dragon challenge header

not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment


by Audrysrev

"Just leave it." With his back to the intruder, the dragon rider could not see that instead of a stable boy, his teacher had entered the stall.

"Justin." With his cool blue eyes and chiseled features, Josh Chasez appeared to be all that a senior rider should be. Fierce and sophisticated, Josh could rarely be found in the stables at all. But his students and friends saw a different side of Josh. His fierceness was balanced by an amazing sense of humor and a laugh so big his eyes crinkled shut. The sophistication in Josh was matched with a humbleness that kept him grounded. Startled, his number one student jumped at the sound of his voice.

"Sorry, Rider. I—I did not realize it was you." Standing at attention, Justin looked just over the left ear of his trainer, as was standard practice.

"Relax, Justin. I have come to talk, not reprimand." Behind Justin, a pale blue dragon nuzzled his rider's shoulder. Watching them, Josh felt the double impact of those sky blue eyes, both dragon and junior rider's. Remaining tense, Justin ran a hand over Macy and followed his teacher from the stalls.

For many minutes, Justin followed Josh in silence. He knew what he had done wrong. He knew that flying without permission was against all dragon rider rules. The dragons were for protection and transportation, not fun. Yet, Justin had not taken Macy to Paramore merely for the fun of it and yet no one could know the true reason for his trip.

Guiding Justin onto a hidden path, Josh slowed his steps slightly so that the two riders walked side-by-side. In perfect silence, the riders entered into an empty clearing.

"Where are we?" Justin knew that it was rude and even against the rules to speak without first being spoken to; however, Josh had been less strict when enforcing those rules than the other senior riders were. Justin was frequently reprimanded by other seniors when he forgot who he was with. But it didn't stop him. Despite their places in the court, Justin always felt more free when he was with his senior rider.

"No more questions, Justin. Now, you listen. And answer my questions." Bowing his head, Justin accepted the reproach. But he knew that his answers would never be sufficient.

"Many years ago, when I was your age I flew to Paramore." Confused, Justin raised his eyes to his teacher. They had never spoken about life before the court. Life before Justin’s lessons. "I had Kirkpatrick's permission, of course. But I didn't realize what I was getting myself into.

"Instead of following Chris' advice, I went to a race." Josh paused, allowing Justin to absorb the enormity of his actions. Everyone knew about the Paramore races. The races weren't famous for their prestige, but for their cruelty. Dragons were forced into racing against their own kind, many times against their brothers and sisters.

"But I didn't go to the races, Jo-Rider. I swear that's not what this is about."

"Then why? Why, Justin, would you do something so stupid? Why would you sabotage your life like this?" The force of Josh's words and the ice in his eyes threw Justin for a complete loop. "Do you know what the Council could do to you?

"Justin." Sighing, Josh turned away. Justin was his star student. He was the best rider Josh had ever trained.

"I can't. I can't tell you." He wanted to. Justin wanted to tell Josh why he had taken Macy for a four hour, 4000 mile trip. But he had promised. Macy had made him promise not to tell. Fire and the simple refusal to fly had forced Justin into silence. Moreover, his role in the game they had played, the mistakes they had made had forced him into silence. No one would suspect Justin. Hopefully.

"Justin. You have to tell me. I can't help you unless I know." The fierce look was back, but Justin hadn't noticed. Focusing on the ground, his thoughts revolved around Macy and what would happen to him if the Council found out. "Justin."

Josh reached out, trying to get Justin to focus. But when his fingers brushed against Justin's shoulder, the young man reacted violently, throwing himself away from Josh. Hands up defensively, Justin watched his teacher warily.

"Don't." Dropping his hands, the tension in Justin drained as quickly as it had come. "I'm sorry. I've failed you. I've failed the court.

"I'll accept my punishment, whatever the Council says."

"You can tell me." Josh could see the tears in his student's eyes, could see them threatening to fall. But Justin would never let them, would never show weakness.

