Cill and James lay
transfixed in the grass, too shocked to move apart as Flora moved closer.
The Unicorn took in the
strained expressions and sighed “Yes, I’m real” she said, poking James with
a fore-hoof and making him flinch.
He looked over the Unicorn,
she was certainly smaller and more rotund than in any paintings or
tapestries he had seen, only the glistening spire of her horn seemed free of
dirt and the tip looked extremely sharp, catching the sunlight and
refracting it in strange ways , blue and purple streaks running through the
Cill was equally shocked,
she had heard of the immortal Unicorns and how rare they were so had never
expected to encounter one in the flesh, especially not such a shabby
Flora watched their gaze
wander over her “Yes. I’m muddy” she stated impatiently, glaring at them
from lavender eyes “It helps me hide and blend in”
James and Cill said nothing,
still somewhat embarrassed as being caught in the midst of a mating had
rattled their wits somewhat.
Flora sighed, realising she
had to talk slowly “You” she said, pointing a hoof at Cill “I remember when
you first arrived, so young and careless. I had to hide your tracks several
times until you woke up to the fact you were leaving a trail of destruction
everywhere you went!”
Cill’s ruffs flushed pinkly
at the memory as Flora’s hoof swiveled to point at James.
“And you! I tried to lead
you away from here, but oh no… you and your common horse had to dirty my
pool” her flanks gave a shudder at the memory “Dragons are bad enough but
you smelly humans just don’t know when to stop!”
James tried to stammer an
apology but she cut him off with an imperious wave of her hoof.
“Enough. There are things
you need to know and you need my help as I need yours.”
She paused and watched as
the pair looked into one another’s eyes.
“And it’s rude to do that
instead of talking” she huffed “It doesn’t exactly make me trust you”
The pair flushed guiltily
and James gave a cough “I’m sorry” he muttered “We just weren’t expecting
“And so you shouldn’t have”
Flora huffed “Only the faer know I am here and you are both immune to the
wards they placed here recently. Any other human would have found themselves
walking back down the same path they came in” her tail flicked a fly away in
“I don’t suppose you know
the tale of the Unicorn pool?” she asked, slowly walking around the entwined
Cill nodded slowly *My
mother used to tell me of your kind when I was a hatchling* she replied
carefully, still not believing she was talking to a Unicorn.
She refrained from saying
that the Unicorns her mother had told her about were a lot more graceful and
less weighty round the middle.
Flora nodded “Good, you can
tell your mate the tales, my pool here is far from being totally potent and
needs more time before it is ready. Every time someone take a dip it drains
a little more of my power from the waters”
She looked a little worried
“I shall need it in about a month so if you could refrain from using it I
would appreciate it.”
Cill nodded eagerly, sudden
understanding alight in her eyes *You mean…* her gaze flicked to the
rotund belly the mare was sporting.
Flora sighed “Yes, I’m
expecting a foal, my first in centuries and perhaps one of the last of my
kind” She bared her teeth in an attempt at a smile “…and you still haven’t
thanked me for providing you with such an excellent mate”
Cill’s ruffs flushed again
as she looked at the rippling waters of the pool, lapping gently against the
“The pool helps things along
a little” Flora admitted nervously, unsure as how the news would be received
“…gives certain urges a nudge you might say”
Cill frowned *and what
else does it do?* she asked pointedly *the legends only tell of its
James could only grasp at
the tail end of the conversation but he didn’t like the tone of Cill’s voice
as she questioned the Unicorn.
Flora shifted her
hindquarters nervously, her tail flicking “Oh it does a lot of good things”
she said, moving back a little “Your mana did complicate things however. I
never thought it would affect your mate in such a way. The other humans and
the gryphoness won’t have the same problem” she paused and added in
afterthought “He can still get her with egg though”
James almost choked in shock
at this news “Duncan can get Katreen pregnant?” he asked incredulously.
Flora sighed, “Gravid.
Egg-bearers get gravid” she corrected “…and of course he can, the pool takes
care of that.”
James swallowed nervously
“So that means…” he began, head turning to stare at Cill.
Flora nodded “Yes, you can…”
she smirked “and you’ve done an excellent job so far”
James heard Cill gasp and
his head filled with random buzzing noises as the news sank in.
