The Blacklands Series I: Dragon's Oath
Despite his attempts to sleep, Taos was well aware of the humans outside his cave and the fact that they'd brought a sacrifice to appease him, but he wasn't worried. He was a large, healthy young male dragon and they posed no threat to him-at least he hadn't thought so until he discovered the damned fools had bound him to the human female. He didn't want to get married at all! He certainly didn't want to be wed to a human female!
Word Count: 44,220
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by , August 2009
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
Fighting the urge to burst into tears, Isra stared at the beasts Taos had led up to where she waited. “Oh Taos!” she exclaimed in dismay. “Merciful Mea! That is what you bought with your coin? You got a cow? Where is the other horse? You were going to get two.”
Taos studied her face in confusion and turned to look at his prizes again, feeling anger slowly work its way through him.
“Of course I got a cow!” he said testily. “What else are we to eat?”
“But … I thought that you would get a loaf of bread and mayhap some cheese! We can’t eat the cow without slaughtering it first. We don’t have any way to do that. And you didn’t even get riding tack!”
Taos didn’t have a clue of what tack was, but he sure as hell wasn’t admitting he didn’t. “You did not say bread and cheese, gods damn it! You said food! And I did not get tack because I did not see any I cared for!”
“Mr. Hawkins sold you that old broken down nag, didn’t he? You have to take it back. Tell him you’ve changed your mind and you want the money back!”
“I will not!” Taos growled. “You are the one who is not satisfied. If this doesn’t please you, by damn, take it back yourself! My legs hurt, damn it. I don’t feel like walking back!”
“You know I can’t!” Isra said, anger finally ousting the urge to cry. “They think you ate me! I don’t know how we’re to get to Tuatha Dunann with one old, broken down nag and a damned cow … and no tack! That horse is too old and feeble to carry us both!”
Taos was angry enough by that time, he decided he didn’t want to discuss it any further. Clearly, in her opinion, he hadn’t done nearly as well as he’d thought he had, but he couldn’t see what the hell she was complaining about. They had the damned horse! They even had food, and he was willing to bet that it would last them far longer than one cow usually kept him since he was not nearly as big as a human as he was as a dragon.
Isra stared at him unhappily as her anger dissipated, realizing that she’d placed far too much faith in Taos’ ability to handle the task. If she’d doubted before that what he’d said about himself was true, she no longer had any doubts. He wasn’t an idiot. He was clearly very intelligent and the only explanation she could find for the fact that he clearly had no idea what was wrong with his purchases was that he simply wasn’t used to being human. She still felt like weeping. She’d been so hopeful he would come back with food and blankets.
It was completely out of the question for her to even attempt to return the horse and cow, though. Most of the villagers at least knew her on sight.
“I suppose we’ll have to make do,” she said finally, still unhappy about it. It occurred to her, though, that it shouldn’t take much above a week, maybe not even that much, to reach Tuatha Dunann. Once they were there, she could take a coin and buy them what they needed. In the meanwhile, they had the cow, so they would at least have milk … if she could convince Taos not to eat the damned cow. She could forage for roots and berries and mayhap Taos could actually capture a few hares. If not, she would take the time to set a few snares herself and see if she could catch one.
Taos, not surprisingly, decided to ride the horse. He let her know in no uncertain terms that he didn’t think the cow was a dignified ride for a man. Bossy wasn’t actually crazy about allowing her to ride, but she was almost as old as the horse and not able to put up much of a fuss when Isra climbed onto her back.
The horse and the cow seemed determined to out do one another to see which of the beasts could move the slowest. The bright side to their plodding gate was that Isra climbed down once as they were traveling along the narrow road that led to Tuatha Dunann and managed to collect some berries and catch up to Taos and the plodding beasts again without much trouble at all.
It was dismaying that they didn’t even make it to the river before the sun set, but they had the cow. When they’d found a place to make camp, Isra scratched around in the dirt until she found a couple of pieces of flint and then gathered up the makings of a fire.
Taos, having tied up the cow and the horse, settled to watch her curiously as she crouched beside the kindling she’d gathered and began striking the rock together until she managed to strike a spark hot enough to set the dried grasses she’d gathered to smoldering. Nursing the tiny fire by blowing on it and adding tiny bits of grass until a flame leapt to life, she carefully arranged the sticks she’d gathered over it and went off to see what she could find to eat while she still had enough light to have some hope of it.
Although he’d been at pains to hide it, Taos was so impressed when Isra managed make fire with nothing but sticks and rocks, he barely noticed when she disappeared into the woods. He stared at it, mesmerized by the way the flames licked at the sticks and then consumed them.
He had thought she was pretty, but it had certainly not occurred to him that she might also be useful! This was impressive indeed! The wench could make fire and she was not even a dragon!
Getting up when he discovered that she had disappeared into the woods, he gathered more branches and laid them as carefully over the flames as she had. He was pleased with himself with the blaze he’d built by the time she returned and not terribly happy about the dismay clearly written on her face when she saw his efforts.
“There is something wrong with the fire?” he demanded, unable to keep an edge from his voice.
She glanced at him sharply. “No! It’s just … well, we’ll certainly be warm tonight, won’t we? I found berries. They’re a little sour, but it’s better than nothing.”
“If they are as nasty as the berries you found earlier, I believe I will have nothing.”
She glared at him. “Fine! Suit yourself!”
He studied her resentfully as she settled to popping the berries in her mouth. “I did bring a cow,” he said pointedly.