Their mountain guide landed at head of the column. He was a green dragon of elegance and purpose and his rider was young woman dressed in skintight leather. She carried a sword whose scabbard rode across her back. The dragon-head hilt that showed over her left shoulder gleamed with gold and precious gems – although Adam was willing to bet that the blade would be razor sharp steel with a blood channel running from hilt to tip. It came to his mind that the stark plainness of his own short sword with its gleaming blade and leather-wrapped hilt threw the difference in their status into sharp relief – even if his armament, along with his utilitarian leather breastplate, greaves and vambraces, should have told anyone with eyes to see that he was a fighting sort of soldier.
The dragon rider stepped lightly to the ground and Adam saluted. The woman grinned tautly.
“You got them all here in one piece then. Well done sergeant. Do they know what happens now?”
“No ma’am. Which is one of the reasons I got them all this far.”
The dragon rider’s grin grew positively vicious. “This could be where we get our first dropouts then.” She turned a pair of eyes as green as her dragon on the preening acolytes. “Right then. This is where we stop pussyfooting around. Here’s the deal. Brightstar and I are here to guide you through the mountains. But…” She managed the dramatic pause so well that Adam thought it practised. “But. There will be tests along the way. Starting right now. Dismount.” The last word had quite the cutting edge of a sword and all but one of the acolytes scrambled to obey. The dragon rider curled her lip.
“Is there something wrong with your hearing?”
“Give me one reason why I should obey a mere woman.”
She sighed, and her dragon stretched his neck so that his blunt, saurian head was close to the face of the arrogant priestling.
“Dissssmount,” he hissed, “my rider sssspeaksss for me.”
The acolyte fainted. One of his peers poked him with a toe.
“He’s down now.”
But nobody laughed.
The dragon rider carried on as if there had been no interruption. “From here on you walk. Anything you need, you carry.” She took something from the back of the dragon and walked among the staring young men dropping a backpack at the feet of each. “You have five minutes to pack. Starting now.”
After a second of stunned immobility there was an undignified scramble.
From’Dragon Riders’ by Jane Jago just one of over twenty Game Lit stories by as many authors in Rise and Rescue – Volume One. All profits from the Rise and Rescue anthologies go to support wildlife devastated by the Australian wildfires.