WYVERN by Grace Draven

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Authors: Grace Draven
daft. Elsbeth Weaver, happy in the depths of haunted Maldoza with only a savage wyvern for company.
    She knew, with a true instinct, what Alaric was about to tell her. Knew it in her bones and blood. A small part of her sighed in relief. But the greater part mourned. Their time was over.
    His warm breath cascaded over her breasts. He kissed a gentle curve and spoke against her skin. "I release you from your bargain."
    She said nothing, and he raised his head to look at her. "The egg will hatch, and these cliffs will be too dangerous for you to inhabit, even if I keep her confined to the cavern." He rose on his elbows, leaning over her so that he might see her better. His handsome face was sharp with a silent grief. "And your grandfather needs you, Beth. Almost as much as I do, but my time is not so limited."
    Truth and necessity were pitiless companions. They demanded much and offered little in return. Elsbeth wanted to return to Angus, had fretted over her time away from him, wondering if he still lived or if Ireni had overseen his burial in the village cemetery. Still, she didn't want this too-brief time with Alaric to end. A life of loneliness and the lingering pain of missing him, was something she'd grown accustomed to over the years. No more. It would be so much harder a second time.
    Tears trickled from the corners of her eyes. "Fate and family separate us once more."
    Alaric kissed each tear as it fell. "You cannot stay."
    "And you cannot leave."
    The irony of those words, repeated eight years later, wasn't lost on her.
    "Merciful or not, the gods have a poor humor." Alaric smiled, but a spark of anger kindled in his eyes. "I'll leave with my young in a few days." He gripped her shoulders with hard hands. "Wait for me. I will return. Don't leave Byderside, Beth. I'll search the world for you this time, but I'd rather find you safe in your village."
    His insistence warmed her. His promise pushed back the emptiness blossoming within her. She even teased him a little.
    "What if you choose to stay with your female wyvern?"
    Alaric laughed, a touch of real amusement in the sound. "Then I best prepare for a bloody brawl. Damoshin is a fierce female, unwilling to share her lands. She'd challenge me if I dared stay more than an hour or so after returning our offspring to her." He kissed her lightly. "Remember, we do not bond with each other in that way."
    Elsbeth ran her finger down his nose, stroked the curve of his cheekbone and the hard line of his jaw. "I'll wait, but confess I'm afraid. I want more than another handful of empty years, Alaric."
    He captured her hand and kissed her knuckles. His voice was fierce, determined when he answered her. "Then you fear for nothing. I came back for you once. I'll not lose you again."
    "If Angus were not so ill and your little one not so perilous, I'd insist you let me stay."
    "There'd be no insisting, Beth. I wouldn't let you leave."
    They didn't speak again, save for murmurs of encouragement and pleasure as Alaric took her again, this time leisurely. Afterward, they bathed each other with the tepid water remaining in the ewer. Elsbeth ran her cloth over Alaric's body with the reverence of a votary. She savored the feel of him, the curve of each muscle, the smoothness of his bronzed skin. Committed them to memory in case he did not return, and she had nothing more than an image undimmed by long years.
    He helped her pack and dress in that same silence, as if by not speaking, time would slow and give them a few more hours together. Elsbeth was the one to break it first. She shouldered her pack. "I'm ready."
    Alaric gave her a grim smile. "Then that makes one of us." He pulled her into his arms, heedless of the cumbersome pack. "I will fly you to the farmer's land, the one near Maldoza's base."
    Elsbeth was tempted. Anything to prolong her time with him. But his obligations were as important as hers. Someone depended on him as well. "No. You need to be near your daughter. I've walked

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