Cut and Run, Ch. 11

Cut and Run Chapter 11

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I allow myself to relax and glide along about oh, a thousand feet above the rolling meadows near highway 120. I reckon that places me in the vicinity of a mile and a half above sea level; give or take a hundred feet.

It’s good to glide and just take things easy, every once in a while. Unfortunately, I don’t get much of a chance to do that of late.

What with Frazziss’ burgeoning pregnancy, the upcoming appointment with the Land-Claim surveyor, my failed attempts to mold-stone, and educating Pirin, I find myself getting close to being stressed out a lot anymore.

So, it feels good, damned good, to allow myself to chill and just be a Dragon in the air. It’s like poetry in motion, and the wind is the author.

The Wind, she’s like a lover. There, up in the sky I can feel the air caressing me all over with her ever-soft fingers. I embrace her with my wings and they billow out with her fullness.

When I sink into the moment of her embrace, I can almost comprehend the sweet nothings she whispers into my ears. 

But I’m no fool. I know that she’s capricious. She’s faithful to none and would just as soon surprise me with a burst of wind-shear, as stroke me with a breeze.

So I stay ever mindful of her trickery, and I savor the moments we are together. I can ignore Gold, and I can forget the Treasures that can distract any other Dragon. I yearn greater for the freedom that comes from watching the rolling granite waves that pass by below me as I soar.

Pink Floyd was right, flying is indeed a state of Bliss. For it is only when I’m doing it, that I truly understand what it means to be Dragon. 

I’m Free.

Free of the shackles that bind almost every other lifeform. Free of having to trudge step by step over hill and over dale. Free of my getting my foot claws worn down on trail-gravel. Free of getting my tail chilled in the cold snow-melt streams. Free of accidentally stomping in some bear poo.

So, I allow myself to be in that eternal moment of the immediate now. In my opinion, that’s the best way to meditate. I highly recommend it.

Looking lazily over to the south, I spy Half Dome’s vertical cliff. Even from this distance, I can see the human-like silhouette of a weeping woman on its exposed face. Despite my knowing it’s just pareidolia, I still get the occasional urge to do something for the woman there: Tis-sa-ack and her tears for her lost husband.  But, only the Gods could do something for her now, and they have other, loftier matters to deal with.

Instead, I just turn my head away and sigh, regretfully.

I’m gliding about 25 knots, North by Northwest, just giving my wings the occasional flap. Looking down, I can see numerous trees hiding small streambeds in the granitic fields down yonder. Occasionally, I see a herd of mule deer stotting through them. When I do, I have to resist my predatorial urge to go on the hunt.

No, not hunt them with a gun, or a bow and arrow. I don’t need those.
I don’t, because I’m a Dragon. I want to hunt them like the rest of my kind do: with my wings, my nose, and my claws. To surprise and then chase them, winnow out the sick or the injured, and when I deem the time to be right- I’d POUNCE! 

But I don’t go hunting, not today, not now. That’s because I realize that I’ve got something more important to think about instead.

With a chill up my tail, I Sense that I have become the hunted.

My relaxation vanishes in a flash, as I can instantly Sense my pursuer. She’s nearby, and bearing down on me rapidly.

My heart starts to beat a fast staccato in response. I forcefully ignore the thundering in my ears, and make myself relax and continue in my leisurely flight.

Because if I didn’t do that, my hunter would know that I was aware of her. Besides, I vowed that I would never again flee in cowardice.

‘Where is she?’ I ask myself.
Oh yeah, I know it’s a she all right.

Wait, there’s something, down off my 90. I just barely hear the hint of a leathery wing flap.

‘Target Locked!’ I smile to myself as I Sense her lust-thrill. She’s brimming over with such a fierce desire, that it made her incautious.

‘Gotcha!’ I think, as she continues to pace herself ever closer to me.

 ‘Almost there, keep coming…’ I think to myself as I pretend to not hear her approach. So, I keep gliding along nonchalantly.

‘Three hundred feet,’ I determine her nearness, by the increasing decibel level of her wings’ not-quite stealthy flapping,’…two hundred,…one hundred,…

Then,…

“BAM!” I yell aloud, as I flap my wings upwards to push myself into a cannonball dive.

I hear her scream out in frustration and thwarted desire. For an instant, just an instant, I feel her claws scraping along my hide seeking purchase, and finding none.

“Come back here!” she yells down at me, as she twists herself about to pursue.

“HA-HAH!” I sneer back behind me as I twirl rapidly away from her, down towards the distant rocky ground.

In that instant I look back up and I see her. The Love of my life: Frazziss. She’s got her purple hair tied back in a flight time ponytail, and her sleek smooth form is still as athletic as the day I met her 9 months ago. I can see her muscles flex as she twists about in infuriated dismay at my impudence. Just before my body twist takes the sight of her away from me, I can see her eyes flash red in irritation.

After that, I can hear her wings twist and flex so rapidly, they crack like a bullwhip above me.

Then the chase is on.

I turn into my dive and pull my wings to my back. I then lengthen out my form into a ramrod straight line, so as to minimize my wind resistance. I can hear her hiss in frustration as I rapidly lengthen the distance between us.

Five hundred feet below me and rapidly approaching, is one of the deer filled meadows. I hear her flapping furiously behind me, in an attempt to catch up.

She’s doing it, albeit slowly.

‘Ah, there we go!’ I think, as I feel her hunting instincts kick in full bore. She is no longer a thinking individual, now she’s running on instinct. She is fully the predator, and I the prey.

I’m four hundred feet above the meadow, now. She’s still trailing above me, but she’s working on rapidly narrowing the gap.

Three hundred. For some reason, I remember a time I played Chicken with a grade school friend. I won that, I think.

Two hundred feet- I can see the trees below me take on some definition, the wind whistling shrilly in my ears. I can hear Frazziss’ panting furiously above me, not with exertion, but with lust.

“WOAH!” I cry out, as I feel a paw of hers nearly contact my tail! I sense that somehow, she has managed to dramatically shorten the distance between us.

Fifty Feet, and some change, I push out my wings and I do a combination wind slam and a cheat: I use my Ki so as to turn my suicidal dive into a curve.

‘That’ll shake her!’ I assured myself.

Success! I’m paralleling the ground at around forty feet, and I notice a herd of mulies are surprised by our sudden appearance above them. They all go apeshit and start…

‘Wait, what? OUR?’ I think to myself. A quick glance behind me, and I see her. It’s Frazziss, still on my tail and grinning in triumph?

‘What the fuck?! No way!’ I growl to myself in frustration. How in the hell did she manage that?

