First Bond | Teen Ink

First Bond

May 18, 2011
By crystalSET4, Hanover Park, Illinois
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crystalSET4, Hanover Park, Illinois
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Author's note: I was inspired to write this book by my favorite author Anne McCaffery. She captured my imagination, and fueled my mind with wonderful ideas that have become my writing.

Nakki lay on the soft, lush grass; her intense green eyes focused on the clear sky. Her copper hair, which was sprayed out around her head, fluttered in the afternoon breeze. Every time a dragon passed into her field of vision, her eyes widened, and she sighed as a torrent of longing swept over her. Ever since she'd been old enough to truly understand who the riders were, and why their mounts, the dragons, were so important, Nakki had yearned for one.

She understood that the dragons were not simply animals. If that were so, the riders would not be able to make contact with the wild dragons that lived in the Northeastern mountain range. Nakki knew the dragons could speak, and they could understand. They were so beautiful, so graceful, and yet so terrifying. Nakki guessed she was not the only one to think that the dragons were the most amazing creatures on all of Larth.

It wasn't so much that the dragons had sparkling scales that Nakki desired one, though of course that was part of it. Nor was it really that the dragons could dance across the sky, or even their powerful, yet graceful limbs. It wasn't even the fact that a few choice dragons could breathe great gouts of fire. No, most of Nakki's longing came from the secured promise of a lifelong friendship.

Upon bonding, preexisting feelings of love would be swept aside. Your dragon would be your first, and most important priority. A chain would be forged between dragon and rider; one that could only be broken by the icy claws of death. It was for that reason that so few riders had mates; the dragon seemed to take the place of any human partner needed. Nakki closed her eyes, dreaming of what it would be like to have a dragon of her own.

The sun had moved a fair distance across the sky when Nakki awoke. She rested for a moment, letting the warm fingers of sunlight caress her smooth face. Rolling onto her stomach, Nakki pushed herself up off the ground, brushing the dirt off her dress with her hands. As she strode toward the village orphanage which was her home, a large bronze dragon swooped across the sky. Nakki held her breath as she caught a fleeting glance of the rider who rode the majestic beast. How lucky he was to have his dragon.

A whisper of cool night air washed over Nakki; her hair swayed around her like a soft curtain. The stars twinkled in every hue of the rainbow. Bloody red, soft pink, deep blue, bright green, delicate orange, and shining white. It was as if a rainbow had been torn apart, and scattered into millions of tiny jewels across the sky. A flash of bright color interrupted the night as a golden dragon burst into view. Nakki's mouth opened into a little O of wonder. The dragon circled overhead once, then flew off.

High above Nakki...

Halji squinted against the wind, the rider's hands pressed against Sorthinn's warm golden neck. The dragon's scales glimmered in the light of the stars and moon, and Halji felt a surge of pride. Feeling her rider's emotions, Sorthinn let two thin jets of writhing orange fire leap from her nostrils. Another wave of pride washed over Halji; flaming dragons were indeed rare. For a moment, the pair was lost in each others' affection; then Halji looked down at the flickering lights below.
“Vatti makes the choice, not you,” Sorthinn said as she felt Halji's slight disgust. Halji thought seeking candidates in this small town was a waste of time. The dragon began to turn in a wide circle, “I don't understand your aversion to this town. In truth, all your villages look the same to me; piles of sticks, mud and stone spread over the land. It makes no sense why anyone wouldn't want to live in a cave! Compared to the homes you humans make, a cave is pure luxury!” The dragon rumbled happily as she thought of the warm cave that waited for her beside the sea.
“To a dragon,” Halji laughed, “To any human who is not a rider, living in a cave would be repulsive!” Halji used the more effective, telepathic way of communication, knowing that spoken words would be lost in the frigid wind. The rider patted Sorthinn's golden scales as the dragon growled at Halji's remark.

