Graul

byEtaski©

Author's Notes: This story is erotic fantasy written by Etaski. I reserve the right to be listed as the author of this story, wherever it is posted. If found posted anywhere except Literotica.com with this note attached, this story is posted without my permission. (c) Etaski 2017.

This is the third and final "bonus" story released before Chapter 39 of Surfacing. :) It can be read on its own, though readers of my Red Sister series will recognize these characters.

This story is dedicated to Miurag's best familiar. :) Thank you for reading!


Graul

That's mine!

His own hoard felt good beneath his paws. It felt even better as he settled down and rubbed his scaled belly along sliding coin and rolling gem, swishing his tail, careful not to fling a piece too far from the pile. Never more content in his clear and simple understanding of his purpose, the shadow drake purred and rubbed his throat sack along the bejeweled broach.

Piece one-hundred forty-three.

The shadow drake was learning to scent the different metals and precious stones like his young Maekrix. Using his aura gained through the mage-link and his tongue, he tasted the air directly caressing the treasure. He was just beginning to understand the To'vah names for each piece—sometimes a complicated task when the Word had to include everything of which it was made—but it was worth the effort. This meant he could tell when one was missing without counting.

Like the Maekrix.

"Ye done makin' sweet love to yer winnings, Graul?" Talov asked on a burp of ale from his dented tankard, sitting on the ground with his back up against a tree trunk.

The drake familiar hissed at the hairy dwarf for the interruption of selecting a Name for his new piece.

"Pull that tongue back in or I clamp it with me vice grips, shadow pup. I was jus' askin' a question." One red eyebrow raised. "B'sides, that's part of Mourn's take, ain't it?"

Graul harrumphed and turned around to show his haunches to the dwarf, remaining atop his miniature pile of gold, tail flicking contemptuously.

"Testy beast," Talov muttered, but any insult slid right off the wanderer's shoulders as he indulged in another swig of his bitter drink.

They both enjoyed the warmth of the campfire until eventually his Maekrix returned from his patrol and Graul spun around, sitting up straight, expectant, with wings folded and tail curled around his legs. Now they were close enough to converse without voice, and Graul's round, red eyes met the angled, gold ones of the To'vah-krav.

Protected your hoard for you, Maekrix.

Thank you, Graul.


This was new as well and thrilled the small drake to be able to do it. It was much easier and more accurate than speaking in the Baenar tongue. No one else could hear him, either; if he "spoke" to Maekrix from the shadows, he never gave himself away!

The drake chirred. Neck stroke as payment?

As agreed. You work cheap.

No, you must also game! Like always.

You are not satisfied?

Not until I have safe cache like you, nope.


"Neat trick, kid," Talov commented to the tall hybrid, indicating the campfire after Graul received his firm, affectionate neck stroke. "Smoke hasn't gone in my eyes all night. Doesn't even seem to be makin' much smoke."

The Maekrix grunted in acknowledged agreement as he straightened up. Taking a few steps away from the small pile of treasure, he crouched down on the balls of his feet beside Talov, forearms propped on his knees and his dark cloak draping over him. He did not make any motion to warm his hands at the fire. His spoken voice was always very low and deliberate.

"A small but useful cantrip belowground."

"In a mess of caves, I can see it. Yer magic-kind ain't figured out the smokeless torches yet?"

"They have. Supply was not endless, mostly for the wealthy."

"Ah. Makes sense. An' ye weren't wealthy?"

The young Maekrix shook his head.

"Coulda fooled me with those weapons o' yers in those cuffs. The twin sliders especially."

Graul noticed Maekrix's tail shifting into a despondent coil before extending. Graul was startled that so simple an exchange could trigger such deep feeling to pass through their link. He straightened his neck higher.

Brooding Maekrix, Graul thought in surprise, right before he was caught by a quiet sneeze as the scent of silver got too strong.

His Maekrix smiled slightly at the sneeze but his mood did not lift much. And if I am?

The small drake licked his snout, blinking at his large companion of decades now. What do you remember?

Master Y'shir. But...also...


A mental nod from the drake. Speak, Maetrix. I listen.

Sergeant.

Graul blinked at the memories stirring between them. You miss her.

The Maekrix stared almost directly at the fire, very unlike him. I do. Her and her family.

A wave of yearning followed, a desire for "home" and the times Sergeant and their pack would encircle him. It make him feel...valued.

