You never realize the limits of your power until someone more powerful has you by the throat. Staring into blazing silver eyes, held in place by a strong hand, I’d found my boundaries.
The dragon was a prisoner, confined to the dungeon, trapped in elven form by the archmage. Even as a humanoid, he was powerful and dangerous. He hissed past sharp teeth, and his hand was like a vice around my throat.
For a dangerous criminal, he wasn’t even hurting me.
Time passed, and we just stared at each other. His fingers were tipped with sharp nails, but he didn’t press them to my flesh. Nor did he cut off my breathing, or lift me from me feet, or anything else I’d first feared.
Curiosity drove the last of the adrenaline from my system. The same curiosity that drove me to the dungeon, that made me enter the dragon’s cell. The very same need that got me in trouble as I ventured heedlessly down any path.
I relaxed, licking my lips, and dropped my hands from his wrist. Holding his fearsome gaze, I waited for him to speak.
His hand remained tight, but his snarl dropped. “You don’t smell like the others.”
Questions raced through my head, like were his senses good in elven form, and what it was like down here, and if he preferred sight to scent. Years of practice kept them in my skull; no one like a twenty-two year old with the verbal filter of a toddler. “What do I smell like?”
The dragon pulled me closer, only a hand span separating us. A foot taller than me, he leaned down slowly, eyes locked on mine. Broad-shoulder and lean like any elf, it was his aura that made him so impressively large.
I held still as he sniffed me, face very near my own. “Innocent. Without cruelty.” His eyes narrowed, jaw clenching. “Are you some new torture?”
“Torture?” I blurted, appalled. “You’re tortured down here?” I hadn’t been apprenticed to the archmage long enough to be absolutely certain, but I couldn’t see him as a torturer.
His hand loosened on my throat, his frown deepening. “Why are you here?”
I could have backed away, left him in the warded cell and returned to my studies. He couldn’t get past the magical barriers, and no one needed to know I’d even been here. But then I’d never get my questions answered. “I was curious.”
The dragon’s eyes flew open. “Curiosity?” he rasped. I nodded, and his hand fell away. “Who are you? Not on of Terestan’s acolytes, surely.” His words were harsh, yet filled with longing.
“I’m just an apprentice. Can’t be an acolyte yet. But I heard there was a dragon prisoner, and I had to see for myself. I didn’t expect you’d be an elf. Of course, I don’t know how a dragon would fit beneath the tower, but we are on a mountain, so it could have been a cave-” My babbling was cut off when he laid a finger over my lips.
“Does anyone know you’re down here” There was an edge of danger to his words, but he didn’t frighten me. I’d been told lack of fear was a failing, but there were too many good things to see to be afraid of anything.
I shook my head, smiling slightly. “I snuck down here, using a copy of Archmage Terestan’s key. No one should notice I’m not in my room.”
His hand came up, but not to my throat. Long fingers stroked through my hair, and he smiled wickedly. I blushed under the intensity of his gaze. “I have a proposition for you.”
“What?” My mouth went dry as I imagined all the fun I could have with a dragon as a friend.
Silver eyes glittered, harder than diamonds, and he licked his lips. “Get me out of here, and I’ll show you more than that prig ever could.”
A spicy scent surrounded me, and my heart leapt with excitement. “Really?”
“Really really,” he replied, as if to a child.
I didn’t care; I was going to be trained by a dragon! I grinned, fidgeting, wanting to leave right this moment. “What do you need me to do?”