Caoimhe nestled in her bed. It was warm and soft, a far improvement over the one she had shared with Oisin in their previous home. Their farmhouse was small, but more than adequate for their needs and offered more privacy and autonomy than they had enjoyed when they lived in the Cave of Tears. Caoimhe and her husband had been a part of a small community of humans who had found safety in a sea cavern that was reputed to have once been the last stronghold of dragons.
Over the years, the society of human refugees had evolved into artisans, fishermen, and more. As the great wolf packs banished the marauding mutants from all of Britannia and Eire, the people of their village began to venture out to cultivate fields and establish themselves upon the rich, fertile farmlands. Oisin and Caoimhe were one such couple.
No one paid much attention to the stories, but Caoimhe had always wondered about the shards of thin crystals that were found throughout the cavern system. Shortly after she had married Oisin, Caoimhe had found what appeared to be a large egg made from the same crystalline structure. She had polished it with a soft cloth and used it to decorate their small space. When she and Oisin had decided to try to make a go of it up on the land above the bluffs, she had packed it amongst their things and brought it with them.
The couple had not been blessed with children and so the small farmhouse suited them. They had worked hard not only to cultivate their land but to purchase and begin to raise livestock, most notably sheep from which they got milk, that Caoimhe made into prize-winning cheeses, as well as their fleeces and meat. When not helping Oisin with the back-breaking work of preparing their fields, Caoimhe had worked to make their little house a warm, comfortable home. She had placed the egg on the hearth by the fire, where it reflected the light in a cascade of color all around the main room.
Caoimhe knew that having finished shearing the sheep, Oisin would be tired. She also knew he had loving on his mind as he had headed her toward their bed with a longer caress along her backside, saying he wanted to wash up before joining her there. She smiled; Oisin was considerate that way. Unlike some, her husband had always taken great pains to see that she enjoyed their relations and tonight was no different. She hoped he wouldn’t tarry too long as her body had begun aching for his touch.
Her thoughts were interrupted as she felt him crawl up onto the bed, humming in a way he knew she found seductive. Oisin turned back the covers and slipped in beside her, chuckling as he found she was as naked as he.
“So, my wife would ask that her poor, tired husband who has toiled all day shearing their sheep now see to her wanton needs and desires?” he asked in a low, rumbling voice that still caused her to shiver with desire.
Caoimhe reached out and grasped his hard, throbbing shaft.
“Aye, my lord, she would. But I think you exaggerate your weariness for what I hold in my hand feels more than adequate to the job required.”
Laughing, Oisin said, “Perhaps you are right. I find my weariness evaporating in the wake of my ever expanding need to sink my shaft in your wet heat.”
Arranging her on her back, Oisin removed her hand from his cock, as he rolled on top of her, neatly parting her legs with his own. He positioned his staff so that it was perfectly aligned with her sheath, grasping her hips and tilting them so he could mount her in one smooth, sure stroke.
Caoimhe arched her body into his, moaning in response to his possession. She clung to him as he began plunging into her, thrusting in and out and savoring his attention. He held her still as he plundered her relentlessly, seeming to revel in her response—her fingers clutching the muscles of his back, her body trembling, and her pussy quivering. She felt it begin to contract all up and down his staff, as he drove into her with long, hard strokes.
She felt her body stiffen in anticipation of her impending orgasm. Her breath sped up, and the noises she was making became whimpers and then a cry of exultation as her climax overwhelmed her. Oisin showed no signs of joining in her rapture, continuing to thrust within her. His mouth captured hers as his tongue danced inside it. He nipped her lower lip before burying his head, beneath her hair, in the crook of her neck.
Oisin’s fingers flexed along her buttocks, holding her steady as he continued to extract all of the pleasure he could from her. Caoimhe orgasmed again as she bit down to keep from screaming, something she had learned to do when they lived in the cavern where privacy was mostly an illusion. Harder and faster he pummeled her pussy as he called forth one climax after another until it seemed they all blended into one never-ending orgasm that left her writhing beneath him.
“Oisin,” she screamed as she climaxed again.
She knew he enjoyed hearing her call his name, understanding he had wrested all control of her response. She reveled in his lovemaking, beginning to feel him begin to strive for his own gratification. She felt his cock thicken, filling with cum before he began spilling himself. Her pussy responded by clamping down and milking every last drop. Caoimhe loved the feeling of her sheath being bathed in his essence; she only wished she had been able to provide his seed with the fertile ground needed to produce a child. It was the only mar in their joyful consummation and life. Sensing her disquiet, Oisin nuzzled her and captured her mouth, bruising her lips with his as his cock throbbed and twitched, spurting out the last remnants of his seed.
“Shh,” he quieted.
“I just wish…”
“I know, sweetheart, but if it is never to be, I am content. You complete me in every way and have brought such great happiness to my life that I want for nothing,” he said, rolling to his back and drawing her close.
Caoimhe snuggled against him as he stroked her body to comfort her. While she always reveled in their lovemaking, she often times experienced a bit of sadness, which Oisin understood and did his best to dispel. They lay quietly together, each lost in their own thoughts, until they heard a loud cracking noise coming from the main room. Oisin quietly disengaged from her and grabbed his trousers, pulling them on.
