Seirian wakens from a deep sleep. It's some hours before first light, and he has no idea what woke him. Arienh stirs beside, and Seirian finds he needs no other reason to be awake as this unlikely hour.
"Father!" the call that woke him comes again, "I need you!"
"It's Morvyyn," Arienh says, "What does he want at this hour?"
Seirian groans, reluctant to leave the warmth of his bed and his mate. "I'll find out."
"What happened to you?" Seirian gasps, finding his son struggling beneath an inert Talfryn's weight, both of them covered in blood.
"Talfryn is wounded. Bad," Morvyn groans as he lifts, carrying his friend last few steps to the couch.
"Are you wounded?" Seirian asks, glancing at his son while kneeling to tend to the unconscious Talfryn.
Morvyn shakes his head, "Most of this blood isn't mine. Talfryn took the brunt of the attack."
"Who attacked you? What were you two doing?"
"We were just out, enjoying the night, walking by the old mortal tomb, the one with the stone circle. A small group of humans set on us. They had the advantage of surprise, and their weapons. But we took them."
"You killed them all?" Seirian asks, "You left none alive to report seeing you to their kind?"
Morvyn nods, not meeting his father's eyes. "Father, they had something, magic, perhaps, that hampered my ability to heal. I would have tended Talfryn's wounds myself, but I was unable."
Seirian's mouth hardens into a grim line, "Aymeri's not going to like this."
"Talfryn?" Evenfall shrieks, coming out to see what the fuss is, "Oh, Talfryn!"
"He'll be fine," Seirian assures the fairy, "And if your noises hadn't woken Aymeri up, she certainly just did," he says to his son, "Go, get yourself cleaned up. And be prepared to answer for this."
"Why would you stray so close to the human settlement?" Aymeri demands once he's been told the story, "You have a whole forest to roam in. The human held lands are forbidden, to all of us."
"At that hour, the humans are all locked in their houses. Even in daylight, they stay away from the old stone circle," Morvyn protests, "We hadn't expected on encountering warriors."
"That's why all human places are forbidden," Aymeri says sternly, "Even the ones they don't often use."
While Evenfall frets over his wounds, Talfryn listens in silence to the argument between his father and Morvyn.
Unable to sit quiet for long, Talfryn rises to join the argument, before Morvyn caves and tells the elder dragons what they were really doing out there tonight.
"Why do we let the humans choose what lands to keep?" Talfryn demands, "We could destroy them all and roam as freely as we did the in early times."
"This again," Seirian groans under his breath. How many thousands of years has he had to listen to, and participate, in this argument?
"We're not going to destroy the mortals," Aymeri says, his voice just below a shout as he reins in his anger and exasperation. "They avoid our forests, and we, in turn, avoid their village. That's the way it's been these many ages. That's how we survive."
"Survival? Is that all we should expect? We're dragons, father! We should rule here, not those mortals."
"Rule them?" Aymeri asks, "You speak like the mortals, yourself, son. When have dragons ever been interested in ruling anything? We govern ourselves, and keep to ourselves."
"And where has that gotten us?" Talfryn demands, "We dwindle while they prosper, claiming more of this land for themselves. What happens when they overcome their fear of the forest and take even this from us?"
"I am done arguing this with you!" Aymeri can no longer hold his shout down, "We have yet to fully recover from the last war we fought, and yet speak so casually of entering another."
"We fought our kind in the last war," Talfryn points out, "But, united against the mortals..."
"I said this discussion is over!" Aymeri says, "You will stay away from the humans, do you understand?"
Morvyn kept his peace through the argument, allowing Talfryn to take the blame. As much as he wanted to step in and defend his friend, if Aymeri knew the truth of why they were out there, it would go that much worse for both of them.
"This is my fault," Morvyn says to Talfryn when they are at last alone, "I shouldn't have asked you to come with me."
"They took me by surprise, and I was standing watch," Talfryn says, "If they'd come on you alone with your girl..."