I know this spot, there’ll be a small canyon soon, so I make as if to dive down into it, and pull a feint.

I dive down momentarily, then I twist and flap furiously to gain altitude, heading as straight up as I can manage. It works! But only for a second. With a quick check, I Sense that somehow, she’s still behind me. But even closer?

‘Sneaky Vixen!’ I purse my lips in admiration. She’s got decades of flying experience, I’ve only got a few months. I can’t help but admire that she’s about three months along in her pregnancy, but those growing pair of eggs in her belly arent slowing her down one bit.

Momentarily, I think about letting her win this chase right now.

‘Nah!’ I decide. ‘Let’s keep this interesting. Chasing down prey is foreplay for just about every Monster Girl, Frazziss included.’

So, I buck and weave, dash and twist, roll and glide as I flight my way back up. But the end results were decided some time ago. I know that she’ll catch me, and hell; I want to be caught. That’s because I know what’ll happen when she does.

Annnnndddddd, she does it! One second I’m flapping away madly, the next thing I know, I’m in her embrace with my wings pinned painfully to my back.

“SUBMIT!” she screams at me, her eyes flaming red with rage, and lust.

“NEVER!” I scream back. ‘Male Dragons NEVER submit!’ I think silently in defiance. She seems to hear my thoughts and clamps down on my shoulder with her teeth, deep enough to draw blood.

In response, I push down on her shoulders so that I can reach her the back of her neck. I then bite her fiercely in return.

The effect on her is immediate. With a breathless sigh, she goes limp and releases me from her grasp. Which nary a thought, I reverse our situation.

Now, she’s in my grasp as I turn her about and clamp onto her firmly. Then I start flapping hard, to keep us both elevated for a few more seconds, then I turn into a spiraling glide.

It’s a lot of hard work keeping her and I aloft, but DAMN! It’s fun.

Fun because I know what’s gonna happen next. She’s compliant enough to arch her back, and move her tail to one side in preparation for it. Which I take full advantage of, and pull her still closer to me.

My Dynamic Dick Duo kick in automatically, and they extend themselves to full length. It’s like my dicks have a mind of their own, (har!).

I growl loudly in anticipation of the incipient moment. I hear Frazziss growl lustfully back in response.

Eagerly, my dicks sneak their way to my woman’s treasure. With a slight joust of my hips, both of them eagerly penetrate her already slickened vagina. When they do, she lets off a mild roar of satisfaction and she starts to squirm in my arms.

I moan/roar when I can feel the warm tightness that is my beloved woman surrounding and clamping down on my manhood, (Dragon-hood?) and for a few moments we fly United.

Unfortunately, not for long.

Glancing around, I notice that we don’t have much time. Even with my flapping furiously enough to keep us both elevated, I notice that we’re starting to stall out.

Reluctantly, I have to let her go as the approaching ground rushes up to meet us both. Even with that danger, I’m tempted to keep us together. But sanity prevails, and we part.

When I do, she lets off a disappointed groan, which I echo. While keeping an eye on her, I see that she resumes her flight with ease, as do I.

Within a minute, we both come to land in a nearby field which is now clear of frightened deer. Finally, we resume what we started in the air. No longer are we two thinking individuals, we’re now just two rutting Dragons.

At first, we make love so savagely that our coital roars echo off of the nearby hills. The next time we make love, we do it passionately, yet slower than before, but still fierce enough to frighten the local wildlife. The third time, we make love tenderly, carefully.

We have to, that’s because I Sense that our babies are getting mighty annoyed with our antics. They didn’t care for their being disturbed from their slumber time. Dragons of any age, detest being woken up from a nap.

It takes a couple of hours, but eventually we settle down into each other’s arms and wings. We growl fondly at each other as we lie there amongst the thrashed and flattened grass and freshly broken trees. We’re both spent, yet eminently satisfied.

Once more, I indulge in the moment of the now as I feel the warmth of the sexual afterglow. I bask in the feeling of her body lying atop of and next to mine. Glancing down at her, I see that she’s napping.

I feel a surge of happiness, and a sense of contentment as I see her sleep-drooling onto my chest again.

While waiting for my own sleepiness to overwhelm me, I think back then, of the path that had led us to this moment.

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A lot can happen in two months, and it did, ever since Frazziss, Pirin, and I came back from the Dragon Realm.

Yeah, you read that right. Pirin the Dragonewt. She’s the newest member of our House now.

I remember that day that Frazziss and I started packing in preparation for our departure. We,… well actually I, accumulated a whole bunch of stuff during our time there.

I was trying to carefully stuff a set of Dragon-Books into something called a “Bag-of-Holding”, when Pirin scratched on the ‘knocker’ and came straight in, begging for a meeting.

“PLEASE take me with you! I can’t stay here anymore!” she sniffled morosely, almost but not quite kneeling down in front of Frazziss and I. Frazziss and I looked at each other for a second, then turned to Pirin. I wanted to ask her why it was important so suddenly, but Frazziss interjected first.

“Why should we allow you?” she snapped at Pirin with a frown. Looking over at her, I chuffed at her abrupt tone. She ignored me, instead keeping her attention focused solely on Pirin, who even then wouldn’t meet her eyes.

“My friends and coworkers won’t talk to me!” she replied quietly with a quivering lower lip, staring at the floor in front of her. “Ever since word got out about me nearly poisoning a pregnant Dragon, I’ve been Shunned!” she whispered hoarsely, her wings drooping to the floor in despair. “Even my Creche-sisters won’t talk to me anymore!” she wailed, as a lock of blonde hair dropped into her face.

Frazziss continued to look balefully at Pirin for a moment, then her face went cold and I could tell that she was about to say ‘No’. That’s when I jumped into the fray.

“Frazziss.” I said quietly. “What is the name that we both chose for our House?” she turned and glared angrily at me for a second, her lips starting to form a snarl. Then she stopped as she thought about it for a bit. Finally, her face softened and she dropped her eyes.

“Krarrakthel”, she answered quietly.

“And what does,…” I began, but was interrupted.

“We both know what it means! Stop playing the fool!” she sniped at me, her eyes turning red slightly. I kept my peace and waited. After a few more seconds, her irises turned back to their normal purple, and she dropped her gaze.

“Nest-haven, it means: Nest-Haven.” She whispered, half to herself.

“Yes,” I replied. “Nest and Haven to those who have no home.” I replied quietly.

Pirin didn’t move a muscle, nor look at either of us then. Instead, she just kept quiet and kept her eyes glued to the floor, waiting for us to come to a decision.

