Winter Passion Ch. 02bylostangelkira©
The next morning, breakfast was brought just as she woke up. Afterwards, she got dressed and the female from last night arrived.
"Good morning," she said cheerily, "Did you sleep well?"
"Yes, thank you."
"Excellent. Today, I'll show you around the hatchery and the main rooms of the Keep. Don't worry if you don't remember how to get around right away. It takes most of the girls a few months to keep from getting lost. Follow me."
She followed her out the door and to the right, further down the corridor. She stopped at a T intersection in the corridors.
"If you turn right and follow the hall, you'll end up in the kitchens, which are connected to the Great Hall. The doors in that hallway are storage and the kitchen help's quarters." They walked on for several yards, coming to a three-way fork.
"The far left corridor leads to the infirmary. If you get hurt, even just a scratch, you go the infirmary. Same goes for the young ones you care for. Your first aid knowledge will be helpful, but the king would expect you to bring them to the infirmary anyway. The middle fork leads to the hatchery, you'll spend the better part of your day there. And the right fork goes down to the soldier's barracks. The boys can get a little rowdy, but they treat females well and they know the meaning of no."
The female led the way down the middle passageway. It sloped downward gently, getting warmer as they went. Niri wiped sweat out of her eyes before rolling the sleeves of her dress up.
"I suggest you wear something light that breathes well while you work," her guide told her. "We wouldn't want you fainting from the heat. There are a few small openings to the outside that will allow some air in, but not a whole lot."
A few minutes later, the hall leveled out at another three way fork. Continuing through the middle passage, they entered a huge cavern filled with sand. There were four small clutches of eggs around the room, pearly blue and dusted with the golden sand. A large female dragon was lying along the wall towards the back, her belly severely distended.
"This is the incubation room. The sand was brought by the bronze dragon flight from their desert home. It's always the perfect temperature to keep the eggs warm. The left fork leads to the nursery, where the newly hatched are kept for the first night, to make sure they're healthy. The right fork leads to the classrooms and the day care center."
As they moved towards the closest clutch, four females and a male in human form nearly ran them over, heading for the female. Niri ran after them, stopping near her head. Her breathing was shallow and she was in a lot of pain. Hearing someone else approach, she looked behind her to see Xander, and two other males, one in their dragon form. The blue male sat beside her, fraught with worry.
"I came as fast as I could," he panted, nuzzling her neck briefly. "You ok, love?"
"Something's...wrong," she grunted, pushing with everything she had, "It's time, but...nothing's happening."
Niri got up and went around to where the first male and the attendants were, the male examining her carefully.
"She's dilated, but for some reason, the eggs are stuck. If she can't lay, her and the eggs will die," the male said, pulling off the latex gloves he'd been wearing.
Niri remembered something like this happening with her mother when she was pregnant with her brother.
"I have an idea," she said aloud, getting the doctor's attention. "I don't know if it'll work on a dragon..."
"Something's better than standing around and watching her die," he interrupted, "What is it?"
"Three of you," she said, turning to the attendants, "start massaging her belly. If the eggs aren't in the right position, doing that may move them into the proper position. The last of you and the doctor...go and get the biggest irrigation syringe or turkey baster you can find, a bowl and pestle, muscle relaxants, lightly boiled mint leaves, um...blackberries, a bit of ginger root, a plate of nuts, fruit and cooked meat for her, and fresh snow."
Ten minutes later, she had everything assembled before her, the food given to the female to eat. While she was eating, Niri quickly ground up the powerful muscle relaxants the doctor brought until it was a fine powder. Two bowls of snow were brought in, one given to the female's mate to give her to eat for water and for her forehead, the other left in an indent in the sand, melted down and warmed perfectly.
She mashed a chunk of ginger with the boiled mint and blackberries. Once it was ground as fine as possible, she mixed it in the warmed water, turning the water black. Filling the huge syringe with the powdered medication and packing it by depressing the plunger, she set the tip of the syringe in the bowl and pulled back slowly, dissolving the powder with the liquid mixture. Once it was filled, she shook it well, mixing it completely. The rest of the mix in the bowl was handed off to the male.
"Have her drink that, it'll help boost her immune system," she explained.
"Why did you mix the pills with it?" Xander asked.
"Liquid is easily absorbed and the combination of ginger and mint will help her body fight off infection and allow the medicine to be absorbed," she told him as she inserted the end of the syringe into her dilated vagina.
