Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine

Galvarys padded down the hallway with his minion coiled in his tail. The foul, sickly-sweet odor of rotting meat smothered the hall near the pantry. Galvarys scrunched his blue, pebbly-scaled nose. Perhaps he should throw out that deer carcass out before its rotten stench invaded any more of his home.
“It really stinks in this hallway,” Elyra said, lifting a hand from his tail to pinch her nose.
Galvarys snorted, flicking his central crest back. “I hadn’t noticed.”
With Elyra in his tail, Galvarys took his time descending the stairs. He took one step, waited for her to do the same, and took another. During his lethargic decent, he stared at the steps cut from stone. A thin layer of pallid green moss clung to the junction of stair and wall. Scratches and gouges marked the time-smoothed edges of each step. Some of the claw marks were his, others were far older.
“Those aren’t all yours, are they?” Elyra circled her fingers around one of his tail spines. “The marks, I mean. That is what you’re looking at, isn’t it?”
“No.” The dragon tossed his head and took the last few steps a little faster.
At the bottom of the stairs, the dragon rounded a corner, walking through a couple hallways before he emerged into the bathing chamber. The setting sun cast a golden glow through the broken window and arched doorway, painting the entire room with fading sunlight.
Galvarys glanced back at his minion. “Can you see in the dark?”
“No.” Elyra shook her head. “Can you?”
“Of course.” Pride swelled his chest and flared his wings. “I’m a dragon.”
“Aren’t you just one amazing fact after another.” Elyra smirked, folding her arms. “You know, cats can see in the dark too, but they don’t brag about it.”
“They would if they had the ability.” Galvarys uncoiled his tail from Elyra’s middle, careful of his spines. “It shall be dark soon. I shall fetch light stones for you.”
“I’ll come with you.” Elyra walked to the archway exit. “I picked up some other things in town for bathing.”
“Not more soap, I hope.” The dragon squinted at her, his silver eyes burning.
“For myself, yes.” Elyra flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Tonight I’ll just use washcloths and towels on you.”
“What are those?” The dragon pressed his muzzle against the small of her back to urge her forward. “Walk faster.”
Elyra strolled faster as she explained. “A washcloth is what it sounds like. A small cloth you use to wash yourself. Towels are for rubbing yourself dry.”
“Trust a human to complicate things water and air do just fine.” Galvarys flicked his tail. His spines clattered against the stone wall.
As Elyra went to the treasure room where she slept, Galvarys pulled two light stones from their nooks. He took the misshapen crystals into his jaws and carried them back to the tub. He set one glowing crystal on either side of the water, bathing the mossy white tiles in soft blue light. The water flowing over the fountain’s scalloped, alabaster ledges caught the light and shone like molten sapphire. Each droplet sparkled.
Galvarys thought it suitable illumination to prevent Elyra from tripping and breaking her skull. Elyra soon emerged, now barefoot and with an armload of towels. She gasped, staring at the blue-tinted water. Galvarys glanced at her, swiveling his frilled ears. “Do you not approve?”
“No!” Elyra said, shaking her head. “I mean…yes!” She dropped the towels. “It’s…it’s beautiful.”
“It is?” The dragon stared at the tub. The shimmering blue waters and white stone did hold a certain ghostly beauty. “It seems suitable to wash the filth from our bodies.”
“And you wonder why that female wouldn’t let you mate with her.”
Galvarys descended into the tub. The waters were cool against his scales and the sensitive skin of his paw pads. “I was allowed to mount her eventually.”
“Probably after she realized you’d never stop blurting things out.” Elyra held out a small gray cloth. “See? This is a washcloth. You use it to--”
“Wash.” The dragon smirked. “Your previous explanation was suitable.” The dragon started to settle into the tub, then froze when the cool water reached his underbelly and most sensitive places. Galvarys hissed, his silver eyes widening.
“You alright in there?” Elyra smirked at him.
“Fine.” The dragon growled through grit teeth. He shivered, his scales clicking together.
Elyra laughed and laid out towels on a stone ledge. “Bit colder on certain parts, hmm?”
“No idea what you’re referencing.” Galvarys rubbed his hind legs together when she wasn’t looking. When he’d adjusted to the cool water, Galvarys eased the rest of the way in. He rubbed his belly against the tub’s floor to scratch an itch, and sighed in satisfaction. Once he was comfortable he returned his attention to Elyra. “I should like to watch you undress now.”
Elyra straightened so quickly the dragon half-thought something had crawled from the moss and bitten her. “Now?”
“You did promise.” Galvarys tilted his head. “Do you no longer wish me to watch?”
“It’s fine.” Between the red tint of Elyra’s cheeks and the blue light of the crystals, she looked almost purple. “It’s just…I’m not used to hearing those words from someone who doesn’t want to do more than look. Let alone a dragon.”
“I am curious.” Galvarys lifted his frilled ears. He’d never seen a naked human before. The idea had tickled his mind since their first bath. But he’d not force the issue. “I can wait if you are not prepared.”
