The Two Dragons – Chapter 1 Excerpt

The Church of the Apostles was a stately stone structure—no less imposing for the fact that it wasn’t yet complete.  On the first day of Septurary 1907, the church was filled to overflowing as the citizens of Port Dechantagne, dressed in their finest, celebrated a wedding that was the social event of the season.  Mother Linton, the High Priest of Kafira in Birmisia stood at the pulpit, unwilling to relinquish her position to anyone.  Behind her and to her right however, owing to the era of tolerance now in full flower, was the Zaeri Imam Mr. Francis Clipers.  The wedding party members were arrayed across the chancel. The matron of honor, Mrs. Yuah Dechantagne, and the four bridesmaids Miss Hero Hertling, Miss Gabrielle Bassett, Miss Dutty Speel, and Miss Laila Melroy wore shimmering gowns of teal trimmed with white lace.  The groomsmen, Mr. Paxton Brown, Mr. Leopold Ghent, Mr. Isaak Wissinger, and Mr. Efrain Rochambeau were all dressed in black tails, though the Best Man Inspector Saba Colbshallow wore his blue police uniform.  In the center of the group was the groom.  Zeah Korlann unlike the building around him, could not be described as stately, though even in his days as a household servant, he had been dignified. After nine years as mayor of Port Dechantagne, he had gained a kind of gravitas.  As the string quartet struck the first chords of Kafira’s Marriagehe, like everyone else in the church, turned his attention to the back of the aisle where the bride appeared.

No cloud could have aspired to the whiteness of Egeria Lusk’s wedding gown. The bodice was tight but simple and it blossomed out at the waist to a truly remarkable expanse at the hemline, the train following twenty feet behind her.  Though the dress was strapless and shoulderless, it had long, gauzy sleeves, split on the outside and held together by a series of small white bows.  She defied convention by not wearing a veil, but had a mass of tiny white flowers arranged within her brilliant red hair, which was swept up into a complex Mirsannan twist.  She slowly walked up the center aisle, unattended, in time to the music, arriving before the alter to join her beaming bridegroom.  Mother Linton began the litany.

Senta Bly sat in the third row on the groom’s side.  She wore a dress of deep purple silk, gathered together in bunches so that if fell in pleats.  With thin straps over bare shoulders and no sleeves, it showed off her tall, lithe body to best advantage.  It was completely unadorned with brocade, beading, or fringe and didn’t even have a bow over the bustle, though none could tell that with her seated.  No one else sat on the pew with her despite the fact that every other seat in the building was taken, and more than sixty people stood across the narthex.  It might have been that her disappointment at not being invited as part of the wedding party caused an unpleasant expression to sit upon her countenance, or it might have been something else entirely.

As Mother Linton approached the portion of the service in which she explained the duties of a husband and wife, Hero turned around and waved two gloved fingers discreetly to Senta, who returned the gesture.  She smiled, but her hurt feelings didn’t go away.  They had hung on for six weeks now.  She had known Egeria Lusk for more than eight years. They got on well too.  She was closer to her than Gabrielle Bassett or that Speel girl, or even Hero.  Senta was a good friend of Mayor Korlann too.  It had to be the mayor’s daughter Mrs. Dechantagne.  The woman had hardly spoken to Senta in five years, and then only a few terse words.   This was all the more strange since they had been quite friendly before.  Senta didn’t know precisely what the problem was; only that it had something to do with Mrs. Dechantagne’s husband Terrence, who had been killed in a lizzie attack.  Occupied with such thoughts, Senta realized that she had lost track of the ceremony, when the priest began asking the bride and groom if they would each take the other.

The entire congregation seemed to hold their breath when Mayor Korlann was asked if he took “this woman”.  It was not as if he had bolted from the alter on some previous occasion, but the wedding had been postponed at least twice, and at more than eight years, this was one of the longer engagements.  The tall grey-haired gentleman pulled through however with a hearty “I will,” and as the string quartet began the Ode to Celebration, the couple moved quickly down the aisle and out of the church. Forty or fifty pairs of old shoes were tossed into the aisle as they passed for good luck. The congregation all stood, cheering and applauding.

Senta stood too, though she didn’t rush to follow the newlyweds out, as did much of the congregation.  She gazed around at the splendor of the new religious center of the colony.  It was her first time visiting.  It was even larger than the Great Church of the Holy Savior in Brech.  Others were looking at the ornately carved trim, the stained-glass windows, and the marble statuary too, but far more were observing Senta.  At six feet tall, she was literally head and shoulders above every other woman there and many of the men.  Her long blond hair framed an oval face with distinctive cheekbones, large expressive eyes, a broad mouth with voluptuous lips, and a strong chin.  She would never have been called pretty; rather she was beautiful in the classical sense of the word, like the women that artists created to portray personifications of freedom or grace or nobility.

