Dragon UnboundKatie MacAlister
A Dragon Septs Novella
Copyright © Katie MacAlister 2016
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Katie’s Guide to All Things Dragon
Glossary of Dragon Terms
Other Books by Katie
The First Dragon has long intrigued me—who was this mysterious demi-god who created the race of dragons? What did he do with his time? I knew a bit about him given his interactions with his son Baltic, but the rest of his life was a blank.
Until the day he started to talk to me. And then not only did he tell me his story, he urged me to stop writing the book I was at the time writing, and get to work taking down his tale. And since you don’t ignore the First Dragon, I did as he demanded.
The novella you find here is part of the Dragon Septs series, falling after the events of Dragon Soul. I hope you enjoy revisiting the dragons—and watching the First Dragon face the modern world—as much as I did.
The First Dragon was well aware of the noise outside the sunny room. The murmur of voices, both masculine and feminine, wafted up to him from what he knew was a stone-set patio below. But here, on the second floor in the small room with cheerful yellow paper patterned with turtles and reeds, the noise was muted, even though the window allowed in a soft summer breeze.
He moved past a lacquered dresser and a small bookcase bearing a carousel lamp and a telephone to the crib that sat near a window.
“Do you hear them, little one? The dragonkin like to talk,” the First Dragon told the baby lying in its crib, its arms and legs moving to a rhythm that only the baby could hear. He leaned forward, smiling at the latest of his descendants. “It was always so. We are very passionate beings, and we share our feelings. Ah, you are a girl, I see. I am your ancestor. Your family calls me the First Dragon, for that is what I am. All dragons who ever were, and all who ever will be, are descended from me. You are part of a great heritage, child, one that most mortal beings know nothing about.”
The baby blinked at him.
He considered her for a moment. He had a policy of telling new dragons just what traits he saw in them during his welcome visit. “You will not be blessed with the grace of your sister, but you will captivate males nonetheless. They will be charmed by your unique ability to see through illusion, and your fearless nature.”
The baby gurgled up a spit bubble, her tight little fists waving about in a manner he found amusing. He touched a spot on her forehead, murmuring, “Blessings, child of the green dragons,” before giving in to temptation and stroking her tiny pink fingers.
Immediately she gripped his finger, delighting him with her chuckle of pleasure.
“You are a little warrior, are you not?” he told her, oddly reluctant to leave this, the latest dragon to be born. “You possess your mother’s courage and your father’s intelligence. You will be a formidable enemy, and a stalwart ally. A very perceptive one.”
The baby continued making gurgly chuckles, her fingers still holding on to the tip of his, her legs kicking out in that particular swimming motion that babies had. She had managed to remove the light covering laid over her, but given the warmth of the day, he was loath to put it on her again. He grimaced when she pulled his finger over to her mouth, and began gumming it, the wet saliva bubbles clinging to his skin.
“I must leave you, little one,” he told her firmly. “I visit all newly born dragons, but I do not remain for them to chew upon me. I have many things of importance to do. I am the First Dragon.”
The baby continued to mash his finger between her tiny, slobbery gums, unimpressed with his statement. Indeed, he had the feeling she was unimpressed with him altogether.
“Oh, very well, but only for another minute, as you are so determined,” he said, resigning himself to having a wet finger. “I will admit this has been a pleasant visit to meet you. Of late, I find myself ...” He paused, frowning at the odd sensation that had gripped him the last few years. “Lonely is too strong of a word. Lonely implies a need, and I have no needs. Perhaps it is a desire for contact that I am experiencing. I wish to have more contact with ... someone. Someone who would talk to me. Someone who would care about me. Someone who—”
An explosive sound came from the depths of the baby’s diaper.
He transferred his frown, which had been directed at himself, to the small dragon that gurgled delightedly before him. “I suspect what you have just done is not worth such pride, but I will take into account your age, and pass no further judgment. Farewell, newest green dragon. There may be a time in the future when we meet again, but if not, fare—”
The door opened on the word, causing him to take a step back from the crib. He wasn’t startled by new arrivals, for he was the First Dragon. He never startled. But he was mildly surprised to find himself suddenly in the company of not just one dragon’s mate, or even two, but three of them.
“The First Dragon!” the first mate cried upon seeing him. Aisling, he recalled, was her name. She was also a Guardian, if he remembered correctly, and he always did. “Eek! You’re not going to do anything to my baby, are you? Because she’s a dragon already, and she’s cute, and she sleeps through the night, so I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t do anything to her.”
“Aisling,” the mate named May said, elbowing the taller woman. “You can’t talk to him like that. He’s a god.”
“Demigod, actually,” said the third woman, moving forward. She gave him a steady look, one that always secretly amused him. Of all his descendants, this one never failed to stir emotions in him. Mostly exasperation, but there were moments, as now, when her spirit shone brightly and touched his soul.
