Here is the fifth chapter of my new fantasy novel, Dragons of Orion. You will discover with Tom that leadership doesn’t always fall on the head you think it should.
LAST IN FLIGHT
For a week, all anyone could talk about was Four’s victory over Borf. Tom himself was still unclear what had happened.
“For all a dragon’s teeth, I can’t say for sure what happened. Even D’Mere says he never saw a dragon that age move that fast,” Tiff said as she and Tom studied in the library while their dragons curled up in a corner. Since the incident with Borf, the other dragons had accepted Four and often curled up with them to sleep.
“There’s something else, though,” Tom insisted.
“Yes, but it was probably just an optical illusion.”
“Come on, what is it?”
“Well, they moved together so well, for a second, it seemed Four only had one head. You really didn’t see any of this?” She went back to reading her book.
“I only saw a flash of green and then Four was on top of Borf… and since then, they’re different,” Tom said.
Tiff looked up from her book on flying. Flight training had begun and, if the dragons kept up their rate of growth and development, they’d all be aboard and flying next week, well, most of them.
“You shouldn’t worry so much about it,” Tiff said. “Has Four taken off yet?”
“No,” Tom said in a whisper. “They seem to have more trouble working together since the thing with Borf. Ursula and Richard are particularly difficult, right now.”
“It is interesting that they all seemed to work together and were like one dragon to protect you,” Tiff said.
“I know. I’m afraid I’ll have to jump off a cliff or something to see if they’ll fly and save me.”
“I wouldn’t say that too loudly, I bet D’Mere would make you try it,” Tiff said glancing up with a smile. “I wish I could help you, Tom. But Seidon’s only got one head and that’s tough enough to deal with some times. I can’t imagine dealing with four. Why don’t you crack open that book and start reading up on flight. Check out chapter two, that discusses ways to encourage your dragon to give it a try.”
Tom sighed and opened his book, flipping to chapter two. He was in the midst of reading about how a dragon’s instinct to fly related to its search for prey when Tiff blurted out “Earth and Sky!”
“What is it?” Tom said, nearly jumping out of his seat.
“Listen to this,” Tiff said. “When a dragon rider and dragon truly master flight, they become so close that some riders have reported they actually feel like they are one being.
“This is believed to be a result of a strong rider and dragon bond. It can be frightening for both dragon and rider as it might feel like they cease being themselves and are now part of a new creature all together. Be assured, however, the more the dragon and rider practice it, they will come to understand this bond as not something different, but a part of each of them….”
“That sounds intense, but I don’t get how it pertains specifically to… OH! I think I understand,” Tom said and looked over at Four, where Frank was the only head that appeared to be listening for his voice as the other heads continued to nap.
Tom read more on flying and working to create a rider and dragon bond, but thought the real trick would be to foster a bond between the heads.
Later that day, Four and Tom went out to the training field to try to fly. Frank whined as they trotted onto the field, protesting what he felt was folly. Frank preferred to be on the ground.
Nye was out there peering up into the sky watching Helio gliding in the air far above. Seidon and Tiff were at the other end of the field and he saw Seidon slip into the air.
“Isn’t that amazing,” Nye said watching Helio’s bright red body catching the sun as the dragon adjusted its wings and occasionally flapped them. Helio had been the first dragon to lift off.
Tom did think Helio was beautiful in flight but it pained him a little that Four was still behind the other dragons. Why must they always be last, he thought. Even Borf managed to catch air, though seemed uncomfortable going more than twenty or thirty feet high.
Nye glanced over at Tom and Four. “Oh, sorry guys. I didn’t mean to… I wasn’t rubbing it in…”
Tom was in no mood for sympathy, so he just turned away and marched over to his dragon. He took a deep breath so as not seem angry with Four.
“It’s going to be all right, Frank,” Tom soothed kneeling down by the dragon. “We can do this. All the instructors say your wings are certainly big enough. I mean, you got the biggest wings of the group, now.”
That was true. As the dragons had grown, now to the size of ponies or really, really big dogs, Four’s wings had sprouted to the largest size of any of the dragons. Four was still getting used to them and was still clumsy when it came to walking around with them.
“Ok, let’s try. Ursula, you take the lead this time,” Tom said and they went through their regular routine. Four reared up on their hind legs, spread their wings wide and started forward. Now, they were supposed to sort of serpentine forward and kind of run off their back legs to build up a bit of speed and catch the wind and flap, like a water dragon, but once again the heads didn’t work together and instead, Four went tail over heads and landed with a thud on its back. Richard snapped at the other heads and Ursula snapped at Richard. Frank complained about the discord, but Ollie was gazing up at the sky as his sibling heads argued with each other.
Tom considered this. As with other tasks, Tom found that his dragon needed guidance on who should lead in their efforts. For flight, he had been changing between Ursula and Richard, as they were the more aggressive and determined of the heads. Frank wanted no part of flying, and well, Ollie, Tom thought the two-eyed head was too timid to lead, but maybe, Tom had it wrong. Maybe Ollie just needed to be interested in what he was doing.
“All right, you three, stop your bickering!” Tom commanded, and surprised himself and Four. He had all their attention now. “We’re going to try this a little different. Since Ollie is the only one with his head in the clouds, so to speak, you’re all going to follow him.”
Richard and Ursula started to protest, but Tom silenced them. “You two should have thought of that before you started bickering. You had your chances. So we’re all agreed, Ollie gets his turn.”
Four slowly righted themselves and stood. The other heads waited for Ollie to make his move. Ollie chirped cheerily at them and they all gave their return calls. Then, Four spread their wings, rose onto their hind legs, Ollie stretched his head towards the sky and the other heads stretched upward to join him, then in unison, they bent forward and gathered their legs under them and with a slight tip and a powerful jump, and several large flaps of their wings, Four was airborne.
Tom’s heart went with them. He shouted in joy and triumph as Four’s great wings beat the air and in no time was flying not with the gliding beauty of Helio or the slick slicing of Seidon but with a power all their own that took Tom’s breath away.
“Wow,” Nye said. He had originally come to congratulate Tom but was mesmerized by the way Four was flying.
“Yeah,” Tom nodded. He didn’t know exactly how to react to Four’s transformation. A tear came to his eye. “They’re beautiful.”
“Well, now’s the hard part,” Tiff came up to stand next to the two boys, placing a hand on each of their shoulders. “We have to ride them.”
All three kids looked up into the sky at how high their dragons were flying and each of them knew fear.