This was only the beginning. Accark had fallen asleep only an hour later and soon they realized, why. His temperature spiked high by lunch and despite the medicines Salone provide, nothing seemed to bring it down. That night Gale didn’t sleep. He sat on the pillow, his legs crossed in front of him and just watched as Accark succumbed in feverish dreams one after another.
He kept whining and keening for someone, but when Gale tried to bring him out of it like he had done the night before, it didn’t work. He brushed him off, fought even, dug his nails into his hands more than once and the only thing that seemed to work was to force him in a tight hug. Which caused him more pain than necessary, so after the first attempt and having to choose to listen his cries and personal battles against his demons or causing him to cry from the pain the pressure set on his wounds, Gale chose the first. The other thing he tried was grooming his fur and it was fine until he would touch the wrong place and Accark would pull away. So aside offering him water every hour and laying the egg in the middle of his curled body, to which he immediately clung to, he kept from touching him altogether.
Sleeping in the nest next to him seemed impossible now and although he made up a make-shift bed on the floor next to Accark, he couldn’t sleep at all. So instead he sat up and listened him breath, brought him icicles from the cellar and melted them against dragon’s furnished body.
The second day went in the same light and although Salone forced him out for few hours to sleep in the living room, where she’d been, he was back much too fast for her liking. Even for the better he couldn’t get his mind to calm down and when he did close his eyes, all he could see was Accark’s body taking a breath before going completely still and how he waited for it to start breathing again, wishing, screaming for the dragon to breath again. But in his dream, he couldn’t get to him, couldn’t even touch him.
In the evening it was becoming clear that they were over their heads.
He came out from their room to breath fresh air. The scent of medicines against the heat rising from Accark were starting to get on his nerves. There had been no change in his condition and he decided there was no help to him if he fainted next to him.
He slumped on the floor next to the door and sighed hard, dragging his hands through his hair, seeking solace from the cool stone wall. To think the inside of it was so hot he could hardly bare it.
Something in the corner of his eye caught his attention and he jumped up, turning towards the chairs in the living room. The fire in the furnish had almost finished, but still he could make out two bright golden eyes set on him. Without thinking he pulled out his knife from his belt and turned it towards the dragon sitting in the chair. After meeting Accark’s family he had no desire to have any more of them visiting his dragon’s home.
The shadow behind the sinister looking eyes began uncurling, growing bigger by the minute. It was indeed a dragon.
“You’re an alpha!” Gale let out, the hair on his neck rising in sudden burst of anger surging through his blood. The female had let an alpha dragon, a mighty one at that, to enter Accark’s home while he was out?
“And you are a beta. General playing the king. Hmm, interesting.”
Salome chose that moment to return with firewood and pulled his attention away from the shadow. The way she reacted to his raised knife with a shocked cry before the firewood landed on the floor told Gale she knew the dragon. He immediately hid his knife back on his belt, but didn’t remove his hand from it.
“Now now!” The alpha didn’t flinch on the clatter the wood made. “ Easy, gargoyle, I’m here only because Salone told me of you and I couldn’t contain my curiosity. No reason to blame my sweetest. I didn’t tell her I was coming.”
“Kalebos.” Gale let out a breath and removed his hand from his belt. Surely, someone Salone had been singing praises to couldn’t be here to hurt his fluff.
The black dragon smiled and bowed slightly just as the fire behind him grew again from the kindle. It brought out how big Kalebos really was and it confirmed his guess that he was nearly black from head to toe, his dark blue suit with golden embroidered wheat heads only forcing the image of a true alpha. But Gale didn’t need the image to know. He had the presence he lacked.
“My dearest called to me and told me about a gargoyle forcing a mating on a dragon and I just had to see it myself.”
Gale’s eyes traveled on the female behind him and before Salome could look up with the guilt her posture carried, he was cut off from the staring by a large soft tail waving in front of him, and forcing him to turn back to him.
“She is very worried for his brother. Don’t blame her for seeking council.”
“I am not.” Gale wasn’t. Despite feeling on edge in presence of Kalebos, he could understand her need to find somebody else to help as they were running on thin ice and despite the fear in him, he was grateful she had done it.
“By the looks of it, I gather the claiming didn’t work out.” Kalebos stated, looking from his wife to Gale and back. They both shook their heads.
“Tell me, gargoyle, do you know what a dragon alpha’s responsibilities are?”
