Dark Cloud Rising
Hoarst entered the black dragon’s lair, his torch adding a warm glow to the dim light within the hollowed-out space. His eyes immediately fell on the tender scene before him. The still nameless boy, bundled in fur clothing to guard against the severe cold, lay cradled in the powerful forelegs of his black dragon. One of the dragon’s eyes opened upon his entry, acknowledging the familiar man’s presence in his lair.
//He is sleeping,// the dragon said, knowing the man could understand him. //His heart is heavy and hurting. He longs for his home and those he cares for in Amulah.//
The large man walked up to the dragon, noting that the manacle as well as the thick chain he’d put on earlier was still securely attached to both dragon and the mountain wall. "Quinze is here to take him back."
"I’m afraid so."
Wu Fei lowered his face to nuzzle the boy’s soft skin with his snout, causing him to stir and mumble, "Not yet," his rider complained.
"Quinze is waiting," Hoarst told the barely awake boy.
Moving slowly, the slender lad rolled out of his dragon’s embrace and swayed a bit as he regained his feet and struggled to wake up. The dragon, ever watchful of his rider, pressed his face up against the boy’s body to steady him. The contact caused the rider to turn and press himself up against the scaly face. "Wu Fei." The young rider’s anxiety was evident in the tone of his whisper.
Hoarst, an uncommonly kind man for having lived in cruel northern environment, felt sympathy for the lad. He put his hand on the rider’s shoulder. "Maybe I can speak to Libra and he can tell his rider that you need to see your dragon more often."
The dragon tender watched as the rider of Wu Fei turned his head to look at him with eyes that had become dull and weary over the weeks since he’d been taken from Amulah. The dragons’ caretaker was familiar with that dullness for he saw it everyday in the eyes of those men and women on Cordith, especially the young people they’d brought from the borders of Amulah. It was the look of loss in heart and for the hope of something better. Eventually even the strongest of individuals were worn down by the cold and the dreariness of winter. He could only hope that when Spring came, bringing sunshine and warmth as well as the excitement of dragons mating, that their newest rider would find a reason to be happy again.
"Why would you speak on my behalf?" the young rider challenged with a frown and a look of suspicion in his eyes. "Dorothy told me not to ask for anything or I might have to pay too dear a price for whatever I might request."
The older man shook his head. "You have nothing I need, young rider," he said gently. "But I can see that you are sad and weary. What you feel affects your dragon. He is also sad. We both know that you are unhappy being here, but at some point you’ll have to come to accept Cordith as your home."
"I can’t," the boy sighed and hugged his dragon tight. "I hate this place," he whispered. A long stretch of silence passed before the boy ventured to ask a question. "Why do you stay here, Hoarst? Other than the dragons, you’re all alone on this mountain. You could escape to the south where the weather and people are much warmer. You could find a new life in Amulah."
"This is all I have ever known," the tall and gentle man answered. "And I am never alone on this mountain. I have the company of many wise dragons."
"But it’s cruel and cold here. With your being able to hear all dragons, I’m sure a place for you could be secured in Amulah and the Halls of Dornan if you ever chose to leave here."
"I could not leave my friends," Hoarst said with great affection in his voice for the dragons he cared for.
"You could make new friends. Wu Fei and I would be your friends, Hoarst."
The older man smiled down on the lad from his greater height. "You’re very kind," he said, "and I will remember your words. I don’t have many friends who aren’t dragons."
"Dorothy and Alec are also fond of you. Maybe you have more friends than you know."
"Perhaps," Hoarst replied, still grinning.
"Can I ask you something?" After the large man nodded his permission, Duo continued. "Alec told me that the other riders don’t live on Muir because the strong odor makes them gravely ill. How is it that you can live here and not suffer the same?"
The balding giant grin widened, just enough to display a mouth of decayed and missing teeth. "I was born within the walls of Muir, as were my fathers before me. Perhaps I was forged from birth to tolerate the odor others loath and that is why I am able to live here with the dragons and not fall ill."
Then with a tilt of his head and gaining a distant look in his eyes - something the larger man did when listening to a dragon, Hoarst turned back to him and abruptly changed the subject, "You must go now," he said, pulling on the lad’s shoulder and loosening the grasp Duo had on his dragon. "Quinze and Libra are not so patient in their waiting. It would not be wise to make them angry."
