Reblogged on WordPress.com
Reblogged on WordPress.com
Chapter 39. Summer in Spring
Yawning and stretching in his bed the next morning, Jona sighed. He felt exhausted the night before and went to bed while Kolo, her brother and Professor Vale sat up and talked late into the night.
The first class in the spring quarter began with social studies of dragons and humans, something at first that Jona felt was boring, but while the tall human woman instructed, she spoke of wars and prejudice.
Dragons, older and wiser than the human race, the humans had one thing more.
They had determination to live.
Like siblings, respected and at times hated each other, the human and dragon populations drifted apart in some ways and merged in others.
A complex relationship that developed since before the dawn of history.
And Professor Altair was already talking about homework.
A whisper at Jona’s shoulder.
“We can study together.” It was Summer. “You have that look people get before they scream and run away from something.”
Jona stifled a laugh, he would have denied it, but she was correct, the social history of humans and dragons promised to be a difficult class.
“We will meet in the library, no one will bother us there.” She said softly while the professor droned on about the good natures of man and dragon were often lost in the passage of time.
He nodded, Professor Altair spoke of how legends in dragon lore and human mythology remembered the relationship between a dragon and an intelligent girl that grows up, turning away from the great friendship they had developed.
The dragon, who stood next to the young human during great raids by great robbers from the sea that sailed in great ships.
Only when the dragon Kl’qlpff, who humans called “Puff” told the Pirate King of the raids, who then forced the rogue corsairs to lower their flags and leave forever.
Songs and legends, bards wrote about it all, then faded from even that.
“One day, the story will return,” She said. “It will come by way of bards and storytellers.”
It struck a chord in Jona, like the baby dragon Sprite who adopted him when he drove a cart of smelly peat behind a flatulent ox the previous summer.
Summer walked with him down the path to the library and they talked of how dragons had existed for so long, why they were so long-lived and if there would fully be peace.
She sat at a broad stone table, polished by a thousand years of forelegs and arms rubbing on it. Padded stone seats, wicker chairs, and a myriad of other perches surrounded the giant round disk to accommodate the different clans and species.
Kola sat in with them, his studies of human laws confused him.
Eva lounged, reading an architecture textbook for her classes, but it kept hitting her in the face as she dozed while trying to read it. Looking around to see if anyone noticed, she would go back to reading the same page.
“Summer,” Jona whispered. “What page are we on?”
She giggle quietly.
“You keep looking at Eva. She will give herself a brain injury if she keeps hitting herself with the book.”
Kola laughed, overhearing the whisper and looked at the dozing race dragon.
“Jona, I think you ran her too hard yesterday, she is not used to the exercise after being off the team when she dropped her grades.” Kola nudged him.
“Kola, shush.” The librarian, a human adult male with a heavy leather tunic studded with metal book-shaped rivets in different colors. “You are keeping others from studying. Eva, if you need sleep, go to your room, you are starting to snore and are being a disturbance.”
Eva shook herself awake and apologized, for the fifth time tried to read the same page.
“Jona, we are on page four, paragraph five.” She flipped the pages for him. “This is what the professor will test on in a couple of days. It is easy to memorize if you follow this trick to keep it in mind.”
She taught him a mnemonic to keep the lesson in his head.
“My brother took Professor Altair’s class, she goes in order, always. It is how history happened, it is how she teaches, so this memoria technica trick will help you in the test.” Summer smiled at him.
Memorizing the pattern she taught him, he looked up and saw the librarian standing there with his arms crossed. For a moment, Jona swore the librarian would make good on his threats of ouster from the study area but the man nodded with a small smile, the long beard swung with the movement when the barrel chested keeper of the books turned away and moved across the floor towards other students.
In two hours, Jona watched the big hour-glass turn again in the mechanical teamwork of dragon and human timekeeper in the front of the library. He felt more interested after every discussion that Summer, Kola (despite it not being his subject. Jona suspected Kola had a crush on her and wanted her to notice him.)and he had, the history of dragonkind was more than just words, Jona felt them.
The history resonated with the young Dragon Master, more than his parents imagined might happen.
Jona was learning.
They spent hours in the library, Summer, Jona and Kola, joined by Eva who studied long hours to keep her grades up.
Eva was happiest when flying, her studies were marginal when she flew and failed to study, but it was no more or less than what all the friends and students went through daily.
But as professors universally instructed, they were not there to fail anyone, neither were they there to pass without teaching.
Eva worked hard at both of her skills and kept talking to professors who would help.
The summer break was coming up in short order and finals were intense. Professor Vale, Professor Cush, and especially the Green Man wizard were all driving points home with verbal hammers.
Homework was coming fast and furious, Summer and Jona continued to study with a singular thought. The Csu and Gorgons were far from the minds of dragon and human students alike.
Races were a regular topic, the teams of the intraschool competitors complained they were not ready for the speeds they needed to win not only the school championship but to outspeed any other teams from other schools around the world.
Jona pointed out that other schools were having the same problems. Rumors came from visitors to the other schools.
All students, everywhere lacked free time to just relax and play.
All was study and learn.
By the equinox of spring, they were feeling ready. Lessons were familiar, preparatory tests were easier each passing week.
Jona felt ready for the next chapter of the year.
Looking at his grades on the great central post, Jona smiled.
His grades were good enough, Jona Samhain had new rivets that the school awarded him for his tunic. Two silver, three gold, one emerald-green.
He wondered what the green meant and made note to ask Professor Vale of his house.
It was a year of mind-boggling, life changing lessons.
Jona the future dragon master smiled and walked back to his room.
Chapter 36. Spring Break
“Kolo?” Jona tapped on her door and slowly opened it. It was dark in her room, that alone was unusual, she disliked the dark. “Kolo?”
“Jona, she left.” It was Professor Vale. “There was an emergency call to her and her brother. It came by way of Dragon Corps.”
“What was the news?”
“I’m sorry Jona, I do not know, even if I did, I would not be at liberty to divulge the information.”
Jona sagged a little. The Professor was correct, he could not tell Jona anything.
But Jona could ask. First, he needed to change his clothes to rider uniform. Get a little riding practice in, maybe find where she lived at the same time.
Walking to the door that led to the long curving stairs, he saw a note on his bed when he walked by the open door.
Breaking the seal and unfolding the neatly folded parchment, he read in the swooping quill-style that was uniquely Kolo’s.
”I am sorry I did not get to say good-bye. I will be back soon. There was a family event that the leader of our clan called all the swimmers together. I will watch for your name in the race postings for the school newsletter.
I will be back before you graduate.
I am joking. I will be back in two weeks on the first of the month.
She knew she would alarm him with the first part.
He would pay her back for that little trick and started to set up the payback.
Walking out into the courtyard, he found his normal ride had failed finals and was on Academic Probation, including sports, until she made the test up and the grades improved and considered worthy of a dragon of her age.
Not wanting to try to connect with another, he turned and walked back to the common area, wearing his armor, to look for his ride and give Eva a little abuse, his first year he had all the tests taken care of, he never thought he would outshine his ride.
”Eva?” he spoke to a familiar shape, but the face when the dragon turned around was not her.
“Oh, excuse me.” Shaking his head. He was getting too distracted and did not recognize his own friends.
“Eva is in the caves, studying, she is not taking visitors, especially your kind.” A wyvern hissed. “She failed because of you. She should have been flying with a dragon rider. Not a pink-skinned biped-human.”
Derisive laughter followed him when Jona walked away. A small, green pine cone sailed past him. When he was fifteen-paces away.
“Hey!” Jona turned around, but the dragons were all engaged in conversation with their backs to him.
Not seeing the culprit, he walked off with the sounds of subtle snickering and comment of “Human” following him.
Humiliated, he just walked to the student store, a couple of half-dragons were inside buying snacks nodded at him.
“I saw what happened.” The one called Summer looked down as she spoke. She was a pretty girl who often hid in the library and read every chance she had, her golden eyes blinked in bright light when she had to focus on distances greater than her arm’s length.
“The one with the silver rosettes threw the pine cone at you from his far side.” She blinked behind a set of glasses. “They are not dragons of honor like they say they are. They would not pass any test if they are ever investigated for their contempt for humans. I know, they don’t like me either.”
