-Serpentyne and Dryconia are copyright to my fellow dragon, Lady Foxglove, and are used with her permission. -
Half-blooded, By Smash
The door shuddered as the battering ram again slammed into it. A small group of grim-faced soldiers stood inside the door of the tiny fortress, ready to sacrifice their lives in defense of their master. Deep in the inner sanctum, a man in white robes, holding a staff, stood chanting before a glowing sphere of light. A young boy, no more than ten, stood trembling in the corner, another white robe swirling about his feet.
“Stlarikradlmar delcantus magus/dulak sukar,” the man chanted. The sphere of light changed to a deep red as he finished that part of the spell.
The man turned to the boy. “It’s time to go.”
The boy cried out and ran at the man, clutching his leg. “No, father!” he cried. “Don’t leave me!”
The man in white affectionately tousled the boy’s long yellow hair. “You must go. The attackers outside would kill you if they found you, like they want to kill me.”
The boy sobbed brokenly. “Why do they want to kill us? You never did anything to them!”
“They’re all fools. They attack whatever they don’t understand.” The boy’s father sighed, “There’s nothing I can do.” He pressed his staff into his son’s hands. “Keep this as a reminder of me. It will protect you from magical harm.”
The boy accepted it. “Will I ever see you again?”
“Maybe,” the man whispered. There was the sound of clashing weapons and screams from outside the door. The man straightened and lightly pushed his son in front of him. “Don’t look back,” he said. He gestured and the boy disappeared into a pool of rainbow light. The man regretfully turned back to the globe and began to chant the final incantation.
“Silar keracus deanti/stilbrat.”
The door to his chamber burst open and a peasant wielding a sickle charged into the chamber. The mage, caught up in his magic, didn’t even notice.
“Stelvsor res/sran del-”
The peasant leapt on the wizard, and with a flash of his sickle, cut the man’s throat. The mage, stricken, slumped to the floor, the final words of his spell dying on his lips.
The peasant laughed in triumph. “The sorcerer’s dead! We’ve won!”
He didn’t realize the consequences. All the power the white-robed wizard had summoned had not been channeled into a spell, and was now seething in its weakening magical bonds. The peasant turned back to the sphere of pulsating light. His eyes widened as all the magical force was expelled in a titanic blast.
The boy materialized on a hillside far overlooking the tiny fortress his father had been in. He slumped onto the ground and sobbed bitterly. He clutched his father’s staff to his chest, caressing the polished wooden grip like a cherished lover. He stared at the fortress being besieged by the peasant army. With a second sight, inherited from his father, he saw the magical energy coalesce around the stone structure. It began to fluctuate, then implode upon the fortress. With a thunderous crash, the entire structure detonated from the inside. Shrapnel flew at his vulnerable body. The boy held out the staff and the shards of stone bounced off an invisible wall. Fire raged about the huddled form, never touching him, almost as violent as the fire in his soul. Almost like they were reflecting the boy’s anger and grief, his robe darkened to a pale red.
When the flames finally subsided, the boy moved down the hill. Nothing was left of the fortress but a scar in the ground. It and the entire army attacking it were vaporized in the blast.
The boy, choking back his tears, walked off. True to his father’s words, he did not look back.
Chapter 1: To Be a Thief
The gem was a deep blue sapphire, perfect in every detail. The merchant, spying an easy mark, handed the gem to the young man outside his stall. The man was about five and a half feet tall, with long pale hair that extended to just below his shoulders. He wore a deep red robe, almost the color of blood. He leaned upon a wooden staff. Near the top, the wood was ashen, almost white. Near the bottom, it was practically black. A crystal ball was clutched between four claws on top. A faint yellow light emanated continually from it.
The boy took the gem, ran a finger around the edges, gazed at it through the light, and then handed it back to the merchant. “It is indeed a perfect gem, but you are asking at least five times the price than for equally perfect gems at least twice as large.”
The merchant smiled patronizingly. “Ah, you are correct. You see, this stone is magical. It is a water stone.”
The young man scowled. “Pah. I’ve seen those before. They flash when you’re near a hidden water source. Then you dig until you find water or die of dehydration. They’re not worth the water they find.”
“Ah, but this stone is different.” The merchant said, as if correcting a child. “This stone doesn’t find water, it produces it. Just envision any kind of fluid, and it will generate it, without fail. Try it.”
The boy closed his eyes and envisioned a burbling spring. Immediately, a crystal droplet of water appeared on one tip of the stone. He turned that tip downwards and held it over his mouth. A thin stream of water trickled from it and through his lips, barely a mouthful, but enough to satiate him.
“The spell fades with time. It will work five times per day, then require twelve hours to recharge. Or you can use all the charge to create about a gallon of any one fluid.”
“Ah, now I see. A stone like this would be invaluable, especially on a trip through the desert or another place with little fresh water. Unfortunately, I can’t afford it.”
“I’ll accept more than just gold,” the merchant said, staring covetously at the man’s staff. “Perhaps a trade…”
“No!” the other cried, snatching the staff back. Then he regained composure. “Sorry, no trade. This is a family heirloom. That and it’s enchanted to only respond to me. Not only that, if any others touch it or try to use it without my permission, it gives them a severe, usually fatal, electrical shock.” He placed the water stone back in its slot in the display.
“Well then, you’ll have to excuse me. Profit awaits.” The disappointed merchant moved off. The boy stroked the gem display, such as if he was disappointed to have to leave them. Only the most trained eye would notice the missing water stone after his hand passed over it. The boy slipped it into his pouch and walked off.
I, Keirsah Half-Dragon, had completed another successful theft.
As I moved among the stalls, I suffered the familiar wave of self-contempt. A mage, even an apprentice like I was, shouldn’t have to resort to thievery. I wouldn’t have had been an apprentice if my father, the great archmage Liurian, had been alive now. But five years ago the paranoid idiots in the nearby city were suspicious of his magic and attacked his fortress; at just the time he was casting a powerful spell and was unable to fight back.
My mother was gone. I was the product of her affair with the magic user. My father had told me that my mother was the most beautiful thing he had ever laid eyes on and afterwards, every other woman paled in comparison. After their affair, her only other visit had been to deliver their child, me. She had named me Keirsah del-Liurcin. Unable to take care of me herself, she delivered me to the only other person able to take care of me, my wizard father.
When I was young, I was always a fairly quiet and studious child, not given to play. I spent my free time reading whatever I could lay my hands on. When reading outside one day, some older children came up to me and taunted me. Using terms like ‘bastard’ and ‘mage-spawn,’ they eventually pushed me beyond my ability to cope. I picked up a nearby branch larger than I was and shattered it by beating my mockers. That was the day I was given the nickname “Half-Dragon.”
A shout interrupted my reverie. “Stop, thief! He stole my water stone!” The merchant had obviously gone to get a drink of wine in between customers and had discovered it missing.
Fortunately, I was far enough away so that the merchant couldn’t see me anymore. I snuck away in the shadows as the merchant spread the word. The last thing I heard was, “He was a magic user!” I doused the light from my staff. I only let that glow show in public to awe the unsuspecting target into his own greed so that he didn’t notice he was being stolen from.
A hand grabbed my sleeve. I was yanked to the side. “Hey,” a voice said behind me, “I’ve seen you before. You were at the gemstone stand.”
“Yeah,” I hissed at him. “So?”
“There was a crime there. You stole the stone I wanted to take.”
I was caught. I had to escape. “Shirak,” I whispered into my staff. The ball on the top flared into blinding light. The person with a hold on my sleeve fell back, blinded, screaming, “Stop that man!”
I took that opportunity to dim my light and break free. I dashed through the shadows in the streets, barely evading the angry citizens and the soldiers after me. Ahead of me was the gate to the city. There were already soldiers blocking the way. I skidded to a halt just out of their sight. My staff gave me a chance against two, maybe three, but five soldiers were blocking the way.
I plucked up a cobblestone in the streets and tossed it up against the wall. It tumbled to the ground with a clatter.
“He’s going over the wall!” one of the dimmer soldiers yelled. Fortunately for me, he was also the captain. “You and you, come with me,” he commanded.
They obeyed, blindly following their captain to inspect the completely blank portion of wall. At that point, focusing my desperation and temper, I charged. The burly soldiers saw me coming at the last instant and pulled up their weapons, but my staff had already thumped into the stomach of one and cracked over the head of the other. They both went down, one winded, the other knocked out. Normally, no one my age could have done that, but a magical property of my father’s staff was that it increased the force of every blow. That, combined with my inherent temper, gave me the strength to lay two soldiers three times my size out flat.
I ran out of the gates and into the wilderness. The city was an outpost on the juncture of a desert, a plain, and a mountain range. I was running towards the mountains. Hopefully, there was a cave that would hide me.
I heard the lumbering gait of soldiers behind me. They wouldn’t catch me. Though I was encumbered by my robe and my staff, I was much more agile and smaller. I could fit between rocks they had to climb over. I could leap over gaps that would break every bone in their bodies if they tried to follow me.
