Taken from Signs of Reason... unedited. Taken from Chapter Twelve.
“Two young boar and they weigh more than you think.” Kyler dumped the carcasses beside the fire. Ildikó roared, impatient for food. “Take what we need from the smaller beast.” He straightened and hefted one beast onto his shoulder before continuing deeper into the cave.
“She’s been restless all day.” Tamzyn spoke inside his head, while she butchered the second carcass. “Her wound has closed. I think she’s ready to leave.”
Kyler didn’t answer as he greeted Ildikó.
“Do you want to leave?” He tossed the boar to the dragon and watched her catch it between formidable jaws. “How do you feel?” He sent the query, trying to replicate the thought formula Tamzyn taught him. Ildikó turned her head until her black eye could watch him. “You heard me?” A rush of excitement sent shivers down Kyler’s spine. “I think she heard me!” he called aloud.
Ildikó sent him a projected image. Strong and clear, it brought goose bumps to Kyler’s skin. In the vision, a blue sky hosted a magnificent black tipped sky daemon. With broad wingspan and heavy bone structure, a bronze colored male flew across familiar landscape. The creature rose, dived, inverted and baulked. Each maneuver, more complex than the last, seemed designed to defy gravity. Kyler swallowed. He shared a wave of emotion as Ildikó snorted and her neck frills stood erect. Iridescent scales gleamed and her readiness to accept a male dragon’s attention needed no explaining.
“Your wound has healed, Ildikó.” Kyler stood his ground as the dragon stretched her head toward his chest and exhaled. He smelt the acrid odor of the boar’s entrails on her breath. One hand lifted to touch the fine scales protecting her snout. “He’s coming for you. Handsome and strong, he’ll make a good mate.”
Flowering Wyldwood filled the air with pollen. The incessant chatter of cicadas and crickets muffled the sound of buffeting wings. A daemon’s cry whispered through the cavern. Ildikó surged toward the entrance, her nostrils flared, her head lifted as she tested every scent. Kyler followed her to the entrance, keeping between the dragon and Tamzyn.
Shadows marred the deep magenta sunset as the bronze drake descended and dropped a carcass. Recognizing the dragon’s gruesome gift as a human corpse, Kyler flinched. Ildikó preened and extended her wings. Iridescent scales shone in the last rays of sunlight. Despite the bleeding corpse, Kyler’s heart swelled with pride, his pulse raced and he struggled to stand motionless as the dragon shared her impatience.
As darkness fell a second shadow shot toward the cavern entrance. Before the first drake landed, a challenge rang across the valley.
Ildikó bated. Her head snaked forward to hiss approval of the bronze male’s gift. Leathery wings buffeted the air in the cave and blew Tamzyn’s fire into disarray.
Kyler dared not take his eyes from Ildikó until the second shadow materialized into an angry black daemon. This creature carried the bulk of a small horse between taloned claws. With a roar, the black drake tossed the horse toward the cave mouth and turned to face the bronze male.
Stifling odors filled the cave when both male daemons bellowed defiance. Smoke and flame licked from savage snouts and fangs, a hand-span long, glinted red in the fading light. The ground beneath Kyler’s feet shook as the creatures landed. Dust billowed where they scored the dirt with talons and barbed tails thrashed. Their deafening roars dislodged pebbles. Debris began to fall from the ceiling as reverberations bounced around the cavern.
“Kyler, come away.” Tamzyn shouted, as he remained stationary watching with Ildikó, sharing her excitement. “Please, come away.”
Kyler lifted a hand, ignoring her plea while the two sky daemons closed in combat. They lifted into the air, and pummeled peace from the valley. Teeth and talon, tail and wing tips all became weapons as each creature tried to gain ascendency.
Ildikó whistled and her neck frills fanned. Her tail swished but her eyes didn’t blink. Kyler moved closer to the entrance. An overhang blocked his vision of the battle, so he edged clear of the cavern’s maw. Open mouthed and breathless he watched as black talons tore through bronze wings.
The bronze drake baulked, the muscles of his neck ballooned for a heartbeat before he blasted the sky with flame.
Kyler’s heart skipped a beat.
When the black daemon responded in kind, orange flame illuminated the clearing. Sparks and balls of fire ignited shrubs and clumps of dry grass. Crickets, cicadas and the forest dwelling creatures fell silent as the dragons fought for Ildikó’s attention.
He turned. Tamzyn’s fear jarred his senses. Ildikó swung her head as Kyler peered into the deep shadows of the cave. The female dragon tasted Tamzyn's fear and Kyler sensed her interest in the battle waned when instinct drove her to seek frightened prey.
“No Ildikó!” Boots slipped in loose dirt as Kyler scrambled to distract the daemon. The air shook with a deafening roar. Kyler tried to spin magic, to protect Tamzyn. He needed time to focus.
Flames enveloped him. Burning air scorched his lungs. Kyler’s shirt smoldered. The smell of charred hair tasted rank. As the roar that bludgeoned his hearing faded, Tamzyn’s scream tore through the fracas. Smoke choked Kyler and blocked his view of the female sky daemon.
“No!” In desperation, he gathered all the power he could muster in a heartbeat and tried to command Ildikó. “Leave the girl, leave her alone!”
Inside his head, Ildikó forced him to share an image. Through smoke and beyond scattered coals, Tamzyn cowered behind a broken stalagmite. A sullen query formed without words. Why waste flesh?
Kyler struggled forward. From the corner of his eye he saw the black sky daemon crash into the cliff face and slink away on damaged wings. The bronze lifted into the air, flames and smoke followed him while he trumpeted his victory into the night.
“Ildikó…” Words would not placate the daemon. The dragon cocked her head and folded her wings. Black eyes glinted as her gaze followed Kyler’s move into shadow. He tried again to send her an image. This time he shared a memory of Tamzyn, embraced in his arms, and added to his sending a hint of the impatience and lust the dragon shared with him.
Ildikó lifted her head and snorted. With an excited squeal, she backed away from Tamzyn and turned her attention to her suitor’s bloody offerings. She shrieked with delight and tore the human carcass to pieces. Blood dripped from gnashing fangs while she fed on the victor’s gift and left the horse untouched. Once the feasting ended Ildikó stretched her wings and tucked them beside her body. Neck frills flared when she moved to greet the bronze drake.
Kyler sank to his knees, only now aware of blistered flesh and smoldering clothes. He lifted his head to watch Ildikó silhouetted for a moment in the cave entrance. Spot fires died as the victorious dragon came to collect his prize.