Hello. I'm back after my brief hiatus. Updating this story took so long because I've been busy and because I'm at a bit of a crossroads in terms of plot. I finally realized that I can post this update without having the next chapter figured out 100% because any of the small details that I planted can easily just pass for small details and not hints. I don't think there were any reviews to address here. I'm glad that readers find the Kirsten/Zan dynamic believable and enjoyable.

Here's the long awaited update!


Zan summoned Kirsten from her room as the sun was setting. He led her through the inn's richly furnished wooden halls until chattering from the lobby reached their ears. He stopped. "Lean on me," he muttered. "Pretend you're sick."

Kirsten slipped her hand through his arm and obliged.

"Heavier," he urged. "Like you can barely stand from the pain." As she was contemplating how silly this game of pretend was, he wrapped his arm around her waist and hugged her close. "It'll be all right, my lady," he said loudly as they entered the lobby. "They have competent healers in Lled too."

Kirsten grimaced. "As…you say," she said in an exhausted voice. She imagined what it was like to have a bad stomach ache from eating as much food as Zan and made a face that she thought was appropriate for the circumstance.

The formerly indifferent hotel staff looked away from their tasks and crowded around. "Is there anything else we can do to help, milord?"

"Oh my Jove! If we had known that she was this ill…"

"My lady, let me summon the healer to you. You shouldn't be about in your condition."

"N-no," Kirsten panted. "That would take double time. I'm already here. Where are the horses?"

"Oh, she's so brave! She thought she was going to ride!"

"The hotel has called a carriage for you, my lady," Zan said soothingly. "You'll be able to rest a bit."

The walk to the carriage was slow and ponderous filled with much grimacing and panting. She took two breaks before Zan asked for her pardon and gallantly swept her off her feet. The tittering of the hotel staff reached her ears until the footman shut the carriage door and they were on their way.

Kirsten rounded on him. "You need to tell me whenever you want to do a stunt like -"

Zan placed a finger on his lips and Kirsten stopped midsentence. He pointed at an ivory cone in the corner and then pointed at the front. A communication device with the driver.

"I don't care how sick I am," she continued a heartbeat later, inflecting her indignant voice with pain. "Don't you dare take such liberty with my person. You need to ask first!"

"It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, my lady," he said gently. But his eyes were filled with wickedness as they settled on her lips.

"Stroke my hair. I feel ill," Kirsten commanded.

Zan's eyes widened. He nevertheless moved to her side of the carriage. Kirsten placed her head in his lap. He brushed her hair away from her face and stroked from temple to the nape of her neck. Kirsten fell into a lovely lull. No wonder he had commanded her to do the same. All too soon the carriage stopped. She forced herself to sit up before the footman opened the door and they were spotted.

Kirsten spotted familiar faces loitering near the entrance of their destination. "CLINIC," the faded sign said. It was much different from the place that Kirsten had visited in River City. This place was in a shabby building and had shabby furnishings on the inside. The waiting room was filled with only one person., an older gentleman who was napping. Kirsten surveyed the room a second and then a third time as she limped to the front. It was only on the third visual sweep that she spotted another familiar face in the corner. He must have done a cubi thing to make me overlook him. As she came to the window, she saw that the receptionist, rather than an enthusiastic young man, was an exhausted older woman. Nevertheless, she took one look at grimacing Kirsten and bolted into the next room.

A middle-aged woman bustled out and wrapped Kirsten's other arm around her neck. "Come with me, my lady," she said. "Is he the father?"

"I'm not – "

"Yes," Zan blurted out. "I'm her…"

His voice seemed to trail off for half a second and in that half a second pause, Kirsten said, "Fiancé." It sounded better than pledged dragon-mate. "I'm not pregnant."

"Of course, dear." The woman patted her on the arm. They were led into a side room that was barely big enough for the wooden examination table in the center. The woman had her sit down on the cool surface. It was different from that massage table that she had been put on forever ago in Dragonborn Estate.

She'd never had another massage.

Did those girls give Zan massages? She eyed him suspiciously.

The woman checked her forehead, her pulse, her eyes, her throat, and her nose. She listened to her heart, her lungs and her belly. The woman sat back. "Where does it hurt again?" Her eyes narrowed.

"Her ovaries," Zan said. "She gets these attacks when she ovulates. A cubus usually blocks the pain for us."

The woman nodded once. "Only Healer Kelyin can detect pain that deep within. Let me fetch him."

"Are you his mate?" Zan asked.

She paused and studied his eyes. "Why?"

"I've never met a cubus native to Lled," Zan said idly, "much less his mate."

"I'll get Kelyin," she said and slipped out.

"I wonder why she didn't answer your question," Kirsten said.

"Anti-cubic sentiment is on the rise again. Her mate's profession is the only thing that keeps them safe." Zan shook his head. "I don't know why they don't move back to Asteria."

