Astrid was a sabotnichav, which meant she had certain abilities that others did not. She could run fast, and was stronger than she had right to be, although being of sturdy build and strong stock she would probably have been more physically capable than her peers even if she had been born a normal child. She could see at night, too, a talent that made every midnight seem to her as though it were bathed in a hard blue moonlight. It was this talent that first alerted her parents to the fact that there may be something to the warnings they’d received when she was born. Where other children whined and cried in the cold pitch-black nights, Astrid would be calm and self-possessed, striding into darkened rooms or across shadowy yards as though it were noon. There were other skills, more nebulous and easy to miss. She was not easily charmed, and had a sharp insightfulness that had been disarming when she was a child, and which many found downright distasteful now that she was a woman. And she could see vampires. That was a big one.

Most people, if asked, described Astrid as plain. Most people were not asked about Astrid, however, because most people did not talk about Astrid at all, much less go around asking questions about her. She was a girl who was easy to ignore, who faded into the shadows even as those same shadows failed to hide anything from her. She had always been plump, which in her adulthood had filled out into a pleasant but unassertive fleshiness. Luckily for her, she grew up in an area where solid, strong women were very much in demand. Unluckily for her would-be suitors, she showed absolutely no interest in their attentions and they had long since stopped asking.