An Unusual Time for Dragons
A soldier is ordered to smash an unhatched dragon egg. He refuses.
Zartan sprinted through the dark woods, the thunder of his pursuers’ footsteps dangerously close behind him. The large egg was cradled in the inside of his elbow, clutched against his chest tightly as he ran down the crooked path through the dense trees. At the end of the narrow path lay a small village in which resided an old woman of questionable sanity. Zartan was being paid a significant sum to deliver the egg to her. Whoever she was, and whatever her bizarre reasons, he truly did not care, so long as he received payment. And considering how long he had been forced to play the good soldier act, he was expecting every ounce of that gold to be handed over immediately. He had not spent two years in the army just to be cheated by a madwoman. That was also why he had demanded twenty-five percent of the payment upfront.
Through the trees, Zartan saw a glint of light. The village was close! Good thing, too, because he heard the voices of the other soldiers getting closer. They were shouting things like, “Treason!” and “I'll skin you alive, you filthy coward!” Lovely people. Zartan guessed he had forty more paces until he reached the end of the path now, and it was only a dozen or so more into the village. He had rehearsed the route over and over to be able to follow it in a circumstance such as this one.
As he burst through the tree line onto the open road of the village, he was certain he felt the egg rustle. This lady better make this quick, Zartan thought. He didn't want to be around when a baby dragon came popping out into the world.
The tavern stood ahead, four buildings down the only road going through the village. Zartan willed himself along, legs aching from the mad chase, but the soldiers were still after him. He ducked through a narrow alley to his left and scaled the barrels behind a building with a somewhat flat roof. Falling flat on his stomach in the middle of the roof, egg clutched in his outstretched hands, he waited. Heavy steps tramped down the street, then back again as his pursuers searched for him. After minutes that passed like hours, the sound of the footsteps trailed away and out the village. He was sure no one had spotted him, so he slowly crept back down into the alley. Slinking along the back sides of the buildings toward what passed for a tavern in the run-down village, he reached the back of the right building and pushed through the back door.
Through the crowded storage room, Zartan carefully carried the egg to where the old woman had said she would be waiting. Very few people occupied the tavern. At a corner table, the woman sat exactly where she had promised. She was a slender woman with short grey hair, wearing a drab grey dress. Frail, yet with a stern look that communicated a power of its own. Her hands were tucked beneath her shabby overcoat.
Zartan placed the egg on the empty chair across from her, “As promised, undamaged.”
His eyes went wide as the old woman smiled and pulled a pistol from under her coat, “Oh don't look so surprised, dear. How did you think this would go down? You give me a dragon's egg, and you get 12 million Marks worth of gold and just get to walk away? No questions asked? Dragons haven't been seen alive in a thousand years. Having a corrupt soldier out there who not only knew they were back but that I had one? That just won't do."
“So, what are you going to do?” Zartan croaked, eyes glued to the small black pistol.
“Me? Oh, I'm not going to do anything. But you're going to stay right there, and I'll just let the soldiers take care of you.”
The treacherous old woman kept the pistol trained on Zartan as she scooped up the egg with her free hand and walked to the back of the tavern. She disappeared through the back. Zartan bolted to his feet to follow her when a soldier burst through the front door.
“Under the authority of the United International Federation, I am placing you under arrest!” were the last words Zartan heard before the bolt of electricity incapacitated him.
Originally posted in response to a writing prompt on Reddit.
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