Surprising and Not Quite

Chapter 3- Suddenly, Completely Alone

The dean steps back and bows out of view as the oldest dragon and Rider approach. The dragon's hide is a bright white with subtle, spiraling green and blue patterns, and his eyelines are complex with age. It's hard to tell where a dragon is looking because dragons don't have eyeballs. Their eyes are multifaceted lines of lenses which grow in symmetrical lines around their face, giving them a greater field of view as they age.

The Rider dismounts from the hovering dragon, and stands alongside to take in the crowd face to face. He is old like his dragon, but he is still as limber and alert as any Rider. His eyes are blue-green under short white hair and flick attentively to meet each of our own. He speaks clearly and with years of confidence.

"It's feels good to be here with you all today. To see off the next generation. I wish the best for all of you. But, as your dean pointed out, we are here to judge you. And, as you know, a dragon is the best judge of character and aptitude. So, this is how it works; you will step up and tell me your name, my dragon, Emerald, will tell me his judgement, and I will tell you. Some of you will have more than one aptitude. In such cases I will tell them to you, in order of best to worst strength, for your personal choice."

This brings a few murmurs from the silent crowd around me. Apparently, it isn't such a cut-and-dry decision as we thought. We had been prepared to accept, however reluctantly or happily, whatever fate we had in store. Now the new possibility of choice stirs the crowd of graduates.

One by one, the graduates step up. De-Teral: a keeper. Keepers are responsable for housing and tending to the dragons of wayfaring Riders. De-Tagin: a chronicler. A few people clap and smile at this because, as far as careers go, chronicler is considered a close second to rider.

The job of a chronicler is to record the life of a single Rider, which entails following their travels everywhere and becoming very familiar with their personality and past. This close familiarity tends to result in a lot of marriages between Rider and chronicler, allowing the chronicler to come along for the ride and become more intimately familiar with the Rider and his or her life. De-Tagin could be the lucky bride of a Rider someday, and she is beaming as she steps away.

De-Taleo chose medic over keeper. Everything seemed to be nice and smooth until De-Tecma stepped up.

"Aero-engineer, crystal-theorist, or medic." Three choices, any one of which was quite good. But De-Tecma sputters and frowns for reasons he thinks are good enough.

"B-but what about Rider? I could be a rider, Right?! Everyone from my great-grandfather to my parents were Riders. There must be a mistake!"
Emerald gives a growl deeper and more nerve-piercing than any of us thought possible, shocking De-Tecma into silence. We all know from classes that Ridership isn't hereditary, but nobody says it aloud. It isn't necessary.

The End

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