“You should have seen him,” Austere said with a tipsy giggle, “he is only half his size when he is wet.”
Patel had asked how Zodic and Austere met and Zodic had allowed the young dragoness to tell the story up until now. However, at this point he spoke up.
“I’m fluffy,” he countered.
“Indeed you are,” Austere said and buried her nose in the fur of his shoulder.
Zodic loved the attention, but didn’t think she would have done it in front of her mother and her aunt if she had not had a bit too much mead. She told Zodic privately on the way here that she was apprehensive about meeting with the Matriarch of the Clan. Her word was law and her approval of him meant everything to their relationship if it was to continue. Austere had not watched her intake of liquid courage.
He curled his wing around her and smiled at her when she lifted her face to his. He thought she was going to nuzzle him and hoped her mead fuzzed brain did not allow it. He breathed a small sigh of relief when she looked back toward her mother and aunt sitting across the low table from them.
“We had a heck of a time getting him dry,” she said. “He has a lot of fur.”
Patel had noticed Austere’s delight in Zodic’s furry coat. Patel’s mind harkened back to the feel of Tallideer’s coat beneath her paw pads and a slight shiver ran down her spine.
“I understand that Tallideer is your father,” Patel said. She had not meant to blurt it out like that. She was not thinking properly.
“Yes, do you know him?” Zodic asked.
He had made an assumption based on her battle scars and age that they might have met during the Dragonic Wars. He hoped it was a good meeting. He knew Furry and Frosty fought against the Sun Scales from the south and the Serpents from the east. It was a violent, bloody war that lasted for years, only occasionally put off by the horrible winter weather each year, to be resumed again in the spring.
The Scales & Serpents wanted the mountains for the gold they held and their human riders egged them on. It was only after Tallideer, his father, had challenged the leaders of both the Scales and Serpents to single combat that the war had come to an end. The two opposed clans thought that Tallideer might kill one of them, but then he would not be strong enough to conquer the other. He would be weakened enough that the south and eastern clans would ultimately win the war. They had not figured on Tallideer’s talent with fire, which up until then had not been exhibited at its fullest.
The two leaders were incinerated even though both of them were equipped with fire glands as well.
Patel hesitated. Obviously Tallideer had never told his youngling about his relationship with the leader of the Frost Clan. She debated with herself how much she should tell or wanted to tell. But, these two younglings before her were falling in love. Tallideer would not be happy about this play of events. Even though he and she had been lovers, fought side-by-side during the war, and thought they would spend their lives together, it was not to be. When she drove him away, and she had to admit she did drive him away, he had retaliated by isolating his clan from hers. It was he who threw up the barriers, he who built the walls, even though it was she who instigated the division. She was injured, just barely able to speak, permanently disfigured. How could she ask him to take her as his mate when she looked like something that had been shredded and thrown away?
“I did,” she answered. “Years ago we fought together during the wars.” She would have left it at that, but the youngling pried further.
“Were you close? Friends?” Zodic asked hopefully.
“We were once,” Patel said with a sigh she could not hide.
Zodic could read defeat in the Matriarch’s answer. Something had gone on here that he knew nothing of. His father and this Frostie were once close. The question was how close and what drove them apart? He would have to get to the bottom of this before he told his father anything. He couldn’t present Austere to his clan without knowing the history between the monarchs.
“And that is when things started to get really interesting,” the pinto colored dragon said and took a break to quench his thirst from the bowl of mead at his side.
Farloft looked around the huge room at the rap faces of the other people and the dragons in the old dragon’s audience. He had arrived in this small hamlet of mixed humans and dragons earlier this evening with the intention of getting some directions. He could see from the air that the place was dragon-friendly and he had not yet run into any of his own kind that had put him off. He was all of seventy-one years of age and had been traveling for seven years now. He liked the look of this place and the feel. It had not disappointed him.
He found the dragons to be friendly and of a most unusual look, though he supposed they thought him unusual the way the younglings that were present gathered round and gawked at him. Where he had scales of beautiful green, they were fur covered and of a variety of colors, like cats. The only color there seemed to be in quantity was pure white.
His intent was to cross the snow covered mountains that stood above the tree-line of this village, but dragons and humans alike cautioned him on crossing during the night. Wild fierce storms could blow up unexpectedly and even though he assured them he had his own built in thermostat to keep him warm, they said it would make for a miserable night flying against a headwind.
So, he had taken them up on their invitation to stay the night in their pub. There were sleeping platforms made especially for the dragons and scattered among them were the tables and chairs needed to accommodate the humans. Once the pub closed, the owners, a partnership between a human family and a dragon named Trekk ,would retire to their rooms upstairs for the night and he would have the place to himself.
In the meantime, he was introduced to Trekk, the dragon now telling the story to the gathering. Farloft’s predicament of being stuck here for fear of a storm had prompted the dragon to launch into his story.
Trekk was laying on a platform by the fire with human children curled up in every nook and cranny of his being and youngling dragons on furs at his paws. He looked so exceedingly content with his audience hanging on every word of his wonderful story. He was a small dragon, about the size of a large horse. The adult dragons were all about that size. Were it not for the fact that there were loft platforms in the huge pub for both dragon and human, Farloft would have not been able to stand in the building. He was much too tall. He had taken a place on the floor toward the back of the room where he would not block the view of the speaker. A group of dragons and humans hospitably piled some furs for him.
Trekk sported a coat of white fur that looked as though it had a can of black paint poured upon him, creating the appearance of puddles and pools that oozed over his coat. His wings were basically black with white tips along the edges that when folded at his sides made him appear as though he had a white strip down each side. But the most captivating thing about him, other than his excellent baritone speaking voice, was the juxtaposition of his eyes – one was blue as a summer sky and other was the color of the shiniest copper coin.
“What happened then?” one of three human children nestled against his side asked, when Trekk did not immediately continue with his story after refreshing himself.
“Oh,” the old dragon said, “it is getting late. I think it is time you younglings got to bed.”
There was a groan of disappointment from both dragon and human, adult, child and youngling, so loud the walls of the building seemed to join in.
“Very well,” Trekk said with a tease of a smile, “Let us see where we end up.”
As Trekk began to speak, his voice lulling all back in time to that snowy year when Zodic meet Austere, Farloft knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to be like this dragon one day – sitting contentedly among humans and dragons, telling glorious stories that took wing like flights of dragons in the imagination of his audience.