Jillian looked at the egg in her hand dubiously. It was round like a golf ball and smooth to the touch and warm. It was stark white with very faint blue lines shining through, creating an almost web-like pattern around the shell.
"This is what?" she asked her best friend Orin.
"A dragon's egg!" he whispered excitedly. He was keeping his voice down so no one else in the library heard him, but he could not contain the excitement that coursed through him.
Jillian had found the egg around her lawn bushes that morning and because Orin was an egg expert (he loved everything about eggs and the creatures that produced them), she had taken the egg to school to show him.
"Where did you get that?" Orin asked and she told him. "Wow! A real dragon's egg! Those are worth about three thousand dollars on black market sites."
"How do… No, nevermind. I don't want to know." Orin grinned. "So, what do I do with it?"
"You wait for it to hatch. See the blue veins? They will get brighter until it hatches."
She looked at the blue lines webbed across the shell again. Now that she looked better, she noticed that they were getting brighter. This morning she could hardly tell they were there and now it was clear they were if only slightly.
"And then what?"
"Feed the dragon milk and honey. Young dragons need milk that their mother usually provides and the honey is a sweet that can keep the dragon at your side for a while until it's old enough to take care of itself."
Suddenly, Jillian had a sudden thought, and she shivered.
"How big will it get?" All the stories she knew said dragons were huge monsters that breathed fire and ate maidens.
"No bigger than a cat," Orin said with a grin. "Some species of dragons get larger, but the one you are holding belongs to a species of dragon known as dragonlings, and they are small creatures that can imitate animal sounds, but doesn't speak. They are the kind of dragon a fairy would usually keep."
Jillian gave him a look and didn't say anything. The lines on the egg were getting brighter.
Suddenly, the two fell completely silent as they heard a crack and splinter. Soft mewling sounds escaped the tiny prison and then the shell started rolling around in Jillian's palm.
Jillian and Orin held their breath as the egg cracked open and a small creature tumbled out and uncurled itself so that it lay on its back and looked at them with huge, round violet eyes.
It had emerald green scales with paler green underbelly scales and wing membranes. It was no bigger than Jillian's palm with a long snakelike body and pointed head, four spindly legs that looked similar to a chicken's with sharp ivory talons adorning each finger. A frill like that of an iguana adorned its head and sharp, needlelike teeth flashed as it opened its mouth and emitted a new mewling sound.
"It's a girl," Orin whispered.
"How can you tell?" Jillian asked, now ready to believe Orin's story now that she saw the dragon.
"Males have whiskers like a catfish," he explained. "What are you going to call her?"
Jillian shrugged. "I don't know."
"Well you have to call her something."
"All right. Nita."
"What's wrong with it?" Jillian asked, looking at the baby dragon and gently rubbing a finger over her belly and watching the dragon open its mouth and emit what could have been a giggle as it absently pawed at her finger with its hands and closed its eyes.
Orin stood up and said something about getting some milk in honey, but Jillian wasn't listening. She was rubbing Nita's belly and giggling softly as the baby dragon laughed like an infant human child would when it was being tickled. She licked Jillian's hand with a long pointed tongue, and Jillian was surprised to see that it wasn't forked like a snake's. She had always assumed dragons would have a forked tongue.
When Orin returned, he sat a carton of milk before her along with a packet of honey.
"Mrs. Christy thought I was insane to ask for these. I told her it was for science."
Jillian nodded and opened the carton of milk, taking a sip herself before she dipped her finger inside the carton and allowed Nita to lick the milk off her finger.
"Got some scissors?" she asked Orin when Nita tried to stick her head inside the milk carton.
He nodded and handed them to her. She cut off the top of the milk carton and held Nita close to the edge so that she could dip her long neck inside the carton and drink. The baby dragon drank half the carton of milk before she pulled her head from the small box and emitted a very human-like burp and licked the extra milk off her muzzle.
Jillian and Orin laughed, earning a stern look from the librarian, but she didn't really mean it. She knew them well enough to know they weren't really trying to cause trouble.
Nita sat on her haunches before Jillian and Orin, watching them with her round violet eyes.
Jillian opened the packet of honey and offered some to Nita. The baby dragon lapped at it like a kitten at a saucer of milk, mewling the entire time, which made Jillian and Orin laugh again. Orin threw out the milk carton and grinned at Jillian.
"I think Nita fits her well. Take good care of her, Jillian."
Jillian grinned at him. "Don't worry, Orin, I will. She's not leaving my side any time soon."
Nita just burped again and looked at them with round violet eyes.