Silently, Halji reassured her partner that their cave was better than any stick-mud-rock house. Sorthinn's growl melted into a warm humming sound. “We shall bring Tara and Lorick tomorrow,” Sorthinn said, as she angled toward the western shore.
“Tomorrow,” Halji agreed.

“Nakki! Wake up! Come on Nakki!” The door to Nakki's room squealed opened, and was quickly followed by a loud bang as the heavy wood door hit the wall. Nakki groaned and yanked the blankets over her head just as three heavy objects bounced onto her small cot. “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!” The three voices chorused. The tiny triplets wrenched the blankets off Nakki's body. They giggled playfully as Nakki jerked upright, shivering slightly.
“Rissa, Nissa, Lissa,” Nakki complained.

She stared down at the three youngsters. The different colors of their thick locks of hair were the only difference between the three. Rissa's was black, while both Nissa and Lissa's was blonde, though Lissa's had a more strawberry tinge to it. They all had the same excited pale blue eyes, which were framed by long thick black lashes. Their silky skin was the same shade of light peach, and their cheeks were always a rosy red.

Nakki couldn't help but laugh with them, “What do you want?” Nakki asked between giggles. Lissa got up off the floor and grabbed at Nakki's arm, tugging lightly.
“It's our turn-” Rissa began.
“-to tend the sheep.” Nissa finished.
“All right, I'm coming. Let me get dressed,” Nakki smiled.

Squealing, the triplets ran from the room. They each wore a brown tunic and pants instead of their usual breezy dresses. Still chuckling, Nakki ducked out of her night dress, and tugged on her own work clothes. The only real chore anyone in the orphanage could get was tending the sheep, and even that wasn't really work since it was such an enjoyable task.

Yanking her fingers through her tangled hair, Nakki bounced down the stairs, meeting the triplets halfway down. Laughing, the three younger girls ran down the stairs, their hair flying up behind them. All four girls grabbed some bread, then started up the knoll where the sheep grazed.

The morning passed at a steady pace. Rissa, Nissa, and Lissa spent most of the time chasing young sheep and small white rabbits, while Nakki tended the flock. Her hair whipped from side to side whenever the wind picked up, and she brushed copper strands from her eyes.

It was around noon when they arrived. The wind, which had been so soft just a moment before, hit Nakki from behind in a sharp gust. Lissa, Rissa, and Nissa looked up, their eyes all scrunched up against the dust the wind created. Their jaws dropped as their eyes widened with disbelief. Nakki turned and felt her own mouth pop open. She ducked then, as the three dragons swooped low to the ground. Rolling into a sitting position, Nakki watched as the gust the dragons made knocked the triplets off their feet. Lissa and Nissa immediately sprung up off the ground, but Rissa only twisted to watch, her mouth gaping in disbelief before getting up to stand beside her sisters.

A giant gold dragon was in the lead; it looked like the same one from the night before, and it was the biggest of the three. Directly behind the gold, was a great white dragon, just slightly smaller than the first. The sun's light reflected from its scales, making the dragon look as if it was on fire. A bright crimson dragon was the smallest of the three, its scales gleaming like rubies.

Slowly, the three beasts began to spiral down, landing amongst the houses. Nakki cursed under her breath, low enough so that the triplets wouldn't hear. Why did today have to be her day to watch the sheep? Grumbling to herself, Nakki began to gather the sheep that had scattered.

Rissa, Lissa, and Nissa seemed just as letdown as Nakki about the lost opportunity. Their lower lips jutted out as they walked about; their usual vibrant energy was gone.
“Girls!” A voice called from behind Nakki. Nya, one of the nursemaids from the orphanage, was jogging up the hill to them. Her hands were clenched into fists as they held up her skirt so she wouldn't trip. Nissa, Lissa, and Rissa came to stand beside Nakki, curiosity igniting a dim flame within their eyes.
“Nya, what's wrong?” Rissa asked in her bird like voice.
“Here Nakki, give me that stick, you girls need to get down to the village! The riders are here for an upcoming hatching. Go girls! What are you waiting for?” Nya gasped as she continued to jog up to the four girls.

