The Sorceress and her Lovers – Chapter 4 Excerpt

Chief Inspector Saba Colbshallow was dozing, only half awake, but happy in the knowledge that he had the day off.  Suddenly a weight of two and a half stone dropped into his lap, curling him up into a ball.  Now awake, Saba clutched at his attacker, which seemed all curly hair and giggles.

“You must be careful with your poor old father, DeeDee,” he gasped.

“Mummy says it’s time to get up,” returned what he still thought was the sweetest voice he had ever heard.

“Does Mummy know that I have the day off?”  He lifted the girl and held her up over his face.  Two large eyes, one brown and one hazel, looked back at him from beneath a pile of multihued curls.  “If you weren’t so horribly cute, I would throw you out with the rubbish.”

A chorus of giggles was the only reply.

“Maybe I’ll just throw you out with the rubbish anyway!”  Rolling to his feet, he tucked the now squealing child under his arm and headed for the window.  “Right out to the dump with you!”

“Saba!”  Saba stopped in his tracks and turned to find his wife standing in the bedroom doorway. “I’ve only just got her hair fixed!”

“Now you’ve gone and gotten me in trouble,” he told the little girl, setting her down beside him.

“Your breakfast is waiting, both of you.”

“Shouldn’t I dress first?”  He waved down at his nightshirt.

“You’re fine.  It’s only the four of us.”

“Come along, brick and mortar.”

“You know I don’t like you using that criminal slang with the child,” said his wife as he passed.  Then she stuck out her cheek and ordered, “Kiss.”

Obediently kissing his wife, Saba followed his daughter out of the room and down the stairs to the dining room.  His wife followed.

Loana Colbshallow was one of the most beautiful women in all of Birmisia Colony. Everyone agreed on that fact, even those who didn’t particularly care for her.  The features that were most often spoken of, when people described her, the heterochromia of both eyes and hair, she had passed to her daughter.  In addition, she possessed flawless skin and as near perfect features as could be imagined.  Of course her most noticeable traits were seldom mentioned, even if they were always noticed.  God had given Loana a slender waist and a bottom that seemed to hardly require a bustle. Her bosom was of such a proportion that it could astonish and yes, even frighten those who stood too close to her. This hadn’t been the case when she and Saba had met, but each year seemed to add onto her a few pounds, and they always seemed to end up in exactly the right places.

DeeDee was already at her seat when Saba reached the table.  Directly across from her was the elder Mrs. Colbshallow, Saba’s mother.

“Just what are you doing to make my lovely daughter-in-law yell?” she asked.

“I remember when I was the apple of her eye,” he said dryly to DeeDee.

“Daddy was just playing with me, Nan.”

Saba directed his attention to the food.  Scooping up large helpings of scrambled eggs, potatoes, and beans onto his and his daughter’s plates.

“Have some tomatoes,” said Mrs. Colbshallow.

“Do you want tomatoes?” he asked DeeDee.

“No.”

“Me neither.”

“You see how it is, Yadira,” said Loana, taking the last place at the table. “The two of them gang up on me all the time.  It’s always what they want and never what I want.”

Mrs. Colbshallow clicked her tongue disapprovingly.

“Cucumbers, DeeDee?” asked Saba, ignoring both of the women.

“Yes please.”

“I thought I raised him better than this,” said Mrs. Colbshallow.

“Well, I guess you didn’t,” said Saba, winking at DeeDee, who giggled.

Seeing his pouting wife in the corner of his eye, he relented and scooped several cucumber slices onto her plate too.  “What do you have planned today that has me and my progeny up at such an ungodly hour.”

“It’s nearly 10:00,” said Loana in a shocked voice.  “And you said you would take me to watch the rugby match.”

“And what about these two troublemakers?” he indicated his daughter and his mother.

“Well, they’re going too.”

“I won’t be joining you,” said Mrs. Colbshallow.  “I’m joining the Dechantagnes for luncheon.”

“Good Kafira, Mother.  You’d think you still lived over there.”

“They’ll be no blasphemy in this house.”

“My house,” said Saba without anger.  “My house, my mother, my wife, my daughter, my blasphemy, my breakfast. You three keep forgetting that I’m the man here.  Where’s the chutney?”

