A Budding Romance Unfurls.

  I primarily right non-erotic military sci-fi, however, I am currently working on a large fantasy work that may or may not include erotic moments within the book. The stories I submit to Novel Trove are modified excerpts from my Fantasy work. 

  In this story Raphe meets some of Dame Ahati's "subjects"  No sex in this tale, but there is plenty of more to come as their relationship continues to grow.

...

  Reaching the Cheerful Plain Raphe begins scanning the ground.  There, he thinks.  Folding his wings he arrows for the ground, and a couple dozen feet above the ground he snaps his wings out and brakes for a fast landing.  Assuming human form quickly he kneels and places his hand on the ground, summoning his power.  He finds exactly what he is looking for and exerts his will upon the earth.  A foot long granite rock pops to the surface.  Raphe picks it up and pours his power into it.  The stone molds and forms.  After a few moments he holds a statue of Ahati in his hands.  Raphe concentrates and ensures he has captured every curve of her body and fold in her dress.  He also twists her features into a laughing smile.  Something he had seen a delightful number of times.  Grasping the statue tightly he transforms and takes off.

  After a few moments of hard flying he realizes he is close now, and begins scanning the tree line closely.  He spots Ahati’s house and dives for it, landing in the meadow in front of her house and transforming back into his human form.  He rushes up the path and just as he is about to knock on the door it swings open.  Ahati stands just beyond the door.  She wears a pale rose colored dress cut in her favored straight-necked, drop-waisted style and it hugs her curves and shows her olive skin to great effect.  Raphe notices her brown hair falls in its wavy brown glory, and her dark eyes are wide with happiness.  He also notes her rounded cheeks show a healthy blush.    She curtsies, smiles and says:  “Good evening, Squire Raphe.”  Before Raphe can speak her face shows surprise.  She stares at his uniform and says:  “But you are a full Paladin now.”  She looks up and meets his eyes.  “You must have had a most eventful day.”

  Raphe steps into her house and sweeps her up in a hug.  He says:  “You have no idea,” and kisses her passionately. 

  Ahati returns the kiss heartily.  She reaches up a hand and caresses his face.  Suddenly a tiny voice titters and says:  “Would you care for us to leave, Dame Ahati-waqrat?”  The voice titters again.  “It appears you have more pressing concerns.”

  Breaking the kiss Ahati says: “Oh!”  She steps back from Raphe and gestures towards the cherry tree counter.  Raphe looks over and sees five tiny people standing on it.  They all look to be as tall as Raphe’s forearm is long.  Gossamer wings extend from their backs and twitch from time to time.  Ahati says formally:  “May I introduce some of my subjects?”

  Subjects, thinks Raphe questioningly.  “Of course,” he replies out loud.  The tiny people look very relaxed and Raphe suspects they had been lounging on the table prior to his arrival.

  Gesturing to the first one Ahati says:  “Marigold, Bright and Bold, please come here.”  The woman flutters over to Raphe.  She moves with a suppressed excitement, thinks Raphe.  Her short, curly hair forms a golden-orange halo around her dusky face.  Her features are smooth and match the lithe look of her body.  Raphe notes that the top of her ears form into points.  She wears a pretty green summer dress heavily embroidered with golden-orange flowers about her waist and back.  Behind her, her silky wings beat furiously to hold her in place.  Ahati says:  “Paladin Raphael Michael Jimenez allow me to introduce Marigold, Bright and Bold, a member of the Pixies of the Cheerful Brook.”

  Marigold curtsies in mid-air and says:  “It is oh so wonderful to meet a Paladin.”  She rises from her curtsey and looks at Ahati.  “He is even more handsome than you described him Dame Ahati-waqrat.”

  Ahati smiles in embarrassment and Raphe says:  “I thank you for you compliment, Marigold.  I must say that you are quite beautiful yourself.”

