A Courtship of Dragons is a M/M Romance short novel (approximately 60,000 words) told in short scenes, between two young dragons, Estenarven kin Boulderforce Clan Stoneheart and Mastekh kin Rainstorm Clan Flowflight. It’s pure fluff ‘n’ stuff and not intended to be anything other than that.
A couple of important notes:
1) This is the longest chapter in the story, so I’ve split it into two for ease of online reading.
2) I’ve finished it! The whole thing! It’s done! (And of course, much longer than I intended, turning my short story/novella into a short novel, where more important stuff than I planned for happened, so I’ll need to edit Storm Rising to reflect that – so good job I decided to finish this before I went back to work on that, then.) I’ll keep adding these serial updates, but I’ll probably release the (free) ebook before the end. There are fifty chapters to get through – so we’re not even halfway yet!
But anyway, away from all that, Mastekh is in a rather good mood.
LIKE ANY DRAGON dwelling, Highstrike had many secrets. Of the few Mastekh had managed to uncover so far during his stay, the cavern behind the main kitchens was his favourite. As a Rainstorm, he’d never been entirely fond of enclosed spaces – his kind was made for storms and sky, and he usually preferred places where no roof closed him in – but this cavern was special.
Humming happily to himself, he hitched the basket he was carrying higher on his hip, having offered to help the dracos out with their morning chores in exchange for having the cavern to himself. A few days ago they would have utterly refused, too conscious of the divide between dragons and dracos to ever countenance such a breach in etiquette. However, over the many mornings Mastekh had spent working alongside them in the kitchen, they had slowly come to recognise him as one of their own. He was a dragon who worked, who served, who treated them like living, thinking beings – and they extended the same courtesy to him.
It didn’t hurt that his courtship with Estenarven was providing them with extra entertainment either. All he had to do was hint that he wanted time alone to work on his fourth gift and they let him do anything he asked. Even clean the dishes. It was a strange sort of power, but Mastekh liked it.
So basket on hip, hum in his throat and a light-hearted skip in his step, Mastekh made his way down the narrow passage that led from the kitchen deeper into the mountain on which Highstrike was rooted. The way was winding and dark, the warmth of the kitchen ovens swiftly fading behind, leaving nothing but a cool wind to draw him onwards. As a Rainstorm, cold didn’t bother Mastekh, especially when its source was so magnificent.
Pale light began to grow, along with a familiar roar and Mastekh stepped out into the cavern with a wide smile on his face as he tilted it back to take in the wonder before him.
A waterfall. Gushing, powerful, immense – and entirely underground.
The cavern was almost big enough to contain the Skylark, and almost all of it was shrouded in ice cold spray as a torrent of water thundered through a hole near the roof of the cavern and roared fifty or more feet down to where Mastekh stood. There it formed a deep, narrow pool which in turned drained away somewhere out of sight.
It was glorious and sodden and marvellous. Mastekh loved it.
Away from the falls, large glow globes, the size of his own head, had been embedded in the wall around the cavern entrance, shining in Tempestfury shades of grey, blue and white. A carpet of plush moss covered the floor and long, trailing curtains of a different moss species drifted in the clouds of spray. It was a magical place and it wasn’t until the dracos had brought him here two days ago that Mastekh had realised how much he’d missed running water. The Flowflight Clanlands were richly forested, full of streams and lakes and rivers, all of which had been rather lacking in his life of late. Not now, not here.
Sighing with happiness, Mastekh flexed his toes in the carpet moss and bustled to the edge of the pool. There he knelt with his basket beside him and set about washing dishes, as he’d promised the dracos he would. It was a mindless, easy chore that allowed his mind to drift while his senses soaked up the water in the air and the roar of the waterfall. A perfect place.
Before long the basket was empty, the clean crockery stacked beside it, and Mastekh could finally turn his attention to the real reason why he was there. Utterly at ease with his surroundings, he slid a hand into his pocket and pulled out the two small shells within. He shed his silk robe, folded it up and placed the shells on top. Feeling at peace with the world, he slithered into the cold of the pool.
Bliss. The water was deep and dark and icy, but the constant pounding and churning of the waterfall turned the pool into a swirling, bubbling mass that massaged and tickled his bare skin. It felt marvellous, but Mastekh knew of one way to make it all better.
