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.
In case you missed it, today’s update has been split in two for length issue. Part 22.1 is available here.
Other than that: Starshines…
“YOU SEE NOW why I was holding your shells for you,” Goryal said, once the rumbling Thunderwing had been drowned out by the falls. “There is no other reason why I would have presumed to touch so sacred and precious a possession. I do hope you will forgive my trespass. It was not lightly done.”
Issuing another stream of bubbles, Mastekh rose enough to mutter, “M-my f-fault,” before sinking again.
Goryal smiled. “It is a shame that even in so well hidden a place as this a dragon cannot leave their treasures unattended, but sadly, it has ever been thus. Especially when nosy archivists are around.”
“I heard that!” a distant rumble revealed that Reglian wasn’t quite as far away as Mastekh might have liked.
Sighing, knowing he couldn’t hide in the pool forever, Mastekh drifted to the edge and carefully placed his shells in front of him. Then he shrank to his human form and hauled himself out. Goryal held out Mastekh’s robe for him and he quickly shrugged into the familiar silken weight, keeping a firm grip on his shells this time.
Much though he wished he could then run away, he still hadn’t done what he’d originally come here to do, so he held the shells against his chest and silently willed the Starshine elder to go away.
“It has been a long time since I was last lucky enough to see a Flowflight naming shell,” Goryal said, either oblivious of Mastekh’s mental turmoil or – far more likely – choosing to ignore it. “Yours is particularly fine.”
The darker of the two shells was a curved fan shape that sat perfectly over Mastekh’s thumb tip. He rubbed it against his finger, loving the contrast between the smooth interior and the rough, ridged exterior. All his life he had wished he could be as tough as the outer edge of his naming shell, but had known he would always been as sadly soft as the interior. That was the side his name had been carved into shortly after his hatching and he seemed unlikely to ever defy that unthinking choice.
Still, it was very beautiful. The outside might have been a rather uninspiring fan of white and buff brown, faintly striped in places, but the inside was a glorious blush of purple, blue, cream and red, starting dark at the base and slowly lightening as it spread out to the edges. He had always wished he could be so beautifully coloured.
He glanced down at it now, rubbing his finger over the dull outside and silently agreeing with Elder Goryal. It was a fine naming shell, but such things were supposed to be private. Flowflights didn’t share their treasures lightly. Knowing the elder had not only held it but studied it too felt like an invasion of his privacy. It shouldn’t have – it was just a shell with his name on it – but Mastekh had never shown it willingly to anyone before. The only people who had ever seen it had been those who had stolen it for a glimpse or simply to tease.
Yet he couldn’t be angry with Goryal. Mastekh would much rather the Starshine elder had looked at it than Reglian. Not that he didn’t like the Thunderwing, but… well… Reglian was nosy. Not to mention an archivist – they recorded everything. Mastekh would rather his naming shell wasn’t described on paper somewhere for all the Overworld to read.
Sighing, he relaxed his tight grip on his shells and lowered his hands to his lap, letting his naming shell slip from his thumb to settle in his palm. Then he looked at the second shell.
It was the other half of his naming shell, which once has been joined at the base, centuries ago, when it had once been a living creature on the ocean waters of the world. Before the Curse came. Before the clouds covered the world. Before Flowflights became so rare. It was a precious remnant of the old world and intended to be the most precious thing Mastekh owned.
Because it was his future, his hope. Flowflights weren’t well known for permanence in anything – abode, form, gender, sexuality – including relationships. But it was also well known that those Flowflights who did choose to settle were like the tiny shelled sea creatures of the long-lost oceans. They found their spot, their person, their home, and they stuck through all the tides of time.
That was what the second shell was for, for those rare and few Flowflights who made their choice and decided to stick. The second shell was for a partner, a beloved and, once given, it could not be returned.
Mastekh had never expected to give his second shell away. He’d almost forgotten its existence. He had been so certain he would fly through life alone. Any time he’d considered the possibility of giving up such a thing in the distant, nebulous future, he had expected to fret about the moment, to worry, to hesitate.
Except he didn’t. Ever since the night before, when he’d given Estenarven the gift of a kiss, had seized his courage for the first time and shown that he truly wanted this courtship as much as Estenarven did, he’d known what he had to do next.
The fourth gift had to be something meaningful to him, to show how much he valued Estenarven. And he could think of no better gift than this. His choice. His forever decision.
He would never make such a choice again, even if things with Estenarven didn’t work out – for whatever reason.
And Mastekh was at peace with that.
“Estenarven is a lucky dragon,” Goryal murmured softly.
Mastekh had almost forgotten they were there, but this time he didn’t feel their presence as an intrusion. It felt like a blessing. Clan Flowflight had withdrawn since the Curse, refusing to mix their bloodlines with other Clans, keeping to themselves and shunning any mating overtures, so Mastekh knew they would never approve of his courtship with Estenarven. But Goryal was a Starshine. It might be the smallest Clan, but it was also the most powerful, the one Clan that had no kin because it was made up from all dragons, all Clans, and only the best and rarest would ascend to their ranks. Starshine didn’t claim lordship over the other dragons – though they likely could should they ever choose to try – but their opinion was respected. Their approval was desired.
