These stories takes place in the same world as The Azure and Azure Seas. It is not necessary to have read those to understand these, however several characters will eventually be making a reappearance in Blue Dragon.
The Dragon Isles
The wind picked up, threatening to yank the rudder of the little skiff right out of Mirofal's hands as the choppy sea tossed the vessel this way and that. The skies had been clear when he'd stolen the little boat and begun his journey; no doubt his brother's weather-workers were responsible for the storm that had suddenly sprung up. If they couldn't kill him directly, then why not coerce the sea into swallowing him up?
At least there was some small comfort in knowing that if they were reduced to sending storms after him it meant he had been correct in his presumption that they'd never dare follow him east, no matter what his brother had ordered. Though no one had seen one for centuries, still the people held a great and unshakable fear of the dragons and their chosen islands.
The dragon isles. A handful of remote islands clustered together in the far east; beyond them lay nothing but the endless expanse of the eastern sea. No one was exactly sure of their number, as no sane easterner would go anywhere near them. Once in a while a boastful sailor from foreign waters would try to show up the 'cowardly easterners' by sailing off to explore. The few who'd returned had never actually made it to the shores of the deadly dragon isles.
Now, Mirofal was headed right toward them. He had nothing left to fear. If he stayed on Temnia, his life was forfeit. With his brother's soldiers stationed in every port, there was no way to board a ship to escape to safer waters. That left only the tiny fishing skiff Mirofal had stolen in the dead of the night and pointed eastward. There was no guarantee that the isles would spell his death. Even a slim chance was better than that which lay behind him.
Or around him, for that matter. There seemed to be steadily a growing chance that he'd never make it to shore to risk the wrath of the dragons as the water heaved and pulled, the wind lashed his sails all about, and with every passing moment it seemed as though the next wave would hurl him into the sea. And yet, even in the darkness he could see the looming black cliffs of the nearest dragon isle. So close. Just a little bit further and he'd be... if not safe, then at least out of reach of those who wished him dead. Perhaps the dragons were only the myth that foreigners all seemed to think them. Perhaps he truly had escaped with his life and his freedom.
He wasn't expecting it when his little skiff finally did run aground, as by then the rain from the magic storm had made it nearly impossible to make out anything in the dark of night. The sudden scrape of the keel brought the boat to a sudden stop, pitching Mirofal forward onto the hard deck with enough force to leave numerous bruises. He stood slowly, clinging to the edge as he scrambled for the bow, looking out over wide sandy beach. Safe. Alive.
But the seas ever had a mind of their own, and the storm had made everything dangerously slick. Even as he swung a leg up and over the side the churning waves caused the boat to rock and his grip to slip and Mirofal went over with a startled cry. The last thing he was aware of before he tumbled into the surf was a blinding pain as his head struck the keel of the boat, and then only darkness.
Consciousness was slow to return, and even when it had Mirofal wasn't entirely certain if he was truly awake, or still dreaming. The last thing he remembered was his rather rough landing on the nearest dragon isle. That given, he should most logically be lying in the sand while the surf attempted to haul him back out to sea. However, that which he was lying upon most certainly didn't feel like sand.
Hazily cracking open one salt-encrusted eye, he found himself looking down the length of the dark blue coverlet belonging to the rather comfortable bed in which he was currently lying. The walls around were heavy stone and sparsely furnished. A chair here, a table there, and only a single faded tapestry to detract from the harsh starkness of the small chamber. Still, what little there was appeared to be quality material, and the sheets beneath his hands were soft to the touch. Certainly no peasant's shack, this.
A slight movement made him shift his attention to the other side of the room where he discovered a single person watching him. The man was tall, probably taller than Mirofal would be were they both standing, and quite slender beneath the worn, much-abused clothing he was wearing. He carried himself with more grace than any man Mirofal had ever known before, fairly gliding over to stand at the bedside and gaze down.
Even with all the sailors who had come through the city port, a more exotic man Mirofal had never seen. Certainly he'd never known anyone with hair like shimmering silver, glittering in the warm sunlight streaming in from somewhere behind Mirofal's head. It was long and unbound, falling just past the curve of his ass, and if it hadn't been for the man's eyes, Mirofal doubted he's have been able to look away from that shining fall. And yet there were those strange eyes gazing at him with a curious expression, just as silvery as the hair that framed them. If Mirofal hadn't known they could do no such thing, he'd have sworn they were almost glowing.
The man's head tilted to one side, studying him, then a small smile graced his lips. "You are awake." The rich, lilting voice sent shivers down Mirofal's spine and he looked down rather than stare too long into that elegant face with features a little longer, a little sharper than any he'd seen before. His gaze fell upon the silver-haired man's hands, fingers tipped with long, pointed nails that were once again a glimmering silver color, and he studied them for a moment before something occurred to him all at once.
"You're wearing my clothes!"
Those silver eyes blinked, then the man looked down at himself as only just realizing this. "Ah, yes. I am." He looked back up, gaze catching Mirofal's. "Would you like them back?"
He'd shrugged the shirt down around his elbows and had started to unbutton the pants before Mirofal managed a mortified croak. Mirofal wasn't certain what was worse, the fact that he was now acutely aware that he had nothing at all on underneath the bedcovers, or that there was now far too much of the silver-haired man's pale chest showing. "N-no... that's fine... Please remain dressed..."
Silver eyes blinked at him, then the man shrugged and slid the shirt back up onto his shoulders, though he did not bother to re-button it. "I fear I have forgotten most of your social customs," he stated apologetically, "So I will have to ask your forgiveness for my future mistakes. We do not get many visitors these days..." He regarded Mirofal curiously. "Which does make one wonder what you are doing here."
"Where..." Mirofal cleared his throat. "Where is here? I mean, I thought I'd landed on one of the dragon isles, but I didn't think there were any humans living there..."
The silver-haired man laughed, exotic eyes gleaming with amusement. "You are indeed on the so-called dragon isles, my castaway, and no, there are no humans living here."
Frowning, Mirofal tried to find somewhere to look that wouldn't let his mind get distracted by all that shimmering silver. "Then what are you?" he asked, hoping he hadn't just managed to offend his apparent rescuer.
Laughing again, the man smiled. "I'm a dragon."
"Right." Mirofal shook his head. "You're a bit small to be a dragon."
"I am a dragon," the silver man insisted. "My name is Aeynanyi Sirlennu. You may call me Aeyn, if that is easier for you." He waited, rather pointedly.
Mirofal sighed. "Mirofal."
Aeynanyi considered, then nodded a bit. "Very well then, Mirofal. Rest, recover your strength. Food will be provided later, once you awaken." He leaned forward, brushing his lips lightly across Mirofal's forehead, then turned and exited the room through a heavy wooden door. Mirofal stared after him for a long moment, feeling the lingering echo of where his lips had pressed against skin.
