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|This story started as a way to keep a friend and me from falling asleep in accounting. I never finished it in that class. It probably would have rotted away in a notebook somewhere if I had not needed a distraction for a couple of girls I was sitting for. It was an instant hit.||
Siobaughn stopped when she heard the voices. It sounded like Brennan and the rest of the village boys had found some defenseless animal and were torturing the poor thing. She frowned. She really should stop them, but if they had gotten into Geoff's father's ale, they could be dangerous. She turned to go on, and stopped again. She couldn't just walk away; it wasn't right. Siobaughn heaved a sigh and turned down the path leading toward the voices.
She paused when she reached a shrubbery-shrouded hollow. She could distingush different voices, as well as the grunts and yelps of pain from whatever animal had gotten into their clutches. She could smell the sulfur from the torches and the poor animal's blood and fear...and Geoff's father's ale. Siobaughn pushed the bushes apart for a closer look...
And froze. The moronic lunkheads were torturing a dragon! They had somehow managed to trap a dragon and were using the pig-stickers they boastfully called swords to stab and hack away at it. It was small for a dragon, not much bigger than a drake, but it was unmistakably a dragon.
As she watched, horrified, Brennan drove his "sword" into the golden hide at the shoulder joint. The poor dragon bellowed in pain. Why didn't he just fly away? The dragon reared up in rage and pain, and she saw the reason. His left hind leg was shackled in iron; he was suffering from iron-poison and was probable too weak to do much of anything. Another bellow of pain echoed in the ditch. Siobaughn squared her shoulders, set a disapproving look on her face, and mached down into the sinkhole. "Okay boys!" she called. "That's enough."
Closer up, the stench and the grisly sight were worse. The greenish ichor that was the dragon's blood stained everything. "You've had your fun, so put away your toy swords and go home."
Brennan swaggered up to her, an ichor-stained sword in his hand and ale on his breath. "Well, well, if it in't the saintly 'n ever-good Siobaughn. Whaterya doin' out here all by yersel'? Huh? Maybe you shoul' go home 'fore I run ya through wi' my sword. Get otta here! You doan' have any business out here. Go 'way!"
Siobaughn staggered back as he pushed her. Fingering the small knife at she wore at her waist, she declared, "If you do not get your drunken, oafish selves out of here right now, I will make you leave." The boys just laughed at her in drunken derision.
Angry, Siobaughn drew her knife and lunged at the nearest boy. When she had almost reached the startled youth, she suddenly dove to one side, near the dragon's left hind foot. She grabbed the chain and began working furiously at the lock. Curious, the dragon lifted his leg a little and turned his head around to watch her. "Look you stupid flying toad, I can't set you free and keep those morons away at the same time. If it isn't too much trouble, do you think that you could possibly do it for me?"
The dragon snorted, ruffling her hair, and she looked up. He was regarding her with a sort of patient amusement. She heard a sound behind her and whirled around. Dropping her knife, she picked up an nearby rock and hurled it at Geoff. It struck him between the eyes and he fell back, holding his face with blood seeping through is fingers. "Sometime this century flames-for-brains! I can't do everything at once."
She picked up her knife and went back to work at the shackle. Trent came at her from the side, but before he got there the dragon's head swung around and its mouth opened. Trent took one look at the gaping maw and ran for his life. Siobaughn desparately wriggled the knife in the shackle. "Come on, unlock!" With a soft snick, the shackle opened and fell away from the dragon's foot.
The dragon roared in triumph and spread his wings. With a powerful spring, he leapt into the air and flew from the scene. Siobaughn watched him soar away with a smile on her face, until she remembered where she was and what was going on around her. She looked around her, into the faces of the drunken, angry, strong men surrounding her. "Get her!" one snarled, she never knew which one. She fell to her knees under the sudden barrage of kicks and punches.
"Curse you, you snivelling, cowardly little worm!" she managed to scream. "I saved your life, you ungrateful, addle-brained fire-snake. Don't leave me here like this! You owe me!" She tried to stuggle to her feet, tried to get away from the punnishing blows. "Curse you! Don't leave me here!"
A dragon's battle cry stilled the cruel hands. Siobaughn stuggled to her feet and staggered to one side. He was back; her little golden dragon was back to save her. She could have wept with joy.
He dove out of the sky, all golden and gleaming. His mouth was open and flames, wonderful, white-hot, glorious dragon's flames, were issuing from it. Beautiful, magnificent flames that would...burn her up if she didn't get out of the hollow. Shaken out of her stupor, she turned and began an inglorious scramble up the hill. Her hands hurt from the brambles climbing the sides of the depression, her sides ached where she had been kicked, she was tired and dirty and sore, and there was no way she would be able to make it out of the pit before she was burned alive.
