The Tragedy of Garass and Asher, p.1
The tragedy of Garass and Asher
Written by Kasper Beaumont.
Cover painting by
Inside painting by John Sparks
Graphics by Troy Stoilkovski.
This a short prequel to the
Hunters of Reloria trilogy.
Published by Kasper Beaumont
Edited by Bill Fox-Taylor and Kerry Hall.
First published in 2015.
Copyright Kasper Beaumont 2014.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorised reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.
This book is dedicated to my husband.
Thanks to Phil and Colin for believing I could do it and to Margaret and Fiona for encouraging me when the going got tough. My highest regards go to Mike and John for their artistry, and Troy for the great graphics. Thank you to Bill and Kerry for your tireless work with the editing.
When I started to write the Hunters of Reloria series, I had 12 year olds in mind. Since publishing the trilogy, I have discovered that my fans range in age from nine to ninety. Garass & Asher was written with the adult audience in mind, as I wanted to show you an important piece of Asher’s past. Please bear in mind that it is not intended for young readers due to the more mature content than the other stories.
Colin has designed a great webpage and you are welcome to visit there to view the awesome artwork and the many pictures and insights into the characters. Webpage is: www.huntersofreloria.weebly.com
Halfway down the volcano side, Asher Grey stopped dead in his tracks. His heart skipped a beat at the sight of Larissa Black in her newly-curvaceous human form, silhouetted beside Blue Crater Lake. The corners of her mouth bent upward in a relaxed smile as she hummed a ballad. Having known her all his life, her recent blossom into womanhood captured his eye.
It’s as though I have never noticed her before.
Distracted, he stumbled. His younger sisters who were applying henna tattoos to her forearms, giggled when they realised their brother’s misfortune. With a turn of her head, Larissa and Asher exchanged heat-filled glances. Jaws dropped open and warmth rose in their cheeks. Asher looked away, but not soon enough, for the damage had been done. He was totally smitten.
Two days later Ash dragon was still avoiding Larissa and chastising himself. Of all the shifters in Flame Mountain, he had the misfortune to be in love with the same one as his best friend Garass Black. He snorted with frustration, and a plume of smoke billowed from his nostrils. Extending his large grey wings as far as they would go, he resembled a strange giant bird, perched on the very edge of the expansive volcanic crater of Flame Mountain. The emerald scales on the undersides of his wings glistened in the sunlight. Far below him, molten lava bubbled away, its searing heat enveloped him.
The seventeen year old clenched his eyes closed in an attempt to purge Larissa’s intoxicating image from his head. But to his misfortune this did the opposite, by reliving the vision of that brief moment, when she smiled at him. He had fallen head over heels in love; for the very first time. He could not eat or sleep, and feared flying into a mountain, for she filled his every waking thought.
But I can’t love Larissa. Ash continued to scratch his claws in frustration on the black rocks. My best friend Garass has been in love with her for two years, so there be no way I’d ever betray his friendship by chasing his girl. Plus she’s a black and I’m a grey. Sure that’s no impossible barrier to us being together, but she’d be much better off within her own clan. No … I just need to ride out these feelings until they pass and we can all remain friends. Yes, that’s for the best.
Glad to settle his thoughts, the young dragon shifted his weight forward, preparing to launch into the sky, when someone landed on him from above, and both tumbled down the mountainside. “Ouch!” Ash finally managed to catch his claws on an outcropping to stop their descent. A landslide of rocks rained down beneath them, scaring away a herd of scrawny mountain goats.
“Are you crazy?” His hackles rose in annoyance, but as he turned his head, his anger melted away in an instant. Clinging to Ash in desperation was a graceful black dragon, a little larger than himself, with luminous black eyes widened in concern at his anger. Larissa.
“Oh, I’m really sorry Ash, I just meant to surprise you, but flew in too fast. Can you forgive me?”
“Ah! There be nothing to forgive, you clumsy bird-brain,” he stroked her brow ridge with a tender claw. “I’m glad you weren’t coming the other way, or we’d have fallen into the lava. Then I would be furious. No harm done, I guess. Are you alright?”
She grimaced. “Yes, apart from whacking my neck hard on the way down. I’ll shift and see if it feels better. It’s a long neck to have aching, to be sure.”
The two dragon forms shimmered on the mountainside, replaced by two leather clad people. Asher was a rugged-looking young man with spiky black hair and a little stubble on his chin. To him Larissa looked like a goddess with dark hair woven in intricate braids emphasising large black eyes. Her full pink lips glistened with moisture and he felt his mouth go dry as he looked away.
