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 3
With everyone upset and worried, the children were given free time after their chores instead of attending classes. Hugh was alone in the library, praying for Elenore and the searching dragons. Margery kept herself busy in the kitchen, while Thomas went to give Edward a hand with the animals. Juliana did her best to comfort the worried children; telling them stories, drying tears, and trying to remain cheerful.
Hugh opened the door to the library as Rueloo’s call suddenly echoed through the valley, startling everyone in the house. By the time they opened the door to peer outside, she had already landed on the stone courtyard in a cloud of loose snow. Croft was nowhere in sight. Using a human gesture, Rueloo pointed at Juliana with her front foreclaws and then lay down. The message was clear – she was to come with her, which meant Elenore had been found!
As Juliana dressed in her heavy clothes, Hugh and Margery loaded the dragon with the prepared supplies. Rueloo was restless, eager to get back in the air as soon as possible. They finished just as Juliana came through the doorway, already nervous about flying for the first time. Hugh approached to help her mount the dragon, and in a surprise move, leaned down to kiss her lightly on the mouth.
“Godspeed. Thee have my prayers, and my heart.”
She blushed hotly as he helped her settle on Rueloo’s back, placing her hands on the short horns at the base of the dragon’s neck. Still rattled by Hugh’s declaration of affection, she gasped when Rueloo stood up and opened her wings. They were airborne moments later, and while Juliana’s heart pounded, her thoughts turned to what she would find when they arrived.
Meanwhile, at Scree’s nest
Elenore’s labored breathing was the first thing Croft noticed when he entered the nest. Scree had not prepared the cave properly for a bonding, leaving him to make do until Rueloo arrived with Juliana and the supplies. Thinking quickly, he asked Wheet for three things: firewood, fresh gold, and snow. While he waited, Croft carefully removed Elenore’s heavy cloak and used it as a pillow for her head. Her skin was flushed with fever and she lay limply on a pile of almost powerless gold ore.
Soon, a bundle of branches was dropped off at the cave entrance, along with a large ball of packed snow. Giving Scree something useful to do, Croft asked her to break up the wood and start a fire. Using his own cloak, he carried some of the snow inside, using it to cool Elenore down and reduce the swelling in her hands. He also placed small bits of it in her mouth, fearing she would choke if he tried to give her a drink. Most of it dribbled down her chin and Croft wondered if he was helping at all.
The transition from human to Draman required gold’s power to keep the fever at bay and help the body change. Without a fresh supply, Elenore had no hope of surviving. The minutes dragged by as Croft waited, wondering when it, and Juliana, would arrive. He could sense Rueloo through the bond, and knew she was drawing closer, but she was still too far away for them to speak.
Frustrated and worried, he placed more snow on Elenore’s body and sat down to hold her swollen hand gently. Though it might not make any difference, he began telling her about the search this morning and that the whole nest was helping. Scree, silent until now, interrupted him.
“I do not think she can hear me. Will she be angry?”
Croft wanted to ignore her, but it would serve no purpose.
“I did not hear Rueloo clearly until the last day of the fever. Thee must be patient. Thee have set a very bad example for the others, Scree. She will not be angry, but the others are.”
“Will we have to leave the nest?”
“That is for Wheet to decide. First, she must live through the bond.”
“Thank you for helping, Croft. I am… grateful.”
While it must have been difficult for the proud, stubborn dragon to admit she needed help, Croft made no reply. He got up to put more wood on the fire and jumped at the sound of several loud thumps coming from the cave entrance. Sabina’s hurried footsteps followed as she entered the inner nest, exhausted by worry and lack of sleep.
“We brought the gold, but it is too heavy for me to lift. Hurry, Scree!”
As the dragon went to retrieve the filled leather pouches, Croft asked about Echo.
“He and the dragonlets went to feed and will bring something back for Scree. The others are outside with Wheet, waiting for news. How can I help?”
Together, they opened the bags and surrounded Elenore’s body with the fresh gold nuggets. To dragon or Draman eyes, the metal emanated a fog of warm yellow light, and it looked as though she were wrapped with the sun itself. Many hours had passed since the fever started, and while the fresh gold was powerful, Croft feared they had not reached her in time for it to do much good.
Scree fidgeted nervously as Sabina went to tend the fire and Croft tucked some snow around Elenore’s neck and head. There was nothing the crimson dragon could do for the girl, and it only increased her guilt and fear for the precious human. Despite Croft’s anger at Scree’s foolishness, he understood her concern for Elenore and went over to stroke the smooth scales of her neck.
“We are doing what we can. The gold will help, but we must wait and see…”
Like a sudden clap of thunder, Rueloo’s mental voice burst through Croft’s worried thoughts.
“We are here!”
Croft heaved a sigh of relief, even as he and Sabina scurried out to meet them.
Escorted by Wheet, Rueloo and her rider winged their way ever closer to the cave entrance. Croft and Sabina waved, more for Juliana’s sake, since the dragon would have no difficulty spotting them. The perch was icy and even more difficult to negotiate because of Rueloo’s passenger and the supplies strapped to her back. Wings fluttering like a small bird, she reduced her speed and touched down on the slippery rock surface. Juliana cried out as the dragon scrambled for purchase, nearly tossing her to the ground as they came to an awkward stop.
