Authors: D'Elen McClain
Damn female. I can’t get her large green eyes out of my head. She’s such a cute little thing with her small features and lithe body. Even the stupid headpiece she wears appeals to me. She’s tall for a human female and I still tower over her by a foot. When I touched her, a spark of energy traveled through me. It was then that I remembered the same weird sensation when I grasped her hand several years before. I wanted to run my fingers up and down her arms to keep the current flowing and I had a difficult time releasing her. These are dangerous thoughts and they lead to the forbidden.
Humans serve dragons and Meagan never understood that. I know my bride gave Pepper the courage to scamper mindlessly through my lair instead of finding responsibilities to keep her busy and out of my way. And now her scent consumes me with a need I can never fulfill. It must stop now.
I cast my voice into my manservant’s head and demand he attend me at once. Henry is in his thirties and will be with me for many years. Training a proper manservant is a lot of work. When a servant grows too old to be helpful, the long training process begins again with a younger human.
Henry works hard and I have no complaints. He’s fastidious and takes care of my clothing and other personal needs, which keeps life within the castle walls running smoothly. His stoic face rarely gives away the slightest hint of approval or disapproval no matter what I demand. I like that. I don’t need him as a friend. I just need him following my instructions.
About ten minutes after my summons, Henry enters the outer chamber of my bedroom looking harried after his mad dash to my rooms. His uniform is uncommonly wrinkled and he’s sweating. He bows with a slight trembling of his hands and stands waiting for my command. My voice was harsh when I beckoned him and no doubt he thinks he’s in trouble.
“The young woman known as Pepper has been sneaking into my rooms. Earlier she came into my bedroom while I slept.” I pierce him with eyes of pure silver. “Deal with the situation immediately and see she does not return.”
His expression startles me. He squints his eyes and appears angry. Too bad.
I wave him away and walk into my bedroom. I should feel better now that the problem is dealt with. I don’t. And Henry’s behavior doesn’t help. I lie in bed trying to fall asleep and decide to visit Bastian and Acasia when the sun is up. Their son, Ashrac, will help alleviate the sadness that’s strangling me. Even if I stay for only for a few hours, it will help. It occurs to me that there’s a very real possibility that Ashrac’s parents will forbid my visit. I grumble aloud because I understand. After what happened with Sarn, they must protect their son from a dragon such as myself or risk losing their greatest treasure. Sarn tried to steal Ashrac and when Laryn’s bride, Roxy, interfered, Sarn burned her with dragon fire. Even though Sarn was mourning the death of his bride and not in his right mind, some things are hard to forgive. Burning another dragon’s bride to the point of death and trying to take another dragon’s child are at the top of the list. The death of a bride can cause dragons to behave irrationally. I too feel the dangerous tug of unwelcome thoughts and the burning desire to possess the current happiness of my brother dragons. I’ve waited six months to visit my friends. I’m stronger now and feel I can easily resist the temptation to take what I want.
It would be nice to call on Laryn and Roxy too, but they’re nesting and await the birth of their second child. This makes them highly unpredictable and I doubt we are a good combination. Laryn once told me of the overpowering urge he had to steal Bastian and Acasia’s egg. How they allowed Laryn near their son is beyond me. I can only hope they will grant me permission to visit with their son if only for a short time. I need something to lighten my mood.
On the edge of sleep, a set of wide green eyes enters my thoughts and the scent of sweet herbs takes me into the world of dreams.
I know Bastian and Acasia sense the moment I cross into their realm. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Bastian charging my way to head me off, but he doesn’t. When I’m closer to the castle, I’m able to telepathically communicate. “I come in peace and wish only a few hours to visit my friends.”
“Uncle Tahr, you must come and see my new machine,” Ashrac immediately responds and I can’t help but smile. In dragon form I’m sure my smile looks ferocious and this just causes my sharp teeth to spread further. Ashrac is a young teenager now and is fascinated with electronic devices that don’t work in the dragon realms. It’s the magic that keep them from doing whatever they were designed to do. Ashrac doesn’t care. A few years ago, I brought him a circular robot that cleans human floors in the earth’s realm. You would think it was a mountain of gold by how much he coveted the useless item.