For a single second, Nakki was completely still, not even breathing. Then she was running. Nakki thrust the herding staff toward Nya, not pausing to see if the woman had caught it or not. She shot down the hill in a flat out sprint. Her eyes were locked on the dragons within the village. If the triplets were following, Nakki couldn't hear them. The blood in her ears was pounding too loudly. Nakki sprinted in the straightest path to the village... to the dragons... to her chance.

By the time Nakki had reached the place where it seemed everyone in the village was gathered, she was out of breath. Each inhale stabbed at her lunges like a knife again, and again, and again.
“Nakki!” called Dara, an older girl in the village. She ran up to where Nakki stood panting. Her eyes were huge with excitement, and her curly brown hair bounced around wildly. “Nakki! Come on! What are you doing?” As soon as Dara reached Nakki, she began to shove her way into the crowd, tugging Nakki behind her. Dara carelessly pushed others aside without a glance at who they were. No one seemed to care, they were all too focused on what was happening with the dragons.

Suddenly, Nakki was in a long line, twisting and curving until it reached the three dragons, gold white and red. For the next few minutes, Nakki shuffled forward, her heart continuing to rapidly pound long after the weariness of running had past. Her stomach seemed to twist and knot around itself as anticipation burrowed deep within her.

The minutes continued to slip away, and then somehow, Nakki was at the front of the line. Nakki stared up at the towering dragons. She hadn't realized that they got so big. For a moment, Nakki wanted to run. She was too afraid to know the answer to the question she'd asked herself for as long as she could remember. For a moment, she was too afraid to move, to think with reason. For a moment, Nakki didn't want to bond. The thought vanished as easily as it had come.
“Young lady,” the voice that called was comforting, if a bit bored. Obviously Nakki's fear was written on her face. Nakki took one shaky breath, and walked to the rider who had called her.

It was the gold rider, Halji, Nakki realized that the dragon had to be the same one she had seen the night before. The rider was tall, and her long black hair was well trapped in a firm braid. She stared down at Nakki with an almost condescending look. Her grey eyes were both soft and stern. Nakki guessed that the rider had a dragon that could flame.
“Flaming dragon, flaming rider,” was the saying. For the rider normally developed a thin, or “flaming” temper that suited the sometimes literally flaming dragon.

Nakki stiffened as the dragon lowered its massive head to leer at her. It sniffed at her and poked at her with its snout. Nakki could barely breath. After a minute or so, the dragon lifted its head. With a sinking feeling, Nakki took that as her cue to leave. Tears began to creep into her eyes as she took the first two steps away from the dragon.
“No one told you to go anywhere,” a stern voice commanded.

Nakki felt a hand grab at the edge of her tunic, pulling her back. Nakki gasped in surprise and stumbled back. The tears that had begun to streak down her face dripped to the ground, leaving no mark to show that they were ever there. Nakki looked up to see that the rider was staring at her dragon, which was staring at Nakki. The hand did not loosen on Nakki's shirt.

With low snorts, the two other dragons stepped away from the boys they'd been sniffing at, and walked over to lay next to the great golden beast. The other dragon had not taken its eyes off Nakki. The riders followed their dragons, seemingly unsurprised by their partners' new focus.

For another ten minutes Nakki stood still while the three dragons poked at her with their snouts, often staring at each other with what seemed to be no emotion at all. Then, at last, all three dragons moved back, each looking at its own rider. The one who was bonded to the gold stepped forward, her eyes piercing into Nakki. Cringing, Nakki's heartbeat pick up to twice its already frantic speed as she waited for their verdict.

Ten minutes earlier...

