m/m urban fantasy
Chapter 3: Introductions
Eric leaned against the closed door and shut his eyes. That was the most spectacular kiss of his life. Luke had been frightened at first, even during the kiss, but then seemed to get over his fear and simply melted into Eric. And then, to Eric’s complete surprise, Luke had met Eric’s passion with his own and returned the kiss with a fire that more than made up for his lack of experience. The kiss had been intended for Luke but it was Eric feeling like he had never been kissed so thoroughly in all his life. In a slight daze, he went to the room with the dragonlings and peeked through the small window. They were awake and chirping. Good. That meant Luke wasn’t distressed at all. Even though Luke had asked for the kiss and enjoyed it, Eric knew that Luke would still be feeling very vulnerable.
Eric headed to the cockpit where Sam and Denis were with the pilot. The pilot was focused, but the other two men turned to him when he entered and he gestured them to follow him into the eating area so they could talk in private. Luke would have to walk through when he woke, but that wouldn’t be for a while and they would see him coming.
To Eric’s surprise, Sam looked disapproving.
“Don’t tell me you’ve already bedded the tamer,” Sam said.
“Why would you say that?” Eric asked, a little offended.
“You’re glowing,” Sam said, gesturing to him. “He’s gorgeous and clearly a virgin, and you just took him to your room and stayed in there quite a bit longer than necessary.”
“No, I did not bed him,” Eric snapped. He was quite offended now and didn’t bother to hide it. “And even if I did, what concern is it of yours?”
“He might not survive. I don’t want you to get attached to him and then lose him.”
There was a silence. Eric looked down, not wanting to acknowledge the truth of those words. He already was attached to Luke, but while he would be upset if Luke died, he wouldn’t be heart-broken. Not yet. Would he? He hated the fact that they were bringing Luke somewhere where his life would be in danger, but they didn’t have any choice. The dragons had commanded it.
“I think he’ll survive,” Eric said slowly. “He’s been directly summoned by a dragon before. And he’s been the cause of a dragon swap. The Western dragons seem to know his abilities pretty well.”
“The Eastern dragons don’t know him at all. And besides, they’re not summoning him because they think he can do it, they’re summoning him because he’s their last resort,” Denis pointed out.
Eric sighed. He hated thinking about it.
“I have to report to the elders. If you’ll excuse me,” he said. Sam and Denis left and he got out his laptop and soon was looking at the faces of the three eldest dragon tamers. Not the strongest, since those were dead, but the eldest. He had already informed them of Luke’s successful capture and they had been pleased that Luke had chosen to remain close to his dragonlings rather than obey his leader and go in a safehouse, even if Eric thought it showed questionable common sense. He had been able to fill them in on very little else at that point, but now that he and Luke had talked he would be able to give them what they needed to know to prepare the site.
The primary elder began.
“Does he know where he’s coming yet? Why he’s been summoned?”
“I couldn’t tell him,” Eric said.
“You haven’t spoken with him?”
“He doesn’t know enough.”
The elders looked at each other in confusion. Eric swallowed some of his anger at Daniel for deliberately keeping knowledge of how the dragons worked from Luke.
“I want his leader Daniel killed,” Eric said in a low voice. “He’s had Luke for four years and hasn’t told Luke anything about dragon tamers.”
“There are plenty of other sources-”
“None available to him. He’s an outsider. He joined our society when he was twelve. His first leader probably thought he was too young or too new for the truth and he joined Daniel’s tribe when he was fifteen. It was Daniel’s responsibility to teach him and he didn’t.”
“And how much have you taught him?” the second elder asked him with a note of amusement in his voice.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” he admitted, knowing it was hypocritical to demand death for Daniel for not teaching Luke and then confessing that he also wasn’t teaching him. “I was hoping you could guide me.”
“Don’t tell him anything until he arrives,” the primary elder instructed. “We’ll teach him what he needs.”
“Thank you,” Eric said, bowing his head.
“What are his details?”
“He’s a very powerful natural tamer who’s heard dragons his entire life. He’s served three dragons, one of whom directly summoned him and the other two arranged for him through a dragon swap. He’s currently raising his fourth litter, five dragonlings that he is bringing with him. He’s never lost any and looked shocked that I would even ask. His range is two miles but I don’t think he likes going that far. He’s completely isolated from our culture, probably at first because he was an outsider but once he joined Daniel’s tribe, I have no idea. He’s never met any other tamers and I don’t know how he’ll react. He’s pretty possessive of his dragonlings.”
“That’s common for tamers who haven’t met others of our kind. He’s never met anyone who isn’t a threat to them. Do you think he stands a chance?”
