Dragon Marked - Chapter One

92 1 2

Jaxx awoke to a rough boot nudging him in the back.

"Wake up, dog, you lie-abed, lazy, good for nothing spawn."

Dog. Or Spawn. Those were just a couple of the names this slave overseer of Caer Llanwyn liked to call him. But then, no one else called him by his real name, either. Usually, when someone needed to address him, the adults called him boy. The names used by the children were less kind.

He let the familiar insults wash over him as he pushed himself off of his straw mat, tossing his scratchy wool blanket to the side. His stomach rumbled and he glanced at the sky, groaning inwardly. Even though the sun had not yet risen, he had missed breakfast again. Jaxx tried to look sorry, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground and nodding. If the man quit talking soon enough, he might have enough time to steal some kitchen scraps before they were fed to the pigs.

"If it was up to me, dog, you'd be fed to the dragons," said the overseer. He swung his fist toward Jaxx's head but Jaxx jumped out of reach.

The overseer continued, his lip curled in a sneer. "The dragon queen's new clutch has hatched. Your laziness has just earned you the task of cleaning the hatching grounds."

Jaxx knew the assignment had nothing to do with whether he had overslept or not. This overseer was newly promoted to a supervisor position over Caer Llanwyn's slaves. Even though he loved making all the boys under his command miserable, for some reason Jaxx seemed to be his favorite target.

Jaxx kept his head down and hands at his sides in a posture of respect, trying to look like he was repentant for waking up late. He wanted to appear as if the idea of working with the dragons scared him, but his heart quickened and he felt a rising excitement. The truth was, he loved dragons.

Most people were happy to stay as far as they could away from dragons, but Jaxx was not like most people. He loved everything about them. He loved how their great wings were large enough to block the sun when they flew overhead. He loved their long, spiky tails that they used like a whip when they fought. He loved that they bit whole cows in half with their enormous teeth when they ate and he especially loved that they breathed fire. He hoped that one day he would get to see one do it.

Jaxx did not worry too much that the task of collecting egg shells from the hatching grounds was dangerous. Of course, like everyone else, he had heard the stories of how young slaves had been seriously mauled or killed doing this job but he knew this was only because the newly hatched dragons were not bound to a mage like the older dragons and the slaves were not careful enough around them.

Dragon hatchlings were feral, near-sighted, clumsy, and as large as an adult human. But mostly, baby dragons were always hungry. They were born dangerous and only became more dangerous as they grew, until they reached the age of their first flight and were bound to mages to make them controllable.

No one knew why, but a mage-bound dragon queen would not mate so she was kept as wild as her offspring. As much as Jaxx loved dragons, he had to admit the thought of being in the hatching grounds with the dragon queen scared him more than a little and he hoped she would not be around while he was working there. He knew that once her babies hatched, she was nervous and protective around her young, seeing everything as a threat.

"Are you scared, dog?" asked the overseer, "You should be."

Wanting to get moving, Jaxx kept his eyes focused on the dirt in front of his feet, waiting for the overseer to finish his rant. When the man paused for a breath, Jaxx bowed quickly, thanked him, and then took off at a jog before he could start yelling again. Jaxx headed in the direction of the dragon stables but veered off toward the kitchens once he was out of the overseer's sight. He hoped he would not have to fight the pigs for the breakfast scraps.

Dragon MarkedRead this story for FREE!