Please Tell Me You Re Here To Kill Me

The pitter-patter of the rain outside was soothing, and Nezenth sighed a contented sort of sigh, savoring the sound. He felt hunger tugging at him, and another need, too, but it seemed more important to capture the fleeting moment of peace and quiet, which he might not know again anytime soon, than to rush headlong after his desires, which he could chase once the peace was gone. Nearby, the Sleight of Hand egg and the Death By Delicious egg were rocking frantically, while the Celestial Harmony egg tottered gently, and he wondered if any of his siblings might need, or at least appreciate, some help. Maybe not. Maybe better to give them the chance to do it on their own, and start their lives with a big accomplishment for which they would be rewarded.

Hopefully they would all be capable in their own right, and require little guidance to make their way safely into the world.

The Celestial Harmony swayed slowly back and forth until it came to a gentle stop. There was stillness for a moment before a tiny, tiny little blue head peeked around the curve of the white eggshell.

((Hello? Is anyone there?))

It took Nezenth a moment to figure out who was speaking. He had honestly expected one of the other eggs to hatch first, and the little blue head was almost entirely hidden by its shell.

((Hello,)) he greeted warmly when he finally spied the speaker. Blue? What, no that couldn’t be right… that face seemed so small in comparison to Murumbith and even Ollovuth, who had not been large. ((Are you behind, or still inside? Do you need help getting free?))

((Oh no, thank you very much though.)) The new blue answered very politely, slowly winding his way out from behind the egg, revealing a very pale ice blue dragon…

…who was possibly the tiniest dragon anyone in the stands had seen. A soft gasp seemed to emanate from the spectators, including some soft aw’s but the little blue was blissfully unaware as he picked his delicate little way over to Nezenth. Once there he inclined his head respectfully.

((I am Taigith. Might I know yours please?))

((Nezenth,)) he replied, inclining his head too, but worry surged up within him. He hadn’t really seen many other dragons, true — just his own brothers so far — but his instincts told him that this wasn’t quite right. There was just no comparison between himself and this tiny blue. ((Are you… well? I hope it isn’t rude to ask, but I feel as if I must.))

The little head cocked to the side, curiously, ((Why would I not be?)) He asked, confused by the question, ((I’m quite well truly, but I do not know why you would think me otherwise…?))

It wasn’t Nezenth who answered, but a low, droll voice coming from the perfectly still As Long As You Behave egg beside them, ((It’s because you’re freakishly tiny.)) the voice intoned with absolutely no inflection at all, ((You creep him out.))

Nezenth spluttered a bit. ((No, no, that’s not it! You don’t “creep me out”. I am concerned, yes, because you are very, very small. We’re both blue, you see, and you are far smaller than me — and those I’ve met so far. It seems as if it cannot possibly be healthy.))

Taigith’s little face crumpled slightly but he kept holding himself erect, ((Oh…)) he simply said, voice a little sad, ((Okay.))

A gusty sigh came from the As Long As You Behave egg and the bottom of it popped out, swinging open like a door, held by thick egg goop. And out came yet another blue, except this one was long and sort of coltish, thin legs and lithe body. And like Nezenth he was much larger than the tiny Taigith.

((Getting upset will do nothing but make you look even more like a baby,)) The droll dragon pointed out, slowly moving over to drape laconically over one of the eggs nearby that had tipped over during the course of the hatching, ((Who cares…))

((I didn’t mean to upset you,)) Nezenth said. ((I was just concerned. And… whoever you are…)) he addressed the lanky blue, ((Taigith clearly cares. You have a point, but there’s no need to be dismissive of his feelings.))

((Feelings are stupid.)) the new blue intoned, still perfectly relaxed draped over the egg, ((Taigith should be tougher. He’ll need to handle worse than that out there.))

((I can handle things!)) Taigith insisted, looking between Nezenth and the new blue and sitting down, tail curling neatly around him, ((I’m not…I don’t know….weak or anything. Why would you think I can’t handle things?))

