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Dragon Rangers part 2
were off doing their own thing, so Matron and Mariah had the place to themselves.
“All right now, are you ready?” asked Matron.
“Yes, I am, replied Mariah, her hands steady on her cup of hot chocolate.
“Now, it all started when my mother asked me to take care of her mistress’s charge. Like a good little girl, I obeyed, following any orders that Milaun gave me. Fortunately, Milaun was a very nice young girl, and she didn’t make too much of me. At all her playgroups I was always there, and I sat with the other little girls maids. They would tell me horror stories about their little ones.
“By the time your mother was old enough to go to the Academy, I had learned enough about her to know that she would conquer any task that was laid before her, and that she would succeed at it too. When she wanted to go to the Academy, she was set to pester it until it let her in. Thankfully, they let her in on her first application, and she entered and started to take her classes. I was her maid, they let you bring personal servants, and I got to watch as she turned from a little girl with little girl ideals, to a Green Ranger. I was so proud, I couldn’t believe that she had made it so far.
“It was with a lot of pain that I watched her grow into a Rainbow Ranger. The classes demanded so much of her that often times she would come back from a class and lay down on the floor, unable to do much more than that. I tried to persuade her to stop, to stay a Green Ranger, but she said no.
“’No, Matron, I will not. I came here to be a Rainbow Ranger, and I will stay until I become one or die in the process,’ she told me. Well, what else can you do? I gave her a cup of restorative tea, and off she’d go to her next class, ready for whatever else was coming to her.
“As you know, she made her way up into the Rainbow Ranger ranks, and for awhile, she was satisfied. However, she began to thirst for a challenge. The ability to become a leader was inside of her, it had been all along, and it rose up in her. Swiftly, she made her way up, until she was ready to become the next Rainbow Ranger leader. She and her partner, the leader of the male Rainbow Rangers, planned a way to make her a leader. She knew that, with help, she could overcome the current leader, but that was going to take time. Your mother never was patient, Mariah, she insisted on having things just so at just the right time. So, without much support, she went up and challenged the current leader.”
“How, exactly, Matron, do you become a Rainbow Ranger leader?” interrupted Mariah with a question.
“Well, all leaders have always had a fine singing voice. At sunset the leader and/or prospective leaders go outside the dorms, tents, whatever and sing. If they are the right leader, the Rangers will come to them. If they are not right for the job, they will not be able to sing and if they do somehow manage, their song doesn’t have any of the kind of compelling stuff that brings the others to him or her.
“Now, this leader had been the leader for a long time. No one had been able to bring any Rangers to them by singing, until your mother came. Milaun didn’t know what she was supposed to do, so she sat down and started singing. According to her, she let her song carry her away. She didn’t notice all the Rangers gathering about her until her song ended, and by that time she had already been declared leader. Without really knowing what to do, she started her leadership leaning heavily on the advice of the former leader. Of course, after a little while, Milaun decided that she was going to lead on her own, so she did.
“The rest, I guess you could say, is history. Milaun became the best leader the Rainbow Rangers ever had, and her opinion was valued at Council meets. They gifted her with the title, ‘Lady’, and a lady she remained up until, the accident,” Matron’s voice got quieter, and her words were a little gravelly.
“She never intended to have a child, you know. She never wanted one. But then, one day she went flying off, to do some scouting, she said. She wanted to have a break. So she left, leaving her second-in-command in charge of everything. She traveled far and wide, all alone, she had told me she didn’t want me to go with her. A year and a half later, she comes flying home with none other but you in her arms. We were all astounded, and thought that she was going to leave you in my care. She did, but not on purpose. On your second birthday, Milaun insisted having it in the park. We got there, set up, and you were beginning to open your presents when the Raider alarm went off.
“You don’t know, but you used to live in a town close to the border of the Raider’s territory. Everyone started to head towards the Raider houses, caves designed to protect us from the raiders and their magic. You dropped Miriam’s egg, and went back for it, not wanting to leave it behind. Milaun ran back and tried to scoop you up before the, Raiders snatched you. Something happened, and a cloud of smoke appeared around the two of you. I don’t what happened then, but whatever it was, when it evaporated, there was no sign of the two of you. Immediately, all Rangers, training or graduated, lifted off the ground to try and find the two of you. All they ever found of the Lady Milaun was a piece of her gown, and inside of it shivering with cold, was you,” Matron was crying at this point, great big tears dripping down her cheeks. Mariah sat, stone still, as she tried to grasp what Matron was saying. Her mother had been a Rainbow Dragon leader?-and Mariah hadn’t known? Mariah was an accident, did that mean that her mother didn’t love her?
“May I please go to my room?” asked Mariah. Matron nodded, and tried to brush her tears away.
