Human Dragon

Written by Thomas Larson

March 20, 2007

Human Dragon: Part I

This was a busy hospital, especially now that the birthing season had begun. Literally thousands of couples had come from across the city to birth the children, the future generations of Dragons. Ikland had seen dozens of expecting parents going into labor today, but he was happy to do it. It was in his nature to help wherever he could. That was how it was for all Dragons of the Blue Wing. That was where their magic was the strongest.

His bulky form snapped on another pair of rubber gloves, specially fit for his three-fingered claws. "Nurse, bring in the next patient please." This was a special day for him, though. His oldest friend, from when they were just fledglings, and his wife were going to have their first child. He smiled a toothy grin. "Trak, glad to see you've been good." A bulky red-scaled dragon entered the room. His red eyes were bright at seeing his old friend.

Trak greeted him with a firm shake with his tail and a puff of smoke. That was often a good sign from the Red Wings. Ikland smiled to himself, thinking of how long his comrade had waited for these precious moments. Each season, he had been unsuccessful in conceiving a child, up until just last season when they announced their first born. Such a declaration required celebration, and Ikland had been all for it. While he was, himself, not particularly interested in children at the moment, he understood what drove Trak to desire an heir, which in turn drove Ikland to produce the engagement and pageantry. Now he endeavored to produce a new life.

With his attention turned back to matters at hand, having been on past priorities and the like, he spoke, "How long have you been waiting to get in here? Surely there must have been someone open!"

"No, Silv has been waiting for six hours to get in," Trak said, watching his wife being rolled in on a cart." His four-legged body had propped itself on the expecting mother's bed. "There was no one. The receptionist told me there were too many births this season for us to be promoted by seniority." Trak briefly wondered at the pained look in Ikland's eyes. There would be terrible retribution when he put two and two together.

"And she's not given birth yet?" A sudden burst of enlightenment came to Ikland's stressed mind. "What have you been doing?" Ikland shouted, appalled. That kind of magic could very well damage the child and the mother. Magically blocking childbirth could even kill. "Oh, don't bother with that! I don't want to know! Just undo it now."

Trak began chanting, slowly and quietly but with extreme intensity. This required much concentration to bring about, and even more to undo the magic. "Pacis verto tergum officina vices…" he repeated it again and again. Ikland and his nurse had begun their procedures to begin the birthing process, chanting in a strange tongue with the same intensity.

He finished impatiently, watching his wife, who was screaming like a banshee with labor pains. It was going to be a five-hour ordeal highlighted by moments of extreme agony for all involved. But the end result was worth the suffering for both parents. In five hours, their son would enter the world. Trak was excited, evidenced by his wings shuddering impatiently while still being wrapped around his trunk.

Doctor Ikland played his part carefully. He chanted continuously, his magic filling the room and having a calming effect on its occupants. He needed it as well, though, knowing that if he became overly excited something could go terribly wrong. He had to remind himself not to shift his yellow eyes away from the expecting mother's birth canal. The nurses, one from the Green Wing and yet another Blue Wing, instructed Silv on breathing and coping with the immense pain associated with childbirth. Silv, thankfully, was a quick learner.

This was her first child. And now she knew why dragons only had a maximum birth of one child each Season. Trak, who had seen childbearing before, had warned her extensively of what she was committing to, and had offered that she not be forced to bare him a son. His legacy could have waited until she was ready, he had told her. But no, Silv had been going through the maternal cycles that come during the Season. She had wanted a child. And now she was witnessing, and actively participating in the delivery of that child.

Silv screamed again. Why was this taking so long? How many hours had passed since his wife was admitted into the delivery room? Trak was beginning to worry about his wife and the unborn child inside her. Maybe he had done something wrong… Certainly he must have. Time passed him by with tortured slowness, minutes to hours and hours seeming like days to him. His patience grew shorter and shorter as his wait grew longer. He would have asked what was wrong, but knowing that the medical professionals had to keep concentration, he remained silent.