“I haven’t forgotten you’re the man, dear,” said Loana, getting up to bring the chutney to him, and then pausing to rub his shoulder.  “But you did promise rugby today.”

“Yes, yes.  Pass me some soldiers.”  He winked again at DeeDee.  “My potatoes need protecting.”

One of the lizzies placed a plate of toast in front of him.

“DeeDee, do you know the difference between toast and Mirsannans?”

“You can make soldiers out of toast,” she recited.

“That’s my girl.”

Advertisements

The Sorceress and her Lovers – Chapter 3 Excerpt

“Keep both eyes open and look carefully through the telescopic sight. Place the little intersecting lines directly in front of the creature’s breast.”

“Yes Father,” said eleven-year-old Iolana Livonia Dechantagne Staff, pressing her face against the cool wood of the rifle stock.

“How many do you count, dear?”

“I see six, Father.  How many should I shoot?”

“You’ll be lucky to hit even the one.”  Radley Staff bent down and kissed the top of his daughter’s head. “Achillobators are very fast.”

“Beautiful too.”

“Yes, beautiful too.”

“It seems a shame to shoot them.”

“Well perhaps, but they are very dangerous.  You wouldn’t want them coming around our house when your little cousins are outside, would you?”

“No, Father.”

“Alright, let’s see if you can shoot one.  Squeeze the trigger.  Don’t pull.”

“I know, Father.”  The girl jerked as the high-powered rifle let out a deafening report.  Then she quickly worked the action, bringing another round into the chamber.  She fired again, and cocking the weapon, fired a third time.  Then she stopped and looked up at her father, who was beside her, on his knees, peering through a pair of binoculars.  “I’m sorry Father.  The rest have fled.”

“No, no.  You did very well.”

He stood up and then reached down to help her up.  Once back on her feet, Iolana carefully smoothed out her dress. Though not burdened with the bustles and corsets of grown women, she was nevertheless covered from chin to ankle in the fashion appropriate to a girl of her age.  Plenty of white lace and brocade accented the light gold poplin. One of the lizzies picked up the rifle, while another rolled up the mat upon which the girl had been lying.

“Can we go gather some feathers, Father?  I would like some of them for a new hat.”

“Whatever you want.”

Staff waved his hands toward the lizzies, who quickly gathered up the rest of their gear.  Staff, his daughter, and the six reptilians were soon stalking through the brown grass of the vast open meadow.  He kept looking toward the girl to see if she needed any help, but the few times her dress became caught on a thorn, one of the lizzies jumped forward to unhook it before it tore the material.  At last they reached their destination.

Achillobators were feathered dinosaurs about the same size as utahraptors. The latter, covered in bright blue and turquoise feathers and hunting in pairs, had been common along the coastline when humans had arrived.  They were becoming increasingly scarce though as civilization spread into their habitat. On the other hand, achillobators were becoming more and more common.  Covered in bright crimson with a black breast, they hunted in packs of eight or more.

The three dead creatures were grouped close together.  One was as large a specimen as Staff had ever seen, more than twenty feet from nose to end of tail, over seven feet tall when it had stood. The other two were slightly smaller. All three were clean kills.

“Good hunt,” said Teska, the old lizzie hunter who usually accompanied Staff when he went out shooting.  A couple of the others hissed in agreement.

“Keep an eye out,” Staff told Teska.  “I don’t think the others will come back, but you never know.”

He wasn’t too worried.  Even five achillobators would have hesitated to attack six lizzies, though they wouldn’t have thought twice about taking on a similar number of humans.  The lizzies were powerful creatures in their own right, with thick powerful claws on their five-fingered hands and tough leathery hides. They were cold-blooded, and so slower than the dinosaurs, but they were highly intelligent, a fact that far too many humans forgot.

“Can we gather the feathers now, Father?”

“Show Esther which ones you want, and have her pluck them for you.”

Esther, a young female reptilian, jumped at hearing her name, but then hurried over to the human girl and followed her to the largest dead dinosaur. “Hsst ss, hsst stt,” said Iolana, pointing.  The sounds she made were the lizzie language equivalents of “this one and that one.” She spoke their language better than any human that her father knew, with the sole exception of her younger cousin. She certainly spoke it better than any lizzie could speak Brech.  In a few minutes, Iolana had all the feathers that she wanted.

