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baby crystal dragons

Baby Crystal Dragons: It Takes a Village to Hatch a Dragon

Cecil Pig breathed a heavy sigh and raised his chubby trotters over and over, up the craggy mountain path to Chibi Island’s Volcano. He cursed his job at the general store for keeping him stuck behind the cash register and candy jars. It was natural to get a bit bigger as you got older but Cecil could remember himself as a truffle-hunting piglet playing “Boar in the Forest”. Now the only games he seemed to play were ones where you found a bit of gold at the end of a long rainbows walk or if you kept digging and digging away at some unknown X until you found your gold. Geology had always been exciting to him though, after all who needs truffles when gold and emeralds are just laying about on the ground ready to be discovered.

Blustery winters were not so hard to hike in when you had your back to the warmth of the cooling magma from the volcano. Cecil picked and pawed through a cluster of metamorphic rock when he noticed something shining beneath. And there they were. A small clutch of precious stones nestled among the cold magma. As he uncovered the treasure carefully by removing the stones that covered them he realised that they were a sort of clutch of jeweled eggs. Each egg was black but encrusted with precious stones. One with blue gems in aqua and turquoise like ice, one with gems of emerald tones and one of amethyst and sapphire. Knowing a good deal when he saw one, Cecil took them for treasure. He bagged them in a canvas sack and lugged them down the mountain, trying not to bang them too hard along the way. The extra workout had been worth it. He stashed them at the general store with plans to cash in on his next trip to the mainland. He had a guy that handled this kind of stuff.

Pippin was also out on a hunt that day. Known on the island then as one of it’s youngest penguins/entrepreneurs, he had started his own ice-cream cart some time ago. He never let fear of his age restrict him from trying something new or different. Everything else had simply made him into who he was now. So how could anything truly go bad? The real question always was “was good…good enough?” Pippin was worried his plateau in sales was due to the lack of flavours in his ice cream. At first people were so happy but lately he wondered if he could have something like the variety that people found at Forest Noodles Café.  There, it seemed, there was no menu and the food Verity offered was different every time you showed up. He needed a fresh flavour sensation, so he had dropped in to see Cecil. The walls full of dried fruit and candies in glass jars, he thought, might serve as inspiration.

The bell jingled when Pippin entered the General Store but Cecil was busy behind the counter arranging something and hardly looked up when he peeped “Hi!”.

“Just busy with something here Pippin, won’t be a moment.”

Pippin was combining flavours in his head as he thought: Butterscotch salmon. Chocolate rock cod. No, no, no these flavours are to be for others, not me. I’ve got to think like the other animals.

As Pippin got closer to the candy jars the sun shone through them and lit up the tiny candy strawberries and rainbow of gummy worms. A flash of light blinded him as the sun licked at the polished stones of the treasure that Cecil was obsessing over. They looked like black eggs, with jewels and gems all over them. Pippin asked if he, as something of an expert on eggs, might take a closer look. Cecil cautiously allowed the investigation. Pippin ran his wing tips over the gems and with a nod from Cecil, was allowed to hold one up in the sun to inspect it. The eggs were warm, therefore likely alive and not a simple treasure.

“But what could they be?” Cecil insisted. “I’m taking them to the Mainland, they must be worth a fortune.”  Just then, Dolly Sheep and Georgia Pug happened into the shop for some supplies. Their flux capacitor was at a record fluxing low, but, despite their hurry, their inability to resist a new question added them to the growing crowd around the treasure eggs.

“Where did you find Dragon eggs!?” Dolly gasped.

“Dragon whats?!” Cecil’s eyes widened, and he immediately pushed them towards Pippin. “Get these out of here. I don’t want them.”

“Are you kidding me?” cried Pippin. He was shocked, “they are living creatures! They need to be brooded and hatched!”

“Well, I am not going to risk burning down the only store on the island to raise some absent Dragon’s whelps. It’s insane. My insurance specifically states it doesn’t cover magic, magic-related fires or any other acts related to magic.

“Well, nurturing is not one of my areas of expertise,” Dolly stated. “Though I could try a couple things. Hatching Dragons? Fascinating!” But Georgia reminded her of all the half-finished projects already pilling up around the laboratory.

“No, it’s OK.” Pippin said. “These eggs will take a lot of love to hatch. I need to get them home and start to rebuild their nest as best I can. I’m pretty good with this kind of thing. I have had some experience. Just never…you know, Dragons.”

“You are going to hatch them?” Cecil squeals. “Just…just make sure you do it on the other side of the island. These are dragons. Remember fire, fire balls, fire blasts. I’m sure they’re all cute when they’re born. And then there’s the running and the screaming.”

“I will hatch them.  At my house. I’m not scared. These are living creatures and need to be cared for.” Pippin adamantly replied.

