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Cata the Meek

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39 A Little More Kick Ass

About Cata the Meek

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    Newbie

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  • Age in Years
    19
  • Gender
    Trans
  • Sexuality
    Bisexual, leaning male
  • Favorite Genres
    Adventure
    Fantasy
    Historical
    Romance
  • Interests
    My interests are reading, writing, the violin, and video games.

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  1. Cata the Meek

    Iason

    Daniel scratched his shoulders as he walked. The lack of wings was weird, and he wasn’t sure how long he’d be able to stand the feeling. The dragon walked up a hill on the island of Crete, trying to escape the smell of fumes. It was everywhere in this world, as if these creatures called humans breathed carbon dioxide. He found a quiet spot to sit and think as the sun sank low in the sky. It had been three days since he had escaped from the other realm, and he still had no idea where he was, or how to get home. Where ever home was. It was moments like these that he longed for Hana’s soothing touch. But longing for things couldn’t bring them about. Daniel winced as a plane flew low overhead. He needed to get away from this gas, and this noise. Somewhere quiet, where he could think for just five minutes. Cool bark pressed into the dragon’s back, and he turned. There was no tree here a moment ago… “Shit,” he groaned, standing up. Daniel ran his hands down his body, his clothes changing into an era bland outfit. He had jumped again, and he had no idea when he was. A goat bleated at him, and he growled quietly, his draconic presence asserting itself. The goat bleated again weakly, and fell on its side. “Poios eisai?!” He turned, and found a staff at his throat. The boy wielding it appeared to be close to fourteen, tall with bronze skin and light brown hair. He wore a simple tunic with a rope tied around it, and sandals covered his feet. “Weirlen tel,” Daniel muttered. “Answer me!” the boy snarled in his language. “Don’t be alarmed. I’m merely a traveler seeking rest,” Daniel said, holding up his hands. Behind him, the goat clambered back to its feet and ran away. He could feel the approaching night, and he knew the boy saw the sun sinking as well. The boy sighed. “Do you need shelter this night?” he asked. “I will not turn it down,” Daniel replied. He helped the boy turn in the goats for the night, and followed him to a whitewashed mud house. Stepping inside, the Cretan called, “We have a guest this evening Mater!” Daniel looked around, surprised that the centre of the building was open to the air. He heard light footsteps approach, and turned to see a middle aged woman. “Welcome to our home sir,” she smiled warmly. “Thank you. I am honoured to be invited in,” Daniel replied. “Iason, please show our guest where he can clean himself before the evening meal.” “Yes Mater.” The boy beckoned to Daniel, and the dragon followed him into the court, where a well sat with a bucket waiting. Iason removed his shirt, and lowered the bucket into the well. After a minute of wheeling, the bucket returned, filled with water, and the boy used a hand to splash some on his face and chest. Daniel copied the boy, and Iason chuckled, before pouring the unused water back down the well. They replaced their tunics, and Iason led Daniel into a dining area, where a simple meal was laid out. They sat, and food was passed around. Daniel ate sparingly, not wanting to be a burden on the two. Their meal was taken in surprising silence. Daniel expected questions to be asked, but these people went out of their way to make him feel at home, not intruding on his peace until the evening meal was had. Aside for Iason trying to spear him through the throat with a staff. But that could be forgiven. As the food was finished, all three feeling not quite as full as they’d like, the woman smiled at Daniel. “Sir, I have a favour I would ask of you.” “If it is in my power, I will do it for you,” Daniel replied. “My son has been without his father for near ten years. He has grown up not knowing of manly things. You appear to be a cultured man, a traveller who can teach him many things.” “Mater…” The woman gave her son a stern look, and he fell silent. Daniel looked the boy over. He reminded the dragon of Moon, growing with no male hand to guide her, losing one who meant the world. “I will teach him what I know, though there is much about your land that I do not know myself,” Daniel said. “My sincere gratitude to you, kind sir.” “And mine to you in turn,” he smiled. Daniel walked down a dirt path, Iason trailing behind him. He had been with the family for three years now, and in those three years he had watched the young teen become a mature man, in spite of the troubles that seemed to plague their home. The dragon pulled his weight around the home. When the well ran dry a week after he met them, Daniel had found a new spot and dug a fresh well by hand with Iason at his side. Sharing in the labour with the dragon had opened Iason’s mind, and the boy began following Daniel in earnest, soaking up every bit of information the stranger had to teach him. Iason’s mother took ill a month after the new well had been dug, and the town physician could do nothing to help her. Daniel stayed with the woman, casting healing spells upon her, and the woman had pulled through, becoming even more healthy than she had been before the illness. From their struggles, he gained their respect, and they trusted his council. Yet Ryan was never far from his mind. “Pater?” Iason’s voice pulled him out of his mindless walk. The teen insisted on using the term, and Daniel didn’t see the need to stop him. “Yes Iason?” “When will you make a man of me?” Daniel froze, and Iason nearly walked into him. “What do you mean? You are a man,” Daniel said, turning to face him. “But I do not have seed. You have not given me any. Without seed, I will be no better than a slave.” “We can’t have that now, can we? While you gather the supplies for home, I will make arrangements.” Iason smiled, and the two continued walking toward the village. Daniel sent the teen off when they reached the village, and busied himself gathering the youth’s friends. He had read about this before, but he barely remembered most of it. Gathering their pledges to help, the dragon left town, and let his wings out, as he did every night. Rising high into the air, Daniel sped to a point five kilometres outside town, landing on a grassy hill with no one around. Gathering his magic, he let it all loose at once, and the earth around him took on the shape of a good sized Greek home. It wasn’t quite perfect, but it would do for now. Returning to the village, Daniel purchased a tunic, a bronze sword, a hunting bow, and an ox, to be delivered to the home he had built. He had no sexual interest in Iason, but he knew the culture he found himself in required him to show the teen the ways of life. He was damned if he stayed, and there was no way he would abandon the family. And so he went to where Iason played with his friends. Watching the teens from a distance, he planned his move, waiting until one of the boys gave him a subtle nod. Iason was faced away from Daniel when he struck, grabbing the taller boy and hoisting him over his shoulder. The other teens all whooped and hollered as they chased Daniel and Iason, laughing at the teen’s plight. Daniel’s tireless feet carried him the five kilometres back to the building, and his strong arms held the squirming boy in his arms, Iason laughing as he realised who had him; who was carrying him. Barren when he left, Daniel’s magic had continued flowing through the building, creating tapestries, furniture, and clothes in his absence. He knew the boys would be impressed. It was good for them to see Iason chosen by a man of means. It would give Iason a good start in his life. He was at the end of his knowledge about this ritual. From here, he would be winging it. Setting Iason back on his feet, Daniel took a step back. “Pater, this wasn’t quite what I thought-” “Are you displeased eromenos?” The youth’s breath caught as he looked at the older man. Daniel was playing a role now, but it was a role he would play well, for he cared for Iason. “Pater-” “No,” Daniel said quietly. “I am not your father. I am Daniel.” “Daniel.” The name rolled awkwardly off the Greek’s tongue. “Your mother may have arranged this in her way, but that does not mean we can’t do this properly.” At that moment, the rest of the boys caught up to them, gasping for air. “Now that your friends have caught us,” Daniel smiled warmly. He led them through the building, into a room near filled with a single table and several chairs. “Please, sit.” As Iason’s friend scurried to find a seat, Daniel took Iason to the head of the table, seating the teen beside him. “Pater- Daniel… Where did this come from? Mother and I thought-” “That I was poor? Struggle and obstacles can make a man stronger. The deception was necessary for you to become the strong man you are today.” Daniel snapped his fingers, and four golems were created from the earth in a nearby room, along with a full feast. The golems each grabbed a platter of food, taking on the appearance of various humans Daniel had met in his travels before stepping from the room. They served the teens, and stayed at their sides to pour mulled wine in their glasses as the group feasted. After they’d eaten their fill, the food was returned to the side room and disposed of. Two golems returned, bearing a spear and the bow Daniel had bought in the town market. “These weapons belong to you now. Use them well and wisely,” Daniel said. They spent the night in various rooms, Iason and Daniel sharing a bed. Nothing came to pass between them, and Daniel told the youth nothing would. Iason would receive his seed, but not from Daniel. The group rose early, traveling with weapons until they reached a suitable hunting ground. Daniel bade Iason’s friends to head out and herd an animal back toward himself and Iason. As they moved out, the dragon turned to Iason. “You will use your spear to bring the beast down, and the others will finish it off.” Iason nodded his understanding and they waited. A large goat galloped toward them, the teens on its heels. It sped up, running straight for Iason, and the youth gripped his spear, thrusting it at the animal’s throat as the goat’s momentum carried it onto the speartip. The teens cheered as Iason wrenched the spear free from the beast’s death throes. They would feast well that night. And so it continued for nigh on a month’s time, the group celebrating Iason’s passage into manhood. And the day came when the youth received the rest of his gifts from Daniel, a rich tunic signifying his becoming an adult, as well as the sword, and the ox. One final gift was given, a silver goblet engraved with Iason’s name, a princely gift, for the man Daniel considered his son. They returned to the town, Iason leading the ox. His mother met them at the entrance of the town, a smile upon her face. She led them to a temple, where Iason and Daniel entered alone with the ox. A priest stood within a shallow basin, a bronze dagger in hand. Daniel bade Iason to approach him, and backed off, watching closely. The priest handed the dagger to the youth, and began chanting, calling upon Zeus to bear witness. Iason turned, and sliced the ox’s throat. Blood poured into the basin, as the animal bellowed. The priest knelt, and dipped a finger into the blood, smearing a mark on Iason’s forehead as he continued his prayers to Zeus. Daniel breathed a word, and a ray of light shone on Iason’s head, causing the priest to gasp. “Gods above be praised… Zeus appears to be please with you. You have been touched by the gods themselves.” Once again, Daniel sat at the head of a table, though this time, Iason stood beside him. A man knew how to be served. Now he would learn to serve in turn. Dark wine poured into the goblet, and Daniel raised the cup to his lips, tasting the liquid within. And like Ganymede beside Zeus, Iason kept the cup full throughout the feast. When the feasting ended, the games began. Discus throwing, boxing, wrestling, and bull leaping. Daniel took part in all, beside Iason, and the two did well, though the dragon was careful not to do better than the youth. He was surrounded by bare flesh, the beauty of which rivalled most elves. And yet he did not feel a thing. Even as he let a man pin him to the dirt, Daniel’s body refused to react. He was too busy thinking about what came next. The dragon had done what was requested of him. Iason was an adult now, and there was nothing tying him here any more. He was free to continue his search for his fox. But leaving was hard. It had been with Moon, and it was no different now. He pulled Iason away from his wine in the dark hours of the night. “You are an adult now, and I am so proud of you,” the dragon smiled. “I know I’m not truly your father, but I’ve come to think of you as my own son.” “Pater, why does this sound like a goodbye?” “Because it is. I have done all that I can for you and your mother. From here on, it is your job to protect her.” “But I need you…” “No. You need to trust in yourself to see what needs doing. And remember, men can be afraid. But a true man will face his fears. He will cry, but he knows that he must do his duty.” “I will miss you Pater,” Iason said, embracing the dragon. “And I will miss you too.” Daniel pulled away gently. “Give your mother my farewell and thanks.” “I will.” Daniel turned away, and walked out of the building, directing his feet toward the olive tree on the hill in Iason’s pasture. Gathering his magic, Daniel pushed himself forward, falling through time once again.
  2. Another century come and gone. But this century held the answers he seeked. His math had been wrong. The timeline he needed was far in the past now, but he couldn’t jump through time here. The laws of this universe forbade it. This only left him with the question of how to jump between planes.Daniel thought back over nine centuries to his arrival. He had asked the universe to take him to his love, but it brought him here instead… And Ryan had been here, for a brief moment in time. Or, well, out of time. But now Daniel needed out of this place. The fox was lost in time. He would not make a good jumping point. But if the dragon could fuse a portal with temporal energy… That was advanced. He needed to start somewhere, and jumping through time would not help right now. Perhaps finding home could be simple? Fixing an image of his home in England in his mind, Daniel said, “Oena.” A swirling vortex of energy formed in front of him, and he grinned. It really had been that easy. He didn’t need to complicate things with numerology or things of that nature. Smiling with confidence, the dragon stepped through the portal, and found himself falling through a blue sky. So he needed to work on his landings. That could wait. The dragon spread his wings with a joyous cry, catching himself on the wind. He was free. He was free at last. Free from the prison that had bound him, free from all the people asking him for divine favors. He wasn’t a god for fucks sake. The black dragon flew through the sky, wrinkling his nose. This wasn’t home. It was dirty… wrong. He couldn’t put his finger on what exactly was wrong. Daniel descended below the clouds, spiralling lazily toward a mountain. This place… This mountain… It was familiar. But different. As he landed, his memory brought up a mountain, this mountain. But there was a shrine, and a kitsune standing sadly in front of it. “Hana…?” the dragon whispered, reaching toward her. And as his hand brushed her face, yearning for the feel of her fur on his scales, she was gone. But he knew, this was that place. A gasp startled him, and the dragon turned. A person was prostrating themself before him, and the dragon blinked. He looked like an elf, but the ears were wrong, and Daniel could sense the life force within the being. It burned bright, but short. His mind was wide open to be read, unlike an elf, who often kept their thoughts locked tighter than their arse. “Please sir, have mercy on me,” the being trembled. Daniel sighed in frustration. Strange being or not, he still saw Daniel as some kind of deity. Still, maybe he had some information. The man was speaking Japanese, and Daniel knew those lands decently. Maybe he could find his way home from here. “Where am I?” he asked the man in Japanese. All he got was a blank stare. “Ugh… This isn’t Kyoto...When did I drop in here?” There was a time barrier in play. The Japanese Daniel spoke was outdated, and he was lucky to have understood the man at all. He tried again in English. “Where am I?” “Kyoto sir.” He understood modern English. That gave Daniel a date, give or take a century. “There was a shrine here. What happened to it?” “T- there has never been a shrine on this mountain.” “You can stand and look at me while you talk to me,” Daniel sighed. “What do you mean there’s no shrine? I used to live here.” “No one lives here. It’s haunted.” This wasn’t helping. Daniel stepped close to the person, and placed his hands on the being’s temple. Information poured through the link, and Daniel groaned. This wasn’t home. It was a parallel universe populated by these creatures called humans. The history was the same, just played out with a different cast. “Nelmara eim,” Daniel muttered, and the human’s eyes closed, as he was forced to sleep. The dragon took to the skies once more, his heart heavy. He needed to learn how to hop planes correctly. But this plane held little magic. He doubted he would find help here. He flew for hours, travelling west until he reached the edge of China. Here he would spend the night. The dragon entered a clothing store, casting a fog in the minds of all around him. They wouldn’t know he was there until he allowed it. Finding a mirror, Daniel stared at his reflection, and focused on transmuting himself. His scales receded into his body. They were there, and would still protect him, but now they weren’t visible. His skin lightened, paling until he was satisfied he looked like what the people around him considered English. His snout shortened painfully, melting into his face and becoming a narrow face with an aquiline nose. His eyes were tricky, clearing and becoming a crystal blue in hue. The dragon’s wings forced their way into his back, and his tail shortened until it vanished completely. He kept his hair long and blue, but found a band to tie it into a ponytail. The man in the mirror was a total stranger to him. Daniel turned away as nausea overtook him. He fought it back, and let the fog clear from the people in the store. His shirt was torn from his wings, so he bought a new shirt, conjuring money to pay. He asked where he could find a hotel, and followed the cashier’s directions, coming across a small hotel. Daniel paid in cash, and no questions were asked. In his room, he created an ID with his new face on it, and a wallet that he likely wouldn’t use the entire time he was here. Laying in his bed, the dragon reached out, and pulled an orange shirt out of the pocket dimension he kept it in. Hugging it close, Daniel rolled over, and tried to get some sleep.
  3. Cata the Meek

    Te Vielnaer

    Daniel studied the elf in his bed. So many things changed in merely a century time. And he had been through ten. He was immortal. There was no way around it now. Daniel could not die of natural causes. Most dragons only lived to nine hundred, if they were lucky. “Why are you standing over there mei areula? Come warm the bed with me,” the elf smiled seductively. Daniel scowled. “Leim me nela eyn areula. Don’t call me that.” The elf stared at him, a trace of fear in his eyes, and the dragon sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to lead you on. There is nothing more than a night of passion between us,” he said quietly. “If you want me to leave-” “Is that what you want?” the dragon interrupted. “I won’t blame you if you walk out that door and never look back.” He slowly removed his shirt, careful to avoid catching his wings on the fabric. “Either way, I’m heading to bed. So if you want to leave, do so now.” The elf’s eyes traveled up and down the dragon’s torso, tongue wetting his lips. “I… I can stay…” he said. The elf’s shirt slid off, and Daniel studied the night’s conquest. Not that it was much of a fight. But his body would make up for that. Lean in the right places, with barely any muscle showing. He was no Ryan, but he’d do for now. The dragon stalked toward the bed, his shorts sliding off. He was rock hard already, but he would take his time. Daniel didn’t want to hurt the elf. Unless the elf wanted him to… Daniel pushed the elf back onto the bed, crawling over him. He could hear the man’s heart pounding, could see the cautious lust in his eyes. Lowering his head, Daniel licked the elf’s hairless chest, letting his tongue trail up the man’s neck until it rested on his throat. He felt the elf swallow, and pulled away with a smirk. The elf followed him up, desire in his eyes, and Daniel gently pushed him down. “Nelkasil,” he said, and the elf nodded, looking upset. He shouldn’t be. The elf knew where he stood. Daniel was not looking for an emotional attachment. The dragon lowered himself again, flicking his tongue against the elf’s nipple. That earned him a gasp, and he did it again, slowly moving a greasy finger toward the elf’s ass. The elf helped when he realized what daniel was doing, adding his own greased up finger. It wasn’t quite lube in the standards of the 21st century, but it would work. Daniel would see to it. He stroked himself, adding the grease to his dick, before licking the elf one more time. Rolling the man over, Daniel positioned himself, and lowered himself onto the elf. He slipped in with ease, and lay against the elf for a moment, enjoying the closeness. Thrusting experimentally, Daniel heard the elf groan. This was always so different from doing it with a woman. A man had different desires, different needs, and Daniel worked to find the particular buttons for this male. His hand closed around the elf’s dick, and slowly stroked in time with his thrusts. The elf whimpered under him, squirming, and Daniel thrust hard, causing the elf to yowl. The velvet confines around his dick began contracting, and the dragon felt a warm stickiness spread over his hand. With a quiet sigh, he sped up his own orgasm, finishing far sooner than he had hoped to. The two laid together, coupled, for another minute, before the elf pulled away. Daniel rolled away, and sat up on the side of the bed. “Why don’t we take a shower?” he said. “A what?” The dragon sighed. Another person who hadn’t seen the wonders of modern convenience. “Come on.”
  4. Cata the Meek

    The Scryer

    The dragon stared at the bowl of water, growling. He didn’t know why he tried anymore. Ryan would not be found through scrying. But he was going crazy, sitting in his cabin in the mountains with nothing to do. There was only so much work he could put into escaping this realm at once, and he had reached his limit yesterday. There was no way he’d be working on it in the next month. And so he found other ways to occupy his time. Like scrying for his fox. But it failed every time, the water refusing to show him the face he desired above all else to see. He had sent the cat, Acheron, away over a century ago, to watch over his daughter, Moon. And now he had no one to speak to, keeping the other beings who found their way here at an arm’s length. Daniel wasn’t sure what had happened to him. Time seemed to have no meaning for him any more. He was nearing six hundred years old, and he should be showing some sign of his age, but he still looked like his hundred year old self, young and hale. “Elaun eim Ryan,” he commanded tiredly, holding a hand over the bowl. The water rippled, and the dragon gasped. It was the most reaction he had seen from the water in years. The ripples subsided, and he screamed in frustration, sending the bowl flying across the room, where it shattered into a dozen pieces. Holding his head in his hands, Daniel thought. Something was blocking his scrying attempts. But the fox was alive. If he wasn’t, the dragon would know. But where was he? Was he even in the same time? Daniel’s head shot up. There was a way for him to view the outside world. If Acheron had made it to Earth, he could use the cat to scry. Repairing the bowl with a muttered word, the dragon filled it with water. “Elaun eim Acheron,” he said, and the water rippled again, before clearing and revealing a young kitsune laying with a dragon. “Moon…” Daniel breathed. He hadn’t seen his daughter in ages, since he had said his farewells to Hana in Kyoto. Hana… Daniel let the spell fade, then cast another. “Elaun eim Hana.” More ripples, then the water turned dark. Daniel’s head spun, and he lay against the table, next to the bowl. She was gone then. The spell faded again, and Daniel stood up, walking outside. He sat beneath the willow tree, a hand running along its bark. “Thank you,” he murmured, eyes closed. “Thank you for everything.” Hot tears fell from his eyes, and he didn’t bother washing them away. No one would see him here. No one would judge. He was free to mourn.
  5. Cata the Meek

    The Void

    Daniel Thethar stood in his flat, his grimoire open on his bed. It had taken him years to figure this spell out, and he still wasn’t sure he had it right. But the dragon would not wait any longer. Ryan was out there somewhere, and he was going to find the fox if it killed him. Time had foiled his attempts at finding his love, though he had met others along the way. The dragon’s hand dipped into his pocket, feeling the seed of a willow tree from 13th century Kyoto. His lips smiled briefly at the thought of the one who gave it to him. Then he focused again. Time may have stopped him. But space would not. He would scour the globe until he found the one he searched for. His heart felt hollow, and his gramyre pulled him, though to where he had no idea. It didn’t matter. This spell would take him to wherever he needed to go. Clearing his throat and his mind, the dragon began chanting. “Tieln ek reinel, eto ek reina. Tedar eim du mei areula.” He waited, expecting something, anything, to happen. But he remained in his room. With an angry sigh, the dragon tried again. Closing his eyes, he repeated his chant, pouring more energy into it. A shadow appeared before his eyes, as though the light was stolen from the air around him. His eyes flew open, and he stared at a pitch black portal swirling in front of him. Daniel gasped, unnerved by the dark energy around him. He felt his own energy draining rapidly, and knew he didn’t have long before the spell would consume him. He had no choice here. If he didn’t go, his fox would be lost forever.” Taking a deep breath, the dragon stepped forward, allowing the void to swallow him. He was falling through blackness. The dragon’s wings spread, but there was no air to catch them. And so his descent continued, the dragon praying to reach ground soon. If this was the end, he wanted it to end now. Suddenly, he was standing on something solid. There was no collision, no sense of landing. Daniel was just… there. But there was nowhere. Just silence, the kind of silence that made him question his own existence. Was this hell? Had he died? If only there was someone here for him to ask. And suddenly, there was. He felt the presence of another being, an ancient being. Looking around himself, he saw a cat, black as the night. Daniel opened his mouth, but no sound escaped him. He should have found Ryan following that spell. Where was he? Then he felt it. The fox’s presence in the distance. The dragon ran. He ran faster than he had ever run before, chasing his love. He was close, Daniel could feel it. But as he neared the presence, it faded away. He fell, sliding on the ground that wasn’t a ground. He was so close. The fox had been right here. Maybe he would return. Maybe not. But this was the closest the dragon had been to finding him. A kitsune’s voice echoed in his mind as he removed the seed from his pocket. ‘Take this seed. Plant it where you find your love, and never lose hope.’ Daniel had found his love, even if he hadn’t caught him. Kneeling, the dragon placed the seed on the ground, watching in amazement as it was swallowed by the darkness. And then there was a sprout, tiny, delicate. And the dragon felt a change in the universe around him, as though everything had taken its first breath. A light appeared, blinding him after the dark, and the sprout grew before his very eyes as time seemed to speed by him. It became a sapling, then a young tree, and matured. Grass grew around it, and the ground shifted, rising into the air around him. Daniel looked upon the tree, and thought, maybe when he found Ryan, the two would have a child together. A life together. And for the first time in ages, the dragon felt hope.
  6. Cata the Meek

