The Two Dragons – Chapter 2 Excerpt

The train station, originally a wooden structure smaller than most homes, had been partially rebuilt of stone and marble. It was in fact, well into a program of construction that would require the better part of a decade. That was not to say that the station was not in service. Trains rolled in from distant St. Ulixes in Mallontah on an average, three times a day. Every other day, a coal train arrived from the south. Two trains were in station at the present time. One was sitting idle and would leave for Mallontah later that day. The other, the B-412, had arrived from St. Ulixes within the last half hour and its engine was still emitting steam from its boiler.

More than one hundred passengers had arrived on the B-412 and most of them were still at the station, collecting their luggage and waiting for friends and relatives to meet them, or hugging and kissing those friends and relatives who had already arrived. Graham Dokkins was just swinging off the steps of the passenger car, with a duffle bag over his shoulder.   A stocky young man of seventeen, a late growth spurt had brought him up to his full five foot eleven. He wore a grey wool suit straight from Greater Brechalon, but his bowler hat was all Birmisia, with its hatband made of velociraptor skin. Not what most would call handsome, he had a thick shock of brown hair and laughing eyes.

“You look quite dapper in that suit,” said Senta.

Graham smiled, tossed his bag on the cement platform, and stepped over to embrace her.   As she pressed her cheek to his, Senta closed her eyes and felt the warmth of his skin. After a moment, he took her by the shoulders and held her back at arm’s length, looking questioningly into her face.

“You’ve been gone too long.” She answered his unasked question.

“It’s nice to be missed.”

“I was at the docks. I thought you’d come by ship.”

“I could have, but I would have been another three days getting home. The new cranes are coming on the Gabrielle.”

“It’s good that you had the option. I suppose that comes from being an important muckey-muck.”

“Assistant Port Manager, at your service.” Graham doffed his hat and bowed at the waist.

“Do you want to go to the Café for tea?”

“Ma will kill me if I don’t go straight home. Walk with me?”

Senta nodded.

Graham picked his duffle back up and threw it over his shoulder. He held out his elbow and Senta took it as they walked through the half constructed station, down the stone steps in front, and down the brick-lined street to the trolley stop. The southbound trolley arrived only seconds after they did. It was pulled by a triceratops, but not Harriet. Senta didn’t recognize the animal, but Graham did. He knew all the city’s dinosaurs.

“Hello Meg,” he said, slapping the beast on its right hind leg before climbing into the trolley cab.

“Hey Graham,” said the driver.

“Hey Gideon.”

Gideon gave Senta a sidelong glance but didn’t meet her eyes. Graham pulled two pfennigs from his pocket and dropped them into the glass box next to the driver’s station before leading Senta by the hand to the middle seats and sitting down. After Meg had been fed, and with a clang of the bell, the vehicle began rolling down the grass pathway in the center of Terrence Dechantagne Boulevard. The triceratops let loose of five or six gallons of dung, which dropped onto the tracks beneath her tail, and which the trolley subsequently ran over.

“They have steam-powered trolleys in St. Ulixes now,” said Graham.

“Were they nice?”

“Oh, heck no. Too much smoke and soot everywhere.”

“Not as many dung pies though?”

“That’s good fertilizer. I always said it was a shame to let the lizzies have all of that. We should keep some of it for our own gardens.”

“Don’t you have enough fertilizer already?”

“I meant all of us—all the soft-skins.”

“How did you find the lizzies in Mallontah?” she asked, remembering her own visit years before.

“They’re not really lizzies at all, are they? Different animal altogether. They call them trogs.”

“That’s right,” remembered Senta.

The trolley stopped four times on the main boulevard before it turned east onto Whipple Avenue. The second stop after the turn was Graham’s, and both he and Senta stepped out. Two years before, the Dokkins family, reveling in new wealth, had purchased a family estate in what seemed at the time, a remote location. The city had quickly expanded though to gobble it up. Had it been in Greater Brechalon, the two-story house would have been the home of some gentry, and indeed though from common enough stock, here in Birmisia, that was just how the Dokkins family was thought of. An unusually high wrought iron fence surrounded the estate, which encompassed some twenty acres. Graham opened the gate and allowed Senta to enter before him, then closed it after them. Almost immediately the ground began to tremble.

The rumbling grew stronger and stronger and bursting from behind a stand of bushes, a monster raced toward them. The creature was an iguanodon, almost thirty feet long and weighing more than three tons. Roughly the same size as Harriet and Meg, it was much sleeker than a triceratops and ran on its hind feet, though it remained bent over like a quadruped. It trumpeted loudly as it ran at the two humans.

“Whoa, Stinky!” shouted Graham. “Whoa!”

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