It gave him time to reflect, however. During the wars, his clan had often used that same technique to stop other clans from reproducing, and often ended up destroying entire communities and tribes. After those deadly and costly wars, the Council had outlawed the practice. Some Dragons still practiced, but only in case of war, not to put to use unless old tensions flared again.

It often took several hours for the process to become apparent and the magic to do its damage. Trak had originally planned on using this as a last resort, which he had done. And even then, he would have used it only for as long as he thought safe. Surely only an hour could not hurt Silv, when the normal time was three! The magic was destructive in nature, however, and was therefore unstable and unpredictable. It had been intended, during the wars, to kill the female as well, which gave rise to Trak's initial fears.

But as time wore on and no doctor had become available, Trak had become desperate that his child be born in a stable environment. What little he knew of children, Trak had taken great care to learn well. His son, if he were born outside the calming magic placed upon this room, would grow up differently and painfully aware of that difference. The brain would have interpreted the calamity wrongly and associate it with something evil—the calamity caused by so many people. His son would not grow to become a very sociable person, bad for a Dragon and worse for the heir to a family estate.

Only compounding problems, the calming spell that Ikland had put over the room was not helping Trak much. He needed to let out his frustration. A quick flight and some fresh air would do him good. But he could not in good conscience leave his wife alone for more time than it took light to twinkle in his eyes. But he needed to do something—anything to express his growing irritation. He could not disturb the process though. Healing magic was an art and Ikland was the master artist. Trak knew better.

Quietly, giving his wife a parting kiss, he padded out the door without Ikland's noticing. He walked for a time, still reflecting on the goings on around him. The halls were rather quiet, the Dragon decided. Expectant fathers had fallen asleep on some benches near by and slept restlessly, able to be awoken by the slightest of sounds. He wished that he could have been one of them, waiting and knowing that the ordeal would finish itself out with a positive ending. His problems did not seem to want to abate as he walked and he tried sleeping for a time, finding, however, that rest would not come to him as if by some punishment from the Architect. His wanderings continued around and around, up flights of stares to the main landing where he found a Dragon and her escort passing by him in the hurry that was so unique to young fathers.

Some minutes later, having bothered no longer to keep track of where he was, Trak found he was on the building's roof overlooking the city below him. Why had he come out here? Fresh air would do good things, he reminded himself. And the view was impressive as well. Buildings lit up the sky, the Council's pyramid shone like a jewel, some dark brownish red color, like garnet. From this height, he had a commanding vision of ant-like Dragons scurrying around on foot to the night jobs that night owls worked. Still though, his pain remained and he fathomed jumping from the ledge before him into the abyss.

His mind told him that he deserved it and his heart agreed. But what if his son lived? Trak could not let him go through life knowing that his father had taken the coward's way out. He tried to comprehend not having grown up with a father and found he could not. "No!" Trak shouted to the night. "No darkness shall overtake me! The gates of Hell will not prevail against me, my family or anyone under me!"

Hearing his echo, Trak turned to see if he had caused enough of a ruckus to draw attention. The Red Wing laughed mirthlessly. The only thing below him for three levels was storage. He still needed to vent himself though. He wanted to curse, and satisfied that he was out of earshot from any of the expecting mothers or expectant fathers, he roared, loudly. He emptied his lungs and by means of magic kept at it for a full five minutes at his loudest. At last he silenced, gasping for breath and staring at the great city of Am River stretched out before him.

This was a large city, and the technological marvel of the age. Dragons may have had magic, but that did not stop them from advancing in the realm of mechanics and electronics. Sometimes, for larger projects, the fields of science and magic were combined. This maternity ward was a good example of that, Trak marveled. In fact, the doctors were all of the Blue and Green Wings for their specialties in healing and preservation magic types.

Ikland really was doing his best for him. The Blue Wing was the best doctor that Trak knew, and had been a member of an ally's family unit for as long as Trak could remember. Like his Patriarch, Ikland had become a master healer and was hailed by the Blue Wing as a model of what their kind should be. Even the Council had awarded him for his service. If his son lived, Ikland would play a major role in it.