Gale jaw clank together. He wasn’t sure what to say. It seemed silly to count the things he’d gathered so far on his own, but he wasn’t sure any more if those pieces of the puzzle even fit in the picture. Hadn’t he known the alpha was only asking this, because he wanted the best for his brother-in-law he would have already fought him off the property. He wasn’t alpha, but that didn’t mean he was bad at fighting one-on-one and he had his reasons to stick to his ground.
“I’m not sure how it is with gargoyles, for as far as I know you choose your leaders rather than following your instincts. So I must know, how you see it. Do you trust me?”
He couldn’t get to say yes. He hated feeling that somebody else had rights to make decisions over Accark, be it his father or the large male in front of him. He wasn’t their dragon. He was his dragon and he be damned if anybody thought they had any claims on him just because they happened to share genetic code.
Kalebos assured him, sensing his dilemma. “I will not hurt your friend. It would very much upset my Salone and I’m quite fond of my brother-in-law.”
After a long moment Gale nodded. He was here to satisfy his curiosity and offer council, nothing more.
“I am guessing, you did it to help with his healing?”
“Yes.” He forced himself to say. There were other reasons, but he wasn’t explaining them before he’d gotten a straight answer from Accark on the matter.
The black dragon smiled. “Good, your instincts are leading you on the right path. It is indeed one of the obligations we have towards those we claim – we care for them when they respond to nobody else. That’s our reason to be part of their lives. They return the favor when we need it from them.”
He began walking again, beckoning him to follow, leading them further away from Salone’s keen ears. The gallery hall seemed endless and Gale recognized it as one of the galleries they came through when he first arrived in the castle.
“The other reason is far more personal.” He let out a very dramatic sigh, turning to look at one of the large painting covering the wall. “I can’t believe I’m explaining an outsider of our ways. This is embarrassing!”
Just as dramatic as Accark, Gale found himself thinking. He failed to hide the smirk, when he suddenly felt the change in their interaction. It felt the same like talking with Accark when he’d accepted his first gift he’d brought for his brother. As if ice had been cut through and he’d been accepted.
“What are you laughing about?” The dragon demanded, offended. “I am grooming a grownup gargoyle!”
“I am grateful for this.” He said without hesitation and he meant it. He was humbled for the help the alpha was offering and he admitted he was eager to learn.
The anger in Kalebos’ voice faded. “I’m glad. To be a good alpha,” he continued, fluffing up his scales to fresh the moment, “means you are the pillar for them, their most important. It isn’t a task you take lightly, my friend. Given, you’ll make mistakes, great deal even, but it’s how you deal with those mistakes is what sets you apart. We do have our pearls to comfort us, but only if we find our pillar to dance around will we bloom and are stronger. A good alpha offers himself to others to nurture their growth…” He kept telling him philosophy behind their mating rituals and reasoning of their society and Gale listened until he thought he couldn’t handle any more. It all came down to two pillars holding up the roof. It resonated with gargoyles, how the strongest nests were built like mountains – stones on top would crumble if others so chose.
“I heard you tried to claim him, but did you only try once or more?” He stopped in front of the next picture, studying the painting that carried clear signs being made by humans. Accark had interest in those creatures.
“Once. I…” He trailed off.
“This is not the time to by shy.” Kalebos reminded him. “Be honest with me. I will share none of this with my wife.”
“I’d rather wait while he is conscious and can give me his approval before I try again.” He said honestly.
“I’m afraid we can’t wait that long. Such long fever, it reacts to alpha’s presence. Our bodies are not meant to go through this for long. I am sorry that Accark is not on good terms with his father, else he could help – he is, after all, his true alpha until he claims another.”
Kalebos stared him down as if he was a child.
“I am not happy about this either, but if it comes to this, he will be our only choice.”
“No, he -, we didn’t leave on good terms, I doubt he’d come even if we begged.”
“Gargoyle,” he began calmly, “I want you to look me in the eyes and tell me what I’m saying is getting through to your thick scull – IF Accark needs his father to come and pull him out of his fever, you will step aside and let him! But before we get there, I want you to try again.” He began walking back, waiting only for him to follow his example. “I promise I won’t call that bilious latrine feeder here unless we really, really have to. He is obligated to come, he can’t refuse. If he does refuse, I will see to it that he fulfills his duties towards his unmated child.”
Gale listened him in silence. Despite the huge presence the dragon possessed, the way he used his words made Gale feel safe with him. That it wasn’t the alpha, who did the claiming, but it was the other way around. Until Accark makes the decision for himself. He wouldn’t mind being under Kalebos command, he mused.