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The Romance of Fire and Stone

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The subject of another lai I shall now tell. It concerns a Prince of Gore, Prince James as he was called, and relates how he came to be described as "homo ad lapidem".

Now Prince James was the second son of the King of Gore, but his father dotted upon him and quite spoiled him for he saw himself in his son's eyes.

Now the kingdom of Gore straddled jagged mountains in the north, much laced with cold lakes of still character. Such was the character of the people of Gore jagged and still. But Prince James was never still. Ever restless, he bore a heart as dark as the centre of any mountain.

So to the ear of this restless dark hearted Prince came a song praising the great beauty of Princess Sherlock, but then the beauty of all Omega Princes and Princesses were praised in song.

What stirred his dark heart to churning was what the troubadour gossiped while in his cups.

This Princess was said to be the daughter of two fathers for she was an Omega Princess. It was said that her first father was the King of Logres, but that her second father was a demon prince of hell, who had coupled with her Mother while wearing the King's face. Better yet that the Queen knew the creature for a demon by the forked nature of his phallus. That she'd rejoiced in that coupling and so conceived an Omega Princess. For in those days they believed the lie that for a woman to be an Omega must mean her mother had lain with a demon.

But further embroidery the troubadour told. Upon her presentation, that Princess had been locked away in a remote estate, but her demon's blood ran so hot that she drove some dozen Betas to rut with her for naught but heated pleasure. So heated was her power that her family applied to Rome for dispensation that she might rut as she would with Betas and so maintain the lie of her chastity.

It was then that Prince James conceived a great desire for Princess Sherlock for she was such that she spread evil in the world by her mere presence in the world. There was nothing for it, but he wanted her. He wanted to have her and couple with her, and when she proved as dull as the rest of the world, break her.

He applied to his father that he might wed this Princess.

But as he was laying siege to his father's ears, further word came upon the nature of this Princess. A troubadour related that her Lady Aunt had locked her away in a tower. That the Princess spent her hours in that tower in careful study of Alchemy, which as the Prince of Gore well knew was a study of dark arts. Of turning base metals into gold, which was the root of all evil. Of turning the sons of Adam into immortals that they might become equal to God.

It was then that Prince James conceived a great love for Princess Sherlock for who else might be his match.

There was nothing for it, but that the Prince of Gore have her. A rich betrothal was offered, but the King of Logres spurned this offer saying, "I'll not release such a creature upon the world."

Prince James had never before been thwarted in his desire and he determined that he'd not be so now. With his father's laughing admonishment to plunder moveable goods as well as an Omega princess, Princes James set out with a troop of his most trusted knights in all their pageantry. He went to the remote keep where Princess Sherlock had been kept all these years.

It delighted him to have his knights batter down the gates.

The Lady Beta, who ran the estate, knelt on bended knee before him. She said, "Your Highness, please for the good of your soul leave this place. The Princess even now is wracked with the mark of her sinful birth."

Prince James knew well the type of sin that the Lady Beta meant and caused the door of the tower to be battered down the better for him to enter. He commanded his knights to wait without and he went in alone.

He climbed up the seventeen steps to the first room, which was full of alchemical books. He trembled with excitement to see their titles and knew that his beloved was a mistress of all that lay within. He trembled further to smell the scent of the sickness that came of eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.

He climbed up the seventeen steps to the second room, which was a solar that contained a lute, but no embroidery. It was full of the materials of alchemy. He trembled to see them and knew that his beloved was a mistress of all that lay within. He trembled further to smell the scent of the sickness that was a sign of her demon's blood.

He climbed the seventeen steps to the third room, which was a bedchamber. His beloved was in in the full flush of heat. She lay upon her bed with a chain of black iron around her ankle.