“We agreed on that name and that motivation, why?” I asked her. Frazziss glared at me resentfully through her scaly eyebrows, with just a twinge of anger building up.

“Because neither of us has a Home, or a Family name.” she replied with pursed lips after a long moment. Inwardly, I smiled at her willingness to answer, as it must’ve been hard for her to swallow her pride. After a moment of thought, she turned around to face Pirin and folded her arms meaningfully in front of her.

“Pirin.” She commanded icily. Pirin looked up at her fearfully with her full attention.

“If you come with us, you will be hard pressed.” Frazziss began, Pirin nodded quickly.

“The reason being, is that we don’t have much in, well, anything.” Frazziss then went on to explain our living situation, where we were, how we lived, etc.

Through it all, Pirin listened silently with just the occasional nod. Finally, Frazziss ended her speech with a sigh. Then she asked.

“Is living in the Human world, in the Demon-Realm of California, something you truly wish to do?” Pirin just nodded her head in reply, her eyes going wide.

“I have no where else to go.” She sniffled. Frazziss then turned her attention to me.

“Are you prepared to deal with the consequences of having her live with us?”  she demanded.

“Yes,” I replied. “Or, I think I am. She did after all, give testimony about what the other Dragons your Mother made deals with, did. They may very well might do something to her in retaliation.” Frazziss frowned, and sighed.

“Very well then Pirin, you may come with us.” Pirin started to smile and nearly yelped with joy, but was cut off as Frazziss motioned for her to remain quiet.

“We will expect a great deal out of you, Pirin! Up to and including working on cooking and cleaning not only in our rooms, but also gaining employment with the company, with which my husband and I are employed.”

“I agree! I promise!” Pirin cheerfully replied, all smiles then.

“Very well then Pirin, go and make yourself ready.” Frazziss replied. Pirin bowed, and ran off to pack her meager belongings. After she left, Frazziss turned to me and spoke.

“She’s now your responsibility Lokhnarr, I expect you to keep her in line.” She growled her decision. Outwardly I smiled.

‘Sheesh, what have I gotten myself into?’ I sighed to myself.

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And that, is how Pirin came to live with us. Originally, she was supposed to stay with us for only a few weeks. But, she managed to make herself so indispensable, that Frazziss and I never got around to booting her out.

Of course it didn’t help that we all shared the same bed. The inevitable happened, and Frazziss and I’s bedroom antics soon included Pirin as well. Sometimes one or the other of us wasn’t there, but I was cool with that eventually.

Though I did have a problem with it at first.

“Come on Lokhnarr!” Pirin whined. “What’s the deal?” she grumped up at me one evening while Frazziss was working late.

“I’ve done all you’ve asked, I got a job with the company, I keep your rooms tidy, I even cook a lot of your meals!” she frowned unhappily, crossing her arms and keeping her wings up tight. “Why won’t you make love with me?”

“Well, Pirin…” I began hesitantly, looking at her slight frame and then up to her eyes. “I,…uhhhh,…well,….you see.” I stalled. Her frowning only deeper as a result. I looked at her and grimaced.

‘Spit it out!’ I thought.

“Everytime I look at you,” I breathed in a sigh. “I see you like a,…kid sister…” I finished with a mumble.

“KID SISTER!” She yelled loud enough to make my ears ache. “I’ll have you know that I shelled only a couple of months later than Frazziss!” I winced.

“I didn’t ask to be born a Dragon-newt!” she huffed, getting to her feet off of the bed, and coming over to where I was standing. When she did, she just barely came up to chest level. She then reached up and grabbed me with both arms then squeezed my biceps almost painfully. “It’s not my fault I’m this small!”

That’s my main problem with Dragon-newts in general and Pirin in particular. My head said that yeah- she’s an adult, and my Dynamic-Duo had no problem with boinking her. It was my ethics, they were the ones taking me to task for the thought of laying a claw on a Hob-Dragon.

She just stood there staring balefully up at me, until finally I met her eyes. I opened my mouth to say something, anything, when she spoke first.

“Perhaps I need to demonstrate to you that I AM an adult!” she smirked then, as she stated getting onto her knees.

With a start I realized what her intentions were, and I tried to bat her away. But, she was having none of it.

With a swift growl, and a snap of her wrists, she had my loincloth undone in a flash. She then proceeded to give me the best damned blowjob that I’d ever gotten prior! Just don’t tell Frazziss I said that, please!

What Pirin did then, was amazing. Most of the Dragons I’d boinked prior to then, Qirri or Lessa included, weren’t terribly inclined to focus solely on oral sex. Pirin on the other paw, was. Even Qirri with her oral personality, (she was a biter during sex), couldn’t accommodate one of my dicks fully.

Yet Pirin? She hilted BOTH of my dicks down her gullet! I’d swear that she must’ve had a hollow tail, she could take me so deep! She could do it so long and so well, that she must’ve had the ability to breathe through her wings or something.

She was such a good blower, that I blacked out during my ejaculation. Because when I came to, I was lying on the ground and she was lying atop of me and staring into my eyes sultrily.

“So,” she began by licking her lips, “was THAT the kind of thing a kid-sister could’ve done?”

“Since I never had a kid-sister, I wouldn’t know.” I replied lazily. She smiled at me in response. I sighed, and reached up to grab her by her shoulders.

“You’re definitely NOT a child.” I whispered as I drew her to me. Just before we kissed she spoke.

“Thank you Daddy!” she snarked.

“Brat!”

“Yes, Master Lokhnarr.”

I growled at her then, she giggled.

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Oh, by the way, that’s my proper Dragon name now: “Lokhnarr”.

Well, one of my names that is. My Full Dragon name is: Lokhnarr Zhou-Wang Krarrakthel. But, as far as everyone else who isn’t a Dragon is concerned, I’m still Allen Belushi.

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“Stand Forth, Allen-Belushi!” the First Minister spoke loudly and firmly in front of the assembled High Council. I did as she commanded, and stepped into the center of the ring of Seven kinds of Dragon. The time being on the cusp of the end of the three-day timeline requirement.

When I finished composing myself, I noticed that one of the High Council member’s attendants was looking at me all flabbergasted. She was a cute little number with purple scales and yellowish curly hair.

“Do you have a name chosen?” The First Minister asked me imperiously, distracting me. I noticed then her platinum scales sparkling rather fetchingly in the lights of the Council chamber. I nodded, and held out a rectangular slab of stone to her. She looked at me oddly, but took it.

