The Dragon’s Choice – Chapter 1 Excerpt

It was a warm spring day in Birmisia Colony, and the people of Port Dechantagne were making the most of it. The parks were full of families, watching children play football or eating picnic lunches. Several practice cricket matches were being played, with more than a few spectators. Outdoor cafes were full and there was a concert scheduled in the downtown amphitheater for later that day. Many strolled along the sidewalk, rather than taking a car. However, one young couple was driving their steam-powered carriage northward into the warehouse district on the peninsula. Both looked to be about twenty years old. Both were dressed in expensive and fashionable clothing, his a sharp grey suit with a red waistcoat, and hers a creamy peach day dress trimmed in white lace.

“I thought we were going to the concert,” said the young woman. She ran her hand over the blond hair that spilled down to her shoulders from beneath the peach tri-corner hat perched atop her head.

“We are,” he replied, steering to the curb of Seventh and One Half Avenue. “I just have to check something first.”

Engaging the parking brake, he hopped out of the vehicle, running around back to open the relief cock. A loud whistle of steam escaped the pipe.

“I’ll be right back,” he said, peeling off his driving gloves and tossing them into his seat.

Then he stepped quickly down the street some twenty feet and disappeared into the narrow space between two warehouses. His destination was a locked door near the rear of the leftmost building, and he was busy fishing the key from his pocket so he didn’t notice the two men coming from the other direction.

One was a shorter man with a thick chest and muscular arms. He was bald and wore an eye patch. The other was a huge fellow, towering over the young man’s six-foot height; with a huge mop of blond hair that half obscured his face.

“We’ll be takin’ your wallet,” said the shorter of the two.

The well-dressed young man looked up, startled.

“Now see here…” his words were cut off when the giant slammed a fist into his stomach. He doubled over, looking up with wide eyes. His expression was not one of fear, but of shock, as if it was simply inconceivable that someone would lay hands on him. He was helpless as the one-eyed man reached into his breast pocket and pulled out his wallet.

“We’ll take that watch too.”

“No…” the young man tried to say.

The giant took him by the shoulders and slammed him against the building wall. The one-eyed man grabbed his watch by its chain and yanked it from his pocket. One brass button shot off his waistcoat and bounced off the neighboring building’s wall.

“Don’t feel bad, boy,” said the thief. “It’s all a part of growing up.”

The two stepped back behind the building and were gone. The young man struggled to take a couple of deep breaths. Then he slowly rose to his feet to find the young woman next to him.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

He shook his head. His eyes brimmed over with angry tears.

“I’ll be right back,” she said.

“No,” he said, but she was already gone. “Kafira damn it all,” he growled, punching the corrugated tin wall of the warehouse, leaving a fist-size indentation. Then he took several more deep breaths, carefully straightened his jacket, and bent down to brush the dirt off his trousers. His bowler hat fell off and rolled several feet away. He retrieved it and brushed it off too. When he stood up straight once again, she was back.

“How are you?” she asked.

“How am I supposed to be?” he said, wiping a stray tear from his face. “I’ve been emasculated twice in one day.”

“Hardly emasculated. There were two of them and they were no doubt seasoned criminals.”

“Once by them and once by you,” he accused.

“Me? What did I do?”

“You tell me. What did you do?”

“I just taught them the error of their ways.” She held out her hand, holding his wallet and watch. “Here. Don’t be upset, Augie. You are a very powerful man.”

“Not the right kind of powerful, in this case. I shouldn’t need my woman to fight my battles for me.”

“I’m not your woman.”

“You’re supposed to be.”

“What I mean to say is, I’m not a woman. I am what I am, and when somebody harms someone I love… well, they must die. It’s as simple as that.”

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The Sorceress and her Lovers – Chapter 6 Excerpt

Hsrandtuss opened his eyes and stretched. He had to push both Ssu and Tokkenoht off of him before he could roll off his sleeping mat. Only the latter female woke up. He stretched again. He felt better than he had in months, better than he had in years. A lot of it had to do with the fact that he was sleeping much better. He didn’t know if it was the proximity of the young god or the fact that for a change, things seemed to be going his way.

The other chiefs had all gone home. The last to leave had been Tistakha. Before Tistakha had left for Tuustutu, Hsrandtuss had managed a brief meeting. To say they had formed an alliance would have been too much, but they did seem to have an understanding. The two would work together to see that their trade with the soft-skins increased and that the plans of the God of the Sky were not disrupted by the likes of Szisz and his band of broken yokes in Suusiss.

“Your morning meal, Great King,” said Sszaxxanna, handing him a pomegranate.

“I don’t want another fruit,” said Hsrandtuss. “Where is my meat?”

“Your bowels, Great King.”

“Never mind my bowels. Find me a bird, or at the very least a nice fish.”

“The fish are not very plentiful here in the mountains, Great King,” said Sszaxxanna, with entirely too much sass.

He glared at her.

“I will try to find you a fish,” she said, scurrying off.

“See that you do. And send Sirris in here!” he called after her.

Sirris hurried into the room.