Her scent was rich with the dark current that reduced Alphas to madness. Princess Sherlock laid her silvery gaze upon Prince James and said, "By your dress, I know you are of Gore." She pushed herself up. "By the rich gold band about your brow, you are a Prince," she stood on unsteady legs, "and so the one proposed to be my bonded and was rejected for my sins." She came towards him to the length of her chain. "Know that I have no desire to bond and no desire to be bred." She pulled against the chain. "I wish to dedicate myself to the Great Work." Princess Sherlock gasped as the talons of Nature gripped her hard and she leaned towards that which she wished to pull away from.

Prince James laughed. He looked upon her cheeks gaunt with years of hunger. He heard her voice rusty from years of disuse. He breathed in her scent and knew that Nature had designed them one for the other. He took Princess Sherlock's face within his hands and laughed further at the burn that spoke of the perfection of their match. Princess Sherlock felt it too and gasped at the touch.

Prince James did not wait. For the evil in her blood called to the evil in his heart.

He bent his lips to his Love's and they delved in each other's mouths a while. When finally, he pulled away, he said, "What say you, my love? All those years spent in sharpening the blade of yourself in your tower because the world was too small for you and so sought to keep you small. Let's slit the world from groin to throat to crack it open and make it large enough for us both. With your magic and my arts, we shall lay seeds of war and ruin. Come Love, show me your dark arts?"

Princess Sherlock's eyes grew quite wide. The gaunt tenor of her life in the tower, laid bare in her expression. Something vile, she knew it was the sickness of her birth, yearned forward at his words.

Prince James pressed a kiss to those stunned cheeks.

Princess Sherlock whispered. "I studied for my arts that I might bring light into the world." She pressed herself against him that Prince James might kiss her the better.

"Yes, you are right. A fire is a light." He pulled his knife from its scabbard and slid the tip down Princess Sherlock's side, slowly parting the fine linen. "When you are my bonded made, what will we not do? Shall we pour slow poison in all the courts?" He kissed his Love's bared ribs and as he had counted them with his lips, he looked up. "No. I see by your expression that would be a dullard's act. No my Love, you were right to think of fire. We'll set fire to all, and when all are dead, be High King and Consort Queen over a mound of ashes." Princess Sherlock swayed. "Are you not hungry? You ache with it right now."

Princess Sherlock cried out. "I am not hungry. I am not monstrous. I am no demon's child."

"Of course you are, and I'm the only one in all the world who'll love you for it." He pressed her to the rushes of the floor.

She shivered at his touch. "I echo like an empty chamber."

At first, Prince James let his embrace be his reply and then his thrust which filled her with a delighted gasp. She groaned, "I do not wish to be bred," even as she wrapped her legs tightly about him and urged him on by the rhythm of her hips.

Prince James said, "Nature grips you hard," which was only true, Nature did have her hard talons in Princess Sherlock's belly and abused her well. "God hates you." This was not true for even then Primal Love stood by weeping, while Holy Sophia turned her gaze onto the world with her eyes upon the answer.

Prince James pressed this truth and that lie with head of his phallus deep within Princess Sherlock. He gave her sips of his prima material against the very mouth of her womb and fed the hunger of that beast within her for more. He whispered against her ear, "You've spent so many years here alone. But you'll be alone no longer."

He moved within her until all Princess Sherlock could cry out was, "More." Any objections that Princess Sherlock might have had were lost as Prince James rutted within her. She felt the burgeoning of his knot as it made its increasingly demanding passage in and out of her and could only give sanguine cries for the feeling of it pleased her well. "More. I need more."

She cried out her satisfaction, until the knot whose entrance had teased and delighted her, swelled twice again more and had her truly caught. So deep was she in heat that even as she cried out "I did not wish to be bred," she sobbed with relief to be so filled as his Alpha's prima material was well mixed with her Omega's.

"My Love, the deed is already done." Prince James laughed as his seed well watered the firmly banked fields of his love.

Princess Sherlock's Fate rolled the dice. As in all such games where heat is at play, she came up wanting.

Nature raked her talons across their bodies and Desire lashed them hard. For Nature had much work to do in the creation of a child.

Primal Love, weeping, turned to Holy Sophia, whose name means wisdom. Holy Sophia said only, "I have found him."