"No. This isn't your responsibility. I won't let you take the fall for what I did." Despite the urge to scream at Justin about reponsibilities, the pit in Josh's stomach was growing larger every second. "If you don't know, it's better. It's just better this way."

"Please. You are my responsibility. You and Macy." But Justin was already shaking his head.

"Not this, Rider. Not this." Taking a deep breath, Justin seemed to pull himself together. "This was my decision and my mistake. I will deal with it."

“I am your teacher, Justin. I am responsible. You must tell me why you went to Paramore.” Josh drew himself up as much as possible. He put as much ice into his voice as he could manage, even ignored the way Justin’s entire body flinched. Staring into Justin’s eyes, Josh could see the internal struggle, could see the way Justin was torturing himself. And he couldn’t help but think that it was bad. Whatever Justin had done in Paramore had been bad.

“Fine. You want to know?” Josh was surprised at the sudden anger in Justin’s eyes. “I’ll tell you.”


It was early. Too fucking early for Justin to be saddling Macy, the only sky blue dragon in the entire court.

Stop whining. It's incredibly annoying. Justin snarled and continued working on the saddle.

"If you hadn't woken me up..." He knew Macy didn't give a flying squirrel’s nuts about his sleep, but he hadn't gotten to sleep until two. And now it wasn't even five.

You know the senior riders are up by five-thirty. We need to go. Now.

"Alright, alright. We're going." The trip to Paramore was fairly simple. Two hours there, two back. Only one large mountain range between Manchester and Paramore. Justin had even been there before. Or, not quite Paramore, but a hundred miles east of there. And he had studied, knew the landmarks. He knew how to get to Paramore. He was still scared.

Almost there. For two years, Justin had groomed and trained Macy. And in less than a month he was supposed to take his Rider's Test. He was supposed to be a senior rider soon. But he wasn't sure if that would ever happen after today.

Justin pulled up a couple of miles outside the city. This trip wasn't about fun and games and he had no use for the dragon stables littered around the city of Paramore.

"Do you know where they are, Mace? Can you get us there?"

Two miles east. There are so many. I cannot go all the way, Justin. The sorrow in Macy seeped into Justin.

"Take me as far as you can." Less than a quarter of a mile from the tents, Justin dropped quickly from Macy's back. "I'll call when I'm ready."

Located in a large clearing, the tents held almost twenty dragons, ranging in color from bright yellow to turquoise to light brown. Each was chained to a large post in the middle of the tent. The four tents each held five dragons, apparently arranged by size. Watching from a tree, Justin picked out five guards.

Only five? For a while, Justin merely watched. He watched how often the guards changed and the directions they took when watching the perimeter. It's getting light.

Silently, Justin crept from the trees. He had to do this before it got too bright, before they could see him clearly. Waiting for the first guard, Justin pulled the knife he had brought from his belt. With a quick flip of the wrist and a soft groan, there was only four guards left. Quickly and as quietly as he could, Justin released the dragons in the first tent. The only way he could get all of them would be to get these five on his side. He didn't think he could take out four guards alone.

"I need your help. Please." He spoke softly, but surely. The dragons of his court all felt a sort of brotherhood for one another. But he didn't know about these dragons. Four of the dragons, three male and one female, bowed to him, showing their assent. The fifth looked ready to fly away, find freedom. Justin couldn't hear their dialogue, but he knew they were discussing, arguing by the looks of the fifth dragon. Finally, the last dragon, a large canary yellow, bowed to Justin.

It was over in less than ten minutes. In a blur of swords and blood, Justin took out two more guards while the remaining two suffered fatal burns from the large yellow.

As each dragon left they bowed to Justin, a low dip of the head ending just above the ground. As he called out to Macy, Justin returned each bow as low as he could.


"And then we flew home." Justin stood before the Council, awaiting his fate. He'd told them. He'd told them that he had flown to Paramore for the races and left when he discovered that they were cancelled for the day.

"Why did you not ask for permission, Junior Timberlake?" Five senior riders sat before him. Richardson had been Justin's dorm parent and Kirkpatrick was Josh's teacher. But Justin had only seen the other three on the grounds and at supper. This certainly wasn't how he wanted to meet them.

