A/N: THANK YOU for the reviews, I love the response Kitty!Dave got. See my profile for a wonderful fanart for Westermorlands by The Gentleman J. It's gorgeous. As always, minimal beta (thank you ArsenicAngel) so if you see a mistake, let me know.
Summary: Dave's village sacrifices him to a dragon in hopes of stopping the attacks on their village. What happens when the dragon that takes him isn't the one that attacks the village? What happens when the dragon turns out to be a shape-shifter?
Warnings: AU, cross-dressing, fluff, here there be dragons
Dave brushed the hair out of his eyes as he walked out into the light and onto the balcony of his father's mansion. The village of Lyn sprawled out before him, well-kept fields of grain with roaming livestock dotting the landscape. He smiled softly as the dawn's light colored the village in rich, red and golden hues. The sounds of the villagers opening their shops and greeting each other reached his ears and his smile dimmed. "You aren't still moping about the peasants, are you?" his older half-brother laughed as he joined Dave on the balcony. "So they think you're an untouchable bastard, you'll get over it."
"Drake, I swear," Dave turned to glare at his sibling. "I would toss you from this balcony if I thought it would actually damage that thick skull of yours."
"Oh, touchy this morning, aren't we?" Drake smirked. "Are you angry because the village girls won't even spare you a second glance?" He leaned in close and sneered in Dave's face. "Or is it, that you are mad because your mother was a stupid concubine for my father?"
"I'll kill you!" Dave shouted as he launched himself forward. It was at that moment that a terrible heat washed over the mansion wall. Dave rolled to the ground, pulling his sibling with him and watched the flames dance in the air outside the balcony. "Oh no. Not again," Dave hissed as he watched leathery wings block the view of the village. The dragon turned its head and a snort of fire shot towards the two young men. Dave managed to haul Drake aside, escaping the flames.
"This has happened before?" Drake shouted as the dragon took off toward the village. He had been away at the capital to receive his formal education, and had not heard tales of dragons attacking his village, not even from his father. He stared at the massive jet-black wings of the dragon as it swooped down, burning a hut and snagging a sheep from the pasture. "Why wasn't I told?"
"It began a few days ago," a rough voice told them. They turned to see Drake's father, Lord Peter, stride onto the balcony. "It has a particular ire for Dave."
"So not only do the townspeople loathe you, the very beasts of the earth loathe you," Drake taunted. His father sighed and slapped Drake upside his head. "Ow. Father, what was that for?"
"You may not like your brother, but you will not speak ill of him in my presence," Peter snarled. He gestured toward the disappearing form of the dragon and the burning hut. "Go into the village and reassure our people that I have summoned a dragon slayer to take care of the beast."
"Yes, Father, Drake growled. "But the brat is coming with me." He yanked on Dave's arm, dragging him from the room. "Come along, David. Our public awaits." Dave rolled his eyes and wrenched his arm from Drake's grasp, earning an indignant squawk from the older man. "You are coming to the village," Drake snarled.
"I will go, but not as your subservient puppet," Dave said evenly. "I'm going to go help the family whose hut burned down. Reassure the others."
"You uppity little shite," Drake snarled as he pushed Dave to the ground. "Fine. Then walk to the village. I'm taking the carriage." Dave shrugged and watched his half-brother stalk off. The village was maybe a half a mile from the mansion, and he had walked there during the summer markets anyway.
It was nearly a month and several burnt huts after Lord Peter's announcement of a dragon slayer, when a figure draped in a dragon skin, furred-collared coat appeared at the mansion's gate. He was not the burly, weapon-laden warrior Dave would have expected from a legendary dragon slayer, but a suave, knowledgeable man in bowler hat. He introduced himself as Master Maxim Horvath, and took up quarters within the mansion the day he arrived. Dave distrusted him as soon as he stepped foot in the castle; he didn't know why, but the man oozed something sinister. Drake took to him immediately, and was often seen trailing after the man as he fortified the mansion against dragon attacks.
