A YA Fantasy Novel

Lady Megan Steveson, heir to the Steveson lands, goes against her father’s wishes to train as a grimsai, a dragon fighter, so she can help defend her lands against the dragon attacks that grow more frequent every day.

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The (Un-edited) First Chapter:

A Grimweaver attacked my carriage on the way to school. At least Grimweavers weren’t one of the firebreathing dragons, I thought as I watched it crush my first guard with its foot. I had a better chance of surviving without flames everywhere, though really, it wasn’t much of a chance at all.

The second guard who had been riding on the back of the carriage ran forward, sword drawn, but was knocked over instantly by the tail, which was swinging wildly. The third guard, who was sitting with the driver, jumped from the roof of the carriage and nicked the Grimweaver’s throat with his sword, but all that did was make the Grimweaver angry. With a swish of his long, ungainly tail, the Grimweaver knocked the guard to the ground where he lay completely still, blood dripping from his head onto his dark blue uniform.

I gripped the sword Da kept in the carriage, but after seeing the guards crumple so easily, I knew it wouldn’t save me.

“Run, Lady Megan!” the driver said, letting go of the reins and jumping down to distract the dragon. “Run!”

There was nowhere to run. The carriage only had one door, and it was blocked by the dragon. Even if I could get out and hide under the carriage, it was going to destroy the carriage next.

That’s what the Grimweavers always did.

I’d seen four Grimweaver attacks so far, from the safety of the manor, and they always ended the same way. No survivors.

The Grimweaver stepped on my driver and he disappeared. I closed my eyes, unwilling to look death in the face as it came towards me, shaking the carriage with every step it took.

“Oh Maker, grant me a painless death!” I cried as the Grimweaver’s steps grew louder and louder. I could hear my heart, hammering away in my chest. It was thundering in my ears, drowning out even the Grimweaver’s steps. Is this what death feels like? Your heartbeat getting louder and louder, until it takes over, and you give up?

“Hey there, stupid, mean, ugly dragon!” A girlish voice came through the open window of the carriage and I opened my eyes in surprise. Through the window I could see a girl, her flaming red hair catching my attention in the drab grasslands.

The Grimweaver forgot about me and the carriage, turning clumsily towards the new threat, almost tripping over its own foot. “You can’t catch me!” the girl called, taunting the dragon in ways I would never have dared.

She ran back and forth in front of it, sprinting forward, dashing suddenly to the side, rolling underneath the Grimweaver, cartwheeling out of the way, taunting it the whole time. “Look at you, slowpoke! Couldn’t catch me even if you were really trying.”

The Grimweaver looked as confused as I’ve ever seen a dragon look. It kept turning its head, trying to follow the girl, but she was too fast. She would roll underneath it and it would look up. She’d sprint to the side and it would try to turn, but its whole body would move, and she’d just roll underneath it again.

I was so busy watching the girl, I’d barely noticed I’d crept forward to the window. I wasn’t sitting in the back of my carriage waiting to die – no! I was watching the girl with the red hair, and the tunic that was somehow attached to her leggings, and the amazing ability to distract a dragon.

What an amazing thing, to be able to distract a dragon! They’d never let me, the only child of Lord Steveson, do such a thing, but I could dream of it.

The girl stumbled, but recovered well with a forward roll. She ran past the carriage and I noticed the sweat dripping off her nose, landing on a tunic that was already soaked through. Her chest was heaving as she tried to catch her breath, standing still for only a moment before starting off again.

The dragon’s tail came dangerously close to my carriage as he tried to hit the girl with it. I needed to get out.

I gingerly set the sword down and moved to the door of the carriage. It took a moment to discover how to open it – I’d never done that before – but I quickly slipped out and quietly closed the door, hoping the Grimweaver wouldn’t hear me. I didn’t know how good their hearing was.

A flash of dark blue – an unusual color in the grasslands – caught the corner of my eye, and I dared to hope for my life as I had not hoped since the Grimweaver first appeared. With clenched fists and teeth I waited for another dark blue uniform to appear, to tell me that Da’s men had arrived to save me.

I didn’t see it.

