Chapter 13: Treasure
It's been a few months since Christmas and Agdar and I had been training the volunteers for weeks. I had left Agdar, or Adrian, to continue today's training because the council summoned me for a status update. Now that winter was over and spring was here we were able to take training outside and train larger numbers of troops at the same time.
"The volunteers have shown great potential," I explained, "each of them seeming to take their training to new levels, if I knew they weren't ready skill wise I'd think they were ready to go to war now."
"Indeed," one of the councilmembers said, "Mr. Smith we are grateful for you and Adrian's efforts to train the volunteers, but we still have the problem of supplies such as armor and weapons." It was true, I knew it was going to take a lot of money, and I had a plan, hopefully Xant is in a generous mood. I tried going to my fortress a few weeks ago, but the old fossil was nowhere to be found. He's an enormous Fire Drake he couldn't just vanish into thin air. Unless of course he decided to do some traveling while in human form.
"Yes I am aware," I said, "but don't worry, just place the orders with Arendelle's remaining trade partners and I'll handle the expenses." With nothing more to be said I turned around and started to walk out.
"Wait, one more thing," I looked over my shoulder, "How is Queen Elsa and Princess Anna's health?" I sighed Elsa had grown pretty distant these past few weeks. I barely saw her anymore, but it sort of made sense. He had her royal duties and I was always busy training, but still even on the rare occasion that we had free time it seemed that Elsa would avoid me. subconsciously I felt the soft material of the white ape where it wrapped around my shoulders.
"Anna's pregnancy has been going rather smoothly, but she has had to be cautious due to how much energy she uses, but Ingrid has been calming her down," I said using Idun's cover name. Idun was now Ingrid, Adrian's wife and also Anna's midwife during her pregnancy, "as for our queen, I'm not sure. I suspect something has been bothering her, but I haven't been able to figure out just what." The members nodded and dismissed me.
Personally I prefer to fly, it would've made the trip to Arendelle a lot quicker, but after an accident were flying didn't really agree with the stomach my traveling companion. We decided to travel on foot. It took months, but we finally came over the ridge that gave you a perfect view of Arendelle, "There it is; Arendelle."
"How are we going to find Zander in a kingdom like that?" Zander's mother said next to me.
I smirked, "Easily, we just follow the magic, or check with the royal family."
I was sitting at my desk looking over the paperwork in front of me. Normally I could do this without breaking a sweat, but I just couldn't focus. I tried clearing my head, but the guilt was still there. Pushing my chair back I stood up and walked to my window and opened it hoping the clear spring air would clear my head.
I could see Zander and Papa training the volunteers in the large space behind the castle. Zander was always either closely watching while instructing or helping one of the soldiers out to make sure they got it right.
I sighed, "He has such a warm heart." But that only made the guilt worse. I felt really guilty avoiding Zander, but I just couldn't face him. One or two weeks ago I went to the doctor to see if what Hans did to me… well had the effect he wanted. They told me the result, I was-
"Queen Elsa," I jumped, I turned around and saw it was Kai, "sorry to startle you."
"No it's fine," I said, "what is it?"
"A couple arrived at the castle gates, they came asking for Mr. Smith," he explained, who would be asking about Zander? "but I told them he was busy so they asked if they could see you." Me? well I could use a break from all this paper work.
"Alright, tell them I'll be right there." I told him.
When Kai lead me to the room I could've sworn it was Zander I was looking, but that couldn't be right. Zander was out training and this man look way older than Zander. There was a woman next to him. She looked about the same age as Mama. Her cinnamon brown hair fell to her back and her blue eyes had the same warmth and concern Zander's did. If I didn't know any better I'd say these were Zander's parents.
"Your highness," the man said bowing, the woman curtsied, "My name is Xant."
I nodded my head and I turned to the woman, "And you are?"
"Oh, sorry," she apologized, "I'm Lydia, Lydia Smith. I'm Zander's mother." Now that definitely caught me by surprise.
"Wait," I said, "Did you say 'Zander's mother'?" she nodded, "I'm sorry for the surprise, but… Zander told me you were dead."
Xant seemed to look between me and Lydia, "Well, it looks like you two need to break a little ice, so I'm going to leave you two alone and explore a bit." He said before walking out of the room.
