Part One: Qualifying
The Fire Festival is officially underway! Princess Hanna's first challenge: Qualifying...
The Fire Festival has begun! In today’s story, Princess Hanna gets a first look at the young dragons she will be facing up against. It’s time for her to put all her training to the test…
Here is a link to the first part in the Princess Hanna series:
And here’s a link to the previous part:
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With the Opening Ceremony done and dusted, the Fire Festival was now officially underway.
On the day of Qualifying, Princess Hanna insisted that she and her dad go down to the Plaza extra early. Just in case. After all, this would be the day that decided everything.
Sure enough, they were the first ones in the Plaza, although they didn't have the place to themselves for long.
The Plaza quickly filled up with young dragons and their caretakers. Last speeches of wisdom were being dished out by the adults to their little ones. Some young dragons were doing stretches and breathing fire to limber up their muscles.
Hanna looked around at all of them. She was sizing up her competition. They were almost all boys and they were almost all bigger than her.
Her dad could tell she was feeling uneasy.
"How are you going?" he asked.
Hanna didn't respond.
"Don't worry about them," said her dad. "Focus on yourself. Focus on what's in your control. That's all that matters."
A few more minutes passed and then a dragon yelled out from in the air.
Hanna looked up to find a dragon flying with a megaphone.
The voice boomed from above. "Thank you all for gathering here today for the annual Fire Festival."
A sprinkle of overexcited young dragons cheered.
"Settle now," said the dragon in the air. "My name's Franky and I will be running this year's youth division competition. There are a lot of you here today. That's going to quickly change. Today's qualifying process will eliminate all but ten of you. So let me be very clear. It’s going to be a big day. To all of the young dragons competing, be aware that discipline and respect are mandatory requirements of this competition. Disobedience will be repaid with disqualification."
The young dragons in the Plaza had gone well and truly quiet.
The head dragon continued. "Today's qualifying will take place in the training fields outside of the city. Competing in the Plaza is an honour reserved for the finalists. You may now say your goodbyes to your parents and guardians. They won't be joining us."
Hanna and her dad looked at each other. Hanna had a somewhat horrified look on her face.
Her dad couldn't help but smile. "This is what you wanted," he said.
Hanna didn't find any of it funny at all.
"Come on now, Hanna, it's ok," her dad reassured her. "You've worked hard for this. It takes guts to really go for something. I'm proud of you."
He pulled her in for one last hug.
"Good luck," he said.
With nothing left to do or say, Hanna went and joined the big group of fifty or so young dragons. As the adults waved them off, the group was led out of the Plaza by the half-dozen dragons in charge.
Hanna suddenly felt completely different to five minutes ago. She was on her own now. There was no one for her to lean on or ask for help. No one around her even knew her name. It was a strange feeling. She felt a pressure that she had never experienced before, the pressure of having no one she could count on except for herself.
The group made its way through the streets of Scale City. Local dragons stopped and cheered as the young dragons passed by. It was like a parade.
A young dragon that was competing suddenly walked up beside Hanna. "I don't remember seeing you here last year," he said.
Hanna was caught off guard.
"This is my first Fire Festival," she said.
"And your first time in Scale City," he said.
There was something about the assumption that offended her.
"What makes you say that?" she said.
"You have this look on your face like you’re seeing everything for the first time," he said.
"So what?" said Hanna.
"So nothing," said the boy. "Just making conversation."
Hanna hoped that that would be where the so-called conversation ended, but the boy was stubborn.
"My name's Michael, by the way," he said. "What's your name?"
"I didn't mean to be rude when I said you weren't from here," he said. "I rather dragons that aren't from Scale City anyway."
"Why's that?" Hanna asked.
"I don't get along very well with the dragons from school here," said Michael.
"You don't say," said Hanna sarcastically.
The boy didn't reply for a moment.
"Sorry," said Hanna. "Bad joke."
"No," he said and smiled. "It was a good one."
They walked in silence for a while. There was something familiar about Michael to Hanna. She could tell that he was an outsider too.
"So you've competed in the Fire Festival before?" Hanna asked.
"Sure have," he said. "Twice."
"Seriously?" said Hanna, suddenly far more interested. "Twice? That's awesome."
"Is it?" he said.
"How do you usually go?" she asked.
"Meh," he said. "I do well for my age."
"You've made it through Qualifying before?" asked Hanna.
"Both times," said Michael.
"Wow, that's actually really impressive," said Hanna.
"I get a lot of training," he said.
"I bet," said Hanna.
"Trust me, I wish I didn't have to do it," he said. "It's my dad that's obsessed with the Fire Festival. So long as I go to the training sessions he buys me the painting supplies I need. That's what I actually care about. It's all just one big trade. If I'm being honest, I hate everything about fire. It's so destructive."
"That's why I love it," said Hanna.
The young dragons left the city and walked along a cobblestone road. There were farmlands on either side of them. Hanna wondered how far they were going to go.
They were eventually led through a gate into a grassy paddock. It was an enormous flat open space. If there was normally cattle there, they had been cleared away.
The young dragons were taken to the middle of the paddock and then finally were told to stop and sit down. The adult supervisors walked around and handed out some fruit.
"You have five minutes," said the dragon with the megaphone. "And then it begins."
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week!
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