All bluey-green and shimmering colors on its scales, teensy little eyes all looking about for its mama and wintsy little mouth opening and closing, trying to make whatever sound it is baby dragons make. I ain't never seen something so beautiful, may the Mage strike me down for an untruth. Must of been one of them dragon eggs was ferting-lized and packed in with the eating-eggs by mistake. Not being schooled in the ways of dragons, I reached in and picked it up, wiping it down with my skirt so as to get all the gunk off of it. It wrapped its itty bitty tail around my wrist and dug its claws into my hand. It hurt some, but I was just so amazed to be holding one of the most precious creatures in the world in my hands, I didn't pay that no mind.
Suddenly Carl spoke into my ear. I jumped, ‘cos I hadn't noticed him stopping mewling and coming up behind me to lean over my shoulder and gawk at my dragon. He said, "Momma is SO gonna whup your ass for this, Stumpy." I opened my mouth to yell at him for calling me Stumpy – it ain’t my fault I’m shorter’n him. I’m a girl, girls is shorter’n boys – but found I couldn’t say nothing to him. My dragon looked up at me with those twinkly little eyes and was waiting to see what came outa my mouth. I just couldn’t say nothing mean. I didn’t want something mean to be the first thing it heard from me. Instead I spoke to the dragon, “Hey there, little one. What’s your name, then, honey?”
And then the most incredible thing happened. Honey spoke to me. The dragon! She spoke in my head, like the wizards say boys can learn to talk to animals if’n they train hard enough. She didn’t have no lips or nothing and her mouth didn’t move, but I heard her voice as plain as day, all smooth and calm-sounding. She said
~ My name is Honey, as you have named me. And you are Mine ~
I just stared at her. I didn’t know how to answer that one. Ain’t nobody never called me Mine before. Momma’s more likely to backhand me than call me nothing like that, Poppa’s always at the Wizards’ Wise, doing all the important stuff that wizards do, I hardly never see him. Carl’s…. well, he’s Carl, my horrible little brother – he never says stuff like that to nobody, anyhow! Never did, still don’t.
Momma was powerful mad when I got home. Carl had gathered up all the bags and carried them home by himself, running ahead of me. I knew he was fixing to tell Momma some nonsense about what happened and I wasn’t wrong, neither. She came storming out the house, yelling about how I was going to see a whupping for tripping him up like that and ruining her dinner party, but when Honey uncurled herself and hissed at Momma, she shut up faster than a china shop before a hurricane. She stopped right where she was and the next time she spoke, her voice was all soft and gentle-like, real careful sounding.
“Stella, is that a dragon on your arm?” she asked politely.
“Sure is, Momma. Ain’t she beautiful? Her name’s Honey.” I answered. I know I’m just a girl and Momma’s mad at me more than not, but she was my Momma. I wanted her to be proud of me.
“You… you named it?” Momma wasn’t so polite that time. She sounded almost… scared.
“Don’t call her an it, Momma. Her name’s Honey and she said I’m her Mine. Ain’t that great?” I smiled at Momma, just to show her it was alright, that there weren’t no need to be scared. Momma’s lips got thin and she swallowed, kinda loud.
“You sexed it?” her voice squeaked some. I didn’t really understand what she meant, so I just smiled and told her it was okay, that Honey loved me. Momma nodded, frowning.
“Sure, Stella. That’s great. Why don’t you put it… put Honey down and come in the house, ok?” She moved to one side and gestured like she wanted me to walk past her. But I didn’t want to put Honey down. She was so little and scared looking, I couldn’t imagine her all by herself on the ground. So I walked past Momma onto the porch, saying, “That’s ok, Momma. I’ll just sit out here on the porch for a bit. Do we have any food for Honey?” I looked up at her as I passed her and saw she was really scared. I stopped and smiled again, even didn’t I understand why she was so upset, so she’d calm down some. Honey spoke to Momma and let me hear her, clear as if she’d spoken aloud.
~ You may bring fruit and water for Mine. And meat for me. Fresh-killed, if possible ~
Momma swallowed again and nodded, walking around me on her way inside.
It wasn’t until Poppa came home that I understood exactly why Momma was scared. The two of them was arguing in the front room, which is way on the other side of the house, but dragons have real good ears and Honey let me hear what they was saying. I’d always known that girls wasn’t so good as boys, that boys was the ones could do all the wizarding and the communing with animals and such. Girls and women are for looking after men and making more boy-babies to become wizards. What I learned that day is that the only reason boys are trained to be wizards is so they can try to become dragon partners. That means that when baby dragons are born, boys from the Wizards’ Wise greet them and try to get one of them to partner up. When a dragon wraps its tail around a boy’s wrist and digs its claws in, it’s chosen him and they partner for life. Then the boy names it and makes it male, which is why all our dragons are male. Fighting male dragons, for the war, y’know? There’s only one female dragon left, the Egg-Layer, and she ain’t got no mind, just lays there in her barn and makes eggs, all day, every day. When she dies, they’ll choose another idiot girl to partner up and make a new Egg-Layer.
Honey explained to me why me and her was a bad thing for my folks. Instead of an ok wizard, which is what Carl would a been, to add to the ranks of fighting men, they’d have to present me to the Wizards’ Wise – a scrawny girl-child with a female dragon she didn’t oughta have. The governing council weren’t gonna be too happy about that, ‘cos the last practising witch at the Wise died over two hundred years ago and none of the wizards know how to deal with women. Women who could think? Honey sounded like she were laughing when she said this, so I smiled, too. Poppa sounded real worried. He’d never been chosen, and didn’t have much magic, just the normal magic that most people have. Poppa’s talent was in something called ad-minis-tration, which was why he was so important in the Wise. Something about the shame and scandal ruining his position? I didn’t understand it too good, but Honey told me not to worry about it none.
Anyhow, I was just sitting there on the porch, learning a bunch of new stuff from Honey as she whispered all kinda interesting stuff into my mind, when suddenly she stiffened and turned her head to hiss at the door behind me. I turned round, just in time to see a gush of brown, dirty water coming towards me. Behind the water, I could see Carl’s face, all scrunched up and red, like he’d been crying or something. I guess he was mad at me, again. He’d probably been listening to my parents, just like Honey had, and he knew that his whole, comfortable future was changed because Honey had chosen me and not him! I saw in a split second, though, that the water was gonna miss me. Carl’d been running, carrying the slop bucket (heck, I was surprised he’d even been able to find the thing – he ain’t never had to empty it out before) and he’d mis-stepped as he got to the threshold. The water arched overhead and splashed down in front of me, and Carl kept on tripping and landed on all fours with his hands firmly in the smelly brown stickiness. I couldn’t help smiling and he looked up at me, hatred burning in his eyes. He made as if to get up and launch himself at me, but then he froze. I clearly heard Honey in his head.
~ Show Mine the respect she deserves or spend your days licking slop from the floor, worm! ~ Carl’s eyes got all wide and white and he turned from red to purple with rage, but he swallowed once and nodded. Without a word, he got up and left the porch, unhappy and unchosen.
Like I said, I’ve never known what to do with my brother Carl – now more than ever. I’m way too busy reorganizing things in the Wise to see him much anymore, but he’s still clumsy. Must be in his nature.