Skyborne

For Quibblo's latest story contest about a classroom teaching something you'd only dream about!
Please enjoy! I may write more chapters if I feel like it.

Chapter 1

The Bell Tolls

by: Shiranuii
Today would be the first day of the rest of our lives, and I don't utter that phrase lightly. Not like when someone goes in for a job interview and the manager, dressed in a dapper coat and sleek tie, stands up with a delighted grin while holding out his hand and announcing that you've got the job. Not even when you trudge sluggishly behind a train of high school students sporting floor-length gowns that reach triumphantly for their diplomas after their valedictorian cheers that this is only the beginning.

This was much more than that, as this day would truly propel my fate toward a destined goal with no forks along the way. Our destinies were sealed; after today, this was truly what we'd be doing for the duration of our days.

We walked with an apparent calmness into the classroom, wincing at the sound of the cold steel legs of chairs scraping against the ground as students pulled them out to sit down. Many students dropped their books on the desk with a dissatisfied thud, while others tediously nudged theirs until the edges lined up precisely with the edges of the desk.

I slipped a pencil out of my backpack, and began tapping it distractedly on my desk, resting my head on my other hand while staring at the clock. Each second seemed to pass by more slowly with each tick of the machine. To my right, a kid coughed, the only other sound breaking the thick, uncomfortable silence.

Finally, someone voiced what we had all been wondering; "Is there supposed to be a teacher for this class, or am I missing out on something?" A couple others murmured in agreement. I turned my attention to the whiteboard up front, as blank as a fresh canvas. Maybe the professor had called in sick.

Suddenly a rock smacked the window, the resounding noise shattering the impassive trance and causing every student to practically fall out of their seats. "What was that?" I said in annoyance, brushing tawny bangs out of my face.

"I think a bird might've-" one kid started as he looked outside. What he saw made his jaw slowly close and cease speaking.

Another student, a short girl, pointed out the window and announced, "Look!"

"It's our teacher," I murmur in bewilderment. Gradually, I rise out of my chair as other students do the same, and we all shuffle towards the door.

"I see you've all made it to class... late," an old man before us smirked, beckoning all of us to hurry outside. He stood next to what looked like an old religious shrine, like an open church tower, that contained a steel-gray archaic bell. Pieces from the edge appeared to have crumbled off from weathering and old age. Blue markings, like celtic knots, laced around the outskirts of the bell like snakes, the hue so brilliant it seemed to glow.

"Martin, if you would please ring the bell," the professor instructed, stretching out his hand towards a meek student at the back of the crowd. His eyes widened at the sound of his name, and he looked frantically between the watchful gazes of students that had all turned around in synchrony.

Blinking much too quickly and swallowing his apprehension, he walked through the crowd of students that parted like a knife through warm butter. As he passed the professor, he looked up at his wrinkled old face, his twinkling blue eyes sparkling behind fragile spectacles. He had been looking forward to teaching this class again.

Martin's hands closed around the rough rope that hung below the bell, and with a look of forced determination he pulled the rope with all his strength. The heavy bell tilted, the steel glinting in the sunlight, before swinging back and striking the dense clapper.

A beautiful sound filled the valley that day, something I had never experienced before. It reverberated from the bell with great force, but was gentle like a summer breeze, spreading swiftly through the land, up to the mountains and skies. The sound was like hearing angels sing.

As the bell slowly became static again, a stunning silence drifted over us again. All was still; all the world was holding its breath. Then suddenly an earth-shattering roar pierced the air like a rocket. Out of nowhere great beasts began to descend from the mountain on brilliant wings. The creatures glided towards us, towards the sound of the great bell.

Our professor turned to us, crossing his arms across his brown argyle sweater vest. "Now," he instructed in a more teacher-like voice, "you may call me Mr.Taylor, your professor."

He paused a moment, allowing that to sink into our brains. "That was for then, however," he added, a sly grin teasing his lips, "from here on out, you may address me as master, as you are all now my apprentices."