"No, it wouldn’t," the boy agreed and reluctantly allowed himself to be pulled away from Wu Fei. His hand lingered a moment on his dragon’s face as he addressed him. "I’ll see you soon. All right?"
//Be well and do not be sad. I will always be here for you,// Wu Fei replied. His gaze remained fixed on his rider as he neared the opening of his cave to the central chamber of the mountain.
//I’ll be back when I can,// Duo said as Hoarst led him to the narrow path that would take him back to the lair next to Wu Fei’s where Quinze and Libra were waiting.
On a balcony that looked out over the city of Rydell and the wide spread valley below, the senior rider of Amulah’s dragons breathed in deeply, noting the air was warmer now than it had been for many months. Though it was still winter, the change in temperature gave promise to the coming Spring. The sun was dipping lower in the western sky, sending streaks of pink and orange through the distant storm clouds as another long and dreary day came to an end. He sighed deeply, something he’d done a lot since Duo’s disappearance. Truth be told, he sorely missed the boy who had come to him daily for his lessons, the fledgling never realizing he was receiving an education far above that of the rest of the riders. Having been informed who the boy’s father was, he’d agreed with Garron that Duo needed to be educated with the knowledge of Amulah and the skills that would be necessary for a prince of the kingdom. Though there was very little chance that the boy would ever act as ruler over Amulah, not with two princesses as direct heirs to the throne and himself a bastard, Duo’s schooling and training would not be found lacking if he was ever presented to the king. No, not if, Jan chided himself for the slip, but when Duo was brought home and presented to the king, he corrected.
He’d often found himself debating with his conscience and with Garron as well over the wisdom of not telling the boy of the man who had sired him. Perhaps they’d erred in not informing the king as well that his deceased brother had begotten a son, though he doubted the King would be pleased to hear that his brother had seduced one of the Queen’s young ladies, and an ######## as well. With his brother dead as well as Duo’s mother, there was only Garron’s word that what his niece told him was true. Yet one had only to look into the eyes hidden under the fringe of brown hair to see the same color eyes that all the king’s family possessed to know the boy was of royal blood. With another sigh, he reminded himself that what was done was done. The king had been informed of the matter, and Duo, if he were not rescued and returned, would likely remain ignorant of his royal heritage.
The sound of a dragon descending from above was heard, and Jan stepped back just as Rayer’s body floated down and his talons latched onto the edge of the balcony. Once his balance was secure, the silver dragon stepped down and settled his large body onto the fresh straw bed. Garron unstrapped his legs from the harness and climbed down to where Jan stood to greet him, a look of grave concern on his weathered face.
"He was safely delivered?" Jan asked.
"Yes," Garron answered, stomping his feet to get feeling back into them after the long ride.
"How far north?"
"Several days walking distance from Cordith."
Jan frowned. "I’m not sure this was a wise idea, taking and leaving him up there on his own."
Garron’s brow wrinkled with concern. He wasn’t happy about the change of plans either, but he’d been persuaded it was the best approach to recapturing their dragon and rider. "He insisted on being the one set in place to aid Duo when the time came. We went over the plan for rescue many times and he knows what to do. Everything depends on us being in place when the females go into season."
Jan’s eyes again strayed to the sky where large, dark clouds laden with rain floated slowly over the long valley. "I’d guess a week at most, or perhaps as soon as a few days before we act," he predicted.
Garron nodded. "Riders of the female dragons report that they also sense the time is rapidly approaching. The moment they come into season is the time to act, and quickly. I’ll be ready," he assured his long-time friend.
"As will the rest of us," Jan affirmed solemnly.
Duo pulled the blanket up over his head, trying to block out the sounds the other two were making... again. Though they had proven to be his friends during the many weeks that he’d lived with them by protecting him from the other aggressive riders, the blond twosome were slowly driving him into madness. It was obvious that their dragons were nearing their fertile season for their riders seemed unusually ruttish, and not only with each other. Their outrageous flirting and advances towards him had increased ten fold, and he was sick of it... and them.
Spring was almost upon them and he dreaded its coming more than he could say. He had learned from Hoarst that the natural drive to mate would not only impact the female dragons and their riders, but that he would also feel the strong natural instinct of his male dragon to mate with the female dragons in season. Wu Fei’s instinct to mate would transfer to him and, if the caretaker of the dragons in Muir could be believed, the need to mate would become too strong for him to resist. He’d also been informed that once he was caught up in his dragon’s lust, Wu Fei’s choice of a mate would determine his mate as well, being that dragon’s rider. The thought turned his stomach, especially considering the fact that his two options for a future mate were intimately and noisily engaged in the most intimate of acts in the room’s only bed.
