D'jeke paced to and fro inside of her cathair, nervously chewing on a strand of her red hair. Her friend, Gyune, sat nearby, watching with an amused expression. D'jeke turned on her companion.
"How can you stand there, knowing that I just made the biggest decision of my life?"
"I'm sitting," came the cool reply, "for one, and it was not I that decided to apply for a dragon. Oh no. I am quite content with my hawk, Kyun, and he's enough trouble as it is."
Kyun, a large, handsome brown hawk which stood perched on Gyune's shoulder, looked offended and took wing for a moment. Gyune called him back with a laugh, and stroked him until he forgot his irritation and fluffed his feathers with contentment.
"You're no help," stressed D'jeke, "Kyun is not the same thing as a dragon, not even the same thing as a..a watchwher, and watchwhers are much less important in my view..Oh, goddess, why am I such a wreck?"
"Good question. Why are you? You're looking forward to the most fantastic happening of your life, a real bondmate, and you're tearing out your hair and biting your nails. Perhaps, to ease your tension, you should practice your Protector skills."
D'jeke nodded, and stepped into the sparse bedroom that connected to her sitting room. The entire cathair was made from a grayish clay, typical of the south-east part of Danach. It was well-fashioned; always cool enough to bear the tropical heat, but warm enough that she didn't shiver at night. The entire cathair was pretty much barren. The life of a Protector of Cathair Utopian was hectic, and left little time to decorate a home. However, luck had been with her, and because of Gyune she had acquired some furniture in the years she had lived in her cathair. A small lamp lit up her room; it sat on a small table held upright by sticks, and woven of a thick fiber gotten from the tall trikk tree. Next to the table was a small cot stuffed with the feathers of a game bird. There was a rug on the floor, woven with bright reds and yellows. In the corner was a well made bookshelf, filled with scattered papers. The rest of the house was filled with rugs to warm the floors in the morning. There were some paintings done by famous artists, and Gyune, hanging here and there on the wall. There were a few chairs and a couch. The kitchen was small, with a pump over a basin with a drain, it's tube and the pump's leading underground to D'jeke's outdoor well. There was a tiny oven in the kitchen, which also warmed the metal plate above it when heated, so D'jeke could have the comfort of boiled water, into which she would sprinkle dried berries and herbs to make it taste nice. The only other room in her cathair was an indoor outhouse, with a tunnel underground leading to her outdoor waste pit.
D'jeke pulled on the heavy clothing that it took to be a Protector, and strapped her lucky sword around her middle. She clanked out of the room. Gyune stifled a laugh, and Kyun didn't bother to. D'jeke glared at them both and slammed the door on her way out to the inner courtyard that all the inner cathairs shared. A few other earlybirds were practicing, and D'jeke had no trouble convincing a lad about her age to battle with her.
After a long and strenuous practice, D'jeke tramped slowly up to her cathair, sweaty and tired. When she reached it, she saw that Gyune had gone, leaving with her a good-luck token, in the shape of a dragonchen. It was golden. Underneath was a card, reading,
Please, don't fret anymore, you'll make yourself old before your time! Of course you'll bond the right one; and any dragon will know that you are perfect for them. Just keep this in your pocket when you go to take them home, and remember that even if you don't succeed, I will always see you as a winner.
Besides, if you don't succeed, you can try to Imprint a hawk!
D'jeke smiled, and folded the card to put in her room. She picked up the charm, still warm from Gyune's touch, and walked into her room to change.
D'jeke had been commoner-born, and for a long time she lived and worked on a little farm that raised and sold fish to the public. It had not been a happy lifestyle for her, as the fish smelled and so did everything and everyone who were near her scaled adversaries. D'jeke had always had higher things in mind; she dreamed of a shining land of peace, with no fish in it, where brave men and ladies wore brilliant silver clothing and were gallant and strong. But there she was, stuck with her parents--who were fosters, by the way--and numerous siblings...and the fish.
On days when she was particularly fed up, D'jeke would dream that her real parents came to find her, a shining knightly father called Antony and his wife, her mother, the regal lady Galedrial. They would swoop down upon either large silver dragons or, if that was not possible, fine majestic golden and white paards, gather her into their arms, and carry her away to the dreamlands. There they would protect the innocent together and battle all evil, and D'jeke would of course win many battles and save her parents several times a day.
So when D'jeke was old enough and the Master Protector of Cathair Utopian came hunting for suitable young future Protectors, D'jeke slipped away in the night on a 'borrowed' paard, leaving the fish behind, and joined the rank of Protector.
Being a young Protector was not easy. At first D'jeke was given simple tasks so that she would learn patience and endurance, like being a messenger for lords, serving food or fetching wild fowl from the fields, carrying water and tending the paards. For many months she put up with this, and then she was deemed worthy to become a trainee. Which, of course, was even harder.
She and the other trainees were given challenging drills that built muscle, endurance, speed and strength. And there were mind games, too, so that their enemies could not outwit them. D'jeke had to learn to tend the wounds of herself and others and of animals, and to learn to speak the tongues of wild beasts in case she needed information.
When D'jeke moved up in rank, she was given a paard, Vulie, and she had to know him as well as she knew herself, to be one of mind with him during battle. This seemed the hardest, for the paards were decidedly unruly and stubborn, sometimes even vicious; but eventually D'jeke won over.
And then, finally, she was given her armor and her weapons. D'jeke had become a true Protector.