For though Prince James and Princess Sherlock did not know it, at that moment John, the troubadour, stood on the shores of the Golden Horn smiling upon the waters, which having been lightly covered by a gauzy mist shimmered silver under the full moon. One who did not know, might have been well excused to guess that they gazed upon a Beta Saracen of dwarfish stature. For the troubadour was but two feet high and all over wrapped in black cloth. But that person would be wrong in their guess. As Princes Sherlock might have told them, it was quite wrong to guess.

For the troubadour was only a Beta by a certain estimation in that he could produce no offspring. He could neither quicken nor knot. He was not a Beta and had only somewhat a Beta's scent. He smelled like the earth and sky. In fact, it is only through convention that we now use the word he, for any other term would verge on insult.

Also, the troubadour was not of Saracen birth, although he had no grief with those of that extraction. He was from the isle of Crete. Born high in the hills with a view of the restless sea.

He had his reasons for wrapping himself in cloth.

It was his joy to wander the long roads of the world to see its wonders. Singing for his supper.

Upon the dawn, a white dove, who was the Prince of Peace, flew from the supple rushes growing near the waters and went west. Primal Love planted within John's stalwart heart, true as a cedar, a burning desire to turn his feet westward to follow that dove.

Prince James and Princess Sherlock, for all the keenness of their gaze, knew none of this as they coupled, nor even after when days had passed and the rut faded.

Princess Sherlock looked on Prince James in horror. She said, "I have been bred and done so out of bond. I have committed the sin for which I have long been punished. How well they were to lock me up if this is where a sanguine nature leads."

Prince James gave her a fierce kiss as if to drink a sip from her soul. "My Love, the sin was theirs, for trying to contain your nature." So, leading Princess Sherlock by the hand, they went to the chapel where they were bonded by the priest there.

Prince James gave to his love several presents.

While she stood still dazed and battered by what had happened, he placed about her neck her a collar of iron that he'd had made especially for her. It was inscribed with many strange symbols meant to control demon kind. He saw by her expression they were known to her. He daubed well the collar with some of his own blood to set it to working. He said, "A bauble, my Love, a simple spell when compared to the ones you know, but unbreakable for its simplicity. That while I live, you will also, and when I pass into the fiery pit of hell, you will go with me. For I've no wish to be parted from my Love now I've found you."

Princess Sherlock said to him, "It might be worth the trip, if I were to take you with me."

Prince James laughed and had the people of that place put to the sword from the Lady Beta to the stable boy as a gift.

By the dull way that she watched the butchery, he knew he'd found his mark. While within, she knew that truly she must be evil for she felt only an empty ache where sorrow should be.

He held out to her a burning torch. "Here my love, burn it down as a gift. Destroy the place that you hate until there is nothing, but ashes."

But Princess Sherlock looked at the torch and said in a voice raw from calling pleasures and rusty with years of disuse, "I do not need it."

They rode gingerly away from the keep. Princess Sherlock looked back upon the place where she had been imprisoned all these years, now naught but a charnel house. She raised her hands and spoke words of ancient learning.

Prince James rejoiced as she summoned a great wind that first battered at the keep walls with greater and greater force until they were all lifted up and torn apart. Until there was nothing left on that spot, but bare earth as if a finger of God had touched down.

As they rode, Prince James said, "My Love, there is but one fly in the ointment of our joy. I am not yet king."

Princess Sherlock said, "I will think on it." Though she wished to draw away, the sickness in her heart would not let her as Prince James rode close to her.

They came to the court of Gore and were welcomed with all the pageantry of that court for it was by their art that the royal family were named Moriarty, which in the local tongue meant more art.

Princess Sherlock's lips curled at all the colours and sounds of court. She spoke everyone's secrets as though she'd scried it.

The King of Gore paused with his teeth gnawing at a bone and said, "I come to see why they locked her up." He glanced at his youngest son. "Tis a pity you've already bred her, or I'd say throw this one back. Ah well, she may yet die of your child and we've yet the anvil with which to forge more."