“Come in peace, my friend,” Bastian says.
“If not, I will tan your hide,” Acasia adds, which makes me laugh.
She’s such a… mother. It’s the only word that describes her. Somehow I don’t see Roxy responding quite so gently. Slicing their head off, yes, and she’s more than capable. But tanning, no.
I land on the high perch of Bastian’s tower where he accepts guests. Ashrac flies around from the opposite side and lands. I shift at the same time he does and the lad throws himself into my arms.
“I’ve missed you, Uncle Tahr. I’m so very sorry about Meagan and I miss her too.”
His words cause my gut to tighten. I inhale Ashrac’s unique young scent in order to shake off thoughts of Meagan. Bastian is truly blessed to have such a child and I’m blessed that his parents allow my visit.
Looking down at the top of his head, I can’t help but realize how much this young man has grown. There will come a day that he won’t throw himself into my arms with the abandonment of youth. A strong yearning to take him to my castle and keep him comes over me. I look up and see Bastian in his human form with a glint of fire in his eyes. I release Ashrac reluctantly and tousle his hair. “You must stop growing or you will be larger than me soon.”
Ashrac’s chest puffs up and I see a hint of the child he once was. “Mother says I’ve grown three inches in the past six months. I will be bigger than you and father this next year and then I shall come and steal all your treasure, Uncle Tahr.”
It’s impossible not to grin when he’s so carefree. I remember stealing treasure from other dragons when I was a child. I think all the dragons were in on the small thefts that allowed the children to practice their stealth. That was before the curse and before dragons lived with years of lonely agony. But as it was then and as it is now, children are the greatest treasure a dragon can have. I envy Bastian and Acasia and also Laryn and Roxy. Their miracles shall never be mine.
Bastian breaks into my thoughts and holds garments out for me to put on. “Acasia is waiting below. She plans to serve tea.” He holds up his hand before I can comment. “Yes, I know that it’s ridiculousness. She believes she can teach our son the proper ways of a gentleman and I wouldn’t dare make her think otherwise.” His hard stare has me closing my mouth and fighting a grimace.
“Must we, Father?” Ashrac complains.
“Yes, or your mother will be unhappy and we don’t want that. Once you’ve had tea, you may show Tahr your new device.”
Ashrac turns from his father to gaze up at me. “She will have small sweet cakes, so it shall not be all bad, Uncle Tahr. Then I will show you the greatest invention ever made.”
I dress in the offered clothes. I should have brought my own. I’ve forgotten about Acasia’s many rules and no nudity when having tea is one of them. “I can’t wait to see this great invention, Ashrac. You must tell me all about it and exactly what it was built for.”
Ashrac takes my hand and leads me inside. Even his hands have grown and it gives me a melancholy feeling to think of what will happen when he is a man. Will the curse guide his life as it has ours? It’s such a horrible thought and I’m here to escape those.
We walk down the stairs and enter a long hallway that takes us to a set of rooms that are used for entertaining. Acasia throws herself into my arms much like Ashrac did. I look over her shoulder at Bastian and he only rolls his eyes. I return her hug before stepping back.
“We’ve missed you, Tahr,” she says in a husky voice as she tries to fight tears. She and Meagan were great friends.
“I’ve missed you too and I hear you have tea and sweet cakes to entertain me. We best get on with this eating and drinking business so Ashrac can show me his newest acquisition.”
I’m grateful that she gets the hint and resists full out crying. The brides have always had a close bond. Now that Acasia is immortal, she will also bear the loss of my future brides.
Acasia serves tea like a pro. There’s no sign that she’s capable of shifting into a large, ferocious red dragon and killing any predator who threatens her family. Her hands are dainty and sure. The sweet cakes are good, though the tea barely tolerable. I’ve never been a tea drinker, but to see Acasia happy, I’m willing to fight the urge to spit it out. Bastian gives me a wink and I realize how nice it is to be here with a dragon who understands me perfectly.
