“Where does magic come from?” Professor Lazlo thumped a polished wooden box on the table. Her green eyes glittered as they swept the class full of little girls in their deep blue frocks. “You there, Miss Kornelia.”
“Dragons!” Kornelia squeaked. Her feet in their buckled shoes kicked at the legs of her desk in excitement.
The box wiggled. Everyone in the classroom gasped, except for Ana. She knew that kind of box, knew what was in it. She knew how tired it was, almost out of life, for it to sit so still, only quivering now for the first time since Professor Lazlo set it down.
“Now, who can tell me what is the very best source of magic that we can get from dragons?”
Ana didn’t raise her hand, though she knew the answer to the question. The class was silent.
Professor Lazlo undid the latch and opened the box.
It was beautiful, in its own way. Round, about the size of a human head, and smooth and leathery as elm bark. White with flecks of grey, it might have been mistaken for a strange stone at a casual glance, but it was no stone.
“Is that a dragon egg?” One of the girls asked. Ana almost sighed. None of them had ever seen one.
She’d seen too many.
“Yes. Now, why would you think this is the very most powerful source of dragon magic?” Professor Lazlo asked.
This time Ana spoke up without bothering to raise her hand. “Because its still alive,” she said sharply.
“Yes,” Professor Lazlo gave her a hard look. “Unlike dragon scales or horns or teeth, unlike a dragon heart or liver or skin, the dragon egg is very much still alive.”
Ana’s stomach gave a twitch as Professor Lazlo wheeled a gleaming apparatus of copper vanes, pipes, and springs in front of the desk. “This is a weatherworking machine, not the latest model, but still quite functional. I’ve received permission from the headmaster to give you a short demonstration. I will set it for thunderstorm.”
The egg shifted a little in its box, as if maybe it had heard its doom pronounced.
Professor Lazlo picked up the egg and set it in a wide glass jar, then clamped down the copper lid. She switched on the machine, which began whirring and chiming. Little sparks of magical energy fizzled out from the egg’s surface and made the jar glow a faint pink. The egg itself shuddered, rattling against the glass.
Ana gripped the side of her chair.
Outside the window darkened, and rain began to fall. A great crack of thunder pealed across the sky. The girls applauded.
The egg’s movement began to slow, and with it the storm faded almost as quickly as it had begun. Tap, tap, then one last little twitch, and the egg lay still.
Ana wanted to leave, to run from the room, but instead she sat and watched. Watched while Professor Lazlo removed the egg from the apparatus and dropped it in the rubbish.