“Tal’on could not stay away from Delevy,” Mul’drak said. He mantled his wings up over his head stretching them almost to the ceiling of the cave dome. He gave a big yawn, his large pink tongue rolling out its full length. The old dragon smiled wearily and shook his hand. “The young dragon’s bond was too strong. Over the next two years he ‘jumped’ to Delevy’s village often. The town grew to know him and though they did not understand his speech, they grew to enjoy the presence of the young dragon.”
“Delevy found she had extended family still living in the village,” Rudd’ard explained. “They and Tal’on helped her build a small home. They built a pole-barn nearby and Tal’on slept there, with Delevy at his side, on his visits during bad weather. But the Valdare’s world was changing. Even though their village was far away and they had kept to themselves, and hence out of the war between their people and the Sandcor, it eventually encroached on their world.”
“Without Tal’on’s help, the Valdare were once again even in their fighting strength against the Sandcor. The Prime sent his men out to recruit more men and women to fill the ranks of the ones killed by Tal’on and his kin.” Mul’drak said. “They made it as far as Delevy’s village, but Tal’on was there.”
I leaned in closer. By now, I was totally caught up in Tal’on and Delevy’s lives.
“Tal’on didn’t think he let any of the recruiting team leave alive, but later, much later, we all found out one of them did escape,” Rudd’ard picked up the story. “He went back and told the Prime that Tal’on and Delevy were in the village. The Prime ordered his teams to stand-down and leave the villagers alone. He had a plan. It was not something he wished to put in play just yet.”
“Tal’on was seen as a hero by the villagers. None of them wished to join in the war,” Mul’drak explained. “So time passed and Tal’on continued to visit until the fourth year of his freedom when he came back to the village to find that Delevy had fallen in love with one of her own kind.”
“Oh, no,” I breathed.
“She was not bonded to Tal’on, as he was to her,” Arr volunteered with a sigh.
My Henu friend knew what it felt like to be so closely bonded. His friendship with Jake was very similar to what the dragons were talking about, though not sexual. Arr never thought of being separated from his partner-mentor-friend-brother-father, figure. I had seen it more than once in his blue cat eyes. The sun rose and set for him over Jake’s shoulder. He would never think of leaving his partner. He always looked to him for approval and guidance.
“No, she was not,” Rudd’ard added his sigh to Arr’s. “The human heart is open to many ways of loving. She loved Tal’on, but she longed for the closeness of one of her own kind.”
Delevy ran from the house to meet Tal’on when he appeared in the yard upon ‘jumping’ in. She threw her arms around his broad chest. He placed his paw behind her back and pulled her in close to him. He loved it when she ran to him. He always felt so needed... desired. His heart rate rose and he felt warm and more content then he ever felt when away from her.
Delevy stepped back and smiled. “Tal’on, we have to talk,” she said, as she reached up and patted his shoulder. “Let’s go to your place.”
They walked side by side to the building he called home when he visited. He had never been in her home. The doors were too small. In fact, he towered over the house.
Delevy rolled the large doors of the pole-barn back to reveal the sweet smell of fresh hay. It was fall and the crops had just been brought in for the winter. The walls were lined with bales of hay clear to the ceiling and there was a generous amount of lose hay laying deep and inviting on the floor, just waiting for him to curl up on it with Delevy.
“Why don’t you lay down and we can talk.”
Tal’on cocked his wedged head her direction. She was being very mysterious. He wondered if there had been further trouble with the Valdare army. They had not appeared since he initially defended the village and its people. He could feel a touch of fear. No…on second thought, it was more like apprehension from her. He leaned down and nuzzled her neck.
“What’s wrong,” he asked.
“Sit,” she indicated, as she crawled up on a bench of baled hay.
He sat down on his haunches in front of her. He pricked his ears forward.
“I am all ears,” he indicated with a smile.
She smiled back, but it wasn’t a happy smile, more sad… almost resigned in nature.
“You remember Advinn?” she asked. “You met him last time you were here - the furrier from Gulmare?”
“Yes,” Tal’on answered.
He remembered the big man. He was very muscular from working with draft animals and had fiery red hair that he wore tied back in a leather thong at his neck. Tal’on remembered he was very friendly and laughed a lot. He was surprised to see Tal’on, but not afraid, more interested. He asked a lot of questions.
Delevy cleared her throat. “He has moved to the village,” she announced.
“That will be good for your people,” Tal’on said, “won’t it?”
“Of course,” Delevy agreed. “It is always good to have a man of his talents around.”