Suddenly, strong claws grasped her waist and she was being carried into the air. Funny, she thought hazily, he looked a lot smaller when he was chained. She hung in his claws, exhausted, as he flew over trees and streams with powerful strokes of his large wings. He flew over meadows and farmhouses, over the foothills of the Serra Mountains, until he reached a rocky outcropping near the base of a mountain, probably his lair.
Landing gently on his hindpaws, he set her down carefully. She promtly collapsed. The beast raised what had to be a brow and rumbled deep in his chest. He was laughing at her! The wretched brute was laughing at her!
"What did you expect, dragon?" she snapped. "I haven't exactly had the nice, peaceful day I expected to have...Would you please stop laughing at me?"
The dragon sobered instantly, though an amused gleam still lit his eye. "Forgive me, damsel. I did not mean to be rude...But if you knew how amusing you looked, sprawled there on the ground...." Siobaughn was obliged to wait as he went into another paroxysm of laughter. "Forgive me, milady." He held out a claw.
Siobaughn grapsed it, and found herself holding a human hand. "I didn't realize dragons could change forms...."
The young man smiled and helped her walk into his cave. "Not many dragons can, only the golden ones. How do you think those boys caught me? They chained my leg when I couldn't stop them. I'm afraid I'm not much use in this form, but it allows me to walk amongst you, for the most part. My name is Therandil."
"I'm Siobaughn," she responded. "Thank-you for rescuing me."
"How could I not, with you calling for me so sweetly?" He caught her disbelieving look and smiled. "Your choice of words is most...unique. Besides, you did save my life, I couldn't just leave without repaying my debt. How shall I repay you? I have gold, gems, costly fabrics...Name it and it is yours."
Siobaughn shook her head. "You've already paid your debt. You saved my life back there. I'd say that makes us even."
"No it doesn't." He shook his head ruefully. "Your life would not have needed saving if I had not taken off like a frightened fledglling, bawling for its mother. No, I still have a debt to pay. What would you like? Gold? A beautiful crown to set on you glorious auburn hair? A velvet gown that would make your lovey green eyes glow?"
Siobaughn laughed. "No, none of that, especially not your flattery. I don't have any use for things like that--I don't know what I want." She looked up into his gold eyes, the color of his dragon's hide and his human hair. A sudden thought made her frown. "All those boys are dead. I can't go back home now. Everyone will believe I killed them."
Therandil frowned. "Why would they think anything like that? You did not do anything. Surely they can tell when a dragon's attacked someone?"
"Of course they can tell a dragon's attack. They will think that I bewitched you into doing it, especially if one of the boys survived. After all, I did call you back." She gave a short, bitter laugh. "Even if they don't hang me for murder, they will burn me as a witch."
Therandil appeared to be deep in thought, turning an idea over in his head. "You could stay here with me. I would make sure no one would be able to hurt you."
Siobaughn turned to him in suprise. "You would really do that for me?" He shrugged uncomfortably. "But wouldn't it cause trouble with the other dragons if I stayed? They might not like it if I stayed here. I'm a human, they might think that I might lead other humans here."
Therandil frowned, then smiled. "There's an easy way to fix that...How would you like to be a dragon? No one would be able to hurt you, and the other dragons would not raise any objections."
"How are you going to do that? The only people that can change others' forms that I know of are wizards. And let's face it, dragons and wizards are not the best of friends."
Therandil looked very uncomfortable. "There is a way, you could become my lifemate. As long as I am alive, you will be able to transform at will. When I die, you would become a human again. It's not a bad arrangement. We both need something, you protection, me someone to keep me out of trouble. We like each other and get along. And we could both probably do worse. I know you could."
Siobaughn studied him, weighing her options. "I accept. I will be your lifemate. After all, as you said, you could do worse."
Therandil laughed. "At least it will be interesting. Who knows, maybe a marriage of convineince will suit us both."
Siobaughn almost challenged him on that point, then stopped. Who knows, he could be right. After all, the only other options open to her were death or travelling to a place where she would not be known and try to find a husband there. At least with Therandil she would not get beaten. "Perhaps it will at that. Now then, when do I become a dragon?"
"What do you think you are? A silly unicorn?"
Siobaughn looked down at herself. Sure enough, she was a golden dragon. "Well then, what are you waiting for? I want to try out my wings!"
Siobaughn lept into the air and soared away on her new wings, closely followed by Therandil. One thing was for certain, at least it wouldn't be dull.
|Old Warrior||Healer's Mantra|
|It Won't Be Dull (II)||The Fantasy Alphabet|