Free Short Story: More Than Tolerable

This was a short scene that I wrote after FLAME that ended up being cut. I loved the interaction of Rubeis and Daid—though minimal—and how Rubeis’s isolative personality came out. In the end, although this scene didn’t make it to the final cut, I loved exploring Sanna’s new role through it. 

For this short story, I suggest you have read FLAME first as it will make more sense that way.

 

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The sounds of Letum Wood—and a few grumbling dragons she couldn’t make out—filled Sanna’s head. A shuffle of wing. The tweet of a spotted sparrow jay bird trilled as it darted by. A sure sign of spring. She winced when Daid’s massive hand sprawled across Rubeis’s flank, then quickly jerked away with a hiss of pain. 

He lifted one eyebrow and glared at Sanna. “He’s still hot,” Daid said. 

“Of course he’s hot. He’s a dragon!”

“I felt pain and heat. There’s no . . . merging that you speak of. Are you sure you’ve got it right?”

Sanna frowned. There should be more than pain and heat. She attempted to recall her first merging with Luteis, but struggled to remember.

Rubeis shifted away, his black scales glittering with rivers of crimson, like winking candles. His massive neck turned to stare at her. She could feel his intense gaze boring into the back of her head. Rubeis didn’t enjoy the presence of witches or dragons. Still, since Talis died, he’d stepped into the role of leader for the brood admirably. It didn’t take the High Dragonmaster to know that he wasn’t pleased about merging with Daid. Not annoyed, but certainly not eager, either.

Opinions of Daid had been differing throughout Anguis since Talis’s death. Some knew that in killing Talis he had done what he had to do—not just to save her, but to save the brood. Talis’s lust for power had grown out of control in the last one hundred and fifty years, but that didn’t entirely break his tie with the dragons. Over half of them had left sight, remaining out of the way, coming in only for meals, and sneaking wary glances at every witch they passed. 

Our first official merging, Luteis said, overwhelmed you. You collapsed in a heap.

“Yes, thanks,” she muttered. 

Rubeis’s eyes glittered. She could have sworn she heard a suppressed laugh in his barrel chest. She glared at him, then turned back to Daid.

“Is there a pressure in your mind?” she asked.

“Just heat on my hand.”

They have already exchanged blood, Luteis said. This shouldn’t be so complicated.

Rubeis glared at Sanna. Luteis was right. It should have been easier, but it wasn’t. Even if they didn’t like her, the dragons still expected her to have answers. Answers she didn’t have and answers she didn’t want to have. If Daid and Rubeis would just merge already, the title of High Dragonmaster would surely revert to them. Then the entirety of the Dragonmaster village—and dragons—could start to function again.

Am I supposed to initiate the merging? Rubeis asked. His voice, like his personality, was a bit on the edgy side. Sharp. No nonsense. Still, it flowed like a smooth river, not entirely unpleasant.

Sanna perked up. An excellent question and an easy way to pretend she knew exactly what she was talking about. 

“Aren’t you initiating it?”

I don’t know how. 

“Well that could explain it!”

Daid shook out his hand again. “Explain what?”

“Right, sorry. Rubeis asked if he was supposed to start the merging, which he is. That’s why you’re not feeling something.” 

Luteis shuffled just behind her. Correct, Rubeis, he said, speaking in both Sanna and Rubeis’s mind. You initiate the merging. 

How?

Picture it in your mind first. Then reach out. 

With my claw?

No. With your mind. 

Sanna glanced back and forth between the two dragons as they spoke. Daid, lost in the silence of words he couldn’t hear, simply stood there, regarding them.

“Luteis is trying to explain it,” she said, remembering he didn’t have context yet. Blood exchanged or not, Daid hadn’t truly merged with Rubeis. 

Rubeis closed his eyes. Daid looked away. She wondered if he felt as awkward as she did. His eighteen-year-old daughter having more access to the dragons than he couldn’t have been easy for him. Or maybe he didn’t care. 

She’d gladly give it to him.

There is nothing to picture, Rubeis said.

You don’t see it. You feel it.

Several minutes passed. Rubeis’s voice grew annoyed as he asked more questions; Luteis strained as he attempted to explain with patience. Clearly, neither dragon wanted to be here. Just when Sanna was about to open her mouth to speak, Luteis turned to Sanna. 

Tell your Daid to touch him now.

“Daid, try it again.”

Daid stretched out a hand, this time with some hesitation. His fingers hovered over Rubeis’s flank before touching it. They lingered there for a second before Daid leaped back, eyes wide. Rubeis’s nostrils flared. He sidestepped, toppling a sapling four times Sanna’s height. It cracked at the base and dropped across a small stream.

“Drago!” Daid cried. “It worked!”

Indeed, Rubeis said. His eyes burned a bright yellow. Daid stumbled back, one hand on the side of his head. “You’re . . . “

“He’s only speaking to your head, Daid. He’s not in it.”

Daid glanced at her, a bit peaked. “I don’t like it.”

“You’ll get used to it.”

Another moment or two passed. Daid stretched out his hand again, touching Rubeis’s scales. After a pause, Rubeis shifted toward him again. The two connected. Minutes passed before Daid pulled away. He glanced to Sanna, then stepped back. 

“Perhaps it will be more than tolerable . . . eventually.”

Leave swished behind him as he disappeared into the forest. Sanna turned back to speak to Rubeis, but he had already disappeared.

 

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