Jan. 28th, 2015

jexia: (Me me)
Dragons are not fertile creatures by nature; their brooding happens rarely, and takes many years. So when M'rtaka was heavy with egg, she searched long and wide for a haven that could sustain her through ten years of guardianship. She found a place, with high cliffs where the sun clung to the rocks, overlooking a wide plain where the herd animals gathered to drink from the cool, green river, and there she laid her eggs.

Most queen dragons lay one or two eggs, but M'rtaka was in the prime of health. Her four eggs, each of a different hue, were a truly prodigious clutch. She curled around them, guarding them through the night, and through most of each day, except when she would stoop on whistling wings to the plain below to kill, and to feast. And so the seasons changed, hot to cold, cold to hot, hot to cold.

The humans came.

M'rtaka sprang from the cliffs, talons bared, and the humans collapsed to the ground in fright. They were a ragged bunch, in poor condition, ill-fed and stringy. One of them, with the rare gift of dragontongue, cried aloud, "Oh, great one! Spare us and we will serve you!"

They didn't look tasty. M'rtaka stayed her killing blow and uttered one word; "How?"

The one with speech replied, "However you need."

M'rtaka leapt into the air, her powerful wings thundering through the air, and returned to her cliff-top abode. She curled around her eggs to contemplate the situation, gazing down upon the tiny humans.

Eventually apathy or exhaustion overcame their fear, and they staggered around making preparations for the night. They slept in the shelter of the cliffs, and M'rtaka watched with the same unceasing alertness she gave her eggs.

*

When the morning light struck the cliff-top, M'rtaka soared aloft, arcing into the wind. She monitored her eggs, and the humans, but she also searched for evidence to confirm her suspicion.

When she found it, she plummeted to the plain. The humans again cowered in fear, but the one who could speak crept forward. "How can we serve you?

The sleek dragon folded her wings. "You will hunt for me. At least two beasts, every evening. More, in time."

The human bowed. "Yes, oh great one. It will be done." The other humans muttered, but began collecting what meagre implements they had.

M'rtaka extended her front foot, the claws only half-sheathed. "And the humans who follow you- they seek to hurt you?"

The motley group froze in fear, but the speaker bowed again. "Yes, oh wise one." M'rtaka scented fear and uncertainty. "Will you... will you protect us?"

"It will be done! Now fulfill your duty!" M'rtaka roared, and sprang into the air.

*

The humans hunted through the heat of the day, their tools ill-suited to the purpose. At last, they managed to bring down two beasts, a nursing dam and her calf.

Evening shadows streaked the ground before M'rtaka returned. She gnawed half-heartedly at the calf, showing little appetite.

The speaker approached timidly. "Are they not acceptable, oh wise one? A thousa-"

M'rtaka growled, and the speaker froze into silence. "Enough with the 'wise one' and 'great one'. My name is M'rtaka, and there is no greater name. You humans may take the cow. I have protected you, and now you must grow stronger so that you may serve me better."

Hunger overcame fear, and the other humans bustled forward to start butchering the beast. M'rtaka turned her back, and lumbered to her eyrie. Her belly was deliciously full.

The preparations below took on a festive air, and what could have been just a meal became a celebratory feast. At last the humans slept, bellies stuffed into shocking protuberances on their depleted frames.

*

Months passed. The humans built shelters, and started to accrue tools and experience that made their hunting trips more successful. The budding settlement prospered under M'rtaka's watchful eye.

The humans grew healthier, but the belly of the speaker grew faster than most. When M'rtaka spoke, the speaker's stomach would jump and twitch, stretched and extended by something inside.

One night, when the moons shone bright and full overhead, the nocturnal stillness was broken by groans. The groans became screams; the screams became silence; the silence became a chorus of wails.

In the morning, M'rtaka descended to the village. No-one stood to speak to her.

*

Years passed. The humans multiplied, with little brown bodies skipping through the shallows of the river.

They hunted, still, but nobody spoke to M'rtaka, and she could not make them understand. The beasts grew scarcer and more cunning, and there were more humans to feed. With shifty eyes, the humans offered only one beast.

M'rtaka ate it, demurely, and flew to her nest as always.

When no-one died for their failure, they grew bolder. If a hunt was especially successful, they might offer two, but otherwise it was one...or sometimes none. Yet the humans grew fatter, sleek and healthy.

The dragon brooded, fussing over her clutch. The shadows within the eggs grew clearer each day, the shapes within coiling and shifting as the shells thinned.

She had no way to tell the humans that she needed more food. A dragon's pride is paramount, and so she refused to break the bargain by hunting for herself. Soon the hatchlings would emerge, ravenous and keening. If the humans would not meet their side of the bargain, they could serve in another way.
jexia: (Me me)
Meal time was always a battle. There was no denying it; Davi was a picky eater. K'tisha mustered an enthusiastic expression as she placed Davi's heaped plate in front of him. He promptly shoved it away.

"Nope. I don't like it," he pouted.

K'tisha tensed. "But you haven't even tried it!" she cooed. "I got it especially for you! And you must be hungry after school."

Davi deigned to hook his plate closer, and eyed the contents suspiciously.

"It doesn't look right." He prodded it. "Are you sure it's ready?"

"Of course it is, dear. The lady at the market helped me choose a good one, and all!"

"But, Muuum, it looks yucky."

"No. It's perfect. Look. Its skin is in perfect condition, no spots or marks, and it's exactly the right colour."

Davi scowled. "Jeq's family had one the other night, and it wasn't that colour."

His mother suppressed a sigh. "The lady at the market said the darker the better, so long as it's not too shiny. Davi, you need to eat."

He slumped back in his chair, glowering at her. She stifled an urge to shove the plate into his face.

"The lady taught me all about them! This was the absolute best one there! Good skin condition, good skin colour, a good weight for its size. It even passes the tap test!" She demonstrated.

He glared.

K'tisha sighed, and reached for a knife. "Look, I'll cut it up for you." She levered the blade through the skin, working off some suppressed frustration, and extracted a delicate slice.

"See? Look how red and juicy the insides are. Mmm, yummy." She pantomimed deliciousness, and shoved his plate back at him.

Davi sniffed, and sniffed again. "Mum, what's that smell?"

K'tisha sniffed, too. "That's funny, it smelled alright at the market." She gingerly prodded her carefully selected offering, and then hooked it up in one tentacle. The creature dangled loosely, its four funny appendages hanging down. She shook it, to little effect, then brought it towards her olfactory organ. "Eurgh!"

Revolted, K'tisha slithered across the kitchen and dumped the human into the recycler, then scrubbed her tentacles at the sink.

"Sorry, Davi. Shall I pop out and pick up a couple of Centaurians, instead?"

Davi nodded.

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