This story deals with sex between to males, in graphic detail. If you're not over 18 or thatís not your cup of tea, you can leave my tea party.  This story is the property of Teiran.  Do not distribute or reproduce.  Copyright 2000.

Otherwise, enjoy!      -Teiran

Fox Squire

Trent smiled as he closed the door to his home, maybe for the last time.

He was going to be a squire to one of Duke Phillipsís knights, and the young

fox was happier then he had ever been before. Trent had watched his best friend, Marcus, leave a year ago. Marcus was the third son a local noble. His father, Arthur Glodenhue, was a merchant and one of the richest men in the area. Marcus had had no problems being chosen by a knight as a squire. Trent and his family were peasants, and very poor. Trent had little to make himself a good candidate. His skill would have to make up the difference.

 

The sun slowly rose as he walked the long road to the castle. His family's farm was small, one of the many serf farms that surrounded the Duke's castle. A wall, maybe eight feet high came up to the road, the fence that separated the Duke's land's from the small manor of the family Marcus came from. The Goldenhues, a family of griffins that had long ago served the king in the wars with the Shining Hosts to the south. The manor house stood a long way back, maybe half a mile of road lead beneath the shade of specially grown trees that covered the road to their house in a eternal blanket of dancing shadows. Like a old painting, it looked very foreboding, but Trent never saw it that way. He always liked the house, and always paused to watch it whenever he passed by it. Time stood still as the old house sat there, and nothing but the wind moved.

The roar came from nowhere, the blow sent the ground hurtling to meet his muzzle, and Trent yelped as something shoved him face first in the dirt. Fear ran through him, as Trent envisioned one of the maticores that had been spotted in the area tackling him. Laughter echoed in his ears, as scaled hands grabbed his arms, and pulled him backward into a sitting position. "Youíll never be a knight if you can't here ME sneak up on you!" The larger griffin pulled his arms back, and put Trent into a big bear hug, his beak right by his ear. "And if you can't get out, you won't be a squire long." Trent growled a little as he said, "Marcus, stop it," Trent struggled a second, and slipped his big friends arms off him, "You scared the shit outta me, don't do that!" Trent stood up,

dusting his tan trousers off. "Ah, come on Trent, it was a joke. You're just nervous cause you don't know which knight will pick you as their squire." The griffin stood up, his bright red tunic and blue trousers, embroidered in gold thread, looked very grand next to Trent's simple white and tan ones. Marcus smiled, and crossed his arms, and Trent glared. "Your just mad cause I'm right." Trent crossed his arms, and the big griffin smirked. Trent leaned over to get his bag, "Yeah so? You had it easy, your dad got you your squired to the best knight money could get, and even got you a commendation after it was over. To top it off, your better with both a sword and a bow. I have to earn my position, and if someone doesn't choose me, then I'll just be a dumb guard my whole life." The fox started to walk, sulking. Marcus tended to forget his best friend didnít have the advantages he did. Marcus grabbed a bag from the base of the wall and untied a horse from a nearby tree. "Ah, come on, it was just a joke." The big griffinís voice no longer sounded light and cheerful.

"Geez, I havenít seen you shake like that since Betty tried hitting on you. This really must mean a lot to you, for you to be that nervous." Trent glared at him. "Yeah, so? Not like you care anyway." Marcus frowned, "You know thatís not true, I'd love for you to be a knight." Marcus swung himself up on his horse, "I'd choose you myself, but I havenít finished my own training." Trent stopped, "What do you mean your not finished with your training? You finished being a squire months ago." Marcus shrugged his shoulders, "Yeah, but do you have any idea how many Knight Errants there are out there looking for a kill that can get them full knighthood? Twenty of us were trying to kill the Chimera at Fairfield, but a Knight of the Rose came in a killed it first. Here, I'll give yah a ride." Marcus stretched his hand out to Trent, who stood uncertainly next to his horse. "Yeah sure thatís a good idea? You know how your dad feels about me being seen with you." The griffin shrugged. "Yeah well screw my dad. He ruled my life till I left last year, and I'm not gonna let him rule the rest of it." Trent grabbed the griffinís out stretched hand, and swung himself behind him in the saddle. "Yeah sure your dad can't tell you what to do? I mean, you not a knight yet, and something tells me He won't take no for an answer." Marcus smiled over his shoulder. "Like he could stop me from giving my best friend a ride to the castle so he can become a knight?" he kicked the horse, sending him into a gallop. "Hold On!"

Trent grabbed the saddle horn without thinking, his nose buried in Marcus's back. The horse galloped away through the fields to towards the castle. As they rode thought about how good it was good to have his friend back, as the ride progress, he felt rather uncomfortable with how he was riding. Because Marcus had put him behind him, he had to stretch his arms around the big griffin to reach the satile horn, and Marcus had pressed up against it to let Trent on. The whole setup left Trent grasping the horn, with his hands all but grabbing the griffinís crotch. Trent grimaced and tried to think about other things, but it was hard. He had always liked Marcus, but they both liked the girls of the village that stood around the castle. Still, he just couldn't get used to the feelings having his hands in Marcus's crotch gave him. It was a long ride to the castle.

* * *

The guard at the gate let Marcus pass without question, and Marcus rode right outside the stables. Letting Trent down he, gave the reins to the stable boy who greeted them. He was glad he caught his friend before he left as a squire. If a knight traveling through the county choose him, he might not see Trent for years. If at all. Marcus said, "Last year they held the choosing in the archery range, I hope you can still shoot." The big griffin grinned. Trent was the best shot Marcus had ever seen, and Marcus was no novice with the bow. Since the day he was old enough to enter, the griffin had won every archery contest the Duke had sponsored. But Trent had never entered any of the contests, he was just a peasant and Trent could wipe the floor with him. The fox might have doubts about his future as a knight, but Marcus knew that the tests had an archery shoot in them. With a knowing smile, Marcus followed Trent as he took off towards the east court yard, pausing only to tell the guards along the way were he was off to, but with Marcus in tow, no one really stopped him.

The east courtyard held a huge archery range, and Trent had would have loved to come there on any other day, and spend hours shooting. But today was different. Almost fifty furs milled around the courtyard, and the trials were not scheduled for almost another hour or so. Most of the furs were young men, sixteen through eighteen, with a few older, that were looking to be squires. Most lived in the castle or its villages, but some were farm boys like Trent. The crowd buzzed with whispered gossip and loud boasts, all directed at the small group standing off to the side. Ten, maybe eleven knights stood off to one side, talking amongst themselves. In their chain mail and swords strapped to their belts, the crests of their orders glittering in the sun, they looked like hero's from fairy tales. Most had a large purple or blue round shield as their crest, noting them as the knights of the King or Queen. Two wolves had golden lions set in a brown field, meaning they were part of the Order of the Sun, a group that served to protect the roads through out the kingdom. Being chosen by them was a one way ticket out of the area, and would be a great honor. Few Sun knights took squires, but they weren't the ones causing the stir in the hopeful knights. Standing in the very center of the crowd of knights, leaning against a table with his eyes closed, was red dragon dressed in shining silver armor with a thin and oddly shaped blade at his side. His broad chest plate gave way to huge cords of muscles that were his arms, and his legs, bare from the thigh down, were just as muscled. He was huge, but he had a soft grace that left you unnerved, that told anyone who looked that he was as fast as he was strong. A dark brown mane draped down his neck, and his scale glittered in the light.