I walked the lines of soldiers that swung practice swords at the dummies in front of them. As I looked around I saw that some of them stood out from the others. Once I figured out their names I raised some fingers to my mouth and let out a loud whistle. The soldiers stopped and looked at me, "Great work everyone, take a well-deserved breather, but I need to talked to some of you. Step forward if your name is called." I said, "Serana, Natasha, Bruce, Antonio, Stephan, Miranda and Will." Each of them looked surprised, some of them nervous, but they all stepped forward, "Everyone else, you're dismissed. The names I called come forward and follow me." I turned around and walked to the area I used for my own personal exercises.
I turned around and saw them come in one by one, "Sir, if we aren't training to your standards we can always try harder." Miranda said.
I shook my head, "It's not that you aren't living to my standards, quite the opposite actually."
"What do you mean?" Will and Antonio asked at the same time.
"Each of you have stood out and excelled in your training, it makes me think that you deserve to be higher than just soldiers." I explained, "I've been hearing reports of a few ships from the Southern Isles heading towards a town within Arendelle's borders. We need to stop them if they plan to raid the town. Because of this news I've been meaning to assemble an elite team in order to go over there with me to take a closer look." I looked at each of them, "I believe you should be the new members of this elite team, but the question is. Are you ready?"
"Yes," Stephan said.
"Yes what?" I asked.
"Yes my lord." They all said, all of them except Bruce.
"What about you Bruce?" I asked curious as to why he didn't answer.
"My lord," Serana spoke up, "Bruce is a mute, he can't talk."
I nodded, "I see, well if you all think you're ready. Then you're going to have to come by tonight and we'll have another more advanced training session. We'll have one every night and in a few days we'll go to the town to see what's going on with those ships." They nodded, "Thank you, you are dismissed." They turned around and went back to the regular training area.
"Well well well, it seems that you're doing a great job my son," I turned around, it was Xant.
"Xant, when did you get here?" I asked.
He shrugged, "About ten minutes ago give or take."
I nodded, "Well I'm glad you're here, because there's something I want to ask you."
"Well there's something I need to tell you." Xant said, "but you go first. I highly doubt yours is as big as mine anyway."
"Okay… I need to have access to your hoard." I said.
He was taken aback, "I'm sorry what?"
"How can you be alive?" I asked Lydia, after having my parents almost come back from the dead it shouldn't be too surprising, but nobody really saw my parents die. Zander said he saw his parents die in a fire he caused.
She sighed, "When Zander's rage sent his powers out of control I did my best to get out of there. I did, but not unscathed." Lydia explained and she pulled up the sleeve on her dress to show a burn scar on her left arm. "After his rage faded I wanted to show him I was still alive, but I was afraid. I didn't want him to hate me, and after what happened I'm sure he does. It broke my heart when I heard that he was banished into exile. I thought it would be best if I found a new life away from Zander."
I looked at Lydia, she seemed to be telling the truth, "How did you know he was here, and why did you come if you wanted to be far away from Zander?"
"I never wanted to be away from him," she said, "I just wanted him to have a new life, one without me in it."
"Do you think that because of how he was raised?" I asked, she nodded.
"I had always wanted a son, so did my husband, but we couldn't." She said and I was confused, "I was infertile and couldn't get pregnant." I gasped a little, "We considered adopting, but then the sorcerer came to our home." she said before beginning to tell her story.
Flashback (Lydia's P.O.V.)
It was a warm summer evening and we were hard at work finishing an order someone sent to us when we heard a knock at our door. When we answered it our visitor came in without asking, "Hey what gives you the right to just come into our home?" my husband asked, well more like demanded.
The visitor looked at us, "Well I have a bit of a proposition for you. You see I am blessed with very powerful influence of the arcane arts."
"You're a sorcerer?" I asked him, he smiled and nodded.
"Correct, I specialize in embedding objects with magic making them far more powerful," he explained, "I'd like to have access to your weapons to do some expiraments."
My husband glared at him, "No, we don't want your sorcery in our forge," it didn't surprise me, he grew up in Weselton which gave him a natural impulse to hate magic.
The sorcerer raised an eyebrow, "I realize why you're cautious, but think of the possibilities. Magical weapons could sell for a whole lot more, people from all around the kingdom would come from far away just to get a chance at obtaining one of your weapons."
He shook his head, "No, I don't need your magic or your corrupted sorcery. Get out of our house and off our property!"
