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Old 07-23-2014, 07:21 PM   #1
Xyantha Reborn
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Default The Sky is the Limit by Xyantha ~BHM, FFA, Fantasy

~BHM, FFA, Fantasy - A deal between nations begins spiralling into a romance that neither of them sees coming

Well, this is Xyantha. Apparently not logging in for two years is a great way to forget your password...that linked to an email you didn't remember the password for....Doh.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this. It's a longer fantasy type tale. I'll also be updating my older stories I left in the lurch...

The Sky is the Limit
by Xyantha

Preface

A warm spring breeze blew through her hair, playfully tugging the thick black locks and twisting them about each other. The sun heated her cheeks, and her palms were warmed by that same heat, radiating through the stone under her hands. The grass was not just green, but verdant with the recent rains.

It would have been the perfect day, except for the knowledge that only a few hundred miles away, her enemies were massing to make war on them.

And it was for those verdant hills and valleys that they fought for. The natural resources of Valam were extensive…rich mines, fertile fields, blooming forests – and natural magical deposits. Untapped since the last war, these deposits were the reason for the sudden acts of aggression. Involvement with war elsewhere had caused a neighbouring kingdom, Talos, to deplete its own resources. And in order to win on its other fronts, it needed that magic.

Strict export laws forbade the use of magic in Valam, as well as every act relating to the procurement or selling of magical items. Of course, all attempts to buy the deposits were rebuffed. Several months of antagonism followed, and this was the result.

Kila inhaled deeply, then exhaled slowly. A relatively small kingdom, unarmed in magic themselves, would have been unable to withstand the advances of a larger kingdom with magic, even depleted as they were. Some days she questioned her choice, but it was too late. Grasping the smooth stone tightly, she willed herself to be strong. Her father used to say that making a good choice seldom meant having a good feeling. Sometimes you had to play your foes against each other, and pray they killed themselves in the contest. And that is what she had been forced to do.

Refusing to submit to magic in one quarter, she had reached out to magic in another. An alliance was struck with another kingdom. Although undisposed to provide any aid under normal circumstances, the idea of large magical deposits falling into the hands of any nation was intolerable. Even Vertas could not have it themselves, they could ill afford Talos to take advantage of resources so close to their own home. Thus a bargain was struck.

Her eyes blindly roamed the blue sky, the wind picking up, tossing her hair so violently she was forced to hurriedly braid the length. The exigent circumstances warranted the deal, but it cost her dearly. For the protection of her kingdom, she would allow Vertas to mine a single deposit for the space of half a year. Of which refined volume was not to exceed 200,000lbs.

It was wretched, to bargain while not knowing the true value of the item she was trading with. She only truly realized her error in underestimating the value of the magic when she was informed that an entire contingent of Dragonriders and their Dragons would be in the capital in a week, and ten thousand foot soldiers would land in the front within that same week – more to follow if needed.

She had been well and truly taken in. She had traded gold, when she should have traded silver. But, circumstances what they were…it had been unavoidable. And tomorrow, her guests were to arrive. Magic would once again invade her kingdom.

(Continued in post 6 of this thread)

Last edited by Britt Reid; 07-24-2014 at 10:39 PM.
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Old 07-24-2014, 05:43 AM   #2
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More chapters will follow quickly, just needed my first post to be vetted before i can upload all the goodies sequentially
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Old 07-24-2014, 07:33 AM   #3
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*gasps, hugs you fiercely*

I'm SO HAPPY to see you back, Xyantha, and with such an intriguing start to a new story! Yay for fat boy fantasy!

Ahhhhh, all of my favorite authors are coming back, eeeeeee!
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Old 07-24-2014, 09:59 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Undine View Post
*gasps, hugs you fiercely*

I'm SO HAPPY to see you back, Xyantha, and with such an intriguing start to a new story! Yay for fat boy fantasy!

Ahhhhh, all of my favorite authors are coming back, eeeeeee!
This ^^^^^ (and not forgetting to include Undine herself in that 'favorite authors' category!)
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Old 07-24-2014, 04:20 PM   #5
Xyantha Reborn
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Agreed!!! It was your guys awesome stories that lured me out of my laziness into remaking a profile.

Your teasing, teasing updates forced me to take out my frustration on writing myself!!
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Old 07-24-2014, 04:22 PM   #6
Xyantha Reborn
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Chapter 1

Kila summoned every megawatt of her pride into her face as the door opened. That haughtiness was not an accidental expression. Rather, it was specifically calculated and honed by long practice in the mirror.

The Dragonrider strode across her throne room. He certainly was not what she was expecting. Her position, on the dais with the light shining behind her gave her an advantage. Also not an accident. It allowed her to examine her supplicants for long moments before their eyes adjusted. This, however, was no supplicant.

She could not assert that he was overbearing, nor that he was submissive. His stride was firm, his posture upright, yet without arrogance. Although his gaze was leveled at her face, it was not aggressive. His features, taken one at a time, were fair enough. However, the whole combined to make a face more interesting than handsome. His was a face that could be easily be called bluff.

He stopped at precisely the correct distance from her, and made an exact bow. She had seen many bows – aggressive, obsequious, coy, neat, sloppy – but never one that was this precise. It provisioned her with the impression that, if measured by a measuring stick, that distance and bow would be the EXACT.

His lips unclosed, and a perfectly modulated, almost base voice emerged from between them. It was deeply resonant. “I, Malcom Jaxx, greet the Queen Regent, Kila Twinespire.” And those lips closed firmly. Although full, they had a hard cast. Once closed, the brackets beside his mouth deepened.

“I, Kila Twinspire, Queen Regent, greet you, Malcom…Jaxx.” She stumbled slightly over the pronunciation. On paper, it had seemed like ‘Jacks’. However, he introduced a momentary pause, making it almost two syllables and a sibilant hiss – ‘Jah-kssssss’. She grimaced internally, knowing she had mangled the name.

Luckily, he only proceeded with the formalities without so much as a muscle twitch which would have acknowledged her error. He kept his eyes fastened on hers, which flustered her. Not many men stared at her so directly, or so unblinkingly. Now that he was closer, she found that gaze particularly unnerving. He seemed to have a habit of tracking her with his eyes without moving his head, and blinked rarely. It was a predatory, though not threatening gesture. It reminded her of a cat with a mouse in its sights. His pupils almost seemed to take up most of his eye, making it difficult to determine what their color might be.

Growing irritated under the relentless scrutiny, Kila paused to smile coldly. “You seem particularly fascinated by my face, Sir Malcom.”

No fluster, not even a batted eyelash betraying awkwardness at being discovered – the only reaction was his pupils snapped back into tiny pinpricks, revealing silver irises. “Your beauty is well known across the land, as is your ferocity in defending your people. I am honored to look upon your face as a friend, rather than a foe.”

She nearly gasped at those eyes. They were unnatural, disgusting. Swirling green-silver pooled with a liquid metal sheen behind those eyelids. Magic. She shuddered involuntarily, twitching the hem of her robes back, as if from offal.

His tone had been perfectly polite, yet flat. Words of course in a stylized conversation. Now, he bowed that precise bow, and took two steps backward. There was no animosity, no irritation in his gaze or body language at her reaction, which she knew very well had been rude. It was almost like he didn’t feel a thing. It shamed her. Which made her angry.

Anger would do where strength failed. Summoning her courage, she stood up and took two steps down her dais, holding out both hands and clasping his elbows in the traditional greeting of allies. Her skin crawled, and she felt every hair on her body stand straight up, but she held her ground. He tilted his head a fraction to the left and to the side, then stepped forward to meet her. His touch was cool and light, a whisper of skin against hers. Malcom did nothing threatening – he even avoided that steadfast direct gaze…and yet she fought nausea. Magic lurked under his skin. What if contact was enough to…infect her?

His hands quickly warmed, and only the lightest possible pressure reminded her that he touched her at all. The ceremony quickly drew to its close, allowing her to drop his hands with as much hast as dignity and propriety will allow. He let his hands return to his broad sides gracefully. His was a powerful build. She gestured for him to walk with her, while the room quietly emptied of observers.

“Where will your Dragons sleep?” She queried as she walked down her throne room.

He walked quietly at her side, silver eyes examining the room. It looked as if his eye was caught by every item, scanned, analyzed, put aside and cataloged for later user in his mind. “If you permit, the top of your towers would be ideal. Not only for their comfort and the reassurance of your people, but also to provide a very visible deterrent to our enemies.”

“What about their other accommodations? Food and the like? And the Dragonriders, where will you be staying?” She might have asked, where do you expect that I put you? But she refrained.

“For now, we will buy livestock for the dragons. If you are willing, we will take accommodations in any spare building you have, and will eat by ourselves. We are very aware that you are uncomfortable with both magic and magic users. Ideally, I would like to strike a balance between the visibility of our presence, and the stress we will cause your people. Therefore, our patrols would continue as visibly as possible.” His tone was even and measured.

“Does it bother you at all,” Kila blurted suddenly, pausing and turning to face him, “To be reviled for what you are and what you do?”

He paused as well, meeting her eyes. “No.”

It truly didn’t seem to bother him. He was obviously aware of the disdain and hatred, but seemed as unaffected by it as a casement beaten by the rain.

“Not at all?” she persisted. No armour was perfect. She wanted to see some little chink, find some weakness.

“No.” He reiterated, his tone still void of emotion. His lips unclosed and he inclined his head in the general direction of her assembly, still filing out the door. “I am aware that my presence causes discomfort, however that knowledge does not pain me. My life and my purpose is sufficient.”

His deep voice echoed in his chest.

She mulled that over for a moment before putting it aside for a future sally. “Is it true? Can you…infect someone with magic? Like a forest fire?”

For the first time his face showed some expression. It was the slightest flaring of his nostrils, and he shook his head oddly, both side to side and up and down, as if ridding himself of a pesky fly. “Foolishness. Magic is an innate thing. It can be wielded for, or against objects which may or may not have magic themselves. However, that object will not gain magic in the passing. A fire may spread from tree to free but it is simply fire. It may damage the trees and grass it touches – but the trees and grass do not become imbued by the essence of fire.”