Sorthinn shuffled her golden wings, bored. Few of the children here were even close to what seemed worthy. She glanced over to her two-legged, partner-of-heart-and-mind rider, Halji. The dragon rumbled with happiness as she looked to her rider. A few of the round-faced-wide-eyed children shrank back in fear. Sorthinn blinked in annoyance.

They were afraid of her affectionate rumble? Ha! She had a sudden urge to roar and snarl and beat the air with her giant wings; to breath great tongues of flame over the heads of the puny humans. Of course, her own rider and the other dragons would be safe from her wrath. Sorthinn took in a slow, deep breath, the prefect way to start her flame, then let it out just as slow and just as deep. She did not even let smoke slip from between her teeth. Silently, Sorthinn reflected on why she and her rider had come to this small village.

Vatti's dragon, Garith, had mated with Senna's dragon, Palith, and had fathered a clutch of thirty-two eggs. Being rider to one of the parent dragons gave Vatti a choice as to from where candidates for the eggs would come. She wanted children from small villages since she'd been from one herself.

Another boy was called from the large curly line made from the round-faced-wide-eyed children. Sorthinn bent her head, poking at him with her snout to distract him while she roamed the valleys of his mind. If the brown-haired-brown-eyed-long-legged boy knew that she was sweeping through his thoughts, he would probably faint, lose his nerve. He was like any other young-lived nestling of the two-legged humans.

He was strong, Sorthinn decided, and let the thought pass to her rider. Halji gave no notice to the boy that she had received anything from her, but let recognition flow between their mental link. It was well that Halji did so, for just then Sorthinn came across thoughts and feelings and memories that were quite new, from the previous day in fact.

Sorthinn's upper lip curled as she saw the boy kicking at one who was smaller than him. The younger-smaller boy was curled into a ball. Three others were also kicking at the black-haired child. Quickly, Sorthinn scanned the crowd and saw the three boys weren't that far in line. They needed strong riders yes, but not bullies. Sorthinn quickly relayed the scene to Lorick, the white-scales, and Tara, the red-scales, and to her own rider.

Halji waved the boy off, her eyes hard. The next human-child was a female. Her face was white with fear. She appeared as if she was about to fall into unconsciousness. “Young lady,” Halji called when the copper-haired-green-eyed girl did not move. She blinked once, took a deep breath, and walked almost cautiously over toward them. She looked at Halji for a moment, but then turned to Sorthinn, looking very small.

Snaking her head down, Sorthinn and poked at the girl while she explored the new mind. The child was strong, but not that strong. Sorthinn let Halji know that this might be yet another useless girl-child. Halji agreed, and prepared herself to tell the girl to leave. Suddenly an overwhelming surge of want and love passed over Sorthinn. She pulled her head back, slightly shocked. This girl seemed to want a dragon hatchling for her own more than she wanted proper parents.

The reasons for the want of a dragon were not that of which Sorthinn expected, and so she was relieved when Halji said nothing to the child. Slowly the girl began to walk away, obviously thinking her chance was lost.
“No one told you to go anywhere,” Halji said in a firm tone. Sorthinn sensed that her rider's eyes were on her, but she did not return the glance. She was too interested in the child's wishes.

Unlike most of her kind, the child did not want a dragon for power, she wanted a hatchling for the love it would offer, and the responsibility she would be given. It was almost as if the girl wanted to prove she was better than the orphan she was, not that being an orphan truly meant anything.
“Lorick, Tara,” Sorthinn called. The two seemed happy to be rid of the boys they had been inspecting. They lay beside her, questions in their thoughts. Sorthinn let the human-child's feelings wash over the other two. They immediately bent to examine the child for themselves.
“We need strength, not love,” Lorick snorted.
“True, but if the child gets her dragon, then think the absolute devotion she will give. No dragon and rider will be linked in the same way.” Tara said as she jabbed at the girl's back.
“Even if we do take her, there will be the chance that she does not bond,” Sorthinn commented. Lorick rumbled his agreement. “Very well,” he said.“We take her.”

