It was the last time Seraphina could potentially be Chosen as a Dragon Handler. Today was the annual day of Choosing. She didn't think she was likely to be picked. Usually, it was the younger girls Chosen anyway. Sera was just hoping to get married and become a mother. That's what her lot in life was supposed to be.
Only girls were Chosen to be the companion to a dragon. The dragons were the ones who performed the Choosing. They Chose girls between the ages of 13 and 18. It was supposed to be a great honor to be Chosen by a dragon. It was also the only honorable profession for women. Sera's parents had to pretend they wanted Sera to be Chosen. She was one of the princesses after all.
This day, she spent the morning curled in the arms of her boyfriend in a secluded corner of the gardens. "Are you nervous?" He asked her. The ceremony wasn't for another couple of hours yet.
"No, if a dragon hasn't Chosen me by now, they're not going to," she tried to sound more confident than she was. "Anyway, Sophie is much more nervous. This is the first year she's been to a Choosing." It would be a grand adventure for Sophia if she was Chosen. She wasn't a very girly girl and would be a good companion for a dragon. Also, as the youngest princess, she did not have as much responsibility as her older siblings. Sophia was excited and had been an annoying nervous wreck for weeks, hoping to get Chosen. Sera didn't want to be Chosen. Far from it, she didn't want her life destroyed by a stupid dragon.
It wasn't too long before the guards and chaperones came looking for her. She had slipped out of her boyfriend's arms and they were sitting on a bench at a respectable distance, looking out at one of the ponds. Sera's maid gave them a knowing look, but as they were both still completely dressed, she wouldn't say anything about their indiscretion.
Sera said goodbye to her companion and headed up to her rooms to change for the ceremony. She had to wear one of her formal dresses, which wasn't a bad thing. She had a forest green gown picked out that looked good with her long red hair. She headed down to the ceremony grounds with her parents and siblings. They had managed to scrub down Sophia and shove her in a dress too, for the event.
"Sera! Do you think a big dragon or a dragonet is more likely to pick me?" Sophia asked annoyingly for the billionth time.
"Sophie, there's no guarantee a dragon will even choose you," Sera reminded her. Again.
"Just because none of the dragons liked you," the younger girl replied and stuck her tongue out. Sera had to resist the urge to kick her sister. Or drop her in the nearest well. Thankfully they had reached the giant courtyard where the ceremony would take place. It was huge and all of the girls in the city were there, waiting for the dragons to arrive. There were choosing ceremonies all over the country. Somehow the dragons always knew which city they needed to go to.
Most of the girls were grouped by age in the courtyard, with room for the dragons to patrol through the groups and pick their companions. Sera and Sophie stood on the dais with their parents, making it even less likely that a dragon would go to the effort of choosing them.
The bell tolled noon and the dragons came swooping in. Some of them had riders to lead the others. There were dragons of all sizes, small courier dragons, middleweights, and even some heavier fighting-class dragons. One of the dragons was carrying a basket of dragonets, who were too young to even fly on their own yet. The dragons landed and the crowd cheered for them. After a few minutes of organization, the Choosing began.
Sera didn't pay much attention to the Choosing, thinking her own likelihood of being Chosen was slim to none. She was beginning to have hope of planning her wedding and had started to daydream. She hadn't been allowed to marry until at least after the final Choosing ceremony, as having a dragon would make marriage prospects a lot more difficult.
Sera was shaken out of her daydream suddenly to see a dragon standing right in front of her. The dragon was one of the larger ones, black with purple eyes and extra sharp talons. I am Athena and I Choose you the dragon said directly into her mind. Her parents tried to hide their gasps of horror at their eldest daughter being Chosen.
"Congratulations, princess," one of the dragon riders said with a bow. "This way, please," Sera knew what happened next. All of the girls who were chosen went with their parents to the next courtyard over where they and the dragons would receive further instructions. Other girls were already heading over. Sera steeled herself and went with the dragon and dragon rider. There were no other options once she had been chosen. She couldn't deny the dragon, much as she didn't want to go.