Lord Augustus Marek Virgil Dechantagne, Earl of Cordwell, March Lord of Birmisia, Viscount Dechantagne, and Baron of Halvhazl, stood in the parlor, looking out the front window. A dragonfly, somewhat larger than the palm of his hand, flew up to hover just on the other side of the glass from his face. The two stared at each other for a moment, and then the insect buzzed away. The young nobleman had grown from a chubby boy to a tall, fit young man. He had gained three inches in height just since his fifteenth birthday half a year before.
“It’s bloody warm today,” he said, brushing back his chestnut hair. “It’s going to be a hot summer.”
“If you say so, Augie,” said his fifteen-year-old sister, who sat on the sofa embroidering a tea cloth. Her own dull, brown hair fell limply over her shoulders. Her voice was deep for a girl, but rather weak and scratchy. “You know best.”
The youth snapped his fingers and a hulking lizardman entered to stand beside him. The monstrous creature was seven feet tall, dwarfing the human. He was covered with bumpy skin, light olive down his front from the dewlap below his long snout, and deep forest green on his back and down the length of the long powerful tail that hung behind him, the tip a few inches off the floor. He looked like a cross between an anthropomorphic iguana and an alligator.
“A cup of tea,” said Lord Dechantagne. “And one for my sister too.”
“I don’t think I want tea,” she said, without looking up.
“Yes, Little Worm, you do.”
“If you say so, Augie.”
The reptilian servant nodded and hurried from the room.
The young man left the window and walked to the chair by the fire, where the third member of the family slumbered. His mother was still a great beauty at forty-four years of age, though her dark brown hair now had several thick streaks of grey. Yuah Dechantagne was still in her dressing gown, with one leg thrown over the side of the chair and her head tucked into the back corner. A single long snore escaped her thick, well-formed lips. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
“Do you want to go up for your nap, Mother?”
“I’m not asleep,” she said, sleepily. “I’m just resting my eyes.”
With a sigh, he left her and sat beside his sister.
“She’s been gone four years now,” he said.
“I know. I can hardly believe it has been so long, but I’ve decided to join her as soon as Auntie Iolanthe will let me.”
“What in the deuces are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about going to Brech City. I’m going to live with Cousin Iolana. I miss her so.”
“Well, I wasn’t talking about Iolana. And I don’t think you’ll be allowed to go live with her. That girl does nothing but spend money on parties and clothes. There’s no telling what trouble she’s getting into.”
“What do you expect? The poor thing’s lost her father.” She stopped and looked around, and then continued at a much lower volume. “And honestly, would you want Auntie Iolanthe as a mother?”
“Auntie only wants the best for all of us. Besides, we lost our father too.”
“You don’t remember Father, and I wasn’t even born when he died.”
“When he was killed, you mean… killed by the lizzies. Anyway, Uncle Radley was like a father to me.” He turned to the reptilian servant arriving with a large tea tray. “Set it here, and there better be some milk. I’m tired of drinking my tea like a savage.”
“I miss Uncle Radley too,” continued Terra. “I think he was the most level-headed person I ever met. Plus he told me he would buy me a car when I turned fourteen. Here I am, almost sixteen and no car.”
“I’ll buy you a car.”
He poured two cups of tea and then added milk to his and sugar to hers. After handing the cup to her, he took his and leaned back into the sofa.
“I wasn’t talking about Iolana. I was talking about the sorceress.”
“You mean Senta? Oh, I expect she’s dead. Don’t you?”
“Don’t be daft. Nothing can kill her.”
“Oh, I think anyone can be killed,” said Terra. “That green dragon died and the lizzies worshipped him as a god.”
“Yes, and look who killed him: Senta, that’s who. And she wasn’t even at her full magic power yet. Dragons aren’t gods anyway. The lizzies just worship them because they’re too ignorant to know any better.”
“If you say so, Augie. You know best.”
She set her half-empty teacup on the tray and moved her needlepoint from her lap onto the arm of the sofa before standing up.
“Zandy, would you fetch Kristee please?” she called to the lizzie standing nearby. “I need to change into my walking dress.”
“Where are you going?” asked Augie.
“Where else do I ever go around here? I’m going visiting.”
“Be home in time for dinner. I have something I want to talk to you about. Oh, and will you be visiting Miss Likliter?”
“That seems likely.”
“Then see if you can find out about the new brown hat I ordered from her mother.”
“Whatever you say, Augie.”