Tir threw himself down on the sands next to Feras and yawned. The sun had just begun to sink in the sky and yet Tir felt as if it should be later. It had only been a week since the hatching, but he had found himself constantly on the go. Mornings had been spent in the same council sessions that had kept Drake away so much, and his evenings where spent with two elderly old men Drake had found to teach him more about the country and lands he now belonged to. In between he had acquired a new suite of rooms in the palace that Drake assured him were just for appearance. If he wished, he could still stay with the dragons, which he did. He also had been fitted for new clothes, and he still had the task of picking personal servants and slaves to see to his needs, which were few. For the time being Sasha had been taking care of his suite of rooms and staying in the small servant’s room designed for personal slaves or servants.
He had been so busy he hadn’t been able to talk to Feras and Ebony again except for brief periods of time when he wasn’t occupied with something. So despite his tiredness he was determined to remain awake, at least enough to find out more from the dragons. He had spent some time during the boring council meetings that he didn’t fully understand thinking over their words and trying to put his thoughts in some type of order.
What bothered him the most was why they had told him as much as they had. It was obvious that they had been keeping the history of dragons and their purpose from humans a secret for a long time, yet they had told Tir. They could have easily kept the secret from him and just offered sympathy, or even told him he had bonded both of them and that was the reason he couldn’t bond a young one, without going into their own history.
It also disturbed him greatly that he was a descendent of Levan. The man had done such vile things and it was an embarrassment to Tir that he should be even distantly related to such a man. There were so many things that he still didn’t understand, but most of all how he and his father had mage powers. They had said Kris had sealed the powers of his mages, including himself. So why were his father and he now showing signs of power? And more importantly, why were the dragons not doing anything about it? It worried him that the reason for the dragons revealing their purpose and his bloodline might somehow be connected.
“They are in a way,” Feras said, making Tir jump in surprise.
“Don’t do that. Do you have any idea how startling it is to have a voice echoing in your mind when you’re deep in thought?” Tir grumbled aloud.
“Actually, no I don’t, most dragons are never truly alone. Can’t you feel me within your mind?” Feras asked curiously.
“Not when I’m concentrating on something. Most of the time I can, but when I’m focused on something I don’t notice you, although I always notice Ebony,” Tir replied.
“She often uses emotions instead of words, which are more powerful. I will try to remember that and start off with a blast of emotions,” Feras replied.
“Why doesn’t that sound comforting?” Tir asked.
“Well, you did want warning,” Feras said drily as Tir snorted.
“Back to what I was originally thinking. Why did you tell me everything you did, and why do I have powers in the first place, if I’m Levan’s descendant?”
“The last question is the simplest. It’s been two thousand years, Tir. I’m actually surprised that what Kris did lasted as long as it has. Most of the minor mages’ descendants seemed to have lost the magic, or it simply isn’t manifesting itself. Levan’s descendants on the other hand are a different story. Almost every mage that has appeared in Recura can trace an ancestor back to Levan’s line. There is a desert up along the southernmost border of Recura where a group of our people live. They have reported an increasing amount of mages appearing in the last two hundred years,” Feras said as Tir got up to get the supplies he needed to give the dragons a sand scrubbing, hoping the activity would keep him awake and alert.
“So does that mean they have been killed?” Tir asked quietly.
“Most of them, yes. There are about fifteen human mages over the past two hundred years that have bonded dragons,” Feras answered honestly.
Tir stripped out of his fine silk clothes and put on some of his old harem boy clothes before getting back into the sand and to rub sand on Feras’s scarlet scales with a specially made towel. Feras rumbled in pleasure and he felt Ebony’s mind enter his entreatingly, with pleading pale green colors.
“Of course, after I finish with Feras,” Tir replied with a smile.
“Where do the bonded humans live?” Tir asked, picking up the thread of conversation again.
“In the dessert with their dragons. Only humans that are willing to leave and come with their partners and live life in isolation are allowed to bond dragons. There are very few humans that can really do that,” Feras answered as he lay down and offered Tir a leg up to his back.
“What about the King then? You said he has power,” Tir asked.
“Your father is a direct descendant. Levan’s bloodline is spread throughout the noble families of Recura, and so it has kept the bloodline very strong. Not just your father, but many of the nobles have power, though nothing to rival King Tristan. Most of the noble families are too busy with the game of politics to notice their own powers, and the last few kings have been the same. They have them, but they are latent. Tristan is different, from an early age he has been mucking around with them,” Feras said with another almost purr as Tir hit a particularly sensitive area.