You can't go back. You left them behind.

I am aware, Graul.

But I followed you.

So you did. You never told me why.

You could not listen. We had no words, not even Baenar ones. Kill to eat, claws and teeth, nothing more.


Maekrix looked away from the fire but was probably blind looking at his familiar; his tongue flicked out instead, confirming he had not moved. Will you tell me now?

Yes, I tell now. I have words. You were a lost mage, young Maekrix.


That claim pricked him. I was not lost. I had nowhere to be.

You call for direction, I find direction.


There was a pause, and the young half-blood tilted his head to one side, slow enough that Talov didn't comment.

Your direction was up? the Maekrix asked.

Graul shook his head as if he flung water out of his earholes. Out. Your direction was out, Maekrix.

The Dragonchild's sharp pupils widened then constricted some in the flickering firelight as he watched the small drake then looked up at the night sky, the stars dimmed in the flare of the camp fire.

For a long time, the dark-skinned mage thought, we could not discuss in ways such as this, Graul. Not even in Baenar.

I did not know Words, Maekrix. You did not see me except as predator and pack mate, even braving hot Sunlight.


Barely a nod from Maekrix; that was Truth.

What has changed? Why do I remember Sergeant and the others now? Why so clearly?

You have changed.

Changed?


Grudgingly, Graul looked over at the Dwarf, the newest addition, well-tutored but as young and wandering as the rest of them. The drake lifted his bristled chin in Talov's direction before turning his head in the direction Krithannia had gone, pausing for a few beats before looking deliberately back at his Maekrix.

You see bonds, and you hear purpose. We both hear and see now, almost as strong as we will forever smell and taste.

******

The shadow drake flapped wings happily and leapt briefly into the air before landing atop his small treasure pile, stretching out his neck to almost gently take the gold piece his master held out for him like a small, edible treat. Fortunately the black lizard didn't swallow it but tucked it beneath his belly. He shivered as if it wasn't quite warm enough before they started the next round.

"So what does a tiny drake like 'im do wit' his 'hoard' 'side from roll around in it?"

His newest—and first female—partner in crime shook her head and shrugged, tending to her leathers to keep them in top form.

"I cannae believe they do this every time we get lucky," the dwarf muttered, watching Mourn game with Graul. "Jus' gotta try that luck s'more or somethin'?"

The dark-haired, female Elf chuckled softly, her long, sensitive ears blushing a darker pink in the chilly air. "Graul must win his pieces before Mourn will hand them over. It is the way of things."

"Ye mean it's really the beastie's loot, free 'n' clear?"

"I believe so. Stealing does not work between them, just as they have agreed to leave you your share."

He grunted. "I'm fine wit' playing for winnings now an' then, but I still think th' little bastard nicks a piece here and there when I do. Gonna force me either tah count every night or let it go."

The Noldor nodded. "I have chosen to let it go. Not enough pieces go missing to leave me without resource, and I am not the one with the compulsion."

Talov sounded skeptical. "Uh-huh. The animal I get. Ferrets gotta steal 'n' stash, it's just what they do. But the kid 'needs' to steal money and valuables from others, too?"

Krithannia smiled peacefully. "So I have come to understand it. Or gain by barter or gambling. I could even see him earning them as fair payment for service. It is more the collecting than the stealing, I believe, and he would be doing this whether we helped or not. I must say your skills have made things far safer for both of us, Master Dwarf."

"No shit. Only a matter o' time before ye all were gonna piss off th' wrong type o' folk an' get bit by somethin' nasty."

"Well, we appreciate your worldly wisdom, Master Dwarf."

"Bah. Call me Talov, Krithy."

"Please do not call me 'Krithy,' Master Dwarf."

He grinned. "Oh, but it suits ye. I knew a Human girl once. Chrissy. All austere 'til ye got her naked. An' she had a thing fer the squat ones with beards. She liked 'em thick an' didn't find me lacking."

The Noldor sighed softly, looking upward at the night sky. "I assure you I do not have the same proclivities, Master Dwarf."

"Talov, Elf. C'mon. 'Tis been four months since I rescued ye from trouble. Both ye an' the kid take a lifetime tah make th' personal decision sometimes. Ye made up yer mind about me 'r not?"

The Pale Elf considered carefully. Finally a nod. "Talov."

