My dragon’s fangs had already descended again once we reached inside the forest. Bits of black blood dripped from our prey. I was no cannibal, I could not stomach the idea to eat someone with the same face as I, but that didn’t matter to my dragon. He was an animal. Wolves often talked to their wolves; their wolves were more civilized than they really knew. Dragons were not.
Shifting, the smoke swirled around me, quickly covering my body from the outside elements. The sparks flew as my dragon singed the corpse that lay before us. His body was now bare and scorched black while my dragon scarfed down the body whole. I shivered inside, wondering how he would be willing to eat such a disgusting creature.
We took flight home; the rain had begun to flow so hard it was starting to be challenging to see. Small lighted torches around undersized villages showed brightly while many ran to their homes. Many elves had already taken shelter at the base of the mountain, snuffing out their community bonfire, now nestled into their tree houses.
Razak was waiting patiently at the entrance to the cave. Breathing a sigh of relief, I changed back into human form, grabbing the leathers I had dropped earlier and put them on securely. Razak was acting guilty, hoping it was just getting into the dried meat and beans. I walked into the cave, desiring to see Odessa sleeping. She was not.
Odessa’s citrus smell was faint; she had not been here in quite a while. Was she hiding? I ran to the back of the cave, where the hot water spring sat untouched. Her scent was nowhere near the water. Back into the shared space, I smelled the bed; she had indeed left. She did not venture anywhere else in the cave.
My dragon slid its tongue out of my mouth, unhappy with the outcome. Was she taken? Did she run? The thoughts ran over and over again in my head. The root had been crushed and spread throughout the area so no one could smell her. The only way she would have been captured as if she had left the cave. My head darted to Razak, his head lowered in shame, shivering, waiting for his punishment.
Grinding my fangs, I spoke her name for the first time using my dragon’s cords. “Odessa?” To have her name slide off my tongue felt like a deep, peaceful river. It was short-lived with the silence that greeted me.
Grabbing my spear and the fur on the bed, I shoved the fur into Razak’s snout, clicking a command to have him smell her scent. We both inhaled, leaving the fur on the bed, and raced out of the cave. Odessa could have gone any direction, but with Razak, we would split and meet back here at dawn. Pointing to a worn path towards the tribe, he took off, leaving me to hunt independently.
Venturing out further than the spread of the root, I could smell her scent. The rain had already begun to wash it away, but my senses were keen. Small branches were broken where she stepped, one footprint heavier than the other. Her ankle was still hurt, her cuts and bruise still needed tending.
A tree to my left had her scent heavily. I kneeled to the ground, touching where she sat. Pieces of hair still clung to the tree bark. Sniffing it heavily, it was hers. I was on the right path. Standing up, wading through the muddy terrain, I came to the treehouse that King Orion had planted here himself when he was young.
The Light Kingdom’s king had just brought peace to much of his own land while the dragon shifters sat straddling his territory along with the Moon Kingdom. The run-down treehouse to one’s eye would have made you not spare a glance, but everyone knew that in this area, it was a nature’s palace of its own.
Sniffing the tree, I could smell bits of Odessa’s blood. Her wounds had reopened, and she somehow managed to climb the tree. Throwing my spear behind my back into its leather bindings, I climb up in a few seconds. The broken door, just a mirage of what was on the other side, blew in the wind. Opening it, stepping through the portal, I stood up with my head near the ceiling.
The whole room was dark, but the moon’s brightness that hung in the fake windows kept it light. Her scent was here, but she did not lay in the bed. My wet boots made a mess on the floor; water trickled down my body as I searched. It was truly a beautiful room worthy for Odessa, but my cave was all I had. Since being there, she had not once complained, which gave me pride in my home.
Now, knowing she has seen a place like this, would I ever be worthy? I would find the best materials to make her a home such as this. If I had to fight in the shifter rings every night to make her happy, I would do it for her.
On the floor, next to the bed, which I could not see upon entering, laid Odessa. She did not take the bed that lay with expensive cloth, silk, and furs. Odessa laid on the floor, the thick fur rug along with a blanket covering her body.
Her hair was wet, nose sniffling under the thick blanket while she shivered. I sighed heavily; a defeat of what I had done earlier had caused her to become sick. She was already frail; now, I had weakened her more because of my temper.
My dragon sang a sad song in my chest. He was to blame for his outburst, to scare her into coming here. Thank the gods above she was not taken from me, captured by some evil. However, she ran because she thought I was that evil.
Hand reaching out, her bare shoulder peaked through as I rubbed it softly. Stirring, her eyes fluttered open to see me kneeling beside her. “Prince Charming?” she gasped, pulling the blankets over her body. Her back hit the wall with a thud, causing a light crystal to fall, smashing to the ground.
A rustling came from the bedside table, a male sprite jumped in surprise. The annoying bells went off, causing me to hold my ears. Those things were annoying out in nature, but being in the same room was awful.
“Shh,” she whispered to the winged demon. The sprite calmed down slightly, hiding under the covers of the pincushion.