“Why don’t they like you?” Jona blinked. “You are pretty.”
“They are racers, and don’t think anyone is worthy unless they are riders or rides.” She looked at Jona. “Like you. But you talk to me. Why?”
“Because I think you are nice.” Jona said. “I have seen you in the library helping others.”
“That’s because they asked. I don’t go outside much. I don’t ever know what to say to people.” Summer looked down. “I am not as pretty as some girls. Like Kolo, I have seen you hang around her. Are you mated to her?”
“ME? Hah… no. I have to study in school, I have a few studies to catch up on. My mom and dad are off in trade somewhere. My dad is an artisan of iron and copper, they are in another country getting trade.” Jona said. “I am going to stay here for the spring break and study and practice racing.”
“Eva has been grounded for grades by Professor Vale. She has to study her human history.” Summer giggled. “Humans have a short history, too.”
“Can you help her study? I would study with you, she is my ride and I need her to race after spring break.”
“You would study with me?” Summer gasped. No one ever asked her. “Why would you study with me?”
“Well, the last time, Kolo helped me study, another dragon friend in my dorm helped point me the right way to study for Professor Krular and his tests.”
“Was that Obon?” Summer smiled when Jona nodded. “I like him, he cuddled with me once when I had a bad week. He is studying for a healer’s title, you know.”
Summer blushed lightly.
“No, I didn’t. But, yes, it was Obon who helped me.” Jona smiled. “I never thought a dragon could blush.”
“I am not all dragon.” She looked down. “I am neither human or dragon according to some of the clans, except my mom and dad.”
Summer Set, the part-human, part-dragon, looked at the floor as if the tile would do something.
Jona pondered a moment, the way his father treated other people, strangers that came into his shop, people from far places.
Tall, short, thin as blades of grass or as stout as a barrel, Aed Samhain believed they were all worth to pay the best attention he could give.
Jona knew that was the right thing to do. And Summer had fallen to the crime of the family that told her she was worth less than that.
“Summer,” Jona smiled. “Kolo and I are not mates.”
Jona paused and thought a moment as she looked at him.
“You are as bright as the sun in the sky and twice as warm. I think I would like to be your friend.” He said.
Summer smiled widely, something Jona would remember for years later. The day he made a friend who had a deep fear of others.
Together they sat, she told him of the guides to study for the different professors.
“In here, this library, all the answers to all the tests of all the professors are just sitting here to be looked at.” Summer smiled. “This is where they store past tests and get the questions for the next ones.”
They studied for weeks, Jona and Eve sat with Summer and studied with the shy student, and Professor Vale nodded each time the pair came in late, almost on the last grain of the hour-glass before curfew.
Each test that followed in the spring, Jona remembered. He had just seen the answers, talked about them with Summer and Eve.
His grades became the pride of his house, Professor Vale wrote his parents who sent care packages with letters of pride and toys for Sprite.
Kolo wrote, saying she was proud of him as well and would be returning within the week.
For the first time in his life, Jona felt he had something to make him happy.
The Green Man sat one afternoon and poured Jona a large ale of the newest vintage, giggling slightly.(He had already consumed two bottles himself.) Pointing out something to the young DragonMaster.
No one just gave the happiness to him, Jona did it for himself.
Chapter 30. New Year Session
Tired, sore muscles, a continual headache from boggling at history, teamwork and predicted future, not counting the lessons in magic taught by Cranndair the Green Wizard, the students walked, crawled and a few fluttered back to their rooms in the various houses they belonged to. All were bone-tired.
If anything, the Green Wizard taught with the students in a practical application, humans and dragons and those that had a bit of both, hugged and smiled as they parted company, instead of being in separate houses, they all knew they were of one house.
The House of The Green Man.
Sprite had grown even longer, although she had gained some length, her weight had not increased, she continued to grow longer but, like all children, she started to stretch out into a willow of a creäture.
Back in the house of Garnet, Jona walked to his room and found Sam-Sam had already returned and unpacked.
“Hi Jona! Are you back, visiting the lower side a bit with us? You don’t have a room on the brown garnet level, anymore. You have gone up on the scale. They should place you at least in blue, if not green, I’d say. You spent winter’s break with the Green Man. So you would have a room there.”
“I didn’t know. Where would I have found that change?”
“Professor Vale posted it on pillar by the front door.”
“Oh, ugh. I was too tired, the Green Wizard is about killed us all.”
“Yeah, he does that. He is spry for an old guy, a thousand years old and he can move a mountain with a finger. Not even Professor Vale is more powerful.” Sam said.
“That is because the Green Wizard lives with Nature.”
“Yeah, always in that mountain.” Sam nodded. “He has more power from the trees and rocks that he cares for.”
“No, it’s not that, his mate is Nature.” Jona laughed. “She is his spouse.”
“Dude, didn’t you go to study with him once?”
“No, I was more interested in racing and never went, I learned all I wanted about him from those that have went there and came back all broken down and dirty.” Sam shook his head. “Teamwork, what good is that in a race with one-on-one paired rider and ride?”
“When the world has floods, fires, or earthquake, how do we help each other?”
“Well, how do…” A familiar voice interrupted Jona.
“Well, I thought you might be lost.” It was Kolo. “Well, sexy human, you do not live here anymore, your room is in another level, since you came back from the Green Man’s mentor program. Did you learn a lot?”
“Oh HI Kolo! Oh wow, did I ever!” Jona said.
“You lost weight.” She traced her finger over Jona’s left shoulder. “You look good. You could be ridden, looking like that. You would be a good training for a racer girl.”
“What?” Jona boggled.
“Never mind. You are sexy looking, just saying.” Kolo winked. “Come with me, we need to find your new room.”
“Okay.” Jona was still trying to get his mind around the flirt he had just gotten. Dragons were a strange group. They loved like no other, but loved one after another.
“Sam.” Kolo turned to Jona’s ex-roomie. “Come with me, you are on the Blue floor. It appears you did not check either.”
“I did! The color was brown.”
“You did not have a color until this morning. Your grades have improved and the professors were talking about keeping you and Jona together. Jona is a good influence on you it seems.”
“He just showed me around.” Jona said.
“Jona, you got him to attend class. Attendance is the single most important thing in school, even if you don’t work, the professors feel that you absorb information by sitting there with your eyes open. Sam has been at ever class last session.”
“Well, I’ll have to pack.”
“I’ll send Wynter for you.”
“AH! I’ll be packed in two minutes! Don’t send the Wyvern for me!” Sam jumped up and was immediately stuffing clothes into a pillow-slip and wrapping the rest up in his big wool blanket he brought from home.
“Why is he worried about Wynter?”
“Wynter is a wyvern, and he has no patience for lower level students. He is especially angry with Sam-Sam, they’re related and he bragged about Sam being smarter than most everyone around before this little hatchling arrived.” Kolo laughed. “I think Wynter would roll Sam up in the blanket and play football down the hallway with him.”
“Yeah, you kick it, until it gets to where you want it to go.”
“Ooooh!” Jona laughed, imagining Sam-Sam the Dragon, already in hot water with his family, being used as a sports toy.
“Here we are. Green level.” Kolo said, her tail swaying in a more serpentine way when she was walking in front of Jona. Jona could hear the other men whisper to each other when they walked in.
“Kolo, why is he here? This is a Brown Level Garnet.” A red dragon with vestigial-black wings and eye-brow scales said. Chain mail that glittered in the light when the dragon moved, they had arms like some other people had legs.
Very muscular legs.
“Mars, this is Jona, he just came back from winter break with the Green Wizard. He passed with the wizard giving him a pat on the back and an invitation to come back.”
“Well! That is different, welcome Jona. I am Mars, the senior leader of the game-players club. Do you play Drake and Hunter?”
“I never heard of it.”
“Awesome, you are human? If you get to enjoy this and want to play a lot, you can join our club. The only requirements are good grades and play at least a bit every day.” Mars nodded, his scales glistened like polished jewels. If one did not know that he was a dragon, one would thing he was human dressed in fine scale armor.
“Mars,” Kolo smiled and traced her finger over his ear (Mars’ eyes dialated and Jona swore he could hear the scales shake.) “Would you ask that Jona have a tutor to keep his grades up? Professor Vale has requested that Jona keep his studies going from the Green Man. Jona is a racer and a good one at that.”
