Chapter 1

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In the village of Alechar everyone knew Iomran, the dragon hunter. The small settlement of peasants took great pride in their local hero, the strong, beefy man that kept them safe from the raids of the terrible lizards, who would predate on their livestock or maybe also their homes. Nobody of them had ever seen a dragon, actually: but it would have been foolish not to attribute the cause to the work of Iomran. He would regularly travel up in the mountains where the dragons resided, whenever news of one of them arrived in the village; and always would he come back with the head of one of them, to be held with pride in their local tavern, where the bard would celebrate him with his songs.

This story, however, is not about Iomran, but his brother: Duin, the owner of a small shop in Alechar.

Duin was, for some aspects, more affable than his brother: while Iomran was not very inclined to be open to other people, something that was understandable after being constantly object of admiration, Duin knew well how to act sympathetically, in order to get a client affectionated and make his job a little more interesting. Nevertheless, Duin was proud of having him as a brother. When he went to the local pub, those evenings when Iomran was out at a hunting session, a wide smile appeared in his contented face hearing the songs about his brother; not counting all the precious merchandise he got from the dragon fangs and skin Iomran would bring back, highly valuable objects that made them wealthy and respected like no other in the village.

But this, for Duin, was about to change - forever.

It all began in one night. As Duin was closing his shop, located below their house, the door entered. It was not a late customer, though, but his beloved brother, back from another successful hunt.

"Hi Iomran," Duin greeted him. Iomran was still wearing his light steel armor and with the usual bag full of dragon materials on the other.

"Hi Duin,""the hunter greeted him as well, "I have a special gift for you. I bet tis' something no other hunter has ever succeeded in putting their hands in."

"What can have you found apart from the usual skin and claws?" he asked, curiously.

"Let's go up," he said.

The two brothers went upstairs, where their bedroom and Duin's workroom were located. Iomran put his sack on the big table where Duin crafted his merchandise and searched inside, until, with a theatrical gesture, revealed what he looked for: "Aaand, look!"

Duin watched. It was a glass jar - the jar where Iomran usually kept some of his belongings. And inside of it there was...

"That's a...dragonlet?"

Indeed, behind the glass walls, a small dragon cub lay, with yellow, terrified eyes, shaking.

"But...how?" Duin exclaimed in amazement. Never had he seen a dragon so close, even if just a cub. Truly, his brother was amazing. "They defend their cubs so fiercely, no one has ever survived from the attack of a female!"

"No one but me!" Iomran pronounced proudly "It is true it was a bit of a shock discovering my next target was a female with a cub, but that only motivated me further." He lifted up the jar, the dragonlet emitting an acute screech. "I didn't kill it instantly because I want people to see it first. Y'know, let them know what great thing I have accomplished. Then you can embalm and append it. Guess it'look amazing in front of your banner! People will come seeing it, won't they?"

Duin watched at the jar in admiration. Inside of it, the puny dragonlet kept crying, its plaintive calls muffled by the thickness of the glass. His tiny claws desperately scratched the walls of his prison. If it hadn't been a dragon, it would have been very disturbing.

"So, where should we show it?"

"Ah, I'm tired now. Let's just keep it one day, then tomorrow you can show it down and then at the pub."

"Okay, then. I'll go feeding the dog now."

They left the jar on the counter, where the creature's rants became louder and his claws hit the transparent walls around it. From the sack, a huge canine tooth came out. Iomran had declared it had belonged to the female he had killed.

It was the middle of the night. Iomran had gone to bed long before, but Duin was not drowsy: he needed to keep watching the jar with the dragonlet. So many times had he heard his brothers' stories, but likely never would he be able to stand in front of a real live dragon. All while protected by strong glass. He lighted up a candle and sat down in front of the jar, staying in admiration for some time. The dragonlet had fallen asleep. Its scales had a nice scarlet color and two pure white horns, one of them cut into half, probably during the fight.

Suddenly, it woke up. Its yellow eyes met Duin's, his nose sniffing at his direction, like for begging for help.

A deep sense of uneasiness filled Duin. The dragonlet's eyes were full of fear - they were incredibly expressive and, someway...soulful. It was clearly trying to reach him - to be saved, supposedly. He was its last hope.

Well, there was no way it would happen. That was the ultimate pride of their family: no one had ever captured a dragonlet alive. Nothing would prevent him from showing it.

Then the dragonlet turned its small head to the tooth next to the jar, looking intensely at the remains of its mother. It looked a little calmer, yet a glimpse shone between its eyes. Do dragons weep?

This creature was not his enemy - it was just a small creature who had lost its mum and dad, filled with fear, that now had resumed looking at him. Now Duin could see them: its tears running down through its scales while its mouth lamented for attention.

He made a long breath. No way he could feel anything like compassion for an antagonist species.

"I can't do anything. You'd better take a rest now and accept your fate. You won't suffer like this...at least."

With that, he walked to the exit of the room. But as he got himself farther from the jar, the dragonlet's laments became louder, the wings moved frenetically, the tears crossing the glass.

"Don't make it hard!" Duin cried as well.

He lay down on his bed, but the screechs continued. How could Iomran keep sleeping so deeply? His snores surrounded the environment, together with the cub's terrible cries: his ears were agonizing.

There was only one thing to do: going back to his studio and taking the jar with him. He got up, entered again his working room, where the creature immediately looked at him again, and he grabbed the jar. The effect was immediate: the dragonlet stopped crying. What did it find in him?

"Fine, then, you're going to stay with me for now."

Maybe they were similar to dogs, he speculated to himself, and they needed attention to be kept calm. Sitting in the bad, with the jar in his hands, he decided to make a test. His first thought was opening the cover of the jar, but the dragonlet may escape, supposing it was able to fly. So he touched the part of the glass where the creature was with it. With his astonishement, the cub lay its little reddish muzzle to that precise point.

Why isn't it afraid of me?

The feel of that contact was curious - almost, he realized, good. He instinctively moved the finger around to play a bit, and the dragonlet followed it, content. He was actually starting to have fun.

No, he decided, I risk to get affectionate to our trophy.

But as he diverted his finger, the dragonlet resumed its laments.

He sighed. "Fine, here's your finger."

That night, Duin didn't sleep at all. Even when the cub finally calmed down and felt into slumber, the man's mind was a buzz of thoughts. It's not dangerous, he reasoned, not at all. Was it right to take it off his home? Did Iomran do something good? Does he do something good? He gave a look at the jar with the sleeping cub inside. Which one is the true monster?

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