"Lledans would lose life and limb without a cubic healer," Kirsten answered. "Mundane healers can only do so much."

"But at what cost? How much is a stranger's life worth if you can't protect your own mate?"

"How do you know about ovary pain?" Kirsten asked in lieu of answering his question.

"My mother's mother was a mundane healer," he said.

After a knock of warning, the door swung open, admitting a middle-aged brown-haired incubus with long, pointy ears. He was delicately built and the low end of average height. "You're having ovulating pain, my lady?" he said, looking at the paper affixed to the wooden board that he held. He shut the door behind him. "My name is Healer Kelyin. Pardon, but I don't see where your name was recorded." He looked up at Kirsten. His voice trailed off as his eyes drifted to her amulet around her throat and those eyes widened. "Dragonborn," he mouthed. Those wide eyes darted to Zan and this time the board fell from his hand. It clattered to the ground. He covered his mouth with the palm of his hand and took a step back. "Why are you here? Why are either of you here?" His back hit the shut door and he pressed himself against it as if he could pass through walls.

"Identify who has been tampering with the lady's health and we'll be on our way," Zan said shortly.


"Tracking is a documented ability of yours. I need you to identify who grew a brain tumor in the lady so that I can rip them from limb to limb and undo what's already been done."

"He can look at the blight example too," Kirsten piped up.

"Do you have one?" Zan grunted.

"Otgard does. If I can talk to him in some way, can't you two do an exchange or something like that?"

Zan frowned.

"Blight example?" Kelyin said slowly as he pulled away from the door. "Does this have to do with the N'aadian coffee plants and the attack on the Queen?"

Zan nodded. "The former Heaven's Blade exonerated Pftar. I suppose I'm now conducting my own inquiry into the matter."

"I'll do whatever I can to help catch who did this. They undid fifty years of work in one evening. We've been getting along so well with everyone in the community until that happened. Someone killed our children's dog. Said she could have been a shape-changing cubus."

It took about thirty minutes until Zan held the blighted branch in his hand. Most of that time was spent identifying a place that Otgard could send the branch where Zan could retrieve it with his powers. Ultimately, Zan had to send Lord Brittlain to the Temple library who, upon claiming the branch from the librarian's desk in the astronomy section, then called Zan's mother. Zan's mother then opened a world gate in front of the library, retrieved the branch from Lord Brittlain and called Zan. The two were somehow able to complete an exchange.

During that time, Kelyin stood over Kirsten as she lay on the table and studied the mass in her head with his power. All of the activity in the room made her lip tingle horribly.

Kelyin patted Kirsten on the shoulder when he was done. "You can sit up, my lady."

When she was upright, the first thing that Kirsten noticed was that Zan was pale-faced and his eyes had dark circles under them. His hands which held the branch might even have been trembling.

Kelyin pulled out the room's only stool and brought it to him. "You need to sit down, milord," he said quietly.

Zan did so without protest, another sign that he had overexerted himself.

"Let me get you something to drink too."

Zan looked like he was going to stop him, but ultimately, he nodded.

"Are you okay?" Kirsten whispered.

Zan cracked open an eye. "I grabbed something from across the continent, Kirsten," he said wryly. "And I never replenished myself after opening the world gate."

"You should have napped with me," she said lightly.

He smiled faintly and closed his eyes.

Kelyin returned ten minutes later bearing a glass filled with a dark purple liquid.

"I've never seen vintage like that before," Kirsten commented.

Zan drained it. "It's not wine," he said, wiping his lips with the back of his hand. "It's grape juice. Thank you, Healer. Now, about your findings?"

Kelyin's eyes darted away and he frowned. "I can't tell you who performed the enchantment."

"What do you mean?" Kirsten blurted.

Zan's eyes narrowed. "But you can identify another enchantment performed by the same cubus."

Kelyin's eyes bounced between them, but he ultimately chose to focus on Kirsten. "My…lady, when a cubus performs an enchantment, the power he deposits has something like a signature that tells you who it belonged to. Someone with my gift can read the signature and tell you what it says. This enchantment was scrubbed clean though. There's nothing to indicate who owns the power that's been left behind inside of you to grow the tumor."

"But you can identify another enchantment performed by the same cubus," Zan repeated. "Like a dog sniffing out a robber's scent in a crowd."

Kelyin furrowed his brow as he considered the question. "Yes."

"Good." Zan focused intently and waved his hand. Four glowing cubes as large as a watermelon hovered in the air before him. "Which one?"

Kelyin looked at him blankly.

"Which cube contains power similar to what you found inside of Kirsten?"

With a frown, Kelyin touched each cube. The frown was wiped away when he touched the fourth. "This one," he said.

The other three disappeared and the cube Kelyin touched divided into four smaller ones.