“Be quick about it, you must be downstairs in time to help with dinner, and for goodness sake, change into more suitable clothes,” said Matron, attempting to be brisk. Mariah nodded and headed upstairs. Once there, she lay down on her bed and tried to think about everything that she had learned today. For one, she was a lady, and her mother had been one before her. There was a lot to think about. Mariah had known that her mother became the leader of the Rainbow Rangers. There was a mystery about that though, although her mother had disappeared, some thought she was dead, no one had been able to take the place of leader, as they should have been able to do if she was dead. Mariah realized that, no matter what, it was up to her to keep her mother’s legacy going.
However, before she could ponder that much longer, she fell into a deep sleep.
“Mariah! This is the fourth time I’ve called you, it is time to come downstairs and help with dinner!” Matron’s voice cut through the blanket of sleep that had enveloped Mariah since she had fallen asleep. She looked down at her clothes and knew that she couldn’t go down the stairs like that. Quickly she took out her hair, brushed it down, and pulled it back with a hair tie. She quickly changed out of her riding cloths into a skirt and blouse, made sure everything was tucked in, splashed her face in water to wake herself the rest of the way up, and then went to the kitchen.
“Here, put this on,” grouched Matron, throwing the apron to Mariah. Mariah knew that she was cutting Matron deep by asking to go to the Dragon Academy, and that afternoon she had seen that Matron still hadn’t gotten over the Lady Milaun, no matter that Mariah was there. Still, only one thing could make Matron that grouchy.
“Are the-” Mariah started.
“Yes, and you would do good to keep out of their way. They’re on a hunt for something, so they’re only staying for dinner. Be a good girl and serve them, but don’t let them talk to you for too long,” ordered Matron, handing Mariah a tray of steamed shrimp. Holding the tray away from her sensitive nose, Mariah made her way out into the eating room were fourteen male air nymphs sat, gently fanning themselves with their translucent wings.
“Here you go sirs,” said Mariah, handing them the tray.
“Aw, pretty, you didn’t have to,” one of them growled, his voice slightly softer then a whisper.
“Please let me go, or else you won’t get any more food,” replied Mariah shortly, for one of them had grabbed onto her skirt.
“Pretty, we don’t want you to go, you are just right for the decoy,” the lead one said, turning his head just so that Mariah noticed a large scar from his ear to the corner of his mouth on the opposite side.
“Let me go, or I shall call the lady who runs this place, and she will surely turn you out,” ordered Mariah, knowing that this was the only place to get food for miles, and since air nymphs need a lot of food to keep them going, this was her one weapon. Grumbling about it, the nymph let her go, and she sprinted back to the kitchen. She used to love to listen to the nymphs, hear their majestic stories, but now she was ashamed to be seen with them, knowing that her mother must have fought against them at one time. Air nymphs were well known to travel with Black Raiders, and anyone who befriended them were considered allies of them. Sighing, she grabbed the next dish for the nymphs and headed back out. Matron, she knew, was waiting on other tables in the secondary eating room, reserved for regular guests.
“Pretty, you came back, and with good food to, what did you bring us today?” grunted the leader, heaving his body up out of his chair. He made for Mariah, but she quickly danced out of the way of his grabbing hands and made her way back into the kitchen, this time grabbing as many of the air nymphs’ dishes as she could and making her way back among them. As quickly as possible, she set the dishes down and then went back into the kitchen, grabbing the rest of the dishes, and then went back to the nymphs’ table again. This time she wasn’t fast enough, they grabbed her hand as she turned to go back outside.
“Not so fast, my little one,” warned the leader. “I was wondering if there are any available rooms for us. We will need four, all on the top of this, house.” His distaste for the inn was evident in his tone.
“No, we just filled up,” replied Mariah, remembering Matron’s rules. “However, we have three in the basement.”
“No thanks, we do not need rooms that bad,” replied the leader, recoiling from the thought of being down in a basement. His grip lessened, and Mariah pulled free. She hurried back into the kitchen and began to mix together a little bit of this and a little bit of that to calm herself down. When she had finished, Matron was leaning on the kitchen frame.
“What’s wrong, my sweet,” she asked, her arms opening to invite Mariah into her arms.
“The, nymphs, aren’t very nice,” replied Mariah, hesitantly.
“Why, sweet, you used to love to listen to their stories, and I had to pry you away from them to serve the others,” Matron remembered.
“I remember, but they are just so, I don’t know, well, they kept grabbing on to me, and it was uncomfortable,” stuttered Mariah, not quite sure what to say.
“Aw, sweet, all nymphs are like that. When the males are away from their females, they get lonely, and a human female is the next best thing. That’s why I don’t allow nymphs to stay here, I’m afraid that they will take one of our customers and that they won’t be able to say no,” replied Matron, gently running her fingers through Mariah’s hair.
“You have guests awaiting,” Matron smiled, pulling back from Mariah. She looked quizzically at Matron.
“I believe that they are you escorts to Dragon Academy, and they will stay here until you are ready to leave. They are looking forward to whatever it is that you are cooking, and I must say so myself, that smells really good,” explained Matron.