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.
This chapter is entitled ARGH!, which is pretty much all you need to know…
18th Storm Month
AFTER SIX NIGHTS of dull diplomatic dinners, Estenarven was on the verge of tearing his hair out – if he had any. They’d been at Highstrike for more than half a moon cycle now, with likely just as long left to go before the wretched Storm Season would abate, and Estenarven was starting to feel trapped. Elder Blazeborn had offered several times to let them off for an evening, but Estenarven and Mastekh were both stubborn. If the other aides were going to be present, waiting on their elders, then they would be there too. Not that they both got to serve Elder Blazeborn each night, instead they had been alternating between serving Khennik and waiting on Elder Goryal. Estenarven didn’t much mind which dragon he looked after, but Mastekh always seemed a bit more sullen after a long night of tending to Goryal. Luckily for all concerned, tonight it was Estenarven’s turn to serve the Starshine, so hopefully Mastekh would only be tired at the end of the meal, instead of grumpy on top.
The only good thing that had come out of the non-stop dinners, followed by days in discussion rooms, was that Mastekh no longer kept any distance between them when they had a rare chance to sit together. Few and brief as these precious moments were, Mastekh now pressed up against Estenarven as if they’d been joined at the hip, no longer wasting time creeping closer over the course of the conversation. Estenarven was secretly hopeful that he might manage to coax his Rainstorm into sharing a bed that night. Or at least a significant amount of cuddle time before sleep. Which neither of them seemed to be getting enough of anymore. If only his bed was bigger…
“How goes the courtship?”
Estenarven blinked, startled out of his pleasant thoughts by the low rumble of Reglian’s voice. The junior archivist was supposed to be taking notes on the chatter around them, but he was mostly picking out the choicest morsels from the draco platters before the elders were served. Each evening the Thunderwing settled down near a different dragon aide for company and it seemed that it was Estenarven’s turn again tonight.
Searching for Mastekh on the opposite side of the room and several seats further down the table tonight, Estenarven gave a heartfelt sigh. “Slowly.”
“Rumour has it you’d reached the sixth gift, but that was several days ago,” Reglian said. “Shouldn’t you be finished by now?”
“Give us a few evenings to ourselves and we’ll take care of it,” he growled, annoyed at the questions.
Reglian smirked. “A few evenings, eh?” He nudged his elbow into Estenarven’s ribs. “Got lots to take care of, have you?”
“Shut up, Reglian.”
The Thunderwing rumbled his deep chuckle. “Someone’s touchy. Have the elders been keeping you up too late?”
“I’ll take that as a yes then.” Licking the end of his quill, Reglian dipped it in his inkpot and scribbled something in a small notebook.
“What are you doing?” Estenarven asked, having never seen that little book before. Usually the archivist was busy with scrolls and large tomes. Notebooks like this were far more human in nature.
“Just keeping track of the facts for the betting pool.”
“Betting pool?” Estenarven blinked, then grabbed for the book. “What betting pool? Let me see that!”
“Ah, ah, ah.” Reglian held the notebook out of reach. “Nothing to concern yourself over, young Boulderforce, don’t you worry.” He shoved it back in his pocket and straightened the inkpot before Estenarven could knock it over. “A little decorum, if you please.”
Half-sprawled over the table, Estenarven growled and spat a quill out of his mouth, suddenly aware of how quiet the room had fallen. Looking up, he found all eyes upon him.
Heat washing through him, he straightened up and adjusted his dishevelled robe with an embarrassed cough. “My apologies, elders, ambassador, captain,” he murmured, since attendants were supposed to stick to the shadows and never draw attention to themselves.
More than a few amused smirks were thrown his way, though there was also a scowl or two, but thankfully everyone soon returned to their meals and conversations. Leaving Estenarven free to scowl and punch Reglian hard on the arm.
“Ow!” The Thunderwing managed to keep his outrage at a sub-vocal level, rubbing at his bicep. “Blasted Boulderforce. I need that arm to write with, barbarian.”
“Give me that book,” Estenarven growled low in reply.
“No.” Reglian sniffed and picked up another quill, his arm apparently fine despite his protests.
“Do I have to punch you in the head next time and knock some sense into you?” Estenarven threatened in a hiss.
“Violence is never the answer, Pebble,” Reglian informed him in a haughty tone.
“It always works for me,” Estenarven promised.
“Fine.” Reglian dug out the notebook and handed it over just as the next course arrived. “Heathen.”
