I woke up in bed next to Master. This wasn’t surprising, though it was still something to get used to. Like he said, he ordered a larger bed from the carpenter once we got back to Hammerfell, and now I spent my nights curled up with him. I had always thought it wouldn’t make much of a difference, or it would be hard to sleep like this, but it’s been surprisingly nice. He was already up and moving, so I hopped down, stretched, curled my tail, and spread my wings. It was nice to be back to being my dragon self, as odd as that thought felt.
I was still reeling a little from the revelation that Tola was from Earth as well. Add it to the pile of things I need to deal with, I guess. I was still having nightmares about dealing with Elimaio, but at least they’re not so bad, being with Master. A reminder that, as horrible as the experience was, I did it for a good reason. We probably both would have been dead, and who knows what else the mad wizard would have done… Also on that pile was the mysterious contraband package from this “Brotherhood of Shadows”. Cheerful bunch, I bet.
I wandered out of the bedroom, heading to the study where Master usually was, but I found it empty. The next best bet was the workshop, or I guess other mages might call it their laboratory, and there he was. “Morning, Master. What’cha up to?”
“Trying to put this into practice. The theory is sound, sure, but without actually attempting it, I can’t say for sure that it’s successful.” He had the book he wrote in, and other notes spread out. Using them, he was preparing a circle on the floor, runes traced along the edges in chalk. In the center sat a crystal of some sort. Probably quartz, I remember Master saying it took magic well even if it didn’t hold much. I’m glad he was able to keep all this stuff straight, because I certainly couldn’t.
I sat patiently, not sure what I could do other than stay out of the way. I was always impressed by the runes, something about them always just… drew my attention to them, made them extra noticeable. Like hearing your name in a crowded room, kind of. Especially once Master began his chanting, channeling energy through them, a sort of low hum that I could feel as it moved.
I was simply watching, but then I noticed something odd about the energy, how it sort of flowed until it hit one of the runes, but then it just couldn’t push through something, pooling and flowing back and leaking out of the design. I followed the sensation over, sniffing a little curiously at the area, but I couldn’t tell the reason for it. Eventually, Master stopped his work, his breath a little heavy from the exertion.
“Okay… Oof. Now to test it.” He stepped over the circle and picked up the crystal, which was about the size of his thumb. He held it up and frowned, but nothing seemed to happen. “That… I mean, I guess I shouldn’t expect it to work the first time, but still.”
“Maybe it’s because the energy didn’t flow into it?” I tilted my head, still sitting by the spot where everything just sort of halted.
“I can tell it didn’t, because otherwise this would be lighting up.” He had a note of frustration in his voice. “I must’ve made an error somewhere, I’ll have to recheck everything.”
“Well, this is where it kinda… stopped. Maybe this is a good place to start looking?” I gestured to the rune with my nose. “I mean, I don’t know a lot about this stuff, but that’s where I’d start.”
“What do you mean, ‘it stopped’?” He knelt down, looking at the rune, and stopped. “Wait, this one… I drew it from the other side, didn’t I? Crap, it’s upside down.”
“That would explain it, wouldn’t it?” I wagged my tail, happy that I got something right.
“Yeah, but… How did you know? Did you recognize the mistake?”
“No, but when you were doing the spell, the flow just kinda got blocked there? I don’t know how to explain it, other than that.”
“Yeah, it would have, but how did you know?”
“Because… I mean, I felt it? It was pretty obvious. Is… Did you… not feel it?” I was completely confused by this point. It was like asking how I knew a thing was red when we’re both looking at it.
“Feel? You can… ‘feel’ magic?” He stared at me, and it was his turn to look confused.
“Yeah. Watching you work, I’ve gotten better about being able to tell where it’s flowing. At first I was only able to tell ‘There is magic here’, but as you did more spells while I watched, I could get a better sense for the way the energy flows. …You really can’t feel it? But you’re the one using it!”
