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 4
The NestMaster’s valley, two days later
Wheet’s summons could not be ignored, and the valley was crowded with every single dragon in the nest. The meeting began with Scree’s admission of wrongdoing and submission to the NestMaster’s leadership. Her rebellion could have led to disastrous results, not only for Elenore, but for the entire nest. The days of fierce independence and little structure among them was coming to an end, and Wheet was not shy about using Scree’s error to reinforce his position and the changes to their way of life.
When Scree was finished, Wheet got right to the point.
“Blood bonds are broken only by death, and you must be well-matched. Spend time with your human to understand how they think and what kind of life they desire. You must also teach them dragon ways and how to use their new abilities. Some humans fear the Draman, so you must always be ready to protect your chosen one. Only then will both of you be ready to consider the bond.
“To safeguard the children, the nest, and our agreement with the humans, bonds must be planned ahead of time and attended by the healer or a trained Draman. You will prepare the nest for their comfort and bring in fresh gold before the bond is started. Even so, humans are weaker than us, and some of your chosen ones may not survive.
“Once they are grown, there are other changes you will face. They may wish to take a mate and have young ones of their own. Some, perhaps many of the Draman, will choose to serve the human King, and you will neither forbid nor compel them. Your home would no longer be in this nest, but wherever the Draman is required to go. The life you have lived will never be the same, and you must be willing to accept it for their sake.
“What we are doing here has only been done in other places. It affects all of us, including how we live and interact with the humans. They will change us, as we will change them – making us both stronger. If you do not agree, leave this place. Do not oppose me. Those who do risk banishment from the nest, separation from your human, or a challenge. If you wish to know more, come to me or those already bonded.”
Here and there, grumbles of dissent could be heard, yet no one spoke openly. Those who were already planning to bond with one of the children made their way to Wheet, Rueloo, Echo, or Scree to ask questions. Others who were interested also remained behind to learn about the benefits of bonding with a human. Though Scree’s disobedience angered Wheet, it gave him the opportunity to settle the issue before something unfortunate happened. The creation of a thriving Draman community would finally bridge the gap between human and dragon in this part of the world, bringing new life and purpose to the Great Peak Mountain nest.
Meanwhile, in the Great Hall
The large room held every single orphan, including Croft and Sabina, as well as the adult caretakers. Edward and his family, who only visited the tower occasionally, were all in attendance today. The only ones missing were the dragons, who were gathering in Wheet’s valley at the same time for a meeting of their own. A hush fell across the group as the newest Draman stood before them.
Elenore’s bond with Scree transformed her into an extraordinary Draman, not unlike her dragon. Childish beauty was replaced by light crimson pseudo-scales and deep yellow eyes. Most of her long blond hair, except for the back of her head, was gone. In its place were three crown-like ridges of bone, starting at her forehead and ending at the top of her skull. The rest of her features were common to all Draman: broad, flat nose, short claws, ear nubs, and forked tongue.
Though clearly uncomfortable, she faced the group bravely and started to speak.
“I wanted to ssay how ssorry I am for dissobeying, running away, and making everyone sso worried. What I did wass wrong and very dangerouss. I almosst died. I want to thank thee for thy prayerss, and for those who took care of me while I was ssick. Sscree and I are very happy together, but if thee wish to bond do not make the ssame misstake I did.”
Juliana came forward and hugged Elenore before guiding her to a seat between Croft and Sabina. In solidarity, they each took one of Elenore’s hands and turned their attention to the healer.
“Many of ye are considering a bond with one of the dragons. This is expected and encouraged, but we want all of ye to be safe. I have spoken to our Draman and the dragons to learn more about the bond and what it means. We have decided on some rules which we expect both ye and thy dragon to follow. If ye do not, ye risk death or banishment from the nest. This almost happened to Elenore and Scree and it could happen to ye if ye decide not to listen.