Hero bounced toward her.  Though the two of them had been nearly the same height when they were twelve years old, Hero had stopped growing six inches before Senta had.  With incredibly thick, naturally curly, long black hair and doe eyes, Hero had more than her fair share of admirers.  She was so popular in fact that several young men sidled up to her even here.  As Senta noticed them, they took a step back in unison.

“Wasn’t that a lovely ceremony?” asked Hero.

“It seemed very nice from down here.”

“Don’t be cross.  Benny and Shemar both invited us to ride in their steam carriages to the reception. Who do you want to go with?”

Senta rolled her eyes.  “Quite frankly I’d rather take the trolley.”

“Are you sure?  Benny’s car is brand new and candy apple red.”

Senta looked over Hero’s shoulder at Benny Markham, who was puffing himself up with pride.  She liked Benny, Shemar too for that matter, but she wasn’t too fond of steam carriages.

“Do as you wish. I’m taking the trolley.”

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The Two Dragons – $2.99 for Kindle

Since its founding more than nine years before, Port Dechantagne has become a thriving colony for Brechalon. Seventeen year old Sorceress Senta Bly, despite being feared for her magical power, is a part of colonial society. Now war threatens the colony and the rest of the world. Can Senta save her friends and her home, in the fifth volume of the Senta and the Steel Dragon.

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The Young Sorceress – $2.99 for Kindle

Everyone in Port Dechantagne seems to have an agenda of their own, from mysterious sorceress Zurfina, to agents from the enemy nation of Freedonia, to the kings and witchdoctors of the mysterious lizardmen. On the eve of her fifteenth birthday, sorceress’s apprentice Senta Bly finds herself being pulled first one way and then the other. Will she actually have to split herself into four?

Buy The Young Sorceress for Kindle – Just $2.99

 

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 12 Excerpt

A full complement of diners surrounded the Dechantagne table for the first time in a great while.  Radley Staff sat at the head of the table, his wife on his right hand and his daughter on his left.  Looking proudly from his spot directly opposite his uncle was Augie Dechantagne, a stack of books between his chair and his bottom.  His mother sat on his right hand and his sister, in her high chair, on his left.  Filling in the seats between Iolanthe and Terra were Mrs. Colbshallow and her son and daughter-in-law.  On the other side of the table were Cissy and two guests—Honor Hertling and her little sister Hero.

“How wonderful to have us all together,” said Staff, waving for one of the servants to start filling the soup bowls.

“It will make for a lovely Oddyndessen,” said Honor Hertling.

“For a what?”

“It’s a Zaeri holy day,” said Yuah, her eyes never quite moving up from the table.  “We don’t really celebrate it anymore in Brechalon.”

“Well, how lovely,” said Mrs. Colbshallow.  “It’s always wonderful to learn new things.”

“Should we…” said Staff.  “Would you… Is a prayer appropriate, considering?”

“We don’t usually do that,” said his wife, drumming her fingers on the table.

“Surely it can’t hurt… guests and all.”

“I could offer a simple prayer,” said Honor, and when Staff gave a nod that she should continue, she closed her eyes and intoned, “Great Lord, as you did with Odessah before his great journey, give us your blessings on this day.  Amen.”

“In Kafira’s name, Amen,” said Loana Colbshallow, making the sign of the cross.

She was followed about three ticks later by both her husband and mother-in-law.

The lizzies quickly served onion soup.  This was followed by a fruit and cress salad.  As soon as the salad plates had been removed, the servants began placing the main course.  Mrs. Colbshallow, though of course knowing nothing of Oddyndessen, had put together as fine a meal as she ever had.  A large pork roast was the center point, though there was also poached fish.  Pudding, peas, chips, and roasted mixed vegetables were placed on overflowing plates around the table.

“Wonderful as always mother,” said Saba Colbshallow.

“I think you’ve outdone yourself, Mother Dear,” said his wife.

“Here, here,” agreed Staff.  “Dearest?”

“The problem is Mrs. Colbshallow,” said Iolanthe, “your meals are always so perfect.”

Everyone at the table sat staring, not sure if there was more to come, and not sure whether this was intended as an insult or a compliment.

“Thank you,” said Mrs. Colbshallow after a minute.  She turned to Honor Hertling.  “It’s a shame that your brother couldn’t attend.”

