The Price of Magic – Chapter 13 Excerpt

“Ack!” said Senta, blowing water out of her nose.

Szim rose to the surface of the little pool that was the lizzie bathtub and circled around her like an alligator.

“No fair! How am I supposed to keep up without a tail?”

Senta was not a strong swimmer even by human standards, having had little opportunity to swim, growing up first in a large city with few clean waterways, and then in a primordial land in which every body of water held frightful predators.

The lizzie submerged briefly and then shot out of the water so quickly that she was able to land feet first on the stone edging. She reached down a clawed hand, and pulled the human female from the water.

“Frogs swim very well, and they have no tail.”

“Do I look like a frog to you?”

The lizzie tilted her head, looking at the human with one eye.

“Oh very funny.”

“Come, I will paint you,” said Szim.

A table in the corner of the room served as a sort of vanity for reptilians, and was stocked with pigments that the lizzies used to decorate their bodies. Two days earlier, Szim had convinced Senta to let her paint her body, and since then she had spent her time naked but for a bit of red, black, and yellow body paint. After all, she reasoned, there were no other humans within a hundred miles, and the lizzies could hardly tell the difference. There was no one to be scandalized and no one to accuse her of going native. Though Szim had tried several designs, she had at last settled on outlining or emphasizing the sigils already imprinted on the sorceress’s body. Senta had fourteen sigils, sort of magical tattoos, adorning her body. Up and down her front were twelve two-inch stars, while on her back were two images of Bessemer, one with open wings that covered both shoulder blades, and one of the young dragon curled up and sleeping in the small of her back. They were the result of creation and summoning magic.

“Okay, my turn,” said Senta, when Szim was done.

She used the same cups of paint to draw designs on the lizzie—red stars surrounded by yellow up and down her back and a large yellow happy face on her belly.

“It is too much,” said Szim. “I’m not important enough to have so much paint.”

“Nonsense. You’re the close personal friend of the most powerful sorceress in the world.” She stopped and looked around.

“What?” wondered the lizzie.

“Just checking to see if someone was going to pop up to contradict me. Oh well. Come on. Let’s go down and eat.”

Szarine had finished setting the table and the food looked delicious. At Senta’s direction, the cuisine had improved greatly over the past week or so. Now boiled eggs and poached fish sat beside fruit salad and a mashed tuber that was almost a potato. The lizzie cook joined them at the table and the three of them began passing the dishes and filling their plates.

“What do you want to do today?” asked Szim. “I don’t think there is anything to show you in the entire complex that you haven’t already seen. Maybe we could climb the mountain.”

“Hmm. Or maybe we could hunt down Khastla and torture him until he calls that stupid dragon home.”

Both the lizzies rolled their eyes in shock.

“You mustn’t say such things!” said Szim. “The god cannot be summoned!”

“Don’t I know it, or he would be here already.”

“Khastla says the god is asleep in Tsahloose,” said Szarine.

“I’ve been waiting here an entire fortnight.”

“Hissussisthiss used to sleep for months,” said Szim.

“Bessemer’s not as big or old as Hissussisthiss was,” said Senta. “It hasn’t been that long since I used to dress him up in my doll’s clothes.”

“You still have your little goddess,” Szim pointed out.

“Yes, I do.” Senta frowned. “You know, I think it’s been four days since I saw her. She’s never been away from me for more than two before. I should scry her and see what trouble she’s into.”

“After that, we can go mountain climbing,” said Szim.

When she had finished eating, Senta left the two lizzies, and climbed the stairs to the bedchamber. Along the way, she stopped and picked up a washbowl from the bathroom and filled it with water. Once upstairs, she placed the bowl and the floor and sat down cross-legged in front of it. The magical art of scrying, observing something or someone from across time and space, wasn’t something that Senta specialized in, but it was simple enough, as divination magic went.

“Uuthanum,” she said, but nothing happened.

“Uuthanum,” she said again.

The water remained transparent and completely unremarkable.

“Uuthanum eetarri.” She touched her finger to the water, and still nothing.

“Kafira’s tits!” Senta growled. It had been a long time since anything had foiled her magic.