“Be thee gone—unto another time and place!” Llud’s voice echoed deep and loud against the mountains belying his frail, white-haired appearance. He raised his arms. The loose, wide sleeves of his fine robes fell on his shoulders over the bulge of strong biceps, further contradicting his ancient weak façade. He cast his curse.
Capable of human sight from one blood shot amber eye, the other eye appeared blind, covered by a white veil. His hazed optical deceived the simple folk. From this eye, he projected his psychic will, magnifying his powers through the obsidian crystal of the heavy staff held extended in his hand, transmitting his evil to battle his rival.
Violent gusts of wild fiery winds ripped at his heavy, talisman embroidered robes, whipping them around his body. His eye burned, his normal vision tinting red. He knew the eyeball glowed in its socket when called upon to strengthen his malevolent will. Despite the potency of his black magic and its effectiveness in his hated of his opponent, a previous act committed against a pure and innocent sorceress left a chink in his supernatural armor. In a flash of precognition, Llud realized he’d cast the last spell of this life.
Garnith, a brave and honorable knight, stood fearless of the physically diminutive but evil and powerful wizard. A changeling in his dragon form, Garnith used his huge wings to waft the winds toward the summit of the snow- topped mountain where the two battled. The force of Garnith’s mighty wings pounded the evil sorcerer with frozen blasts of air. Gusts of snow and ice made standing, almost impossible for his adversary, despite the wizard’s strong body.
Drawing a deep breath of frigid air, Garnith filled his mighty lungs. He exhaled and returned a blast of fire toward the malicious druid. His fiery expulsion of breath hit the effervescence of the wizard’s spell full force.
For a brief moment, the might of the two strengths met between them, dueling for magical supremacy. The mountain shook from the vigor of their anger. Light and fire from the dragon’s breath triggered sparks decreasing the strength of the iniquitous spell, lighting the night sky. The atmosphere around the mountain appeared to catch fire above them and neither emerged completely the victor. His fiery dragon’s expulsion curled around the force of the wizard’s curse. Flames licked at the gray visible energy of the lexis highlighting the spoken words in a manifestation of ancient runes symbols. Each magical symbol, though pierced by the heat of Garnith’s breath, retained a great amount of their influence and enveloped the dragon in a dull haze of green miasma.
On his honor, Garnith pledged to rid his ancestral village of the vile wizard posing as a priest of the new religion. Garnith witnessed his hellish breath engulf the wizard but heard the conditions of his curse moments before the shrieks of agony consumed his enemy. He knew with some satisfaction, the wizard was dead an instant before. Though as the warlock’s hex demanded, Garnith felt the wicked spell’s strange green murk engulf him and his journey began: far into the future and unto another place. He wasn’t sure what time, or for that matter, what place the old bastard had compelled him, and under the circumstances, he could care less.
Causing death displeased Garnith. He took no pleasure in it, but this one’s demise he found gratifying. Llud’s death freed the village from his short, tyrannical rule, avenging the cruel, brutal death of Shannon, the woman Garnith loved and was to wed. She was a special, gentle maid, one whose lineage was as old as his own. Though young, she was the village healer, a masterful and powerful sorceress from a long line of shamans.
Their hand fasting was planned for two days hence on the summer solstice, a holiday for the entire village. With Shannon, he often found peace, lost in her sparkling blue eyes, and solace just being in her company, an escape from the violence of the deeds of his long, changeling life.
Garnith was away from their village less than a month when Llud appeared on an overcast and foggy morning. As matters grew worse, Shannon sent a messenger to him with a letter explaining the situation and how bad it had become.
An evil wizard, who calls himself Llud, has planted himself in our town’s square by the well. Daily he waits until a crowd gathers to preach and declare he was sent to be our village priest. Using his extensive powers, he deals cruelly with all who oppose him. Llud claims his powers are proof of his standing in the new religion and enjoys the misery he causes. I am not deceived but frightened. Speed your return to us. I resist him daily, my abilities grow weak.
Garnith was already on the road home when he received the message and quickened his pace. Entering the settlement, he found few people about where it was normally bristling with villagers. He was unable to find Shannon. Garnith didn’t understand why the villagers avoided him, as if terrified of speaking with him. They knew him, in both his forms, and had never feared him before. He was their lord and protector. One old man dared to tell him of the wizard, Llud, who pretended to be a priest of the new religion. Garnith thanked him and continued to search for Shannon. Exhausted, he finally found her, behind the altar in the glen. She had attempted to withstand Llud’s magic and unsupported, failed.
“By the gods!” Garnith swore upon finding her. He gathered her failing body close, trying to will some of his strength into her, hoping to save her. He could only comfort her the few moments before her death.
“I love you, my dragon-knight. I have since I was a child.” Shannon bestowed a sweet but weak smile on him. “I’ll come back, if the gods and goddess allow and find you, if you’re still here.”
“Ooh Shannon my only love….”
“Promise you’ll protect our people?” Shannon touched the tears on Garnith’s cheeks.
“I swear it!”
He kissed her lips as her breath left. Shannon lay limp in his arms. His betrothed was gone but a mote of her seemed trapped. He carried her body to his home and his mother who would see to her funeral rites.
