“To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.” ― Federico García Lorca, Blood Wedding, and Yerma
Courtship of Dragons
Temür made his way down the alley. He walked across the uneven pavement with a natural stealth moving like a tiger on its way to the killing fields. Eyes set under a thick brow shifted from side to side assessing the shadows and blind corners.
A Tomcat with torn ears and a scarred face stared at the approaching figure. The scent of a Dragon alarmed the Tom. He backed into the shadow of the door stoop. The cat thought only of survival and ran for it.
Satisfied no assailants or spies lurked about, the Dragon quickened his pace. A hand like stone clutched a shopping bag as it swung by Temür’s side. A hummed melody echoed off the buildings and mixed in the pungent air. The Dragon seemed oblivious to the smell of cooking grease and fetid water running in the gutter. The corners of the Warrior’s mouth curled up into a grin when he saw the gate to his destination.
* * *
Faith ran to the door to open it and froze when she looked up at the huge man standing in the shadows. The tremors started again. The Dragon Male knelt down, and his face emerged into the light with a smile and obscured eyes.
“Good evening Little Sparrow.
Faith stared back wide-eyed and mute. She remembered the guard from the tournament and Master Chingis’ house. She also remembered he never smiled and yet here he was, smiling at her now.
“May I come in?
Faith ran to the back of the house leaving Temür at the open door. He remained on the other side of the threshold.
“Mother, The Master’s guard is here.” Faith called out, breathless.
Rose looked up from combing Jasmine’s hair, dropped the brush, and rushed to the door. She found Temür standing outside and invited him in. He bowed and thanked Rose, removed his shoes and stepped into the house. He looked around first then handed Rose a box from the bag.
“Here is some mutton and milk for you and the girls.”
Rose took the box and noticed the large fingers with clean fingernails.
“Thank you, Sir. Please sit here and I’ll make some tea.”
“Sir?” Rose asked as their eyes met. She felt dizzy and looked down.
“Please call me, Temür.”
“Oh, yessir. Please sit. I’ll be right back.” The flustered courtesan looked at the deep-set eyes, broad face, and thick neck of her suitor. She began noticing his muscular chest, arms, and the well-shaped hands of a man accustom to hard work. Rose was pleased he had taken the time to make himself presentable. She also liked his shiny hair cut short like a soldier’s. It emphasized his fierce appearance she found attractive.
Rose became aware they were staring at each other. She blinked and turned to go to the kitchen as the Dragon Male eased down on the floor next to the table.
“Where are the girls?” Temür asked as he unloaded the bag on the table.
“They are in the bedroom out of the way. Khulan is working and will return soon. Should I bring Jasmine and Faith out for you to see?”
“Yes, please. I have something for the girls.”
Rose came out of the kitchen and looked at the Master’s guard wondering what he brought. She stopped to take in his traditional Deel topshirt and pants. They were good quality and didn’t hide the best features of his body. His ruggedness made her heart race when she looked at him. His legs were three times the size of the men that often paid her a visit. The others never brought food for her and the girls, only demands, and expectations.
The Dragon Male looked up at Rose and smiled. Gone were the icy stares that greeted her at the Master’s house. She went to the bedroom to fetch her daughters and wondered what she should do for the man the Master sent to her.
“Jasmine, you and Faith introduce yourself to Mr. Temür. Later, we can play the Yatug-a for him.” The girls loved plucking out songs on the 20-string instrument. They were good at playing and singing for visitors.
Faith and Jasmine went into the main room, bowed to the seated Dragon, and waited with hands clasped in front of them in a show of respect. The gruff voice that greeted them scared Faith. She had the uncanny sensation the huge Dragon male would eat her alive.
The Dragon’s eyes locked on the young girl easing to Jasmine’s side and clutching at her sister. He held up a two-liter bottle of Sea-Buckthorn juice made in Faith’s old city of Ulan Baatar. It was Faith and Jasmine’s favorite. The smell was not appetizing, but the taste was delicious.
“Sit here, sister. I’ll be right back.” Jasmine escorted Faith to the table. She then went to the kitchen and retrieved drinking cups for everyone. Jasmine and Rose watched Faith from the kitchen.
“Little Sparrow has changed so much from the treatments. I worry about her. She shakes all the time,” Jasmine said in a whisper.
Rose put her arm around Jasmine’s shoulder. “Go stay with her so she won’t be afraid.”
Jasmine took the cups and set one for Temür. She took the juice and filled his cup. Next, she poured Faith a cup.
Faith smiled, took a sip, and rolled her eyes as she licked her lips and set the cup down. “Ummm. Thank you, Mr. Temür.”
