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Dragon Astray by Viola Grace (1)

Chapter One



The fist came at her head, and Trin didn’t duck. She deflected the attack and struck her opponent with an uppercut that knocked it back.

Rish staggered back and shook her head before flexing her jaw and grinning. “Very good. Let’s take a break.”

Trin nodded and inclined her head. “Would you like some tea?”

“Water with lemon, please.” Rish sighed and headed for the small table and chairs set against one wall of the sub-basement. “You are very fast.”

Trin chuckled and poured the water for her trainer. “I have always been quick. It is a handy skill at an orphanage full of shifters when you are human.”

Rish rubbed her jaw. “Well, you are definitely all dragon now. How are you feeling?”

“Good. I love learning things, and these skills are just up my alley.” She glanced down at the boiler suit-type clothing that she was wearing. “I also like ditching the skirts now and then.”

They sat down and looked around the exercise space that had been created out of a reading room. Training ladies for combat wasn’t something that the dragons liked to do. Training an unmated crystal dragon would have horrified most of the population. Lucky for Trin, the hunters and the council head had a plan for her.

She sat back and sipped her water, feeling the slight ache in her hands, back, and feet. In the mornings, she fought Rish; in the afternoons, she got espionage training from Brommin. Today’s lesson was going to be memory and assessment. If they had time, there would be some sparring, but her clothing had to be that of a lady. Fighting in a floor-length gown and a corset was not pleasant, but the practice was rather fun, especially when he wrapped his arms around her from behind and his mother had to intervene. He wasn’t allowed to fight with her unless Rish was there to hit the brakes.

“So, can I know what you are training me for?” Trin kept asking.

Rish gave her a bland look. “You are being trained for a situation you are uniquely qualified to be in.”

“You say that every day.”

“And every day for the last three weeks, you have asked me the same question. I am wondering at your ability to learn, Trin.”

Trin grinned. “I prefer to think of it as determination and a whimsical curiosity.”

Rish barked a laugh. “To think, I considered you the best match for my son.”

“Your eldest son. You have others, and yeah, I am. You don’t want to throw any other women at him. My dragon will not take it well.”

Rish snickered. “I have a few ladies that I would like to sic her on.”

“I am sure, but nothing is going to keep her from her mate. She mutters about it every time she sees him.” Trin stretched out her bare feet and wiggled her toes.

“Is she settling at all?”

“A bit. The flights are helping.”

“How is the obfuscation coming?”

“The light bending? It is great. I can fly over other cities, and none of their defenses are triggered.” She chuckled. “I can even do it while human if I try really hard.”

Rish sat up straighter than normal. “Really?”

Trin held up her teacup and made her hand invisible. “The only problem is that it only works on my skin, and public nudity is not acceptable.”

Rish blinked. “Ah. I understand.”

“It seems to be linked to the dragon energy that is seeping into my skin.”

“Is it hardening your skin?”

Trin shook her head. “No, but it is in my muscles, tendons, and bones. Oh, and my nails can now carve stone.”

Rish held up her hand in a gesture of restraint. “I will take your word on it. That table is an antique.”

Chuckling, Trin finished her tea with a nice and normally visible hand. “Are we going to continue?”

“No, I think we are done for the day.” Rish touched her jaw gingerly.

“Just a quick question. Did you travel when you were a hunter?”

“I am still a hunter, I just travel less.” Rish smiled. “Being with the ones we love makes us more valuable to our homes over time, and we have to accept that.”

Trin made a face. “I like being able to be where I need to be.”

Rish was wistful. “My life used to be like that. I had Brommin, and things changed. Some changes were good, and others were restrictive. I had to pick my battles, and fighting for Makros’s political gain was my choice.”

“Well, I am going to take every chance I can to get out of the city and do some travelling. I really miss it.”

“Oh, did you travel?”

“Yeah. I sourced all the products and suppliers for the first shops. Everything was handpicked by me.” She felt the pride welling up in her. She and Brenner had worked hard, and their current success was a testament to that.

Rish nodded. “Good. If you ever need to travel for council business, it is an excellent thing that you have experience with it.”

She shrugged. “I have travelled on my own up and down the coastline as well as into the southern interior. Coffee and tea don’t go wandering on their own, you have to head out to find them.”

“Do you have your own karros?”

“No. I rode a velocipede.”

Rish’s amazement was in her face. “Those things are deadly.”

