“Let’s go, come on!” Sian swept her arm upwards in a wide gesture, as if that very act would lend speed to the tardy child she now faced. Oriel glanced up, her expression dour and inward. She almost didn’t seem to see her adoptive mother, or much else around her. Nonetheless, she quickened her pace, glancing quickly up and down the dusty street as she crossed it, the tattered hem of her heavy skirt kicking up minuscule clouds of dust as she passed.
“Let’s not dawdle; time is short,” Sian called back to her, and then turned back towards the unkempt hedgerow that lined the road here. Well ahead of her she could see two more of her adopted children already moving through a gap in the dense hedge.
“Don’t get too far ahead of us, Finn! Kerith, stay with Finn!” She sighed as neither one seemed to slow in the slightest. In a moment both were through the gap and out of sight. A glance back behind showed Oriel had again slowed to a pensive shuffle. Sian put her hand on the shoulder of her fourth child and started forward again. “Come on, Briam. The day won’t stop for us.”
Winter was far behind now, and the sun was no friend on this day. As was her custom at this season, Sian had gathered her borrowed brood together for the summer’s first berry picking. With Aren off working at the Golden Lion she was left with four young souls to mind, but there were many days when she did not notice any decrease in the level of random energy in the house. A trip to the berry patches would be a good chance for the kids to get away from the dusty streets of Dargon and into the countryside. She had roused them early, but finding enough baskets to carry the berries in and enough heavy clothes to protect each child from the berry bushes’ thorns had consumed more of the morning than she had wanted to spend. Now the sun was high and hot, and Sian could already feel the sweat forming at her collar. The rest of the morning would pass slowly. Sian and Briam walked down the shallow slope off the road and down to the hedge. Sian could now see through the trees into the meadow beyond. Finn and Kerith were racing, and had almost reached the other side of the meadow.
“Finn!” Sian hollered. “Come back here! Kerith! Come back here! Wait for the rest of us!”
“I’ll take those,” Briam offered from the other side of the fence, his hand extended. Sian handed him the baskets she was carrying and silently willed some of his preternatural courtesy into the other three. She clambered up and through the gap, taking care not to snag anything on the dead branches that jutted out from the thicket. On the other side she took the baskets back from Briam and looked back up to the road. Oriel had barely made it to the middle.
“Come on, Oriel! We can’t wait for you!” Sian noted the girl’s somber look with a touch of concern. Oriel was coping well with her mother’s death, but that did not mean her grief had passed. Sian could still see it showing through her smiles and laughter occasionally. Most of the time Oriel was functioning well in the family, but when she didn’t it could bring the whole family to a standstill. Sian turned and followed Briam up out of the hedgerow. Finn and Kerith were racing back to her, their oversized and tattered overclothes flapping as they ran. Sian was glad she had not torn the shirts up for rags, as they would protect the children well from the berry plants’ defenses. As Kerith ran up behind Finn, however, Sian could see the sweat on the girl’s forehead. The extra layers of cloth would also trap the day’s heat. Well, so what if the children were a bit too warm? Perhaps the walk back would be a bit more organized.
“Don’t get too far ahead, Finn. You know that Kerith will follow you, and I don’t want her to get lost.”
“Yeah, Kerith, don’t get lost!” Finn rustled the girl’s hair and sprang away from her retaliatory slap.
“I won’t get lost, Sian,” she protested, staring angrily at Finn. She started to chase after him and then stopped dead in her tracks with a gasp. “Look!”
All eyes followed her outstretched arm, and each gasped in wonder as a deer sprang up from the brush under the shadow of the trees and raced across the far side of the field. With a yell Finn took after the deer, his own bounds seeming to match hers in speed and length. Kerith raced after them both.
“No! Finn! Stop! Kerith!” But Finn was already closing on the far side of the meadow. Kerith did stop though, and returned. She met Sian just as Oriel arrived.
“Now I have three with me, and one away,” Sian said to herself. But as she looked about for Briam, she saw that he was now gone. “Briam?”
“Shhhhh!” Briam had walked over to the side of the meadow where the doe had sheltered. He was now standing still, staring intently at the ground ahead of him and waving for them to come. Kerith started to tiptoe toward him. Sian looked for Finn, but he had vanished from sight. Suddenly, Kerith let out a delighted squeal.