    Prologue

    Daniel’s hand trailed across a row of books. This was his favourite store, and he made sure to visit every week. There was always a new story to find within the shelves; a new world to explore. His hand tripped across a small black binding, and the dragon paused. He had learned to trust his instincts, and had found many a good book that way. This one felt different somehow. He removed it, keeping an eye on the two tomes it had been stuck between. There was no title, just a blank black leather cover. The pages seemed worn with age, and Daniel was afraid to open the cover, lest he destroy the book. That was the last thing he wanted to do. He loved the older couple who ran the store, a lioness and a goat. They watched him now, the only regular customer they got these days. He carefully carried the book to the counter, and cleared his throat. “Did you find something dearie?” the lioness asked, her voice like warm honey. “I don’t know…” Daniel admitted. “There’s no title, and no barcode on the back. And it looks fragile.” The lioness took the book gently from him. “Hmm… This binding is strong, but the pages do seem as though they’ve seen better days. I don’t recall seeing this anywhere.” She turned to the goat. “Albert, do you recognize it?” “That binding seems like early nineteenth century work. If anything, that’s probably a first edition,” the old goat rumbled. He handed it back to the dragon. “It’s not one of ours though. Feel free to take it. A Christmas present from us to you,” he smiled. “Thank you!” Daniel beamed. “Would you like a bag for it?” “No thanks. I want to make sure I get it home in one piece.” The dragon made his way to the exit. “Merry Christmas,” he said, hand on the door. “And to you as well,” the two smiled. Daniel returned to his flat, worn out from a day of exercise. It was his day off at the gym, but he didn’t like to miss a day of working out. The trip to the bookstore had been a little extra, but as he studied the black book again, he thought the trip had been worth it. It sat on his table now, as he moved around the kitchen making dinner. One poached egg with tomato and bacon later, and he was seated with the book in hand. He hesitated, a strange feeling coming over him. Whatever was in these pages, he felt like it could change his life forever. But he had no idea how or why. “It’s just a book…” he murmured. Just a book, sitting innocently on his table. Daniel reached out, and slowly opened the cover. It creaked quietly, threatening to break apart, but he was gentle, and it held. On the first page, he was surprised to see a neat cursive handwriting in bold ink. There was a date, and an entry below it. “It’s a journal. From 1914.” The date was plain to see, and he could easily read the writing, even over 100 years later… 1914, 1 January The dawn of a new year, and perhaps a new start. I have returned to the land of my birth, to wander through the country for a time. Perhaps I will settle here, and make a new home, away from my memories. It wouldn’t be the first time I have had to flee my past. For now, I will remain in my former home, deep within old Prussia. There is a village nearby, where I can meet others should I choose to. Nineteen years is a long time, yet I fear it will be longer still before I can forgive myself. But I must leave for there is much to do before winter is through. I am grateful for my time in the west,. Rough though it was, it has taught me how to survive. I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I will make it through this. The entry ended abruptly, not even halfway down the page. It seemed a waste of paper to Daniel, but he figured the writer was wasteful. It was strange though. The writing showed a steady, careful hand, not one used to spending without thought. Daniel carefully turned the page, revealing another entry. This one was dated a little later, close to the end of the month, and Daniel wondered what had happened. New Year’s resolution gone awry? Did 1914 even have New Year’s resolutions? Regardless, he decided to read one more entry before turning in for the night. 19 January A blizzard came last night. I am locked inside the house for now. It is a good thing I returned from the village yesterday afternoon. I have been chopping wood in preparation for this as well. I am as stocked up as any dragon could be. I can last for a month in here, longer if I boil snow for water. The only issue I see for now is the chamberpot, and for that I have gramyre. There is still much to do inside the house. I have a gramophone for music, as well as her violin. I’m making progress with it, though I still have trouble playing. I study my grimoire daily, learning new healing spells. All too little, too late. But I will be prepared should there ever be a next time. Then I also have my chores around the house, and my mother’s library to sort through. Should I remain for a long time, I will have to upgrade it. But that is all for the day. I don’t expect much writing to be done. There won’t be anything of note for some time. Again the words cut off suddenly, as though their master was afraid of farewells. A dragon scared. The idea seemed humorous for some reason. It happened. Daniel himself was scared of being on the open water. So why did it seem so funny? And who was this dragon, so hurt by life? Slowly the enigma would unravel, and Daniel would learn who this dragon was. With that thought, Daniel recovered his bookmark, and slid the journal closed around it, saving the words for another day. He woke early the next morning, the journal on his mind. His dreams had been plagued by a mysterious dragon. More magic, a gramyre that drew others to him. Sighing, Daniel swung his feet over the side of his bed, and stretched his wings. For once, he had no desire to exercise. He just wanted to curl up in a chair and continue reading. But he hadn’t gotten his shape by taking breaks. Throwing on a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt, the dragon headed for the door of his flat, grabbing his phone as he went. His feet crunched in newly fallen snow as he emerged from the building, and a gust of wind sent a shiver through his body. Shaking it off, the dragon tucked in his wings, and took off, jogging north. He had done this run hundreds of times before, and the course was ingrained in his mind. Music played from his phone, the latest popular song from the radio. It was loud enough to be heard, but not so loud as to be annoying. As he ran, he thought through a couple spells. Every dragon family carried a grimoire with them, and his was no exception, though it was relatively new, with only two generations of spells before his own. He was expected to change that, a task he took to with not a little trepidation. Around kilometre two, his mind turned from a warming spell to the journal. It nagged at him constantly, and he was started to regret ever picking him up. But he had started something and he could not just let it go unfinished. Kilometre three came and went as he turned back to home. There was no work to be done today, save for work around the flat. As he returned home, Daniel made a beeline for the journal, promising himself he’d stop at one more entry. 29 January I created a way out today. There is now an eight foot long tunnel of snow in front of my door. I couldn’t handle remaining inside any longer. A dragon’s got to fly. It was my first flight in what they’re calling Germany. And it was cold, but it satisfied me. I will live another week. While I was out, I took the opportunity to chop some more wood. Magic can only do so much after all. I have heard rumors stirring of unrest to the south. It’s no big news really. The Balkans have always been rowdy. Nonetheless, I will head to Hamburg tomorrow, and make sure my papers are in order. If there’s any trouble involving the country’s allies, I don’t want to be too suspicious. A foreigner then. But still no name, and with no name, no story outside of what was within the pages of the diary. It didn’t concern Daniel too much. He still wasn’t sure what he should do with the book. The owner was long gone. The best he could hope for was to find the surviving family, but would they even care? He wanted to read on, to see if the next entry might give any inkling of a name, but he had told himself only a single entry. Muttering under his breath about self imposed limits, Daniel stood up and tracked down his grimoire from where it lay in his bedroom. He spent an hour casting simple spells, building his ability and training his mind. With his practice over, he went online to check on his American friend. ‘What’s new with you today?’ It took a few minutes, but Ryan eventually replied, ‘The same old shit. Jake’s being Jake and Kel’s being Kel.’ ‘Eh, maybe you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.’ Daniel chuckled as he wrote, knowing it would probably go over Ryan’s head. ‘I guess not. I tried, and I’ll keep trying until it gets through his head.’ Daniel checked the time, sighing when he realized it was almost noon. ‘Gtg. The gym is calling my name.’ ‘I thought you didn’t work today?’ ‘I don’t, but it’s leg day for me, so I have to go in anyways. Later.’ ‘Later dude.’ Daniel closed his computer, and laced up his trainers once more. The gym was only a ten minute run, but on leg days, he had a hard time getting home, so he took his car today. An hour of working out, and then he’d be back to the journal… Ninety minutes and three hot compresses around the leg later, and Daniel had his hands on the journal once more. A plate of sugar cookies sat in front of him, a holiday treat. He munched on one as he opened the journal to his bookmark. 3 February It is done at last. I am now listed in the annals of German citizens as David Enterai. Now I have the two day walk back home. I could fly, but not until i leave Hamburg, and the city is a big place. It has been an experience coming into the city. There are these loud monstrosities moving around that they call ‘cars’. I remember hearing something about them, but to see one in person was quite the shock. Scared a few of the horses too. I haven’t been around this many people in a while either. I realize that I have really secluded myself in the past nineteen years. I did manage to get the violin to a luthier for some tuning. The fox told me it would take a day to get it sorted out. I suppose I can find an inn, though I don’t have much money on me at the moment. I’ll pick up the instrument in the morning, and if it has been damaged in any way, may the heavens help that fox. Enterai. David Enterai. He had a name now. It was a start. Daniel grabbed his phone, and started typing. He wasn’t quite sure what he was looking for. A family? A death certificate? “Wait… He’s alive?!” Daniel stared at his phone, where a picture of a blue dragon stood with a tiger leaning against him. The facebook page listed a town in America, but didn’t give an actual address. Daniel looked back at the journal. “Shite, I’ve been reading this bloke’s memories…” A week passed before he touched the book again. It felt weird, reading the thoughts of someone who was still living. He wanted to return the journal, but how could he? The dragon was across the pond, and Daniel was not planning on visiting America any time soon. He continued his daily routines, working at the gym, and practicing his spells, but the journal continued to nag at him. Daniel returned home from work after the New Year, and found the book laying open suspiciously. “Fuck, I guess more wouldn’t hurt. I mean, he’s going to know I read it if he gets it back anyway.” The dragon hated magic sometimes. Especially fatal magic. He would not be able to rest until he got the journal to this dragon. Maybe. It was still unclear exactly what he needed to do with it, but for now, he continued to read. 23 February I bought a gun today. One of those Gewehrs they sell here. Upon inspection, I found it perfect for a marksman. Those bottles will never bother anyone again. I don’t really need the weapon, but I feel like it helps me fit in. I figured, if Zenoan was still looking for me, he’d find me through the census. If he does show up, I’m ready for him, but I hope he’ll bury the hatchet and we can go our separate ways in peace. Father willed me the sword, it is mine by right. I don’t want to get into all that again though. It’s been thirty years since I’ve seen family. I have to assume they’re going to leave me alone now. Again it cut off. There was another name. Maybe he’d have an address? Daniel looked up Zenoan Enterai, but was unable to find anything. It was just a name, nothing more than that. Then he realized Ryan lived in the same town. He would know where David lived if no one else did. It took only a moment to send the text. While he waited, Daniel continued to read. 2 March Truly I live in an age of wonders. Yesterday a newspaper reported the successful flight of a balloon for over 3,000 kilometres. I don’t doubt that some day I will have competition over the sky. It used to be my place to think, my place of peace. Now the world has taken even the sky from me. I will watch this ballooner with interest. Maybe I am wrong and this dream of flight will die as it begins. Daniel’s phone buzzed, startling him from his reading. ‘There is a David Enterai here, but I don’t know where he live exactly.’ It had been a long shot, but Daniel still sighed with disappointment. ‘Thanks anyway,’ he replied, turning back to the book. 4 March The snow has finally started to melt. Perhaps spring has finally arrived. It’s still cold, but at least now I can stand to chop firewood. Two axes can cut a lot of logs at once. I should have enough firewood to last until summer soon. Tomorrow I’ll have to head back to the village. I’m out of fresh meat. Nothing. There was nothing there. Daniel growled in frustration. What was his magic trying to tell him? He skipped a couple pages, and found an entry from May. 5 May I met a young wolf today in the village. Wilhelm Galathar. He has done things to me that I have not felt since I met John in the Nebraska territory all those years ago. Claire, I hope you can forgive me for my dalliance, wherever you are. I have to believe that you would not want me to be celibate, for it is too late now. He has undone me. Strange. Claire was his great grandmother’s name. It wasn’t uncommon by any means, but Daniel still found it funny. Also, David had apparently still been alive when Nebraska, wherever that was, had still been an American territory. Daniel grabbed his phone again and searched. 1867. The year Nebraska became a state. He was probably older than that. Daniel took a deep breath. It was unnerving. Did all dragons share that lifespan? And he had lost what seemed to be his his wife. From what? Old age? Daniel inhaled once more, shakily. He felt for the man. That would be a hell in and of itself. And then there was that name. Claire. Maybe it was time to call his mum and get some questions answered… “Aye, her name was Claire. She was married to a dragon, if I remember Mother correctly. Gave up the baby. I think it was an age thing. The husband was older than her, and she thought the child might be taken away because of the differnce. We never heard anything from his family. I don’t think he had any.” “Thanks Mum. I want to do a little more digging, but this helps a lot,” Daniel said. “What’s with all the questions?” “Eh, nothing. Just a little personal project. I thought I might start a genealogy in my grimoire.” “That sounds brilliant. If you have any more questions, let me know.” “Thanks Mum. I will.” Daniel hung up, and put his head on the table. This was his great grandfather’s journal… He could still be wrong about it, but it was unlikely. Things were adding up too neatly… He spent a month thinking, worrying, and planning. Finally, he called Ryan. “Hey dude, what’s up?” the fox asked on the other end of the computer. “I need to talk with David.” “Um… sure, but I don’t know where to find hm right now.” “I mean in person. I’m coming to America.” “Oh. If you can wait a few months, you can stay at my place. It will save some money.” “I can wait,” Daniel agreed. “How long is a few months?” “Probably the end of the year. I’m thinking about moving out, and I should have my own place by then.” “Jake’s not playing nice?” “No,” Ryan sighed. “I need to go; he’s complaining about Tristan. Again.” “Okay. We can plan the details later then.” Ryan hung up,and Daniel glosed his computer. He was going to get his answers soon. The dragon stepped off the train, black scales glinting in the sunlight. He shivered in the winter cold, dressed in a tank top and a pair of shorts. “Hell, it’s colder here than at home,” he muttered under his breath, steam rising from his mouth with every word. Gathering his suitcase, he walked toward the entrance of the train station, passing through the doors. The interior of the station was utter chaos, people running everywhere, and voices raising to be heard over each other. The dragon scanned the mob until he saw a sign reading “Daniel Thethar”. Making his way through the throngs of people, he saw a blue fox holding up the sign. “Ryan?” he asked, approaching. “Yep. You’re Daniel?” the fox questioned in return, his accent strong in Daniel’s ears. “Aye.” “Great. Let’s get out of here. I can’t hear myself think,” Ryan said, pointing Daniel toward another door. A blast of cold wind met the two as they passed back into the outside world, and Daniel shivered. “I thought it would be warmer here,” he said. Ryan chuckled. “California has winters too you know. Come on. My car’s right over there.” They reached the vehicle quickly, both walking to the left side. “Um… your seat’s on the other side,” the fox told the dragon. “What? Oh, right, you folks drive on the wrong side of the road.” Daniel headed for the right side of the car, sticking his suitcase into the back. He slid into the front seat, sighing at the warmth inside as Ryan turned on the heater. “You can turn on the radio, but I’m afraid there’s only Christmas carols at the moment,” Ryan said as he pulled out of the parking lot. “Thanks, but I’m not a fan of those,” Daniel said, still trying to come to terms with having the steering wheel on the left of the car. He wanted to yell that Ryan was on the wrong side of the road and that he was going to crash, but as he started seeing other cars on the road, his mind slowly started to calm. Before he knew it, Ryan was pulling into another parking lot. They were in a large complex, and as they stepped out of Ryan’s car, the fox pointed Daniel toward a red door. They hurried to the entrance, and Ryan unlocked it, allowing the dragon inside. “I’ll get a key made for you within the week,” he said, flipping on the lights. “This place is huge,” Daniel said in surprise. “Just a two bed one bath,” Ryan shrugged. “Your room is on the left. I took the liberty of getting a bed so you won’t be sleeping on the floor tonight. I’m giving you a month to get settled, then you will be helping with half of the rent.” “Thank you. This means a lot,” Daniel smiled, dragging his suitcase into the bedroom. Ryan followed him. “We can work out something with food. The bathroom is through the center door in the hall. Feel free to take all the showers you’d like. I generally have lights out around midnight, so after that, please try to be quiet.” “Will do. If you don’t mind, I’m feeling rather tired right now. That was a rather long journey.” Daniel said, hand on the doorknob. “Of course. Let me know if you want to go anywhere. I’m off for the next three days, and we can get you some more… wintery clothes.” The fox backed off, and Daniel closed the door gratefully. Sitting on the unmade bed, he sighed, unzipping his case. The first thing he withdrew was a throw, which he placed on the bed. The rest he would unpack later. For now, the dragon curled up on the bed, and fell asleep. Daniel woke up in a dark room. His phone read six am, but it felt closer to noon. He flicked a light on, and looked around the empty room. Soon, he’d make his mark on it. But for now, he needed to practice. Pulling a thick tome out of his suitcase, the dragon plopped it on the bed, and lay on his stomach. He opened the grimoire, and began flipping through pages. “Nican du eim,” he murmured, and the light flew out of its bulb, and hovered around his hand. “Cen belan,” he continued, and the light returned to its glass prison. Satisfied, the dragon turned to another page, coming across a spell to show him the best path to any destination he desired. He already knew this spell worked, he had used it several times on his journey here. Now he used it to find a park where he could run, and maybe even stretch his wings. Grabbing his phone from the floor, he slipped on his trainers, and quietly slipped out of the apartment. The morning air froze his scales, and he thought about going back in to grab another shirt. But it wouldn’t really help. A spell came to mind, something to warm his skin, though it wouldn’t really help much other than that. It would be enough for now. “Tesoru mei galin,” he murmured, and his scales took on an orange glow as the air heated around him. Sighing in relief, Daniel began walking, following a yellow line only he could see. A kilometre later, he arrived at his destination, a rather large, wooded area. The dragon took off running, easing off on his heating spell as his body warmed itself. He came around a tree and stopped. A yellow dog sat huddled against the tree, grey sweatshirt pulled up over his eyes. “Hello,” Daniel said in surprise. The dog’s head shot up, his eyes meeting the dragon’s. “Hi,” he said quietly. “You okay mate? It’s pretty cold to be sitting out here.” The dog shrugged. “I could use some company, if you want to join me on my jog,” Daniel offered. “It’ll warm you up at least.” He helped the dog to his feet. “My name’s Daniel.” “Tristan,” came the muttered response. The dragon motioned ahead, and the two took off at a slow pace. “So what are you doing out here, if you don’t mind me being nosy.” “I dunno. Nothing really.” Daniel didn’t push the dog, sensing he’d come around in his own time. They continued jogging, Tristan running out of breath rather quickly. “Who are you?” he panted. “Usually this place is empty for another hour.” “I just moved here from England. I want to find David Enterai. I have a book that belongs to him.” “He left for Germany two days ago,” Tristan said, as they slowed to a walk. “Bollocks. Do you know when he’ll be back?” “Soon, I hope.” Daniel studied the dog. “You aren’t like… his boyfriend or anything, are you?” “No! Not at all. He’s dating a tiger. David’s just a friend.” “Oh. And what about you?” “A wolf,” Tristan growled. “I seem to have hit a nerve. My apologies.” Daniel glanced at his phone, figuring he could probably find a store on his way back to the apartment so he could get a sweatshirt. “Well, it’s time for me to head home. It was nice meeting you, Tristan. Maybe we can run again tomorrow?” “Sure. Whatever.” The dog turned and stalked back to the tree, leaving Daniel to find his way out of the park. Ryan stared at the dragon as he pushed the bar up. 200 pounds, and Daniel was handling it like a pro. He probably didn’t need a spotter. Not that Ryan would tell him that. The fox was too busy enjoying the view. Was this another roommate doomed to break his heart? Ryan snorted. He sure knew how to pick them. The dragon wasn’t even here for him, he was here for David. Something about a book. He’d stay in the country three months if Ryan was lucky. Then he’d be back across the Atlantic. The fox needed to work fast with this one. But after Jake, he didn’t know if he had it in him to even try. He had known Ryan for longer than he knew the dog, but that didn’t mean much. The dragon never hinted he might be interested in the fox. He helped the dragon set the bar back on the rack, and switched places with him, as Daniel removed some weights. “You want to try seventy kilos?” the dragon asked. “Huh?” The fox could see the dragon working through some math frantically. The look of concentration made him even more adorable. “Um, 170 pounds? I think?” “Yeah. Let’s go for it.” Hell, if he couldn’t do it, it might get Daniel’s hands on him. The dragon stood behind him. If he craned his eyes, Ryan could just get a glimpse of Daniel’s crotch. Their hands nearly touched on the bar, and Ryan shivered. “Ready?” “Ready,” he answered, taking a breath. “One, two, three.” The bar lifted, and they held it together for a second, before Daniel slowly took his hands away. Ryan’s arms shook slightly as he lowered the bar, but he forced his way through the pain, and pushed up. Three reps in, his arms faltered again, and Daniel’s hands gripped the bar, helping him ease it back onto the rack. “Eh, it was a good effort mate,” the dragon smiled. “We’ll try 65 next.” Damn, he didn’t know what it was about that accent, but Ryan would gladly roll over for the dragon. Focus Ryan. Focus. He took another deep inhale, and they began again. David paused as he stepped off the plane, taking a deep breath. He hated flying in the metal contraptions, but Max refused to ride on his back, at least while flying. There was something different about the town. He could feel a presence had entered the town in his absence. The blue dragon shrugged, and began walking again, catching up to Max. If it was a threat, he would deal with the newcomer when he was ready. “You okay?” Max inquired. “You look like you smelled a rotten egg.” “I’m fine. We may have company later though,” David answered, as the two walked through the airport. They left the building, and walked toward the street, David focusing on a clear area. A car appeared, old, but still in working condition. As much as he’d rather use his bike, the two had their luggage to think about. He stopped again, in the process of opening a door. Someone was coming. The dragon growled quietly, and Max looked at him in alarm. The tiger had never heard David growl in anger before, and the sound unnerved him. A dragon approached the two on foot, a heavy sweatshirt hiding most of his features. “David Enterai?” he questioned. “Who’s asking?” “My name is Daniel. I think you are my great grandfather.” “That’s a pretty wild claim.” “I know,” the dragon smiled apologetically. “But I’m pretty sure it’s true. Even if it isn’t, I have something for you.” The dragon pulled a worn black book out of his jacket, revealing hands covered in black scales. David stiffened at the sight of the book, and Max put a calming hand on the dragon’s shoulder, unsure of why a simple book would unsettle his beloved. “Where did you find that?” David asked quietly, dangerously. “In a bookstore in Portsmouth.’ “And am I correct in assuming you read it?” “Most of it,” Daniel admitted. “It’s how I knew where to find you.” “You don’t simply track a person through a journal they wrote a hundred years ago.” “No, but I had some help. A fox, Ryan, said you lived in town.” “And you came here from England just to give me my journal back?” “Um, no. I came because my mum mentioned your name. Something about a doe named Claire too. Said she was my great grandmother. I put two and two together after reading the journal, and came up with you.” “So why come here? What does it matter? I will tell you one thing. Claire and i never had a child together.” Daniel faltered. “Y-you didn’t?” “No, for various personal reasons I will not discuss with you. And I do not appreciate a runt coming up out of nowhere, insinuating that my deceased wife slept around. This conversation is over. Now if you will give me my journal, we will part ways and never speak with each other again.” The blue dragon snatched the book away from the black, and stormed to the driver seat of the car. Max quickly slid into the passenger seat, and the two peeled away, leaving a chastised black dragon in the dust. “You’re leaving.” It was a statement, delivered in a worn voice. The fox was tired, defeated. Yet another person was leaving him. “Yeah, I have a flight tomorrow,” Daniel said. “I’m sorry. I thought I could stay here, but he doesn’t seem to want me around.” “Who cares what he thinks? Daniel, you crossed an entire fucking ocean to give him that damned book. Did he even thank you?” The dragon shook his head. “Look, this was a nice vacation. But I need to go home. Maybe you can come visit me sometime?” Ryan sighed. “Yeah, maybe.” The fox stood up from the couch. “Well, if this is your last day, we can at least make it memorable. What time do you have to catch your plane?” “Noon.” “Perfect,” Ryan smiled. “What are you planning?” the dragon asked. “Oh, just a stroll through the nightlife. I figure you could use a drink.” “Actually, I could use something,” Daniel said. “Great, let’s get going.” The dragon could feel the pounding music in his feet a block away. He had no idea where Ryan was dragging him, but the fox seemed happy. Daniel had the nagging suspicion that he wouldn’t enjoy the evening half as much. As they neared the entrance to the building, Daniel saw a yellow lab walk away from the door dejectedly. “What’s up with Tristan?” he asked the fox. “Eh, he’s our depressed little puppy. The town kind of looks out for him. But he should know better than to try and get into a bar. He’s still got a year to go,” Ryan said loudly, as the music threatened to mute his voice. ‘Fuck it,’ Daniel thought, casting a spell that muted the music in his ears. The dragon walked to the door, shocked when a rather bulky wolf stopped him. “You gotta show him your I.D.” Ryan laughed. Muttering about silly American rules, Daniel took out his passport and showed it to the wolf, who let him pass. The fox came through a second later, and they passed together into the flashing lights within. Ryan took Daniel’s hand, and dragged him to a bar. “WHAT DO YOU LIKE?” he yelled, causing Daniel to wince. Maybe the spell had been a bad idea… He let the magic go, and flinched as the noise hit him with all the weight of a freight train. “What spirits do you have?” he asked. “Whiskey, vodka, rum-” “Whiskey’s fine.” Ryan nodded, and pushed his way through a throng of bodies, vanishing quickly. Daniel felt eyes on him, and he turned, spotting David glaring at him from the corner of the building. “Bloody hell,” he muttered, looking away. “Hey sexy…” The dragon spun at the voice, finding a buck standing uncomfortably close to him. “You here alone?” the deer asked, a drink in hand. “No, I’m with Ryan.” The buck laughed. “You’re alone. Ryan’s probably hooked up with some wolf already.” The deer put his hand around Daniel’s shoulders, and the dragon shrugged him off. “Come on man, I’m just being friendly.” “I’d rather you didn’t. I don’t even know you.” “Oh, where are my manners? Anthony Quinn. And you are?” “Daniel.” “Well Daniel, you have the sexiest accent I have heard in a while. You want a drink?” Anthony offered the glass to Daniel, who smelled vodka mixed with a powder. “Um, no thanks.” “C’mon, just a sip?” “Look, leave me alone. I’m not interested.” Daniel felt his ire roused, and he took a step away from the deer. “Hey Anthony, get the fuck out of here,” Ryan snapped behind him. Scowling, the deer turned, and melted back into the crowd. “I don’t seem to be making many friends today,” Daniel groused, as Ryan handed him a glass. The dragon eyed it warily. Not finding anything wrong, he took a drink. “What is this?” he asked, taking another sip. “Whiskey and coke,” Ryan shrugged. “On me. Think of it as a going away present. And trust me, you don’t want to be friends with Anthony. He’s the town slut.” Daniel noticed a similar coloured drink in Ryan’s hand. “You’re not driving us home?” “Nah, we’ll get a cab or something. Don’t worry I won’t get drunk. You can get as drunk as you want though.” “Um… thanks.” It was strange, having weak whiskey mixed with the taste of pop, but Daniel shrugged it off. He could get a beer after. He let Ryan lead him to a table, his ears finally adjusted to the volume around him. A fox approached them, and Daniel stared at her, shocked at how much she looked like Ryan. If her fur was blue instead of black, and she didn’t have wings, Daniel would have sworn they were twins. “Hey Faelan, how’s it going?” Ryan asked, as the fox quickly wiped the table. “It’s Friday at ten. How do you think it’s going?” Ryan chuckled. “So, this is the Brit? Nice to meet you,” Faelan said, holding out her paw. “The same you you,” Daniel replied, surprised by the firm handshake. “Either of you want something? Max started working today, and he actually is pretty good.” “That’s David’s boyfriend?” Daniel asked. “Yep. Fine tiger ass and all.” “Don’t let Pip hear you say that,” Ryan warned. “Oh please, Pip drools over Max more than me.” The two chuckled, while Daniel looked on in confusion. He finished his drink while Faelan and Ryan continued to chat. Soon, the fox was called away, and Ryan turned back to the dragon. “She’s a fun girl,” he said. “I can see that.” Ryan looked at him. “You wanna dance?” “I- what?!” The fox took the dragon’s hand and dragged him to an area where the crowd was bouncing around. “Hell no mate! I’m nowhere near drunk enough for this!” “You’re cute when you’re nervous,” Ryan laughed, getting into the beat. “And you’re a cock gobbling tit,” Daniel shot back, his ears burning. “Ooh, dragon got some fire. Go talk to Faelan if you aren’t drunk enough. She’ll hook you up.” “That’s not the point! I don’t want to dance!” “Then don’t,” Ryan shrugged. Daniel stalked back to the table, and sat down. A moment later, Faelan walked up with a mug of beer. “Compliments of Max, who says he apologizes for earlier. Whatever that means,” the fox shrugged, setting the beer down. Daniel took a sip, and smiled. It was Guiness. Perhaps a watered down version of it, but the flavour was there. “Tell him thanks,” he said. Faelan nodded, and left. Daniel drank his beer, and looked for Ryan. He found the fox dancing with a wolf, and something inside him grew restless. ‘What the hell am I doing?’ The dragon stood up and walked to the fox. He tapped the wolf on the shoulder, and yelled, “May I step in here mate?” The wolf grinned, and stepped aside. Daniel grabbed Ryan’s wrist, and pulled him to the edge of the crowd. “What the hell man?!” “I don’t know what’s going on, but don’t dance with that wolf. Or anyone.” “Kel? What’s wrong with Kel? He’s already taken.” “I don’t care. Just don’t.” “Well excuse me, but you don’t own me. You’re not even my boyfriend.” Daniel growled quietly, and Ryan stared at him, startled. The dragon grabbed the fox, and kissed him. Ryan resisted momentarily, trying to catch up. Then he gave in, deepening the kiss. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what got into me,” Daniel apologised, pulling back. “Whatever it was, can you do it again?” Daniel shook his head, backing away. “Can we go please?” Ryan touched his lips, trying to hold the moment in his mind. He nodded slowly, and followed Daniel out of the bar. Ryan heard the sound of objects hitting the floor in Daniel’s room. He hesitated at the door. The dragon was going to leave. Did he really want to get involved in a long distance relationship? The door opened suddenly, and the dragon slammed into the fox, dropping them both to the floor. “Sorry,” Daniel muttered, standing up. He hurried out to the living room, and looked around. “You haven’t seen a book laying around, have you?” he asked. Ryan tore his eyes off of the dragon’s ass long enough for the question to register. “Um, yeah, under the pillow on the couch.” The dragon bent over the couch, and Ryan could have sworn the room temperature rose a good ten degrees. He realized he was still on the floor, and hurried to his feet as the dragon turned with a book in his hands. “Thanks,” Daniel said, heading back into the room, and closing the door. He was ruining this. Ryan had no idea what was happening. One minute the dragon had been growling, the next, they’d been kissing, and then the dragon had just... stopped. The door opened again, and Daniel stopped, pantsless. “Did you need something?” he asked. Ryan gulped, fighting the downward drift of his eyes. “Yeah, about earlier-” “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I really don’t.” “But I liked it.” “I know,” Daniel said dejectedly. “But it’s not like I can stay in town. Not with David around.” “You don’t have to stay to have fun for one night. And we don’t have to leave it off after only one night either.” Ryan’s hand moved up to Daniel’s cheek, giving the lightest touch. The dragon inhaled sharply, and Ryan smiled. “If you want me to stop, just tell me,” the fox whispered into the dragon’s ear. His hand trailed down Daniel’s face, to the dragon’s shirt. Unclipping the buttons holding the shirt around Daniel’s wings, Ryan carefully removed the clothing. He let his hands trace over Daniel’s chest, eliciting another sigh from the dragon. As Ryan let his hands explore Daniel’s body, he confirmed that the dragon’s abs were rock hard. He traced Daniel’s love handles with his thumbs, and the dragon’s breath quickened. The gentlest scrape of his claws on the waist of Daniel’s lime green briefs sent shivers through the dragon. “I- I have to go in a few hours…” “I know,” Ryan breathed. “But you’re already packed, and this needs some attention.” The fox cupped the tented briefs in his hand, and Daniel moaned quietly. Ryan was determined to take his time. He knew he’d probably never see the dragon again after today, and he wanted to memorize every moment that he could. Daniel stepped into the fox, his crotch rubbing against Ryan’s. ‘Oh no boy, I’m in charge here,’ Ryan thought, moving back ever so slightly. Daniel growled quietly, the same sound from last night, and Ryan froze. The dragon nearly tore off the fox’s shirt, and Ryan chuckled nervously. “Okay, I guess you’re in charge…” Daniel huffed in agreement, burying his nose in Ryan’s neck fur. His crotch grinded against Ryan’s reminding the dragon the the fox still wore pants. A moment later, they were in tatters on the floor. “Hey, those were my favourite sweats,” Ryan protested. “You shouldn’t have started what you weren’t prepared to finish,” Daniel laughed. He was a completely different beast now, cocky, and rough. And Ryan loved every second of it. The dragon turned, rubbing his ass against Ryan, and the fox’s breath caught. “Are you serious?” he asked. “Aw, is the little bitty fox afraid to top?” “Not at all,” Ryan grinned. ‘You better get ready for the wildest ride of your life.’ He went to pull Daniel’s underwear off, and the dragon stopped him. Suddenly, his underwear was on the floor, and he was naked, his dick pressing into Daniel’s back. “You know, we probably should get some lube and a condom,” the fox smirked. Daniel sighed, and Ryan led him into his room. He found what he was looking for quickly, as Daniel removed his briefs. The fox dealt with the condom, and took care of the dragon’s ass. When he was confident he wouldn’t hurt Daniel, Ryan pushed the dragon onto the bed, and straddled his lap. It took a little effort, but the fox was quickly at the dragon’s door. Looking Daniel in the eye, he saw an indescribable need, and he acted on it. Pushing hard, Ryan popped into the dragon, both of them gasping at the invasion. The fox hadn’t topped in years, and he fought himself, holding out. He thrust quickly, not giving Daniel a chance to get accustomed to him. The dragon groaned with every thrust, and Ryan knew he was hitting the sweet spot. Daniel’s dick pressed against Ryan’s stomach, leaking heavily, and Ryan twisted his torso so he could lap at the juice that came from the dragon. “Bet your tongue can’t do this,” he panted, still ramming deep inside the dragon. The only response was a shudder, as Daniel suddenly released onto Ryan’s tongue, way sooner than the fox expected. No matter. He could play along. The fox redoubled his efforts, feeling Daniel wince in discomfort under him. Within seconds, the fox was gasping in his own orgasmic pleasure, knot buried deep within the dragon. Ryan lowered himself until he was laying on top of Daniel, both of them panting heavily. He still squirted into the condom, and he knew Daniel could feel the pulsing. But the dragon didn’t complain, instead tentatively running his hand down Ryan’s back. The fox moaned in ecstasy under Daniel’s ministrations, his eyes closing, just for a second. “Oi, wake up!” Ryan’s eyes opened suddenly, and he found himself lying nude in his bed. Daniel was dressed, and standing at the door. “You gonna drive me?” the dragon asked. “Wha- oh…” Ryan groaned as he sat up. The condom was gone, and he assumed Daniel had dealt with it. “Give me a minute dude. I need to get dressed.” Daniel shrugged, and left the fox in peace. Standing up, Ryan grabbed a new pair of sweats and a shirt. He walked blearily into the bathroom, and relieved himself before dressing. The fox found the dragon standing by the front door, bag in hand. “So…” Ryan said. “So… What now? What exactly did we get from that?” the dragon asked, somewhat bitterly. “A good time?” Ryan shrugged. “I don’t know man.” He scratched his neck. “Well, we better go,” Daniel sighed, opening the door. Ryan followed him out to the car, and slid into the driver’s seat. They pulled out quickly, and sped on their way. “You know, I’ve never had a one night stand before,” Daniel said. “I’d like to think this doesn’t count,” Ryan replied. “I like you, love you, even. I was looking forward to you staying here longer than you did.” Daniel stared at the fox. “You serious mate?” Ryan snorted. “Of course I am dummy. I don’t joke about these things.” “So, what, you want us to be boyfriends? I don’t really know how that will work out,” Daniel said. Ryan shrugged. “It sure as hell beats never seeing you again. Maybe next year you can show me England.” Daniel’s hand found its way to Ryan’s thigh, and rested there. The fox placed his own hand on top and squeezed it gently. “We’ll definitely have to work out who’s in charge in bed though,” he laughed. Daniel chuckled. “I thought it was obvious.” “So, this is a yes then?” “Aye,” Daniel smiled, as they pulled into the airport. Ryan walked with the dragon to the gate,and the two stopped to face each other. Slowly, cautiously, Daniel kissed the fox. “I love you too,” he whispered. Then the dragon turned and made his way to the plane, leaving the fox alone. With a heavy sigh, Ryan turned, and headed back to his car. Daniel stared at his phone, fuming silently. Three whole days, and not a word. It had started out great. Ryan had sent him a tonne of messages the first day, while he was switching planes. Then they had stopped. The first day, Daniel assumed Ryan had been busy. He had been busy himself, going to the gym and letting his boss know he was back. He’d start working in a week, and saving up for Ryan’s visit. The second day with no message, Daniel had sent one of his own. It went unread. He sent ten more messages, asking if Ryan was okay, begging the fox to talk to him. They all went unread. By day three, he was beyond worried. He looked through Facebook, tracking down Faelan. A message was sent, and he sat in his apartment, growing ever more agitated. ‘What’s up?’ the fox sent an hour later. ‘Ryan won’t answer any of my messages. Is everything okay?’ ‘I don’t know. No one has seen him in two days,’ came the reply. Daniel’s heart sank into his feet. ‘We thought he went with you. I’ll talk to David and see if he knows anything.’ ‘Let me know as soon as you hear anything,” Daniel sent, before putting his phone aside. The dragon wandered slowly to his room and fell into his bed. He curled up in the corner with his blanket, and cried himself to sleep.
  7. This is the story of Daniel, and his search for Ryan, the fox who stole his heart then vanished.
  8. 1865 CLAIRE ENTERAI Claire settled into her seat, glancing at her husband. He had flown all this way just for her; a near nonstop flight from California to Washington D.C. just so she could visit her family. And though the visit hadn’t gone well, she still appreciated the lengths the dragon went to to make her happy. They sat in some theatre, watching a farce she had seen several times over. Not that she would mention that to him. Just watching it with David brought her joy, seeing how he reacted to Dundreary’s shenanigans. If he liked them so much, she’d show him shenanigans… The doe looked down, hiding her mischievous grin behind a facade of shyness. It wouldn’t do to let her lecherous thoughts be known in public. She lightly stroked the back of David’s hand, revelling in the closeness of him, the time they spent together. The dragon looked at her, a gleam in his eye. Had he heard her thoughts through his gramyre? A loud bang startled her, and a gasp escaped from her maw. Someone in the balcony across the theatre was slumped in his seat, a thin wisp of smoke rising around him. David was standing in front of her an instant later, wings outstretched, blocking her view. “Don’t look,” he urged as the theatre filled with screams. Someone yelled something, Latin from the sound, and David gritted his teeth. He took Claire’s hand and hurried her out of the theatre, keeping her gaze shielded. The doe’s heart pounded as she tried to keep up with him. She remained quiet, trusting him to see her to safety. Only when they were a block from the theatre did she voice her question. “What happened?” “I didn’t realize the President would be there,” David muttered. “Zi nelv du cen heyno.” “What happened?” Claire asked again. “Did someone get shot?” The dragon nodded. “Come on,” he said, hailing a carriage. “We’re going back to the hotel, then we’re heading home.” 1914 DAVID ENTERAI All was quiet around Ypres. The guns had fallen silent some hours prior, and the sound of singing could be heard from both trench lines. David stamped his feet, and flexed his wings. The bitter cold had plagued him all month, but he felt that he was starting to get used to it. Winter uniforms were nonexistant, and more than a few of his compatriots had frozen, to be buried with little ceremony. He supposed he was lucky to be alive. Or unlucky. Bending so his knee was an inch off the ground, he created a tiny flame on a dry piece of wood, letting the fire warm him, though briefly. “Sie kommen!” someone called down the trench. Peering over the parapet, David spotted movement in the fields of no man’s land. Screw it, if I get shot, I get shot. Hoisting himself out of the trench, the dragon winced at the brief contact with the ground. Standing, he shoved his hands into his shirt, and walked forward. His peers, emboldened by his actions, joined him, a jovial mood spreading through the ranks. A lion raised his hand in greeting. “Hallo Jerry! Frohe Weirnatchen!” he called. “Danke! Auch dir Frohe Wiernatchen!” David replied. Meeting, the two exchanged a handshake and a smile, the lion’s warm and friendly, David’s a ghostly attempt at warmth. Around them, the two sides mingled, a mix of German and English flowing through the frozen air. David slipped away as soon as he was able to, taking shelter in a crater. He had done what was needed, allowing the Christmas truce to flourish. Lighting another fire on a broken fence post, he began warming up. “Hey. Do you know English?” someone asked, jumping into the crater beside him. “Yes I do,” David said, looking at his new companion. The white wolf stared back at him. “You’re American,” he said. “What are you doing with Fritz?” “It’s a long story.” “We aren’t going anywhere,” the wolf said, looking up at the mid morning sky. David shrugged. “My cousin is German,” he said, omitting the fact that his cousin had perished in the Mexican American war over seventy years before. “I’ve been travelling the world, and decided to stop by for a visit. The war kicked off while I was in Germany, and I decided to join before it ended. I wasn’t expecting it to last this long.” That was a lie. David expected this conflict to last for quite some time. He hadn’t expected to still be alive however. Bad luck. “And they just let a foreigner join their ranks?” David laughed drily. “Hardly. I’m a mercenary. It’s kind of the family business.” “Ah. I see.” Both were quiet for a moment, warming themselves with the fire. “You seem like a decent fellow,” the wolf spoke up. “Do you have a girl waiting for you somewhere?” “I had. My wife died a while back.” “Oh. I’m sorry to hear that mate.” A stiff breeze blew out the flames, and David sighed. “You know, I’m sure she would have wanted you to continue living.” The dragon kicked at a spent casing. “I know,” he muttered. “What about you? Got anyone waiting back home?” “Nope. I’m as free as a bird. I’ll find someone eventually though. You hang in there mate. We’ll get out of this together. Merry Christmas.” The wolf jumped out of the crater, leaving the dragon behind. David pulled a silver locket out of his shirt, and studied it. “Life is temporary, but love is forever.” Holding it tightly in his hand, David whispered, “Merry Christmas mei areula.” 1916 DAVID ENTERAI Summer was his favourite season. So David reflected as he crawled into no man’s land. No rain for days, and no mud. It could very well change for the worse, but he didn’t see why it should. Except to make his existence terrible, but then, it already was. The weather didn’t need to help with that. Sliding over the bloated corpse of a horse, he scanned the dark skies around him for any hint of the sun. Finding none, he continued his work, heading deeper into the land that could very well become his own grave. He descended into a crater, and made himself at home, setting up a blind and covering his gun so it was nigh invisible. Casting his mind before him, he checked his camouflage. It was good. And now the wait began. He came early in the morning so no one would see his work, but now he would be trapped until night fell. David had been working this line for well over a year. He knew a general schedule of the British lines, though most of the men in the enemy trench seemed to be a Canadian corps lately. They liked to switch things up on him occasionally, but David enjoyed the challenge. It was about the only fun he had. Word had come that the Brits were plotting something to the south. It didn’t concern David. He would be in Ypres for the foreseeable future. Maybe he would even be part of the force that finally captured the town. But for now, he waited. Judging the sun’s rise, he figured it was about six in the morning. The enemy stand to had passed. Now foraging parties would begin darting place to place on both sides, praying to evade himself and the other snipers. They, too, did not concern him today. He was after a far more dangerous game. A crack sounded in the still morning air, and he spotted a muzzle flash to the north. Turning his rifle to bear, he cast his mind out again, floating above the ground until he found his target, a white wolf. David hesitated, recalling another wolf, and a frozen Christmas two years prior. He sent his mind’s eye about finding the perfect spot, though he had found it almost instantly. Sighing, David withdrew, and lined up his target. Taking a breath, he steadied his iron sight, and squeezed the trigger. The bark of his rifle sounded, and he ducked instantly. His target was hit, he was sure of it. But now he had to watch for return fire. David lay back in his crater, steadying his breath. No matter how many times he took a life, it still screwed with his mind. The sudden whistle of shells overhead took his mind off the death, however. They were unusual. The two sides often shelled each other throughout the day, but these shells were heavier than normal. David’s blood froze as he spotted a green flare rising into the air. His position was about to be swarmed by a wave of bodies. Peeking over the crater’s edge, he saw a mass of bodies leave the enemy trenchline. Ducking back down, he took a deep breath. He would get through this. As the screams of charging men met the sounds of German fire, the dragon splayed his wings, adopting a prone position in his hole. The wave reached him, feet tripping over him. A cat fell with a gurgle on his left wing, and David bit back a yelp as he felt bone crack. Pain rushed into his shoulder, but he didn’t dare even mouth a healing spell. In a way, the cat had helped, adding his blood to the scene. Now they were just two more dead amidst hundreds of others. Their eyes met, and the cat gasped, “Help…” David stayed motionless as blood pulsed from the feline. He watched the life drain from his eyes, feeling sick. Mere minutes later, and another wave came, this time from behind as the attackers fled back to their trench in defeat. Bullets whizzed overhead, a rain of death. He didn’t dare to lift his head, for fear of being shot by his own. Gradually the world passed back into quiet, and then David moved. He rolled the corpse off his wing, whimpering as the weight shifted. Panting as he sat gingerly against the back of the hole, he glared at the cat. “A fine pickle you’ve put me in here,” he said sourly, running his hand over his wing. It was broken in two spots. A quick spell wouldn’t fix this. “Nelheda,” David whispered, and the pain in his shoulder lessened, though it didn't go away completely. It was much more bearable now though, and David set about trying to figure out a new plan. He couldn’t leave the hole he was in; he’d become an instant target for both sides in the nervous pause. As the minutes passed and the world remained quiet, save for the cries of the dying, David relaxed slightly. Minutes became an hour, and then two. The sun reached its zenith, cheerful light shining upon the bloody carnage of the earth. A cloud hid it from view briefly, and David waited. He had played this game many times before, and knew how it went. This time though, he was injured, and the pain distracted him constantly. Snipers fired around him, but he no longer joined their exchange, having lost the lust for killing, the drive to be better. Finally the sun neared the horizon once more, and now David made his move. He would not be returning to this crater again. Sliding out of the tomb, the dragon crawled back along the ground, ever alert for a shot that could spell his death. He was early today, but it couldn’t be helped. He needed to have his wing checked. “Wer geht dahin?” someone challenged, as he approached the line. “Der Scharfschutze,” came David’s pained reply. He was allowed entrance to the trench, and immediately made his way to the support line in search of a doctor. He would not be back in the field for a while. 1924 DAVID ENTERAI David knocked back another whiskey. It was some expensive stuff, but then, things had started rising in price lately. It was a sign of the times, and why he had left Germany after the war. He had purchased a modest home in the German countryside before leaving, but with the German economy in shambles at the moment, David was not going to remain. Not that America seemed any better lately. This Prohibition of theirs was really hurting him. Too many memories haunted him, and without alcohol to dull his mind, he was even more miserable than before. And so he had found his way here, to an underground speakeasy, where youth spouted poetry and the drinks flowed without end. David turned the glass in his hand. There had to be a better way… A month later, the dragon stood before a brown concoction in his house. He was certain the stuff wouldn’t hurt him, but he still wanted to see if it would work the way he needed it to. Taking a deep breath, David raised the flask to his lips and drank. The taste was horrible, like moldy shoes mixed with rat droppings. But he could feel it working, and a smile lifted the corners of his mouth. There would be more tests, but he had finally found a way to be happy again. 1938 DAVID ENTERAI So many graves... David knelt in the grass, bowing his head before a cross grave marker. He had put the body here. And now he prepared to do it again. "Please forgive me, wherever you are," he murmured. Rising, the dragon slung his rifle over his shoulder, and let his wings carry him into the air. The sound of a propeller engine entered his ears, and the dragon muttered a spell, distorting the air around him. He was used to the tin cans sharing his space now, and viewed them as little more than an annoyance. Checking his chronometer, David sped up, body slicing through the air. He'd make it to his destination in time. But he still needed time to prepare. Landing on a grassy knoll, the dragon studied a camp surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers. Hos target should be coming out through a certain door in two minutes. Pulling his rifle off his shoulder, the dragon loaded it with the speed of an expert. He tested the lever action, confidant it would work, before adopting a prone position. Then he waited. And there he was. Herr Goether, the commander of the guards in this prison. The dragon wasted no time in lining up his shot, aiming for a point a dozen meters in front of the hyena guard. Steadying his breath, the dragon pulled the trigger of his rifle, listening to the comforting bark of the weapon. It would take the bullet ten seconds to reach its target, and another minute for the guards to reach his position. By that time, Goether would be dead, and David long gone. 1995 DAVID ENTERAI David walked through the oaks, his feet straying from the paths walked by the public. He should be out with the gang, he knew. But there was something he needed to do. The past five years had been fun, but honestly, hanging with Silas and the others no longer appealed to him. He traced a path he knew by heart, a path made by his heart. And surrounded by four willows amid the mighty oaks, he found his destination. It was a marker only his eyes could see, one older than any other in this town. Kneeling before it, he removed a bouquet of roses from his leather jacket, and placed it on the dirt. His head bowed in silent contemplation for a minute. “One hundred years. It is quite the milestone. Do you remember the words you spoke? Do you remember the promise you made? I do. I think about it every day I am here and you are not. I am glad for you, mei areula, that your heart will never know the pain of mine. You are free from the chains of this world, and I have been through so much that taking my life now would seem like the ultimate failure. But you shouldn't have to listen to all that.” David fell silent again, rolling into a lotus. A fallen twig poked into his thigh, but he paid it no mind. “A lot has happened since I last spoke to you. You wouldn't believe the half of it. Everything is so different now, from our quiet home in the woods. The town is growing. The Rabbits had a baby, Cog. He's adorable. You would love him. I've offered to babysit for them, but I don't think they'll take me up on it. I feel people would rather I was the quiet presence in the town.” The dragon chuckled dryly. “I'm sure I'm the one to blame for that. I haven't exactly been the most outgoing person in the past fifty years. Most of that is because of Zenoan. He moved into a cave on the outskirts of the town, and I keep offering to help him find a house, but I think he's still pissed at me over the sword. It makes me a little nervous. With the grimoire, he is a stronger mage than I can hope to be. But he hasn't tried anything yet.” David looked up at the setting sun. “I need to leave. They're closing the gates in a few minutes and I'd rather not hold anyone up.” He placed his hand briefly on the dirt, and a ghostly marker appeared, tendrils of energy spreading out from it. “You'll be safe for another century now. With luck I will join you in your rest.” The dragon turned away, but the marker remained for another minute, smoke forming words that twisted in the air. Claire Enterai 3 January 1823 5 May 1895 Rest In Peace 2014 MAXIMUS MARKHAUS The tiger stood in front of Max, his hands deftly working the tie into an appropriate knot. “There you go. John will be the envy of the school with you beside him,” he smiled. “Danke Henri.” Max mumbled, blushing. “I’m happy I was able to see you go to prom before I left overseas,” Henri said. “Just remember, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.” “Did you feel like this with Sara?” “Like what?” “Like this night would change your life forever?” Henri laughed. “Nein Bruder. I just felt very nervous, excited.” He clapped Max on the shoulder. “You’ll be okay.” The chime of the doorbell sounded in Max’s ears, and his stomach flipped. A second later, he heard his mother’s voice. “Max, John ist hier!” “Hey, I’ll be gone by the time you get back, but I want to hear all about tonight, okay?” Henri said. “Ja. I’ll tell you everything.” “Eh, you can leave out any sex,” Henri chuckled. “You come back in one piece, okay?” Max demanded. “Don’t worry Max. It takes a lot to put this tiger down.” Max left the room, his stomach a bundle of nerves. It was horrible luck having prom on the same day his brother shipped out, but Max trusted Henri. He would keep his word no matter what. DAVID ENTERAI A chime interrupted David from the book he was reading. He set the novel aside, and walked to the front door as another chime sounded. The dragon opened the door to an orange and yellow fox, her clothes torn and burnt. “David Enterai?” she asked quietly. “That’s me.” “I need help.” The fox’s lip quivered as she fought back tears, She met the dragon’s eyes, desperation obvious in her own yellow orbs. David stepped aside, holding the door open. “Come in.” He led the fox through his house. “So, miss…?” “Themis. Themis Falis.” “What is the problem you need help with? I’m assuming it’s magickal in nature.” A flame leaked out of the fox’s nose, and David snapped his fingers, dissipating the fire. “That… That is the problem…” Themis said quietly. David nodded. “Let’s take this outside. It’ll be safer there,” he said. Themis followed the dragon outdoors, struggling against another outburst. They stopped thirty feet away from the house, and David turned back to her. “Let it go,” he said, and the fox opened her maw, a torrent of fire rushing out. As the flames died down, the dragon spoke again. “How long has this been happening?” “Since I can remember. It usually isn’t this bad.” “Have you been through any emotional trauma recently? You don’t have to tell me what it was if you don’t want.” Themis nodded slowly. “Okay, so it is based on your emotions then. That gives us something we can work with. How do you feel right now?” “Honestly, really scared.” “And this is the most fire you’ve produced?” “No…” Themis said, squeezing her eyes shut. “But I was angry when I did… When I made more fire.” “It’s okay. We don’t need to talk about that,” David said. “The more emotional you get, the worse it becomes.” “But I don’t want to just stop feeling. That’s no life.” “You already seem reasonably controlled. I agree that you need to allow your emotions to run free. The trick is going to be letting the fire out in a controlled manner. Don’t ever try to bottle it up.” David bade Themis to sit on the pavement, and she knelt after a moment’s hesitation. “I’m curious, how did you know about me?” the dragon asked. “My mother told me to seek the dragon of this town; that he had helped her when she was younger.” David materialized a small steel kettle that he placed over a fire pit. “Can you light this for me?” he asked. “You… you want me to light the fire?” “Yes please. You shouldn’t need too much fire.” The fox held out her hand, and a stream of fire flowed from it a second later, engulfing the pot. “A little less than that,” David said. The flames stopped, leaving a blackened kettle raised over a burning fire. “I’m sorry…” “Don’t worry about it,” David reassured the fox, replacing the kettle with a wave of his hand. “I had my fair share of mishaps when I was learning myself.” The dragon studied the fire for a moment. “I want you to know you hold all of the power here. I do not intend to harm you in any way, and you are free to go any time you want.” “Um… okay?” “You seem a little too worried. You don’t need to be,” David explained. “Another question. Have you ever summoned fire when you’re happy?” Themis shook her head. “No…” “It’s defensive then. You’re full of nervous energy, and it manifests itself as heat.” “Is that good?” Themis asked after a moment’s pause. “It is what it is. Neither good nor bad.” David extinguished the flames in the pit. “Can you try again? See if you can push the fire through a single finger this time. It should lessen the flow.” Themis stuck out her hand again, pointing at the pit. The flames poured from her finger, less this time. The fox yelped as an errant flame appeared in her hand, and the fire flared, then died. David stepped up to the fox, taking her injured hand. “Aen eila,” he murmured, and the reddened skin returned to its normal colour, though the fur remained singed. Themis flexed her hand in wonder. “That’s a neat trick…” she said. “Yeah. It can take the pain away at least,” David said. “How are you feeling now?” “Tired.” “Okay. Do you have a place to stay for the night?” “I’ll probably get a hotel room,” Themis shrugged. David nodded, materializing another kettle. “Would you like to stay for some tea before you leave?” he asked. “Um, no thanks.” “That’s okay. I would like you to come back tomorrow, if you’re willing. If nothing else, I should be able to help lessen the fire inside you for another day.” “I’ll be here,” Themis promised. “Any time works for me, so whenever you’re comfortable.” The dragon led the fox through his house again, and handed her a hundred dollars at the front door. “For the hotel,” he explained. “Um, thank you,” Themis said, taking the money. “It’s no problem at all. I’ll see you tomorrow.” The dragon closed the door as Themis walked away, returning to his kettle to drink some tea. 2015 FAELAN EUNUCH The fox sat beside the library steps, head in his arms. Passerby glanced at him as they hurried about their day, and he knew he was getting several stares from the people who drove by. It wasn’t his red wings they stared at; he had them tucked behind him, out of the way. It wasn’t his muscles adding bulk to his body, or his long red hair either. They were staring at his dress. A rabbit approached, and sat beside him. “First time in drag?” he asked. “I remember when I first started out. If you’d like, I can give you some pointers.” The fox turned his head. “It’s not drag,” he muttered. “Ooh honey, you really need my help,” the rabbit replied. “Do you have a name?” “Robert.” “Do you have a name you’d rather use?” the rabbit prodded. The fox shrugged despondently. “Well, if you’ll allow it, I have a place where we can make you look fabulous.” “I can’t pay-” “Pfft, I don’t need money. But if you really want to give back, you could share your story with me. I’ve never been one to turn down a good tale,” the rabbit smiled. The fox looked at him suspiciously. “How do I know you’re not kidnapping me?” “You have my word as a rabbit that tonight I will drop you off wherever you want to go,” the rabbit promised, standing. The fox thought for a moment, then took the rabbit’s proffered hand. “My name’s Cog, by the way,” the rabbit smiled, leading the fox around the corner, to where his car was parked. They drove in silence for a couple minutes, Cog allowing the fox time to think. “Do you always pick up random people off the streets?” “Only when they need it. It helps me feel good, knowing that I helped even a little.” The rest of the drive passed in more silence. Cog drove up to a large house, not quite a mansion, but close. “This is where you live?” the fox asked doubtfully. “Yep. Has been for twenty years now. You coming in?” The fox followed the rabbit inside, into a room filled with books. “Sorry about the mess. I’ve been meaning to clean for a while now,” the rabbit said. Cog took his guest into another room, this one full of clothes, sorted by styles and time periods. “Make yourself at home. I’ll be back in a few,” he said, stepping through another door. The fox sat in a chair, and pulled out a phone. A moment’s examination revealed it was dead. “Shit…” “Is everything okay?” Cog asked, reentering the room. The fox blinked in surprise. Gone were the rabbit’s jeans and tshirt, replaced by short shorts that showed off his legs, and a pink tank top that emphasized his suddenly large breasts. “Um… do you have a charger I could use?” the fox asked. “Of course dear.” The rabbit found a charger and handed it to the fox. “Plug’s right there. Now, first thing’s first. We need to get you some boobs.” As the fox plugged in, the rabbit opened a drawer in a dresser. “What size do you want to start with? With your frame, I’d avoid anything over a C.” “I… I don’t know…” “That’s perfectly okay. Let’s start you small,” Cog said, pulling out some breast forms. “You should be about the same size as me, though your shoulders look a little wider.” Setting the forms on the dresser, the rabbit walked over to a closet and began flipping through clothes. He pulled out a black bra and handed it to the fox. “Try this one,” he said, turning around to give the fox a moment of privacy. After a moment’s hesitation, the dress came off, and the fox replaced it with the bra. “So, what is your story, if you don’t mind me asking?” Cog asked. “Long story short, my boyfriend found me dressing up, and decided he didn’t want to be with a girl. So he kicked me out,” the fox replied, hooking the bra on. “Ouch. What an ass.” Cog turned back around. “We’ll have to teach you to tuck,” he said, looking down. “First though, you want to put these in your bra, like this.” The rabbit held up the breast forms to demonstrate, before handing them to the fox. “Now,” he continued as the fox finished. “We can do this the fun way, or the slightly more confusing way.” Seeing the look of confusion on the fox’s face, he added,” I can show you how to tuck personally, which requires me to be naked, or you can watch a video that will give you the idea without the nudity.” “I’ll take the video. No offence,” the fox said. “None taken,” Cog grinned, grabbing his phone. He found the video easily, and handed the phone to the fox. “You can use the closet. There’s a light in there.” “Thanks…” the fox replied uncertainly, taking the phone into the closet. Cog waited patiently, knowing this could take some time. Finally, the fox reappeared, and Cog looked down. “Perfect,” he smiled. “They said something about tape,” the fox questioned. “I wouldn’t use tape. It’s a pain to take off. Anyway, let’s get you a style. You don’t have to wear a dress. I think pants might look really good on you.” The rabbit dug through his clothes, pulling out a pair of skinny jeans. “Try these on,” he said, tossing them to the fox. “If they don’t fit, I have one pair in the next size up.” It took a bit of a struggle, but the fox was able to get them on. “What’s next?” “Next is a shirt. We want to emphasize your boobs, but cut back a bit on your biceps. They do look nice though. What’s your favourite colour?” the rabbit asked, diving into his clothes again. “I like orange, but it looks horrible on me.” “Okay. Let’s try red then. You already have that theme going.” Cog pulled out a red shirt, and handed it to the fox. “So, am I correct in assuming you don’t really have anywhere to go?” he asked. “Yeah. But I’ll manage,” the fox replied, pulling the shirt on. It fit tightly, but the fox could still move freely in it. “Looking good,” the rabbit said. “You don’t have to manage. I have plenty of spare rooms. You are welcome here anytime you need a place for the night.” “Thank you. I can pay-” “Not necessary,” Cog denied. “I could use more company, and you’re doing me a favour by taking those clothes.” “Do you have a pair of scissors?” The rabbit handed a pair of scissors over, and watched as the fox cut a pair of wing slits into the back of the shirt. “The only thing left is your hair and face. I can trim your hair and style it if you’d like.” “I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet…” “No rush. I’d still like to fix your face up a little though. It shouldn’t be too hard.” Cog led the fox into a large bathroom. Grabbing a tub of grey chalk, he bade the fox to sit on the toilet, before taking some chalk in hand and drawing on the fox’s face. A minute later, he stood back to admire his work. “Looking great,” he said, motioning toward the mirror. The fox stood up to look, and gasped. A young vixen stood in the mirror, hair a little messy, but still decent looking. She was a little muscled, but the muscles looked good on her, like they belonged. As she studied herself in the mirror, one thought floated through her mind. “My name is Faelan.” Faelan rolled over in bed, missing a warm body to take comfort in. This was a day of firsts for her. First day on her own, first day as a woman. And it was a miserable one. She didn’t know if she’d make it through the torrents of sorrow. The fox wrapped her wings around herself, seeking the enveloping comfort that came with them. A trick she had picked up in childhood, where hugs were few and far between. But it wasn’t the same. The room was strange, as was the bed. She didn’t like them; they reminded her that she had no home. The rabbit was nice, but she knew despite his promises, she could not stay long. Silently Faelan cursed her ex, tears rolling down her face. It was his right to not want to be with her, but he could have let her find a place to stay before kicking her out. A gentle knock sounded, and Faelan hurriedly rubbed the tears from her eyes. Taking a moment to catch a breath, she called, “Come in.” Cog entered the room quietly. “I thought you could use some company,” he said, stepping next to the bed. Faelan shrugged, barely visible in the dark of the room. She supposed this was going to happen. “This may sound weird, and you are completely free to say no, but can I hold you? You don’t have to worry about me trying anything; I’m more into guys.” “Sure.” The rabbit lay on the bed beside her, and placed his arm over her torso. Though Faelan still expected he had a motive, she had to admit it felt nice. If sex was the price she had to pay for a night under a roof, she’d do it willingly. After a moment, the rabbit started talking. “I’ve had more breakups than I care to recall,” he said quietly. “They all hurt, even the ones where I was the one to break it off. One thing I came to realize is it’s okay to cry. It’s not a weakness. In fact, it shows that you are strong. Strong enough to say, fuck you society. I will grieve the way I need to.” Faelan trembled slightly under his arm, but choked back her tears. “I will not judge you Faelan. You have my word on that.” The name sounded weird in her ears. Almost wrong somehow. She supposed she’d get used to it. But what if she had made a mistake? What if this wasn’t who she was; who she wanted to be? And that fear broke her. Shaking, hot tears streaming onto her face, Faelan sobbed. Cog held her close, whispering softly to her. “It’s going to be okay. Everything will be okay.” ZENOAN ENTERAI The red dragon knelt next to the creature. He had never seen anything like them before, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was the blood steadily leaking out of their side. As Zenoan reached out to examine the wound, the creature hissed, “Touch me and I’ll kill you.” “You’re not really in any position to threaten anyone.” “How do you know I’m not faking?” “Because if you were you would have attacked me by now.” The dragon examined the gash on the creature’s side, and sighed. He wouldn’t be able to heal this with any normal magic. “So, what exactly are you?” he asked, pulling up the sleeve of his shirt. “If you need to ask, you don’t need to know.” “Do you at least have a name?” “No.” “Shame.” Zenoan examined his arm, covered in various scars. It was deep; he needed a clear spot to work. Pulling out a silver athame, the dragon pressed the blade against the side of his arm, and cut into it, just enough to bleed. “”So you’re just going to kill me. Good luck,” the creature laughed at the sound of the blade. Sliding the knife back into its sheath, Zenoan placed his hand on the creature’s side, ignoring the vicious growl. He focused briefly, and established a connection. “You are an avuelent, and your name is Clarisse,” he said, as magic flowed between the two. “Ugh, I hate mages,” Clarisse muttered. Zenoan took a deep breath as the cut on his arm grew. Clarisse’s injury began sealing, leaving no trace it was ever there. “You ever talk to a mage about your eyes? Maybe they could help you see.” “I don’t need to see,” Clarisse spat, standing up. Zenoan studied his arm, bleeding like a stuck pig. “Melure,” he muttered, and the bleeding stopped, though the gash remained on his arm. “Though I suppose one good turn deserves another,” the avuelent spoke. She grabbed Zenoan’s shoulder, and their lips met with a great deal of spit. Zenoan pulled back, surprised at how quickly Clarisse moved. “I’m flattered, but I didn’t heal you to have sex with you,” he said, feeling his mouth go numb. Venom. The little devil. “Aen ceral,” he mouthed, wiping the spit off his lips. “Besides, no offense, but you’re a horrible kisser.” The dragon could feel the venom fighting with his magic, but there was no real contest. “None taken,” Clarisse grinned darkly. “Have a good day.” The avuelent walked away, leaving Zenoan to die. Or so she thought. 