It was just before dawn when he’d been kicked out of that same warm bed by the other two so that they could have another go at each other. Their moans and gasps made him want to run from the room and out into the cold. But his fear of Finn and of being punished if the other riders thought he was trying to escape again was strong enough to hold him in place. He’d only been punished twice, beaten until his back was bloody, but it was enough to keep him from risking a third punishment.
The room was suddenly quiet, other than the heavy breathing of the sated, coming from the bed. The rustling of fabric was preceded by Alec’s voice. "You can come back to bed now."
"No thanks," Duo snapped, tired and irritated. "I’m wide awake now so let’s just get up and start chopping the wood."
"It’s too early," Dorothy complained.
"You should have thought about that before you woke me and kicked me out of bed."
The girl snickered. "You know you can join us any time. It’s inevitable, after all."
"I might not be able to help myself from bedding one of you when Wu Fei chooses a mate," Duo spat back. "But don’t think it’s going to happen again until the next breeding season."
"You’re determined to be the rotten egg in the clutch, aren’t you, boy?" Dorothy sounded agitated with his stubborn, snarly mood.
"And you have to be the least desirable of potential mates in Cordith," Duo snapped back as he fumbled in the dark to find his clothing.
The girl gasped, affronted. "How dare you!" she hissed. "If I had my way, I’d refuse you even if Wu Fei chose to be Romma’s mate."
Pulling his pants on and working with the laces, Duo replied, "Believe me, I wish you could, Dorothy. Unfortunately, we’ve been told that once our dragons begin to mate, we’ll be so caught up in it that you won’t be able to refuse me, just as I’ll be unable to keep from bedding you, despite the fact that I don’t want you."
"There’s no need to be so unpleasant," Alec said as the sounds coming from the direction of the bed indicated that he too was dressing.
Duo jerked his nightshirt off and just as quickly pulled his shirt over his head. He paused a moment after pulling the coarse fabric over his bare skin feeling a small bit of remorse for his hurtful words. "I’m sorry," he began, contritely. "I don’t mean to be cruel to either one of you, but I hate this. I don’t want what’s about to happen. Everything about Cordith feels... wrong," he ended, putting a hand over the ache that swelled in his chest.
"Neither one of us wants a reluctant mate either," Dorothy shot back, obviously stung by his previous comments. "After all this time we still don’t know your name. It’s more than a bit odd that one of us will be mated to you, especially when you haven’t tried to get to know us and won’t even tell us your name."
Duo sighed. "I know you don’t understand, but my name is all I have left, other than Wu Fei."
"It isn’t like you’ll lose your name in telling it to us," Alec said, his voice closer now.
"I can’t. At least not until I know for sure that I’ll never return to Amulah."
Alec’s hand touched his shoulder. "You still believe someone will come for you?"
"I don’t know," Duo replied, dispirited. "But I have to have something to hope for or I’d throw myself off the edge of this mountain."
"It really won’t be the end of your life or happiness after you take one of us as your mate," the blond boy said, slipping his arm over Duo’s shoulders, tugging him against his side in an attempt to reassure the long-haired rider. "Both of us will continue to protect you and be your friend after the mating, if you’ll let us."
Duo sighed, knowing he was being ungrateful to the only two friends he had in this miserable place, but the feeling of wrongness that had been his constant companion since first waking in the north persisted. This was not his path, something inside him insisted. That sense of wrongness had grown until he found it hard to find any reason, save Wu Fei, to continue. Not wanting to tell the others about his depressing thoughts, he slipped away from Alec’s arm said the most practical thing that came to his mind. "Come on, let’s get to chopping the wood and finish early today, then I can spend more time with Wu Fei."
"All right," Alec replied, then turned to address their other roommate. "Get up Dorothy and make us some food."
"You’re not my task master," the spunky girl snapped back.
"Just do it." Alec sounded weary. It seemed to Duo that every conversation either one of them had with the blond girl always turned into a battle of wills.
The day proved warm enough that the boys left their fur hats inside, and as the morning sun rose in the sky, warming the air and melting the last traces of snow, their jackets came off as well.
