Chapter 1 : Task One Challenge: Romanian Longhorn
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Captain was a Swedish Short-Snout. Pretty old for a dragon. Had crust around his eyes and yellowing claws. All he did was sleep, scoot across the pen, and bury his face in food. The last time I saw him spit fire was two months ago when he sneezed.
I was in charge of Captain.
By in charge, I meant I sat in the corner completing crossword puzzles and popping my gum. It had been this way for three years, since I graduated Hogwarts and moved to Romania under the charge of Charlie Weasley. He called me his heir, but the most I’d inherited was his old scale clipper for Captain.
“Another contest today, Noah?”
Susan Bones closed the door behind her, carrying a canvas bag over one shoulder. She was tall, almost as tall as me, and had her hair up. Strands kept falling onto her cheeks and she shoved them behind each ear.
She was the other intern assigned to Captain. Technically she worked along-side me, but Susan had been here for six months to my three years so she asked a lot of questions. Mostly about crossword answers in order to cheat and beat me in our races.
“You’re never going to win,” I said, scooting over.
“I won once.” She smiled, stretching her legs out on the concrete. The space itself was enormous and there were at least thirty meters between us and Captain, curled in his corner.
“I left to go to the bathroom.” I smirked.
Susan wanted to be a dragon healer as well. Charlie insisted the best way to start was to tend to ailing dragons. They were sweet-tempered and had usually been in the colony for some time.
Well, sweet-tempered for the most part.
Baxie, an elderly Chinese Fireball, took a swat at Susan on day two that landed her in the infirmary for two weeks.
“Charlie give us anything else?” She grabbed my notes and frowned. Just the usual scribbles from my morning meeting. Clean up dragon droppings. Wash off the walls of the pen. Feed him twice. “You think he’ll ever give us anything else?”
“Maybe by the time I’ve been here five years I’ll touch a young dragon.” I chuckled at the thought. Every morning I tried to get in a word about helping with a Ridgeback or a Horntail. The young, feisty ones that shook the stone walls of the colony. No such luck.
Instead, we were stuck with Captain.
“Better get to the list then.” Susan pointed to ‘clean dragon droppings,’ but took out her book of crosswords. She smiled and leaned against the wall. “Proper vegetable to feed a sick Blast-Ended Skrewt,” she said, teeth tugging on her bottom lip.
“Lettuce,” I replied without thinking.
She scribbled it in. “See? I’m winning already.”
“Because I’ve read every healing book out there,” I shot back, elbowing her. “Fine. Here’s one. Dosage of sleeping draught for an injured six-month-old dragon.”
Susan pulled her legs up to her chest. She’d spent most evenings in her bunk reading over the books I gave her, but nothing was a substitute for experience. She sighed. “One and a half needles?”
“Do you think that would fit here?” I held up the puzzle.
“Three.” She laughed.
I wrote it in. “Very good. Let’s go tell Charlie we’re professionals.”
Susan rolled her eyes and let out a sigh. “You think we’re doing something wrong?” she asked. “Think about it. I’ve been here six months. You’ve been here three years. And we’re sitting in a pen watching Captain sleep.”
“And he snores,” I grumbled. “I don’t know. Probably all the certified trainers that have a background in healing.”
“Cheaters,” Susan mumbled. “Want to bail on Captain for the morning?”
“And do what?” The amount of activities to do in the colony could be counted on one hand. Besides eating in the caf, reading in our bunks, or sneaking in to see other dragons, the choices were limited.
The smirk on her face showed me really quick that Susan didn’t think so. “C’mon,” she said. “He’ll be fine. Maybe he can even get some of this puzzle done.”
It wasn’t as if we’d never done it before. From time to time when Captain snored too loud, Susan and I had taken to sneaking into Charlie’s library and snatching books or having lunch topside since the colony was housed underground.
“All right, fine,” I said, straightening and tossing my puzzle book to the ground.
“Talked to your parents lately?” Susan transfigured our books into large water dishes and led the way to the door. “Since their last letter?”
“You mean the one where they told me to come home, get an entry-level job at Gringotts, and marry into money?” I laughed, pulling open the door for her. “Haven’t heard from them since I wrote them back in Romanian.”
“You would.” Susan rolled her eyes as we made our way down the dimly lit stone hall. “You wait until they get a foreign language dictionary and figure out all those colorful words you’re using.”
