Dragon Sulks

Also known as Storm Rising: Chapter 2. In which Estenarven is grumpy after getting in trouble, again.

If you missed them, Chapter 1: Part 1 and Part 2 are also available.

Or you can buy the whole book now if you’d rather read it all at once.

This is also a friendly reminder that the price will rise from 0.99 to 2.99 this Wednesday! So you have only a few days left to get it cheap.

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Dragongift: Chapter 19, Part 1

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First time reading? Catch up with everything on the Wingborn page.
There’s also a frequently updated Character List to help keep track of everyone.

Previous Chapter ~

**Cliffhanger Warning!!**
We’re in the final two chapters, things are heating up, so of course there are cliffhangers. As always, if you hate them and don’t want to be left hanging, you might want to come back in a few weeks when the whole book is over :)

For those who can’t wait and don’t mind hanging… Lyrai’s in a spot of bother.


Nineteen
Battles

SILENCE FELL OVER the Moot. A human, not even six foot tall, against a young dragon of twenty-five plus feet, armed not only with jewel-hard scales but venomous fangs. It was something out of legend, from before the clouds cursed the world, when humans and dragon were bitter enemies.

Lyrai stared at the juvenile dragon and saw the tension in his muscles, waiting to pounce and wipe him from this world. But it wasn’t the sleek power or size that held Lyrai’s attention, nor those slit-pupil eyes narrowed so intently, it was the mark above his eyebrow. The unsightly scar that marred the emerald perfection. The size of a single scale.

“We accept.”

As one dragons, Riders and miryhls breathed in, Lyrai included.

Hurricane stood at his back, trembling but proud, beak high, eyes narrowed. “The insult came from my talons, therefore I too shall answer. It is only right the challenged should be mounted against so oversized a foe.”

Jarvenerald’s nostrils and eyes flared with affront as he crouched, lip disdainfully lifting to reveal a glistening fang. “Your mount’s tongue is unruly, human. Perhaps I should remove it.”

The dragon sprang, scattering pebbles, Riders and miryhls.

“Lyrai!” Hurricane shrieked, launching to avoid the attack and leaving his Rider behind.

Ducking to avoid the fray, Lyrai looked up as Jarvenerald’s gaping maw raced towards him.

Mesmerised by the perfect gold beads dripping from the dragon’s fangs, he froze as his fate rushed towards him.

“Down!”

A buffet of wind hit his back and Lyrai recovered his senses as he struck the rocky beach.

Just beyond his boots, Jarvenerald plough face-first into the same stones, vanishing beneath as easily as if it had been water. Overhead, Hurricane banked and turned, ready for another pass, while Jaymes ran to check his lieutenant.

“Are you all right, sir?”

“No,” Lyrai replied, trembling at how close death had been. “But I’m alive.”

The pebbles shifted under their feet, forcing them to scramble back as the dragon emerged from the beach with a roar.

A high scream made Lyrai turn.

“Hurricane!”

His bonded dived, talons outstretched, hitting the dragon full in the face.

Hurricane!

The dragon recoiled, but the miryhl clung fast with beak and talons, battering his foe with his wings. The other miryhls shrieked and dived around him, attacking Jarvenerald’s wings and sides. A jade and emerald tail lashed out, hitting the cliff and clipping Wisp’s wing. Corin lurched as her miryhl spun around, dropping her bow but managing to stay put, while Cumulo dived. On his back, Mhysra caught the bow and tossed it back, leaving Lyrai wondering when the girls had found time to mount.

Argon landed beside them in a flurry of stones, lowering his wing to his Rider. “On!”

Jaymes hesitated, looking at his lieutenant.

“Go,” he ordered. “You’re safer in the air. Go, I’ll be fine.”

Still, the student hesitated, clearly torn about leaving Lyrai alone and vulnerable as the dragons on the terraces stirred.

“Now!” Argon shouted, and took off the instant Jaymes’ weight hit his back.

Which left Lyrai grounded and alone, while five miryhls and four students took on the challenge meant for one.

With Hurricane still clinging to his face, Jarvenerald snapped his head from side to side with brutal force. Though sharp, not even miryhl talons could find much purchase on such tightly packed scales.

With a final wrench and a roar, Jarvenerald threw off his attacker. Wings tangling at the force of the throw, Hurricane barrelled through the air in a mass of feathers —

And hit the cliffs with a sickening thud.

* * *

Aquila

“SOMETHING STIRS.”

The words, a bare whisper in the dark, pulled Mouse out of sleep. He squinted at the silhouette by the fire: Dean Marshall was talking to himself again.

“Can you feel it?”

Or perhaps not.

“I was asleep,” Mouse said, yawning. “What’s happening?”

“I’m not sure,” the dean replied, turning as something scratched at the door. “The guards.”

Mouse huddled in his bed at the warning hiss. They didn’t see their guards often, just enough to know that they were out there. Not pirates or traitors, but kaz-naghkt. They looked at him with hunger in their eyes, promising to put his pain and uselessness to an end anytime he wished. It wasn’t their menace that scared him, it was the temptation.

A shriek in the hallway was roughly curtailed and the door burst open.

Wild-eyed and keening, black blood spurting from its chest, a kaz-naghkt staggered inside and fell on the bed.

Mouse yelped and flinched, hitting his head on the wall with a crack. Even as the world dimmed and his stomach roiled, he had enough sense to throw a blanket over the rampaging beast.

It entangled itself with a snarl of frustration, scrabbling blindly to free itself as Mouse scurried backwards on his hands and fell on the floor. He didn’t care how undignified it looked to crawl away from his enemy, just as long as he lived. That was all he wanted, he finally realised. To survive. To make Nehtl’s sacrifice worth something.

He hid under the bed.

Over his head, the creature alternately keened and growled, claws and teeth catching in blankets and bedding as it flailed helplessly about. By the fireplace, Dean Marshall held a chair ready to bash the kaz-naghkt with should it make any wrong moves. Still blind, it showed no interest in the dean and continued bumping against the wall.

Taking a chance, Mouse dragged himself from under the bed and crawled rapidly across the floor, just as a figure filled the doorway.

Mouse’s stifled cry had the dean swinging around, chair in hands.

A bow creaked, the string twanged and arrow met flesh in a sickening thud.

The kaz-naghkt screamed and with a last punch, smashed through the window to topple out into the night.

Breathless, stunned and still a little disorientated from hitting his head, Mouse stared incredulously at the figure in the doorway.

Silveo gave him a weak smile. “If the target’s big enough, even I can’t fail to hit it.” He blinked at the black blood smeared across the floor and wall and jagged window glass. “I’ve never shot anything before,” he said calmly, and promptly fainted.


~ Next Chapter ~

Thanks for reading.

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Dragongift: Chapter 18, Part 2

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First time reading? Catch up with everything on the Wingborn page.
There’s also a frequently updated Character List to help keep track of everyone.

Previous Chapter ~

The Dragon Moot – at last!



