August 1, 2011

Dragon Baine, First 1000 Words

Kalli was damned uncomfortable.

The carriage was stifling. She’d crossed the desert before she could walk, and yet this green country could choke her with one badly made carriage. “I don’t understand, Fareed. Why would anyone build a carriage this way?”

Fareed was as calm as ever. “They enclose their carriages to keep out the rains that so often come, and the cold in the winter. Some have a second, open carriage for summer, but it is considered a luxury. It is possible the Academy does not own any.” Kalli exchanged a look with Fareed’s baine, a coyote named Janan. Janan was lying on the floor, panting with the sticky heat.

Far above the carriage, Kalong sensed his human’s mood. *I don’t know what you are complaining about, Kalli. The air here is wonderful.*

*This from the baine who can shoot fire out his mouth. And you’re flying, you fool.* Kalli flexed her whiskers, hoping to sense a break in the weather, but the stagnant air of the carriage prevented her from feeling much of anything. *Kalong, tell me this moisture will be gone soon?*

*Sorry, I don’t have much practice reading the weather this far north. It feels stable, though.*

“We have arrived, Kalli.”

Suddenly it was hard to breathe. “Fareed-” The stately older man smiled.

“It’s just another journey, flameling. You’ve been living among your mother’s people your whole life, partially because of your father’s love and respect for her memory. Give your father’s people a chance.” He kissed her gently on the brow. “We will miss you, and you will make us proud.”

Kalli stared at him, eyes wide to stop the tears. It had finally caught up with her; she was leaving everyone. Her distant father; Fareed, her uncle by honor if not by blood; all the aunts and cousins they visited along the trade routes. And the worst of it was that she didn’t understand what she was leaving it for. She clenched her fists.

Fareed watched her reach the edge, and pull back. He’d watched over Kalli since birth, when her father was nearly comatose with her mother’s death. It was a pleasure to see the woman she had become, to see her draw on that inner strength and calm her temper. He knew she didn’t accept their reasons for sending her away, and even as he kept the secret, he admired both her intuition and her control. It would keep her alive, if it came to that.

Kalli glanced out the carriage window and saw a page waiting. “I’ll miss everyone, Fareed, but I’ll miss you and Janan the most.” She smiled, and if it was not quite a happy smile, it was at least not shameful tears. Kalong spoke to the driver’s sparrow baine, who spoke to the driver, and he stepped down to open the carriage door.

She turned and met Fareed’s eyes one last time, then stepped out of the carriage. When she looked up, she was startled to see Kalong chasing the page around the courtyard, galloping like a puppy.

“Kalong!” He turned to look at her and ran straight into a wall. Kalli couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry, he looked so awkward.

“It’s all right miss!” The page peeked out from behind a bust of some dignified old man, a small red eyed frog perched on his shoulders. “He told Moll here it would make you feel better!” He blinked, once normally and once with what Kalli guessed were frog eyelids. Kalli just shook her head.

“If you would be so kind, Kalong, I believe we need to meet the Dean?” Kalli glanced behind her, grinning, but the carriage was gone. Suddenly Kalong was beside her, a glowing red presence at the edge of her vision.

*Let’s not be late, then,* he said, cheeky as ever.

Lord Rupert, Dean of Studies at the Royal Academy of the Kingdom of Erne, was annoyed. He’d misplaced the letter recommending his newest student to the Academy, and while he did not strictly need it for this introduction, Lord Rupert never misplaced things. He liked things to be organized, and organization did not lead to truant letters. He’d already checked his office exactly three times while his baine watched in silence. Nothing seemed out of place, but the letter was unmistakably gone. He sighed and fingered the hem of his perfectly pressed robe. A brash knock at the door announced the return of Paul, the most rambunctious of the Academy’s pages.

“Lord Rupert, Dean of Studies, and crane Shella, may I present Miss Kalli of Aeson, and the dragon Kalong!” he announced with pride. Kalli curtsied.

“Yes, thank you Paul. Please, do be seated, miss.” Kalli sat slowly, a little uncertain in the full skirts of her northern style dress. Kalong sat beside her, looking like a footman at attention, or a particularly well trained dog. Kalli stifled a smile and kept her face properly demure.

Lord Rupert was somewhat surprised at her appearance. He’d studied the customs of Aeson, and had fully expected her to be wearing the embarrassingly revealing feminine garb of that country. Instead she wore a green satin gown with traces of golden vines embroidered around the hems, something any court beauty would be proud to own.

“I see your father has prepared you for life in his native country?”

Kalli bristled at his tone. “As much as a humble merchant might, my Lord.”

The Dean dismissed that with a wave of his hand. “While certain niceties of class are observed at the Academy, we pride ourselves on admitting the most talented students of any origin. However, that has not previously included foreigners. I must admit, I’m a little uncertain just what to do with you.


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