Tomako breathed a heavy sigh
of relief as he felt the clanmasters restriction spell fade, allowing him to
regain his normal dragon form. Stretching his wings luxuriously in his new
room he made sure every scale was in place before slowly raking his claws
along the floor, sharpening them slowly as he savoured his natural strength.
He peered out the window as
the sun set with a glorious rosy-orange flood across the sky and thought of
soaring through the clouds.
It was tempting.
Father Champlain hastily
closed the chapel door behind him and breathed heavily, Fifty dragons? It
How could they fit such a
number into his tiny church? What would they expect as no doubt they would
be curious about the place?
Not to mention the plump and
He staggered over to the
apse and carefully took down the candelabra for polishing.
Sweat broke out on his
forehead as he tried to remove accumulated grease and grime from the brass,
at least the new golden altar cloth had arrived along with the other items
he had requested.
As he diligently rubbed at
the candlesticks, revealing their soft burnished glow for the first time in
many years he let his mind wander.
‘They would all look human’
Duncan had said and this thought had shocked him more than all the others.
Such creatures surely would
have their own plans for humanity and a deep suspicion from past errors.
How many of them would
harbour hatred? Surely there would be supporters as well. The fact that
James was marrying a dragoness was a sign of at least some tacit support
amongst the dragons.
Weak fingers slipped upon
the greasy candlestick and it struck the floor with a bong, jerking him from
“One thing at a time” he
muttered to himself, reaching down to pick it up.
As his trembling fingertips
brushed the candlestick he suddenly felt within himself a burning desire to
learn all he could about dragons, their lives and families and habits.
The intensity of the desire
was so powerful he fell quaking upon his knees before the altar and prayed
with a fervour he had not felt since his youth.
Surely such a message could
only be from God. Setting him this task - to seek out this knowledge and
share it with humanity.
Rising to his feet he
scrabbled on his desk, urgently pulling a yellowed piece of parchment from
the mess before him and with trembling fingers dipped his goose-quill pen
and scribed ‘Vitae Draco Nobilis” carefully at the top.
Outside the small chapel the
clanmaster wrapped his cloak around his elderly human frame and grinned in
satisfaction before striding off towards the bailey.
Caroline tapped her foot
impatiently as she surveyed Tomako’s door. She knew she shouldn’t sneak out
unchaperoned and staring at the closed door of the ignorant lout irked her.
She could not deny that she
was interested in him now though.
James and Cill obviously
were inseparable and she was looking forward to the wedding now her focus
had shifted away.
She had plans for the
blacksmiths apprentice but wasn’t sure if he reciprocated that interest.
Lately he always seemed to stammer or flush whenever she got talking to him
and tried everything he could to avoid her.
A frown furrowed her perfect
forehead, let him try and get away from her while escorting her back to
Raising her fist to knock,
she suddenly wondered if she hadn’t gone too far with her talk of hanging
and his probable death at her father’s hands.
Letting her hand fall she
felt a surge of sorrow and stepping back from the door she raised the hood
of her cloak and slowly made her way back towards the bailey.
“A pleasant evening to you”
came a voice behind her and she whirled in fright.
“Oh it’s you” she said,
recognizing the old man who had helped Tomako when they had first arrived.
The Clanmaster chuckled as
he took a quick peek at the roiling thoughts bubbling away in the human’s
“You seem troubled lass” he
said, falling into step beside her, leaning heavily on his staff as they
walked. “Tomako not doing what you want?”
Caroline flushed and bit
back an angry rejoinder before realizing that was exactly what was
happening- had she become so used to getting her own way that something she
couldn’t control annoyed her?
“Yes’ she finally admitted
after a few moments of silence “He doesn’t want to talk to me and goes out
of his way to avoid me”
Osedax nodded, “He has been
through a lot, losing his father, his sister getting betrothed and of course
coming across a fight in the woods and getting his careless rump involved
with a silly self-absorbed girl”
Caroline frowned and let
that one pass “I didn’t know he had a sister, or about his father” she
muttered, not looking at the dodderer who was somehow able to keep pace with
“Well now you do, and what
are you going to do about it?” the oldster puffed, “He fears his strength
now and feels that his future is empty once he delivers you back to your
Caroline paused in the
street and whirled on him “If he’d only talk to me I’d get to know him!” she
growled, feeling the heat of tears starting in her eyes.