 “I don’t mind at all.” Elyra walked to the edge of the tub, smiling. “I’m going to be in there with you, I may as well let you watch me undress. It’s nothing I haven’t done for men before. How shall I disrobe for you?”
Galvarys blinked. There were multiple ways? Humans made everything so confusing. “By taking off your clothes.”
Elyra’s smile grew. Did his confusion amuse her? “You know, for a creature so blunt about sex, you are charmingly na├»ve.”
“I shall take that as a compliment, regardless of intent.” Galvarys cocked his head.
“It was meant as one.” Elyra kept smiling. Something about her smile looked different, some new happiness he hadn’t seen before. “Some of the nobles liked to watch me disrobe very slowly. Others liked to watch me dance while I did so.”
 “Why?” Galvarys curled his lip, baring fangs. He’d seen humans dance, it looked ridiculous. He imagined Elyra dancing a jig, swinging her arms about and lifting her knees while tossing articles of clothing around the room. “They find this…arousing?”
“Some men do, yes.”
The dragon lifted a wingtip from the water to scratch his neck. “It is a wonder your species procreates at all. I should not want to see you dancing even if this was intended for my arousal. As it is only for my curiosity, you may disrobe in any way you please.”
“As you wish, Lord Azure Wrath.” Elyra poked her tongue out at the dragon. It was an odd gesture he did not understand. It made her look as though her jaw suffered some manner of distension.
Elyra pulled her blouse over her head and tossed it to the stone floor. Her skin was pale and spectral in the blue glow. It looked smooth, and he imagined it was soft to the touch. The dragon found his gaze drawn to her milk glands. He recalled she said human males found them arousing. Galvarys could not say they aroused him, but they were pleasant enough to look upon. Rounded, soft looking, with a dollop of pink skin tipping each of them.
“Your milk glands are not at all unpleasant, but they seem rather odd.” The dragon cocked his head. “Though I imagine my horns seem quite odd to a human.”
Elyra laughed, her milk glands shook. “You’ve got to stop calling them that.” Her scarlet blush still looked purple in the light. “Breasts will do, Dragon.”
“But they are milk glands.” The dragon licked his nose. He still tasted honey icing. “Why do your males find the feeding of your young so arousing?”
“That is a different topic entirely,” Elyra said, laughing at him. “And what they are isn’t the point. You don’t call your balls your…your mating glands.”
“Sometimes I do.” Galvarys did not see her argument.
“Well, you don’t call your mouth your food hole, but that’s what it’s for!” Elyra stomped a bare foot against the wet stone, shaking her head. “Just stop calling them milk glands.”
“Very well.” The dragon waved a dripping paw. “Take your trousers off now.”
Elyra stammered, unable to find words. Galvarys curled his tail, wondering if she was angry. Perhaps he should send her away. Then she sighed, shook her head, and smiled. Why couldn’t humans just decide upon an emotion?
“I’ve no idea how you can be so infuriating and disarming at the same time, Dragon.” Elyra undid her breeches, and tugged them over her hips. They fell into a black pile around her feet. Elyra stepped free and kicked her trousers away. She stood nude before the dragon. “There you are.”
Galvarys took his time in looking her over. Below her milk glands, her stomach was smooth and soft like the rest of her. She could use some extra nourishment. His gaze wandered between her thighs. The dragon was surprised to see coils and tufts of reddish hair standing guard over her sex. Humans were oddly fascinating.
He lifted a paw and swirled a single unsheathed claw in the air. Elyra turned around for him. Pale lines crossed her shoulder blades in several places. He’d never seen a human marked by scars like that. They looked like punishment rather than battle. Galvarys did not mention them. If he wasn’t going to tell her about his old scars, he wouldn’t ask her to talk about hers.
The dragon’s gaze drifted lower. Her rump held nice curves. Galvarys rather liked the way her haunches looked, human or not. The dragon rumbled. If Elyra were upon her hands and knees, the curves of her back legs and position of her sex would not be unlike a female dragon. The thought left a warm tingle between Galvarys’ own hind legs. It had been a while since he’d seen a female dragon. Elyra didn’t have a tail to appreciate, though. Imagining Elyra as a female dragon made him think she’d had her tail severed. He scrunched his muzzle. So much for that tingle.
Elyra turned to face him. Her gray eyes danced in the light stone’s ghostly blue illumination. Everything about Elyra looked soft. How fascinating. Female dragons were soft in the most important places, but elsewhere they were as armored as he was. He wondered what it would be like to be so exposed. It looked as though even a gentle breeze might be too much for her skin to bear. Elyra was not without her own…
“What do you think?” Elyra folded her hands in front of herself. The hint of shyness in her voice surprised Galvarys. From what she’d told him, Elyra had little reason to feel shy about nudity after years of servicing nobles. “I probably look pretty funny to you.”
“No.” Galvarys eased back to make room in the tub. He lifted a paw and beckoned for her to join him. Beads of water dripped from his scales back into the pool. “You look beautiful.”
