When Lorna was fifteen, Commander Wentsar chose her to become one of the new cadets in the Academy. She remembered being more in awe of the imposing figure standing before her than of the scroll the Commander held out to her.
It was an honour to be selected. Lorna knew that. She could feel her parents’ pride warming her back.
“Do you accept, Lorna Seagrove?” Commander Wentsar asked. The sun glinted off the Argentum feather pinned to his jacket.
Lorna didn’t hesitate at all.
Three months later she was being led through one of the hatcheries. The instructors had emphasised many times the importance of each cadet being assigned to the right dragon to create an equal partnership. The behaviour and character of each cadet was closely monitored during the first three months of training; they would care for the egg themselves for the next three months, during which time the hatchling would finish its development.
“Cadet Seagrove. That one is yours.” Captain Hodge pointed towards a shallow pool hollowed out of a single rock. Lorna looked inside to see what looked like an large pearl nestling at the bottom. “It’s a water dragon, or Aqua. Aquas aren’t the largest species and they aren’t the fiercest either, but they’re always loyal to those they love.”
Lorna trailed her fingertips over the water’s surface. “I can’t make it love me,” she whispered, temporarily forgetting where she was and who was with her.
“That’s right, you can’t,” Captain Hodge agreed. “You can’t force love. But you can nurture it and let it grow.” She clapped Lorna on the shoulder once and headed off to show Cadet Danhurst the egg he had been allocated to.
The moment the baby Aqua dragon’s eyes found hers, Lorna knew Captain Hodge was right. She couldn’t force love. It was impossible, not when she found herself drowning in its depths.
She scooped the tiny creature out of the water and held it against her chest. It purred softly and nudged Lorna under her chin.
“I’ve always liked the name Mira,” Lorna murmured. “What do you think?”