“I can feel that the energy is leaving me, but beyond that, nothing. Huh, I guess maybe it’s a dragon thing, something to do with your innate magic.” He stared at the rune and at me for a bit, lost in thought. “That… is actually incredibly interesting. And possibly very helpful.”
My tail wagged more at being able to help. Master, meanwhile, was cleaning up the mistake with a damp cloth, so he could draw the rune in the proper orientation.
“There, done. What do you think?”
“It’s… a rune? I mean, I can only sense the magic when it’s flowing, I can’t just look at runes and tell…”
“Ah, well, that makes sense, I suppose. Still, I could start another test run, and you can tell me if you sense any more issues. But first, a break. And a snack.”
“Ooh, snack! I guess I missed breakfast, I kinda slept in. That ride home last night didn’t make for the best of sleep.” I got up and was ready to follow him to the kitchen.
“Heh, yeah, you did. All right, let’s get you fed, girl.”
After eating, we were in the front room, where we had the more comfortable chairs and even a couch. I liked this room, because it meant that when Master sat on the couch, I could lay across his lap and get lots of pets. We were sitting like that now, his hands running down my back, when not tracing along my wings, exploring the musculature and joints. It was nice and relaxing, and my tail swayed, thumping against the back of the couch, while I purred deeply. I almost dozed off again, but then Master patted my flank as a sign that I needed to stand up.
Hopping down off the couch, I let him stand and stretch. “I guess it’s time to get back to it. I want to be able to make a trip into town to show off my progress to Arlond.”
I probably knew the person he was talking about, but not by name. I wasn’t very good with names as a dragon, not that I’d been good with them before. Finally, my curiosity got to me as we entered the workshop again. “Arlond?”
“He asked about enchanting a blade, for a special order. Remember?”
“Oh, the blacksmith?” My mind recalled the image of the man, the scent of the forge always clinging to him, heat and ash and leather apron and sweat, and the tone of his voice if not the words themselves.
“Yeah, him. That’s Arlond. Anyway, if I can put a light spell in this gem, I’ll know I’ve got the process down, and I can start working on even bigger things.” He took his spot at the lectern where he set his book up, in front of the circle. I sat at the other side, ready to “watch” the magic as he worked.
This time, I spoke up earlier when I saw what seemed to be problems. I would bring Master’s attention to one spot or another, and if it wasn’t that rune specifically, it was one nearby. After a couple of these corrections, I felt the magic flow into the crystal itself, head tilting as I watched the process intently.
Master picked up the crystal, and with a bit of focus, the thing lit up brightly. Another bit of focus and it went back to looking normal. “I have to admit, this would’ve been a much more difficult process without you, Princess. Thank you for your help.”
“Well, like you said, every magician needs an assistant. Though, if I’m ever human again, we should think of a better name for me.” It hadn’t even been a week yet, since my brief stint as a human going by the name of “Vanna White”, a name no Terra native would recognize.
Picking up a lantern, Master took out the wick and drained the oil, installing the crystal into its place. “There we go, that should be a good demonstration.”
By mid-afternoon, we were standing in the blacksmith’s shop. It wasn’t until he came out of the back that I had remembered how he saw through me instantly when I was human. This could get awkward.
“Arlond, friend, I am pleased to present to you: my first enchanted item.” Master held the lantern, mentally commanding it to activate, and his face beamed nearly as bright as the gem inside did.
“Aye! That’s a sight, all right! A blade that c’n do that would be a sight.” He laughed and clapped a hand on Master’s shoulder, the mountain of a man nearly making him stumble.
“Ah, thank you, I’m just glad I was able to get it to work. I’d still like to get my hands on my own copies of the relevant tomes, it would probably make it easier to adapt the process if I needed to. Right now, I should be able to do fairly simple spells without issue, at least.”
“I’ll let the fancy lad know we c’n do light, and ask ‘im if’n he wants somethin’ else. Tell ‘im it’ll cost extra. T’ tell the truth, I don’ really like ‘im much, but coin is coin.” With the talk of business seeming to be settled, as far as he was concerned, his gaze fell down to me, looking back up at him. “So, how’s she dealin’ with not bein’ able t’ talk anymore?”