“You do can keep doing that, Kolo, but so that you know I’d do it anyway.” Mars laughed. Turning to Jona. “She is the one that keeps Garnet house going. And she is cute.”
Mars shook his head to clear his vision.
“You know how to touch my feelers,” Mars sighed and Kolo laughed softly.
Jona laughed awkwardly as the pretty girl dragon flirted with the brawny leader of the Green level.
“Where is my room?” Jona asked.
“This way,” Kolo smiled. “You have a choice, Green Level has had a change in tenants here. A few have not kept up their grades, another has aced her studies and has moved up from Emerald to Gold level.”
“What is Emerald level?”
“This one. We call it green informally, but the official term is Emerald. Blue is Sapphire, Brown is Rough.”
“As in unpolished and dirty.”
“Oooh!” Jona said as Kolo led him to his room.
“Here is where you will stay. Mars’ is at the end of the hall, he has a private room, most of his club members meet there. You will have no one else in this room for a while. So I will check on you from time to time to make sure you are keeping your studies up.”
“Mars will, too?”
“Yes, it is important to the house that we keep our ratings up. It is a contest between each house who has the highest ranked students. It will also give you a chance to study with the Green Wizard once again.”
“I’m not sure I can survive another round with him.” Jona laughed.
“It will do you good. You will find studying here is easier than with that old man.”
A soft voice behind Jona, a human girl with tight curly hair and dark skin whispered to the new arrival.
“That is for sure, the Green Wizard made me want to come back so much, I made sure my grades were high enough I could go again.”
“I did not see you there.” Jona said.
“Part of my skills, I’m a member of the Fae.”
“No, that is a music group in about a hundred centuries, I am fae.” She smiled, probing eyes looked into his eyes to see if he understood the joke. “My family are more magical than dragons.”
“No, well, in a stretch of the sense, I suppose, I can change size.”
“You can get bigger?”
“Ohh, no. I am at my largest now, I can get smaller, a lot smaller.” She smiled. “My name is Retta. This is my last year.”
“Pleased to meet you.”
Watching her walk away, she wore her armor like it someone painted it on and then oiled over the leathery parts until she shimmered when she walked.
“Human boys are so much fun. Brain damaged since puberty and it takes years to have enough blood to run all your parts at the same time.”
Laughing at himself, Jona moved into his new room that he had no one to share with.
The second session in the main school of Dragon Master University was going to be fascinating.
Chapter 22. Morning Time
Jona walked between classes as he was in deep thought, Eva landed next to him in the courtyard.
“We did very well,” She said softly while folding her wings tightly against her body and walking upright. ‟We bumped two trees and you held on. I have a small bruise where I knocked off four of my scales, but they will grow back soon enough.”
Walking upright, she was beautiful even outside of Dragon standards. Eva would have made a graceful, beautiful human woman.
Who just happened to tower over most other humans.
Jona chuckled, his own joints hurt, the inverted banking as they did a hairpin turn around a mountain to catch up with Qo’noS had nearly dumped him off the back of Eva, it was a turn they were going to have to practice, he only was able to hang on by luck as much as strength or skill. Even his fingernails ached.
“Jona, I have talked with others about the future races,” Eva said conversationally as they walked along. ‟I have someone I am seeing. He is a dragon at Drakensberg University.”
Eva smiled, touching her lips as if a memory of a kiss. Dragon kisses, it is rumored, to leave a soul burning for more.
‟I know that there is some cheating planned. There have been observers on the race course, we may have to train in other areas of the mountains. Where is Teva? We need to talk to him.”
Sol landed nearby and walked up to them, looking happier without reins on his shoulders, rubbing up against Eva with a wink.
“Flirt.” Eva laughed softly.
“Drakenberg racers are notorious for cheating but there is something more. Jona, your safety is in danger.” Sol said.
‟My rider seeks to have you removed one way or another, she is not above cheating. So long as she rides me, we will never win, I will never cross the finish line first.” Sol said grimly, “Even if I have to crash at the last stretch. She will never stand in the winners circle.”
“I hate that we keep trying to knock you out of the race, Eva,” Sol nodded slowly, guiltily looking down. “You too, Jona, my most sincere of apologies. But it is late in the season, I cannot train with a rider and I cannot win with her riding. She has no winning heart.”
“Thanks,” Jona smiled and put his hand on the golden dragons shoulder. ‟And we will avoid you, you are a great flier, you have done fantastic corners.”
“Drakes’ will have faster rides,” Eva continued. ‟They are larger than we are as a group. Most are Kanus’ size, a few are bigger.”
Sol and Jona nodded.
Jona pointed out that they had the advantage then of the corners in the valleys, then paused.
“Could they go high and go over a corner? Avoid banking?”
Sol shook his head while Eva answered.
“They would be penalized with time added on. So even if they crossed the line first, they may actually lose the race if they skipped too many corners.”
“Even if they flew faster than anyone at the beginning,”Sol added. ‟If they didn’t get down into the canyons, a record pace would be for naught.”
Eva nodded as Jona pulled at his chin and took this in.
“There has been something else, a smell, I have picked it up, you have been busy racing and I have been sight-seeing.” Sol added, “Something smells, I don’t know.” He paused “The smell on the most strong in the northern canyon, where we go lowest and the turns are sharpest and we fly slowest, the smell makes my scales tingle.”
Eva paused, pulling at her ear.
“I thought that was just the group of us racing, the challenge of the corners and how close we were getting to each other.” She said thoughtfully.
“You have been racing, I have not.” Sol nodded.
“Spies?” Jona asked.
“Maybe.” Sol said.
“Spies would be undetectable.” Eva shook her head. ”Volcanic action, Sol? Can you smell volcano’s?”
Sol gave a nearly imperceptible shrug.
“There are those in my family who can, I have not smelled them before. Could be that this time I am smelling the start of a volcano’s eruption. This would affect the race, if we had to fly through a cloud.”
“If the race is going to go through an ash cloud, we would have to avoid it.” Eva nodded.
“Not so much for you,” Jona shook his head. ‟But for the humans and others that don’t have the kind of lungs that a dragon possesses.”
Both dragons looked at Jona and nodded.
“Not counting the lightning that happens, that is also kind of hard on the teams, as well.” Eva added.
“Lightning? As in thunder and lightning?” Jona was afraid of thunderstorms since he was a child.
“I will tell Professor Ghoti, she is in charge of the racer’s safety, it is important that she and the other judges and professors look in the area.” Sol said mildly. “I’m the one that smelled it, I’ll be the one to show her where it is.”
Eva nodded as Sol set off for Professor Ghoti at her office in the Obsidian Spire.
“I knew that Sol was a good wyvern,” Jona noted. “Those reins on him are the only ones in the entire group of racers.”
“And a total insult. They won’t race together after this season, he will reject his rider and any other dragons will follow suit if she re-applies next year. The only way she would fly is if she grew wings and rode herself.” Eva growled irritably. “She has some dragon in her, you can see it in her eyes, but it is all the worst part of dragons.”
Eva and Jona took off and few northwards out over the sapphire blue lake, it was so large, the water was so pure as Jona could see the bottom of the shallows down to two or three dragon lengths deep. It was like looking through crystal.
Eva looked back as they soared and enjoyed the cool mountain air.
“The water tastes as good as it looks, but it is so cold as to give me a headache. There is a bay that is nearly emerald-green, lately we have called it emerald bay. I kind of hope the name sticks.”
‟That is an awesome lake, so high in the mountains, what feeds it?” Jona asked.
‟Snow. If you ever go swimming in it? You will know that right away.” Eva laughed. ‟There is a story of, years ago, a swimmer dragon jumped in after a long, hard winter with an exceptional snowfall. The snow was at the peak of melting and the swimmer jumped in with ruby-red scales and came out with sapphire-blue coloring. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I can believe it.”
Laughing, the rider and ride sailed along the crest of the mountain range until they banked and headed out to the sea, spending time soaring over the rugged coastline. Eva told him of dragon homes and lore.
‟You have dragon-lore this year. I would suggest coming here and do independent studies. I am also a tutor, and I wish help teach you and keep you on the race team.”
‟Thank you. There is so much going on.” Jona said softly.