Now, dragons were less common then foxes, wolves, and the like, but not horribly so, but that was not what startled the crowd of squires and knights alike. For on his right shoulder his crest was displayed for all to see, a perfectly red rose. It silently screamed to any who saw it that he was of a selective and powerful order of the greatest knights ever to ride in to battle, the Order of the Rose.

Tales told about the secretive order spoke of pacts made with most of the god's and of powerful magic know only to them. They told of the legendary power, virtue, honor and skills of the individual knights. If even half the stories were true, he could kill everyone here with his sword and leave with out being caught. Marcus startled Trent when he spoke. "Whoa. Never thought I'd see one of them here. You think he'll actually pick someone to be his squire?" "NO, stupid bird, he already has."

The voice was the mocking, whiny, high pitched voice that came from Paul Baffy, the oldest son of David Baffy, and Marcus's bitter rival. "My dad sent for him so he could choose me. After all, no other Order really deserves to have me." The bear flexed his muscular brown arms. He was dressed in a green tunic, with a darker sash with his family crest on it. "Don't bet on it." Marcus growled.

 

Marcus hated his controlling dad, and resent the feud between his family and the Baffy's he was forced to take part in, but he hated Paul more. "You have to earn this, like everyone else. Our money may get us chosen, but you have to earn a Knight of the Rose's respect." "YOU might have failed to live up to the Order's standards, but I already have earned it. This little contest is just for show. He's going to choose me, and that's that. You won't be able to make up for your mistakes with your little but-buddy there." Paul sneered at Trent, and Paul's brothers who ringed around them laughed at the fox. Trent felt his face glow, glad his fur covered up the fact. Trent growled softly, but only Marcus heard him. Trent very seldom growled in anger, and for moment, Marcus wondered exactly what had made the little fox so mad. "All right boys, if you're gonna fight, lets at least do this the right way." The captain of the guard had come up behind them, as the knot of boys grew tighter. "We might as well get this show on the road, so you two can duke it out in the testing field. Places everybody! Each boy looking to be a squire, take a spot in line. Each of you will get to run the course, and the take five shots with your choice of the bows we got, and you each will get a chance, so donít shove. So every body get in line!"

People moved out of Marcus's way as he got to a good spot to watch. Marcus hated the way people would slide out of his way, but there wasn't much he could do. His father, Anthony Goldenhue, was the most powerful man in the area, his only real competition was a family of merchant bears who had a recently moved to the duchy.

Neither he nor David Baffy, the patron of Paulís clan of bears, cared about the people in the area. The duke only beat them in titles. They were the richest men in the whole duchy, but his father was better liked. People never asked for loans from the Baffy's unless they planned to lead a miserable existence in service of the Slaves Guild if they couldn't pay them. His own father was ruthless, and never gave anything with out a string attached, but at least he had pity. The duke had needed money last year to rebuild part of the castle, and his father had used it as excuse to get him his knightship. But if a bad year destroyed a farm, heíd let the farmers off for a year instead of foreclosing on them. The people thought his father was generous because he had a heart, Marcus knew it was just good business to him. He had ruled Marcus life and the lives of his two older brothers with a iron fist. But that was something that would soon change.

Trent lined up to run the obstacle course, a simple test to see how fast and resourceful the hopeful squires could be. The first test was simple, get past the guards who were in front of you, and keep moving. Trent found the biggest one, and ran straight at him. The big horse grinned; thinking he had it made. What chance did a tiny fox have against him? Trent made right for his stomach, then swerved, the guard lunged, ready for such a move, Trent rolled, ducking under the waiting horse's arms. They never connected. Trent glanced around. Few of the others fared as well. Only Paul was with him, the big bear just having hit a smaller guard in the face. Not fair, but it worked. A sprint to a water filled ditch was next. Trent could see the ditch was too big to jump, so he stopped and looked around. Paul called at him, "Little fox afraid of the water?" and kept running. Trent grabbed a long wooden pole from a conveniently placed pile, and ran after him. Paul made a good jump for a bear, but fell just a little short, slipping back into the water. Trent planted the pole in the ditch, and pole-vaulted over his head. Paul watched him from the water, his mouth agape.

A series of hurtles and walls let Paul and several others pass him, and Trent finished fourth in the foot race. As the event ended, each boy was told to choose a bow for the archery course. Trent looked over the bows he could choose from carefully. Most of the bows looked like they were poor quality, and didn't have that good of a pull or aim. Paul pushed his way past Trent and grabbed the fanciest looking one. Trent found one that looked bad, but had been well cared for, some archer's favorite weapon. As each boy choose his target, and Trent found himself at the target closest to the knights. Trent felt himself begin to sweat under their gaze, comforted only by the fact that Marcus was watching. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw that Paul was next to him. The big bear smirked. The captain gave the signal to start, and Trent pulled the string back, took aim and let fly. He winced, the arrow stabbing into the next to the out-most circle. "What's wrong? Never used a bow before country boy?" Paul laughed, and put his in the center circle. Close, but not a bullís eye. Trent glared at him, and Paul smiled. "What are you gonna do? Its not like you could hit me with that thing squirt!" He laughed a cruel, mocking laugh. Trent boiled with rage. He lifted the bow, nocked an arrow, and let fly his second arrow. Silence crept over the field with the shot, as it made a perfect bullís eye. Paul stopped laughing. "You just got lucky...."

He tailed off as Trent fired his third arrow, cutting his first in half. Each of the two remaining arrows blew the one before it to bits, all perfect bulls eyes. No one moved for a long time. "No Paul." Trent said in clipped angry tones. "I havenít used a bow before." Trent stalked away from the range, shaking.

The crowd was silent as Trent walked away to where Marcus was standing. Cheers followed him, and Paul snapped his bow in half in a rage.

Marcus got to him first, grabbing him in a hug of friendship, and several of the others he knew from the village did the same. Only Marcus noticed Trentís clenched fists. The rest of the boys continued to shoot, but only the knights kept score. No one much cared what they made. They just wanted to know if they even had a chance of being picked after Trent's display. Soon, the knights were ready to decide who each would pick as their new squire. Each would call out their new squire's name, and give them a small medallion that symbolized their new posts. The Queenís knights went first, but none of them picked Trent. The Sun knights went next, calling a pair of twin raccoons. The Rose knight was next. Marcus's hand clenched Trent's shoulder. "You did your best. You deserve this far more then Paul." Trent looked down. "Yeah, but he'll win. He's here just because of Paul's money. There's no way...."