She depressed the plunger hard, making the female moan in discomfort. Niri took a large, empty bowl and held it just under her, to catch the mix when it runs out in case she needed to do a second injection. The female gasped and let out a sigh.
"Everybody...m...move," she stammered, rolling on her belly when they were out of the way.
The female laid a clutch of seven eggs effortlessly. Once the last egg was out, the female dragon carefully laid back on her side again, her breathing deep and even as she curled her tail around the clutch. While she was resting, the doc examined the eggs carefully.
"All of them are thriving wonderfully," he sighed, wiping his brow. "You did good, Lania."
"Thank you, miss..." Lania started, looking at her. "Niri."
"We are in your debt, Miss Niri," Lania's mate replied. "I'm relieved to know that our young are going to be in capable hands."
"You are welcome," she told them, bowing deeply.
All of them left the incubation room to give the pair some time alone.
"Niri, wait!" Xander called out as her and her guide reached the top of the slope from the hatchery wing. She stopped and turned to face him.
"Niri...I know I hurt you terribly by hiding from you. I'm so sorry. Do you think we could have lunch together and talk?"
"I'm not ready to forgive you yet," she replied. "I'm sorry, but it's too soon."
"Ok. But know that I'm not going to give up trying to make you mine. I love you so much, Niri. I don't care how long it takes for you to see that. I'll wait for you. And thank you for helping my sister."
"Your sister?" she asked. "I never knew you had siblings. Why didn't you tell me?"
"My dad made me keep it secret," he replied. "Believe me, I wanted to tell you everything. But he insisted that I not say anything. It tore me up inside to lie like that. But if I would have, I wouldn't have been able to see you again."
"Even if that's true, Xander...I just can't bring myself to believe you right now."
"I understand," he said softly, stepping close to her and cupping her cheek in his hand.
She couldn't help leaning into his touch, letting out a slight sigh, heat roaring through her body. He backed her up until her back was against the wall, pulling her hair away from her face. Xander let out a soft purr as he leaned in and kissed her briefly on the cheek. She looked up into his dazzling gold eyes, her heart starting to beat double time.
He surprised her by kissing her on the lips. Her first kiss...and it was perfect. He took his time and when she finally parted her lips enough to let him in, she nearly fell to the floor. Xander kept her on her feet, his agile tongue probing every inch of her mouth skillfully. When he pulled back, she was breathless, her face flushed a bright red. He gave her a smile and after a quick peck on the cheek, he led her back to her room and bid her farewell.
Lunch was waiting on the table for her, along with fresh flowers. After eating her fill, she tried to think of something to do. Finding a bookshelf filled with books next to the windows, she pulled a book down and settled in a comfortable chair by the window to read. Some hours later, there was a knock at the door. Marking her place in the book, Niri set it on the small table next to the chair, got up and answered the door. Even in human form, the king was a very large male.
"I hope I'm not disturbing you, Ms. Niri," he said, taking hold of her hand and pressing his lips to her knuckles.
"Not at all, my lord," she replied, bowing low as she stepped aside to let him in.
"Please, call me Nova," he told her, taking a seat by the window. "Sit."
She nodded as she walked over and sat back down in the chair she'd been reading in.
"I've overheard from one of my attendants about you and your friend, Xander," he began. "Look, it's my fault you're mad at him. I'd forbidden him from telling anyone about what he is. If he did, I don't think your village wouldn't have been too friendly towards him."
"Well, you'll be happy to know that I'm not exactly mad at him for that," she answered. "What I'm mad about is that he had the nerve to spring on me that he loves me. I've known him for years, practically thrown myself at him. He never once showed me he cared for me as more than a friend. I never had one man actively try to court me or get to know me in that way because I'm not as thin or as pretty as the other girls in the village."
"Looks aren't everything," he told her. "You're a very brave and very kind young woman. I just heard about what you did for Lania Snowmantle. You saved her life and the lives of her seven children. That's pretty amazing."
She blushed heavily. "I couldn't let her die. What kind of person would I be to not try and help her?"
"I can see what Xander sees in you," he said with a wink.
She blushed heavily. "I'm curious...how are the other girls?"
"They're doing very well, surprisingly. A lot better than the other girls that have been brought here. The ones that were brought to my chambers last night were terrified, but when they saw what I'm really like...whew, they wore me out. And I hadn't had any female company for nearly three years. The ones helping out with cleaning and cooking love working here. Four of them have actually started dating a couple of the younger males. This is why I request the unwed maidens at 20. More often than not, women that aren't engaged to be married or married by your age will go the rest of their lives slaving to make a living all alone, no loving husband, no children. This way, they get a chance at an easier life, a happier one."
