The Heir of the Dragon
“…And this one is a Northern Featherwing, one of my favorites! Look at the way the feathers blend with the blue scales, and- Blaaaake, you’re not paying attention!”
Blake blinked, realizing he was dozing off while Reed was talking about dragons. For the last few days he’d been spending time with her, he’d come to realize that there was a serious difference in terms of their energy levels. Blake liked dragons. He LOVED dragons. But Reed was like a walking textbook on the subject, if that textbook had a pretty smile and would bug you unless you paid attention.
“Sorry,” he muttered, wiping his eyes. “It’s just been a long day.”
“Well, it is getting late,” Reed admitted, checking the ornately decorated massive clock hanging on the far wall of the dining hall. “Shall we go meet Elly?”
Blake let out a yawn and nodded, standing up. He felt sore from Physical Training today, his muscles weren’t used to the weight of the practice sword and shield. He reached down and tried to lift his duffel bag, but it made his shoulder ache to carry that much weight.
“May I help?” Reed reached for the bag, but Blake jerked away from her out of reflex, nearly tripping over his own feet.
Before Blake fell over he felt Reed’s hand hot around his wrist. She stopped his fall, and he stared up at her, surprised.
“Sorry,” she smiled down at him, helping him right himself. “I shouldn’t have touched you like that.”
“No, it’s my fault,” Blake mumbled, feeling his face get hot. He looked down, ashamed at making such a scene of himself in front of her. “I know you weren’t… trying to steal them, I just…”
“It’s okay, really!” Reed laughed, brushing aside the uncomfortable feeling in his chest with an airy laugh and a wave of her hand. “It’s forgotten. Shall we?”
The met up with Elly outside of the dining hall, the half-elf looked even more exhausted than he felt. She stared at the two of them, and nobody said anything.
I should… probably say something, right? Since I invited her? Blake wondered. He wasn’t used to building relationships with people. “Um… evening, Elly, how’s your shoulder?”
It looked like she brightened up a little, standing a little taller and smiling. “its fine, I went to the nurse, and she fixed it up.”
“You didn’t get lost this time, did you?” Reed laughed.
“N-No,” Elly said, paling, shaking her head. “Um… so, we’re… studying? Right?”
“Yes!” Reed clapped her hands together. “The library is open at all hours, shall we go?”
Reed raised her hand and Blake grabbed her wrist before she could snap her fingers.
“Please… let’s just walk?” He begged, anger seeping into his voice. He didn’t want to get transported again.
“Sure thing!” Reed chirped reassuringly. “To the library!”
Growing up on a farm had prepared Blake for a lot of things. He knew how to plough a field, ride a horse, care for newborn livestock, harvest crops, and do repairs of all sorts, not to mention getting him used to a schedule of early mornings and late nights.
What it did not prepare him for was studying. No one in his uncle’s family knew how to read, and it had been up to Blake to practice his early reading abilities himself, with what books he could get. But the books he read weren’t as dry and boring as these.
“No, I don’t think that’s right,” Elly said, showing her own answer for the first practice problem Reed had given them. “See, if you go to page 78 it says right there that Estval joined the Coalition 8 years before Unification, when King Roland the Great Unifier conquered the stronghold at the Sacred Tree Eldrasil with the help of Archduke Marlowe Harker and his dragon, Maeven the Silverflame!”
“No, King Roland and the archduke worked together with the Estvalians to fight off a foreign invasion and in their gratitude, they joined the Unification Coalition!” Blake protested angrily. “We’re talking about my family’s history, Elly, my mother was telling me stories of Marlowe and Maeven since before I could walk!”
“B-But the book says-!” Elly whimpered in fear, turning to the neighboring table where Reed was sitting for help. But Reed wasn’t even paying attention. As a thank you, Blake had given her permission to play with the dragon eggs, and she had placed them in a neat row. Blake and Elly’s voices might as well have been the buzzing of flies for all the attention she paid them.
Blake sighed, and looked back at Elly, the girl’s face flushed with a mixture of frustration and embarrassment, and a little fear. From the way she acted in class, it was clear that standing up for what she thought was right was a difficult thing for her.
Blake opened his mouth to press the issue, but decided against it. He knew that Elly and the textbook were wrong, but if he fought her here that would probably be bad for her. He had pride in his family, but he didn’t want to hurt her. He had to keep his anger in check, or risk snapping at her.
