It took all of Drake's self-control to keep from shifting on the spot and gliding through the barrier between his world and the humans' to find his mate. Months of sending probes had won him nothing.
He paced the small chamber, his hands behind his back. Even now, his skin ached to turn to scales. Patience. He needed to find patience somewhere.
"Do sit down," his family's royal magician mumbled from where he sat hunched over his newest charm. "I can't will this to go faster. Some things take time."
"You've had sixteen years since Princess Ilona went missing," Drake shot back. "She'll hit her mating age soon. I'm older and more experienced. I need to help her through her first shift."
"You mean through her first fuck, don't you?"
Drake stopped pacing and glared at Xander. "How dare you use such language with a member of the royal family?"
"Save your fire breathing for someone who cares," Xander said. "Do you want me to find the princess, or don't you?"
The gods knew he ought to breathe some fire. Just enough to singe the bastard and teach him some respect, but his family had tolerated Xander's family going back so many generations not even myth recorded how they'd established their alliance. All Drakenians endured all Xanderians. Their sphere worked that way.
Grumbling, Drake found a chair and sat in it as loudly as he could. In response, Xander only chuckled and stared into the shimmering blue obelisk on his worktable.
"Something's blocking us from finding Princess Ilona. A spell of some kind, and a powerful one," Xander said.
"So you've told me before. Did you call me here to repeat your usual explanation for failure?"
Xander bristled, his back stiffening. "I haven't failed."
"Not completely... Not yet," Drake answered. "But if I'm not her first lover, you will have failed."
"You expect her to have lived among humans to the age of twenty-one and not lost her virginity?" Xander's eyes rolled.
"I know she hasn't," Drake said. "Our connection would have broken if she had. I only sense her faintly, but she's there."
Xander crossed his arms over his chest. "And I suppose you saved yourself for her, too."
Drake didn't answer with words but glared at the magician.
After a moment, Xander's expression changed from sarcasm to disbelief. "Don't tell me you're a virgin, too."
"You know it's written that the future king and queen must be pure when they first mate."
"Sure, I heard that," Xander said. "I didn't think you took it literally."
"So you see, there's more than a little urgency in finding her."
"I do see." Xander turned back to his obelisk. "You and your hand must be really good friends."
"Enough!" Drake opened his mouth and released a small fireball. It danced across the room and hit Xander at the back of his neck.
"Yee-ay!" Xander batted at his hair, as a bit of it had caught fire. "It was only a joke."
"I don't like your jokes, old man," Drake said. "Do your job, or I'll turn you into your own funeral pyre."
"All right, all right," Xander grumbled. "Horny dragons... pain in the arse..."
The obelisk glowed golden for a moment and then went back to blue. Drake rose and went to Xander's workbench. "The signal. You found her again."
"Found and lost again," Xander answered.
"Send another probe."
After closing his eyes, Xander moved his fingers in geometric patterns over the obelisk. A crimson current appeared inside and then disappeared through the tip.
"Let's hope that penetrates the contrary spell, whatever it is," Xander said.
"Spells," Drake said. "Who could make such spells? Witches?"
"A witch is more likely to want to watch you fuck your virgin intended than to stop you from doing it." Xander's eyes got a wistful look to them. "I had a few witches in my day."
"More likely they had you, fool."
"Either way... you should try a witch." Xander's voice broke into a cackle. "But then, you have to be a virgin. And you call me a fool."
"Never mind that. If not witches, then who?"
"I hate to tell you, but the spell has an aura of demons."
"Demons." Drake paced some more. "My betrothed is held by demons?"
"Pray to the gods it isn't so, but there's a stench of hellfire about this."
Drake bent over the obelisk, even though he didn't have the training to read it. He smelled nothing other than the incense that always clung to Xander's hair. The magician knew what he was doing, even if he was a pain in the ass most of the time. No Dragon King, or in his case, Crown Prince, could afford to ignore Xander's advice.
"Damn, and we thought she'd wandered into the human realm and gotten lost," Drake said.
"She's in the human realm, all right, but humans didn't adopt her if my guess is right," Xander said. "Demons took her."
"Damn it all, we must find her. Without her, my life is nothing."
Xander touched Drake's arm. "I know I tease you, son."
Son. Xander never called him that anymore. Ever since he'd grown to full maturity, Xander had treated him like a man. The magician had even attended his first shift and had bowed in loyalty to his new Crown Prince. The comfort of their old relationship soothed, if only for a moment.
"I know what it would mean for you to lose Ilona," Xander went on. They both did -- perpetual loneliness, early death, and no heir to the crown. "I have something that may help."
The old man rose on knees so stiff they creaked and went to the cabinet where he kept his potions and astrological charts. He returned with a velvet box and handed it to Drake.
When Drake opened it, he found what looked like a huge jewel. It vibrated against his palm, giving off the same blue light as the obelisk. "Is this the same material?"
"A similar crystal with a slightly different function," Xander answered. "If it works the way I hope, it amplifies the connection between you and Ilona."
"You mean the way our minds touch, even across distance and realm boundaries?" Drake said. "This will make it stronger?"
"I haven't had the time to test it properly. Perhaps if you try it..."
Drake clutched the crystal in his fist and sent out a mental probe. All through the years that Ilona had been missing, their minds had touched from time to time. He'd only learned the importance of finding her at the time of his first shift. Forces of darkness had been gathering for some time in hopes of taking over his kind's realm. His subjects needed an uninterrupted succession along the royal line -- king and queen and offspring -- to serve as symbols and leaders for any battle that might come.
Since his father had shared all this knowledge, he'd worked more systematically to get her back. If this crystal worked, he should get a jolt in return right... about... now.
Holy gods! A blast of sexual energy surged back to him, radiating from the crystal out to every part of his body. His breath caught on a gasp as his cock instantly hardened to full erection. He'd reached her, all right, and she'd sent the message back.
"I take it the crystal worked," Xander said.
Drake gulped in a few breaths. "I don't think I'll be doing this in public."
Xander clapped him on the shoulder. "Good lad. Now off to find your mate."
"I only need to take leave of my father."
"Enter the human realm and keep using that," Xander said. "You'll find your princess well enough."