“Yes.  He sends his regrets, but two ships came into port today, so he was needed at the docks. I hear that the lizzies have begun to move back in to Lizzietown, General Staff.”

“Yes, some of them have.  It’s just Mr. Staff.”

“Some are moving back into town,” said Iolanthe.  “But I have let it be known that these savage witch doctors will not be tolerated.”

She turned and stared at Yuah, but her sister-in-law never looked up from the table.  Yuah just sat and absentmindedly moved the peas around her plate with her fork.

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 11 Excerpt

Senta left the dress shop and walked next door to the Pfennig Store.  The establishment was filled with lizzies, and although they seldom seemed to move very fast, it was less than fifteen seconds from the time that the Drache Girl entered and the last of the reptilians left.

“Thank goodness you’ve come in,” said Mr. Parnorsham.  “I need a break.”

“Can I buy you a Billingbow’s, Mr. P?”

Mr. Parnorsham thought for a moment, and then said, “I think you can.”

He pulled two bottles from where they were cooling and set them on the counter.  He handed Senta a straw.  Then he popped the cork from his own bottle and tipped it back, pouring the cool soda water down his throat.

“You must be making money hand over fist,” said the girl. “The lizzies sure love your store.”

“It has been very profitable, I won’t lie.  Honestly though, I think I’m getting too old for this. And to tell the truth, Mrs. Parnorsham is feeling lonely at home by herself.  I think a year or two more and I’ll have to retire.”

“What would we do without a Pfennig Store?”

“Oh, I’m sure someone will open up another establishment. I’m surprised they haven’t already. For that matter, I might sell the business or pass it on to someone.  Mrs. P and I were never blessed with children, but I have quite an abundance of nephews back in Brechalon.

“It won’t be the same without you, Mr. P.”

“That is very kind of you to say,” said the man.

Just then the bell over the door rang.  A lizzie walked in leading three human children.  Senta sipped her Billingbow’s and watched as the group made its way to the toy counter.

“Tsaua Cissy!” called Mr. P.  Then to Senta, he added, “the governor’s lizzie.”

“Yes, I recognize her.”

In the relatively quiet store, the children grew louder and louder until they were almost shouting at each other.  The lizzie hissed, quieting them.  Senta strolled over to where they stood by the toy counter.

“Can I be of assistance?” she asked in the lizzie tongue.

“It is nothing for you to worry about, Drache Girl.”  The words “Drache Girl” were in Brech, but he rest was in “spit-n-gag.”  “The children can’t decide which toy they want.”

“Hello kids,” said Senta, in Brech.

“Hello Senta,” said Iolana Staff and Augie Dechantagne at almost the same time.

“Where’s your dragon?” asked little Terra Dechantagne.

“He’s sleeping, but I’ll tell him you asked after him. So you can’t decide which toy to get?”

“I want another soldier,” said Terra, in her hoarse little voice, “but Mommy says I have to be a princess.”

“You should get a soldier.  Then you can be a queen and order him around.  Queens are better than princesses any day.”

“She’s getting her soldier mixed in with my regiment,” said Augie.

“Yes, I can see how that would be a problem,” said Senta. She turned to the oldest of the three.  “And what is your problem?”

“I don’t think we should get a toy every time we come to the Pfennig Store.  We have so many toys already that we can’t play with them all.  There are little children in Enclep that can’t afford a single toy to play with.”

“I don’t suppose your mother knows you’re a socialist?”

“See?” said the lizzie.  “Just kids.”

“Mr. Parnorsham,” called Senta, back toward the counter.  “Can you get me a tin of those butter biscuits and perhaps put a bow on it? I have a sick friend.”

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 10 Excerpt

Isaak Wissinger leaned over the ship’s railing and stared down into the dark blue water.  He wasn’t the only one.  Dozens of other passengers on the S.S. Waif des Vaterlands were lined up to watch as half a dozen giant turtles, each larger than a kitchen table swam along apparently oblivious to the steel vessel chugging past them.  They were large, but not nearly as amazing as the writer had expected, having heard for years legends of the monsters to be found in Mallon.

After leaving his employment with Herr Fuhrmann, Wissinger had taken the train from Butzbach to Friedaport, where he had worked on the docks until he had enough accumulated wealth to book passage, steerage class, to Mallontah.  This had taken him several months, but at last he had set sail.  Now, he had been on the ship for forty-five days.  His daily meals consisted of porridge in the morning, a piece dried tack for lunch, and for supper a soup made of beans and rancid pork.  It was infinitely better that his diet in the ghetto had been.

