I was twelve years old when I discovered a unique egg hidden well beneath the earth.
It changed my life forever.
My best guess as to how it got here was from the storm the night before last. I was in the middle of my favorite meadow just to find some sort of peace in my demanding life.
The mysterious egg had a rough outer shell. It was scaly and deep green. I had decided to keep it because I was curious. I didn’t know what kind of animal produced an egg like this but, regardless, I put the strange egg in my bag and headed home.
It was about midday.
There was no way to tell time this far out from the city.
The city, thirty-seven days away from us, controlled almost everything in my daily life. There were other cities around that were less demanding of the smaller, less able villages. But not this city. Ridiculous rules and requirements were set in place to keep control over the lesser citizens.
I was a lesser citizen.
Most of us ignored the rules set in place by the city. The city didn’t seem to mind it much. They just wanted peace. But still. They owned us.
And had ridiculous rules that we couldn’t ignore.
All over the region I lived in had big cities that controlled at least fifty or so smaller villages like mine. You could leave one city behind hoping to find a better life and wind up in another city worse than the one you left. It was just the way the world worked.
I saw Lucy, my sheepdog, come running to my side.
“How has your day been?” I asked her. She looked at me and gave me a doggy smile. Instead of Lucy being white like most sheepdogs, she was a deep golden color.
It was fun having a conversation with Lucy because she doesn’t talk back; she listens. And I can tell her anything.
“Guess what, girl! I’ve found an egg. But you can’t tell anyone.” She gave me one of her looks then continued chasing a bunny.
It was extremely hot outside. Sweat was already pouring down my face and back.
As soon as I got home I went straight to my room.
My house was set about ten, maybe fifteen, minutes away from our village square. I lived in a two story house with my mother and father and older brother. The stones had faded to a chalky white and the wooden frames around the windows were smooth and silken from erosion.
My older brother, Luke, followed me upstairs. He was seventeen and loved to see what I sometimes brought home.
“What you got there, Em?”
“Nothing, Lu.” I replied back sarcastically.
Luke had shaggy brown hair, extremely tall, tan, strong—the usual. He had turquoise eyes and worked out a lot. I guess to impress the girls. I really didn’t know why boys and girls went to so much trouble just to impress each other. My mother had said that I’d find out soon enough. But I don’t think I want to.
I had wavy, dark blonde hair; my eyes were an almost golden color with flecks of green in them. I was also tan from constantly being outside and had muscle for a twelve year old girl. I came up to my brother’s elbow.
“Alright, what do you have, Emily?”
I let out a snort. “I didn’t get anything today. I just wanted to relax and get away for a while.”
“That’s a lot coming from my twelve year old sister.”
“Hey!” I protested. “Just because I’m twelve doesn’t mean I don’t deserve breaks like you every once in a while! Not get out!” I was pushing on his arm at this point.
“Alright, then. I’m having a few friends come over today… Mother demands that you be present.”
I let out a sigh. There were so many requirements I had to meet. One involved me getting a husband. Mother was constantly nagging me about how I needed to get out there. Show myself to the village to let the parents gauge my appearance and availability.
I didn’t want that.
She was mostly worried that the city would pay us a visit and pick my husband for me. Mother didn’t want that for me and I could hardly blame her. Men weren’t required to find a wife. A wife was given to them without question.
“When?” I gave up pushing on his shoulder and settled for glaring at him from beneath my lashes.
“In a few minutes.” He caught my expression and his face softened. He put his hand on my cheek. “Don’t worry about it, Emily. There’s no rush. Mother is just a little paranoid lately. Ever since they came for her friend’s little girl she’s been more agitated about the whole thing.”
He bent down to my eye level. “I won’t let them take you, I promise.”
I nodded and gave him a quick hug.
He ruffled my hair and headed downstairs. I quickly put my egg in my closet and wrapped thick layers of wool around it to keep it warm, despite the relentless heat of summer.
I didn’t know what else to do.
I headed downstairs and grabbed a glass of water from the kitchen and chugged it.
“Having fun?” A voice asked from behind me making me jump.
The voice laughed.
“With what, Emrald? Living?”
He laughed again and threw me over his shoulder. Emrald was fourteen but he was almost as tall as my brother. He had short sandy hair and pretty blue eyes.
“Put me down!” I demanded. I forced a laugh. Since Mother wanted me here I felt edgy.
“Yeah, Emrald; don’t scare your love to be.” Mason said. He was my brother’s age. His blonde hair and green eyes made him the talk of the town.