Prince James turned to Princess Sherlock and dragged a finger across her cheek with a whisper to her ear, "N'ere fear. Your unholy sight is precious to me as a sign of your demon blood. But as you see, I'm the only one you can cleave to, for I am the only one who will delight in it."

Princess Sherlock, who had not touched the rich food set before her, said, "As you say." Prince James words as well as the King's formed a sort of wax of the soul in her ears, and she could not hear Holy Sophia, whose name means wisdom, call out to her that it was not so.

Her silver gaze was distant as the feast wore on. But when they withdrew to their wedded chamber, she cried out in pleasure as Prince James coupled with her. For Nature had well designed them both one for the other. True Love's touch as it was and is called.

As they coupled, a sort of skin of thick scales formed about Princess Sherlock's heart, and she could not feel the hand of Primal Love, who wept to see it so.

In the lands far to the east, a white dove, perched on a beam in a tavern stable, watched over John as he slept and in the morning, flew west. Primal Love set a burning longing in John's heart and westward went his path.

But this was unknown to Prince James and Princess Sherlock as he forced pleasured cries from her lips. Now come the morning, as Prince James lightly stroked the skin of Princess Sherlock's flank, he said, "There's but a fly in the ointment of our pleasure. I am not yet king, and my father may force me to set you aside as soon as our child is born. And to a new meaner prison you'd go."

Princess Sherlock said, "I have thought all night upon this matter."

She walked in the woods with Prince James and gathered certain items, from which she made an elixir. She gave this to Prince James. "Tomorrow go to the hunt with your father and brother. As you break your fast at noon, drink this, and you will be transformed into what you have killed. Run to me, and I will transform you back."

Prince James looked at the anger burning in his Love's eyes and said, "Oh Love, I'm aflame to think on your dark arts. You'd turn me into a beast and leave me so, and so attempt to circumvent our love, but remember the world is full of nothing but horror and pain, and the only one who loves you is I."

"As you say," said Princess Sherlock, "as you say."

So, the King and his sons went hunting. The king's spear killed a boar soon after they went into the woods. His eldest son's arrow found a stag. But Prince James struck down a serpent that had been about to strike his father's horse. It delighted him all the morning to receive his father's thanks at the deed, and to see his elder brother's dark glances.

He offered the elixir to his father and brother, drinking from the vial first. They quaffed it down and it tasted sweet. They laid down to their noon rest and they became what they had killed.

The king ran into the camp and was slain by his own men with many shouts.

The stag ran far into the woods. Fearing to go near men lest he be slain, the prince ran ever deeper. In time, he became a great antlered king of the woods and bred many a doe when the rut was on him, and found this life more to his liking than he ever had being a prince.

But Prince James, the serpent, lay quietly coiled up in his own boot, which was returned to his bonded with the rest of his clothes and the sorry tale of what had happened. She upended the boot and gazed upon him with steady eyes. Princess Sherlock said, "It is fitting," and with the Captain of the Prince's guard watching, turned the Prince back into his normal shape.

So it was that Prince James became King and Princess Sherlock his Queen. King James laid the iron barbed crown of Gore upon his bonded's head himself.

No sooner was the crown upon his own head, than he turned to his Love and said, "Our kingdom is too small and cold up here in the mountains. Our enemies border us on three sides, and if we do not crack them, they will crack us, and then where would you be."

Queen Sherlock said, "I will think upon it." She had a bath drawn and filled it with herbs to sooth the ache of her body. She sat within it drawing her hand this way and that in the water. The King sat next to her delighting in the gaunt lines of her body. He delighted too in drawing his own hand back and forth up and down her arm, until the sickness in her had her pull him in with her. They made waves in the water. They sent it crashing over the sides with their motion. They rang the stones with their cries.

The water cooled, but still the Queen remained in it. Long after they had finished coupling.

King James sat loosely robed before the fire. "Well, my Love? Won't you show me your dark arts?"