“Stay here and get dressed quietly,” he whispered. “If I don’t give you the all clear or come back in a matter of moments, you are to slip out the window and hide yourself in the fields until you can make your way back to the cavern.”
“I won’t go without you.”
“You will do as I say,” he hissed before picking up the ancient musket and creeping toward the main room.
Her heart clutching in her chest, she watched as he swept the room with the musket, scanning the semi-darkness for signs of an intruder. Oisin entered the room and lit several candles to illuminate the small space. Caoimhe didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath until she heard him catch his own before calling to her.
“It’s all right, sweetheart. Everything is fine, but I think your egg preferred the dark, cold cavern.”
Caoimhe pulled on her nightgown and rushed to the beautiful object, trying not to let her anguish show. The egg had been a memento of their first home together, of the place they had met and fallen in love. Oisin was right; a crack had developed from the top tip and was starting to run down one side. She reached out and touched the irregular surface of the crystals, feeling the elevated temperature as fissures developed all along the surface.
“Perhaps I should have listened to you,” she said. “But it always looked so pretty in the firelight.”
“Maybe if I move it away from the fire, we can find a way to put it back together.”
Oisin reached out for it but recoiled when his fingertips made contact with the heated surface. Caoimhe watched in dismay as the shell continued to crackle and small shards began to snap and fall away. Not knowing what else to do, they stood with their arms wrapped around each other as the object continued to reflect the light from the banked fire and seemed to develop an interior glow of its own. The crackling became louder as more and more of the egg began to break apart. Along with the sound from the shell disintegrating, they began to hear another sound… the quiet cries of what sounded like a baby. They glanced at each other and both jumped back as a small fist emerged through the upper half of the egg.
Caoimhe tried to rush forward, but Oisin held her back.
“What witchcraft is this?” he cried, clearly alarmed.
“It’s not witchcraft, Oisin, it’s a baby,” she said, disengaging from him and moving toward it.
Caoimhe reached out with her finger to touch the tiny fist, which reacted by opening and grasping her finger within it. Instead of being frightened, Caoimhe was fascinated and delighted. She moved closer and began to flick away bits of shell as they cracked. Little by little, the shards fell away and revealed a small baby within. She was tiny but appeared to be strong. Caoimhe reached down to the hearth and picked up the small infant, bringing her to her chest. The babe kneaded Caoimhe’s ample breasts but could not get to the nipple hiding behind her gown. As she had not given birth, Caoimhe knew she had no milk to offer.
“Quick, get some of the sheep’s milk in the cooler and bring it over here to heat.”
“What?” Oisin asked.
“She’s looking for food and I have none of my own to give her. She needs to eat.”
“She? How do you know what it wants?”
“She’s a baby, obviously a little girl, and she is instinctively looking to suckle. Get me the milk.”
“We don’t even know what that thing is…”
Caoimhe whirled on her husband, the babe held close.
“She is an innocent baby that the gods have placed in our care, perhaps in answer to our prayers. I, for one, will not turn my back on such a gift. If you will not help me, then I will get her food without your assistance.”
“No. You keep her warm by the fire. I’ll make something to use as a feeder for Míorúilt while the milk warms.”
“She has to have a name, and as you point out, the gods gave her to us. She is our own miracle, so Míorúilt seems a fitting name.”
Caoimhe smiled at him and cooed to the baby, Oisin went about heating the milk and using a small water flask, to which he affixed an artificial nipple, to make something the baby could suck from. Once it was finished, she thought he looked rather pleased with himself as he filled it with the heated milk and handed it to her. The tiny infant began to suckle with vigor, seeming to find the nipple Oisin had fashioned to her liking. Caoimhe made herself comfortable on the floor, Oisin sitting behind her, cradling both her and the babe in his arms. When Míorúilt had finished her meal, Caoimhe went about the task of examining her and found that for all intents and purposes, she seemed human.
Caoimhe gently washed her and fashioned some cloths to act as diapers. When she was finished, she looked up to find that Oisin was in the midst of modifying the half barrel they had used to contain firewood into a snug crib for the infant. He had ensured that all the rough edges were covered.
“I can build her a proper cradle in the next few days, but for now, this can work.”
“A proper cradle is it?” she teased.
Oisin grinned at her. “No daughter of mine is going to be sleeping in a kindling carrier… well, not for long anyway.”
“Then we can keep her?”
“Aye,” he said. “You’re right, the gods gifted her to us and trusted that we would care for her as our own.”
“How will we explain her?”
“Don’t you fret. No one has seen us in months and Míorúilt is small. We will simply say she was born prematurely and that we believe she survived because she is special. There will be no one to dispute that and our friends will be overjoyed that at last our prayers have been answered.”
And so it was that Oisin and Caoimhe welcomed their daughter, Míorúilt, into the world. Oisin had been right. No one questioned the appearance of the small baby who seemed to grow like any normal child. Over the passing years, her parents never told her of her true origins, but Caoimhe did tell the girl the stories of the dragons and their Cave of Tears where her parents had first come together as one.
“But, Mama, why did you and Papa live with others in a cave?” Míorúilt asked one sunny afternoon while she helped her mother make cheese.