((Because your face crumpled like my egg,)) The new blue snorted, sighing again, ((Ergo…lack of handling.))

Taigith looked downcast for a moment before he noticiably perked himself back up, ((What is your name anyway? Mine is…))

((Taigith. I know.)) the dark blue rolled his eyes, not moving, ((I am Shuriketh… and this…is so boring.))

((Then leave,)) Nezenth said firmly, getting a bit irritated. ((I’m sure you can find something to amuse you somewhere else, if we aren’t interesting enough for you. And I hardly think that getting one’s feelings hurt a bit means that a dragon can’t handle things. Having a moment of emotion doesn’t make you weak.)) He glanced at the tiny blue. ((Ignore him, Taigith. Just keep your chin up — people will think you are weak because you are small.)) Privately, he still wasn’t convinced, himself, but Shuriketh’s callous criticism had made him feel particularly protective of Taigith. ((So they may tend to judge you more harshly for showing your feelings. But it doesn’t matter what they think, anyway.))

((Thank you Nezenth.)) the little blue sent the words along with a gentle warmth of affection to the other blue, ((That was very kind of you to say. I truly appreciate it.))

Shuriketh groaned, and made gross barfing sounds.

((There is no need to be so negative Shuriketh.)) Taigith frowned at him, trotting around the egg to peer down at his brothers face, ((Why are you so mean?))

((I’m not being mean.)) Shuriketh looked up at him, voice still entirely without emotion of inflection, ((I’m being honest. I don’t frankly care if you feel all the things or appear weak. Just…letting you know that’s all.))

((I care about you.)) Taigith informed him.

((Why?)) Shuriketh shook his head, ((That’s so stupid.))

((If you didn’t care — even if it’s only in a mean-spirited, negative way — then you wouldn’t say anything,)) Nezenth disagreed. ((You’re getting something out of it, whether you’ll admit it or not. If you want to pretend you don’t care, then fine, but you’re passing judgment on it anyway. Either be helpful, or go amuse yourself somewhere else.))

((I don’t care.)) Shuriketh informed the other blue, sliding over the egg slowly to finally be standing upright, ((But I need some kind of entertainment. There are no words for how much I hate this place. We’ve been here in those eggs for too long.)) he strolled slowly away from the other two and stretched, ((And I’m not being mean or negative. I just am.))

Taigith looked between the two of them and then around at the hatching grounds, ((I like it in here.)) he admitted, moving around the fallen over egg, ((It’s warm and nice.)) And he didn’t want to say how the low lighting seemed to make his hide almost glow. That was really pretty. But it sounded far too much like vanity, and he didn’t want to be that dragon, ((Oh! There are other shells here!))

((Then by all means, Shuriketh, just go!)) Nezenth insisted again, flustered. He was beginning to think that Taigith wasn’t the one who might be unhealthy — perhaps it was Shuriketh instead, who seemed incapable of listening or comprehending simple logic. ((If this place is boring you, then even the simplest hatchling would seek out another place!))

The Sleight of Hand egg, which had been rocking frantically all this time, cracked into a dozen pieces suddenly, some of them bursting outward and others clinging wetly to the fresh brown hide of the dragon that had been trapped within until just this moment.

((I agree!)) said the brown, as if he wasn’t a newcomer to the conversation at all and had been standing here all along, debating the merits of fun and feelings. ((This place is boring. But that just means it needs a little sprucing up, that’s all! A little razzle-dazzle! A place is only as boring as you let it be!)) He looked around. ((Hmm, not bad, not bad. The lighting is nice, very “dramatic occasion”. The sand is warm, I can work with that. These eggshells… ugh, those things just have to go. Little blue!)) he exclaimed suddenly, leaning in and nudging Taigith, interrupting himself so quickly that it probably took a second for anyone listening to catch up, ((Love the overgrown firelizard look! You should really make that work for you! I’ve already got a few ideas brewing.))

