Okay, this is a plot chapter to start getting things moving into place for the main story to actually begin, it feels so odd every time a work on this and think I'm probably a quarter of the way through!! Lol, eventually it will finish, but it might take me a good few more months :)
The poll will shut on friday, at the moment a new desert themed story looks like the winner so I've gotten started on something for that. However if you want something else then get voting! :)
Thank you to everyone who has been kind enough to review, I always try to reply personally but if you aren't signed in I can't, so for everyone who has reviewed/faved etc and hasn't heard from me: thank you very much, I really enjoy reading them :)
Finran shifted uncomfortably in his chair under the metallic gaze of Tor's parent. The dragon had a sense of otherness about him that was hard to explain, a powerful aura that belied his serene and inhuman face. It caused a feeling that was almost intimidating… but not quite, it was different, something he couldn't quite understand.
"My presence is discomforting you." There was nothing particularly distinctive about Fir's tone, but it sent a shiver down Finran's spine all the same. "I was…believing that would happen. I am connected closely with our Great Mother, it seeps from me and land dwellers do not understand the feeling of Her presence. I do not mean to do you harm."
"That is-" Finran stopped himself and thought for a moment. He knew about how close the sea dragons were to the Goddess, but this was a step further and he would need to tread carefully. Tor had never exhibited the same sensation, but without more information Finran couldn't tell whether Fir was sharing a very significant and personal secret. "That is incredible, I've learned a great deal about sea dragons and the Goddess, but I didn't know others could feel Her presence through dragons."
Fir shook his head. "That is not so, I carry Her gifts as Her chosen amongst dragons. Only I and one other can do so. It requires the blood of a sea dragon to sense Her, and there are not many kin away from the sea."
The Overlord nodded slowly, his guest was important, not merely a healer. It bore remembering, the relationship they could develop in this first metting might well set the tone for all future interactions with the sacred creatures, including his own with Tor.
"I believe we have much to discuss." He said quietly.
"Yes." Fir's blank expression melted into a small smile. "You understand that we must come to…terms. Dragons are made to be advisors, caretakers and saviours. So must we be again, but not blindly…there are lessons we have learnt well."
Finran knew that, Cel's diaries had taught him well. He felt hope, there was a chance now, a way to create an end to this plague and the beginning of a new era of understanding and co-operation.
"I do understand, we need you and there will be compromise this time."
"Then you must understand us completely, more than any of your predecessors ever did. My kit tells me much has been lost about our species, but little was ever known, truly known about us. Tor-" Fir gave Finran an assessing look. The colours in his eyes almost seemed to glow and the Overlord carefully held his gaze. "Is a good example of my kind. Soon he will find it difficult to leave your side, he is already adjusting to fulfil your needs."
"Adjusting?" Finran frowned, he did not like the idea that his dragon would leave and if there was something to prevent that then he wanted to know more.
"Yes, it is the core of a sea dragon's nature. Mother could not make sure each dragon would always perfectly fill the role most needed by her children so instead She made us…changeable. Able to suit the requirements of our masters and their people." Fir explained, his voice low and confiding.
"I don't understand." Finran was at a loss, how could anyone always be exactly what people wanted?
"Think of it like this. If a sea dragon's master was quick tempered and bad with money, then the dragon might grow to be good with trade and business. His touch might be able to calm his master, or dissuade him from a poor financial decision." The dragon grimaced, his beautiful face twisting slightly. "It is not that simple of course, but it is difficult to explain."
"No, I…I think I know what you mean." His mind raced, flashing to the soothing sensation Tor's touch could bring, the sense of completeness cradling his slender body created. It made Finran wonder what it was he wanted, how Tor might change to provide it. "I am Tor's master then?"
"He shows the signs that he has chosen you." The dragon admitted. "Tor will be the first sea dragon since the Divide to formally take a master. It is a great responsibility for both of you. It is a relationship second only to bonding."
Those molten eyes pierced him, as if Fir was measuring his worth and may well have found him wanting. Finran's mind flashed guiltily to his lustful fantasies of the lithe dragon boy, undoubtedly not appropriate in the circumstances. He just…couldn't help it.
Swallowing heavily he inclined his head, not trusting himself to speak.
"There will be more of us though, I have given our healers permission to seek out the sick and needy. The plague is troubling, I have spent a great deal of time in meditation with our Great Mother, it is not of natural making. We must find the source of the corruption." To his surprise Fir stood slowly and walked to the door, a strange expression on his face.
"I'll send messengers out immediately ordering that they be treated with the highest respect and care. We must depart for the capital immediately if that is where the cure lies." Finran frowned, watching the dragon man's odd behaviour. Fir had placed a hand on the door, his head cocked to one side. He seemed to consider for a moment, then stepped back just as a knock sounded. The Overlord called out entry and the door opened to reveal a rather flushed Raul and a smiling Tor, escorted by a number of guards.
"You requested my presence?" Count Muir asked his eyes flicking nervously to Fir.
"Yes, I wanted to meet my newest family member." The dragon replied before Finran could speak and swept the Count into a tight embrace. Raul's face was a comical picture of surprise, his eyes wide and his arms stiff. Finran could almost read his indecision, should he hug back? And, most importantly, who was touching him? It became worse as the hug went on, until, in that same odd gesture of comfort, Fir rubbed their cheeks together. The effect was as instantaneous as it had been in the past and Raul all but melted into a puddle of contentment. His hands came up and he sighed happily, wrapped in Fir's arms as if he'd always been there.