Garnith swore to kill the cruel druid. His chivalry wouldn’t allow him to leave the simple peasants of the village unprotected and at the mercy of the fiendish wizard. His honor demanded revenge for Shannon’s death.
Now, nothing mattered. He’d freed the village, and there was satisfaction in it, but without Shannon, he didn’t care where he journeyed.
Struck by the wizard’s curse, while in his dragon form, Garnith was engulfed in a massive thunderstorm. Eerie lightning flashed, illuminating the arrangement of runes of the wizard’s spell. Formed into rune tunnel of a continuing, seemingly endless ring through which he was compelled to fly into eternity. His exhaustion grew great but meaningless, as was time. The rune tunnel allowed no quarter.
Danielle glanced skyward, the sunlight gone. Overhead gray thunderheads boiled and built into massive black, towering columns of dangerous storm clouds. She grimaced as a close, temporarily blinding flash of lightning left sparkles that danced before her vision. Danielle’s eyes watered, and she blinked to see the road. Darn! Another flawed prediction from the meteorologist. She’d checked the weather conditions for the day in this area before she left her hotel and dressed for clear blue skies and a cool temperature. The forecast was perfect for the challenge of a motorcycle tour on the scenic mountain roads of North Carolina and Tennessee. It looked like heavy rain would drench her and the roads any minute and spoil her ride.
Rain ruined the thrill-rush, joined as one with the bike, leaning into the sweeper turns, her knees tucked in and the bike’s fairings inches off the pavement. A human-controlled ballet of dominance over the machine, the rider tested physics and defied gravity.
Instead, rain turned the same roads into stomach-churning nightmares that reminded her of why she didn’t ride in the winter—ice. Though rain wasn’t as slippery, it was bad enough and she avoided it when possible. She remembered her first experience of riding in rain. The horrible sense of loss of control as the bike slipped from beneath her on the slick pavement. She’d been lucky and uninjured.
Danielle looked for a place to pull over and rest out of the weather but there were few sheltered places to stop in a national forest. Ignoring the urge to dodge the lightning from the storm building directly overhead, she swung her 848cc
Ducati sport bike into a paved tourist parking overlook, dropped the kickstand, and stilled the high-powered engine. She scanned the sky while she pulled off her Kevlar leather-riding gloves then slipped off her helmet. Danielle’s gaze returned to the atmospheric disturbance, amazed at the weird colors the heavens were turning.
“Wow those are strange clouds.” She remained astride her bike, a foot resting on each side.
Never remember seeing clouds boil like that. From their rapidly growing heights and the deep grays and black of their colors, this is going to be an epic downpour.
Quicker action seemed prudent. She slid off the seat, unstrapped her foul weather suit, and slipped into the heavy-duty gear. For this particular ride, she wore her best racing leathers and full coverage helmet. Danielle wasn’t worried about getting wet, she could dry off. But if her leathers got wet, it took them a long time to dry out. Despite the weatherman’s predictions, she’d brought a good rain suit. It fit well over her leathers, and she made haste to suit up.
Danielle jumped at a loud clap of thunder, her heartbeat accelerating fast from the close proximity of the storm. It was a peculiar, metallic thunder and drew her attention again to the sky where the clouds had become a strange iridescent purple.
More motivated to find cover. Danielle decided to extend her short vacation another day at her hotel. Though she wasn’t a great distance from home, it was more convenient to stay in the vicinity that presented a selection of challenging rides. A daily three-hour commute from home on her bike into this area would leave her too drained to enjoy the test of the mountainous roads. Rested, she’d be more confident to brave the hardest trial, a short eleven-mile stretch of Highway 129 known to motorcycle riders as the Tail of the Dragon. This twisting, switch back section of pavement was an intense test for a motorcycle rider and one of the reasons she chose to holiday in the highlands of North Carolina. There were plenty of curvy switchback roads, just the thing to get her mind off recent personal disappointments. This section of road required all her concentration and would block out those anxieties, at least for a time. However, with the threat of inclement weather, shelter was an immediate concern.
A lightning strike on the mountain across from her split a tree in half. Blue spots from the intensity of the lightning hampered her vision and tremendous thunder echoed across Lake Fontana below the scenic pullover where she’d stopped. Danielle nervously settled her helmet back over her braided hair, buckling the straps with unsteady but nibble fingers. She slipped her hands into her gloves and hit the start switch on the bike.
Rain hadn’t started falling yet, and for that, she was thankful. But the heavy mists common to the Appalachians already settled on the cold, green blue water of Lake Fontana. Danielle hoped to out race the imminent downpour and put all her attention into maneuvering the tight sweeps of the turns. Another flash of lightning seared through the trees bright enough to cause her eyes to tear, followed by thunder so loud she felt, as well as heard it. The thunder, which accompanied this flash, resonated on a different pitch from any she’d ever experienced. A ripping, tearing sound reminded Danielle of metal fragmented under stress, and for the briefest of seconds, she wondered if an atomic bomb might have exploded. A purple flash of light followed the thunder and further diverted her attention so completely it took all her ten years of proficiency as a rider not to lose control of her bike and skid on the pavement.