“Child of light,” he said, greeting her.
“Daddy-in-law,” she said in a flippant tone that he knew was intended to irritate him.
He allowed one eyebrow to rise half an inch. “You are still annoyed with me, Ysolde?”
“Considering that I found you trying to convince my oldest son to allow you to make him a dragon when you know perfectly well that he’s happy being a human—yes, I’m still annoyed. Baltic is furious.”
“When is he not?” he couldn’t help but ask.
He looked beyond the women to the hall. No males had followed them. “There is a sárkány?”
“Not for a couple of days.” Ysolde ge
stured to Aisling. “They’re having a party to celebrate Ava’s birth, and because half the wyverns are here for that, they decided to have a mini-sárkány.”
“It’s really more of a State of the Union than a full sept meeting,” Aisling said. She looked with mildly curious eyes at him. “But I think the bigger question is, what is the First Dragon doing here?”
“I’d say interfering, but as you pointed out, Ava is already a dragon, so I have no idea,” Ysolde answered. She gave him a pointed look that he chose to ignore.
Aisling tched in the back of her throat, and hurried over to her child, flinching as she did so. “Holy cats, Ava! You can’t possibly be responsible for that smell!”
“You wouldn’t believe the diaper shenanigans that Anduin got to before we got him potty trained,” Ysolde said, still giving the First Dragon a gimlet look. “So, do you want to tell us why you’re here?”
He lifted the other eyebrow. “Are you speaking to me, Ysolde?”
She winced at the little flicker of power he added to her name, and cleared her throat, but instead of backing down, tilted up her chin and challenged him with her gaze.
He sighed. “I greet all new dragons, and welcome them to the dragonkin. I have ever done so, and I will continue to do so.”
“That’s a thoughtful thing for you to do,” said May, her voice soft and light as the wind. “But you look angry about something. You can’t be mad at Ava.”
“Child of shadows,” he said, acknowledging May, mate of the silver wyvern. He had a fondness for her, too, since she had once formed the dragon heart from the shards given to each sept. “I am not angry at the babe. I simply do not like explaining my actions.”
“You sure it’s not something else?” Ysolde asked, tipping her head to the side while her gaze swept over him. “I’m thinking that you’re not quite so happy as you claimed you were last time.”
“Last time?” Aisling asked from where she’d been cleaning and diapering the baby. She looked confused. “What last time? The one in Egypt?”
“No.” Ysolde gave him a long look, but he did not answer it. “He’s been coming to see Anduin a lot. Well, twice. And then I caught him once with Brom, trying to convince him that he should be a dragon. And then Baltic said he saw him once, when we were out shopping. I think ...” Ysolde hesitated for a moment, her eyes softening on him. He smiled to himself. She had the tenderest of hearts of all his children, despite her definite lack of respect. “I think he’s bored, and needs a girlfriend. Or better yet, a mate.”
There was a collective gasp from the other two mates. He thought about rolling his eyes, but decided it wasn’t an action of a demigod, and so maintained his usual placid expression. It had always stood him well when dealing with his sometimes fractious children, especially the volatile firstborn, those five dragons who had been born of his mates and gone on to found the existing septs.
“A mate!” Aisling said, coming forward with the baby in her arms, her eyes bright with excitement. “Of course! It can’t be fun being all by yourself, and Ysolde said that Baltic’s mom was one of your mates. ... Er ... how many have you had? Or is that a rude question to ask?”
He gave another little sigh, but no one heard it. “Some might say to address me in such a manner is rude in itself, but I will answer your question because I know that if I do not, Ysolde will continue to ask it.”
Ysolde smiled, and the other women clustered around him. “You know me so well. Go on. What’s the number? I’m guessing it’s in the triple digits.”
He allowed his lips to thin a little at her to indicate he was not pleased with such flippancy. “I have had two mates: the first was a minor goddess who bore me four children, the founders of the red, black, blue, and green dragon septs. Later, I took a dragon, Maerwyn, as a mate, and she bore Baltic and a child who did not survive the birth.”
“A dragon?” Aisling asked, then wrinkled her nose. “I don’t mean to sound disrespectful and all, but isn’t that ... well ... incestuous?”
“She was six generations beyond my child,” he told her, sadness leaching into his awareness. He had truly loved Maerwyn, which is why he’d taken her as mate. Her death left him bereft for centuries, during which time he had withdrawn from his dragons, withdrawn from everything.
May instinctively moved closer, and put out a tentative hand to touch the sleeve of his shirt. “Ysolde told us how Baltic’s mother died. That was terrible.”
He inclined his head in both agreement and acknowledgment of the sympathy she silently offered.