“Um, Pippin?” Georgia pipes in. “Even we don’t do experiments in our house. All the dangerous stuff is done in the lab, by the fire suppressors. Cecil might be right. It might be dangerous.”

“I’m not worried. Besides, I just changed the batteries in my smoke detector.”

Pippin gathered the eggs back up in the canvas sack, being extra careful not to bang them. He brought them back to the smallish fishing cabin, (much bigger on the inside) built on the side of a frozen lake that was his home. With his old wood stove as a base, he arranged a small nest of volcanic stones using metamorphic rock and pieces of obsidian to hold the heat in. As he stared out the window, a large ring of smoke belched from the cone of the volcano. Pippin checked his smoke detector’s batteries again and borrowed his fire extinguisher from the ice cream cart where he put it next to the nest…just for safety.

Word spread like wildfire about the dangerous project Pippin was undertaking. Many of Chibi Island’s residents stopped him on his trips into town to hear about his progress. Some were excited about the prospect of new baby animals on the island, others were simply worried for his safety. Dragons, as you know, are vicious creatures. Lots of people had bits of advice on if or how he should do it. There was only one thing, Pippin noticed, that they agreed on. Everyone thought it was a job better done by Pippin than by themselves and staying far away from Pippin’s house was the popular approach.

 After two weeks of effort, Pippin had seen no result. He started to feel a bit discouraged. With his cold feet and days spent in the cooler working his ice cream trade, he concluded that he was unable to provide the warmth or the time needed to brood the eggs properly. He hadn’t imagined it would be this difficult to do it on his own. In penguin culture, it was common for male penguin to care for the eggs. These weren’t penguin eggs though and there were three instead of just one. He was just…too cold for dragon eggs.

Pippin started asking around for help. He made up a little flyer where you could pull off a tag of paper if you wanted to help with the eggs. He had pinned it to the community bulletin board in front of the General Store and had made Cecil promise, in front of other Chibetans, that he would not take it down after he left.  Every day he dropped by the store, but all ten tags just fluttered in the breeze. Pippin knew quite well by now, everyone was convinced that sitting on the eggs would only result in bitten and burned bums when the tiny monsters inevitably hatched.

On his way back to the cabin one day, exhausted by his long days at work and long nights of trying to care for the eggs, Pippin stopped at Forest Noodles. At least Verity Fox could help him by making him a meal. Luckily It wasn’t too busy in the cozy restaurant. Dusk sun shone dappled through the canopy of leaves that overhung the dining area. Only a pair of castaways sat at one of the mossy tables in a corner. They were complaining about their bowls of Vichyssoise. Pippin’s belly grumbled, he hadn’t really eaten in a couple days. Just snacks and ice cream. Vichyssoise sounded pretty good right now.

“Vichyssoise?” Verity said surprised. “Oh, sorry that’s not for you and just between you and I,” Verity whispered, “It’s actually yesterday’s soup. They’ve just been sitting there since then convincing themselves to eat it.” Verity yelled over her shoulder “AND THEY AREN’T GETTING ANYTHING ELSE! You my good sir, on the other hand, I feel you need something hot…something spicy. Something with a bit of a kick.”

Verity disappeared into the kitchen and within a moment came back through the swinging doors with a bowl of steaming…something, something red…with peppers poking out of it. The castaways stared wistfully from across the room at the pipping hot meal being delivered to Pippin.

“Forest Noodles Magma Seafood Gumbo!  Though, it’s more of a Paella.” she explained. “It’s got lots of seafood, don’t worry, but what makes it is ALL the good stuff I put in there. It’s got everything, and most of it is piquant!”

Pippin wasn’t really into spicy. He knew piquant was just Verity’s cute way of saying the stew was going to blow his head off. He was a penguin after all. The Salsa was decidedly NOT his dance. However, he did like fish and this wasn’t his first time in Forest Noodles. He knew better than to question the origins of Verity’s food manifestations. Well almost. The first bite did almost blow his head off. The second bite was like the volcano had erupted in his mouth. Verity sat by, laughing as Pippin began to sweat bullets. The castaways had shut up about their cold soup. Pippin wanted to stop but it was actually kind of good. Each bite just made him feel more resolute and persistent about finishing the bowl. He wouldn’t let this beat him too. He thought about the dragons and what they would look like when they finally hatched. He would finish. No matter what. A strange and deep burning fire lit in the tinder of his belly. Its uncoiled hand came up as ANGER. Anger at the food at first, for being so hot, angry with himself for being so cold and not wanting to eat the fiery stew, then angry at the other Chibetan’s on the island who were willing just to let the eggs be someone else’s problem.

With the flames and smoke still erupting from his mouth, Pippin let the food fuel his tirade and as he assembled everyone together at Forest Noodles and made a stand regarding the eggs.