  The pixie blushes from the roots of her hair all the way down to her toes.  She says:  “Silly Paladin.”  After a quiet moment of regarding Raphe she seems to realize that she is still hovering next to her Baronet.  She looks over at Ahati with a start then buzzes rapidly back to the counter.  Once she lands she stands as still as Raphe imagines it is possible for her to do.

  Without waiting for a summons the next pixie alights and buzzes towards Raphe.  He has bright blonde hair and brilliant blue eyes.  His pale face is angular and aristocratic looking which matches well his pointed ears, Raphe thinks.  The pixie wears finely wrought metal armor and carries a tiny longsword at his side.  He looks to be very well built underneath his armor to Raphe.  Finally the Paladin notes a small shield made of wood and painted blue is buckled to the pixie’s left forearm.  Ahati says formally:  “Hobby, Steadfast and Brave.”

  The Pixie bows formally and in a surprisingly deep voice says:  “An honor, Paladin.”

  “The honor is mine, Hobby, Steadfast and Brave,” Raphe replies formally.

  “Hobby is a Warden for the Pixies of the Cheerful Brook,” Ahati explains.  “He defends his people from the dangers of the forest.”

  Hobby pulls himself up proudly.  He says:  “Not two days ago I vanquished a mighty fox, who was skulking about the village most nefariously.”

  “Impressive,” Raphe returns.

  Hobby bows again and before he can turn around another pixie buzzes forward.  He says:  “My turn, Dame Ahati-waqrat.”

  A scowl plays across Hobby’s face as he says:  “Could you not wait for my turn to be over, Marten?”

  The other pixie shoots back:  “You were boring the mighty Paladin with your tales, Hobby.”

  “I was not,” Hobby shoots back stiffening in anger.

  “Was too,” Marten says.  He buzzes next to Hobby and bows to Raphe.  He says:  “Marten, Silent and Swift.  I have the honor of being a huntsman for my people.”  The pixie looks like people Raphe had met from South Sudan.  He has very dark black skin, a brilliant white smile and very pleasing features.  He too, is well built.  His shirt and pants are in dark brown leather and fit him snugly.  He also wears a cloak made from the fur of what Raphe assumes is a marten.  Raphe marvels at the clever cutouts in the cloak that allow Marten’s wings unencumbered movement.  The hood for the cloak is formed from the head of the small predator and retains the teeth. The pixie grasps a longbow in his left hand and Raphe sees a quiver full of arrows fletched with tiny red feathers slung over his shoulder.

  Marten’s actions seem to have melted away the discipline of the pixies.  Marigold launches herself from the table and says:  “I want to talk to the Paladin again; he pays oh so wonderful compliments.”

  The other two pixies launch themselves from the table as well.  They crowd Hobby and Marten and the one to Raphe’s left curtsies deeply and says:  “I am Luna, Silver Light.  I enhance the beauty of our homes.  It is a most important job.”  Luna has pale skin, long flowing silver hair, and her eyes shine a brilliant pale gray.  She wears a lengthy elegant dress, cut much like Ahati’s, except that it has sleeves.  The dress is a deep gray that compliments her pale skin and silver hair pleasingly.

  “Why did I not have the pleasure of explaining my job?” Marigold asks indignantly.  Without waiting for an answer she adds:  “I tend to the wildflowers and enhance their beauty.  It is so wonderful.”

  Raphe regards the remaining pixie.  She has straight raven black hair gathered in a pile upon her head and very dark blue eyes.  Her features are strong, yet still feminine.  The strength makes her beauty less traditional but quite compelling.  She wears a dark blue dress with flowers embroidered in silver thread all about the bodice.  She curtsies and in a strong yet feminine voice says:  “I am Iris, Sweet and Strong.  I tend fields and craft the best food.”

  “Oh yes she does, Paladin,” Marigold says excitedly.  “Her muffins are simply to die for.”

  “Personally I think my jerky is better,” Marten interjects with a scowl.  He turns to Raphe and adds:  “Won’t you try some, mighty Paladin?”

