The Things We Do For Love
Iorneste was a dragon. That he was not human was perfectly evident to him. He knew as well as anyone that he was not human.
When quite unexpectedly there came that first moment when he actually felt human. Very, very human indeed.
Some part of his ever-scholastic draconic mind was unruffled, watching the proceedings with clinical interest. He noted the bleeding wound in his thigh, his arms around Selka, and hers around him, the wet, hot feeling of her lips, the steamy smell of her own unique human scent, of metal and leather, of her filling his nostrils, the press of her body against his, and the powerful cocktail of emotions that all of this seemed to stir up within him.
Time seemed to stop, and Iorneste had no defense, no frame of reference. He felt her animus, weak in range as it is in humans, brushing up against his, and he felt the beating spark of her passion, pulsing in time with her heart against his chest. Her breaths were warm and frantic, hands roving urgently over him, her lips showing his own the dance.
He vaguely realized the knife was no longer at his throat, but could not remember when it had dropped. It did not seem important. All that seemed important was her. Her, her, her filling his senses, the tender urgency of her, the fierce heat of the exchange. He took to it naturally, found himself kissing her back, his body instinctively trying to convey what it had always seemed to know, but his mind had been unable to consider. She had always distracted him, and he could never understand why, until now.
The detached scholar within his mind merely watched in wonder at the epiphany, the emotion that had been isolated all of this time to an abstraction written about by long-dead poets and philosophers, now felt real, he now understood it as more than a mere abstraction.
It was like a bolt of lightning driven through his body, it was a magic of a kind he had never known existed, and it came with the most excruciating sense of tenderness and passion towards another being that was formerly inconceivable, it was a bond that he found himself lost within, with her.
The dragon within told him that even now their anima were melding, their thoughts and emotions communicated to each other. He could feel her feelings for him, much more sophisticated than those of the drake, and they left him awed and humbled, enchanted by their raw, fierce purity. He was not even sure he was worthy of them, but even these feeble protests were drowned out, battered down relentlessly by her raging anima, her heart screaming that she was his, that he was everything, and he felt his heart screaming back to hers, trembling at the force of it, like a forest fire of emotion that both were happy to let consume them.
He felt as though he knew everything that he needed to know about Selka Euphrane, in that one kiss. While his mind wondered what this meant for him as a dragon, his emotions saw fit to let him feel and react as a human. His emotion and logic resolved themselves, and decided that perhaps this was all that mattered. He was to pretend to be human, after all, and what could be more human than this?
For the first time that he could remember, that clinical and evaluating part of himself, that most essentially draconic and pedantic part, fell silent, and ceased to become a separate observer of the phenomenon, but instead a willing participant. He dove into that feeling, the anima bond between them, the storm of heat and emotion, and narrowed everything that existed in the universe at that moment to just her, Selka Euphrane.
The moment was worth exploring further, and so they did.
The young noblewoman sipped tea, and this early in the morning she was the Patisserna's only customer.
The staff darted furtive looks out into their humble waiting area, seeing the silks and finery of the unaccompanied woman folded neatly underneath her, resting on their benches and stools! The proprietor was a doughy woman of middle age with florid features and straw-colored hair named Rammouena. She tried not to stare too obviously at their customer, watched her sipping her tea, and still trying to fathom the color of the noblewoman's money that the owner now held in her fingers. Real gold!
The apprentice, Nira, went over in her quiet way to the lady's table, giving her the curtsey of a castle servant. The woman turned an abashed smile on the girl that sent Nira into a flushed tizzy, and she laughed in nervousness, covering it by smoothing down her apron several times.
Even from her place behind the counter, pretending not to listen, the noblewoman's voice carried. There was such command and presence in her voice that Rammouena had no doubt that this woman was very powerful, and was used to being obeyed where she came from.
"Thank you! But such displays are not necessary, I assure you. You have such a pretty smile, Mes..."
"Oh! Mes Nira! Well, no, Nira is fine! Just Nira. Would your ladyship care for anything besides tea?" Her titter of nerves set Rammouena's own on edge.