Cleansed Lands
21st Blizzard

It was a beautiful day for flying. For once the sky was dotted with clouds, small, fluffy puffs that were almost sheep-like in their docile drifting. The sea was so clear they could see beneath to the great reefs, where fish darted away from their shadows. In the distance, the surface sparkled where sunlight played on the rolling waves. So different to the frozen north beyond the barrier.

“The winter is mild,” Reglian murmured, gliding easily alongside Hurricane, “and no doubt feels unnaturally warm to you. I remember the coldness of the mountains and the constant winds over the Cloud Sea. I may be Clan Skystorm by birth, but I confess I prefer the lower altitudes. The air is more soothing down here.”

Hurricane murmured in agreement, double flapping as Reglian slowed.

“At last.”

Lyrai looked ahead as they approached an island, the aim of their two day journey. From his perspective the it didn’t look like much; a fat ended egg, half filled with water in an immense cove. As they drew closer, he changed his mind. On the seaward side, white cliffs rose in jagged spires over water carved arches, which almost sealed the cove in completely, the water of which was a rich turquoise blue. The land above the pebbled beach rose in a series of semi-circular terraces, starting with shingle and rising to soft grass at the top. Each step was broad enough to fit Reglian, nose to tail, twice over or more, and as they descended the cliffs rose uncomfortably high.

Pebbles hissed and clattered when Lyrai slid from Hurricane’s back, staring around the remarkable spot and shielding his face as Rhiddyl skidded clumsily in to land, struggling to find her feet. Reglian touched down behind her with nary a whisper. When he folded his wings and took a step, however, his foot disappeared.

“Wretched place,” the big dragon rumbled, voice echoing off the cliffs as he retrieved his foot from the shingle and scowled. “What fool designated Onalon’s Cove as the Winter Moot place anyway? Onalon was a prosy bore.”

A rippling chuckle was all the warning Lyrai had before a surge of water swamped his knees. The miryhls squawked in dismay, Corin and Mhysra yelped, while Jaymes complained about water in his boots. Shaking out his soggy feet, Lyrai stroked Hurricane’s neck and stared at the cove. They had company.

“To the right ears Onalon’s words were like music,” the dragon in the water said, her distinctly feminine voice a burbling murmur that created ripples with every syllable. She was all smooth, shining scales of pale blue and green, with a webbed crest and black eyes. Her head was the same horse-like shape shared by Reglian and Rhiddyl, but shorter and softer. In fact she was smaller all round, to judge from the serpentine neck and a hint of smooth back visible above the water. “But subtlety was never a Skystorm gift.”

“Ha,” Reglian muttered, walking between the disgruntled miryhls in his human shape. “Subtle is as subtle does, Omarri, and will not save you from being boring. Onalon was a dull drake and this place is dreadful.”

A long tail slapped the waves and the water dragon gurgled with amusement. “It depends where you stand, dear Archivist. Come into the waves, the water is lovely.” With a swish of her tail, she sent a wall of sparkling spray rushing towards them.

Riders and miryhls ducked in preparation for a soaking, but Reglian thrust out his hands dismissively. A brisk wind curled up from the waves, rolling the spray over to patter harmlessly back into the sea.

“Enough, Omarri. You know salt is bad for miryhl feathers. I have no wish to carry them all back to the Archives. We are not just dragons here today, Riverstone.”

“You are such a cucumber,” Omarri grumbled, stirring the water sulkily with her flippers. “Too much time in the Archives, Thunderwing. All that dust has blown the fun right out of you.”

“Omarri kin Riverstone Clan Flowflight,” a chiming voice interrupted her insults. “Where is your Elder?”

Omarri blinked her round eyes and turned towards the slender figure walking over the shingle towards her. She ducked her head meekly. “Elder Goryal,” she greeted. “Elder Ushnarre sends their regrets, but promises to arrive as quickly as they can once their duties are concluded.”

Elder Goryal patted her green nose as though she were a pet, smiling when she nudged playfully back. “I trust all is well in the kelp nurseries.”

“Oh, yes. There was a Seadrake hatching!” Water churned as she rippled her flippers and tail excitedly.

“Now that is good news,” the elder said approvingly, echoed by a chorus of murmurs.

Lyrai turned in confusion and his jaw dropped. What so recently had been empty terraces marching up to the sky were now filled with dragons, big, small, bulky, slender and in all colours imaginable. They reclined along the terraces, tails draped carelessly over the edges, or tucked neatly around their legs. Many met Lyrai’s stare with a curiosity as frank his own, but not all were friendly.

“Do not be alarmed.” A cool breeze washed over Lyrai and ruffled Hurricane’s feathers as Rhiddyl crept around to join them, bending her head to whisper. As much as a thirty-foot dragon could whisper, at least. The dragonets on her shoulders chortled.  “No one will harm you here. The Elders would not allow it.”

“Indeed,” Reglian agreed, taking Lyrai’s arm to lead him to where he’d already assembled the others – Rift Riders in front, miryhls behind. He placed Lyrai and Hurricane in the centre, between the girls. “No unauthorised violence is permitted within half a day’s flight of Onalon Cove, on pain of banishment. You are as safe here as anywhere, be it the Cleansed Lands or the cursed ones beyond. As peaceful visitors from beyond the Veil, such protection extends to you throughout our realm, until you have been Met at least.”

“Quite right, Reglian,” Elder Goryal said, following them up the beach. “A timely reminder to those who would be so foolish as to forget it.”

Casting a smile of reassurance at the Riders as they passed, Goryal crunched their way up the shore towards a knot of human-shaped dragons had gathered. With them were several vulardi, an oversized hawk and several huge seabirds. More surprising were the two large mammals, the likes of which Lyrai had never imagined. When standing their heads were level with a man’s chest. One was a plain sandy coloured cat, sleek and powerful, while the other was a beautiful wolf the colour of a stormy sky. Lyrai stared at the amazing creatures, even more fascinating than the dragons for their hint of the familiar.

As Goryal reached the group, six of the dragons stepped out to join him, including both the cat and the wolf. When the seven were neatly arranged, Goryal lifted their hands for silence. “Kin and Clans, elders and dragons, I thank you all for your attendance at this special Moot, called so soon after our last one. Allow me to begin proceedings by presenting these newcomers to you all.” They raised a hand towards the miryhls and Riders, smiled and bowed, a hand across their heart. “As Elder Goryal Clan Starshine, I greet thee, friends from beyond the Veil. Be welcome in the Cleansed Lands.”

The six dragons alongside them bowed, saying in unison, “Clan Starshine greet thee, be welcome.”

A tickle against Lyrai’s ear made him twitch, uncertain whether or not he’d just heard two distinctly different voices inside his head. He eyed the cat and wolf thoughtfully.

As the dragons gathered on the terraces split into groups to discuss the Riders and whether or not to greet them, Reglian took up a murmured commentary. “Although these occasions are often run by Clan Starshine, we dragons are not ruled by them. The other six Clans are divided into four kins, each of which has their own elder looking after them, who are in turn watched over and guided by a Clan elder. So that’s five elders for each Clan, except for Starshine, who have no kin and are all elders.”

Lyrai wasn’t the only one left rubbing his head over this.

“That’s a lot of elders,” Cumulo pointed out.

