Nine Months Later
It was a cool and foggy morning as I carefully navigated myself over the foamy waves and sharp rocks, jumping on every boulder until I reached the stone perimeter of the dragon enclaves. I was summoned here, almost out of the blue, by Cyirlie. It was a message delivered by a mermaid, but it was oh-too-easy to pick up on the undercurrents of irritation and urgency. She wanted me at her enclave immediately, and I knew better than to try and keep her waiting.
I could sense the presence of my mate as he stubbornly followed me against my wishes. I hadn’t much choice though- the ship was too far away for me to waste time sailing here, so I had to use someone who could teleport me. I’d have rather asked Cegil if he were available, but he wasn’t. And the instant I said ‘Cyirlie’, Satel went into overprotective mode- there was no way he was leaving my side until the threat was gone.
But the true threat in the matter was the fact that the dragon priestess hated my mate’s guts, making me nervous of an imminent fight.
“Ye don’t have ta come wit’ me ye know- she ain’t gonna eat me,” I reminded him as he landed on the rocky surface next to me. …Though she sure liked to make a couple of close calls during the few times she’d pass by me in her dragon form. I think she was trying to intimate me to ensure that I would respect her in some fashion.
I did have a ‘healthy’ amount of wariness for her, but it was hard to fear someone who was loyally bound to the same entity that wanted me to stay alive. I knew deep down that Cyirlie would get in serious trouble if she harmed me in any way.
“You can’t prove that- she’s probably waiting for the chance to get you alone for a snack. I refuse to give her that opportunity,” Satel growled as his rust colored eyes darted around the mists for any sign of her.
I held back my sigh as his hands slid to my sides so he could pull me back against his body. While I didn’t doubt that he did want to protect me, I had a feeling this was more about his personal grudge against her.
Or, I thought with a hidden grin, he just wants to continue to rub the fact that he got away with mating another woman in her face.
…Not that Cyirlie would be jealous of such a thing- she just hates the fact that he got what he wanted when he deliberately broke the rules. She’d made it quite clear that that one punishment wasn’t enough for her, since it hadn’t managed to kill him.
Standing there in the dense mist, I had to admit that the setting was a little eerie- the fog was everywhere, reducing visibility and making everything appear ghostly white. All I could see was shadows of mountains in the distance and the small patch of ground beneath me. I could feel Satel’s arms tighten around me as we heard the crunching of rocks- a sign she was coming.
His hands were, for some reason, lingering near my belly as he lowered his chin to rest against my shoulder with a possessive growl. I wasn’t quite sure if this was supposed to be a protective stance intended for my benefit, or if he was actually using me as a shield. Deep down he was kind of a coward before her- not that I blamed him.
A shape soon appeared in the mists that quickly formed into the familiar silhouette of the tall dragon in her humanoid form. Once she was close enough, I could see her typical scowl, which seemed to deepen further upon seeing Satel behind me.
“Wot is he doin’ here?” the raven haired priestess asked with a sneer. She was answered with a low growl from my mate before I shook my head and gestured for her to get this meeting over with.
“It don’t matter does it? Once we’re done here, we’ll be gone,” I said, refusing to let that small tremor of fear leak into my voice.
Cyirlie huffed before she strode over to us and held out her arms. It was then when I noticed that she was carrying something in her claws- it was a brown, bean shaped lump of a cloth of some kind. I gazed over at her icy blue eyes in confusion as I wondered what this was about.
“Take it- it’s yers,” she muttered in annoyance when I wouldn’t move. Cautiously, I held out my arms while fighting against Satel’s pull as he made sure I was as far away as possible from the sea dragon.
The bundle was tiny in her claws, but it was large and heavy enough to require the use of both my arms. I was soon stunned when I discovered that the bundle was very warm and something was wriggling inside it. As I balanced it carefully in one arm, I raised my free hand to move aside the thick, and surprisingly soft, material until I revealed a tiny, chubby face.
“A…baby?” I intoned in bewilderment.
For the first time since I’d known her, Cyirlie smirked and shook her head in mild amusement.
“No matter how many times ye go through this, ye an’ yer pappy always look so surprised ta see it. Ye knew he was comin’ back- now ye must take care o’ him.”
And with no other words, she turned and walked away, her form shifting to her dragon self before she walked into the fog.
My mind reeled as my eyes darted back to the tiny thing in my arms. I was in awe how fast this had happened- and the fact that this was my pappy reborn. …But this wasn’t him either- same body and soul, but he didn’t have his memories. I believe later on he’ll learn of his past lives through the Blessing of Knowledge, but for right now, it was truly a fresh start.
The first real thought that formed in my mind was that I wasn’t ready for this. I didn’t have the means to care for a baby, and I didn’t see myself as a fit mother given my profession. …But… the more I look at the slumbering child, the more I felt compelled to protect him. Somehow my maternal instincts kicked in and I knew I couldn’t let my doubts stop me. Pappy- no – my son needed me, and I was ready to protect him from anything.
I gazed down fondly at his tiny features, noting how adorable he was now and how someday he was going to grow up to be a strong young man. Heh, Pappy must’ve had the same transition from panic to devotion when he first held me like this…
But soon I remembered Satel behind me, and I began to wonder what he was thinking about all of this. Even though there wasn’t another man involved and I didn’t give birth, the baby is part of my flesh and blood, and, for all purposes, was technically my son. But he was also not Satel’s child.
“Ah… uh…” I fumbled with my words at first as I turned in his arms and held the baby between us. “Is this okay? …It’s part o’ me duty ta care an’ raise him but… we can still have our own kids someday.”
For a while, he was silent as he gazed down at the child with an unreadable expression. I found myself holding my breath as I desperately hoped that he wouldn’t be upset over this. I had told him beforehand that this could happen, but now that it did, I felt so unprepared.
“Why are you so nervous? How could I hate anything that’s a piece of you?” he inquired as he brought his hand and gently traced the boy’s soft skin with the back of his finger. “He’s not mine, but he is yours, and I’ll protect him like I do for you. Besides, he should be good practice for when we have falcie together.”
Relief flooded me at his acceptance. He did say before that he would help me raise every incarnation, but …this was such an unusual situation. In a way, I felt like I had somehow been unfaithful to him in obtaining a child through other means. Some part of me feared that he might have a lingering feeling in that direction as well.
I felt even better when he began to smile softly as the baby opened his eyes, revealing the same storm grey color as Pappy had. “So what will you name him?”
“Rutan, o’ course,” I replied, feeling a rush of pride and love for the child. “No other name suits him better.”
It was a little hard to see Pappy in that little thing, but at the same time it was no surprise he bore so much of a resemblance to him. In the coming years, he’d grow to look more and more like the man in my memories- but right then, he was just my precious little boy.
To be Continued in Fatesbane: Lords of the Sea