I made it to the first mountain. Looking behind me, I saw I still had a sizable lead. I stopped for a rest, propping my staff against a cliff face and coaxing a mouthful from my new water stone. I pulled some dust out of a pouch on my belt and blew it at the miniature figures of the soldiers in the distance, willing the forces of nature to bend to my will. A slight breeze sprang up, blowing dust across my footprints. Soon, my path was completely obscured. That would buy me a little more time. I should have ample time to plan my next move.
A shout sounded near me. “You! Magic-user! Hands up!” A mounted archer rode into view, arrow trained on my throat. Apparently, I had miscalculated. I slowly raised my hands over my head, surreptitiously edging towards my staff.
“No sudden movements, mage. One magical word and my arrow will be bathed in your black blood!”
“Go to Hell,” I told him simply.
“I’m taking you back to the city,” he said, words dripping with venom. “There you will be put to death. One less evil person to corrupt our world.”
I clenched my teeth, the arrow the only thing keeping me from throttling the life out of my captor. But I had to comply. I made a motion for my staff, but the archer stopped me.
“Oh, no you don’t. There’s no way I’m letting you touch the source of your magic. I’ll carry it.”
My eyes widened. “No! You mustn’t!”
“Aw, afraid to be without your magic, baby killer?” He rode over to the staff. As an afterthought, he added, “And don’t think I believe that story about the staff killing all who touch it. I know that-” His fingers brushed the wood. The ball at the top flared again into light, more intense than ever before. I turned my back and clenched my eyes shut, but the light still was all but blinding. The soldier screamed, but was abruptly cut off.
When the staff dimmed again, I turned back to survey the scene. Nothing was left of the soldier and his horse but charred corpses on the ground. My staff was still exactly where I put it, light gleaming in the crystal at the top. It seemed so innocent, but it just killed a man. Numb, I retrieved it and hooked it into place across my back. I stood staring at the dead bodies for a long time. Then, I heard more voices.
“What was that light? Do you think it could have been the wizard?”
“Possibly. Arenar was riding in that direction. Maybe he saw the creature.”
I was trapped again. Then I looked up. There was my only escape. Just as three more horses turned the corner, I turned and began climbing the cliff.
“What the- oh no! The wizard killed Arenar!” The first soldier behind me shouted.
“There he is!” another cried.
“Shoot him!” bellowed the third.
I desperately redoubled my efforts. Clinging like a spider to the cliff face, I was unable to recall any of my spells. I required a calm mind, and being shot at is never good for calmness. Several arrows bounced off the stone around me. A few lodged into cracks, and I used them as hand holds. I felt something bounce off my backside and realized that an arrow had just been aimed true. The only thing that had saved my life was my staff, which the arrow had lodged into.
Their aim was getting better. Several times, I had to tear bits of my robe off when an arrow had pinned it to the cliff. Sand was leaking through a hole in one of my pouches. Nothing had hit my flesh yet, but it was only a matter of time.
Suddenly, I ran out of cliff. My hands had discovered a small ledge hidden from the ground below. I rolled myself onto it. It was bigger than I thought. In the center of it, there was a large rock with a crystal embedded in the center. A small cave entrance was cracked into the far rock wall. An entire platform was hallowed out into this cliff, virtually invisible from the ground.
Arrows shot over my head and I was reminded of where I was. I dropped flat on the ledge. I could feel the impact as more missiles hit the cliff face below me. Suddenly, I felt something give way. I rolled out of the way just in time to prevent myself from falling to my death. The entire section of the ledge I was on broke off and tumbled to the ground below. The three archers below me stared up dumbly for the few seconds until the immense weight of stone crushed them.
I lay just shy of the new drop-off, panting from exertion. As I began to realize what I had just done, I felt a blast of horror. I was a murderer. It may have been an accident, but because of me, those four would never see another day. The next emotion was relief. I was safe for now. Then guilt. Finally, I felt worried. Now that they knew I was a mage, they would doubtless send out more and if they found me, I would either have to kill or be killed.
“What am I to do?” I asked myself out loud.
“How about get away from my lair first?” a voice hissed behind me.
I turned around to gaze into the imposing countenance of a scowling red dragon!
Chapter 2: Dragoness
I stared, struck dumb by the sight. The dragon was at least twice times as tall than I was and at least five times as massive. The two foreclaws were resting, equidistant, in front of me, while its rear legs were straight, bringing its head down, to get a better look at me. Spikes sprouted along the beast’s back to the end of the massive tail extended from between the two legs, twitching, as if it had a life of its own. The head was suspended about three feet in front of me, as if studying me. A dark blue starburst imprinted into its forehead seemed to pulsate with a life all its own, and the sapphire eyes seemed to pierce right into my soul.
It stared at me for almost a timeless moment, and then asked, “Why are you here?”
Those four words jolted me out of my awe. I grabbed my staff in one hand and jabbed it at the creature’s face. It reared back with a roar so deafening that I took an involuntary step back, almost sending me off the cliff. I teetered for an instant, throwing out my left hand to steady myself against a rock face while keeping my staff between the dragon and myself.
“What was that for?” the dragon snapped. “I was only asking a simple question and you attack me like I was trying to eat you!”
I looked down, abashed, and lowered my staff. However, I kept my hand tight upon it, in case the dragon was lying. “You’ll have to excuse me.” I murmured, “I’ve never seen a dragon.”
“Dragoness,” she corrected me almost absently.
“Dragoness,” I repeated. Then I did a double take. “You’re female?”
“Yes.” She snorted flame. “If I was one of those territorial, overbearing, males, I would have killed you outright.”
“Then I’m glad you’re female. It would be quite a bad way to go, surviving all that I have for five years only to get chomped from behind.”
“And that brings me to my original question,” she said, seemingly annoyed at my musings, “Why are you here?”
“Well, it’s a long story, but to put it in one sentence, I’m fleeing from people that want to kill me. I beg asylum in your lair.”
She glanced skeptically at me. “Why would they want to kill you?”
“I stole from them,” I admitted, “But only to keep myself alive. Mostly, it was because I’m a mage.”
She was taken aback. “They want to kill you because you can work magic?” I nodded. She shook her head in disbelief. “I’ve forgotten how quickly mortal lives change. Just one hundred years ago, magic users had parties thrown for them when they entered a town.”
“Not anymore. Magic stones and such are okay, they’re ‘natural.’” I rolled my eyes. “But reveal that you can influence the elements, and they think that the Lord of Evil himself has ridden into town.”
She went back to the former topic. “About your last question, you may stay. But you must earn your keep.”
“I expected as much.” I responded. “I would be honored to perform as a dragon’s servant. It’ll certainly be better than my life now.”
“Very well. Follow me.”
She moved towards the cliff face behind her. I followed, wondering what was going on. There was nothing there that a dragon could fit into. That brought up another question. How did she get behind me in the first place? I had heard no wings or felt a blast of air that usually signaled something that big landing. It was as if she had just appeared out of thin air. And there was no cave large enough for a creature her size.
I hurried to catch up with her. As she moved onwards, she seemed to be decreasing in size. When she reached the wall, she was human sized. When she turned towards me, I was amazed. She looked like a human that had been genetically combined with a dragon, sharing the characteristics of both, body of a human, and the head, tail, wings, and claws of a dragon. Her skin shimmered a metallic red and was traced every here and there with a hint of muscle. Two prominent female attributes swelled on her chest, while her wings and tail, intersecting in a place just below her waist, obscured whatever other femininity she might have.
I wrenched my gaze back to her head. The spines that were there before had been altered into a mane of bristling crimson hair that extended about halfway down her back and pointed out from her head at different angles. All in all, a creature to madden men’s minds.
She noticed me staring at her body and her eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “You like?” she asked.
“I would be lying if I said I did not,” I responded distractedly, “But, again, you surprise me.”
She turned, breaking my view, and motioned for me to come near to a finger-width crack in the wall. She ran a claw along it, jabbing about an inch from the bottom. The cliff face slid away slightly, leaving a crack large enough to fit a hand into. The dragoness grasped the side of the crack and pulled to one side. A block of rock ground aside, leaving a hole large enough for a human to enter.
I followed her inside the revealed cave. As I passed through the doorway, I gave it an experimental shove. It didn’t even move. The dragoness looked back at me, a smile playing somewhere in the vicinity of her mouth. She slipped by me. I caught a hint of a sulfurous, yet alluring scent as her scales brushed my skin. She walked up to the opening and, seemingly without effort, slid it back to its original position.
She slipped by me again and walked down the hall. I followed her. She turned and motioned to a side cave. “These are your quarters. I recommend you spend the next week getting accustomed to our lair and getting yourself set up. Then we’ll give you your work.” She began to move off.
“Wait a second!” I called after her. “We?”
“Oh, yes. My sister shares this cave with me. You’ll probably find her in the library. Three entrances down to the right.” She turned away again.
She turned again, annoyance crossing her reptilian features. “Now what?”
“I don’t know your name.”
“Serpentyne.” She then turned on her heel and proudly moved off. I stood and watched the fluid movements of her bare form until she was out of sight.
