Risk walked along the coast of the abandoned coastline. Her boat and fellow crew-members were far back at where they made landfall. On their way back to their homeland, the lookout had spotted an unfamiliar island in the distance. Despite traveling this route for years, the Captain had admitted that he’d never even seen such a place. The trees were tall with wide, fan-like leaves that swayed in the gentle wind. The second Risk had set foot on the island, it had felt like the temperature had been raised significantly. Still humid beyond belief, but far hotter than she was used to. Even with all of these abnormalities, she still felt the desire to explore even just a little bit.
Her initial plan was to find more of the fruits that they had found on the first tree they came upon. They were red like an apple, but extended out like some kind of gourd. It was something none of them had seen before and the Captain ordered them to find as many as they could gather before they left for home. Unfortunately for Risk, she wasn’t having any luck finding them, leaving her basket to remain empty. She searched along the beach, but soon decided that she would have to risk heading a bit inland so as not to disappoint her fellow crew.
She pushed through dense foliage, her feet catching constantly and branches trying to rip her tunic without remorse. The annoyance made her glad she had cut her hair off to save herself the trouble. Some members of the crew joked about it making her look even more like a man, but she didn’t care. It was far easier to work without it rather than with.
A branch caught her side, distracting her just long enough to not notice her foot getting caught on a pile of those broad tree leaves. It caused Risk to smash into the dirt with only a loud thud to mark her embarrassing mistake. “Damn it all…” Risk muttered angrily, rubbing the knee she landed on. She looked back at the pile of leaves that had captured her foot. “What the hell was that?” Somehow, she just couldn’t believe that a simple pile of leaves was enough to trip an experienced explorer like herself. She crawled over and started removing the leaves, expecting to find a hidden branch or something similar. As she pulled at the last leaf, her fingers scraped across a hard surface.
“A rock?” Risk guessed. Underneath that last leaf, was an egg just a bit bigger than her fist. The shell shone a brilliant emerald green. Deeper than any pigment than she’d seen back in her homeland. She reached out and touched it and quickly yanked her hand back. It was incredibly warm, yet it didn’t burn her. “What animal makes something like this?” Risk asked to no one. Its beauty alone would catch her a nice price, if she could hide it away from the Captain that is. “Might as well try…” she concluded. Risk stood and bent to pick the egg up, immediately finding out that it easily weighed at least five pounds and was far denser than what she would expect most eggs to be. “Heavy little thing, aren’t ya?” She asked with a chuckle as she placed the egg into the bottom of her basket.
Now all Risk had to do was find a way to hide it when bringing it onto the ship. Looking around, it was obvious she wasn’t going to have any luck finding those fruits the Captain wanted. Eventually, she decided to go for a consolation prize and started collecting all of the fallen leaves in the area. They seemed sturdy and who knew what they could be used for if they were sold to the craftsmen of the city market. It might not be what he wanted, but the Captain probably wouldn’t be able to see much harm in bringing back more than one resource from the “mysterious island” they found. She filled the basket to the absolute brim, making sure the surprisingly solid egg had some cushion around it. All of it combined made for a very hefty load, but nothing she couldn’t handle during the trek back to the ship.
She marched back down the beach, her feet burying themselves into the sand thanks to the extra weight of her cargo. As she came upon the area of the shore that held the boats that would ferry them back to the ship, Risk looked at the rest of the crew who were coming back mostly empty handed. It seemed the mystery fruit wasn't in season and was far scarcer than previously thought. One member of the crew, who was named Jess, called out to her. His basket was mostly empty with maybe a dozen of the fruit.
"What is that, Risk?" Jess asked. "Just cause you couldn't find any either doesn't mean you have to rip the tree to shreds."
Risk gave a believable chuckle. "I figured it'd be smarter to come back with a full basket rather than an almost empty one," she explained. "Besides, these things are tough. Could be worth something."
Jess considered Risk's basket before making a quick turn back toward the tree line. "You're probably right!" Jess admitted. He started stomping across the beach leaving a few arriving crew members confused in his wake.
"He's too naive for his good…" Risk muttered. It didn't matter to her though. She sat her basket onto the row boat and waited for it to fill up. No one else had a full basket and she got a couple of side-eyes for hers. Risk didn't pay them any attention and kicked her feet up on the basket. She could almost swear that she could feel the egg's warmth rising up to her through the padding of leaves on top of it.
It wasn't long before the crew on the ship heaved the small boat up the side of it where the Captain waited to inspect the merchandise he had hoped for. He looked at each basket brought before him. Each one disappointing him just as much as the last. The Captain had a habit of pulling on his beard when angry and Risk swore that he was about to rip it off after the fourth basket. Risk was the last to be inspected and the Captain's face grew redder than ever when he saw that she had brought him a basket of leaves instead of his precious fruit.
