Dragon Mage

WARNING!

 STRONG SEXUAL CONTENT 

It is not graphic or explicit, however, there is no mistaking what is happening.  

 It is not X, but it is definitely R

If you are a child or an adult who does not like to read such things, then

GO NO FURTHER

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Mage

by

Elaine Young

Copyright 2011©

All rights reserved

Sara Nadran, White Mage of Ranwar, the most powerful good Mage on the continent, focused her will and magical energy into the spell she had created.  Finally she held out her hands and spoke a word of command.  The force of the spell rushed through her; the magic coalesced at the tips of her fingers and was released.  The blast she was expecting blew apart the stone wall 100 feet in front of her.  The fire that was supposed to accompany the blast drifted out in a two foot diameter sphere and dissipated. 

Sara let out a string of curses that caused her assistant’s thick white brows to rise in surprise.  “I take it that was not supposed to happen quite that way,” he said, not fully successful at keeping the amusement out of his voice.

“No,” Sara snapped, her ice blue eyes ablaze, “you know it was not, Calinus.”  She stalked back into her laboratory, grabbed her staff and said, “I’ll be at the library in Winlodar.”

*****

The Great Library in the portal city of Winlodar was the largest, most extensive library on Gorthus.  It rose ten stories above street level and had fifteen more labyrinthine floors below ground.  Over 1500 Sages ran the library.  They kept track of the millions of books, tomes and scrolls, helped the library’s patrons find information and constantly gathered new material to add to its stores.  Mages from every corner of Gorthus came to the Great Library to glean the knowledge to advance their craft.

In order to keep the treasures of the library safe, the original founders set magical workings into the stones themselves to prevent everything from petty thievery to Mages casting complex spells to make off with the most ancient of texts.  The Sages also employed a small army of guards and other types of protectors as a further precaution.

Sara was well known at the Great Library.  She was the youngest colored Mage in remembered history and by far the most beautiful Mage the Sages had ever seen.  Her waist length jet-black hair was a stark contrast to her snow-white robes and her piercing blue eyes were set in a face that stopped most men in their tracks.  She was tall for a woman, and slender as Mages tended to be, but not gaunt.  Her razor sharp intellect was a constant challenge to Sages as they worked to keep up with her demands.  Only a small handful were up to the task.

Sara’s status gave her certain privileges not afforded to most of the other patrons and on this day she strode up to the reception desk and asked curtly, “Is Yadoshuri here?”

The young Sage at the desk stared at her blankly for a moment.  “Who…?”  Then his eyes widened slightly.  “Oh yes, of course.  I’ll have someone take you to him.”

Sara shook her head impatiently.  “If you tell me where he is I can find him myself.”

The young man looked nervous.  “I’m sorry Master Nadran,” he said hesitantly, “I am not permitted…”

“Master Nadran,” a deep voice said, “I did not expect to see you back so soon.”

Sara smiled with relief.  “Yadoshuri, I was about to look for you.”

The master Sage smiled in return.  “Well now you have found me.  How can I be of service?”

“The spell didn’t work,” she replied.

“Ah, I see,” he responded.  “It seems then, we need to explore other avenues.”

Sara’s smile broadened.  “I hoped you would say that.”

He offered her his arm.  “I think I know where we can look next.”  He nodded to the young man behind the reception desk and said, “Thank you for your diligence, Wynan.”

Sara took his arm and they made their way through the endless shelves of books and scrolls on the ground floor to the winding stairs that led to the treasure trove of ancient works below.  Yadoshuri took her down to the lowest level of the library, where only the master Sages and a few select patrons were permitted to go.  Two very large, well armed guards stood outside the magically warded door.  They bowed their heads respectfully to Sara and Yadoshuri and stepped aside.  The master Sage murmured a few words and put his hand on the door, which swung open silently.

Even though Sara had been on this level of the library before, she still felt the thrill of discovery every time she walked through the door.  This level housed some of the most ancient writings that existed on Gorthus.  Yadoshuri led her down this corridor and that, past intricately carved, rune-etched doors.  Finally they went down a long, narrow hallway at the end of which hung a dark blue velvet curtain.  Sara blinked in surprise.  “Strange.  I never noticed that before.”

Yadoshuri smiled.  “It is well hidden.”  He pulled the curtain aside to reveal a plain wooden door.  A single silver-etched rune adorned the very center of the door.  Sara sensed the magic imbued in the rune.  It was subtle but incredibly powerful.  The marking looked familiar to her and she tried to remember where she had seen it before. She felt drawn to it, as if the power within beckoned her.  She reached out to touch the rune, but Yadoshuri grasped her hand and gently drew it away.  “Allow me,” he said.  He placed his hand on the rune, and she felt a pulse of immense power surge through him.  She made a small sound of surprise and felt his hand squeeze hers reassuringly.  It was then that she realized that he was still holding her hand.  She also realized that she rather liked it.  She turned to look at him.  He returned her gaze with a soft smile on his lips.  He did not let go of her hand, nor did she try to pull it away.

Before she had time to examine this unexpected turn of events, the door swung open.  Sara stood in the doorway transfixed by the sight that met her eyes.  The room was not very large by the standards of the Great Library, but every shelf, from floor to ceiling, was neatly stacked with ancient scrolls.  Each scroll was inside its own circular compartment, which made the shelves look like a gigantic honeycomb.  In the center of the room stood a long, heavy wooden table on which lay a tall stack of blank parchment and several inkpots and quills.

Yadoshuri led her into the room, careful to shut the door behind them.  “This is amazing,” she said.  She took a deep breath, inhaling the fragrance of old parchment and worn leather wrappings.  “Do you think there is something in here that will help me?”

“I know there is,” he replied.  He let go of her hand and walked to a shelf on the opposite side of the room.  He stood in front of it and began to pass his hand slowly over of the scrolls until he finally stopped on a particularly fragile looking one.  He gently pulled it from its sheath and brought it over to the table, where Sara joined him.  “I think this may have what you are looking for,” he said as he unrolled the scroll.  “It is said that this was written by Laplutious himself, although there is no proof to the claim.”

