Wyvern’s Trim and other stories
© 2016 by Nicola Pike
This book is a work of fiction and, except in the case of historical facts, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the author
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At that moment Patience had completely run out of patience as her eyes landed on the neat envelope which had been slipped under her door. She had no idea how Andre had found her. She had left no forwarding address at her last boarding house. Despite that she wasn’t surprised that he had found her.
Patience had worked with Andre long enough to know that he was annoyingly persistent.
She picked up the envelope and almost threw away the letter before she had even opened it. Andre though would continue sending letters if she didn’t read this one and reply.
Exasperated, she opened the letter. It was an invitation to dinner. The foolish man, well he wasn’t really a man, so her complaint really didn’t have any validity. This would never have happened if it hadn’t been for that damn Colonel.
It had been a normal work day, well a normal work day when you were a personal assistant to a dragon.
Patience had graduated top of her class from a very prestigious woman’s college. With both of her parents dead she used most of her inheritance to gain her qualifications only to find out that no one wanted to hire a woman for what they deemed was a man’s job.
She had soon discovered that the only people who would hire an educated woman were the dragons.
Dragons held a strange position in their society. For generations, they had been the enemy of every country until William, a half dragon half human, had taken over most of the known world and created the Wyvern Empire.
The dragons had revealed that they could take human shape and had promptly created a niche for themselves amongst the nobility of the human race.
Patience had been grateful to get the job as Andre’s assistant only to discover the reason why dragons hired women was because they were collectors of rare things including people.
Dragons were well known for their treasure, but they also saw human beings as part of their treasure. As they could no longer keep slaves, with the treaty between the dragons and humans forbidding it, they considered employing people in the same vein as owning them.
Educated women were considered a novelty and worth collecting among the dragons. After six years she had gotten used to this idea.
Andre saw her as part of his collection and it meant he took particular attention to how she was dressed.
That was why they were in the Modiste.
Andre held up a gold gown that was cut deeply at the front. She wasn’t surprised he had picked it as dragons really did enjoy gold.
It would be good for her coloring as she had dark brown hair and an olive complexion thanks to her Italian mother. But if she wore the gown she wouldn’t be able to move, let alone bend down without completely coming undone.
Patience waved it off, “I can’t wear that. My…. Well, my bosom would fall out.”
Andre eyed her for a moment. Glancing backwards and forwards between the dress and her bosom.
Eventually, he passed the dress back to one of the servants and said, “You are correct, you have a rather large chest.”
Patience blushed as the Modiste’s assistants all struggled to keep in their giggles. They would all assume Patience was Andre’s mistress and not just an employee.
It wouldn’t be the first time people had made this assumption. Despite Andre’s predilections he had always been a complete gentleman with her. She was about to explain to Andre once again why he couldn’t say things like that when a young assistant approached.
The assistant had her hands tucked in close to her body as she said politely, “It would not do in any case. Besides the gold doesn’t go with your complexion, my lord.”
Andre turned his gaze on the woman. Patience didn’t envy the woman. Many had swooned at the glare of a dragon. Andre might seem human, but when you looked into his eyes there was no denying that he was completely alien. And yet the woman remained calm.
The Modiste assistant waved at Patience and said, “She is a beautiful woman, well worthy of your collection, but she would be best showcased if she was in harmony with you as well.”
Patience was actually grateful. This was a woman who had dealt with dragons before.
“You are of a darker complexion than…” the Modiste assistant glanced at her and Patience offered her name.
This woman did really understand dragons. Andre might see Patience as part of his collection, but he was fiercely protective of her as well. In his mind, she belonged to him and he looked after his belongings.
The assistant continued, “Well, Patience, she is also of a dark complexion, but there is a lighter quality to her.”
She motioned to Patience’s hair as she spoke. Andre had black hair and golden eyes while Patience had mahogany hair and brown eyes.
