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They were words no mother wanted to hear.

“We believe your son may have the Talent. We are taking him to be tested.”

She cried, she begged and she pleaded, even though she knew it was all in vain. They were taking him, and there was no arguing with them. They had the right.

“Be brave,” she told him, wishing she could take her own advice. “Be strong. Believe in yourself.”

She followed them when they took him. It was the least she could do for him; the last she could do for him.

She joined a crowd of other anxious mothers at the brink of the valley and waited for the testing to begin.

The first child to be sent into the valley was not her own. It was a tall, skinny boy with red hair, dressed in rags. The Talent did not care for class or riches, it could be found anywhere. For this child, perhaps, it would be a blessing.

The boy reached a stand of trees on the valley floor and disappeared from sight. The mothers watched, held their breath and listened.

A scream was followed by a roar. A red haired peasant woman fainted. The other mothers turned pale, confronted by the deadly reality of the test.

Her son stepped forward. He shaded his eyes with one hand and looked up to where his mother stood. With the other, he waved nonchalantly, as if he were merely stepping out to go to the market.

She held her hands to her mouth and watched.

He walked with a confident stride, and reached the stand far quicker than the first boy had. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and glanced at the dark woman beside her.

“He looks good, your son,” the other woman whispered. “I think you will be all right.”

She didn’t dare speak. She hardly dared to breathe. Her son stepped out of sight and there was silence.

The silence stretched on. Her heart pounded.

A roar broke the silence and she gasped. With a leap and a cry, her son soared into the sky upon the back of a purple and golden dragon.

She breathed again.

“I told you so,” the woman beside her said. “I can tell.”

© Kari Fay