The sorcerer narrowed his eyes, "A real hothead aren't you," his eyes went over to the burning furnace, he smirked, "I wonder what it would be like if that were the literal sense." He pointed at the furnace and a burning ember shot out and hovered over his hand. The ember slowly turned into orange energy that started to swirl around his hand. Then he pointed it at me and the energy went straight into me.
"At first I didn't know what he did to be, but it wasn't until a month later until I realized I was pregnant with Zander, I was overjoyed, so was his father. He was such a warm and comforting infant." I said the memory of him as a baby still clear in my mind, "When he was only 3 he showed the first display of his power, when he tried to blow out the candles on his birthday cake, the would only get stronger. When he seemed to get mad at the cake he blew hard and flames came out of his mouth. His father was never the same after that, he didn't want Zander to be known. I wanted what was best for him, but the thought that everyone wouldn't accept him. I was…"
"Afraid of what they would do to him if they found out." Elsa finished for me. I looked up, she understood.
"Yes, we were still able to raise him just fine. Then one day he wanted to take off the leather, but I'm sure you know the rest of the story after that." I said finishing the tale.
The young queen seemed to think for a moment, "I can see why Zander didn't talk about his father very much."
I laughed a little, "Yes, but I'm curious as to how Zander was able to be so close to a royal, especially a queen." To my surprise she blushed and I found herself smiling, "Exactly what is your relationship with my son?"
Elss smiled slightly and looked down shyly, "I-I'm his girlfriend." Well I was happy, but something about her was… sad.
"You seem… down. Is Zander not being a gentleman?" I asked.
"No, he has been very good to me, the problem is well…" she seemed hesitant, "I don't deserve him."
I looked her over, and it all fell into place. She was happy with him, but felt that she didn't deserve him, the look in her eyes, the way she was trying to carry herself, "So… how long have you known?" she looked at me with confusion, "How long have you know that you're infertile like me?"
Did he just ask to take some gold from my hoard? "Arendelle is preparing to defend itself from the combined armies of the Southern Isles and Weselton. Arendelle has no choice but to go to war, we need funds to buy proper equipment. You have more than enough gold, you'll barely notice a small amout taken out."
"Zander," I said, "As a dragon I'm supposed to guard my hoard with a desire that most people wouldn't even dream of achieving. I'm not going to spare a coin of it, I earned that gold and I intend to keep it."
"You also promised to watch over Arendelle to make sure it wasn't again taken over by conquerors," I nodded, "If Arendelle loses this war that's exactly what's going to happen, and if to make sure it doesn't happen you need to help fund our cause, then to refuse would be to break your promise." I was ready to rebuke him, but he kept going, "A dragon may guard his hoard with a deep desire, but their sense of honor is also unmatched as well. You can't break a promise you've kept for generations." I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. I hated to admit it, but he had a point.
I sighed, "You have the cunning of a dragon, I've taught you too well." I said, "Very well, I will fund your little cause, but only to honor my promise and you're only to grab what you need." Sweet Smaug I'm sounding more and more like a father the more I knew this kid.
He smiled looking satisfied, "Alright don't worry, I'm not tempted by treasure as you are." I chuckled hearing him say that.
Seeing his confused look I decided to give him a little wisdom, "Not all treasure is gold and jewels, it seems like you've found a precious treasure to hold close to your heart," I explained, he knew what I was talking about, "now why don't we go find your little girlfriend. She's currently with what, or to better say whom I have to show you."
How did she know? "How did you know?" I asked out of complete surprise.
She smiled, "because you looked exactly what I did and are probably feeling the same way I was after I found out. I felt ashamed and that Zander's father wouldn't want me if he knew." I felt tears come to my eyes as she started to repeat what I was feeling, Lydia stepped forward and put an arm around my shoulders, "It's alright dear, you don't have to worry about anything." I couldn't hold it in, I began to cry. My hand instinctively went to the locket hanging around my neck, "What's that?"
I looked down at the silver heart, "Zander gave it to me the same day he told me that he loves me." I opened it and looked at the inscription inside, "It's just another piece of evidence that he doesn't deserve me."
"No, whether or not you think he deserves you or not. If he really does love you he won't care, I learned that when I told Zander's father about my condition." She said, "Well I'm happy Zander was able to find love in someone like you." She said, "Well at least after this you won't have to worry about him only loving you for your body." I couldn't help but giggle a little.
