This story has pretty much stalled at the below. Any suggestions on what happens next would be awesome.
This time when she looked up though, Marcus wasn’t giving her his usual gently teasing grin, he was gaping in shock.
“Sariya, what? Why? How?”
He noticed Mav, “First? What?”
The dragon stretched and resettled, “My name is Mav, you no longer need to address me by my hatching order.”
“WHAT!?!?! No, wait, Mav? Is that short for something? Sariya did you just name my dragon?”
“And since when have graduate finance students possessed dragons?”
“Um, since they attached themselves to my family about twenty generations ago and won’t leave off.”
“You’re exaggerating prince, it’s only been ten generations.”
Sairya didn’t quite know where to start with that statement, “Generations? PRINCE?”
Marcus grimaced, “It’s sort of complicated, maybe we should find somewhere to sit down.”
Another dragon, clearly related to Mav, but coloured like an Arctic sky at midnight landed hard on Marcus’s shoulder, “Incoming! If you don’t want to spend the rest of the day discussing frills with Lady Areliana, you might want to disappear fast.”
Marcus swore, grabbed Sariya and ducked back into the tunnel.
“I just got out of here.”
“Please Sariya, please, pretend none of us are here, we’re all logs, or stones or something.”
He pulled them both around the corner, out of sight, just as a trilling voice called out, “Hellooo, I thought I heard voices, did I hear something? Was it the flowers?”
Sariya caught Marcus’s eye, he silently begged her not to give them away. She rolled her eyes and moved as quietly as she could further into the passage.
She felt, rather than heard his sigh as he moved to follow her.
They made their way back toward Sariya’s sitting room and eventually emerged, each wearing a dragon, from between the book cases.
Once they were clear of the entrance, Marcus motioned as if he were pulling a pair of curtains together and the book cases merged back into their whole form as if the passage had never been there. Of course, his presence, as well as that of the two dragons indicated otherwise.
Marcus pushed his hand through his hair, something he only did when seriously unsettled. Sariya wasn’t entirely happy that she knew that, it implied she spent far too much time paying attention to him. She busied herself putting the frying pan and other adventure aids away.
“Yeah, and fairly unbelievable if you’re not willing to believe in alternate worlds, portals and magic in general.”
“Well, since I’ve just walked out of a non-existent passageway behind my books, with a dragon draped around my neck, colour me convinced.”
He smirked, “Oh, before I completely forget my manners, Saryia, please let me introduce you to Pretty Flutterby. Youngest hatchling of the current royal dragon batch and named by Lady Areliana.”
“I’m sorry, what?! But that’s just wrong. Pretty Flutterby for a creature who clearly should be all about solstices and ancient magic? That’s a travesty.”
She gulped, “I’m sorry, that was dreadfully rude.”
The midnight dragon shrugged, “No, merely observant. Marcus, why did you hide this treasure from us when we were being invaded by fluffies?”
“I’m sorry, I was trying to keep my two lives separate as I didn’t think they were compatible. In fact I’ve no idea quite how they’ve just managed to converge.”
Sariya looked at him blankly, “Don’t expect me to have answers, a passage suddenly appeared where my books used to be, what was I supposed to do, ignore it? Heaven only knows what might have come through. And then, when I went to investigate, a dragon dropped on my head.”
Marcus focused on Mav who tried to look nonchalant.
“You kept disappearing into the tunnel and warding it, so I decided to look while you were away. The exit kept blurring so I asked it to fix on your favourite part of your destination and it opened up where Sariya said.”
“Um, since we seem to have a little bit of time, perhaps you could explain your name.”, he glanced at Sariya, “Yes I’m stalling but I really need to get my brain in some sort of order or it’ll never come out in a way anyone can understand.”
Mav stretched in a smug way, “I encountered Sariya unexpectedly, but on meeting her realised she was of more value and resource than all your fluffies put together. Since we’d initiated a mind bridge, I took a chance and informed her of her right as my first non-family link to name me.”
“Hang on, as what?”
“There’s some sort of magic compulsion that means, unless you reject the invitation, the first human, other than the royal family, a dragon has a mind-to-mind conversation with is honour-bound, and magic-bound, to give them their name. Unfortunately for Mav’s clutch-mates, our nobles are very well-versed in how to start those conversations and all the other dragons have been hauled in by high-born bubble brains with an ambition to be queen.”