“Because after the great plague, the world was not safe for humans. Mutants roamed the land killing and raping and trying to use human females to breed. Eventually, the great wolf-shifter packs began to reemerge and slowly but surely drove the mutants from our shores and established a culture of civility and law.”
“Do the wolves want to breed human females?”
Caoimhe shook her head. “Not for the most part, although they say some male wolves are called to their fated mate and if she is human, they change her to one of their kind.”
“But what if the woman doesn’t want to change?”
Caoimhe laughed. “Most men, human and wolf alike, do not much concern themselves with what a woman wants.”
“That doesn’t sound fair,” Míorúilt protested.
“It isn’t, but it is the way of the world,” said Oisin, interrupting them to get a drink of cold water. “That is why good little girls obey their fathers and do not stray from their homes.”
Míorúilt rolled her eyes. “You just say that so I’ll obey you.”
Oisin nodded. “Partly, but also because it’s true. I will not let anyone force you and will keep you and your mother safe for as long as there is breath in my body.”
Míorúilt hopped up and hugged her father close.
“I know you will, Papa. But are our lands really that dangerous?”
“More so than they used to be. The pack that once ruled here has fallen into disarray and fractured into thirds when the last alpha died leaving no clear-cut heir. They have been too busy fighting amongst themselves to worry about those of us who live beyond the confines of their keeps. The island wolves seemed to have fared the worst and what was once a great castle has now fallen to ruin both from fighting and the ravages of the wind and the ocean.”
“Mama says that the island and its keep was once the stronghold of the last of the dragons.”
Oisin shook his head. “Your mother has some fanciful notions. But yes, they say it was once the fortress of the green dragon, Tiarna Na Farraige or Lord of the Seas. But once the dragons were gone, it rose and fell with the fortunes of humans, mutants, and wolf-shifters. Now it sits isolated and alone, a glorious relic of a long-forgotten past.” He reached out and stroked his daughter’s dark, shimmering hair. “You are growing into such a beauty, your poor papa is going to have his hands full beating back the proper suitors for your hand, much less mutants or marauding shifters.”
Míorúilt smiled at him and rubbed her cheek against the palm of his hand. She was happy with everything the way it was, but knew she was now at an age when she would be expected to find an appropriate suitor and marry. But, how could she? Her parents knew nothing of the dark warrior who had begun to invade her dreams. When he had first appeared, she’d feared for his safety as she watched him in battle, his mighty sword swinging through the air as he fought his way toward some goal she did not understand. In the ones she’d begun to have since she had matured, he crawled into her bed, growling seductively before working his way up from her feet so that his body was parallel over hers. He would lock gazes with her, slowly lowering himself so that he breached her thighs with his own, lining up his hard cock with her pulsing sheath, driving into her and shattering her virginity.
Míorúilt knew that she should not be having such dreams. The elders cautioned the girls of their village to guard their maidenheads as a gift to be given only to their husbands, but she knew that her parents both enjoyed the physical side of their relationship. Her mother spoke far more candidly to her than her friends’ mothers did to them. While Caoimhe told her it was best to remain chaste until she was married, she also let her know there was nothing wrong in a woman reveling in the lovemaking she shared with her husband.
Míorúilt often told herself that like the wolf-shifters, perhaps she too had a fated mate and the warrior from her dreams was he. She wondered if maybe her future mate was a wolf-shifter and if he would turn her into something other than human. It was only in the darkest hours of the night that she questioned why the thought of not being human didn’t frighten her.
Over the years, the village and the outlying farms experienced a mostly peaceful existence. When there was trouble, they banded together and found solutions or beat back trouble that came their way. Mostly living without any kind of overlord left them with a freedom many would never know. But when a band of rogue shifters began to raid various farms, those in the community feared for their safety and petitioned the closest wolf pack for protection. Their entreaties were met with indifference.
Some of the wolves simply drove the owners of the farms off their lands and took over. Others raided for what they wanted, be it goods or women. The latter normally used the women to ease their lust and then left. There were several stories though of some rogue wolves who wanted the farms for themselves and stayed behind, claiming and turning a captured female and forcing her to be their mate. These shifters were ostracized by the other villagers, but that seemed to matter little to them.
Míorúilt’s father cautioned her to stay close to the farm, but Míorúilt had always loved to wander not only in their fields, but along the rocky cliffs that served as a border between the farm and the sea. She often found herself staring at the castle ruins along what was now an island, but had once been a headland. Time, wind, and the ocean itself had laid siege to the abandoned fortress after it had fallen in battle. Míorúilt thought about the great cavern system her parents had described as a sanctuary when the world had been unsafe for humans.
Late one evening, the sun set on the far horizon, turning the darkening sky to various shades of purple and magenta. Míorúilt sat watching the inky blackness descend only to be lit up as the stars began to peek out of the veil. This was her favorite time of day. Her chores were done and she knew her mother would be cooking supper. It was her time to be alone and dream of what her future might hold. Taking a last, long look and gathering her things, Míorúilt began to make her way back to her parents’ farm.
The first hint that anything might be amiss came when she saw an orange glow from where she knew the farmhouse and barn were located. She dropped what she had been carrying and ran to see the source of what she was sure was a large fire. Instead of finding one of the main buildings on fire, Míorúilt stopped short as she saw her parents’ bodies backlit by a large bonfire burning brightly in a macabre dance. They had been tied to a pole at the top of the bonfire. She could see they were not moving; the stench of charred flesh reached her nostrils and she retched. Dropping to her knees, she hugged herself as her stomach emptied itself.
