The littlest ward

She closed her eyes defiantly and raised her chin to fully face the beast that was about to eat her. It was odd, she thought, how tranquil the world seemed in the moments before life was to be extinguished. Her breath was calm and deep, the cool air touched the tips of her hair, and the scents of nearby foliage (and what was probably dragon dung) wafted up into her nostrils. She was stoic and at peace with her decision.

And then the placidity turned to tumult. There was a loud crashing sound and something big and fast knocked her to the floor of the nest with a jolt. Another cacophony of melodious screeches assaulted her ears and she blinked in surprise to see the runty little Purple, one of his immature wings looking a little out of sorts, intentionally placing himself in harm's way to protect Tegain from his mother. It was surely suicide, for the adult dragon would exert little effort in shredding this brave little fledgling on its way to chomp on Tegain's young bones.

But then, in a strange way, Tegain understood. This was how it was supposed to be, she thought. She and the small Purple had bonded – however briefly – and now it was his turn to come to her aid, just as she had done moments before for him. It could be argued that the wiser tactic for him would have been to stay hidden along the treeline and stay out of the way while Mama dealt with the pesky and annoying human girl, then rejoin his brothers in the nest when the coast was clear.

But to what life? As the runt, his daily existence would be brief and bitter, until the day he finally succumbed to this brutal world, and his family would move on without a second's thought. Whether he died today or weeks or months from now was irrelevant, he was already dead. At least this way he did it on his own terms.

Tegain was truly touched by this brave little runt who stood to face the brunt of his mother's powerful wrath, all in an effort to protect her, if only symbolic in nature. She stepped to him and again wiped blood from her nose with the back of her hand, grimaced, then reached out and tenderly touched him on the back. His armor plating was dry and warm, and she could have been touching a rock for all the lifeforce she felt in it, yet somehow the Purple made a curious chirp and looked over his shoulder at her. She smiled and said, “Thank you, my friend.”

The End

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