“Show some backbone, Tori.”

Tori shuddered as her knees hit the tough, dry dirt. “I’ll try, Brad.”

She slowly lowered her torso all the way to the ground and tried to ignore the ants that meandered around her. Despite having to deal with an older brother that loved the outdoors, Tori had never liked the wilderness and the creepy crawlies that came with it; however, in her family, it was nearly impossible to avoid being out in nature.

The girl hesitated before army crawling underneath several thorny, low-hanging branches. She paused midway, but Brad kicked her foot and kept her moving. With every shuffle of her body, Tori came closer and closer to the animal on the other side of the underbrush.

Although she hated bugs, Tori loved animals. She had grown up feeding the deer, rabbits, and other wild animals that wandered into her backyard. Brad, like their father, loved animals even more and would often travel up the mountain to find some of the dangerous animals that lived there. Today, Brad brought Tori up the mountain to meet the most dangerous animal of them all.

As her head brushed past the heavy branches and she got a whiff of evergreen, Tori scanned the clearing. There he was, an animal the size of a sheep, looking at his own reflection in the pool only a few yards away. Tori whistled and the creature turned abruptly, his scaly skin glistening in the sunlight. They stared at each other, not daring to blink.

Tori lowered her head slowly, remembering the wise words of her brother. She opened her hand, revealing a gold necklace taken from her mother’s dusty jewelry box. Without looking, she stretched her arm out towards the rigid animal.

The silence dripped with tension. This morning, Brad had reminded her what to do when meeting the creature. Act weak, don’t appear dominant, offer the gold. It won’t hurt you without a good reason. If only Brad knew how scared she was right now.

In a moment, Tori felt sharp talons snatch the necklace out of her hand.  Surprised, she looked up to see the creature’s wings spread out as he flew back to the spot by the pool. He snorted and let out a small burst of flame, eyeing Tori the whole time.

Brad crawled his way through the branches and smiled. “You did it! He took your offering.” He pulled himself up to his knees and the creature perched himself on Brad’s lap. Brad smirked and petted the creature’s purple head. “You did it, sis. You met the most dangerous animal on earth.”

Tori’s heart was still beating fiercely from the encounter, but she looked calm and collected. She watched the animal groom himself and nudge Brad’s arm. Although he could fly and breathe fire, he sure didn’t seem very intimidating in her brother’s lap.

“For a dragon, he’s pretty small.” Tori remarked.

The dragon stopped grooming and glared at Tori. He snorted and his throat rumbled.

Brad laughed. “You’re pretty small too, for a girl as brave as you.”



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