First Chapter to My Original Story
My feet pounded against the forest floor as I ran. I could feel the erratic rhythm of my heart beating in my chest. All I could hear was the huffing and puffing of my breath as I pushed myself to go faster. Yet, there was a smile upon my face. The beautiful greens, yellows, and browns of the forest blended the right way to create one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. The damp dirt from last night's rain mixed with the trees and plants, resulting in the most pleasant aroma that can calm anyone down in an instant.
Today, however, I was not just going for a morning run as usual. Today is the Dragon Choosing Ceremony. The Dragon Choosing Ceremony, or DCC, as I like to call it, only comes around once every five years. It's an all-day event where everyone, no matter their class or work, gets the day off and celebrates the five boys who get chosen to become Dragon Riders. Becoming a Dragon Rider is a great honor, not only to the Rider but also to their families.
My village is broken up into four classes. There is the Dragon Rider class reserved only for the Dragon Rider's family and previous Dragon Riders from Willowdale. There is the upper class for families who are wealthy and have jobs like healers and council members. There's the middle class, which includes the cooks and teachers. Then there's the lower class, which has the families who do the physical labor work like builders and farmers.
It's rare for a boy from a lower-class family to get chosen. The dragons want who they think is worthy. The upper-class boys or other boys from a Dragon Rider family receive the training from previous Dragon Riders because everyone knows that a boy from a lower-class family hardly ever gets chosen. That doesn't mean that a lower-class boy never gets picked. If one does get selected, then their families automatically get moved to the highest class.
Unfortunately, Father doesn't have that chance. Mother passed away from a deadly illness before she was able to have a son. Now, Father raises my two younger sisters and me in our small two-bedroom cottage just outside of Willowdale. He is a builder, the best in my opinion, and works from dawn till dusk. My sisters and I attend school in the morning and keep up on the chores after, just like a woman should. Even though we don't have riches or great fortune, we are all proud to hold the Crestwood name.
I have been fascinated with dragons ever since I was a little girl. Whenever I could get my hands on a book having anything to do with dragons, I would get it. I know that girls never get chosen to be a Dragon Rider, but I still try. I train whenever I get the chance in the forest in the back. I have perfect aim with the bow that Father helped me make. I know that I could be as good as the boys, if not, better.
"Tara, slow down, you know we don't run as fast as you," my little sister, Jade, shouted from behind me.
"Yeah, slow down," Eleanor, my littlest sister, echoed.
"Sorry, sorry, I'm just so excited to see the dragons that come this time. You know how I can get," I apologized.
Father had sent my sisters and me to go ahead of him and save a spot for us. Being the oldest, 15 years, Father put me in charge. Jade is 13 years, and Eleanor is 11 years. Jade, Eleanor, and I all look similar yet different. Jade definitely received her looks from Father. Their ocean blue eyes that change color depending on the light and their personalities sometimes make me think that they're twins. Jade does have some of Mother in her. For example, she got Mother's kind nature and loving spirit. Eleanor, on the other hand, looks a lot like Mother. Sometimes, she can seem like a clone of her. Her dark brown eyes and dark brown hair are exactly the same. Eleanor's face shape is even the same. Eleanor got her personality from both Mother and Father. She's kind and loving, but also stubborn and hard working. Now I don't look like one specific parent. I received traits from both of them. I have brown eyes and Mother's nose, but I have blonde hair like Father, and I got his lips. I have a hard-working and stubborn personality, but I'm caring and loving as well.
"Look, there's the Village Center. We have to hurry, there's almost no room left," Jade pointed out.
We all ran to where everyone was gathered, careful not to ruin our dresses set aside for special events. Luckily we found a spot close to the front with a great view. I kept an eye out for Father so that I could show him where we are. Jade and Eleanor were talking to each other when I spotted Father looking around for us. I raised my hand up and waved it around to get his attention. He spotted me and ran over to us.
"Hello, Father. Isn't this a great view?" I greeted him.
"Yes, it is. Good job, Tara." He smiled at me.
Just after that, the Village Chief, Romek Dunman, walked to the Center. Romek is very handsome and has many of the women in Willowdale swooning over him. He has dark brown, almost black, hair that lays back. He has a very chiseled face and bright blue eyes. He is tall and muscular and looks like a leader, but in my opinion, and Father's, he is very egotistical and self-centered.
