“Tir wake up,” Drake said, shaking Tir shoulder.
“Ummm,” Tir groaned, curling into a tighter ball in the center of the bed, unwilling to let go of the sensual dream he was having.
“Tir, now,” Drake insisted, running his fingers up the boy spine.
“Drake,” Tir exclaimed, wiggling way from the tickling fingers.
“Come on, there is a lot to do today,” Drake encouraged, looking at the sleepy boy.
“Are they going hatch today?” Tir asked, sitting up, suddenly wide awake at the thought of the baby dragons as he looked over at the pearly white eggs.
“I don’t know, but it is a very good possibility. Come on, I will explain as we get you cleaned up,” Drake replied, getting up off the bed.
Tir crawled out of the large rumpled bed and grabbed up his wrap. He quickly trotted after Drake, who walked briskly down the walkway and into the palace complex.
“Are you feeling alright?” Drake asked when Tir had caught up to him.
“My head feels a little fuzzy. What happened? Why where those men trying to do that to me?” Tir asked.
“Because Duke Garth was afraid if you stood in the hatching there would be one less dragon to pick his daughter,” Drake answered, ushering Tir into the King opulent bathing hall.
“But I can stand in the hatching, I’m not noble,” Tir protested wistfully.
“You will be after this morning. Father dragged the council out of bed early this morning to confirm you taking the Highlands title. Marek was determined that you would stand in this hatching after what has happened, so the transfer of power has to be taken care of before the hatching. Get in the tub, we only have a little time left,” Drake said, lightly pushing Tir, who was looking at him with wide, shocked eyes.
Despite Drake gentle shoves Tir stood motionless, unable to comprehend the man words. The only thing that echoed through his mind was that he was to stand in the hatching. He was going to have a chance to bond with a dragon. It was beyond anything he could have ever hoped for. He felt a huge flame of excitement well up inside of him, certain that by the end of the day he would have his own dragon.
With a cry of joy Tir suddenly wrapped his thin arms around Drake and pulled him down for a kiss. When he let the startled man go he couldn’t help but smile widely, laughing. He couldn ever remember being so very happy.
“Go on, get in Tir,” Drake said with a gentle smile as he leaned down, kissing the boy forehead.
“Where Marek?” Tir asked as he began to bathe.
“He will be busy until the hatching. Right now he is gathering the candidates together and explaining to them what will happen during the hatching, and helping the more fearful ones calm down. You already know all what he is teaching them and you have never been afraid of dragons, so there is nothing to worry about.
“He also has to meet with the other riders to continue to go over things in case he needs to accompany me to Recura. We still don’t know if there will be a female. Feras and Ebony refuse to be parted if there is a young one to care for. Then he will oversee the preparations of the pens for the new hatchlings and their riders,” Drake replied from the bench near the pool as he watched Tir quickly scrub himself.
Two nearly naked bathing slaves entered the room, one of them carrying clothes and the other towels. As the one girl gently put the clothing on a nearby table the other gracefully glided over to the edge of the pool, a slight smile on her face. Tir looked at the voluptuous girl with resignation, wondering what he would have to do to get them to leave him alone when even a suggestion from the King had not worked.
“You can leave those with me,” Drake said, holding out his hand for the towel, his mirth barely contained in his deep voice.
The girl hand the towels to him with a deep bow and left as Drake chuckled at the disappointed look on the girl’s face. Tir sighed with relief as he got out of the pool and Drake handed him the large white towel.
“I would help you myself, but I afraid that would lead to other things,” Drake said with a chuckle.
“Quite right, you should already be gone. The council is waiting and many of them are none too happy with me,” the King said from the doorway.
Tir stopped drying to gaze appreciatively at the King, who looked for the first time regal and elegant. His wore the light silk clothing of a noble with charcoal gray pants and a long white tunic trimmed with silver and gold. His long, iron gray hair was held back from his face by the circlet of interlacing gold and silver dragons that converged in the center of his forehead where a large diamond sat.
“As much as I like your admiration, get dressed before the council changes their mind again,” the King said with a wink.
“Was there much protest?” Drake asked.
“What is this?” Tir asked suspiciously, looking at the clothes that had been laid out for him. The light silk clothes of emerald green and white slipped though his fingers, clothes that he had only seen on the highest of nobles in the Kingdom. Under the silken mass of clothes was a pendant beautifully etched with intertwining dragons, and an emerald seated in the very center.
“Didn’t you tell him?” the King asked, exasperated.
“Yes, but I think the hatching overwhelmed everything else,” Drake replied wryly, looking at Tir.
“Get dressed and I will explain,” the King waved at the clothing impatiently. “I’m giving you a title and lands, so that your father will not be angry at us for keeping you as a slave, even though we didn know it,” the King stated.
