Author's Note: Well, I've started on these short stories set on Arkon, but expect them to take second place to my main work, Pathways of Darkness. These little odds and ends are just a way of putting together random ideas which won't fit into my main story, yet help to flesh out the world I'm tinkering with…

Any unfamiliar terms are most likely explained in the glossary to be found as the first chapter of Pathways of Darkness.

I had to have a bit of help from my mom and aunt for this. They didn't want to talk about it for a while at first, probably out of embarrassment, but constantly bugging your relatives works quite often. :P

The Hatching

A short by Lccorp2.

Murals and mosaics adorned the walls of the Hatchery, covering every spot on the walls and ceiling. Eons of history were etched upon the stone of the cavern, created by the careful arrangement of thin squares of semiprecious stones, depicting Golden Dragonkin in a myriad of poses.

Overlooking the whole room full of eggs lying in cushioned baskets, the gargantuan painting on the ceiling of K'thus, Ar'zsha and the First Clutch was quite appropriate for a place which served such a purpose. Presently, three Golden Dragonkin swooped down from the entrance in the roof of the cavern, landing at the one clear spot in the middle of the room. One of the figures clapped its hands, and the room was awash with soft, magical light emanating from orbs suspended in the air.

Furling her wings neatly behind her back, J'thar surveyed the Hatchery for the first time in her two-hundred and twelve Rounds. Awed by the splendour of all the lives contained within the fragile shells which filled the grotto, the dragoness sought the brown-speckled one which she knew to be hers. On the day it was laid, the priestesses of Ar'zsha the Dragonmother had carried it down to this place, and she had not seen it since.

"Your wing's slightly out of place, love." The voice of T'ror, her mate, resounded from behind her, speaking not the Common language by which the races of Arkon communicated with each other, but rather, the ancient tongue of the Dragonkin. A moment later, she felt his clawed hands gently smoothing down the ridges on her wings, neatly tucking them in with a barely perceptible pat.

"It's hot in here." T'ror commented. Dragonkin don't sweat, but had T'ror been able to, he most definitely would.

It has to be, the priestess on duty said, or rather, thought. The dragonets within the eggs must be kept sufficiently warm, or they will not hatch. Your offspring is about to emerge, and I would advise you to hurry if you are to witness it.

"Did you hear that?" J'thar exclaimed. She'd been in this state of excitement ever since the Head Lorekeeper had brought her the news in the morning that her egg was starting to rock and would hatch anytime soon.

Nodding, T'ror let the golden-robed priestess lead them across the narrow aisle, taking utmost care not to disturb the other eggs lying serenely in their baskets.

Here we are, the priestess said. The time has come.

As if sensing its parents, the large, cream, brown-speckled egg began to roll about violently as J'thar and T'ror approached it. Watching it wobble about on the velvety cloth, J'thar could almost see the the whelpling inside trashing about, fighting for life...and felt the priestess' hand upon her shoulder, gently but firmly restraining her. Reluctantly, J'thar withdrew her arm.

There are some trials even the two of you will not be able to shield your firstborn from. This is the first of those, and there will be many more to come in the future.

Sullenly, the three of them watched in silence as the egg continued its frenzied wobbling. Moments seemingly as long as years ticked by and yet there still was nary a crack on the polished shell.

That is strange, the mental tone of the priestess sounded worried. It shouldn't take so long…

Unexpectedly, the eggshell literally exploded, strewing fragments all over the warm floor, leaving a tiny golden body not more than thirty centimetres from head to tailtip sitting on the largest shard of its previous home. Frightened, the hatchling clumsily struggled to its feet and gave a piteous creel.

T'ror rushed forward and ripped off the layer of slippery albumen which encased the dragonet and had been impeding its exit. "It's a male!" he cried jubilantly.

A most impressive entrance indeed. Go on, your mate and offspring need you. Gently nudging J'thar, the priestess urged her on. Your joy will not be dampened; someone will come to pick up this mess. I feel you deserve as much.

Unfolding her wings, the priestess of Ar'zsha was soon out of sight, leaving T'ror and J'thar alone with their firstborn. Noticing tears running down T'ror's face as he cradled their newborn, J'thar felt her own eyes moisten. I just know it. He'll be a good father. Otherwise, I wouldn't have chosen him for a mate.

With a faint smile on his face, T'ror carefully handed J'thar the tiny golden whelpling. "He's all yours, love. I think I've monopolized him for long enough."

When J'thar received her firstborn from her mate, a sense of adoration flooded her. How perfect every single golden scale was, how that lovely little tail twitched…J'thar found herself thinking back to the day when this little darling was conceived, that bright summer morning when she'd simply lost control of herself and launched off out of the well-furnished cavern she and T'ror shared, out into the dawn. T'ror had gamely pursued her, and they weaved, spiralled, twined necks and generally made fools of themselves over what the humans knew as the Sunstone Mountains.

Higher and higher they'd climbed, their hair and wings reflecting the brilliant summer sun, tails streaming out behind them like a broken kite-string, till the air grew thin and cold, and the sun began to set. A moment of shock when T'ror caught her as they began plummeting to the ground, a moment of ecstasy as his seed entered her, and finally, separation before they were dashed to pieces on the stony mountains below.

When the Head Lorekeeper had come round to inquire as to why T'ror and J'thar hadn't turned up at the Library that day, she'd found the two of them naked and intertwined on their bed, out cold from an exhaustion which would take them two days to recover from.

Not being completely unreasonable, she'd arranged for soup to be sent to them while they recuperated, a gesture T'ror had been thankful for. After all, the Dance of Life was a sacred ritual (or at least, according to the priestesses of Ar'zsha) for although no pair ever Danced the same way, all Dances were symbolic of the first mating flight of the Great Dragons K'thus and Ar'zsha. Besides, it only happened about once every one-hundred and twenty Rounds, and the Head Lorekeeper was inclined to be lenient.

Pulled out of her reverie by the hatchling's snout prodding at her chest, J'thar looked up to find T'ror smiling at her.

"I think he wants something from you."

Obligingly, J'thar undid her clothing and let the dragonet suckle at her breast. Greedily gulping down the life-giving fluid till it was replete, the golden whelpling finally closed its iridescent eyes and began to snore.

Finally, J'thar spoke up. "You know, he's doing what mother said I did at his age…eat, sleep and grow. With that kind of appetite, he'll grow fast." Gently rubbing the dragonet's full belly, eliciting a happy cheep, J'thar was reminded of her own when she was with egg…

"Quite well-behaved, isn't he?"

"Much more than, say, human babies, from what we know of them." J'thar nodded agreement.

"Guess you're going to stick with the name we chose and not change your mind seconds before the naming ceremony?"

"W'rmthlak. "Mighty defender of the dragons." A bit pompous, but it won't hurt."

"Probably won't, dear." The two Dragonkin briefly twined necks.

"Come on, we have to go," T'ror said. "We mustn't keep them waiting."

After picking their way through the rows of unhatched eggs, T'ror and J'thar spread their wings and took off in the atrium, their firstborn securely clutched in their arms. Behind them, the magical lights winked out and the opening in the roof slid shut noiselessly.