"He's magnificent," Icovellauna breathes in awe as the dragon soars above the distant hills, "I wonder what it would be like to ride one."
"How can you tell if a dragon is a he or she?" Jennicor asks with a giggle.
"I'm not sure you'd want to get close enough to find out," Auberon says, lifting his sleepily from Tania's lap. "Do dragons even have gender?"
"They have magic," Tania says, "I can feel it. As for the rest...we know nothing about them. Are they intelligent, or are they no more than beasts? I've seen them hunt, but they never let our kind get close enough to learn anything about them."
"Isn't that a sign of intelligence? That they're aware enough to avoid us?" Ico says.
"Rabbits flee from predators," Jennicor says, "Are you suggesting they have intelligence?"
"But we aren't predators," Ico says, "No beasts flee from us. Except the dragons."
"You could always track him, Ico," Tania suggests, her voice sweet and teasing. Auberon shoots her a concerned look, but says nothing, "Discover his lair and talk to him. Perhaps he'd even let you ride him."
"I will do just that," Ico proclaims, and dives into the water. This pond is fed by the mountain streams that lie in the same direction the dragon was flying. Icovellauna cannot take to the air, but water is her element, and she can travel through it as swiftly as a dragon flies.
"Be careful," Jennicor warns, watching her friend swim away.
"What game are you playing, my love?" Auberon asks in a whisper, drawing Tania's head down close to his. "Why did you send Ico to look for the dragon?"
"Game?" Tania asks innocently, "I did not ask her to go, that was entirely her decision."
"Do not seek to fool me, Summerdream," he says, "It was a decision you influenced, an idea you engendered. What are you hoping to gain by sending our Ico into such danger?"
"We need to know more about the dragon kind," Tania answers, "Everything in this world is ours, except for them. I mean to change that."
"And what if Ico is hurt?"
"I will not see her harmed, my love," Tania promises.
The dragon sets down in a tarn beneath a waterfall, and seeing no creature about to witness his magic, he transforms into his other form, the form that none but his own kind are ever permitted to see.
Her senses alert for any sign of the dragon, Ico felt him in her waters the moment his claws touched down. Moving swiftly to the source of the disturbance, she emerges from the water directly behind him.
"Fairy," he says, for what else could she be? "You should not be here." She has seen his secret form, and she will have to die. That is the law, but it's a law that has never been carried out, for the dragons are too careful to be seen. Aymeri is the first of his kind to get so close to one of the fae, by his own carelessness, and he will be the first to kill one.
"I am Icovellauna, and all waters are my waters," she says, smiling as she teases, "It is you who trespasses on my domain."
As a dragon, Aymeri has killed many times. But it's always prey that fall to his dragon's claws. The fairy are not prey, they are not dumb beasts to be taken down and eaten. But a law has been broken, no one may see a dragon's secret form and live. He'd never questioned the law before, but now faced with enforcing it, he has doubts. It's not her law, after all, or her fault he chose a bad place to transform.
"Am I breaking your laws, being in your waters?" he asks her, thinking he'd rather submit to whatever punishment the fae dole out to lawbreakers than carry out his own law here.
"My waters are for all to enjoy," she says, moving closer to him, "I welcome you." She didn't see the dragon transform, but she felt his magic in her waters. Already, she's learned more about his kind than she ever expected; they have magic, they are intelligent, they have more than one form. And they are remarkably beautiful. At least, this one, her dragon, is.
Just one touch, his fingers grazing lightly over his arm, and Aymeri knows, he's not going to kill her. He couldn't, not even with all his kin gathered to demand it of him. He'd die protecting her from his kind, if it came to that. "I have never seen one of your kind come to this place," he says, "What draws you here today?"
"I was tracking a dragon," she says, smiling, teasing him with a knowing glance, "I saw him, soaring above the mountains, and I was taken by the desire to ride him. So I followed, and came to the waters where he landed."
"Tracking a dragon? That is dangerous business, Icovellauna of the waters," Aymeri says.
"You don't seem so very dangerous," she says, still smiling, still teasing, not knowing how close he'd come to ending her.
"I am no danger to you, beautiful fairy," he says, pulling her close to him, "But my brethren are another matter. Promise me you will not pursue any other dragons."
"I have captured one dragon, I have no desire to pursue any other," she answers, caressing his face, his chest, with her cool wet fingers.
He lifts her up into his arms, pulling away the bit of fabric wrapped around her waist with one firm tug. She wraps herself around him, legs and arms, bending her head down to meet his lips to hers.
"My dragon," she whispers, laying claim, "Will you let me ride you?"
She doesn't even know his name, he thinks, so he cannot blame magic for this pressing new urge he feels for her. It's no spell of binding that allows her to mark him as hers, no sorcery that forces her will upon him. Of his own will, of his own desire, he's giving himself to her, breaking the laws of dragon kind, betraying clan and kin, all for love.
"My name is Aymeri," he tells her as he lifts her onto the bank, supporting her against the moist earth as he enters her, "And I am your dragon."
"You are not so different from us," Ico muses as she takes him onto the right bank, mounting him for another ride.
"What has happened between us must remain secret," Aymeri says, "It could mean my life if my kin were to learn what I've done."
"What do you mean?" Ico asks, suddenly afraid of his tone. She thought she'd learned all about dragons this afternoon, but there is still so much she doesn't know.
Tania meant what she said to Auberon, she would not allow Ico to be harmed on this mission to track her dragon, so she kept her mind open to her, and at the first sign of fear from her friend, she comes to her assistance.
Whatever the source of Ico's fear, it is immediately evident that she faces no imminent danger, and at the same time. Tania discovers the source of the other, more pleasant sensations Ico had been experiencing earlier. "Excellent work, Ico," Tania laughs, "You've mounted and tamed a dragon. We'll sing songs about your victory for ages to come."
Aymeri springs up at the sudden interruption. "Deceitful fairy!" he yells, "This was a trap all along! You meant to ensnare me with your magic!"
"No!" Ico protests as he turns away from her in anger, "That was not my intention at all!" She reaches out to take his arm, to make him stay and listen to her explanation.
"Quickly, Ico," Tania cries, "Bind him before he gets away."
"Quiet, Tania," Ico pleads, but the damage is done. He'll never believe that this wasn't a trap now.
Aymeri turns to face her, but it's clear from the fury in his eyes that he'll not hear anything she has to say. He grabs her wrist, pulling her hand away from him.
"I should have killed you before I ever let you touch me, fairy," he growls.
Ico reels back away from him in horror.
Ico drops to her knees as he turns and walks away, back into the tarn.
"He's got quite the temper," Tania observes as the watch him swim away, disappearing beneath the water. "Why didn't you bind him?"
Ico turns on Tania in anger, "I will not bind him, Summerdream! He came to me freely, and I gave myself to him for love. Why could you not leave us alone? Because of you, I have lost him."
"Nonsense, Ico," Tania smiles, "He is not lost. You can still track him. Even better than before, because you have joined with him. There is nowhere he can go that you cannot find him, bound to you or not."
"I can follow him," Ico agrees, "But you heard him, he wishes me dead."
"He is angry," Tania says, "But I think you could soothe him, Ico. If you love him, as you say you do, then you should not let him go."
Angry as she is with Summerdream for spoiling things with Aymeri, Ico must admit there is truth in what she says. Her dragon's love is like a beacon, a flame beneath the waters, blazing a trail she can follow, to pursue him to wherever he lives. She will not lose him so easily to this simple misunderstanding, she will calm his rage and make him know her love is real.