Zuri rushed into Patel’s burrow unannounced.
“My Queen,” she panted in her haste.
She had obviously been running. Belatedly realizing she had barraged into the chamber without permission, she extended a paw and bowed.
“There has been a death,” she said without ceremony. “Please come.”
Patel rose quickly from her furs and followed her assistant to the entrance of the main lair.
Her sister, Uland was sitting on her haunches clutching her son Morllo to her chest. He was obviously dead. Her two other sons stood to one side. They were battered and beaten as though the three had been in a battle of old.
“What happened,” the Matriarch demanded.
“We went to check on our sister at her hunting den,” Olster, the older of the twin brother’s said. “We found a Furry there.”
“There was blood all around the den,” Alster, added. “We knew he had either injured or killed Austere.”
Olster nodded his agreement. “We attacked him and he killed Morllo.”
“When he fled, we pursued him and drove him to ground. He will not kill another Frostie,” Alster said with a definitive nod of his head.
“When we went back to the den we could not find Austere’s body. We think he might have buried her or perhaps the lake swallowed up her body,” Olster said with an apologetic look at his mother.
“We can go back out tomorrow and do a more extensive search.”
“When did this take place?” Patel asked.
“This morning, shortly after sunrise,” Olster answered.
“Your sister was here until well past morning meal,” Uland said to her sons. “What have you done?”
Throughout the night Zodic remained huddled close to his friend. He found himself talking to him as if they were in their nests side-by-side when young. He told him about how much he was going to miss him, how much he loved him and how sorry he was that his love for the Frostie had brought about this horrid event. He begged his friend to forgive him. He prayed he understood that a dragon could not see the way of his own heart or stop the way it drove him. At one point he rose and ranted and raved against the stars for having taken his friend from him. He paced and growled and roared at the injustice of it. He found the love of his life, but he had no way of knowing he would be asked to exchange his best friend for her. How could he live without Trenic’s companionship? He was like a brother.
And, what would his father say? It was all his fault, that was what his father would say. If Zodic had kept to his own kind, none of this would have happened. Trenic would still be alive.
When he thought his heart might break from being yanked from Trenic to Austere and back again, he lay back down beside his friend and wept until he had no more tears. He fell into an exhausted sleep.
That was how Trenic’s father and four other dragons found him the next morning.
Patel, Uland, Olster, Alster and Austere were investigating the area around the den. Olster called from the small stand of trees nearby where he had tracked a blood trail.
“It’s a recent kill,” Olster said. His head hung in shame. “He must have stashed it here for later retrieval.”
Alster nosed it. “It bled out from the throat. That’s where all the blood came from.”
“He was supposed to meet us back here. Trenic made the excuse to his father that Zodic didn’t come home because he was guarding a kill they couldn’t carry.” Austere sighed heavily at the misfortune that had fallen due to a silly misunderstanding. “He was covering for us while Zodic visited. Trenic made the kill to make their story more plausible.”
“What have we done?” Olster asked.
“Hopefully, not started another war,” Patel said and immediately began to bark orders. “Olster and Alster you are to return to the lair. You are confined there until further notice. Also, tell Bale and Talbow to post a double sentry and no one is to leave the lair until I return.” She shifted her wings in agitation. “Uland and Austere, come with me.”
“Where are we going?” Austere asked innocently.
“To the Furry clan’s lair,” Uland answered for her sister.
“I need to speak with Tallideer,” Patel said, as she spread her wings and sprang into the air.