by Jane Jacobs, Falgarwood Public School, Oakville, Ontario
It was a sunny day. No clouds, warm weather, and a comforting breeze that rippled the grass in the Courtyard. The weather was perfect, actually.
Jonas stood in front of the stable, his hand shielding his eyes from the glare of the sun. Although it was morning, he was already sweating under his stiff leather chest guard; the itch was starting to get on his nerves. If he was not afraid of breaking his bones, he would do away with them completely.
From behind, he felt something nudging him slightly. He turned around, his eyes meeting Faewin’s large amber ones. The dragon’s wings rustled impatiently as he nudged Jonas again. Jonas grinned, brushing his brownish hair out of his eyes.
“Are you ready, Fae?” Jonas asked, scratching the dragon’s head. Faewin closed his eyes, grinning his goofy grin through his leather bridle. Like a dog, his tongue hung out of his mouth slightly.
A whistle sounded from the Training Field. It was time for the test, the reason why the Riders were there. Jonas took Faewin’s reins, forcing his trembling fingers to close around them; they were smooth, and just a shade browner than the dragon’s reptilian hide. He gently pulled on them to get Faewin to follow him.
The stable was perched on a hill; although it probably could not be called a hill because of the slight incline. More specifically, is was a slight mound just to the left of the Courtyard where it could easily be viewed from the dormitories. There were no pathways to it, as the rough cobblestones were hard on the feet of the dragons.
The Training Field, build behind the stable, was nothing more than what the name implied; a large expanse of carefully cropped grass, often scattered with various kinds of equipment. Bain, Dax, Norie, Rand, and Theo were already there, along with the rather overweight Professor Fletcher.
Edaen, Bain’s drake, was standing half-crouched as his poisonous yellow eyes followed Jonas and Faewin with a menacing stare. His fanged was mouth slightly open in a small snarl.
“Alright, boys,” Professor Fletcher said loudly. Norie, the only girl, glared at him. “Today we are going to see what we have managed to cram into your minds. We will see if you are able to ride, and remain upon, your dragons. This is a difficult feat, and those that are unable will be severely reprimanded.”
Jonas caught the eyes of Dax and Theo and managed not to grin. Professor Fletcher may have seemed intimidating at first, but he was not the kind to punish his students; when he was not yelling, he was the biggest coward that Jonas had ever met.
Then he met Bain’s gaze, and he faltered. Bain was watching him with the same look that Edaen was giving Faewin. The chilling look sent a chill down his spine; I am better, and I will crush you to get to the top.
The first was Norie and Egwen. Jonas felt slightly awed as he watched them in their aerial dance; Egwen, a water dragon, flew as though she was swimming. Her frilled tail flared in the breeze as she and Norie went through the air doing loops, swirls, and steep drops.
“Excellent work, Norilen,” Professor Fletcher said when they landed, marking something down on his clipboard. “Best work I’ve seen in a long time.”
Norie grinned modestly, but Jonas knew that she was bursting with pride inside. He was probably going to get an earful of a first-hand account from her at lunch, and he knew that he would have to look interested. Girls were like that.
Next were Theo and Lorelei’n. Theo, a rather shy, timid boy, turned a delicate shade of green that almost matched the colour of his dragonelle.
But, it had to be admitted that he did a rather good job. Dragonelles were known to be rather ungainly in the air, as all bipedal dragons were, and Lorelei’n was not the most balanced. Even the Professor had to give him an appreciative comment when Theo returned to earth.
Then, it was Jonas. His throat dry, he settled into Faewin’s saddle. Over time, as he had been using it the saddle had moulded to fit his body. It was much more comfortable than it had been on the first day.
“Up,” he said shakily, jerking Faewin’s reins. There was a pause as Faewin unfurled his wings. Jonas could feel his heart thumping as Faewin crouched…
Then, with a mighty flap he felt them soaring upwards in a roar of wind. The ground was ten feet below, then twenty, then thirty… Jonas suppressed an urge to yell as the Academy was reduced to a few reddish buildings and a field, as they burst through a wet, white cloud. This was nothing like what he had imagined, this was…
Faewin was straining, his mighty black wings beating until it was the only sound that Jonas could hear.
“Faewin,” Jonas managed to say. His hand pulled on the rope, urging the massive beast into a loop. He passed out for a second as the blood rushed to his head, and he had to pause for a second to pace himself.
The rest was a blur of movement and an occasional rumble from Faewin. Jonas was automatic, watching himself twitch the reins and nudging with his feet. When he finally ran out of moves, he had to laugh. “We did it, buddy!” he shouted triumphantly. Faewin screeched happily, his amber eyes glowing brighter. This was nothing like what Jonas had imagined.
It was better.