Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Gathering of Dragons - Chapter Thirteen

Snow swooped in and grabbed a lightning bolt in his talons before it had a chance to strike Farloft. He tossed it aside and went back to gathering up the clouds overhead and folding them together to push them away like blankets into a closet.

It had been fun when the storm first overtook them as they were crossing the Ateaa Sea. It was warm then, but it had stopped being a game about an hour ago when the rain turned to sleet in the higher elevations of the storm, and the sea became so rough the pair could not lower themselves out of the colder air mass. Both Snow and Farloft were becoming weighted down by the accumulation of ice on their wings, and the only place to fall was into the water below.

Snow flew up beside his friend. “How much further to the island?”

“Not far now,” Farloft replied encouragingly, but he was losing altitude as they spoke. He tried to shake his wings in mid-air to free them of some of the ice.

“Watch it there, Big Guy,” Snow cautioned, when Farloft dangerously dropped a few hundred feet. They were getting low enough to feel the spray from the waves below. “Remember, I am not related to any form of waterfowl or sea birds. I do not float.”

Farloft grinned in spite of the dire situation they were in. “The island has to be coming up here soon, unless it sunk.”

“Sunk?” Snow squawked over the crash of lightning behind them.

Farloft chuckled as he saw the island ahead. “Just joking, there it is, and not a minute too soon.”

They both made rough landings on the beach of the island. Farloft created a furrow in the wet sand as he slid to a stop.

“Not the most graceful landing I have ever made,” he commented with a ruffle of his wings to free them of ice.

They made their way off the beach and up into the trees. The wind still whistled and lightning flashed, but it was warmer at this level and there was a bit of shelter from the foliage overhead.

Snow immediately started to preen. He ran each wing feather through his beak, ridding it of the ice and accumulated moisture from the storm. Farloft’s ice slid off his scaly body as he dug a large shallow pit in the sand beneath the trees and filled it with branches. The furs Snow was carrying, which they had been using all through the cold of their northern expedition and the east, were soaked. By the time the rain began to subside, and the storm moved on, Farloft had a nice nest made for the two of them. They both curled up like puppies in a basket and slept the rest of the night away.

Farloft pulled a large yellow and red fruit from one of the overhanging branches the next morning. He sliced it in half with a claw and handed Snow his part. The bird lowered his beak and took a bite of the rose-colored meat within the rind.

“That’s good.” Snow’s tongue slurped up the juices in the hollow of the fruit.

“There are some advantages to living on an island.” Farloft popped the half fruit into his mouth and crunched down. “I haven’t had any Sweet Melon in centuries.”

“So Lemira lives around here?” Snow asked between bites.

“She does and usually lingers in that lagoon,” Farloft pointed with a wing at the still blue water beyond the beach they landed on the night before. He pulled another melon from the vine crawling up the tree’s trunk and spreading out on the branches. The fruit hung like yellow/red decorations on a Winterfest tree.

“I will try calling her after we finish our breakfast.” Farloft sliced another melon in half and handed it to Snow. “Eat up.”

By now, Snow had sunk his beak so deeply into the melon that pieces hung from its tip. He reached up and swiped it clean with a claw. “So, what is the plan, Big Green? What can Lemira bring to the battle?”

“It is more what she can take to the battle,” Farloft corrected. “If she stays, it will just be a bonus.”

Snow cocked his head to one side and fixed the dragon with a questioning one-eyed stare. “Stop talking in riddles, Loose Tongue. You are usually so much more forthcoming.”

Seeing that Snow was still working on the first half of his sweet melon, Farloft picked another and lobbed it into his mouth. He crushed it and the delightfully sweet juice slid down his throat before he chewed twice and swallowed.