He was apparently in some sort of stone building on one of the dragon isles, being tended to by a man who claimed to be a dragon himself, who was wearing Mirofal's clothes and whose grasp of social courtesies seemed to be a bit... skewed. Still, it could be worse. Far worse. He was still alive, with the promise of being fed later. And while he might be a bit odd, Aeynanyi Sirlennu was not at all hard to look at. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Settling back down into his pillows and bedcoverings, Mirofal allowed himself to picture the exotic, shining fall of Aeyn's silver hair, the glow of his matching eyes, the angular, inhuman lines of his face. Perhaps it wasn't such a bizarre thought that the man might not be human, but a dragon? The soaring creatures of legend were said to be longer than a ship, with a wingspan twice that. Certainly not even a whisper had surfaced that they could assume a human form. No, there was something else different about Aeynanyi, and he would find out what it was.
But for now his body was tired and his head still hurt from the knock he'd given it earlier, and the would-be dragon-man's suggestion of rest sounded like the sanest thing in the seas.
It was the smell of food that woke him, rich and tantalizing, and yet curiously overlaid with the odor of smoke. He sat up slowly, relieved to note that his headache was gone, to be greeted by the sight of the silver-haired Aeynanyi carrying a large earthenware plate and dressed in flamboyantly-coloured tunic and breeches that both seemed a bit too big for him.
"Ah, good, you are awake." Aeynanyi smiled, sitting down on the edge of the bed and setting the plate in Mirofal's lap. "I feel I must apologize for the food if it is not to your liking. We dragons hunt and eat our food raw; I do hope I burned it properly for you."
Mirofal was torn between looking at the apologetic man and the plate of food now warming his lap. Either was equally distracted. Aeynanyi because of the way his shining hair managed to pick up all the brilliant colors of his loose clothing, and the meal because it was quite simply the strangest study in contrasts he'd ever seen. The plate, as he'd noted before, was nothing more than the heavy red-brown earthenware that the poorest of folk used. The silverware with it, however, was gold and silver filigreed with exceptional craftsmanship and had to have cost a small fortune. Then there was the meal itself. Sustenance vegetables next to exotic, out-of-season fruits, and one of the lush tropical fish that was all the rage at court right now. A tad crispy in some areas, somewhat underdone in others, but still.
He looked up at Aeynanyi. "You made this?" he asked, adding before the man could respond, "And you're not wearing my clothes anymore."
Aeynanyi laughed, and somehow that was just as silvery as the rest of him. "I did, and I'm not." He smiled. "I thought I would show you around after you've eaten, and to my understanding humans prefer not to go about without coverings, so I acquired something so that I could give you back your own."
"Ah." Mirofal took a tentative bite of the fish, giving a little smile of his own after he swallowed. "It's good. Thank you."
Chuckling, Aeynanyi leaned back a bit, propping himself up with his hands, those long, sharp nails spread out across the dark bedspread. "It was a unique challenge, I will admit. Dragonfire is not normally utilized on such a minimal level, but we have no... what is the word... cooking places?"
"Ovens in wealthier homes... firepits in the poorer," Mirofal supplied, fascinated by the way Aeynanyi's hair shimmered as he nodded.
"Yes. Ovens. Though I would like to see this firepit you speak of. Perhaps it can be duplicated here..." Aeynanyi looked thoughtful.
Mirofal blinked. "I don't see why not... They're very simplistic."
"Can you make one?" Aeynanyi inquired curiously, leaning towards him and putting himself far too close for Mirofal's peace of mind.
"Ah... I could try..." He flushed. "I haven't really seen all that many of them..." he admitted.
Aeynanyi nodded calmly, as if this information didn't surprise him. But then, he had been wearing Mirofal's clothing earlier, and even a man who thought he was a dragon couldn't have helped but notice what had formerly been very fine and costly materials. "You are of the nobility."
Mirofal looked down at the food, answering quietly, "Yes." He started at a gentle touch on his arm and looked up quickly to find that Aeynanyi had managed to get even closer and up close those silver eyes were practically hypnotic.
"Do not worry about things you cannot control," Aeynanyi stated, his voice carrying with it a hint of authority and, oddly, reassurance. "Finish your meal, dress, and I will be waiting outside for you." He rose, fetching Mirofal's clothing from where it had been sitting on a chair and setting it in his former place on the bed before turning and leaving the room.
Mirofal stared at the door for a long moment, then glanced at his clothes - apparently dragons didn't know how to do laundry either - before digging his fork back into his food. He had to work his way around a few parts that were still raw, and other parts that had more in common with charcoal than fish, but as a whole it wasn't bad. Nor were the vegetables, though they were hardly what he was used to. He saved the fruit for last, savoring it as it deserved.
Full, he set aside the plate and slid out of bed, cringing a little at the chill of the stone floor beneath his feet. He squirmed back into his clothing, grimacing and making note to ask Aeynanyi about bathing and laundry facilities at the earliest opportunity, then tugged on his boots and pulled open the door.
As promised, Aeynanyi was waiting for him in what proved to be a wide stone hallway with a few strategic windows. As before there was little in the way of decoration, and he was beginning to get the impression that whatever structure he was in had fallen into disuse.
"Ah, there you are." Aeynanyi smiled and stepped closer to take his arm. He wasn't wearing shoes, and there had been something decidedly odd about the man's feet, but Mirofal didn't really get a chance to think on it as the silver-haired man was pulling him down the hall and it was all he could do to keep up with Aeynanyi's longer legs.
Two turns and a rampart later Mirofal stopped, staring about with wide eyes. "This is a castle..." he managed, earning a soft chuckle from Aeynanyi.
"Yes," the man agreed.
"But..." Mirofal frowned in confusing, turning to regard Aeynanyi who had finally released his arm. "Why is there a castle on a dragon isle?"
Aeynanyi's angular face took on a vaguely wistful cast. "Long ago, it was for entertaining humans when they came to our isles. After relations fell apart we did not have the heart to let it fall into ruin. We have kept it preserved as best we can in memory of earlier times."
Mirofal frowned again, looking out across the sprawling structure. "But there's no room... how would the dragons fit inside?"
With a patient sigh, Aeynanyi shoved his sleeve up and turned his arm a bit so that Mirofal could easily see the sleek pattern of tiny silver scales that ran up the back of his arm, disappearing beneath his clothing. "We change shape to suit. While we cannot look completely human, we do manage to get close enough that we can interact," he explained.
Trying not to stare, Mirofal reached out and prodded hesitantly at the silvery pattern. They were softer than fish scales, though if he rubbed the wrong way there was still that rough feeling and-
His thoughts were cut off by a roar that made the stone beneath his feet tremble and shake. His head snapped up and around, hand automatically going to the sword he was no longer wearing before he took a step back away from an enormous black-scaled head as it glared at him.
"Deyllgo!" Aeynanyi exclaimed, striding over and swatting the looming black head on the nose. "I already told you, you're not allowed to eat this one!"
Before Mirofal had time to process that and shudder at the implications, the black dragon had reached up and placed its front claws on the rampart - and vanished. In the place those wicked claws had been was the largest man Mirofal had ever seen, taller even than Aeynanyi and at least three times as broad, with jet black hair streaming down his back as ebony eyes glared fiercely at him. He was also completely and utterly nude.
