The shepherd’s dragon

by Tym Greene

Illustrated tale of a shepherd who warns a dragon of an impending villager mob, and thereby finds himself borne to a new life.

Added: Apr 2021 13,778 words 2,526 views 4.7 stars (3 votes)


The baying of hounds and the shouts of men nearly drowned out the pounding of my heart as I ran, but I couldn’t give up, there was more than my own life at stake.

The night before, wandering far afield in search of a lost lamb, I’d come across a heated mound that glittered in the moonlight and rose and fell as though pumped by giant bellows. I could smell the blood, could see two lambskins hanging from a tree branch, apparently scraped clean of flesh and wool. One eye glowed in the dark, watching. Silently I turned around and returned to my flock emptyhanded. It seemed to me a small price to pay: two small lambs to sate a dragon’s hunger, to prevent it from doing greater damage.

The Shepherd's Dragon, Image 1
In the morning, I’d re-tallied my charges, and found that only one beast was missing, the lamb that had wandered off and been devoured. Just as I was wondering at the source of the second lambskin, I heard a commotion from the neighboring field. I penned my flock and went over to see.

A herd of men was listening with rapt attention to the reedy voice of Æthelred, another shepherd and no friend of mine.

His arms flailed about like willow switches as he recounted his brave defense of his wooly charges and the harrowing escape from the ravenous beast that ravaged his flock. “…and before I could act, the monster gobbled down a dozen sheep like they were a handful of strawberries and flew off, blood dripping down his horrible neck, casting aside trees like they were ninepins.” None of the crowd seemed to notice that the trees surrounding the clearing were undisturbed, as upright as new tombstones.

I was just about to leave when I heard one of the men reply: “Come, lads, let’s get that beast!”

“Else it’ll be back for our animals, and then our children!” another agreed.

“Go, then, fetch what weapons you can and come back here by Sext. We’ll catch it by surprise and overpower it!”

Ducking back through the line of trees I found myself faced with a dilemma. The dragon had watched me, I knew, and had not moved at my approach. One swat of its tail would have dashed my brains out across the turf. And I knew as well as anyone what a liar Æthelred was. It might not have been my place, but if he and his mob attacked, that could easily result in half the village’s men destroyed in a futile attempt to take down the dragon.

It seemed the safest option was to face the danger. I ran back through the woods, praying that I could recall the way.

I searched, trying to find half-remembered landmarks I’d only halfseen in the darkness. By day the forest had a different character; I wasn’t helped by the fact that in the night before my focus had been on finding the lamb, not on blazing a trail. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was too late, and the dragon had already left. Then I heard its breathing.

“Dragon!” I called, trying to soften my voice, as though through tone alone I could convey to the beast that I was no enemy. “Dragon, you must flee, you are in peril!”

The Shepherd's Dragon, Image 2
The long neck twitched, the eyes blinked as the head turned to face me. It might have been my imagination, but I could swear there was sadness in that emerald gaze, so bright against the dull brown of its scales. “My son, I am always in peril.”

The voice creaked, like a well winch whose wood had swollen. I stood, staring, not understanding.

“I said, my existence is nothing more than flying from one peril into the next.” It said, elaborating on its theme. “What danger lurks for me this day? And why are you warning me, after I stole and ate your lamb. I know that was you, in the night, but you did not scream.”

I had been about to, right then, but his words—for, as he shifted position for a better look and revealed his nethers, I could tell this was no draconic mare—gave me pause. “So, you are speaking, I am not mad?”

“I am speaking, but I cannot attest to the state of your mental…I do not know if you are mad.”

So this was no beast, but a reasoning creature. “There is a mob of men hunting you. The other lamb you took, its shepherd is a vindictive bastard and has whipped the villagers into a frenzy. They are—”

The raucous hubbub was unmistakable: the hunters were approaching the clearing with baying dogs and rattling weapons.

“You must go!” I pleaded, watching as he rose and plucked the hides from their treebranch. Draping them across his forearm, he shook himself, stretching the long leathery wings that had been draped across his back like a cape. Without so much as a glance backward, he leapt into the air.

At that moment, the men arrived. They carried long-bladed scythes, pitchforks whose tines gleamed with recent sharpening, and the bows used for hunting forest birds. The dogs milled around, snuffling the depression where the dragon had slept, and getting tangled in everyone’s legs.

Æthelred approached me, clapping me on the back as though we were friends. “Daeran, you found the monster! But…you have no weapon! Tell me, did the beast tear your sword from your hand? Did you plunge in your knife only to have its blood dissolve the blade?”

“No, I have no sword, and my knife is at my belt.” He knew I had no sword; no one in our village had such a weapon, let alone a poor shepherd, and yet he seemed so enraptured by own lies that he had forgotten the truth.

But he just stared at me, scruffy brown hair framing his gaunt and blotchy face, eyes spinning in his head. Breathless from his run and from exhorting his followers, at first I didn’t hear what he said. Helpfully, he repeated himself, the word growing stronger with each telling, until he was shouting at me, arm out-thrust: “Traitor! Traitor! Daeran warned the monster! Brothers, we are betrayed!”

Caught up in the moment, the men turned to face me, and I saw the bloodlust in their faces. Feeling sudden kinship with hind and hog, I turned and ran. And with shouts and the baying of hounds, they pursued. Never had I thought my friends and neighbors would be so eager for my death, but never had I thought I would save a dragon’s life. In my distraction I misjudged the forest: on the far side of the clearing was nothing but brambles, a tangle of blackberry thorns as tall as a man and unbroken as they wrapped from tree to tree.

I turned to face the onslaught, just in time to see a shadow descend.

The Shepherd's Dragon, Image 3
Like a roc attacking a herd of sheep, the dragon dove and swooped across the heads of my former-friends, scattering them to the four corners of the clearing. “Come, up, upon my back,” he urged in his low rumbling voice.

And, pulse racing, I obeyed.

The brown scales were smooth and cool against my hands, and nearly scentless. Like a child straddling a barrel, it was all I could do to hang on to the neck as the dragon leapt into the air once more. We rose above the trees, his mighty wings pushing us upward like hands scooped against water. Despite the wind roaring in my ears, I thought I heard a rough whistling behind us, the sound of arrows with worn fletching. I didn’t turn to look, lest I lose my grip and go tumbling down.

Higher, higher, until distance had lost all meaning, until the ground below was just a ragged quilt, every farm a patterned patch and every road a line of stitching. And yet we flew higher still, until we were over the clouds themselves and in the bright of the sun.

Then his wings locked, and we glided like a red kite hovering as it watched the ground below. But through the clouds we could not see the ground, could only see the tufts and swirls of white, pure and brilliant with only the sky’s blue ceiling above us. A beautiful sight that nearly made me forget the cold, or the knowledge that were I to slip, I’d not land on the wooly mounds of the clouds, but pass through going down as easily as we’d gone through going up, that I’d be dashed upon the ground same as if I’d fallen from the nearby abbey’s belfry.

A rumble ran through the dragon’s neck, vibrating my limbs and trunk. It sounded like he was talking, but in the wind of our flight—even as still as it seemed—I couldn’t make it out. I could, however, feel the muscles beneath my grasp shift and tense, and acting on that portent I gripped all the harder.

That seemed to be what he was waiting for, because as soon as I was snug he dove, wings folding behind me, neck lance-straight. We pierced the clouds, a momentary slap of cold damp like walking through a fog bank, and emerged above a wholly different quilt. Where my village and the farms and fields around it had been a patchwork of textures and colors, this seemed all of a piece, dull green fabric undulating as far as my streaming eyes could see, with only a few areas of purple knotwork to punctuate the expanse.

