Posted in Cut Scenes and Fun Extras | Posted on 19-01-2016|
The final bonus scene in the series is here! Also, for those who were wondering if Soulblade would be the last Dragon Blood, I’m almost positive that I’m going to write one more with all of the main characters before letting them retire. Also, look for Shattered Past, a side novel with Therrik and a new heroine, which will be out after January 22nd.
Dragon Blood Bonus Scene #4: A Fowl Proposal
General Ridgewalker Zirkander did not usually pilot his flier over the capital and land in the street in front of his house, but this was a special occasion. He made sure his picnic basket was still secure, then hopped out of the craft, pleased that a couple hours of daylight remained. Once on the ground, he touched his breast pocket–again. The bulge nestled inside reassured him. He had left work early to visit Azerta’s Fine Jewelry and pick up the custom-made promise necklace for Sardelle.
A tiny diamond and sapphire sword meant to represent her soulblade, Jaxi, dangled from the gold chain. The jeweler had suggested all manner of decorative pendants from flowers to newly trendy dragons to ancient runes that translated to “love” or “forever,” but since Jaxi was closer to Sardelle than any sister ever could be, Ridge had thought the sword appropriate. Besides, it wasn’t as if he could have a relationship–a marriage–with Sardelle without including Jaxi.
Ridge wiped his damp palms on his uniform trousers as he approached the walkway. He had the jewelry. Now, all he had to do was ask her to marry him.
Should he change into something less formal before asking her to join him? Or would his uniform make him seem more dashing and appealing? He wasn’t sure he wanted to deal with all of the buttons if things progressed in the direction he hoped. Nor did he want to lose his jacket over the side of an arch, since it would tumble hundreds of feet into the river that flowed through Crazy Canyon. Despite all the advice he had received on the topic of sedate proposals, he couldn’t bring himself to take Sardelle out to dinner and bend a knee next to a candlelit table. His proposal should be epic. Exciting. Breathtaking.
I believe you’re too late, Jaxi spoke into his mind as he reached for the doorknob.
Ridge froze. His heart might have frozen too.
Too late? he responded, trying to keep the panic out of his mental voice. He had been trying not to think about his proposal plans around Sardelle, since Jaxi was usually at her side and poked into his thoughts more frequently than she did, but that didn’t mean he had succeeded in keeping it secret.
You won’t need your flier tonight, Jaxi said. You might as well have come on a horse.
Ridge tightened his grip on the doorknob. Are you saying that… Sardelle wouldn’t like to go for a ride tonight?
Not in your flier. She has other plans.
Other plans? She said she would be home this afternoon. Ridge had specifically asked her if she could take a break from teaching Tylie and the two new students she had taken on so that they might have time together. Of course, he hadn’t told her why he wanted that time together, just that he planned to come home early to be with her. She had agreed. She’d seemed excited at the idea. Why would she have other plans now?
She got tired of waiting for you, genius.
Tired of waiting? Ridge knew he should turn the doorknob and stop standing there in stupefied silence, but he couldn’t quite parse what Jaxi was saying. She couldn’t mean that Sardelle had gone looking for… someone else. Could she? Yes, they had both been busy lately, but they had been doing the work they loved, each of them, and when they had found time to come together, it had been passionate and exciting. He’d done his best to make it so. The absences had only made them value their time together more, or so he had believed.
Yes, yes, she’s still enjoying your randy bits and your passion, Jaxi said. That’s why she’s waiting for you in the duck blind.
Oh? Ridge let go of the doorknob and looked toward the pond next to the house. He imagined the comfortable plush chairs inside his duck blind, then pictured Sardelle lounging naked in one, her bare leg draped over one side as she perused one of his model flier magazines…
The model flier magazines are what get you in the mood, not her. And yes, that is odd.
Sardelle called it charming.
She’s more tactful than I am.
Well, she can peruse anything she likes to get in the mood. Is she, ah, in the mood now? Ridge left the walkway and headed for the path leading to the duck blind, notions of proposals being stampeded out of his mind by more libidinous thoughts.
