It started with a mouse. Not just any mouse, but Elden’s favourite mouse, Godfrey. Little thing had lived in his hat for nearly a century, and then, poof, gone.
He searched everywhere for that bloody mouse.
Searching his workshop, now in a mess, he scratched his head just as Little Socks, the cat, jumped onto his big table.
“You didn’t eat him, did you?”
The cat purred and licked his whiskers. Elden squinted at the farmhouse across the backfield with suspicion from his grimy window.
He shoved on his hat and tramped over, grumbling.
He banged the sorcerer’s door.
It opened and Calfern folded her arms with a grin. Godfrey popped out of her hair.
“I knew it.”
“I can’t help it if you can’t take care of your own.”
“Can’t take…” He sputtered in rage. “Why you meddling-”
“Look, Godfrey has decamped to me. Don’t be bitter and jealous, it doesn’t suit you.”
“Godfrey, come on.” He pointed to his worn and tatty hat.
Godfrey scurried back into her hair. It stung more than he expected.
That night, Elden crept back over and at the chicken coop, muttered a few words, and the chickens went quiet. The large bright red birds were well known for their magical eggs, and he’d coveted this pair for some time. He picked one up under each arm but woke the giant goose he’d missed.
It hissed, showing its teeth, and flapped and chased him in the dark around the yard.
He heard laughter and there Calfern stood in her dressing gown, doubled over in laughter just as the goose bit his backside.
“You silly old fool, put my chickens down.”
“Never.” He vanished before her with the chickens back to his own farm.
He set them in the barn for the night with his three horned-goat and went to bed.
When he checked them in the morning, he found not only the chickens were gone, but Syral the goat too.
“Blast that foul old witch.” That he was more than two centuries her senior was irrelevant.
Calfern had decided to plague him until death but no more.
He scowled his wily brows and went to his workshop.
Muttering words over his black glass stone, mist swirled in the gloss.
There she was, the vicious wretch. His goat munched grass behind her as she brushed her unicorn down.
He narrowed his eyes and planned.
In the light of a full moon, he peered at the stars; all was perfect and with smug confidence, gathered his supplies. Moving a unicorn would take work.
The goat bleated, and her cat was curled up next to it. Well, might as well.
“Yes, yes.” He swirled his arms, heavy robes rippling in the breeze with his magic stone in front of him, and drank the potion he’d made, casting magic on his tongue.
The incantation danced away on the wind as mist surrounded him.
“Elden, is that you meddling? I can smell your vapour from here! It stinks.” A soft lyrical voice countered his power, but she was too late.
He evaporated into the ether, followed by the cat, goat, chickens, and unicorn.
They appeared in his yard, a little fractious, and he gripped his stone to his chest.
“That’ll serve her right.”
He settled the animals in for the night and went to bed with a smirk.
Elden brushed down the mare, sharp horn sparkling in the sun the next morning. It’d been a long time since he’d seen such a fine creature and wondered how Calfern came by it. The fine beast stamped her hoof and let a trumpet of a noise out so lyrical and bright, it soothed his heart. The clearest of sounds.
He smiled and patted her neck, white mane fluttering on the breeze.
The mare followed him to the workshop and sticking her head inside, huffed and then cantered around the meadow.
He watched as the goat joined her, and Little Socks and Calder’s cat watched.
It was quite the menagerie. He missed Godfrey though.
He got to work, making potions and amulets, when he heard from a dark corner of the room, a tapping.
Excited, he crept over. “See Godfrey, I told you.”
There was no reply, and he took off his hat.
Swaddled in a wicker basket was a large blue egg of a rare jewelled dragon. No plain land dragon for him. He hadn’t had the joy of such a creature for fifty years. He released his last when it was of age to breed, and there’s nothing crueller than keeping such a beast in captivity when it wants to leave.
One never tames a dragon, it chooses to stay with you. Like a cat. Or any other familiar.
Beside the basket was another stone, warmth radiated from it, nurturing the egg, and finally the shell cracked, and out from it, pushed the midnight blue of a baby dragon with huge yellow eyes and soft scales. A sky dragon, how beautiful.
“Welcome little one.”