“What?! But I don’t know anything about managing lands. I thought you would just give me an empty title, so I could stand in the hatching. I just want to stay here,” Tir protested as he pulled on the white silken pants with green leaf embroidery.
“If you bond a hatchling you l be a rider and live here. Even if you don’t you will spend most of your time here in the palace, since your title also comes with a council seat. There is already an overseer in charge of the daily management of the Highlands, so there is no need for you to worry. If you don’t like the man you could always marry and put your wife there, or have a couple of children and have them take over that part of the job when they are old enough. Traditionally that is what most nobles do. You’re a bright boy, I sure you’ll be able to do it, besides you need a title to stand in the hatching, and there are no empty titles here in Terma,” the King explained.
Tir listened to the King words and couldn help but want to protest. He didn’t want lands, a title, a wife or children. He didn even want to think about children, women did not interest him in the least, and the thought of bedding one didn’y appeal to him at all. Nor did spending time away from Drake and Marek to oversee his new lands. Yet it seemed that this was the only way he would be able to stand in the hatching. He loved Ebony and Feras, but he couldn help but want a deep sort of bond that he had seen between Drake and Ebony and Marek and Feras. He wanted a dragon of his own, of that he had no doubt.
Tir picked up the pendant that he had seen only on a handful of people since coming to Terma and gazed at it. Unexpectedly his life had changed again, and he couldn help but feel a little unease. He had seen only a few pendants similar to the one he held, each bearing a different gemstone. He suspected there was more that the King and Drake were not telling him. Still, if it meant that he might be able to bond with a dragon he knew that he couldn refuse.
“Tir?” Drake said softly.
“Alright, what do I have to do?” Tir said, putting the pendant around his neck.
“Let go,” the King said, waving for them to follow him.
“Just say yes once father finishes his speech,” Drake said as they walked. “Father has already done the hard part, convincing everyone you should get the title. How did it go, by the way?” Drake asked again.
“Once they learned who he was most of them reluctantly agreed, although many wanted to give him a lesser title. I asked them whose title they wanted to volunteer and that shut everyone up. They all knew that it was my prerogative to give the Highlands title to anyone I wanted, and they couldn say anything about it. Jas left the decision up to me before he died,” the King answered as the walked through a part of the palace Tir had never seen before.
“Yes, but some of them could cause problems for you later on,” Drake replied.
“I will deal with it when it happens, like I always do,” the King said.
Tir listened to the conversation intently, trying to figure out what exactly he was getting himself into. He wished he had studied a little more about the kingdom itself instead of just the dragons. He had a deep feeling that the King had just put him in a job that he was unsuited for. Already he had been kidnapped and almost raped because of the title that he hadn’t even received yet. Biting his lip he couldn help but wonder if he shouldn’t protest again, even as they stopped in front of a large door that two sentries opened for them. Walking into the throne room of Terma, Tir felt overwhelmed.
The large circular room held six white marble pillars, each bearing a dragon banner in various colors. In front of a gleaming white banner trimmed in gold stood a dais with a simple white marble throne, etched with the same dragon motif that gleamedon each banner. Tir walked forward and noticed six men and two women standing in a semi-circle around the throne, awaiting their king.
Tir started to drop behind the King and Drake, only to feel Drake large hand grasp his, pulling him forward to walk beside him. Looking at the council members he noticed that all of them except four wore the same sort of pendant that now hung around his neck. The only difference lay in the jewel embedded in the center of each pedant. He saw a few familiar faces in the ring of people, yet each person he looked at remained expressionless.
The King ascended his throne and looked down at Tir for a minute before speaking.
“Please step forward, Tir,” the King commanded.
Tir looked at the King hesitantly, then nervously stepped forward. He felt extremely uncomfortable at the staring faces of the council members. It seemed absurd even to him that a boy that less than six months ago had served in the harem was now being elevated to one of the highest positions in the land. There could be no mistake that his new title was more than just a courtesy as he looked at the four other people wearing the pendant like his. Tir suspected that there were only six of those emblems in the entire Kingdom, and one belonged to the royal house itself. He could hardly believe the situation was real, yet it obviously wasn’t some elaborate joke either.
“Tir, son of King Tristan of Recura and Lady Kasarah, I bestow upon you the title of Marquis of the Highlands. Will you accept this responsibility and serve your new lands and country?” the King asked sternly.
“Yes,” Tir answered, surprised that his voice didn shake.
“Are there any objections?” the King asked.
“The representative of the Riders is not here,” a burly man with light brown hair and dressed in scarlet and gold said, stepping forward.
“My partner has temporarily given his council rights to me as his legal partner, it is valid. I know his wishes, and you no doubt know as well, Duke Garth. He has much to do this day,” Drake said mildly, stepping forward as well.
“This is highly irregular, all council members have always been present for a transfer of power, especially for such a high ranking title,” Duke Garth insisted stubbornly.