There was a knock at the door, "It's me," Xant's voice sounded from behind the door. He opened the door and he entered with Zander behind him.
The first thing I noticed when I entered the room when that Elsa had tears running down her cheeks, "Elsa are you alright?" her expression softened at my comment.
"I'm fine, but thanks for asking." She said before kissing me on the cheek, "I promise I'll talk to you later, I have something important to talk to you about." I nodded, the kiss making my entire body warm up with the feeling I was starting to miss.
"Zander?" I froze, it's been years, but I knew that voice anywhere. I turned around.
"Mom?" I asked not believing what I was seeing, was this what the girls felt when they reunited with their parents. I felt dizzy. I thought I was going to faint, "But you're dead."
"No not dead," she said, "I see you've grown up quite a bit since that day a few years ago. Have you been washing behind your ears?" yep this was Mom alright.
I blushed in embarrassment, "Mom, I'm 22 years old." I could hear Xant trying not to laugh, "Did Xant bring you here?" I turned around when she nodded, "Is that where you've been?"
"So many questions," he said, "but yes, and I must say it makes sense that Lydia is your mother. I can see a lot of you came from her." I raised an eyebrow, was there a hidden message in that? I'm pretty sure there was something he wasn't telling me. "Well I'm going to leave you two to have your little reunion, but if you excuse me I have things to do." He turned and left the room.
I left the room and found Queen Elsa waiting outside. I smirked, "Eavesdropping are we? Not very queen-like." She blushed and I laughed, "You certainly live up to your name Queen Elsa."
She looked at me curiously, "What do you mean?"
I started to walk and she started to walk beside me, "Your namesake was a warmhearted queen that turned the nature of the Kingdom of Arendelle around centuries ago, but she wouldn't have been able to do it without my help."
She looked at me shocked, "What?"
"Think back to the old tales of the southern kingdoms and then think about my name." I said.
She thought for a minute before it came to her, "You're…" she said unable to continue her sentence.
"Xant, the greatest Fire Drake in the world at your service my lady," I said with a bow, "I made a promise to your namesake that I would watch over this kingdom and help when it was needed, so I'm proud to say that I'll be helping you in the war against the enemies stupid enough to oppose you."
She nodded, "Thank you, and actually there's something I wanted to ask you about that." I raised an eyebrow curious as to what she wanted, "Can you train me to fight, with both magic and weapons?"
Meeting back up with Mom turned out to be better than I expected it to be. I thought I was going to burst into flames, but I didn't, maybe just like how my power began to grow my control began to grow too.
I found Elsa talking to Xant about something, I couldn't tell what. But from what I was sensing it was something serious, "Elsa," I said calling out to her, she turned to me and smiled, "you said you wanted to talk to me about something."
She nodded, "I do, but I would prefer that we were somewhere more private." She said before walking past me and down the hall.
She took me to her room, I was expecting her to take me to her study or the library so it was a little odd, "Zander," she said turning around, she was nervous, and she was scared, "I know I've been ignoring you the past week or two, and I wanted to let you know that I feel horrible for that and-"
"Is that what this is about?" I asked not wanting to cut her off, but I just had to.
"Please let me finish," I could tell this was hard for her, so I decided to shut up. "There was a reason I've been avoiding you," she sat down on the edge of her bed and almost out of habit I sat beside her. "A while ago I went to the doctor, I needed to make sure Hans didn't cause what he wanted to."
"… Did he?" I asked hesitantly.
She shook her head, and I sensed sadness, "No, but I found out something else. I'm… infertile." Her voice was shaking and choking back with emotion, "I'm unable to have children of my own." I put an arm around her, she out her head on my shoulder and my clothes started to absorb her tears.
"Hey it's okay," I said stroking her hair with one of my hands.
She looked at and stared into my eyes, "No it isn't. You deserve better than me." I deserve better than a queen? "You deserve someone you can love and raise a family with, not someone like me." she bowed her head in shame. I didn't know what to say, well I did I just didn't know how to say it. I must've stayed silent for too long because Elsa started to walk away, "Excuse me." she said sounding close to heartbroken.