"He's a human. Humans have no right to touch you," the dark-haired man growled, his hands clenching in a way that was eerily reminiscent of the black dragon's claws. Oddly enough, his fingernails were just as long and sharp as Aeynanyi's, though they were black instead of silver.
Aeynanyi sighed. "Deyllgo, I knew perfectly well what he was going to do. He was having trouble believing."
The black-haired man snorted. "Then he's just as stupid as all the rest of them. We should just eat him and be done with him."
"Deyllgo!" Aeynanyi crossed his arms, looking at the bigger man rather pointedly. "He's not a threat. He was fleeing from something."
"And that 'something' may very well follow him here!" Deyllgo bellowed, all his powerful muscles standing out in stark relief in his fury and Mirofal attempted to look anywhere but directly at the man as he ventured a reply.
"Actually, they won't come anywhere near the dragon isles... that's why I came here." He grimaced. "They sent the storm instead."
Aeynanyi smirked while Deyllgo simply glared rather sulkily. Mirofal looked from one to the other before remembering Deyllgo wasn't wearing anything, then flushed and jerked his gaze out over the inner courtyard. And stared. Somehow in the time the two men had been speaking two dragons had appeared in the large courtyard - and neither of them were the black from earlier.
One was only slightly smaller than the black had been and was a deep blood red, while the other was a vivid green like emeralds when the light hit them just right. Both were watching the three on the rampart rather curiously, if such an emotion could be assigned to creatures as large and deadly as these. When Aeynanyi noticed the direction of his stare he laughed softly and placed a hand on Mirofal's arm.
"Would you like to meet them?" Aeynanyi asked.
Mirofal started. "Ah..." Did he want to meet giant flying lizards with teeth longer than his forearm? Not particularly, but as usual Aeynanyi wasn't exactly giving him a choice.
Creatures that big shouldn't be able to move so quietly. There was a barely-audible shifting of wings and scales, then two noses were peering down at the trio on the rampart as eyes that perfectly matched their scales regarded everything with undeniable curiosity.
It was the eyes more than anything that finally convinced Mirofal that Aeynanyi was exactly what he claimed to be. A dragon in human form. "You... you really are a dragon..."
Aeynanyi laughed, breaking off where he'd been petting the red dragon's nose to return to Mirofal's side. "I am. I would demonstrate, but there is not much room left, and it would also necessitate removing my clothing which you seem to object to..."
Flushing again, Mirofal shifted his gaze to the green dragon to avoid Aeynanyi's silver gaze. "It's not exactly considered polite to do so before others, no..." he mumbled.
"Humans have the most pointless customs," the black-haired man - dragon - snorted. Dey-something. Deyllgo. "So many layers to put on and then take off again any time you need to bathe or relieve yourselves. Why bother at all?"
His gaze Mirofal could meet without cringing, provided he didn't look any lower than Deyllgo's black eyes. "We don't have scales to protect us from the elements," he pointed out rationally. To his left, the green dragon made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a snicker.
"Then what is the need for so many, each with different colors?" Deyllgo demanded. "Why not only one to protect your weak bodies?"
"Deyllgo," Aeynanyi warned, getting a sullen snort in reply as Deyllgo turned and began stalking away. Aeynanyi sighed, shaking his head briefly before turning to Mirofal. "I am sorry. Deyllgo... has not been the same since his lover was killed, some years ago."
"By humans?" Mirofal asked, and Aeynanyi nodded sadly.
"Deyllgo destroyed the band of humans in revenge, but the damage was done. Since that time he has been our strongest guard against those who would do us harm, and it frustrates him that I have allowed you to live."
Mirofal swallowed, not wanting to ask. "Why did you?"
Aeynanyi smiled gently, lifting one of his silver-tipped hands to thread through Mirofal's deep auburn curls. "Unlike the others who come in search of us, you came to escape. To you, the humans are just as dangerous as they are to us."
"Yeah..." Mirofal agreed softly, lowering his head as he was abruptly reminded of what exactly he'd run from. There was a slight shifting of the air, a creak from the stone, then a new voice spoke.
"So, I want to know, just what were you running from?"
Mirofal lifted his head to find that the red dragon was gone and in its place was a red-haired, red-eyed human male... with just as little concept of personal modesty as any of them barring Aeynanyi had shown.
Obviously if he was going to remain amongst these dragons he was going to have to get used to the mode of dress being 'nothing whatsoever.'
"My brother," Mirofal answered, deciding there really wasn't any point in lying about it.
The redhead blinked. "Why would your brother want to kill you?" he asked, sounding entirely bewildered. Apparently dragons were more sane about these things than humans were.
Mirofal shrugged. "After his son was born he decided that someone's going to try to steal his throne, so he's been killing off all his blood relations to prevent it. I managed to avoid it for a while, being his General, but..." He shrugged again.
The red-haired man snorted. "Maybe Deyllgo's right. Humans are weird."
"Ruadh," Aeynanyi chided gently. "Not all of them. Just a few..."
Looking back and forth between the two humanoid dragons, Mirofal noted that the red one had the same tiny scales that Aeynanyi did on his arms. He distantly remembered seeing more on Deyllgo's back when the black dragon had stormed off, but as he'd been carefully trying not to look he wasn't exactly sure where they'd been. Though he did wonder if Aeynanyi was similarly patterned.
Which then brought up thoughts of Aeynanyi wearing as little as the other dragons, and that was definitely not a safe thing to think about. His desperate gaze landed on the glitter of the sea in the distance and found himself asking, "So do you just eat fish, or..."
That drew all gazes back to him - silver, red, and very large green. It was the green dragon that responded first, with a rather obvious chuckle that Mirofal wouldn't have expected out of a giant lizard.
"Fish mostly," Aeynanyi confirmed, eyes aglitter in amusement. "Though we are fond of other things as well. Uaine has quite a taste for eel, Ruadh-"
The man in question cut him off with a grin. "Seal with a few nicked human spices. Mmm..."
Chuckling and shaking his head, Aeynanyi continued. "Deyllgo tends toward red meats and has been known to fly to the inner isles for cows, goats, horses..."
"When he's not eating human trespassers, anyway," Ruadh snorted.
Mirofal suppressed a grimace. "What about you?" he asked. "And please don't say humans..."
Aeynanyi laughed, a tinkling sound that sent shivers up Mirofal's spine. "No, no..." He chuckled softly. "No humans. Actually, I have a terrible weakness for southern fruits. So many of the southern islands are uninhabited, and I can simply lie in the sand and eat my fill."
"That must be a lot of fruit to fill up a dragon..." Mirofal observed.
Aeynanyi laughed again. "Oh, I usually shift to human for that. Easier to savor my sweets."
And that was a mental image Mirofal really didn't need - Aeynanyi lying out on one of the hot southern beaches, sticky with fruit juice and without a single stitch of clothing on his graceful body. Reminding himself that Aeynanyi was a dragon wasn't helping matters at all. Not when all evidence he'd seen so far indicated that the differences were all entirely superficial and he really, really needed to be thinking about something else. Had the relief at escaping his brother's soldiers with his life addled his wits?
