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Finding Fire (A stranger comes to town)

Smoke billows from our carefully crafted homes. Winter has come to an end but nothing warms the heart like kindling in the hearth. Today I become a protector of the village, just like my father in his younger days. My stomach churned and my hair stood on end as I carefully push my way through the masses. Smaller than most in the village, I have my work cut out for me.

 

Our first task was to best another man in hand to hand combat. I approached the ring and wait as my opponent finds his way. Perfect, another boy my age stood across the circle. A small horn pierced the air as my opponent rushed towards me. For a second everything stopped. Time stood still as I realized this very moment was all I’ve thought about my entire life. I took a solid blow to the abdomen that snapped me quickly back to reality. I dug my feet into the moist dirt and engaged my attacked. Cheers and shouts filled the air as we exchanged attacks. We moved fluently, like the elders painting their tapestries. The fighting dragged on and seemed to be an even match. My opponent looked winded, he threw a jab. I ducked, slid quickly under his open legs and delivered a mule kick sending him forward into the dirt. I recovered my ground as quickly as possible. To my surprise my opponent laid face down in the mud. He was finished. Horns and the clanging of weapons and armor filled the air. I had finished my first round. It was time to prepare for the next challenge.

 

This right of passage was structured so we would take on two challenges each day. As I arrived at the Inn a man at the bar ordered  me a pint. I had a few hours before I’d be informed of my next challenge and It would be best to relax.

 

“Ya did great out there boy!” said the man through his great grin.

 

I returned the smile over my ivory mug. “Not bad for my first trial huh?”

 

“Don’t get cocky lad! The fire won’t be so forgivin’!”

 

“Fire? I know they changed the challenges after every harvest but never have I heard o’ fire!”  before I could put down my mug and look to the man for an answer he was gone.

 

The sun set quickly that night. I left the inn and made my way to a band of torchlight extending on the edge of town. The chief of our village stood with his closest friends and began to explain the challenge to the remaining ten who made it through the first test. No mention of fire.

 

We were to head into the forest that night and return by morning with a rare flower that had been placed there during the harvest. There was only enough for half of us to make it through. A large horn bellowed and we ran off into the woods. I’ve spent plenty of time in this forest to find my way around. I knew I could finish this challenge with ease, but I felt unsettled. What was that man talking about! What fire? It was at this very moment I stopped in my tracks. I looked down to find my boots in a slight ditch. no, not a ditch. A footprint. Dragon footprints.

 

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