Taigith stared at the brown, completely steamrolled, eyes wide as he blinked at him, ((…overgrown firelizard?)) He said eventually, looking towards Nezenth for help, ((What…?))

((It’s a cavern, this is sand and those eggs are the remnants of other peoples eggs.)) Shuriketh said dryly, husky voice calm, ((That’s all. And razzle dazzle sounds…worrisome.))

((An emotion?!)) Taigith turned towards the other blue in excitement.

((No.))

((Oh…)) the tiny blue deflated a little with disappointment, ((Rats…))

((No wonder you’re bored,)) the brown said, giving Shuriketh a disbelieving once-over. ((You aren’t even trying! Can’t help a dragon who won’t help himself, sorry! Now you, Little Blue,)) he continued, ((You’ve got real potential!))

Nezenth shoved himself abruptly between the brown and Taigith. ((Of course he does,)) he said evenly. ((But slow down a bit. We don’t even know your name.))

((Don’t know my name?)) the brown asked incredulously. ((Well I don’t see why not — I’ve had it all my life! Cavarith, dragon of a million ideas! A playmaker, a real go-getter!))

((He scares me a little,)) Taigith whispered to Nezenth, perfectly content to hide behind the bigger dragon and peer over his shoulder, ((He’s so…))

((Annoying?)) Shuriketh interrupted.

((…enthusiastic.)) Taigith corrected, hastily adding, ((Not that there is anything wrong with being enthusiastic…I’m just not used to it…Nezenth here is so calm, and Shuriketh is so…well…Shuriketh….)) he fumbled with his words for a bit and then said, ((Hi Cavarith…I’m Taigith. It’s nice to meet you.))

((As for trying.)) Shuriketh muttered, ((I’m trying not to kick you in the head. Good news…it’s working.))

((Hey, buddy, you’re the one who’s standing around complaining about being bored while just standing around!)) Cavarith replied, unfazed, seemingly without noticing the fact that he was practically shouting by the end of the sentence. ((If you just sit around waiting for life to get interesting then you’re probably missing something interesting that’s happening right around the corner that you didn’t bother going around! Me, though, I’m a dragon who’s all about taking every corner!)) He looked at the assembled blues enthusiastically. ((Am I right, boys? Who’s with me?))

((No thanks,)) Nezenth replied coolly, stepping back (as Cavarith had somehow managed to encroach on his personal space rather rudely during his speech). ((I’m not really looking for any more excitement or razzle-dazzle in my life.)) He glanced towards the candidates. ((Ollovuth and Murumbith went that way for “fun”, but it’s starting to look more and more like a quieter option for me.))

((I’m with you, Cavarith!)) said a voice from the Death by Delicious egg, toppling and rolling up. ((I want to work the corners!))

((Welcome aboard!)) Cavarith greeted loudly, despite the fact that he couldn’t even tell who or what was still inside the egg. ((I love enthusiasm! Enthusiasm will get you places! Now how about you, Little Blue? I guess I don’t even really have to ask you, huh, Bored Stiff?))

((I will participate just because there is nothing else to do…)) Shuriketh lounged indolently again, eyes following the Death by Delicious egg, ((Maybe something interesting will happen.))

Taigith glanced from Cavarith to Nezenth, uncertain, ((I…)) he looked towards the Candidates, ((I should stay and make sure that things don’t go wrong. Maybe I can help…Stay Nezenth?))

((Now that’s the spirit!)) Cavarith said, nudging Shuriketh’s shoulder hard. ((Just don’t forget what “participate” means, eh? Here, you can start by trying to get our volunteer here out of that egg! I mean, I love eggs as much as the next guy, but they don’t really make great teammates, you know? And, just between you and me, it’s sort of gross-looking!))

((Sorry!)) apologized the Death by Delicious egg.

((Not your fault, kid!)) Cavarith assured it.

