leave so she could go back to find her parents again. She waited for what seemed like hours, until she heard a voice.
"Little love, you must come to me, for the monsters have killed your parents, and if you try to go back, you will surely die, too," the Voice called. Wary but precocious, she saw truth in these words, and so followed the voice through the brambles, her ragdoll cut to shreds just like her arms and legs by the time she found him. The Tall Man, The Dragon Prince. Ten feet tall, and fair, shining with radiant light, he had the wide leathern wings of a dragon and a massive set of horns, but cradled the young girl gently, protective close when he saw her look of wonder bordering on adoration.
He brought her back to a shining keep in an alien land where flowers bloomed on every hill in colors no mortal man may see in the world of Man at least, only in the Shining Lands of the Fair Folk. In some ways, he raised her. He taught her much, certainly, and showed her the closest to kindness that the Fae Folk know, adoration and gentleness, indulging a child's whims and feeding on her unquestioning love. Even going so far as to indulge a child's dreams of being a fairy princess one day. Ignorant dreams, borne of a durance that vacillated between years on end of crushing loneliness and tender moments shared with the regal Prince who saved her life.
Until he became King.
It would be decades after he became King before he would seek her out again. No longer a child but a budding young woman. A flower planted and thriving, if sad and alone, in the Shining Lands. There were no doors or windows from which to flee the majestic prison palace she was caged in. She walked the halls, tended the gardens of the dozen atriums each growing ethereal and surreal blossoms whose like the world of Man could never match. Roses of living ruby and sapphire and opal and amethyst, with platinum stems and diamond thorns.
She wandered the halls so long she forgot she was ever a part of the mortal world, forgot her name, forgot her family and country. She did not forget the sound of her own voice, however, and for years, it was the only company she had. Years after her fears she had been forgotten and abandoned seemed to be proved true, she would see him again. A sinuous and majestic monster, now showing himself truly as he was. Claws, fangs, scales, utterly inhuman. He followed the sound of her voice, the song of mourning despair, to find her weeping.
"Little Love, why do you weep?" the Dragon asked. She did not know it was confusion rather than kindness which spurred the question, and ran forward to embrace the monster, the first being to speak to her in twenty years.
"I thought you had forgotten me!" the girl lamented, cutting her face on his magnificent scales when she tried to bury it in the crook of his arm. "I am so lonely, and cannot even come to look for you, for I am broken, with no wings of my own to fly from this place." He stroked her shoulders then, his talons scoring flesh from bone to write her anew, with fluttery little wings, as transparent and delicate as glass.
"I did not forget you," the great beast explained. "Now that I am King, I must have a Queen," it said, talons uncurling to gesture across the vastness of the landscape beyond the castle walls. Heart sick at the loss of the only companion she could ever remember, she pleaded desperately with him, "Please! You csn't! Do not leave me again!" The Great Dragon lowered his head to law the lips of that razor filled maw to her brow as if to kiss it, and rumbled, "A Queen must have a crown. And a Queen is not a Princess. Do you understand, Little Love?"
The tiny horns that grew in the wake of his kiss hurt so much she nearly passed out, but she was not going to let herself sleep, lest she lose sight of him again. She nodded, then, and he scooped her up in a mighty claw, holding her to his breast. "You must not weep, it is unbecoming of a Queen to weep." He set her down and disappeared again.
The Great Dragon was gone again, for years, again. It was a pattern, throughout the centuries she spent in the Shining Lands, but this time, at least, she was able to escape the castle. She learned the places where the waterfalls and wisteria danced with the fronds of weeping willows in hidden lagoons, and where the blossoms that held the rainbow light of the sun through weeping clouds grew, and every hollow and trail between, until finally he returned to her.
"I have a gift for you," the great beast said, and without explanation, whisked her off to see a play. Her first time in a lifetime, she saw another person. And not just one! There were so many people. Men, women, even children, and she remembered then who she had been, what she had been. The production with it's folk tale of the mighty hero, the dragonslayer, moved her to tears. For she had only known one dragon. The King who'd saved her, raised her, loved her as well as a dragon can love.
"Surely," she reasoned to the dragon, outraged as she was saddened by the outcome of the story, "...if he actually knew a dragon, he would see how terrible, how wrong that was." As he had already decided to turn the playwright into something more like him, the dragon nodded agreement with the young woman, even going so far as to call the suggestion, "An insightful observation, Little Love."
And indeed over the years, it would only be during visits to the theatre that she was in the presence of other humans, though as she grew from young woman to woman in her prime, she would see the playwright and star's transformation, both in looks, and in the evolution of the role he would play. Eventually, his work was so compelling, his transformation so thorough, the dragon would even agree to let her play a role in one of his works, to allow her to sing on the stage.
And on opening night, the months spent getting to know and work with the playwright produced a masterpiece. One at whose apex would see the world fall away when the dragon kidnapped her from the King, banishing them both to the Hedge.
Peter was not a dragon. And Lilium was not a fairy princess. They were two deeply broken individuals lost in the thorns, and belonging fully to neither world, now. Unlike the vast majority of playmates, she was stolen and not discarded or abandoned. But all her life was now like a dream. And the thorns would not surrender her without taking the last little piece of the girl she once was. Her memory of her parents' deaths. In the form of a rag doll so tattered it fell into pieces before she stepped out of the Hedge.
It was perhaps a mercy that her parents died, as she had no Fetch to tangle with, unlike Peter. Eventually the once princess and the broken squirrel she had befriended in the Hedge, and the stalwart author, writing their new stories as they fought their way back to to the world did indeed arrive. In the world. In America. And eventually, in New Orleans.
She still loves dragons, and studies them for hours, every day. Even if in this world they exist only in stories of the occult, myths and legends, and uncertain histories. She misses the fevered beauty of Arcadia, however horrified she was to learn that the tens of thousands of people dying in the theatre over the centuries were real people, really dying. Some days, she cannot tell the Author from the Dragon she so loved, once upon a dream. But sad stories make for beautiful songs.