Given how long it took me to get this story down I’m stunned I have as much as I do. so much for ‘a piece of flash fiction’. This is a 2k+ piece of free writing that, without a doubt, is going to be used at a later date. I already have a sense of where the scene can fit into a wider story, I love it.
Lying to Mum was stupid. She always knows, even if it’s just a small thing like not cleaning my teeth.
I hold my hands tighter behind my back and move closer to the cupboard. If I could just get it back before she sees. But she’s standing right in the doorway, near the edge of my bed and I know it’s already too late.
“I’ll only ask once more, Adrian.” She has that scary look on her face. The one with the tilty eyebrows. “What are you hiding behind your back?”
I hold out my hands, scrunching my eyes shut in preparation for the explosion. It doesn’t come. Instead Mum makes a weird little squeaking noise. “What is that?”
I open my eyes again. She’s sitting on the end of my bed, touching her throat. Her fingers are shaking a bit.
“It’s an egg.”
“I can see that. What is it doing here?”
“I found it.” I can tell by the way the tilty eyebrows twitch that it’s not the right answer. But I don’t really know what else to say. I did find it, at the edge of the hen coop with a bunch of other eggs. It’s not my fault that this was so big . . . And black.
Mum stops grabbing at her neck and marches out the door. When she comes back, it’s with one of Dad’s hammers. The big one with the claw at the end. “Give it to me. We’ll deal with it now.”
“No!” I grab the egg and rush across the room. It’s hard to move with the egg—it’s so big and really heavy now—but I can’t let her. Not after all this time. Not when I’m so close to seeing what’s inside.
“You don’t know what you’re dealing with son, we have to get rid of it before anyone finds out.”
“But you can’t. I’ve been looking after it.”
The hammer falls on the floor. Mum’s fingers are doing that twitchy thing again. “How long?”
No point lying any more. She’ll know. She always knows. “Six weeks.”
Mum pulls on her hair, making the curly bits stretch straight. “You’ve had that in our house for six weeks? Are you mad? What if the priests saw? Or the patrols? What do you think they’d do to us? They already took your father, I can’t just—” She bites her lip.
Now I feel bad. I didn’t mean to make her cry. I didn’t even think about the patrols. I just wanted to do the right thing, like Dad told me. “Greatness isn’t doing extraordinary things, it’s doing extra ordinary things.”
“Oh, Adrian . . .”
“I wasn’t trying to do anything special, Mum. But the egg was so big, the hens wouldn’t sit on it. I wanted to help the baby. I had to make sure it was okay. If I didn’t take it, it would have died.”
Mum slides off the bed and shuffles over to me on her knees. She does it really fast, but the look in her eye makes me thing it’s not a bad thing. And the tilty eyebrows have gone. “You’re such a good boy,” she says. “Did I ever
tell you that you look just like your father?”
I don’t look like Dad, not really. He’s got hair like the same colour as straw, thin and scraggly. Mine is red and spiky with this one wavy black bit near my right ear. It makes me look like a log on fire. But I know it makes Mum feel better so I just nod.
She looks at the egg.
I look at her.
“You did a grand, noble thing, Adrian. But that egg has to be destroyed before it hatches. And nobody can know it was here, understand? No one.”
I wish I understood why she’s so upset. I’ve never seen her like this before.
“Adrian? Promise me. Does anyone else know?”
“Nobody. I didn’t even tell Flinn.”
She blows a big breath through her mouth that makes her hair fly all over the place. “Good. Give it to me.”
My hands feel really cold now the egg is gone. I rub them together but it doesn’t help. My stomach feels full of worms as takes it on the egg and puts on the floor. When she picks up the hammer the worms become snakes.
This is wrong. I can feel it. No matter what the patrols say.
Six weeks. Six weeks of sneaking out early to do my chores, making sure the animals were fed and clean so I could come back to keep the egg warm. To talk to it. To hold it.
I hate crying. Flinn always tells me that only babies cry, even though I’m three months older than him. It’s a good thing he can’t see me now.
Mum holds the hammer above her head. “Don’t look, Adrian.”
I don’t want to, but I have to. I have to see the thing inside. I have to know if my guess was right.
Mum scrambles back, still holding the hammer. This time she doesn’t touch her throat, she grips her chest as if she can’t breathe.
The egg. My egg. There’s a big crack down one side, stretching across the glittery black surface. It gets bigger as I look.
“Come to me Adrian. Right now.”
“Now! Come here. Don’t let it see you.”
A huge piece of shell shoots off the side of the egg. A big fat foot pokes out. It’s pink. Covered in tiny soft scales, like a chicken leg but shinier. Almost like metal. It also has claws on. Like a lizard.
Mum is waving now, trying to get me closer, but it’s too late. I have to see. I drop down to the floor and crawl up to the egg, watching the shadows shift inside. More flakes of shell come away. I’ve never seen a chick struggle this much to get out of an egg before. And it’s so smelly. Like the inside of Master Kenna’s forge or the outhouse after Madam Hallie serves pickled eggs in the tavern.
