Blackbird Flies: Chapter Twenty

Dragonkin

Captain Kaidan estimated the sail to Isola would take about four days. “The island is on the southwestern edge of the archipelago,” he explained, “in a cluster of abandoned islands.” He noticed her surprise and added, “They were abandoned after almost all of their volcanoes erupted over the course of one month. This was long ago, so it’s no cause for alarm. But it keeps others away.” He laughed. “They’re afraid something similar will happen again.”

“How do you know it won’t?” Senara couldn’t resist asking.

He shrugged. “The dragons know. They can feel eruptions coming, and they say these islands have gone to sleep. If they should wake, we’ll have warning.”

“And in the meantime, you’re safe from explorers.”

“Yes. Also, it gives us access to our obsidian. Trading that keeps us supplied with the goods we can’t grow or make ourselves.”

“Surely other islands have access to obsidian?”

“Not in such abundance, and we have an advantage in retrieving it. Dragon reach extends beyond that where humans alone can go.”

“I see.” She mulled this over. “I wanted to thank you, Captain, for changing your departure after my altercation. I feel I should explain–“

He held up a hand. “No need. I am glad we could help, but it was as much for our safety as yours. If you were followed onto our ship, it could have meant questions we have no desire or ability to answer.”

“You could have left me,” she pointed out.

“That was not an option,” he laughed. “Blaze would not have stood for it. Nor would your bond allow it.”

Senara considered this. “We’ve been apart before, over sizable distances.”

“It is not a matter of distance but rather one of time.” He shot her a curious look. “What do you know about the bond? Do you understand how it truly works between a dragon and a human?”

“No,” Senara admitted. “I only know what Blaze could tell us, and their memories only involve dragons bonding with their mothers.”

“It is a contract more binding than blood,” Kaidan explained, turning to lean back against the rail. “Your very souls are intertwined now, from the moment Blaze chose to speak with the two of you in the egg, and until the day you die. As long as you are apart, your souls will long to be whole, and after too long, you will be compelled to seek each other out. We have very few examples of it, but I am told that kind of separation is agony.”

“But,” Senara swallowed. “Dragons live so much longer than humans. What happens to Blaze when we die?”

“Ah,” he gave her a sad smile. “They will follow. But,” he held up a hand, “do not fret too much. As my people say, to bond with a dragon is to live forever. Your life is tied to theirs, as is Eryl’s. Neither of you will perish from age. You will live as long as Blaze does.”

Senara blinked. “But.” She stared at Kaidan. He couldn’t be serious. “Dragons live for centuries.”

“Indeed. Isola’s founders still walk among us, guiding us, as their bonded guide the other dragons on the island.” His face turned serious. “I would not speak too openly of the manner in which the two of you bonded with Blaze. I can see that it has worked out in your case, but its accidental nature might cause resentment among some of my people.” He frowned. “For us, to be chosen by a dragon is a high honor. Anyone willing must undergo several trials just to be allowed to try, and even then, it is still the choice of the egg. We haven’t had any eggs in generations, as I told you, and there are those among our younger folks that might not look kindly on you stumbling into such an opportunity.”

“I understand,” Senara said, nodding. “I will make sure Eryl and Blaze do as well. Thank you for telling me.”

She excused herself and went in search of her companions. It seemed they had quite a bit to talk about.

~~~

“You’re telling me that if something happens to either one of us,” Eryl gestured between Senara and himself, “Blaze will die?” He was visibly shaken by this news.

I could just as easily perish, Blaze pointed out, dooming the pair of you. We will simply all have to take great care when assuming risk. They swished their tail and added, I am sure the other dragons on Isola will have advice for how to deal with that. Their thoughts turned hesitant. I am more worried to learn that I have tied your lives to mine in such a manner. I did not know that would happen. I am sorry I didn’t ask you first.

“As you said,” Senara placed a hand on Blaze’s foreclaw, “you did not know. It isn’t as if you could have asked us. I think just choosing to communicate with us from your shell is what sealed the bond.”

“That’s the part that’s bothering you, isn’t it?” Eryl glanced at her, “Why? I would have thought an extended life expectancy would be a blessing for someone who wants to know everything about everything,” he teased. She dropped her gaze to her hands, fighting a blush. “Senara?” Eryl prompted, the teasing tone leaving his voice.

“Hundreds of years is a very long time, especially to humans,” she said, then in a very small voice, “What if you get tired of me?”

“What?”

Senara, that’s not something you have to worry about, Blaze sounded amused. Eryl won’t get tired of you. He loves you.

“Blaze!”

Senara’s head snapped up and she stared at Eryl, who was giving the dragon a disgruntled look. “What?” She whispered. This thing between them was so new, how could he love her already?

But he does! You do, Blaze turned to Eryl, a little defensive. It’s quite clear in your thoughts.

“Maybe,” Eryl choked out, “but you’re not the one who should be telling her that!”

Oh. Blaze felt chagrined. I understand. My apologies.

“Eryl?”

He met her eyes, and reached to take her hand. “I know we’re still figuring this out, but, well, Blaze is right. Or, at least, I think they are, but this is new to me, too. I can’t even begin to imagine not being with you. How can you think I’d grow tired of you? Are you unsure about us?”

“No!” She shook her head, tightening her grip on his hand. “I’m not! Unsure, I mean. I care about you so much, and I want to be with you, too. I’m just afraid that, well, what if we get to know each other more and don’t like what we learn? What if we change?”

“Of course we’ll change,” he said, brow furrowing. “The thing is, we get to change together. Even if something happens and the nature of us changes, if we’re honest with each other, I think we’ll get through it.”

You’ll both have me, too, Blaze pointed out. I’ll remind you how much you care about one another, they added, feeling smug.

That got a laugh out of Senara and Eryl. “All right,” Senara said, moving to lean against Eryl. “All right. I’ll stop worrying about a hundred years from now and focus on today.”

“Probably a good plan,” Eryl agreed. “Because really, who knows what tomorrow will bring?”

Hopefully an orchard? Blaze suggested.

