The next morning, Sophia excused a her rudeness and scribbled notes throughout breakfast. Ideas on useful contacts, questions for the djinn, more notes on the personalities and cares of the women on the list and ideas of alternate identities and disguises.
She only lifted her head when Evan came barrelling in, uncharacteristically late, with news of a freshly arrived lost creature, this one from the Shadowedge Mountains north of Rimeth. Lost Island’s reach was expanding again.
They gathered in the stable yard, staying quiet and giving the frightened young ice dragon plenty of room.
Sophia was puzzled, “Is this a loss of belief, or a lost child?”
Evan shrugged, “Your guess is as good as mine at this stage. My first concern is whether the island is a suitable home. We don’t get nearly as cold as the northern mountains and I don’t know what ice dragons eat. We may not have the right food.”
While the others were conferring, Connor had carefully moved closer to the creature and was now casually sitting in the dirt, just out of arm’s reach. The dragon had calmed and was now weaving its head curiously in Connor’s direction, trying to pick up his scent, and possibly his intentions.
Sophia looked on worriedly. The dragon was about the size of a large dog, or small pony, she wasn’t sure which, as it had crouched as low as it could. It had teeth and claws to reckon with though. Connor had always had a gift with animals, so she bit her tongue and fretted silently.
Connor’s low, clam chatter and lack of aggressive moves finally allowed curiosity to win over fear. It carefully nudged forward, reaching out with its nose. Connor remained relaxed and still. Closer it crept until the two of them were eye to eye.
Connor’s eyebrows shot up, although he managed to suppress more extreme movements.
“His name is Acron and he’s lost. There was an out-of-season blizzard and it separated him from his parents.”
Sophia sighed, “We’re going to need to take him home aren’t we.”
“How are we going to travel quietly with a dragon in tow?”
Connor turned to Acron, who was looking at him expectantly. There was a shimmer, and in the dragon’s place stood a snow-white mountain wolf. Connor grinned in delight and carefully introduced the wolf to head and chin scratches. The wolf approved.
“He can’t keep this up for more than a day without needing to change back for a while, it gets too itchy. The change doesn’t need to be for terribly long though, I think it’s a few hours.”
Evan stepped in, “Now what about food?”
“He says meat is all that’s needed in either form. As a dragon, it’s better raw, so he can practice cooking it himself, as a wolf, however it comes suits him. Both forms need about the same amount, so whatever you’d normally feed a large, active dog.”
Evan grunted and hurried back into the kitchen, re emerging with a plate of the previous night’s stew.
“He can have this to begin with and I’ll check the food stores for more.”
The Overlord glanced at Sophia, “Something to add to your planning with the djinn. I believe they have some familiarity with portable food stores.”
Sophia grimaced, “I feel I’m asking too much of them already. I’ll put the whole quest to them and see what they say and if they have anything they’d like to suggest or contribute.”
The wolf tilted its head at Connor, who nodded, and the dragon reappeared.
“He doesn’t really need to be in his disguise until we leave, so it’s better for him to be comfortable.”
After slowly standing up, Connor introduced the dragon to each member of the group. As their eyes met, Sophia felt a brush on her mind, light as thistledown. It left an impression of curiosity undercut with sadness and longing. The feelings were so close to those she had felt on arrival, she nearly burst into tears.
“Would he mind if I hugged him?”
Connor looked a little surprised but, after a brief pause, said, “He’s not quite sure what a hug is but if its connected to the feelings rolling off you right now, he’d very much like to find out.”
Sophia gave a watery smile and threw her arms around the dragon’s white crystal neck. It tensed for a second, then relaxed and whuffled into her hair.
“He wants to know if you can take him home too.”
That brought a laugh, “Just try and stop me.”
The group returned to their interrupted breakfast, then retired to the study for yet more planning.