“Only if you fall off.” Trin grinned. “I only ditched it once.”

“What happened?” Her tutor was fascinated.

“I ended up using my travel insurance. Two weeks and seventy-three stitches later and I was back on my way.”

“What kind of a vehicle was it?”

“Enfield with the wide tires. Exposed gearing chains.”

“Do you have scarring?”

Trin snorted. “No. That should have been an indicator. I never thought to ask why the marks had completely disappeared.”

Rish blinked slowly. “What?”

“I don’t keep scars. My body keeps healing. Isn’t that a dragon thing?”

Rish shook her head. “No. No, it isn’t. That is unique to you. Did they take blood from you when you arrived?”

“They did. I am sure that the alchemist is in her lab, working on figuring out what makes me tick.”

“Right. I am sure of it.” She didn’t look happy about it.

Trin smiled. It appeared that Makros was keeping secrets from his wife.

“Well, I suppose that we should break for lunch. You are going to have your hands full this afternoon.”

“Right. I had better get changed. I am planning lunch in the commissary today, so I need to be respectable looking.”

Rish gave her a sympathetic look. “Are you making friends?”

“I think so. I mean, I have plenty of friends outside of the dragon shifters, so I am not worried, but blending in is one of the skills Brommin is testing me on, so I have to behave like I belong there. So, I will.”

“Are you enjoying the training? I mean, it isn’t something that you were expecting.”

Trin rubbed the back of her neck. “I wasn’t expecting anything. I just wanted to go to work, fix the antique equipment, and focus on the controlled expansion of our shops. That was my life plan. Making a plan for courtships and mating is left to the shifters in these cities.” She tapped the tattoo at the base of her neck. “I, as you can plainly see, am a human.”

Rish snorted. “We can have that removed if you like.”

“No. It is part of me. I have worn it for over a decade. I wouldn’t know who I was without it.” She patted it softly and then got to her feet. “Now, I have to be someone pleasant in normal and respectable clothing. See you tomorrow?”

“I think we can take a day off. My ears are still ringing.” Rish got to her feet.

They headed for the changing area and helped the other to get back into their skirts and corsets. The workout gear was set aside for laundering, and they parted ways, leaving the sub-basement for their own personal agendas. Trin was unsurprised to see Rish heading for the senator’s private offices. It was a domestic situation that didn’t need to be seen to be understood. Orisha was after information, and she was very good at hitting her target. Trin almost pitied the most powerful man in the city.

She smiled to herself and headed up to the dining area. She was working at blending in, but the moment that she walked into the space with her signature white hair, all conversation stopped.

Trin settled for standing out, and she cruised through the crowds easily, finding the station that had the food she wanted. Pasta, a salad, and a side of roast in gravy were just what she wanted.

She sashayed around the room until she got a small booth to call her own, and then, she smiled and nodded for tea when the server came around.

Eating neatly in public was an art form. She practiced and was fine with the occasional glances and whispers that were thrown her way. When she was getting ready to set her utensils aside, she tensed when a dining partner slid into the seat across from hers.

“Miss Lem, I do hope that I am not interrupting you.” Torm, her grabby and ex-guard smiled brightly at her.

She leaned back as the server came by and whisked away her plates. “It is no interruption, but I thought you were in some kind of program for males with poor impulse control.”

His smile took on a strange twist. “I was. I have been declared to be cured of my mania.”

“Excellent and congratulations.” She took a sip of her tea.

He began to eat his meal. “So, I was wondering what it would take to get you to put me on your list in case Brommin is taken by the time you are allowed your choice.”

“You believe that I won’t get there in time?”

“Your punctuality at the annual gathering is not in question. Your social standing will determine your position in the choosing. Currently, your position is determined by your family, and that is not a particularly useful connection as you don’t have one.”

Trin nodded. Apparently, her connection to one of the lords wasn’t well known. Good, her secrets were hers until she needed to share them. She had used that technique in the past, and there was no time like the present.

It took a lot of concentration, and she used all of her recently learned skills, but she kept herself polite and interested to Torm’s conversation until she could ease herself out of the booth for her appointment.

If Brommin didn’t give her a high mark for her performance at lunch, she was going to let her dragon braid his hair. It was a weird fantasy that her inner beast had, but if he gave her any lip, she was setting her crystal inhabitant loose on him with some ribbons and a hairbrush.