Posted in Cut Scenes and Fun Extras | Posted on 15-01-2016|
Dragon Blood Bonus Scene #3: Fowl Revelations
General Ridgewalker Zirkander flopped down in his comfortable-if-hideous chair in the duck blind, groaning as he draped a leg over the armrest and settled in. He had been working non-stop for the last two weeks, and it hadn’t been the enjoyable kind of work, such as patrolling the shoreline, hunting down and shooting enemy aircraft. No, he had been lecturing at the academy, choosing graduating officers for the squadrons, training everyone on the new models of fliers that were rolling out, and traveling all over Iskandia for inspections. He’d hated inspections when he had been the one being inspected, and he found the rigmarole even more tedious as a general. Instead of enduring one inspection, he had to endure one at every base he visited.
He let his head loll back, too tired to grab a book or the latest issue of Essential Model Builder Magazine. Sardelle had left a note in the house, saying she would be home later. He had been dreaming of shared massages all day and hoped she wasn’t as weary as he was, or they would be giving each other rather limp rubs. Maybe a nice nap would reenergize him.
As he closed his eyes, a chorus of demanding squawks started up outside of the duck blind. The fowl that lived in this pond were not blind at all to the existence of the stone structure, and they were probably letting him know that he hadn’t been by to feed them for a long time. Tylie should have tossed some crackers out now and then, but perhaps she was busy learning magical things. She hadn’t been at the house either, so she might be out with Sardelle.
“I’ll feed you after my nap,” Ridge called out to the ducks.
Plaintive quacks floated through the window. He swore the little creatures could understand him.
“They’ve been lonely without their human cracker-delivery service,” came a familiar voice from the doorway.
Ridge wanted to sink lower in his chair and hide long enough for his visitor to wander off. But how did one hide from a dragon?
Bhrava Saruth poked his head through the doorway. As was usually the case in the neighborhood, he was in his blond-haired human form rather than in his golden-scaled dragon form.
After many long days of dealing with soldiers and military politics, Ridge doubted he had the energy to listen to a dragon who thought himself a god. Still, it was worth putting out some effort to keep Bhrava Saruth happy and content. He had been instrumental in chasing the enemy dragons away from the castle that spring, and if any more trouble came to Iskandian shores, he would be a powerful ally.
“Hello, Bhrava Saruth. Acquire any new followers?”
“I have indeed. I am very pleased with my progress. I came to share the good news.”
Bhrava Saruth ambled inside and flopped down in the other chair, the one with staples in the seat holding the striped fabric together. He did not seem to notice any discomfort. Emulating Ridge, he slung one of his legs over the armrest. He wore grass sandals and cutoff trousers, a hemp shirt with tiny purple flowers sewn onto it, and several beaded necklaces that dangled almost to his waist. Ridge did not comment on the interesting style. He was relieved whenever the dragon remembered to including clothing when he shape-shifted.
“I have acquired three new followers,” Bhrava Saruth said. “Two are only children, but they brought me a stuffed dragon toy and sweets. The third one is a voluptuous young woman with very curvy and bouncy–”
“Yes, I remember her,” Ridge said, hoping to interrupt before excessive details came out. “You tried to bring her to the house to enjoy those curves.”
“Yes, that is she,” Bhrava Saruth said with all the shame of a dog thrusting a leg into the air and licking his nether regions. “This is what I came to speak with you about.”
“I don’t want to hear about your conquests.”
“My conquests? In the Cofahre Empire? In my day, I had many when I battled against the imperial dragons and dragon riders who came here to attack Iskandoth. When the humans saw my gloriousness, they flocked to my temple to become my worshippers.” He slumped back in the chair and sighed. “I miss those days.”
“Because you had other dragons to keep you company?”
“Talon and fang, no. Dragons are incredibly uptight and so unappreciative. My human followers were much more enjoyable to be around. I received many toys from children. And many sexual favors from women.”
“Not at the same time, one hopes,” Ridge murmured.