Danielle was unnerved. Her control of the bike compromised, she missed a gear change and decided it was best to stop and calm down. Ahead on the opposite side of the road, a grassy, tourist scenic view of the lake presented the only safe refuge. Seeing no oncoming traffic, Danielle crossed the road stopping on the wide pull off, stilled the bike’s motor, and tried to gather her wits. She didn’t bother to slide off the seat, unsure her wobbly legs would support her, but put down the kick stand with her toe and stretched her legs to ease her taunt muscles. She leaned forward on the humped, gas tank bag and put her head down, taking deep breaths, trying to calm her roiling stomach and frayed nerves.
An unexpected whoosh of intense, hot air pushed down on her, brushing by as if propelled. She jerked her head upward but not fast enough to see clearly what whizzed overhead to become lost past the trees rounding the curve of the mountain road. The echoing screech reminded Danielle of an enraged raptor. By its sound, larger than one she’d ever encountered.
Pushing the visor of her helmet up, Danielle stared ahead in awe, convinced it was all a hallucination. Sunlight warmed her face; astounded, she shaded her eyes and gazed skyward at the bright sunlight and brilliant blue sky, flabbergasted all traces of the dark clouds gone and not a drop of rain had fallen. It was a perfect summer afternoon in the mountains. She turned around on her bike, and glanced out over the lake. The water was flawlessly smooth and clear. A frown knit her brow. Danielle stripped off her rain suit and stuffed it in her small tank pack, without thinking about what she did.
Time became meaningless to Garnith. While scanning below, he saw an expansive body of water. The runes dimmed into clouds glowing with a supernatural purple light. Gradually, the storm ceased and day again reigned. He flew through dense foliage and steep mountains to a place with space only wide enough for his wings to expand. Below, a narrow road, seemingly of a black ribbon with a yellow stripe down the center snaked between the mountains, up and down following the rise and fall of the land.
Tired, Garnith looked for a spot to land. He sorely needed to rest, change back into the man he was, and find food. Fighting the evil wizard had drained his energy, and the lengthy journey forced on him further weakened his great strength.
Glancing down, he saw what looked like a small knight on a red-blanketed horse. He hoped it wasn’t another dragon slayer. Perhaps that would be easier…a final battle with a dragon slayer.
His sad reverie was interrupted from ahead and beneath him by the roar of more of the strange horses he’d seen the small red knight astride. Calling on his waning energy reserve, Garnith turned his wings and soared higher on the updrafts of the mountains. From far above the strange ribbon road he followed, he watched many of the small-horsed knights, racing at incredible speeds up and down the mountain.
What were these horses, capable of such speed and running so smoothly?
Observing closely, he concluded the ribbon was indeed some type of extremely smooth road.
What was this strange land the wizard had sent him to?
Garnith circled back toward the beautiful lake where he had entered this time, emerging through the strange, glowing purple clouds. He thirsted greatly and that lake was wide enough he could glide above the water for a drink. Incredibly fast in his dragon form, he was back at the lake and swooped down to skim the surface, gulping a delicious sip of cold water. Ahead appeared what looked like a barrier to the water. Smooth solid rock holding back the lake. A familiar structure, a dam, but never had he seen one set so precise and constructed so strong. What he didn’t expect, or see until it was too late to fly over, were the lines strung across the water, several layers of them.
What was this, some type of dragon snare?
He soared between the lines and avoided the trap but one wing tipped a wire, just slightly. A horrible jolt raced through his entire body. Once lightning struck him while in flight and it felt the same. Despite the pain from the jolt, he saw the clouds were gone and the sky was clear blue. A pained scream erupted from his throat and ricocheted across the water. Garnith tumbled, but regained some control. His wingtip was badly burned and with such an injury, he would change in minutes. He soared higher on another updraft, trying to spot a safe landing place.
A strange pulse burst into his head through his sensitive dragon’s ears. Pain! More severe torture than the burn from the lightning line pierced through his brain and imparted strange words to his superior mind. Instinctively Garnith turned toward the source of invisible waves and found they flowed from a metal tower set atop one of the higher mountain peaks. The surge became words and connected to words he already knew the meanings of. In his mind, pictures he understood formed from their effect. He closed his tired eyes, briefly, but snapped them open again. Deep inside he felt the change begin.
Concentrating all his skills on flight, trying to delay the change until he could land, he spied a grassy patch on the edge of the lake where he saw the small knight. He judged the knight’s rank to be of high birth due to the bright colors and the obvious expense of the armor the he wore and bedecked his mount with. Praying the knight wasn’t a dragon slayer. Garnith’s only option was to land. He settled his changeling, wounded, and aching body on the grassy bank. With the last of his strength, he sloughed off his leather pack holding all he owned before the change overtook him. Darkness edged quickly closer, his vision blurred. His raised his head and looked up to see the warrior on the strange horse staring at him. Garnith passed out.
Danielle screamed. She’d seen an artist’s portrayal of fantasy dragons, but those didn’t exist. It must be a hallucination because she didn’t do drugs. It was flying straight at her, and it looked like a real dragon, shimmering purple and emerald scales and all. Amazed, when she first watched the creature fly low and drink from the lake, she realized it came from the storm, and what had caused the down draft. Dragon’s wings. Mesmerized and frozen in fright, she remained astride her motorcycle.
Giant, open talons appeared to be about to enclose her. The claw like nails extended, were six inches long at least. Outstretched wings pushed backward slowing its descent. The creature’s iridescent purple head was easily half the size of her motorcycle. Its green eyes glowed and focused intently on her. She screamed again; it landed so close, but a strange thing happened, it shrugged off a leather backpack and collapsed.
