And We Want To Know How The World Does Work

Only those close to the Hatching Cavern entrance would see the flicker of lightning briefly illuminate the shadows of the entryway, but everyone heard the thunder that cracked immediately afterward, echoing through the Cavern like an explosion entirely too close for comfort. Kabridith, who had been right in the middle of another attack on a nearby egg, jumped backward instinctively at the sound and tripped, falling right into the Interminable as the Void egg. Both dragon and egg tumbled together from the little mound of sand the egg had been resting on, Kabridith flailing his little wings and limbs, until they landed in a heap: Kabridith on his back amidst the now-broken shards of Interminable as the Void, sprawling right on top of a very squished new sky-blue dragon.

((Incredible!)) exclaimed the lanky new blue, flat on his belly with his limbs spread out and Kabridith still on top of him. ((I was certain I’d be out on my own within another three minutes, but I suppose you can’t account for every eventuality!))

Helvonth stepped up gallantly to help nudge Kabridith to his feet and off of their new brother. ((I hope you’ve not injured yourself, Kabridith. It is always the young and over-eager who suffer the most, their enthusiasm fed by promises of glory where there is only pain.))

((Yes, yes,)) Kabridith grumbled impatiently, skittering off as if Helvonth’s touch had burned him. ((It’s not *my* fault that he put his egg there!))

((Now THAT, was interesting.)) The green on top of her egg was sitting up again now, bouncing slightly as she watched the events unfurl, ((You actually are entertaining,)) she nodded to Kabridith, ((Even if it is when you don’t actually mean to be. And new brother, don’t you mind that other blue…he’s a bit of a…sad sack. Actually…)) she looked between the three blues, ((You’d better tell me your names, or else I’m going to get very confused and call you blue 1, blue 2 and blue 3. And no one wants to be third.))

((MY NAME IS KABRIDITH! WHY HAS NO ONE HEARD OF ME?))

The new blue got to his feet and shook himself off. ((Well, I've heard of you now! Pleased to meet you, Kabridith. You can call me Fancharth. And you—)) he turned to Helvonth, but his eyes immediately strayed from his brother's face to his hide, ((What fascinating markings! Tell me, how did you come by them?))

Helvonth glanced back at himself. ((…I was hatched this way. I suppose it serves some purpose. When it comes to weapons of war, form fits function.))

((Efficiency!)) Fancharth exclaimed gleefully. ((Of course! Nature is fascinating, isn't it?)) He glanced back at Kabridith. ((And your coloring is—))

((My function is being incredibly attractive,)) Kabridith sniffed. ((And so I am. Like our lazy sister up there – her function is being incredibly annoying, therefore she was hatched in the most annoying shades of green possible.))

Fancharth looked her over speculatively, as if seriously considering this fact. ((Perhaps it's to frighten away predators.))

((Only one thing preys upon dragons,)) Helvonth observed dourly, ((and it is a foe that does not frighten.))

((Or maybe it's simply that no one has actually tried,)) replied Fancharth. He walked right up by the green's egg-perch to examine her more closely. ((Do you have a name?))

((I am Beaspyth,)) The little green chirped, and then smirked smugly at Kabridith, ((And my hide is this bright to attract attention away from those who do not deserve it.))

She then looked down at Fancharth and tilted her head to the side, ((You’re very striking too though. Well done.))

((Why thank you,)) Fancharth said, inclining his head. ((I don't know about my form and function, but I'll find out eventually!)) He peered closely at the egg she still lay upon. ((This was your egg? Incredible. It suits you, somehow. But I wonder how it happened to be this way? Do you suppose it has anything to do with the dragon it houses, or if you're just an isolated case? Maybe something our mother eats…? Hmm.))

((No one likes an attention whore,)) Kabridith grumbled at Beaspyth.

Helvonth wisely chose not to comment.

((Which is why none of us actually like you,)) Beaspyth retorted promptly, swishing her tail like a whipcrack.

