It was lying there neglected, a green oval nestled in a bed of straw. Instinct was telling me to ignore it – after all, it doesn't look particularly appetising, and if my inkling is right, the people who left it there would likely tear me to pieces if I did anything. That is, if they were still around. All the same, I can't take my eyes off of it, like it's going to be important.
The egg lying in front of me is about the size of a human's torso, smoothly curved and a familiar lustrous emerald green. I give it a light tap with a claw. Hard, slightly reminiscent of rock or crystal. And if my hunch is right, it's been lying here for a couple of decades, now. I remember those times, although not fondly. Unless my eyesight has greatly deteriorated, the only other time I've seen this kind of green was the scales of air dragons. I remember them well, sociable types for dragons. I still don't think they deserved what they got.
I think back to those years. It was only last century that I started roosting in the Spine Mountains, and if this all started sixty years in, that means it's been… wow, thirty years since the dragons have been gone? That long? I can still remember it all too well.
It started off fairly benignly. The humans had recently begun settling in the area, and in usual fashion, spent their time exploring, cataloguing and generally getting their grubby little fingers everywhere. The dragons initially didn't mind – what did it matter if they wanted to look around the place? But eventually, they started getting more ambitious, bringing in equipment of some sort to start digging. They were looking for something, and didn't care what was in the way. It was inevitable that something bad would happen, and although I don't know what, it managed to outrage the dragons in the area. I was keeping to myself at this point – what you don't know won't get you eaten, after all.
Tensions continued to escalate, with dragons destroying the equipment, humans bringing in soldiers to protect it, and once the first dragon fell to human weapons, then things got really ugly. I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible, but even then, I could still see and hear the carnage. I never witnessed the actual battle, but there weren't any dragons in the area any more, and I'm pretty sure there were a couple of less settlements at the end. And just like that, things were peaceful again, if a lot lonelier. The dragons may have been haughty and self-interested, but all the same, they were better company than humans. Some of them are convinced I'm the reason some of their livestock are missing, meaning more lying low.
But that all happened a few decades ago, and no dragons have been seen since. So is this egg still alive? At least, I'm pretty sure this is an egg. I'd never seen a dragon egg, or even a dragon hatchling before, so I haven't exactly got a reference, but it's far too large to be the egg of anything else. I don't think it's a natural stone, either, so I guess…
Wait, did it just shake?
Cracks start to appear along the green shell, and it's accompanied with a little chirping sound. Could it be? How could this egg have hatched without some sort of warmth? My question goes unanswered, and I watch with bemusement as the shell continues its collapse and in a minute, out tumbles a little green dragon hatchling, making various cooing sounds.
"Hhhhrrrr…" it chirrups, looking around with round, yellow eyes, for the first time in its life. So innocent, carefree and curious. Suddenly I feel a huge stab of sadness. What if this little hatchling's parents were killed in the war? They should be here to witness this, not me. I consider leaving as soon as possible – if they are still alive, I don't think they'll appreciate if their hatchling considers me a parent, not them. But I can't just leave it here…
"Hhhrr!" it calls, noticing me. Hello, are you my mummy?
That immediately jars me. I knew dragons always communicated telepathically, but I never figured they'd be able to do it so quickly. The little guy or girl is barely walking around, yet it can already string a coherent sentence together. More importantly, can't it tell I'm a he?
"Err… no, I'm not your mummy." I respond awkwardly. That's something – how do I tell it about its parents?
Oh, then are you my daddy? it… no, she, sends. The message may be not an actual voice, but I imagine it as being feminine in my head. Although she's talking to me… err… actually, that probably is the best word for it… she doesn't seem focused on me at all, instead testing out her little miniature wings. I notice there aren't any spines on them, unlike adult dragons. She also doesn't have any spines running down her back, though some adults didn't have them either.
"No, I'm not your daddy." They are known to be eloquent, but I never figured that dragons started off smart. I know that I only learned to talk after a year in the nest, and even then, it was limited to calling mum or dad. Yet here, I'm having a conversation with a hatchling that's barely minutes old.
