The Sorceress and her Lovers – Chapter 15 Excerpt

“Are you going to kick me out again at teatime?” asked Baxter, folding his arms and looking down at Senta.

She was reclining across a Mirsannan divan.  She wore a long, flowing silk gown that completely covered her charms, though on the wall directly above her was a photograph of her and her mother reclining on the same piece of furniture—both nude.  She reached up to rub her long, exposed neck. Then she ran her hand over her head, her blond tresses about the same length as his own red hair.

“Of course not,” she smiled.  “I want you to be here.  These girls today are my oldest and dearest friends and they’ll want to see you. Afterwards you can run along so that they can all tell me how jealous they are.”

“What about yesterday?”

“That was different.  It was more of an obligation.  I know that Graham’s sister will see me with you sooner or later, but I didn’t want to throw it in her face the moment I got back.”

“It’s been a long time,” he said.  “He’s been gone a long time.”

“Almost four years, but when I see Gaylene, it’s like it was yesterday.  Not like now—now it feels like it was eons ago. It’s a kind of magic, you know.”

“So I’m invited?”

“You’re more than invited.  How did they say it when you were in the navy?  You’re requested and required.  You can skip out tomorrow if you like.  The same girls will be back again, along with some others.  But you have to be here the day after.  The governor and her family are coming.”

“Really?”

“Oh, yes.  You’re living in sin with a very important mucky-muck.”

“Should I dress?” he asked.

“We always dress for tea in this house—unless we don’t.”

He stared at her for a moment, and then shrugged his shoulders and left the room. Senta knew he was going upstairs to dress.  He had been given over for his own use one of the thirty rooms in the three-story mansion, but he had spent both nights in Senta’s bed.  Looking up at the clock, she decided that she should dress too.

Climbing the stairs still causes a pain in her chest where she had been shot, but it was the only time now that she thought about it.  At the top of the sweeping staircase, she waved her hand, magically summoning her lizzie dressing maid.  The deep olive reptilian appeared from a room at the end of the hall and met her as she stepped into her boudoir.

One of only three servants in the house as of yet, Aggie was new.  Cheery the butler, and Thonass the maid had worked for Senta for years and had taken care of the house while she was away. Thonass had given Aggie the recommendation.  They were from the same family—or what passed for family among the lizzies.

“Something pretty today,” she told the reptilian.  “Bring me my yellow and white striped day dress.”

“Yess.”

The dress was a traditional one.  Cut for a medium-sized bustle, the skirt was vertically lined with broad yellow and white stripes while the bodice was a solid yellow with puffy frills of lace around the high neck and at the end of each long sleeve.  She topped off the ensemble with yellow emeralds dangling from her pierced ears.  She slipped a ring on her right hand that featured a yellow garnet.  It was practically worthless, but she had purchased it in Bangdorf because she thought it was pretty.

“Nice,” said the dressing maid.

“I was just thinking the same thing,” said Baxter, stepping into the room. He was sharp in his grey suit.  He was always sharp.

“Thank you, kind sir,” she said with a curtsey.  “Shall we go down?”

Suddenly the baby began fussing from her crib in the next room.

“I’ll be down in a minute,” said Baxter, following her cries.

“Hmm,” she murmured, observing him.  Then she turned to the dressing maid.  “I’m going down to set up.  Tell Thonass to find me.”

In the dining room, Senta found the table set with the everyday china, but the food for the afternoon tea filled several wooden crates stacked nearby.  Having no one to cook and no one really to serve, she had ordered the tea catered from Café Etta.

“Uuthanum,” she said and the food began flying out of the crates, soaring around the room, and landing on the appropriate plates and serving platters. A spice cake was coming into a landing in the center of the table with Thonass stepped into the room.

“Take this envelope,” said Senta, retrieving the stated item from the lamp table along the wall.  “Deliver it to the employment agency at the Department of Lizzie Affairs.  It is a list of the other servants I shall need.”