"I did not think it would be granted."

"Such a risk, Junior." Senior Richardson's face was stern and cold. The junior rider could see that Richardson had not changed from his school days.

"Yes sir. It will not happen again." Bowing his head, Justin felt a chill run through him. ‘Macy.’

"That's true."

"Kevin." Kirkpatrick's voice was light, but it held an edge Justin had never heard before. He was glad that it wasn't directed at him. "Junior Timberlake, there will be an investigation into your actions. Until then your riding privileges will be suspended. Thank you."

Justin bowed and turned from the Council. As he stepped into the sun, he drew a deep breath. Standing just outside, haloed by the sun was Josh.

"Did you tell them?" Ignoring his teacher for a moment, Justin looked in the direction of the stables. Something was wrong.

"I told them about the races. Is that what you want to hear?" Taken back, the hurt in Josh's eyes was evident. Justin swallowed his anger. "I'm sorry. Walk with me?"

When Josh didn't answer, Justin continued, holding out his hand. "I need to check on Macy." After a second of hesitation, Josh slipped his hand into Justin's and nodded.

At the stables, hands no longer joined, Justin and Josh passed two court guards leaving. With a lingering glance at the guards, Justin followed his teacher into the stables.

"Oh, Macy." Around the pale blue dragon's neck was a strange looking collar. Opening his eyes, the dragon took in his rider and their teacher. Sadly, he looked away.

"No, Justin." Josh stoped the young man from touching the collar, knowing its purpose. Taking into account the collar, Justin curled into the space just below the collar so that he was almost under Macy's belly. Getting below the scales, Justin rubbed softly and Josh heard him begin to sing softly. Kneeling down, Josh took in the junior rider's position, curled into his flightless dragon. He had never seen a rider this compassionate about dragons. He knew many seniors that loved and cared for their dragons, but could not care less about other dragons. But Justin was different. With a soft brush of fingers against Justin's forehead, Josh turned and left the stables.


"Chris." Josh wasn't sure if this was a good idea, but he had to try. Looking up from his letters, Chris smiled at the sight of his former student.

"Josh. How are you?" He knew the true reason for this friendly visit.

"Are you sure this is the best path for Justin?" Chris laughed and placed the letters into a drawer.

"Well, I thought we could dance around it a little longer. Didn't take you long at all, C." Despite himself, Josh smiled. But it only lasted a second.

"Chris?" He sighed and leaned back.

"It was the softest punishment available. You know that. He left without telling anyone. Without telling you!" With a pointed look Chris continued. "For a race? You know he would have been approved for a race."

Looking away, Josh tried to think of something, anything to say in Justin's defense. Nothing came to mind.

"Richardson would have done a lot worse, Josh. He's lucky." Chris knew that Justin was one of the best young riders in the entire court. He also knew what the young man could become. And lying about a trip to Paramore would certainly ruin Justin's chances of a future in the court.

"How long will the investigation take?"

"Anywhere from a day to a month. Josh, the best thing to do is continue with your other students and strengthen Justin's non-flying abilities. He can benefit from this." Turning negatives into positives was one of Chris' best traits, but even this was weak.

"He is strong. He could be the best rider we have. CK, that collar will kill Macy if it's on too long."

"JC. I know. And I can't do anything. My hands are tied." Josh nodded, bowed, and left. He had to do something. He had to help Justin. He had to help Macy.

"You don't need to help me." Startled, Josh turned slowly. Taking Justin in, he noticed the worry around his mouth and the slow clenching of his hands, but what struck him the most was those clear blue eyes. The same shade as Macy, Justin's eyes were tired and worried. But they were beautiful, true.

"I need you." It wasn't what he'd meant to say. But he did mean it.

“Rider?” Justin’s confusion was clear.


