He freed Gazelle and she jumped down. The dirt was firm, undoubtedly tamped down from the passage hundreds of dust devils.
“That way.” The dust rider pointed at people clustered around the bonfire. “Go.”
She hoisted her bag over one shoulder and walked. She was stiff, achy and cold from the long ride. She hoped she could sleep soon.
She pushed as close to the fire as she dared; it felt good on her chilled skin.
“Careful!” A boy about her own age grabbed her elbow and yanked her back.
“You almost stepped on them.” He pointed at the ground.
Gazelle looked down. Eggs. Large, sand-colored, vibrating eggs lay in a heap. They were so close to the fire it was a wonder they didn’t burn. Or cook. Maybe this was an odd dust rider cooking method. She thought longingly of scrambled eggs.
She didn’t know how she’d missed them before.
Even as she watched, a tiny crack appeared in the egg in front of her. A small bit of shell fell away and a slender brown tail slipped through. It waved wildly, banging itself against the shell, and the shell broke apart. A small, glistening wet dust devil cried into the night air.
Gazelle gaped. A dust devil hatching. Who would have guessed?
All around her, the other eggs hatched. Soon the air was filled with the shrill screeching of the new-born dust devils.
The one she was watching suddenly quieted, studied her with one blue eye and then leaped at her. She stumbled back and threw up an arm over her face.
Claws tore into her scalp and sharp teeth tore into her shoulder. Gazelle screamed. It thrust its strong, slender tail into her mouth.
Gazelle scrabbled at the creature. But her fingers slipped on the wet scales and she could not pull free.
She bit the creature’s tail and sharp pain bloomed on her shoulder. Her sight went dark and she knew she was dying.
They’ll tell Papa I died during training.
The baby devil spit saliva on her shoulder. It rolled down her back, leaving only cool numbness behind.