Writings: The Wish-Giver

I spent the week watching people fight TERFs on Twitter and occasionally wading in when I could. One of the things that bugs me most about TERFs is the bigoted and frankly nonsensical belief that a woman who is born with a vagina is somehow more special than a woman who had to go out and get herself one.

I made a joke about how trans women with vaginas went out and "fought a dragon" for that vagina, and then... well... this happened. I gave myself feels and The Wish-Giver was born. I hope you enjoy reading it; I needed this, to be honest. All typos are because I was crying too hard to see my screen at points.

The Wish-Giver

Everyone in the kingdom knew about the wish-giver. The mother of all dragons had lived in her den on the hill as long as anyone could recall, older than the oldest elders in the land. Her hill rose just high enough to overlook the nearby walled capital and the sprawling farmlands which surrounded the city. Some said the city itself, the shining jewel of the kingdom and its pride and joy, had been the first wish she granted to men.

For that was what the dragon did: she granted wishes. Those who were brave enough to take the path up the hill and face her den and call her out to battle could, if they defeated her in honorable combat, obtain their heart's dearest desire. From all corners of the kingdom challengers came, brave or foolhardy or both, undeterred by the knowledge that only few won the day against the immortal beast.

Battling the dragon was not a risk to be taken lightly. Some knights limped home after their defeat, bloodied and broken. Many were devoured whole by the creature or, if they brought no squire to witness their defeat, were simply never seen or heard from again. Maybe one in a thousand challengers were clever enough or strong enough or quick enough to best the dragon, and these rare winners were the stuff of legends.

These heroes and heroines whose tales were sung by the bards were often, pleasingly, gentle people of good hearts and pure intentions. One wish saved a small village from starvation when the fields were set upon by a locust swarm. Another wish released a girl from marriage to a man who held her family's home as forfeit in a debt, so she might be free to marry the bonny maiden whose wish released her. The most popular tale in the taverns was of a retired soldier who took up his sword one last time to wish for peace in his homeland. The dragon granted a silvered tongue with a talent for diplomacy and within a month of his battle with the wyrm a solution pleasing to both sides had been reached, ending a blood feud which had raged for generations.

Drunken arguments raged cheerfully over the dragon's definition of 'peace', but that was what the dragon did: she looked into the hearts of mankind and gave what was desired, not what was worded. Not a single victor ever complained about the outcome of their wish, and this was something of a comfort to the audiences of their stories; the creature couldn't wriggle out of a fair defeat through word trickery. The dragon was lethal but fair, playing by the rules she had set for herself so many centuries ago.

The path to the dragon's den was not a difficult one. The hill was a gentle slope to the top, the path worn by so many boots taking that final march to dreams or death. Farms sprawled between the hill and city walls, supplying the capital with grain for their bread and grapes for their wine, and a small-but-thriving line of businesses catering to prospective wish-seekers abutted the foot of the hill. Artists to sketch a final likeness. Scribes to take down last words or a will and testament. Pleasure-workers to grant one night of bliss to the men and women who might not see another sunset. Such were the good people who lived in the shadow of the wish-giving dragon, content to ply their trade and raise their families and leave wild dreams to others.

Children played at the base of the hill on sunny days when their caretakers washed and dried the family laundry and let their little ones out to play. They ran and shouted and laughed together, the children of the farmers and artisans mingling without reservation in their shared games. No one noticed at first the little fat-cheeked child who split away from the larger group and toddled determinedly up the hillside.

The child was barely more than a baby, maybe four summers old at the latest. They toddled easily up the hill, little legs propelling them up the soft earthen path without hesitation. Unruly hair flung in every direction on their head and spilled down their back in beautiful frizzy waves, making the child seem younger than the length of their chubby limbs implied; likely the mother had resisted taming the child's hair out of a fond desire to keep them a baby just a little longer. Soon the child's hair would be cut or braided, as was proper for their gender.

Their gender was knowable at a glance, of course; the parents had swathed the child in yellow, the color of the sun, to set them apart from children clothed in green, the earth color of grass and growing things. The colors determined how others interacted with the child, how the child was raised and educated, and what jobs the child would be best suited to in life. Few gates were completely barred to a child based on their color--the yellow children could teach and nurse and train warriors if they so chose, just as the green children could enter the army or bake or tend a city-shop if they wanted--but the colors would always guide them. Stories were sometimes told in the kingdom of other countries and other colors, or of countries with no colors at all, or places where colors could change at a whim, but few paid mind to such tales. Yellow and green made sense, having been set down as the standard as far back as anyone could remember.

Yellow was the color, too, of the dirt path leading to the dragon's den; a sandy yellow-brown where wish-seekers had tread the earth until it was no longer suitable for growing things. The yellow-clothed child faded into the path as they climbed to their goal, unnoticed by the humans below as they raised the little wooden sword they had brought with them. Only when the shining green dragon emerged from her cave at the sound of a shout, sun catching and glinting from her polished emerald scales, did the adults at the foot of the hill notice the tiny warrior. Far below, a woman screamed; her reedy voice carried away on the wind.