He met her eyes again with that unnerving gaze. “Magic could be used on you, as it will be used against our enemy. However, as the treaty states, no magic will be practiced on any of your subjects without your express knowledge and permission.”

Which I certainly never shall give, Kila thought distinctly. Odious man! She couldn’t quite pinpoint why his mere presence irritated her so much, but it was tangible. She wanted to pick a fight with him so badly her fingers itched.

A deep huffing sound caused her to whip around, looking up as she emerged into the sunlight. Two more dragons had arrived, alighting delicately upon the towers. The towers had always represented strength…a bastion of power, their family symbol. However, they now seemed tiny with the huge Dragons on them. Small figures alighted, and the Dragons took to the air. It was orderly and precise, with no damage or undue noise. Occasionally, a Dragon would hiss, bellow, or huff. Each time this happened, she jumped. Luckily, she noticed, she was not the only one.

“This is Jaxx,” Malcolm said calmly, looking towards a large shape that was quickly descending. “He says he would like to greet you.”

A huge shape emerged from the sky, swirling dirt, grass and debris everywhere. Coughing, Kila looked up, frightened almost out of her senses – but senses that still seemed to be functioning. With the preternatural observance that fear can give, she noticed the creature smelled like sea spray.

It must have spanned three humans at its shoulder, and the thick neck and head might double that estimate – its wings made it even larger. Jaxx paced towards her. Its body was remarkably lithe – shaped more like a horse or dog than the snake like creatures she had pictured. It looked so fierce…it was no wonder Dragons were so feared. She felt her legs tremble under her, and steeled her nerves.

The huge head seemed to gracefully arch backwards, with backwards protruding spikes. It lowered that massive head (bigger than her entire body) turning so that one green iris was facing her. She couldn’t see a distinct pupil – so similar to Malcom’s eyes. Smooth, reflective light copper scales covered its body, and aquamarine blue tipped the scales and the edging of its wings.

“He’s beautiful…” Kila breathed inadvertently, avidly gazing. Her artist’s eye noted every detail of its physique. Each individual scale was tipped with blue, causing a pattern throughout the body that changed with the size of the scales. That huge eye, overshadowed by a ridge, blinked, and suddenly a huge frill rose up more prominently. It edged the entire neck and tail.

“Stop preening, Jaxx. And stop tempting her.” Malcom said from behind her. When had she moved forward?

“We will protect your home, little sister.” Jaxx told her, gazing down in that same cool way his master had. “We will always protect the weak.”

It could talk?

“Thank…you?” Her normal cool, haughty self was nowhere to be found. This thing could eat her whole, without chewing. She gulped as she looked at the horns and teeth.

“Have no fear. I will not harm you or yours.”

“I didn’t know you could talk,” Kila said inanely, edging backwards to escape.

“All dragons can talk,” he said dismissively. Lowering and transfixing her with that eye, he arrested her movements to back up. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Queen Regent.”

The words were enunciated clearly and slowly.

A blush eddied up her face. It felt like she had been caught trying to leave the table without being excused. “It was a pleasure to meet you as well, Jaxx.”

The great eye winked at her.

“Back away from the Queen Regent!” A tremulous voice rang out, and a spear pointed directly at that eye. Someone had finally found their courage. What remarkable guards she had. Sigh.

The dragon sighed as well, shook his head in a remarkably human gesture or rueful dismay - and suddenly the man disappeared. Kila gaped, stunned into stillness.

“I gave my word that we would not use magic on her people,” Malcom said quietly. For the first time, his cheeks reddened.

“You gave your word, not ours,” Jaxx countered haughtily. Malcom merely looked at the Dragon until he shrugged – or at least Kila assumed that was what his rolling shoulders meant. “What would you have me do? Now that I am aware of this, how can I bring him back without using magic? Seems a hopeless business.”

“Please, bring him back,” Kila finally gasped, horrorstruck at his disappearance. This creature could banish with a mere thought? Impossible! “What have you done to him?”

“Have no fear,” The dragon replied calmly. “I merely transported him outside your castle gates. He is walking back as we speak.”

The great head turned, as if following an invisible line.

Kila gazed up at the ethereal, and yet very real creature above her.

“You…did not harm him?” The head swung around sharply to behold her, making her stutter half a step backwards before her pride made her raise her head and step back forward.

The dragon smiled. It was a terrifying, innately threatening sight. Every gleaming tooth was revealed, and that mobile mouth curled upwards. “As long as ‘me and mine’ are uninjured, so shall yours remain.”

With that, huge wings snapped open and he took to the sky.

(Continued in post 8 of this thread)

Last edited by Britt Reid; 07-26-2014 at 02:08 PM.
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Old 07-25-2014, 07:09 AM   #7
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I was forced to log in to see the stories. So maybe I'm now being forced to stop lurking as much. Looking forward to more of this!
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Old 07-25-2014, 05:34 PM   #8
Xyantha Reborn
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Chapter 2

It was really too much to be borne. She was exhausted from her reoccurring dreams, and now this! She had asked Vertas to come to their aid to AVOID being taken over – and yet here were outsiders, taking over every aspect of their daily lives.

A dragon was stationed at the every entrance to the city and monitored all incomings and outgoings. Fine, that was tolerable.

It was the inconveniences - the constant reminder that magic was among them. Their agreement had not stipulated that magic could not be used by their protectors for their own purposes while in Valam. When she had appealed to her council that it violated the base law of their land, and therefore should be enforced, she was informed she had allowed laws to be bent.

Apparently agreeing to the mining and that that Vertas could use magic to protect her people, allowed for them to use magic in their own day to day lives. Apparently, she had allowed a precedence to be set that for the period of time, and to try to break this would result in hostility and conflict. Better to let it be, she was advised.

The group at the capital was centrally housed in the training quarters of her grounds. There were not as many as she has originally feared, but their Dragons more than made up for any space they might have gained from less bodies. Even with twenty men, their presence was clear. And, even if one could overlook the sleeping bodies of the Dragons, one could not ignore the eerie, steady light coming from the training hall. It was not the flicker of fire or torch, but a cool and steady ray as clear as the moon. A bright moon, held in the palm of a hand or tossed up into the air, where it hung in unnatural stillness.

Kila tugged her younger brother back, out of the rays of the clear blue light.

“Stop treating me like I am a child!” He hissed, jerking his collar from his hold. He stepped back onto the path, fully in the light, despite her growl of irritation. The cold light cast his features into a harder cast, making him appear older. “It is just light, stop overreacting!”

“Who knows what the long term effect might be,” she tried to reason with him. However, this line of reasoning fell upon ears as deaf as this morning, and the last fortnight. Her younger sibling was clearly fascinated by the Dragons, their riders, and the magic that seemed to be a part of their very lives. She had watched him as he watched their guests by the hour, longing wrapped over his entire being.

“You can’t stop progress forever,” He rounded on her, “Magic is part of the world and we can’t keep being separate from it! If we had known how to use magic we wouldn’t have needed to call on outside help! You wont be in charge forever!”

With that, he dashed from her sight, arms pumping. It was his favorite parting shot. She rubbed her fingers against her forehead, fighting a headache.

A shadow detached itself and stepped into the light. “Am I intruding?”

Malcolm swept his gaze from her head to her feet before settling on her eyes.

Pulling her shawl tighter around her shoulders, Kila met his gaze with a level one of her own. He was so close he couldn’t have avoided hearing their exchange. “Not at all. I was just trying to advise my brother to caution. He is at an age where everything new and exciting should be explored, and consequences be damned.”

Malcolm, or as his group termed him, “Mal”, walked quietly beside her for a moment before speaking. Since his arrival she had learned that Jaxx was not named for Malcolm’s last name – rather, each rider gave up their own surname for their Dragon’s name, and that he was not only the leader of their group, but a high ranking official of some magical order. “Jaxx has informed me that you feel tension at our presence. I hope that we have avoided intruding upon your day to day lives as little as is possible, under the circumstances.”

Irritation flared, but she was forced to reflect that, prejudices aside, he had done a remarkable job of limiting the impact of their presence. “You must understand,” she began after a moment to gather her thoughts. “I, we, are wholly unused to magic. No one in our lifetime has even seen magic. The shock is great, and I apologize if any of my people have given cause for offense.”

“No one?” Something about his air was amused. Before she could follow up on that track, he continued. “It is understandable. I will ask for the use to be more limited, or at the least – more masked. It is difficult for the team to go from comforts to roughing it, when there is no dire need to abandon those comforts.”

“What comforts? I hope we have done everything possible to make you comfortable…” She struggled to keep her voice level. Her hospitality was ‘roughing it’?

He seemed to catch her meaning, for he extended a conciliatory hand. It was a large hand, blunt fingered and clean. “Please understand, for us…magic is such a way of life that it is part of every day. Our dishes are cleaned, baths heated, meals prepared with magic. To go from being able to wave a hand, and a steaming tub of water is ready, to having to request and then wait someone to fetch and heat water…it will be difficult for them to accept – but accept it they will. Their comfort is secondary to fulfilling our contract.”

“Ah, the contract…our favorite subject.” She looked up at him with mock coyness before ruefully shaking her head. “I freely admit to being taken in, in the amount I bargained with.”

He merely blinked, tilting his head. “Can you deny the value of twenty dragons, and over ten thousand men? You have secured your victory in your cause, and have taken the first step to an established trade, should you wish to continue.”

She tapped his chest with a finger, determined to regain the ground lost by her previous shows of fear. “And don’t you sound cocky!”

He gazed down at her finger, scarcely seeming to breathe. She removed it hurriedly, and he continued, rubbing a hand along his close shorn scalp. “Of course I am. I can only hope that my confidence increases yours.”

“Oh, certainly.” She examined him openly. He was not, as she had determined earlier, classically handsome. His face was harsh, and his mouth a mere slash. His body was broad and muscular, and he had a tiny hint of a belly, unnoticed before. She couldn’t tell if he blushed, for his face was turned towards her and away from the light, but she did notice an immediate tensing of his stomach muscles. Ah, there was a chink in his seamless armor! He was too levelheaded – she noticed herself raging hotter, the more he cooled. “I had understood, at least from rumor that Dragons fought mainly for good. Does that mean our enemy is evil?”

