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 chat with Jesral about that gossip.
AFTER FAILING TO find anyone he knew particularly well in the dining hall, Estenarven traipsed back up into the guest tower. Creeping past Elder Blazeborn’s suite, in case Mastekh was inside and heard him passing, he climbed the next set of stairs until he reached Elder Cloudflight’s rooms.
“Come to join the party?” Lieutenant Anhardyne asked, standing outside the door with Lieutenant Nera by her side.
Estenarven arched his eyebrows, surprised to find them together. Not that it was unusual, since the women were friends, but the room beyond the door sounded raucous and a little bit wild, which didn’t seem like Nera’s kind of place.
“Where’s Vish?” he asked instead of answering.
Anhardyne heaved a big sigh. “With Gharrik somewhere in the depths of this place, tracking down another party and evicting our rambunctious Riders.”
“Why isn’t he here with you?” he couldn’t help asking, since Nera and Gharrik were a far more sensible pair. He was a little surprised that Anhardyne and Vish weren’t the ones being tracked down themselves. Which rather answered his own question, he realised, seeing Nera’s wry smile.
“Apparently we can’t be trusted together on a task like this,” Anhardyne grumbled, arms folded across her chest. “Captain Wellswen split us up.”
“To save her the trouble of tracking you down later?” Estenarven asked, making Nera chuckle.
“Very funny.” Anhardyne rolled her eyes and knocked on the door. “Enough about us. What are you doing here? Where’s Mastekh?”
It was Estenarven’s turn to fold his arms defensively across his chest. “I think we just had our first fight,” he admitted, torn between sadness and a bit of pride. If they cared enough to fight, it must mean their relationship was progressing – or so he hoped.
Nera gave him a sympathetic pat on the arm. “Nothing too serious, I hope.”
“I hope the opposite,” Anhardyne teased, waggling her eyebrows. “The bigger the row, the better the making up. Are you here to make him jealous?”
“No!” Estenarven protested, while Nera smacked her friend on the arm with a reproving, “Hardy, behave.”
Grinning, Anhardyne opened the door to the suite – since no one was coming to answer it – and threw a wink over her shoulder. “Have fun making up, Boulderboy. Mastekh is in for a real treat.” Wiggling her fingers in a wave, she sauntered into the crowd of entwined Riders and dragons.
Nera stepped across the threshold and stopped, eyes wide as she looked around.
Estenarven took in the scene for himself, chuckling at the lack of inhibitions currently on display. Squeezing the small human’s shoulder reassuringly, he shoved her forwards. “Best of luck separating this lot. I’m off to talk with Jesral.”
Giving him a distracted nod, Nera rolled up her sleeves and waded after Anhardyne, leaving Estenarven to track down his quarry alone. He found Jesral on the far side of the suite, talking quietly with a Tempestfury, their heads bent close together.
“All right, everyone, fun’s over. Time to clear out. Riders, duty calls. Let’s go!” Anhardyne had climbed onto a table and was clapping her hands sharply for attention.
When it didn’t seem to have much effect, Nera jumped up beside her. “Captain’s orders, everyone.”
There was a loud, collective groan of defeat and, amidst much grumbling and complaining, the room began to empty. Estenarven fought against the tide until he loomed over where Jesral and her companion sat. Though both dragons were fully clothed and not even touching, there was something undeniably intimate about the way they looked at each other, oblivious to the world around them.
Relishing a chance for a bit of payback, Estenarven cleared his throat loudly. When that didn’t work, he snapped his fingers. “A word, Jesral.”
The Tempestfury blinked first, drew back and glanced up at Estenarven. With his face set in its most blank and looming Boulderforce expression, the pale-skinned dragon seemed to pale even further.
“Oh,” she squeaked, looking around at the suddenly empty room and deciding to follow the crowd. “Excuse me.”
Within moments, he and Jesral were alone.
Frowning at the ruins of her party, the Lightstorm slumped back on the couch and glared up at him. “You certainly know how to clear a room.”