2017 KEL DANTHOS Kel unbuttoned his pants, glancing over his shoulder at the dog who was lying on his bed. The dog was already naked, and Kel smirked. They had been in the room for barely a minute. This one was an eager mutt. Kel slowly stepped out of his pants, and the dog whimpered slightly, urging him to go faster. His name was Tristan, Kel recalled dimly. Not that it mattered. He’d fuck this dog. Maybe let him sleep in the bed. Show him the door in the morning, and find a new conquest tomorrow. It’s how this always went down. Pulling his shirt off slowly, Kel teased the dog, revealing his firm body a little at a time. The wolf’s fur was a light grey in colour, and his violet hair was swept back in a messy manner. He tossed the blue shirt onto the floor, and stalked toward the bed, studying his toy for the night. Tristan stared at the wolf with wide eyes. Young, hopeful, eager, his yellow fur was short, his ears floppy. Blue hair hung over his left eye, hiding the vibrant green that his right eye showed off. Kel thought he was actually rather cute. Not quite unspoiled, but inexperienced enough that it really wouldn’t make a difference. After tonight though… Kel chuckled at the thought. The wolf knelt on the bed, his dick poised at Tristan’s hole. The dog licked his lips nervously, his eyes finding Kel’s. Kel waited a second, before thrusting into Tristan. The dog yelped, and squirmed. Kel gripped Tristan’s hips tightly, holding him down as he continued thrusting into the dog. As he neared his climax, Kel realized that his knot had slipped inside Tristan. “Shit…” he shuddered as he erupted inside the dog. Tristan moaned quietly, his legs wrapping around Kel, encouraging him to continue. Kel slumped with a groan, and the dog looked at him, realization dawning on his face. He giggled, and Kel scowled at him. “This isn’t funny,” the wolf growled. He tried to pull out, but his knot kept him firmly in Tristan’s ass. “FUCK!” he snapped, causing Tristan to wince. “It isn’t that bad-” “Shut up.” Tristan’s mouth closed, and he lay back with a sigh. Kel’s dick continued pulsating, cum dripping into Tristan. “Aren’t you going to jack me off or something?” Tristan asked a minute later. “No.” “What the fuck?” “Look, I just want to get out of your ass and I want you to go.” “I thought there was something between us!” “When? When did I ever give you the impression this was more that a one night stand?” “Apparently it’s not even that! You’re kicking me out without even getting me off!” “Fuck this.” Kel pulled back hard, and his dick slid out. Tristan screamed in pain as Kel’s knot was ripped out of him. “Get dressed and go,” Kel snapped. “With pleasure.” Tristan winced as he sat up. Grabbing his clothes, he threw them on, and went to the door. Turning back to Kel, he said, “You are an asshole. I hope I never see you again.” “Doesn’t bother me one bit,” Kel snorted. Tristan left the room, slamming the door behind him. MAXIMUS MARKHAUS Max read the last letter again. Neat German lined the page, the words burned into Max’s mind. I have almost saved enough to buy my way out of the outfit. By the third of next month, I should be on my way to America. I’m coming home Brother. I’m coming home. Henri The twenty year old tiger folded the letter neatly as he heard someone ring the doorbell. “Can you get that please Max?” his mother called. Sighing, Max left the room, passing Henri’s empty room as he walked down the hallway. All that remained within was a bed, and an easel, lone testaments to their faith in Henri’s safe return. Opening the door, Max came face to navel with the tallest rabbit he had ever seen. Looking up, he saw a face worn with the stress of a hard life. The rabbit wore a dark shirt and a pair of cargo pants, making his grey fur seem almost as white as Max’s. “Are you Max Markhaus?” the rabbit asked. “Who are you?” Max questioned in return. “I served with your brother. Can you get your mother for me please?” Max felt a lead weight materialize in his stomach. Turning, he called, “Mother, there’s news about Henri!” The tigress was there in an instant, worry etched across her face. Taking in the rabbit, she shooed her son aside. “Ma’am…” The rabbit took a deep breath. “Ma’am, I’m sorry to tell you, but your son Henri fell in combat on October second. I’m not here officially; someone else will come. I just wanted to let you know. I was there when he died.” His mother whispered something, and closed the door. Max watched her walk to her room and close the door. A few seconds later, he heard a muffled scream. He was numb, his mind ceasing to work. He found himself standing before the door to Henri’s room, opening it slowly. Maybe there was something left, anything to help this sense of loss. But in the end, all that remained was an empty room, testament to a brother who would never return. FAELAN EUNUCH / PIP LAPIN Faelan was uncomfortable. Not in a bad way. The rabbit’s arm draped across her shoulders was nice. But she didn’t usually have this period of relaxation after meeting her clients’ needs. This one was different. “You are really good at this,” the rabbit said. Faelan laughed. “Practice makes perfect,” she said. And the money certainly helped too. “So Pip, you got me all night. Ready for round two?” A day after breaking the news to Henri’s family, the guilt had become too much for Pip to bear. A night of sex proved to be the perfect distraction. Made temporarily wealthy after arriving in America, Pip was able to get a hotel room for a night, and someone to share the room with him. He could see the Adam’s apple in Faelan’s throat, though she hid the other evidence well, discreetly directing his attention elsewhere. Still, she had nothing to fear from him. And he wanted to show her that. “Actually, let’s take a shower,” he suggested. Faelan shrugged. Her tape would hold. If the rabbit wanted a watery lay, she would comply. “Your wish is my command for tonight,” she said, standing up. “So if I asked you to juggle flaming bowling pins, you would do it?” Pip grinned. “Ugh, another thing I forgot to put in the fine print.” The fox took the rabbit’s hand, and pulled him up, admiring the firmness of his body. “Are we doing this?” she asked. “Lead the way madame.” And his accent…. The fox’s ears twitched at the sound. Pip let Faelan pull him into the bathroom. Getting the water just right, the fox stepped into the tub, waiting for Pip to follow. Grabbing the curtain rod, Pip ducked under it as he followed Faelan. He dwarfed the tub, his body taking up most of the space. Faelan chuckled. “You don’t take showers with other people very often, do you?” “Do rain showers count?” Dropping a glob of shampoo in her hands, Faelan began running her hands gently over Pip’s entire body. “No, they don’t,” she replied. The rabbit kneeled as she worked, allowing Faelan to reach his head. She continued her task until he was truly lathered. “Vous mains sont incroyables,” Pip murmured. He stood up and grabbed Faelan under the arms. “What the hell are you doing?” she yelped, as he picked her up and turned around so he was in the water.. “Washing off,” he replied, setting her back down. Faelan shivered as a breeze hit her wet body. Pip took his time, making sure no soap remained on his body. When he was finished, he took some more shampoo, and knelt again. “Your turn,” he smiled. He started with her head, massaging her ears, before running his thumbs down her cheeks. He scratched under her chin gently, and a look of absolute bliss came over the fox. Moving down to her shoulders, he kneaded them, focusing on the base of her neck. He worked down her back, enjoying the soft moans escaping her maw. As he drew even lower, the fox took a step back. “Are you okay?” Pip asked. “Yeah. Just don’t go down there please.” Pip backed off immediately. “I’m sorry. I should have realized you kept it hidden for a reason,” he apologised. “Wha- wait, you know?” “Um, yeah. Or at least I figured.” Faelan turned, and leaned against the wall. Pip tried to move aside so she could wash herself off. “How many others knew?” the fox sighed. “Probably not many. You hide it very well,” Pip said. “I only knew because of this.” He touched her throat gently, feeling her gulp under his finger. “So, you’re doing this to get rid of it?” he asked, when Faelan remained silent. She nodded mutely, squeezing past him so she could rinse off. “If you don’t want to talk about it, we don’t have to.” Pip stepped out of the tub and grabbed a towel, as the fox said, “Thanks.” “So, you know my story,” Faelan said thirty minutes later, as the two lay back on the bed again. “But what about yours?” “There really isn’t one.” “My friend says everyone has a story. But if you don’t want to talk about yours, that’s okay,” Faelan said. “I guess there is a story, but I still don’t want to talk about it,” Pip replied. “Okay.” “You’ll be okay.” Pip bolted awake, breathing heavily as he tried to remember where he was. “Bad dream?” His eyes picked out Faelan’s shape in the early morning gloom. The fox was sitting against the wall, swiping the screen of her phone. “Yeah,” Pip breathed heavily. “Did you sleep at all?” “Nah. I sleep during the day.” Picking up his own phone off the bedside table, Pip checked the time. “I need to get going,” he said, standing up. “What, no morning quickie?” Faelan grinned. “Nope, I’m good. But can you turn on the light?” “Sure.” The light came on, and the fox watched Pip pull on his underpants. “Your pants are over there,” she said, pointing. “Merci,” Pip replied, grabbing them. “Hey, um, thank you for last night. If you ever need anything, call me, okay? I’ll do what I can to help you out.” “I’ll remember that,” Faelan smiled, watching Pip write on a piece of paper. “If you ever want another night together, you be sure to let me know too.” She collected her things as Pip pulled his shirt on. Taking the paper with Pip’s number on it, she tucked it into her purse. “Do you need a ride anywhere?” Pip asked. “Nope. The bus system is very efficient in the town.” The two stared at each other, both drawing this out. “We should probably get going,” Faelan said. “We should,” Pip sighed. Turning off the light, the two left the room, and went their own way, hoping against hope to see the other again someday. TRISTAN THARN Tristan sat at a bus stop, the hood of his grey sweatshirt drawn over his head to ward off the chilly December wind. A light scarf was wrapped around his neck, its red color clashing with his green eyes. In his hands, he held a small flat box covered in messy wrapping paper. He had a pair of headphones covering his ears, and he was trying to drown all cares out with the music that poured into his head. Without much success. Another dog sat beside him. His grey fur reminded Tristan of Kel, and Tristan almost winced upon seeing it. But unlike Kel, the dog had no hair, only fur. He wore a tight fitting black shirt, and loose blue jeans. His arms sat bare in the wind. A gust of wind blew Tristan’s hood back, and his hand shot out to return it back atop his head. He knocked his headphones off, and cursed. “That’s some good music,” the dog said, as Tristan picked his headphones back up. “Two Cellos, right?” “Yeah,” Tristan replied quietly, making sure his scarf hadn’t slipped. The bus pulled up, and Tristan leapt at the chance to escape any more questions. Taking a seat in the back, he saw the dog find a seat closer to the front. Turning his music up even louder to drown out the sounds of the bus, he zoned out. Having made this trip so often, he knew his body would rouse him at the right stop. And sure as the sun rises in the east, he stepped off the bus fifteen minutes later, following the dog. The park looked great today. Golden brown leaves blew across the ground, while enough remained on the trees that they weren’t denuded. A group of kids ran screaming and laughing past Tristan as he made his way to the metal pavilion. Cog set down the soda he’d been sipping and stepped up to Tristan, giving him a quick hug. “Hey! You two are the first here besides us,” he said, motioning to himself and Boom, who was getting up from his own seat. “Two?” Tristan echoed uncertainly, placing the box on a table, beside two other wrapped gifts. The grey dog walked up to Boom, and hugged him. “How’s it going Jake?” Cog called over to them. “It’s going,” the dog grinned. “Hey Tristan. Nice scarf,” Boom said, nodding at him. “T-thanks,” Tristan faltered. “There’s soda in those coolers over there if you want some,” Cog added. A blue dragon approached the group. “David! You made it!” Cog beamed at him. “I told you I would,” David smiled. “I am a dragon of my word.” “I think I see Abbie and Themis,” Boom said, walking off towards a couple of foxes. Tristan sighed as Kel approached from the other side of the park. Cog was caught up in conversation with both David and Jake, and didn’t notice. Kel walked up to the table next to Tristan, and placed a box on the table. “I need to talk to you Tristan,” he said quietly. “About what?” Tristan growled. “That night. Can we walk please?” “Fine.” The two made their way to a copse of trees. Tristan turned and glared at Kel. “Okay, talk.” “I’m sorry.” “Is that it? That’s all you have to say?” “I want to make it up to you.” Tristan looked at Kel coldly. “And how do you plan on doing that?” “Can I take you to dinner tomorrow night? I’ll pay.” Tristan let out a quiet growl. Free food. But he’d have to be civil with Kel. He didn’t know if he could do that. But free food… “Fine. I’ll be at your place at six.” “I could pick you up. It’s a bit of a walk-” “No. I know how long of a walk it is. I mean, I had to walk home with my ass bleeding in the middle of the night.” Tristan turned, and stormed away. Back at the pavillion, he noticed Faelan and Pip had joined the party. “Hi Tristan! You look great!” Faelan said. “Um… thanks,” Tristan replied. “Now that everyone's here, we can get started on the food. Pip, Boom, if you'd please,” Cog said brightly. “I'll cook hamburgers if you cook hot dogs,” Pip offered, as he and Boom moved toward the grill. “Deal.” Tristan sat next to Abbie, who was sitting at the edge of the group with a bored look on her face. “Not a fan of parties either?” he said. “I'd rather be reading,” the fox yawned. “I know the feeling,” Tristan sighed. “Does something seem off about David?” “I think I heard him tell Cog he broke up with his fiance.” Abbie nodded. “He does seem a little lost,” she said. The two sat in silence for a few minutes. “I saw you talking to Kel earlier. Are you going out with him?” Abbie asked suddenly. “What? No. He had his chance with me. He’s trying to make it up to me, but-” “Well, at least you’re giving him another chance.” “What about you? Anyone getting to you through those books?” “Just Mr. Darcy. And that’s really all I need. Relationships suck.” “Who?” Abbie sighed. “He’s a book character. Pride and Prejudice,” someone said behind Tristan. “Hey Themis,” Abbie smiled. “Hey yourself. Lunch is ready for anyone who wants it,” the fiery fox said. “Thanks,” Tristan replied, stepping past her. He made his way over to the grill, where Boom stood placing a hot dog on a plate for Kel. “Thanks,” Kel nodded slightly, before walking away. “Hey Tristan. What will it be? Hot dog or hamburger?” Boom asked. “Hamburger please,” Tristan requested. Boom slipped a patty between two buns, set it on a plate, and handed it over to Tristan. “Thank you,” Tristan said, moving towards an empty bench. A minute later, Jake sat on the bench across the table. “You’re rather quiet for a dog,” he said. “And you’re rather nosy,” Tristan observed, taking another bite of his burger. “What, am I supposed to howl every minute of the day?” “That’d be a good way to get the attention of the AWOO police.” “Ha ha,” Tristan said drily. “So what do you want?” “I’m just being friendly,” Jake shrugged. “It’s Christmas time. You know, the time for being merry, and happy?” “Pfft. We’re supposed to be happy one day of the year, then go back to being miserable for the rest of the year.” Faelan slid onto the bench beside Tristan. “Hey you two. What are you doing over here?” she asked. “I was trying to cheer this guy up,” Jake replied. “So far it isn’t working.” “Hmm… Challenge accepted,” Faelan grinned. “I am going to make you smile Tristan.” “Or, you know, you two could go sit with everyone else and not let me bring you down. Go be happy and stuff,” Tristan suggested. “Oh no, we’re doing this,” Jake denied. “Doing what?” David asked, sitting next to Jake. “Making Tristan laugh.” “Trying to,” Tristan corrected under his breath. “Count me in,” David laughed. “Yeah, there’s a cause I can get behind,” Kel said, joining the four. “What wouldn’t you get behind?” Tristan grumbled. “Girls?” Kel shrugged. “No offence,” he added to Faelan. “None taken. I wouldn’t want you behind me anyways,” Faelan said. Tristan snorted, and Kel shot him a disparaging look. “You could get behind me,” Jake suggested. “Nah. I’m tentatively taken,” Kel replied. “Really? By who?” Tristan asked. Kel sighed. “You’re not making this easy, are you?” “And why should I? Especially after the shit you pulled the last time.” “I apologized for that!” “What about you Faelan? Seeing anyone special?” Jake asked loudly. “Pip asked me out on a date last night. You?” “Look Tristan, is it really that difficult to imagine that I might have changed? That I’m no longer that selfish dog that took advantage of you?” “Prove it,” Tristan snapped. “I’m trying to but you won’t let me!” “Hey, is everything okay here?” Cog asked, approaching the table. “Everything’s fine,” Tristan growled, standing up. “Excuse me.” He stormed away, finding another empty table to sit at. Slipping his headphones over his ears, he turned on Two Steps from Hell, and forced himself to take some deep breaths, trying to lose himself in the complexity of the music. Two songs later, he felt a lot better. Opening his eyes, he saw David sitting across from him. “I’m sorry about all that,” he said quietly. “I’m here if you need to talk about anything,” David offered. “Thanks. I just… I don’t know how to forgive him for what he did to me,” Tristan sighed. “Kel? Why? What did he do?” “He made me feel like I meant something to someone. Then he ripped that away from me.” “That happens a lot actually. I mean, just look at me and Maya.” “Yeah. I’m sorry to hear about that, by the way.” “I’m dealing with it,” David shrugged. “But now he wants to actually be in a relationship with me, and I don’t know if I can trust him again.” “Second chances are a part of life. But so is knowing when enough is enough. But even if you don’t get back together with him, forgiveness is a necessity. Or you’d drive yourself insane with hatred.” “I don’t know if I can forgive him though.” “I’m going to get a little graphic here for a moment. I have been injured a lot in my life. People have shot me, stabbed me. But my body has always healed itself. Your heart will do the same. It may take years. You may be left with a scar on your heart. But it will heal.” “Thank you David,” Tristan said, standing back up. “You want to head back to the party now?” “Yeah. I don’t want Cog to get worried about us.” They made their way back and Cog approached David, as Tristan sought out Kel. “What do you want?” Kel asked roughly. “To apologise. I’m sorry for how I behaved today.” “It’s okay. I deserved it.” “Hey guys! We’re going to start opening gifts,” Cog called, walking towards them. “You’re going to join us, right?” “Yeah, give us a minute,” Kel said. Tristan watched Cog move back to the group. “You tried to apologise to me, and I blew you off,” he said quietly. “Hey, I’m over it. No harm done, right?” “I guess not.” Kel held his arms open, and after a moment’s thought, Tristan stepped into them for a hug. “We should get back over there before Cog has a fit,” Kel grinned. “Yeah. Let’s avoid that,” Tristan agreed. As they approached the group. Tristan saw Themis scoot closer to Abbie. “Hey Abbie! You know you’re sitting under mistletoe, right?” he called. Abbie blushed bright red, and Tristan caught Cog grinning widely. Themis turned, and kissed Abbie with a look of glee, and Abbie stared down at the floor. “Alright, who’s first?” Boom asked. “Well, since you asked, let’s start with you,” Cog said, handing Tristan’s present to Boom. The dog unwrapped it carefully, and smiled as he held up a black bandana. “Awesome! I’ve been needing a new one,” he grinned. “And it matches you too,” Pip added. Tristan smiled. The selection had been rather small, and he had been unhappy with the choice he had made, but the fact that Boom liked the bandana definitely made up for it. “Okay, you get to pick who’s next,” Cog said, nudging Boom. “How about Themis?” Boom stood up and found an envelope with Themis’ name written neatly across it. He handed it to the fox, and she followed his example, opening it slowly and carefully. Unfolding a sheet of paper from inside, she read the words on it quietly. “Thank you so much,” she said, brushing a tear from her eyes. She stood up, and walked to the table with the presents on it. Picking up a flat box, she handed it to Cog. “Thanks,” he said cheerfully, before tearing the wrapping paper off in one fluid motion. Opening the box inside, he lifted up a crocheted sweater, and laughed. “What’s so funny?” Boom asked. “I bone my dog…” “Huh. I wonder how they knew?” That sent Cog into another fit of laughter. Tristan caught Kel smirking, and snorted. Apparently the wolf had a crafting side to him. “Okay, Jake’s turn,” Cog said, sobering up. He picked up a long narrow box, and handed it to the dog. Jake took out a pocket knife and sliced through the wrapping paper to reveal a cardboard box. Cutting the tape off, he opened the top of the box, and peeked inside. “Oh my gosh!” Jake pulled out a six foot long walking stick. “This is amazing!” he exclaimed, running his hand down the staff. “Thank you!” Setting the stick aside, he picked up another gift, and handed it to Faelan. Faelan looked at the wrapping. “Hey Pip, can I borrow your knife please?” she asked. “Have at it.” Pip handed a small dagger to Faelan, and she carefully sawed through the tape covering the present. A minute later, she held up a pink hoodie. “Dang! This sparkles!” she chuckled. “It’s awesome!” She stood up, and made her way to the table. “Let’s do Kel next,” she decided, picking up a small package. Kel took the gift from her, and tore into the wrapping. “A collar?” He held it up and cocked his head, looking at Tristan. “It wasn’t me,” Tristan shrugged. “I’d have gotten you a… something different.” It looked nice though; a thick black leather band with steel studs in it. “I like it. I really do. It’s just kind of a strange gift.” Kel placed it on a table, and grabbed a gift at random. “Here you go Abbie,” he said, handing her the box. Abbie tore at the tape holding one side of the wrapping down. Peeling the paper back, she gasped. “The full series! It even has the Silmarillion!” she exclaimed, tearing the rest of the paper off. “Thank you so much!” She placed a boxed set of books on the bench beside her, and went to the table. “Okay, David next.” She handed the dragon a long narrow box, and sat back down, admiring her books. David ripped the wrapping off in long strips, and opened the box. He pulled out a black violin. “This is beautiful,” he said quietly, removing a bridge and a bow from the box as well. “Thank you.” He picked up a bulky box next, and carried it to Tristan. “Merry Christmas,” he whispered to the dog as he set the box beside him. “Thanks,” Tristan smiled, before ripping into the paper A plain cardboard box sat underneath the paper, and Tristan carefully opened the top end of it. Inside was a guitar case. “No way!” Tristan pulled it out of the box and set it flat on the table. Opening the case, he gazed in wonder at the guitar, a black instrument with an ivory fretboard and bridge. On the pick guard, in neat silver lettering, was his name. “This is amazing!” “You and David should start a band,” Kel suggested. “Yeah, Kel could be the drummer,” Jake laughed. Tristan stepped up to the git table, and picked up the last present, a flat book shaped one. “Here you go Pip,” he said to the rabbit. “Thank you,” Pip smiled. He peeled the paper back, and smiled. “A new journal! Thanks guys, my old one was getting full.” “And now for one last gift,” Boom said. He rose to his feet, and stood in front of Cog. “Cog, you are an amazing rabbit. You took me in when I was in need. You gave me a roof over my head, fed me, and helped me in every way you could. And whenever I could, I helped you as well. But now I ask you for one more favor.” Boom knelt on one knee, and held out a black box. “Cog, will you marry me?” Cog wiped a tear from his eyes. “Of course I will,” he breathed. Boom stood up, and embraced the rabbit, before slipping a ring onto his finger. They kissed as the group started clapping. Kel sat next to Tristan. “Hey, when we leave, I’d like to drive you home,” he said. “I’m not rea-” “I don’t mean to have sex or anything. I just want to save you a trip on the bus. Especially since you’re carrying that guitar.” “Thank you,” Tristan said gratefully. “When do you want to go?” “I was going to say goodbye to everyone now, then leave. If that’s okay with you,” Kel said. “Yeah, that’s perfect.” They stood up again, and made their way to the group that was surrounding Cog and Boom. “Hey, I’m going to head home. Congratulations you two,” he said. “Thanks! I hope you have a good Christmas,” Cog smiled, hugging Tristan. “Thank you. You too,” Tristan smiled. Boom gave him another hug, then Tristan slipped out of the crowd, and went to pick up his guitar. “Ready?” Kel asked, holding the collar. “Yeah. Let’s go.” DAVID ENTERAI David sits at a lonely corner of the bar, nursing an AMF. Not his drink of choice, but tonight is about getting drunk and forgetting the past. A tiger steps in front of him, swaying slightly. “Hey. You look like someone who’s good with swords. Wanna show me your skills?” he says with a lopsided grin. David smiles slightly as he stands. He’ll show the tiger some skills alright. Five minutes later, the tiger stares at the dragon in confusion. “You actually have a sword?” he says, dumbfounded. They both laugh at the absurdity of the moment, as David sheathes his father’s blade and places it back in the saddlebag of his Harley. “I’m David, by the way,” the dragon says, extending a paw. “Maximus, or Max to my friends,” the tiger smiles, shaking the offered hand. 2018 DANIEL THETHAR Daniel’s hand trailed across a row of books. This was his favourite store, and he made sure to visit every week. There was always a new story to find within the shelves; a new world to explore. His hand tripped across a small black binding, and the dragon paused. He had learned to trust his instincts, and had found many a good book that way. This one felt different somehow. He removed it, keeping an eye on the two tomes it had been stuck between. There was no title, just a blank black leather cover. The pages seemed worn with age, and Daniel was afraid to open the cover, lest he destroy the book. That was the last thing he wanted to do. He loved the older couple who ran the store, a lioness and a goat. They watched him now, the only regular customer they got these days. He carefully carried the book to the counter, and cleared his throat. “Did you find something dearie?” the lioness asked, her voice like warm honey. “I don’t know…” Daniel admitted. “There’s no title, and no barcode on the back. And it looks fragile.” The lioness took the book gently from him. “Hmm… This binding is strong, but the pages do seem as though they’ve seen better days. I don’t recall seeing this anywhere.” She turned to the goat. “Albert, do you recognize it?” “That binding seems like early nineteenth century work. If anything, that’s probably a first edition,” the old goat rumbled. He handed it back to the dragon. “It’s not one of ours though. Feel free to take it. A Christmas present from us to you,” he smiled. “Thank you!” Daniel beamed. “Would you like a bag for it?” “No thanks. I want to make sure I get it home in one piece.” The dragon made his way to the exit. “Merry Christmas,” he said, hand on the door. “And to you as well,” the two smiled. Daniel returned to his flat, worn out from a day of exercise. It was his day off at the gym, but he didn’t like to miss a day of working out. The trip to the bookstore had been a little extra, but as he studied the black book again, he thought the trip had been worth it. It sat on his table now, as he moved around the kitchen making dinner. One poached egg with tomato and bacon later, and he was seated with the book in hand. He hesitated, a strange feeling coming over him. Whatever was in these pages, he felt like it could change his life forever. But he had no idea how or why. “It’s just a book…” he murmured. Just a book, sitting innocently on his table. Daniel reached out, and slowly opened the cover. It creaked quietly, threatening to break apart, but he was gentle, and it held. On the first page, he was surprised to see a neat cursive handwriting in bold ink. There was a date, and an entry below it. “It’s a journal. From 1914.” The date was plain to see, and he could easily read the writing, even over 100 years later… 1914, 1 January The dawn of a new year, and perhaps a new start. I have returned to the land of my birth, to wander through the country for a time. Perhaps I will settle here, and make a new home, away from my memories. It wouldn’t be the first time I have had to flee my past. For now, I will remain in my former home, deep within old Prussia. There is a village nearby, where I can meet others should I choose to. Nineteen years is a long time, yet I fear it will be longer still before I can forgive myself. But I must leave for there is much to do before winter is through. I am grateful for my time in the west,. Rough though it was, it has taught me how to survive. I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I will make it through this. The entry ended abruptly, not even halfway down the page. It seemed a waste of paper to Daniel, but he figured the writer was wasteful. It was strange though. The writing showed a steady, careful hand, not one used to spending without thought. Daniel carefully turned the page, revealing another entry. This one was dated a little later, close to the end of the month, and Daniel wondered what had happened. New Year’s resolution gone awry? Did 1914 even have New Year’s resolutions? Regardless, he decided to read one more entry before turning in for the night. 19 January A blizzard came last night. I am locked inside the house for now. It is a good thing I returned from the village yesterday afternoon. I have been chopping wood in preparation for this as well. I am as stocked up as any dragon could be. I can last for a month in here, longer if I boil snow for water. The only issue I see for now is the chamberpot, and for that I have gramyre. There is still much to do inside the house. I have a gramophone for music, as well as her violin. I’m making progress with it, though I still have trouble playing. I study my grimoire daily, learning new healing spells. All too little, too late. But I will be prepared should there ever be a next time. Then I also have my chores around the house, and my mother’s library to sort through. Should I remain for a long time, I will have to upgrade it. But that is all for the day. I don’t expect much writing to be done. There won’t be anything of note for some time. Again the words cut off suddenly, as though their master was afraid of farewells. A dragon scared. The idea seemed humorous for some reason. It happened. Daniel himself was scared of being on the open water. So why did it seem so funny? And who was this dragon, so hurt by life? Musician and mage, and former love of someone’s life. Slowly the enigma would unravel, and Daniel would learn who this dragon was. With that thought, Daniel recovered his bookmark, and slid the journal closed around it, saving the words for another day. He woke early the next morning, the journal on his mind. His dreams had been plagued by a mysterious dragon. More magic, a gramyre that drew others to him. Sighing, Daniel swung his feet over the side of his bed, and stretched his wings. For once, he had no desire to exercise. He just wanted to curl up in a chair and continue reading. But he hadn’t gotten his shape by taking breaks. Throwing on a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt, the dragon headed for the door of his flat, grabbing his phone as he went. His feet crunched in newly fallen snow as he emerged from the building, and a gust of wind sent a shiver through his body. Shaking it off, the dragon tucked in his wings, and took off, jogging north. He had done this run hundreds of times before, and the course was ingrained in his mind. Music played from his phone, the latest popular song from the radio. It was loud enough to be heard, but not so loud as to be annoying. As he ran, he thought through a couple spells. Every dragon family carried a grimoire with them, and his was no exception, though it was relatively new, with only two generations of spells before his own. He was expected to change that, a task he took to with not a little trepidation. Around kilometre two, his mind turned from a warming spell to the journal. It nagged at him constantly, and he was started to regret ever picking it up. But he had started something and he could not just let it go unfinished. Kilometre three came and went as he turned back to home. There was no work to be done today, save for work around the flat. As he returned home, Daniel made a beeline for the journal, promising himself he’d stop at one more entry. 29 January I created a way out today. There is now an eight foot long tunnel of snow in front of my door. I couldn’t handle remaining inside any longer. A dragon’s got to fly. It was my first flight in what they’re calling Germany. And it was cold, but it satisfied me. I will live another week. While I was out, I took the opportunity to chop some more wood. Magic can only do so much after all. I have heard rumors stirring of unrest to the south. It’s no big news really. The Balkans have always been rowdy. Nonetheless, I will head to Hamburg tomorrow, and make sure my papers are in order. If there’s any trouble involving the country’s allies, I don’t want to be too suspicious. A foreigner then. But still no name, and with no name, no story outside of what was within the pages of the diary. It didn’t concern Daniel too much. He still wasn’t sure what he should do with the book. The owner was long gone. The best he could hope for was to find the surviving family, but would they even care? He wanted to read on, to see if the next entry might give any inkling of a name, but he had told himself only a single entry. Muttering under his breath about self imposed limits, Daniel stood up and tracked down his grimoire from where it lay in his bedroom. He spent an hour casting simple spells, building his ability and training his mind. With his practice over, he went online to check on his American friend. ‘What’s new with you today?’ It took a few minutes, but Ryan eventually replied, ‘The same old shit. Jake’s being Jake and Kel’s being Kel.’ ‘Eh, maybe you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.’ Daniel chuckled as he wrote, knowing it would probably go over Ryan’s head. ‘I guess not. I tried, and I’ll keep trying until it gets through his head.’ Daniel checked the time, sighing when he realized it was almost noon. ‘Gtg. The gym is calling my name.’ ‘I thought you didn’t work today?’ ‘I don’t, but it’s leg day for me, so I have to go in anyways. Later.’ ‘Later dude.’ Daniel closed his computer, and laced up his trainers once more. The gym was only a ten minute run, but on leg days, he had a hard time getting home, so he took his car today. An hour of working out, and then he’d be back to the journal… Ninety minutes and three hot compresses around the leg later, and Daniel had his hands on the journal once more. A plate of sugar cookies sat in front of him, a holiday treat. He munched on one as he opened the journal to his bookmark. 3 February It is done at last. I am now listed in the annals of German citizens as David Enterai. Now I have the two day walk back home. I could fly, but not until i leave Hamburg, and the city is a big place. It has been an experience coming into the city. There are these loud monstrosities moving around that they call ‘cars’. I remember hearing something about them, but to see one in person was quite the shock. Scared a few of the horses too. I haven’t been around this many people in a while either. I realize that I have really secluded myself in the past nineteen years. I did manage to get the violin to a luthier for some tuning. The fox told me it would take a day to get it sorted out. I suppose I can find an inn, though I don’t have much money on me at the moment. I’ll pick up the instrument in the morning, and if it has been damaged in any way, may the heavens help that fox. Enterai. David Enterai. He had a name now. It was a start. Daniel grabbed his phone, and started typing. He wasn’t quite sure what he was looking for. A family? A death certificate? “Wait… He’s alive?!” Daniel stared at his phone, where a picture of a blue dragon stood with a tiger leaning against him. The facebook page listed a town in America, but didn’t give an actual address. Daniel looked back at the journal. “Shite, I’ve been reading this bloke’s memories…” A week passed before he touched the book again. It felt weird, reading the thoughts of someone who was still living. He wanted to return the journal, but how could he? The dragon was across the pond, and Daniel was not planning on visiting America any time soon. He continued his daily routines, working at the gym, and practicing his spells, but the journal continued to nag at him. Daniel returned home from work after the New Year, and found the book laying open suspiciously. “Fuck, I guess more wouldn’t hurt. I mean, he’s going to know I read it if he gets it back anyway.” The dragon hated magic sometimes. Especially fatal magic. He would not be able to rest until he got the journal to this dragon. Maybe. It was still unclear exactly what he needed to do with it, but for now, he continued to read. 23 February I bought a gun today. One of those Gewehrs they sell here. Upon inspection, I found it perfect for a marksman. Those bottles will never bother anyone again. I don’t really need the weapon, but I feel like it helps me fit in. I figured, if Zenoan was still looking for me, he’d find me through the census. If he does show up, I’m ready for him, but I hope he’ll bury the hatchet and we can go our separate ways in peace. Father willed me the sword, it is mine by right. I don’t want to get into all that again though. It’s been thirty years since I’ve seen family. I have to assume they’re going to leave me alone now. Again it cut off. There was another name. Maybe he’d have an address? Ryan looked up Zenoan Enterai, but was unable to find anything. It was just a name, nothing more than that. Then he realized Ryan lived in the same town. He would know where David lived if no one else did. It took only a moment to send the text. While he waited, Ryan continued to read. 2 March Truly I live in an age of wonders. Yesterday a newspaper reported the successful flight of a balloon for over 3,000 kilometres. I don’t doubt that some day I will have competition over the sky. It used to be my place to think, my place of peace. Now the world has taken even the sky from me. I will watch this ballooner with interest. Maybe I am wrong and this dream of flight will die as it begins. Daniel’s phone buzzed, startling him from his reading. ‘There is a David Enterai here, but I don’t know where he live exactly.’ It had been a long shot, but Daniel still sighed with disappointment. ‘Thanks anyway,’ he replied, turning back to the book. 4 March The snow has finally started to melt. Perhaps spring has finally arrived. It’s still cold, but at least now I can stand to chop firewood. Two axes can cut a lot of logs at once. I should have enough firewood to last until summer soon. Tomorrow I’ll have to head back to the village. I’m out of fresh meat. Nothing. There was nothing there. Daniel growled in frustration. What was his magic trying to tell him? He skipped a couple pages, and found an entry from May. 5 May I met a young wolf today in the village. Wilhelm Galathar. He has done things to me that I have not felt since I met John in the Nebraska territory all those years ago. Claire, I hope you can forgive me for my dalliance, wherever you are. I have to believe that you would not want me to be celibate, for it is too late now. He has undone me. Strange. Claire was his great grandmother’s name. It wasn’t uncommon by any means, but Daniel still found it funny. Also, David had apparently still been alive when Nebraska, wherever that was, had still been an American territory. Daniel grabbed his phone again and searched. 1867. The year Nebraska became a state. He was probably older than that. Daniel took a deep breath. It was unnerving. Did all dragons share that lifespan? And he had lost what seemed to be his his wife. From what? Old age? Daniel inhaled once more, shakily. He felt for the man. That would be a hell in and of itself. And then there was that name. Claire. Maybe it was time to call his mum and get some questions answered… “Aye, her name was Claire. She was married to a dragon, if I remember Mother correctly. Gave up the baby. I think it was an age thing. The husband was older than her, and she thought the child might be taken away because of the differnce. We never heard anything from his family. I don’t think he had any.” “Thanks Mum. I want to do a little more digging, but this helps a lot,” Daniel said. “What’s with all the questions?” “Eh, nothing. Just a little personal project. I thought I might start a genealogy in my grimoire.” “That sounds brilliant. If you have any more questions, let me know.” “Thanks Mum. I will.” Daniel hung up, and put his head on the table. This was his great grandfather’s journal… He could still be wrong about it, but it was unlikely. Things were adding up too neatly… He spent a month thinking, worrying, and planning. Finally, he called Ryan. “Hey dude, what’s up?” the fox asked on the other end of the computer. “I need to talk with David.” “Um… sure, but I don’t know where to find hm right now.” “I mean in person. I’m coming to America.” “Oh. If you can wait a few months, you can stay at my place. It will save some money.” “I can wait,” Daniel agreed. “How long is a few months?” “Probably the end of the year. I’m thinking about moving out, and I should have my own place by then.” “Jake’s not playing nice?” “No,” Ryan sighed. “I need to go; he’s complaining about Tristan. Again.” “Okay. We can plan the details later then.” Ryan hung up,and Daniel glosed his computer. He was going to get his answers soon. FAELAN EUNUCH Faelan lay against Pip, reading a book Abbie had loaned her. Outside, rain pattered gently on the windows, a early summer storm. She loved listening to the sound, though she was missing the crackling of a fire that accompanied the rain in the winter. A peal of thunder struck in the distance, and she set the book aside. Standing, she turned to Pip. “Come on. You were going to teach me how to cook that soup, right?” Pip chuckled. “Faelan, it’s just onion soup,” he said. “So? I don’t know how to make it and I want to learn. What better time than the present?” The rabbit stood up, and followed the fox to the kitchen, nimbly ducking under the entrance to the room. “Okay, let’s get started,” he said, pulling a large pot out of a cabinet. Faelan saw a flash of lightning outside the kitchen window and counted until the thunder sounded. The storm was drawing closer. “Here, slice these for me,” Pip said, drawing the fox’s attention to a couple large onions. “You should wear those so you don’t hurt your eyes.” The rabbit pointed to a pair of goggles hanging on a hook. “Thanks.” Faelan pulled the goggles over her eyes, and began slicing the onions. “A little thinner than that,” Pip said a moment later, cutting another onion. A flash of lightning lit up the room, and the thunder boomed almost instantaneously after. A loud clatter followed as Pip dropped his knife. Faelan put her paw on Pip’s arm, looking into the rabbit’s eyes. “Hey, you okay? We’re at home, making the soup,” she said quietly. The rabbit blinked, staring at her. “Sorry,” he murmured, stooping to pick the knife up. “Don’t worry about it,” Faelan smiled, standing on the tips of her feet so she could kiss Pip’s chin. She returned to the onions. “Are these thin enough?” “Those are perfect,” Pip said, pulling a loaf of bread out of the fridge. He sliced the bread quickly, setting the pieces aside for later. “Get me some flour and a stick of butter please,” the rabbit requested, turning on the stove. Faelan passed him the items, standing next to him as the rabbit stirred the onions into the melting butter. The thunder pealed yet again and Pip flinched, but continued stirring. “You know, Cog and Boom are always setting up little parties in the park. I think we should host our own party for them right here,” he said. “That’s a great idea!” Faelan exclaimed. Pip began sprinkling flour into the pot, as Faelan stirred. “The storm’s moving away,” she said, listening to another, quieter, crack of thunder. Pip relaxed visibly, tension draining from his shoulders. “Can you put the bread into the toaster for me? Golden brown.” Faelan did as the chef told her, setting the toaster oven to brown the bread. Pip added broth to the onion mix, and stirred until the mixture boiled, throwing in a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. “Almost done,” he said a few minutes later, as Faelan removed the toast. She set the toast two slices to a bowl, as instructed, and Pip sprinkled thickly grated cheese into the bowels, before ladling the soup in on top. “Perfect,” he smiled. “Let’s eat.” The two carried their bowls to the living room table, Faelan once again enjoying the sounds of rain against the windows. The worst of the storm was over. ABIGAIL ANNIS “Themis, what are we doing here?” Abbie demanded. “Shh. Just come on,” the fiery fox said, dragging Abbie into an old brick building. “I swear, if you dragged me away from my book for another rave…” The two entered a dark room, the echoes of their footsteps suggesting that the room was large. Themis released Abbie’s paw, and crossed the room, flipping a light switch. The two were standing in a ballroom, with a covered piano in the corner of the room. A chandelier hung from the ceiling, granting light to the entire room. “Remember when you asked me where I go occasionally? Here it is,” Themis gestured. “This place is awesome!” Abbie said, looking around in wonder. Themis set her phone on the piano, music playing. “May I have this dance?” she asked. “But I don’t know how to dance…” “Neither do I. Come on,” Themis urged. Abbie hesitantly held out her paw and was swept away, Themis leading her swirling around the room. The two spun around and around, Abbie losing herself in the music. It was almost as good as reading. Themis tripped over her foot, and fell, dragging Abbie down after her. “Ow,” she laughed, Abbie giggled, standing back up. “You okay?” she asked, helping Themis back to her feet. “Yeah. Let’s do that again,” Themis grinned. The two heard footsteps outside the room. “Later though,” Themis said, grabbing her phone and shutting the music off. “Run.” She led Abbie back out the building, and the two ran toward Themis’ car. DAVID ENTERAI “Enrehun du mei heyno,” David smiled. “Welcome to my home.” Max looked around the entrance hall, his eyes wide as saucers. “This place is huge!” the tiger gaped. “It should be. I’ve been adding onto it for the past hundred years.” Max was silent, trying not to think of David’s age. “Sorry,” the dragon apologised, seeing he had hit a nerve. Max noticed a young doe sitting beside David in a sepia tinted photograph on the far wall of the room. “Who’s that?” he asked, approaching the picture. “That was my wife,” David said quietly, a note of sorrow in his voice. “You were married?” David nodded, looking at the photograph. He remembered that day well… “Quit fidgeting,” Claire said sharply. “This suit itches. You know I don’t like wearing it,” David argued. “Besides, there’s no space for my wings.” “Just sit and it will be over in a minute,” the deer urged. David grumbled, focusing on the large camera facing the two. This whole photograph thing had sounded fun. He hadn’t realized he would have to sit for so long. “She looks young,” Max said. “She was twenty when that picture was taken. It was the only time we sat for a photograph. I wish there had been more,” David sighed. “There’s a pair of rings under it. Are those…?” “Our wedding rings,” David nodded, looking at the bands as another memory came through his mind. A band of gold glinted in the midday sun as Claire’s fingers glided across the strings of her violin. As good as she was, her instrument still screeched at times, and the noise made David grit his teeth. “Can’t you play that thing somewhere else?” he pled, looking up from his newspaper. “Can’t you read somewhere else?” Claire returned, a slight smile on her face. Muttering about devil deer, David folded his paper and stood up, walking to his office. A minute later, he heard the footsteps of his wife following him. The doe gently turned the dragon’s head and kissed him. “I love you,” she said. “I love you too, mei areula,” David replied quietly. “What happened to her?” Max asked, pulling David out of his memories. The dragon continued staring at the picture. “When I was younger, I never thought about my heritage. I am the son of a dragon and an elf. I am practically immortal. I didn’t stop to think that I would be forced to watch the woman I loved waste away before my very eyes. There is no way to stop a natural death, despite all the magic within me.” A final memory came to the dragon… He stood beside her, as she lay in their bed. Her fur was sprinkled with white, her eyes clouded with cataracts. “I am sorry mei areula. I couldn’t save you,” he whispered. “Don’t be sorry. You gave me the best years of my life.” Tears ran from his eyes. “I’m going to miss you.” “Someday you’ll see me again,” she promised. “But not for a while.” The deer began singing a song, one she had played so often on her violin. The words were strained, but they were unmistakable. David joined in, their voices intertwining, until it became a solo, then ended. TRISTAN THARN Water washed over Tristan as he sat in the tub. Steam filled the room, swirling serenely in the air. Its calming pattern had no effect on the dog. Music played quietly from Tristan’s phone beside the sink. Normally it would relax him, but not today. Tristan closed his eyes, breathing deeply. Kel. Kel was his only hope now. If the wolf didn’t come, he was finished. Almost as if on cue, Kel opened the door. “Hey,” he said, entering the room. “Hey,” Tristan replied listlessly. Closing the door behind him, Kel sat next to the tub. “It’s bad again.” he stated. Tristan nodded, taking the wolf’s hand. “I’m sorry to drag you out here.” “Don’t be. I wasn’t doing anything important.” Tristan sat forward, turning up the temperature of the water. Kel could feel the heat washing off him, almost stifling. “Can I help at all?” he asked. Tristan shrugged. The two sat in silence for a few minutes. “Is there anything in particular on your mind?” Kel questioned. “Not really.” “Okay. You can talk to me about anything.” “I know.” Tristan sighed. “There’s a bottle in the cabinet over there,” he motioned with his head. Releasing the dog’s hand, Kel stood up and opened the cabinet. He found the bottle easily. Inside was a single pill. “Tristan, what is this?” “I don’t want to fail again…” Tristan pulled back the fur on his neck, revealing a long, thin scar. Kel sat down. “That’s why you were wearing that scarf… Tristan, there’s no reason for you to kill yourself.” “I’m not doing anything with my life. I just go through my day numb, aside from the time I spend with you.” Kel set the bottle aside, and leaned over, shutting off the water. Helping Tristan out of the tub, he towelled the dog off. “It sounds like you’ve already decided,” the wolf said quietly. Tristan shook his head. “I didn’t decide anything.” Picking up the bottle, the dog set it back in the cabinet. He led Kel out to the bedroom, where they sat on his bed. “If you do take that pill, tell me before you do. I will be here for you. Kel placed his arms around Tristan, holding him tight. “You’re not going to stop me?” “It’s not my place to stop you Tristan. That decision is yours alone. All I can do is hope my presence will keep you from making a rash decision.” The two lay beside each other. Kel wrapped his leg over Tristan’s, knowing the pressure would soothe him. “I love you Tristan,” he whispered, running his fingers through Tristan’s hair. Tristan stood in front of the cabinet, holding the bottle. He could hear Kel snoring in the bedroom. Images flashed through his mind; his guitar, Cog’s parties, Kel in a tuxedo on their first date. His thumb brushed over the semicolon tattoo on his inner left wrist, bought after Cog’s Christmas party. Dumping the pill in his hand, Tristan stared at it. “Not today,” he whispered, letting it fall back into the bottle. Replacing the lid, he set the bottle back into the cabinet, and went back to lay beside Kel. ABIGAIL ANNIS Abbie stood in front of Themis, hand tucked behind her back. “Guess,” she insisted. “Hmm… A wasp nest?” “What? No!” Abbie laughed. “Well, it couldn’t be a book. You’d keep that one for yourself. A new scarf?” “Nope!” Abbie grinned, enjoying teasing Themis. It was rare that she got a chance like this, and she was going to make full use of it. “A sloppy kiss given with love.” “You can get that any time you want.” “How about right now?” Themis smiled innocently. Abbie giggled, and leaned in to kiss Themis. The other fox darted around her and grabbed the mystery item. “Kingmaker? I’ve been wanting this forever!’ she explained, looking at the computer game. “Happy birthday Themis,” Abbie said, kissing the fox. “Thank you so much!” Themis hurried to her computer, and shoved the disc in it. Within minutes, she and Abbie were sitting side by side, enjoying the game together. BOOM THERABBIT Boom sat in a chair, twisting a ring around on his finger. Butterflies filled his stomach, flittering around inside the dog. The day was here. He was getting married. Here he sat, in the house of his beloved, waiting on Jake to give him the count. And he was terrified. And it was exhilarating. Nerves battled with emotions battled with his stomach full of butterflies. Keeping to the superstition of seeing the partner before the wedding, he had not seen Cog all day. The rabbit was everywhere in his mind though. Someone knocked on the door to the room, and opened it. Jake sidled in a moment later. “It’s almost time. How’re you doing?” he asked. “I’m okay,” Boom shrugged. Jake reached forward and fixed Boom’s tie. “Just remember to breathe. You’ll be fine,” he said. Pulling out his phone, he checked the time. “You have two minutes until you go.” Jake slipped back out of the room, closing the door behind him as Boom focused on his breathing. Two minutes. Time stretched before him; an eternity of anxiety and nerves. But he counted. One minute and thirty seconds. David and Jake had just began walking, making their way to the gazebo that had been set up in Cog’s backyard. One minute, twenty five seconds. A door slammed in the house, startling Boom. He hoped Faelan hadn’t lost the collars. One minute. Zuko was walking down the aisle, ready to officiate. They had been lucky to find him. He was rough around the edges, but so were many of their friends. And somehow they all got along. Fifty five. Fifty four. Fifty three. Cog was the social one. He had brought the group together and they held together through the rabbit. Boom didn’t know how, but he was grateful that he didn’t have to be the life of the party. Forty eight. Forty seven… This was insane. Two whole minutes of waiting all by himself. His tail thumped against the chair nervously, and he yawned. Forty seconds. Faelan was about to go, a basket of flowers in her hands, and the collars tucked somewhere on her person. “Calm down Boom. Everything will be okay,” the dog whispered to himself. Thirty seconds. Faelan just went. Boom began whispering the seconds as they passed, whimpering as they seemed to go slower and slower the closer he got. “Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven.” Opening the door, he hurried to the back door, ten feet away. “Five… four… three… two… one…” Opening the second door, he stepped outside, His ears picked up the beginning bars of Pachelbel's Canon, strummed on the black guitar Tristan had received for Yule. Slowly walking forward, he was nearly blinded by the setting sun on the other side of the gazebo. “Shit…” he muttered to himself. The venue, chosen for the setting sun, wouldn’t be much use if no one could see the ceremony. It was too late to turn back now. Continuing down the white aisle strewn with red rose petals, he shivered slightly. Everyone’s eyes were on him. Kel, sitting near Tristan, bore a smug look, as usual. Pip stood in the back, taking a video. Themis was busy taking pictures, while to her right, Abbie had actually set her book aside for once. Their new friends, Clarisse and Max, sat somberly, observing. Even Zenoan, David’s brother, had made an appearance. He was halfway down the aisle now. Zuko stood under the gazebo, waiting, with David and Jake standing on opposite sides of him. Faelan stood off to the side, her basket set beside her feet. She gave Boom a small smile, and Boom soldiered on. He reached the gazebo, standing before a shallow drop in the land. Breathing a sigh of relief, he turned to face the house, as Jake gave him a thumbs up. The hard part was over. Tristan continued the song as Cog stepped through the door. The rabbit looked like he had just stepped out of a Victorian era novel. He wore a dark tuxedo, with a cravat peeking out from his neckline. A top hat completed the look. He looked… dapper. And sexy as hell. Tristan brought the music to a close as Cog stepped under the gazebo. “You look amazing,” Boom smiled at Cog. “Thanks. You do too.” Zuko stepped forward, a small book open in his hands. “We have gathered today in friendship to celebrate the blending together of two lives. As Boom and Cog come before you here today as two, they will leave this place as one, united in marriage. As family and friends, each of you has played some part, small or large, in bringing them to this moment and in various ways will continue to support and contribute to their relationship. We solemnize this unique time in their lives and make it meaningful by entering into it in an attitude of respect for their deep commitment to each other,” he read. This is it. I’m getting married. “Cog, Boom,” Zuko looked at each of them in turn. “Today you commit yourselves to honoring and protecting one another above your separate selves, and to valuing your union above your own interests. In so doing, you will find a wealth of love and peace not otherwise attainable. But with this joy comes a profound responsibility to protect the bond you share. For it is only with continual care that your love is truly secure in the face of life's inevitable tests.” He paused momentarily, taking a breath before continuing. “You must regard each other with the deepest respect. You must appreciate each other's talents, foster each other's dreams, and be ever mindful of the many gifts that the other offers you. You must inspire and encourage one another. For by strengthening your spouse, you strengthen your marriage. Bring out the very best in each other. Be sparing in criticism and generous in praise for things well done. In communication, be honest and open. For the heart that communicates truth without hesitation earns trust and builds a secure home. With truth comes respect, and with respect, love grows. So accept your marriage as a work-in-progress that will hereafter consume your attention, and yet never be completed. Because a lifelong love requires a lifetime of hard work. But it is a joyous labor, whose fruits are the very richest. “A future together stands before you, vast and unknown. That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. But it is a great tribute to your belief in each other that you are willing to face those uncertainties together. May the pure, simple love with which you join your hearts and hands today never fail, but grow only deeper and more certain with every year you spend together. “You have written your own vows to each other. You may share them now.” Boom pulled out a notecard, clearing his throat. “Cog, I love you unconditionally. I vow to love you, encourage you, trust you, and respect you. Together we will create a home filled with learning, laughter, and compassion. I promise to work with you to foster and cherish a relationship of equality, knowing that we have each other’s back. I accept you as who you are and offer myself in return. I will care for you and stand beside you through all life’s adversities and all life’s joys, from this day forward, and all the days of my life.” Cog pulled a similar card from his breast pocket. “Boom, with you by my side, I feel that I can conquer the world. We are two halves of a single whole, and my love for you knows no bounds. I accept you for yourself, for there is no one in this world I want more than you, as you are. I will spend the rest of my life with you, through the good times, and the bad. I love you, and will love you, always and forever.” Boom smiled as Cog was bathed in the light from the setting sun. He loved this rabbit so much. Faelan stepped forward, holding a wooden box, in which sat two leather collars. Zuko continued, “The two of you have chosen to exchange collars in lieu of the more traditional rings. These items have little value in and of themselves. It is through what they symbolize that their true value is shown. Let these collars be a sign that love has a past, a present, and a future, and that, despite its occasional sorrows, love is a circle of joyous wonder and delight. Boom, take Cog’s collar, place it around his neck, and repeat after me.” Boom picked up the collar on the right, and set it around Cog’s neck, repeating the words Zuko spoke. “Just as this band is strong, so too shall my love for you endure. With this collar, I take you as my partner for life.” At Zuko’s bidding, Cog picked up the remaining collar, fastening it around Boom’s neck. “Just as this band is strong, so too shall my love for you endure. With this collar, I take you as my partner for life.” “Inasmuch as you have sealed your vows in the presence of those gathered here by the giving of these collars and have consented together to live in marriage, it gives me much pleasure to pronounce that you are now husband and husband. You may kiss your groom.” Cog and Boom leaned forward, and their lips met, as the onlookers applauded. Boom heard the click of a camera, and smiled as he and Cog pulled away. Tristan began playing The Book of Love on his guitar, as Cog motioned down the aisle. The two newlyweds walked back down the aisle, holding hands the entire way. They made their way back into the house, Cog scooping Boom into his arms before walking through the door, much to the amusement of the group. “Hey!” Boom exclaimed, as the door closed behind them. Cog set him back onto his feet, and kissed him. “I wanted to do it right,” he laughed. Boom kissed him again. “I know I just made it clear how much I love you, but I want to say it again. I love you Cog.” “I love you too Boom,” Cog smiled. Faelan walked through the door. “Okay lovebirds, I’m taking over now. You two have ten minutes and then we’re on our way to the park for pictures and the reception. Themis says pictures have to be done by six thirty, or the ambient lighting won’t be enough,” she said. “Did Pip teach you to be a drill sergeant?” Cog chuckled. “Watch it mister.” Faelan scowled at the two. “You need to step up your act. You’re married, congratulations. Tonight is about you, and I’ll be damned if I let bad timing screw everything up. Oh, and good job with the sunset. That was amazing.” “Thanks,” Boom smiled, feeling bubbly. “Okay, I’m going to leave you guys now. Don’t do anything stupid, don’t mess up your tuxes. I will be back in… seven minutes.” The fox hurried out of the room, and Boom embraced his husband, just holding the rabbit close. “Do you think she’d get mad if I had a snack?” he asked. “Not if she didn’t know,” Cog chuckled, as the two walked into the kitchen. He pulled out a pepperoni stick, and cut off a couple chunks, handing one to Boom. “Mmm, lunch,” Boom grinned, before biting into the meat. “Pip said he was taking care of dinner. But he was at the ceremony,” Cog said. “That rabbit is very resourceful,” Boom shrugged. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled a full buffet out from behind his ears.” “He did the coffee bar too, huh?” “That’s what he said.” “Pip’s fine. He and his friends did a great job setting everything up. Max helped with the food, too,” Faelan said, walking into the kitchen. “I thought you said seven minutes,” Cog started. “It’s been six and a half bunny boy,” Faelan replied. “Let’s go.” She ushered the two out the front door, and into a waiting car. Jumping into the driver’s seat, she was off like a rocket. Ten minutes of muttered swearing at red lights later, they reached the park where Cog and Boom had first met. It looked different in the growing dusk, lit with lanterns and torches. The pavilion they always used for barbecues and parties was covered in mosquito netting to keep the bugs out of the food that was sitting on folding tables underneath. Faelan led them to a copse of trees, where Themis was waiting with a camera on a tripod. “You three have fun,” she said, looking back at the pavilion. “I need to make sure David and Tristan have everything ready.” She hurried off as Themis fiddled with her camera. “Okay, we have ten minutes before we run out of light,” Themis said. “Let’s get you in front of that oak.” The two stepped in front of the camera, and Themis took several pictures, directing the two into various poses. A few minutes later, Faelan was back. “Before you two go, I want to show you something,” Themis said before Faelan could drag them off again. She held out her camera, showing the picture of Cog and Boom kissing under the gazebo. Just above their heads was a green flash from the setting sun. “Oh my gosh, this is amazing!” Boom exclaimed. “Yeah, this is a great shot Themis!” “Come on you two. Everyone’s waiting,” Faelan pressed. “Hey, calm down Faelan. The time sensitive stuff is done. Let’s just all have fun,” Themis said. “The rest is up to David anyways,” Cog added. “Why don’t you and Themis go find your seats? Boom and I will be there in a minute.” Faelan huffed, and walked away. “Congratulations you two. A green flash at your wedding is an auspicious sign. See you in a couple,” Themis smiled, taking her camera and tripod. Boom breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks. I didn’t know how to get rid of her.” “We are going to hear all about that later,” Cog said. He held out a paw. “Shall we?” Boom smiled, taking the paw. The two left the trees, and walked to where everyone sat at tables for two, plates set out, and champagne glasses filled with grape juice beside them. David saw them coming, and spoke into a microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce to you the Misters Cog and Boom.” As the two stepped forward, Boom reached over and swept Cog off his feet. The dog sauntered to their table, carrying the rabbit in his arms, as everyone laughed. “You ass,” Cog chuckled. “Turnabout’s fair play,” Boom whispered back, kissing the rabbit before setting him back on his feet. Cog cleared his throat. “My husband and I would like to welcome all of you to our wedding celebration, and thank you all for coming. They say time flies when you’re having fun. I have never found that statement more true than when I am spending time with Boom. His smile, his very presence, is enough to make any bunny giddy. And I am lucky that he chose me out of all the others in the world.” “What my husband failed to mention,” Boom said, with a smile at Cog, “is all the times he has been the source of my smiles, and of my laughter. No one gets me more than Cog, and I am honored to call him mine.” The two kissed, and Cog turned back to their waiting friends. “Now that we have bored you sufficiently, let’s break bread and make merry together.” Cog led the way to the tables of food, where they found sushi, rice, chicken, pasta, and other foods the two enjoyed. A two tiered white cake stood to the side, topped by miniatures of a dog and a rabbit. Filling their plates with a bit of everything, Boom and Cog returned to their table. “I can’t believe Themis caught a green flash,” Cog said, swallowing a rice ball. “That was some amazing luck,” Boom agreed. He found Cog’s leg under the table, and wrapped his own around it. Smiling, Cog speared a piece of chicken on his fork, holding it out for Boom, who accepted the offering. “You are one hot dog,” the rabbit said. Boom laughed, as Jake stood up. “Can I get everyone’s attention please?” the other dog called. Gradually the conversations in the vicinity died out. “I would like to make a toast to the happy couple. It is always a pleasure to spend time with these two, and to be allowed the honor of being Boom’s best man is a privilege I will never forget. Cog, take good care of this dog, and he will do the same for you.” Jake raised his glass of juice. “To Cog and Boom. May they find eternal happiness together.” As Jake took his seat, David stood up. “I first met Boom six months ago, a young dog with passion in his heart, tempered with the wisdom of experience. I never thought Cog would find someone like Boom. They seemed so different at the start. “But over the past months, they have shown me looks can be deceiving. These two find their support in that difference, playing off each other’s strengths in ways that I find amazing. And it makes me so happy to know that both are in good hands. To the newlyweds. May they always find strength together.” The dragon remained standing as everyone drank. “Before we get to the dancing, I would like to turn your attention to this cake, lovingly made by Pip and his French pals. And now we are going to cut it into pieces. Boom, Cog, if you’d come here please.” Standing up, Cog followed Boom to where Pip stood with a knife and a rope. “Cog, please place your right wrist over Boom’s left.” Pip requested. Cog did as he was bid, and the taller rabbit bound their wrists together before carefully handing them the knife. The two stepped up to the cake, as Pip said, “As you are bound now, so too shall you be bound together against all of life’s trials.” As they clasped the knife together, Boom felt Cog’s nails against his hand. “Are you ready?” he whispered. The rabbit nodded, and together, they lowered the knife, making the first cut into the cake. “Now left.” “Three inches,” Boom finished, as their hands moved as one. The knife descended a second time, and then a third, before the two scraped the cake onto a plate that Boom held beside the table. Cog laughed with nervous relief, the tension of the moment broken. “Heh, piece of cake,” he grinned. Boom burst into laughter. Setting the knife and plate aside, they held out their hands for Pip to untie. Taking their plate back to their table, they each picked up a fork as everyone else stood up and went to get some cake. Cog cut a corner of the cake off, and held it out on his fork for Boom. Boom bit into it, and chewed. “This is really good. These guys knew what they were doing,” he said, swallowing. “It’s not too moist, but it’s not dry either.” He saw David walk up to Tristan and tap the lab on his shoulder. The two walked off together, and Boom said, “Looks like our dance is brewing.” Cog grabbed the dog’s paws and held them. The two sat there, gazing into each other’s eyes, until someone cleared their throat next to the table. “Are you two ready?” Tristan asked. Cog stood up. “I’m ready if you are Boom,” he replied. “I was born ready,” Boom grinned. “Great,” Tristan smiled, leading them out of the tables, and to a makeshift dance floor. “I want to thank you for inviting me to do the music tonight.” “You’re welcome,” Boom said. “You are doing great.” “Ladies and gentlemen, if you'd turn your attention to the dance floor, it is time for the happy couple’s first dance,” David said through a microphone. The dragon was seated behind a keyboard, and Tristan walked up next to him, picking up his guitar. He strummed once, checking the guitar’s tuning, before David counted him of and he launched into the opening bars of Steam Powered Giraffe’s Honeybee. Taking Cog’s hand, Boom stepped onto the dance floor. As David began singing, they turned to each other, Cog placing his hands on Boom’s waist. They started swaying in time with the music, quickly picking up the beat. “I love you so much,” Cog whispered into Boom’s ear. “Cog, I adore you. You are my sun and my moon; I need you like I need the oxygen in the air. I am utterly, completely in love with you.” “I think I’m going to cry,” the rabbit said. Boom kissed him tenderly as the song ended to applause. “At this time, I would like to invite all the couples onto the dance floor,” David said. Faelan and Pip were the first out, the rabbit dwarfing the fox. Tristan set his guitar aside, waving Kel onto the floor. To Boom’s surprise, Themis and Abbie joined them as David began another song, “I didn’t know you danced Abbie,” Boom said, as he and Cog danced beside the two vixens. “I don’t. Themis dragged me out here,” Abbie said, as Themis spun her around. “You need to get out more you bookworm,” Themis laughed. “Congratulations you two,” Abbie said, as she passed by again, following Themis’ lead. “Thanks,” Cog smiled, echoed by Boom. Abbie scurried away as David announced the dance floor was open for everyone. Cog noticed Zenoan had vanished, though Clarisse had pulled a chair up to the table where Jake and Max sat, and was conversing with the two. “Hey, can I get one more picture of you guys?” Themis asked. “I don’t see why not,” Boom said, glancing at Cog. “I’d love as many pictures of tonight as we can get,” the rabbit added. “Awesome!” Themis ran to grab her camera from her seat, returning with her tripod. Leading Cog and Boom to a spot with a lantern nearby, she set her camera up quickly. “I want the two of you to hold each other and kiss. But you need to hold the pose for a minute,” she said, pulling out a candle. “Sounds easy enough,” Boom said, licking his lips as he looked at Cog. “Yeah. Let us know when you’re ready,” Cog continued. “I’m ready when you two are,” the fox replied, after a couple minutes. “Okay then.” Boom stepped close to Cog. Gazing into the rabbit’s eyes, he slipped his paws into Cog’s back pockets, as the rabbit did the same to him. Leaning in together, their lips met, and they held the kiss, as Themis lit the candle. The fox slowly moved the flame in the shape of a heart around the two, adding flared wings that branched out from either side of the heart. She blew the candle out after a minute. “Okay, you can move again.” Cog pulled away slowly, sliding his paws out of Boom’s pockets. “We are going to have so much fun tonight,” he whispered. Boom giggled. “You guys are going to love this one,” Themis said, looking at the picture in her camera. “I should have them all edited by the end of the week.” “Thank you so much Themis,” Cog smiled. “Yeah, we really appreciate it.” “Thank you. This helps me a lot actually,” Themis said. They rejoined the dance, starting to wind down. “It’s about time to wrap things up,” Tristan said after the last song had ended. “We all have beds waiting for us. But before we go, I would like to dedicate a song to the celebrities of this evening. Boom, Cog, you are married now. New beginnings are in front of you, wide roads ahead to follow. But with every beginning comes an ending. The two of you have finished a chapter in your lives, and are about to start on a new one. As you look forward always, I implore you to never forget where you came from, and what has brought you to where you are today.” David held up a violin, signalling he was ready, and Tristan began strumming, then singing. “Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road; Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go. So make the best of this test and don’t ask why. It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time. It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right. I hope you had the time of your life.” Tears leaked from Boom’s eyes as he listened. The whole time he and Cog had been planning their wedding they had been looking to the future. And though he had already come to terms with the past, it still hit him hard. Cog wrapped his arm around Boom as they listened. “When we’re older, we will look back on tonight and be grateful,” he said. “I already am,” Boom whispered, placing his head on the rabbit’s shoulder. As the song ended, David stepped forward. “Well everyone, that concludes our festivities for this evening. I’m sure the newlyweds are eager to get to some of the night’s other entertainments.” There were more than a few chuckles at that. “Cog, Boom, I bid you farewell. Love and joy be with you always, and have a great honeymoon.” “Thanks everyone!” Cog called, as he and Boom made their way toward the parking lot, where David had left their car earlier that day. Climbing into the driver’s seat, Cog gave Boom one more kiss before the two drove off, ready to start their lives together. PIP LAPIN Pip sat up in bed, careful to avoid disturbing Faelan. Standing up, he quietly made his way to the kitchen. There would be no sleep for him tonight. He warmed some leftover casserole up, carrying it into the living room. Eating the casserole while he waited for his computer to warm up, Pip signed into his account, and opened Word. “They’re back again tonight. This is the fourth night I’ve seen their faces. I don’t want to sleep. I cannot sleep. I know Faelan worries about me, but I am strong. I won’t include her because it will only hurt her, and she’s been through enough pain herself. This is my fight.” Pip thanked Cog silently. Maybe the rabbit hadn’t been the one who had gotten him that journal, but he had organised the party where Pip had gotten it, and it had opened his eyes. He wrote in the journal often, though he made sure to exclude anything that would harm those who read it. He knew Faelan would never read his journal without permission, but he didn’t want to take any chances. They both had their secrets, and they both knew not to pry. “I know they don’t blame me for what happened. But I do. I know I could have stopped it.” The screen blurred in his eyes, and the rabbit rubbed them. Exhaustion had set in long ago. It didn’t matter. The rumble of a tank filled Pip’s ear. The room around him took on a dusty appearance, furniture vanishing and cracks webbing the walls. “Front room’s clear,” someone called Scanning the room, rifle in hand, Pip called, “Back room’s clear.” A tiger entered the room. “That’s the last house then,” he said. “Let’s head back to the truck.” There was a loud crack, and the tiger dropped. Pip followed him down, moving quickly across the ground. The man was breathing rapidly and had his palm held tightly just under his heart. “There’s a sniper in one of the buildings to the east,” someone crackled through Pip’s earpiece, as the rabbit pried the tiger’s arm away to look at his chest. A hole the size of a quarter sat beside the tiger’s heart, frothy blood flowing heavily. “Henri is down,” Pip called out, pressing his own hand over the wound. “How bad is it Doc?” the tiger wheezed. “I’ve seen worse,” Pip replied with a false smile. “You’ll be okay.” You’ll be okay Pip startled awake as the words echoed through his mind. The worst lie he had ever told. Taking in his surroundings, Pip took a shaky breath, painfully aware of the air rushing into his lungs. He was home, safe. Faelan sat on the floor beside him, her head in his lap. She looked up at him and asked, “Couldn’t sleep?” Pip shook his head silently. “I’m here if you need to talk,” the fox offered. “I know,” Pip whispered. “Let’s just go back to bed.” The two stood up, and went back to the bedroom. Faelan placed her arm across Pip’s chest, and was soon asleep again. Lying on his back, Pip stared at the white ceiling, not daring to close his eyes. The words continued through his head, taunting him, mocking him. You’ll be okay. MAX MARKHAUS / DAVID ENTERAI “Dude, can’t you let me win for once?” Max asked, as the pool ball sank neatly into a pocket. “How will you get good without a challenge?” The dragon pulled the tiger aside, giving the pool table to the next pair of people. Max still wasn’t comfortable in bars. This was only his fourth foray into one. He could see David wincing at the noise levels. “Let’s head outside,” he suggested, motioning to the patio door. The two walked outside, and David sat, dangling his legs in a pool lit with lavender lights. “I needed to get out of there. Thanks,” he said. “Yeah, I saw you freaking out a bit. What was that all about?” David took a deep breath as he leaned back on his hands. “Ancient history,” he replied. Max sat beside him, resting his head on David’s shoulder. “You can tell me,” he said quietly. “The First World War. I was in the fights at Verdun.” “The music in there gave you a flashback?” Max asked doubtfully. David shook his head. “No, it just brought up memories. Or… something. Just the loud voices.” He looked at Max. “This is why I don’t do bars.” “We can go if you want.” “Yeah. That’d probably be good. I have some wine in my cellar that we could share tonight.” “I’d like that,” Max smiled slightly. He stood up, and helped the dragon to his feet. The two shared a chaste kiss before heading to David’s car. David headed down to the basement as soon as he got home. Max hung back, taking a picture of Claire’s photograph on his phone, before following the dragon. “I found a good one. 2015 Riesling,” David said, holding up a bottle. “I’ll have to trust you,” Max shrugged. “I know nothing about wine.” He followed David back upstairs, into what David had referred to as the sitting room. It looked like a normal living room to the tiger, complete with couch, tv, an extra chair, and an empty fireplace along a wall. They sat on the couch, and David snapped his fingers. A short table appeared in front of them, complete with a pair of crystal wine glasses. Max yelped in shock, and David chuckled. “That one takes some getting used to,” he said. “Sorry I didn’t warn you.” He poured the wine, and set the bottle aside. “Did you want to watch a movie?” Max shook his head, picking up his glass. “I’m happy just sitting with you,” he said. “You’re so sweet,” David smiled. “To new experiences.” The two clinked their glasses, and drank. “Not bad,” Max said, setting his aside. Removing his shoes, he curled up next to David, placing his hand on the dragon’s thigh. David took ahold of Max’s hand, rubbing it with his thumb. “I love you,” he whispered softly. “I love you too,” Max replied, just as quietly. The two lay cuddling on the couch for the rest of the evening, both sipping their drinks until they were gone. “Do you want to stay the night?” David questioned. “I can’t,” Max mumbled drowsily. “Work.” “Okay. I’ll take you home.” An hour later, the two stood in front of Max’s apartment, the tiger shivering in the chill autumn breeze. “Thanks for tonight,” he said. “It was my pleasure.” The dragon cupped his hand under the tiger’s chin, and kissed him. “You have a good night.” “You too.” Max opened the door, and vanished inside. David hung around until he heard the snick of a lock engaging, before heading to his car. TRISTAN THARN Tristan approached the door as someone knocked loudly. “David? What are you doing here?” he asked, as the dragon stood outside with his violin case. “Kel said you were feeling down. I thought I’d come try to cheer you up with a good old fashioned music jam.” Tristan stepped aside to let the dragon in, flinching as David narrowly avoided stepping in discarded Chinese food containers. The room was a mess, but Tristan hadn’t had the energy to clean up lately. David took it all in stride, dodging plates and clothes with ease and clearing a spot for his violin case. “Get your guitar and let’s get started,” he smiled. Hurrying through his bedroom door, Tristan grabbed his guitar and quickly exited the room, hoping David hadn’t seen the mess inside. Not that it really mattered, he supposed, with the living room looking as bad as it did. David tuned his instrument with the motions of a master, as Tristan pulled his guitar out of its case. The dog followed David’s lead, his mind racing. “Take a deep breath,” David advised, applying rosin to his bow. “What are we even doing?” “Anything and everything. We will let our hearts lead us today.” David played a few slow notes. “Join me and find your rhythm. Then, take the lead,” he said. He continued playing, not playing a song, just stringing notes and melodies together. Tristan quickly found the pace and fell in time, fingerpicking until he was leading the dragon. Their instruments sang in harmony with each other. Cautiously, Tristan changed the tune, picking up the pace, yet still holding back. “Clear your mind Tristan. Don’t worry about hitting the right notes. There are none.” Closing his eyes, Tristan sped up his playing. David changed his own sound to complement the dog, watching Tristan. Tristan knew he shouldn’t feel so down. Kel loved him, and he had friends who cared about him. There was no reason for his depression, and the fact that it remained pissed him off. His music grew louder, more angry. David backed off, letting the dog have his head. Violent tears dripped from the lab’s eyes, and he squeezed them away. With a loud twang, one of the strings on the guitar snapped. Tristan held the instrument, body shaking. Setting his violin aside, David held his hands out for the guitar. Tristan surrendered it, and the dragon held the ends of the broken string together, murmuring a word. When he took his hand away, the string was whole once more. “Do you want to continue?” he asked, handing the guitar back. Tristan nodded, hiccoughing. Reclaiming his violin, David began playing again, soft as a lullabye. Tristan’s tune changed to match; a melody of peace and mending. The two slowed to a stop. “Do you feel any better?” David questioned. “Actually, I do,” Tristan replied, with a slight smile. “Awesome. Remember your music. It can be a light in dark times,” David smiled, patting Tristan on the back. “And if you ever need help, don’t hesitate to ask. It’s what friends are for.” He packed up his violin, and headed for the door. “I’ll see you for our normal practice, right?” “Yes. You will,” Tristan replied. Nodding with satisfaction, the dragon excused himself from the apartment. Tristan took a deep breath, and walked into the bathroom. Pulling a bottle out of the cabinet, he opened it, and pulled out a single pill. Dropping it into the toilet, he flushed it, confident he wouldn’t need it. PIP LAPIN / FAELAN EUNUCH Pip whirled through the kitchen, busy preparing dinner for himself and Faelan. He was in the zone, everything in an orderly mess. Faelan stood against the wall, watching him as he worked. She had learned to stay out of his way when he got into a frenzy like this. She had fun watching him though, a master at his work. Not that Pip would say such a thing. He prided himself in constantly learning new things in the kitchen. A ring of the doorbell tore the rabbit out of his work “Zut,” he muttered angrily, moving toward the door. “Faelan, make sure the breads don’t burn.” “Shouldn’t be too hard,” the fox grinned, taking his place in the kitchen. Ducking under the ceiling fan to avoid hitting his ears, Pip crossed the room and opened the door. A short rabbit stood outside, black sable fur contrasting against pure white eyes. His nose twitched at the sight of Pip. “Pieter?!” Pip gaped, staring at the rabbit. “Hallo Pip. It’s been a long time,” the smaller rabbit smiled. “May I come in?” Pip stepped aside, as Faelan walked into the room. “Who is it-?’ she stopped short, looking at Pieter. “Oh.” “Faelan, this is an old friend of mine, Pieter-” “-Konijn. I know him,” the fox interrupted. Pip blinked in surprise. “Oh,” he said, realization passing through him. “I hope you were a gentleman with her,” he added, looking at Pieter. “Just as I was with you,” Pieter winked at him. Faelan raised an eyebrow. Pip knew all too well about her time on the streets. It was how the two had met. This was the first she had heard of his conquests though. “Ah, she did not know. My apologies, Liefde,” Peter said to Pip. “That’s enough of that. What happened in the past, remains in the past,” Faelan said. “Perhaps it shouldn’t,” Pieter said, giving Pip a look. “Sometimes you need to lean on others; accept their help.” “So, you’re out?” Pip asked. “Ja. After the incident with… After you left, people started dropping like flies. I paid my dues and got out as soon as I could. I met Faelan before that though, on my last leave before getting out.” Pip remembered, though he tried not to. Having your friend’s life drain under your touch was not something you forget easily. “I work with his brother you know,” he said. “Max?” Faelan questioned, leaning against the wall again. “Yeah,” Pip said quietly glancing down. “Anyway, mijn liefste, did you ever get the money for your operation?” Pieter asked, watching Faelan. The fox scowled. “That’s none of your business,” Pip said sharply. “Why are you here?” “I just wanted to say hi to an old friend, and stumbled upon two instead.” “I wouldn’t exactly call you a friend,” Faelan said coolly. “You were a client, nothing more.” “You wound me, mijn liefste,” Pieter grinned. “I’ll leave you two to your dinner. It smells delicious.” Pieter headed back to the door. “I hope I see the two of you around,” he finished, before leaving. Pip and Faelan breathed twin sighs of relief when the door closed. “Barracks buddies?” Faelan questioned. “Not so much. Just an experiment during a drunken night,” Pip shrugged. “I know we agreed not to talk about it, but I have to know. Who was on top?” “Me,” Faelan said with a smirk. Pip laughed. “I figured. He always seemed like a bottom. Come on, let’s finish dinner.” They headed back into the kitchen, where Pip resumed his work. He worked more slowly now, his movements muted. “Are you okay?” Faelan asked. “Yeah. Just… just remembering things.” Faelan hugged him from behind, her face buried in his back. “I love you,” she said, her voice muffled. “I know. “ The rabbit set his spoon aside, steadying himself against the counter. “I know I’ve been quiet about my time in the service. It’s hard to relive it all, and I wanted to spare both of us the nightmares,” he said. “It’s not working for you.” It was a statement, not a question. Pip nodded. “It’s always the same one. The only time I ever lost a man. It turns out I wasn’t cut out for the job.” The rabbit took a deep breath. “His name was Henri. He took a bullet through the lung. We were pinned down by a sniper. There was no way to get him out. “After we got back to base and made our report, Pieter took me aside and suggested that he could take my mind off the day. I believed him, mainly because I wanted to. I knew it wouldn’t last, I just needed those moments. “We got drunk that night, and poured one out for Henri. Then Pieter took me to his bunk. The next morning, I paid my dues and got out. I visited Henri’s family on my way here. I told them what had happened, and apologised. They didn’t blame me, but I still do.” Faelan stood on her toes and kissed Pip. “You did what you could,” she said quietly. “How many people did you save? How many families remain intact because of you?” “I’ve tried writing it all out, but the words bring no comfort.” The rabbit shrugged. “Maybe talking it out will help. Maybe not.” “All you can do is try,” Faelan said, kissing him again. “Let’s finish dinner. Then I’ll rub your feet.” “Thank you mon cheri,” Pip smiled. Pieter stood outside, hearing every word spoken between the two within. There were things he had wondered about regarding Henri’s death, but no new information was brought forth. He had achieved his goal though. Pip was talking about the past now, seeking help. He had the chance to be happy again. To be at peace. Besides, Pieter could ask Henri himself. The last member of Pip’s squad smiled as a stiff wind blew, dissipating his form, until all that remained were two glowing eyes, and a ghostly smile. MAXIMUS MARKHAUS Max sat beside David on the couch, the dragon holding the tiger close. They were watching a movie, though the tiger had no idea what the plot was. He was more interested in gently rubbing the hand that was draped across his shoulders. He subtly shifted his other hand down to David’s waist, and the dragon scooted over a little to give his hand space, avoiding contact in the process. This had been happening for a while now, and it was driving Max insane. There was a reason David wasn’t letting the tiger touch him, and Max was going to get to the bottom of it right now. The only trouble was he didn’t know how to broach the subject. “Are you okay?” the dragon asked, startling the tiger from his thoughts. “I’d be better if you were a little closer,” Max said innocently. David moved a little closer, though he was still mindful of Max’s hand. Max decided to go for broke. “You know, you still haven’t shown me your sword skills,” he said. David raised an eyebrow, something Max wished desperately he could master. “I wasn’t aware you wanted to see them.” Max laughed. “Are you serious? I’ve done everything I can think of to hint that I want to have sex with you.” “My apologies. I didn’t know.” There was a moment of silence. “So…” David leaned over and shushed the tiger with a kiss. Max pushed his tongue through David’s lips, and battled with the dragon’s tongue. Cautiously, David brought his hand down to Max’s jeans, and unbuttoned them. The tiger eagerly raised himself off the couch so his pants could be slid off. Breaking lip contant, he nearly ripped his shirt trying to get it off, and David chuckled quietly. “Slow down. Let’s enjoy this,” the dragon murmured, licking the cat’s ear. Max mewled at the warmth of David’s breath, and fell back onto the couch. The dragon climbed on top of the tiger, his wings tucked out of the way. Hands shaking, Max slipped David’s pants off his waist. David stopped him before he could reach the shirt. “This one’s a little tricky,” the dragon smiled, pulling his wings through the shirt before removing the garment. As soon as the shirt was gone, Max pulled the dragon back on top of him, both of them clad only in boxers. David’s scales felt weird against Max’s body, but it was a good kind of weird. But it was gone too soon. Max whimpered as the dragon stood up. “Not here,” David said, helping the tiger up. They hurried to the bedroom, where Max threw himself on the bed while David grabbed lube and a condom. Max began to remove his boxers, and David stopped him. Setting the supplies aside, the dragon straddled him, and slipped his fingers under the tiger’s underwear. He slowly started pulling at them, sliding them down a centimeter at a time. Max moaned quietly as the dragon’s fingers brushed his most private areas. He was wet, so wet, and still David took his time, drawing the process out. Then suddenly he was free, and David let him kick the shorts off as he admired the view. A full seven inches of straining barbed meat stood over Max’s groin. David licked his lips as Max curled his own fingers under the dragon’s boxers. He wasted no time wrenching them down over David’s own member. Finally the dragon lowered himself, ever so slowly, hovering over the tiger. Their dicks brushed, and Max gasped, thrusting upward. Groin met groin, followed by the rest of their bodies, and culminating in another kiss. David shoved his hands under the tiger, giving Max’s ass a firm squeeze. This elicited another moan from the tiger, as the dragon began massaging the globes in his palms. “This is your first time, right?” the dragon asked. Max nodded wordlessly. “If I hurt you at any time, let me know immediately, okay?” “Okay…” Max breathed. David unwrapped the condom and slipped it on. He took some lube and began oiling Max. The tiger bit his lip, tensing at the chilling touch. “Relax. It will make this easier,” David said, working himself over next. Slipping his hands back under the tiger, he gently push until Max rolled over onto his stomach. The dragon began massaging the tiger’s back, trying to loosen some of the tension. Soon, Max was a puddle on the bed, purring loudly. Then David made his move. Poised at Max’s entrance, he slowly pushed into the tiger’s warm confines. “Mmph… Ow…” Max gasped, tensing back up. David immediately pulled back out. “It’s going to hurt a bit,” he said. “You don’t say?” Max laughed slightly, wincing. David placed his thumbs on Max’s lower back, and massaged the tiger more. “We don’t have to go all the way tonight,” he said. “No, we’re doing this,” Max denied. “I’ve waiting too long for this moment.” He raised his ass and pushed it against David’s groin, his tail wrapping around the dragon’s right thigh. David pushed him back down and slowly grinded against him. When Max was relaxed once more, the dragon tried again, pushing once more into the tiger’s insides. Max gasped, and clenched up, but he also pushed back against the dragon, trying to get him deeper inside. It hurt, but he could feel past the pain. David began thrusting slowly, and Max moaned quietly. It was better, more intimate. Then his insides exploded, and Max yowled. David stopped. “Are you okay?” he asked. The tiger nodded mutely, his face pressed against the bed. His stomach tingled from the aftershocks of whatever David had just done. It didn’t feel bad. But it was one of the most intense feelings Max had ever felt before. “Do you want me to pull out?” “No!” David began thrusting again, and Max’s dick throbbed. When the feeling came again, he was prepared, gritting his teeth and clenching. The dragon slowed a few seconds later, and pulled Max over, staying inside as they lay on their sides. He started again, his hand wrapping around the tiger’s member and stroking in time with his own thrusts. Max thrusted into David’s hand, impaling himself further onto the dragon. The sensations he was feeling were indescribable, a symphony of painful pleasures. David began thrusting more forcefully, and Max felt a warmth inside him that hadn’t been there before. The dragon’s hand ceased its administrations, and Max took over, working himself until he went over the edge after a few more seconds. The two lay coupled, panting, for almost a minute. “So, was it everything you hoped it would be?” David asked. “And things I wasn’t expecting,” Max replied. David pulled out, and Max shivered at the sudden emptiness. He rolled over and placed an arm over the dragon, nuzzling him. “I love you,” he murmured. “I love you too my little tiger…” TRISTAN THARN Tristan sat against a tree at the park, staring at the tattoo on his wrist. A reminder of his struggles, and a promise to himself that he would keep trying. “Hey,” Kel said, walking up to Tristan. “Hi. You said you needed to talk?” Tristan stood up and leaned in to kiss Kel, but the wolf backed up. “Yeah…” he said, glancing down. Tristan's body tensed up. “W-what’s going on?” Kel sighed. “I can’t be with you right now.” “What?” The wolf leaned against a tree, his hands shaking slightly. “The last month has been too stressful. Every time I call, every time I come over, I wonder if I’m going to find you dead.” “So you’re just going to end it.” Tristan fell back against another tree, sliding until he was seated. “I’m sorry. I really am.” Tristan should have felt sad, angry even. But he just felt numb. He stared at Kel, the corners of his eyes dimming into darkness, and his body swayed. “I just… I love you too much Tristan,” he heard Kel say. “I couldn’t handle it if you killed yourself. I need distance.” “Fine. Go then. Honestly, I don’t care,” Tristan said, closing his eyes. He focused on his breathing, trying to get this dizziness to go away. Tristan heard the crunch of leaves as Kel walked away. Opening his eyes, he looked down at his wrist. The tattoo sat there, mocking him. COG THERABBIT Cog crawled back into bed, curling next to his dog with a smile. Boom mumbled something incoherent, taking most of the covers as he rolled over. ‘I’ll give him another minute.’ The rabbit draped an arm over his husband as they spooned. “Your arm is freezing,” Boom muttered. “I know. I have fresh coffee waiting if you want to warm up.” “I’d rather stay in bed.” The dog grunted as he sat up. “Who’d run your cart if you stayed in bed?” Cog countered. “I can take a day off. Maybe give you inspiration for your next book.” “101 Ways to Lick a Bone?” Cog chuckled. Boom smacked the rabbit playfully. “I think you already have enough material for that one,” he said. Yawning, Boom stood up, and made his way to the bathroom. Cog headed downstairs to finish making breakfast, knowing Boom would join him shortly. A minute later, he felt Boom’s paws wrap around him. “You know, it probably isn’t safe to cook with no clothes on,” the dog whispered in his ear. “But if I have clothes on, how are you going to enjoy the show?” “Can I help at all?” “You could set the table.” Cog gave the dog a quick kiss, before returning to the omelet frying in the pan. Soon he was placing the food on a pair of plates, and carrying them to where Boom sat waiting. The two ate in silence, both planning out their day. “You’ll be home around four, right?” Cog asked. “Yeah. There’s not much point in staying out later. Lunch is busier than dinner will ever be.” Cog nodded in understanding as he collected the now empty plates and carried them into the kitchen. He heard Boom walk upstairs, heading back to the bathroom. Placing the dishes into a dishwasher, Cog went into his wardrobe, and gathered a skirt and a shirt. Ho followed Boom into the bathroom, stepping into the shower with the dog. “Hey stranger,” Boom smiled. “Hey yourself.” The two kissed, before Cog grabbed a bottle of lavender shampoo. He began lathering Boom’s body, working quickly. There was a schedule to keep, if Boom wanted to work today. Stepping under the showerhead, Boom washed off, before returning the favour. As Cog rinsed, the dog stepped out of the shower. He dried off, and was already dressed by the time Cog joined him. “Will you do the honours?” he asked, handing Cog a bandana. “With pleasure,” Cog smiled, fastening the bandana around Boom’s neck. He dressed quickly himself, and the two headed out to the front door. “You got everything? Phone, Keys, wallet?” the rabbit asked. “Ye- wait, I need that skillet,” Boom remembered, hurrying back into the kitchen. He returned quickly, the skillet in hand. “There we go. I love you,” he said, kissing the rabbit. “I love you too. Be safe.” Opening the door, Boom walked out to his food truck. Cog remained in the doorway, watching his husband leave. When the truck was out of sight, he closed the door and made his way to the computer room, ready to start his own workday. KEL DANTHOS Kel startled awake, heart pounding in the darkness of his room. His breaths came in rapid gasps as he fought the urge to cry. Tristan had finally done it. Kel had found him dead in the bathtub, covered in bloody water. But he hadn't. It was just a dream. Someone knocked on the door to his apartment, and Kel jumped at the noise. Taking a deep breath, the wolf stood up and pulled on a pair of pants. He opened the door, and found Jake on the other side, hand poised to knock again. “Oh,” the dog said, lowering his hand. “What are you doing here?” Kel grumbled, squinting in the midday sunlight. “I thought you could use some company. Can I come in?” Kel sighed, and stepped aside, allowing the dog entrance. He flipped a light by the door, revealing a spotless apartment. “So you heard,” he said. “I heard that you locked yourself in your apartment. He’s just a dog. And you broke it off with him. This doesn’t make any sense,” Jake said. “Does it have to?” Kel sat on a couch, resting his head in his hand. “All I’m saying is that he shouldn’t matter if you broke up with him. Get back out there and forget about Tristan.” Kel snorted. “It’s not as easy as you make it sound,” he replied. “No, you’re just making it hard.” “Why do you even care?” Kel snapped. “Damn it, this is why!” Jake grabbed Kel and pulled him up. Their lips met, and Kel’s eyes widened. He immediately pulled back. “What the hell?!” he exclaimed. “You’re not bound to any one person. Think about it,” Jake said, heading for the door. He closed it hard behind him, leaving Kel in a daze. Kel stood in front of the red door, hand raised tentatively. He didn’t know why he was here. Had he made his decision? It didn’t feel like he had decided anything. Sucking in his breath, Kel knocked on the door. It opened a few seconds later, Jake standing on the other side. “I knew you would come,” the dog smiled. “Come in.” The door was opened just wide enough to let Kel pass. As he walked through, he could feel the heat of Jake’s body, feel the closeness of it, and it made him shiver. He knew what Jake was doing. He himself played mind games every day at work. But damned if it didn’t work on him anyway. The dog closed the door, and made his way into the kitchen. “Do you want something to drink?” he called over his shoulder. ‘Yes,’ Kel’s mind said, ‘Something to take off the nerves.’ But he sensed this was not a good idea. Jake seemed… dangerous somehow. “No thanks,” he replied, without missing a beat. Jake returned a second later with a beer in his hand. “I assume you came here for a reason,” he said. Kel nodded, trying to figure out why he had come here. He walked over in front of Jake’s sofa, looking at a painting of a wooded glade. “That’s a nice picture,” he said. “Isn’t it? I know the painter, Anthony Mareltho,” Jake said, standing at Kel’s shoulder. Kel could feel Jake’s breath on his neck. “Let’s not beat around the bush,” the dog whispered, a finger tracing down Kel’s cheek. Kel shivered again, and he stepped away. “You came here because you want me. You would have stayed away otherwise.” He knew Jake was right. He was seeking comfort right now; strength to stay away from Tristan, to not run back and beg his forgiveness. What was he doing? “I think I made a mistake,” Kel said, turning around. Jake was in his face an instant later. “You know I can give you everything he can’t. Confidence, experience-” “And probably a disease.” Kel stepped away again, not backing up, but stepping aside. “Tristan is a spoiled brat,” Jake hissed. “He didn’t even want to be with you. All he does is whine all the time.” “What makes you any different? Trying so desperately to get into my pants, it’s pathetic really.” Kel walked with purpose, leaving the house and allowing the door to close hard behind him. He knew what he had to do. TRISTAN THARN / KEL DANTHOS Kel walked up a flight of stairs, his second walk of the evening. But this time, he knew exactly what he wanted. Knocking on the door at the top, he waited. And waited. A peal of thunder sounded over head, and a shower of water fell onto Kel. And still he waited, fear growing in his gut. Knocking again, louder, he called out, “Tristan?” When no one responded, he felt above the door, finding the spare key on the small ledge above. Unlocking the door, he let himself in. “Tristan?” The apartment was dark, and reeked of rotten food. Flipping on the light, Kel found a stack of carry out containers on the counter in the kitchen. The bedroom door was cracked, though no one was within. Taking a deep breath, Kel moved toward the bathroom, his nightmare taking shape before his eyes. Tristan lay in the bathtub, lying in a mix of water, and blood from the fresh cut on his arm; one among dozens of cuts. One for each time Kel had said he loved him. He heard the dog walking through his apartment, but didn’t care. Let Kel find him like this. It was his fault anyways. The door opened slowly, and the light flicked on. There was a moment of silence. Then Kel screamed. It had happened. He was dead. Kel had killed him. Kel lost all sense, falling next to the tub and grabbing Tristan. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” he cried. “Wh-what?” Tristan croaked, the sound almost swallowed up by Kel’s sobs. He tried to push Kel away, but the pain in his arms was too much. “You’re alive!” “Why are you here?” Kel looked at Tristan, at those green eyes, clouded by pain. “I wanted to apologize, and beg your forgiveness.” Kel hiccoughed, body trembling as he tried to calm himself. “You left me. I thought you didn’t care.” Tristan was shaken. He had never once heard Kel scream like that. And it scared him. “This is why I left.” The wolf motioned at the tub Tristan still sat in. “Why? Why would you do this?” “Because you left.” Tristan winced as he let his arm slip into the water. A moment later he was hoisted into the air, Kel cradling him in his arms. “What the hell are you doing?” Tristan demanded. “Taking care of you.” “I don’t need your-” “Tristan, your arm is bleeding like a stuck pig.” Kel set the dog on his bed, and went hunting for bandages. He texted David, and returned to the room, wrapping Tristan’s arm tightly. “You dumped me, remember? You don’t get to just come back in here,” Tristan said. “I was selfish Tristan. I was thinking of myself, and I’m sorry for that. But clearly you can’t handle me being gone.” “I can handle it better than you think.” “That explains why your arms are torn up. You’re handling it really well.” Kel went back into the bathroom to drain the tub, leaving Tristan seething. Who did that wolf think he was? Tristan should have never gotten together with him. “This is all your fault,” he muttered, sitting up. But Kel was right. He was not handling this situation. Kel came back into the room with a fresh towel. He started gently drying Tristan off. “I can do it myself,” Tristan snapped, trying to grab for the towel. His arms protested, pain shooting through them. He hadn’t meant to cut that deep. He had been numb, wanting to feel something, anything. And now he felt everything. Kel picked up the towel again, and continued his task, working until Tristan was dry. Tristan tried to ignore the wolf’s closeness, but his body still reacted. Kel took no notice, grabbing a pair of boxers, and helping Tristan pull them on. His body still reacted to Kel’s touch. Not that it meant anything. Kel’s heart had steadied, and he busied himself taking care of Tristan, trying to avoid thinking about the tub again. Someone knocked on the front door, and Tristan stiffened. “Relax. It’s just David. I need his help with your arms.” “I don’t want him to see me like this.” “Then let’s get some pants on you,” Kel said, reaching for the clothes. “You know what I mean.” “Yes. And you know your arms need to be looked at. So either we get David to look at them, or we take you to the hospital.” Tristan sighed as Kel left the room. The lights flickered as he waited. Then David came through the door. “The music didn’t work,” the dragon said. “No.” David shrugged, examining Tristan’s arm. “It happens. We’ll have to find something else for moments like these.” The dragon began whispering words Tristan couldn’t understand, and his arm began itching. “Don’t scratch it. I can’t heal it completely; it’s too deep. But I can take the pain away-” “No. Please don’t.” The dragon looked at him. “Okay,” he said, binding the arm again. “If you need me for anything, don’t hesitate to ask.” Tristan heard the sound of a sink running, and he followed David out of the room. Kel was washing dishes in the sink. David said his farewells, and left the building. “What are you doing?” “Cleaning,” Kel said simply, drying a plate. “You don’t have to-” “I want to.” Kel washed a few more dishes in silence, letting the work take his thoughts. “I love you Tristan,” he said finally. The dog laughed sourly. “That’s why you broke my heart. Because you love me.” “I’m so-” “No. You don’t get to say that. This is the second time you pushed me away Kel.” “And I’m trying to make up for it-” “How?! How do you make up for this?!” Tristan held up his arm, swathed in bandages. “I don’t know damn it!” Kel yelled. “I am trying so hard! Do you think it's easy for me, knowing that my boyfriend wants to end his life?! Why? Why do you want to end it so bad?” “I don’t know. All I know is that you helped. And then you left.” Kel walked to Tristan, and held him in his arms. “I’m sorry Tristan. I never wanted to hurt you.” “I love you Kel,” Tristan whispered. “Will you stay with me tonight?” “I wouldn’t have it any other way…” THEMIS FALIS Themis lay next to Abbie, a happy smile on her face. “And you call yourself inexperienced,” she teased. “I never thought of trying that before.” “I am!” Abbie insisted. “I just read a lot. It gives me ideas.” “Well then…” Themis kissed Abbie’s snout. “Don’t ever stop reading,” she whispered, tongue lightly tracing Abbie’s nose. “I don’t plan to,” Abbie smiled. TRISTAN THARN Tristan sat in the park. Memories filled his mind, all bearing a connection to this place. Some were sweet; guitar lessons with David, and the first time Kel had kissed him. Others not so much. The day after meeting Kel was one of those. The wolf stood a distance away, chatting with Faelan. Today was the summer party, hosted by Boom this time. Another memory, in the making. Kel had been both a blessing and a curse for Tristan. The dog ran a finger over his throat, tracing the scar hidden by his fur. Eleven months. And each with its own challenges and rewards. A dog sits in a tub full of water, a razor in his hand. Life has spiralled, far beyond his control now. Deserted by friends, forgotten by family, he has reached the end. He takes a breath, praying for it to be his last, and swipes across his throat. Tristan squeezed his eyes shut, forcing the memory back. It haunted him, the void he had fallen into, but step by step he had pulled himself back out. It started with Cog. The rabbit had seen Tristan’s sorrow, and had struck up conversation with him, in this very park. The dog sits on a bench, red bandana tied over his throat. No one can know. No one can see the angry welt or the broken fur. A rabbit sits beside him, notebook and pen set aside. “You look lonely, sitting by yourself.” The dog remains silent. He is empty inside, a shell of his former self. Undaunted, the rabbit tries again. “I’ve seen you here before. You come here a lot, but you stayed away for a while. I got worried.” This elicits a snort of disbelief, but that is all the answer that the rabbit needs. “I know there’s a story in there. Everyone has one. I have the feeling yours is sad, but I still want to hear it.” Silence, as the dog processes what he’s hearing. A complete stranger cares. Someone cares. “My name is Cog,” the rabbit tries again. “Tristan.” It comes out in a croak, but it is a step. “Well Tristan, anytime you feel like sharing, I’m all ears.” The rabbit holds out one of his long floppy ears with a grin. The corners of the dog’s mouth turn up ever so slightly. He had opened a little, but remained guarded. No one would ever know the whole story, not even Kel. After all, Kel had been the cause. The dog stands in front of a car dealership, debating. He doesn’t have much but he needs a way to get around. He spots a wolf walking confidently toward him. There is an allure to the man, a sense that this wolf could lead the dog on the journey of his life. “Hello. Can I be of any help?” the wolf asks. “Yeah, I need a car-” “-and you’re on a budget. Come on. I’ll show you around,” the wolf smiles. The dog follows him for close to two hours, but all of the cars are too expensive for him. “I’m sorry for wasting your time,” the dog apologises. “I wouldn’t call it wasted. If I can help with anything else, let me know.” The wolf scribbles something on the back of a business card and hands it to the dog with a wink, before sauntering away. He had called that night, and Kel had taken him to his apartment. What happened there had pushed Tristan over the edge. There was no way he could know. For weeks he talked with Cog, who always seemed to have a smile. Sports, movies, games, anything but Tristan’s story. But the rabbit seemed to have a way of worming information out. He discovered Tristan’s love for music. Then came David. Cog introduced the dragon to him, citing David’s love of music as the reason the two should meet. David and Tristan talked for hours that day, each learning the others favourite songs and bands. The dog sits on the park bench, a guitar held in his hands. “I sucked,” he says. The dragon shrugs. “No one is a star when they’re just starting out.” he replies. “You did well.” The dragon looks at his phone and stands up. “I’m supposed to meet someone soon,” he says, wings unfurling. “What about your guitar?” “You can borrow it. Practice a bit.” The dragon flies away, leaving the dog alone with a guitar. He learned fast. Soon David took him to an open mic, where the two performed together. It was a simple song to be sure, but the crowd had enjoyed it. Tristan’s confidence began its slow return. It was around that time that Cog introduced him to Faelan. The fox had made it clear from day one that she would not allow Tristan to speak poorly of himself. Her manner was brusque, commanding; but he knew she meant well. Things were looking up. Then Cog invited him to the rabbit’s annual Christmas party, and Tristan learned that Kel had also been invited. With a sudden crash, his depression was back. The dog stands in front of a rack full of bandanas. He is shopping for Cog’s boyfriend, Boom. The two haven’t talked much, and the dog doesn’t know much about Boom, except that he is always wearing a bandana. There aren’t many to choose from, but the dog wants to pick the right one. ‘It doesn’t matter what you pick. He won’t like it.’ The dog self-consciously pulls his scarf a little tighter. The wound has healed into a scar and his fur has regrown, but he feels better covering it anyway. The party was the first time he had seen Kel since the wolf had kicked him out. Tristan had almost wanted to fake being sick to beg out of going. But in the end he couldn’t disappoint Cog. So he went, expecting to just suffer in silence. He didn’t expect Kel to apologise. Certain it was just another of the wolf’s tricks, Tristan rebuked Kel, until David had spoken with him. The dog gave Kel another chance. The wolf sits across from the dog, the two studying each other silently. The restaurant is dimly lit, soft music playing in the background. The dog ignores it all. “Would it help if I said I was sorry again?” the wolf asks. “No. And a fancy dinner isn’t going to magically fix anything.” “I feel like it’s a start though. We interacted for maybe four hours. You didn’t see the real me.” “It felt pretty damned real to me,” the dog growls. “Look, I couldn’t stop thinking about you-” “Neither could I. Thinking about how you took advantage of me when I was vulnerable.” “It was supposed to be a one night stand. But there was something different about you. It scared me.” The dog blinks. The wolf, scared? That didn’t seem possible. “I don’t do commitments. But something about you makes me want to commit to a relationship.” Giving Kel that second chance had been one of the best decisions Tristan had made in a long time. The wolf was caring and loving, often in ways Tristan never expected. For the first month, Tristan tried to find fault. Looking back, he hated how paranoid he had been. They went to Cog and Boom’s wedding as a couple, their first official date. This picnic was their second. Tristan closed his eyes and breathed a deep sigh. Things were better now. He was glad he had failed that day. For the first time in over a year, Tristan felt at peace. MAXIMUS MARKHAUS They wriggled on his lap. Toes as blue as the sky, with nails as long as a thumb. Max tore his gaze from the appendages, disconcerted by the ideas running through his mind. He focused on massaging David’s foot, but the toes still called. Max licked his lips nervously, fingers almost digging into David’s foot as he kneaded it. “Are you okay?” David questioned. Max made a noncommittal grunt, pouring his focus once more into the foot. Finally, he surrendered to the pull. “What are you doing?” the dragon asked, as his foot was rested onto the couch. Max knelt beside his lover, drawing ever closer to the toes. They were fresh from a shower ten minutes prior, squeaky clean. His tongue flicked out, testing one of the claws. It scratched his tongue, but Max found that he enjoyed the sensation. He gently took a nail between his teeth and nibbled. David breathed in deeply, his foot flexing at the feel of Max’s breath. The tiger took the opportunity to slide his tongue up the top of the foot. A little salty, but not bad… He tried it again, and David giggled. “Careful. You tickle me too much and I might kick,” the dragon chuckled. He gasped as Max’s mouth closed around his big toe. The cat sucked for a moment, trying to wrap his mind around what he was doing; why he was doing it. His teeth scraped across the toe, and David moaned quietly. A quick glance up left no doubt, David was turned on. Max smiled around the appendage, and pulled back to the nail, nipping at it once more. “Are you just going to torture my feet?” Max shrugged, not wanting to let go. He felt the claw slide away and growled, grabbing David’s ankle and pulling it back. His tongue slipped between David’s toes, and the foot was yanked away as David broke down. The dragon curled up, laughing uncontrollably as Max dove for the foot again. “Stop!” David giggled as the tongue flicked between his toes once more. Max whimpered, but pulled back, and sat up. David grabbed his fur and pulled him back down. They kissed, tongues clashing as each pressed into the other desperately. Standing up a moment later, David practically dragged Max into the bedroom. It was a night that would not soon be forgotten. DAVID ENTERAI The tiger purred and rolled around on the bed. David chuckled and stuck out a finger. A narrow beam of green light appeared on the wall at the head of the bed, and Max rolled onto all fours. He swatted at the beam before pouncing at the wall. “Who’s my big kitten?” David teased. Max mewled, attacking the light as it flashed across the wall. David circled the bed, laughing at the tiger as he played. Max’s tail flicked back and forth across his naked butt as he stared intently at the laser. His ears stood erect, as did another part of his body. David ran his hands lovingly up Max’s body, lacing his touch with gentle kisses as he turned the finger laser off. Max rolled again, knocking David on top of him and attacking the dragon’s mouth. “I hate that light,” he smiled into David’s lips. “Yet it brings you so much joy.” “You know what would bring me even more joy?” David’s smile widened as the tiger’s hands reached under his own tail. MAXIMUS MARKHAUS David and Max looked proudly at their creation. David’s house looked like it did all year, on the outside. But the inside would terrify anyone who entered. “I’m going to beat that rabbit this year for sure,” David grinned. “I don’t know. Cog has some pretty terrifying ideas,” Max said, as a group approached the house. The tiger spotted a few children in the group. “I got this tour,” he said. “You keep the main group busy.” David nodded, spotting Tristan and Kel walking down the street. “Just remember to stay out of the kitchen.” “Yeah, sure,” Max huffed. “Honestly, I don’t know why you want me to stay out. Nothing in that house is going to scare me.” David chuckled as Max lead the group into the house. “We’ll see about that.” “Hey David,” Tristan smiled as he approached, the setting sun at his back. “How goes it?” David asked, pulling Tristan in for a hug. “Not bad. I’m doing a lot better now.” “What about you Kel?” “I’m just happy this guy’s stopped being a moron,” Kel smirked as Tristan swatted him. The smirk turned into a scowl as he spotted a grey dog and blue fox approaching them. Tristan placed an arm across the wolf’s shoulders. “Hey David. Long time no see,” Jake said, ignoring Kel. “Hi Jake. Who’s your friend?” David questioned. “This is my roommate, Ryan. He wanted to check out the scariest haunted house in the town.” “Well I hope I don’t disappoint,” David smiled. “It’s nice to meet you Ryan.” He shook the fox’s hand as Abbie, Themis, and Clarisse approached. The avuelent sniffed the air. “Smells like wet dog. Is that you Jake?” “Hey, let’s be civil people. This is my home, and if you can’t be nice, I don’t want you here,” David said sharply. “Thanks for letting me borrow this David,” Abbie said, handing the dragon a hardbound book. “No problem,” the dragon smiled. “Did you enjoy it?” “It was very interesting. I haven’t read much Russian literature,” the fox replied. David snapped his fingers, and the book vanished, returned to a table in his library, where he would shelf it later. “Well, any time you’d like to read more, just ask.” “Now that sounds interesting,” Cog said behind the dragon. The rabbit held Boom’s hand, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “You here to sabotage my haunted house?” “Me? Never!” Cog grinned. “I wouldn’t be so sure about Boom though. He’s got a mean streak longer than my ears.” “Hey!” The front door opened, and Max led the group out of the house. “Scariest haunted house in town?” Ryan scoffed. “Those kids don’t look frightened at all.” David laughed. “They got the kid friendly tour,” he explained. “Trust me, it’s scary. As soon as Faelan and Pip get here, we can get going.” “We’ve been here,” Faelan said, breaking off of Max’s group. “That wasn’t the real deal?” “I thought it was a little lame,” Pip added, joining the group. “Oh, you’ve done it now bunny boy,” David grinned evilly. “I will personally see you run screaming.” “Bring it on.” Max dispersed his group, and rejoined them. “Hey everyone. Good luck tonight,” he said. “Who needs luck?” Ryan laughed. “Alright everyone, before we begin, I would like to lay down a few rules. In my house tonight, you will be scared. Many of you will want to run. However, I don’t want any of you to be hurt. If at any point in the evening, you cannot handle any more scares, let me know, and you will be brought safely back outside. I know many of us have things in our past that affect us. If you are triggered by anything, let me know, and again, you will be brought outside for a short while while I fix the problem. Inside, I would like us all to remain as a group, again for everyone’s safety. Clarisse, I know you can get around pretty well, but if you need any help navigating, let either Max or I know.” He looked around at the group, doing a quick headcount. “Now that we got the pleasantries out of the way, let’s head on inside.” The dragon opened the door to his house, and ushered the group inside. They all stopped just beyond the doorway. “Is this a joke?” Jake asked, looking around. The place looked normal, if a little larger than most of them expected. There was nothing scary about the place. “What the heck Max?” David questioned, looking around. “This place was all set up. What happened?” “I didn’t do anything,” Max shrugged. “Then where is everything?” “Maybe it was a ghost?” the tiger suggested weakly. Cog snorted. “Looks like I won this year,” he said, turning back toward the door. The chandelier overhead flickered suddenly. There was the sound of shattering glass and the room was plunged into darkness. “Shit,” David sighed. “Does anyone have a flashlight?” Faelan pulled out her phone and turned on the light. She found David, and handed the light to him. “Should we reschedule? You seem to be having some troubles,” Cog laughed. “No, I can figure this all out.” David snapped his fingers, and the chandelier was lit with a red glow, enveloping the room in its flickering light. He handed the phone back to Faelan with a muttered, “Thanks.” Max made his way to the door on the far end of the hall, and peeked inside. “It’s dark in there, but everything seems okay,” he called. “I don’t know what happened in the entrance.” David shrugged. “Well, if you’ll all follow me, we can return to our regularly scheduled program.” With a murmur of agreement, the group followed the dragon. As they entered the next room a fog machine whirred to life, filling the ground with its smoke. As the group walked into the room, Ryan screamed, his leg kicking out. A green hand flew off his ankle and sailed through the air. Max chuckled as he caught the prop. “There’s one screamer.” A large figure loomed ahead in the fog, a large axe in its hands. As the group passed by it, they realized it was a suit of armour. As David walked past it, the armour moved, grabbing the dragon in a tight embrace. There was a bright flash, and David and the armour vanished. “What the fuck?!” Tristan yelped. “David?!” Max yelled. There was a moment of silence, and Cog began clapping. “Good job David. You got us,” he called. “You can come out now.” There was no response.” “This… this wasn’t part of the plan,” Max whispered. “David? Where are you?” Again, there was no response. “There’s no way this is real,” Cog muttered. The fog machine sputtered, and stopped. As the mist cleared away, the group saw the floor was littered with various trip wires. Taking a deep breath, Max turned to the others. “I… I think he’s trying to play a joke on us,” he said. “He’s probably further inside.” He led the group deeper into the house, entering the parlor. Several doorways led off this room, which was lit by a blacklight. Plastic spiders lined the wall, glowing in the darkness. The sound of a cello reached their ears, a haunting tune. “This way,” Tristan said, hurrying through the left door. A wall blocked their path further in, and Tristan stopped. “What…?” he breathed. “There was never a wall here before…” He looked at Max, who shared his bewildered appearance. Themis screamed suddenly. The group saw her melt into a wall and vanish. Abbie freaked out. “THEMIS!” The fox started pushing against the wall, certain it was fake. When it didn’t budge, she pounded on it. “What’s happening?” Clarisse asked, an edge to her voice. “Themis just got pulled into a wall,” Faelan shuddered. “Olay, something is going on here,” Pip said. “We need to find David and Themis, and we need to avoid getting split up. Max, Tristan, you seem to know your way around here. If David was hiding, where would he be?” “The cellar,” Max said instantly. “But the music is still playing,” Tristan objected. They could hear a violin joining the cello. “This is so weird.” “Guys, I’m out,” Clarisse said. “I’m blind, and I’m just going to get in your way. Let me know how things-” The avuelent suddenly vanished, and the group gasped collectively. “Screw this. I’m calling someone,” Kel said, pulling out his phone. “There’s no signal in here. I already tried it,” Max denied. “I’m telling you, they’re in the music room. Don’t you hear that?” Tristan said, as a trombone joined the other two instruments. A bright light flashed, before the room was plunged into darkness. “David needs to check the electricity in this house,” Cog said. The lights turned back on. “Damn it!” Tristan yelled. “Kel’s gone!” A drumbeat joined the instruments, and Tristan charged at the wall blocking his path. He gasped as he plunged right through it. “Kel!” he yelled, scrambling to his feet and running. “It’s a fake?” Boom laughed nervously, walking toward the wall. He put his hands on the wall, and met a solid surface. “What the hell?” “Let me try,” Pip said, stepping forward. The rabbit threw his weight into the wall, and bounced off. “Ow…” he muttered, holding his shoulder. “Damn it David, this is not funny!” “We’re not going to get anywhere just standing here,” Max said. “Let’s head back to the living room.” They all followed the tiger out of the hall. “This is why I don’t go places,” Abbie grumbled. “Calm down,” Faelan chuckled. “We’ll find Themis. Personally, I think Tristan was onto something when he suggested the music room. Everytime someone vanishes, another instrument has started to play, with the exception of Tristan.” “So? David and Tristan are the only two that can play any kind of instrument,” Jake said. Faelan shrugged. “That’s the only issue with that idea.” “It does give us a good starting point though. Max, are there any other ways to get there?” Pip asked. “Yeah,” Max said, heading through another door. The group followed him, everyone glancing around warily. “Everyone pair up. If someone else goes missing, I want to know about it immediately,” Pip commanded. Ryan took Jake’s hand, gripping it tightly. “Chill out dude,” the dog said. Someone cackled, and everyone tensed up. “Cog?” Boom called suddenly. The cackling continued, and a flute was added to the ensemble of instruments, all still playing their haunting music. “Oh, it’s on. No one messes with my husband and gets away with it,” the dog growled. Tristan tripped over a rug and landed heavily. “Fuck...” he groaned, sitting up. The music was louder here. He was getting closer to it. Standing, he hurried toward a closed door. Opening it, he found himself in an auditorium. Instruments floated through the air, all played by ghostly hands. “Kel?” Tristan called loudly, stepping further into the room. The door slammed shut behind his, and he jumped. The instruments began floating around him, faster and faster, until he felt dizzy watching. Kel appeared before him, and the dog cried out in joy, reaching for the wolf. His hands slipped through the wolf, and Tristan was pulled into a dark room, far from any music. “That’s a guitar,” Abbie muttered, her ears picking up the sound of yet another instrument. “Is everyone still here?” Pip asked. The group looked amongst themselves. “I think so,” Faelan replied. “Then they must have gotten Tristan,” the rabbit sighed. “Are we almost there Max?” “Yeah,” the tiger replied. “Just two more rooms.” Pip saw tendrils of fog drifting under the next door. “I don’t like the looks of this,” he muttered. The rabbit carefully opened the door, and yelped as he was pulled off his feet by a pair of tendrils snaking across the foggy ground. “Pip!” Faelan yelled, diving for his hand as the rabbit slid across the floor. She grabbed the rabbit, and pulled, fighting for her boyfriend. It was no use. The two of them slid across the floor as a side door opened, pulling the fox and the rabbit inside, before closing and locking. The group looked on in horror, as a piano and a harp joined the music. Max chuckled nervously. “So which one of them was the harp?” Abbie turned on the tiger. “Look, if you know anything about what is going on, you better tell me right now,” she snapped. “I don’t know what’s happening. I just know we’re dropping like flies.” “Where does this door lead?” Boom asked, pointing to the left. “The kitchen.” Max took a step toward the door. “Aren’t we going to the music room?” Jake asked. “In a second. I need to see what’s in here. David said it was pretty bad,” Max said, placing a hand on the doorknob. He slowly opened the door, and screamed. “What the hell? What’s in there?” Boom demanded. The door opened all the way, allowing the group to see a blue dragon wing, covered in blood and sitting in a large pot on the stove. “What the fuck?!” Max cried. “It’s fake,” Boom said. “It has to be.” “I can’t do this any more…” Max sank to his knees, and fell through the floor, vanishing like so many others before him. The sound of an oboe joined the orchestra in the other room. “Fuck,” Boom muttered. Ryan pulled Jake into the other room. “Look, I’m not liking our chances right now,” he said. “I’m not going to leave things unsaid between us. I love you Jake. I know you’re still obsessed with Kel, and I know you probably will never return my feelings, but I wanted you to know they were there.” “We can leave if you want-” Jake started. “No. If this is all a hoax, I’m not going to be laughed at for running away.” “Trust me, no one would laugh.” Boom and Abbie followed them into the room. Abbie immediately made her way to the door the music spilled from. “This is our best chance,” she said, yanking the door open. Instruments circled through the air, but no living beings were in sight. The fox yelled in frustration. “DAMN IT DAVID!!!” She began fading away, angry tears streaming down her face. Another cello appeared among the instruments, adding its sound to the group. Boom sniffed the air suddenly. “Wait… I got you…” He raced for a door on the far wall of the auditorium, and vanished through it. “I think he’s onto something!” Jake pulled Ryan along after the other dog. They hurried down a flight of stairs, entering a brightly lit room. The music from upstairs stopped as they saw David seated amongst their friends. “What the hell man?!” Jake yelled. “That was so not cool!” David chuckled lightly. “Yeah, I may have gone a little overboard.” “You think?” Max muttered. “I warned you this was a bad idea.” “But you did get a declaration of love out of it,” Cog grinned, looking at Ryan. The blue fox blushed, glancing at Jake. “Yeah, you and I have some talking to do at home,” the dog told him. “Well, I hate to say it, but I think you beat me this year. I can’t compete against magic,” Cog added, looking at the dragon. “So, what gave it all away?” David asked, looking at Boom. “I recognized this guy’s fart,” Boom laughed, poking Cog. Jake scanned the room again. “Where’s Clarisse?” he asked. “Outside. She said she was done,” David shrugged. “So you’ve been teleporting us around all night?” “Pretty much.” “And the instruments?” Ryan asked. “Illusions.” “Well, you outdid yourself this year. It’ll be hard to top this one, even for you,” Cog said, standing up. “That means I got next year in the bag.” “We’ll see. I hope you all had a fun time,” David said. Max snorted. David snapped his fingers, and a door appeared. He opened it, revealing his front yard on the other side. The group filed through the doorway, and the dragon followed them, closing the portal behind him. “Thank you all for coming, and Happy Halloween.” As everyone left, Max slugged David in the shoulder. “Ow!” “That’s for the kitchen, you ass.” Pulling the dragon close, the tiger kissed him. “And that’s for a night I’ll never forget.” FAELAN EUNUCH Six o’clock on Christmas Eve. He was coming. Faelan spritzed a little perfume on her neck, and double checked the powder on her face. “Perfect,” she smiled at her reflection in the mirror. Turning toward the bathroom door, the fox paused. She picked up a sticky bow and stuck it above her tail. “There we go. Now it’s perfect.” Faelan ran through the house, and threw herself on the couch as the door opened. Pip looked at his girlfriend, wearing silk lingerie and a bow on her tail. “Um, what’s