Cinderella #292: Dragonflight (Anne McAffrey)
Once upon a time, on a planet called Pern, there was a young girl named Lessa. She existed, now, as a scullion, working for the conqueror who had killed her noble father. And the rest of her family as well. It happened that one morning, she had been awakened early, with a feeling of unease. Now "she picked her way among the sleeping drudges, huddled together for warmth, and glided up the worn steps to the kitchen proper. The cook and his assistant lay on the long table before the great hearth, wide backs to the warmth of the banked fire." Once outside, she can see no obvious signs of danger. Yet something for bodes action. Alerted by "the watch-wher", a kind of dragon-dog mutt mix, she scurries to safety. The only friendly presence among the invaders who live in her home now is this ugly animal. Now she ran to it, "oblivious to the stench of its rank breath, she hugged the scaly head to her, scratching its ears and eye ridges." The day was to be life changing, as Lessa soon found out. The cause of her unease, and the target of the watch-wher's warning were the dragonriders. Led by F'lar, a a daring young man who flew dragons like fighter planes, the dragon men bore down. "F'lar, on bronze Mnementh's great neck, appeared first in the skies above the Chief Hold of Fax, so-called Lord of the High Reaches. Behind him, in proper wedge-formation, the wingmen came into sight." Little did Lessa know that before long, she would see her dream of revenge on her family's murderer accomplished. All day, she bided her time. "Lessa was shoveling ashes from the hearth when the agitate messenger staggered into the Great Hall. She made herself as inconspicuous as possible..." Much later, as Lessa becomes the proud hatch-mate of a golden dragon queen, she fights for the right to ride her. "If a Queen isn't meant to fly, why does she have wings?" she demanded of F'lax and his men. As the relationship between dragon man, scullion, dragons and watch-wher deepens, Lessa is pulled into a leading role in a plan to save the planet Pern. Exhilarating adventures follow, and, eventually, Lessa and F'lax fall in love. Now about flying that Queen dragon? The story ends with Lessa asking,"Did the meeting go well?'...as she emerged from the bathing-room, drying cloth wrapped tightly around her slender figure." Then she told him,, "I am the only Weyrwoman who can speak to any dragon!" F'lax cannot resist this rebellious young woman any longer. He snatches the cloth from her and Lessa "responded to his kiss as ardently as if dragon-roused." And they lived happily ever after, through the fourteen other novels of Pern.
From: McAffrey, A. (1968) Dragon Flight. New York: Del Rey Books
Notes: This is sooo a Cinderella story, and contains classic fairy-tale elements. It has taken me some time to realize this. We have the displaced wealthy daughter, the animal helper (in this case a watch-wher!), an unlikely encounter with a young lord, and a happy ending. No longer a drudge but a respected Weywroman.