Queen Sherlock said, "This is what I conceived as we coupled." She stepped out of the water and whispered a curse. Where the Queen had been, coiled a dragon with scales as dark as her locks of hair, a crown of iron spikes and knowing silver eyes.

Prince James laughed to see her. "At last the world will see the evil that's in your heart. We'll set the world on fire."

"It is so," said Queen Sherlock, the dragon. "Though it took no great cleverness to devine the purpose of my shape."

What castles could stand before King James' knights were paper to the dragon's fire and soon all the kingdoms to the north were ashes. Their treasures sacked and their lands sewn with blood.

King James assembled a strange court, entirely out of balance. There were no Omega ladies welcomed there for he wanted no common comparison when there was such a Queen, though it should be understood that there were Omegas of low birth aplenty for high and low service. Of neither high or low birth were there Betas, for as King James said to his Queen with a smile, "I well know your fondness for them."

None of pure and virtuous heart sought out this Alpha court. Knights and foul sorcerers, those of the blackest hearts, who like carrion birds sought to pick at the bones of conquered countries, flocked to King James' court.

Though they quickly learned that this was no court to welcome courts of Love. For to attempt to curry favour with the Queen was to at best earn the edge of her sharp tongue, and worse if they engaged her interest, they earned sharper rewards yet. For the King was jealous of his Queen's attentions.

At first, the Queen sat in the form that she had been born to upon her throne and only sought dragon's shape in the battlefield. But as ash lay heavy in her throat and the sickness in her had her seek a woman's shape for heated couplings with the King, she sought a dragon's shape more and more.

Soon it was whispered that the King dallied with her even in this form, but it was not so, for dragons are not framed as humans are. There is also the matter of how dragons consider gender, which is that they have both and neither, created as they were in the beginning from the heart of a molten mountain, which care not for such divisions. It is only by convention that in that shape the Queen might be called she, for all dragons may grow gravid and bear eggs.

As it came to be that Queen Sherlock grew gravid with child, she gave birth to a dragon's egg while on campaign. She brooded over it in a bonfire. The king's heir hatched as a small green dragon with golden eyes, which Sherlock would have whispered into human shape, but paused.

King James only laughed. "Drago. My first born is a dragon with evil thoughts from her very first breath." So, the baby Drago stayed in dragon's shape and was given a mound of blood stained treasure on which to coil in sleep.

The Queen slipped to human form and would have played a lullaby to her child upon her lute, but that King James broke it, saying, "My Love, stay your hand. I cannot stand the sound of such caterwauls. Play me screams instead."

Queen Sherlock looked upon the broken lute and said, "It was a child's toy anyway. When I played it, I fooled myself that there was good in the world." The scales on her heart grew even thicker, and a terrible hunger grew in her belly that expressed itself as fierce fire on the battlefield.

She hungered as she flew over battlefields strewn with the well roasted dead. So, choosing between sickness and hunger, she would take a woman's shape and couple with the King upon the field, taking each time a deep bite of his shoulder with her sharpening teeth, which had him laugh and chide her, "Remember, when I go into the fiery pit, you shall follow soon after."

While most things that the Queen did not wish to know, she forgot, this she kept high in the palace of her memory.

Now all that stood against the tide south of the King of Gore was the Kingdom of Camelot, where the wizard Merlin used magic like a bird flies or a fish swims, and the knights were brave and true of heart.

No matter how King James raged and smashed their new gained treasures, it did not change that the kingdoms were equally matched.

Queen Sherlock coiled coolly around her throne.

Her Fate stood behind her wearing a cloak thick with ashes and through the tattered strands of fabric grew a dragon's wings. Her Fates' iron crown was tipped in blood. Her Fate's feet were a dragon's claws and a terrible hunger grew in her belly.

Holy Sophia, whose name means wisdom, said, "Hold on. Wait for the one I am bringing to you," but King James had stuffed well Queen Sherlock's ears with wax and the Queen did not hear her. Still she did not give in to her hunger, which once whetted would never end. She was used to starving.