“No, but all in my temple. Ridgewalker, mate of my high priestess, I’ve come to implore you.” Bhrava Saruth shifted in the chair, turning his striking green eyes toward Ridge, eyes that held such power and magical energy that they made a man shift uncomfortably, no matter what silly things their owner was talking about. They did, indeed, manage to look imploring.
“About what?” Ridge asked warily.
“I wish your help in finding a place in your city where I might build my temple.”
“I…” Ridge had no idea what to say. It wasn’t as if he was some noble who owned countless properties in the capital.
“Yes, my high priestess said you would be the person to ask.”
“Uh, Sardelle said that?” Ridge and Sardelle might have to talk about more than massages when she returned.
“Her precise words were that you would be more the person to ask than she.”
“An enthusiastic endorsement then.”
Bhrava Saruth leaned on the armrest, his expression very earnest. “Would your military not have land that might be used for such an important structure?”
“Not in the city, unless you want to put it in the army fort.” When those green eyes brightened, Ridge rushed to add, “There wouldn’t be much room in there. Lots of buildings already taking up space. Buildings full of offices and ordnance and training facilities.”
“That is unfortunate. Soldiers lead dangerous lives. It would be most convenient if they could come to me for blessings before leaving on their missions.”
Ridge rubbed the back of his neck. “I suppose I could stop by the tax office and see if anyone is delinquent and if the land might be acquired cheaply. I know there was some damage to structures in the Cofah attack this spring. Some of the owners couldn’t afford to–”
“Someone comes,” Bhrava Saruth announced, looking toward the doorway.
“Sardelle?” Ridge asked hopefully. He could either foist Bhrava Saruth off on her, or he could clasp her hand and lure her off to the house, telling her to shoo the dragon away so they could spend some time enjoying each other’s company.
“It is that strange woman who doesn’t believe in dragons. How can you not believe in dragons? Dragons are magnificent. I do not think she will ever worship me.”
“Are you talking about my mother?” Ridge sat up in his chair. What had brought Mom out to visit this late in the evening? Seven gods, she wouldn’t want to spend the night, would she? That would make it awkward if he pulled Sardelle off into the bedroom and shut the door. It was bad enough Tylie lived in the house most of the time, though at least her room was downstairs. “Is she coming out to the duck blind? You should go. Even when you’re human, you’re too… too… I don’t know. She’ll think you odd.”
“Me?” Bhrava Saruth’s green eyes blinked. “Odd?”
Ridge made a shooing motion, but it was too late.
“Ridge?” his mother called from the trail around the pond.
Ducks squawked outside of the blind, and wings flapped. The hungry creatures were probably going to descend upon her. Ridge hopped to his feet and charged through the doorway, not sure if he meant to defend his mother from an alarming flock of ducks or if he meant to keep her from running into Bhrava Saruth. Maybe both. He kept thinking that he should sit her down someday and attempt to explain that Sardelle was a sorceress and that Bhrava Saruth was a dragon, but he didn’t know how she would handle that when she didn’t believe in the existence of either.
“Mom,” he said, nearly crashing into her a step outside of the duck blind.
“Oh, good,” she said, gripping his arms and smiling. “You’re home. Vilhem said you should be, but you never are. Really, Ridge. I don’t know how you plan to father babies when you’re so rarely with the lovely Sardelle.”
She wore a sleeveless summer dress dotted with tiny yellow buttercups, and turquoise bracelets dangled from her wrists. Bright yellow enamel hair clips with suns painted on them matched the dress and kept back her long gray locks. Ridge briefly wondered if Bhrava Saruth had inspected her wardrobe for fashion ideas.
Ridge shifted strategically to block the doorway–and the view inside. “I don’t think the creation of babies will be all that hard when we’re ready to, uhm.” Hells, he hadn’t even planned how he meant to ask Sardelle to marry him yet. Shouldn’t that come before babies?
“That’s what I came to talk to you about,” his mother said.
“About babies?” Why had everyone come to talk to him on his rare evening off? The long days of summer meant that it was still light out, that he could relax in his humble duck blind and enjoy the quiet. He loved his mother, but he loved her more when she was in her house fifteen miles north of the city, and visits were on his terms.