Chapter 3: Dryconia
A day later, I had mucked out my quarters. It proved to be quite a chore. The room was dusty and full of junk. My staff proved to be a great help, levitating old broken bits of statuary off the ground and serving as a lever to wedge apart cracked rocks. It amazed me daily. It seemed that every day I came across another minor enchantment laid upon it. Now I discovered that it was indestructible. A very cheap enchantment, to be sure, but one hard to lay on magical artifacts, as the magical fields interfered with each other. My father and many of his predecessors must have worked for at least half of their magical careers on this very object. And now it had come to me, a common thief.
No! I forcefully reminded myself. You are not a thief anymore!
But a voice deeper in my mind wormed in. Not a thief anymore, but a servant. Not much of a step up, is it?
I shoved that from my mind. I didn’t care about the fact that I’m serving two dragonesses. This is a place of honor. Yet, still, that thought persisted.
While cleaning out the room, I came upon several interesting looking bottles and rings. I could tell they were at least peripherally magical, but I wasn’t trained enough to tell in what way. I would have to look them up in the library Serpentyne had referred to. That and it would give me a chance to meet the other sister sharing this cave. I would do that tomorrow. The next day I would start getting acquainted with the rest of the cave. That in itself would probably take care of the rest of the grace period I had before I had to start working.
The next day I finished cleaning out my quarters and carried a bag of rings and potions to the library to look up. The room was in the place Serpentyne had told me, but she hadn’t managed to convey the splendor of the place. The instant I walked inside, my jaw went slack and the bag of rings and bottles I was carrying clattered to the floor. The library was a vast cavern, composed of glittering crystal, shattering the torchlight into thousands of glimmering particles. It was roughly octagonal, with a different color of crystal on each side.
Books lay cluttered over the tables filling the room, many of them lying open to pictures of dragons, men, and varied magical artifacts. Scrolls filled an entire case near the doorway, each of them a magical spell that would enable even an apprentice like me to cast the most complex spells. There were so many that it would take a lifetime to even read the tiniest portion of them.
In the center of the room was a great table. At the table sat a green dragoness. As was her sister, she was nude. Her shapely legs crossed upon the table as she lounged back. A graceful tail descended from her buttocks to curl limply on the floor. Her wings curled over the back of the ornate chair she was seated in. A mane much like her sister’s grew from the back of her long, serpentine, neck. There was a blue stained leather-bound book clutched in her talons, resting on the lighter colored scales beneath the two well-formed hemispheres on her chest.
I froze for an instant, wondering if she had heard me. It appeared she had not. I was too far away. I walked slowly over to her, trying to think of what to say to introduce myself.
The whisper of my robes against the stone floor was barely audible to me, but it seemed to be enough for her sensitive hearing. When I was ten feet away, her head cocked to one side, as if she was listening, then she looked over her shoulder and straight into my eyes. She gasped and scrambled upright, pulling her wings about her body, trying to conceal herself. I, not wanting to scare her, put my staff aside and raised my hands, showing them to be empty.
“Hello,” I said shyly, “I’m the new servant. My name’s Keirsah.”
She relaxed ever so slightly. “New servant? Oh, yes, I remember. Serpentyne mentioned that this morning. I’m Dryconia.”
“Ah, a beautiful name to go with a beautiful dragoness,” I said, calling my staff back into my hands with a gesture and bowing in the same movement. For some reason, it seemed very important to me that I impress the stunning creature that stood before me.
She blushed, turning a brighter shade of green, and let her wings relax, instinctually flicking them onto her back. “Can I help you?”
“Well, technically, I’m supposed to be helping you,” I said lightly. “But I’ve found several magical rings and potions, and I need to find out what they are.” I offered my bag for her inspection.
She took it and glanced at the contents. “Oh, these things are very easy. You can tell by the engraving on them and their auras.” She held up a ring with a complex sketching etched upon it. “If you look closely, you can see that this ring has a cure light wounds spell placed on it.”
I looked closely, but I could not see. “Is there any special way I can tell?”
She glanced at me, then shook her head. “Oh, I forgot how limited mortal bodies are. Okay. Look at it as if you’re looking beyond it, into a different world.”
I stared at it, then let my eyes go out of focus, and looked at it, trying to see what was beyond it. At the edge of my range of focus, a pale blue aura crept into being. I mentally locked onto that, concentrating, assimilating it…
I literally leapt into midair as the information came to me. The ecstasy of magic burning through my body caused me to almost collapse against a bookcase as my feet touched the ground again. Only Dryconia’s supportive claws kept me from knocking it over.
“Is…it always…like that?” I gasped.
“You have great magical talent,” she said, amazed, “Why is it that you seem so new to it?”
“My formal training ended at age ten, when my teacher, my father, was killed. I was an apprentice then, and there were no other magical instructors around. At least, none that didn’t have so many protective spells around their homes that it would be suicidal to try to get there.”
“Your father was killed?” she asked, seemingly horrified.
“When the king declared that magic users, were immoral, evil, and basically just the worst thing to ever happen to the world, the peasants latched onto it as something to hate. The soldiers my father had hired were barely enough to defend the stone household we lived in, even combined with my father’s magical abilities. Then my father, as far as I know, was forced into casting a very powerful spell. We were hoping for the best, but it was then that the fools decided to attack again. Our guards were overwhelmed. The last thing my father did was to teleport me away, sending his staff, this one, with me.”
“And then?” she urged.
“The entire army was incinerated in a blast that demolished the fortress. I knew my father was dead when I saw it disintegrate.” I choked, unable to say anymore.
After a suitable interval of time, she said, “I know magic. Maybe I’ll be able to teach you.”
I perked up. “You could? That would be fantastic!”
“Yes, but don’t even think for a second that this will let you get out of any of your servant’s duties.”
“Oh, shame on me for ever contemplating the thought.” I said sardonically. “May we start now?”
She smiled. “Yes, let us begin.”
I put away the bag of rings and sat next to her. She opened a book and pointed to a picture of a blue orb about the size of my fist. “This is a Sphere of Driving Rain. Its magical properties are to amplify the power of spells based upon water magic…”
Chapter 4: Servant
When I, exhausted, staggered back to my room that night, my mind was overwhelmed by information. My mind was brimming with questions, spells, and artifacts. I had learned more in one day than my father had taught me in his entire lifetime. I flopped onto the stone ridge that was my bed and was asleep before my body hit the rock.
I awoke some time later. After changing my crumpled robe, I was too tired to remove it last night, and grabbing a scroll I had taken from the library yesterday, I left the cave. I made my way to the entrance, fortunately open, just in time to see Serpentyne shifting to dragon form and flying into the distance. Dryconia was also in dragon form, basking in the sun, asleep. By the position of the sun, I guessed it was about noon, maybe a bit later. I settled myself down against Dryconia’s hide and began to translate the scroll I brought with me.
“Let’s see,” I muttered, “Pyros, that means fire. Hydros, water of course. Fire-water? Strange…” I looked on further. I saw the words for Air and Earth. This scroll seemed to be stating the basic principles of elemental magic. I looked onwards. There were some words I couldn’t decipher, but the scroll seemed to have a procedure on it to unite the four poles of magic into one spell. I stared at it a bit longer, and then put it away, unable to find anything more that I could read on it. Disappointed, I got up to retrieve another.
The movement of my body awoke Dryconia. She opened one gigantic eye and regarded me. I, startled, stepped back.
“You’re finally up. Good. My sister should be back from her hunt soon, and then I shall go out.”
The talk of food reminded me how hungry I was. My stomach growled. “Is there any chance of there being any left over?” I asked.
“I don’t think so. I usually only leave bones, and Serpentyne usually cracks open even those. But if you’re starving, you may be able to scrounge something from the kitchen. You’ll find it right across from the library.”
As I turned to go, she called after me, “But be warned, it’s been abandoned since our last servant left. You may have to clean it up a bit.”
Clean it up a bit! I snorted. The so-called kitchen was a disaster. Pots and pans were scattered all around, some still with months old food in them. Delicate crystal goblets, several shattered, were scattered all around, as if thrown by a spoiled child. An irrelevant thought came into my mind. Are all dragons like this, or am I just lucky? It seemed I would have to start my servant’s job early.
With a few words and a flick of my staff, I levitated some pots and dumped them into the huge basin that I was to wash them in. With a few more words, I started the water running and used my water stone to add some liquid soap to the water. After I got it running nicely, I pulled out a broom and swept up the shattered crystal, as I was unwilling to expend my staff’s power to work trifles. I placed the unbroken goblets on a nearby tray to be washed separately.
While the pots were soaking, I set to cleaning up the calcified muck on the floor. I used the pointed end of my staff to break it into a few pieces and tossing them into a pile in the corner until the room’s original polished stone emerged. But it was tiring work. Soon, I began to sweat. It became harder and harder to bring my staff up and down, even with the increased force it granted me.
“Keirsah? Are you in here?” Dryconia’s voice echoed into the chamber. I spun slowly around as the green dragoness turned the corner into the room. Her jaw dropped as she took in the chaos of the room.
“Surprised by your own work?” I asked sarcastically.
“It is not my doing!” she cried. “I haven’t been in here since our last servant left two months ago!”
“Well, some of this junk is at least two months old. Your last servant was a slob.”