"Spring is most definitely in the air," Alec said as both boys carried armfuls of wood to the covered area beside the door to the hall. Duo looked to the southern sky and desperately hoped for some sign of rescue. Yet his hopes were dashed once again when all that was visible were clouds and a few birds in flight.
They finished their daily chore earlier than usual because of their early start. After the noonday meal, Dermail led Duo out of the hall and towards his dragon, waiting to take the two to the other mountain. A hand on his shoulder stopped the boy and he turned to the older rider with an expression of curiosity on his face.
"Quinze has asked me to speak with you regarding what will happen in the next day or two."
Duo could feel his face begin to flush with embarrassment as he realized what the other rider wanted to talk about. "I know about the act of mating with a male or female rider. My mentor spoke to me of it before I left my home in Ha’ber."
The older man nodded, looking pleased that he didn’t have to go through the onerous task. "Very well. As to the day of the mating, the older dragons will tell us the moment they sense the females are in season. At that point in time, Dorothy and Alec will be taken to separate rooms and prepared to receive you. One of us will remain near you until the time that your dragon makes his choice. You will then be taken to the room of the chosen dragon’s rider. Have you ever seen anyone caught up in the dragon’s lust?"
"No," Duo replied, hiding his curiosity at what the older rider was telling him.
"The riders of the female dragons are caught up in their dragons’ need to be taken. They will appear dazed and almost senseless to anything else but their need to copulate. Likewise, you will also be swept up in your male dragon’s need to mate. In order for the lust to be overcome, you must spill your seed into your mate’s receptive body and they must receive it willingly, of which I have no doubt Dorothy or Alec will be most accommodating." The man paused to smile, obviously amused, and gave the boy a knowing look. "It’s plain to see that those two are quite taken with you. They’ve ardently protected you from the more aggressive riders. It will definitely be interesting to watch what happens after you have taken one of them as your mate. We’re eager to see how the rejected rider reacts."
Duo frowned at the man, unhappy with the older rider’s words. "Do the elders truly find a younger rider’s loneliness and loss amusing?"
Dermail shrugged, not bothered by the boy’s words. "It’s not the unhappiness we’ll be enjoying, but how they will deal with the disappointment. Though we would rather your dragon accepting Romma’s invite to mate, preferring Dorothy to be your mate and legitimate mother to your offspring. Even if Shadow becomes the black dragon’s mate and Alec becomes yours, Dorothy will still bear your children. We will make certain of that."
Even when he was homeless, an outcast and the dark cloud of his village, hungry and alone, Duo had never hated his life more than he did at that moment. Without any further exchange of words with the older man, he climbed onto the gray dragon’s back and waited until its rider climbed up behind him and the journey to Muir began. He said not another word to the older rider, but kept his eyes on the hollow mountain and turned this thoughts to the source of his only comfort. In all the time that he’d been prisoner on Cordith, his time spent with Wu Fei had been the only true moments of solace that he’d felt, though that feeling lasted for only a short while.
Heero watched as Relena became more restless. As the day progressed she persistently fussed with her fresh bed of straw, pushing it around with her nose and tail from one end of her lair to the other; yet its placement never seemed to suit her. Her restlessness had transferred to him, and it was almost impossible for him to sit still. It was late evening and the air was cool but no longer cold for Spring had come, and the time for the dragons and riders to take a mate was upon them.
//I need to take to the sky.// Relena blurted out suddenly.
//Tell Rayer that the time has come.//
//I wish to fly now,// the female dragon said anxiously, her taloned feet moving restlessly under her.
//Did you pass my words to Rayer?//
There was a pause before she replied with a curt yes. Her instinct to take to flight and select a mate overrode all else and had Relena behaving rather peevishly. Heero felt the same longings as his dragon as his body began to ache with wanting. There was a strong need for... something: A kiss. A body pressed up against his own. A mate.
He pulled the hood of his cloak up over his head, grabbed the small satchel he’d prepared ahead of time and climbed onto the back of his agitated dragon. //Inform Rayer and the others that we are taking to the sky, that we can wait no longer.//
Relena didn’t need any further encouragement. Once her rider had strapped his legs to the harness, she moved quickly. With two hops, one on the lair and one on the ledge, and a stretch of her wings they were airborne. Relena gave out the cry of a dragon seeking her mate as they climbed above the Halls and the palace above. The other dragons, having been tense and alert for several day, replied to the call and prepared to leave their own lairs in order to give chase.
