This story is
written as a tribute to Skinnydragon,
a writer who was taken from us far too soon.
Rumors came one Summer day—there was a dragon that moved into the area in the hills south of the castle. My father was the dragon-hunter par-excellence—which is why I decided to answer the call rather than wait for him to return from his hunt in the coastal kingdom to our west. I was just fifteen years old, and had been practicing the manly arts with him for eight years, so I had no doubt I was ready for the task. I went into the armoury to prepare my equipage: my brand-new long sword, the slightly battered kite-shield emblazoned with a dragon lying on its back pierced with a lance...and an old set of plate-and-helm that I'd worked over `til it shone silver in the afternoon sun—I'd grow into it in another year or two.
My horse was a grey beast from a long line of battle-mounts, but though well-trained, was as yet untried. He knew the drills of charge, swerve, evade, rear and back-away as well as I knew mine—we just needed real experience to prove our valor. I was young and cocky, knew all the legends of dragon lore, and felt more than ready, so I set out over the protestations of my mother, with a lance borrowed from my father and a saddle-bag containing provisions for several meals.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
The ride up into the hills was longer than I thought it would be—I forgot to ask the messenger how long it had taken him to reach our castle—and I was sweating under the weight of my armour and padding; at least the lance could rest in the socket included in Bruno's tack—I think my arm would have fallen off if I'd actually had to carry the damn thing all day. For about the tenth time I swigged water from the flask hanging from my saddle-horn, and only after the rocking of the saddle under me had gone on for several more hours did I encounter my first problem: sweating wasn't enough to get rid of the extra fluids I'd been drinking—I had to piss bad.
And thus came my second problem: stiff muscles and sore thighs from such a long ride. I looked bow-legged as I dismounted, and staggered when I hit the ground under a shady grove of oaks. I came close to pissing myself before I could unfasten my armour and pull my tool out into the open. In another hour, close to sunset, we came to the village near our quarry's reputed lair, and I entered the tavern to seek accommodation for the night. When I announced I was there to slay their dragon, I met blank stares, and not a few smiles.
They didn't believe I was a fully-trained questor...even when I told them my name: Guy d'Colombo. "We sent for your father—and though you look like him—we need a seasoned man." I didn't miss the added emphasis on the last word, nor the inn-keeper's statement that it would be a silver for room and board, and two for my horse. The price was twice what it would cost anywhere else except the capital, and I knew my purse contained only fifteen coppers. I knew it would do no good to point out that I was there at their request, since I technically wasn't—nor that it was tradition that a questor be housed freely and pay upon completion of the task. I let the man gouge me for a flask of wine and a loaf of bread, then rode further up into the hills in a foul mood.
This wasn't how my first dragon hunt was supposed to go.
I made a meager camp at the shore of a small lake, built my fire, and stripped down to swim. Bruno munched his grassy dinner as I lay on my blanket to drink the wine and chew the bread from the inn. As the wine disappeared, my mood improved, and I watched the stars wheel overhead on this moonless night. The dragon was somewhere in these hills, but I had no further clues as to his whereabouts, so I felt safe in taking advantage of the darkness and solitude of my lonely camp. A young man has to do what a young man has to do, and the wine didn't hurt. I was fully engaged when a soft laugh broke the night's cricket-chorus.
"That's quite a lance you have, Young Questor—and it seems you know how to use it!" The voice came from behind a screen of trees to my right, but I couldn't see anything move in the dark. It sounded close to my own age—likely one of the village boys—so I invited him to come closer and share my fire, and the remains of my wine. A questor needs a handy squire, I thought with a surge of renewed interest in my former pleasures. Truth be told, I had no interest in girls as yet, and one didn't fit into the life I planned for myself.