‟This is just warming up for the year. You have passion to learn, from what I have heard. Four-years of basic schooling then another four years of advanced school. Your scholarship’s earned by your father and mother with the teaching of dragons over the years.”
‟How long has my father been teaching?”
‟Don’t you know?” Eva said. ‟I always knew when my parents were teaching.”
She pondered a moment.
‟But then, the two societies are different with intolerance of a few creating grief for all. Humans tend to less tolerance than Drakes. If any of your kind thinks or looks different, the first thing the others want to do is declare a war on it.” Eva’s body trembled in revulsion. ‟Humans have more followers of death than they do of life.”
Jona sighed and looked down. Thinking of the times that he and his friends would throw rocks at statues or works of art depicting kindly acts just on the word of someone who said it was wrong.
‟Worry not, Jona. Those things that make you feel guilty are those actions of someone who does not know better. You will learn here.” Eva gave him a friendly bump. ‟You will learn that all things exist and create beauty. Even dragons.”
‟It’s your first year.” She glided over the waters of the big lake again, slowly. Jona could see the fish that swam under the surface, glistening like jewels. ‟You will find beauty in the most unexpected of places.”
Jona held on tight as Eva stroked hard into the air and gained altitude.
Beauty in the most unexpected of places. Jona found beauty in the wisdom.
Chapter 21. Night Riders
Garnet house was late in ending the dinner, after Professor Vale would not dismiss anyone until all students finished eating — that included the newly christened “Slop Eaters” of Stixx, Kelly, Gorm and their small group.
Getting to the meadow, the sun had slipped behind the mountains, the dragons and riders gathered for the night-time ride. Jona laughed with Kolo as they stood with the rides who were now aware of how a slop-filled attack failed and admitted to by one of the clique that had stated that she did not agree with what the leaders had planned. Vale had taken the statement and decided that eating of the slop was punishment enough for this time. Calaise had gotten away without eating the slop that Kelly, Stixx and the others had to consume.
Stixx was looking several pale shades of green as he stood next to his ride. Kanus was looking bemused, still angry at his rider of the collision earlier in the day. Teva gave instructions about the route in the dark, although it looked like the only thing that Stixx and Kelly were going to do in the dark was some recycling of their last meal.
Mounting the rides, each rider donned their helmets and put on goggles, waiting for the captain of the racer to give the command for the night race to start.
Jona asked “Why do we fly at night?”
Eva laughed quietly “If we can do it in the dark, we can do it when it’s cloudy or any other bad weather, or even at night. The only thing we have to worry about is having other schools running the same course”
“I thought that we had the route.” Jona said “It was on the sly?”
“The route is not truly secret,” Kolo leaned over and shook her head. “It is up to each school to do with the information that they get. Most of them practice the route for weeks ahead of time.”
“Wow, we could have them in the canyons with us?” Jona asked.
Eva flexed her wings “I hope so, a small unplanned race would give us a clue on how things might stand.”
Qo’noS shook his head. “No, I am not sure about that, that would give the other school a chance to plan how to bump us out or crowd the way into the wining circle.”
“Dragon Lords are notorious for cutting off and blocking racers of other schools, the Drakensberg’s are known to just bump you out of the sky. That’s what happened to Koord.” Kolo said. “Killed his ride. Koord was lucky to land on his ride, but Rhodes was not as lucky he landed on the top of a snag- a dead tree- and a broken branch pierced his heart. It was a very sad day.”
“LAUNCH!” Ordered Teva as he streaked into the sky.
Eva, Qo’noS, Kolo and Jona rose it the sky after Teva, the other riders also flew, but Kanus was off-balance and was struggling more to keep Stixx on her back while Sol had not yet launched, Kelly had gotten off and was on her knees behind a bush.
“Not a great start for them.” Kolo laughed as she flew ahead.”
Laughing Eva and Jona streaked off into the night chasing the Captain of the Racers.
(After NaNoWriMo, I now return you to the regular programming already in progress)
Chapter 19. Team Training
Jona walked down the stairs of the spire, the circular stairs were enough to make him dizzy, what was once a good place to visit now was a dizzy walk down the stairs, Each floor had its own landing for dragons and creature comforts for humans and drake alike.
Pausing to look around, an older student stepped out of the hallway into the circular common room and yelled at Jona.
“WHAT are doing here, slug? You are trespassing! Your kind does not even earn the right to breathe here! This is upper class area, we allow your years only in the cellar or lower.” Yelled the otherwise pretty girl. “Get out of here, what are you looking at, worm?”
She looked Jona up and down with the look of someone who had smelled something unclean.
“Not much, that’s for sure.” As he walked down the stairs, the girl had paused for a moment then began to yell at him and as other students came out she explained, loudly, how a lower class student violated common room’s sanctity.
Finally! He made it to the courtyard. Jona spied a friendly face and relaxed. The steps of following older students had stopped after a few flights. Jona had not hurried, unafraid of the other students, but the sun on his face outside made the nasty faced girl seem much farther away.
Kolo was across the court-yard and waved at Jona, with a wide smile on her face. She seemed pleased to see him.
“You are going to practice now? I’ll go with you, there is something that the teams are needing to do, they need to practice racing together.”
The troubles seemed so far behind him as they walked out of the volcano and into the brisk early winter’s sunlight. Fresh snow had fallen on the ground, the meadow sat Eva and surrounding the meadow were all the dragon racers and most of the riders. In the saddle of a yellow and black tiger-striped dragon, sat the girl who yelled at him, she had not noticed him, laughing and talking with a rugged looking muscular rider next to her and the ride as he kicked the ground and laughed at what the blond human girl was saying.
Jona stood on the far side of Eva and patted her shoulder. Eva turned and said quietly, “You are just in time, the captain is about to explain what we are doing today.”
Jona looked around to the riders, each one wore a leather cap with goggles, all decorated differently, different colors but all had the crest of the school on the front. Each cap seemed to match the rider to the ride. Scale colors and caps were very similar.
“Attention” Teva called, “Today we have Eva back with us as a racer, this is her first full team practice and her rider is also new to us. Chosen by dragons to attend our school and found by our own Kolo as a rider.” Teva smiled and clapped at Kolo.
“Jona would you come here, please? I have something for you.” Teva waved Jona over to him in the center of the meadow.
Jona stepped out from behind Eva and the blond girl stopped smiling and just stared with her mouth in a big “O”, frozen in mid sentence. Then leaning over to the large rider, she pointed at Jona and began to whisper and point.
Teva took no notice.
“I formally welcome you to the team of Dragon Racers.” He said loud enough for all to hear. ‟Jona, you have learned well under the skilled tutelage of Kolo and Eva — and me of course.”
With this cap, wear it while you fly, it serves to protect that head of yours, bird strikes hurt, and your eyes. You are the hind eyes and co-pilot of the ride as they fly. Decorate the hat as you win to match your tastes, but keep the colors with that of your ride so it marks you not only as a team of our school, but as a team of a ride and rider. Jona, I welcome you.”
“WAIT!” The blond girl yelled, “HE cannot be a rider! We have to vote on it and he has not been here long enough.”
“Votes have never mattered, you only suggested it last year and it was never agreed, Kelly, you have no say in this, I am captain and I will decide who is on our teams. Jona here is looking good enough to join the team, he rides fast and keeps eyes out and has a great balance and relationship with Eva.”
Kelly looked as if she had a bug fly up her nose and turned away, speaking quietly and quickly to the big rider and his huge ride.
Jona bowed slightly to the clapping as he put on the cap, several cheers went up and a few roars from the dragons. Kelly’s dragon started to hoot in a cheer but Kelly pulled the reins she had on him tight, cutting off his honoring sound.
Jona returned to Eva, and Big Rider stepped up behind him, “You do not belong here, should not even ride, you have no business in this race. You get up there, we will have issues. Do you understand me? You are the baby waste that was on our floor and stunk it up? Well, you will find that there is payment due for that trespass, maggot.”
Big Rider backed off when Eva turned around, and stared at him.
“Just remember, you don’t belong.” as his ride stepped up, an equally huge, twice Eva’s wing span and half again as tall with smoke curling from the big males nostrils. “Eva, you should not have come back after your accident if this is what you think of as quality rider material.” With that, he climbed up and the ride and rider flew off.