“Oh, Princess? She’s… Ah…” Master tried to figure out exactly where to draw the line between truth and cover story.
“I… actually… have been able to talk this whole time. Please don’t tell the others, though.” I couldn’t take the awkwardness anymore, I had to break my silence.
Arlond gave a short “Hrmph” in response, his facial expression unchanged. “Figures y’r a smart one. Always was somethin’ ‘bout you.”
I turned my head to look away, leaving Master to speak up instead. “You’re quite observant. You speak so rarely, sometimes it catches me by surprise.”
“Eh, got nothin’ what needs t’ be said, most of th’ time. If it was my business, y’d tell me, I s’ppose.” He picked up the lantern to look it over, squinting at the light. “How d’ya put this thing out?”
“Oh, ah, you just… sorta… will it? Like, reach out with your… Well, not a specific thought, just… Sorry, I’m not used to saying it out loud, it’s just a thing I do. Like someone asking how you catch a ball.”
It took a moment of squinting, but finally the light went out. “Eh, guess it’s as good a word as any f’r it.” He set the lantern back down, standing silently. If he expected us to say anything, we didn’t know what it was.
“So, about my talking, you… won’t tell anyone, right? A dragon is strange enough, but still something they can know and understand. A talking dragon, well… They might be okay with me now that they know me and Master, or they might be upset that I kinda… lied… about it.” My tail curled nervously around my paws, clutching tighter at the last part.
“Y’had yer reasons. It’s yer judgement. Tell ‘em or don’t, it’s yer call, not mine.”
“Well, thank you. I’m glad you understand. At least, I think you do.”
We stood in silence for a bit longer, but when we didn’t seem to have anything else to say, Arlond turned around without a word and went back into the back of his shop, leaving the lantern on the counter. When the sound of hammer hitting metal started to ring out, we got the hint that he considered the meeting over, so we left.
“Huh, kinda thought he’d be more excited about the light.” I muttered softly after making sure nobody was nearby.
“Maybe he was. Not everyone can have a tail to wag like you.”
“I dunno, maybe they should. They’d look better that way, and maybe there’d be fewer misunderstandings.” I flicked my tail, picturing Arlond with a thick tail, to match his thick body. I could see the scales on it being overgrown plates, giving it a very armored and ridged look. I bet it would swing in time with his hammer, as he twisted his body to put his weight into a swing, the tail a counterbalance. Swinging from left to right when the hammer came down, swinging back from right to left as he brought it up for another strike… A firm grip on the handle, like he could have a firm grip on me… I let out a throaty purr, the addition of a tail definitely helped put him into the “I could let him on my back” territory. And the moment I realized where my thoughts were going, I coughed, shaking my head and trying to dispel the image.
“You all right, girl?”
“Y-yeah, I’m fine, I just… Nothing, nevermind.” I was blushing deeply, looking around. I’d been following Master while lost in thoughts, and realized we’d stopped just outside the inn. “Oh, this is, uh, Maifen's place, isn’t it?” Miss Smells-Like-Food-Especially-Stew, as I knew her.
“Yeah, we had some extra time, so I thought I’d treat you to a bowl of stew, for your help with the enchantment. Might help to take your mind off whatever it went to, after you said humans should have tails.” I could tell by the teasing tone that he had a pretty good idea of where that was…
Not that I’d admit it. I mean, I’m not sure which would be more embarrassing, finding Arlond semi-attractive, or finding Tailed Arlond more-than-semi-attractive… I couldn’t help it, dragon instincts liked strong males. Though, Master was really nice, he’d be an attentive stud if he–Nope, nope, no, really can’t go that route, no. Even if he knows transformation magic and could theoretically–No, brain, what part of ‘Bad Girl’ did you not understand? Ugh, now I was blushing even worse! Maybe nobody would notice, and it would go away once I was thinking about something else. Yummy stew. Yeah, think of the stew.
