Chapter 23 - Love at First Flight
Lillian followed along after her husband as he continued to make his way across the length of the courtyard, bending down and picking up his horned helmet from the ground as he passed by. Making their way up the steep stairwell Draxus led his wife across to the edge of the castle wall where he finally stopped.
With a confused expression Lillian stepped up to the edge of the wall, but her emerald eyes widened in both concern and fear as she suddenly noticed the enormous creature moving before her!
With a loud gasp, she stepped back in sheer terror as the gigantic black-scaled dragon lifted it’s head up to their level to greet them with a ground-shaking rumbling sound escaping it’s giant closed jaws; the round spherical green glow of it’s two eyes focused solely on Lillian.
Swallowing nervously, her entire body began to involuntarily tremble as she stood in the great beast’s presence, shadowed by it’s powerful size and feeling somewhat insignificant in comparison.
Draxus immediately noticed her concern and moved his hand to rest reassuringly on her shoulder as he looked to her and spoke calmly.
“Don’t be afraid, Lillian.”
She let out a sarcastic chuckle as she turned to face him with her eyes both wide in disbelief.
“Afraid, that’s a bit of an understatement!” she spoke softly as she stepped to the side and into Draxus’ reach.
His arm instinctively wrapped around her waist as they both turned to face the great creature which hadn’t yet moved. It’s large eyes continued to stare back at her, as if it were deciding something that very moment.
“He will not harm you.” Draxus assured her. “His name is Drako. He is my dragon.”
“Your dragon?” Lillian asked with a raised brow. “What do you mean by that exactly?”
Draxus gave a small smile at her query before he began to explain.
“Drako and I both share a connection called a blood-bond; a sacred binding between a dragon and it’s ‘Verndoulle’.”
“Verndoulle?” she queried again.
“It means ‘dragon rider’.” he replied as he left her and began to step forward, his gloved hand outstretched toward the large scales covering the dragon’s snout.
She watched in complete amazement as her husband’s hand calmly made contact with the dragon’s snout and brushed against his scaly skin. The dragon itself seemed to move in toward the Dragon King’s open palm, as if it enjoyed the contact between them.
“That’s... incredible!” she spoke, not realising that the words had managed to escape her mouth until she had spoken them aloud.
She suddenly felt embarrassed as her cheeks flushed with a tinge of pink.
Draxus quickly lifted his large horned helmet up and placed it back over his head, readjusting it for him to see out of it correctly. Then turning to face her with his hand outstretched for her to take he spoke.
“Come on, let’s get you back home.”
Lillian’s emerald green eyes darted back and forth between Draxus and the gigantic beast, unsure of what he had meant by his last comment. Back home? How? Then it suddenly clicked and her eyes widened with shock.
“Wait, you mean... you mean on that?” she pointed up at Drako, who looked back down at her with narrowed eyes.
It was as if the giant beast had understood her comment and felt offended! She gulped in response.
Draxus looked up at Drako, then back toward his wife.
“Unless you wish to walk home? Although I must warn you, it’s quite a long journey on foot.” he joked.
Lillian swallowed nervously, still unsure that she wanted to go anywhere near this clearly intimidating creature, let alone ride on it’s back! She wasn’t trained to ride such a huge creature! Thoughts of plummeting to her death from high up in the sky began to flood her mind and her head began to spin.
“Draxus, I... I can’t...” she spoke hesitantly, shaking her head. “I’m not a dragon rider or Verndoulle, or whatever you are... I... I can’t do that!”
Noticing her obvious terror given her current situation, he knew that he would somehow have to try to convince her that this was her most viable option.
With a heavy sigh, he began to walk back across to where she stood, stopping right in front of her as his amber eyes peered down into hers.
He took both of her hands and cupped them inside of his as he spoke next.
“I would never allow any harm to come to you, Lillian.” his voice was calm and smooth as his fingers gripped hers tightly. “You are the most important thing in the world to me... I will do anything to keep you safe. I would never knowingly endanger you, do you understand?”
His words seemed to calm her slightly as she nodded, smiling up at him.
“I know, I trust you Draxus... It’s just, I’m... terrified!”
His right gloved hand lifted to hold the side of her face gently as he spoke to her with a smile.
“I’ll be with you the entire time. I'll keep you safe, I promise.”
She took a moment to consider his words, then nodded.
“Come on.” he began to lead her closer toward the giant dragon’s thick black-scaley neck and she could feel as her entire body began to automatically tense up.
As she stood watching him begin to climb up onto the mighty creature’s spiny neck she couldn’t comprehend what she was about to do.
Was she seriously about to ride on a dragon?
After reaching the top of Drako’s neck, Draxus leaned back down with his arm outstretched for Lillian to take so he could help her to climb up and join him.
“Lillian, take my hand.” he spoke calmly, reassuringly as he intentionally made eye contact with her. "Just start climbing up towards me, use his spines to hold onto as you stabilise yourself and get your footing."
Lillian sucked in a deep breath of air. Her heart was going into over-drive as her tongue quickly poked out and licked her dry lips. She could feel as her chest heaved in and out with great breaths while she prepared herself mentally to do what was now required of her.