She moved into the room. “Well, she was, but you’d better not let her hear you say that. She was a mean spirited commoner from who knows where. Hoping to find a husband, she made like a trapped princess and moved into our lair and wouldn’t leave. When a knight finally came to ‘rescue’ her, we faked being defeated together and wished the happy couple good riddance. We never thought she would do this.”
“Poor me then, since I have to clean it.”
As I got heavily to my feet, she laid a claw on my shoulder and pressed me down again. “Do you know how to cast a shield?” she asked.
“Yes,” I agreed.
“Use it now,” she said shortly.
As I concentrated my will upon the weakening energy of my staff, she deeply inhaled. I couldn’t help but notice the generous expansion of her chest and the hemispheres upon it, but I hid my reaction as best I could.
Just as my shield was completed, she let loose a blast of dark green gas from between her jaws. It engulfed the entire room, excepting my little shield sphere and me. When it finally dissipated, the room was covered with a fine black dust and the petrified food remains were gone. As I let my shield fall, she turned to me, chest heaving with exertion.
My mouth worked, trying to formulate a question. She, knowing my query before I even made a sound, explained. “Contrary to popular belief, not all dragons breathe fire. I don’t know much about other dragons, but we greens breathe a gas that burns and eventually dissolves all organic matter.”
“And your sister?”
“The reds breathe fire, like most people believe.”
I was about to ask more, but she cut me off. “I’ve got to go now. It’s about my time to hunt. Since all the food was disintegrated in here, I’ll save you some of my food until you’re able to get some of your own.”
“Thanks,” I said, but she had already left the room.
Soon, I could hear the faint rush of wings as the red landed and the green took off. Next, I could hear the cave entrance being opened and closed and the sound of scaled feet moving down the hall. Serpentyne entered the room, a bloody leg of some unknown animal supported upon her shoulder.
“I thought you’d need something to eat tonight. The deer I took this off of was pretty large, so I can spare it.” She tossed it onto a nearby counter and splashed some water onto herself, washing the blood off her scales, even though it was all but invisible on her crimson hide. Before I could thank her, she, too was off. I spent the rest of the time cleaning the remains of the mess and cooking part of the meat Serpentyne had brought me. After I had eaten all I could, I placed the rest in a stone box that was packed with ice. That would keep it fresh, I hoped.
The remaining six days passed in a blur. Before I knew it, it was the morning one week after I had begged asylum. I set my staff on a timed flash the night before so I would get eight hours of sleep. I woke up just as it emitted a blinding flash, causing me to wince with a scream of pain. After the initial shock, I gasped out the word to dim it and everything went black except for a few spots that played tag with my peripheral vision. After a few minutes, I lit my staff again, but I made sure it was dimmer this time.
As I got dressed, I wondered what I would have to do. I already planned, with my mistress’ permission, to organize their horde and the other portions of the cave. It seemed that Dryconia was too involved in her studies to do much about organization and Serpentyne was out most, if not all, of the day.
I moved out to the entrance of the cave to wait for whichever sister would emerge first. Somehow I managed to wedge the stone out of the way just enough with my staff to squeeze through. It took quite some time and energy, so I sat back and rested afterwards, my eyes upon the muted glow of false dawn. A few minutes after, the sun emerged over the outline of the city, filling my eyes with a starburst of beautiful color. I descended into a trance, my eyes staring unblinkingly at the blazing orb, the essence of fire. I could feel like I was able to reach out and absorb the awesome power into my being. I reached out a spiritual hand…
And was plunged back into consciousness by the grinding of the doorway stone as Serpentyne emerged from the cave as a draconian, as I had subconsciously named her humanlike form, basing it on a lizard race I had read about in childhood. I moved to intercept her as she closed the slab of stone. She turned around and stared me in the eye.
“Yes?” she asked icily.
I gave an impromptu salute with my staff. “Your servant reporting for duty, mistress.”
She considered me for a few seconds. “I have no need of you now,” she finally said. “I shall call for you when I do.” Then she was dragon and off before I could even breathe. I shrugged and settled down to wait for her sister to come out.
I tried to meditate again, but I was for some reason unable to enter the calming trance. I sighed, pulling myself to my feet. I paced around the cliff top, thinking about nothing in particular. I would be in for an easier life than I thought if this was what serving dragons was like.
After an indeterminable amount of time, the cave entrance slid open again. Dryconia glided into the open and glanced at me. I walked up to her and saluted again.
“I’ve been looking for you,” she told me, her eyes locking onto mine. Was that anger I saw in them?
“What can I do for you?” I asked cautiously.
“You can go inside and get to your studies,” she snapped, very uncharacteristic of her. “I will not teach a student that abandons his work for half the day.”
“I just thought that you would need-“ I began, but her claw snapped out and grabbed me by the throat. She lifted me into the air and shook me with every phrase.
“I don’t care for your excuses. Unless your servanthood prevents you, you shall spend every free moment working. Do you understand, servant?” Her voice was calm, but her grip betrayed her emotions, cutting of all air. The edges of my vision began to grow black. Finally, she released me and I collapsed to the ground, gasping. Sweet air, finer than any wine, infused my lungs again.
“S-sorry.” I managed to croak out. “I-I’ll get going.” Then I dragged myself back into the cave, her fiery gaze burning behind me.
In the library, I was pouring over a tome on fire magic, hoping to discover if the trance I experienced that morning was a mage talent or if I was an isolated case. There was nothing about a trance in it, but there was an intriguing subject at the beginning, to I took a little time to look through that. That opened up other fascinating subjects, so I glanced through them as well. Soon I was so absorbed in the text that the rest of the world seemed to melt away around me. I didn’t hear the entrance into the cavern or see the form moving towards me.
I was finally alerted to my company when I felt warm breathing against my neck. When I realized that I was not alone, I spun about as quickly as I could in the seat I was in. Heart pounding, my body preparing to fight to the death, I spun to see my green mistress looking over my shoulder. I sighed in relief, then turned back to the book.
After a few minutes, she whispered softly into my ear, “Are you okay?” Her voice was full of concern.
“Well, other than my neck is sore and my robe dirtied, I suppose I’m all right.” I made it a point not to look at her.
She sighed heavily and rested her wedge shaped head between my shoulder blades. I stiffened ever so slightly at this intimate touch, but I forcefully reminded myself that it did not mean the same for a dragon as it did a human. “I-” she began, but broke off. She swallowed and tried again. “I must apologize for my behavior outside. I lost control of my temper.”
I turned partially to her, a mixture of anger and empathy swirling in my mind. “You never even took time to hear my part of the story,” I accused. “There was a reason I was out there.”
“Yes,” she murmured. “But I thought after I acted. I now know you were just trying to impress us with being alert. I forgot to tell you that we will need little or no help in the morning, so you can devote that time to study or other duties. I wish I had some way to make it up to you.”
What anger was left in me suddenly melted away. I turned completely to her, standing as I did so, and placed a hand upon her shoulder. “It’s not all your fault. I forgot to ask about your schedule as well. I should have known to do so.”
She moved her arm up and grasped my shoulder as well. “But I must take some of the blame. I don’t lose my temper often, but when I do…” she trailed off.
I didn’t respond. There was nothing to say, so I just gazed into her eyes. They were a violet tinge, though I thought I could see a hint of every other color of the rainbow in them. They seemed to be beckoning me and I let myself be drawn into the spell they were casting. I caught that alluring scent I had perceived when near her sister, an intoxicating aroma that awoke in me a longing that I had never felt before. I shifted myself nearer to her and placed my other hand upon her shoulder. I stroked downwards, my fingers tracing the captivating pattern of muscle upon her arms. She moved, bringing the space between our bodies down to almost nothing. She opened her jaw the tiniest bit. I brought my mouth near hers…
A roar sounded far down the hallway, breaking the spell upon both of us. The green dragon wrenched away from me just as I turned to look at the doorway. I looked back at her again, an instant of understanding passing between us. The roar sounded again and I hurried out. It was time to play my role.
I found Serpentyne near the entrance to the cave. There were rivulets of animal blood running down her teeth, dripping between her scales, and pooling by her feet. She glared at me, her anger obvious in her pose and voice. “Where were you? I expected to meet you at the entrance and instead I had to stain our cliff top and the entrance to our cave with blood. Now you get to clean it!”
I averted my eyes. “Sorry,” I murmured. “I’ve been busy.”
“Well, get used to not being busy at this time,” she snapped. “You shall be here every day at this time to attend to me after my hunt.”
“Thank you for letting me know,” I said, a touch of sarcasm in my voice. “What do I do?”
“First, you carry me to the room inside. Then you wash the blood off and oil my hide to keep it from cracking. You repeat this every day.”
Part of that bothered me. “How am I supposed to carry you?” I asked.
I tried, holding behind the knees and around the back. She was remarkably light for one her size, maybe eighty pounds, though heavy enough that I staggered. I felt like I was carrying my bride across the threshold.
When I made it to the room, my eyes fell immediately upon a bucket of soap in the corner and a waterfall in on one wall, creating a stream through the center, which I set my red mistress down in. She lay in it, letting most of the blood flow away from her, though some in her mane and other parts of her body would not come out. Guessing what I was intended to do, I massaged her lower mane, evicting the blood there, then proceeded to splash water over the rest of her body, soaping out what couldn’t be washed. I glanced over the remainder of her body, assuring myself that she was completely clean.
