My sister, DelaRenta, was born with my mother's scales of delicate cream tinted with gold and wings the color of chocolate, halfway between my father's dark maroon and my mother's midnight. "She'll be as beautiful as her mother," my father, Smoke, growled affectionately, licking her clean of the albumen from the egg. The clan was gathered about the nest, lined with cloth, rushes, and treasure, for in what else might a dragon be born?
"Maybe more so," Goldrush said, earning a casual swat on his lemon-gold flank from my father.
No one doubted that she would have a place. Whether she stayed in our clan or left for another's, she would find a home and mother elegant children like herself.
I was another story.
"I don't think anyone's going to want to foster him," Rowyn said. She is my mother's pet and friend, a small person who cares for the nest, butchering and preparing the food, running errands, buying and selling for the clan. Though she is no dragon, it was at her suggestion that my mother, Cloudkeeper, founded our clan, and Rowyn's advice is tolerated if not heeded.
My mother tucked me against her forelegs and nosed off a bit of eggshell. My scales were medium grey, dull but not ugly. My wings were a clashingly bright pink. "Then we will keep him."
"I suppose we could put him in the auction house," Rowyn said. The other dragons shifted, exchanging glances, but everyone was thinking it.
"Someone would buy him," Waterwillow, a tundra dragon of purple, said. "His colors aren't that bad."
Cloudkeeper mantled her wings. "No son of mine is going to be sold into slavery."
"It's not slavery," Rowyn said. "Every clan needs to exchange members to keep their clan healthy. The treasure is just a way of showing they'll value their newest member. Like a bride-price. Other clans do the same things we do. We bought Waterwillow and Goldrush at auction."
"I offered to go," Waterwillow added, her furred purple forelegs folded over each other.. "My previous clan's lair was overcrowded and we didn't know a clan that needed new dragons. So I went to the auction house. And I ended here! No one's ever acted like I was a slave."
Goldrush was quiet for some moments, before saying in a low voice, "I remember being hungry all the time." Everyone looked at him. "From the day I was hatched. There was never enough food. The adult dragons were listless. They didn't hunt or fight, just waited. None of my clutch had names; no one cared. Then one day, the clan progenitor hauled me to the auction house without a word and left me there, with a price tag around my neck. For days. Until Lady Rowyn paid for me and brought me here." Rowyn doesn't really have a title, but Cloudkeeper calls her that to tease her, and sometimes the others do too.
In the ensuing silence, Cloudkeeper said again, "No child of mine will be sold."
"I really think Waterwillow's experience -- " Rowyn cut herself off as my mother raised her pale serpentine neck and looked down on the small person. "... right. No auction house. Exalt him?"
Cloudkeeper snorted. "He just hatched. Exalting a hatchling is preposterous; what servant to Wind would he be?"
"Other clans exalt their hatchlings," Rowyn said.
"And other clans let their dragons slowly starve of neglect. We are not 'other clans'. Would you make my god a nursemaid?"
"What are we going to do with him, then? There's only so much food in our territory, and so much space. If we keep every unattractive dragonling we'll be overrun with them," Smoke, my father, said at last. "And their children and grandchildren will be no prettier than they."
"I will not judge a dragon by the color of his scales." Cloudkeeper stroked my back as I fussed in her forepaws, rolling over. "He is a member of Lady Rowyn's clan and will have a place here as long as he wants or needs. If and when he has a mate, their children will also be so welcome."
"And when there's no food on the slopes -- " Waterwillow started, and stopped as my mother rose and spread her vast wings over the nest, neck arched, her shadow long over all.
"This is not up for debate," Cloudkeeper said. "It is clan law."
My father looked upon me and shook his head, meeting Cloudkeeper's eyes. "I did not join you to found a clan of misfits and rejects, of dregs."
She snarled then. "You too, have a place here for as long as you want or need, Smoke-my-love."
A puff of smoke snorted from his long dark grey face, and he stalked away.
Smoke did not leave our clan, but he had little to do with me. Not long thereafter, my sister was named and traded to Alinsa's clan. They gave us their daughter, IndigoRain, in return.
No one asked for me.
My clan considered names for me, when I was old enough to make my feelings known. We were wandering the green slopes near the nest, IndigoRain and I helped along by Waterwillow and Cloudkeeper, Goldrush sometimes flying in the clear Wind-kissed sky above. "Pinkwings?" Goldrush offered, and Waterwillow made a face at him. I shook my small head. I would not be named for my worst feature.
"I bet he'll be a strong fighter. Smokewarrior?" Waterwillow said, but I shook my head at that too.
"Silverlining?" Cloudkeeper said, smiling at me. "You are my little silver one."
I hesitated, but shook my head to that too. "Stormson," I said at last.
The others looked askance. "Bu' your mama's CLOU-EEP and your Dada's SMO'," IndigoRain pointed out, in even-I-know-that tones. "Na' STORM."
"Hatch to storm," I insisted. "Stormson."
"It was a clear day when you hatched." Waterwillow patted my head with one fur-backed purple forehand.
I looked at my mother. She raised her head and gave a solemn nod. "So be it. You are my son of storms, child. Weather them well."
[[ NB: The phrase "small person", as a draconic term for a non-dragon sapient, was coined by Bard Bloom in the excellent novel Mating Flight, serialized here. Mating Flight is a work of original fiction an unrelated to Flight Rising. It does have lots of dragons and is generally awesome, however. ]]