1: Selection

1: Selection

The bell peals solemnly for a midday break, Kaden stands from his desk and proceeds outside into the yard, his classmates begin their lunchtime ritual of forming three man pyramids against the fence so that they can catch glimpses of the female students. Kaden climbs up an art installation with his lunch in hand, when he reaches the top he is greeted by his longtime friend and companion.

“What ho good man, that took you almost half a second longer than yesterday. How will you expect to pass your dragon master’s exam tomorrow?” The jovial young man the same age as Kaden with dark green hair and purple eyes, reaches down and catches Kaden’s hand as he leaps out into space. The man pulls his friend up onto the small platform the two slowly constructed over their years of school together.

“What ho Aerouant, it’s not like I have wings as strong as yours, then again, I don’t have wings at all.” Kaden lays out on the platform and basks in the warm sun until his friend’s voice cuts into the peace he held in his mind.

“Hey man, here comes Devi, man she is hot.” Judging from the clamor down at the fence Kaden guessed that Aerouant’s violet eyes saw true. This could be the last chance Kaden would have to cast his gaze upon the woman of his dreams. Kaden sharpens his mind and calls into existence the thought forged armor that is his birthright, he slowly lets the armor fade away, one plate at a time until all that remains is a small frame of bronze steel hovering in front of his eyes. The view within his frame focuses on a lithe form on the far side of the fence Devi, the woman all the other male students acted like total fools to even catch a glimpse of, strides slowly and seductively in front of the fence. Kaden sees one of the young men down below attempt clamber over the fence in a lovesick attempt to bridge the gap. Within seconds a fireball the size of a large pumpkin slams into the fence knocking most of the pyramids over and burning all the hair and a good amount of flesh off the thoughtless fool who had attempted the climb, the young man writhes and screams on the ground for a few seconds before passing out. While the fool is trundled inside by the burn team, Kaden’s view drifts to the true focus of his affection. A tall curvy woman, Anna’s flowing black hair falls to her waist. The amethyst eyes that make her fraternal twin look slightly unsettling make Anna look ravishing and mysterious. Kaden’s admiration is cut short by his friend’ statement of alarm.

“Are you looking at my sister? You’re practically drooling!” Kaden’s friend grabs the steel frame and tosses it away. Kaden wills the piece of armor out of existence before it can land and be damaged.

“Yes, I was looking at Anna, I’m sorry my friend, but I cannot help it.” Kaden sighs as he thinks about the predicament that he has found himself in. He ponders his feelings for Anna, he has always feared these feelings might come between him and his friend one day.

Aerouant bites his lip for a moment in a way that tells Kaden he is thinking seriously about the possibility of his best friend and twin sister being an item. “Well, consider this my blessing, but she might bite your head off, either figuratively or literally.” At this, both men burst out laughing.

Lunch period drags on, Kaden finds himself reminiscing about the last two years, from their high school graduation, through the hazy night after. Onto the two years at the boarding school where dragons and knights are segregated and then further separated by gender. The body destroying physical training and the soul crushing history lessons. The deep toll of the old bronze bell pierces his recollections. The two men climb down from the platform and head back inside.  Aerouant turns to Kaden and declares, “I will pray to Jormungand that you draw well.” Which Kaden knew meant ‘I will pray to God you do not die tomorrow.’

As Kaden proceeds into his class, he notices that his teacher is holding a deep green folder in one hand. Kaden glances at the folder and he can tell that his teacher does not like the contents. Kaden takes his seat at the back of the class and concludes that only one thing could possibly be in that folder, the draws for the dragon master test tomorrow.

Once the rest of the class has filled in and taken their seats the teacher moves from behind his desk to stand before the class.

“Today will be your last day of classes here at the Draconic Academy; tomorrow you will embark on your final training quest, during which you will encounter your dragon. Where upon you will either claim your dragon, or you will die. As you all know these pairing have been as they are from your early years and kept from you and your families in the school and the Magisters of Belmorrow. Today your pairings are revealed to you.” The class erupts in murmurs, but quiets down again when the instructor begins to speak again.

“As I said these pairings have been in existence since your early years, but they have not had any bearing on your life. Your dragon may be your best friend, or someone you do not even know, the connection between yourself and your dragon will be closer than any other. Now, are there any questions before we get to the pairings?”

