This is likely from around 2000, and it’s definite cringe for me – I’m putting this out there in the name of entertainment! You can tell I was reading the Dragonriders series at the time, and I can see some of S’ian and an early incarnation of Toru in the characters, but…oh dear. I wonder if I’m going to look back on my current writing in seventeen years time and have the same reaction?
The people in the street gaped up at the sentry who shouted, then turned to gaze at the sky. Within a few seconds, the whisper spread throughout the city, the trickle turning into a stream. It spread through the households like fire, engulfing everyone in its path. The news reached the centre of the city within a minute and sent servants running. People rushed out of their houses to stare at the two patches of shimmering colour in the sky. When the lord of the city had the news brought to him by a flustered servant, he blinked several times in surprise, then hurriedly gave several shouted orders to his functionaries and sent them scurrying. All through the city, the trickled news turned into a stream, then into a river as more and more people stopped what they were doing and hurried towards the walls.
High up on the two great beasts, the dragonriders watched as a stream of people poured out of the gates and up onto the walls. A glance passed between the riders, and the dragons began to spiral lower and lower towards the green fields outside the city walls.
The lord of the city was worried as he rode towards the gates. Sitting in his carriage, he could see the air of excitement on the peoples’ faces. It was like a celebration, he mused. But the dragons were living legends, as the riders did not visit the country very often. He had only seen them once before in his lifetime. It was a great honour to be visited by the riders. But all the same, it had only been, what, 20 orbits since they visited last? They must have some reason for coming again so soon. They couldn’t have…The Lord found that he was nervously fingering the great gold ring of office on his finger and tried to calm himself. The carriage passed through the gates and came to a stop on the edge of the crowd. The lord dismounted, and despite himself, gazed upwards with the crowd to watch as the two dragons circled closer and closer.
As the dragons came closer to the field and the waiting crowd, the riders could see the carriage drive up and the man, ridiculously small from this height, step out. The rider of the silver dragon, a young elf-girl, patted its side, as if in sympathy to something it had said. A glance passed between her and the boy riding the golden dragon, and although no sound passed between them, they seemed to speak to each other.
–They are expecting us, Ben–
–Did you expect anything less? It is good that the sentries were alert-
-Yes, but do they know why we are really here? –
-We have to have a purpose…we don’t visit for fun, Cian. –
-Agreed, but we must be alert. They will be expecting a reason-
The gold dragon turned its head to the youth riding it.
-They are scared of us, Ben. Raider says that the people have not seen beasts like us much. Why do we scare them? –
-Don’t worry, it’s not your fault. –
– And Raider says please pay attention. We are landing soon-
-Tell her we know what we’re doing, Manooth-
They turned back to watch the city as they circled closer.
As the dragons came in to land, the lord could see them close up for the first time. They were truly magnificent. Their skins shone in the sunlight and their wings spread the full width of the gatehouse. The lord noted that although both dragons had other colours shimmering faintly along their wings and ridges, the gold dragon had more pronounced highlights of red on the tips of the wings, claw sheaths and all along the back ridges. The silver dragon only had a few faint green highlights, but the eyes of both dragons glittered like diamonds. They swooped in, and the lord could clearly hear the gasps of apprehension and feel the crowd pull back as the dragons flew straight towards the city walls. Then they suddenly backwinged with a blast of air and settled to the ground just in front of the exited crowd. The sigh was audible as the dragons furled their wings with a rustling sound like the wind. The crowd drew back as both riders dropped to the ground and one walked towards the Lord. The other turned towards the dragon and reached up to stroke the lowered head. The crowd cautiously drew in to get a closer look.
