The Grand Tourney was one of the few celebrations where all the kingdoms come together for healthy competition, heavy drinking and long merriment. This year, the grand competition was held in the lands of High King Ultra Magnus, the vast green lands of Atihex. The king took great measure to accommodate all who travelled the lands to his castle, setting aside lands for camps and caravans while his fellow Jarls were given accommodation in his home.
Bloodshed huffed, watching from the crowd as some of the Jarls walked through. He spotted his father with his new wife, walking through and waving like the others. He was just glad he didn't need to walk through with them, all those eyes made his skin crawl.
He may have been invited to this tourney as the son of a Jarl but that didn't mean he was obligated to strut about like a whore opening her legs to a patron. Walking away from the crowd, he busied himself with the stalls and food vendors. A strong drink sounded the best to calm his nerves.
Unfortunately, not matter where he went, the eyes of the nobility followed. Bloodshed often wished he was average like everyone else, not a child of the Dragon's blood and certainly not a Jarl's son, women chatted and giggled as he passed, fathers and mothers discussing possible matches for their daughters. They only wanted status, their daughters wanted his title, all he wanted was to be left alone.
Suddenly, a little weight bumped into him. Unmoving, he groaned and turned to just what had bumped into him. No doubt a child playing around and not paying attention or...
Bloodshed's eyes widened, it was a young woman. Wrapped in a simple green and white dress, a small apron wrapped around her middle and a basket in hand. He turned to the basket, seeing some wrapped bundles had fallen from it while a large tray lay battered across the ground and covered in broken pieces of treats and cakes.
"Oh no!" the woman gasped, trying to quickly collect the wrapped bundles, sighing at the loss of her tray. "What am I going to tell Wheeljack?" she huffed, picking up the scattered pieces or letting the birds peck at them.
Even though she had bumped into him, Bloodshed couldn't help but feel ashamed, even sorry for the misfortune. Feeling awkward just standing there, Bloodshed bent down and gingerly helped her pick up the pieces. Her surprised gasp turned him back, welcoming him to a set of gleaming blue eyes.
"I am so terribly sorry, I didn't mean to bump into you," the woman blushed, bowing her head. "Someone pushed into me and I couldn't get my bearings."
"Don't worry about it," Bloodshed murmured, unable to keep his eyes from wandering. She was so small, compared to himself anyway. She just looked so...fragile and, kind of cute.
"Thornstriker!!" called as voice, Bloodshed watched as the woman reacted. From the crowd, another young woman approached. The moment he saw her wild cut of blonde hair he groaned. Solstice, estranged daughter of Jarl Promethea. The last time he had seen her, she lept out a window when no one was looking during one of her mother's parties.
"Hello Solstice," Thornstriker smiled, looking over her predicament. Solstice sighed, but her eyes looked up to Bloodshed. He locked eyes, glaring at her. Thornstriker had made no move to greet him like everyone else did, perhaps she didn't know who he was, regardless his glare alone warned Solstice not to say anything. Solstice, on the other hand, shrugged off the glare. She knew how Bloodshed was, and she gave him appropriate space. But she was nothing but stubborn and refused to be bullied. "I've ruined the cakes."
"Oh no you didn't, it was an accident. Besides, the crowds are more, well, rambunctious this year," Solstice smiled, helping Thornstriker to her feet. "Thanks for helping my friend, 'sir'," whether it was mocking or not, Bloodshed was just pleased Solstice got the hint and didn't try anything. He grunted, nodding while watching Thornstriker. She turned to him and, in a moment he would never forget, a bright smile crossed her pink lips.
"Yes, thank you," she smiled, "And I'm sorry again for bumping into you. Please, take this," offering one of the wrapped bundles, Bloodshed looked nervous. "Please, it’s one of the buns my sister-in-law and I made, we're selling them today but please, accept it with my thanks," her smile was infectious, feeling his own lips curl minutely as he accepted the bun. He could just see Solstice smirked, causing his smile to fall.
"Come on Thornstriker, Wheeljack has been asking after you, her stall is getting flooded," Solstice smiled, pushing her way back through the crowd. Thornstriker nodded, grabbing her basket and taking off after her, turning only for a moment to wave back at Bloodshed.
Never, in his short life, had Bloodshed's heart raced so fast. His blood boil and his mind blank. Thornstriker. That was her name. Perhaps one of the only people outside his small circle of friends to treat him like a normal person. She didn't stare or flinch away, she didn't whisper or gossip, she didn't even bow and try to be overpolite. To her, he was normal.
Now he really needed that drink, not just to calm his nerves, but to build the courage to talke to her. Not just make sounds but talk to her.
Several drinks later and Bloodshed wasn't even tipsy. Sometimes being a Child of Dragon's blood seemed like a curse, only the strongest mead from Vos and Kaon could get him drunk and it could be fatal for anyone else to drink it. Others around him stumbled, hiccupping and burping before collapsing in a dazed slumber. At least he won some money off his immunity. Paying the barkeeper, Bloodshed turned and left from small tent.
