Waking early in order to prepare, I quietly gathered the belongings of mine that I would need, including a tiny dagger that had belonged to my mother. It may have been small, but it was just as useful in a fight as any other weapon. I didn’t try to get into many fights anymore, but as a youngster I had not got along with the older boys who also had lived in those outskirts of the city. They mocked me for my lack of height, or the fact that I always had to help my father with work, whilst the other girls were able to sing and dance, or be taught how to be a woman by their mothers.
I never knew my mother, and so never knew how a girl should act; I never knew not to threaten rough boys, or to not attack someone with a knife when their back was turned.
In fact, by not knowing my mother, I didn’t know who I was, either.
It was from those same boys that I first heard about the Dragon Riders. They talked about how great it would be to get away from the outskirts of Ol’sima and really get involved with the city’s life, as its protectors. A couple of the boys had tried, but had been stopped by their family’s lack of sufficient income; fifty coins was the money of royalty to a carpenter, or a grocer, or musician, or even a peasant of the land…but not to a farm girl. I had started to scrounge and save up every penny I earned from that day until this. Although we lived in a tiny rural area, my father’s skills (with a hammer and over magic) had made him a popular name in the surrounding districts. I was only his helper and trainee to healing of animals (which was originally my mother’s business), but I was given four silver coins every month as ‘pocket’ money from my father. It was just enough (combined with the bits and pieces I gathered from our family’s money-stash) to amount to fifty gold pieces over the years.
I fetched the silver coin that Mr. Romallson had given me from under my pillow and slipped it into the pocket of my waistcoat, just in case I became hungry, or there was a hold-up along the way. Hopefully, I’d repay my father before he noticed that I’d failed to pass the money along to him.
As I was slotting the bag of gold pieces into my travel-sack, I could smell cooking wheat-water brew that my father ate for breakfast. Even though the sun had not yet peeped over the horizon, my father was up and about. Once a week, he rose before me, and set off on a full-day trip to deal with a couple of clients who lived not in Ol’sima. He then left me to deal with any local business that occurred in this less busy time of the week.
Luckily for me, it was the perfect opportunity to leave without being questioned- and the day had coincided nicely with the beginning of the Dragon Trials.
Soon, I had packed, and soon the sounds of my father leaving on his mount filled the quiet dawn air. I grabbed a roll of crispy bread (the baker was my father’s best friend, and so we got deliveries of fresh bread on a regular basis) and a flask of watered-wine, and I was ready to go; I would eat as I travelled as there was little time to dilly-dally.
I saddled up Perrie for her first journey, and carefully climbed onto her back. The young horse was reluctant, but I coaxed her in the same way that I first did with Stallon: soft words and a coupe of treats. Checking that I had everything and the doors were locked so no scoundrel could steal our stuff, I set off into the main part of Ol’sima.
When I arrived around midday, the village was full of weary travellers, like me, vendors spread across the streets, and those who had come for the fun of seeing people attempt the Dragon Trials. They flocked noisily across the road ahead and showed me exactly where I need to venture: a large green field, similar in size to the paddock at the farm.
Eyes turned as I urged Perrie forward through the crowds, it seemed that horses were not common in the centre of Ol’sima, but I ignored them and the pounding of my heart, making sure that the foal wasn’t hurt manoeuvring through. Finally, as I reached their entrance, a cheer erupted from the grounds.
I was late and the Trials had already started. Well, at least I was there at last.