Maiden Flight, page 3
Adora watched in awe as a mighty dragon landed in the small clearing in front of her cabin in the woods. She’d not seen a dragon since she was a little girl, and this one was a beauty. Blue and green with the iridescent sparkle of his kind, this dragon reminded her of her childhood friend. Even more amazing, this dragon bore a young knight on his back along with her daughter! She wiped her hands on her apron and rushed out to greet them.
“Bel, my dear, you’ve brought guests.” Adora smiled as her girl raced from the dragon’s side to hug her.
“This is Gareth and Kelvan.” Belora’s excitement was evident as she took her mother’s hands in hers, pulling her forward to meet them. “Gareth, Kelvan, this is my mother, Adora.”
Adora surprised them all by bowing low to Kelvan in the old way first, before she even acknowledged his rider. The dragon preened openly at the show of respect and stood to his full height, returning the courtesy with a formal sweep of his wings.
“You honor my humble home with your presence, Sir Kelvan. Be welcome here.”
“The honor is mine, Madam. Your daughter claimed you once knew one of my kind and I am pleased to see the old ways preserved in your memory. You do both our peoples proud.” Kelvan included them all in his silent speech.
Adora blushed prettily as she straightened. “You are a handsome dragon, Sir Kelvan, and a pretty talker.”
The dragon rumbled in a way resembling laughter and all the humans smiled as he laid the dead stag at the lady’s feet.
“An offering for your table, madam. Courtesy of your daughter.”
“And Kelvan too, Mama. That’s how we met. I shot the stag, but he didn’t see me and snagged it from above for a snack. I disputed his claim to the stag and he brought me to Gareth to see who was in the right.”
“Ah yes, you bring me not only a dragon, but a knight as well.” Adora clapped her hands together in joy, though her tone was mischievous. “You are Sir Gareth?”
The young man strode forward to stand before her. “I am.”
“Welcome to our home, sir. It has been many years since I last saw a dragon and I must admit complete ignorance of the knights who work with them. The dragon I knew as a child had no partner at the time.”
Gareth smiled kindly down at her. He was very tall and built on a large, sturdy frame.
“We are not much different from normal men, Lady, except that we can hear the dragons as you do and partner with them to protect the innocent.”
“It is a noble calling,” Adora replied. She liked the look of this knight, though his presence portended danger to her home…and perhaps to her daughter.
Gareth inclined his head to acknowledge her words. He was very polite and well spoken.
Adora continued her train of thought. “Your being here is worrisome, though. If you are here in my forest, trouble must not be far behind.”
“You are perceptive, madam.” The dragon’s powerful voice sounded through all their minds. “Trouble brews on the border and the king has dispatched us to create a new Lair not far from here. You must be cautious in your travels and dealings with strangers. The skiths are growing restless.”
Adora gasped but did not otherwise show the fear his stark words brought to her soul. She thought through the dire news as she made her guests welcome and turned the subject to more pleasant matters. At least on the surface.
She asked them about the new Lair they were building and prepared refreshments while Kelvan, in an uncharacteristically thoughtful move for a dragon, dragged the stag away into the forest to prepare it for the women. A few strategic swipes with his razor-sharp talons, and the meat was dressed and ready for cooking.
When he came back, they were sitting around the outdoor fire pit in front of the small cottage, talking amiably. Being certain he had everyone’s attention, Kelvan covered one nostril with an overly large digit and exhaled a burst of flame over the meat. When the flame subsided, it was fully cooked, just right for human consumption.
“Dinner is served.”
They all laughed and Adora passed around plates and utensils while Gareth carved and served each in turn. She also served drink and some of the tubers she’d been preparing before they arrived. It worked well as a side dish to the feast of meat.
Kelvan had already eaten, but he’d saved a few raw tidbits to nibble on while the humans ate. He was surprisingly neat for such a large beast and he reminded Adora again of the dragon she’d known as a child.
They talked of general things. The building of the new Lair and how far it was from the village. Gareth talked a little about the areas they would be patrolling and the warning systems they were setting up. Adora found it fascinating. And disturbing.
After dinner, Gareth and Belora took a walk down to the stream to gather water and steal a few moments alone together. It was growing increasingly obvious to Adora that her beautiful daughter was deeply in love, as was the tall young man at her side.
His heart was in his eyes as he looked down at her girl, and she knew it was a long-lasting kind of love that filled his heart. Though she had never known a knight before, she knew dragons. Her childhood dragon friend had taught her that the men they chose to fight with had the highest qualities of nobility and honor. She had little to worry about as far as her daughter’s match was concerned, but still her heart grew heavy watching them.
“He loves true and deep, milady. It’s the nature of knights to decide what they want quickly and pursue it with all haste. Many recognize their life mates within moments of meeting. The Mother of All guides them in every facet of their lives. Fear not for your daughter.” The dragon settled across from Adora by the fire, his wings folded loosely against his sides as he reclined.
