Are you ready?

Evangeline had asked the question. Not just of her, but of the others in the barracks that evening not so long ago. Reviews were mixed, but in the end ready or not the eggs would hatch.

It was raining, the drops coming down harder and harder that evening when the eggs began to move and the dragons began to sing. When that night came she was ready. Ready for the inevitable… And if that wasn't the future in store for her then she'd have time to adjust.

She'd sold the one thing she'd treasured that morning. The locket she'd found in the beams above her bunk when she was eight. The one thing that was really hers. Sold it Jerica of all people. Jerica who could get whatever she wanted. Jerica who thought she was better than everyone else. Jerica, a candidate of about twenty, who was a spoiled brat. Jerica who would tire of it in a few sevens if not sooner and forget it ever existed or toss it away to some other girl who was in love with the idea of being her friend. She'd traded it away with the promise of taking her stable duties for ten marks. She'd hated every second of it, but she'd done it.

Going home empty handed was not an option.

She'd used those half of those marks to bet on the hatching. One on a farmboy to impress and a second for him to impress bronze. One on a smith from a family of riders. One on a girl, assistant to the Weyrleaders. And the last… against her.

When it began she was already there, in the barracks. She'd changed quickly and in the chaos of ensuring all the candidates were accounted for and ready to be lead to their fate she found a moment.

Slipped between the pages of that precious book that slept beneath a pillow was a simple note. One end left slightly out so it would be noticed sooner rather than later and not be lost for what could be turns between the sheets of paper. Two simple words.

Goodbye buttercup

With everything going on with the hatching either she'd be gone by the time he came across it or she'd find a way to get it back first.

The sands had been hot but she'd hardly noticed. Everything seemed to be happening at once. It took forever and at the same time it was over in the blink of an eye. It was over and she was still standing there.

They'd tried to encourage her before it all that there might be a lifemate there for her. It was a possibility, but she'd always been certain there wouldn't be a dragon for her out there. She'd resigned herself to the idea that after the hatching came and went she'd be on her way to Big Bay for whatever deal her father had managed to finalize in her absence.

It was over and she was still standing there.
It was over and she'd been right.
It was over and she'd won every bet she'd placed.

Those left on the sands were ushered back to the candidate barracks. Some cried, some were angry, some consoled each other and she simply changed and collected the few things that remained in the press at the end of the cot that had been hers. She collected her winnings and …

And then she was stuck. Thunder and lightning still rolled in the sky. The lights flickered now and again and no one was going to sail in this. Leaving was going to have to wait one more night.

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