With the return of warm weather, Duo cautiously eyed the two blonds who had become more moody and restless with each passing day. Wu Fei had spoken to him the night before about the two female dragons and their increasingly agitated state. He’d awoken moments before with a feeling of agitation as well as that familiar sense of wrongness and foreboding that enveloped him like a wet cloak.
He’d just spent another night on the straw bed as the two in the larger one had kept him up all night with the sounds of their frantic lovemaking. He’d hardly had any sleep. A sudden noise from the main room startled the three, and a moment later, Quinze, Dermail and Septum burst into the room, set several candles down and dragged the two naked blonds out of the bed and out into the grand hall.
Duo sat up from his bed of straw and blankets the moment the older riders entered the room and silently watched Dorothy and Alec’s hasty removal. His heart filled with dread knowing that today was the day he’d feared all winter long.
Deikum entered the room several moments after the others had gone and he moved to stand directly in front of Duo’s makeshift bed. "Water will be brought for you to wash yourself as well as fresh clothing," he stated with a gleam in his eyes that spoke of his excitement in the upcoming mating. The northern rider’s plans for the future was about to take another step forward. "Prepare yourself for today is the day you will take your mate." The man then turned and left the room, leaving the door standing open as Duo stared after him in a blind panic. //Wu Fei!// he called out in desperation to his dragon.
//I am here.// There was a pause before the black dragon added. //The females’ scent has changed. It is pleasing.//
Duo could feel the change taking place in his dragon. Wu Fei was becoming aroused by the scent of the two females in season. //Can you resist them?// he asked. It was his last hope that Wu Fei would be strong enough to resist the natural urge to take a mate. He knew that if they’d been living in their lair at the Halls of Dornan, an older rider would have taken them south, out of range and scent of the females in season, removing the temptation. No such luck here, he mused darkly.
//The need to follow them is strong. I want to take to the sky but the keeper says I must bide my time until the females are ready to fly. It is difficult to stay.//
Duo’s heart sank in hearing his dragon’s response. There was no doubt Wu Fei’s natural instincts were stronger than his will to save them from a life in the harsh north. Yet even in his despondency, he felt his black dragon’s instinctive need to mate transfer to him. His skin suddenly felt like it was tingling and his loins stirred, awakening to the need to take a mate. "No," he groaned to himself, feeling both arousal and that sense of wrongness fill him. He rubbed at his affected member pressing against the front of his pants, but his touch made the need grow so he quickly removed his hand. "I’m condemned to a life here," he moaned, once more mourning his former life in Amulah and specifically the Halls of Dornan with his friends and Heero.
Several older riders came in carrying buckets of water and an armful of clothing. Finn was one of the water carriers. The sight of the man always filled Duo with dread and loathing, but he successfully hid what he felt in hopes of avoiding any further punishment. Thankfully, the man ignored him, but Duo noticed the hated rider appeared more alert and lively than usual. In fact, all of the other riders did. He recalled that it was just past dawn and that he’d never seen anyone up and out of their warm beds that early in the morning, other than the rider charged with getting the three of them up and out of their own bed to begin their morning tasks.
Waiting until the men left his room and partially shut the door, Duo stepped away from his bed of straw and went to the wooden bucket of water. With slow movements he began to undress. Once relieved of his bedclothes, he picked up the cloth and a bar of soap and began to cleanse his shivering body. He had learned under Howard’s tutelage and while living in the Halls that it was important to be clean, though during his time here no one on Cordith seemed overly concerned with being so. He’d certainly not had buckets of tepid water brought to him before. Of course, this was an important day for all of Cordith, he reminded himself. Today he and Wu Fei would further promote the northern riders’ plans to restore strength to their line of dragons and eventually take over Amulah, the reasons for his kidnaping. A slave to nature’s call to mate, Wu Fei would choose one of the two females in season, and in doing so he would doom them both to a life in Cordith.
He sighed deeply, realizing that cleansing himself was probably appropriate for someone who was about to take a mate, even if it was against his will. As long as the water was handy, he’d also wash his hair. His scalp itched from not having washed it more than a couple of times since he had been brought to this miserably cold and stark place.
