Dragon Bonds – The Beloved Draman is the third installment in my series of fantasy novelettes. This FREE serialized story won’t be found anywhere else, and you get to see it first!
Croft and his friends experience growing pains and a budding romance while they settle into their new mountain home. As Wheet helps educate the orphans, the other dragons select children for future bonds. Defying the NestMaster’s instructions, one pair takes a risky chance which could end in disaster. Find out how far the dragons will go for their beloved Draman in Dragon Bonds!
Dragon Bonds by Alexander Elliott
First Edition Copyright © 2019
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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DRAGON BONDS – PART 2
Hugh’s present discomfort had little to do with Juliana’s question and everything to do with the beautiful girl asking it. They sat in his small office, which also served as the library, with the door open to protect her reputation. He would never even think of taking liberties with her or anyone else, but it was best not to leave any hint of impropriety. The truth was, he knew absolutely nothing about courting a woman. Life as a monk did not prepare him for his undeniable attraction to the lovely, young healer, and he was uncertain what to do about it.
Since her arrival in Dramanshire, Juliana was a frequent visitor to his small office. Like most women, she was unable to read and write. As part of her new duties, she was eager to record everything about dragons and Draman. With unlimited access to them, and as the one charged with keeping the settlement healthy, there was much to learn. Having a written record, she believed, would assist future healers and document the unique needs of both dragon and Draman for the king’s library.
As Hugh was the only one who could help her, they found themselves meeting often as she recounted her experiences, discussions, and observations. It took some practice for her to fashion and speak her thoughts in a way which allowed Hugh to continue writing without asking her to stop or repeat things. They both came to treasure these sessions together, exchanging smiles and blushes equally as she spoke and he wrote. Hugh found the information fascinating and tremendously useful, but he also came to appreciate Juliana’s lilting voice, intelligence, and loving care for people.
As he finished up the last of her dictation for the day, Juliana shared her thoughts about recent events.
“Right now we only have two Draman, but there are least six who hope to bond in the spring. Many of the other children are interested, and I know not what to tell them! I believe it may be the same for the dragons. The problem with Scree and Elenore has given Croft and Rueloo an idea, and I wanted to know what thee think of it.”
Hugh lifted an eyebrow, carefully considering what she told him.
“Yes, thy thoughts match my own. What have they asked of thee?”
The sparkle in Juliana’s blue eyes did strange things to Hugh, and he briefly looked away to catch his breath as she answered.
“They wish me to speak with Wheet and see what he knows about blood bonds. Later, I can teach the children and answer their questions while Wheet meets with the dragons. If both sides understand the dangers and changes involved, the bondings will be safer and bring fewer surprises. Would thee consider going with me? Perhaps thee will remember what I do not when it is time to write it down.”
While Hugh was both flattered and intrigued, he was also eager to spend more time with Juliana. Besides, there was a good chance he could be of help.
“I would be pleased to go with thee. Perhaps it would be wise for us to consider what to ask before meeting with the NestMaster.”
Juliana flushed with pleasure at his answer, rattling off a long list which Hugh scribbled down as fast as he could write. The number of things to ask Wheet nearly doubled after they paid a visit to Croft and Rueloo’s nest following supper that night. Apparently, dragons shared little with one another until the need to know arose, so convincing Wheet to discuss the issue with the nest ahead of time might prove to be a challenge. Rueloo was confident he would understand the need and cooperate, especially with the Scree and Elenore problem fresh in everyone’s mind.
Two days later
While Scree was allowed short, supervised visits with Elenore, neither of them were happy about being kept apart. The petulant dragon believed she was being punished for disagreeing with the NestMaster, while Elenore thought it should be her choice when to bond, ignoring the supposed danger. Between visits, she was given easy chores or confined to her bed for more rest. While the cough was improving, she had to admit she was still weak and tired easily.
The other children came to sit with Elenore when she wasn’t sleeping, telling her about the events of the day which might have been missed. When she heard about Juliana’s trip to see Wheet, it gave her an idea. Claiming to have questions about the bond, she requested a visit from Sabina. Because Elenore actually did have things to discuss, they enjoyed an interesting conversation about what she could expect when the time came. Some of it frightened her, but she was determined to have a bond with Scree no matter what the cost.
Before Sabina left, Elenore asked if she would translate for her when the dragons came for a visit later in the day. She wanted to tell Scree about a wonderful dream she had, but couldn’t unless Sabina spoke for her. Feeling sorry for the girl, Sabina agreed to help with such a simple request. Elenore thanked her and then spent some time planning exactly what to say so that no one would know what she was really up to. If this worked, she and her dragon would finally get what they wanted.