“Me? Colorful? Hardly.” I grabbed her arm, tugging her into a dark corner. “Shh.”
The door to pen seventeen opened and two trainers walked out. One was holding a large box I recognized as healing supplies. My nose wrinkled. I’d been here three years and wasn’t granted a healing box. That trainer was on his second year.
His hair was mousy too.
“Want to steal it?” Susan whispered, leaning close.
My nose wrinkled. “I’d like to,” I mumbled. We waited for the trainers to turn the corner before stepping out of the shadows. “Want to see what they were up to?”
“Pretty sure you’re asking me that to spite them.” She was grinning. “And yes, absolutely.”
Bitterness had nothing to do with it. Nothing at all.
Susan bit down on her lip and pushed open the pen door. Seventeen held Brian, a Romanian Longhorn with thick scales and fierce eyes. Half the walls were charred.
Brian had a bit of a temper.
He snorted as we walked in, sinking back into the corner.
“Hey, Bry,” Susan said in a cheeky way, pulling out her wand. “Accio clippers.” She raised her left hand and caught the enormous instrument with the other. They were bigger than Captain’s, probably because the Longhorn had larger scales. “Want to get down to business?”
“Seriously?” I had to give her credit. Susan wanted to get her foot in the door. What better way to do it than get practice on a dragon with an Irish temper?
“Sure.” Susan shrugged and shoved some more hair behind her ears. “Change that dish into another set of clippers and we can do some distraction work. You smile pretty and I’ll clip.”
“You do it,” I said, grabbing the clippers from her. “My wand is rubbish for Transfiguration. Isn’t yours ash?”
She held it up like she was modeling it, taking a turn and everything. “Yep. Ash, dragon-heartstring, twelve inches, springy, and especially good at Transfiguration.” Susan tapped the clippers with the end of her wand and they turned into a pink teacup. She tapped them again. Back to clippers.
“Impressive,” I said, nodding. “Need me to charm something?” That was pretty much all my wand was good for. That and stirring potions when I got lazy.
“I think the ladies at the pub appreciate it enough.” Susan shot me a cheeky wink and looked over to Brian, who was emitting a low growl.
“This is really not our best life decision.” Brian was staring me down.
And he was not batting his eyelashes. Did dragons have lashes?
“Nope.” My heart was racing. Was this the way we really needed to get noticed? Trimming the scales of Brian?
This was how I died.
At least my clothes were fireproof.
I jumped when Susan grabbed my hand. “If the trainers can do it, we can do it.”
“Right.” I nodded. Sure. That was sound logic.
Just as I took my first step forward, the door burst open behind me.
“Gastwin?” It was a freshman wrangler with yellow dragon wings on his uniform. Less than nine months in training.
We both turned. Neither of us was Gastwin. Obviously.
“Hi,” I offered with a cheery smile. I tried to look like we were supposed to be here, but failed miserably.
“Have you seen Gastwin?” The wrangler was panting, leaning against the doorframe. Brian sat up behind us. “Charlie’s out in the field and just got burned pretty bad. Gastwin’s got the burn book.”
My jaw dropped. “Charlie’s been burned?”
When was the last time Charlie Weasley was burned? Five years ago? Probably more. He was extremely agile, careful, and quick with his wand. Whatever was out there must have been either powerful or quick.
The wrangler nodded. “Just happened. It’s a Romanian. Right by the colony. Charlie says it’s related to Brian.” He clutched his chest.
My mind was spinning. A dragon close to the colony. Charlie was burned. A Romanian.
“Come on.” I kept hold of Susan’s hand and shoved past the young wrangler, pulling her down the hall. He called after us, but I wasn’t listening.
Two years ago I was burned by an Ironbelly after getting too close when Charlie was feeding it medication for an infection. I lost half the hair on my left leg, but I was fine.
The one thing I learned was the amount of pain.
I passed out.
“Are we seriously going?” Susan asked, jogging to keep pace. “Charlie will kill us when he sees us up there.”
“We’ve been in that pen with Captain for three years,” I said. “Well, I have.” I scanned my key ring and a door vanished, leading me to the lobby of the colony. It was a huge room with marble floors and a check in desk for visitors and interns. Martha, the desk clerk, was distracted by a beach novel.
Featuring a shirtless bloke on the cover.