“The bond itself is dangerous, and ye will become very ill with a fever for several days. If ye come to us, we will prepare things for ye so it is safer, but ye could still die. If ye survive, ye will be permanently changed and forever linked to thy dragon. It cannot be changed, so ye must be certain it is what you want before ye start. Some people will be afraid of ye and may treat ye badly because ye are different. This may be hard to accept, yet it is true.
“Bonding to a dragon also has many advantages. Ye will be able to hear and speak to all the dragons, and will live longer than the unbonded. Ye will have better hearing and sight, be stronger, healthier, and be able to serve the kingdom one day if ye wish. When ye get older and grow up, there may be more changes to thy body and other things ye will need to know. If ye have questions, come to me or any of the Draman and we will answer them. We want ye to know both the good and bad so ye can make a wise choice. Remember this – no one may force ye into a bond, and if someone tries, we must know about it right away.”
When Juliana finished speaking, the children were dismissed to their chores or classes, chattering excitedly about what they’d heard. Croft, Elenore, and Sabina remained where they were, deep in silent conversation. Abruptly, they stood and approached the curious healer. Elenore smiled at her and asked a surprising question.
“I have heard thee wissh to train ssomeone as a healer. Would thee take me as thy apprentice?”
Once the bitter cold and heavy snows were behind them, six more Draman were welcomed into the community. Thanks to careful preparation and much prayer, all survived the bonding and were happily settling into their nests together. Juliana, along with Elenore as her new apprentice, were kept busy for weeks caring for the four boys and two girls who had waited patiently for spring to arrive. The caves near the tower were filling up and eventually the newer pairs would need to search for comfortable nests elsewhere.
Wheet and Juliana were both pleased with the changes made after Scree and Elenore’s nearly disastrous bonding. The children didn’t miss a beat as human and Draman worked, played, and studied together as if they had done so all along. The dragons were having a bit more difficulty adjusting to the new rules and restrictions. They were used to doing as they pleased without a thought for the two-legs; happy to take the human gifts of food and gold, but ignore them the rest of the time. With all the changes to the nest, this was no longer possible.
While Juliana and Elenore were working hard in their reading and writing lessons, they still relied on Hugh to record their thoughts, observations, and experiences. By the time Croft and Rueloo were ready to start traveling again, Hugh would have a copy of the first book finished for the king. In time, the palace would be sending future healers to Dramanshire to study, observe, and train for themselves.
With the arrival of warmer, drier weather, projects in both Dramanshire and the kingdom began in earnest. Thomas worked long hours transforming acres of grassland into a series of vegetable gardens and berry patches. It was backbreaking work, but the royal palace provided extra hands and teams of oxen to turn the soil and help with the planting. The valley was not nearly large enough to provide everything Dramanshire needed, and they relied on the royal farms south of Orchid for animal feed, grain crops, and anything else they could not grow for themselves.
Not only was the valley brimming with activity, the king’s ambitious plans were also well underway. The east/west road running from Rose to Orchid was now being improved to make travel easier and safer for the royal family and increased business. Eventually, it would be paved with stones, just as Dragon’s Road had been last year. Construction on the king’s summer estate, Snapdragon, was also coming along nicely. Foundations were already in place for the main tower, barn, stables, and barracks for the soldiers, as well as a unique structure found nowhere else.
Since dragons and their Draman would be visiting or conferring with the king while he was in residence, they would require their own living space. The land at Snapdragon did not contain any of the natural caves dragons preferred for nesting, so the king’s builders consulted with Rueloo and Croft to come up with a substitute. In the end, they designed an enormous oversized stable made of stone and timber. Large doors on either end of the building kept out the worst of the weather, while the interior was divided into individual stalls for their privacy and comfort.
With the sudden increase in Draman, it wouldn’t be long before those who wished to serve the crown were summoned to Rose to begin their training. They, too, would need a place to live, and Augustus ordered another structure like the one in Snapdragon, only larger, to be built on the palace grounds. Already, the king’s advisers were busy making plans to teach and incorporate the bonded pairs into the king’s service. It required fresh ways of thinking, but it opened up exciting possibilities, and Augustus was eager to see them get started.
