The large cavern smelled musty. The new tenant looked around from where she sat in the center of it. A tear dropped from her eye. She raised her golden head and looked at her hatchling, Hergot, who sat against the far wall with his chin in his hand. The large round white egg lying beside her cracked and a small, green scaly hand emerged.
After four centuries of waiting, thinking that she would never have a hatchling of her own, she now had two. Hergot was less than a quarter century old, and the reason she had to leave the warren she had always known as home.
Tenderly she nudged the egg away from the edge of the four-foot ledge. Her daughter Margot would know this cavern as her home for as long as she lived.
From across the cavern Hergot asked, "Mother, I still don't understand why we had to leave. I am lonely. There is no one to play with here. Can't we go back?"
Martha's heart went out to her son. She heard the sadness in his voice and wished it otherwise. For the first time in over ten thousand years one of her kind had been asked to leave the warren and not come back.
Martha let out a resigned sigh; two short spurts of flame shot from her nostrils. Lowering her golden head, she said, "No, my son, we can not go back. You broke the only rule that Dragons have held sacred from the beginning of time. You knew the rule, yet you went ahead and broke it. Count yourself lucky they let you leave with me. The Elder Dragons could very well have killed you. From this day forth the three of us will be shunned by all of our kind.
"Don't ask me to feel sorry for you, Hergot. You knew the rule. The one I feel sorry for is Margot; she will never know the companionship of her own kind. For that, Hergot, you are to blame. I love you, my son, but will never forgive you for your actions."
"I am not afraid of them. When I grow up, I'll show them. I broke the rule. I am the only one who should be banished. It isn't fair," Hergot said.
"You should have thought of that before you broke the rule and stole from the other Dragons' hoards. For one Dragon to defeat another in combat is the only way one Dragon can touch the prized possessions of another. The only other way is for the object to be given to you, like the large diamond I gave you to start your hoard."
Hergot kicked a rock with his foot and walked to the entrance of the cavern. In his hand he carried the diamond his mother gave him. Turning at the entrance, he looked back and saw that his mother watched his sister being hatched. Near the end of her tail he saw light sparkle off the diamonds of his mother's hoard. He sat down on the ledge and in the distance he saw soaring Dragons high in the sky. "I didn't steal their old treasures, I just borrowed them."
"You stole them, plain and simple. Now you pay the price of your thievery. Can you not see the pain Mother is enduring because of you?"
"Shut up, shut up, shut up. I don't want to hear from you. Why don't you go back to sleep? That's all you're good for anyway. If you were so concerned why didn't you stop me?"
"You know I have no control over your actions when you want to do something. Don't go laying the blame on me. You should have told them about me a long time ago."
Hergot slapped himself on the head. "They would have laughed me out of there if I told them I have two brains in this body. Who ever heard of such a thing?"
"Yet here we are, two brains using one body. Hergot, you have to tell our mother. Perhaps this will make a difference and she will be allowed back in the warren."
"Forget it, Thurgot, she would never believe me. If I did try and tell her, she would probably banish me from this cavern. One banishment in a lifetime is enough."
Thurgot sighed. "It will become lonely without contact with other Dragons. Have you considered that?"
"I will always have you," Hergot sarcastically said.
"If only I were left brain and you were right brain this would have never happened. I am afraid we are in for a lifetime of trouble, Hergot. This uncontrollable urge of yours to be different from others of our kind can only lead to trouble."
"I don't see how it could get worse. Crimmny, Thurgot, none of our kind will ever speak to us again. I would hate to see what is worse than that," Hergot said in exasperation.
"It can, believe me it can. Remember, I know your talent for getting into trouble, Hergot."
Hergot ignored Thurgot and watched the Dragons soar in the far distance. How majestic they looked. Spreading their vast wings, they drifted along on the wind currents off the mountains. "Someday I will be able to soar on the warm breezes like that," he said.
"Not for a long time yet. You know how afraid I am of heights. I dread the day your wings sprout. It is bad enough that I have to put up with you belching smoke. For hours afterward our mouth tastes like sulphur. Sometimes I think you belch just to irritate me," Thurgot complained.
