Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.
Contains: A sapphic aromantic who wishes to partner a dragon's handmaiden without the complications of a romantic relationship, but finds comfort in her friendship with her own dragon.
Content Advisory: Depiction of amatonormativity and expectation of romance in relationships from both sexual partners and parents.
Length: 993 words / 4 PDF pages.
Dusk cools the day before Elisa gathers courage enough to creep from the cave in search of Azhra. The dragon’s emerald-scaled bulk is but a silhouette from behind, perhaps a granite tor concealed by night. Only when Elisa reaches the fire does she see detail: flame-burnished legs, shining claws, ribbons of steam escaping cup-sized nostrils. Closed lips hide wicked teeth, but the immensity of body both shadowed and illumined, along with a gleaming copper eye the size of Elisa’s hand, leaves most strangers trembling.
“You don’t need to hide.” Azhra speaks in hir “soft” voice, the vibrations rumbling through the leather soles of Elisa’s boots. “Suzette left this morning for the Straits. You’re safe here, again.”
Elisa nods, exhales and curls up in the crook of Azhra’s bent tail, her knees tucked under her skirts. Sitting behind the dragon’s head gives her blood-breath headaches; sitting by hir flanks leaves her sweltering from the heat. Azhra shifts closer and Elisa runs her fingers over the smooth, nail-sized scales, unable to avoid dwelling on Mother’s latest letter. Another demand to return home? Another promise of disownment? She’s almost worse than Suzette! “I’m sorry. For … this, all the time. I don’t seem to learn.”
Azhra’s laugh shakes the earth and rains red sparks over the camp.
Elisa watches for fear she missed any litter in her daily examinations of the earth around Azhra’s cave, but when no surprise conflagration occurs, she sighs. “Do I want to know why it’s funny?”
“Humans.” Azhra’s snort shrouds both dragon and handmaiden in a puff of meat-tinged smoke. “Only you apologise for a sensible arrangement.”
Many young nobles spend a few months or years in service to Tierre’s dragons; long tradition became a way for scions of diverse families, nationalities and allegiances to meet outside doctrinal disagreements and historical hatreds. Elisa’s mother, the duchess of Ajille, used words like “broadening horizons”, “meeting future consorts” and, when she thought Elisa couldn’t hear, “something not the bloody goose girl”.
Elisa, to Mother’s despair, found both a position and an abundance of companions. Princesses offering an intoxicating selection of long lashes and soft lips alongside a thrilling willingness to explore partnerships discouraged at home. Princesses speaking of the politics involved in wedding a duchess’s daughter, gifting a bouquet or pendant necklace with the warm smiles Elisa once coveted. Princesses blinking in startled horror at Elisa’s stammering refusal. Princesses leaving Tierre to find a lover who won’t panic at the thought of marriage.
Perfection, to Elisa, is someone who’ll sit by the fire and sing bawdy sailors’ songs, trading the best recipes for burn salves and camp stew. Perfection is a friend who shares Elisa’s bed at night and serves a dragon by day. Some princesses understand, but too many see their time in Tierre as Mother does. Even those who become friends still leave in search of a ring and a contract, needing such formalities to cement a type of union Elisa doesn’t desire.
They don’t speak in so many words, but Elisa hears it nonetheless: this life isn’t enough for me.
For her, it is.
She sighs and reaches inside her soot-stained bodice, removing the letter. A scarlet ribbon and a cobalt seal fasten the cream envelope, elegance disguising the anger within. “I … I don’t want to learn, not really.” Elisa traces the raised wax lines with her fingertips: thorned roses entwined through a ring. “I know I should, but I don’t. I just wish … that they’d love me as I am.”
Elisa will never own a dress free of scorch marks. On bad days, she risks burns and hair loss. In Tierre, though, she wants for little. Azhra is no hard taskmaster, and she can bed any princess in a comfortable cave owned by a dragon who never forgets to roar and wait a few moments before entering. No, Elisa didn’t expect to spend her days cataloguing a dragon’s collection, but what else is a classical education good for?
She fears speaking it, but she likes days spent with Azhra, likes nights spent with princesses, likes this unconventional life far from a home that never suited her. If freed of navigating her lovers’ romantic expectations and desires, what more can Elisa want but caves, treasure, dragons and handmaidens?
The gust of smoke accompanying Azhra’s snort, this time, makes Elisa double over in a hacking cough.
“I’m sorry. You humans have such strange ideas about love.” Azhra curls hir tail about Elisa’s waist, hir voice dropping, for a dragon, near a whisper. “I like how you sort my vases. I like that you sit with me. I like that you teach me folk songs and elfish fairy tales. I hope you find a human that cherishes the way you love, for your happiness, but I also hope that you’ll stay when you do.” Ze exhales, a rush of roast-scented air heating the tepid night. “Aren’t we friends, child? Isn’t this also love?”
Elisa stares down at the letter.
Tears, unobscured by darkness or smoke to a dragon’s eye, drip down her chin to splash on the paper.
“I, I learnt the songs from a soldier. She was plump and freckled and so, so pretty.” Elisa’s smile wobbles as she rests a splayed brown hand on Azhra’s warm green hide. She doesn’t have the human partner she wants. She does have a dragon who understands. “Friends, always. Thank you.” She sniffs, swallows. “If I find a girl, she must stay here, too. I want to. The last handmaid sorted your library by page length!”
Azhra’s near eye, like a full moon against the stars of hir scales, glitters in the firelight. “Child, let me handle that note.”
Elisa strokes Mother’s seal once more, nods and tosses the unread letter into the air.
The resulting blast of fire sends Elisa dashing into the cave to check her eyebrows, but Azhra leaves nothing more of that cursed paper than drifting ash.