Oct 21st 2022
The queue crept forward, bodies shuffling along the dusty trail to the palace, filled with promises of fame and fortune. We didn’t know how far we’d travelled. The towers were far enough away we couldn’t tell how much farther we had to go.
We’d both dreamed about joining the dragon cavalry. Being twins, if either of us was chosen, it was a victory for us both. At least that’s how I saw it. Jame, being a boy, and born first, wasn’t certain his younger sister’s success was his too. But the king’s call was for all residents, not just the boys.
Rumors rippled along the line. Boasts that someone ahead knew they’d be the lucky chosen. Dejected sighs that the victor might be found before we all had our try. Some heard these rumors and gave up. The queue moved to fill the gap they left.
Mother was cross, though only Jame and I could tell. Her knitting needles clacked in the familiar rhythm they had when we’d annoyed her, as if to say “why did the gods give me twins?”
Ahead, a peddler stood alongside the queue, offering a thick, folded paper in exchange for coin. As we moved closer, we heard him hawking a shortcut to the castle, a way to leave the queue and skip ahead. “Just buy this map.”
Jame reached for his money pouch, but I stilled his hand. “Would you cheat to get there faster?”
“Better than this interminable line, Calla. We’ll be exhausted when we reach the castle!”
We reached the map seller. I shook my head. Jame dropped his gaze. We shuffled onward.
The line seemed to move faster after that. Mother passed us hand pies with only a trace of the hearth’s warmth hidden at their center.
“Keep your strength up,” she said. “The challenge is not the queue, but what lies ahead.”
When we reached the castle, the dragons they led us to were juvenile, smaller than the ones that soared overhead to protect the kingdom. I was relieved.
I’d saved a morsel of my hand pie, and I offered it, palm up, to the dragon I was assigned.
She took it and nuzzled my hand for more.
“Patience,” I told her. “Plenty more to come later, if we can join the dragon cavalry together.”
When the captain ordered our group of potential riders to mount the dragons, she repaid my kindness, pacing all the others and putting on a burst of speed just at the end.
Jame kept up. He came in just behind me in the race.
They tested agility next, then finally, as we all reached the point of exhaustion, control.
And my dragon and I excelled, together. Jame and his dragon did too.
In the end, they selected a full unit of new riders, both of us together among the victors.
It wasn’t just about being the best riders.
It was about Patience. A perfect name for my new mount.
Author Bio: Dawn Vogel has written for children, teens, and adults, spanning genres, places, and time periods. More than 100 of her stories and poems have been published by small and large presses. Her specialties include young protagonists, siblings who bicker but love each other in the end, and things in the water that want you dead. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. Visit her at historythatneverwas.com or on Twitter @historyneverwas.
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