“How many spells do you know if a bloody dragon comes at you?” Susan said, grabbing my shoulder and pulling me to a stop. “You’re going to get yourself killed.”
I met her eyes. “I’m not here just because I like dragons.” I slid my hand into hers again. She didn’t pull away. “I’m here to make a difference and that is exactly what I intend on doing. Are you coming?”
Her jaw tightened for a minute. Susan didn’t reply. Instead, she pulled me out the main doors and into the sunlight.
It took a few seconds to get my bearings, but once I heard a masculine yell from the left, I knew where the action was.
I just didn’t expect the action to be quite so … big.
Romanian Longhorns were not huge dragons. Typically, they were on the small side compared to Horntails and Ridgebacks. Brian was an average size, bulky because he was a male.
This was my first lesson in female Longhorns being bigger than males.
She had to have been twenty meters high, claws dug into the earth as her fire sprayed the trees around us. Two were already on fire. Those jaws didn’t exactly look friendly either.
Charlie was close to its left back leg, crawling away from a burning tree. His pants were charred and even from a distance I could tell he was in pain.
His eyes found us when the door closed. “Get inside!” he cried. “Get Gastwin!”
Yeah, I had no idea where Gastwin was.
“I’ll get Charlie,” Susan said to me, her eyes on the dragon. “You figure out why it’s so close.” She raised her wand, casting a shield and rushed to Charlie, who was still shouting at her to get back inside. Another tree caught fire.
I was staring at the dragon. Enormous. Absurdly angry. Those scales didn’t look healthy. For a moment, I wished I’d brought the clippers, but then I remembered this wasn’t a caged dragon and it could do a lot more damage on me than it had Charlie.
I moved closer. Flames were everywhere. Grass. Leaves. Tree bark.
“Noah – bloody get out of here!” Charlie cried. Susan was helping him up and scolding him for talking while he was hurt. Leave it to her. “You are not qualified to be out here!”
Yeah, well, it wasn’t because I didn’t want it bad enough.
That was when I saw it. The red patch just under the dragon’s left horn. It was inflamed and the scales were sticking out at strange angles. Pain.
I could have smiled.
This was easy. Captain had many infections over the years. I flicked my wand, sending water to the dragon and soaking her head. She roared, spitting fire onto a fallen tree. Not good.
“Susan!” I called, glancing over my shoulder to where she was forcing Charlie into the lobby. “I need a box!”
She nodded, ignoring Charlie, and disappeared.
Now the Longhorn was staring me directly in the face.
Please hurry, Susan.
It took a step toward me, the ground trembling.
“Accio healing box!” I cried and pulled it open, moving through the assortment of ointments, medicine, and bandages. There! I squeezed an unlabeled blue tube and a thick cream spread out over my fingers. I used my wand to move it through the air and onto the Longhorn’s head, covering the inflamed area.
Then I bit my lip and hoped it work.
The dragon paused, staring. I could hear the trees crackle under the flames.
It took a full minute, but the dragon moved away. Several wranglers were on the dragon quickly now that it wasn’t lighting everything on fire and administered a tracker.
Susan helped me to my feet and dusted off my jacket. “Nice spotting,” she said with a grin. She was still fighting to catch her breath.
“Charlie fire you?” I laughed, watching the dragon move away toward the thickening forest.
“Promoted me,” Susan replied with a smirk. “So you’re going to have to do your crosswords alone.”
“What?” I gaped at her. How was that possible?
“By the way, you’ve been reassigned.” Susan’s smile widened. “Though I’m pretty sure you’ve got your work cut out for you with Brian. Maybe you’ll inherit more than clippers after all.”
I put my arm around her shoulders and grabbed the box, heading back toward the colony. “Did Charlie mention anything about a pay raise?”
“He was a little delusional from the burn,” Susan noted. “I’m pretty sure he mentioned a significant compensation increase. Oh, and new Healer jackets. And ice cream Fridays.”
- features your House’s Champion
- mentions at least 4 specific breeds of dragon
- mentions a Blast-Ended Skrewt
- features a dragon
- mentions a Sleeping Draught
- mentions 2 of the following types of magic: a transfiguration spell, a sleeping spell, the conjunctivitis curse, the summoning charm (accio)
- features a theme of flourishing in the face of adversity
- mentions the details of your Champion’s Wand, as provided by your Head of House