Elyra gasped, and looked away. She squeezed her hands together, her body tense. Galvarys pinned his ears back. Had he offended her? She should have expected honesty from him by now.
“Th-thank you.” Elyra swallowed, and turned back to the dragon, smiling. “So, aside from turning your apples to crab apples, how’s the water?”
Galvarys curled his neck. “But what are crab apples?”
Elyra only giggled as she gathered a few washcloths. “They’re small apples. Because the water is cold.” She smirked at the dragon.
“What does cold water have to do with small apples?” Galvarys stared at her, flicking his spines. Then he snorted, rustling his wings against the water. “Clever. But they’re not small, and they’ve not gone into hiding. You’ll need a moment to adjust though.” 
Elyra descended into the tub, shivering as the water enveloped her. She grinned. “I see what you mean. Felt warmer this morning, but we had the sun streaming in.” She waded towards the dragon, water rippling around her. “Have you ever had a hot bath?”
Galvarys eased up to his haunches. Water ran down between his indigo scales. Little waves crashed against Elyra. “Yes.” He licked his nose, watching water slosh around his minion. “In my youth, there was a beautiful spring with crystalline ledges and hot water. It was pleasant to relax in.”
“That sounds lovely.” Elyra dunked her washcloths beneath the water, wringing them. “Do you ever return?”
“Not recently.” Galvarys pinned his spines back, and glanced away. “It is too far.”
Elyra stroked his neck. “Maybe we should demand your villages build you a dragon-sized tub and the stoves to heat it.”
Galvarys scrunched his muzzle. That sounded foolish. “Perhaps. Are you to wash me now?”
Elyra nodded. “Dunk your head first.”
Galvarys flicked his flight membranes closed and plunged his head beneath the water. The thin, clear membranes kept his eyes safe and let him see underwater. Though his vision wavered, he could see the soft skin of her body, the curls of red hair between her legs, the bits of moss and algae floating where his claws and scales had shorn them from the stone. Galvarys lifted his head. He turned away from Elyra before he snorted and blew the water from his nose.
“Thanks for turning your head first,” Elyra said. “May I touch your face now?”
“Of course.” Galvarys lowered his head till his muzzle hovered just in front of her. “How is this?”
Elyra curled one of her washcloths around the dragon’s left horn. Water trickled down the black, spiraled ridges. “Perfect.”
Galvarys grunted. Was she using him for storage? Galvarys eased back his flight membranes when he was sure the water wouldn’t burn his eyes again. Elyra rubbed his nose with another washcloth. The scales there were very fine, and around his nostril there was only sensitive, blue skin.
“How’s that?” Elyra’s touch was gentle, the cloth soft.
Galvarys rumbled his approval. “Very pleasant.”
“Good.” Elyra smiled as she worked the cloth further up the pebbly scales of his muzzle. “Is there anywhere on your face I need to be extra gentle?”
“I would advise you not to poke me in the eye, but I suspect that is obvious.” Galvarys growled. He amused himself. “My nose and ears are sensitive, as are the membranes between my facial and neck spines.”
“Here?” Elyra touched the dragon behind his right ear.
Galvarys spread his crest to show off the blue and black mottled membrane between the spines. Elyra brushed her fingers across it, and Galvarys tilted his head into her hand before he’d even realized it. Her touch brought warm waves of soothing relaxation and gentle pleasure. His tail tip twitched under the water. Elyra rubbed Galvarys’ frill in a circle with one hand, washing his muzzle with the other. Galvarys closed his eyes, sighed, and did something he regretted in an instant.
Galvarys purred.
“What’s that noise?” Elyra asked.
Galvarys went silent, opening his eyes. “I didn’t hear any noise.”
“It was coming from you.” Elyra pulled her hands back, grinning. “If I didn’t know any better…”
“And you don’t.” Galvarys snapped his jaws. Heat flooded his nose, ears and frills. “Resume washing.”
Elyra laughed. Not the desired effect. At least she went back to washing him. Elyra worked the cloth up his snout nearly to his eyes. Galvarys closed them and tilted his head to give her better access. She dunked her cloth and washed the top of his head. Then she rubbed the wet washcloth over his cheeks, kneading his pebbly-scaled flesh. Elyra worked her hands under Galvarys’ throat. He tipped his head, exposing his jawline. Elyra stroked his jawline first with the cloth, then with her fingers. Her touch felt heavenly. Her fingers were warm and soft, and the way she worked them against his scales left the muscles beneath relaxed.
Everything felt so wonderful that Galvarys purred again. The sound cascaded from the dragon in a velvet rumble, vibrating the scales of his throat and upper chest and sending little ripples through the water.
“Someone’s a contented dragon.” Elyra stroked his throat with hand and cloth.
“Your touch is delightful.” May as well admit it and get it over with.
“Thank you,” Elyra said. She sounded like she was smiling. “I picked up a few useful things serving the nobles. Learned there’s more than one way to work the tension out of a man’s body. Or a dragon’s.” Elyra unwound the other cloth from around the dragon’s horn, and worked it over his face. “There. Your face is nice and clean now.”
