Chapter 1, The Tratchar

CHAPTER I

“I don’t believe we are going to connect with either of those two today,” Ellora commented, as she watched Cambria and Anders walk off into the forest.

Ilénè laughed in delight as she agreed, “I can guarantee it.”

Cambria and Anders only had eyes and ears for each other and the work they were doing. They spent the entire day moving from one burnt area to another, while they allowed their Tratchar talents to mingle and flow over the land. Whenever they stopped, they took the time to exchange kisses and to hold each other, while they stared into each other’s eyes. When moving on, they left beauty and the forest lush and teaming with life in their wake.

Cambria and Anders didn’t pay any attention to the friends they left behind, or notice when they left to allow them some privacy. All that mattered was that they were together. Even the repairs they made to the forest didn’t seem to register in their minds. They knew they were doing it but allowed the plant life to grow the way it was inclined. When they reached the edge of the burned areas of the forest, Anders took Cambria’s hand and led her to a stand of Sentinels that showed only minor signs of scorching from the heat of the fire that had come close to reaching this part of the forest. There, he built a bower for them to spend the night. He provided food for their meal, and they ate between kisses that grew lengthy with their shared passion.

Anders couldn’t remember ever being as happy as he was with Cambria. He had found his own true love and not only was she a Light Elf, but she was also an Eagle Claw. She also seemed receptive to the idea of them being Life Mates, and he was certain that by the time morning came they would be fully bonded. For now, he was content to allow their needs to guide their actions. He was finding Cambria to be very passionate, and he reveled in her love. As for the rest, he tossed aside any concerns he felt.

Cambria could feel nothing but the rightness of her actions and went with them. Deep within her mind, she heard a purring sound and tried to push it aside. She didn’t know where this was coming from and she didn’t care. All she wanted was for this moment to live on forever. She was on fire with her need for Anders and nothing else mattered.

Deep inside of Cambria, her Dragon could sense the presence of her mate and she was trying to claw her way out of the cocoon holding it captive. It was time to let her hostess know she existed and had needs too. She felt the passion rising between Cambria and her Life Mate and purred happily, even as she continued to fight to get to the surface to get loose. She managed to come close to escaping, then felt Cambria push her back. Her Dragon decided to be satisfied with the progress she had made. The next time, it wouldn’t take much effort, and then she would fly. For now, she was going to allow them to have their moments together. She would have a chance with her mate later. It was something, she decided, that no one would deny her.

Cambria woke the next morning to the growing passion she associated with Anders. She smiled sleepily as he took her along with him to highs she had never felt before. It felt so good. Again she could hear a happy purring sound coming from deep inside and pushed it back. She was not sharing this moment with anyone, not even her imagination. She felt the explosion of their completion and experienced a sense of fulfillment that was followed by the tingle of dual healing and cleansing spells. She knew Anders did this to show her he could take care of her, as was his right to do as an Elven Male. Taking care of a Life Mate was a responsibility they took very seriously.

Cambria knew Anders was her Life Mate, but she wasn’t ready to say the words that would acknowledge the fact. It was enough for her to know they worked well together and could share equally in their passions. The rest could come as it would. She turned onto her side smiling as she looked deeply into his eyes and raised a hand to brush lengths of grey hair from his face. He was beautiful and unexpectedly receptive to her mercurial moods. To be perfectly honest, until now, she hadn’t even noticed he wasn’t a Light Elf, not that it mattered. She liked him well enough as he was.

“Do you realize what we did?” Cambria purred.

“Which time?” Anders asked with smug satisfaction.

“We finished putting the forest to rights,” Cambria declared.

“Really? Anders gave a seductive grin. His mind was not on the trees. In fact, it seemed all he could think about was making love to his bride. He realized a lot of this was coming from his Dragon, but he was alright with the idea. As with most things, it went without saying that the sensation of being with a mate would be shared. There was no choice in the matter, for they lived in the same body, “That gives us more time to indulge in our own happiness then.”

“There will be lots of time for us,” Cambria returned Anders’ smile, as she lowered her eyes to his well-defined chest while she ran a fingertip over it. “I was thinking about how well we work together,” she confessed.

“I was thinking about other things we do well together,” Anders countered, as his eyes sparkled mischievously. He then took her hand in his to raise her fingers to his mouth where he suckled on them before lightly nipping at the pads.

“You are insatiable,” Cambria breathed, as her eyes closed halfway. “I never knew a man could be this amorous.”

“I am assuming you approve,” Anders teased, as he allowed his hands to stroke her back, even as she wrapped her legs around his hips to take him in one more time. He was ready for her.

Cambria was right about one thing. Male Elves were not quite this lusty on average. If not for the help of his Dragon, Anders wouldn’t have been able to do half of what they had during the night, or even now. He had the idea her Dragon had a lot to do with her actions as well, for while she enjoyed every moment, she seemed surprised that it was still possible. He wasn’t about to disillusion her at this moment, though. She would understand more after her Dragon finished rising.