Not exactly. Better go see her.
Worried about those dubious words, Ridge hurried down the path. Squawks came from the reeds, and he glimpsed ducks paddling toward the muddy bank. Maybe if he tossed the entire tin of crackers out the window, they would be quiet, so he could sweep Sardelle off her feet and into the duck blind, where they could… discuss their magazine preferences.
You’re not editing your thoughts for my sake, are you? Jaxi asked.
I thought I would keep them tame since you’re swimming through my mind faster than those ducks can paddle around the pond.
I’m fully aware that men have lurid fantasies about Sardelle. I’ve even encountered men who have lurid fantasies about me.
Er, you as a sword? Or you before you became a sword?
Trust me, you don’t want to know.
You’re right. He was far more interested in being lurid with Sardelle. With that image planted firmly in mind, he rounded the bend and strode toward the duck blind door. At least, that was his intention. He froze when he spotted the very large golden-scaled dragon perched atop the stone structure. No wonder the ducks were squawking.
“Are there enemies about?” Ridge asked, slowing to a stop. Bhrava Saruth was always in his human form, or sometimes his ferret incarnation, when around the house. Ridge glanced around, hoping none of the neighbors across the pond could see this.
The dragon lowered his massive golden head, his familiar green eyes gazing intently into Ridge’s soul. Neither Cofah invaders nor pirates are nearby, Bhrava Saruth informed him. The ducks, however, are having unpleasant thoughts about me.
“Perhaps if you threw them some crackers.” Ridge glanced at the dragon’s wingtips and also at his short arms and long claws. Could dragons throw?
Do you think they will worship me if I feed them?
Perhaps in their own fowl way. Ridge smirked at his pun.
Bhrava Saruth merely scratched the back of his neck with a wingtip and looked thoughtfully toward the ducks.
The door opened, and Sardelle walked out, an inviting smile on her face. That looked promising, dragons looming on the rooftop of the duck blind or not. Ridge smiled back.
“I wasn’t expecting to find you here,” he said, spreading his arms for a hug.
Sardelle wasn’t naked, as in the image his mind had conjured, but she wore a lovely white dress with a broad belt that accented her waist and snugged the fabric up nicely to her bosom. Instead of the sandals she had been wearing around the house since summer had fully blossomed, leather riding boots adorned her feet. Probably wise for the muddy path leading to the duck blind.
And for riding dragons, Jaxi said.
Riding dragons? Ridge’s gaze lifted toward Bhrava Saruth. One of the large golden eyelids shivered in an approximation of a wink.
Before Ridge could contemplate that further, Sardelle slid into his arms, accepting his hug and returning it with pleasing enthusiasm. The ducks that had been maneuvering through the reeds floated closer, but they did not waddle out of the water, as they sometimes did in their eagerness to receive crackers. Perhaps the presence of the dragon kept them at bay.
Sardelle leaned back enough to look at his face, her blue eyes as warm and appealing as ever. They crinkled around the corners, and she said, “Your bulge is poking me.”
“Sorry, I got excited imagining you in there, reading my magazines.”
Her brows rose, and she tapped the square lump in his breast pocket, the jewelry box.
“Oh. That bulge.” Ridge bit his lip. He couldn’t give it to her now. He had to propose first, and he didn’t want to do that on a muddy path with ducks quacking from the reeds. “That one is for later.”
She leaned against his chest. “Should I look forward to seeing it?”
“I certainly hope so.” Ridge looked up at Bhrava Saruth. “Are you… uhm, I was going to ask you to fly somewhere with me.”
“Odd. I planned to ask you to fly somewhere with me.”
Jaxi’s comments about riding dragons returned to his mind. He waffled, disappointed that she’d made other plans for their evening when he had hoped to finally enact his grand plan. He thought of the picnic basket in his flier and dinner packed inside, delicious fried chicken, bacon-wrapped and honey-glazed corn on the cob, and chocolate-dipped dragon horn cookies, all specialties of the pretentious but fabulous Brownstone Plaza Delicatessen. Well, perhaps they could share the contents for breakfast.