A whimper tried to make its way out into the world but I shoved it down. Time enough for that when the Grimweaver had left. Crouching down, I half crawled, half walked into the tall grass that lined the trail leading to Madam Primrose’s School For Exceptional Girls.

School. How was I supposed to get there now? Maybe the girl would help me. She should at least know if I was closer to home or to school. Though if she died, and I couldn’t see how she would avoid such a fate, I couldn’t ask her.

There it was again – another flash of the dark blue, this time behind the dragon. Before I could decide what was happening, if it was actually there or if I’d just imagined it, a guard wearing Da’s colors jumped out of the bushes behind the Grimweaver.

He stabbed it in the side of its neck, at the same moment as another guard leaped from the side and stabbed it in the throat.

Blood poured down the creature’s neck and chest, red blood covering the green scales before pooling on the hard, sun baked clay beneath it. With one final, gasping breath, the Grimweaver took a step forward, crashing into a carriage that I hadn’t even noticed.

As the Grimweaver’s body came to rest, the guards cheered, and the girl came around from the other side of the dragon. A round of high-fives came next, and I found myself wishing I was with them.

The girl turned to face her ruined carriage with the Grimweaver still on top of it, her hands on her hips. “Well,” she said, her voice fainter now that she wasn’t yelling, but still carrying across the grasslands that border the Grimlind. “Do you think that carriage will be able to give us a ride?” she asked her guards, walking towards my carriage.

My heart rate jumped when I realized that she was going to find an empty carriage and assume the Grimweaver had killed us all. They would leave me here.

I ran towards the carriage, meeting her on the other side of it. “I was wondering if you’d come out of hiding,” she said with a smile. “I don’t suppose you’re going to Madam Primrose’s, are you?”

“Actually, I am,” I said with a humorless chuckle, “but unless you know how to drive a carriage, we’re out of luck.”

“Oh, that’s not a problem,” she said, turning to face the guards, who’d come up behind her. “Martin, could you go see about getting my trunk? I don’t think the Grimweaver landed on it. Edmund, can you see to the horses? They should be fine – the fielweed should have them under control, but make sure they’re not hurt at all.”

The guards nodded and left, and the girl glanced at the bodies lying around the carriage. With a sigh, she said, “well, there’s nothing we can do for the poor fellows now.” She whispered the prayer for the dead under her breath, and I did the same.

With that taken care of, she turned to me. “Have I met you before?” she asked. “It would appear that you’re from Lord Steveson’s estate.”

I nodded and held out my hand. “No, I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Megan Steveson.”

She’d started to put her hand into mine, but when I said my name, her hand dropped and she curtsied instead. “Oh, m’lady, I’m so sorry. I didn’t recognize you. I’ve never seen you up close before.”

I rolled my eyes. “Actually, I’d prefer it if you didn’t do that. I’m hoping at this school I can get away from all of that nonsense.”

“All what nonsense, Lady Megan?”

“Please, um…”

“Calliope Marsden, Lady Megan, though I prefer Callie.” She curtsied again.

“Please, Callie, no curtsies, and no Lady Megan’s. I’d like to be a normal girl for once, or as close as I can be, before I turn seventeen this summer. Please, just call me Megan.”

The corner of her mouth turned up in a smirk so easily, I knew she had to do it often. “Oh, that’s right, you’re turning seventeen this summer. Truth is, I pity you, Lady Megan, I do.” I almost protested the Lady, but she was on a roll. “As it is, I’m having to chase off boys already, or my brother is, and I can’t imagine how bad it would be if Da was bringing them around so he could marry me off.”

The guard she’d sent after her trunk – Martin – came back, the heavy wooden box sitting easily on his shoulder. “Thank you, Martin,” Callie said, with a smile in his direction. She turned to me, her eyes crinkling as she asked, “you don’t mind if we go with you, do you?”

“Does it look like I have a choice?” I said with a laugh. “Either I can sit here with my carriage and no driver while you and the guards walk alone, or we join forces.”

“I do think joining forces is much more agreeable, don’t you?” She grinned impulsively and opened the carriage door, gesturing for me to climb in. “All aboard, m’lady. Let’s go have an adventure. Boarding school, here we come!”

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