“What now?” I asked.
She picked herself out of the pool and stood proudly, dripping wet, in the center of the room. I gulped, hard. Two times two is four, I thought almost savagely, wrenching my gaze away.
“Are you so dumb as to not remember something I told you fifteen minutes ago?” she asked bitingly.
That comment wrenched me back to reality. “Sorry,” I mumbled again and went to retrieve the oil that I spotted in the corner. As I passed by her, she grabbed my sleeve.
“Do you really expect me to receive my oiling in this room?”
I glanced at her, then around the room. “Where do you expect me to oil you then? I don’t see any other exits to this room other than the one I came in.”
She shook her head. “You poor man. Carry me over to that wall and I’ll show you.”
I readied myself to pick her up again, then stopped. “Why should I carry you?” I asked. “Can’t you walk yourself?”
She glared at me. “Are you questioning my commands, servant?”
I looked askance at her. “Me? No, but I just want to know-”
“It’s my will, and that should be enough for you,” she snapped, ending the debate. I shrugged and lifted her into my arms again. Unfortunately, the water made her hide extremely slippery, and when I picked her up, she almost slipped right through my arms and I had to scramble to keep her from falling to the floor. Eventually she settled into a somewhat manageable position, but in the interim, her body slid between my hands, causing them to stroke regions they should not. But my mistress did not show any concern, so I attempted to act nonchalant.
I carried her over to the selected wall and set her down. She found one spot in it and pressed. The wall spun one hundred eighty degrees and she disappeared. I quickly picked up the nearby oil bucket and pressed the same spot. The wall spun to admit me as well.
The instant I entered, I was greeted with a shower of water droplets. Serpentyne was standing in the center of the room and I had the bad fortune to enter the instant she had begun to shake herself dry. I instinctively threw my arms up in front of my face, dropping the bucket of oil. I could hear it clatter loudly upon the floor as drips of moisture assaulted me.
It was only a few seconds until she stopped, though it seemed like half an eternity. When I dared look again, where she had stood glistening wet, she was now dried, though I was fairly damp. As I looked her over again, I saw that her hide seemed patchy, as if it were about to crack. My hand went to the bucket of oil, which miraculously had landed upright, thought the contents were somewhat splattered about. I scooped a hand inside of it and brought out a glob of the contents, which I slathered upon her shoulder and massaged it into her scales. She closed her eyes in seeming pleasure as my fingers kneaded her flesh.
I oiled her shoulders, upper back, and neck, though her mane gave me a bit of difficulty. I eventually just worked the oil into her mane as well, reasoning that it, since it was actually spikes in dragon form, would need to be oiled as well. But when I moved onwards to lower portions, I hesitated.
She opened one eye. “Is something wrong?”
I bit my lip and shook my head slightly. Then, as she closed her eyes again, I applied the oil to her breasts and gently massaged it in. After that, I moved up and with my forefinger and thumb, spread the oil upon her face and head, taking extra care around the eyes and nostrils. The horns were pretty easy, and it was mostly simple afterwards.
She sat about halfway through to give me easier access to her lower regions. When I made it to the juncture of her legs, I paused again, but quickly nerved myself and spread the oil into the crevice emplaced there and along the insides of the legs and bottom of her tail. I tried to tell myself it was all business, but my body doesn’t always obey my mind, so when I stood to stretch out a bit, I found that I was standing in more than one way. Quickly, I finished the rest of her legs and tail. Just as I finished massaging her soles, she spoke.
“You do a good job, Keirsah.” She moaned appreciatively as I helped her back to her clawed feet. “Have you done something like this before?”
Though I was startled at her use of my name, she had called me mostly ‘servant’ or other terms for the past week, I shrugged and replied, “Not that I remember, mistress. Have I really done so well?”
“Oh, yes,” she purred, “I have never been oiled so well, not even by my own sister. How would you like a reward?” She slipped quite close to me, her hot breath tickling my neck. Though she was some inches taller than I, I could feel her body rubbing against me in just the right places, making my body react in ways I didn’t know it could.
Her blatant come-on, combined with her abrupt mood alteration, startled me into silence. She took this as acquiescence and took my chin in her claws, bringing it close to her own mouth…
For the second time that day, the other sister interrupted us. We could hear the cave door rumbling open again and the roar of Dryconia. Serpentyne sighed heavily as she pulled away, her tongue brushing my cheek. She moved off.
I ran outside to attend to my other mistress. It seemed that my idle day was soon going to turn into a tiring evening.
Chapter 5: Plague
I finally collapsed into bed just as dawn was creeping over the horizon, more tired than I had ever remembered being. The two dragons had run me ragged, though I had done little more than merely wash and oil their hides. That little task took longer than I thought. It had actually turned out that the time that was expended attending to the red dragoness had been a substantial chunk of the day, changing mid-afternoon into evening. Taking care of her sister had expended the evening and ran me to about an hour of midnight. Cleaning the blood, water, and splattered oil pushed me into the early morning.
I thought I had been too tired to dream, but that night, my mind was filled with visions of the two sisters, each standing glistening wet as they beckoned me to come to them. I was disappointed when I finally awoke, past noon.
When I finally collapsed into bed, I didn’t even bother to retrieve my staff from the library, where I had left it, not wanting it to burden me while I was aiding Serpentyne. I thought of it the instant before I hit the hard pallet that was my bed, but I was too exhausted to go and get it. Seconds later, I was asleep.
When I finally woke up, I immediately thought of my staff again. I jumped up and started for the. It would return to its owner whenever library, but a sparkle caught my eye. In the corner of the room was my staff, leaning on the wall. This confused me to no end, as no one could have moved it, due to the electric defenses. I smiled wryly. Yet another enchantment, I assumed. The staff would come to its master whenever the two were separated. That would be convenient.
I wandered down to the dragoness’ sleeping chambers. I had never been there before, but the two sisters had assured me that I could enter to sort their hordes, but only in the daytime. They had both made the point quite clear to me that I was not to enter at night. Why, I couldn’t guess, but I was smart enough not to question the motives of two at least generally sensible dragonesses.
Both chambers were empty. That was no surprise. At about this time Serpentyne would be out and her sister would either be sunbathing or studying. I first went into Dryconia’s room. It was very dark inside, the only light what had reflected around the some five corners that I had turned in my course to the room. I could barely make out some dark shapes around the room as I gazed inside.
Well, there was no use standing around here. I lit my staff and entered the room. It was still hard to see, though. I could make out a large pile of something in the center of the room, covered by a cloth made of woven gold. Her bed, I presumed. It looked infinitely relaxing in this light. I was tempted to rest on it for a bit myself, but the thought of its owner discovering me and the likely unpleasant aftermath of that discovery prevented that.
The rest of the room was still cloaked in shadows. I could barely make out some niches on the walls. I moved over, hoping to discover what they were. Suddenly, one of my feet hit something and went out from under me. I shouted, twisting about in mid-fall, landing hard upon my side.
I grasped the thing that tripped me between my feet and passed it up to my hands, where I examined it under the light of my staff. It was an ordinary iron rod. Why would a dragoness want an iron bar in her lair?
I checked its aura. The glow was quite strong. That explained the reason she would have it. But what did it do? Remembering my first lesson with Dryconia, I studied it closely under my staff’s light. The runes etched upon it were faint, but legible. I smiled in the dark. This could be put to good use. I managed to pull myself up by my staff and reorient myself so that I was facing the wall again.
I moved over to a niche, limping slightly on one leg that I had hurt in my fall. Pushing the iron bar at it, I spoke some magical syllables and a faint light emitted from the end of the bar. I pressed it into a holder that was there and it glowed brighter, eventually as bright as a torch. In its somewhat dubious light, I saw another few bars scattered around the room. I quickly retrieved those and pressed them into the other niches around the room. When I was done, the room was quite nicely lit and I was able to start on organization.
Scattered around the room were piles of various gemstones and coins. I first started on those. The first pile gave me a few smaller piles of gold, silver, and copper. After that, I separated the gemstones into piles. Dryconia seemed to collect emeralds and sapphires exclusively, to go with the tone of her hide, maybe? I separated those into piles as well, sub-sorting them into magical and not magical, then even further into strong spells and weak. I would arrange them into more orderly piles after I had sorted out everything in the room.
About halfway through the various piles, I felt a premonition. Not exactly knowing why, I doused the light from the rods around the room and hurried off to the entrance. I arrived at the entrance and managed to wedge the stone aside just in time to see Serpentyne landing on the terrace outside the cave. I set my staff aside, trusting it to protect itself until I wanted it again.
As the red dragoness glided towards me, I waited near the edge of the cliff to perform my role, my arms extended to hold her when she came close, my legs bent to absorb her weight when it descended upon me. Serpentyne flew over, stirring my robes, and just as she was square above me, she altered into her draconian form and, with a flourish, folded her wings and dropped like a stone.
I gave a start. That was completely unexpected. And with less than a second to decide what to do, I did the most expedient thing. I froze.
That turned out to be the right choice. She fell right into my extended arms. The weight suddenly hitting me caused my knees to almost buckle, but they managed to absorb enough of the shock to keep me upright.
