The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 14 Excerpt

The Dark and Forbidding Land (New Cover)

“You shouldn’t be out alone,” said a heavily accented voice. She didn’t need to turn around to recognize its owner, but turn around she did.

“I thought you were hiding in your apartment,” she told Streck. “I heard you got quite a scare on your hunting trip.”

“This place is a hell-hole. It’s not fit for a civilized man, and it won’t be until the monsters and the Eidechse are wiped out.”

“The Eidechse? You mean the lizzies? You can’t wipe all of them out. There are millions, not just the lot around here. They have some big cities to the south and west. I’ve seen one.”

“You would be surprised what can be done.”

“What do you want anyway? You want to finish our duel?”

“Oh, I have seen your shield spell and I am suitably impressed. It is clear you are a gifted, if boastful, child.”

“I think I asked already… what is it you want?”

“I’m just here to say goodbye, little bit.” Streck smiled. “My ship is here and I’ll be leaving soon.”

“Good riddance then,” said Senta.

Steck’s face turned even more sour. “I am inviting you to come with me. Not only will you learn to respect your elders, you will learn the true magic—far more than you will ever learn with your Zurfina.”

“What is it with you exactly?” asked the girl. “Do you want to open up my brain and scoop out the magic, or are you one of those weirdoes that like little girls?”

“I want to join the Reine Zauberei.”

“I thought you were one already.”

“I was, but I didn’t advance as fast as I should have… as fast as I could have. They suspended my studies and I was left to work as a solicitor. But now I have a chance to return, you see. The Reine Zauberei will appreciate you. They appreciate power, and you have more power than I at first thought. Even if you can’t do all that you say you can, a shield spell from one so young will be impressive enough. And in return for my bringing you to them, I will be reinstated.”

“So, you want to use me for your own benefits.”

“Oh, it will be good for you too, little bit. In the Reine Zauberei, you will…”

Steck’s voice trailed off and his mouth went slack. All the color drained from his face. At the moment Senta realized that he was looking at something behind her, she heard the tremendous bellow. Turning around, she saw not one, but two tyrannosaurs striding quickly toward them. One was smaller, perhaps only ten feet tall and thirty five feet long. The other was a huge fifty-footer, and judging by the scarred and uglier-than-usual face, it had to be the one that she had hit with the fireball a month earlier. It opened its mouth wide and roared, its teeth looking like a hundred daggers.

“Run, you wanker!” shouted Senta, rushing past Streck and making a diagonal path toward the edge of the road.

The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 13 Excerpt

The Dark and Forbidding Land (New Cover)Senta closed the door behind her and stomped the damp snow off of her overs. It was getting near dusk and the lower room of the tower was filled with shadows. Pointing at the lamp beside the chair, she brought it to life with a word. Several other lamps followed. The room, now bathed in warm light revealed its contents, including the steel dragon lying in the corner.

“Hey,” Senta called. “You’ve been asleep for two days. Wake up.”

Bessemer opened his eyes and yawned. “What?”

“You sleep too much, that’s all.”

“I am a dragon.”

Senta plopped down in the chair and kicked her overs off, followed by her shoes and her socks. Tucking her legs up under her, she wrapped her coat tightly around her.

“It’s too cold.”

The dragon rose from his spot by the stove and climbed up onto the chair. He draped his body over the chair back and wrapped his tail around her. Curling his long neck around so that he could look her in the face, he asked. “What is the matter?”

“I worked all day making those potions.” She pointed to several small vials on the kitchen table. “So when I finally get a chance to go out and play, everyone has gone home for the night. What am I supposed to do now?”

“Your lessons?”

“Oh, you’re a big help. Why don’t you do my lessons if they’re so great?”

“I do.”

Senta stuck out her tongue. Bessemer mirrored her action. She frowned at him for a moment, but then grabbed him around the neck and pulled his scaly face to hers.

“I’m sorry. I’m just bored and tired, and I’m really ready for winter to be over. It’s too damn cold. By the way, where is Zurfina? She’s supposed to tell me whether my dionoserin is any good.”

“Upstairs.”

“Where upstairs?”

“Her room.”

“Is she alone?”

“No.”

“Is Jex with her?”

The dragon nodded.

“Again?”

He nodded again. Then he climbed down from the chair and headed for the door.

“Happy hunting,” said Senta, though she herself seemed anything but happy.

