Author: Jemi PM
Byron meets a dragon while looking for herbs for his garden. He's an herbalist who makes medicines for his Healer best friend. Then he gets accused of witch craft. SLASH storyRated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Romance - Chapters: 2 - Words: 9,205 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 01-20-13 - Published: 01-19-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3093500
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Byron was working in his garden, collecting his herbs for some medicines when a shadow fell across some plants. The smell of cooked chicken wafted to him and caught his attention immediately. When he looked up, Byron smiled at the sight of his guest.
"Healer, I must have lost track of time. Let me clean up and we'll eat."
Healer Raphael laughed, saying, "You always lose track of the time whenever you tend your garden. I'll set it up out here. The day is beautiful, and finally warm enough for it."
Byron nodded in agreement and went to wash the dirt from his hands, arms and face. He also gathered the plates, cutlery, cups and napkins they'd need before joining his friend. Raphael was settled and when he saw Byron his face lit up in a bright smile.
"Now, don't take this the wrong way, Bryon, but your garden isn't looking as full as usual for this time of year."
Byron shrugged and replied, "There was a bit of a drought during prime season and my herbs weren't able to fully form. I'm afraid that some of my plants even died. There are some medicines and tonics I won't be able to help make if I don't find the plants somehow."
"While I appreciate the medicines, I wish you would come down and work with me; get recognition for your treatments. sometimes, I think you treat the patients more than I do, even though you're not even there."
Byron smiled and shook his head, "Your talents as a healer are great, and my medicines only aide you. I can make them but I wouldn't know how to use them or what they're used for. Besides, I'm a witch, or at least that's what the village people say. While you may be tolerant of my oddities, others are not."
Raphael sighed his disappointment, but let the subject drop. Their lunch was finished in comfortable silences intermingled with small talk of events which had occurred since their last meeting. Byron loved spending time with his friend. Raphael was a generous man, always ready with a smile and a laugh. he treated patients with compassion and gentleness. Everyone liked Healer Raphael.
Whey they finished with lunch and cleaned everything up, Byron walked with Raphael to the edge of his property. Clasping his slender shoulder, Byron said, "I will see you for dinner in two days. Unfortunately, I won't be able to visit tomorrow and bring more medicines. I'll be going out of town in an attempt to find some herbs and plants elsewhere."
Raphael smiled and covered Byron's hand with his own, replying, "No worries, Byron. Be careful. I want you to visit more often, but not as an actual patient."
The next day, Byron woke early, before the sun had even risen, and left his house with a large bag slung over a shoulder and a walking stick in hand. He didn't think the next town was spared the effects of the drought, so Byron decided to go further up into the mountains. Hopefully, some of the plants grew wild there. Then he could collect them to dry some and make his medicines. He felt bad that he wouldn't be able to give as many to Raphael as usual.
A few hours of walking later, and after a short break, Byron reached the foot of the mountains What he saw caused him to lose his breath. there, in front of him was a field of herb, plants and flowers. There were more than even in his own garden. It was beautiful, colorful, magical even. The light breeze swayed through the leaves and the sun seemed to make the field sparkle. The scents of the various plants reached Byron and he inhaled deeply, feeling peaceful.
He looked around, seeing if maybe he could spot a house, or some sign of ownership. When he didn't see any, no house, or buildings of any kind, Byron gleefully went about carefully selecting plants he would need.
The next few hours, Byron spent judiciously selecting plants, situating them in his bag so they wouldn't get crushed or unduly damaged. The sun was high, hotly beating down on him before he stopped for a break. Byron drank deeply of his water skein and ate the cheese, bread and honey he brought. He was just about to resume his collecting when a shadow appeared before him.
At first he assumed it was a cloud that moved in front of the sun until he realized the shadow had a shape. And that it was increasing in size. Byron looked up and almost fell backwards at what he saw.
A dragon was descending to the earth, and Byron suddenly found it difficult to breath. The dragon's color was a dark green with a gold belly. The body was long and sinuous with a wicked looking tail. The sharp claws caught the sunlight and Bryon would have sworn the dragon was grinning. And, although it flew, somehow it did so without wings.