I carried her, with some difficulty, to the cave door. This presented me with a problem. How was I to open the cave without setting my mistress down and creating more work for myself?
The bundle I was carrying chuckled. “Allow me to show you something,” she said. “Carry me over there.” She pointed to the side. I carried her over to the point indicated. She slid a talon into a crack and twisted. There was a barely audible thump and she recalled her claw.
“There, now try it,” she said. I walked back to the entrance, slid a hand into the crack and pushed. The stone rolled aside easily. I opened my mouth and tried to formulate a comment. My mistress laughed lightly and pressed a claw to my lips. “Don’t ask how it works,” she said. “We don’t know either.”
I entered. The stone rolled closed after me.
After I lay her down in the stream, very little blood escaped from her, even after I massaged her mane and the rest of her upper body. I shrugged and carried her over to the next room. After grabbing the oil bucket, I waited a sufficient length of time to enter. I oiled her, much more smoothly this time, though my body still reacted in ways that were somewhat embarrassing, even privately.
After I pulled her to her feet again, she walked to the door without even looking at me and exited through the spinning wall. I ran after her. She was about to the hallway before I caught up with her, laying a hand on her shoulder to get her attention. She roared and spun around almost too fast for me to see. I shouted, falling back, crossing my arms in front of my face. I called my staff to my hands and it appeared just in time to block two claw slashes.
As she realized who was behind her, her claws dropped and her surprise turned to anger.
“Don’t do that!” she roared at me. “I almost killed you!”
Shocked, I stammered out, “I just wanted to know a few things.”
She scowled. “Well, what do you want?”
I took a deep breath, calming my nerves. “First, I’d like to know why you’re acting so differently than yesterday. Second, why weren’t you as bloody as you were last night?”
She gave a long sigh. “Well, I suppose you do deserve an explanation. Yesterday, my time came upon me.”
She covered her glowing orbs with a claw. “Oh, you are ignorant of our ways. Okay, let me see how to explain this. Roughly every month or so, depending on the color, a dragoness goes into mating season. During this time, she produces pheromones that provoke any male dragon’s lust into a frenzy. Inside her body, chemicals are created that incite her own lusts.
“Eventually, if she has not mated yet, these lusts become so powerful that she must mate with the first male that she sees. If there are no males near, then she must satiate herself with whatever, or whoever is available, though it may be harmful to her. As to your question, I was well along into my mating season that day. I was all bloody because an unwelcome male tried to force me into mating and I clawed him. You were the closest male afterwards, so I was attracted to you. However, I have mated today and my passions are under control for another month.”
“That’s quite an explanation,” I said after she had finished. “I’ll remember to expect this next month.”
She rolled her eyes and moved off. I laid my staff aside and went to wait for the other sister. I stood on the edge of the cliff again, arms spread to capture her as she fell.
Over the horizon, I could barely see the green speck that was Dryconia. As she got closer, I could sense that something was wrong with the way she was flying. It was somewhat erratic, her wingtips gyrating in unsteady beats instead of the graceful pulses of flight.
I altered my stance to something steadier just in time. She was almost upon me. At the last instant, she altered to an upright draconian and plowed into me at an incredible speed, knocking me backwards. She wrapped her arms and tail about me as we rolled backwards. My head cracked against the stone under me, sending a starburst across my vision before everything went black
Awareness came back to me several minutes later. I was on my back, with the body of the green dragoness on top of me, her back and sides heaving in hot, ragged, gasps. The next thing that came to my confused mind was the sensation of her frontside against mine. It was soft. Very soft. This brought my mind to the conclusion that there was very little fabric between her body and mine. It would only take a little shift to open my robe and-
I shook my head slightly. That fall must have addled my brain more than I thought. I closed that door in my mind and decided to figure out what was wrong. As I attempted to move aside and get to my feet, my hand brushed across her hide and encountered something strange. It felt like shattered glass as it scraped across my fingers, glass bathed in warm liquid. I glanced at my hand. It was caressing a row of shattered scales with blood pouring from the torn flesh between them!
That catapulted me into full awareness. She was hurt and I was laying here thinking about what it would be like to, well, never mind. I cursed myself as I gathered her into my arms and took her inside. The wound was torn across her right side and stomach, not immediately life threatening, but very painful and very bloody. I placed her in the rivulet where I would have been washing her off had she not been injured. After grabbing a piece of cloth and tying it around the injury, I rushed down to the library to find a healing scroll.
It was a good thing the library was well organized, unlike their hordes. It took no time at all to find a Heal spell. Within seconds, I was dashing back to the entrance. The dragoness was still lying in the stream, silent and unmoving. Most of the blood staining her body had been washed off and carried out except for a continuing flow of redness from under the bandage.
I turned her onto her side so that she was facing me. I tore off the bandage, wincing as the flow of blood resumed. I placed my hands upon the slash and, one eye on the scroll I brought with me, began to chant.
The instant the first words fell from my lips, Dryconia’s nearer eye snapped open. Startled, I faltered, the magic building in me beginning to fade. I quickly picked up the chant again, and the magical power proceeded to grow again.
Dryconia was still for much of the chant, but about halfway through, she let out a soft moan. I paid little attention, my concentration focused completely on the magic that was pumping through my blood. Through the corner of my eye, I saw her tail began to twitch. Just the tip, so I assumed it was just a gesture of impatience. I turned my attention back to the wound.
She finally got my attention when one claw lifted from the water and clutched my wrist. My spell almost completed, I glanced, annoyed, at her. Her eyes locked onto mine. There was some kind of undefined emotion swirling in them. Need, desperation, frustration. I felt like I was being drawn into them all over again. Her claw moved up to my collar and began to tug.
Not quite knowing why, I reacted violently to this. First, I finished chanting the last syllables of the healing spell. Then I snapped another spell, giving myself a sharp push backwards. I slipped from Dryconia’s grip and flew backwards a few yards, twisting about to land on my feet.
The dragoness screamed. It was a sound such as I had never heard before and I hope to never hear again. The high-pitched wail that emerged from that creature’s throat seemed to tear through the very fabric of my being, tearing at me, reducing me to a trembling mass on the ground.
She began to struggle out of the rivulet and come towards me, but just as she had laid the first claw upon the dry floor, she froze. A timeless instant passed before she moaned again, louder this time, and began to shudder. The former twitching of her tail began to move throughout her entire body. She collapsed into the water again, sending up a gush of liquid. The tremors in her body increased to a fevered thrashing, splattering water throughout the room.
She screamed again. I screamed with her, desperately trying to shield my ears from the sound. My eyes traveled to the stream. The water was being whipped into foam so thick that I could hardly see through it. I could barely catch a glimpse of an emerald body arching; hide shimmering shades of green just as a final scream flared through my consciousness.
I crawled up to the still water. My green mistress was immersed in the fluid, nostrils barely peeking over the surface. She seemed so peaceful after that maelstrom I had just endured. Fortunately, no blood was leaking from her flesh. My healing spell had worked.
I pulled her limp form from the stream and gently dried her off. I moved us away from the rivulet and called the oil bucket to my hand. While oiling her legs, I noted that the flesh on her inner thighs and feminine attribute was several degrees warmer than the rest of her body. I wondered why. It wasn’t anything like that before. There was indeed much I needed to know about dragons.
I tugged her to a wall, not trusting myself to carry her all the way to her room, and lay her head in my lap before leaning against the wall and drifting off to sleep.
A slight shifting woke me in the early hours of the morning. The green dragoness lifted her head off my lap. Without even looking at me, she rose to four claws and struggled unsteadily to the exit. I gazed after her for a few minutes before weariness overcame me again.
I awoke again to the sensation of a claw shaking me by the shoulder. I yawned and glanced upwards. The blue eyes of Serpentyne greeted my return to wakefulness.
“Busy last night?” she asked, smiling somewhat lewdly at me. Before I could come up with a suitable response, she continued. “You have a special task today. As you know, my sister was wounded last night.”
“Yes, I healed her,” I replied.
“You did do that,” she responded, “But it was a special case and she’s going to need more than just a healing spell to restore her.”
I tilted my head slightly. “What was so bad about-”
“Quit interrupting, servant,” she snapped at me. “Much energy was drained from her body yesterday. She would recover in a few days by herself, but that would be very awkward, in several ways. So, you are to go down to the city and bring us a special powder that will restore her energy.” She tossed an empty leather bag to me. “Show this to the shopkeeper in the stall three rows south and four west from the entrance. He will fill the bag with said powder at no charge. He knows us.” She chuckled. “You are to be back tonight to attend to our oilings.”
I waited until she was done talking before asking, “How am I even to get into the town? Surely they know what I look like and that I’ve stolen from them. That and the little question of magery will get me skewered with at least fifteen arrows before I even enter the gate.”
The red dragoness tossed another bundle at my feet. It was a scroll. “Disguise spell,” she said. “Learn it.”
She sauntered off, hips moving with just the right rhythm to grab my eyes. I bit my lip and wondered if she was trying to make me react like this on purpose.
At the entrance to the city, I double-checked my disguise before bypassing the guards and walking in. I had left my staff back at the cave. It would only serve as an indicator to who I really was. Besides, I could call it to my hands at any time I wished.
