Dragon Perilus (386 Words)
“Do you know how much a dragon eats?”
Tom raised his head, squinting through his one good eye. “Ah—no?”
The keeper shook his head. “That thing may look tiny,” he said, “but it eats twenty pounds in a day.”
“Will it take fish?” asked Tom.
The newly hatched dragon was climbing up his waistcoat, its tiny jaws clamping on a button and wrenching savagely. The button held, but the little beast’s violence was alarming.
“Yes, it’ll take fish,” said the keeper. “And human flesh.”
Tom ignored the last comment. He stroked the dragon’s head as it growled over his button. “We’ll manage—ouch!”
The dragon had nipped his finger. It wasn’t a hard bite but it stung, and Tom nursed his finger tenderly.
“You don’t know anything about dragons, young man,” said the keeper. “Let me break its neck. I promise it won’t feel a thing.”
Tom cupped his hands over the dragon. Unlike its siblings, this one was born with a deformed wing. Even fully matured, it would never fly.
“No, no, I’ve got it,” he said. “I’ll teach it to fish like me.”
“I never heard of anyone teaching a dragon anything,” said the keeper.
Tom didn’t hear him. The baby dragon had tired of his button and was watching him with its strange reptile eyes. It trilled, a high, not unmusical sound.
“What is it?” asked Tom.
“It’s hungry.” The keeper watched the two with interest. “It’s asking you for food. Here. I can spare you some.”
He was impressed, despite himself. As rare as it was for a person to show an interest in raising a dragon outside of the Aviary, it was rarer for a dragon to show immediate attachment to a human. For a moment he wondered if it was wise, letting the animal go. But he wheeled the meat cart to Tom’s elbow despite his misgivings.
Tom watched the small dragon eat, his one clear eye wide open. The dragon chewed and swallowed aggressively, as if the meat chunks could escape. Not for the first time, Tom was reminded that this was a dragon and could grow to be both powerful and dangerous. He stroked the sharp ridges over the small animal’s eyes, and heard a new sound, softer.
“Perilus,” he said. “That is what I’ll call you.”
Written in response to the Daily Prompt, “Trill.”