Most of the celebrating had calmed in the turning hours, night had fallen and only the burning lanterns littering the grounds chased away the darkness. There were still pockets of people walking around, celebrating or traversing the still open stalls. All Bloodshed wanted was a soft bed to sleep on.
Sighing, he knew the taverns in the city would be full of visitors and travellers, and the tents on the grounds were all occupied. Which meant he would have to go to the palace and find the suite his father was given to stay on. If any alternative appeared before he got there, he made a note to take it.
A sudden chorus of laughter caught his attention, only since it came from a rather dark corner of the grounds. No doubt someone or someone’s were getting a little entertainment of their own. Shaking his head, he pushed on.
"Please," the soft voice rang in his ears, so familiar it stalled his steps. It sounded like Thornstriker's voice.
"Oh come on! We finally found you without that thief bitch and you wanna leave?" asked one of the voices, pulling a worried whimper from Thornstriker.
"S-She's not a thief! And she's coming to meet me here," Something about her tone made the lie more evident. Her whimpering voice was all Bloodshed needed to move. Finishing the small alley made by a wooden stand and a tent, he reeled at the sight of four men, young yet build, surrounding Thornstriker. She looked like a deer caught in a lion's den.
"Course she is! Though, I'm beginning to think you are too, since you're stolen my heart~" Bloodshed could just smell the alcohol on the man's breath, his blood boiling higher and higher the closer they got to Thornstriker.
"Leave her alone," his deep growl of a voice shook the men, catching Thornstriker off too. All five turned to stare at him, Thornstriker blinked surprised as Bloodshed approached.
"And what are you gonna do about it?" the taunter scoffed, placing himself between his group and Bloodshed.
"Shut it, that's Jarl Bombrush's son, and he's one of them Dragon Kids," another in the group hissed. Bloodshed's scowl darkened, watching as Thornstriker's eyes widened in shock. Now she knew who he was.
"Oh what's he gonna do? Call his man servant to throttle me?" the leader scoffed again, "No noble has or will ever dirty himself with the likes of us, so he can just so stu-" the words drowned in his throat as Bloodshed's hand grasped his throat. Without effort, Bloodshed raised the man off the ground, leaving the others stumbling back in shock and fear while Thornstriker remained frozen.
"Apologise to the girl. Now," Bloodshed rung out curses in his head, he could practically smell the fear drowning the alleyway, and one of the contributors was Thornstriker. It was taking everything he had not to ring the scrawny cretins neck. Feeling the man struggle and whimper a hasty nod, Bloodshed let him slip through his grip.
"M-My apologies ma'am!" he squawked, running off after his friends. Bloodshed huffed, not satisfied with the leniency the creep got away with, but his concerns turned to Thornstriker. By the One, he couldn't look at her. He could still smell the fear in the air. Did she hate him? Was she scared? His mind race through conclusions and failed to notice her approach.
"T-Thank you," came her small voice, calling him from his thoughts. Looking down, he almost blushed at her tiny hand grasping his.
"Welcome," his voice was low, almost embarrassed to talk.
"You d-didn't have to," she smiled again, his heart racing.
"Wanted to," he nodded. Thornstriker seemed to ponder something a moment. Almost seemed hesitant before nodding to herself.
"Do...do you have somewhere to stay the night?" she had asked the question just as she remembered what one of the men had said. "Oh wait, you're stay at the palace. You probably wouldn't want..."
"I..." Bloodshed started, catching her mid rant. "I would rather stay somewhere else. The palace is too...formal. And my father would be entertaining," his deadpan expression failed to explain to Thornstriker just what he had meant but was enough to convince her.
"Then, I mean if you want, you could stay with me," her offer was like Primus handing over the keys to paradise! Had she truly asked him to say with her? Didn't this happen the other way around. "I-I live with my brother though, but he and his wife would still be out now. We have a guest room that's never used so you're welcome to it."
"Um..." Bloodshed was lost for words. Though it did present an opportunity to stay somewhere other than the palace. "If it isn't a bother." Thornstriker beamed at his answer.
"I-I would insist," she grasped his hand tighter, pulling him along. "You helped me, it's the least I could do."
Bloodshed gulped and nodded, not trusting his own voice. Despite the size, her hand was so warm, or it was his heating up from his blood pounding through his heart. How was it this woman made him feel so...so...on edge?
It didn't take long to reach her dwelling, a small baking shop made most of the front while the home resided above. Three storeys to accommodate three bedrooms, a kitchen and dining area and a latrine in a back alley. The stairs creaked under Bloodshed's weight as they came to the room. All the bedrooms resided on the top floor, Thornstriker had pointed out her brother and his wife's room as well as her own - right next to the guest room.
