Senta and Hero stepped through the great gate in the emergency wall just in time to see a fireball shoot across the square and crash into the second and third floors of Finkler’s Bakery. Patrons ran screaming from the ground floor as the upper floors took to flame.
“You stupid cow!” shouted Senta. “Why would you cast a fireball in the middle of town?”
“Oh my!” said Hero, when she saw who Senta was talking to.
Another Senta was standing in the square in front of them. This one was wearing a red dress. Hero thought she looked older than the Senta standing beside her, but then realized it was simply that she was a bit heavier.
“You stay out of this,” said the red-dressed Senta. “You take care of your business and I’ll take care of mine.”
“I don’t recall burning down the town as being part of anyone’s business,” replied leather-clad Senta.
She grabbed a glamour from the air next to her. It was one she had kept ever since Mayor Korlann’s house had burnt down. She pointed her hand and the air around the burning building was flooded with carbon dioxide, smothering the fire.
“I’m just sending a little message,” said the other Senta. “Look. Now you’ve let them get away.”
“Let who get away?”
“Graham and that girl he’s running around with.”
“He what now?” Senta looked at Hero, who shrugged. “Whatever’s going on, you have no business trying to kill Graham.”
“I’m not going to kill him. Only maim him a little bit.”
“Obviously the first thing I need to do is to get rid of you,” said Senta, waving her hands. “Teiius uuthanum.”
“Uuthanum,” said the other Senta, countering the spell. “You’ve got to be kidding. No copy is going to out-magic me. Uuthanum Teigor.”
“I thought she was the copy,” said Hero.
“Prestus uuthanum. She is the copy. Go stand out of the way. Ariana uuthanum sembor!”
A sticky mass of spider webs enveloped the red-dressed Senta. She struggled for a moment, falling to the ground. By the time she managed to dispel the webs, the leather-clad Senta had cast a charm spell on her. Stepping over, she looked down at the image of herself lying almost helpless on the ground.
“If you touch me, you’ll see,” said the prone sorceress, in a sing-song voice. “I’m the real Senta. You’ll just cease to exist.”
“Let’s see then,” said Senta, reaching down and touching a perfect copy of her own nose.
The red dress seemed to deflate as the Senta who had been wearing it dissolved and flowed up and into the hand of the standing sorceress.
“Nice,” said Senta, standing up. “A new dress. I was wondering how that was going to work out.”
“I should have known you were the source of the trouble,” said Saba Colbshallow.
He looked sternly at Senta from beneath his police helmet, his blue uniform, with the exception of the sergeant stripes, a match for those of the two constables that followed on his heels.
“I didn’t…” Senta started. “But she… Oh, bloody hell.”
“Come along with me to the station,” said Saba. “We’ll get all the details down in a report. But I can tell you right now that someone is going to be held responsible for the damage.”
The top floors of the bakery had been saved from the fire, but there was plenty of scorching on the outside walls and no one would be too surprised if some of the supports had to be replaced.
“Fine,” said Senta, and then turning to Hero. “See if Mrs. Bratihn can get this dress cleaned. Tell her I’ll come around for a fitting.”
* * * * *
“I don’t know why they let that little witch run around free,” said Yuah, curling up in a fluffy blanket near the fireplace. “She’s a menace to society.”
Though she had spent the past three days under the careful nursing care of Mrs. Colbshallow, she still looked a bit ragged around the edges. Her always fair skin was decidedly pasty and her eyes were puffy and bloodshot.
“Well, um…” Honor Hertling stated to reply, but finding she had nothing to say, stopped.
“You should be careful, letting her into your home,” continued Yuah. “You mark my words, she’ll prove a bad influence on your little brother and sister. Too much proximity to that kind of trouble; you’ll see.”
“As I recall,” said Honor. “You used to be quite friendly with Senta.”
“That was before,” snapped Yuah. “That was before I knew how… unnatural she was. It’s that Zurfina. That woman should never have been allowed possession of a child.”
“I do agree with you there,” said Mrs. Colbshallow, looking up from her knitting. “She quite frightens me.”
“Yes,” agreed Honor. “She’s necessary though.”
“Now you sound just like Iolanthe.”
“Let’s talk about something more pleasant,” said Mrs. Colbshallow. “Like the high cost of coal.”
“Or new dresses,” suggested Honor. “Yuah, you must have a new dress since we last visited.”