After dunking his head into one bucket, he vigorously rubbed the bar of soap between his hands to cause a lather, which he worked into his hair and scalp. He dipped his hair back into the bucket and then worked to removed the soap. With a glance to make sure no one was standing at his door watching his every move, he hurriedly washed his private areas. The piece of fabric left for drying his body was woefully inadequate for drying both his body and his long mass of hair, so it was no surprise that both dripped water after he was done. Shivering from the morning cold and his quick bath, he quickly reached for the clothing that had also been brought in. Once his pants were in place, he picked up the shirt, immediately feeling a difference in fabric from the rough fabric he’d worn all winter. His eyes widened after realizing the garment in his hand was the shirt Heero had purchased for him to wear at the grand celebration the night he was taken from his bed. He stared at the white, soft fabric with wonder. How had it gotten there? With blurring eyes he recalled Heero bringing the shirt to his room and the kiss that they’d shared. He choked on the sob that fought to escape his throat, mourning once again what he had lost. The feeling of rightness that he’d felt that night was a faint memory, never to be fully experienced again, he thought sadly.
He allowed himself only a few moments to mourn one last time for that which wasn’t to be, then he opened a small part of his mind to his dragon, and the immediate feeling of lust rising in his dragon nearly overwhelmed him. The onslaught of lust was almost welcome as it seemed to dampen his heartache and grief.
Having clean and dressed himself, Duo stood by the end of his bed, feeling unsteady on his feet and unsure of what he should do next. He felt agitated, and needed to move, to do... something, and it was almost too much to bear. He realized suddenly that what he was feeling was definitely coming from his dragon. Opening his link further, he was immersed in Wu Fei’s need. His dragon’s instinct to go after the scent of the female dragons overtook all other thoughts. Duo quickly closed the link between them, but it was too late. He could feel his own male organ painfully stiffen, desiring release despite his own intentions to resist what was coming.
The door to his room swung open and Quinze came in, appearing happier than Duo had ever seen him look before.
"I’ve never seen so many riders up this early before," Duo said in a distracted manner as the man approached him. "Or so happy."
"The dragons are excited," the white-haired man said with a growing smile. "They know what a momentous day this is and we rejoice with them on this renewal of their blood lines. Come." He approached the boy and set his arm around Duo’s shoulders, which were now more substantial than they had been before the long months spent chopping wood. "It is my privilege to stay with you until your dragon makes his choice for a mate. Dorothy and Alec are being prepared for the moment of joining."
Duo looked up at the man with alarm as a thought came to him. "You don’t watch the mating, do you?" He really wouldn’t put it past these people that he found so barbaric to have come up with the idea of watching the mating for their own entertainment.
"No. Of course not," Quinze laughed. "The others will be outside, watching the dragons perform their mating flight. I’ll join them after I see you undressed and on your way to your future mate’s bed."
"You’ll close the door, right?"
The man chuckled again. "So modest? Yes, I’ll close the door. We don’t want you to be distracted from taking your mate properly."
Duo nodded, glad for that bit of knowledge. Still, he couldn’t help feeling discomposed and nervously worried his hands together in front of him, needing something to do even as Quinze led him out of the bedroom and into the great hall.
The great stone fireplace was ablaze, though there was no food cooking in the pot over the flame. That made sense since Dorothy was in another room somewhere being prepared. A shiver went down Duo’s spine wondering exactly what kind of preparation was being done behind those closed doors. As he and Quinze made their way to the front of the room, to the five chairs that sat permanently in front of the hearth, Duo could see the other riders were moving about the large room. Their gaze often turned in his direction, and shockingly enough, each of them offered him a smile of encouragement. After the long, cold winter months of being ignored, rebuffed and growled at by the older riders, it felt decidedly odd to be the recipient of a smile. A couple of them even took the time to approach him, patting him on the shoulder, wishing him good fortune, and then giving some crude suggestions on what was about to happen. Fortunately, those few were quickly brushed away by Quinze who had set himself up as Duo’s protector. Unable to sit, Duo stood and began to pace in front of the glowing fire in the hearth.
//The females have taken to the sky,// Wu Fei stated suddenly, his excitement evident as he broke through the link that Duo had tried to keep closed, for his own sake. //Hoarst says I may go now and join them.//
The feelings of lust, of the innate drive to mate, was transferred from dragon to rider yet again, and Duo found himself swaying, unbalanced by the power of Wu Fei’s driven need.
"Easy," Quinze said, his hand on Duo’s elbow to steady the boy.
"The females are sky bound," someone shouted and the sound of the riders running to the door could be heard as they rushed outside to view the spectacle.