He changed his answer. Elly’s sigh of relief let him know he’d made the right choice.
Then the smile on her face disappeared and she went pale, her body tensing up. She shook her head and ducked under the table, much to his confusion.
“What are you doing?” He asked, leaning down and looking at the small girl curled up into a ball on the ground.
“Over… over there… Lancelus…” Elly whispered frightfully, pointing past him. Blake shot up and turned to see the prince coming down the aisles, his eyes scanning the tables. Blake rose from his seat, not sure what Lancelus wanted. Payback for this afternoon? The anger he’d restrained for Elly’s sake returned as he glared at the prince.
Reed was brushing one of the eggs with a soft cloth when Lancelus came to her table, and Blake confronted him.
“What are you doing here?” He snarled. Lancelus didn’t look intimidated, though. He looked past Blake, his eyes falling to the eggs on the table.
“Are those really things you should be keeping out in the open?” Lancelus calmly asked, turning back to Blake and glaring at him. “Those eggs are a national treasure, not something to be put on display.”
“It’s none of your business,” Blake warned him, stepping closer to the boy and curling his hand into a fist. “Leave them alone.”
“Where’s Elly?” Lancelus demanded angrily.
“I know she’s studying with you,” Lancelus said, scanning the alcove in the library they’d set up in. “So where is she?”
“Like I said,” Blake replied, trying very hard not to lose his temper, “no idea. She doesn’t want to see you, so get the hint. Or didn’t you learn your lesson today about following directions?”
Blake could see the anger in the prince’s eyes.
“Stay away from my sister,” Lancelus growled, shoving him. Blake’s brain stopped working for a second and before he knew it Lancelus had fallen backwards and crashed into the table, knocking off a few of the eggs.
Lancelus hissed in pain and pulled his hand away from the crimson egg, glaring furiously at Blake. He rose to his feet and stormed forward as Blake charged at him, but Reed stepped between the two of them, her face oddly serious.
“Calm down you two,” she said, raising her hands. She turned to the prince. “You should go.”
Lancelus opened his mouth to protest, but clearly thought better of it, muttering something under his breath and storming out of the library. Reed sighed, and turned back to Blake.
“Picking fights isn’t the best way to make friends.”
“I don’t want to be friends with that guy,” Blake replied, his tone harsher than he’d meant.
“…I’m sorry…” Blake and Reed turned to see that Elly had crawled out from under the table and was looking up at them. “He’s…”
“It’s fine, sweetie,” Reed assured her, stepping over to comfort the girl. Blake turned and knelt down; picking up the red egg and setting it back down next to the others. He turned to the other one, but Elly had already taken it.
“Here…” she said, holding the prickly brown egg up to him. “Sorry… again… the prince is…”
“Your brother is a real jerk,” Blake muttered.
“He-He isn’t my brother!” Elly gasped, shaking her head. “That would be too presumptuous! No, it’s… his father is, well…”
Blake didn’t want to go into Elly’s family issues and she clearly didn’t want to, either. So he accepted the egg from her and ended it, startled when he saw Elly’s pained expression. She looked down at her hand and Blake saw a bit of blood.
“It’s… sharp,” Elly winced, staring at the bronze egg.
“I think we should probably end things here,” Reed suggested, surprising the two. They’d barely gotten any studying done!
Reed interrupted Elly with a finger on the girl’s lips. “Don’t worry! We can meet up tomorrow! But today was stressful, don’t you think? You need some rest, Elly! I’ll take care of things here, so you can go on back!”
“A-Alone?” Elly shivered.
Reed beamed at her, and snapped her fingers.
“Aaaaaaah…!” The echo of Elly’s cries came from the portal as it closed, Reed turning back to Blake. He swallowed. No, please, not again…
“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Reed laughed. “I just wanted to talk with you in private about something.” She sat down at the table and patted the seat beside her.
“What?” Blake asked, sitting down.
“That sword in your bag, it’s Soulfire, isn’t it?”
Blake realized he had screwed up, big time. He had gotten so comfortable around Reed the past few days, he had forgotten that she only knew about the dragon eggs. Not his family’s sword. And he’d let her go digging around in his bag like an idiot! How could he be so un-cautious after only a few days?!
“Again, not stealing it,” Reed clarified. “But I wanted to talk about it. My mentor, Professor Saleigh, is an expert in relics like that one. Would you like her to take a look at it?”