“Paint me,” Hsrandtuss ordered.

“If you wish, Great King, but the God of the Sky is gone.”

“Gone? What do you mean gone?”

“He flew north. Kendra says he has gone to visit the soft-skins in their city.”

“Yes, I see. That is good. What else does Kendra say? What about Szisz? Is he being watched?”

“Shouldn’t you wait and ask Sszaxxanna?” she asked quietly.

“You will never be first wife with an attitude like that,” he said.

“Kendra has trackers following him and his people. They are halfway back to Suusiss. She also says that there is a way for you to rise high in the esteem of the young god. She says you should do it, but Sszaxxanna won’t…”

Suddenly Sszaxxanna was there, striking Sirris repeatedly with her clawed hands, driving her from the room. Tokkenoht jumped up and hurried after her. Ssu continued to snooze on the sleeping mat.

“I have a bird for you, Great King,” said wife number one, thrusting the charred carcass of a bambiraptor toward him.

“It’s cooked?”

“It will be easier on your stomach.”

“What was it that Kendra suggested?” he asked, taking the bird and biting off the top half.

“It is nothing. It is ill conceived.”

“Would I not be a better judge of that than you?”

“Of course, Great King. But the god already favors you. You don’t need to risk yourself unnecessarily.”

“Bring her in here. I want to hear it.”

“But Great King…”

“Now.”

“As you wish,” said Sszaxxanna, stomping sulkily through the doorway. Hsrandtuss had no doubt that both Kendra and Sirris would be on the receiving end of Sszaxxanna’s claws later, but what was it to him how the females settled their differences?

Kendra entered and stepped very close to him. She placed one hand, palm outward, on her dewlap in a sign of respect and reached out familiarly to touch him on the shoulder with the other. She and Ssu were the youngest of his wives, and Kendra was very tiny, barely reaching up to Hsrandtuss’s shoulder.

“All right, what is this about improving my esteem?”

“There is a creature living beneath this fortress—a horrible creature.”

“Like the dead monster we saw when we arrived?”

“Much smaller than that one, but much more horrible. It lives in a place the young god cannot reach. One must pass through a narrow hallway and down a long flight of stairs. The red-caped one has sent five groups of warriors to kill it and they have all been unsuccessful. Most of them died.”

“So I am supposed to go down there and get myself killed too? Is that what you want?”

“No, no, my husband. You know that is not what I want. You must know how proud I am to be your wife.” She pressed her chin against his chest. “You are a great warrior and Tokkenoht and I will go with you, in addition to your warriors.”

“I am supposed to take two females into battle?”

“I have been on many hunts, and Tokkenoht has great magic. We can both aid you.”

Realizing that he still had half a bambiraptor in his hand, Hsrandtuss tossed it in his mouth and chewed. He did want to show Yessonar his worth, and Kendra was right that this might do so. And he was feeling better since he had been here. Maybe this was just what he needed to get back to his old self—a good battle. Yes, he decided. He would do it.

The entire fortress was a whirlwind of activity. The wall that had been completely disassembled when the group from Hiissiera had arrived was now almost completely rebuilt. Now a pair of high towers was being constructed just inside the walls. Wooden ladders and braces acted as an exoskeleton for the stone spires that when completed would house spiral staircases. Hsrandtuss found the god’s red-caped envoy easily enough. He had learned the important lizzie went by the name of Khastla.

“I hear that you have a problem beast.”

Khastla hissed slowly and eyed the king. “You speak of the vile creature below ground.”

The Dragon’s Choice – Now on Sale!

Senta and the Steel Dragon book 9 goes on sale today wherever fine ebooks are sold.  You can find it at Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other ebook distributors.  The price is $2.99.

The dragons seemingly have returned to the world and are once again in vying for power. Bessemer the steel dragon is worshipped by the reptilian lizzies, while the evil Voindrazius tries to put together a pantheon that he will control. Zoantheria, the coral dragon, feels pulled in all directions. Wanted both by Bessemer and Voindrazius, she is called to a world she has never known, her mistress, the sorceress Senta Bly encouraging her to take up the mantle of goddess. Her heart, however, is pulling her in a different direction, toward the young viscount Augustus Dechantagne. Which will prove stronger– love or destiny? Both Senta and Augie have their own problems, hers with teaching her wayward eponymous daughter the ways of magic, and him dealing with the yoke of leadership and a headstrong mother. Meanwhile, far across the ocean, the Dechantagne girls are taking Brech City by storm. Will one of them land a prince?

The Sorceress and her Lovers – Chapter 5 Excerpt

The L.Z. Frühlingshuhn descended from the clouds toward Royal Tybalt Hall, the top stories of which had been converted ten years earlier to a dirigible port. From the great window on the observation deck, Senta Bly watched as Brech City slid by below her. The buildings all looked like toy models of themselves. The boats in the Thiss and the carriages on the streets likewise looked like the playthings of children. It was a sight well worth the cost of a ticket, even without the three-day voyage from Bangdorf.

“It’s quite a sight, isn’t it?”