Reglian grinned at him. “Indeed. At present, we have thirty-seven Elders, although three are not here today. But considering that they are responsible for the care of all dragons, the number is perhaps not so very large.”

“Why is Starshine different?” Lyrai asked, looking at Goryal and their companions, unable to see anything obvious that set them apart.

“They are our smallest Clan,” Reglian explained. “And our most powerful. As dragons age, one of two things will happen. For most, we grow slower and harder, turning ever more stone like before eventually falling into a long sleep of petrifaction. But a select few become smaller, shrinking in size but growing in power. Instead of petrifying, they ascend to a new level of magic, leaving behind all ties of kin and Clan and instead becoming Starshine. Because they are so powerful, ancient and rare, each of them becomes an elder in their own right. No one knows why any one dragon ascends over another, all we know is that age is a factor.”

“How old must they be to become an elder, not just in Starshine, but in any of the however many Clans?” Corin asked, always the curious one, while the dragons continued to mutter amongst themselves, clearly undecided over whether or not they wished to welcome humans into the Cleansed Lands again.

“Old,” answered Rhiddyl with obvious amusement. “And there are seven Clans, Corin, each to honour the Divine Family, the founders and ancestors of all high dragon kin.”

“Father Sun and Mother Sky, who above us always fly. Brother Wind and Sister Storm, from whence our wings are born. Sibling Water and Sibling Stone, combining strength of blood and bone. And over all, watching from afar, keeper of wisdom, Ancestor Star,” Rhiddyl and Reglian murmured together.

“The poetry is poor,” Reglian sniffed. “But humans made it to help remember our ways and it serves well enough for our young when we first learn your various tongues. Without the rhymes our Clans are Sunlord, Highflight, Swiftwing, Skystorm, Flowflight, Stoneheart and Starshine.”

“There is an eighth,” Rhiddyl said slowly. “Of whom we rarely speak. The End Dragon, Shadowheart, Darknight, Ancestor Time, whose Clan is greatest as it gathers us all in the end.” When Reglian frowned at her for speaking out of turn, the young dragon hunched defensively. “If we are educating them, best do it properly.”

“Perhaps,” the older dragon murmured, then smiled as silence descended on the terraces and the first Clan descended in full form. “Ha! I knew Skystorm would not fail us.”

“With two of us standing over here it would look rather strange,” Rhiddyl muttered, cowering when an imposing grey dragon with bright blue eyes glared at her. “Elder Narrawyn assigned me to the Stormwash.”

“She’s proud of you really,” Reglian assured him absently, as the kin Tempestfury elder welcomed the Riders with bad grace. Following her lead, the other Skystorm kin – Lightstorm, Thunderwing and Stormdrake – swiftly followed suit. Elder kin Thunderwing was an even more enormous black and copper version of Reglian. Looking over at the humans, the elder winked a bright copper eye.

Next came Clan Sunlord, all fire and smoke in looks and voice, Clan Highflight followed, with a cooler, more aloof set of Elders. Clan Swiftwing were a little dreamy-eyed and lithe, while Clan Flowflight preferred to stay in the water, but nevertheless said all the correct words. With Starshine having already passed on their greeting, all that remained were the Stonehearts.

They did not look happy. Four of the Clan were big and bulky, earth-toned and stone-faced, while the third was smaller and more lithe, with scales that glimmered like jewels. Their claws glittered in the same way. This dragon had no need for jewellery and Lyrai had no doubt he was looking at Elder kin Jewelwing.

Sensing his scrutiny the dragon glanced his way, with a flash of emerald eyes and diamond-bright teeth.

From a human it might have been called a smile, but they weren’t human and Lyrai wasn’t stupid. At the bottom of his pack, placed there on Hurricane’s insistence, was an emerald scale as big as his hand, ripped from a dragon with eyes just like theirs. Dragons weren’t human, no matter what form they took, and plenty still possessed a predator’s soul. Lyrai took that flash of teeth the way it was intended: he’d been warned. Not that he planned to fight another dragon any time soon.

After much shifting of their bulk, the biggest of the Stonehearts finally bowed. It was curt and perfunctory, the look in their dark eyes dismissive, their expression disgusted. “I, Wharrol, Elder Clan Stoneheart, Meet thee.” The huge green dragon paused, then flexed their wings and raised their chin. “You are not welcome in the Cleansed Lands.”

Before the surprise could race around the cove, the Jewelwing elder sprang forward. “I, Elder Jarvenara kin Jewelwing, do challenge thee, trespassers. You have been rejected and have no rights here. Is there a champion who will serve for my kin and Clan?”

It was happening so fast that the rest of the Clans were scrabbling to keep up. An uproar rippled around the terraces as dragon glanced at dragon, trying to decide if ever such a thing had happened before.

Only Lyrai was unsurprised to see a familiar dragon bound down the terraces and glide across the beach.

“For the dishonour to myself, my kin and my Clan, I, Jarvenerald kin Jewelwing Clan Stoneheart, do challenge Prince Lyrai Henstrati Henrykran, unwelcome trespasser in the Cleansed Lands, to face me in single combat.”


~ Next Chapter ~

Thanks for reading.

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Storm Rising is Out! (Snippet #2)

Storm Rising 5Since I’m still celebrating the (much delayed) release of Storm Rising, I thought now might be a good time to share another excerpt – Chapter 1, Part 2.

If you missed the first part, you can find it here. Along with an insight into what Riders do when they’re bored. Well, what Nera and Teka do anyway. It might also contain an over-sized Boulderforce playmate.

Now it’s time to gauge Khennik’s take on proceedings. Oh, what a surprise, Elder Blazeborn is not amused…
(But I am ;)

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A Courtship of Dragons: Part 41

Courtship Banner 1

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.

|| First Part || All Parts || Last Part ||

Even in amongst all the Storm Rising stuff, I haven’t forgotten about you, my dear ol’ Courtship readers. Especially not when Khennik’s about to put his foot down.


41
Enough

“I AM SORRY about this, you know,” Elder Blazeborn said, as he and Estenarven walked back to their suite. “I had no idea this would turn into so many meetings. I’m not even certain what they’re discussing anymore.”

The elder had never been one for trade diplomacy. Not that Estenarven could blame him. He hadn’t been able to work out what all the meetings were about either, until he’d caught a glimpse of Reglian’s betting book and discovered Goryal’s stake in the proceedings.

“It’s not your fault,” Estenarven said, entirely truthfully.

Elder Blazeborn rubbed a hand over his head and blew out a weary sigh. “Perhaps not, but since neither of you will help yourselves, I’m putting my foot down. We’re all taking tomorrow off.”

“But the meetings…” Estenarven protested, a little less forcefully than he probably should.

“Burn them. I have nothing to contribute and won’t be missed. And if I’m not there, nor will you be. Let them fetch their own blasted food and drinks for once. My patience has ended.”

A huge smile of relief broke through Estenarven’s tiredness. The Blazeborn elder had never been well known for his patience, but while he continued to attend it was up to Estenarven – and Mastekh – to support him. But if he wasn’t there…

“Thank you.”