the occasion?” he asked, untying the apron from around his waist. “You are,” the fox grinned. “You gonna unwrap your Christmas present?” “Faelan, you know I don’t like Christmas…” the rabbit sighed. “Yeah, but I thought I could make it more enjoyable for you.” Faelan wriggled her butt as Pip threw his apron into a hamper. “Well, it’s hard to argue with that logic. Especially when you went through all this effort.” The rabbit pulled his shirt off and sent it to join his apron. He studied the fox on the couch, who brushed her fingers over the rabbit’s abs. Pip lifted Faelan’s tail. “So does the bow mean this is open for business?” he asked. “Maybe…” Faelan grinned. “Mmm. I like my chances,” the rabbit smiled, plucking the bow off Faelan’s tail. TRISTAN THARN Tristan walked slowly up the driveway to David’s house. He was not a fan of the place; his last visit at Halloween had scared him away. For a good week after, David had officially been a Bad Dragon. But now he stood before the door of the mansion, hand poised to ring the bell. Before he could move, the door opened, causing him to jump in surprise. “I saw you coming,” David said, holding the door open for the dog. Tristan shivered as he stepped over the threshold. Something about the house gave him the creeps, but he really didn’t know why. David worked hard to make it inviting, but Tristan could never shake the feeling of foreboding that came with the place. “Are you okay?” David asked, closing the door. “Your house scares me,” Tristan admitted. “Yeah, it can feel a little off sometimes. Could be haunted. But I don’t have anything positive on that thought.” The dragon led the dog through the foyer and the parlour, into an auditorium. “I figured it was time to get you on another instrument. It’ll be loud, so I thought we could use my place so your neighbors don’t complain,” the dragon explained, pointing to an electric guitar next to a drum kit. “Sweet,” Tristan smiled. “Let’s get started.” MAXIMUS MARKHAUS Max entered David’s house with a small wrapped box in his hands. Tonight was a special night for the two. It had been a year since they had met in that bar. Max smiled as he recalled trying to hook up with the dragon. Nothing had happened that night, but this year was a sure thing. He was a tiger on the prowl, stalking through the foyer, and into the parlour. He saw the dragon’s tail sticking out of the bathroom door, the sink running in the background. Perfect… Silently creeping through the room, Max closed in on his prey. When he was a foot away, the tiger pounced. “Shit!” David coughed, spraying toothpaste from his mouth. Grabbing a towel, he wiped his face and the mirror now speckled with his saliva before turning to glare at the tiger. “Was that really necessary?” he demanded. “Yes. And funny,” Max grinned. He held out the present. “Frohliche Weihnachten,” he smiled. “You’re a day early.” “I know, but I couldn’t wait any longer. Besides, this is also our anniversary.” “I know mei areula. I was getting ready for dinner. May I finish?” the dragon asked, a bemused look on his face. “You’re perfect just the way you are.” Max kissed the dragon on the cheek, and backed out of the room. “Two minutes. We’re not getting any younger.” David chuckled, albeit bitterly. “Don’t I know it…” he muttered, turning back to his task. Max sat on an ornate chair, dimly recalling that it had been made in 1866. This place was a museum, and he loved the history it held, though it also made him sad on David’s behalf. It must be hell to go through centuries knowing the people you love were going to die long before you. He tore his mind away from that thought as the dragon emerged from the bathroom. “Are you ready?” “I’m always ready for food,” Max replied. “Oh, but before we go, open your gift.” He held out the package for David to take, and the dragon accepted it, opening the messily wrapped paper as carefully as he could. Opening the box under the paper, David let out a gasp. Dropping the box, he held a picture frame in his hand. “Claire…” he breathed, tracing the picture with his finger. “I know it won’t have the memory of the original, but I thought you might want to have a coloured version,” Max said. “How did you…?” “It turns out Themis is a computer geek. She photoshopped a picture I took of the original. I had to look through your journal for a description of her. I hope you don’t mind.” “No. It’s amazing. It looks just like her.” The dragon gazed at the picture, lost for a moment. When he finally looked up, he said, “I’m sorry, this can’t take the place of the original. But it is something I will always cherish. Thank you so much.” Max smiled. “You’re welcome.” David set the picture on the table in front of the chair, and cleared his throat. “L-let’s get going…” “Lead the way,” Max replied. BOOM THERABBIT Boom stood beside his rabbit, staring at a door that filled him with trepidation. Early evening noises sounded around them, people on their way home from work, a sprinkler running nearby. “We can do this, right?” Cog asked, taking Boom’s hand. “Yeah.” The dog took a deep breath, then pushed the doorbell. A few seconds passed before the door opened. “Cog, Boom,” David said in surprise. Cog’s eye twitched as he took in David’s shirtless torso. He spotted Max darting past in the background, and could have sworn the tiger wasn’t wearing clothes. “Is this a bad time?” Boom asked. “Um, no. Come in.” The dragon held open the door, and after a moment’s hesitation, Cog entered, followed by his dog. Max walked into the room, pulling a shirt over his head. He tossed another shirt at David, who slipped it on. “Would you like some hot chocolate?” David asked. “Sure,” Boom replied. Max disappeared into another room, as David led the two to the sitting room. They sat on separate couches, near a crackling fireplace. “So, to what do I owe this surprise?” he asked. Boom cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Um… well…” “We… Boom and I , we would like to have a child,” Cog said. The dragon looked at the two. “And I’m assuming you don’t want to adopt,” he said. “Well, we’re not adverse to it. We were just wondering if you knew of a way for us to have our own baby,” Boom said in a rush. “Because of the magic and everything,” Cog added. David steepled his hands thoughtfully. “To be honest, I have never thought about this,” he said. “My wife and I were unable to conceive naturally, and we left it at that. At a certain point, I believe the species difference might make it impossible..” Max entered the room with a platter of four steaming mugs. He set the platter on the table and passed the mugs around before taking a seat beside David. Boom sipped at his mug, and licked his lips. “It’s my own recipe,” Max said as the dog glanced at him. “I hope it’s okay.” “It’s delicious dear,” Cog smiled tensely, taking a drink of his own. “So you’re saying adoption is our only hope?” David held up a hand to stop Boom. “I said maybe. This is interesting, and I would like to look into it. I might even try to get my mother’s opinion on it,” he said. “However, this will take time.” “We understand,” Cog said. “Is there any way the two of us could help?” Boom asked. “Do a little research of your own. You might find something I might miss, as my research methods are admittedly a little dated,” David replied with a rueful smile. “I will also try to help where I can, though I feel like I’m way out of my league on this one,” Max added. “One more thing, something to think about whether we succeed or not. A child is a major commitment. The two of you haven’t even been married for a year yet. You should enjoy each other as much as you can before adding another person into the mix.” Cog and Boom looked at each other. “Thank you David,” Cog said, as he drained his mug. “We will keep thinking on this, but still let us know what you find please,” Boom requested. “Of course.” The four of them stood up, and David led Cog and Boom to the door while Max cleaned up the mugs. “I hope you two have a good evening. Happy New Year,” David smiled. “Happy New Year,” Boom replied, before dragging Cog back into the chill evening air. The door closed behind them and the two breathed a little easier. “Well?” Cog asked. “We’ll see,” Boom shrugged, taking the rabbit’s hand. TRISTAN THARN Tristan stretched back against Kel, their naked bodies intertwined. “Remember the first time we did this?” he asked, tilting his head back so he could see Kel’s snout. “Ugh, don’t remind me. I was such an ass.” Tristan chuckled, wriggling until Kel’s knot was stuck deeper inside him. “At least we cured you of your obsession with fleeing,” he teased. Kel nipped Tristan’s ear, and the dog yelped. “Don’t be a dick,” the wolf laughed. “Don’t pull out then.” “Wasn’t planning to.” The knot throbbed, filling Tristan with satisfaction. It felt right, having Kel inside him, and he never wanted to let the feeling go. “You take your juice today?” Kel interrupted his thoughts, and Tristan squirmed again, drawing a muffle ‘oof’ from the wolf. “Yeah. I’ve learned that if I don’t he’ll just keep nagging me.” “He cares about you.” “I know.” The dog grabbed Kel’s arm, and wrapped it around his torso. The wolf was starting to soften, and Tristan was trying to figure out how to keep him inside. Kel reached around with his free hand and gently flicked Tristan. The dog hissed in surprise, and his cheeks clenched around Kel. “Mmm…” Kel sighed. “Rude,” Tristan muttered. “So, I was thinking…” “There’s a first,” Tristan laughed. “Shush you. We spend more time at each other’s place than we do by ourselves. It makes no sense to be paying for a second apartment.” “Are you suggesting that we move in together?” Tristan asked. “I think it will be good to get you out of this place. There are some pretty bad memories here.” Tristan couldn’t argue with that. He’d had to throw away a few towels because of the bloodstains on them. “Sounds great to me” he said, laying back against Kel. “I love you.” “I love you too little doge.” DAVID ENTERAI David stood in front of a grave, a single rose in his hand. “I guess your time was up,” he sighed, setting the rose on the grave. Max stood against a tree, watching the dragon. He had never seen David cry. And he wasn’t about to The dragon walked back to his tiger stone faced. “Are you okay?” Max asked. “Yeah. My mother was not the nicest woman in the world. This actually helped. No one expected it, and it means certain questions will go unanswered, but I’m glad for it. I can live my life knowing that someday I will be united with you and Claire.” Max smiled, and clapped David on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’ll have a great big party waiting for you.” They walked out of the cemetery together, Neither one looking back at the headstone that marked the grave of an elf. 2019 DANIEL THETHAR The dragon stepped off the train, black scales glinting in the sunlight. He shivered in the winter cold, dressed in a tank top and a pair of shorts. “Hell, it’s colder here than at home,” he muttered under his breath, steam rising from his mouth with every word. Gathering his suitcase, he walked toward the entrance of the train station, passing through the doors. The interior of the station was utter chaos, people running everywhere, and voices raising to be heard over each other. The dragon scanned the mob until he saw a sign reading “Daniel Thethar”. Making his way through the throngs of people, he saw a blue fox holding up the sign. “Ryan?” he asked, approaching. “Yep. You’re Daniel?” the fox questioned in return, his accent strong in Daniel’s ears. “Aye.” “Great. Let’s get out of here. I can’t hear myself think,” Ryan said, pointing Daniel toward another door. A blast of cold wind met the two as they passed back into the outside world, and Daniel shivered. “I thought it would be warmer here,” he said. Ryan chuckled. “California has winters too you know. Come on. My car’s right over there.” The reached the vehicle quickly, both walking to the left side. “Um… your seat’s on the other side,” the fox told the dragon. “What? Oh, right, you folks drive on the wrong side of the road.” Daniel headed for the right side of the car, sticking his suitcase into the back. He slid into the front seat, sighing at the warmth inside as Ryan turned on the heater. “You can turn on the radio, but I’m afraid there’s only Christmas carols at the moment,” Ryan said as he pulled out of the parking lot. “Thanks, but I’m not a fan of those,” Daniel said, still trying to come to terms with having the steering wheel on the left of the car. He wanted to yell that Ryan was on the wrong side of the road and that he was going to crash, but as he started seeing other cars on the road, his mind slowly started to calm. Before he knew it, Ryan was pulling into another parking lot. They were in a large complex, and as they stepped out of Ryan’s car, the fox pointed Daniel toward a red door. They hurried to the portal, and Ryan unlocked it, allowing the dragon inside. “I’ll get a key made for you within the week,” he said, flipping on the lights. “This place is big,” Daniel said in surprise. “Just a two bed one bath,” Ryan shrugged. “Your room is on the left. I took the liberty of getting a bed so you won’t be sleeping on the floor tonight. I’m giving you a month to get settled, then you will be helping with half of the rent.” “Thank you. This means a lot,” Daniel smiled, dragging his suitcase into the bedroom. Ryan followed him. “We can work out something with food. The bathroom is through the center door in the hall. Feel free to take all the showers you’d like. I generally have lights out around midnight, so after that, please try to be quiet.” “Will do. If you don’t mind, I’m feeling rather tired right now. That was a rather long journey.” Daniel said, hand on the doorknob. “Of course. Let me know if you want to go anywhere. I’m off for the next three days, and we can get you some more… wintery clothes.” The fox backed off, and Daniel closed the door gratefully. Sitting on the unmade bed, he sighed, unzipping his case. The first thing he withdrew was a throw, which he placed on the bed. The rest he would unpack later. For now, the dragon curled up on the bed, and fell asleep. DAVID ENTERAI “You’re sure about this?” David asked for the millionth time that hour. “Yes,” Max said, exasperated. “The instant you tell me to stop, I will.” Max tugged at his wrists, bound behind his back. “You know where the scissors are if anything goes wrong?” “Nothing will go wrong.” David knelt on the bed beside the tiger, and grabbed Max’s pants. “Wait,” the tiger said, and the dragon pulled his hands away instantly. Max held up his right hand, now free from the restraints. “Two hundred years old, and you can’t tie a proper knot?” David’s face burned. “Knots are hard,” he protested. “Eh, we’ll just have to ask Tristan about that when we get home,” Max laughed. “Here, try again.” He handed David the rope, and crossed his wrists behind his back again. The dragon spent five minutes trying to tie another knot, before he backed off. “There. Better?” Max pulled again. “Yeah.” David carefully took hold of the tiger’s pants again, and slowly pulled them over his hips. His palm caressed Max’s butt, causing an inhale from his prisoner. The thought seemed alien in his mind; Max as his prisoner. But if it made the tiger happy, he’d gladly deal with a little discomfort. He met Max’s gaze, and stared the tiger down, until Max blinked and looked down. The dragon pulled his shirt off, and glared at the tiger as he looked up again. Max’s eyes sought out his feet again, a wry smile on his face. ‘I knew you could do it,’ he thought, and the dragon growled quietly. He felt his underwear get ripped away, and moaned softly, his body stirring at the roughness. He chanced another glance at David’s face, and his breath caught in his throat. A very angry dragon scowled at him, and he tore his eyes away, suddenly apprehensive. This was a dragon he could believe had murdered 200 people in Ypres. He heard David spit, and a finger probed him roughly. They weren’t using any lube, and David had warned him beforehand that it would hurt. But Max had insisted. He wanted the full experience. Well, here he was, and it was scaring him. But it also excited him, and he didn’t want to stop. His heart thumped wildly, adrenaline shooting through him as a second finger joined the first. It hurt alright. But he knew it was just a sign of things to come. A nail scraped hin innards, and he hissed in pain. The fingers were withdrawn, and he looked up again. David met his eyes, concern on his face. It relieved Max, to know the dragon could snap back any time. Taking a deep breath, the tiger nodded. He looked back down at his feet, as he felt David reposition himself. There was another spit, and he felt the dragon touch his hole. David wavered for a moment, pulled out of the scene. Max was terrified, and that hurt. He didn’t want his tiger to be afraid of him. But they were both aroused. “You like this, don’t you,” he accused his prisoner, voice deepening. The tiger nodded, his body stretching out in front of the dragon. He was okay. He knew to say no if he wanted to stop. David had insisted on it. The dragon gripped the tiger by the waist, and rolled him onto his belly suddenly. He straddled Max, whose breathing quickened. Lowering himself, he thrust, member meeting hole. A second thrust breached the ring, and Max yelped. “OW OW OW-” David pulled out as quickly as he had entered. Max rolled himself over, wincing. “We may need the lube,” he admitted. “Do you want to stop?” Max hesitated. “Be honest with me. I won’t think any less of you at all.” “Maybe we could try again later?” “Of course,” David smiled. He pulled Max into his lap, and set about untying him. The two curled up together, and David rubbed his tiger’s back, calming them both down. THEMIS FALIS Themis snapped her fingers nervously. A tiny spark appeared, and died out in the breeze as she walked. She was heading down a long drive, towards Cog’s mansion. The fire was easier to control now, but it still flared when she felt strong emotions. Such as now. Having David around would ease her tension, but he was long gone now, on vacation in Germany. She reached the door to the house, and shook her hands, letting the excess heat out of them, before ringing the doorbell. It took a minute, but Cog answered the door, a robe covering his body. Eyeliner darkened his eyes, and he looked like he had been in the middle of applying chalk to his cheeks. “Themis!” he beamed. “To what do I owe the surprise?” “Um, is this a bad time?” Themis asked. Her hand flared, and she directed the heat through her body, to escape her mouth as steam. “No, not at all! I was getting ready for a show tonight. Why don’t you come in?” The fox took the offer, following the rabbit into his den. “Is Boom here?” she questioned. “He’s making a quick dinner right now. Did you want to talk with him?” “With both of you, actually.” They entered the living room, and Cog gestured to a couch. “Boom, we have company!” the rabbit called. Themis heard the sound of someone running. “Damn it Cog, couldn’t you have given me more warning?!” The rabbit chuckled. “Sorry about that. Boom will be with us in a minute. How’s Abbie doing?” “Well enough. She’s loving taking care of David’s library. It’s a full-time job for her,” Themis smiled. Boom appeared at the doorway, wearing a backwards shirt. “Hi Themis, it’s great to see you,” the dog smiled. Are all the guys in this town nudists? “Thanks, and you too.” The fox took a deep breath. “So, um, I heard that you want to have a kid.” “Uh, yeah, we do. How’d you…?” Boom asked. “Max let it slip before he and David left for Germany. Don’t worry, I haven’t told anyone besides Abbie, and she won’t tell a soul. I know David’s probably trying to find a way for you two to have a child together, but if he fails, I am willing to be a surrogate.” A stunned silence filled the room. “Wow… Have you talked to Abbie about this?” “Yes I have, and she says she’d be fine with it. Basically, my body, my choice. That’s why I wanted to talk to both of you, to let you think about it.” “It’s an amazing offer,” Cog said. “I have total confidence in David. But, we’ll think about it, right?” Boom looked at his husband. “Of course we will.” “There’s something else you should know, if you do decide to accept.” Themis held up he hand, and a tiny flame appeared in it. “I don’t know what it is, or what caused it, but if we go through with me carrying your child, they might have… certain abilities.” “Thank you Themis. We’ll take that into consideration,” Cog smiled. The flame vanished, and Themis rose to her feet. “Anyway, I told Abbie I’d be home in time to walk to the library with her, so…” “Really Themis. Thank you. This means so much to us,” Cog said. “You’re welcome.” The rabbit stood up, and showed the fox to the exit. “We’ll let you know when we decide, but it probably won’t be until David gets back,” he added. “I understand. I’ll see you both around?” “Count on it,” Cog smiled, before closing the door. Themis took a huge breath, and let go, sending a wave of heat out of her body. That done, she directed her feet toward home. DANIEL THETHAR Daniel woke up in a dark room. His phone read six am, but it felt closer to noon. He flicked a light on, and looked around the empty room. Soon, he’d make his mark on it. But for now, he needed to practice. Pulling a thick tome out of his suitcase, the dragon plopped it on the bed, and lay on his stomach. He opened the grimoire, and began flipping through pages. “Nican du eim,” he murmured, and the light flew out of its bulb, and hovered around his hand. “Cen belan,” he continued, and the light returned to its glass prison. Satisfied, the dragon turned to another page, coming across a spell to show him the best path to any destination he desired. He already knew this spell worked, he had used it several times on his journey here. Now he used it to find a park where he could run, and maybe even stretch his wings. Grabbing his phone from the floor, he slipped on his trainers, and quietly slipped out of the apartment. The morning air froze his scales, and he thought about going back in to grab another shirt. But it wouldn’t really help. A spell came to mind, something to warm his skin, though it wouldn’t really help much other than that. It would be enough for now. “Tesoru mei galin,” he murmured, and his scales took on an orange glow as the air heated around him. Sighing in relief, Daniel began walking, following a yellow line only he could see. A kilometre later, he arrived at his destination, a rather large, wooded area. The dragon took off running, easing off on his heating spell as his body warmed itself. He came around a tree and stopped. A yellow dog sat huddled against the tree, grey sweatshirt pulled up over his eyes. “Hello,” Daniel said in surprise. The dog’s head shot up, his eyes meeting the dragon’s. “Hi,” he said quietly. “You okay mate? It’s pretty cold to be sitting out here.” The dog shrugged. “I could use some company, if you want to join me on my jog,” Daniel offered. “It’ll warm you up at least.” He helped the dog to his feet. “My name’s Daniel.” “Tristan,” came the muttered response. The dragon motioned ahead, and the two took off at a slow pace. “So what are you doing out here, if you don’t mind me being nosy.” “I dunno. Nothing really.” Daniel didn’t push the dog, sensing he’d come around in his own time. They continued jogging, Tristan running out of breath rather quickly. “Who are you?” he panted. “Usually this place is empty for another hour.” “I just moved here from England. I want to find David Enterai. I was told he could teach me some things.” “He left for Germany two days ago,” Tristan said, as they slowed to a walk. “Bollocks. Do you know when he’ll be back?” “Soon, I hope.” Daniel studied the dog. “You aren’t like… his boyfriend or anything, are you?” “No! Not at all. He’s dating a tiger. David’s just a friend.” “Oh. And what about you?” “A wolf,” Tristan growled. “I seem to have hit a nerve. My apologies.” Daniel glanced at his phone, figuring he could probably find a store on his way back to the apartment so he could get a sweatshirt. “Well, it’s time for me to head home. It was nice meeting you, Tristan. Maybe we can run again tomorrow?” “Sure. Whatever.” The dog turned and stalked back to the tree, leaving Daniel to find his way out of the park. TRISTAN THARN Dragons. They thought they knew everything. Tristan curled in Kel’s arms, listening to the wolf’s snores. This was what he needed. Not some magic happy juice. The room was dark, curtains drawn over the window. A single beam of light broke through the barrier, lighting up a scratch on Tristan’s leg. The dog moved his leg so the injury was in the dark once more. He followed the beam of light with his eyes, growling softly as it rest on a glass vial. It was almost as though someone was telling him to drink. “Damn you David,” he muttered, rolling over. “Mm?” Kel murmured, an eye opening sleepily. “Nothing.” Tristan kissed the wolf’s nose. “Go back to sleep.” “You okay?” “Yeah, I’m fine.” “Okay…” The eye closed, and Kel began snoring again. Tristan placed a hand on his back, and slid it down until he was touching the base of Kel’s tail. “Fuck it,” he muttered, standing. Crossing the room to the vial, he lifted the object and stormed to the bathroom. Removing the stopper, he poured the crimson liquid down the drain, and tossed the glass in the trash. Returning to the bed, he curled up once more in Kel’s arms, to await sleep. Morning came, and with it an exhausted dog. Tristan was used to being tired by now; it happened more often than not. He rose from bed to make breakfast for Kel before work. A glint paused him in his tracks, and he glanced at the dresser. Another vial sat on the surface, a light blue colour this time. A small note rested against it, and Tristan’s hackles raised as he picked the paper up. “I heard you didn’t like the cherry. Maybe raspberry will suit your tastes better?” Growling, Tristan shredded the paper. He glared at the juice, then uncorked it and swallowed it all in one swig. “There. Now leave me alone,” he snapped at the room. As he left the room, he could have sworn he heard a chuckle. DANIEL THETHAR Ryan stared at the dragon as he pushed the bar up. 200 pounds, and Daniel was handling it like a pro. He probably didn’t need a spotter. Not that Ryan would tell him that. The fox was too busy enjoying the view. Was this another roommate doomed to break his heart? Ryan snorted. He sure knew how to pick them. The dragon wasn’t even here for him, he was here for David. Something about a book. He’d stay in the country three months if Ryan was lucky. Then he’d be back across the Atlantic. The fox needed to work fast with this one. But after Jake, he didn’t know if he had it in him to even try. He had known Ryan for longer than he knew the dog, but that didn’t mean much. The dragon never hinted he might be interested in the fox. He helped the dragon set the bar back on the rack, and switched places with him, as Daniel removed some weights. “You want to try seventy kilos?” the dragon asked. “Huh?” The fox could see the dragon working through some math frantically. The look of concentration made him even more adorable. “Um, 170 pounds? I think?” “Yeah. Let’s go for it.” Hell, if he couldn’t do it, it might get Daniel’s hands on him. The dragon stood behind him. If he craned his eyes, Ryan could just get a glimpse of Daniel’s crotch. Their hands nearly touched on the bar, and Ryan shivered. “Ready?” “Ready,” he answered, taking a breath. “One, two, three.” The bar lifted, and they held it together for a second, before Daniel slowly took his hands away. Ryan’s arms shook slightly as he lowered the bar, but he forced his way through the pain, and pushed up. Three reps in, his arms faltered again, and Daniel’s hands gripped the bar, helping him ease it back onto the rack. “Eh, it was a good effort mate,” the dragon smiled. “We’ll try 75 next.” Damn, he didn’t know what it was about that accent, but Ryan would gladly roll over for the dragon. Focus Ryan. Focus. He took another deep inhale, and they began again. MAXIMUS MARKHAUS Max curled up next to his dragon, blowing out the candle next to the bed. This was definitely a different kind of living. David had never installed electricity into the house. No computer, no TV, and he had to be extra careful with his phone battery. Someone was supposed to be out in two weeks to fix everything, but by that time, the two would be packing to head back to the States. Max closed his eyes and stretched his arms out with a sigh. His finger began kneading David’s back, drawing a happy murmur from the tired dragon. He had run himself ragged since arriving, rising at dawn to start reading, and not stopping until late afternoon. This wasn’t quite the vacation Max had been hoping for, but it was a vacation nonetheless. For some reason, the dragon had insisted he stay away from the nearby suburbs. Max knew better than to inquire; he didn’t want to dredge up painful memories. For all he knew, that could have been where Claire died. “I’ve looked everywhere,” David mumbled. “It’s okay. I’m sure they’ll understand,” Max said, nuzzling David’s neck. “I might have to ask Zenoan. Maybe there’s something in the grimoire.” “But he hates you-” “Yeah, I know.” Max continued kneading the dragon in silence. He had no idea what David was looking for, and had no way of helping. So he did the only thing he could, and continued making his dragon feel good. TRISTAN THARN The juice swirled down the drain with a gurgle. He didn’t need it. Tristan could do just fine on his own. The dog curled in bed next to Kel, who rolled over in his sleep. His arm rested across Tristan, and the dog sighed, enjoying the weight pressing down on him. “Mmm…” The arm was removed as Kel awoke, and Tristan tried to grab it again. The wolf sat up, bedsheet falling to his waist. He shivered in the early morning cold, and yawned. “Morning…” Tristan didn’t answer, busy nestling his head in Kel’s armpit. Anything to be closer to the wolf. “Come on Tristan, I need to get ready for work.” “Fine,” Tristan sighed, taking his head away. Kel stood up, and padded to the bathroom.Tristan moved over to his side of the bed, and buried himself into the fading warmth. His eyes closed wearily, and the next thing he knew, he was being shaken awake by Kel. “I’m heading out. Can you try to clean the bathroom today? It could use a good Tristaning,” the wolf grinned. “Yeah, you got it,” Tristan yawned. His hand snaked out, and grabbed Kel’s crotch. “Oh, you just wait for tonight boy.” The wolf stepped back. “Love you.” “I love you too,” Tristan murmured, his eyes closing again. He woke up a few hour later. All was not right with the world, and he sighed. The juice was gone. He didn’t need it anyway. The dog made his way into the bathroom, and relieved himself, before grabbing supplies and getting into the bathtub. Five minutes later, the tub was sparkling clean, but he didn’t feel any better. DAVID ENTERAI David paused as he stepped off the plane, taking a deep breath. He hated flying in the metal contraptions, but Max refused to ride on his back, at least while flying. There was something different about the town. He could feel a presence had entered the town in his absence. The dragon shrugged, and began walking again, catching up to Max. If it was a threat, he would deal with the newcomer when he was ready. “You okay?” Max inquired. “You look like you smelled a rotten egg.” “I’m fine. We may have company later though,” David answered, as the two walked through the airport. The left the building, and walked toward the street, David focusing on a clear area. A car appeared, old, but still in working condition. As much as he’d rather use his bike, the two had their luggage to think about. He stopped again, in the process of opening a car. Someone was coming. The dragon growled quietly, and Max looked at him in alarm. The tiger had never heard David growl in anger before, and the sound unnerved him. A dragon approached the two on foot, a heavy sweatshirt hiding most of his features. “David Enterai?” he questioned. “Who’s asking?” “My name is Daniel. I think you are my great grandfather.” “That’s a pretty wild claim.” “I know,” the dragon smiled apologetically. “But I’m pretty sure it’s true. Even if it isn’t, I have something for you.” The dragon pulled a worn black book out of his jacket, revealing hands covered in black scales. David stiffened at the sight of the book, and Max put a calming hand on the dragon;s shoulder, unsure of why a simple book would unsettle his beloved. “Where did you find that?” David asked quietly, dangerously. “In a bookstore in Portsmouth.’ “And am I correct in assuming you read it?” “Most of it,” Daniel admitted. “It’s how I knew where to find you.” “You don’t simply track a person through a journal they wrote a hundred years ago.” “No, but I had some help. A fox, Ryan, said you lived in town.” “And you came here from England just to give me my journal back?” “Um, no. I came because my mum mentioned your name. Something about a doe named Claire too. Said she was my great grandmother. I put two and two together after reading the journal, and came up with you.” “So why come here? What does it matter? I will tell you one thing. Claire and i never had a child together.” Daniel faltered. “Y-you didn’t?” “No, for various personal reasons I will not discuss with you. And I do not appreciate a runt coming up out of nowhere, insinuating that my deceased wife slept around. This conversation is over. Now if you will give me my journal, We will part ways and never speak with each other again.” The blue dragon snatched the book away from the black, and stormed to the driver seat of the car. Max quickly slid into the passenger seat, and the two peeled away, leaving a chastised black dragon in the dust. RYAN VALTHAN “You’re leaving.” It was a statement, delivered in a worn voice. The fox was tired, defeated. Yet another person was leaving him. “Yeah, I have a flight tomorrow,” Daniel said. “I’m sorry. I thought I could stay here, but he doesn’t seem to want me around.” “Who cares what he thinks? Daniel, you crossed an entire fucking ocean to give him that damned book. Did he even thank you?” The dragon shook his head. “Look, this was a nice vacation. But I need to go home. Maybe you can come visit me sometime?” Ryan sighed. “Yeah, maybe.” The fox stood up from the couch. “Well, if this is your last day, we can at least make it memorable. What time do you have to catch your plane?” “Noon.” “Perfect,” Ryan smiled. “What are you planning?” the dragon asked. “Oh, just a stroll through the nightlife. I figure you could use a drink.” “Actually, I could use something,” Daniel said. “Great, let’s get going.” The dragon could feel the pounding music in his feet a block away. He had no idea where Ryan was dragging him, but the fox seemed happy. Daniel had the nagging suspicion that he wouldn’t enjoy the evening half as much. As they neared the entrance to the building, Daniel saw a yellow lab walk away from the door dejectedly. “What’s up with Tristan?” he asked the fox. “Eh, he’s our depressed little puppy. The town kind of looks out for him. But he should know better than to try and get into a bar. He’s still got a year to go,” Ryan said loudly, as the music threatened to mute his voice. ‘Fuck it,’ Daniel thought, casting a spell that muted the music in his ears. The dragon walked to the door, shocked when a rather bulky wolf stopped him. “You gotta show him your I.D.” Ryan laughed. Muttering about silly American rules, Daniel took out his passport and showed it to the wolf, who let him pass. The fox came through a second later, and they passed together into the flashing lights within. Ryan took Daniel’s hand, and dragged him to a bar. “WHAT DO YOU LIKE?” he yelled, causing Daniel to wince. Maybe the spell had been a bad idea… He let the magic go, and flinched as the noise hit him with all the weight of a freight train. “What spirits do you have?” he asked. “Whiskey, vodka, rum-” “Whiskey’s fine.” Ryan nodded, and pushed his way through a throng of bodies, vanishing quickly. Daniel felt eyes on him, and he turned, spotting David glaring at him from the corner of the building. “Bloody hell,” he muttered, looking away. “Hey sexy…” The dragon spun at the voice, finding a buck standing uncomfortably close to him. “You here alone?” the deer asked, a drink in hand. “No, I’m with Ryan.” The buck laughed. “You’re alone. Ryan’s probably hooked up with some wolf already.” The deer put his hand around Daniel’s shoulders, and the dragon shrugged him off. “Come on man, I’m just being friendly.” “I’d rather you didn’t. I don’t even know you.” “Oh, where are my manners? Anthony Quinn. And you are?” “Daniel.” “Well Daniel, you have the sexiest accent I have heard in a while. You want a drink?” Anthony offered the glass to Daniel, who smelled vodka mixed with a powder. “Um, no thanks.” “C’mon, just a sip?” “Look, leave me alone. I’m not interested.” Daniel felt his ire roused, and he took a step away from the deer. “Hey Anthony, get the fuck out of here,” Ryan snapped behind him. Scowling, the deer turned, and melted back into the crowd. “I don’t seem to be making many friends today,: Daniel groused, as Ryan handed him a glass. The dragon eyed it warily. Not finding anything wrong, he took a drink. “What is this?” he asked, taking another sip. “Whiskey and coke,” Ryan shrugged. “On me. Think of it as a going away present. And trust me, you don’t want to be friends with Anthony. He’s the town slut.” Daniel noticed a similar coloured drink in Ryan’s hand. “You’re not driving us home?” “Nah, we’ll get a cab or something. Don’t worry I won’t get drunk. You can get as drunk as you want though.” “Um… thanks.” It was strange, having weak whiskey mixed with the taste of pop, but Daniel shrugged it off. He could get a beer after. He let Ryan lead him to a table, his ears finally adjusted to the volume around him. A fox approached them, and Daniel stared at her, shocked at how much she looked like Ryan. If her fur was blue instead of black, and she didn’t have wings, Daniel would have sworn they were twins. “Hey Faelan, how’s it going?” Ryan asked, as the fox quickly wiped the table. “It’s Friday at ten. How do you think it’s going?” Ryan chuckled. “So, this is the Brit? Nice to meet you,” Faelan said, holding out her paw. “The same you you,” Daniel replied, surprised by the firm handshake. “Either of you want something? Max started working today, and he actually is pretty good.” “That’s David’s boyfriend?” Daniel asked. “Yep. Fine tiger ass and all.” “Don’t let Pip hear you say that,” Ryan warned. “Oh please, Pip drools over Max more than me.” The two chuckled, while Daniel looked on in confusion. He finished his drink while Faelan and Ryan continued to chat. Soon, the fox was called away, and Ryan turned back to the dragon. “She’s a fun girl,” he said. “I can see that.” Ryan looked at him. “You wanna dance?” “I- what?!” The fox took the dragon’s hand and dragged him to an area where the crowd was bouncing around. “Hell no mate! I’m nowhere near drunk enough for this!” “You’re cute when you’re nervous,” Ryan laughed, getting into the beat. “And you’re a cock gobbling tit,” Daniel shot back, his ears burning. “Ooh, dragon got some fire. Go talk to Faelan if you aren’t drunk enough. She’ll hook you up.” “That’s not the point! I don’t want to dance!” “Then don’t,” Ryan shrugged. Daniel stalked back to the table, and sat down. A moment later, Faelan walked up with a mug of beer. “Compliments of Max, who says he apologizes for earlier. Whatever that means,” the fox shrugged, setting the beer down. Daniel took a sip, and smiled. It was Guiness. Perhaps a watered down version of it, but the flavour was there. “Tell him thanks,” he said. Faelan nodded, and left. Daniel drank his beer, and looked for Ryan. He found the fox dancing with a wolf, and something inside him grew restless. ‘What the hell am I doing?’ The dragon stood up and walked to the fox. He tapped the wolf on the shoulder, and yelled, “May I step in here mate?” The wolf grinned, and stepped aside. Daniel grabbed Ryan’s wrist, and pulled him to the edge of the crowd. “What the hell man?!” “I don’t know what’s going on, but don’t dance with that wolf. Or anyone.” “Kel? What’s wrong with Kel? He’s already taken.” “I don’t care. Just don’t.” “Well excuse me, but you don’t own me. You’re not even my boyfriend.” Daniel growled quietly, and Ryan stared at him, startled. The dragon grabbed the fox, and kissed him. Ryan resisted momentarily, trying to catch up. Then he gave in, deepening the kiss. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what got into me,” Daniel apologised, pulling back. “Whatever it was, can you do it again?” Daniel shook his head, backing away. “Can we go please?” Ryan touched his lips, trying to hold the moment in his mind. He nodded slowly, and followed Daniel out of the bar. DAVID ENTERAI David strode purposefully toward Zenoan’s cave. He was worried about this meeting, but he refused to let it show. The red dragon met him at the entrance. For once, he wasn’t scowling. “What do you want?” “Hello to you too. I need to look at the grimoire,” David said. “Why?” “To help someone.” David could practically hear Zenoan’s brain whirring, trying to come up with an excuse to stop him. Finding none, the dragon sighed, and let his brother into his home. “You know you don’t have to live in a cave, right?” “We go over this all the time. I like caves. It’s bigger than your so called mansion on the hill.” The brothers walked in stony silence for a few minutes, David’s eyes struggling to get used to the gloom. They climbed a long ramp, and David felt a chill as they entered Zenoan’s library. An anti moisture field, like the one protecting his own books. Zenoan pointed to a large tome sitting closed on a table. “It’s been waiting for you,” he admitted. “Be careful. Some of the stuff inside is dangerous.” David stared at the dragon, unsettled by his sudden concern for David’s safety. Zenoan shrugged, and left the room, giving David some privacy. The blue dragon flipped open the tome, and began to read. He spent an hour flipping through basic cantrips, the whole thing reading like a hedge wizard’s primer. Finally, he reached a few notes about some experiments with time manipulation. He was about to flip the page when he noticed a date. 1829. That was the year his mother had said his father appeared. There was a short description of the courtship, a brief mention of a pair of eggs, and then another date, 2028. David stared at the numbers. His father was alive? And he lived in the future? 2028. Ten years away. The dragon took a deep breath, and turned the page. He wasn’t here to meet his father, he was here for Cog and Boom. He skimmed through more time travel and more dates, including a foray into mid 13th century Japan, before coming across an experiment with a rift. His father called it a portal, a divide between this world and another. He tested it, learning to teleport things through it, and back. Again David skipped a bit, though he kept the spot in his mind, as an interesting point. It would explain his aptitude with object teleportation. ‘Time seems unimportant now. I no longer feel pressed or hurried by anything. I’ve talked with a fae who wandered here, and they have mentioned internal cramps.’ David sighed. Things were becoming disorganized, a mad man’s raving memories. He spotted one more tempting spot however. ‘Saelin… laid an egg, I guess. It’s strange, this place apparently gives males the ability to carry children. It doesn’t seem like they can leave after whatever change their body goes through however. I found out Kata died within a week after returning to his plane, and he was in good health when he left.’ It was there. But it was no answer… David flipped through a few more pages halfheartedly, before suddenly coming across his name. ‘David, everything happens for a reason, and it is best not to know why. I hope in time, you will learn to forgive me.’ “He knew me?” It made sense that his father would check on him and Zenoan occasionally if he could travel through time. The next page was the start of a family tree, with a single name on it. Daniel Mythara. Underneath was a rather long line depicting this person’s offspring with various people, from a liaison with a woman named Hana to his own mother. From the meeting with his mother, David had resulted. He knew that already. But what shocked him was that a family tree extended beneath his name, branching out from Claire. “What the fuck…? Who- ZENOAN!” The red dragon reappeared silently. “What the hell did you do to the family tree?!” David yelled. “I did nothing,” Zenoan said calmly. “And before you ask, I never told you because it was something you needed to learn on your own.” “Then who wrote this? It sure as hell wasn’t me!” “At a guess, Dad. He seems to have the whole stalking time traveller thing down.” “We never had a child!” “You did. Claire gave him to me because she knew you’d live a lot longer than her, and possibly even Robert. It wasn’t her fault, she was trying to protect you.” “Where…?” “I took him to a family I know in England. He grew up happy and healthy. He fought in the First World War, and the last I heard, he had been killed by a sniper near Ypres. His daughter followed his footsteps, serving as a nurse in the second war.” David exhaled shakily, following the line down to its final name. Daniel Mythara. And with that one name, David’s world came crashing down around him. ‘The Wanderer’ in Draconic. The source of his family, and half the world too. “I… I need to go,” he said. “I’m not stopping you,” Zenoan shrugged, picking the grimoire up. David hurried from the room, retracing his steps with loping feet until he found himself back outside. Taking flight, he hurried back to his own house. He would tell Cog and Boom what he had learned later. DANIEL THETHAR Ryan heard the sound of objects hitting the floor in Daniel’s room. He hesitated at the door. The dragon was going to leave. Did he really want to get involved in a long ranged relationship? The door opened suddenly, and the dragon slammed into the fox, dropping them both to the floor. “Sorry,” Daniel muttered, standing up. He hurried out to the living room, and looked around. “You haven’t seen a book laying around, have you?” he asked. Ryan tore his eyes off of the dragon’s ass long enough for the question to register. “Um, yeah, under the pillow on the couch.” The dragon bent over the couch, and Ryan could have sworn the room temperature rose a good ten degrees. He realized he was still on the floor, and hurried to his feet as the dragon turned with a book in his hands. “Thanks,” Daniel said, heading back into the room, and closing the door. He was ruining this. Ryan had no idea what was happening. One minute the dragon had been growling, the next, they’d been kissing, and then the dragon had just... stopped. The door opened again, and Daniel stopped, pantsless. “Did you need something?” he asked. Ryan gulped, fighting the downward drift of his eyes. “Yeah, about earlier-” “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I really don’t.” “But I liked it.” “I know,” Daniel said dejectedly. “But it’s not like I can stay in town. Not with David.” “You don’t have to stay to have fun for one night. And we don’t have to leave it off after only one night either.” Ryan’s hand moved up to Daniel’s cheek, giving the lightest touch. The dragon inhaled sharply, and Ryan smiled. “If you want me to stop, just tell me,” the fox whispered into the dragon’s ear. His hand trailed down Daniel’s face, to the dragon’s shirt. Unclipping the buttons holding the shirt around Daniel’s wings, Ryan carefully removed the clothing. He let his hands trace over Daniel’s chest, eliciting another sigh from the dragon. As Ryan let his hands explore Daniel’s body, he confirmed that the dragon’s abs were rock hard. He traced Daniel’s love handles with his thumbs, and the dragon’s breath quickened. The gentlest scrape of his claws on the waist of Daniel’s lime green briefs sent shivers through the dragon. “I- I have to go in a few hours…” “I know,” Ryan breathed. “But you’re already packed, and this needs some attention.” The fox cupped the tented briefs in his hand, and Daniel moaned quietly. Ryan was determined to take his time. He knew he’d probably never see the dragon again after today, and he wanted to memorize every moment that he could. Daniel stepped into the fox, his crotch rubbing against Ryan’s. ‘Oh no boy, I’m in charge here,’ Ryan thought, moving back ever so slightly. Daniel growled quietly, the same sound from last night, and Ryan froze. The dragon nearly tore off the fox’s shirt, and Ryan chuckled nervously. “Okay, I guess you’re in charge…” Daniel huffed in agreement, burying his nose in Ryan’s neck fur. His crotch grinded against Ryan’s reminding the dragon the the fox still wore pants. A moment later, they were in tatters on the floor. “Hey, those were my favourite sweats,” Ryan protested. “You shouldn’t have started what you weren’t prepared to finish,” Daniel laughed. He was a completely different beast now, cocky, and rough. And Ryan loved every second of it. The dragon turned, rubbing his ass against Ryan, and the fox’s breath caught. “Are you serious?” he asked. “Aw, is the little bitty fox afraid to top?” “Not at all,” Ryan grinned. ‘You better get ready for the wildest ride of your life.’ He went to pull Daniel’s underwear off, and the dragon stopped him. Suddenly, his underwear was on the floor, and he was naked, his dick pressing into Daniel’s back. “You know, we probably should get some lube and a condom,” the fox smirked. Daniel sighed, and Ryan led him into his room. He found what he was looking for quickly, as Daniel removed his briefs. The fox dealt with the condom, and took care of the dragon’s ass. When he was confident he wouldn’t hurt Daniel, Ryan pushed the dragon onto the bed, and straddled his lap. It took a little effort, but the fox was quickly at the dragon’s door. Looking Daniel in the eye, he saw an indescribable need, and he acted on it. Pushing hard, Ryan popped into the dragon, both of them gasping at the invasion. The fox hadn’t topped in years, and he fought himself, holding out. He thrust quickly, not giving Daniel a chance to get accustomed to him. The dragon groaned with every thrust, and Ryan knew he was hitting the sweet spot. Daniel’s dick pressed against Ryan’s stomach, leaking heavily, and Ryan twisted his torso so he could lap at the juice that came from the dragon. “Bet your tongue can’t do this,” he panted, still ramming deep inside the dragon. The only response was a shudder, as Daniel suddenly released onto Ryan’s tongue, way sooner than the fox expected. No matter. He could play along. The fox redoubled his efforts, feeling Daniel wince in discomfort under him. Within seconds, the fox was gasping in his own orgasmic pleasure, knot buried deep within the dragon. Ryan lowered himself until he was laying on top of Daniel, both of them panting heavily. He still squirted into the condom, and he knew Daniel could feel the pulsing. But the dragon didn’t complain, instead tentatively running his hand down Ryan’s back. The fox moaned in ecstasy under Daniel’s ministrations, his eyes closing, just for a second. “Oi, wake up!” Ryan’s eyes opened suddenly, and he found himself lying nude in his bed. Daniel was dressed, and standing at the door. “You gonna drive me?” the dragon asked. “Wha- oh…” Ryan groaned as he sat up. The condom was gone, and he assumed Daniel had dealt with it. “Give me a minute dude. I need to get dressed.” Daniel shrugged, and left the fox in peace. Standing up, Ryan grabbed a new pair of sweats and a shirt. He walked blearily into the bathroom, and relieved himself before dressing. The fox found the dragon standing by the front door, bag in hand. “So…” Ryan said. “So… What now? What exactly did we get from that?” the dragon asked, somewhat bitterly. “A good time?” Ryan shrugged. “I don’t know man.” He scratched his neck. “Well, we better go,” Daniel sighed, opening the door. Ryan followed him out to the car, and slid into the driver’s seat. They pulled out quickly, and sped on their way. “You know, I’ve never had a one night stand before,” Daniel said. “I’d like to think this doesn’t count,” Ryan replied. “I like you, love you, even. I was looking forward to you staying here longer than you did.” Daniel stared at the fox. “You serious mate?” Ryan snorted. “Of course I am dummy. I don’t joke about these things.” “So, what, you want us to be boyfriends? I don’t really know how that will work out,” Daniel said. Ryan shrugged. “It sure as hell beats never seeing you again. Maybe next year you can show me England.” Daniel’s hand found its way to Ryan’s thigh, and rested there. The fox placed his own hand on top and squeezed it gently. “We’ll definitely have to work out who’s in charge in bed though,” he laughed. Daniel chuckled. “I thought it was obvious.” “So, this is a yes then?” “Aye,” Daniel smiled, as they pulled into the airport. Ryan walked with the dragon to the gate, and the two stopped to face each other. Slowly, cautiously, Daniel kissed the fox. “I love you too,” he whispered. Then the dragon turned and made his way to the plane, leaving the fox alone. With a heavy sigh, Ryan turned, and headed back to his car. DAVID ENTERAI “Look, I’m sorry Max.” The tiger turned away from the dragon again. “You know what you need to do,” he said simply. “He’s halfway across the world!” “Nope. You’re not worming your way out of this one.” “You’re being so unfair.” “You were a total ass to him. I think it’s entirely fair, especially since he was right,” Max said sharply. “Act your age, and apologise.” “How?!” The tiger shrugged. “He tracked you down just through a name. Surely a great and powerful dragon like you can do the same.” David sighed, and left the room. He was surprised at how stubborn Max was being. But the tiger was right. He needed to track Daniel down. The dragon grabbed a bowl of water, and sat down at his kitchen table. “Elaun eim Daniel Mythara,” he murmured, passing his hand over it. The water blurred, and a black dragon appeared. But it was not the one David expected. “So, you read it,” Daniel said, looking through the image at his son. “It took you long enough. I’m disappointed in you, taking your brother’s birthright.” “Daniel… Dad…” The black dragon held up a hand. “Daniel is fine. I lost the right to be your dad when I left Maria.” “How am I seeing you? Aren’t you from the future?” “Yes and no. I’m in your present time, but I’m in the alternate plane. If you were looking for your grandson, he is not called Mythara yet.” “But you are the same.” “Yes.” David’s head spun. “None of this makes sense to me…” “It took me millenia to understand it myself,” Daniel smiled reassuringly. “However, I do not believe understanding my travels is in your future. That path is different for you, and I will not reveal what I know, for it is better to be unaware.” “I’m finally talking to my dad, and he is speaking in riddles.” “But of course. Isn’t that the way of all old people? And I am nothing if not ancient.” “While you were here… You didn’t visit your daughter?” “Moon? No. She lost her father once. I would not put her through that heartbreak again. Besides, the Daniel you speak of knows nothing of Moon. However, congratulate her for me. I’m proud she finally met her match.” “And the fox, Ryan. Did you ever find him?” David’s father smiled enigmatically. “That is for me to know alone.” “You took him,” the blue dragon accused. “Hmm, you have a sharp mind. That needs to stay between you and me though. However, none of this is the reason you reached out to me, is it?” “No, but you can’t possibly begrudge me a few questions. I never knew you. And to be fair, I wasn’t exactly reaching out to you.” “Ah, but Max won’t be satisfied until you talk to your grandson.” David sighed. “I’ll get on that then.” “Good. And you can always reach out to me for help, should you need it. And Zenoan as well. I would like to see the rift between my sons buried.” “We can’t possibly be your only sons.” “Maybe, maybe not. I’ll be waiting for our next conversation,” Daniel smiled. “Wait! How do I reach your younger self?” “Ask Zenoan.” The water blurred, leaving David alone in the kitchen. The dragon took a deep breath, and a single word escaped his lips. “Shit…” DANIEL THETHAR Daniel stared at his phone, fuming silently. Three whole days, and not a word. It had started out great. Ryan had sent him a tonne of messages the first day, while he was switching planes. Then they had stopped. The first day, Daniel assumed Ryan had been busy. He had been busy himself, going to the gym and letting his boss know he was back. He’d start working in a week, and saving up for Ryan’s visit. The second day with no message, Daniel had sent one of his own. It went unread. He sent ten more messages, asking if Ryan was okay, begging the fox to talk to him. They all went unread. By day three, he was beyond worried. He looked through Facebook, tracking down Faelan. A message was sent, and he sat in his apartment, growing ever more agitated. ‘What’s up?’ the fox sent an hour later. ‘Ryan won’t answer any of my messages. Is everything okay?’ ‘I don’t know. No one has seen him in two days,’ came the reply. Daniel’s heart sank into his feet. ‘We thought he went with you. I’ll talk to David and see if he knows anything.’ ‘Let me know as soon as you hear anything,” Daniel sent, before putting his phone aside. The dragon wandered slowly to his room and fell into his bed. He curled up in the corner with his blanket, and cried himself to sleep. AEDAN CARR Aedan rose with the sun, dusting the frost off his backpack. The cold seeping into his fur was nothing new. But he figured he better find someplace to warm up soon. The hyena sat up on the park bench, and shook, dew flying in every direction. He was exhausted, and had been for the past month. With no direction, he wandered from town to town, just trying to survive. The scent of air was heavy on the air, and he followed it to a fountain. Liquid cold as ice flowed down his throat, causing Aedan to shudder. At least it was clean. He returned to the bench where he had lain through the night, and picked up his bag. A food truck sat nearby, and the hyena’s stomach gurgled at the smell of breakfast cooking. He ignored his body, and walked toward the edge of the park, passing close enough to the truck for the heat to brush against him. It was all the warmth he was likely to get that day. BOOM THERABBIT Boom backed into the driveway and shut off his truck. Today, like every day, he was eager to let his husband cook. There was something about cooking for a living that made it unappealing when at home. He walked into the house, quickly shedding his clothes, and tossing them into a hamper. “I’m home!” he called. His rabbit came bouncing out of the study, flowery sundress covering his ankles. “Oh, did you have a show tonight?” “No, I just felt like wearing this,” Cog replied, kissing the dog on his nose. “How was your day?” “Interesting. I saw a hyena this morning, looked like he was homeless. I don’t know if he’s staying in the park, but I’m going to check after dinner, bring him some food if I can.” “Invite him over if you find him. We always have room,” Cog said. “About an hour later, I had this strange sense of urgency, like I needed to move. It was so bad I actually had to move the truck from its usual spot. Didn’t do as much business today because of it.” “Eh, it happens,” Cog shrugged. “You want to take a shower or eat first?” “Is dinner done already?” “Of course. I’m not going to let my dog starve under my care.” “Well, I should probably take a shower first. I’m a little greasy.” “I’ll join you,” Cog smiled, slipping the dress off his shoulders. Walking down a hall into the bathroom, the rabbit started the shower, making the water nice and hot, just like Boom liked it. They stepped in, and Cog began kneading Boom’s shoulders. The dog moaned, leaning against the wall next to the tub. “You sure know how to keep a dog happy,” he murmured, closing his eyes. Cog squirted shampoo into his paw, and slowly, methodically, began lathering his dog. “Our anniversary is coming up,” he said as he worked. “Mmhmm,” Boom moaned. “I was thinking we could go somewhere to celebrate.” “Where did you have in mind?” “I was thinking a cabin in Lake Tahoe. You and me, alone in a cabin for a week. Things could get hot.” “That sounds amazing…” Cog scratched Boom’s lower back, and the dog’s leg thumped. They both laughed, and Boom stepped into the water. “You want me to wash you next?” he asked. “No, I already showered. I just wanted to touch you.” Boom chuckled. “You never need an excuse for that,” he said, turning the water off. He dried himself, and passed the towel to Cog, heading out into the kitchen to dish dinner onto some plates. He handed one to Cog as the rabbit walked into the room, and they stepped into the living room, sitting together on the couch. “So I can only assume this is a hint,” Boom said, holding up a hot dog. “What do you mean?” Cog smiled mischievously. “Oh, I don’t know,” Boom grinned, sticking the meat into his mouth and sucking on it noisily. Cog laughed, and leaned over, biting half of the hot dog off. “Ouch. I’m never letting you down there again,” Boom smirked. The rabbit may not be able to cook much, but the fact that he still tried made Boom love him even more. The dog finished eating, and checked the time. The sun had been down for almost thirty minutes. If the hyena was going to be at the park, he’d be there now. “I’m heading out again,” he said, pulling on some clothes. “Alright. I hope you find him,” Cog said, kissing the dog. “Yeah, so do I.” Boom left the house and got into Cog’s sedan. He pulled into the park twenty minutes later, and stepped out of the car. The sky still gave some light, though it was fading. Boom wrapped his jacket tighter around himself, shivering as a breeze rustled leaves across the ground. He began walking toward where he usually parked his truck, hoping the hyena would return to the same bench. The dog breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the hyena huddled on the bench, a half eaten fish in his hands. “Hey!” he called as he approached. The hyena jumped a little, and looked at the dog guiltily. “Hi…” he said uncertainly. “Is everything okay?” “The park closed almost an hour ago. You’re not planning on camping here, are you?” “I didn’t realize it was closed…” Boom caught the lie easily, but let it go. “I have a spare room at home if you need a place to stay. No one should be sleeping outside in this weather.” The hyena tensed up slightly. “If you don’t want to, that’s okay, but at least let me take you to get some food or something. That raw fish can’t be very appetizing.” “It beats getting murdered by a stranger…” Boom chuckled. “My name’s Boom, and you don’t have to worry, I’m not a killer. I just saw you this morning and wanted to help if I could.” “Oh what the heck. If you do kill me, at least I won’t have to worry about the cold,” the hyena said, grabbing his backpack. Boom led him to the car. “So, do you have a name?” he asked. “Aedan.” “Well Aedan, do you have a preference for food?” Aedan shook his head. “Burgers it is,” Boom decided. Fifteen minutes later, they sat at a table, Boom watching the hyena gulp down a second burger. “Do you need to call anyone?” the dog asked. “No.” Boom shrugged, and pulled out his phone, calling Cog. “Did you find him?” the rabbit asked immediately. “Yeah. We’re eating right now. Hopefully I’ll be home with him in half an hour. You might want to put on something appropriate.” “Hey, everyone loves my dresses,” Cog protested. “I know, but if people aren’t expecting it, it can be a little much.” “Fine,” Cog grumbled. “Love you.” “I love you too.” The rabbit hung up, and Boom put his phone away. “Your girlfriend?” Aedan asked. “Husband,” Boom replied. “Mm. He’s a lucky man.” “So am I,” Boom smiled. Aedan finished the burger, and the two went back out to the car. “You don’t have to take me to your home. You’ve done more than enough for me,” Aedan said. “I told you, no one should have to sleep on a park bench. Let us take care of you for tonight, and tomorrow I can take you wherever you want.” The hyena opened the car door. “Thank you,” he said, sliding into the vehicle. Boom drove to the house, sighing at the sight of Cog waiting outside in a crop top and short shorts. “Damn it…” “That’s your husband?” the hyena asked. “Yep, that’s Cog.” “Dang, he’s cute.” “Yeah, I know. I didn’t want him freaking you out with his choice of clothes though.” They stepped out of the car as Cog approached. “Hi, I’m Cog,” he smiled. “There’s still some dinner warmed up if you want some.” “Thank you.” Cog held open the door, ignoring Boom’s pointed stare as he ushered the hyena inside. As he followed, Boom could swear he saw the rabbit’s tail wag. MAXIMUS MARKHAUS “Absolutely not!” Max flinched. David’s anger was a frightening thing, even more so when it was directed at you. “David, you need to get over this fear.” “I’m not afraid! You do not understand Maximus.” Ouch, full name. His dragon was pissed. Still, Max pushed forward. “It’s just one picture-” “One picture from you. One from Aaron. One from Claire. One from whoever comes after you! I don’t need my loves on display for me to mourn over every time I see them!” “Then don’t. Don’t mourn over my pictures. You can destroy them when…” Max cut off, a lump in his throat. It was a subject they had never fully touched, but it was in the open now. “When I’m dead,” he finished. They both took deep breaths. “Look, I don’t have a single picture of Henri. What few pictures we took are at my mom’s house. I’m forgetting his face, his voice. Do you know what I would give to be reminded of days gone by?” “I’m sorry. But you are not getting me in front of a camera.” David walked to the bedroom, and came back out a minute later, shirtless. “I’m going to fly, clear my head a bit,” he said, before stepping past the tiger and walking out the door. JACOB MATHERS They said it was haunted. And that’s why he moved in. Jacob Mathers was not one to shy away from danger. The brown wolf stood in front of the apartment door, studying its red colour. He chuckled as the thought of blood red entered his mind. Opening the door, he stepped inside, eager to see the new place. “Um… Hello…” A black dragon sat on the floor in the middle of the room. “Oh, uh, sorry,” he said, standing up. “I didn’t realize they already rented the place out again.” Jake’s ears perked at the dragon’s accent. “You’re British?” he said. The dragon sighed. “Why do you people always bring that up?” “Sorry. Um… what are you doing here?” “Nothing. I’m gone already.” The dragon picked up an orange tank top and walked past Jake without another word. Closing the door behind the dragon, Jake locked it in case he tried to come back. The apartment was nearly empty, with only a mattress in one of the bedrooms. It was time to make the place his own. COG AND BOOM THERABBIT Boom’s nose woke him up. Someone was cooking. Eggs, pancakes, sausages, and did he detect a hint of smoked ham? “Maestro Cog, I believe someone is in the kitchen,” he murmured sleepily, spooning against the rabbit. “Mmm… Aedan’s making breakfast I think.” “Smells like quite the affair. Do you think we should get dressed and join him?” “I think so.” Cog sat up and kissed Boom on the nose. The bed sheets fell away as he bent over to grab his briefs, and Boom swatted at the rabbit’s wriggling tail. “Now now mister Boom, we don’t have time for that,” the rabbit grinned. “We’ll have to make time later then.” “Oh we will,” the rabbit promised. As Boom pulled on his boxers, he heard footsteps approaching the door. A knock followed, and Cog called, “Come in.” Aedan opened the door and stepped inside, a tray piled with breakfast held precariously in his hand. “I’m sorry, I hope I didn’t wake you,” he said. “Oh no, my nose woke me,” Boom smiled. “Cog uses it like an alarm clock.” The hyena handed them the tray. “Happy anniversary you two,” he said with a small smile of his own. “You know?” Boom asked. “Cog told me, and I wanted to do something for you two as a thanks for letting me stay here. I hope you enjoy it.” The hyena turned and left the room, allowing the two some peace. “That’s so sweet of him,” Cog said, taking a plate off the tray. “You need to teach him to cook though,” he added after taking a bite of pancake. “And what’s this?” Boom asked, picking up a folded sheet of paper from under his plate. “I don’t know,” Cog said innocently. “Sure you don’t,” Boom laughed. He set the thick paper aside, deciding to finish his breakfast before looking at the paper. After tasting the eggs, he agreed with the rabbit. “Yeah, I’ll offer him lessons this week,” he said. Cog chuckled. “It was really sweet of him to do this though,” he said. They ate as much as they could handle, before setting the plates aside. Boom picked up the paper again, and unfolded it. “‘A day of fun is planned ahead, if you would just get out of bed. Your first hint of where to run, is planted out under the sun’. A scavenger hunt?” “Yes, but I can’t help. This is all for you,” Cog said, getting out of bed. “Well it sounds like I better get ready for the day. Do I need anything special?” “Just your usual and this,” Cog said, kissing the dog. Boom pulled away a few seconds later. “Are you trying to distract me?” he grinned, leaning his forehead against the rabbit’s. “Who, me? Never my good dog,” Cog laughed. Boom stood up, and walked to his closet, pulling out a polo shirt and jeans. “I’m going to have so much fun unwrapping my present later,” Cog said, watching the dog dress. “Aren’t you going to get dressed?” “In a bit. I’m just enjoying the show right now.” Boom sat on the bed, pulling his shoes on, and Cog knelt behind him, hugging the dog. “I love you,” he whispered. “I love you too,” Boom whispered back. Cog released the dog, and Boom stood up again. The rabbit helped him put his collar on, and Boom kissed Cog again. “Well, I’m heading out to the garden,” he said. “Oh, you have a lead on the prize?” Cog asked. “Where else would it be?” Boom replied. “Then be off my bloodhound, and happy hunting.” They kissed again, and Boom left the room, heading downstairs. He passed through the house, noting the suspicious absence of Aedan. “They are totally planning something,” he chuckled, approaching the sliding doors leading to the sun deck. Walking down the stairs off the deck, the dog made his way through a row of flowers, heading for a large square of dirt where a young apple tree stood. Cog was very superstitious about this garden. He had seen it die under his parents care as their love for one another died. When he and Boom married, the rabbit began weeding the garden and the two had planted this tree as a seed. Boom thought the tree was a strange indicator of their love, but Cog was nothing if not eccentric, and the dog embraced the idea, doing what he could to help the plant grow. And when it had born fruit the previous fall, the two had been overjoyed. And just as he thought, the tree had a note tied to its trunk. He untied it carefully, and opened it. “‘This anniversary is the first of many in our fate. To celebrate think back to our first date.’ Well that’s easy. The park. You didn’t make this very hard, did you?” the dog smiled, turning back to go inside. “Honey, dearest, sweetest?” the dog sang out as he entered the house. Cog smiled as he finished pouring the second cup of coffee. Three sugar cubes and a dash of creamer, just the way the dog liked. “Yes, oh love of my life?” he called back. He heard Boom enter the kitchen. “Coffee? One would think you’re trying to stall me,” the dog sniffed, sitting at the kitchen counter. “Me? Never! I just thought you’d might like some coffee before you really got going.” Boom sipped at the drink, making a murmur of appreciation. “It’s perfect,” he smiled. “Did you want to ask me something?” Cog questioned, sipping his own drink. “Mmm,” Boom held up a finger, taking another drink. “Can I take the car today?” “Of course,” Cog smiled. “In fact, I planned on it. It should be fully fueled.” “Awesome.” Boom finished his coffee, and set the cup in the sink, rinsing it off. “I’m heading out then. I love you.” “I love you too,” Cog smiled, kissing him. “I’ll see you later.” He watched the dog leave the house, and heard the car leave the driveway. “He’s gone! Ready to get going?” the rabbit called. “I’ve been ready,” Aedan said, hurrying into the room. Boom parked on the side of the street, and stepped out of the car, looking around. This place was large, but there were a few spots that jumped into his mind immediately. “Time to get started…” Walking toward Cog’s favourite bench, a memory entered his mind; a rabbit sitting on this bench, a notebook in his lap. He came here all the time, and on this day, Boom decided to talk to him, using a hot dog as a prop. The two hit it off, and the rest was history. But it was bare now, no rabbit, and no note. “Well then,” Boom said, turning his feet toward the pond, and a bridge that crossed it at its narrowest point. As he walked down the cement path, he spotted a yellow dog jogging toward him. “Tristan? I didn’t know you ran,” Boom said as the two dogs neared each other. “I’m trying to get in the habit of going for a morning run,” Tristan shrugged, stopping next to him. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be with Cog?” “The little devil sent me on a scavenger hunt. I’m supposing he didn’t give you a letter for me?” “No. I saw something on the bridge rail though,” Tristan replied. “Thanks,” Boom smiled, They parted ways, and the dog continued toward the bridge, another memory springing into his mind. The rabbit and the dog stood on the bridge, watching the sunset behind the trees. The park would be closing soon, but for now there was only this moment. Boom removed a pocket knife, and began carving their initials into the wooden rail. “That’s totally illegal,” Cog said. “But it’s so romantic too.” The rabbit rested his head on Boom’s shoulder, and the dog sighed happily, wishing the night would never end. And now Boom stood in the same exact spot, fingers tracing the heart carved into the bridge. His eyes caught a string tied to the bridge, and he felt around for the note. “‘Memories are made, but some are harder to remember. For this next, think back to our first September.’” Boom scratched his head. “Okay, this one is much harder,” he muttered. “Well done,” Cog smiled, as he and Aedan surveyed the spotless house. “Now let’s get it dirty in the right way. You do the entrance, and I’ll take care of the bedroom.” “Sounds like a plan,” Aedan said, and the two split up. Cog set about making the bed, then went into the basement, where a dozen red roses were waiting for him. He carried the flowers to the bedroom, and began plucking the petals from them, letting them fall in the shape of a heart on the bed. “I know this is going to be hell to clean tomorrow, but the look on his face is totally going to be worth it…” The rabbit left a single perfect rose in the middle of the petals, taking the remainder of the flowers back downstairs. “Aedan, have you seen a tulip around here?” he called. “You hid it above the washer!” the hyena called back. “Thanks!” Cog found the flower, and put it next to his wallet so he wouldn’t forget it later. “Ready for dessert?” he asked. “Heck yeah,” Aedan grinned. Boom pulled into the parking lot of the movie theatre. He was certain this was where the next clue was. They had shared their first kiss here, hidden in the dark of the theatre. After waiting in a short line, he approached the ticket stand. “Hi, my name is Boom. Did a rabbit leave a note for me here?” he asked the cat behind the counter. “Does this look like the post office?” the cat grumbled. “No, sorry,” Boom apologized, turning away. “Wait, Boom?” The dog looked back, spotting Zuko behind the counter. “Hey! I didn’t know you worked here,” Boom smiled. “Yeah, I picked up the job two months ago. Cog left this here for you yesterday.” Zuko handed Boom another folded note on the same heavy paper. “Thank you.” “No problem. Happy anniversary.” “Thanks!” Boom stepped away from the counter, and unfolded the note. “‘Before your hunger drive you up the wall, come to our first lunch, I await your call’.” Boom smiled as he pulled out his phone. Cog’s phone rang, and he closed the oven. “You got the rest, right?” he asked. Aedan nodded. “Get going,” he smiled. “Feel free to try a couple if you want.” Grabbing his wallet and the flower, Cog answered the phone. “Hey sexy.” “Hi. I got this strange urge to call you,” Boom said. “Oh really? I wonder what could have caused that?” Cog asked as he walked to the bus stop near the house. The bus pulled up as he arrived, and the rabbit climbed on, sliding a couple bills in the tiller. “Are you on a bus?” Boom asked. “Maybe,” Cog smiled. “I never thought I’d see the day.” “Hey, I’ve taken the bus before,” Cog laughed. “Should I wait a bit then, and give you a head start?” “If you’d like. But I’ll still get there before you. I’ve timed this perfectly. You haven’t even reached the car yet.” “Now how do you know that?” “Because I know my dog, and my dog does not drive while on the phone.” “Mmm, more stall tactics?” The bus pulled up to a stop, letting a couple wolves off, as Cog grinned. “Could be. With me you never know.” “I know you pretty well now, master Cog. You just let me know when you want me to leave, okay? Should I buy a ticket for a movie?” “It’s not going to take that long,” Cog laughed. “You can go ahead and leave now if you’d like.” “You sure you don’t want me to be fashionably late?” “I think I have that covered already,” Cog said, glancing at the time on his phone. “Alright, I’m leaving now. I love you.” “Love you too,” Cog smiled, his hand brushing over his collar. He hung up as the bus stopped again. The dog pulled into another lot, this time at the first restaurant the two had eaten at after getting married. It was nothing fancy, but it held memories all the same. It wasn’t just their first, it was one of their favourites. He saw Cog waiting for him at a table, and the dog walked towards the rabbit, a huge smile on his face. Cog stood up as Boom reached the table, pulling a flower out of the air. “Neat trick,” Boom smiled. “Thanks, it took me forever to get it right,” Cog replied, handing Boom the flower. “Is this paper?” “Yeah, origami.” “This is amazing…” Boom whispered. “It makes my gift pale in comparison.” He handed the rabbit a wrapped box, and Cog opened it. “A new series?” he asked, holding up a boxed book set. “I know she’s your favourite author.” “Thank you.” The two sat again, as Pip approached with a pair of plates in his hands. “Just like that day,” Cog smiled, as Pip placed the plates in front of them. “Thanks Pip.” The large rabbit nodded with a smile, before withdrawing back to the kitchen. “Lasagna and a tuna casserole. Exactly like that day. Are we getting dessert too?” “No, I have that covered elsewhere,” Cog said, as the two began eating. Boom could smell it immediately as he stepped out of the car. “Brownies?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at the rabbit. “Curse that nose of yours,” Cog chuckled. He opened the door for the dog, and Boom laughed. “I knew it! It was all to get me out of the house.” Cog smiled at Aedan’s work, taking in the banner. “This isn’t even the half of it,” he said. “Join me in the kitchen?” Bomm followed the rabbit, passing Aedan on the way to the kitchen. “Hey, I’m going to the library. I’ll be back around six,” the hyena said. “Thanks Aedan. Be safe,” the dog said. “I will.” As Boom entered the room, Cog held out a brownie. Boom smiled, biting it out of Cog’s hand. “Mmm, pomegranate too… Where did you find that?” “Pip.” “Hm, trust the French for matters of the heart, right?” Cog stuck his hands in Boom’s back pockets, pressing against the dog’s body. He captured Boom’s mouth, tasting the bits of brownie left on the dog’s tongue. I know what you’re trying to do,” Boom said. “You forget I know food too. Allow me to help you out.” Cog squealed as the dog hoisted him into his arms. Boom carried the rabbit into the bedroom, intent of giving the rabbit what he wanted. AEDAN CARR/JAKE MATHERS The wolf and the hyena smiled at each other, two strangers meeting in a park. They walked past each other in the midst of their circling of the park, then passed again, a light chuckle lighting the wolfs smile this time. A third pass, and the hyena laughed. “You want to walk together?” he asked. “Sure, as long as we can keep trading smiles. They look good on you.” “As my friend would say, good sir, you do honour me too much.” “Will you allow me to honour you a little more?” Smiling again, the hyena turned around, and the two started walking again. “My name is Jake,” the wolf offered. “Mine’s Aedan,” the hyena replied. Their hands dangerously close to touching, the two continued their walk, learning more about each other as they went. COG AND BOOM THERABBIT “Hey guys, I’m going out for a bit,” Aedan called, walking to the front door. Sitting across from Boom on the couch, Cog tossed a kernel of popcorn into Boom’s waiting mouth as he replied, “Okay, be safe. If you need a ride, give us a call.” The two heard the door close, and Boom winked at Cog. “You know, we have some time now,” the dog smiled. “And do you know something else?” “Mmm, what’s that?” Cog grinned, munching on a kernel himself. “I feel like a bitch in heat.” “Showtime…” Cog set the bowl of popcorn aside, and shut off the tv. He crawled across the couch until he was hovering over the dog. Snaking a hand out, Cog let his finger trail over Boom’s chest, making his way lower until he gripped the edge of Boom’s shirt. Removing the clothing, the rabbit buried his nose into Boom’s chest fur and took a deep sniff. Boom’s hands cupped the rabbit’s ass through his skinny jeans, gently massaging the cheeks. Cog sighed happily, his hands moving to unbutton Boom’s pants. Their lips met hungrily, Cog’s body humping lightly into Boom’s in between tugs at the dog’s pants. Boom kicked his pants off, pulling at Cog’s shirt. His rabbit sat up and slid the shirt over his head, leaving Cog bare chested. Launching himself up, Boom licked at Cog’s nipple, before falling flat against the couch again. “Need help?” Cog chuckled. “No, I’m just teasing you,” Boom panted. “Ass…” “Knowing how much you love ass, I’ll take that as a compliment.” “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Cog smiled, kissing Boom again. The dog’s tail smacked Cog’s butt as it wagged, and Cog caught it on the next slap, tugging it gently. Boom yelped quietly, and yanked the appendage out of Cog’s hands. “Meanie…” Boom started working on Cog’s pants, shimmying them down the rabbit’s legs. Soon, they were laying on each other in nothing more than underwear, both tented out. Licking down Boom’s torso, Cog gently folded Boom’s boxers back, freeing his rod. His tongue flicked out, whipping the tip of Boom’s dick, and the dog hissed, his hips raising. Cog giggled, his tongue lashing out again. “If you don’t stop teasing me, I can’t be held responsible for my actions,” Boom growled with a husky voice. Slipping his hands under Boom’s ass, Cog pulled the dog’s underwear off, tossing it onto the growing pile of clothes on the floor. The rabbit’s mouth closed around Boom’s dick, pushing down until the rod was buried deep in his mouth. Boom moaned quietly, his eyes closing. His hips thrust up into Cog’s jaws, and Cog backed off, preventing Boom from choking him. The front door opened, and the two leapt up, Boom wincing as Cog nearly bit his dick. “Go go go…” Cog laughed, the two of them racing for the bedroom. “Hello?” Aedan called a few seconds later, as the two reached their room. “Shit, our clothes,” Boom laughed. “Aw, it’s not like he doesn’t know. Now, where were we?” Cog pushed Boom backwards onto their bed, and crawled on top of him. MAXIMUS ENTERAI “Absolutely not!” Max flinched. David’s anger was a frightening thing, even more so when it was directed at you. “David, you need to get over this fear.” “I’m not afraid! You do not understand Maximus.” Ouch, full name. His dragon was pissed. Still, Max pushed forward. “It’s just one picture-” “One picture from you. One from Aaron. One from Claire. One from whoever comes after you! I don’t need my loves on display for me to mourn over every time I see them!” “Then don’t. Don’t mourn over my pictures. You can destroy them when…” Max cut off, a lump in his throat. It was a subject they had never fully touched, but it was in the open now. “When I’m dead,” he finished. They both took deep breaths. “Look, I don’t have a single picture of Henri. What few pictures we took are at my mom’s house. I’m forgetting his face, his voice. Do you know what I would give to be reminded of days gone by?” “I’m sorry. But you are not getting me in front of a camera.” David walked to the bedroom, and came back out a minute later, shirtless. “I’m going to fly, clear my head a bit,” he said, before stepping past the tiger and walking out the door. It was like deja vu, Max staring at the dragon seated in the dark corner of the bar. Only this time, there was a whole bottle of tequila next to him. “Fuck…” Max muttered as he walked toward David. He sat across from the dragon, and glared at him. “Hi,” David mumbled, taking a swig straight from the bottle. “Put that down. You know you can’t get drunk anymore,” the tiger sighed. “That won’t stop me from trying,” David grimaced, his stomach lurching. “You’re going to kill yourself.” “I’ve done worse things, trust me.” The dragon looked down at the table. “If you want some, I can get it for you,” he offered. “No. I want you to come home.” Reaching out, Max gently lifted the dragon’s head until they were looking each other in the eyes. “I love you David, and I didn’t intend to hurt you.” The dragon’s face turned green, and he bolted for the bathroom. Max shook his head, looking at the bottle. Over three quarters of the stuff was missing. “Damn it David…” he growled, following the dragon. “Max, is everything okay?” Faelan asked, stepping in front of the tiger. “Yeah, David just had a little much to drink,” Max replied. “Huh, dragons. They think they can do anything. Just yesterday Moon’s boyfriend-” “I hate to interrupt, but I need to go check on him.” “Of course.” Faelan backed off, letting Max through. The tiger hurried to the bathroom, hearing his dragon retch as he entered. “You know that stuff is bad for you.” “Max, I’m headfirst in a toilet bowl. Can we discuss this later?” David vomited again, spitting into the bowl. “Can’t you use a spell or something to get it out of you?” “Oh why didn’t I think of that?” David snapped. “I’m just trying to help damn it!” “Please just let me work it out.” Max sank into a seated position, leaning against the side of the stall. “I’m sorry,” he said. He felt a weight press into the other side of the barrier. “I am too. This was childish of me, to run out here and try to get wasted,” David said. They sat there for a few minutes, together, yet apart. Finally, Max slowly reached under the stall, placing his hand over David’s. The dragon’s hand turned over and clasped his, and both felt a weight lift from their hearts. “I love you,” David whispered. “I love you too.” David stood up and stepped out of the stall, face still sour. Max was there to meet him, and pulled the dragon into a gentle hug. “Let’s get out of here,” the dragon muttered. He wrapped his wing across Max’s back, and the tiger placed an arm around the dragon’s shoulder. Slowly, the two made their way outside. They drove in silence, Max taking the wheel. He knew David was good to drive, but they didn’t need to be pulled over. Not tonight. His hand reached over to caress David’s as they stopped at an intersection. “Are you feeling better?” the tiger asked. “Yeah. I hate tequila,” David muttered, opening the window. Max chuckled as the light turned green. “Yeah, I’ve never been a fan-” The next thing he knew, all was pain. He stared wide eyed as blood fell out of his body, his arm crushed by a truck. “Max…” That voice… it was like his past was catching up to him… “Max, can you hear me?” “Henri…?” He could see the older tiger, his face warm and caring, but also hazy. Max tried to blink, but his eyes wouldn’t cooperate, forcing him to stare at his brother. At his dead brother. “I see you…” he whispered. A hand reached out, and grasped his own, surprisingly solid. “How are you here?” “You’re at the edge of the void mein bruder.” “It hurts… God it hurts…” “I know. It will be over soon.” “Max…?” David still held the tiger’s hand, limp and wet. “Max, are you okay?” The dragon twisted painfully, and cried out. “Max!” His mind slowed time, thoughts racing frantically through his head. His tiger’s fur was stained with blood, and there was so much more pouring out of him. “Someone help!” he screamed, his hands running over Max, desperate to find the source of the blood. All his experience, the past century devoted to the healing arts, all that flew out of his mind as he cradled his tiger in his arms. His body felt numb, the pain slowly fading. “Please Henri, this has to be a mistake…” Max whimpered. “It’s too late Max. I’m sorry.” His brother placed an arm around the tiger as Max’s body sank into a breathless slumber. Tears poured from Max as he looked down at his body in David’s arms. A hand touched his shoulder gently, and Max turned, finding a young doe looking at David. “Thank you for taking care of him. Now it’s time to pass the torch on to someone else,” she said. “Claire?” David’s wife embraced his boyfriend as they all wept for their lost love. DAVID ENTERAI His feet made the trip once again. It had been five years since David had last walked this path. But time didn’t affect this place. He wouldn’t allow it to. His wife’s marker appeared in the air as the dragon approached, and David knelt before it. “Elada mei areula. I hope you don’t mind sharing your resting place,” he said quietly, summoning a black dagger. David placed the blade on his arm, and sliced quickly, not a sound escaping his lips. Hot trails of blood ran down his arm, and the dragon buried his hands in the earth. “Eha pei mei sona, rehun du eim,” he intoned, and quartz erupted in front of him, beside Claire’s grave. The rock ground and cracked before him, under the dragon’s watchful gaze. It was stained red with his blood, and that only gave his spell more power. David focused intently on the crystal as it took form before him, creating a face and a body that rose just slightly taller than he was. It seemed fitting, the only time he ever used blood magic was in a time of death. The stains within the quartz grew in size, changing colour under the dragon’s gaze, becoming white and black and blue. Finally, he removed his hands, and the earth settled again. His creation stared down at him, on the ground, with almost a sorrowful expression. David sat back, wrapping his arms around his legs as he looked up at the statue. “Now you’ll never truly be gone from this world,” he whispered. Standing, David conjured a bandage, and wrapped his arm in it. “I will see you again Max.” The dragon turned and allowed his feet to carry him away from the site, and the memorials of the ones he held dear. TRISTAN THARN Tristan rang the doorbell to David’s house. He wasn’t sure he should be doing this. The dragon needed his space right now. But if a comforting hand could help him, Tristan wanted to be there for him. A minute passed, and Tristan rang the bell again. He heard the click of a lock disengaging, and the door slowly creaked open. The dog shivered, stepping inside. David was nowhere in sight. “Fuck, I hate it when he does that,” the dog muttered. “David?” The dragon shuffled around a corner, a look of pure exhaustion on his face. “I’m sorry I missed your lesson,” he said quietly. “Don’t be. I’m not worried about that. I just thought you could use a friend right now.” “Thank you, but I’m okay.” “You sure as hell don’t look it,” Tristan scoffed. “I just need to get out of town for a while. That’s all. I can make you some juice if you still need it,” the dragon offered. “No, I’ll be okay. You know, you don’t need to be strong around me. You’ve seen me at my worse, and helped me through it. I’d like to do the same-” “You can’t. No one can. I’ve been through this before Tristan. And I’ll probably go through it again at some point.” “Well, if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here,” Tristan said. He stepped up to the dragon, and wrapped his arms around him. “You be safe in your travels. I lost one friend. I don’t want to lose another,” he said. Releasing the dragon, Tristan turned and walked back through the door, leaving David alone in the large empty house.
  9. DANIEL THETHAR Daniel’s hand trailed across a row of books. This was his favourite store, and he made sure to visit every week. There was always a new story to find within the shelves; a new world to explore. His hand tripped across a small black binding, and the dragon paused. He had learned to trust his instincts, and had found many a good book that way. This one felt different somehow. He removed it, keeping an eye on the two tomes it had been stuck between. There was no title, just a blank black leather cover. The pages seemed worn with age, and Daniel was afraid to open the cover, lest he destroy the book. That was the last thing he wanted to do. He loved the older couple who ran the store, a lioness and a goat. They watched him now, the only regular customer they got these days. He carefully carried the book to the counter, and cleared his throat. “Did you find something dearie?” the lioness asked, her voice like warm honey. “I don’t know…” Daniel admitted. “There’s no title, and no barcode on the back. And it looks fragile.” The lioness took the book gently from him. “Hmm… This binding is strong, but the pages do seem as though they’ve seen better days. I don’t recall seeing this anywhere.” She turned to the goat. “Albert, do you recognize it?” “That binding seems like early nineteenth century work. If anything, that’s probably a first edition,” the old goat rumbled. He handed it back to the dragon. “It’s not one of ours though. Feel free to take it. A Christmas present from us to you,” he smiled. “Thank you!” Daniel beamed. “Would you like a bag for it?” “No thanks. I want to make sure I get it home in one piece.” The dragon made his way to the exit. “Merry Christmas,” he said, hand on the door. “And to you as well,” the two smiled. Daniel returned to his flat, worn out from a day of exercise. It was his day off at the gym, but he didn’t like to miss a day of working out. The trip to the bookstore had been a little extra, but as he studied the black book again, he thought the trip had been worth it. It sat on his table now, as he moved around the kitchen making dinner. One poached egg with tomato and bacon later, and he was seated with the book in hand. He hesitated, a strange feeling coming over him. Whatever was in these pages, he felt like it could change his life forever. But he had no idea how or why. “It’s just a book…” he murmured. Just a book, sitting innocently on his table. Daniel reached out, and slowly opened the cover. It creaked quietly, threatening to break apart, but he was gentle, and it held. On the first page, he was surprised to see a neat cursive handwriting in bold ink. There was a date, and an entry below it. “It’s a journal. From 1914.” The date was plain to see, and he could easily read the writing, even over 100 years later… 1914, 1 January The dawn of a new year, and perhaps a new start. I have returned to the land of my birth, to wander through the country for a time. Perhaps I will settle here, and make a new home, away from my memories. It wouldn’t be the first time I have had to flee my past. For now, I will remain in my former home, deep within old Prussia. There is a village nearby, where I can meet others should I choose to. Nineteen years is a long time, yet I fear it will be longer still before I can forgive myself. But I must leave for there is much to do before winter is through. I am grateful for my time in the west,. Rough though it was, it has taught me how to survive. I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I will make it through this. The entry ended abruptly, not even halfway down the page. It seemed a waste of paper to Daniel, but he figured the writer was wasteful. It was strange though. The writing showed a steady, careful hand, not one used to spending without thought. Daniel carefully turned the page, revealing another entry. This one was dated a little later, close to the end of the month, and Daniel wondered what had happened. New Year’s resolution gone awry? Did 1914 even have New Year’s resolutions? Regardless, he decided to read one more entry before turning in for the night. 19 January A blizzard came last night. I am locked inside the house for now. It is a good thing I returned from the village yesterday afternoon. I have been chopping wood in preparation for this as well. I am as stocked up as any dragon could be. I can last for a month in here, longer if I boil snow for water. The only issue I see for now is the chamberpot, and for that I have gramyre. There is still much to do inside the house. I have a gramophone for music, as well as her violin. I’m making progress with it, though I still have trouble playing. I study my grimoire daily, learning new healing spells. All too little, too late. But I will be prepared should there ever be a next time. Then I also have my chores around the house, and my mother’s library to sort through. Should I remain for a long time, I will have to upgrade it. But that is all for the day. I don’t expect much writing to be done. There won’t be anything of note for some time. Again the words cut off suddenly, as though their master was afraid of farewells. A dragon scared. The idea seemed humorous for some reason. It happened. Daniel himself was scared of being on the open water. So why did it seem so funny? And who was this dragon, so hurt by life? Musician and mage, and former love of someone’s life. Slowly the enigma would unravel, and Daniel would learn who this dragon was. With that thought, Daniel recovered his bookmark, and slid the journal closed around it, saving the words for another day. He woke early the next morning, the journal on his mind. His dreams had been plagued by a mysterious dragon. More magic, a gramyre that drew others to him. Sighing, Daniel swung his feet over the side of his bed, and stretched his wings. For once, he had no desire to exercise. He just wanted to curl up in a chair and continue reading. But he hadn’t gotten his shape by taking breaks. Throwing on a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt, the dragon headed for the door of his flat, grabbing his phone as he went. His feet crunched in newly fallen snow as he emerged from the building, and a gust of wind sent a shiver through his body. Shaking it off, the dragon tucked in his wings, and took off, jogging north. He had done this run hundreds of times before, and the course was ingrained in his mind. Music played from his phone, the latest popular song from the radio. It was loud enough to be heard, but not so loud as to be annoying. As he ran, he thought through a couple spells. Every dragon family carried a grimoire with them, and his was no exception, though it was relatively new, with only two generations of spells before his own. He was expected to change that, a task he took to with not a little trepidation. Around kilometre two, his mind turned from a warming spell to the journal. It nagged at him constantly, and he was started to regret ever picking it up. But he had started something and he could not just let it go unfinished. Kilometre three came and went as he turned back to home. There was no work to be done today, save for work around the flat. As he returned home, Daniel made a beeline for the journal, promising himself he’d stop at one more entry. 29 January I created a way out today. There is now an eight foot long tunnel of snow in front of my door. I couldn’t handle remaining inside any longer. A dragon’s got to fly. It was my first flight in what they’re calling Germany. And it was cold, but it satisfied me. I will live another week. While I was out, I took the opportunity to chop some more wood. Magic can only do so much after all. I have heard rumors stirring of unrest to the south. It’s no big news really. The Balkans have always been rowdy. Nonetheless, I will head to Hamburg tomorrow, and make sure my papers are in order. If there’s any trouble involving the country’s allies, I don’t want to be too suspicious. A foreigner then. But still no name, and with no name, no story outside of what was within the pages of the diary. It didn’t concern Daniel too much. He still wasn’t sure what he should do with the book. The owner was long gone. The best he could hope for was to find the surviving family, but would they even care? He wanted to read on, to see if the next entry might give any inkling of a name, but he had told himself only a single entry. Muttering under his breath about self imposed limits, Daniel stood up and tracked down his grimoire from where it lay in his bedroom. He spent an hour casting simple spells, building his ability and training his mind. With his practice over, he went online to check on his American friend. ‘What’s new with you today?’ It took a few minutes, but Ryan eventually replied, ‘The same old shit. Jake’s being Jake and Kel’s being Kel.’ ‘Eh, maybe you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.’ Daniel chuckled as he wrote, knowing it would probably go over Ryan’s head. ‘I guess not. I tried, and I’ll keep trying until it gets through his head.’ Daniel checked the time, sighing when he realized it was almost noon. ‘Gtg. The gym is calling my name.’ ‘I thought you didn’t work today?’ ‘I don’t, but it’s leg day for me, so I have to go in anyways. Later.’ ‘Later dude.’ Daniel closed his computer, and laced up his trainers once more. The gym was only a ten minute run, but on leg days, he had a hard time getting home, so he took his car today. An hour of working out, and then he’d be back to the journal… Ninety minutes and three hot compresses around the leg later, and Daniel had his hands on the journal once more. A plate of sugar cookies sat in front of him, a holiday treat. He munched on one as he opened the journal to his bookmark. 3 February It is done at last. I am now listed in the annals of German citizens as David Enterai. Now I have the two day walk back home. I could fly, but not until i leave Hamburg, and the city is a big place. It has been an experience coming into the city. There are these loud monstrosities moving around that they call ‘cars’. I remember hearing something about them, but to see one in person was quite the shock. Scared a few of the horses too. I haven’t been around this many people in a while either. I realize that I have really secluded myself in the past nineteen years. I did manage to get the violin to a luthier for some tuning. The fox told me it would take a day to get it sorted out. I suppose I can find an inn, though I don’t have much money on me at the moment. I’ll pick up the instrument in the morning, and if it has been damaged in any way, may the heavens help that fox. Enterai. David Enterai. He had a name now. It was a start. Daniel grabbed his phone, and started typing. He wasn’t quite sure what he was looking for. A family? A death certificate? “Wait… He’s alive?!” Daniel stared at his phone, where a picture of a blue dragon stood with a tiger leaning against him. The facebook page listed a town in America, but didn’t give an actual address. Daniel looked back at the journal. “Shite, I’ve been reading this bloke’s memories…” A week passed before he touched the book again. It felt weird, reading the thoughts of someone who was still living. He wanted to return the journal, but how could he? The dragon was across the pond, and Daniel was not planning on visiting America any time soon. He continued his daily routines, working at the gym, and practicing his spells, but the journal continued to nag at him. Daniel returned home from work after the New Year, and found the book laying open suspiciously. “Fuck, I guess more wouldn’t hurt. I mean, he’s going to know I read it if he gets it back anyway.” The dragon hated magic sometimes. Especially fatal magic. He would not be able to rest until he got the journal to this dragon. Maybe. It was still unclear exactly what he needed to do with it, but for now, he continued to read. 23 February I bought a gun today. One of those Gewehrs they sell here. Upon inspection, I found it perfect for a marksman. Those bottles will never bother anyone again. I don’t really need the weapon, but I feel like it helps me fit in. I figured, if Zenoan was still looking for me, he’d find me through the census. If he does show up, I’m ready for him, but I hope he’ll bury the hatchet and we can go our separate ways in peace. Father willed me the sword, it is mine by right. I don’t want to get into all that again though. It’s been thirty years since I’ve seen family. I have to assume they’re going to leave me alone now. Again it cut off. There was another name. Maybe he’d have an address? Ryan looked up Zenoan Enterai, but was unable to find anything. It was just a name, nothing more than that. Then he realized Ryan lived in the same town. He would know where David lived if no one else did. It took only a moment to send the text. While he waited, Ryan continued to read. 2 March Truly I live in an age of wonders. Yesterday a newspaper reported the successful flight of a balloon for over 3,000 kilometres. I don’t doubt that some day I will have competition over the sky. It used to be my place to think, my place of peace. Now the world has taken even the sky from me. I will watch this ballooner with interest. Maybe I am wrong and this dream of flight will die as it begins. Daniel’s phone buzzed, startling him from his reading. ‘There is a David Enterai here, but I don’t know where he live exactly.’ It had been a long shot, but Daniel still sighed with disappointment. ‘Thanks anyway,’ he replied, turning back to the book. 4 March The snow has finally started to melt. Perhaps spring has finally arrived. It’s still cold, but at least now I can stand to chop firewood. Two axes can cut a lot of logs at once. I should have enough firewood to last until summer soon. Tomorrow I’ll have to head back to the village. I’m out of fresh meat. Nothing. There was nothing there. Daniel growled in frustration. What was his magic trying to tell him? He skipped a couple pages, and found an entry from May. 5 May I met a young wolf today in the village. Wilhelm Galathar. He has done things to me that I have not felt since I met John in the Nebraska territory all those years ago. Claire, I hope you can forgive me for my dalliance, wherever you are. I have to believe that you would not want me to be celibate, for it is too late now. He has undone me. Strange. Claire was his great grandmother’s name. It wasn’t uncommon by any means, but Daniel still found it funny. Also, David had apparently still been alive when Nebraska, wherever that was, had still been an American territory. Daniel grabbed his phone again and searched. 1867. The year Nebraska became a state. He was probably older than that. Daniel took a deep breath. It was unnerving. Did all dragons share that lifespan? And he had lost what seemed to be his his wife. From what? Old age? Daniel inhaled once more, shakily. He felt for the man. That would be a hell in and of itself. And then there was that name. Claire. Maybe it was time to call his mum and get some questions answered… “Aye, her name was Claire. She was married to a dragon, if I remember Mother correctly. Gave up the baby. I think it was an age thing. The husband was older than her, and she thought the child might be taken away because of the differnce. We never heard anything from his family. I don’t think he had any.” “Thanks Mum. I want to do a little more digging, but this helps a lot,” Daniel said. “What’s with all the questions?” “Eh, nothing. Just a little personal project. I thought I might start a genealogy in my grimoire.” “That sounds brilliant. If you have any more questions, let me know.” “Thanks Mum. I will.” Daniel hung up, and put his head on the table. This was his great grandfather’s journal… He could still be wrong about it, but it was unlikely. Things were adding up too neatly… He spent a month thinking, worrying, and planning. Finally, he called Ryan. “Hey dude, what’s up?” the fox asked on the other end of the computer. “I need to talk with David.” “Um… sure, but I don’t know where to find hm right now.” “I mean in person. I’m coming to America.” “Oh. If you can wait a few months, you can stay at my place. It will save some money.” “I can wait,” Daniel agreed. “How long is a few months?” “Probably the end of the year. I’m thinking about moving out, and I should have my own place by then.” “Jake’s not playing nice?” “No,” Ryan sighed. “I need to go; he’s complaining about Tristan. Again.” “Okay. We can plan the details later then.” Ryan hung up,and Daniel glosed his computer. He was going to get his answers soon. FAELAN EUNUCH Faelan lay against Pip, reading a book Abbie had loaned her. Outside, rain pattered gently on the windows, a early summer storm. She loved listening to the sound, though she was missing the crackling of a fire that accompanied the rain in the winter. A peal of thunder struck in the distance, and she set the book aside. Standing, she turned to Pip. “Come on. You were going to teach me how to cook that soup, right?” Pip chuckled. “Faelan, it’s just onion soup,” he said. “So? I don’t know how to make it and I want to learn. What better time than the present?” The rabbit stood up, and followed the fox to the kitchen, nimbly ducking under the entrance to the room. “Okay, let’s get started,” he said, pulling a large pot out of a cabinet. Faelan saw a flash of lightning outside the kitchen window and counted until the thunder sounded. The storm was drawing closer. “Here, slice these for me,” Pip said, drawing the fox’s attention to a couple large onions. “You should wear those so you don’t hurt your eyes.” The rabbit pointed to a pair of goggles hanging on a hook. “Thanks.” Faelan pulled the goggles over her eyes, and began slicing the onions. “A little thinner than that,” Pip said a moment later, cutting another onion. A flash of lightning lit up the room, and the thunder boomed almost instantaneously after. A loud clatter followed as Pip dropped his knife. Faelan put her paw on Pip’s arm, looking into the rabbit’s eyes. “Hey, you okay? We’re at home, making the soup,” she said quietly. The rabbit blinked, staring at her. “Sorry,” he murmured, stooping to pick the knife up. “Don’t worry about it,” Faelan smiled, standing on the tips of her feet so she could kiss Pip’s chin. She returned to the onions. “Are these thin enough?” “Those are perfect,” Pip said, pulling a loaf of bread out of the fridge. He sliced the bread quickly, setting the pieces aside for later. “Get me some flour and a stick of butter please,” the rabbit requested, turning on the stove. Faelan passed him the items, standing next to him as the rabbit stirred the onions into the melting butter. The thunder pealed yet again and Pip flinched, but continued stirring. “You know, Cog and Boom are always setting up little parties in the park. I think we should host our own party for them right here,” he said. “That’s a great idea!” Faelan exclaimed. Pip began sprinkling flour into the pot, as Faelan stirred. “The storm’s moving away,” she said, listening to another, quieter, crack of thunder. Pip relaxed visibly, tension draining from his shoulders. “Can you put the bread into the toaster for me? Golden brown.” Faelan did as the chef told her, setting the toaster oven to brown the bread. Pip added broth to the onion mix, and stirred until the mixture boiled, throwing in a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. “Almost done,” he said a few minutes later, as Faelan removed the toast. She set the toast two slices to a bowl, as instructed, and Pip sprinkled thickly grated cheese into the bowels, before ladling the soup in on top. “Perfect,” he smiled. “Let’s eat.” The two carried their bowls to the living room table, Faelan once again enjoying the sounds of rain against the windows. The worst of the storm was over. ABIGAIL ANNIS “Themis, what are we doing here?” Abbie demanded. “Shh. Just come on,” the fiery fox said, dragging Abbie into an old brick building. “I swear, if you dragged me away from my book for another rave…” The two entered a dark room, the echoes of their footsteps suggesting that the room was large. Themis released Abbie’s paw, and crossed the room, flipping a light switch. The two were standing in a ballroom, with a covered piano in the corner of the room. A chandelier hung from the ceiling, granting light to the entire room. “Remember when you asked me where I go occasionally? Here it is,” Themis gestured. “This place is awesome!” Abbie said, looking around in wonder. Themis set her phone on the piano, music playing. “May I have this dance?” she asked. “But I don’t know how to dance…” “Neither do I. Come on,” Themis urged. Abbie hesitantly held out her paw and was swept away, Themis leading her swirling around the room. The two spun around and around, Abbie losing herself in the music. It was almost as good as reading. Themis tripped over her foot, and fell, dragging Abbie down after her. “Ow,” she laughed, Abbie giggled, standing back up. “You okay?” she asked, helping Themis back to her feet. “Yeah. Let’s do that again,” Themis grinned. The two heard footsteps outside the room. “Later though,” Themis said, grabbing her phone and shutting the music off. “Run.” She led Abbie back out the building, and the two ran toward Themis’ car. DAVID ENTERAI “Enrehun du mei heyno,” David smiled. “Welcome to my home.” Max looked around the entrance hall, his eyes wide as saucers. “This place is huge!” the tiger gaped. “It should be. I’ve been adding onto it for the past hundred years.” Max was silent, trying not to think of David’s age. “Sorry,” the dragon apologised, seeing he had hit a nerve. Max noticed a young doe sitting beside David in a sepia tinted photograph on the far wall of the room. “Who’s that?” he asked, approaching the picture. “That was my wife,” David said quietly, a note of sorrow in his voice. “You were married?” David nodded, looking at the photograph. He remembered that day well… “Quit fidgeting,” Claire said sharply. “This suit itches. You know I don’t like wearing it,” David argued. “Besides, there’s no space for my wings.” “Just sit and it will be over in a minute,” the deer urged. David grumbled, focusing on the large camera facing the two. This whole photograph thing had sounded fun. He hadn’t realized he would have to sit for so long. “She looks young,” Max said. “She was twenty when that picture was taken. It was the only time we sat for a photograph. I wish there had been more,” David sighed. “There’s a pair of rings under it. Are those…?” “Our wedding rings,” David nodded, looking at the bands as another memory came through his mind. A band of gold glinted in the midday sun as Claire’s fingers glided across the strings of her violin. As good as she was, her instrument still screeched at times, and the noise made David grit his teeth. “Can’t you play that thing somewhere else?” he pled, looking up from his newspaper. “Can’t you read somewhere else?” Claire returned, a slight smile on her face. Muttering about devil deer, David folded his paper and stood up, walking to his office. A minute later, he heard the footsteps of his wife following him. The doe gently turned the dragon’s head and kissed him. “I love you,” she said. “I love you too, mei areula,” David replied quietly. “What happened to her?” Max asked, pulling David out of his memories. The dragon continued staring at the picture. “When I was younger, I never thought about my heritage. I am the son of a dragon and an elf. I am practically immortal. I didn’t stop to think that I would be forced to watch the woman I loved waste away before my very eyes. There is no way to stop a natural death, despite all the magic within me.” A final memory came to the dragon… He stood beside her, as she lay in their bed. Her fur was sprinkled with white, her eyes clouded with cataracts. “I am sorry mei areula. I couldn’t save you,” he whispered. “Don’t be sorry. You gave me the best years of my life.” Tears ran from his eyes. “I’m going to miss you.” “Someday you’ll see me again,” she promised. “But not for a while.” The deer began singing a song, one she had played so often on her violin. The words were strained, but they were unmistakable. David joined in, their voices intertwining, until it became a solo, then ended. TRISTAN THARN Water washed over Tristan as he sat in the tub. Steam filled the room, swirling serenely in the air. Its calming pattern had no effect on the dog. Music played quietly from Tristan’s phone beside the sink. Normally it would relax him, but not today. Tristan closed his eyes, breathing deeply. Kel. Kel was his only hope now. If the wolf didn’t come, he was finished. Almost as if on cue, Kel opened the door. “Hey,” he said, entering the room. “Hey,” Tristan replied listlessly. Closing the door behind him, Kel sat next to the tub. “It’s bad again.” he stated. Tristan nodded, taking the wolf’s hand. “I’m sorry to drag you out here.” “Don’t be. I wasn’t doing anything important.” Tristan sat forward, turning up the temperature of the water. Kel could feel the heat washing off him, almost stifling. “Can I help at all?” he asked. Tristan shrugged. The two sat in silence for a few minutes. “Is there anything in particular on your mind?” Kel questioned. “Not really.” “Okay. You can talk to me about anything.” “I know.” Tristan sighed. “There’s a bottle in the cabinet over there,” he motioned with his head. Releasing the dog’s hand, Kel stood up and opened the cabinet. He found the bottle easily. Inside was a single pill. “Tristan, what is this?” “I don’t want to fail again…” Tristan pulled back the fur on his neck, revealing a long, thin scar. Kel sat down. “That’s why you were wearing that scarf… Tristan, there’s no reason for you to kill yourself.” “I’m not doing anything with my life. I just go through my day numb, aside from the time I spend with you.” Kel set the bottle aside, and leaned over, shutting off the water. Helping Tristan out of the tub, he towelled the dog off. “It sounds like you’ve already decided,” the wolf said quietly. Tristan shook his head. “I didn’t decide anything.” Picking up the bottle, the dog set it back in the cabinet. He led Kel out to the bedroom, where they sat on his bed. “If you do take that pill, tell me before you do. I will be here for you. Kel placed his arms around Tristan, holding him tight. “You’re not going to stop me?” “It’s not my place to stop you Tristan. That decision is yours alone. All I can do is hope my presence will keep you from making a rash decision.” The two lay beside each other. Kel wrapped his leg over Tristan’s, knowing the pressure would soothe him. “I love you Tristan,” he whispered, running his fingers through Tristan’s hair. Tristan stood in front of the cabinet, holding the bottle. He could hear Kel snoring in the bedroom. Images flashed through his mind; his guitar, Cog’s parties, Kel in a tuxedo on their first date. His thumb brushed over the semicolon tattoo on his inner left wrist, bought after Cog’s Christmas party. Dumping the pill in his hand, Tristan stared at it. “Not today,” he whispered, letting it fall back into the bottle. Replacing the lid, he set the bottle back into the cabinet, and went back to lay beside Kel. ABIGAIL ANNIS Abbie stood in front of Themis, hand tucked behind her back. “Guess,” she insisted. “Hmm… A wasp nest?” “What? No!” Abbie laughed. “Well, it couldn’t be a book. You’d keep that one for yourself. A new scarf?” “Nope!” Abbie grinned, enjoying teasing Themis. It was rare that she got a chance like this, and she was going to make full use of it. “A sloppy kiss given with love.” “You can get that any time you want.” “How about right now?” Themis smiled innocently. Abbie giggled, and leaned in to kiss Themis. The other fox darted around her and grabbed the mystery item. “Kingmaker? I’ve been wanting this forever!’ she explained, looking at the computer game. “Happy birthday Themis,” Abbie said, kissing the fox. “Thank you so much!” Themis hurried to her computer, and shoved the disc in it. Within minutes, she and Abbie were sitting side by side, enjoying the game together. BOOM THERABBIT Boom sat in a chair, twisting a ring around on his finger. Butterflies filled his stomach, flittering around inside the dog. The day was here. He was getting married. Here he sat, in the house of his beloved, waiting on Jake to give him the count. And he was terrified. And it was exhilarating. Nerves battled with emotions battled with his stomach full of butterflies. Keeping to the superstition of seeing the partner before the wedding, he had not seen Cog all day. The rabbit was everywhere in his mind though. Someone knocked on the door to the room, and opened it. Jake sidled in a moment later. “It’s almost time. How’re you doing?” he asked. “I’m okay,” Boom shrugged. Jake reached forward and fixed Boom’s tie. “Just remember to breathe. You’ll be fine,” he said. Pulling out his phone, he checked the time. “You have two minutes until you go.” Jake slipped back out of the room, closing the door behind him as Boom focused on his breathing. Two minutes. Time stretched before him; an eternity of anxiety and nerves. But he counted. One minute and thirty seconds. David and Jake had just began walking, making their way to the gazebo that had been set up in Cog’s backyard. One minute, twenty five seconds. A door slammed in the house, startling Boom. He hoped Faelan hadn’t lost the collars. One minute. Zuko was walking down the aisle, ready to officiate. They had been lucky to find him. He was rough around the edges, but so were many of their friends. And somehow they all got along. Fifty five. Fifty four. Fifty three. Cog was the social one. He had brought the group together and they held together through the rabbit. Boom didn’t know how, but he was grateful that he didn’t have to be the life of the party. Forty eight. Forty seven… This was insane. Two whole minutes of waiting all by himself. His tail thumped against the chair nervously, and he yawned. Forty seconds. Faelan was about to go, a basket of flowers in her hands, and the collars tucked somewhere on her person. “Calm down Boom. Everything will be okay,” the dog whispered to himself. Thirty seconds. Faelan just went. Boom began whispering the seconds as they passed, whimpering as they seemed to go slower and slower the closer he got. “Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven.” Opening the door, he hurried to the back door, ten feet away. “Five… four… three… two… one…” Opening the second door, he stepped outside, His ears picked up the beginning bars of Pachelbel's Canon, strummed on the black guitar Tristan had received for Yule. Slowly walking forward, he was nearly blinded by the setting sun on the other side of the gazebo. “Shit…” he muttered to himself. The venue, chosen for the setting sun, wouldn’t be much use if no one could see the ceremony. It was too late to turn back now. Continuing down the white aisle strewn with red rose petals, he shivered slightly. Everyone’s eyes were on him. Kel, sitting near Tristan, bore a smug look, as usual. Pip stood in the back, taking a video. Themis was busy taking pictures, while to her right, Abbie had actually set her book aside for once. Their new friends, Clarisse and Max, sat somberly, observing. Even Zenoan, David’s brother, had made an appearance. He was halfway down the aisle now. Zuko stood under the gazebo, waiting, with David and Jake standing on opposite sides of him. Faelan stood off to the side, her basket set beside her feet. She gave Boom a small smile, and Boom soldiered on. He reached the gazebo, standing before a shallow drop in the land. Breathing a sigh of relief, he turned to face the house, as Jake gave him a thumbs up. The hard part was over. Tristan continued the song as Cog stepped through the door. The rabbit looked like he had just stepped out of a Victorian era novel. He wore a dark tuxedo, with a cravat peeking out from his neckline. A top hat completed the look. He looked… dapper. And sexy as hell. Tristan brought the music to a close as Cog stepped under the gazebo. “You look amazing,” Boom smiled at Cog. “Thanks. You do too.” Zuko stepped forward, a small book open in his hands. “We have gathered today in friendship to celebrate the blending together of two lives. As Boom and Cog come before you here today as two, they will leave this place as one, united in marriage. As family and friends, each of you has played some part, small or large, in bringing them to this moment and in various ways will continue to support and contribute to their relationship. We solemnize this unique time in their lives and make it meaningful by entering into it in an attitude of respect for their deep commitment to each other,” he read. This is it. I’m getting married. “Cog, Boom,” Zuko looked at each of them in turn. “Today you commit yourselves to honoring and protecting one another above your separate selves, and to valuing your union above your own interests. In so doing, you will find a wealth of love and peace not otherwise attainable. But with this joy comes a profound responsibility to protect the bond you share. For it is only with continual care that your love is truly secure in the face of life's inevitable tests.” He paused momentarily, taking a breath before continuing. “You must regard each other with the deepest respect. You must appreciate each other's talents, foster each other's dreams, and be ever mindful of the many gifts that the other offers you. You must inspire and encourage one another. For by strengthening your spouse, you strengthen your marriage. Bring out the very best in each other. Be sparing in criticism and generous in praise for things well done. In communication, be honest and open. For the heart that communicates truth without hesitation earns trust and builds a secure home. With truth comes respect, and with respect, love grows. So accept your marriage as a work-in-progress that will hereafter consume your attention, and yet never be completed. Because a lifelong love requires a lifetime of hard work. But it is a joyous labor, whose fruits are the very richest. “A future together stands before you, vast and unknown. That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. But it is a great tribute to your belief in each other that you are willing to face those uncertainties together. May the pure, simple love with which you join your hearts and hands today never fail, but grow only deeper and more certain with every year you spend together. “You have written your own vows to each other. You may share them now.” Boom pulled out a notecard, clearing his throat. “Cog, I love you unconditionally. I vow to love you, encourage you, trust you, and respect you. Together we will create a home filled with learning, laughter, and compassion. I promise to work with you to foster and cherish a relationship of equality, knowing that we have each other’s back. I accept you as who you are and offer myself in return. I will care for you and stand beside you through all life’s adversities and all life’s joys, from this day forward, and all the days of my life.” Cog pulled a similar card from his breast pocket. “Boom, with you by my side, I feel that I can conquer the world. We are two halves of a single whole, and my love for you knows no bounds. I accept you for yourself, for there is no one in this world I want more than you, as you are. I will spend the rest of my life with you, through the good times, and the bad. I love you, and will love you, always and forever.” Boom smiled as Cog was bathed in the light from the setting sun. He loved this rabbit so much. Faelan stepped forward, holding a wooden box, in which sat two leather collars. Zuko continued, “The two of you have chosen to exchange collars in lieu of the more traditional rings. These items have little value in and of themselves. It is through what they symbolize that their true value is shown. Let these collars be a sign that love has a past, a present, and a future, and that, despite its occasional sorrows, love is a circle of joyous wonder and delight. Boom, take Cog’s collar, place it around his neck, and repeat after me.” Boom picked up the collar on the right, and set it around Cog’s neck, repeating the words Zuko spoke. “Just as this band is strong, so too shall my love for you endure. With this collar, I take you as my partner for life.” At Zuko’s bidding, Cog picked up the remaining collar, fastening it around Boom’s neck. “Just as this band is strong, so too shall my love for you endure. With this collar, I take you as my partner for life.” “Inasmuch as you have sealed your vows in the presence of those gathered here by the giving of these collars and have consented together to live in marriage, it gives me much pleasure to pronounce that you are now husband and husband. You may kiss your groom.” Cog and Boom leaned forward, and their lips met, as the onlookers applauded. Boom heard the click of a camera, and smiled as he and Cog pulled away. Tristan began playing The Book of Love on his guitar, as Cog motioned down the aisle. The two newlyweds walked back down the aisle, holding hands the entire way. They made their way back into the house, Cog scooping Boom into his arms before walking through the door, much to the amusement of the group. “Hey!” Boom exclaimed, as the door closed behind them. Cog set him back onto his feet, and kissed him. “I wanted to do it right,” he laughed. Boom kissed him again. “I know I just made it clear how much I love you, but I want to say it again. I love you Cog.” “I love you too Boom,” Cog smiled. Faelan walked through the door. “Okay lovebirds, I’m taking over now. You two have ten minutes and then we’re on our way to the park for pictures and the reception. Themis says pictures have to be done by six thirty, or the ambient lighting won’t be enough,” she said. “Did Pip teach you to be a drill sergeant?” Cog chuckled. “Watch it mister.” Faelan scowled at the two. “You need to step up your act. You’re married, congratulations. Tonight is about you, and I’ll be damned if I let bad timing screw everything up. Oh, and good job with the sunset. That was amazing.” “Thanks,” Boom smiled, feeling bubbly. “Okay, I’m going to leave you guys now. Don’t do anything stupid, don’t mess up your tuxes. I will be back in… seven minutes.” The fox hurried out of the room, and Boom embraced his husband, just holding the rabbit close. “Do you think she’d get mad if I had a snack?” he asked. “Not if she didn’t know,” Cog chuckled, as the two walked into the kitchen. He pulled out a pepperoni stick, and cut off a couple chunks, handing one to Boom. “Mmm, lunch,” Boom grinned, before biting into the meat. “Pip said he was taking care of dinner. But he was at the ceremony,” Cog said. “That rabbit is very resourceful,” Boom shrugged. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled a full buffet out from behind his ears.” “He did the coffee bar too, huh?” “That’s what he said.” “Pip’s fine. He and his friends did a great job setting everything up. Max helped with the food, too,” Faelan said, walking into the kitchen. “I thought you said seven minutes,” Cog started. “It’s been six and a half bunny boy,” Faelan replied. “Let’s go.” She ushered the two out the front door, and into a waiting car. Jumping into the driver’s seat, she was off like a rocket. Ten minutes of muttered swearing at red lights later, they reached the park where Cog and Boom had first met. It looked different in the growing dusk, lit with lanterns and torches. The pavilion they always used for barbecues and parties was covered in mosquito netting to keep the bugs out of the food that was sitting on folding tables underneath. Faelan led them to a copse of trees, where Themis was waiting with a camera on a tripod. “You three have fun,” she said, looking back at the pavilion. “I need to make sure David and Tristan have everything ready.” She hurried off as Themis fiddled with her camera. “Okay, we have ten minutes before we run out of light,” Themis said. “Let’s get you in front of that oak.” The two stepped in front of the camera, and Themis took several pictures, directing the two into various poses. A few minutes later, Faelan was back. “Before you two go, I want to show you something,” Themis said before Faelan could drag them off again. She held out her camera, showing the picture of Cog and Boom kissing under the gazebo. Just above their heads was a green flash from the setting sun. “Oh my gosh, this is amazing!” Boom exclaimed. “Yeah, this is a great shot Themis!” “Come on you two. Everyone’s waiting,” Faelan pressed. “Hey, calm down Faelan. The time sensitive stuff is done. Let’s just all have fun,” Themis said. “The rest is up to David anyways,” Cog added. “Why don’t you and Themis go find your seats? Boom and I will be there in a minute.” Faelan huffed, and walked away. “Congratulations you two. A green flash at your wedding is an auspicious sign. See you in a couple,” Themis smiled, taking her camera and tripod. Boom breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks. I didn’t know how to get rid of her.” “We are going to hear all about that later,” Cog said. He held out a paw. “Shall we?” Boom smiled, taking the paw. The two left the trees, and walked to where everyone sat at tables for two, plates set out, and champagne glasses filled with grape juice beside them. David saw them coming, and spoke into a microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce to you the Misters Cog and Boom.” As the two stepped forward, Boom reached over and swept Cog off his feet. The dog sauntered to their table, carrying the rabbit in his arms, as everyone laughed. “You ass,” Cog chuckled. “Turnabout’s fair play,” Boom whispered back, kissing the rabbit before setting him back on his feet. Cog cleared his throat. “My husband and I would like to welcome all of you to our wedding celebration, and thank you all for coming. They say time flies when you’re having fun. I have never found that statement more true than when I am spending time with Boom. His smile, his very presence, is enough to make any bunny giddy. And I am lucky that he chose me out of all the others in the world.” “What my husband failed to mention,” Boom said, with a smile at Cog, “is all the times he has been the source of my smiles, and of my laughter. No one gets me more than Cog, and I am honored to call him mine.” The two kissed, and Cog turned back to their waiting friends. “Now that we have bored you sufficiently, let’s break bread and make merry together.” Cog led the way to the tables of food, where they found sushi, rice, chicken, pasta, and other foods the two enjoyed. A two tiered white cake stood to the side, topped by miniatures of a dog and a rabbit. Filling their plates with a bit of everything, Boom and Cog returned to their table. “I can’t believe Themis caught a green flash,” Cog said, swallowing a rice ball. “That was some amazing luck,” Boom agreed. He found Cog’s leg under the table, and wrapped his own around it. Smiling, Cog speared a piece of chicken on his fork, holding it out for Boom, who accepted the offering. “You are one hot dog,” the rabbit said. Boom laughed, as Jake stood up. “Can I get everyone’s attention please?” the other dog called. Gradually the conversations in the vicinity died out. “I would like to make a toast to the happy couple. It is always a pleasure to spend time with these two, and to be allowed the honor of being Boom’s best man is a privilege I will never forget. Cog, take good care of this dog, and he will do the same for you.” Jake raised his glass of juice. “To Cog and Boom. May they find eternal happiness together.” As Jake took his seat, David stood up. “I first met Boom six months ago, a young dog with passion in his heart, tempered with the wisdom of experience. I never thought Cog would find someone like Boom. They seemed so different at the start. “But over the past months, they have shown me looks can be deceiving. These two find their support in that difference, playing off each other’s strengths in ways that I find amazing. And it makes me so happy to know that both are in good hands. To the newlyweds. May they always find strength together.” The dragon remained standing as everyone drank. “Before we get to the dancing, I would like to turn your attention to this cake, lovingly made by Pip and his French pals. And now we are going to cut it into pieces. Boom, Cog, if you’d come here please.” Standing up, Cog followed Boom to where Pip stood with a knife and a rope. “Cog, please place your right wrist over Boom’s left.” Pip requested. Cog did as he was bid, and the taller rabbit bound their wrists together before carefully handing them the knife. The two stepped up to the cake, as Pip said, “As you are bound now, so too shall you be bound together against all of life’s trials.” As they clasped the knife together, Boom felt Cog’s nails against his hand. “Are you ready?” he whispered. The rabbit nodded, and together, they lowered the knife, making the first cut into the cake. “Now left.” “Three inches,” Boom finished, as their hands moved as one. The knife descended a second time, and then a third, before the two scraped the cake onto a plate that Boom held beside the table. Cog laughed with nervous relief, the tension of the moment broken. “Heh, piece of cake,” he grinned. Boom burst into laughter. Setting the knife and plate aside, they held out their hands for Pip to untie. Taking their plate back to their table, they each picked up a fork as everyone else stood up and went to get some cake. Cog cut a corner of the cake off, and held it out on his fork for Boom. Boom bit into it, and chewed. “This is really good. These guys knew what they were doing,” he said, swallowing. “It’s not too moist, but it’s not dry either.” He saw David walk up to Tristan and tap the lab on his shoulder. The two walked off together, and Boom said, “Looks like our dance is brewing.” Cog grabbed the dog’s paws and held them. The two sat there, gazing into each other’s eyes, until someone cleared their throat next to the table. “Are you two ready?” Tristan asked. Cog stood up. “I’m ready if you are Boom,” he replied. “I was born ready,” Boom grinned. “Great,” Tristan smiled, leading them out of the tables, and to a makeshift dance floor. “I want to thank you for inviting me to do the music tonight.” “You’re welcome,” Boom said. “You are doing great.” “Ladies and gentlemen, if you'd turn your attention to the dance floor, it is time for the happy couple’s first dance,” David said through a microphone. The dragon was seated behind a keyboard, and Tristan walked up next to him, picking up his guitar. He strummed once, checking the guitar’s tuning, before David counted him of and he launched into the opening bars of Steam Powered Giraffe’s Honeybee. Taking Cog’s hand, Boom stepped onto the dance floor. As David began singing, they turned to each other, Cog placing his hands on Boom’s waist. They started swaying in time with the music, quickly picking up the beat. “I love you so much,” Cog whispered into Boom’s ear. “Cog, I adore you. You are my sun and my moon; I need you like I need the oxygen in the air. I am utterly, completely in love with you.” “I think I’m going to cry,” the rabbit said. Boom kissed him tenderly as the song ended to applause. “At this time, I would like to invite all the couples onto the dance floor,” David said. Faelan and Pip were the first out, the rabbit dwarfing the fox. Tristan set his guitar aside, waving Kel onto the floor. To Boom’s surprise, Themis and Abbie joined them as David began another song, “I didn’t know you danced Abbie,” Boom said, as he and Cog danced beside the two vixens. “I don’t. Themis dragged me out here,” Abbie said, as Themis spun her around. “You need to get out more you bookworm,” Themis laughed. “Congratulations you two,” Abbie said, as she passed by again, following Themis’ lead. “Thanks,” Cog smiled, echoed by Boom. Abbie scurried away as David announced the dance floor was open for everyone. Cog noticed Zenoan had vanished, though Clarisse had pulled a chair up to the table where Jake and Max sat, and was conversing with the two. “Hey, can I get one more picture of you guys?” Themis asked. “I don’t see why not,” Boom said, glancing at Cog. “I’d love as many pictures of tonight as we can get,” the rabbit added. “Awesome!” Themis ran to grab her camera from her seat, returning with her tripod. Leading Cog and Boom to a spot with a lantern nearby, she set her camera up quickly. “I want the two of you to hold each other and kiss. But you need to hold the pose for a minute,” she said, pulling out a candle. “Sounds easy enough,” Boom said, licking his lips as he looked at Cog. “Yeah. Let us know when you’re ready,” Cog continued. “I’m ready when you two are,” the fox replied, after a couple minutes. “Okay then.” Boom stepped close to Cog. Gazing into the rabbit’s eyes, he slipped his paws into Cog’s back pockets, as the rabbit did the same to him. Leaning in together, their lips met, and they held the kiss, as Themis lit the candle. The fox slowly moved the flame in the shape of a heart around the two, adding flared wings that branched out from either side of the heart. She blew the candle out after a minute. “Okay, you can move again.” Cog pulled away slowly, sliding his paws out of Boom’s pockets. “We are going to have so much fun tonight,” he whispered. Boom giggled. “You guys are going to love this one,” Themis said, looking at the picture in her camera. “I should have them all edited by the end of the week.” “Thank you so much Themis,” Cog smiled. “Yeah, we really appreciate it.” “Thank you. This helps me a lot actually,” Themis said. They rejoined the dance, starting to wind down. “It’s about time to wrap things up,” Tristan said after the last song had ended. “We all have beds waiting for us. But before we go, I would like to dedicate a song to the celebrities of this evening. Boom, Cog, you are married now. New beginnings are in front of you, wide roads ahead to follow. But with every beginning comes an ending. The two of you have finished a chapter in your lives, and are about to start on a new one. As you look forward always, I implore you to never forget where you came from, and what has brought you to where you are today.” David held up a violin, signalling he was ready, and Tristan began strumming, then singing. “Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road; Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go. So make the best of this test and don’t ask why. It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time. It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right. I hope you had the time of your life.” Tears leaked from Boom’s eyes as he listened. The whole time he and Cog had been planning their wedding they had been looking to the future. And though he had already come to terms with the past, it still hit him hard. Cog wrapped his arm around Boom as they listened. “When we’re older, we will look back on tonight and be grateful,” he said. “I already am,” Boom whispered, placing his head on the rabbit’s shoulder. As the song ended, David stepped forward. “Well everyone, that concludes our festivities for this evening. I’m sure the newlyweds are eager to get to some of the night’s other entertainments.” There were more than a few chuckles at that. “Cog, Boom, I bid you farewell. Love and joy be with you always, and have a great honeymoon.” “Thanks everyone!” Cog called, as he and Boom made their way toward the parking lot, where David had left their car earlier that day. Climbing into the driver’s seat, Cog gave Boom one more kiss before the two drove off, ready to start their lives together. PIP LAPIN Pip sat up in bed, careful to avoid disturbing Faelan. Standing up, he quietly made his way to the kitchen. There would be no sleep for him tonight. He warmed some leftover casserole up, carrying it into the living room. Eating the casserole while he waited for his computer to warm up, Pip signed into his account, and opened Word. “They’re back again tonight. This is the fourth night I’ve seen their faces. I don’t want to sleep. I cannot sleep. I know Faelan worries about me, but I am strong. I won’t include her because it will only hurt her, and she’s been through enough pain herself. This is my fight.” Pip thanked Cog silently. Maybe the rabbit hadn’t been the one who had gotten him that journal, but he had organised the party where Pip had gotten it, and it had opened his eyes. He wrote in the journal often, though he made sure to exclude anything that would harm those who read it. He knew Faelan would never read his journal without permission, but he didn’t want to take any chances. They both had their secrets, and they both knew not to pry. “I know they don’t blame me for what happened. But I do. I know I could have stopped it.” The screen blurred in his eyes, and the rabbit rubbed them. Exhaustion had set in long ago. It didn’t matter. The rumble of a tank filled Pip’s ear. The room around him took on a dusty appearance, furniture vanishing and cracks webbing the walls. “Front room’s clear,” someone called Scanning the room, rifle in hand, Pip called, “Back room’s clear.” A tiger entered the room. “That’s the last house then,” he said. “Let’s head back to the truck.” There was a loud crack, and the tiger dropped. Pip followed him down, moving quickly across the ground. The man was breathing rapidly and had his palm held tightly just under his heart. “There’s a sniper in one of the buildings to the east,” someone crackled through Pip’s earpiece, as the rabbit pried the tiger’s arm away to look at his chest. A hole the size of a quarter sat beside the tiger’s heart, frothy blood flowing heavily. “Henri is down,” Pip called out, pressing his own hand over the wound. “How bad is it Doc?” the tiger wheezed. “I’ve seen worse,” Pip replied with a false smile. “You’ll be okay.” You’ll be okay Pip startled awake as the words echoed through his mind. The worst lie he had ever told. Taking in his surroundings, Pip took a shaky breath, painfully aware of the air rushing into his lungs. He was home, safe. Faelan sat on the floor beside him, her head in his lap. She looked up at him and asked, “Couldn’t sleep?” Pip shook his head silently. “I’m here if you need to talk,” the fox offered. “I know,” Pip whispered. “Let’s just go back to bed.” The two stood up, and went back to the bedroom. Faelan placed her arm across Pip’s chest, and was soon asleep again. Lying on his back, Pip stared at the white ceiling, not daring to close his eyes. The words continued through his head, taunting him, mocking him. You’ll be okay. MAX MARKHAUS / DAVID ENTERAI “Dude, can’t you let me win for once?” Max asked, as the pool ball sank neatly into a pocket. “How will you get good without a challenge?” The dragon pulled the tiger aside, giving the pool table to the next pair of people. Max still wasn’t comfortable in bars. This was only his fourth foray into one. He could see David wincing at the noise levels. “Let’s head outside,” he suggested, motioning to the patio door. The two walked outside, and David sat, dangling his legs in a pool lit with lavender lights. “I needed to get out of there. Thanks,” he said. “Yeah, I saw you freaking out a bit. What was that all about?” David took a deep breath as he leaned back on his hands. “Ancient history,” he replied. Max sat beside him, resting his head on David’s shoulder. “You can tell me,” he said quietly. “The First World War. I was in the fights at Verdun.” “The music in there gave you a flashback?” Max asked doubtfully. David shook his head. “No, it just brought up memories. Or… something. Just the loud voices.” He looked at Max. “This is why I don’t do bars.” “We can go if you want.” “Yeah. That’d probably be good. I have some wine in my cellar that we could share tonight.” “I’d like that,” Max smiled slightly. He stood up, and helped the dragon to his feet. The two shared a chaste kiss before heading to David’s car. David headed down to the basement as soon as he got home. Max hung back, taking a picture of Claire’s photograph on his phone, before following the dragon. “I found a good one. 2015 Riesling,” David said, holding up a bottle. “I’ll have to trust you,” Max shrugged. “I know nothing about wine.” He followed David back upstairs, into what David had referred to as the sitting room. It looked like a normal living room to the tiger, complete with couch, tv, an extra chair, and an empty fireplace along a wall. They sat on the couch, and David snapped his fingers. A short table appeared in front of them, complete with a pair of crystal wine glasses. Max yelped in shock, and David chuckled. “That one takes some getting used to,” he said. “Sorry I didn’t warn you.” He poured the wine, and set the bottle aside. “Did you want to watch a movie?” Max shook his head, picking up his glass. “I’m happy just sitting with you,” he said. “You’re so sweet,” David smiled. “To new experiences.” The two clinked their glasses, and drank. “Not bad,” Max said, setting his aside. Removing his shoes, he curled up next to David, placing his hand on the dragon’s thigh. David took ahold of Max’s hand, rubbing it with his thumb. “I love you,” he whispered softly. “I love you too,” Max replied, just as quietly. The two lay cuddling on the couch for the rest of the evening, both sipping their drinks until they were gone. “Do you want to stay the night?” David questioned. “I can’t,” Max mumbled drowsily. “Work.” “Okay. I’ll take you home.” An hour later, the two stood in front of Max’s apartment, the tiger shivering in the chill autumn breeze. “Thanks for tonight,” he said. “It was my pleasure.” The dragon cupped his hand under the tiger’s chin, and kissed him. “You have a good night.” “You too.” Max opened the door, and vanished inside. David hung around until he heard the snick of a lock engaging, before heading to his car. TRISTAN THARN Tristan approached the door as someone knocked loudly. “David? What are you doing here?” he asked, as the dragon stood outside with his violin case. “Kel said you were feeling down. I thought I’d come try to cheer you up with a good old fashioned music jam.” Tristan stepped aside to let the dragon in, flinching as David narrowly avoided stepping in discarded Chinese food containers. The room was a mess, but Tristan hadn’t had the energy to clean up lately. David took it all in stride, dodging plates and clothes with ease and clearing a spot for his violin case. “Get your guitar and let’s get started,” he smiled. Hurrying through his bedroom door, Tristan grabbed his guitar and quickly exited the room, hoping David hadn’t seen the mess inside. Not that it really mattered, he supposed, with the living room looking as bad as it did. David tuned his instrument with the motions of a master, as Tristan pulled his guitar out of its case. The dog followed David’s lead, his mind racing. “Take a deep breath,” David advised, applying rosin to his bow. “What are we even doing?” “Anything and everything. We will let our hearts lead us today.” David played a few slow notes. “Join me and find your rhythm. Then, take the lead,” he said. He continued playing, not playing a song, just stringing notes and melodies together. Tristan quickly found the pace and fell in time, fingerpicking until he was leading the dragon. Their instruments sang in harmony with each other. Cautiously, Tristan changed the tune, picking up the pace, yet still holding back. “Clear your mind Tristan. Don’t worry about hitting the right notes. There are none.” Closing his eyes, Tristan sped up his playing. David changed his own sound to complement the dog, watching Tristan. Tristan knew he shouldn’t feel so down. Kel loved him, and he had friends who cared about him. There was no reason for his depression, and the fact that it remained pissed him off. His music grew louder, more angry. David backed off, letting the dog have his head. Violent tears dripped from the lab’s eyes, and he squeezed them away. With a loud twang, one of the strings on the guitar snapped. Tristan held the instrument, body shaking. Setting his violin aside, David held his hands out for the guitar. Tristan surrendered it, and the dragon held the ends of the broken string together, murmuring a word. When he took his hand away, the string was whole once more. “Do you want to continue?” he asked, handing the guitar back. Tristan nodded, hiccoughing. Reclaiming his violin, David began playing again, soft as a lullabye. Tristan’s tune changed to match; a melody of peace and mending. The two slowed to a stop. “Do you feel any better?” David questioned. “Actually, I do,” Tristan replied, with a slight smile. “Awesome. Remember your music. It can be a light in dark times,” David smiled, patting Tristan on the back. “And if you ever need help, don’t hesitate to ask. It’s what friends are for.” He packed up his violin, and headed for the door. “I’ll see you for our normal practice, right?” “Yes. You will,” Tristan replied. Nodding with satisfaction, the dragon excused himself from the apartment. Tristan took a deep breath, and walked into the bathroom. Pulling a bottle out of the cabinet, he opened it, and pulled out a single pill. Dropping it into the toilet, he flushed it, confident he wouldn’t need it. PIP LAPIN / FAELAN EUNUCH Pip whirled through the kitchen, busy preparing dinner for himself and Faelan. He was in the zone, everything in an orderly mess. Faelan stood against the wall, watching him as he worked. She had learned to stay out of his way when he got into a frenzy like this. She had fun watching him though, a master at his work. Not that Pip would say such a thing. He prided himself in constantly learning new things in the kitchen. A ring of the doorbell tore the rabbit out of his work “Zut,” he muttered angrily, moving toward the door. “Faelan, make sure the breads don’t burn.” “Shouldn’t be too hard,” the fox grinned, taking his place in the kitchen. Ducking under the ceiling fan to avoid hitting his ears, Pip crossed the room and opened the door. A short rabbit stood outside, black sable fur contrasting against pure white eyes. His nose twitched at the sight of Pip. “Pieter?!” Pip gaped, staring at the rabbit. “Hallo Pip. It’s been a long time,” the smaller rabbit smiled. “May I come in?” Pip stepped aside, as Faelan walked into the room. “Who is it-?’ she stopped short, looking at Pieter. “Oh.” “Faelan, this is an old friend of mine, Pieter-” “-Konijn. I know him,” the fox interrupted. Pip blinked in surprise. “Oh,” he said, realization passing through him. “I hope you were a gentleman with her,” he added, looking at Pieter. “Just as I was with you,” Pieter winked at him. Faelan raised an eyebrow. Pip knew all too well about her time on the streets. It was how the two had met. This was the first she had heard of his conquests though. “Ah, she did not know. My apologies, Liefde,” Peter said to Pip. “That’s enough of that. What happened in the past, remains in the past,” Faelan said. “Perhaps it shouldn’t,” Pieter said, giving Pip a look. “Sometimes you need to lean on others; accept their help.” “So, you’re out?” Pip asked. “Ja. After the incident with… After you left, people started dropping like flies. I paid my dues and got out as soon as I could. I met Faelan before that though, on my last leave before getting out.” Pip remembered, though he tried not to. Having your friend’s life drain under your touch was not something you forget easily. “I work with his brother you know,” he said. “Max?” Faelan questioned, leaning against the wall again. “Yeah,” Pip said quietly glancing down. “Anyway, mijn liefste, did you ever get the money for your operation?” Pieter asked, watching Faelan. The fox scowled. “That’s none of your business,” Pip said sharply. “Why are you here?” “I just wanted to say hi to an old friend, and stumbled upon two instead.” “I wouldn’t exactly call you a friend,” Faelan said coolly. “You were a client, nothing more.” “You wound me, mijn liefste,” Pieter grinned. “I’ll leave you two to your dinner. It smells delicious.” Pieter headed back to the door. “I hope I see the two of you around,” he finished, before leaving. Pip and Faelan breathed twin sighs of relief when the door closed. “Barracks buddies?” Faelan questioned. “Not so much. Just an experiment during a drunken night,” Pip shrugged. “I know we agreed not to talk about it, but I have to know. Who was on top?” “Me,” Faelan said with a smirk. Pip laughed. “I figured. He always seemed like a bottom. Come on, let’s finish dinner.” They headed back into the kitchen, where Pip resumed his work. He worked more slowly now, his movements muted. “Are you okay?” Faelan asked. “Yeah. Just… just remembering things.” Faelan hugged him from behind, her face buried in his back. “I love you,” she said, her voice muffled. “I know. “ The rabbit set his spoon aside, steadying himself against the counter. “I know I’ve been quiet about my time in the service. It’s hard to relive it all, and I wanted to spare both of us the nightmares,” he said. “It’s not working for you.” It was a statement, not a question. Pip nodded. “It’s always the same one. The only time I ever lost a man. It turns out I wasn’t cut out for the job.” The rabbit took a deep breath. “His name was Henri. He took a bullet through the lung. We were pinned down by a sniper. There was no way to get him out. “After we got back to base and made our report, Pieter took me aside and suggested that he could take my mind off the day. I believed him, mainly because I wanted to. I knew it wouldn’t last, I just needed those moments. “We got drunk that night, and poured one out for Henri. Then Pieter took me to his bunk. The next morning, I paid my dues and got out. I visited Henri’s family on my way here. I told them what had happened, and apologised. They didn’t blame me, but I still do.” Faelan stood on her toes and kissed Pip. “You did what you could,” she said quietly. “How many people did you save? How many families remain intact because of you?” “I’ve tried writing it all out, but the words bring no comfort.” The rabbit shrugged. “Maybe talking it out will help. Maybe not.” “All you can do is try,” Faelan said, kissing him again. “Let’s finish dinner. Then I’ll rub your feet.” “Thank you mon cheri,” Pip smiled. Pieter stood outside, hearing every word spoken between the two within. There were things he had wondered about regarding Henri’s death, but no new information was brought forth. He had achieved his goal though. Pip was talking about the past now, seeking help. He had the chance to be happy again. To be at peace. Besides, Pieter could ask Henri himself. The last member of Pip’s squad smiled as a stiff wind blew, dissipating his form, until all that remained were two glowing eyes, and a ghostly smile. MAXIMUS MARKHAUS Max sat beside David on the couch, the dragon holding the tiger close. They were watching a movie, though the tiger had no idea what the plot was. He was more interested in gently rubbing the hand that was draped across his shoulders. He subtly shifted his other hand down to David’s waist, and the dragon scooted over a little to give his hand space, avoiding contact in the process. This had been happening for a while now, and it was driving Max insane. There was a reason David wasn’t letting the tiger touch him, and Max was going to get to the bottom of it right now. The only trouble was he didn’t know how to broach the subject. “Are you okay?” the dragon asked, startling the tiger from his thoughts. “I’d be better if you were a little closer,” Max said innocently. David moved a little closer, though he was still mindful of Max’s hand. Max decided to go for broke. “You know, you still haven’t shown me your sword skills,” he said. David raised an eyebrow, something Max wished desperately he could master. “I wasn’t aware you wanted to see them.” Max laughed. “Are you serious? I’ve done everything I can think of to hint that I want to have sex with you.” “My apologies. I didn’t know.” There was a moment of silence. “So…” David leaned over and shushed the tiger with a kiss. Max pushed his tongue through David’s lips, and battled with the dragon’s tongue. Cautiously, David brought his hand down to Max’s jeans, and unbuttoned them. The tiger eagerly raised himself off the couch so his pants could be slid off. Breaking lip contant, he nearly ripped his shirt trying to get it off, and David chuckled quietly. “Slow down. Let’s enjoy this,” the dragon murmured, licking the cat’s ear. Max mewled at the warmth of David’s breath, and fell back onto the couch. The dragon climbed on top of the tiger, his wings tucked out of the way. Hands shaking, Max slipped David’s pants off his waist. David stopped him before he could reach the shirt. “This one’s a little tricky,” the dragon smiled, pulling his wings through the shirt before removing the garment. As soon as the shirt was gone, Max pulled the dragon back on top of him, both of them clad only in boxers. David’s scales felt weird against Max’s body, but it was a good kind of weird. But it was gone too soon. Max whimpered as the dragon stood up. “Not here,” David said, helping the tiger up. They hurried to the bedroom, where Max threw himself on the bed while David grabbed lube and a condom. Max began to remove his boxers, and David stopped him. Setting the supplies aside, the dragon straddled him, and slipped his fingers under the tiger’s underwear. He slowly started pulling at them, sliding them down a centimeter at a time. Max moaned quietly as the dragon’s fingers brushed his most private areas. He was wet, so wet, and still David took his time, drawing the process out. Then suddenly he was free, and David let him kick the shorts off as he admired the view. A full seven inches of straining barbed meat stood over Max’s groin. David licked his lips as Max curled his own fingers under the dragon’s boxers. He wasted no time wrenching them down over David’s own member. Finally the dragon lowered himself, ever so slowly, hovering over the tiger. Their dicks brushed, and Max gasped, thrusting upward. Groin met groin, followed by the rest of their bodies, and culminating in another kiss. David shoved his hands under the tiger, giving Max’s ass a firm squeeze. This elicited another moan from the tiger, as the dragon began massaging the globes in his palms. “This is your first time, right?” the dragon asked. Max nodded wordlessly. “If I hurt you at any time, let me know immediately, okay?” “Okay…” Max breathed. David unwrapped the condom and slipped it on. He took some lube and began oiling Max. The tiger bit his lip, tensing at the chilling touch. “Relax. It will make this easier,” David said, working himself over next. Slipping his hands back under the tiger, he gently push until Max rolled over onto his stomach. The dragon began massaging the tiger’s back, trying to loosen some of the tension. Soon, Max was a puddle on the bed, purring loudly. Then David made his move. Poised at Max’s entrance, he slowly pushed into the tiger’s warm confines. “Mmph… Ow…” Max gasped, tensing back up. David immediately pulled back out. “It’s going to hurt a bit,” he said. “You don’t say?” Max laughed slightly, wincing. David placed his thumbs on Max’s lower back, and massaged the tiger more. “We don’t have to go all the way tonight,” he said. “No, we’re doing this,” Max denied. “I’ve waiting too long for this moment.” He raised his ass and pushed it against David’s groin, his tail wrapping around the dragon’s right thigh. David pushed him back down and slowly grinded against him. When Max was relaxed once more, the dragon tried again, pushing once more into the tiger’s insides. Max gasped, and clenched up, but he also pushed back against the dragon, trying to get him deeper inside. It hurt, but he could feel past the pain. David began thrusting slowly, and Max moaned quietly. It was better, more intimate. Then his insides exploded, and Max yowled. David stopped. “Are you okay?” he asked. The tiger nodded mutely, his face pressed against the bed. His stomach tingled from the aftershocks of whatever David had just done. It didn’t feel bad. But it was one of the most intense feelings Max had ever felt before. “Do you want me to pull out?” “No!” David began thrusting again, and Max’s dick throbbed. When the feeling came again, he was prepared, gritting his teeth and clenching. The dragon slowed a few seconds later, and pulled Max over, staying inside as they lay on their sides. He started again, his hand wrapping around the tiger’s member and stroking in time with his own thrusts. Max thrusted into David’s hand, impaling himself further onto the dragon. The sensations he was feeling were indescribable, a symphony of painful pleasures. David began thrusting more forcefully, and Max felt a warmth inside him that hadn’t been there before. The dragon’s hand ceased its administrations, and Max took over, working himself until he went over the edge after a few more seconds. The two lay coupled, panting, for almost a minute. “So, was it everything you hoped it would be?” David asked. “And things I wasn’t expecting,” Max replied. David pulled out, and Max shivered at the sudden emptiness. He rolled over and placed an arm over the dragon, nuzzling him. “I love you,” he murmured. “I love you too my little tiger…” TRISTAN THARN Tristan sat against a tree at the park, staring at the tattoo on his wrist. A reminder of his struggles, and a promise to himself that he would keep trying. “Hey,” Kel said, walking up to Tristan. “Hi. You said you needed to talk?” Tristan stood up and leaned in to kiss Kel, but the wolf backed up. “Yeah…” he said, glancing down. Tristan's body tensed up. “W-what’s going on?” Kel sighed. “I can’t be with you right now.” “What?” The wolf leaned against a tree, his hands shaking slightly. “The last month has been too stressful. Every time I call, every time I come over, I wonder if I’m going to find you dead.” “So you’re just going to end it.” Tristan fell back against another tree, sliding until he was seated. “I’m sorry. I really am.” Tristan should have felt sad, angry even. But he just felt numb. He stared at Kel, the corners of his eyes dimming into darkness, and his body swayed. “I just… I love you too much Tristan,” he heard Kel say. “I couldn’t handle it if you killed yourself. I need distance.” “Fine. Go then. Honestly, I don’t care,” Tristan said, closing his eyes. He focused on his breathing, trying to get this dizziness to go away. Tristan heard the crunch of leaves as Kel walked away. Opening his eyes, he looked down at his wrist. The tattoo sat there, mocking him. COG THERABBIT Cog crawled back into bed, curling next to his dog with a smile. Boom mumbled something incoherent, taking most of the covers as he rolled over. ‘I’ll give him another minute.’ The rabbit draped an arm over his husband as they spooned. “Your arm is freezing,” Boom muttered. “I know. I have fresh coffee waiting if you want to warm up.” “I’d rather stay in bed.” The dog grunted as he sat up. “Who’d run your cart if you stayed in bed?” Cog countered. “I can take a day off. Maybe give you inspiration for your next book.” “101 Ways to Lick a Bone?” Cog chuckled. Boom smacked the rabbit playfully. “I think you already have enough material for that one,” he said. Yawning, Boom stood up, and made his way to the bathroom. Cog headed downstairs to finish making breakfast, knowing Boom would join him shortly. A minute later, he felt Boom’s paws wrap around him. “You know, it probably isn’t safe to cook with no clothes on,” the dog whispered in his ear. “But if I have clothes on, how are you going to enjoy the show?” “Can I help at all?” “You could set the table.” Cog gave the dog a quick kiss, before returning to the omelet frying in the pan. Soon he was placing the food on a pair of plates, and carrying them to where Boom sat waiting. The two ate in silence, both planning out their day. “You’ll be home around four, right?” Cog asked. “Yeah. There’s not much point in staying out later. Lunch is busier than dinner will ever be.” Cog nodded in understanding as he collected the now empty plates and carried them into the kitchen. He heard Boom walk upstairs, heading back to the bathroom. Placing the dishes into a dishwasher, Cog went into his wardrobe, and gathered a skirt and a shirt. Ho followed Boom into the bathroom, stepping into the shower with the dog. “Hey stranger,” Boom smiled. “Hey yourself.” The two kissed, before Cog grabbed a bottle of lavender shampoo. He began lathering Boom’s body, working quickly. There was a schedule to keep, if Boom wanted to work today. Stepping under the showerhead, Boom washed off, before returning the favour. As Cog rinsed, the dog stepped out of the shower. He dried off, and was already dressed by the time Cog joined him. “Will you do the honours?” he asked, handing Cog a bandana. “With pleasure,” Cog smiled, fastening the bandana around Boom’s neck. He dressed quickly himself, and the two headed out to the front door. “You got everything? Phone, Keys, wallet?” the rabbit asked. “Ye- wait, I need that skillet,” Boom remembered, hurrying back into the kitchen. He returned quickly, the skillet in hand. “There we go. I love you,” he said, kissing the rabbit. “I love you too. Be safe.” Opening the door, Boom walked out to his food truck. Cog remained in the doorway, watching his husband leave. When the truck was out of sight, he closed the door and made his way to the computer room, ready to start his own workday. KEL DANTHOS Kel startled awake, heart pounding in the darkness of his room. His breaths came in rapid gasps as he fought the urge to cry. Tristan had finally done it. Kel had found him dead in the bathtub, covered in bloody water. But he hadn't. It was just a dream. Someone knocked on the door to his apartment, and Kel jumped at the noise. Taking a deep breath, the wolf stood up and pulled on a pair of pants. He opened the door, and found Jake on the other side, hand poised to knock again. “Oh,” the dog said, lowering his hand. “What are you doing here?” Kel grumbled, squinting in the midday sunlight. “I thought you could use some company. Can I come in?” Kel sighed, and stepped aside, allowing the dog entrance. He flipped a light by the door, revealing a spotless apartment. “So you heard,” he said. “I heard that you locked yourself in your apartment. He’s just a dog. And you broke it off with him. This doesn’t make any sense,” Jake said. “Does it have to?” Kel sat on a couch, resting his head in his hand. “All I’m saying is that he shouldn’t matter if you broke up with him. Get back out there and forget about Tristan.” Kel snorted. “It’s not as easy as you make it sound,” he replied. “No, you’re just making it hard.” “Why do you even care?” Kel snapped. “Damn it, this is why!” Jake grabbed Kel and pulled him up. Their lips met, and Kel’s eyes widened. He immediately pulled back. “What the hell?!” he exclaimed. “You’re not bound to any one person. Think about it,” Jake said, heading for the door. He closed it hard behind him, leaving Kel in a daze. Kel stood in front of the red door, hand raised tentatively. He didn’t know why he was here. Had he made his decision? It didn’t feel like he had decided anything. Sucking in his breath, Kel knocked on the door. It opened a few seconds later, Jake standing on the other side. “I knew you would come,” the dog smiled. “Come in.” The door was opened just wide enough to let Kel pass. As he walked through, he could feel the heat of Jake’s body, feel the closeness of it, and it made him shiver. He knew what Jake was doing. He himself played mind games every day at work. But damned if it didn’t work on him anyway. The dog closed the door, and made his way into the kitchen. “Do you want something to drink?” he called over his shoulder. ‘Yes,’ Kel’s mind said, ‘Something to take off the nerves.’ But he sensed this was not a good idea. Jake seemed… dangerous somehow. “No thanks,” he replied, without missing a beat. Jake returned a second later with a beer in his hand. “I assume you came here for a reason,” he said. Kel nodded, trying to figure out why he had come here. He walked over in front of Jake’s sofa, looking at a painting of a wooded glade. “That’s a nice picture,” he said. “Isn’t it? I know the painter, Anthony Mareltho,” Jake said, standing at Kel’s shoulder. Kel could feel Jake’s breath on his neck. “Let’s not beat around the bush,” the dog whispered, a finger tracing down Kel’s cheek. Kel shivered again, and he stepped away. “You came here because you want me. You would have stayed away otherwise.” He knew Jake was right. He was seeking comfort right now; strength to stay away from Tristan, to not run back and beg his forgiveness. What was he doing? “I think I made a mistake,” Kel said, turning around. Jake was in his face an instant later. “You know I can give you everything he can’t. Confidence, experience-” “And probably a disease.” Kel stepped away again, not backing up, but stepping aside. “Tristan is a spoiled brat,” Jake hissed. “He didn’t even want to be with you. All he does is whine all the time.” “What makes you any different? Trying so desperately to get into my pants, it’s pathetic really.” Kel walked with purpose, leaving the house and allowing the door to close hard behind him. He knew what he had to do. TRISTAN THARN / KEL DANTHOS Kel walked up a flight of stairs, his second walk of the evening. But this time, he knew exactly what he wanted. Knocking on the door at the top, he waited. And waited. A peal of thunder sounded over head, and a shower of water fell onto Kel. And still he waited, fear growing in his gut. Knocking again, louder, he called out, “Tristan?” When no one responded, he felt above the door, finding the spare key on the small ledge above. Unlocking the door, he let himself in. “Tristan?” The apartment was dark, and reeked of rotten food. Flipping on the light, Kel found a stack of carry out containers on the counter in the kitchen. The bedroom door was cracked, though no one was within. Taking a deep breath, Kel moved toward the bathroom, his nightmare taking shape before his eyes. Tristan lay in the bathtub, lying in a mix of water, and blood from the fresh cut on his arm; one among dozens of cuts. One for each time Kel had said he loved him. He heard the dog walking through his apartment, but didn’t care. Let Kel find him like this. It was his fault anyways. The door opened slowly, and the light flicked on. There was a moment of silence. Then Kel screamed. It had happened. He was dead. Kel had killed him. Kel lost all sense, falling next to the tub and grabbing Tristan. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” he cried. “Wh-what?” Tristan croaked, the sound almost swallowed up by Kel’s sobs. He tried to push Kel away, but the pain in his arms was too much. “You’re alive!” “Why are you here?” Kel looked at Tristan, at those green eyes, clouded by pain. “I wanted to apologize, and beg your forgiveness.” Kel hiccoughed, body trembling as he tried to calm himself. “You left me. I thought you didn’t care.” Tristan was shaken. He had never once heard Kel scream like that. And it scared him. “This is why I left.” The wolf motioned at the tub Tristan still sat in. “Why? Why would you do this?” “Because you left.” Tristan winced as he let his arm slip into the water. A moment later he was hoisted into the air, Kel cradling him in his arms. “What the hell are you doing?” Tristan demanded. “Taking care of you.” “I don’t need your-” “Tristan, your arm is bleeding like a stuck pig.” Kel set the dog on his bed, and went hunting for bandages. He texted David, and returned to the room, wrapping Tristan’s arm tightly. “You dumped me, remember? You don’t get to just come back in here,” Tristan said. “I was selfish Tristan. I was thinking of myself, and I’m sorry for that. But clearly you can’t handle me being gone.” “I can handle it better than you think.” “That explains why your arms are torn up. You’re handling it really well.” Kel went back into the bathroom to drain the tub, leaving Tristan seething. Who did that wolf think he was? Tristan should have never gotten together with him. “This is all your fault,” he muttered, sitting up. But Kel was right. He was not handling this situation. Kel came back into the room with a fresh towel. He started gently drying Tristan off. “I can do it myself,” Tristan snapped, trying to grab for the towel. His arms protested, pain shooting through them. He hadn’t meant to cut that deep. He had been numb, wanting to feel something, anything. And now he felt everything. Kel picked up the towel again, and continued his task, working until Tristan was dry. Tristan tried to ignore the wolf’s closeness, but his body still reacted. Kel took no notice, grabbing a pair of boxers, and helping Tristan pull them on. His body still reacted to Kel’s touch. Not that it meant anything. Kel’s heart had steadied, and he busied himself taking care of Tristan, trying to avoid thinking about the tub again. Someone knocked on the front door, and Tristan stiffened. “Relax. It’s just David. I need his help with your arms.” “I don’t want him to see me like this.” “Then let’s get some pants on you,” Kel said, reaching for the clothes. “You know what I mean.” “Yes. And you know your arms need to be looked at. So either we get David to look at them, or we take you to the hospital.” Tristan sighed as Kel left the room. The lights flickered as he waited. Then David came through the door. “The music didn’t work,” the dragon said. “No.” David shrugged, examining Tristan’s arm. “It happens. We’ll have to find something else for moments like these.” The dragon began whispering words Tristan couldn’t understand, and his arm began itching. “Don’t scratch it. I can’t heal it completely; it’s too deep. But I can take the pain away-” “No. Please don’t.” The dragon looked at him. “Okay,” he said, binding the arm again. “If you need me for anything, don’t hesitate to ask.” Tristan heard the sound of a sink running, and he followed David out of the room. Kel was washing dishes in the sink. David said his farewells, and left the building. “What are you doing?” “Cleaning,” Kel said simply, drying a plate. “You don’t have to-” “I want to.” Kel washed a few more dishes in silence, letting the work take his thoughts. “I love you Tristan,” he said finally. The dog laughed sourly. “That’s why you broke my heart. Because you love me.” “I’m so-” “No. You don’t get to say that. This is the second time you pushed me away Kel.” “And I’m trying to make up for it-” “How?! How do you make up for this?!” Tristan held up his arm, swathed in bandages. “I don’t know damn it!” Kel yelled. “I am trying so hard! Do you think it's easy for me, knowing that my boyfriend wants to end his life?! Why? Why do you want to end it so bad?” “I don’t know. All I know is that you helped. And then you left.” Kel walked to Tristan, and held him in his arms. “I’m sorry Tristan. I never wanted to hurt you.” “I love you Kel,” Tristan whispered. “Will you stay with me tonight?” “I wouldn’t have it any other way…” THEMIS FALIS Themis lay next to Abbie, a happy smile on her face. “And you call yourself inexperienced,” she teased. “I never thought of trying that before.” “I am!” Abbie insisted. “I just read a lot. It gives me ideas.” “Well then…” Themis kissed Abbie’s snout. “Don’t ever stop reading,” she whispered, tongue lightly tracing Abbie’s nose. “I don’t plan to,” Abbie smiled. TRISTAN THARN Tristan sat in the park. Memories filled his mind, all bearing a connection to this place. Some were sweet; guitar lessons with David, and the first time Kel had kissed him. Others not so much. The day after meeting Kel was one of those. The wolf stood a distance away, chatting with Faelan. Today was the summer party, hosted by Boom this time. Another memory, in the making. Kel had been both a blessing and a curse for Tristan. The dog ran a finger over his throat, tracing the scar hidden by his fur. Eleven months. And each with its own challenges and rewards. A dog sits in a tub full of water, a razor in his hand. Life has spiralled, far beyond his control now. Deserted by friends, forgotten by family, he has reached the end. He takes a breath, praying for it to be his last, and swipes across his throat. Tristan squeezed his eyes shut, forcing the memory back. It haunted him, the void he had fallen into, but step by step he had pulled himself back out. It started with Cog. The rabbit had seen Tristan’s sorrow, and had struck up conversation with him, in this very park. The dog sits on a bench, red bandana tied over his throat. No one can know. No one can see the angry welt or the broken fur. A rabbit sits beside him, notebook and pen set aside. “You look lonely, sitting by yourself.” The dog remains silent. He is empty inside, a shell of his former self. Undaunted, the rabbit tries again. “I’ve seen you here before. You come here a lot, but you stayed away for a while. I got worried.” This elicits a snort of disbelief, but that is all the answer that the rabbit needs. “I know there’s a story in there. Everyone has one. I have the feeling yours is sad, but I still want to hear it.” Silence, as the dog processes what he’s hearing. A complete stranger cares. Someone cares. “My name is Cog,” the rabbit tries again. “Tristan.” It comes out in a croak, but it is a step. “Well Tristan, anytime you feel like sharing, I’m all ears.” The rabbit holds out one of his long floppy ears with a grin. The corners of the dog’s mouth turn up ever so slightly. He had opened a little, but remained guarded. No one would ever know the whole story, not even Kel. After all, Kel had been the cause. The dog stands in front of a car dealership, debating. He doesn’t have much but he needs a way to get around. He spots a wolf walking confidently toward him. There is an allure to the man, a sense that this wolf could lead the dog on the journey of his life. “Hello. Can I be of any help?” the wolf asks. “Yeah, I need a car-” “-and you’re on a budget. Come on. I’ll show you around,” the wolf smiles. The dog follows him for close to two hours, but all of the cars are too expensive for him. “I’m sorry for wasting your time,” the dog apologises. “I wouldn’t call it wasted. If I can help with anything else, let me know.” The wolf scribbles something on the back of a business card and hands it to the dog with a wink, before sauntering away. He had called that night, and Kel had taken him to his apartment. What happened there had pushed Tristan over the edge. There was no way he could know. For weeks he talked with Cog, who always seemed to have a smile. Sports, movies, games, anything but Tristan’s story. But the rabbit seemed to have a way of worming information out. He discovered Tristan’s love for music. Then came David. Cog introduced the dragon to him, citing David’s love of music as the reason the two should meet. David and Tristan talked for hours that day, each learning the others favourite songs and bands. The dog sits on the park bench, a guitar held in his hands. “I sucked,” he says. The dragon shrugs. “No one is a star when they’re just starting out.” he replies. “You did well.” The dragon looks at his phone and stands up. “I’m supposed to meet someone soon,” he says, wings unfurling. “What about your guitar?” “You can borrow it. Practice a bit.” The dragon flies away, leaving the dog alone with a guitar. He learned fast. Soon David took him to an open mic, where the two performed together. It was a simple song to be sure, but the crowd had enjoyed it. Tristan’s confidence began its slow return. It was around that time that Cog introduced him to Faelan. The fox had made it clear from day one that she would not allow Tristan to speak poorly of himself. Her manner was brusque, commanding; but he knew she meant well. Things were looking up. Then Cog invited him to the rabbit’s annual Christmas party, and Tristan learned that Kel had also been invited. With a sudden crash, his depression was back. The dog stands in front of a rack full of bandanas. He is shopping for Cog’s boyfriend, Boom. The two haven’t talked much, and the dog doesn’t know much about Boom, except that he is always wearing a bandana. There aren’t many to choose from, but the dog wants to pick the right one. ‘It doesn’t matter what you pick. He won’t like it.’ The dog self-consciously pulls his scarf a little tighter. The wound has healed into a scar and his fur has regrown, but he feels better covering it anyway. The party was the first time he had seen Kel since the wolf had kicked him out. Tristan had almost wanted to fake being sick to beg out of going. But in the end he couldn’t disappoint Cog. So he went, expecting to just suffer in silence. He didn’t expect Kel to apologise. Certain it was just another of the wolf’s tricks, Tristan rebuked Kel, until David had spoken with him. The dog gave Kel another chance. The wolf sits across from the dog, the two studying each other silently. The restaurant is dimly lit, soft music playing in the background. The dog ignores it all. “Would it help if I said I was sorry again?” the wolf asks. “No. And a fancy dinner isn’t going to magically fix anything.” “I feel like it’s a start though. We interacted for maybe four hours. You didn’t see the real me.” “It felt pretty damned real to me,” the dog growls. “Look, I couldn’t stop thinking about you-” “Neither could I. Thinking about how you took advantage of me when I was vulnerable.” “It was supposed to be a one night stand. But there was something different about you. It scared me.” The dog blinks. The wolf, scared? That didn’t seem possible. “I don’t do commitments. But something about you makes me want to commit to a relationship.” Giving Kel that second chance had been one of the best decisions Tristan had made in a long time. The wolf was caring and loving, often in ways Tristan never expected. For the first month, Tristan tried to find fault. Looking back, he hated how paranoid he had been. They went to Cog and Boom’s wedding as a couple, their first official date. This picnic was their second. Tristan closed his eyes and breathed a deep sigh. Things were better now. He was glad he had failed that day. For the first time in over a year, Tristan felt at peace. MAXIMUS MARKHAUS They wriggled on his lap. Toes as blue as the sky, with nails as long as a thumb. Max tore his gaze from the appendages, disconcerted by the ideas running through his mind. He focused on massaging David’s foot, but the toes still called. Max licked his lips nervously, fingers almost digging into David’s foot as he kneaded it. “Are you okay?” David questioned. Max made a noncommittal grunt, pouring his focus once more into the foot. Finally, he surrendered to the pull. “What are you doing?” the dragon asked, as his foot was rested onto the couch. Max knelt beside his lover, drawing ever closer to the toes. They were fresh from a shower ten minutes prior, squeaky clean. His tongue flicked out, testing one of the claws. It scratched his tongue, but Max found that he enjoyed the sensation. He gently took a nail between his teeth and nibbled. David breathed in deeply, his foot flexing at the feel of Max’s breath. The tiger took the opportunity to slide his tongue up the top of the foot. A little salty, but not bad… He tried it again, and David giggled. “Careful. You tickle me too much and I might kick,” the dragon chuckled. He gasped as Max’s mouth closed around his big toe. The cat sucked for a moment, trying to wrap his mind around what he was doing; why he was doing it. His teeth scraped across the toe, and David moaned quietly. A quick glance up left no doubt, David was turned on. Max smiled around the appendage, and pulled back to the nail, nipping at it once more. “Are you just going to torture my feet?” Max shrugged, not wanting to let go. He felt the claw slide away and growled, grabbing David’s ankle and pulling it back. His tongue slipped between David’s toes, and the foot was yanked away as David broke down. The dragon curled up, laughing uncontrollably as Max dove for the foot again. “Stop!” David giggled as the tongue flicked between his toes once more. Max whimpered, but pulled back, and sat up. David grabbed his fur and pulled him back down. They kissed, tongues clashing as each pressed into the other desperately. Standing up a moment later, David practically dragged Max into the bedroom. It was a night that would not soon be forgotten. DAVID ENTERAI The tiger purred and rolled around on the bed. David chuckled and stuck out a finger. A narrow beam of green light appeared on the wall at the head of the bed, and Max rolled onto all fours. He swatted at the beam before pouncing at the wall. “Who’s my big kitten?” David teased. Max mewled, attacking the light as it flashed across the wall. David circled the bed, laughing at the tiger as he played. Max’s tail flicked back and forth across his naked butt as he stared intently at the laser. His ears stood erect, as did another part of his body. David ran his hands lovingly up Max’s body, lacing his touch with gentle kisses as he turned the finger laser off. Max rolled again, knocking David on top of him and attacking the dragon’s mouth. “I hate that light,” he smiled into David’s lips. “Yet it brings you so much joy.” “You know what would bring me even more joy?” David’s smile widened as the tiger’s hands reached under his own tail. MAXIMUS MARKHAUS David and Max looked proudly at their creation. David’s house looked like it did all year, on the outside. But the inside would terrify anyone who entered. “I’m going to beat that rabbit this year for sure,” David grinned. “I don’t know. Cog has some pretty terrifying ideas,” Max said, as a group approached the house. The tiger spotted a few children in the group. “I got this tour,” he said. “You keep the main group busy.” David nodded, spotting Tristan and Kel walking down the street. “Just remember to stay out of the kitchen.” “Yeah, sure,” Max huffed. “Honestly, I don’t know why you want me to stay out. Nothing in that house is going to scare me.” David chuckled as Max lead the group into the house. “We’ll see about that.” “Hey David,” Tristan smiled as he approached, the setting sun at his back. “How goes it?” David asked, pulling Tristan in for a hug. “Not bad. I’m doing a lot better now.” “What about you Kel?” “I’m just happy this guy’s stopped being a moron,” Kel smirked as Tristan swatted him. The smirk turned into a scowl as he spotted a grey dog and blue fox approaching them. Tristan placed an arm across the wolf’s shoulders. “Hey David. Long time no see,” Jake said, ignoring Kel. “Hi Jake. Who’s your friend?” David questioned. “This is my roommate, Ryan. He wanted to check out the scariest haunted house in the town.” “Well I hope I don’t disappoint,” David smiled. “It’s nice to meet you Ryan.” He shook the fox’s hand as Abbie, Themis, and Clarisse approached. The avuelent sniffed the air. “Smells like wet dog. Is that you Jake?” “Hey, let’s be civil people. This is my home, and if you can’t be nice, I don’t want you here,” David said sharply. “Thanks for letting me borrow this David,” Abbie said, handing the dragon a hardbound book. “No problem,” the dragon smiled. “Did you enjoy it?” “It was very interesting. I haven’t read much Russian literature,” the fox replied. David snapped his fingers, and the book vanished, returned to a table in his library, where he would shelf it later. “Well, any time you’d like to read more, just ask.” “Now that sounds interesting,” Cog said behind the dragon. The rabbit held Boom’s hand, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “You here to sabotage my haunted house?” “Me? Never!” Cog grinned. “I wouldn’t be so sure about Boom though. He’s got a mean streak longer than my ears.” “Hey!” The front door opened, and Max led the group out of the house. “Scariest haunted house in town?” Ryan scoffed. “Those kids don’t look frightened at all.” David laughed. “They got the kid friendly tour,” he explained. “Trust me, it’s scary. As soon as Faelan and Pip get here, we can get going.” “We’ve been here,” Faelan said, breaking off of Max’s group. “That wasn’t the real deal?” “I thought it was a little lame,” Pip added, joining the group. “Oh, you’ve done it now bunny boy,” David grinned evilly. “I will personally see you run screaming.” “Bring it on.” Max dispersed his group, and rejoined them. “Hey everyone. Good luck tonight,” he said. “Who needs luck?” Ryan laughed. “Alright everyone, before we begin, I would like to lay down a few rules. In my house tonight, you will be scared. Many of you will want to run. However, I don’t want any of you to be hurt. If at any point in the evening, you cannot handle any more scares, let me know, and you will be brought safely back outside. I know many of us have things in our past that affect us. If you are triggered by anything, let me know, and again, you will be brought outside for a short while while I fix the problem. Inside, I would like us all to remain as a group, again for everyone’s safety. Clarisse, I know you can get around pretty well, but if you need any help navigating, let either Max or I know.” He looked around at the group, doing a quick headcount. “Now that we got the pleasantries out of the way, let’s head on inside.” The dragon opened the door to his house, and ushered the group inside. They all stopped just beyond the doorway. “Is this a joke?” Jake asked, looking around. The place looked normal, if a little larger than most of them expected. There was nothing scary about the place. “What the heck Max?” David questioned, looking around. “This place was all set up. What happened?” “I didn’t do anything,” Max shrugged. “Then where is everything?” “Maybe it was a ghost?” the tiger suggested weakly. Cog snorted. “Looks like I won this year,” he said, turning back toward the door. The chandelier overhead flickered suddenly. There was the sound of shattering glass and the room was plunged into darkness. “Shit,” David sighed. “Does anyone have a flashlight?” Faelan pulled out her phone and turned on the light. She found David, and handed the light to him. “Should we reschedule? You seem to be having some troubles,” Cog laughed. “No, I can figure this all out.” David snapped his fingers, and the chandelier was lit with a red glow, enveloping the room in its flickering light. He handed the phone back to Faelan with a muttered, “Thanks.” Max made his way to the door on the far end of the hall, and peeked inside. “It’s dark in there, but everything seems okay,” he called. “I don’t know what happened in the entrance.” David shrugged. “Well, if you’ll all follow me, we can return to our regularly scheduled program.” With a murmur of agreement, the group followed the dragon. As they entered the next room a fog machine whirred to life, filling the ground with its smoke. As the group walked into the room, Ryan screamed, his leg kicking out. A green hand flew off his ankle and sailed through the air. Max chuckled as he caught the prop. “There’s one screamer.” A large figure loomed ahead in the fog, a large axe in its hands. As the group passed by it, they realized it was a suit of armour. As David walked past it, the armour moved, grabbing the dragon in a tight embrace. There was a bright flash, and David and the armour vanished. “What the fuck?!” Tristan yelped. “David?!” Max yelled. There was a moment of silence, and Cog began clapping. “Good job David. You got us,” he called. “You can come out now.” There was no response.” “This… this wasn’t part of the plan,” Max whispered. “David? Where are you?” Again, there was no response. “There’s no way this is real,” Cog muttered. The fog machine sputtered, and stopped. As the mist cleared away, the group saw the floor was littered with various trip wires. Taking a deep breath, Max turned to the others. “I… I think he’s trying to play a joke on us,” he said. “He’s probably further inside.” He led the group deeper into the house, entering the parlor. Several doorways led off this room, which was lit by a blacklight. Plastic spiders lined the wall, glowing in the darkness. The sound of a cello reached their ears, a haunting tune. “This way,” Tristan said, hurrying through the left door. A wall blocked their path further in, and Tristan stopped. “What…?” he breathed. “There was never a wall here before…” He looked at Max, who shared his bewildered appearance. Themis screamed suddenly. The group saw her melt into a wall and vanish. Abbie freaked out. “THEMIS!” The fox started pushing against the wall, certain it was fake. When it didn’t budge, she pounded on it. “What’s happening?” Clarisse asked, an edge to her voice. “Themis just got pulled into a wall,” Faelan shuddered. “Olay, something is going on here,” Pip said. “We need to find David and Themis, and we need to avoid getting split up. Max, Tristan, you seem to know your way around here. If David was hiding, where would he be?” “The cellar,” Max said instantly. “But the music is still playing,” Tristan objected. They could hear a violin joining the cello. “This is so weird.” “Guys, I’m out,” Clarisse said. “I’m blind, and I’m just going to get in your way. Let me know how things-” The avuelent suddenly vanished, and the group gasped collectively. “Screw this. I’m calling someone,” Kel said, pulling out his phone. “There’s no signal in here. I already tried it,” Max denied. “I’m telling you, they’re in the music room. Don’t you hear that?” Tristan said, as a trombone joined the other two instruments. A bright light flashed, before the room was plunged into darkness. “David needs to check the electricity in this house,” Cog said. The lights turned back on. “Damn it!” Tristan yelled. “Kel’s gone!” A drumbeat joined the instruments, and Tristan charged at the wall blocking his path. He gasped as he plunged right through it. “Kel!” he yelled, scrambling to his feet and running. “It’s a fake?” Boom laughed nervously, walking toward the wall. He put his hands on the wall, and met a solid surface. “What the hell?” “Let me try,” Pip said, stepping forward. The rabbit threw his weight into the wall, and bounced off. “Ow…” he muttered, holding his shoulder. “Damn it David, this is not funny!” “We’re not going to get anywhere just standing here,” Max said. “Let’s head back to the living room.” They all followed the tiger out of the hall. “This is why I don’t go places,” Abbie grumbled. “Calm down,” Faelan chuckled. “We’ll find Themis. Personally, I think Tristan was onto something when he suggested the music room. Everytime someone vanishes, another instrument has started to play, with the exception of Tristan.” “So? David and Tristan are the only two that can play any kind of instrument,” Jake said. Faelan shrugged. “That’s the only issue with that idea.” “It does give us a good starting point though. Max, are there any other ways to get there?” Pip asked. “Yeah,” Max said, heading through another door. The group followed him, everyone glancing around warily. “Everyone pair up. If someone else goes missing, I want to know about it immediately,” Pip commanded. Ryan took Jake’s hand, gripping it tightly. “Chill out dude,” the dog said. Someone cackled, and everyone tensed up. “Cog?” Boom called suddenly. The cackling continued, and a flute was added to the ensemble of instruments, all still playing their haunting music. “Oh, it’s on. No one messes with my husband and gets away with it,” the dog growled. Tristan tripped over a rug and landed heavily. “Fuck...” he groaned, sitting up. The music was louder here. He was getting closer to it. Standing, he hurried toward a closed door. Opening it, he found himself in an auditorium. Instruments floated through the air, all played by ghostly hands. “Kel?” Tristan called loudly, stepping further into the room. The door slammed shut behind his, and he jumped. The instruments began floating around him, faster and faster, until he felt dizzy watching. Kel appeared before him, and the dog cried out in joy, reaching for the wolf. His hands slipped through the wolf, and Tristan was pulled into a dark room, far from any music. “That’s a guitar,” Abbie muttered, her ears picking up the sound of yet another instrument. “Is everyone still here?” Pip asked. The group looked amongst themselves. “I think so,” Faelan replied. “Then they must have gotten Tristan,” the rabbit sighed. “Are we almost there Max?” “Yeah,” the tiger replied. “Just two more rooms.” Pip saw tendrils of fog drifting under the next door. “I don’t like the looks of this,” he muttered. The rabbit carefully opened the door, and yelped as he was pulled off his feet by a pair of tendrils snaking across the foggy ground. “Pip!” Faelan yelled, diving for his hand as the rabbit slid across the floor. She grabbed the rabbit, and pulled, fighting for her boyfriend. It was no use. The two of them slid across the floor as a side door opened, pulling the fox and the rabbit inside, before closing and locking. The group looked on in horror, as a piano and a harp joined the music. Max chuckled nervously. “So which one of them was the harp?” Abbie turned on the tiger. “Look, if you know anything about what is going on, you better tell me right now,” she snapped. “I don’t know what’s happening. I just know we’re dropping like flies.” “Where does this door lead?” Boom asked, pointing to the left. “The kitchen.” Max took a step toward the door. “Aren’t we going to the music room?” Jake asked. “In a second. I need to see what’s in here. David said it was pretty bad,” Max said, placing a hand on the doorknob. He slowly opened the door, and screamed. “What the hell? What’s in there?” Boom demanded. The door opened all the way, allowing the group to see a blue dragon wing, covered in blood and sitting in a large pot on the stove. “What the fuck?!” Max cried. “It’s fake,” Boom said. “It has to be.” “I can’t do this any more…” Max sank to his knees, and fell through the floor, vanishing like so many others before him. The sound of an oboe joined the orchestra in the other room. “Fuck,” Boom muttered. Ryan pulled Jake into the other room. “Look, I’m not liking our chances right now,” he said. “I’m not going to leave things unsaid between us. I love you Jake. I know you’re still obsessed with Kel, and I know you probably will never return my feelings, but I wanted you to know they were there.” “We can leave if you want-” Jake started. “No. If this is all a hoax, I’m not going to be laughed at for running away.” “Trust me, no one would laugh.” Boom and Abbie followed them into the room. Abbie immediately made her way to the door the music spilled from. “This is our best chance,” she said, yanking the door open. Instruments circled through the air, but no living beings were in sight. The fox yelled in frustration. “DAMN IT DAVID!!!” She began fading away, angry tears streaming down her face. Another cello appeared among the instruments, adding its sound to the group. Boom sniffed the air suddenly. “Wait… I got you…” He raced for a door on the far wall of the auditorium, and vanished through it. “I think he’s onto something!” Jake pulled Ryan along after the other dog. They hurried down a flight of stairs, entering a brightly lit room. The music from upstairs stopped as they saw David seated amongst their friends. “What the hell man?!” Jake yelled. “That was so not cool!” David chuckled lightly. “Yeah, I may have gone a little overboard.” “You think?” Max muttered. “I warned you this was a bad idea.” “But you did get a declaration of love out of it,” Cog grinned, looking at Ryan. The blue fox blushed, glancing at Jake. “Yeah, you and I have some talking to do at home,” the dog told him. “Well, I hate to say it, but I think you beat me this year. I can’t compete against magic,” Cog added, looking at the dragon. “So, what gave it all away?” David asked, looking at Boom. “I recognized this guy’s fart,” Boom laughed, poking Cog. Jake scanned the room again. “Where’s Clarisse?” he asked. “Outside. She said she was done,” David shrugged. “So you’ve been teleporting us around all night?” “Pretty much.” “And the instruments?” Ryan asked. “Illusions.” “Well, you outdid yourself this year. It’ll be hard to top this one, even for you,” Cog said, standing up. “That means I got next year in the bag.” “We’ll see. I hope you all had a fun time,” David said. Max snorted. David snapped his fingers, and a door appeared. He opened it, revealing his front yard on the other side. The group filed through the doorway, and the dragon followed them, closing the portal behind him. “Thank you all for coming, and Happy Halloween.” As everyone left, Max slugged David in the shoulder. “Ow!” “That’s for the kitchen, you ass.” Pulling the dragon close, the tiger kissed him. “And that’s for a night I’ll never forget.” FAELAN EUNUCH Six o’clock on Christmas Eve. He was coming. Faelan spritzed a little perfume on her neck, and double checked the powder on her face. “Perfect,” she smiled at her reflection in the mirror. Turning toward the bathroom door, the fox paused. She picked up a sticky bow and stuck it above her tail. “There we go. Now it’s perfect.” Faelan ran through the house, and threw herself on the couch as the door opened. Pip looked at his girlfriend, wearing silk lingerie and a bow on her tail. “Um, what’s the occasion?” he asked, untying the apron from around his waist. “You are,” the fox grinned. “You gonna unwrap your Christmas present?” “Faelan, you know I don’t like Christmas…” the rabbit sighed. “Yeah, but I thought I could make it more enjoyable for you.” Faelan wriggled her butt as Pip threw his apron into a hamper. “Well, it’s hard to argue with that logic. Especially when you went through all this effort.” The rabbit pulled his shirt off and sent it to join his apron. He studied the fox on the couch, who brushed her fingers over the rabbit’s abs. Pip lifted Faelan’s tail. “So does the bow mean this is open for business?” he asked. “Maybe…” Faelan grinned. “Mmm. I like my chances,” the rabbit smiled, plucking the bow off Faelan’s tail. TRISTAN THARN Tristan walked slowly up the driveway to David’s house. He was not a fan of the place; his last visit at Halloween had scared him away. For a good week after, David had officially been a Bad Dragon. But now he stood before the door of the mansion, hand poised to ring the bell. Before he could move, the door opened, causing him to jump in surprise. “I saw you coming,” David said, holding the door open for the dog. Tristan shivered as he stepped over the threshold. Something about the house gave him the creeps, but he really didn’t know why. David worked hard to make it inviting, but Tristan could never shake the feeling of foreboding that came with the place. “Are you okay?” David asked, closing the door. “Your house scares me,” Tristan admitted. “Yeah, it can feel a little off sometimes. Could be haunted. But I don’t have anything positive on that thought.” The dragon led the dog through the foyer and the parlour, into an auditorium. “I figured it was time to get you on another instrument. It’ll be loud, so I thought we could use my place so your neighbors don’t complain,” the dragon explained, pointing to an electric guitar next to a drum kit. “Sweet,” Tristan smiled. “Let’s get started.” MAXIMUS MARKHAUS Max entered David’s house with a small wrapped box in his hands. Tonight was a special night for the two. It had been a year since they had met in that bar. Max smiled as he recalled trying to hook up with the dragon. Nothing had happened that night, but this year was a sure thing. He was a tiger on the prowl, stalking through the foyer, and into the parlour. He saw the dragon’s tail sticking out of the bathroom door, the sink running in the background. Perfect… Silently creeping through the room, Max closed in on his prey. When he was a foot away, the tiger pounced. “Shit!” David coughed, spraying toothpaste from his mouth. Grabbing a towel, he wiped his face and the mirror now speckled with his saliva before turning to glare at the tiger. “Was that really necessary?” he demanded. “Yes. And funny,” Max grinned. He held out the present. “Frohliche Weihnachten,” he smiled. “You’re a day early.” “I know, but I couldn’t wait any longer. Besides, this is also our anniversary.” “I know mei areula. I was getting ready for dinner. May I finish?” the dragon asked, a bemused look on his face. “You’re perfect just the way you are.” Max kissed the dragon on the cheek, and backed out of the room. “Two minutes. We’re not getting any younger.” David chuckled, albeit bitterly. “Don’t I know it…” he muttered, turning back to his task. Max sat on an ornate chair, dimly recalling that it had been made in 1866. This place was a museum, and he loved the history it held, though it also made him sad on David’s behalf. It must be hell to go through centuries knowing the people you love were going to die long before you. He tore his mind away from that thought as the dragon emerged from the bathroom. “Are you ready?” “I’m always ready for food,” Max replied. “Oh, but before we go, open your gift.” He held out the package for David to take, and the dragon accepted it, opening the messily wrapped paper as carefully as he could. Opening the box under the paper, David let out a gasp. Dropping the box, he held a picture frame in his hand. “Claire…” he breathed, tracing the picture with his finger. “I know it won’t have the memory of the original, but I thought you might want to have a coloured version,” Max said. “How did you…?” “It turns out Themis is a computer geek. She photoshopped a picture I took of the original. I had to look through your journal for a description of her. I hope you don’t mind.” “No. It’s amazing. It looks just like her.” The dragon gazed at the picture, lost for a moment. When he finally looked up, he said, “I’m sorry, this can’t take the place of the original. But it is something I will always cherish. Thank you so much.” Max smiled. “You’re welcome.” David set the picture on the table in front of the chair, and cleared his throat. “L-let’s get going…” “Lead the way,” Max replied. BOOM THERABBIT Boom stood beside his rabbit, staring at a door that filled him with trepidation. Early evening noises sounded around them, people on their way home from work, a sprinkler running nearby. “We can do this, right?” Cog asked, taking Boom’s hand. “Yeah.” The dog took a deep breath, then pushed the doorbell. A few seconds passed before the door opened. “Cog, Boom,” David said in surprise. Cog’s eye twitched as he took in David’s shirtless torso. He spotted Max darting past in the background, and could have sworn the tiger wasn’t wearing clothes. “Is this a bad time?” Boom asked. “Um, no. Come in.” The dragon held open the door, and after a moment’s hesitation, Cog entered, followed by his dog. Max walked into the room, pulling a shirt over his head. He tossed another shirt at David, who slipped it on. “Would you like some hot chocolate?” David asked. “Sure,” Boom replied. Max disappeared into another room, as David led the two to the sitting room. They sat on separate couches, near a crackling fireplace. “So, to what do I owe this surprise?” he asked. Boom cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Um… well…” “We… Boom and I , we would like to have a child,” Cog said. The dragon looked at the two. “And I’m assuming you don’t want to adopt,” he said. “Well, we’re not adverse to it. We were just wondering if you knew of a way for us to have our own baby,” Boom said in a rush. “Because of the magic and everything,” Cog added. David steepled his hands thoughtfully. “To be honest, I have never thought about this,” he said. “My wife and I were unable to conceive naturally, and we left it at that. At a certain point, I believe the species difference might make it impossible..” Max entered the room with a platter of four steaming mugs. He set the platter on the table and passed the mugs around before taking a seat beside David. Boom sipped at his mug, and licked his lips. “It’s my own recipe,” Max said as the dog glanced at him. “I hope it’s okay.” “It’s delicious dear,” Cog smiled tensely, taking a drink of his own. “So you’re saying adoption is our only hope?” David held up a hand to stop Boom. “I said maybe. This is interesting, and I would like to look into it. I might even try to get my mother’s opinion on it,” he said. “However, this will take time.” “We understand,” Cog said. “Is there any way the two of us could help?” Boom asked. “Do a little research of your own. You might find something I might miss, as my research methods are admittedly a little dated,” David replied with a rueful smile. “I will also try to help where I can, though I feel like I’m way out of my league on this one,” Max added. “One more thing, something to think about whether we succeed or not. A child is a major commitment. The two of you haven’t even been married for a year yet. You should enjoy each other as much as you can before adding another person into the mix.” Cog and Boom looked at each other. “Thank you David,” Cog said, as he drained his mug. “We will keep thinking on this, but still let us know what you find please,” Boom requested. “Of course.” The four of them stood up, and David led Cog and Boom to the door while Max cleaned up the mugs. “I hope you two have a good evening. Happy New Year,” David smiled. “Happy New Year,” Boom replied, before dragging Cog back into the chill evening air. The door closed behind them and the two breathed a little easier. “Well?” Cog asked. “We’ll see,” Boom shrugged, taking the rabbit’s hand. TRISTAN THARN Tristan stretched back against Kel, their naked bodies intertwined. “Remember the first time we did this?” he asked, tilting his head back so he could see Kel’s snout. “Ugh, don’t remind me. I was such an ass.” Tristan chuckled, wriggling until Kel’s knot was stuck deeper inside him. “At least we cured you of your obsession with fleeing,” he teased. Kel nipped Tristan’s ear, and the dog yelped. “Don’t be a dick,” the wolf laughed. “Don’t pull out then.” “Wasn’t planning to.” The knot throbbed, filling Tristan with satisfaction. It felt right, having Kel inside him, and he never wanted to let the feeling go. “You take your juice today?” Kel interrupted his thoughts, and Tristan squirmed again, drawing a muffle ‘oof’ from the wolf. “Yeah. I’ve learned that if I don’t he’ll just keep nagging me.” “He cares about you.” “I know.” The dog grabbed Kel’s arm, and wrapped it around his torso. The wolf was starting to soften, and Tristan was trying to figure out how to keep him inside. Kel reached around with his free hand and gently flicked Tristan. The dog hissed in surprise, and his cheeks clenched around Kel. “Mmm…” Kel sighed. “Rude,” Tristan muttered. “So, I was thinking…” “There’s a first,” Tristan laughed. “Shush you. We spend more time at each other’s place than we do by ourselves. It makes no sense to be paying for a second apartment.” “Are you suggesting that we move in together?” Tristan asked. “I think it will be good to get you out of this place. There are some pretty bad memories here.” Tristan couldn’t argue with that. He’d had to throw away a few towels because of the bloodstains on them. “Sounds great to me” he said, laying back against Kel. “I love you.” “I love you too little doge.” DAVID ENTERAI David stood in front of a grave, a single rose in his hand. “I guess your time was up,” he sighed, setting the rose on the grave. Max stood against a tree, watching the dragon. He had never seen David cry. And he wasn’t about to The dragon walked back to his tiger stone faced. “Are you okay?” Max asked. “Yeah. My mother was not the nicest of people. This actually helped. No one expected it, and it means certain questions will go unanswered, but I’m glad for it. I can live my life knowing that someday I will be united with you and Claire.” Max smiled, and clapped David on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’ll have a great big party waiting for you.” They walked out of the cemetery together, Neither one looking back at the headstone that marked the grave of an elf.
  10. Cata the Meek