Early evening, the same day
It was almost time for supper before Juliana and Hugh finished recording all the information gleaned from their meeting with the NestMaster. Having never dealt with Draman before, Wheet’s stories were all second-hand and left a number of questions unanswered. How long will Draman live? Will gold heal all their ailments? What changes are in store when they mature? Can adults form a bond or only children? Is it possible for a dragon to bond with more than one person at a time? Can they marry and have families? Will their offspring be human or Draman?
Undoubtedly, there were other questions to be asked and answered later. If the future of his nest was to include Draman, Wheet realized he was responsible to discover all there was to know about them. Since he knew of a nest where Draman were common, it was decided that Croft and Rueloo would be sent on a special mission in the near future to find out more.
Between Wheet’s memories, and the experiences of Croft and Sabina, Juliana believed there was enough information to move ahead with the planned bondings and meet with the children to explain it all. While there were certainly some wonderful things for Draman to anticipate, there was an equal number of frightening realities they must face to bond with a dragon. It wasn’t all one-sided either, as the dragons would have to make dramatic alterations to their way of life.
In the end, Wheet readily agreed to speak with the dragons about their part in the bonding process. His concern and respect for Croft was the key, and he was unwilling for any of the other children to experience the bond without the greatest level of care they could provide. It meant many changes for the nest over which he presided, but he was committed to seeing the king’s grand idea become a reality. Only by working together could they succeed in building the Draman into a bridge between both peoples.
The scent of another of Margery’s wonderful meals filled the lower level of the tower. Juliana and Hugh left his office, only to find the children finishing up the supper preparations. As usual, Hugh began counting heads to make certain everyone was present. Somehow the count was off. On his third try, the number remained short by one person and he was forced to interrupt the meal to find out who was missing.
“Attention, children! Someone is not at the table. Is anyone ill?”
Noisy chatter filled the space as they looked eagerly about to see who was gone. Cecily waved at Hugh to get his attention.
“Elenore said she was tired and went upstairs to sleep after the dragons came to visit.”
It wasn’t the first time the girl overslept and he sent Cecily up the stone staircase to bring her down to supper. Soon, she came running back, face flushed and eyes wide.
“I don’t know where she is! The bed is empty and some of her things are gone!”
A quick glance at Juliana told Hugh she came to the same awful conclusion.
“Continue eating children. Margery will stay here with ye while we go take a look, all right?”
Thomas took a torch to search outside while Juliana and Hugh investigated the upper floors of the tower. When the girl could still not be found, they looked through the caves behind the kitchen and then asked Croft to join them in searching the upper chambers near he and Rueloo’s nest. When they were about to give up, Rueloo noticed a very faint trace of Elenore’s scent near the cavern entrance – along with Scree’s. They were gone.
While the adults calmed the other children and put them to bed, Croft and Rueloo made a valiant attempt to find the missing pair. Despite their excellent nighttime vision and sense of smell, it would be difficult to find any clues after so much time. Hoping that Echo knew the location of Scree’s nest, they roused him and Sabina from sleep to enlist their help. Guilt-stricken, Sabina admitted her part in the fiasco.
“Elenore assked me to tell Sscree about a dream sshe had. Sshe talked about waving to Sscree from the cave opening, and then being picked up and taken away. I did not know it wass a lie! What can we do?”
Echo volunteered to show Rueloo where he thought Scree’s nest was located, and the four of them flew silently through the inky blackness. When they arrived, they found the nest empty – apparently abandoned for some time. The quick-tempered, elusive dragon guarded her privacy, moving from nest to nest to keep from being disturbed. There was no way to know where the two of them might be, and an extensive search would have to wait until daylight.
Rueloo and Croft accompanied Echo and Sabina back to their nest, having agreed to start looking again in the morning. Wheet would have to be told, of course, and Croft intended to do it himself first thing. The NestMaster would be very angry, and rightly so, though Croft’s primary concern was for Elenore. As soon as they returned home, Croft took the twisted passageway down into the tower. Thomas, Margery, Hugh, and Juliana were all waiting for him in the Great Hall. He knew they would be upset by his news, yet they must be told.
“We did not find them. Tomorrow, Rueloo and I will tell Wheet, and assk otherss to help uss ssearch. Elenore will have a fever by morning if they bonded, but we musst find her quickly or sshe may die.”
