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Tales By the Fire: Lost Hearts

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Mighty Cai stands watch over his lady's camp, as well as those that are accompanying her. His heart is troubled by a sense of doubt, a desire that he's unsure of the reality of. Footsteps cause him to swerve where he stands, gripping his spear and swinging the point until it causes a meek gasp from the mouth of the woman that approached. She is dressed in druid's robes, though her ritual face-paint has been removed for the day, and a frown forms as she waits for the warrior to retract the weapon that lies near her throat. Immediately recognizing her as an ally, Cai apologetically draws the spear back to his side and places his opposite hand over his chest. "I apologize, Miss Sionna. I thought you were an enemy scout for a second."

The woman remains quiet, twiddling her fingers for a bit. This causes the large man to hesitate: His head tilts, prompting her to speak. When she continues standing wordlessly, he rolls his eyes and turns around. Only after this happens does she stutter out, "I can sense something is wrong. Your heart is in turmoil."

Cai coughs, attempting to laugh off the statement. "Is this a power all dragons have, or just you? You sure seem to have a lot of them. Magic aptitude, shapeshifting, immortality..."

"I'm being serious," the Laou places a hand on Cai's shoulder. "I must admit, it is a similar issue to my own. You desire one who cannot be yours."

In a moment, Cai turns from awkwardly polite to deadly furious. His anger is a quiet and cold sort, not the hot-blooded battlefield rage normally expected of him. His hand falls on where she touches him, brushing her off. "Go away, woman, before I lose my temper."

His anger creeps back when he sees the ancient power in her eyes. "Perhaps you can kill me, Cai. But it would be putting your life on the line. I am no flower-girl frightened of blood or steel." She retracts her hand and looks at it. "I know you desire Fia as your bride. You have protected her ever since you were a youth, and even after she was made Conmac's fiancee upon his naming as mac Danann..."

"Stop..." begs Cai. "...Please, just stop. What do you want from me? Some of my hair? A favor? Do you seek to steal her heart on my behalf? I would be killing my brother by taking her from him."

"I would ask you... to encourage his view of me," the dragon requests, clasping her hands together and wringing them out of embarrassment. "I knew who he was as soon as you approached my lake. It is indeed among our 'lot of powers' to see a human's heart, if we practice. In fact..." she looks around as if checking for listeners. "I must ask you to swear this to secrecy."

"I swear, if only to find out why," Cai is confused by this sudden confession of Sionna's desire for Conmac.

"I killed his mother," Sionna admits, "You know of the ways of this land. The strong prevail. When her mate was dead, I knew that she was my only barrier to taking the lake. Either she or her mate alone I would have risked battle against, but together... I confronted and bested her tooth and claw."

"Kill her?" Cai was confused. "For what? Dragons are rare as it is. Why kill your own kind? And how does this relate to Conmac?"

"Our rarity is what made it necessary," Sionna says, her hands drifting behind her back. She lowers her gaze as she describes her rationale for the attack. "The lake is an excellent source of fish for food, if there were a male in the area, I could not risk competition, and feuds among the land's guardians have lasted long enough. If either of us had died, that would have been the end of it. I simply achieved the neck-bite first."

"You dragons just can't get along, it seems," the warrior grumbles, before waving his hand for her to hurry. "Finish your meaning."

"When Conmac approached the lake laden with his father's sword and that shield of his, I was afraid. He stank of power, martial and magical. Even with his human limitations, I knew he could kill me. If I disarmed him of both of his artifacts, that still left his draconic power- more than mine. I thought to myself, 'He has arrived to slay me and avenge his mother', and 'He's realized that I'm the only female Laou on the island and intends to take me by force'." She sighs deeply and smiles thankfully. "Imagine my relief when he sincerely wished only to talk."

"Wait, what?" Cai balks at the suggestion, planting his spear shaft-first into the ground to focus on speaking. "My brother would have no need. Surely there are women for days that would line up for Conmac willingly. I've certainly pushed away suitors enough for Fia."

"Only dragons can sire to other dragons. We, male or female, are infertile to humans."

The warrior suddenly makes the connection. "Oh no. So Conmac is wed to a woman he's hopelessly in love with-"

"-But can produce no lineage from, yes. Lovely as it might be in poetry, it is a death sentence to a kingdom. You must help me convince him or Fia that the match is worthless." She makes this request increasingly potent, grabbing him by the shoulders. "If he or I should die, it would be the end of Laou for the land. You would not see the effects at first, of course. But I swear to you we must live, at least long enough for another of our kind to arrive- or be born."

"Weren't you afraid of him ravishing you for heirs before?" Cai questions, pulling back a bit. "Why such a change of heart? You almost seem intent on kidnapping him for your use!"

"I...I do not need him as a lover," she quickly backtracks, "But I am so very lonely, and a dragon that is caught up in the day-to-day of kingly life is not the kind that I can converse with. If we were mates, it would be easier. Perhaps I would even be satisfied to be a court sage. But to have the only other of my kind inches from me, unable to confide in... It is the same as you desiring the Princess you guard night and day."

Cai closes his eyes before speaking again. "Conmac saw my enthusiastic protection of Fia a little while before they were sworn to each other. He seemed happy at first, and then he became increasingly sorrowful- perhaps this was his heart-reading power like you have. When I asked what was bothering him, he asked me a question that struck me to the core."

"What could that possibly be?" Sionna perks her ears.

"I'll ask you the same question, applied to him rather than Fia:" Cai looks the shorter woman dead in the eyes with unusual seriousness. "When was the last time you had a conversation spanning more than half an hour with Conmac?"

The dragon becomes dead silent, contemplating this at length. "But, but we've only known each other for... I understand." Her heart visibly sinks in what appears to be guilt.

"Now you see what I see, and what he saw then," nods Cai with a sad smile. "You desire his company, but you know nothing about him beyond what little impression you could make and his reputation. Perhaps that is enough to fall in love, but... Should it be?"

"I- I had believed he would be happy to know of another dragon... but you're right. He knows little of the ways of Faer, and much less of Laou. I-I am..." The little moonlight available swims in her eyes, but she draws in a deep breath and regains her noble bearing. "I am alone, as I have been for some time. Nothing has changed. I knew this could happen when I fought his mother that time ago. The tide abides."

"If you don't mind me asking,"
Cai comments, "What's so wrong with us 'Faer' that we're not suitable as conversation partners? You did come to me to talk, after all."

Getting snared like this argument-wise snaps Fionna out of her sulking and into a defensive fury. She puffs up in anger, her cheeks pushing out as they fill with air. "...Perhaps you should answer me as to why you don't soothe your aching heart with the company of ladies of the night. Are they not pretty? Do they not know their arts? Seek your lair's security before you hunt."

"Never heard that one before,"
The tall warrior admits, scratching his arm. "Is that a Laou saying?"

"I've forgotten more Laou sayings than you know human ones, mortal," the Wyrm hisses, demanding to be taken seriously. "I seek the company of dragons because I am a dragon. Do not forget that our people are not equals, even if your 'brother' does." Her eyes shift to serpentine yellow in an aggressive gesture, but it does not frighten the hardened warrior- a fact that stokes her already-roused fury.

"How can I forget with you declaring it every minute?"
Cai mutters, losing interest and turning away from her. He surveys the dark horizon for a second before returning to the conversation. "Now, are you going to let me get back to my-" She is already gone when he asks the question. Sighing, he shakes his head and tries to regain his focus, pulling his spear back from where it stands in the ground. "Dragons."

Updated 05-25-2019 at 02:31 PM by DarkisnotEvil