“I fear not for her, though I thank you for your words of comfort. If anything, I fear for my own future, selfish as it seems.” Adora shook herself and changed the subject before the dragon had a chance to ask questions. “It’s not important. Belora told you I knew a dragon when I was a child. I used to bring her melons from our garden and she would always slice a little piece for me as a treat. You remind me of her, Sir Kelvan. You have similar coloring in your wings and around your eyes. Her name was Kelzy.” She sighed, lost in memory. “She had a scar running near her left ear.”
“And another on her right foreleg.”
“Yes! How did you know?”
Kelvan bowed his head to the side. “She is my mother.” His voice was solemn. “And you are Adora. She speaks of you often.”
Adora was pretty sure nobody had mentioned her given name to the dragon. He’d been calling her milady all evening, as had his knight. That he knew it shocked her. It also helped prove his claim.
“Kelzy lives still?” A smile bloomed on her pretty face. That the dragon friend of her youth might still be alive brought joy to her heart.
Kelvan chuckled softly in his dragonish way. “Our kind does not age as you do. When you knew her, she had suffered the loss of her knight and needed time to recover. We bond very closely to our partners. My mother is one of the elders in charge of building our new Lair and she teaches the younger ranks how to fight and work with their knights. She chose my knight for me, in fact, even before I could claim him.”
“She chose well.” Adora’s eyes followed the progress of the young couple across the small clearing. They were strolling slowly, oblivious to all except each other.
“He is a good man through and through. You have naught to fear for your daughter or yourself, Lady Adora.”
“It is selfish of me, I know, but I fear being alone. I’ve already lost children and it nearly killed me. Still, I want my baby to be happy, and her happiness lies with the young knight. It’s obvious to see.”
“Then come with us to the new Lair. I am certain my mother would welcome you.”
“I refuse to be a burden. This is Bel’s time. I don’t want to interfere.”
“You would not be a burden, Lady Adora. We always need help in the Lair, and the
Adora considered his words carefully, mulling over the possibilities in her mind. “I can cook and clean, I suppose. I also know of healing herbs. It’s how I’ve made a living out here in the forest.”
“Healing skills are always needed among the fighters. You would be more than welcome, Lady. What can it hurt to come for a visit? I know my mother will want to see you. If you do not come back with us, at least for a visit, I can nearly guarantee she will make the trip out here herself to make certain you are all right. She is not a young dragon any longer. Won’t you spare her such an arduous journey? I can have you there and back again in the next day, if you will consent to come for a visit.”
Adora was torn, but she did so want to see the dragon who had been her childhood friend once more. “Perhaps a short visit. Just to see Lady Kelzy. I have thought of her often and missed her greatly. But I must return to care for my patients. I am all the help the local village has, and I can’t just abandon them.”
“Yet you do not live in the village.” His tone was quizzical.
“By choice. Not because they would not have us. When I came here, I was hurt deeply by the loss of my children. Twin girls as bright as the sun.” She paused while she collected herself. Her baby girls were gone and it left a hole in her heart that was wide and deep. How she missed them still, years later. Nothing would ever make up for losing her beloved twin daughters. The only consolation she had was that Belora was still with her, still safe. She sighed deeply before continuing. “I couldn’t bear to be with other people, and my work often brings me into the forest to gather herbs. I enjoy the solitude and don’t have much. This place was empty and available. It needed a good cleaning and still needs some repair, but it’s home. It welcomed me, helped me heal, and sheltered Bel as she grew. This place has been good to me.”
Kelvan bowed his head in respect. “I can feel the love in your words for this place. Our new Lair begins to feel that way to me as well, though I’ve only been there a short time. Perhaps because my mother was able to set it up to her specifications it has always felt like home. I have come to learn that home is wherever those you love are, so for me, home will always be with Gareth and his mate.”
“You think Belora is his mate?”
“I do. He moves slowly to claim her though, because she does not know our ways. I think that once she sees how we live and learns more about us, she’ll fit in well. The Mother of All would not be so cruel as to bring them together only to break their hearts.” They watched the two young people walking back from the stream, hand in hand. It was obvious how much in love the two were, though they had only met that day. “You must come visit, Lady. It will help if you can see how your daughter will live and know that she is not gone from you forever. I’ll fly her back to see you as often as possible if you choose to stay here after you’ve seen the Lair. I understand the importance of family.”
“You are a kind and noble being, Sir Kelvan.” Adora reached up and placed her small palm on his knee joint. “I’ll go with you to visit your new home and see Lady Kelzy once more. But only for a short time. With war coming, my duty is to the people of the village who depend on me.”
“If you were male, you would surely have been a knight, Lady. Your heart is compassionate and strong.”
“I think that’s the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me.” She smiled softly and turned back to watch the younger couple, kissing in the dappled moonlight, distantly in the forest. She thought they looked right together—her baby girl with a handsome and strong knight who so obviously cared for her. It was like a dream come true. For Belora.
Adora sighed wistfully, resigned to knowing that this time was for her daughter, but still it saddened her that she would never know such a love again. Her time was over.
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