Rueloo crouched low, allowing the frightened healer to dismount. Though shaken and red-faced from the cold, Juliana began wrestling the bags and baskets of supplies off the weary dragon. As Juliana and Sabina started carrying them inside, Croft paused for a moment to hug Rueloo’s neck and make sure she was all right.
“I have missed thee! Did thee have any trouble?”
Rueloo scented the boy and then rumbled with laughter.
“No, little one. I am tired and must feed before I join you. Is Elenore…”
“I am afraid for her, Rueloo. I did what I could, but she is very sick. Scree is frightened, too.”
“Go and help Juliana. We will talk when I return.”
Croft hurried inside with the last of the supplies. Sabina was busy unloading one of the baskets while the healer hovered over her patient. He watched as she felt Elenore’s forehead and listened closely to her breathing. Worry creased her brow, even as she gave Sabina instructions and asked Croft to bring in more snow. Some of it went into a small pot and was settled on the fire to warm. Much of the rest was placed on or around Elenore’s body, leaving her clothing soaked from snow melt and sweat.
Juliana searched through one of the baskets for aromatic herbs, throwing them in the pot to steep. While they waited, the healer took stock of her surroundings, eyes settling on Scree who was watching every move. Juliana spoke to the dragon and Croft translated for them.
“I have been told the desire to bond is difficult to resist, but thee have risked her life by being so impatient. If Elenore dies, thou will bear the guilt and I may never forgive thee!”
Scree hung her head in shame.
“You speak the truth, yet I cannot undo what has been done. Can you help her?”
“It is too early to say. If she does not improve by nightfall it may be too late. Croft and I will remain here and tend to her, but we may need thee to fetch things for us.”
“I will do anything you ask. Elenore must live!”
What the girl needed most, Croft explained, was a layer of gold underneath her body, and with Juliana’s help they could now move her. With a sweep of her tail, Scree leveled out a new area on the floor of the cave. Next, she lifted the heavy bags of gold one at a time, dumping their contents in the center of the cleared space. When she was finished, Juliana, Croft, and Sabina moved in to create a level, human-shaped “bed” for Elenore to lay on. To make it more comfortable, it was covered by one of the blankets Juliana brought with her.
Croft busied himself with the supplies while Juliana and Sabina carefully removed Elenore’s wet and soiled clothing, replacing it with a clean, dry shift. When she was redressed, the three of them carried her to the golden mattress and lay her down. More gold nuggets were piled near her head, feet, and sides while another blanket covered her body. Satisfied that the fragrant herbs had steeped long enough, Juliana soaked a heavy cloth with the mixture, wrung it out, and laid it on Elenore’s chest so she could breath in the vapors.
Since nothing more could be done at the moment, the trio opened the provisions Margery sent along and ate a late dinner. By the time they finished, Rueloo arrived and encouraged Scree to leave the nest long enough to eat the deer Echo brought for her. After checking with Juliana, the reluctant dragon hurried out with a promise to return shortly. Rueloo asked Sabina if she and Echo would care for the dragonlets over the next few days, since she and Croft were planning to stay here with Elenore and Scree. Wheet was also waiting for news on the girl’s condition, and Sabina promised to speak with him before leaving for home.
While Juliana refreshed the herbal cloth, Croft snuggled up to his dragon – happy to be together after their dramatic separation, and explained what they had been doing.
“The gold is helping. Her fever is not as high as it was and she is breathing easier. I am very glad thee are here.”
Despite the fire, the large cave remained too cold for human comfort, and Croft invited Juliana to warm herself against Rueloo’s heated body. After settling down, she looked at Croft fondly.
“Thee helped Elenore more than thee knows. Using the snow to keep her fever down may have saved her life. I am proud of thee, but am reminded of my need for an apprentice. Who might thee recommend?”
Croft thought carefully about the group of orphans, considering who might be a good fit for the job.
“Thee will need a Draman – unlesss thee bond to a dragon thyself.”
Though it was certainly possible, Juliana and Rueloo both laughed at the idea.
“Do not be giving any of the dragons ideas! Besides, I believe Hugh prefers me this way.”
Croft smiled impishly.
“He thinkss thee are beautiful, even if he does not ssay sso.”
Juliana smiled, blushed, and looked away, thankful Scree chose that moment to return and end the discussion. Croft was not there to witness Hugh’s declaration of love earlier in the day, and Juliana wanted to savor the warm feelings by herself for a while. If he truly meant what he said, everyone would know soon enough.
Elenore remained unresponsive through the afternoon, though the fever seemed to be under control and her breathing greatly improved. As sunset approached, Croft helped Juliana prepare a simple stew of beans and smoked meat, brown bread, and dried fruit. While they ate, Rueloo brought back more wood for the fire while Scree maintained her vigil. With a sudden hiss of surprise, she announced a change.
“Elenore is moving!”