“Should we harvest some of the meat?” she asked.  “It seems such a waste not to.”

“Not today,” said her father.  “But don’t worry.  I doubt it will go to waste.”

He pointed to a spot a hundred yards away, where a large group of velociraptors was forming.

Taking his daughter’s hand, he led her across the open ground, following the game trails.  The six lizzies fell in behind them.  Two miles away, they found the small train waiting exactly where they had left it, steam still puffing from its funnel stack.  The train was nothing but an engine with a single rail coach.  It belonged to M&S Coal Co. and since Mr. Staff was the president of that firm, he had it at his disposal.  A little more than an hour after killing the achillobators, all eight members of the party were seated in the coach. Iolana and her father sat in comfortable chairs near the center of the room.  Esther sat on a chair immediately behind the human girl, sideways so that she could accommodate her tail.  The other lizzies occupied a place on the floor near the back.

“I’m glad you came with me today, dear,” said Staff.  “I know you don’t like to be away from your studies.”

“I’m always happy to go hunting with you, Father.  I wonder that you asked me instead of Augie.  Isn’t he your usual companion?”

“I wanted to spend some time with my daughter,” he said, slightly chastened. “You don’t mind that I take Augie hunting, do you?  After all, he is a boy, and since he’s without a father, it naturally falls to me to step in.”

“Of course I don’t mind, Father.  Perhaps next time we can all go together.  We can take Terra too.”

The Sorceress and her Lovers – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Hsrandtuss stopped halfway up the hillside and leaned wearily on his staff. Glancing behind him, he saw that his six wives and twenty warriors were not having nearly as difficult a time with the climb as he was.  Looking up the other direction he saw the massive fortress at the top of the hill. It was covered with wooden scaffolding for renovation and hundreds of small square wooden houses surrounded it. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to his first wife Sszaxxanna.  She pointed off to the right.

Hsrandtuss, his wives, and his warriors were all members of the cold-blooded reptilian native race of the continent of Birmisia.  The humans called them lizzies.  Ranging in color from light olive to deep forest green, they gave the appearance of an alligator crossed with an iguana, if either had been able to walk around on their hind legs.  Thick tails followed behind them, the tips a few inches off the ground.

“That is the road of supplicants, my king,” she said.

He nodded and started off in that direction, leading his small column along.

As they neared the road, they could see that literally thousands of people were upon it, making their way to the fortress and to the god who lived within. They were not all walking though. About one mile from the great gate, there was an arch over the road.  Upon reaching the arch, travelers dropped down onto their bellies, crawling the rest of the way, dragging their tales behind them.  Hsrandtuss stopped at the archway.  He was torn.  He needed to go on, but it was unseemly for a king to crawl.

“Hsrandtuss,” called a voice, just as he had decided that he had better get down on his belly.

He looked up to see an ornately painted male, wearing a bright red cape. He started when he noticed that the cape was made not of feathers, but of the smooth cloth woven by the soft-skins to the north.  He nodded at the male.

“You need not enter through this gate. Bring your people and follow me.”

The red-caped male led them up a path paved with shiny river stones.  It wound up the hill, sometimes approaching the main road and sometimes veering farther away.  Finally it led to a small but beautiful gate in the cyclopean fortress wall.  It was not as large as the main gate, but was lined with two beautifully carved statues of the god.

Close up, it was easy to see that the fortress was more than undergoing a simple renovation.  One entire wall in the rear of the structure was gone and another had just been rebuilt. Buildings inside the walls were being remade.  Every brick was being replaced.  Thousands of males and females were laying bricks, hauling stones, or pushing wheelbarrows.  Hsrandtuss hadn’t seen so many people since he had visited Suusthek as a child.

Tokkenoht, the king’s third wife, gave a low hiss and Hsrandtuss turned to see what had drawn her attention.