“Toodle pip,” said Bessemer, and then he was gone.

Senta made her way up the stairs, past the rooms designated for Bessemer but almost never used, up to her own room. She peeled off her clothes and ran a hot bath for herself. Once she was clean and warm, she put on her warmest night clothes and headed back down to the kitchen for something to eat. She stoked the fire in the stove and added two logs before heading for the froredor. But something stopped her.

Sitting there on the kitchen table, just where she had left in that afternoon, was the small clear vial filled with silvery liquid. Dionoserin. A bottle just that big sold for thousands of marks. Of course it was illegal in Brechalon, but they weren’t in Brechalon anymore. Did it work? Did she grind the walnuts up enough? Did she maintain her aura? Taking two quick steps to the table, she snatched up the bottle, pulled off the cork stopper, and drank it down. What’s the worst that could happen?

“Well, I could die,” she said aloud.

She didn’t wait to see if she would die though. She ran up the two flights of stairs to her room, and then crept up one more flight stopping just before she reached the level. She slowly peered over the top step and into Zurfina’s room. She had a good idea what to expect. Senta had lived with the sorceress almost two years now. During that time Zurfina had entertained a number of male admirers.

The first thing that Senta saw was Mr. Jex, standing in the middle of the room. She was happy to see that he was fully clothed. The second thing Senta saw was Zurfina, and she was not. She was posed upon her bed, her head hanging over the edge, so that she was looking at Mr. Jex and everything else upside down. Her blond hair draped down almost to the floor, hiding her little bald spot. Her crossed legs were sticking straight up in the air. Mr. Jex stared at her for a moment before turning back to a large canvas and poking at it with the paint brush. He was standing between Senta and the painting, but she didn’t need to see it to know what it was. Zurfina was having another nude painting done of herself.

Senta slowly climbed the last four steps and walked around Mr. Jex so that she could see the painting. He really was quite good.

“What do you think Pet?” asked Zurfina, without moving from her pose.

Startled, Jex turned around to look at her. He had a small paint pallet in his right hand.

“I think it’s time for you to go,” said Senta.

Jex looked like he was going to say something, but then stopped and setting his pallet and brush on the floor, turned and went swiftly down the stairs. Just as the sound of the front door closing echoed back up, Zurfina sat upright and in a fluid cat-like motion got up from the bed.

“Put on some clothes, Fina.”

The sorceress made the smallest of gestures with her right hand and suddenly she was clad in a long, silky, black dressing gown.

“Are you ready for something to eat, Pet?”

“Yes,” replied Senta, a sly smile creeping onto her face. “I don’t think you should magic it though. I think it would be nice if you made me supper with your own hands.”

Zurfina walked slowly across the room and then bent down so that their noses were just inches apart.

“It seems to me like the Drache Girl is getting a bit big for her knickers,” she said without a hint of a smile.

“Um… my dionoserin didn’t work?”

“It worked. Did you not see Mr. Jex scurry out of the room like a frightened buitreraptor?”

“But you’re not going to make me supper, are you?”

“Did you actually believe that you could dominate me with a potion? Me? ME!”

“No supper then?”

The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 12 Excerpt

The Dark and Forbidding Land (New Cover)Kendric was a very old lizardman. No one knew exactly how old, and that included Kendric himself. He had moved out of his home in the lizardman village of Tsuus, and had moved into a shack behind Mr. Darwin’s store. When it had become obvious that Kendric knew Birmisia better than anyone, man or lizardman, the humans had begun coming to him for his services as a guide. He had been hired by explorers, cartographers, traders, naturalists, and workmen laying the new town water lines. He was so sought after that he had taken on several young lizzie protégés. Saba found the shriveled old creature, sitting on a log and carving a piece of bone with a small flint knife.

“Good morning Kendric,” he said, placing his hand to his neck, palm out, in the lizzie respectful greeting.

The creature returned the greeting and then slowly raised himself to his feet. Stooped over at the shoulders, he was quite a bit shorter than Saba. In a few places his skin was the same light olive that it had once been all over, but now in many places it had turned black or sickly grey. Much of his face, belly, and shoulders were criss-crossed by jagged scars.

“I need a guide to take hunters to Iguanodon Heath,” said Saba, and then pausing for a moment. “Two would be better.”