"Trent FireFur"

His name was all that the knight said. Trent looked up open mouthed at the dragon that held a small metal rose on a chain before him. He heard Paul cry out anger, and the other boys began cheer. He felt Marcus tighten his grip on his shoulder, and he knew his friend was smiling, but all he could do was take the medallion and look at the dragon's smiling face. "You did good." His voice was rich and deep. "Come to my rooms after you finish celebrating. Congratulations." He put out his scaled hand, and Trent feebly shook it. He watched the dragon turn away, his eyes welling up with tears of joy.

 

Paul rushed up to the leaving dragon knight as the rest of the knights rattled of their squires. He had been chosen by one of the king's guard, but he was raving mad. "What do you think your doing, you can't..." The knight caught his throat with one hand and squeezed before Paul could say anything else. "Don't you ever speak like that to me again." Anger burned in the knightís eyes. "And tell your father that if he ever tries to buy off the Order of the Rose again, he'll be dead. We don't take these kinds of insults more then once." The dragon let go of the bear, leaving him sputtering behind him.

Marcus said, "Come on Trent, we got a lot to do." Trent looked puzzled as he stared at the medallion. "What do you mean?" Marcus jingled a large purse in front of his face. This knight stuff pays well, and I can't think of a better time to celebrate then now." The big Griffin grinned mischievously, and Trent smiled. He was in for a long night.

* * *

Trent could barley see as he walked the dark castle corridor. Marcus really hadn't been kidding, and Trent had barley stopped him from get either of them really smashed, but Marcus had won the battle of whether or not to drink some ale. "It's the biggest day of your life, live it up a little!" He had said, and they had. A big meal and three rounds of ale left Trent groggy and light headed. He only hoped the knight wasn't still awake, and that he didn't puck in anything but the chamber pot. He swayed his way to the knight's door, thanking any of the gods listening that he had asked directions while still sober and could remember them. The knightís door opened slowly, and Trent saw a large, comfortable looking couch in the center of the room. No need to wake his new Lord, Trent thought, and he flopped down on the couch, careful to make sure that if he did loss it, it wouldn't be on the duke's furniture. With that, Trent drifted into blissful slumber.

The knight roused him and they left soon after breakfast, stopping by his parents farm to get some of his things. Trentís mother had cried, and his father was so proud. The huge knight awed both of them, and they waved goodbye for a long time after Trent hugged then one last time. Soon, Trent found himself riding beside the knight. He hadn't spoken all that much, just simple commands Trent's hung over brain could handle. Trent found it rather embarrassing that the knight was holding the reins to his horse. When he took them, the knight said, "Well, looks like your rejoining me. That's good. How yeah feeling?" The deep voice rattled Trent, especially the concern that filled it. "I hope you don't plan on doing that regularly." Trent whispered, "First and last time I ever do something like that." The dragon smiled. "Good, but if something deserves it, don't be afraid to indulge a little. Just know your limits. Anyway, it's only a little farther to where we're going, so you woke up right on time." A few moments of silence echoed through the forest their horse's walked through. Trent spent the time recalling the previous nightís events.

Marcus talked as they ate. He also bought the drinks. Marcus made Trent match the big griffin drink for drink, and so Trent recalled very little of the evening. It wasnít until they had gone outside and the cold air sobered him somewhat, thatís Trentís memories cleared up a little. When they had reached the castle, Marcus went in with him saying he was staying in another wing. The big griffin was drunk, but Trent had been to, so it took a while to realize Marcus was crying as they walked through the hall. He told Trent, "You don't know how much I've missed you Trent, I, I just can't tell you how much." Marcus wrapped his head in a hug, crying, and for a second, Trent closed his eyes as he remembered what his friend had smelled like.

Marcus whispered "You don't know how much I loved you." He laughed through his tears. "And you probably won't remember this anyway, so it doesn't matter."

He just held Trent, crying softly. He left without another word, and Trent staggered to his room.

The memories played out as they rode in silence, and when they finished, Trent jerked his head up, looking at the knight in front of him. A thought had crept its way inside his head, one Trent just couldn't let lie. He coughed slightly, getting the knight's attention. "Um, I know this is gonna sound stupid, but I don't know your name." The dragon chuckled. "I know. I was wondering how long it would take you to remember. I'm Adorn'ain Xalexs, of the Order of the

Rose." He smiled. " But you can call me Adorn." He chuckled, "You must have taken my suggestion a little to far." Adorn watched Trent as the fox blushed a deeper shade of red and looked at the ground.

They rode for a long time, and finally made camp. Adorn pulled out a bow and disappeared for a few minutes, returning with three hairs. Adorn set they down, still stuck to the arrows. "I'm sorry, but these won't be all that good." "Trent looked up, "Why not, rabbit tastes great." Adorn snorted, "Sure, if I knew how to cook they would be great." Trent smiled and perked his ears up. "Let me cook them." Adorn smiled. "You can cook? Well, feel free to go right ahead." Trent smiled again, as he dug into the gear. Adorn got up and searched through his pack, checking Trent's while the fox was cooking. The fox had almost everything he could need, and very little he didn't. *I really got lucky with this kid* Adorn thought. Then the smells hit him. Adorn breathed in the rich aroma, and turned back to the smaller fox. Adorn's largest pot graced a fire, a thick soup bubbling. The fox ladled the thick soup in to a bowl and handed it to Adorn. In the dying light, his small body was framed in the firelight. Adorn licked his lips and concentrated on the soup. He couldn't think like that, he barley knew the kit. The thick soup tasted better then anything Adorn had ever eaten on the trail before. Trent the watched the big dragon close his eyes and savor the taste. "HmmmmÖ this is wonderful. Where did you learn to cook like this?" Trent dipped his head and blushed. "My mother taught me."

"Don't do that."

Trent looked up startled into the dragon's chest. Adorn had leaned closer to him and leveled a seriously menacing glare. Trent's eyes got wide, and he swallowed nervously, trying to find somewhere else to look but Adorn. "Don't do that." "Do, do what?" "Don't get embarrassed, and look me in the eyes when you talk to me. Youíre going to be a knight. You may never have been important before, but you are now." Trent squirmed under his gaze. "Stop it, I mean it," Adorn put his hand on Trent's shoulder, "I know you've been looked down on your whole life, but that's changed now. If you never look someone in the eye, no one will ever respect you. Respect is a very important thing for a knight, and you deserve to be respected. Trust me." Trent closed his eyes. The hand squeezed his shoulder, and Trent forced himself to look up and open his eyes.

