A Deadly Gift

(From the Writer’s Digest Creative Writing Prompt An Unexpected Visitor)

“Go home, Marcail. You’ve done enough for today.”

I drop the scrub brush back in the bucket of hot, soapy water and slowly get to my feet. My back and knees scream in protest at the movement, as would be expected of someone twice my age. “Yes, sir,” I mumble, gathering up the bucket. As I return to the kitchen to dump the dirty water and return the tools to their place, I curse my father again. Five years I’ve been an indentured servant to the Ruling Family, sold by my own sire to pay off his gambling debts. Five years is a long time to gather hatred and resentment.

I wipe my hands on my long apron, then push open the heavy wooden door that’s the servants’ entrance to the castle. It’s already pitch black outside, but I can find my way to my tiny “home” with my eyes closed. It’s not much, just a single-room shack just large enough to house my bed, a small trunk for my clothes, and a tiny fireplace to keep warm on winter nights such as this.

I set to work immediately with my flint to start a fire, and it’s not long before the warm glow has shadows jumping on the walls. I remove my apron and drape it across the foot of my bed, for the first time noticing something on the center of my bed. It’s oval, about six inches by four by four, a maroonish-purple leathery exterior, and I recognize it immediately.

A dragon’s egg.

My heartbeat quickens as my panic rises. I also realize the danger of the item. It is forbidden of anyone in my station to even look upon, let alone possess, such an thing. Only the select of the Ruling Class have dragons, and the Dragon Masters are jealous of their prizes. If they find me with this, I will be executed immediately and publicly. I glance around to see if anything else is out of place, to speak of where it came from but find nothing. I don’t have anything to be disturbed.

The egg wiggles, jumps, and dread hits the pit of my stomach. A small crack forms, and I know I’m in serious trouble. Dragons form bonds with their Masters at birth. Dragons who formed bonds with those outside the Ruling Class always perished once their human was executed. I glance at the door and discard the thought of running immediately. Without a human to bond to, I would still be condemning the creature to its death. Through centuries of breeding, the powerful lizards have become dependent on humans.

A small nose appears through the shell, and it’s only moments before the dragon fully emerges. It’s a perfect miniature to what it will be when fully grown: sleek body, angular head, legs ending with taloned feet, and wings with a span equal to the animal’s body length. Its eyes latch onto me and I can’t look away. It cocks its head to the side, much in the same way as the stray dog that I feed kitchen scraps to does, then it lets out a tiny screech.

I move to the bed’s side and kneel, bringing my eyes level to the baby, lifting a trembling hand to him. He closes his eyes and pushes his head against my hand. I run my fingers down his scaly body in wonder. I’ve never seen such a beautiful dragon. His body is the same color as the egg, and the webbing of his wings and underbelly are the deepest of black. I’ve never heard of or seen one this color.

As he crawls up my arm to my shoulder, I know there’s only one thing for me to do, for the good of us both. I wrap my extra clothes in my apron, making a pack out of it, and don my heaviest cloak. I drop the corner of my blanket into the fire, watching as it catches and slowly spreads to the rest of my shack. Then, with the baby dragon tucked against me under my cloak, I slip into the night. Hard times are ahead of us, I know. But even that is preferable to being put to death.

I run through the night, through the small drainage ditch under the castle wall, and into the woods. The fight for our lives has begun.

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