Arching his back, he stretched out his arms and kicked his legs, diving into the depths. And then he changed.
The water stroked and soothed him, invigorating him with new life as it rippled around him, absorbing the shock of his magic as he expanded from a puny human into a long, lean dragon with wings pressed tight to his back. The webs between his toes expanded and he powered down into the darkness until he felt the insistent tug of the current drawing the water out of this cavern and into the next.
Having no desire to explore the underground course of the river – at least not today – Mastekh swirled around in the water and kicked off the side of the pool. He shot upwards through the bubbles, loving the rush and roar of the water around him.
Then he hit the surface, gasping and grinning, his wings spreading to keep him afloat as he lowered into the water again.
Humming happily, he rolled onto his back and drifted for a lazy moment, tail stirring slowly to stop the force of the falls from shoving him into the edge of the pool.
Eventually, though, he recalled the real reason for coming here today – and why he had desired privacy. And since it was all for Estenarven, he didn’t even mind having to roll over and paddle back to where he’d left the clean crockery and his robe.
Ducking beneath the surface and amusing himself by blowing out a stream of huge bubbles, Mastekh surfaced with a chuckle – and recoiled with a yelp.
He wasn’t alone.
Someone was sitting beside his robe, the two small shells Mastekh had placed there now lying in their lap.
His first reaction – after surprise – was embarrassment at being found frolicking like a wingling. Then anger at having been interrupted. Finally fear that having left his treasures unguarded for a foolish moment, he might have lost them altogether.
“Good morning, Mastekh. A lovely day for a swim, is it not?”
Paddling uncertainly in the water, unsure whether he should get out or remain where he was, Mastekh pressed his ear fins miserably against his head and nodded. “M-m-morning, Elder G-g-goryal.”
The Starshine elder smiled, their eyes shimmering with rainbow shades in the bright white light of the glow globe they had placed by their feet. “You need not fear me, young Rainstorm. Your treasures are safe. I was merely guarding them for you.”
Mastekh swallowed hard, not entirely relieved. He hadn’t truly believed that the elder would steal and claim the shells – they weren’t that sort of dragon – but that didn’t make him feel any more comfortable to see his treasures in Goryal’s hands. Nor did it make him feel any less foolish for having left them unattended in the open. He should have known that a place as marvellous as this wasn’t used by the dracos alone.
“It’s no good, Goryal, I can’t find the exit point. It must be at the bottom of the pool.”
The rumbling voice had Mastekh sinking even lower into the pool until only his eyes and the top of his crest remained above the surface. Of course Junior Archivist Reglian would be here – he and Goryal had seldom been seen outside of each other’s company on this journey.
“Keep looking,” Goryal advised the younger dragon in a placid voice, though their eyes remained on Mastekh. “I’m certain you will find something of interest if you try.”
Reglian planted his hands on his hips and frowned down at where the diminutive elder was sitting. “I’d rather look at those shells.”
Alarm shot through Mastekh and he surged out of the water, uncaring that he sent a wave of water over the pair of dragons in front of him as he stretched out a webbed foot and snatched the shells from Goryal’s hands.
“No, Reglian, they are not for you,” the Starshine elder said calmly, apparently unconcerned that they’d almost been knocked over and drowned by a desperate Rainstorm. The fluff of white hair that normally swirled about their head like a cloud was now plastered across their forehead and down one cheek and their pearly white robe had taken on a grey hue, but they smiled as Mastekh slid back into the depths, clutching the shells to his chest.
Reglian wasn’t nearly so sanguine, spluttering as he stared down in dismay at the way his pristine black robes now clung to his legs from mid-thigh down. “Mastekh!”
Mastekh ducked under the water until only his eyes showed and blew bubbles.
Goryal laughed, the sound like silver bells, chiming clearly even over the roar of the falls.
Grumbling unflattering things about Rainstorms and Starshines, Reglian peeled the silk from his legs and flapped it ineffectually. Then he ran a hand over his gleaming bald head and stomped off into the misty spray. Mastekh was not sorry to see him go.
~ Next Part ~
Take care, my lovelies!