The city looked subtly different from the last time I was inside it. Maybe I was in a different part. Maybe it was because last time was afternoon and it was now still relatively early. Maybe it was because I wasn’t being chased.
Or maybe it was the rows and rows of people chained to the outer wall.
Men, women, and children were shackled, spread-eagled, to spots on the wall. The chains seemed so tight that their extremities seemed about to be torn out of their bodies. There was nowhere I could look without seeing a tortured form straining against its bonds or bowed in death.
Just as I began to feel sick, four guards came up, holding a thrashing man by his arms and legs. They cut down the body of a dead young woman and attached the man to the wall. They carried the woman away. I turned away, feeling queasy. I decided I would get that powder and get out of here as quickly as I could.
I fairly ran along the streets until I came to the stall I was told about. A short man dressed in tattered clothing lounged inside. He stood up and looked at me. “What is your pleasure, sir?” he asked.
I handed him the bag. He checked something on it, then scuttled away to a corner of the stall. Seconds later, he came back, the bag full of powder. I took it and quickly moved off.
I climbed up to the cave entrance and pressed the hidden crack that opened the doorway. I sighed in relief as I entered the cave again. This was where I belonged. I felt strange though, as if my muscles weren’t quite under my control. I shrugged it off. It was probably nothing. I pulled the bag from my belt to give to Serpentyne.
Suddenly, my right leg jerked out from under me. I shouted and fell to the floor, the bag of powder rolling from my grasp. I scrambled after it, but my arm muscles spasmed, lifting me off the ground and pitching me into a wall. I could hear something crunch as my head slammed into the unyielding rock.
All was still. I picked myself up and staggered down the hallway towards the library, the powder forgotten. I needed to get help. I could feel blood running down my long hair and merging with my robe.
I was almost to my destination when it happened again. I was passing by an ornament on the wall, a diamond shaped something or other, with a shallow spike poking up from the center. My legs twisted and I smashed into the blunt metal surface. I could feel my ribs cracking, my chest collapsing inwards.
As I slumped to the floor, I tried one last thing. I called into the void and thanked the gods when my staff appeared in my hands. As the world dissolved into redness, I managed to utter a single word.
There was a hiss of scaled feet on the ground near me. The world was pain. I could see nothing except red. Feel nothing but agony. Taste nothing but blood. The hissing stopped. The next thing I heard was little more than a horrified whisper.
“Oh, gods. What happened to you?”
“Where is that human? I’m going to tear his throat out! Has he any idea how valuable this powder is?”
“You know, my sister, you didn’t have to do this just because he submitted to his masculine urge and forced you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You mean you didn’t- Oh, my mistake. So what’s wrong with him then, if it wasn’t you?”
“I don’t know. I had just discovered this when you came in. I saw a flash and ran to see what was happening.”
“Is he even alive?”
Pause. “Yes.” Another pause. “But he won’t be for long if we don’t do something quickly.”
“We’re out of healing elixir though. Can you use a spell?”
“No, I’m too weak to cast anything. Not with my time coming upon me yesterday. I might be able to close the wounds, but that’s about it.”
“He brought the powder. Could that help?”
“If you’re talking about me using it, no. It would take a day to charge the energy for a sufficient healing spell for this, even with the powder. He would be dead by then.”
“Yes, I know. I’ve know some things about you, sister, though you may not realize it. I meant using the powder on him.”
Pause. “Well, that isn’t really designed for humans. It may help him. It may kill him. The healing powder is also mixed with a powerful stimulant. His system could be jolted into a quick recovery. His heart could burst from the extra stress. Or nothing could happen.”
“But it’s our only choice.”
“Yes. You give him the medicine. I’ll try to find a healing spell that I’m currently strong enough to cast.”
Whisper of scales. Pause. The sensation of something being rubbed into my chest. More pain. A whimper.
“There now, Keirsah. Soon Dryconia will be back and we’ll be able to fix you up. Don’t worry about the oiling tonight. Though you may be a bit disappointed that you don’t get to handle me, you’re in no state to do anything other than rest.”
Feeling was slowing coming back into my body. I was picked up and carried…somewhere. I passed out again.
When I awoke, I felt very helpless. Consciousness came back to me slowly. The first thing I realized was that I was lying down. Next was the fact that I couldn’t move. Slowly, I realized I was chained to some kind of flat object. My body was a mass of alternating ranges of pain and numbness. I could feel cold stone under my back, so I knew that my robe and the loincloth under it had been removed.
I wanted to know where I was. Wherever I currently resided was completely void of light. I gathered some small amount of power in my body and called out, “Shirak,” hoping to work a light spell without the benefit of my staff.
A tiny globe of radiance flickered into life above my eyes. I sent it moving throughout my prison. The room was tiny and sparse. I was chained to a platform in the center of the room. There was a door on the wall to my right. I couldn’t see anything to my front or back, but I assumed they were blank stone like the rest of the room.
I couldn’t lift my head, a metal band being secured about my neck and attached to the platform. My hair was tied somehow to the platform as well. I could tell from the pain when I tried to turn my head. My arms and legs were also attached to the platform by bands around my wrists and ankles, stretched so tightly that my chest could barely rise, forcing me to take shallow, gasping breaths.
A sliver of light appeared over my chest. My eyes traced it to its source. The door was opening. The light I had brought into being flickered out without a thought. Through the open door came the two dragonesses. Each of them held one of those glowing iron bars I had found in their rooms. Each bar was set into a wall niche, lighting the chamber enough to see clearly.
The dragonesses moved to either side of me. The green leaned over me and ran a claw lightly along my chest, studying it, it seemed.
Dryconia looked up. “He’s healing nicely. The ribs and chest have mended enough for him to breathe without fear of puncturing a lung, so we can remove the magic there.” She gestured, and the numbness in my chest receded. “From what I can see, the bleeding has subsided as well, but he’ll have that knob of scar tissue for many years.”
The red glanced over my body, also running a claw along the lump on my chest. I moaned slightly. “What about the rest of him?”
“Well, his fractured skull is still weak. He’s lucky that there was no brain damage. From the last blood test I ran, the virus is still running rampant within him. With adequate care, he should physically be back to full strength, but as for the virus, I don’t know. This is the first case I’ve ever seen or heard of. Could be days, could be months.”
Serpentyne leaned over and glanced over my prone body. It could have been my imagination, but her blue eyes held a suggestion of some kind of hunger. It worried me a bit, but I told myself it was a trick of the light.
“Well, time to go. We’ll check on him again tomorrow, right?”
“Right.” The dragonesses turned to go.
I cleared my throat. “Excuse me,” I said with difficulty. They turned towards me, expressions of shock registering on their muzzles. “Could someone …please tell me what’s… going on?”
“Oh my gods,” Serpentyne gasped, “He’s sentient!”
“Yeah,” I agreed, laying on the irony as thickly as I could. “Now what’s happening to me?”
Serpentyne glanced at her sister. “I’ve got to be going now. You explain.” She walked out.
I turned my head slightly towards Dryconia. She sat on the platform by my waist, turned halfway towards me, her tail lightly resting along my leg. In that position, she was offering me more of a view that she probably intended to, and I couldn’t quite stifle my reaction.
She began to speak. “Well, the basic rundown is that you’ve caught a plague that is spreading like wildfire throughout the mortal realm. It spasms the muscles in your body, as you might already know. It’s usually fatal within hours, mostly through the failure of the heart or diaphragm. But you seem to have some kind of resistance and were only mortally wounded. But thanks to a spell, some very powerful magical powder, and a good amount of luck, you will survive.
“You are here because it’s the only way to prevent you from killing yourself with the thrashing. I must say it was quite a time we had trying to get you here.” She gestured to her body. Several purplish bruises had sprouted upon her hide from when I had last seen her. They looked very painful.
“That…was me?” I gasped.
“Yes. But Serpentyne got the brunt of it. She was limping and groaning for days after that flurry on that first day. You were limp, so we thought you’d be safe to carry. Then about halfway through, you kicked my sister in the ribs and began to thrash again. We had to wrestle you to the ground and knock you out again before we could carry you here.”
“First…day? How long have I …been here?”
“Two weeks. For that entire time you were unconscious or raving mad. We were used to your babbling throughout the times when one of us was checking on you. I suppose your silence should have alerted us to the fact that you were aware, but we must have assumed you were in a coma or something.”
I rasped out a chuckle. She looked at me strangely. “What?”
“It’s not…the first time that happened. Remind me…to tell you after I’m …released.” After a pause, I said, “Speaking…of which, could you relax…the bonds on my arms? It…would be nice…to be able to…breathe.”
She grimaced. “Sorry, but we can’t. The sickness is still in your system. If we relax your bonds, you may begin to thrash again. Would you rather have a hard time breathing or two broken wrists?”
“Hard time breathing,” I agreed. “But isn’t there…any other way?”
The green considered. “Maybe. I’ll talk to Serpentyne about it. In the meantime, I’ll get you something to eat. We couldn’t get anything but liquids down your throat when you were mad, but we had an ample supply of those thanks to that water gem you had.”
