Part Three: Qualifying
It's make or break time for Princess Hanna as she faces the last test of Qualifying!
Welcome back for a new part in the Princess Hanna series! It's make or break time for Princess Hanna as she faces the last test of Qualifying!
Here’s a link to the previous part in Hanna’s story:
And here’s a link to where her story started:
Subscribe for free to make sure you never miss a new Story Whale story!
There were only a dozen dragons left. The dragons who had rung the bell all stood by in a cluster as the others were led away for the long walk back to Scale City. Hanna looked around and all of the remaining dragons were big and tough, already starting to look like their adult mothers and fathers. Hanna still felt like just a kid.
The dragons in charge were out in the field setting up the next qualifying event. They were casting fire to create small plate-sized patches of dirt — one patch for each competitor. A horse and cart had been steered over. There were little copper spheres being unloaded from the cart and placed in the middle of each dirt patch.
“What are they doing?” Hanna asked Michael.
“The final challenge,” said Michael.
“What is it?” asked Hanna.
“See those little copper spheres?” said Michael, pointing. “We have to melt them.”
Hanna took a closer look at the copper spheres the dragons were carrying. They were each about the size of a big coconut.
Michael leaned in and kept his voice down.
“Keep your fire low and slow,” he said. “That’s the trick. Don’t just try to incinerate it. You need to build up the heat over time.”
Hanna nodded. For whatever reason, she trusted him.
The head dragon raised her megaphone.
“It’s time for the final round of qualifying,” said the head dragon. “I want each of you to find your own copper sphere to stand in front of.”
The dozen dragons spread themselves out, each finding their own small copper sphere.
Hanna found a spot. Her closest neighbour was Michael. George, who was the first to ring the bell and had apparently won the whole thing the year before, was nearby too.
Hanna looked down at the copper sphere in front of her. She leant down and tapped it with her claw. Ting, ting. It was hollow inside.
“The goal is simple,” said the head dragon. “Melt the sphere. The first eight dragons qualify for the Fire Festival.”
A moment of tension hung in the air.
“Go!” said the head dragon.
Suddenly, there was the roar of fire as everyone around Hanna snapped into action. Hanna was the only one who hadn’t started. While everyone else was blasting fire, she had to force herself to resist the urge to get stuck straight into it. She had to remember her game plan. She had to remember her uncle’s training. Fire was all about breath.
She could feel the pressure — a feeling of falling behind. She breathed in slowly, not rushing it but dragging it out. One long steady inhalation, until her lungs felt like they were filling her whole rib cage. Once she could inhale no longer, she held her breath in for a moment of stillness to compose herself.
The fire was calm and steady as she released a slow consistent stream of heat. The flames hit the copper sphere and enwrapped it. Hanna focused in on the sensation of her belly deflating as her lungs slowly emptied.
From the corner of her eye she saw George just nearby. He was hitting the copper target with a constant wrath of fire. As she glanced, the copper ball in front of him suddenly collapsed in on itself.
One spot taken, seven left.
Hanna refocused on the copper in front of her. She could feel her stomach sinking inwards as her lungs got emptier. She was running out of air. Each second was an effort. She heard another copper sphere fall in on itself nearby.
Finally, she had nothing left. She had to recharge. The fire stopped and Hanna heaved in a massive breath of air. The copper sphere buzzed briefly red and then returned to its original hue. It was like nothing had changed at all.
Before starting up again, Hanna looked around to see how everyone else was going. There were only a few spots left. As she looked around, she saw Michael casting a torrent of fire. In that very moment the copper ball in front of him suddenly cracked and crumbled.
Hanna took in a deep breath to reset. She wasn’t going to give up.
She restarted the stream of fire, still keeping her exhalation steady.
Through the flames she saw a fine hairline crack beginning to creep across the brass surface of the ball. Progress!
She ignored all of the noise around her and just watched that crack in the copper as she cast her fire.
She was running out of air again. The panic was almost taking over. Another copper sphere somewhere nearby broke and she could hear a dragon cheer in celebration. There couldn’t have been many spots left. The challenge could end at any second.
Finally, she had nothing left to give. She was just about to try and heave in a fresh breath when she saw the crack in the copper twitch. She watched it for a few seconds. The crack moved again. She felt light-headed, like a lofty balloon attached to some string, swaying with the wind. The crack then began to pull apart like a chasm from an earthquake. And then it collapsed!
She was through!
Hanna couldn’t hold back her excitement. She was grinning like a baby.
She turned around and Michael was right nearby. He greeted her with a big smile.
“You did it!” he said.
“Congratulations,” said the head dragon through the megaphone. “That’s the end of qualifying. You have all competed well.”
They started the walk back to Scale City. Hanna was ecstatic, chatting over every detail of qualifying with Michael.
“It’s a couple of days before it all starts,” said Michael as they approached the town square. “I can show you around Scale City if you like.”
“Sure,” said Hanna, still smiling, just as she had been since the moment she made it through qualifying.
“Awesome,” said Michael. “How about we meet in the town square tomorrow morning?”
At that moment she spotted her dad in the distance in the middle of the town square waiting for her.
“Sounds good,” she said. “I’ll see you then.”
She had to call out the last part because she was already running off towards her dad. When she got to him she gave him a great big hug.
“I made it through,” she said.
Thanks for reading and have an awesome week!