Sara’s eyes gleamed with excitement.  Laplutious was the founder of the Wizard order—the first Wizard known on Gorthus.  She looked at the faded, flowing script and tried to imagine the man who wrote it.  When she looked again, the writing had shifted and changed.  Her shoulders slumped in disappointment.  “I cannot read this.  It is magically protected.”

“Ah yes,” Yadoshuri replied, “I had forgotten.”  He went back over to the shelf, reached into the wooden tube and pulled out a folded piece of parchment.  “You will need to cast this spell in order to read the scroll.”

Sara’s heart leapt.  She eagerly took the parchment from him and opened it.  The spell looked simple enough, but she recognized the subtle beauty in its simplicity.  One mispronounced word would forever bar the Wizard speaking it from reading the contents of the scroll.  She pored over the spell until she had every syllable memorized.  She took a deep breath to steady herself then slowly and carefully recited the spell.  She looked at the scroll again and thought that she had failed.  Gradually, however, the faint words stopped shifting and became boldly recognizable. 

Sara let out a cry of joy and impulsively threw her arms around Yadoshuri’s neck.  “Thank you!”

The Sage held her tightly for a moment longer than was strictly necessary.  “You’re welcome, Master Nadran.”

“Sara,” she said softly, “Please call me Sara.”

“You honor me, Sara,” he replied.

“It is I who am honored,” she said.  “You have given me an invaluable gift.  Even if this doesn’t help me with my spell, just to read the writings of the progenitor of my order is enough.”  She unrolled the scroll further and started reading.  She had gotten nearly to the end when she exclaimed, “This is what I have been missing!  I will have to study this further.”

“The scroll cannot leave this place,” the Sage said, “but I can create a copy for you.”

“Thank you,” she said.

Yadoshuri got a stack of parchment from the table as well as an inkpot and one of the quills.  He murmured a quiet spell and the pen dipped itself in the ink and began writing on the blank parchment.

Sara watched him while he worked his Sage magic.  She felt almost like she was seeing him for the first time.  His dark shoulder-length hair was streaked with silver and framed the strong features of his face well.  She noted that his heavy, dark blue robes hid a pair of broad shoulders and she found herself wondering what he would look like without the robes.  She remembered how his hand felt wrapped around hers—strong and firm.  She watched his long fingers as he worked and imagined what it would be like to have them touch her.

Yadoshuri turned and caught her staring at him.  She blushed and murmured, “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t be staring.”

“Any man would be flattered by the attention of a beautiful woman,” he replied.  Sara’s blush deepened and she looked down.  He smiled and added, “One whom, I suspect, spends far too much time alone.”

“It is the nature of my position,” she replied quietly.

He moved closer to her.  “Even the mightiest among us must at times fulfill their own needs.”

Sara looked into his storm-cloud gray eyes and saw desire in them.  Her heart began to race.  Then the pain of past failure flooded her mind and she looked away.  “I am not very good at,” she swallowed hard and continued, “fulfilling the needs of others.  I am, perhaps, too dedicated to my work.”

Yadoshuri closed the gap between them in two strides.  He put two fingers underneath her chin and turned her face toward his.  “I think rather,” he replied as he brushed his fingers along her cheek, “others do not understand your work and resent your position.” 

Sara let out a tremulous sigh.  “It’s been a very long time since anyone has touched me like that.”

“Then perhaps it is time,” Yadoshuri said.  He bent his head and lightly touched his lips to hers.  She let out a small sound of need and slid her hands up his chest and around his neck.  His hands went around her waist and he drew her to him.  He pulled his head back slightly, a look akin to wonder on his face.  “You are so beautiful, so alive.”  He lowered his head to hers again, his kiss tentative and questioning. 

Sara answered by pulling him closer and molding her body to his.  She could feel his response to her, even through their robes.  Their kiss deepened as he explored her mouth with his tongue.  Sara moaned softly as desire coursed through her.  A low sound like a growl rumbled in Yadoshuri’s chest.  Grabbing her hips, he bent her back against the table and pushed one knee between her thighs, his arousal pressed hard against her.  He moved one hand up and entwined it in her thick tresses as he ravished her mouth with his.  Without warning, his head snapped up and he pulled away from her.  He was breathing heavily and his eyes were dark with desire.  “Sara, forgive me.  I lost control.”

Sara straightened up, her fingers touching her still tingling lips.  She went over to him, put her arms around his waist and rested her cheek on his chest.  “There is nothing to forgive.  We both wanted it.”

He tightened his arms around her.  “And so much more.”

“Yes,” she whispered.  They stood like that until the pen finished its task and replaced itself in the inkpot with a sharp tap.  Sara lifted her head to look at the neat stack of newly scribed parchment.  With a sigh, she stepped out of Yadoshuri’s embrace.  “I should go back.  There is more work to be done.”

He took her hand.  “When can we be together again?”

The touch of his hand sent thrills of pleasure through her.  Her body cried out for her to say ‘now!’ but almost a century of self-discipline overruled it.  “Three days,” she replied in a low voice.  “Give me three days to work through this.”  She winced at the disappointment she saw on his face and bowed her head.  Once again her dedication to her craft had caused her to hurt someone.

Yadoshuri put his hands on either side of her face and lifted it up.  “I will come to you in three days,” he said firmly.  Then he kissed her, a warm kiss filled with promise.  She almost gave in right then, but he lifted his head put his arm around her shoulders.  “We should leave before we are no longer willing or able.”

Sara let out a short laugh.  “Yes.”

*****

Yadoshuri walked with Sara to the outer doors of the library, where he bid her a discreet farewell.  A Mage with long white hair and crimson robes stepped into Yadoshuri’s path as he walked back into the entry hall.  “A moment of your time, Master Sage,” the Mage said.

Yadoshuri stopped and stared at the Mage for a moment before he replied, “What can I do for you?”