Osedax shrugged, his eyes
tracing a fading silhouette in the sky behind her as Tomako happily
stretched his wings over the forest.
“I’m not sure you could
handle what he might say” he replied, leaning on his staff and jabbing a
finger towards her “Tomako has a bold future with or without you and it’s up
to you to accept all he is or what he might become.”
Caroline’s shoulders slumped
“You make him sound as if he was some long-lost prince in hiding”
Osedax gave a snort of
amusement “Oh no, nothing like that” he said “just a lot of potential. I
understand he is going to participate in the amusements following the
wedding in a few days. Perhaps you should watch, he may surprise you”
Caroline made a
non-committal sound, in her limited experience village fairs ran to the same
themes, catching greasy piglets, tugs-of-war and finding out how many
ferrets a man could stuff down his breeches.
“Will he magically discover
he is a better swineherd than a blacksmith?” she asked acidly, rapidly
losing patience with the oldster and his cryptic manner.
There was no reply. She
looked around rapidly and realized she was alone once more, giving a small
shiver at the abrupt disappearance she hurried back to her room and slammed
the door behind her.
Lord Pepper sat down in the
darkened private room with King Dougal, his fingers nervously tapping
against the rough wood of the table as Dougal lit the small lantern.
“Good” he murmured “Flora
should have educated our new protector and her mate on what is coming by
He carefully unrolled an
ancient scroll upon the table, cautiously pinning one end down with an empty
ale-pot. “Now let us see what that blasted swamp-witch had to say about it”
A fat finger trailed over
the spidery writing, occasionally pausing and circling upon a difficult
Lord Pepper found he was
holding his breath and let it out slowly, trying to read upside down and
Dougal sighed, “Nissa states
that the union of man and dragon will herald a great age, but ‘certaine
otheres wyll stryve mytily to kyll the chylde’ and if they succeed..’All
wyll tern to darknyss’”
Pepper nodded in the gloom
before leaning forward, “Typically vague, though I would expect the dragons
to try and prevent a hybrid at all costs”
Dougal shrugged “Perhaps,
but there are many dragons pushing them together, perhaps they do not
believe a pairing will be fertile or they already know she is gravid. I
cannot believe all are ignorant however”
Pepper leaned back again
“Cill trusts us for now, but if we tell her this prophecy will she not take
herself and her offspring away to hide? Leaving us defenseless if the rage
of dragons falls upon us”
Dougal sighed gustily and
sat back in his chair “Perhaps, this prophecy was given to the faer for a
reason. I think that we must protect the child and its parents too. Our
magic may be all that stands between them and destruction”
Pepper frowned “You know
what happens if we use our magic for misdeeds, even in times of justified
war the results can be catastrophic”
Dougal nodded slowly “There
is always risk of the change, but I believe if we assign protectors to the
family, we may be able to avoid the worst”
“Protectors?” Pepper mumbled
doubtfully “Combat magic hasn’t been practiced for centuries, only a few of
the elders would know where to begin”
Dougal grinned tightly “Then
we had better start training our ‘Heralds’ as soon as possible mm?”
Peppers face fell in
disbelief “You can’t mean those two...” he stammered, realising the King
meant every word.
“Oh yes, those two are under
Flora’s spell now too I’ll warrant, and mates make the best mages”
Pepper gave in “I’ll talk to
the other elders and arrange some lessons” he said, slowly standing “but I
must formally protest against reopening the forbidden scrolls”
Dougal met his gaze evenly
“I understand” he sighed, “but unicorn magic is extraordinarily powerful, it
forms a geas against doing harm to the pool or those of the pool, so it is
unlikely that our chosen protectors will succumb to the power of the
Pepper straightened and
carefully re-rolled the prophecy scroll, tucking it back into its lambskin
case “I hope you are right” he murmured before bowing and taking his leave.
