~Story by Sia McKye~
Rowan’s infectious laughter warmed his heart as she viewed huge gossamer butterfly wings of light on the boat below. He’d come too close to losing his mate.
“Isn’t it beautiful Padrig? Oh look there’s one over there that looks like Santa and his sleigh taking off. Can we get closer?”
“Aye, m’lady. Hang on.” His mighty wings caught the air as he rose to circle around the harbor. He used the shadows of the night to bring her lower to the water and a closer view of the ship that caught her eye. He hovered; the downdraft of his wings caused the water below him to dance and shimmy as they watched Santa sail by. Behind it floated a Charlie Brown barge with trees and lights arranged to look like falling snow. He caught the wisp of thought from her of how she missed seeing snow fall. He smiled knowing he would show her falling snow this night.
“Oh my gods would you look over there at the floating Graceland? They even have a rocking Elvis impersonator. A rather drunk Elvis a little too far aft in his blue suede shoes and if he were to fall he’d be in danger of the propellers.”
Elvis was lifting his glass as they flew over. His eyes widened as he caught sight of Rowan and Padrig, his glass crashed to the deck as he stepped back. Arms wind milling to catch his balance as he fell against the railing and went overboard.
“Aw hell, stupid man.” Rowan’s blue light shot out and caught him mid-fall. The magic gently lifted Elvis back to the deck while Padrig provided extra sparkles of light to make it appear part of the show. Applause and whistles filled the air.
“Very nicely done, Padrig. Those sparkles were almost better than the rest of the light show.”
“Tis something he will no doubt remember for many a year.”
“I’m thinking it’s the sight of a dragon and rider flying over him he won’t be forgetting. I’d love to hear how he tells the boys he was saved by a magical black dragon.” Rowan’s laughter rang out.
Padrig rose in the night sky banking gently so as not to jar his lady and headed north. His heart was full of thankfulness she was healing. He took such delight in her fascination with the light displays for the holidays. Padrig once glimpsed a holiday light parade through their link while still trapped in solid stone. The marvels of the modern world still baffled him but he appreciated the freedom to explore them.
He wanted tonight to be very special and had mapped out each stop with care to give her the gift of wonder and beauty of the world around them. The simple joys still present even with great evil loose in the world. He wanted her to see more than the battles of life and death they had been engaged in the past few months. Battles that had almost taken her from him.
He again felt the anguish and terror that besieged him when she nearly had been butchered by an Annuvin demon.
Her voice, full of warmth and love, interrupted his gruesome memories. “Padrig, my love, it’s over. Your anguish is breaking my heart. Please.”
“Tá brón orm, Rowan. I had thought I was doing so well with blocking my thoughts of that day from you.”
“Not possible with something you feel so strong. We both are alive and well, Padrig. We will kick Annuvin ass later. Tonight is ours. Let’s celebrate.”
“Your wish is my command, a ghrá mo chroí.”
Rowan snorted. “Yeah, until my wish interferes with your recent belief I’m made of spun glass.”
“Ah, but a dragon knight is always right, m’lady.”
“Póg ma thoin!”
Padrig chuckled as he circled the pier in San Francisco. “Who has been teaching you to swear in Gaelic, m’lady Sass?”
“Didn’t I say it right? I was telling you to kiss my ass, Sir Macho.”
“Tis close enough. Look below, m’lady.” He felt her indrawn breath as she looked at the city below.
“Oh, it’s so beautiful at night and especially during the Christmas season. Look at the tree on the Pier and they’ve made the whole area a winter wonderland.”
He circled once again before heading further north. “Hold on Rowan, we are going up and over the Golden Gate Bridge.” The strong winds buffeted them as they flew over the bridge and up over the Marin Headlands. He climbed higher still circling the top of Mount Tamalpais and to the east peak dropping through the fog and into the snow falling gently around them. Padrig smiled at Rowans shout of glee. He glided downward finding a place to land. The hush of falling snow was beautiful. The wet snow coated the surrounding redwoods and added to the three or so inches that had already fallen.
He closely monitored Rowan who was trying to catch snowflakes on her tongue and laughing. She stretched her legs out in front of her, ankles crossed, on his neck as she lay back near his wings watching the snowfall. Her off key rendition of Let It Snow made him rumble with laughter. Padrig could feel her exhaustion. It was time to fly to their final destination. Still, she managed to protest leaving.
