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The sound of flapping wings woke Mariah up from her sleep. Footsteps made their way down the hallway to her room. Throwing off her blankets and lighting her lamp, she opened the door to her room. Standing there was Matron, the kindly women who had taking Mariah in when her mother had died since she didn’t have anyone who could or would take care of her. Looking nervous, Matron looked around for anyone who might be listening, and when there was no one in sight, she asked Mariah if she could enter her room, so that they might talk in secret. Nodding her head, Mariah opened the door wider for Matron, and Matron slipped in.
“Thank goodness I found you awake, and no one else for that matter. Did you hear-” asked Matron.
“Yes, I did, and if it wouldn’t trouble you, I was wondering what it was about?” interrupted Mariah.
“Why, darling, are you so set on going to that, that place? You know that you will be the only girl, and you’ll most likely get yourself kilt or sommat like that,” when Matron was worried you could hear the remains of her accent from the sea. Quickly, Mariah tried to comfort Matron, who would not be comforted. She continued to rant on about how bad the place was because it was where Mariah’s mother had learned all the things that lead to her death and such and such.
After about four minutes, Mariah had Matron calmed down enough to say her part.
“Matron, you know that I have to go to this school. It will be the only way I can learn what I need to learn to be successful in this world. Please let me go, you will not regret it,” pleaded Mariah.
“Well, I guess so,” muttered Matron. With a sigh, she picked herself up and left the room, saying that she would be back with the supplies list for Mariah. As soon as Matron was out of sight, Mariah quickly got up and went over to the window, just in time to see a magnificent blue dragon fly off into the night. The rider was a young man, a messenger, if Mariah could remember, from her mother’s notes on the school she was ready to attend. When she heard Matron’s steps coming up the hall, she stopped looking outside and quickly and quietly went back to where she had been. Matron opened up the door, and with a quick glance around, she entered.
“Here is the letter, though may the king know how much I regret giving this to you,” muttered Matron. With trembling hands, Mariah carefully took the letter out of Matron’s out stretched hands. Turning it over, she saw written on it:
To Miss. Mariah Elderdaughter
501 Lily Cloud
Stunned, Mariah turned over the letter and slit it open with one finger. She was shaking so bad that she almost didn’t manage to take out the slip of paper inside. When she did, she had to take a deep breath before opening it. Inside was written:
Welcome to the Dragon Academy.
As a first year student, we require you to bring the following:
4 leather jerkins
4 pairs of sturdy leather pants (for flying and outdoor classes only)
A pair of good, sturdy boots (for flying and outdoor classes only)
For boys-pants, jackets, and good shoes for classes
For girls-skirts, blouses, and nice button sandals for classes
For all students: A guide to Dragonrey, A day in the Life of an Herbalist, History of Dragons, History of Riders, Beginning Potions for Dragons, Beginning Potions for Rangers, Mathematics for the Beginning Mathematician, and other books you will find inside the stores.
Good feather quills and good quality ink- blackberry or darker
Thank you for reading this. We look forward to seeing you at school.
The Dragon Academy
Mariah was stunned as she read the list through again. She couldn’t believe it; she was going to the Dragon Academy, where her mother had learned to be one of the best Dragon Rangers that their world ever had. Stunned, she handed the letter over to Matron who was waiting impatiently for the letter.
“Tut tut, they haven’t changed the lists in the forty years I’ve been around. Why, I’m surprised you aren’t jumping off the walls right now. You mother certainly was,” observed Matron.
“It is just so, well, I don’t know how to put it. Matron, they haven’t accepted at girl trainee since, well, since after Mother graduated. I know that the Ranger girls that have graduated are still young and well, but why didn’t they accept any other girls during that time?” asked Mariah.
“Well, darling, I really don’t know. Maybe it is because after your mother’s, accident, they didn’t want any other girls to try out, maybe they didn’t want any more girls to get hurt,” replied Matron hesitantly.
“Why do people avoid mention of my mother’s ‘accident’ in front of me? It really bugs me, you know that!” Mariah’s temper surprised Matron. Then, she took a deep breath, and said, “Mariah, sweetling, we didn’t want you to worry yourself about it.”
“But Matron, I really need to know, I want to know the truth. She is, after all, my mother, one of the best Rainbow Dragon Rangers there ever were,” pleaded Mariah.
“Oh, all right, I’ll tell you, but not right now, the rest of the house is awakening,” sighed Matron as she made her way out the door to the rest of her tenants, who were clamoring for food. As Matron walked off, Mariah closed her door and took a deep breath. She didn’t want the rest of the house to know that she had been accepted, and if she let loose a wild whoop, they most certainly would know.
At breakfast, Mariah acted just as she always did, polite when asking for dishes, and hurrying through the morning chores so she could go out and see her dragon. When she had finished washing and drying the dishes, she quickly wrapped herself in warm furs, and then went out to the dragon barn. Already some of the overnight travelers were getting ready to leave, saddling their dragons and making sure that everything was packed. Doing her duty, Mariah went over to help one of the mothers by watching her kids, and helping the older one saddle her dragon.
