There was nothing to do but form a search party. Athacar must be found. I insisted on going; as Athacar's handler I had the right, despite my mother's protests. Samantha squeezed my hand when we said goodbye and I promised I would be home soon. A promise I failed to keep.
Two months we spent searching for Athacar, slowly making our way to the Center Ring, the coldest and most dangerous part of the Ice Ring. We found not a trace. Our supplies were running low by then, but we were loath to turn back without him. It would be a terrible blow to our reputation.
Then, by chance or fate, we found him after our ship ran aground on a hidden ice shelf. Athacar retreated to a nearby cave at our approach. I took a stand as his handler and insisted on going in by myself to bring him out.
There is nothing I would like better than to affirm the stories, to claim this as a high act of bravery, but when I set out to put pen to paper I swore to myself the truth would be told and I hold myself to that oath.
It wasn't bravery that ushered me into that cave, it was a mixture of stupidity, guilt and the brashness of youth. A deadlier combination there never was.
Athacar wasn't far inside. He was an intelligent dragon and no doubt knew we would be coming in after him. He'd always been difficult but I never suspected he could be dangerous. I held him in my arms the day he was hatched, had spent a portion of every day since in his company, I believed we had a bond. In that I was wrong.