The hot afternoon sun beats down relentlessly upon you as you work yourself down the narrow streets of the Scorpion Den. You absent-mindedly get in line for a drink stand behind a scraggly young dragonet, searching for your gold coins. Some of them spill out of your talons and onto the sun-baked streets as you curse silently, hurrying to collect them before a street thug steals all of your earnings from the day before. The dragonet in line in front of you bends down to hand you the rest of the money. You thank him gratefully, all the while taking in his wiry appearance.
"I'm Atacama," the dragonet introduces himself with a warm, shy smile. He reaches out his talon to help you up, and you accept gratefully. "Nice to meet you, Atacama." You reply. Only then you realize that the dragonet, who couldn't be much older then six, is unusually thin. So much so that you could count his ribs. It's evident that he didn't have much to eat, or much money to spend, for that matter. You feel a bit guilty for having such a good and happy life, while innocent dragonets had to starve on the harsh streets of the Scorpion Den. You offer to buy him some food, and his ice blue eyes shine with excitment. He bounds ahead of you, and you hurry after him, dodging wings and tails in the way. Atacama's wings are large, his pale coloured wing membranes ripped and torn in places. He has a pattern of light brown triangles dappled along his spine, and pale sandy coloured underscales. His horns are yellowish ivory, and so are his long, curved, sharp talons. You witness him stalking up to a younger dragonet with a lollipop, his eyes still glinting malevolently.
You watch in stunned horror as Atacama gleefully rips the lollipop from the dragonet's talons. He takes it in his own, looking at it with morbid curiosity for a moment, and drops it on the dry and dusty ground, where he stomps on it. Atacama seems to bask in the dragonet's wailing as you hurry through the crowd of already gathered dragons. You grab him by the arm and yank him in the direction of an alley, but not before he delves into the pouch around his neck and hands the crying dragonet two shining gold coins. "Buy yourself another lollipop," he says as you drag him into the dark and foreboding alleyway.
"What was that all about!?" You hiss at him when you get out of earshot. "I don't know," he cried. "I just sort of - I don't know!" He shuffled his talons in the sand. You look at him suspiciously. "Is there a story to tell here?" He mumbles something. "What?" You lean closer to listen.
"I grew up in the outskirts of the Scorpion Den," Atacama began. "My mom died when I was little and my dad never really cared for us, me and my brother.
"He.. never really liked us, I mean, he put up with us only because my mom was there. But when she died.. He sent us to an orphanage. Life there wasn't too bad, the food was good, and we had beds.. but there were bullies.
"There was one dragon in particular who never really liked me; Xerocole. He was the oldest there, and one day, he taunted me about looking funny." He lifted his wings. "He said that my wings looked funny, and that I was a dumb colour and that was why my dad left us.
"Well, after that I snapped, and just started screaming at Xerocole. He was probably taken aback at how I was telling him off, because he used to do that to me. And then, when he got too annoyed, he told his little gang to beat me up, and I just went mad.
"After when my anger resided, I realized that of them, even the ones that didn't really even do anything to me."
"Xerocole had the scariest scar running across his face. I couldn't believe I had done that.
"The orphanage I was at didn't care, though, and threw me onto the street.
"My panic attacks have just been getting worse and worse as I got older, and more violent. I don't know why they happen, they just do."
"Your own dad threw you out?" You repeat, incredulous at the notion. Atacama nodded, "His name is Pallid. You.. might have seen him around." You nod, not knowing what to say. "What's your brother's name?" You ask gently. He squeezed his eyes shut.
"Hey, are you alright?" You say nervously. You wave a talon in front of his face. He opens his eyes, and you start, seeing that same unnerving shine from when he stole that lollipop from the dragonet. "Hey.." You begin, stepping towards him.
Atacama stares at you blankly, as if trying to remember who you are. He tilts his head slightly, scarily, and then, just when you're ready to continue, he lunges towards you with his claws out. Before you get a chance to run, or fly, or do anything, really, he has you pinned down on the now cooled desert sands of the alley. The last rays of sunlight are bouncing around behind the buildings, and you realize hopelessly that no dragon could see you now. Almost nothing made it out of the suffocating darkness but the silhouette of the brick buildings and those glittering, unearthly pale blue eyes. Atacama - or what used to be Atacama, you aren't sure what devilish creature he is now - has you locked in a death grip. He's surprisingly heavy and strong, despite his thin appearance. He raises his poisonous tail barb towards your face, slowly, menacingly.
And then suddenly, he's gone.
You sit up, confused. Could you have imagined the entire thing? But no, it was too real.
But then how did - ?
"Hey, you. Are you alright down there?" The light of a lantern shines in your face.
"Y-yeah," you reply.
"Good thing I was here before he stabbed you to death." He pulls you back up on your feet.
"I don't belive we met before, have we? The name's Pallid."