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“Hey, Daniel, what are you doing in here?” Feather asked, causing me to jump up slightly.
I closed my bag and spun around. I had been looking through my remaining supplies counting what I would have available for trade during this slave auction. We had returned to our camp on the outskirts of the bandit camp. I had gone into the tent while the others drank, took drugs, or did other activities I wasn’t looking to get involved in.
I didn’t have much of an appetite these last two days, so I had most of the food I had started with. That turned out to be about ten cans of various meat or vegetables, and ten bottles of water. I also had a few bars and bags. I didn’t typically use the bags for trade because I had no way of removing the labels, and the information on them would cause some people to question where they came from. A can of beans with the label ripped off had origins that could be hidden, but a bag of chips had all that information written right there was a liability.
That was when Feather had suddenly poked her head into my tent, startling me. She must have been wondering what I was doing. They weren’t watching me as closely now that they had sold the eggs, but I still wasn’t exactly one of their trusted allies just yet. That was fair. I had only known them for two days. It’d be stranger if they did trust me.
“Nothing.” I declared.
Feather smirked, taking a step forward. “You’re not hiding some drugs in there, are you? What is it, some hive?”
As she spoke, she reached out and tried to swipe the bag from me. I grabbed it and pulled it away from her, swinging it to the side of the tent. If she saw the food inside and realized what it was, she would start suspecting something. I had even originally wondered why that would be so bad, and Jeri warned me that if they knew I had such wealth, they might think I was into something dangerous. They’d think I was using them, or perhaps I was paid off to somehow screw with them. Either way, it would be really bad.
“I don’t have anything like that!” I cried out defensively.
“Don’t be such a-” She was being extremely persistent, but when shove my backpack back another time, a noise stopped both of us.
“Scree!” It was an animal screech of distress, although it was rather quiet and weak.
Feather pulled back, her eyes wide, while I stared down with my eyes narrowed.
“Do you… have something living in your bag?” She asked.
“How can that be?”
I picked up the bag and moved it to the side. As I lifted it, I could see something that had been hiding along the side of the tent where there was a pile of furs and old blankets. At first, I thought it was a snake. I could see a scaly green tail. However, when did a snake ever let out a scree sound? I guess it could be possible in this world, but I didn’t want to think about such things.
“What is it?” Feather asked.
“You’re asking me?” I responded incredulously.
The tail started to move, and I almost stumbled back into Feather, but she was leaning forward, and getting quite close to me. I could smell her scent closely. One might think she smelled awful, being a raider, but she must have had some kind of soap and wash since she had a slightly flowery scent. There was also a slight smell of smoke and alcohol. Well, some smells couldn’t be covered up.
A small little creature, reassembled a lizard except it was the size of a small dog picked its head out of the pile of blankets. It had a mouth full of teeth, and it seemed vaguely familiar to me. Feather gasped when she saw it.
“What is it?” I asked.
“You don’t recognize it? It’s a murderdragon!”
“A murder-!” I shut my mouth as I realized I yelled that, startling the creature which pulled back into the furs. “A murder dragon?”
That time, I spoke much quieter, nearly a whisper.
“You said you thought there were three eggs when you got them earlier. Maybe, you were right.”
Once we made it here, one of the eggs had hatched, and a murder dragon came out.
“What do we do?” I asked. “Do we kill it?”
“You want to kill it?” Feather gave me such a shocked expression that I almost felt stupid.
“I mean… aren’t they dangerous?”
She made an irritated sound in her throat. “Raiders can be so heartless sometimes. It’s just a baby!”
The raider was calling me a raider. I didn’t know how I felt about it. I also didn’t know how I felt about a murder dragon. We had killed its mommy and daddy, and they had nearly eaten us. We also sold off all of its brothers and sisters. If we let this thing grow up, it would be a monster, right?
“Baby or not, we can’t keep it.” I realized that my voice had more questions in it than I originally intended.
“Of course, we can’t… but…” A noise came from behind, and Feather moved like lightning, grabbing me and pushing me around in front of her.
I ended up falling onto my butt, with Feather over me. It was a position that looked almost like she was pushing me down, with both of her hands on my shoulders. We both turned to the entrance to see Hunter peaking in. he made a face when he saw us.
“Are you really going to keep trying to push this, Feather?” He demanded.
Feather’s face turned red with indignant rage. Normally, she was rather provocative, but being accused of doing stuff when she wasn’t was a trigger of hers. Before she could say anything that would give us away, my hands shot out and I grabbed her, pulling her on top of me. She let out a little cry of surprise.
“I-I want this,” I responded toward Hunter defiantly.
Hunter stared at me for a moment, and then shook his head and sighed. “Whatever, kid. I ain’t your daddy. You can stick your dick in whatever you want. Kids these days.”
He turned away and let the curtain fall back down. I let out a breath, but it was only then I realized how close Feather was to me. Her mouth was only a few inches from my own. I swallowed heavily, and just as my face started to move toward hers, I felt something sharp bite down on my hand. I let out a cry, turning.
My movement caused Feather to lose her balance, and she fell back away from me, landing on her butt. I barely noticed her annoyed look as I turned to see the murder dragon had chomped down on my hand, which had been holding me up on the floor somewhat close to his little cubby hole made out of fur and blankets.
I pulled my hand back, but his teeth remained clenched on it. It wasn’t that painful, since his mouth was still small, but I had been caught off guard. I shook my hand, but he was clinging to it like a dog to a stuffed animal.
“Maybe he’s hungry?” Feather offered.
Growling, I reached for my bag and unzipped it. Without thinking, I pulled a pouch of trail mix out and then pulled a peanut and presented it to the little bastard. Its red eyes turned to look at the thing in my hand next to it, even while its mouth was still wrapped around my palm.
“Come on… take it.” I said through gritted teeth.
The bite on my hand slowly loosened until the creature finally let go, and then cautiously went for the peanut. He reached out and then bit it. I felt his teeth, but thankfully he didn’t take off the tip of my finger before it was too late. I pulled both hands back as he sucked down the peanut like it was nothing. Feeling relieved I got my hand back in one piece, I poured the rest of the pouch on the ground. There were sunflower seeds, peanuts, granola, and raisins in the mix. It was everything a person who needed energy would need in the wasteland.
It wasn’t until I turned and saw Feather staring down at the foot on the floor with an intense look that I realized what I had just done. I had done the very thing I had been trying to avoid. The murder dragon had flustered me too much and I hadn’t been thinking. I was just thinking about what kind of food a lizard would eat, and that felt closer than anything else. However, how could such a bag of fresh food exist in this world? That had to be what Feather was thinking.
She turned to look up at me. At that moment, the tent opened again. “Come on, Daniel, it’s time to go top the auction!”
That was Raven, but he hadn’t even dipped his head in all the way to see what was happening. He naturally didn’t notice the murder dragon nibbling at the pile of food. I opened my mouth toward Feather and then closed it again. She was staring wide-eyed at me.
I reached out and grabbed my backpack, and then fled the tent. Once I got the girls, I could just run. Once I whipped out my supplies to buy back Katarina and Kiera, I’d didn’t plan to stick around anyway. I wouldn’t be able to. Raven would know I had food and money I didn’t tell him about, and I had a feeling I wouldn’t be welcome in the tent anymore. Thus, this was all or nothing. They just had to be there.