Authors: Scarlett Grove
I sit across the breakfast table from Trav as Conyac whispers sweet words into my ear. Trav growls. "Did you make love last night?" Trav demands.
"We did," I say, giggling as Conyac kisses a ticklish spot on my neck.
"But you did not make hilock," he says. It is a statement. "I can smell you are still unbound."
"We did not make hilock," Conyac says in a disappointed tone.
"I agreed to sample you both," I say. "I'm not going back on my word. My dragon would tear my eyes out if I broke an oath. Which reminds me, I need to speak with Gizmel about integrating with my inner dragon. She's kind of a biatch. If you know what I mean. We don't get along very well."
Trav mouths the word biatch with a confused look on his face. "Of course, my lady. You must be at one with your dragon if we are to defeat the Org," he says. "We must also begin your training with swords. Your dragon power will be mighty, but there may be times when you will need fighting skills in your mortal form."
"Sword fighting. No, no, no... I'm a photographer."
"Whatever that is, I'm sure it was useful in your world, but it has no purpose in battle."
"Well, not when you can just scry the battle scene, no... Anyway, I don't want to learn to sword fight." I look up at Conyac for some moral support.
"I believe Prince Trav is correct. You should learn to fight with fist and sword. It will serve you well in battle."
"Fine, fine. Do I get one of those glowing swords like you guys have?"
"The weapons and armor of the Skylands are stored in the armory," Conyac tells me. "I am sure they are expertly crafted."
Now my curiosity is piqued. My own weapons and armor? That doesn't sound half bad. If I'd been a sci-fi nerd back on Earth, I'd probably be having a little nerdgasm about now. "Let's take a look after breakfast," I say. "Who is going to teach me to fight?"
"I'm afraid I must travel back to Castle Blackwell, my lady. I despise leaving you, but there are important matters for me to attend to at my keep."
I frown. I don't want Conyac to leave. I think I'm falling in love with him. The mind-blowing sex last night attached me to him in a way I hadn't expected. Plus, he always defends me against Trav's bullying ways.
"It will be my honor to teach you to fight, my lady. And tonight, you will share my bed."
I shudder at the idea. After last night with Conyac, I don't know if I can go through with it with Trav. But I made a promise. Trav's not so bad, I guess. When he had his face between my legs a week ago, he made me come like a madwoman. I bite my lip and look from one prince to the other. This is the most difficult thing I've ever had to do in my life.
In all honesty, I'm leaning toward Conyac. Trav's always been kind of a dick. However, I've only known these guys a short time. There might be something I'm missing, and I can't make my judgment off of first impressions.
After breakfast, I bid Conyac goodbye in the front hall. He holds me in his arms and kisses me gently. I hug him tight to me, not wanting to let him go. Maybe I should have bonded with him last night. My inner dragon hisses at the thought, and I bat her away inside my head. I want this moment with Conyac. It is tender and true, and I don't want her to ruin it for me.
He promises he will return soon and that we will make hilock after I've had the chance to fulfill my oath. I hold his hand to the last second as he steps away. He presses his hand to his heart before turning to go. I frown as he walks into the sunshine and shifts into his giant blue dragon.
Conyac's dragon lets out a loud roar that I can only assume is his final goodbye. I wave to him as he jumps into the air. As he flies out of sight, I sigh and turn to walk up the many flights of stairs to Gizmel's laboratory.
I find Gizmel bent over his scrying bowl. His brows are knit together in a worried expression. He looks up at me as I enter, and a slow frown curves on his lips. “Princess,” he says, straightening his back as he stands and steps away from the scrying bowl. He seems to want to hide whatever it is that is showing in his vision.
“What is it?” I ask stepping towards the bowl.
“Princess, you don’t want to see that,” he says.
“Yes, I do,” I say, peering into the bowl. What I see in the dark waters is a horde of Orgs surging towards a black keep. Blue flags wave from the parapets, emblazoned with a dragon symbol. It’s the symbol of Conyac’s house. “That is Castle Blackwell isn’t it?” I demand.
“Yes, princess. I told you, you didn’t want to see it.”
“We should have all gone,” I say angrily.
“Prince Trav insisted you stay here with him until he’s had his chance with you this evening.”
“This is ridiculous. When Castle Warren was under attack, we all went to defend it. Now when Conyac’s keep is in danger, we don’t return the favor.”
“Lady, it is a very small legion of Orgs. Much smaller than what attacked Castle Warren. You needn’t worry. Prince Conyac can easily defeat these few Orgs.”
“Very well, if you say so. That is why I came up to see you today. I need your help with something. I’m having issues with my inner dragon. We don’t seem to get along. Conyac suggested I come to you. He thought you might be able to help me integrate with her.”
Gizmel strokes his long white beard as he ponders my request. “Interesting. You don’t feel at one with your own dragon?”
“No, I don’t. In fact, I think she hates me. If she could, I think she would eat me alive and then shit me out all over Skyland Castle.”
“My lady, I’m sure it isn’t that bad,” he says smirking.
“Ah, but it is. And frankly, I hate her too. She’s kind of a bitch. She tells me I’m weak and many other insulting things. If I could get her out of my head, that would be ideal.”
“This does present a conundrum, my lady. But I think I have a solution for you. It may not be instantaneous, but it will begin the process of you integrating completely with your inner dragon. There should be no separation between you. Your mind should be at one in all things. That is the only way for you to gain all the matriarchal powers once you become queen. If you are not integrated fully with your dragon before you make hilock it could be disastrous.”
“Now you tell me. It’s a good thing I didn’t make hilock with Conyac last night. I wouldn’t want a raving, uncontrollable, queen dragon tearing about my castle. Now what do I need to do?”
“Come with me.”