The days and months passed.

Queen Sherlock uncoiled from about her throne as the hunger gnawed at her belly. She whispered, "I am not hungry. I am not a monster," and took woman's shape again. She sat upon the throne and leaned with sickness in her heart into King's James touch. In time, Nature gripped her tight and clawed her with heat. Queen Sherlock coupled with King James upon the throne and cried out her pleasure as he knotted her well and bred a child within her.

So to King James came a second dragon child. "Wyvern she'll be called for Wyvern she is," and as Queen Sherlock bent to speak the words that would make her daughter human, the Queen paused and the words went unsaid.

With the south blocked, King James turned north and set the villages set in heather to fire. He delighted in the destruction that his army brought as if a plague of locusts that ate and destroyed across the land and left behind ashes and wailing cries.

Their march stopped at the edge of the sea. Spilled on boats magiced from leaves and like a plague spread westward still until the green isle of Eire lay under the ash flecked flag of Gore.

The scales grew thick over the Queen's heart, which was by now more dragon than Omega, for all the time she spent in that form, and though a year and more passed. Nature did not rake her with the claws of heat as long as she wore a dragon's form. So, though a terrible hunger grew within her, she kept more and more to her dragon's shape.

Now the King and Queen could not know it, but it was when they'd conquered all of Eire that John first set foot upon the green island so different from the one where he'd been born. Primal Love turned John's feet in the direction of a tavern where he might hear the tale of the terrible kingdom to the north. Of its blood thirsty King and of the terrible beauty of his Queen, the beautiful lady without mercy, who set castles to fire.

Primal Love laid a hand upon the fiery heart of the troubadour, who said, "I have never seen a dragon." His feet turned north to the terrible kingdom of Gore.

So it was, on one blue spring day, Queen Sherlock was walking in the woods having claimed a need to gather materials for her arts and a desire to study after so much constant war. She'd resumed her human form and with much pliancy bid King James farewell.

With reluctance, King James left the side of his love for the first time in the years of their bonding to more properly impress upon his new dominions what it meant to be in his power, and so only heard about what then occurred through second hand.

The Queen, in woman's form and Omega scent, with her escort of knights went walking in the woods where she heard fair singing. Queen Sherlock insisted they find its source. What they found was a very little Beta man wrapped all in black cloth standing upon a rock playing a psaltery with gloved fingers while white tufts of dogwood flax floated on the breeze.

Queen Sherlock stepped forward, and the knights with her smiled to each other waiting for the little man to cry out in horror at being confronted by their Queen for her appearance was well known. Instead the little man asked, "Good day, my lady. Can you tell me the way to the Castle of Gore? I've heard much of its wonders and have come to see the dragon for myself."

Queen Sherlock examined him for a time. "You may not enjoy that experience." She tilted her head then and said, "May I borrow your psaltery?"

"Of course, do you play?" asked out the little troubadour. "A well played instrument is a joy to all who hear it." The troubadour handed over his psaltery, hopping down and then back up onto his rock.

What the Queen saw in the psaltery, the knights with her could not have said, for they did not have her keen observation. Although, they did chuckle to each other at what fate awaited this innocent.

Queen Sherlock said, "You are a troubadour and I have been hungry for music of late. You will be welcomed in the castle. But I must know, are you from Crete or Rhodes?"

"Crete," said the troubadour in much astonishment and spread his gloved hands wide. "But how did you know?"

"Because," said the Queen handing back the psaltery, "that is the only place where one can find the kind of troubadour that you are. Your father must have been a red breasted robin."

To the knights' astonishment, the troubadour clapped his hands. "That's amazing. But how did you know?"

"For a… troubadour from Crete, that is the only way to have such a sweet voice. For you sound like no cockerel I've ever heard." So, saying, the Queen winked at the little man in his swathed clothes. "The castle is that way," she gestured, "if you've a mind to go there." She made to turn away.