"Let me just quickly make up the bed," Thornstriker flittered around the room like a butterfly, Bloodshed stared as she bent and turned to fit the sheets over the large bed. It didn't matter the colour of the plain sheets or the scattered knick-knacks around the room, his eyes always landed back on her determined face. She was just so...pretty. Even when her eyes focused intently and her face pulled with concentration, she looked so cute.
"Um, it is getting pretty late now. I-I hope you don't mind if I turn in too," Thornstriker pulled his thoughts back to her, watching her approach.
"I don't mind, go rest," he nodded, stepping out of the doorway to let her pass. She paused a moment, a light blush crossing her face. Confused, Bloodshed leaned closer in concern. However, taking a bold move, Thornstriker quickly placed a small peck on his cheek. She couldn't find the words to explain her act. She had read in many different tales damsels saved by the hero would give him a kiss on his cheek. She felt compelled to do the same and yet now she had no idea how to explain it to him.
"G-goodnight," was all she could muster, quickly darting into her room.
Bloodshed felt as if his blood would spill over from every pore. Eyes lit up a moment, a spectral aura snapped around him, revealing a ghostly visage of a dragon. Wings flapping hard and a tail twitching for mere seconds before disappearing as soon as they had appeared.
"Goodnight," was the only word his breath could handle, stumbling to the bed to collect his thoughts. He could still feel those soft, plush, sweet lips on his cheek. It left a warm imprint he wanted to keep.
Lying back on the bed, he took a moment to draw the sheets to his face. A deep inhale brought Thornstriker's scent into his nose. The pleasent and delicate scent relaxed every kink and creak in his body, melting back into the bed. Maybe, just maybe, he might have a decent sleep.
It was the middle of the night, Thornstriker had heard Airstream and Wheeljack come back, slipping into their room so not to disturb her, but just as she was about to go back to sleep, a shifting from the guest bedroom caught her attention.
Was Bloodshed alright? She had wondered and decided to check on him. Slipping out in only a long nightgown, free from any bindings and garments meant to upkeep a growing woman's body in these times, and ventured into the guest room. It wasn't very dark in the halls, thanks to the magical lamps Wheeljack had managed to conjure from reagents that didn't blow up in her face, but the guest room was so under used it left the room darker than the hallway.
"Bloodshed? A-are you okay?" she asked, slipping in. Using only her memory of the room, Thornstriker had managed to make it to the bed. Her eyes adjusted to see Bloodshed shifting, maybe he was having a nightmare? "Bloodshed?"
It happened so quickly, the moment her hand landed on his arm, she was thrown about before being pinned to the bed. Her eyes widen in shock as Bloodshed lay over her.
Bloodshed blinked away his sleep, the darkness adjusting his sight as he looked down. His heart stilled and a surprised gasp escaped him. He was dreaming of something else, an intruder perhaps, his mind had already lost the dream, but he must've acted out the dream and pinned the intruder down, only to find Thornstriker in their place.
"Thornstriker! I..." he whispered, keeping his voice hushed as no doubt her brother and sister-in-law were home. But that's where he noticed her. She was free of any other garment, aside from her nightgown. It reached down to her ankles leaving nothing for medesty's sake, but how she lay there, he could make out the perfect sculp of her chest, the curve of her waist and hips, how her legs crossed under him. It took what little will he had no to flair his Dragon aspect again.
"S-sorry," he murmured, quickly sitting back ashamed.
"A-are you alright?" she asked, sitting up also. Confused, Bloodshed stared back at her. "I-I heard you, moving, I thought that...you were having a bad dream. S-so I came to c-check on you." To check on him? Was she truely that concerned? And he just went and pinned her down as if she were an enemy.
"I'm fine," he mumbled again, though was grateful for her concern. "It's nothing."
Thornstriker pondered a moment. She should know better than to think it but her brother often slept with her whenever she had nightmares. But to offer to a stranger, a stranger who helped her yes but still a stranger. Maybe...maybe it could be her way of repaying him.
"I...um..." Thornstriker tried to gather her nerve, bolster the courage to ask him. Bloodshed could tell she wanted to ask something so he made sure he made no move to stop her. If anything, his attention allowed her to collect her words. "I could...sleep here tonight," she finally got the words out, but didn't look to Bloodshed for his reaction. "My...my brother would often help me with my nightmares by sleeping next to me...I could...I mean if you think that isn't a good idea, I just...want to repay you, for helping me."
Bloodshed was stunned once again. First by her kindness and treating him like a person, again by her adorable appearence and manners, and now, wanting to share a bed with him because of his bad dreams?
"I don't mind," came his answer. He didn't think nor ponder the idea, his words just came out. Before he could call them back, Thornstriker had looked back. Locking eyes, he couldn't bring himself to take it back. Awkwardly, the pair slide into the bed, Thornstriker cradled in Bloodshed's arms. He was stiff, not wanting to harm her or hold her too close. Thornstriker got comfortable, looking back up.