The assistant Modiste brought over a bronze dress that would appeal to Andre as it shimmered like the gold dress hadn’t. It was also modest and practical. Patience wouldn’t have to worry about dipping the sleeves into the ink as she wrote either. Or worry about her bosom falling out.
Patience eyed the assistant and asked, “What is your name?”
The woman smiled. “Lucy. Ask for me next time and I will make sure you are served well.”
Patience would as it was difficult to find quality workmen when it came to providing for a dragon.
Andre was still inspecting the gown when he said, “Do you have matching undergarments?”
There was actual giggling from one of the girls who quickly stifled it when Patience glared at her. Andre of course was oblivious.
Lucy wasn’t affected as she casually answered, “I’m sure we can arrange something.”
Patience glared at Andre but he didn’t take heed of her look so she asked him, “Why? I mean, seriously Andre, who is going to see if my undergarments are matching?”
Andre frowned. “Do you not have a special man?”
Patience rolled her eyes. She worked for Andre twelve hours out of the day. There was no time for men. She already had one demanding man in her life she wasn’t planning to add another.
His eyes narrowed and he shocked her by asking, “How many more years of childbearing do you have?”
She wasn’t surprised by the rude question as dragons were always blunt.
In a bland tone she answered, “Another dozen or so.”
He tilted his head to the side as he took this all in. “And how long have you worked for me?”
“Half a dozen.” She answered with a shrug. She hadn’t really thought about it.
Andre frowned as he thought. He eventually turned to Lucy and said, “Get them.”
Patience sighed and decided she would change the subject. “We have that meeting with Colonel Miles Sinclair.”
Andre clapped his hands together as he took in her words. “Oh, yes. Pack this all up and send them to my home.”
He bustled them out of the Modiste’s store and to the tavern where they were to meet the Colonel.
Andre had his fingers in many business pies so dealt with a range of people. The Colonel was helping Andre move his goods from one part of the country to another without it disappearing.
It didn’t take long for them to iron out the details and they were still eating.
Patience wasn’t surprised that Andre had been thinking of what had been discussed in the Modiste. It did take her by surprise when he brought it up with the Colonel.
Andre asked in a voice that was too casual, “Would you marry Patience?”
Patience almost choked on her meal. The Colonel didn’t fare any better. He was a young man and had only been dealing with dragons for a short while. He wasn’t very confident in dealing with the blunt musing of dragons.
The Colonel stammered for a long moment and turned an interesting shade of red before he said, “Well, she is a fine woman.”
Andre nodded in agreement. “And yet she tells me she has no special man. Her child bearing years are running out fast and she has no man. This seems wrong to me.”
Patience reached out and lightly touched Andre’s hand. He turned to look at her and she said, “I don’t intend to marry.”
Andre wouldn’t let it settle. “Nonsense, what kind of woman would want to be alone for the rest of her life?”
She focused on her food as she wasn’t comfortable with this conversation, but if she showed that to Andre he would pick at it until she had revealed everything.
Choosing her words carefully Patience said, “It isn’t really a choice. You see I would be considered a spinster by most. I’m not really what most men would want to marry. Even if I decided I wished to marry, no man would want me. I do not need a man in any case.”
Andre looked confused and turned back to the Colonel. “What does she mean by that? I know from experience she thinks she makes complete sense.”
The Colonel coughed before he said, “Most men would be well… I suppose they would feel inferior as she is very well educated.”
Andre asked, confused, “Is this not a sought after trait, after all intelligence is hereditary?”
The Colonel flushed. “It might be the job. While a woman is working she focusses more on her employment than on a man and a man might become jealous.”
Andre frowned and then turned to her. “Fine, we can solve that. You are fired.”
That damn Colonel. If only he had kept his mouth shut. Not that he was wrong. If Patience had to choose she would have chosen to love and have a career. Unfortunately, men didn’t see that as a possibility and would have forced her to give up her work in order to have children.