“That was, what, four hundred years ago?” Ysolde took his arm in hers. “It’s time you moved on. And I mean that in the nicest sense. Just because you’re a demigod doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. Now, as it happens, this is the ideal time for you to be here, because as we mentioned, Aisling and Drake are throwing this party for Ava, and there’s going to be a band playing tonight, and a sárkány tomorrow, and a bouncy castle in the side garden for the kids—which you probably won’t want to be a part of, because they’re loud little buggers—and basically all the dragons in Europe and a lot from other parts will be here, so you will have all the single ladies to look over.”
“Yes, and we were going to have our Mates Union meeting now while the boys are downstairs guzzling dragon’s blood wine, and the kids are out romping in the wading pool, but we’ll just put the meeting on hold in order to take care of your business.” Aisling put the now-stenchless baby back in her crib, and turned on a mobile bearing little dragons and jousting knights.
“What an excellent idea,” May said, sitting cross-legged on the floor.
“Would you take this seat, Mr. ... er ... First Dragon.” Aisling pushed forward a rocking chair, and seated herself next to Ysolde on a pink striped love seat.
“Hey, Ash, the kids went through the chips in record time and want to know when lunch is going down—holy shitsnacks! It’s the First Dragon!”
The First Dragon, who had been contemplating the chair that Aisling had offered him, turned to eye the large black Newfoundland dog who marched into the room. “Ah,” he said, noting several things about the dog, mostly the fact that it was not really a dog. “A demon. I had not realized the green dragons were in a state to require the assistance of a demon.”
“Jim lives here,” Aisling said, waving the dog to her feet. “It’s mine, actually. I’m a demon lord, but I just have the one demon, and it doesn’t do anything for us.”
“Hey, now!” Jim protested, reluctantly marching over to its master, but pausing long enough to snuffle the First Dragon’s shoes. “I do all sorts of stuff, not the least of which is entertain your spawn by giving them rides. And we gotta talk about that real soon, ’cause it’s undignified, and if the other demons heard I was doing it, they’d give me no end of grief.”
“We’ll talk about it later,” Aisling said with a warning glance at her demon.
The dog took a few whiffs of the First Dragon’s trouser legs. “Hiya. Name’s Effrijim, but everyone calls me Jim. Is it true you can make peeps into dragons? Not that I want to be one, because there ain’t nothin’ better than being a demon in Newfie form, but just in case someday Aisling completely loses her mind and starts acting like a real demon lord, it would be nice to know there are other options.”
The First Dragon looked hard at the demon. Its eyes opened wide and it backed up to its master. “Man, I just asked! You don’t have to look so scary. Ash!”
“You poke the dragon, you deal with the fire,” Ysolde said calmly, pulling out a small notebook and pencil. “Right, let’s do this properly.”
The First Dragon weighed his options, and decided that his interest was piqued enough to remain. He sat in the chair Aisling had offered, and crossed one leg over the other, wondering just what the mates would do next. He had to admit, it was more entertainment than he’d had in a very long time.
“I call this meeting of the Mates Union to order,” Aisling said in a formal voice, then added in a
much more natural tone, “Jim, would you close the door? We don’t want one of the men wandering up to accidentally hear us. Thanks. OK, let’s see, we have stuff on the agenda, but we’re putting that aside to deal with the First Dragon.”
She cast him a quick worried glance. He tipped his head toward her and pierced her with a look.
“Or rather, to help him,” she amended quickly.
“Way to piss off the head dragon,” Jim said in a stage whisper to Aisling. “Now he’s gonna smite Drake, or something.”
“Quiet, you. And yes, that’s an order. Unless you have something important to contribute to the conversation, and then you may speak. Honestly, Ysolde, you wouldn’t believe the things Jim has taught the twins to say. They swear in Latin, they call Drake Daddy-o, and just yesterday I caught them trying to summon a demon to do their chores. ...” Aisling evidently realized that this was not the moment to continue. Instead she gave everyone a bright smile. “I turn the floor over to Ysolde, since the First Dragon is her father-in-law, and he’s resurrected her a couple of times, so she knows him better than anyone else.”
“Thank you, Aisling. Remind me to tell you later about how Brom is teaching Anduin the joys of dissecting roadkill.” Ysolde gave a small cough, and continued in a businesslike voice, “Let us take stock of the situation. The First Dragon wishes to have a mate.”
“As a matter of point, I don’t believe I ever stated that desire,” he said mildly.
“You don’t have to,” Ysolde answered, tapping the tip of the pencil on her lips. “You loved Baltic’s mother, and you’ve been alone for several hundred years, and now it’s time for you to find another woman with whom you can spend your life.”
May raised her hand. “Forgive my ignorance, but can a demigod get intimate with a mortal? I mean, is it possible?” She made a vague gesture with both hands. “Can they ... er ... hook up?”
The First Dragon gave her a look that had her blushing beet red.
“Yes, well, I think we’ll take it as read that everything is in working order,” Ysolde said, making a note.