(Warning: there's a little light teenage profanity)
Happy Union Day
A metallic clang rang through the air when the goblin cashier let the last armor plate fall into Myra's shopping bag.
– The total is two gold and twelve silver coins.
– Thank you – said Myra, fumbling for money in her purse and finally setting it into the counter. – Happy Holidays!
– Happy Union Day! – said the cashier, dropping the anti-weight charm in the bag.
Myra left the store, Jared strutting beside her and peering into the bag every once in a while. The kid had always liked sports and spent the last months pestering his parents for an armor. They sat in a table in the food court and Jared took his gift out of the bag. Myra smiled at the six-year-old's excitement.
– Did you know the national team uses this model? – Asked Jared. She definitely knew. He had told her many times. Still, she pretended she didn't.
– Really? And why, sweetie?
– 'cause it's the best – the kid pointed at the small hammer engraved into the shoulder plate – It's Hefaestus, you see? Hefaestus makes the best armor, they have this special charm that gets the heat out, so you can run for longer without getting tired and also...
She let him ramble for a while before interrupting.
– And what would sir Jared, my brave and gallant armored knight, like to eat?
The kid eyed the food court, looking at the restaurants.
– I think I'll have Kantak Fried Cockatrice and some magical shake.
– What flavor?
– Barbarian Strength. – he looked up at her, making big eyes – Pleeease?
– No way. Last time you had that you punched a hole into the wall.
– Unicorn Rainbow, then?
– Fine. I'm going to have some mandrake tea at Astrabucks, meanwhile.
– Kaester, can you feed the owls for me? – Kaester's father yelled from somewhere within the house.
Kaester let out a big sigh, put down his smart-parchment and left his room slamming the door. The “do not enter” signal dangled.
The owls were kept outside the house, in a small yard. The birds were roosting half-asleep, but got lively as soon as he threw a bag of food in the ground and opened it with an annoyed swing of his wand.
The owls flew around the food, little whirlwinds forming as they flapped wings. Kaester counted the birds, trying to remember their names. John was the oldest one, with white feathers. Ursula and Joanne were the females. There was also an owl he not seen before, bought when he was away, but Jared had told him his name was Brandon. That made four birds. One was missing. Where was Patrick?
Kaester looked around for the missing owl, but saw nothing. A sharp cry above made him realize the bird was just arriving with a letter. Patrick perched on Kaester's shoulder and the boy grabbed the letter, absentmindedly petting the bird's ruffled black feathers.
– Always late, huh, Patrick.
Kaester picked up his smart-parchment, hoping to see messages from his boarding school friends. There were none. Something oozed down his shoulder. He looked what it was to realized the owl had shat on his robe.
– Patrick, what the fuck?!
The boy startled the owl away, tried to magic the droppings off his robe with little success and entered the house grumbling.
– Done, dad. You got a letter. Why do we even use owls? You should just keep up with the times and send me magical messages through my parchment. Anyway, they're fed. Stupid birds.
– Great – Kaester dad's voice spiraled down the stairs, from the office in the tower – Can you come up real quick, Kel?
– Don't call me Kel! – grunted Kaelster going up the stairs. – What's the matter?
Irno was sitting in front of the crystal ball, a troubled look on his face.
– It won't connect to the magic web. I was trying to look up a nice recipe for salamander legs and–
– Just change the router's battery. Seriously, dad, that stuff is, like, technomagic 101. Just because I went to magical boarding school, now I'm the one who's supposed to fix everything?
Kaester deftly opened the small wooden box with a crystal antenna, extracted a dull grey capsule as big as his small finger and put inside a new one, bright pink. The crystal ball buzzed and showed an image of self-roasted salamander legs.
– Why are you looking up recipes, dad?
– Well, you always liked salamander legs, and I wanted to cook something special for you. Me and your mother... well, it's your first year in magical boarding school. We last saw you six months ago. We'd like this Union Day to be special.
There was a small moment of silence.
– That's... That's actually real nice, dad. What about I teach you how to fix the router later?
– I don't know, they're expensive.
Jared was glued to the vitrine, trying to absorb all the cuteness at once, barely hearing what his father had said. Unicorn colts, dragon pups, jinns, a playful cerberos and many others competed for his attention.
– How about we get in and see them up close? – suggested Myra.
– Please, please, please, please – Jared was jumping with excitement.
– Whatever – Kaester was trying to fake boredom, but Jared had seem him smile to a jinn a little before.
– Sure, let's get in.
With the father's approval, the whole family entered the pet shop. Jared immediately ran for the pups and Irno went to the owl section to buy some treats. Kaester sat still for a while, looking at his parchment, but soon dropped the facade and started playing with the jinns. Myra grabbed a phoenix chick and stroked the warm feathers.