She would have liked children, but she didn’t see why she couldn’t have children and work in any capacity. She had known that it wouldn’t work while she was employed by Andre but she was willing to find other work.
Unfortunately, after that day with the Colonel and his big mouth, she had discovered that finding work wasn’t as easy as she had thought it would be.
She had gone from agency to agency, but when they had seen that her previous employer was a dragon they had been fast to drop her.
Apparently everyone thought that dragons were amoral and by extension anyone they employed.
Patience shook her head and turned back to the letter Andre had sent. Patience wrote out a short refusal to the dinner invitation and went out to post it.
She knew he wouldn’t be pleased. The last time she had refused to bow to his demands he had come to her boarding house and argued with her loudly. The landlady had not been amused that an enraged dragon had rampaged through her property and had asked her to leave.
Patience had left but mostly because of her lack of money. Since Patience was unemployed, she couldn’t afford the neat and tidy boarding house anyway.
Once the letter was posted she went to the market. She set up a small stall and offered to write letters for anyone for a penny.
Most of the people in these neighborhoods couldn’t read or write. She didn’t make a lot writing letters for people, but it would keep her fed if not housed in the meantime.
Patience had a little in the way of savings and hopefully she would find a permanent position before she went through it significantly.
It was nearing evening when a shadow loomed over her and she looked up from the letter she had been writing. The young man she had been writing for quickly grabbed his letter. He threw a penny on her small travel desk before he scampered off.
Patience just stared at Andre. If she had still been employed by him she would be worried by his expression. Instead, she started to pack up her things.
There would be no way that anyone would approach her for her skills while she was being leered over by a dragon.
Andre flapped her refusal in the air and asked, “Why won’t you come for dinner? How am I supposed to marry you off if you refuse to meet the men I have found for you?”
Patience didn’t look up as she answered, “Well, maybe it is because I don’t want to meet these men you have picked out for me.”
He stared at her, incredulous. “What is wrong with them? You haven’t even met them yet.”
She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “I’m sure they are upstanding members of the community, but I don’t want to marry any of them.”
His voice was loud with confusion. “Why not?”
She had finished packing up her things and she stepped past him, but he followed her as she walked.
She knew a human male would have grabbed her and forced her to speak with him. The dragon would not touch her unless he knew he could do it with a gentle touch.
Dragons might be in a human body, but they were otherworldly beings and had the power to prove it.
Andre demanded. “Explain it to me. Is it because you prefer woman?”
Patience gasped out her shocked answer. “No.”
Was he really that clueless?
He waved his hands around as he spoke. “I thought women wanted husbands.”
She sighed and turned to him. “Some women don’t have very many options so they have to marry. Some women are pressured into marriage by family. Most women marry because they want a family.”
Andre asked emphatically, “Well, then don’t you want children?”
If only it was that simple.
Patience sighed and answered him honestly, “Yes, I want children but I also want to use my mind. My education is the only legacy my parents have been able to give me. To become nothing by a breeding mare would be a dishonour to my family and my education.”
He frowned and she continued walking. He walked silently next to her.
Eventually Andre asked, “Do human men prevent their women from using their minds?”
Patience shrugged. “It seems like most. Though they will deny it.”
He was silent for a long moment then nodded his head as if he had made up his mind. He said, “If I can find a husband for you who will allow you to use your mind will you marry then?”
She had hoped he would realize how futile that was and give up.
She shook her head slightly as she answered, “Probably not.”
She wasn’t sure why she wasn’t angry with him. This wasn’t the first time they had a conversation like this. As usual it seemed useless and circular.
Usually it was her trying to explain the motivations of businessmen or nobles in a way his dragon mind could understand.
Andre stopped her with a light touch on her elbow.
He must have calmed down for him to trust himself to touch her. “Why not?”
Patience looked into his eyes. They were golden like a reptile and it had taken her a while to get used to them, but they had grown on her over the years.