The body of a huge creature lay on its back, rotting in the sun.  It was over fifty feet long, easily as large as a tyrannosaurus, though it was obviously a quadruped.  A thick armadillo-like armor that had once protected the mighty back, now seemed to weigh the body down to the ground, and the gigantic head, attached with almost no neck, now gazed at the sky with empty eye sockets.

“What is it?” asked Sszaxxanna.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Hsrandtuss replied.

“It was a magic beast,” said the red-caped envoy.  “The god killed it.”

Hsrandtuss stared.

“Come with me,” said the envoy.

He led them to a one of the few completed structures near the newly rebuilt wall.  Tall and boxy, the building was covered on all sides by hanging pots, from which grew flowering vines.  Beneath the windows were more flowers growing in heavy stone window boxes.

“This is the style popular in the south,” said Sszaxxanna.

Hsrandtuss nodded.  He didn’t ask her how she knew such a thing.

“Make yourself at home,” came the order, before the caped one left.

Seconds later four females entered through the same door that both the party and the envoy had used.  They carried huge platters of food—raw meat, cut into fist-sized pieces, and fresh fruit. As the females placed the platters on the floor, the warriors all looked at their king, waiting for him to choose the best for himself.

“Remember your bowels,” whispered Sszaxxanna, leaning her long snout near his earhole.  “Just have some fruit.”

“I’m too tired to eat,” he sighed, and then turned to his warriors.  “Feast my friends.”

The warriors went right after the slabs of meat.  Two of his wives did too, but Sszaxxanna quickly put an end to that.

“Get over here,” she hissed.  “The king needs to be rubbed with oil while he relaxes.”

Tokkenoht and Sirris both looked suitably chastened.

“Oh, let them eat,” said Hsrandtuss.  “I just want to go lie down for a bit.”

He opened the tiny pouch on his belt and pulled out a golden pocket watch that he had purchased from the soft-skin city trader for 2,500 copper bits. He held it in front of his first wife’s face and pointed to it.

“The little hand is on the river and the big hand is on the tree by the river. I want to get up when the little hand is on the claw and the big hand is on the ladle.”  He handed her the watch.

“It will be done, Great King,” she said, and then snapped her fingers, calling his second wife.  “Ssu will sleep with you and make sure you are comfortable.”

Hsrandtuss nodded.  Ssu was good for little else, but she did a good job of seeing to his comfort.

“The sleeping room will be through there,” Ssaxxanna pointed.

Hsrandtuss found a large, well appointed chamber set up in the usual style.  A fire pit burned in the center of the floor, surrounded by comfortable sleeping mats.  The king climbed down onto one of the mats, pausing to appreciate its craftsmanship. Then descending to his stomach, he put his snout near the burning fire.  Ssu settled next to him, on the same mat, placing her snout over his, and pressing her stomach to his side.  He scratched her belly idly before drifting off to sleep.  When he woke Ssu was gone, but Tokkenoht was in her place, in exactly the same position.

The Sorceress and her Lovers – $2.99 at Kobo Books

It’s been three years since the Kingdom of Greater Brechalon, with the help of Zurfina the Magnificent, defeated their hereditary enemies, the Freedonians. The world has changed. Port Dechantagne, once a distant outpost of civilization, has grown to be a large city, the center of prosperous Birmisia Colony. Steam-powered carriages share the streets with triceratops-pulled trolleys, fine ladies in their most fashionable bustle dresses lead their lizardmen servants through the shopping districts, and an endless stream of immigrants pours into the region.

The young ladies of the colony are busy with fashion, coming out parties, and securing partners among the smaller male population. Eleven-year-old Iolana Staff, daughter of the colonial governor, has more important things on her mind—the mysterious machine known as the Result Mechanism, and her relationship to the machine’s creator.

Meanwhile, sorceress Senta Bly returns from the continent with a new male companion, an illegitimate daughter, and a long lost brother. Hated and feared for her magic, she must face wizards, assassins, and an old enemy from another reality.

The Sorceress and her Lovers continues the story of Senta and the Steel Dragon, taking up where The Two Dragons left off. It is a story of magic and power, fear and revenge, and love.

The Sorceress and her Lovers is available at Kobo Books in ebook format for just $2.99.