I started. “You looked through my belongings? The only things I had private until now?” I growled, managing not to pause for breath, “I guess I was wrong when I thought I could trust you.”
She recoiled from the vehemence in my voice. “Only one pouch,” she replied, shaken, “We were trying to find something that you might have on you that would help us combat this disease, and that one pouch was all that could have anything. Don’t worry, we only even paid attention to that gem.”
I relaxed slightly. “Okay then. But don’t go looking through my things again. There’s nothing of use to you there.”
She nodded and stood up. “I’ll be right back,” she said before leaving the room.
I laid myself back and attempted to relax for a few minutes before Dryconia was back. She had with her a tray of some kind of fruit. I suddenly realized how hungry I was. My stomach growled audibly when the sweet scent reached my nostrils. She picked one up, a red, spherical, thing with skin so smooth that it shone in the pale light of the bars. She tore out a chunk with her claws and put it in my mouth. It tasted like a spring morning just as the sun was rising over distant mountains.
I don’t remember finishing that piece or any after it, but soon, my hunger was sated and Dryconia was forced to leave for hunting. Soon after, all other sensations faded away as sleep overcame me. My dreams were a jumble of hundreds of my past experiences, having no continuity at all.
The next thing I was aware of was that I was chained down no more. But I still could not move any limb more than a few inches before it was halted by something soft yet unyielding. I tried to open my eyes, but my vision was still blurry and I couldn’t quite make out what was restraining me. I pressed my arm in different directions, eventually encountering something very soft and not very resisting. As I pressed a bit harder, there was a groan of pain and a very familiar voice said, “Could you not touch me there? That was where you kicked me and it’s still very sensitive.”
I groaned and tried to focus on what was making the sound, but all my weary eyes could see was something the color of copper. “Rest,” the same voice said, “Soon the effects of that sleeping potion my sister gave you last night will wear off and you’ll be yourself again.”
Taking that assurance, I relaxed as wakefulness slowly came back into me. Soon, my eyesight cleared and strength was returning to my limbs, though it was still not near as strong as I would be when I wasn’t sick. I was lying on a sheet of some kind of soft material. It was quite comforting.
Serpentyne lay next to me, her arms and legs intertwined with mine to the extent of allowing me to move slightly, but I could tell she could bring me to near complete immobility with just a muscle tensing. She noted my more alert eyes. “Ah, you’re at last awake, lover,” she murmured to me in a sultry voice. “And now we’re finally alone.” She ran her claws through my hair and pulled my head in towards hers.
Then she kissed me. I started, but then she tensed herself and rendered me a not entirely unwilling prisoner. My breathing began to quicken as her body rubbed up against mine. I released every bit of resistance as her long tongue probed my mouth and penetrated. Heat stirred my body, casting me into a lovely bliss.
Suddenly, she broke the kiss and relaxed herself, allowing me to move again, not that I was sure I wanted to. “That…was overwhelming,” I gasped. “Now why?”
“Overwhelming. That’s the point,” she responded, and would say no more on the subject, though she did pull me very close, almost too close for comfort.
“Have I been cured so suddenly?” I asked, changing the subject.
The dragoness pulled away a bit to look at me. “No, but we’ve found a way to counter the thrashing. As you’ve seen, I can immobilize you, or come very close, easily. So if the virus begins to take over and you begin to thrash again, we can keep you from hurting yourself or us. We need to be this close or we won’t be able to get close enough to you after you begin thrashing.”
“It sounds like quite a sacrifice you’re making just to keep me from some discomfort.”
“Quiet,” she hissed at me.
I slept much of the time again, my body still weak from the wounds and sickness, though the proximity of that warm, breathing creature next to me made it quite hard. It frustrated my body to no end that this laying together wasn’t sexual contact, to such extent that I tried to thrust forward into her every time Serpentyne so much as twitched her tail. I could tell she took some secret pleasure in making me react like this considering the amount of times her body slid against mine.
Some time later, a shadow fell over us. Serpentyne glanced up and began to disentangle herself from me. At the same time, a new body, a green one, trapped each of my limbs as the red released them, leaving me in much the same position I was in before.
As soon as we two were settled into mutual comfort, she gave a soft exclamation. “What happened? You’re covered with sweat!”
“Your sister happened,” I said, closing my eyes. “She seems to like overwhelming me with unrequited lust.”
Something wet and cool ran along the side of my face. It felt good. I opened my eyes. Dryconia was cleaning my face with her tongue. I relaxed again as her tongue traveled across my face, cleaning away the sweat and grime before moving to my neck and cleaning that much the same way. However, she could not move any further without releasing one or more of my limbs and neither of us wanted that.
“I must apologize about my sister,” she commented afterwards. “She has a very low opinion of all males and was assuring that you wouldn’t be trying to take advantage of her while you were close.”
That hit a sour note in my head. “Okay now, my mind may be a bit weak now, but it seemed to me that she was encouraging, not the other way around. First that kiss and then…” I shuddered slightly in reluctant pleasure.
“Well, did that make you want to mate with her?”
“Well,” I admitted, “it did, but it also made me uncomfortable, as I got the impression that I was supposed to be doing something, but I wasn’t sure of what.”
“And there,” Dryconia said, “Is her secret. She comes onto you quickly in hopes you’ll freeze up in indecision. Trust me, if she wanted to mate with you, you’d be almost dead of pleasure before you knew what hit you.”
“That’s nice to know. And you?”
“No offense, but I doubt it. Even if you are the most attractive human I’ve ever seen.”
“What? Attractive? Me? Either the standards of beauty greatly differ among dragons or you’re half-blind.”
“Well, you are eye-catching, for a human at least. I know my sister thinks so.”
“Sometimes I think I was meant to be a dragon.”
Routine set in several days later. Though the novelty of having two such ravishing creatures lying near me never quite wore off, it did get old.
About three days after I woke up for the first time after catching the plague, I asked Dryconia about her past. She rolled to the top of me and sat back on her haunches, releasing my arms for the first time in days. She looked at me intensely and began to speak.
“There is little to tell about my past,” she said, not looking at me. “The first sight I remember seeing is just after I crawled from my shell. I was in a room filled with shattered dragon eggs and bodies of dead hatchlings. I was alone. The first few days of my life were spent in complete isolation, my only food the corpses of my brothers and sisters. I fed upon them, knowing only that I must survive.
“Some time later, another hatchling entered the cave. I was scared and hid, but that hatchling could tell I was alive and discovered me. That hatchling was Serpentyne, my sister. She and I were the only survivors of that clutch. Have you heard of the Great Dragon Purge?”
I thought for a bit. “Yes,” I said eventually. “I seem to remember Liurian, my father, saying that the decree the emperor made about killing dragons was only eclipsed by the decree banning magery.”
“My family was one of the first to be killed,” the dragoness sighed. “My sister and I fled the cave and settled here. We decided it was too hard to live apart until the Purge calmed down, so we settled in, and have lived here since. There are few dragons left now.” She settled down on top of me again, trying to turn away from me as far as she could, trying to hide the tears in her eyes.
“We are much alike,” I murmured, stroking her mane gently, slipping my arms about her. She whimpered slightly and buried her head in my shoulder. This wasn’t love, or even passion, just a mutual need and empathy. I slept, at peace for the first time in months.
Another dragoness slept in the same position after I woke up. I could tell from the differing proportions and the gentle faintly exciting touch on my nether regions. A mischievous idea worked into my head and I acted on it. I let myself relax into her grip, allowing my hands to slide gently down her back. I cracked open an eye slightly. The dragoness moaned at my touch and shifted so that her body was pressing very close to me. Her eyes snapped open when my fingers brushed over the spikes near the root of her tail.
I emitted a soft imitation snore and shifted my body enough to separate her from my frontside. Meanwhile, my hand curled under the base of her tail, fingertips resting near where the excretory opening would be on a human. There was no mark on the dragoness’ body, the opening being lower, near the tip of the tail. But I had done enough research to know that this was still the most sensitive area on her body. I began to stroke. Not a full-handed rub, just barely moving my fingers as if I was dreaming. But it was enough. She whimpered as her breathing began to become shallow and quickened, her body tensing against mine. She shifted herself to bring her front against mine again. I continued to stroke in small, unhurried movements, forcing my body to breathe deeply, despite the urge to quicken.
The dragoness whined urgently as she desperately tried to resist herself. I could feel her rubbing against me, heightening my own arousal. It took all my willpower to continue to breathe deeply and not move. Finally I could not resist any longer and cut off my caresses. Instead I groaned heavily and blinked my eyes a few times, feigning being awakened, arching my body against hers, inadvertently stroking her again. She barely cut off a moan and bent over me, attempting to regain some vestige of control.
Now for the deception. I made a great show of discovering my hand was in one of her private regions and, feigning dismay, pulled it out, but not before letting my fingers slide along said region and up the base of her tail. Her body tensed so much that I was almost afraid she would succumb to the lust I had evoked in her.
I turned my face towards hers, pretending to register shock at her ragged expression. “What happened to you?” I asked, as if confused.
“Bad dream,” she muttered, and collapsed upon me, chest heaving against mine. Her eyes closed. I smiled slightly, my revenge complete.