Copyright 2004 Julie Weathers-All rights reserved
She heard the whirring wings before she saw the burst of color settle between Silverwing’s ears. The horse shook his head impatiently sending black mane, mourning bells and one small fairy dragon into the air.
“You know he hates it when you ride on his poll.”
The dragon fluttered his wings furiously and huffed a tiny puff of smoke at the horse. The horse responded with a brief flick of his ear.
“If you had trained him properly he would behave. Stubborn beast.”
“He’s trained quite well; he just doesn’t like you perching near his ears. Come sit on my shoulder.”
“I don’t like your shoulder. I especially don’t like it when you’re wearing your fish hide armor. It’s hard to get a firm grip.”
“Then fly, Teryn. There’s a reason you were blessed with wings.”
“If I wanted to fly all the time, I would be a bird. I’m not a bird, I’m a dragon.”
She glanced over at the iridescent creature. “Forgive me, my friend, but you are much closer to a hummingbird than a true dragon.”
He snorted another puff of smoke in obvious disdain. “Shows what you know about dragons. I’ll sit on your shoulder, but I’m not going to talk to you until you get that beast under control and let me ride up there.”
“Well, I will see what I can do about training him better one day. Until then, enjoy the ride.”
True to his word the fairy dragon sat in silence, preening his scales. Maija looked at him for a moment and then away when he ignored her. There was something different about him. Her attention drifted to the scenes about her. Training in the arena stopped as students turned to watch her ride past. She could almost hear the subdued whispers. Sister Katran straightened from her work in the herb garden. She put her hands on her ample hips and stretched her back. Maija watched her pristine white apron flutter in the breeze. Why did it remind her of a woman waving her scarf in farewell to her champion? “I’ll be home tonight,” she said to no one in particular. /I hope./
She shook the doubts from her head. A group of initiates were digging a new irrigation canal to the gardens. Bonnley Creek had changed course and shrunk since last year, making the old irrigation systems useless. She had cut down on the water to the hay meadows and it showed. The clover should be lush and ready to cut by now, but it was dull and stunted. They would be lucky to get two cuttings this time and that wouldn’t be enough if they had another harsh winter.
She saluted the captain at the gatehouse as she passed by. The two young guards stood at attention, but she saw them look at each other with unspoken questions. Word of what she was doing had spread across the academy like wild fire most likely.
A work detail was laboring in the sun further down the road. Wood clearing gangs were normally long finished by now, but the death toll had been unusually heavy in the forest last winter. The dead trees would be cleared not only for the lumber, but also to cut down on fire fodder. The trees, like the clover and the pastures looked muted. The brilliant green of their early summer foliage was a softer, less vibrant color than she had ever seen. It was like looking at the landscape through a dingy veil. The land almost seemed sick.
She blinked as a brilliant light flashed in her eyes. “If you do that again, I’m going to feed you to a troll.”
The fairy dragon snorted and flapped a multi-colored wing in the sun, blinding her again. Untrue to his word he responded. “Trolls know better than to eat fairy dragons. We flutter around inside them and give them indigestion for weeks. And gas, lots of gas. Even other trolls don’t want to be around a troll after he’s eaten one of us. Sheka cats are the only things who can eat us with any degree of comfort.”
“Then I will feed you to a sheka cat.”
The tiny dragon snorted in derision. “You know there are no more of them.”
She looked at the pompous little creature again. Her brow creased as she studied him. “I thought you weren’t talking to me?”
He stopped smoothing a scale and cocked his head sideways. “I decided you’ve suffered enough.”
She chuckled. “Thank you. I hate suffering.”
“I know. You’re an elf. Dragons, on the other hand, are used to suffering. It’s our lot in life.”