"All right," he managed. "So you eat, and you can run around your castle on two legs... what else do dragons do? The legends aren't very clear beyond the pillaging and ravaging parts..."
Aeynanyi smiled, and that certainly help his disobedient thoughts one bit. "Pillaging and ravaging, not so much, though I will admit to the occasional stolen sparkle that catches our eyes..." He held out one of those elegant, long-nailed hands. "Come, and I will show you what we dragons do for fun."
Mirofal sprawled out in the warm sand in only his trousers, watching in amusement as a trio of dragons - green, blue, and yellow - chased each other through the surf. It was amongst the more ridiculous things he'd seen in his life, towering lizards acting like peasant children, though still not quite so silly as those same giant lizards swimming. Which was what the red one was doing now, bobbing up and down like a dolphin and chasing his own tail.
It made him chuckle, drawing both the attention of Aeynanyi, sprawled out on his stomach in human form and half asleep, and the black dragon Deyllgo who was perched on an outcropping of rock and alternating between looking around for threats and glaring at Mirofal.
"Something amuses?" Aeynanyi asked, propping himself up on his arms, long silver hair streaming down across his back and into the sand, picking up the light from the sun in a way that made him almost painful to look at - though Mirofal didn't look away.
"I simply never thought to see dragons behaving like, well..." Mirofal grinned. "Human children."
Aeynanyi tilted his head, twisting so that he could look out over the water, then his gaze shifted back to Mirofal and he smiled. "Human adults do not do such things?" he asked.
"Not usually, no," Mirofal admitted. "It's not considered to be particularly respectable to be frolicking about in the waves."
"But it is very much fun," Aeynanyi protested, sitting up all the way and tucking his legs beneath him. "Do adult humans not have fun?"
Mirofal considered, running over his own life in his head. "Not really, no. We have responsibilities to care for others and see to the safety and prosperity of the kingdom. Nobles, that is. The lower classes, I believe, spend all of their time simply doing those things necessary to live and survive."
Aeynanyi frowned. "It does not seem like a particularly desirable existence, to be so confined that you cannot enjoy the life that you have. Perhaps it was a good thing that sent you here to my islands, if your life amongst your people was so joyless."
"How many dragon isles are there?" Mirofal asked curiously, ignoring the conflicting guilt and pleasure that ran through him at Aeynanyi's words. He enjoyed it here. Loved it really. But he had been raised to do many things, and lazing about in the sun went against all that he'd ever believed was his role in life. Even if the scenery, and one decoration in particular, was breathtaking.
"Mmm... I have never counted. My people are spread out amongst all of them save for the smaller isles, and even some of those are often adopted by less social dragons." Aeynanyi's eyes glittered and his lips quirked into that half smile that tended to mean he was up to something. "I could show them to you. Then you could count them yourself."
Mirofal raised a brow. "I can't fly, and somehow I can't quite imagine you riding in my skiff..."
Aeynanyi laughed. "You could ride me. I would not let you fall."
Momentarily quashing the images that arose, hoping that his face wasn't as red as he suspected it was, Mirofal jerked his head toward the outcropping where Deyllgo was still perched. "I think your bodyguard would take offense to that, Aeyn."
Aeynanyi snorted rather inelegantly, tossing his shining hair back over his shoulder. "That decision is mine to make, and if Deyllgo does not approve then that is his problem."
"He has to defer to you?" Mirofal asked curiously. "Are you some sort of... king, or the dragon equivalent?"
There was a long hesitation, Aeynanyi's brows creased in a slight frown as he thought. "Yes and no... I am what is called the Wind Lord. It is something one is born with, though it is not traced through bloodlines as your people follow such things. There is only one, and when he dies the next will be shortly born." He ran his long nails slowly through the sand, leaving deep furrows behind that swiftly became shallow as the sand moved to fill in the gouges. "It is a position of leadership, and of responsibility. To me falls the charge of keeping all my people safe, by whatever means I can."
Mirofal nodded slowly. "Like a king, or like what I saw a king as, until my brother decided to fall into paranoia..." He considered. "If there is no bloodline, how do you tell who the new Wind Lord will be?"
Aeynanyi laughed softly. "Color, for one." He shifted, and his hair and nails flashed in the sunlight. Mirofal found himself contemplating Aeynanyi's feet, which were distinctly more draconic in shape than the rest of his human form, and sported slightly shorter silver claws than those of his hands. "As well there are... certain abilities unique to the Wind Lord."
"Oh?" Mirofal dragged his gaze up Aeynanyi's legs, trying to get his mind off of kissing those uniquely-shaped feet. "Given the name, I'm going to guess you're some kind of weather mage?"
Aeynanyi chuckled softly. "All dragons can work the winds to some extent. It aids us in flying. But yes, my magic is stronger than any other dragon's... amongst other things."
Mirofal opened his mouth to ask about these 'other things' when there came a loud roar, followed by several more. He snapped his head back around to stare out over the water, unsettled by the fact that there had been more fear than anger in those sounds. The dragons that had been playing in the waves were all aloft, clustered rather tightly together around something else. Another dragon?
A sharp intake of breath beside him shifted his gaze back to Aeynanyi in time to watch the taller man vault to his feet, running across the sand toward where the cluster of dragons was lowering the one between them to the beach. It seemed smaller than the others, somehow, and was of a color he hadn't seen until now. Mottled grey, like a storm-filled sky.
He didn't realize he'd followed Aeynanyi until he was close enough to see the deep wounds on the grey dragon's body, spilling crimson blood into the sand and staining the formerly pristine beach. Mirofal felt a sickness spread through his gut as he clinically noted the angle and patterning of the wounds, knowing without a doubt that no animal did this. These were the marks of weapons. Of man.
Aeynanyi was touching the injured dragon, soothing it, whispering words he couldn't quite make out. He had only enough time to notice that the other dragons had backed away when quite abruptly the grey was gone and Aeynanyi was left holding a still-bleeding human instead.
"Inside," Aeynanyi ordered, relinquishing the bloodstained body to the careful grasp of Deyllgo, who spread his wings and glided back toward the castle. In the next moment the air was filled with dragons of all colors, then something grabbed him and jerked him upward, making the ground rush by at a terrifying pace given how very close it was.
Fortunately the trip back was very short, if harrowing, and in short order Mirofal found himself deposited on a landing and surrounded by naked dragons. It was hard to get embarrassed, however, as it was impossible to miss how upset they all were. Nor was it possible to miss that there were women as well as the men he'd already seen, and he was highly relieved and no small amount grateful when someone shoved him past the mass of graceful bodies and down a short hallway to a room that appeared rather similar to his own. He was less relieved when he realized the powerful grip on his shoulder belonged to Deyllgo.
"You see now, human?" Deyllgo hissed, not letting him past the threshold to where he could see Aeynanyi sitting worriedly on a bed next to the injured dragon-man. "This is why we want nothing to do with your kind." His grip tightened painfully on Mirofal's shoulder, enough to make the human cry out softly. He hadn't thought it loud enough to be heard, but Aeynanyi's head swiveled up, pained silver eyes seeking him out and frowning.
