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.
At last, everything is going so well…
DESPITE CARRYING A substantial rock, large enough to fill both hands, Estenarven felt light and merry as he entered Elder Blazeborn’s suite later that afternoon, while yet another storm raged around the tower.
“Ah, there you are.” Khennik looked up from the desk in the main room just as lightning flashed through the narrow windows, glinting off the gold veins in the quartz Estenarven was holding. The elder eyed the object admiringly. “Sixth gift?”
Not liking the way the Blazeborn was staring at the quartz, well aware of the reputation Sunlord dragons had when it came to shiny precious things – along with delicious foods, sumptuous furnishings, grand artwork, swathes of territory and, well, everything, since Sunlords were the most acquisitive of Clans – Estenarven tucked the rock against his chest and wrapped his arms around it, hiding most of it from sight.
“Something precious,” he explained, entirely unnecessarily.
The corner of Elder Blazeborn’s mouth curled ever so slightly upwards. “Fret not, Estenarven. I won’t steal your gift. There are some Sunlords who cannot control their possessive urges. Luckily for you, I am not one of them.”
Even so, Estenarven had prepared for a moment such as this and reached into his pocket. While he’d been searching for the perfect piece of quartz, one with a vein of gold that looked like a river, he’d happened upon a several smaller chunks that might not have been what he’d sought for Mastekh but had still caught his eye. One of which was almost entirely gold with only a few glints of quartz.
He placed it carefully on the table before Khennik. “Thank you, elder.”
The Blazeborn eyed the palm-sized stone warily. “For what?”
His obvious suspicion made Estenarven smile, since he’d intended the rock as a bribe to convince the elder to let him give the bigger piece to Mastekh uncontested. Apparently he needn’t have bothered, which made him perversely all the more eager to give Khennik something.
“For allowing my courtship of Mastekh to continue. For not interfering. For being reasonable. For not trying to take this,” he nodded at the stone now tucked into the crook of his arm, “from me. For keeping Mastekh safe at Teirenlai. For not refusing Goryal when he insisted I should be assigned to you as punishment. For not getting angry when Mastekh drops things, for not getting annoyed when we bicker, for not complaining when one – or both – of us wander off for most of the day.”
Khennik blinked in astonishment at the words that kept on coming, but now that Estenarven had started, he realised he had so much thank this dragon for. More than he’d ever realised.
“Thank you for saving Mastekh’s life at Boltspike, for keeping us with you. For being you.” Taking a deep breath and stopping before he got too carried away, Estenarven picked up the gold rock and leant across the table to place it directly in front of his elder. “Thank you.”
Khennik stared at the rock as if it was about to explode and blinked. Then cautiously, carefully, he picked it up. A flicker of lightning lit up the windows, making the flecks of quartz embedded in the gold glow. Elder Blazeborn turned the rock around in his hand, stroking his fingers over the uneven, ragged edges before his fist closed possessively about it.
When he looked up at Estenarven, his golden eyes glowed with power. “Thank you,” the elder said, and Estenarven sighed with relief that his gift had been accepted. That his thanks hadn’t been rejected. A sense of achievement and approval washed over him and he grinned, hugging Mastekh’s gift against his chest.
“Do you think he’ll like it?” he couldn’t help asking.
Busy admiring his gold stone again, Elder Blazeborn looked up and tipped his head. “I see no reason why he wouldn’t. It looks like a river captured within the stone. You give very thoughtful gifts, Estenarven.”
Unused to praise from his gruff elder, Estenarven had the unfamiliar sensation of flushing with pleasure. Thank the Family his skin was dark and wouldn’t betray him like Mastekh’s paler complexion.
He cleared his throat awkwardly. “I was hoping to give it to him tonight, if you have no need of us.”
“Ah.” Khennik finally put down his rock and laid his hands flat against the table. “Tonight. Has Mastekh given you your sixth gift yet?”
Any happy, light feelings began to fade at the question. “No,” Estenarven said slowly. “Not yet.”
Khennik’s frown turned into a grimace. “Then I regret to inform you that you cannot give this to him tonight. I sadly do have need of you both.”
Disappointment threatened to pull Estenarven’s shoulders down, but his elder had asked so little of them lately – rarely asked much of them even when he had every right to – that he forced himself not to show it. “Whatever you need, elder. We are both here to serve.”