Khennik waved a dismissive hand and pushed open the door to their suite. “Just don’t wake me in the morning. In fact, I don’t want to see either of you all day long. Finish your courtship. I have sleep to catch up on.” So saying, the grumpy elder walked into his private room and shoved the door shut behind him.

Estenarven watched him go with a fond smile. Khennik would never be the friendliest of dragons, but beneath his grumps and growls, there was a good heart. Even if it wasn’t particular gracious at accepting gratitude.

“Thank you,” he murmured again, yawning as he glanced over at the closed door to Mastekh’s room. He’d noticed his Puddle slipping out early from the dinner and sighed with disappointment. So much for coaxing Mastekh into a cuddle or two before bedtime. Ah well, he wouldn’t disturb him now. His poor Rainstorm had been run ragged over recent days, back and forth to the kitchen, up and down the stairs. Estenarven would let him sleep. He could surprise him with the news of their reprieve in the morning.

Rubbing his hands together in anticipation, another yawn overtook his smile and he rubbed his hands over his eyes instead.

“Time for bed,” he muttered, pushing into his room and collapsing onto his blankets.

“Wuh!”

“Ah!”

Not only was his bed not nearly as soft as he remembered, it also contained a frenzy of thrashing limbs. Estenarven jerked back and hit the floor with a bone-rattling thud.

“What the blazes!” Khennik arrived in a swirl of fire and light – and froze in the doorway, taking in the sight before him.

Estenarven lay sprawled on the floor, wincing as he sat up on his tender backside. Meanwhile, the pile of blankets on the bed continued to thrash and moan, until Mastekh’s head popped out, squinting at the bright glow of Elder Blazeborn’s power.

“Mastekh?” Estenarven and Khennik asked together, one slightly more incredulously than the other.

Moaning, Mastekh pressed his arm over his eyes and curled up tighter, wincing as he moved his legs. Estenarven winced in sympathy, remembering how heavily he’d fallen on his bed. Because he’d expected it to be empty. He’d thought he was alone.

“Ah, ahem, well,” Elder Blazeborn cleared his throat awkwardly and Estenarven looked at him properly for the first time since his arrival. Bronze skin glowing with power, Khennik’s robe hung half off his shoulders, the silk still smoking. It seemed like they’d given their elder as much of a shock as they’d given themselves.

“I’ll just leave this here, I think.” Khennik let a small golden globe drop from his fingers. “Good night.”

“N-n-night,” Mastekh whimpered from the bed.

“Good night,” Estenarven called, picking up the globe and gingerly climbing to his feet to shut the door. “And thank you!”

Khennik made a grumbling reply about keeping it down as he returned to his own room. Leaving Estenarven alone with Mastekh. Finally.

“Puddle?” he murmured, placing the glow globe on a high shelf and crawling onto the bed. “Are you all right? Did I hurt you? Speak to me.”

Silk sighed as Mastekh shook his head, his face still hidden by his arm. “Sur-p-prised,” he mumbled.

Estenarven snorted in agreement and carefully eased down until he was lying alongside the other dragon. “You and me both, Puddle.” He pulled his Rainstorm closer.

Mastekh flinched and rolled away, hugging his knees tight against his chest, back to Estenarven. “I’m s-s-sorry,” he gasped, covering his head with his arm again.

“I’m not,” Estenarven grumbled, inching closer. Mastekh inched away. Estenarven followed and, since he was on the wall-side of the exceedingly narrow bed, Mastekh swiftly ran out of space and was caught. Estenarven pressed his chest against Mastekh’s back and buried his face against the nape of his neck. He sighed. “You’re in my bed. Best surprise I’ve had all century.”

Trembling, Mastekh uncurled a fraction and peered over his shoulder. “T-t-truly?”

Estenarven took advantage of the slight softening and wrapped his arms around Mastekh’s waist, hauling him as close as possible. “Truly,” he rumbled in reply, kissing his Puddle’s wet cheek. “As long as you’re not hurt.”

“I’m not h-hurt. Just em-b-barrassed.”

“Mm,” Estenarven hummed, yawning against Mastekh’s shoulder. “Never mind now. Leave it to tomorrow. Sleep.”

Mastekh hummed in agreement, shifting around until he could tuck his head against Estenarven’s chest. “You’re not h-hurt?” he whispered.

Ignoring the throbbing in his tail bone, Estenarven breathed in a lungful of Rainstorm scent and smiled. “No.”

“G-g-good,” Mastekh yawned, and went boneless with relaxation.

Running a hand up his back to stroke the Rainstorm’s soft cloud of hair, Estenarven wondered if he should offer to take Mastekh back to his own room. Except his Puddle seemed exceedingly comfortable where he was and Estenarven was in no mood to move either. He wanted to sleep, needed to sleep, and having Mastekh in his arms made everything ten times better.

So he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, aware that tomorrow was a free day in which he didn’t have to do anything. Neither of them did. They could stay in bed all day if they wished.

Bliss.

Mastekh snuggled deeper into his arms and made a sound of contentment as he wriggled his way beneath Estenarven’s robe and pressed his cheek against bare skin. The Rainstorm was cool to the touch but perfect. Utterly perfect.

Estenarven released the last of the day’s tension and sank into the depths of sleep.


Courtship 7~ Next Part ~Courtship 7

If, like Khennik, you’re fed up of waiting to find out what happens next, get the ebook – it’s free!

Whatever you choose to do, take care, my lovelies.

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Storm Rising

Storm Rising 5

Trouble stirs in the Dragonlands and Elder Khennik kin Blazeborn seems trapped at the very heart of it. After a disastrous stay with the Stormdrake kin, it’s time for the human delegation to visit the Skystorm Clan, yet their welcome is less friendly than anticipated.

Whispers and accusations fly, but something is definitely not right inside the Clan. And with the Dragon Moot fast approaching, can the Rift Riders and dragons sort things out swiftly enough to save the Khennik from another catastrophe?

The Cloud Curse is changing – but is anyone willing to listen to reason? Or will politics and arrogance combine to bring down all the kins and Clans for good?

Available Now!
Amazon: US || UK || AUS || DE || CAN
Smashwords || B&N || iBooks || Kobo

Read on for the first part of Chapter One.

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Pre-Order Links and Round-Up

Storm Rising 5 Merry Monday, everyone!

Just a quick little update today to say that you can now pre-order Storm Rising all over the place.

Amazon: US || UK || AUS || DE || CAN
|| B&N || iBooks || Kobo ||

From now, right up to next Wednesday (13th Sept) you can also get it at the lowest discounted price. Most places that should be 0.99, but some might be a little higher (Amazon US, for some reason, likes to hover around $1.25) and Kobo might even have it a little lower.

So if you want the next in the Dragonlands series as soon as it comes out – this Wednesday! – go grab it now while it’s cheap!


 

Courtship

In other news, iTunes has finally put A Courtship of Dragons up, so if that’s your preferred ebook shop, you can go grab it for FREE right now.

I’ve also finally posted a proper Courtship Portal Page, which has all the necessary information and links that you might need for that book.