The noblewoman laughed along with Nira, reaching out a hand and placing it upon her warmly, which seemed to calm the poor girl down. "I was wondering," she said, biting her lower lip in thought. "If you could bring me a Sanguine Tarte."
The girl paused for a moment, and then looked back to Rammouena for help. Rammouena levered her bulk off of the chair she was resting on and weaved through the tables, approaching the table with a proprietor's contrite and servile demeanor.
"I am very sorry, Lady," said Rammouena, "But that is not on our menu, I'm afraid."
The noblewoman blinked slowly, eyes like violet pools drifting up and catching Rammouena's gaze within them, and she found herself basking in the charisma that had so unraveled little Nira.
The woman rolled one bare shoulder, seeming untroubled, and glanced off into space. "It may have been on an older menu. This is the oldest bakery in Rathe, yes?"
"Yes, it is! It's been in my family for almost two hundred years."
"Do you still serve any of the original recipes?"
"No, Lady, times has changed. We used to have a book of the founder's recipes, but—"
"But what?" The noblewoman coiled back in her chair, eyes narrowing.
"W-well, Mes, we actually sold them."
"You sold them."
"Yes, Lady. But we have a Lemon Tarte that will tickle your ladyship's fancy, I assure you of that!" Rammouena reached out one hand, placing it in a motherly fashion over that of the young noblewoman's.
"Why did you sell them?"
Nira began to whimper. Rammouena pulled her hands back, making the crossed hands at her chest, her head beginning to shake back and forth in negation. She could feel the noblewoman's anger, pouring off of her in massive waves, hammering against her own emotions, the sense of so much power, so much visceral, brutal, flesh-ripping hatred building. It was overwhelming Nira, and Rammouena's responsibility to be the proprietor in this relationship was all that kept her going.
"W-we went through a bit of a rough patch! Times were hard, Mes! You m-must know," she said, and found herself crying, feet shuffling slowly backwards and away from the beautiful, deadly creature.
The noblewoman seemed bored, and sipped her tea, draining it to the dregs, and then gently placed it back upon the porcelain saucer. "There is," she said, in a tone of resignation, "No sense of permanence with you people. There is nothing sacred. Nothing timeless."
Both women were now sobbing, reaching out for each other, and the pulsing wave of crushing rage emanating from the deceptively-tranquil woman made it all the more horrible, inevitable. Whispers of sensation stroked them, the sense of danger all around them, making them unwilling to leave. Held captive by invisible bonds, their emotions mastered beneath the superior animus of one they could tell was not human.
The woman looked down at the two of them, now on their knees on the floor. "You wouldn't even remember your great-great-grandfather," she said, indicating Rammouena with her violet eyes. "He would have died before you were born. You wouldn't even know that he spent every Godsday running out back to that creek, sitting at his favorite fishing spot. Or that he sometimes had nightmares, about the death of his parents."
She got up, walking past them, and trailing her fingers over the dirty windows in disgust, unlatching one of them and letting in the early morning sunshine.
"How could you know that? You weren't even an egg. You didn't know that the woman who adopted him, the one who founded this bakery, came up with every recipe herself. That it was her life's work, well...it was a mortal lifetime's work. You would not know, could not possibly know—"
The women cried out as her anger lashed them, before she'd even turned to face them. "—that she would consider the sale of those recipes to be a betrayal. A betrayal to the memory of her life, a betrayal to her husband and to your great-great grandfather!"
Rammouena fell over onto the floor, screaming and clutching her face. She felt the scolding as though they were physical blows, beating down her sense of worth, inarguably stamping upon her the intense feeling of failure, of wretchedness.
Nira quivered, almost catatonic on the floor, and Sheldrache favored her with a sisterly smile. "We'll talk more about to whom you sold the recipes later. In the spirit of reviving old traditions, I believe some apprenticeship is in order. Does this please you, Nira?"
The girl bobbed her head, looking like a fawn cowering in a thunderstorm.
"Splendid. Let us gather ingredients! To make Sanguine Tarte, first we'll need some fresh blood. Where do you think we could get some fresh blood, Nira?"