Padrig secured protection wards around her and told her to sleep for the part of the flight around St. Helena and above Clearlake. The area was peppered with hot springs. His destination was a secluded spot high in the mountainous hills. He scanned the area to be sure they were alone. It wouldn’t be wise to land as a dragon where one could be seen. There was a resort far below and several miles away. No demon activity in the area either.
“Rowan, tis time to awaken. We have to walk in from here, m’lady.”
Rowan unbuckled her harness, slid off Padrig, and leaned against him until she felt able to stand. As she stretched she looked around. She could see the soft lights of the resort below.
“Padrig, that’s more than a bit of a hike to the resort. Couldn’t you have gotten in closer?”
“Our room is up a bit further, m’lady, not down.”
“Have I mentioned I’m a bit reluctant to go caving given the past months?”
“There is no danger anywhere near.”
She shivered as she eyed the rock face in front of her. Rowan wrapped her arms around her as she scanned. “Are you sure?”
She looked over her shoulder and watched as the subtle amethyst light suffused the body of the dragon and leaving a man in its place. There was no transformation with popping and stretching just a dragon one moment and a warrior the next. He stepped forward and enfolded her in his arms. “You are quite safe, m’lady.”
A soft nimbus of light enveloped them as she looked up into the striking face of the warrior holding her. His silky black hair was pulled back leaving only two of his braids hanging loose from his temples. Mustache framing his mouth and into the small beard on his chin. She felt like a windblown mop and he looked perfectly groomed. It wasn’t fair.
“While I might not be spun glass I’m still not up to full fighting strength my lord dragon. I’ll admit I’m a bit nervous still. It’s been a beautiful night Padrig. Thank you.”
“Ah, but the best is yet to come, a ghrá. Come.” He took her hand and led her up about twenty feet until they came to a solid rock face. He moved his open hand in a half circle to reveal an opening. They stepped through and he closed it before pulling her further along the dark path. He increased the light so she could see where she stepped. They traveled about a hundred yards when they came to smaller opening. A soft blue light showed inside. As they stepped through Rowan caught her breath. The pool was a blue and green. Steam lifted off the surface and while it wasn’t a full sized swimming pool it was large enough to play in. She stripped down to her long sleeve shirt as she walked to the edge, pausing to take in the fat candles burning in several candelabras.
“Oh it’s beautiful Padrig. A bit of magic to light the way? And champagne?” She spun around laughing. “Oooh, we even have a nest of pillows to sleep in.” She sat on a cushion sitting near the pool and dropped her feet in the water. “Mmm, this is heaven. Where did all of this come from?”
“Dyfed helped with his magic to give us a safe refuge and light the pool for you. He also helped provide this.” He held up a large thermos.
“Coffee? You remembered coffee? Cream and sugar?”
Padrig grinned and nodded. He opened the thermos and poured her a cup. She could smell the rich aroma from across the cave. Her mouth watered in anticipation. “Perfect.”
Rowan crinkled her brow as she looked up at him. “Hmmm.”
“What is it, m’lady?”
“There is only one thing missing from making this a perfect moment.”
Padrig looked around in puzzlement. “Missing?”
“Oh yes. A serious thing necessary for a faultless evening.” Rowan lifted the cup to her lips as she watched him mentally go through his checklist.
“You have on entirely too many clothes, my love, and you’re too far away.”
“Really?” A wicked grin appeared. “Easily remedied m’lady.” Padrig snapped his fingers and his clothes and her shirt disappeared.
“Handy trick. I like it.” She cocked her head to the side and watched the play of light over his impressive muscles as he stalked closer. He really was magnificent dressed in only a fall of hair over his shoulders and a smile quirking his mouth. He lifted her up in his arms as if she weighed nothing and stepped into the pool. Padrig let her slid down his body until her feet touched stone. Burying his hands in her hair, he kissed her.
“You are my heart, Rowan. My soul. Without you I wouldn’t want to live.” His lips softly kissed her forehead, her cheeks, before claiming her mouth.
“Tá grá agam duit,” he whispered.
“I love you too, my dragon.
Happy New Year!