Soft green eyes, ringed in red scales, looked back at him. Genuine compassion looked back, the soft green orbs traced his muzzle. "You are a person who is worth something, you always have been, even if no one was willing to acknowledge it. You have to stop putting yourself down." Adorn took his hand off Trent's shoulder, and ate another spoonful of stew. "Tell me about your family Trent. We have several hours before we have to sleep, and I what to know more about you." Trent blinked, watching the dragon slowly eat. "Do you really want to get to know me?" The big dragon smiled, his scales glittering slightly in the moonlight. "Yes, yes I do."

 

The next morning, Trent woke up with the sun to find Adorn already folding up his tent. Trent packed his things, and Adorn provided biscuits and dried meat for breakfast. The day was filled with long roads leading to more roads and long tales about the history of the kingdom, the rise and fall of the kings of the land. Adorn's voice half sang, half spoke the words, in a deep rumble that seemed to be father time telling his children the tales of his life. Soon, night began to fall, and they stopped to make camp along a river. Adorn caught a deer, and Trent began roasting it over the fires. Trent smiled the whole evening. He was so happy. Nothing he did seemed wrong. Adorn had told him to ask questions, and when he did, he answered them truthfully and totally. Adorn would show Trent anything he could do, talk about anything Trent wanted to know about, but the best part was he would sing. Adorn knew all the great ballads, he had even trained as a bard for a time. He sang all the best songs, all in his deep rich voice that made Trent just want to close his eyes and listen forever. They spoke long into the night, as Trent slowly cooked the deer Adorn had killed. When it was finished, they ate half the meat, and Adorn said it was the best he had ever had. Then they dried the rest over the coals. Trent felt wonderful, and Adorn just smiled and told him tale after tale. Slowly, the fire dimmed, the venison was all done, and Adorn retired. Trent lay awake in the leather tent Adorn had put up for him. Adorn sat at the door of his own tent, wearing only his shorts. His scales glittered in the moonlight, his muscular figure ringed in starlight. Trent traced each of his muscles with his eyes as the dragon sang a haunting song to the moon about forbidden love. Trent tried to sleep, but the things Adorn had talked about, the respect he had treated him with lingered in his mind. How could anyone treat him with so much kindness? Marcus had been his best friend, and even he wasn't so kind. Dreams of what could have made a knight like Adorn so kind filled his sleep.

Dawn broke, and Trent awoke to find Adorn sharpening his sword, all the gear save what Trent had brought into his tent, packed and ready. Trent jumped as he realized the sun was well on its way into the sky. Trent had over slept rather badly. He rushed to put his things way, embarrassed anew by himself. How could I be so stupid, he thought. Thereís a long ride ahead of us, he's probably has been up since before sunrise. When his gear was finally secured and his tent finally collapsed and rolled, Trent sat down upon a rock across from Adorn. Adorn said, "Well, it's good to know you can at least pack up fairly quickly." Trent went straight into apology mood. "I'm sorry sir, I don't know what happened. I'm usually up with the sun. It will never happen again." Adorn smiled and put his whetstone away in a pouch on his belt. "Oh now, don't say never again, besides, it was worth it to see you run around in that, thinking I was mad at you." Adorn pointed the sword at him, and then slide in home in its sheath.

Trent looked down to realize that he was covered only in his fur. In his haste, he had simply forgotten to put on his clothes. The fox yelped, diving towards his bag to pull out a pair of pants. Laughter rolled from the dragon as the fox rushed to get some clothes on. It was a deep, full-throated laughter and the dragon had to wipe a tear from his eye when he was done. "Oh I wish you could have seen your face Trent. I've never seen anyone jump like that before." Trent felt his face grow hot, and the fox looked down, and clenched his eyes shut. A single tear escaped his eyes. Adorn would never respect him now. He'd never train him as a knight, not after this. All Trent could hope for was to get home. No matter how he tried, the fox could keep from sobbing just once.

A hand touched his shoulder, and Trent looked up, tears still brimming in his eyes. Adorn looked back, with all the respect and concern that had been there the day before. "I'm sorry I laughed Trent, I didn't mean to hurt you." Trent bit his lip, then shook his head. "No, this is all my fault, and I know what comes next. Just point me towards my home and you can find another squire." The fox looked at the ground, trying to contain his tears. Adorn dropped to one knee, putting him eye level with the fox. He wrapped his arms around the tiny fox, and put a hand to Trent's muzzle, forcing Trent to look him in the eyes.

"What makes you think I'd let you go?" Trent just closed his eyes in shame.

Adorn sighed, "Trent, you made an honest mistake, one that put you in an embarrassing position. One mistake is no reason to stop your training, if you never made a mistake, there would be no need to teach you. Please, don't think this changes anything." Trent slowly opened his eyes, and the tears flowed unchecked, and he nearly sobbed, "How can I expect you to teach me anything after this? How can you even look at me?" Adorn chuckled. "Trent, a knight, especially those of us in the Order, will spend as much time fighting as patching each other up, and frankly, I've seen far more be revealed by the claws or spears of an enemy then what you showed off today, which wasn't all that much. If you wanted to pack like that every day I wouldn't stop you, as long as you put something on before we started out. I only pointed it out to you because you actually didn't know you werenít wearing pants." Adorn shifted uncomfortably. He was having a hard time keeping Trent from noticing just what the sight of his almost nude body had done to him. "I thought you would blush and put something on, but when you jumped like you did, I just couldn't help but laugh. I never meant to hurt you, and I am not going to end your apprenticeship with me." The dragon broke the embrace and stood, and brushed a single tear away from Trent's eyes. "Anyway, it would be far to hard to replace you." Trent laughed through his tears, "You could find someone far better then me, you passed some up the day you choose me." Adorn walked to his horse and grimaced. "This could take a while, and it's best we ride and talk for now." They got on the horses, and while Trent wasn't looking Adorn shifted his rather uncomfortable erection. *Will this never end?* he thought. Adorn was okay at containing himself, but this was ridiculous. *What's gotten into me?* he thought. Adorn took Trent's reins in his hands, keeping the horses side by side as they rode along the trail, which ran with the river. Adorn sat upon his horse, brooding. After a few moments of silence, Adorn said, "How could I have gotten a better student Trent?" His eyes were stern but caring, and he used the voice he had used for his history lessons. Trent didn't answer at first, and Adorn said, "Really Trent, how? Should I have found someone stronger? You'll get stronger with time. Should I have gotten someone faster? You're probably my best bet there, and I would be very hard pressed to find a expert, much less a beginner as good as you are with a bow. Who would have been better then you? Tell me, I want to no what you think." The fox's nose almost touched his chest his head hung so low. Trent mumbled, "I don't know, anyone would have been better then me, you could have even chosen Paul Baffy, or one of his brothers."

Adorn let out a deep, resounding laugh, and his once somber mood evaporated.