The Two Dragons – $2.99 at Kobo Books

War has come to Birmisia and the rest of the world as The United Kingdom of Greater Brechalon faces off against totalitarian Kingdom of Freedonia. Freedonia has fielded its army, including the secret cabal of wizards known as the Riene Zauberei, airships of the Flottenluftkorps, steam-powered war machines, tens of thousands of lizardmen allies, and the dragon-god Hissussisthiss. Standing between them and their domination of Birmisia is the sorceress Zurfina, the young steel dragon Bessemer, and seventeen year old sorceress Senta Bly.

As the actual battle approaches, Brech society seems ready to split apart, along racial and ethnic lines. Colonial Governor Iolanthe Denchantagne-Staff, Mayor Zeah Korlann, and Police Inspector Saba Colbshallow must hold the colony together as panicked citizens riot and loot, supply ships are torpedoed by Freedonian submarines, and a gang of murderous lizzies threaten the town.

The Two Dragons is the fifth volume of the epic story of Senta and the Steel Dragon, a story of adventure and wonder, steam power and magic, prejudice and power, rifles and dinosaurs, love and sacrifice, dragons and lizardmen, and ultimate destiny.

The Two Dragons is available at Kobobooks in ebook format for just $2.99.

 

The Two Dragons – Chapter 20 Excerpt

Staff stood in the observation tower, three hundred feet above the ground, and looked across Iguanodon Heath through his binoculars.  The invading army had not begun to move toward the Brech defensive position, but they were there.  The bulk of the lizzies were beyond the tree line, but every once in a while one would pop out, moving from place to place in the lines.  He wondered if they had heard yet about their friends on the other side of Port Dechantagne.  If they hadn’t, they would soon.  He had just received the message by telegraph.  Three thousand lizzies and that bloody great dragon defeated, and less than fifty men lost.  True, one of them had been an important wizard, but it was still a favorable exchange.

Three others occupied the small covered room at the top of the three-legged structure—two colonial guardsmen, wearing khaki fatigues and pith helmets, and the sorceress Zurfina, wearing a short black leather dress and high black leather boots.  She had her arms crossed and a thoughtful expression on her face.

“Did you know Wizard Bassington well?” he asked her.

“We had a history,” she said.

“Well, I’m sorry.”

“About what?”

“About him dying.”

“Oh yes,” she said.  “I’m sure his masters in the War Ministry will be very disappointed.”

“And how do you feel about it?”

She turned toward him and cocked an eyebrow.  “Is this your attempt to chat me up, Mr. Staff?  Because I’m really not in the mood right now.  You could come by the day after tomorrow.”

“I wasn’t trying to chat you up.  You said that you and Wizard Bassington had a history.  I was just expressing my condolences.”

“Well then, thank you.  I do feel quite a loss.  He was a gifted… man.”

“And we will probably be in the midst of battle the day after tomorrow, if we can hold them off that long.”

“Pish-posh.  The day after tomorrow the lizzies and the Freedonians will all be gone, and I will be at home—all alone and naked.”

“May I ask you what you were looking so pensive about?”

“I was just wondering…”

“Fina.”  The disembodied voice of Senta Bly interrupted her mistress.

“What is it, Pet?”

“I’m walking Bessemer home.  They say the train is not heading your way for an hour.  They want to get as many volunteers on it as possible.”

“That’s fine.  Take our boy home put him in his bed.  He’s going to need a good long sleep to recover.  You know how dragons are.”

“Yes, I know.”

Staff waited for a moment for the sorceress to convey any additional message, but apparently the connection was severed.

“Well then,” said Zurfina.  “Shall we go down?”

Without waiting for an answer, she lowered herself through the hole in the wooden floor and began climbing down the long ladder.  Staff followed.  When he finally reached the ground, his arms and legs felt shaky.  He couldn’t imagine how a woman wearing a corset could have made it down without passing out.  He looked at the sorceress appraisingly.  Yes, she was wearing a corset.

“I’m feeling a little peckish,” said Zurfina.  “How about you?”

Staff nodded.

“Shall we go back to your headquarters and have a bite?”

“All right.”