The class falls silent for a few moments, and then the teacher begins naming off students, followed by a number, once the student’s name and number are called the young men input the number on the keypad set into their desks. The printer inside the locked desks whir away until they have printed off and bundled the information on the student’s dragon, then the desk unlocks and the students receive the info packet the same way they have for all their previous quests. When Kaden opens his desk, however, instead of the one thin packet like the rest of his classmates, Kaden pulls two thick folders from his desk. The young man looks around; catching the teacher’s eye Kaden lifts the two files and a questioning face. The teacher signals for Kaden to see him after class. Kaden sets the files down on his desk and waits for the last name and a set of numbers to be called. Kaden looks over the first file the name on the tab is ‘Dracareas, A’ the contents of the file are physical statistics on both the human and draconic versions of the dragon the student is going to face.

Kaden recognizes the name on the paperwork, he will be fighting his best friend tomorrow; he briefly looks at the front of the second file, the title of the second file is identical. Kaden slides the second file under the first and continues to read his friend’s statistics.

The first page is very basic information such as height, weight and colors; accompanied by a student ID photo and a snapshot of Aerouant in dragon form. The second page is far more technical. Information about Aerouant’s human physicality, maximum weight lift and weapon proficiencies; are printed in correlation to draconic qualities such as the down force of his wings and the heat of his fire. Aerouant is a member of the largest and most graceful of the dragon types, a great drake.

  By this time, the last of the students have collected their files and left. Kaden stands from his seat at the back of the class and approaches the teacher. As the wizened old man sees Kaden, walking to the front of the class his face falls into a look of despair and almost physically pained. Kaden reaches the front of the class and greats the old man, and then proceeds to ask the meaning of the two files.

“Well, my boy.” The old man says with a sigh, “you were paired my Magister Veramore, it was his last pairing before his passing. He must have seen the great power you have displayed here in you even when you were small, that is why you have been paired with two great drakes.”

Kaden, a bit taken aback looks at the files in his hand. “You mean to tell me I am to face both Aerouant and Anna Dracareas tomorrow?”

The old instructor sighs and looks pityingly at Kaden, “I am afraid so, you show great promise; there is still a chance for you.”

Kaden thanks the teacher and begins to leave the class, as he reaches the door the instructor calls after him. “Remember boy, the heat of a dragon’s fire will only double if you sit in it too long.” With that, Kaden walks from the room, entirely mortified.

As Kaden walks out the front door of the academy for the first time in two weeks, he sees his friend Aerouant the dragon is sitting on the steps waiting for him, when he sees Kaden he jumps up and waves his file, “Hey man, we are going to get mad quests after tomorrow.” The young man smiles as he stands to meet his friend, but the bleak look on Kaden’s face gives him pause.

“Yeah, but only if I’m still alive after tomorrow.” Kaden manages a small smile for his friend.

“What do you mean? The only thing I’m worried about is me passing my test after you kick my ass.” Aerouant pushes his long hair from his eyes and his pupils grow, from tight four pointed stars to big ovals when Kaden lifts the two files in his hand.

“It’s not you I’m worried about, no offense.” Kaden tosses his friend the two files, “I’m more worried about your sister roasting my face off.”

“Oh, hell… you drew both of us?” Aerouant flips open both of the files.

“Good old Magister Veramore, I am so dead.” Kaden takes the files back and drops them back into his bag.

“All is not lost, my friend.” Aerouant slaps his friend on the back and starts to walk down the steps, “I’ll come back to your folks’ with you and we can practice, I know a Magister who will open a training ground for us.”

“You are okay with that? That would be a major help, man.” Kaden jumps on the railing and slides down the stairs, rolling to his feet at the bottom. “I’ll drive.”

Aerouant jumps from the steps and glides to the ground, the air under his arms shimmers and seems to catch the air. As he nears the ground, the shimmer under his right arm disappears and he drops the last couple of feet. He lands in a crouch and looks at his right hand a rune on his hand flickers then shines bright again. The young man balls up his fist, then snaps his hand open again, the rune flares and three-inch talons extend from his fingernails. Aerouant shrugs it off and runs to catch up with his friend.

Kaden makes the parking lot just before his friend. Standing at the front of an empty parking spot, he clears and sharpens his mind. Starting with the thin front wheel and proceeding back, a sleek street motorcycle starts to come together from pieces of armor. Twin sword hilts that form the grips are the last things to appear.

As Aerouant rounds the corner and sees the bike, a muffled curse crosses his lips. He walks gingerly up to the thing. “You sure this thing is safe? I always thought they were death traps.”

Kaden pulls a helmet into existence and hands it to his friend, “if it makes you feel better I will buy a car tomorrow if I don’t die.” He pulls his slant jawed helm into being and straps it under his chin, “This is plenty safe if you know what you are doing, and I do.”

The two men speed down the freeway away from the academy, which is in the middle of an old shale quarry, towards their hometown, a small place with a population of less than one thousand people. It is the kind of place with a grocer, a diner, a smithy and not much else.

Next Chapter: 2: Armor