Hic Sunt Dracones

by lurking_latinist [Reviews - 0]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Fluff, General, Vignette

Author's Notes:
Written for AllyHR (romanajo123) in Chocolate Box 2022. Originally posted to AO3.

Charley was almost prepared to revise her belief in the Doctor's total inability to land anywhere without getting in trouble—or perhaps it was simply that this new-old version of him had a different approach, as he did to other things (fashion sprang to mind). At any rate, he'd taken her to a simply fascinating alien bazaar, where everything from holographic silks to exotic street food was for sale, and the only thing that had gone wrong was that she'd gotten short change from a vendor and the Doctor had spent five minutes telling him that he needed to be more careful. It was a perfect trip. She hoped just thinking this wouldn't jinx their next landing.

As they re-entered the TARDIS, Charley began to unpack her purchases. "This wrap, it looked nice and warm" (she draped it over the Doctor's arm, and he petted it like a cat), "this sort of re-usable notebook thing, and this paperweight." It was an ovoid mass the size of her hand that sparkled and shone like an opal in the console room's bright light. "I know I don't really need a paperweight, but it was so pretty—oh no!" she cried, taking a closer look. "It's cracked! What a pity."

"Wait," said the Doctor. He took the paperweight from her and inspected it more closely.

"What's wrong?" said Charley. "Oh, dear..."

"Nothing's wrong, as such," said the Doctor. "It's just that this appears to be an egg. It's not cracked—it's getting ready to hatch!"

"My word!" said Charley. "What sort of bird hatches out of an egg like that?"

"Could be anything. We shall have to wait and see," said the Doctor.

They built a nest for the egg out of towels and old clothes, of which the Doctor seemed to have an infinite quantity available once he had found something he called "the laundry vault." Charley decided to ask about this later.

"Now strictly speaking," he said, "we don't know whether this creature actually needs a nest. Some birds lay their eggs among hard pebbles to disguise them, for instance."

"That would be quite the pebble," said Charley. "Even if it doesn't technically need a nest, I'm sure it's safer for it than just rolling around the floor of the console room."

Hatching was a slow process. The Doctor went and made them both tea, and they sat together while watching the crack in the shell slowly widen. Sometimes the egg would rock back and forth with the energetic effort of the small creature inside.

"I wish we could help it somehow," said Charley. "I know we can't, but I wish we could. Wait—is it all right that we touched it? Its mother won't reject it or something?"

"That's not actually true of Earth birds, you know. They don't have a sense of smell," the Doctor replied.

"I know, but it's alien, right?" said Charley. "So perhaps it does."

"I think it should be all right, but we'll have to wait and see," said the Doctor. Charley nodded—he was right, there was nothing else they could do—and sipped her tea.

At last the hatchling made a breakthrough. A big piece of the opalescent shell went flying off and a small head poked through. It wasn't a bird's head at all; it looked more like a lizard, shiny in blue and green, although the tip of the nose bore an egg tooth like a pipping chick.

"It's some kind of lizard, I think," said Charley. "Oh, Doctor, it's not a venomous snake or something horrid like that, is it?"

"I don't think so," said the Doctor abstractedly. He was staring at the hatchling very hard, and Charley didn't feel entirely reassured.

With another great effort, the hatchling broke the egg entirely open. It struggled to its feet, arched its back, and hesitantly spread its wings.

Its wings.

Charley couldn't think how to describe this creature other than as a dragon—an adorable, six-inch-long baby dragon.

"Is that... what it looks like?" she asked the Doctor, and looked over to see a huge smile on his face. He put out one hand and let the little creature crawl onto his palm. It sniffed experimentally at one of his fingers, then shook out its wings, curled its tail around itself, and seemed to go directly to sleep, exhausted after the ordeal of hatching.

"If you mean does it bear a remarkable resemblance to Earth legends of dragons, I think you can see that it does," he replied. "And now I know where it belongs, too. We can take it safely to its home planet, Draconis Alpha, and no doubt be heartily thanked by the Lady of Scales."

"The planet's ruler?" Charley guessed.

"Just so."

"I—well, this sounds sort of awful, but do we have to take it back right away? I know, I know, it needs to be where it belongs. But it's—well, it's amazing. Can't we look at it a bit longer?"

"Think about it this way," says the Doctor. "If seeing one baby dragon is amazing, how about visiting a planet full of them?"

"Right," said Charley. "Let's go!"