Readers! I’ve got a real treat for you today! As you may have heard, Axtara – Banking and Finance is getting a cover at last. And no, it is not the featured image for this post. That was an amusing mock-up which, to some of you, will explain a post title from earlier this week. UPDATE: The real cover is now the featured image. If you find yourself wondering about the old one, well … you missed it. But you’ll see it again before long!
Anyway, with Axtara at long last nearing for many of you, well, there couldn’t be a better time to start hyping things up! So, for your enjoyment and delight to kick off this weekend, here’s a little snippet from chapter one!
Hit the jump, and get ready to meet Axtara at last! And once you’ve done that, get ready, because the whole of Axtara – Banking and Finance will be dropping soon!
For now, enjoy this preview!
And to think this is all there is. Axtara shook her head as she looked around the space she had once called her bedroom. Technically, it was still hers, but only for a few minutes more. As soon as she’d finished clearing the last of her possessions out of it, it would no longer be so. I once thought this room was so large as to be spacious.
She’d been a lot younger then, barely a dragon whelp a few years from her egg. She flexed her wings slightly in amusement as she looked down at her old bed, the frayed cushion on the floor long since gone flat, worn from over a decade’s weight of growing scales pressing down on it each night. Now she could barely curl up on it without her tail and forepaws hanging over the edges.
Still, it smelled like home. Far more than the room she’d rented from her uncle for the last few years. Axtara brought her head down, breathing in the faint scent of old, faded padding and smiling as memories flowed back.
It was so big once. All of it was. How strange to think about. Now her childhood room felt as cramped as the lodgings her uncle had provided. Well, perhaps not quite that small, but small enough.
She pulled her head away from the old cushion, trying to ignore the pang of familiarity in her chest at seeing it lying alone on the stone floor. The walls around it were bare, what possessions she’d owned as a youngling now packed and stowed in her luggage or in one of the crates she’d already sent ahead. The shelves were empty, save for a few knickknacks or stray papers that hadn’t been worth taking.
There would be a new cushion at her new home. She’d placed the order herself, exchanged the proper funds. It would be waiting for her when she arrived.
A tingle of excitement rushed through her scales, starting with her wings and rushing down to the tips of claws and tail. A home of my very own! A wide grin split her face as she sat back on her haunches, looking down at the empty remains of her old room. My own! Her own home, with decorative wood, insulated floors, skylights … She’d spent months poring over designs from some of the best architects she’d been able to afford, calling in every favor she’d accumulated while working at her uncle’s bank.
Another excited rush swept through her. A home of my very own. Running my own bank. Ooh, I can’t wait! She fanned her wings slightly, the tip of her tail doing rapid, back-and-forth happy flips. My very own!
She took another look around the empty room, smirking slightly as her eyes fixed on the small mirror set in one wall, its silvery surface slightly warped. She still remembered when her father had presented her with it as a hatchday gift. She’d spent hours preening herself in front of it, despite some of the distortions in the glass making it difficult to see the true sheen of her green scales.
“Axtara?” She turned her head as she heard her mother call her name. “Are you almost done?”
“Nearly, mother,” she replied, turning her attention back to the room. “Just taking a final look.”
Her mother poked her head into the room, scales so deep a violet they were almost black, and smiled. “It does look rather empty. It’ll be emptier still once you’ve left.”
“Mother …” She tucked her wings and tail close against her sides as she turned. “If we’re counting me, then it’s practically full. You can’t even fit in here with me.”
“That’s not true,” came another, deeper voice. Her father, from somewhere down the hall. “That room is big enough for two. Your mother and I fit in there with you when you were a whelp, remember?”
“Barely,” her mother countered, glancing back down the hall with an amused shake of her wings. “As I recall, one of us was only half into the room.”
Axtara smiled as she turned her attention away from her mother and took a last look around the room. Scattered papers and the occasional bauble lay accounted for and discarded, but the shelves had been cleared of every book. Her writing area had been cleaned out, her tools and ink carefully stowed inside her luggage. The room was simply … empty.
Even through the excitement, it felt a little strange. Leaving for her uncle’s hadn’t been nearly so final. Then again, that temporary residence had always been her uncle’s, and her home home. Now she was truly leaving, leaving her parent’s cave and making it on her own.
“Anyway, Axtara—” her mother began, but Axtara cut her off with a shake of her head.
“I’m done, mother,” she said, turning away from her final look and smiling. The nervous tingles were back, a bubbly feeling deep in her gut matched by the giddy quiver rushing through her scales. “Everything’s packed.” Just as well, too. There was no hourglass left in the room for her to glance at, but she felt certain that a glance at the clock in the main room would show her that she would need to take wing soon if she wanted to stick to her schedule and catch her train.
“Oh, it is.” It wasn’t hard to detect the hint of sadness to her mother’s voice. Not that she didn’t understand. She felt a bit melancholy as well, despite her excitement. Her mother pulled back slightly, one set of claws coming up to rest on her chest. “It never gets any easier.”
Axtara gave her mother a sheepish grin, like she’d been caught swiping meat pies from the kitchen. “Mother … it had to happen eventually. You made it through Finix and Ryax leaving home. I’ll be fine.”