“Did you see something… at the top of the hill?” she heard one of the marauders call.
Míorúilt could hear the men below bustling together and heading in her direction. She knew she should flee, but to where? There was nothing but open field between her current position and the sea cliff. If they were the rogue wolf-shifters, they could change to their wolf selves and run her down. She had nothing with which to protect herself except for her father’s long knife that she often took with her when she was going to be off by herself. He had taught her to use it with skill. She knew she couldn’t defend herself against all of them, but she meant to make a good account of herself before joining her parents in the afterlife. She knew one thing for certain; she would not allow herself to be taken against her will.
She heard the raiders scrambling up the hill and egging each other on.
“Whoa ho! What do we have here?” one of them taunted.
Grabbing his crotch, one of the men next to him said, “A tasty bit of sweetness…”
“I’ll bet she’s still a maid,” called another as they began to surround her.
“Are you, little one? Is your maidenhead still intact?”
She could hear the lust growing in their voices. They carried torches so she could see the hunger and viciousness on their faces.
“She might be worth keeping,” said one.
Míorúilt fell into a defensive stance and prepared to defend herself well enough that they would have to kill her. She meant to make as many of them pay for her parents’ murder as she could. Míorúilt was unprepared for the snap of the whip as it snaked out and disarmed her. With a feral squeal of victory, several of the wolf-shifters started toward her. Terrified, the darkness that always seemed to be lurking at the edges of her mind, and which she had attributed to the warrior of her dreams, leapt to the fore.
She spun around to confront those closest to her and roared in defiance. She hadn’t even known she was capable of making such a sound. But more alarming, and far more effective, was the stream of fire that blazed through her lips, not harming her, but engulfing several of those who threatened her in flames.
Their screams of agony split the night as they fell away. Several of the others turned to run, while a few of the bolder members of the rogue pack shifted to their wolf form and charged.
Míorúilt confronted them and spewed a more controlled stream of fire in a line between her and them. The attackers that had been at her back fled and Míorúilt whirled around and darted toward the cliff through the opening their departure had left in those that encircled her. Not sure of her own plan, she ran, hearing the rogue wolves gaining on her—their jaws snapping in expectation, their growls filled with lust and violence. She ran as fast as her legs would carry her, but knew she would not be fast enough. She stopped midway to the edge of the bluff and turned back to confront those who pursued her.
She watched as they charged toward her. Somewhere in the back of her mind, the darkness fluttered, urging her to let go of her humanity. Míorúilt thought it was calling for her either to surrender herself to rape and death or to throw herself from the cliff. No sooner had the thought formed than a mighty black dragon revealed itself, rearing on its hind legs and beating its impressive wings. It dropped to all fours and galloped toward the front of her conscious mind. She let go of her own free will and felt her body shift as the dragon emerged from her being.
Míorúilt had no time for any reflection or recognition other than that she had become one of the dragons of her mother’s stories. The dragon within sounded a ferocious warning as it spewed death in the form of a multicolored flame. Several more of her pursuers fell and Míorúilt turned back to the precipice and galloped toward it. Her wings unfurled and spread as she picked up speed. She felt her wings beat in time to her stride and her feet lifted off the earth. Míorúilt sailed over the edge of bluff and felt the ocean air beneath her wings as she soared upward and banked back toward her attackers and the only home she’d ever known.
Flying back, she rained fire down on the marauders who still remained. Their deaths were instantaneous and silent. She flew back to the farm and in an expression of rage and grief, blasted all that remained until there was nothing left but scorched earth. She flew for hours, circling all that remained of the happy life she had led. Finally, she flew to the enormous rock outcropping at the top of the hill, overlooking her parents’ farm. Managing to land, Míorúilt considered her next move. She had shifted into a dragon without having given it much thought… was she trapped in this form for the rest of her life? She tried to remember all the stories her mother had told her. Surely if she could shift from human to dragon, she could make the switch back. As she focused on the things her mother had shared, she began to feel a change in her limbs and watched, in fascination, as they changed before her eyes. Once the transformation was complete, she discovered that she was naked with no trace of her clothes. She realized she would need to remedy that and keep it in mind if she were ever to shift again. Shaking her head at the new intricacies in her life, she began to make her way down the face of the rocks.
Míorúilt staggered from the rocks in a state of anger, hurt, and disbelief and approached the charred remains of her mother and father. She caught her breath and forced herself not to be sick. She picked through what tools she could find lying in the dirt. She found a large, mostly intact shovel and headed away from the site of her parents’ massacre. Míorúilt moved to their favorite place—the top of a hill, under a large tree, that overlooked what little was left of the place she had once called home. She began to dig their grave. She knew most people would have dug two separate ones, but she always remembered her parents being together.
So many mornings as a child she had crawled into bed and snuggled between them. As she got older and came to understand what went on in the marital bed, she allowed them their privacy and passion. Míorúilt remembered the loving glances and touches and catching her parents kissing and embracing each other. When she thought of them, she always thought of them together. She would bury them so they could lie together for all time.