"Krithannia." The young redbeard chuckled to himself in satisfaction, returning to the game as Mourn, with careful deliberation, selected the odds he would choose the right card, and what it was worth to the drake. They'd switch again before long.

"An' it's his Da's blood pushing him tah collect the coins an' gems, ya said?"

She nodded. "A Dragon needs his treasure."

"Why?"

She paused, staring into the darkness for a moment as she thought. Finally she shrugged with ingrained grace. "It is part of the legend."

He smirked within the bristles circling his mouth. "Ye don' know, either."

Silvery-grey eyes landed on him, direct and strong. "Must there be a reason?"

"Compulsions by their nature see a fella get pushed off balance, ye give enough time," he said. "'Less there's a purpose to practice patience in th' ritual itself."

Mourn's ears had turned back visibly, as though he'd been listening the entire time but only now reacted. "You have seen this in others, Talov?"

"Not this exact but somethin' like it," the dwarf replied. "In this lad, who was intelligent like you, it made th' difference 'tween an expert professional and an unreliable genius. He had tah do it either way, he cannae be without his practice. Willful denial led to dry spells and binges, extreme highs and lows. Indulgence—with purpose—led tah refinement an' earning somethin' fer the need. Jus' not all at once, not too fast."

The dark-skinned creature turned golden eyes toward them, considering them both. He shifted from Talov to Krithannia and back again. He grunted. "The Noldor has said something like this."

"Then she's wise fer her age," Talov replied.

Krithannia chuckled. "You do not know my age, Mast—ah, Talov."

"I'll make that a prize next time we get ye tah gamble, sweetie-young." The dwarf winked, then looked back at the hybrid. "Although is she right 'bout yer Mum's side o' th' family, Mourn? Elf like her, but dark-skinned an' straight outta nightmares?"

"They would wreak havoc if they existed above ground," Krithannia said with some dread in her tone.

"But ye seem tah trust the kid."

"His Father's blood makes him different from them. If not for that, he would have tormented me then killed me when we first met."

"Oh?"

Talov looked over at Mourn, who had eyes locked with Graul for a few moments. Then he blinked and looked sidelong and cautious toward the Dwarf.

"She is correct," the bulky hybrid agreed. "That is the most likely outcome should Baenar and Noldor meet one-on-one."

Talov shook his head, exhaling in wonder. "Still can't believe this is real sometimes. Always heard th' stories as a youngster, believed in the GrandDa legends to figure something more was out there. Didn't 'spect to ever see both, an' at the same time." The dwarf smoothed one beard braid with a wide palm, thinking. "Figure the 'Baenar' had a fair bit 'o treasure tah trade yer Da fer him tah plant ye in one o' their bellies. Am I right?"

Krithannia's mouth dropped open and her eyes widened in shock, but then she looked at Mourn and saw the truth. Graul glared at them—not only for the interruption but for the abrupt distress showing in the half-blood's tail.

"Twenty years, I...I never asked, Talov," the Pale Elf murmured in explanation.

"Oops," the Dwarf said, easily acknowledging the blunder but unable to take it back. "Sorry, kid."

Mourn grunted noncommittally, gathering up Graul's winnings into a separate pouch from his own and tucking it within his cloak before standing. The shadow drake flapped in a single jump onto his back, clinging to his Maekrix while the brooding youth left to go for a walk in the shadows of the forest.

*******

He is right. There was a bargain. I was sold before I was conceived.

Graul gripped tightly to his Maekrix's queue and the tough, scaled patches on his shoulders, claws digging right through the cloak. He held in his wings to avoid collisions with tree branches, and his tail helped him find his balance in the navigation of the steep slopes of the Lonely Ones. He shivered to feel the response to this new wave of memories through the bond.

Maekrix remembers Matron?

My Mother's sister. I killed her. Her and her Daughters. Her Draegloth son as well... all my Baenar blood. Dead. I destroyed them. I was covered in blood. I remember their taste...


Graul chirred comfortingly, opting not to use Words this time. His mage continued.

My actions may have killed Sergeant...or seen Vian and her family enslaved to another House. What have I done? Maekrix shook his head in denial. There can be no one left below...no one but my To'vah blood. My Sire.

The familiar had not been there when all this happened, yet now he "remembered" it as Maekrix did. The magic flowed between them; it had started at a trickle but steadily opened to a hurling stream as this new change accelerated.