“Then why haven’t the dragons done anything?” Tir asked, clinging precariously to Feras’s back as he scrubbed the shiny scales with vigor.
“It would be pretty obvious if a dragon swept in and tore him apart or flamed him, wouldn’t it? He is a problem we don’t know how to deal with, especially if he tries to train his heir,” Feras answered.
“Then why don’t you try bonding him?” Tir asked.
“Also impossible. The only reason it works here in Terma is because it has been set in place since the founding. I’m sure you have noticed the social rules here in Terma are far different from your own country, and that is to accommodate us. Tristan is happily married, could you imagine what his wife would do if he suddenly was bond to another because of a dragon? Not only that, once again what we would do, land in a courtyard and wait for him to come out, and hope that his soldiers didn’t spear us? We need physical contact to establish the bond, the only reason we didn’t with you was because of Drake,” Feras said sarcastically.
“Well what about…?” Tir suggested looking over at the hatchling, watching curiously as Tir finished up Feras back and slid down to his other side.
“No, she is too young to make such a decision, the group mind will block her from the knowledge of how to bond,” Feras said firmly.
“But the males bond as soon as they hatch,” Tir protested.
“Tristan is already using his powers, he isn’t an untrained boy. He is a king and a powerful man. Not only that, any dragon bonding Tristan would bonding not only herself but her children as well. A youngling should not be making such a choice,” Ebony answered, speaking to him for the first time since the day of the hatching.
“Then you made it?” Tir asked.
“I wasn’t going to do it, but I saw Drake wandering the desert. None would approach him, for he wasn’t a mage, only a channel for one. For days he continued to search, his food ran out, his water was close to being gone, but none would approach him. Then despite the circumstances I watched him laugh at the playing of two dessert sand cubs in the distance. He could smile, despite his situation, with a kindness and warmth that drew me. I chose him when I saw it. I turned five that day, and I wrapped my magic around a man with no magic except a talent for channeling power,” Ebony answered.
Tir smiled at Ebony, thinking that she was a perfect match for Drake in every way. He finished up Feras and moved over to Ebony with a smile as he felt her rough tongue swipe his face.
“I’m glad that you did,” Tir said, rubbing the tender skin behind her eye ridges where the scales were softer and more sensitive.
As he worked on Ebony he thought about it, and realized it probably would be hard for the dragons to deal with such a powerful man. It would be hard for them to kill him without anyone knowing, and bonding him without a reason would be equally hard.
“So do you want me to ask Tristan to bond one of you?” Tir asked after a while.
“We are unsure. When he was visited the last time he had a strong positive experience with Ebony, so it is a possibility that he would be willing to bond a dragon. You will undoubtedly be spending time with him once we reach Recura, we would like to sound him out. To see what he would think of the idea. Right now there are two females in Recura that aren’t opposed to the idea of bonding Tristan, although they both will only consider it if Tristan truly wants to bond,” Feras answered.
“So do you want me to tell him about your history?”
“No, we didn’t tell you our history because of this, Tir. We told you because you are our partner and were hurting. Ebony knew the only way to really reach you was through your curiosity, and it would help you understand better. It has been a long time since any human has wanted to bond one of us simply for the joy of sharing a life with us. Mages are naturally drawn to us, but most do not know why and are afraid of us,” Feras said.
“With good reason, you tend to kill people who enter your pens other than your riders,” Tir answered.
“It is better to be feared. For a long time after this country was formed we had problems with humans trying to steal our eggs to bond a hatchling. Even though it would never work, many thought it was their way to power. Our bond is with our rider, would you like it if people were constantly coming in and our of your room? After a few examples most people avoid us, and we prefer it that way,” Feras answered
Tir remained quiet as he worked, thinking about what Feras had told him. Once again the dragon had made another difficult request of him. It had been decided that he would accompany Drake and Marek to Recura, although many in the council objected. Between the power of Drake, Marek, and the King they had overruled the council once again. Yet he had no idea what would happen when he actually got to Recura, and met his father. His stomach was already in knots just thinking about it.
Sighing, he wondered if he was really up to the challenge. He had no idea what Tristan would even think of the idea, and asking the King of a country to consider bonding a dragon seemed like a ridiculous request. He also couldn’t tell Tristan why it was so important to do so, which made it even more difficult. Shaking his head he wished Feras and Ebony hadn’t put him such a position.