“I’m sorry, I tried to get away as fast as I could so they wouldn’t find you. They didn’t find you did they?” Her breath was but a whisper, still quivering in fear.
Odessa thought I wasn’t strong enough? To take on a bunch of weak vampires? I scoffed back a laugh, her eyes widened, still pining herself to the wall. I shook my head, held out my hand, hoping she would take it. Shaking her head, I sighed, defeated. Sitting in front of her, I had to communicate with her. Using my dragon’s voice was the only way, and it may kill me with pain by the end of the night. ‘Gods, if anyone will listen, don’t let her be afraid of me.’
“Sorry,” my voice came out low, growling. Odessa sat up straight, still holding the blanket tight around her chest.
“You talk?” she questioned. Nodding slowly, she looked everywhere but me. “Does it hurt to talk?” I nodded again. Her hand covered her mouth. “Then don’t talk if it hurts.” Shaking my head again, I held out my hand, wanting to feel her touch. Hesitating, she placed her tiny hand in my palm.
“Not worried vampires,” I gritted my teeth, feeling the scaring rub my vocal cords. “Mad at your pain. Come back.” Odessa stared at me bewildered; her eyes looked into mine. She wanted to believe me, but the hesitation was there.
“You scared me,” she muttered. “Really scared me. I thought you were mad and thought you would hurt me until you stormed out. I left because I was afraid for you to come back.”
I pulled my hair, stepping away from her. If she didn’t come back with me now, I don’t know what I would do. I had grown so attached to her in a short time, and I couldn’t understand why. This wasn’t a mate bond; it couldn’t be, could it? My own mother didn’t elaborate on what it was like to find your mate; no one did. The elders said I was cursed, and Selene would not even look at me in pity.
My mother shielded me from mates. It has hurt more than helped. As I grew, I saw the way mates came to be; dragons, elves, fairies would run into each other’s arms, so happy, yet I stood dumbfounded. How did they know they were mates? My mother would deter the question and tell me not to worry about such things. Mother had to have known I wasn’t a complete idiot.
My dragon was growling in my chest. He wanted Odessa; he wanted her with us to be safe. We both didn’t know how the vampires would react, how long they would search for her. Her name had spread through a dingy bar in the center of town, her name could be widespread, and if Duke Mortus found her, he would take her as his or kill her.
“Prince Charming?” How could she call me that? After all, I had shown her? I could only convey how I felt through actions, and I had lost control of my dragon and growled, almost breathing fire in her face.
“Hey,” her gentle hand touched my forearm. How could she touch me? Didn’t I just frighten her? Odessa’s wet hair fell on her forehead, glistening under the fake moon of the window.
“Listen, we kind of fell for one of the oldest tropes in most drama novels. Miscommunication,” she smiled. “I also have a feeling you aren’t some human Viking like I thought. Are you like… the vampires?” Her voice grew lower, afraid to even speak of what drained her the past months.
I shook my head, putting my hand on hers. “Don’t worry about it now; I’ll figure it out later. I’m just glad you aren’t mad at me, and you aren’t going to eat or kill me,” she giggled while I held onto her hand tighter. Never would I do such a thing.
“Never,” I growled. Odessa’s smile softened. I would speak to her as often as I could. I would let my throat continuously bleed if it made her happy.
“Shh, don’t hurt your voice.” Odessa looked back at the sprite in the corner. Now that the threat was gone, it was happily sleeping. “I found him in a cage; he led me here. I don’t know what this place is, but it’s dry. Do we stay here the night or go back to the cave?”
The rain that entered into the mountains would last a few more hours; having Odessa in my arms pulling her back into my cave with my own scent sounded best. However, her wounds were reopened, and the rain threatened them to become infected. I pointed to the ground; she understood that we were staying. Her body was entirely covered with the blanket as she headed back to the floor.
As she lay there, I picked her up and put her into the bed even though she protested. “No, I’ll ruin their bed!” Pulling the covers up to her chin and putting my finger over her mouth, I lay beside the bed on the floor. If she was going to sleep, she would sleep on a cloud while I took the floor.
The furs smelled of her, calming the beast inside me. Soon Odessa would share my nest with me; my dragon won’t allow any less. I was succumbing to my dragon call to her. If this was a mate bonding pull, it was a wondrous feeling. I would have to travel back to the tribe to talk with Amora; only she could help me and answer my questions. Could the goddess surely bless me?
Odessa peeked over the mountain of pillows, watching me lay on my back with my hands behind my head. “You got a lot of muscles. Does it feel like you sleep on rocks?” The one side of my face that didn’t scar curled up into a smile. She laughed again, staring at me intently. “Goodnight, Prince Charming,” she sang.
My eyes were closed but immediately opened to the nickname she had called me. “Creed,” my voice shook. Odessa’s eyes looked away, thinking.
“Creed? That is your name?” I nodded, staring back into her amethyst eyes. “So I can’t call you Prince Charming anymore?” Her lip stuck out playfully. Snorting, I shook my head.