She turned to Kieran Baxter, who was sitting in one of the comfortable lounge chairs bouncing the baby on his knee.

“I never get tired of it,” she said.

“Funny, I wouldn’t think it would be that impressive to you… what with you being able to fly and everything.”

“Who said I could fly?”

“Can you?”

She shrugged. “Sort of.”

“I knew it,” he said, hopping easily to his feet, still holding the child. He stopped next to the sorceress. “Look. You can see right into the courtyard of Palace Eidenia. I always wanted to look in there. I expected piles of treasure or something equally grand.”

“Looks like they’re storing old trolley cars in there,” said Senta. “Quite the let-down, I’ll bet.”

“It always is when your fantasies meet your realities. They just don’t hold up.”

She leaned in close to him. Her hot breath reached his cheek and the side of his neck.

“Perhaps not in all cases,” he said.

The ship glided lower, turning so that Palace Eidenia was no longer visible. Instead they had a splendid view of the Palace of Ansegdniss, for 250 years the meeting place of the Parliament of Greater Brechalon. The buildings below became larger and larger until suddenly they stopped being toys and became real full-sized structures. The dirigible slowed to a stop and at last all they could see was the roof of Royal Tybalt Hall.

Though they had packed those belongings that had been in use during their three-day journey, Senta was in no mood to join the ranks of those passengers rushing to get out. So she and Baxter continued to sit in the lounge for another hour. He let the baby crawl a bit on the floor, though he didn’t allow her to get far, and she couldn’t have in any case. Finally with him carrying little Senta and the sorceress carrying the animal carrier, they walked down the gangway, followed by two stewards with the luggage. Quickly procuring a cab, they were on their way to The Clarkson House.

The Clarkson House was Brech City’s finest hotel. It reigned over Avenue Boar with all the opulence of Palace Eidenia—more now that they had seen the old trolleys stored in the latter. Once at the hotel they stepped across the black and white chessboard-like floor of the palatial lobby, past the gilded furnishings beneath the crystal chandeliers. To Senta, who had stayed at the Clarkson for several weeks before traveling to Freedonia, and who had in fact given birth to her daughter there, it almost seemed like returning home. It cemented in her mind the decision she had already made.

When they were safely settled in the imperial suite, Senta let the little dragon out of the carrier. It immediately ran toward the baby.

“Back off you,” said Baxter, protectively pulling the child away.

“Good baby,” said the dragon.

“Kafira’s twat. The bloody thing talks.”

“Yes, well, it’s about time that,” said Senta, opening the balcony door and looking at the beast. “Go find yourself something to eat. There are thousands of flying reptiles in this city that no one will miss.”

The creature took one bounce and was out the door—a coral-colored blur.

“You expected it to start speaking,” said Baxter. “I take it your found out something in the library at Bangdorf.”

“I found exactly nothing.” She turned to her companion. “Have you decided if you are going to come with me to Birmisia?”

“I thought I didn’t have to decide for a while.”

“It seems you do.” She waved her hand behind her and the several dozen buttons on the back of her dress unfastened themselves. “I’ve decided it’s time to go home.” She stepped out of the dress. “I didn’t think I would miss it as much as I do.”

“Do you mean you miss him?”

She stepped toward him. He sat the baby on the rug. The dress flew of its own accord to the dressing room.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.

“No I don’t. There’s a good reason for that. You haven’t told me anything.” Baxter crossed his arms. “I didn’t press you about it, but I have to know where I stand before I decide if I’m going to Birmisia Colony or not. I have to understand whether…”

“Whether you have me or not?” She snaked her arms around his shoulders. He uncrossed his arms and placed them on her waist, though he could feel nothing except the bones of her corset. “You have me for as long as you want me. It probably won’t be long. There are many beautiful women in Port Dechantagne. You’ll throw me over for one of them, I’m sure.”

“Unlikely. But I have to know…”

“I was very much in love,” said Senta. “But he died, years ago. I don’t think I’ll ever love like that again, but I do care about you.”

“What about the child’s father?”

“He’s in Birmisia. I’m not in love with him. Even if I was, he’s not available.”

“What if he was?”

“I said I’m not in love with him.”

“You also as much as said you’re not in love with me. What if he was available?”

“Do you want me to tell you the truth or do you want me to tell you what you want to hear?”

“I guess that’s my answer,” he said, reaching up and pulling her arms from around his neck.

Senta and the Steel Dragon – On Sale at Smashwords

Smashwords is running their End of the Year Sale and it is the perfect time to fill in your Senta and the Steel Dragon books.  Pick up Book 1: The Voyage of the Minotaur, Free.  Use coupon code EY100 at checkout.

The Following books in the series are 1/2 off, making them $1.50 each.  Use coupon code SEY50 at checkout.

Book 2: The Dark and Forbidding Land

Book 3: The Drache Girl

Book 4: The Young Sorceress

Book 5: The Two Dragons

Book 6: The Sorceress and her Lovers

Book 7: The Price of Magic

Book 8: A Plague of Wizards