This is probably going to wind up horribly cliched. I blame the dream that this is based off of. (yes, I have way cool dreams) Ending is going to be a lot different but eh, I never indulge myself in sappyness so might as well. Chapter breaks are going to be where I naturally put breaks, which might mean that some of the chapters are pretty short. But FictionPress ain't the best in allowing me to format this how I want, so I make do. Anyways. On to the story.
I do not look it, but there is noble blood in my veins. My father was a lord and my mother a lady. He died fighting the dragon that ravaged their lands; she died trying to save me when the dragon's breath set the keep alight. I was but a babe and was left in the arms of the nurse, who gladly pawned me off to anyone willing to care for a noble's child with no inheritance.
This was before the dragon lord came. We expected the lord of the north would move in and occupy our land – he was a cruel and violent man – but a stranger came from the east and the northern lord stayed his hand. They have honor between themselves, these dragon lords. The stranger tamed the dragon, made it his own, and rebuilt my parent's keep. I was kept within the town that surrounded it by an elderly couple as everyone feared what would become of me if our new lord discovered that I lived. We had nothing to fear.
He ruled wisely and kindly and soon the other mortal lords that neighbored us came and pledged fealty. Now we too, like the kingdoms to the east and north, had a dragon lord to govern and protect us. Eventually he married and when I was eight I was brought before the newlyweds and presented as the noble daughter I was. From that point on, I lived in the keep as a lady-in-waiting for the dragon lord's gracious wife.
No inheritance, no land, and given whatever the other servants of the castle receive. It is a fine life for a commoner peasant and for the orphaned daughter of noble blood. I bore myself as best as I could and dutifully served.
The second dragon lord came to our land when I was seventeen. It was the lord from the north – his successor, that is. The man had finally died and his pupil had taken over. No relation by blood, dragon lords cannot be born by conventional noble bloodlines, but related by the ability to tame the dragons. His steed was a monstrous creature of crimson scales so deep they were black in all but the brightest sunlight. I was sent to greet him and see to his steed's needs, as of all the servants in the keep I was one of the few that wasn't afraid of the dragons and had the bearing of a noble.
Maedroth was younger than our own lord and when he dismounted my first impression of his was that of a fierce winter wolf. The dragon was rumbling deep in its throat and I could see the stable boys clustered near the entrance of the stable, having given up trying to calm the horses. We'd have to get the dragon out of the keep courtyard quickly.
I walked up and curtsied deeply.
"Master Geathor bids you greetings to his lands," I said, "and welcomes you into his keep. I am Nallabe, a lady of his wife, and if you would entrust your dragon to me, milord, I will see that it is cared for."
Maedroth looked at me, stared even. It wasn't a very proper thing to do, as his gaze was that of a man looking to buy a horse. I dropped my eyes so I wouldn't see. I was very thankful that I was not one of the servants assigned to tend to him personally. His dragon would probably be bad enough. But the other dragon care-keepers were coarse and had no manners. My master wanted to make an impression.
"Very well. His name is Roderick and he doesn't follow commands very well, unless they are mine. The larger they are, the more fierce."
He turned and yelled something up at the dragon in another tongue. I recognized it as the language of the dragon lords – my own master had used it many times. The dragon snorted and I smelled sulfur.
"I instructed him to be gentle, but I can't promise anything."
Maedroth laughed and walked away, smirking. I resisted the urge to mutter something inappropriate under my breath at his back. That not be befitting of someone of noble blood.
Dragons do not allow any but their masters and their master's lady to ride them. The most I could ever do was lead my master's dragon and sometimes, allow him to carry me in his forepaws. Geathor had laughed and laughed the first time his dragon decided to take me for a flight, which had earned him a stern lecture from his lady that evening, as she was much distressed by my color when the beast landed and set me down again. In time, I grew used to the sensation and even enjoyed the dragon's antics. It was the same that had killed my family, of course, but somehow I couldn't hold that against it. They were beasts, like wolves or bears, before the dragon lord tamed them. Besides, I had no memory of my parents.
Roderick snuffed and nudged me with his nose. I was used to dragon headbutts and staggered a bit but didn't fall. The beast didn't seem to like this, for he snorted again and butted me harder, this time knocking me off my feet and onto my rear.
