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A fantasy book for all ages full of heart, suspense, and an ending you won't forget...
Alexa is a lonely traveller eager to return home to Opura but torn by having to leave her only friend Rocco.
When her grandfather dies and leaves her his generations old sword, she decides to enter a fighting tournament in a strange little town.
In a cut-throat competition with a prize that isn't what it seems, will Alexa be able to hold her own? Or will the consequences be fatal?
A dragon soared through the sky and although Alexa knew she should feel fearful of the great beast, her eyes were wide with awe. It screamed and fire burst through a nearby cloud before suddenly changing course and diving towards her. Alexa stared in a daze as it grew nearer and nearer, unable to move or think about anything more than how wonderful it looked, with its metallic scales glimmering and reflecting the winter sun. Closing her eyes to bask in the calming breeze from its gigantic wings, she felt at one with the dragon. Now the dragon was just a few meters from her exposed body, her ears felt clouded and her body felt warm. Opening her eyes, she realised it had doused her in its scorching breath, and in a heartbeat she felt her breath being sucked from her and her feet give way and her back connect painfully with the hard, concrete path she had tried to stick to.
“Alexa! It’s time to wake up, love.” Alexa’s mother shook her awake, chuckling at her moody scowl. She had gotten into this routine of annoying Alexa for about thirty seconds until she stirred from her nightmares then leaving her while she twitched awake to pull on whichever tatty clothes she found first.
“I’ll finish your breakfast while you get ready, love.” She stroked Alexa’s cheek, ignoring her quiet moans about the sun being too bright today, as she claimed it was most days. In the Kingdom, the sun was never too bright, especially in the North where the icy cold bit hardest. Alexa’s joints ached from the freezing wind that found its way under her bedroom door and in the cracks of the windowpane to chill her entire body. Sitting up and reaching over to her messy pile of clothes on the other side of the dusty room, she realised she had thrown her minimal belongings on the dirty floor and under the bed. That was after a long hour of swiping cobwebs and thick layers of dust away, and reattaching one of the bed’s wonky legs. The bedroom she was currently claiming as her own was basically a tiny cupboard with a bed, and the doors were dark from years of damp, the bed sagged from any amount of weight, and the windows barely fit in their frames, allowing a heavy draught to filter in.
When they had approached it for the first time, they had followed directions from a local that claimed although it had been abandoned for several years it was still practically liveable. To Alexa, the decrepit house looked like an old man hunched over with a bad back. The house was slightly askew from a constant western wind battering it, and the tiles on the roof were knocked out of place untidily and looked like a head of dishevelled hair. Its tiny windows were set apart like spectacles, and the door wasn’t quite in the centre of the house, much like a crutch.
Alexa pulled on her clothes and wandered into the largest room with dry, bleary eyes that she rubbed to remove some of the dust that had collected in them. Out of the window she could see the pale sun rising over a picturesque scene of long grass dancing in the wind and blue, frost covered flowers blooming next to the houses of their temporary neighbours. The smell of bitter apple filled her nose unpleasantly, and she saw her mother mashing some browning apples into a bowl with oats and water. Rolling her eyes, she had to accept that tasty breakfasts were no longer an option. Her father had always been a builder in Alexa’s hometown of Opura, and when Alexa was young and there was no more trade left in the village, they had begun moving around the country to where the work was, from rebuilding cities that had been destroyed by battles or natural disasters, towns that needed expanding, or Lords who wanted new mansions.
Recently, Alexa’s dad Peter had fallen carrying boulders needed for his building work and twisted his spine so painfully that he could now barely carry himself, never mind his building materials. It had happened while he was helping his fellow volunteers build an orphanage he had designed for Themad, the last village they had lived in which had been full of poverty and unwanted babies. Her mother had managed to persuade two kind women she was friends with to run the first ever free orphanage as its Mothers.
People said the orphanage would change hundreds of young children’s lives and it was hoped by many that children brought up by the orphanage would go back in later life to keep it going when the current Mothers passed away. The orphanage was finished as Peter acting as the project supervisor and had the capacity to sleep thirty unwanted children. Themad would forever be in Peter’s debt for his act of generosity.
Afterwards they moved to Hawkness where they were currently living on the outskirts. It was a popular hub for traders of every kind of herb and food, and desperately in need of expansion. Her dad now worked slower than before and earned less money as a result, so they couldn’t rent a decently sized house as usual but instead were squatting in a dilapidated house until they could save just enough to move back to their hometown Opura. Alexa helped her father build every day, often putting in more hours than him to help save his back from getting even worse. They were both out on the sites from sunrise and usually while she made him go home at sunset under the pretence she wanted to go walking alone, she stayed a few more hours trying to get the house built as quickly as possible. It was tough living, they were used to relative comfort and quality food but now they were taking a walk on the poor side of life, unable to stay or go home.
While she ate her breakfast, Alexa started to feel more human than before and actually capable of speech.
“Where’s dad?” She grunted.
“You are so lovely when you wake up, Lexie. He’s gone to work already, you slept in!” She took the bowl away from Alexa to wash it while she hurriedly found her coat and building tools then ran out of the house. Into the bitter cold she ran to find her dad, panicking that he might have tried to do too much and hurt his back again. While she sprinted and the wind blasted her face, slapping her awake, she hoped her dad had decided to be sensible and not try too much until she got there, though she knew how stubborn he could be. In the distance she saw a bulky heap on the floor, and searched the horizon for her father.
“Dad!” She shouted again and again, to no avail. Panting, she got to the pile which she could now see was her dad, collapsed on the hard ground. “Oh gods, dad! Please, wake up!” She shook his shoulder gently but he didn’t stir.