“I have been told that you took Master Nadran down to the lowest level.  I am very curious as to what she was seeking.”

The Sage raised a single brow.  “I am sure you are aware, Master Melnasins, that we regard the privacy of our patrons as sacrosanct.”

The Mage’s expression darkened.  “What is your name, Sage?”

“I am called Master Yadoshuri,” he replied softly.

“I am sure you are aware, Master Yadoshuri, that it is at times in one’s best interest to…circumvent…such policies.”  A slight smile touched Master Melnasins’ lips as he watched Yadoshuri’s expression change from confusion to comprehension.  All that was left was the fear. 

Yadoshuri’s brows lowered and the Mage thought he saw a momentary glint of silver in the Sage’s gray eyes.  “I assure you, Master Melnasins,” he said in a level tone, “such a course of action would not end as you anticipate.”

For the first time in more than four centuries, Sarkanavis Melnasins felt the unfamiliar sensation of fear.  His pale blue eyes went wide.  “You dare?” he breathed.

Yadoshuri’s expression did not change when he said, “You will let me pass.”  Master Melnasins tried to deny the command, but found himself stepping aside to allow the Sage to go by him.  “Good day, Master Melnasins,” Yadoshuri said as he passed.

*****

“Wizard, I need your help.”

Sara looked at the woman standing in her doorway.  She was tall and shapely, with golden hair that fell in luxurious waves well past her hips.  The fact that her dark green, silk gown was torn and bloody did nothing to detract from her impossible beauty.  But it was her eyes on which Sara focused.  Like pools of molten gold, they glittered even in the dim light of the torch-lit entryway.  Now she understood why the woman would not enter the castle without a personal invitation.  Sara took a step back and bowed her head.  “How may I be of service to one of the mighty dragonkind?”

The woman raised a single golden eyebrow before she continued.  “Another Mage has taken my mate.  I need your help to retrieve him.”

Sara’s eyes widened in surprise.  “Please, come in,” she said.  After she closed the door she asked, “How did a Mage capture a Gold Dragon?”

“We were traveling in this form and were ambushed.  He cast a spell on my mate and tried to cast one on me but I managed to deflect the spell and escape.  He sent Warriors to hunt me.  I killed them all.  The last I let live until he told me where they had taken my mate.”

Sara shuddered a bit at the thought of what the dragon had done to the Warrior before he died.  Then she shook her head.  “Any Mage powerful enough to do what this one did is not going to tell his hired thugs his plans.  It’s a trap.  He’ll be expecting you.”

The dragon nodded slowly.  “As I suspected.”

“Where have they taken your mate?” Sara asked.

“To a castle in Canravar,” the dragon replied.

Sara’s heart sank, “Do you know who the Mage is?” she asked, fearing she already knew the answer.

“Sarkanavis Melnasins.”

Sara’s stomach knotted.  The Red Mage.  The most powerful Magician on Ranwar.  This would be no easy task to be sure.  She took a breath and set her jaw.  “All right then.  I need to prepare.  I don’t know how long it will take me.  Would you like to clean up and change while you wait?”

The dragon looked at Sara curiously.  “I thought this form might be more suited to subterfuge.”

Sara opened her mouth, then blushed.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “I meant, would you like to change the clothes you are wearing?”

The dragon looked down at her clothing and shrugged.  “I suppose these would attract unwanted attention.  I will create new ones after I bathe.”

“I will show you to one of my guest rooms,” Sara said. 

Sara brought her to the best guest suite and put several servants at her disposal.  Before she left, Sara said to the dragon, “I am curious.  You said that you were able to avoid the effects of the Red Mage’s spell.  How did you do that when your mate could not?”

“I sensed the spell before it had a chance to overtake me,” the dragon replied.  “I was able to shield myself from its effects.”

“Then you are a Mage,” Sara said.

“In part, yes,” the dragon replied.

Sara nodded.  “That is a good thing.  You may be able to help me.”

The dragon smiled.  “My skills are no match for yours, Wizard Nadran.”

Sara looked at her in surprise.  For a dragon to admit a human’s superiority in anything was unheard of.  “You honor me,” she said with a bow.

The dragon inclined her head.  “You have always treated my kind with great respect, Wizard Nadran.  It is only right that I reciprocate.”

Sara smiled and said, “Please call me Sara.”

“And I am Orlaithe,” she replied.

“Orlaithe,” Sara repeated.  “A beautiful name.  If you need anything, just ask one of the servants and they will get it for you.  I am going to go to my lab to prepare.  You are welcome to join me there whenever you wish.”

“Thank you, Sara,” Orlaithe said. 

Sara was about to turn away, but she turned back her expression somber. “Do you think he’s still alive?”

Orlaithe nodded.  “He lives still, although I do not know for how long.  In human form Laisrean is of little value to the Mage.  He will get more blood from my mate’s dragon form,” a look of disgust crossed her face, “as well as his scales and teeth.  Magician Melnasins will try to force Laisrean to transform to his true nature before he kills him.  That has not happened—yet.”  A look of pain flickered in her golden eyes.  “I would know if he were dead.”

Sara nodded.  “I will work as quickly as I can.”

Back in her lab, Sara pulled various books off shelves, including the writings she had amassed on dragonkind.  As she began her preparations, her gaze fell on the spell she had just finished writing after three days of intensive work. The information she had gotten from the writings of Laplutious had given her the key to combining the elements of air and fire.  She sighed with regret.  She had planned to test the spell later that day.  Now she had no idea when she would get back to it.  A chill crawled up her spine.  She couldn’t think of any way to confront the Red Mage and survive.  She bowed her head and blinked back tears.  She didn’t want to die.  Her life was just getting interesting again.  She gasped.  “Damn it,” she murmured.  Yadoshuri was supposed to come tomorrow.  Sara got a piece of parchment and a quill.

Yadoshuri,

I regret that I must ask you to wait yet a little longer.  I must help save a Gold Dragon from the Red Mage.  I hope with all my heart that I will see you again.