"Stop!" I commanded and it backed away a pace.
They obeyed simple commands in the common tongue. For longer, more complex orders, a dragon lord and their secret language were needed.
I led it out of the keep gates and around the walls to the forest that bordered our rear side. This was where my master's dragon hunted and lived when he was not serving my master and it was expansive enough to accommodate two dragons for a time. I had asked my lady if the two dragons would fight – they are highly territorial – and she told me that the lords would order them not to.
Roderick made it a game of trying to knock me down. He'd leap ahead and entangle my feet with the brush-like mane that tipped his tail. Or he'd jog along above me, his belly just above my head and his paws flashing around me until one caught and sent me tumbling. He'd leap free than, growling low in that amused tone that signifies laughter. By the time I got him away from the keep to where the dragon-keepers were waiting I was dirty and sweaty.
"He's yours!" I snapped to the boys, "And he doesn't listen. A brute, really. Have fun unsaddling him."
A couple of them snickered. I drew up my dignity and stalked back to the castle. My only consolation was that I would probably not have to care for Roderick anymore as the beasts could look out for themselves until their masters called.
Not so. Three days before Maedroth was going to leave for his own land again a storm came through. Small matter, but it was such that a landslide in the southern part of the forest occurred and sadly, it was partly triggered by the dragon Roderick. He'd been in that portion, hunting or exploring or whatever it was that dragons did, when the waters loosed the soil under his weight and down they went – hillside, rocks, and dragon. We found the beast limping in the field between forest and keep the next morning, crying for his master.
"He's young and stupid," Maedroth growled as we traversed the castle halls to reach the gates out. I was fairly jogging to keep up with his long strides. "They grow out of it, in time."
"He's huge! How can he be young?"
"How old are you Nallabe?"
"Then you and the dragon are equivalently the same age. Would you consider yourself fully grown? Of course. Would you consider yourself wise?"
"There you have it."
I was tempted to ask Maedroth how old he was. Barely past twenty, I imagined, if that. But really, the less I knew about this new dragon lord from the north, the better, or so I told myself.
The keepers were staying a distance away from the injured dragon and frankly, I couldn't blame them. He was lashing about, snapping at anything that moved and holding his injured foreleg up close to his body. Nearby was my master's dragon, making low noises in his throat, like a purr. Keeping the injured dragon calm. They became civilized – a bit – when under the control of a dragon lord.
The dragon lay down when his master commanded him to. Rolled onto his side. I moved closer to his injury, carefully peering at the torn scales and the bloodied skin that showed underneath.
"I'll keep him calm, you tend to the injury," Maedroth said, laying across the dragon's neck and scratching the eye ridge.
I felt around the injury, wiping away blood and seeing where the dragon was tender. He jerked a couple times and I heard Maedroth whispering in their language and each time, the dragon stilled and let me examine him again. There didn't seem to be any bones broken. Just an ugly torn wound from a rock or something. I had to remove some of the scales surrounding it before I could stitch it shut. Maedroth somehow managed to keep the beast still, but it was still nerve-wracking work. I could see the claws flexing out of my peripheral vision for every moment I was working. It took what seemed like hours, but I finally was able to wrap the dragon's wound with bandages and declare the job done. My hands were dirty with blood up the elbow by then and my dress was horribly stained. I tried to wipe some of it off as Maedroth finished reassuring his dragon. He scratched it on the nose and it shook itself and stood, carefully testing its weight on the injured leg.
"You have tended dragons before," Maedroth said to me as I gathered my things.
"Yes milord. My master's dragon has been injured before – when he had to put down the bandit uprising – "
"Yes, I heard of that."
I must've looked surprised, for he informed me that the dragon lords are a much tighter community than we commoners thought and often trained each other and remained close friends.
"Pardon me, milord, but I am not a commoner. My parents were both nobles, although they were killed when I was a babe."
It's a sore point. I know.
"A noble with no inheritance. How is that different from a commoner now?"
He had no manners. I told him so. Tending to the dragon must've shortened my temper. But instead of growing angry Maedroth only laughed.
"Nallabe, no wonder they let you tend the dragons. I think there's a bit of their fire inside of you."
Still chuckling, he left me and returned to the keep.