This train of thought set Trak sat speculating again. His son would be born tonight, dead or alive. And then he would have to wait another five Seasons for another child if this pregnancy was terminated. He did not want that to happen. It would devastate Silv and her spirit would be irreversibly crushed. Silently he prayed for his child's protection along with his wife's. Surely the Architect was listening—the Architect who had created all, who was recognized by all—most anyway. He would be listening.

The moon shown bright above him and he looked at it wonderingly. The Master's plan had included all of the stars out there, and the worlds orbiting them. There were other worlds out there, he knew. Trak wondered if there was anyone else in the cosmos was going through the same thing that he was going through, if the Master's plan had included any of them in his predicament. Out of the hundreds of worlds, he knew that there was someone, at least one, who knew his suffering. Why did the Architect let this sort of situation arise? Did that not go against what the Architect's nature?

No, causing it goes against His nature. Letting me see the consequence of a hasty and stupid action is not. Even Trak's pride could not get in the way of the revelation. The Dragon was destined to live with this hanging over his head.

"Oh," he moaned in despair. "Grant them life, Great One! Grant them life for me! Grant my child a life…And my love, my wife? Why was I so impatient? Why?" He roared again, but it paled in comparison with his earlier bout. It was more of a weeping noise. A sad and hopeless lament echoed from other buildings. Unwillingly and quite to his irritation, Trak felt tears streaming down his muzzle. It was shameful for a Dragon of his age to cry like a child. But it was not like a child. He wept for his wife and son, for what he had done to them.

This went on for some time. Shedding tears and then stopping to roar out in anger followed by a moment of thoughtful depression. The night sky had lit up with the rising of the world's Golden Sun when he finally came around to notice the time. He had spent far too long out on that ledge. His red eyes had become a blazing orange due to his monstrous tears and his mane was soaked in sweat from the stress of events below. Trak altogether looked like he had just been dumped in the Great River Am.

A door opened behind him and Ikland stepped out into the cool dawn atmosphere. He sensed his comrade's feelings and spoke nothing. Instead, he quietly came up behind him and tapped his shoulder. Trak glanced up at him and stood to his seven-foot height. Neither of them spoke, but Ikland nodded toward the door indicating that he could see his wife. Trak still had no idea if his wife was in good condition or if the pregnancy had been a success.

When he reentered the hospital room, he saw his wife, relieved to see him. She was alive. He went to her, unrestrained joy quickening his movements. "My love," he whispered to her. "My love." He could not contain the emotion that betrayed itself in his voice, knowing that at least this part of his life persisted. Yet he noticed that there was no child in her arms. Nor was he in an incubator or a crib. "Where is our son?" Trak asked hesitantly, addressing himself to Ikland.

"He is in the intensive care unit," Ikland told him. But he was alive? That was a relief to have both his wife and child. Silently, Trak thanked the Architect for the blessing.

"Will he make it?" That was the next logical question. For sixteen cycles he had done nothing but take care of his pregnant wife. If the child did not survive both his hard work and his wife's burdens would be in vain, having not succeeded in bringing a new life into the world. Trak was answered by a look of apprehension from Ikland. His wife's expression was one of solemn grief, which could only mean that there was going to be news that would not be good for him to hear. Was his son going to die? His only legacy, was he slipping into death's grip before he had a moment into the world?

"Will my son live?" he asked again.

"You did terrible damage with that little stunt of yours—" Trak dropped his head shamefully—"But nothing irreversible. He will," the doctor answered. "But it's only by the Architect's graces. He's not stable here; his lungs have not fully developed immunity to some of the gasses in our atmosphere."

What did that mean? Would his son have to be incubated? Would he spend his life in a pressure suit? "I thought you said he would live," Trak snapped harshly. Unknowingly, he was growling in discontent and impatience. He wanted to see his son alive and without machines attached to him.