As we approached the ground, I saw a gash in the green, a gaping hole like a knifethrust. After a moment, I realized what I was seeing: a cave mouth that yawned beneath the moors.

Again I felt the muscles beneath my hands tense, again the rush of air that threatened to dismount me. As though intent upon running us both aground, the dragon plunged. The landscape rushed beneath me like a rug yanked from beneath my feet. Then, with a jolt that struk my face against the scaly neck, the wings spread and flapped, halting us mid-air.

We descended to the cave’s sunken mouth, landing gracefully. Still I clung to my perch, and good thing too: after a few steps, the dragon’s legs seemed to buckle beneath him, and had I been on the ground I’d likely have been crushed. He scrabbled on the rocks, grabbed on to one to hold himself up, but it gave way, sending the both of us tumbling to the stone-laden ground.

Rising to my feet, dusting myself off, I’ll admit I began to babble. “That was amazing! I can’t believe we escaped. I can’t believe I just flew! Everything looked so small from up there. Is this your home? Are there other dragons? Do….You’re hurt.”

Stumbling over loose stones, I made my way to his side: crimson blood was dribbling from the shaft of an arrow that had pierced his foreleg. Or is it forearm? I wondered, still a little unbalanced by the extremely eventful past few minutes.

“There are herbs, in the cave,” he hissed, trying not to show his pain. “This is not the first time I’ve had an arrow in me, though it has been a while; I’d begun to forget what it felt like. Go straight through and you’ll see a light. Follow it to the cloister and…and…oh God, I think one slashed me with his billhook.”

Sure enough, there was a line of red running along the tail’s brown scales, like a maypole with only one riband. Without another word, I set off into the cave’s mouth. Having a purpose made it slightly less terrifying, like braving the dark woods in search of a lost sheep. The start of all this, I thought, but pushed it aside. There are urgent things now, and other things can wait.

The cave itself was dark, of course, but also dry and sweet-smelling—not at all what I’d expected, given the tales of Beowolf and Gawain told in the village’s small tavern on winter nights. Though I could not see my footing, I found the floor to be smooth and level, as though swept, and up ahead there was indeed a brighter part of the darkness.

The light won, step by step, and soon I was in what the dragon had called a cloister. Like an abbey’s cloister, it was open to the sky, with a gravel walk around a green-filled courtyard. Unlike an abbey’s cloister this was no work of man but merely a caved-in portion, a hole in the roof that had allowed various plants to grow, sheltered from the winds that swept the moors above.

Far from being a wild tangle of weeds, however, a calm hand had deftly divided, tended, culled and encouraged. Some beds were raised, enboxed by wooden beams, others were slightly sunk, to better ensure damp soil for the plants within. It seemed the result of much study and wisdom, and I found myself able to understand it at a glance. Thankful that my duties as shepherd had included tending to wounds—both the animals’ and my own—I selected the proper plants with ease. I even found a thick bed of moss in one dark and damp corner beside a trickling font, like a stack of bowls to catch the runnel of water that dribbled in from above.

Spoils in hand, I turned and went back the way I came, through darkness and again out to the light. The dragon had slumped beside the cave’s mouth, seemingly unconscious. But just as he had the night before, at my approach one great eye opened and watched me.

Despite his pain, he’d laid the two lambskins carefully on a flat rock; I could see that one had been splashed with blood, already drying.

“Lean back, this will hurt. Please do not eat me, sire dragon.”

The arrow had had a simple bodkin point, making for easy penetration but easy removal as well; a farmer’s hunting point. I crushed yarrow leaves between two stones, and instructed the dragon to hold one mash to his arm while I pressed the other to his tail. This left me in the perfect position to examine his body—or, at least, the nether half—while we waited for the herb to staunch the bleeding.

He was laying on his left side, wings folded and tucked up behind him, as though that were all the cushion he needed between his back and the stony wall. His left arm both propped him up and held the yarrow to his wounded right arm. The swell of his belly hid his head, but I could hear panting gulps as he tried to maintain his composure. His hips were canted forward, the better to remove strain from his wounded tail.

This left me in the position of staring straight at his fundament. Watching, I could see a faint pulse twitching of the hole. There was something admittedly alluring about the ring of flesh, a darker brown than the scales of his haunches, and the same glossy skin as swaddled the twin orbs, each bigger than my head. A compact sheath nestled between them and the swell of belly, and I couldn’t help but wonder what it contained.

I checked under the yarrow and found that the bleeding had indeed stopped. Leaving the mash on his tail, I ground the other ingredients: lady’s mantle and elderflower and comfrey, adding a little water squeezed from the moss. Once I had a paste, I applied it in place of the yarrow leaves, draped both wounds with a length of moss, and bound the entire affair with strips cut from my tunic hem. This done, I stepped back, eyeing the dragon’s form for other injuries to tend, but he seemed otherwise hale.

The Shepherd's Dragon, Image 4
“You needn’t have done that.” The rumble of his voice shocked me out of my reverie: I had been staring. “Your tunic, you need not have damaged it so.”

“Well…sire dragon, did you have bandaging cloths ready? Or perhaps a stockpile of clean old clothes I might have used?”

“Ah, no, tis true. I haven’t much need of clothes these days.”

I was about to inquire what he meant by “these days,” but a look of such profound sadness flowed over his features that I couldn’t bear to cause him more pain by prodding a wound that would not be healed by compresses and poultices. “I suppose I should begin walking,” I said instead.

This distracted the dragon from his sorrows. “Walk? Where?” he swung his neck around for a better look at me, his green eyes peering into my face.

“Why, back home of course: my flock needs tending and I’m coming on hungry.”

“I’m afraid you can’t. Walking, you wouldn’t get there until long after dark, and you’re likely to get lost. Please,” he added, his voice softening. “Please, at least stay a day or two, so I may fly you back once I’ve had a chance to heal.”

“But my flock, they cannot remain penned…” But after a moment’s thought, I changed my mind. “Actually, a day or two would not do them too great a mischief. There is water in the trough, and they grazed yesterday.”

Warming to my acceptance, the dragon nodded. “And I’m sure the other shepherds would look in on your flock too.”

“No,” I said in a small voice, remembering how red Æthelred’s face had been, how furiously he spat that word: traitor. If he’d so easily convinced the villagers to go against a dragon, it would be no big thing to turn them against one of their own. “No, they likely think I’m either bewitched or dead and in your gullet.”

The dragon remained silent apart from the soft bellows roar of his breathing. Then he said: “My name is Warinus.”

“Mine is Daeran.”

“I know, I heard the others…”

I checked the poultice, re-snugged the strip of cloth holding it in place, felt the tailflesh around the wound. Looking up, I saw that the dragon—Warinus—was doing the same on his arm. I also saw him worrying at a fang, the broad blue tongue visible between the cones of his other teeth, pressing and retreating.

Leaving the tail, I stepped around the outstretched legs and approached the head. Up close I could see that it was big enough to swallow me whole, and while the teeth seemed proportionately rather small, they were in fact longer than my hand. A small circlet of horns ringed the top of his skull. I beckoned him come closer, and marveled as the long neck arched down, graceful as a swan’s. “Your tooth is loose.”

“I know,” he said, sucking at it, “one of your friends must have knocked it in the fight. It doesn’t much hurt, can you grab ahold? My talons are not nimble enough.”

“Promise not to eat me,” I said in a tone more playful than admonitory.

“Ha! If I were aiming to do that, do you think I wouldn’t already have done so?”

