Kestrel stared at him. “Half...dragon,” she whispered. “Then—it is possible?”

He nodded a little wearily. “It is possible,” he told her. He leaned over, his elbows on his knees. “I am sorry, Juliana.”

Kestrel paused for several moments before she said anything. Her thoughts were in turmoil. She looked at him and then at herself, some small part of her perversely amused at the irony of the situation: veteran shadowrunner and Great Dragon, sitting here looking like a couple of confused teenage parents-to-be. Gabriel especially, with his youthful appearance and casual attire, particularly fit the part. Finally, she ventured: “Gabriel...how...how do you feel about this?”

His gaze came up. “It is my fault,” he said. His tone was soft and tired.

She put a hand on his arm. “It’s our fault,” she said firmly. “There’s no point in talking about blame now. It’s happened, and we need to deal with it. What I mean is—do you want to—” She was surprised how hard it was for her to say it. Weird how things can look so different when it’s your own life you’re talking about. “—I mean...should we...continue? Or—”

Gabriel sighed. “That is your decision to make, Juliana,” he said. “Not mine.”

She nodded. “I know that. Ultimately it is mine. But...I want to know what you think. You’re involved too.”

He got up and began pacing, as was his habit when he was troubled. “There is more to this than I have told you. You’ll need to know the whole story before you can make an informed decision about how to proceed.”

She came up to a full sitting position, regarding him warily. “More?” Her mind raced around, zipping from one dire possibility to another, from the plausible (could having a half-dragon baby injure me?) to the absurd (am I going to lay an egg instead of having a baby?) and everything in between.

He came back over and sat down next to her. “There are some—issues—outside the fact that you would be bearing a half-dragon child,” he said, looking into her eyes.

“What kind of issues?”

He didn’t answer for several moments. “Issues of dragon society,” he said at last.

“Dragon society...” She was confused. “What about dragon society?”

“Among dragons, what we have done is forbidden.” His voice was very soft.

She gasped slightly. “Forbidden?” She felt foolish for continuing to repeat his words, but her reality filter was getting a bit clogged with all these new revelations. She had to do something to slow the flow.

Gabriel nodded.

“What...does that mean?”

“It means that if any other dragons were to find out about what we’ve done, it could be very dangerous.”

“Dangerous...for whom?” She didn’t want to ask, but she had to know. “For you?”

“Whether it is dangerous for me isn’t the issue,” Gabriel said quietly. “I accept the responsibility for what I’ve done. I am more concerned about the danger to the child.”

Almost involuntarily she touched her abdomen. There was no outward sign that a life was growing inside her yet, but after Gabriel’s verification she felt—different. Like it hadn’t been true before but now it was. Abruptly she asked, “Did you get to see what sex it is, or is it too early to tell?”

He closed his eyes and nodded once. “I know. I didn’t say because...I wasn’t sure you wanted to know.”

She smiled a little. Even in the middle of this he’s being considerate. Why are all the good ones either married, gay, or dragons? “I—I’d like to.”

He nodded. “The child is male,” he said. There was nothing in his voice that indicated whether he was pleased, displeased, or indifferent regarding the knowledge.

“Male...” She looked down at herself again. “A son...” Taking a deep breath, she looked back at Gabriel. “What kind of...danger is he in?”

He stood again; it appeared as if he was going to start his pacing once more, but he merely stood there, his hand resting lightly on the back of his chair. “A very long time ago—back in the Age of Magic before the one when I was born—certain dragons mated with members of the Young Races—elves, mostly, and some humans. I can’t go into the details, partly because it isn’t permitted and partly because I don’t know them all, but suffice it to say that a great deal of trouble was caused by these actions. As a result, the dragons came together and chose to forbid the practice of producing what came to be known as ‘dragon-kin’—children resulting from the mating of a dragon and a human or metahuman.”

Kestrel was leaning slightly forward in her chair, listening intently to his words. “So...if the other dragons found out that we’d produced one of these...dragon-kin—”

“It’s conceivable that they might attempt to have him killed,” Gabriel said softly.

She took a deep breath. “What about you? And...me?”

He sighed, brushing his hair off his forehead. “You would be in no danger—undoubtedly this would be considered a transgression on my part...which it was,” he added after a pause.

She let that go for the moment. “And what about you? Would they try to kill you too?” She looked up at him. “There’s no way I’d ever risk putting you in that kind of danger—”

Gabriel shook his head. “No. They would not try to kill me. The usual punishment for this offense is banishment.” He spoke in an even tone, but Kestrel could hear the tension in his voice.

“Banishment? From—what?”

“From dragon society.” He sat heavily back down in his chair. “Our society is not as closely knit as it was in the last Age—and even then the dragons only came together to decide important issues that affected all of dragonkind. But if they chose to enact the punishment, it would mean that I would be barred from any contact with other dragons—and any who violated the order would be subject to the same punishment.”