The black dragon seemed to have gone dormant the moment Horvath arrived, as it hadn't been seen in over a week. The only dragon sighting had been a dusty-brown beast that had passed over the village without a passing glance. Dave had seen it fly over from atop the new roof of a rebuilt hut. As it neared the horizon, he swore he had seen another, smaller dragon rise from the forest to meet it. Shaking his head, he had continued to help tie down the roof.
It was about ten days before the black dragon dove from the sky, blazing fire down the center of the village and snatching a cow from the fields. Dave rushed through the mansion, trying to locate Horvath, but the man was nowhere to be found. Drake stood on the balcony, his eyes narrowed at the beast as it disappeared over the forest. "Horvath says he will train me to kill such beasts. I will become a famous dragon slayer, and be rid of this horrid little village," he sneered. Dave rolled his eyes and left his brother to glare at the beast in favor of helping the villagers put out the fires below.
"I have come to the conclusion," Horvath said as he stood on a raised platform in the center of the village. "We need to lure the dragon with live bait." The crowd remained silent, their eyes on the man before them. "I would normal suggest a virgin of noble birth, as their scent, above all others, is most appealing to a dragon."
"Dave's a virgin!" Drake crowed. "But what dragon would want a scrawny pip-squeak like Dave?" Dave glared at him, but he could sense a change in the crowd. Every eye swiveled from Horvath to him. Dave swallowed the lump in his throat and stared back. Lord Peter must have also sensed the change, for he stood and lifted his hands to keep them quiet. For a moment, they stayed silent, their eyes shifting from the Lord to his bastard son. Then, all hell broke loose. Dave found himself dragged off before his father's guards could react. He tried to call for help, but something slammed into the back of his head, and the world went dark.
Dave woke with a pounding headache. He tried to raise his hand to massage his head, but found he couldn't move his arms. His eyes snapped open and he found himself on a raised platform in the center of a field. A flutter of color caught his eye, and he glanced down, only to find the folds of a long, yellow dress. His eyes narrowed at the sight, but they widened when a lock of long, red hair drifted across his vision. "What in the world?" he muttered. A shadow passed overhead, and he looked up to see the dusty-brown dragon from before. "They didn't…" he began, only to end in a scream as the dragon dove, ripping the platform from the ground. Dave was surprised at how gently the dragon cradled him in its large claws.
A volley of arrows rained down on them as the dragon gained altitude. Dave turned his head to see the entire village on the rooftops, projectiles in hand. He would have thought it a foolish plan, had he not seen the large, spear-thrower in the center of the square. Drake hovered beside the large mechanism, his eye to a telescope. Dave could tell he was shouting directions to the couple of villagers that manned the mechanism. "They're going to shoot the dragon from the sky," he whispered. "I'm…I'm going to get shot from the sky." He thrashed, trying to alert the dragon to the danger below, but the beast only spared him a glance before turning toward the forest. The glint from the giant spear made Dave turn his head just in time to see it hurtling towards them.
A loud roar made Dave turn his head to see a small, purple-tinted, black dragon rise from the forest. A strong wind buffeted the dusty-brown dragon, and it turned aside, causing a sickening wave of vertigo to sweep over Dave. A screech echoed around them, and Dave whipped his head around to see the smaller dragon fall from the sky. It had intercepted the spear, at the cost of its life. The dragon holding him roared, and was about to turn toward the village when the giant, black dragon emerged from somewhere near the mansion. Fire bellowed from its jaws toward them, and the dusty-brown dragon veered away, leaving the village behind with every beat of its massive wings.
Dave realized that flying wasn't too bad as long as the dragon wasn't twisting like a corkscrew. The wind has whipped the wig from his head, and his dark hair fluttered against his brow as he took in the forest passing beneath them. The dragon slowly began losing altitude and Dave turned his head to see the mouth of a cave looming before them. One of the dragon's wings clipped the edge of the cave, and the platform fell from its grasp. It scraped against the cave floor as the dragon landed in a sprawled heap, and Dave tucked his head against his shoulder to avoid the spray of debris.