Yours,

Sara

Sara read the note over.  There was so much more she wanted to say, but there was no more time.  She folded it, put her seal on it and went over to Calinus.  She quickly explained what was going on with the Gold Dragon.  Before he could get over his shock, she handed him the note.  “I need you to take this to the Great Library and give it to a Sage named Yadoshuri.”

Calinus tilted his head.  “Yadoshuri?  I do not know that name.  I was sure I knew all the Sages at the library.”

Sara shrugged and shook her head impatiently.  “Perhaps he’s new.  I really don’t know.  I was supposed to meet him here tomorrow and I need to tell him I will not be here.”

Calinus knew when it was time to let go of a subject.  “I will go now, then come back to help you prepare.”

“Thank you,” Sara said.  She watched him leave.  Yadoshuri would be so disappointed.  She wondered if he would want to come after all.  She shook her head.  Now was not the time to dwell on such things.  She went back to her books and started to read.

She was reading through her tome of Dragonkind when Orlaithe came in.  Sara looked up from the book and said, “You are bonded to Laisrean, are you not?”

Orlaithe looked puzzled.  “Of course.”

“I may be able to find him more quickly if I can use your blood in a seeking spell,” Sara said.

The dragon stiffened and took several steps back.  “I cannot do that.  I cannot allow any human to take my blood.  Moreover, I already know he is in Canravar.”

“Yes,” Sara replied, trying to keep her voice from sounding impatient, “but, once we get into the castle, he could be in any one of 200 rooms.  This spell would eliminate the need for a lengthy search.  I am only asking for a small amount of blood, just for this one spell.”

Orlaithe shook her head, “I am sorry.  You must find another way.”

Sara took a deep breath and clamped her mouth shut.  She closed the book and said quietly, “As you wish.”  She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples.  She knew she could get into the castle, but the time it took to find Orlaithe’s mate could prove fatal to both of them.

The door to the lab opened and Calinus came in.  “Were you able to find him?” she asked. 

Calinus nodded.  “Oh yes.  Actually, he found me not long after I asked for him.  Interesting fellow.  He seemed quite concerned about you.  He asked me to give you this.”  He pulled a piece of folded, sealed parchment from a pocket in his robes and handed it to Sara.

When she saw the seal, Sara noted with some surprise that Yadoshuri’s seal bore the same rune as the door to the scroll room.  “Strange,” she murmured.  She broke the seal and read:

Sara,

I am content to wait as long a necessary.  I only ask that you take care.  And remember this—the Red Mage knows nothing of your current research.  I will see you again soon.  I remain,

Ever Yours,

Yadoshuri

Sara unexpectedly found herself blinking away tears.  She turned away from curious eyes.  “Thank you, Calinus,” she said softly.  She tucked the note inside a pocket in her robes.  Her gaze once again fell upon the spell on which she had been working.  Could it be possible that Yadoshuri meant for her to use that spell against the Red Mage?  It would be a huge risk since she had not yet tested it.  It might also be her only hope of getting out alive.

*****

“If Melnasins is truly expecting Orlaithe to come for her mate,” Calinus said, “then he will no doubt have spells set all around the castle to weaken her resistances and nullify her magical abilities.  If you use a magic neutralizing shield, he will not be able to counter it.  He will not be expecting you to be there.  You have an advantage that he knows nothing about.  Use it for as long as you can.”

Orlaithe turned to Sara and asked, “What is this advantage of which your assistant speaks?”

Sara looked a little nonplussed.  “An accident of birth really,” she finally replied.  “I have no aura.  I cannot be scryed by any means.”

The dragon’s eyebrows rose.  “An advantage indeed and quite useful in our present circumstances.  He is expecting me, he will not be expecting you.  If you walk directly behind me, he will continue to believe I am alone.”  Orlaithe had traded her silk gown for warrior’s garb—dark breeches, a long-sleeved shirt and a leather jerkin.  On her hip she wore an impressive looking long sword.  Her golden hair was now tightly braided and coiled around her head.  She held out her hands and a long, dark hooded cloak appeared in each.  She put one on and said, “Put this on and stand behind me.”  Sara did so and the dragon asked Calinus, “Are you able to see her?”

Calinus shook his head.  “Not at all.  An excellent plan.”

Sara stepped out from behind Orlaithe.  “An excellent plan indeed,” she said.  “If all goes as I hope, we will be able get into the castle, find Laisrean and get out without confronting the Red Mage at all.”

“That seems much too easy,” Orlaithe said.

Sara sighed softly.  “I know.  That is my hope—but I fear the reality will be something else entirely.”  She squared her shoulders.  “I think we’ve planned as much as we can.  It’s time to go.”  She took two bottles from a shelf and handed them to Orlaithe.  “You should take some healing potions with you.  I think Laisrean will need them.”  Orlaithe took the bottles and slipped them inside her jerkin where they seemed to just disappear.

“If you do encounter Melnasins,” Calinus said, “remember this; he may be arrogant, but he’s intelligent.  Do not let him draw you into a battle of words.  He will try to break you and he has had more than five centuries of practice doing it.”

Sara nodded, “Thank you Calinus.  I wish I could take you with me, but I don’t want to risk any more lives than necessary.”

Calinus put a wizened hand on her shoulder.  “In 800 years I have not worked with a White Mage as gifted as you.  If anyone can succeed, you can.”

Sara covered his hand with hers.  “Thank you.”  She took a deep breath and looked over at Orlaithe.  “Are you ready?”  The dragon nodded.  Sara put her hand on Orlaithe’s arm and focused her thoughts on the Red Mage’s castle in Canravar and teleported away.

*****

The castle was as imposing as Sara remembered.  Sitting alone on a hill, its sinister spires dominated the barren countryside beneath it.  Thirty foot, seamless granite walls loomed high above them and the only way in was a narrow road which ended at an iron portcullis that was usually heavily guarded.  Except today.  Eerie silence followed Sara and Orlaithe as they made their way cautiously up the winding cobbled roadway to the castle.  Sara had her neutralizing shield up, but there were no magical traps along the road.  Orlaithe’s cloak hid the Mage completely from anyone who observed their coming.  The dragon had her sword drawn and was keeping a wary eye out for attackers.  “This smells like a trap,” Orlaithe muttered through clenched teeth.