The old lizzie nodded and then hissed out several words in his own language. The door of the shack popped open and a young female rushed out to take her place beside Kendric. She listened as the old fellow finished whatever he was saying and then turned and spoke to Saba in the best Brech he had heard any of the natives speak.

“You want two guides? For how long?”

“One guide will lead the hunters and their lizzies wherever they want to go in search of game. I imagine it will be about four weeks, but maybe longer. The other guide will come with me and three other soldiers. We’ll go out with the hunters and then come right back. Maybe five days. Tell him we want someone reliable.”

“Kendrikhastu understands you, but he does not speak the hoonan tongue.”

Kendric spoke again and the female once again translated.

“He says two thousand coins for hunters. He says he is friend to soldiers so only seventy five coins for you.”

Saba knew the coins that the lizzies wanted were copper pfennigs, so the total price was only twenty marks, seventy five P. It was far more than most lizzies made. The thirty laborers Shrubb was hiringd to carry the gear would make only ten P a day each. On the other hand, Harhoff would pay it and not think anything of it.

“Will you be one of the guides, Kendric?”

Kendric said something and then hissed mirthfully.

“The elder cannot do such a journey, even just five days. I guide you and another guide the hunters.”

“That’s fine. We meet at first light tomorrow outside of building six on the militia base. You know where that is?”

The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 11 Excerpt

The Dark and Forbidding Land (New Cover)Cissy left the parlor, passed through the foyer, and picked up the bag of rock salt by the door before going outside. Once in the garden, she began walking up and down, spreading the salt on the cobblestone paths and the stepping stones. She looked up at the dark clouds moving in from the north. If Toss had been there, he would have been able to tell her if this was going to be the last storm of the cold season. He wasn’t there, and it was unlikely that Cissy would ever see him again.

Just then Mr. Streck walked through the front gate. Cissy was about to turn around so that she could go inside and inform Mr. Dechantagne of the Freedonain’s arrival, when she saw a bright glint shoot across the otherwise gloomy sky. The object, which it took no great intellect to recognize as the steel dragon, swooped downward. Streck had taken four steps into the yard, when the beast shot by his face so fast that he could not have seen what it was. Cissy was watching it as it sped by, and could tell not only what it was, but could see that it was carrying something wrapped in white paper, clutched tightly to its chest. The dragon was already out of sight when the Freedonian let out a blood-curdling scream. Looking back at the man, the lizzie could see cuts across his nose and both cheeks that suddenly began to bleed profusely.

She hesitated as red blood oozed from between the fingers held to his face. Saba Colbshallow suddenly appeared at the gate and rushed to the man’s assistance. He took him by the shoulder and rushed him toward the house. Cissy quickly took Streck’s other shoulder. Before they reached the steps, Streck’s legs gave out beneath him and he crumpled into half consciousness. Tisson rushed down the steps and took his legs while Saba and Cissy carried him by the arms.

Once inside, Streck was rushed to the dining room, where amid much shouting and hissing, he was laid out on the great table. Mrs. Colbshallow arrived from the kitchen and immediately ordered that clean linens and tincture of iodine be brought. Just as Clegg was arriving with the requested items, Mrs. Dechantagne Calliere stepped into the room carrying a brown bottle of healing draught. Streck’s face, upon examination was seen to have five razor thin slices, quite deep, across its width.

“Yadira, send someone to fetch Dr. Kelloran,” said the Governor as she leaned over the wounded man and carefully poured the potion onto the cuts.

“I don’t need a doctor,” said Streck.

“Be quiet. This is your face. We need to make sure that it isn’t scarred.”

Clegg was sent as directed and by the time he returned with the doctor, Streck, no longer bleeding, had been moved to the parlor.

Cissy had seen Dr. Kelloran before. She was easily recognized for her more pronounced female characteristics. She usually also, as she now did, carried her small black bag. Sitting down on the sofa next to Streck, she carefully examined his face.

“The healing draught seems to be knitting the skin together nicely, but I still want to put a stitch or two on this nose.”

“Ouch!” cried Streck, as the stitches were sewn. “Damn Birmisian birds. It flew by so fast I didn’t even see it.”

“Birmisian birds don’t fly, at least none that I’ve heard of,” said Mr. Dechantagne from the doorway. His wife was standing with him. “We have a few large flying reptiles, but I’ve never heard of one attacking a person.”

“Saba?” asked the governor.