Elsewhere, things have been so busy around here all summer that I’m looking forward to having a bit of downtime. But I’ve also been planning what’s yet to come, for this year and beyond.

Right now I’m focusing on Dragonlands #4, but before the end of the year I hope to have finished the Dragongift serial and prepped that for release (ETA: beginning of December), started posting Storm Wings (Wingborn #4) and also have tackled NaNo (Wingborn #5). Then in January, Dragonlands #3 should be released. So a busy few months lie ahead.

For this week, though, I’m planning to read a lot, replace the shelf that fell off the wall this morning, find a new home for all the heavy books and get back into some sort of normal routine.

Ha! Wish me luck.

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Dragongift: Chapter 18, Part 1

Dragongift Banner

First time reading? Catch up with everything on the Wingborn page.
There’s also a frequently updated Character List to help keep track of everyone.

Previous Chapter ~

If you were one of those people wondering what would happen to Corin’s and Jaymes’ miryhls…? Well, now you’ll know.



Eighteen

Challenges

 19th Blizzard

“I DON’T LIKE IT.”

Mhysra sighed, checking Cumulo’s girth straps one last time. “There are two, Cue, and they’re not its.”

Them then,” he corrected grumpily. “I don’t like them. They’re not natural.”

Ruffling her fingers through his neck feathers, she smiled. “Unlike Wingborn, who come straight out of nature.”

“That’s different,” he muttered, turning his head for unnecessary preening.

Mhysra suspected that was only because he was involved. “I don’t see why.” She checked his breast band, straightening out a few skewed feathers. “Dragons created miryhls, and miryhls are half the Wingborn bond. Why is a Dragongift bond any different?”

Cumulo flexed his talons and muttered, “Because they’re dragons.”

“Careful, Cue, your prejudice is showing.”

He huffed and shot her an irritated look. “Birds and mammals are warm blooded. We exist in a similar way. We have similar life spans, at least miryhls and humans do. Dragons are lizards. Lizards are cold, scaly, peculiar. And dragons live forever.”

“Not quite.” An amused Reglian wandered amongst the miryhls in his human shape, tall enough to look the embarrassed Cumulo in the eye when he ducked his head. “We Clan dragons live long, true, but the Dragongift are a lesser species. They may outlive their humans, but not always. Nor are dragons lizards. We are closely related but not of the same class. Like birds and reptiles.”

Cumulo’s feathers fluffed up in affront. “There are no lizards amongst my ancestors.”

Mhysra covered her face with her hands, while Reglian chuckled. “You might be surprised. Have you never noticed the similarities between scales and feathers? And a miryhl should know better. Were your ancestors not created from the will of a Goddess and the genius of dragons?”

Cumulo crackled his beak and didn’t answer. He twisted his head to glare at Mhysra instead. “Are we leaving today or not?”

Biting her lip to stifle her giggles, Mhysra almost lost composure when Reglian winked at her. “Indeed, young Cumulo. We shall soon be ready to depart. If you’ve finished, Mhysra, perhaps you might help your friends? Corin and Jaymes would welcome an experienced touch, I think.”

“Huh,” Cumulo huffed when Reglian walked away. “I don’t see why you should meddle in their affairs. Wisp and Argon are quite within their rights to protest. Miryhls carry Rift Riders, not lizards.” Leaving her Wingborn to sulk, Mhysra ducked around the chuckling Hurricane.

Lyrai followed. “Is there anything to be done, do you think?”

She shot him an amused glance and looked across the courtyard at where Argon and Wisp had their backs turned to their Riders. “With Dhori in the vicinity, who knows?”

“Except he doesn’t like dragons,” Lyrai reminded her.

“But I dislike farces more.” The man himself was leaning against the wall beside the tacked up Latinym, watching the disgruntled miryhls with exasperation. “And whatever I may think of dragons, I’d be a fool to look a dragongift in the mouth. Especially such a pair.”

“Oh?” Mhysra looked at the dragonets sitting on Corin and Jaymes’ saddle bags, watching their new partners with interest. “Aren’t they a little small?”

“They’ll grow,” Dhori said, pushing off the wall to walk across the courtyard. “Time to sort this out. Mhysra, you take Wisp, Lyrai have Argon, and I’ll try to talk some sense into that feeble pair.”

“They’re not feeble.” Jaymes turned on Dhori, indignation blazing. “Emberbright is only a few days old and she’s already grown six inches.”

“I wasn’t talking about them,” Dhori said witheringly, as Mhysra and Lyrai hurried towards the miryhls and out of the line of fire. “I meant you.”

“Hey!” Corin woke up to the insult – and the bickering began.

Chuckling, Lyrai patted Mhysra’s shoulder for luck and ducked under Argon’s neck. Wisp was a little more difficult to reach, since she’d wedged her head into the corner, beak almost touching the ground. She looked about as dejected as a miryhl could get.

Mhysra’s heart squeezed with sympathy and she ran a soothing hand along the miryhl’s wing. “Would you like to talk about it?”

The little miryhl shuddered under her hand, and turned aside.

Mhysra sighed, shuffled along the wall and sat under Wisp’s beak, stroking the feathers beneath her eyes. “There,” she crooned. “It’s all right. There’s no need to feel sad.”

Wisp released a shaky sigh and dropped her beak into Mhysra’s lap. “I’m not supposed to talk to you,” she whispered, her voice surprisingly light for a miryhl. “My Rider might not want me anymore, but I still hold to the rules.”

“After so long with Cumulo?” Mhysra chuckled. “Your will is stronger than mine.”

The miryhl puffed a small laugh and opened an eye. “He is most persuasive,” she agreed.

“He’s a big-headed bully,” Mhysra corrected. “But it’s a silly rule anyway. As if it makes any difference who you talk to. Cumulo’s been talking to my family for years, but he’s still every bit mine.”

Wisp gave an unhappy rumble. “Corin’s not mine. That thing has replaced me.”

Which was the crux of the problem and Mhysra had no idea how to resolve it. She didn’t understand the Dragongift bond herself, so had no idea how to explain it to a heartsick miryhl. She knew other Rider pairs weren’t as close as Cumulo and herself, but they still felt connected to their Riders. After only a year and a half, Corin and Wisp’s bond was a fragile thing, meant to gain strength with every day. Inviting a third into their partnership so early on risked breaking it forever.

Still, there were worse things that could happen. Tucking her hands beneath Wisp’s beak, Mhysra raised her up until she could meet the eagle’s gaze. “Skybreeze is not your replacement.” When the miryhl tried to duck down again, Mhysra held firm. “How could he be? He’s a dragon. His bond with Corin has nothing to do with you.” She paused as a new thought occurred. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t bond with him too.”

Wisp’s dark brown eyes focused on her. “What do you mean?”

“Corin is your Rider, and once her training is complete, you will be bonded. You are her miryhl, the wings that make her a Rift Rider. Skybreeze is her Dragongift. I don’t understand what that means, but the two of them are bound. This tie is important, not just to them, but to all of us. With a dragon on our side, no matter how small he is now, imagine how much stronger the Riders will be.”