“Yes,” Sara replied in a whisper.

They reached the open portcullis without meeting any adversaries.  As soon as Orlaithe stepped through the archway though, a magical trap went off.  Sara’s shield held steady.  Orlaithe gasped.  “What kind of spell was that?  I have never sensed its like before.”

“It is meant to eliminate your protection from the effects of magic,” Sara replied softly.  “Once he did that, you would have been vulnerable to every spell he cast.”  Another spell hit the shield.  “Keep walking,” Sara whispered.  A ball of fire came toward them and dissipated right in front of them.  Step by agonizingly slow step they made their way across the courtyard of the Red Mage’s castle. 

When the pair finally got to the huge double doors at the entrance, Sara’s heart was pounding.  Orlaithe pushed on the doors, prepared to meet resistance.  None came.  The doors opened smoothly and silently.  She stood in the doorway and listened.  Her nostrils flared.  She inhaled deeply.  “Laisrean is nearby.”  She sniffed again and her nose wrinkled in disgust.  “So is the Magician.”

Sara’s heart clenched with fear.  “Damn it, I didn’t plan for that” she said under her breath.  “Which way?”

Orlaithe tilted her head to the right then began to walk towards the place where her senses led her.  As they walked she said quietly, “Do not let him sense your fear.”  Sara nodded but did not speak.  They were close now.  Even through her shield, she could feel his malevolent energy.  Orlaithe stopped just outside an arched doorway the led to a large ballroom.  “Here,” she said. 

Sara focused her energy on her shield.  She felt Melnasins push hard against it, but he could not breach it.  Orlaithe took a step forward, but when Sara moved to follow her, the dragon put her hand behind her and motioned for Sara to remain.  She stepped into the doorway and stopped.  All of the magically lit torches on that side of the huge ballroom had gone out.  Laisrean was tied to a chair.  His face was bruised and bleeding.  His right eye was swollen shut and his left eye was nearly so.  It was difficult to tell if he was conscious.  He had long cuts on his arms and his fingers were broken.  He had a wide chain collar around his neck that was fitted with spikes that dug into his flesh.  The blood from the wounds in his neck had soaked his once white shirt halfway down his chest.  Behind him stood the Red Mage, one hand gripping Laisrean’s golden hair, the other holding a dagger against the dragon’s throat.

“You cannot win this, Magician,” Orlaithe said.  “Let him go.”

“I must say, I am very impressed, dragon,” he said.  “That is an extraordinary artifact you are carrying.  Which is it, the Talisman of Sabali or the Jade Amulet of Darsul?”  Orlaithe stared at him silently. 

Melnasins shook his head. “We seem to be at an impasse.”  He pulled Laisrean’s head further back. “One way or another I am going to get my prize.”  He pressed the dagger into the dragon’s neck.  A rivulet of blood flowed from beneath the blade.  “If he will not transform, then perhaps you will.”

Laisrean made a choked sound of pain.  Orlaithe’s back stiffened. Sara felt a ripple of energy flow through the dragon. 

“That’s right,” the Red Mage said softly, “Sacrifice yourself and save his life.”

A low growl rumbled in Orlaithe’s chest.  Her skin began to gleam gold.  “Orlaithe don’t,” Sara said as she stepped into the doorway.  “He’s lying.  You cannot save Laisrean this way.”

Melnasins eyes widened.  “Well, well.  A prize infinitely more valuable than a Gold Dragon.”

“Sarkanavis Melnasins,” Sara began, “As is my right by the ancient Law of Laplutious, I challenge you.”

The Red Mage chuckled.  “The legendary unscryable Sara Nadran.  You go to all the trouble to cast your little spells so I cannot scry you and then you deliver yourself to my doorstep.”  He paused and raked her with his gaze.  “Is that what you were working on in the depths of the library with Master Yadoshuri?  I shall have to have a…discussion…with him after we finish our business here.”

A cold knot of fear formed in the pit of her stomach.  If the Red Mage targeted Yadoshuri, there would be little the Sage could do to protect himself.  Although he was a powerful Sage, his magic was no match against the power of a Colored Mage.  Sara clenched her jaw.  Calinus had warned her about this.  She took a slow deep breath and said, “Do you accept?”

Orlaithe murmured, “Sara, do not do this.”

Melnasins raised a single brow.  “Why should I?  I’ll just kill him and force her transformation.”

“If you kill him she’ll tear you apart.  You won’t be able to defend yourself and I will not stop her.”  She tilted her head slightly.  “Are you afraid to fight me.”

The Red Mage made a sound of derision.  “Stupid child.  I no more fear you than I fear an insect beneath my boot.”

“Then accept my challenge,” Sara said.

“Do you really think this little ploy of yours will help them get away?  Surely you must know I am not alone in this castle.”

“Do you really think she cannot fight her way through your thugs?  Accept my challenge, Magician.”

Melnasins’ eyes narrowed.  “Will you lower your shield?”

“You know I won’t have to.”  Sara looked over at Orlaithe, who nodded in understanding.

Melnasins released his hold on Laisrean and took a step back.  “All right little Wizard,” he sneered, “by the ancient Law of Laplutious, I accept your challenge.”

Before the words had left his mouth, Orlaithe had gone to Laisrean, torn the ropes from his arms and legs and unfastened the collar from around his neck.  Seconds later a wave of magical energy more powerful than any of them had ever felt flowed into the ballroom and surrounded Sara and Melnasins.  Laisrean and Orlaithe were pushed out of the circle by the force of the magic.  Sara’s neutralizing spell flickered to non-existence.  The ropes that had bound Laisrean came to life and began to slither toward him.  Orlaithe held out her left hand and golden-white flames shot from it.  The ropes writhed and twisted, then burst into flames.  Orlaithe pulled one of the healing potions out of her pocket in her leather jerkin, uncorked it and put it to Laisrean’s lips.  “Drink beloved,” she whispered.