Was it dead? Oh please goddess, don’t let it be dead! A dragon with a backpack?
She shook harder than when she’d seen the beast approaching, something she didn’t think possible. Her legs, unsteady from her wild ride, were wobbly from fright but she couldn’t stay on the bike any longer and was too unnerved to ride away. She slid off the motorcycle’s seat. Danielle’s compassion wouldn’t allow her to leave the injured creature anyway. She stood on unsure legs, and watched the creature in complete, dumbfounded amazement, unsure of what to do.
What constituted first aid for a dragon?
A quick glance to the side fell on the simply made backpack it shrugged from across its incredibly broad shoulders. Her attention returned to the beastie and she noted, too, it breathed heavily.
Danielle took a couple steps back. It drew a great, yet labored breath. She froze. A great exhale of smoke came from its nose.
By the goddess, it breathed fire.
Despite that revelation, her curiosity was quickly winning over her fear, and she moved closer. Its image shimmered, the dragon’s shape becoming less defined, changing.
She had seen the sparks when it touched the power lines and knew the beast received a nasty shock. One wingtip, singed where it hit, was red and charred. Struck by so much wattage, it might be dying. Danielle didn’t know why, but again, she hoped it wasn’t. She couldn’t stop herself. With a tentative hand, she gently touched it, a light caress and quickly drew back feeling a surge of psychic power from the creature.
Amazed at the sympathy she felt for the mysterious dragon, an almost overwhelming need to comfort him washed through her. More astonished, she watched, drawn closer as the incredible creature’s change became more obvious. Its wings were disappearing as was the tail.
She dared caress him again. It groaned and coughed. The dragon’s changing appearance was becoming—human. She knelt down beside it hoping no other riders came by, wondered why they hadn’t and thankful at the same time.
How could she explain this creature? Why should she have to?
For some reason, Danielle didn’t want to share her discovery.
Other people would come. Who? The sheriff or police and what would they do with it?
More questions, with no answers. She felt strangely drawn to this beast, and instantly protective. He was vulnerable and injured. His vanishing left wing was singed and a charred mark appeared from contact with the power line. Before her gaze, the dragon’s wounded appendage transformed into the muscular hip of a man.
More changes occurred as she watched. Blond hair, with a streak of dark auburn mixed through his thick mane just right of the center of his human head, replaced horns and scales. His color changed from purple and emerald to a smooth, yet fair, tanned complexion with defined, handsome features she thought magnificent.
Danielle scrutinized the rest of his well-shaped muscular body, that of a warrior. All signs of a dragon vanished. Long thighs tapered into corded thick calves with very human feet and toes. Various scars marred the perfection of his human shape. Somehow, perhaps the psychic intuition her Wiccan mentor insisted she possessed, clued her they were battle scars.
He groaned again, regaining consciousness. He was going to need clothes. She dragged her gaze from the artistry of his form, the sweetness of his face in his unconscious state, and turned her attention to his bundle.
“A dragon with a backpack?”
Danielle walked to where the rough, tanned leather, hand sewn jerkin sack rolled when the dragon shrugged it from his massive back. It wasn’t a small pack and spanned three feet across and five feet long. She stared amazed at the size.
“It’s a dragon. You expected a book bag?”
The dragon/man groaned again. She quickly threw open the flap of his pack to reveal items that would have surprised her had she not found him as he was. If she’d not seen him change from a dragon into his present form, the piece of chainmail and a breastplate of armor would have bewildered her. Somehow, the medieval gear seemed appropriate. It took both her hands to lift the jewel encrusted Pictish sword and pull it from the collection of items.
“I knew these were heavy but geez!”
After much tugging, she found what appeared to be his clothing and another piece of heavy chainmail all snagged together. She understood why the weapon seemed so much heavier than she expected. Carefully, she untangled his garments and found those too were, unusual.
Wrapped in oilcloth and tied with a thin purple ribbon that had snagged and come loose, another piece of clothing tumbled out, partially wrapped. She held up a hand-woven, hand-sewn linen shirt. She admired the small, precise stitching, and the crest sewn on the right breast spoke well of the seamstress’s talent with her needle. Danielle wondered if it were his wife or a favored girlfriend who had taken such care to sew the garment. A pleasing, light lavender scent clung to the piece. A familiar, pleasant smell, although an unusual version of lavender.
Generally the scent didn’t appeal to her.
A prickly feeling along her neck warned her of his gaze on her, and she turned to find intense emerald eyes staring at her from where the man sat on the grass. Her mouth went dry in wonder, each muscle in his broad chest tensed, defined. His legs crossed covering anything immodest. Her attention was drawn into the depths of the ethereal glow of his eyes, capturing hers, holding them. She clasped his shirt to her breast. Her heartbeat revved up, and though she wore heavy leathers, she felt more naked than the nude man. A distant, mechanical rumble reminded her where she was. Other riders were fast approaching. Taking cautious steps, she moved toward the strange man who watched her every move. A little distance away, she tossed him his shirt.
