Visiting Aspen always made me feel better.
I’d been worried about keeping her in a weir, but the one they had near the Academie was a nice one. It had been dug into the side of the hill, carved out of a limestone deposit, so she had a real cave to crawl back into, instead of my rock pile I’d made for her at home. Her green scales were shiny and the white fur around her horns and down her back had been washed and brushed. Gold eyes bright, claws neatly trimmed, she was getting the pampered life, that was for sure.
It wasn’t until I’d brought her back from taking a walk together on the grounds that I noticed a piece of paper wired to the bars of her enclosure. I wasn’t sure if someone had put it there while we’d been gone, or if it had been there before and I just hadn’t noticed.
NOTICE, it said, OF UNPAID SERVICES. My eyes popped wide at the amount due. Scowling, I put Aspen back in her enclosure. She stared at me curiously, as if wondering what was wrong.
I marched to the front desk. “I thought everything was paid for,” I showed them the bill. “What’s this?”
“Your account was paid up until the end of last week. These are this week’s charges,” the clerk said.
I stared at those numbers in disbelief. Of course Professor Crumpadon had said he’d pay for my dragon’s boarding while I was in his entrance exam training course. That ended one week ago, with the entrance exam. I hadn’t thought about this at all. Who was going to pay for Aspen to stay here now? I couldn’t keep her in my room, she wouldn’t even fit unless I took out all the furniture and forced her to curl up in a knot. I didn’t have time to take her home. She wasn’t strong enough to carry me yet, and walking would force me to miss the first two weeks of classes.
I could sell her.
No, never. I’d raised her from a hatchling, and in a few months she would be strong enough to carry me. I couldn’t give her up now.
But the money. My weekly stipend from my scholarship would only cover a fraction of this cost.
“I don’t have the money,” I said. “But I can work. I’m good with dragons.”
“A mucker’s pay won’t cover the enclosure she’s in, but we could move her to a smaller one,” the manager said. “Come on up here after lectures tomorrow, and we’ll get you started.”
“Thank you,” I said, relieved, in a way, but my heart still sinking. When was I going to study? When was I going to sleep?
read the next part (available tomorrow)
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