Day #31: HollowWord count: 646
Owen frowned and held the egg up to his ear. Something… was off. The five eggs, four of which still lay cuddled in the nest, had the correct speckles and coloring to be dragon eggs. But they were lighter than normal.
“What is it?” Evie asked. Owen jumped; he’d forgotten she was standing behind him, waiting for him to turn around in excitement and announce they hadn’t found just one dragon egg but five.
He craned his neck to look at her and shrugged. “Something doesn’t feel right about this. Something…”
He tapped the shell and felt his heart sink. His shoulders slumped and he let out a sigh. The eggs were light because they were hollow.
He twirled the egg around in his hands and searched for something that would indicate why the egg was hollow.
Dragons didn’t lay hollow eggs, of course. That would be pointless. When they laid eggs, the eggs were usually heavy due to the forming baby dragon inside. But if something attacked the nest and stole the contents of the egg, well…
Sure enough, Owen’s finger passed over a small pinprick hole on the surface of the egg. It was no bigger than a hair, and most people would pass over it without a second glance. But Owen had been trained to search for such inconsistencies, especially when it came to eggs.
There were many creatures in the wild that liked to snatch eggs or steal their contents for a meal. There was one in particular that had a razor-thin needle jutting from its clawed fingers that liked to insert into eggs and suck the contents dry. Vampire hedgehogs.
They were similar to regular hedgehogs with their spiny backs and squishy snouts, but unlike regular hedgehogs, they had their vampiric claw they used to eat eggs. Instead of busting eggs open with their mouths and making a mess of their meal, they slid the needle-like claw into the egg, sucked up the contents, and waddled off into the woods without a mess.
It was a cruel trick, Owen had observed, for a mother dragon to return to the nest and realize one of her babies was gone, despite the egg still being in the vicinity. Sometimes the dragon didn’t notice until the other eggs had hatched and it would nudge the empty egg in dismay. Usually, the mother dragon abandoned the egg once the others had hatched and began to grow out of the nest.
Hollow eggs, like the ones before him, were popular for poachers to find and then sell for decorations or custom attired. Owen had seen his fair share of dragon eggs on hats, as jewelry, even as a belt buckle adornment. It made him sad to see the eggs intact, the baby dragons never seeing the world.
“I’m sorry, Evie,” Owen finally said after inspecting each one to find the same kind of hole on all five eggs. “These eggs are empty.”
The small intake of breath between her lips sent a shudder through Owen.
“Empty?” Her voice was so full of surprised innocence, reminding Owen how little of the world she knew. “How can they be empty?”
He turned toward her, one egg in hand, and held it up. “Give me your hand.”
She hesitated, and his face flushed. This constant tension between them left Owen feeling out of sorts, but now didn’t seem like the time to let it bother him. Finally, she lifted her hand and he gently led her fingers over the surface of the egg, stopping when they reached the hole. Evie took the egg and ran her fingers over the surface. She marveled at the small incision, which had destroyed the life of five baby dragons.
“Oh,” Evie said.
Owen turned away from her, tears wetting his eyes as his heart felt like it was breaking apart in his chest like the breaking of an egg.