"It won’t be long now," Quinze said excitedly. Duo was aware that he was being led somewhere, but with the overwhelming sensations surging through his body, he wasn’t sure where. He was distantly aware that the front of his pants were being unlaced and then hands on his shoulders pushed down into a sitting position, yet all he could focus on was the deep need, desire, and a sense of urgency that thrummed within his body and mind.
Caught up as he was in the mass of feelings, he was unsure of the passage of time or his surroundings. He became dimly aware of a startled sound coming from behind him and the faint sounds of a scuffle, but he was too unfocused to try turning his head to see what it was about. He then heard his name called with urgency, yet it was like a fly buzzing about his head, something to be ignored even though it bothered him. It was the solid slap of a flat hand across his cheek that caused him to blink and become more cognizant of his surroundings.
"Duo, can you see me? I need you to listen to me," a familiar voice was saying.
The boy blinked, stunned by the sound of the familiar voice. "Howard?" He blinked again and his disbelieving eyes focused to see the image his mentor standing before him, his face only inches from his own. Stunned, it took a scant moment to register that the older man’s craggy face bore a look of urgency.
"We’ve got to go now," his former mentor whispered tersely while quickly glancing over his shoulder.
"What?" Duo couldn’t quite grasp what was happening. Was he asleep and dreaming?
He was easily pulled to his feet, unable to resist the person who appeared to be Howard. Did riders see things while experiencing the dragon’s lust? No one had ever spoken to him about that being part of the mating. Too dazed to do for himself, he stood on unsteady feet while the other man laced his loosened pants more tightly, He was then pulled roughly by the arm, urged to move rapidly, but to where? Try as he might, he couldn’t seem to focus on the moment or anything other than the feeling of unfulfilled lust that coursed through his body.
A bright light and the warmth of the morning’s sun splashed across his face, causing him to blink rapidly and waking him further from his dazed state. He understood then that he was outside and that the cloaked person running ahead of him was leading him by a firm grip on his wrist towards the diminished stack of logs he’d faced everyday. His feet faltered in his confusion and, as the cloaked man in front of him turned around to see what was wrong, he saw that his would-be rescuer was indeed Howard and that his being rescued wasn’t a daydream.
"Run, Duo!" Howard hissed, keeping his voice down. "If you want to be free of this place, run!"
Though still affected by Wu Fei’s mating flight, Duo managed to do as Howard asked and somehow kept himself from tripping or falling as his mentor pulled him along. They paused for a moment at the edge of the log pile, but only long enough for Howard to peer around the corner, making sure the area was clear of dragons or their riders. "Come on," the older man whispered again, urging him on. "The Northern riders are on the other side of the dwelling, watching the dragons in flight. We should be secure here for the moment."
Duo was still struggling to come to terms with what was happening. He was dizzy from myriad sensations, topmost was his heightened state of arousal as Wu Fei followed the female dragons and their alluring scents. Despite his physical discomfort of running while fully aroused, he blindly followed Howard’s lead. He wondered where Wu Fei was, and the thought came to him that this was the first time since his arrival to Cordith that he and his dragon were out of doors at the same moment. Glancing over his shoulder and into the sky behind him, he looked for Wu Fei. His footsteps faltered and he stumbled, yet Howard caught him by his arm and steadied him. The other man paused with him to gaze up at the extraordinary sight above them. The dragons of the North had all emerged from their lairs within Muir and had taken to the sky to view the momentous occasion of a new mating. They flew in a wide circle around the three younger dragons who were flying in a way Duo had never seen before. He watched as his black dragon flew complicated and intricate maneuvers, flipping, turning and spinning, no doubt trying to impress the two females who were also flying in a manner meant to impress and entice the only available male to accept them as a mate. He hadn’t noticed until that moment that the air was filled with the clamor of excited dragons, all of which seemed affected by the scent of the females and Wu Fei’s obvious interest.
"Howard?" Duo called out, sounding as unsure as he felt. He was trying to puzzle out how he could leave Cordith once Wu Fei mated. His dragon would be bound to stay with his mate and, likewise, Duo would be unable to leave his dragon. "I can’t leave Wu Fei," he managed to say, his eyes never leaving the black dot as it danced against the backdrop of the blue sky.
"You won’t have to. Help should be arriving any moment."
Not more than a few moments later, a blue dragon made an unexpected appearance in the sky, rising to the center of the circle from below and entering the circle to join in the intricate, all-important mating dance. After tightly circling Wu Fei and loudly sounding its intent to mate, the blue quickly turned and flew back the way it had come, straight down to fly close to the ground, further startling all the astonished air-bourne dragons.
