The neighbor girl Juniper had taken to reading to Baby when she came over to sit with the hatchling, which she was doing with pleasant regularity. While Baby’s brain was not nearly developed enough to comprehend the stories – at this stage of life, a hatchling was primarily an eating-and-growing machine – the Smiths approved of the idea. Even now, the hatchling was learning, collecting information. The more Juniper talked to the child, the more language skills would develop.
They were, however, curious about the stories she read. So many of the stories humans and other small creatures told about dragons were nothing more than echoes of their own fears and flaws. Would some of that seep in to Baby through the reading? Juniper’s family seemed fairly rational beings, for small creatures, but they were still small creatures.
The little thing was a bit intimidated around them – biologically, humans were supposed to be afraid of predators who could eat them in a couple gulps, after all – so they didn’t try to listen in when she was there, in Baby’s nursery, but when she left her storybook behind, they pounced eagerly on the opportunity to peruse it.
The stories they found inside – beautifully illustrated in pastels – were different from the tales they remembered from their own childhood, although, to be fair, those they remembered had been held up as examples of why small creatures could not be trusted. This one portrayed a juvenile dragon (the colors were wrong, but detailed points of biology could be forgiven) and a young human, together with a presumably-also-juvenile pixie (with the tiny races, age could be very hard to determine) on a grand adventure together, searching for some device called the MacGuffin, which appeared to be a plaid ruby.
Turning the pages carefully with their foreclaws, the Smiths agreed that it was a very nice children’s tale, and suitable for Baby, if some of the message was to inadvertently sink in. Wanting to repay the favor Juniper was doing, they searched in their vault for an appropriate story to share in return.
They ended up finding what they wanted in Cxaidin’s hoard of childhood books. Left carefully visible, so-casually set on the human-sized table Juniper’s parents had provided, the tome was nearly as big as the table, a wide, brightly-hued volume with both binding and pages of leather (paper burned) colored with plant and insect dyes.
The story, one which Cxaidin remembered warmly, told of a juvenile dragon (the colors, in this case, were correct) learning how small and tiny creatures were different from dragons, and how best to interact with them. The Smiths noted, a bit ruefully, that the colors on both the human and the pixie seemed a little bit off, and the portrayal of the orc was outdated and stereotypical. The interaction between the young dragon and the young human, however, they deemed worth sharing.
The happy ooh and aaah noises Juniper made when she discovered the book made them very pleased indeed with their choice.
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