: Aaron's Dragons by Cindy Warren
Aaron was old to be a knight. He had been assigned to guard the forest with his old horse, Demon, so named because in his youth people had said he resembled one. He knew it was not because the forest needed guarding, but because the king didn't know what else to do with him.
Most days, he sat under an old elm tree watching for pheasants or partridges while Demon grazed. He wasn't as quick with his bow and arrow as he used to be, but most days he was able to bag a couple of birds for the royal table.
"Ain't fitting work for a knight," he grumbled. His horse ignored him and continued grazing.
A sudden movement in the bush about a hundred yards away caught his eye. Shouldering his weapon, he whistled for Demon, and the old horse responded immediately.
"Too big for a bird," Aaron said as he swung himself into the saddle. "We'll be eating good tonight."
Demon knew exactly what to do. He'd seen the movement too, and off he went at top speed to where the animal had entered the thick bush. He turned into an overgrown path still at a full gallop. Aaron aimed his weapon, turned his body sideways for a better shot, and found himself face down on the ground. A low branch had neatly clipped him on the head.
"You don't be telling nobody about this," he told Demon. Ever loyal, the horse had stayed with him. "I'm OK, old buddy. I just need a minute." Aaron dragged his aching body over to a stout poplar he thought he could use to pull himself up.
"I'm just going to sit here a bit."
He was using an arrow to clear away some twigs and brambles when something caught his eye.
Aaron didn't have the breath to finish the sentence. He hauled himself into a sitting position under the tree and examined his find. He hadn't seen one in over fifty years, but he knew what he held.
It was a thing of rare beauty, glittering in the dappled sunlight. An egg, laid by a creature long believed to have been driven from the world, a forest dragon.
Knowing a single egg would be unlikely, Aaron forgot his aches and pains and felt around in the underbrush for more. Combing through the loose soil with aching fingers and using his arrow to push aside bramble bushes, he uncovered another, and another. After about two hours of searching he had a baker's dozen, thirteen eggs of varying shapes and sizes.
If the dragon lore he'd heard was true, each hatchling-to-be could have a different sire. There was no telling what might hatch. Aaron thought that would explain the differences in the eggs. He decided there was no sense speculating when he had a more immediate problem; the law.
By law, the eggs must be taken to the king. Since little dragons grew into big dragons, they were not allowed in the kingdom. In the past, they had been served at the breakfast table. Aaron had heard they were delicious, though he had never tasted one. A soft neighing in his ear interrupted his reverie.
"I know, Demon. It's time to go. I'm going to have to figure out what to do with these." Gently he placed them into his saddle bags.
The horse picked his way carefully back through the thick growth, mindful of the low branches hanging above his rider's head.
"I know what we're going to do, old buddy. Think I've known it all along. We're not letting them get served for breakfast. You know that old witch's cabin? Of course there's no witch there now, if there ever was. You know talk of that nonsense keeps people away. We'll be making a stop on our way home."
Aaron propped open the doors and windows to get rid of dust and stale air, then filled the sink with fresh grass and leaves. He had the perfect nest for his treasures.
"Relax, bud," he told the horse, who was very anxious to leave. "All the time we've been guarding this place what don't need guarding, you ever seen anyone around here? You might as well get used to it, 'cause we're going to be spending some time here. Now, let's go get some grub into these old hides and get some rest."
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