Hergot smiled. Although he didn't like the taste of sulphur either, he did belch up smoke to make Thurgot uncomfortable. Especially when Thurgot was in one of his moral moods.
"Hergot, are you talking to yourself again," his mother said.
Hergot hadn't noticed her come up behind him.
"Watch your sister, make sure she doesn't fall off the ledge before hatching. I am going to catch some game for her. She will be starved on breaking out. I will be back shortly."
Hergot watched his mother walk to the edge of the ledge and leap into the air. She dropped out of sight. A few seconds later he saw her green wings rise and fall as she climbed into the air.
Hergot turned and entered the cavern. He rested his short stubby arms on the ledge and watched the egg. His sister had both her arms out now and several more large cracks appeared in the tough skin of the egg.
"I wonder," Thurgot said.
"What do you wonder?" Hergot asked.
"I wonder if our sister is like us. Wouldn't it be neat if she had two brains like us?"
"That's terrible, I wouldn't wish that on a mountain sludge worm. Don't even think it, lest it come true," Hergot exclaimed.
"Are you saying you wished I was not a part of you? Without me you couldn't walk and chew coal at the same time. Speaking of coal, try and find some without so much sulphur in it the next time you eat it. Our body is too young to be eating coal in the first place. Our digestive system hasn't developed enough to turn the coal into flames. That is why you belch up smoke instead of breathing out flames. Wait another fifty or a hundred years, then our body will be ready," Thurgot said.
"Why is it that you think you know so much, Thurgot? How come you know so much about a Dragon's digestive system and I don't?"
"I am the right brain, hence I am the smarter one."
"Are you saying I'm stupid?" Hergot asked.
"Those are your words, not mine, oh fumble-fingered one," Thurgot said in a smug voice.
"Am not stupid," Hergot said, becoming angry.
"Are so," Thurgot laughed.
Hergot hit the right side of his head, knocking himself to the floor of the cavern. "Am not, am not, am not," Hergot screamed, kicking his feet on the rock floor of the cavern.
"Look at you. You're acting like the twenty-eight year old child, you are. Have some dignity, Hergot. What if another Dragon saw you acting like this? Tsk, Tsk, tsk."
Hergot sat up, rubbing the side of his head. "I hope that hurt you as much as it hurt me," he said.
"How many times do I have to tell you that hitting our head hurts you more than it hurts me? Look, our sister is almost all the way out," Thurgot said in an excited voice.
Hergot leaned on the ledge, rubbing the bump on the side of his head. He watched as the soft green scales on his sister's head poked through the top of the shell. Her stubby arms lifted the shell away from her head and dropped it to the side. Hergot saw that she had emerald green eyes.
"She is beautiful, isn't she?" Thurgot said.
"Yes, she is. Do you think we should help her get the rest of the way out of the egg?" Hergot asked.
"NO! She must make her own way out. Only hatchlings who escape their egg on their own live. To help her would doom her to death," Thurgot yelled.
Hergot groaned. "Don't yell, my head hurts as it is."
"Look, look, she has one leg out. Here comes the other one. Come on, sister, kick that last piece of shell away and you will be free. YES, YES, YES," Thurgot said as she kicked the last piece of shell to the side.
Hergot watched as Margot fell on her side and kicked away the pieces of eggshell. She curled up in a ball and stuck her thumb in her mouth.
At the entrance of the cavern Hergot heard the flap of heavy wings. Looking that way, he saw his mother land on the ledge. In her mouth she held a small doe. Folding her wings, she walked into the cavern and placed the doe down beside Margot.
With a squeal of delight, Margot sank her sharp baby teeth into the flank of the doe and tore a chunk from it. Blood ran down her dark chin. She stuck out her foot long tongue and licked off the blood. She tore out another chunk, hardly chewing before she swallowed.
"Not a very pretty picture, is it?" Thurgot whispered.
"We were the same way when we came out of our shell. The first thing a new hatchling needs is fresh warm flesh to start the digestive system working," Hergot said in a smug voice.
"Hergot, quit talking to yourself," his mother admonished.
Hergot walked to the back of the cavern and placed his diamond in the hollowed out place he made for it. Pushing a couple of large rocks in front of the hole, he sat down to think.