“By your own admission, you are not dextrous enough to tie these bandages yourself, perhaps you were merely waiting for me to perform the task, and then you would gobble me up.”

“Well, then, it’s a good thing I’ll need to have my wounds tended for a few days more, elsewise you might make for a fine repast.” He licked his scaly lips with the gluttonous relish of a mystery player, but grimaced when the tongue brushed the tooth.

The Shepherd's Dragon, Image 5
Joking aside, I reached up, “Here, let me take hold: I can tell it is worrisome and should be drawn.” The texture was smooth as polished stone, only slightly slickened where the tongue had pressed against it, but my fingers found purchase just below where it emerged from his gums where a hiplike protuberance gave ample traction. I held on with both hands as he lifted his head again, just enough for my feet to dangle and my full weight to pull upon the fang.

It was sufficient. With a ghastly sucking sound it loosed its hold upon his jaw, and dropped me the handsbreadth down to the stones. Holding it up, I realized it was hollow, like a cow’s horn. And in the hole so recently vacated was already a smaller toothtip, as though he had a line of teeth patiently waiting to take their turn, like nuns in a procession.

Which got me to thinking. “Warinus,” I remarked as I rolled the tooth between my palms. “That is an odd name for a ravenous beast. It sounds almost like a monk’s name.”

I could see that he was thinking, but all he said was: “Aye.”

After a while, he spoke up again, changing the subject; the missing tooth made his words whistle. “Thesse lambsskinss musst be dried. Pleasse, would you sstretch them upon that rock?” Awkwardly, he gestured with the uninjured arm, waving it in a general direction.

Stepping back from his tail, I could see a large flat stone that had dull rust-colored stains around its edge and base, as though used for this purpose before. Following his directions, I spread the skins upon the stone, stretching them out and weighting the edges with rocks.

“My thankss,” he said, then paused, mouth open, forked tongue probing the gap in his teeth. “There iss,” he said slowly, as though weighing his words—or trying to select the ones with the fewest sibilants, “an itch. Upon my tail.” Again he tried to indicate where, but could only flail gracelessly.

Placing my hands on the tip, I rubbed gently, feeling the smooth scales and flexing muscles. He shook his head, “Further up.” I slid along the length, skirting the wound, testing the water, but always he jerked his head, beckoning me to come closer in and further up. The closer I got, the warmer the heat radiating from his scales, especially along the underside. Obediently, I continued my slow approach.

When I was close enough to lay a hand on his haunch, his eyes met mine. “You have gentle handss,” he whistled softly. “I couldn’t help noticing your gaze.”

“I…yes.” There was little point in lying to a beast that could devour me in a gulp, nor to one who seemed to have deep wisdom. “I would like to…”

“You may,” he nodded, without even asking what it was I wanted to do, as though he trusted me so well. Again he tucked up his uppermost leg, again he exposed his underbelly, even rocking his hips back into the stones behind him to give more unimpeded access.

I did not know where to begin.

In the end deciding that not deciding would be worse, I simply continued my movement up from his nethermost point. The hole therefore came first under my attention. Like everything about Warinus, it was big. Tentative at first, then gaining confidence, I caressed the ring, giving my hand a surreptitious sniff when it passed nearby: it smelled clean, with just the dry-leaves scent of the rest of him. Indeed, with the sweat of our escape on my brow and the crushed herbs on my hands, I likely smelled more pungent than his entirety. I leaned closer, gripping the ring with both hands, feeling his warmth and the strength of the muscles beneath the smooth scales; glancing up, I saw him watching me. Could there have been a smile in those eyes? Drawing courage from his silence, I pressed my lips to his fundament.

If he’d been smaller, or myself bigger, like the giants of the wilds, it might have made more of an impact. Still, were a fairy to be nibbling my own backside, I suppose I’d notice. I licked and kissed the hole before me, feeling it clench and shiver; if I’d wanted, I could have stuck my head through, wearing the dragon as an oversized liripipe.

After a while, I could tell he was eager for other things: when I glanced up, I saw the glossy gold of his shaft emerging from its sheath, a treasure being unearthed. I continued my trek up his underside, now turning my attention to the manly orbs. Feeling a bit like I was caressing prize pumpkins, I felt over their smooth surface, the thick smooth skin that covered them, the suggestions of cords and nodules hidden beneath, the folds and creases like a heavy purse straining to contain the wealth within.

I stretched my arms out and could just encircle one, pressing my face against it as I hugged and caressed. Pleasure like this could be restorative, I knew, making the body relax and heal itself. That’s what I told myself as I continued to explore, moving from the weighty balls to the sheath and its golden scepter. I actually moaned as I ran my fingers along the ridges and bumps of the dragon’s dick, ignoring the bunched skin of his sheath in my fervor to see his full length.

“I’ve not been attended like this in many years, little one,” he growled, already working his tongue to prevent the missing fang’s lisp. “The sun is warm, take off your clothes, I want to feel…”

My tongue pressed to the underside of his shaft silenced his words, but not the low rumble of his groan. Perhaps it was mad or sinful, but in the moment I wanted nothing less than to oblige this mutual rescuer. Hood, tunic, hose, braies, and shoes fell into a pile and were kicked aside.

I stood before Warinus, hairy to his smoothness, small to his size, but his eyes looked me over with no less interest than mine had had for him. Even as he rolled further onto his back, sliding across the gravel as though it were a bed of peas, he maintained his gaze, tongue occasionally flicking out like a serpent’s to scent the air.

Legs spread wide, he nodded. Climbing his belly reminded me of the large boulder in the village’s small river, perfect to clamber up and sun oneself after swimming on a bright June morning. But the sun on my back was swathed by fog, the air that whistled into our little gully was cold and damp. The only comfort to my bared flesh was the dragon.

The Shepherd's Dragon, Image 6
The shaft lay like a Roman column upon his belly, and I was struck with the sudden urge to straddle it as I’d done to his neck before. The golden skin was taut and hot against mine, but not unpleasantly-so.

In his new position, his injured arm was able to rest flat across his chest, freeing his left to reach down. After brushing dried flecks of poultice from his talons, he draped them across my back. The weight pressed me against his member, making me hold it all the tighter in my outstretched limbs; the heat felt particularly good against my own shaft, so minuscule compared to his.

“Daeran,” he moaned, and hearing my name in his low voice sent a thrill through my body. “Don’t let go,” he said as the hand gripped me, squeezing me gently against his own sensitive parts, using my body as a polishing cloth.

In truth he did not move me much, but the subtle tug of his hand across my back made me squeeze arms and legs in time, making it feel—or so I hoped—as though the whole golden column were getting attention.

In moments he stopped moving, his fingers twitching, the shaft hotter than ever against my belly, his whole body seemed racked with tension. “Close…” he grunted through clenched teeth, “…eyes.” The hand holding me lifted up, gave a brief squeeze, and I had a moment of terror that he would mash me into a pulp in his fervor. But the hand remained gentle despite its trembling, merely holding me and his member vertical, proud as a castle tower springing from his crotch.

A rushing noise, like the river after spring rains, thrummed through my body, the blood pounding in his cock, and something else. With a roar that drowned out all else, the dragon came.

Looking up I had a momentary vision of a white spray seeming to rise above the clouds before it began pattering down as a hot and sticky rain. I remembered his exhortation just in time, and closed my eyes, letting his seed patter down across my face and bare body, feeling the mighty shaft pulsing beneath my grasp.

I gasped for breath, and some of it dripped into my open mouth. The taste was similar to his smell of old leaves, but with hints of wood smoke and salt meat. Unable to resist, I opened my mouth wider, using lips and tongue to slurp up every drop I could, blindly nibbling along the few handspans of cock within reach.