"What is this?!" He asked. "This is just leaves! Where's the big ticket stuff?"
Risk shrugged. "Couldn't find any, Sir. The trees were bare aside from their leaves. They seemed strong so I gathered as much as possible. Figured that maybe the City's craftsmen could get some use from them."
The Captain looked Risk dead in the eye, no doubt looking for a hint of a joke. When his silent interrogation didn't work, he picked up a leaf from the basket and inspected it. Bending it, feeling it, and even biting at it, trying to gauge any kind of use from it. Satisfied, he put the leaf back. "Fine, but it better fetch a decent price or else I'm taking part of your wages to make up for it. Take it down to the storage," he said before walking off back to his cabin.
Risk smiled to herself. No one called her bluff and she was almost home free. Down the rickety stairs she went, passing by the previous crew who were chewed out for not bringing back enough for the Captain. Before she could get to storage, Risk would have to pass by where the crew kept their personal chests. Of course, the most they would hold was maybe three sets of clothes and one or two personal effects. She stopped at her own chest and looked around for anyone. Most of the crew had headed back topsided to greet their friends who were finally returning, which left Risk a perfect opportunity to uncover the egg and put it in her chest, under all of her meager possessions so as to be safe from prying eyes. Once she figured she wasn’t seen, Risk hurried off to the storage compartment to squirrel away her offerings.
“This isn’t worth anything to me,” the merchant said. A statement that shocked Risk from her daydreams of enjoying a nice, long vacation from having to work out on the seas. The second the ship made it to port, Risk had essentially jumped off the side of the ship with her chest and beelined to the first government backed merchant she could find. She had hoped the almost limitless pockets of the City would give her the highest payout.
“Excuse me? Just look at it! At worst, it could be some kind of fancy decoration for those money-grubbers over the wall!” Risk argued.
The look the merchant gave her boiled her blood. “It’s just a painted rock, Ma’am… It’s a beautiful shade of green, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still ultimately not worth anything.”
RIsk snatched the egg from the counter. “Fine, I’ll go find someone who can actually see value in this thing,” she said before storming out the door. The warmth the egg gave off reassured her that she was right. If only the City agreed with her sentiments.
Everywhere she went, she was denied compensation for her discovery. Risk had toured the entire city and received no offers aside from one merchant offering only five coins for it so it could be a gift for his husband. She had felt insulted at that. She had risked harm just smuggling it off the ship and that was worth far more than five coins itself. Even back home, in her meager rented room at the edge of the city, Risk held the egg like it would break at any moment. “At least it’s warm…” she muttered, pressing it against her body. “I guess it’ll be nice for when it gets cold.” She refused to let go of it all night, opting to keep the egg with her in bed under the covers. Its warmth, lulling her to sleep far better than the sounds of the ocean ever did.
The next morning was colder than when she fell asleep. Risk found herself shivering and pulling the covers tighter to ward off the chill, but that was when she noticed the missing lump of the egg. Her eyes shot open and she threw the covers off of herself in panic. Waiting underneath were the emerald colored, broken shards of the egg. “Oh no! Dammit, dammit, dammit!” Risk shouted, scrabbling to gather all of the pieces she could find. The pieces began to shatter even more as she grabbed at each one. Her efforts were useless and soon she was covered in tiny green flakes. "So much for that…" Risk bemoaned. All of that work to get it here only to accidentally destroy it. It was just another thing to add to her list of reasons why her life seemed to have hit a dead end.
She fell back onto her bed in defeat and closed her eyes. "Hopefully the Captain is getting something for all of those leaves, otherwise I'm going to be strapped," she said.
Then suddenly, a shadow appeared over her. "What the…" She opened her eyes again and found a set of emerald eyes staring back at her. Risk yelled and scrambled off the bed into the corner of her room to get away from whatever was there. What she saw from there was a creature who walked on all fours, was covered in dark green scales, and had a long neck leading to a lizard-like head. She couldn't believe what she was seeing. It was a miniature version of the beasts from the old stories her parents told her about.
"This can't be real…" Risk said. The beast hopped from the bed to the floor, a small set of wings flaring out to soften its landing. It calmly padded over, nails tapping against the wood floor, and gently put its head against Risk's leg. Thanks to her selfishness to pull one over on her captain, Risk managed to find something far greater than some shiny stone. She had found, and hatched, a genuine dragon. It looked up at her, it's eyes shining with curiosity, and Risk was instantly enraptured with it. Carefully, she reached a hand out and ran it down the dragon's neck. Its body was incredibly warm to the touch. Many thoughts ran through Risk's head as the dragon leaned into her hand.
"This is gonna change everything…"
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