As he finished up sand scrubbing Ebony he thought of various ways of approaching his father about dragons. Finally, as he finished up the last patch of scales, he sighed and shook his head, realizing that until he meet the man he wouldn’t know what was the right thing to say, and he doubted dragons would be on the top of his list then, anyway. It was entirely possible that he wouldn’t want anything to do with his bastard son and avoid him.
He went to gather up his supplies when he felt a small scaly head hit his leg, accompanied by a high pitched shriek. Looking down he saw the hatchling glaring up at him as she caught the polishing cloth in her mouth. Tir looked at Feras questioningly and he heard Ebony trill, her laugher floating through his mind.
“She wants me to polish her? But will I hurt her? Drake said that dragons don’t need sand scrubbing until they are four months, her scales are softer than yours,” Tir asked aloud.
“She saw you polishing us and doesn’t want to be left out,” Feras said, his humor and exasperation at his little one floating in Tir’s mind.
Tir looked down at the imperious violet dragon and thought for a moment. He obviously couldn’t use the sand cloth, but maybe there was something else he could use. Suddenly he thought of something and let go of the cloth, looking down at the dragon who spit the cloth out in disgust and looked up at Tir, demanding attention. He smiled down at the young one before turning and hurrying out of the pen. It wasn’t long when he returned with a small piece of burlap that he had acquired from the palace kitchen. The smell of sweet herbs that had been stored in it rose from the fabric as Tir knelt down and looked at small female.
She came over and head butted Tir, causing him to fall on his ass as he laughed at the imperious dragon. Taking the cloth he firmly scrubbed her soft scales as she collapsed half on his lap in delight, trilling. Smiling, Tir continued to rub her, forgetting about his weariness.
“Where are Drake and Marek? Drake has been staying away until late this week, and Marek hasn’t been here in over a week now. Every time I go looking for him, I can’t find him,” Tir asked quietly.
“Drake is spending time with his family and Marek has been avoiding you,” Feras replied bluntly.
“I thought he was, but I kept telling myself that he was just busy. Is he really that angry with me?” Tir asked, depressed by Feras’s answer.
“No, he isn’t angry, he is terrified. I know you told Drake you didn’t want to hear about Marek’s past from Drake, but he will never tell you about it, Tir. He hasn’t even spoke of it to me, although I know, since I share his mind so intimately,” Feras said after a while.
“Is it really that bad?”
“Yes, in a way. Marek’s father deeply loved his mother, and thought his wife felt the same. Unfortunately, Marek’s mother only feigned love so that her husband would cater to her every wish. She was very clever in her affairs, and her husband never had a clue of her deceptions until Marek was born. Marek’s parent are both dark in coloring, as a baby everyone assumed that Marek would eventually darken, and that his green eyes were a legacy of his great-grandfather. By the time he was five even Marek’s father couldn’t deny the truth any longer.
“Because of Terma’s laws and traditions, it is considered abhorrent to disown a bastard child, so Marek’s father was forced to keep him, yet he wasn’t forced to ignore the fact. It was obvious his wife wasn’t as in love with him as she claimed, and his tender concern for her disappeared. Marek’s mother blamed him, and his legal father hated him for destroying his illusions.” Feras said.
“That is terrible, at least my own mother loved me. How could she blame him for her mistakes, it is so wrong,” Tir said indignantly.
“I agree, but humans often are not as concerned with right and wrong, as justifying their own actions. To make matters worse, Marek and his older brother were betrothed to a pair of sisters in a neighboring barony. Marek’s family rarely ever bonded dragons, unlike some of the other noble families, so everyone assumed he would marry and serve as his brother’s assistant. He loved the girl, Gwyneth, even though she was shy and delicate, totally unsuited for him. He was very young and very in love, and she seemed to love him as well, but when her sister died she was quickly engaged to his elder brother instead.
“Since then Marek has avoid relationships other than physical ones, for fear of being hurt. He has never before experienced someone loving him, not his parents, siblings, or his betrothed. When Gwyneth quickly turned to his brother, he came to the palace in desperation. Alexius Drake’s mother remembered the little boy who hadn’t been afraid of Shokar, and allowed him to stand in the hatching despite Shokar’s insistence that he wouldn’t bond a hatchling,” Feras explained as Tir felt a pinch on his hand when he had stopped working on the hatchling almost purring in his lap.
“Why did Shokar think that Marek wouldn’t bond?” Tir asked, resuming his duties with a small smile.
“Because his powers are weak. I chose him despite that when I saw those cold, arrogant eyes that had become Marek’s mask, because I felt beneath them to the sadness and absolute longing in him. Mother scolded me until she died about it, but I didn’t care. Marek was worth it, he had given me his whole being without question,” Feras answered with a tenderness Tir rarely heard in Feras’s thoughts.