"That's enough, Deyllgo. Release him."
"But my Lord, your brother..."
Aeynanyi's eyes flashed in the same way they did when sunlight struck them, though there was none of that here. "Leave, Deyllgo. Do not hurt our guest again." There was something in his voice Mirofal had never heard before, and it made him feel cold. This, perhaps, was the Wind Lord of the dragons, and not the Aeynanyi who had barely left his side since he'd first awoken on this isle.
The grip on his shoulder eased, then was gone completely as quiet footsteps revealed Deyllgo was backing off. Mirofal hesitated a moment, then took a single step into the room. "Aeyn..."
Aeynanyi closed his eyes, a soft sigh escaping his lips. A moment later he reopened them and gestured. "Come."
Uncertainly Mirofal complied, coming to stand a pace away from where Aeynanyi was sitting and looking down at the pale, pain-drawn face of the man - nay, boy, as he couldn't have been past his teens - lying so very still.
"Your brother?" Mirofal said softly.
Aeynanyi nodded, reaching out to brush tendrils of grey hair out of the boy's face. Mirofal could see the patterns of silver scales running up the back of his arm and it occurred to him rather belatedly that Aeynanyi wasn't wearing anything. "Liath. He is... the only blood family I have left."
"Will he be all right?"
"Yes." It was barely more than a murmur. "I can heal him, though it will take time. The wounds are very deep."
Mirofal hesitated again, caught by the anguish he could see in Aeynanyi's eyes. "You know it was..."
"Humans?" Aeynanyi closed his eyes, looking almost defeated. "Yes. I knew the humans were no longer our friends, but I never would have expected..." He shook his head, the fall of his shining hair seeming somehow dulled. "I thought they had forgotten us."
Kneeling on the floor near Aeynanyi's feet, Mirofal said softly, "We had. Dragons were thought to be nothing more than legends in most of the world, and even here in the east it was more... fear that kept mankind away from your islands. I can't imagine why they would..."
But he could. A man who would turn upon and slay his own blood kin would not hesitate to strike down a legend, had he the opportunity. When fear is all you allow yourself to feel, then the fear begins to override judgment. See only the immediate result, rather than what later consequences such actions might have.
"Cuethac..." he whispered. "What have you done?"
Aeynanyi looked down at him slowly, his free hand reaching out to brush Mirofal's shoulder. "Cuethac... your brother?"
Mirofal nodded, stifling the pain that still lingered over that betrayal. "It is madness. There is no other word for what he has done. He was always somewhat suspicious as a child, but I never thought he would..." He broke off with a pained sound. "When his son was born, it was like he just snapped. He saw conspiracies everywhere, thought everyone was plotting against him. When I tried to convince him it was all in his mind, he accused me too..."
"And now this madness has spread to our shores as well." The way Aeynanyi sounded, so defeated, made Mirofal want to get up and comfort him, though he didn't dare touch the beautiful man while he wasn't wearing anything. "Deyllgo will argue that our only choice will be to attack, to leave warning never to come near us." He fell silent, staring at the sleeping form of his brother for so long it seemed he wouldn't speak again, and then, "I do not wish them to fear us. Once, long ago, we were friends... your people and mine."
"I wish we could be friends again," Mirofal said quietly.
The silence stretched out for quite some time, neither of them moving, lost in their own thoughts as they were. It wasn't until the sounds of several persons coming down the hallway broke through that either looked up, finding a handful of dragons - naked as always - lingering in the doorway.
The red-haired one, Ruadh, moved to the forefront. "My Lord Aeynanyi Sirlennu," he greeted carefully. "About the humans..."
Aeynanyi's silvery gaze roamed over the assembled dragons slowly, then flicked briefly to Mirofal. "Yes," he murmured quietly, "The humans." That gaze shifted back to his sleeping brother as he added, "What indeed..."
"We should attack them. Show them our strength and our claws. Make them leave us in peace!"
"I say we stop going to the human isles. Keep the young ones here, where it's safe."
"They know where we are, now! They'll come after us, with their weapons and their mages. If we attack now, we'll make them fear!"
"It is the fear that will bring them now! Spreading it will only make them more determined to rid themselves of us!"
They continued to bicker amongst themselves, arguing heatedly, while Aeynanyi simply watched his brother sleep in silence. It was obvious to Mirofal that the dragons were frightened - frightened! - and that was such a bizarre thought that he took a moment to contemplate how such magnificent, powerful creatures could be so afraid of creatures much weaker than they. And yet, in his time on the island Mirofal had seen perhaps three dozen dragons total, with the nebulous promise of more on the other isles. Even if there were a hundred dragons, two hundred, the humans still outnumbered them by an incalculable amount.
Given the grievous wounds Aeynanyi's brother had taken, he could very easily see how his people might be viewed in fear. And hate. Somehow, both of those thoughts hurt more than he expected.
"Aeyn...?" he said softly, reaching up to touch the dragon-man's knee. Aeynanyi turned to regard him in silence for what seemed like an eternity, trapping him in that shimmering silver gaze, then slowly he looked up to take in his anxious people. When he spoke, it was quiet, barely audible, and yet all the rest immediately fell silent.
"If we hide away and do nothing, then more will die, human and dragon alike. Yet if we do too much, we will bring their fear and their hate down upon ourselves, and with it will come their weapons." His eyes flicked ever so briefly to Mirofal, then back to the waiting dragons. "It has been suggested that the current... difficulties... have all arisen due to the instability of one man. A human king, with no more respect for the lives of his own people than for ours. A man whose own family is not safe from his madness."
There was a subtle shifting, though Mirofal didn't turn to see the looks that would be traded amongst them. He couldn't look. He knew what Aeynanyi was implying, knew what the others would demand. In a way, he'd indirectly suggested it. He just didn't know what he thought about the idea of killing his brother, no matter how far sanity had slipped from Cuethac's grasp.
And yet... He looked at Liath, lying so pale and still beneath the bedcovers, remembering the blood that had stained the halls of the palace he'd grown up in. If someone didn't stop Cuethac, there was no telling what his madness would drive him to do next. No one from Temnia would dare stand against him when he wielded the power that he did. Outsiders might try, but it would be a long and bloody war that would mean deaths on both sides. And the dragons...
Mirofal looked up at Aeynanyi again, looking so distant, so serious. It didn't suit him. Aeynanyi looked best when he was smiling, laughing, apologizing for his cooking. Then in a flash he saw Aeynanyi in Liath's place, pale and bloody, and he knew he had to have reacted because Aeynanyi was giving him a strange look. He realized belatedly that his hand was still on Aeynanyi's leg and gripping rather hard and forced himself to let go. Take a deep breath.
Aeynanyi's words on the beach echoed in his head. To me falls the charge of keeping all my people safe, by whatever means I can. If Cuethac decided to attack the dragons, Aeynanyi would...