I knew this would happen, I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't speak to me ever- My thought were cut off by something grabbing my hand. I turned around and saw Zander, "You think you don't deserve me?" he asked pulling me closer, "Ever since we got together I've been thinking just the opposite."
I was surprised, "But-" he cut me off by wiping by cradling my cheek with his hand and wiping away a tear.
"You being infertile, in fact nothing, is going to make me stop loving you." He leaned in a kissed me softly and I just melted. I did my best to return the kiss, he pulled away, "But it's a shame, you would've been a wonderful mother." I blushed.
"I don't know about that." I said.
He laughed "Are you kidding? You're the nicest, gentlest, warmest person ever." He said an I couldn't help but giggle.
"You sound just like Olaf," I pointed out.
He smiled, "Well he was right," he pulled my into another warm embrace.
Turns out Lydia was right, I had nothing to worry about, "I love you," I said.
I could feel him warm up tremendously, "I love you too."
As the next few days rolled by, whenever I wasn't training and whenever Elsa wasn't busy doing… well whatever she does. We would spend time together. Ithilagar claims Elsa has me wrapped around her little finger, but I don't believe that.
My elite team has gotten tremendously better, and now it was time to go scout out the village where those ships were. I, along with the rest of my team, was dressing in black armored leather similar to what Weselton's mercenaries were wearing.
I was adjusting the saddle of my horse, she was a pure black mare named Shadowmere. I could here footsteps behind me, from the way they sounded and from the aura of heat I was receiving I could tell it was Natasha, "My lord? The Queen wants to speak to you before we go." I slightly glanced over my shoulder at her, finished the straps on the saddle and turned around.
"Well I'd better not keep the queen waiting then." I said.
"Do you have to go?" Elsa asked me when I showed up.
"Don't worry, we're just going to swing by, scout things out, possibly kick some Southern Isle ass and come right back." I said.
She looked down, "What if you don't come back?" I put a finger underneathher chin and raised her head up.
"I'll be fine, I have my elite team, that and Ithilagar. We're practically unstoppable." I grabbed one of her hand, "I'll be back soon, I promise." I said kissing the back of Elsa's hand. She smiled looking a little comforted, I returned the smile and walked over to where Shadowmere was and mounted her, "Alright, to the village." I said to the rest of my team and we rode out of the gates and ithilagr followed not seeming to have any problems keeping up.
It was several hours before the village came into view. It was a port village and like the reports said there were ships not too far away from it.
"Okay Will, Miranda scout out the east, Bruce and Antonio check the docks in the south, Stephan and Natasha take the east. Ithilagar and Serana, come with me, we're going to check out the north." They nodded and the different groups split up. I urged Shadowmere forward and I road to the main road of the town.
We were met by a few town guards, "State your business sir."
"My name is Zander Smith, Queen Elsa's highest military commander. I'm here to solve your problem about the ships from the Southern Isles." I explained.
"Of course, go ahead." They said and we continued forward.
"Be on the lookout, they could've snuck into the village and are just waiting to strike." Serana nodded and Ithilagar was sniffing the air, then without warning him dashed away and started barking at what I assumed to be the armory. "Ithilagar what is it?" I was answered by the door bursting open and several soldiers spilling out.
"Leave none alive," the leader shouted, "show them the power of the Southern Isles!" Reacting out of instinct I drew the sword Elsa gave me and leapt off Shadowmere. That was when the battle started.
It was a bloodbath, me and the rest of my team combined with the city guards were doing our best to fight them off. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Ithilagar seeming to guard an alleyway from several soldiers. I couldn't tell what he was doing, but he seemed to be winning. I looked up and saw someone on the roof, they were armed with a crossbow at was aimed at the wolf.
Before I could warn him the bolt was launched and it struck Ithilagar's side. The force of the hit threw him of balance and it allowed one of the soldiers to stab Ithilagar with his sword. The world seemed to slow down and go silent. I found myself screaming the wolf's name, but I never heard the words and could only watch as Ithilagar fell to the ground.
I turned, killed whoever I was facing a charged the soldiers rage burning through my veins and I could see my arms begin to be covered in fire. I felt my eyes change and I launch myself at the soldiers. They tried to fight my but their swords seemed to melt when they got close to me. they began to run and I wanted nothing more than to chase after them, but instead I went to Ithilagar. He was bleeding and breathing heavily.