“Do you live here?” she asked, curious as Mariah tightened the last strap on the saddle.
“Yes, I do. Matron has cared for me ever since my mother died in an, accident,” replied Mariah.
“Wow, you know a lot about saddling dragons,” said the girl, awed.
“It comes from being around them all my life,” blushed Mariah.
“Well, I’m Mandy, and I would really like to get to know you better. I also want to learn more about dragons, so I think that I will follow my father, and become a messenger for the Rangers. I think that it would be fun to help them defeat those, scum that call themselves Riders, those Black Raiders,” laughed Mandy. When she said Black Raiders, Mariah stiffened, suddenly realizing that if she made it through her training, she would have to fight the Black Raiders, and she did not look forward to that at all. To cover her silence, Mariah quickly asked, “Do they still accept girls for messengers? I thought that they didn’t admit girls at all.”
“Silly you! Of course they still accept girls as messengers. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have any messengers, since the boys want to be Rangers,” giggled Mandy.
“Oh, I didn’t know that,” replied Mariah.
“No wonder, you are really out of the clouds,” consoled Mandy.
“Mandy, it’s time to go!” shouted Mandy’s mother.
“I have to go now, but will you write?” asked Mandy.
“Yes, what’s your address?” replied Mariah. Mandy gave Mariah a slip of paper, and then hurried out to catch up with her mother and siblings.
“Have fun!” shouted Mariah as Mandy disappeared into the rising sun, pondering what she had said. It made sense, that they would still accept girls into the position of messengers. They weren’t really in any danger, and if they did get in danger girls were better on the smaller, darker messenger dragons, since the dragons were faster the lighter the person on their back. Shaking her head, Mariah went back into the dragon barn; quietly going to her dragon and silently letting it calm her.
“Miriam, we will be going to the Dragon Academy this winter, and I’ll be flying you every day, except for Rest Day, and we will learn so much together,” murmured Mariah, her breath showing in the cold air.
“Mariah, I knew this day would come, you are such an exceptional flyer; it was only a matter of time. You will fit in immediately, you shouldn’t worry,” as always, Miriam’s voice soothed Mariah, showing her the path to take.
“Aren’t you nervous, or excited, or something?” Mariah asked the brown dragon. Miriam breathed out a puff of steam, and then laughed.
“What do you expect of me, a dragon who is nervous about going to school? What do you take me for, a weakling!” snorted Miriam.
“Well, I know that you don’t really like being all alone for a time, and that’s what they’ll have us do, to make sure that we can live without a dragon for a time, to make sure that we’ll be okay if our dragon is killed or runs away or something,” replied Mariah.
“Well, you did just fine when I ran away to find a mate, and when you had to go to that ceremony thing for two months I did okay,” retorted Miriam. Mariah smiled, “I should have known that you would say that.”
“Mariah there is shopping to be done!” cried Matron from across the yard. “Get dressed and then we’ll go!”
“Coming Matron!” Mariah shouted back. She ran back into the house and got dressed. She chose comfort over style today, and when she had pulled her hair back in a French braid she looked in the mirror. For a moment, she almost didn’t recognize the tall, black-haired girl who looked back at her. The hair seemed so long, braided down her back in such a way that it fell just above her knees. She was taller than normal for a girl, almost 5’6”. The brown leggings were a tad bit too short; you could see her snow-white skin in the crack between the leggings and her riding boots. She knew that her tunic was just right, and the riding vest pulled back the sleeves just so that you could see just how white her hands were. Self-consciously, she slipped her hands into the gloves that had been given to her by Matron on her tenth birthday. She was amazed that they still fit after four years.
“Mariah, how slow can a person be? It’s time for us to go!” shouted Matron. Snapping back into the present, Mariah quickly hurried to finish getting ready, and then ran outside to get Miriam ready for flight.
“Honestly, Mariah, you need to be quicker. At the Academy they won’t let you dawdle; they want quick quick quick workers. I’ve heard if you’re late, they won’t let you stay for your lesson, instead you have to run around doing errands, then you have to make up the work in your free time,” scolded Matron.
“Sorry, I’ll do better in the future,” apologized Mariah shamefaced as she picked up Miriam’s tack and began putting it on. Miriam looked at Mariah with an apology in her eyes, and not for the first time did Mariah wish they could speak mind to mind like the Rainbow Rangers and their dragons could. Mounting up, Mariah noticed with a little smile how much difficulty Matron was having with her old dragon, a purple one named Lea for his admirable temper. It looked like he wasn’t happy with having to wake up so early, and if anything, Lea detested shopping, since it meant he had to stand outside but not fall asleep for however long Matron may be inside, and since Matron liked to enjoy her shopping experience, he had experienced standing without sleep for twelve hours, and did Lea detest not sleeping for twelve hours.
