The First Dragoneer
by M.R. Mathias
All Rights Reverved
“So what are you gonna do? Have you decided yet?” Brendly Tuck asked his best friend.
They had known each other all seventeen summers of their lives. Brendly hoped that since he didn’t have the option of getting out of Prominence Valley as March Weston did, his best friend would decide not to leave. It was a small hope though, because Brendly couldn’t remember March ever talking about anything else. March was always asking him things like, “Where should I go?” or “What should I try to become? Should I go downriver to Camberly?
What about up North to the borders? Maybe I could hire on as a guardsman, or maybe go down South to the coast and work a ship?”
Brendly loved his friend dearly, but as the finality of their last summer together grew closer, the gnawing sense of loss, and feelings that bordered on jealousy, were growing inside of him. If March kept rubbing it in, Brendly thought he might just have to give his best friend a good ol’ thumping to take with him when he left.
Wondering now why he had asked the question, Brendly stopped on the woodsy game trail they were traveling and waited for the answer that he didn’t really want to hear.
“I don’t know yet where I’m gonna go, or what I’m gonna do,” March replied. March could sense Brendly’s discomfort so he added, “But I sure wish you could come with me.”
“So do I.” Brendly dropped his head with the weight of the words to look at his scuffed leather hunting boots.
“Well, let’s make the best of it till midsummer, when I’m to leave. We can worry about it then.” March forced a grin and started back up the trail. Brendly waited only a moment to follow, but March had already disappeared under the thick canopy of the woods causing Brendly to have to quicken his step to catch up.
“We won’t even get a rabbit, much less a stag. Not if we keep skulking about thinking of that stuff,” March called back over his shoulder. “Come on, it’s getting late.”
Remembering that they were hunting, Brendly caught up with his friend and let the worries of the future slip away.
They were hiking their way up toward Cander’s Ridge. It was a little farther from Prominence than they usually came to hunt, but not so far as to cause concern. They were still easily in the kingdom’s border, at least as long as they stayed on this side of the slope. Topping the ridge would only invite trouble though.
A pack of dark-skinned, pointy-eared kobles had been spotted recently. The feral humanoid creatures could best be described as two-legged dogs. They weren’t very dangerous alone, but if you ran into a pack of them you could be in serious trouble. They seldom ventured across the kingdom’s established border, which meant that they weren’t completely void of sense. Only the hungriest of them ever hunted in the protected lands of Prominence Valley, and though a few had killed villagers and hunters in the past, those were usually hunted down and killed. The dead then hung up in the trees, to draw carrion, for their violation.
This side of the ridge was kingdom territory, and not even the huge, dark-skinned wood trolls that roamed the foothills dared to trespass. King Timothy’s border guard patrolled the boundary well and often. The border guard was feared by even the giant Karsithian warriors, who sometimes ventured too far south out of their high mountain territories.
The game trail the boys were following led them to a clearing that held a small pool. When they stopped and looked around for tracks, they both noticed the valley spreading out below them. The rich, dark shades of the green treetops flowed down the mountainside on their way out into the lower slopes of the valley. The trees thinned into large clumps, only to disappear completely in the valley floor. There, squares and long rectangles of brown, gold and russet took over. Some of the greener fields were speckled with the black and brown dots that were livestock, but most were empty of life save for the rows and rows of crops. The silvery-blue thread of the Prominence River wound its way through the pastures and crop fields, splitting the valley into two misshaped halves. The river was speckled with dots, but those were the fishing boats and cargo ships that used its flow as a source of bounty. It was a view that neither of the boys had seen before. They were entranced by its overwhelming beauty.