Nia guides her horse around a twisted track in the mountains. Each step takes her farther from familiar territory and deeper into the lands of the dragons. It is a dangerous journey, but necessary. Coming around another turn, a valley suddenly opens up before her. The valley floor is a canvas of wild flowers, swathes of bright colors that delight the eye. The scent reaches even to the hills that formed the valley’s walls.
But Nia sees none of this. A glint of red in the air blinds her to the beauty spread before her. A dragon dancing through the air at the far end of the valley. The power and beauty bring tears to her eyes, and she releases a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. The last time she saw him, he had been barely able to walk, his scales tinged gray and edging towards black. She had been warned he would never fully recover, had dreaded what she would find. Now…
She allows the tears to spill freely as her horse picks his way down the rocky slope. Without warning, the dance ends. The dragon collapses, plummeting to the ground. A scream fills her throat as she pushes her horse as fast as she dares on the rocky slope.
The falling shape disappears behind a slight fold in the ground, followed immediately by a loud splash. She heaves a great sigh of relief, but doesn’t slow her horse. As she reaches the valley floor, the dragon reappears, climbing up the far side of the valley to a rocky ledge.
On a rise at the far end of the valley, Long is pleasantly exhausted. He had pushed himself that morning, flying high and far. The dive into the hidden lake had taken the last of his strength. Pleased with his recovery, he curls up on a ledge to rest. Just as his head touches the ground, he feels the quiver of approaching hoof beats. He stands, torn between hope and annoyance, and turns towards the sound.
Walking down the valley takes longer than flying, but he has already pushed himself too far today. His patience is hard pressed when he sees the figure riding towards him. He resists the urge to run, holding to a steady walk as she urges her horse to a canter.
When Long finally reaches her, he changes form, shrinking down to a human seeming, with coarse red hair and golden eyes. He goes to one knee and grins up at her.
Nia slides off her horse and grabs Long’s hands, pulling him up into an embrace. “Demons, I’ve missed you!”
He returns the hug and allows himself to rest his head on her shoulder. “Same. I’m sorry I wasn’t waiting for you. I must have lost track of time.”
“Not your fault. I’m early.”
They remain holding each other for long minutes. Finally, Nia steps back and looks Long over. His frame is gaunt, like a bear after long hibernation. New lines etch his face, and there is a weariness to him that is not masked by his joy at her arrival. “Let’s gather your things and hit the trail,” she says, hiding her worry, “There’s several hours of daylight yet, and I passed a good camping spot on my way in.”
To her surprise, he looks away. “I…I can try, Ma’am. I’m afraid I over did it flying. And—I’m still sleeping large parts of the day.”
Nia is disappointed, but understands. Nia makes a camp at the mouth of the cave where Long had made his temporary home. She hides her displeasure as Long makes no effort to help her, instead lying down and taking a short nap. When the camp is set, she watches him sleep; then decides that since they have time, she’s going to take advantage of it. She pulls out a rope and stake from the tent she decided not to bother pitching. With Long still asleep, she binds his wrists together with the rope and uses the stake to pin his arms to the ground above his head.
Long wakes as she pulls open the laces of his breeches and frees his shaft to reach for the sky. He groans and whimpers as her hands caress him. “Please, Ma’am, let me taste you.” She ignores him, using her hands and mouth to bring him right to the edge.
He quivers beneath her and she grins,”Don’t you dare cum.” Then immediately takes him in her mouth again, swirling her tongue around his head and playing her fingers up his shaft. “Yes, Ma’am” he bites out.
A few moments later she releases him and kneels over his head. He whimpers and strains to keep still, craving her hands on him but wanting desperately to reach up and claim her with his mouth. She reaches down and uses her fingers to pleasure herself, letting him watch and hunger as she teases her clit and thrusts her fingers deep inside herself.
She comes, long and hard, and collapses on top of him. “Do you still want to taste me?” she whispers in his ear..
“Please, Ma’am.” She allows him to suck on her fingers, slick with her juices. When he finishes, she releases his hands and helps him sit up. They make dinner together, then curl up and fall asleep in each others arms. As Nia falls asleep, his shaft pokes at her stomach, and she wishes that she had dared to use him as fully as she would have before his injury.
The next day they set out, Long walking while Nia rides. At first he keeps up easily, but overtime his energy sags. By noon he can’t push himself anymore. Nia is annoyed that he didn’t say something sooner, and annoyed with herself for not recognizing his weakness. She insists that they make camp early. Long fights depression, angry with himself for failing in something so basic. He feels even worse the next day when Nia puts him up on the horse.
The following week is a difficult one for both of them. Nia ends up doing most of the work of camp, taking care of Long as well as herself. She is very cautious in the things she asks him to do—asks, not orders, a difference he feels very strongly. Even worse is when he needs to tell her he can’t do something.
He is unaccustomed to riding. In its own way it is as tiring as walking, but when he needs to he can fall asleep in the saddle—and does so more than once.
At the first village they come to, Nia purchases a mule. Unlike Nia’s horse, the new beast isn’t used to the scent of a dragon, and doesn’t take well to Long as a rider. For several days their speed is reduced even further as Long needs to fight the best each morning to mount and gain control. It takes nearly a week to settle the beast down. Long tries not to think about the state of their coin purse. They had little money to begin with, and the mule took almost all of it.
A month after leaving the dragon’s valley they have an establish routine. Long wakes early and puts a porridge on the fire for breakfast. After they eat, he rests while Nia packs up the camp, saddles the mounts and gets them ready for the day. They ride out, moving at a slow and easy pace. After traveling half the day, they stop. Long rests again while Nia writes in her journal or carves. If Long is able to, they travel for several more hours after supper, otherwise they make camp and settle in for the night.
