The Drache Girl – Chapter 18 Excerpt

The past five days had been more grueling for Radley Staff than the previous five, and that was saying something. Getting his expedition home through the dinosaur filled forest, carrying one dead and one dying, had been more adventure than most people would have ever wanted. A pack of deinonychus had dogged their trail the entire way, but the party was large enough and well armed enough, that the beasts had kept their distance. Such was not true for the utahraptor that had rushed out of the trees. The seven foot tall, twenty-five foot long creature clamped its jaws down on Sanjo’s arm just as Staff pumped five rifle rounds into its fist-sized brain. Crashing to the ground, it nearly ripped the poor lizzie’s arm off. It was a wound that was sure to have killed a man, but after it was bandaged, Sanjo seemed already on the mend.

Glad that he didn’t have to worry about the lizardman, Staff did worry about Miss Jindra. The fact that he had dragged the beautiful young sorceress out into the forest seemed sure to be the cause of whatever blight had settled upon her. He felt guilty—only to find out that her illness was self-inflicted, the result of her theft of magically booby-trapped money. Even after discovering this fact, Staff insisted that she remain in the apartments of the M&S Coal offices and paid for the very best care.

He didn’t have any time to sit by Miss Jindra’s bed. He spent almost all of his time during the five days after his return to Port Dechantagne, arranging for the funeral of Aakesh Mouliets, seeing to the needs of Mrs. Mouliets and her boy, and negotiating with the railroad for the construction of a spur line to the coal deposits. Staff had known that the Mirsannan culture was steeped in tradition, but he didn’t realize until now just how difficult it would make his life. There were all kinds of requirements for the burial of a Mirsannan, none of which were simple or straightforward. The coffin had to be made of cedar, a not impossible task. But the deceased had to have a pillow of ferret skins and the church had to be filled with peacock feathers, neither of which could be found within five thousand miles of Birmisia. Mirsannan men, or at least Mouliets, appreciated the demure Mirsannan woman, who as far as Staff could see, could do almost nothing on her own. Purna Mouliets did nothing but weep into her hankie, and while he could appreciate the genuine emotion for her beloved, Staff eventually wearied of her inability to stop crying long enough to approve or disapprove the elements of the funeral. Her son Sudas on the other hand scarcely took his face out of a book long enough to notice that his father was gone.

Mr. Lenahan Norich of the Mallontah and Birmisia Railroad had sent his personal assistant Anton Garner all the way to Port Dechantagne to negotiate the construction of a spur line. He arrived in his employer’s private railcar. The railroad was quite happy to build the additional track, but the guarantees they wanted in exchange were exorbitant. Had it been any other time, Staff would have asked for the influence of the royal governor, but two days before negotiations had begun, Iolanthe’s husband had committed suicide. Staff couldn’t help but have mixed emotions. At last the paperwork was signed and on the day of the funeral, more than one hundred lizardmen workers, supervised by a dozen engineers and foremen, began clearing the way for the iron rails that would soon follow.

Mouliets’ funeral was attended by about forty people. All of the M&S employees were there along with their families. Caitleen Harper, her daughter Melody Lanier, and her granddaughter Wenda were dressed in simple black. Theadora Vanita, in charcoal grey, was accompanied by a man that Staff had never seen before. It was an example, he thought, of how there was a match for anyone somewhere out in the world, because this fellow at six foot eight and at least three hundred pounds was probably the only person in Port Dechantagne capable of making Miss Vanita look dainty by comparison. A slight shudder went through Staff when he saw Mrs. Fandice. The woman, who had been remarkably helpful in arranging the funeral, wore a dress that dripped with artificial lilies. What was obviously meant to be a mourning dress looked more like something that would be worn by a street performer. She and her gorgeous niece, Loana Hewison, were accompanied by PC Colbshallow in his finest blue uniform. Staff escorted Miss Franka Rocanna, who looked as beautiful in her dark purple dress with antique lace, as she did at any other time. Her veiled hat disguised her strangely short red hair, but not her smoldering, dark eyes or dark, full lips. Edin Buttermore arrived with his wife and child. It was the first time that Staff had seen either of them since their arrival in Birmisia, and it appeared that life in the new land appealed to them. The haggard and frail appearance that he had noted on Julietta Buttermore’s face was gone, and the toddler, Easton, was as fat and happy as ever. Mr. and Mrs. Rutan wore expressions one might expect at a funeral. Of course, these were the expressions that they wore all the time. The Gliebermans, Beeman, his wife Acadia, and their six-year-old daughter Sherree all wore the same simple grey and white clothes that had originally made Staff assume that they were Zaeri. The little girl with her miniature eyeglasses and her tiny dress identical to her mother’s, carried a fluffy stuffed animal in one hand and a first year primer in the other. Ivo and Femke Kane were the last to arrive, just moments before the start of the service. Ivo Kane wore a long, black suit, and Mrs. Kane wore an identical one.