“Sorry, I didn’t see it. I heard someone cry out and came running, but whatever it was, was gone before I got there. But your lizzie was in the yard. Maybe she saw something.”

“Cissy?” asked Mrs. Colbshallow. Cissy took a step back as all of the human eyes in the room focused on her. “Cissy, what did you see?”

“It was the little god,” she replied quietly.

“Little god?”

“She means the dragon,” said Mrs. Dechantagne. “Zurfina’s little dragon.”

“It seems, Mr. Steck,” said Governor Dechantagne Calliere, “that you have made a powerful enemy. Just what have you done to Zurfina to raise her ire?”

“I have not even seen the woman.”

“He didn’t do anything to Zurfina,” said Saba, frowning. “I’ll wager he didn’t do anything to the dragon either. But he has had at least one well-known row with Senta.”

“That child belongs in an institution,” said Streck.

No one responded. Dr. Kelloran having finished, packed up her little black bag and the others began to disperse to other parts of the house. Cissy headed for the stairs, going up to the nursery.

The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 9 Excerpt

The Dark and Forbidding Land (New Cover)The lizzie stared at her for a long moment. Finally she said. “Follow.”

Yuah found herself suddenly struggling to keep up with the reptilian who usually, like all members of her race in the colony, moved like cold molasses. She was also conscious of the fact that she was following in Cissy’s footsteps, therefore in the inferior position. They walked briskly to the point at which the street ended and the wild forest began. Cissy continued, but Yuah stopped.

“Follow,” said Cissy, turning around.

Yuah looked around, though whether for help or to make sure that no one saw her, even she didn’t know. She then stepped off the gravel road and followed Cissy into the low bushes between the redwood trees. The brush tugged at the bottom of her dress and the melting snow soaked the hem. They walked and walked. The air seemed to become darker and thicker with each step away from the realm of humanity and into the hidden reaches of the primeval forest.

“How far are we going?” asked Yuah.

“Not far.”

It was far though. At least Yuah thought it was far. They walked more than two miles in the shade of the gigantic redwoods and large maples before they came to a clearing. About one hundred yards across, the clearing seemed to be nothing special at first, but as Yuah followed Cissy out of the trees, she noticed that the ground had changed. Looking down to where to where her dress hem dragged along, she could see between the small patches of snow and the creeping roots that she was standing on a smooth surface of stone slabs that had been fitted together. She scanned the area and could see steps here and there, breaking the clearing up into several areas of varying height. In a few places there were piles of stone that might have indicated that a wall had once stood there, but there were no buildings. A loud squawk startled Yuah and she jumped over to where the lizzie stood, but it was only a small group of eight or nine buitreraptors skirting the edge of the trees.

“Look,” said Cissy.

On the other side of the clearing from where they had entered were a series of seven large stones. Each stood about eight feet tall and they were roughly oval in shape. At either end of the row were the remains of other similar stones that had once stood in the line, but had long ago crumbled, either from exposure to the elements or from ancient vandalism. Though the remaining stones were weathered and worn, Yuah could see as she stepped up to them that they had been carefully carved and must have once been very detailed. At first she couldn’t quite tell what they had been intended to represent, but after examining them for a minute or two she could just make out the features of a dragon. Each stone was slightly different as though each was portraiture of a unique individual.

“These lizzie gods,” said Cissy.

“They’re dragons. You worship dragons?”

“Lizzies haff dragon gods.” The reptilian pointed first to the statue directly in front of her and then to the right. “This is Setemenothiss. That is Hissussisthiss. I not know the others.”

“Do you think dragons are gods?” asked Yuah.

“Dragons are gods. They not like God in Scritchers. Dragons not create whorld. Not create Cissy. Not create Yuah.”

“Well then they can’t really be gods can they?”

“You see this city?” asked Cissy.

Yuah looked around. “I see the ruins of what might have been a city, I suppose, countless generations ago—hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago.”

Cissy pointed at the dragon stone on the right. “Hissussisthiss—he old then. He is still here.”

“He can’t still be alive.”

“Your wise elder; he see Hissussisthiss.”

“Wise elder?”

“Zeah Korlann.”

“Yes, my father said that he was rescued, or was it captured, by a dragon. But he was out of his head at the time, wasn’t he? It didn’t really happen. Did it?”