  “Enough, my friends,” Ahati says laughingly.  “You shall overwhelm our guest.” She turns to Raphe and says:  “Please excuse their exuberance, my Paladin.”

  The pixies become only slightly less excited.  There is not a trace of chagrin among them.  Raphe says formally:  “There is nothing to excuse, I find your friends most delightful, Dame Ahati.”

  The pixies all grin and Marigold says:  “He is ever so nice.”

  Ahati’s laughter subsides into a warm smile.  She says:  “Would you care to eat, Raphe, we have prepared a meal.”

  Looking over at the cherry tree counter Raphe notices that it is piled with food and wine.  His stomach rumbles at the sight of it.  “I’d love to.”

  “Yay,” Marigold cheers brightly.   The pixies zoom over to the counter.

  “But, first,” Raphe says.  “I have a present for you, Dame Ahati.”  He holds up the statue he created and presents it to Ahati.

  The pixies all stop and whirl around.  “Oh how splendid,” Iris says.

  Ahati places a hand upon her chest and says quietly:  “It is beautiful.”  She grasps the statue and examines it closely.  After a long pause she looks up at Raphe seriously and adds:  “Is this how you see me?”

  The question confuses Raphe.  He says simply:  “Of course.”

  With shocking speed Ahati steps into Raphe and kisses him hotly.  Raphe wraps his arms around her and pulls her whole body into his.  She melts into him.  Raphe has no idea how long they kiss before he hears Marigold titter.  Hobby chuckles and says:  “Perhaps we should postpone the feast.”

  Breaking the kiss Ahati hugs Raphe and whispers in his ear:  “I am most touched.”  She breaks their embrace and smooths her dress while composing herself.  After a brief moment she walks over to the low table in front of the bookshelves.  She places the statue upon it and gives it a long glance before turning.  Gesturing to the counter she says:  “Please join us at table, Paladin.”

  They walk over to the counter.  Raphe feels Ahati summon her power and two tall chairs form from the cherry trees.  One sits at the head of the table and the other is set to the left.  Ahati stands behind the chair to the left and says:  “As the senior member present, etiquette demands that you sit at the head of the table, Paladin.”

  Raphe moves behind the chair and looks down the counter.  The pixies all have chairs just along the counter to Raphe’s right.  They rest on a platform extending from the side of the counter allowing the much shorter pixies to comfortably join them at table.  They flutter above their chairs and look at Raphe expectantly.  Raphe realizes they are waiting for him to sit.  He sits down and everyone joins him.  With formality Ahati says:  “What may I get you, Paladin?”

  There are cooked vegetables and fresh fruit piled up all about the table.  A platter holds several roast pheasants.  Raphe’s mouth waters greedily.  He says:  “Could I have some roast potatos, asparagus, and some pheasant please?”

  Ahati smiles and places the food on Raphe’s plate.  As soon as she is done the pixies all begin filling their plates.  Ahati asks:  “Wine?”

  “Please,” Raphe says earnestly.  Ahati pours him a glass of merlot and fills the tiny glasses of her guests before filling her own.  When she places the bottle on the table Raphe picks up a wooden fork and takes a bite of the asparagus.  It is covered in butter and garlic, Raphe notes, and is perfectly delicious. 

  As soon as he begins eating Ahati begins filling her plate.  The pixies all break out beautiful daggers and begin using them to eat.  Raphe concentrates on not stuffing his face.  He will eat with some semblance of civility he tells himself.  Marigold, Luna, and Hobby eat daintily.  Marten and Iris however begin wolfing down food.  Silence descends upon the table as everyone eats and drinks.  They must have been as hungry as Raphe.  He swallows a bite of pheasant and says:  “I apologize for returning so late, thank you for waiting for me.”

  Ahati smiles, takes a sip of wine, and says:  “No apologies are necessary.”  She pauses before adding:  “I, for one, would love to hear the adventures of your day.”