~~~

As it turned out, there were orchards on Isola. No one person owned any of them, as all of the farms on the island were community maintained, but one of them was in need of extra hands. Blaze was, as Kaidan had predicted, welcomed with open arms and celebrations. The other dragons on the island each wanted a chance to meet their new kin. They arranged a rotating schedule for Blaze to try all of the different occupations available and took it upon themselves to teach the young dragon to fly in between temporary apprenticeships. Though Eryl thrived at the orchard, Senara found the work less enticing when it wasn’t just the two of them. She took the Silverfin librarian’s comment to heart and sought out the island’s archivist. It took some persuading, since the archivist was also bonded, but she managed to convince the woman to take her on as an apprentice.

The island’s residents had built up their homes around some truly massive trees in which the dragons made their nests. Blaze was thrilled about this and wasted no time in claiming their own bower. The trunks of the trees themselves were large enough to have human living spaces carved into them and as bonded, they were afforded their choice of the empty apartments in Blaze’s tree. Senara was delighted by the system of pulley platforms that could be used to reach the apartments and the walkways that joined the various trees. They meant that she did not need to try to climb an endless series of stairs to reach the heights and allowed her and Eryl to choose an apartment near the treetop. They were taking the new romantic aspect of their relationship slowly, but they’d already grown used to sharing their living space and agreed it didn’t make sense to change that at this point.

“Maybe I should start calling you your Highness again,” Eryl teased her one evening as they looked out over their balcony.

“Please don’t,” she answered with a smile, leaning in to kiss him. “I much prefer you calling me by my name.” She laced her fingers in his and leaned against him, sighing with happiness as he wrapped his other arm around her waist.

“Well, when you put it like that, Senara,” he kissed the side of her neck,” I guess I would be a fool to do otherwise.

“Absolutely. So, what do you think? Can you see yourself spending the next few hundred years here?”

He laughed and hugged her close. “With you and Blaze by my side? Absolutely. How about you? This is as different from your old life as I think it’s possible to get. Do you miss it?”

“I miss my brother,” she answered honestly, ” and Grandmother’s solarium. But I brought the best parts of that with me here.”

“We could get some window boxes,” he suggested, “make our own little garden up here. It won’t be exactly the same, but it would be something we could do together. I bet we could track down some of the same plants.”

“I like that idea.”

Senara! Eryl! Are you home? Can you come up? I want to show you something!”

They exchanged glances and Eryl chuckled. “We’ve been summoned.”

We’re on our way, Senara sent as they headed for the nearest platform. They reached Blaze’s bower but the dragon was nowhere to be seen. We’re here, Senara sent, perplexed, but where are you?

Look up!

They did as instructed and gasped in delight as Blazed soared overhead, wings outstretched. The dragon flew past the tree and turned, demonstrating that they were actually flying rather than just gliding, before coming to a neat landing in front of the waiting humans. “Blaze!” Senara cried, running over to hug them. “You did it!”

“Way to go,” Eryl said, joining them and thumping Blaze’s flank in congratulations.

Seabreeze showed me how to fly with passengers, too. Do you want to try? I can’t take us very far, yet, but I wanted you to feel this too.

“Absolutely!” Senara cried, moving to mount the now-kneeling dragon. “Eryl, are you coming?” She held a hand out to him.

“Are we sure it’s safe?” He asked, hanging back. “I don’t want to hurt Blaze.”

I’ll be fine! Please! At least once?

“We won’t let you fall,” Senara promised, smiling down at him.

He looked up at her and his hesitation seemed to fade. “I know you won’t,” he agreed, taking her hand and climbing on behind her.

Ready? All right, here we go!

Blaze launched themself from the bower, carrying Senara and Eryl over the treetops, the three of them laughing in joy together.

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