Bonded [Flightbonds trilogy #1] [A Rama Empire novel]

When magic users are being chased all over the Rama Empire, the dragon riders face opposition from everywhere, because their powers are so alike the feared mages'. The Emperor no longer trust them, the people fear them, and yet they are necessary.

Esbet, the rider of the white dragon, is given a new student to train and make into a proper dragon rider, but it is not without challenges. Risa resists her on almost every point, and for the first time in her life, Esbet begins to wonder if the dragons have chosen poorly.

"The dragon eggs looked very little like the chicken eggs back home. They had roughly the same shape, but were each one bigger then Risa's head and the colour of molten caramel. The sand around them was blackened and burned, pieces of glass sticking up here and there, where it had melted from the heat. The eggs seemed to glow, as they shook ever so slightly.
Tension was thick in the air, threatening to choke her."

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7. Ch. 1 - The Hatching (Part 5)

Risa woke up felling like her bladder might burst. She turned over to get out of her bed and run to the privy outside the house, hoping she would not wake up her parents or her little brother.

Next thing she knew, some ungodly creature was shrieking in her ear, and tiny claws dug into her chest with a fury, as the little dragon protested against her accidentally squashing it. All limbs and a surprised cry, she fell out of the bed and hit the floor with a thud, dragon still on her chest.

"Let go, let go, I'm sorry!" she told the dragon, attempting to copy the way Esbet had freed the claws the evening before. "I didn't mean to!"

The tiny creature still screeched and refused to let go. It whirred its head angrily, tiny tail whipping across Risa's thighs. Finally Risa managed to free the claws one at a time, and curl her arm around the dragon so that she cTould get to her feet. Hunched over, she looked around for her skirt, wondering how she would manage to go to take care of her bladder, dragon in arms.

Finding the sarong, she was in the process of attempting to tie it one handedly, when somebody knocked on the door.

"Yes?" Risa said in a fluster, embarrassed that she might have awakened the scary dragonrider next door.

The door opened to reveal a tiny woman, hair cropped into tightly bound braids, eyes kind and her skin the colour of dark wood. She smiled at Risa, revealing a row of pearly teeth.

"You must be Risa, dear," she said. "I'm Grace. I'm in charge of Esbet's chambers, so we'll see each other around."

Risa nodded in greeting, still fumbling with the sarong.

"Here, let me," Grace said. "I heard you when I was getting the wash, and figured I'd come say hi." She helped tie the skirt in place, and then took the dragon from Risa. "I'll hold this little one for a bit, so you can take care of your business."

Risa sent her a thankful smile, and hurried to the privy Esbet had showed her the evening before. It was small and dark, and unlike the one back home. A wooden box stood to one side with a hole, much like the outdoor toilet back home, but through the hole she could see what looked like a stone pipe. Beside it was a bucket of water, and above it was a small shelf with a candle and fire sticks. She lit it before she closed the door and took care of the pressing matter that had woken her. Remembering to blow out the light, and flush clean the stone pipe, she returned to Grace and the dragon.

Grace was expertly holding the dragonet on her hip with one arm, and removing ashes from the fireplace with the other, scraping them into a bucket for the purpose. She hummed softly, soothing the anxious creature, who clawed at her sarong and looked around for Risa. The moment it saw her, it mewled, and started wriggling to get to her, tiny wings flaring out and open.

"Oh bother," Grace laughed. "I forgot how needy they are this soon after hatching."

Risa had hurried over, and the older woman handed over the dragonet.

"Thank you," the girl said shyly. The dragon had dug its nails into her again, and Risa sighed, resigning herself to her new life as a pincushion. She already dreaded the amount of scratches she knew would be visible if she removed her shirt.

"Never you mind." Grace brushed her hands off on her apron, setting the ash bucket aside. "Everything must have been so frantic yesterday, and I bet they've barely gotten around to tell you anything yet, what with everything being so new."

Risa shrugged, stepping back a little. She wanted to go back to her room.

"Esbet said we'd talk more today," she mumbled, slightly defensive.

"And we will," a sleep hoarse voice sounded, as Esbet stepped out into the living room. She was only wearing a baggy shirt, which fell to her thighs. Her hair hung coarsely down around her head, a sleepy mess. Risa stared at her, incredulous, and uncomfortable. Was a dragonrider supposed to look so unkempt? It seemed wrong, especially one who had seemed so steely the day before. "We'll need to sort out your chores, lessons and equipment." The last was said with a yawn.

"Breakfast first," Grace said firmly, and Esbet agreed.

She went to Risa and took the dragon from her, again without problems. Turning it in her hands, she studied it for a bit, before handing it back to Risa.

"You'll have to put on your sandals, and wait for a bit so I can get dressed. Then we'll go get food from the kitchen, and eat up here. It's calmer than the great hall. We'll get something for the dragon too, while we're at it. He's gotta be starving by now."

"He?" Risa latched onto the word.

"He's male."

Esbet did not explain further, but went to her room, and closed the door. Grace padded Risa's shoulder, took the ash bucket in one hand and lifted a basket filled with laundry to her hip with the other hand.

"Better get your sandals," the woman said. "She's a fast dresser, and I'll see you later."

Risa looked after her as she left, then hurried to her room to find her sandals. One handed, she got them on, and returned to the living room. Leaning against the table, she held out the dragon to look at it proper. Look at him proper. Her dragon. Her dragon, who was male, and the colour of orange clay.

"So," she whispered. "You're male."

He looked at her with amber eyes, nostrils flaring. Then he looked over to Esbet's door, as she exited. The baggy shirt was tied up at the sides, to make way for long and tightly fit pants unlike any Risa had ever seen, and small shoes with a mostly open top.

"Come on," the dragonrider said, without really looking at her.

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