The boy up on the walls, hidden out of sight from the people on the ground, had watched with the crowd as the dragons flew in and landed. As he saw the riders dismount, he craned forward over the wall to see more clearly. He saw the boy walk forward to meet the Lord of the city. His gaze flicked to the Lord and back to the rider. The drab riding clothes of the riders contrasted sharply with the clothes of the richly dressed ruler, but he saw how the boy walked with an air of poise and confidence that both the riders had. It was obvious against with the slight nervousness of the Lord’s stance. Why was the Lord so nervous? But his gaze was caught as the girl by the dragons removed her helmet and goggles and reached up to stroke the great head lowered towards her. How he would love to be able to do that! It must be wonderful to ride a Dragon. Then he felt his breath catch sharply as the girl turned her head towards the walls, her gaze searching for something. He ducked back into the crowd and watched with apprehension until the girl turned back to stroke the head of the silver dragon as it towered above her. That was too close. He had to be careful! But still he stayed on the walls, watching with envy.
Cian was thinking fast as she turned back to the dragons. I felt him looking at me! He was watching us. I felt it. So where is he? I thought I saw him, then he was gone. He ducked back. Is he scared? Scared to face his future? Or maybe he doesn’t know. Then what was he doing watching us like that? He must know the legends, even if he doesn’t know that it’s him. She reached out with her mind but the mind she had felt before was gone. Shielded, she thought. Clever. I could break through, but not now. It can wait.
As he approached the Lord of the city, Ben could clearly feel the apprehension emanating from the richly dressed man. Dragonriders did not visit very often, and usually no one person had seen two visits in their lifetimes. But it had been only 20 turns since the last routine check, so the lord had a right to feel nervous.
–Ben, stop worrying- came Cian’s soft voice in his head. He caught his gaze on the slightly nervous lord, walking forward to greet him, and smiled.
“My Lord.” The lord could not quite mask his nervousness. “ It is an honour to meet such famous people. It is a great favour for Dragonriders to visit twice in one lifetime, and we are indeed honoured with your presence. May I welcome you to our city and offer you the hospitality of the palace while you recover from your journey?” The lord bowed low.
Ben responded with a half bow. “I am B’ten, rider of gold Manooth, and that is X’cian, rider of silver Raider. I apologise for the inconvenience of this visit, but may I assure you that it was necessary.”
He glanced at the crowd surrounding them. The Lord looked even more nervous for a moment, but got control of himself.
“Of course. Is there anything we can, uh, do for your Dragons?”
Ben smiled. “We will see to the dragons later – they might need feeding, you know. But they don’t eat meat.” he added hurriedly. “They should be all right here for the meantime. I think your people like them.”
The Lord looked a trifle put out. “We do not see many of these beasts up close. It is a rare opportunity.”
– Why did you say that name? You don’t often use B’ten. – Cian enquired in his head. Ben gave a mental shrug. – And the dragons are going to get nervous. The crowd won’t leave them alone. Can you do something? –
Ben turned to look at the crowd surrounding the dragons. It was keeping its distance, but was rather big. He frowned. “If you will excuse my interfering, but I think that mabey you should try and disperse the crowd a little.” he said in a low voice to the lord. “ The dragons get irritated when there are too many people around them.”
That did the trick. The Lord went pale and nodded hurriedly. He beckoned a servant over and murmured something. The servant scurried away and a few minutes later guards started to motion the crowd to disperse.
“If you would like to follow me, I will escort you to the palace. I can assure you that the Dragons will not be bothered if your lady would like to come with us.”
Ben heard Cians’ laughter echo inside his head.
– Your Lady! He has not even met me yet. All right, Raider. You stay here with Manooth. Fly over to those walls if anyone pesters you. –
Ben smiled at Manooth’s indignant rejoinder that no one would pester Raider. He was very protective of his flying companion and teamate. Ben turned to the Lord with a neutral expression.
“If you could but delay a moment, I think that Silver Treid would like to join us.” He used the formal title deliberately. Treid simply meant rider, but he knew the use of the word would reproach the Lord from automatically assuming that he and Cian were more than a flying pair. It was not a matter for this petty lordling to speculate on.
As Cian came over, Ben saw the Lord’s eyes scan up and down her figure. Cian met his curious gaze with one of steel and the lord hurriedly dropped his eyes and bowed to her. She returned his bow and after another exchange of pleasantries they were led over to the carriage and climbed in.