“Yess,” said the lizzie.

As Thonass was going out, Cheery was coming in.

“Guests,” he said.

“Bring them on into the dining room please.”

The reptilian stepped out and came back a few seconds later leading three young women.

“Senta!” squealed Hero Markham, rushing forward and wrapping her arms around the sorceress’s waist.  “I’ve missed you so much!  Look at your hair.  You look like a boy.”

“Well it’s good to be appreciated.  You look wonderful.  How’s the baby?”

“Brilliant.”

“She’s beautiful too,” said Gabrielle Bassett from behind Hero.  She looks just like her mother.

Taller than Hero, though still shorter than Senta, Gabrielle was radiantly beautiful with sparkling blue eyes and ash brown hair.  Behind her stood the third young woman.  Dutty Morris was attractive but not pretty.  Though her widely spaced eyes gave her a kind of blank expression, she was witty and kind.

“Hello, Gabby,” said Senta, disentangling herself from Hero and giving the other two girls quick kisses on the cheek.  “Hi Dutty.  Thanks for coming yesterday.”

“It was my pleasure,” said Dutty.  “And I didn’t give away any of your secrets either.”

“What secrets?” asked Gabby and Hero at the same time.

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Senta and the Steel Dragon Characters: Iolanthe Dechantagne

I don’t know where the idea came from for Iolanthe. In a lot of ways, she’s a much bitchier version of my mother, at least as I remember her from when I was a kid. Iolanthe has to be really tough to make it in a man’s world, especially a Victorian one. And her history explains a lot about her disposition. Her most distinctive physical feature: her aquamarine eyes, just came out of nowhere. I was looking for things to make my setting a little more other-worldly and that just popped into being. Her first name came from a baby name web site, but I made up the last name. I wanted something that could have gone from French into English aristocracy.

Because she is such a major Bitch, Iolanthe is a lot of fun to write. She can be very sympathetic and just when you think you’re going to start liking her, she does something excrutiatingly mean. Still, she is one of the heroes of the story. So what if she drives her family to destruction, basically enslaves an entire native population, and (arguably) commits several murders.

By book 6, The Sorceress and her Lovers, Iolanthe’s arc is essentially over.  She has achieved all of her goals, and the action moves to the younger members of her family.  One of them though, is he daughter Iolana, with who she has a very difficult relationship.

 

The Sorceress and her Lovers – Chapter 15 Excerpt

Chief Inspector Saba Colbshallow sat down for breakfast.  He looked first to his left at his mother and then to his right at his daughter.

“And where’s the lady of the house?” he asked.

“Mummy says she doesn’t feel good,” said DeeDee.  “She’s going to stay in bed today.”

Saba clucked his teeth in annoyance as Risty scooped scrambled eggs with diced peppers and onions onto his plate next to the sausages.

“I’m sure she has a good reason,” offered his mother.

“I’m sure.”

“She’s been having a rough time lately.”

“No doubt.”

“I don’t like onions in my eggs,” said DeeDee.

“Yes you do,” said her father.  “Look at me. I’m eating them.  Eat some and then Risty will get you a crumpet.”

“Maybe she’s out of sorts because she’s expecting,” said Mrs. Colbshallow.

“And here I thought Kafira was the only Immaculate Conception,” he muttered. He took another bite and ignored his mother’s scandalized look.

The only other bit of breakfast conversation was when DeeDee demanded strawberry jam with her crumpet.  When they were done, Saba helped his daughter fasten on her shoes and then her bonnet.

“Come along girl.  Your tutor is awaiting.”

“Maybe you should go up and kiss your wife goodbye,” said his mother.

“I’m sure she’s very busy with the second coming and all,” he said, and guided DeeDee out the front door.

They walked across the street to the Dechantagne Staff estate, where the lizzie doorman let them enter.  Mrs. Dechantagne was alone in the parlor.

