The silver-purple was going to rise soon, that was certain. Far be it from Cszaiath’s mind to avoid those pesky males...no, she courted them, flirting outrageously, testing and pitting them against each other as she pleased. This morning, she was toying with the fascinating dichotomy of brown Porth and copper Yarpath. At the moment, Porth was having a power-struggle with their rider, Rugan.
Cszaiath stifled a rather unmusical squawk as Porth went down. My shell, she said in awe. He's let her have the upper hand so much that she's gone and taken over! She gazed at him with respect in her indigo-violet eyes. She's your rider too? How do you get along with her…and him? She shivered her dark-bright hide at the thought. Her Revlis better not learn any tricks from this Rugan woman. If he tried anything like that, he'd better be prepared to live a miserable existence for the rest of his pathetic life…
Revlis…just…stared, his sculpted jaw hanging open to display brilliantly white teeth and some lovely tonsils. "Scorch it!" he exclaimed, all his haughtiness evaporated in sheer amazement. "How did you do that? I never thought I'd see anyone who could wrestle a brown to the ground-never mind a woman!"
Uh... yeah. He let her have the upper hand. Yarpath replied somewhat hesitantly. His luminescent gaze flickered briefly to Porth and Rugan, as if the glance alone would encourage his brother to try impressing this beauty instead of losing horribly to their rider. As usual, Porth was too intent on trying to wrap his tail around Rugan's neck to notice either the female he was trying to swoon, or his brother's urgent look. Yarpath sighed and shook his teardrop shaped head. Light glittered on the copper highlights of his well oiled hide as he turned another intelligent, yet tentative, gaze on the silven dragoness at his side. Getting along with them isn't the problem. Rugan respects me for my intelligence, and Porth treats me as if I have always been his brother. Again the muscular, copper-toned giant sighed gustily. The sinuous muscles in his long neck pulsed and pulled as he turned his head, looking with a mixture of sadness and concern upon his bonds. The problem is finding a moment in the day where they aren't fighting.
Cszaiath was sympathetic, if rather shocked. I…see. I don't think you're the warlike sort. It must be hard for you. She was still vamping, almost unconsciously, tilting her wings so, her tail coiling and uncoiling in a sinuous motion. Her shining hide was very bright in the warm Ryslen sun; daylight glanced off her flanks to blind as she moved.
At Revlis' comment, a sudden dead silence filled the air. Porth and Rugan ceased to fight, frozen in their battle positions with equal gazes locked on the willowy young man. Porth's facetted eyes blazed with crimson fire, still heated from his struggle with his rider. Rugan's black eyes seemed to bore holes into Revlis' soul, tearing into the shallow pool that he was and leaving only a dark feeling of dread in her wake.
He thinks you're weak because you're a woman. Porth said off-handedly to his rider. Rugan returned with a slow, deliberate nod.
Oh dear. Yarpath's eyes widened in shock as he watched Rugan release Porth and begin a long-legged walk towards Revlis. His yellow tinted eyes found Cszaiath and attempted to block her view of the two humans. I deeply apologize for my rider's actions and her considerably uncouth ways. He talked quickly, as if he was rushing to say something before time ran out. Please don't judge my brother and I by her actions. I swear to you, Porth and I are far too civilized to- He paused and winced as a thunderous crack filled the air. Rugan had reached Revlis, and her fist had been quick to reach his pretty boy face. -do... anything of that caliber. I apologize again. I am... he sighed, hanging his head in shame. deeply sorry you had to see this.
Revlis went over beautifully, her practiced blow hitting him like a ton of bricks. He took the punch right in the eye, too, eliminating half of the Look immediately, and producing a sharp crack that boded ill.
The handsome rider was too shocked even to moan. He just lay there, jaw slack, hand moving feebly toward his face. For once, Revlis' thoughts weren't on his clothes, which were getting ruined by the mud of the bowl floor. Indeed, he couldn't think well at all…
Revlis? said Czsaiath, her voice a little shrill. When her rider moaned and moved his head a little, she relaxed. It's all right, Yarpath, she said gently, although one indigo-violet eye did swivel darkly Rugan-wards. None of us can control everything our riders do. She surveyed the situation, and sighed. Besides, he had it coming. I did not Impress Monsignor Revlis to let him be such a chauvinist. He rides a female.
A flush of heat made the silver-purple falter. There was a sudden claustrophobia clutching at her chest, and she tried to breathe regularly. He's…not…going…to be…happy…about this! she said breathlessly. You're…forgiven,…of course, Yarpath. How…could I…hold anything…against you? Her hide was almost lambent of itself now, her silver glowing molten-bright, her purple hide as dark and glossy as lacquer.
Thirst, sudden and inexorable, struck the Ryslen dragoness. Her mouth was dry, and her stomach churned as if it were trying to digest itself. Realization lit Czsaiath's eyes for a moment. Yarpath, she said carefully, rising to her feet with unseemly haste. You'd better get your brother's attention quickly, or he'll have no chance of stopping me. She looked over him, her eyes feverishly bright. But then, neither will you. None of you are worthy of me. No one is going to touch me! Frantically, she sprang into the sky, gleaming wings catching the wind in skeins of light. She was headed for what she craved most, sweet-copper blood, the kill, to give her energy to escape…
* * *
Yarpath and Porth followed immediately, orange-copper wings and dark, dark brown thundering at her heels. They were the first, the forewarned. The others were not so lucky. Only the delicately crested two-tone blue Jatecosth managed to slay a beast before Cszaiath was discarding her second. Sleek blue Ciwyth and the svelte starry dark blue Emlekezeth were forced to choose between energy-giving food and a good start. Ciwyth, wary of the silver-purple’s panic, slashed a beast’s throat and sucked it dry as the others ascended; Emlekezeth chose to follow without feeding. The other dragons at the feeding pen ate uneasily.
