Tegain knew exactly what the Mama Red wanted from her – to choose one of the three baby Reds. But why? For what was she choosing them? And why her? How did she stumble into this obligation? This jumble of questions further complicated the headache growing within Tegain's skull. Also, there was the conflict between Things Others Expected Of Her and her natural stubbornness, which generally amounted to her telling the Others to piss off. Unfortunately, despite her lack of social graces, she was pretty sure that dragons were rarely told to piss off, so she felt unnecessarily encumbered with responsibilities. While she certainly wasn't one to kowtow, it might not be considered weak if she were overly polite to, say, a damned dragon, for example.

In it's nest.

Surrounded by it's hungry offspring.

Then it might be okay to hold her tongue for once.

Still, she grit her teeth and did her best to subdue that rising red anger which sprang from her youthful angst within and threatened to launch an ugly strain of epithets toward the Mama Red.

There were legends dating back from the time when Mankind was hairy and lived in the darkness that dragons were evolved beings who were cordial and could communicate quite easily with many different species – including Man. But Tegain had an uncle who was a trapper, and he knew everything about animals from pole to pole. One time when she was ten he told her that while dragons were perfectly intelligent enough to converse, their tongues and jaw structure were terribly ill-formed to engage in dialog of any kind. “You see, girl,” he had said, “while dragons can snap a mighty Oak with but a single bite, their iron-coated tongues just don't have the dexterity to talk.”

When she had questioned the veracity of his words, he had simply nodded emphatically, and said, “They're jaws are just too damned heavy and muscular to talk, as well. But don't you worry none; I imagine dragons get their meaning across well enough, on most occasions.”

And now, seven years after that heart-to-heart with her uncle, she looked up at that sleek red face, at those orange eyes, and wordlessly knew what was expected of her. She grimaced and shook her head, damning that gigantic lizard for forcing her into submission.

But the question was: for how long?

Tegain didn't ponder this for more than a beat or two. She was sure that the instant she chose a “Winner,” that nasty beast would devour her. To the victor go the spoils and all. She shook her head a again, a little more vehemently this time, as her hair fell over her face. If she was about to die, she wasn't about to go out a coward. She strode confidently past the roiling Redlings, her head held high, and approached the runty Purple once again. Again she reached out one hand, and gently placed it on the little one's snout. The Purple pre-fledgling let out a low noise which Tegain had originally misinterpreted as a hiss but then realized it was a sigh. Perhaps the only time in the young dragon's life anyone had given it some kindness – or even recognition, for that matter.

The End

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