“No. Why would I want that?” Blake snapped, eyeing her with newfound suspicion.
“Don’t you want to see that sword awaken?” Reed asked. With that mysterious question the conversation ended.
Reed had given Blake a lot to think about. Telling her he’d give her an answer at the end of the week, they continued to study with Elly like normal until the issue of a practice test arose again, this one for their Intro to Combat Magic. Having devoted most of their study time to the midterm for History and Magic Law, the midterm for Intro to Combat Magic was simple in comparison.
In theory, anyway. The practical section required that students break a target using any combat magic of their choice. Blake would have no problem, but Elly couldn’t even conjure a fireball. And when Friday came and Professor Darkflame took them out to the practice field for their last class of the day, Blake could see how nervous Elly looked.
Across from where the cohort gathered was a podium with an orica the size of a head floating above it.
“For the practical portion of your midterm next week,” the professor declared, “you will be using any spell that you like to try and break that regenerating orica. If you do not destroy it completely, you will fail. You won’t be able to use any magical tools except those you prepare for yourself. What type of magic you use is not important. But the orica will not break unless it senses magic in your attack. But you have today to practice. You may leave early if you break the orica, but if not you will be dismissed at class time. Are there any questions?”
There were a few, and Blake’s hand was among them.
“Are we required to destroy the orica on our first try?” Audrey asked.
“Good question,” Professor Darkflame said, stroking his chin. “No, you are not. On the test itself, you will have three chances to destroy your orica. If you can’t destroy it in three tries, then you fail. Anyone else? Mr. Eldaria?”
“Will we be able to practice after class time is over?” The prince asked. Blake lowered his hand since that had been his question, too. Elly would probably need all the practice she could get.
“Yes, I’ve spoken with the faculty, and they’ve permitted access to the training field over the weekend,” Professor Darkflame confirmed. “We’ll be loaning you practice orica. As long as you clear it with a member of the faculty beforehand, you may come and go as you wish.”
Blake saw Elly relax a little, hearing that. It seemed instead of cramming the textbooks she’d be out here until her mana ran dry.
“We’ll simulate this like the test circumstances, so line up in alphabetical order,” the professor ordered. “You will have 30 seconds to cast your spell. If you fail, go to the back of the line. If you pass, you can use the rest of your time as a free period and get started on your weekend early. You have a lot of tests coming up, after all…”
Blake sighed. Professor Reycom’s midterm had just been the first.
Audrey went first. Instead of casting Fireball, however, she prepared a spell of a different sort. She drew her saber from its scabbard and held it up, the blade glowing with light. She swung, the light flying from her sword and cutting through the air, slashing the orica in half.
“…Sword Magic. Nicely done,” Professor Darkflame nodded in approval, walking over to the podium and placing another orica on it. “Next, Caelia Auburn.”
Audrey stepped out of the way and Caelia stepped up, turning her body and lifting her arms. Blake couldn’t see well from his position in line, but it almost looked like she was drawing back an invisible bowstring. She pulled her hand back and a magic circle lit up in front of it, a fireball as thin as an arrow shooting out and striking the orica in the center. It was a direct hit, but not enough to shatter the crystal entirely. The orica quickly repaired itself.
“More power next time,” the professor judged. “But your form was excellent. On the test, you’ll be able to use your bow.”
Caelia nodded and went to the back of the line.
“Chloe Bellajean,” the professor said, moving down the line. Blake glanced at her and saw her head was bobbing. Of course she was asleep. Even so, she stepped up, raising her hand, and mumbled something.
An enormous magical circle drew itself in a rainbow of colors, nearly twice as large as she was. A massive bird appeared from the circle, crackling with blue lightning as it flew through the air, smashing into the orica and destroying it in a giant explosion.
The class was stunned, Blake included. Magic of that level… what the hell was someone like that doing here?!
“Uh…” Even the professor looked surprised. “You, um… you can go…”
Chloe didn’t move, though, and Mindy reached up and shook her on the shoulder.
“Hm…?” Chloe’s head shot up and she turned her head, wearing a tired look on her face like she’d just woken up.
“Like, that was awesome! You’re totally done, go!” Mindy giggled. Chloe nodded and stepped out of line, walking into the shade and curling up to resume her nap.