Dave could hear the dragon heaving its massive body onto its legs, and he turned to see it shaking the dust from its scales. At the dog-like display, a small laugh escaped before Dave could stop himself. The dragon twisted its head around and leveled a large, sapphire-tinted eye at Dave. A puff of warm breath ruffled the folds of the dress, and Dave's hair brushed back from his face. A rumbling noise sounded from the dragon's throat, and Dave steeled himself for the feel of jaws on his flesh.
With his eyes squeezed shut, Dave didn't know the dragon had turned until he heard the scrape of scales on the walls of the cave. He whipped his head toward the noise, only to see the dragon's tail disappearing beyond a curve in the cave. "Okay…" he muttered as the dragon vanished from view. He tugged at the ropes binding his wrists to the pole behind him, but they held fast.
"Having trouble?" a calm voice asked. Dave blinked rapidly, trying to see if his eyes were betraying him, as a sandy-haired man walked from the inner cave. He was dressed in a long, leather jacket, and a floppy, brown hat lay lopsided over his long hair. He strode up to Dave, and flicked a knife from his pocket. The rope severed and Dave brought up his hands, rubbing the feeling back into them. Another swish of the knife and the ropes binding Dave's feet fell away.
"Not to be rude, but who the hell are you?" Dave asked as he sat down on the remains of the platform. The man laughed and put his knife away, moving to sit on a large stone in the mouth of the cave.
"I am Balthazar Blake," he said simply. "Now that I have answered your question, you will answer one of mine. Why are you in that dress?"
"Some dragon slayer mentioned that dragons have a thing for… virgins of noble blood," Dave turned his head to hide the blush that stained his cheeks. "The villagers probably decided a boy virgin probably wouldn't cut it, so they dressed me this way after they attacked me." He glanced down at the dress. "I think this was the spring festival winner's dress…"
"Well, obviously your dragon slayer," Balthazar seemed to spit the term. "Didn't know dragons can smell gender." He stood and extended a hand to Dave. "Come on, let's get you into something less… formal." Dave stood, and immediately winced. "Is something wrong?"
"My ankle," Dave hissed. "I must have injured it when the villagers attacked me."
"Or during that landing," Balthazar mused. At Dave's eyebrow, he chuckled. "The cave echoes, and that landing didn't sound pretty." Without another word, he picked up Dave, bridal style, and headed for the back of the cave.
"Hey!" Dave shouted. "I can walk!" Balthazar gave him a disbelieving eyebrow. "Well, I can limp!"
"This is faster than me half-dragging you, and you might trip on that dress."
"What about the dragon?" Dave hissed, gesturing toward where the dragon had lumbered off.
"He's probably mourning the loss of the other," Balthazar said quietly.
"The purple one?" Dave glanced at the torches that dotted the tunnel. Balthazar nodded. "Was it… the dragon's mate?"
"No. They were like siblings," Balthazar said wistfully. Dave didn't question the tone because Balthazar turned sharply, and the glitter of something shiny caught Dave's eye. The small cavern was filled with golden trinkets, weapons of every sort, and plenty of jeweled odds and ends. Balthazar sat Dave on a throne carved with giant, exotic beasts, and moved toward a large trunk. "I assume you wish to be dressed in something more… masculine," Balthazar drawled as he opened the trunk. "I hope there is something that fits." He flung a rumpled shirt out of the trunk, followed by several other pieces of clothing.
