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.
I think it’s time for a little magic.
THE ROCK WELCOMED Estenarven instantly, absorbing his power and presence and wrapping around him. It had been a long time since a Stoneheart last walked these halls and the mountain had missed the power that had shaped it. Before he could get too lost in the welcome, allowing him mind to drift apart and wander the strata for days, Estenarven clung to the reason why he was there.
Mastekh. He had to find Mastekh.
The walls and floors of Highstrike were eager to help him, showing flashes of contact where the Rainstorm had passed. It was hard to miss him, in fact, since his trail was marked by water and upset.
Estenarven’s heart clenched and he drew himself back from the rocks. He had to find him. He had to apologise.
“Thank you,” he whispered to the walls, allowed himself one final stroke with his palm and power, then set off down the stairs as fast as his feet would carry him.
Because although part of him had wondered if Mastekh would go up, break out onto the roof of the tower and take to the skies in his dragon shape, merging instantly with the thunderous rainstorm crashing above, deep inside Estenarven had known Mastekh would go down. Down to the kitchens, down where he felt safest, where the draco servants welcomed him without mockery or judgement. Down to the one place where Estenarven would always be a stranger and Mastekh was at home.
So Estenarven went down to the kitchens – but Mastekh wasn’t there. And the dracos weren’t talking to him. They scurried out of his way, keeping their heads down and eyes averted. Which was normal behaviour for dracos in many ways – millennia of subservience to dragons having taken their toll – but Estenarven had always treated dracos well and, while they might still struggle to meet his eye, they usually spared him a smile and were eager to provide assistance.
Not today. Today they avoided him. Which more than anything proved that Mastekh had been here, even if he wasn’t here any longer.
Frowning, Estenarven made his way through the vast complex of kitchens and larders, just in case his Puddle was hiding somewhere and Estenarven had simply missed him. No, the Rainstorm was nowhere in sight and the dracos were getting restless as he prowled amongst them. Not wanting to risk his standing any further with the people responsible for feeding him during his stay, Estenarven paused inside one of the deserted pantries and took a moment to reconnect with the stone.
Once again, the faintest brush of his power was welcomed with the same thirst as rain on desert soil, and Estenarven felt his magic expanding with relief at the contact with his own kind. It was a seductive feeling, one that urged him to release his unnecessary hold on the flimsy anchors of the physical world, to surrender wholly to his magic and step into the bones of the mountain. To become the mountain.
A crash in the kitchens and the slap of burning liquid on the floor snapped Estenarven back from his trance. Water on stone. It was a timely reminder and he brushed his fingers against the wall again, ignoring the temptations calling out to him and searching only for Mastekh, for the only water on stone that mattered to him.
A trail, faint and fading, but still present as it led through the kitchens to a narrow, shadowy passageway beyond. Unexpected, but not far. Estenarven had mistakenly allowed his hopes to get ahead of himself earlier, assuming when Mastekh had run to the kitchens they would be his final destination. He’d been wrong, and it reminded him that he didn’t actually know what Mastekh did with all the time he spent away from Elder Blazeborn’s suite. Estenarven had always assumed Mastekh spent it all in the kitchens, but clearly he’d been wrong. Perhaps he didn’t know Mastekh as well as he thought.
The depressing thought pulled Estenarven even further away from the mountain’s lure and his hand slid away from the wall with only a rasp of skin over stone.
Heart heavier than it had been in years, Estenarven crept out of the pantry and edged his way through the kitchens, searching for the shadowy passage. Thankfully, most of the dracos were too busy cleaning up the mess of a dropped broth pot to pay attention to him. No one stopped him when he slipped into the shadows and crouched down to make his way through the narrow passage.
The darkness held an unexpected chill and Estenarven grimaced as the walls closed in tight around his shoulders. He was a Boulderforce so it wasn’t the rocks that bothered him, but he was big and he liked room to be able to move or stand up without risking cracking his head open. Still, at least his magic warned him when invisible threats loomed too close, so he could duck or crouch or hunch over to avoid injury. Not all dragons would be so lucky.