“He is still here.” The words had barely left Cissy’s large alligator mouth when her clawed hand shot out and grabbed Yuah by the shoulder, dragging her to the ancient stones on the ground and pulling her behind the stone image of Setemenothiss.

“What…”

Cissy hissed her to silence, then pointed around the stone. Standing in the middle of the clearing, scarcely fifty feet away was a monstrous tyrannosaurus. Even bent over at the hip so that the massive, blood red, scarred head was balanced by the long tail, it was sixteen feet tall. Its body was so black that it looked as though the horrendous face was floating atop a shadow. Its ridiculous little forelegs were barely visible. Slowly turning around and sniffing loudly, the great beast took a step forward. Yuah was sure that her heart would leap out of her throat. She wanted to get up and run, but Cissy’s body pressed her to the ground. The tyrannosaurus took another step and another sniff, and then made a peculiar coughing grunt. Suddenly it wheeled around and stalked quickly and surprisingly quietly back into the woods.

The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 8 Excerpt

The Dark and Forbidding Land (New Cover)The S. S. Windemere didn’t arrive until Festuary eighth. It had been waylaid in the Mulliens with a damaged boiler. Still, Saba Colbshallow had been at the docks to meet it and one passenger in particular. Mr. Brockton didn’t look like a secret agent, not that Saba knew what a secret agent looked like. He was a short, slight man in his mid-forties with a brown handlebar mustache and thinning hair beneath a brown bowler hat. He looked over Saba for a moment then shook hands.

“Governor Dechantagne Calliere asked me to meet you and see that you have a place to stay,” said Saba.

“Very good,” said Brockton in a thin nasal voice. “She indicated in her correspondence that she would send a representative that had her complete trust.”

Saba tried not to let his surprise show.

“I’ve got you an apartment on the militia base.”

“Won’t that be suspicious?”

“Probably less than rooming anywhere else, unless you want to spend the next week in a tent,” said Saba. “Those are basically the two options for new arrivals. We don’t have a hotel or rooming house yet, though there are a few people who let rooms. The apartments and rental houses have quite a long waiting list.”

“The militia base it is then,” said Brockton with a thin smile.

Saba led the way up the hill from the dock yards.

“I’m going to need a day to get my land legs back,” said Brockton. “Why don’t we plan on meeting tomorrow and I’ll go over what the Governor needs to know with you then.”

Saba nodded. “Fine. I’ll have some supper sent over if you like?”

“Good.”

The following afternoon just before tea, Saba met Brockton outside the building that had been designed to eventually be part of the base’s barracks but which, since its construction, had been divided into ten small apartments.

“The best place to eat is back at the dock yard,” he said.

Brockton raised an eyebrow.

“They have food carts.”

Making their way down the hill, they took their place in the queue for sausages. Then they sat down on a bench at the northern edge of the gravel yard and ate the thick sausages, which were served on a stick.

“Not much in the way of dining in Birmisia, eh?” said Brockton, then waved off Saba’s reply. “I expected as much really. I ate so much on the voyage that I probably gained ten pounds anyway. This is fine, and so were the fish and chips you sent up last evening.”

“Good. So what is the information you want me to relay to Governor Dechantagne Calliere?”

“She is aware, though you might not be, that I am with His Majesty’s Secret Service. We have people working around the world, but right now our focus is in Freedonia.”

“Aren’t we at peace?”

“Ostensibly. But a great many things can happen. And I don’t mean war, at least I don’t mean just war.”

“What else?” asked Saba.

“ Klaus II fancies himself a wizard and he’s immersed himself in the wahre kunst von zauberei. As a result, the wizards of the Reine Zauberei have replaced most of the non-wizards in key positions in the Freedonian government.”

“Don’t we have quite a few wizards of our own?” asked Saba. “Yourself for instance?”

Brockton smiled a thin smile.

“Well spotted young Corporal. I’m a first level journeyman from Académie Argei. But you have to understand, these Reine Zauberei are not just wizards. They have their own peculiar ideas.”

“Their magic is different?”

“No, as a matter of fact their magic is almost identical to my own. It is their belief system that is different. They believe that the Freedonians are the master race and that they are destined to rule the world.”

“Isn’t that sort of jingoism pretty common?” asked Saba. “After all, patriotism is a great thing, as long as the fellow who has it is from the same country that you are. I know quite a few Brechs who think that if you’re not Brech, you’re nothing.”