She raised a surprised eyebrow when she read what was on that slab. Traditionally, one of the male relatives of the newly earned Adult, would inscribe their desired names onto a small stone slab.
That slab would then be presented to the First Minister to be read aloud in the naming ceremony. Ever since the Great Change, that custom had fallen out of practice for the obvious reason- no males to make any.

She took the time to read it, smiling all the while in approval.

“So be it!” she commanded. “Let us drink a toast to each of your new and proper Dragon Names!” The assembled High Council did as she said, along with the small number of guests surrounding us all. Frazziss, Qirri, Pirin, and Lessa, and the quartet of Bailiff Wurms of whom I was now properly introduced to.

“Lokhnarr!” the First Minister shouted, her voice thundering in the chambers. Everyone, but her and I drank.

“Zhou-Wang!” she shouted again. Everyone drank again, but this time the Mist-Continent Lung Council Member Longzumu, suddenly choked in mid-swallow, then spewed out her wine and started coughing.

She regained her composure after a bit, but she kept giving me a pronounced stink-eye throughout the rest of the ceremony. I just kept smiling back at her in return. The First Minister chose to ignore it all.

“Of the House Krarrakthel!” The First Minister finished, with a knowing smile.

“Welcome to Adulthood, Lokhnarr! You are now a named adult, and you are expected to comport yourself properly in all things Dragon.” She spoke.

“Thank you, First Minister, I intend to do all of Dragon-kind proud!” I replied, with just a hint of smugness. That smugness was there because of my getting away with my stunt involving the name: Zhou-Wang.

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Krarrakthel- you already know what that is: Nest-Haven. Since I’m still technically an orphan, and Frazziss is disowned from her birth-house, we both decided that our new House should be a haven for all of the other non-housed Dragons out there.

Provided first that they’re willing to prove themselves worthy, of course. We’re willing to help out the less fortunate, but we’re not gonna be stupid about it.

“Ok Allen, why Lokhnarr?” Frazziss asked when I first pitched that name to her. Yeah, I could’ve picked a name without her consent, but I consider our time together to be a partnership. Besides, she’s the one carrying my kids.

“Lokhnarr,” I began explaining, “was the name of one of the last influential Male Dragons before the Great Maou took over. I discovered his name, after reading through the history books in Lessa-Book-Bender’s archives.”

“Well, that is when she would leave me alone long enough to get some reading done.” I added with a roll of my eyes.

“Did she?” Frazziss asked.

“Did she what?”

“Get her full payment by now?”

“Yes, and no.” I saw her quizzical look. “What I had agreed to with your negotiation? Yes. But, since I borrowed a bunch of Books from her library, she let me know exactly what my ‘late fees’ would consist of, if I was late returning them.”

“I think I can guess!” Frazziss laughed then. Finally, after she got done, she asked me another question.

“Who was he?” She asked, honestly curious. This was surprising to me, but it was also a nice feeling to know something about Dragon History that she didn’t.

“Lokhnarr,” I continued, “was advisor to the First Minister way back when. This was along the time the Maou became Overlord. He worked alongside the antecedents of the D’Aragons to influence the Council to back the Maou, and help her in her bid for full power.” Frazziss’ jaw dropped then. I smiled at her momentarily and continued.

“Eventually, he was instrumental in convincing all of Dragon-kind then, to go along with the Great Maou’s plan. With the power of the Dragons shoring her up, her transition to full Demon Lord became much, much, easier.”

“He must’ve been one helluva smooth talker,” I shook my head in admiration, “to convince a whole bunch of dudes into a sex change.” I snarked.

“But why his name in particular?” she asked with a tilt of her head, her purple hair falling to one side, as she sat herself close to me.

“Why his name in particular? Because he himself, was also the first male Dragon to volunteer to become an Alp in support of the Maou’s Great Change. That’s how much he believed in her cause.” I answered, with a half-grimace.

“Now, all of these centuries later, it has come down to me, to complete his work and bring the male Dragons back. It seems appropriate to me that since it was a Lokhnarr who helped begin the Great Change, it should also be a Lokhnarr to complete it.” I finished, and when I looked up at her, I saw Frazziss smiling at me. I knew then without her nodding, that she’d been sold on it.

“That’s a very mature decision, Lokhnarr.” She giggled, leaning her head on my shoulder.

“Another reason I chose his name, was that he was the last male Dragon to ‘walk’ the Seventh Path before the Great Change. When I learned of that, I knew immediately it was his name I wanted to bear:” Frazziss gaped at me for a second. Then she leaned over and snuggled herself into my armpit.

“So, what’s the other name you’ve come up with?” she asked. I took in a big breath before answering.

‘The calm before the storm.’ I thought to myself in preparation. ‘This is gonna be a hard-sell.’

“Zhou-Wang. He was an Emperor of the Mist Continent, two thousand years or so ago. But before he could fully become a God, he had to do some penance time as a Dragon.” I said simply, and didn’t continue. After a second, Frazziss picked her head up off of my shoulder and gave me a skeptical look.

“What aren’t you telling me?’ she replied with a frown, and crossing her arms.

‘Ah, she knows me too well.’ I judged silently.

“He eventually became known as the Mist Continent God of Sodomy.” I ended quietly, all set to spring away at the first sign of danger. What Frazziss said next, surprised the shit out of me.

“And?” she continued, raising an eyebrow. I was utterly surprised by her lack of histrionics. I was so sure that she was going to get upset!

“Why the God of Sodomy?” she asked me calmly, after seeing the surprised look on my face. After a second or two, I got my thoughts together and explained.

“Why him? Humility, actually. Zhou-Wang was pretty much the victim of corruption. Through his pride, he allowed himself and his power to be misused, and he allowed himself to become corrupted.”

“I want to avoid that.” I replied, with just a tinge of fear in my voice.

“Being corrupted? Why?” she asked in all honesty, perplexed enough to tilt her head and jut her lower jaw out.

“Well,” I began, lifting up my hands/paws up with a shrug. “I’ve got all this nifty power and responsibilities, now. It’d be way too easy for me to become complacent, and start assuming that I somehow ‘deserved’ it all, like he did with his authority as Emperor. One of the things he did while in power, was force some of his subjects to swim in a lake of wine.”  Frazziss took a long blink and scrunched up her face at me then.

“I don’t know, maybe it was a bad vintage or something?” I guessed, with a shrug of my shoulders.

She shook her head at me, still not getting the point. I had to think about it for a while longer, then I had the idea.

“Take your Mother Herrassiss, for example.” Frazziss growled softly then, and I held up a paw to ask for her patience.

“At one time she must have been a good person.” I started, but Frazziss turned her head away from me. But she didn’t pull away. I sighed while looking at her, and pressed on.