“Sir Mage! So good to see you! And you are alone this time?” Miss Stew was as enthusiastic as ever to see Master. She didn’t need a tail to show off her thoughts.
“Not alone, Princess is with me. Two bowls of your wonderful stew, please.”
“Of course, of course. I just meant your… assistant, from earlier, isn’t with you.”
“Sorry she didn’t get a chance to come in and say goodbye, but I can tell her you asked about her?”
“No, no, not necessary!” She let out an awkward laugh, like forced politeness. Master raised an eyebrow. “Two bowls, coming right up!”
We sat at our usual table, Master in the chair and me at his side. Maifen placed his bowl on the table and mine on the floor, giving my head a gentle pat as she did. I leaned in lightly, before dipping my head to start lapping up my treat.
“Oh, by the way, Princess and I stayed at an inn in Winselton, apparently a friend of yours runs the place. Well, her and her husband, but the husband was quite rude about me bringing Princess indoors.”
“Ach, yeah, I know the couple you mean. He can be a bit of a blowhard, don’t let him get under your skin. Or scales, Princess!” She laughed at her attempt at a joke. It wasn’t hard for me to simply not react.
“Anyway, I guess I just wanted to say I’m glad we made such an impact on you, because she wouldn’t have treated us nearly as well if it hadn’t been for you.” Master began taking spoonfuls of his stew.
“You’ve done so much for us here, it’s hard not to talk about you! I mean, they say Mister Elimaio had turned evil, was kidnapping folks. Can’t have a rogue mage nabbing guests! Er, no offense, I don’t mean to imply that ALL mages… do that sort of thing?”
“I never would’ve guessed you did, worry not. And yeah, he tried that with me, in fact. So it’s not just rumor.” I can’t blame Master for not wanting to talk much about it. After all, Elimaio nearly killed him. Nobody would have a near-brush with death and simply forget about it.
“Goodness! So you’re really the one that put an end to him? Guess he got more than he bargained for, tangling with such a powerful mage as yourself! Serves him right, I suppose. I bet that must be a thrilling story!” Maifen sat down at the table across from Master, eager to hear more. It was still mid-afternoon, so there wasn’t anyone else in need of service.
“I’m not… I mean… I wasn’t a mage, then. I didn’t start learning magic until afterwards. In fact, I’m not even the one who… defeated him. I tried, but I was no match. The best I could do was create an opening, and I’m lucky that was enough.” He had stopped eating, staring at the half a bowl of stew. I’d already licked my bowl clean by this point, aside from the potatoes I left behind, so I laid my chin comfortingly on his leg.
“But if you didn’t…? I mean, the Guards said it was you. And you’re the one what took over his tower, why would you do that if you weren’t a mage?”
“I went back into the tower after my escape because of Princess. I couldn’t leave her at the mercy of that man. She’s also the one that struck him down. He’d… done a lot of horrible things to her.” He brought a hand down, petting along my neck. “As for the tower, I learned the Crown was going to… auction her off to a butcher. I couldn’t just leave her to that, after she saved my life, so I claimed Right of Conquest in order to stop that from happening. But that means taking over everything, so the tower ended up mine as well. That’s how I started learning magic, I had a library full of books on the subject and nothing else to do.”
“Oh, so modest. Well, in any case, we’re lucky to have you. I still say you’re the hero of Hammerfell!” Master actually winced at that, setting his spoon in the bowl for now. I couldn’t see Maifen from down here, so I had no way to tell if she noticed.
“I’m not… I mean, I barely know any magic, compared to, say, what a Mages’ Guild member must know. Even with what I know, I’m still nothing compared to what Elimaio was, in power. I got lucky, that’s it.”
“Luck, fate, justice, I don’t know about any of that. But you’re here, and the town is better off for it. In fact, don’t worry about the stew, it’s my treat! You just feel free to come by whenever you want to see me, you hear?”
“Your treat? Well, if you’re sure. I mean,” he gave a soft chuckle, “it’s quite delicious, like all of your cooking. And it’s definitely Princess’s favorite. Well, minus the potatoes, I guess.”