His roar still echoed across the moors as his breathing slowed, and yet I continued to wriggle and gulp, not wanting to let any of the precious fluid go to waste. An herculean task, I knew, but one in that moment I was desperate to complete. My own cock pulsed unnoticed between my hips and his shaft; until, that is, he plucked me away.

I panted, exhausted but not sated, draped across the claws that held me in the air. “You certainly know how to give comfort, little Daeran,” he chuckled. “I suspected you might be of a mind, and thought to test how far you would go. I did not think it would be that far, though I cannot complain. Oh! Your face is covered,” he added with a bashful tone, “here, keep your eyes well closed, let me clean you.”

The tongue slathered along my face, washing off most of the syrupy cum at a stroke. When I was able to open my eyes, it was to the view of his gaping maw, tongue lashing forward to lap at the rest of my body. A wild thought crossed my mind: Perhaps he does mean to eat me. And, in that moment, I welcomed it. My own groan rose into the air as his tongue pressed against my front, the forked tip trailing along my thighs, and I unloaded my own seed, so small compared to his vast volume.

He pulled back with a start. “Well,” he remarked after a moment’s reflection, “I definitely did not expect that. You have a good taste.

However, my tongue can only do so much.” Smiling, he carried me back into his cave.

We went through the dark tunnel, skirted the planted beds in the cloister, and descended a sloping tunnel until furls of steam coiled around his body, like ghosts in the darkness. “Here we may bathe,” he explained as he put me down on a pebbly floor.

“But I can’t see anything!” True, there were little firefly specks spangling the blackness—glowing mushrooms, I later found out—but they were too dim for me to see by, at that point.

“Very well. Do not look at me; I’ll give you light enough to find a comfortable spot, but I cannot hold it forever.”

Uncertain what he meant, I obediently turned away from the sound of his voice, feeling the dragoncum sticking my limbs and fingers together as it dried. A clicking sound behind me nearly made me turn back around, but the whoosh of fire that followed made me glad I didn’t. Gazing upon flames in the darkness was the easiest way to lose what little night vision I had.

Instead, I took the opportunity to stumble along to the water’s edge. Deep within his cave, Warinus had found a hot spring which he used for bathing. Perhaps there was something to the properties of the water, or perhaps it was because he bathed often, but either way it explained why his nethers were so clean, his scales so much a pleasure to kiss and lick.

Just as the flames from the dragon’s breath were beginning to falter, I found a perch that would allow me to sit with the water lapping across my belly.

With a sputter and a smoky cough, Warinus doused his fire. In the suddenly-resumed dark, I could hear his heavy tread approaching, hear the water plashing around his mighty paws, hear the sigh as his shaft plunged beneath the surface—a pleasure I too had enjoyed. But as he entered the oversized bath, the water level rose, until only my head and neck were in the air.

I nearly jumped out of the spring when I felt something moving, but with a tentative touch I realized it was his tail; I made myself relax as it slid closer and wrapped around me, like a child holding on to a favorite toy.

Over the next few days, I tended his wounds, and as I tended, we talked. I told him of my life thus far, of being shepherd born and bred, of playing my pipe on long nights—he chuckled at that, clearly remembering our own “pipe-playing” on that first day together.

I plucked the hollow wooden tube from my belt and waved it around by way of explanation, then placed it to my lips and played a song I’d heard from returning crusaders, one they’d called Noël Nouvelet. I began slowly, simply, drawing out the mournful minor key, then began adding trills and gracenotes as I often did while watching my flock, whipping it into a frenzy of manic joy like the music I’d heard from the dusky-skinned travelers who showed up every fair day.

When I’d finished and the wind tore away the last echoes, Warinus applauded. “It’s been long since I’d heard music. This voice is not meant for singing.” I thought to contradict him, to say that he might not have been a songbird, but the low rumbles that emerged from his long and sinuous neck would have been beautiful if put to tunes; it was beautiful just in talking.

Instead, I stepped back and sang myself, dancing step-step-turn-clapstompstomp with a slow deliberation to match the pace of the song: “A merry life it is while summer lasts, With sweet birdsong.

Oh but now the cold wind blasts:
It blows so strong.
Oh, oh, but this night is long,
And it does to me much wrong:
Sorrow and mourn and starve.”

His clapping this time was more polite and less enthusiastic. “Do you not know any glad songs?”

I racked my brain, trying to recall the livelier tunes I’d heard over the span of my score-and-dozen odd years, but could recall naught but one. Standing back, I held my hands before my chest as I’d seen choristers do:

“Summer is a-coming in,
Loudly sing cuckoo,
Seed doth grow and meadow bloom
And wood doth spring up new.
Sing cuckoo!
Ewe bleats after lamb…”

But there I faltered, looking at the powerful jaws that had dispatched my own lamb as well as Æthelred’s. I could imagine that tongue flicking out to lick fresh blood from his scaly lips. “It’s, um, not as good with just one voice,” I finally offered. “You should hear the men at the tavern, they go around and around until the whole room sounds filled with cuckoo-birds.”

Warinus nodded with a small sad smile, as though remembering something loved and long gone. “Perhaps that is enough singing for today.” Leaning back against the sun-warmed rocks at the cave’s mouth, he stretched his limbs wide. Already the herbs were doing their work, helping his body to knit the sundered skin and muscle, and the new tooth was filling the gap in his grin.

I leaned close and pressed my face against his belly scales, running my hands along their smooth length. “Perhaps, now that you are well, you might be strong enough to fly me home?” I glanced up and saw the pained expression that had nothing to do with his injuries. “It’s only…I’ve got duties to tend to. Much as I’d enjoy staying here, others depend upon me.”

“I understand duty full well.” The sigh that rumbled up from his depths made me want to weep, but what I’d said was the truth: my flock, though in my keeping, was not my own.

Like Æthelred’s flock and those of other shepherds around the village, the sheep belonged to our Lord Kent, as did much of the village itself. A few days’ absence might be explained away with a story of having been kidnapped by the dragon, but any longer might strain credibility. A part of me wanted nothing more than a return to the normal rhythms of my life.

The flight back was easier, though painful for other reasons.

He descended into the forest, advising me that he’d be foraging for a time, should I change my mind. “You might not find the welcome return you hoped for,” he added as I walked between the boles. All I could remember was Æthelred’s red face, calling me traitor; perhaps he was right.

The sheep were still in their pen, though at a glance I could tell there were more than there ought to have been. My hut, too, had a new daubing of white mud over the wattle, and it looked as though someone had replanted the tiny pear sapling I’d been tending beside my hut’s door with one fully grown and already bearing fruit. As I drew near, a boy emerged, ten or a dozen years old; his willowy limbs and wild tuft of brown hair were familiar.

“Who are you, lad, and what are you doing in my hut?” I asked with a smile, trying to sound friendly-like.

“This is my hut. I am Æthelwold, son of Æthelred,” he remarked, full of filial pride. “And who are you?”

“I am…nobody.” And without another word I turned and headed for the forest, though I had presence of mind to leave the hut in the opposite direction, doubling back once under cover of the trees. I’d seen through the open door behind the boy, seen the familiar interior rendered alien by virtue of new paint, a new cot. The few possessions I’d had, which should have been hanging from pegs or the rafters, were gone.

Perversely, I half hoped the dragon would be gone, stranding me here. It would serve me right, I thought, abandon folk and flock, and get abandoned myself. But he was where I’d left him, as though he hadn’t moved at all. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”

He seemed taken aback by my tears, by the fists harmlessly pounding his shoulder. “Tell…tell you?”