Juliana hurried to her side as the girl uttered a weak moan and opened her eyes, blinking owlishly. She whispered something and Juliana reached for the chamber pot so she could relieve herself. As it was with Croft, Elenore seemed unaware of her surroundings. While accepting food and drink, she said nothing more, and fell asleep as soon as Juliana lay her down. Scree leaned over to smell the girl and gently licked her face.
“Her scent has changed. The bond is taking hold!”
The built up tension in the cave finally burst as Croft hugged Juliana tightly. She laughed when he did the same for Rueloo and Scree. Elenore wasn’t out of danger yet, but it appeared the worst was over. Several more days of fever and deep sleep lie ahead as her body changed, and keeping her comfortable was a far cry from trying to prevent her death. Since it was already dark, Rueloo would take the good news to Wheet and Dramanshire in the morning. Worn out by the stressful day, Croft and Juliana were encouraged to get some sleep while the dragons kept watch through the night.
As soon as the good news was announced, the somber mood hovering over the nest vanished almost as quickly as it came. While everyone was relieved at Elenore’s survival, and happy for the new bond between her and Scree, the consequences of their reckless behavior would forever change the relationship between dragon and human. Those intending to bond would now be expected to follow a strict set of rules based on Wheet and Juliana’s discussions before the near-tragedy occurred.
As soon as Elenore was well, both the dragons and humans would be meeting to discuss and agree to the changes. In addition, Croft would be making a detailed report to the king regarding the new safeguards. No more freewheeling bonds, no more sneaking around, and no excuses for disobedience. The risk was simply too high.
As the days slowly passed, Croft, Juliana, Scree, and Rueloo watched Elenore steadily change. While she was only the third Draman, it was obvious each person’s appearance would be unique – much of it based on what the dragon half of the bond looked like. Scree, of course, was delighted the girl began to take on her own characteristics, even as Juliana warned her it would be something of a shock to Elenore. Every few hours, the girl would awaken to use the chamber pot, eat, drink, and go back to sleep, and she never seemed to realize where she was or what was happening to her.
On the fourth day, Scree began to get brief flashes of thought from Elenore while she slept. A strengthening of the bond as time passed was expected, though for now it remained intermittent and jumbled. Croft claimed he remembered nothing until he awoke, thinking his murky thoughts of Rueloo were only dreams. Still, Scree was delighted with the newly forged connection, happily sharing the frequent glimpses into Elenore’s mind.
Juliana spent much of her time discussing every change in detail, no matter how minor, with either Croft or the dragons. She fully intended to get all of her observations and experiences written down with Hugh’s help when this was over, and didn’t want to miss anything of importance. Future healers who dealt with dragon bonds would need all the information they could get, and it was up to her make certain it was recorded accurately.
By the morning of the fifth day, it was clear Elenore’s physical alterations were complete. The fever was all but gone, and according to Scree, her mental voice was increasingly sharper and more powerful. She would awaken as soon as her body and mind were ready, and they would help her adjust to the enormous changes the bond brought with it. As they waited, Rueloo decided it was time for a heart to heart discussion with her sister dragon.
“Your beloved one will awaken soon and there are things you must know.”
“Beloved? A human word I do not understand.”
“You have much to learn about humans. Beloved means cherished, special, cared for deeply. You will be as treasure to one another and be willing to give your life for hers, if necessary. Do you see?”
“Yes, but I did not know exactly what to call it. Will Elenore feel the same?”
“She will. She will show it many different ways, and will not wish to be separated for long. Never fail to acknowledge these things or you will confuse and hurt her.”
“This is not our way. I thought the bonding would make her more like us.”
“It will, but she will never be fully dragon. She is still young for her kind, and will be easily influenced by your example. The bond itself is only the beginning.”
Scree pondered the ideas for a moment, realizing she considered Elenore as a kind of pet instead of a partner. Clearly, there was much she did not know and she was ashamed of her ignorance.
“I was not as careful as I should have been, and now Elenore is bound to me. Will you help?”
“Yes, but you have stirred the nest and Wheet has decided what to do with you.”
“Are we to be banished?”
“No. Not yet. He believes it would be too hard on Elenore and might anger the human King. If you wish to remain, he requires certain things.”
“Our cavern has many suitable nesting places, and you are to take one of them. Wheet wants me to help you adjust to the bond and life with humans. It will also keep Elenore close to her own kind as she grows. Both of you will acknowledge your foolish behavior and apologize to the nest and the humans. In addition, you will be expected to help with future bondings. If there is any further disobedience or trouble, you will be banished.”
Scree’s first reaction was anger and she almost refused Wheet’s requirements. Before she could say anything, Elenore’s mind voice interrupted her thoughts.
“We were wrong, Scree. Please do not be angry. I cannot leave the valley!”
Surprised by Elenore’s ability to speak so clearly, Scree changed her mind when she realized the two of them had nowhere to go and the girl would be terribly unhappy. She couldn’t do that to her, and with some difficulty gave Rueloo a different answer.
“Agreed. I do not envy the task you have been given. I can be very…stubborn.”
Rueloo laughed at the understatement.
“Yes, but so can I!”