She mirrored his calm as she answered, “Well, I want to marry for love. I know in this day and age that is a silly concept, but I want to know that I am considered of worth by my husband and I want to love him.”
He nodded his head. He announced, “Done.”
Andre moved suddenly making her take a step back by the suddenness of it all. He flicked off his fur coat and threw it over her shoulders. He surprised her by shifting his clothes into another dimension as he started to change into a dragon.
She scrambled back away from him as his mass suddenly increased and filled the courtyard they were in. This wasn’t the first time she had seen him change.
Light filled the courtyard as he transformed and Patience covered her head with her arms to stop herself from being blinded by the light. In her time with Andre he had only ever transformed a few dozen times in front of her.
She still had her arm raised about her head so she didn’t see the tail snake out and wrap around her.
She yelped as the tail tightened around her waist. Andre bunched his muscles and launched himself into the sky yanking her up.
If she had anything for lunch, she would have thrown it up. Her stomach flipped over and finally settled when Andre glided through the air. She closed her eyes as the land bobbed in her vision.
Her hands clasped around the tail, but it became clear that it wasn’t loosening and she wasn’t going to fall to her death. She opened her eyes, but the wind made it impossible to see anything without tearing up so she closed them again.
She was glad that he had put the fur coat over her as it was bitingly cold. She wasn’t sure how long they were in the air, but she could tell when they started coming in to land, as they slowed down and bobbed a bit more.
Patience opened her eyes and saw the land rush towards them. Quickly she slammed her eyes shut and tucked in her legs. Covering her head with her arms, she prepared to crash into the ground. When they landed, she was gently placed on cold flagstones.
Because she had tucked in her legs, she rolled a bit and came to rest on her knees. She shook herself and slowly stood up.
A flash of light indicated that Andre had returned to his human form. Her legs were wobbly so she didn’t turn to him, but concentrated on maintaining her vertical nature.
Andre asked, “Are you all right?”
She turned slowly. “I don’t think people are meant to fly.”
He flashed one of his rare grins. “Come.”
He was already striding out of the courtyard so she called after him. “Wait.”
She stumbled after him out of the courtyard of a castle.
Glancing around, she couldn’t tell where they were. Though they certainly were no longer in the city. There were mountains around them, but they were generic looking like mountains usually did.
She stumbled again and Andre caught her. “Hurry woman, it is bloody cold out here.”
That was when she realized he wore only pants. His chest completely bare to the elements. She was wearing his fur coat so she wasn’t surprised he was cold.
Patience stumbled forward a little faster as her legs got used to being on land.
It was much warmer once they were inside.
Andre didn’t slow down as he led her into the castle.
She asked, “Where are we?”
He surprised her by putting his arm around her waist. “This is my home.”
She asked a little stunned by the abrupt changes in her life, “Your home?”
She looked around and mused, still bewildered. “I thought your town house was your home.”
He shrugged. “That house is just where I stay when I am in the human world. This was my first home here on this plane.”
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A collection of short stories set in a universe where history has been turned on its ear because dragons arrived. They were the ultimate hunter of the human race until they discovered it was better to make humans part of their horde. Wyvern's Trim- Patience as an educated woman has struggled to get work until she finds a post with Andre. Unfortunately, he is a dragon and with that comes some complications. It would have been fine if it hadn't been for Andre's insistence to marry her off. Out, on a limb- Callisto is a tinker, an engineer who has kept her nose clean. Especially as she hates soldiers. Her father was a soldier and is was just plainly a rat bastard. But Callisto is summoned by the Baron. When she arrives she sees that the Baron has a guest with a spectacular clockwork arm and her professional curiosity is about to get her into trouble. Hidden Treasure- Ash is an orphan who has been taken in by an order of monks. She likes to wander around in the complex labyrinth under the basilica. One day she discovers someone chained up in a chamber deep in the labyrinth. But he is no man, he is a feral dragon and it will take all her skills to tame him.