It landed before Byron and stared at him. How Byron managed to remain on his legs was only due to the fact that every muscle seemed to have tightened and froze.
"Why are you stealing my plants?"
The mouth didn't move but Byron heard the words regardless. Instead of thinking too much on the hows and the whys, he answered in a quiet and shaky voice.
"I didn't know they belonged to anyone. My own garden suffered from the drought and I needed herbs to make medicines."
"Then, you are a healer?"
Byron hesitated before answered, but decided to answer truthfully.
"I am an herbalist. I make medicines and tonics and give them to my friend, Raphael. He is the healer. And I go with him when he does his rounds to the people who live outside the bounds of the village."
"But you are knowledgeable in healing and need these plants to make medicines?"
Byron nodded, wondering why it seemed so important to the dragon that he know whether Bryon knew about healing.
"Then I shall make you a deal. If you make some of those healing tonics and give them to me, as well as help with the upkeep of the garden, then I will allow you to use the plants you find here."
Byron looked at the dragon, hardly able to believe his luck. Not only was the dragon not going to kill him, but he was able to use these herbs; and he got to tend them! All he had to do was make extra medicines. He was going to be able to do the things he loved. Byron excitedly nodded, thanking the dragon for his generosity.
"If you come twice a week, that would be enough."
"Of course. The First and Fourth days are okay."
It was half question, half statement, and he smiled when the dragon said yes.
"I will expect you in four days, human."
"Byron, my name is Bryon."
The dragon just made a noise and flew off, leaving Byron blinking after him.
His Fifth day night dinners with Raphael were usually in a tavern, but sometimes in Raphael's home. This time, due to the nature of the conversation he wanted to have, Byron asked to eat in, to which Raphael readily agreed. They both prepared the dinner, working together in harmony, anticipating the other's needs. Therefore, their dinner was ready quickly and between them and their various knowledge of plants, herbs and seasonings, it almost always tasted good.
"So, you're telling me that you made a deal with a dragon? I hadn't even realized there was a dragon in those mountains."
"Are you knowledgeable of dragons then, Healer?" Byron's teasing question had an underlying of seriousness to it.
Raphael laughed quietly and shook his head, "More of a childhood obsession that only quieted but never truly left. I won't tell you to stop going, because I know you. And I don't need to warn you that dragons are dangerous and possessive in what they view as theirs. However, I will say that you be very careful."
Byron reached and grabbed Raphael's hand and saying with much feeling, "I promise to be as careful as one can when dealing with a dragon."
Byron settled into a routine. On First day, he went to the dragon's herb garden where he tended it. Picking weeds, pruning and organizing the field was relaxing to him. Second day was spent making medicines and tonics, as well as preparing some herbs to dry through the winter months. Third day, in the morning, he caught up on his chores, had lunch with Raphael, then usually went with him to visit the more rural patients that couldn't make it to the clinic. He didn't know much about finding a problem, but he knew which medicines would help once Raphael diagnosed the problem.
Fourth day, he went back to the dragon's garden and worked. Fifth day was spent tending his own, much smaller garden, then dinner with Raphael. Sixth day was his resting day, and Seventh day, he again joined Raphael on his rounds.
Byron enjoyed himself immensely. When he tended the garden, sometimes the dragon would be there, lying under the warm rays of the sun. Sometimes he would ask Byron various questions about the herbs in the garden and what they were used for.
Late in summer, when the weather had started to cool, and on a First day, a tickling of unease raced up Byron's spine as he neared his home. He slowed down and strained to see as far as he could in the darkness, but he had terrible night vision. He walked slower and tried to lighten his steps. When nothing occurred, he quickened his walk and hurried to his door. As soon as his hand touched the knob, Byron felt a sharp pain at the back of his head, then darkness closed in.
When he came to, his head pounded and his vision was fuzzy. He recognized smells first. The scents of piss, sweat, feces, blood and fear overwhelmed him. Next, he saw the stone walls, the single barred window and the bars in front of him. But why was he in a jail cell? How long had he been here?
Byron tried to roll over, but immediately stopped because of the wave of nausea that followed. He moaned and closed his eyes. They snapped open when he heard footsteps. Alternately holding his breath and breathing fast, Byron managed to settle himself into a seated position, leaning heavily on the wall.
a man stopped in front of his cell, but remained in the shadows, his face obscured.
