Chapter Forty-One

"I'm sorry I did not introduce myself to you properly downstairs," Cazanna said as soon as they were inside the library. "It would not have been sensible to let Penryn know we hadn't met yet."

She and Lia sat down on the vacant chairs. Rusalka hopped onto Lia's lap; immediately the little pink dragon mewed to her and fluttered down from Cazanna's shoulder to balance herself on Lia's knee. She nuzzled Rusalka's head and purred as if they were old friends.

"What species is Alira?"

The tension that had previously been in Cazanna's face was gone. "She's an orchid dragon." She smiled fondly at Alira before turning dark blue eyes back to Lia. "Now I'm afraid we have to talk about a serious matter. Siera has told me about what happened in the Forest, but I'd like to hear it in your words." Cazanna folded her hands together and rested them on her lap. "Please could you start from the beginning?"

"Do you mean when I first met Naisi, or when I first felt the firefly?"

"I think...from when you met Naisi."

Lia told Cazanna about the bonding with Rusalka and what happened afterwards.

"And you fell unconscious after being rescued," the older dragonwoman said partway through the story.

Lia nodded. "I felt dizzy again after he picked me out of the water. I passed out and didn't wake up again until the next day."

Cazanna's eyebrows rose slightly.

"Is...is dizziness normal after bonding with a dragon?"

"Yes, but it passes quickly. Reoccurring dizziness has been known to happen before, but being asleep for a day is not normal."

Lia talked about her meeting with Ainlar and the reunion between Irsavon and his sire.

"Why did you go into the forest late at night in the first place?" asked Cazanna.

"The firefly woke us up."

"Us?"

"Myself and Rusalka. I went into the forest because I wanted to find out what it was."

"And you wouldn't have gone if you hadn't woken up?"

"No, I wouldn't. What...what would have happened if I hadn't?"

"I don't know. I am only relieved that you did. Siera spoke to Ainlar at the festival, and he confirmed that Naisi was not only at the late night search party but at the reunion as well. Naisi is Tirvon's friend as well as his ally." Cazanna leaned closer; Alira flitted back to her shoulder. Sunlight kissed Cazanna's hair, making it look as though it was woven out of light. "How did you know it was Naisi who saved you?"

Lia suspected that Siera had informed Cazanna of this as well, but she told her about the encounter in the hallway anyway. The fair-haired woman laughed outright on hearing how Naisi had captured Lia.

"That's what happens if you try to sneak up behind an elf!"

Lia was about to protest that she hadn't been trying to sneak up behind Naisi, but stopped herself. Trying to justify herself to Cazanna would probably do her just as much good as trying to justify herself to Naisi had.

"I recognised his voice. And..." She bit her lip.

"And what?"

"He - he smelt the same. Like winter spices."

"Lia," Cazanna said slowly, as if she wasn't sure how to explain properly, "elves have a saying that if you save someone's life, you will be bound together forever."

Lia stroked Rusalka's head anxiously. She wasn't sure if she liked where this was going.

"I heard it about it when I first started working with them, but I wasn't sure what it meant. One day a friend explained it to me. She had been rescued from a fire by a warrior and it formed a bond between them. She was able to sense what he felt, and vice versa."

"Jesse told me elves have telepathic abilities. Shouldn't they be able to sense each other's feelings anyway?"

"No. Thoughts and feelings are two very different things. This particular bond is known as iora. Evidence of it is most obvious among hunters and warriors."

"Do you think that's what happened with me?"

"Your description of the sensation caused by the bond is very similar to Nysa's description."

Lia's mouth was dry. "But...but how is that possible? I'm not an elf. I don't have abilities like theirs. How could it have happened?"

"You don't have abilities, but Rusalka does. All dragons have them."

Both dragonwomen looked down at the small blue creature on Lia's help.

"It can't be the first time something like this has happened. Elves must have saved the lives of dragonpeople before."

"They have, but there is no record of a bond occurring. I have thought about this, and the best reason I can come up with is that the link between you and Rusalka was newly-formed and was vulnerable enough to allow the iora to take place."

"But why would an elf like Naisi Kilzarvin save me?"

"Why would he not? You were in danger, Lia. If he hadn't intervened, you could have drowned."

She had felt safe in Naisi's arms when he had rescued her and when she had fallen asleep at the festival. In fact, she remembered snuggling deeper into them on both occasions.

Her cheeks burned. How could she have done that? Whatever must he have thought of her?

I don't want this. I am grateful to Naisi, but I don't want to be bound to him!

"Can't the iora be severed?" Lia heard herself ask.

Cazanna shook her head. "Not if both parties are alive. We will have to tell Naisi about this - although, if the bond is working correctly, he will already know."

"If it is, wouldn't he have said something? He surely would have known at the forest, if not at the..." Lia's eyes widened as realization dawned. "Oh."

"What is it?"

"I think he did recognise me. The firefly was surprised to see me, and he wasn't just wondering what I was doing there."

Has he known who I was the whole time?

"I will write a letter to him." Cazanna got to her feet, Alira perfectly balanced on her shoulder.

"Might it be better if I wrote it?" asked Lia.

"If you were of age, then you would be the one to write it. You may have to make another trip to the Forest in the near future, depending on Naisi's reaction. I'm going to start the draft of the letter. You can look it over after lunch, and then I'll write the full letter and send it to Naisi."

Lia realised Cazanna wanted to end the conversation. She scooped up Rusalka and stood. "Thank you. Should I go and help with lunch?"

"Elaine and Siera may have everything under control. Although, if they're talking to Penryn, they may well need help."

To be continued. Reviews are very welcome.