The newborn Dragon hovered over the woman child. Reed stood transfixed. She lifted her hand to reach out to the beast.
“No child you must not!” Reed moved to call out to her, but no sound came from him.
The Dragon leaned down from the air its snout mere inches from Marie’s outstretched fingers. Reed watched as her eyes closed, her face relaxed. It was as if she were enveloped in a shroud of serenity. ‘The creature has seduced her with its power.’ Reed thought.
What he did not know was that it was Marie who was seducing the Dragon.
Instinctively Marie reached out to the Dragon. Surges of energy pulsed through her in a rhythm that matched the resonant purring that vibrated the earth and the air. The only language she could perceive was the word ‘Kindred,’ but she was aware of images flashing in her mind.
She was in flight over the village from which she had come. She soared above the old woman who looked up to her from the courtyard of her father’s home. Her shadow was broad and dark over the ground below. She could hear the old woman’s voice, though her mouth did not move. The tops of buildings and then trees flowed by beneath her as though they floated on currents of water. The air and the wind shimmered with translucent colors of blue yellow and green.
Her trance kept her only a few moments, but within it Marie felt she had flown for many days, and had been to the farthest reaches of the earth and beyond.
The purring ceased suddenly, and was replaced by a roaring sound. Marie opened her eyes to see that she was engulfed in the licking blue flames from the new dragon’s nostrils. They licked, and caressed her bare skin. The caress of the flames left no burn, only an odd tingle that spread through her. Her body arched, her arms outstretched, in this way she opened all of her torso to the sensual embrace of the flames.
From his position at the edge of the clearing, Reed saw the child disappear within the flame. His heart filled with both dread and rage. Was this his destiny, to see the birth of the very dragon he was sent to tame? To see it claim its first victim?
The roar increased in volume with the spread of the flame, and then as quickly as it began, it stopped. The new dragon was gone, and the lady was standing, her arms stretched wide and her torso arched so her breasts were lifted toward the sky. The air around her shimmered with a lingering blue aura.
Reed was struck with awe.
She was not burned. And what had become of the beast? It was as if it had blown itself inside out and the flame took with it and consumed its very essence.
No matter, the man thought, breaking his own reverie. ‘I must remove this foolish girl from this place, before she tempts her fate further.’ With that, Reed moved into the clearing and into the cache of eggs. The lady did not hear nor did she sense his approach, so that when he appeared below her and took hold of her hips, she was startled into momentary terror.
Her eyes dropped and took in the face of the man who had just boldly lifted her from her footing. Reed was struck by the glowing blue of her eyes, and she was struck by the deep black of his. Their gaze locked for only a moment, before Marie’s terror boiled into rage.
Her arms and legs flailed the man. The suddenness of her reaction took Reed by surprise, but his reflexes were quick. Taking only a few blows to his legs and torso, he was able to turn her so she could only flail at the air.
“Come imp! Away from here before you become a meal for the next beast to emerge from this demon’s nest.” He shifted her so she hung by her middle under his right arm, her legs able to kick nothing, her hands with nails ready able to scratch only space. Reed retrieved the girl’s clothing as he carried the squirming bundle back to the woods, where the two grazing horses and the cover of trees awaited them.
Marie increased her struggling, which made it a challenge for Reed to maintain his hold on her.
“Who are you to man handle me! Put me down I tell you, put me down!” Her screams and demands were laced with language Reed had not even heard in the barracks and guardhouse. He laughed at her spirit.
Safely under the canopy of trees, he dropped his burden onto the loam. Marie assumed a posture of recovery on her hands and knees, her breath coming in short pants and gasps. She warily eyed the man near her, flinching slightly as he tossed her clothing onto her back.
“Cover yourself child!” Reed commanded.
Blue light seemed to flash from her eyes as the waning light of day reflected off of them.
“What gives you the right to interfere with me?” Marie demanded as she pulled her shift over her head. As it fell into place, she settled back on her heels, sitting up so she could see the man fully.
“I claim the right of any man who finds a child alone, willfully courting danger. You should be whipped for the risks you have taken this day!” Reed leaned against the thick trunk of an ancient Elm tree and took in the image in front of him. ‘She is barely of age.’ He thought, and then he added, “Where are your people? Who guards you in your travels?”
“What do you know of the risks I have taken?!” Marie’s response was haughty and sharp. “You have been a spy lurking behind me?”
“I have!” Reed nodded. His voice and his demeanor had become stern. “You will answer me now child, who guards you here?!”