"Welcome, everyone, to the Dragon Choosing Ceremony. Will the boys, ages 13 to 17, please come and line up at the front here." All of the boys in that age group made their way to the front. Most tried to put on a brave face, but I could tell by their eyes that they were scared out of their wits, and the others just looked flat-out terrified. "As you all know, the dragons will fly here and land close by, so don't be alarmed. They will then pick a boy whom they think are worthy enough. I don't know what it feels like personally, but I have heard that the boy will feel a pull towards a particular dragon. Now, we don't know what kinds of dragons are coming today because the dragon comes to where they feel their Rider is located."
Just then, a loud roar sounded through the village. I leaned over to Father with a massive smile on my face and whispered in his ear, "They're here."
One by one, the fantastic creatures landed. I could tell what each dragon was except for one. The first dragon that landed was a medium-sized, sky blue, male Eastern Cloud Dragon. They're known for their ability to hide in the clouds. The Eastern and Western Cloud Dragons look similar, but the Eastern Dragons are slightly smaller than the Western ones. I could tell this one was male due to the bulkier build. The second dragon that landed was a large female Tundra Dragon. Her scales were white with blue accents. They're known for their ice breath that can freeze anything, even magma. The third dragon was a deep maroon female, Blaze Dragon. These dragons can breathe fire and fly through intense heat. Their riders get special armor made from their dragon's shed scales that protect them from the heat too. The fourth dragon was a male Terra Dragon. He was light green with yellow around his horns and tail. Terra Dragons are known for flying underground and in forests because their small, slim bodies allow for quick maneuvers between the trees. The final dragon I couldn't tell what it was. I hadn't ever seen a dragon like this in any of my books. Somehow, instinctually I could tell that this dragon was female. She was much bigger than the rest and held an aura of power. She was a beautiful mix of light and dark purples. They blended together in dangerous harmony like a flash of lightning in a thunder storm. For some reason, I felt a slight tugging in the back of my head. It was a comforting presence, so I let it stay there instead of blocking it out. I looked back towards the mystery dragon only to find her staring straight at me.
"Okay, boys, raise your hand if you feel any sort of connection or pull towards a dragon," Romek's voice pulled me out of the staring contest with the dragon.
Slowly, four of the boys raised their hands. I could see out of the corner of my eyes the families of the four boys because they were all silently cheering. I was curious as to why only four did because there were five dragons. I looked over at the purple dragon again to find her still staring at me. It wasn't an awkward stare, though. Somehow, it was comforting. I couldn't put my finger on it. It was a familiar stare.
"Okay, please carefully walk up to the dragon who calls out to you," Romek instructed.
The first boy to gather up enough courage to approach his dragon was a younger boy, 13 or 14 years, I would guess, who had blond hair with bright green eyes. I don't really know anyone's names because I spend all of my time either at home or in the woods, so I couldn't tell what family he was from. By looking at his clothes, though, I could tell that he was middle class. You can quickly determine what class someone is from by the clothes they wear. Higher class families can purchase the better quality fabric. Before he even started walking, I could tell that the Terra Dragon had chosen him. He was slim and built for fast speeds rather than head-on approaches. This set off a domino effect, and the other three boys took a tentative step forward. The Tundra Dragon chose the boy with brown hair and brown eyes. He was about 15 or 16 years and was upper class. The Blaze dragon wanted the boy who had dark red hair and brown eyes. He came from the Dragon Rider class. Both Rider and dragon seemed like the act first, think later type. The Eastern Cloud Dragon chose the final boy who had bronze hair with bright, sky blue eyes. I thought it was suiting for the Eastern Cloud Dragon to pick him.
"There is still one dragon left. Any of the rest of you boys feel a connection?" Romek questioned.
All of the boys shook their heads. They all tried looking at the dragon in the eyes, but she was still looking at me. I shifted slightly to the right, and her head followed. I did the same going to the left and, yet again, her head moved.
"Tara, what are you doing?" Father asked.
"She's looking at me, Father," I replied while holding the dragon's comforting gaze.
Father looked up at the dragon and realized that she was indeed looking at me.
