The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 11 Excerpt

Cissy returned to the Dechantagne estate after delivering the message to Saba Colbshallow.  Cissy couldn’t read the scrawling script of the message like she could the printed words in books, but she knew what it said.  It informed the young corporal that Mr. Streck was off the premises and that he should be watched.  It was amazing what could be discovered by standing and listening.  The humans usually treated the lizzies as though they were furniture.

Tisson was at his usual place by the front door and Cissy stopped for a moment to speak to him.  She placed the back of her hand on her dewlap in greeting and the gesture was returned.

“You were not gone long,” said Tisson.

“It was a simple errand.”

“Did you receive any extra copper bits?”

“Not this time.”

It had taken a while for the lizardmen to realize that the humans would often give them additional copper bits as a bonus when some tasks were completed. The humans called these “tips.” Now the lizzies looked for them.

“Kheesie was looking for you earlier.”


“She wants you to take your turn caring for the young one.”

Cissy bobbed her head up and down in the human fashion and started for the door.


“Yes?” asked Cissy, turning around, slightly surprised by the use of her lizzie name.

“Some of the others are talking.  They say Ssterrost will not let you return to Tserich.”

“I thought you didn’t want to go back either.”

“I don’t.  But I am old. You are still young.  You could have returned with all your wealth and had a good life.  But now they are saying that you are ‘khikheto tonahass hoonan’.”

“Maybe I am human on the inside.”

Inside the house, Cissy found Kheesie.

“Thank Hissussisthiss you are back.  I haven’t had a chance to sleep since yesterday.”

“The god of forests had nothing to do with it.  Where is the child?”

“The thin white and brown one has it.”

“Her,” corrected Cissy.  “Where are they?”

“They are in the great room, but don’t go there.  The matriarch is there and so are the blind warrior and the old frightened one.”

“It is fine.  You may go rest.  I will watch the child.”  Cissy squinted, amused.

Cissy made her way into the parlor and took a place quietly in the corner. She was not afraid of the humans in question.  In fact, she found them fascinating.  All of the individuals described were present—Mr. and Mrs. Dechantagne, Governor Dechantagne-Calliere, Mrs. Godwin, and of course Iolana.  The lizzies had their own descriptive names for all of them; the names Kheesie had used.  Professor Calliere, whom they called “the tall one who makes no sense”, was not present. Mrs. Colbshallow, whom they simply called by the human word “lady”, was in the kitchen as usual.

“I think I should have something to say about it,” Mrs. Dechantagne was saying, “because of my unique situation in this house.”

“I am well aware that you are the lady of the house now,” replied Mrs. Dechantagne-Calliere sharply.  “Are you trying to rub my nose in it?”

“No!  I don’t… that’s not the position to which I was referring.”

“My wife is alluding to the fact that she is the only Zaeri in the house,” said Mr. Dechantagne.

“Really?  I suppose I just assumed that she was going to convert.”

“Leave that alone, Iolanthe.  You know she has no desire to convert and you know that I wouldn’t have asked it of her.”

“I will leave this alone.  And she must leave that alone.  Mercy and his… solicitor are my concern, and I am more than capable of dealing with it.”

Mr. Dechantagne turned back to his wife, though of course he could not see her. “She’s right Yuah.  You should stay out of this.  You get too worked up over it.  You’re too emotional.”

“I’m emotional?” cried Mrs. Dechantagne, jumping to her feet.  “I’m the least emotional person in this house!

She stomped her foot twice, and marched out of the room.

“Oh, well done sister,” said Mr. Dechantagne.  “Now I have absolutely no chance of a decent night’s sleep.”

“That’s your own fault.  I didn’t tell you to marry her.”

“Yes, well I occasionally do things other than what you specifically tell me to do.”

“As long as you don’t forget to do those things.”

The child, who until that moment had been playing quietly on the floor with a stuffed animal, began to fuss.  Mrs. Dechantagne-Calliere scooped her up and carried her from the room. The room was quiet for just a moment, and then Mrs. Godwin let out a large snore.

“Mrs. Godwin?  Mrs. Godwin?”

“Yes?  What? Yes?”

“Do you want to go upstairs to your room and take a nap?”

“Yes, that’s a lovely idea.”  She got to her feet so slowly that Cissy took it on herself to step forward and help her. The elderly woman accepted the clawed hand and made it to her feet.  She looked at the man sitting across from her.  “Which one are you again?”


“Yes, of course.  You were always my favorite.  Have you finished your studies?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“That’s very good.  You keep it up and you’ll go far in this life.”

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