The Frostie lair was alive with activity. Unlike the Furries’ home, where all the sleeping platforms were inside the huge snow cave at the mountain’s peak, most of the Frosties normally lived on the outside in the burrows. However, when the clan woke to the severe winter storm this morning Zodic found out the outside burrows had back entrances into the ice lair. The place was jammed with Frosties all excited about the storm. Patel and her council were trying to do a headcount in order to make sure everyone was in that should be in.
“Not to worry,” Uland told Austere, “your brothers have been out in much worse. They have a nice warm hunting den. We’ll see them when this all blows over.”
Zodic found out first thing this morning when they learned of the storm that Austere had three brothers who were out hunting as she had been when he met her. They were not overdue in any way. The Frosties came and went with deliveries of fresh kills all winter long, but Austere had voiced her concern.
Zodic noticed a commotion taking place toward the west side of the lair. Several larger dragons, including Talbow along with Patel and several of the older dragons, were in a heated discussion about something.
Zodic knew they were doing a headcount just as his father and ministers would be doing one in their lair this morning. The clan members looked out for one another. The missing were always accounted for in some way.
“I don’t know,” Austere said. She reached out with a wing and caught a passing dragon headed away from the group. “What’s going on, Crysta?”
The older dragoness stopped for just a moment. “One of the burrows is plugged. Tildon’s family. He’s out hunting. His mate and pups are trapped inside. Somehow the ice barrier on this side became too thick. Maylaia can’t punch through it. Excuse me, Patel wants me to get Bale.” The dragoness rushed off in search of the older dragon.
“She could open the outside,” Austere said to her mother.
“She wouldn’t do that,” Uland countered. “She has three pups. She can’t carry all three at the same time and their burrow is facing toward the storm. If she left one, by the time she got back it might be frozen.”
“We could fly out and help her,” Austere was frantic to find a solution. Gollan was one of Maylaia’s pups and Austere’s personal favorite among this year’s litters.
“You can’t fly against a wind like that.” Uland tried to calm her daughter. “It would even be too strong a wind for Zodic and he has power behind his strokes,” she complimented.
“Well,” Zodic said, “I may not be able to fly against a strong gale, but I can retrieve Maylaia and her pups.”
He tucked his wings tight to his sides so he wouldn’t bump any of the smaller Frosties and headed straight toward Patel. Austere and Uland fell in behind him.
“Excuse me,” he called as he approached. “If someone could show me this ‘ice plug’ perhaps I could help.”
“We appreciate the offer, youngling,” Patel said, “But…”
“Pardon the interruption,” Talbow said, and added a respectful bow to the clan leader, “I believe the Furry might just be what we need at the moment. If I may?” he asked and shifted his weight toward the direction of the blocked burrow.
Patel looked to Haladoor, her chief ice expert.
“We are currently at a standstill. Let us see what the youngling proposes,” he said in his usual logical way.
“Very well,” Patel acknowledged.
Talbow led the way back toward the burrow. Dragons parted to make room for the Furry to pass. Zodic heard whispers of, ‘he’s big enough,’ and ‘maybe he could claw the ice lose.’
Zodic had no intention of doing any such thing and Talbow was immediately aware of what the youngling was up to the moment he stepped forward.
“You will have to be careful,” the older dragon advised. “There is no bedrock out there under this burrow. If you melt it too fast you might slide them right out into the storm. Maylaia would not be able to save all the pups and you will end up having the whole clan after your hide if any die.”
“I can control my fire,” Zodic assured Talbow.
It was one of the few compliments his father ever gave him. He told Zodic once that his fire breathing ability was way beyond any dragon of his age. He even went so far as to say one day he might become a fire master like the Grand Hikui of old.
Talbow stopped in front of a large oval slab of ice that was so thick Zodic could not see through it to the other side.
“Maylaia will sense the warmth when you get deep enough into it,” Talbow explained. “The trick will be to melt it down far enough that we can punch on through. Don’t melt it completely or you risk melting the floor and losing the pups.”
Zodic nodded and began to stoke his fire.
A group had gathered around, Patel, Uland, Austere, some of the older dragons and Bale had arrived before Zodic was ready to begin. When he was ready he nodded to Talbow and the large Frostie retreated out of the way.
Zodic decided to use a circular sweeping motion much like he observed Austere using last night to build the ice door on their burrow. He narrowed his fire to a stream the width of his paw and started a slow rotation. The ice started to melt and he heard the council members exchange comments along the lines of ‘why hadn’t they thought of that.’ Bale came quickly to Talbow’s side no doubt ready to voice a warning when Talbow raised a paw.
“He has been warned,” Talbow said, “He will be cautious.”
Watching Zodic breathe fire was mesmerizing. Austere really had no idea about the talent that was needed to do the circulatory breathing Zodic was displaying by keeping his fire constantly flowing as he breathed in through his nose to keep the oxygen coming in that fanned his fire. The stream never faltered. However, the older dragons in the clan, Talbow, Bale, Patel, Haladoor and Uland knew what was happening and the control it required. They could not help but admire the youngling as he worked away at melting the ice plug. There was more than one of them who remembered the time during the Dragonic Wars of Elster when they saw Tallideer, the greatest of all dragon warriors, set the sky afire with his massive glands until the whole world appeared to be aflame.
Patel felt a lump involuntarily grow in her throat. This youngling could have been hers. This Furry was her old lover’s pup and it made her proud to think he could control his fire at his age almost as well as his father could as an adult. It was a wonder to behold and something few of the younger Frosties had ever seen, having grown up in a time of peace. This would be a tale told in this lair for many years to come. How a visiting Furry saved a Frost family.
Talbow stepped forward and placed a paw on Zodic’s shoulder. “I think that is enough,” he said gently.
Zodic’s fire ceased immediately and he backed away from the wall of melting ice.
Talbow moved in and with Bale and Haladoor’s assistance they took claw to ice. Zodic could see Maylaia working on the plug from her side. She had two of her pups up on her back and one in her mouth, no doubt with the intention of protecting them from sliding away from her should the floor give way.
The upper part of the plug came out first and with very little effort the three large dragons were able to pull the rest of the wall down without the roof or floor to the burrow giving away.
Maylaia and her pups rushed into the waiting wings of extended family members standing just back from the now shattered plug remains.
“You are incredible,” Austere complimented Zodic as she bumped her head with its short stubby horns against his shoulder affectionately.
“Any Furry could have done it,” Zodic said modestly.
“On the contrary,” Patel said, as she approached. “You have exceptional control of your fire, Zodic. Thank you for freeing my clan members.”
Zodic extended a paw and bowed. “I am please I could be of assistance,” he said.
He silently thanked his father for pounding manners into him as a pup even though he had no time for other engagements with his son like playing or hunting.
“I thought you might be leaving us today,” Patel went on, “but, I think you are stuck with us for a time.” She smiled in Uland’s direction. “Perhaps you three would join me tonight for some conversation after your evening meal.”
Uland smiled back at her sister. “We would be pleased to join you, Sister. We will bring some of the human’s mead Austere picked up last time she was below the tree line.”
As Patel walked away Uland had a vision – a very strong vision. One she would not reveal tonight, but later when the time was right.