Dave looked down at his new clothes. While slightly rumpled, they were made of better material than he had ever owned. Most of his clothes were hand-me-downs from Drake and his father, or what he could buy from the market. The dark, red pants were foreign, and hung loosely around his legs, creating a gentle breeze when he walked. The waistline had taken some getting used to, due to the slits that stopped mid-thigh, and a thick strip of cloth synched the pants around his hips (1). None of the shirts had fit; the sleeves had all been too long, but Balthazar had found a long, black leather vest that fit, and ripped the sleeves from a silken, white shirt. While he promised to mend the hem at a later date, Dave wondered if Balthazar even knew how to hold a needle and thread.
After testing that Dave knew how to work the belt around his waist, Balthazar motioned him to sit. "Give me your ankle," he commanded. Dave raised an eyebrow, but lifted his ankle, which Balthazar took gingerly in his hands. His fingers prodded around the bone, and Dave winced. "It's starting to swell, but I think I can limit the range of motion to it will heal properly." He released the ankle and turned to another trunk, this one smaller than the first. A jumble of items flew through the air, until Balthazar stood with a roll of cloth and a pincushion. "Ankle," he said as he knelt before Dave again. Dave watched as he bound the ankle with the cloth, wrapping it under the arch of Dave's foot every couple passes. When the cloth ended, he secured it with pins. "There. Now, to keep it elevated…"
"I'm fine. It's just a minor sprain," Dave insisted. "And won't the dragon be mad you're messing up its cave?"
"He won't mind. Trust me," Balthazar smiled. He hoisted Dave up and carried him out into the tunnel again. "Just, don't go in there without me. Avalanches of gold can be pretty deadly."
"Uh huh," Dave eyed the shimmering pile over Balthazar's shoulder before it disappeared as they rounded another corner. He wanted to complain about being carried, but the few moments he'd put weight on his ankle had been increasingly painful as the joint became swollen. Balthazar moved almost silently through the tunnel, as though he didn't feel the weight of Dave in his arms. He rounded another bend in the tunnel, and the torchlight caught his eyes. Dave hadn't paid much attention to Balthazar's face, but now, he noticed how stunningly blue the man's eyes were.
"The kitchen is further along," Balthazar said, pulling Dave back to the present. He looked around to see they had entered another small cavern, this one with a bed fit for a king and a few other beautifully carved furnishings. "You can sleep here. My room, should you need it, is the next cavern," he pointed down the tunnel. "That way. There's a spring past my room, and you can bathe there."
"Um, thanks, I guess," Dave muttered as he felt the thick blankets beneath him. "I wanted to ask you something."
"Alright," Balthazar leaned against the wall of the cavern. His fingers flitted over the edges of a tapestry while Dave thought how to word the question.
"You seem to have been here a while, and you keep saying the dragon won't mind this, the dragon won't mind that. Are you… were you a sacrifice too?" Balthazar simply shook his head, a light smile on his features. "Then, what are you?"
"Don't worry about me, Dave," Balthazar said as he turned to leave. "Just don't get in the way of the dragon." Dave watched him go, before he remembered he'd never told Balthazar his name.
Dave didn't know what time it was when he woke, but the grumbling of his stomach reminded him that he hadn't eaten since the villagers had sacrificed him. He started to stand, only to wince as he put weight on his ankle. The light of a torch shone on a crutch propped against his bed, and he saw that a small note was attached. "Use this when I can't help you get around, B," Dave read quietly. He glanced at the crutch and tested how much of his weight he could put on it without stumbling. Satisfied, he began to hobble in the direction of the kitchens.
"And if you could have seen her there, boys if you had just been there, the swan was in her movement and the morning in her smile. All the roses in the garden, they bowed and asked for pardon, for not one could match the beauty of the Queen of all Argyle (2)," a soft, low voice sang from the kitchens. Dave's eyebrow rose as he stood, just outside the light of the torches, and saw Balthazar moving swiftly about the kitchen, tossing ingredients into a giant pot. It was not the soft baritone that snagged his attention, however; it was the dusty-brown scales that dusted Balthazar's pale forearms.