Morvyn has to admit the truth of Talfryn's words. Engaged as he was in lovemaking when Talfryn shouted for his help, it had taken Morvyn a few moments just to gather his wits enough to join the fray, By then, Talfryn had killed two of his attackers with his bare hands, and had already taken the wounds that Seirian had bandaged, and all that was left for Morvyn ws to finish off the last of them and carry his friend home. If it weren't for whatever force or magic that had dulled his own healing abilities, Morvyn could have taken care of Talfryn right there, and they'd have gotten away without telling their fathers about this event at all, blaming their black eyes on a squabble between each other.
"You felt it, didn't you? The magic they had?" Morvyn asks.
Talfryn nods. "In the moment I was attacked, my instinct was to transform. But I couldn't. And the fact that they could come onto me like that...I didn't hear them, didn't smell them. No human has that kind of stealth." Talfryn hesitates a moment before continuing, knowing his friend won't like what he has to say, "Do you think it was a trap?"
"A trap? You mean, you think Gaelle set me up?" Morvyn asks, "No, she wouldn't..."
"She's a human," Talfryn replies, as though that says everything.
"And she believes I am a human, as well," Morvyn points out, "These men who attacked us, it's like they knew what we were...They weren't from her village, I know that much."
"How do you know that? They all smell the same," Talfryn asks.
"Their voices," Morvyn says, "They speak differently."
"You're far too acquainted with our mortal neighbors," Talfryn laughs, "You should find a pretty fairy girl, and leave the humans alone."
"I've had fairies, remember?" Morvyn laughs in return, "I prefer the human girls. They're more like us."
The heavy rain at dawn was a good sign. Sterren rose early and made for the Lady's tomb, knowing the rains would bring out the red toadstools and other mushrooms she needed for her potions. The mushrooms were out in plenty, as she expected, but what she didn't expect to see was the carnage of battle, dead men lying among the stones that marked the ancient tomb.
"Help me," a voice rasps from the ground, as one warrior, still alive despite his wounds, reaches out to her.
"What happened here?" she asks as she kneels, turning him over to inspect his wounds.
"Battle," the fallen warrior rasps, as though it weren't obvious enough. A quick inspection of the field proves that he is the only survivor here, and Sterren struggles to lift him, helping him walk back to her village, to her house, where she can tend his injuries.
"You've cracked a rib, but it should mend well," Sterren informs her patient as she wraps the last bandage over his hand. Lucky for him, it's his left hand; his sword hand remains free of injury. "Who were you fighting? We don't have much trouble with bandits out here..."
"Wild men," the man says, his voice accented like the northern traders who were becoming a more and more common visitor to these shores. "They came out of the forest."
"Truly?" Sterren asks in surprise. Their forests did hold many secrets, home to the fair folk, protected by the great wolf, Ametair the Hunter, a dark place no man dared to enter, except for the wild tribe of savages who lived in harmony with the forest's dangers, and were part of it. But this is the first she'd heard of them leaving the forest to attack anyone, and Sterren can scarce believe it.
"They were not from your village, surely?" the man asks, and Sterren grows quiet. The last thing she'd want is to point a finger at her own people in this crime. These northmen were not known for their mercy or peaceful ways.
"And if I may ask, what were you doing out there alone, so early in the day? Not that I am ungrateful for your timely rescue..." the man continues.
"Gathering mushrooms. The rains bring them out." Sterren answers.
"You should be careful; those old places, the stone circles, they attract...dark magic."
"You mean the fair folk?" Sterren asks with a smile, "I don't fear them. They can be dangerous, but they aren't as fearsome as all that. Some might even be friendly."
"You've spoken with them?" he asks, his voice growing harsh.
Sterren presses her lips together, realizing she's said too much, little though it was. "No, of course not," she says, "I just believe it's foolish to fear something you've never seen. Tell me, what is your name, sir?" she asks, changing the subject.
"Reinier," he answers, "Reinier Landgraab."
Sterren gasps, realizing she's tending the wounds of a legend. "Reinier the Dragon Slayer?"
