Clean short fantasy romance
Ari the Noble, a rare female Aasguard warrior, loses her dragon to old age. While mourning she seeks the comfort of her brothers, fellow Aasguard warriors. Both of her brothers have recently married—unheard of among their kind. This has given birth to thoughts of a life she never envisioned for herself. These thoughts only multiply after she meets Kellen the Mighty.
Kellen the Mighty’s dragon also succumbed to old age and now he’s struggling with echoing loneliness. This propels him to seek out other Aasguards and investigate the possibility of marriage for himself.
Both Ari and Kellen struggle with their returning emotions and feelings for the other that they’ve never encountered in their long years of living. When they surrender to their mutual attraction, a portal opens to a monstrous creation that immediately and gleefully attacks. Could this catastrophe mean the end of their union? As well as the unions of future Aasguard warriors?
The castle spires of Montequirst rose high above the land. Ari the Noble clutched Fricassa, the female dragon who had traveled with her brother, Lajos the Swift. Lajos and his wife, Queen Stefana rode their other brother’s dragon, Aern, with whom Fricassa had mated.
Ari hadn’t had a place to call home since leaving her parents’ house to follow her older brothers to Aasguard warriorhood. Her dragon, Mikal, had chosen to go on months ago, and she had elected to return to her brother. She had known the location of Vidar the Loyal, her middle brother, who had married the Queen of Montequirst and gained himself the title of King of Montequirst.READ MORE
Aasguard warriors had never married prior to Vidar’s nuptials, but their older brother Lajos had been present for Vidar’s formal wedding ceremony. He fancied the Montequirst princess, Stefana, and after she was kidnapped, went after her with the aid of Aern. In the ensuing ruckus, Lajos killed the abhorrent king who made the mistake of kidnapping Lajos’ charge, and in doing so, suddenly became king of an impoverished land. The people viewed him and Stefana as their only hope.
They had been right.
Ari had been asked to accompany them to their new land, along with the dragons. She hadn’t taken even a moment to ponder the request. Clearly, much work needed to be done. Now, other Aasguard warriors made their way to Montequirst, and Swiftland, where King Lajos the Swift and his new queen resided.
Lajos and Ari had been comfortable leaving Swiftland in the competent hands of a fellow Aasguard, Rykert the Bold and his dragon, Felix who were pleased with the cushy post. They had settled in with ease.
The Swiftland people quite enjoyed him and his companion and would defer to him should they need assistance while she, Lajos, and Stefana were away for a few days.
They had left because the Queen of Montequirst was celebrating her first birthday as the queen. As Ari and Lajos were family to Vidar, and Stefana had grown up here and counted Raene as family, the three of them elected to attend the celebrations.
Ari watched as the castle loomed closer and closer and her heart pounded a little harder. She could admit to being eager to arrive, but perhaps not for the reason she should be.
Those stone walls encompassed Vidar and his queen, but deep in the bowels of the castle, at Vidar’s former post, stood another Aasguard. His dragon had also elected to move on. Kellen the Mighty protected the queen’s treasury, as Vidar and Aern had done not so many months ago.
Now, upon Aern and Fricassa’s arrival, they would reside in the cavern outside the treasury so Kellen could enjoy the festivities. The dragons, especially Aern who tended toward clumsy, were far more comfortable in Aern’s old residence beneath the castle. They both preferred proximity to treasure and would enjoy the space.
At the notion of setting eyes on Kellen again, her blood somehow thinned and sent bubbles into her brain.
Through long years of tamping her emotions, Ari ignored the sensation.
Aasguards had never been banned from marrying, but they’d never done so until Vidar. Who hadn’t been able to bear witnessing Raene marry another. Just because her brothers had married, didn’t mean Ari could do so.
Although never discussed, male and female Aasguards were treated differently. Not in a noticeable way, but she and her feminine colleagues made up a tiny fraction of the dwindling Aasguard population. They had to be better, faster, and smarter, or things could deteriorate to nasty.
Not one of her fellow Aasguards would treat a woman badly. Ever.
But men of the realms she had worked within didn’t tend to offer a female Aasguard the same respect her male counterparts enjoyed. Ari and her female colleagues had learned quickly to alter that ridiculous notion and fast.
She suppressed a growl and finally noticed they had arrived.
Before she was ready, Fricassa landed on the lush grounds of the Montequirst castle. The doors flung wide and Queen Raene rushed to meet them. Behind her, Vidar ambled at a more stately pace.
Stefana flung herself into Raene’s arms as Lajos and Vidar greeted each other. Ari slid off Fricassa to join the family reunion.
“Stefana, did your parents not accompany you?” A small frown furrowed Raene’s forehead.
“No, they’re both recovering from a nasty virus, so they elected to stay home. They send their love.” Stefana stepped back so Ari could hug her sister-in-law.
Raene’s enthusiastic greeting warmed her, as did the squeezes from her brother. Vidar inspected her, Stefana, and Lajos.