Nezenth watched this exchange skeptically before turning back to answer Taigith’s request, eyes softening again. ((I… can’t, Taigith. I’m sorry. The more I let myself think about it, the more I know I need to go. I wish you’d leave with me and be done with this nonsense, but if you think you need to stay… well, I can’t deny you the chance to fly on your own. Maybe you’re stronger than I am, after all. Be careful, Taigith,)) he said, and with one last parting nuzzle he headed towards the candidates, sure-footed but wary.

He took his time selecting, trying to ignore the urge to check back over his shoulder to make sure the others hadn’t come to harm. This was an important choice — more important than he’d initially realized — and it wasn’t going to be easy to make the decision while tethered by distant distractions. He moved among the candidates, using all his senses, sniffing and looking and reaching out with his mind, even gently touching a few (he’d not accidentally harm one if he could help it, because, like Taigith, they all seemed so fragile in their soft pinkness) until finally he felt something click, shifting into place in his mind, and he looked up to meet the eyes of his candidate.

((My name is Nezenth,)) he said. ((And please, can we get away from here? Someplace quiet where we can be together for a while, just us?))

Taigith watched his favourite brother go with no little sadness, which turned to rapturous joy for him when he saw him make his choice and be happy, ((There is a lid for every pot…)) he said, radiating both joy and sadness to his fellows, ((I'm so glad he found his. He deserves that happiness…))

((Whatever…)) Shuriketh strolled his way over to the Death by Delicious egg, ((Your egg looks yummy,)) he informed the occupant, circling it once before crouching and revealing claws that were scary sharp, (( Hold still.)) he told his sibling, nail gently running in a large circle in the side, which was now on top. When he was done he simply and dexterously lifted it out with the claws revealing a perfect, large hole for the dragon within to climb out through, ((There..))

A jade green head with prominent eyeridges and a rather cute slightly turned-up nose poked cautiously through the hole. ((Woooooow,)) she exclaimed breathlessly, looking all around her slowly, taking in the faces of each of her siblings, and the view beyond them to the other eggs, and the faces in the Stands. ((Everybody’s looking at me!))

((A girl!)) Cavarith exclaimed. ((Bam! Of course they’re looking at you, my dear — they’ve apparently been staring at nothing but blue butt for a while, until me and you came along! Come on out, greenie — show ‘em what you got!))

Encouraged, the green climbed out, revealing a good solid frame. She was average in height for a green, but well-built, with a broad chest and good musculature…. and even she dwarfed Taigith. ((Like this…?)) she asked, spreading her still-wet wings slowly.

((That’s right!)) the brown praised. ((Now turn — no, not fast, nice and slow.. that’s right! Hold those wings out! Let ‘em see! Work the crowd!))

Shuriketh, true to form, sighed gustily.

Taigith though was entranced and intrigued. A lady, a little green. Oh he so wanted to be her friend! Like now!

((You’re beautiful…)) he said softly, but with real sincerity in his voice, ((Really beautiful.))

The green beamed happily. ((Thanks!)) She sat up straighter, flexing her muscles and glancing at him out of the corner of her eyes to see if he was noticing. ((I, uh, I work out. Yeah. Takes a lot of work to look like me. But heeeeey… you’re pretty keen-looking, yourself! You’re so pale and pretty!))

Cavarith shoved his face right in between them. ((That’s right, folks — everybody’s beautiful in their own way! Well, except maybe for that guy over there,)) he added, vaguely indicating the group of candidates. ((Ugh. Anyway! What’s the name, greenie? Give a big smile and tell the crowd!))

The green blinked, looked around her at the faces and, suddenly a bit shy about the idea of speaking to all those humans up in the Stands, just kept her mindvoice exactly where it had been all along — among the dragons. Specifically the siblings right in front of her. She hoped that would do.

She did, however, pull her lips back in a human-like smile, which probably only looked sharp-toothed and terrifying because dragons were not meant to smile.

((Loninth!)) she told them. ((Uhh, can I stop holding my face like this now?))

((No!)) said Cavarith. ((Little Blue, why don’t you stand beside her? I want to measure.))