When the first drops touched his tongue, Laisrean swallowed convulsively, then drank like a man just emerging from the desert.  The bruises on his face began to fade and the swelling around his eyes lessened.  When he finished the first bottle, Orlaithe gave him the second.  His mangled fingers straightened with a series of sickening cracking sounds.  When he finished drinking the second potion, he looked up at his mate and asked, “Orlaithe, how…?”  Orlaithe pointed silently across the room.  Laisrean’s eyes widened.  “She’s going to die for us?”

*****

Sara stood facing the Red Mage.  She dearly wished she had been able to see Yadoshuri one more time.  Melnasins gave her a mocking smile.  “My prey awaits the outcome of this battle it seems.”

Sara didn’t take her eyes off the man across from her when she said, “Orlaithe, get out of here while you still can.”

“We cannot leave you here alone to die,” Orlaithe replied.

“Orlaithe, please…”

“How noble,” the Red Mage said as he touched the tips of his index fingers and thumbs together.  A bolt of lightning as thick as his arm shot across the room at Sara.

Caught off guard, Sara had no time to raise a shield.  She lunged to her left, but she wasn’t fast enough.  The blast hit her right shoulder, throwing her against the invisible barrier of the dueling circle.  She crumpled to the floor, unable to move, barely able to breathe, the pain unbearable.  She distantly heard Orlaithe shouting, “Sara, get up!”

Melnasins laughed.  “I’ll give your regards to Yadoshuri, right before I kill him.”

Yadoshuri.  Sara focused on the Sage.  He said that the Red Mage knew nothing of her work, which meant he would have no defense against it.  She pushed herself up with her left arm and willed her right arm to move.  The spell that had consumed her thoughts for months repeated itself over and over in her mind.  With all the breath she had left, she called the power of air and fire together and released it with a shout.

With a roar, the fiery explosion slammed into the Red Mage.  For a brief instant he was pinned against the barrier.  Then his body flew apart and was incinerated.  The magic circle dissolved, which allowed the blast to continue outward.  It blew out the back wall of the ballroom and all the way up through the second and third floors of the castle. 

Sara heard Orlaithe shout again, but she could no longer move.  She had given every bit of energy she had left to the spell.  She closed her eyes.  An image of Yadoshuri’s face arose in her mind and she felt a stab of regret.  Huge chunks of stone were falling all around her.  Soon one would fall on her.  She didn’t have the strength to put up a shield to protect herself.  How ironic that she should survive a battle with the Red Mage only to be killed by her own spell. 

She heard Orlaithe call out her name then felt a surge of magical energy surround her.  She opened her eyes to find Orlaithe and Laisrean seated beside her on the floor.  “Orlaithe,” she murmured, “I told you to go.”

Orlaithe put her hand over Sara’s.  “Do you think we could leave you here to die after what you have done for us?”

Part of the ceiling above them caved in.  Orlaithe’s shield was battered by large stones and several pieces of heavy furniture.  There was a pause in the falling debris and then more stones began falling, thick and fast.  Sara could feel the shield weakening.  “Shield,” was all she could whisper.

“I know,” Orlaithe replied, her voice strained.  She began murmuring softly, something that to Sara sounded like a prayer.  She wondered who the dragon would be praying to, then she remembered that dragons had a god of magic.  Sara smiled weakly.  She wished she had a god of magic to whom she could pray.  She closed her eyes again.  The pain was overtaking her.  The sounds around her were becoming muffled.  Through the haze of agony, she felt an immense surge of magical energy.  In the back of her mind she felt a sense of wonder that the dragon’s god would respond so quickly.  Then all was dark and silent.

*****

Strong arms lifted her up.  A familiar deep voice softly called her name.  The pain vanished.  She opened her eyes to see Yadoshuri’s face.  She reached up and touched his cheek.  “Am I dead?” she asked.

“No beloved,” he replied with a smile.  “You are very much alive.”

Beloved.  She liked the sound of that.  For a moment she just closed her eyes and rested her cheek against his chest while he walked.  She could hear his heart beating, slow and steady.  She felt soft silk beneath her skin and vaguely wondered why he wasn’t wearing his Sage robes.  “What are you doing here,” she asked finally.

“I had to be sure you were safe,” he replied.

“But, how…”

“Before I answer that,” Yadoshuri said, “I think Orlaithe and Laisrean have something they would like to say to you.”  He set her down onto her feet, still holding her close.  The silk she had felt under her cheek belonged to a dark blue, knee-length tunic.  The tunic had a high collar and buttons that went from the base of his throat to just below his waist.  The sleeveless garment covered a long-sleeved, white silk shirt and a pair of black pants that also appeared to be made of silk.  Around his neck he wore a large sapphire amulet set in silver, with that same rune embossed in silver on top of the gem.  She turned to see both Orlaithe and Laisrean down on one knee with their heads bowed deeply.  Behind them stood the ruins of the Red Mage’s castle.  Orlaithe and Laisrean looked up at Yadoshuri, who gestured for them to rise.  Laisrean came forward and bowed deeply to Sara.  “Nya Savina, we owe a debt we can never repay.”

Sara stared at him.  She had never heard that term before.  “You don’t owe me anything,” she said, “It was the right thing to do.”

Orlaithe came to stand next her mate.  She also bowed deeply and said, “Nya Savina, I ask your pardon.”

Sara was taken aback.  “My pardon?  For what?”

“I came to you for aid and yet was unwilling to trust you with my blood.  For that I am deeply sorry.”

Sara shook her head.  “It would have made no difference anyway.  Orlaithe please, you don’t owe me an apology.”  She frowned and looked up at Yadoshuri.  “And what does Nya Savina mean?”

 “It is the name my people have given to you,” he replied.

Sara blinked.  “Your people?  You’re a…?”