Without a word, he caught the garment, his stare never leaving her except to pull it on over his solid chest. Long enough to cover his body down to his hips, it spoiled her view of the best body she’d ever seen, but it was better he not be naked when the approaching motorcycles blew by. The thunder of Milwaukee Iron grew louder, the roar of the oncoming bikes drawing closer, fast. He struggled to rise. Some effects of the electrical shock still affected him though he was…. Danielle’s thought process stopped, human now. She watched him limp to his pack, pull from it a pair of tight leather pants, and slip them on. He winced, but eased the deerskin over the burned area and turning, laced the front with his back to her. Unlike the men she knew, he seemed modest.
“Sir, can you speak?”
“Ya.” He looked back, his glowing gaze fixed on her.
Danielle took a step away, afraid of this dragon-man. “Do you speak English?”
He looked at her and tilted his head. His warm appraisal made her uncomfortable. Distracted by his serious and fierce expression, she jumped when the group of motorcycles raced by. The riders’ heads moved in the direction of their bikes, they focused on maneuvering the curve. Danielle and the unusually dressed man went unnoticed.
The thunderous sound jolted him, drawing his interest away from her to the group of loud motorcycles. He crouched in a defensive posture and moved a step between her and the group, protectively. Before he could grab his sword, they sped past leaving him with a perplexed and puzzled look.
“Ya, I speak English, yet not as you and know not how I understand you.”
He turned toward her, glancing at his sword. Danielle realized he wanted his weapon, anxiety in his eyes, his body’s stance defensive. He seemed to feel threatened. She stepped away from his pack as she stood between him and where his crafted weapon lay.
“My apologies, maid, you witnessed me unclothed, ‘twas not of my choosing.” “I kind of realized that, ah…. My name is Danielle. I am sorry to go into your,
ah stuff, but I didn’t want you to be naked when others came and since I heard them coming….”
“My thanks, maid, err Danielle.”
It was an extremely awkward situation. Seeing him naked was nothing compared to the fright of first encountering him as a dragon, then watching him change into a man.
“Are you badly injured? I know you….”
Their gazes locked, his expression intense. She just admitted she saw him as a dragon. Maybe he didn’t want her to know.
“There is some pain where I struck the lightning line, but it is not unbearable. You saw me change? Me head hurts where some type of noise entered from that metal structure…. Maybe that is why I can understand you. Words I have never heard before came from the noise.”
“Yes, I saw you hit the line and land. You were unconscious for…a time.”
She was shaking again, fear cold in her blood. Since gaining her black belts in martial arts, she was confident of self-defense against most men. Yet this man was big enough to kill her regardless of her training. Of course, if he could change from a dragon, he could change back. Panic threatened to take over. She stepped farther away and closer to her motorcycle, watching him closely.
What if he should begin to change? How much time would she have to escape before he became a dragon? Can I ride faster than he could swoop down on me?
Garnith saw fright and distrust building in Danielle’s entrancing blue eyes.
He’d seen that look before in the stares of those who witnessed him change, and he hated it, especially in the face of a beautiful maid. He’d never harm her, though she had seen him in his dragon form, and it could be a problem.
His gaze narrowed, contemplating her and the strange clothing she wore. She dressed in leather, like a warrior, but he saw no sword or other weapon. Her garments hugged every part of her body revealing far too much of the beautiful woman beneath, if she showed it, he would appreciate it. A slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. Tall compared to the females in the time he came from, still she wouldn’t meet him on eye level. Her strength impressed him. Unassisted, she’d pulled his sword from the pack while it was tangled and caught with a heavy piece of his armor. His gaze travel over her and settled on her boots, admiring the craftsmanship.
When she swung her leg over the seat of the thing she rode, he realized she was attempting to escape him. In a quick movement, he lunged for her instead of his sword and succeeded in reaching her.
“Where do you go, maid? I’ll not harm you. I need yer help.”
Garnith kept his voice even to calm the girl, but when Danielle stiffened in his arms, he knew she’d panicked. His huge arms wrapped around her petite waist and pulled her from her bike. Despite the surge of liquid heat the contact with her body sent rushing through his veins, he felt her terror, too. Using the heavy boots she wore to her best advantage, she fought like a wild creature kicking whatever body part her foot came in contact with. Garnith noticed she’d slipped on her riding gloves before he grabbed her, and they were made from a material far sturdier than leather. Danielle balled her fists and used them as punishing weapons striking his jaw with a well-placed punch. He turned her loose, amazed at her strength and ability as a fighter.
She tried to gain her feet, but quickly, he again wrapped her in his grasp. This time she lay on her back with him atop her. Garnith watched Danielle draw a great breath to scream but covered her lips with his own to silence her, praying no one would happen by. He held her down until she quieted, subdued by the tussle and his embrace, then drew away to look at her face.
“Calm thyself, Danielle, I mean thee no harm.”
Taught by his changeling father to control his many powers, Garnith knew his eyes glowed in times of emotional pressure. He’d learned to recognize those times and manage each trait. He looked down into Danielle’s terrified stare, wide and fearful, and worked to suppress his gazes’ luminosity. She was near hysterical from fright, so he tried to restrain her least she harm herself.
“You’ll never get me out of my leathers, dragon, not without cutting them off. I won’t willingly take them off! If rape is your plan, are going to carry me away?
I’ve heard the old tales of dragons!”
