The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 18 Excerpt

Many people on the shore were watching as the two ships steamed out of the bay and no doubt many people had many different emotions flowing around within them at the sight.  Some might have felt frightened with the realization that their last tenuous lifeline to the world of civilization was now severed.  Some might have been excited that the challenge of taming the new world was now theirs and theirs alone to pursue.  Zeah Korlann didn’t know what he felt.  He didn’t have time to dwell upon any feelings however, he had plenty to do.

By the time the sun set that evening, he had accomplished quite a bit. He had arranged for new work details for the former Freedonians.  Like the colonists who had arrived eight days before them, these individuals would be expected to provide six months of service to the colony.  After that, they could purchase land and begin whatever lives they wished.  That was the theory, anyway.  He had also overseen the clearing of the first bit of forest outside the protective wall.  The first shops and stores would be built here hopefully, when that six month period had ended.  Zeah looked forward to visiting a bakery there.  Inside the walls, they had finished constructing a large smokehouse. And finally, that afternoon, the colony’s first fishing boat had floated out into the bay.

Zeah had two stops to make after dinner and before he went back to his own apartment.  The first was to the headquarters tent of Miss Dechantagne.  He would have gone to report to her in any case, but he felt doubly obligated to stop because the Royal Colonial Governor was alone.  Her brothers had left at first light the day before with one hundred eighty soldiers and accompanied by a half dozen reptilian aborigines.  Their mission was to elevate one of the local chiefs to dominance, and at the same time show off modern Brech firepower—put the fear of God into the locals, let them know who was the boss.  Nobody expected stone spear equipped lizardmen to be able to face the power of four platoons of riflemen, and both brothers had spent their time in the army. Still, it was a combat mission, and things could happen.

Knocking on the tent pole that served as a doorjamb, he was rewarded with a “Come in.”

Miss Dechantagne was not alone.  Zeah’s daughter Yuah was in the tent.  She was sitting in one of the folding chairs in front of Miss Dechantagne’s massive desk and Miss Dechantagne herself was sitting in the heavy oak swivel chair behind it.  The two women were sipping cups of tea.

“Hello Papa,” said his daughter, standing up to kiss him on the cheek.

“Good evening.  I didn’t expect to find you here.”

“We were just having tea,” said Miss Dechantagne.  “Would you like some?”

Only Zeah’s carefully regulated composure allowed him to reply without stuttering.  Miss Dechantagne inviting him to tea?  The heat must have somehow addled her.

“No, thank you.  I just wanted to check in and let you know that everything is on schedule.”

“I’m quite excited about the smokehouse, myself,” said Yuah.  “Mrs. Colbshallow is already planning sausages.”

Zeah looked at his daughter with a raised eyebrow.  It seemed that the governor was not the only one who had lost her mind.  Yuah was sipping tea and making small talk with Miss Dechantagne.

“Thank you Zeah,” said the governor.  “I’m pleased to see that our new arrivals are proving to be more of an asset than a hindrance.”

“Indeed.”  Zeah stood for a moment

“You should go get some rest.”

“Very well.  Good night.” He nodded to the women and stepped out the tent flap.  The two women laughed.  Zeah shook his head and walked off.

His second stop was to see Egeria Lusk.  She had completely recovered from her wounds at the hands of an unknown attacker and had in fact, spent much of the day supervising work on the Result Mechanism, though she had left the actual pressing of buttons and throwing of switches to someone else.  He knocked on the door of her apartment and again was asked to “come in” and again found two women sitting and sipping tea.  This time it was Egeria and Sister Auni, the Kafirite cleric.  Sister Auni rose as he entered.

“Good evening, Mr. Korlann,” she said.  “I was just leaving.”

“No need to leave on my account.”

“No, no.  We’ve had a lovely talk, but now I must get back to my own room.”

“Well, good night,” he said, as he held the door open for the clergywoman.

“I’m so glad you came by,” said Egeria, once Sister Auni had left.  “Please sit down.”

“Thank you.  What were you two talking about?”

“Oh, life, the universe, and everything.”

“And what was her take on it.”

“We were just chatting, really,” said Egeria.  “I was sorry that we didn’t get to have supper together.”

“I didn’t really have time for supper today,” said Zeah.  “I was hoping that you would join me tomorrow though.”

“I would be delighted,” she smiled.

Though he was quite as busy the next day as he had been the previous, Zeah had little thought for anything he was doing and much for that night’s supper.  He took a fine haddock from the first load of fish brought in on the new fishing boat.  Though Mrs. Colbshallow was not available, he found a Mrs. Finkler among the Freedonian immigrants, who by all accounts was a wonderful cook.  He paid her two marks to prepare roasted fish.  She proved to be as good as her reputation, and at the appointed time delivered not only two beautifully roasted fish fillets, but a large plate of potatoes, seasoned in a way that was completely new to former butler but was delicious, and roasted leeks covered in sweet butter.

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