A Short Story
came a knock on my front door at the break of dawn, when the limitless sky had
only begun to be breached by the light of day, and the storm had only just let
up. He looked tired and weary. Under the pockets of his coat he held a small,
hard-shelled egg as white as the midnight moon scattered in colorful cracks.
His hands were bruised, dirty, and bloody.
“Charlie! I wasn’t expecting to see you until Midsummer’s Eve.” I whispered as I wrapped my arms around the neck of my brother. “Come in quickly, your absolutely filthy. Take that coat off and hang it up to dry while I fetch something warm for you to wear and grab you something to eat.” I smiled at my brother and brought him by the fireplace.
Perhaps I should explain. My brothers Charles, Daniel, and I grew up in a small village near the West Wood border, a couple hundred miles off the coast of Ridgewell. We lived humble, quiet lives until one night when our parents left for Ridgewell, insisting they needed to see the king, and never returned. Charlie, the eldest, took care of Danny and I until we came of age. After that, Charlie moved to a small mining town in Stonetrim to continue his work while Danny fled to Western Ridgewell in search of our parents. Danny, like our parents, never returned as well. I was the only one of us who stayed in the small village we grew up in.
“How is work, Charlie?” I called cheerily as I handed him a steamed mug of goat’s milk and poached salmon with bread and lentil soup. “Oh, and Charlie, take off that coat please, it’s drenched and filthy. Wearing a warm duvet over that thing isn’t going to help you much.” I began to lightly pull the raggedy mess of fabric off him but stopped once he unclasped his hands and showed me what he had been holding ever so gently. The egg was small and white, with a mess of red and blue swirling around it’s shell. Silver cracks broke through the shell every which-way and it shone majestically under the flickering light of the fireplace.
“Charlie?” I whispered, my tongue clicking silently against my teeth. “What is that? Is…” I wondered at it, pulling in a few inches closer to properly inspect it. He was holding it so very carefully, almost as if it was some kind of fragile gem, worth nothing to other but millions to him. “Charles? Is that…”
“A dragon egg.” He whispered, his quiet tone matching my own. “Yea, brother. A White Sting-Bone and Crimson Firefiend mix, to be exact. One of the few that haven’t been hunted yet, I reckon.” He looked at me and eyed the mass of pillows and duvets in the corner of the room before shrugging off the blanket from his shoulders and laying the egg in the blanket near the fireplace. I retrieved as many pillows and duvets as I could carry and together we silently made a massive, fluffy bed for the unborn dragon.
“I’m holding onto him for a friend.” He whispered, breaking the silence and kneeling by the egg. “Or at least, I was. Unfortunately, I don’t think that my friend will be able to retrieve the little guy from me anymore. That’s why I came here.”
I turned to him and gave a long, worried look. “What do you mean by that?
“Max, I… I need you to take care of him for me.”
I looked at him incredulously, my eyes widening with confusion and fury. “Me? Take care of a dragon? Are you insane? I don’t have the foggiest clue about how to take care of a dragon, much less train it to not burn down my house! How am I supposed to take care of that… that… thing! Sorry, but the answer is no. No way am I doing this, Charles. Take him to one of your other friends. I’m sure you can find somebody!”
The more I spoke, the angrier and more confused I became, my voice getting louder and louder with every word.
“You’ve got to be delirious if you really think I would last even one day with a dragon in my presence, Charlie. He would kill me, you know! He would burn me to crisp and then he would tear me apart with his claws before devouring me in a single ‘gu-”
“Maxxie!” He called quietly, his throat parched and his voice cracking. I stopped. “Max, if I had any other options, I wouldn’t have come here at all.” He whispered as he drank quickly from his mug. “You’re my last resort, Max. I’ll help you out; I’ll get you everything you need and teach you what to do whenever anything happens, so please, Max. I’m begging you.”
I looked at the egg resting in a pile of duvets and sighed. “Fine.” I whispered, taking a seat by my brother and the egg. “Now eat, before it goes cold. I’m in no mood to reheat your food.” He nodded and began to eat. The crackling flames and the sound of his chewing filled the room and explored my senses as I drowsily watched my brother eat. As he did, I took a good, long look at my brother for the first time in ages. The shaggy brown mop he called hair was still messy, but had gone from curly to wavy over the years. His eyes were aged and weary, and were surrounded by dark circles and bags. His scruffy five o’clock shadow was rough and prickly, and there were even light traces of grey hairs littered in his mess of hair. He had grown older.
We both had.
It was only then that it occurred to me of what a waste our lives had been. We had spent our whole lives loving and caring for each other, and no one else. Neither of us had married. We had no children to love and care for and cherish. We would never grow old surrounded by grand-children and laughter and joy.
I frowned. As I was wallowing in the sad, pathetic excuse of my self-pity, the thought of caring for Charlie’s egg was becoming more and more attractive. I turned to look at the egg and winced as the white pearl reflected the fire’s light into my eyes. It really was a beautiful thing. Pure white was lovely, but the blemishes of red, blue, and silver that shone through it’s cracks brought out something in the world I had yet to see.
‘Perhaps this won’t be too bad.’ I thought.
And it really wasn’t too bad after all.