To his credit, he felt the heat of a blush creep up his face but a mischievous smile touch his lips. Even as strong as she was, his strength was greater and he eased his hold somewhat.
“Serves me right for being so entranced with your physique, after all, you are, a dragon. Maybe you’ll eat me later. To you, I’m similar to a roast wrapped in bacon.”
Her words cut him in a way only Shannon could when they quarreled.
Nevertheless, they seemed to invigorate her, and she again fought for freedom. Garnith tightened his hold and glowered down into her face.
“Let me go please…. I swear I won’t tell a soul I saw you change from a dragon.
No one would believe me anyway, they’d think I was crazy.”
Garnith grew serious. He looked into her frightened eyes seeing her calm a little. “Little damsel, do dragons not live in this time?”
“No! A few people believe there were once dragons, but no more. Now let me go!”
“Not just yet.”
Garnith felt a stirring in his body, one he only felt for a certain type of human female such as Shannon. Fully human females didn’t usually sway him, but this fierce little damsel was different. He lowered his lips to hers, for a gentle taste. Sweet, like clover berries in the spring. When he lifted his head, she stared dagger at him and he chuckled.
“Tell me, ah Danielle, what time is this?” “What do mean? I can’t see my watch.” “What is a watch?”
“A watch tells what time of day it is. Don’t they have watches where you come from?”
Her bravado impressed him. He smiled and felt a shudder pass through her. “Nay, we don’t have watches, and I am inquire’n what year it is, and for that matter, where I am?”
“The year, dragon, is 2012 and this is North Carolina, in the United States of America. Now let me up!”
“Not yet.” He eased his hold, a little, distracted and amazed at the distance the wizard Llud had sent him. “What is that thing you and the others ride?”
Danielle tilted her head quizzically. Her long hair, having come unbraided, spread on the grass. “It’s called a motorcycle, an 848cc Ducati to be exact. What did you think it was?”
“From the air, I thought they were a strange type of horse.” “In some ways it is.”
Danielle pulled away from him a little but he wouldn’t totally yield his grip. He allowed his eyes to resume their mystical glow and enjoyed the little shiver of fear it produced in her. “How so?”
Garnith dipped his face closer to hers again, not quite touching her mouth. She moistened her lips out of either anticipation or fear, he couldn’t be sure which.
The temptation to kiss her again was too great to resist. Tenderly his lips met hers, a little longer this time. Her mouth followed his when he drew away.
“Ah, the engine’s power is measured in horsepower.”
Her answer came out soft and slow. Her tone had nothing to do with the power of one horse or many. Garnith held her gaze captive noticing the deepening color change his embrace caused in her eyes. His embrace seemed to have a resounding effect on her, possibly being kissed by a knight or a dragon wasn’t an event often experienced in this world.
“Where did you come from, dragon?” Danielle’s voice caressed the word dragon.
“My name is Garnith, and I came from 1055 as time was measured then, in the high, most rugged northern part of Scotland. A thousand years? I’ve no idea where this North Carolina in America is.”
“I guess not. When you came from, America hadn’t been discovered by Europeans—yet. How’d you get here?”
The shocked look in her eyes amused him. Garnith surmised by her tone that she was growing less fearful. She seemed more interested in him as their awkward conversation progressed.
“I was battling an evil wizard named Llud who pretended to be a priest of the new religion and used it as a disguise to gain power. He killed my future wife, Shannon, and terrorized our village. I failed to breathe on him fast enough before he finished his incantation sending me here. He hadn’t the power to kill me, only banish me. I knew it was far into the future but not how far. It’s been over a thousand years but only a small time span to me. Here I stay, I have no way back, but he’ll not bother anyone again.”
Garnith couldn’t keep the sadness from his voice or a tear of grief from his eye as he explained. He watched Danielle’s eyes soften, and she seemed to listen carefully. He felt her relax. Feeling foolhardy, Garnith drew a sad sigh, released his grip on Danielle’s arms and rolled away. Exhaustion screamed from every muscle, and he lay back on the silky grass. For a second, he closed his eyes. He relived the violent, iridescent lightning that had danced around him and booming base thunder reverberated in his sensitive dragon ears. Each event of his timeless, endless flight into the future flashed against his closed eyelids.
Slowly, opening his eyes, he expected to see to Danielle attempting to flee him again. Garnith realized if she were going to leave he couldn’t, in clear conscious, stop her. His actions had been motivated out of panic before. Stopping the only person he’d met in this time. Fearful because she’d seen him change and knowing her awareness might cause him great difficulties. He just didn’t know what else he could do.
Garnith couldn’t blame her if she did flee. He hadn’t acted honorably but he was relieved to see Danielle sitting next to him, her long brunette hair in loose tangles. She wasn’t astride her little horse attempting to leave. He remained on his back drawing in the force of the Earth with every pore of his body. Reaching for his sword, he drew it close, the emerald in the hilt promoted healing and he could use its benefits. His hip hurt where the lightning line struck.
Danielle studied this strange man, Garnith, from the eleventh century. If she hadn’t seen him land and change from a dragon into a man, she’d never have believed it possible. No one would believe her and smirked at the thought of attempting to explain the experience. Danielle scratched her head in doubt. As she would any great wounded beast, she feared him but she wouldn’t leave him either. Besides, he was so attractive and those strange green eyes mystified her.