“Quiet, Kerith! You’ll scare it!” Briam whispered loudly.
Oriel turned to looked at the pair and Sian moved towards where the two younger children were standing. It only took a few steps for her to see the object of their intent interest.
“Ooooh! Look! A fawn!” Oriel had followed her over and was now staring at the baby deer, enraptured.
Kerith took a careful step closer to the immobile animal, then stooped down and reached her hand out toward it.
“No! Don’t touch it!” Briam said, and grabbed the girl by the back of the shirt.
“Why not?” Kerith’s expression was cross.
“If you touch it the mother won’t take it back,” Oriel explained. Sian considered for a moment if that was true. She thought she had heard that once before, but was that just a child’s myth or was it true?
“I couldn’t catch it,” a voice behind Sian said, making her jump. It was Finn, striding toward her, panting. “It was just too fast. Oooh, a fawn!”
“Straight,” Sian replied, grateful for the break. All the children were again assembled. “We need to leave the little deer alone so its mother will come back to it. And we need to be moving on! Finn, stay with the rest of us. Oriel, keep up. Let’s get going!”
With a few half-hearted moans the rag-tag group began again to thread their way towards the berry patches. They reached the far side of the meadow and pressed through the undergrowth at the edge of the forest. Once past the thicket of brush, they quickly found a well-beaten animal path and followed it into the trees. The walking was easier, and the diversion of the fawn set all the children chattering.
They reached the berry patch without fanfare, and Finn immediately set to work picking. Kerith moved right in beside him, her smaller reach serving to gather the berries Finn’s higher view could not see. Briam and Oriel just stopped and watched.
“Kerith, why don’t you come with me down here?” Sian suggested. “That way you can have your own bushes to pick from. And you won’t be in Finn’s way so much.” The last sentence she left unsaid.
“Straight.” The younger girl followed the other two as Sian led them away from Finn’s territory and distributed them into niches of their own. Sian then found a spot where she could see all four and started her own picking. As she worked she watched the children, and wondered.
Before her death in a house fire, Oriel’s mother had arranged an apprenticeship for the girl as a cook, mostly as a preventative measure to keep her from a life of prostitution at the Shattered Spear. Sian had since delayed that apprenticeship for a year, citing the girl’s grief after the death of her mother. But with Aren in and out, talking of his apprenticeship and the things he was seeing in the larger world, both Oriel and Finn had begun to ask when they would be apprenticed. And that would come, Sian knew. There could be no stopping it, but the thought of sending any of her children out into the hard, uncaring world …
“Sian,” Finn interrupted her thoughts, stepping up behind her, “I’ve picked all the berries over there. Can I pick here now?”
“No, Finn, this is my spot!” Oriel interjected. “Go find your own spot.”
“There aren’t any others,” Finn replied. “You need to share, Oriel.”
“Go find another place, Finn,” said Sian. “This is Oriel’s spot.”
“There aren’t any others!” Finn insisted. “I’ve looked.”
Sian sighed again, more in anger and frustration this time. She took the truculent boy by the elbow and pulled him down the path, stopping at a spot where a well-fruited bush dangled its berries right over the path. “Here. What are those?”
“This isn’t a spot. It’s right on the path! There’s nowhere to stand!”
“You make a spot!” she replied sternly. “Those spots weren’t there until someone stomped them down! You have to do it yourself! Honestly, Finn! Do I have to do everything for you?”
Sian walked back toward Oriel, who had gone back to picking. Sian shook her head in frustration. Why was Finn, who was the older of the two, so much less mature than Oriel? Sian stopped a moment to pick some particularly ripe berries in the niche that Kerith was currently working, knowing that the girl had missed them, and would likely trample them. Kerith, seeing Sian, set her bucket down and began to tug at the top layer of her clothing.
“I’m hot. I’m gonna take this one off,” she said,
“No, if you take it off you’ll get all scratched up.”
“But I’m so hot.”
“Tell you what. Leave it on a bit longer, and when we’re done we’ll all go down to the pond and go swimming. How does that sound?”
“Straight.” Kerith’s response was half-hearted. She worked slowly, picking each berry off the bush individually, looking at it, and placing it gently in the basket. Sian sighed and walked back to where Oriel was standing.
“How are you doing?” she asked. Oriel held out her bucket, which was a quarter full. “That’s not too bad. Here,” she said, and poured her own small pickings into Oriel’s container.
