A village deals with their dragon problem in the traditional fashion. Much to the virgin's displeasure. [Male/male content]
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Warning: This story will contain eventual male/male relationship. Read at your own discretion. No beta.
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There had been rumors of dragon sign in the village for years.
First it was the farmer who reported seeing a suspicious shadow fly over head on a cloudy night; then a pair of children finding claw tracks the size of their heads in the back fields; and, every now and again, forest rangers who stumbled across the crunched up bones of large animals and the spoor of something bigger than the local bears.
But they were only rumors. Dragons were very rare - nearly extinct -- and the village was full of respectable, practical people; none of them truly believed there was such a beast living in the nearby mountain range.
Until the clear summer day one appeared suddenly in sky above the village. With a wingspan wide enough to block out the sun and scales colored back as pitch, the dragon soared directly over the town square and vanished into the foothills.
Nor was this the last time they saw the dragon; it appeared again and again over the following months. They could see it flying over the outer farms, or hear it roaring from the secluded little valleys where the local women collected herbs. There was even a week where it appeared daily; sunning itself on the ridge of a sheer cliff.
The villagers were shocked at first, but got over that quickly and headed straight into panic. Meetings were held, none of which found a solution, and several villagers moved away completely. Still, since the beast made no signs of aggression against them the people began to relax.
This seeming truce didn't last long; late one evening, a sheep was snagged right off of the Daraigh fields in a rush of leathery black pinions, the entire family as witness. Thankfully the sheep had been diseased, so it was no great loss to them, but they knew they wouldn't be so lucky the next time around.
How much longer would it be before the monster came after their children?
It was a small village, with only a miniscule local militia for protection. They had no way of fighting such a dangerous monster. Which meant there was only one tried and true method for protecting themselves from said dragon.
"You assholes, I'm not a virgin!" Keiran shouted, struggling against the ropes tightly binding his arms to his body. "Let me go!"
The small group of men ignored his protests, hauling him up against a spear of rock and lashing him securely too it. They were gathered on the wind-swept cliff the dragon could usually be spotted lounging on. Late-blooming wild flowers were strewn about, bought by the basket-full by the village women who'd come to wish Kieran a grateful and teary-eyed goodbye.
"Look, you're going about this the wrong way," he said persuasively to the Durnkick the shopkeeper, who was currently putting a couple extra knots in the rope. Just in case skinny, little, dark haired Kieran could wiggle his way free. "The dragon hasn't hurt anyone. Maybe it just found the area really nice and wanted to settle in. You don't have to give it anything."
Durnkirk gave the knot a final tug and turned thoughtfully to Roibeard, the town sheriff's eldest boy. "He's a might scrawny," the shopkeeper said, digging at his ginger colored ruff of a beard with blunt, square fingers, "Ya sure the dragon'll take to it?"
"No! I'm not even a meal!" Keiran shouted at the same time Roibeard said, "Yes. It's not his size that will interest the dragon, but his purity."
He drawled out the last word, as if the fact that the boy was intended to be dragon food was not quite enough punishment, and he needed to rub in the lack of sexual experience as well. An understanding "aah" echoed through the attending men.
Keiran hated all of them. "This is ridiculous," he said, glaring at each in turn, "What gave you the idea dragons care about whether or not someone's had another person between their legs or not?"
A confused look was passed around amongst the group. "Everyone says so," Roibeard said, finally.
The third man, a fur trapped who only lived in the town three months out of the year and really shouldn't have a say in these matters at all, spat off to the side. He grinned at Keiran with yellow teeth going black at the gums. "Ma granny al'ays told me tha' tales," he began and anyone who knew a storyteller could sense a big one coming, "Of tha' firs' beaties that showt near these parts--"
"Yes, exactly," Roibeard interrupted hastily, "Mr. McSonal's granny said so and that's reason enough." A shadow passed over them and he snapped his head to the sky, letting out a relived breath to see it was only a cloud. "Come on lads, let's leave the dragon to its gift."