“I’m assuming that at one point she must’ve have known love; she had you after all, didn’t she?” Frazziss glanced at me then, biting a lip, then looked away again.

 “Surely, you have SOME good memories of her from your childhood, before whatever the hell happened that came along to change her?”

“Don’t call me Shirley.” She said automatically, sticking out her tongue. I growled at her in response and she gave me a momentary grin. Frazziss silently thought about it for a bit, and then gave me a half-smile and nodded.

“Yes,” she admitted. “I do, but I still don’t know what happened with her either Allen. All I do know, is that at one point she decided that power and the trappings of it, were more important to her than family.” She replied with a downcast look. I waited for a bit.

“Neither of us intended for me to become a Dragon. Yet here I am, the First Male Dragon in centuries. You know that Human phrase? Power corrupts?” I asked with just a hint of a whine in my voice. She refused to look at me.

“Frazziss, I’ve got a whole bunch of power now. Power I didn’t earn or was born to. I feel that it would be too easy for me to lose myself with it all!”

“I don’t want to lose myself, not now! Not when I’ve got a wonderful woman like you, and our babies!” I said as I reached over and stroked her tummy lightly. After a while, she reached over and placed her paw atop mine. I looked up at her and saw her own expression mirroring mine.

“I don’t want to lose you either,…Lokhnarr.” She giggled, then her face turned serious again.

After the longest time of companionable silence between us, she sighed.

“Ok, Lokhnarr. Zhou-Wang it is. But I’ll leave it to YOU to explain to everyone why you wanted that name in particular!” she grimaced, and then she kissed me.

“Done and done!” I replied back after that first kiss ended, but before the next set began.

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After an hour’s nap time there in that Dragon-fluffed field, I had the unenviable task of waking Frazziss up. You ever try to wake a sleepy Dragon? It’s not an easy, nor a safe thing to do.

But it needed to be done, as we had an appointment to keep. After she got done snapping and snarling, she woke up enough to just sit there and glare menacingly at me.

Dragons are a lot like cats when it comes to sleeping. They’d do it all of the time if they could get away with it. Pregnant ones in particular.

“Frazziss, it’s time to go.” I say softly. When all I get in response is a soft growl, that’s when I know she’s ready to be reasonable.

‘She didn’t bite me this time. This is an improvement.’ I think happily to myself, getting to my feet to stretch myself out, then flapping my wings a couple of times meaningfully.

“All right, all right Al..I mean, Lokhnarr!” she says, as she rubs her eyes with a paw, then yawns. After a second more, she stands upright and gives me a smile. I return it.

Within a moment we’re up and flapping hard to gain altitude. Only after we’re at cruising level and set for our destination, does she start to grouse.

“WHY do we have to be there again?” she grumpily asks in between wing strokes.

“The Land Claim surveyor told me, that she has to make sure we are who we say we are.” Frazziss rolls her eyes and ‘harrumphs’ at me in response. Which I ignore.

“AND, to make sure that we get an adequate amount of land for our desired house/cave and grounds.” She remains silent and we just do the occasional wingtip-touch until we get to our desired spot.

I can’t blame her for her silence. I don’t much care for bureaucrats either, but if we want our cave to be allowed to be built, they’re just something else we have to deal with. I can’t build her a home without a spot to put one on after all.

The spot we chose? Frazziss’ old private sunny spot next to the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. It’s also the spot that I drank her family’s Succubus Nostrum. So yeah, that spot has a lot of memories.

It also seemed appropriate to us both, as a great spot to raise a family of Dragons. There was plenty of privacy, a nearby source of water, and lots of rock for me to work with.

Best yet, there’s not much in the way of flammable materials for my kids to ignite. We both felt that Yosemite has had enough problems with natural forest fires, and it didn’t need any help in that vein. I shudder when I remember the crap I pulled playing with matches, when I was a kid.

‘This should be a piece of cake.’ I thought to myself, optimistically thinking of our meeting with the bureaucrat.

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An hour later I had a slightly different opinion.

‘Just one Plasma Sphere, and she goes away.’ I thought to myself more than a little seriously. But my better side made a counter argument.

‘Patience, Patience! It’ll just make things worse!’ I mentally said in an effort to deter any rash actions on my behalf.

“I fail to see the necessity of your wanting this spot in particular.” Frowned the most annoying Succubus/Bureaucrat I’ve ever had the misfortune to deal with, before and since. She’d been nitpicking every single thing we’d been talking about since the conversation began.

‘No witnesses.’ I mused to myself, as I looked around at the near-deserted rock cliffs, and remembered that the nearest thing to civilization was the Dam at the far west end.

Unlike every single other scantily clad Succubus I’d ever encountered before, this one chose to dress herself in a severe schoolmarm outfit. It didn’t help that she had an overly prim personality to match.

‘I’m surprised she isn’t holding a wooden ruler in one hand.’

“The point, of us relocating to this spot in particular.” I explained aloud to the Land Surveyor-Lady Augustine AGAIN, while trying not to focus on that overly tight grey hair-bun of hers, “is that we’re hoping to attract some Zipangu Ryu to the area eventually.”

“And how is your putting a cave HERE?” she said through her nose, while she pointed down at the spot that all of us were standing on. “Supposed to accomplish that?” she asked in a tone that could curdle cream, as she primly folded her arms.

In ever mounting frustration, I reached out with my Ki-Sense to get something, anything, I could to use against her and I ended up surprised.

‘She’s never gotten laid!’ I realized in that moment. ‘Damn! I guess there’s a limit to what even the Great Maou’s succubus powers can accomplish!’

“Well?” she demanded with a pinched expression. With a start I brought myself back to reality. I chose to breath in deeply, to Harmonize myself with my Ki, before replying.

“The problem with getting some of the Ryu to relocate here, is that many of them are still wary of the area.” I replied back to her patiently. I then noticed that her already pinched expression had begun to intensify as she opened her mouth.

“The main Problem!” I interrupted her incipient standard bureaucrat whine, “Is that many of the local Zipangu still have stories to tell of Manzanar.” She stopped and looked at me quizzically for several moments.

“Explain.” She replied finally. I did.

“Manzanar,” I began, “was a Concentration camp set up nearby, a hundred years ago, for the erstwhile excuse of ‘protecting’ the American Citizens of Zipangu ancestry.” I had to pause and calm myself for a moment, before I went on.

“What it really was for, was an excuse to deny American Citizens their right to due process, all because of some political posturing.” I continued as patiently as I could, but I could feel my tail sticking straight out behind me.

“I’ve been told that only a few of them lost their lives there!” Lady Augustine protested.

