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“Is it true?” the man asked.
“Is what true?” The second man was shorter than the first, and kept shifting his hands uncomfortably, as if he was nervous.
“The rumors. About the—” The taller man leaned closer to his companion. “—the dragon.”
Davi, from his hiding spot in the shadows of a small house, grinned. He was crouched precariously on a barrel by a window. The window was open just a crack, but it was enough to let the men’s voices drift through.
“Oh, those? Yes, they’re true. I saw it myself.” They spoke of the dragon as if
simply mentioning it would summon it there, fire and all.
The first man turned his head slightly, allowing Davi to see his features. He was older—mid-fifties, maybe—and had dark brown hair that was turning gray. The way he sat and his firm voice hinted that he might have once held a position of power. “What direction did it fly?”
“North. It was a shimmery blue, with eyes like great sapphires.”
Davi ran through his mental list, counting on his fingers. It had to be Peak, he decided. She preferred the towering mountains and snow of the northern regions, from which she got her name.
“North,” the tall man repeated. He leaned back into his chair, deep in thought.
There was a long pause. The shorter man continued to fidget restlessly.
Davi, too, was beginning to grow impatient. He didn’t have all night.
Finally, the man spoke. “You must follow it, then.”
Follow her, Davi corrected silently. Follow her.
“I want some information,” he continued. “Where did it come from? Is it safe? Are there any more?”
Davi nearly laughed out loud. Were there any more? That was the whole point, to collect eggs and keep them safe. The goal was to keep dragons from going extinct. The man had no idea…
The shorter man sat up straighter. “Yes, sir. I can do that for you.”
“Good.” The two men stood. The shorter man moved toward the door.
“I’ll take the North exit, then.”
The taller man nodded, but lingered inside. After his companion was safely outside, he reached reverently for a red velvet bag on the shelf. Gently, he pulled out a stunning stone, a dark, sparkling emerald green.
Both Davi and the man caught their breath. It as, in a mysterious, even dangerous sort of way, beautiful. It glowed softly, lighting up the dark room. The light seemed to shift, as if something was living inside, although when Davi focused on it, it appeared still.
From the second he saw it, Davi knew exactly what it was. He had seen many before. The man held it as if he had an idea of what it was, but was either unsure or afraid.
In that moment, Davi knew that the stone should not stay with that man. Even if he knew what it was, he didn’t know at all how to take care of it. It wasn’t safe, sitting on a shelf.
As gently as he had taken it out, the man replaced the stone into the bag and set it back on the shelf. The entire encounter had taken less than a minute. He stepped outside to speak with the other man, closing the door behind him.
Davi took the opportunity. He leapt off the barrel, landing noiselessly on the ground, and pushed the window open with both hands. Quickly, silently, he squeezed himself through. He reached up and grabbed the velvet bag. Earlier, he had picked up a rock about the size of his outstretched hand—the size of the stone. He reached into the bag and pulled it out, replacing it with the rock. If he positioned the bag exactly where it had been, the rock would provide the correct bulge and it would be a long while before anybody noticed it was just a boring old rock. The stone he put into a cloth pouch that hung at his waist, concealed by a cloak that looked not at all out of place in the chilly weather.
As quickly as he had come, he jumped back out the window and pulled it down so only a crack was open. He headed for the south exit.
“Light, please.” Davi stood just outside of a cave with a large opening. In the dark forest, it was easily hidden.
“Password?” a deep voice rumbled. Two glittery red eyes stared out at him.
Sighing dramatically, Davi said, “Sop being difficult, Kentar. There is no password.”
“Correct.” A rumbling came from the inside of the cave, like laughter from a large creature. Seconds later a fire appeared in the center of the cavern.
Now able to see where he was going, Davi stepped into the cave. He sat down close to the fire, which now crackled warmly.
Kentar stretched his head down, inspecting the stone in Davi’s hands. He was big, as dragons went, with muscular legs and tail. He had bright red scales and eyes that sparkled like rubies. There was a row of pointy spines starting on his head, getting gradually bigger between his wings and getting smaller as they neared the tip of his tail. “You found another one?”
Davi had taken the stone out of the bag, and now he held it up for Kentar to see.
The red dragon sniffed inquisitively. He blew gently on it, showering it in sparks. “It’s almost ready,” he announced.
Just then, a silver dragon head poked out of one of the adjoining caverns. “What’s all this about?”
Kentar turned his head toward her. “Davi found another one.”
“Really? Good. I miss having the little hatchlings around.” The silver dragon stepped farther out into the cavern. She was smaller than Kentar. Most male dragons were bigger, but the females tended to be longer-limbed and more agile. Her silver scales sent reflections all over the cavern, making it look covered in stars. Shimmer was her name, and it fit very well.
After he was contentedly warmed from sitting by the fire, Davi stood up. He reached for a shelf of rock that was already occupied with another similar stone. He set the emerald one beside it, wondering why he thought of them as stones. They weren’t really stones, after all—they were eggs. But somehow, they looked more like precious stones than dull white chicken eggs.
Davi grabbed an apple that he had set aside earlier and munched hungrily. Between bites he said, “Some people saw Peak today flying north.”
Kentar snorted. “She should be more careful. She shouldn’t fly so low.”
“Maybe it was windy up there,” Shimmer offered, curling her tail around her legs in a catlike position.
Kentar snorted again.
“Well, anyway,” Davi continued. “Some people were sent to investigate.”
“And if Peak doesn’t want to be found, nobody will find her,” Shimmer added.
“Right. So there’s nothing to worry about, Kentar.”
“I’m not worried,” he said indignantly. But they all knew it was a lie. Peak was his daughter; Kentar often worried about her.
“Are you going to do anything?” Shimmer asked.
Davi thoughtfully tossed his apple core into the fire. He rearranged the burning wood with a stick. “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll go into town again tomorrow to see if there’s more news.”
The next day, he did go into town, but nobody had any news. His luck was no better on the day after, either, but he was expecting that. Peak would be long gone by now, someplace nobody would ever find her, someplace safe.
On the third day, Davi was woken by a green glare. He laid there for a moment, disoriented, but then he sprang to his feet. The glare was coming from the stone—egg, Davi told himself—on the rock shelf. It was very bright, but not blinding. The whole cavern was illuminated by the glow, as if an emerald fog had descended upon it.
Shaking with excitement, Davi picked up the egg. It seemed to be trembling slightly, although it was impossible to tell if it was because of Davi.
He brought it outside into the clearing. The sun had just risen and Davi’s shoes were already damp with dew. He set the egg down, then stepped back.
It was clearly shaking now. Davi watched, fascinated, as a crack appeared on one side, then the other. A claw poked out one end. Then another claw, a wing, a tail.
The whole world seemed to hold its breath as it lay still for a long seconds. Then, with one final jerk, a baby dragon emerged. She shook herself and turned to blink at Davi. The egg now lay in shards like a broken stained-glass window.
The hatchling dragon was an even more brilliant shade of green than her egg. Playfully, she snorted, blowing sparks all around.
Davi wondered what to call her. Some dragons he named after people he knew, or words that described a strong physical characteristic.
“I’ll call you Spark,” he decided. “Since you seem to like making sparks fly all over.”
Spark did look like she was enjoying herself. She flapped her wings until she was a few feet from the ground. Spinning in midair, she unleashed a shower of sparks and let them fall slowly to the ground.
Watching her made Davi proud. New dragons were coming into the world, one egg at a time, and he was part of it.
After all, it only takes one spark to light a fire