“I don’t believe in destiny,” they say confidently.
She glares at them. “We are quite literally fulfilling a prophecy right now, Azi.”
They shrug. “Coincidence,” they dismiss. “Paired with the internal bias that comes from being raised with the belief that this is what we were born to do.”
“I cannot believe you.”
“Look. That dragon isn’t going to kill itself.” They smile in what they hope is a winning manner. “So why don’t we go help it along like we told the king we would?”
“Like we’re destined to, you mean,” she says irritably, but she follows them as they enter the cavern, sword drawn.
“I take it back,” they grouse, back to the wall as the dragon roars and huffs up a smokestorm in the main cave. The two of them can’t hide here long, but it’ll have to be long enough. “Perhaps we were fated to end up like this.”
“Shut up, Azi,” she groans. “Help me think of another plan!”
“Oh, but I thought destiny was supposed to take care of this?”
She kicks them in the shin, hard. “We haven’t died yet,” she growls. “We might still have a chance to fulfill the prophecy.”
“Prophecy schmophecy,” they grumble, but when her eyes light up with an idea and her hands sparkle with magic, they heft their sword and follow her back out to face their enemy.
“Well…that didn’t go the way it was supposed to,” they reflect.
She turns on them, eyes sparking. “Oh, so now you admit there was a way it should have gone?”
They raise their arms. “Hey, I was raised believing in the prophecy as much as you were!” they exclaim. “Personal philosophy aside, there’s a reason I agreed to come on this quest.”
“Because you were destined to?”
They scoff and gesture to the well-fed, slumbering dragon before them. “Yeah, because it was fate that had us befriend the monster and ride it back to eat our unjust king. Pretty sure the prophecy said something about a loyal knight-scholar and a brave mage-princess slaying a dragon and presenting its head as a trophy before the throne—”
“—and then we end up wed, yes, I know,” she snaps, a blush rising in her cheeks.
They make a face. “Well, at least there’s no worrying about that now.”
She flinches, then asks in a small voice, “Do you not…like me? I thought…”
“Did you think, though?” they ask with a raised brow. “Or did you just assume?”
“But even if the prophecy got some details wrong…” She frowns, real distress shining in her eyes now. “At least this is supposed to follow the usual pattern, with a wedding after a victory!”
“I’m not interested in weddings, especially not my own,” they inform her. “Like I said, I don’t believe in destiny. And I certainly don’t believe in ‘true love,’ even if you did wake me from my curse of eternal slumber.”
She blushes. “But…I want…”
They clap her on the shoulder. “Well, you’ll be queen now that your evil uncle’s dead, right? You’ve got plenty of things to worry about before a forced—sorry, destined marriage can take place.”
“Azi! I wouldn’t—”
“Wouldn’t you?” they challenge.
She stomps her foot. “I didn’t kill the dragon like I was supposed to,” she snaps. “And I was the one who suggested how he get his revenge on my uncle, remember? I’m no more constrained by fate than you are!”
“A good start,” they agree, just a little patronizing, “but you’re still believing fate is a thing. Baby steps, I suppose.”
“You are impossible.”
“And impossible to marry, too,” they say, leaning down to give her a chaste kiss on the cheek. “Goodbye, my dearest. In three moons hence I am certain you shall be weeping at my bedside, begging my callous heart to open to your love—”
“More likely I’ll be crying over paperwork,” she mutters, and pulls them into a hug. “Alright, Azi. Maybe you have a point after all. I certainly don’t think a marriage between us would work out in the end…and the way this victory was wrought is as much a surprise to me as it is to you.”
“That’s the spirit,” they say with a grin. “See you around, princess. I’m still your loyal knight after all. Just make sure to call on me before destiny does!”