“Do not fret about him, Jona,” Eva said, “We have our own practice to do still. The rider is Stixx, the ride is Kanus. Kanus knocked me out of the sky last year and caused my crash. He said it was an accident, but the judges ruled it an intentional fault by the rider. The judges suspended them for two races for overly aggressive racing. We have to keep an eye on them, but so long as I know where they are, they won’t pose a problem.”
Jona nodded. “I’m also worried about the blond girl who is a rider.”
“Her?” Kolo had walked up after talking with Teva, “Kelly is insane. Insane and stupid, when she chooses to dislike someone, she uses every chance she can to complain and whine. She is a problem, but not a good rider, she treats her ride like a common horse or burro. See the reins?”
“You ever think to put reins on me, Jona, I will teach you the meaning of fire-breathing and a rough ride.” Eva interrupted.
“She abuses her relationship with Sol, her ride.” Kolo said. “They are not friends, Sol is a good dragon, fast, smart but never gives all because of her.”
“Why does he race with her then?” Jona asked.
“I don’t know, there is gossip, but nothing proven. I think it has to do with he was failing a class and she caught him cheating one time. He is very smart — and proud. It would be a disaster for him if he had cheating come to light.” Eva said.
Jona shook his head, saddened that extortion was something he had to put up with in school. Kola climbed on his ride, Zerksees. With all the riders on the backs of the rides, a cheer from most the dragons stood up as tall as they could and roared.
“This map I am handing out to you is this years route. I propose we follow the route and time ourselves, this will be a real race, let’s see who can cross the finish line first, regular race rules apply, we race against ourselves. Try not to bump each other! We don’t need injuries before the inter-school races.” Teva said chuckling, “We are all on the same side and all.”
Captain Teva yelled “Launch!” and they all shot into the sky.
Eva banked down into a canyon around a butte, Jona was guiding her with his voice as he read off the map and with body language.
“Above!” Jona yelled as Sol dove and passed them in a tight bank, to which Eva had turned to the inside. Down the canyon they sailed and soared, out into a large valley, Kanus easily outdistancing the group, all except for Eva who had kept up without straining herself, Sol was fifth in line, three rides back with Kolo and her ride, Qo’noS, behind Jona.
“Hang on, Kanus is going to use his speed to get ahead, but we don’t have to stay close, just close enough until we get into the canyons for the return trip. To turn, Kanus has GOT to bank and with those big wings, he has to slow down, so he can pull them in.” Eva said in a rumble.
Faster they flew, paralleling the mountain range in the flat lands of the desert. Kanus began to dig deep with great rapid beats of his wings, Eva pushed with more energy than Jona had seen so far, she was not overheating, but he could feel the muscles strain and stretch under her scales and flesh.
“Keep your head down, Jona, we are going for more speed, Kanus is overconfident, he has not looked back.”
Jona looked back. Kola was trying to keep up and he was a distant third, Sol and Kelly were so far behind he couldn’t see her. Faster than the sun they traveled, it appeared to move backwards to the east. Jona could see that Kolo’s ride was fatiguing and slowing slightly but staying directly behind Eva, using her to break the wind as was their plan. The sound of the wind was the familiar hiss with an opaque cataract seem to follow Eva’s shoulders. Jona could see that Kanus was pushing a larger shock-wave and had the disadvantage to being unable to look back at this speed.
“Jona, I can smell Kanus, Stixx is pushing him and Kanus is overheating. I can smell the body heat that his scales are trying to expel.”
“What happens if he gets too hot from exercising? Do Dragons sweat”? Jona asked.
“We do, but not like humans, if it gets very bad, you will see him start to lose scales, we shed hot scales and bare flesh is open to the air and he will grow new ones later.” Eva said. “But he will lose the smooth flow of air over his body and it leave him open to injury.”
“How are you doing?” Jona was running his hands under Eva’s scales, looking for any overheated spots.
“Two things, ONE, I’m okay at the moment, the practice runs out to the continental divide have really helped. TWO , stop that! You are tickling me.” Eva giggled in a way that only a dragon could.
A few minutes later, as Jona was looking on the map, telling Eva that the turn into the mountains was over a pile of old rock lava flows.
“I know where those are, just a few minutes more, Kanus is slowing down a bit and I am not even that tired. I didn’t have to race that hard, just stayed in his wake.” Eva laughed as her flight plan was working, no other dragon had yet used drafting from a distance like she had done.
“The draft is a new idea?” Jona wondered.
“Drafting is not new, but from this distance it is, it is not a big boost like if I was right on his tail, but I don’t have to engage him in combat this way and still get a tiny boost. Kola, Kolo’s brother thought of it.”
Banking over dry and rocky ground, Eva and Jona sailed through the peeks over a plateau into the high mountains. Banking hard, they were in a small canyon that snaked back and forth from millions of years of tributary erosion had made the tortuous small canyon tight. No longer lagging behind, Eva was closing the gap as Jona grinned and looked behind, Kolo was also getting closer.
“We’ve been seen.” Eva said.
Stixx had looked back and his eyes widened in surprise behind his goggles as the two dragons had caught up as they banked in and out of the mountains. The rest of the group was closing up , but were still far behind. The large dragon could not bank around the small twists and bends of the mountain peaks.
Forests began to get more lush and deeper, down sheer cliff walls as they followed a waterfall, then a stream along a rapids. Then banking and out into a wide valley, where in the clear air that Kanus pushed and pushed by his rider. Kanus had tried too hard and fatigued, unable now to shake the neck and neck dragons, they went into the next canyon three wide. Kolo and Qo’noS ducked down, using her ride’s slightly smaller wingspan to bank more tightly and gaining more points, Eva and Jona went closer to the mountains using compression of the air to help get them around corners.
Stixx was unable to get his ride to bank tightly enough and missed one turn, having to pull up and return to it, falling back six spots in a single overshoot of the corner.
Jona looked back and could see Stixx shaking a fist at his ride as he pushed the dragon back into the race. Along the spine of the mountains they climbed and dove, Kolo was ahead, then Jona, both Eva and Qo’noS were enjoying themselves without exerting too much.
Then Jona yelled a warning, “Bank and climb! We are gonna hit!”
Eva had little time to react, but with the training done, Jona had given her just enough time as she extended one wing and folded the other, going into a spin and then both wings out and up, a huge shadow blew past them and went into the canyon.
“Stixx! He tried to bump us, but he has more turns coming. ” Eva said.
Teva and his ride Tron had seen, nearly catching up to them as they yelled at each other encouragement and ignored the cheat by the fellow team, they raced on.
In and around the canyons they went. Stixx slipped further behind, charging forward. Two rides, bumped by the older students, had to fall back for missed turns, leaving three racers with Stixx that were his friends. Kelly, Stixx, Robert and Lyster flew in formation and gained on Teva, Kola and Jona.
They raced through the mountains, suddenly bumping and bruising each other in this practice race, the following racers were afraid to continue. Lyster, a small pale senior rider with blue cat eyes rode his ride Muon and brushed up against Teva and then went straight at Eva as they went into a corner, Muon was moving far to fast at the wrong angle for the corner coming up, and with a warning, Eva dove, followed by the excessive speed of Muon and Lyster.
Pulling up, Eva knew what was coming, Stixx and Kanus were moving in from the other side. Eva flared out her wings and hit the brakes. Stixx and Lyster collided and went down into the river as Eva dug deep into the air currents to catch back up to Kola and the backwards looking Teva who had seen it all.
On they raced, Stixx and Lyster were out of the race, Kelly and Robert were trying to close in, but Sol was of no mood for games and Robert had not practiced, both falling behind the three leaders as they finally crossed the finish line at the meadow, dismounted and were talking before the others pulled in.
“I want to file a complaint! This newbie here caused Stixx to collide with Lyster and they went down into the water.” Kelly complained, “They were not doing it right!”
Teva looked at her impassively. “Like be knocked from the sky by your boyfriend? No, Kelly I saw what happened, if I see it again, as captain I can and I will take them off the team, that is not a racer’s way to win.” Teva looked steadily at her, “Besides, they have not been practicing and neither have you, Sol here is unwilling to put himself out on a limb for you because of your attitude. Fix it, or Sol will find himself a new rider on my recommendation. “
“First he is not my boyfriend, I am engaged to Hortense the Honorable. Second. Only so long as you are Captain, Captain.” Kelly said. “If you ever drop out, Stixx is next in line and he follows fraternal law.”