“Do they want to kill everyone else in the world?”

“Um, no.”

“There you see the difference. These Reine Zauberei believe that everyone else must serve the Freedonians or be eliminated. Completely.”

“But that’s just insane.”

“Yes it is.”

“And it’s not possible.”

“There you may be mistaken. They’ve already started their plan. The first victims are the Zaeri.”

“I know they’ve been treating the Zaeri badly– forcing them out of their homes and such. The Zaeri have been treated horribly for centuries though– in Brech and Mirsanna too, not just in Freedonia.”

“There is more to it than that. In fact the Freedonians have stopped chasing the Zaeri out of the country and are now rounding them up and putting them in forced labor camps. And there are rumors of other camps– camps where the Zaeri and others are being murdered by the hundreds.”

“That can’t be true,” said Saba.

“We don’t know for sure whether it is or not.” Brockton took the last bite of his sausage and tossed the stick at the dustbin next to the bench.

Saba looked at his half eaten meal and decided that he didn’t want anymore.

“So what do you want with the Governor?” he asked.

“There are several things actually. First she has been, for her own reasons, chartering ships to bring displaced Zaeri from Freedonia, here to Birmisia. We want her to continue, and we are willing to subsidize her if necessary.

“Secondly, we believe the Freedonians are up to something here. We would like her help in finding out what that is. We don’t have the resources to send one of our operatives here for any length of time.”

“You’ve come.”

“Yes, but only for a short while, a bit shorter than I had planned actually, thanks to the Windermere’s boiler. In two weeks I’ll take the Osprey west to Mallontah. We have more pressing problems there. We believe the Freedonians are arming the locals and encouraging them to attack our people.”

“Anything else?” asked Saba.

“Yes. She needs to keep an eye on her husband.”

“The Professor? Why would she need to do that?”

“We believe he has some Freedonian sympathies, as well as some Freedonian connections going way back. And considering the potency of some of his work…”

“You mean the Result Mechanism?”

“Precisely. Even discounting its use to create magical equations, it is a powerful device. I don’t think that anyone has divined its true potential yet, and my superiors are inclined to agree with me.”

The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 7 Excerpt

The Dark and Forbidding Land (New Cover)“You think I’m an idiot?” demanded Senta.

“I didn’t say anything of the kind,” replied Zurfina calmly.

“I know a fylfot when I see one!”

“Don’t be so defensive, Pet. I didn’t say I didn’t believe you. I merely pointed out that I have been all over this town in the past few weeks and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of this wizard of yours.”

“Well I saw him. I’ve been keeping tabs on him since he got here and I even talked to him.”

“I don’t doubt you,” said Zurfina, in a remarkably soothing voice, “but the level of residual magic around town is no more than I would expect from you and your everyday antics.”

“Are you sure you didn’t miss some?”

“Now who’s being insulting?” The sorceress’s voice suddenly flared louder. “If I didn’t detect it, it wasn’t there.”

“Hmph!” said Senta, and crossing her arms, turned to face the door.

Zurfina sighed. “Children are so difficult. Is it any wonder that I never wanted one of my own?”

“Maybe you should just get rid of me like everybody else does,” said Senta quietly.

Zurfina crossed from the kitchen to the living area and put an arm around Senta’s shoulders.

“You’re far too interesting for me to get rid of now. Look, this wizard of yours is obviously far too insignificant for me to concern myself with. You’ll have to take care of him.”

“Me? I’m just a little kid.”

“You know something?” said Zurfina, taking her arm from around Senta and grasping her by the shoulders. “Nobody believes that– least of all me. There’s not a journeyman wizard this side of Xygia who can do what you can do with magic.”

“Really?”

“Would I lie to you?”

“Of course you would.”

“Well…” Zurfina shrugged. “Keep an eye on your wizard, and if he turns out to be a threat to us, neutralize him.”

“What if you’re wrong and he magics the crap out of me?” wondered Senta.

“Then I’ll know better with my next apprentice,” replied Zurfina. “Do you want a sandwich?”

“Yes.”

Zurfina waved her finger in the air and, as the contents of the froredor began to fly out to the table and assemble themselves into sandwiches, started up the stairs.

“Bring my meal up to the top floor. Leave it on the step outside the door. Don’t come in.”

“I haven’t forgotten,” said Senta, watching mayonnaise being spread across a freshly cut piece of bread.