There was a different smell to the air, and the unnamed coatl wiggled out from under his mother’s wing. “Kitten?” she murmured, not really waking up.
He paused a moment, considering. No, his name wasn’t kitten. That was a name for something small and cuddly, and he might be the smallest of Shyness’ babies, but he wasn’t cuddly. Not at all. He was fierce and strong, and he was going to find out what that smell was. He crept onward, careful not to wake anyone as he snuck out of the lair.
When he got to the entrance, he looked out and up. The moon hung in the sky, wisps of clouds shrouding her face. A breeze rose, and with it small flecks as white as the moon, and finally not-kitten looked down and gasped. The whole world was white and shimmery!
“Moondust!” His voice was low, barely louder than a whisper. He paused again, and shook his head again. He was way too brightly colored to be called moondust—and besides, the moondust looked just as soft and cuddly as a kitten. And he wasn’t soft and cuddly, he was bold and strong! He inched forward, carefully, to sniff the moondust, but then imagined his younger (and larger) sister was watching him. He looked around, but she was nowhere near. He sighed in relief. She would have called him timid, creeping forward like that, and he wasn’t timid. He was bold!
He backed up to take a running start, and then leapt out into the moonlit sky, feeling the cold wind under his wings and moondust whirling around him. For the very first time, it worked, and he flew! Four, five, six wingbeats, and then he was past where he could count. It was glorious!
Then the playful wind paused, letting the moondust settle downward, and the baby dragon lost altitude too, belly-flopping into a deep pile of slippery, ice-cold moondust. He looked around, and didn’t see anyone—that was good. There was no one to laugh at his awkward landing. But he couldn’t see anything else either. No matter, in his experience, everything went downward from the entrance to the lair; getting home just meant going up.
The moondust made it hard to tell which way was up, but the bold little coatl wandered around in it, playing and having fun for quite a while. As he played, it got brighter and brighter, and the moondust started to hurt his eyes. He was very relieved when he bumped into one of the apple trees, and could climb up out of the moondust. It was still too bright, and the few apples still on the tree reminded him that he was hungry. He wasn’t hungry enough to eat an apple, of course—plant-food was disgusting—but it had to be breakfast time by now, didn’t it?
He looked up the slope to the lair, and was surprised to see a bunch of grownups milling around, kicking their feet through the moondust. Some of the younger ones were gathering the moondust into balls and throwing them at each other. Shyness was standing in the entranceway, looking upset, and refusing to let his brother and sister leave her side. He wondered why she was so worried.
“There you are, kitten!” Icicle’s deep voice startled him, and he nearly fell back into the moondust.
“I—I didn’t see you!” The bold little coatl protested, trying to sound fierce, not scared.
“Well, I am ice-colored. And this morning, everything is covered in snow and ice.” The large wildclaw smiled down at the little coatl. “Did you get lost out here?”
“No!” The coatl baby put all the scorn he could into that one word. “I was exploring in the moondust!”
Icicle looked at the setting moon and all the snow, and quietly said, “While I think calling the snow moondust is lovely, the other little dragons might tease you for it.”
“This—this is snow?” Snow was a beautiful and powerful word, and the baby considered it, but though it was a stronger word than moondust, it was still not his name.
The larger dragon smiled, then turned toward the lair, raising his voice. “Shyness, I’ve found your little explorer.”
Shyness looked up with a whoop of joy, let go of her other two babies (who went screeching into the snow to play with the other hatchlings), and came running. “Kitten! I’m so glad you’re all right!”
The littlest coatl looked up at his mother with a frown. “I’m not kitten! I’m—I’m BoldExplorer!”
BoldExplorer’s Mama looked down at him with a smile. “Well, then, BoldExplorer, would you like some clams for breakfast?”
“Yes yes yes yes yes! Can I have hot ones? All this moon—er, snow—is cold!”