Authors: Mell Eight
Tags: #fantasy, #M/M romance, #Dragon's Hoard
It took Kam a few seconds to realize he was sharing his sleeping fur with someone else and a few moments after that before he understood that a man was holding him tightly. Kam slowly looked up to find Lor's bright blue eyes studying him intently.
"I wasn't sure if you were going back to sleep," Lor said softly with a small smile.
"Um," Kam forced out, knowing his mouth was hanging open in surprise. "Hi," he finally said.
"Hello," Lor answered. "You gave me quite a scare yesterday, you know."
"Oh, well, thanks for warming me up," Kam stuttered out in reply.
Lor's arm left Kam's waist, but before Kam could begin to feel regret that Lor was leaving, Lor's hand tilted Kam's head back.
"Don't vanish on me again," Lor admonished, his blue eyes still and serious. Kam stared into those intent blue orbs, unable to blink or look away as Lor slowly bent closer. Their lips touched, both chapped from the cold wind, but warm and tender. Lor slowly drew away and laughed gently at Kam's shocked face.
Kam frowned. "What did you do that for?" he grumbled.
"Why did I kiss you or why did I laugh?" Lor asked, his voice still quiet but too full of humor to be called a whisper. "I kissed you because I thought you were beautiful from the moment I first saw you under that bad witch's spell. But my duty to the clan came first, so I sent those girls and Mae to watch over you. I'm laughing because I should have kissed you when you told me you only liked men while under the influence of my truth potion.
"You're an idiot when it comes to the ice, but you somehow always come out ahead in the end—with or without my help. But I realized yesterday that you might not return from your next silly mishap. I didn't want to lose my chance of getting to know you better."
"Oh," Kam replied once Lor had finished his explanation. "I like you, too," he added with a shy smile.
"Good," Lor said and he gave Kam the first full smile Kam had ever seen grace Lor's lips. It was as beautiful and as blinding as a field of untouched snow and made Kam's heart lurch in his chest. "We should get back to sleep," Lor continued as he reached over Kam to pull up the fallen sleeping fur. "We both had exhausting days yesterday and need rest in order to recuperate."
Lor pulled Kam down onto his chest and wrapped his arm back around Kam's waist. Kam snuggled into the warm embrace and let his exhaustion drag him back down into sleep.
When Kam next woke, it was to the noise of people speaking and breakfast dishes clanking. He was alone in the sleeping fur, but moments after he opened his eyes Mae strode up to press a bowl of hot cereal into his hands.
"Good to see you up," she said with a nod hello. "Lor's just checking on Ness. He'll be back over in a minute." She walked off to help someone else while Kam was glancing around to find Lor.
The cavern they were in was not natural, that much Kam could tell as he looked around. The dogs were roaming freely and happily around the sleds, which were mostly unpacked around them. The cave dwarfed the clan horribly, emphasizing just how few members were sitting around the fire pit that looked like it had been carved into the stone floor centuries ago. Lor was kneeling by the fire, one of Ness's hands in his, and Kam could tell by the distant glaze in Lor's eyes that he was casting a spell of some sort on her.
Kam picked up his spoon and started eating while he watched Lor work. He had an impersonal touch as he looked over Ness's red and chapped hands, hands that were probably so frostbitten the night before that she shouldn't have them at all. Lor was clearly quite powerful and very caring, which Kam admired.
Lor was called away to look over one of the sleds when he finished with Ness so Kam finished his breakfast alone. He clambered to his feet, bare toes cringing against the cold stone floor, and brought his bowl over to the woman in charge of washing up. Kam returned to his sleeping pallet, found his socks and boots, and went exploring.
Runt toddled over when Kam walked past the mother dog. Kam gave her a good belly rub before guiding Runt back to her mom.
The cave was huge, but there was only one entrance. The giant hole along one wall sparkled a little with magic, so Lor must be using a spell to keep the wind and snow out. Kam walked in the other direction, past where the sleds and the dogs had their own circle away from the humans. The wall there wasn't as smooth, which seemed strange to Kam considering there was hardly a blemish along the walls otherwise.
