Max was ecstatic at Shanie's new purchases, even more so at the one that Alex hadn't been too happy about. They were gathered around their three adjoining stalls, Max scrutinizing Shanie's mare.

"She is beautiful." His movements as he ran his hands over the horse, mirrored those that Alex had done upon purchase. "But she's gonna be hard to handle. Not the best choice."

Alex gaped behind him.

I can't wait to see the stallion. When will he be okay to bring in?"

Shanie was engulfed in thoughts of what had happened the previous night. She had reported to the Crone who had not been happy at being woken up simply to issue her a punishment. She had been sentenced to do two hours training session. She jerked back to reality when she realised that they were speaking to her. "What? Oh, erm, they said to come back in a week to see how he's doing. He was in a pretty bad shape though, he might not make it."

Feeling slightly irritated that no one had asked him what he was gaping at, Alex butted in, "So are you trying to say that the mare was a bad choice… and the stallion was a good one? Are you crazy?"

"Kom called me crazy the other day actually. And I'm not trying to say it, I am saying it. See; the stallion was a better choice than the mare."

Alex was incomprehensible for a few moments as he attempted to say several sentences at once, finally he burst out, "Why?"

"If Shane goes to the stallion whilst it is healing, if he helps with the healing process, like feeding it, washing it, brushing it. If he's just there to comfort the horse then the horse is going to see him as like a protector, it'll feel gratitude for him; it'll be loyal to him. There's noting better than a horse who isn't just your horse, but who's your friend as well."

Shanie hid a grin as she watched their little tiff.

"And of course you would know," Alex gave a mock bow, "O Wise One."

""Yes I would. Hey, I've already been through the horse-picking process remember? Do you wanna end up with a horse like Chudders?"

Alex gave in… on his opinion of the stallion, "Okay well what's wrong with the mare?" He demanded.

"She's too arrogant." Max said simply.

Shanie was quick to defend her horse, "No she's not, she's just… different."

"Look at how high she holds her head, and her tail."

"She looks like she's about to drop a big one." Alex offered.

They ignored him and Max continued, "She won't even let you pet her. She's too proud; you'll have a hard time getting a saddle on her." As Alex rolled his eyes Max added, "She may be a horse but she's still got a brain and a personality. You'll have to get her used to the bit and bridle, she's never been ridden before." He looked pointedly at Alex, who seemed to be studying his shoes.

"What are you gonna call them anyway?" Max added to Shanie.

"Arrogant Horse and Half-Dead Horse?"

"I don't know I've been thinking about that…"

"Horse One and Horse Two?"

"I thought of a lot of names…"

"Cheryll and Bob?"

"I kind of like Vixen and Mort."

"My idea's were better." Alex grumbled to his massive horse, which whickered, butting him with its head in reply and causing him to go sprawling to the ground.

"I think that they are splendid horses." A new voice floated from three stalls down. Sir Vorspute sauntered into view.

"What do you want?" Max said icily to him.

"I was simply saying hello to a friend, hello Shane."

Shanie nodded, "Hello Sir, where is Grafe?"

Max looked from Shanie to Vorspute with a frown. His fists were clenched and with a silent snarl he stalked off.

"Oh, I had to let him go. He wasn't proving himself to be much of a challenge."

Shanie had had a chance to get to know Grafe that night, she frowned confused, "But… weren't you guys friends for years?"

"We all have to let our friends go at some point." His eyes flitted to Alex.

Why did I like him better last month than I do now? Shanie thought to herself. "I'm not sure I understand. Why?"

He gave himself a chuckle, "You will understand with time. When you have reached a level of experience, intelligence and understanding equal to that of mine. It will take a long time of course, you ma y not even reach that level within this one lifetime."

Alex gave a violent and unusually loud string of coughs, concealing what Shanie discerned to be 'love yourself much?' She bit the inside of her cheeks to keep the grin from springing onto her face.

Sir Vorspute looked at Alex sharply, "My dear boy that sounds like a nasty cough you have there, I do hope it is not lethal. This camp would certainly suffer the loss of a stable boy."

"I'm not a stable boy." Alex stated through gritted teeth.

"Uh, I am sorry, a messenger then."

"I'm not a messenger." His jaw had begun a grinding motion.

"A page! Ah, well…"

"I'm not a page." Shanie moved to grasp the back of Alex's tunic without allowing Sir Vorspute to see.

"You cannot honestly be a draconight recruit?"

Alex's tunic was now tight against his chest, and Shanie's arms were straining to keep him from lunging at the older man.

"What are you here for?" Shanie asked the man, searching for a change in the subject.

Sir Vorspute looked at Alex mockingly before answering, "Well, I'm to give a speech. And to meet all of you recruits, after the evening meal I believe.

Shanie nodded, she couldn't speak anymore; the effort of holding Alex back was taking all of her attention.

"Well," the man said as though the entire conversation had been a waste of time, "I'll see you then most likely." And he sauntered off.

Even the way he walks is getting up my nose now, thought Shanie as she released Alex and stretched sore muscles. Was he the draconight chasing that creature last night?

"What an asshole." Alex growled, "Are you friends with that guy?"

"Not anymore." She meant it. "Where did Max go?"

"I would rather have a clan of gargoyles defend our realm than that guy."

The speech was supposed to be detailing what the recruits would expect to have to do in a draconights life. Instead, Vorspute simply told his life's story including a few stories with him portrayed as a hero in the Dragon War. Shanie was bored within the first five minutes, as was Alex and as was every other recruit. Some tried to look as though they were interested, but still their eyes wandered. Shanie was more interested in Max, Kom and Gonnar who stood to the side of the gathering. They were whispering quickly to one another; it was clear that they were arguing. Shanie caught Max's eye but he gave her a dark look and shook his head. She looked at the other two. Gonnar seemed angry about something whereas Kom seemed overly joyed and excited. She caught Kom's eye several times, but he gave her the same dark look that Max had and continued to ignore her.

