Date Published: 9/04/2017
When her parents were murdered eleven years ago, leaving her physically scarred during the event, dragon shifter Astri never learned the identity of their killer. That is until he appears to her in a nightmare.
The powerful Duke Jorgen not only rules the city of Rivenna where she lives, he is also responsible for her parents’ death and for the disability she’s had to bear most of her life. When the chance arises for her to compete to become Duke’s assistant, she realises this is her opportunity for revenge.
But everything in Astri’s world comes with a price. Can she overcome her disability and make Duke pay?
“Hey, Astri, you lazy arse … wake up … wake up!”
“Ouch, Lenin, what the hell is your problem?” I hiss, massaging my arm. My Welsh Pixie just pinched me really hard while I was dreaming about having my own apartment. I usually never have this kind of dream, but it’s good to have a break once in a while.
Now he’s flying around, screaming and banging a miniature spoon into a pot, probably because he likes annoying me. “I’m up now, so stop making all that racket and let me get ready.”
“I don’t want to. It’s my new morning routine. I read it in one of your magazines. It’s supposed to set me up for the day ahead,” Lenin says flying closer to my ear. “Jetli thinks the noise scares demons away.”
I glance at Jetli, who’s pretending she doesn’t see me, and I can’t help but smile. Of course it was her idea; she just likes seeing me suffer in the morning.
It’s been years since I adopted Lenin and Jetli. It was during one of my hunts in the Black Forest. I found them cold and scared under a tree. Neither of them could remember who they were or how they got to the outskirts of Rivenna. They knew their names, but that was about it. In the past, I’d read a little bit about Welsh Pixies and I knew humans weren’t able to see them, so I decided to take them home with me. It was pretty clear from the beginning, those two were quite the characters. They kept me company, they made me laugh, but unfortunately, they never regained their memory.
“There’s no demons and I have a headache, so give it a rest, will you?” I ask, dragging myself off the bed. It’s freezing in this stupid basement. The days in the city are humid, but at night the temperature may drop to below zero Celsius. My uncle won’t allow me to turn the heating on; he thinks keeping me warm is a waste of money.
I’m supposed to be at work by eight in the morning, so I still have a bit of time to waste. When I start putting my clothes on, the face from my nightmare flashes in front of my eyes again.
The Duke of Rivenna, Jorgen III. I still can’t quite believe he’s the one responsible for everything that went wrong in my life. His image must have been inside my subconscious for years, but only now I’ve managed to retain his face in my memory after waking from my nightmare.
Since I started living with my aunt and uncle I’ve had these odd dreams reflecting both the past and future. I was shopping with my aunt when I experienced it for the first time. It was Sunday and my uncle was away on business. Beatrice didn’t want to leave me alone in the house, so she begrudgingly took me with her. It was one of those rare occasions when I finally had a chance to go shopping with her. She was in Madame Belini’s Boutique, discussing the alteration of a dress she was going to wear for a very important party at some politician’s house the following week. We were just about to walk out when I suddenly pulled her bag, as a dream from the night before flashed in front of my eyes.
I saw her being robbed on the street, just outside Madame Belini’s Boutique by some random human man who wanted money for drugs. He was tall and very boney with rotten teeth and dirty, torn clothing. In the dream, I saw him ripping my aunt’s bag–her stuff went flying everywhere, pushing her onto the pavement, then running away as fast as he could. She wailed and screamed until people stopped to help her and the police arrived.
“What are you doing, child? I don’t have time for your nonsense,” she shouted when I tried to delay her in the boutique for as long as possible.
“But aunt, there’s a man waiting for us. We can’t leave yet. We should wait in here until he disappears–until it’s safe,” I mumbled not understanding what was going on or why my instinct told me to wait. I couldn’t tell my aunt I saw her being robbed in some random dream–she would never believe me.
“Astri, you stupid girl. We’re already running late. Let go of my bag or I’ll lock you in the basement when we get back to the house,” she warned, through gritted teeth.
She smacked my hand when I didn’t let go of her and literally dragged me outside. Seconds later, the man sped past us and snatched her bag. It was exactly as it happened in my dream; my aunt’s scream could’ve been heard up and down the entire street.
All of a sudden, I feel someone pulling my pyjamas and I glance down, noticing Jetli. Lenin’s sister is mute. I have no idea if she could talk before or not, but she hasn’t said a word since the day I found her and Lenin in the forest. Her bright, blue eyes are asking me what’s wrong.
The Pixie brings me back to the reality that’s my life–living in this cold, dreadful, basement, and the memories about that incident quickly fade away.
“Nothing, hon, it’s nothing. I need to get myself ready,” I tell her, knowing this is only one of my many lies.