At first the kiss had been to thank him. That's what Selka told herself. They had just met, after all. A brief kiss, followed by a thank you, followed by many questions. That was the plan, as impulsive as it was, but she had now abandoned the plan. Part of her was still furious at him for lying to her, but that part was silent now, pressed into him, smelling him, and filled with such relief, the burden of guilt she'd carried over her part in Kulvas' death, all gone. She replaced that feeling with him, and found joy in it.
At first he had been hesitant, gentle and unsure, but he was growing in confidence and she felt a thrill all over her body as his lips danced with hers, realized how much she had wanted this. When had it started? When Mourne had left them alone together? It was certainly there when they had met in her father's office aboard the Cutlass.
She could never have gotten involved with the killer of Kulvas. He had been her own special friend and protector for many years, to ever be romantic with the one who had torn the life of a friend away from her like that—even if it had been her fault—would have been unthinkable.
But Yorn had not killed her dragon. Her Kulvas was not dead: his life had been spared by a dragonslayer, of all things! A dragonslayer who, she now realized, had never slain a dragon in his life.
Soon enough the kiss wasn't just about thanking him anymore. Somewhere in the midst of her swirling emotions, she found his own, felt his hunger and confusion, his electricity, and the terrible strength of him transformed into tenderness, for her. She fell into it, and it felt like coming home.
Their lips parted, and though the spell was broken, Iorneste thought this to be a magic of a more lasting kind. He found himself smiling, watched her eyes open slowly, heavy-lidded and drowsy, her mouth swollen, tongue still tasting the kiss, and as she saw his smile, her own broke on her face, as radiant as the sun above the clouds. They both laughed, and both started to speak at the same time, halting and apologizing, and then starting to speak again.
"You first," Iorneste said.
"Oh," Selka said, and drew back from him somewhat to rest on her heels. "Yes. I had some questions, after you tried to kill me."
Iorneste winced. "That was a vast and ignorant misunderstanding on my part," he protested.
"But then I..." she paused, and looked away, biting her lower lip.
"You kissed me. Can we do it again?"
Selka's mouth opened in shock. "Cheeky, aren't you! No, you ever-so-appealing man, we cannot do it again."
Iorneste looked down at the ground.
"At least until you answer my questions."
He looked up, "Aha! So that is how it is!"
"That has to be how it is."
He stroked his chin. "I suppose it is distracting."
"To say the least!"
"It is a really formidable type of distraction, though. The best kind."
Selka shook her head at him, but just could not erase the smile that remained on her face. "Yorn, I have to ask some things, and you need medical treatment. Let's do that first before we talk about...well, other things."
"Very well, ask. I will not lie to you."
"Anymore, you mean. You already lied to me once."
"Well, yes. In a manner of...I did say I was sorry!"
She shook her head right back at him. "I understand why you'd lie to me about it, if you hadn't actually killed Kulvas. What I want to know is: Why didn't you?"
Iorneste frowned. "I told you, I admire dragons."
"But that's not all of it, though."
"How do you know?"
She glared at him. "Part of my duties is disciplining the women, and even the men, under my command. I've dealt with schemers and liars aplenty. I may be no Questioner, but somehow you managed to sidestep that question with a professional questioner, and I'm not going to be so easily turned aside, Mer Yorn of Summersgard."
"Also," she said, "Before you tried to kill me, you asked if I'd ever eaten dragonmeat. When I said that I had, you got very, very angry."
Iorneste looked down at the ground, and nodded. "I suppose you are correct, I did. I do not believe in eating dragons. I find it abhorrent, barbaric, even."
"Even though dragons eat humans?"
The young dragon realized he'd never even considered that before. Certainly it was frowned upon to eat sentient beings, but it had never strictly been prohibited except where kiin were involved. Drakes, of course, did what they pleased, without a Drac to show them who the protected people were. Merely having the question raised brought him a new insight into his own opinion, and he inclined his head to Selka graciously, in the same way he used to honor a point made by Rrachma during their frequent discussions in his childhood.
"Let's just say that I am of the opinion that neither should be eating each other."