Returning to the now dwindling bonfire, she cut her parents down and found an iron box her father had brought with him from the Cave of Tears before she was born. In it she managed to salvage a lace tablecloth that her mother had treasured as well as a pair of breeches, a shirt, and boots. Míorúilt managed to get their bodies laid out on the material and then dragged them to the grave she had prepared for them. She lowered them as gently as she could into the ground. A small sparkle caught her eye. It was her mother’s pendant.
Míorúilt smiled softly, remembering her father gifting the gem to her mother. She had chastised him for spending the coin to have it made, but he had insisted, and she had relented. It was a dome-shaped piece of stone that was thin, blue, and covered with crystals. As a child, Míorúilt had been fascinated by it. Once her father had placed it around her mother’s neck, Caoimhe had never removed it. Míorúilt found it interesting that it appeared to be untouched by the fire. She removed it to take as a keepsake of her parents’ love. Covering them with the tablecloth, she took a deep breath and began to fill the grave.
When she was finished, she dressed herself and found a small reticule into which she placed her mother’s pendant and a small silver pitcher. Turning away, she started down the hill. She wondered if she could shift back into the dragon, and if so, how? The first time had been purely instinctual, fueled by adrenalin and a need to save herself. Trying to recall if her mother had ever given any hint as to how one shifted into a dragon, she could think of nothing. She remembered that while she had been terrified before, the dragon had seemed to call to her to let go of her physical being and allow it to come forward. Could she do the same? Remembering the loss of her clothes, she removed them and placed them in the bundle of things she would take with her from this place.
Míorúilt breathed deeply and tried to still her mind, allowing a certain kind of peace to wash over her. With it came the formation of a dark shape, which quickly morphed into that of the dragon. With her inner voice, she summoned it to the forefront of her consciousness. Once again, she could feel her body shift as the dragon claimed her being. She picked up her meager belongings and started to trot and then run, picking up speed as she beat her wings and felt her feet leave the ground as she took flight.
Turning away from the ruins of what had been her home, Míorúilt followed the ribbon of moonlight out toward the ruins of the island fortress. She would be safe there for the night. She would figure out what to do come morning. Her father had always told her that most problems seemed far less troublesome in the light of day. At the thought of her murdered parents, her heart clutched, and she felt her wings falter. She stretched them back out, surprised that she knew how to respond, and allowed herself to glide upon the air currents as she made her way to the ruined stronghold.
Míorúilt circled the island, at first from a high and wide arc and then spiraling down until her clawed feet almost skimmed the tops of the waves. She could see the moonlit ruins, which must have been beautiful at one time. She found a wide-open spot in what once must have been a large bailey and tried to land with a modicum of grace. That, however, was not to be. While flying had been instinctive and glorious, her first attempt at landing, other than to perch as she had on the rock face, had been awkward at best. All four feet seemed to go in different directions as she touched down and her back feet seemed to go faster than her front. They overran and tripped her front feet and she found her nose digging a furrow in the dirt before she fell over, the inertia causing her to roll several feet. She was almost glad when her crash landing was stopped by one of the few remaining solid walls. Otherwise, she might have fallen into the turbulent seas that crashed all around the small island. Míorúilt wasn’t sure whether or not dragons could swim but felt a dark night in a stormy ocean was not the time to find out.
She felt her body shift back to human as she came to rest against the stones that formed the outer perimeter of the castle. It was a bit disconcerting to find herself naked again, but she thought it was a small price to pay for the gift of being the last dragon shifter. She opened her small bag and removed the only clothing she had to her name, dressing quickly. It was chilly and no one had lived on the island in hundreds, if not thousands, of years. She made a cursory look around but, as expected, found nothing. She realized that as she could breathe fire, lighting kindling and logs to make something by which she could warm herself would be easy. The thought both comforted and amused her. Míorúilt gathered the wood and created a ring of stones with a sand base to create her fire in. Once it was stacked correctly, she blew a controlled stream of flame and set the wood ablaze. The heat felt good as she rubbed her hands in front of it and then rubbed her warmed hands all over her body.
Once she had chased the chill from her bones, she curled into a small ball beside the fire and closed her eyes, but sleep was elusive. And in its absence, her tears began to fall. She wept for her parents and for herself. Gone was any future she might have once imagined. Who would want a dragon girl for a wife? All of the dragons were gone so there would be no mate for her. Had her parents known she was a dragon? Was that the reason her mother had filled her imagination with stories of dragons? Were one or both of her parents a dragon? Hadn’t her mother once told her that for a time she and her father had lived in the Cave of Tears? She had always valued the open and honest relationship she had with her parents. If they had known and kept it from her… what else had they been hiding?
Dunnet Head, Scotland
Kellan stood on the ramparts of his home, Raicleach Castle. He knew it was Raicleach, even though it was in ruins. What had once been stately fortifications and elegant gardens was, in his dream, a ruin of crumbling stone with only portions of wall and floor to designate where the great keep had stood. He could smell the ocean that was an integral part of his home. When he had lived there, the castle had been separated from the mainland by a peninsula; it now appeared to be an island. He heard the cry of a dragon… a female dragon.