“I’ll go anywhere with you,” Ridge said.
I can arrange for that dinner to float along after you, Jaxi said.
Ridge imagined riding a dragon across the countryside with a picnic basket flying after them. He wasn’t sure which would alarm the local farmers more.
“Excellent.” Sardelle stepped back, sliding her hands down his arms, then holding up a finger as she leaned into the duck blind to grab her sword belt off the closest chair. Jaxi lay nestled inside of the scabbard. Ridge wondered where Sardelle meant to take him that they might need a soulblade.
I am always needed, Jaxi informed him. I am a necessity. Surely, you must know this by now.
Of course. Foolish me.
Sardelle looked toward the dragon. “Bhrava Saruth, are you ready?”
One moment, high priestess.
Something was floating out the door. The cracker tin that Ridge kept in the duck blind. The lid popped open, seemingly of its own accord, and several crackers drifted out. They floated over to the water, snapped into small pieces in the air, then descended to the surface. The ducks forgot their alarm over the dragon and zipped out of the reeds to snap at the crackers, devouring the pieces whole.
“We could take my flier instead of your dragon,” Ridge murmured, “and not have to worry about him getting distracted.”
Then he could pilot. He always preferred piloting to being a passenger.
I am not distracted, Bhrava Saruth announced. As the now-empty cracker tin floated back into the duck blind, he lowered his long neck and head. Climb on.
The ducks hurried away, wings flapping with alarm, as that head came close to the ground–and the water. Squawks sounded as they disappeared into the reeds.
Foolish creatures. Did they not realize that I, their god Bhrava Saruth, was responsible for their meal?
“Do you truly want ducks as worshippers?” Sardelle asked as she pulled herself onto the back of the dragon’s neck, then scooted down it until she reached his shoulders and could sit astride him. “They wouldn’t be able to rub your belly.”
That is true. Also, their brains are tiny and incapable of acknowledging my godliness.
Ridge kept a snarky response to himself. After all, he was climbing onto the dragon and putting his fate in Bhrava Saruth’s hands–claws.
One wonders what he thinks of our brains, Sardelle said telepathically, giving Ridge a wink.
Since he made you his high priestess, he must think yours is special, Ridge replied, settling in behind her. He slipped his arms around Sardelle’s waist. Even though he had ridden the dragon a couple of times before, and knew that Bhrava Saruth’s magic would keep them from falling off, a man should never neglect an opportunity to wrap his arms around his lady.
I’m not going to bring your picnic basket if you make me gag, Jaxi said.
We need to find you your own romance so you’ll be too busy to comment on ours. I believe Wreltad is the right… species.
Taddy is pompous, smug, and he used to work for the enemy. Also, he hasn’t asked me on a date.
Ridge couldn’t imagine how two swords could go on a date, but all he said was, I can speak to him about that, if you wish.
You can make him less pompous and less Cofah?
I could suggest that he be charming enough that you forget about his flaws.
Has that been your strategy with Sardelle?
That and keeping her delighted in the bedroom.
Can you hear that? The sound of a sword gagging?
Then again, Ridge said, I may look for a nicer soulblade lady for Wreltad. He’s from another time. Probably not used to ladies with such noisy throats.
The next thing he experienced in his mind was the vision of a sword scowling. Fiercely.
Ridge rested his chin on Sardelle’s shoulder. “Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise. Hang on tight.”
Bhrava Saruth sprang into the air, the reeds and nearby leaves swaying as his powerful wingbeats created wind. Ridge was tempted to wheedle their destination out of Jaxi, but he kept his mind silent as they soared above the trees at the end of the pond and banked to fly over the city. A few startled shouts sounded from the streets below, but Bhrava Saruth soon took them high enough that they would appear to be nothing more than a bird far overhead.