During the following two weeks, Cambria and Anders did very little else but eat, sleep, and make love in their Sentinel-guarded nest. Her pet project was lost in a haze of passion and purring that was getting continually louder. It was Anders who eventually put an end to their seclusion, not that he wanted to.

“The outside world is summoning us,” Anders informed Cambria, as he heard the sounds of Dragons announcing an intruder in the Valley. There was no sense of danger to the report, but it served as a wake-up call that there were more than them out there.

“I don’t want this to end,” Cambria confessed, as she rose and looked for her clothing. It had been a long time since she had worn any, and she couldn’t remember where she had tossed them in their hurry to get into bed.

“Here,” Anders informed Cambria, as he refreshed her clothing with another cleansing spell that encompassed the whole area they were in and left her clothes smelling like Star flowers.

Cambria took a deep breath of appreciation while she inhaled the fragrance of the flowers and smiled, “The air smells so good.”

“Star flowers,” Anders informed her, although he knew it was unnecessary. Cambria would recognize the scent.

Cambria nodded and filled him in on something he didn’t know, “They only grow when there are Elves around. If we were to leave this Valley, the plants would wither and die. The seeds would remain dormant. No one knows why.”

“Maybe it is the depth of our love they react to,” Anders suggested, as he placed a finger against Cambria’s lips. “I am finding it incredibly difficult to leave this grove.”

Cambria sighed, as she kissed Anders’ finger, then finished dressing, “We have no choice, duty calls. If there is one thing an Eagle Claw understands, it is answering a call to defend the Empire.”

Anders could definitely see Cambria’s point. The Eagle Claw family was known for their battle expertise, and one of them was sure to be called on if there was any reason to believe there might be trouble lurking.

The moment Anders walked out from the grove of Sentinels, he could hear the call to arms coming from one of his brethren. He could also see Cambria racing through the forest at a pace he wouldn’t have thought her capable of. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough space for him to shift here in safety, or he would have been right behind her. He focused on the Dragon calling out the alarm and asked, “Where is the closest clearing, so I can shift?”

“One hundred yards, straight to your left,” T’Harris answered.

Anders didn’t doubt T’Harris was already responding to the call, but so was his Life Mate, and he was not letting Cambria run into a battle zone without his being there to protect her. His place was at her side, guarding her back. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust T’Harris not to keep her safe, because there was no Guardian trust worthier than his friend, but she was his.

Anders’ Dragon roared, as it took to the air and headed to the tunnel area where the intruder was reported to be. He arrived at the same time as T’Harris, and they landed together. Within moments, Cambria came out of the forest with her sword held firmly in her hand and a gleam in her eyes that warned everyone she was prepared to do battle if it was needed to keep her people safe. There was, however, nothing to worry about. All they could see was an empty cart; it was attached to a horse that was hungrily eating whatever it could find while it searched for water.

Another horse stood close to the first. It was also acting as if it were hungry, but neither steed looked starved. There was no one else around.

“Could whoever brought them from the other side of the mountain still be inside of the tunnel?” Cambria wondered, then moved forward to tend to the horses. It didn’t seem right to her for them to be left with their harnesses still attached.

T’Harris and Anders moved fast to reach the cart before Cambria. They could tell the mare that had been ridden held no danger to Cambria, but the cart was large enough to hold a man, and he could be waiting for her to come close to launch an attack from within. As they approached it, they could hear the sound of someone inside and quickly closed the gap.

Cambria also heard the sound of a man coming from the inside of the cart and as the three of them peered over the side of the wagon, they saw Evart inside. He was half-starved, sick, and in need of medical attention. There was nothing in the cart, except him and some grain for the horses. He had no food or water.

“The horses don’t look to be in as bad of shape as he does,” T’Harris noted.

“I get the impression he stayed hungry so they would have enough food to get to this side,” Cambria noted. She could still see signs of fodder in the bottom of the cart. A small amount of water remained in a canteen as well and when she checked it out, she scrunched her nose at the smell and dumped what was left onto the ground. “This is probably what made him ill. He was in a weakened condition before, or it couldn’t have had this much effect on him. We need to get him to the healers fast, or he will die with the poisonous water in him.”

“I will take him,” Anders volunteered. “We can do this together.”

Cambria agreed and ordered, “While Anders shifts, T’Harris can lift him out of the cart. I will hold him in place while I sit on Anders’ back, and we can fly to the Fortress. We will be able to get help for him there. Do you think you can bring the horses?”

“No problem,” T’Harris answered. It would take a couple of days, but he would get this done.

As Cambria and T’Harris made their plans, Anders shifted and extended a wing for them to climb onto his back. It only took a few moments, and they had Evart securely loaded onto his back. As soon as all was locked down, they left.

As ordered, T’Harris went to the horses to check them over, and he sighed as he ran his hands over them to familiarize the horses with his scent and touch. Then, speaking to himself, he commented, “At times like this, I really appreciate Elven steeds. Then again, these aren’t in as bad a shape as I thought. I might be able to cover more ground with them than I first believed. Either way, it is still going to take the better part of two days to get to the Fortress.”

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