  “Me too,” Marigold chimes in.  “I imagine you must see such grand things as a Paladin.”

  A dark cloud passes over Raphe’s face.  There had been nothing grand about his day.  He cannot imagine telling the exuberant pixies about the horrors he witnessed.

  Hobby says:  “Ahh, I thought I sensed demon on you.”  Raphe shoots a sharp glance at the pixie.  Hobby drinks some wine and leans back in his chair calmly.  “Your first encounter, I imagine.”

  Marigold scowls and says:  “Terrible, nasty creatures.”  She huffs.  “And always so cross.”

  In surprise Raphe says:  “You’ve met demons before.”

  Luna says mournfully:  “Oh yes, Paladin.”  She brightens quickly.  “But, the nasties usually leave us alone.”

  “Too right,” shoots Marten.

  Raphe stares at the pixies.  Ahati says:  “Pixies travel to Earth often.”

  “Cornwall is just so pretty,” Marigold says.  “The untamed lands full of beautiful views.  I, too, love the way you humans build your villages.  And, with no magic whatsoever.”

  “You fought demons?”  Raphe asks.  He knows he sounds insultingly astonished, but he cannot help it.

  Iris says:  “Only when they attack us.  We are no Paladins.  Fortunately, they usually just ignore us.”

  Hobby snorts disdainfully:  “The cowards.”

  “How?” Raphe asks.

  The pixies look at Raphe in utter confusion.  Ahati says:  “Pixies possess strong magic, Raphe.”  Raphe turns to her.  “In fact they are the most magically gifted people of this land, next to dragons.”

  “And those of the Orders,” Marigold chimes in.  Raphe looks back at her and sees that she is leaning forward on the counter and resting her chin on her fist.  “It must be so grand to simply will the elements into action.”

  “But I like singing,” Luna says.

  “Singing?” asks Raphe.

  “Oh, I want to show him,” Iris says.  She stands up and begins singing an ethereally beautiful song.  Raphe cannot pick out the words, it sounds as if she sings in some other language entirely.  Raphe can feel the buzz of magic, and fairly powerful magic at that.  Around her the air begins to swirl.  She moves her hands elegantly and the swirling air coalesces into a compact ball in front of her.  She pushes out her hands slowly and the air explodes gently in a cool breeze that sweeps across the room for a brief moment.  She ends the song, smiles, and says:  “Fun.”

  “That was awesome, Iris,” Raphe says.

  Ahati says:  “Pixies have a little bit of every kind of magic.  They exercise it through the use of what they call songs of power.”

  “My turn,” shoots Marten.  He begins to stand.

  Ahati says politely:  “I believe we were discussing demons, my friend.”

  Marten frowns and sits down.  “It would have been brief,” he says dejectedly.

  Marigold says:  “The nasties dislike us pixies.”  She huffs.  “For no good reason.”  She pauses before continuing:  “We never travel to Earth alone; it is simply no fun without friends.  Sometimes we encounter grumpy demons.”

  “They’re always grumpy,” chimes in Marten.

  “The nastiest grumpiest ones sometimes use their magic against us,” Marigold continues.  “When this happens we sing our songs of power.”

  “And use our swords,” throws in Hobby.

  “And arrows,” Marten adds.

  Marigold glares at the two of them.  “Nobody wants to hear about your silly swords and arrows.”

  “My sword’s not silly,” grumps Hobby.

  “But, I pierce their eyes with my keen arrows,” Marten laments.

  Ignoring them Marigold says:  “Alone a pixie would be in such grave danger.  But, with a group of us singing we can easily defeat nasty old demons.”

  Raphe is still staring.  The pixies were wonderful, but they seemed so … flighty.  Ahati places a hand on his arm and says:  “Do not let their sweet nature blind you.  Pixies have a great deal of wisdom and intelligence.  They simply see no reason for those attributes to get in the way of enjoying life.”

  “Too right,” Marten shoots.

  “Of course,” Hobby says.