“Herr Holdern?”

It took Wissinger a moment to remember that he was Herr Holdern.

“Yes?”

He turned to find a greasy looking little man standing behind him.  He didn’t recall seeing him before, and after a month and a half at sea, that was remarkable in and of itself.

“Do I know you?”

“I do not think so, but I know some Holderns.  Do you come from Boxstein?”

“No,” replied Wissinger.

“Do you have relatives there perhaps?”

“Not that I know of.  You know how it is.  People move all around and lose touch.  You meet someone with the same last name and they may or may not be related.  My people come from Bad Syke, but who knows?”

“What is it you did in Bad Syke?”

“Oh, I’m not from Bad Syke.  I still have cousins living there, I think.  I grew up in Wahlstedt.”

“And what did you do there then?”

“Teamster.”

“A teamster?” said the greasy fellow.  “I took you for a scholar.”

“I doubt you get calluses like this reading books,” said Wissinger, holding up his palms.  “Why, I try to stay as far away from schools and books as possible.”

“I see.”

“But it is pleasant to meet you, Mister…”

“Spinne.  Adolf Spinne.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Herr Spinne.  Maybe we can talk again before we make port.”

“Perhaps,” said Spinne with an oily smile.

Wissinger turned and made his way through the portal and down several sets of stairs to his berth.  His was one of twenty-five bunks stacked five high in the relatively small cabin.  Most of his roommates slept at night, so he tried to spend as much time as possible outside at night, instead taking in a long morning and afternoon nap.  He climbed into his bed, second from the top and pulled the sleeping curtains closed around him.  He could hear the sounds of a woman moaning in passion close by.  She was in the same room, but in one of the other bunk stacks.  This wasn’t all that unusual.  People grabbed what comfort and satisfaction they could, and there were very few places to find any real privacy on a ship as crammed as this one.

“Sweet music isn’t it?” said a husky voice near his head.

Before he could respond, the curtain surrounding him was pulled aside to reveal Zurfina’s face, framed in a shock of blond hair.  She climbed up into the bed on top of him. There was no room to lie side by side even had that been her intention.  He was surprised though not unhappy to find that she was completely naked, and let out a deep sigh as she rubbed herself up and down his entire length.

“Missed me?”

“Yes indeed.”

She kissed him deeply, letting her tongue explore every part of his mouth.

“Have you been true to me?” she asked as she kissed his neck and reached down to unfasten his pants.

“Yes,” he said, then sighed again as she freed him from his trousers.  “Um, have you been true to me?”

She stopped and looked guiltily up at him, then shrugged.

“When you get to Birmisia, if you want, I’ll be true to you then,” she said, “for a while.”

“Oh, Lord help me, at this moment I really don’t care.”

There was almost no room for him to maneuver, so he simply lay back and let her do all the work.  It was a work for which she once again proved her skill, though she was somewhat louder than the woman who had been in the nearby bunk.  Wissinger didn’t realize it at the time, but he was none too discrete himself.  Afterwards he fell asleep with her still wrapped around him, and when he woke she gave him a repeat performance.

“The day after tomorrow you dock in Mallontah,” she said when they were done.

“That’s good.”

“Yes, but you still have a problem.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s that Spinne fellow you just spoke to.  He’s a Zaeri-catcher.”

“I don’t think he suspects me.”

“But you’re not sure, are you?”  Zurfina licked his lips.  “I have to admit, I admire how good a liar you’ve become.  I wouldn’t have expected it.”

“It’s a writer’s skill,” he replied.  “What do you think I should do?”

“Just make it to Birmisia the best you can.”  She kissed him deeply.  “I have to leave and you won’t see me again until after you leave Mallontah.”

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 9 Excerpt

It was early in the morning, and those residents of Lizzietown who were awake, were moving slowly as their bodies warmed up.  From the north, a line of uniformed humans made their way down the street, stopping and snapping to in crisp formation.  Six uniformed constables, still wearing their blue jackets, but having replaced their blue trousers with khaki pants and shin high boots, were in front of the formation.  The other forty men wore khaki uniforms and pith helmets.  All except the two at the front of the column carried B1898 magazine-fed bolt-action .30 caliber service rifles. Radley Staff carried a naval service sword, though a revolver rested in the holster at his belt.  Fifteen year old sorceress Senta Bly carried nothing that could be construed as a weapon.

“All right, where are they?” Staff asked the girl.

“Uuthanum,” she said, raising her hand.