"Licking his lips, it took two tries for Byron to find his voice, and it was hoarse and quiet. "Who are your? Why am I here?"
The person didn't answer, just stood still.
"Answer me, please. What have I done to deserve this?"
The man called out, obviously not speaking to Byron.
"Bring the healer. We wouldn't want our prisoner to expire too soon. We've not even questioned him yet." The last bit was said with cruel glee. It was unsettling to Byron, more so than waking and finding himself in the jail.
"And give him some water and bread."
With that, the man walked away, leaving Byron to the dark. He didn't know how much time had passed until a bowl of dirty water and stale, moldy bread was thrown at him. He was hungry, so ate the bits that weren't moldy and left the water.
A short while later, Raphael came rushing in, his as the assistant trailing behind at a more leisurely pace. He waited impatiently as the cell door was unlocked and opened. Then he quickly ran in and dropped beside Byron.
"What happened to you?" Without waiting for a reply Raphael continued talking. "There wasn't anything I could do. i didn't know until it was too late and even then, they put Roberts on me as a guard."
"Raphael, what is going on? Why am I here?"
The healer gently lifted Byron's head and placed it on his lap, carefully feeling around until he found the bump on the back.
"Here, drink this. It helps to numb the pain and will aid in stopping the nausea."
Byron knew what everyone of the tonics did, but he appreciated Raphael telling it. He recited the herbs ingredients that went into them to occupy his mind with something other than being in a cell.
"You've been accused of being a witch, of summoning demons and of killing old man Stalkton. Which is absurd, as I've told them. He died and a weak heart, but since his brothers lived to be one hundred, they felt that he should have as well."
"Who accused me? Why would they do such a thing?"
"I don't know, Byron. I wish there was something more I could do, but they won't let me."
Byron easily heard the frustration in his friend's voice.
"No, don't do anything that will result in you getting thrown in here as well.
The healer sighed despondently.
"Healer, we have to go." Raphael's assistant sounded frightened. Byron wished he could remember the assistant's name, but he didn't really interact with the youth.
"Stay strong, Byron. I will come as often as I am able."
As he watched Raphael leave, Byron realized there was a sedative in the medicines because he immediately fell asleep.
A strong blow to the face woke Byron up.
"Wake up, Witch! It's time to fess up to your crimes."
A rough hand clamped onto Byron's arm and yanked him up, causing his head to restart its throbbing refrain. He was shoved in a different cell, no bars for entry; rather a heavy metal door. There was also no window, only a few wall sconces provided an oppressing sort of glow. Byron was shoved onto a chair with restraints around the ankles, wrists, neck and forehead. They were all strapped, leaving Byron immobile.
"Now, you have been accused of witchcraft. How you you plead?"
"Shouldn't I be able to face my accusers? To be tried in a court instead of in a cell?"
The man, wearing a black mask, back handed Byron. He couldn't move his head due to the restraints, which dug into his neck and forehead with the hit.
"That is not the answer to the question. Do you deny being a witch?"
"Yes. I am not a witch. I'm but a simple herbalist who tends his garden and makes medicines. Nothing more."
"If that was true, there would be no accusations. It has been stated that you leave to visit with a demon, and that is from where you are granted your otherworldly powers."
"That's not true! I have no power! I've nev-" Byron's earnest denials were cut off rudely.
"And that you killed old man Stalkton when he refused to do your bidding and give up his land to you and your unnatural urges."
"No, he died of a weak heart! The healer said."
The man leaned forward, his hands resting on Byron's trapped arms, his manner intense.
"Yes, the good, innocent healer you have ensorceled. You've be-spelled him to follow you, but we'll see to it that he's cured."
"No! He's my friend. I've never-I would never-" Byron tried to keep the desperate anger out of his voice, but he so wanted to be believed.
"We have the word of a respected member of this town. One who is seen daily, who is liked. Whereas you live on your own in the wilderness. you only come to town one evening during the week."
The man got up and walked to the door. When he opened it, light streamed in, causing Byron to blink rapidly and his eyes to water. Before the man completely exited, he turned around.