As he walked through the cramped space, Estenarven’s hands brushed against the rough rock walls, gifting him glimpses of Mastekh’s presence. His Puddle had definitely passed this way, dripping and at speed, yet the further Estenarven walked, the wetter the ground became.
Until everything ahead of him turned damp and Mastekh’s trail was lost.
Raising his head, Estenarven had been concentrating so hard on following the trail through the stone that he hadn’t realised several important things. Firstly, light had sprung up around him from glow globes embedded in the walls. Second, those same walls had opened out into a vast cavern that, thirdly, contained an enormous, gushing waterfall that looked powerful enough to blast the scales off a Stoneskin’s hide. And, fourthly, the ground before him was no longer bare stone – it was covered in a carpet of plush, sodden moss.
If Mastekh had passed this way, Estenarven no longer had any way of knowing.
Cursing, he looked up and noticed the fifth and most important fact that he had missed.
Elder Goryal Starshine was standing alongside the waterfall, studying him with their inscrutable, rainbow eyes.
“It’s about time you got here,” Goryal said, the chiming sound of their voice somehow cutting through the roar of the falls and managing to sound disapproving.
Estenarven stepped onto the carpet of moss, feet flexing at the softness. “Have you seen Mastekh?” he asked, knowing he sounded desperate and not caring. There was no hiding anything from Goryal anyway – the Starshine was too old and wise and powerful not to know everything. “Did he pass this way?”
“He did.” Goryal tilted their head, studying Estenarven slowly from head to toe. “He was upset.”
Estenarven’s fists clenched, angry at himself as much as anyone for the way things had unfolded. He knew how sensitive Mastekh was. If he’d been paying more attention to what Jesral was saying, Estenarven could have corrected her and sent her away sooner, or stopped her before she even started. Then Mastekh would never had had a chance to feel doubt or get upset over some foolish gossipy nonsense. But he’d been distracted. More worried about what Mastekh would think of his fourth gift to realise he might lose the chance to give it at all.
“I know. I need to find him. I… I need to…” Estenarven didn’t even know what he needed to do. Apologise, yes, even though he couldn’t be entirely blamed for what other dragons were thinking. But he’d apologise anyway, especially if it brought Mastekh back to him. Sibling Stone, he’d stand under that brutal waterfall and let it scour off his scales if it would ease Mastekh’s pain. If only he could find his Rainstorm and hold him again and tell him everything was all right. Estenarven didn’t care what the gossips said about him. Didn’t care what anyone else thought. Just as long as Mastekh wanted him.
“Please,” he said, swallowing around the tightness building in his throat and constricting his chest. “Elder, please, tell me where he went.”
Goryal tilted their head the other way and sighed. “Mastekh is a Flowflight, Estenarven. Where do you think he went?”
Frowning, Estenarven looked around the cavern, searching for another exit. He found none. Until he looked at Goryal again and realised the Starshine wasn’t just standing beside the waterfall, they were on the edge of a deep, dark pool.
Water. The heart of a Flowflight. The heart of Mastekh. And the one thing that could truly destroy Estenarven, if given enough time.
Swallowing hard, he stepped across the springy moss until he stood by the edge of the pool. Bubbles and ripples ran across the surface, hiding anything and everything that lay beneath. Wriggling his toes, Estenarven managed to make contact with a tiny patch of stone and pulsed his power. Nothing. Wherever Mastekh was at this moment, no part of him was touching any stone within this mountain or the tower built above it.
He was down there, in the dark and the cold. In the water.
“Well.” Estenarven swallowed again and, not taking his eyes from the bubbling surface, gave a slow nod. “My thanks, elder.”
“Your heart is strong and true, Estenarven,” Goryal replied softly.
He snorted, wishing the same could be said about his swimming skills.
Since it couldn’t, and before he could lose his nerve, Estenarven took a deep breath, stepped into the cold, dark pool —
And dropped like a Stoneheart.
More next week.
Take care, my lovelies!