How could that be? Neeva had been the last of their females and her scales had been an azure blue as she had been turned by Duncan, Lord of the Skies. Turned females were always the color of their clan. He searched the heavens above and spotted a black dragon, a dark shadow on the sunlit sky. Only dragon-born females were black. He galloped toward the edge of the island and flapped his wings as he lifted off to join her in the sky. This was his sky and she would answer to him. His roar split the sky and seemed to startle her. Instead of heeding his call, she began to gain altitude in order, he suspected, to hide among the clouds.
She was no warrior; her flight was graceful but lacked true power and if she thought to conceal herself within the veils of billowy white, he would show her the foolishness of her plan. He watched as she disappeared, her dark color concealed by the bright white. Kellan gently breathed a weakened stream of fire and burned away her hiding place. He rumbled his amusement as she responded in the way of a bashful maid stripped naked on her wedding night for her lord and master’s perusal prior to breeding.
Foolish girl, he thought as she put herself into a steep dive and headed for the cliffs. He watched as she banked so that she flew parallel to the rocks. She had put herself on a vulnerable flight path and as Kellan closed in he meant to get the answers to his questions. He swooped down, flying directly over her and allowing his wings to brush against hers, sending her tumbling toward the beach. As she hit the sand, the impact caused her to shift. Kellan remained in his dragon form and grasped her in his rear claws, flying her to the ruins of his keep.
Landing, he released her only long enough to shift himself. His brilliant blue eyes swept over her curves. As she had when he had removed her cloud covering, she now blushed and tried to hide her luscious body from his sight.
He seized her wrists in one of his large hands. “You will not hide yourself from me,” he commanded. “I am Kellan, Lord of the Seas.”
She struggled against him. “Let go of me.”
He smiled, feeling his cock begin to harden in response to her loveliness. “I think not. Who are you?”
“No one who wants anything to do with you.”
“That is not your choice. You are a female of breeding age and I am in need of a mate.”
He inhaled deeply. Her scent carried not only that of the ocean spray but the earthy, woodsy smell of moss and clover with just a hint of wisteria. It was the most intoxicating aroma he had ever experienced and made his cock stiffen until it was fully erect. He watched as it caught her interest and she increased her struggles. His smile broadened as the telltale scent of her arousal began to mingle with her unique perfume, causing her nipples to become beaded.
“That’s better,” he crooned, bringing up his finger to trail down the column of her neck to the hollow of her throat, descending along her breastbone. He resisted the temptation to fondle her ample breast as she seemed frightened.
“Take your hands off me,” she said, trying to sound brave.
The tone of her voice wavered between frightened and aroused, very much what he would expect from a virgin.
“Where did you come from, little one? My brothers and I believed we were the last of our kind. And yet here you are, ripe for the taking.”
She tugged against his strength. “I’m not anything for anyone’s taking.”
He chuckled again. “Ah, but you are, and I will be the one doing the taking.”
Kellan brought his hand up to cradle the back of her neck in his strong grasp and drew her forward. Forgetting her modesty, she brought both hands up to push ineffectively at his broad chest.
“Let go,” she said, her voice gaining in determination.
“No,” he said silkily as he drew her into his embrace, his cock pressing against her and seeking the entrance to her core of its own accord.
His mouth descended as he caught her parted lips in a fiery kiss that turned brutal as she renewed her struggles. The hand that was not holding her by the neck swept down her back and cupped her buttocks to pull her more tightly against him. His tongue pushed past her teeth and swept through her mouth, tasting and exploring. Gods, she was sweet and untried unless he had badly misjudged her. Kellan considered the fact that she was a virgin and reined in his lust. If she was to be his mate, he would prefer that she welcome his possession. As he relaxed the hold he had of her body, the female dragon reared back, butted her head in a fierce blow to his nose as her knee came up to connect in a less than loving manner with his balls. Kellan staggered back from the unexpected attack.
She wrenched herself from his grasp and turned to run from him. Before he could react, she had called forth her dragon, shifted, and was beating her wings in order to take flight. But Kellan was faster and far more effective as both a fighter and a flier. She had barely cleared the edge of the island than he was above and slightly in front of her. He grasped her by the shoulders in his powerful back claws and dove toward the sea. He submerged her under the waves for a moment and then pulled her back up sputtering and cursing. Kellan banked back to their home, for he had determined she could only be his true heart and deposited her on the ground.
Surrounding her in a ring of fire, he roared, “Shift!”
He wasn’t sure if it was obedience or merely being surprised by the speed with which he had recaptured and overpowered her, but she reverted to her human form and he did the same. Kellan advanced on her and she blew a stream of fire at him, nearly hitting her target. He sidestepped the flame and rushed her, knocking the wind from her as she hit the ground and his body fell on top of hers. Kellan’s mind registered the fact that he had a beautiful, naked female beneath him and responded accordingly. It would be so easy to simply pry her legs apart and take her maidenhead as he claimed her as his mate.
But his pride was stinging, and he thought she needed to be taught the first in what he felt would be many lessons in obeying him. Kellan rolled off her body and up onto his feet, pulling her up with him. He glanced toward the rubble of the walls and spotted what he was looking for… a flat rock upon which he could sit and take her over his knee. He dragged her kicking and screeching toward the stony bench. He idly wondered if her backside was as virginal as the rest of her. Kellan had to admit he liked the idea of being the first to discipline his mate almost as much as the thought of being the first to part her thighs and sink into her wet heat. He sniffed the air and was rewarded with the knowledge that her arousal had spiked.