I couldn’t help it, potatoes didn’t taste like much of anything, just a faint meat flavor they’d absorbed from the stew, and the rest was like a gritty sponge. And they made my stomach ache a bit, feeling like a heavy weight was trapped in it. In fact, I kinda felt like that already. Maybe I ate some by accident without realizing it?
“She does seem to love it. Didn’t your friend say something about that, too? It’s my most popular dish, I guess I’m not that surprised.” The “friend” she was thinking of was me, as “Vanna White”, so I’m glad she missed making that connection. I didn’t want to have to explain that to her as well as Arlond, after all.
“Of course it’s popular, I’m surprised you don’t get people from Winselton making the trip just to get a bowl.” Master smiled and went back to eating, finishing off his bowl before standing. “We should be getting home before nightfall, though.”
“Oh, I thought you were staying longer. You brought a lantern with you, after all.”
“Ah, actually, that’s a project of mine. My first enchanted object, in fact.” Master held the lantern and showed it off, making it light and then darkening it. “I probably couldn’t have done it without Princess’s help, actually. Did you know dragons can sense magic naturally? Her, ah, reactions helped me pinpoint where the mistakes in my runes were.” He hadn’t thought ahead, but once he said it, he had to try to explain without giving me away.
“Oh, that’s incredible! And you say you’re not powerful, Sir Mage!” I was getting the impression she’d have been floored if Master had pulled a sovereign from behind her ear. Or just did the trick with his thumb, where he made it look like he detached it and put it back together. To be honest, it was starting to bother me, the way she seemed to fawn over him.
“Well, it’s really not that impressive, compared to things I’ve seen and heard. Either way, we really must be going.” With the lantern in hand and me close behind, we made our way out of the inn before she could say anything more, Master letting out a loud sigh once we were clear.
A bit further down the road, he spoke up. “Oof, that was close. Talk about not getting the hint, huh?”
I looked up, head tilted a little. “Yeah, you were pretty oblivious back there.”
“I know, she–What do you mean, me?”
The tip of my tail flicked in frustration. “I mean, she was laying it on so thick. And her scent. She is totally into you.”
“What are you talking about? She’s… a fangirl. She’s got me on a pedestal. She doesn’t even know me.”
“She’d still lift her tail for you if she had one. If you asked her to let you take her to a room, she’d shut down the inn and kick everyone else out.”
“You’re just saying that because she sat down at the table.”
“I’m serious. You couldn’t smell her, when she sat down? When you talked about the Right of Conquest? She wants you to ‘conquest’ her. I mean, she gave you free food!” We were out of town by now, on the road back home, so I was free to speak up without worrying.
“Her smell. How do you even know what a… human in the mood smells like?”
“I’m guessing based the stuff she said, but I could definitely tell it changed as you talked. Like I said, free food.” My tail lashed a bit more. I don’t know why the thought was so prickly.
“Hmph, maybe you should lay off the food, then. You’re getting a bit of a pudge yourself.”
“I am not! If anything, I feel like I’m starving half the time!” There was a slight growl in my voice. I shouldn’t do that to Master, I should try to calm down. Why was I so worked up?
“What do you call this, then?” Master knelt down and poked at my lower stomach, just in front of my hindlegs.
Somehow, that sent a jolt through my body and slammed into my mind, and before I even knew it, I had hissed loudly, a forepaw raised like I was going to strike. He stumbled backwards, falling on his rear, eyes wide, and I froze. My own eyes were wide too, and I carefully set my paw down. “I-I’m… I’m sorry, I didn’t… I don’t… I don’t know what happened there, I just… I… Please don’t… touch there again.” My voice shook.
“Yeah, no, I… won’t. But do you want to talk about it? I think we should.”
“Yeah, we should, but… I don’t know what to say? I don’t know where that came from.”
He picked himself up, brushing dirt from his clothes and collecting the lantern. We continued walking, in silence as we both were lost in thought.