The rest of the shell breaks apart as the thing inside stretches: two big wings covered in slimey green muck. They’re so weak, pink again, but a different shade to the foot. Rose instead of copper. A tiny head on the end of a long skinny neck and three more feet to match the first one. The tail is long, like a whip, with a big spike on the end. Also pink.
I know what it is. I want to say it, but the word is stuck in my mouth
I watch the thing pick itself up, turn and open it’s eyes. It looks at me. The eyes are the colour of the shiny gold coins that the priests use. They make me want to run. But I don’t. I can’t.
The creature picks shakes the last few pieces of shell of it’s back and walks forward. It moves easily now, like it always knew how to use those four skinny legs. The pink claws make big scratch marks on the floor, curling shreds of wood as easily as cheese. It swings its tail.
“Ow. Hey, it cut me.”
Mum is standing up. I don’t think she even remembers the hammer is in her hand. She runs forward, but the creature has already pulled back the tail and turn to lick gently at the cut on my arm. It growls. Then . . . Purrs. Like a cat. Something warm and furry seems to roll over me, like a big blanket on the inside of my body. It starts at my toes and goes all the way up until even my forehead is tingly.
“No . . .” Mum grabs my arm and turns it over. Shakes her head. She’s crying as she strokes the star shaped cut on the inside of my wrist. “It marked you. I’m too late.”
“What does it mean?”
She strokes my hair, playing with the little black section above my right ear. “You were the first human to meet its gaze. It marked you as an equal.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s your dragon now, Adrian. It belongs to you . . . Or, you belong to it. Nobody really knows which way round it is.”
Now she’s said the word I know I can say it too. It’s not so scary now that Mum has done it. “Dragon? It can’t be a dragon. Dragons are forbidden fauna.”
As if to argue, the dragon crawls across my knees and puts its head in my lap. Small puffs of smoke curl out of the big, flared nostrils. It’s warm. And heavy. My knees start to hurt.
“Dragons are forbidden to all but the dragon riders of Aostin.
I snap my mouth closed before Mum makes a joke about me catching flies. A moment later it opens again. I can’t help it. “Dragon riders? They’re a myth. They’re not real. Are they?”
Mum stares at the dragon snoozing in my lap. She looks really pale. “I think it’s time we talked about your father.”
I don’t like the way she says that. “Why? Are the priests going to let him go?”
She shakes her head. “Not Jerrin, though he raised you and loves you like a true father should. No, I’m talking about your real father. Ragdar Redwing.”
Now I know she’s crazy. Or this is some sort of dream. I know Ragdar. Everybody does. He’s the best and most famous of all the dragon riders in the stories. He’s their king.
She shakes her head at me. “Come down stairs. I have something to show you. And you’d better name that dragon too.” She walks away, shoulders all hunched up and high near her ears.
The little pink dragon tilts its head at me. It feels like it’s waiting for something.
The dragon snorts.
Another snort, plus a puff of smoke.
The dragon dives out of my lap and spins around. Tiny jets of orange fire come out the mouth. I can see the teeth as it shows off in front of me, long and sharp like knives.
“Oh! But . . . You’re pink. I thought you were a girl.”
Another stern look. More smoke.
“Fine. What about Hern or Hobb? Jan?”
The dragon stomps through the remains of it’s shell, shattering the fragments into even smaller pieces. Before I can catch it, it hops onto the bed and shreds my blanket with it’s claws, sending small scraps of wool flying in all directions
Pillows next. Soon a cloud of feathers spins through the air. I’m choking, coughing, trying to find the tiny creature that tears up all my best toys and tools like a whirlwind.
“Fine, fine, I’m sorry! You’re making a mess, please stop. Please!”
The dragon freezes, jaws clamped tight over the head of the wooden horse I just finished whittling from an old hunk of oak. It waits, golden eyes gleaming.
“Would you look at this mess. You’re crazy. How am I ever going to clean up this chaos?”
The red patch of skin on the inside of my wrist burns as though pressed against a fire. It yelp and dance around, but the pain doesn’t last long. When I look again, the skin is mostly healed, but a small symbol gleams beneath it, red like a ruby.
I look at the dragon. It glares back.
“Chaos? You like chaos?”
A small puff of white smoke dances from the nostrils.
“I like it too.” When the dragon releases the horse it lifts it’s wings and shoots into the air. One quick circle of the room and then it’s back, landing on my shoulder like a big, scaly sparrow. “Fine. But we’re going to spell it different, like what Finn did with his horse, Xang. We’re going to use a ‘K’ instead of a ‘C’. It will sound the same, but we know it has an interesting spelling.”
Khaos yawns and curls his tail gently around my neck, the barbs close to the side of my throat. I should be scared, but his weight is warm and comfortable and I don’t think he wants to hurt me.
I pat his back. The scales are hot and smooth beneath my fingers.
“Khaos the dragon. Yes . . . I think that’s about right.”