Galvarys opened his silver eyes. Elyra’s face hovered in front of his nose. She smiled at him with a radiance that spoke of happiness Galvarys did not expect. The mica flecks in her gray eyes glowed in the blue light. “You have beautiful eyes, Elyra.”
Elyra wrung the cloth between her hands, glancing away. “Thank you.” Her face twitched and flexed as though she warred with her smile. “That’s…the second time you’ve told me that.”
“They remind me of a female dragon’s eyes.” Galvarys lifted his head. Water ran down his indigo muzzle and beaded on the pale blue scales of his chin. “Our eyes are often in metallic shades.”
“Mine are dull and gray, Galvarys.” Elyra rinsed the washcloth. “But thank you anyway.”
“They are not dull.” The dragon tossed his head, cursing whatever blind fool had put that wretched idea in her head. “They sparkle with life and bravery. They remind me of moonlight breathing life upon storm clouds. They are beautiful. As is your hair, as though the storm in your eyes has set the world around you aflame.”
Elyra’s voice sunk to a whisper that even Galvarys struggled to hear above the burbling fountain. “Thank you.”
“You are welcome.” The dragon cocked his head, wondering why kind words made her quiet. “I am complimenting you, you know. You may accept.”
Elyra’s laughter was unexpected, bubbling like the fountain. “I know. I’m just…I’m not used to them. Especially nothing so poetic.” She splashed her cloth against the water, grinning at the dragon. “And your compliments are even harder to take. One moment you’re blurting out something about mounting females, the next you’re babbling about milk glands, and the moment after that?” She waved her washcloth. “You’re spouting poetry that freezes my heart! I never know what to expect from you!”
“May I touch your skin?” The wide-eyed bafflement that crossed Elyra’s face told the dragon she didn’t expect that either. She ran a hand back through her wet hair. Galvarys was uncertain what that gesture meant. He did not wish her to have the wrong idea. “I will not touch you anywhere untoward. I am just…”
“Curious.” Elyra finished when the dragon trailed off. She draped her cloths over his horns again. The dragon flicked his ears, but did not complain.
Elyra tugged on Galvarys’ foreleg. He lifted it for her, lowering his eye ridges. She took his paw in her hands and ran her fingers over the soft skin of his pads. Galvarys curled his paw around her smaller hand, feeling its warmth. Elyra smiled up at him, and when she withdrew her hand, her fingers tickled his pads.
Elyra circled her fingers around one of his, and Galvarys let her guide his paw. She pressed it to the side of her body. The warmth and softness of her skin were more than he’d anticipated. The dragon stroked her, running his paw up nearly to her breast, and down almost to her hip. Elyra shuddered under his touch. She bit her lip, sucked in a small breath. Galvarys felt her skin changing as he stroked it.
“Your skin is growing bumpy.” He stilled his paw and flicked his ears back. Galvarys hoped he was not causing her distress. “Am I causing an unexpected reaction?”
“Something like that.” Elyra murmured, and placed her hand against the dragon’s cheek. She traced her fingers around a few scales, and Galvarys found himself lost in her eyes. “You have beautiful eyes too, Galvarys. I wish I could string together something poetic to tell you how beautiful they really are.”
“I appreciate your attempt.” The dragon leaned his head against her hand. As if in reaction, Elyra pressed herself into his paw. Galvarys stroked her skin again. “I like the way your body feels. It is very soft.”
“Judging by your sleeping chamber, you like soft things.” Elyra smirked at him, caressing his frilled ear.
The dragon trilled in delight at her touch. Her fingers felt so warm. “Yes, I do.”
“You can move your hand lower, if you want.” Elyra’s voice softened. Then she smirked. “Just a little.”
“Of course.” The dragon grinned. He slid his paw down her body till he felt the swell of her hip. Elyra pushed her hip into his paw, and Galvarys gave her a gentle squeeze. “Is that pleasant?”
“It is,” Elyra said, laughing.
Elyra wriggled against his paw, and Galvarys stroked her hip, the pads of his fingers brushing over her rump. When he squeezed again, she shuddered and bit her lip, her fingers dragged across his scales. She pressed herself into his touch, and Galvarys ran his paw up the side of her body, then down past her hip before he stilled it again.
Elyra sighed as if she were waking from some beautiful dream. She pulled her hand from his face, and stroked his extended foreleg instead. Her voice was a trembling whisper. “You’re so gentle.”
Galvarys blinked, pinning his ears. “Should I not be?” He eased his foreleg back.
Elyra’s laughter and joyful smile only confused him. “It was perfect.” She fetched her washcloths from his horns, and shook them at his face. “It’s a good thing you only got your muzzle messy, or I’d have to wash the rest of you.”
“You still could.” Galvarys lifted his head. 
“Is that a demand from Lord Azure Wrath?” Elyra twined a washcloth around her hand, smiling.
