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From the upcoming "Water Touched"

* * * * *

As a dragon, Darien flew to Ceremony Island. The same place his father had once met his mother, and his brothers had met their wives. He did one full circle and made sure it was in fact void of all other humanoid life aside from her. The last thing his people needed was for a curious priest to break covenant and ruin everything. He had yet to kill. He never wanted it to come to that.

After he was sure the coast was clear, he made his descent to the designated clearing where the sacrificial alter was kept and Tai was restrained. Of course, she looked incredible in the getup the priests had given her to wear. He hadn’t been expecting to see…so much…and it made him falter a little. Why didn’t anyone warn me about that? Poor Tai, she must be freezing. And how degrading to put her on display like this. Then he caught a good whiff of her fear. Fear never smelled good to him. It reminded him too much of a dirty sock. When the scent wafted up to him, he felt sick to his stomach.

He landed, walking to her slowly, not wanting to frighten her even more than she already was. Scaring her was the last thing he wanted to do, but he couldn’t think of another way to approach her. Landing in the forest around the sacrificial alter wasn’t an option, there wasn’t enough room for his dragon body. Unless of course he killed a few trees to make room, but that would no doubt frighten her more. His only other choice would have been to transform into his human form on the beach, but then other humans might have seen him.

Of course, he could perform the transformation right there in front of her, but that didn’t sit well with him either. Her first time seeing him as a human needed to be special as well as practical. Changing from dragon to human would make it harder for him to reason with her than changing from human to dragon.

The last choice he had was to cast a sleeping spell on her. He breathed a light, gentle mist over her. It glittered slightly as it moved from out of his mouth and over her body. The magic inside of the mist was meant to relax her. She shook so hard with fear he was worried she might go into shock. And she was crying. He couldn’t stand it. All of that stopped when she breathed in the sparkling blue mist. In a few seconds, she was in a dreamless slumber.

Darien gave her a gentle nudge with his nose to make sure he hadn’t gone overboard. The smell of fear was now gone which helped his stomach to settle—sort of. She seemed okay, so that put him at ease. He could never get a handle on the potency of his own magic. From birth, he’d had an abundance of it. More than any other dragon in his tribe, even.

Another ten minutes passed before he decided to transform back into his human form.

After he changed shape, Darien straightened his clothes out. He wanted to look his best and make a good first impression for his bride. While his magic allowed for him to change forms and keep his clothing while doing so, it had a tendency to crease and wrinkle slightly somewhere in the process. Satisfied with the crisp, elegant appearance of his dress pants and white button down, he took the time to study his surroundings. He hadn’t actually taken the time to look at everything around him and see if the priests had done everything he requested.

The blue flowers he had wanted surrounded the altar where Tai was restrained, and there were many more than he could have ever imagined. There were several unlit candles, ready and waiting for use. Why not do something with them? While Tai slept, he took the time to light the candles, breathing blue fire from his mouth to do so. One of the simplest of spells, but whenever his brothers’ wives saw it in action, they always thought it a neat trick.

Once he had light to see better with, he sat down on the altar beside Tai and untied the knots binding her. Her body was shivering. I should have brought a blanket. Another thing he hadn’t been warned about in advance. Without another thought, he unbuttoned his shirt so he could wrap it around her torso. She was still cold. He placed a hand on her ankle and summoned a small bit of his magic to try warming her further.
I should bring her home. Let her wake up in comfort instead of here. She’ll be more receptive if she feels safe. Which meant he had to turn back into a dragon. Yeah, I have no idea what I’m doing.

He changed back quickly then gathered her carefully into his claws. In comparison, her body was so small and fragile. Carrying her back in such a way was not something he would enjoy. She should have been riding on his back, awake, and free. That was the exit from the island he had envisioned for them. Next time.

Thankfully, the flight home was fast and easy—or it seemed fast. The adrenaline continued to pump through his veins even though he was still only running on a handful of hours of sleep. He landed at the secret entrance to his apartment building—the one designed just for his family to fly in and out of without notice—and returned to human once again. From there, he went to the elevator that would let him out closest to his room. All of his family was graciously gone from the floor for the night, and would remain gone through most of the next day.

Once in his room, Darien pulled back the covers and lay Tai in the bed. He tucked her into the blankets, kissed her forehead, and then lie down next to her. With her by his side, the weariness and excitement from the day caught up with him. It wasn’t long until he too was asleep, finally feeling a peace for the first time in his life.


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Cloud S. Riser

September 2017

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