The Two Dragons – Chapter 12 Excerpt

Accord Day was always celebrated and was always a patriotic occasion. With the announcement of war however, patriotism knew no bounds. Saba had never seen so many banners of red, white, and blue in all of his life. It seemed as if every home, every shop, and every street corner flew the Accord Banner of Greater Brechalon. Some of the steam carriages driving down the street even sported small versions flapping from the edges of their windscreens. Nothing drove patriotic fervor like fear.

Was it patriotism or fear that was drawn across the faces of the fifty or so men who stood in the dockyards? Some of them were carrying flags. Some of them were carrying placards. One sign said “Keep Birmisia for Brechs”. Another sign was completely illegible. None of them, so far as Saba could tell, said, “Welcome to our friendly shore”. The eight hundred or so immigrants who lined the railing on the rust bucket known as the S.S. Pigeon Guillemot knew a raw reception when they saw it. They looked as unhappy as the mob did, though they were far quieter about it.

Saba waved to Sergeant Butler, who nodded to his men. As one, the line of blue uniformed constables stepped forward. Lifting a megaphone to his mouth, Saba shouted. “By command of the royal governor, you are hereby ordered to disperse!”

The crowd continued to shout and wave their signs. Then suddenly, every single sign, in unison, burst into splinters as though crushed by giant hands. The flags were unbothered by the spectral forces at work, though a few were dropped by the startled men who carried them. Some of those men, and quite a few others hastened away. The police line moved forward again. More of the men in the unruly group turned and ran. In the end, only three men were taken into custody. Saba turned and nodded to Wizard Bassington, who smiled and disappeared around a corner.

“It’s getting worse,” said Sergeant Butler. “Last month it was only seven or eight rowdies meeting the ships. Now it’s fifty.”

“Be glad it’s not five hundred,” said Saba. “People are fools.”

As if by magic, the lizzie dockworkers and their human foremen appeared to moor the ship and place the gangplank in position so that the immigrants could debark. A few Zaeri also appeared, having been waiting nearby to welcome the new arrivals. One of them was Honor Hertling, who approached the police constables. She wore a simple black and brown dress, and her long black hair hung loose around her shoulders.

“Thank you, gentlemen,” she said.

Butler smiled and nodded, and then went to help his men usher their three prisoners toward the police station. Saba looked at the young woman appraisingly. He couldn’t imagine why she wasn’t married yet. To his knowledge, she had no suitors, not that he knew everyone’s comings and goings. The scar that ran down her cheek, though obvious, did not completely detract from her beauty.

“Governor’s orders,” said Saba. “If it were me, I would have let them alone unless they turned threatening.”

“Yes. I understand your point of view. Freedom of speech is important. These poor people have come a long way though, and endured great hardships to reach our shores.”

“It’s not freedom of speech that concerns me most. If they want to speak, let them write a letter to the editor of the Birmisia Gazette—after all, he’ll print anything. My concern is that one of my PCs could have been injured.”

“I understand. And I want you to know that I plan to vote in your favor on the question of police expansion.”

“Thank you.”

“I fear though,” said Miss Hertling brushing back a stray strand of hair blown by the breeze from offshore. “You may have difficulty locating a wizard now that Brechalon is at war.”

“They’re not too easy to locate at any time.”

She smiled. He chuckled.

“Will I see you at the Dechantagne Estate later?” he asked.

“I’m not a guest at the party,” she replied. “But I will be stopping by later to check on Mrs. Dechantagne. She’s feeling dicky.”

“I hope she’s all right.” The real concern in Saba’s voice made Miss Hertling smile.

“I’m sure she will be.”

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