Galvarys arched his neck, watching her. What was she playing at? Was she…? Certainly not. Was she? It didn’t matter. Sounded pleasant either way. “Yes.” He snorted. “I demand you wash me.”
Elyra’s smile grew. “I shall do as my Lord demands.” She gestured to the edge of the tub. “Why don’t you stretch, lay your head against the edge? I can start with your neck and wing joints.”
“That sounds delightful.”
Galvarys could get used to this.
Elyra could not stop smiling. Despite the dragon confounding her at every turn, he brought her some unexplainable happiness. His poetic compliments alone were enough to fill her with overwhelming warmth, but it was much more than his words. Elyra rubbed the washcloth in slow circles across the rumbling dragon’s neck, struggling to comprehend just why he made her feel so happy.
It hit her in a moment of beautiful clarity.
Galvarys treated her with respect.
Galvarys’ actions and touch spoke of a deeper respect his words often belied. When he first hauled her to the sky, he’d ensured her safety from the first moment. If she hurled a goblet at a noble, he’d strike her across the face with it and have her whipped. Nobles would never let her make requests, or give her a moment’s privacy. A noble would never ask for permission before putting his hands on her, and would not keep his touch decent.
In all her life she’d never been treated with as much respect as Galvarys had already shown her.
Coming here was the greatest choice she’d ever made. Elyra’s heart swelled till she feared it might crack her sternum. She sniffed, her throat tightened. She was not used to dealing with such joy. Happiness usually came in fleeting moments. A bite of stolen cake, slipping away from a noble intent on bedding her, watching Atrius drink the tea she’d slipped an herb into. But this feeling washed over her in wave after trembling, joyful wave.
“Are you alright?” Galvarys opened his eyes, glancing back.
“I’m wonderful.” Elyra’s voice was softer and huskier than she intended. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
The dragon growled. “That had better not be soap in your eyes.”
“No, it’s nothing.” Elyra smiled and ran her hand across the scales of his neck.
“Good.” Galvarys lay his head back down against the stone tile. “Commence washing, then.”
“Happily, Lord Azure Wrath.”
Elyra saw the smirk that crossed Galvarys’ muzzle. “That’s what I like to hear, Minion.”
Minion. Elyra grinned. She liked the sound of that. “Minion Elyra, commencing washing!”
Elyra caught Galvarys’ smirk as she worked the wet cloth up his neck. His bluntness was oddly endearing. She wondered if he was so blunt with other dragons. Maybe they were a whole scaly society with no filter between brain and tongue. If a dog could speak and did so while licking itself, she imagined it might talk like a dragon. Whatever the case, subtlety seemed to elude Galvarys. All her gasps, goose bumps, and the shifting of her hips seemed lost on a creature who spoke so openly of lifting tails and mounting.
Something about the dragon’s touch against her bare skin set her on delightful edge. His pads were warm, finely textured and soft. She hadn’t realized how completely the dragon could retract his claws until she felt no trace of them against her. What truly surprised her was Galvarys’ gentleness. The dragon could crush her bones beneath his paws yet his touch was more gentle than any man’s had ever been. Her heart used to ache at being denied such basic comfort. Now at last she knew gentleness, and it made her heart soar.
In the shivering moments of the dragon’s touch a whirl of sensations and conflicting emotions had filled Elyra. If Galvarys had asked for something more, she’d not have refused him, though she knew now that was not his desire. If anything, she felt a fool for worrying so about how best to pleasure a dragon on her journey to meet him. Still, when he’d so gently squeezed her hip, part of her found it thrilling. She’d only pulled back from the dragon to avoid embarrassing herself and giving him the wrong idea. Galvarys probably hadn’t even understood her reactions.
Elyra sighed and focused on the feel of the dragon’s scales. She was thankful she’d learned to ease the tension from men’s bodies in less intimate ways. Elyra worked the washcloth across the indigo scales all along Galvarys’ neck. She massaged the muscles beneath the scales next. When she felt him relaxing, she polished his scales with the cloth again. By the time she was halfway down his neck, she’d have thought Galvarys asleep if not for his steady rumble.
That rumble. She’d heard it before, and she thought it suspicious then. It reverberated from the dragon’s throat and chest, sounding like large stones placed in a wooden barrel and rolled down a hill. It sent vibrations and ripples through the water. It almost sounded like…
“You’re purring, aren’t you?” Elyra grinned and swatted his neck with the washcloth. How adorable.
“No.” The dragon cracked his silver eyes open to glare at her as though she’d accused him of some hideous crime. “Dragons don’t purr.”
“Admit you’re purring or your bath-massage ends here.” Elyra folded her arms.
“Fine.” Galvarys snorted and closed his eyes again. “I am purring. Do not tell anyone.”
“Who would I tell?” Elyra giggled, happy just to hear the dragon admit it. She returned to kneading his blue-scaled neck, letting her fingers roam over tired muscles.
“You could tell that girl from the village.” The dragon’s voice sunk back into a rumbling purr.
“Amell?” Elyra pretended to consider it. “Yes, I could! She’d love to know you purr. Can you rise so I can get your wing joints?”