“Even one is one too many!” I shouted indignantly. “They were Citizens! The Government had NO RIGHT to do any of that!” I snarled. It was then I felt Frazziss’ paw on me, and I came close to nipping her I was so angry. After a second I managed to calm myself.

Lady Augustine for her part, seemed to take it all in stride as she waited patiently for me to continue.

“The Zipanganese need to know that the area is Dragon-Safe, before they’ll recommend that one of their Kami relocate here. They don’t want any of their Ryujin to end up in a Manzanar-like reoccurrence.”

“So, how is your living here going to prevent such a reoccurrence?” she asked me evenly. I stared at her long and hard, then I sighed heavily.

‘In for a penny, in for a pound.’ I thought to myself.

“I won’t allow it.” I replied. She raised her eyebrows in surprise.

“How do you propose to do that, should the need arise?” She asked me quietly with a tilt of her head.

“Whatever is necessary.” I replied, pulling myself in and standing tall while folding my arms. I expected little miss bureaucrat to scoff at my menacing display. She surprised me instead.

“Up to and including your life if need be?” she asked, with her eyes narrowed. I blinked back at her balefully.

“Yes.”  We stared at each other for several seconds longer. She then broke her gaze and looked over at Frazziss.

“Do you agree? Oh wait, I see that you do.” She replied with a half-smile. Which surprised the shit out of me as I never expected her capable of that action.

“Very well then, Lokhnarr Zhou-Wang Krarrakthel, I hereby approve of your petition to this Land-Claim. You may proceed building your home any time you deem fit.” She smiled back at us fully. I was speechless for a second, both at her suddenly being capable of smiling, and her imperious manner.

“Hold on Lady Augustine!” I began, holding up a paw. She looked back at me a smirk. “You don’t get to make that decision. If I recall correctly, only the Lilim in charge of this Demon-Realm can do that!” I chuffed back at her. Her already broad smile, got bigger.

“Well then,” she began as she closed her eyes. Then she shimmered for a second, and her whole body changed.

Where before, there was a five foot-if-she-was-an-inch boy-shaped Surveyor-bureaucrat, there was now a six foot four statuesque platinum blonde Succubus, who most certainly was NOT shaped like a boy! Especially if you counted her succulent bat wings and spade ended tail.

‘Oh boy!’ I reacted naturally then. But I managed, barely, to keep my expression neutral and not eyeball her. Though I wanted desperately then to do more than ball her with my eyes. She looked back at me a knowing look and an alluring smile.

 ‘Ah, she knows.’ I realized with embarrassment. Then I realized something. ‘Wait a Minute! Even Swedish Succubi don’t have, THAT, kind of, Platinum-color hair!…Oh SHIT!’ I said to myself in realization.

“Uhmmm, uhhhh.” I began, sounding like a total fool. Looking over at Frazziss, I saw that she was surprised too. The six foot four Lilim just smiled indulgently back at us both for a long moment.

“Your Highness?” I finally managed. She nodded, seemingly ready to bust a gut with not laughing.

“That was a damned good Disguise-spell!” I replied. What the hell man, it was the only thing I could think of to reply with then.

“Oh really?” that Platinum Blonde-bombshell replied indulgently, with a wink and nod.

“Really! I was starting to get tempted to solve my Bureaucrat problem, with one of my Breath Weapons.” Her face went flat with a frown, and I suddenly realized just what kind of situation I had placed myself in.

“Uuuuh, not that I would’ve done so, of course!” I hastily added, as I started to sweat bullets.

Well, Lady Morrigan took it all in with a good sense of humor, and forgave me my faux pas.

Yeah, THAT Lady Morrigan: The Lilim in charge of the California Demon-Realm.

“Thank you your Highness!” I replied. She gave me a roll of her eyes and snapped

“Enough with that bullshit already! I had to put up with enough of that crap growing up, and at court in the here and now, I’m damned tired of it!” she frumped.

“Sorry!” I replied, blinking. “I had no idea,…” I began, all surprised.

“Yes, well, it’s all right.” She excused me. “I just wonder what it’s like to get treated like a regular person once in a while.” She sighed, wilting. I found myself warming to her in a different way then. With a glance to Frazziss I came up with a plan.

“La…Morrigan!” I said brightly. She looked resignedly at me. “Have you ever skipped stones?” She gave me a confused look then.

“Skipped stones?” she replied, looking up at the bare cliff walls.

I went on to explain to her what ‘skipping stones’ was and offered to show her a demonstration as well. We strolled down to the water’s edge and used some of my mojo to flatten out a few rocks for everyone.

“Oh My Mom!” she cried out delightedly, after I managed to get about thirteen skips off of one flat piece, off the first go. Naturally she was enthusiastic about trying it for herself.

She got a bit testy, after even with my impromptu tutoring, she couldn’t manage to get more than three or four skips. I saw her thinking hard, and jumped to a conclusion.

“Using magic is cheating.” I warned her with a smile. She gave me a glare, then she smiled.

“Practice, and lots of it to get better at. Like anything else.” She glanced over at me and smiled.

“Thank you.” She whispered, looking down at the ground. “Though I imagine that my groundskeeper will get upset with me, if I started skipping stones in the Koi ponds.”

“Ooooh, probably.” I admitted. “But you could always have a skipping pool installed. Rank has its privileges after all.” She laughed. Then she grew somber.

“So, why me?” I asked out of the blue. She raised an eyebrow. “Why come to inspect and interview us, personally?”

“Because my Mother asked me to.” She smiled.

“Oh, you’re still in communication with her?” I asked in surprise. She nodded.

“In a manner of speaking, yes. Though she does have a lot to deal with even now, after usurping the Chief God’s position.” She explained. “Just don’t tell anyone, please?” she almost-pleaded.

“I won’t, I promise.” That relieved her. She knew what a Dragon’s word was worth.

“Mother wanted me to also keep an eye on you, and see how you were holding up. Particularly after your last meeting with her.” She then looked meaningfully at me, then she held up a hand with two fingers stiffly extended up.

I looked at her and her hand for a second, not comprehending what she getting at. Then it dawned on me.

“Yes!” I grumped. “She’s still not as beautiful as my Frazziss!” I replied stiffly.

“Still impertinent as ever.” Morrigan smiled.

“You betcha!” Frazziss affirmed who’d been mostly silent during all this, leaned her head on my shoulder affectionately. When she did, I noticed a momentary look of wistfulness on Morrigan’s face.

“I take it you’ve not found someone yet?” Frazziss spoke up then, she must’ve noticed it too. Morrigan shook her head sadly.