The air grew chillier as they gained altitude, flying north along the coast, and Sardelle leaned back in Ridge’s arms. He thought about looking over his shoulder to see if a picnic basket was soaring along behind them, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to see his corn and chicken being treated to such an experience.
As they flew, the sun lowered toward the horizon, turning the waves a burnished orange. Miles passed below, and the beach disappeared, replaced by rocks until the shoreline grew steeper, and cliffs rose above the churning water. Up ahead, the mouth of Crazy Canyon came into view, the river pouring out into the sea.
Sardelle looked over her shoulder, a sly smile curving her lips upward.
Ridge narrowed his eyes. “Did someone blab about my plans?”
Plans for what? she asked innocently into his mind. Also, hang on tight again.
Bhrava Saruth swooped down like an osprey angling for a fish, and Ridge’s breath caught as the vast blue ocean spread below them and the wind riffled his hair. He did, indeed, hold Sardelle tightly, whether to keep her safe or to keep from falling off himself, he didn’t know.
The dragon pulled up at the last moment, his talons clipping the waves, and then they were off in a new direction, arrowing into the mouth of the canyon. As Ridge had done many times with his flier, they swept along the river, up between trees growing alongside it, past looming boulders, and around ancient rock formations. The first arch came into view, the pillars thrusting out of the tops of the cliff walls and rising up until they joined together, forming a curving bridge over the canyon. Bhrava Saruth flew loops around one of the pillars, turning them upside down as he streaked around and around. Gravity should have hurled Ridge and Sardelle into the water below, but magic kept them astride the dragon.
Even though he preferred piloting to riding, Ridge found himself grinning as Bhrava Saruth flew on to the next arch up the canyon, whipping through a maze of rock pillars along the way. Not being the one in control added an unpredictable element, and not being entirely positive that magic would keep him from falling kept his heart pounding in his chest. He wasn’t sure if Sardelle was enjoying the experience quite as much, judging by the tense set of her shoulders and the way her nails occasionally dug into his jacket sleeve, but she must not have said anything to Bhrava Saruth, because the dragon raced through the entire canyon twice before flying toward the top of one of the wider arches.
He alighted on it, talons wrapping over the edge. Interestingly, a blanket weighted down by rocks and two picnic baskets stretched across the mostly flat top of the six-foot-wide arch. Two more blankets were folded neatly at one corner. Was that his picnic basket next to the red and yellow one he hadn’t seen before?
Naturally, Jaxi spoke into his mind. Even though you teased me, I’m mature and magnanimous enough not to want to ruin your moment with Sardelle.
I teased you? Didn’t you gag at me?
Yes, but you deserved it.
“This is our stop.” Sardelle’s braid had come apart, and she tucked strands of hair behind her ears as she peeked back at him. Her face was a tad pale, but she smiled for him.
“That was amazing.” Ridge grinned–he had never stopped grinning. “Almost as exhilarating as when I fly.”
Bhrava Saruth, who had been perched patiently, waiting for them to get off, swiveled his head around to regard Ridge with his luminous green eyes.
“All right,” Ridge amended, “it was as exhilarating as when I fly.”
Sardelle squeezed his thigh, and they slid off the dragon’s back. He landed first, catching her about the waist and eyeing the drop. The arch rose a good two hundred feet above the canyon floor. If that blanket was up here for the reasons he hoped, they could have an exhilarating time, much as he had imagined.
Jaxi, have you been poking through my thoughts and telling Sardelle about what I planned?
Not me. You probably shouldn’t let that dragon spend so much time lounging in your duck blind.
“Ridge?” Sardelle had stepped onto the blanket, and she looked back at him, holding out a hand. “Join me?”
Bhrava Saruth leaped into the air, flew down into the canyon, coasted along the river, then disappeared into trees to one side.
“It appears I have no choice.” Ridge wiggled his eyebrows at her. “You seem to have kidnapped me.”
“Only because I was afraid you’d never get around to kidnapping me.”