“Quiet Garth, we all know the reason behind your protest. We all heard about your part in last night excitement. You’re walking on the edge of a cliff, be careful you don’t fall off,” a thin, middle-aged women with extremely long black hair and beautiful almond eyes said tartly as she smoothed down her blue silk dress.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Duke Garth said icily.
“Good, lets get on with this. None of us are happy about it, but his Majesty has made himself very clear about this,” the woman in blue replied.
Duke Garth glared at Tir before stepping back. After a moment of silence the King nodded.
“Very well, Tir you are now formally named…” the King started, only as his attention turned inward, and Tir felt Ebony overwhelm his mind with excitement and a picture of three of the eggs rocking.
“Come on,” Drake said, grabbing his hand and pulling him to the door.
The council members gaped at them as they started to run. As they passed the doorway he heard the King saying the eggs where hatching.
Tir felt his own excitement rise up, converging with Ebony’s as he and Drake ran through the hallway. They skidded to a halt in front of the pen and entered to see a small group of ten boys and girls near the clutch of eggs, while Ebony and Feras stood behind them, watching the three wildly rocking eggs. Tir joined the group of boys and girls as Drake walked over to Ebony.
Tir held his breath as he watched in anticipation. Two of the eggs near the outside of the clutch of eggs began to show small cracks that increased. Soon a small green claw broke though one of the eggs, shattering a hole in the pearl white shell. The small claw ripped at the shell and was soon joined by another. Tir watched in fascination as the little green claws ripped at their prison, tearing it apart. Soon the little dragon’s head poked out of the opening it had made as it forced its body though. the opening.
With a small chirp the little green dragon with a dusty brown belly stood on all fours, its large wet wings spread out as though it would fly, and looked at the humans surrounding him. With a small little chirp the little dragon looked at a young blonde boy no more than twelve, and the boy rushed to his new partner.
Even as the first pair were greeting each other a small sapphire head thrust through one of the cracks in the second egg. The little head hung out of the shell and began to produce a small, pathetic chirp that tore at Tir’s heart. He started to step forward to help the little one, but a large burly teenage boy dressed in green and white ran to the egg and, using the small hammer meant to break open the unhatched eggs, carefully split the shell in half as the dragon, no bigger than a large dog, spilled out into the young man’s lap.
Tir watched enviously for a minute at the rapt expression the two boys’ faces as they communicated with the new little dragons. Soon, Tir’s attention was brought back to the last egg that showed no cracks, but was rocking back and forth wildly in the center of the clutch of eggs. It wasn’t long before a large crack formed in the egg and within seconds the egg split in two, and with a loud piercing shriek a little simmering purple dragon rolled out of the broken egg. Righting itself with another ear piercing squeal it looked around and walked on all fours, with huge thin wings held up to avoid stepping on them.
“Move aside, it’s a female, let her go to Ebony,” Marek barked as the little female walked slowly toward the humans, screeching when they didn’t move out of her way fast enough.
Ebony came forward as everyone except for Tir ran for the door. She picked up one of the unhatched eggs in her mouth and set it down in front of the shrieking dragon, neatly splitting it open with a claw. The little female pounced on the broken egg, her long red tongue flickering over the white, gelatinous contents greedily.
Marek roused the other two boys to do the same for their own precious ones, as Drake went to help a couple of unchosen boys out of the pen. Tir stood still, unable to believe the hatching was over. Before that morning Tir had resigned himself to the fact he wouldn’t be able to bond one of the little dragons, but hoped had flared in him. He never thought that he might not be chosen. He had just assumed that he would be. Now he watched the lucky new riders tending to their dragons as Marek helped them. He felt tears fill his eyes, threatening to spill out. Before they could begin to fall Tir turned and ran from the pen.
Blindly he ran down the dragon walkway, not knowing where to go. His home was Ebony’s pen, and yet it was to painful to stay watching the new little dragons that had found him unworthy. People stared in shock as he ran past them, until he finally found himself in Drake’s unused set of rooms.
Sobbing, he ran into the inner chamber, after struggling to part the light curtains surrounding the bed Tir threw himself into it. Sobbing, he grabbed one of the oversized pillows to muffle his cries.
He wondered why he so unworthy, why he hadn’t been chosen. He knew he should be grateful. Everyone had given him a home, and he knew Drake and Marek loved him. He could talk to Feras and Ebony, something that should be impossible. He felt horrible for being so ungrateful and not being satisfied with what he had. Yet he couldn’t stop the tears form flowing or the treacherous thoughts of it not being fair he wasn’t chosen.
“Tir?” Feras gravelly voice echoed tentatively in his mind.
Tir choked out a sob and quickly threw up his mental walls, not wanting Feras to see how pathetic he was acting. He just wanted to be alone as he continued to sob. Tir didn’t know how long he lay crying into the silken pillow until Drake quietly entered the room. When he felt a gentle hand touch his shoulder he flinched away.
