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When Zelda and Amory arrived at the petting zoo entrance, the attendant scanned their bands and ushered them inside

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When Zelda and Amory arrived at the petting zoo entrance, the attendant scanned their bands and ushered them inside.

"Follow the dragon prints to find your way," he told them, "and make sure to clean your hands at the sanitizing stations before you exit."

They followed the prints as instructed and passed through two more solid steel doors before they entered the area with the dragons. It was set up as a jungle with lots of foliage. From a hidden place, there came the sound of trickling water. A thick netting was overlaid over the top of the enclosure to prevent any of the dragons from escaping. It reminded Zelda of the bird sanctuary at the normal zoo.

Amory stopped at a sign not far inside the second door. She read it over his shoulder and learned that this area had baby dragons that would one day grow into the bigger versions housed in other parts of the zoo.

The thrum of wings whizzed over the top of Zelda's head. She threw up her hands and ducked.

"What was that?" She stayed crouched in case it made another dive for her.

Amory pointed to a green dragon that had landed on the ground in front of him. It was about the size of a large cat. It cocked its head to the side, studying them first with one golden eye and then the other, before letting out a little squeaking noise.

Her brother bent down and held out his hand, trying to coax it forward.

"Uh, Amory? Are you sure that's a good idea?"

He rolled his eyes. "This is a petting zoo. They wouldn't call it that if you weren't supposed to touch them."

Zelda scowled.

The little dragon scuttled forward, using its wings like an extra pair of legs, and sniffed cautiously at Amory's outstretched hand. After deciding he smelled okay, it rubbed its head against him.

Amory's face lit up. "I think it likes me."

When the dragon finished rubbing its head on his hand, it scuttled over to her and head-butted her shin. It made the little squeaking noise again as it looked up at her.

She eyed the scaly creature. "What does it want?"

"I think it wants you to pick it up."

"No way," Zelda said, shaking her head and taking a step back.

It made the squeaking noise again. This time, it sounded pitiful.

"But you're making it sad! You have to pick it up."

"Fine, but only to get it to stop making that noise."

She bent down and scooped it up, holding it awkwardly against her chest the way she might hold a cat. It was surprisingly warm. She'd thought its scales would be cold. The dragon made a little cooing sound and climbed up her shoulder to nestle itself in the crook of her neck.

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