He stepped onto the blanket and took her hand, nerves starting to cavort in his stomach. Whether Jaxi or Bhrava Saruth had told her of his thoughts regarding proposals, she clearly knew what he had been planning.
“I just wanted to make everything perfect.”
“Perfect or memorable?” Sardelle glanced in either direction, the miles of the canyon cutting below them to either side, the setting sun painting the cliff walls red.
He nibbled on his lip, trying to remember the words he had rehearsed that morning, while he had supposedly been paying attention to a report from the Tiger and Wolf Squadron commanders.
Sardelle unbuckled her sword belt, laying Jaxi’s scabbard next to one of the picnic baskets.
“Oh,” he said, eyeing her waist and wondering if she meant to remove other things as well. “Are we going to forget words and skip right to, uhm.”
“I have a few words first.” She bent and lifted the lid of the red and yellow basket.
Because he was a gentleman, he didn’t use the moment to ogle her backside. Much. “Will Jaxi be watching? Er, listening?”
“She’s only here in case we fall asleep, forget where we are, and roll off the rock.” Sardelle waved to the drop-off.
“I wasn’t imagining that sleeping would be the reason might lose track of our surroundings and tumble over the edge.” Ridge wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or disturbed that Jaxi would be watching over them.
I promise to close my eyes, Jaxi said.
And withhold comments?
Don’t I always when you’re having tender moments?
During them, I do. Commentary afterward is fair game. Sardelle and I have agreed upon this in the past.
“You’re going to be that engrossing tonight?” Sardelle turned toward him, something clasped in her hands.
“I’ll strive to be. It’s also possible that our lovemaking will be so vigorous that the rock will crack and break.” He tapped the blanket with the toe of his boot.
I can make commentary beforehand, too, Jaxi said.
Such as gagging?
When it’s appropriate.
“Then it’s a good thing Jaxi is here.” Sardelle stepped forward, but she looked down at her hands instead of up at him. “I know it’s not traditional in today’s Iskandia for men to wear signs that they’re married, but among the Referatu, there is–was–a tradition.”
“A tradition?” he asked, watching her hands.
“Yes. This is nothing fancy, or pretty, really,” Sardelle said. “I made it myself, and I lack your mother’s talent, but it does have a little magic to it, a protection. I’m a healer, and I have the assistance of a dragon, for good or ill–” She smiled briefly, even if she still wasn’t meeting his eyes. Was she nervous? She never seemed nervous. “It will basically help protect you from viruses and it will promote good health. And this is my ziasta–I’m not sure if there’s a word for it in Iskandian, but it’s like a mix between an old clan mark and a sigil.” She finally revealed what she had been fiddling with, a leather cuff with a cluster of runes etched on the top. She lifted her gaze and met his eyes. “I would be honored if you wore it.”
Ridge stood still, staring at Sardelle as the realization slowly came over him that she was proposing to him.
He had once told her that it could go either way these days, with the man or woman taking charge, but for some reason, he had assumed she would wait for him to do it. All this–the ride out here, the arch, and the picnic–had been the very plan he had envisioned, albeit with him piloting his flier instead of Bhrava Saruth flying them. But he’d hesitated to enact it, since everyone had told him that women preferred sedate dinners for proposals. Someone had shared his fantasies with her, and she had done all this to give him the proposal he’d dreamed about.
“I…” Touched by her thoughtfulness–and her willingness to endure that crazy ride to get here–he groped for something articulate to say.
“I should warn you that it’s more than just a gift. It’s kind of like… I’m claiming you. Marking you with my sigil. It lets others know that we’re bonded and that they’ll have to deal with me if they try to hurt you or harass you in any way.” She shrugged. “At least that’s what it once meant. There aren’t many people left alive who would recognize the significance.” That familiar wistful sadness flashed through her eyes, as it often did when she spoke of the people she had lost. “It’s the tradition, that’s all. A way to protect the one you love.”