"He will live, friend. But we will have to send him away for a time." So his son would have to be incubated. For how long would he be incubated, and where at? That was the problem. This hospital was the best in the world. Why would they send his son away to be incubated? Ikland continued, "A surgeon from the Brown Wing will be coming down to inspect your son. But the verdict is clear on this point, you're son will not be with you for at least fifteen Seasons until his return from the Human world."

"Human!" How could that be? They were sending him to the Human world, a primitive rock with no faith? "You can't send him there! They would destroy him!"

"Brown Wing magic," his wife said sadly. "They can make him appear human. They'll put a shell around him and send him to live with a human family." She could only croak out the words so loudly. Trak's wife was going through the same turmoil that he was. It must have been worse for her, having just seen him before he was rushed off to have emergency care administered.

"The inspection is only to find how best to cast the shell on him," Ikland informed them both. How he hated to break bad news to his oldest ally. "Periodically, someone should go to check on him and make sure that he is well in the Human world. I would suggest someone other than one of you two."

Trak settled next to Silv and hung his head. It was his fault and his alone. He had nearly killed his wife and now because of him, his son would be forced to a world where if they knew the truth they would kill him. He needed to be out on that roof again. Trak reminded himself, however, that the Architect had granted his prayer. His son was alive and so was his wife. He only need be patient for a while.

The parents were aloud to see their child briefly before the inspection. He was in a pressure chamber to keep out toxins from their atmosphere. The poor child had been hooked up to multiple machines to monitor his vitals, with tubes running from his tail, arms, legs, and one from his mouth to feed him. He was a sad sight. After that, the doctor came in, a brown-scaled lad with a snowy mane. From his vantage point, Trak could not tell what part of his son was being looked over.

So far, this had lasted nearly an hour. The child had been inspected from every angle, and under several different lights. The infant looked remarkably like his father, the same red eyes, and body type. He had yet to grow wings, which was a dominant trait in Trak's gene pool, but whether or not they would be his was another matter. At any rate, he thought his son a reflection of himself.

A grunt from the Brown Wing surgeon told him that the inspection was finished at last. He glanced over at the parents and nodded solemnly. Their son would have to be shelled. "I would suggest going through the process immediately," he said after one more thorough look over their son. "He'll need a name and someone will have to place him."

Ikland had gone over all of this with him. There were certain risks that were being faced head on; one, which, was the risk that the family may reject their son. That was rare, but it happened often enough to be a concern for the parents. But usually the hospital selected a family that was having trouble conceiving by their own means. They usually chose kind parents that would treated the child well. That was what the real parents wanted.

Ikland had also suggested that another Dragon be shelled and sent periodically to check up on the child's development. Whitoc, a young Dragon of the White Wing was suggested. His magic, even for being young, was powerful among his family. He would be good to train their son on re-entry. Of course for Whitoc, that would mean he would have to transfer himself to Trak's residence to be near the child after reentry. When he had been called, it was clear by his voice that he would rather hang in the public square than have anything to do with the Red Wing clan. But eventually he was persuaded to even place the child.

Now the brown surgeon was ushering Trak and Silv out of the room, preparing himself to work his magic. "Have you decided on a name for him?" he asked, shuffling them out. "I will need the name when I cast his shell."

Trak looked at Silv, who looked back without saying a word. "Dragon or human name?"

"Either," said the doctor.

"Coren was my grandfather's name. My son shall bare the name as well, proudly." The male examined his mate for any sign of disapproval. When he found none, he smiled, showing off his fangs and pearly rows of other teeth. "Coren it shall be, then." The surgeon nodded, smiling himself. All that was left now was for him to work his magic and then have the child placed. Whitoc was already waiting in the emergency room to leave as soon as possible to place him.

The hospital had selected a family by the name of Jackson to take the human in. Coren would be an only child, it was suspected. That was a good thing however. His differences would make life with siblings extremely difficult. And his social life, though troubling would be better off without the competition.