“Oh, Gabriel...” She was up instantly, sitting on the arm of his chair, her hand clasping his shoulder. “No...” She shook her head. “No. I’m not going through with this. It’s too much of a risk. This is my fault. I was the one who talked you into it. It’s not fair of me to—”

“Juliana.” He stopped her with the single word, spoken softly. “That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, and it doesn’t matter what might happen to me if the other dragons find out.” He covered her hand with his. “All that matters now is what you want to do, and what—if anything—we owe to this child.”

She looked down at him; his expression was once again neutral. He doesn’t want to influence my decision. She was silent for a long time; when she spoke she once again changed the subject. “Is there any way—for anyone to know? Would another dragon know just looking at me?”

Gabriel shook his head. “They would have to be looking for it specifically. I can use masking magic to make the child look like a normal human before he is born.”

She nodded, taking that in. “What...does a dragon-kin baby look like?” She was afraid to ask, and hesitated. “Would he be...like a dragon? More like a human? Or is there any way to tell before he’s born?” She couldn’t help but shudder slightly at the thought of a miniature dragon forming inside her. She loved Gabriel deeply in both human and dragon form, but—this was different.

He smiled slightly; it was a tight, not entirely happy smile, but she could see the amusement in his eyes. “Dragon-kin children appear as the parent who bore them. It is almost unheard of for a dragon-kin child to be born of a human father and a dragon mother, because that would require the dragon female to remain in human form long enough to incubate the child—something most of them are not willing to do.”

“So—he would look completely human?”

Gabriel paused. He took a deep breath and looked like he was about to say something, but then fell silent.

“What?” Kestrel looked at him, concerned.

He brushed his hair back off his forehead again; it was becoming a nervous habit. “Most of them look almost fully human, but there is always some trait that marks them as dragon-kin. Some of these traits are not noticeable unless you specifically look for them—others are much more obvious. There is no way to know which way he will go.”

“What kind of traits?” she asked. Once more she was afraid to know and afraid not to.

Gabriel thought a moment. “These are only legends passed down,” he said, “because as I said, no known dragon-kin have been born in thousands of years. The less obvious traits I have heard tell of include pointed ears, eyes with slitted pupils or very distinct coloring, lack of body hair...that sort of thing.”

“And the more obvious ones?” Her hand tightened on his shoulder.

Again he paused, then spoke reluctantly. “Some have been said to have had vestiges of a tail or wings...scales on part or all of their bodies...horns...”

Her eyes widened. “And there’s no way to tell.”

“Not unless the manifestations are particularly obvious—and even then it would be too late to humanely end the pregancy.”

She shivered a bit at his words, instinctively drawing back a little from him. The feeling surprised her. For someone who had gone through most of her life without the faintest hint of a maternal instinct, this mother-bear protectiveness that had come on at the thought of destroying what was growing inside her came as quite a shock. She covered it by once more changing the subject. “You said that...while the baby was growing, you could mask him so he would look human. What about after he’s born?”

Gabriel got up, slipping out from under her hand. “I don’t know,” he said at last. “It would take some careful research—careful because it is important that no one else know anything about it. I suspect some sort of ritual will be necessary, but I will let you know for sure once I know myself.” He turned back around to face her. “Does anyone else know you are pregnant?”

“Only Lucinda—Dr. Santos. She’s the one who did the test. But she won’t tell anyone.”

Gabriel nodded. “It is your decision, of course, but it would probably be best if you didn’t tell anyone else about it yet.”

Kestrel nodded. “I wasn’t planning to take out an announcement in the Intelligencer or anything,” she said a little wryly. “I’m still not quite sure how I feel about this.”

“You have time to think about it,” he said softly. “Just let me do the masking, and you won’t have to worry about anyone discovering what’s happened.” He came over to her and took her shoulders in a gentle grip. “Juliana, I’m sorry. About all of this. I haven’t been very compassionate to you about this. You came to me with something that troubled you, and here I am telling you about dragon society. Don’t let me influence your decision. I’ll support whatever you decide—I give you my word on that. I just want to make sure you have all the facts before you make up your mind.”

She was touched, knowing how rare and how absolutely binding a dragon’s word was. “Thanks, Gabriel,” she said in a tone that was barely above a whisper. “I appreciate that. I’m a little confused right now— it’s nice to just have somebody to talk to, you know?”

He nodded. “I understand. And I will be here if you want to talk more.” He pulled her into a hug.

She smiled, burying her face in his soft jacket, loving the smell of the leather. Suddenly she chuckled.

Gabriel tilted his head. “What are you laughing about?” he asked. He sounded a little more like his old self.

“Us,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “I think I understand now how my foolproof birth control failed.”


She nodded. “Yeah. It was calibrated for the kind of regular guys I usually go out with—you know, humans and elves. It wasn’t any match for a dragon!”

He hugged her closer, kissing her forehead and joining her in chuckling. “You know, you might just be right.”

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Copyright ©2003 R. King-Nitschke. The Shadowrun universe is the property of WizKids.
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