After I’ve performed my gentlemanly duty, Ashrac takes me to his electronics room. I noticed a flash of red in Acasia’s eyes when Ashrac took my hand. I gave her a nod. I will not ruin my friendship with them no matter my compulsion. After the tragedy with Sarn, I know I can’t handle the heartache of rejection from my dragon family. I need them to help me through the lonely years.
I’m glad Sarn is happy with his mate, but giving up the power to shift to dragon is more than I could ever do for a woman; even a mate. Dragon is who I am. Forsaking the ability to be a man would be far easier.
Ashrac’s newest toy is a drone used by the earth realm’s U.S. military, or so he tells me. It doesn’t work, but Ashrac broke it down and rebuilt it so he knows everything it can do. Acasia explained over tea that Dmitri, an earth realm vampire and friend, is creating documentation so Ashrac can attend one of earth’s scientific colleges in about twenty-five years. It will be good for him.
A dragon reaches maturity and can breathe fire at one-hundred years old. The twenty-five years before full adulthood are difficult. Like most teenagers, they don’t want their parents’ guidance and they seek adventure, also known as trouble. With Ashrac’s mathematical mind, which he gets from his mother, school will hopefully keep him away from too much misfortune. A little trouble is acceptable and expected when you’re the fiercest creature in a hundred realms. But moderation is important and sadly can only be taught by making one’s own mistakes. Those are always the best lessons and I know because I’ve learned from plenty of my mistakes.
Ashrac begins dismantling the drone to show me all its hidden features. “My father is taking me to earth’s realm next week to work on it. I’m to visit Uncle Sarn while I’m there. He and his mate have a new lair and they’ve built a room for me with lots of instruments so I can work with electricity and watch my projects do what they’re meant for.”
I feel eyes on me and look up. Bastian stands at the door with one eyebrow cocked and a satisfied smile on his face. He’s so proud of his son and I know his pride is sweeter because Ashrac is so much like his mother. I’m happy for Bastian; he deserves this life.
I can’t help feeling responsible for the thousands of years of suffering he went through before he found his mate. It was my uncle who brought the curse down on us. Now that Sarn and Laryn have been blessed in their lives, maybe I can let go of some of the guilt I’ve carried for so long. That is… until Ashrac’s destiny shows itself. I don’t think it will ever be possible to alleviate that guilt if he’s part of the curse.
Bastian is giving me a concerned look so I’m sure some of my troubled thoughts are coming through in my expression.
“Son, if you’re finished with Uncle Tahr, he and I are taking a flight to speak of man things.”
Bastian isn’t one to let something rest. As the oldest of my brother dragons and myself, he’s always been the one to keep us in line when needed. He’s also the sounding board when things are at their worst.
From the frown on Ashrac’s face he’s unhappy that he isn’t yet included in “man things.” I give Ashrac and Acasia a tight hug before Bastian and I set out on our “man things” flight. We fly off the high perch and it’s not long before Bastian gets to the point. “How are you?” he asks.
He knows I put on a front for Acasia and Ashrac. Bastian is aware of the pain carried after losing a bride. I give him the answer he seeks. “Fucked in the head, lonely, angry, and desperate.”
Bastian doesn’t say anything for several minutes and I just enjoy the wind caressing my scales and the beauty far below. When Bastian finally speaks again, it’s nothing I want to hear. “Your time is coming, Tahr. Three of us have found mates and you will not be left behind for long. Your forever bride is out there. I know it.”
I hear the certainty in his voice, but I don’t accept it. “You know who I am, Bastian. You have suffered for the sins of my bloodline. All of you have. Sarn suffers still. He will never shift to dragon again. He…”
Bastian interrupts me. “Sarn is at peace and happy. He told me that in his heart he will forever be dragon and no Goddess can take that away from him.”