“You should not worry about that, just ride like a racer is your concern.” Teva said mildly.
As the other racers pulled together. Robert standing shyly back, clearly not enjoying the fracture of the team. Stixx making noises to Teva about how Jona fouled him in the corners and he collided with Lyster and his ride.
Lyster looked around as Teva and Stixx were arguing and walked over to Jona, “If you ever knock me out of the air again, I will break you and your little dragon rider over there, too.”
Kolo had heard that and walked up to Lyster, “Try it, you will find yourself being a walking racer, we can find other riders or dragons. You have a good dragon that likes to race, but instead you try to use him as a weapon instead of a partner for a race.”
Lyster blinked, he was larger than she was, but he was not about to cause a scene so close to the captain of the teams, he’d be removed and he did not have Stixx as a backup. Lyster backed away, with a muttered threat that was nearly inaudible as he walked back to his ride and rode away to the dragon’s aerie.
Teva returned from his animated discussion with Stixx and Kelly looking over at the departing Lyster, “What was that about?”
“Nothing, just a show of his bruises.” Jona said as Kolo giggled. “We weren’t impressed, I have seen much better.”
Teva nodded, looking sideways at Jona, not believing him. “As you wish, I won’t have bullying and infighting with the teams, if we are to win the world cup this year, we need a focused team. We will race the dirtiest racer school if we get past Drakensbergs’s and Lord’s.”
“Other racer schools? And dirty racing?” Jona said, surprised at the news of so many more others. “Are there not judges?”
Teva nodded, “Yes, there are judges, but they cannot be in all corners always, bumps happen, accidents happen, but a dirty racer — well, like today — can cause an accident without being observed by judges. Schools like Dragon Lance and ‘kind first are very physical racers, they are known to rub and bump — that is regular racing, but they take it to the point of trying intimidate the other racers into letting them win. That’s not racing, that is bullying. So, we must practice and have aggressive and skilled racers of our own.” Teva paused, “Without trying to bully our way to the winning circle.”
Eva looked around speaking softly, “Qo’noS and I are going to rest and clean at Dragon house, practice again in a few hours?”
Teva nodded, “Sunset after classes, Eva. We do a team race practice again.”
Off Eva flew, in the light of the day, still needing to clean up, all the remaining riders went to their houses and rooms. Jona looked forward to the coming races, the challenges of a race like this would make his parents proud, but he would have to wait until he had done it before he would tell his mother.
“She would have apoplexy if she knew what I was doing on the back of dragons” Jona thought to himself.
Sprite woke him in the morning, pulling on Jona’s ear clicking and chirping, a new sound for the little one.
“Oww, what?” Jona moaned and brushed his hair out of his eyes and got dressed. Sprite flitted around excitedly as they climbed together up the stairs in the pre-dawn light.
Kolo stood outside and Jona gasped at the chill air that filled his lungs. She looked beautiful, even bundled in a heavy overcoat and a headband.
“You didn’t tell him to dress warm, Sprite?” Kola laughed like violins being played. Jona’s heart skipped beats in the moment she did that.
“What is it? My classes start in a little while, Dragon Lore and Law is my next class.” Jona yawned.
“DLL is not every day, today you get a late morning, your next class is flight , and that is what you were said to be a natural at.” Kolo said, ” So we are going to increase on that, team races are later this year, you and a dragon.”
“Who do I ride? You?” Jona grinned.
“You wish, but no.” Kolo walked in front of him swaying her hips slightly as she giggled softly. “You will be riding a larger athlete this time, you and a dragon together and race among the mountains, the racer, Wivern, said you had a natural sit on the saddle. Better than most humans.”
Kolo laughed softly as Jona looked up and nearly screamed. He drew breath sharply as he looked up at the dark-colored dragon with orange eyes.
“This is one of the best dragons on the race team at the school.” Kolo said as Sprite hid in Jona’s hair, then flitted over to Kolo.
“Hello baby, your mama will be trying out for the racing team.” Kolo said, indicating that she was talking about Jona.
“I remember you, you scream like a baby-cat that gets stepped on.” The big dragon leaned over and spoke softly like distant thunder. ‟I am Eva and I would like to win the Tour of the Mountains race later this year.”
Kolo laughed as she climbed up Eva’s back.
“First we need to get you settled on the saddle, come on up, get comfortable. I will teach you how to fly as a team. Eva is fast, but she suffered injuries last year when she collided with another racer.” Kolo said as she stroked Eva’s wing-root.
Jona climbed up and settled himself in.
“Are there organized teams? I mean, is there a leader of some kind?”
“Yes, but you have to show your ability, most fresh faces here don’t even get a chance, Sprite here has told me you’re in a line of human Dragon Masters?” Eva said. The heat that rose from her scales was comfortable, without burning his skin as he gently stroked her neck.
Sprite clicked and chirped excitedly, his breath puffing out in steam, a hint of what he was going to be able to do as an adult.
“Yeah, my parents both, my grandfather on my paternal side. might have had more.” Jona said as he looked down while getting himself positioned in the saddle, a soft breeze tickled at his hair.
“Eva, your saddle is a different shape, it is a tighter fit than the one on Wivern.
Eva growled slightly. That alone was terrifying.
“That show off, he was the idiot with who I collided last year, I fell into the trees, my rider had gotten torn up and spent a long time in the school hospital. She was a good rider, but now is afraid to get in the saddle. So, I need a new rider— if you are the one, we can win.”
“The problem now is, Eva, you are bigger, the corners are going to give you troubles.” Leaning into Jona where her breath tickled his ear and made the ends of his lips turn into a smile “The race is more for small to medium dragons, large ones have speed on the straight and can even get altitude, but the turns around a mountain? Or on a lake? You have to bank or you have to go slow.”
“I heard that,” Eva humphed, “I have practiced, if I can get enough speed, I can pull the wings in and bank just using the outer quarter of my wingtips, when I level out I can extend and gain speed and altitude.” Eva sighed. “I just have to make sure not to lose too much speed or height. Banking like that takes me closer to the ground. We could hit at speeds faster than sound.”
“I would think that is a bad thing to happen?” Jona blinked.
“Very bad, indeed. It could kill both dragon and rider.” Kolo nodded.
“We would be disqualified then, they don’t allow dead racers to accept trophies.” Eva said with black humor.
“All set?” Eva asked as she turned towards the edge of the lighter part of the sky. “We fly until sunrise and back before you need class.”
“Wait!” Kolo said as she slip in behind Jona, “Okay, now ready. Sprite? You good to go?”
The little dragon shook his head and flitted over to the branch of a tree and settled down. Watching with brilliant blue eyes as Eva grinned. “Smart little dragon, hate to get your scales blown off.”
With that, Eva took a mighty leap into the air and with strokes of the wings that did not seem so big since his recent days at the Dragon Master’s University, they moved ever higher and faster.
Kolo slid her arms around his waist and held close, the warmth of her body soaked through his leather armor as her breath warmed down his neck. Onward they flew, first south around a second lake then banked hard just above the lake surface. Turning due east into the gathering light.
Down they flew, trees the likes of which Jona had never seen, taller than the tallest dragon or even any of the spires of the school flashed by as they gained speed on the down slope of the mountain range. The air grew warmer as the trees became smaller and then finally the numbers of the great trees gave way to bushes and sand, faster she flew, across a desert, banking low over some mountains that had an updraft she could feel.
“Hang on! We are about to cover a lot of ground very fast.” Kolo whispered warmly in his ear. “This is where big wings work best.” Then raising her voice “Eva! Clear air above and behind, give it all you have!”
The wings did the impossible, they began to stroke the air faster than Jona’s heart beat, Kolo’s fingers dug into his chest as she pressed her body against his back. For the first time he began to think she was not doing it just to hang on, Kolo was enjoying having her arms around Jona.
Speed began make the wind hurt. Faster they went still, the wings nearly blurring in the speed they flew, Eva was creating her own heat that was making a warm bubble of air from around her scales as Jona followed Kolo’s instructions and stretched down behind the scales that covered the wing roots. Here the wind was not even buffeting, a small eddy of warm air came from behind and he could smell Kolo’s scent.