Nakki looked from the dragons to the riders over and over again.
“You'll come with us,” the gold rider said, her eyes gleaming slightly. Nakki's breath whooshed out, she hadn't realized that she'd been holding it.

Nakki's knees buckled out from under her, and she collapsed toward the ground. The red dragon's head shot forward, catching Nakki before she could hit the hard earth. As soon as Nakki had her balance she jumped back, her hand flying to her mouth.
“I'm so sorry. I really didn't mean to touch her. I am so sorry.” Nakki said in an almost frantic voice. The only male rider in the group stepped forward grinning.
“You did nothing young one, it was Tara's choice,” he laughed lightly.
Nakki did a small bow, “Thank you, Tara,” she spoke directly to the dragon, her eyes never leaving the scaly face.
“Halji, most of the children are repeats, and the others are either too young or too old for a dragon. There is no reason to stay,” said the rider of the white dragon. Her skin reminded Nakki of the dark beans that the older women ground to make coffee for the men.
“Very well,” Halji, the gold rider said, “You two can get the other candidates, I'll take this one.” A hand landed on Nakki's shoulder.
“Yes Halji!” the two riders said to together.
“Come on child,” the hand began to steer Nakki toward the giant golden dragon. She watched as the dragon angled out its leg to make a ramp, and the cat-like pupils contracted ever so slightly. Nakki gulped, and the the dragon's upper lip curled.
Nakki cringed into Halji, afraid, and the rider laughed. “It's supposed to be a smile girl. She's laughing.”

Even as Halji spoke, a low sound vibrated in the back of the beautiful creature's throat. It sounded almost like a snicker. Nakki took a deep breath, and then began to clamber up the muscular leg. Unsure of where to sit, Nakki crouched awkwardly on top of the saddle as Halji bounded up the leg in far more practiced manner.
“Here,” the rider said, turning Nakki and pushing her lightly into the saddle. Halji settled into a space in front of her. “Hang onto my belt,” the gold rider said. For a moment Nakki was confused, she'd never known a women to wear a belt. It must be some fashion preferred by the riders. Nakki grabbed the thick leather just as the dragon lifted its giant wings.

Flexing its thick muscles, the dragon leaped forward, pushing its wings down with a mighty whoosh! Nakki was nearly thrown off. For a terrifying second, she thought that both she and Halji would fall to the ground; but the rider seemed attached to the seat, not even tensing when Nakki's hands tightened on her belt.

The dragon continued upward for some time before starting forward and settling into a steady rhythm. Soon, all three dragons' wing-beats were a never ending pattern. Flap-flap flap, flap-flap flap. It lulled Nakki into a steady trance. She thought about the stories she'd heard about flying, most said that the first time you ever flew was the worst, that the constant motion of the dragon made you sick. In truth, Nakki liked it. She felt at ease riding amongst the clouds. The wind scratching at her face made her feel alive like never before.

As time passed, Nakki grew more and more accustomed to the pattern of the dragons' wings, so she was surprised when the cycle was interrupted. For a second too long Halji's dragon did not beat its massive wings, and then they were falling. Nakki's eyes widened, and she found that she was smiling, a laugh escaped her raw throat, and Halji turned to look at her like she was crazy. Nakki felt crazy, she'd never experienced anything so exhilarating in her life! Above the shriek of the wind, Nakki heard two separate screams, and one other excited peal of laughter.

For Nakki, it was over too soon. Halji's dragon flared its wings at the last second, gaining a full dragon-length of air before gliding back down to earth.
“Oh wow,” Nakki breathed as Halji helped her down the same golden leg she climbed up on.
Halji raised a sharp eyebrow, “You liked it?” she asked.
“Yes, it was amazing!” Nakki's eyes were bright.
“Well, you may make a rider yet,” Halji said, as if she hadn't expected Nakki to be coming in the first place. Nakki turned when she heard a low moan from behind her. One of the three others that had come was sitting on the ground, his head in his hands. Nakki bit her tongue, amused, she couldn't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to feel the excitement of the dragon's dive.
“Halji!” a new voice welcomed.
“Vatti!” Halji answered, opening her arms wide.