"I think we'll leave you here a while longer, until you're ready to confess. A few hours in the dark, with only hungry rats for company should get you to change your answer."
Darkness once again enveloped Byron. As soon as the echo of the lock clicking disappeared, Byron started struggling in his restraints. Perhaps he could loosen the leather...or wriggle through...
He didn't know how much time had passed; hours, maybe minutes but Byron had to quite as he felt the skin on his wrists split and blood slide down. He tried to ignore the tear that ran down his cheek. He felt a rat scurry across his foot, up his body, and more followed. He felt whiskers and a furry snout rub in the blood smearing a wrist. On the other, he felt the bite of little teeth.
"GET OFF!" He shouted, thrashing, trying to dislodge the rodents.
A noise at the door caused the rats to run away. The door opened he scented divine, delicious smelling food. It was set down at the entrance, so Byron could see it and smell it, but not eat it. Instead he had to watch the rats eat it all. At least then they wouldn't be eating him. Hopefully.
Byron's stomach burned as the acids churned, and his mouth watered. He felt so hungry, he hadn't eaten a proper meal before he was grabbed, and he had no real concept of how long he'd been locked up. He closed his eyes, tried to calm his breathing. He couldn't let himself be beaten by whomever was against him.
Byron had fallen asleep, or maybe he'd just passed out; regardless, when he came to, he found himself back in the cell, on the bed of straw. He looked at his wrists where the restraints had cut into them and where the rats had nibbled, and they were crudely wrapped in dirty cloth. his ankles were rubbed raw and red, but the skin hadn't broken. Byron closed his eyes and wished he was someplace far away, in a garden. Maybe even the dragon's garden. Why was it he was safer with a dragon than with humans? What he couldn't understand was why someone would do this to him.
Raphael had come again.
"What have they done to you now?"
His hands were taken in gentle hands, and the dirty bandages removed. He felt a cool, sticky substance cover the wounds on his wrists, then they were re-bandaged. He was given water, which cooled his throat, and went a long way to reviving him.
"I'm sorry I don't have any food, but the guards wouldn't let me. I wish there was more I could do for you."
Byron moved so he was leaning against Raphael. He inhaled deeply and felt himself relaxing. The healer smelled nice; like fresh air and sunshine; herbs and spices; fresh bread and freedom. Things which Byron didn't currently have.
"I wish I knew who started this mess. But every time I try to tell anyone of this mistake, I'm told that I can't possibly know what I'm talking about as you've ensorceled me."
"Don't dwell on it, Raphael. Please don't do anything to get yourself into any trouble. I can handle me being in here, but not you."
"I will not stop trying to convince everyone of your innocence, Byron. Do not ask that of me! And I will come to visit you, even if it leads to me being locked up in here with you!"
Byron sighed, but didn't say anything, knowing there was nothing for him to say. Instead he settled himself closer against Raphael and fell asleep.
A splash of cold water woke Byron up, causing him to gasp and sputter in surprised pain.
"Get up. We've a long day planned for you."
Byron was roughly jerked up and dragged outside to a courtyard. There were two pillars situated about five feet apart in the center of the square. It was a circular courtyard, with seats for spectators all around. It was not a place he'd heard of before. Byron was pushed roughly toward the polls, stumbling as he moved forward. When he was standing between them, harsh hands landed on his shoulders.
"Don't look him in the eyes for he'll be-spell you, causing you to act in a lustful manner. He can't get anyone to bed him on his own, so the witch must cast a spell."
The cold metal of a knife pressed against the back of Byron's neck.
"Aren't witches supposed to do their work naked?"
A loud rip and a few sharp jabs with the knife and Byron's shirt was ripped off of him. He felt small rivulets of blood trickle down his back from where the knife nicked him.
His trousers followed the way of his shirt, with added touches to the cheeks of his buttocks and inner thighs. Thankfully, they only came close to, but never actually touched his cock and balls.
"That color, red; it should be unnatural. Red is demons color. Look how he wears his hair long, and those marks aren't freckles, but demon marks."
Voices taunted and jeered; icy water was thrown at him. Byron was made to feel humiliated. Suddenly, his hair was grabbed in a violent hand.