“These are living creatures they need to be hatched or one day we might come back and find the eggs are cold inside.  I’m not able to do this on my own.  I need help and to tell you the truth, I’m angry I even have to ask. Our Island runs on giving and caring for others even if they aren’t our own, even if they castaways from some far-off Mainland. All the animals averted their eyes from Pippin’s uncomfortable gaze. The excuses started to bubble up again slowly.

“Where is Phedre? She’s a dragon, she should know what to do. They’re probably her eggs.”

“What do I know about raising dragons?”

 “This is not our problem.”

Pippin scorched them with a long and terrible look.

“Well,” Pippin stood before them, wings crossed, “I am going back to use some of this Gumbo’s fire to help me brood these little hatchlings and I want you to ask yourself whose problem will they be if I am successful? I hope I’m alive to tell you because having babies doesn’t stop when the eggs crack.”

Pippin stomped out of Forest Noodles that night, which is hard when you have flippers and a tender heart. He felt good though and hoped that he had reached some of the Islanders with his incendiary outburst. He had.

The next day Dolly Sheep showed up with a prototype she had been working on. Georgia Pug carefully unpacked all the parts from the box and assembled a flamethrower.

“An egg heater.” Dolly insisted.

Georgia inserted the quick connect hoses into a bottle of gelatinous magenta fuel then shook her head and used her serious face. “It’s a flame thrower.” Dolly threw up her hooves.

“Yes, it WAS a flame thrower.  However, it has been nerfed enough to be safely used within a domicile.”

It was not.  After putting the curtains out with fire extinguisher Pippin was surprised to hear a knock at the door.

“I heard Dolly was on the way over here, I was hoping to get here first, but…” Verity eyed the curtains and Dolly’s sheepish grin. “Ok, well, more the merrier I guess. Watching you eat yesterday really inspired me! So, I brought this down for our little dragonlings.” In she strode, with a massive pot of steaming spaghetti in hand. “I thought this might warm them up.” she explained.

As she was building a nest of hot and saucy noodles around the black and bejeweled eggs, more Chibetans began to arrive. Shyla Yeti showed up with handmade blankets she had knitted the night before. They were expertly in woven in patterns from wool donated from Dolly.

“Knitting is a real labour of love, I stayed up all night to make these,” said Shyla proud of her designs. Timothy Sloth showed up with hot water bottles. Even Cecil returned to the side of the volcano to bring back some live embers in a coal can he found on the path by the nest. In fact, more and more people started to show up, either from guilt or excitement over the project. Pippin didn’t turn anyone away that wanted to help. He just opened up the door until every inch of his tiny house was crammed full of friends from across the island. There were some outlandish theories and giggling at the silliness of some of the heartfelt suggestions, but everyone was having a pretty good time. Cecil’s fears and the fears of many others had subsided somewhat as they lost themselves in the earnest applications of what they believed need to be done.  The temperature in the house rose from body heat alone. Pippin noticed his freezers were no longer keeping the ice-cream cold and from one corner of a big cooler a rainbow of melted ice-cream was starting to drip onto the floor of his kitchen.  But there was no time to concern himself with that,

Because,

Suddenly one of the eggs started to quiver. It shook in the nest of spaghetti and designer fabrics like an alarm clock was going off inside it. Silence fell over the house as everyone sucked in their breath. The egg split and a tiny, sparkly, blue dragon’s face emerged to its enrapt audience.

“GAWWWWW” everyone sighed in unison. Johnny Panda almost crying, moved forward and brushed shell bits off the little blue dragon’s little noggin.

“He’s so cu-“ Johnny began, but he was cut off by an ear-splitting-yet-adorable sneeze from the little dragon. Fire shot out of his mouth in a jet, catching the curtains on fire (again).  Everyone gasped and stepped back. But there was nowhere to retreat in the smallish cabin

“I knew this was a bad idea!” declared Cecil. “No one listened to me!”

Dolly quickly extinguished the curtains with the very handy fire extinguisher. Otto Octopode pushed his way across the floor and approached the baby and the unhatched eggs in the little nest miscellany. Everyone cleared the way. Otto had a way with animals, folks, and life in general, they couldn’t quite define.

“Careful buddy.” Johnny warned.

“He’s just a baby.” Otto breathes. “Johnny, he’s not trying to be dangerous.”

The little blue dragon looked up at them with massive eyes and tilted his head slightly. There were gasps as Johnny picked him up cradling him.

“Hey, little guy.”

The little dragon opened his mouth and breathed in a sharp “Ahhhhh,”

The crowd jumped back, ready for a second sneeze. Johnny didn’t waver.

“Ok, you keep your mouth closed, little guy,” Johnny stated and the babe firmly clamped his mouth down. His sneeze was contained in tiny puffs of smoke that billowed from his nostrils. The whole crowd breathed a sigh of relief. Shyla Yeti furrowed her brow and lifted one out of the unhatched eggs from the blankets and spaghetti.