Galvarys seemed more interested in his massage than an argument. The dragon pushed himself onto his haunches. The top half of his body jutted from the tub. Rivulets of water sluiced between his scales and down his wings. “Is this suitable? Or should I climb out?”
Elyra stretched her arm and set her hand upon the dragon’s wing joint. She rubbed it, grinning. “This will work, but next time if you want a head to tail massage, we may have to try a new position.”
The dragon snorted in amusement, smirking. “New position, indeed.”
“Dirty beast.” Elyra giggled, running her hand against the dragon’s wing joint.
Firm, rippling muscle sounded Galvarys’ wing bone where it met his body. No scales covered the joint there, only soft, blue skin. Elyra kneaded the wing muscle, easing any tension she found. Galvarys rumbled in pleasure. He closed his eyes and hung his head, jaws parted. He looked like a happy hound being brushed.
Galvarys unfurled his wing. He stretched it above her like an indigo canopy lined with rippling black paint. More ebony marks were strewn across its surface. The light stones made Galvarys’ wing membranes glow, like moonlight through an azure veil. Tiny veins pulsed throughout his wings.
“You have beautiful wings.” Elyra stroked her cloth along the inside of the dragon’s wing membrane. The feeling made him shiver, his scales clicked and the water wrinkled into tiny waves around him.
“Thank you.” Galvarys’ voice drifted on an ocean of enjoyment.
Elyra took her time washing the dragon’s wing. She began with his wing joint. She kneaded it again then washed it with the cloth. The dragon’s purr rose the whole time. From there Elyra worked her way along the underside of the dragon’s wing. She circled the cloth across its membranes, then stroked them with fingers. Every so often the dragon shivered. A few times his breath caught and his teeth clicked.
That seemed almost familiar. “Your wings are very sensitive, aren’t they?”
It took the dragon a moment to realize she’d asked him a question. “They must be so we may feel the air currents.”
“Seems you’re enjoying having them washed.” Elyra eased towards the back edge of the wing, washing it in circles.
“It is very pleasant.” The dragon curled his wing, talons dipping into the water.
Elyra wrapped her cloth around the largest of the dragon’s wing tip talons. The talons that tipped the hand-like span of bones that formed his wing structure were not as sharp as the claws adorning his fingers and toes. Nor were they retractable. The talon twitched and flexed under her grasp as she bathed it. Elyra washed each wing claw the same way, then stroked her cloth along the black-rippled edge of the dragon’s wing to his body.
Elyra turned her attention to the area where his wing membranes were attached along his back. The scales below his wings were very fine but broadened down across his side. Elyra ran her fingers along the line between fine scale and soft membrane. The natural demarcation must have been a sensitive area for a dragon, because her touch made him shudder and gasp. After one shiver he rose and trilled. Then he snapped his jaws shut and sank back down.
Was she…?
Was he getting…?
“Shall I wash your other wing?” Elyra grinned. Wouldn’t it be amusing if the dragon was. “Or would you rather I get your hind legs and tail? You’ll have to stand up for those so I don’t drown myself.”
“Other wing.” Galvarys folded the washed wing, and unfurled the other.
Elyra wondered if he was hiding something. She tried to sneak a peek along his underbelly, but his position and the water made it difficult to see. Elyra moved around to the dragon’s other side, stepping over his tail. She may have to consider easier ways to bathe the dragon. Elyra let her fingers dance across his scales, enjoying their feel. They were neither as coarse nor iron-hard as she once expected. The dragon’s warmth radiated through them into the water.
When Galvarys draped his wing over her, Elyra went back to work. Just as before she started with his wing joint and worked her way out. This time she let her fingers play beneath his wing, teasing where scale met flesh. Elyra smirked each time the dragon shivered or sucked in a breath. This was fun. When Galvarys subtly adjusted his position in the tub, he just about answered her unspoken question.
“Galvarys,” Elyra said. She worked the cloth up over his shoulder, then back down to where scale met skin. “This is quite a sensitive area, isn’t it?”
“It is.” The dragon did not look back.
“I was beginning to think you didn’t have any sensitive areas.” Elyra rolled the cloth in a broad, slow circle against the underside of his wing.
“I am not made of stone.” Galvarys flattened his spines. Her touch made his wing tremble. “I feel even a light touch upon my scales.”
“And a light touch here?” Elyra ran a single finger down a wing bone’s outline.
“I certainly…feel that…” The dragon’s voice wavered.
“I bet you do.” Elyra washed the talon tipping his wing. “If imagine if dragons cared for passion, they might tease each other’s wings while they lay together. I almost feel sorry for you.”
“Why would you feel sorry for me?”
“For dragons in general, I mean.” Elyra washed the edge of the dragon’s wing, working back to his body. “Such sensitive wings would make for wonderful foreplay. Not that I’ve had a chance to enjoy such things either. I imagine you dragons are a bit like the nobles in that regard.”
“What regard?” Galvarys tightened his wing.