“No, unfortunately not. But then I’ve not been looking too hard either.” She replied, sinking into herself a bit. Then she looked up at us both and gave us a half smile.

“Though a few decades back, I did meet one interesting sorcerer who I nearly had in my grasp!” she reminisced with a tilt of her head.

“It was at my first niece’s introduction party. I and all of my sisters there at the time were mightily intrigued with him. Though we wouldn’t show it, at first. By the time we did, enough chaos had started up that he managed to somehow slip away undetected!” she giggled. It was a curious thing to see, a Lilim giggling like that.

“Mother was most upset when she found out that he had left.” She smiled, remembering.

“He later proved to be instrumental in the final battle between the Chief God and my Mother.” She said happily. Then her face grew long.

“I sometimes wonder though, if I’d been a little more determined in showing my interest in him, that maybe things wouldn’t have turned out for him the way they did.” She finished, glancing up at us sadly.

We just stood like that, in companionable silence for a while.

She and us parted on good terms that day. But only after she extracted a promise from Frazziss and I, that we’d invite her to our Dragon-Cave warming party. Once I had the place livable, of course.

On the flap home, I snarked at Frazziss some suggestions.

“Ok Lokhnarr, I see that grin.” Frazziss looked at me alongside as we flew back to Yosemite Valley. “What are you thinking?” she asked suspiciously. 

“Weeeellllll,” I began with a drawl. Frazziss winced, but kept silent. “If and when we do have a house-warming party, maybe we could get a band to play for us?” I asked all innocent like. But Frazziss wasn’t fooled.

“Which band?” she asked skeptically.

“Oh, I’m thinking maybe, ummmmm. Four Non-Blondes?”

“ALLEN!” She yelled at me. “That’s not funny!” she said, in between giggles.

“Maybe, we could get them to play one particular song while Lady Morrigan is in attendance?”

“ALLEN!”

“Julie Brown’s, ‘Cause I’m a Blonde?”

“Are you trying to get us exiled?” Frazziss demanded, guffawing.

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Of course, it was one thing to say I was capable of building a cave. It was quite another to actually, you know, do it.

Yes, I borrowed several copies of the ‘Stone-Molding’ how-to manuals, out of Lessa’s library archives. But, I had to go through Lessa first to get access to them.

Naturally, as toll-keeper she would accept only one kind of coin: Sex, and lots of it.

“What Book-bending means, Lokhnarr,” she purred to me in her post coital after-glow. “In human terms, it means Librarian.” She motioned me to follow her down to the deepest level of her library.

“But why do Books need bending? I don’t understand.” I replied, as I followed her down past some cobweb laden archways, that were located deep beneath the Library proper.

‘Oh, this isn’t ominous in the least.’ I thought to myself as she had to part, and then ball up a particularly large cobweb from one particular ancient seeming entrance. Luckily, she was able to activate some of the ancient glow crystals that were hanging on the walls. After that she motioned me to follow her inside.

Entering, I noticed a vast number of overly large stone book shelves that seemed to disappear off into the darkness. Just within that section of light, I could tell that there were hundreds, no thousands, of books in that deep cave like archive, alone!

“There you are,” she said after leading me over to a large table and pointing to a large odd looking book sitting atop of it. She just stood there with a smile, waiting expectantly for me to do something.

So after a bit, I went over and tried to lift it open. But I couldn’t. Lessa giggle/snorted, when she saw my predicament.

“All right, what’s the joke.” I glared.

“No joke Lokhnarr!” she smiled. “No one has been able to open a single one of these old-style books in ages!” she explained. After giving that book a short inspection I found out why I couldn’t open it.

That book was made of stone. All of it. The cover, the pages, everything. It was all made of stone, stiff, unbendable stone.

‘Oooooh!’ I realized then, puffing out my cheeks in surprise as I thought of Lessa’s name/title.

I then placed myself in front of that large tome and contemplated it. After centering myself and my Ki. I then reached out with both of my paws, and took ahold of the book cover’s left edge. I then summoned up my ‘molding-stone’ mojo and applied it to the book.

It took me several tries, but eventually I was able to open that book and read the title page. I grinned at the sound of Lessa gasping in surprise then.

She just about bowled me over, as she near pounced herself next to me and started whispering to herself reading the words within.

With and without her help, I took a look over a few of the pages within it. Everything about that book was a masterpiece.

I mean, EVERYTHING! It was all made of various kinds of stone. The pages were of stone, yet they were of the same thickness as regular paper! The written runes weren’t ink, they were somehow inscribed onto the pages. I could feel the raised edges of them, as I trailed my fingertips along the page!

It had pictures, but not black and white! They were a panoply of different colored stones akin to a tile mosaic, only much smaller tiles! They were about the size of sand grains. Running my fingertips along them I could feel their roughness.

The cover, the binding, even the bookmark- stone. The whole thing was a bloody masterpiece designed for long-term use! The weird thing here? It was a ‘How-to’ for plumbing repair, PLUMBING REPAIR! The care taken just for that one volume alone, left me mentally staggered!

Using my Stone-Mojo, I found that I could turn the pages like they were regular paper. But just as soon as I stopped touching them, the page would freeze in place.

After I was done, and put the book back in the condition I found it, I looked up and I noticed that Lessa was gaping at me with something akin to respect, for once.

‘First time for everything.’ I smiled, I guess I was something more than just a boy-toy to her anymore.

“Wow.”, was all she could manage then in that moment.

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After that, I spent hours browsing around. I could’ve spent a lifetime down there in those archives, and still just barely touched the surface. Forget the Library of Alexandria, even it in its entirety wouldn’t have been enough to house the Dragon Realm’s library card catalog. There were literally millions of years-worth of Dragon History set in stone down there.

But, Frazziss just about had to physically drag me out of there, once she found me that is. She had apparently gotten tired of waiting for me to give her, her daily Spirit-Energy fill up.

With Lessa, and a couple of other ‘Book-benders’ help, I eventually found the Molding-stone manuals that I’d sought, and brought some of them back with me to Yosemite.

‘A nicely ironic security system.’ I admired to myself on the living room couch, as I flipped through a copy late at night. I chose to do that, to not disturb Frazziss and Pirin who were snoozing away in our bed. ‘The only way to read these books, is if you’ve got the ability to mold stone in the first place.’

It was during one of those late night read-a-thons, that I discovered an Ancient Dragon Secret. I was idly flipping through a boring treatise that was devoted to the importance of using the ‘proper’ kind of Scoria to use for insulation, when it happened.