“Do you think there is such a thing as dragons?”
Sian looked at Oriel in astonishment. “What makes you say that?”
“I overheard some shadow boys at the marketplace not too long ago, and they said that this part of the forest near the pond harbors dragons. Do you think they’re right?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Sian answered slowly.
“They said that they saw one. It was big as a ship, and green, with lots of scales, and a long mouth full of sharp teeth.”
“I think they were just trying to make a fool of you.”
“That’s too bad. I had hoped I could go looking for a dragon when I’m done berry picking.”
“Oh, Oriel,” Sian laughed and ruffled the girl’s hair. “Now you’re being silly. Wouldn’t you rather go for a swim?”
“I guess so, but looking for a dragon would have been fun, too!”
“Sian, I’m full,” Briam said, coming up behind Oriel, his face smeared purple.
“You’re supposed to be putting them in the bucket,” exclaimed Sian, “not just eating them!”
“I did,” he replied simply, showing her his brimming bucket. “I only ate a couple.”
“A couple?!” said Oriel, and she, Sian, and Finn erupted in laughter. Briam colored a bit.
“Sian, I’m too hot. I can’t wear this anymore,” Kerith said, joining the party. She was carrying her outermost blouse in her hand and was pulling off her outermost skirt with the other.
“Straight, I give up,” Sian said. “Enough berries for today. What do you say we all go for a swim?”
The cheer that followed was clear and unambiguous. Sian poured some berries from Briam’s full bucket into Kerith’s partly filled one to even the load, and the party headed down the path deeper into the trees. The year before, Sian and the children had visited the pond after picking berries. Sian had been there as a child and enjoyed it each time. The pond had not changed much, save to grow a bit more grass and brush. For the children it was like a new experience, and a welcome one. They ran down the path yelling as Sian brought up the rear. The path wound its way down a shallow slope, and then abruptly stopped at a fork. The children stopped there, looking one way and the other.
“There’s the pond!” Kerith said, pointing through the trees. Sure enough, Sian could see the water through the trunks and hear the squabbling of screegulls.
“Which way was the waterfall?” asked Finn, looking one way and then the other.
“It’s this way, come on,” urged Kerith, wandering a few steps down the right hand fork, but unwilling to go down it alone.
“No, it was that way,” replied Briam, pointing to the left.
“Briam’s right, Kerith,” replied Sian, arriving at the scene. “That’s the way to the mud flats.” Sian pointed down the right hand fork. “But I want to go to the waterfall,” she continued, turning to face the other way, “where the water is cooler.”
“I want to go to the mud flats,” said Oriel. “I want to take a mud bath like the rich ladies do! May I please?”
Sian knew the pond was small, and that the mud flats were visible from the waterfall.
“Straight. But come right back when I call you.”
“Can I go to the mud flats too?” asked Kerith.
“Yes, but don’t get your clothes all muddy, or I’ll make you wash them all,” Sian replied. “Why don’t you leave the over-clothes here with me, and I’ll watch them for you.”
The two nodded vigorously and began tearing off their wrappings. Finn began to do so as well, stripping off his shirt in one smooth movement.
“Not you, Finn. I need you stay with me and help to carry the berry buckets.” Sian said.
“But I want to go to the mud flats,” he protested.
“I know you do, but I need help, and you’re the oldest with Aren gone.” Sian restrained the urge to say more for a moment, but then added, “You need to start carrying more responsibility.”
“I am responsible,” he said, “I just want to go to the mud flats.” He paused a moment, and she could see he was thinking. She waited expectantly until he spoke again. “If I can go to the mud flats I’ll chop twice the wood for the stove today.”
Sian was disappointed. That wasn’t the response she wanted to hear from him, not now. “I don’t need twice as much wood for the stove today; I need help carrying the berries,” Sian explained patiently. “I can only burn so much wood in the stove in one day, and the berries are heavy.”
“I can help carry the berries,” Briam said.
“Briam can help carry the berries, Sian,” Finn echoed. “So can I go down to the mud flats? Please?”
The two girls paused in the midst of disrobing, listening. All the children were waiting for her verdict. Memories of her own abrupt childhood flashed into her head. She had been much more eager to grow up, to accept responsibility, hadn’t she? Or was her mood altering her memories? Sian shook her head.