Silence hung between them. Something was wrong. Tal’on could smell it and almost feel it wafting off of Delevy.
“Is there something wrong?” Tal’on asked with a slight rumble to his voice. He didn’t like the feelings he was getting from his love. “Is he bothering you?” He squint his eyes at Delevy. What had Advinn done? Had he tried… Tal’on rose to his feet. “Has he hurt you?” he growled. “I will rip him to shreds!”
Delevy jumped to her feet on the bales of hay bringing her eye-to-eye with Tal’on.
“No… Not at all,” she cautioned. “He has been a gentleman in all ways.”
Talon exhaled and a small trickle of smoke escaped his left nostril. His fire had ignited quickly when he imagined Delevy threatened. He eased back down on his haunches before her. She sat back down on the bales, but then thought better of it and came to stand beside him, her hand on his neck, stroking lightly. He leaned into her touch.
“Tal’on? Advinn and I… we’re… we’re in love,” Delevy said softly.
Tal’on stiffened under her hand. His head swiveled around on his long neck in order for him to look at her.
He couldn’t really believe what he heard. He didn’t want to hear her say it again, but he needed to hear it.
“We’re going to be married,” she said.
Her hand stopped in mid-stroke as Tal’on stood up and moved away from her.
“You’re going to mate with him?” Tal’on snorted.
A thicker stream of smoke escaped his nostril this time. Delevy knew there was fire behind this one.
“The last thing I want to do is hurt you Tal’on, but we can never really be together and Advinn is a good man,” she stepped toward him with her hand out, offering a touch, a stroke.
Tal’on backed away toward the still open doors.
“Tal’on, please…” Delevy begged. Tears sprung to her eyes.
“I have to go,” Tal’on hissed. His red eyes filled with hurt and betrayal.
“Don’t,” Delevy pleaded.
She stepped forward to try and calm him. She needed to explain.
Tal’on disappeared from before her. Only the imprint of his paws on the deep straw remained.
I brushed a tear from my cheek. I could hear Arr purring quietly as my side. The young Henu often purred when he was upset. I reached over and threw an arm around his shoulder. He hugged up to me. Jake shook his head at us both. It wasn’t that he was not moved by the story. He was just too butch to let on. He reached over and patted my knee.
“What happened after that,” I asked our hosts.
“Tal’on’s bond would not let him stay away as much as he would have liked to,” Rudd’ard explained. “He was drawn to Delevy even though she married Advinn and over the years had four children with him, three boys and a girl. Tal’on had to find a way to be satisfied with her love being divided between him, Advinn and the children. In time they all became one family. Tal’on, Delevy and Advinn found a balance. Tal’on and Delevy explained to her new husband what happened in stasis and Advinn was a very understanding human who wanted to see his wife happy. He even wanted to see Tal’on happy. Perhaps it was his knowledge of both the human and animals in his world which gave him a gentle and open heart.
“The children helped too. They relieved a bit of the bonding influence on Tal’on, for even though they were not his hatchlings, he was given free reign with them and helped in their raising. When they got old enough he took them all on flights. They were the first of their people to learn to ride dragon-back. They were the envy of all their village friends.”
Rudd’ard reached over and stroked Mul’drak’s neck affectionately.
“And the years passed. Delevy and Advinn grew older. The children grew and found mates of their own. Tal’on saw Delevy’s children’s, children born and grow to adulthood. But, humans live very short lives compare to our kin. One day Delevy was there, old and wrinkled, but still with her soft strokes of affection, and the next time Tal’on visited she was gone. She had a heart attack and died in Advinn’s arms. She had already been dead two turns when Tal’on arrived.”
“He didn’t get to say good bye?” I asked.
“No, but he told me he knew she was loved by him. He was happy she was with ones who loved her when she did leave,” Mul’drak added.
“What happened to the Sollen when she died?” Arr asked, as he looked at it in his lap.
“Advinn and the children had all been told what it was and the significance of it,” Mul’drak explained. “Advinn offered it back to Tal’on. But, Tal’on refused it. On his flights with the children when they were young and then with Delevy’s grandchildren he saw the Valdare presence growing stronger and closer to the small village. He observed their first forays into space - their first efforts to aim satellites at their enemies the Sandcor. He even ripped some of the weapons out of the sky.
“A part of Tal’on would always be in that village…with those people. He told Advinn to keep the Sollen and use it if he ever needed it.”
“The Sollen passed from hand to hand over many generations of Delevy’s family,” Rudd’ard said, “until one day long after Tal’on passed on to his place in our history. That day the Sollen sang once again, calling us to Valdare.”