“They do have what you would term evil Dragons on their side, yes. Not every engagement is a direct confrontation between good and evil, light and dark. More often than not, it is a step on a road, or, more practically, a funding measure for a future campaign.”

Kila was struck with a momentary inspiration. She was a firm believer in understanding her opponents. Thus far, she had prevented herself from learning about him and his ways due to her own fear. She needed to regain her footing while simultaneously learning about him. Her gaps of knowledge in his customs, beliefs….everything, really, was giving him too great of an upper hand.

“That is interesting. Malcolm...Can I persuade you and your men to eat with us in the hall?”

His disturbing greenish, silver eyes swirled, but she forced herself to maintain eye contact.

“I think it will be the fastest way to clear up any misapprehensions and fears – by normalcy.” She offered a smile.

As well as providing her an opportunity to observe you and yours, she added silently. And maybe see how deep that chink is.

Of course he agreed – to do otherwise would have been rude. They parted, and she went to bed, plotting for the morrow.

The next day went off without a hitch. She could not have planned it better if she had had a twelvemonth of time. The dragonriders arrived several minutes after the majority of her assembly. After a long moment of awkward pause – for there were not a clear twenty seats available – people began to rise, shuffle and make room. Soon, a rider or two was invested at each table.

Observing narrowly, Kila soon saw that although not comfortable, her guests were far from uncomfortable. Upon being seated, they cordially introduced themselves, and within a quarter of an hour, talk was flowing freely among all.

“I hope you are enjoying your food.” Kila leaned closer to Malcolm, who had eaten two eggs, a slice of bacon and a piece of toast. “Why, you have barely touched anything!”

He appeared startled, but offered a slight smile when she personally doubled his portion, added sausage and additional bacon, then topped up his orange juice.

“It appears your hospitality had been understated,” was all he said, but ate it nonetheless. His method of eating was actually quite enjoyable to watch. Each bite was neat and well savoured. Nothing passed his lips that he did not thoroughly enjoy.

Kila was so engrossed with watching his evident enjoyment of his meal that she was almost startled when the desert trays were placed before them, and the main courses taken away. Lifting the lid, she wafted the aroma towards her companion.

Malcolm’s brows raised.

“Desert? After breakfast?” Although not a huge breakfast, his stomach appeared full, for he rubbed a thumb along the top of his stomach as if feeling the pressure.

“Oh, you simply must try it! I asked especially for it to be made this morning!” was her glib, but true answer. She wondered at herself, for enjoying this so much. Never before had she been so fascinated by someone eating – but never before had she met someone who took such a thorough enjoyment. That touch of belly she had seen last night must have been the result of indulging the sweet tooth she immediately saw he possessed.

For, upon perceiving on inspection that the tray held chocolate covered strawberries, blueberries, and other honey drizzled fruit, he made a significant dent in the tray. He only spoke once, to say approvingly – “Decadent!” but the little noises he made had her crossing her toes and pressing her thighs together under her dress.

What was wrong with her?

By the end of the meal he threw down his napkin and declared defeat, three strawberries and four blueberries left on the plate. His stomach now bulged gently against the fabric of his shirt.

Not wanting to push her luck, the Queen Regent smiled appropriately, said all the right things, and quickly fled to her chamber. Shooing the maid out, she pressed her back to the door, trembling, and slowly locked the door. Baring her legs, she laid her head on her pillow and slowly gave herself up to pleasuring herself.

Her finger slipped along her slippery sex, causing delighted shivers to cover her body. Her breasts ached as she re-pictured that meal in her mind. Somehow, that man must be using sorcery on her! There was nothing sexual in his display, and yet….and yet…

Slipping a finger inside, she rubbed her clit and slid deeper, deeper, remembering the expressions and sounds he had made. After eating that meager breakfast he had looked his usual, cool self. When she had put that extra food on his plate, his eyes had slid sideways, meeting hers, before fastening on the food with a guilty air. One hand had tugged at his belt before continuing. That softness around his waist was far more apparent when sitting. Standing, it looked like a general softness, but when sitting it forced itself into a small bulge over his belt.

Her rubbing grew to a fever pitch as she recalled the wanton look of pleasure that had crossed his face when he bit into that first strawberry. His hard features had softened, and a true smile curved his lips for the first time. One hand had found its way to his stomach as he finished his last few bites, his breathing shallower. She felt her sex tugging at her finger greedily, and shuddered from the release.

She let her breathing calm as she looked up at the canopy on her bed. Slowly, a frown covered her face. There had to be something suspicious in this. Her gaze transferred to her still damp fingers. Someone eating had never, ever, excited this in her before. He wasn’t even attractive!

What was going on?

(Continued in post 12 of this thread)

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Old 07-25-2014, 08:15 PM   #9
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Aaaaah, I love this. Your word choice and flow are so lovely and perfectly suited to the genre. Plus, there are dragons.
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Old 07-26-2014, 03:10 PM   #10
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Dragons make everything awesome!! Lol. Ive been toying with this for a while...i had a lot of fun writing it...

I missed you guys i am so glad i am back online!
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Old 07-26-2014, 05:43 PM   #11
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This is super awesome.
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Old 07-27-2014, 04:44 PM   #12
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Chapter 3

Mal tugged at his belt, grimacing at the tightness. Glancing about casually, he loosened it a notch and sighed in relief. He regretted this morning. That was an unnecessarily large breakfast. He should have cried off that second portion, but she had seemed so…rapt. Something told him this one meal was more important than the extra calories it would bring. But that ‘desert’…he burped slightly. That had pushed it over the edge.

He strode through the corridor – well, walked. He was too full to move quickly, which made him feel sluggish and vulnerable. He tugged again at his belt, then slipped into a side hallway to burp quietly. Releasing his stomach felt marvelous.

Angry at being held in unnaturally, the food immediately took the opportunity to slide down, producing another belch. He was stuffed. Placing a hand on his gut, he frowned down at it. Fighting against his appetite was a constant struggle. Constant forced semi-starvation had at least reduced his capacity for overindulgence, and reduced the amount he took in each day.

The hunger, however, never diminished. Nor did joy of the pleasurable pain, the erotic feeling of fullness. Every day was a struggle. Every meal a battle to be endured. Even Jaxx, who knew his struggle, could not quite comprehend his difficulty with such a mundane task.

Sucking in as much as possible, Mal proceeded outside to give the daily combat lesson to the castle’s guard. Today would be theory, with minimal practice. Luckily, he had been blessed with a troop of men who, although some young and ignorant, others cantankerous and old – seemed to understand and respect his knowledge and fairness, even when justice called for a resounding set down.

Yesterday one of the older men had made a comment while he demonstrated techniques. He could have let it be, but the dissent would have only grown.

“Tal, step forward,” he called. The man had stomped forward and had his ass summarily handed to him. Starting up at Mal with surprise, the man had suddenly grinned and clasped his hand. It had been a shift in the energy of the group.

He greeted the group, and Tal was one of the first to respond back. Good. He was making progress! It was extremely difficult to do his job without magic, but he was getting through it. There was a lot to consider in this new environment, but he studiously avoided any thought of a raven haired beauty whose eyes had grown large and luminous. Certainly wouldn’t think of a slender young woman who followed every bite to his mouth and bit her own lip.

She likes you, Jaxx said softly.

Doubtful. She has probably just never seen a man make such a pig of himself in public before, he answered bitterly, blocking a thrust.

She finds you attractive, the Bronze continued slyly. Even now she thinks of you and pleasures herself.

Mal almost missed the next thrust, he was so startled. He “glared” at his partner mentally.

It is time you settled down, the Dragon continued calmly. Past time. You need to create young ones. You will not be alive forever. I do not want to have to hunt the world over for another compatible rider. Our lines will intertwine. Your offspring will be my new partners, and many generations away, they will be my offspring’s partners.

It was the most forthcoming he had ever been on the subject. Haughty, and not nearly as gregarious as a Brass Dragon, Jaxx kept mostly to himself unless he felt his rider needed a swat in the right direction. This sally, however, was not appreciated.

Stop your glowering, was the placid response to his silence. I like her, Jaxx added zestfully. She is so feisty! Like a little kitten growling at you.

She isn’t my type. It was true. His type were curvy little vixens, not tall, slim ice queens. He had heard her termed as such, but had not realized the truth of the statement until he saw the calculating look behind her eyes. She was not an emotional person. It almost looked like she had to remind herself to display her emotions. Except around him, when a seething anger replaced calm.

[I]But you are hers.[{/i]

What? Fat, ugly, and stupid old men?

Jaxx delivered a mental smack that almost made him see stars.

I do not partner with subpar individuals, the Dragon told him forcefully. You are intelligent, for a human.

There always was that caveat to any compliment given by a Dragon.

You are a Master at weapons, and the strongest Mage in your generation. You killed your first Litch at the age of fifteen. And you have ME.

The last was said with smug pride.

None of that is likely to attract a female. At least not one I would want to have a family with. Females of the human type tend to be focused things like ability to hold liquor, fighting, and being handsome enough that all her friends are envious.

So, similar to a female Dragon, Jaxx returned dryly. I will not relent on this. I like her, you should choose her.

Softening his tone, his partner sent out a caressing nudge.

You have more influence over her than you are aware. As for your ‘issues’ as you term it – I can inform you that she doesn’t seem to care. Although, he added thoughtfully, she does appear to have some misapprehensions that will need to be corrected ere long. This is important, so hurry up.

There was nothing, nothing more annoying than a Dragon that had set its mind on something. For creatures who lived hundreds, if not thousands of years, they could be remarkably short sighted and insistent on small items. Mal knew he could look forward to the inquiry of “Did you do it yet?” Several times a day, for the next decade. Why is SHE so important?

The only response he got was a whiff of the seaside and a feeling of confused longing.

*~*~*

Back in his room later that night, Mal clutched his engorged stomach, reclining on his small bed. He moaned slightly, dick throbbing in his right hand as he fed himself the last two tarts with his left.