“Shut up.” Emrald and I said together but he put me down nonetheless.
“Hey,” a familiar voice greeted.
I turned around and saw my best friend, Jason, standing a little ways from the group. “Hey! How is everything?”
He grinned. “My family just had a baby girl! They’re going to name her Elsie, after my father’s father. She has my eyes.” He pointed to his bright green eyes. He had his brown hair cropped short and was the same age as me.
“That’s amazing! Send my congratulations.”
“Yeah,” Luke said from beside me. “That’s something wonderful, Jason.”
Jason ducked his head and, shortly after, everyone else started talking about girls, politics, and what the city had planned for us.
Jason and I talked till the sun started sinking in the sky. He needed to leave if he wanted to make it on time for supper.
Jason tried to tell the others goodbye but they were too caught up in their conversation to notice.
“I’ll walk you out.” I glared at my brother. He was the host and should have seen Jason to the door.
I noticed Jason hesitate before he turned to leave. I knew what he wanted to tell me but really—we were too young. I wanted to grow up and explore the world. Not be forced to meet requirements.
“Will you wait?” He whispered.
I closed my eyes for a moment. “Wait for what, Jason?” I didn’t want this. Not from him.
“Us?” He gently asked.
“I can’t make any promises, Jason. We’re only twelve.”
He had to know that. He had to know that the requirements didn’t run our lives out here. He had to know.
“I know that. I’m talking about when we’re older.”
“I don’t know…I can’t promise anything.” My voice came out sharper than I intended. “I’m sorry.”
He met my gaze and nodded. “As long as it’s an option.”
With that he left.
Annoyed, I closed the door harder than I normally would have. He was my best friend. I didn’t want him the way the town wanted me to want him. I just couldn’t.
Shortly after, the others left. Emrald gave me a kiss on my cheek. Mason kissed the top of my head. Luke laughed and I forced yet another laugh that evening.
As they closed the door behind them, Luke grabbed my arm. “What were you and Jason talking about?” He sounded extremely cross.
“Nothing.” I mumbled.
“Does he want you to wait?” Luke sounded exasperated and extremely angry.
I didn’t answer right away and that seemed to tick him off.
“What did you say?” He growled. “Emily, what did you say?”
I took a deep breath. “I told him I couldn’t promise anything.”
“Good. Because you can’t. Emrald’s parents have their eye on you and the city could come here any day and assign you a husband. Father has made it quite clear that he wants you to marry well. Jason is poor. We are poor. It is not a good match.”
I looked at my brother appalled. “And what about you?” I demanded. “You haven’t found a wife yet!”
I met Luke’s cold, hard eyes. “I have a luxury that you have not. I am trying to be wise about this. Mother married at thirteen. Do you want that? That’s what will happen if you don’t follow the rules of courtship.”
I felt something squeeze my throat closed. I could hardly believe the words coming from his mouth. “Father’s gotten to you, hasn’t he?” He didn’t answer. “Hasn’t he?”
Luke scooped me into his arms and carried me outside into our little barn. “Listen to me, Emily. Please listen.”
I nodded my head slowly. This couldn’t be good.
Tears shown in Luke’s eyes. “Father has already chosen a husband for you. He has a dragon, Emily. A real dragon. He can keep you safe.”
“When did Father do this?” I whispered softly.
“About three months ago.” Luke met my eyes with a fierce look. “The thing is, Emily, the offer was accepted. The city has already agreed to it. Mother doesn’t know. I believe Father was going to tell her tonight.”
“Father wouldn’t do that to me! He couldn’t!” I felt tears overflow my eyes.
“He has, Emily. Money is tight and marrying you off seems to be the only solution in his eyes. I don’t know any more than what I’ve told you. But I do know that running away will not solve anything except endanger us and the village.” Luke’s voice sounded strained.
“I won’t run away.” I didn’t know what to do.
This wasn’t what I wanted.
“Come now, don’t cry.” Luke pulled me close. “Don’t cry, little sister. Please. Father can’t know that I’ve told you.”
I nodded and wiped my eyes. Father could be too much at times.
Together we headed back inside to get ready for super.
At the table, Father looked happier than usual. I saw Mother casting him suspicious glances.
After our maid departed to the kitchen, Father cleared his throat. “I have important news that just came in today.” He looked around at us and beamed. “A letter from a very powerful and wealthy man. We’ve corresponded over the past few years and have finally come to a decision.”
His eyes locked on mine. His intense gaze made me blush. “Whatever has happened, Father?”