A girl just a few years older than Nakki was running toward them, black hair flying out behind her, eyes sparkling with joy. Stitched on the upper left corner of her jacket, a small blue dragon was rearing, showing that girl was a rider, and that her dragon was blue. Someone bumped Nakki's shoulder, and she turned to see Rothic standing behind her. “Sorry,” He grunted.

Jathin and Torth were also there, and Nakki felt slightly embarrassed for being the only girl in the group. “Children,” Halji said, gesturing toward the girl, “This is Vatti. Her dragon is the sire of the clutch that you'll be standing for. Garith is his name, and Palith is his mate. She is ridden by Senna.” Nakki stared at Vatti with a bit of confusion. Vatti couldn't be that much older than her, how could it be that her dragon could mate? The young rider caught Nakki's stare and grinned in a sheepish, if understanding way.
“Dragons mature faster than their riders,” she explained, still grinning. Another woman was walking toward them now. Grey strands of hair wove in and around the brown ones, and a warm smile was on her face.
“Hello Halji,” she said in an aged voice.
“Senna,” Halji greeted her with a nod. Nakki took a step half back, shocked. Vatti was a girl, probably not yet a woman, and Senna, her dragon's mate's rider, was, well, old. Nakki hated to think of an elder like that, but there was no other way to describe it. Surely this elderly woman's dragon, (Which was a light purple due to the stitching on her jacket) would be too old for Vatti's! Again Vatti caught Nakki's confused stare, and again Vatti answered Nakki's unspoken question.
“Dragon are practically the same from their first year after hatching till death. Age doesn't really matter,” she shrugged indifferently.
“Come,” the elderly woman said, her grin bringing out new wrinkles on her lined face, “There are rooms prepared for you,” she gestured toward the massive structure that lay behind her.

Nakki knew immediately what it was. The riders had insisted that the bonded dragons lay their eggs in created buildings so that the candidates could stay close to the clutch. A shiver of excitement ran down Nakki's back. The purple dragon Palith would be resting in the heart of the stone building. She would be curled around her clutch, her wing laid protectively over the eggs, hiding them from view.
“Come on,” Halji said, walking forward impatiently.

It took five minutes to reach the place where Nakki would be staying. Two dozen or so other girls were also in the long room. Silently, Nakki took one of the empty bunks and lay facing the ceiling, feeling slightly out of place.
“Hey you, hello? Did you really just fall asleep?” Nakki sat up. A girl was standing at the foot the bed, smiling. Her hair was a bright orange, and it fell to shoulders in tight curls. Her grin broadened as Nakki got up, “I thought you'd gone to sleep!” she laughed.
Nakki shrugged, slightly impressed that the girl was so willing to speak to her.
“I'm Blizna,” she said.
“Um, Nakki,” Blizna's smile grew as Nakki introduced herself. Nakki's lips twitched with amusement as she smiled warmly at her new friend.

Over the next three days, all forty-one candidates were given lessons on dragon-care. Often times they were brought to different riders and shown what to do. Most of the teachings were on how to best care for hatchlings.
“Now,” said a rather tall rider, his orange dragon looking like a living fire, “one of the first things that you have to do is wash off the egg membrane that will be encasing your dragon. The hatchlings that will be leaving with the wild dragon will have theirs licked off by their adoptive mother. (Which will be the wild dragon that attends the hatching.)”

The wild dragon, Jannkia, had in fact arrived the day after Nakki. Her scales were mixed shades of blues and greens. She stayed a few miles away from the hatching building, refusing any hospitality offered. “They're very pride-filled,” Halji had said with a sly smile. Every night Nakki lay awake and alert for any sign that the eggs were hatching, but Palith never gave any such warning. Then, on third night, when all the candidates, including Nakki, were fast asleep, the eggs began to rock.