Keiran shouted insults at their backs as they hurried off, jovially discussing getting a beer at the local bar to hide how quickly they moved. In short order, Keiran was alone on the cliff edged, the wind creating small eddies of flowers around his feet. He twisted against the tight restrictions of the ropes, the coarse fibers scrapping his skin.
"Stupid," he said, voice rough from shouting, and again, softer, "Stupid."
The townsfolk had caught him unawares while he was leaving the potter's shop. He'd pushed his way out the door backwards, too buys thinking about the gift he'd bought to notice what was going on around him, and turned just time for big Durnkick grabbed hold of his narrow shoulders. The package he'd been carrying was knocked to the ground - shattered beyond repair now, he thought, and closed his eyes against the sting - as he was dragged out into chanting mob. In between binding him arm and leg, they cheerfully and compassionately chatted about the great thing he was doing for their village.
"You'll save us all, boy."
"My children are grateful to you!"
"'Bout time ya did somethin' useful."
Nearly everyone of age had been there and those that didn't hate him out right - and there were more than a few -- made a point of thanking him personally. He suspected spitting in their faces hadn't helped his case much.
But no matter how hard Keiran looked and hoped and waited through the entire frustrating process, there was one face that had not appeared out of the crowd. Not to save him, or to thank him, or even to jeer at him scornfully from a distance.
"Bailey," he said quietly, and again, louder, his voice echoing out among the jagged rocks, "Bailey!" Throat straining, Keiran called for the young farmer who'd been his one friend and guardian since his arrival in the village five years ago. The screeches of crows were his only answer.
Still, he watched and waited, holding onto the last hope that he would see a wisp of familiar brown hair, coming up over the horizon. There wasn't, not then and not for the long, increasingly painful hours that followed, as the wind chilled Keiran's exposed skin and drew tears from his eyes. The dragon didn't come either, but that he'd always known.
"Forget it," said Kerian finally, bitterly, and pressed against the ropes with increasing force. They creaked and stretched; cutting into the rock they bound him too. "Forget them all! I don't need any of them!"
The last word became a roar that made pebbles dance on the ground and was heard all the way down into the village. Ropes shredded like wet paper as the great black dragon burst free of his restrains; huge, mantling wings scattering broken rocks and flowers with each powerful beat. Keiran lashed his whip-like tail; hard enough to leave cracks in the cliff face, and swung his long, triangular head toward the tight cluster of buildings below.
They want a monster, he thought, thick gray smoke curling up from his nostril to screen jade green eyes, It's about time I gave them one.
With a ripple of powerful muscles, the dragon launched himself to the sky and took flight.
In a dim cell, a young man sat hunched on the floor, one long lean leg pulled up to his chest to rest his forehead on. He was dressed in a handspun shirt and trousers, and the dirt stained boots of a farmer. Sunlight from the one high, barred window picked out the gold in his otherwise dull brown hair.
He stirred slightly at the sound of footsteps and jiggling keys coming down the hall.
"All right lad," the sheriff said, taking the heavy ring from his belt and sorting through the variety of keys on it, "It was ugly business, but it's done now. You'll come to understand some day that it was for the best of our town," he continued, finding the right key and holding it up thoughtfully to the light before fitting it into the lock.
The young man raised his head and brushed back his hair, showing a round, gentle face with angry brown eyes. "Best? You mean for the cowards who don't want to give up their own children for sacrifice," he asked, voice rising, "Or risk their own skin in a fight?"
With a snort, the sheriff unlocked the door and tugged it open. "Bailey, lad, you talk big for someone I don't see marching up the mountains with a crossbow. The boy was just a street-thief and beggar to begin with," the sheriff said, leaving Bailey to stay or go as he pleased. "We never needed his sort around town anyway. Forget him."
Bailey jerked to his feet, hands tightening into fists at his sides as he watched the sheriff amble back up stairs to his office. He relaxed his fingers and forcibly reminded himself that it would do neither him nor Keiran any good to beat one of the village's most prestigious members.
Assuming Keiran was still in a state to be helped.