Wisp sighed heavily. “But where does that leave me?”

Mhysra gave the eagle’s head a gentle shake. “Right where you were before, silly. You’re still Corin’s wings. Skybreeze is too small to fly himself, let alone carry her, and who’s to say when he does grow he’ll ever be able to carry her – or even want to?”

“Why shouldn’t he?” Wisp raised her head, feathers fluffing out. “What’s wrong with her?”

“Nothing,” Mhysra said hurriedly, flattening against the wall away from that sharp beak. “Nothing at all. But dragons are funny. Perhaps he’ll prefer to fly alone.”

Wisp snorted in disgust. “He would be a fool. There’s no better feeling than being one with your Rider, racing the wind and skimming the storm. He would be blessed to feel such joy.”

“Yet what Mhysra says is right.” Wisp turned to stare at Reglian, giving Mhysra room to move. “We dragons are more comfortable flying alone. We are not used to passengers.”

“Then of what use are you?” the miryhl sniffed, and Mhysra realised Wisp was bit of a snob.

Reglian’s smile was wryly amused. “Oh, we contrive to be of some assistance. Occasionally.”

“Very occasionally,” Dhori added, coming over with a depressed Corin in tow. “You might choose to be now and explain to these confused miryhls that they are not being supplanted in their Riders’ affections. Nor in their requirements. Before lasting damage is done.”

Reglian looked sheepish. “It has been so long, longer still since the last Dragongifted were Riders. And never so young. I did not think.”

“Obviously,” Dhori agreed.

Reglian shot him a peevish glance, then took Corin’s hand and rested it upon Wisp’s beak.

The miryhl flinched, but Reglian fixed her with a beady glare until she settled. “Do not be foolish, either of you. Mhysra was quite right. When fully grown it is unlikely that Skybreeze will carry Corin. I’m not certain he will be able too. Air-dragons have unusual strengths and are lighter than they appear. In Emberbright’s case,” he added, with a nod at Jaymes, “her scales will burn too hot . Therefore the bond between miryhl and Rider remains unbroken. You are still partners in combat and flight. The Dragongift is merely an addition to your friendship. One I hope will reap great rewards.”

“Stranger things have happened,” Dhori muttered, and the dragon grinned.

“As you yourself are living proof of.” Turning back to the now chagrined miryhls and their relieved Riders, Reglian shook his head. “So young,” he grumbled. “So foolish. Quick to anger, quick to cool. May your pride be as flexible. Bah, make your peace now, we have a journey to begin.” Throwing up his hands, he left the courtyard.

Before the silence grew too uncomfortable, Emberbright crept up to Jaymes, allowing him to shyly introduce her to his miryhl. Showing a surprising amount of tact, Skybreeze stayed with the packs as Wisp tucked her beak against Corin’s chest.

“I thought you didn’t want me anymore,” the little miryhl whispered. “I thought you would leave me.”

“Never,” Corin replied, burying her face in her feathers. “Never, never ever.”

Leaving them to their privacy, content that everything would soon be sorted out, Mhysra led Dhori and Lyrai back across the courtyard to where their own miryhls were waiting.

“There’s hope for them yet,” Hurricane murmured, lowering his head to Lyrai for a scratch.

Cumulo snorted. “More fool them. I’m not one to share.” Tucking his beak over Mhysra’s shoulder, he dragged her roughly against his chest. “Especially not with any wrinkly lizard.”

Half-smothered by his feathers, Mhysra struggled free to the sound of Dhori’s laughter.

“I agree, Cue. I don’t share with wrinkly lizards either.” He stroked Latinym’s silvery wing.

Reglian re-emerged, shaking his head. “Fools,” he muttered, before vanishing in an explosion of black and gold. His true form filled the courtyard, ensuring he had everyone’s attention. “Let us leave before one of you annoys me. I have no wish to explain your deaths to the Moot. Come along.” Leaping upwards with surprising grace, his first wing beat was a boom of thunder, knocking them all to the ground.

Picking themselves up, they watched Reglian circled the air above them like a low black cloud. Then Lyrai looked at the others and grinned. “With an invitation like that, how can we possibly refuse?”

* * *

Aquila

WHITE FLAKES DRIFTED past the window on a background of pewter grey sky. Mouse stared, watching the snow plummet and swirl. There wasn’t much wind today, but it was cold. He felt numbed by it, inside and out. Now the pain had gone, all that remained was shame. And failure.

“No surrender,” he whispered. And he hadn’t, at least not to Willym. Yet here he was in a cosy room, propped up on fresh pillows, half-buried beneath a mound of blankets. Healed. His body was stiff with new scars and still weak from the torment but was otherwise whole.

Unlike Nehtl. He didn’t even know where his mentor’s body was.

There had been no verbal surrender, no collusion or cooperation, no betrayal of secrets, yet somehow Mouse didn’t feel right. He might not have given in to Willym, but this comfort had to mean something. Had he said something in his fever? Had he turned traitor in his delirium?

A sound drew his attention back to the room, reminding him that he was not alone. Dean Marshall sat huddled beside the fire, a goblet clasped in a tight knuckled grip. The wine bottle before him was half empty, his eyes glazed from the drinking. There had been no surrender here either, and yet…

The fire snapped in the grate and Dean Marshall looked up. He glanced at the dancing snowflakes, then at the door. Finally, he turned to Mouse. “Are you well?” he asked softly.

Though his eyes were heavy, Mouse forced a nod. “Much better than I was.”

“He healed you.” The dean sounded perplexed, looking at the inside of his wrist, fingers tracing over a silvery scar. Mouse had seen him make that gesture often since he’d woken; he didn’t like to think what it meant. “He healed me too.”

“They are not all monsters,” Mouse said, echoing a memory.

Dean Marshall’s smile was cold. “And to heal is not always a kindness. Can you walk?”

The swift change in his tone snapped Mouse awake. The dean was tense with purpose, eyes not as wine-glazed as they’d appeared before. He looked like his old self.

“If I must,” Mouse said cautiously.

Refilling the goblet, Marshall crossed the room. “You must,” he ordered, handing Mouse the wine, his smile the wrong side of pleasant. “But not yet, Mouse. Not yet. Soon.”

The door handle rattled and the dean turned away, staring fixedly out of the window with blank eyes. “Have you seen this snow? Whirling, always twirling. I’ve never seen it so bad in all my years at Aquila. So thick and heavy, as though trying to hide us. Cover up the horror.”

Mouse swallowed the fire-warmed wine nervously. “A harsh winter,” he said, when the silence stretched too long. “And cold.”

“Yes,” Marshall murmured, rubbing his chest as if it ached the same way Mouse’s did. “Yes. Cold. Frozen, bleak and empty.” He touched the window, then turned abruptly away. “Tomorrow. We’ll get you walking tomorrow. Best to be ready.”

“Ready for what?” Mouse asked, putting aside the wine, worried he’d end up like the dean.

Marshall took the rejected goblet, drained it and stared at the door. “Anything,” he whispered. “Absolutely anything.”


~ Next Chapter ~

And thanks, as always, for reading.

