“Ug” Skade broke the silence. “Liigro, whip that man into shape. Puking at the sight of his dragon. Disgraceful!”
She turned around her boots echoing back down the corridor as Nayne quickly followed her. Ragta ignored Skade’s departure, preferring instead to study the retching man.
“That was quick” Ragta remarked full of curiosity about her new Rider.
“Finding expendable ones always is,” Nayne responded without emotion.
Ragta stepped forward and reached out her neck and very gently sniffed the man. He jumped as he spun, winching as his right foot bore weight. Ragta turned a curious eye to study him.
“Day isn’t getting any younger,” Liigro moved his rotund body forward. “Out with ye to Camp.” Ragta ignored him. She didn’t even know her rider’s name yet. “NOW!” Liigro roared with the practice of many years as a task master.
“But he is hurt,” Ragta broadcasted.
“Hurt, smurt.” Wallace smirked as he and the green Toonick followed Liigro out of the caverns. “I’ll hurt him more if he doesn’t perform well in Camp.”
“TALKING IS FOR THE WEAK,” Liigro bellowed. “NOW WALK!”
Whatever Ragta’s rider had said Liigro had drowned out, but he was standing and began following Wallace and Toonick. Despite the hurt she had noticed early he was walking fairly defiantly. A little of Ragta’s sadness slipped away as she noted his annoyed muttering.
As they exited into the sunlight Ragta could see more of her new Rider. He was of a stockier build than her last rider. Her throat caught as she compared the two and she had to swallow a few times. Maybe it was too soon. She eyed the man again. His hair was unkepmt and long. A soft breath from her puffed it into his face. Ragta’s eyes smiled at his glance back an additional mutterings.
“I am Rhagtan Chanu Gwynt, but you can call me Ragta. What is your name?”
“Forget introductions,” Liigro commanded as he threw a saddle at her Rider, “and get on her and ride!”
“Ride?” The man looked at the saddle then at the Ragta, who had crouched low to the ground.
“Afraid of a little air are you?” Wallace laughs as he deftly tightened the buckles around Toonick’s waist.
“I ain’t afraid of anything,” the man growled as he threw the saddle onto Ragta’s back. She arched up so he could fasten the harness, muttering as he did so. She thought she heard the word horse, which reminded her she should eat soon.
“Hold on Rider.” Ragta moved to the edge of the cliff.
“That’s right, don’t learn his name, it’ll be easier for you when you lose him.” Toonick and Wallace laughed as he jumped off the cliff.
“I won’t lose him!” Ragta roared back as she launched herself into the air after the pair.
“The name’s Nickolai!” the man upon shouted into the wind, but Ragta barely heard him as she strained to keep up with Toonick.
Ragta landed just moments after Toonick, but still too slow for Liigro. “MOVE IT!” His orders were clearly directed at them. “Leave that Saddle ON. RAGTA to POST A.” Liirgo moved his bulk closer to Nickolia, where he had to look up into the other man’s eyes. “We’re going to do a little obstacle course. Wallace and Toonick will be doing it in tandem. NOW BEAT IT!”
“More like eat it,” Wallace laughs as he and Toonick took their places at Post B.
“He does look tasty” Toonick remarked leering at Nickolia.
“My rider!” Ragta snapped back, a burst of flame emphasizing her point.
“Watch out or you’ll cook him like the last one!”
Liigro’s shrill whistle interrupted them and Ragta lunged forward onto the course.
All she thought about was paying back Wallace for his comment. It wasn’t like she meant to cook her rider. She’d misjudged the wind. Ragta was so furious she ran her nose into the giant door.
“WHERE’S YOUR RIDER RAGTA, FORGOT HIM ALREADY DID YOU THINK THIS WAS A SOLO COURSE!” Liigro’s voice rang in her ears.
Laughter floated back from ahead of her as she carefully moved backwards out of the short, but narrow cavern.
“Watch it!” Nickolai cried out as she nearly tread upon him.
“Crawl under me, you have to open the door.” Ratga raised her belly as high off the ground as she.
And so the course went. They never stayed together; one in front of the other at any given time. The flying parts were worse. Ragta was half afraid of Nickolai falling off. Occasionally as she’d come out of a roll it’d feel as though he wasn’t there. She nearly ran into a rock once trying to check. But his iron clamp upon her would reassert itself and she’d try to go faster.
All the while Liigro yelled at them as Wallace and Toonick taunted them. They were slow, they were lost, they were alone.
At last the end appeared and Ragta dragged herself out and flopped upon the ground.
“Loose him, Runt?” Toonick leered.
Ragta snapped at him, but Nickolai wasn’t that far behind.
“YOU CALL THAT TEAM WORK?” Liigron screamed from his perch. “I CALL THAT PATHETIC. FLY YOUR BUTS BACK TO THE START. I WANT TO SEE YOU WORKING TOGETHER!”
“Come Toonick.” Wallace grinned. “We didn’t even break a sweat that round, let’s beat them again.”
Five more times Liigro made Ragta and Nickolai do the course and five more times Toonick and Wallace beat them. At least the last time she and Nickolai had closed the gap.
Liigro snorted at them. “You might make a team, eventually.”
“If they survive bonding,” Wallace laughed.
“Good luck Runt,” Toonick hissed, flame licking about his lips.
Ragta let her head drop to the floor. She was exhausted and it looked like they were going to be bonded tonight.