At that moment the door handle rattled and Mastekh entered the suite as if summoned by their elder’s request. Estenarven’s eyes widened as he looked down at the gift he was still holding. Elder Blazeborn stood up swiftly and walked around the desk, taking Mastekh’s attention with him and away from Estenarven.
“Ah, Mastekh, I was just explaining to Estenarven that I shall be dining with Elder Gwyllen tonight and require both of you to attend. It would appear that our host has finally decided to take advantage of our presence and do business with the humans. As a delegate to the embassy, I am told my place is to sit there and ensure all are dealt with fairly.”
“Oh.” Mastekh murmured, sounding as if he too was struggling to hide his disappointment.
Having looked around the room and found nothing big enough to hide the quartz in or behind, Estenarven grimaced and stuffed the rock inside his robe. Though he tucked it between his arm and his body, there was no way he could disguise the fact he was holding something.
“Yes,” Elder Blazeborn continued, keeping Mastekh’s attention away from Estenarven as he began shuffling towards his bedroom door. “Tiresome, I know. The other elders will have their aides attending on them, but if you and Estenarven have other plans, I will likely be able to cope alone. Perhaps Reglian will assist me.”
Estenarven and Mastekh both bristled. As disappointing as it was not to be able to share his sixth gift just yet, there was no way on this Overworld that either he or Mastekh would allow their elder to dine with the other dragons and their aides alone, leaving him as the only one not being properly cared for. Nor would they permit another dragon to take their place.
The care of Elder Blazeborn was their task – no one else’s.
“We’ll be there,” Estenarven announced, forgetting for a moment that he was supposed to be sneaking away before Mastekh noticed the ill-concealed gift inside his robe.
Thankfully he was in a shadowy portion of the room, so even though Mastekh glanced at him, nodding firmly in agreement, he didn’t seem to notice anything amiss.
The corner of Elder Blazeborn’s mouth curled up ever-so-slightly. “So be it. The bell will sound soon – I trust neither of you need too long to prepare.” He cast Estenarven a brief but knowing glance, which Mastekh again failed to notice.
“Not too l-long at all, eld-d-der,” the Rainstorm bubbled, pressing a hand against his robe pocket and rushing into his room.
“Glad to hear it,” Khennik murmured, raising an eyebrow at where Estenarven still stood in the shadows. “I trust that all my hard work providing you with a distraction won’t go to waste now while you stand around daydreaming until Mastekh returns and catches you once again in the open with a badly hidden gift.”
“Ah. Yes, right.” Having been distracted by the sway of Mastekh’s robe as he hurried away, Estenarven cleared his throat and started moving again. “I’ll be back in a tail swish.”
Over the sound of Khennik’s amused snort, Estenarven raced into his room and bundled Mastekh’s gift beneath his pillow. Sighing with relief at finally having the precious thing out of sight, he emptied his pockets of his smaller treasures and turned to his wash his face in the basin. Straightening his robe, he peered into his mirror and smoothed a hand over his bald head.
A little more harried than usual, but otherwise he looked well enough.
“One more night won’t make any difference,” he told his reflection. After all, there was no set time limit between each gift. There could be days, moons, even years between one courting gift and the next if the dragons involved so required. The only time limit applied when it came to reciprocating one gift to another in order to complete the set. Which was why Elder Blazeborn had asked if Estenarven had received his sixth gift yet. If he had, he would only have a day to respond, else the courtship would be ended. However, since neither of them had yet given their sixth gift, there was no real harm in deferring their courtship for another day.
Much though he might wish otherwise.
“Pull yourself together,” he ordered, poking a finger at his reflected nose. “You’re a Boulderforce. You won’t crumble in the meantime.”
Even so, he would miss the long, leisurely evening chats that always started with them sitting side-by-side – Mastekh usually keeping a decorous hand’s span of space between them – and ended with a Rainstorm draped across his chest, sleepily listening to whatever nonsense Estenarven could come up with to keep them together a little while longer. He had hoped that tonight, after their sixth gifts had been exchanged, he might be able to coax Mastekh into staying with him all night. Sleeping, only sleeping, but sadly it seemed as though the elders had other plans.
A heavy bell tolled somewhere overhead and Estenarven relinquished his hopes with a sigh. He had work to do. He wasn’t here for his health, but because Elder Blazeborn needed him.
With that in mind, he rejoined the others and they set off through the halls of Highstrike for another tedious evening of trade talks and diplomatic dancing.
More next Wednesday!
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Proper release post and links to come when I’m not being (happily) invaded by family :)