"I appreciate it," she replied, reaching over and squeezing his hand lightly. "I really do, but I'll still miss my family."
"Don't worry about that," he told her. "Perhaps I can arrange for them to visit every once in a while."
"Absolutely. We've brought in the families of women brought here for their mating ceremony all the time."
"You don't know how much it means to me to know I'll be able to see my family. Thank you."
"It's nothing," Nova told her with a smile. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go spend some more time with my ladies."
She blushed heavily, making him chuckle as she walked him to the door. As he left, a young dragon loped down the passage, stopping in front of her. A basket was held in its jaws by the handle, a cage with a beautiful white, red and gold bird sitting in the basket. The dragon set it down at her feet.
"Hi," the dragon greeted her in a young male voice. "My brother, Xander, asked me to bring this to you. He said it's to thank you for helping Lania earlier, and a token of his love for you."
"Thank you very much," she told him sweetly. "Would you like to come in?"
"Sure," he said, bounding in and jumping up on her bed.
As she shut the door, she picked the basket up. Setting it on the table, she set the cage out of the basket. In the very bottom was a copy of her favorite book. When she opened the book, there was a pretty blue and gold bracelet laid flat inside it. Taking the bracelet from the book, she put it around her wrist. Touching it, she discovered it was made out of dragon scale.
Niri then turned her attention to the bird. It was the size of a falcon, its long tail feathers poking out between the cage bars several inches. Opening the cage and placing her hand just inside, it climbed on. Pulling it out slowly, the bird looked at her and cooed. It let her pet it and ate up the attention.
"What kind of bird is this?" she asked the young dragon. "I've never seen anything like it."
"It's a Winter's Flame phoenix," he answered. "It's extremely rare. Every spring, it'll burst into flames and be reborn from the ashes. It's very magical and loyal to anyone that captures it fairly. My brother spent years trying to catch it."
"He did?" she asked as the phoenix walked up to sit on her shoulder and pick in her hair.
"Uh huh. He told me he was trying to catch it so he could give it to the girl he wanted to mate with. Do you like my brother?"
"Xander...has been a very good friend. I never knew he cared that much about me."
"Oh, he can't stop talking about you. He's made himself sick trying to impress you." He got up and walked to the door. "I better go. I don't want Mama worrying."
"Alright," she said, opening the door. "What's your name?"
"I'm Kratos," he answered.
"My name is Niri," she told him. "It was nice meeting you, Kratos."
"Same here, Ms. Niri," he said as he walked out the door. Before she shut the door, he stopped and turned. "Ms. Niri, would you join us for dinner in the Great Hall tonight? I bet Mama and Papa would love to meet you."
"Ok," she replied, giving him a pat on the head.
He grinned and bounded out into the hall. Later that evening, Niri dressed in a beautiful gold and green dress she found in her closet, fitting a touch snugly, but still comfortable. She refastened her bracelet and brushed her hair.
She'd definitely have to ask someone about the shampoo and soap she found in her bathroom. It made her dry hair soft and wavy. Even the color had improved. And the soap made her skin smooth and cleared her complexion very well. She felt good about herself for once in her life.
As she went to leave for the hall, the phoenix flew across the room and landed on her shoulder, nuzzling her cheek. She laughed a little and after setting it back in its cage, she left for dinner. When she arrived, it looked like everybody in the Keep was already there, attendants starting to set the tables.
"Niri?" she heard Xander ask from behind her. She turned around to see him in human form, wearing a green sweater and a pair of blue jeans. Even in the most ordinary clothes, he was still gorgeous. "Wow. You look fantastic tonight."
She blushed. "Thank you. And thank you for the gift."
He breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm glad that you like it."
"Your little brother told me how long it took you just to catch it," she started, "And the king told me that he'd forbidden you to talk about who you really were. Xander...I've been a little hard on you. I'm sorry."
"It's ok," he replied with a grin, "Maybe we could have lunch tomorrow, just the two of us?"
"I'd like to, but I don't know if I'll be able to. I'm supposed to start working in the hatchery tomorrow."
"Actually, I'm scheduled to help out in the hatchery as well. Males rotate duties here in the Keep and it's my turn to assist with the children. We'll be working together for the next month." "That'll work," she told him. "I can't wait."
"Great," he said, "Now, I'd like to introduce you to the rest of my family."