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Chapter two
Filia Settles In

     The moving process had not been as easy as Filia had thought it would be, as Val had decided to learn how to walk on the way to the aerie.  How a toddler could get into so much trouble she didn’t know. There was one frantic night that she had woken to find Val completely missing; after waking up Jiras, they had searched all over the camp only to find Val curled up in the horses hay.  Neither of them had figured out how Val had gotten to the top of that tree and entangled himself in the branches.  She had never, even in the travels with Lina and the rest, felt so tired.  She was sure her hair was a matted mess; Val had used her hairbrush to clean the middens at the inn.  Filia shuddered, that brush had gone into the trash.   The thought of the task Elder Milgazia had set for her made her nervous as well.

     “Do you want me to set the little fellow down?” Jiras asked as they entered the village.  “He shouldn’t be able to get into much trouble here.” Filia nodded in agreement as Val was currently in dragon form he was heavy for Jiras.  

     “I see you’ve made it here.” Filia turned to see Milgazia arriving behind her.

     Filia smiled. “Yes, thank you for inviting us, Elder.  I must say, though, I’m glad to be here; Val has been a handful.”

     Milgazia returned her smile and knelt down to look Val in the eye, “And how are you, young fellow?”  He froze as he spotted the toy clutched in Val’s hand.  “Do you think that... that thing is really appropriate?” he asked as he looked at the Xellos plushie clenched in Val’s hand.

     “Xellos gave Val that doll just before he left with Lina.  He said that it was to thank me for being so kind as to give Lina my spare mace.  Now Val won’t part with the thing, he cries if he can’t see it, he won’t sleep without it.  After four straight days of no sleep and constant crying, I gave up.”  She glared at Milgazia, daring him to make a comment before continuing. “Of course, if you want to take care of him while he’s weaned of it, be my guest; just remember, he was still going strong after day four.”

     Remembering his younger brother’s famous tantrums, Milgazia backed off.  “You’re his mother, Filia, I’m sure whatever you decide is fine.”

     “Hi, Filia, do you want me to take this little cutey for a walk?” Memphis asked as she tickled Val between his wings.

     Filia gave Memphis a grateful look. “I’d really appreciate it if you would; I think he’s really burned us out.  Be careful, he tends to wander off if you don’t keep a close eye on him.”

     “Don’t worry. How hard can it be?” Memphis laughed as she ran off with Val.

     Filia looked at Jiras who started laughing. “She has no clue, does she?” Filia directed at Milgazia.

     “Don’t worry, she will shortly see the error in her thinking,” Milgazia remarked, watching Memphis play with Val.  “Though truly, they are both children.  Come, I’ll lead you to the nest that has been prepared for you and your family.”

      Filia and Jiras nodded. Jiras grabbed the leads for the oxen, coaxing them to move again.  He was sure that the oxen were as tired from the journey as he was. Sending off a quick hope that Filia’s vases had survived the trip, Jiras whispered to the large beasts, promising them hay if they’d just move a little farther without a battle; as they grunted into movement, Jiras sighed in relief.

     “Yo, Mil! I gotta talk to ya right now.” Filia noticed a grim expression settle onto Milgazia’s face as he turned towards the person striding towards them.  Filia’s brows came together as she noticed it was a dragon in human form, a very attractive male dragon.  Filia raised her hand to her hair before dropping it in despair.  There was no way she could look presentable.

     “Radinov, I’m currently busy with Filia here.  We can talk after I’ve walked her to her new home,” Milgazia answered in a strained voice.

     “Come on, Mil, the girl can wait. It’s not as if females have anything important to do.  I wanted to discuss the open forum tomorrow night,” Radinov continued, completely ignoring Filia, and not noticing that her expression had changed to one which Xellos knew well. “That outlander dragon should be arriving soon right; I’ll have to ask him a few questions.  I got some beer from my last trip so I can really make him feel at home.”

     “Excuse me, Mr. Radinov, but I am the outlander dragon you are talking about. I’ve been traveling for months now and I am tired and out of sorts.  I just want to settle in to my new home. I do not want to go through some male bonding ritual because, if you hadn’t noticed, I am not male and to be quite honest, a rude individual such as yourself is not the sort that I would like to share a beer with.”  Fingers twitching in an effort to keep herself from going for her mace, Filia turned to Milgazia. “Would you show me to my new nest now please, Elder?”

     “Listen, Missy, I wasn’t done with Mil yet. I realize you girls are fragile, so I’ll make it quick,” Rad answered.

     Jiras, recognizing the smoke coming from Filia’s ears, took cover under the wagon. Milgazia just watched in bemusement as Filia grabbed her mace and applied it to the area that was bothering her the most, Rad’s mouth.

     “I’m sorry for that display of temper, Elder; may we depart now?” Filia asked in a forced tone of voice. Milgazia nodded and they continued on their way.

     “That was my younger brother, Radinov.” Noticing Filia’s alarmed expression Milgazia continued, “He tends to have problems with his manners. I did not teach him well, but then, this is not the first time he has elicited a violent reaction.  One would think that by now he would have learned to at least duck.  I have a feeling that council meetings are about to become very interesting.”

     “Do you mean that he is part of the council?” Filia asked in amazement.

     “He is the leader of the coalition of young dragons.” Mil sighed and continued,  “He has spent a lot of time with humans and is very popular with the other young males.  In his defense, he was looking forward to talking to another dragon about the human lands and wanted everything to be perfect.  Actually, I don’t think that he’s realized that you are the one he was waiting for yet.  He has a very bad habit of ignoring people when they talk.”

     “I never noticed,” Filia answered in a dry voice as Milgazia stopped at an opening within the mountain’s side.

     “I assigned you one of the lower aeries as you have Val.  The other two families are located at this level as well.  Much safer for young ones who can’t fly yet.  In a few decades you can move to a higher spot.”

     Filia smiled at Milgazia. “Actually, since Jiras can’t fly, this would be perfect.  But Val is taking short flights right now and improving everyday. Isn’t that normal?”

     Startled, Milgazia answered, “Now that I think of it, I really don’t know the norms for ancient dragons but golden dragons don’t fly until they’re at least 20 or 30, shape changing abilities come shortly after that.”

     Filia blinked. “Umm, Val has been shape changing for a while now, he can’t control it at all so we don’t....”

     “Filia, help! Uncle Milgazia, someone!” Memphis’ voice was heard from a distance.  

     Filia and Milgazia ran towards Memphis’ voice to find her standing under a tree, with her arms outstretched and a frightened look on her face.  “I don’t know what happened; he took off flying and now he’s in the tree and won’t fly down no matter what I say.  I can’t see him so I’m afraid he’s hurt.”

     “Don’t worry, Memphis.  This has happened before.  This is why I don’t let him fly by himself anymore.”

     Milgazia nodded in sudden understanding.  “I’ll go up and get him then.”  Milgazia spread his wings, flew to the top of the tree bringing down a small human looking child, which he passed to Filia.  Turning to Memphis, he explained, “Val can change but has no control over it, so mid air transformations are a possibility.”

     Memphis blinked slowly. “But the others...”

     “The others are not ancient dragons,” Milgazia finished with a smile.  “I think Filia needs to meet Nana as soon as she is settled in.”

     Memphis jumped up and down happily. “Yeah Nana.  Can I show Filia how to get there?  I haven’t seen Nana for a while.”

     “Yes, you may, but later Memphy.”  Milgazia gave Memphis an indulgent smile. Let’s give poor Filia a chance to settle in.”

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