“Lea, you have slept for the past six days, you can spend a couple hours without sleep,” huffed Matron.
“No, I can’t, any way, yesterday I only slept twenty-three hours, fifty-nine minutes and fifty-six seconds,” snapped Lea.
“Oh no, you missed four seconds of your precious sleep,” falsely worried Matron. “You will go shopping with me or else I will take Baby, since you seem to think that she is a better flyer than you.” As always, the thought of having a smaller, incompetent dragon taking his place made Lea mad, so he let Matron climb up on top of him and they flew off to the nearest Academy Supply Store, one hundred dragon miles away.
The cold wind slapped Mariah’s face as she thought about the letter she had received. The writing was familiar; all Dragon Academy writings had that script. But there was still something different about it. What was it? Her thoughts were momentarily interrupted as the wind suddenly grew stronger, causing Miriam to have to swerve out of the way. When Miriam was back on track behind the much larger Fire, Mariah turned her mind back to her pondering. As they passed by a tack store, Mariah realized what it was; the letter had no mention of dragon tack! Hurriedly, she pulled out the letter and looked over it again. There! At the bottom! With care, she pulled the list out all the way and reread it.
All students will require a full set of tack, completely made of donkey leather. However, if offered reins, refuse them. All students must learn to ride without reins.
No reins! Thought Mariah. How were you supposed to ride without any reins?
“Matron, I noticed something on the list that we forgot,” Mariah called, to distract herself from the images of falling without anything to hold on to.
“What is it dear?” Matron called back.
“A full set of donkey leather tack, without the reins!” Mariah replied. If Matron was surprised by the lack of reins, she didn’t show it.
“We’ll stop on the way back,” Matron replied as a gale force wind hit Fire straight in the chest, causing him to fly backwards almost on top of Miriam and Mariah. Thankfully, Miriam was still young enough to avoid Fire’s enormous bulk by flying upwards and around him.
By the middle of the morning Mariah and Matron arrived at the store. Matron asked for the supplies list, and Mariah handed it over. Up and down they walked, Matron selecting one or two items from each isle. When they came to the clothes, she pulled several sizes from the rack, looked at Mariah, and sighed.
“It’s a good thing you know how to sew so well, or we might be in trouble,” commented Matron.
“Why?” asked Mariah, her eyes going over everything in Matron’s growing pile.
“Girl, you’re still growing, and heaven forbid you go to school in clothes too small or too large,” grunted Matron as she pulled yet another set of clothes off the rack.
“Let’s see, too small, too large, but we’ll keep it, too small, much too large, oh my, much too small, yech, too bright of colors,” Matron mumbled just above a whisper as she held up tunics, leggings, and such to see if they fit. Soon the pile of discarded clothes was larger than the pile of clothes they were keeping, but at last they were through. Almost staggering under the weight of all her new books, quills, parchment, and such, Mariah tried to keep up with Matron as she made her way to the checkout counter.
“Another for the Academy, yes?” asked the storekeeper in a monotone
“Yes,” replied Matron, intent on stacking every last quill on the large pile.
“Is it your boy, or your friend’s boy?” asked the storekeeper.
“Actually, it’s my girl, the daughter of the Lady Milaun,” replied Matron.
“What?! A girl?! You must be cra-what a second, this girl is the daughter of the Lady Milaun!?” the shopkeeper almost shouted.
“Of course she is, look at those eyes, and look at how much she resembles the Lady,” replied Matron. This was news for Mariah; she didn’t know that her mother had been a lady, though she did know her mother’s name and knew that she looked like her mother in everything except color and skin. Those she got from her father, an unknown person.
“Really? Well, my lady, you may have all this for a discounted price. 200 dragonfires instead of 2.000,” informed the storekeeper in awe. “We didn’t think you had survived that, incident.” Mariah nodded her head in thanks to the discount, and hid her surprise when she heard that he knew more about her life then she did. Not even Miriam knew, because she hadn’t hatched yet, which was very unusual, since most dragons hatched at the same time their masters were born. Miriam didn’t know why, she had been ready, but some sort of ancient force had prevented her from hatching. With a glance a Mariah, Matron thanked the man, gathered their purchases, and went outside.
“Sorry Mariah, I didn’t remember just how many people knew your mother. She was one of the best people you could have ever met, and I was so happy to have the privilege of taking care of her and watching over her,” Matron apologized.
“It’s okay, I’m just really curious about my past. I don’t remember any of it, except for living in your house,” replied Mariah.
“Well, how about this, we finish up shopping, then go home, get a large glass of fire-speak for me and a glass of the new hot chocolate for you, and then I’ll tell you the story, or at least, as much I can,” asked Matron.
“That sounds absolutely wonderful,” replied Mariah, thinking, Finally, I get to learn about my past! she thought.
They picked up the tack at the tack store, the storekeeper not even flinching when he learned that they didn’t require reins, then headed home, this time with the wind on their backs.