The elders looked at him calmly, but he knew how desperately they were waiting for his answer. Eric was young, but he had a gift that the dragon tamers had quickly discovered and had unfortunately been forced to rely on more than Eric liked. He could sense a dragon tamer’s power and while he couldn’t tell if Luke was strong enough, he did know that Luke was stronger than any of the others he had felt. The Western dragons seemed confident in Luke; he had the same confidence. But he didn’t want to give false assurances.
“He’s very strong,” he said simply.
They nodded and seemed to relax. They knew what that answer implied.
“We’ll get everything ready,” the primary elder said.
The communication ended and he called Sam and Denis back in.
“So he’s an outsider?” Denis asked.
Eric glared. “Were you listening the whole time?”
“We like to stay informed,” Sam said.
“You could have stayed in the room then,” Eric said. “Just moved out of sight.”
He wasn’t surprised they had listened, and there wasn’t anything wrong with them listening. It wasn’t secret information. He wouldn’t have minded them staying in the room, either, except that the elders preferred to be in private when they spoke to him. Perhaps that was why they had left.
“I’m glad you had a chance to talk to him,” Sam said. “But I’m sure you got all the talking out of the way when you were eating. What were you doing in the bedroom for so long and why were you so happy when you left?”
Eric smiled, thinking of Luke melting under his body and beneath his tongue before rising up and kissing back ferociously.
“You’re glowing again,” Sam said.
“I kissed him,” Eric said, hoping it would end the discussion.
“You don’t look that way after a kiss,” Sam pointed out.
“He kissed me back,” Eric said with a satisfied smile.
Sam and Denis exchanged a look.
“Still,” Sam said.
Eric remembered the beautiful, blushing smile Luke had given him after the kiss. Luke was more gorgeous than he had imagined possible when he smiled. Either Daniel had never seen Luke smile or Daniel had more self-control than ten men combined to be able to resist such a smile. Eric had barely been able to leave the room. He had nearly asked Luke if he could stay.
Sam and Denis were still waiting for a response, he realized.
“It was his first kiss,” he said, and stood up.
At least Sam and Denis looked satisfied by his response. Denis looked amused by it, but Sam was clearly worried.
“Don’t get attached to him yet, Eric,” he warned.
Eric sighed and led the men back to the cockpit. He wanted to give Luke the rest of the plane in peace when he finally woke up. But as he sat and stared out the window, he couldn’t help but stroke his lips and remember the fire he had sensed in Luke’s body, the lightning that had sparked when they kissed. He wanted Luke as he had never wanted anyone else before, and he might lose Luke. He couldn’t bear to think of it.
Luke stroked his dragonlings and felt the plane begin to land. He was frightened again. He hadn’t seen Eric or anyone else when he woke up and made his way to the bathroom and then back into the room with the dragonlings. He was grateful. He wasn’t sure how he would react when he saw Eric again. He kept thinking of the kiss and how much he enjoyed it, and how much he wanted to repeat it. But each time his thoughts took a pleasant turn, he would wonder about where they were going and fear would overwhelm him.
Eric was taking him somewhere and he didn’t know where or why. He wanted to trust Eric because of the kiss, but he kept hesitating. Eric had kidnapped him, after all. Eric was the reason he wasn’t with Daniel right now.
There was a knock at the door and Eric entered. Luke blushed and stared at the floor, unable to meet his gaze. The dragonlings chirped around him, continuing to burrow into his clothes as they had been doing before Eric came in. Last time Eric came in, they had moved into attack positions, Luke realized. The dragonlings no longer saw him as a threat, which meant that Luke no longer saw him as a threat. And as Luke finally looked up at Eric, he knew that Eric recognized it too. Eric flashed him a smile and Luke blushed again. Would he ever stop blushing in Eric’s presence?
“We’re about to land. Things are going to move very quickly once we do. May I sit next to you?”
“Yes,” Luke said shyly, sending his dragonlings to the other side of the room so they wouldn’t bother Eric.
Eric wrapped one arm around Luke’s shoulder and placed his other hand under Luke’s chin. Luke was surprised by the forward move, but didn’t mind it. Gently, Luke placed his hand on Eric’s chest and was rewarded by a smile. He hesitantly smiled back.
“We may not get another moment alone for a long time,” Eric said.
“Why not? I thought I was going to be your tribe’s dragon tamer,” Luke said, the familiar wash of fear seeping into him.
“You’ll be a dragon tamer,” Eric said, “And I’ll fight to stay at your side. But there are other leaders, older leaders, who may claim you now that you’re in the East.”
“I don’t understand,” Luke said. “You brought me here to replace your tamer. If they wanted me they should have gotten me.”
“It’s very complicated, but it will make sense when we land,” Eric said. He sounded weary, and sad. “Just know that you are very special to me.”
His eyes were filled with such sorrow that Luke didn’t think as he leaned forward to kiss him. Eric’s hands tightened as if in surprise, then stroked Luke as he returned the kiss. It was a gentle kiss, not passionate like before, but it reached just as deep and Luke’s toes were tingling when Eric finally pulled away. Luke leaned his head against Eric’s chest and took several deep breaths to steady himself. The dragonlings were watching curiously.