Love. Ridge swallowed. They had both shared the word with each other before, but neither of them flung it around frequently, and he still felt a charge of warmth when she confessed that she loved him.
As Sardelle gazed up at him, her freckled face as serene as always–though the way she fiddled with the cuff hinted at that nervousness–he realized she must be waiting for an answer. And that he might be making her uncomfortable by not giving her a prompt one.
“I’m dumbfounded, not hesitant,” he rushed to say.
“Before we left, Jaxi told me to use my mental powers to invade your privacy and investigate your bulge.”
“The one in my shirt, right?”
The corners of her mouth quirked upward. “Yes.”
“So you know that I’d very much like to marry you, even if it means letting you mark me like the alpha wolf in the pack.”
“Wolves scent mark, don’t they? I assure you, I only used leather-working tools on that.”
“That’s a relief.” He grinned and reached for it. “May I see it?”
“You may wear it, if you wish. Though you’re mine after that.”
“Then put it on me promptly, please.” Ridge offered his wrist.
She pushed up his sleeve and slid the cuff over his hand. He tried to decide if he could feel a tingle of magic, then teased her by giving it a sniff. She shoved him.
“Careful,” he said, “you might knock me over the side, and Jaxi would have to get to work early.”
“We wouldn’t want that.” She stepped closer, leaning her chest against his, her curves delightfully appealing, even through their clothes. “Do you have something for me now?” She looked down at his shirt pocket. Bless her, she seemed eager to see what it was–even if she had already seen it, in a manner of speaking.
Realizing she hadn’t precisely said the words he meant to say yet, he delved into the pocket, a flutter of nerves teasing his stomach anew. It was silly. She had already marked him. What did he have to be nervous about now?
“Sardelle?” His voice came out a touch squeaky, and he cleared his throat while he opened the box. He pulled back the lid and tilted the gold chain and the diamond and sapphire sword pendant toward her so she could see it. “Will you marry me?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” she said, sliding her hands up to his shoulders. “Truly. I thought you’d never ask.”
“Oh, sorry. I wanted it to be…” Ridge looked toward the fiery red sun, only the top quarter of it remaining above the horizon, painting the entire sea crimson. A hawk cried in the distance, probably wondering what humans were doing on its perch. He grinned, both at the amazing view of the canyon and the ocean and at the woman standing in his arms. “Perfect,” he finished softly.
“I appreciate that, but I just want to be with you.”
He tried to swallow a lump that refused to be swallowed. Since he couldn’t find his voice right away, he used the moment to remove the necklace, return the box to his pocket, and secure it around her neck. “You’re a rare and amazing woman, Sardelle,” he said softly.
I’m gagging again, Jaxi announced.
“Does she say those things to you too?” Ridge asked.
“About the gagging? Many times a day. If she were human, she would have developed a throat condition by now.”
Fortunately, I am a sublime and magical being. And I have no throat. You’re supposed to kiss her now, genius.
“I guess that last comment was for me,” Ridge said, lifting a hand to Sardelle’s cheek.
“Unless you’ve changed sexes recently, that seems likely.”
“My, ah, bulge should affirm that’s not the case.”
“We’re talking about the necklace box, right?”
“Anything else would be crude.” He waggled his eyebrows at her.
She snorted and leaned in, lips parting in invitation. Ridge bent his head, and, as they melted together, remembered the first time they had kissed. The warm sea breeze and the last rays of the summer sun were so different from the frigid conditions in that cave high in the Ice Blades. How long ago had that been? Eight months? Nine? Not so long in the grand scheme of things, but they had been through so much that it seemed that he had known Sardelle forever. He couldn’t imagine not spending the rest of his life with her now.
“Ridge?” Sardelle murmured, pulling back.
“Hm?” He blinked, disappointed that the kissing had stopped.
“I didn’t bring this blanket out here so we could stand on it.”
“Oh, I see. Yes, I’m sure we can find a better use for it.”
He grinned, and they soon returned to kissing, and other things. Jaxi, fortunately, did not comment until much later.