"When Kulvas was cowed that day, you had your very first dragon before you. You could have killed him, and truly been able to call yourself a dragonslayer."
Iorneste could see the trap she was laying, and struggled to think of a way out of it. He did not want to lie to her, but there were certain things the Binding would literally not permit him to say, among them, "I am a Drac".
"There are a few things you should know, Selka Euphrane. The first is that the Drac Orden, under my leadership, is not solely about killing dragons. I am an expert on dragons, and my actual skills lead me more towards being more of a sort of dragon ambassador than a dragonslayer. That said, certain beasts do run amok, and it is my duty to dispatch those as well, for the good of all."
She started. "So when you called yourself a dragonslayer on the beach..."
"False bravado, quite honestly. I'd hoped that your belief that I was a dragonslayer would give you pause, perhaps lead you to stand down, or at the least make a foolish mistake."
"If you'd declared yourself a dragon ambassador, I'd still have told Kulvas to burn you."
"I'd have talked him out of it."
She grinned in response. "So your pretense at being a dragonslayer, was this also why you pretended to kill him?"
"I declared myself as a dragonslayer. Everyone heard me. The dragon was on the beach, and everyone expected him to die. I opted to lie, and spare him at the same time."
She inched closer, crossing her legs beneath her. "Which leads to my next series of questions."
"You have a series? Can't we go back to kissing again?"
She blushed. "Was that your first kiss?"
"Yes. I do hope it is not my last."
She laughed, and punched him in the arm. "You are such a boy!"
"I will take that as a compliment."
"Mmm," she said, trying not to grow too distracted by his proximity, his mouth, his shirtless body. "You said you sent him to safety. Where's safety?"
Iorneste rubbed the back of his neck, thoughts racing behind his eyes. "It is far away, deep in the Wyldlands."
He shook his head. "You must understand, being a member of the Drac Orden, our kind being a secret, there are certain things I cannot say."
"Sure you can, Yorn. You just open your mouth and say them."
"No," he countered. "Not these kinds of secrets."
He merely nodded, and with difficulty.
"The kind of magic where you get in trouble if you talk about it indirectly like you just did?"
He didn't nod, was stiff as a board, but she seemed to take it as confirmation regardless.
"I've heard of this before. A geasa, right?"
He brightened, and gave her a smile of such appreciation she felt warm. "You know about it?"
"I have heard of it. Well then, that doesn't really allow me to ask if you're planning to kill King Gracellus."
"What if that's one of your secrets?"
"Well since we're openly discussing that now, no, that's not one of my secrets. I am not here to kill your King, or anyone in your country. My secrets are mine to keep, and I must keep them, but they are in my past. They have little bearing on the here and now."
"Then to what country do you hold allegiance?"
"I don't hold allegiance to any country."
She frowned. "So a mercenary?"
"Working for silver and gold? Whatever in the world could be wrong with that?"
"A man who can be bought can also have his loyalties bought."
He sighed. "Alas, that was almost true."
"Yes, because now I think it would be quite impossible for me to ever be on any side but the side that you are on. I believe I will make a great deal less money as a result."
"Is that a fact?" Selka asked.
"It is. Because the real truth here, the one that begs to be expressed, is that you have kindled something in me that I did not even know was dormant. The truth is, Dame Knight...I would do anything for you."
She leaned a bit closer. "Yorn?"
This kiss was every bit as wonderful and timeless the second time.
The training grounds were not exactly isolated, and when others arrived, the two of them quickly tried to pretend they were there for the grounds intended purpose. Selka flushed as she heard some distant comments about her getting up off of the ground, a couple sniggers, and the shirtless Yorn standing up with her. She had waved off having him help her to her feet.
Selka accepted her knife from Iorneste, the one that had been at his throat, and sheathed it at her side, reaching down and retrieving her sword and sheathing it as well. "What are your intentions from here?" she asked him, trying to keep a professional demeanor about herself, but the hint of the smile was still there, both of them seemed to be stuck with at least a shadow of that smile whenever they looked at each other.