    Growing A Town

    MAXIMUS MARKHAUS The tiger stood in front of Max, his hands deftly working the tie into an appropriate knot. “There you go. John will be the envy of the school with you beside him,” he smiled. “Danke Henri.” Max mumbled, blushing. “I’m happy I was able to see you go to prom before I left overseas,” Henri said. “Just remember, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.” “Did you feel like this with Sara?” “Like what?” “Like this night would change your life forever?” Henri laughed. “Nein Bruder. I just felt very nervous, excited.” He clapped Max on the shoulder. “You’ll be okay.” The chime of the doorbell sounded in Max’s ears, and his stomach flipped. A second later, he heard his mother’s voice. “Max, John ist hier!” “Hey, I’ll be gone by the time you get back, but I want to hear all about tonight, okay?” Henri said. “Ja. I’ll tell you everything.” “Eh, you can leave out any sex,” Henri chuckled. “You come back in one piece, okay?” Max demanded. “Don’t worry Max. It takes a lot to put this tiger down.” Max left the room, his stomach a bundle of nerves. It was horrible luck having prom on the same day his brother shipped out, but Max trusted Henri. He would keep his word no matter what. DAVID ENTERAI A chime interrupted David from the book he was reading. He set the novel aside, and walked to the front door as another chime sounded. The dragon opened the door to an orange and yellow fox, her clothes torn and burnt. “David Enterai?” she asked quietly. “That’s me.” “I need help.” The fox’s lip quivered as she fought back tears, She met the dragon’s eyes, desperation obvious in her own yellow orbs. David stepped aside, holding the door open. “Come in.” He led the fox through his house. “So, miss…?” “Themis. Themis Falis.” “What is the problem you need help with? I’m assuming it’s magickal in nature.” A flame leaked out of the fox’s nose, and David snapped his fingers, dissipating the fire. “That… That is the problem…” Themis said quietly. David nodded. “Let’s take this outside. It’ll be safer there,” he said. Themis followed the dragon outdoors, struggling against another outburst. They stopped thirty feet away from the house, and David turned back to her. “Let it go,” he said, and the fox opened her maw, a torrent of fire rushing out. As the flames died down, the dragon spoke again. “How long has this been happening?” “Since I can remember. It usually isn’t this bad.” “Have you been through any emotional trauma recently? You don’t have to tell me what it was if you don’t want.” Themis nodded slowly. “Okay, so it is based on your emotions then. That gives us something we can work with. How do you feel right now?” “Honestly, really scared.” “And this is the most fire you’ve produced?” “No…” Themis said, squeezing her eyes shut. “But I was angry when I did… When I made more fire.” “It’s okay. We don’t need to talk about that,” David said. “The more emotional you get, the worse it becomes.” “But I don’t want to just stop feeling. That’s no life.” “You already seem reasonably controlled. I agree that you need to allow your emotions to run free. The trick is going to be letting the fire out in a controlled manner. Don’t ever try to bottle it up.” David bade Themis to sit on the pavement, and she knelt after a moment’s hesitation. “I’m curious, how did you know about me?” the dragon asked. “My mother told me to seek the dragon of this town; that he had helped her when she was younger.” David materialized a small steel kettle that he placed over a fire pit. “Can you light this for me?” he asked. “You… you want me to light the fire?” “Yes please. You shouldn’t need too much fire.” The fox held out her hand, and a stream of fire flowed from it a second later, engulfing the pot. “A little less than that,” David said. The flames stopped, leaving a blackened kettle raised over a burning fire. “I’m sorry…” “Don’t worry about it,” David reassured the fox, replacing the kettle with a wave of his hand. “I had my fair share of mishaps when I was learning myself.” The dragon studied the fire for a moment. “I want you to know you hold all of the power here. I do not intend to harm you in any way, and you are free to go any time you want.” “Um… okay?” “You seem a little too worried. You don’t need to be,” David explained. “Another question. Have you ever summoned fire when you’re happy?” Themis shook her head. “No…” “It’s defensive then. You’re full of nervous energy, and it manifests itself as heat.” “Is that good?” Themis asked after a moment’s pause. “It is what it is. Neither good nor bad.” David extinguished the flames in the pit. “Can you try again? See if you can push the fire through a single finger this time. It should lessen the flow.” Themis stuck out her hand again, pointing at the pit. The flames poured from her finger, less this time. The fox yelped as an errant flame appeared in her hand, and the fire flared, then died. David stepped up to the fox, taking her injured hand. “Aen eila,” he murmured, and the reddened skin returned to its normal colour, though the fur remained singed. Themis flexed her hand in wonder. “That’s a neat trick…” she said. “Yeah. It can take the pain away at least,” David said. “How are you feeling now?” “Tired.” “Okay. Do you have a place to stay for the night?” “I’ll probably get a hotel room,” Themis shrugged. David nodded, materializing another kettle. “Would you like to stay for some tea before you leave?” he asked. “Um, no thanks.” “That’s okay. I would like you to come back tomorrow, if you’re willing. If nothing else, I should be able to help lessen the fire inside you for another day.” “I’ll be here,” Themis promised. “Any time works for me, so whenever you’re comfortable.” The dragon led the fox through his house again, and handed her a hundred dollars at the front door. “For the hotel,” he explained. “Um, thank you,” Themis said, taking the money. “It’s no problem at all. I’ll see you tomorrow.” The dragon closed the door as Themis walked away, returning to his kettle to drink some tea. 2015 FAELAN EUNUCH The fox sat beside the library steps, head in his arms. Passerby glanced at him as they hurried about their day, and he knew he was getting several stares from the people who drove by. It wasn’t his red wings they stared at; he had them tucked behind him, out of the way. It wasn’t his muscles adding bulk to his body, or his long red hair either. They were staring at his dress. A rabbit approached, and sat beside him. “First time in drag?” he asked. “I remember when I first started out. If you’d like, I can give you some pointers.” The fox turned his head. “It’s not drag,” he muttered. “Ooh honey, you really need my help,” the rabbit replied. “Do you have a name?” “Robert.” “Do you have a name you’d rather use?” the rabbit prodded. The fox shrugged despondently. “Well, if you’ll allow it, I have a place where we can make you look fabulous.” “I can’t pay-” “Pfft, I don’t need money. But if you really want to give back, you could share your story with me. I’ve never been one to turn down a good tale,” the rabbit smiled. The fox looked at him suspiciously. “How do I know you’re not kidnapping me?” “You have my word as a rabbit that tonight I will drop you off wherever you want to go,” the rabbit promised, standing. The fox thought for a moment, then took the rabbit’s proffered hand. “My name’s Cog, by the way,” the rabbit smiled, leading the fox around the corner, to where his car was parked. They drove in silence for a couple minutes, Cog allowing the fox time to think. “Do you always pick up random people off the streets?” “Only when they need it. It helps me feel good, knowing that I helped even a little.” The rest of the drive passed in more silence. Cog drove up to a large house, not quite a mansion, but close. “This is where you live?” the fox asked doubtfully. “Yep. Has been for twenty years now. You coming in?” The fox followed the rabbit inside, into a room filled with books. “Sorry about the mess. I’ve been meaning to clean for a while now,” the rabbit said. Cog took his guest into another room, this one full of clothes, sorted by styles and time periods. “Make yourself at home. I’ll be back in a few,” he said, stepping through another door. The fox sat in a chair, and pulled out a phone. A moment’s examination revealed it was dead. “Shit…” “Is everything okay?” Cog asked, reentering the room. The fox blinked in surprise. Gone were the rabbit’s jeans and tshirt, replaced by short shorts that showed off his legs, and a pink tank top that emphasized his suddenly large breasts. “Um… do you have a charger I could use?” the fox asked. “Of course dear.” The rabbit found a charger and handed it to the fox. “Plug’s right there. Now, first thing’s first. We need to get you some boobs.” As the fox plugged in, the rabbit opened a drawer in a dresser. “What size do you want to start with? With your frame, I’d avoid anything over a C.” “I… I don’t know…” “That’s perfectly okay. Let’s start you small,” Cog said, pulling out some breast forms. “You should be about the same size as me, though your shoulders look a little wider.” Setting the forms on the dresser, the rabbit walked over to a closet and began flipping through clothes. He pulled out a black bra and handed it to the fox. “Try this one,” he said, turning around to give the fox a moment of privacy. After a moment’s hesitation, the dress came off, and the fox replaced it with the bra. “So, what is your story, if you don’t mind me asking?” Cog asked. “Long story short, my boyfriend found me dressing up, and decided he didn’t want to be with a girl. So he kicked me out,” the fox replied, hooking the bra on. “Ouch. What an ass.” Cog turned back around. “We’ll have to teach you to tuck,” he said, looking down. “First though, you want to put these in your bra, like this.” The rabbit held up the breast forms to demonstrate, before handing them to the fox. “Now,” he continued as the fox finished. “We can do this the fun way, or the slightly more confusing way.” Seeing the look of confusion on the fox’s face, he added,” I can show you how to tuck personally, which requires me to be naked, or you can watch a video that will give you the idea without the nudity.” “I’ll take the video. No offence,” the fox said. “None taken,” Cog grinned, grabbing his phone. He found the video easily, and handed the phone to the fox. “You can use the closet. There’s a light in there.” “Thanks…” the fox replied uncertainly, taking the phone into the closet. Cog waited patiently, knowing this could take some time. Finally, the fox reappeared, and Cog looked down. “Perfect,” he smiled. “They said something about tape,” the fox questioned. “I wouldn’t use tape. It’s a pain to take off. Anyway, let’s get you a style. You don’t have to wear a dress. I think pants might look really good on you.” The rabbit dug through his clothes, pulling out a pair of skinny jeans. “Try these on,” he said, tossing them to the fox. “If they don’t fit, I have one pair in the next size up.” It took a bit of a struggle, but the fox was able to get them on. “What’s next?” “Next is a shirt. We want to emphasize your boobs, but cut back a bit on your biceps. They do look nice though. What’s your favourite colour?” the rabbit asked, diving into his clothes again. “I like orange, but it looks horrible on me.” “Okay. Let’s try red then. You already have that theme going.” Cog pulled out a red shirt, and handed it to the fox. “So, am I correct in assuming you don’t really have anywhere to go?” he asked. “Yeah. But I’ll manage,” the fox replied, pulling the shirt on. It fit tightly, but the fox could still move freely in it. “Looking good,” the rabbit said. “You don’t have to manage. I have plenty of spare rooms. You are welcome here anytime you need a place for the night.” “Thank you. I can pay-” “Not necessary,” Cog denied. “I could use more company, and you’re doing me a favour by taking those clothes.” “Do you have a pair of scissors?” The rabbit handed a pair of scissors over, and watched as the fox cut a pair of wing slits into the back of the shirt. “The only thing left is your hair and face. I can trim your hair and style it if you’d like.” “I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet…” “No rush. I’d still like to fix your face up a little though. It shouldn’t be too hard.” Cog led the fox into a large bathroom. Grabbing a tub of grey chalk, he bade the fox to sit on the toilet, before taking some chalk in hand and drawing on the fox’s face. A minute later, he stood back to admire his work. “Looking great,” he said, motioning toward the mirror. The fox stood up to look, and gasped. A young vixen stood in the mirror, hair a little messy, but still decent looking. She was a little muscled, but the muscles looked good on her, like they belonged. As she studied herself in the mirror, one thought floated through her mind. “My name is Faelan.” Faelan rolled over in bed, missing a warm body to take comfort in. This was a day of firsts for her. First day on her own, first day as a woman. And it was a miserable one. She didn’t know if she’d make it through the torrents of sorrow. The fox wrapped her wings around herself, seeking the enveloping comfort that came with them. A trick she had picked up in childhood, where hugs were few and far between. But it wasn’t the same. The room was strange, as was the bed. She didn’t like them; they reminded her that she had no home. The rabbit was nice, but she knew despite his promises, she could not stay long. Silently Faelan cursed her ex, tears rolling down her face. It was his right to not want to be with her, but he could have let her find a place to stay before kicking her out. A gentle knock sounded, and Faelan hurriedly rubbed the tears from her eyes. Taking a moment to catch a breath, she called, “Come in.” Cog entered the room quietly. “I thought you could use some company,” he said, stepping next to the bed. Faelan shrugged, barely visible in the dark of the room. She supposed this was going to happen. “This may sound weird, and you are completely free to say no, but can I hold you? You don’t have to worry about me trying anything; I’m more into guys.” “Sure.” The rabbit lay on the bed beside her, and placed his arm over her torso. Though Faelan still expected he had a motive, she had to admit it felt nice. If sex was the price she had to pay for a night under a roof, she’d do it willingly. After a moment, the rabbit started talking. “I’ve had more breakups than I care to recall,” he said quietly. “They all hurt, even the ones where I was the one to break it off. One thing I came to realize is it’s okay to cry. It’s not a weakness. In fact, it shows that you are strong. Strong enough to say, fuck you society. I will grieve the way I need to.” Faelan trembled slightly under his arm, but choked back her tears. “I will not judge you Faelan. You have my word on that.” The name sounded weird in her ears. Almost wrong somehow. She supposed she’d get used to it. But what if she had made a mistake? What if this wasn’t who she was; who she wanted to be? And that fear broke her. Shaking, hot tears streaming onto her face, Faelan sobbed. Cog held her close, whispering softly to her. “It’s going to be okay. Everything will be okay.” ZENOAN ENTERAI The red dragon knelt next to the creature. He had never seen anything like them before, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was the blood steadily leaking out of their side. As Zenoan reached out to examine the wound, the creature hissed, “Touch me and I’ll kill you.” “You’re not really in any position to threaten anyone.” “How do you know I’m not faking?” “Because if you were you would have attacked me by now.” The dragon examined the gash on the creature’s side, and sighed. He wouldn’t be able to heal this with any normal magic. “So, what exactly are you?” he asked, pulling up the sleeve of his shirt. “If you need to ask, you don’t need to know.” “Do you at least have a name?” “No.” “Shame.” Zenoan examined his arm, covered in various scars. It was deep; he needed a clear spot to work. Pulling out a silver athame, the dragon pressed the blade against the side of his arm, and cut into it, just enough to bleed. “”So you’re just going to kill me. Good luck,” the creature laughed at the sound of the blade. Sliding the knife back into its sheath, Zenoan placed his hand on the creature’s side, ignoring the vicious growl. He focused briefly, and established a connection. “You are an avuelent, and your name is Clarisse,” he said, as magic flowed between the two. “Ugh, I hate mages,” Clarisse muttered. Zenoan took a deep breath as the cut on his arm grew. Clarisse’s injury began sealing, leaving no trace it was ever there. “You ever talk to a mage about your eyes? Maybe they could help you see.” “I don’t need to see,” Clarisse spat, standing up. Zenoan studied his arm, bleeding like a stuck pig. “Melure,” he muttered, and the bleeding stopped, though the gash remained on his arm. “Though I suppose one good turn deserves another,” the avuelent spoke. She grabbed Zenoan’s shoulder, and their lips met with a great deal of spit. Zenoan pulled back, surprised at how quickly Clarisse moved. “I’m flattered, but I didn’t heal you to have sex with you,” he said, feeling his mouth go numb. Venom. The little devil. “Aen ceral,” he mouthed, wiping the spit off his lips. “Besides, no offense, but you’re a horrible kisser.” The dragon could feel the venom fighting with his magic, but there was no real contest. “None taken,” Clarisse grinned darkly. “Have a good day.” The avuelent walked away, leaving Zenoan to die. Or so she thought. 2017 KEL DANTHOS Kel unbuttoned his pants, glancing over his shoulder at the dog who was lying on his bed. The dog was already naked, and Kel smirked. They had been in the room for barely a minute. This one was an eager mutt. Kel slowly stepped out of his pants, and the dog whimpered slightly, urging him to go faster. His name was Tristan, Kel recalled dimly. Not that it mattered. He’d fuck this dog. Maybe let him sleep in the bed. Show him the door in the morning, and find a new conquest tomorrow. It’s how this always went down. Pulling his shirt off slowly, Kel teased the dog, revealing his firm body a little at a time. The wolf’s fur was a light grey in colour, and his violet hair was swept back in a messy manner. He tossed the blue shirt onto the floor, and stalked toward the bed, studying his toy for the night. Tristan stared at the wolf with wide eyes. Young, hopeful, eager, his yellow fur was short, his ears floppy. Blue hair hung over his left eye, hiding the vibrant green that his right eye showed off. Kel thought he was actually rather cute. Not quite unspoiled, but inexperienced enough that it really wouldn’t make a difference. After tonight though… Kel chuckled at the thought. The wolf knelt on the bed, his dick poised at Tristan’s hole. The dog licked his lips nervously, his eyes finding Kel’s. Kel waited a second, before thrusting into Tristan. The dog yelped, and squirmed. Kel gripped Tristan’s hips tightly, holding him down as he continued thrusting into the dog. As he neared his climax, Kel realized that his knot had slipped inside Tristan. “Shit…” he shuddered as he erupted inside the dog. Tristan moaned quietly, his legs wrapping around Kel, encouraging him to continue. Kel slumped with a groan, and the dog looked at him, realization dawning on his face. He giggled, and Kel scowled at him. “This isn’t funny,” the wolf growled. He tried to pull out, but his knot kept him firmly in Tristan’s ass. “FUCK!” he snapped, causing Tristan to wince. “It isn’t that bad-” “Shut up.” Tristan’s mouth closed, and he lay back with a sigh. Kel’s dick continued pulsating, cum dripping into Tristan. “Aren’t you going to jack me off or something?” Tristan asked a minute later. “No.” “What the fuck?” “Look, I just want to get out of your ass and I want you to go.” “I thought there was something between us!” “When? When did I ever give you the impression this was more that a one night stand?” “Apparently it’s not even that! You’re kicking me out without even getting me off!” “Fuck this.” Kel pulled back hard, and his dick slid out. Tristan screamed in pain as Kel’s knot was ripped out of him. “Get dressed and go,” Kel snapped. “With pleasure.” Tristan winced as he sat up. Grabbing his clothes, he threw them on, and went to the door. Turning back to Kel, he said, “You are an asshole. I hope I never see you again.” “Doesn’t bother me one bit,” Kel snorted. Tristan left the room, slamming the door behind him. MAXIMUS MARKHAUS Max read the last letter again. Neat German lined the page, the words burned into Max’s mind. I have almost saved enough to buy my way out of the outfit. By the third of next month, I should be on my way to America. I’m coming home Brother. I’m coming home. Henri The twenty year old tiger folded the letter neatly as he heard someone ring the doorbell. “Can you get that please Max?” his mother called. Sighing, Max left the room, passing Henri’s empty room as he walked down the hallway. All that remained within was a bed, and an easel, lone testaments to their faith in Henri’s safe return. Opening the door, Max came face to navel with the tallest rabbit he had ever seen. Looking up, he saw a face worn with the stress of a hard life. The rabbit wore a dark shirt and a pair of cargo pants, making his grey fur seem almost as white as Max’s. “Are you Max Markhaus?” the rabbit asked. “Who are you?” Max questioned in return. “I served with your brother. Can you get your mother for me please?” Max felt a lead weight materialize in his stomach. Turning, he called, “Mother, there’s news about Henri!” The tigress was there in an instant, worry etched across her face. Taking in the rabbit, she shooed her son aside. “Ma’am…” The rabbit took a deep breath. “Ma’am, I’m sorry to tell you, but your son Henri fell in combat on October second. I’m not here officially; someone else will come. I just wanted to let you know. I was there when he died.” His mother whispered something, and closed the door. Max watched her walk to her room and close the door. A few seconds later, he heard a muffled scream. He was numb, his mind ceasing to work. He found himself standing before the door to Henri’s room, opening it slowly. Maybe there was something left, anything to help this sense of loss. But in the end, all that remained was an empty room, testament to a brother who would never return. FAELAN EUNUCH / PIP LAPIN Faelan was uncomfortable. Not in a bad way. The rabbit’s arm draped across her shoulders was nice. But she didn’t usually have this period of relaxation after meeting her clients’ needs. This one was different. “You are really good at this,” the rabbit said. Faelan laughed. “Practice makes perfect,” she said. And the money certainly helped too. “So Pip, you got me all night. Ready for round two?” A day after breaking the news to Henri’s family, the guilt had become too much for Pip to bear. A night of sex proved to be the perfect distraction. Made temporarily wealthy after arriving in America, Pip was able to get a hotel room for a night, and someone to share the room with him. He could see the Adam’s apple in Faelan’s throat, though she hid the other evidence well, discreetly directing his attention elsewhere. Still, she had nothing to fear from him. And he wanted to show her that. “Actually, let’s take a shower,” he suggested. Faelan shrugged. Her tape would hold. If the rabbit wanted a watery lay, she would comply. “Your wish is my command for tonight,” she said, standing up. “So if I asked you to juggle flaming bowling pins, you would do it?” Pip grinned. “Ugh, another thing I forgot to put in the fine print.” The fox took the rabbit’s hand, and pulled him up, admiring the firmness of his body. “Are we doing this?” she asked. “Lead the way madame.” And his accent…. The fox’s ears twitched at the sound. Pip let Faelan pull him into the bathroom. Getting the water just right, the fox stepped into the tub, waiting for Pip to follow. Grabbing the curtain rod, Pip ducked under it as he followed Faelan. He dwarfed the tub, his body taking up most of the space. Faelan chuckled. “You don’t take showers with other people very often, do you?” “Do rain showers count?” Dropping a glob of shampoo in her hands, Faelan began running her hands gently over Pip’s entire body. “No, they don’t,” she replied. The rabbit kneeled as she worked, allowing Faelan to reach his head. She continued her task until he was truly lathered. “Vous mains sont incroyables,” Pip murmured. He stood up and grabbed Faelan under the arms. “What the hell are you doing?” she yelped, as he picked her up and turned around so he was in the water.. “Washing off,” he replied, setting her back down. Faelan shivered as a breeze hit her wet body. Pip took his time, making sure no soap remained on his body. When he was finished, he took some more shampoo, and knelt again. “Your turn,” he smiled. He started with her head, massaging her ears, before running his thumbs down her cheeks. He scratched under her chin gently, and a look of absolute bliss came over the fox. Moving down to her shoulders, he kneaded them, focusing on the base of her neck. He worked down her back, enjoying the soft moans escaping her maw. As he drew even lower, the fox took a step back. “Are you okay?” Pip asked. “Yeah. Just don’t go down there please.” Pip backed off immediately. “I’m sorry. I should have realized you kept it hidden for a reason,” he apologised. “Wha- wait, you know?” “Um, yeah. Or at least I figured.” Faelan turned, and leaned against the wall. Pip tried to move aside so she could wash herself off. “How many others knew?” the fox sighed. “Probably not many. You hide it very well,” Pip said. “I only knew because of this.” He touched her throat gently, feeling her gulp under his finger. “So, you’re doing this to get rid of it?” he asked, when Faelan remained silent. She nodded mutely, squeezing past him so she could rinse off. “If you don’t want to talk about it, we don’t have to.” Pip stepped out of the tub and grabbed a towel, as the fox said, “Thanks.” “So, you know my story,” Faelan said thirty minutes later, as the two lay back on the bed again. “But what about yours?” “There really isn’t one.” “My friend says everyone has a story. But if you don’t want to talk about yours, that’s okay,” Faelan said. “I guess there is a story, but I still don’t want to talk about it,” Pip replied. “Okay.” “You’ll be okay.” Pip bolted awake, breathing heavily as he tried to remember where he was. “Bad dream?” His eyes picked out Faelan’s shape in the early morning gloom. The fox was sitting against the wall, swiping the screen of her phone. “Yeah,” Pip breathed heavily. “Did you sleep at all?” “Nah. I sleep during the day.” Picking up his own phone off the bedside table, Pip checked the time. “I need to get going,” he said, standing up. “What, no morning quickie?” Faelan grinned. “Nope, I’m good. But can you turn on the light?” “Sure.” The light came on, and the fox watched Pip pull on his underpants. “Your pants are over there,” she said, pointing. “Merci,” Pip replied, grabbing them. “Hey, um, thank you for last night. If you ever need anything, call me, okay? I’ll do what I can to help you out.” “I’ll remember that,” Faelan smiled, watching Pip write on a piece of paper. “If you ever want another night together, you be sure to let me know too.” She collected her things as Pip pulled his shirt on. Taking the paper with Pip’s number on it, she tucked it into her purse. “Do you need a ride anywhere?” Pip asked. “Nope. The bus system is very efficient in the town.” The two stared at each other, both drawing this out. “We should probably get going,” Faelan said. “We should,” Pip sighed. Turning off the light, the two left the room, and went their own way, hoping against hope to see the other again someday. TRISTAN THARN Tristan sat at a bus stop, the hood of his grey sweatshirt drawn over his head to ward off the chilly December wind. A light scarf was wrapped around his neck, its red color clashing with his green eyes. In his hands, he held a small flat box covered in messy wrapping paper. He had a pair of headphones covering his ears, and he was trying to drown all cares out with the music that poured into his head. Without much success. Another dog sat beside him. His grey fur reminded Tristan of Kel, and Tristan almost winced upon seeing it. But unlike Kel, the dog had no hair, only fur. He wore a tight fitting black shirt, and loose blue jeans. His arms sat bare in the wind. A gust of wind blew Tristan’s hood back, and his hand shot out to return it back atop his head. He knocked his headphones off, and cursed. “That’s some good music,” the dog said, as Tristan picked his headphones back up. “Two Cellos, right?” “Yeah,” Tristan replied quietly, making sure his scarf hadn’t slipped. The bus pulled up, and Tristan leapt at the chance to escape any more questions. Taking a seat in the back, he saw the dog find a seat closer to the front. Turning his music up even louder to drown out the sounds of the bus, he zoned out. Having made this trip so often, he knew his body would rouse him at the right stop. And sure as the sun rises in the east, he stepped off the bus fifteen minutes later, following the dog. The park looked great today. Golden brown leaves blew across the ground, while enough remained on the trees that they weren’t denuded. A group of kids ran screaming and laughing past Tristan as he made his way to the metal pavilion. Cog set down the soda he’d been sipping and stepped up to Tristan, giving him a quick hug. “Hey! You two are the first here besides us,” he said, motioning to himself and Boom, who was getting up from his own seat. “Two?” Tristan echoed uncertainly, placing the box on a table, beside two other wrapped gifts. The grey dog walked up to Boom, and hugged him. “How’s it going Jake?” Cog called over to them. “It’s going,” the dog grinned. “Hey Tristan. Nice scarf,” Boom said, nodding at him. “T-thanks,” Tristan faltered. “There’s soda in those coolers over there if you want some,” Cog added. A blue dragon approached the group. “David! You made it!” Cog beamed at him. “I told you I would,” David smiled. “I am a dragon of my word.” “I think I see Abbie and Themis,” Boom said, walking off towards a couple of foxes. Tristan sighed as Kel approached from the other side of the park. Cog was caught up in conversation with both David and Jake, and didn’t notice. Kel walked up to the table next to Tristan, and placed a box on the table. “I need to talk to you Tristan,” he said quietly. “About what?” Tristan growled. “That night. Can we walk please?” “Fine.” The two made their way to a copse of trees. Tristan turned and glared at Kel. “Okay, talk.” “I’m sorry.” “Is that it? That’s all you have to say?” “I want to make it up to you.” Tristan looked at Kel coldly. “And how do you plan on doing that?” “Can I take you to dinner tomorrow night? I’ll pay.” Tristan let out a quiet growl. Free food. But he’d have to be civil with Kel. He didn’t know if he could do that. But free food… “Fine. I’ll be at your place at six.” “I could pick you up. It’s a bit of a walk-” “No. I know how long of a walk it is. I mean, I had to walk home with my ass bleeding in the middle of the night.” Tristan turned, and stormed away. Back at the pavillion, he noticed Faelan and Pip had joined the party. “Hi Tristan! You look great!” Faelan said. “Um… thanks,” Tristan replied. “Now that everyone's here, we can get started on the food. Pip, Boom, if you'd please,” Cog said brightly. “I'll cook hamburgers if you cook hot dogs,” Pip offered, as he and Boom moved toward the grill. “Deal.” Tristan sat next to Abbie, who was sitting at the edge of the group with a bored look on her face. “Not a fan of parties either?” he said. “I'd rather be reading,” the fox yawned. “I know the feeling,” Tristan sighed. “Does something seem off about David?” “I think I heard him tell Cog he broke up with his fiance.” Abbie nodded. “He does seem a little lost,” she said. The two sat in silence for a few minutes. “I saw you talking to Kel earlier. Are you going out with him?” Abbie asked suddenly. “What? No. He had his chance with me. He’s trying to make it up to me, but-” “Well, at least you’re giving him another chance.” “What about you? Anyone getting to you through those books?” “Just Mr. Darcy. And that’s really all I need. Relationships suck.” “Who?” Abbie sighed. “He’s a book character. Pride and Prejudice,” someone said behind Tristan. “Hey Themis,” Abbie smiled. “Hey yourself. Lunch is ready for anyone who wants it,” the fiery fox said. “Thanks,” Tristan replied, stepping past her. He made his way over to the grill, where Boom stood placing a hot dog on a plate for Kel. “Thanks,” Kel nodded slightly, before walking away. “Hey Tristan. What will it be? Hot dog or hamburger?” Boom asked. “Hamburger please,” Tristan requested. Boom slipped a patty between two buns, set it on a plate, and handed it over to Tristan. “Thank you,” Tristan said, moving towards an empty bench. A minute later, Jake sat on the bench across the table. “You’re rather quiet for a dog,” he said. “And you’re rather nosy,” Tristan observed, taking another bite of his burger. “What, am I supposed to howl every minute of the day?” “That’d be a good way to get the attention of the AWOO police.” “Ha ha,” Tristan said drily. “So what do you want?” “I’m just being friendly,” Jake shrugged. “It’s Christmas time. You know, the time for being merry, and happy?” “Pfft. We’re supposed to be happy one day of the year, then go back to being miserable for the rest of the year.” Faelan slid onto the bench beside Tristan. “Hey you two. What are you doing over here?” she asked. “I was trying to cheer this guy up,” Jake replied. “So far it isn’t working.” “Hmm… Challenge accepted,” Faelan grinned. “I am going to make you smile Tristan.” “Or, you know, you two could go sit with everyone else and not let me bring you down. Go be happy and stuff,” Tristan suggested. “Oh no, we’re doing this,” Jake denied. “Doing what?” David asked, sitting next to Jake. “Making Tristan laugh.” “Trying to,” Tristan corrected under his breath. “Count me in,” David laughed. “Yeah, there’s a cause I can get behind,” Kel said, joining the four. “What wouldn’t you get behind?” Tristan grumbled. “Girls?” Kel shrugged. “No offence,” he added to Faelan. “None taken. I wouldn’t want you behind me anyways,” Faelan said. Tristan snorted, and Kel shot him a disparaging look. “You could get behind me,” Jake suggested. “Nah. I’m tentatively taken,” Kel replied. “Really? By who?” Tristan asked. Kel sighed. “You’re not making this easy, are you?” “And why should I? Especially after the shit you pulled the last time.” “I apologized for that!” “What about you Faelan? Seeing anyone special?” Jake asked loudly. “Pip asked me out on a date last night. You?” “Look Tristan, is it really that difficult to imagine that I might have changed? That I’m no longer that selfish dog that took advantage of you?” “Prove it,” Tristan snapped. “I’m trying to but you won’t let me!” “Hey, is everything okay here?” Cog asked, approaching the table. “Everything’s fine,” Tristan growled, standing up. “Excuse me.” He stormed away, finding another empty table to sit at. Slipping his headphones over his ears, he turned on Two Steps from Hell, and forced himself to take some deep breaths, trying to lose himself in the complexity of the music. Two songs later, he felt a lot better. Opening his eyes, he saw David sitting across from him. “I’m sorry about all that,” he said quietly. “I’m here if you need to talk about anything,” David offered. “Thanks. I just… I don’t know how to forgive him for what he did to me,” Tristan sighed. “Kel? Why? What did he do?” “He made me feel like I meant something to someone. Then he ripped that away from me.” “That happens a lot actually. I mean, just look at me and Maya.” “Yeah. I’m sorry to hear about that, by the way.” “I’m dealing with it,” David shrugged. “But now he wants to actually be in a relationship with me, and I don’t know if I can trust him again.” “Second chances are a part of life. But so is knowing when enough is enough. But even if you don’t get back together with him, forgiveness is a necessity. Or you’d drive yourself insane with hatred.” “I don’t know if I can forgive him though.” “I’m going to get a little graphic here for a moment. I have been injured a lot in my life. People have shot me, stabbed me. But my body has always healed itself. Your heart will do the same. It may take years. You may be left with a scar on your heart. But it will heal.” “Thank you David,” Tristan said, standing back up. “You want to head back to the party now?” “Yeah. I don’t want Cog to get worried about us.” They made their way back and Cog approached David, as Tristan sought out Kel. “What do you want?” Kel asked roughly. “To apologise. I’m sorry for how I behaved today.” “It’s okay. I deserved it.” “Hey guys! We’re going to start opening gifts,” Cog called, walking towards them. “You’re going to join us, right?” “Yeah, give us a minute,” Kel said. Tristan watched Cog move back to the group. “You tried to apologise to me, and I blew you off,” he said quietly. “Hey, I’m over it. No harm done, right?” “I guess not.” Kel held his arms open, and after a moment’s thought, Tristan stepped into them for a hug. “We should get back over there before Cog has a fit,” Kel grinned. “Yeah. Let’s avoid that,” Tristan agreed. As they approached the group. Tristan saw Themis scoot closer to Abbie. “Hey Abbie! You know you’re sitting under mistletoe, right?” he called. Abbie blushed bright red, and Tristan caught Cog grinning widely. Themis turned, and kissed Abbie with a look of glee, and Abbie stared down at the floor. “Alright, who’s first?” Boom asked. “Well, since you asked, let’s start with you,” Cog said, handing Tristan’s present to Boom. The dog unwrapped it carefully, and smiled as he held up a black bandana. “Awesome! I’ve been needing a new one,” he grinned. “And it matches you too,” Pip added. Tristan smiled. The selection had been rather small, and he had been unhappy with the choice he had made, but the fact that Boom liked the bandana definitely made up for it. “Okay, you get to pick who’s next,” Cog said, nudging Boom. “How about Themis?” Boom stood up and found an envelope with Themis’ name written neatly across it. He handed it to the fox, and she followed his example, opening it slowly and carefully. Unfolding a sheet of paper from inside, she read the words on it quietly. “Thank you so much,” she said, brushing a tear from her eyes. She stood up, and walked to the table with the presents on it. Picking up a flat box, she handed it to Cog. “Thanks,” he said cheerfully, before tearing the wrapping paper off in one fluid motion. Opening the box inside, he lifted up a crocheted sweater, and laughed. “What’s so funny?” Boom asked. “I bone my dog…” “Huh. I wonder how they knew?” That sent Cog into another fit of laughter. Tristan caught Kel smirking, and snorted. Apparently the wolf had a crafting side to him. “Okay, Jake’s turn,” Cog said, sobering up. He picked up a long narrow box, and handed it to the dog. Jake took out a pocket knife and sliced through the wrapping paper to reveal a cardboard box. Cutting the tape off, he opened the top of the box, and peeked inside. “Oh my gosh!” Jake pulled out a six foot long walking stick. “This is amazing!” he exclaimed, running his hand down the staff. “Thank you!” Setting the stick aside, he picked up another gift, and handed it to Faelan. Faelan looked at the wrapping. “Hey Pip, can I borrow your knife please?” she asked. “Have at it.” Pip handed a small dagger to Faelan, and she carefully sawed through the tape covering the present. A minute later, she held up a pink hoodie. “Dang! This sparkles!” she chuckled. “It’s awesome!” She stood up, and made her way to the table. “Let’s do Kel next,” she decided, picking up a small package. Kel took the gift from her, and tore into the wrapping. “A collar?” He held it up and cocked his head, looking at Tristan. “It wasn’t me,” Tristan shrugged. “I’d have gotten you a… something different.” It looked nice though; a thick black leather band with steel studs in it. “I like it. I really do. It’s just kind of a strange gift.” Kel placed it on a table, and grabbed a gift at random. “Here you go Abbie,” he said, handing her the box. Abbie tore at the tape holding one side of the wrapping down. Peeling the paper back, she gasped. “The full series! It even has the Silmarillion!” she exclaimed, tearing the rest of the paper off. “Thank you so much!” She placed a boxed set of books on the bench beside her, and went to the table. “Okay, David next.” She handed the dragon a long narrow box, and sat back down, admiring her books. David ripped the wrapping off in long strips, and opened the box. He pulled out a black violin. “This is beautiful,” he said quietly, removing a bridge and a bow from the box as well. “Thank you.” He picked up a bulky box next, and carried it to Tristan. “Merry Christmas,” he whispered to the dog as he set the box beside him. “Thanks,” Tristan smiled, before ripping into the paper A plain cardboard box sat underneath the paper, and Tristan carefully opened the top end of it. Inside was a guitar case. “No way!” Tristan pulled it out of the box and set it flat on the table. Opening the case, he gazed in wonder at the guitar, a black instrument with an ivory fretboard and bridge. On the pick guard, in neat silver lettering, was his name. “This is amazing!” “You and David should start a band,” Kel suggested. “Yeah, Kel could be the drummer,” Jake laughed. Tristan stepped up to the git table, and picked up the last present, a flat book shaped one. “Here you go Pip,” he said to the rabbit. “Thank you,” Pip smiled. He peeled the paper back, and smiled. “A new journal! Thanks guys, my old one was getting full.” “And now for one last gift,” Boom said. He rose to his feet, and stood in front of Cog. “Cog, you are an amazing rabbit. You took me in when I was in need. You gave me a roof over my head, fed me, and helped me in every way you could. And whenever I could, I helped you as well. But now I ask you for one more favor.” Boom knelt on one knee, and held out a black box. “Cog, will you marry me?” Cog wiped a tear from his eyes. “Of course I will,” he breathed. Boom stood up, and embraced the rabbit, before slipping a ring onto his finger. They kissed as the group started clapping. Kel sat next to Tristan. “Hey, when we leave, I’d like to drive you home,” he said. “I’m not rea-” “I don’t mean to have sex or anything. I just want to save you a trip on the bus. Especially since you’re carrying that guitar.” “Thank you,” Tristan said gratefully. “When do you want to go?” “I was going to say goodbye to everyone now, then leave. If that’s okay with you,” Kel said. “Yeah, that’s perfect.” They stood up again, and made their way to the group that was surrounding Cog and Boom. “Hey, I’m going to head home. Congratulations you two,” he said. “Thanks! I hope you have a good Christmas,” Cog smiled, hugging Tristan. “Thank you. You too,” Tristan smiled. Boom gave him another hug, then Tristan slipped out of the crowd, and went to pick up his guitar. “Ready?” Kel asked, holding the collar. “Yeah. Let’s go.” DAVID ENTERAI David sits at a lonely corner of the bar, nursing an AMF. Not his drink of choice, but tonight is about getting drunk and forgetting the past. A tiger steps in front of him, swaying slightly. “Hey. You look like someone who’s good with swords. Wanna show me your skills?” he says with a lopsided grin. David smiles slightly as he stands. He’ll show the tiger some skills alright. Five minutes later, the tiger stares at the dragon in confusion. “You actually have a sword?” he says, dumbfounded. They both laugh at the absurdity of the moment, as David sheathes his father’s blade and places it back in the saddlebag of his Harley. “I’m David, by the way,” the dragon says, extending a paw. “Maximus, or Max to my friends,” the tiger smiles, shaking the offered hand.
  11. 1865 CLAIRE ENTERAI Claire settled into her seat, glancing at her husband. He had flown all this way just for her; a near nonstop flight from California to Washington D.C. just so she could visit her family. And though the visit hadn’t gone well, she still appreciated the lengths the dragon went to to make her happy. They sat in some theatre, watching a farce she had seen several times over. Not that she would mention that to him. Just watching it with David brought her joy, seeing how he reacted to Dundreary’s shenanigans. If he liked them so much, she’d show him shenanigans… The doe looked down, hiding her mischievous grin behind a facade of shyness. It wouldn’t do to let her lecherous thoughts be known in public. She lightly stroked the back of David’s hand, revelling in the closeness of him, the time they spent together. The dragon looked at her, a gleam in his eye. Had he heard her thoughts through his gramyre? A loud bang startled her, and a gasp escaped from her maw. Someone in the balcony across the theatre was slumped in his seat, a thin wisp of smoke rising around him. David was standing in front of her an instant later, wings outstretched, blocking her view. “Don’t look,” he urged as the theatre filled with screams. Someone yelled something, Latin from the sound, and David gritted his teeth. He took Claire’s hand and hurried her out of the theatre, keeping her gaze shielded. The doe’s heart pounded as she tried to keep up with him. She remained quiet, trusting him to see her to safety. Only when they were a block from the theatre did she voice her question. “What happened?” “I didn’t realize the President would be there,” David muttered. “Zi nelv du cen heyno.” “What happened?” Claire asked again. “Did someone get shot?” The dragon nodded. “Come on,” he said, hailing a carriage. “We’re going back to the hotel, then we’re heading home.” 1914 DAVID ENTERAI All was quiet around Ypres. The guns had fallen silent some hours prior, and the sound of singing could be heard from both trench lines. David stamped his feet, and flexed his wings. The bitter cold had plagued him all month, but he felt that he was starting to get used to it. Winter uniforms were nonexistant, and more than a few of his compatriots had frozen, to be buried with little ceremony. He supposed he was lucky to be alive. Or unlucky. Bending so his knee was an inch off the ground, he created a tiny flame on a dry piece of wood, letting the fire warm him, though briefly. “Sie kommen!” someone called down the trench. Peering over the parapet, David spotted movement in the fields of no man’s land. Screw it, if I get shot, I get shot. Hoisting himself out of the trench, the dragon winced at the brief contact with the ground. Standing, he shoved his hands into his shirt, and walked forward. His peers, emboldened by his actions, joined him, a jovial mood spreading through the ranks. A lion raised his hand in greeting. “Hallo Jerry! Frohe Weirnatchen!” he called. “Danke! Auch dir Frohe Wiernatchen!” David replied. Meeting, the two exchanged a handshake and a smile, the lion’s warm and friendly, David’s a ghostly attempt at warmth. Around them, the two sides mingled, a mix of German and English flowing through the frozen air. David slipped away as soon as he was able to, taking shelter in a crater. He had done what was needed, allowing the Christmas truce to flourish. Lighting another fire on a broken fence post, he began warming up. “Hey. Do you know English?” someone asked, jumping into the crater beside him. “Yes I do,” David said, looking at his new companion. The white wolf stared back at him. “You’re American,” he said. “What are you doing with Fritz?” “It’s a long story.” “We aren’t going anywhere,” the wolf said, looking up at the mid morning sky. David shrugged. “My cousin is German,” he said, omitting the fact that his cousin had perished in the Mexican American war over seventy years before. “I’ve been travelling the world, and decided to stop by for a visit. The war kicked off while I was in Germany, and I decided to join before it ended. I wasn’t expecting it to last this long.” That was a lie. David expected this conflict to last for quite some time. He hadn’t expected to still be alive however. Bad luck. “And they just let a foreigner join their ranks?” David laughed drily. “Hardly. I’m a mercenary. It’s kind of the family business.” “Ah. I see.” Both were quiet for a moment, warming themselves with the fire. “You seem like a decent fellow,” the wolf spoke up. “Do you have a girl waiting for you somewhere?” “I had. My wife died a while back.” “Oh. I’m sorry to hear that mate.” A stiff breeze blew out the flames, and David sighed. “You know, I’m sure she would have wanted you to continue living.” The dragon kicked at a spent casing. “I know,” he muttered. “What about you? Got anyone waiting back home?” “Nope. I’m as free as a bird. I’ll find someone eventually though. You hang in there mate. We’ll get out of this together. Merry Christmas.” The wolf jumped out of the crater, leaving the dragon behind. David pulled a silver locket out of his shirt, and studied it. “Life is temporary, but love is forever.” Holding it tightly in his hand, David whispered, “Merry Christmas mei areula.” 1916 DAVID ENTERAI Summer was his favourite season. So David reflected as he crawled into no man’s land. No rain for days, and no mud. It could very well change for the worse, but he didn’t see why it should. Except to make his existence terrible, but then, it already was. The weather didn’t need to help with that. Sliding over the bloated corpse of a horse, he scanned the dark skies around him for any hint of the sun. Finding none, he continued his work, heading deeper into the land that could very well become his own grave. He descended into a crater, and made himself at home, setting up a blind and covering his gun so it was nigh invisible. Casting his mind before him, he checked his camouflage. It was good. And now the wait began. He came early in the morning so no one would see his work, but now he would be trapped until night fell. David had been working this line for well over a year. He knew a general schedule of the British lines, though most of the men in the enemy trench seemed to be a Canadian corps lately. They liked to switch things up on him occasionally, but David enjoyed the challenge. It was about the only fun he had. Word had come that the Brits were plotting something to the south. It didn’t concern David. He would be in Ypres for the foreseeable future. Maybe he would even be part of the force that finally captured the town. But for now, he waited. Judging the sun’s rise, he figured it was about six in the morning. The enemy stand to had passed. Now foraging parties would begin darting place to place on both sides, praying to evade himself and the other snipers. They, too, did not concern him today. He was after a far more dangerous game. A crack sounded in the still morning air, and he spotted a muzzle flash to the north. Turning his rifle to bear, he cast his mind out again, floating above the ground until he found his target, a white wolf. David hesitated, recalling another wolf, and a frozen Christmas two years prior. He sent his mind’s eye about finding the perfect spot, though he had found it almost instantly. Sighing, David withdrew, and lined up his target. Taking a breath, he steadied his iron sight, and squeezed the trigger. The bark of his rifle sounded, and he ducked instantly. His target was hit, he was sure of it. But now he had to watch for return fire. David lay back in his crater, steadying his breath. No matter how many times he took a life, it still screwed with his mind. The sudden whistle of shells overhead took his mind off the death, however. They were unusual. The two sides often shelled each other throughout the day, but these shells were heavier than normal. David’s blood froze as he spotted a green flare rising into the air. His position was about to be swarmed by a wave of bodies. Peeking over the crater’s edge, he saw a mass of bodies leave the enemy trenchline. Ducking back down, he took a deep breath. He would get through this. As the screams of charging men met the sounds of German fire, the dragon splayed his wings, adopting a prone position in his hole. The wave reached him, feet tripping over him. A cat fell with a gurgle on his left wing, and David bit back a yelp as he felt bone crack. Pain rushed into his shoulder, but he didn’t dare even mouth a healing spell. In a way, the cat had helped, adding his blood to the scene. Now they were just two more dead amidst hundreds of others. Their eyes met, and the cat gasped, “Help…” David stayed motionless as blood pulsed from the feline. He watched the life drain from his eyes, feeling sick. Mere minutes later, and another wave came, this time from behind as the attackers fled back to their trench in defeat. Bullets whizzed overhead, a rain of death. He didn’t dare to lift his head, for fear of being shot by his own. Gradually the world passed back into quiet, and then David moved. He rolled the corpse off his wing, whimpering as the weight shifted. Panting as he sat gingerly against the back of the hole, he glared at the cat. “A fine pickle you’ve put me in here,” he said sourly, running his hand over his wing. It was broken in two spots. A quick spell wouldn’t fix this. “Nelheda,” David whispered, and the pain in his shoulder lessened, though it didn't go away completely. It was much more bearable now though, and David set about trying to figure out a new plan. He couldn’t leave the hole he was in; he’d become an instant target for both sides in the nervous pause. As the minutes passed and the world remained quiet, save for the cries of the dying, David relaxed slightly. Minutes became an hour, and then two. The sun reached its zenith, cheerful light shining upon the bloody carnage of the earth. A cloud hid it from view briefly, and David waited. He had played this game many times before, and knew how it went. This time though, he was injured, and the pain distracted him constantly. Snipers fired around him, but he no longer joined their exchange, having lost the lust for killing, the drive to be better. Finally the sun neared the horizon once more, and now David made his move. He would not be returning to this crater again. Sliding out of the tomb, the dragon crawled back along the ground, ever alert for a shot that could spell his death. He was early today, but it couldn’t be helped. He needed to have his wing checked. “Wer geht dahin?” someone challenged, as he approached the line. “Der Scharfschutze,” came David’s pained reply. He was allowed entrance to the trench, and immediately made his way to the support line in search of a doctor. He would not be back in the field for a while. 1924 DAVID ENTERAI David knocked back another whiskey. It was some expensive stuff, but then, things had started rising in price lately. It was a sign of the times, and why he had left Germany after the war. He had purchased a modest home in the German countryside before leaving, but with the German economy in shambles at the moment, David was not going to remain. Not that America seemed any better lately. This Prohibition of theirs was really hurting him. Too many memories haunted him, and without alcohol to dull his mind, he was even more miserable than before. And so he had found his way here, to an underground speakeasy, where youth spouted poetry and the drinks flowed without end. David turned the glass in his hand. There had to be a better way… A month later, the dragon stood before a brown concoction in his house. He was certain the stuff wouldn’t hurt him, but he still wanted to see if it would work the way he needed it to. Taking a deep breath, David raised the flask to his lips and drank. The taste was horrible, like moldy shoes mixed with rat droppings. But he could feel it working, and a smile lifted the corners of his mouth. There would be more tests, but he had finally found a way to be happy again. 1938 DAVID ENTERAI So many graves... David knelt in the grass, bowing his head before a cross grave marker. He had put the body here. And now he prepared to do it again. "Please forgive me, wherever you are," he murmured. Rising, the dragon slung his rifle over his shoulder, and let his wings carry him into the air. The sound of a propeller engine entered his ears, and the dragon muttered a spell, distorting the air around him. He was used to the tin cans sharing his space now, and viewed them as little more than an annoyance. Checking his chronometer, David sped up, body slicing through the air. He'd make it to his destination in time. But he still needed time to prepare. Landing on a grassy knoll, the dragon studied a camp surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers. Hos target should be coming out through a certain door in two minutes. Pulling his rifle off his shoulder, the dragon loaded it with the speed of an expert. He tested the lever action, confidant it would work, before adopting a prone position. Then he waited. And there he was. Herr Goether, the commander of the guards in this prison. The dragon wasted no time in lining up his shot, aiming for a point a dozen meters in front of the hyena guard. Steadying his breath, the dragon pulled the trigger of his rifle, listening to the comforting bark of the weapon. It would take the bullet ten seconds to reach its target, and another minute for the guards to reach his position. By that time, Goether would be dead, and David long gone. 1995 DAVID ENTERAI David walked through the oaks, his feet straying from the paths walked by the public. He should be out with the gang, he knew. But there was something he needed to do. The past five years had been fun, but honestly, hanging with Silas and the others no longer appealed to him. He traced a path he knew by heart, a path made by his heart. And surrounded by four willows amid the mighty oaks, he found his destination. It was a marker only his eyes could see, one older than any other in this town. Kneeling before it, he removed a bouquet of roses from his leather jacket, and placed it on the dirt. His head bowed in silent contemplation for a minute. “One hundred years. It is quite the milestone. Do you remember the words you spoke? Do you remember the promise you made? I do. I think about it every day I am here and you are not. I am glad for you, mei areula, that your heart will never know the pain of mine. You are free from the chains of this world, and I have been through so much that taking my life now would seem like the ultimate failure. But you shouldn't have to listen to all that.” David fell silent again, rolling into a lotus. A fallen twig poked into his thigh, but he paid it no mind. “A lot has happened since I last spoke to you. You wouldn't believe the half of it. Everything is so different now, from our quiet home in the woods. The town is growing. The Rabbits had a baby, Cog. He's adorable. You would love him. I've offered to babysit for them, but I don't think they'll take me up on it. I feel people would rather I was the quiet presence in the town.” The dragon chuckled dryly. “I'm sure I'm the one to blame for that. I haven't exactly been the most outgoing person in the past fifty years. Most of that is because of Zenoan. He moved into a cave on the outskirts of the town, and I keep offering to help him find a house, but I think he's still pissed at me over the sword. It makes me a little nervous. With the grimoire, he is a stronger mage than I can hope to be. But he hasn't tried anything yet.” David looked up at the setting sun. “I need to leave. They're closing the gates in a few minutes and I'd rather not hold anyone up.” He placed his hand briefly on the dirt, and a ghostly marker appeared, tendrils of energy spreading out from it. “You'll be safe for another century now. With luck I will join you in your rest.” The dragon turned away, but the marker remained for another minute, smoke forming words that twisted in the air. Claire Enterai 3 January 1823 5 May 1895 Rest In Peace
  12. Cata the Meek

    Furville

    A dragon struggling with his past. A dog learning to love again. A fox finding her true self. All have a story within them, and it is my job to discover those tales.
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