As if on cue, magnificent dragons descended from the sky in a rainbow of colors. Their long necks craned around to look at all of us as their great leathery wings carried them to earth. A black one with spines and spikes like a jagged shore and ram horns landed closest to me, dark purple eyes focusing on my tiny figure. I took a step back.

A sleek green dragon descended gracefully behind Master Taylor, lowering its triangular head to his level. He reached a grateful hand up to stroke her snout, causing her to release a sound not far off from that of a kitten's purr.

"This here is Kayla, and she is incredibly pleased to meet you all."

The class murmurs greetings to Kayla in unison.

Clearly pleased, Master Taylor continues, "Today will either be your first or your last. Your first and only assignment for now is to select a dragon. Uh-uh-uh, not yet Ms. Jasmine," he warns, waving a finger towards a thrilled student who had already taken a step forward towards the dangerous behemoths.

"This can be one of the most difficult tasks a dragon rider will face. You must truly focus on your inner spirit, your inner self and try and find that shining through in one of the dragons. Trust me when I say this; you will most definitely not be the deciding factor of your dragon. Your dragon will choose you. If you approach the wrong one, it may take it as a threat and attempt to kill you. Good luck!" he declares, throwing in the last bit for good measure as if it would instill some sense of confidence in his students now that he had frightened over half the populace.

I stood, frozen, as a dozen students stormed past me, ready to face their first challenge. I had to admit that I was afraid as well. No, terrified. Before I had been ecstatic to finally get my dragon, but to face death like this was nothing I had imagined. This was just school, wasn't it? No one died in school, right?

Looking up, I was surprised to find already a few kids climbing up atop waiting dragons that seemed to smile at them through their wise eyes. One of them was cooing, nudging the rider with its armored muzzle.

I took a step forward, keeping a great distance between myself and most other dragons. Focus on my inner self, I reminded myself of my professors words before heading into the mass of dragons.

The black dragon from earlier looked up at me in intrigue, then leaped towards me with great force, ram horns threatening to knock me flying. Stammering, I took a step back as its mouth snapped open and it roared with terrifying thunder. Quickly, I ducked under a dragon that had already been claimed, hoping it would lose sight of me.

Glancing back I saw Martin being scooped up by the black dragon. He looked ready to cry, but the dragon set him back down onto the ground and stared at him in acceptance. My eyes burned with shock and amusement, and all I could do was shrug before stepping out from underneath a great silver dragon.

The commotion was all a bit much, and I found myself lost and confused of where to go. It seemed every dragon was either bonded by now or attempting to snap off some teenager's head. On one occasion a great torrent of fire burst into the air, sending some students screaming for cover.

I turned around towards a rare clearing and darted through it, coming face to face with a young, white dragon. I looked up at his face, its thin and angular build. Spines sprouted out from his jawline and turned into a brilliant white crest around his head, like jagged mountain peaks. Two sleek, ivory horns grew from atop his head, stretching out behind him and tapering off.

I took a step back to take him in. He was as white as lacquered porcelain and as blinding as icy snow. Two brilliant aquamarine eyes peered down at me as he released a heavy puff of air and spread two incredible wings. The webbing slowly became a pale blue color at the tips like ice.

His tail was as thorny as his head and neck, but the spikes ended just at his shoulders and began again just in the middle of his back, leaving room in the middle the perfect fit for an aspiring rider.

Warily, I reached a timid hand up to this dragon's face, and to my surprise, he stretched his head down to assist me. He nuzzled the side of my face as I continued to stroke him, amazed that I was the tamer of such a beautiful animal.

A cool voice resounded in my head like silk; My name is Sent , the dragon told me.

"I'm Zoe, I murmur, sliding my hand down Sent's shoulder before scrambling my way up onto his back. Suddenly he reared, and I reached as far as I could around him to hold on as my fingers began to slide down his scales. As quickly as it began, he fell back onto his forepaws.

We turned around to face all the other riders whom had grown accustomed to their new eternal companions, smiling in accomplishment and adoration. Suddenly, Master Taylor's voice brought us all back down to earth.

"Next," he announced, "we learn to fly."

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