The dinner had been another repeat of the morning. The Queen Regent…no, he couldn’t think of her like that, not right now…Kila. Kila had hung on his every bite, urging him to try a little of this, a little of that. It surprised him, after her weeks of cold silence, that she was now making an effort.

He panted slightly, licking the crumbs off his fingertips, imagining her little red mouth fastening over his fingers to suck them clean. His hips bucked against his hands, causing his stuffed stomach to bob up and down, and his shaft to grind into his palm firmly. He felt so dirty, so unclean. It t’wasn’t natural, this…fetish. He had been humiliated, so why was he still stuffing his fat face and eating?

Mal couldn’t even recall her exact words, but the look on her face – startled, brows raised – made him realize what a glutton he was being. An exhibitionist. Somehow, those dark eyes urged him forward. One more bite, just one more...

He pumped faster, cramming the last tart in with one hand, pumping furiously with the other. Hand free, he placed it on the side of his stomach to still the joggling motion. Carefully to ignore looking at the grotesque swollen mound, he concentrated instead on the feeling of imminent explosion – both in his balls and in his gut.

It was her fault, for having the tarts delivered to his door. He panted shallowly, hissing between clenched teeth as his semen rose. That little minx had sent half a dozen different flavoured tarts to his door half an hour ago. It was his own damn fault for telling her over dinner that he truly wished he could try a little of all the tarts, but was too full to even try.
A little piece of white, pressed paper had sat on top of the tray with the message. You seemed to want to try them…just a little taste?

Yes. Just a little taste. He had gorged on each of the tarts like a swine at a trough. He shuddered, catching his load with a towel as he thought of that note. Leaning back on his arms, he tried to calm his racing heart.

Looking up, he caught sight of himself in a mirror, on the opposite wall. A bloated tick reclined, one plump hand splayed over a massively distended and flabby gut. He met his own eyes, expression darkening. Shame roared through him, and that mirror crackled and bubbled in response.

Something was not right. There was no way the beautiful ice queen would be interested in him. This was some sort of game, some way to draw out his weaknesses and hold them for a future attack. She was…what? Trying to discredit him by showing everyone the glutton he was? She hated him, he could see it in the steely disdain. His heart twisted, and so did his lips. Forcing a calm demeanor, he struggled to his feet. His torpid gut surged forward heavily. The rage against himself reinforced this conviction.

That little b… Rage darkened his features. It was the only reasonable explanation for her actions. Well, she had seen nothing of his self-control, knew nothing of him. But she would learn. He would show her.

(Continued in post 14 of this thread)

Last edited by Britt Reid; 07-28-2014 at 09:20 PM.
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Old 07-27-2014, 07:56 PM   #13
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It won't let me rep you again, so let me just say... OH. MY. GOD. *panting* That was so hot.
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Old 07-28-2014, 08:01 PM   #14
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Chapter 4

Engaging her stalwart companion to eat was not as easy as it had been before. In fact it was almost impossible. No matter what she offered, or what temptations she let lay around, he remained unmoved. The man seemed to have closed that chink in his armor.

She was disappointed, though she hardly knew why. So what? Find a new chink. That was the point, no?

However, she was starting to be concerned for his health – a feeling that flummoxed her. She was certain she didn’t care for him a jot – but he was the leader of their defenses, she rationalized. He needed to remain strong – and part of that was eating, which he rarely seemed to do, and never around her.

The previous evening had been a classic example. A rich cream soup had been served at dinner, and for a short time the hall was almost silent, except the tink of spoons against bowls. She had gazed around the hall, regretting her decision to invite the Dragonriders to their meals.

Instead of giving her the upper hand and allowing her to learn about them, they seemed to be learning more and more about her own people and their culture. They seemed to learn with voracious speed, and inclined their ear to any who wanted to speak. Every day the Dragonriders adapted more smoothly into their lives – respecting their traditions and mimicking their isms.

The main downfall was that the only Dragonrider she seemed to have contact with was Malcolm, their leader, who seemed to have developed a rigid chill towards her. Even as every other person ate easily, he had raised a few spoonfuls with agonizing slowness to his lips – and those spoonfuls were barely wet with the soup.

“Don’t you like it? I can order something different for you,” Kila had offered. She watched him regularly at meals, and each day he seemed to eat less and less.

“No, it is wonderful, thank you,” he had responded, eyes on his soup. When she continued watching him, he dropped his spoon with a frown.

“Is it custom to stare at your guests while they eat?” He had inquired, the first sign of testiness she had ever witnessed.

Kila had been so surprised she had frozen. The heat rising to her face informed her of her blush, and she resolutely turned her eyes back to her own meal. It was impossible to eat her own meals while he picked at his. Her inability to eat made her hungry, and that hunger made her testy. Unfortunately, that layer of cool reserve that Malcolm had arrived with had deepened into a cold irritability.

She had tried – truly. Jests, friendly overtures… all had been repulsed. And her own irritability seemed to increase his.

“I can’t eat,” she had said fretfully, pushing the bowl away. It was immediately whisked away, and she set her chin in her hand, watching the others bask in the enjoyment of a good meal.

“You need to eat,” Malcolm had condescended to say finally.

“As do you,” was her indifferent response, not looking at him. She was too tired to fight back.

He had shifted – she could see his body turn towards him out of the corner of her eye. “You must eat to keep your strength up.”

That little belly was melting away into nothing.

“Indeed.” She heard him growl and his bowl was slid towards her.

“Eat,” he had insisted.

Turning her face away she had sighed, ignoring him, which only made him growl again.

“I want to engage you in lessons this afternoon. I have been receiving reports that people are actively trying to infiltrate the grounds. We have caught half a dozen in the past week. Although the Dragons are diligent, I cannot trust that they will catch every person.” His hand rubbing his face had made a whispering sound across his whiskers. That sexy, rough stubble. “I need you to be able to escape, should an attempt be made on your life. However, you need to keep your strength up, so please eat.”

Kila had turned her face towards him. “I am not hungry, but I thank you for your concern.”

Her interest in food had waned with his.

The expression on his face had been one of vexation, but he gritted his teeth and stood. “Fine. Please meet me at the training yard this afternoon.”

And with that, he had stalked away.

*~*~*

Her ever present dreams had been getting worse with the Dragon’s arrivals. Instead of just dreaming of water and cold, she could almost feel the cold water sapping her strength, the hoplessness…never to die and never to live. Even the briefest naps has her gasping and clawing back into awareness.

Now, Kila twisted her arms behind her head and began weaving her thick tresses into an interwoven braid. “What must I do?”

Her hunger made her feel weak, and she lowered her arms as quickly as possible.

Malcom’s eyes followed her hand movements. “For now, just watch the lessons. The primary purpose behind these exercises is to increase your awareness of your surroundings, and to enable you to evade your pursuers until help can arrive.”

“When will I learn to fight?” Fleeing was all well and good, but what if she needed to stand and fight?

“What?” she demanded, for Malcom’s close shorn head was already indicating a negative answer. What was his problem with her?

He sighed, and crossed his arms over his chest. He looked thinner and thinner over the past few months, more careworn. “Fighting skill is obtained one of only two ways; through natural talent, or hard, constant and diligent practice. The best fighters have both.”

“I fail to see the relevance,” was her frosty retort.

He spoke slowly, as if to a child.

“You do not have the native skill for fighting, nor do we have the luxury of time to teach you. If you proceed well at the training set before you, we can proceed to basic self defense.” He pulled one large, square hand free and raised it imperiously, forestalling her protests.

“The merest boy would be able to overpower you, subdue your slight frame. Your people put far too much stake in their figureheads. Your death would be damaging to their morale, and perhaps cause them to make rash decisions based solely on your safety. The primary purpose,” he reiterated with that same calm mien, “Is to evade capture as long as possible, until those can arrive who are capable of fighting in your defense.”

She felt her arms go cold, then hot, then cold, as adrenaline surged through her. How dare he? She was just a figurehead? Her death would only be important because it would damage morale and interrupt his plans? He made her sound so, so useless! Just something that in the way! Her palm was flying through the air before she was even aware she had moved forward, shocking even herself.

He did not attempt to evade her slap. Those liquid pools observed her face, and suddenly the ground was rushing to meet her. Her body seemed to have no strength, her limbs not obeying her. She didn’t even have time to raise her palms to catch her fall. Her ribs and stomach took the brunt of the fall, causing all the air to be ripped from her lungs in a violent whoosh.

“You swore you would never use magic on me!” She raged, as soon as she had her breath back. Leveraging herself into a standing position she confronted the man, firsts clenched.

“I did not.”

“You did!” she insisted, railing at him. His obvious indifference only increased her rage until she barely knew what she was saying. People stopped, were staring.

“Kila!” Geoff snapped, drawing her attention away from her target momentarily. “You agreed we wouldn’t harm them, and then you tried to slap him. He didn’t even fight back, he just tripped you so you couldn’t hit him and violate our treaty!”

His young voice rang out clearly in the sudden silence left by her shouting. His young face wore a serious frown, and he had one hand wrapped around his belt – a gesture learned from their father. He looked so much like their father at that moment she felt a lump seal her throat closed.

“I am the Queen –”

“Regent,” He finished firmly. “Although you will rule until I reach my age of majority, you are still Regent.”

His young voice tumbled over ‘majority’, instead pronouncing it ‘majurty’.

“We reached out to our allies for aid, and they came. They have made excellent points about our defenses, offenses, provisions, storage, and our training.”

Several of the guards surrounding him gave short nods of agreement. Even the grizzled old men who had almost had a stroke at the mere idea of magic at first, now nodded sagely, looking comfortable with dragons in their midst.

Slowly, she realized that everyone was staring at her, and not in approval or support. Their subtle body language indicated shock, and many would not meet her eyes. It was too much to be borne. Within several months her kingdom had been besieged by enemies, then her castle and lands taken over by their so called allies. Within that same span of time her most staunch friends and companions had turned from her. Her own family now betrayed her. Turning, she blindly walked away.