"Such lovely hair should not belong to a creature so wicked. My dear Winnie was saying just the other day how she needed something this color for her own self."
Through his haze, Byron wondered how these men could say the color is akin to demons in one breath and in the next covet his hair.
His head was yanked back and he felt the hacking and sawing of shears. When his head was snapped up from the lack of weight, Byron tried to fight back the tears.
His hair was a sign of his profession. He grew it long as a sign to others that he was an herbalist, a naturalist; an purist. He'd adorn it with various beads. He wouldn't eat meat, he wouldn't fight-he depended on the earth for sustenance. And his mission in life was to help others, to ease their suffering. His hair and the blue and white beads he wore in it should have announced that to everyone. So why was he being attacked?
Byron s days rolled into one another. They were endless cycles of humiliation, demands to confess. He was forced to endure taunts, no food or water; no light, sometimes even no sound. They'd submerge him in water, rigged so his eyes and ears were covered, but there was a breathing apparatus for him. He wondered if the dragon was worried about him, or if it even cared or noticed. And it seemed as if Raphael couldn't get in to see Byron anymore, or else he really did get himself locked up.
Byron's cell door opening painfully startled him upright. The 'clothes' he was given were nothing more than a sack which itched and scraped his already raw skin. The wounds on his wrists had become infected, and he was so weak from hunger and lack of real sleep that Byron couldn't stand on his own.
"You were given the choice to confess and allow your evil ways to be released. Instead you have decided to cling to your wickedness. The customary punishment for witches is to be burned, and so burned you shall be."
Byron was shackled at his feet and wrists, and those were linked together. As if he could run away without them. He was half pushed, half dragged out of his cell and finally out of the prison. He had to squeeze his eyes shut against the harsh light of the sun, unaccustomed as he was.
"You have lost the chance to redeem yourself and confess your wretchedness. You will burn, as fire is cleansing."
Byron was led through the town, its people lining the streets, watching. These were people who he'd seen almost regularly. they knew him and he knew them. Why would they agree to this; allow this to happen to him?
The burning was to take place in the center of town. It was all set up and the only things missing were Byron and the fire. He was tied to the pole, hands behind his back. He had a view of his murderers and they had one of him. Byron closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Of all the faces he'd recognized he hadn't seen one specific one. Raphael wasn't anywhere to be found.
Byron was part glad and part sad for it. He didn't want his friend to have to see his death, but on the other hand, Byron wanted at least one friendly face to see before he died.
"This man has been accused of being a witch. He stands guilty of the murder of old man Stalkton, using the souls of the dead for his nefarious needs, consorting with demons and performing lewd acts on animals."
Byron almost rolled his eyes at the last crime. The accusations went from merely absurd to downright ridiculous. He was surprised that a halfway intelligent person would believe it. But the mob mentality was strong.
"For Byron the Witch's crimes, and his failure to denounce his wickedness, he is to burn at the stake until dead. After which, his corpse will be placed in an unmarked grave and upon it salt shall be sprinkled."
Someone in the crowd started cheering and soon others followed suit.
"May his soul find its suitable punishment in the afterlife."
A torch was tossed on the pile of kindling. Byron saw smoke first and smelled burning straw and wood. Bigger and bigger the flames grew until they were up to Byron's waist, surrounding him. The flames creeped closer and closer. He was sure his skin would burn off before the flames even touched him. It was so hot that it was hard for Byron to breath. The air was thick with smoke and heat and flame. Wanting to at least die before he felt his skin burning from his bones, he inhaled deeply of the smoke. He filled his lungs with as much of the smoke as he could. He felt the flames licking at his legs.
More and more he inhaled, feeling dizzy and lightheaded. He bit his lip to keep from making a sound as he felt the pain of the fire against his hands at his back and his legs in front. He started seeing spots. Byron could barely hold his head up he felt so weak and tired. There was a roaring in his ears. The last sensation Byron felt before giving himself completely to unconsciousness was a cool breeze on his face; then the feeling of flying.
Byron woke up. That was odd in and of itself since last he knew, he was dying in a fire. He was sore and he felt like he couldn't breath. When Byron tried to do so, he coughed violently, causing new pains to waken.