((Don’t do it.)) was Shuriketh’s lazily given advice.

Taigith however ignored the stoic blue and trotted over to stand beside Loninth. Giving her a light rub with his head. The fact that it was his head against her shoulder was not noted by the tiny, tiny little blue…but was almost certainly observed by the two dragons watching.

((Shells…)) Shuriketh sighed, ((You’re really tiny.))

((I think he’s really cute,)) said Loninth. ((He’s probably just tiny because he’s still a baby!))

Cavarith, meanwhile, had been cocking his head, craning his neck, peering at the pair of dragons from this angle and that. ((Okay!)) he announced abruptly. ((I’ve got a plan! Smell that delicious aroma? That meat that they’re trying to hide from us?))

((Oh no…)) Shuriketh drawled, draping himself over a sand hill, ((Here we go…))

((Thank you lovely Loninth. That is so very sweet of you to say.)) Taigith hummed contentedly, his positive feelings for the green only growing, ((And…I do not think they are hiding the meat? Nezenth went to get some…didn’t he?))

He looked around at Loninth and Shuriketh, ((Didn’t he?))

((He left and he never came back: we know that!)) Cavarith insisted. ((Look, if they aren’t hiding it from us, then why didn’t they just put it out here where we could eat it right away? Huh? Ask yourself that!))

Loninth’s mindvoice was full of thoughtful frown. ((Maybe… maybe they think we’re too fat?))

((The reason why doesn’t matter,)) Cavarith continued. ((All that matters is that they did hide it… but I know where it is. Trouble is, there’s a whole bunch of them between us and it!)) He nodded towards the candidates. ((My friends, we are gonna slip right through!))

Shuriketh yet out yet another sigh and re-opened his eyes, ((I’m not committing to anything until I hear this plan laid out.))

The tiny blue meanwhile was concerned. Nezenth had gone that way, he’d chosen one of those people and left….could he be in trouble? Hurt? Had they kept the food from him?

((We have to find Nezenth!)) He said out loud, ((And the food…I’m a little hungry…are you hungry Loninth? You aren’t worried about being fat are you? Because you’re not.))

((She is absolutely not!)) Cavarith agreed. ((In fact, she’s the perfect size — and so are you. What we are going to do is hide you, Little Blue, right between us. We’ll just caaaaasually make our way over there, just a couple of dragons — or three, but I’m not ready to pin my hopes on Bored Stiff over here just yet — minding our own business… with a tiny blue dragon hidden in between. We’ll keep the heat off, and once we’re almost through — BAM, Little Blue, you bolt for the meat!))

((Wait,)) said Loninth, ((What’s my job, again?))

((You just keep pace with me and keep Little Blue hidden until I give the signal. Act casual… and if anybody looks at you, just give that big smile and make sure they just get the message that you’re totally friendly and harmless!))

((Me…?)) Taigith’s eyes widened comically and he crouched down, unintentionally making himself look even tinier, ((I don’t know…that’s a lot of responsibility. How will I bring the meat back to you Cavarith?))

((This is a terrible plan…)) Shuriketh interjected, ((Unless you’re sending him to scout? He’s titchy enough not to be noticed.))

((One, I don’t know what “titchy” is,)) said Cavarith. ((And two: we don’t need a scout — we know where we’re going and we know what’s in front of us!)) He gestured towards the candidates again with his wing.

He may have been loud and active in his time on the Sands, after all, but he had also been very observant, even if no one realized it. He knew exactly where Nezenth had gone, and he had caught glimpses of the small room set just off the grounds, where the scent of meat was strong.

((Besides, they’re not just going to ignore a dragon walking right into them, no matter how small he is. Unless there are bigger dragons shielding him from sight!)) He looked down at Taigith. ((Just drag it! There’s probably a carcass or something. We’ll try to slip over to join you once the guards are distracted.))

((I bet I could distract them pretty good,)) said Loninth. ((Ooh, we could pretend to fight! Or dance, maybe. But fight sounds cooler!))

