I know I’m going to get scowls but you know you always get the familiar part first LOL!

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Derlin stood in the middle of the stables trying to keep his nerves at bay. His hands shook slightly despite the familiar soothing smells of hay, feed and the odd metallic scent of dragons. His was quickly unraveling beneath the gaze of the dragon stable master.

“You’ll be in charge of this row of dragons.” Yelt pointed to the series of stalls on the right.

Derlin nodded, his gaze assessing the fifteen stalls and the beasts roaming within them.

“You have your license, right?”

The stern man pinned Derlin with a glare from beneath his bushy brows.

“Yes, sir.” He hastily pulled his license from his pocket and handed it over.

It was given a careful examination before the stablemaster returned it him.

“Good, then you should know what to do. Remember, stay out of the way of the fighters. You’re just to polish the dragons and make sure they’re in good health. Don’t pester them with a bunch of questions. The last groomer who did that doesn’t work here any more, understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Supplies are on the wall behind us. After cleaning the dragons release them to the center field so they can get some exercise. Be careful of Sir Grael’s green dragon he’s a biter with a mean streak. He takes after his rider.”

Derlin smiled at the comment, but didn’t speak. He had a feeling Yelt’s stern demeanor was his real expression.

Satisfied he’d delivered his instructions, Yelt excused himself and left the stable. Taking a deep breath, Derlin went to the supply wall. After gathering a bucket, a bottle of polish and a selection of brushes, Derlin filled up his bucket with warm water, tossed a metal cleaning charm in the bottom and headed for the first stall.

A small red dragon popped its head through the narrow opening to check out Derlin.

“Hey there little fellow.” Little was relative. The dragon was still ten times larger than Derlin. Sliding into the stall with the dragon, Derlin made sure to keep his movements slow and nonthreatening. Adding some scale cleaner to the bucket, Derlin swished it around with a hard brush and walked closer to the beast.

“What’s your name?”

Neor, The voice whispered across his mind.

Derlin didn’t jump. He was used to dragons talking to him. It was one of the reasons he become a dragon groomer.

At twenty-years old Derlin wasn’t a large broad man like a dragon fighter and he never would be. None of the men in his family were big enough to be dragon fighters. There was a minimum height requirement of six feet before they would admit a man into the dragon fighter corps. A rider’s reach needed to control a dragon required an arm span that Derlin simply didn’t have.

Although grooming dragons wasn’t a glamorous job, it paid well enough for his basic needs and he got to be near the animals he loved.

After a quick check to verify he was alone, Derlin started a low, soft song that always soothed dragons when he worked on them in grooming school. A little known fact was that dragons loved music.

The little dragon closed his eyes at Derlin’s singing. Pleased with the effect, Derlin continued working.