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.
Time to talk…
ESTENARVEN WAS WARM and dry, snuggled down on something soft. The ground rose and fell ever so gently beneath him, making him think he was back on the Skylark. Back in Elder Blazeborn’s cabin with Mastekh sleeping tantalisingly close, yet still out of reach. Estenarven could smell him, even in sleep, the mossy, damp, water lily scent of him somehow stronger than ever.
Not wanting to get up yet, even though he knew he probably should, Estenarven refused to open his eyes and instead snuggled deeper into his bedding. Something cool was pressed against his cheek, a slightly abrasive hardness that didn’t seem to fit with everything else. Frowning in his doze, Estenarven flexed his fingers and pressed against the object he was clinging to.
Hard, sharp, then smooth and cool. He stroked his palm over the smoothness and grunted as his world turned over and he was unceremoniously dumped onto a bed of soggy moss.
“Neurgh?” he said, as eloquent as ever, raising his head from the moss and spitting out his inadvertent mouthful. It might be soft to land on, but Sibling Stone, he definitely did not want to eat the stuff.
Making more incoherent noises, he shoved up on his hands and knees and spat uselessly for a few moments, trying to remove the unwanted taste of pondweed and wet feet from his mouth. Realising it was a fruitless endeavour, he sat back on his heels and scrubbed his arm across his mouth, looking up and up at the Rainstorm sitting demurely beside him, wings half mantled, head curiously tilted to one side, absently rubbing the smooth, sensitive webbing of one front foot with the other.
And it all came rushing back. There was no Skylark, no soft, gentle sleep in a cabin with Mastekh close, but not quite close enough. Not here, not now.
Instead there had been gossip and hurt feelings and a chase through the tower. Then water and… Estenarven didn’t remember much after that.
A quick glance around told him that they were still in the cavern beside the gushing waterfall, but not only was Estenarven no longer in the water, he wasn’t even wet, except where he’d recently landed in a pile of soggy moss.
“Mastekh?” he said tentatively, uncertain where they stood now that he’d almost drowned himself and had apparently needed to be rescued. He wished his fellow aide would shed his scales and shrink down to human size. Mastekh might not have been very big for a dragon, but he currently topped Estenarven’s kneeling height many times over and Estenarven wasn’t used to feeling small. He didn’t like it.
Great, shimmering green eyes blinked down at him as the crest on top of Mastekh’s head rose, the side fins where his ears would be fanning out. Neck flexing to full height, the Rainstorm tilted his chin and looked down his long, narrow snout.
Unsure what to expect, Estenarven swallowed hard and dredged up his most charming smile. It was a bit wobbly, but he knew it was an expression Mastekh could rarely resist. Estenarven counted it amongst his greatest assets – and his most effective weapons.
Mastekh growled – he actually growled, like a feral, uncivilised wyvern – and dropped his head until his soggy, grey-blue snout was pressed right against Estenarven’s chest.
Startled, Estenarven leant backwards, knees protesting the strain, eyes wide, charming smile gone. “Mastekh?” he squeaked.
“Why?” The angry Rainstorm beast snarled, giving him a hard nudge in the chest that sent him toppling onto his back. “Why d-did you d-d-do it?” The question bubbled up as if from the depths, words popping like angry bubbles.
Holding up his hands in a defenceless plea, Estenarven shook his head. “I had to find you.”
Growling, Mastekh withdrew his head and stomped angrily away. Whether by accident or design, his long tail flicked around and smacked Estenarven across the face. Cursing in surprise, he curled away from the soggy limb and rolled over on the moss.
When he sat up he found a distinctly human-shaped Mastekh glaring down at him, hands on hips, scowl firmly on his face. Probably not an accident then. Estenarven winced, rubbing his tingling cheek and hunching his shoulders. He might be more than a head taller in this form, but sitting at Mastekh’s feet, he felt small and meek and exceedingly sorry.
“You f-fool,” Mastekh snarled, dropping to his knees in the moss the better to thump Estenarven on the chest with his fists.