Alex had observed the argument just as she had, "What are they arguing about?"

She shook her head genuinely non-plussed, "I don't know. Hey do you know if Max and Kom are angry with me about something?"

"Nothing I know about."

She racked her brain for the reason but nothing came to her, though the answer was standing at the front of the gathering. I've got to talk to them, she told herself, I need to know what I've done wrong. It's going to drive me crazy.

"Last but certainly not least," said Vorspute as he was coming to the end of his speech, "I'm to inform you all that you all will be having some lessons with me. Of course my fellow draconights will help here," he motioned to another man that stood to the side, from his large red moustache and stocky frame Shanie discerned him to be Sir Michar from her research. "My other fellow draconights are on a minor mission, nothing to concern yourselves with." Shanie gave a snort, she was beginning to understand Vorspute now; the draconights could have been away in a battle that held the fate of the world in the balance and yet if he was not included in it then it was not important. "And I really would like to say," Vorspute continued, "that I really am honored that you all-" a chillingly familiar screaming roar split the air. Vorspute stopped, looking more irritated that he had been interrupted than intrigued or afraid as many of the recruits were looking now. Shanie's head snapped up, searching for the silhouette of the keeper of that scream, the creature that she knew the clouds concealed. Far in the distance she spied a tiny speck unusually camouflaged against the white sky, almost not visible. It was getting some good ground between itself and the two mounted draconight's hot on its tail. She looked around her, appealing to the other recruits to confirm its existence. Most of them still scanned the ground or the near skies, while others whispered theories of the source of the noise, the minority were still listening to Vorspute however none of them seem to have spotted the three specks in the distance. She gave Alex a hard elbow to the ribs, "Ouch! What was that for?!"

"Look!" She pulled his head to the direction that she had seen the three specks pointed her hand and stopped; they were gone.

"What? What am I looking at?"

She exhaled heavily in disappointment, "Never mind, it was nothing."

"Oh yeah, I see it now! If you tilt you head to the left that cloud looks a bit like a rabbit with a top hat!"

Shanie shook her head and gave a roll of her eyes.

The rest of the day passed as normal, except that the recruits spent most of it entertaining the three draconights, asking them questions and being told stories of bravery and heroics. Shanie sat in the shade of a nearby bush with Alex, a book open in her lap and her eyes glazed over and staring off into the distance. It hadn't taken Alex long to realize that the other draconights were just like Vorspute; as far from heroic as one could possibly be. Having pondered the subject of Gonnar and Kom's argument for a while and still having no idea, Shanie's mind returned to the mystery of the previous night; flashes of the silhouette creature resided within her mind, refusing to allow her to focus on anything else. She had run over in her mind a million times, what the creature could have been, and who the draconight could have been. She had concluded so far that Vorspute couldn't have been the draconight, his dragon was said to have been the largest ever of the dracons that had been paired; her memories of the night assured her that the dracon the draconight had been riding had been fairly small. Smaller than Barex certainly and barely larger than its quarry. Her brow furrowed as her mind whirred, finding other links that might support her theory. Alex watched her deep in thought, having been told the farfetched tale; he knew exactly what was on her mind. This she remained ignorant to still engulfed in her thoughts; the creature itself… it had also been small. Much too small for a dragon that had mastered flight. Then again she hadn't really seen the creature flying. She had seen it falling. An anonymous wing had skimmed the underside of the clouds, but that could have belonged to either the dracon or the creature. Maybe the creature had been pulled into the air by the dracon and in it's struggle had gotten free, only to plunge in its flightless fall back to the ground?

"Maybe it was a gargoyle." Alex suggested nonchalantly, cutting into her thoughts with what she found to be a possibility that she had overlooked. "Why does it always have to be a mystery to you? It was probably just a renegade gargoyle that they were having to put back in place."

She looked at him. It was plausible; gargoyles were smaller than dragons, they were certainly leathery, they could be airborne and they were renound for creating trouble. "Maybe." She replied doubtfully. "But it's scream, it wasn't the scream of a gargoyle. It was something else. It was exactly what we all heard earlier, and those specks in the sky that I saw; one was barely visible. Like it was camouflaged for the sky…" She shook her head and slammed shut her book; it was apparent that she wasn't learning anything from it.

"Why don't you give it a rest?" Alex asked, "Leave the 'creature' thing alone, that noise this morning was probably just a dracon out for a fly, we'll probably find out about it in our own time. What about Kom and Gonnar? Do you have any idea what they were arguing about?"

"None," she said feeling slightly irritated; she had two mysteries at hand and she had no useful information about either of them.

The news that the first of their three mental examinations was scheduled for the next day sent the recruit's obsessive chatter about their heroes away, and banished any thoughts of Shanie's that lingered on her mysteries at hand, and aptly replaced it with anxious panic in all of them. Shanie found that with all of the demanding physical work, she had become accustomed to the extra weight of the charmed back pack she was carrying and had forgotten that she carried it everywhere, even in her sleep. As a consequence she had forgotten all about the books that she had been carrying and was expected to have read through and learnt. Alex, in exactly the same situation as his friend had the advantage of being able to catch up during the night-time, something Shanie had forfeited when she had accepted her job at the forge. This therefore found Shanie poring through her books during the lunch hour. Of course though her fellow trainees had less of a worry than Shanie did, they still took up the same precaution. Skipping normal routine classes was out of the question; the trainers would be on alert for students with that idea.