  “I want to dance,” says Marigold.

  “Me too,” says Iris.

  “I’ll sing,” says Luna.  Without waiting for permission she begins singing a lively toon.  Raphe feels no magical power in the song.  He can make out the words this time.  Luna is singing about a spring rainstorm.  Marigold grasps Hobby’s hand and Iris drags Marten from his seat.  They buzz into the air and begin dancing about the room.  Raphe’s abuela had taught him a great deal about old-fashioned dancing.  He stands and pulls Ahati to her feat.  He begins sweeping her about the tiny house in a waltz.  She laughs delightedly.  The song ends and Raphe sweeps her down and plants a kiss on her full lips.  He pulls her back up and Ahati sighs happily.

  The pixies all applaud and Marigold says:  “That was ever so well done, Paladin.”

  “Thank you Marigold, Bright and Bold,” Raphe returns.  He looks at Luna and adds:  “You sing with the voice of heaven Luna Silver Light.”

  “Thank you Paladin,” Luna returns bashfully.

  Iris says:  “I do believe you should take Dame Ahati-waqrat for a walk, Paladin.  We will clean the feast from the table.”

  Ahati replies:  “I cannot ask that of you, my friends.”  She is the most undragonlike dragon he has ever met, thinks Raphe.

  “Pish-posh,” Marigold says.  “Are we not your subjects?”  She zooms over to the table and begins singing a song of power while she picks things up.  Winds gather and assist her.

  “I do believe we have our orders, Dame Ahati,” Raphe says. He places her hand in the crook of his arm and places his other hand atop hers.  He leads her to the door and she waves it open.

  Outside, the stars blaze above their heads.  The moon is still low enough that the trees shade them from its full light.  Fireflys dance everywhere.  Raphe leads her down the path and says:  “Okay, that was amazing, but I have to ask, what the heck is going on?”

  Ahati laughs gaily.  She gestures about her.  “On my twentieth birthday, just over a year ago if you remember, I was granted this small forest and meadow as my lands.  It is a small piece of my parents’ estates, which in turn is part of the Demesne of Flora, and thus a part of the Court of Spring.  Upon my lands The Cheerful Brook runs through the forest and around the north side of the meadow.  Millennia ago a group of Pixies claimed this brook as their home.  They and a handful of nymphs and satyrs are the people that reside on my lands and are hence my subjects.” She steers Raphe northward along the edge of the forest.  “I spend a great deal of my time here, as I find the court of Countess Gemeti, lady of the Demesne of Flora, tiresome.”  She sighs.  “Most members of the court are pleasing in their ways, but my parents spend the vast majority of their time there.”  Ahati looks into the forest.  “I do not enjoy them.”  She looks back at Raphe and he meets her eyes as they walk.  “I am sorry for the loss of your parents, but I hope you realize how great a gift they were to you while they lived,” Ahati says seriously.

  “I loved my parents very much,” Raphe replies.

  Ahati looks forward.  “My parents are quite formal, even for dragons.  Furthermore, they care little for anything other than gaining power.”  Her voice hardens.  “They wished to align me to the son of a more powerful family.  I did not acquiesce to their wishes.  They have since informed me that I am a disappointment as a daughter.”

“Idiots,” snarls Raphe.

Ahati squeezes Raphes arm before continuing:  “The pixies acknowledge that they are my subjects.  However, they find strict propriety tiresome and pointless.  Compared to the formality of my upbringing I find their point of view refreshing.”  She pauses thoughtfully.  “Furthermore, I find their desire to enjoy life to its fullest, validating.”  She looks over at Raphe again.  “As I matured I came to see my parents as joyless people stuck in a pointless quest for more power of no real value.  I vowed I would never follow such a path.”

  Raphe smiles and says:  “I would say that you have made a wise decision.”

  Ahati squeezes his arm again and steers their walk up a hill to their west.