They’re like miniature, little children, except they have pointed ears. I’ve tried to find out where they’re from, but the books are pretty generic. Their wings are beautifully translucent, sprinkled with golden pixie dust as they flutter about and their bodies are so tiny they fit into the palm of my hand.
Lenin and Jetli are rude and mischievous. I’ve tried teaching them manners, but they just don’t seem to get that farting in front of humans or shifters is so very inappropriate.
“So what are we going to do today, Astri?” Lenin asks, flying around me while I try to find something decent to wear. I live with my aunt and uncle who are both humans. They raised me after my parents died because my other family wanted nothing to do with me. “I’ve been thinking, you know… How about I pour vinegar into Richard’s tea? Can you imagine his face when he spits the whole thing out all over the kitchen in front of your aunt?”
I point my finger toward Lenin, trying not to laugh while attempting to look angry that he’s even considering something so mischievous.
Jetli thinks it’s hilarious. She’s already rolling on the floor, holding her tiny belly.
Oh yes, those two love annoying humans in general. My aunt and uncle especially. We all live in a huge detached house in a very nice human neighbourhood.
“I’m going to get in the shower, Lenin, and if you behave then we’ll do something exciting today,” I say.
I have to walk through the main part of the house to get to the bathroom.
The basement’s often used as storage, and I’ve had to adapt to the fact that there’s not much space to move around down here. The basement’s where my aunt and uncle moved me after my nightmares became too much for them–I was an embarrassment. They needed to remind me I was never meant to be part of their family.
Richard and Beatrice had no children of their own. They never showed me any warmth or affection. I just had to be quiet and pretend as if I was never there, then things remained under control.
I manage to sneak into the bathroom without bumping into anyone in the hallway, which is a hell of a relief. I switch the shower on and for a long moment I stare at my scarred face in the mirror. My pale skin on the left cheek is completely deformed, and it looks disgusting. I always knew I was hit with a blow-back spell—the scar runs all the way down to my neck, creating a perfect balance between ugly and disturbing. I can’t stand staring at it.
I’m a full-blooded dragon shifter from the Wyvern’s clan, yet the creature inside me turned against its own kind due to powerful magical forces beyond my control. I haven’t found a way to get rid of the scar. Spells, potions and formulas aren’t working and I don’t know if anything ever will.
The mage managed to manipulate my magic and turn it against me; now I know his identity. It’s still a bit of shock.
I step into the shower and ten minutes later I’m running back to the basement, contemplating my revenge.
“Watch where you’re going, Astri. You nearly made me spill my coffee!” snarls the unpleasant voice belonging to my Uncle Richard. He’s a tall man, over six feet, broad with a huge stomach and ugly, thick moustache. He’s dressed in a grey suit and a boring, black tie. His eyes rove over my face and he instantly cringes. The scar—my aunt and uncle hate I don’t look like everyone else. They think I’m a freak of nature, someone who should be kept in a cage.
“Sorry, Uncle,” I mutter under my breath. For now, I have to obey their rules because I’m forced to live under their roof.
“What time are you going to be home today?” he asks, when I try to walk past him. The water’s dripping down my body, onto the floor and I’m shivering with cold chills. I wish I’d dressed in the bathroom, then this whole meeting could’ve been avoided.
“Same time. Around eight,” I respond.
“All right, just use the back entrance. We have guests tonight and it’s better if they don’t see you,” Richard says, reminding me no one in his firm knows I’m part of their prestigious family.
This is how it is and I should be used to it by now.
“Oh, and remember, Astri, the next loan instalment is due tonight. I hope you have the right amount this time,” he reminds me, just before I’m about to disappear on the stairway leading back to my basement.
“Yes, it’s all there. Don’t worry, Uncle,” I mutter, wishing I could be someone else, at least for a day, but that’s impossible. Astri, one of the last Wyvern shifters, has to work in order to repay a debt to her human family. As my uncle says: school, hospital bills and food don’t come cheap.
“Don’t worry, Astri, I just farted in his face, and with my spell, he’ll be smelling it for the rest of the day,” Lenin giggles when I’m back in the basement. He must have flown over when he heard I bumped into my uncle in the corridor. I smile to myself, no longer feeling depressed, because I know Lenin’s always going to have my back.
About the author:
Joanna Mazurkiewicz was born in Poland. She moved to United Kingdom when she was only nineteen and just finished high school. She had aspired to be a writer upon completion of the Harry Potter series but also enjoyed reading books like ‘Gone with the Wind’, ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘The doll’. She graduated from Swansea University with a bachelor degree in American Studies. While studying in the UK she made a decision to start writing fiction in English.
The “Whispers of the Sprite” is her first debut novel and she is currently working on the second book in the series. Joanna lives in Cowbridge, a small town in South Wales near Cardiff with her boyfriend Bruce. She enjoys cycling around Welsh countryside some of which has become the settings in her first series.
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