By noon the following day, the deed had been done. It had been a relatively simple hunt. Jeff’s father and two brothers, Frank and Michael, lured the dragon out of its cave with shouts and spears, then Jeff dropped a large section of mountain down onto its head. But while the rest of the family celebrated their victory Jeff took himself aside to sit quietly, hoping, as always, that neither his father nor brothers would see that he was crying. As much as dragons scared him, there was something beautiful about them. Being a warlock, he could see them as pure magic and it was amazing, and when the magic disappeared and he was face to face with the giant dead thing, it got to him, every time. The disappearance of the dragon’s magic in the world seemed to leave a cold calming mist over everything which was unwelcomingly broken by the sound of Michael’s voice.
“There you are, you’ve got to come check this out.”
Jeff quickly blinked the tears out of his eyes and turned a dark scowl on his brother.
“What is it?”
“We found three dragon eggs in the nest, one each!”
“Yeah come see.”
Michael beckoned and turned to lead the way while Jeff hurried to his feet and followed. As they arrived Frank brought his axe down hard, sending bits of egg shooting across the ground. Jeff could see a bright light blaze for a second and then disappear.
“What the fuck! Are you doing!’
The whole family turned, shocked at the potency of Jeff’s voice.
’We’re breaking eggs now?”
Frank scowled, then grinned menacingly.
“It’s called crisis prevention.”
A cold shiver ran down Jeff’s spine and he turned to face his father in the vain hope of support.
“Dad! We killed the other one because it was a threat to the town, and probably now we know it’s because it had laid eggs and was just securing its territory. You told me we were helping people, saving people. This is not that! Breaking eggs… breaking eggs is wrong!”
His father raised his hands calmingly, but before he could speak Frank needled in.
“What’s the matter? Is the little wizard even scared of dragon eggs?”
Jeff turned a dark look at his brother.
“Warlock, I’m a warlock and you know that, and it’s not about being scared, it’s about right and wrong.’
He turned back to his father and threw his hands in the air. Then said in an almost perfect impression of his teenage self.
“Now, boys, settle down, Frank leave your brother alone, and Jeff it’s not that bad. There are still plenty of dragons in the world and breaking an egg after a successful hunt is tradition.”
“We’ve never done it before.”
“We’ve never found eggs before.”
Jeff paced in a small circle trying to calm himself down and order his thoughts.
“No, no, that doesn’t matter, it’s still wrong. You told me when we started that we were providing a service, helping people, only hunting dragons that were a problem and ultimately saving lives. Breaking eggs does none of that.”
“Jeff, son, it’s really not that big a deal, you just need to calm down.”
“How can you say that?”
Frank scoffed, shook his head and swung his axe down into the nest, breaking the second egg.
A second cold shiver ran down Jeff’s spine. Only this time instead of dread, he felt a dangerous calm wash over him. He turned away from his father and face Frank fully, and when he spoke his voice resonated with power.
“You will not do that again.”
“And what are you going to do about it? I knew you didn’t have the stomach for dragon slaying, wizard!”
Frank all but spat the last word at his brother and before their father could step between them or say anything Jeff’s eyes erupted into flame and his brother’s armour was ripped from his body, leaving him almost naked and covered in cuts and scratches. To make a show of what he was doing Jeff raised a hand and clenched his fist as the armour crumpled like paper.
“I’m a Warlock, and you’ve never slain a dragon in your life.”
Jeff’s voice had taken a dark tone. He raised his hand again Frank lifted off the ground, suspended helplessly.
“You distract them while I do the work. You’re not a dragon hunter, you’re bait, at best. And without me, you’re nothing.”
With a quick flick of his wrist, he bounced his brother once hard against the floor then lifted him back up to eye level.
Frank’s muscles tensed as he tried and failed to move and for just a moment everyone, Jeff included, thought he might be about to kill his brother. But their father’s voice cut through the tension.
“Son, let him go. No one wants to do anything they’re going to one day regret.”
Jeff turned towards his father.
“We’ve already done things today that we should regret. I know I certainly do.”
But he lowered his hand dropping Frank, then bent down to pick up the last egg and slipped it into his backpack.
“And I’m not going to do it anymore.”
For the first time in his life, he squared off against his father, clenching every muscle he could find to try to stop his legs from shaking.
“I quit, and you should retire. You might be a dragon hunter, but they’re not.”
In a desperate grab for pride Frank quickly got back to his feet, axe in hand.
“Coward, we both know that if you couldn’t do that magic stuff, I’d kick your arse!”
Moving like lightning, and with no assistance from magic, Jeff whirled on his brother with his fist stopping inches from his nose, their father holding Jeff’s arms fast. Frank reacting a moment too late and jumped backwards, then slipped on a piece of shell and fell on his arse.
He turned back to face his father and pulled his arm free.
“Goodbye dad, tell mom I’ll be home for midsummer.”
He then held his father’s gaze for a few seconds to prove to both of them that he was serious, and then started down the hill, backpack over one shoulder. Hoping for the second time that morning that no one could see him cry.