“What a cute little dragon! I wanna see another one.” The animals assumed it been their cooperative effort that had culminated in the egg cracking. The flame thrower, the blankets, the spaghetti and a big hug from Shyla produced the desired effect again as the second dragon is born the moment Shyla wrapped her furry arms around the egg. The top just popped right off. Timidly, from the hole in the top of the egg poked a shiny purple dragon.

 “Rawr?” It squeaked. The whole house cheered at once, threatening to blow the roof off the cabin just like the egg. The new purple dragon tucked her head back down in her shell to hide from her fans. Still no flames emerged. Cecil Pig hid nervously behind the fire extinguisher in his trotters, ready to blast the fire extinguisher.

Collectively they turned to the final egg. Already it seemed different. Its gems were emerald green and it seemed larger than the others, though the whole island could have sworn they were all the same size when they had started. Everything was employed again, in the same order, like a form, they filled in the fields and hope for the same result. Dolly’s flamethrower came out first. The hatchlings watched with fascination as the flames jet out of the “Egg Warmer.”

“Don’t get any bright ideas, guys,” Georgia told the dragons as she threw another log on the fire. Everyone began to sweat. The houses temperature raised higher and higher but the egg still refused to crack. It just sat there and vibrated slightly.  Blankets were reapplied as were the hot water bottles. Nothing seemed to work. Johnny Panda picked off a couple noodles that where draped over the egg and tried to talk the creature out that was still stuck inside. Pippin noticed the dripping ice cream had become a rainbowed puddle under the freezer, but before he could attend to it, a knock came at the door.

Pippin answered, not sure who it could be, since the whole island was currently in his little cabin.  It was Phedre. the somewhat notorious green and black dragon that had recently arrived on Chibi Island.

“So, I got this tag of paper from the notice on the community board and figured I better get over here, I mean, Pippin’s not the dumbest guy on the island but he better hope that guy doesn’t die.” She laughed to herself and stuck her head in, “So where are the little beasts?” Then she saw the spaghetti and the pile of water bottles and the well-sauced designer blankets. “Oh – Em – Gee, what are you even doing?” Everyone looks at the scene and starts to laugh. “You’re all terrible at this, you know? Let me get in there.”

Phedre reached out and cradled the final egg in her palms. “You’re missing, just like, the most obvious thing.” She kisses the top of the egg and it cracks, half of it falling away to reveal an emerald baby coiled up inside, asleep. It opened one eye, yawning.

“Gawww,” the animals sighed again.

“You Chibetans. You’re not pretty enough to be that dumb.” Phedre continued. “I figured of all people you guys would be able to figure out the secret ingredient. Cheesy enough. Seriously though, what is up with all the spaghetti?” Verity raised her hand still holding a ladle. Phedre explained, “They don’t need heat, just love and focus. Dragons aren’t the type to hang about after dropping a couple eggs.  So, it is up to strangers to take them in. And you can guess how often that happens.”

“So, these are your eggs, Phedre?” Cecil asked, pointedly.

“Oh, heck no,” Phedre laughed loudly, with small, controlled, flames shooting tips from the end of her nose. “These whelps are your problem. Oh, by the way,” she added, “You might want to get them out of the house here before they burn the whole freaking place down. Though,” she sniffed. “That might be an improvement.”

Just then Pippin felt cold against his flipper. He looked down and saw that the melting ice cream was now covering the entire kitchen floor in a sticky, multi-coloured pool.

“Darn,” Pippin said jumping up and out of the ooze. In doing so, he accidentally flicked splatters of the melted ice cream up onto everyone around him. “Sorry!”

But Verity was smiling as she inadvertently licked her lips.

“Pretty tasty, actually, Pippin.”

She was right. The combination of mint, blueberry, vanilla and lavender ice cream was nuanced and delicate. Familiar, yet surprising.  Pippin laughed and shook his head. What were the chances?

As everyone filed out that night, murmuring apologies, slapping high fives and cooing at the babies, Pippin was most taken by Cecil, who seemed to be finally taking a shine to the dragons. He lingered the longest, was hesitant to stray from the nest for too long and was the most help in the spaghetti/ice cream/ash clean up. Pippin was moved, until, during the clean up, Cecil volunteered to take on the responsibility for the disposal of the jewelled egg shells. He had a guy. Pippin shrugged. Why not?

‘Dragon Melt’ ice cream went on to become the most popular ice cream flavor on all Chibi Island.

The Baby Crystal Dragons grew up in the care of many Chibetans, mysteriously funded by an anonymous donor. They always had an especially special place in Pippin’s home, where the fire extinguisher was always handy. And only once did they set fire to something important and irreplaceable.

But that’s another story.