A small blue ball of light rose from her hand and started toward the ramshackle houses.

“Two by two,” called Staff.  “Double time, march!”

His orders were repeated by the sergeant halfway back in the column.  The soldiers started off in a jog, two by two, into Lizzietown.  Staff held his sword close to his chest and the soldiers behind him carried their rifles the same way.  The little blue light flew above and in front of them at exactly the same speed they moved.

The smell of panic rose from the lizzies.  Some came out of their doorways to see what was happening, only to be shoved back by the soldiers.  Anything in the way of the march, whether it was a cart or wagon or a lizzie was knocked aside by a booted kick or a rifle butt.  Senta jogged along beside Staff.  He slammed a large lizzie out of the way with his shoulder, rather like a rugby player.

Lizzietown held several hundred houses, but it didn’t take long for the soldiers to reach their destination.  The little blue ball of light rose high up into the air and burst, raining down fine blue dust, which then glowed brightly as it coated six nearby shacks.

“Squads one and two, encircle positions!” shouted Staff. “Squads three and four, turn out those huts!”

Eight soldiers stormed through the doorways of the lizzie houses and began shoving lizzies and their possessions out onto the ground. Four policemen waited outside the doorways, examining items and pushing the reptilians down onto their faces. The other eighteen soldiers that made up squads one and two had formed a blockade around the six huts, keeping any on the inside from getting out, and any on the outside from getting in. There seemed to be few lizzies outside the circle who wanted to do anything other than get as far away from the area as possible.

Several lizzies appeared in the doorways of the other four houses.

“Kaetarrnaya eesousztekh!” shouted Staff.

Most of the lizzies popped back inside.  One who didn’t had rifle butts smashed into his face by two soldiers who rushed forward from the line.  One lizzie made the mistake of stepping outside while holding an obsidian encrusted wooden sword.  He was cut down by at least five rifle bullets, even though he had made no move to raise the weapon.  The rifle shots were the signal to all the lizzies outside the perimeter of human soldiers to get away and get away as fast as they could.  Senta suddenly realized it was a signal for something else as well.

“Uh oh,” she said, stepping over to the doorway where the dead lizzie was making a large bloody puddle in the dirt.

“Get back here,” hissed Staff, but his attention was pulled away from her.

“We have contraband!” called one of the constables.

Senta ignored the others.  Stepping onto the body of the dead lizardman, she pushed aside the animal hide door and peered into the hut’s interior.  It was dark, but not so much that she couldn’t see.  Four large lizzies stood against the walls, watching her, but she paid no attention to them.  At the far side of the room was a fifth aborigine, his back turned to the girl, but when the light flooded into the room around Senta, he turned to look at her. He was shrunken and shriveled, and his skin had faded away with tremendous age or maybe disease.  He wore a necklace of human hands held together with woven grass.  In his own hand he carried a small lizard, its four legs sticking straight out, mounted on a stick like some strange lizard lollypop.

“Kafira’s Tits!” shouted Senta.  “I know you!”

She did know him too.  The dried-out old creature was none other than the chief shaman of Suusthek, the great city-state that had sat two hundred miles southeast of Port Dechantagne until Zurfina had called down a meteor strike to wipe it off the map.

The shaman suddenly held up his lizard talisman and hissed.  Senta felt herself fly out of the doorway, sailing through the air to smash into the back wall of another hut.  All the air was knocked from her lungs and her ears rang.  She climbed to her feet just as the witch doctor emerged from inside.

Several riflemen fired at the old lizzie, but he simply waved the lizard on a stick and the bullets ricocheted away.  He raised his other hand and a stream of magical energy bolts shot toward the young sorceress.  Senta snatched one of the glamours floating invisibly around her head, activating it just in time to counter the witch doctor’s attack.  The ricocheting energy bolts flew in every direction. The lizzie hissed and a blast of frost and snow flew from his fingertips directly at the girl.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve,” she said, countering.  “That was the first spell I learned.  See what you do with this.  Uuthanum uluchaiia uluthiuth!”

Senta stretched out both hands and a small ball of flame formed, shooting directly toward the shaman.  In the scant score of so feet between the two, it grew to a diameter of ten feet.  The witch doctor held up his talisman as the fireball engulfed him and he remained safe within a little bubble as the flame exploded outward, setting fire to a dozen or more of the lizzie homes.  The buildings popped and sparked and burned like they had been soaked in kerosene. In a few seconds, every house within sight was at least partially ablaze.

“Oops,” said Senta. She could see lizzies running in every direction and hear the soldiers calling to “fall back!”