Yadoshuri touched his lips to hers and whispered, “Give me one moment more.”  He looked over at Orlaithe and Laisrean and said, “You may go.”  They both went down on knee again and bowed deeply.  Then they stood, took several steps away from each other, transformed into their beautiful golden dragon forms and flew away.

Sara watched them go, then turned back to Yadoshuri.  She traced the silver rune on his amulet with her finger and murmured, “Not silver.  Mithril.”  She took a step back and looked up at him in amazement.  “Settiorine Venoblius, the Mithril Dragon.  The right hand of Eralon, god of dragons.”

He smiled down at her.  “You left out Dragon god of Magic.”

“I suppose I did, didn’t I.”  She frowned slightly.  “I thought the gods were not permitted to interfere.”

“I did not interfere in your battle with the Red Mage.  Orlaithe called upon me to help her save a life.”  With a smile he continued, “You called on me as well.”

Sara looked at him in surprise.  “I did?  When?”

“When you wished you had a god of magic to whom you could pray.”

“Oh,” she replied.  She looked away from him.  “I don’t understand.  Why me?”

He put his fingers under her chin and lifted her face.  “You are intelligent, beautiful, courageous, wise, generous, selfless and distressingly impetuous.  And did I mention beautiful?”

She began to tremble and her eyes filled with tears.  “But you’re a god.  I’m just…an ordinary woman.”

“Nothing about you is ordinary,” he said as he brushed a lock of hair from her face.  “I have been watching you from the moment you became the White Mage.  You have overcome so many obstacles, including resistance from your own order, some of whom thought you unworthy because of your age and others because you are a woman.  You have instead brought honor to your order and new life to your craft.  And no matter how many demands you have on your time, you still stop what you are doing to help those in need—including wayward dragons.”

Sara blushed and looked down.  “It is what must be done.  It’s the right thing to do.”

“I know,” he said, “But few in your position feel they must do something about it.”

“If you’ve watched me,” she replied, “then you know I am not a very good companion.  I am very devoted to my work—too devoted—to give enough to time to someone who cares about me.”

“Is that what Tavis told you?”  The look in her eyes was enough of an answer.  He kissed her forehead, her cheeks and lastly her lips.  “He could not resign himself to the idea that you had become White Mage over him.  Until your arrival, he was the second most powerful Mage in your order.  I saw how you suffered when he left you and watched you isolate yourself from everything except your work.  I wanted so much to go to you then to comfort you.  That was when I realized that I needed to be closer to you.”

She looked up at him with a slight smile.  “So you took this form and decided to work in the library.”

“In part, yes,” he replied.  “I have always been at the library.  I was one of the builders and I am one of its protectors.”

Sara’s jaw dropped.  “You are?  But Calinus said he didn’t know you.  He knows all the Sages, he’s over 800 years old.”

Settiorine chuckled.  “He does not know me in this form.  I took this form in the hope that you would find it pleasing.  I had hoped that you would grow fond of me before I revealed my true nature.”

Sara said nothing for a long while.  Finally, she pulled his note out of her pocket and said, “I kept this with me.”  She looked into his eyes and said, “The last person I thought about before I fought Melnasins was you.  I wished I could have spent just one more day with you.  When I thought I was dying, my only regret was leaving you behind.”  She paused to blink back tears.  Her voice broke a little when she continued.  “When I opened my eyes and you were there…”

Sara didn’t get to finish.  Settiorine took her in his arms and kissed her deeply.  The landscape around them faded and then reformed itself into a richly appointed bedroom.  It took a little while for Sara to notice the change in location, but finally she pulled away from him and asked breathlessly, “Where are we?”

He kissed her neck and began undoing the fastenings of her robes.  “In the mountains above Ker Deledia,” he answered.

Sara gasped with pleasure.  “No one lives above Ker Deledia except…”

“Dragons,”  Settiorine said with a feral smile that set her heart racing and her body aching with need.  Her robes fell to the floor.  Underneath, all she wore was a light shift.  He growled with pleasure as he ran his hands over her lightly covered breasts.  The shift and the rest of her undergarments soon followed her robes.  He kissed a path of fire from her neck, lingering at her breasts until she moaned with desire, then down her belly to her very core.  Her knees turned to water and she dug her fingers into his shoulders to prevent herself from falling.  He rose and pulled her close, his arousal quite evident. 

“This doesn’t seem very fair, you know,” she said softly.

“What?” he asked thickly.

“You’re still dressed,” she replied with a wicked smile.

In the blink of an eye his clothes were gone.  He tangled his fingers in her jet-black hair and captured her mouth with his.  Step by step he drove her towards the bed, until the backs of her knees hit the mattress.  He lifted his head and she saw that his eyes glittered silver in the low light.  “Sara I burn for you.  I fear this first time may not be as gentle as you would like.”

“Please,” she gasped, “I want this as much as you do.  You can be gentle the next time.”

He lifted her up, bore her down onto the bed and entered her in one thrust.  Sara’s back arched and she cried out in ecstasy as her climax exploded around her.  He drove into her, stoking the fires of her pleasure, bringing her to climax again and again before he finally took his own release. 

Settiorine kissed her, a long, lingering kiss and asked, “Are you ready for gentle now?”

Sara looked up at him, her eyes still dark with passion and said, “Next time.”

*****

Several hours later they lay in each other’s arms, finally sated.  Sara rested her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat, and wondered at the turn of fate that had brought her to this place.  What would she call him now?  He had always been Yadoshuri to her, but now it just didn’t seem right.

Settiorine ran his fingers through her hair.  “What are you thinking?”

She looked at him and said, “I would have thought you could read my mind.”

“I can,” he replied.  “I will not.”

“Oh,” she replied.  “Well, I was wondering what to call you.”

He rose up on one elbow and smiled down at her.  “You could call me beloved, or consort, or husband, if you prefer.”

Sara’s eyes went wide.  “Husband?  You want to marry me?”

He looked down and her and said, “Beloved, I have waited millennia for you and yet I never imagined I would feel this way.  I am now complete.”