“Can you rub it for me?” Larissa was unaware of the overwhelming youthful urges soaring through her friend. When Asher didn’t answer, she grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. “Please, Asher. Surely you’re not mad with me over an accident.”
Larissa looked hard at her friend, who seemed unable to speak. His yellow-green eyes glowed with emotion, lips trembled and every muscle in his body seemed tense.
Misinterpreting his lust for fear, she laughed it off, “Don’t worry. I won’t tell Garass you touched me. He is a bit possessive sometimes and I don’t want to spoil your friendship. I know you’re like brothers.” She gave him a reassuring pat on the back. Asher’s heart pounded and butterflies swirled uncomfortably in his abdomen. Rubbing sweaty palms on his leather pants did little good and he inwardly chastised himself for being unable to think of a light-hearted reply.
After a minute of silence he stammered, “OK, sit down and … I’ll rub your sore neck.” At least she’ll be looking the other way and won’t see the desire in my face.
Larissa sat on the flattest place she could find on the mountain. Removing her black leather jacket caused Asher’s heart to skip a beat. Underneath she wore a white cotton blouse, which clung to her damp skin in the heat of the volcano. He clearly saw her perky brown nipples and full breasts tantalisingly within reach.
Giving a sigh to steady his racing heart, Asher sat behind her and moved her heavy braids so he could see her neck. “Where does it hurt?” Concern was in his voice.
“Well it feels like it goes all the way up into my brain,” she replied with a little petulance. “If you can rub my shoulders first, I’ll undo the braids so you can rub right up into my hair. Thank you so much for assisting me, I feel like such a clumsy dragon around you sometimes.”
Asher was giving long stroking rubs along her shoulder blades. He paused as her words sank in and piqued his curiosity. “Why would you be clumsy around me? We hang out together heaps with Garass and his gang.”
Larissa flushed to a deep red as she struggled with the complicated braids. Noticing this, Asher took her hair out of her hands and worked to un-weave them for her. She sti
She nodded and he felt relieved, although still puzzled by her silence. He finished untying her braids and her lustrous black hair fell in waves to the rocks around her. With a gentle caress, he inhaled the fragrant oils, before pushing it over her shoulders so he could rub her neck. As he started massaging up into her hair, she gave a low moan and hugged her knees to her chest, with hair spilling over her bent face.
Asher had never experienced anything more sensual and pleasurable than this physical contact, with the young woman who filled his dreams and every waking moment. His body responded to her gentle moans in ways he had never experienced, and involuntarily a small moan escaped his own lips.
Her body tensed and she uttered a bare whisper, “Oh, Asher! You don’t know how long I’ve waited for you to touch me.”
Taking him by surprise, Larissa spun and pinned him to the ground, her body on top of his and her hair surrounding their faces like a black curtain. She kissed him with passion, her tongue explored his mouth and hands raced down to grip his hips. In the heat of the moment, they lost themselves in each other’s arms.
Finding it hard to concentrate with the rush of desire, Asher rolled to the side, and gave her a gentle push away. “Larissa, I’m sorry, but I think we need to stop. If Garass ever found out I’d kissed you, there’d be hell to pay.”
Her eyes shone with defiance. “I don’t care. Yes, I know I’ll probably marry him, but why can’t I do this, just this once. I’ve wanted you for so long and now I see it reflected in your eyes. Surely once wouldn’t hurt and we’d both be happier afterwards that we had this chance together. Please Asher, I promise to never tell a soul.”
Poor Asher was torn between raging hormones and a sense of duty to his best friend. Could we embrace once and never again? Would that be enough, or would it start a fire that would burn them up and consume their families and friends in a path of destruction? Asher knew he would never be able to look at Garass with a clear conscience again and all for a fleeting moment of forbidden love with this beautiful woman.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sight of Larissa pulling her thin blouse over her head and tossing it on the ground. All arguments were forgotten now at the sight of her full breasts. He instinctively reached for them. She reclined backwards against the rocky soil and he rolled her jacket to place it under her head for a pillow, all the while admiring her beauty. He caressed her firm breasts, teasing her nipples with an eager tongue.
Moaning with pleasure, Asher’s skin was afire with her hands prying off his leather vest in a fever. Their lips and tongues locked together as Larissa’s nimble fingers explored his biceps, chest, well-defined abdominal muscles and straining leather pants.
