A flashback to the past as Mar enters a new stage of his life.
This is the first piece I have written with Mar, set in the fictional world I created for him called Elonth.
This piece and the next were at first just once-off short stories, but have since become part of a much bigger tale. They will remain as they are for now, but will need to be redone at some point in the future.
“Mar, it’s your turn,” called Tecareth. The old dragoness dwarfed Mar and his coevals.
Mar breathed deeply in, held the breath, and then released it. Next, his young wings were unfurled and flexed, just as he’d seen the others do before him. Stubby legs bent, then launched him high into the air… with a little assistance from the teacher’s magic. He flapped his wings rapidly, muscles and membrane taking strain as they displaced large volumes of air.
“Get into a rhythm, you’ll quickly tire yourself out if you try to fly like that.”
Mar’s wingbeat gradually became more regular. He slowly propelled himself over and under a handful of cushioned obstacles while Tecareth called out instructions.
“Bend your wings as you lift them – they’re not planks. Good.”
Once he’d finished, he landed in front of the teacher. Not realising that a grin looked far better on humans than dragons, he gave her a toothy approximation of a smile.
“Well done, Mar. You can go rest. Ishrak, your turn.”
Mar sauntered over to the edge of the group of hatchlings to where the children sat. Josh, Martha and Shannon.
“That was so cool! I wanna fly too!” Josh exclaimed as Mar lay down next to him.
“When I’m older and bigger, I can give all three of you a ride.” Firat jumped over Mar and struck a seven-year-old’s idea of a dramatic pose. “I’m going to be the bestest at flying of everyone!”
Mar, suddenly full of energy again, leapt onto Firat, knocking him over for no apparent reason. The two then rolled about play-wrestling, each trying to pin the other.
“Settle down now.” Ishrak had finished and Tecareth was trying to get the group of diminutive winged reptiles into order. “Mar and Firat, stop wrestling. Larant, don’t bite Yumen’s tail. No, I won’t make the human children fly today. Maybe tomorrow.”
Once order had been restored, the teacher spoke to the small assembly, “Well done hatchlings, you are making good progress. You could all become very strong flyers, but this will only happen if you practice to strengthen your wings. Make sure that there is an adult with you when you practice, and don’t do it inside. Now, let us go back into class for your maths lesson.”
The class formed a relatively neat line and followed their teacher back into the building.
“Don’t you miss the days when things were simpler?” The voice was barely heard over the roar of the waterfall. “Sorry… um… for interrupting your feeding. I still find it a bit weird even though I’ve been surrounded by you dragons for my whole life…”
His mind surfacing from the torrent of energy, Mar opened his eyes and turned to the owner of the voice.
“Hey, Mar. It’s been a while. What’s bothering you?”
“I’ve known you for more than three decades. You’re the closest thing I have to a brother. I know when you’ve got something on your mind. It’s about your new ability, isn’t it?”
Mar exhaled a long breath. “Yeah, you’re right. It’s just… I- W- While they did give me a choice, it still feels like I was just yanked out of the life I was planning on living and dumped onto this path. While I wouldn’t mind it if I had some cool ability… or if it seemed that the Elders and scholars were interested in me as well as my ability…” Another exasperated sigh.
“New advanced abilities are discovered fairly regularly, even nowadays. You shouldn’t worry about it too much.”
“Yeah… but usually the person’s or dragon’s ability is somewhat comparable to known abilities. They get to practice it with masters of similar capability. Mine… Elder Irikshan thinks it has something to do with illusions and is planning to train me personally, but not even I know for sure. To be honest, it scares me. I worry that if I don’t learn to control it soon, I might get lost in one of these ‘dreams’… ”
Several moments of silence passed between them as Josh tried to think of an appropriate response.
“I agree with what you said earlier,” Mar was the one to speak first. “I do miss when things were simpler. But I guess we can’t stay there forever.”
“Nor should we. Things are going to get tough, but it is important to keep moving forward. You might live five times as long as me, but eventually we must all leave this world. Your achievements need not shake the world, but would it not be better to look back and be proud of what you accomplished and the lives you touched, rather than regret what you should have done?”
“You speak wisely.” Mar made a guttural sound that resembled a human chuckle. “Your time spent in academia has done you well.”
“I know it may be distressing, but I’m sure that you can work through this. Irikshan is a great teacher, scholar and mage. And I’m here for you too. I know you’ll be able to master your ability with practice. Practice makes perfect. Or, well, better… No one’s perfect.”
“Thank you, Josh.”
The two stood in stillness beside each other for a few minutes, watching the cascading water. Eventually, Mar was the one to break the silence again.
“I should be going.” He edged towards one of the doorways. “I came here to recharge before a lesson with Irikshan. My first day here and he already wants to get straight into it. No doubt he has been… enthusiastically awaiting my arrival. He probably started researching what he could even before I had made up my mind to accept his offer.”
“Ok. I’m finished for today, so I’ll head back home. Come by my place once you’re done. Carina will want to see you. And I want to go with you and help you settle into that aerie I found for you.”
“You just want to ride on my back, don’t you?” Mar teased.
“Not only that. But who else is gonna let me ride on their backs? You dragons don’t seem to like it very much.”
“And you humans love to try your luck in asking for rides.” Mar stuck his tongue out. “I guess it’s the novelty. Just like with magic: since it’s not something you lot can normally do, you find it far more interesting. Anyways, yes, I’ll fetch you once I’m done. If I’m still in one piece.”
“He’s an illusionist, not a sunderer.”
“It’s not his abilities I’m worried about.”
“He’ll look after you. He’s more than capable. He isn’t the Elder for nothing.”
“Fair enough… See you later.” Mar slipped out of the doorway and began walking to Irikshan’s office.