* * *
Below, the riders were gathering in a little knot beside the dazed Revlis. Elille, Emlekezeth’s rider, reached him before the others, and was considerate enough to pick him up and deposit him in a ground weyr. Although Revlis was scarcely easy to pick up--being willowy but also rather tall--Elille was taller, and she handled him with ease. Rugan strode stiffly after her, her face still dark with fury.
L’tic, with his pleasant voice, went at once to fetch a cold cloth for that eye. The infamous Jalemar was at Revlis’ side the moment he saw the young man lying prone. The silver-purple’s arrogant rider blinked, groaning as he sat up. His back propped against the wall, Revlis stared at the four riders with a peculiar double-vision. He didn’t even protest the fussing, or shoot an accusatory glance at Rugan. The young man simply sat, his good eye wide, breathing in a shallow pant. His fair skin was clammy to the touch.
Revlis was with Cszaiath, and her feelings were his…
* * *
But as the silver-purple shot into the heavens, another arrowed up to parallel her. It was Halutath, the glorious yellow-green Halutath, lifemate to Jalemar. And Halutath was definitely not male. The males’ attention was torn between the streak of shadowed mercury and the peridot blur only two dragonlengths away from her.
Jalemar was unnaturally still as his other bond took flight, his mind split between two very aroused dragons with opposite urges…
* * *
Cszaiath was panicking, panting, already rowing the air with her silvered wings. Those who sought to confine her could barely keep up. She could not stand this another second, she was going to scream--
The air whipping past her blew on only four dragons now, after an interminable time of racing flat-out in the matte dome of the sky. She would be safe from one. Breathing in great gasps, Cszaiath tried to calm herself, to steady her wingbeats. Who have I lost? There were the warm colors of Yarpath and Porth, the dark sparkle of Emlekezeth, and, at an angle, the vivid contrast of Jatecosth. Ciwyth. Ciwyth is gone. Revlis would not have been happy should he catch me. Too far behind when I started. Scorch it, I’ve got to get away from them!
* * *
Halutath was amused by Cszaiath’s panic, keeping pace with her rival with a steady rhythm to her wingbeats. The silver-purple hadn’t even noticed that she was not the only female in the air. But all the better for Halutath.
The two-tone dragon was not frightened. Indeed, she was in her element, feeling stronger, faster, and more confident than ever. This was a race, but she knew she wouldn’t win. But Halutath intended to make it a sharding good challenge for that lucky male… and she was going to catch her own partner.
* * *
Cszaiath’s wingbeats were a staccato rhythm next to the steady beat of the larger males. Only Jatecosth was smaller…only Jatecosth was more agile than she. But he was further back in the pack. She must avoid that one.
The crack of wings overhead told her that someone was making a bid for her capture. Lithe as a cat, she rolled and fell a few feet, just as larger wings folded overhead.
* * *
Emlekezeth trumpeted his disappointment as he dropped too far, hissing between his teeth. In the ground weyr, Elille hissed her own disappointment, edging out the door in the same path as L’tic. At least it had been purely strategy, and not discrimination.
That may have been a comforting thought for her; it was just as well she couldn’t read Revlis’ mind. There were groggy notions in the mist that he’d better not have to bed a woman who was taller than he was. And she looked, to his uncertain vision, altogether too Ruganesque.
* * *
Halutath’s wingbeats were growing a little slower now, and she was panting. Cszaiath was not fast, but she was larger than the yellow-green, and still had some stamina left. She looked thoughtfully back at Emlekezeth, but did not follow. She was not that desperate, and she didn’t want to be accused of scavenging, now, did she?
No, the dragoness thought. It was far better to be a pirate.
* * *
The fast flying wasn’t getting rid of any more males. Her lungs were burning at this point, something echoed by the muscles from keel to joint, and from joint to ‘wrist’ and wingsails. She needed a plan. Indigo-violet eyes, milky with flight membranes, swiveled to look behind her.
Porth and Jatecosth were nearly wingtip to wingtip. That would do. Like a maniac, she suddenly lofted up, killing her speed as she went for height. A breath later, she folded her wings. Her plummet took her directly between them.
With squawks and bellows of surprise, the two males jerked aside. They barely missed the saberish points of her wingsails as Cszaiath flung her wings wide. The drop-and-roll required to stay out of the female’s way, of course, had completely killed their momentum, and left them several feel lower to boot. They did not look very happy as they spiraled down toward Ryslen again. Dirty rotten trick…
* * *
However, Halutath had conveniently been a bit lowed and further to the right. And it was Porth that dropped into her lap. As expected, the serpentine brown realized exactly what he’d fallen into in a split second, and he spun and grasped her shoulders in a truly spectacular show of agility. Well-satisfied, Halutath let herself fall, tumbling with Porth in the fall of their lives.
* * *
That made four down for Cszaiath. She saw, with a flash of irrational rage, the other dragoness poaching her chaser. But there was no time for that now. Where was the fifth? Where was Yarpath?
I am here for you, Cszaiath. I am here to bring you back to earth. Beneath her, there was a swoop and flicker of coppery wings, and copper claws locked around her forearms. He’d flown upside down…
Nothing is impossible when one is courting a lady.
* * *
Revlis’ sculpted jaw fell a little as Cszaiath fell in the sky with her copper partner. That was Rugan’s dragon… Flaming moons, he didn’t want… let it not be so…
But someone had shouldered in before that baneful woman, someone who was definitely interested in Revlis’ charms. And as hot as his dragon’s passions ran, the boy from Bitra didn’t really care whether Jalemar was male, female, or android. What he could see looked very welcome indeed.