Chapter 2- Uncertain Fates
I walked with the other graduates, our green graduation robes smelling faintly of sweat, through the wooden gates to the athletic stadium. The great bowl-shaped arena was, contrasting to the packed graduation hall, devoid of people. Then, everyone gasped at who did fill the stadium rows. Dragons!
Even one real dragon would be enough to impress us all, but here were more than a hundred, hovering over the stadium benches. Their aerodynamic, color-shifting hides glimmered with festive colors and patterns. Some had encouraging messages scrawled among the scales by both Riders and some of the more literate dragons.
Behind the dragons' crests, the protective sheaths were flared out like great petals. Some even had a second sheath, showing which Riders were married to a chronicler or other non-Rider.
As we stood with wide eyes and gaping jaws, like a bunch of deep sea eels, the dragons and Riders flitted down to the field. You might think that flitting is too small a word for so large a creature. However, there are not many better words for the incredibly quick dashes dragons make through the air. Gliding is too slow and graceful of a word to describe dragons when they move fast. Dragons can accelerate to breakneck speeds instantaneously, stop just as quick, and turn very sharp corners without losing momentum, and the Riders suffer none of the jerks and yanks associated with ordinary movement. So Riders, protected by their dragons' unique control over local inertia, tend to fly what appear to be dangerous and erratic patterns for fun.
The beaming dean began a quick speech he had no-doubt rehearsed many years over for every graduating class.
"Graduates of 3025, I must say to you all, well done! You have traveled the paths of knowledge in your four years at Dragon Scale High with an admirable dilligence and contagious passion for the great subject which is dragonkind." Here he pauses for the applause, cheering and whoops of all of us in the crowd of graduates. When we quiet down, he continues. "But here and now, you will begin journeys on new paths, determined by the very creatures you have studied and admired for probably your whole lives." To this, we are all dead silent, the weight of his words sinking in.
This is it. This is the day we are judged by the dragons, our future careers and status in society determined by their choice. That universal hope flickers a bit next to the cold reality that we can't all be Riders. There are only fifty of us and less than a quarter will be chosen.