"Stay still and try to take calm, slow breaths."
Byron froze at the voice, not recognizing it. It was gently and a little gravely, as if the owner didn't use it often. A cool hand rested on his forehead. Byron tried to open his eyes, but found he was too tired.
"Go back to sleep. You need it." And Byron found he couldn't help but obey the gentle command.
The next time he woke up, he felt better, but still the effects of his imprisonment and subsequent attempted burning made themselves known. He licked his lips and tried to talk. It came out more a croak than intelligible words.
"Shhh. Drink this."
A broad hand held his head up, and a cup was pressed against his lips. He swallowed automatically as the bitter tasting liquid poured down his throat. Despite the taste, his throat felt better. Byron recognized the soothing medicine as one of his.
"Where am I?" Byron's voice was rusty, but he was happy he could speak.
"My home. You need to recuperate, get your strength back. You weren't well off when you got here. You had infected wounds, burns on your hands and legs, and you were severely malnourished and dehydrated. Not to mentioned, the various bruises you had. And you hair was a mess."
Byron closed his eyes against the memories of how he'd ended up in that condition; not that it helped.
"Who-how did i get out? Who rescued em?"
But before he'd even finished the question, he knew the answer. He remembered the sound of a roar and the feeling of flying.
"The dragon? But how did he know? Why would he save me?"
Byron tried to sit up and was grateful when a pair of hands helped him instead of pushing him back down.
"You will have your answers in time. For right now, just concentrate on healing."
"How long have i been sleeping?"
""It's been four days. From what a gather, you were imprisoned a week."
"What's your name?"
There was a slight hesitation before a soft "Trenton" was given. Byron heard movement before a candle was lit and he got his first good look at Trenton.
His skin was dark, the color of the bitter chocolate, and his hair looked black, but not. He was tall, taller than Byron's own impressive height, and he looked strong and fit.
"Try to eat something. I have some broth for you to have. Eat all of it if you can. Tomorrow, I'll have you eat something more substantial. You need to start off slowly."
Byron nodded, even though he knew all of that. He needed to concentrate on small things, easy things. That way, he wouldn't remember his week in captivity.
Byron slowly sipped the broth, thankful for the burst of flavor. He did feel better. He sat quietly while Trenton changed the bandages and put medicines and salves on his wounds.
"The burns aren't that bad; you weren't in the fire long enough. However, it will still take awhile to heal and you'll likely have some scars from the infected wounds."
Byron nodded, then yawned.
"Go to sleep"
The next week passed must the same way, with Byron eating and sleeping while Trenton changed the bandages and applied medicines. One day remarked in surprise at the speed at which the salved and medicines worked.
Trenton smiled and said, "The dragon took your medicines, salves, tonics and potions and imbued them all with a little dragon magic."
Eventually, Byron started walking about the room, then finally the whole cabin. Thankfully, it wasn't large, as he still tired easily. He never would have thought that only one week of not eating would be so detrimental to his health, or that it would take so long to recover. When he told Trenton as much, he received a hard glare in return.
"It was a little more than merely not eating. Those marks on your wrists and ankles should be sign enough of that."
Byron felt good when he was able to help Trenton. He helped prepare the food, though he wouldn't eat the meat; he helped clean. In the evenings, he'd talk with Trenton. Byron was at ease with him in a way he'd only ever felt with Raphael. It was nice. As soon as he realized how close the dragon's garden was, Byron started going there. He was half distraught, half glad at the state of disrepair the garden was in. It gave him something to do.
It also made his remember his own home and his own garden. No one would be taking care of it, and he realized he wanted to return.
"No. Do you want to be captured again?"
Byron smiled and shook his head, chopping the herbs he'd collected. The season would end soon, so he needed to start the stock for the winter months. He hoped his house hadn't been ransacked. Byron really wanted his stock of dried herbs and supplies to make his ointments, salves and medicines to be intact.
He told Trenton all this, and that was one of the reasons he wanted to go back.
"I also don't' want my accusers to think they were right. I refuse to give into fear and irrationality. I will return to my cottage and continue making the medicines."
Trenton stood lost in thought before finally declaring, "I am coming with you."
