“I met him when he and Austere came in,” Patel answered her younger sister when she asked if she had met the visiting Furry.
“Austere is quite taken with him,” Uland informed her sister, “and he seems very attracted to her.”
“And what do you want me to do about it, Uland? He is welcome here, but you know how the Furry leader and council feel about inter-mating among the clans. He is welcome to visit and spend the night to rest, but he needs to go home tomorrow.”
“Austere loves him,” Uland sighed. “You know how that can be.”
Patel shifted uncomfortably on her ruling platform. She just finished her morning business as clan head when her sister arrived. She was tired and not particularly interested in rehatching past life history with her sister. Her days of loving Furries was over. She learned her lesson well.
Zuri, her assistant, put a bowl of refreshing frozen berries within paw’s reach and retreated to the other side of the chamber.
“I do, and I also know how it very rarely works to try and match dragons of varied clans together even if they are close neighbors.” She popped a pawful of the berries in her mouth.
Patel choked on the berries and coughed until Zuri brought forth a bowl of water to help her mistress clear the obstruction she had inhaled. Patel thanked her and waved her away. She didn’t need one so young listening in and perhaps spreading the word among the other elders in the clan.
“Tallideer’s?” she asked for confirmation.
“Yes,” Uland confirmed. “It seems he did not take a mate until very late in life and she only had the one pup, than passed on. He was taught to hunt and such by a surrogate parent. Seems his father was as occupied with his clan business as you were with yours. You both would have led fuller, better lives if you had lived them together. That was how it was meant to be.”
“You and your visions,” Patel scoffed. “Tallideer didn’t want me enough to put his duties aside. I wasn’t enough for him,” she spit. “He went from mighty warrior to clan head in the flap of a wing. There was no thought of me…of us…”
“You know that is not true,” Uland countered. “You were hurt so badly. He stayed by your side until he knew you were going to live, but then his father died and he was called to lead. You told him to go. You practically drove him off. I saw him the day he left you. He was broken far worse than his physical injuries. I understand why you did it, but you could have asked him to stay and you certainly should not blame him for leaving.”
As usual, Patel did not want to talk about the time of the Dragonic Wars. She did not wish to think about what she had given up…what she had lost. She stood and pawed at the furs beneath her on the platform. When she had totally rearranged them to her satisfaction she laid back down, crossing her paws in a pose of contemplation.
“Zuri? Are there anymore clan problems to resolve today?” she called to her assistant.
“Yes, my dragoness,” Zuri answered. “Haladoor has an appointment to discuss the assignment of this cycles maintenance teams.”
“Very good,” Patel said in a relieved voice. “You may escort my sister out and bring Haladoor in.”
Patel turned to her sister. “He leaves tomorrow, sister. That is as it should be,” she ordered.
Uland did not answer her sister’s decree. She only nodded and left.
Uland nudged another piece of fish his direction. “Please have some more,” she offered her daughter’s guest.
“Thank you, but I have really had enough,” Zodic said and patted his stomach with a large paw for emphasis. “I know I look big and must appear as though I eat a stag a day, but really, a lot of it is fur,” he assured her.
Uland picked up the remains of the fish Austere brought back from her last hunt and took it to the back of their ice cave burrow and buried it beneath the ice crystals in the niche in the wall. She brought out some old furs and hides from where she kept a cash to use when one of her other children visited. She laid them down in one of the nest depressions.
“You can sleep here,” she said. “Austere, could you seal tonight?”
Zodic had no time to ask what Austere’s mother was talking about before the younger dragon rose and moved to face the opening which lead out to the main domed clan ice cave. Austere took in a deep breath, when she exhaled a sheet of ice started to form at the edge of the opening. As she circled with her head, the opening became smaller and smaller until it was covered by the sheet of ice. She gave one last puff and the ice turned an opaque white. Zodic smiled at her as she returned to his side.
“That’s a cool trick,” he said with a toothy grin. “And I do mean cool. We Furries knew you didn’t breathe fire any longer, but we didn’t know you could ice things up either.”
“We protect ourselves from the elements by insulating with ice much as your clan does with snow,” Uland explained. “If you were to go outside right now you would find the burrows you observed on your flight in are all covered over for the night. With just their body heat the inside of the ice burrows will be kept toasty warm.”
“Time for bed now,” Uland instructed.
Uland had not told the two of her audience with her sister and the ruler’s proclamation. She did not have time to get Austere alone when she came back to the nursery and she wanted to explain the situation to her daughter so they could form a united front to the Furry, which she could easily feel was very much in love with her youngest.
Zodic went to his furs as told and after arranging and rearranging to his liking he finally settled down among them. He looked over to Austere and her mother. Austere was curled up in her mother’s paws. He fervently wished she were curled up in his, but that was too much to ask here among her clan. Slowly… he coached himself as he lay his head down so that the last thing he saw before he closed his eyes, and the first thing he would see when he opened them in the morning, would be his lovely Austere. Patience… he must have patience. Tomorrow he would have time alone with Austere and perhaps time to speak with Patel about his feelings as well. If he was going to have any chance of swaying his father’s mind, it would be best to have the matriarch of Austere’s clan on his side.
Trenic stood at the mouth of the clan’s lair and watched the storm outside. It had blown in overnight quite unexpectedly. This winter was turning into a most unusual and somewhat frightening season even for a powerful dragon. It was a white-out just a few feet beyond the entrance. The snow was literally blowing sideways. The young dragon knew there was no way he could return to Austere’s den and meet up with Zodic until this storm blew over.
Trenic felt a wing bump his shoulder. “Don’t’ worry,” his father’s deep baritone rumbled. “Zodic is very resourceful and he has a heavy coat,” he comforted his son. “He’ll find a place to shelter. We’ll go out and hunt him down as soon as the storm blows over.”
How would Trenic keep his father from flying out with him, because sure as he did, Zodic would have Austere with him and then where would they be except caught in the lie he told and with a Frostie to boot?
Trenic hoped the storm lasted long enough for him to think of some way out of the hole he had dug himself into.