Garden Dragon

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(Read the first part of this story, Garden Magic.)

The flowers Julia looked for didn't grow where they were supposed to. Instead of planting roots in dirt or soil, she'd find them sprouting through a crack in a wall, clinging to the underside of a hanging sign, or fully bloomed under the ripples of Lake Solstok. It was their improbable positions that let her know they came from Taman. So when she spotted an orchid perched on a weather vane, anticipation raced through her mind. He wanted to meet. They'd already planned to rendezvous during Wintersfeast less than two weeks from now, so whatever it was must be urgent.

She found him in the eastern marketplace, grilling a meek flower cart boy about water cycles and sunlight. She couldn't help but chuckle to herself, she adored his passion for plants even when he let it get the best of him. Stepping up beside him, she placed a few coins on the cart, took the boquet from Taman's hands and said to the vendor "I love them, thank you." A pointed stare hidden behind a warm smile let Taman know not to voice his objections.

Walking from the cart, Tam tried to explain. "It's not that I don't like his flowers, but just look how thirsty they were when they were cut. A little water and a couple hours would've let these daffodils shine like they wanted to."

"I'm sure that's true, but I don't think someone who hides their garden gets to lecture the locals on how to grow." It was Julia's turn to catch a hard glance, but she deflected it with a particularly sweet smile. "Besides, you didn't come in to town to buy flowers, did you?"

"No" Tam said, his focus suddenly returning. "It's about the garden, the fire lizard nest."

A chill passed over Julia. The fire lizard eggs they'd moved to Tam's garden were still a sore spot in her heart. She'd bonded with Tam over tending to them, building a perfect new home for them safe from the hunters. The mother lizard even seemed to accept the move, and cautiously warmed up to Tam and Julia's help. But even when they did everything right, the eggs never hatched. She'd held out hope longer than perhaps was wise, but Julia finally accepted the sad truth when she found the eggs abandoned one morning. That pain was still raw, and she winced when the words crossed his lips. "Tam, I can't. I have to move on. We tried."

"We did. I.. kept trying. I know it's dumb, but when I went to dispose of the eggs, one of them was still warm. The rest were as cold as rocks, but just one of them wasn't. I couldn't ignore it, so I kept incubating it. I moved it into the cave, near the fire, and I kept it warm and safe. I thought I was just having a hard time letting go, you know, so I didn't tell you. I didn't want to break your heart again. But Julia.. I don't know why, I don't know how, but the egg hatched yesterday."

Julia almost lost her breath. "Taman, you wouldn't tease me like this if you wanted to keep your tongue. You're saying a fire lizard hatched from one of our eggs?"

"Well," Taman said cautiously, "not quite. The egg hatched, but I don't think it's a fire lizard. It's something much, much more surprising. I don't even know what to call it, so I need you to come see. And maybe help me pick a name?"

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Art and Writing: 
Yamen
Fractal rendered with Fractorium.