She then looked down at her egg, ((It would be interesting if the egg did correlate. What did your egg look like? And what did his look like?)) she nodded at Helvonth, ((He didn’t ever give us his name…maybe you should go take a look at some of the other eggs, Fancharth.))

((Anyone who doesn't like me is merely jealous.)) Kabridith turned sharply. ((And since all I sense here is jealousy, I will remove myself from your poisonous presence and seek an audience elsewhere!))

With that, he marched off towards the candidates. They were closer than the people in the Stands, after all, and they looked much more excited to see him.

Helvonth stood his ground passively as Kabridith deliberately shoved past him. ((I already told you my name,)) he told Beaspyth simply. ((But I suppose you were too busy hiding in – or behind – your egg to pay attention. That sort of inattentiveness will be the death of you. The fire in the skies is unforgiving, and /between/ is like a gossamer-spinner – waiting, always waiting for the moment when the foolish look away for an instant and fly directly into her insidious web.))

Fancharth, meanwhile, was no longer listening. He was crouching, moving his long, sinous body about the Sands and around the eggs, examining every little pieces of broken eggshell he came across. He turned them this way and that, sometimes with his nose and sometimes actually grasping them with a forefoot; every so often he would decide to keep one, holding his growing collection carefully in his mouth.

((You know what you should do?)) Beaspyth slid off her egg finally and bounced over to the seemingly despondent blue, ((You should totally do a dance. It’ll make you feel heaps better. See? Here!)) And she started dancing on the spot little wings keeping her upright as she jigged, ((Whee!))

Eventually she came to a stop and nudged him, ((Go on, your turn…whatever your name is…uh….oh…uh…Helvonth! I’m right aren’t I? Go on Helvonth, groove the glooms away.))

Helvonth just looked back at her without saying a word, his mindvoice (even in silence) somehow conveying a concerned frown.

Finally satisfied with his collection, Fancharth stopped in a small clear spot on the Sands and carefully laid the pieces of shell out in a line in front of him. ((Hmm. Kabridith,)) he labelled, pointing to one, ((Helvonth, Beaspyth, Fancharth,)) he continued in order. ((The others: unknown. Dragons who came before. Note: look for them later to gain insight.))

((Where is Kabridith anyway?)) Beaspyth looked around, ((I saw him flounce off in a huff, but where did he go?)) The thought only puzzled her for a moment before she turned her attention back to Fancharth, ((There were other eggs?)) That was interesting, ((What do you think they were like Helvonth?)) and she nudged him, wanting to draw him into the conversation.

((Eggs,)) Helvonth replied. ((Colorful or dreary, large or small. What does it matter? They all shatter on the Sands… dying so that we may live, in a way.))

((They aren't really alive the same way we are,)) Fancharth murmured as he examined his shells. ((At least, I don't think so. But then… what if I'm only making an assumption without investigating?))

He jerked his head up suddenly, looking at the eggs around him with new eyes.

((No possibility should be overlooked!)) he decided, moving up to the steely-looking I Forbid You egg. He circled it, moving around and around. Then, very carefully, he pushed his cheek up against it, as if listening.

Tap tap tap

Kabridith, true to his word, ignored them all. He spread his wings once again to catch the light as he found himself the center of attention (or close enough to it, anyway) amongst the candidates. With no brown or bronze to steal the hearts of his audience, and his siblings not showing any inclination towards Impressing just yet, it was all too easy to attract the eyes of most of the candidates at once.

((Yes, boy and girls, gentlemen and ladies – it is I, Kabridith! I must say that I am disappointed that you've all chosen to come dressed in pillowcases… how am I supposed to pick a volunteer from the audience when you all look equally awful?)) He shook his head sadly – but not too sadly, because he was, after all, absolutely thrilled to the bone now that he was the center of attention. It wouldn't do to show it, though, no.