– Can we keep it? – Jared had the cerberus pup on his arms. One of the heads was asleep and the other two played, nibbling at each other's ears. Myra smiled at the small paws and big begging eyes and rubbed the dog's belly.
– I'm sorry, Jared, but I don't think the owls will like her. She may try to eat them. Try to find something that eats plants.
Jared looked disappointed, but did as she asked. Myra did not worry much. She was sure the boy would find something else he would like.
– What about this one? – Irno had joined Jared, and both pointed at what looked like a big green blob.
– And what is that?
– Giant snail. The shell must be somewhere around. Eats plants, as you asked.
– And this is a baby? It's huge! If this grows like regular snails, it's going to be bigger than our house. No way we're–
– Snails are boring – Kaester interrupted – Check this out.
He led them through shelves of animal food to the very back of the store, where something looking like metallic ore rested on a terrarium.
– That's just a stone – Jared sounded disappointed.
– Not at all – Kaester pointed at the glass – I've seen those on school. See the veins? This is a dragon egg. And if I'm not mistaken, this one will hatch anytime soon.
– Dragon egg? For real?
– I hate to be the one to ruin the night – said Myra – but we agreed on herbivores.
The egg shook a little. The family turned their heads to the terrarium. The egg shook again. Small cracks spread through it. The four watched in awe as a thin clawed paw first appeared through a crack and weakly began to tear down the shell. After about a minute the small head was finally free, with eyes already open and small teeth. The newborn dragon fought bravely with its eggshell, finally breaking out after about five minutes. The creature, no bigger than Irno's hand, stretched it's long neck and tail, flapping undeveloped wings and yawning to reveal a silver tongue.
– It's a Silvertongue – said Kaester – Probably female, judging by the color. She eats rocks.
– Can we keep her? – Jared clung to his mother's skirt – Did you know that if one in ten people rode dragons instead of brooms, we'd halve our pollution index in two years?
– Did she hatch? – an orc employee of the pet shop came around a corner, hearing the noise – Wow, she is beautiful, isn't she? Can I help you in any way?
– Yes, we want the Silvertongue! – Jared answered before any of the parents could protest.
The orc put his hand into the terrarium and gently pushed the dragon onto it.
– Here she is. Happy holidays! – said he, dumping the cub into Myra's hands.
– Wait! We're not buying, we're just– Myra looked down at her hand and saw the dragon curiously smelling her rings while the children petted it. The cub started licking her hand, leaving silvery stains where his mouth passed – Fine! We're keeping her. As a special Union Day gift.
Irno took some coins out of his wallet and handed them to the orc, his hand deftly counting every last bit of money he had.
A big fire had been lit for Union Day. Big tables circled it, with plenty of space for the whole town to sit and eat comfortably. After all, this was what Union Day was all about. Celebrating, everyone together, the day many millennia ago when a team of mighty heroes, one from every race, had put their differences aside and fought the Dark Lord as one.
Once a year, honoring the champions, all of the town forgot their differences and fears and put together a huge feast for everyone. Humans, elves, dwarves, centaurs, orcs, goblins, golens, wind spirits, merfolk and many, many more brought food and drink and jokes and games and sat in the tables without bothering with who was his neighbor. Even the bloodfolk, usually so recluse, showed up and had fun together with everyone else.
This year, Irno's family sat between a family of amber and magma golens, a talkative vampire and a very old centaur. Jared had brought the small Sinvertongue dragon, recently baptized Singer, and she wandered across the tabletop, nibbling at some gravel Jared had collected for her. Kaester was further away, sitting with his old friends. He seemed a little uncomfortable with all the drinking and wooing going on on his table, but was having fun after all.
Irno looked at Myra, his wife of twenty-five years. She looked gorgeous tonight, as she always did. He leaned and kissed her.
– Happy Union Day, honey.
– Happy Union Day, sweetie.
– May many more come.
– And may we get ever closer to those we love.
The night went on. The fire burned, the drinks disappeared and the food was delicious. Irno shared his food with the golens and they told him stories of the underground. Myra overcame her fear of vampires and asked her neighbor what she did, to which the vampire replied she was a nightshift policewoman. Jared played all night with Singer, trying to teach her how to hum a song he had invented. Kaester, for the first time in many months, saw his childhood friends, caught up with what was going on in town and impressed them with his magic. And everyone was happy, enjoying their time together, because it was Union Day.
This challenge fit perfectly into some worldbuilding I needed to do, so here it is.
As always, here is the obligatory "English is not my native language" excuse. Ring me up if something seems amiss.
Last and not least, if you have thoughts, opinions, suggestion and doubts over the worldbuilding, I'll be glad to discuss them in this chat.