It had been four days since Safe had been born. She passed through the Wandering Contagion, searching aimlessly for other dragons. Her first memory was of the Plaguebringer, wings spread, telling her both hello and goodbye before tearing into the sky with a screech akin to a hell-born demon’s. Safe hadn’t even gotten to ask why she was here.
The land was barren, empty, lifeless. The opposite of Safe’s mind, which flooded with questions. Why was she born? Why had the Plaguebringer apologized? Where were all of the other dragons? Weren’t there supposed to be more than her? Was the whole world empty?
Her stomach snarled with hunger. She hadn’t found any food in the days since she had come into the world. She felt weak and sick. Was she going to die?
A voice called to her. “Hey! Hello? Is someone actually there?”
“I’m here!” Safe cried, searching for the voice. “I am here! Where are you?”
Tomato-red scales and stone-brown wings flashed above. A Guardian touched down near her, beard scraggly, red eyes sunken, breaths heaving from his thick chest. When he straightened, Safe could see his ribs sticking out against his sagging scales.
“Thank Plaguebringer! I thought the whole region had gone empty!” The Guardian wheezed out a laugh. “At least I finally found someone. You don’t look too weak yet. Are you new?”
“I was born four days ago,” Safe explained, drawing near to the larger Guardian. “The Plaguebringer greeted me and then said goodbye. I haven’t seen her since.”
“Four days ago? Sounds about right,” the Guardian grumbled. He frowned. “I was born just around then too. Something’s wrong with this area. I’m finding a lot of bones and corpses, but no living dragons. Not until you.”
“Corpses?!” The obsidian-black and blood-red Mirror reared back in horror. “I’ve seen nothing of the sort!”
“Then you’re lucky,” the Guardian stated, shaking dust from his scales. “The monsters aren’t hiding. They look pretty pleased with all the bodies to feed on. I think something happened here.”
“Like what?” Safe asked.
“Like a, well…” The Guardian looked into the distance. “Like a plague. What else could kill so many dragons so fast?”
“But we’re still alive,” Safe stressed.
“For now. How long until that changes?” The Guardian growled, shaking his head. He sighed. “Sorry. I’ve just been kind of grumpy lately. I don’t mean to take it out on you, uh…?”
“Safe,” she provided. “The Plaguebringer named me Safe.”
“Funny. She named me Zone,” he snickered. “Safe and Zone. Safe zone. Irony much?”
“Maybe it’s a sign,” Safe suggested, tail curled along her paws. She looked meekly at the larger dragon. “Perhaps we should stay together.”
Zone snorted before giving a nod. “It’s better than being alone.”
So Safe and Zone clawed out a meager lair in the Wandering Contagion. The scent of death and disease permeated the air. Zone went to fetch food, only returning with a single cube of blue jelly. He scavenged quite a few materials and trinkets, though. These were stored at the back of their lair to be dealt with at a later date.
“You know, we don’t need to be alone,” Zone admitted later that evening.
“What do you mean?” Safe asked.
“Well, I mean…” Zone looked away, the scales on his face heating up. “You’re a girl and I’m a guy. We could, you know…uh…”
It took Safe several minutes of puzzling to understand what Zone was getting at. They could have hatchlings, make of clan of their own. But was it safe, here in this place where death had sunk its claws so deeply?
She decided to chance it. “Then let us make our own future here, with our own paws.”
A nest was made from the bones and rotted flesh that created the great territory around them. Simmering green goo bubbled around three slimy green eggs, the results of Safe and Zone’s efforts. In five days, the eggs would hatch into beautiful hatchlings. Where death had struck, perhaps they could plant a seed of life.
If only death was ever that willing to give up its prize…