The Dragon's Arranged Mate(3)

By: Serena Rose

Any strength she had during those dark times was given to me, as I was the new King and rightful ruler of County Cork. None of us had imagined that I’d come into power at such a young age; my father had always been the most robust and vitally energetic man anyone had ever known. There were no inklings that he would leave us so soon.

It meant that I had to learn my way through rulership, and quickly. Trial by fire, I thought with a wry smile touching the corner of my mouth. Truer words were never spoken, for that’s exactly what it was. I had to learn how to rule as my father had; I wished, sometimes moment to moment, that I had paid more attention to him when he tried to teach me.

It’s not as if I hadn’t respected my father and his wisdom. It’s not as if I underestimated the work it took for him to rule as he did. I was simply young, cocksure and headstrong. I was busy stretching my wings, which had only grown to their full span the year prior. I was arrogant and headstrong, testing my limits, seeing how far I could go and whether I could perhaps push things even further. I was absorbed in my youth and my new power. I’d scrap and fight and challenge those around me to try to best me. I suppose I know where my own fiery nature came from.

And, suddenly, those days were over. I had to be King.

As I walked back out to the main hall from the antechamber with my mother, I reflected on the fact that I hadn’t done a poor job. County Cork was as prosperous as it had ever been. We’d known mostly peaceful times in the past 10 years; a few would-be usurpers had tried their hand at standing against me, but they had quickly been shot down. There would l always be people, it seems, who feel as though they can defeat a dragon. But they’re wrong.

I found in those early days, when my would-be rivals tried to stand against me and challenge the child they assumed sat on the throne, that I loved to fight. Certainly, I had been a scrapper against other animals when in my dragon form; I’d fought other dragons, along with the beasts of the forest. But when it came to going into battle with my men beside me, I realized how much I loved the feeling of my hot blood pumping through my veins, urging me on. This was a different kind of fire – one I enjoyed immensely.

It had been years, though, since the last challenger dared stand against me. I almost regretted this, in my more honest moments; things could be rather…dull…during peace times. A dragon needs a fight. They need a reason to burn.

Now, however, all thoughts of fighting were lost on me. The day I’d been destined for since before my birth had finally arrived: Anabelle was to be my wife.

Again, in moments of honesty I had to admit to myself that there were times during which the thought of marrying this virtual stranger did not appeal to me. There had been so many spirited, lively girls in my younger days. Saucy, pretty things who thrilled at the idea of lying with a dragon, even if he was only in his human form at the time. They’d heard legends of the virility of the dragons, handed down through the ages, and wanted to see for themselves if the legends were true. I imagine they had more than enough to share with their friends after our couplings, and that their whispered reports of the hours we spent together would do more than their fair share of perpetuating the legend.

I wondered at the time why I couldn’t take one of these beauties for a bride; aside from bedding them, which I did very well and which we both enjoyed very much, there was the fact that I enjoyed spending time with so many of them. They were witty and bawdy and had true, strong hearts. Would one of them not be suitable for joining their robust blood with the dragon and creating a strong line of heirs?

My father would smile indulgently when I asked him these questions. “Caside,” he said once, placing a hand on my shoulder, “I once had thoughts similar to yours. I, too, enjoyed my fair share of beauties from around County Cork and the lands beyond; as far as my wings could carry me, at times!” He threw his flame-red haired head back and laughed heartily. But then he grew serious. “If you are to rule, however,” he continued, “you must learn first and foremost to place the needs of your kingdom above your own…however, erm, urgent those needs may seem at times.” He winked at me, and I had to laugh.

“I remember before I met your Queen mother,” he reminisced, as we walked together through the lush gardens, which surrounded the castle. “We had been betrothed since childhood, just as you and Anabelle have. I hadn’t met her, and wondered at the kind of woman she would be. I dreaded the thought of marrying a weak-willed, frail little thing. So many fair ladies are trained to be endlessly deferential to their lord and master’s wishes,” he told me, then rolled his eyes. “I didn’t want any of that! I wanted fire, and passion, as well as beauty and fairness. I wanted a strong woman who could stand up to me and not be afraid to burn.” I had nodded my head vehemently at this; it felt as though my father was reading my heart.

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