"So what are you going to do with the axe?" asked Dilmon, after a few minutes of silence.
"He can... keep it." I said, a bitter tone leaking to my voice. "Even if I did take it, I couldn't use that wretched thing again..."
"Let's get going again, we can still get to Bakazak today if we pace up," said Dilmon.
I nodded, smiled, took the rucksack from the ground and started walking, him right behind me.
I stopped in my tracks and squealed. Dilmon bumped into me from behind.
"That. Is..." I said slowly. "The cutest thing I've ever seen!!" I bent down on one knee and looked at the tiny creature on the ground.
It had deep indigo scales with red stripes. His red, feathery wings were folded at his sides. He turned his chicken-head sideways so his snake-like eye can look at me.
Dilmon pulled me backwards by the wrist. "Careful," he said. "That might be just a pup, but I bet it can still be dangerous. Just don't look it in the eye."
"Who's a cute little Cockatrice?" I crooned to the creature. "You are! Yes, you!" Dilmon groaned.
"He's just a baby, Dilmon! You know just as well as I do that they're glares aren't fatal until they reach maturity!"
"Great, now I'm relaxed," he said, rolling his eyes. "And before you get the chance to ask, we are not keeping it!"
"But Diilmooon!" I said, slowly picking up the tiny creature. "He's so cute! How can you possibly say no to him!"
"Remember Puff? The baby Fire Dragon? I had to put that stinking paste on for a month until the burns healed! And what about Gizmo the Flying Fish, eh? He tried to bite my nose off! How can you possibly love those hideous things! They can kill you when they get older, you know?"
"Jealous much?" I grinned. "It's not my fault they hate you. Maybe it's 'cause you don't treat them well. Besides, I always release them to the wild before they're old enough to do any harm. And I haven't had a pet in years! Not since mum found out about the Earth Salamanders... She could have just let them stay and order someone to fix the Botanic Gardens!"
"You are a spoiled little brat, you know?" A glimpse of a smile was just visible on his face.
"Pwetty pwease, Dilmon?" I begged. "Pweeaaase can I keep Eric?"
"You named it?!" Dilmon shouted, making Eric screech, fluff his wing feathers and inflate and flatten his neck.
"Look, now you scared him!" I pouted and held Eric in both my hands close to my chest. Dilmon rolled his eyes again.
"Pwaa-ie Pwees Dilmun! Pwaa-ie Pwees Dilmun!" came a voice. Dilmon and I looked at each other quizzically. Neither of us had said a word, and there was nobody around but us and...
"Eric?!" we both looked at him incredulously.
"Pwa-eeeeese!" He squawked.
We both burst out in a laughing fit. I was laughing so hard I had to put Eric on the ground in fear of squishing him with my hand. It ended after a few minutes, though. Dilmon and I lay on our backs on the grass, clutching our aching stomachs with one hand and massaging our jaws with the other.
Dilmon sat up. "Fine," he said. "Eric can stay."
I bolted upright, and my wide smile hurt my jaw. "Really?" I said. He nodded, smiling a crooked smile. "Thank-you-thank-you-thank-you!!" My jaw really hurt, but I just couldn't help myself.
I picked up Eric and held him level with my face. He cocked his head sideways and I looked straight into the complex patterns of his eye. It was fascinating, really. I released my stare after a few seconds, so Dilmon won't panic and think Eric had paralyzed me.
I got up, one hand holding my new pet, and the other helping Dilmon up.
We continued our journey, walking so fast we almost ran. I was so excited that I didn't even notice my hand (the one that wasn't holding Eric) swirling the water droplets in the air around and around, creating an orb of liquid around it.
Throughout our walk, I tried to teach Eric some more words unsuccessfully. All he ever seemed to say was "Pwa-eeeeeeese Dilmun". Dilmon just looked at us, half-bemused, half-annoyed.