“...Did it have to do with the talk about Maifen? You were getting pretty worked up about that.” He ventured the idea. I can’t blame him, I wouldn’t have been able to just let that sit either.
“Maybe. I… I don’t know, she just… bothers me, and I don’t know why. She doesn’t even know you, but she chases you. And she doesn’t seem to listen when you tell her about yourself. She… doesn’t deserve you. Maybe.” I didn’t know where I was going with that statement when I started. Hearing the words was… close. But something felt missing from it.
“...Not like you do.”
“Wh–! I–! What? I never said–! I’m not–!” I stopped in my tracks, sputtering denials.
Master didn’t respond, and I couldn’t get anything out that was a full sentence for a bit.
“Look, I never… I can’t… You’re human, I’m not. You’re my Master. I don’t… I can’t love you that way, it’s… not right.” My gaze was pointed straight down as I walked, watching one paw move in front of the other.
“The heart doesn’t care about what’s right, only about what it wants. You’re conflicted as hell about it, so I won’t push it, but… we’re gonna have to have a long talk about it soon.” We walked in silence a bit more.
“...You’re… really nice to me. You’ve done so much for me. You take care of me. It’s… How do you live with that and NOT start developing some kind of feelings? But even if I wanted to… try to do anything with that, what would be the point? Even now, just this, I… I don’t know. It’s a mess.”
“What I said at the inn was true, you saved my life too. You’ve been there with me, every step of the way. You’re smart, and I have a lot more in common with you than I will nearly any other person in Terra, since we’re both from Earth.”
“You… Wait, are you saying…?”
“I’m not saying I have a crush on you, just that I understand your feelings. Like you said, we’re a human and a dragon. No offense, but I have enough trouble finding humans attractive, let alone something with a tail that walks on all fours.”
I flinched a little, but nodded. “Yeah, I… have a lot of trouble thinking of you in that way, unless I picture you with a tail. I thought maybe I’d get over that, or that when I was human, but even then I… Rrrerff, instincts, I guess.”
“Or soul. Or maybe instincts because of soul.”
“Rrf, not helping, really.” I sighed heavily.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean anything bad by it, just pointing out that it’s, well, a thing.”
The rest of the trip was awkward silence.
At home, I curled up on the couch, while Master had gone off to the study. I wasn’t really in the mood to talk about how badly messed up I was anymore, and I wasn’t exactly going to blame Master for not wanting to talk about the fact that I almost maybe clawed at him. The moment was burned into my mind. There was no active thought, no words that were in my mind, it was just… I needed him Away. For some reason, his touch, for the first time ever, was Bad. I’m sure he’d touched my belly before, he’d given me rubs and I’d never felt anything like that. But no matter how many times my mind forced me to replay that moment, I couldn’t find a reason for it. It just… Was. Could I stay with him? What if that happened again? What if I didn’t stop myself? Was I losing my mind after all? What was wrong with me? Question after question hammered at my head, without a single answer, just increasing heaps of worry.
A warm hand rested on my shoulder, and I froze. I hadn’t noticed, but I’d curled up tighter and tighter the more I spiraled in bad thoughts. Muscles were wound tightly and full of stress. I raised my head and looked up, seeing Master’s gentle smile.
“Hey, you all right, girl? I thought for sure you’d follow me at some point, but you didn’t. When I realized how long it’d been, I started to get a little worried…”
I looked away. “I don’t… know if I should. I’m… dangerous.”
“Oh, come on. I know you’d never actually harm me. I Trust you.” He leaned down, kissing the top of my head, between the horns. I blushed deeply.
“What if I don’t trust me? I don’t know what happened, what if it happens again?”
“I don’t think it will. I’ve been reading since we got home, looking up everything I could on dragons. Of course there are some books here, given the interest that He had.” The slight stress let me know exactly which name Master was avoiding saying, though it was obvious.
“Did… you find something?” I blinked, this could actually be good news. Or bad news, but even that was better than unanswerable questions.