The big dragon laughed for a full minute before wiping the tears from his eyes. "I wouldn't have taken one of those morons if I had been forced to. I don't think I could have found anyone worse to be trapped out here with if I tried. I really pity those poor lions how picked them." Trent watched his master smile when moments before he had been frowning. "There was no one else there as good as you Trent, physically or mentally, and yes, your personality is far more important then what shape youíre in. Being built like a tank will save you many an hour in training, but a weak or pridefull heart won't go far." Adorn sighed, his face a mask of sorrow. Why did it hurt so much that he had made Trent cry? He can't mean that much to me, not yet. He looked Trent in the eyes and handed the reins back to Trent. "You are the perfect squire for me Trent, and I think anyone would love to train or work with you. I will never regret choosing you, and it will take a lot more then forgetting your pants in a rush to get ready just so I don't have to wait to make me not respect you." Adorn watched Trent, who visibly relaxed as he said the words. Trent was truly amazed at what he was hearing. His master truly didn't think anything had changed. "So, your still going to train me?" he asked softly. "Of course," Adorn looked at the path, and sighed happily, "Besides, this looks like it'll be fun."

* * *

They rode for the rest of the day, and into the night. They were to close to stop now, and Adorn promised soft beds, which was enough to keep Trent going.

A small city, Elkhorn, rose in a tiny valley at the edge of the Forest of

Moss Wood and the Dragon Ridges, and marked the border of the Duke of El Ridge's domain. They were now in the Earl of Salsburg's lands, and Trent felt rather strange not actually being in the duke's land. The city was twice as large as the castle had been, and it was heavily fortified by palisade at the valley mouth, and high cliffs to the rear. Plus, anyone dumb enough to attack from the rear would get killed by or at least scared of by the great wyrms that lived in the Dragon's Range. Ancient ancestors of dragons like Adorn, the great bestial dragons lived in there caves, and rarely came out, unless someone was stupid enough to attack them. The offenders would be quickly handed over to the rampaging beast, who would take his offender, and any of his stolen treasure, and return to his slumber.

* * *

Adorn lead Trent through the twisting streets till they got to a inn called

The Golden Rose. Three stories tall, it was one of the larger buildings in the city. Adorn was welcomed with warm open arms and warm shouts of merriment by the staff, and Adorn hugged a huge minotaur who was even a few inches taller then even he was, who was obviously the innkeeper. "The gods be praised, it's good to see you again Adorn. It's been too long my friend." The well-muscled minotaur smiled at Adorn, and then turned to look at Trent. Trent couldn't see much of his face because of his huge, barrel chest blocked all but the end of his muzzle. "Well now, you must be Adorn's new squire. My name's Amos, and this here's my tavern and inn." The minotaur reached to shake his hand, and Trent took it with some hesitation, because his paw fit easily in the minotaur's palm. "Smaller then usual, but I'm sure Adorn picked the best, he always does. What's your name son?" "Trent Firefur, sir." Trent could barley look in the minotaur's eyes. "Well, old friend, what brings you back here? Are you staying or just passing through?" A hint of sorrow crept in the bull's voice as he said the last part, but Trent saw that Adorn had missed it. "Well be staying here for Trent's training, I hope it doesn't bother you." Amos smiled, "It never has, Adorn, your rooms are still free, and I'll have your stuff back in them from storage in a few hours." "Thanks Amos. I think I should show Trent his room before he falls asleep. We'll talk later." The minotaur smiled. "Great, I'll see that he gets some dinner, and the basic welcome." Adorn returned the smile, and lead Trent upstairs as Amos went to help another guest. The stairs like everything inside the inn was huge. The ceiling was fifteen feet tall if not higher, and the tables ranged in size. There was even a raised bar for people like Amos, but a shorter end for smaller furs. The second floor buzzed with sound, as people moved around the halls, but the third floor was strangely silent. Fewer rooms were on this floor, and so they were bigger. Adorn opened the door to one at the end of the main hall, and motioned Trent inside. Adorn smiled, "Welcome to your new room."

Trent stood still with shock. The room was very spacious, though it had little furniture. A large bed took up one corner of the room, and a dresser with mirror and a night stand finished out the furnishings. Another door stood to their right. "Is this really for me?" Trent asked. He had lived in the attic on a cot back at home. He couldn't even think about living in such a nice place. "Yup. One nice thing you will find about being my squire is that lots of people own me favors, and I always find a nice place to stay if I can."

Adorn walked back into the hall. "You can unpack totally, we're gonna be here for a long while, so get comfortable. The bath is through that door, and you share it with my room next door. The staff will get you dinner if you go down and tell them you're my squire. I'll see you tomorrow, and we will talk about starting your official training. I'm going to talk to Amos for a while." Adorn turned, closing the door behind him. Trent stood in the middle of his new room with a rather stunned look on his face. Trent sighed. This was to be his new home. He might as well get to know the people here. After putting his stuff in the dresser, he walked down stairs. He walked to the lower end of the bar, and sat down on a stool. He looked at the well-oiled, perfectly smooth black bar. It was slightly warm to the touch of his paw, and was jet-black stone of some sort. A voice said, "Hello sir, what can I get you tonight?" A wolf not much older then he stood behind the bar. A large mirror dominated the wall behind him. He smiled, waiting for Trent to order. Trent mumbled, "Um, I'm here with a knight, Adorn Xalexs, and he said there would be something waiting for me." The wolf smiled, "All right, be right back." Seconds later, he returned, carrying a plate with a small roast bird and mashed potatoes. The wolf set the plate down, and shook Trent's hand as he said, "My name's Javin. What's yours?" "Trent." "How long have you been with Master Adorn?" "About four days. Why?" "He and Pops are old pals and he stays here a lot, and if he's got a new squire, he'll be here for a long time. So, what do you think of him?" Trent began eating slowly, and mumbled, "He's nice. He's not like anyone I've ever know, but, he is a Knight of the Rose. I guess he's entitled to being different." Javin chuckled. "Oh, the Rose Knights are nicer then people seem to think." Trent answered, "Do you know many of the knights?" Javin nodded, "As good as any outsider knows them. They have their secrets, but I talk to a few of them regularly. Lots come through the Inn cause of Pops." "Who's your father?" Javin smiled, and he looked rather charming. "Amos." Trent opened his mouth startled, "But Amos is a..." Javin held up his hands and chuckled. "I know, I know. He adopted me. All three of his 'sons' are really adopted, though I'm the only one who isn't a minotaur. He's a Knight of the Rose like Adorn, so he never really had time to get married, and so he adopted some of us lost souls." Trent looked at Javin, "Amos is a Knight?" "Yup. I'm not, but I will be eventually. Amos just works here." "How did that happen?" Javin smiled, wagged his tail, and settled in to tell the story. "Well, yeah see..."

Amos stopped what he was doing when he saw Adorn come down into the taproom.