"Hey Zander," he said, "looks like I got a little cocky." He was trying to lighten up the situation.
"You're going to be alright," I said. He shook his head.
"Sorry, but I'm not. At least I'll die a hero, protecting someone." He said, what was he talking about? "Promise me."
"What?" I asked.
"Pro… protect h-h-her," he said his voice soft and I knew he was close, "A-alley, th-the girl." His breathing started to slow, "Kick Hans' sorry ass during the war." He said before him let out one final breath.
No, no! No no no no NO! He couldn't be dead. Tears flooded my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. I heard a rustle and looking into the dark alleyway. Then I remembered, Ithilagar was just fighting. He was defending. I stood up and walked down the alleyway, "Hello?" I asked seeing if someone would respond. I sensed fear, sadness, and that the person felt alone. "Don't be afraid come on out." I said and a pile of junk in the alley shifted and a little girl came out.
She was young, possibly seven years old. She looked thin as if she wasn't eating enough. She was dressed in what looked like some rags sown together to make a makeshift dress. She was barefoot and her skin was covered in grime, underneath it was skin similar to Elsa's clear and pale. Her hair was long, tangled and the same color as mine, black. Her eyes were a blue that was surprisingly similar to Elsa's and her hands were covered by old dirty mittens.
I walked over to her and kneeled in front of her, "What's your name," she seemed to back up, "don't worry I'm here to help. My name is Zander, where are your parent?"
She looked down, "M-my p-parents are dead." She said, her voice was soft and had a slight music to it. I could guess that this was what Elsa would've sounded like when she was younger, or possibly Anna.
"I'm sorry I didn't know." I said, "Do you have any friends?" she shook her head and then her eyes widened and I turned around just in time to stop someone from pulling a sneak attack. I quickly disarmed him and threw him against a wall knocking him out not wanting to kill anyone with the little girl around. I turned back to the girl, come with me. It's not safe here." she looked out the alley at the battle, "Don't worry, I'll protect you." I said to reassure her. I turned around to leave.
"Emma," she said quietly and I turned around, "my name is Emma."
I found myself smiling, "It's a pretty name. C'mon, let's go." I wasn't going to let Ithilagar down, he must've seen something in this go if he went to such lengths to protect her, I needed to keep my promise.
The battle was over quickly, mainly because my team and I was scaring the hell out of them with our skills and they were soon fleeing back to their ships. The town thanked us for helping them and assured that when the war started they would send men to help the army. I nodded and gave them my thanks.
I looked at my team, "You all did amazing out there, you have made me proud and I'm sure Arendelle is proud of you too, and now it's time to head back and give Queen Elsa the report of our success." They nodded, "Go prep the horses and I'll meet you at the main north road." They walked away.
"You're leaving?" I turned around and saw Emma.
"I have to, I have to report to the queen." I said and her eyes widened.
"You know the queen?" she asked in wonder.
I chuckled, "I guess you could say that." Then I got an idea, "Perhaps you would like to meet them, the royal family." Her eyes seemed to light up.
"Really?" she asked, I nodded. Even though I had only know her for an hour, I was really starting to warm up to her.
The ride back was a lot better than the ride to the town, Emma was just a little ray of sunshine. She was like a miniature Anna. Wondering at the world around a little feisty at times but in a split second she could become very sweet and caring.
We arrived at Arendelle a few hours after we left and Emma had fallen asleep, her back resting against my chest. I had to keep a hand on her so she wouldn't fall. When we walked through the gates were were immediately greeted by the servants. Kai and Gerda were in the lead.
"You're back," Kai said, "were you successful?"
"Very, we were able to remove the threat and take care of the problem." I said getting off of Shadowmere with Emma in my arms, "Gerda, can you clean this little girl up a bit and try to find her a new set of clothes." She nodded and I was almost hesitant to let Emma out of my sight, but Gerda handled her with care and took her into the castle.
"If I may ask, who is she milord?" Kai asked.
"She's an orphan Ithilagar found, he gave up his life to protect her." I glance back at the wrapping we wrapped his body in, "I want to give him a good burial."
"Very well sir, I give my condolences at the loss of your friend," he said and I nodded, "is there anything else you need?" I looked over and saw Gerda go into the castle with Emma."
"I want to have a few days away from my training duties," I said, "then I want to know what I need in order to be able to adopt."