The way the stone curved was deceptive. There was a small opening cleverly hidden amid the misshapen rock barely large enough for Kam to slide through. Kam carefully stepped out of the passage into a smaller, but still very large side cavern. The light was different than the firelight in the main cave, seemingly coming from within the walls rather than from a fire.
Kam walked closer to one of the shining walls and gasped at what he saw. Piles upon piles of gems and golden statuary were frozen in a thick layer of ice, forever locked away because not even a chisel and hard work would break through to the treasure hidden inside. Kam walked along the ice wall, mesmerized, until he reached a spot that was darker than the rest. He put his hands up to shade his eyes and pressed his nose into the ice, trying to see why that section was different.
He looked down lower and gasped, a gigantic pang of loneliness shooting through his heart. There was a giant, lizard-like, scaled head frozen in the ice. It was neatly hidden thanks to it's own colorless hide and it looked like it was attached to a body that could easily explain why the caves and entrances were so big.
"Magnificent, isn't he?" Lor asked softly from behind Kam.
"What is it?" Kam asked, his own voice soft in an almost reverent tone.
"That," Lor replied proudly, "is the White Dragon."
"Why is he so sad?" Kam asked, his voice tight with tears as the pulsing loneliness continued to erupt from the sleeping dragon encased in ice.
Lor rested a hand on Kam's shoulder, gently pulling him away from the wall of ice. "Because he is alone," Lor explained as he drew Kam towards the exit. "The other dragons left, leaving White behind as the only steward of these mountains. Not even the golden dragon stayed."
"That's terrible!" Kam gasped as he slid through the opening. Lor forced his larger body through afterwards, still holding onto Kam's shoulder, and they both walked back into the more natural firelight together. "Is there anything we can do?"
Lor shook his head. "It's all been tried, thousands of centuries ago. But I did see a dragon when I went south. He was just a baby and in human form, but he was proof that the rest of the dragons haven't died off."
"So maybe we could find the golden dragon and get him to make White happy again?" Kam asked excitedly.
Lor shook his head again. "There are tales of three golden dragons living in the southern mountain range, but they do not contact us."
"Why not?" Kam asked, tugging Lor down onto their shared sleeping fur as he spoke. Kam could think of at least one golden dragon, An'nanyle who was mated to Prince Leon, but he couldn't think of any others aside from the Eldest who was rumored to be gold colored as well. Since the Eldest never left the dragon caves, Kam didn't know if that were true or not.
"Because they abandoned us so they feel guilty, and we refused to heed their orders to move to the human city they created so they do not listen to our needs. Only the white dragon cared for us, but White cannot help us now."
The conversation ended there, but Kam couldn't help thinking about that poor dragon encased in ice for the next two days while they waited out the storm. On the second night, the old storyteller gathered them all close to the fire.
"There once was a city, a beautiful city where dragons and humans lived together in harmony," the storyteller began in a creaking, ominous voice. "Humans came from as far as the Wilds to see the city. It was surrounded by ice, but thanks to the powers of the dragons, remained warm and fertile. But the dragons warred and the city was lost."
Lor sat down next to Kam on the bedroll they were sharing, but stayed silent. Kam was listening intently to the storyteller since he hadn't heard this tale before.
"The ice began to flow into the city, freezing the underground hot springs and encasing the verdant fields and our homes in unending snow. The wind blew and the blizzards came and the Tribe was forced to abandon the city. They travelled far, to the dragon mountain we are in right now. Old White slept, as he sleeps now unchanged. The Tribe pleaded with White, begging for him to return and to save their city from utter destruction. But White, in his pain, could not hear. So the Tribe left White, wishing to give him the space and time to recover from his loss, and travelled across the ice to build a new home, or homes, now that there are two clans. In times of great need we return to White's sanctuary, hoping that one day White will return to save the Tribe from the endless ice."
The storyteller fell silent and the clan echoed him for a long moment before a child squealed. With the reverence broken, they all headed towards their bedrolls and another night under White's unknowing care.
