She crouched upon the flat rocks at the head of the waterfall, her deep blue eyes watching as the dragonriders soared high in the sky above her. They were flying off into battle, joining the main group before engaging Zoltan’s forces on their borders. Her brothers, cousins and friends were amongst that group and she yearned to be there with them. She was capable. She could do everything they had been trained to do and more beside. There really was no reason why she could not be up there with them.
Well, there was one reason that others believed to far outweigh any skill or ability she may possess. To her it was a minor reason and of little importance when it came to protecting their homes but they would not listen to her. Nor would they listen to her mother or her sisters or her aunt. Their opinion wasn’t important in matters of war because of who they were.
They were female.
The last of the riders disappeared over the horizon as she rose to her feet. Her black skirt flowed around her long, slender legs like a small sail in the wind. She felt the chill of the early evening air across her bare midriff, the short halter top providing little protection as the sun started to set. By the time darkness fell they would be with the other riders ready to battle on the morrow. For not the first time since the riders had been summoned she cursed her sex.
Back in the village, people were going about the normal duties. The men that remained were collecting firewood for those families whose menfolk had gone off to fight. She could see small groups of women huddled together, offering support to those who were now alone. She felt for them, knew how they were feeling for her own brothers had left that day, but she was more angry that she was left behind because she was a woman.
“My lord! My lord! Have the riders left?” A man on a lathered horse stormed into square. Flinging himself from the saddle he rushed towards where her father stood waiting.
“They flew out a short time ago. They have headed north to meet with Lord Jaden and his forces before meeting Zoltan. Why?” Her father, a tall, imposing figure had been a dragonrider until injury had forced him to retire. Now he was the village leader and ground commander for the riders.
“Zoltan has been spotted at the eastern pass. His main forces are making their way through the pass whilst the riders provide cover for them. Lord Jayden is in pursuit but he does not think he can reach them in time to stop them from reaching here. He had hoped that he would be able to stop the riders and have them head out to the eastern pass and hold Zoltan up.” Exhausted, the man slumped against his horse, despair radiating from him. “Are there no riders who can fly out after your group?”
“No, all dragons and their riders are in the air. We have no one who can catch them in time.”
“I can.” She stepped forward into the square before her father. Her chin rose in a determined manner as she stared hard at her father. This was her chance, if she could persuade him to let her try.
“Don’t speak such nonsense, Keira. How can you catch your brothers and the rest of the riders? You do not have a horse of your own.” Her father dismissed her claim and turned back to the messenger, eager to find a way of getting a message to the riders.
“I have a dragon. A fast dragon,” she added.
“Keira, now is not the time for you to play your silly games. Your brothers’ lives and the lives of everyone here depend on us finding a way of getting a message to them. Leave us to sort this out and go and do your chores.” Deep blue eyes, so like her own, sparkled with temper as he glared at her.
Knowing that actions spoke louder than words, Keira let out a long piercing whistle that made all the villagers stare at her in amazement. For a moment there was nothing but then the faint beating of wings could be heard above the murmurings of the villagers. A dragon’s piercing cry echoed above the village before a stunning silver dragon landed behind Keira. Her blunt tipped muzzle, with its crown of horns spreading down her long slender neck, reached out to Keira and was rewarded with a gentle rub across its top.
“This is Jetta, my dragon. She is fast and agile and will be able to get a message to the riders in time.”
“You can’t ride a dragon!” Someone called out from the watching crowd.
“I can ride as good as any man, if not better. Can you?” Keira hid a smile at the lack of response to her challenge and turned back to her father. “I am the only dragonrider left in this village and the only one who can do this.”
Her father stared long and hard at her, his blue eyes piercing her straight to her soul. For a second he was silent and then a long sigh ripped out of him from his very depths. “Saddle your dragon, Keira. You are our only hope, now.”
Against the rising tide of elation, Keira could feel the weight of his words pressing down upon her. She was their only hope and she could only hope that she and Jetta could live up to their expectations.