“Straight, all right, you can go. Watch the other two, and don’t get into trouble, you hear?” She exhaled heavily.
“Thank you, Sian,” he said, and resumed undressing. Kerith and Oriel dropped the last of their extra garments onto the pile that had accumulated and took each other’s hand, starting down the path toward the mud flats. They turned after a moment, two lithe figures in flowing beige shirts in the green gloom of the forest.
“Come on, Finn! Don’t be slow!”
“Hold on,” he replied, tossing his last shirt on the pile. He pushed down the waist of his doubled pants, but neglected to untie the rope that held the outer pair up. The clothes caught in a jumble above his knees, and he paused to untie the knot.
The knot in the rope gave way, and his trousers joined the rest of the clothes in the heap. Finn leaped away after the other two. Sian watched until the three children turned a corner in the path and disappeared from sight. As she watched, she pondered how children could turn into adults that are so different from their parents. Then she turned back to Briam.
“Well, it’s just the two of us. Thank you for helping with the berries.”
Sian scooped up the pile of still-warm clothing and the buckets of berries. Briam gathered the rest, and followed her as she started up the left fork. The path climbed a slight hill, then left the trees and entered a rough forest meadow that fell gradually down to the dammed end of the pond. Briam passed her as if the smell of the water was drawing him on. She let him pass, still deep in her thoughts. As she reached the last of the brush before the pond, she dropped the clothing onto a bush, set the baskets on the ground, and stripped to her undergarments. Carefully, she stepped into the pond and let the cold water cool her off. Briam, too, had shucked his constricting clothes and was splashing happily in the water. The pond was shallow and Sian had to sit down for the water to reach her neck.
As she soaked, Sian divided her attention between Briam and the three children at the far end of the pond. The activities on the mud flats alternated between rolling in the mud and plastering the mud on each other, consensually or otherwise. Briam’s occupation was more directed. Mostly he stood in the water, staring down. Every now and then he abruptly dropped both hands into the water only to pull them back out, looking disappointed.
“What are you trying to do?” Sian asked after his tenth attempt.
“Catching a fish.”
Sian laughed. “Good luck.” She stood up and walked back to the embankment. She found a spot on the grass to sit down and let the sun dry her wet body. She angled her face to the sky, feeling the warmth on her face. The sound of her name drew her attention back to the water. From the far end of the pond, Kerith had left the mud flats and was running toward Sian. At first Sian thought that she just wanted to get into the pond, but the girl didn’t stop or even slow much as the water splashed higher and higher, covering her knees, her hips, even her navel. Still she forded on, scattering muck and screegulls as she went. Sian knew the pond was shallow, shallow enough for even Kerith to ford, so she just sat and waited, wondering what magic life would work on her little girl, changing and molding her into an as-yet unseen woman. The girl finally reached the dam and clambered down from the pond, water streaming down the angles of her belly and mud dripping from her legs.
“You gotta come! Oriel found something! Come on!”
“Straight,” she replied, smiling. Kerith sprang away and began the return trip as Sian turned to address Briam. “Let’s go see what they found, Briam.” But Briam was already following Kerith, who was splashing her way back toward the mud flats. Sian stood and followed, bemused.
“Finn! Oriel!” Kerith yelled as she went. ” Sian is coming!”
Ahead, on the mud flats, Oriel and Finn stood together like dark grey statues, their entire bodies coated in mud. Sian watched as her young family converged around Oriel, who was holding something.
“It’s warm,” Oriel was saying as Sian arrived. Oriel looked up and Sian and extended her hand. “Look what I found!”
“You found eggs!” Briam said with admiration, looking down at the nest at Oriel’s feet. He bent down to pick one up.
“They’re mine!” Oriel claimed.
“You’re not supposed to pick up the eggs, you only disturb the chick inside,” Finn commented. “Put them down, both of you!”
“Why can’t we take them home and have them for dinner? I haven’t had an egg in a long time,” Briam countered, but complied and carefully set the egg back down.
“I want eggs for dinner, too,” Kerith chimed in, a little out of breath. “They taste so good.”
“You can’t eat eggs you find in the wild this late in the year,” Finn said.
“They have chicks inside!”
“How do you know there is a chick inside the egg?” Oriel wondered.