“Let her go, little one.” She heard Malcom say calmly.

Yes. No one ever holds onto me. No one wants me. Nothing I do is ever right. The long buried thought floated to the surface, and her vision began to blur with tears. Mama, Papa, Geoff – not even her own family had
wanted her. She was just a figurehead, a placeholder for the true king.

She fled the humiliation her own spectacle had caused, nearly running into several people before finding a bench outside to weep on in a quiet corner of the garden. The past several months had been so taxing. With the troops and Dragons, Talos had been deterred – but their sheer desperation was dragging this out longer than anticipated. With increasingly erratic salvos and eccentric behaviors, Mal had stepped up security and training, insisting even she take lessons in case an assassin broke through.

The past few months had been draining for another reason. Mal himself was taking a toll on her patience, rubbing her already strained nerves to the last inch. Her cold suspicion of his magic seemed to have erected a frosty barrier between them. Also, her own temper seemed to finally be affecting his own level temperment – it made him waspish and demeaning, like today.

Even Geoff, her little brother, was learning to fight. Even the scullery maids were taught how to wield their kitchen instruments with finesse in close quarters. Apparently a cast iron skillet was not a bad weapon. And yet she was not even to learn how to defend herself?

She tried to dry her eyes. It was obvious that Mal was under a lot of stress. He barely ate, barely slept. The time not devoted to teaching was spent in pouring over reports, maps, and even history books. His silvery eyes had ceased to be so abhorrent to her, and she noticed more and more the man behind those eyes.

The one who seemed careworn, and yet managed to have some sort patience with her petulance. Every attempt to entice him to rest or eat was rebuffed, and she was becoming obsessively convinced it had to do with an ill judged comment, given when she was in a particularly acrimonious mood, back when she had started inviting the Dragonriders to eat.

“You must have quite the metabolism, to be able to eat like that and maintain your figure,” she had crooned cruelly. He had just finished stuffing a honey pastry into his mouth on the way out the door to an early training session. She had been hurt by his ignoring her the preceding several days.

For only the second time, she had seen his cheeks redden. He had blinked several times before forcing himself to swallow.

“Indeed.” He had sketched a bow and left the room.

She recalled how those swirling eyes had stilled, a look of deep sadness overcoming his face. She had no idea what had caused her to react like that then, and had no idea what had caused her outburst today. He was rude, he was cold – but he wasn’t cruel. It was like something in her cried out for him to at least NOTICE her existence, and every day that passed forced her to greater and greater lengths to achieve it.

Why are you cruel to Mal? A deep voice asked her fretfully. Jumping, she recognized Jaxx. You can just think back at me, I can hear you.

I don’t know, she cried. I hate him so much! He’s put a spell on me! He hates me, I’m just in everyone’s way! He wont even notice me! No one hears me!

Jaxx bore her onslaught of unadulterated, confused, and chaotic emotions, sifting through them expertly. You want his attention, and his love?


No! Yes, her mind whispered, traitorous.

You seem to think yourself unloved – but many DO love you. They respect you and want your safety and health.

I don’t want respect, I want to cherish and BE cherished! Her heart wrung at the words. A wordless roar of emotion answered her, and she realized – without knowing precisely how – that Bronzes mated for life, rearing their young seriously and protecting them ferociously. She recognized in Jaxx a kindred lonely spirit.

Love was an abstract concept to a Dragon – something they had difficulty relating to. To CHERISH was something tangible, although she could not have articulated the difference. Jaxx too wanted to find his match, cherish her and be cherished.

The Dragon seemed startled at the strength of his own response, drawing back. Before he had quite left her, he told her quietly. You are cherished, little sister. More than you know.

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Old 07-28-2014, 08:06 PM   #15
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Chapter 5

“But Mal, I hate fighting with her,” the young boy whispered brokenly. His large blue eyes gazed after his sister, his lower lip trembling for a moment. Then, blinking sharply, he inhaled, forced a smile, and looked about as if nothing had happened. “Please proceed.”

Mal wished at that moment that this was HIS sibling. Pride rose in him and he briefly touched the slender shoulder. He almost drew away when the boy looked at it in astonishment. Then, Geoff’s small hand rose up and pressed his own large one firmly. His young face was still grave, but he followed him to the stands and dutifully observed everything Mal pointed out with eyes more relaxed than usual.

That gravity bothered Mal. His mother was long dead, his father more recently so. His sister was as cold and brittle as ice. Never once, in the past several months of intense scrutiny of this place and its people, had he ever seen the boy treated with anything other than respect. But that wasn’t enough for a child. Where was the laughter? Where were the other children to play with?

The young one’s voice broke through his reverie. “Why are you called Dragonriders? I mean, I know there are Dragons, and you ride them, but…I mean, the Dragon’s don’t seem like beasts of burden or anything…”

A chuckle escaped him at the thought of any Dragon being thought a beast of burden. “One cannot control what people call them. However, to answer your unasked questions…Dragons are not like animals, nor are they like people. Most Dragons live for hundreds, thousands of years. They can talk within hours of being born, and the most average have more magic then the most powerful human mage. They allow us to ride them the same way that a parent might allow a child to be carried when tired. It is a privilege for us, and a convenience for them.”

Geoff’s face grew thoughtful.

“But…” He began slowly, working his thoughts out. “If they are so infinitely powerful, why do they need you at all?”

“Need? Need implies a weakness. Good Dragons tend to align with forces they deem good – sometimes for human wars, but more often when evil Dragons are involved. A marriage of convenience, as most Dragons on our side do not like to kill directly. Humans kill so easily that we make a finely honed tool. I think…” Now he paused, reflecting. “I think that what we are, what we do, and our actions fascinate them. They like to watch us, even partake in what we do. From my observations, Dragons are infinitely curious, and with lives so long, humans are probably the most interesting study. ”

He smiled as Jaxx winked at him from his bed. “Plus we give pretty good scratches when they shed,”

Jaxx nodded solemnly from where he sunbathed, causing the young prince to giggle. It was the first laugh Mal had ever heard from him. After a moment to reflect, and a brief question sent to Jaxx, Mal gently leaned down to his companion. “Would you like to take a break from watching the sparring to touch Jaxx?”

The look he received said it all. The boy positively tumbled from his perch, raced across the grass, and stumbled to a halt in front of the huge Bronze. He extended a shaking hand, longing written over his entire face. The huge Dragon shifted his head so that one large nostril touched the boy’s hand. Soon, he was caressing the mighty face.

It did not take long for people to notice. Smiles followed stares, and within minutes the entire courtyard began its normal buzzing, as if nothing had happened.

“Of course, what could be more nat’ral?” he heard one maid tell another. “’Tis as natural as can be, a young boy wanting to be near something as wonderous as that there Dragon.”

And that was that. Mal felt the shift and flow of the energies around him, and allowed himself to smile with satisfaction, watching the young boy and the old Dragon observe and question each other with fascination.

“How are you so big?”

“How are you so small?” Jaxx returned, amused.

“I’ll get bigger,” Geoff returned confidently. Then, suddenly - “Hey! You have webbed feet!”

“Indeed I do.” One front foot was extended with the haughty delicacy of a female offering her hand to be kissed.

“So you can swim?”

“Like a big beaver,” Malcom interjected with a smile. His comparison was met with a whiff of foul smelling breath and a disdainful glower.

The boy’s face crumpled. “I miss swimming. My Da always used to take me to the big lake, before Kila made it so we weren’t allowed to ever go back.”

His tone was resentful, and he scrubbed an arm across his face.

Mal forbore asking what she had done to cause that.

Jaxx looked deeply thoughtful. The Dragon looked up at the clear, brilliant, hot sky.

“I too miss swimming,” he said finally, unfurling massive wings. “Let’s go. You can show me this lake.”

And with that, he wrapped the young boy in his fore claws, and leapt into the sky, beating powerfully.

The boy’s whoop sounded, followed by a peal of laughter. Many looked up, many stared, but none panicked. Mal too was startled at this sudden turn of events.

“Arrogance,” he muttered finally. He turned hastily to the man at arms and cast him an inquiring look, fearing retaliation.

The man hitched his shoulders in response, making a face. “If the little one isn’t safe with him, he tisn’t safe nowhere, now is he?”

Well, that was certainly true. If the Bronze had taken a shine to the young one, he would be protected with all the fierceness Jaxx would bestow on a hatchling. Not all Dragons were created equal, and none could equal the seriousness and dedication a Bronze devoted to its family. Mal would know. Clapping the man on the shoulder, he turned aside and began mounting the long stairs that would take him to the sun room Kila normally spent her time in.

This bickering HAD to stop. Every time she raged at him he wanted to shake her, hug her, kiss her. Every attempt to conciliate, such as involving her today, backfired and made everything all the worse. He knew she hated him, he could see it in the fury in every one of her gestures. It shouldn’t bother him. She had asked him ‘Does it bother you at all? To be reviled for what you are and what you do?’

It hadn’t mattered then. For some reason, it mattered so, so much now. He could FEEL someone was doing SOMETHING to antagonize the situation, but when confronted, Jaxx disclaimed any such effort. The dragonrider felt like if he didn’t do something, right here, right now, he would explode into a billion particles of magic and be blown away on the wind. He couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t eat, he couldn’t concentrate….for a woman who had such a fear of magic, he could have sworn she was using it on him to drive him insane.

Last edited by Britt Reid; 07-28-2014 at 09:34 PM.
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Old 07-28-2014, 08:09 PM   #16
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The good news is I have another....6 chapters written? I think it will take another four or so to close it off. Why use one word when many will do???

The bad news...I have a busy couple of days so next update may not be until the beginning of the weekend...

Suffer! Suffer like I have been forced to suffer in my lurkdom, waiting for all your chapters!!!

I'm glad you are all enjoying it, this was so much fun to write
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Old 07-28-2014, 11:07 PM   #17
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I'd forgotten how much I love dragons. This is truly amazing work and though I'm bummed we'll have to wait for an update, I'm grateful that we're lucky enough to get to be reading this
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Old 07-29-2014, 09:31 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xyantha Reborn View Post
The good news is I have another....6 chapters written? I think it will take another four or so to close it off. Why use one word when many will do???