The sudden, unexpected appearance and then disappearance of the other dragon caused an immediate reaction. Wu Fei left off his courting of the two females and dove with amazing speed after the blue, which was undoubtedly a female. The roar of the stunned northern dragons above echoed throughout the Grennal Valley.
"Hurry. Our means of escape will be here momentarily," Howard urged, pulling Duo after him once more towards the edge of the mountaintop.
"What’s happening?" Duo blinked, trying to figure out what was going on even as his blood seemed to burn in his veins and the swelling of his manhood made it painful to move. Suddenly his heart was beating too quickly and he couldn’t seem to catch his breath. Through their link he sensed what he dragon was experiencing in his fervent pursuit of the blue female. With what wits he could muster, he turned and concentrated on keeping his eyes on the back of Howard’s cloaked head and allowed himself to be directed, unable at the moment to do little else.
"That was Relena, Heero’s dragon," Howard explained as they ran. "She and Heero came to offer themselves as mates to Wu Fei and yourself."
"H... Heero? Here?" Duo stammered with disbelief.
Howard continued to run, pulling the affected boy until they reached the edge of the plateau. "He’s close by and waiting for you."
Something was wrong with his mind, Duo decided. He had so many questions to ask, but all he could muster was, "Is this a dream?"
Howard chuckled quietly as they came to a stop. "No, Duo, this isn’t a dream. Now I want you to raise your arms."
The older man repositioned the dazed boy’s body and then helped him to lift both arms above his head. "Can you hold them there and keep steady? The edge of the mountain is only one step to your left. Whatever you do, don’t fall."
Duo tried to keep his eyes on the man he’d thought he’d never see again. "You came for me," he said in a voice that was laced with awe, disbelief and great emotion.
"Of course I did," Howard replied, smiling with open affection at the boy. "And in a moment Rayer will come and take us away from here."
The sound of voices filled with anger and distress came from the direction of the rider’s dwelling beyond the stack of logs. Howard looked nervously in that direction and then to the north. "Hurry up," he muttered under his breath. "They’ve realized your gone."
"Stop where you are!" A large rider shouted as he rounded the far end of the logs, sword drawn and anger lining his flushed face.
"Howard?" Duo called out anxiously, recognizing the voice of Finn.
"Stay in place. Don’t move," the older man ordered sternly.
Duo’s body swayed, and it was a struggle to keep in place with his arms held up as Howard had instructed.
"Hold on," his mentor said encouragingly. "Keep your position."
Even in his state of confusion and the din from the dragons raging in the sky, Duo could hear the dreaded sound of Finn’s footsteps drawing closer as well as his voice cursing and filled with threats. Fear now joined the other emotions dueling within him. If he was recaptured by Finn he would probably receive a beating worse than he’d ever experienced before.
He forced himself to turn his gaze from the approaching threat to look as Howard. The older man stood only a few feet away from his position, with his attention focused on the approaching armed man. He turned his head briefly to Duo, with a look of indecision on his face. Their eyes locked for a moment before Howard said, "I’ll not let you fall back into their hands, Duo. You are a rider of Amulah; you don’t belong here." Both of them knew that if Wu Fei took Relena as a mate, as his actions moments before had indicated he would, then the kidnaped boy would be of little use to the northern riders. If recaptured, they would kill him, destroying Wu Fei in the process. The northerners would consider it a victory, even if only by default.
Duo’s eyes strayed from Howard to Finn, whose red face was twisted with rage as he drew near. Howard unsheathe his sword and lifted it with arms too unused to battle to wield it properly in their defense. It was clear that the older man was going to try and hold their attacker off for as long as he could, for his sake. The boy, unsteady on his feet with all that was unfolding, could only stand as he’d been directed and hope the help Howard had spoken of would arrive very soon.
Then suddenly, the sense of rightness that he’d not felt the entire winter returned, and he might have cried at the welcomed warmth filling him had the situation not been so perilous. He knew in an instant that these feelings of right and wrong must be his gift from having joined with Wu Fei. His being there was wrong, but his leaving Cordith was right, he could feel it. Whether he survived the next few moments or not, he knew without a doubt that his attempt to escape and potential joining with Heero was the correct path to whatever his future held. He could only hope that Rayer would arrive before Finn killed the both of them.