((You know any carcass would probably be bigger than him…)) Shuriketh observed, ((Still it’s as good a plan as any. The long dark blue moved forward to look down and Taigith intently, ((If he has the nerve that is.))

Taigith squeaked, and huddled a little closer to Loninth, ((I can do the thing….))

((That’s right, you can!)) Loninth encouraged. ((Don’t worry, Taigith — I’ll go first, that way if anything goes wrong it’ll have to go through me to get you!))

Cavarith narrowed one eye. ((Ehhh… you know what, no. I’ll go first. It’s my plan! And, no offense kid, I’m not sure you’re the leader type.)) At the green’s abrupt sad expression, he added, ((You’re our pretty face! Things go sour, we just have you make eyes at ‘em! Okay… so, Taigith, get right behind me. Loninth, Shuriketh, you get on either side of him. Stick close, and let’s move at the same pace. Ready? March!))

He did not wait for everyone to get secure in their position before he started strolling towards the candidates.

(Oh yes. This is going to go well…)) Shuriketh drawled as he herded Taigith beside him, behind Cavarith as they moved, ((Just….stay with Loninth and me Titchy Blue. The world’s too big for you.))

Taigith frowned slightly but followed along, sandwiched between the much bigger dragons ((I can’t see anything…))

((Don’t worry!)) Loninth whispered loudly — though she had no reason to try to whisper at all, since only the other dragons could hear her, anyway. ((I’ll close my eyes so I can’t see, either — then you won’t have to be the only one!))

((Wait, what?)) Cavarith’s head whipped around as he felt Loninth begin to stray from formation, her eyes closed. ((You’re jeopardizing the mission! Come on, Greenie, we need you to focus and…)) His eye was caught by a face off to their left in the crowd of candidates. ((And… whoa… whoa… WOWZA! What a face!))

His mission completely forgotten, the brown abandoned his mates and rushed right up to his chosen candidate. ((Liulfer! Now that’s a name for a guy who gets things done! Hmm, this wardrobe has to go, though! Look at you — you’re dressed just like everybody else! And… ew, what kind of issues do you have in that brain of yours? No way, those have to go, too. Fella, I am going to take that dark little lump of coal that is you, and shine you right up into a diamond! But first… how about some of that food you’ve been rudely hiding from me?))

((Oh for the love of…)) Shuriketh growled, twisting to watch the brown seek out and choose his lifemate, ((Typical…)) he sighed and sloped away from the other two, leaving the tiny blue and green on their own, ((I’m bored.)) he grumped, walking into the candidates, heading towards the exit, ((I’m hungry…)) then he paused and his head turned to the side, meeting the person’s standing there, ((You! Go get me something to eat. And get me out of this place…))

Taigith eeped, and scuttled back to the openness of the sands, trying to nudge Loninth to come with him, ((They left us!)) he was indignant, ((Come on…we should….I don’t know. We shall think of something yes? Loninth?))

((Huh? What do you mean ‘they left’?)) Loninth, who had been wandering blindly off-course, opened her eyes — but not in time to stop herself from bumping right into a pair of white-robed legs. ((Oof!))

She fell down on her rump, instinctively looking up to see what she had hit, and met the eyes of someone she hadn’t realized she was missing until just this moment.

((Ohhhh!)) she breathed. ((You’re not meat at all! I mean… well, obviously you’re not meat, but it’s just… you weren’t what I was looking for. Except you were, I just didn’t know it. You know? I’m Loninth and I…)) She shoved her head against the candidate’s legs again suddenly, like a desperate nuzzle. ((I… I just love you so much!))

Taigith watched, and was torn.

On one paw his was happy, so happy for Loninth, she deserved that love and to be as joyful as she was right now. But he couldn’t help feeling sad too.

He was all alone.

The tiny blue dragon curled up on the middle of the sands, hide doing that soft glowing thing it did.

And he let out a low, sad, eerie cry that hung in the air of the Hatching Sands, and made everyone fall silent.

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