The Egg Hatches
For two hundred years the Earth Dragon slept soundly with her egg between her claws, becoming more and more covered with trees and other green life. Elven generations came and went, until no one remained who could tell of seeing the great mountain rise on its feet or roar in such a way as to make the land shake from one end to another. She thus became little more than a myth, though there were still elves who faced the direction of Earth Dragon Mountain when saying their prayers every night, and even staunch unbelievers swore by the Dragon if they happened to drop something heavy on their foot by accident.
But then the egg hatched, and everyone’s doubts were decidedly dispersed for a good long time.
The first creature to become aware of the hatching was a lone goat grazing atop a gently sloping hill on a chilly, drizzly dawn. A dull tremor had been reverberating under his hooves since the prior night, so he was rather unnerved, but not especially alarmed given that it had not brought him any immediate harm. The turf which grew all over the hill was delicious and thick, so the goat ate cheerfully, only pricking his ears momentarily whenever the tremor occasionally became louder.
Then quite suddenly he felt uneasy. The noise, he noticed, had stopped completely. Mid-chew, he raised his head, sniffed the air, and then, seized by instinctive panic, he took downhill. His hooves barely left the spot where he had been grazing when the ground underneath cracked open with a sickening sound. The crack grew longer and wider behind him, and water began to burst through it, soaking and terrifying him further —but he made it off the hill and disappeared among the nearby woods bleating indignantly.
The egg’s short, deafening crack echoed repeatedly throughout a good part the land. Those elves who heard it were now looking out their windows or staring, their plowing or other chores paused, toward Earth Dragon Mountain, and as they did their puzzlement turned to fear and wonder.
The mountain was moving.
It began by giving a short, if rather violent upward lurch. Then, as if remembering itself, it continued to rise very slowly and carefully.
The Earth Dragon’s shape was unmistakable by now. She opened her great amber eyes, and earth crumbled down her face with each sleepy blink. Once in a while an uprooted tree fell from her with a dull crash. She gave one wondering look to the land so changed, and under this gaze more than one bewildered elf fell on its knees.
There was not one spot in that vast land where the fantastic display had gone unnoticed by any creature. Every wild beast, too, was watching, quiet and reverent. Watching and waiting.
The Dragon, for the time being, had no attention for them. Her eyes were for her egg only, and the round snout that now poked through its widest crack.
The little poking snout pushed forward, grunting and snorting, until quite suddenly and with one watery snap, the shell broke all around its contents, leaving a very wet, bluish blob in its place.
A head with a mop of sopping blue hair rose gingerly from the blob, eyes tightly shut. A little mouth opened once or twice in a silent cry, and then it began to squall shrilly, to its mother’s immense delight.
The little dragon made a clumsy attempt at a step and tripped, momentarily losing his shape as his wobbly body hit the ground with a watery crash. Occasionally his lower half would fall apart and almost instantly come to shape again as he made further attempts at mobility. Most of his body was made of water, yet at times it appeared quite solid. He could not control his essence very well, and would occasionally become almost fog-like as he stopped to rest on a spot, shivering with his eyes half-open. At these moments the hatchling seemed but a misty mirage. Then, with a violent sneeze, he would solidify into view again, with his eyes wide open and a startled expression on his face.
The Earth Dragon kept her toddling offspring confined to a small area between her claws, which to him were like great earthen walls, much too high for him to climb. His wings were barely there, and he did not know how to make himself light enough to float upwards as a raincloud would. He was, like his father, a Dragon of Rain, so his essence would allow that in time. But for now the young Prince could only explore the ground below his Mother’s adoring gaze.
This gaze he now noticed. His once-filmy eyes having cleared up, he looked up for the first time and soon discerned the shape of her face towering so high above him; the curved horns that framed it, but most of all the eyes that looked down at him with such love. He cried out to her shrilly, and she returned the call with a soft, crooning growl. Gently she lowered her head toward him. The little dragon dragged himself around in a slight panic, because his mother was infinitely large, and when her face was right over him he could not recognize its shape as easily any more. But there was nowhere to escape, so he curled up where he was, and put his claws over his eyes.
Eventually, gentle pokes from the great snout reassured him enough to entice him to sniff it and give it a couple of tentative butts with his own head, still soft and bare of any horns. His fear gone, he began to climb it, until he was sitting on top of his mother’s head.
The Earth Dragon stayed still and waited while her hatchling made himself comfortable among the bushes and full tree-tops that grew on the top of her head. The little dragon clawed and kneaded the way a kitten does when fixing up its sleeping place, making it just right. Then he settled down with a contented sigh, paying little heed to the couple of displaced mountain goats that went scurrying for protection somewhere down the Earth Dragon’s neck.
He began to drift off to sleep when a gentle lurch caused him to sit up in alarm, claws digging to the ground. He felt as though he were falling, and in his fear he cried out shrill little cries, but the falling sensation only increased.
He was, in fact, going upwards. His mother was rising her neck, slowly but continuously, as well as her upper body. The little Dragon Prince found himself higher and higher. In time the tickling feeling in his tummy stopped. He opened his eyes, still frightened and squalling shrilly for some explanation.
Before him stretched all of Meganeea. He stared at it all, full of awe.
His mother crooned at him, and his whole body reverberated with her reassuring growl. He was not frightened when the reverberation grew more intense, even when it caused little stones all around him to dance on the ground.
As the growl grew louder, his mother’s jowls opened wider. There was absolute silence for a fraction of a second before a deafening roar burst forth from within; a long, joyous call for every Meganeean creature to hear.
The young Dragon Prince, too, broke into happy, proud squalls. He was infected by his mother’s joy with no awareness that he was the cause for it, or that her proud calls were made to inform the land and its inhabitants of the very occasion of his birth.
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