Asher tried to reciprocate, but couldn’t seem to draw his hands away from her full bosom, noting the gentle touches seemed to elicit even more pleasure than the firm ones. Pulling the aroused young man on top of her once more, she guided his leather-clad hips with a firm grip. His body responded to the rhythm as they moved in unison.
Flapping wings gave them but a split-second warning. Sharp claws reached down to drag Asher off the girl. A black dragon screeched with rage, flying high in the air before throwing him down to certain death in the lowlands.
It was fortunate Asher was a faster shape-shifter than most. He managed to transform himself and flew upwards a split second before he would have been impaled on the sharp rocks. Ignoring the pain of his torn flesh, he soared upwards to meet the wrath of Garass, who was turning towards Larissa.
The black dragon was larger than Ash, as black as night with ebony scales that glittered in the sunlight, but the smaller grey was spurred on by a desire to protect Larissa. He beat his wings in hot pursuit of his former best friend. “Garass, wait! It’s my fault, not Larissa’s, please let me explain. Please, you know I think of you as a brother.”
“I will not hear you, traitor,” growled Garass. “You have stolen my most prized possession and I will kill you if it’s the last thing I do. Your pleas to be treated as a brother won’t spare you.”
Garass had his back to Ash, but the younger dragon was too scared to make the first strike. He watched Garass check on Larissa as she sat weeping on the crater’s edge, holding her blouse across her chest. Then the black struck.
Ash steeled himself for the onslaught of fire and claws that came at him like a storm. He gasped as he was turned about in wild air currents. Flames raged around him. Garass mercilessly tore a huge gash across his back. The blaze seared his tender insides.
He screeched in agony, but steadied himself with strong wing beats. As Garass paused to rekindle his fiery breath, Ash struck. Flying in underneath, he raked his claws along the black’s belly and bit off the end of his tail, which thumped on the rocks far below.
With a roar of fury Garass flew directly into Ash, causing one wing to fold back with an audible snap. The grey shrieked in pain and hurled a fire ball into Garass’ face, blinding him for a moment. In a falling dive, Ash flapped with one maimed wing. In another brutal assault, Garass crashed into Ash again. This manoeuvre backfired and sent Garass spinning out of control with a broken leg. His rapid trajectory took him straight to where Larissa was standing on the edge of the crater, pleading in desperation for them to stop fighting.
The plummeting dragon had just a glance at the terrified girl, before he ploughed into her. They dropped into the boiling lava of Flame Mountain.
With one wing hanging limp, Ash looked on with horror. Wide eyed, he gasped and flew erratically over to the crater. To his dismay, he saw only the bubbling lava below, with no sign of either Garass or their beloved Larissa.
Pain stabbed in his heart; Ash collapsed to the volcano’s rim in shock. How can they have vanished without a trace? Not Larissa, the first girl he had ever loved. My beautiful Larissa, with a smile just for him and long dark hair flowing like a river. The shock was just too much for him to bear and he wept painful crystal tears into the volcano. He watched them disintegrate as they fell into the steaming crater.
A disturbance in the lava lake distracted him from his thoughts. A large blob covered in dripping red lava shot out of the crater straight towards him. “What the …?”
He was bowled over backwards by a furious and vengeful Garass who tore at him with sharp claws and words, “How could you? My Larissa. You killed her, you killed her. This is all your fault. You betrayer!”
Stung by the blows and words, Ash barely lifted a claw against the attack, but Garass too, seemed emotionally spent and collapsed into a ball, shaking in rage and grief.
Trying to console his friend, Ash placed his good wing over Garass. “I’m so sorry my friend, I never meant for these things to happen. It’s all a terrible tragedy. I … I can’t believe she’s gone. She was such a wonderful dragon.” Crystal tears stung again and he trembled with emotion.
Garass looked at him with piercing eyes and growled, “I will never forgive you for this Asher Grey. You may live a hundred years, but this will haunt you every day of them. Be gone from here and never let me see you again.” The black pushed him roughly down the mountainside and Ash let himself fall, shifting into human form again as he tumbled over and over to the foothills below.
When he finally reached the bottom, the shirtless mountain man was covered in grazes and bruises from head to foot, but the thing that hurt the most was his broken heart. He crawled on bleeding hands and knees to a secluded cave. There would be no sunshine in his life for a great many years to come, as his heart hardened against love and friendship.