"There are some things I must discuss with Mourne," Iorneste said. "But I now have a course of action that I wish to follow. I do believe, if you will allow it, my path may even coincide with yours. If you'd like that, that is."
"I'd allow it," she said with a wink. "But if you're going to travel with me, and pose as a warrior, it would help if you were better trained."
"I agree wholeheartedly. Are you offering to train me? You are a better combatant than I am."
Selka seemed momentarily overcome. "And you mean that," she said.
"Of course I do. My previous posturing aside, you could have ended my life several times in our last engagement."
"Yet you are the first to admit it. You are the very first man, Yorn, who fought me with his whole body and his whole spirit in it. Who did not hold back, for fear of hurting a woman. You are, in fact, the only man who has ever fought me as if I were a man."
Iorneste considered this. It was true that he had not limited himself because she was female, but thinking about it from a human perspective, in which men were so much stronger than the women, was a foreign concept from his own experience. Drac females were always stronger than Drac males. They were the natural rulers, and none of the male Drac could stand against them, by design. In his own mind, knowing that human females were physically weaker than males and actually believing it were two separate things. For him, the female sex had always been equated with strength, and to some degree he had transferred it to every species. Even Mourne had been, in his mind, his fellow comrade in "unfortunately male by birth", but it was a mistaken assumption. Among humans being male was not a disadvantage. Being female was.
"You're far away," Selka said to him.
"I was just thinking about something that Mourne said."
"What is that?"
"That you and I are in many ways alike. I did not understand what he meant, but I see it now."
"Oh? This ought to be good."
"Well, first, I had an observation about your hair."
"About my hair?"
"It will make sense. I just inferred something about you based on your hairstyle, but I will need you to confirm a few of my assumptions."
Selka appeared surprised about being approached in this style of discourse, but nodded. "My hairstyle. What of it? Do you like it?"
He beamed. "I think it is the most beautiful hair I have ever seen. But it is also cut short."
"I am the first male that I have seen around with long hair in a very long...wait. Do males ever have long hair?"
She grinned and shook her head. "It is very rare. It is out of fashion." She fluffed some of the blonde strands out of his face.
"Do females ever have short hair?"
She frowned. "Sometimes we do, yes."
"When you are in a man's profession?"
She turned and began walking away, and Iorneste felt his heart break a little. "That's not what I meant!"
Selka turned around. "So what did you mean?"
"What you said before. You just want them to treat you as an equal. You cut your hair because then you are one of them. Then it is less obvious that you are apart from them."
She stood very still, chest beginning to rise and fall more quickly.
"You even adopt some male mannerisms, try not to do anything that seems too woman-like when they are around. But they still can't help it, they still know you are a woman, and they treat you differently."
She nodded, and faced away from the men training in the yard, wiping away tears. "Sometimes without knowing it," she said. "Sometimes they try too hard not to treat me any differently, and that's somehow worse. I know there is nothing I can do about it, but it still hurts."
"I know you won't understand what I mean when I say this, Selka, but I know exactly how you feel."
"That's not even all of it," she admitted. "I will have to tell you about my family sometime."
Iorneste cringed, thinking of Admiral Euphrane. "I can imagine."
"No. You really can't."
Sheldrache always found flying on a full stomach to be a trying experience, but it had been worth it to set a few affairs in order.
The proprietor of the bakery had two children, so all was not lost, and she had made certain that the woman's will contained the proper provisions for their future, and had also provided some coin of her own to their trust.
Rammouena had blubbered before the end, but had told her the identity of the one who had purchased her book of recipes, her legacy to her adopted child Rouen. How dare that bitch sell it! Much as it burned her, that problematic detail would have to wait.
She had dealt with enough personal business, it was time to attend to family business. The eregaunte winged across the night sky, high above the evening clouds, an obsidian shadow passing across the moon, destined for the moorish country of Greatre Esturia.
When Iorneste returned to his quarters that evening, Mourne was waiting.
Iorneste came in smiling, looking around the room, past Mourne, and to the bed, which was now fixed and level. He sat down on the bed, bouncing up and down on it, and then quipped, "They fixed the bed, I see. Splendid! How was your day, friend Mourne?"