The Two Dragons – Chapter 19 Excerpt

Zurfina had insisted that they spend the night at home before going to their respective assignments, and now that Senta reached the field near the Regmont apartment building, she was glad that they had.  The men who were assembled there, more than two thousand if Senta’s estimation was correct, all looked bleary-eyed and tired.  Then again, Senta doubted that she had slept any more than they had.  Her destination was obvious.  The late Professor Calliere’s balloon stood, rivaling the eight story apartment buildings across the street.  It was fastened to the ground by dozens of ropes and at its base was the large wicker basket that served as the passenger compartment.  Wizard Smedley Bassington stood next to it.

“Are you ready?”

“As ready as I can be,” replied Senta.

A small bird flew down and landed on Bassington’s shoulder.  It was no bigger than a man’s fist, with a bright yellow band across its belly, and brown and black wing feathers.  It chirped several times.  Bassington cocked his head and listened.  Then the bird took off again.

“New pet?” wondered Senta.

“An informant.”  The wizard smiled.  “The news is good.  The lizzies have deployed most of their forces to support the Freedonians.  The attack that we have to face will be much smaller than anticipated—no more than three thousand.”

“Really?  Only three thousand?”

“That’s nothing for magic of our caliber.”

“So that means that Zurfina has to face ten to twenty thousand enemies by herself?”

“She does have the Colonial Guard with her.”

Lawrence Bratihn approached the two from the direction of the mustering volunteers. He looked at Senta for a moment as if assessing whether to say something, but decided against it.  He looked to Bassington.

“The plan?”

“The plan is the same.  Have the men fan out around the northern edge of the evacuated area.  Let Senta and myself deal with the bulk of the lizzies and then, when we signal, move in and clean out the rest.”

“How far away are they?”

“About five miles,” replied Bassington.  “So, let us get into position.”

Bratihn nodded and jogged back to the men, while Senta climbed into the basket. The wizard climbed in next and a woman in a khaki dress and blouse followed him.

“Do you know Mrs. Hollerith?”

“Of course,” replied Senta.  “What are you doing here?”

“I learned how to work the balloon when I helped the Professor survey the peninsula eight years ago, though I haven’t been up since.”

“I was hard pressed to find a balloon veteran,” said Bassington, as Mrs. Hollerith pulled a handle from the mechanism suspended over the basket, sending flames shooting upwards.

“Cast off!” called Mrs. Hollerith, and the ground crew unfastened the lines as quickly as they could.  In scant moments, they were ascending past the tops of the highest buildings in Port Dechantagne.  Senta looked down to see the volunteer soldiers moving away in long snaking lines toward the east.

“How high are we going?” she wondered.

“Just high enough to get a clear view,” replied Bassington.

“I don’t know what kind of a clear view you can get.  There are so many trees.”

“We just want to be able to see the lizzies moving into the area.”

“Can’t we do that from the top of a building?”

Bassington looked at her.  “Would that be anywhere near as exciting as this?”

Mrs. Hollerith gave one more pull on the handle controlling the ascent, and then looked over the edge along with Senta.  The balloon was fastened with only a single long rope, the other end of which was wound around a large spool attached to the ground.  The spool was quickly unwinding as two men stood, one on either side, watching it.  When the balloon had almost stopped, the men locked down the spool, making the basket jerk as it reached the end of its tether.

Senta pulled the mirror from her belt and looked into it.  Her own face looked back at her.  She looked terrible.  She had dark circles under her eyes and her face was drawn.

“Uuthanum,” she said, touching the mirror with her index finger.  Her own image was replaced with a view of Zurfina from above.  She was standing in some kind of small wooden-floored room.

“Hello Pet,” said Zurfina looking up, but not quite meeting Senta in the eye. “Are you up in your balloon?”

“Yes.  Can you see me?”

“No, but I can hear you.  I may well be as high up as you are.  I’m in the observation tower.”

“I thought you didn’t want to go up this high.  Isn’t that why I’m in the balloon instead of you?”

“No.  I don’t want to fall down from this high.  That’s why you are in the balloon instead of me.”

“What’s the situation there?”

“Oh the Freedonians and the lizzies are miles away,” said Zurfina, waving her hand in a typically dismissive gesture.  “Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

“Good.  Make me proud.”