Padjelahk dozed in his worn, comfortable chair under the windows. The spell-frosted windows kept the winter chill from the nursery, but he appreciated the warmth of his fur-lined tunic nonetheless. His red reptilian skin suffered in the freezing winter months. It was one reason he had loved the nursery as a young skilmot, training under the wizened tutelage of the famous Master Korezhen. The dragon eggs had to be kept firepot-warm all year round.
Now he was the nursery master, and he waited with Brighrathet for the dragon sire’s first clutch hatching. Padjelahk remembered the day many years ago when Brighrathet clawed out of his own egg. At the memory, he chuckled.
What draws your laughter? Brighrathet’s deep, raspy voice sounded in his mind.
“Remembering your hatching,” Padjelahk said aloud. “You were the first pip out—”
Of course, Brighrathet preened.
Padjelahk laughed as he reached up to scratch Brighrathet behind his ears and along his wings. The red dragon stretched along the back of the chair, rumbling with contentment. He was too anxious to stay still for long, though. Soon he pushed up and flew over to the egg cauldron, wings fluttering with nervous energy.
Patient with the dragon’s excitement over his first clutch, Padjelahk smiled and climbed out of his chair to join him. He carefully examined the eggs in the cauldron, carefully warmed by the banked embers of thrushes underneath. Dragon eggs matched their sire in color; these were all a deep red. Their hatching panes were all opaque bright blue, indicating the pips would emerge at any time. Padjelahk and Brighrathet would stay in the nursery until all but the last egg hatched. The pips would attack that egg, crushing the shell with their tiny, fierce claws and tearing apart the sole unhatched pip.
Why don’t they begin? Brighrathet asked with an irritated lash of his long, slender tail.
“You know they will soon enough. Are you ready to feed them?” Padjelahk teased. He knew Brighrathet had been hoarding piled of smoked meat to feed the newborn pips. They were more likely to gorge themselves to death than to starve, based on the mound beneath the corner nest.
Brighrathet blew out a thin stream of white smoke that curled up until he pushed through it, sending eddies down the scales along his neck. He hopped from one foot to the other. Do you think there’s not enough? Should I go get more?
Padjelahk laughed aloud, then froze. He heard the click of a cracking shell. He and Brighrathet watched closely to see which egg would hatch first. Ah-ha! He saw it. Padjelahk picked up the vibrating egg with a crack along one side. AS they watched, tiny claws pushed pieces of shell away, until the bright gold pip emerged.
“He’s got your strength,” Padjelahk praised, as Brighrathet blew smoke around the pip so it would know him. Padjelahk stroked its wings with a gentle claw, and the pip reached around and chomped down on his finger, holding onto its prey with all its newborn strength.
Brighrathet snorted with amusement and reared up, shooting a bright yellow flame into the air. He landed and cocked an eye toward Padjelahk, who was trying not to wince under the pip’s tiny but painful bite.
He’s got my teeth, too, and hunting skills, it seems. Brighrathet thought proudly.
Dogs in house
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