Byron blinked but smiled. He was more than happy to have Trenton come with him. He told the other man that he wanted to go to the garden before they left. He wanted to see the dragon, whom he'd not seen since his rescue.
The day Byron planned on leaving for his own home, he went to garden and found the dragon there. He smiled. The dragon got up from where he was lounging and immediately came closer to Byron. That giant, dark snout pushed up against him. Then he surrounded Byron's body with his own.
Not knowing what the dragon was doing, but not feeling threatened, Byron put his hand out and caressed the snout.
"I wanted to thank you for rescuing me."
A low rumble and Byron heard, " I would keep you locked up to ensure your safety, but I know that would only anger you."
"Byron answered in amused surprise, "Lock me up?"
The dragon growled deep in his throat, but didn't say anything about that. Instead he only asked, "Are you coming back to tent the gardens?"
Byron smiled at the hopeful note he heard from the dragon.
"Of course. Two days, just like before. I won't even be by myself. Trenton, if you know of him, he's staying with me."
The dragon rumbled and Byron knew he was happy with that. With one last pet to the snout, Byron left. He met up with Trenton at the cabin, and together they made the journey to Byron's own cottage.
Byron was expecting his home to be a mess, so he was surprised when it was neat and orderly. It was dust free, the bed had fresh linens, and most importantly, his garden was neat. It wasn't as neat as if he himself had done it. But that someone had taken the time and effort to tend it in his absence nearly brought him to tears.
It was midday, so Byron made lunch for Trenton and himself. His hands weren't' bandaged anymore, and they were a little stiff, but after a month's recovery he could move them easily enough. They at in Byron's garden, enjoying the coolness of the day.
Trenton tensed when they both spotted a figure nearing the cottage. It was a man, short with his left arm in a sling, and carrying a basket. He had shaggy brown hair that was sun kissed. When Byron recognized Healer Raphael, he got up and hurried to him, noting with pleasure the surprise and relief on the healer's face. Byron wrapped the other man in a hug, which was returned with the arm not in the sling; the sound of the basket dropping echoed in the garden.
"Byron?" The hesitation and hope in the sound of his name caused Byron to tighten his hold on his friend.
'Yes, it's me."
Raphael pulled back and looked at Byron carefully. Byron noted the sheen in the other man's eyes.
"How are you? I didn't know what happened and I was so worried!"
Byron told him about the dragon, and how he'd spent the month recovering.
"And you? I'll admit i was glad you weren't' present for my burning, but I was worried about you. What happened? And why is your arm in a cast?"
"May i sit?"
Byron immediately let his friend to a seat, giving him his full attention.
"I was on my way to see you when I was attacked. I was hit and I wound up falling and passing out because I hit my head and broke my arm. When I came to, my assistant had splinted my arm and told my what had happened. I didn't know what they had planned. I tried to stop them, and I'm sure I was attacked to stop me from helping you."
Raphael sat looking dejected. Byron put his hand on his friend's shoulder. Raphael felt so much, he empathized with others, and he always wanted to help, to make others happy. Byron hated seeing his friend so miserable, especially on his behalf.
"You helped me. You visited me when you could, and thoughts of you helped keep me sane and helped me stay strong through it all."
Raphael smiled. Movement cause Byron's eyes and reminded him of Trenton.
"Oh, here is one of my rescuers. He helped me recover and he'll be staying with me indefinitely. Raphael, this is Trenton. Trenton, this is my dear friend, Healer Raphael."
Raphael smiled warmly saying, "Thank you. Byron is very dear to me, and you saving him makes you dear to me too."
Trenton took Raphael's hand, but didn't smile back. He was colder than Byron had seen him before. Raphael must have noticed something was off because while he still smiled, it seemed frozen in place.
"I should go. I have work to do."
"Wait. Do you know who kept my home clean?"
Raphael looked to the ground almost shyly, and Bryon should have known, as the answer was obvious.
"I did. I didn't know if you were coming back, but I kept hope that you would. I'd hoped, though it seems silly, but I thought that if I kept your cottage clean and welcoming, you'd return.
Byron put both hands on Raphael's cheeks and pulled him close so their foreheads touched and whispered a heartfelt, "Thank you."