by M. L. Cooke
A girl and her dragon, Eris, find an egg in the forest.
Do you want to know what I think the best thing in the world is? Soaring above storm clouds. Flying through the air on my dragon. There's nothing better. Too bad I can't do that anymore. With Boulder's fading ability to fly, and Eris... Well, I'd better just tell you the story.
First lets get something out of the way. I have two dragons. Boulder, a sassy and sarcastic stone dragon, and Eris, an older, wiser air dragon. I ride them from time to time. Boulder has always liked the ground more than the air, and only until recently did I know why. It turns out that in an earthquake a few years back, he was injured. His egg, I hatched him, but found Eris in the wild, a story for another time, was chipped when a rock shifted and his egg was in the way. That's where this story begins. At the beginning of his life.
~ ~ ~
I walked along a stone wall looking for dragon eggs. Ever since I had found Eris in the middle of a river, at the beginning of spring, I had been obsessed with them. I had found one already. A small one. The egg hadn't given any sign of hatching in the year that I had it. Then, it had suddenly hatched while I was away. When I came back, there was nothing but egg shells. I was out looking for another one, when Eris came crashing through the trees above me. He landed in my yard. "I found one!" He exclaimed.
"Really! How big is it?" I asked.
"Not that big... But it's going to hatch soon!"
"Woah! How can you tell?"
"I'm a dragon. How could I not tell?" I followed him through the woods until we got to a knoll in the middle of a clearing. I always knew there were rocks around here from an old river that used to flow, but I never suspected there to be dragon eggs. Eris nudged one with his nose. It wobbled a little.
"It really is one. Do you think it's safe to move it?" I asked
"Yeah. It should be fine." I picked it up, and turned it over, inspecting it. There were a few small cracks and a large chip on the bottom. I showed it to Eris and he shrugged. "It's fine. It's just a bit of weathering." I climbed onto Eris's back clutching the egg tightly. He crouched down, spread his wings, and leaped into the sky. He flew just above the treetops. If I wasn't carrying anything, I would have tried to touch them. He landed in my yard, and I slid to the ground. I found a sunny place to put the egg as I watched it hatch.
It took longer than I thought it would. Soon I was asleep. I didn't hear it start to crack. About half an hour later, Eris nudged me. I woke up with a jolt. "What? What is it?" I looked at the egg. A little dragon hatchling sat in it's place. I stared at it for a few seconds, then I reached out to touch it. It didn't back off at all. Even when I touched it, it didn't even flinch. It just stared at me with wide grey eyes. I stroked it a little before it scuttled away in search of food. I looked at Eris. He was watching the hatchling with an unreadable expression on his face. "You okay?" I asked. He nodded his head.
"Yeah, I'm fine." The hatchling scurried up to Eris and squeaked. He snorted a reply. I walked over and picked the hatchling up. It squirmed a little, but settled down once it realized it wasn't getting away any time soon. I brought it into my house and set it down on a chair, which it promptly started chewing on. My house wasn't much, but it was home. There was a fireplace along one wall with a wooden chair, on which the hatchling was now chewing, with a log round table next to it. There was a small kitchen in one corner with another log round table, just a bit bigger than the other one in the living room. The other corner, closer to the fire, was where I slept. A pile of wood chips with a blanket and a feather stuffed pillow.
I sat down on my bed and watched the dragon nibble away at the chair. However, it's teeth weren't sharp enough to hurt it. Eris stuck his head in through the window. "You never let me inside."
"Your too big to fit through the door. How could you come inside?"
"Now he'll never stop chewing on that chair."
The next morning, I woke up to Eris snoring. The small dragon had curled up overnight on the dying coals in the fireplace to stay warm, and had tracked charcoal all over the house. I sighed. I found it ingesting dangerous amounts of flour from my pantry. I picked it up and walked outside. Eris snorted and rolled over. "What happened to you?" He asked, once he saw the excessive amounts of flour and charcoal that covered me from head to toe.
"Rough morning," I said. "It decided to have breakfast early."
"It's a he."
"Oh... Does he have a name?"
"Do you have a name?" I asked the hatchling.