Cursing the timing, Estenarven tucked the book into his pocket and quickly dealt with switching the empty plates for full ones. Then he hurried back to the shadows and flicked through the small pages. Each one was crammed with lists of names and numbers, few of which made any sense to him. Except for the occasional line here and there.
Dates. Predictions. Two names repeated over and over.
“This is a betting book,” Estenarven whispered, flicking to the last page. “About Mastekh’s and my courtship!” Mastekh to turn him down… 10,000 – 1. He slapped the book against the archivist’s chest. “Reglian!”
“Calm down,” the Thunderwing rumbled, rescuing the notebook before they drew the attention of the whole room again. “No one took that bet. Look.”
Estenarven scowled, refusing to acknowledge any relief at the lack of names. Especially as a different heading caught his eye. “What of this?” He grabbed the book and jabbed an accusing finger at The whole thing is a joke… 1,000 – 1. “That’s vicious, even for you.”
“Er, well, yes. Hm, that one wasn’t my idea. I just take the bets and calculate the odds. Look, I gave it a long one, so clearly I have faith in your intentions. Even if others don’t.” Snatching the offending book back, he shoved it into his pocket again. “If people want to throw their coins at me out of spite, I won’t refuse.”
“Don’t ever let Mastekh see this thing,” Estenarven snarled.
Reglian smiled weakly in return. “Not a chance. I promise.”
Eyes narrowed, Estenarven glared around the room, recalling all the names that had been written on the pages and how many of them corresponded with the dragons and humans gathered here right now. “Hang on.” Eyes widening with realisation, he snapped his fingers. “Let me see that again.”
“No.” Reglian covered his pocket with his hand. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Just forget you ever saw it.”
“Not with you making such a tidy profit out of it,” Estenarven argued. “You’d better be planning on sharing those proceeds, you mangy wyvern. Especially if I just saw what I thought I saw. Elder Goryal’s in there, betting that we won’t get this wrapped up until the twenty-fourth of this month. The twenty-fourth! They’ve been running us all ragged because of a bet? Sibling Stone, I could throttle the lot of you!”
“Now, now, Esten, keep your voice down,” Reglian murmured soothingly. “It’s not just because of the bet. These are serious talks. You’ve been at most of them. Not even Goryal can make up this much stuff.”
Estenarven emitted a loud and extremely sceptical snort. Elder Goryal was a Starshine with enough power to do whatever they blasted well pleased. “The profits, Reglian.”
“Oh, well, you know, after running costs and payouts – and there will be an awful lot of those since most of the Riders only betted on you getting together – there really won’t be much left. Truly.”
Folding his arms across his chest, Estenarven stared the other dragon down.
Reglian deflated beneath that disapproving glare. “I suppose you are owed a small slice. Say, twenty-five?”
“You’re supposed to go down, not up!” Reglian protested, drawing attention himself this time. After a hurried apology, it was his turn to glare at Estenarven. “All right, blast you. Fifty-fifty. You can’t get fairer than that.”
“Fifty-fifty,” Estenarven agreed, after pretending to think about it for a long moment. “But if Mastekh ever finds out, we split it evenly three ways.”
“He won’t find out,” Reglian promised. “And as a sign of good faith, I can help with your seventh gift.”
Estenarven arched an eyebrow. “Who said I was looking for help?”
Reglian raised an eyebrow of his own.
And since the quandary of the seventh gift was something that had been keeping Estenarven awake during his brief periods of rest, he tilted his head in reluctant acknowledgement that he did indeed need help. A little. Maybe.
“Remember when Mastekh tried to make sand bread for Khennik?”
The memory made Estenarven wince. Mastekh had been so excited, desperate to impress Elder Blazeborn with his cooking. Having somehow managed to get his hands on a special sort of desert honey, he’d tried making the Sunlord speciality bread for the first time. And it probably would have been fine, if Estenarven hadn’t insisted on helping and reshaping the lot before adding salt. Which had ruined the whole batch, rare, expensive honey and all.
In front of Reglian.
“I remember,” he murmured, face hot with embarrassment and a touch of shame. Mastekh had been so upset.
“Well, it’s no hyssem honey, but I know of an ingredient that some count almost as good. And rare. They say Sunlords will do almost anything for a taste of it.”
“All right.” Folding his arms across his chest, Estenarven tilted his head a little further. “I’m listening.”
More next week.
If, like Reglian, you’re betting on what happens next, get the ebook – it’s free!
Whatever you choose to do, take care, my lovelies.