Callen stepped out into the cold drizzle. Just like her dragon, she hated the rain. She looked around for her dragon and saw him sheltering under a tree. She ran over and took refuge beside him. He blinked sleepily at her and flicked water off his chocolate colored wings.
“Are you ready, Umber?” She asked him.
“I suppose. Might you have any sugar on you?” Umber asked hopefully. Callen produced a lump of sugar from her pocket and gave it to Umber. He gulped it down and looked at her hopefully.
“No more, you great silly creature. It was hard enough to swipe this one. That new cook has this silly idea about rationing the sugar.” Callen scolded.
“Oookkkaaayyy. If you insist.” Umber sighed.
“Where’s Ember?” Callen asked, changing the subject.
“My sister? Probably off training with your sister.” Umber answered. “Are you okay?”
“Just really nervous. I know you’re a good flyer, but we’ll have to fly awfully low if we’re to capture Durazno.” Callen admitted.
“If things start to go downhill, I’m sure Ember and Nessa will fly down and grab us.” Umber assured her.
A boy dressed as a messenger ran up and saluted. “Are you Callen daughter of Grabus?”
“Yes. I am.” Callen answered.
“Your father wishes to see you in his tent.” The messenger boy told her.
Callen sighed, and Umber shot her a sympathetic look. “Pray for me.” Callen whispered to him, then she tucked her short brown hair behind her ears and strode towards Grabus’s tent.
Callen found her father and sister waiting in the tent. Nessa wore her little smirk that always made Callen want to give her a good slap.
“Callen.” Grabus said sternly.
“Father.” Callen answered. “You needed something?”
“My lieutenant has convinced me to give you the job of capturing Durazno. The only reason that I agreed is that my army will not suffer greatly if you fall in battle. That is the only reason why I didn’t let Nessa do it. And if you fail? Well, let’s just say that you’ll wish that you had fallen in battle.” Grabus said, giving her a grim smile. “You are dismissed.”
Callen exited the tent quickly, shoving the tears that were trying to fight their way into her eyes deep into her mind.
“Are you ready?” Callen asked Umber, buckling the saddle onto him. “We need to do this by ourselves. No help from Nessa.”
“Callen!” Nessa called in her annoying sing-song. Callen ignored her and climbed on top of Umber.
“To air!” She whispered in his ear.
The two of them took flight, and soon they were not the only ones. The sky around them filled with dragons as they sped through the air, searching for the enemy. Callen saw a glint from the ground and realized that it was the sun reflecting off a drawn sword.
Umber dove down and set the grass aflame. Callen heard screams and caught a faint whiff of burnt flesh. She and Umber circled, waiting for Durazno to show himself. She had almost given up when she saw him charging toward a clump of their foot soldiers.
She signaled Umber to dive, and they burnt the patch of grass next to Durazno to cinders. Durazno looked up and saw them and gave a crazed roar. She brought Umber lower. Durazno leaped into the air. Umber grabbed Durazno in his talons.
Callen and Umber flew higher, now that they literally had him in their grasp, all they needed to do was deliver him to Grabus. As they flew higher, Callen thought she heard a grunt of pain, but it could have been the wind. Umber roared something at her, but she didn’t understand what he said. Then she felt the bite of cold metal on her throat.
“Land. Now.” Durazno whispered in her ear. “Or I kill you.”
Panicked, Callen ordered Umber to land. As soon as they touched the ground, Durazno pulled her off Umber’s back. He was smart. There was no way that Umber would be able to use his fire without killing Callen.
“You’re fighting on the wrong side.” He said softly. “Kill the dragon and join us. Humans should always stick together.”
“Never.” Callen hissed. “Umber is like family to me. More so than any human I’ve ever met.”
“Suit yourself.” Durazno shrugged. Then he suddenly shoved her into Umber and darted off into the bushes. Moments later, Grabus and Nessa landed beside her.
“Nessa, escort your sister somewhere she can await her punishment.” Grabus growled, shooting Callen a disgusted look.
Nessa and Callen flew in silence to a small valley. Callen slipped off Umber’s back and kicked angrily at a clump of weeds.
“Calm down, Callen! You’re his daughter its not like he’s going to kill you!” Nessa exclaimed after a moment.
“Why can’t you ever understand?” Callen cried. “You’ve never had to deal with his hatred or his disappointment! You always do so well at everything he asks you to do! You don’t understand that it isn’t just the failure that he’s angry about! I’m what Mother died to bring into the world, her biggest mistake! I didn’t ask to be born, but in his eyes, I’m just an idiot failure that murdered his precious wife!”
“Callen…” Nessa started.
“And you? You have never been a sister to me!” Callen shouted. “Every time he started in on how worthless I am, you never said a word! A real sister would have defended me! A real sister would have been there to comfort and protect me! Umber and Ember are more like family to me than you and Father!”
Nessa stared at Callen with a shocked expression. “So that’s how it is, is it.” Nessa finally. “You really do hate us.”
“Hate you?” Callen spat. “Of course I hate you! I have held every bit of this back, for ten years! You know why? Because Grabus told me when I was four years old that my tears were every bit as worthless as the rest of me, and not to burden him or you with them. I haven’t cried in ten years and I haven’t confided in anyone. This has all been building up, waiting to come bursting out. And now it has. You know how I feel. And now we part ways. I’m not staying to be punished for a failed capture, and I’m certainly not staying for fourteen more years of this treatment.”
“Call! Wait! Father will be angry!” Nessa shouted at her.
“Of course he will.” Callen shot back. “Let’s see how you like being the one that gets to deal with it.”
“Callen, wait.” Umber pleaded. Callen ignored him and jogged off into the woods.