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The Endangered Dragon Rehabilitation Center

by Velonna Patrick 3 months ago in Fantasy
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Prologue

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There weren't always dragons in the valley. Legend says that long before Elgarest was a kingdom, the Gods walked the barren lands and saw how many people populated their world. They saw how good humans could be, and decided to gift them with dragons to befriend. To ride. But, centuries later, legend tells another story. How an evil man angered the gods. How he caused the disease. It began in the high snowy mountains, infecting snow dragons, and then spread to other species as the snow dragons traveled to other lands to get away, hoping to avoid getting sick. It began to wipe them out at a rapid pace. Thousands turned to hundreds. Hundreds turned to dozens. The people of Elgarest were horrified, watching helplessly as the most sacred animal of their culture began to die off. That is, until my mother invented the cure. And founded the Endangered Dragon Rehabilitation Center. People claimed the gods gifted her with the ability to heal the great animals. I believe otherwise, that she simply defied the gods. Bypassed their anger.

Known to the center, there are approximately 2,000 species of dragons left. Before the dragon plague, there were more than a million species. Elgarest researchers working for my mother, are trying to collect DNA of extinct dragon species to bring them back and breed them. However, as research has since shown, this is incredibly difficult to do.

Me? I'm practically the only teen in the facility. And I spend most of my days in my mother's quarters within the center, doing homework. You would think my mother, as busy as she is, would employ her fifteen-year-old daughter to help her with the dragons. But no! She'd prefer I read dumb old history instead. I've thought to myself on multiple occasions that rather than making it clear that I LOVED dragons, I should've pretended I didn't. Instead, because I didn't realize she would consider spending time with the dragons a distraction, she preferred I focus on my studies. The topic of focus emphasized. So I thought that perhaps if I had pretended to be less focused on the dragons, she'd have me spending more time with them. However, it was far too late to try and trick her now.

So, on most days, I'm usually curled up next to the bay window, looking out over a dry, barren landscape, watching hot springs erupt dozens of feet into the air in a hot mist on my study breaks. However, this never stopped the dragons from venturing through the halls of the center to visit me. The door to her study was usually ajar, and from time to time I saw a head of a baby dragon peek in and stare at me.

In fact, there was one doing that very thing right now. I watched the door as a pygmy dragon, no larger than the size of a cat, slowly peeked his head into the study and stared at me. I stared back. Pygmy's were adorable but fiesty. And usually, twice as explosive in firepower as larger dragons. One blow from this little one could burn down an entire crop, an entire forest, a large house.

The center was entirely fireproof, with everything, even the curtains, bed linens and blankets, pillars and walls, being fireproof. However, my books were not, courtesy of buying them from outside the center. I slowly put them underneath a fireproof pillow in hopes the pygmy, assuming he or she would spit fire, wouldn't send my homework up in smoke. Still, it wasn't good this pygmy made it out so far into the center without anyone noticing. The nursery for baby pygmy's was all the way across the grounds, on the opposite side of the building, and they needed to be fed every 2 hours. I wondered how long it took this baby pygmy to get this far in without feeling hungry. Or perhaps this one was hungry and was now looking for food.

I moved slowly, lowering myself to the ground so that I was less threatening, which would in turn lessen the chances the pygmy would spit out a fireball or two. Watching me carefully he slithered his tail across the stone floor and gave a playful tut.

I clicked my tongue.

"Come here! Come, come now..." I said reaching my hand out. The baby wobbled clumsily into the room, stepping first on his wing and face planting onto the floor, and then standing back up to find my mother's fireproof fabric desk cloth hanging nearby. And of course, because it had a tassel on it glimmering with gold, his teeth sunk into it in no time. He started to pull, and everything on my mother's desk, including the very delicate glass ink bottle for her very elegant feather pen, started to shift and jostle.

"No! No no, not that!" I said, starting toward the pygmy. He saw me approaching quickly, and reacted by letting go of the tassel to hiss at me and display his colorful wings in an outstretched fashion. A defense mechanism. He then started to growl and nod his head at me, taunting. His tail slithered with sass. If I didn't approach this carefully, he could inadvertently blast me with his fire breath. Dragons. Dangerous, yet fascinating at the same time. I looked around for a plan. I saw an empty metal basin nearby, probably used for holding umbrella's or canes or other silly things. While the baby pygmy was distracted I grabbed the basin and got it ready. If I timed it right, I could use the basin to shield myself from a potential fire blast, which would protect me and leave him unharmed (dragons had fireproof scales) before scooping him up and running him back to the nursery. If he did decide to spit fire, he wouldn't be able to spit again for at least an hour, giving me time to run him back to where he belonged. That plan would work only if I didn't get badly burned in the process. I started to realize why my mother preferred I study my homework rather than spend time with the dragons. There were a lot of things that could go wrong.

