Author's Notes: Still blaming Maderr for this since she was the one that came up with the idea. My imagination just decided to run with it.

Amick wanted nothing more than the throw the bratty, self-absorbed, vapid whore that his advisors called a "possible marriage candidate" he was entertaining into the seventh pit of Hell. Maybe the eighth, even if this version of the world hadn't been destroyed to create the eighth level yet. He'd destroy it himself if it would just get him out of this situation.

"So of course I had to stop by Moorstone in order to see the cloth market for myself. That's where I found this red orange damask," Ingraine said. She pressed a hand to her bosom, where the neck line plunged dangerously low. Amick kept expecting her to fall out with every breath.

"It is truly a remarkable pattern," he murmured. Ingraine giggled. The pattern really was remarkable. Remarkably ugly.

"I'm glad you like it."

He made some appropriately approving noise as he reached for a cup of juice. The rare fruit was both sweet and acidic, and Amick rolled the flavor over his tongue. His cooks had truly out done themselves. The food and drink were the only things keeping him from creating a diplomatic incident.

Behind him, Amick could hear his body guard shift. He didn't need to look, didn't need to see his pet and bodyguard's narrowed eyes or bared teeth, to know that Nyx hated Ingraine. Amick could feel the hatred as a faint throb against the sigils etched on his skin.

The slight movement drew Ingraine's attention to Nyx. She smiled. Amick mentally groaned. He knew what was coming next.

"Your bodyguard is quite impressive," she said as her eyes raked over Nyx. He felt Nyx's answering pulse of revulsion over his skin. "I can tell he's magical, but what creature was he changed from?"

"Dragon," Amick said. He smiled smugly at Ingraine's drawn in breath. It was nice to take credit where credit was due.


Nature had designed Nyx: had given him his pale skin, his white-blonde hair, his blue eyes, and his supple beauty. Every time someone admired him, Amick couldn't help but feel like he was personally responsible. His bodyguard truly was one of a kind.

"I had heard that dragons don't do well in captivity." That was an understatement. There were cases of dragons burning themselves out using their own magic trying to get away or clawing out their own throats trying to get collars off.

His bodyguard had been like that for the first year and a half. Nyx had challenged him constantly, physically, mentally, and magically, until Amick had reinforced the spells binding them together to the point of absurdity. The sigils were etched on his right arm from wrist to shoulder.

It was reckless, but the result was more than worth it. Time and again, Nyx's actions had saved his life. His very presence impressed. He was proof that Amick was not to be trifled with.

"You are right. Usually dragons don't survive the first year. I've had Nyx for almost six years though. I do believe that is a record."

"Quite impressive," Ingraine murmured. She fluttered her eyelashes and reached out. "I've always found those who are strongest in magic to be the most attractive."

Her touch set off the wards and spells on his skin, an uncomfortable crawl of her own limited magic against his own. Amick gritted his teeth. Didn't this stupid bint know better than to touch him?

To make things worse he could feel Nyx's rage through the bindings, and the corresponding sigils on his arm seemed to burn. Nyx was supposed to react to anyone who threatened him. He might despise Ingraine, but her pathetic attempts at flirting were not dangerous.

"Lady Ingraine," Amick said with a pointed look at her hand. "I fear that I must leave you. There are other matters that I must attend to."

"Really? Can it truly be that late? I feel like we've hardly gotten to know each other." Ingraine used the opportunity to trace one of the more complex designs on his arms. The spell woke sluggishly under her touch. Amick resisted the urge to punch her.

"I wholeheartedly agree," Amick said. It took real effort keep the sarcasm out of his voice. "My duty as the king keeps me too busy. I hardly have time to do the things that I wish to do."

For instance, duty kept him from mucking the stables or cleaning the privy. Either of which would be preferable to enduring the torture that was Ingraine's presence. Adopting an heir was looking better and better.

"That would change if were to marry." Ingraine made it a statement, not a question. As if he'd drop his entire kingdom just to carter to his whim.

"When I marry..." And I would rather throw myself down the west tower stairs than marry you. "... I will make the time for my bride." Amick was sorely tempted to feed the fire spell she was currently tracing power and watch the fireworks. "If I may have my arm back?"