He emitted a feeble “Ow,” and rubbed the spot, even though it didn’t really hurt. Mastekh wouldn’t hurt him, not even when he was so angry his face had turned entirely grey.
Mastekh thumped him again for good measure. “What were you th-th-thinking? You’re a B-Boulderforce. You can’t s-s-swim!”
Hearing the real distress in his Rainstorm’s voice and seeing the way he was shaking, Estenarven gave into his instincts and wrapped his arms around Mastekh. Though the Rainstorm wriggled and continued to swat at him, he wasn’t really trying to escape.
He was angry. He’d been frightened. But he was here and he was Estenarven’s to comfort and contain. Even if Estenarven was to blame for all of it.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, burying his face against Mastekh’s neck and breathing in the cool, clean scent of him. “I’m so sorry, Puddle.”
“Never d-d-do that a-g-gain,” Mastekh growled, pummelling him on the back for good measure. Then he sagged limply in Estenarven’s grip and let out a sob. “I thought I’d l-l-lost you. Stupid St-Stoneheart.”
“Never,” Estenarven vowed, squeezing Mastekh until finally, thankfully, his arms gripped him back as equally hard in return. “You could never lose me. Don’t you understand yet, Puddle? I’m yours. Eternally and entirely yours.”
Shaking, Mastekh buried his head against Estenarven’s chest and didn’t answer. So Estenarven held him, rocking slowly from side to side, waiting for the storm to pass.
He knew it would be worth it. It would always be worth it, especially if the chance to hold Mastekh was his prize.
After a seemingly endless moment, Mastekh regained control of himself and pushed free of Estenarven’s grip. Swiping at the moisture on his face, the Rainstorm folded his arms across his chest and shuffled out of arm’s reach on his knees. Then he glared.
“What were you th-thinking?” he demanded again, the feral growl from earlier back in his voice.
A light chill chased up Estenarven’s spine and he tried not to reveal just how attractive he found that sound. It probably wasn’t appropriate to be attracted to such a tone at such a moment, and he doubted Mastekh would appreciate the knowledge when he was trying to be serious. Still, Estenarven filed the thought away for later exploration and summoned up another smile. This one was a little bit sad and rather wistful.
“You were upset. I wanted to find you.”
“You couldn’t h-have waited until d-dinner?” Mastekh sniffed.
Estenarven snorted. “Would you have shown up for it? The way you fled, I feared I might never see you again.”
Mastekh looked away, not denying anything. Instead he shifted his hands back to his hips and brought back the glare. “So you t-tried to d-d-drown yourself?”
“Got your attention, didn’t it?” Estenarven replied teasingly, unable to help flirting even at a moment like that.
Mastekh’s arms dropped by his sides as his mouth formed a hard, narrow line His jaw worked noiselessly for a long moment, then his fists clenched and he growled.
Estenarven didn’t even try and hide his reaction this time. His smile turned lazy, his eyes half closed and he allowed his shiver to show.
“St-stop it!” Mastekh snapped. “This is s-s-serious!”
“So is this.” Estenarven waved a hand up and down himself and shivered again. “I like you as you always are, Puddle, but I can’t deny this angry, growly Mastekh is a delicious surprise. Who knew you could be so… forceful?”
Snarling, Mastekh shoved Estenarven into the moss again.
Except this time Estenarven was prepared for the move and, since Mastekh had helpfully shrunk to a smaller, more manageable size, it took very little effort to grab his upper arms and drag him along for the fall. Landing on his back, Mastekh flopped gracelessly over his chest, Estenarven smiled smugly.
“L-l-let me go,” Mastekh growled, putting them nose to nose after a few moments of useless tugging failed to free him from Estenarven’s grip.
Having no intention of doing anything so foolish, Estenarven curled a leg around one of Mastekh’s and easily flipped them over. Grinning with triumph, he settled his heavier weight on top of the Rainstorm and lowered his nose to brush teasingly against Mastekh’s.
“Make me,” he challenged softly.