The others around the Village Center must have realized too because a round of gasps and whispers started up. I looked around to see that everyone was looking at me.
"You, young miss, please come up here," Romek instructed me.
I looked to Father to see what he wanted me to do. He gave me a slight push and a gentle, reassuring smile. I looked to Jade and Eleanor and saw them giving me a thumbs up and big smiles as well. I took a deep breath and walked forward toward the Village Chief, nerves pulsing under my skin.
"What's your name?" Romek asked.
"Tara Crestwood," I replied as steadily as I could.
"Ah, a Crestwood. Fine work your father does. Now, do you feel any sort of connection to that purple dragon?" He asked, pointing to the magnificent dragon still staring at me. I could detect a slightly mocking tone to his voice. It was almost as if he was just humoring me.
"Yes, Sir," I answered.
Romek looked very surprised, and a little maddened. "Well, then. Try walking up to it." I nodded and did as told. My entire walk, I kept the dragon's gaze, still trying to figure out where I had seen the type of gaze before. I was aware of everyone staring at me, but I was too focused on the dragon in front of me to care.
When I reached the dragon, which I realized towered over me, she lowered her head and gently put her snout under my hand, and just like that, all of my worries washed away. This was my dragon, and I was her Rider. I let out a soft laugh and started petting her head. Then I realized that her gaze towards me was the same one Mother would give me. I gave her a big hug around her neck, and she wrapped her big head around my back.
"Well, clearly, Tara is the fifth Rider. " Romek's booming voice broke my dragon and me out of our moment.
There was an uproar of protests. Everyone from the village, except for a couple people, was shouting and raising their fists. Families of the other boys were claiming that it should be their son as the Rider. There were many insults thrown my way left and right.
"Go on, son. Connect with the dragon. It's obviously your dragon, not this lying deceitful wench." The deep voice caught me off guard. I hadn't realized that anyone was approaching me.
I turned around to find one of the Dragon Class boys and his father arrogantly strutting my way. The boy smirked at me and went up to my dragon only to have her start growling. Either the boy didn't notice, or he didn't care because his walking didn't stop. He reached his arm up to pet my dragon's snout but was forced to jerk it away when my dragon snapped her massive jaws.
"You stay away from my daughter, Asar!" Father hardly ever got angry, but when he did, it was a truly terrifying sight.
While Father and Mr. Wymer fought, Jade and Eleanor came over to me to make sure I was alright. I didn't really know what to think. She was mine, I knew that, but everyone else was saying that I wasn't a Rider. Were they going to keep me from going? I don't think they could if they tried, but there was still the possibility.
"Tara, are you okay?" Jade looked up at me with wide eyes.
"Yes, yes, I'm perfectly fine." That wasn't really a lie. Physically I was okay. Emotionally, however, I was a wreck.
"Tara," Father's voice was stern but gentle. "I know that look. You are going to the Academy. You are more than capable of making it. Don't listen to them, you are going, and that is final."
Father smiled at me and ushered my sisters back toward our house.
They love you, you know, a woman's voice said in my head, scaring me half to death. Calm, little one, it is just I, Ashara, the voice said. I realized that it was my dragon that spoke to me.
"Will all of the riders, please go pack your belongings, you will be leaving at noon. You are all dismissed, and please, no touching the dragons unless you are their Rider," Romek commanded and, with a heated glare toward me, everyone dispersed.
I will see you in a little while, Ashara, I said and ran to my awaiting family.
See you in a little while, Tara, she replied and laid down.
As soon as I reached my family, I was pulled into a bone-crushing hug from Father.
"I'm so proud of you, Tara. A Dragon Rider, wow. How's it feel?" He asked.
"It feels amazing. Ashara looks at me the way Mother did, Father. I love her already. I can't wait to get to the Academy. Come, I have to pack my bags before noon." I started running towards our house with Father, Jade, and Eleanor behind me.
The next hour was spent gathering my supplies. All of my clothes, personal belongings, and my handmade bow and arrows were packed in a bag. I was given something from each of my family members. Jade gave me her favorite wolf sculpture to keep with me. Eleanor gave me another book of dragons that she got for me. Father gave me a gorgeous dagger with intricate designs on the handle and a perfectly sharpened blade, and a thigh holster that could stay hidden under my tops and dresses for extra protection.