Then who are you? You don't look like me.
"That's because I'm a griffin, and you're a dragon," I say. She seems intrigued by that moniker, but quickly nods and accepts it. "My name is Kol. What's yours?" Wait, hang on, she hasn't even been named yet... Why did I just ask that?
Kasril'Ayr Sev'Aktama, she replies, to my astonishment.
"Err… hmm…" I say, still surprised. How come she already has a name? "How do you know that's your name?"
She gives a little amused chirrup. Of course that's my name. It's a mix of my mummy and daddy's names. Why is your name so short?
That, at least, I can kind of answer. "Well, there aren't that many griffins, so we don't really need many different names." To be honest, names never really had much significance to me. Humans put a lot of stock in their names and titles, but to me, it's just an easy way to establish you're talking about the same person. Dragons are also immensely proud of their names, though I can kind of see why. It's a sign of lineage, a tribute to their parents. I know I'd be insulted if someone sullied the names of my parents.
I see. I'm hungry, she sends, changing the subject. Do you have any food? she sends, looking straight at me with those big, round eyes. Even with that kind of reptilian feel, it's still a cute trick.
"Well, actua- AARGH! Get off!" For whatever reason, she's decided that the nearest edible thing is my tail, and she's gnawing at it fiercely. Mercifully, she stops as soon as she starts, spluttering slightly.
You taste funny, she sends, amused. I don't really know what to say to that.
"You know what, I'll go hunt for some food. I'll be right back." I say, spreading my wings. As long as she doesn't nibble at me again… I make a routine run up and take off into the sky, about to go when a small but urgent call reaches my ears.
"Hhrr!" Come back! The vulnerable tone of that voice throws me a little. Am I really going to leave a little hatchling on her own? It's only going to be a couple of minutes, but…
The second call does it for me. I quickly circle around and set back down, careful not to bash into her. "What's the matter? I'll only be a couple of minutes at most. Then I'll be back."
But I don't want you to leave, she sends, giving me that big-eyed look again. I like you.
There's something about that that makes me feel all warm inside. I don't know, it's almost like… it's hard to think that cute little things like this could grow up to be so powerful. I mean, full grown dragons can be real monsters. But, she's not a monster. She's still so little… The sadness strikes again. Her parents should be here to see this, not me. But, circumstance is being cruel today. I guess that's another reason to dislike the humans – for orphaning this little hatchling.
"I like you too, you little rascal. Okay, I'll stay with you, but we won't get any food just sitting here. Can you fly?"
Little Kasril gives a few small flaps of her miniature wings, but to no avail. Not yet. Maybe when I'm not hungry, she sends cheerfully. Her efforts continue, and it's adorable to see her try. But, at the same time, it looks like she can't accompany me on a flight. I'll have to teach her at some point. Ah, there it is again, some sort of deep regret that I can't seem to shake. Even now, I keep thinking, they should be here to teach her.
"You know what, I'll take you to my home. It's nice and safe and comfy, and I'll bring you back some food as soon as I can. Here, climb on my back." I say, sitting down to let her scramble up my back. As she approaches, I still wonder if those are her mother's eyes or her father's claws. They might never know what their little daughter is like, and she'll never know them. It comes again, an ache I can't lose. I try to move my thoughts to a different path. They'll be proud of her, wherever they are. I'm sure of it.
Yay, this will be fun! Kasril sends, now gripping my back tightly, her claws just a little uncomfortable. She makes another little cooing sound. You're fluffy. I like it.
"And you're spiky. Now, hold on tight." I say, readying my wings for a second time, careful not to dislodge my new passenger. The run up is also slower, but I eventually take off at a slow, cruising speed, always mindful of the precious cargo on my back.
This is fun! she sends, her voice in my head gleeful and innocent, shouting over my troubled thoughts. And as I make my way over to my humble abode, the strangest thought strikes me.
I've never had a daughter before.