“Oh. I’ve been thinking about that–”
“You are going to propose, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I just haven’t decided how to do it yet. I… Mom, there are six ducks staring at you.” He nodded toward the trail behind her.
“Don’t you keep bread crumbs for them? They seem expectant.”
“I have some crackers inside, but–”
“I’ll get them.” His mother patted him on the arm and moved to slip past him. He shifted his weight to block her.
“I’ll get the cracker tin and meet you over by that cove with the reeds in it,” Ridge said. “The ducks feel safe there, and we can talk while we feed them.”
“Don’t be silly, Ridge. They’re blocking the trail. We’ll never get by without a bribe.” She tried to slip past him on the other side.
“I’ll get the bribe,” he said, blocking her again. “Just wait outside, please. I have company.”
“Company.” Her lips pursed with disapproval. “It’s not a woman, is it? Ridgewalker Meadowlark Zirkander, if you’re cheating on my future daughter-in-law with another woman, I’ll club you in the side of the head with a rolling pin.”
“No, Mom. Nothing like that.” He grimaced. He was going to have to let her in. She’d crossed paths briefly with the human Bhrava Saruth before, so maybe he could just pass the dragon off as one of Sardelle’s colleagues. A quirky and eccentric colleague with eyes that bored into a man’s soul while reading his every thought…
“Step aside, Ridge,” she said with the same firm tone that she had used to order him to drop his drawers for a spanking.
Ridge sighed and did as ordered. “As you can see, it’s not a woman. It’s just–”
“Uh?” Ridge peered into the duck blind.
Bhrava Saruth, now transformed into a golden-furred ferret, chittered at them from the chair. He flopped onto his back, legs in the air, and stretched out, displaying his belly.
“Yes, my–ah, Sardelle’s–ferret. He scares the ducks away. I wouldn’t want him to run out.”
Bhrava Saruth made some more noises and gave his belly a pointed look with his green eyes. Those eyes were always the same, no matter what incarnation he was in.
“Do you want to rub his belly, Mom? I’ll grab the crackers.”
“Hm.” His mother bent to stroke the ferret. “He doesn’t look like he would scare the ducks, but I suppose he is a predator.”
Ridge bit his lip to refrain from saying that she should see what Bhrava Saruth did to sheep.
Sheep are delicious, Bhrava Saruth announced into his mind, drawing out the last word with his enthusiasm. His head lolled back in delight as Mom stroked his fur.
“About that proposal, Ridge,” his mother said. “You should do it sooner rather than later. You don’t want to risk losing Sardelle with your reckless career and your cavalier bachelor ways. Does she mind the women who fling themselves at you when you ride past in the city?”
“Nobody’s flinging themselves at me these days,” Ridge said. “I’m a general now, stately and unapproachable.”
“There are duck droppings on your boots, General.”
Ridge sighed and shook the cracker tin. “Do you want to help me feed them?”
Bhrava Saruth chittered a protest when his mother straightened, leaving his belly bereft of pats. You can throw the crackers out the window, and she can stay and attend to my needs.
She’s not going to become one of your followers.
That is unfortunate. She has most excellent hands.
“Do you have plans yet?” his mother asked tenaciously. “Dinner reservations someplace nice?”
“No, not yet.” More ducks had gathered in the pond outside of the window and also on the path, so Ridge crumbled crackers to toss into the water. “General Ort suggested a dinner date, but I thought that sounded overly sedate.”
He didn’t mention that Lieutenant Ahn had also suggested something sedate. Didn’t his comrades know that Ridge couldn’t do sedate? He wanted Sardelle to remember his proposal and to be knocked over by the delightfulness of it. He wasn’t convinced that flying upside down through Crazy Canyon and then landing atop one of the slender rock arches spanning the waterway wouldn’t be a good way to propose. He could pack a picnic and a blanket, securing them so they wouldn’t fall out when his flier was upside down, and they could dine at the peak of the arch. Then he could surprise her with the promise necklace, and they could make love high above the canyon, with the stars and moon shining down upon them. So long as they didn’t forget where they were while in the throes of passion, and roll over and fall off the arch, it would be perfect. And memorable.