He walked over, and lead Adorn to a small room just off the main room, which held one table for two. Amos grinned as he sat down and said, "Well now, tell me what brings you back here?" Adorn smiled. "Cheap room, cheap food, can't beat this place no matter how much they water the beer." He smiled weakly. Amos could tell his friend was straining to keep something from him. He was tense, he fidgeted, he looked far worse then Amos had seen him look in a long time. The minotaur furrowed his brow, "Is there something wrong Adorn, you look terrible." Adorn shook his head, "No, nothing but the same old problems I've always had." The minotaur snorted. "Same old my ass. You got a new squire, and the way you look, you want to bend him over so bad it hurts." Adorn frowned and glared at the bull. "Don't remind me. I can't stand it Amos. Damn it this has never happened before. I've never felt this strongly for any male before so quickly, and he's so damn fragile. I'm almost surprised he didn't hide behind me when you came up." Adorn sighed, slumping in the chair, his hands on the table. Amos cupped the dragon's hands in his, and looked into his eyes. He looked miserable. It must have been hell to keep his attraction from the kid for four days. And keeping his emotions hidden wasn't something Adorn had ever been good at. His eyes begged for help, something the dragon would never ask anyone for, not even from Amos. He was drowning in desire and bottling it up wasn't helping. "Why don't we have a nice dinner, and you tell me about your travels since I last saw you, and then you can tell me about your new squire." Amos leaned across the table and took Adornís hands, and look at him with the same steady gaze Adorn remembered so well. "Okay?" Adorn smiled slightly. "Okay."

Amos got up to get the food, and Adorn caught his hand. "Thank you Amos." Amos smiled. "No problem."

Amos grabbed two steaks, two bottles of wine, and a good bottle of wine he had hidden. "We might as well eat in style my friend. Besides, you can't talk on a dry throat." The steaks were wonderful, the potatoes well cooked, and the wine loosened the two friends aching muscles. Adorn told of fruitless explorations for a orc camp, bandits attacking travelers and a host of other things he had settled in the last two years, and he had gotten to when he found Trent just as they finished. "So, the kid's from Duke Phillip's lands huh? No wonder you havenít told him. Heaven knows those people rarely accept anything." "Please, Amos, don't joke about this, it's hard enough as it is." The bull sighed. "Fine, then why don't you get some sleep, it's getting late." Adorn nodded, and wobbled to his feet. He had drank twice as much as Amos had. "Fine, just you walk me there, make sure that I get there." Amos walked Adorn all the way to his room, and Adorn made for his bathroom to used the chamber pot. He entered his room to find someone waiting on his bed.

Amos had stayed, and was kneeling nude on his bed, his legs splayed, his hands on his ankles, making his raging hardon stand out in the flickering candlelight. He grinned as Adorn came in. Adorn stood, watching him for a moment, and smiled. "Well, to what do I owe the pleasure of such lovely, and eager company?" Amos smiled slyly, "I don't know, I figured I hadn't seen you in so long, and you need to find some way to deal with your feelings about Trent, so.." Adorn smiled, and slid his shorts off, his cock quickly stiffening. He smiled as he slowly kissed the minotaur. Adorn slowly caressed the minotaur's biceps, and Amos rumbled his lust as Adorn gripped his hips with his legs. "It's been so long since we did this." Adorn growled. Their cocks slowly rubbed against each other, and Amos gripped the small of Adorn's back. Adorn held Amos in the embrace for a few moments, as he explored the familiar mouth of his partner. Amos broke the kiss, saying, "I really have missed you Adorn."

Adorn traced the muscled chest with his claws, and cupped Amos's heavy sack.

A grow a pleasure escaped the bull as Adorn said, "So I can tell. Now, lets see if you kept in shape since last time." Adorn began slowly massaged his chest, slowly pushing Amos back into the pillows. He trailed his kisses down the minotaur's muzzle and neck. He slowly worked his way down towards his waiting cock, and just as Amos felt Adorn gripped his nipple in his teeth, Adorn wrapped the minotaur's cock in his hands. Amos moaned in ecstasy, as Adorn slowly jacked him off. Adorn bent his head, and breathed in the minotaur musk, and slowly slid his tongue across his throbbing head. The minotaur shuddered as Adorn's lips traced his cock head. Amos slowly massaged Adorns shoulders, closing his eyes as the dragon's mouth opened wide to engulfed his cock. Adorn growled deep in his chest as he sucked the minotaur's huge cock.

Adorn had never told Amos how much he like the feeling of his cock in his mouth, or that he hated taking other males like this. He did it, but for others, it was just to control them. It was about the pleasure he got from the taste of a cock in his mouth, the control over a male it gave him. With Amos, it was something different. He loved owning the minotaur like this. He controlled the big bull with his mouth alone, his tongue dancing across the huge shaft. Other males he could control, but with Amos, it was more important then that. It was pleasing him, sharing some part of himself. Adorn need that from Amos.

Adorn slowly brought Amos to the brink of climax, and then stopped, letting him cool down a bit. Adorn closed his eyes, enjoying the taste of the big bull's musky cock. He loved slowly teasing another male, making him wait for that final moment of ecstasy, and he was very good at it. Amos was forced to moan softy in the dragon's ear as the dragon's tongue played it's way over his cock. He closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling of Adorn's caress. He missed this, the loving touch of another male. It had been to long since he had felt anything like this, especially from Adorn. Adorn purred to himself as he worked the bull length. He was so big, so long, and the big minotaur's cock was strong, harder then most. It brushed against the back of his mouth, and the minotaur began thrusting into the Adorn's mouth. Amos was the only male Adorn ever let do that. He hated having someone force his cock into his muzzle, but it was exciting in some strange way when Amos did it. So much was different between them then any other relationship Adorn had ever had. Adorn sighed, and let the bull take him.

Slowly, Amos felt the tides of pleasure rising again, and his breath began to get ragged. Adorn didn't stop this time, and Adorn cupped the bull's balls in a hand while his other gripped the bulls ass as he sucked even harder then before. Adorn felt the bull's balls clench and his cock jumped in his mouth. Adorn smiled and closed his eyes as Amos moaned aloud.

Amos curled over Adorn as he began to cum, completely engulfing the dragon's head and shoulders in his muscles. His hands pressed into the back of his head below his horns, controlling him. Amos gripped Adorn's neck with his powerful legs, leaning over him, smothering him in his bulky mass. Adorn closed his eyes as most of his muzzle settled in the minotaurís stomach muscles, his entire head held in the minotaurís firm muscles. Amos held him there, his hips bucking slightly as he came, fucking Adorn's muzzle as he shot his seed down his throat.

Adorn swallow the first wave of hot cum, and then held the rest in his mouth.

The minotaur's cum was saltier then most, and the bull's smell filled Adorn's nose as his muscled legs gripped his head, and he fucked his mouth, as he pumped wave after wave of his hot seed down his throat.