“I learnt all my best tricks from you, Jess.” Under normal circumstances he might have delivered the words with a smile or a tease before dropping down to sit beside her. But he wasn’t feeling particularly friendly right then, so he remained on his feet, arms folded over his chest.
“Must you loom so?” she protested, rubbing her neck where she was craning back in order to see his face. “Urgh, males.”
When this elicited absolutely no response, she sighed and climbed onto the settee in order to sit on the back. “I take it you tracked down your watery Rainstorm and both survived the experience.”
Estenarven arched an eyebrow.
Jesral fidgeted. “This strong silent treatment doesn’t work on me, you know.” She squirmed again, tapping her claws against each other. “You’re no good at it.” Nevertheless, he said nothing. Eventually she dropped her head back and sighed loudly. “All right! I apologise. There, happy now?”
“Not in the least,” he replied. “Stop behaving like a wingling, Jesral, and look at me.”
Rolling her eyes, she did as ordered, propping her elbows on her knees and resting her chin in her hands. “Oh, do stop pouting, Esten. No harm was done. I am sorry he overheard us, but truly, you can’t blame me. All I did was repeat what I heard. It is a ridiculous rumour, even more so if it’s true. Mastekh is far too sensitive. Whatever are you thinking?”
Estenarven ground his teeth together, struggling to control his temper. He never lost his temper; he rarely got angry. He’d thought he wasn’t the type. Turned out he just needed something to care about enough in order to get riled up.
“Harm was done, Jessie. That gossip was pure spite. There’s nothing so unusual about the pair of us. Not that it’s anyone else’s business, but why shouldn’t I court him? We’re both dragons and of age. Stonehearts and Flowflights have mixed before. Yes, he is sensitive, but can you blame him after the way most folk treat him?”
“But he’s so watery!” Jesral whined. “If he didn’t make such a fuss over things, he wouldn’t be half as interesting. Even then it’s only a mild interest at best. He’s so dull, Esten, duller even than dishwater. What in the Overworld can you possibly find in him to attract you?”
He narrowed his eyes and studied her from head to toe. “Plenty. Such as goodness and kindness and friendship, good company and compassion.”
She pulled a face. “By the Family, you’ve changed.”
“As have you,” he agreed. “And not for the better.”
“Nor you.” She wrinkled her nose. “You used to be fun.”
“You used to be decent,” he retorted. “Now you’re just spiteful.”
Her laugh was hard and entirely without humour. “Decent? That feels more like an insult than a compliment. Is any dragon truly decent? Any that hope to survive, that is. You understood that once, Esten. You were like me.”
“I was never like you,” he protested, thinking back on his time at Teirenlai before he met Mastekh, before he was assigned to Elder Blazeborn. He had been friends with Jesral and plenty of others then, had run with a fast crowd. They’d enjoyed late nights and gossip and games of teasing and seduction. Yet there had been some goodness in all of them. Jesral had known how to be kind. She would never have laughed at Mastekh then.
Smirking, she stood on the couch, her face level with Estenarven’s as she leant forward and rested her hands on his shoulders. “You’re a dragon,” she told him softly. “You will always be like me. Deep down, underneath it all, you’re a survivor, same as me. We’ll do whatever it takes when times get tough to ensure we make it. Every dragon for themselves, isn’t that how the saying goes? Only the strong survive. Where will your precious little Rainstorm be then?”
“Right beside me,” Estenarven replied, holding her gaze firmly with his own. “Where he belongs. It takes more than one dragon to truly survive. You won’t get far alone.”
The tension between them snapped as Jesral released a peel of laughter, lightning flashing beyond the narrow windows. “How the mighty have fallen,” she chortled, patting him none too gently on the cheek. “It’s to be like that from now on, is it? You have become two. I don’t know whether to admire Mastekh’s ingenuity in snagging you, or pity you for getting caught.”