I flipped open a set of page diagrams, and something fell out. When it did, it fell to the floor with a soft clunking sound. Curious, I picked it up and inspected it.

It turned out to be a rather nicely inscribed edition of Ancient Dragon Porn. An Eight pager, I guess you could call it.
Someone had secreted it away, I don’t know how many thousands of years ago. I’m speculating, that that someone chose this book as its hideaway, because it was the last place someone would’ve thought to look for it.

I figured that it was probably some teenaged Male hiding his stash away from his parents. I started reading it, and discovered that it was fucking hilarious. I guess I must’ve laughed pretty hard then, as after a while both Pirin and Frazziss came over and sniped at me for waking them up.

Once they discovered what I’d found, they too laughed their tails off reading it. Though I had the devil of a time getting it back from Pirin, as she kept sneaking it away.

Unfortunately, try as I might, I just couldn’t seem to replicate the results every one of those books instructed me on. For example, I would test-build a load bearing archway, and it would fall apart within a day. It was just frustrating as all hell. Every single one of those books started with the same admonition: “Infuse your Stone with Spirit for Permanence.”

“What the Fuck is that supposed to mean?” I growled aloud in frustration, after the umpteenth failed project.

Though, the last couple of times I did manage to make a miniature mock-up of a few archways that didn’t immediately fall apart. But, as soon as I tried making a full size one, it’d fall apart within seconds.

‘At this rate I’ll have the brooding cave all set for kids, by the time my grandkids are born!’ I whined to myself with my face buried in my paws.

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Then one day, Pirin answered the door to a persistent knocker. Outside was another one of the Dragon Petitioners, who looked strangely familiar to me.

Ever since we’d gotten back from the Dragon-Realm, Yosemite seemed to be getting more and more of them hanging around every day. It was weird though, I could see them a fair distance away whenever I was walking or flying, but if I approached them to say hello- they almost always disappeared.

Occasionally, one of them would get up enough nerve to come and knock on the door to our cramped apartment. Invariably, they asked me to boink them.

‘I’ve seen her somewhere before.’ I thought to myself, racking my brains, after Pirin showed in a sweet looking young Dragon with purple scales, and yellowish curly hair that bounced all over the place.

“Allen-Belushi?” She said, mispronouncing my name. I noticed that she was a cute little number, but she was acting kind of oddly. Unlike all of the others, she wouldn’t meet my eyes.

“Yes?” I asked, “I offer you food and drink in accordance with the Law of Hospitality.” I began, but before I could continue she interrupted me.

“I’ll just be here long enough to drop this off.” She said nervously, holding out to me what looked like one of the Dragon-Stone books I’d seen in the Archives.

She just kept holding it out to me silently, until I took ahold of it. Only then did she speak.

“It’s been in my family for generations and I think it’s meant for you!” she explained all in a rush. But before I could ask her anything more about it, she turned and ran off, slamming the door behind as she went.

I just stared at the door and looked over at Pirin, she just shrugged her shoulders back at me.  I shook my head and noticed that it had an inscribed title.

‘Sodomize the waxen Spider’, I thought to myself. “Odd name.” I said aloud. Pirin came back and looked over my shoulder.

“What’s an odd name?”

“This one.” I replied, showing her the book’s title.

“Ale In-Bell…”, She read it partially aloud and laughed. “Do what to a Spider?”

“Wait! What was it you said?” I asked suddenly. She looked at me odd and said the title aloud again, fully.

“Ale In-Bell Ushi.” She said, then her eyes widened in realization at what she had just said.

“A phonetic translation of Dragon words that sounds like my name?” I asked rhetorically. I took a closer look at that book then, and started flipping pages at random.

It was filled with more of those kind of silly phrases. I looked at the usual spot that marked the time it was made, and noted that it was written about the time that the Great Maou had risen to power.

“What the Fuck?” I said aloud, and to myself, in dismay.

“I guess you’ll need me to read it to you then!” Pirin giggled, as she looked over my shoulder to take another look at it.

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“That way you can listen to what the words really mean. I’d just love the opportunity of reading to you, IN BED!” She grinned. Then, it hit me!

“The only way to translate this properly, is for me to,… ‘Read With My Ears!” I was speechless then! The words of my first daughter from my time in the Seventh Path!

It was hard for me to hold onto that book, as my paws started shaking hard. I placed it down on the desk and sat down on a stool with a kwa-thump!

But, before I could calm myself down, there was another knock at the door. This time it was Tallia the Minotaur.

“Allen!” she began, “It’s Frazziss! She needs you, urgently!” she shouted at me.

“Is she ok?” I asked her all scared. Tallia nodded.

“She’s fine, she just said she needs you to come over to the Ranger Police station, as soon as possible!” she said before she hurried off. At that point, it was a choice between that book and my woman. Naturally that damned book could wait!

I hurried to Frazziss’ duty station as quick as I could get my scaly hide over. I knew that Tallia said that she was OK, but I was still worried.

“Allen, I mean,… Lokhnarr?” Frazziss said with a stutter, when I was able to get in. “I need you to look at something.” She said with a nervous look on her face.

“Why? What’s wrong?” I half shouted.

“Allen, please just come over,” she breathed, “I need you to look at something and give me your opinion.” It took a bit, but I managed to calm my breathing at least.

“Before I show you what it is, I want you to try and remember what I told you about a few months ago? The problem with a particularly persistent burglar up in the High Country?”  I thought about it for a while, and replied.

“The one who has been hitting cabins and remote campsites, stealing food and the occasional bit of clothing? Is that the one you’re referring to?” She nodded.

“She, we know it’s a she now, definitely.” She began. “The reason for that is because one of the places she hit, had a critter cam set up.” She explained.

“Ok, so what has all that got to do with me?” I asked confused.

“We, I mean I, think you might know her.” She said, holding up a photo and handing it to me. I took the photo without looking at it, and peered at Frazziss.

“Just look at it, and tell me what you think.” She said quietly. So I did. After a second or two I didn’t think anything out of the ordinary concerning it. It appeared to be a slightly blurry picture of a rather skinny,…looking…

Then, I swallowed as I got a chill up my spine. I took another longer, closer look at the somewhat blurry photo, and then I froze.

“Holy shit!” I uttered as I finally recognized her.

She was skinnier than I last remembered her, much skinnier. She was nothing but fur and bones now. Her fur was matted in spots, and it was missing in others.

‘There’s no mistaking that Tortoiseshell pattern.’ I thought to myself, as I swallowed another large lump in my throat. I looked back up at Frazziss and replied.

“Angelique.” I whispered hoarsely, horrified at the implications.

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