“Only seniors can use first names. What are you-?” Josh silenced Justin with a soft press of lips. Gently Josh pushed himself into Justin, waiting for a reaction. Just as he began to pull away, Justin's mouth opened welcoming him inside. When the kiss ended, both were flushed and their lips swollen. "Oh."

Just as Justin's brain began running again and the rules of riders came flooding back, he stepped away. Before he could open his mouth, Josh stopped him from saying anything.

"Don't. You'll ruin it." The harshness in his voice brought Justin back to the court immediately.

"No, I won't. But you just did." Turning on his heel, Justin did the only thing he could think to do, walk away.


The investigation took two days. In those two days, Justin had spoken to his teacher twice. They had continued with non-flying lessons, going over fighting stances and running obstacle courses. And Justin had followed the rider rules exactly, not once overstepping his bounds.

The summons came early in the morning during Justin’s morning stretches. Dark, angry writing on an olive piece of parchment instructed the junior rider of his meeting with the Council to take place in less than half an hour.

“Nice.” Justin hurried through the rest of his stretches and dressing. In the standard junior rider uniform, Justin looked all of sixteen. For two years he had practiced flying and fighting, working to the day when he would don the uniform of a senior rider. And now he would find out if that would ever be a possibility. At eighteen, Justin could turn out to be the worst junior rider ever to study at Manchester Court. Pushing these morose thoughts from his head, Justin brushed some dirt from his shoulder and left his room.

When Justin reached the small house, he felt a stirring in his stomach. Butterflies. He had pushed thoughts of the investigation from his mind for two days, ignoring his impending trial. But now it was right there, staring him in the face. Standing just outside the door, the most unsure of himself Justin had ever seen, was Josh.

“Good luck.” Josh stuck out his hand, avoiding Justin’s searching gaze. Finding nothing, Justin placed his hand in Josh’s and pulled him into a hug.

“Gentlemen.” With a cough and a soft laugh, the two pulled apart to find Senior Kirkpatrick standing at the door. Putting on his serious face, he addressed Justin, “Ready, kiddo?”


“Junior Timberlake, do you have anything to say before we begin?” Senior Wright looked sternly down at the young man.

“Sir, I would just like to say that I am sorry for leaving the court without permission and I know that that kind of behavior is inexcusable. It will never happen again, sir.” Other junior riders had often called Justin a suck up, but he was always sincere when dealing with the senior riders. Nodding, the eldest senior nodded towards Senior Kirkpatrick, “Chris.”

“Justin, as you know, there was an investigation into your trip and subsequent actions in Paramore. Not much could be found about your trip, although the investigators agree that your trip was somewhat suspicious. They found no one that saw you in the city. Also, your stay coincided with the release of twenty dragons one mile outside the city. Yet, there is no evidence that you had anything to do with that or that you ever arrived in Paramore. Therefore, the Council finds that although you had no permission to leave, there was no wrongdoing. Your punishment will be mess hall duty for two weeks. For your dragon, Macy, the flightless collar will be removed tomorrow morning. And from now on, Junior Timberlake, permission two days in advance is required for all of your trips. Thank you.”

“Thank you.” Justin bowed and turned.

“One more thing, Justin.” Four of the senior riders stood while Senior Wright addressed Justin.

“Your senior riding test is still scheduled for three weeks from yesterday. Please be prepared. That is all.” Justin bowed again and left. Outside the door, Justin felt laughter bubbling inside of him. Thrilled to see his teacher was still present, he finally let it all out. The laughter, the tears, and the joy spilled out of the junior rider. Standing three feet away, Josh was a bit confused. The tears combined with laughter could mean anything. Finally, the laughter in Justin subsided and all that was left was a single tear making its way down his cheek.

“So?” Josh’s voice was tentative, thoughts running in a million different directions.

“My rider test is in three weeks.” Justin shrugged, but Josh could see the smile tugging at his lips. Breathing a sigh of relief, he stepped closer to his student. Justin finally smiled and stepped into Josh’s open arms.

“Until then—" Justin placed a finger against Josh’s lips.

“It doesn’t matter. We’ll figure it out as we go.”



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