“If you put your ear close to the eggs you can hear them.” Finn remarked and dropped to his knees. He placed his ear close to the eggs on the ground and listened. “Straight, there are chicks in these eggs!” Finn exclaimed and sat up. Oriel and Briam simultaneously dropped to their knees and bent low to listen.
“Ouch!” Both children cried out and rubbed their heads. Kerith giggled and took the opportunity to put her ear near the eggs.
“I can’t hear anything!” Kerith said, disappointed.
“What can’t you hear?” Sian asked.
“Finn said if you put your ear on the eggs, you can hear the chicks inside.”
“Is that what you and Oriel were fighting about?” Sian inquired looking at Finn.
“We weren’t fighting, just arguing.” Finn replied.
“I found the eggs. They’re mine! And I want to take them home with me and eat them.” Oriel stood up, holding one egg in her hand.
“I told you, you can’t eat eggs with chicks inside! Besides, you don’t even know what kind of eggs these are.”
“Then what kind are they?” Finn challenged her.
“They’re duck eggs!” Oriel replied triumphantly.
“No they’re not, they’re goose eggs!” Finn said with the voice of an adult teaching a small child.
“Actually, it’s neither. The egg is too small for a goose or a duck. It’s more likely to be the egg of a loon,” Sian said and took a deep breath. “Finn is probably right, Oriel. There may be a chick inside.”
“But you can’t be sure. Not all eggs hatch!” Oriel said. “My mom told me.”
“Why don’t all eggs hatch?” Kerith inquired, having paid close attention to the conversation.
“Sometimes they just don’t,” Oriel said before Sian had a chance to formulate an answer that Kerith would understand.
“You mean the chick is dead, and that’s why?” Briam asked.
“No, not all eggs have chicks in them.”
“Yes they do,” Finn argued. “And they hatch in the summer.”
“No they don’t. I cracked eggs in the summer and they didn’t have chicks in them.”
“Sian, that’s not true, is it?” Finn asked, wanting his knowledge validated. “All eggs have chicks in them, straight?”
“No, not unless …” Sian grinned. It occurred to her that Finn, despite being older than the other three, was still very much a child in certain ways.
“Not unless what?” Finn pushed for an answer.
Before Sian could reply, Oriel cried out, “It’s moving!”
“What is moving, Oriel?” Kerith asked.
“The egg in my hand! It’s moving!”
“I want to see it,” Briam called out excitedly.
Oriel held out her hand. The egg on it was gently trembling.
“Look!” Kerith called out, “the shell is cracking!”
“Don’t let it drop, Oriel,” Sian reminded her. “I think before long there will be a chick hatching out of it.”
“I want to watch it hatch,” Kerith asked.
“Me too,” Oriel chimed in.
“I want to see what kind of bird it is,” Finn added.
Sian stared down at the egg, then at the faces of the children. “I don’t think we can. It will take some time to hatch,” she said.
“Please!” All four pleaded in unison.
With a sigh, Sian gave in. “But you have to put the egg back, gently!”
Oriel nodded, then tiptoed back to the reeds. She carefully laid the egg in the nest. She then walked back to the others and sat down to observe.
As they children watched the egg, Sian watched them. Each one of them was growing just as fast as they could, but not all in the same way or in the same direction. Sian remembered when each had come to her, in whatever state they had been in. Never would she have imagined that they would become the people they were now, and she could only wonder what sort of people they would become later. Yes, she’d had a hand in the matter, but there was mystery in every day, sometimes dark, and sometimes glad, but always mysterious nonetheless.
Over the course of a bell, the crack in the shell got longer and wider. Finally the egg split in half, pushed apart from the inside. Much to Sian’s and the children’s surprise, it wasn’t a baby bird that emerged from the shell.
“What is that?” Oriel was the first to recover from their surprise. “I don’t think I’ve seen an animal like this before.”
“Straight! What is it, Sian?” Briam asked and then added after a moment of thought, “Is it a lizard? It doesn’t look like one. Lizards don’t have scales and so many teeth.”
“I don’t think so, Briam,” Sian finally said after searching her memory.
“It looks like a monster,” Kerith said matter of fact.
“I think …” Oriel said, looking triumphantly at the others. “I think it’s a dragon!”
“A dragon?” the other children wondered in awe. The little creature wiggled its way out of the nest and scurried towards the pond. Quickly, Finn intercepted its run, picked it up, and showed it to the others.