"My apologies. I didn't mean to be so forward." Ingraine withdrew her hand, finally, only to put said hand on her bosom. Again. Amick took a deep breath to keep from rolling his eyes.

"It has been a pleasure, Lady Ingraine." Amick took her hand, bowed over it, and kissed her knuckles. The way she dropped her eyes and blushed had to be faked. It was too perfect, like something out of the worst troubadour's sappy love song. Another pulse of rage from Nyx didn't improve his disposition any. "I will see you this evening at dinner?"

"I would not miss it."

Really, I wish you would.

Amick strolled out of the room, pushing aside a heavy drape of fabric that kept drafts down to a minimum. He could hear Nyx fall into step behind him. Once he was out of sight of Ingraine, he turned on his bodyguard.

"What was that?"

Nyx drew himself up to his full height, the advantage two inches gave him had never seemed so great, and looked down his nose at the Amick. His pupils narrowed to cat-like slits, and when he smiled, the dragon bared sharp canines. "I don't know what you are talking."

The spell on his index finger flared. That was a lie. "You know perfectly well what I'm talking about." Amick turned and started walking, forcing Nyx to hurry to keep up with him or be left behind. "I could feel your emotions from across the room."

"Really?" Nyx said. Amick disliked the dragon's tone of voice. It made him wonder who was really in charge.

"You don't like Lady Ingraine. Fine." Amick stopped, whirling to face his bodyguard. "But if I marry her, I expect you to keep your emotions to yourself."

He expected the anger, was even braced for it. What Amick didn't expect was the sudden surge of power. It washed over him in a wave, driving him off-balance until he took a few steps backwards. The seals and bindings on his right arm flared to life, white hot and blue cold at the same time.

No. Amick would not let Nyx go. He opened himself to the power in the stones around him, channeling it into the seals. In front of him, Nyx's human form faded out and was overlain by the scales and coils of a dragon.

I will not let you go!

Amick poured more power into the spells. Slowly, bit by bit, the shape of the dragon faded until only Nyx remained. His bodyguard was breathing heavily. Sweat left a faint sheen on his skin.

"I still own you," Amick said. Nyx flinched from his words. "I am still stronger than you. Don't ever forget who holds the chain to your collar. I will decide when and if you are set free. Not you."

Nyx's lips peeled away from his teeth in a mockery of a smile. "Yes, Master."

Keeping Nyx bound should not have taken that much power. Amick sat down hard on the floor when he arrived at his room, leaning back against the closed door. His hands were shaking. He'd almost lost to the dragon. That hadn't happened in years.

Once Amick was sure his legs would hold him, he got up. Three steps allowed him to sit on the bed. Only then did he push up the sleeve to his tunic to see the damage

It was worse than he thought. The lines of the spells had turned from faded blue to dark navy. That was to be expected. Spell lines always darkened when they were used. What bothered him were the myriad whorls and braids that now wove with his own sigils. They hadn't been there before.

Dragon magic was raw and untamed: wild magic. Human magic was controlled and ordered, composed of carefully scripted lines and arcs. Nyx's magic was bleeding over into his own.

It was getting harder and harder to hide that fact from his advisors and countrymen. If they realized how much wild magic flowed through him now, they'd break his ties to his land and leave him to die. Everything he had worked for, everything he had fought for, would be for nothing.

"I'm going to have to let him go," Amick said to himself. It hurt to think about, which is why he'd put it off as long as he had.

Oddly enough, Nyx was the closest thing to a friend he had. The advisors all hated him for actually acting like a king instead of a puppet. His fellow witches were afraid of him because of the sheer power he wielded. His people just saw him as a leader. Ingraine just saw his as a way to advance her own status.

No one really knew him... except Nyx. The dragon bodyguard had seen him at his best and worst. He'd been the solid strength on which Amick had relied on as he fought off the advisors and claimed his throne. The dragon had even been there when Amick had finally allowed himself to grieve for his father, murdered by a half-brother he'd never met.

Six years together, even forced as it was, was longer than some marriages lasted.

"And now, I had to let him go."

Life was never fair.