When I woke I was disappointed to discover that the new rider had survived the night with his dragon. In the nicest possible way I had been hoping that he wouldn't have made it through the night and Skade would have had to reconsider me as the next rider. Instead I was going to have to put my plan into action.
Vell and I exchanged glances over breakfast, silently telling each other what we planned to do.
"Have you girls got any plans for today?" The King asked familiarly as we ate.
"Nothing in particular," Vell lied smoothly. "I thought we might go for a walk seeing as it's such a fine day."
"What a wonderful idea," the King replied, standing from his chair. "I must leave you girls now. I have some business to attend to."
I hastily stood up as the King kissed his daughter on the forehead and left the room. I sat again once the door closed and we were alone. After a moment I burst into giggles and was quickly joined by Vell.
"What's so funny?" She asked.
"I don't know," I gasped. "Just the way you lied like that. He never suspected a thing!"
"That was the idea! Anyway, what do we do now?" Vell asked, lowering her voice to a half-whisper. "What's your master plan?"
"I've bribed the guard at the back gate to let us out and say he never saw us. He's a good man and I trust him. The really tricky bit will be getting to the back gate without anyone spotting us."
"So what do you suggest we do?"
"Meet me in the stables in your normal riding clothes and with a set of men's clothes hidden in a saddlebag."
"What are the men's clothes for?"
"You can't expect to tame a dragon in a dress," I said, smiling at the thought of the adventure that stretched out before us. "But if we ride out in men's clothes someone will know something is going on. And don't tell anyone about what we're doing."
"Should we leave a message? So no one worries about us when they discover we're not where we should be."
"I have no one here who will worry about me other than the King. You should leave him a note in your room telling him where we're going and why. Maybe that'll make him see that women should have the same chance to become riders as men."
"Alright then, I'll meet you in the stables in twenty minutes," Vell said, eagerly getting up from her chair and hurrying towards the door.
I waited a minute or two after she had left and then followed her, going up to my room to change into my riding dress. I also checked I still had the men's clothes I wore for combat training. I put them into a saddlebag I always kept under my bed and walked confidently out of my room and down towards the stables, excitement and nerves building up inside me as the moment drew nearer.
The stables were empty when I walked in and made my way down the stalls towards my horse. Ebony snorted softly when she recognised me. She was my pride and joy, beautiful and good natured. She remained quiet as I gently stroked her nose while I waited for Vell.
She arrived fairly soon after I had and with a saddlebag similar to mine.
"Ready to go?" I asked. She nodded. "Then let's saddle up."