Eventually Sophia felt she had enough of a plan to discuss with the djinn, while still being flexible enough to cope with unexpected suggestions and ideas.
After a brief argument, Connor stayed at the cottage and slightly sulkily discussed woodsmanship with the Overlord. He brightened up as Acron started contributing to the conversation, providing information on the northern reaches of Weriban, Rimeth and even Leaf that neither man had ever heard before.
Soon enough, all three were in an intense, if slightly convoluted, conversation on camping sites, recognising clean water, edible plants and more. Since Connor was the only one Acron could (or perhaps would) communicate with, beyond simple impressions, he spent a great deal of time translating.
Meanwhile, Sophia set out on her own for the Djinn village. They were still nervous about humans after so many years of enslavement and her conversation was going to be a delicate one.
Heal greeted her at the main entrance to the gazebo and summer house complex and brought her to a central courtyard where a number of the djinn were seated, weaving tapestries from improbable threads. Sophia allowed herself to be distracted for a moment.
“Oh these are beautiful! Are they to hang as wind dampeners when the weather gets colder?”
The group smiled at her, baring rows of sharp, pointed teeth, yet still conveying warmth and affection (to her at least – this is why she didn’t bring Connor).
“These are for you Sophia. Cloaks of wool and sunlight to keep you and your knight protector warm in the mountains. A dress of smoke and mist so people have trouble remembering you. A sack of grain, rain and bones for food, and this will be two bags made of halves, always linked, so you can communicate with the Overlord.”
Sophia sat with a thump, “I don’t deserve this.”
Heal reached out and patted her hair, “These are our gifts. The first time we’ve ever made things of our own free will. Their creation has given us much joy.”
Sophia sniffed and blinked hard, “I think you might be the kindest, most generous group of friends I’ve ever had.”
Heal blushed, “You think of us as friends?”
“Of course, how could you be anything else? You trusted me with your fears and I loved being able to help just a little. And then talking with you and learning your stories and sharing all the new discoveries you’re making. I’m going to miss you so much.”
The last word wobbled and the djinn clustered around in bashfully pleased concern, promising to stay in touch.
Sophia paused, “Not through jewellery or anything like that though. I hated your stories of being trapped in rings and pendants.”
They assured her they would find other ways. Possibly just Evan’s ravens to start with, and then they could experiment.
The weaving and sewing still needed a little while to complete and, after sitting and sharing tiny cups of coffee and sweets, Sophia left them to it, promising to return the next day for an official presentation.
“And bring your other people. we would like to see them enjoy their gifts as well.”
She had mentioned the young ice dragon to the group as they wove. Being creations of fire and sand, they had found the prospect of such a creature fascinating and eagerly awaited a meeting at the following day’s event.
Sophia was debating whether to return to the cottage, or to see if the deity was receptive to visitors, when a clear, straight path through the forest opened in front of her.
Decision clearly made on her behalf, she set off down the path to the deity’s clearing.
The deity was pouring tea as Sophia knocked on the door to the hut/shrine. They beckoned her in and gestured to the second, gently steaming cup waiting for her.
“You will accept the gifts of the djinn?”
“With all the gratitude my heart can contain. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay them.”
“You repay them with your joy and appreciation. Do be sure, though, to lose the occasional letter to Evan and Imelda. I do not see may things beyond the bounds of the island and, while I do not miss the omniscience, we all want to hear your adventures.”
“I most certainly will, and will try my best to either get lost or find another way back to visit, so you can hear all the details over tea.”
The deity’s glow turned a warm sunrise pink with pleasure, “I believe Lost Island has been good for you. I also believe you have been good for the Island. You will be most happily welcomed back whenever you wish to visit.”
Sophia agreed wholeheartedly with the first, demurred but hoped the second was true and finished her tea in glad anticipation of the third.
Bidding the deity a fond farewell, she made her way back to the cottage. Halfway back, she met Connor and Acron.
“Showing Acron the sights?”
Connor shrugged, “And hoping we’d run into you. I know your friends would never let anything bad happen to you but I’d rather be with you and really know it.”
She looped her arm through his as they wandered towards the meadow, Acron ambling alongside, “I know, you’re my Knight Protector after all, and old habits are hard to break.”
She shared the news of the djinn’s gifts and presentation invitation over dinner. The others were delighted and intensely curious to see the creations borne of a djinn’s own free will.
Looking over at Acron, she added, “And they’re very eager to meet you too. Although they may be a little nervous as they’re fire elementals and you’re ice. They want to make sure they don’t affect you badly and vice versa.”
Connor translated through Acron’s wave of curiosity and eager friendliness.
“He’s sure it will be fine. His parents are very good friends with some fire dragons who live in the volcanic mountains somewhere I’m not sure of and there’s no opposition of powers or influence. He says they sound very fun and interesting.”
Sophia smiled at the young dragon, “You’re going to have some amazing stories to tell your family and friends when you get home.”
Connor blinked at the next response, “Oh, that’s unexpected. Acron can change into the wolf as he’s met and spent time with so many. He hopes that by the time he’s home again, he will have interacted with enough humans to be able to take on that form and really surprise his parents.”
Evan looked intrigued, “It can’t be done after only meeting one? Is there a specific number?”
Connor frowned in concentration as he tried to untangle the explanation, “I think it’s about knowing enough different people, to be able to understand which features and elements of their nature are specific to the individual and which are just plain human. Then he knows what to change and what to keep as him. If he does it wrong, he could lose part of himself, so the more examples the better, although there’s a certain click that happens when his magic tips into the ability to change.”
Sophia smiled at the wizard, “We promise to take copious notes and lose them at every available opportunity.”
Evan rubbed his hands together and grinned back, “Good, good. The best way tends to be for the wind to take them. Other ways have a bad habit of rendering large parts of any text illegible.”
“How do you not end up drowning in paper?”
“Not everything that’s lost ends up here. Some things have to stay in order to be found again. I’m still not sure of the rules or the limits, maybe the Island has it’s own concept of capacity and volume control. I do know that anything either of you two write though, will land on my desk, same as for the Overlord. You’ve been marked and approved by the Island somehow and it will make sure we keep in touch.”
The evening was spent collating the reference information into more travel-friendly forms and writing to Sophia’s parents to advise them of her visit.