The Dragon’s face lost its stony facade and softened to Little Sparrow’s delight. Temür took the juice to pour Faith another cup. He asked Faith to sit next to him. With a nudge from Jasmine, she sat by the huge male and held up her cup, which the Dragon refilled.
“Tell me, Little Sparrow, can you ride a pony?” Temür asked.
“I’ve never ridden a pony. My Dragon tells me to eat it if I catch it.”
Temür looked into the large brown eyes looking at him with an honest intent to eat the next pony in sight. The Dragon laughed with a deep roar. Faith laughed too but didn’t appear sure what was so funny.
The Master’s guard flared his nostrils and looked at the door. He smelled the missing sister. The door swung open, and Khulan peeked around the edge of the door. She froze when she spied the Dragon with Faith tucked under his arm.
“Come Khulan, join us as we discuss your little sister’s appetite and unquenchable thirst.” Temür joked as Faith held up her empty cup. The Dragon watched Khulan ease into the room and bow to show her respect. Temür’s eyes drilled into Khulan. He had the look of a tiger the moment it decided to strike. He had plans for the oldest daughter. Everything hinged on her.
Rose and Jasmine entered the room and set out the food. The smell of the mutton drew them all together at the table. Rose sat next to the Dragon so she could serve him. Khulan attended to her sisters. It was custom for the man of the house to eat alone or with other adult males. The women and children ate in the kitchen or separate room.
On this occasion, they sat together drawn by the mysterious need to be next to the Dragon Male. Their instincts began bonding them all into a bank of Dragons around their new male protector. The first family of the Dragon’s blood was sub-consciously knitting together. One male and four females; the same as in the animal kingdom, Like the lion and his pride of lionesses.
Khulan and Jasmine cleared the table after the meal and took Faith with them to give Rose and Temür privacy. Their hushed whispers and laughter drifted into the room where Rose and the Dragon gazed at each other.
Rose poured mare’s milk and vodka into a large bowl for Temür and sat at his side while he drank. Rose felt drugged from the scent of the Dragon and his penetrating eyes. She wanted him to accept her, but she held on to her dignity; satisfied to brush up against him to show her interest. A touch of fingers, a glance into the other’s eyes increased the dreamy sensations. Silk on cotton with hard muscle against soft skin caused the courtesan’s chest to rise and fall in quick breaths. Rose imagined herself in her wedding dress with Temür at her side.
Temür sensed Rose’s arousal but never allowed himself the indulgence she offered. Instead, he accepted her closeness but gave no sign of his emotions.
The girls came into the room and began to take turns playing traditional songs on the zither-like instrument. Faith surprised the Dragon with her angelic voice and winsome expression. Temür’s approval warmed Rose with pride and passion.
When the girls finished their entertainment, the Dragon put his hand on top of Rose’s to get her attention. He looked at her with a calm expression and spoke.
“We will move in three days. I need you to gather everyone’s belongings. Bring only what is essential. Nothing else will go with us. The Master provides everything we need.”
“Where will we go?” Rose asked.
“We will discuss that on the third day. Just do as I say.” Temür was done talking. He prepared to leave but stopped and turned at the door. He reached out and touched Rose’s chin to align her face with his. His other hand squeezed her shoulder.
“Thank you for one of the best evenings I’ve had in many years. The Dragon has made you strong and beautiful; but, you are no warrior nor are you a Sentinel’s woman. I don’t know why the Master has set our bonds together. His wish is that I train you and your daughters as warriors.”
Rose felt her head spin from the shock of Temür’s rejection and the Master’s expectations. She struggled to salvage some hope for her and her daughters. “I’m only a courtesan. It’s all I’ve ever known. I know nothing of the task the Master has assigned me. I can learn to be a good and obedient wife, and I can raise our children. Of that, I’m sure.” Rose’s voice faltered as the weight of her fate crushed her.
“Our life together will bring many tears and much pain for you and your daughters. We will succeed, or we will die. You must trust me and never disobey. If you cannot do that, you must take your life and the life of your daughters. It is my duty to train you and the girls, and I will show no mercy.”
Temür looked long and hard into Rose’s frightened eyes. He traced his fingers down her arm and squeezed her wrist. The roughness of his hand was the only affection he offered his future wife. The Dragon walked out into the darkness and left Rose frozen like a statue. Her eyes were dull and wet. Rose stared after the apparition that disappeared into the night and sobbed.
Khulan saw something was wrong and hushed the girls. She went to her Dragon Mother and tried to soothe her as tears fell to the floor like drops from a rain-soaked leaf.
Faith looked on as if she’d seen a ghost. She was deep in the Dragon’s grasp and her stepmother’s tears loosened her failing grip. The child disappeared into the recesses of her mind, and the Dragon roared to life in her ears.
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