“Straight, it’s a dragon!” Finn repeated. “I heard someone in the marketplace describe what a dragon looks like. He said a dragon’s green with scales, it has lots of sharp teeth, and a long tail, and it’s covered with scales. And look at these beady eyes: they’re yellow!”
“You listened to me and Sian talking!” Oriel exclaimed.
“That too,” Finn grinned.
“Somehow I thought a dragon would be bigger,” Oriel remarked quietly.
“It’s a baby dragon; it’ll grow,” Finn reasoned.
“How big do dragons get?” Brian wanted to know.
“They get to be as tall as the trees here,” Finn answered.
“I heard they grow as big as ships,” Oriel chimed in.
“Then why haven’t we seen one before?” Kerith asked.
“Because they can change color and grow wings, and some of them can swim and hide in the pond. And others hide deep in caves. Some of them even spit fire!”
“Spit fire?” Kerith looked frightened. “Do you think this one will spit fire?”
“Not sure,” Finn replied thoughtfully, “but I sure would like to find out.” He turned the animal upside down and poked it with his finger.
“Finn,” Sian interjected, “leave the creature be! I’m pretty sure this is not a dragon. There’s no such thing as a dragon! Just put it down and let it go.”
“How do you know?” Finn retorted, “You don’t know what it is either, or you would have told us already.”
“Straight, I don’t know what kind of animal this is, but it’s not a dragon. Dragons only exist in fairy tales.”
“Are you sure?” Kerith looked at Sian full of doubt. “It sure looks like a dragon.”
“Yeah, Sian, it does look like a dragon,” Oriel said, willing to believe.
“Can we keep the dragon?” Briam asked. “I want to see how big it gets and maybe we can tame it and then show it at the blessing of the fleet and get lots of money.”
“No one’s going to believe you have a dragon. Besides, we’ll make more money selling flingers,” Sian replied realistically. “By the time the blessing of the fleet comes around you’ll have told so many people about this creature, everyone will have seen it by then.”
“Sian is right,” Oriel snickered. “You can’t keep a secret, Briam.”
“And neither can Kerith,” Finn added.
“Can too!” Kerith yelled.
“Sian, look! Another egg is cracking!” Briam shouted. He hopped from one foot to the other. “That dragon will be mine!”
For several menes the children watched as a second egg split open. Much to their disappointment, this time the creature within was a chick.
“I don’t want a baby bird, Sian,” Briam said and wrinkled his nose. “I want a dragon, just like Finn.”
“Briam, I told you, there’s no such thing as dragons. I don’t know what animal Finn found, but it’s not a dragon.” Sian rustled Briam’s hair and then turned to the other children. “Finn, let the creature go. It’s time to go.”
“But I want to keep it,” Finn said, holding the little animal tight.
“You don’t even know what to feed it, let alone have the time to care for such an animal,” Sian reasoned. She noticed the disappointed look on Finn’s face. She watched as his brow furrowed, his eyebrows lifted, fell again, and then furrowed once more. He gave brief nod.
Finn walked over and placed the animal just outside the nest, then stepped back. All the children watched silently as the tiny reptile looked around, then fixated on the nearby water. As they watched, the little creature again scurried towards the pond. Just before it reached the water, a screegull dove down, landed on the mud near the animal, and with its sharp beak hacked into the creature, killing it.
In stunned silence the children watched as the screegull devoured its meal. Oriel finally broke the silence.
“It ate the dragon,” she said quietly, looking stunned. She wiped a tear from her cheek.
“Poor baby dragon.” Kerith bawled, big tears rolling down her cheek. She reached for Sian and hugged her tight.
“I know, Kerith,” Sian said as she put her arms around her youngest charge. She herself felt a bit winded by the suddenness of the animal’s fate. Silently, the older children gathered up their discarded garments. Wanting to avoid the fatal spot on the mud where the creature had met its fate, Sian led the way to the path, taking the children back to where the buckets of berries and the rest of their gear awaited. Silently, they all washed off the mud and put on their clothes for the trip home.
Their walk back was a solemn one, overshadowed by the death of the strange hatchling. Neither Kerith nor Oriel spoke much, and Sian had no problems herding them back to the house, musing as she did on the everyday magic that was at work in her small family. While Kerith and Oriel were grieving for the strange creature by the pond, Finn and Briam were already making plans to return the next day to search for another dragon egg.