Darom picked at his breakfast lazily. He was getting ready for his first day at school and the prospect did not excite him. Having turned 13 only two days previously, under the laws laid down by his father all children had to undergo mandatory schooling at the gurukul until they turned eighteen. His father looked at him and smiled, "Delaying facing your fears doesn't get rid of them you know."
"I'm not scared of school."
"Then why are you taking half an hour over a breakfast that you usually have to be told not to wolf down in ten minutes?"
"It's just that I've never ventured out of the castle, and now all of a sudden I'm going to be put in a room with all sorts of creatures!"
"Now, now, let's not talk about them like that. For all you know, you're a "creature" to them too. If you're going to be king someday, you need to look at everybody as the same. Because they are. Is this what I've taught you?"
Darom's mother intervened," Come on, honey, you know he's scared of confined places! Don't worry Darom you'll be just fine. The minute you feel like you don't want to be there anymore, step right out and call for the Mado beast. Come right home if you feel uncomfortable!"
"Lenna he's only going for a few hours a day!"
"You let my baby decide and stop pressurising him before you give him a panic attack!"
Darom decided that for the peace of the house he should just leave. He got up with a sigh. "Okay I think I'm ready to go now."
Outside the castle a Mado beast floated gently to the ground. The Mado was a lumbering beast with thick gray skin that took a few arrows to pierce and a four short legs on which it supported itself. Its body was long, with a long tail at the back and a neck that extended out in front for almost a fourth of the body length of the beast. Two giant leathery wings came up out of its shoulders, with a wooden seat in between where the rider sat. The rider held the reins which went around the mouth of the beast. The peculiar thing about Mado beasts was that at the end of the neck was a wide mouth topped by two tiny nostrils, but the Mado beast had no eyes. It had been bred in captivity ever since recorded history as a beast with no eyes, though omnivorous, could not survive in the wild. It was a purely domestic animal, reared in stables for those who could afford the luxury of traveling by air. Historians and biologists had long laboured over the question of how the beast had come into domestication. Once many years ago Naturalist protesters had broken into a stable and released nineteen beasts. Fourteen had refused to move, while another five had been rescued in a state of absolute despair, hungry and making plaintive calls for their masters, stumbling into various obstacles. Without the guidance of their riders taking to the air had not even occurred to them, testament to the small size of their brains.
Darom entered the carriage that was tied to the underside of the beast and braced himself for his first day at school.
"Bye, love, and be sure to watch out for those vampyres!" His mother called out.
"Vampyres? What Vampyres? I thought they were all dead!" Darom exclaimed, suddenly alarmed.
"Don't scare the boy now. Darom, remember we talked about Vampyres and the Great War? About how the Seven Kings fought the Dark Lord and his Vampyre army and we defeated them? I've taught you all about them." His father said. Darom had never left the castle in all his thirteen years barring visits to family, and then too he had been confined to their castle grounds.
"Yes but you told me they were all defeated and the threat was completely neutralized!"
"Yes it was. So you don't need to worry about anything. You'll meet some in class. But don't worry they won't be able to harm you."
As the Mado gently lifted up into the sky, a rush of air accompanying each flap of its immense wings, Darom watched his mother waving a tearful goodbye from the ground, and wondered how school would be.