"Aeyn," he said softly, staring fixedly at Aeynanyi's knee, "There are... hidden ways into the palace on Temnia. Ways that only the royal family know of..." He swallowed. "If a few persons wanted to slip inside, unseen..."
Around him there was only a thick, waiting silence. It echoed in his ears and made the pounding of his heart seem deafeningly loud, only to cut off abruptly as a gentle hand covered his. Mirofal snapped his head up, meeting Aeynanyi's glittering silver eyes.
"You do not have to do this thing, Mirofal," Aeynanyi said gently.
Mirofal shook his head, unable to clear the image of blood from his vision. "Yes, I do. Too many have died already. I won't let anyone else, human or dragon, die for my brother's madness."
Behind him there was a wild, whispered chatter that cut off sharply at a look from Aeynanyi. Then that warm gaze was upon him again and elegant, sharp-nailed hands threaded through his hair, toying with the curls. "Then I accept your offer, Mirofal of Temnia."
The sea rushed by at such a dizzying speed the waves all seemed to blur together beneath the sliver of crescent moonlight. No ship he'd ever sailed on nor horse he'd ever ridden on had moved at even a fraction of this speed, and were it anyone but Aeynanyi beneath him now Mirofal knew he'd be in a state of panic. Men were not meant to fly, even astride a beautiful silver dragon.
There had been an outcry when Aeynanyi had first offered, all of the dragons taking offense at the notion of a mere human riding their beloved Wind Lord. Not nearly as strong as the protests had been when Aeynanyi had announced he was going along in the first place, Mirofal was still trying to recover his hearing from that one, but still vehement. And as usual, Aeynanyi had merely waited until they'd started running out of complaints to make and calmly overruled them all.
For which Mirofal was exceptionally grateful. If he'd had to attempt this journey on Ruadh, or gods-forbid Deyllgo, he suspected he'd have soundly embarrassed himself long before now. With Aeynanyi it was, while not exactly pleasant, at least tolerable.
And he'd gotten to see Aeynanyi's dragon form at last. That was a sight he wasn't likely to forget any time soon. He'd thought the sight of Aeynanyi as a dragon would be strange, eerie. Instead the man turned dragon was just as beautiful, just as breathtaking. He was still Aeynanyi, just a lot bigger and with more scales.
Mirofal wanted badly to be able to stroke those shimmering scales that were so close - beneath his thighs, just a breath away from his arms - but if he let go of the thick spine scale he was clinging to he was fairly certain he'd fall off. And yet the thought was still tempting. He wanted so badly to know if those glittering scales were as soft and warm as they were on Aeynanyi's human form. Surely he could manage to free just one hand to touch.
But the air was shifting, the wind slowing, and he reluctantly brought his mind back to the task at hand as the ocean underneath gave way to land. Forests, then mountains and more forest, and in the distance a cluster of glimmering lights that had to be the main city of Temnia. They were descending swiftly, almost perilously close to the treetops, and yet not quite touching. Aeynanyi's glorious silver wings stretched out wide as he glided soundlessly through the night, backwinging at last and settling down in a clearing.
Sliding down off Aeynanyi's neck, Mirofal felt his feet touch the earth and caught himself, straightening and turning to find that Aeynanyi had already resumed his human shape. A moment later there was a whoosh of air, then another, and Ruadh and Deyllgo had joined them.
Mirofal slipped his pack off his back, wordlessly passing out the plain, unremarkable clothing to the nude dragons. He himself was wearing more of the same, to call less attention to himself should he be seen. There was still a royal order out for his death, after all, even if they did all currently assume he'd been lost at sea. No sense tempting the tides of fate.
Once the dragons were dressed they began the long and tedious walk to the city. It would have been difficult enough in the daylight, but walking through a forest at night was sheer torture. For Mirofal at least. The three dragons seemed to be having no difficulty whatsoever, and indeed Aeynanyi carefully steered him away from obstacles on more than one occasion. He silently added 'see well in the dark' to his growing list of dragon abilities.
The first light of false dawn was showing on the horizon by the time they reached the city; without any encouragement all four sped up as they wound their way through the city streets. It wouldn't be a good idea for anyone to look too closely at the dragons' inhuman characteristics, particularly their nails and Aeynanyi's hair. The scales were hidden, but they were all barefoot. Human boots, as it turned out, were sheer torture on the uniquely-shaped dragon feet.
They'd almost made it to the back gate, the one with the loose brick that meant the latch never caught right, when a voice hailed them with authority.
"Ho, who goes there?"
Swallowing, Mirofal turned toward the guard that had called out. "Good morning..."
The man squinted, holding his lantern up higher, then his eyes widened dramatically. "Prince Mir-" He didn't get a chance to finish, however, as Deyllgo had taken the opportunity to slip up behind him and render him unconscious with a sharp blow to the head. The black dragon calmly blew out the man's light and shoved his insensate body behind a crate.
Equal parts relieved and disturbed, Mirofal resumed his leadership role and jiggled the gate just right, feeling the lock on the other side slip. They all slid inside, closing it behind them, then making their way across the steadily-lightening courtyard to the outer palace wall. Beneath his breath Mirofal began counting stones, stopping at one that looked just like all the others. A sharp touch on the stone caused an entire section of the wall to swing outward. Beyond it was a very narrow, unlit corridor.
"Someone else will need to go first," Mirofal said apologetically. "I can't see in the dark without a lantern..."
Chuckling softly, Aeynanyi slipped his hand into Mirofal's and stepped fearlessly into the dark. Ruadh followed, and Deyllgo lingered a few moments to pull the heavy door closed behind them, cutting off all the light completely. Mirofal fought down panic, knowing how foolish it was to fear something he'd played in as a child, yet he could not entirely stifle the feeling.
Aeynanyi stopped, almost making Mirofal run into him. "The path splits." He spoke softly, almost inaudibly. "Which way?"
The question jarred him into thinking about something other than the dark. "Left." He knew the path, went over it in his head. Next they turned left again, then right. The narrow passage would dead-end at the rear wall of the Royal Suite. There was a catch, small and easily overlooked if you did not already know where it was. Very few did. This had been the refuge of two young princes desperate to get away from their tutors and guards and steal a few hours of play all for themselves.
The sudden pain that raced through him nearly left him breathless; he could feel Aeynanyi's comforting touch through where their hands were still clasped together, where Aeynanyi's free hand came to rest upon his arm. "Mirofal."
Drawing in a deep breath, Mirofal straightened. "Let... let me try to talk to him? Maybe I can convince him... to change his mind."
There was a low growl, that would be Deyllgo, but Aeynanyi's hands only squeezed once in reassurance. "We will wait." Aeynanyi understood. This would be his last chance to reason with the brother he'd loved as a child, and still loved even as that child turned cold and ruthless.
Steeling himself, Mirofal reached through the darkness and found the catch with the ease of long practice, pushing open the hidden door and stepping out into the room that had once belonged to their parents. Not long ago it had been the domain of Cuethac and his wife. Now, it belonged only to Cuethac.