Mourne was standing there, arms crossed, one hand covering his chin, fingers stroking through the coarse black hair of his beard. His eyes were intense and unforgiving.
"What happened to you, Iorneste?"
"I was training."
"All last night and all day today?"
Iorneste looked away, rubbing his neck. "Well you did say I needed training."
"No, there's something else."
"What do you mean?"
"Something about your eyes. That smile. I'd say you've been drugged, but...you mentioned training. Who was training you? I hope you didn't hurt anyone."
Iorneste turned back to face Mourne, read his grave expression, and started to laugh.
"Oh no," Mourne said.
"What?" asked Iorneste, struggling to stop smiling.
"How am I always the last to know these things?"
"Probably because you are the first. You are the very first dragon at everything, Iorneste!"
Iorneste drew back. "Mourne friend? Why are you acting like this?"
"Selka." It was a flat accusation.
"Oh. I thought you would be happy about that."
"Why would I be happy about that?"
"We like each other now. You wanted us to like each other from the beginning. Now we do. You would not believe what she smells like!" As his thoughts turned back to her, the perpetual smile returned to his face. He looked up towards the ceiling, staring into the void, as if seeing her there.
Mourne clenched his eyes shut, and his hands into fists at his sides. "What did you do to her, Iorneste?"
"Do to her...friend Mourne, please, your anger is—"
"I will ask you again," Mourne said. "What did you do?"
"I was angry at her, at all humans, when I heard that there are some who eat dragonflesh."
"I get it. Continue."
"I think I really tried to kill her, or would have if I could. But she is a better warrior than I am."
"You were trying to kill her, and she still bested you?"
"And then what happened?"
"Well, she had the knife to my throat. I did not want to hurt her anymore, because she told me that her father had tricked her into eating dragonflesh once, and she hated him for it. I realized she wasn't to blame for any of this, and how much like a rampaging dragon I had been, and I felt terrible about it, so then..."
"Then you what?"
"Please do not be angry."
"I am already angry. Do your worst."
"I could not stand it, Mourne! Her pain, her sadness over the loss of Kulvas. I saw it written on her face, in her eyes. I could feel it. The lie was too much for me, Mourne! I remembered you saying that honesty is the best policy among friends..."
"Iorneste, what did you say?"
Iorneste drew his knees up to his chest, preparing for the blow. "I told her that I had not killed Kulvas. That Kulvas is still alive."
Mourne grew quiet, and very still.
Iorneste waited for the explosion that would come, waited on the edge of the bed for Mourne's judgment. When Mourne's words finally came, however, they were dispassionate ones.
"You kissed her, didn't you?"
"She kissed me first! I never would have even dreamed that—well, that is to say, it was as if she had shown me there was an entirely new genre of art I'd never known existed before! Like a dance I could never have fathomed, and certainly not appreciated on my own, without her there to show me the steps!"
"Iorneste, my poor friend. You are doomed."
Iorneste stood up from the bed. "What? You would speak of this...whatever this is...as a doom?"
"The word you are searching for, my draconic ward, is love. Your sickness, the affliction I diagnosed earlier, is lovesickness."
"I most certainly am not sick."
"You are most certainly not well with regards to making unbiased, logical decisions with regards to her, either."
"How could you possibly know that?"
"Love may be a rare disease for dragons, Iorneste, but for most humans it is a sickness most of us contract at least once in our lives. I am a former sufferer of this disease."
"But it feels incredible," Iorneste protested. "Except when I think about her leaving."
Mourne moved next to him, and rested one hand on the dragon's shoulder. "It was not entirely your fault, friend Iorn. Trying to kill Selka was a bad move, but the two of you have been taking each other's measure since you first met, and passion and love are closely linked. But that's the disease I'm talking about. You said that you fear her leaving."
Iorneste shrugged. "If I think about it rationally, it seems unlikely."
"Until she leaves. What then?"
"Then I will go with her."
"What if you can't follow?"
"Then I will wait for her to return."
Mourne shook his head. "Iorneste, what if she dies?"
Iorneste struggled with the question, but his anguished expression was tell enough.