It grouched and squirmed, but made its way out. Dragons had no gender, they were as they needed or chose to be, and naming such a creature was important.
The dragon stretched, showing their pale blue underside.
The dragon blinked and licked its eye.
Elden collected the shell and set it aside to grind it later.
He fetched sticky honey and fruit and fed the little thing.
Poor creature. He’d found the egg abandoned and fading in its nest, and didn’t know of its parents. He feared some calamity.
The little thing jumped onto his shoulder, stretching its wings, iridescence catching the light, and curled around his neck.
“Well. There we go.”
A noise caught his attention and he found Calder in his meadow.
“Oi!” He hurried out to her.
“You stole my unicorn. Oh my word, is that a dragon?”
“Hands off, you vicious thief.”
Calfern softened. “Elden, my old friend must we bicker?”
“No, but you stole Godfrey.”
“Trade you?” She blew him a kiss, and with the other hand on the mare, they vanished.
In the powdery scent she left, the goat bleated.
He sighed, remembering the old days when he was a young wizard and she was a bright girl in training in the city. The games and tricks she played, and how they laughed.
Shaking his head, he turned back, and the dragon climbed over his head, making him chuckle.
Azure curled up at the window, little tongue poking out, one eye on the view. Rain beat the glass, and Eldren watched it. Poor thing was unhappy. He frowned.
Two days of quiet and hostilities seemed to have halted. Calfern was better with magical familiars, and he wanted to ask her what to do but couldn’t.
He tinkered with an amulet for the magic fair in a month.
Eldren scratched his head, looking for Godfrey and remembered the treacherous creature had left him. He grumbled and warped the precious magic in his hands.
“Blast it to the underworld.” The thing evaporated in a puff of acrid smoke.
Azure lifted its head and bleeped.
The little thing sighed. Sky dragons loved cloud if he wasn’t mistaken. With an impish grin, he picked Azure up, and it curled over his head. Outside, cold rain battered them, and Azure lifted its head, licking the rain. It stretched its wings.
“There! Taken you long enough.”
He narrowed his eyes at Calfern. “What are you about, appearing out the rain like the thief you are?”
Before she could answer, a shriek came from the sky and a massive dragon landed behind her, and the ground shook. Through the mist, it thudded forward, and Azure bleeped in excitement.
“Eldren, you are not the only dragon keeper.”
The sorcerers stared each other out until the great sky dragon, glittering blue, screeched, forcing Eldren back a step, and Azure cowered.
It came so close, Eldren felt its breath, it tasted the air and lowered its head.
Eldren sighed; this was right. Azure should be with its own kind. “Go on, little one.”
Azure nuzzled his hat, knocking it at an angle and jumped onto the bigger dragon’s head.
It took flight with a roar.
“Why? Why do you plague and tharwt me? Steal my familiars? What did I do Calfern that was so bad?” He shook his head and turned away.
“You really are a silly codger.”
“What?” He whipped back, setting his hat straight, ready to turn her into a cat.
She walked over, rain soaking her, and Godfrey poked out of her hair. He lifted his hat and Godfrey hopped over to the warm, dry space.
Calfern smiled, eyes always in play. “You’re far too dull, too set. You needed some excitement. We were friends for a long time.”
He scowled as she took his arm and squeezed close. The two sorcerers stared at each other.
“I’m tired of being alone, and I’ve been subtle long enough. Godfrey was kind enough to help me.”
Eldren opened his mouth but was stalled by a screech from above. The Great dragon landed, and Azure hopped down and climbed up Eldren’s robes. It licked his face and sniffed Godfrey when he poked out the hat.
Azure flapped and rose into the sky for the first time. It was beautiful to see. Flying up, the great dragon watched, turned, lowered its head to the wizards and followed Azure.
Eldren watched them disappear into the cloud and rain. Their pale blue camouflaged in the sky. Pride and emotion closed his throat, and he pushed it back.
Calfern patted his arm. “Come on, I’ll make some tea.”
Eldren followed, bemused but not unhappy at the turn of events. Godfrey was home, and Azure would visit. He hummed a little tune, and the rain stopped.
Calfren laughed and kissed his cheek.