Chapter 25

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I missed my mother with an ache bordering on need, but I needed my father with an almost physical desperation.

The ways of the Flights was to send the newly mature youth to foster with other medusae. It was how things were, how things would be, a simple fact of life drifting amidst the stars. I'd pushed aside the pain and yearning, determined to be as brave as my mother had asked me to be when I left her embrace on our last parting. She knew that if I had cracked, if I had said anything, my mother would have defied the Elders to keep me by their side.

Perhaps they would have relented. My father and his blades were coveted by all and any medusae who boasted his presence had an unmistakable edge.

My mouth twisted at the unintentional pun, humor diffusing the pain.

It wouldn't have been fair, however. I knew what was expected of me and I'd assented.

Now, however, despite everything I'd gained from leaving, the males that I would never forsake, the little female that was sinking claws into my heart, I wished for my dame and sire. They were warriors, dragons who fought together to protect their hatchlings, the medusa, and each other. I would have given almost anything to be able to sit at my mother's feet, lay my head against her knee, and listen to my father recite the laws of battle and engagement.

My beast snorted out a gout of flame, drying the sting in my eyes. I accepted the rebuke for what it was and curled upon myself, allowing him ascendancy.

He patted me with one clawed paw, and I could sense his resigned pity. The beast didn't quite understand what there was to agitate about. We would do our best for our mate, fight for our lives with fang and claw, and what else was there? To think about tomorrow was foolish when there was no guarantee for today. If it hadn't been for my foolishness in denying us the sky for too long, he would rather have been curled up around our mate, watching her fumble through trying to sing magic from flesh.

I think the others are unsettled. Perhaps they think she could become Desekthroi.

I pushed the thought at him.

He snorted out another burst of flame, a blue-tipped fan dripping white sparks.

She is dragon, not Desekthryn.

I wasn't so sure of that. Where was the line anyway? If the legends were true, we were all of one people once. What was to say that our mate couldn't be more Desekthryn than not? And if she carried more of that blood, then what was to say she couldn't become Desekthroi?

My dragon quieted at that, an undercurrent of unease sliding through our connection.

We will hold her fast and keep her safe. He said finally.

Her or us?

At that thought, mental claws raked down the bond.

Such thoughts are unworthy, he growled. To keep her safe is to keep us safe.

I hadn't meant it that way. Or did I?

The sensation of silken feathers and sleek scales pressed against me.

What do you think? Do not think on what the others might think. What does your heart say?

It said that I was terrified. For her, not of her. It said that I worried about how to keep her safe while also protecting the hearts of my males. Jaceon hadn't said anything, but I knew that the Desekthroi had taken someone from him and Adora's intentions must have thrown him into a tailspin. Kieran's mother was Desekthryn, but I didn't know if that made things better or worse. He loved his mother, and perhaps that meant he would look upon Adora with kinder eyes, but it might also go against everything he'd ever known and held dear. Desekthryn were honor bound to kill Desekthroi on sight after all. But if this was the only way for Adora to live, for the babes to live...

Ice shards crystallized in my gut.

Was this how it all began? With one person thinking that their loves, their need for children outweighed the lives of another?

Perhaps. What will you do now?

I mentally rapped him on the snout for that ridiculous bit of rhetoric.

Keep her safe and keep us safe, of course.

Intense satisfaction radiated down the bond, along with a flutter of feathers.

Glad my beastie and I were in agreement. Of course, the real question was - how?

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