“I went back to my village…there was a boy there, Æthelred’s son. When I went with you a few days ago, he hadn’t had a son. He hadn’t even been married! And now this boy is not only old enough to tend flock, but is living in my hut, eating fruit from the pear tree I planted. It’s…it’s like I didn’t exist at all.” Even as I said it, I knew I was being irrational, but the feeling of being scraped from the parchment of village life could not be denied.

“I had hoped…What I mean is, I don’t know why: perhaps it’s something to do with my cave, or the water, or the moors, or it’s just a part of my curse, but I had had hope that it wouldn’t affect you. Please, forgive me. I should have mentioned that it might at least be a possibility.”

“What, what might be a possibility?” I’d stopped hitting him—the blows clearly hurt my hands more than they did his scales—and had resorted to holding him, my arms wrapped around his foreleg, my face against his shoulder, taking some measure of strength from his sturdiness.

“Time. For whatever reason, time does not go for me the way it once did for you. Sometimes when I return from my cave to forage or to…borrow…things I need, I see signs that many seasons or even years have passed. It always seems a cold and rainy early spring in the moors around me, but often it is full summer or midwinter when I emerge from the clouds and land. And yet sometimes many months will go by in my cave, but if I return to the same spot to gather plants, I see that my footprints from the previous visit are undulled by weather, a stem I had bruised had yet to repair itself.”

“So…you knew that I might not be able to return.”

“As I said, I had hope that you would be able to. It seems your good deed has cursed you. Shall I carry you back to the cave? Or is there elsewhere you would like to go? If we wait for nightfall I could take you to Londinium, or Canterbury, or even the almshouses of Bath…”

These were placed I’d heard about, from merchants at fairs, returning crusaders, even the tall tales told in the inn; but they were not real places, not to me. My whole life I’d only known my village and the woods surrounding it. “Take me back to the cave,” I found myself saying, “I need somewhere familiar.”

We both were silent on the flight back, letting the mists and clouds slip by without comment; the air seemed colder, wetter, making me cling tighter to the warmth of Warinus’ neck. I might have cried—with the water plastering my hair and beading down my face, it was hard to tell.

But that evening, as we soaked in the hot spring, he began to talk.

“I mentioned earlier that I had a curse upon me, but you didn’t remark on it. Understandable, given your own loss, but I feel you deserve an explanation…especially if you decide to stay here…with me.”

I stared at him, dimly lit by the undulating reflections of the glowing mushrooms that grew on the damp walls of our bathing room: seeing so great a creature trying to curl himself up into a tiny ball would have been funny, had it not been for the sorrow in his eyes.

“You think me strange? I was human, like you, Daeran. A monk, in an abbey. As near as I can figure, that was four hundred years ago.”

He paused, taking in my questioning gaze. He nodded sagely, as though in that moment he felt every one of those years upon his long and sinuous neck, weighing him down. His sigh ruffled the water and warmed the air around us.

“I thought I had found my home, my niche in the world, among the brothers there. I was happy. With my brothers I prayed, sang, tended the garden, labored in the scriptorium, everything one could expect from a life withdrawn from the world. But the world did not withdraw from us.

“A decade or so after I had joined the monastery, we were attacked.

The abbot ordered everyone to the chapel to pray; we’d heard of the Northmen raiding churches, monasteries, even nunneries, we knew there was no hope of defense. Our abbot decided we were to die as martyrs, that our spilt blood might help turn some heathens’ hearts toward the light. But when night fell and the attack began in earnest, I would not go.

“After taking our few horses and goats, they lit the stables on fire, the thatch blazing and spreading the flames like an evil rumor to the other buildings. Already my brothers’ prayerful chanting was broken by screams and moans. And still I hid in the scriptorium. True there were gold and silver plates and chalices and candlesticks in the chapel, and fine-embroidered linens and vestments in the sacristy, and even a reliquary with the fingernail of the abbey’s patron saint hidden beneath the altar, but to me there was something more precious.

“As I hid, I clutched two books to my chest: an illuminated Gospels, and a copy of the Venerable Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica that I myself had had a hand in making. While the one had a gilded cover inlaid with gems, and the other was clad in simple leather, the contents of both were—to me—the true treasure of my abbey. The invading strangers’ shouts grew louder, and I realized that my brothers’ praying had been silenced. They were martyrs, surely, but coward that I am, I took the books in my arms and tried to find a way out.

“The thatch of the scriptorium had caught alight too, and begun raining fire down outside the broad windows along the building’s north side. The door to the south led to the cloistered walk, which echoed with foreign tongues. The east and west walls were solid stone, thickly built for strength. I had a choice: to flee through the windows’ curtain of flame, to go into the cloister and join my brothers in death, or to wait where I sat until fire or sword ended my fears.”

Like a child listening to a firelit story of ghosts and witches, I inched closer, placing my tiny hand on his body beneath the water. I watched his face, noticing for the first time that the ring of short horns around the crown of his head resembled a monk’s tonsure, and seeing again the soft and sad humanity of his eyes, their green light dimmed by the mushrooms’ glow. “What did you do?” I asked in a quiet voice.

“I took the coward’s way out. The scriptorium was burning around me, the layers of thatch above me each igniting until embers and lit straws rained down. Inkhorns bubbled and burst, desks caught fire with a fervor they’d never known from the monks who sat and scribed, and parchment began to warp and crackle. Books on the shelves fanned open as their leaves swelled, looking more like bakers’ loaves than containers of wisdom; quills seemed to hop and jump as their shafts buckled in the heat, adding the stench of burnt hair to the air already filled with wood smoke and crisped skins. I might have been alight too, and I wouldn’t have noticed in the heat of that room.

“So I ran. I turned tail and leapt through the uncolored glass of the windows, their leading already melting and drawing silver icicles down the wall. I did not feel the shards, did not feel the sting of molten metal searing my flesh, did not feel my habit burning away from my skin, my hair, my feet, my hands alight. I only felt the cool wind against my cheeks, the weight of the books clutched to my chest. Behind me was the roar of the fire as it consumed my home, the bodies of my fellow monks, everything I’d known. Behind me too the calls and raucous laughter of the heathen attackers as they plucked baubles from the debris.

“It wasn’t until I’d reached the relative safety of the nearby woods that I stopped running to catch my breath and examine myself and my treasures. Under the moonlight, I could see that the parchment of the books had not been spared, nor had their bindings. The leather had bubbled and shrunk, stiffening into a brittle wafer that crumbled beneath my touch. The parchment within was similarly ruined, every precious word obliterated. The Gospels too had been destroyed by the fire, the gold case melting and cementing the pages into a brick of costly trash, a faithless dross.

“Realizing that the two most precious items I’d striven to save had been destroyed, in my grief and despair I finally noticed my own injuries. My habit, of course, had been reduced to ashes in my flight, but even the hair on my arms and chest had been singed away, the skin shiny and dark as a roast duck’s. The gold had melted into my skin, and one of the gems from the Gospels’ cover—a topaz—had somehow embedded itself in my palm.”

He held up his left claw, and showed me the yellow oblong, glittering in the dimness. I marveled that I hadn’t noticed it before, but then recalled how he’d always seemed to keep the fingers closed, or the palm facing away from me, as though a dragon with a stone in his flesh were far more uncanny than a dragon alone. “Did…did it hurt?”

Warinus snorted mirthlessly. “I felt no pain, not then, not physically, but the nights and days after passed for me in a haze of agony. That night, naked, burnt, bereft of everything, I knew I’d been cursed. Had I obeyed my abbot, I would have died with my brothers. By trying to escape fate I only substituted one for a worse one.