The bad news...I have a busy couple of days so next update may not be until the beginning of the weekend...

Suffer! Suffer like I have been forced to suffer in my lurkdom, waiting for all your chapters!!!

I'm glad you are all enjoying it, this was so much fun to write
Ack, you are cruel....and all too correct about how long we normally have to wait for new chapters. You have spoiled us so far!
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Old 07-31-2014, 05:40 PM   #19
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Chapter 6

Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. The brush made its way from the top of her head to the bottom of her shining hair with a lulling rhythm. She gazed into her reflection blankly, her eyes swollen and nose red. Even now, tears trickled down her cheeks.

She relished the pain of moving her arms. Stupid, stupid chit. She didn’t know what it was about that male that seemed to draw out the worst in her. Before he came she ruled calmly, fairly, and well…but something in him seemed to bring out her temper. She knew with certainty her reactions to both him and his efforts were unreasonable, but she couldn’t seem to stop. It was also clear to her that her people were making him their hero.

Was she truly the last person to remember their strong heritage? Their abhorrence of the magic that had killed her family, their rulers? It seemed she was. Not only did her people seem to regard them with less distain or hatred every day, but she had actually overheard several of them inquire into the magic the dragonriders had brought, in case it was legalized in future. What were the conveniences those items could bring, when contrasted with the heinous nature of magic itself?

Why could no one see it? Why was everyone turning against her?

Even her little brother….she felt hot tears, and allowed them to fall, splashing the marble of her dressing table. She had never felt so alone in all her life. She let her head fall to her crossed arms, and wept until the tears would no longer come, and she was nearly blinded by her headache.

A large hand covered her shoulder. Whirling, she encountered the stare of Malcolm. She opened her mouth to berate him. How dare he ‘trip’ her? How dare he enter her bedchamber? But the words died on her lips. For the first time, his face held expression.

He turned away to retrieve a washcloth and basin. Settling both them and himself down, he gently wiped her swollen face, pressing the cool cloth to her fevered face. Those eyes softened, gazing at her raptly. “I am sorry for entering your chamber unasked,” he began stiffly after a few long moments of silence. “Your guards could not locate you. When I entered your main chamber I heard you in pain, and found the entrance into this sideroom. I was not sure if you were seriously hurt.” He seemed to feel for her pain, for the lines around his mouth deepened unhappily.

Kila couldn’t bring herself to speak. She felt the traitorous lump in her throat and only shook her head. His hands were so gentle. It was undoing her. She needed him to leave. She stood and gestured to her door with a watery smile.

Malcom seized her wrist with an oath, and examined it closely. She tried to peer at it as well but he held her arm firmly. Slowly, carefully, with infinite gentleness, he cleaned the long gash – almost elbow to wrist. She must have cut herself in her fall.

The Queen Regent examined his face as he worked. He seemed vexed with himself, shaking his head and frowning alternately. His strange silver eyes looked bewitching in the dim light of her chamber. He was so large, reassuring, warm and gentle – such a contrast with his behaviour the past few months. “Why is there so much hatred?” she finally whispered.

He looked up, startled. A grimness spread across his face, and then that cold, emotionlessness she had begun to associate as natively his. He didn’t answer her question. “I request permission to heal you. It is through my fault that you were injured, and I must take responsibility.”

Always responsibility. Always a burden, nothing more. She bowed her head, swaying. Why was she so unlovable?

His face was nothing but a blur to her teary eyes, but she felt him slowly run a finger up, then down her wound, which slowly ceased hurting, and began itching, then faded altogether. Magic. Used on her. She had thought it would feel different. Fantastic, painful, something. Instead it felt comforting, soft. When he released her arm she swayed, too overwrought to fight against gravity.

She would have caught herself in a moment – she would have – but it was made unnecessary by the man scooping her into his arms. She was right – he was thinner. She could feel his heart beat against his ribs. She gazed up at his face. It wasn’t handsome. So why was her pulse racing? Probably about to faint. She never fainted! With an effort, she tried to raise her head, but it was carefully set upon a pillow. That comfortable support wasn’t to be given up, despite all her efforts.

His grave face stared down at her. It seemed to be engraved with the cares of the world. She slowly traced one of the thick lines around his stern mouth, pressing a palm against his rough stubble and smooth cheek.

He seemed to lean into it, and murmured brokenly “Ahh, deela.” His voice seemed to reach her from a great distance. “I do not know why you hate me.”

But why do you hate me? Kila asked as she slipped into the same dream she had had, every time she slept, for as long as she could remember.
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Old 07-31-2014, 05:43 PM   #20
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Chapter 7

Today was different. She could feel it the moment she arose. It was earlier than she was used to rising, and her maid wasn’t even up yet. She itched to be moving. Every time she tried to sleep, she popped up, fidgeting. The tiny clasps on her dresses couldn’t be managed by one person. Slowly, carefully, she pulled on a front lacing riding habit and tiptoed from the room. An unseen anxiety seemed to force her from her bed.

She eyes her forearm as she descended the stairs noiselessly, boots and stockings in hand. The wound had healed cleanly. Kila doubted her own memory of the previous night, but the still evident traces of crying – thick, swollen lids and a stuffy nose – made it all too apparent that it was not ‘all in her mind’. She dreaded seeing his face. She had shown such weakness in front of him – AGAIN - and had humiliated herself to such a degree. How he must loathe her.

Reaching the courtyard, she shoved her feet into her boots, shivering from the cool morning air. Eyes observed her, winking in and out of existence as their respective owners blinked down at her. “Good morning,” she whispered to them.

“Good morning, Kila,” a voice beside her said cheerfully. “You are up earlier than usual. What brings you to the courtyard at this hour?”

Kila jumped guiltily and looked around. There wasn’t any humans nearby that she could see. “Oh! Good morning….” She trailed off, her guilt intensifying as she realized she hadn’t bothered to learn any of the dragon’s names, other than Jaxx.

The Dragon didn’t seem to mind. She realized that was one of the younger dragons by its size and tone. “My name is Stura – well, at least that’s what you can call me. You humans can’t possibly pronounce our Dragon names.” His tone was cheerful yet condescending.

Kila had slowly become accustomed to the haughty yet matter of fact way many of the Dragons spoke to the humans in their lives, and for one of the few times in her life, didn’t immediately bridle at the tone. Tying her hair back, she smiled. “Well, Stura, I need to learn how to fight.”

The Dragon nodded sagely. “That certainly is important.”

“Here is the thing. Malcom says that I don’t have any talent and there is no time to learn. I can’t just be useless, I need to try!” Even this young one seemed so knowledgeable, that the confession tumbled from her lips before she was aware.

The great eyes rolled obviously. “Of course you don’t have any talent for fighting – you’re not a Dragon, or a mage.” Her heart sunk. “But there is always time to learn. Life IS learning!”

A deeper voice grumbled upwards to their left. “Your life is talking. Talking, talking, talking…Can you not be silent?”

A spate of Dragontongue followed, and at the ending of which Stura laughed and threw back his broad wings. “The elders say if I am not silent they will devour me, because death will be the only way my incessant nattering will cease. Let’s fly and talk!”

There was not even an opportunity to inhale before huge claws – almost hands – grasped her entire body as carefully as if she was an egg, and launched them into the sky. Fortunately, her scream was suppressed by the jarring, upwards lunge. Gathering her breath, she lost it again. Through gaps in his claws, she could see the castle shrinking below them.

Lights glimmered all around it. The now rising sun began to trace the edges of the fields and rows she was so familiar with. From this height, it all looked like a chessboard of greenery. She realized that the Dragon was still nattering on, and from the response of the other Dragon’s, she assumed this was his normal manner of talking. She listened, and shivered.

“Oh, are you cold?” He asked solicitously, wrapping his claws tighter together.

Cocooned in the warm of his hands and now protected from the wind, she smiled. “That is better, thank you.” Stura resumed talking, and she realized that if she was to have any say, she would need to interrupt. “Stura…I don’t want to be rude, but…are you a male dragon? Are there any female dragons here?” She had been thinking ‘he’ – his voice sounded male, but how was she to judge?

“Oh, yes, I am male!” Was the immediate response. He immediately launched onto a spate about his kind (She hadn’t realized that there were multiple species of Dragon, they weren’t just different shapes and colours) and within a few minutes she gathered he was still young (only a few hundred years old).

“Tuvra ilest Gappa,” She murmured in Valami, rubbing her eyes.

“Neyest tuvra Gappa. Jakan ivra daka.” The dragon responded, the words rumbling through his chest.

“You know our language? How?” The sound of her dead fathertongue made her sit bolt upright. She was stupid, not just uninformed as he had just said. She nearly screamed when she was suddenly jolted and his hands opened.

The Dragon laughed aloud at this, and regarded her with a direct stare. “I know it’s hard for you to comprehend the magnitude of what a Dragon is. Humans take a few years to learn to speak – I took a few hours. Humans take years to become fluent at a new language - it took me a while to pick up your dead language – hardly anyone speaks it anymore. I had to dig and dig for scrolls and books to find the written words!”

“A while,” she repeated faintly. Then, her brows contracted and she looked up at him. “How did you find scrolls and books?”

“Yes. It took me a five hours to learn it.” He seemed aggrieved by this delay in his accumulation of knowledge. At her repeating her question, he responded flippantly. “In the library, of course – where else would one find stuff like that? Oh, you do have a nice library by the by. Some of them are not cared for at all.” He shook his great head sadly.

She swallowed. “And how did you get into the library?” It was like coaxing a hyper child.

The great head tilted, and her vision blurred. A young man stood before her, his brass head shining in the morning light. “Like this: Excuse me sir, can you direct me to your historical texts?”

She gaped at him, and hesitantly stepped forward, hands reaching. She fully expected some sort of illusion, that the great dragon body was here but hidden. Instead, her hands met flesh as smooth as any she had ever seen.
The young man’s eyes crinkled merrily, and he gave a huge grin. “Hey, look, you aren’t afraid anymore!”