“Alright...” she whispered to herself. “I can do this...”
Reaching out her right hand, she hadn’t realised that she was in fact holding her breath as she made initial contact with the massive reptile’s black scales. Her breath only slowly began to exhale after her fingers and palm ran across the scale’s rough surface beneath her outstretched palm.
It felt incredible!
Unlike anything she had ever felt before!
The giant scales were the size of her hand or larger and shimmered with every movement the dragon made, which gave it a wet appearance at certain angles.
He truly was a magnificent creature!
She suddenly felt herself smiling, clearly intrigued by this mighty creature standing before her. It was utterly enormous!
Draxus was grinning from ear to ear beneath his helmet as he proudly watched her run her open palm along Drako’s large scales.
“There’s my Dragon Queen!” he whispered to himself.
Moving her hand up to grasp a hold of one of the dragon’s large protruding spines, Lillian carefully lodged her foot on another spine as she began to pull herself up, climbing up the side of Drako’s over-sized neck at a steady pace.
“That’s it, you’re almost there.” Draxus cheered her on from above. “Take my hand and I’ll pull you up the rest of the way.”
Draxus’ hand was still held out for her to take as she finally reached for it. His gloved fingers gripped onto her hand tightly as she pulled herself up with an involuntary grunt. Moving her feet from one spine to the next Lillian gasped as she could feel as Draxus’ unbelievable strength suddenly surprised her and he pulled her up with a deepened grunt. She watched as his fabulous arm muscles bulged while he lifted her up to be seated just in front of him.
Her back now rested against his chest as she did the wrong thing; she looked down!
“Oh my god... it’s so high up!” she managed to say between short and sharp breaths as she looked around down below them. “What if we fall off?”
Draxus’ reply was short, sharp and simple. She had every faith in the man she called her husband, but she had never done anything like this before and the fear was beginning to consume her.
Both of Draxus’ gloved hands grasped hers and she flinched as he began to move them forward, gesturing for her to take hold of two of Drako’s larger spines in front of them as he spoke to calm her.
“Hold onto these, I’ll keep my hands over yours to lock you in place.” he began to explain.
She turned her head to the side as he spoke to him now.
“Like this?” she panted with terror.
He spoke over her shoulder, his voice slightly muffled by his large horned helmet.
“Yeah...” he paused and she felt his strong chest pushing her forward, down against the massive reptile’s skin. “... Just make sure you lean down like this while we’re in the air. It will help to prevent any sudden gusts of wind from detaching you from Drako.”
“WHAT?” she seemed panicked now. “You mean I really COULD fall off?”
“No, no, you’re safe in my arms...”
He knew it would be too difficult to try and explain everything about riding dragons to Lillian here and now. He decided to keep it short and sweet. They needed to get going!
“Just relax and remember to hold on!”
Lillian’s emerald eyes were wide as the beast began to move beneath their legs. She could feel a deep rumbling sound vibrating up throughout her entire body with each step it took along the ground far below them.
With that, King Draxus gave Drako’s neck a couple of firm pats with his gloved hand as he spoke loudly enough for his beast to hear his command.
“Xadis, Drako xadis!”
Queen Lillian’s fingers gripped incredibly firmly around the long protruding spines in front of her as she forced her eyes closed and Draxus leaned down into her, pressing her stomach against the dragon’s rough scales as they prepared for take off.
The very next second Lillian could feel as they were thrown around slightly from side to side as the magnificent beast began to take a short run up with it’s two hind legs, simultaneously lifting its two gigantic black wings up into the air. With a few great flaps up and down they left the safety of solid ground and were rising high up into the air.
The wind rushed by them, forcing her long golden hair to fly backwards at an incredible speed as they ascended higher and higher into the bright morning sky. Fluffy white clouds now surrounded them as they whipped through the air, together in one another’s arms. Draxus had both of his muscular arms surrounding her, keeping her warm and well-protected from the elements at such a high altitude.
Lillian had tried to open her eyes a couple of times since they had taken off, but the sheer burn of the fast-blowing wind against her sensitive eyes had forced her to keep them closed for most of their journey.
Although Draxus wore his suit and armour which covered over it, she felt his warmth radiating off of his chest and against her back as he remained leaning down over her. She could feel as his muscular body leaned into every turn the dragon made, either left or right, and every now and then he would give her hand a little squeeze, as if to reassure her that she was doing well.
She liked that small gesture. She needed it!
It was now clear to Lillian how Draxus truly felt about her deep down inside, after hearing his confession of love earlier on. It made her feel somewhat grateful for the kindness and warmth he showed her.
True he was the mighty Dragon King, merciless and feared throughout the entire world for his ruthless tyrrany and lust for blood, but he was also her husband and he utterly adored her.
It appeared that the fearsome Dragon King had a softer side that he would only share with her; his wife, his Queen. But that in itself was a danger to both of them. Lillian had become his weakness; his only weakness.
Turning her head to the side slightly, Lillian slipped her head into the open crevis of his right shoulder and snuggled in with a moan of delight.
She was safe once again, with her loving husband.
Just as she finally began to relax for the first time in ages, Lillian had no idea of the troubles she would soon find herself in when they would eventually arrive back home in Westoria...