“But you’re a god,” she said, “How can you be incomplete?”

“I am a lesser god.  Eralon could end my existence with a thought. But even so, we all feel the need for a mate to make us whole—it is the way of dragonkind.”

“Dragons mate for life, do they not?” she asked.  Settiorine nodded.  She closed her eyes.  “I am not a god.  No matter how long my magic keeps me alive, one day I will die.  Then you will be alone.”

Settiorine leaned down and kissed her.  “Beautiful Sara.  You are worried about me.  That is one of the things I love about you.”  He caressed her cheek.  “Let us enjoy the time that Eralon has given to us.  We will face each problem as it comes.”  He wrapped his arms around her and rolled onto his back, taking her with him.  “Now,” he said with mock sternness, “Say you’ll be my consort or there will be dire consequences.”

She raised an eyebrow, “And what might those be?”

With a wicked gleam in his eye he moved his hands down her body until they rested on her backside.  “I will keep you here and make love to you until you say yes.”

 “Such terrible consequences,” she said with an impish grin.  “You know, I always wanted to ride a dragon.  A Bronze dragon offered it once.”

His eyes glittered silver with lust.  “There is only dragon you are going ride, beloved, and he is right here.”

Sara kissed him deeply then said.  “I will be your consort, my love, for as long as Eralon gives us.”

He moaned softly as she lowered herself onto him.  “That is all I ask.  Eralon will take care of the rest.

*****

Sara and Settiorine stood on top of the mountains above Ker Deledia and looked out over the vast plains of Pendor.  Settiorine was wearing the dark blue tunic again and Sara was dressed in a soft, flowing white gown.  “It’s so beautiful,” she said from the shelter of his arms.  “It must be amazing to see the world as you see it.”

“Hmm yes,” he replied as he kissed the back of her neck.

She smiled and turned to face him.  “You’re not even listening to me,” she chided.

“Well, we did come up here to bond,” he replied, before pressing his lips on her cleavage.

Sara closed her eyes in pleasure for a moment but then said, “How will we bond?  Don’t dragons bond in flight?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“But I cannot fly,” she said.

“Would you like to?” he asked.

Sara blinked in surprise.  “What?  You mean you could turn me into a dragon?”

“Not turn you into a dragon so much as give you the ability to take dragon form, the way I take human form,” he replied.  “Would you like that?”

“Yes,” she breathed, “Oh, yes.”

He let go of her and took a step back.  “Then it is so.”

Sara felt the change within her.  She took a deep breath and focused on the form she wished to take.  She felt her body expand and lengthen.  Her arms and legs transformed.  Wings sprouted, grew, and spread out.  Her vision sharpened so she could see now hundreds of miles in the distance.  Her hearing became extraordinarily acute; she could hear the cries of the gulls flying over the ocean some thousand miles away.  She turned her head and saw that Settiorine had assumed his dragon form, his mithril scales glittering in the bright sunlight.  He turned to her and said, “Beautiful in any form.”

“What do I look like,” she asked.

A huge mirror appeared in front of her.  At first she recoiled at her appearance.  After she recovered from the shock, she took a closer look.  She was white from nose to tail except for her own ice blue eyes which looked back at her from the glass.  When she moved her wings, the sun glinted off the tips.  That was when she saw that every scale on her body had a band of mithril at its edge.  Her heart expanded and warmth filled her.  Without realizing it, she had chosen him. 

Aching need filled her and she leapt off the mountain and took to flight.  With a roar of joy, Settiorine followed in pursuit.  The pair soared up above the clouds, twisting and turning, delighting in the chase.  At last, Settiorine shot straight up and then furled his wings and dove down to her, covering her body with his.  Unable to support his weight, Sara began to plummet toward the ground,  Settiorine opened the great expanse of his wings and took them both upward.  He dug his claws into her and sank his fangs into her shoulder as he entered her.  Sara roared as passion overtook her.  She felt the magic of their coupling race through her blood and bind them together.  Settiorine brought them back to the mountain where they lay entwined in the sun. 

“I love you,” Sara whispered.

“And I you, beloved mate,” Settiorine said.  “I hope I did not hurt you overmuch.”

Before Sara could answer, a rift opened on the mountain.  Settiorine rose up, furled his wings and bowed his head to the ground.  Puzzled, Sara stood and found herself face to face with Eralon, god of dragons.  Whatever beauty she imagined dragons possessed was embodied in him.  His metallic scales reflected all the colors of the rainbow and his eyes seemed to pierce her very soul.  She gasped and followed her mate’s example. 

“Faithful Settiorine, your patience is rewarded this day.  You have chosen well.”

Settiorine lifted his head, “I could ask for no more joy than this, my lord.  I am forever grateful.”

Eralon turned his gaze to Sara.  “Young Sara Nadran, White Mage of Ranwar.  You have many gifts, but among the greatest are your courage and your compassion for others.  You have earned the respect of dragonkind the world over.  As a token of my gratitude, I offer you this gift—when you grow weary of this world, you may join ours and spend the rest of time with your chosen mate.”

Sara stared at him, her heart full.  She could feel Settiorine’s joy flowing over her in waves.  She bowed her head and said, “My lord, this is a gift without price.  I can only hope that I continue to be worthy of the honor you have given me.”

“Of that I have no doubt,” the dragon god replied.  To Settiorine he said, “Honor well the gift you have in her, my friend.”

“I will, my lord,” Settiorine replied.  The rift closed and they were left alone once again.

Sara looked at him and said, “Nya Savina doesn’t mean White Mage, does it?”

“No, my consort, it does not,” he replied.

She let out a sob and transformed back to her human form.  Settiorine followed suit and took her in his arms.  “Beloved, what is wrong?”

Sara shook her head.  “Nothing.  It’s just that so many wonderful things have happened in one day.  I’m having trouble taking it all in.”

He smiled and held her tightly.  “It is no more than you deserve.  It has just been late in coming.”

Sara laughed.  “It seems like I will have a very long time to get used to it.” 

“All of time, beloved.”