The men’s faces twisted with worry and the women began to cry. Hugh reached out to hold Juliana’s hand, offering what little comfort he could. Croft encouraged her to gather what she might need, ready to leave at a moment’s notice in case they found the girl. The others helped her pack baskets with healing herbs, food, water skins, rags, extra clothing, and blankets. Fresh gold would be needed to help strengthen Elenore’s weakened body as she changed, and Croft assured them it would be provided.
There was nothing more to be done until daylight, and the group wearily took themselves off to bed. Sleep eluded them all, leaving Thomas to pace, Hugh to pray, the women to fret, and Croft to tremble with nightmares.
Croft arose well before the sun in search of his breakfast. It was going to be a long day, and he might not have time to eat later. By the wonderful smells coming from the tower kitchen, Margery was already busy cooking. He made his way down to the Great Hall, wondering if she had been able to sleep. The answer was written on her haggard face. She was not surprised to see him this early and stooped down to envelope him in a hug.
“There now, child, I have confidence thee will find them. I made thy favorites this morning. Sit down now and eat thy fill before thee go.”
The meal was delicious, but Croft was too distracted to enjoy it properly. When he finished, Margery pressed a food-filled saddle bag into his arms and kissed his forehead.
“I thank thee. We will ssend word as ssoon as they are found. Tell Juliana to be ready.”
Croft returned to the nest and found Rueloo and the dragonlets ready to leave. Spark, Huff, Billow, and Ember were excited to take part in the adventure, though too young to understand the importance of their task. With the sun’s rays peeking over the horizon, they took off and headed for Wheet’s valley. The NestMaster did not appreciate being roused so early in the morning, but he recognized the distress in Rueloo’s call.
The great black dragon appeared as Rueloo and the little ones landed, and Croft remained on her back as she explained why they were here.
“Scree has taken Elenore from the tower, but it was not discovered until after the sun went dark. We believe they have bonded and the humans fear for the girl’s life. If they are not found quickly, Elenore may die.”
As expected, Wheet reacted badly to the news, tail thumping against the ground as he roared into the sky. With smoke billowing from his open mouth, he broadcast a unique bark-like call three times, paused, then did it again, and again. Confused, Croft asked Rueloo what he was doing.
“It is used to summon the nest together. He is telling all the dragons to come right away.”
By the time the sun was up, Wheet’s valley was filled with dragons – many Croft had never seen before. The NestMaster used his powerful mind voice to explain what happened and sent them out to search. Everyone was expected to help until Scree and Elenore were found, including Wheet himself, who joined Rueloo and the dragonlets in the air moments later. The Nest covered an enormous amount of territory, with perhaps hundreds of caves and caverns to investigate. Croft was surprised when Wheet began flying north towards Wort.
“Scree believes she can hide from me, but I have been told she has a nest near the mines. We will start there.”
Scree paced nervously about the large cavern, wondering why Elenore was not moving. When they reached her nest, Scree used a claw to slice a gash in her leg and Elenore spread the thick green blood on her hands. Before long they began to tingle and throb and the girl eventually fell asleep atop the pile of gold ore. She thought they followed Croft and Sabina’s bonding stories carefully enough, but she now feared they may have missed something important.
Through the night Elenore began to have a harder time breathing and thrashed about, mumbling mouth sounds Scree could not yet understand. Now, as the sun rose in the sky, she lay unnaturally still, her face red and hot, with a peculiar scent which smelled… wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be like this! What if the humans were right? What if Elenore was not yet strong enough to be bonded as they claimed? For once in her long life, Scree was forced to admit she did not know what to do and it shamed her.
Guilt, embarrassment, and fear struggled for control of her racing thoughts, yet the most important thing was Elenore. Could the human really die? If she did, it would be no one’s fault but her own, and Scree could not accept a life without the girl. She must act, now, even if it meant punishment and humiliation. She only hoped it was not too late.
Wheet’s larger wingspan meant he could fly faster than Rueloo, and the dragonlets were beginning to tire. Croft knew they would have to stop soon to rest which meant another delay they could not afford. Just as he was about to ask Rueloo about it, the air split with Scree’s rusty-sounding screech. There was no mistaking this was a desperate call for help, and it was coming from the same area Wheet intended to search. The NestMaster answered her and then gave Rueloo instructions.
“Croft and the little ones will come with me. Turn back and bring the healer. I will guide you when you return.”
It took a moment for Croft to understand they were not going to land first. Though he trusted Wheet, the thought of moving from one dragon to another during flight made him nervous. He watched as the black dragon slowed to fly directly over Rueloo, lowering himself until he could curl his front talons gently around Croft and lift him off her back. The dragonlets obediently followed the NestMaster, even as Rueloo turned sharply in the opposite direction, heading for Dramanshire.
END of part two.