Mirofal crept silently across the ornate bedroom to the large bed and the single figure contained within. He felt a curious sort of duality within him as he looked down upon his brother, seeing at once both the crazed king who had murdered first his wife then all those with any possible claim to the crown, and the nervous, shy little boy who had allowed his brother to drag him off on the wildest of adventures. Cuethac had never been quite right, but not in his darkest dreams would Mirofal ever have imagined things would turn out like this.
"Cuethac..." he whispered. "Cuethac... Wake up, brother."
It hadn't used to be disorienting, to watch Cuethac wake. When they'd been young, it had been fascinating. The slow, gradual shift from sleep to grogginess to full, guarded wakefulness. He'd always liked Cuethac best when he wasn't quite awake. When, just for a moment, he actually seemed happy.
"Mirofal." And just like that all the happiness was gone, replaced with poison-laced words and an icy coldness. "You were supposed to die."
It still hurt, to have Cuethac's hatred directed at him, though it seemed to have faded into more of a resigned hurt than the sharp pain it had been the first time Cuethac had turned on him. Then, Cuethac had been his brother, his king, and his world. Cuethac had been all that he had. Now, there was another.
"Cuethac, please, cease the bloodshed," Mirofal pleaded, careful to keep out of range of his brother's touch. "You know me. I'm your brother. I've supported you all my life."
Cuethac threw back the bedcoverings, sliding out of bed and advancing on Mirofal in only his dressing gown. "Yes, whispers in the darkness, comforting, reassuring... trying to make me dependant on you!" he spat, eyes flashing dangerously. "Too bad, brother. I don't need you anymore. I don't need any of you!" He smiled, but it was a cold smile, and Mirofal could see the madness lurking behind that blue-grey gaze. "They all obey me now. They fear me. But you, you never feared me, did you Mirofal? Instead, you pitied me!" He snarled, lashing out and knocking over a small table, sending its contents crashing to the floor.
It took all of Mirofal's military training not to run from the look in his brother's eyes. There was no sanity left there. The beloved brother he'd tried to protect for so many years was gone, consumed by hatred and paranoia. Somewhere deep inside he'd known for years, closer to Cuethac than anyone as he'd been, but he'd tried so hard not to see. Perhaps it was a measure of what they'd once had that Cuethac had left him for last, for surely if anyone could ever be a threat to his throne, it would be Cuethac's identical twin brother.
Not that he'd ever had any interest in being king. He'd been content merely with what was expected of him. Lead his brother's armies, have a voice on the council, protect the kingdom of Temnia. And now that final duty meant protecting his people from their king. From his brother.
"Cuethac, you can't continue doing this," he tried, still backing away as Cuethac advanced. "Your people, the neighboring kingdoms, they won't let you keep up this bloodshed. Please-"
"No one will stop me," Cuethac hissed. "No one will come near me. They all know what I can do. They fear me, as they should. You're the only one who doesn't - but not for much longer!"
Too late he realized he'd been backed into a corner, the heavy tables being low and out of his immediate range of vision. His thighs bumped into a table's edge and he paled as Cuethac closed the distance between them. There were hands around his throat before he could make a move to defend himself, and then only searing, burning agony as his brother's magic flooded through his body, seeking to unmake him at the deepest level.
Unbidden, he screamed.
Suddenly the burn was gone, though the lingering pain remained, making him weak and dizzy. There was something strong supporting him at the waist, keeping him pinned against something solid, something warm. Something familiar.
A soft gurgle reached his ears and he forced his eyes to open, everything swimming before his vision until he managed to focus, going stiff and still at the sight before him. His brother stood there, staring in disbelief, his hands raised futilely in an attempt to stop the blood that was gushing from his throat. Their eyes met; Cuethac's flickered briefly to something behind Mirofal and he smiled, then his eyes rolled back and he dropped to the floor, lying in a spreading pool of his own blood.
Red. Red blood everywhere. Mirofal tore his gaze away with effort, looking down at the arm holding him. Silver nails. Silver nails stained with crimson blood. Aeyn's nails. Aeynanyi had killed his brother.
No, that wasn't right. Cuethac was a healer. A powerful healer. A wound like that would have been simple for him to mend. It should have taken much more...
He felt the world slipping away, felt the ache of what his brother had done to him before Aeynanyi had appeared. The arms around him tightened, holding him close, and that was all he knew before the darkness claimed him once again.
When the darkness finally released its claim upon him, Mirofal's eyes felt like they were leaded, so heavy were they. His body felt even heavier, though after a moment's struggle he realized that was because something was holding him down rather than any true lingering weakness. When he finally got his eyes to open and focus properly to take in his surroundings, his heart promptly skipped a beat.
Silver hair. Silver hair cascading all across his chest, tangling in his fingers, spilling out across the dark brown bedspread he distantly recognized as his own. Therefore, he was in his personal rooms in the Temnia royal palace and Aeynanyi was sleeping on him.
Heat suffused his face as he stared down at the beautiful man, unable to see Aeynanyi's face due to the tilt of his head, but quite able to see the smooth lines of his body beneath the fall of hair, then there was no hair at all to get in the way of all that sleek skin and the silvery scales that danced and twined in impossible patterns down his back and legs, coiling about and disappearing into the curve of his very bare ass.
Aeynanyi was sleeping on him and he was nude. Mirofal shifted a bit, peeking underneath some of Aeynanyi's concealing hair and discerning that the dragon wasn't the only one whose clothes had gone missing. His face felt like it was on fire, and his hot blush was not the only reaction his body was having.
Over the hammering of his own heart he heard - and felt - Aeynanyi stir. He held perfectly still as the dragon slowly lifted his head, blinking, then swiftly turned to stare at him. Their eyes met, and Mirofal felt like he was drowning in a sea of silver. "Aeyn..."
"You're awake." The relief in the dragon's voice was unmistakable. "I wasn't sure..."
Mirofal licked his lips. "How long...?"
"Four days," Aeynanyi said softly. "I've never tried to heal a human before. I wasn't sure if it was working... if you'd ever wake up..."
"Dead." The dragon's voice was so quiet, so sorrowful. "I'm sorry, Mirofal."
Mirofal closed his eyes, feeling hot tears prick them, unaware of his arms encircling the slender body lying atop him and holding it tight. It was better this way. His people were safe, the dragons were safe, and Cuethac... Cuethac had smiled. At Aeynanyi.
"He... he could have healed himself," Mirofal heard himself say. "Somehow whatever power I should have had he got instead... too much power. It drove him mad, no matter what we tried to do to help. But he still... there was so much he could do. Why did he let you kill him?"
Gentle fingers touched his face; a gentle coolness where the backs of long nails brushed against his skin. "I did not know your brother, but perhaps he recognized the madness within himself. If this power he held was such a burden to him, perhaps it was a relief that it was finally gone."
It made sense, in some manner, and it helped to think that in some way Cuethac was happier now, though there were still so many repercussions to deal with.
"I don't want to be king."
Aeynanyi was silent a moment, gentle fingers tracing across his jaw, up his face. "There is no one else. The child is too young to lead."