  They walk up the hill in silence.  Raphe begins to think about the more painful parts of his day.  He feels a chill settle in him as he remembers the naked hate of the demons.  They reach the top of the hill and he pulls her to a halt.  He says:  “Can we sit here?”

  “Of course,” Ahati replies.  She spreads her skirt and sits with her legs out before her, crossed at the ankles.  She leans back on her hands and looks over at Raphe.

  Raphe sits down where he can clearly see her face.  He folds his legs into a lotus and says:  “I had a really hard day and I find I desperately need to talk about it.”

  Ahati meets his gaze seriously.  She says:  “I desire to know everything about you, Raphe.  Please, tell me all.”

  Raphe returns:  “It was awful.”  He then commences to describe the day’s battle and his efforts in battling demons in Los Angeles.

  As his story winds to a halt Ahati leans into him and looks over her feet.  She says:  “I have read much on demons, but to hear you describe them they sound so much worse.”  She pauses a moment before meeting his eyes and asking, “Do you fear returning to face them?”

  Raphe remains quiet for a long moment.  Eventually he says:  “I do not fear them, I fear what I may become if I continue to battle them.”

  “I do not,” Ahati replies calmly.

  “What?” asks Raphe.

  Ahati looks at him.  She says:  “They shall not corrupt you, my Paladin.”  She places her hand over his heart and presses gently.

  Raphe replies, “How do you know that?”

  “Those at the Court of Spring love their gossip, Raphe,” she replies.  “Rebekkah is a Master Paladin, all have interest in her.  She has long been known as a stern and silent enforcer.  Yet as your mentor she laughs gaily and takes interest in softer things” Ahati looks back over her feet.  “Furthermore, you treated a Queen with humor after she used you in her games of power.  You accepted rambunctious pixies with grace and happiness.  And you have given a lost dragon a reason to believe her world is a better place than she thought.”  Raphe starts as he realizes Ahati is talking about herself.  The dragon in human form kisses him softly.  “Your nobility is vast; I believe nothing shall conquer it.”

  Raphe cannot form words to respond to Ahati’s statement.  He feels far too much emotion.  Instead he wraps his arms around her and leans back, pulling her on top of him.  He kisses her fiercely.  Their hands roam all over each other’s bodies as their mouths move together passionately.  After a long time they finally break apart and both gasp for air.  “Thank you,” Raphe breathes out.

  Smiling Ahati says:  “You have nothing to thank me for, Raphe.”

  Raphe looks up at the moon.  He says resignedly:  “I must go, Ahati.”

  “No,” she says sadly.  “Please, remain with me here.”

  “I’m sorry, my dragon.  I must return to Earth and I have to meet my fellow members of the Orders.”

  Sighing Ahati stands and helps Raphe to his feet.  Suddenly she brightens.  “Come with me, quickly, it will only take a moment.”  She grasps one of Raphe’s hands and pulls him along rapidly.  Raphe has to sprint to keep up.  In moments they arrive at her house.  She runs beyond it to a tree and places her hand upon it.  She looks at him intently and says:  “Pour your power into the tree.  Sense its connections to the other side of the veil.”

  Raphe does so and the web of strings explodes into his head.  He sees the two brighter strings of the trees he had traveled to and from on Earth.  “I can see the two points I have used on Earth, but how do I mark this one?” he asks.

  Ahati responds excitedly.  “Focus on your preferred destination and send your power to it.  Do not seek to form a portal simply focus on the feel of the tree on the far end.”  Raphe sends his power down the line and it glows brighter.  “I sense it too,” Ahati adds.  “I have never travelled through the Veil, but this should work.”  She leans over and gives Raphe a peck on the cheek.  “When next you return you may come directly here.”

  “Excellent,” Raphe shoots back, grinning.  He hugs Ahati quickly and steps away.  “I really must go.”  The grin fades.  “I don’t know when I shall return, but I will come here as soon as I can.”

  Nodding Ahati says:  “Go, my Paladin, and know that I eagerly await your return.

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