Palith's roar alone could have awoken the entire hatching structure, but it wasn't long before Garith joined in. Nakki jolted awake with a shocked gasp. A few others were already up, some were just being roused. Nakki fumbled out of her clothes, and slipped on the green dress she'd been given for the hatching. “Blizna, wake up!” Nakki pushed at Blizna, then yanked the blankets of her with a sharp jerk of her hand.
“What?” Blizna asked, disoriented.
“Come on!” Nakki pulled her friend out of bed, helping her with the buttons on her nightdress, then slipped the bright red hatching dress over the girl's head. She began tugging at Bilzna, and it wasn't two seconds later that Blizna was fully awake.
“Come on!” Nakki nearly shouted. They began running with the other candidates toward the hatching grounds. None of them had ever been on the grounds, or even seen it. They had only been shone the doors, which were large enough for two full grown dragons to fit through at once.

Now they were clumped in front of it, waiting for the doors to open, to see the eggs. Slowly, and without so much as a single creek, the doors opened. Everyone gasped as they beheld the hatching grounds. The roof was open to the starry night, and the sand shimmered like silver waves. That only held their attention for a moment, for the eggs' movement totally consumed them an instant later.

In the darkness of the night, the eggs looked like oval pears. Then Garith lifted his head, and ignited a circle of torches, restoring light and color to the world. Palith and Garith weren't the only dragons there. The wild dragon Jannkia was there, as well as Halji's dragon, who Nakki had learned was named Sorthinn, and quite a few other dragons. Their riders were all there as well, staring intensely at the eggs as they moved back and forth.

Everyone began to shuffle forward, forming a loose circle around the eggs as they'd been told to. Nakki's heart rate began to pick up, and her breathing accelerated. One by one, cracks began to appear in the eggs, and they began to shake more violently. Then the first dragon hatched.

It was beautiful, there was no doubting that. In the light of the fire, Nakki could see that it was a brilliant silver. It chirped hungrily, and began to waddle awkwardly on its legs, egg fluid glistening on the slim body. The filmy layer of the egg membrane slightly dulled the dragon's brilliant color. More dragons began to escape their eggs, crooning and chirping and hissing as they stumbled around. The silver dragon was the first to bond, and the boy it bonded to fell to his knees with a cry of surprise and joy. The next two to hatch went to curl next to the wild dragon, crooning happily as she tenderly licked at them with her barbed tongue.

After that, there were too many dragons to know which had hatched next. Dragons of all colors roamed around the sands, some bonding, others going to lay next to Jannkia. Then it was over, all the dragons had hatched, and all had chosen their path. Nakki bit her lip. None had chosen her. She knew that she shouldn't feel quite so upset, that she shouldn't be on the verge of tears. Slowly, she began to walk to the doors with the others who had been rejected.
“Wait!” a voice called. Nakki didn't even turn to see who it was that had spoken.
“Why should I?” Nakki thought bitterly, “There's nothing for me here.”
“What do you mean?” The voice sounded hurt. Nakki froze, she hadn't realized until that instant that voice was inside her own head. Nakki spun around, her eyes wide open. A dragon was skittering as fast as it could toward her, tripping on its feet the whole time.

A sudden warmth bloomed within Nakki, and a bright spark ignited within her. A hidden door opened up in Nakki, leading her to a brand new path, a path that connected with the dragon. How could she have ever thought that this wonderful creature would not come? How was it that Nakki had ever had a moment of doubt that this priceless treasure would not be hers? This dragon had become half her life, body, and mind. Nakki sank to the ground, cradling the dragon's head in her arms. The young emerald green hatchling looked at Nakki with focused, intelligent eyes and said in a voice as rich and sweet as honeyed wine, “I am Zaphinna, and you are my rider.”
The End

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