Nia is constantly watchful. More than once Long has tried to continue and ended up collapsing in the saddle. She hands down strict rules about what he should and shouldn’t do and just how hard he should push himself. Not wanting to push him herself, she hasn’t brought him to her bed since their first night together.
Long sleeps fitfully. He knows he is lucky to be alive, lucky that Nia was willing to wait for him,but he feels too strongly all he has lost. He can’t help wondering is Nia would be better off without him. She won’t release him—he knows her better than that. But he sees what his illness costs her.
The next day they are passing through a village when a messenger arrives. Bandits raided the next town, and they need help. Nia and Long know they need to respond, but the town is a full day’s ride away.
“You–” Nia starts.
“I’l–” Long cuts himself off.
Once they would needed no words. A glance, a nod, and they’d be off. Now there is a moment of silence.
“Follow as you can,” Nia finally says, “I’ll ride ahead and deal with this. With luck I’ll have it wrapped up by the time you arrive.”
“You shouldn’t face them alone.”
“And what good will you do anyone if you fall on your face getting out of the saddle?”
“I–” There is nothing he can say to that. And the truth burns like dragons-bane.
He says nothing as she gathers her things to ride out.
Nia hates leaving him behind. She isn’t fond of the idea of facing the bandits without him at her side, and she hates knowing she hurt him. But it’s the only answer. There is no way he can keep up in human form and…her thoughts skitter to a halt. Outside of battle, he stays in his human form—an old promise, and old rule, from when she first bound him to her. So long ago neither of them even thought of it any more. She had made an exception for while he healed, but the moment she had collected him, he had taken human form and stayed .
They were fools, idiots.
She turns back and pushes her horse into a trot. He is just leading his mule up to the mounting block when she pulls the reins out of his hands. Rebellion flashes in his eyes. She places a hand against his cheek and smiles. “Fly.”
It amuses her, the way his jaw drops. “Ma’am…Nia….”
“Fly ahead. You’ll have time to rest before I arrive.”
Finally he nods. “If that is what you want me to do.”
His odd response disturbs her, but she needs to hurry. “Yes,” she says, and still leading the mule, pushes her horse into a fast trot out of town.
Long soars above the forest. Nia is right, even a full day’s ride is only a few hours flight. The flight will wear him out, but with time to rest at the end he will be able to fight. Not like riding the same distance. She is, he assures himself, just being practical. But he is used to being restricted to the smaller form, and it feels like a betrayal, to shed his human skin and take to the skies, tracking Nia from above like choice prey. He is supposed to be hers, to serve her and care for her.
Disgusted with his own melancholy, and sure Nia would have some choice words for him is she could hear his thoughts, he puts his attention on flying, and tries to forget his disquiet.
Nia finds Long resting at a bend in the road outside of town. Being able to trade off the horse and mule had allowed her to make better time than she expected. Even knowing what is waiting for them, she is tempted to let him rest longer, but his eyes pop open at her approach, and before she can say anything he leads the mule to a convenient stump to mount.
The bandits are easy to find, and as always break quickly when one of the adventurers hunting them turns out to be a red dragon—even a young one. When the battle is over, Long collapses, leaving Nia to clean up on her own. They will get the traditional adventurer’s 10% of the goods the bandits stole, which to her experienced eye looks to be about what they had spent on the mule. So, no great profit, but at least they will get their reserve back.
She and Long need to have a long talk. They’d avoided discussing the future, the way his illness was impacting their adventuring. They haven’t talked about the way they are being pulled apart, how uncomfortable they both are with the changes in their lives. She sits down next to him, and builds up the fire. ”I should have done that,” he murmurs.
“What else is a crippled dragon good for?” he tries to make it a joke, but the hurt and bitterness and self-pity seep through. He shakes himself. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t–”
She kisses him. “You shouldn’t, I shouldn’t. We’ve both been under a strain lately. You’ve been so worried about letting me down…”
“You’ve been terrified of pushing me too hard…”
“I think it’s time we remember a few things. Put your hands behind your head.” She pulls out several sets of thongs and ties his hands together. A few moments later she had his fully bound.
“That’s ‘Ma’am’ unless you just want me to gag you…”
He swallows. “Yes Ma’am”
Pleased, she unlaces his pants and rips open his shirt, leaving him fully exposed. Then she pulled a hood over his head before going to prepare a few things.
Long squirms against the ties, and shivers as the wind teases his exposed shaft, reminding him that he is in the open where anyone can see…assuming anyone would walk down this rarely-traveled lane that leads only to a bandit’s hideout. He is tired and already hurting from the long day, and the ties cut into muscles that spasm randomly in the chill. He bites back a moan, and tries to listen for the sound of Ma’am’s footsteps.
He smells it first, a sharp astringent smell makes him whimper in the darkness under the hood. He feels her hand, warm and greasy, caress his shaft , and each touch leaves behind a warmth that quickly grows into the burning sensation he both loves and hates. She reaches further between his legs, and he gasps as she smears a great glob of the liniment about his hole. A few moments later something presses against his hole, entering him, filling him and bringing that hot burning sensation inside of him.
He moans and thrashes in his bonds. She just laughs. After that becomes a blur, Pleasure and pain mixed in ways he will never be able to sort out, her own moans and cries filling his ears as she uses him for her own pleasure, her own fulfillment. Then she was cumming, bucking against him, and he screams as she grinds herself against his abused flesh. She bends down over him and bites him hard on the side of his neck, breaking the skin and drawing blood. Marking him once again as her own.
They both sleep that night, better than they have since his injury.