The scales are a bright luminescent purple. As large as my head. Gorgeous. Even with my hands trembling and my heart racing, I can still recognize their beauty.
I may be terrified of riding these magnificent beasts, but I absolutely adore watching them from a nice, safe distance.
None of my siblings are scared, though. They love riding wyverns. Training them. Pretty much everything about them.
I’m the outlier.
I’m sixteen and have yet to mount one. My siblings all were riding as toddlers. Most of them, anyway. All of them were pros by the age of ten at the most.
But here I am, standing in front of the terrifyingly beautiful purple wyvern.
Reins strapped on nice and tight.
Everything in perfect working order.
A warm, steady hand wraps around my cold trembling one. My mom whispers gently in my ear.
“Come on. It’ll be better once you’re on, promise.”
My parents have been very patient with my lack of desire to learn to ride.
They gave me the bright purple egg when I turned ten, just like they did for all of my siblings, but they never really pressured me to ride. Although I loved my Opalescent like anyone does with a bonded wyvern, I never got too close. I cleaned her stall, polished her scales. Fed her.
I admired her beauty and talked with her. Although she was unable to talk, wyverns are very intelligent and I’m sure that she understood every word that I ever said.
But I was never able to climb onto her back like all my siblings did as soon as their wyverns were big enough and strong enough to hold them.
Some of them even tried too early.
But for me, the prospect of riding was and is much too terrifying. And it still is.
This past week, though, my parents insisted. Gave me an ultimatum. My family has always bred, raised and trained wyverns. It’s simply what we do. And I love training them. Taking care of the babies. But unfortunately, riding is also part of the job.
And I haven’t been doing it.
So my parents said that if I wasn’t willing to do the job the right way, I would have to go somewhere else. Live somewhere else. Find another job. If I want to stay on the ranch, I have to help out. And help all the way.
The only thing moving my hand toward the brightly colored scales is the pure love that I feel for my family.
I don’t want to leave them. Not now, not ever.
My breathing speeds up.
My heart races to catch up and match pace.
I look up at the saddle. Much too extravagant for a training saddle, but Opalescent simply refuses to wear anything else.
I wrap my hands around the rough rope ladder that leads up to her saddle. Most wyverns need them, what with their bodies being too high off the ground for any human to reach them without help.
I close my eyes as I climb, but that only makes everything worse.
I take a deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
Once on top, I strap myself into the overcomplicated harness and buckle. Leather straps criss-cross my entire body. They make me feel a little more safe, but I still can’t seem to gain control over my heart.
I pull the ladder up and wrap it around a hook on the side of the saddle, securing it under a flap of leather with a latch on the bottom.
The world looks so different from this high.
My mom is smiling at me proudly from the ground. I try to return the gesture, but my lips can’t seem to form anything more pleasant than a painful grimace.
Opalescent sniffs impatiently and twitches her wings. I feel her muscled shoulder blades moving beneath the saddle. Despite knowing that I am completely secure, the movement startles me. Its all I can do to prevent myself from hyperventilating.
My mom shouts at me from the ground below. “Good job, Nessa! Now start walking! Start slow!”
I flick the reins and shout. It’s a practiced shout, telling the wyvern to walk slowly forward. She moves, listening with perfect obedience.
She walks at a slow and considerate pace, fully aware of how uneasy and nervous that I am.
Mom speed-walks alongside me and the wyvern.
“Speed up a little, Nessa!”
Another, different shout and Opalescent is trotting and a slightly faster pace. My mom now has to run below me.
“Take off now, hon!”
Again, I have to concentrate to not lose control of my breathing. I try my best to pace myself. I wipe my sweaty hands on my thick, wool lined riding pants and grip the reins even tighter.
And then I shout.
My voice cracks, but my wyvern is smart, and understands exactly what I’m trying to say.
Her wings pump, although her giant clawed feet are still on solid ground.
She gains momentum, and then with one giant leap, we are in the air. Soaring. My mom shrinks on the grass below me. She cups her hands around her mouth and shouts up at me.
“Great job, Nessa! Keep going!”
I hear woops and shouts as my siblings cheer me on as I get higher and higher in the sky.
I feel the corners of my mouth lifting as the wind whips at my tight riding braid.
Not a scared scream, though. A thrilled and excited scream of joy.
The cold air feels amazing against my skin. I steer Opalescent through the pale blue sky, wondering all the while how I could ever be scared of flying.
I had always thought that I would end up falling. Crashing to the grass below and killing myself. But my leather harness keeps me secure on Opalescents back. I feel oddly safe. Immovable. Powerful. I’m not worried, at least not now, about falling. Not now that I am actually in the air.
My siblings match my joyed cheers. They seem more happy to see me in the air then I am.
They’ve been trying for so long to share the joy of flying with me. I never believed it could possibly be as good as they all said it was.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.