Rueloo, Echo, Scree, and their riders maintained their position above Dragon’s Road as they followed the open carriage from Orchid to Dramanshire. Each dragon tail was festooned with brightly colored ribbons which fluttered in the breeze behind them as they flew. Escorted on horseback by Dane and Orchid’s mayor, the newly married couple looked up and waved from the open carriage as they approached their mountain home.
All the valley’s occupants, along with the bride’s family from Wort and a number of dragons, were assembled on the tower’s stone courtyard. A cheer went up as the carriage pulled to a stop at the road’s terminus, while the festooned dragons swooped and danced overhead. Juliana, wearing a beautiful blue jewel-tone dress, blushed as Hugh handed her out of the carriage and kissed her soundly.
Instead of using the Great Hall, the wedding feast was held outside on the courtyard so the dragons could observe and participate. Wheet and the others were baffled by the strange human customs surrounding the taking of a mate, keeping Croft and the other Draman busy explaining things. When the meal was over, minstrels sang love songs and recited romantic poems as the adults danced and drink. Croft was happy for Hugh and Juliana, not at all surprised they ended up together. He began to wonder if Thomas or Margery would marry one day too, and if it would change things here in the valley.
When the children were finally sent up to bed, Croft and Rueloo brought Dane to their nest for a rare overnight stay. The dragonlets swarmed Dane, looking for belly rubs and licking his exposed skin. They were very fond of him, and he gave them all some attention before Rueloo called them to her side. It was a treat for Croft to be in familiar surroundings and spend time with his father, as he and Rueloo had been traveling for weeks. Their recruiting efforts resulted in a steady stream of new orphans, eager to begin their life at Dramanshire.
For most of them, the adjustment was surprisingly easy, as life in the mountain settlement was so much better than what they were used to. It was not only the warm family atmosphere, but a real sense of belonging and purpose – something sorely lacking in their lives up to now. Growing up in Dramanshire also offered them an education and the possibility of a dragon bond – things which were impossible anywhere else. Even if they eventually left the valley unbonded, they would be able to choose something other than farming for their life’s work.
Before settling down to sleep, Dane asked Croft and Rueloo about their upcoming trip to gather more information about dragon bonds.
“No one in Spiredale has ever been to Pinnacle, and it is a very long journey. I would be less uneasy if thee were not going alone.”
Rueloo chose to respond first.
“Wheet is confident the information we seek will be found there.”
“Why must thee go so far?”
“There are no nests near us who understand the bond. Wheet’s Sire and Dam came from Pinnacle, and many in the nest there were bonded to humans. They will be able to answer our questions.”
Dane looked at Croft; worry etched on his face.
“How do thee know the nest there will be friendly? My heart cannot bear the thought of thee in danger so far from home.”
Croft wrapped his arms around Dane and tried to comfort him. In truth, he was a little nervous about the trip himself, yet both Wheet and Rueloo assured him there was no reason to worry.
Sensing their discomfort, Rueloo spoke once more.
“We will be very careful, and Croft will be safe with me. If what we seek cannot be found, we will return without delay. I promise.”
The next morning
Croft and Rueloo watched while Dane saddled his horse and prepared to go home. It would be some time before they saw each other again, and the discomfort of their separation hung heavy in the air. When all was ready, Dane wrapped Croft in his arms and kissed his forehead.
“I will miss thee, son. Will thee send word upon thy return?”
Yess, father. I will misss thee alsso, but it will be exciting to ssee new placess and I will have sso much to tell thee!”
Dane laughed, rustling the boy’s curly mop of hair before mounting his horse for the ride back to Orchid. There was no doubt Croft’s new adventure would result in many stories, and he couldn’t wait to hear them.
A note from the author – Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed the story. Watch for the nest in series, DRAGON QUEST, coming soon!