“Getting straight to the point.” Elyra teased a lone finger against the edge of scale and membrane. “I’m sure you dragons just…what did you call it? Mount each other, thrust a few times and get it over with.”
“Not always.” Galvarys snorted, lifting his spines. “We often tease one another into arousal.”
“By doing things like this?” Elyra used her fingers to trace four lines beneath the dragon’s wing, dragging her finger pads against the skin.
“Yes.” Galvarys’ voice lifted into another trill before he could stop himself. “I mean, no! Nothing like that.”
“Oh, good.” Elyra kept working her fingers back and forth there. “I thought I’d stumbled upon a dragon’s erogenous zone. I was worried you might accidentally be getting aroused.”
“I am not aroused!” Galvarys snapped his jaws, pulling his wing back and folding it down.
Elyra laughed and patted his shoulder. “Good. I wouldn’t want to embarrass you.”
“I am not the one who would be embarrassed.” Galvarys turned his head to glare at her. The blue crystalline light hid any potential purple blush. “Humans are the ones ashamed by their genitals.”
“Oh?” Elyra rinsed her washcloth. “Did I seem ashamed when I let you watch me disrobe?”
“Humans in general.” The dragon growled, shifting to face away from her as he eased onto his haunches.
“Ah.” Elyra moved behind the dragon, and stood with a foot on either side of his submerged tail. Elyra leaned forward to wash the scales of his lower back. “So even if you were aroused right now, you wouldn’t be embarrassed.”
“Certainly not.” The dragon tossed his head. “And I am not aroused.”
“Good.” Elyra smirked, her cloth sinking beneath the water to scrub the top of his haunch. “Because your underbelly is next, and I’d rather know what to expect.” She patted him, grinning. “In fact, I’ll start with your chest right now and work my way down.”
Galvarys pinned his ears back, grumbling something Elyra couldn’t understand.
“What was that?” Elyra walked around him, fighting to continue her innocent act. She struggled to hold back her laughter.
“I may be…”
Galvarys sighed, hanging his head in defeat. “I may be a little aroused.”
“Yes, I thought so.” Elyra gave in to her laughter as she leaned against the dragon’s scaly hide, rubbing his shoulder. He glared at her, his ears and spines as flat as she’d ever seen them. His whole snout looked purple even in the blue light. Elyra pointed at his face. “You are embarrassed!”
“Yes!” Galvarys snapped his jaws, turning his head away. “I am aroused, and I am embarrassed by it! You needn’t laugh and tease me!”
Elyra’s laughter trailed off. The last thing she expected was that she might hurt the dragon’s feelings. Had she gone too far? “I’m sorry, Galvarys.” Elyra reached up to his face. When he did not pull away, she cupped the pebbly scales of his cheek. “I meant nothing by it. I was just having a little fun.”
Galvarys growled under his breath. Anger flickered in his silver eyes, but faded as quickly as it came. “It is…not your fault.”
“I think it’s at least a little my fault.” Elyra smiled and eased her hand down his muzzle to rub the soft area between his nostrils. “I’ll know what to avoid next time I wash you if you don’t want it to happen again. I honestly didn’t think it would bother you. You told me you dragons aren’t embarrassed by your anatomy.”
“It is different when we are unsheathed!” Galvarys huffed. His breath felt cooler than usual against her wet skin.
Elyra quirked a brow, grinning. “Is that your word for…?”
“Is that not a correct translation in your tongue?” The dragon cocked his head.
Elyra giggled. Her ears warmed. “Given your anatomy, I imagine it is.” She rubbed his nose again, smiling at him. “So being…unsheathed…is embarrassing to a male dragon?”
“It can be, when unexpected.” Galvarys lifted his foreleg and gestured with a dripping paw. “It is the only time we feel…naked.”
“Ah.” Understanding dawned upon Elyra. She slipped her hand under his jaw, scratching at his chin. “You don’t have to be embarrassed. I’m naked too.”
“So you are.” Galvarys pressed his muzzle against her hand, smirking.
“Besides, everyone gets aroused at inopportune times once in a while.” Elyra scratched his jaw harder. “If anything, knowing that happens even to dragons makes you more…”
“You had better not say human.”
“I was going to say real,” Elyra said, laughing. “More flesh and blood and less…mystical. I like that.”
“It is still embarrassing.” Galvarys murmured, closing his eyes. His ears hadn’t lifted from his head since he’d first admitted to his arousal. “I should not be aroused by a human’s touch.”
Elyra shrugged. “If it makes you feel better, Galvarys, I was a little aroused by the touch of a dragon.” Elyra glanced at the water, her whole face burning.
“You were?” The dragon arched his neck, cocking his head.
“Yes.” Elyra bit her lip and offered a smile she hoped was comforting. “When you touched me, you were so gentle. It was…nice.”
Galvarys opened his wing and stretched it over Elyra’s back. “I noticed your shiver, but was uncertain of the cause.”