“The medallion and book you carry, which Naza gave us, needs to reach Theresa’s hands sooner, rather than later.” He picked another fruit and ate it as quickly as the last. “She needs time to read the book and master the incantations.” He reached up and pluck yet another fruit from the tree and popped it into his mouth. “I have an idea of what can be done with the medallion, and I do not want to see it put into inexperienced hands again. I intend to ask Lemira if she will transport it back to Kerth for us.” He hardly gave any thought this time as he reached up and pulled another fruit from its vine. “A water dragon could make the journey in less than a week. Then if she chooses to stay, she could help with any water traffic that the enemy might send down the Great Divide to join forces with the ground troops. I have seen water dragons stave in ships and sink them.”

Snow tossed the empty rind of his melon to one side and picked up the other half Farloft set before him earlier. “How do you intend to get the book and note to your Healer without damaging it?”

“Come with me.” Farloft grabbed the melon from the bird’s claw and tossed it to one side.

Snow squawked, and his feathers ruffled. He was enjoying breakfast. After fighting that storm for hours yesterday, he was starved.

“There will be time to eat more after we finish this,” Farloft replied to his cry of indignation. “Follow me.”

Farloft stood on the beach as the waves rolled in over his paws. “It’s like catching midgins. You listen for them tunneling, then reach down and grab one,” he said. As the water receded, he thrust his paw down into the sand. He came up with a huge clam. “Now this is the fun part.” He pried open the shell with his claws and popped the fresh seafood into his mouth. “They are delicious, and I will let you have time to catch your fill, but first for what we have to do.”

Farloft brought the clamshell to Snow. “Let me have the medallion, book and note.”

Snow fished in his pack and brought out the items. Farloft stuck them in the shell and closed it tight. Then he proceeded to bury it in the sand.

Snow’s topknot feathers, raised in question. “I don’t see how it will get from there to your Healer. If you are sending a message in a bottle, you need to throw it in the ocean, Dinosaur-brain.

“I’m not finished yet,” Farloft cautioned. “I would stand to one side if I were you.”

Snow stepped back.

“A little further would be better. I wouldn’t want to singe your feathers.”

Snow retreated furthers. “What are you up to, Fire-breather?”

“Wait, you will see.” Farloft took in a deep breath.

He hoped he had eaten enough to produce the gases for his dragon fire. He expelled the gas, clicked his teeth together and fire shot out of his mouth. It was as if a lightning bolt had hit the sand, it turned to glass over the buried shell.

Snow’s head shifted from side to side, as if he thought one eye could see the result better than the other. Farloft dug up the shell, now encased in glass. He breathed gently on the package while rubbing his paws over it. The last of the sand fell away and the shell remained covered in a protective coating of glass.

“Slick,” Snow commented in appreciation of the trick. “I don’t know that much about water dragons. How will she carry it?”

“Water dragon’s shelter their young in pouches under their wings during dangerous encounters with other water beasts. She can tuck it in one of the two she has,” Farloft explained.

“Sounds like you have it all worked out,” Snow chirped. “If you are finished with your magic tricks, may I indulge in some shells for breakfast?”

“They are called clams, and yes you may. I will call Lemira.”

Farloft set the glass ball down on the beach far above the waterline before he waded into the lagoon up to his shoulders. He filled his lungs full of air and then lowered his head until his muzzle was beneath the water. He let out a long deep booming hum.

Snow saw the bubbles rising from Farloft’s nose under the water and puzzled over the action as he ate his first clam. They were delicious. He could live here for a bit with the melons and clams to fill his empty stomach.

“What you doin’, Bubble-blower,” he teased, as he caught another clam.

Farloft raised his head. “Calling Lemira. Deep sounds travel faster and further under water.” He took in another huge breath and lowered his head to hum underwater a second time.

Once he was finished, he waded back up onto the beach. “We’ll give her some time to respond.” He reached out and snatched the clam Snow had just opened and popped it in his mouth.

“Hey!” Snow objected.

“Just remember who’s doing all the work this morning, and teaching you how to survive on an island,” Farloft said with a teasing grin as the waves washed around his paws.

Snow’s feathers rose up around his neck. “And who kept you safe yesterday through the storm?”

Farloft reached down, pawed in the sand and came up with a clam. “You did, my Feathered Friend.” He handed the clam to Snow with a grin.

Concealed Medallion - Elizabeth Babicz

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