Posted in Books, Free Fiction, Overworld, Serial, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Courtship of Dragons

This is the portal page where you will find all the links for chapters and free downloads for this book. If you’re new to the Dragonlands series and want to know how it fits in with all the Wingborn stuff, scroll down to the introduction beneath all the links. Enjoy!

Dragonlands #1.5

Friends and lovers have always come easily to Estenarven kin Boulderforce, until Mastekh. For the first time in over three hundred years, Estenarven has found a dragon that matters. Now all he has to do is convince him.

Mastekh kin Rainstorm doesn’t expect much from life; he mostly wants to be left alone. Until Estenarven leaves a gift on his pillow. For the first time someone is paying attention to Mastekh, but can this shy, downtrodden dragon ever learn to trust another – and himself – enough to give in to life, joy… and maybe even love?

Warning! This M/M romantic side-adventure contains a watery dragon with no confidence and a stone-stubborn Boulderforce with confidence enough for two. May also contain an interfering Starshine, a slightly perplexed Blazeborn and kissing. Enjoy!


Free to download now!

|| Smashwords || B&N || iBooks || Kobo ||

Or read along for free right here:

~ Part 1: The Daisy ~ Part 2: Rock Cakes ~ Part 3: The Dinner Bell ~
~ Part 4: Banquet I ~ Part 5: Banquet II ~ Part 6: Banquet III ~ Part 7: Humming ~ 
~ Part 8: Tea ~ Part 9: Elder Blazeborn ~ Part 10: The Morning After ~
~ Part 11: Making a Meal of Things ~ Part 12: Sigh ~ Part 13: Smooth Awakening ~
~ Part 14: Sleeper Awakes ~ Part 15: The Second Gift ~ Part 16: A Gift of Meaning ~
~ Part 17: Chores ~ Part 18: Pout ~ Part 19: Rainstorm ~ Part 20: Courage ~
~ Part 21: Thoughts ~ Part 22: Shells 1 + 2 ~ Part 23: Gossip, Part 24: Run ~
~ Part 25: The Cavern ~ Part 26: Breathe ~ Part 27: Talk ~ Part 28: Well… ~
~ Part 29: Party ~ Part 30: Two Sides… ~ Part 31: Cooking ~ Part 32: Fifth Gift ~
~ Part 33: Dinner ~ Part 34: Rose ~ Part 35: My Precious ~ Part 36: Wooden Heart ~
~ Part 37: Delay ~ Part 38: Waiting ~ Part 39: ARGH! ~ Part 40: Surrender ~
~ Part 41: Enough ~ Part 42: Scales ~ Part 43: Tease ~ Part 44: Risk

More still to come!


Introduction

WELCOME TO THE Overworld, or more precisely, the Dragonlands. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the Overworld has been cursed by Gods to be covered in clouds, drowning the lowlands and oceans and leaving mountaintops as isolated islands. The reasons for this have been lost over the centuries, but tension still remains between humans and dragons over who was at fault. (The dragons blame the humans, the humans can’t remember, the Gods aren’t talking.)

Not that any of that is particularly relevant to this book, it’s just a bit of background as to why my travellers are holed up in the mountains during the Storm Season.

If you are familiar with the Overworld, and the DRAGONLANDS series in particular, then this story is set a few weeks after the events of Blazing Dawn. You don’t have to have read that book to enjoy this, although it will have introduced you to all the necessary characters.

Chief amongst them being Estenarven kin Boulderforce Clan Stoneheart and Mastekh kin Rainstorm Clan Flowflight, my two young dragons, whose courtship this book is about.

If you’re familiar with the Overworld because of the WINGBORN series, then this is set about two hundred years before Mhysra and co, back when dragons still interacted with humans and women were still part of the Rift Riders. Although the focus in this book is primarily on my young dragons, a few Rift Riders do make appearances, along with a few other characters from Blazing Dawn.

So whether you’re a frequent visitor to these lands or new to the whole place… Welcome! I hope you enjoy this sweet little romance between a watery, anxious dragon and the stone stubborn Boulderforce who loves him. And hopefully I’ll see you around this world again soon.

Posted in Books, Free Fiction, Overworld, Serial | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Dragongift: Chapter 17, Part 3

Dragongift Banner

First time reading? Catch up with everything on the Wingborn page.
There’s also a frequently updated Character List to help keep track of everyone.

Previous Chapter ~

Dragongift to Dragongifted.



Cleansed Lands

“GODS!” BOTH JAYMES and Corin leapt from the path, dragonets dropped and forgotten. The shadowy ground was rocky and uneven, but Jaymes managed to keep on his feet – only to thumped in the back by Reglian’s tail. Landing hard on his hands, he wheezed as Corin landed over the top of him, leaving his nose only inches away from the warm red road.

Something heavy crashed behind them.

Whirling, they stared over their shoulders as an enormous boulder thumped down and rolled over the exact spot where they’d been standing a heartbeat ago. Small chips of crushed stone pattered against their boots as the great rock rumbled away into the darkness.

Jaymes blinked at the crater that had almost been him, and cuddled a trembling Emberbright as she wriggled into his arms, cheeping anxiously. Clicking his tongue, Reglian scooped them all up between his sharp claws and dropped them back on the warm scarlet cobbles.

“Do not step off the path,” he said, voice deep with both disapproval and concern. “The Clans guard our secrets most ferociously.”

“So I see,” Corin murmured shakily, dabbing at a scrape on her cheek. Skybreeze uncoiled from his grip around her neck to lick her broken skin.

“I apologise for the force I used.” Reglian sounded gruff and a little embarrassed. “There was no time to moderate my strength.”

Offering up his bloodied hand for Emberbright to clean, Jaymes glanced at the crater again and shuddered. “Don’t apologise,” he said. “Better a tail in the back than a rock on my head.”

The dragonets trilled their agreement and Corin gave a rueful nod. “With all due respect to your ancestors, I’m in no rush to join them.” She patted the road gingerly. “Though a little warning before we entered would have been nice.”

Reglian scratched his black muzzle with a golden claw. “The thought did not occur to me.” The Archivist was definitely embarrassed now. “Few Dragongifted notice what they walk upon. Those that do rarely ask until later, when things become more obvious. You are quite observant, young Corin.”

“And well rewarded for it,” she grumbled, pushing Skybreeze away as he continued to lick her face.

“Are you badly injured?” Reglian asked, his tone remorseful. “Can you walk?”

“She’s fine,” Jaymes assured him, stretching his legs and standing. “She’s just whining.”

“I’m not whining,” Corin protested, popping to her feet and shaking out her dusty clothes. “If anything I was claiming responsibility. See if I bother next time.”

Chuckling, Reglian scooped them up and set them on his shoulders. “I’m pleased to hear you are not too damaged. Even so, I believe it best if I carry you from now on, so that no more accidents can occur. We will go faster too. Hold on.”

His first step nearly unseated them both, and Jaymes grabbed hold of Reglian’s spinal ridge, while Corin braced her feet on the dragon’s shoulder blade. Adjusting to the movement, they shifted to sit astride the ridge. It wasn’t precisely comfortable, but it was secure. As long as the dragon didn’t try anything more adventurous than a walk.