Sitting down, he pulled her across his hard thigh as his cock began to rise, trapping her legs between his. “Now, mate, I will see to your lesson in obedience before I teach you what it is to be bred by your lord and master.”
“No,” she wailed as the palm of his hand made its first impact with her ivory backside.
He smiled at the rosy pink halo that surrounded his first strike. Kellan pressed her down across his lap as he began to apply his hand to her bare bottom in the same way his ancestors had disciplined their mates. Female dragons were notoriously difficult to tame and rule. They were fearless and, in many ways, equaled their male counterparts—they could fly and were often, due to their smaller size, more nimble and aerodynamic; they could breathe fire; and they were courageous and bold. But Kellan meant to make the woman he held in place yield to his mastery as he spanked her.
Kellan’s hand came crashing down on her bottom. He intended this first spanking to be memorable and harsh enough that she thought twice before misbehaving again. Although, truth to tell, he rather admired the fact that she possessed the courage not only to resist him, but to attack him. He heard her inhale sharply as he landed repeated swats that covered her entire backside. Kellan was certain that the spanking was painful, especially for someone who, he suspected, had never received one. The trick was in finding the middle ground that would establish his dominance and inflame her already present desire.
His mate kicked her legs and tried to squirm away, but failed miserably. Kellan peppered her backside until he was quite certain it would be as red as the sunsets that often streaked across the western sky when he finished. He longed to feel her heated globes in his hands as he allowed his cock to pummel her pussy, driving both of them into a frenzy of lust. He’d forgotten how much pleasure and arousal could be found in spanking a woman’s bottom. Kellan could tell that not only was he inflicting a sufficient level of pain to be effective, but he was able to fan the flames of her desire, which he sensed were beginning to burn out of control. He wasn’t particularly angry but was determined to keep her pinned in place while he punished her backside.
“Stop! That hurts! Please stop,” she cried.
“Nay, mate, not until I think you’ve learned your lesson and admit you are my true heart.”
Kellan knew as he spanked and scolded her that she was not just another woman to fuck, not just a female dragon to be taken to mate and breed, but his true heart. Was that what awaited him when he finally woke from his slumber—his true heart… his eternal mate?
The dream was the only thing that disturbed his rest. Time and time again, it would replay over and over and end just shy of her capitulating to his mastery. Finally, Kellan’s mind ascended from the depths of darkness that had been his rest. When the last four dragons—Gideon, Duncan, Seth, and himself—had beseeched the sorceress, Elspeth, to send them to their eternal rest, Kellan had assumed that she was simply going to allow them to go to sleep and then to slip into the abyss of death peacefully. Kellan had argued with Gideon that they should make a last, suicidal attack on those who had hunted them into extinction, but Gideon had been adamant that it would do no good and that innocents might be killed. Kellan had cared little for and doubted the existence of innocents. But for all his fury, Kellan valued the last of his brethren and when the other three had opted to find their final rest in the caves at Dunnet Head, he had acquiesced and joined them.
As he came fully awake, the rage with which he had gone to sleep, and the lust that had been ignited by his dream, rushed to the forefront of his mind. He roared in both fury and anguish, sending a burst of fire all along the ceiling of the cave. The chamber in which he’d slept was sealed by a crystalline wall. It was the color of the sea and shattered when blasted with a focused torrent of flames into its center.
Kellan called back his humanity and rose to his imposing height. The tallest of the four remaining dragon-shifters, he had black curly hair and startling blue eyes. He walked into the main cavern and looked at the other three chambers—two were sealed, Gideon’s was not. He located the small chest into which he’d placed his last belongings alongside his sword and war ax. He stretched as he picked up the casket and placed it on the flat stone at the center of the cavern. He quickly slipped into his leather breeches, silk tunic, and armored jerkin. He donned the carrier for his ax that allowed it to rest diagonally across his back and attached his sword belt with its scabbard.
He walked to Gideon’s chamber and examined the remains of the crystalline structure that had sealed it. It too had been blasted from the inside. It would seem Gideon had been the first to wake. Knowing Gideon to be the planner of the group, Kellan began to methodically search for some clue as to where Gideon had gone and some explanation as to why he, and the others, were awakened.
Kellan checked the hollow in which Gideon had slept… but slept for how long, he wondered. There was evidence that Gideon had been there, awakened, and shattered the barrier that sealed his chamber, but nothing else. As he searched the larger cavern, he could see where Gideon had found his cask of clothing and personal items as well as his sword. Kellan continued searching until he found what appeared to be a small, hidden altar of sorts. There were two notes as well as pen, ink, and blank parchment.
He unrolled the scroll that had Elspeth’s handwriting:
If you are reading this, then one or more of you have awakened. I know you charged me with sending you to your eternal rest, but that I could not do. Duncan was mate to my sister and I cannot allow myself to believe she died in vain.
The four of you survived for a reason, what that reason is I don’t know, but I have to believe it was for the good of us all.
The spell I cast was to allow you to rest and awaken only when you were needed, either by your true heart or because our land was in need of its greatest protectors, the dragons of the elements—earth, sea, sky, and fire… Gideon, Kellan, Duncan, and Seth.