Slowly, the big bull loosed the grip he held on Adorn and the dragon pushed him back down on the pillows, locking them in a kiss as he wrapped his wings around then. Their tongues twisted as Adorn shared the bull's seed with him.

Adorn loved when the minotaur did that, though he would never let another male do it. He hadn't ever told Amos how good it felt when he wasn't completely in control. It sent a tingling fear down his spine that Amos had that kind of hold on him. Adorn pressed his body against the big minotaur's chest muscles, trying to bury himself in them. Amos ran a finger down his spine, and slowly licked his ear. Adorn shivered in his grasp, and Amos murmured, "Well, I think we both needed that, but there's something else I need." A roving hand squeezed Adorn's hard cock, and the dragon let Amos roll over beneath him. His well-muscled back gleamed in the low light, and his legs were closed. His rump curved beautifully beneath Adorn's gaze, his cheeks parting temptingly, waiting to be spread. Adorn cupped his cheeks in his hands, and whispered, "Well, now I see what you Really wanted. And you have certainly kept in shape..." He slowly massaged the tense muscles of his waiting ass, making slow circles with his palms as the bull groaned. Slowly, he widened his circles, and spread Amos's legs wide, holding him down as he pressed his cock against his waiting hole.

Adorn held him there, touching his cock to his tailhole, but not doing anything.

Instead, Adorn caressed the bullís back and sides, even his chest, massaging, but not fucking the poor bull. Amos began to squirm, trying to drive himself onto the waiting shaft. Adorn held him to tight, and all he could do was whine in need. A minute of the torture passed, as Adorn massaged Amos, even kneading his ass, all the while holding his cock head against his tail hole. Amos finally broke beneath the torment. "Come on, Adorn fuck me!" he whined in desperation. Adorn chuckled as he trailed a line of kisses down his spine, but didn't move. Amos began to beg, to plead with Adorn to finish this.

Finally, Adorn pushed past the bull's ring and slid his cock to the hilt in one smooth stroke. Amos grunted slightly in pain, and he felt Adorn hold perfectly still as he got used to the welcome intruder.

Adorn rode Amos for long hours into the night, his cock filling the bull, his scales sliding along his short fur. Nothing mattered to them but the tensing muscles of their partner, nothing mattered but making each thrust last as long as it possibly could. Adorn swiveled his hips back and forth, twisting and turning his cock within the bull, who thrust back with everything he had. The bull came half way through the fucking, and Adorn was sorely tempted to have his own, but he stopped himself. He wanted to save it for when the bull was on the brink of ecstasy again. Long minutes passed as Adorn thrust into the grunting and groaning minotaur beneath him. Amos lay with his eyes closed, his hips bucking back towards the thick cock of the dragon above him. Slowly, Adorn began fucking the bull faster and faster. Amos moaned aloud with each rapid trust, as Adorn pulled his massive cock out till only the head remained in him, and then slammed back in with each thrust. Aroused further by Amos's moans, Adorn began to lose himself in the moment, fucking the bull with an intense fury. Amos moaned, and Adorned growled out his lust with each thrust, till Amos's rump clenched down in the throws of climax. Adorn roared as he thrust in one last time, and poured his seed deep into the minotaurís ass.

Both males held each other, basking in the after glow for a long time.

Adorn's cock still buried in Amos, half hard even after almost an hour of sex. The minotaur finally fell asleep, and Adorn felt himself drifting off. Before he too fell into blissful slumber, he nuzzled the big minotaur's cheek, and mumbled, "I love you."

* * *

Morning found Adorn lying in the warmth of the sun that streamed through his window. Amos was gone, probably off tending to the inns morning regulars. Adorn stretched, and poured a glass of the wine from the night before. He sipped as he sauntered into the bathroom. The light felt so good on his scales as he washed his hands. Adorn smiled as he spied a warm bath conveniently drawn in the tub. Amos must have left it for him. Adorn growled in pleasure as he sank into the tub. Nothing beat a warm bath in the sun after a good fuck. He sipped the wine as he thought of Amos. They had been companions, lovers even, almost mates for so long. Every night he spent with Amos was heaven, each as perfect as the last, or better, depending on how far the big bull went. Adorn twitched nervously as he thought of the last time that he had seen the bull. It had been wonderful, they had spent the last night together, and Adorn had even let Amos mount him. The minotaur was the only one Adorn trusted to bend him in bed, and had only let Amos take him four times. It terrified him, feeling another male drill into him, hold him down and mate him. He loved taking another male, and he had known how good it felt from his first night in another's bed, but the past haunted Adorn. Old terrors die hard. Amos was a wonderful lover, extremely gentle for his size, but he couldn't bring himself to truly give himself to him. The past kept him back. Adorn drained the last of the wine, and as he put down the glass, he found the bathroom door had opened, and a rather stunned Trent was looking at him. Or more really, at his crotch. Trent ducked back into his room, and Adorn sighed. One look and his feelings for the boy had leaped back to his mind. Of course, it hadn't helped that he was only in his underwear. Oh well, he was going to get out anyway....

 

* * *

 

Trent stretched in the warm sun light that bathed in from his window. He lay in bed, hoping to fall back to sleep for a few hours. It was Saturday, and one of the few days Adorn didnít start their training sessions till after noon.

The last two months had been really hard for Trent. His training began with a quick lesson with a sword, and a short battle in which Trent barley kept himself from tripping. Trent dressed as he remembered the training trills and practices that had become routine, Adorn spending hours a day going over and over the basics of sword play. After a week of working with him one on one, Adorn began training three other boys to use the sword. Trent chuckled when he remembered how distraught he had been that Adorn was looking for other students. Adorn had spent an hour convincing him that they were there just so Trent wasn't fighting Adorn all the time. It had been a good thing too, Adorn could still beat him in less then ten blows if he wanted to. Trent felt good about the classes with the other boys, they were all about as good as he was. Trent momentary pride in himself dissapeared as all the things he failed at came back to him. Trent cursed his body for the millionth time. He was so weak compared to Adorn it was pathetic. Adorn had started Trent on an exercise program soon after they arrived, one that involved grueling treks and weight lifting. Using the weights Amos had in his inn, Adorn stared Trent on a grueling weight program, with an early morning run every day. Luckily, Adorn would teach the history of the kingdom and all his other verbal lessons as the fox worked out. It was grueling workout every time, but it had developed Trentís body somewhat. Trent flexed what little muscle he did have. It had been hard to build them up, but his muscles had certainly filled out his small frame. Looking in the mirror, he could now see his muscles outlined in his fur. It had been almost as hard for Trent to remember the lessons and tales Adorn was teaching him, but they made the weight lifting and hiking more interesting. Trent opened his door, looking around his still barren room before going down to breakfast.

* * *

Amos munched on a sandwich as he watched the bar from a table in the corner.