"Ok baby," I said as I approached him. Things were starting to shift and drop off the desk now, the ink bottle coming dangerously close to the edge. I got closer to the dragon, and was met with a cranky baby, growling and whimpering and whining. It was clear he knew I wasn't a threat, but that I would indeed take him back to the place he didn't want to be.

"Come on! Come on love!" I cooed, trying my hardest to angle the basin so that it would block any explosive fire power. Running away from me, the pygmy started crying. He really didn't want to go back to that nursery! He gave a pitiful set of mournful cries.

"Oh poor baby! I'm just trying to help!" I cooed, trying to approach him as slowly as possible. "Aren't you hungry?"

I really wished I had some dragon treats right now. This little one was tough to console. Probably because he was hungry. Soon I had him in a corner and I got ready. I started toward him slowly, trying to make myself as non-threatening as possible. But then I heard it. The hiccuping sound of a baby dragon about to blow! I held the basin firmly and squeezed my eyes shut. And then suddenly, there was an explosion of fire that hit the basin and was sent backward into the wall toward the baby dragon. The explosion was enormous, reaching at least four feet on either side of the wall. My hair almost got singed. It lasted for around 20 seconds before dying down and leaving a giant scar of soot on the wall. The basin in my hand was burning hot. I dropped it and blew on my hands to cool them off.

The baby pygmy ran for it, but I was able to snatch him up and cradle him before he got away. He was covered in soot, his whole face covered in black. He gave a snort to get it out of his nose. He started squirming.

"Well now you're just a bad boy aren't you?" I teased, giving him a scritch under the chin. His squirming ceased the moment I reached a favorite spot amongst most dragons, at the base of the throat and the top of the neck. Suddenly, he turned from an unhappy squirmy baby dragon to a completely relaxed and soothed dragon child. As I soothed him I heard running footsteps. My mother came sliding down the hall in front of the study. I guessed she had heard the explosion from the lab.

"Again?! What happened! You're covered in soot!" she exclaimed in a panic. I stared at her, and then looked down at the pygmy in my arms.

"Someone got out." I said, gesturing to the baby. Her shoulders slumped as she groaned in frustration.

She walked at me and grabbed my chin, moving my head around to have a look at me.

"Any burns?"

"No."

"Singed hair?"

"No."

"Eyebrows?"

"They're fine."

"How?" she asked in disbelief.

"The basin." I said pointing. She looked at the scorched basin and then at the giant burn mark on her wall.

"Ugh! If I find that lazy son of a...." she started rambling angrily as she went back out into the hallway, talking about wringing 'his' neck. I assumed she meant Andrew Farmsworth. He was in charge of the pygmy nursery. He was really bad at his job. I didn't know why my mom hadn't fired him earlier.

I followed her down the hall, baby in arms as we found the office of facility management. She was adamant that Andrew be sent to her office and that someone take his place for the time being at the nursery. Gabriella, a geneticist and former dragon trainer, was called to the office of facilities and named new overseer of the pygmy nursery until someone else could come and take the role. She took the dragon from me and carried him back to the nursery.

"Sorry kid." she said, noticing the disappointment on my face as she carried the baby away. I was enjoying holding him. Meanwhile, my mother was shouting "look at my daughter! She could've been badly injured had she not thought of a way to protect herself!" to anyone in the room who would listen. People in the office were staring at her with eyebrows raised and wide eyes, nodding nervously. Not that it was any different than any other day in the facility. My mother was either yelling at someone or cleaning up some other mess. It was all in a day's work at the Endangered Dragon Rehabilitation Center.

I was just happy there was some excitement for once. And because of the baby dragon, I got out of doing homework. That, in and of itself, was probably the best part of being here. Every day contained endless and exciting opportunities.

Fantasy

About the author

Velonna Patrick

My credentials: BA in English Literature with an Emphasis in Creative Writing

Two minors: Psychology and Chinese Language and Culture

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Instagram: @velonnapatrick

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