It was quiet in the garden and Leonore sunk to her knees, grateful for solitude and silence. As the sun dipped below the horizon a cool, white moon illuminated the jasmine that crept up the side of the garage. The heady scent filled the air, and a cloud of tiny white moths gathered among the star-like flowers.
Suddenly almost unbearably weary, Leonore lay back in the cool grass. Tears pricked behind her eyelids as a cold weight settled on her shoulders. She sat up and hugged her knees to her chest, feeling the cooling air against her hot cheeks.
How long she sat in silence she didn’t know, and then she heard a voice.
“Alone and sad? Why so?”
Her eyes snapped open, but she could see nobody.
She heard a chuckle.
“You will only see me if you close your eyes.”
She obeyed and found herself looking into a pair of golden orbs with vertical reptilian pupils. She concentrated and slowly, slowly a face assembled itself around the eyes.
“Are you a dragon?”
“I am whatever you want me to be…”
Leonore found herself laughing.
“That’s a politician’s answer if ever I heard one.”
The dragon smiled dragonishly and blew a breath into her face. She smelled menthe and cinnamon and something hot and exciting.
“Oh. I can smell you.”
“Of course you can. Now you can open your eyes.”
The dragon sat beside her. His iridescent scales seemed to gather the moonlight and reflect it back in a myriad of shifting colours. She looked at him for a very long moment.
“But I don’t believe in dragons.”
“Of course you do. You wouldn’t be able to see me if not.”
“What do you mean?”
He showed his teeth in what looked like genuine amusement.
“It’s elemental my dear, it is only belief that makes dragons visible. Unbelievers can never see us.”
“Not ever. If an unbeliever was sitting next to you he or she would neither be able to see nor hear me.”
Leonore remained unconvinced, but was pleased by the company anyway.
“What is your name?”
“I am R’u’uth. And you are L’e’onore.”
Leonore tried both names, rolling them around on her tongue as if to taste them. Finding them pleasing she laughed delightedly.
R’u’uth laughed too.
“That’s better. You don’t sound sad any more.”
“I don’t feel sad.”
“Good. But now you need to sleep.”
“Sleep. If only I could.”
The dragon breathed on her and she felt the benison of his presence.
“Lean on me and you shall sleep.”
She frowned but found herself drawn towards the shining presence as iron is drawn to a magnet. Before she knew she had even moved, her back was resting against the dragon’s smooth spicy-smelling skin. Even as she would have protested, her eyelids drooped and she drifted gently into slumber.
She awoke early in the morning with the rising sun in her eyes. For a moment she didn’t know where she was or how she got there. She stretched and heard a chuckle. She turned and spread her hands against R’u’uth’s smooth warm scales.
“Thank you,” she said softly.
He blew a breath on her and spread his shining leathery wings.
Leonore went on with her day with a lightness of heart that had been a rare thing of late. Time flew by, and it wasn’t until the sun was setting that she had leisure to think about her draconic visitor. She sat on her bed and considered the events of the last night. They made no sense, and she had just about convinced herself that he was a figment of her imagination created by tiredness and stress, when a familiar chuckle sounded inside her head.
“Where are you?”
“I’m on the roof. Waiting for you to call. And you didn’t imagine me, although it was your sadness that allowed me to find you.”
“Sometimes when a person feels their spirit has been all but overwhelmed, a spark within them calls to their soulmate and, if the portents are correct, that soulmate can come to them.”
“Are you saying that you are my soulmate?”
“I’m saying that I must be. Because you are mine.”
“Yes. Of course you are. I’m a dragon. If I didn’t feel like that I wouldn’t have watched over your rest.”
“You weren’t just being kind?”
“L’e’onore. Dragons are never kind. I came to you because your soul called to mine.”
“Why a dragon?”
“I might as well say why a human?”
Leonore sat down plump on the floor not sure whether to laugh or cry.
“Come down to the garden, let’s talk.”
She didn’t move, and the dragon’s voice grew plaintive.
“Please come down L’e’onore.”
“I don’t understand. Am I going mad?”
“No. You are not. Just come down here. Please.”
She got up and went downstairs to where R’u’uth awaited her with the rays of the setting sun turning his scales blood red.
Leonore caught her breath.
“You are so beautiful,” she breathed and R’u’uth smiled.
“We might want to talk about that later” he said and the warmth in his voice had her feeling a tingle in the pit of her stomach but she pushed it away as perverse. Even so, she couldn’t prevent herself walking to his side and resting the palms of her hands on his sun-warmed flanks.
He turned his head and nipped her wrist with his needle-sharp teeth. She was surprised by how pleasurable the small pain felt and a blush mantled her cheeks.
R’u’uth laughed at her discomfiture but his laughter was kindly.
“Never mind lovely,” his voice was full of affection. “Come for a fly.”
Leonore looked into his eyes and felt her own excitement rise.
“A fly? Can I?”
The dragon bent the knee and she scrambled onto his back where she found a spot between his wings.
He threw her a smile over his shoulder before taking a few running steps and spreading his wings with a snap.
“We are together L’e’onore. Together. And we will fly high.”