"Boulder." He answered. I jumped and almost dropped him. I hadn't been expecting him to answer in English...
"You can talk?"
"Simple words." Boulder said. He squirmed out of my arms and perched on my shoulder. "Only simple words-in-a-row".
"Those are called sentences." I said
"Yup! You learn quick!" It was quite impressive.
"All hatchlings learn quick. We learn to survive in the place around us." He said. Eris snorted.
"That's for sure. If only I'd known that... My mom was with me for the first few hours of my life, then left. I never had that instinct." He said.
"Mom... Where's mine?"
"We don't know. There's no way to find out." I answered.
"Oh... What's for breakfast?"
"We just had breakfast! You ate half a bag of flour! How can you be hungry!"
"That white stuff was yucky. I want something good." Boulder said. Then he scurried off toward a sunny patch of moss and curled up, suddenly not hungry anymore. I looked up at Eris. He was smiling.
"This is going to be interesting."
I opened my eyes. The sun was shining through the small round window beneath the peak of my roof. Little specs of dust floated lazily through the light. I slowly sat up. I blinked my eyes a few times, yawned, and stood up. I could hear Eris chewing something outside. The sounds of wood splintering made me shiver. I stood up and looked around. The fire had been stamped down, and there was coal dust everywhere. Again? I thought. I looked outside. Eris was chewing on a tree trunk, and Boulder was curled up beside him. Still asleep. The only evidence that he was ever awake; a layer of coal dust covering his feet. I walked outside.
"I see Boulder has already had breakfast, again." Boulder lifted his head and blinked at me. It astounded me how much more he looked like a lizard than Eris. When I had found Eris in the forest, he had reminded me more of a large dog. Boulder, however, was ultimately more like an iguana.
"I see black rocks. They taste good. Better than white powder. Why black rocks in house?" He asked. I immediately noticed that his speech had improved.
"I burn them in the fire. It's called coal." I explained. How does he manage to find the messiest things in my house? I smirked. Then Eris piped up.
"I went hunting this early this morning. The hunters are swarming the mountains taking all the game. I had to fly further than I usually do, and even then I had to settle for an older deer I found. Not much meat on it." He said.
That was odd. The hunters rarely passed the river separating their land from the dragons'. How could they? The swift torrent raged year round, making it next to impossible to cross without a dragon. And I knew for certain that they didn't have dragons. They had hunted them all out on their side of the river. How then, were they getting across? When I asked him, he didn't have an answer. "Well, as long as they don't come over here we'd better think nothing of it. Meanwhile, I think we should find a place for Boulder to stay. He won't be this small for long." I searched the ground, while Eris searched from above. Boulder, sniffed around my house in search of bugs and such, but got distracted and began chasing butterflies.
I eventually gave up searching, and waited for Eris to land. "I found a place," he said. "Fairly close, and safe. In an old pine tree. He should be able to climb up easily. It, however, is not big enough for a full grown dragon, and he will probably have to move to the ground like I did." Eris looked at me expectantly.
"Well, let's take a look at it. It may not be up to his standards..." I followed Eris through the woods. After about a minute, we were there. He was right. It was close. It was a short, stout Bristlecone pine, with broad branches weaving into a nest-like shape. It was perfect! Boulder scurried to the ground from where he was perched on my shoulder, and looked up at the nest. He crawled quickly up the trunk and sat on one of the outlying branches. He inspected the rest of it from there, and, after a few minutes, nodded in approval.
"It is good. Good size. Need bedding like feathers. You have some?" He asked.
"No. I'm afraid I don't. We can gather moss if you would like." I answered.
"Moss is good. Feathers better. Moss for now. I kill bird soon." I went to gather moss off the forest floor, and Eris went go catch birds. Boulder said he was hungry, and ate three, while Eris ate the rest, after I had taken the feathers off of course.
Once Boulder's bed was made, me and Eris walked back to my cabin. Eris plunked himself down onto his normal patch of grass, and began chewing on the log again. I went back into my house to clean up the mess Boulder had made. The initial mess was in front of the fireplace, but there was a small black trail leading over to the wall and up it a ways. There was even a footprint or two on the ceiling! I sighed. This was going to take a while.