Bah, he thought. Sorceresses were not to be trusted. Their power was limited but they believed they knew best. They were wrong. He shook his head, wondering why he’d allowed Gideon to talk them into trusting her. Like most females, sorceresses needed a strong mate who could curb their headstrong ways with a combination of discipline and hard loving. Kellan had always believed that a woman was at her best when she had a well-spanked bottom and an oft-fucked pussy. He chuckled as his cock stirred at the thought of providing one or both to a female in the not too distant future.
Of the four of them, only Duncan had been blessed with a mate, his true heart. Neeva had been Duncan’s turned mate and had died trying to protect the last clutch of eggs and thus the future of their species. He picked up Elspeth’s note again. If his true heart had revealed herself, where was she?
He picked up the second parchment and immediately recognized Gideon’s bold hand.
So, it would seem Elspeth crafted a flaw in her spell to give us rest. How very much like her sister, Neeva, she is… or was.
I am the first of us to wake. I do not know how long we slept. I would ask that we each leave a note for those who remain as to where we have gone. I believe we should return each year at the summer solstice to ensure the safety of the others.
My first breath brought the scent of my true heart so perhaps Elspeth possessed knowledge that we did not have. I feel called both to my mate and to Cornwall. I am heading south to find both. I would welcome you joining me, but if you are called to your own home, I will see you here at the summer solstice.
If Elspeth is right, the revelation of our true hearts must mean that we were spared to reestablish a dynasty of dragons. Perhaps this age will see our species and our world returned to peace and prosperity.
And bah again! Gideon had always been a romantic dreamer, always believing the best of others. Kellan trusted very few other than the three he called brothers and even fewer outside their own kind. He took a deep breath. He did long to smell the ocean breeze of his native western Eire. He would honor Gideon’s request to return to the cavern at the summer solstice, but first he meant to return home. He hoped Elspeth was right and that his true heart awaited him, but regardless he meant to find a female, turn her, and breed her.
Kellan had no desire to remain immortal but had an almost overwhelming need to plant his seed in fertile ground and welcome his offspring into the world. A world their sire would remake so that if it did not embrace their dragon lords, then those in it would fear and serve them. They had tried it Gideon’s way, to be the protectors of a just and harmonious world. In return, they had been hunted almost to extinction. Kellan meant to see that dragons reclaimed their dominance and their world. He would not make excuses like Elspeth nor would he leave a note of romantic drivel; instead he penned a short note to be left for Duncan and Seth.
Seth and Duncan,
I’ve seen the notes from Elspeth and Gideon. I have awakened and am going home to Raicleach. I intend to rebuild Raicleach and find a mate to breed and sire offspring.
I suggest you each do the same. We can, as Gideon suggested, meet back here at each of the summer solstices.
I wish you well.
He picked up the small cask and removed his clothing, putting it and his weapons inside. He called forth his dragon. Standing at the edge of the cavern, high above the great northern ocean, he took in deep lungfuls of sea air as he spread his wings. Feeling the strength returning and coursing through his entire body, he picked up the reticule and fell forward, allowing the wind to catch and hold him aloft as he began to beat his wings to gain altitude and speed. Kellan soared above the clouds and then banked sharply into a steep dive heading straight for the water. He tucked into himself, making his body more streamlined as he dove under the waves, the frigid cold washing away the last ravages of sleep. As he broke the surface, he began to flap his wings so that he cleared the water and allowed the brilliant sun to dry and warm him, causing his metallic green scales to glisten.
Kellan turned southwest to head for his former, ancestral home… the castle at the headlands of the Cave of Tears. It had been Kellan who had sealed the cave after Neeva’s death and the destruction of the eggs. Duncan’s mate had fought bravely, but the odds had been against her and by the time he and Duncan had joined her, she was mortally wounded and the eggs destroyed. Duncan had lifted her body in his great claws and taken her home. It had been left for Kellan to see if any of the eggs had survived. When he saw the hunters had ensured their destruction, he sealed the cave, first with sea glass and then with molten rock he fashioned by searing with fire. When cooled, it became a hardened shell, forever sealing the remains of the eggs in their burial chamber.
As he flew across the northern sea toward his homeland he brooded about what might have caused him to stir. So Gideon had picked up the scent of his true heart? Kellan snorted. Gideon always did wax poetic about his romantic notions. His brothers had always believed in and waited for a true heart, the one female that would complete his soul. Kellan wasn’t convinced such a thing existed outside of myth and fairytales. If he had been awakened to help reestablish dragons in the world, would it not be better to mate with as many females as he could? If he was to give up his immortality to sire offspring, why limit himself to just one?
Kellan breathed deeply as he flew close to the water, skirting the land mass that was Eire. He expected nothing more than the familiar and comforting smells of the sea. Instead, he caught the faintest whiff of something different, an earthy scent of moss, clover, and wisteria. He shook his head to clear both his thoughts and his olfactory senses. Inhaling again, he had to admit that he had not been mistaken—his nostrils flared and filled with her heady scent. It had to be her, his true heart. No other scent could have overridden the salty tang of the sea.
With a newly found sense of urgency, Kellan propelled himself down the coastline toward home. It seemed to him his first task was to reclaim his land and his people.