She smelled like flowers and spice.
A flat area, bright white in the near sunrise, shallow pools of water far below as they crossed the area with such speed that Jona thought impossible.
“Faster, riders! Hold on, one last burst before we turn.” Eva roared into the wind.
Jona felt as if he would slide off the back of his ride, Eva did such speed that the eddy that was warming them stopped, it was still and warm, the sound of rushing wind changed to a steady hiss while Jona watched through transparent parts of the scales and membranes of wings.
Covering the distances with a blur, a large line of mountains, up and around the first one. They banked hard and up, the sun was blinding-bright when they cleared the top of the mountain, trailing a shock-wave that knocked pine cones from trees.
“Back into the dark! Now we race the sun!” Eva yelled.
Jona had thought she was fast before, the speed Eva achieved in the dive back towards the clouds below was a whole new experience.
The sun seemed to set in the wrong way as they streaked across the sky towards the west. A line of clouds that Jona had not noticed before looked as if it was rushing towards them.
“This is the best ride I have had in a long time, ” Kolo yelled as she nipped the base of his neck playfully. “You don’t scream.”
Jona laughed, “I forgot to do that!”
Faster still they moved, the sound of the wind over the scales of the dragon was nearly too high of a pitch for him to hear.
The scales on the edges began to buzz slightly and began to get hot to the touch where he kept his hands. Jona looked back, the sun was down below the horizon again to the east.
Jona moved his left hand down to check the part he sat on, the part everyone called the saddle that grew naturally on the large dragon and put his hand on Kolo’s leg. Her riding pants were skin-tight— or scale-tight as he reminded himself— and he was surprised as she pressed to his body so tightly. Slipping his hand along her leg she laughed lightly, but said nothing.
“Pay attention!” Eva yelled. “I need a spotter when we get into the mountains with the trees again. Tell me when I am getting too close or where other trees might be.”
Diving low along the ground, the speeding dragon caused an updraft of dust and debris behind them.
She began to climb, faster than before.
Higher and higher, into the mountains they had left only a half-hour before.
In reverse of the first part of the trip, the shrubs and bushes gave way to trees, then finally back into the giants of the land. Up and over the crest of the range of mountains and down a valley with a glacier still holding on from the ancient days.
A cleaned monolith of rock, curved on one side and vertical on the other down to the valley floor flashed by as they flew down the valley and out into a flat landed area, and banked hard over while Eva flew on.
“That was the second leg of the race.” The big dragon yelled.
“How many legs are there?” Jona yelled back.
“Eight legs in all, in each of six races.” Kolo said loudly just far enough from his ear to not hurt. “I looked it up, Eva. “
“SIX races this year? I have a lot more practice to get in!” and with that, the dragon flapped even harder as they streaked back to school.
Circling the mountain, Eva set down in the meadow that they had started from. Jona and Kolo climbed off, Jona noted that a slight amount of vapor came from some of her scales.
“I have been worse, at least I know I have some speed.” Eva said, “Next time, we have to practice communications, you just had the basic flight. I had to find out how well I did with a rider– two in this case and we did great speed. Kolo you need to ride with him more often. I need the exercise and he needs to have training.”
Jona laughed. “Absolutely! How do I make sure my name is in the Racer’s Team? Who do we race?” he asked.
Kolo laughed, “There are other schools. DragonLords College of Wisdom is one, DrakesBerg University is another.”
“We will meet again in a few days, Jona.” The large dragon said, “We need to get you on the team, you have courage and don’t try to dominate while flying.”
“I could send him to Professor Vale, ” Kolo offered. “The Professor knows from both sides of the experience as rider and as ride.”
“Excellent,” Eva nodded, “He will give this new boy a chance.”
Turning to her chosen rider, she addressed him directly.
‟Jona, know this, there have been those hurt and even killed during these races. Dragon and rider both, so be sure if you want to do this, you would be one of the lowest-caste riders, a student that has been here only a month. But, Kolo seems to think highly of you.”
“It was Sprite, his adoptive dragon.” Kolo smiled. “That is what got me interested.”
Jona held up his hand, “Do I get a vote in this at all? Other than if I have courage or not?”
Both females looked at him as if he spoke in a strange language and said “No!” in unison. Laughing as they did so.
“You have a great spirit, Jona, I felt it in you.” Kolo said looking Jona directly into the eye without laughing. “Sprite would not have chosen you, the fates would not have put you in the spot at that time to have a baby dragon looking for its mother and saw you first.”
Jona blushed at his ears. The only thing on his body that he could never seem to control, looking down he kicked at a rock for a moment.
“I will do the best I can.”
“Only if your grades are good enough, ” Eva said grimly, her orange eyes going dark red “You WILL not have poor test grades and you will get your homework done— on time and turned in— correct?”
Kolo nodded, “He will, or he will not like me anymore.” She grinned and socked Jona in the shoulder firmly.
‟He will make the grade. Or else.”
‟Or else what?” Jona said, half-joking.
Then it got serious, and downright scary when Eva leaned down and nearly touched her nose to his.
Smoke came from her scales, some from her nose.
‟Human boy, you will keep your grades up or you will find out how unpleasant life can be.” The big dragon’s eyes focused on him and he felt she could see down inside him.
‟Do not fail me or Kolo, keep us happy, and your life will be happy.”
Jona agreed with this turn of events.
He would not fail them. Ever. Jona had learned about respect, then he shook his head at himself.
Those two scared him!
A gong sounded in the house somewhere and jolted Jona a`wake. Sam made a squealing noise in his room and staggered out in the hallway to the study room. “Ugh, I hate that! I had forgotten how loud that wake up alarm is. “
“Does that happen all the time?” Jona yawned as he noticed sweet breads, grains and a serving dish of scrambled eggs was sitting at the table in the study room.
“Only during the class days.’ Sam laughed “Nearly made me jump out of my skin all last year. My species only molts once a year on average. I think I nearly shed five times.”
Jona cackled in good early morning humor.
As he walked up the stairs, Jona saw that Professor Vale was there, supervising book bags being handed out.
“Keep these and do not throw them away. They’ll be checked back in at the end of the year.”
Jona hurried out of the Garnet house and headed to where his schedule indicated his class. Dragon lore and law.
Finding the right place after several stops to ask older students where the classroom was. Each one having the look of fear on their faces.
“You have Professor Koos. Good luck.” several of them said.
Walking into the class, just on time for class to start. A short human with a long mustache, pulled back just so, merging into his gray hair, looked up and then down at the seating. Jona was obviously the last to arrive.
“Mr.” Professor Koos paused, puzzling over the name. “Sam- hain? Please take seat twelve-dee”
“It is pronounced Sah-wain in my country, Professor.” Jona corrected the old human.
“Indeed? I shall endeavor to correct my pronunciation in the future.” Professor Vale said quietly.
Professor Vale began to hand out papers, “This will be a timed quiz, you have fifteen minutes to the end of the test.”
“Sir? Professor? I was unaware of a test today? This is the first day of school- what could be the subject?” Jona asked.
“You picked up the schedule before today— otherwise you would not know where the classroom is. By extension you then know where my office is, the lessons for study I posted two weeks ago on my office door, failure to study or to look for the lesson plan is no excuse. Please do your best on the test. Good luck.” And Professor Koos turned and walked away back to his desk.
Turning at his desk, he leaned against it and crossed his arms, for a teacher, Jona noticed for the first time, he had huge arms.
Professor Koos Spoke. “You come to me with heads full of sawdust and mush, in my class— if you survive— you will leave with minds of Masters. Masters of your Destiny and the earth’s.”
Thus the test began, Jona was already lost, thinking that the only thing he had gotten right was his name. Some of the questions he knew from his parents talking with him. Some questions he knew from his recent contacts with the school.
“Define a Dragon Hunter.” he read and wrote his answer with a quill.
Fifteen minutes later, Professor Koos collected the papers and began to lecture on the lore of the relationship of dragons and men.
Jona’s second class, fundamentals of flying was no less difficult. The instructor, Professor Vale, stood in the middle of the meadow outside of the volcano core. It was cool, even at the late morning, the red dragon shape of the professor paced back and forth in front of the class.