Marie’s expression changed as she attempted to bolster courage she did not feel at that moment. A mask of defiance and disdain took over her face. She did not answer.
“You are a runaway. I might have known.” Reed shook his head at her choice to be silent, and answered his own question.
“I am not a runaway! I am a traveler.” Marie looked away from the stern glare of the stranger. His power unnerved her. Worry entered her mind also, as he seemed to have guessed that she was indeed alone on her journey. It crossed her mind that he might make it his duty to return her to her father and the world where she knew she had never belonged.
“Where have you come from? And where do you go?” Reed pressed further.
“It is not your affair!” Marie retorted.
“It is my affair!” Reed’s voice boomed. “These are my lands, this is my domain!”
Marie stopped her efforts to put her clothes right and looked at the man more carefully.
“Your land? Your domain? You make me laugh! You are not the king!” Marie did laugh, and when she did the sounds of the forest blended with it so that it resonated and filled the air like soft wind chimes.
“No I am not the king. I am his heir.” Reed answered.
Marie felt an energy pulse through her. It was as if the stories from the nursery were coming alive again. The words of the old woman echoed in her mind for her. “These are the tales of your destiny child they will be myth only if you deny them life.” If what he said was true, this man was the first of her trials. He was the Dragontamer. The man who would subdue her and harness her will.
“You are the Dragontamer!” Marie spoke her voice was soft, but full of accusation.
Reed was taken by surprise. Only the wise one knew the purpose of his journey. Not even his father knew what the visions revealed for him. Yet this creature before him spoke as if she had been waiting for him. The knowledge she had did not appear to please her. Reed was curious. Why should his journey and purpose be a source of irritation for her?
“What do you know of my purpose?” He demanded.
“Why? Are you not apprised of your own business?” Marie let arrogance and more distain for the man into the manner of her speech. She rose to the challenge she now recognized.
Reed was becoming frustrated by her questions in response to his questions. “Do not interrogate me imp! I will ask the questions, and you will come forth with answers, or I will pry them from you with my hand on your backside!”
Marie regained her feet and planted herself firmly in a posture that spoke of the defiance she intended. “I will not! I do not answer to you! You have no power or authority with me.!”
Reed laughed. She was spirited, he would give her that.
“I have the power to put you to death and the authority to order it done.” He said with amusement. “You might keep that in your mind, as I ask you again. Who are your people? What do you know of my purpose?”
Marie knew this was a boast. She dismissed him. “I will resume my travels now sir. You may do the same.”
Reed stepped toward her. His tall frame dwarfed hers. She sensed his power, again it unnerved her. Keeping her eyes locked on his, Maries stepped back. A mild wave of fear spread through her. If he chose to subdue her physically, there would be little she could do to prevent it. As she moved she also sensed a tingling in her skin as though the dragon’s flames caressed her again.
“I know nothing of your purpose sir. And I have no people. I am quite alone. I am seeking my future and my destiny.” Marie vowed she would not tell this man about the myths the old women told her.
“This forest is no place for a female child to travel alone.” Reed spoke. “Where do you go? I will see to it you get there.”
Without thinking, Marie answered the truth. “I know not.”
“You know not? You come into these woods and meander on horseback without a destination?” Reed felt fury build within him. His own journey had been sidled so he might follow a child going nowhere!
“I will know where I am when I come upon the place. I will know it instantly.” Marie could not explain the logic to herself. It was unlikely that she could make another understand the faith she had in her instinct.
“Get your horse imp! We will discuss this further after we a secured a safe place to pass the night.” Reed issued a command. He fully expected it to be obeyed.
“I will not! I will remain here. You move on and away to your own business.” Marie stood her ground. Her stance and expression were much more firm and defiant than she felt.
“You will do as I say now, or you will do it later. If you choose now, you will suffer only punishment for your foolishness. If you choose later, you will not sit your saddle with comfort as wee seek shelter for the night. Now do as I say!” There was no mistaking the intent in his voice. The quietly firm tone of his voice was as effective at reaching into and taking hold of her will as if he had boomed the command and moved her bodily to her horse.
As Marie moved to climb onto her horse Reed was aware of the faint shimmer of blue in the air around her. Marie was aware of the renewed memory of the tingling caress of the dragon’s flame over every surface of her skin. The sensation was sexual, sensual and very pleasing. Her horse’s movements under her and the currents of air around her intensified the experience for her.
The words the man had spoken to her echoed in her mind. Many minutes passed before their meaning clicked for her. ‘….suffer punishment only for your foolishness.’ What did he mean by that? She wondered……
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