“As my body healed it changed, and I split my skin like a snake, hatching and re-hatching from husks that resembled a human’s form less and less. And I became what you now see me as: a coward, with leather skin and golden parts.”

We sat in silence, and I watched the tears gathering at the corners of his eyes—or, at least, the one I could see from my low angle. “I do not think you a coward,” I said in a quiet voice. “You tried to save something beautiful, something good; you did not submit like a lamb beset by wolves. And…i’faith, I do not think you cursed.” I leaned closer, placed my other hand upon his side, wishing in that moment that I could have been the bigger of the two, that I could have enfolded him in my arms. “If anything, perhaps it was a blessing…after all, were it not for this ‘curse’ you would have been dead long ago, and I would not have known you.”

He seemed to think about that, looking away. “Well, perhaps it is. Though I can’t help but think that were it not for me, you still would have your home, perhaps a family too.” He dipped his neck, brining his head closer, the better to judge my expression. “Would that not be better than exile?”

By way of answer, I paddled through the steaming water until I was over his belly, then dove down. As the hot spring bubbled around me, I sought the lip of his sheath with both hands; finding it, I latched on and used the handhold to pull myself further down, until my body was wrapped around the fleshy tube, my bare feet resting upon the skin of his sac. It took very little squeezing to coax him out, relaxed as he was by the water’s warmth, and I shifted my attention from the sheath to the sword within.

The skin of it was hotter than before, taut and water-slicked. Still with eyes screwed shut and breath held, I rubbed hands and body across the member, showering it with kisses and licks. I felt like a dog with a tasty bone, and feeling the cock swelling firmer beneath my hands made my own stiffen to match. Wrapping my legs around the ridges encircling the lowermost part allowed me to hunch into the underside while I caressed the pointed head.

A heavy claw descended through the bubbles, gripping my back, using me as one might a sponge, rubbing long past the act of cleaning and continuing solely for the pleasure of it. And I was happy to be so used, for every stroke slid my shaft against his, and every squeeze was like a tight bear hug.

We both were so impassioned that we neither of us held out for long.

My whole body seemed to tighten as I sprayed my seed into the

water, shuddering at the way his hand seemed to hold me tighter—I could just make out the firmness of the jewel in his palm, pressing into my back. Warinus was not long behind, for I could feel the rumbling thrum of his blood further firming his shaft, feel the subtle vibrations of it, the twang of muscles preparing.

I opened my eyes to watch the spouting gush. And as the pearly white fountained out of his golden shaft, I realized I was still beneath the water, still holding my breath. I pushed up off my perch and broke the surface even as his cum rained down upon us both.

“Sard me, lad,” he panted, head lolling. “One would think you had practice—”

“How long was I beneath the water?” I asked with some urgency, realizing that I wasn’t the slightest bit short of breath, despite my immersion.

“I don’t know, I was hardly saying ‘Our Father’s while you were down there….Your face, it looks different.” He reached down and gently caressed my cheek with a finger, but as it followed my jawline to brushed against the crest of my ear, I pushed him away.

I’d felt a twanging as his claw stroked my ear, something between plucking a bowstring and twitching a sapling. I reached up to feel it myself: sure enough, my questing fingers found stiff growths arching away from the top and back of my ear. Taken together, it felt like a fish’s fin had grown out of the cartilage. “What did you do?” I asked, but even my voice sounded odd, as though I had too much nose.

My fingers scrabbled across my face, feeling the tip of my chin a thumb-width or two more forward than it ought to be, my lips drawn wide, my nostrils stretched and bulbous. It didn’t hurt, it didn’t feel anything, it just felt like my face, only it wasn’t my face any more, wasn’t the one I’d seen my whole life reflected in ponds and water butts and the small glass windows of the village church. “What did you do,” I repeated in a whisper.

“I…I know not. Hm, I must fetch something, go into the cloister, the light should be better there. I will join you presently.” And without a further word he slid from the water, lithe as a serpent, and padded up along the corridor, likely to one of the various rooms he’d carved from the cave. I had seen the oversized doors, like barrel ends, blocking holes large enough for his massive bulk, but hadn’t asked what was within. Now a more pressing mystery required my attention.

I too rose from the steaming water, hands resolutely at my sides, head facing forward, trying to resist the urge to examine every inch of myself then and there, knowing it would just be an exercise in frustration, given the low and ill-colored light of the spring’s grotto. So I dutifully took the well-worn path up and through the warren of caves until I reached the cloister. A deep breath filled my head with the calming scents of mint and chamomile flowers. I stood in the middle, eyes closed, letting the weak and cloud-strained light warm me as much as could be.

A clatter echoed from somewhere in the caverns behind me, along with a grunt of frustration. Despite my curiosity, I remained motionless, my attention only on the smells flooding in. Just as I was beginning to feel my pulse slacken and my thoughts slow, I heard the tramp of Warinus’ claws.

“Daeran, come, look.”

I opened my eyes and saw that he was holding a small object, round and flat, just about the size of a face. I could tell it was old, perhaps ancient: the metal had tarnished to a speckled green, as though it were made of lichen rather than metal. The flat surface had been embossed with the figure of a naked woman riding astride a great bull—and, judging by the way his sculpted ballsac had been polished and buffed to a golden glow, a beloved or potently magical male—surrounded by a flock of what appeared to be angels, each one with comically-puffed cheeks apparently blowing at the rider and her mount.

I was about to remark on how it was a lovely…thing, but it hardly solved our problems, when he pressed the handle between his claws and spun the object around. The sculpture had only been the back, I realized, for the front had been polished until it was reflective as a pond. At his urging, I took the mirror in both hands and used it to examine my face.

The Shepherd's Dragon, Image 7
I looked like an overstuffed doll, its painted-on features distorted by a lump of wood shavings. My head was misshapen, my jaw too long by a few fingerbreadths, my nose as broad as a Moor’s, my brow pushedforward, and my ears tipped with the fleshy, springy frills that I’d first noticed. I still looked human, but I didn’t look like me any more.

First my time had been taken, and now my form, but I found myself unconcerned. Perhaps it was the calming scents of the plants, or the comforting presence of Warinus, or perhaps it was simply the acceptance of the fact that I had no place in the village any more. I grinned at my reflection, admiring the bright sharp teeth, then smiled up at the dragon. “It looks as though I’ve got all the more reason to stay.”

We noticed, over the next few days, that my changes were progressing: my feet had already lengthened to the point of being almost unable to wear my shoes, and the toes had grown both claws and webbing. It was clear that I was becoming a different manner of dragon from Warinus, but neither of us minded. We made rather a game of it, and he delighted in spotting each new alteration before I could notice (though, i’faith, there were plenty of times when I realized, for example, that I now had the nub of a tail, but kept mum to let him “win”).

Before my face and body changed too much, I came up with the bright idea of traveling to London and Bath and other places, to obtain items that otherwise Warinus would have had to steal or make himself or go without. Items like parchment: his attempt to turn the lambskins he’d “gathered” on the night we met into parchment had been a terrible disaster. We had no means (nor the expertise) to properly tan the hides, and when he attempted to thin the skin as he’d heard was done, his claws ripped right through.

In the end, we ate the shredded and sun-dried skin. I found my newly enlarged jaw and teeth more than capable of chewing the tough rawhide, gnawing like a dog. My appetites were becoming less human as well. I still liked bread—and had devised a way to heat flatbread on stones warmed by Warinus’ fires—but there were fewer vegetables in my diet, and more meat. There were times when, on impulse, I simply took a bite from the fish or rabbit we’d caught: bones, skin, scales, fur, and all.