“He has agreed to marry you to his eldest son, Milton. Now—”
“We talked about this.” Mother stated in a hard voice. “I wanted it to be her decision.”
Father gave Mother a pointed look. “We cannot afford to keep her.”
I felt my throat close as I realized what his words meant.
“She is not cattle, Mathew! I will not have her sold to a rich man’s son!” Mother was furious.
“ENOUGH!” Father bellowed. “Luke is more useful here than she is.”
“Father—” Luke protested.
“Milton is fourteen. Between me and his father, we have decided to wait five years before they wed. Lord Leo wants his son to grow up and learn the estate. It also wouldn’t hurt for Emily to mature. Lord Leo has given us money to hold our own until she leaves us. It is a privilege; an opportunity for our Emily.”
An uncomfortable silence filled the room.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I demanded in a voice similar to my mother’s.
Father’s face reddened in anger. I had gone too far. “I just did. Now be a good girl and finish your supper.”
None of us had any choice but to obey his wishes. My marriage was not open for discussion. I went to bed feeling defeated and unwanted.
I couldn’t fall asleep. Each new day would bring me closer to a future that I wanted no part in.
My candle still burned as everyone fell asleep, one by one.
I heard a tiny crack come from my closet. Intrigued, I silently crept to the door and pulled it open.
The egg was hatching.
Oh my God, the egg was hatching!
I looked down at myself in panic, thankful that I hadn’t changed my clothes. Quickly I put the hatching egg in my bag, blew out my candle, and ran outside toward my meadow.
Panic and excitement gripped my heart.
As I reached the meadow, the egg had finished hatching with a sudden and loud crack. I gently opened the bag and came face to face with a baby…dragon.
What did this mean? Only royalty had dragons! I couldn’t have a dragon! It was forbidden. The worst sin that a lesser citizen could do.
The baby was a rich, deep green covered in delicate dragon scales. Her eyes were deep gold.
Not two seconds after my discovery, she grew. A flash of bright light blinded my eyes. When my vision cleared I was facing a dragon about the size of my small barn. She looked beautiful and graceful.
“What is my name?” The dragon asked in a beautiful, velvet like voice.
I took a small step back. I was freaking out. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I met her eyes and felt my heart beating loud in my ears. “Allie.” I stated in a tiny voice. It was the first name that came to me in my panicked state.
The dragon—Allie—nodded thoughtfully. “I like that. Hold still, Emily. I do not wish to frighten you.”
How did she know my name?
As she leaned her huge, graceful dragon head toward me I stood still as a statue. Her gentle nose touched my forehead for a brief second. I felt a small tug in the pit of my stomach.
“There,” Allie stated calmly after she pulled away. “We are bonded for life.”
“Bonded…for life? I can’t! It isn’t allowed. Only—only—”
“Enough, Emily. I am not concerned with what others think. You found me. We are bonded and I will not have it any other way.” Allie’s voice was sharp and unyielding.
“I can’t leave!” I was freaking out. I knew the legends about dragons. The finder would have to hide away with his or her dragon until they were fully grown. But I couldn’t do that.
“Relax, Emily. Your thoughts are giving me a headache.”
Her mouth didn’t move.
“You…can hear my thoughts?”
“And you can hear mine. Do not worry, Emily. I am not asking you to leave your duties and run away with me. I know of a cave not too far from here. I will stay there until we are ready. Trust me.” Allie’s voice was gentle and soft.
I couldn’t understand how she knew these things. Logically speaking, it didn’t make any sense. She wasn’t old enough to know…
I held my hand out and she touched her nose to it.
I couldn’t let anyone find out. Ever. That much I knew.
Allie chuckled. “Meet me here tomorrow evening, this time. We will learn how to fly together.” She flicked her graceful wings open. “One more thing, Emily. When you reach a certain age along with your dragon; we become immortal. Death can still claim us as its own but we will no longer age.
“Dragons are not rare, Emily. But a bond between a human and a dragon is. Dragon eggs will wait ages until the right human comes along. Full grown dragons will only bond with a human if the time is right.
“I know that it doesn’t make sense just yet but, in time, I believe it will. Good night, Emily.” Allie closed her eyes a moment then took off.
I felt my mouth drop open. She was unbelievably graceful. Her wings were large and wide. Allie shot into the sky and I was awed that this was my dragon. I knew that now for I could still feel the faint pull of her thoughts.
Happy for the first time in years, I headed back home feeling lighter than usual. I could get through this.
I had Allie.
Everything would be alright.