Then there was a gentle bump as the plane hit the ground and Eric’s hands tightened on him once more.
“Be brave, Luke. I have faith in you.”
But his words, no doubt intended to inspire him, just made Luke worry. Why did he need to be brave, and why did Eric have faith in him? Eric helped him stand and Luke ordered his dragonlings to return to him. They draped themselves over his body again, snuggling inside his clothes until they were barely visible. Eric led the way out of the room, through the plane, and outside down a ramp.
It was hot, dry, and bright. Far too bright. That was what Luke noticed first, because he was blinded by the sun and had to shade his eyes. When everything came into focus, it looked like an oasis in a desert. He could clearly see a desert in the distance, but in the foreground there were palm trees and lush green grass and red buildings that looked like they were made out of clay. There were also a lot of people, all facing the plane. Watching him.
Most of them looked to be Asian or African, but a few had white skin like him and he wondered how they didn’t burn in the sun, as he was probably going to do in minutes. They were dressed in a variety of clothes, from suits to robes to the sorts of styles he associated with hip teenagers. He had never paid much attention to fashion since his exposure to culture had been so limited. He relied entirely on movies. There was a road leading through town into the desert and several jeeps, but he didn’t see any other roads.
Eric gestured for him to continue down the ramp and he took the rail cautiously, not wanting to jar the dragonlings and expose them. He hadn’t expected so many people. Eric should have warned him he would be in public so he could have hidden them better. And why were they all staring at him?
A short distance from the bottom of the ramp was a half-circle of older women dressed in casual slacks and white shirts. At one end was an odd pole with five branches sticking out so it looked like a tree. A younger woman seemed to be guarding it. Beyond the older women there was a white chalk line drawn in the road. He puzzled over it, but his attention returned to the women as Eric bowed to them, clearly respectful. Luke didn’t. He didn’t know them, after all. Eric shot him an annoyed look, probably that he hadn’t bowed, but Luke also didn’t want to risk upsetting his dragonlings in public. He glared back.
“It’s all right, Eric,” the woman at the center said, gesturing for Eric to step back. He did, and Luke felt abandoned. “Everyone in this village is part of our society, child. You don’t have to hide your dragonlings.”
Luke stiffened in shock at hearing the word said aloud so casually. He had only ever heard Daniel, Aaron, and Eric ever say the word ‘dragonling’ aside from the dragons and never around any other tribe members. And to find out that every single person here was part of tribe society was shocking. Especially since she had said “our” society. Daniel had never included him in most things, always emphasizing that as the tamer, he was different and had a very different role. Even though Luke knew he wasn’t an outsider anymore, he had never really felt the shift to that of an insider.
“Why don’t you have your dragonlings sit over there so we can talk, Luke?” the woman said, gesturing to the tree.
Luke looked at it again. It did look ideal for dragonlings. They would love to swing on the branches and nestle up against the pole and if everyone here did know about them and knew to keep away from them, then they would be safe. His dragonlings poked their heads out and chirped to let him know their interest. He walked over to it, eyeing the young woman standing between him and the tree. She bowed to him and as she did, something brushed against his mind. It almost felt like a dragon, but it wasn’t. And then he felt that same something start to brush against the minds of his dragonlings. He slammed a wall onto that something. The woman cried out in pain.
His dragonlings snapped into action. Three of them pulled him away from the woman and two of them threatened her until she retreated and they returned to Luke, where the five of them began circling protectively.
Luke shook his head and silenced his dragonlings, who returned to his shoulders but let out hisses and snarls of displeasure. He wasn’t in a much better mood as he glared at the woman.
“What did you try to do to them?” he demanded.
The woman looked at the older women as if for help, then back at him. “I’m sorry. I was just introducing myself to you and your dragonlings. I didn’t mean to threaten you.”
“What do you mean introduce yourself?”
“I’m also a dragon tamer,” she said, looking confused as if he were at fault.
He stared at her. Another dragon tamer? He looked at the older woman, the one who had clearly ordered Eric to bring him here.
“If she’s a tamer, why do you need me?”
“She’s not powerful enough to do what we need,” the older woman said.
Luke looked at the young woman, who shrugged. He knew he was more powerful than a lot of other tamers, since he had such a large range, but he never thought other people knew about it and might specifically kidnap him because of it.
“So what do you need?”
The older woman eyed his dragonlings as if she were going to ask him to part with them again, then seemed to think better of it.
“We have a dragonling. A special dragonling.”
“She needs special attention.”
At first the significance of that sentence didn’t sink in. He was still wondering why a single dragonling would require a powerful dragon tamer when he could handle twelve without a problem. Then he realized what pronoun she had used. He blinked.