“True.” Her mother, at least, was rational. She’d seen some human parents grow positively horrifying when their children left, turning into sopping, bawling messes. “But they at least stayed within the borders of the nation, Axtara. To start, anyway. You’re flying about as far away from here as one can fly, short of traveling into the great unknown.”
She almost sighed. And then there’s this again. “Mother, Elnacier is not the end of the world.”
“It’s far enough away it might as well be,” her mother said quickly. “Are you sure you have to go so far? There are plenty of closer places where you could go to—”
“Mother, please.” Axtara sat back on her hind legs, resting her forepaws on her mother’s shoulders. She was old enough now that she and her mother were almost the same height. “Elnacier is the best choice. Yes, it’s far in the west, but it’s a new kingdom, acknowledged when I was still a whelp. Its rulers haven’t even ruled for a generation yet.”
“Precisely,” her mother countered. “It’s new. Young. The Bad Days for them aren’t as far behind as they are out here. Why, they might not even accept someone who isn’t human, and—”
“Mother, I’ve done my research. Yes, I’ll be the only dragon for hundreds of miles. But that’s why it’s such an opportunity. Elnacier is young, undeveloped. It’s brimming with natural resources of all varieties.”
“Exactly. It’s the middle of nowhere.”
Axtara held back a groan, settling for a slight twitch of her tail. “For now, mother. For now. There are riches aplenty to be had there. And by opening the first bank they’ll ever have, I’ll be the one that helps facilitate that growth. I’ll be, to use that human expression uncle likes, ‘in on the ground floor.’ There when it starts.”
“I … I know, Axtara.” Her mother sat back, half in and half out of the doorway. “I just … It’s so far, and you’re so young, and you worked so hard for Byanast making all of that money only to spend it on a lai—home you haven’t even seen.” Her slip into the older terms, from the Bad Days, didn’t pass by unnoticed.
“Oh mother.” Axtara stepped forward again, wrapping her forelegs and wings both around her in a hug and resting her head on her shoulder. “I’ll be fine. I earned that money working with uncle so that I could strike out on my own. And my home will be lovely, I’ve made sure of it. You could even come visit once I’m settled in, in a few months.”
“You’ll see, I’ll be fine.” She pulled back slightly, looking into her mother’s eyes. “You weren’t much older than I was when you set out on your own.”
“I set out with your father,” her mother chided, pulling back slightly. “And we didn’t go nearly as far.”
“Iya …” The heavy tread of her father came padding down the stone, and a moment later his pale-blue scales swept into view. “That was almost a hundred years ago. Times were different then. That was then, this is now.” He swept up behind Axtara’s mother, resting a wing across her back. “Axtara is breaking new ground. We should be proud of her.”
“I am proud of you, my little hatchling,” she said, her eyes looking right into Axtara’s. Then she smiled, soft and serene. “I just …” She moved forward, wrapping Axtara in a hug rather than the other way around. “I just worry. I’m your mother. I love you, and want only the best for you.”
“So do I.” Her father had to squeeze to try and get his limbs through the doorway, but he did his best, one massive sweeping wing covering both her and her mother. “And I think what you’re doing is amazing, little egg. You go be the best banker for Elnacier that you can.” His wing tightened for just a moment, the strength and gentleness behind it clear, and then her father was pulling back, blinking away tears.
“Besides,” he said as her mother pulled away as well, eyes similarly damp. “We really don’t have much space in this old cave. I was afraid I was going to have to insist anyway.”
“Tsavoy!” her mother chided, though there was a lack of real fire to the words. Her mother knew her father’s teasing tone as well as anyone in the family.
“No, no, she’s a growing dragoness,” her father continued. “Why, she didn’t even have room for her hoard.”
“Father …” Axtara said, tilting her head to one side. “I kept it in a bank.” Most of it, anyway.
“No, there’s simply no room at all. Besides, I’ve already got ideas for how to use the space you’re freeing up.”
“Like maybe a nice room where I can stretch out after work …”
Axtara let out a scoff and shook her head. Not with your wingspan father. He was definitely teasing her.
“Or we could get it ready for the next egg to come along.” And now he was teasing her mother.
“What? Axtara will be gone, the room will be empty. We can make a nice dinner from the larder, then go back to our room—”
“Father!” Axtara pulled back. “If your aim is to drive me away before we share a final lunch together, then by all means continue. But I would prefer that you did not.”
“I concur,” her mother said. “That’s a discussion for another time. After Axtara—” Her voice hitched slightly, a small tremor running through her wings. “—has left. It’s hardly an appropriate topic for lunch.”
Both of them turned, already moving for the larder. It was definitely time for lunch. One last meal before she left for her new home on the far side of the continent.
She picked up her luggage, settling the strap across her shoulders. She would place it with its sibling by the door, and soon begin the long flight to the nearest railway station.
She took one last look around her childhood nest, from the faded cushion on the floor to the empty shelves on the walls. Well, this is it. I’m setting out for my own home, and my own bank.
Mother will see, she thought as she stepped out of the room, head held high. It’ll be just fine.
No, it’ll be better than fine. It’ll be great.
I hope you enjoyed this peek at Axtara! There will be more details dropping soon, so keep your eyes on this space! Axtara – Banking and Finance will be available before Christmas!