“I can see it whenever he looks at you,” Tir said with a smile, thinking that when he first saw Marek look at Feras was the first time he had glimpsed the man under the mask.
“He is afraid that he will get hurt by you, Tir. Drake is the perfect man, he is intelligent, kind, forgiving, beautiful, and one day will be King. In Marek’s mind it is a forgone conclusion you will eventually choose him, just like his betrothed chose his brother. It is unusual for dragons to have permanent mates, he is sure when Ebony mates with another you will choose to stay with Drake. He doesn’t want to love you, but he already does. Your words forced him to look at his feelings for you and he is afraid of the future,” Feras explained.
“But you and Ebony are going to stay together? Right?” Tir asked, suddenly a little afraid himself, it had never occurred to him that the two dragons might not stay together.
“Yes, because of our bond with you, it seems likely that we will. But Marek doesn’t know about that,” Feras replied quickly, easing Tir’s fears.
“Then let’s tell him and Drake both. I have never been comfortable with keeping it from them,” Tir replied, looking directly at Feras.
“When we return from Recura, but for now there is too much to do and little time. The most important thing is for Drake to be focused on the peace negotiations. We don’t want him to be distracted by this,” Feras answered after a moment of thought.
“Won’t it be more distracting for Marek to be so upset?” Tir asked.
“That problem is going to be solved shortly,” Feras answered with a chuckle.
Before Tir could reply, the door of the pen opened to admit Drake almost dragging Marek in behind him. Tir looked up in surprise to see a good natured smile on Drake’s face, while the scowl on Marek’s was scorching. Drake pushed Marek forward as Marek turned to leave.
“Oh no you don’t, Marek. We are leaving in less than a week and you need to settle things before we leave. Tir has been moping around like a lost puppy and you have been more troublesome than normal. The other riders have been complaining to me almost continuously about your attitude. I’m leaving, and when I return I better find you two in some form of undress or I I swear I’ll indulge you in that perverse form of pleasure your so fond off,” Drake said as he winked at Tir before turning and leaving the pen.
Marek walked over to Feras and leaned into his dragon as Tir watched. Feras’s words utmost in his mind, he approached the Baron, wondering what he was going to say but knowing that he was probably going to have to take the lead at least in this part of their relationship.
“Marek, why have you stayed away? Do you hate me now?” Tir asked quietly, trying to draw the man out.
“What makes you think that, little harem boy? I can’t spend every moment here,” Marek said sarcastically.
“No, but I haven’t seen you in a week, and every time I look for you, I can’t find you,” Tir pointed out.
“I’ve been busy,” Marek said shortly. “I see you have sand scrubbed him,”
Tir walked forward and wrapped his arms around Marek, feeling the man’s incredibly tense body next to his own. Tir laid his head against Marek’s back, thinking about the enigmatic man who had only been loved by a dragon. It was easier to understand someone that could enter your mind, who shared a part of you, but with humans you couldn’t do that.
“Marek, after tonight I will not talk about this again, nor ask you to tell me your feelings again. I love Drake, he is a friend and lover I always wished I could have. I can talk to him for hours and he is a gentle lover, always considerate of my needs. Yet despite this he isn’t enough for me. He could never do for me what you do,” Tir said softly.
“What, tie you up?” Marek said sarcastically.
“Yes, but it is more than that. Drake has never provoked me and captivated me like you do. You can just look at me, Marek, and I can forget about everything. When I’m with you I can lose myself, and when you are away I look for you without realizing it. Despite having Drake by my side all this week, my thoughts continued to dwell on you, even when I should have been thinking about other things,” Tir said ruefully.
“It isn’t that I love you more or Drake more. I love you both, and will always love you both. I couldn’t choose between you even if I was forced too,” Tir said, feeling a little of the tension ease out of the warm body that he was holding.
“You’re greedy,” Marek murmured.
“Yes, and selfish, but you like me that way, I think. It gives you more reason to tie me up. I’m not going to leave you for Drake, or leave Drake for you. I really don’t like the idea of being a Marquis, but at least it gives me the freedom to be with you both no matter what happens,” Tir said as Marek turned in his arms.
“This the only time you will ever hear me say this, Tir. I love you,” Marek whispered, looking down at Tir with an expression so intense that Tir knew that the man would only need to say it once, for he would never be able to forget the look of longing, vulnerability, and love on Marek’s face.