"Which one contains power similar to what you found inside of her?" Zan asked again.

Six more times Kelyin chose one cube out of four. Six additional times, that cube divided into four and each time the cube grew smaller. On the eighth selection, the cube turned into seven.

Zan snatched the fifth cube from the left that Kelyin selected. It and Zan's eyes both glowed brightly as it disappeared. "Thank you." He stood up and looked out of the window.

"What was that?" Kelyin asked.

"Do you remember being asked to send an imbued jewel with your ranking certification to the Temple? We used it to create a power catalog. It was a suggestion from one of the Hands of Grace," Zan said. "I'll send it to my mother as soon as I have enough strength. She'll be able to take it to the Head Librarian and she'll cross reference it with a name."

"Did you learn anything else about my tumor, Healer Kelyin?" Kirsten asked. "Are you able to remove it?"

Kelyin looked at his hands. "My…lady, I dislike saying this very much, but this enchantment was masterfully performed. The imbuing travels along your synapses and searches for abnormal cells that should be naturally destroyed by your body. This power encourages them to replicate. Because of this, the tumor isn't a mass that can be removed as a whole. It's a cell here or a cell there. I'm not strong enough to perform an extraction of the healthy tissue from the cancerous at the cellular level. I could do maybe one or two, but not more than that. Perhaps, you could though, milord?"

Zan didn't respond.

In the terrifying silence, Kirsten whispered, "How much time do I have?"

"It's taken over twenty percent of your brain. I don't know how long it will be before you start seeing it affect your day to day living. The imbuing also seems to be designed to allow you to function normally for as long as possible until it's too late. It was probably to avoid detection."

Kirsten felt as if she had been kicked in the stomach by a horse, but Zan looked unperturbed and she found that suspicious. "Did she know about all this, Zan?" Kirsten asked. "The previous healer I saw. Did she tell you all of this?"

"She saw no reason to worry you. She knew what dragonfire can do and she knew that you are my betrothed," Zan said.

"You mean it's true?" Kelyin interjected with a gasp. "The stories that I've heard about it. They're all true?"

"I do not know what stories you've heard, healer," Zan said brusquely.

"That you can turn into a dragon," Kelyin said. "That you can produce healing fire that can cure anything."

"There's always some truth in any tale," Zan said. "Now, who messed with these plants?"

Kelyin identified a second glowing cube of power which Zan waved away with his hand as he stood up. "Thank you, Healer Kelyin," Zan said formally. "I am indebted to as the Heaven's Blade and as the Crown Princess's betrothed. Here is payment for your services." Zan handed him a thick leather wallet.

Kelyin unwrapped and opened it. "10,000 pounds!" he exclaimed.

"You've been carrying around that type of money with you?" Kirsten said.

Zan eyed her. "He's one of three cubi in the world who could have done what he just did. He deserves commensurate compensation. Besides…" Zan looked around. "This clinic needs to be upgraded badly."

"That was very kind of you, Zan," Kirsten whispered when they were riding back to the inn. Since she had supposedly been treated, she was able to walk of her own accord.

Zan grunted and leaned his head back against the top of his seat.

"Are you okay?"

"I feel more winded than I thought," he confessed, eyes closed.

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

He shook his head without bothering to look at her or lift his head.

She wanted to mention maybe giving him a snack. A kiss or something benign, but she was ever mindful of the carriage driver and that listening device. Nevertheless, she scooted next to him. She placed her head on his shoulder and her arms crept about his waist. "You'll feel better soon," she said.

His arm draped over her shoulders to squeeze her closer. He turned his head to nose her hair and took a deep breath. "So will you," he murmured.

Feeling oddly content, Kirsten closed her eyes.

If you've read other stories of mine, I'm sure one of the things that jumps out at you is the fact that Zan gets tired. He is currently the most powerful cubus in existence, but he still has his limitations. I debated if he should be able to retrieve the branch from Asteria, but ultimately I decided that, yes, as the Heaven's Blade, he does in fact have that capability, especially since you see the Heaven's Blade in another story doing something similar.

I realized this morning that I should be writing some type of tension from Zan's cousins. Don't worry, this is not a detail that you read and forgot about. This is just a bit of Dragonborn lore... oh wait, i think i did explain a bit of this in the first chapter or so. Dragonborn traces its lineage through the first born, not cubus -born like other cubus clans. So the black dragon who was Queen Kirsten's BFF? She had multiple children. The firstborn, who was human is Zan's ancestor, but her other children were cubus. Those are the cousins I'm talking about. I imagine they would be jealous. Anyway, that's a thought i haven't fully realized. It was just something I considered in passing and marked for further pondering.

How was this update after such a long wait? I hope that the next one won't take anywhere near as long. I think my current problem though is that I'm reading a book and reading always takes me away from writing time. Leave me a review so I'll be inspired to continue writing!