Gizmel and I hurried down the stairs and out the front doors into the sunlight of the gardens around Skyland Castle. I can smell the fragrant flowers on the soft breeze that flutters through my hair. I’m wearing long culottes, a loose tunic, and knee-high leather boots that I prefer over the evening gowns in my closet.
“Now, my lady, allow your inner dragon to come out.”
“But I have no idea how to do that,” I say. It comes out as a whine even though I don’t intend it to. My inner dragon growls at me, hissing and scratching inside my brain. She wants to come out more than anything. She wanted to come out last night when I was making love to Conyac. She wants to come out every moment of every day. It is a good thing that I have more control over our shared body than she does, otherwise she would dominate our form all the time.
“Of course you can, my lady. You did it yesterday.”
“That only happened because I was falling to my death,” I say, shrugging.
“Perhaps the princess should jump off the wall again?”
“I don’t think that will be necessary. Let me try this without committing suicide.”
I close my eyes and focus on my inner dragon. She is right there, impatiently waiting to come out. I ask her how I let her out, and she hisses at me. “Let me out, human.”
“But how?” I ask her. She seems to understand how. But I don’t, and I’m the one who needs to do it. I bite my lip and imagine myself turning into a dragon. The thought scares the hell out of me, and my body tenses up, my intestines gurgle, I think I need to throw up.
I take a few cleansing breaths, my eyes still tightly shut. The vision of my inner dragon behind my eyes grows larger and larger, until her face is right in front of me. Her glowing amber eyes stare into my soul, into our soul. It is then that I realized that we share soul. We are one being, not two.
A fire erupts in my belly, and I feel myself breaking. I scream as my body writhes. I am transforming, and before I can completely fathom what is happening to me, I have become the dragon. It is her mind that is in control now, and I am she.
I roar. The vibration shakes the ground of my land. I am the Skyland Princess. I will be queen. The human must realize that she is me. Until she knows who I am, we cannot rule. The dragon born spend most of their time in their mortal form communicating with other mortals.
The human must learn to listen to me. She must heed my counsel as if it is her own conscience. As of now she fears me, and I don’t blame her. What she told the gnome was true. I despise her weakness, but I cannot deny that she and I are one being. I cannot eat her alive and shit her out all over Skyland Castle, no matter how amusing the idea actually is.
“You are beautiful,” the gnome says below me. I turn my brilliant face toward him and grin, showing him my sharp teeth. He steps back, as he should. “My lady, Princess Dani, are you in there?”
At his question I can feel the human within me trying to respond. She wants to tell the gnome that she is still here. And of course she is. I will never be free of the human mind, nor would I want to be. I am a changeling, not an animal. I simply want the human to toughen up and do her duty.
I crane my neck into the air and let out and explosive scream. The shockwaves of my dragon power crash through all of Skyland. The dragon born princess of Endor has arrived, and this is my power.
I look back at the gnome. He has his hands pressed to his ears and a grimace on his face. But he is well. If I had intended to do him harm, he would be dead, his eyes bleeding from the bite of my sound waves.
“Brilliant!” Gizmel shouts, clapping. “Absolutely brilliant, princess. Your power is strong. When you become queen you will easily defeat the Orgs.” I grin at him again, satisfied that he has noticed how powerful I truly am.
“Princess Skyland. Now that you are in dragon form, try to allow your human mind to come forward. You can hear her and feel her inside of you, correct?”
I can feel the human inside me. Her incessant whimpering and whining is impossible to ignore. She is terrified of everything. She’s terrified of the fact that she is a dragon. She’s terrified of our power. She’s terrified that she’s going to throw up and shit herself as soon as she becomes human again.
Exasperating. Truly exasperating
But I take the gnome’s advice and allow her mind to come forward. I know that when she pushes against me more strongly, she will take over our form and I will have lost my dominance over our shared body. But she is not pushing me out. She slowly takes precedence inside my mind. I can see her and feel her more closely.
There is something about her that feels broken. Her mind has been shattered, and this is the source of much of her weakness. Dragons are not known for their empathy or their warmth. But this human is part of me, and I cannot help feel something for her.
Inside my mind, inside the mind of the human, I can see visions of a war. Horrible atrocities perpetrated against her fellow humans. Children burned and broken. Bloodied bodies strewn across the ground. These memories haunt her. They have sapped her fortitude.
How would I feel if I were a weak, small human, and I saw other humans burned and broken as she had? I think deeply about this question. Perhaps I can give this little human the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she’s not quite as weak as I had once assumed. I believe we can try to work together.
All at once, I lose my grip on our form, and I am shrinking. I sink back into the darkness behind the mind of the human woman, and once again I am she.
I stand there shaking in the grass. The experience of shape-shifting is extremely unsettling. I wish I hadn’t had breakfast, because I think I’m going to lose it all over the ground. Gizmel comes to my side and reaches out to take my hand. It is a comforting gesture, which takes courage especially from a servant.
Where did I get that thought?
The feeling of Gizmel’s hand on mine makes me feel less vulnerable. I take deep breaths until the sickness in my stomach subsides.
“You did well, my lady,” Gizmel says.
I gulp down what feels like it might be my breakfast making its escape and take a few more deep breaths, looking down at the gnome with gratitude. “Thank you, Gizmel. I’m glad you are here. I wouldn’t have attempted that without your support.”
“How did it go?”
“I think we’re making progress. She is starting to accept me. And to tell you the truth, I’m beginning to see things from her perspective a little better as well. If I were a dragon I wouldn’t necessarily want me to be my mortal form. I’d want someone more like Trav.”
“Like Trav what? A voice booms behind me. I turn to see Trav approaching in his chain mail and leather armor, gripping his sword. “It is time for your battle training, princess.”