Balthazar halted midstep, his voice faltering, and his eyes whipped toward the entrance of the cavern. It was then that Dave noticed the slender, curved horns that tangled in Balthazar's hair. They followed the curve of his skull, making them almost invisible. "I know you're there, Dave," Balthazar said evenly. "I know you have questions."
"You… you can't be the dragon. I'm going insane. This is a dream," Dave scrambled for an explanation. Balthazar put down the spices he held and wiped his hands on a small rag. He checked the heat of his soup, and beckoned Dave forward with a wave of his hand. Despite the trepidation he felt, Dave hobbled forward. "Just what are you?"
"I, and others like me, are shape-shifters," Balthazar explained as he stirred the soup. "The black dragon, the one who gave her life, and myself, we came here from another land. Our master died, and we hunted the one who killed him. When we finally defeated her, she poisoned my friend, Maxim. He is the one attacking your village."
"The dragon slayer?" Dave shouted. Balthazar nodded as he tasted the soup. "But why?"
"He wants the rest of our kind to die, so he will be the last, the strongest," Balthazar shrugged. "No doubt, you saw his cloak, made from the hide of another dragon." His eyes closed and a look of disgust overtook his face. "Veronica has probably fallen victim to his twisted sense of fashion."
"The purple dragon?"
"Plum," Balthazar responded automatically. At the raised eyebrow, he gave a rueful smile. "She was always correcting us about her coloring." He ladled some soup into a bowl and set it in front of Dave. "I know you're wondering why I took the bait, took you as a sacrifice," Balthazar said as he grabbed a bowl of his own. "It was the color, actually. Maxim is not so far gone that he doesn't remember how the dragon's mind works. Shining, yellow-tinted things attract them. It had nothing to do with your purity," he gave Dave a small smile. "More than likely, he sensed something special in you that he wanted gone."
"Like what? I'm the bastard son of a minor lord," Dave stabbed at a bit of meat that floated in the soup. "My mother was a concubine, given to my father as a gift. She died when I was born. There is nothing… special about me."
"Perhaps, perhaps not," Balthazar shrugged. He stood and took the pot from the small fire, vanishing with it into a small cavern off the kitchen. Dave assumed it was a storage area for food. "You should get back to bed. Tomorrow, I will take you back to your village, if you so desire."
"The only person who would want me back is my father, but obviously, to him, the word of a false dragon slayer is worth more than my life," Dave scowled. "I have no wish to return."
"Then, I will take you to another village, and we will get you clothes," Balthazar responded. "Or I can help you find a new place to live. I have seen you work at restoring the village. You would find work easily." He moved to stand beside Dave. "But that is for tomorrow. It is past nightfall, and you look like you need more rest." He helped Dave to his feet, and the look on his face told Dave that the man was beyond tired, and past the point of discussion.
Dave woke again, and found that most of the torches had been snuffed. Taking one with him, he managed to hobble and keep the torch upright. As he limped back to his room from the springs, he heard a low whine from the room he knew to be Balthazar's. While the knowledge of Balthazar's shape-shifting confused Dave, he knew the sound of pain when he heard it. He placed the torch in the sconce at the edge of Balthazar's cavern and the weak light illuminated the edge of Balthazar's giant bed. Another whine came from the bed, and Dave hobbled forward, using the crutch to also feel for imperfections on the cavern floor.
When he reached the bed, he saw that Balthazar was curled up in the center, his body twisted around a pillow that he clutched to his chest. "No, Veronica… I'm sorry," he muttered into the pillow. "Should have been me…" Dave couldn't be sure whether the slight sheen on Balthazar's cheeks was from tears or sweat. He reached out his hand, meaning to shake Balthazar and wake him from his nightmare. A hand snatched his wrist, and as unbalanced as he was, he fell forward when the hand tugged at him.