The little troubadour said, "My Lady, I am John, though I half expect you to pluck that out of the air as well. What is your name and how may I find you again?"

"That will not be difficult," said the Queen and spinning her dragon's form on as one might swing on a great black cloak, beat the air thrice with her wings and was away into the sky.

Laughing, the knights turned back to the castle.

But one of knights lingered to hiss, "That is the Queen of Gore, and you'd do well to know your place," and cuffed the little man, more to his own misfortune than the troubadour's as the bindings over John's face fell away.

When what came naturally of that act occurred, John readjusted his wrappings and addressed the knight, who'd move no more. "That is the problem. I don't know what my place is. Some would call me a king and others a monster. But I know only that I am neither."

Now what then occurred for the next three nights was that John the troubadour entertained the court with songs of his travels.

The knights and sorcerers called for rough songs and plagued the Omega slatterns for ale, but the Queen roared. "Silence and let him play what he wills." While her children Drago and Wyveryn coiled quietly at her feet enchanted by the little man wrapped all in black cloth from head to toe.

Drago said, "He smells like the wind," while Wyvern whispered, "He smells like the earth."

"Shh…" said the Queen, "He is both and neither. I will explain when you are older."

The knights of court, were much surprised to see the little troubadour far from pull away from the princesses, dealt with them kindly saying, "I have never seen a dragon before, and now I've seen three and all so different."

"Monsters you mean for that's what our Queen breeds in Gore," jested a dark sorcerer of Nord much to his friends' laughter.

The steam gently blowing from the Queen's nostrils did not change direction for this was a jest much made.

John scratched Wyvern's wings affectionately. "I've always believed that we're defined by the quality of our actions, not the shapes we wear."

The Queen sighed. "By action and shape both then I claim that title."

The troubadour did not pull away. "I think you may be a little too hard on yourself, and even if you've done something a bit not good, you can always change what you do next." He perched on a stool and played his psaltery. He sang of deserts long carved by wind and not a drop of open water for miles, and yet full of tiny life. He sang of jagged mountain peaks so cold that snow floated. He sang of the terrible wonder of the natural world.

Though none could see it, Primal Love smiled, and Holy Sophia stripped the wax from Queen Sherlock's ears, as she considered John's words and within her belly the terrible hunger eased.

The next day, the Queen invited John to walk with her on the mountain above the castle. As they walked, she in her dragon's shape and he in his wrappings, she pointed out some features of the place with observations.

John exclaimed upon the Queen's observations until the knights looked askance at each other.

They spoke to their Captain, Moran, who sent word to the king that he should return to court.

On the second night, John played songs on the wonders that the hands of man had built. He sang of the great pyramids in the vast desert and of the mighty sphinx that smiled in benign protection over her ancient city. He sang of the Hagia Sophia in Byzantium with its wondrous tiles and of the marble Acropolis of Athena over Athens. He sang of high gothic churches where the voices of the choir were answered by the massive roll of the organ.

As the notes of his song faded away, the Queen said, "You make me think of a song I heard once wafted on the wind." She tilted her head and said, "I would like to play it and isn't it odd that it is so. For it has been some time since I played music and I had thought my heart was disabused of desiring it." She had a lute brought forth, and though her clawed hands were far vaster than a humans would be, she plucked with great delicacy a fragile song full of longing.

Hearing her, John exclaimed, "I heard that same song too, when I was but a child. The wind carried it there and set me on the long road. To think, that's the song that brought me to you."

The Queen hummed a response and seemed to smile a great toothed smile. That raucous court was in all astonishment.

Though none could see it, Primal Love smiled, and Holy Sophia quite transformed the scales about Queen Sherlock's heart into something new and strange. Primal Love bent down and blew gently upon Queen Sherlock's heart and fanned the ember of the fire that burned there into flame.

