The Two Dragons – Chapter 4 Excerpt

The S.S. Arrow left port only hours after the captain learned of the wrecked ship. The Ebon Forest unloaded its passengers and the shipwreck survivors that it had rescued, then refilled its coal hoppers and set out again the following morning to aid in the search.  On board was an emergency team consisting of a doctor, several clerics, and two dozen volunteers.  Mr. Radley Staff, who had planned and organized the team for just such an emergency, was in overall command of the rescue efforts.  As the massive black ship slid across the calm waters of the bay, he could be seen standing on the deck.  Next to him, dwarfing him, was the steel dragon, with gleaming scales reflecting the early summer morning sun.

Senta unhappily watched the ship going.  Bessemer had only arrived home the day before and now he was already leaving. Though they had stayed up the entire night talking, the dragon had not had time enough to relay all of his adventures. The girl had certainly not had time enough to tell him about hers.  It had been an unhappy few months, as it always was when she was separated from her steel-colored friend.  She would have been on the ship with him if not for the fact that Zurfina, who seldom seemed to care what she did, had expressly forbidden her from doing so. Senta wondered about this as she idly rubbed her lower back where the dragon tattoo had appeared.  Bessemer had agreed that it looked like him, though not as he was now.  It was an image of him when he was not much bigger than a cat.

Senta heard her name called and turned to see Hero and her twin brother Hertzel running toward her.

“What are you guys doing here?”

“We’re with Honor, helping out at the governor’s warehouse,” said Hero. “We saw you over here and Hertzel wanted to say hello.”

Hertzel, who had never spoken a word as long as Senta had known him, raised his hand in a friendly wave.

“Hey Hertzel.  You’re not working today?”

Hertzel shrugged, which Senta translated in her head to, “I was going to, but the ship I was to work on went back out to sea.”

“So what’s going on in the governor’s warehouse then?”

“That’s where they have the people from the shipwreck.  They’re getting everyone identified and finding places for them.  That’s not easy when they arrived at the same time as four thousand people from Freedonia.”

“I suspect they’re getting special treatment because they’re Kafirites, don’t you?” Senta said, voicing an opinion that would never have come out of the mouths of the twins, regardless of whether it had residence in their heads.

“They’ve been through an awful hardship,” said Hero.  “Honor brought tea and cakes for them.”

“Your sister is pretty special,” said Senta.  “You would think that Aalwijn Finkler would have brought some tea and cakes.  He owns three cafes.”

The twins turned to look behind them and watched as Aalwijn Finkler in a fine new grey suit walked into the warehouse.  He carried nothing with him.  The three young people looked at each other and then walked down the short block to enter the building after the restaurateur.  The large warehouse was filled with cots, though none were at present occupied by people.  Rather, people wandered around the room in groups and pairs, those obviously from the ship making connection with those obviously from the colony.  Aalwijn was speaking to a handsome man of middle height with a slight paunch in his stomach not quite covered up by a nice black pinstriped suit, now that it was wrinkled from long exposure to seawater.  He had thinning blond hair and a happy though tired face.

“Here come some of your future diners now,” said Aalwijn.  “This is my new chef come all the way from Greater Brechalon.”

“How do you do?”  The man held out his left hand to Hertzel, and both girls could see that this was because he had no right arm below the elbow.

“Kafira’s tit!” shouted Senta, causing dozens of people around her to stare, open-mouthed.  “I know you! You used to work at Café Carlo.”

“Yes.  I did.”

“You’re Gyula.  You were a line cook.”

“That’s right, Gyula Kearn.  Do I know you?”

“I’m Senta.”

Gyula looked no more enlightened than he had been a moment before.

“I used to sweep the sidewalk and polish the brass dragon.”

“Oh yes, Carlo always had the local children doing odd jobs.  It was his way of helping out, Kafira bless him.  We had quite a few kids in and out of the café over the course of the years.  I’m afraid I don’t remember any of them very well.  They just sort of blend together in my memory.”

“You used to make me a sandwich, when Carlo said it was okay.”  Senta’s voice sounded abnormally high in her own ears.

“That I did.  Carlo had a soft spot for children, though he didn’t let it show.  He would always have me load them up with food.  I suppose that’s why he had me working there too.  Who else would have hired a one-handed line cook?”

“Well, I hired a one-handed chef, and I expect great things from him,” said Aalwijn.  “And I dare say if you don’t remember Senta now, you will soon not be able to forget her.”

Senta was feeling something she hadn’t felt in a long time.  What was it exactly?  Chagrin?  Few people whom Senta saw didn’t already know who she was, and those that did, like Oswald Delks had heard of her.  That someone she had met would not remember her—that just didn’t happen.  It was inconceivable.  Whatever the feeling was that Senta felt, it was about to be turned on its end.


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