((Well, I suppose I'll have to just make do. How about you?)) He singled out a short boy standing near the back. ((Ugh, no. You are disqualified on account of your face. Please stay in the back. *Please*.)) He peered at a girl to his left. ((You are… nevermind. The less said about you, the better. How about…))

And suddenly, he knew, and let his wings fall again as all his need for attention shifted away from the rest of the crowd and focused sharply on one particular candidate.

((You! You, yes you, congratulations! You may watch Kabridith forever! No charge.))

((I don’t think they were alive,)) Beaspyth cocked her head to the side, ((I mean I don’t think mine was. It was just the nice crunchy outer coat before the gooey centre. And you really need a bright spark cheer up.)) she nudged Helvonth again, ((Come on…give me a smile. I know you can.))

((I hardly see why it matters to you if I am happy or not,)) Helvonth sighed.

Tap tap tap.

Fancharth listened to the I Forbid You egg for a moment more, then pulled his head back and examined it critically.

((I don't mean to interrupt,)) he spoke up finally, eyes still on the egg, ((but you're doing that wrong.))

((Who me?)) Beaspyth asked, surprised as she turned to look at Fancharth again, ((I’m doing something wrong? What are you doing to that egg? Isn’t that wrong? It was wrong when Kaboobarith or whatever his name was, was scratching at them.))

((Oh, I'm sorry, I wasn't talking to you, Beaspyth,)) Fancharth replied. ((I mean this fellow inside here.))

Tap tap tap.

((There. Hear it? Tapping away. But I tried that when I was inside, and it was awfully inefficient. Do you hear me?)) he directed his attention at the egg again, raising his mindvoice. ((I can show you a better way to do that!))

There was silence for a moment, and then, from inside the I Forbid You egg: ((Quiet, fool! You can't possibly compare your own pitiful efforts to mine!))

((Ooh someone’s in there!)) Beaspyth bounded over eagerly, ((Strange new brother, do you need some help? I’m sure Fancharth and Helvonth would help. With a PEW and a POW and a WHOOSH…)) and she illustrated each action with a punches, kicks and fake zooming motions.

((I’m sure it’d be epic.)) she beamed at the two blues out on the sands, ((Now…go!))

((I'm only saying there's a better way,)) Fancharth told the dragon in the egg. ((You might make it out that way eventually, but by then you may have starved in there. Let me take a closer look…)) He circled the egg again, examining it from every angle, pushing at it gently to get a better look at the underside before letting it slip lightly back into place again.

((NO! What are you doing? Get away from there!)) the voice warned.

((Clearly he wants to do this on his own. I wasn't willing to force you out before your time,)) Helvonth reminded Beaspyth, ((and I'll not force anyone else, either. If we must all die, then at least we should live with honor while we yet live.))

((Why are you so sure that death is imminent?)) Beaspyth rolled her eyes at him, ((I mean, I guess eventually that is our fate but why not strive for glory, and joy and adventure during it yeah? I mean to enjoy myself in between kicking the stuffing out of the enemy. That’s just how I roll.)) And she jigged again.

((Glory!)) Helvonth actually scoffed, perhaps the first show of real emotion since he hatched. ((There is no glory in war! There is no enjoyment in pain, in watching brothers and sisters fight and fall in agony! We will fight and we will die – or, if we are lucky, we won't die to the enemy and merely retire and wither away, either either way the enemy will still remain. There is no victory! There is no joy! There is no glory! There is only the knowledge that our burden spares the innocent from suffering in our place.))

He turned away, closing his eyes. ((…I should not stay here. While I sit with you, time has wasted. I've put off my duty for too long already, and it shames me.))

Beaspyth blinked at him, ((Wow that’s…a really bad way to look at things.)) she seemed genuinely confused by it, and tilted her head to the side, ((Well I’m going to enjoy things while they last, even if you are determined to be a sour picklesprout.))

((Do what you like,)) he rumbled, walking off towards the candidates. He looked them over carefully before making his choice, sitting down grimly in front of his chosen. ((My rider, my companion, my partner in the skies and in death… it will be an honor to serve with you.))