Dougal sat deep in thought
for several minutes, prophecy was a tricky thing, he pondered, just when you
thought you had a firm grip on its tail it would twist and tug you in a
Lifting the lantern from the
table he made his way back to his bed and an uneasy sleep.
James and Cill made their
way back home slowly, both seemingly silent but in fact terribly excited
about their encounter.
Cill kept rubbing her belly,
trying to feel the egg Flora had claimed was doing well but to no avail as
it was still too small.
James meanwhile was
panicking a little. Whilst glad that the wedding was close and thus ensuring
that his first child would not be born on the wrong side of the sheets he
nevertheless felt that rising tide of concern all new fathers feel upon
learning that their child was fast approaching.
He also wondered what the
offspring of a dragoness and human would look like, his mind couldn’t help
wondering if Duncan knew he was fertile with Katreen and heaven forbid,
Tommy and Shalla too.
A circumspect conversation
would have to be held with all parties lest the keep suddenly be overrun
with half-human children.
He needed to talk to Marre
once more about eggs and hatchlings as he had no idea what to expect when
presented with one, his only experience with young dragons was that brief
encounter at the clan meeting.
While that had been
entertaining it had not prepared him for care and handling of young dragons.
Cill’s mind was also abuzz,
she carried the seed of human and dragon within her and he prospect both
discomfited and thrilled her. She realized that her mother would certainly
have a lot to say on the matter and would probably move in to ensure her
grandchild had the right number of limbs, teeth and tail.
They walked slowly back into
the keep slowly as the watch prepared to lower the great gate for the night,
Cill’s human form drawing appreciative stares from the lonely guards as they
strove to man the great winches, making sure their muscles were showing,
only to be disappointed as the pair were far too engrossed with one another
to pay any attention.
Making their way across the
bailey to their home they were surprised to see a hooded figure outside
their door, nervously raising a hand as if to knock then withdrawing, it
bore a large parchment scroll in its other hand and it gripped this more
firmly as the hand was extended once more, resolutely this time, rapping
noisily on the door as the figure straightened.
James grinned and whispered
to Cill as he recognized the caller, the rattle of amulets under the cassock
confirming the identity.
Cill grinned evilly and
shifted into her dragon form, quietly walking beside James as he stepped up
behind the cleric.
“Good evening father” he
declared with a smile.
Father Champlain whirled in
surprise, blinking rapidly at James before focusing on the growling
dragoness beside him, his breath caught in his throat and his eyes rolled
back into his head as he toppled forward in a faint.
James caught the swooned
priest before he hit the cobblestones and carried him carefully into the
house, propping him on a chair next to the fire to recover.
Cill stared at the stunned
cleric *this is the one who tortured you* she stated flatly, poking
him with a claw and watching him rock back and forth *I want to hurt him*
The parchment fell from
Father Champlain’s numb fingers and rolled towards her feet, curiosity made
her pick it up and unroll it slowly.
“He is also the one who
shall perform the marriage ceremony” said James, stepping up to look at the
scroll as well “And I think I hurt him pretty badly already according to
Nokala”, his fingers ran down the scroll slowly “He’s here to ask us about
our vows it seems”
Cill’s gaze flicked back to
the chairs occupant who seemed to shiver a little, despite the heat of the
*Vows?* she murmured,
making her way back to their bed and reclining slowly, making herself
“Oaths made between the
married couple” he explained.
Cill’s eyes widened in
surprise *I was not aware humans took thing so seriously in mating, to
bind one another in oaths is not something to be taken lightly*
Father Champlain opened his
eyes and blinked owlishly at the pair.
“Ah”, he murmured, “I’m
still alive it seems”
James gave the
still-grumbling Cill’s neck a stroke before standing and offering the cleric
a mug of wine “I hope you are alright Father” he murmured, “we didn’t expect
you to pass out like that”
Father Champlain accepted
the wine with a trembling hand, his eyes not leaving the growling dragoness
as she gazed at him with slitted eyes, a small wisp of steam rising from her
Drinking slowly, he wiped a
hand over his forehead “I was going to bring Duncan as well, but I felt I
should do this alone, you understand?”