All throughout Coren's life, he would know that something was different about him. Sometimes, a growl might pop out of him or a snarl if he was angry enough. Other times a guttural laughter. He would be tall for humans, and with an unusually deep voice. Every so often, Coren might find sparks flying from his fingers, signifying the beginnings of his Wing's magic taking hold. These things would cause him some amount of grief, but that would be unavoidable. Trak found this to be a silver lining, actually. He hoped maybe that such problems as that would make him long for his home in Am River and to rid himself of the human world.

The surgeon was just in the process of finishing casting the spell when he heard a soft whimpering from the incubator. Coren had woken up and was crying softly at the tubes running through him, filtering out the poison native to their air. He would be taken out of the incubator soon, and could only survive for a few minutes before he would suffer any damage. Hopefully, that was all the time his parents would need. The doctor called Whitoc and the parents into the room.

The parents eagerly came, finding that their draconic son was now a foot-long, pink human baby. They stared for a little bit at him, wondering if what they were going to do was such a good idea. Whitoc came up beside them, already having worked his magic to look human and he too stared at the child.

Ikland filed in next, interrupting their vigil. "We will have to take him out of the incubator to send them to the human world," he said, placing a claw on the glass box that held the baby. "You may each have a few moments to hold him if you like. But Whitoc will need to take the child as soon as possible to prevent any permanent damage." With that, Ikland released the clamps that held Coren inside the incubator. He then lifted the child out of the box and into the awaiting parents' arms.

Trak curled his tail around the child, lifting a paw to brush away its bleach-white hair. "Red eyes," he mumbled. He gave Coren his blessing, chanting silently and fervently without pause, and when that was finished he handed Coren off to his mother. She too noticed the red eyes and she commented that he still looked like Trak. Whitoc took the child when Silv had finished with him and moments later vanished completely. Trak sighed ruefully; he would not see his son again for fifteen Seasons.

The human world was dark, Whitoc noticed, carrying his bundle. He slipped a white scrap of parchment out of a pocket in his trousers. "Nine-oh-two Sycamore Drive," he read aloud. There was also a note from Coren's parents, the two Dragons who had to give him up for a time. He promised himself he would not look at that, as well has having promised to Trak. It was for the humans' eyes only, he reminded himself.

The buildings were that of a small town, he knew. This village was not far from population centers. But it was only a suburb of something else. It was his opinion that Humans had accomplished much without the use of magic. Of course they were centuries behind his species, but it was quiet and cozy here. Of all the human villages, this one was nice. Whitoc laughed at himself when he decided that it was a nicer village than Am River, his home.

Am River was a noisy place to live, with nocturnal dragons coming and going at all hours of the night. It was a metropolis, bustling with all degrees of industry and commercial ventures. Whitoc's home was the trade center of his world, situated at the mouth of the great river Am itself. A real port of industry, he thought wryly. The suburbs were nice to visit though. Trak and his family were from one of the suburbs, Shin'lit, if he remembered correctly. He had grown up there, and then went off to found his own home in the city. When the time came, Coren would go home to somewhere where he could personally recommend.

There it was! Nine-oh-two Sycamore Drive! The child squirmed a bit in his arms, somehow sensing that he was nearing a new home. The lights were off, the residents asleep, not even a dog barked. Whitoc looked at the silver-hared baby with the red eyes. "Well," he said softly, not bothering to try and disguise the growl in his voice. "This is you're stop, Red Wing. Someone will check up on you eventually."

He placed the child on the wooden porch, wrapped in a light blew blanket, the child would be warm. He began chanting his magic for the return trip. DING DONG BONG. The doorbell chimed as Whitoc vanished entirely.

DING DONG BONG! Robert Jackson awoke, startled and vaguely wondering why the doorbell was ringing. He opened his eyes in a slumberous fashion and removed the quilt covering his body. His wife, Rosette, whispered for him to come back to bed. He replied that the doorbell just ringed and that he was going down to see whom it might have been. Rosette conceded and went back to sleep.

Robert slushed down the stairs of their two-story building. "This had better not be another ding-dong ditch again," he groused, reaching the door. He opened it, letting in a chilly night breeze and the sounds of a fussy child. Gradually beginning to realize that there was a baby crying somewhere, he looked down to find a child wrapped in blue at his feet. "What on earth?" He picked the child up and shut the door.