The I Forbid You egg was cracking… entirely against the will of its occupant.

((Maybe each egg is different,)) Fancharth mused. His first gentle rock of the egg had given him an idea, and he had long since stopped consulting the dragonet inside, focusing instead on the new problem in his head. ((Some may be thicker than others… or a different center of gravity? Is there enough similarity between them to make the same tactic work on all or even just most of them, or should there be a different technique applied to each one – each one being, in a sense, as unique in construction as the color and design on its shell?))

He pushed the egg back the other way, rocking it again, wobbling it atop its little mound of sand.

((You peasant!)) growled the dragon inside as jagged cracks spread up one side of the shell, ((stop that this instant!))

Beaspyth meanwhile shrugged off Helvonth and his strangeness and wandered over to watch the egg wobbling going on. But even this failed to occupy the greens agile little mind.

((This is boring.)) she informed them, ((I’m off to look for adventure.)) And so saying she turned on her little heel and danced her way across the sands, rather like a very enthusiastic puppy.

((There can be only one for me!)) she proclaimed, ((Only one to join in our quest for glory, no matter what silly Helvonth says. And there you are! Come! Let’s go kick some stuffing!))

A stream of angry growls and curses emanated from inside the rocking I Forbid You egg as Fancharth continued his work, practically glowing with excitement as the cracks spread, and spread… until finally the egg toppled and broke all at once, spilling out a large deep royal-blue hatchling.

((It looks as if your weight, when rocked against the damaged side of the egg, was too much and finally made it give way,)) Fancharth noted with some satisfaction. ((Just as I predicted!))

The new blue, stumbling a little dizzily after his tumble, dug his claws into the Sand both for purchase and because he rather looked as if he needed to dig them into something to keep himself from digging them into his brother's throat.

((You,)) he hissed, head low, posture aggressive, ((Fancharth. How dare you interfere? How dare you presume to know the workings of my own egg better than I? How dare you presume to know anything better than I? Pathetic fool! Know this: you have made a lifelong enemy of Vondruth!))

((An enemy?)) Fancharth blinked genuinely surprised at the combative tone of the other blue, ((Well that’s a bit unnecessary isn’t it?))

((It was MY egg!)) Vondruth seethed, ((Who are you to come in and…ruin it. I had plans. And you ruined them.))

((Well…I’m sorry that you feel that way,)) Fancharth mused quietly, and shrugged helplessly, ((But if it helps your hatching aided me on some hypotheses I had about eggs and hatching in general. Interesting things. And you had to come out anyway so…better that there was a good cause mm?))

((Your ‘good cause’ is debatable.)) Vondruth scowled at the other blue and kicked a fragment of shell, ((I had my own theories and conjectures. And my own way of coming out.))

((Are you studying eggs too?)) Fancharth was delighted, ((Excellent, two minds are better than one I say, so let us pool our knowledge and then we can progress even further!))

((No!)) Vondruth growled, ((No pooling. I shall complete my studies first and then…then you will be sorry at your presumptuous, high handed, expulsion of me from my egg. You just wait. You will see.)) and he stalked off, ignoring the bemused Fancharth who followed along behind him.

((I rather think you’re looking at this the wrong way.))

((I rather think I don’t care what you think.)) Vondruth sneered back, and pursed his little blue lips as he considered some of the eggs, ((I rather think that I shall look at this however I damn well want.))

((You should think of it as a sacrifice to the greater good.)) Fancharth tried to appeal again.

((Sacrifice?)) Vondruth turned to look back at him, ((Oh no…I do not ‘sacrifice’. Blues like me, do not sacrifice anything. Investigation and study and improvement are not about sacrifice Fancharth. It is about advancement. And I…should not be the one to sacrifice.))

And so saying the blue turned away and solidly smacked the Danger Is Always here egg, sending it crashing to the ground in a great shattering of shards and a wail of a little green expelled from her shell before she wanted to be.

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