Mirofal's eyes flew open, seeing the surprise in Aeynanyi's. "My brother's child... where is he?"
"Buidhe and Ruadh are guarding him," Aeynanyi replied. "He is safe."
He relaxed a little, though worry still flooded him. He'd never wanted the throne. He knew, abstractedly, how to rule, but it was not something he'd ever wanted. His role was to aid, to support. Not to rule.
"I will help you," Aeynanyi said softly. "We will keep the kingdom safe for when your brother's child comes of age." He hesitated, and his voice fell even softer. "If you will permit it..."
Silver eyes. Silver hair. That beautiful, exotic face creased with worry. Mirofal didn't really notice what he was doing until his own hand was cupping Aeynanyi's cheek, thumb stroking gently. "Humans and dragons together... you said it had been done once before..."
"Yes," Aeynanyi confirmed, so softly. "Once, long ago, our two peoples were allies. Friends, even."
Friends. No, friends was not what he wanted. Friends were not enough to touch, to taste...
"Just friends?" he asked; it came out as a whisper.
Aeynanyi's breath caught, drew in sharply. His silvery gaze studied Mirofal's face for what seemed a lifetime, then he slowly lowered his head to brush a feather-soft caress of lips over Mirofal's own. It made his entire body tremble, shivers of desire streaking through his blood. He wrapped his arms around Aeynanyi's back and waist, pulling him closer, then the kiss suddenly exploded in heat and passion and the swirl of tongues as they met and tasted. The dragon's mouth held the flavours of fish and fruit, and something spicy that defied identification. Dragon magic, perhaps.
Need for air forced them apart, though they did not go far. Their breaths mingled together, warm and tingling as they brushed across kiss-swollen lips. This close, without even so much as a stitch of clothing, it was impossible to hide the effect it had on either of them. Aeynanyi noticed just as Mirofal did, his silver eyes gleaming with mischief and desire as he twisted his hips sharply, grinding himself against Mirofal and making them both cry out.
"Aeyn..." he breathed, unable to resist the play of sleek muscle beneath smooth skin as he ran his hands down Aeynanyi's back, exploring the contrast between skin and scales, flushing again as he realized how low his wandering fingers had gone.
Aeynanyi writhed beneath his touch, alternately pressing back against Mirofal's hands and grinding down against his groin. The dragon made a low keening sound before claiming Mirofal's lips again, hard and demanding before backing off suddenly to nibble on Mirofal's lip, the points of his teeth coming dangerously close to breaking skin on more than one occasion. He waited until Aeynanyi's kisses had gentled again before twisting his hips upward, shivering at the sensations that evoked and at the sudden sharp pain in his arms as Aeynanyi dug his nails in in surprise.
"Mirofal..." Aeynanyi was panting; he seemed wild and untamed, looking more like a dragon than he ever had before. "Let me..."
He nodded, having no idea what he was agreeing to, and not really caring. Whatever Aeynanyi wanted, he could have. As long as Mirofal could have Aeynanyi.
The tips of silver nails traced his skin as Aeynanyi slid down him, licking here and there, biting sharply at one of his nipples and making him shudder as the dragon's tongue soothed the ache he'd caused. The slow slide of skin across his groin certainly wasn't helping, unless the point was to drive him completely out of his mind. Certainly Aeynanyi was doing a good idea of that, with his fleeting touches and soft caresses, so much so that when the dragon's tongue dipped into his bellybutton he nearly arched straight off the bed. "Aeyn!"
Aeynanyi chuckled softly and did it again, the action sending a jolt straight to his throbbing cock. He moaned quietly and grasped blindly for Aeynanyi's hair, trying to pull the dragon back up and away from his far too sensitive stomach, but instead Aeynanyi only slid lower, his face nuzzling the heat of Mirofal's erection for a moment before that wicked tongue darted out again to trace along the weeping slit.
"Aeyn!" He jerked, drowning in a sea of silver desire, then suddenly there was a wet heat all around and he very nearly thought he might pass out at the sight of Aeynanyi with his mouth stretched wide around Mirofal's cock, those long nails tracing up and down along his length and driving away the thought of anything but Aeynanyi and the sensations he was evoking.
It was the light, teasing scrape of teeth that did him in, drawing a startled shout from his throat as the building tenseness in his body released, flooding him instead with a low, sated heat. That skilled tongue swirled around him twice more, sending residual shivers up his spine, then Aeynanyi was crawling back up his body and kissing him. It tasted odd, salty. He felt himself turning scarlet again as he realized just what it was he could taste in the dragon's mouth, and Aeynanyi chuckled.
"So easily flustered, my fine prince," the dragon murmured, nails tracing a wide pattern around the still-bleeding furrows in Mirofal's arm. "I think I have much to teach you..."
"You... ah..." Mirofal blinked, then paled. "Deyllgo is going to kill me."
Aeynanyi snorted and kissed him again, greedy and demanding, until he was forced to relax. "Deyllgo will do no such thing. I have claimed you, and he will simply have to deal with it." He actually looked rather proud. "I imagine he will be far more upset when I announce that I will be staying here with you until such time as your brother's child is grown."
Mirofal smiled. "Then can we return to your island?" he asked, hoping he didn't sound as wistful as he felt.
"Of course," Aeynanyi murmured, tongue darting out to flick across Mirofal's lips. "Easier to ravish you when I do not have to worry about pushy humans trying to walk in on us to the point where I have to set guards outside your door."
"Guards? Really?" Mirofal blinked.
"Mmm, you are their king now, or at least, temporary king... what is the human term... regent? Yes. You are their leader. They were understandably worried when you did not wake..."
"Cuethac was trying to kill me." It was barely a whisper.
"He did not." Aeynanyi was firm. "And I would not let you die. You are not a dragon, but my power is not completely useless upon you. It simply required more prolonged contact."
Mirofal blinked, then chuckled quietly. "Is that why you were laying on me?" he asked.
Aeynanyi grinned. "That, and you're comfortable."
"I see," Mirofal retorted, though he was smiling as he combed his fingers through Aeynanyi's glittering hair. He was quiet a long moment, then admitted softly, "I wish he was already grown. My brother's child." He frowned. "I shall have to ask his nurses what his name is..."
The lithe body draped across his tensed slightly. "You do not know? We asked, and all assumed that you..."
Mirofal's eyes widened. "Cuethac didn't tell them his name?"
Aeynanyi shook his head slowly. "He called the child 'my heir,' according to those responsible for caring for him."
Mirofal fell silent, trying to decide what he was to do now. The boy's parents were both dead; Mirofal himself was his only living relative. He didn't want that responsibility, any more than he wanted responsibility for the kingdom.
"If I may," Aeynanyi said softly, "Perhaps... Teynaise?"
"What does it mean?" Mirofal queried.
Aeynanyi smiled. "Promise. Hope for the future."
Tension once more drained out of his shoulders and Mirofal found himself smiling again. "Yes. That is exactly what this kingdom needs," he agreed.
"It is what all beings need, be they human or dragon," Aeynanyi corrected, and leaned down to kiss him.