Using some of the materials I was able to obtain for him (and with his tooth as an inkwell), he also taught me to read and write, my smaller hands far more nimble. He had never forgotten the craft of his monastery, nor his love of books. Indeed, now that I was staying, he showed me what lay behind each walled-off cavern in what I was already thinking of as “our home.” Each one was a store room, containing different things he’d gathered over his years. Precious and interesting stones, ancient items (including my mirror), jars of seeds for his cloister garden, and books. A fortune in books, a bigger library than even my old village’s lord could lay claim to: easily fifty tomes, laid flat on broad wooden beams.

I saw the damaged texts he’d tried to repair, and the unfinished chronicle he’d been writing but had had to abandon. His curse had granted him long life (if not immortality) but had also made it nearly impossible to work on the texts he so loved. “I can barely turn the pages without tearing them,” he admitted as I practiced my letters on a tablet of wax. “Would that I had your size again, but it’s not to be.”

The Shepherd's Dragon, Image 8
I reached up and caressed his face, my talon-like fingers rattling across the smooth scales of his jaw and neck. “I wish it could, for your sake; but since it cannot, I’m happy to be your hands.” We sat in silence for a moment, listening to the tinkle of the cloister’s fountain, letting the scents of the plants mingle with our own. “There is,” I admitted quietly, “one thing I lament, still being man-sized.”

“What is that, little Daeran?”

“That I am too small to breed—or be bred by—you. I’ve noticed how careful you are, I know you don’t want to hurt me.”

“And I still don’t. But now that you are…demi-human—from the Latin dimidius for one half—we might find that you have unexpected abilities and strengths.”

I set down the tablet, laying it flat in case the wax melted in the cloister’s weak sunlight. “Have I progressed so far?” I stood and examined myself: my hands and feet had grown longer, their webbing more flexible, and tiny pearlescent blue scales had lately begun creeping across my skin, making me look like a doll fashioned of two colors of clay swirled together. The little blue pips felt slightly itchy at first, but Warinus had said he’d gone through much the same when his own scales had first appeared, and the itching would pass. We’d been spending more time in the hot spring to help alleviate the discomfort of my changes, and I liked nothing more than to slip beneath the surface and ply my lips and tongue across his nethers.

Which made sense, now that I considered it. Even as I enjoyed the carnality of Warinus’ golden shaft and hefty balls, the muscular tail and thighs hiding the plump ring between, even as I thought up new ways to pleasure my protector and friend, I also kept loose track of how long I was staying underwater, trying to see how far I could push it. I had not yet reached a limit, and had only surfaced when I wanted to kiss him, or feel his seed rain down upon us.

The wings I had sprouted, though still covered in pink human flesh, were short and blunt, looking more like a fish’s fins than a bat’s manyfingered wings. It gave me nearly as much pleasure, wiggling them and feeling Warinus’ claw stroke gently across their surface, as it did when he lavished the same attention on my growing tail, which was now roughly a cubit long. “I think,” he’d remarked once, “you might be becoming a water dragon,” but he’d never before suggested that I’d reached the midway point.

The Shepherd's Dragon, Image 9
Arms and wings outstretched, I turned, letting him take in the still-hairy skin of my chest, the broad paddle-like feet and muscular legs, the too-long arms and nimble hands. My tail and wings flexed, and as always I reveled in the sensations of the new limbs, the brushing of skin across skin. I’d noticed a few days previous that my tail even had freckles and a dusting of hair where it met my back, as though I’d been born with it, as though it were a normal human appendage.

Leaning back, chin cupped in his topazpalmed hand, he assessed me. “While there is no mensura for the proportion of human to dragon—at least, none that I know—it’s a safe estimate that you are roughly halfway

betweox.” He grunted as he rose to his feet, and lumbered through the cloister on all fours; turning his head back, he beckoned: “Well, come on then, I think there’s one part of our home I’ve not shown you yet.”

I blinked, mind spinning with the realization that he’d called the cave ours, and the question of if I would ever be forced to walk on hands and feet as he was. I stood a little straighter as I followed behind the sweep of his tail, though the knowledge that that might be my fate wasn’t as scary as it might have been in the days before. Truthfully, I welcomed whatever changes might come, so long as I had Warinus to guide and comfort me.

As we walked, I noticed that we were following the little drainage ditch that had been dug along one side of the cave floor, to allow the cloister’s fountain and plantings to drain away. We emerged into the light once again, and at first it seemed like another cloister, another spot where the cave roof had fallen, but this hole was bigger than it seemed: what I’d thought was the far side was actually the dense foliage of trees, planted in the exposed cave floor and tall enough to appear level with the grassy moors above. A path of broad, mossy flagstones wound away from the tunnel we’d left through the small vale of fruit trees.

“Consider this further proof that this cave, the moors around it, and the cloudbank we always fly through when leaving or entering…that all of it might be enchanted.” With a sinuous twist of his neck, he gripped a treebranch gently in his teeth and bent it down for me to examine. The yellow fruits were long, tipped with a lump at top and bottom, much like a billy goat’s balls.

“Are those…lemons?”

He plucked one and tossed it to me, filling my nostrils with its biting sour-sweetness. “Yes, and perfectly ripe, no matter what season might be proper for each.” He gestured at other trees: “Apples, quince, cherries, pears, plums, and pomegranate. Hadn’t you wondered where I had gotten the fruit for our dinners?”

I blushed, and playfully hid my face behind the nearly palm-sized lemon. “In truth, I thought you had merely procured them as you had the meats: either gathered from some feral orchard or ‘borrowed’ from an unwitting farmer.”

“Fair enough. Well, now you know the truth, and can have as many as you like.”

On a whim, I bit into the lemon, the thick rind parting before my teeth, the juice dribbling down my chin as I briefly chewed, then swallowed. In a twinkling, I’d devoured the whole fruit: rind, seeds, flesh, and even the bit of twiggy stem that had remained.

Warinus watched thoughtfully. “That is only half of what I wanted to show you, however,” he finally said after a moment’s contemplation. He continued along the path as it wove between the trees, the little rivulet we’d followed now dashing here and there among the roots, sometimes following the path, sometimes dipping underneath, as though its course had been dug by someone wanting to ensure that each tree had water. Then I noticed Warinus’ head bobbing as he walked, the long neck allowing him to examine this trunk, that root, without breaking stride.

This cave was his, after all, and even with the way time never played fair between the moors and the rest of the world, he must still have spent centuries in planting and tending this little orchard. He might not have been able to illuminate manuscripts any more, but he lavished no less care on his—on our—home.

I was so enamored with the thought of his dedication that I nearly ran into his haunches: he’d stopped, seemingly in the middle of the path. Running a hand along his side, I walked around to see what had halted him. I was met with a broad expanse of water, smoother than glass, dotted with small islands and o’ertopped with the fleecy wool of the foggy clouds that shrouded the moors around us, and ringed, in the far distance, by tall cliffs.

“When I realized how long you were staying underwater, I had my first suspicions of what might be happening, and I’d been waiting to show you this until I was sure. I do not know what lies beneath these waters, it might be naught but stones and fish, but I had spotted a column sticking out of the lake just by that island…there.” He pointed, but I couldn’t tell which one. “There might be Roman ruins under the water; something for you to explore, at least.”

I hugged his foreleg, feeling my ear-frills thrumming subtly with the proximity to so much water. “Thank you, Wari. You have your garden, and your books, I suppose I should have a pastime of my own; I won’t deny I’m itching to take a swim.”