Indeed. She caressed the soft cheek, and he pressed his face into it, covering her hand with his own. She frowned. “I am SO ignorant.” She sat down on a tree trunk to think.

His eyes followed her steadily. She looked at him, looking at her, and then he began talking again.

“Stura,” she interrupted. He tilted his head. “Can you fight?” She interrupted his words again. “Can you teach me?”

His somewhat nasty grin made her swallow. “I can. But I think that the question you are really asking is will I teach you.” He made a show of walking around in a circle, tapping his lip. “What would you offer in return?”

“What could I have that you would possibly want?” she asked faintly.

“What about that necklace?” he responded, gazing between her breasts.

Her hand found the talisman unconsciously. Grasping it firmly, she took a deep breath. This was the last carving she had ever made. “It isn’t much, it is just something I carved for myself…it has no value.”

“You made that? Truly?” He seemed to covet it all the more. He watched, unblinking, as she carefully undid the clasp and tied it around his neck. He puffed out his chest and looked to her for admiration.

Obligingly, she heaped praise upon his person. He grinned again and gazed down at the little image of a cave opening, which had glowed the minute it touched his skin, making her gasp. Made of antler bone, it had been carved from a single piece. “Come.” He held his hand out to her, and she took it. “What shall we teach you first?”

“I put myself in your capable hands. And why don’t you tell me about Malcom while you teach?” It wasn’t a subtle ploy, and the dragon grinned at her, winking knowingly.
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Old 07-31-2014, 06:06 PM   #21
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Slipping out of the castle, Kila blew her hair from her eyes. She waved to Jaxx, who leisurely stretched out his nose to be caressed. Over the past several weeks she learned his fierce face housed an affectionate heart.

Good morning, little sister.

Good morning, m’lord. She responded with teasing affection, fingers gently tickling the softer scales that edged his nose.

Are you ready to do something different today? He closed his eyes in enjoyment at the touch.

She caressed the inside of his hands as he bore her up. Looser scales made them rough. What are you thinking of doing? She revelled in the feeling of her stronger arms, firmer limbs. Her shorter hair curled around her face.

She had hacked it off herself in a fit of rage, after Stura kept using it to wheel her around like a bola.

I am itchy, Mal is busy, and I miss swimming. We will go to the lake, swim, and I will show you how to take care of this itch. His thoughts had become a little crusty lately – it made sense. She realized he was shedding.

No training today? She suppressed the whine in her voice, resigning herself. Several of the Dragons had taken their own personal time to train her on their own days off.

Life IS training. He had become more and more distracted, spending more and more time at the lake. One of the mages had told her he was more of a sea species, and probably missed the water.

Life is LEARNING. She responded, and he send a chord of affection back at her. For the first time in her life, she felt loved, and it made her try harder to please than she ever had before. It wasn’t just the soft love, it was the hard love she appreciated.

Once Jaxx had learned what she wanted, he offered to help. He was a harder, firmer taskmaster than Stura. His human face was sterner, and he was an implacable ‘mock’ enemy. Stura showed her what it was like to be toyed with. Jaxx showed her what it was like to be hunted.

She also felt, while outside the grounds and with the Dragons, a strange peace. Her irritability fell away, and she was calmer. Or maybe they had broken something in her. They had made her realize how right Malcolm was, and how insufficient she was. They had tempered her rage with a healthy dose of fear and avoidance of pain.

The first time she tried to fight instead of running, Turaz, a Copper Dragon, had bent her over his knee and swatted her ‘til she howled.

When she had lost her temper two weeks ago and let herself get caught, Jaxx had calmly, methodically and coldly broken her arm while gazing unblinkingly into her eyes. He had healed it, but it had been a lesson in pain she would never forget. Running to avoid pain added on a whole new dimension. Once she learned this lesson, they began teaching her offensive measures.

The estimated half a year timespan for their stay was rapidly spinning out to what looked like at least a year, and the Dragons seemed to think her training important, for they never flagged or questioned the validity. Or maybe they were just bored with inaction. Though her mention of them attacking directly and driving her foes off were met with strictures on what Dragons WERE and were NOT. And a human plaything was definitely something they were NOT.

Today, Jaxx settled his massive yet lithe body on the shores of Lake Lota. She stretched while he swam. He was as graceful in the water as in the air, and fast! His dark shape swept rapidly under the surface. Walking out onto the dock, shivering in anticipation of the cold, unwarmed water, she dove in.

Surfacing, she keened briefly at the coldness, then dove under the water. She dove as deep as she could, playfully trying to catch up to the Dragon below her, before flipping and speeding straight for the surface, breaking through with a gasp.

A hard featured, aristocratic faced man surfaced beside her. She took one look at his face and took off. This was training, she realized, and fear about drowning spurned her forward. He might not let her die, but she was very sure if he caught her, Jaxx would abundantly make her regret it. She was beginning to realize there were things in life worse than death.

He was a good swimmer, even in human form. But she knew this lake, inside and out. Making for the sheer cliff face on the diagonally opposite shore, she kicked powerfully, not looking back. Kila couldn’t help but be pleased. She might never have strength, but her endurance had dramatically increased with her training. Reaching the wall, she dove straight down.

She glanced up briefly as she descended, nearly fifteen feet. Her ears rang painfully, and she saw him following closely, grinning at her silly move.

Darting to the rock, she squirmed into a narrow hole, facing upwards towards the rock. It was a tight fit – the last time she had been in here was when she was fifteen.

She kicked as hard as she could, walking along the rock, upside down, with her fingertips. She scrabbled against the rock, flailing. When she tried to go backwards, she bumped into Jaxx – when she went forward she bumped into rock.

She keened in panic, bubbles rising through her clenched teeth, making it difficult to see. Her lungs BURNED. A dull panic was seeping in, as she realized the tunnel might have collapsed, she might really be trapped and die here.

Fueled, she kicked harder and shot into an underwater cavern. Her head broke the surface and she gasped, flailing.

A strong hand cupped the back of her head, and Jaxx kissed her forehead. “Easy, little one,” he murmured, a small smile playing around the corner of his mouth. “Well done!” She let herself relax, and he eased her to shore. He looking about with interest, and sat beside her. “How did you find this place?” He asked, his voice echoing slightly.

“I found this place years ago while exploring,” Kila told him, laying back, trying to catch her breath. “This used to be my secret hiding place…I kind of thought of it as my home.” Raising an arm without getting up, she pointed to a wall. “I even brought bedding, food, tools…I was determined that I was going to run away from home and live here,” She chuckled at the absurdity.

Jaxx rose lightly and investigated, murmuring to himself. When he sat beside her, his face wore a thoughtful expression. It looked like he was remembering something painful, and he cast about with his eyes, as if searching for something.

What, dear one? She asked him, holding his hand. She never had to worry about what she said with him – he could basically read her mind anyway, she had found out. It didn’t bother her as much as she would have thought it. Magic wasn’t as bad as she thought either…at least when the Dragons used it. The thought of mages wielding it still made her panic. She ran her fingers up her forearm. Well, some mages. She was still struggling to come to grips with the atrocity of magic, and the warm conveniences.

He sighed, then faced her. When he smiled, and lines radiated from the corners of his eyes. “I am just surprised, is all.” He answered aloud. The Dragon turned his head, a half smile playing about his lips. He grazed the pad of his thumb over her palm. “If this was by the seaside, this could pass as a little home.” He frowned suddenly.

Kila sat up. “You live in places like this?”

He blinked, raising his gaze again. “Indeed.” He held up a hand, tracing where the webbing would be in his Dragon form. “Aquatic, don’t you know.” Leaning back, he pillowed his head on his forearms, looking up at the dark ceiling.

Shivering a little, Kila squirmed closer. Now that they were inside, he didn’t seem inclined to leave in a hurry. His blue eyes removed from the ceiling to follow her with movements with amusement.

Tentative, she lay her head on his breast, leaning in to his warmth. It felt odd, to be so close to a man. But then, he wasn’t really a man, either. Would Mal be this warm?

“Geoff said that your father banished you both from this lake.” His voice echoed slightly along the walls. “Why?”

“I kept coming back to this cavern,” Kila responded quietly, painful recollections intruding. “Every time Papa looked away I was across the lake and into this room.”

She swallowed. “The last time we were here as a family…I was so determined to get here I didn’t even notice Geoff trying to follow. He almost drowned trying to follow me. Papa was furious…” She had never seen him so angry. “He said there was something evil, something magical in this place, something that kept drawing me back.”

His chest rose and fell with his breathing, and he pet her hair, soothing her until her anger webbed away.

~*~*~

She awoke from her dream, dead awake. Never had the dream been so powerful.

Kila had dreamed the same dream for as long as she could remember. Cold, freezing water pressed against her. An invisible barrier keeping her from the sun. It was so cold, so lonely, wishing she could die.

Gazing wildly about, she carefully detached herself from Jaxx, who still seemed to be slumbering in human form. Still damp, she shivered, rubbing her arms. This time in her dream, she had felt the rocks rub against her sides, felt the water lap at her face. Hunger, ever present, gnawed at her relentlessly. That little spark, always in the back of her mind, was again close. So close. She had almost forgotten that little glow since her father had banished her.

Once Papa had died, she hadn’t even had the time to come back. Shivering, teeth chattering, her eyes fell on the dark water. How had she even got here? She couldn’t remember.

To the left, daylight filtered through the hole that lead to the outside. To the right was blackness. Slipping into the water, she stared down into the blackness. She felt drawn, as if an invisible chord pulled her.

Fear, confusion – everything slipped away as she floundered towards the call of the darkness.
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Old 07-31-2014, 09:43 PM   #22
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OH NO! *gasp*

(As distressed as this ending has left me, I can appreciate the suspense technique )
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Old 08-01-2014, 06:24 AM   #23
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<-- me reading the new chapters

Thank you!
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Old 08-02-2014, 03:20 AM   #24
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Just read this all, absolutely amazing! Can't wait for the next update. So glad you're back!
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Old 08-05-2014, 07:01 PM   #25
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Chapter 9

MAL!

