I swept into the Brown‘s door, cloak and still-damp gown flowing, flushed and heated from my stalking walk home. My eyes were flashing, and I was still struggling to wrap my head around what had just happened during my bath, and if anyone knew who that had been, it would be the Brown. He handled most of the entries into the Inn; he must know who the dragon was!
“Mmm?” He leaned back in the chair he was working in to peer at me inquiringly from around the doorway. I could smell the ink he was using-he must have been working-and I felt a bit guilty for interrupting him. I gave him a sheepish grin, and was about to apologize, but the smug, impish smirk on his face removed any incentive I had for that…and now I wore a look of suspicion, in place of the guilt. Two smug males, both wearing the same exact smirk, in one day? I couldn’t help wondering if he already knew what I was about to present him with…but I couldn’t smell the dragon anywhere nearby, so I could not think how he would.
I shook my head. No matter. I spun off my cloak, hung it on one of the hooks near the door and whipped around, ignoring the pointed smirk he gave me when my speed dislodged my dress a bit too much. I put my hands on my hips, eyes flashing, hair mussed, daring him to comment on the gown when I had more important matters at hand. “Do you have any idea if there are any purple shape-shifting dragons in the Inn?”
His wings twitched as if to repress giggles as he placed his quill on his desk, capped his inkwell, and stood. “Mmm…I do not know. Purple dragons…it strikes no bell. Did you get a clear look?” He strolled slowly across the room, looking like the thoughtful expression on his face was hiding too much amusement…as well as further attempts to stare through the sheer bathing gown I still wore.
And I? I was exasperated, staring at him, mouth agape, at his question. He asked that, knowing the extent of my scrutiny? “Did I…what? Alright, completely leaving out the fact that I am one of the most detail-oriented people we both know, he walked in on me while I was in my pool while I was sleeping. That does not happen! Yes, I got a clear look!” Still exasperated, I paced around the room, gown swirling, furrowing my eyebrows in concentration, barely noticing the surprised look, meaning that I’d caught the Brown off guard with my statement.
I was quieter in tone, thoughtful, now. “He…shifted between a humanoid form and a dragon form. His dragon form was huge, bigger than almost any other dragon I’ve seen…except maybe Amberflame, depending on the proportion compared. Sleek…I saw only his tail, and his head…it was the color of midnight blue, except replace blue with purple. Midnight purple, I suppose. And he was shaped, what I could see of him, almost like a Western dragon, but not quite. Almost like he belonged on the Celtic Isles. His human form…he was maybe five six, fair-skinned, as pale as you but with cool undertones, with shiny black hair. Fit and slight, but very solid…not elvan-lithe, like you or Shadowsong, or feline-lithe, like me…but also obviously not human. The same eyes…dark, black, but black like night, in both forms. Far more perceptive and knowing than any other eyes I’ve seen…except yours. He never told me his name.”
I looked up at him, now standing quite still within arm’s reach of me, watching me, eyes smiling, languid, and feline, keenly boring into me. He walked closer to me and smiled, turning me to face him, and he stroked my hair out of my face. I closed my eyes and purred under his hand, but gave him a confused look when I opened my eyes. “You don’t know him? It was on Inn grounds…how could he live here and not have you know of him?”
His hands were wreaking havoc with my concentration, and he knew it. He chuckled as I leaned my forehead against him, who was stroking under the wings that he knew were there, but could not see. “Mmm…I may know him. I may not. You say he gave you no name?”
I shook my head against his chest, accidentally nuzzling him in the process. My voice was mumbled. “Mmm…no, he didn’t…you know, I really cannot think coherently when you’re doing that…”
He chuckled again. “That is the point. Now, about this dragon of yours…what did he do to you? You say he walked into your bath?”
I slipped my hands under his wings in retaliation, smugly satisfied as he turned to putty. “Revenge is a bitch. Yes, he did. And he’s not “my” dragon. I was sleeping, he woke me up, roared at me, and then did strange things with my brain.” I found myself wishing that we could continue this conversation in a large squishy dish chair.
He seemed to read my mind. He scooped me up and toted me off, simultaneously busy with laughing, head thrown back. “He did strange things with your brain? Well, that narrows it down.” He turned a corner, and walked into the doorway of his bedroom. His nest, set on the right wall between desk and dresser, lavishly designed and made, was full already. The Shadowsong blinked up at us drowsily as the Brown’s laughter interrupted his sleep, and I was unceremoniously dumped into the Irishman’s lap. He jumped, and squeaked in surprise, giving out a sleep-slurred, “Wha’ in the nine hells?”
The Brown doubled over, laughing anew, as I tried to get my disheveled hair straightened, made none too easy given that it had gotten stuck on the Shadowsong’s ever-present leathers, and given that my bath gown had freshly rearranged itself into improper fashions. “Oh, a dragon interrupted her bath.” At that, he turned to leave, allowing his brother to wrap his arms around me to prevent my pursuit.
The Shadowsong’s eyebrows reached his hairline in amused disbelief. “Oh really? Who was it to be bein’?” His mischievous grin given up at his brother had me suspicious-it was the same smug grin I’d seen on the Brown and the dragon!-and the Brown’s face quickly echoed his brother’s. He turned around in the doorway to smirk, eyes bright, at the both of us.
My face must have been priceless, as I lay, now shocked into silence. I could not manage to do more than sputter. He took a flourishing bow, and backed out of the door with a twirl. I heard the front door close, meaning he’d left me and the Shadowsong be. The Shadowsong, shaking with silent laughter, pulled my frozen form back to rest against him, stroking my hair. I turned to gape at him. “He couldn’t have said that to begin with?! He knew! You knew! I know you both knew! Why did something so easy have to be so difficult! AUGH!”
The Shadowsong was now laughing as hard as his brother had been. He pulled my face to him and kissed me on the forehead, and then pulled me back against him, rubbing the base of my neck to relax me. “Because it to be bein’ me brother. He not to be bein’ the Brown if he to be bein’ any other way.” I could’ve sworn I heard a faded comment about the conversation being much less amusing in the back of my head, but I couldn’t pin it. My face twisted into this indescribable look of incredulity and disbelief.
But, my best friend’s hand and purring at my neck were soon enough to set me purring myself. I still couldn’t drop the infuriating aggravation had made, though. A dragon is quite a good deal larger than an elephant, and I really didn’t appreciate the attempts to ignore either one. Today was supposed to have been peaceful. I mused again over my failed bath, the rest and sleep of which was being replaced by the Shadowsong’s soft singing. “Rori…” So that was his name. Maybe his offer was worth considering after all…