In retrospect, starting the book on Testing Day seems like an obvious choice. I’m afraid I wasn’t that smart. My initial thought was to show Al learning some of “the necessities,” as his dad likes to call them. I also tried to weave in as much foreshadowing as I could. Here’s the scene where Al meets Master Ruipert, the legendary swordmaster his father has hired to teach him. When the start of the book moved to Testing Day, this scene was dropped.
“Al, meet Master Ruipert.” Al’s dad nodded toward the thin man leaning against the wall of the barn.
Not quite as tall as Al’s dad, Master Ruipert was bald and tan, with narrow eyes and wrinkles that looked like they’d never experienced a smile. His clothes were dusty and well worn, and a scabbard hung from his hip. A long black box sat on the ground next to him.
Al stepped closer and held out his hand. “Um, hi.”
The man straightened so smoothly that his hand was clasping Al’s before Al realized it. He glanced up and down Al’s body. “Your balance is terrible.”
Standing behind him, Al’s dad chuckled. “He’s a hard worker and a quick learner. He won’t let you down.”
Master Ruipert raised his gaze to Al’s father. “There are others I should be training, others who actually need my help.”
“They need my help more.”
Al moved out from between them. He’d heard his dad use that tone before. It was his “I’m Overseer Pilgrommor, and you won’t mess with me” voice. No one ever did.
The two men stared at each other. Several tense breaths passed, and then Master Ruipert sighed. “Very well.” He transferred his attention back to Al. “We will meet in this barn every morning as the sun rises. We will practice for two hours.” He knelt and opened the black box. Inside it was an array of swords, both metal and wood.
Al’s eyes widened.
Master Ruipert selected a wooden sword and handed it to Al. Its blade was as wide as three finger-widths, with an edge on one side and a sharp point at the end. Al grabbed its pommel. “It’s heavier than it looks.”
“It’s weighted to match an actual weapon. Keep it safe and secret. I expect two hours of drilling every evening.” He closed the black box and lifted it onto his shoulder. “I will know if you skip.”
Without another word, Master Ruipert walked away. Al watched him, fascinated. The man’s every movement seemed effortless. When he’d lifted the box, there had been no pause to prepare himself. When he started walking, there was no shift in his balance.
“Come on.” Al’s father said, patting him on the shoulder. “We have chores to get to.”
Al looked at his wooden sword. “I don’t understand why we have to keep this secret.”
His dad steered him toward the house. “After your Testing Day, you’re going to start training to be an Overseer. You will be very busy then, with no time to learn the necessities.”
The “necessities” were subjects that his dad considered to be important to any person of decent rank: heraldry, fencing, and numbers. Al was also studying UnderEarth, the language of the earthers. His dad didn’t include that as part of the necessities, but was still making Al learn.
“Okay,” Al said. “But that doesn’t explain why it has to be secret. Why can’t Wisp learn with me? Or Trillia?”
His dad stopped walking and turned to face him. “The life you’re heading for is complicated, Al. Becoming an Overseer requires more than just being rank four. Even though you’re my son, you’ll still have gets involved, things get even more uncertain. I want you to have every advantage. I want you to have mastered the necessities without anyone else knowing you’re even aware of them.”to beat out others for this position. There’s no telling who the Magisters will appoint. If Lord Gronar
“No buts. This is important, Al. You’re going to need these skills.”
“But heraldry? The Magisters and dragons appoint all the nobility anyway. What do their symbols matter?”
His dad chuckled again. “They matter.”
They walked quietly up the hill toward their home. When they reached the front porch, Al turned to his dad. “Do you know how to fight with a sword?”
“As good as Master Ruipert?”
“No one is as good as Master Ruipert.” His dad smiled. “Not even Master Ruipert, if you know what I mean. Now take that thing upstairs and hide it, then get to the fields.”
Al groaned. He’d argued and argued over the past few days, but his dad had remained firm. Even though he was learning the necessities, Al was still expected to continue his work in the fields as a farmhand.
This is going to be the most exhausting summer of my life, he thought as he carried the sword upstairs to his room.
Dragon Run by Patrick Matthews, © 2012, 2018 Patrick Matthews. Published by Scholastic Inc. All Rights Reserved. Illustration © 2012, 2013 by Jason Chan. SCHOLASTIC and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Scholastic Inc.