Perhaps you should have a dragon ally nearby, Bhrava Saruth said, interrupting his daydream. Thus to swoop in and keep you from falling to your deaths if your mating is too vigorous.
I’ll keep your offer in mind, thank you. Ridge shuddered at the idea of Bhrava Saruth or Phelistoth watching from an adjacent arch as he and Sardelle… consummated the proposal. Did one consummate a proposal? Or just a marriage? He wasn’t sure.
“Vilhem is a smart man,” his mother said, and it took Ridge a moment to remember what she was responding to. “A woman doesn’t want to fear for her life during a marriage proposal. You weren’t thinking of flying her somewhere… untoward, were you?”
“Ah.” Ridge thought of his arch, an arch that he could not now imagine without envisioning a dragon looking on from somewhere nearby. “It crossed my mind to take her someplace adventurous.”
“Well, uncross it. Goodness. Dinner, Ridge. In a nice restaurant. And don’t choose cheap jewelry.” She frowned at him, as if he intended to buy some flimsy bauble from the man who sold dragon luck figurines near the army fort. “This is important.”
“I wasn’t planning to, Mom. I already ordered a necklace. With sapphires, to match her eyes.” He didn’t mention that General Ort had given him that idea; he would hate to feel unoriginal.
“You don’t approve?”
“Sapphires will be lovely, but see if you can sneak some diamonds in there too. Girls love diamonds.”
Ridge imagined ending up with some giant, gaudy pendant if he added everyone’s favorite gem to the mix. That could end up being expensive too. He was already dipping into his combat pay to make sure he got something of high quality.
“I’ll think about it,” he said neutrally.
“And a gold chain. You’re far too old and established in your career to get away braiding grass or giving a woman a leather thong. Do you want me to sketch some ideas for you?”
He glanced at the dubious bracelets encircling her wrists. “Thanks for the offer, Mom, but I’ve already got a professional jeweler working on it.”
That earned him another, “Hm.”
Ridge was half-tempted to shoo her away so the advice-giving would end, but she had come all this way. He supposed he ought to invite her to dinner–he had noticed some sausage links in the kitchen that Sardelle must have purchased.
Actually, the sausage was a gift, Bhrava Saruth said as he lay contentedly, Mom rubbing his belly. From my new worshipper.
The woman or the children?
The woman. She is excellent with sausages.
I bet, Ridge responded, having second thoughts about offering those sausages to guests.
“I could make the reservations for you,” Mom offered. “Soon. You are thinking about soon, aren’t you?”
Ridge sighed. “Yes, Mom. Soon. Did Dad take you to a fancy restaurant?”
“No, and I’ve long lamented that. I’m so glad you’re a better man than he is, Ridge.”
Bhrava Saruth protested when she left him to come over and clasp Ridge’s hands.
“Dad didn’t propose nicely to you?” Ridge frowned, feeling affronted on her behalf.
“I actually proposed to him. In the kitchen.”
“That doesn’t sound romantic.”
“No, but I didn’t want him to get away on another of his trips before… oh, let’s not worry about it. It was a long time ago. I’m far more interested in what you plan with Sardelle.”
Ridge had never asked his mother about her proposal, or marriage, or much of anything about how she and Dad had met. Oh, he remembered her sharing a few stories when he’d been a boy, but what boy cared about the romance between his parents? He had never even been comfortable thinking of his parents having romance.
“I hope Dad at least accepted in a timely manner.” Ridge scooted to the side. “Here, why don’t you sit down, Mom? Do you want a blueberry tart? My new aide foisted these off on me, yesterday.” He reached for a bakery box on the shelf next to the cracker tin, only to find it empty despite the promising grease spots on the bottom. “Er, never mind. I guess someone ate them.” He shot the ferret a dirty look.
Bhrava Saruth hopped onto the table and jumped into Mom’s lap as soon as she sat down. He cooed at Ridge, pointedly not looking at the box.
Why can’t you be like Phelistoth and just like cheese? Ridge wondered, certain the dragon was still poking around in his thoughts.