“Now you know.” Elyra pushed into his wing, shrouding herself in its warmth. “It’s funny. The whole journey to meet you I was certain you wanted…well…sex. I didn’t really mind the idea, as long as you also treated me with respect. As I get to know you, I mind it even less. We’re both thinking, feeling creatures, after all.”
Galvarys smiled, curling his wing. “That is true.”
Elyra shivered, rubbing her arms. “And right now, I’m thinking I’m ready to get out of this water. I’m getting cold, Galvarys. And wrinkly.”
“Wrinkly?” The dragon scrunched his muzzle. “Water makes you wrinkle? Humans are strange.”
Elyra wagged her finger at him. “I’d wager there’s at least a part of you that wrinkles, too. Speaking of which, are you still…”
The dragon glanced away, licking his nose. “Partly, yes.”
“Poor dragon.” Elyra stroked his wing. His shiver reminded her that wasn’t helping. “I brought extra towels. Want me to help you dry?”
Galvarys made a strange noise, half growl and half whimper. “No, that is alright. The air shall suffice to dry me.” Galvarys smiled at her as he pulled back his wing. “You asked me not to look the first time you were naked around me. May I now ask the same of you?”
Elyra lifted her brows. Was he making a request? Not a demand, not an order, but a polite, gentle request? He really was embarrassed. She smiled and cupped his chin. “Of course, Galvarys. Let me get some towels and I’ll be on my way to give you some privacy.”
“Thank you.” The dragon bowed his horned head.
Elyra waded through the tub and sloshed up the steps. As she climbed out of the water, she felt the dragon’s eyes upon her. Acting innocent, she bent over to tease him as she picked up her towels. She straightened, wrapped one around herself and draped another over her arm.
 “Galvarys?” Elyra wrung her hair out onto the mossy, white tile that ringed the tub. “Do you remember the second part of our agreement earlier?”
The dragon lifted his ears. “Yes?”
“The next time you’re feeling naked…” Elyra grinned at Galvarys, tossing her hair over her back. It splattered against her towel. “Would you consider…”
“You are curious?” Galvarys tilted his head.
“As were you, I recall.”
The dragon offered a faint smile. “So I was. Very well. Fair is fair. Next time, you may request to see it if you so desire.”
“Thank you.”
“You are welcome.” The dragon clicked his teeth, and gave an irritable hiss. “Now leave me to dry.”
“Right.” Elyra stuck her tongue out at him.
The dragon’s baffled expression made her laugh. Must not be a gesture dragons made to each other. Giggling, she left him to finish his bath in private.
Elyra returned to the dragon’s treasure room. She laid a towel out over a crate and sat down. Elyra scrubbed her skin with her other towel, considering her new life. Things were going better than she’d imagined. She’d flown on the dragon’s back, made her own demands, stuck it to a noble, and slept in a room filled with treasure. She’d even stumbled into a sort of friendship with the old beast. All without so much as having to put one indecent finger on the dragon’s body.
As Elyra dried, it struck her that if Galvarys had asked her to tend his arousal, she’d have done so in an instant. Not begrudgingly, but happily. Elyra scowled, rubbing the towel against her head. That wasn’t like her. She’d never been happy to do anything like that before. Whenever she had to do that for a noble, she wanted to get it over and done with as quickly as possible before she decided to use her teeth. But if Galvarys had asked, she’d have given him all he wanted.
Elyra scowled, the towel hanging around her head. She could not deny it to herself. Part of her wished he’d requested pleasure. She’d have taken her time with him, too. Elyra had prepared herself to satisfy the dragon on the journey here, but that was because she didn’t want to be cast out. Why the hell did she care now? 
Elyra rose and worked the towel down her body, contemplating the realization she had in the bath. Galvarys treated her with more gentleness and respect than she’d ever known. There was kindness buried in the dragon’s heart that shone through in the way he touched her, the way he’d treated Amell. His kindness remained unacknowledged and unknown by so many, rewarded only with worthless tributes, scars, and loneliness.
In that moment, Elyra realized that for the first time she wanted to pleasure someone simply because they deserved it. Galvarys brought Elyra great happiness, and he did not even know it. Elyra wanted to return that happiness tenfold. Perhaps the next time they bathed, she could…
Self-disgust twisted Elyra’s belly into cold coils. She wanted to make the dragon happy, and all that came to mind was offering to polish his spear? She scrunched her towel up, gritting her teeth. Damn the nobles for what they’d made her become to survive in that horrible place. But she wasn’t their whore anymore. There had to be other ways she could pay the dragon back, other ways to make him happy.
Elyra thought about it as she dressed in some of her new clothes. She padded barefoot around the treasure room, brushing her damp red hair. Her eyes settled on a crate filled with a collection of wooden mugs and bowls. No doubt they’d been passed off to the dragon as something of great historical value, and certainly not from the local tavern. Elyra threw her brush against her bedroll. It wasn’t fair. Galvarys kept them safe, and they tricked him into accepting worthless…
That was it. Elyra was going to have a long talk with Galvarys about the true value of his tributes.

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