“Well, I had thought of the books as being for the both of us, since your hands are still nimble enough to be of use…unless you no longer…”

“No, no! I love working on them with you. Truly, if it were not for this lake to swim in and explore, I’d gladly have spent all my time in assisting you as I’d been doing.” I stepped around in front of him, my feet plashing through the shallows as I approached the head looking out across the water. A delicate finger traced along his jawline brought his gaze down to me, and I took the opportunity to stretch my own lengthening neck up as far as it would reach.

Our lips met, our mouths opening and heads tilting, his breath fluttering my ears and ruffling my hair as his tongue slid across mine. Despite my changes, he was still so much bigger than me, and I felt a shiver of odd pleasure at the thought that he could wrap those lips around my whole body; I would have to remember to try that at some point, maybe go for a swim and play “Jonah and the Whale” with him.

Then he broke the kiss, pulling back and blinking at me. “Daeran, lad, you’re glowing.”

Sure enough, the parts of me that had scales were indeed glowing, as though I were covered in fireflies that had been dipped in woad dye. An energy seemed to fill me up, the way the sun does when you’re lying on a hillock on a bright spring day. Only it wasn’t the sun, it was the water. I was deep enough for it to be lapping about my thighs, but while the lake’s chill would have shriveled my sac and sent my shaft retreating towards the warmth of my body, now it was almost as though my various parts wanted nothing more than to be cold and wet.

With a hand hooked behind the point of his jaw, I led my dragon further out. A shiver ran through him, rattling his wings, and glancing down I could see why: his own golden shaft had dipped below the water’s surface. “Oh, is it too cold?” I asked with concern, fearing that my idea would be snuffed aborning.

“Not too cold, just a slight shock. Are you trying to drown me, little


“You’ll see,” I replied with a devilish grin. The water was deep enough that I had to paddle to keep my head and neck above the surface, and Warinus’ belly was completely submerged. I gave him one last kiss, then dove down.

I blinked and it was as though thin cups of glass had been placed over my eyes: I could see, almost better than in the air above the water. The brightening glow of my body gave the massive trunks of Warinus’ legs a fae aspect, like some enchanted glen. I also spied odd-shaped stones poking out from the silt, but those would wait—clearly they’d already awaited my finding them for centuries, a few days more wouldn’t offend them.

My target was, naturally, the dragon’s golden spear. Thanks to the water’s chill, it had lost some of the size imparted by our kiss. A few quick paddles and I was able to lay my face against its surface, feeling the heat, the smooth skin. My tongue and fingers worked to reawaken his ardor, and I felt Warinus shift position above me, talons spreading wide on the lake bottom for better leverage.

I flipped around, laying my body along his length, the frills of my tail teasing his balls as I once again gripped the cock with both arms and legs. I could feel myself getting ready as well, could feel my pulse racing and my muscles quivering; the glow reflected off his belly seemed brighter than the sunlight filtering in through the quicksilver underside of the lake’s surface. It was time to enact my plan.

After a little probing of my own—first a claw tip pressed against my hole, sliding in with ease, then a finger, then one hand, then both—I felt suitably stretched. Perhaps this flexibility was like Warinus’ fire breath, a watery magic. Whatever the cause, I felt confident as I floated forward and wrapped my tail around his shaft. Using his belly scales like a ladder, I “climbed” down, letting the tapered point find its target. Bubbles flowed from my mouth as I moaned, sliding further and further down. Like the water that surrounded us, my body seemed utterly flexible, able to take in a finger-length, then a handspan, then a cubit of cock.

Warinus shuddered above me, and one massive talon rose from the silt, reached back, and gently gripped my body. The pad of the finger behind my head was particularly tender, as though feeling for any sign of distress as his other fingers helped me slide further down. I nuzzled against the hand, trying to convey that all was well, though my hole—stretched out though it was—clenching around his cock seemed to be a more direct reassurance.

Before long, we’d both had enough of the slow and chary approach, both satisfied that my changed body and the magic that now imbued it were sufficient to prevent any injury. I felt as though my innards were hollowed out, my whole form merely a sheath for his sword, and I wanted more.

I found that I could undulate my insides, rippling like waves across a beach, and from the way his talon squeezed tighter and began to pump me up and down along his length, it felt as good to him as it did to me. Being used like this, helping my dragon to lose himself to pleasure, I’d tasted it before, but never had it been so filling a meal.

The water frothed around us with how quickly he was pumping me. I’d known other shepherds to use a bit of sheepskin in this fashion, rolled up with the soft wool innermost, polishing their shafts with greater and greater alacrity until their hungers were sated; so too was Warinus using me.

The fiery heat of his cock was the only warning I had before he reared up, flopping onto his back and making a wave that threatened to deluge his orchard. I blinked as the water streamed down our bodies and found the glass-like layer had been removed from my vision, the crisp cold air making me blink. Warinus lay with his limbs splayed, his neck steeple-straight, his mouth open and tongue lolling as he panted and hunched into me, fucking me as I’d never been before.

I would have had a hand upon my own cock, but his fingers kept me pinned; the knowledge that he was unknowingly using me made my member pulse all the more fiercely. Within me, the shaft swelled and pulsed, the ridges encircling its base pressing out against my stretched hole like a carpenter’s screw. I managed to flick my tail out and wrap it partway around his balls, squeezing where they joined his body, tugging and coaxing, encouraging him.

He came, silent apart from the bitten-back soul-deep sigh, fingers twitching, claws pressing harmlessly against my skin and scales, balls pulled tight and squeezing my tail as they tried to draw up beyond its coil. His mighty chest heaved as he finally roared, as though he’d been holding it back until the dam burst, his pulse triphammering all through the cock that filled my body.

And as I felt him flooding me, I let out my first true roar, a fitting accompaniment to the fountain of pearlescent cum that sprayed across his up-thrust underside and nearly reached his head. The sound echoed off the distant cliffs and interweave a counterpoint to his bellow, even as our bodies began to disentangle.

The Shepherd's Dragon, Image 10

We lazed in the shallows afterwards, neither wanting nor needing to speak, content in one another’s presence. The water lapped across our scales and the glow finally faded from mine. I rested with my head upon his arm, as firm and warm a pillow as any could want.

The lake called to me, but there would be time. Instead I cast my mind back to the glimpse I’d taken under the water—before turning my attention to more pressing matters—and made a game of trying to recall the shapes of the stones I’d seen, puzzling out what they might have been in ages past, what they might look like when unearthed and dried. But it was little more than woolgathering, and I chuckled and gave it up for the nonce, instead turning my head to nuzzle against my dragon’s side.

His neck lifted and swung round, head dipping to examine me before he met my gaze. I could see his look linger on my belly, round as it was with his seed, like a lord after an Easter feast. “You’re not little Daeran any more,” he remarked quietly, his voice again its usual soft rumble.

“Perhaps not, but I’m still small enough to pass for human…” we both looked down at my belly, which had chosen that moment to burble loudly. “Well, once I no longer resemble a stuffed goose.” A dainty (for a dragon) belch escaped my lips, carrying with it the sweet-salty taste of distilled Warinus. “We’re almost out of rubricatory ink, so I was planning on getting some lead to make more…that is what you said it’s made from, right?”

He nodded, “Lead, urine, time, and a little fire,” a small gout of flame rolled out from his lips, quickly dispersing into a puff of smoke.

Chuckling, I nestled closer to his warmth, beginning to feel drowsy.

“Then the lead is only thing we lack,” I yawned.

He curled his neck and tail around me, and together we slept.

Update posts:
Weekly Update*: 17 April 2021

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