"Rosy!" he called up to his wife. "Rosy, I think you should come down here!" Up in her room, Rosette woke again to the sounds of her spouse calling. She grumbled a bit, wondering what her husband could not handle without her and pulled on a pair of pink slippers. Then she too slushed down the stairwell, wondering what could be so important to interrupt her beauty rest.

"What is it Robbie? It's three in the morning…" She trailed off into a yawn, not noticing the muffled cries of a child in her husband's arms. "…And I have to work in the morning. Can't this wait 'til tomorrow?"

"I shouldn't think so," he replied. "Look what was just dropped off," he said, showing her the wriggling parcel in blue. "A baby," he said, "just dropped here. There was no one when I opened the door. I can only assume he was abandoned." A bleach-blond child looked at Rosette with a rusty colored set of eyes.

"It's a baby…" Robert had already confirmed that. But he knew his wife wanted a child. She had prayed and prayed and prayed until she could no longer pray anymore. It was constantly on her mind, and his. He was the faulty circuit that could not create an infant of their own. "Praise God Almighty," she whispered reverently. "Our prayers were answered, Robbie. And look—" She removed a beige scrap from the blanket—"There's a note!"

Robert scooted around to his wife's side so that he could also see the note. It was written on a cloth of some sort, with what looked to be a quill and ink pot. It was also written clumsily, as if whoever wrote it was too large to hold the instrument. But it was clear English, and carefully checked to make sure it was legible. Robert read the note scrupulously, being attentive to every detail of what was more a letter in his mind.

"To the dearest humans who have taken in our son, we thank you. To save his life, we must give him for you to take in and grow in your world as your customs dictate until such time as he may return to his home. We love him dearly, but are unable to take care of him. You, who have graciously taken him under your Wing, may the grace of the Architect be on you for all times.

"We ask only that, when Coren is old enough, you tell him the truth of us. That he is not human, but a dragon from the world of M'lcheas, that we have loved him from the time he was born and that we wish with all our hearts that he will return home to us safe and sound. In only fifteen of your years, it will be time for him to return and on that day we ask that you be with him so we may thank you ourselves.

"Sincerely, Trak of the Red Wing."

"Dragons," Rosette asked cautiously. "Sincerely, Trak of the Red Wing," she repeated the closure again. The child was quiet, but still wriggling in his blanket. He goo-gooed at her and smiled. "It can't be possible can it, Robbie? Dragons?"

Robert examined the writing again before replying. "Trak is a name I've never heard of. And that would explain his red eyes." But only fifteen years to have the child? And what about those eyes? They were red… friendly looking, but red as brick. "I'd believe it," he said.

In his heart, he and his wife wanted the child called Coren. He was a beautiful child wherever he came from. And the circumstance begged the question of what they would do now? Was adoption a possibility? ­Could they make Coren legally theirs? He was just dropped off on their doorstep and was not even human. But still, it was an answer to their prayers. God—or was it the Architect—had answered and given them what they so desperately wanted. And he was such a beautiful infant, quiet and bouncy like Rosette had always imagined children to be. She touched its cheek and he grabbed her finger. He was so soft.

"We should do what they asked," Rosette decided. "God used them to answer our prayers and the least we should do is be thankful." She brushed the child's cheek softly, and Coren made a happy sound. "He's such a pretty child."

"What should we name him, then," her husband asked quietly, looking at the infant. Quickly, Robert ran through a list of names that lent themselves to him. "How about naming him after my grandfather Julian—Or how about Uncle Edward?" He looked to his wife and saw disapproval etched there. Julian and Edward were out the window. "Do you have anything better?" he queried.

"Coren," she stated simply. "That's what his parents named him. That's what we'll call him. After all, who are we to tamper with God's gift?" Robert gazed back, not speaking and only contemplating on the ramifications of his child's name. After what seemed like hours, he nodded his acquiescence. "Coren it is, then."