The drake himself perhaps should not recall almost forty years ago when he'd first clung like this to the Maekrix's naked shoulders. All weapons, then and now and including his Master Y'shir's sliders, had been stored in the bracers clamped and sealed on his wrists when the hybrid had been deemed "broken" by his Aunt. For a time after they met, the drake had not even known these items were more than ornate prisoner cuffs welded to Maekrix's limbs. It remained so that the hybrid had never taken them off, and Graul wasn't sure that he could.

Their bond had first formed in the basest of understandings. No words, no higher thoughts, no stories or memories or feelings outside of the moment. They used claws and teeth, venom and air blasts. They ran as a pair of Dragon-kin; packmates. They tended to their hunger and thirst, engaged threats and took times of rest; there was no looking forward, no looking back. The past and the future were never far away, they would be there whether they looked for them or not.

Maekrix had not cared to, so neither did Graul. It was only when his large kin began to experience more disrupting mind-shadows while he slept, yet could not remember them when he woke, that Graul had subtly nudged them to start "climbing."

Why? Maekrix asked now, sliding down a loud patch of shale. Once again he asked, Why push us to the Surface?

You could not rest well,
Graul said. I heard you speak in Baenar. First words I understood, Maekrix.

And those Baenar words...?

Sun, shadow,
the dark drake answered. Stars, Moons.

How would you know what those were, thuriril moxt?


Graul rubbed his jaw affectionately against one hard shoulder, flush with contentment at the endearment. I ask you same, Maekrix. Yet rest was peaceful when we claimed the Surface Night.

They each looked up now at those Sister Moons, the Stars shining as perfect pin pricks through a cloak. Far enough from any campfire now, the evergreen forest was coated in the deepest shadows among a swirl of pale, silvery Moonlight. Finding a good outcropping, they could see the land below, first rolling then flattening, stretching out from the Lonely Ones and toward the North Sea.

How far do you think it goes? Maekrix asked, looking to the North and West.

The Dwarf retells Yungian stories of white bears and fat seals, Graul said with a drooling lick of his chops.

But he has not seen it. He is from the South and East.

Give time. Still young.

True. And what he has seen...
his large companion considered. The North Sea. The Sea of Fish. The Sea of Ice...all one coast, one body. It only depends which bit of land is touching it.

Different from Great Lake,
Graul chimed in. It is a circle which feeds fresh water to all rivers flowing out to inner lands. The land is the same but for which bit of water is touching it.

These Lonely Ones feed the Great Lake, collecting water from the storms of the Nameless Sea
.

The shadow drake shivered in excitement as the Surface became clearer in both their minds and in doing so, the Underdark was pushed back from its tumultuous uprising. The familiar enjoyed talking about Water; it was a close companion to Air as each element flowed nearly the same. It made sense to him.

The Nameless Sea has fat seals, too! the little drake recalled.

Yes. Where we met Krithannia, Maetrix pondered, still connecting the shards of memory. The grand chain of Mountains hides more Elves. Talov has not heard of any from across the Great Lake, and Krithannia will not say.

She did not ask of your birth,
Graul said.

So I would not ask of hers. Yes. Twenty years of learning how to live together, but not sharing. And now Talov is with us, and he asks or deducts it on his own. And I remember.

The drake snorted softly. You awaken after long trance, To'vah-krav.

And now you hear my Sire's Words. Perhaps we are fortunate to have the dwarf guiding me with questions.


Graul sighed, flicking his tail and ducking with Maekrix to avoid a low needle branch.

Perhaps.

*******

Or perhaps not.

Graul made it back to camp alone, choosing to slip between the shadows rather than fly, and ignore the whispers that forever coaxed him to pause—just for a moment. Both were fast, but the former was faster, even being more tiring when the purpose was distance as opposed to stealth or ambush.

He whined to Krithannia first, trying to remember Baenar words in his distress, then recalled that she wouldn't understand them. Common Tongue it was.

"Help," he croaked, agitated beyond any ability to keep still. The drake was already prepared to leave again and return to his mage. He backed up into a shadow and flickered in stasis, the whispers getting louder and enjoying the taste of despair, asking him to return.

"Graul, wait!" Krithannia said, reaching out her tan-gloved hand toward him. "Where is Mourn?"

"Sleep," he chirped. "Fell to Sleep. Exposed."

"What th' fuck 's that supposed to mean?" Talov asked, but he was already getting up and grabbing his tool bag to sling onto his back.

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