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Another Dragon Boy

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            From where he stood hidden in the shadow of an empty pen, Ari watched Semut haphazardly clean out Kashet’s pen, not taking near enough time with the task in Ari’s opinion. Ari could even see dung from where he was – there was no way his dragon boy could miss it from that distance. That meant, unfortunately, that the young man simply didn’t care.

            Ari had been afraid of that. From the first moment they’d been introduced by Haraket, the boy had boasted of his future as a Jouster instead of showing any sign of pride in his role as a lowly dragon boy. It was as if Semut had never intended to maintain his place. Sure, Ari knew, the role of caretaker to the dragons was nothing like the supposed glamor of a Jouster’s life. Ari knew better; Haraket knew better. Few of the dragon boys seemed to realize just how dangerous such a life was, however. They spent too much time courting favor with those Jousters who’d throw their lavish parties, spending the Great King’s wealth on dancing girls and feasts, tossing away the wealth of their time with little thought to anything but the knowledge that each Joust might be their last.

            In some ways, Ari could understand his fellows’ view of things – it was undeniably dangerous in their skies. More so for them than he, he acknowledged, knowing full well that Kashet’s love and affection was a boon above all others when in battle. Of all the dragons in the Great King’s army, only his would turn to his rider instead of away. It was a gift Ari would not, could not, take for granted.

            It was just a shame most everyone else did. Semut would be the third in a line of dragon boys that hadn’t lasted, that hadn’t seen that taking the extra time with Kashet would be paid back with companionship and a far less dangerous dragon to work with. Ari sneered to himself; only the lazy would choose to drug a creature into submission instead of winning its loyalty.

            But he was rare in believing thusly. Even Haraket, one of his staunchest allies, thought the long hours it had taken to train his dragon had been too much to bother with. He could recognize that Kashet was a singular beast, far larger and stronger than the other dragons, and undeniably more willing to test his limits at Ari’s behest.

            That didn’t mean it was worth the years it had taken Ari to train his dear heart. Not when the Great King wanted more Jousters without spending any more time to train than normal.

            And, unfortunately, the dragon boys didn’t think Kashet was worth that extra time, either.

            What Ari wanted, needed, was to find a boy who might learn to love Kashet, too. One who wouldn’t want to dream for another, seemingly higher position, one far away from the dragon pens unless it was one on a dragon’s back, Jousting with the others of the Tian wings.

            He wouldn’t find one here, Ari knew, not among the current crop of boys. He’d simply need to keep his eye out. Maybe another scribe, like he himself had been. One lower born than he, of course. One who chafed at the sedentary lifestyle, at the stain of ink upon his fingers, and the scent of papyrus ever in his nose. Granted, even a scribe would earn more in a week than a dragon boy, but a scribe might not have the benefit of a place to sleep or ready food like a one of the dragon complex would.

            It was a thought. One he would ruminate on further. Right now, well. Right now, Semut needed to be reminded that he was not unseen in his laziness. Whatever the young man’s fate might be, for now, his life revolved around Kashet’s care. Or else Ari would know why.

            There was nothing and no one too good for his Kashet. Ari knew it in his bones.