It is a long way up the mountain from the cove, but he is glad of the walk. The air on the mountain is clear. Cleaner than it will ever be below.
It is good air to think in.
Ivankov offered to accompany him, but he refused. This is something he must do alone and in silence; the forest and its beasts are company enough for his purpose.
Almost, he did not come at all. It is dangerous for his people to stay here longer than they already have. But there is the boy. Yes, the boy and what is best for him.
In his thoughts there is another boy in whose best interests he is not sure he has acted.
In his arms this present boy stirs, and he shifts him, settling him more comfortably against his shoulder. It is as well that the child is asleep, still drugged from Ivankov’s somewhat odd healing methods. Were he wakeful he would be in pain and this boy has experienced more pain in his few short years than most men grown.
Dragon has no wish to cause him any more pain than he already has. Twice now he has taken him from danger and bound his physical wounds. There is nothing he can do to heal the tears in his spirit.
That is a task for two others. The others he is taking him to right now.
They will not be in their tree fort. He does not go there. He goes to Dadan’s house because he is told she also is wounded and he does not think they will leave her while she is.
He is right. She is laid out in the main room near the fire, heavily bandaged and snoring stertorously. Roger’s boy is asleep against the wall closest to her, sitting up. Luffy…
Luffy is asleep on the floor, snoring almost as loudly as Dadan. His head rests on Roger’s boy’s knee; a stupid thing to call the child, branding him something he may not care to be, but Dragon cannot quite recall… yes. Ace. His name is Ace.
Luffy’s head is on Ace’s knee. Ace’s hand is on Luffy’s head, fingers lightly gripping his hair. Black hair, both of them. Like their fathers.
He looks down at the boy in his arms. Blond hair surrounding the sharp promise of a nobleman’s face. But he is their brother for all that. Dragon is here only to give them back what is theirs.
There is a spare pallet beside Dadan, with a discarded blanket; Luffy’s no doubt. He places the boy on it and covers him. Leaves the bag of medicines and other odds and ends Ivankov considers necessary to an ill child beside him. Then he half turns, still crouched beside the pallet, and looks at his son.
A strand of drool connects Luffy’s mouth to Ace’s leg. His arms are wrapped around Ace’s thigh at least three times. Ace is frowning in his sleep, as though Luffy annoys him even when he does not know he is being annoyed, but his hand grips Luffy’s hair firmly.
Dragon smiles and rises to his feet. He has begun to turn away when Dadan opens her eyes.
For a moment only they are hazy, clouded with pain and sleep. And then the instincts and intelligence that have allowed her and hers to survive so long in such a hostile environment engage and her eyes focus on him, all pupil in dim firelight.
Her mouth opens. It shapes Luffy's name. He shakes his head and looks pointedly at the boy lying beside her.
She turns her head with difficulty, but turn it she does. And then she simply lies there, staring. She is obviously too weak to cry but it is not very long before her cheeks are wet.
Satisfied, Dragon leaves. The wind does not need to walk when it has no ill children to carry, but the tide waits for no one, man or logia.