"B-Balthazar," Dave hissed at him. "Let me go." Instead of following the command, Balthazar flipped, curling around Dave and snoring softly. Dave tried to move out of his grasp, but his hold only tightened. Dave knew if he waited, the grasp would loosen and he could get free. The only problem was staying awake that long. Sleep claimed him long before Balthazar released his hold.
Balthazar woke slowly, his eyes remaining closed as he listened to the echoing sputter of the torches and the soft sound of a breeze in the cave's mouth. It was only when he registered the sound of steady breathing that his eyes finally opened. He wondered how he hadn't felt the head pressed against his chest, or the hand splayed across his right pectoral. Dave made a small noise of pain, and Balthazar noticed that his legs were trapped in the tangle of blankets. He didn't wonder why the boy was there; he remembered something ending the nightmare he'd been having.
Rising from the bed, he gently pulled Dave's legs from the blanket, bunching them up to elevate the injured ankle. Dave didn't wake, and Balthazar bit back a small groan as he squirmed into the warmth Balthazar had left behind. The pants probably weren't the most comfortable to sleep in, but Balthazar enjoyed the view of Dave's sun-kissed thigh and hip. He was glad he had lied to Dave about the reason he had taken him; he knew Horvath had probably wanted the boy for himself. Dave was lucky Balthazar had decided to patrol the fields when he did. He bent down and ruffled the dark hair, smirking when Dave turned his head into the touch.
"BALTHAZAR!" a roar echoed through the tunnels, and Balthazar froze. He hadn't seen Horvath following them, but now, he had moments before the other started rampaging through the tunnels. Dave sat up with a start, and instead of letting him dwell over the awkward situation he found himself in, Balthazar bolted from the cavern, his limbs elongating as his body morphed into that of a dragon. Dave scrambled from the bed, wincing as his ankle made itself known. He grabbed the crutch from where it had fallen, and moved to hobble after Balthazar. The loud sound of breaking stone and the roar of fire caught his ears as he passed his own room. Cries that sounded like metal scraping against metal filled the tunnel, and Dave feared the sight he would find.
He rounded the last bend in the tunnels, to find Balthazar, clad only in a pair of loose pants, standing on the neck of a giant black dragon. He must have grabbed one of the weapons from the horde room, because a sword was wedged between the scales over the dragon's heart. Balthazar seemed not to notice him, and Dave watched as he changed into the dragon once more, using his snout to push the deceased dragon from the cave. Crashes sounded as it hit the trees, and Balthazar's body slowly shrank until the man stood at the entrance of the cave.
"Is he… is he gone? For good?" Dave asked. At the solemn nod from Balthazar, he hobbled forward as fast as his ankle would allow. Balthazar was surprised when Dave crashed into him. Arms linked behind his back, and Dave tucked his head under Balthazar's chin. Balthazar didn't react for a moment, but finally, he placed a hand in Dave's hair, ruffling the strands. Dave tilted his head back, a curious look on his face. Before Balthazar could decipher the look, Dave leaned up and kissed him. It was a brief brushing of lips, and Dave quickly pulled away, his eyes darting to the ground. "I… thank you," he murmured.
Balthazar chuckled and placed a hand under Dave's chin, making him look him in the eyes. "It was my pleasure," he purred before he sealed his lips over Dave's. He would take the boy shopping for new clothes, and hope that the stolen kisses would turn into something more as he adjusted Dave to life as dragon's bait.
A/N: Yes, I realize there is lack of smut. That's for chapter 2! Now that I have your attention, it's time to vote. If you want my next chapter to be the next part of Dragon's Bait, or if you want my next chapter to be the sequel to Cat's Pajamas. Or if you have a favorite from the table of contents page, let me know. I get the next week off, and I'm hoping I can write more often. So, suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
1) What I'm trying to describe is a hakama, or the pants worn by samurai (or so I'm told)
2) Queen of Argyle – © Minstrels of Mayhem (awesome song)
Disclaimer: Do not own the rights to Sorcerer's Apprentice or it's characters. I simply write fanfiction.