Leafwing shifted anxiously in her mossy nest. She could see the torches of the king’s men through the trees. If help didn’t arrive soon, they would find her, and they would slaughter her and her unhatched dragonets. The small green dragon pulled her three eggs closer to herself.
The amber-orange egg and the chocolate colored egg were completely normal. They were warm, and she could even see the shape of the dragonet moving under the eggshell. But the dark brown egg was cold and rested heavily in her talons. To her knowledge, this almost always meant one thing: the dragonet was dead. Did she have a defective egg in her first clutch?
The other two eggs would hatch soon. Maybe even tomorrow night. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t be there when it happened. Curse their idiot father for leaving her alone to deal with this mess. If he hadn’t abandoned them she wouldn’t have had to seek help from someone else.
Her thoughts snapped back to the cold egg. Leafwing had heard of bathing eggs in flame, but if she did that, she’d immediately alert the soldiers to her location. If she waited much longer the dragonet would probably die.
Something rustled in the undergrowth. Leafwing froze, ready to defend herself. Two humans emerged from the bushes. One of them was Grabus, the Dragonfriend she’d met with a few days earlier, the other she didn’t recognize.
“Sorry we’re late.” Grabus grunted. “We ran into trouble on the way here.”
“We lost a man. We can only take two of them. We’ll give you a moment to choose.” The other said.
Leafwing knew immediately which two it had to be. It was too much of a risk to send a potentially dead egg. She rested her head on the other two eggs for a moment and shut her eyes.
Goodbye, little ones, she thought. Then she swept the two healthy eggs towards the Dragonfriends.
“Do they have names?” the unfamiliar Dragonfriend asked gently. Leafwing shook her head, trying to swallow the lump rising in her throat. It would be easier this way. To let them go.
Leafwing waited until the Dragonfriends were long gone, then picked up the third egg and moved deeper into the forest. She stopped by a rushing brook and placed the egg carefully on the moss. She breathed on deeply and bathed the egg in fire. She heard distant shouts as the fire lit up the surrounding forest.
Leafwing quickly knocked her egg into the stream, praying that the waters would carry her dragonet to safety.
Leafwing braced herself for a fight as she watched the men’s torches coming through the trees. She would die here, but at least she’d given all her children a chance.