The queen of all dragons, the huge and majestic wish-giver, stood on four legs the size of tree trunks in the dazzling mid-morning sunlight and gazed down upon the soft round child standing at the foot of her den. The little thing, barely more than a mouthful to the lizard, waved their toy in the air and howled what they must surely have thought sounded like a battle cry. Running forward, stumbling, correcting themselves, and running again, the child eventually came to the left forefoot of the creature. A stab of the wooden sword at the massive leathery paw and the blade stuck between talons the size of the child's own torso.

A noisy silence descended as only the child breathed, panting as they struggled to free their stuck sword. The dragon herself did not stir, nor did the knot of anxious watchers gathering at the foot of the hill to witness in helpless horror the certain death of one of their own. Still the child grunted and pulled, not noticing or caring for the audience below. There was only this one goal, their dream worth fighting for.

The dragon's voice broke the silence, booming in low thrum that carried on the wind to the city walls themselves. "Thou hast pierced my weak spot, brave warrior. I am defeated, and one wish is thine that thou might spare mine own life in return. Speak thy desire, that I might grant thy wish to thee."

Blinking up at the towering creature, the child stopped tugging at their blade as these words of surrender washed over them. Brown eyes wide as they stared through a haze of dark curls, the child inhaled a gulp of air and shouted as loudly as they could, trusting in volume to carry their words up to the faraway dragon.

"I want to be a girl!"

Silence again, now stunned rather than horrified; on the ground beneath the hill, heads twisted back and forth as the watchers grappled with their surprise at both the unexpected defeat and the wish that followed. The dragon's gaze did not falter, nor did the ancient creature blink; if anything, her reptilian eyes seemed soft. Her voice still boomed, but there was a gentleness in her timbre when she answered, abandoning the flowery words of her ancient ritual as she addressed the tiny child below.

"Little one, you are a girl."

The baby nodded at this, her lips pressed together in exasperation; the face of a child too long made weary by the illogic of adults. "I know! But everyone down there calls me a boy! I want you to fix it!" A pause, and then a belated airy "please"; a child's forgetful manners, inconstant as a playful spring breeze.

Staring down at her, the dragon nodded her ancient head in a slow, thoughtful bob. "Many things I can fix," she said, dipping her serpentine neck low to the ground until her head rested on the dirt below and her eyes were almost level with the little petitioner. "Let me see your eyes, child. Tell me your heart's desire."

They spoke while the sun climbed to the highest point in its daily journey. The watchers strained to listen, but heard only the soft babyish cadence of the little girl in yellow and the low intelligible rumble of the dragon as she questioned the child. Just when her parents below seemed ready to faint from hunger and worry, the dragon moved to wrap herself around the little one in the same way a cat might curl into a ball for a nap. A scream from the knot of watchers, a move to rush the hill with their pitchforks and carving knives, but the dragon's scales pulsed with an emerald light so bright the humans fell back dazzled, clutching at their eyes.

Over yelps and cries, one sound floated above the cacophony: a child's happy giggle. As the adults rubbed at their eyes, they glimpsed the tail of the dragon slinking back into her hill, the light fading from her scales as she called a few final, unintelligible words to the girl behind her. One man who had rushed ahead of the group and gotten further than the others before the blinding light struck later swore the dragon had said "come again, if you ever have need of me". Then the lizard was gone and all that was left was the child.

She was unchanged, at least as far as the watchers could see. Her face was a child's face. Her wild hair was a child's hair. The soft fat arms and legs that carried her up the hill now carried her down with the same confidence. Her weeping parents fell on her, the father clutching the girl to his chest as her mother checked her hands and feet again and again for cuts, scrapes, and wounds that were not there. The child was safe and whole, unharmed by her experience and barely appreciative of the stir she had caused with the morning's adventure. Instead, she beamed a warm smile at the watchers, happy that they were happy.

"I'm a girl." She grinned at them from the comfort of her father's arms, her tone the easy explanation of a child who hopes now, after her trials and tribulations, to be listened to. "I'm a girl and the dragon helped."

Faces stared back at the child. Confusion, awe, shock. Yet here and there, pockets of sympathy. The wish was unusual, even strange, but hadn't they heard wilder wishes? They lived in the shadow of the dragon, many of them serving the wish-seekers and hearing their stories in the process. They had listened to the desires of men and women all their lives, selfish and selfless alike, each wish more outlandish than the last. One did not risk death at the claws of the dragon for anything less than the deepest desires of the heart.

In the face of all those needs and wants, was it so impossible that one child might wish to change... what? Her body? The clothes and colors which adorned her? What had the little girl wished for, in her whispered conversation with the dragon, and what had the ancient creature granted her? The watchers didn't know and, seeing the protective stances of the child's mother and father, quickly imagined the reaction if they were to ask. The girl broke the silence again, brushing the untamed frizz of curls away from her face and yawning.

"Can we have lunch now? I'm hungry. I want to go home, papa."

Her father hugged the girl in his arms and kissed her hair. His voice was thick when he spoke, choking back the tears he hadn't dared shed when the child stood on the hill. Now that she was safe, his eyes watered and each word threatened to crack from the force of his relief.

"Of course you are, my brave girl. Battling dragons is hungry work. Let's go home."


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