Hearing Goryal acknowledge Mastekh’s courtship, and not disapprove, eased a tightness in him that he hadn’t even noticed.
Mastekh’s Clan might never support his love for Estenarven, but Goryal thought it good.
“Th-thank you,” he whispered, bowing his head and shivering with relief.
Even though Mastekh didn’t hear them move, he felt the light touch of Goryal’s hands against his shoulders before the Starshine brushed a gentle kiss across his forehead.
“Be happy, Mastekh,” they said, their voice an airy whisper inside his mind. “And come see me when you need your seventh gift.”
Mastekh looked up sharply at that, gaining a wink in reply.
The seventh and final gift was meant to be something hard to get. Mastekh hadn’t even dared to think so far ahead – but now he was and panic was starting to set in. “Th-th-thank you,” he stammered again, fingers curling around the shells he’d been so proud of only moments before. But this was only the fourth gift. He still had three – the hardest three – to go.
Sibling Water, why had he ever started this foolish courtship?
Smiling, Goryal stood up and shook his head. “One gift at a time, Mastekh,” they advised, their chiming voice clear and obviously amused. “And don’t forget your ultimate goal.”
Estenarven. This was all for Estenarven. To win his affection, to claim his heart for Mastekh’s own.
Drawing in a shuddering breath, Mastekh closed his eyes and let that settle inside him for a moment. Yes, this was all for Estenarven and Estenarven was worth it. Even if the next three gifts proved to be the most difficult tasks of his life.
Breathing out a relieved sigh, he smiled and opened his eyes to thank Goryal again – but the Starshine was gone.
Mastekh shook his head and chuckled, rolling up onto his knees and bending over the edge of the pool to wash the two shells in the chilly, bubbling water. It was the whole reason he’d gone to the cavern in the first place. A hum rose in his throat as he worked each shell between his fingers and thumbs, feeling the carved ridges of his name and imagining how Estenarven’s would look on the blank outer edges of the second. He looked forward to finding out.
The touch of the water and the roar of the waterfall seeped back into his senses, washing away his anxieties and worries until he was once more at peace. Slipping the shells back into the protection of his pocket, he tucked the crockery into the basket and stood.
Reglian was standing behind him, arms crossed, foot tapping. “Don’t tell me, Goryal upped and vanished again?”
Chuckling, Mastekh nodded.
“Starshines,” the Thunderwing grumbled, reaching to take the basket from Mastekh. “I trust you know a way out of here, Puddle, because I – fool that I am – relied on Goryal to lead me down and now I can’t find the passage he used. Which is bad enough, but if I spend too much more time down here, I’ll turn mouldy. All this damp might work for you, Rainstorm, but we Skystorms prefer a breeze and lightning with our wet weather.”
“Follow m-me,” Mastekh invited, trying not to laugh at the miserable look on Reglian’s face, or the limp way his black robe hung about him. He was used to seeing the Thunderwing as the most confident person in any room, but right now he looked half-drowned and fully wretched. “It sh-should be almost l-l-lunch time.”
“If you can take me to the dining room, Puddle, I’ll be forever in your debt,” Reglian promised, breathing a sigh of relief when they stepped into the smaller but infinitely drier tunnel.
“I’ll g-go one b-b-better,” Mastekh offered. “We’re h-heading for the k-kitchens.”
The air of the tunnel hummed with the rumble of Reglian’s amusement. “Sister Storm, Puddle, if Estenarven wasn’t already courting you, I’d be tempted to fall for you myself. Lead on, dear Rainstorm. Lead on to the kitchens and our salvation.”
A warm blush spread through Mastekh and he was grateful for the dark tunnel as he touched a hand to the shells in his pocket and smiled. Because Estenarven was already courting him and there was no dragon in the Overworld who Mastekh wanted more.
And soon Estenarven would know it too. But rather than feel nervous about the evening ahead, Mastekh was excited. A rare feeling for him and one he intended to enjoy to its fullest.
The last three gifts were a challenge still looming in his future, but Mastekh would enjoy the fourth first.
“C-c-come on,” he urged Reglian, picking up his pace as the light and warmth of the kitchen grew up ahead. “N-nearly there n-now.”
“Good,” Reglian huffed. “I’m starving.”
So was Mastekh, but not for food. It hadn’t even been half a day since he’d last seen Estenarven, but he was missing him already. Time to track him down again. Mastekh couldn’t wait.
Excitement fizzed and bubbled through his veins as he greeted his draco friends, returned the washed crockery and left the hungry Reglian in their capable hands. Then, with murmurs of thanks and luck, he allowed the servants to pile him high with food and treats, and left the kitchens to return to Elder Blazeborn’s suite.
~ Next Chapter ~
Take care, my lovelies.