Danielle dropped her head into her hands in dismay. He’d need someone’s help, and it seemed fate, or perhaps the goddess chose her. Running her fingers through her loose hair, she shook her free, dark curls to get out the grass and a few leaves. After their tussle, it was hot in her leathers, and she unzipped her jacket. Garnith’s interest instantly turned to her.
Danielle’s lips turned up slightly in a wistful manner. Maybe he thought she dressed in nothing beneath the jacket. Underneath she wore a black spaghetti strap top with tiny rows of sparkles. Her silver, moon pendant inset with her protection pentagram glinted in the late afternoon sun. The emerald set at the top peak of the pentagram flashed.
Rising slowly, she noticed how he watched her but took no further actions to restrict her movements. She expected another tackle when she approached her motorcycle but none came. Unzipping her saddlebags, she drew out a water bottle, took a drink, then tossed it to Garnith
“It’s only water.”
He drew a long drink, draining half the bottle. “Thank you.”
“So tell me about this evil wizard Llud?” At his nod she continued. “Why didn’t you toast the mean old bastard sooner?”
“I loathe killing. He deserved to die in that life at least, mayhap in the next he’ll be…was a better person.”
An uneasy silence fell between them. The meeting was awkward for them both regardless of the time each was from. “What’s it like to fly?”
Danielle stood with her back to him, looking into her tank bag. She heard another group of riders echoing in the distance and glanced over her shoulder to see Garnith had raised his head to listen. Obviously, he heard them, too.
“People can fly now but in airplanes, if you just arrived in this time you haven’t seen one….”
“What be an airplane?” “A machine.”
She turned around to face him, admiring him in the simple clothes he wore, wondering what he’d look like in jeans or full leathers. Her gaze again captured by his, and though his eyes ceased to glow, she was reminded by the depth of their emerald green, he was a dragon.
“I guess you didn’t have many machines in the time you’re from.” “Nay, not like that…motorcycle. Do all people of this time ride those?” “No, there are many other forms of transportation.”
Danielle watched his concentration fix on the approaching rumble of oncoming bikes. This proved to be a mixed group of riders, some on sport bikes, and some on cruisers. She watched Garnith’s reaction to the group of eight riders, two of whom were women. Amazement clear, his eyes grew wider when a sheriff’s car, following the group, turned on his red and blue lights a few seconds later.
Since the road turned in a way they both could clearly watch, Garnith saw his first example of modern law enforcement. All eight riders pulled over to the side overlook, the sheriff’s car parked behind them.
“What goes on there?”
Danielle heard the astonishment fill his voice and moved to gain a little better view without thinking how close it brought her to him. Already she thought of him less as a dragon and more as an attractive and desirable man.
“Must have been speeding.” Her tone softened, her thoughts less on the law officer across the way and more on the mysterious man standing next to her.
“Speeding, what is speeding?”
“The people who regulate the roads post signs saying how fast they’ve determined is safe to travel, and the sheriff, that’s the man in the car with the lights, enforces them.”
“I know what a sheriff is. Are yours honest?”
“Most are. For the most part, our law enforcement officers are truthful and keep the peace, uphold the law and put criminals in jail where they belong.” Danielle was a little amused by his reaction, remembering what time he came from and the tales of dishonest sheriffs that made up folklore.
Across the slight expanse between the scenic overlook they stood on and the larger one the group of riders and officer had stopped on, she could hear voices growing louder. The riders didn’t agree with the patrolman on their speed.
Outnumbered, the officer retreated to his car. He didn’t leave. Danielle could see him through his un-tinted windows. The lawman had the car’s radio microphone in his hand and appeared to be calling for help. Danielle didn’t want to be caught in the middle of what she knew was coming.
“We should go!” Danielle’s attitude was nervous, urgency in her voice. She saw the fright in Garnith’s stare. A perplexed thought plagued her. Would Garnith risk changing into a dragon in visible sight of the other people? Then the officer would freak out and call for a different, more military form of backup.
“Go? Go where and how? Will your little horse abide two riders?”
She could ride with him as a passenger. She wasn’t accustomed to a second, but she’d had some experience. It might work. Garnith was big, and her bike wasn’t really meant to carry two, though there was a small second seat and pegs. He’d need a helmet. Both states they would pass through required a rider and passenger to wear one. She regarded his pack. He’d have to leave it. She couldn’t carry it. An idea came to mind.
“Does your suit of armor include a helmet?” “Ya, it does.”
Garnith looked at her as if she were crazy. Danielle smothered a smile. She suspected he had no idea what she was thinking.
“We’ll have to quickly hide your pack. I can’t ride with it and you. But we can come back later with my SUV and get it.”
“Danielle, that’s all I own and you want me to leave it?”
“Would you rather be in jail? If that sheriff thinks we are in any way connected to the others…perhaps we stopped away from the group, or should see you become a dragon, he and others will hunt you down.”
“You don’t have dragons in this time?”
“Our world hasn’t had a dragon, well one like you, in about twelve centuries.
Hurry and get your helmet. You can’t ride without it, though I doubt the kind you have is what would be considered legal we probably won’t get stopped.”
“I’ll explain later.”
