Senta closed the door behind her and stomped the damp snow off of her overs. It was getting near dusk and the lower room of the tower was filled with shadows. Pointing at the lamp beside the chair, she brought it to life with a word. Several other lamps followed. The room, now bathed in warm light revealed its contents, including the steel dragon lying in the corner.
“Hey,” Senta called. “You’ve been asleep for two days. Wake up.”
Bessemer opened his eyes and yawned. “What?”
“You sleep too much, that’s all.”
“I am a dragon.”
Senta plopped down in the chair and kicked her overs off, followed by her shoes and her socks. Tucking her legs up under her, she wrapped her coat tightly around her.
“It’s too cold.”
The dragon rose from his spot by the stove and climbed up onto the chair. He draped his body over the chair back and wrapped his tail around her. Curling his long neck around so that he could look her in the face, he asked. “What is the matter?”
“I worked all day making those potions.” She pointed to several small vials on the kitchen table. “So when I finally get a chance to go out and play, everyone has gone home for the night. What am I supposed to do now?”
“Oh, you’re a big help. Why don’t you do my lessons if they’re so great?”
Senta stuck out her tongue. Bessemer mirrored her action. She frowned at him for a moment, but then grabbed him around the neck and pulled his scaly face to hers.
“I’m sorry. I’m just bored and tired, and I’m really ready for winter to be over. It’s too damn cold. By the way, where is Zurfina? She’s supposed to tell me whether my dionoserin is any good.”
“Is she alone?”
“Is Jex with her?”
The dragon nodded.
He nodded again. Then he climbed down from the chair and headed for the door.
“Happy hunting,” said Senta, though she herself seemed anything but happy.
“Toodle pip,” said Bessemer, and then he was gone.
Senta made her way up the stairs, past the rooms designated for Bessemer but almost never used, up to her own room. She peeled off her clothes and ran a hot bath for herself. Once she was clean and warm, she put on her warmest nightclothes and headed back down to the kitchen for something to eat. She stoked the fire in the stove and added two logs before heading for the froredor. But something stopped her.
Sitting there on the kitchen table, just where she had left it that afternoon, was the small clear vial filled with silvery liquid. Dionoserin. A bottle just that big sold for thousands of marks. Of course it was illegal in Brechalon, but they weren’t in Brechalon anymore. Did it work? Did she grind the walnuts up enough? Did she maintain her aura? Taking two quick steps to the table, she snatched up the bottle, pulled off the cork stopper, and drank it down. What’s the worst that could happen?
“Well, I could die,” she said aloud.
She didn’t wait to see if she would die though. She ran up the two flights of stairs to her room, and then crept up one more flight stopping just before she reached the level. She slowly peered over the top step and into Zurfina’s room. She had a good idea what to expect. Senta had lived with the sorceress almost two years now. During that time Zurfina had entertained a number of male admirers.
The first thing that Senta saw was Mr. Jex, standing in the middle of the room. She was happy to see that he was fully clothed. The second thing Senta saw was Zurfina, and she was not. She was posed upon her bed, her head hanging over the edge, so that she was looking at Mr. Jex and everything else upside down. Her blond hair draped down almost to the floor, hiding her little bald spot. Her crossed legs were sticking straight up in the air. Mr. Jex stared at her for a moment before turning back to a large canvas and poking at it with the paintbrush. He was standing between Senta and the painting, but she didn’t need to see it to know what it was. Zurfina was having another nude painting done of herself.
Senta slowly climbed the last four steps and walked around Mr. Jex so that she could see the painting. He really was quite good.
“What do you think Pet?” asked Zurfina, without moving from her pose.
Startled, Jex turned around to look at her. He had a small paint pallet in his right hand.
“I think it’s time for you to go,” said Senta.
Jex looked like he was going to say something, but then stopped and setting his pallet and brush on the floor, turned and went swiftly down the stairs. Just as the sound of the front door closing echoed back up, Zurfina sat upright and in a fluid cat-like motion got up from the bed.
“Put on some clothes, Fina.”
The sorceress made the smallest of gestures with her right hand and suddenly she was clad in a long, silky, black dressing gown.
“Are you ready for something to eat, Pet?”
“Yes,” replied Senta, a sly smile creeping onto her face. “I don’t think you should magic it though. I think it would be nice if you made me supper with your own hands.”