The practice test continued like that. Not a lot of students destroyed the orica on the first try. But the prince was a surprise. When Lancelus’s turn came up, he took a deep breath and raised his hands palms-out towards the orica. But nothing happened.
“…And that’s 30 seconds, back of the line,” the professor declared. Lancelus growled angrily and stormed to the end, shocking Blake. He’d expected the prince to at least cast a fireball, what had he been trying to do?
Most of the students were using fireball. But then there were students like Amy, who enchanted her legs and kicked with everything she had. Everyone was showing off and doing their best, and it was approaching Blake’s turn. Ark was right in front of him, what an act to follow. When it was Ark’s turn, he stepped up and raised his hand, and the temperature dropped. Blake began to shiver. Ark turned his hand to the side and a massive chunk of ice appeared in the air, smashing into the orica with a flip of his wrist. An easy pass for the genius.
Blake tried not to think about the fact that people would be comparing their performances, and focused on the Fireball spell. He had been practicing, and he’d memorized the spellcraft to the point where he could conjure it with a word. He flung the fireball and it smashed through the orica, everyone gasping in surprise. He’d been the first person to break the orica with a Fireball spell. Blake sighed with relief.
Part of him wanted to go back, but another part was worried for Elly. They weren’t really friends, he didn’t know her that well. But he felt pity whenever he saw how hard she had it. So he waited.
“Let me show you commoners how a real mage does things!” Sabine’s annoying voice drew his attention, and he sighed as the haughty girl walked up, a smirk on her face. While he would have loved to see her fail, the quicker she passed the sooner she would leave. Sabine closed her eyes and her hair began to glow scarlet. Her long locks rose up and began to burn, and with a whip of her neck she flung a wave of bright red flames across the field, smashing through the orica. She lifted her head and cocked her hip to the side, her hair settling down behind her without a strand out of place. She smirked.
“…And that’s how it’s done!” She crowed triumphantly. But she didn’t leave, walking off to the side instead and watching the test continue with glee. Blake had a pretty good idea why.
More people tried, and more people passed, and it finally got to Elly’s turn. She took a deep breath, and began to focus. She created a fireball, a pitiful, flickering little thing, and flung it at the orica. It never even made it there. Elly hung her head in shame.
“HAH!” Sabine cackled gleefully, “what was that pathetic excuse for a fireball?! You call that magic?”
“Ms. Scarlet, we don’t heckle our cohort members in this class,” Professor Darkflame snapped. “If you won’t be respectful of their performance, then I’ll ask you to leave.”
Sabine scowled and turned her head. When Jasmine and Mindy passed, the trio of girls strutted away. Blake saw Elly breathe a little easier.
After a few more rotations, the only people left were Elly and Lancelus. Elly’s spells kept fizzling out, and Blake had no idea what the prince was trying to do. He wasn’t even using a spell, just holding his hands up uselessly and getting angry when whatever he was trying to do didn’t work. But the failure was amusing at least.
They kept switching, and even the professor could see this wasn’t going to go anywhere. He walked over to the two of them, holding an orica in each hand.
“Class is dismissed,” he said. “You two can practice on your own with these.”
“Fine!” Lancelus snapped, grabbing the orica from the professor and storming off, setting it down on the ground and trying again, closer this time. Again, nothing happened. Blake and Elly watched him kick it in frustration.
“What’s up with that guy?” Blake wondered aloud. He didn’t think Elly would answer, but what she did next surprised him. She actually walked over to Lancelus. He could see that her steps were shaky, and she looked so nervous that Blake was afraid she might topple over. But she reached his side. But she wasn’t saying anything. Her mouth was closed and she was clearly far away from working up the courage. The look on her face looked like that of someone about to throw up.
“THIS FUCKING PIECE OF GARBAGE!” Lancelus shouted, his voice echoing across the training field. “Why isn’t it working?!”
Elly shivered and lowered her head, and Blake didn’t need to see her face to know she was crying. She fled without saying a word and he stormed over to the prince, ready to give him a piece of his mind.
“What do you want?” Lancelus snapped, and the words Blake planned to mock him with disappeared. His face looked… pained. Blake squinted, taking a closer look. Was… was he going to cry? No way.
“Well?!” Lancelus shouted, Blake’s attention returning to the present. He scowled back at the enraged prince.
“You’re a royal prick, you know that?” Blake replied. Slinging his bag over his shoulder, he stormed off towards the castle, the prince’s screams of frustration music to his ears.