Danielle started looking for a place over the heavy overgrown bank to hide his pack. Leaning over the edge of the overlook, she saw traces of a path. Still visible, the trail’s lack of use was obvious. Now covered by deep grass and weeds that obscured past footfalls, the trail was difficult to see. A few cautious steps down, Danielle caught sight of an old oak tree, one with the roots undercut and a hollow formed beneath it big enough to stash his pack.
“I was worryn’ about leaven’ the only things I own. Hits relieved I am at the hide-away you’ve found.”
“We’ll come back soon,” Danielle promised looking into his eyes, entranced by the glow in their depths. She remembered the first, frightening sensation of his body over hers, restraining her. The memory had become a pleasant, warm, and erotic enticement to possible later pleasures.
“Maybe tonight, in the morning at the latest, it would be best to come back before it gets dark.”
She saw his trust in her and was awed by it. Few men, people for that matter, were willing to trust a stranger so fast in the modern world. He drew out his metal helmet. They stashed his things beneath the tree’s roots, careful to resettle the overgrown bushes that grew around them.
Danielle quietly murmured a ritual “thank you” to the tree for providing a hiding place to his pack as Megan, her Wiccan teacher and mentor, taught when asking the protection or help of an element of nature. No one would see the dark leather pack. It blended well with the soil beneath the tree’s roots and together they began the short climb back up to the overlook.
“Be you a witch, Danielle?”
Almost afraid to answer but not one to lie, she stopped and turned to him, unsure. His tone of voice was serious. She nodded her head. “Apprentice, I have two months and a day yet before I will be considered so. Does it bother you?”
He had battled an evil wizard. She hoped he wouldn’t think the worst of her. People from his century burned people for practicing witchcraft, and he came equipped with his own torch.
“No, me mother was a sorceress, a powerful one who did much good. Had she been with me, the wizard would have not banished me. He killed me future wife because her powers were close to defeating his.”
“I am so sorry, Garnith.” The sadness in his voice touched her. She caressed his magnificent back. Through the contact such a strong surge of emotion flowed, she swayed and his arms surrounded her, steadying her.
“Are you ill?”
“No….” She regained her composure, tantalized at the intimate feelings for this dragon-man.
In the distance, they heard sirens, ruining the moment. The sheriff’s back-up was close, and they hurried up the trail. Garnith waved a hand over the brush, and it again looked undisturbed, returned to a natural state as if no one had traversed the path. Danielle looked twice. Awed by his powers, she no longer worried about her own.
Two other riders, doing under the speed limit drew their attention. Both bikers turned so their gazes followed Danielle. In her tight leather pants without the jacket, she was accustomed to the looks and dismissed them. However, she noticed Garnith glaring at them. His eyes had taken on a dangerous glow.
Following his vigilance, she decided they might deserve scrutiny and watched them more carefully.
One rider seemed oblivious to Garnith but something about the man didn’t appear to sit well with the changeling. The glow of Garnith’s eyes deepened to a dangerous, dark green, with flecks of flames dancing in them. His stare never left the strangers, but his breathing deepened and a puff of light smoke escaped his nostrils.
“There be evil in those two. I feel it in my gut, somethin’s too familiar about one.”
Sirens coming closer distracted him and the riders sped up, obviously by their nervous glances, to get away from the approaching lawmen.
“What is that screaming? Be there goosts in these woods?”
“No. That’s the sheriff’s back-up to help him with those other riders.”
Danielle motioned toward the unruly group. Having grown more rowdy, the bunch was rocking the sheriff’s car with him inside. Until reinforcements arrived, he’d rolled up the windows and locked the doors. The group appeared to have heard the sirens, too. They stopped harassing the sheriff and scattered to their bikes, preparing to flee.
Keeping a calm manner, Danielle straddled her bike and motioned Garnith on behind her.
“Listen carefully, hold around my waist, sit as relaxed as you can and when my body leans, you just do the same, oh and, put your feet up on those.” She indicated the foot pegs. “Okay?”
“Do you understand?”
“Yes, but….” His voice was lost in the noise of the powerful Ducati’s engine.
Danielle eased out the clutch and throttled the gas. Her nerves gave her stomach a severe case of butterflies, and Garnith’s strong arms around her middle did little to settle them. She rarely carried passengers and this stretch of road she planned as a test for just her. Feeling his arms tighten around her in his apprehension almost cut off her breathing.
On the unpaved surface, the bike’s back tire danced a bit but when the Ducati’s wheels found solid pavement they comfortably began to pick up speed and she felt him relax, a little.
Their first sweeping curve was the test. Danielle eased into it and allowed her skill to take over, maneuvering the apex cleanly. Garnith said something she couldn’t make out. Danielle suspected it was either a prayer or an oath but he held on and tried to do as she instructed. Doing the speed limit, they passed two more sheriffs’ cars, their lights flashing and sirens screaming. Garnith jumped a little. Danielle having expected it didn’t allow it to affect her control, and they traveled on. Where would she take him? Repeatedly she asked herself and the only logical answer was her hotel. Her SUV was there, and they would come back for his gear. The other thought she couldn’t shake was the warm, exciting feel of him hugging her and the tingle that raced all over even down to her toes.
Danielle knew she’d soon have to stop and get something to drink. Garnith’s nearness was making her thirsty and she doubted it, but maybe a soda would help. Her Ducati needed a tank of gas as well.