“You three all look hale and hearty.”
“We are. The virus felled quite a number, but the three of us escaped.” Lajos clapped Vidar on the back. “Is Kellen joining us?”
“He’ll be here shortly.” Vidar stepped to Aern and Fricassa, Raene with him as they made much of the two dragons. That the royal couple had missed them was evident.
She stood with Lajos and Stefana while they caught up.
A figure strode through the massive double wooden doors. His shoulders erect and straight, his walk confident, with the sunlight gleaming off his nutmeg colored hair. Ari’s breath caught in her throat, but she didn’t allow any of what she felt to show, because Aasguard warriors did no such thing.
Of course, both of her brothers had disregarded the rule scrolls for Aasguard warriors, if they had ever existed.
Kellen shook Lajos’ hand, bowed to Stefana in a show of respect for women, not necessarily for her status as a queen, and he also greeted the dragons. A glimmer of pain flashed across his face and she understood.
She hadn’t recovered from the death of her dragon either. Kellen had lost his around the same time.
Their lives were lonely enough, but her dragon had been old and unwell. When he decided to pass on, she had understood, but it wrenched her heart then, and now.
Having Aern and Fricassa had helped to heal her open wound and she’d had access to them here in Montequirst and then again while in Swiftland. Kellen hadn’t.
All thoughts fled when he turned to her. “Ari.” His amber eyes met hers.
Her name uttered in his deep voice sent shivers up and down her spine. She offered him the usual warriors’ greeting. All the while, her heart tried to hammer out of her chest.
Emotion was not something Kellen the Mighty had ever been comfortable with.
Over the long years he had grown especially adept at increasing the distance between himself and his emotions. So gazing now at the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, greeting her as a colleague, he didn’t know what to make of the situation. His heart and respiration rates increased.
Kellen had no grounds to interpret this rare phenomenon.
“You have healed?” Ari’s feminine question jerked his attention back to her lovely face. He’d been trying to avoid that.
Weathered and seasoned from their centuries on this earth, he appreciated the scars and lines that were a testament to her long life. Aasguards didn’t show their age but tended toward ageless. Yet they were in no way flawless.
Ari’s face showed her experience and wisdom. Her long, honey-colored hair and those silvery-blue eyes captivated him.
Never in his long existence had this occurred. He’d been protector to countless employers over the years. Observed plenty of breathtaking women. None had ever moved him in the manner of this one.
And it better cease immediately, because this was unacceptable in every way.
What this was, he had yet to establish, but he couldn’t continue down this path of destruction.
“I am fine.”
One honey-colored eyebrow rose. “You are completely healed?”
“Of course.” Not spoken arrogantly, but it had been several months since she, her brother, and his wife had left Montequirst. She knew Aasguards healed quickly.
“We have been very grateful for him.” Raene smiled at him. She didn’t seem to mind standing in the long shadows of both him and Vidar.
“They’ve missed Aern and Fricassa though.” Kellen smiled faintly in the direction of the two dragons, who had mated.
Lajos had been companion to the tiny green female while Vidar and Aern, the massive, clumsy black dragon, had spent the past centuries together. Now the two dragons had mated, and both Aasguard warriors were kings to their queens and helped to rule the countries in which they occupied.
Kellen had no desire whatsoever to be a king. He shuddered at the very thought.
“It has been my privilege to serve.” Kellen bowed slightly to Raene, a lovely auburn-haired woman who closely resembled her ancestress, Queen Bronwyn. A warrior in her own right, and he had been impressed with her.
Looking upon Raene now, he wasn’t surprised Bronwyn’s descendant had been a part of changing history. At least for his kind. Until Raene and Vidar, he’d never heard of Aasguard warriors marrying. Those who had trained before him chose when to pass on, always alone, always with melancholy.
None of them had ever considered changing their own lives.
Until now. He didn’t know why the two royal couples had chosen this. Didn’t know what had fueled their relationship. A large part of him didn’t wish to be any the wiser.
“Shall we go inside and have tea?” Raene’s bright question shifted them all from the lush grounds to the interior of the castle. A massive structure that housed more spaces than he had taken the time to count, including his current lodgings, which had previously been Vidar’s.
As attractive and practical as any room here in the castle, he hadn’t had cause to complain. Vidar had even showed him the crystal console embedded in the wall which was far larger and faster than his handheld crystal.
Kellen had been tempted several times to contact Ari. He had resisted.
The only times he’d interacted with her had been when he had palace business. But this burning desire inside him to further their relationship had grown, not diminished.
Now she leaned in to pick up her teacup, her motions easy and graceful and he found himself enthralled.
What is wrong with me?
No one answered that question, for which he was grateful.
The conversation flowed around him as Raene and Vidar caught up with the growth happening in Swiftland. He couldn’t remember ever having tea with two sets of kings and queens. He’d certainly never done so while seated with three Aasguards.
Life as he had known it had changed drastically.
Kellen wasn’t certain how he felt about that.