“Envy us both for the gift we’ve uncovered,” Estenarven said, pulling her hands away from his face and shoulders, suddenly uncomfortable at having her claws so close to his throat. That was a trust he was no longer certain she deserved. “If you’re lucky, you’ll find it yourself one day, Jess.”
Her smile was almost a sneer. “Save me from the smug contentment of newly mated pairs.”
“I’ll do so and gladly, if you’ll return the favour of keeping spiteful gossip to yourself.”
She wrinkled her nose and sat on the back of the settee again with a put-upon sigh. “Very well. Rumours are no fun when they’re true anyway. It takes all the entertainment out of things.”
Suppressing a relieved sigh, Estenarven stepped back. “Thanks, Jessie.”
She tilted her head and stared at him, her expression one of confusion. “Are you truly serious about him, Esten?”
“I gave him his fourth gift today.”
“Oh.” She blinked and stared down at where her bare feet pressed against the cushions. “I never thought you’d… That you were more like… Hm. Well, I wish you luck with the other three. They say they’re the hardest to find.”
“As they should be.” Turning, he sauntered back across the suite. “Maybe one day you’ll find that out for yourself.”
He could practically hear her rolling her eyes. “You said you’d spare me!”
“And I will.” Reaching the door, he turned towards her again. “But think about it, Jessie. I’d hate to lose every last part of that fun, playful dragon I used to know.”
She snorted and leapt off the settee. “I’m not sure you ever truly knew her, Esten. I’m not sure she even truly existed. Now, if you don’t mind, would you stop hogging the doorway? Since someone wrecked my party and drove away my newest friend, I find myself in need of company again. Move aside, do, and let me go in search of it.”
“Try not to corrupt too many Tempestfurys while you’re at it,” Estenarven chuckled, stepping into the empty hallway.
“Ha! They’re the ones corrupting me. You know yourself how sweet and innocent I am.”
“I do indeed. That’s why I’m worried about them.”
Chuckling, she pulled the door shut with a firm click and turned the key in the lock. She touched him on the arm when he turned to leave. “Don’t let him change you too much, eh, Esten?”
“He makes me a better dragon, Jess. I can’t fight against that. I don’t even want to,” he said placidly, no longer angry since she seemed to have accepted that he truly was serious about Mastekh.
She bit her lip, expression pensive. “I didn’t really hurt him, did I?”
“A little,” he replied, looking down at her with a sigh. “But only a little. And you’re right. He is too sensitive.”
“Then maybe this courtship will make him a better dragon too.” She smiled with a hint of that old sweetness she used to have. “You can change each other as you go along.”
“I think we all change each other in life, all the people we meet and know,” he mused, tucking her arm through his and escorting her towards the stairs. “Lovers, friends, enemies and acquaintances. Life is experience and we’re always learning.”
Jesral wrinkled her nose and pulled free. “A philosopher, Esten, you? Family help us, I’m beginning to feel sorry for Mastekh. Much more of this and you’ll be duller than dirt.”
“I’m a Boulderforce, Jessie. I’m made of dirt.”
“Which explains so very much about you and this strange new turn. And on that note, old friend, I’m off.” Waving a dismissive hand, she strode ahead of him. “Go paddle with your Puddle and make silly faces at each other where sensible folk won’t be nauseated by it. I have a party to find and new friends to make. If I hear any good gossip, rest assured I shan’t bother you with it.”
“Good!” he called, as she moved out of sight down the stairs.
Her merry laughter floated up in answer and he sighed, following her down, but only one flight. He had no interest in parties and new friends, not right now, not anymore. He had a far more interesting evening planned. It might have been interrupted for a time, but what was life without a few hiccups?
Smiling, he reached Elder Blazeborn’s suite and opened the door.
“Estenarven and Mastekh, nesting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” A giggle drifted along the hallway.
“Good night, Jessie!” he shouted, stepping inside and slamming the door firmly behind him.
More next Wednesday.
Take care, my lovelies!