On the third day, the Queen desired to walk beside the wide lake below the castle for all that the day was foul. So they set out along the beach. John looked at the grey waters and the sharp mountain reflected there and said, "What a lovely place. With the mountain so sharp and craggy, and the wide lake holding pieces of sky. And there's your castle with its grey walls that looks like a part of the mountain for all that people built it."

The Queen looked back at the castle and said, "It is strange, for I have never looked upon it as you describe, and yet for all my observation, it is you who are casting a light upon the matter."

Still the Queen's mood turned sour soon after, and she flew back to the castle, leaving her knights and troubadour to walk back alone.

One of the knights, said, "I cannot wait to see what King James makes of you." He and his fellows laughed.

John said, more to himself than any other, "Given what I have heard of him, I look forward to the meeting as well."

That very night, King James rode into the castle with his horse all in a blood flecked lather and its sides bloody from the rake of King James' spurs. He strode into the great hall, where John was playing a simple jig for the princesses to fly about the room to.

King James laughed when he saw the little man. He said, "My Love, here I thought to find you at the Great Work, which you claimed as the reason I needed to tear you from my side. For you are a monstrous creature, whose dark heart only I can love."

The Queen said in a low voice, "What you say is true. I am more comfortable in my skin as a dragon that in the form to which I was born. I am a demon's child. A monster, who gives birth to monsters."

"Oh, I don't know," said John, who hopped off his stool and hopped up the steps to the dais to where King James stood. He stripped off one glove and there was a small red claw with golden tipped nails. "There are those who would call me a monster," he removed his other glove to reveal a matching claw, "but I don't see it that way."

King James said, "Look at you with your scaled little hands. You must be an ugly misshapen thing under that mask to hide your face so from the world. No wonder my Love with her sanguine nature is so fond of you. But no matter, I'll split you in half and feed you to her for I know that's the meat for which her hunger daily grows." King James smile had a wild look about it. "But first, let's see the horror you hide." King James ripped away the cloth from around John's face.

All the court laughed for what they thought would then occur.

All but the Queen, who almost opened her mouth to roar, "No," but did not. Instead she raised a wing to shield her children's eyes and watched as her bonded looked into John's eyes, into the eyes of a Basilisk, the King of Monsters.

There was a grinding noise as a black taint spread across the flesh of the King and his knights and sorcerers until all were as carved stone.

Queen Sherlock, the dragon, looked at John, the basilisk. "I should be dead. They should be dead." She tapped the King's cheek with the tang of a long claw. "It's death to look into the face of the basilisk."

"I am an odd sort of basilisk," agreed John, who looked bashfully at the ground. "And you can look at me. I'd hoped but," He waved at his scaled face and tuft of golden feathers that made a crown upon his red scaled head. "What is amazing is you made my hope come true."

She peered at him more closely and then looked at King James. She put her head close to his chest. "His heart still beats. How odd. Ah, it must be that you are the son a robin and a serpent, rather than a cockerel and a snake. While I it would seem have gained a dragon's heart and as dragons are born from stone, they'll certainly not become it." Her long tail writhed in the air. "There's always something." She looked at her children wrestling with each other in the fireplace. "How wonderful that it is so.

Now as King James looked on, for he could hardly close his eyes in the state he was in, Queen Sherlock said, "I've often thought it would be lovely to fly away across the mountains when the moon is full as it is tonight. Would you like to fly upon my back?"

"Oh, God yes," said John, who climbed onto Queen Sherlock's back and held on to one of the great curved ridges that ran down her spine.

Queen Sherlock called out to her children. "Drago. Wyvern. We're leaving." She set off out the great wide doors and was gone.

King James did not blink for he could hardly close his eyes in the state he was in. The morning came and turned into day and night again. But no one came. King James stood with his court in the Great Hall for many years. It's possible that he stands there still.

But certainly, Queen Sherlock is not in his company any more.

As to the kind of love that a great dragon and a tiny basilisk might enjoy, it is hard to say. But then again, John's red breasted robin father managed to find love with his red breasted serpent mother, and she with he.

It is not for this story to say what shape their love would take. Only that even improbable things are possible.