"That is me," he says, rising up from the bed to stand in front of her.
"And you have truly slain dragons?" she asks, hardly able to believe it.
"You don't believe the stories?" he asks, "I could show you my trophies, if I had them with me. But a dragon's tooth is too large and cumbersome to travel with."
"I believe the stories, sir. But that you're standing, here, in my home..."
"And that I, the great warrior who has slain such mighty beasts should have fallen to mere men must take some of the shine off my glory..."
"Oh, no," Sterren says with a blush, "I wasn't thinking that at all."
"It's not a story I would hear sung of me in the taverns," he says with a smile.
"I...I won't tell anyone," Sterren promises, blushing again.
"I've taken countless injuries, but never have they been tended to by such gentle hands," he says, taking her hands in his, "What is your name?"
"I am Sterren. Sterren Avendale," she tells him, nearly quaking at his touch. Even with his bruises, he's the handsomest man she's ever laid eyes on, and for such a renowned warrior, his manner with her is so gentle, so tender...
"Sterren," he says her name, like he means to remember it forever, "I haven't the gold with me to pay you for your service. I must go now, see to my men who are fallen, and return to my father, who will be worried. But I will return in a few days time, to see you paid, this I promise."
"Oh, that's not necessary," Sterren says, her voice grown fluttery as he continues to hold her hands in his, "I would never leave a wounded man to die from his injuries. You don't need to pay me for an act of kindness."
"I must have some excuse to visit you again, lovely Sterren," Reinier says with a laugh, letting go of her hands to dress himself before taking his leave.
"Morvyn! My love!" Gaelle gasps in surprise as her lover appears suddenly from behind the trees, "I was so afraid for you, after those men came..." Gaelle had fled at his insistence, and had spent the morning in fear for his life, too terrified to even return to the Lady's tomb to see for herself whether he lived or died.
"And you are well? Unhurt?" Morvyn asks.
"I am fine," Gaelle assures him, "But look at you, your eye..."
"It's nothing. I came to see you were well. Now I must go."
"Wait!" she pleads.
Morvyn caresses her cheeks, "Just being here with you now, in broad daylight, is a risk," he says, "Your father would not be pleased to see you with a savage, would he?" Never mind what his own family would have to say if they knew he'd taken a mortal girl for a lover. "We'll have to find another place to meet at night. When I find somewhere safe, I'll find you," he promises, and runs off before he can be seen.
"I was just delivering a potion to the Brannon farm," Sterren says, coming on Gaelle as she returns to the village, "Treveur asked me about you." Her smile is teasing, as it's well known in the village that young Treveur Brannon had being paying her court these past months, and all were in anticipation of a great wedding feast.
Gaelle does her best to respond to the teasing as she would have just a month ago, before her wildling lover had changed her mind about her future prospects, when the idea of marriage to Treveur was the only thing on her mind. For Sterren's part, the playful teasing is her way of expressing her own romantic giddiness without revealing her secret visitor and they way he held her hands and called her lovely, promising to return to see her again.
The house my dragons are living in is made from the Outskirts of Wyzima Tavern by VeraJ. Her lot is originally a community lot dive bar, so I made many changes to make it a residential lot for my dragons.
I wanted the dragons to develop alongside human culture, but to also be visually different from the human style, and her lot, based on a location in the Witcher, a medieval-esque rpg game, did that perfectly.
Of course, I didn't include any exterior shots of the dragon lodge in this chapter, but, sooner or later, I will.
The human village is Candletown, by candlelight82. Again, I've made many changes, adding more medieval CC and stuff from SN.
The world I'm using is Rownshire, and empty world suitable for any medieval/ancient setting, by Macthecat. I'm still using the v.2 version, I only just noticed v.3 now. It looks awesome.
Also, a shout out to my friend Aeon, for the poses. I use lots of poses by lots of creators in all my stories, but this chapter is particularly dependent on Aeon's poses, so I thought it would be nice to credit him especially and give the link. And a plug for his story, the Annals of Simopia, which I think readers of Summerdream would enjoy.