He watched Trent bound his way down the big stairs, and smiled at the way he almost skipped when he ran down them. When the fox thought no one was watching him, he was quite energetic, even silly. He ordered something to eat from one of his adopted sons behind the bar. Javin wasnít a big wolf, but Amos liked him. He worked hard, and had helped Trent out several times with out even being asked. Amos held a soft spot for Trent too. He was so soft spoken and polite that everyone who meet him seemed to like him. There was just something in the way he moved that made you want to protect him. Amos took a long draw on his cider and watched the small fox eat quietly in a corner. It had been a strange pair of months since Adorn and his new charge had come to the Golden Rose so Adorn could train the most unlikely looking fox to be a knight. Amos shivered as he remembered the first night they had been here. Adorn hadnít made love to him with such passion in years, and over the last two months nights like that one had been fairly common. Amos sighed deeply, staring into his drink, suddenly wishing it was something a little stronger. He and Adorn had been lovers off and on since they had both been inducted into the Order of the Rose, and Amos had given his heart to Adorn. He had promised to love the dragon forever. What was wrong was Adorn just couldnít do the same. Old enemies and horrors from Adornís youth stopped him from loving Amos, no matter how much he wanted to. Amos flexed his hand, watching the lamplight of the common room glitter of the small silver ring Adorn had given him so very long ago. He had promised to settle down with Amos. To be with him alone, as soon as he could face the demons from his past. Until then, Amos would have to wait. It hurt, but Adorn had his reasons, and no matter how much Amos hated them, they were good ones. And because he didnít want to hurt the love of his life, Amos wasnít willing to force the issue. But it still hurt, and the past two months had made it even worse. Amos knew one day Adorn would truly be his forever, so it wasnít that bad, at least when Adorn was away. Since he had come to Cadmesh, they had made love far more often then ever before. It was the worst thing Adorn could possibly do to him. It hurt Amos worse then anything else ever could because Amos knew he was thinking about Trent. At first Amos had thought that was why Adorn was teaching Trent at all. That was until he had seen Trent shoot a bow. The boy was the best natural born archer Amos had ever seen. Trent had mastered even the most difficult trick in the book in just the first month. Soon, archery was hard only cause Adorn made it so. The dragon came up with all sorts of thing to test Trent's skill, like horseback archery and moving targets. He was so good Amos reflected, that Adorn and Amos couldnít even think about being able to succeed at the tasks set before the young fox.

Strategy games had replaced the classic archery lessons a month ago. Amos had suggested them, and had even played parts in them. A typical one was to have a couple of people hide in the woods and have Trent hunt them with padded arrows, and if you could tag Trent before he shot you, you beat him. They were extremely difficult, but soon Trent was so good he would win almost every time. Amos had caught him the first few times, but only Adorn could get him now a days. Trent seemed loved the bow lessons, mainly because Adorn seemed so happy when he could actually best him.

Amos grimaced. The boy worshipped Adorn. Every one could see it, and it made the things much more difficult for Trent. He was good with the bow, no one could say otherwise, but the sword and lance were another story. The lance most knights used was far to big for Trent to wield. Trent couldnít ride with it even when he had become able to lift it. It overbalanced him to easy. Worse, Trent wasn't a good enough rider to actually be successful with a smaller lance, even with the riding lessons Adorn gave him. Trent was more concerned about the sword anyway. He just couldn't get the hang of it. It took him a month of practice just to beat one of the village boys. Amos smiled as he recalled all the times he had trained Trent when Adorn wasnít around. He was becoming a good friend, and it hurt to see him suffer. It was normal that Trent, a peasant who had never touched a sword before, wasnít good with a sword, but Trent tortured himself over it. No matter what Amos or even Javin said to calm him, he often cried himself to sleep over it. Amos and Javin tried as hard as they could to convince him that Adorn thought the world of him, but it didn't work. Trent looked at his failure with the sword the worst thing he could do as Adorn's apprentice, namely because the dragon was so damn good with it.

Amos had watched the boy once when he and Adorn had had a mock fight for fun outside the inn. Amos had fought with his huge axe and Adorn with his curved sword. Amos was good with his axe, but Adorn had always been the better fighter. Amos had seen Trent watching them as they fought, in the graceful arcing style only Knights of the Rose were taught. Trent had stood dumbfounded through most of it, and then left when a large enough crowd had gathered that he thought they wouldnít notice.

* * *

Adorn came in the bar, and talked to Trent for a while. Trent finally bounded up the stairs, and Adorn walked over to Amos. "Weíre going to hike up Azrulís ridge, to see if those reports of manticores are true. If we arenít back by an hour or so after night fall, send someone out to get us." Amos frowned. "Do you really think itís wise to take Trent? I could go insteadÖ" Adorn shook his head. "Itíll be all right, heíll be using that new bow I got for him a few weeks ago, not his sword. He should be all right. Besides, I have no intention of fighting them if they are there." Amos grunted, "Well, all right, but you be careful. Iíd hate to loss you for good." Adorn smiled, and shook Amosís hand.

"Iíll be careful, see you later." Amos watched him walk away, his heart sinking for some reason. A terrible feeling of dread swept his previously cheerful mood away, and he whispered,

"I hope so love, I hope so."

Marcus rode through the woods as fast as he could safely make the horse go. It was a stupid thing to do, taking a short cut through the Dragon Wood forest, but it was really his only hope to get to Caldemesh before the other knights did. A Royal Messenger, a member of the fabled Feathered Runners, had reported that he had seen a entire pack of Manticores near Caldemesh. Because the royal messengers never lied about such a thing, the race to see which knight-errant could get there first had been on. Marcus had been there when the messenger had given his report to the duke's court, on a stop back from his travels south for a month for his father. This was his best chance to finally earn his knight hood. It was a dangerous thing to do though. Killing a manticore in single combat was no small task. The manticore is a ferocious beast, with the basic body structure of a winged lion, with the ugly face of a human on it. They were big, could fly fairly well, and could throw needles from their spiked tails with arrow like precision. They were big risk, but a sure-fire way to get yourself knighted. Marcus had fought one last spring, but hadn't counted on its tail spikes being so strong. He would be dead if not for the timely arrival of a Knight of the Rose. This time, he was confident he could beat one, especially if it was only a yearling. And the messenger had reported seeing several young ones. The only problem was, every knight-errant in the country, and any actual knights in the area would be there to kill him. Before they began wrecking any major destruction. So, Marcus had turned off the King's Road, to the north, and headed through the Dragon Woods, trying to reach the Dragon Spire Mountains, and Caldemesh, before the others. If it worked, it would shave days off the journey, and give him the valuable scouting time that would be necessary to single out only one Manticore, and not confront the whole pack. If it failed, he'd probably be the last knight hopeful in the county to get there. Marcus sure hoped his short cut would work.