Patel, Uland and Austere took up highly visible positions atop the peaks across the snow covered valley from the Furry Clan’s lair. Patel did not want to arrive unannounced or have their arrival be a surprise in any way. As they approached she let out several ‘arrival’ roars. These were calls used during the war to inform your fellow dragons that you were one of them and not the enemy.
They did not have long to wait before Tallideer emerged onto the landing platform in front of the lair. He stood for a moment and then raised a wing in greeting. Patel led the other two dragons in.
There was plenty of room for all three of the Frosties to land. The Furries were much larger dragons when grown so the platform entry to their lair was huge in comparison to the Frosties entry. Patel noticed right away how ruling the clan had aged Tallideer. The black coat she remembered with such fondness had grey sprinkled throughout it. His muzzle and around his eyes were almost white, but his copper colored eyes still shown bright with intelligence as he stepped forward and lowered his head to her. She raised hers to him and they greeted each other with a gentle head bump. When she couldn’t help herself and stepped in to him further, the bump became a mutual neck caress before she backed away self-consciously remembering her place.
“We are brought together again during difficult times,” Tallideer said in his deep baritone. His eyes reflected the sadness of missed opportunities and the regret of the situation at hand.
“Indeed,” Patel said. She stepped back and swept a wing toward Uland and Austere. “You remember my sister Uland.”
Tallideer bowed his head. “You have grown,” he observed.
Uland extended a paw and bowed. “It has been many years.”
“And this is her daughter, Austere.” Patel introduced the youngling.
Austere bowed in respect as her mother had. “May I see Zodic?” She blurted out. She hadn’t meant to be so forward, but she had to see him, make sure their relationship had not crumbled due to this horrible mistake. Their last parting was not as she would have wished it.
“He is with his friend. He will not leave his side. Perhaps you can get him to eat a little something and rest,” Tallideer said. Zodic and his relationship with the Frostie had come out with his explanation of what had happened to Trenic. Tallideer could not judge his son on this score having once been in love with a Frostie himself. “Errod, could you please show Austere to Zodic?” he asked. A large golden stripped dragon stepped forward, one of two guards stationed at the entrance to the lair. “Go with him. We will talk later.”
Austere looked to her mother and aunt for permission. They both nodded their approval, so she hurried off to comfort Zodic.
Tallideer’s eyes came back from following Austere as she rushed to her love’s side. So many memories were flooding him at this moment he thought he might drown. When he returned his gaze to Patel, he knew she was remembering and feeling the same emotions. There were tears forming in her eyes.
“Perhaps we could find a quiet place to talk,” she suggested and involuntarily it was followed with a ragged intake of breath.
“Of course,” Tallideer pulled his gaze from her crystal blue eyes and waved with a wing. “This way please.”
Patel noticed with a painful flutter in her heart that Tallideer limped badly on his old battle injured leg. He had been injured before her. She did all she could, they all did what they could, to repair the badly torn limb, but no amount of gentle magic could heal it to what it was. She told herself they both bore their scars from the wars, hers were just a little more visible. Following him she realized she still admired how stately he was. He was always in control, always the one to turn to during a crisis. They would be able to work this out. She had done the right thing coming here to talk and keep the peace between their clans intact. There was no reason for more to die. Each clan had lost someone precious. Tallideer would see the wisdom in that much of her proposal. It was Austere and Zodic she was concerned most about. The dead were gone. Her reason for this trip was to help the living.
“Drador, this is Austere. Austere, this is Trenic’s father,” Errod introduced her to the large grey stripped dragon standing watch outside the chamber entrance. The golden dragon bowed and headed back to his post.
“I am so sorry,” Austere apologized. “My brother’s feared for my life.”
“And they jumped to conclusions with no foundation,” Drador spit back. His heart was broken. His son was dead. He had no pity for the Frostie.
“I lost a brother too,” Austere countered, and reached out with a paw to comfort the older dragon.
He turned his head away and shunned her touch. “Go,” he said and it sounded so much like Zodic’s last order to her, she shivered.
Would they be able to mend this rift that was tearing the clans apart? She had to try. She had to start now before it could fester further. She moved around in front of Drador so she could look at him and him at her, when he looked up into her eyes she began to explain.
“We went to see what happened. Trenic had killed a stag. It was part of the plan to cover his story that Zodic stayed with a kill. He buried it in the snow by my den…where we were supposed to meet. It would have been frozen and you would have taken it for an old kill.” She paused for a moment and hung her head. “The stag bled all over the field in front of my hunting den.” She raised her eyes to Drador’s. “My brother’s came to check on me after the storm. They didn’t know I had gone to the lair. They did not see the stag. They only saw an unknown Furry and a lot of blood.” She reached out a paw and this time Drador did not shy away. “I am so sorry.”
A tear fell from Drador’s muzzle onto Austere’s outstretched paw.
“I loved him even though I had only known him for a short time. He was a fine dragon and Zodic’s best friend. I would do anything if I could take what happened back, for Trenic and my brother’s sake.”
She only hesitated for a moment. When an auditory sob escaped Drador’s lips, she pulled him into an embrace. They both stood for a moment wrapped in each other’s paws and wings as they cried together. Drador was the first to pull away.
“You should go into Zodic,” he said in a voice made gravelly from his crying. “He needs you.”
Austere patted the older dragon’s shoulder and slipped by him into the chamber where Zodic sat vigil over his friend’s body.
“If the clans knew each other better they would not have jumped to such a conclusion so quickly,” Patel stressed. “You have to realize there are two generations of my clan that have never met a Furry. They have only heard stories from their elders. They know of the Dragonic Wars. They know in theory that dragon can turn against dragon.”
Tallideer rubbed his face with a paw. Had he done this? Was it his fault that his son’s best friend was killed just because the clans did not know and trust one another? That was what Patel had been saying in different ways since the conversation began. He stood up and started to pace.
Patel looked down and smiled shyly at the floor where no one would see. She was getting through to Tallideer. Old habits died hard and his pacing, in the past, always meant he was coming around to her way of thinking.
“We have already lost two of our younglings. Let us not sacrifice more to this tragic, misguided event.” Patel added.
Tallideer turned back toward his former lover. His mind was clear on the subject of Trenic’s death. The dying must stop. Nothing would be gained by any further fighting, but his mind and heart were a muddle when he thought about the damage he had done keeping his clan isolated and ignorant of their Frostie neighbors. His own feelings were a quagmire he could easily become overwhelmed with where it came to Patel. He saw past her scars to the dragoness he once loved. Who was he kidding? He had always loved her. Still loved her!
“Of course, you are right,” Tallideer admitted. “Uland?” He turned to his other guest. “Might I speak with Patel privately? Callan?” he called.
A faun colored youngling with chocolate paws and ears entered the chamber. “Could you take Uland to get some refreshments while I speak with Patel?”
Callan extended a paw and bowed.
“We will join you in a few minutes,” Tallideer assured Uland.
Uland rose from her pallet of furs with a secretive smile. It would be more than a few minutes if her vision had been correct.
Austere lie curled around Zodic on his sleeping platform in his chambers. She was unable to get him to eat anything, but he had agreed to show her his chambers and from there, she had coaxed him onto the platform and cuddled and stroked him until he relaxed enough to fall to sleep. It seemed like he had cried himself out. There were no more tears, no more words. The wound was deep and raw, but he would recover. It would just take time and a lot of love and understanding. Austere felt she had all three provided Patel could come to an agreement with Tallideer.