“Riding, not like a horse. The relationship between flying dragon and rider.” Vale said in a gentle voice unlike his voice at bed time the night before, “You will know, feel and see what it is like as a rider. No matter of your race. Whether you be Elf, Human or Dragon of your own that can ride another. The relationship is all important, there are those, humans mostly, that will hunt your ride. As a rider, you must know where to go. And there are things even in the air that will hunt a dragon.”
Several smaller dragon students nodded. Even the biggest of Dragons, it was known, the unspeakable terror that can come from below or above. Men with weapons that can reach out, wizards with magic and chains. A Dragon’s freedom was always under assault.
“First, you must know the speed at which a dragon can fly.” The armored head of the red-dragon nodded. ‟I can fly faster than an arrow can fly, and I can fly at that speed for all day. This is a typical speed, my friend here,” A huge gust of wind as a large gleaming purple dragon landed as light as a feather, “Has been known to create thunder during a dive. This makes it all but impossible to ride, unless you are hiding behind his horns out of the wind he produces.”
A rough voice, as if burned by fire, “I fly faster than sound when in a dive, I can fly past an observer before the sound of my passing reaches them.”
The class murmured in disbelief. One boy, a new student by the lack of rosettes on his leather armor, spoke. “My father says there is nothing that a dragon can do that a man can’t. Flying faster than sound is impossible.”
“Why are you here, if you have such a feeling?” Professor Vale asked. “Surely you have no wish to lean more, because you know all you need to know from your father?”
“I thought that this was a place of learning facts, not of stories. The earth is eternal, we will need to control and dominate it if we are to control the destiny of the earth.” the Brown haired boy said.
“Mister Gallo, please see me after class? You may attend the rest of the class as it goes on today.” Vale said.
Gallo crossed his arms,
“My parents give more money to this school than any other.” Gallow said as he stood with his arms crossed. He had muttured, but still just loud enough for Jona to hear him.
Sprite landed on Jona’s shoulder and clicked happily.
“Mister Samhain, you seem to have a connection to dragons, if I remember you have two parents that are masters themselves?” Vale asked.
“Yes, Professor. I found out just this summer that they are far more than they seem.”
“You might wish to tell me how to ride a dragon?” Vale asked, “What would keep you from falling off?”
“Um… Hang on?” Jona was not able to think of anything else.
The class laughed as if on cue.
“Knew I was going to like you as a roommate.” An unfamiliar dragon slapped him the shoulder as the purple dragon snorted in laughter and nodded.
“Vale, the boy is right, as much as it’s a melding of minds, to hold on is important.” The flying dragon nodded.
“Jona, would you come and sit on Wivern, show how you would hold on?”
Jona walked up to Wivern and crawled up on his back, finding a spot that he fit in perfectly and settled into what seemed like a saddle.
Wivern settled forward and flapped his wings, not taking off.
“He has a natural feel on the saddle.” Wivern spoke in his gravelly voice.
Wivern walked around in the meadow, Jona held on at first, as Vale was explaining the theory of how to sit with balance and keeping an eye out on for location. Communication between rider and ridden, explained by Wivern, performed by body language as often a dragon at speed may not hear the words of the rider.
“Some of us can hear through our scales, simply by speaking while we fly, we can understood without great difficulty.” Wivern advised.
Class continued, questions and answers, how to fly. Dragons were not steeds but simply friends that would allow riders. Jona learned that dragons came in more sizes and shapes than he had so far discovered.
Then the professor mention of the other, more frightening things that hunted dragons.
“Read up on dragon flight, the Gorgon is the subject of the written test two weeks from today. Flight styles and escapes in the past, I want a paper written due on the first day of next week, class dismissed.” Vale smiled as he watched the students leave.
“Gorgon, what is that?” Walking up the path back to the volcano, Jona asked Sam.
Sam shuddered. “I always thought it was a kids story to keep us home at night. The Gorgon is an ancient threat, there are more of them than one.”
“Hi!” Said another young man, “I am your roommate, came in at the beginning of classes this morning with Spirat, I saw you on the dragon at class. That was good! Wasn’t it? It was awesome to see!”
“Kola? Shut up.” Said a second boy. “He can never say just hello, he has to make a story out of it. I am Spirat, We will be staying in the room with you at Garnet house.”
“Say, you have a dragon on your shoulder!” Kola said “He looks like..”
“Kola, shut up.” Sam said and Kola became quiet.
“Kola comes from a Yak family, all they do is talk. Make good politicians, but seem to always take up all the air.”
Walking as they spoke, Spirat and Kola continued to introduce themselves. Kola was the younger brother of Kolo who Jona had already met. Kola explained for the thousandth time that the females of his family were very attracted to humans and were known to attract the best of the Dragon Masters.
“Half dragons are more common these days. Starting with a Professor here at the school.” Kola said as they walked to the next classes.
“Math!” Jona moaned. “I hate math.” It was always his worst subject. “I can never get it, my dad had to save my grades more than one time. Showing me how to do it, but still after all that time I was so happy to get away from the class and the instructor.”
“I like math” Kola interrupted, “The dragon math is different from what you know! It’s all about flight, angles and landings. Very involved, dragons don’t know it right off, many have been hurt with wrong landings. I’m not even allowed to fly.” Kola blushed blue.
Spirat laughed “He told me the problem, he keeps hurting himself, so they don’t allow him to try to fly, he does look a bit like a wounded bird in flight.”
Jona and Sam looked at Spirat, “You known him long?” Jona asked.
“We grew up together, we are second cousins on my father’s side and we grew up together.” Spirat grinned, “I take care of him, he takes care of me. Our family way.” Then he whispered, “He is the only biped fire-puffing dragon I know of.” Spirat laughed.
“Fire puffing?” Sam asked, “Not fire-breathing?”
“No, I don’t just breath fire, I have to focus a bit and then try, but I do okay at it.” Kola grinned.
The students walked back to their room and sat down to study during the night when the bell sounded in the house.
Dinner was served.
X. The First Days
Once again, in the wicker basket, Jona was heading to school for the beginning of the term at the autumn equinox. A pretty girl from the eastern isles, her hair the color of a sunrise.
“I’m Keva, my parents are both Dragon Masters and they appointed me after my folks talked to the council of professors.” She smiled at the group of other kids as they raced along the clouds.
A giant frost wyvern, related to dragons but with no front legs, only two wings and two hind legs carried them along.
A gentle landing, easily as good as the first ride, Jona laughed as a student who was first out of the giant wicker basket and hugged the ground whispering “Never-never-ever-never-never again! I do not want to ride in those!”
Jona laughed as the boy had stood up and stopped being terrified. He had held on to the edge of the wicker basket, his belt latch had drawn so tight that he had trouble breathing. He had gone the full length of the braided cord, and then some.
“It’s my third year here, I do that every time. I hate riding in those things. If people were meant to fly, we would have wings like the dragons. You know that, if the dragon slipped? That is a long ways to the ground. Never do I want to leave earth. My feet belong on the land or in the water. Not the air.”
“He makes that speech every year, I’m told.” Keva whispered into Jona’s ear after the boy’s panicked speach.
“They call me Screaming Eagle to my face, a great warrior’s name, but they whisper behind my back they say ‟Screams like a Baby” when I come home.” He said quietly as he wiped his hand over his forehead. “But, no one will ride in the basket, no one chosen of my family will come to learn about the world.”
“Well at least you don’t have a baby dragon that thinks you are its mother.” Jona said as sprite landed on top of his head and clicked a happy familiar sound to the returning Jona after the family had visited a few weeks before and had left the small dragon with the pretty swimmer-dragon, Kolo, the university secretary of admissions.
All the students gathered in the central part of the old volcano, Newest students surrounded the teachers in the center as the more senior students passed by and continued onto their dorms and home rooms.
Jona looked around, Screams Like a Baby, reminding himself the boy’s name is Screaming Eagle, headed off into the dorms of Water Dragons, the great Green Spire dominated by the a great statue of the water dragon’s queen.
Jona wondered what his mom and dad did on their first day, making note to ask them.
Not for the first time in recent days, Jona laughed at the ordinary and mundane life he left at the old school.