They moved much faster now that Reglian was no longer constrained to human-size strides. Pacing swiftly down the Clan Sunlord road, they passed through a shaft of light. The wash of the sun’s rays, distant and wintry though it was, was a welcome sensation for all and Reglian’s scales rippled under the warmth. The road beneath them turned to gold and Reglian walked through the next two squares of light before turning left again and leaving the path.

Jaymes tensed, waiting for another trap, but with a hop and a bound, the black dragon landed on a third road – a mixture of slate grey and twilight blue.

“My ancestors, Clan Skystorm,” Reglian introduced, then rumbled a warning as he picked up the pace. Trotting into the dark, with only the tiny glow globes he had made for them to see by, Jaymes and Corin spent more time holding on than looking around.

Which was why when Reglian stopped, Jaymes was startled enough to fall off.

“Careful!” Emberbright yelped too late inside his mind as she tumbled after him.

The quick-thinking Reglian stuck out his foreleg and Jaymes slithered down, his descent slowed enough for him to land on his feet.

He stumbled a little, but his dignity remained mostly intact. “Thank you,” he sighed, scooping Emberbright up from the golden claw she was draped around.

“You’re welcome,” Reglian said, plucking Corin off his back. “You are all welcome, in fact, to the Giftspring. Allow me show it to you.”

With his passengers safely on the ground, Reglian bent and blew a wide circle on the wall ahead of them. Wherever his breath touched, golden sparks flickered into life, gathering together to reveal a drinking fountain. Carved from a glittering green stone, it had been made on a human scale. A human face stared out at Jaymes, its eyes were two glimmering rainbow opals above a gaping mouth. The Giftspring poured out of the hole into a shallow basin that overflowed to form a pond beneath.

As the light grew around them, Jaymes realised that he and Corin were already in the pond. Reglian had placed them upon a giant, black marble lily pad, whose white veins looked like fossilised lightning.

“Beautiful,” Corin murmured, crouching to study a white marble frog statue perched on the edge of their pad. As she stroked down its back, the frog croaked and hopped into the water.

Yelping, she jerked backwards.

“Careful,” Reglian murmured, catching her before she fell into the pond. “It’s deeper than it looks.”

Silvery eyes popped above the surface, blinked twice, then vanished into the depths.

“Why am I even surprised?” Corin sighed, and Jaymes squeezed her hand.

“Now?” asked the dragonets, Jaymes hearing Skybreeze’s distinctive cool tones twining around Emberbright’s warmer voice for the first time.

Reglian lowered his head to look at them and nodded. “Now. If you would get down.”

They slithered from their shoulder perches and Jaymes shivered as Emberbright’s warmth left his back and neck. There was a definite chill rising from the pond and he wasn’t sure he liked it.

“Dragongifted, please kneel.”

There was such a regal command in the dragon’s voice that Jaymes found himself on his knees before he even considered it. Corin sank beside him with equal speed and they faced their dragonets, both of whom were sitting on their haunches, front paws spread for balance. When Jaymes settled back on his heels it brought him eye to eye with Emberbright.

“Join hands.”

He held out his hands, palms up, and Emberbright balanced her paws on top. Her warmth seeped into his bones and he shivered. Her amber eyes glowed in response.

“Human children, speak after me.

“I open myself, heart, mind and spirit to accept this gift.” Softly, feeling squeezed beneath the weight of expectation, tradition and unseen power, Jaymes spoke in time with Corin, echoing the Archivist’s solemn words. “Here, we are partners, from this day until we die. Let no secret nor shadow come between us, nor any truth lie hidden within. As you once heard my voice, I now have answered. Together we are reborn. With trust and love, let our partnership flourish. In the light we are bound, and in the dark the brave need not walk alone. My bond, my word, in blood be sealed. I am your Dragongifted.”

As they fell silent, a sharp pain stabbed the centre of Jaymes’ palms: Emberbright had sunk her claws into his hands.

“Drink,” Reglian commanded needlessly, since she was already nuzzling the wounds, her black tongue flicking out. The skin sealed beneath her licks and she straightened, placing her paws over his hands again. Her amber eyes glowed with an inner circle of blue, the same shade as his eyes. Dazed and awed, Jaymes stared in fascination.

“Dragonets, speak with me.

“I open myself, heart, mind and spirit to accept this gift.” The words were a whisper in his ears, head and blood, speaking in time with Reglian rather than afterwards. They had been waiting decades for this moment; it was nothing new to them. “We are partners, from this heartbeat onwards. No shadow nor secret will ever come between us. All truths will shine out from within. I stirred at your call, you answered mine, and in blood and strength we are reborn. With trust and love, let our partnership flourish. In the light we are bound, and in the dark the brave need not walk alone. My bond, my word, in blood be sealed. I am your Dragongift.”

Turning her paws over, Emberbright curled her claws in to sliced the tender pads before Jaymes could protest. Amber blood welled up and Emberbright lifted her paws.

“Drink,” Reglian commanded again, and Emberbright brushed her paw across his mouth.

Without thinking Jaymes licked his lips – a sharp, hot taste tickled his tongue like metal flavoured with spice. He kissed both paws gently and the skin healed beneath his touch. Heat spread from his mouth through his body and for a moment his awareness shifted, as though his mind was taking a deep breath. His heart sped up, his muscles shrank and heated, his shoulder blades itched, his skin rippled all over.

He blinked – and he was back inside his own skin. Only this time it felt like Emberbright was with him. He could feel her thoughts, feel the rush of blood through her veins, the itch of her undeveloped wings wanting so desperately to grow and fly.

And the fire, he felt the constant heat coiled deep within, the glowing embers in her heart and belly, waiting for the day they would ignite.

“By the Giftspring let the promise be sealed, Dragongift to Dragongifted. Drink the waters,” Reglian rumbled above their heads, his voice thrumming through Jaymes’ tender mind. He turned towards the edge of the lily pad without thought. Bending, he cupped his hands in the water and gasped at the icy sensation. The spring was colder than snow, yet it pooled in his hands like honey, falling away in thick, heavy blobs.

“Drink.”

He did, cautiously at first, then more readily as the sweet, delicious nectar flooded his senses, quenching not only his thirst but his mind, hunger and curiosity as well.

When his hands were empty, he felt complete in a way he never knew could exist. There was no place in the world he would rather be at that moment, no questions he needed to ask. Everything was wholly and utterly perfect. He never wanted to move again.

The light around the Giftspring swelled into a golden burst, spreading a feeling of happiness throughout his body, healing all his hurts. Then it faded, leaving him cold and oddly bereft, as if he’d lost something he could never describe or find again.

“It is done,” Reglian intoned, breaking the moment, and Emberbright clambered up to Jaymes’ shoulders filling him with warmth again. Even though the feeling of perfection was gone, he was content, able to sense his dragonet inside his deepest thoughts.

Sighing heavily, he pushed to his feet and smiled at Corin, who looked every bit as dazed and awed as he felt. “Let’s go home.”


~ Next Chapter ~

Thanks for reading!

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