Mastekh snapped his teeth, clearly in no mood to kiss and make up. Claws pricked warningly against Estenarven’s sides and Mastekh arched his back, trying to throw the other dragon off him.
Trying not to take too much pleasure in his escape attempts, Estenarven held very still, knowing his greater Stoneheart mass would do most of the work for him. Besides, Mastekh clearly had a lot of anger and frustration to work out, so he let him snap and snarl and wriggle fruitlessly for as long as he wished. If Mastekh truly wanted to get away, he could use those claws and teeth and really fight – Estenarven wouldn’t fight back. Or he could shift.
The fact that he did neither gave Estenarven hope.
As did the way Mastekh kept arching against him. The move was useless in the general escape scheme of things, but when it came to the private fight between the two of them… Estenarven couldn’t deny that each full body caress was very effective.
His Rainstorm might not be quite ready to kiss and make up just yet, but he also wasn’t above a little teasing.
“You’re b-b-better off without m-me,” Mastekh finally grumbled, once he’d run out of energy and stopped fighting. Now he lay still and quiescent beneath Estenarven, head turned stubbornly away.
“If you truly think that,” Estenarven murmured, resting his forearms alongside Mastekh’s head and encouraging him to face him once more, “you should have let me drown.”
Green eyes clashed with his, wide and horrified. “I could n-n-never let you d-drown!”
Stroking the back of his fingers against Mastekh’s cool, grey-tinged cheek, he smiled sadly. “Not in water, but without you, Puddle, I’ll drown anyway.”
His Rainstorm frowned at him. “N-nonsense.”
Estenarven shook his head. “Now that I’ve had a taste of you, beloved, I don’t want to live without you.”
Rolling his eyes, Mastekh began to struggle again, bringing his surprisingly sharp elbows into play. Cursing, Estenarven took evasive action and moved off him, but remained within easy tackling distance in case his Rainstorm decided to flee again.
“You’d th-thrive without me. I’m no g-g-good for you,” Mastekh insisted, getting to his feet.
“I might survive,” Estenarven corrected, standing up and ducking his head to try and catch Mastekh’s eye again as he looked aside once more. “But it wouldn’t be living, it would just be existing. I love you, Mastekh.”
Watery green eyes stared into his, faintly pleading. “You c-c-can’t.”
Estenarven’s mouth twisted in a wry half-smile. “Haven’t you learnt better than to tell a Boulderforce what to do? We’re stone stubborn -”
“And twice as f-f-foolish,” Mastekh agreed, with a soggy little chuckle. “You could h-have anyone. Jesral s-said -”
“Forget Jessie. Forget everyone. I don’t want anyone, Mastekh, I want you. You’re all that matters. Who cares what anyone else thinks?”
“I c-care.” Mastekh folded his arms across his chest again. It seemed Estenarven wasn’t the only stone stubborn one around here.
“Why?” he asked.
For such a small word, Mastekh gave it a lot of thought, until he finally offered up a sad smile of his own. “I won’t b-b-bring you d-down.”
“You won’t,” Estenarven agreed.
“They’re l-laughing at us,” Mastekh’s voice dropped to an ashamed whisper. “At you. I’m u-used to it. You sh-shouldn’t be.”
Now Estenarven was the one getting angry. “Neither should you. No one should be laughing at you, Puddle. I dare them to do it in my presence.”
Mastekh smiled that sad, defeated smile again. “See. I b-b-bring you down.”
Estenarven frowned at him. “Even if I wasn’t in love with you, I’d still set people straight. No one should be laughed at for being who they are. It’s a horrible way to be.”
A soft snort answered that, making Estenarven’s frown deepen. He hated it when his Puddle was sceptical. Mastekh should never be that way. It made Estenarven wonder about what it was like growing up in the Flowflight Clan, though he had a feeling he wouldn’t like to find out.
Moving slowly, he caught one of Mastekh’s hands and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I’m not afraid of gossip.”
“You sh-should be,” came the stubborn reply. “It’s b-better if no one kn-knows about us.”
