Anomen sighed contentedly as he slowly removed his plate mail and stretched his aching muscles. Stripping down to his undergarments he knew that a huge and rather silly grin was plastered all over his face. Anomen couldn´t have cared less.
What had begun as clumsy attempts on his part to impress a beautiful and intelligent woman had slowly evolved through friendly companionship into – this! Anomen still couldn´t believe his own luck. Cailiana may not, strictly speaking, have been the most beautiful woman in the world. Her honeycoloured hair was somewhat roughly cut and frequently tangled. Her eyes were a deep dark blue, that almost seemed black when she was truly angry or otherwise excited. And her face, while attractive in its own way, was pale and often serious. But when she did smile, why then it seemed as if a light flared up inside her and drew you to her, like a helpless moth to the flame. And when the smile had passed, the memory of it lingered still, and no other smile could even begin to be compared to that single memory. Anomen felt as he never had before. For the first time in all his life the young knight felt entirely happy. As if her rare beauty wasn´t enough, she was also extremely intelligent, if a bit shy. And he didn´t think he´d ever met a more generous person.
She´d almost have to be that in order to put up with me, Anomen thought wryly. Helm´s Mercy, what a lumbering fool I was those first few weeks.
Anomen sighed again with complete and utter adoration as he gazed upon his Lady´s slumbering form. Cai was sleeping on her back, dark lashes sweeping pale cheeks, one hand tangled in her short locks. As she shifted in her sleep her soft throat arched gracefully and made Anomen suddenly very grateful to already have removed his codpiece. This was IT! This was The Night! He had almost lost his nerve twice, subconciously certain she would laugh him in the face. But no, she had been as gentle and loving as always, seemingly as anxious as he was to finally have him hold her close to him and love her with all his heart. Almost giggling like children they had agreed to retire to their separate rooms and that he should join her later. There was, after all, no need to announce it to the rest of the party just yet. It was a measure of her confidence in her own powers that the sorceress had dared to leave her bedroom door unlocked for him and then fall asleep. Even if the tiny Imnesvale Inn probably didn´t contain any violent criminals Anomen decided to speak with her about it. Later. Much later.
Carefully, oh so carefully, Anomen slipped into the bed, determined to wake his Lady up with the best kiss she´d ever had. His hand reached out beneath the covers to draw her towards him and finally made contact – with hard, scaly skin and bonelike ridges. An angry hiss like water on a hot stove made him shy backwards with a startled oath and land unceremoniously on the floor. As he tried to get to his feet a tiny reddish orange creature buzzed around his head, hissing and spitting and fluttering its butterfly wings in his face. The beast looked like a tiny dragon, with a long snakelike neck and tail, swirling multicolored eyes and lots of sharp little teeth. Right now it was showing all of those teeth in a wide and curiously threatening grin. Then it nipped him hard on the nose and sped away. It swiftly disappeared beneath the covers before he had the time to swat it like a mosquito.
”Anomen? Is that you, love?” Cailiana sounded worried and wide awake. A moment later she peeked over the side of the bed to see the sorry wreck on the floor.
”Oh, no!”, she gasped. ”Anomen, are you all right? What happened?”
Anomen tried to get a grip on his temper. He really did. His voice still sounded half strangled though, and his face turned an unusual shade of purple.
”That, that BEAST was in the bed!”, he sputtered. ”The fiendish thing bit me. My Lady, Cai, that creature is dangerous. You will have to get rid of it.”
Cailianas eyes suddenly darkened, although not with the emotion the knight had hoped to invoke.
”You should know better than to ask me that”, she stated in a dangerously calm voice as she sat up in bed wrapping the blankets around her. ”Puff is my familiar, you know that, and he is a perfectly innocent and harmless little Faerie Dragon. He would not hurt a fly if it sat on his nose.”
Puff peeked out behind her back. It grinned at Anomen again and then stuck its forked tongue out.
”Besides”, Cai continued, ”a magicuser and her familiar are bonded for life, and don´t think I cannot see what you are thinking Anomen Delryn. If you hurt Puff then I would be hurt as well.” Her face softened once again. ”But I am truly sorry he upset you. I only told him to guard me from intruders, never imagining he would consider you one.”
The sorceress turned to her familiar and reproachfully shook her finger at the little dragon.
”That was a very naughty thing to do, sweetling”, she scolded. ”No biting Anomen. He´s our friend. Do that again and there will be no pies for a whole month”
The Faerie Dragon purred and laid its head in its mistress´s lap, glittering eyes regarding her lovingly. As soon as Cai glanced away it then lifted its tail and made a very rude gesture in Anomen´s general direction.
Anomen got up off the floor and sighed with frustration as he reached for his plate mail. This was going to be a long, lonely and frustrating night. Some prayers might be in order. Yes. Prayer would calm his nerves nicely.
”Anomen?”, Cai asked him. ”Won´t you stay? Puff won´t bite you again, I promise.”
”Nay, my Lady”, the knight said ruefully. ”That may the case but I fear that for tonight the mood is well and truly spoilt. We shall have to make the attempt again tomorrow night.”
”If you say so”, the sorceress responded, sounding disappointed. ”Well, in that case I guess I´ll just go back to sleep. By myself. Come here, Puff.”
As Anomen shut the door behind him he could swear he heard the dragon snickering.
The Knight, The Lady and The Dragon
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