"I'll start the adoption process tomorrow," said Robert in a satisfied tone. "He'll be officially ours by the end of the month." If only he knew what a terrible and time consuming process adoption was. When Robert began the process, he had had high hopes for the future of his family. It was clear within weeks, however, that it would take more time than just a single month. It took them that long just to fill out the forms they were given. And the mounds of paperwork kept getting higher.

But even that did not repress the Jacksons' hopes. They were allowed to visit the child every day at the refuge, but that was it. They did not care though. Coren would be theirs soon enough. They began adding on to their home, remodeling the kitchen and the back to make it bigger. Two rooms were added for Coren, a crib room and a playroom. They filled the rooms with toys and stuffed animals, and in the playroom they set a large, red stuffed dragon with a gaping yet friendly smile and rounded foam teeth.

Even after finishing the remodeling, they still had battles to win custody of Coren. The agency they were using to adopt Coren was doing everything it could, yet there were other families that had heard of the child and were looking to adopt him. Robert and his wife were eventually forced to reveal the letter that came attached to Coren's blanket during a custody hearing in the courts. The parents were asked why they had not shown it earlier, to which Robert replied that the message was not intended for anyone but the parents to read. The judge who presided over the hearing read it skeptically.

"Dragons," he had asked, arching a brow. "And what do you say to that?" Robert and Rosette had not been happy with that question. They obviously believed that the parents where what and who they said they were. But they could not say that publicly. The court would decide against them immediately.

"We've tried to look at it from the parents' point of view," Robert stated judiciously. "We have tried to overlook the fact that the parents said they were dragons. And in fifteen years, we hope to have Coren still with us. He is the answer to our prayers for a child of our own."

It was all true to the point where the Jacksons were almost sure they had said too much. They did try to view this from Trak's vantage point. They did not care in the slightest what the note said the child was or what the parents said they were. If they were dragons, then so be it. Coren was still Robert and Rosette's child until the appointed time fifteen years hence. And they did hope that fifteen years from then, Coren would still be with them. He was a blessing, which was true also.

"You hope to have him if fifteen years?" the judge asked.

"We hope, your Honor," Robert replied. "There is no way to tell if the letter was telling the truth. And how do you explain bleach-blond hair and red eyes? If his parents really were dragons, then it would still not matter in the slightest. We would love Coren anyway. He was given to us to take care of—dropped on our steps. He is an answer to our prayers."

"So you do believe it?"

"We don't know, sir."

The judge had looked at them with a perpetual annoyance. It had led them to believe that Coren would not be given them, like the dragons had intended. They were to reconvene the following day to hear the decision—the final decision. After that, there were no appeals and no more avenues to follow. Robert had spent that night comforting his wife, without getting any sort of sleep whatsoever. The next day, they were apprehensive and hesitant to see the judge.

Once inside the courthouse, they waited for an interminable amount of time that in actuality was only ten minutes. Such was their nervousness that even in the cold January air, they were hot. If only they could have had the parents intervene for them, this whole process would have been only gravy. But alas, there had been no such intervention.

The magistrate had then entered, cutting off any thoughts they may have been having. He breathed a long sigh once the court was seated, and then looked at Robert questioningly. "This child, you claim, is the answer to your prayers? You claim that this child is the answer to your hopes and dreams of raising a son."

Robert nodded silently, fearfully.

"After long deliberation, I have come to the point where I must say that that note does not matter much in the way of your competence as parents." The judge paused and waited to see if the Jacksons were going to speak. When they did not, he continued, "I have also come to the conclusion that I have no right to take a gift from God away from you. The child is yours." The judge beat his hammer, signifying the final ruling.

That night they had picked up their note, just for a keepsake the assured, and then Coren from the refuge. Along with some of the members of their church congregation, they celebrated the new arrival and the fact that their long battle to retain Coren as their son was over. At six, they put Coren down to bed with a stuffed animal. The red-eyed child was asleep almost instantly and did not cry for the entire night. For an hour, the two new parents only gazed at him, thanking God for the blessings that were being showered upon them.