Immediate Reaction

She wasn't sure what she had expected exactly, but the reaction she got caught her by surprise. The runt closed his eyes, gave a little purring rumble deep in his throat, and curled his long neck into Tegain's touch. There was a moment – ever so brief, but there was definitely a moment – where she temporarily forgot she was trapped in a nest and surrounded by fire-breathing predators which viewed her as a mere morsel to be later picked out of their dagger-like teeth during the course of their day. She felt...

A connection.

Tegain gasped and pulled back her hand in surprise, her eyes wide with confusion. The Purple was twice Tegain's height – not including the tail – and a quarter the size of big Mama Red. If he were anything like his quarrelsome Red siblings, he should have happily devoured her arm before she had even fully extended it.

But it didn't. Quite the contrary, it seemed to have... nuzzled her.

Tegain was shocked. She had never known dragons to nuzzle. Truth be told, she had never known a dragon at all. No one had. The typical human's time spent with a dragon was brief and gore-splattered, the majority of which was spent in the dragon's belly.

And yet, Tegain had felt no fear when she reached out to the young Purple. That was confounding to her; in fact, it made her head swim.

Above her, Mama snorted impatiently and prodded Tegain away from the runty Purple. The Redlings hissed and snarled at her and grew much more animated, prompting Tegain to wonder if perhaps patience was not a dragon virtue. Come to think of it, why be patient when one resides at the top of the food chain? The largest of the brood raised its head and towered above her in a threatening pose, as if it were about to pounce, perhaps, but this stance was quickly subdued by Mama's lightning-quick tail strike which sent the Redling tumbling backwards on its head, much to the delight of its siblings, who decided to take the opportunity to gang up on their fallen big brother with their talons and teeth. Tegain grimaced. Dragons' idea of roughhousing was brutal, to be sure. She realized the Redlings seemed completely oblivious to their runty little brother, who held back by the nest's edge by himself and curled his tail around his belly and flank. It was almost as if he was not there at all.

Tegain had spent her entire life on the farm, and she was familiar enough with Natural Selection, so it seemed to her that the Reds, both Mama and babies, instinctively knew little Purple was the runt. And runts rarely survived until maturity. They had already forgotten about him until the day finally arrived that he, being the weakest would succumb to starvation or even another dragon's attacks.

Mama chuffed and looked at Tegain intently, awaiting her to make a “Proper” choice.

The End

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