"That's the disease, Iorneste. Your heart is no longer your own. You've given a piece of it to someone else, and now she matters. Now she is all that matters."
"That's the way it is. The worst part is that this was not her fault, either."
Iorneste slumped down on the bed, causing it to groan, but it still held. "What are you saying?"
"Your anima. The two of you were so close, and a kiss is an emotional powderkeg, not to mention all of the passion and energy you were exerting trying to kill each other. I'd submit that when you have lost such control of your emotions like that, your anima was not restricted, either. She wasn't just being attacked by your body, but by your very heart."
"Rrachma would have flayed me for losing control like that," Iorneste admonished himself.
"I still may. We cannot survive further displays like that! Humans are incredibly sensitive to anima, while being completely unaware of it at the same time; in all but the most unfiltered of displays. Your anima is strong as a Drac, and will only get stronger as you age. People will be drawn to you as your aura touches them, unless you keep a lid on it. Those who are with you for long periods of time will be even more susceptible to it."
"Except the kiin."
"We have some resistance to it."
"You're saying I change how people feel everywhere I go?"
"If you are not careful, yes. It is no different than what you did with the drake, but human emotions are still a foreign set compared to yours, their animus signature is different. Your whim and your aura might affect others in unexpected ways, and if you are radiating your emotions into another human's body, you can expect them to be affected by it."
"So Selka never had a choice."
"She still has a choice, even now, but she may not have had any choice in how she feels about you. You have an unfair advantage."
Iorneste looked closer at Mourne. "You are saying that I have an unfair advantage?"
"In every way that matters over a normal human being, you have an unfair advantage. Your struggle is not to attain power. Your struggle is how to exert as little power as possible."
"I do not like thinking that she did not choose me of her own free will."
"I would not, either. While you think about that, why did you tell her the truth about not killing the dragon?"
"Because she deserved to know!"
"Did you consider that she might tell others?"
"I don't think she would. She likes me."
"That remains to be seen. I just have your side of the story, and your brains are not to be trusted right now when it comes to assessing her."
"I still don't understand what bothers you about love."
"Another time," Mourne said. "It really doesn't bother me so much what you told her."
"What bothers me is that there are now three stories of Yorn of Summersgard. One is that he is a fiction, which you and I both know is the actual truth. The second is what you told the Inquisition, and the third is now whatever you told Selka Euphrane."
Iorneste rested his head on his palm. "That does complicate matters. You don't know exactly what I told her—"
"—as such it becomes harder to carry the lie forward without contradictions. The more stories of you that there are that you promote yourself, the more untrustworthy your narrative."
"I told her there are certain things I am not permitted to say, and inferred that this is part of my unique upbringing in the Drac Orden. Like a geasa or vow."
"I told her that the reason I was angry at her, and why I did not kill Kulvas is because the Drac Orden is, in fact, more of a group of dragon ambassadors than slayers."
"Ha! Yet you called yourself a dragonslayer."
"Only while trying to get her to stand down."
"And also in your story to the Inquisition."
"Well, the Drac Orden can be many things. They might be more inclined to advertise themselves as dragonslayers in a world where dragons are not trusted. But finding a place like Esturia, where dragons work alongside humans? Then the Drac Orden would be more inclined to be open about their willingness to mediate between human and dragonkind."
"Ahh, I see your angle. You modified the narrative nicely there."
"Thank you! It was funny, I thought you were going to be angry at me for a long time."
"I am still angry, Iorneste. We have had a more eventful first week than I've had decades, and things are even more complicated than before."
"I disagree, friend Mourne. I believe they are becoming simpler."
"Why is that?"
"Because rather than being a reed blown about by the winds, I think it is time to take action. Create our own wind."
Mourne inclined his head. "Go on."
"I will need your help to do it, Mourne, and a few amendments to the Binding as well."
Mourne raised an eyebrow. "You wish to amend the Binding already?"
"Only by a little."
Mourne stared towards the door. "Let us see where this goes. I am not promising anything, but tell me what you want to do."
by Lord of Light and Shadow, uchihakagura1