“The Riders know,” Estenarven pointed out. “You’re the one that told them. And the dracos – they’ve been helping you all along.”
Mastekh gave a sharp shake of his head. “That’s d-different. They’re d-different. Humans and s-s-servants are not d-dragons. They don’t m-matter.”
Surprised to hear such a sentiment from Mastekh, Estenarven dropped his hand. “They matter to me,” he said sharply. “I thought they mattered to you too. They’re our friends. The dracos love you.”
“You’re just p-proving my p-point.” Mastekh hugged himself and sighed. “A f-friend to humans and d-dracos isn’t m-much of a d-dragon. You deserve b-b-better.”
As he turned to leave, Estenarven jumped forward and seized him by the shoulders. He gave him a firm shake. “Now who’s talking nonsense,” he growled. “If you don’t want me, Puddle, just say it. Stop making up stupid excuses. If any opinions don’t matter, it’s those of the dragons who will gossip and laugh at us for not meeting their ridiculous standards. I like our friends, and yes, I care what those friends think of us, but no one else. I love you. Don’t tell me what I do and don’t deserve when all I want is you.”
He took a deep breath before continuing: “But if you’ve changed your mind, if this courtship isn’t what you want anymore, tell me. Send me away. I’ll go. I won’t fuss or fight. But only if I hear the words. Tell me you don’t want me. Tell me to leave.”
Wide green eyes stared at him in the globe light, out of a face that had gone deathly pale. Mastekh’s hands shifted until he gripped both of Estenarven’s wrists where he held his shoulders. The Rainstorm’s grip tightened, as if he needed the support of something sturdy. He licked his lips.
Eyes skittering away from Estenarven’s, Mastekh huffed out a hard breath. “I…” he began, swallowed and closed his eyes. “I d-d-d-” He coughed and tried again. “I d-d-don… I w-w-w-want you to l-l-l-l-…”
Estenarven allowed him to go on like this for a little while longer, each stutter becoming more pronounced, each lie becoming more difficult to tell. The bubbles in Mastekh’s voice popped all the words, until, finally, Estenarven moved his hands from the Rainstorm’s shoulders to his cheeks. Turning his face towards him, he bent his head until their forehead pressed gently together.
“Puddle,” he murmured, cutting through the stuttering words. “Stop lying to me.”
“I’m not l-l-lying!” Mastekh was indignant. “I d-d-d-”
“No, you’re not lying,” Estenarven agreed. “You’re a terrible liar. You can’t even get the words out.”
“I c-can,” he protested. “And I w-w-want you to l-l-l-”
Estenarven kissed him, fierce and strong, hauling Mastekh in close until all the lies and hurt were squeezed out between them, leaving nothing but passion and the feelings that neither could deny.
Only when Mastekh’s hands were clutching him hard enough around the neck to near-choke him, and one of the Rainstorm’s legs had somehow wrapped itself around his waist, did Estenarven relent and soften their kiss.
Face flaming green, Mastekh untangled himself and stumbled away a few paces, hands pressed against his mouth. “This changes n-n-nothing,” he mumbled through his fingers.
Estenarven grinned. “Of course not, love.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the little wooden figure, turned Mastekh’s hand over and placed it firmly in his palm. “We’re exactly where we were this morning. Happy fourth gift, Puddle. Thank you for saving my life for mine.”
Stealing another kiss from the spluttering Rainstorm’s mouth, he bid a hasty retreat before Mastekh gave into his incoherent frustration and decided a drowned Boulderforce wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Whistling cheerfully, Estenarven sauntered back through the tunnel – as well as one could saunter when bent in half and squeezing through gaps not designed for one’s impressive stature anyway – winked at the nearest dracos as he left the kitchens and jogged towards the dining hall.
Now would probably be an excellent time to leave Mastekh alone for a bit. In the meantime, there was a certain gossiping young Lightstorm he needed to have a word with, and if there were a few Rift Riders around to help him prove a few points, all the better.
More next week.
Take care, my lovelies!