The next morning they waited for the sky to finish clearing. It took a while for the winds to stop blowing and after that they still needed to unblock enough of a pathway through the accumulated snow that they could get their sleds on top of the new snowpack. He didn't visit White again because the horrible wrenching feeling of loneliness made Kam want to cry. One visit was enough to understand why that emotion was so prevalent in the winds over the ice wastes: the dragon was projecting so forcefully that Kam could feel him even outside the mountains.
Lor seemed to be able to tamp down those emotions while Kam stayed within his magical shield. The second after Kam stepped through the barrier keeping the snow and wind out of the gigantic entrance to their cave, the emotions returned full force. Kam hated thinking he was getting used to feeling something so awful, but he rarely staggered when he was sent outside anymore.
The ride out of the mountain was the opposite of the scramble to the mountains. The sky was cloudless and so blue that the light reflected off the snow and hurt Kam's eyes. Lor gave him some charcoal to rub on his cheeks below his eyes to help with some of the sun glare.
Everything Kam could see looked pristine and peaceful, a clean white blanket covered everything. He didn't even realize they were back to the campsite until Hern finally dropped the traces with a sigh and pulled out a shovel.
Kam worked at unhitching the dogs, little Runt following him around playfully to the amusement of the other animals, but he kept an eye on what everyone else was doing as he worked. After an hour they finally located the top of the only permanent structure in the camp, the kennels, and soon had the snowdrift hauled away. The dogs were happy to be allowed back into their home. They located the fire pit soon after and it wasn't long before Kam could smell lunch cooking.
"We've put your things in Lor's tent," Ness said shyly when Kam walked over to the fire to see if there were any other jobs he could help with. Ness couldn't look Kam in the eye. Kam assumed she was embarrassed about her behavior in the blizzard and he didn't know how to reassure her.
"Thanks, Ness," Kam replied with his own blush. It had caused some talk in the cave, when Lor had climbed into bed with Kam the second night. The first night could be explained as sharing body warmth or as a long-term healing spell, but the second night proved there was a deeper attachment. Overall, the clan seemed to accept it. Lor was known to prefer men. The clan also seemed to like Kam, and could see how much Lor liked him too, which went a long way towards their approval.
"We need to send out a hunting party tomorrow," Mae was saying to Lor as Kam said goodbye to Ness and headed in their direction, "but otherwise we're in good shape. Now tell me about why you returned from the south alone."
Kam didn't mean to eavesdrop, but Cara called him over to stir the stew bubbling over the fire while she took her turn getting her tent set up and he was too close not to hear the conversation.
"Witch Harold was as bad as we thought he was," Lor sighed. "Kidnapped the girl from her family for some sort of revenge plot. The girl's brother came to rescue her along with a troop of human soldiers. The brother was a witch and we fought until a dragon appeared out of thin air."
"A dragon!" Mae gasped. "What happened?"
Lor laughed softly to himself. "The dragon was just a baby and he was trapped in human form for some reason. He apparently used some potions from the brother witch to transport and then use fire. The witch was part of his hoard, so the dragon had come to save him. Cutest little thing and so attached to his witch. So of course I had to let the girl go home, since she has a family and all that. But the leader of the humans wasn't too happy with me."
"Should we be worried?" Mae asked, biting her lip as she spoke.
Lor shook his head. "They weren't interested in going after us. He warned us to stop kidnapping witches, but otherwise we're safe."
"So that plan is finished," Mae said, not sounding too disappointed at the prospect.
Lor nodded. "We'll figure something out," he replied strongly, but Kam could hear the worry in his voice.
"We will," Mae replied. She turned away from Lor to see Kam stirring the giant pot over the fire. "Kam! Who left you in charge of the food?" she asked as she jogged over to him.
"Cara said all I had to do was stir," Kam replied. He didn't know what to think about the overheard conversation. There wouldn't be any more people taken to the clans against their will in the hopes that they were a witch, but he was worried that the humans or the dragons might decide to retaliate in some way. Kam didn't want his new home in trouble or under attack.
"Cara should have called me over," Mae groused. "Why don't you go find a brush? That Runt of yours is looking a little bedraggled," she finished with a nod of her head towards Runt who was sleeping on her back, all four paws in the air, at Kam's feet.