My breath caught in my throat as a figure stepped into what flickering light my fire gave off—a lithe youth, tall and pale with flowing hair—and entirely naked. The closer he came, the more I felt something inside myself...something new...an attraction and an almost visceral need for this stranger. His smile made my heart flutter, and his eyes—which seemed colorless in the night—drew mine like a lodestone. I could easily lose myself in their depths, and not care at all. "Why do you hunt dragon-kind," he whispered as he sank down next to me. I took a sip of the wine and passed it to him.
"It's my work—it's what I'm trained for..." He ran a finger over my chest, just above where my heart raced frantically. I shivered at the touch, far more exciting than that of anyone else I'd known until now.
"And yet—it's not what you want to do...you like hearing the old stories and legends, and singing the ballads of distant lands." How did he know that? It had been my secret desire from my earliest days at my mother's knee. I shivered again as his finger drew a lazy circle on my nipple, then drew a line up to caress my lips, then my cheek, and finally coming to rest in the blond hairs at my temple. "I too, enjoy those things—and there is much I could teach you."
This apparition—still nameless—stretched out by my side, firm and yet softly smooth. One hand stroked my brow into delicious languor, while the other outlined each muscle on my abdomen and hips. When he got to my most rigid muscle, his breath washed my cheek as he began a long story I'd not heard before. It concerned a boy named David who found his life changed when he met another called Michael. It was full of sorrow, and regret as the first tried to fight his unexpected feelings for the other, and the reactions of the people around him which drove him to deny his own nature until he almost killed himself...but it ended happily when the two set aside their doubts and came to embrace what they'd known all along was right for their future.
"Your father is respected because he followed his dream—he performs a vital service for both human- and dragon-kind. He has learned the secret lore of our race, not just the common myths..." My companion's fingers were now fondling the source of my essence, alternating with my ever-erect staff...causing my thoughts to center on release more than the words uttered like a caress into my ear.
"Our...you're..." I couldn't make sense out of his words, not with the wine and what his hands were doing to my groin. I didn't know why, but that he was the one doing it just felt right. My heart told me it had found a match in this enigmatic starlit figure.
"As with humans, there are rogue dragons who must be culled for everyone's sake, so the Questor came into being. The common dragons—green, red and brown, are more prone to this madness, while the rarer such as the solar and lunar are resistant, and act as `rulers' for the rest. All our kind breed true, unless they mate with one of another type...then you get...sports—something most rare."
I was gasping now as his fingers drew me closer to the peak of my desire, then he shifted to lay his body on top of mine, eyes opening into eyes, mouths nearing to share a gentle kiss...and finally, chest to chest and hip to hip. I couldn't possibly get any stiffer, and yet...I did...under the surprising weight of his seemingly slim body. This close, I could see his eyes were silver and his hair almost colorless, like his skin. Our hearts beat like fiery coals in our chests, then merged as one, and a sensuous euphoria engulfed my yearning soul. "Open to me, my love..."
It was only when I surrendered my inner self to this supernal spirit that I understood: visions filled my head—visions of generations of dragons in both draconian and human forms. I didn't know they could shift like that—then I saw my parents mating after my mother took on the face I'd always known. She was a golden dragon? I felt the world begin to crumble around me, then a wave of reassurance and love held me, and I felt strong arms encircle my sweating body.
"Yes, your spirit is that of a dragon, though you cannot shift since your father is human." I felt a sense of loss hearing that...like I'd been denied something precious. "That spirit is what drew me to you tonight—a dragon's heart knows its mate, and must search until they find one another..."
I saw one last image of my lover bathed in starlight, reflecting off his scales in myriad points of white fire, wings spread as if to take flight...sinuously long, but slender...by far the skinniest dragon I'd ever seen. And next to him, one arm stroking the space between moon-shot eyes, was me!
I wanted this more than anything in my life...more than anything I could ever imagine. "How?" I croaked hoarsely. I didn't even know his name, but our lives were one, and always would be: Questor and Squire, or Bard and Singer, it didn't matter. Side by side, so long as we lived.
"...Come with me..." he whispered—and I did. The spell was complete.
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