The Overlord couldn't help but feel, not jealous, but nostalgic at the scene. He wondered if his face had worn a similar look of peace when he'd slept in Tor's bed with the dragon boy cradled against him. Even as he thought it he felt a soft tug at his robe sleeve and glanced away from the pretty view. A pair of jewelled lavender eyes were Finran's immediate undoing. Tor smiled up at him, still half dressed in that silly, overlarge shirt and stretched a hand to his cheek. He lent into the touch without a second thought.
Master. He didn't really understand why the term had been applied to him, if anything the little dragon had mastered him and not the other way around. The idea of it made Finran frown slightly and he covered Tor's hand with his own, drawing it away from the intimate caress.
"Why do you use the term 'master'?" He wondered out loud, still unable to look up but knowing Fir would understand the question.
There was a long pause.
"Sea dragon's do not have language, as you would understand it…many of the words we use as land dwellers are simple representations of a concept." There was something approaching discomfort in Fir's voice as if he was discussing something private, intimate. "We say master, because otherwise we would have to explain the sensation of that person and what we feel for them. It might be something like 'one to balance and support who I felt drawn to and who I will obey and help' along with any other descriptions which that individual dragon might attach to his master."
Tor's fingers tightened against Finran's hand and a rosy blush spread across his cheeks. He opened his mouth for a moment, pink tongue flicking over his lips before he finally spoke.
"I-I can tell you yours…ah, mine for you…if you'd like?" He asked. The blush deepened slightly at Finran's nod. "You would be 'blue eyes pretty and warm to balance and care for who I might chose to obey and will help and is good to touch'. These are ideas that project to others from me…" Tor trailed off and glanced down, breaking that mesmerising gaze.
Finran didn't know whether he should be grinning or heartbroken and then wondered guiltily why the second option had even occurred to him. He was a 'might chose' not a chosen. But then-
"Why not use 'chosen', instead of 'master'?" He asked now free of the violet depths and able to glance at the pair across the room. While no longer touching, there was a satisfied aura surrounding the two that seemed intimate. "We must stop any repetition of the past, correct? Then the first step should be abandoning terms that create an unequal relationship even as it begins."
Even as he said it Finran felt more and more confident about the idea. To call another master was an open admission that a dragon considered himself lesser, subservient. Nothing could be further from the truth. Too many of these so called traditions seemed little more than thinly veiled attempts by humans to assert superiority over a race designed to be allies and guides. Well, it had to stop. He looked at Fir.
"I think you and I have a great deal to decide it we are going to create a lasting future for both our peoples. But the first step must be re-establishing your place in our society as respected individuals, not wild myths."
Fir nodded and drew away from Raul, leaving the Count glowing.
"Yes…I believe our help with the sick and work to stop the cause will fulfil that need." The Overlord smiled Fir's words, they both understood how important the next few weeks or months would be. Finran because this might well be his chance to save his species and Fir because the sea dragons had a purpose that had been neglected for too long.
"You've said the cause isn't natural, is there a way to discover the source?" He asked.
"Yes, but I must be closer to do so…" The dragon hesitated. "It is my belief that we will find the corruption on the Sacred Isle, there are few places the manipulation could be successful."
The Sacred Isle? Finran hadn't heard that name in a long time, there were very few people who still called Kellan by that name. To think that he had travelled to very end of the four kingdoms only to find the answer might well be where he had begun.
"It's so far, weeks of travel…will there even be anyone to save by the time we get there?" He questioned softly, heart heavy. He'd never wanted this kind of responsibility but it grieved him to think he'd already failed so many and now would fail many more. As if sensing Finran's despair Tor's hands began to stroke gently down his back, the touch instantly comforting.
"Not weeks." The young dragon said earnestly and Fir nodded.
"If you prepare the ships then we can pull them."
"Pull them?" Raul asked before Finran could say it. The man's face seemed aglow with the unusual attention he'd received from Fir and there was a growing confidence in his manner that Finran had noticed emerging since the day at the beach. The Muirs had always staunchly supported their Overlord, but for the first time Finran truly began to feel a certain kinship for the Count.
"Yes, you must get strong ropes and anchor them firmly to each ship. A sea dragon can pull a ship much faster than you sail them, we will reach the Sacred Isle much sooner," Fir assured them. "Once there were special ships built for such needs."
Finran swallowed heavily, finally, finally he could return home and this time hope would return with him.
"Count Muir, I trust you can hire a number of ships from the local guild on my behalf?" He asked and received a fast nod in reply.
"I'll send a messenger at once, my Lord…" The man strode quickly to the door but glanced back before he vanished from sight, pausing. "You've called me Raul before, and I hope you will continue to do so. I am your friend in all things…Finran."
Finran threw back his head with a shout of laughter, some of the terrible uneasiness that had haunted him since this terrible tragedy had begun vanished. It left his shoulders lighter and caused his heart to pound. The hand clasped around his own squeezed ever so lightly.
"Need to sleep." Tor whispered, his face concerned. With a smile the Overlord nodded and glanced at his other draconic guest.
"Your…kit is right, it's very late. Please, let me show you back to the guest rooms. There should have been a second room prepared by now, but you're more than welcome to stay with Tor if you prefer it."
Fir eyed them both for a moment, his placid face unreadable.
"I will stay separate. My kit needs time with his…almost chosen." Finran felt himself flush slightly, but refused to be embarrassed. He glanced quickly at Tor, but the little dragon boy was grinning at his parent and with a giggle began to tug them both from the room. He couldn't help but feel warm at the thought he might get to spend another peaceful night wrapped in the clean smell of his dragon.