Less than a Dragon Scale
Garer stood on the street corner, wet and cold, shivering violently in the pouring rain. His clothes were soaked through, and his skin was slowly turning blue from exposure. His eight-year old body was malnourished and didn’t have the energy reserves to be standing out here in the elements, burning calories when the realistic side of him told him he should be finding shelter for the night and coming up with at plan for what he was going to do in the morning to feed himself now that she’d left him to fend for himself. Yet some irrational part of him insisted that if he just stood there a little bit longer, maybe she’d come back. She’d never lied to him before, whether what she had to say was good or bad. She had never lied about what she intended, and there was no reason she’d have started now, when she told him she was kicking him out because she had too many mouths to feed and as the oldest, he should be able to figure out how to take care of himself. Yet he just couldn’t quite believe it. There’d been no warning. Nothing to indicate this was coming, no time for him to prepare. She’d simply dragged him out of the house at the crack of dawn this morning and walked him the ten miles into town where they’d stopped at this street corner. She’d said what she had to say, told him not to return home, and then left him standing there as she walked away. It was now well into the evening, the sun sunk low below the houses, and he hadn’t moved from the spot where she’d left him.
A carriage rattled up the road towards him, pulled by two abyss-black kelpies in horse form. An aristocrat’s ride, no one else would have been able to afford paying for kelpies to drag them around. His eyes tracked as it approached and he took a step back and pressed himself against the wall of the nearest building as it came to a stop only feet away from him. The driver hopped down, not seeming to notice the scrawny child trying to make himself invisible against the brick and cobblestone street. He opened the door for the passenger and a well-dressed man stepped out, careful to avoid stepping in the slop puddles dotting the streets, so as not to foul his nice shoes. The man tugged at a leash he was holding in one hand and a mass of claws, horns and scales poured out of the carriage in one fluid motion of powerful muscle, quickly coiling itself around its master’s feet. A dragon.
His eyes widened at the sight. It was his first time seeing one in person, and to be so close he could almost touch it! The dragon was young, considering it was still small enough to fit inside a carriage, and was a striking purple and gold color, the shining golden scales highlighted magnificently by the deep blackish-purple horns and spines decorating its body. A rare and ostentatious coloring. Its owner must have paid a fortune for it.
The man was saying something to his driver, but Garer wasn’t paying attention anymore. His focus was on the beautiful and terrifying creature in from of him. It turned its head, its vibrant violet colored eyes fixating on him, entrancing him.
Without thinking, he stretched his hand out to touch the strangely soft-looking scales patterned across its snout.
“Don’t touch her, brat!” The leash snapped taunt, jerking the dragon’s head away.
The harshly barked command startled Garer out of his trance, and he snatched his hand back, looking up to see the dragon’s owner glaring down at him, furious.
“How dare you think to touch her with your worthless hands!” The man snarled. “Her value would drop just on principal, for being sullied by a useless street slug. A single one of her scales is worth more than you’ll ever amount to. Why don’t you do the only thing your good for and go throw yourself in the compost pit already.”
Garer was frozen in place. Worth less than a beast, no, less than the beast’s scales. It was like being told you were worth less than a toenail clipping, only somehow worse. His eyes flicked down to the dragon once more, who was still watching him with that one eye angled his direction.
As he looked back up to the man, who seemed ready to launch into more insults, Garer spotted something glinting in the man’s jacket pocket. A timepiece, it looked like. Without thinking, he lunged forward and snatched at the valuable trinket, bracing a hand on the dragon’s snout as he leaned over it to reach the man. Idly he thought the dragon’s nose wasn’t as soft as it looked, but the almost slickly-smooth hardness of it was somehow just as pleasing.
His fingers caught the chain holding the timepiece in place and he jerked back. A ripping sound indicated he’d succeeded in tearing it free from its anchor on the man’s jacket, and he stumbled back, quickly regaining his balance and turning on a toe to flee at full speed down the road. The man’s angry screaming followed after him.
He expected to hear accompanying footstep chasing after him any moment, but as he raced down the road and skidded around a corner into a nearby alley, the only sounds he heard were his own thudding footsteps, pounding heartbeat, and ragged breathing. He kept running though, weaving in and out of alleys until the stabbing pains in his side forced him to slow to a halt. He collapsed to his knees in another alley that looked that same as all the others he’d run through.
A quick glance around showed he was alone, so he cautiously uncurled his fingers to check the prize he was still clutching. A quick inspection showed it was what he’d thought it was. A high-quality timepiece, likely made of precious metals. If he could figure out who to sell it to, it would likely fetch him a tidy sum, enough to give him a good start at his new life on the street.
With a bitter grin he carefully tucked the timepiece into his pocket and pushed himself to his feet again. He was cold, tired, hungry and had no idea where he was. He needed to get his bearings and find a place to hunker down for the night. Somewhere inconspicuous until he could figure out what to do next. He started walking, no specific destination in mind, other than to keep moving until he found a hiding place.
Tomorrow would come soon enough. He needed to be ready to face it.