Fear, worry, and guilt twisted Bailey's stomach and sent him tearing out of the cell, the door banging against the bars his wake. He should have known, somehow, that they'd been planning something. There were few townsfolk Keiran made any effort to be pleasant with or kind to; the rest he either ignored or purposefully antagonized. It was only a matter of time before they found a way to get back at him for it.
This way just came with a built-in justification.
Bailey rushed up the steps into the main jail, only to be halted at the door by a set of arms that caught him around the chest and waist.
"Hey, easy, easy," the sheriff's second son, Connell said, holding Bailey steady when the younger man struggled against him, "It's no good. We all saw the dragon at the sacrifice point not less than half an hour ago. Your boy's already gone."
A choked, guttural noise of denial made its way up Bailey's throat. He trashed harder, jabbing Connell in the shoulder with his elbow. Connell grunted in pain, but didn't let go, bracing his heavily booted feet on the ground to keep from getting knocked over.
"It's no good running off to get your fool self killed too," said Connell, hauling Bailey away from the door and anyone who might be listening in on the other side, "I understand, lad, I do. I'd be just as ready to cut throats if it was one of my foster children that got dragged off, but you got to think with your head, not your anger."
Bailey jerked hard against Connell's hold and swallowed his rage and panic long enough to say, "Don't talk like my friend when you locked me up just the same as the rest."
"To protect you," Connell growled back, giving Bailey a shake for not getting it, "There's no managing a crowd that size once it's got its mind set on something. They would have torn you apart if you'd gotten in the way."
"Or sent me in Keiran's place," Bailey said, panting, and felt his chest tighten at the thought of all the ways he had failed to protect the boy. It had taken him years to fully earn the orphan's trust and now he had utterly betrayed it.
"You? Old Gilmore's last living child? Not likely-"
His words were cut off by several screams from outside, followed by the sound of huge wings beating the air and wood splintering and shattering. The two men froze in surprise and instantly let off their fight to rush out into the square, Bailey right on Connell's heels.
He didn't get very far, though, before Connell's large head in the middle of his chest shoved him back against the jailhouse wall. "I even suspect you of thinking it and I'll knock you out," Connell said harshly, his face gone pale as he worked one-handed to free the dirk sheathed at his thigh.
But Bailey wasn't thinking of anything; his mind was filled with a great vague whiteness as he stared at the black dragon standing in the mangled remains of a hay cart, its translucent, red veined wings spread wide to take up most of the square. It was twice as large as the biggest draft horses and corded with powerful muscles beneath gleaming, undoubtedly razor edged scales. Blood smeared the end of its narrow snout and coated the wickedly hooked claws; whatever the monster had eaten last, it had put considerable energy into tearing it apart.
Bailey felt the world swim around him. He would have slid down the wall to the ground if Connell's hand weren't holding him up.
A group of townsfolk huddled together in front of the dragon, caught unawares in the middle of their daily duties and too frightened to run with its hellish green gaze focused on them. Mothers desperately shielded their children and men crouched, hands raised over their heads as if to protect themselves from a fiery death. The dragon however made no motion against them; merely fanned its wings so that the mingled scents of musk and fresh spilt blood washed over the square.
"What's it doing," Connell muttered, scanning the nearby buildings in search of something or someone. Most likely the rest of his unit; in addition to being under the employment of the sheriff, they often hunted bears and wild boar in the local forests. "Why doesn't it attack?"
"It's..." Bailey grabbed Connell's wrist, grip tight and shaking, "It-it killed Keiran-"
One of the village men seemed to remember this fact as well; he straightened himself slightly, and said in loud voice that trembled at the end, "Dragon; was our offering not pleasing to you?"
The dragon whipped its tail suddenly, cutting a deep scar in the roof and door of one of the shops and setting off another set of screams. Gore lined jaws dropped open, showing dripping, jagged teeth and voice that seemed to come from every direction at once echoed inside their skulls. More than one set of hands rose to clasp uselessly over ringing ears.