Chapter Three

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            Jaxx whistled under his breath at the size of the baby dragon. It was at least twice as big as him was. He reached out to touch it. The scales were soft and still slimy from what was left of the egg yolk. Their color was mesmerizing, bluish green like a tarnished piece of metal, but with other colors seeming to swirl inside of the scales when he moved his head. The well-defined muscles on its back and legs suggested the dragon would have been strong had it lived and the obsidian black talons looked as sharp as a butcher's knife, proving how deadly it would have been if it was alive.

He sighed at seeing the two fragile wings that sprouted from the dragon's shoulders and spread limply behind the body. They were so thin that he could easily see the veins running through them. Thorny bumps that would have turned into spines lined the long neck and tail. The creature's mouth was filled with a pearly row of small, sharp teeth and a series of lumps and nubs that would have one day become spiked horns adorned its head. Knowing this beautiful creature would be skinned and used as someone's clothing made Jaxx's heart ache.

Jaxx stroked the unlucky baby, offering it sympathy even though he knew it could not feel it. To his surprise, he noticed the skin still felt soft and smooth and oddly warm. If it was dead, shouldn't the body be cold and stiff? Shrugging, he started to slip the rope around the baby dragon's neck when he saw the little dragon make a small movement. He froze, not breathing, wondering if he had just imagined it. Then the hatchling moved again, feebly opening its mouth barely enough for Jaxx to see the problem: a small bit of shell was stuck in its throat.

Not wanting to draw the attention of the dragon queen, Jaxx looked toward the caretaker and waved for help but the old man was too busy keeping the mother and the dragon babies occupied on the other side of the crater to notice. Jaxx considered shouting, but immediately dismissed that idea, realizing it would only draw the dragon queen's attention to him. She would reach him long before he could climb out of the way. It was probably too late for help to get there anyway. He could tell by the way the baby barely moved that there was little time left. Jaxx decided he would have to help the baby himself.

Trying not to think about the row of razor-sharp teeth that could slice his arm in half, Jaxx reached deep into the dragon's throat, grabbed tightly around the piece of shell, and pulled out the bloody object out of its mouth. The dragonette shuddered, but then stilled without taking a breath.

"Come on, wake up," Jaxx said in a frightened whisper. When there was still no response, he grabbed the young dragon by the shoulders and shook it. He remembered watching a herder revive a stillborn calf. Could he do that for the dragon? He decided it was worth a try, at least, and, snatching off his tunic, used it to rub the dragon's back, neck and head. When that did not help, he grabbed a piece of straw and tickled the inside of the baby dragon's nose, hoping to make it sneeze. It wiggled its head weakly, but it still did not breathe. Desperately, he grabbed the baby by the snout, held its jaws together, put his mouth over both nostrils, and blew, hard, into its lungs.

With a great jerk, the young dragon yanked itself out of his hands, cutting Jaxx's finger with its teeth. It sat straight up and sneezed all over him. Surprised, Jaxx stepped backward and tripped over a piece of rock, landing hard on his back. He held his breath as the dragon opened its eyes and looked at him, tilting its head from side to side. He realized with a start that it, no she, had yellow-green eyes, just like his. She licked at her lips where a few drops of his blood had fallen from his finger.

Jaxx stood up slowly and remained very still as she moved closer, afraid to set off her hunting instincts by running. He again heard the windy sound that he had noticed when the dragon queen had been crying, but this time it sounded happier and was followed by what could only be described as a soft giggle. The dragonette began to sniff him deeply all over, her nose pressing hard against his legs and moving towards his head. When she got to his face he tensed, waiting for her to snap at him, but instead she snuffled, blowing his hair around. He stifled a nervous laugh.

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