"Tara," Father called me to his room. "There's something else I want you to have."
I walked into his room to find him holding a jewelry box. It was made out of oak wood and had a heart carved out on the top. There was a lock on the front, and I noticed a key with a red ribbon on it in Father's other hand.
"This was your mother's. Right before she died, she told me to give this to you when I felt the time was right, and that this was for your eyes only. No one was allowed to see what was in this box. She told me that I would know when the time was right, and I feel that time is now. Do not open this until you are alone. I assume that they will give you your own room, so I would wait until then." Father handed me the box and key. I carefully placed it in my bag and gave Father a giant hug.
"I'm going to miss you," I whispered with tears in my eyes.
"I'll miss you too. You must promise to write to me every day. I'm not going to lie to you and tell you how it won't be that tough. You're going to be the only girl there, and the other boys will feel threatened by you; don't let them get you down. Hold your head up high. You have trained for this. You're stronger than all of the other boys. You can do this, Tara. You'll do great things. Just wait and see." Father told me. "Okay, you have to go. Say goodbye to your sisters."
I walked out in the main room to find my sisters hugging each other on the chairs. "Oh, Jade, Eleanor, come here."
They wasted no time in running to me.
"We'll miss you, Tara. Please be safe." Jade cried.
"Write to us and come home soon," Eleanor hugged me tighter.
"I will," I whispered, pulling away from them. "I love you guys. Wish me luck."
"Good luck," they all called back.
I walked out of the door and ran back to Ashara. Even with the heavy pack on my back, it was the fastest I've ever run. I was the first to get back to the Center, and I walked up to Ashara. There was someone also approaching her, however.
I'm guessing that he heard my footsteps because he looked over at me. He had a slight stubble on his chin and had an overall rough look to him, though I could see the sweetness in his eyes.
"Hello, you must be Tara," he greeted in his gruff yet gentle voice.
"Yes, Sir," I replied.
"Now, now, none of that 'Sir' stuff. It makes me feel old. Please, call me Anbard. I'm going to be your mentor. She's a beautiful dragon." He smiled.
"Thank you, Anbard. How are we going to be getting to the Academy?" I saw him smile at my question.
"We'll be on Sovi over there." He gestured with his head towards a large, male, storm gray Spark Dragon across the field.
"Now, riding a dragon can be scary at first, but you get the hang of it real quick. All you have to remember is to keep your balance and hold on to the reins." Anbard instructed as he led me over to his dragon
"How come I'm not riding Ashara?" I wondered
"There was an incident some years ago. We used to have the new Riders arrive on their dragons until one kid was thrown off his dragon. You see, a bond needs to be established between Rider and dragon before there is complete trust. The kid was a Dragon Rider Class and thought he knew best. The dragon had yet to trust him. The kid tried to take control of where the dragon was going, and the dragon threw him off. Since then, we don't allow the riding portion of the training to happen until at least the third or fourth lesson has gone by. And even then, it's only a quick hover above the ground then back down." Anbard explained gravely.
I just nodded and smiled as my mentor grabbed my bag from me and handed it to his dragon, who gently set it down on the saddle. Anbard helped me get up on the seat and followed after me quickly, sitting behind me. The entire time, I could feel the glares of the others getting on their mentor's dragons on me.
"Anbard," I spoke up hesitantly, "am I going to do well at the academy?" I couldn't help but let my fears get the better of me. With all of these boys starting at me like I was something disgusting was not fun and made me feel as though I wasn't ready to do this. Father taught me to be strong, but right now, I was weak.
"Don't let the others get you down. You can be the top of your class if you work hard at it. I have no doubt in my mind that you are going to do great things. Now, chin up, shoulders back, and look straight ahead with confidence on your face. Show the boys that you mean business." Anbard grabbed the reins and told me to hold on as well.
I took a deep breath, put my shoulders back, and put a confident look on my face. I was almost faking it, but one look at Ashara beside us, and I knew that I didn't have to. She would be there with me, and I would be there with her. After a smile and telling Anbard I was ready, Sovi leaped gracefully off the ground, and I was airborne.