The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 9 Excerpt

Senta watched from the deck of the H.M.S. Minotaur high above, as Iolanthe Dechantagne paced back and forth on the dock, her hands clasped tightly behind her back.  Senta clasped her own hands behind her back and paced back and forth across the deck, all the while keeping watch on Miss Dechantagne from the corner of her eye. Miss Dechantagne’s older brother, Captain Dechantagne, walked up to her and she stepped close to him and spoke, emphasizing whatever words she was saying by poking her index finger into his chest.  Senta walked over to the small tiny steel dragon sitting near her.  He had a tiny chain fastened around his ankle, attaching him to his carrier box.  She poked her finger at the dragon.

“You listen to me,” she said.  “I’m very important and you are only my brother, and I am the boss, and you’d better not do anything I don’t like.”

The dragon half-heartedly snapped at her finger, which she pulled out of the way.

“Don’t tease our boy, Pet,” said Zurfina, appearing behind her.

“He doesn’t want that chain on,” said Senta.

“We can’t let him loose right now,” said the sorceress.  “He’s liable to fly off into the forest and not come back until well after we’re gone.”

“He can’t fly very good.”

“That’s just what he wants you to think.  Now bring him inside.  I have something for you.”

Senta opened the door of the animal carrier, but the little dragon just looked at her.

“Go on,” she said.  “Get in.”

The dragon made a noise more like a cat yowling than a reptile.  Senta reached out and rubbed the scales on its belly. The dragon bit her on the wrist, not hard, though its needle sharp teeth still drew blood.

“Ow!”

The dragon made an apologetic noise and then crawled down into its chamber. Senta closed the carrier and then sat down.  The ship was starting to spin around her.  She looked down without real comprehension at her wrist and watched as the blood flowed freely down her palms, down her fingers and dripped into a puddle on the deck.

“Cheeky twonk.” said Senta, woozily.

“Oh good grief,” said Zurfina.

She bent down and pulled the large, black ribbon from Senta’s hair and tied it around the girl’s bleeding wrist.  Then she picked her up and heaved her over her shoulder.  Leaving the dragon in his carrier, sitting on the deck, she carried the girl to the hatch.  Senta couldn’t pay any attention to the direction they were going, once below deck. It didn’t really matter.  Every time they went below, they went to a different door.  Once inside the door though, they were always back in their cabin.  Senta wouldn’t have been able to find her own cabin without the sorceress, but Zurfina was usually there to guide her.

The cabin was spacious.  It was large enough to hold two comfortable beds and had its own bathroom.  It also featured a great many pictures on the walls—a few were photographs, but most were painted, and all were of Zurfina. The biggest picture was taller than Senta, and was a portrait of the sorceress sitting on a blue day couch, naked except for a pair of dark silk stockings, a silver necklace with a large, dangly pendant, and a black feather boa around her neck.  The painting hung just above one of the beds.

Zurfina tossed Senta onto the bed just below the great nude painting.  She walked to the other bed and opened a huge wooden trunk at its foot, rummaged around for a moment, and then approached the girl with a small brown bottle.  She unwrapped Senta’s wrist, took the stopper out of the bottle, and poured some of its contents onto the bite marks, which had immediately begun to bleed again upon being exposed to the air.  The liquid from the bottle was cool and clear, but it bubbled and fizzed on the blood.  After a moment, Zurfina poured on a second dose, and it washed away the blood, leaving not a single bleeding hole, not a blemish, not even a scar.

“That’s the fourth time this week,” said Zurfina.

“He didn’t mean to bite me,” said Senta.

“No, he didn’t,” said the sorceress.  “He’s just too little to help himself when something that looks like food gets near his mouth.  Just imagine if someone who looked like a giant teacake was waving her hands around your mouth.  It would be hard to resist, now wouldn’t it?”

“Now I’m hungry,” said Senta.

“You’ll be very excited to hear then that we are having dinner with Miss Dechantagne.  You’ll be able to watch her from up close,” Zurfina smirked.  “Believe me.  That will be even more fun.” She sat the small, brown bottle on the floor by the bed.

“Yay,” said Senta.

“Have a crumpet to tide you over.”  Seemingly from nowhere, the sorceress produced a small plate with a steaming crumpet covered with melted butter and strawberry jam, and a small glass of milk.  Senta ate the crumpet quickly, and wiped the excess butter on her dress.  Then she drank the milk.  When she was done, the plate and glass went mysteriously back to wherever they had come from.

“Now,” said Zurfina, producing a large sewing needle.  “I’m going to pierce your ears, Pet.”

“Is it going to hurt?”

“Yes,” said Zurfina, grabbing the girl’s earlobe and sticking the needle through it.

Senta screamed.  The sorceress didn’t wait for the girl to stop screaming.  She took the needle and plunged it through her other earlobe. Then, while the girl’s crying lessened to a weeping, she pulled out two hoops of gold, about an inch in diameter, and placed one in each of the girl’s ears.  Retrieving the brown bottle from the bedside, she poured a bit of the clear liquid on each of the tiny holes she had just made.  Senta took a deep, sobbing breath.

“All right, stop crying.  It doesn’t even hurt anymore.”

The girl stuck out her tongue.  Zurfina returned the gesture.

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