“I’m sorry,” Tir cried.
“You have nothing to be sorry about. I know it’s hard not to be chosen. Especially for you who went into that pen not for honor, prestige, or rank, but because you truly love dragons. It must be hard for you to watch what Marek and I have, but not be truly a part of it. Feras argued with Marek about letting you stand in the hatching, but we just assumed it was because Feras and Ebony didn’t want you to leave them. Feras must have known that you wouldn’t be chosen. It’s ok Tir, I understand, you don’t have to be sorry,” Drake sad gently, stroking Tir’s head.
Drake’s deep, soothing voice echoed though Tir as he let go of Drake’s now soggy pillow and buried his face into the man’s muscular body. Gradually, his tears stopped, yet Drake didn’t loosen his hold and continued to stroke his back and hair gently.
Even though his tears had stopped he still felt miserable. He wanted to forget about his pain and sadness, if only for a moment He wasn’t ready to deal with the rejection and failed dreams of being a dragon rider.
“Drake,” Tir said softly.
“What is it?” Drake asked kindly.
“Would you help me forget?” Tir asked, his hands trailing down Drake’s chest.
“You needn’t ask. I will always be here for you,” Drake replied, lifting Tir’s chin and kissing him.
Drake pushed Tir down on the bed and explored his mouth with his tongue as his warm hand ran over Tir’s silken covered body. Minutes passed slowly as Drake’s slow, passion filled kisses gradually began to turn Tir’s mind from his sadness.
Despite both of them being fully clothed and only an occasional touch on his groin, Tir found himself harder than he had ever been in his entire life as Drake continued to do nothing more than kiss him. Drake’s tender, gentle kissing and petting relaxed Tir, making him forget the reason for his tears. He could feel Drake’s honest love for him in that moment, brushing aside the sadness and awakening the familiar, comfortable desire of the body.
Tir’s hands began to undo Drake’s clothing, wanting to feel the warm skin lurking behind the supple leather that Drake was always wearing. Drake stopped his hands, trapping them in his own before pulling away a little to bring them to his lips as he stared directly into Tir’s face. Tir shivered in desire at the black eyes that seemed to expose everything about him as they gazed at him.
“Let me,” Drake whispered, his hands moving to his clothing. “Let me do everything, let me take care of you.”
Tir nodded, wide eyed at the serious, deep voice that moved through him. He watched as Drake slowly stripped away his clothing, until he was completely naked except for his armband and jade earring. Tir looked at the perfectly sculpted bronze body hungrily, struck anew by its perfection, something that he had taken for granted since he saw the man everyday. Yet now, as Drake kneeled on the bed before him totally exposed to Tir’s gaze, letting him stare at the provocative body, Tir felt overwhelmed by his feelings. Drake might not be a dragon, but he still was one of the most amazing things in Tir’s life.
Reaching out, Tir grabbed Drake’s wrist and pulled the man on top of him. Drake nipped at his neck and then pulled Tir’s pants off of him, as well as his long silken tunic. Light, warm kisses moved from his neck down to his small nipples. A teasing tongue flicked over his right nipple, making Tir gasp in delight as Drake played with his chest. Closing his eyes in pleasure, he sighed softly, enjoying Drake’s attentions.
Tir opened his eyes when he felt a finger press against his lips, demanding entrance. He sucked on Drake’s fingers for a moment, then he felt the wet fingers penetrate him as Drake moved his attention to his already leaking member. Tir writhed on the bed as the large fingers worked their way inside of him and Drake’s mouth caressed his pulsing member.
When he began to whimper and push against Drake he felt the man rise up to kiss him again before raising his hips to slowly penetrate him. Tir let out a long moan of pure pleasure at the feeling of having Drake deep inside of him.
Tir opened his eyes and gazed up at Drake as the man carefully moved inside of him, hitting him just right to make his organ jump in pleasure at the slow, gentle fucking. They moved together, steadily increasing the rhythm of their bodies until Tir felt himself explode just by having Drake moving inside of him. Panting heavily, he watched Drake’s face as the man neared completion. The obvious pleasure Drake was getting from his body pleased Tir, and he watched Drake tense as he growled, releasing himself into Tir’s willing body.
Drake moved off of Tir and lay down next to him with a huge yawn.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get any sleep last night,” Drake said sheepishly.
“Because of what happened last night?” Tir asked, looking closely to see faint circles under Drake’s eyes.
“It took a while to get everything straightened out, but don’t worry about it,” Drake replied with another yawn.
Tir nodded, although he wanted to ask more, he also didn’t want to keep Drake awake any longer, feeling bad that because of him the man hadn’t gotten any sleep.
“Thank you Drake,” Tir whispered to the already sleeping man.