You wish me to be like a self-important silver dragon with no sense of humor whatsoever? That sounds dreadful. Bhrava Saruth stretched out across Mom’s lap, his furry tail twitching in contentment as she stroked his back. She may yet wish to worship me.
Yes… as soon as she decides you exist.
I could prove my existence to her most easily.
“It took some convincing,” Mom said. “He had plans to explore the world and didn’t want to be tied down.”
“How did you convince him?” Ridge leaned against the wall and tossed a few crackers out to the ducks.
“Honestly, I didn’t. You did.”
Ridge almost dropped the cracker tin. “Pardon?”
“I suppose we should have told you long ago, but you never seemed that interested in hearing about our relationship, and he’s gone so often that it never really came up. You were at the wedding, dear. In a manner of speaking.”
“I… Isn’t your anniversary ten… no, eleven months before my birthday?”
“We adjusted the date, dear. Back then, the world was less forgiving of such things.”
Ducks squawked, requesting more crackers, but Ridge barely noticed as he digested this information. He supposed it didn’t matter that his parents had never told him they had tinkered with their anniversary date, but it seemed strange to imagine them doing so. He was relieved they hadn’t changed his birthdate and that he wasn’t older than he thought–that would have been alarming. He did find it distressing that his parents might not have married for love.
“Does this mean that you and Dad wouldn’t have gotten married?” he asked slowly. “If not for me?”
His mother spread her arms. “Who knows, dear? I was rather enamored with him. I’m not certain he felt as strongly about me, or that he’s ever felt that strongly about anyone. He’s easily distractible, you may have noticed.”
“Everyone’s noticed, Mom.”
“But he was handsome and not unkind. Also, despite his distractible nature, he was quite amorous and energetic in the bedroom, so–”
“Mom.” Ridge resisted the urge to stick his fingers in his ears. Barely.
She shrugged at him. “I was young, and all of my female friends were quite jealous that I’d caught his eye. I felt honored to have been picked.”
“To have been picked? Mom, you’re not a pumpkin in some farmer’s garden.”
“Thank you for that, dear.”
Human mating rituals sound complicated, Bhrava Saruth announced into Ridge’s head. He was sitting up on the table now, probably upset that Mom had stopped petting him. Not upset… just forlorn.
“Did you at least… I mean, do you wish things had gone differently?” Ridge wondered how close he had come to not even existing. Handsomeness and energy didn’t seem like enough reasons to spend a life together.
“I prefer not to dwell on the past.”
He slumped. That sounded like a yes.
“What’s important is that you and Sardelle seem to truly love each other. Don’t take that for granted and assume she’ll wait forever.”
“I’m not. I won’t.”
With dragons, mating is much simpler, Bhrava Saruth told him. A female goes into her breeding cycle, seeks out a male, informs him that she’s chosen him, and then rutting commences.
Romantic, Ridge thought. What happens after the rutting? Do you raise the babies together?
Dragons have eggs, and they hatch. Hence, hatchlings. The female is in charge of raising them. If the male comes near them, she’ll typically drive him away. She might even bite him. Or bite something off him.
Even more romantic.
“I’m glad to hear it.” Mom squeezed his hands before letting them go. “I’ve enjoyed watching you two together. You have something most people can only dream about.”
Ridge realized that she must count herself among most people. He supposed he had always known his father hadn’t been the ideal husband, if only because he had been gone so much, and Ridge had been disappointed in him more than once, but he’d always thought the relationship worked for his mother, that she had different expectations or maybe that he was less distant with her. It saddened him to learn that might not be the case.
“Are you hungry, Mom? Why don’t we make some dinner?” He wrapped his arm around her and guided her to the duck blind exit. “I think we’ve got some nice–”
Bhrava Saruth hopped onto Ridge’s shoulder. I would be willing to share my sausage with your mother.
Ridge nearly choked.
His mother looked curiously at him.
“Ham,” he managed to say. “I think there’s some ham left in the icebox.”
The final scene in this series is now up: A Fowl Proposal.