Vex sat in the center of his office, a small room with herbs hanging from the ceiling and jars crammed with spells and potions scattered amongst the shelves of every wall.
The floor was scattered in soft blankets, rags, and Vex's most comfortable clothes.
Normally, this kind of mess would drive the young mage insane, but cleanliness was something he was willing to sacrifice if it meant his new guests would be warm and comfortable.
With gentle fingers, Vex traced the markings scrawled across one of the ten dragon eggs resting peacefully in his makeshift nest.
He could feel the thrum of life under the shell and excitement bubbled in the young mage's heart.
Well, and nerves.
He never raised baby dragons before. How could he? They were rare, only born every 500 years. He wanted to be a good parent. He had to. He had made a promise to their mother after all.
Three months ago, Vex was hiking through the mountains. He searched the shrubs and trees on the main path, looking for goodies to help him invent new spells.
He found hognewts for healing potions and a few solarbees for his famous honey, rich in flavor and vitamins.
Near a cave in the mountain, one surrounded by trickles of a junk hoard, Vex found a group of young knights.
Their chests were colored by the blue crest of their kingdom and their swords were dripping a horrendous red that carried a scent of pummeled meat in the air.
Vex's gaze traveled to the dirt beneath the knights' feet, finding a large dragon sprawled in her own blood. Her horns were cut off, now hanging on the belts around the knights' waists.
A few of her mountain brown and moss green scales were being stripped away, thrown carelessly into a large sack.
Vex held a hand over his mouth, tears budding in his eyes for the poor creature.
She still breathed, her chest rising and falling with every labored breath. When a knight cut too deep, she'd whine, a pitiful noise that stabbed right into Vex's own heart.
With a deep breath, Vex walked towards the knights and dragon, stomping his feet so that he would be heard. Several eyes fell on him, shining with a dangerous hunger.
"What do you want, boy?" one of the knights asked.
"Step back from the dragon," Vex said, voice low and far more dangerous than the looks the knights were giving him. "Do so and I shall not harm you."
The knights laughed, chests heaving from the effort.
"Do you hear that?" one cackled. "He means to teach us a lesson!"
The knight who spoke previously pointed his bloodied sword at Vex.
"I think," he began. "We should be teaching him a lesson, eh?"
The other knights drew their swords and with a booming battle cry, they came for Vex's head.
Vex sighed, annoyed. He held up his hands, chanting under his breath an ancient language, one only mages like himself could now learn.
Wind shot from Vex's palms, curling in the air until it created a fast-rotating funnel.
The funnel scooped the knights up, spinning them hard in its center before spitting them out, their bodies bouncing against the rock of the mountain path.
Vex lowered his hands and checked the knights. He hadn't killed anyone, just knocked them out for an hour at most.
A soft groan drew Vex's attention back to the dragon. He knelt by her side, tears falling down his cheeks as he touched the spear running through her lungs.
"There's nothing I can do," he whispered in her tongue. "I'm so sorry."
The dragon struggled to open her eyes. She blinked at him, slow and sad.
"Little mage," she spoke slowly. "Would you help me one last time?"
"Anything," Vex answered.
The dragon struggled to lift her head, nose pointing towards the mouth of her cave.
"My little ones. Save my little ones."
Vex's mouth fell.
"You...you have eggs?" He wrapped his arms around the dragon's neck. "I will care for them. I swear it on my life."
The dragon's eyes softened and she nuzzled Vex's dark hair.
Vex sat with the dragon, singing an old hymn to her until she no longer breathed. Then, he stood up again, facing her body as he held up his hands.
The dragon's body caught flame and Vex bowed his head, speaking an old draconian prayer before leaving for the cave.
Now, months later, Vex was sitting in the floor of his office, watching as the eggs wiggled and cracked.
A tiny head poked out of one of the bigger eggs, chirping at Vex as he would to his mother.
"Hello, little one," Vex cooed. He reached out, fingers tapping lightly on the shell to help the baby break it.
Vex did the same to the other eggs as they too cracked open to reveal the tiny heads and tails of newborn baby dragons.
As the day turned to dusk, eggshells joined the mess on Vex's floor. Vex sprawled against one of his blankets, body half-buried by the bodies of several tired and well-loved baby dragons.
He stroked a hand over their muddy scales, singing an old hymn until he too fell asleep.