Starting upright, Mal gasped at the force and panic in Jaxx’s voice. What is it? Are we under attack? He called back wildly, scrambling out of bed and forcing his feet into his boots with groggy panic. Gads it was cold in here!

We have a problem! Jaxx’s presence was rapidly approaching, his panic tightly controlled.

Mal raced into the courtyard, vaulting from the ground onto the Dragon’s elbow, and from there to his shoulders, the moment he landed. For some reason the distance seemed greater than usual, and he almost didn’t make it. Jaxx whipped his head around and boosted his rider, almost launching into the air before he was seated.

Flying without straps was dangerous, especially taking off and setting down. The force of the Dragon jumping into the air almost unseated Mal, and he clung with grim desperation. “What is going ON?” He shouted at the Dragon, who was whipping through the sky wildly, almost drunkenly.

She’s gone! Was the crushed response.

WHO is gone?

Kila!

Panic closed his throat, and he choked briefly. What the hell happened? Was it Talos? He felt weak, drained. He had spent the last few weeks wondering where Kila was going off to. He knew that the Dragons knew, so he was not worried per say – but her continued absence was beginning to wear on him. For the last month and a half, she awoke early and arrived late. She avoided him studiously, and he knew she was being helped because never once, despite his vigilance, had he seen never her once. She was also avoiding her duties.

This was another trying point. It was time that Geoff would have to step up and take on those duties…but Mal found himself shielding the boy as much as possible. The prince had begun to make a steady friendship with the young Copper Dragon. Their antics and shenanigans had the adults, human and Dragon alike, throwing their hands in the air. Luckily, the sound of their young laughter and shrieks echoing through the halls erased any frowns caused by being doused with water, or finding one’s laces tied together to trip the unsuspecting.

Given the option between forcing the young man to attend the meetings with quiet dignity, or see him laughing and wrestling, he always chose the latter. However, it was taking a toll on his own person. None of his other duties had slackened, and he found himself tired. Bone deep tired. Now she was missing?

Briefly, the Dragon gave him to understand they had been helping her train, and that today they he had tested her in water, and then she was going to scrub him down. Jaxx’s voice was slightly reproachful at his Rider’s neglect. He recounted her entering the tunnel, and discovering the underwater grotto.

Mal would have been angry at the Dragons betrayal, hiding activities from him, but he felt the subtext of the message. His Dragon didn’t just tolerate her, he liked her. Besides, the Dragon was angry enough for both of them.

Jaxx told him that upon waking, the girl was gone.

Not just got up and left, but all traces erased. I feel something suspicious in the cavern, but I have a feeling it is designed specifically to flummox magic senses. Jaxx told him fretfully as they landed IN the lake.

Cold water doused him, and Mal bit back a yowl. He stared at Jaxx’s human form, who had grasped both of his shoulders. “Specifically?” he chattered.

“You need to be strong for this.”

“What?” Mal coughed, snorting water from his nose. What, in this land of forbidden magic, would be strong enough to repel a Dragon without being discovered?

“We have to go through an underwater tunnel,” Jaxx yelled over his shoulder as he kicked off towards a sheer rock face.

Mal froze, blinding panic overcoming him. The last underwater tunnel he had encountered had collapsed while he was in it. He could feel the crushing weight of the water, his lungs burning...The cold, the dark...He shuddered, scrubbing a hand over his face.

But you have me, now. And you have magic to prevent that as well. You are no longer a boy. The dragon told him. That would not have been enough to motivate him – in fact, Mal could only hear a rushing in his own ears, and he realized he was about to black out. He breathed, treading water, until he had a grip on his emotions.

Nodding resolutely, he cast waterbreathing, kicking in the tunnel, breathing slowly and evenly to control his panic. Suddenly, water filled his nose, choking him. He couldn’t get out. He was trapped, he was dying. He couldn’t go forward, or back…his strength failed him, and he scrabbled at the rock like a child. For the second time in Mal’s life, Jaxx took over. All fear, all worry drained away. It was a tight fit, but it comforted, rather than repelling. Breaking the surface on the other side, he was released.

“I’m going to kill you,” He roared at the Dragon, shaking with rage as he stood in the waist deep water. The Dragon kept a hovering and supportive presence in his mind.

Of course Jaxx didn’t take offense, merely slugging himself to shore and fretfully casting about. “She was here last,” he told his rider.

Recalling himself with difficulty, Mal looked about. Some natural light filtered from a hole high above them, and some faint rays leaked in from the underwater tunnel they had just come through. He threw up his hand, casting a light into the dimness. The ball floated up, revealing a vaulted ceiling about thirty feet high, glistening with raw magic. “I think I found our problem,” Mal said, still looking up.

Jaxx followed his riders gaze and cursed foully.

Raw magic was a natural confusion for refined magic – even Dragonic magic. It was like trying to catch a minnow in churned up water. The light sputtered and died. And it made magic unpredictable. Sometimes it crushed, sometimes it enhanced, sometimes it did something else entirely.

Shivering, Mal clapped the Dragon on the shoulder when he trudged back into the water. “This must be the underside of one of the magic fields.” He had never seen so much raw magic in one place. Narrowing his eyes, he gazed about. “What possessed her to come in HERE?”

“She found it long ago. She said it felt like home, and that she was drawn here. I think this has been in her dreams too…” Jaxx trailed off, considering.

“If this is homey to her, she must have the blood of a Bronze in her then,” Mal snorted. When Jaxx looked away, Mal stepped closer. “Jaxx?”

“Not sure. Not now. We will discuss this at length later.” The handsome face turned towards him, anguish in his eyes. “Now, we need to find her. There is something…”

Something about the level of anguish in his face made him pause, but he shook it off. Later. There was no time for that now.Malcolm dove into the water, casting out exploratory lights. Some of them disappeared instantly, fizzling out. Some drifted, out of his control, and others shone brighter and brighter until they made his eyes water. Again and again he dove down, seeing nothing but sheer cliff face except for their entrance.

Using strong spells would be out of the question – if a basic lighting spell was going awry, anything more powerful could kill him. He calmed his heart, breathing deeply, floating on the surface of the water. A vision of her dead body floated in his mind’s eye. He thrust it away. He thrust everything away, slowly easing deeper and deeper into himself.

Gently, he probed the walls from top to bottom. Sometimes his probes hit back hard, sometimes they disappeared. There was NOTHING. Nothing. She wasn’t in here, that was for sure.

“Why aren’t you examining there?” Jaxx asked, pointing to the opposite wall from the entrance. Unfortunately, the Dragon’s magic was too powerful – using it might result in disaster, and so he was forced to observe. It was probably lucky he hadn’t tried anything. The Dragon’s natural sense of preservation had warned him off before he brought the cavern down. The only magic Jaxx could use was his innate magic, like mindspeak.

“I did,” Mal responded, looking at the spot in confusion.

“No, you didn’t,” the Dragon told him, frowning.

Mal sent an obligatory probe out. “Nothing, see? What?” He asked the Dragon, who was eyeing him closely.

“You didn’t probe there, you probed away from it,” The Dragon said slowly. His eyes narrowed. “There must be some sort of aversion spell there.”

Mal felt irritation, looking at the sheer wall. “There is NOTHING there, Jaxx.”

Jaxx tapped his chin, then grimaced with a shrug. “Sorry, friend,” he said.

Mal jerked, but the Dragon had him in his grasp. He was being forced towards that wall. He fought, tooth and nail, but was forced closer and closer. Water entered his nose from his thrashing, and he spluttered, choking. “STOP!” he yelled, coughing and hacking.

Jaxx allowed him to catch his breath, and then, relentless, the Dragon pushed him closer and closer, forcing him to dive. Panic seized Mal as he was forced against the cliff face. The Dragon was going to kill him.

Suddenly, he stilled. His hand went right through the illusion. He heard Jaxx’s shout of triumph through the water as he moved closer. It was a superficial illusion; a one sided image. It was one of the most basic spells one learned – along with the aversion spells. He was being defeated by goddamn children’s tricks??

Jaxx forced him deeper. This tunnel was wide – much, much wider than the entrance he came in. Probably thirty feet across. Mal pushed back on the Dragon, who released his hold somewhat. Casting light, he swam deeper. The tunnel rapidly ended, and he moved towards the surface of the water gratefully. Normally he would have cast an underwater breathing, but the complexity of the spell made him suspect the raw magic might end it abruptly - like the last time.

His head broke the surface, as did his flickering lights. A shoreline was several yards away, and he made towards it. Come on in, the water’s fine, Mal told his Dragon. Wading onto shore, Mal halted abruptly. A woman sat, facing away from him, shaking.

It didn’t look like Kila – the hair was too short, and she was too curvy, and too muscular. This wasn’t the slender ice queen. The woman didn’t turn her head, but he approached her cautiously. He inhaled sharply.

The uncertain light revealed Kila, weeping uncontrollably. Tears rolled from her eyes soundlessly, cascading down her cheeks and dripping from her chin. Mal dropped to his knees, cupping her face. “Gods, Kila, what is the matter?” He demanded, shaking her slightly. She moaned slightly, straining to look around him, to gaze back where her eyes had been locked. Turning, he gaped.

“Help her, help her, oh Gods, help her Mal!” Kila’s fingers clutched at his arms, nails scoring his skin in her panic.

A large blue eye regarded him sadly. The fierce face looked hopeless, half submerged under water. The Bronze was trapped in such a way that her large body was in an adjoining tunnel, and her neck and head were in this cavern. The tunnel was too small for her to withdraw her head, and her neck was barely long enough to reach the surface. Her body was obviously preventing her from moving forward. The amount of blue on her body showed she was still young. The raw magic would have prevented her from using her powers either. She was trapped…for now long? His brain struggled to wrap around the amount of time that would have passed for a dragon to grow in this cavern – like a fish outgrowing its tank. He shuddered, staring.

Footfalls approached behind him, and Mal felt his Dragon sink to his knees beside him. The powerful Dragon crawled forward and touched the large face, hands trembling. It seemed to rouse her somewhat, and the Dragoness blinked her eye, pupil contracting.
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