“Now Mav, what is that short for?”
“My full name is Drone Maverick and I like it a great deal, Sariya’s mind images when naming me were highly satisfactory.”
Marcus frowned in thought, “Okay, clearly not bee related. Oh, nice! Flying observers, with weapon capability, but one with a mind of it’s own. Beautifully named Sariya!”
The midnight dragon looked rather morose, “I know it’s not going to change anything but, if by some chance you had the naming of me, what would you choose?”
Sariya blinked, “Um, well, going purely on your appearance, I’d go for something like Aurora, you know, like the Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis. And then you came to warn us about danger, which is maybe a bit like an oracle.”
Marcus started, “How did you get that? Pretty Flutterby has occasional flashes of pre-cognisance.”
“I don’t know, but my name preference would be Aurora Delphi, after Apollo’s oracle at Delphi.”
The dragon in question arched back as if in pain and then tightened its grip around Marcus’s neck and began to cry.
“Oh dear, no, what did I do? I should never have said anything. It was tactless and completely out of line.”
Marcus looked at her wonderingly, “No, you just did the impossible. The brilliantly, wonderfully impossible. You’ve renamed a dragon, I can feel the change.”
“Yes! Pretty Flutterby always itched, it never sat as it should. When you said my name, it was like the old one was levered out and my true name was able to settle in and it fits perfectly. Thank you, thank you. I hadn’t realised how much it hurt until it was gone.”
Mav darted up, excited, “Maybe she could rename the others as well! It would be worth a try, Rainbow Wings is in agony and the other two aren’t much better.”
Marcus looked pained, “Bad names hurt you? Why didn’t you say something? We could have protected you better.”
“We never knew it was possible to be renamed. This information needs to go to the forebears. It will change a great deal.”
They all looked over at the bookcase, and paused.
“Maybe a cup of tea first, and you can explain how you managed to find yourself living two lives in two different worlds.”
“I’m not entirely sure I can but I promise to try and work out something sort of coherent while the kettle boils.”
A few minutes later, properly fortified with tea and ginger nuts, they sat on the sofa and Sariya wedged herself comfortably against the arm so she could watch a slightly more relaxed Marcus marshal his thoughts.
“Okay, it all comes back to that passage. I was exploring the woods behind the castle a few years ago and came across a cave. Naturally I had to explore, and the passage dumped me out in the library of the university, it seems to like books for some reason.”
“It was terrifying but fascinating and I came back, and back and was able to pick up more information all the time, I think something allowed me to absorb basic survival information so I wasn’t taken in by the authorities for being a lunatic. I was able to produce important papers when needed and the more time I spent here, the more I wanted to find out. We don’t understand the movement of money and the motivations behind it at home, so studying behavioural economics and finance is giving me a huge leg up on all our trading partners, plus I enjoy it. And I also met some really amazing people that I want to send more time with.” Marcus flushed again.
“I’m pretty sure you glossed over a lot there but I’ll run with it. I had you pegged as a foreign exchange student when you first started class, but then decided you were just from another part of the country after a few weeks so I’ll vouch for the absorption thing. Now what about these poor dragons and their awful names?”
Marcus shifted uncomfortably, “It’s one of those tradition things that’s at the stage it’s doing more harm than good.”
“As I said earlier, the gemscale dragon clan that Mav and Aurora Delphi belong to, by the way do you have a short form of that?”
“Rory maybe? Del doesn’t feel quite right.”
The newly dubbed Rory purred approvingly.
“Nice. Anyway, one of the key elements of the association is that each member of the clutch bonded to the heir connects with a suitable potential partner for either diplomatic alliance or marriage purposes, usually marriage. The problem is, our so charming noble families think they’ve figured out how to force the connection and I now have a clutch of dragons in a pain I didn’t know they had, connected with the shallowest, most avaricious young women of the kingdom.”
“So if I’ve just named one or now two of your bonded dragons, does that mean I’m supposed to be in the running to marry you?”
“Well, um, only if you want to, and we don’t have to, but we’d need to have some sort of diplomatic tie or something.”
“Does going out with each other count?”, It was Sariya’s turn to go pink.
Marcus grinned, “Oh absolutely, when can we start?”
“Should we make a discreet exit somewhere at this moment?”
Sariya wasn’t sure which dragon had spoken, she thought it may have been Rory, but was a needed, if unwanted reminder of the situation at hand.