“Maybe, maybe not. There’s… still a lot we don’t know, both about dragons and especially about your… changes. You’re already a miracle of modern magic, so to speak.”
“Mmrh, ‘miracle’ isn’t exactly the word I’d use.” I’d said before that given the choice, I’d choose to stay a dragon, but that was before I almost hurt the one person I cared about in the world. In both worlds.
“Well… You know how for a transformed human, it’s ‘impossible’ to breathe fire?”
“Yeah. How was it you described it? The human soul doesn’t produce the right innate magic for the dragon body’s abilities.” My head tilted. I know he was going somewhere with this, but I didn’t know where.
“Exactly. And how an animal turned human doesn’t gain human knowledge. The transformation doesn’t add, it just covers. Honestly, you probably shouldn’t even be able to talk, I think you resisted enough of the spell to keep that ability. You have amazing will, after all.”
“Rrrf, buttering me up isn’t going to make me feel better about earlier. Did you have something or not?” Was he going to tell me I should already have been just another dumb beast, that I’d only been able to cling to my mind this long because of my will?
“Sorry, it’s… Well, there’s something else that’s supposed to be ‘impossible’, given what’s known about transformations. But I don’t know if you’re going to want to hear this.”
“Oh, now I have to hear it. You can’t just start and then stop like that.”
“Okay, well, part of having a human soul in an animal body is, um… breeding. New life is… a joining of essences. A human soul won’t have the right essence to be compatible with an animal’s. Not that there’s a lot of knowledge, few would be willing to try, and few were willing to force the issue…”
“Elimaio didn’t mind forcing the issue. And his stud didn’t mind forcing himself on me.”
This time, Master winced. “Yeah, well… At some point there, you… stopped having a human soul in a dragon body.”
“Some ‘amazing will’, I managed to break down and–! N… no…” It hit me. It hit and settled in the pit of my stomach. Just below it. In a way that I knew it had to be true. It couldn’t be, but it had to be.
“Yeah. I… think you’re pregnant, Princess. You’re carrying eggs.”
I simply stared blankly, my mind spinning like a wheel in mud.
“…Princess? I said–”
“I heard.” It felt like his voice and mine were both from far away, at the end of a long hallway. I wasn’t even consciously aware of choosing to say them. I felt like a passenger in my own body.
“Look, it’s… it’s not like it’s a bad thing. It’s perfectly natural! Dragonesses are very protective of their eggs, that’s why you reacted–”
“It’s… natural. It’s natural? Natural. I’m a human guy who got turned into a dragoness and knocked up by an animal. What part of this is ‘natural’? Please. It’s a sick joke from the universe, is what it is. Multiverse. Whatever.”
“Okay, look, how you got there isn’t the natural part, but once you were there, you were there. It happened. Now we know what’s going on. This is a good thing!”
“Good?” My head turned to stare blankly into his eyes.
“The knowing is good. The eggs… are eggs, nothing more, nothing less. Okay? Now we know why touching your belly is bad. I just won’t touch there, and you’ll know where that urge to fend me off comes from. You’re still my pretty girl, you’re still my Princess, and I’m still gonna be here for you, okay?” His arms wrapped around my neck and shoulders, hugging me close.
I froze at first, but then I felt his warmth. His presence. His embrace. Security. Closeness. The bell on my collar was pressed between my chest and his. Even after everything, here he was, trying to Rescue me again. His Princess. I found myself sniffling as I began to nuzzle into his shoulder, a wing stretched out to wrap around him in a hug. I couldn’t really cry quite the same way as a human could, but I still had a sniffling nose when I did. But I tried not to think about it in that way right now. I didn’t want to think about the differences between humans and dragons, I just wanted to be Held. And Master was willing to hold me as long as I wanted.
I don’t know exactly when we finally let go, but I felt a lot better, at least. I licked Master’s cheek and purred. Master smiled back at me and scritched under my chin. Just when I thought I’d been thrown every twist there was, somehow new ones found me. Even if they’d apparently been with me all along. But as long as I had Master, I felt like I’d be able to handle them.