James nodded slowly and
handed back the parchment “I understand” , he murmured in reply “Cill has no
love for you but I think she will listen”
Nodding slowly, Father
Champlain unrolled the scroll “I would like you to think on your vows in
this - unusual pairing” he finished awkwardly “I have kept the ceremony
simple and included the usual baptism and blessing”
He took a deep breath and
stood slowly “but first…” he moved towards the dragoness as if each step
were leading him towards a bottomless abyss.
Cill followed his progress
with a little alarm, what was the odd human intending to do?
She was further surprised
when he knelt before her and lowered his head “Please forgive me” he
murmured “The Lord has spoken to me this night and set me a task that will
take the rest of my life to accomplish. I must learn all I can about dragons
and share this knowledge with others who seek it, will you aid me in this
Cill glanced over at James
who shrugged in bewilderment, the priest’s change of heart as much a mystery
Light probing elicited the
fact the priest’s fear was still intense and she was unable to reply to him
Father Champlain moistened
his lips and continued “I realize I made a terrible mistake with James and
ask your forgiveness, it seems there are far greater things at work here
than a simple priest can be expected to understand. Let me at least repair
some of the harm by joining the pair of you in the eyes of the lord”
Cill’s eyes narrowed and she
threw the thought out at James *are you sure we need him alive ?*
She placed a thoughtful
talon on the priests shoulder, letting him feel the weight of it.
James hastened to assure her
privately “Yes, we do, especially with a hatchling on the way now, though I
don’t think he should know that right now.”
Surprisingly Flora had been
quite insistent about keeping the fact that Cill was gravid a secret. He
hadn’t dared to question her and Cill had explained a lot about the Unicorn
race and how their ancient powers weren’t totally understood.
Even the faer trod carefully
around Unicorns and regarded them with great respect.
Cill dug the talon in a
little more, feeling fabric tear under it. *Could not Duncan ‘marry’ us?
I would rather it be him than this creeping worm*
“He’s the only one who can
do it for miles around here” James silently replied with a shrug “I think
he’s sincere though”
Cill narrowed her eyes and
regarded the cleric *Very well then, tell him I haven’t completely
forgiven him for the harm he caused you, but I shall answer his questions*
James relayed this to Father
Champlain before helping the priest up off the floor and back into his
“I understand” he wheezed,
gathering the scroll to his chest once more “and I know I must earn your
trust also James”
“Do not judge too quickly
Father” said James “things are changing swiftly and I know the church will
not like me marrying a dragoness – or Lord Duncan marrying a gryphon
The cleric turned an odd
shade of purple once more and James hastened forward with some more wine.
“All I’m saying”, he
continued as the priest gulped the wine down “is that we are going to let
things carry on as they are and let the lord decide if we are doing the
“You are most persuasive
young James” murmured the priest after he had recovered from this latest
shock. “The Bishop will not see you marrying a dragoness though will he?
Just a very pretty woman you have fallen in love with”
James leaned back “Yes, I
think it’s best for everyone if Cill remains as a human in public until we
have our own home and lands”
“And the other dragons?”
Father Champlain asked, leaning back in his chair “will they be as peaceful
James hesitated for a
moment, obviously the news of Tomako’s behavior hadn’t reached the church’s
ears “They are bound to certain rules when visiting and are required to vow
peace for their visit in order to blend in”
Slowly rising to his feet
Father Champlain sighed and made his way to the door “Then I shall look
forward to meeting them at the wedding, Duncan said there may be more
attending and perhaps they will also be able to assist me in my work”
James doubted the cleric
would get little attention from any of the council who attended as he was
certain they would not look favourably upon a human trying to learn all
their secrets but he waved farewell and closed the door before sighing
Cill wrapped her arms around
him and guided him towards the bed, many things had been going through her
mind since meeting Flora and she had many questions for the unicorn. It was
obvious that she knew far more than she was saying and Cill had the odd
feeling she was being fobbed off with drips of information instead of the
whole mug as it were. She curled herself around him, arranging herself
unconsciously as if he were the hatchling she needed to protect.
A sudden chill ran down her
spine and made the tip of her tail twitch as she suddenly had a thought of
her mothers response to the news she was bearing a humans offspring. She
hurriedly suppressed that thought and rumbled happily around her mate as she
dropped off to sleep.
to be continued!