“Hello Saba,” she said, getting to her feet.

“Please don’t get up, Mrs. D.”

“Oh please don’t call me that.”  She sat the book that she had been reading down and stepped over to him. “You’ve known me all your life, we lived in the same house for years, and don’t forget you were my husband’s best man at my wedding.”

“I was just a witness, and I haven’t forgotten a single moment.”

“You’re so sweet,” she smiled.  “What can I do for you today.”

“DeeDee’s going to start on with Iolana.”

“You’re early.  They usually don’t start until 11:00.”

“Yes, well I was wondering if I could leave her early.  Her mother’s not feeling well.”

“Of course.  I’ll take her upstairs and she can play with Terra.  That girl could use some human companionship.”

“If you’re sure it’s not an inconvenience…”

“None at all.  But you have to do me a favor first.”

“What?” he asked.

“You must address me properly.”

“As you wish… Yuah.”  He blushed furiously.

“See, that didn’t hurt,” she said as she took DeeDee’s hand.

“Be a good girl,” Saba told his daughter.

“I will.”

Back outside, he crossed over to his own yard, but didn’t go into the house. He climbed into the steam carriage that the lizzies had already rolled from the machine shed and fired up. Putting it in gear, he pulled out onto the street and headed for downtown.

He arrived at the five-story police station five minutes later than his usual time. He had parked the car and quickly made his way up the walk when he almost collided with Eamon Shrubb, who was on his way out.  He was dressed not in his police uniform, but in a grey suit not too different from the one that Saba wore, with the exception that Eamon had a turquoise utahraptor feather stuck in the hatband of his bowler.

“What’s this then?” asked Saba, waving at the other man’s clothes. “Finally got canned?”

“Quite the reverse, actually,” said Eamon.

“What’s the reverse of canned?  You can’t have just got hired.  You already work here.”

Eamon reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a wallet, flipping it open to reveal a police inspector’s badge.

“Well, somebody has clearly cocked up,” said Saba.

“Don’t tell me you didn’t have anything to do with it.”

“Not me.  It’s Mayor Luebking.  He’s got it in his mind that you’ve done some decent police work, and I can’t seem to disabuse him of the notion.  The man’s going to run this town into the ground, I can tell you.  Well, no help for that.  Come upstairs with me and we’ll run through the open investigations.”

“Um, I’ll be back in a bit.  I have to go show Dot my new badge.”

“Oh leave the poor girl alone.  You’re going to knock her up again.”

“Too late,” said Eamon with a grin.

“Bloody Kafira.  You’re like some kind of animal.”  Saba shook his head.  “All right. Go show her your badge, if that’s what you’re calling it these days.  Be back in an hour.  We really do have work to do.”

Taking the elevator up to his office, Saba pulled all the relevant files from the cabinet and began reading over them.  There were quite a few unsolved cases, though that was not uncommon anywhere in the Brech Empire.  The purpose of the police department was to keep order.  Solving crimes was secondary.  Besides, Birmisia Colony only had three police inspectors, himself included—four now that Eamon was on board.  There were four unsolved murders, as well as the killing of a lizzie, which was considered a lesser crime.  There were several dozen burglaries, a few robberies, an arson, and of course the bombing of the shipyard.  Saba was so involved, that he hardly noticed when Eamon stepped into his office.

“That didn’t take long.”

“Dot’s sister was there—lucky for me.  You know how she gets when she’s preggers.”

“Hmm.”

“So what have we got?”

Senta and the Steel Dragon Characters

Senta Bly is the title character from the Senta and the Steel Dragon series.  The funny thing about Senta is that I never intended to write a book about her, let alone make her the main character in a series. Here now, I’ve chronicled her life from age 6 to 34, in ten books.  I originally wrote a description from her viewpoint that was supposed to showcase the setting of Brech City. When I eventually plotted out the trilogy that would become books 1, 3, and 5 of the Senta and the Steel Dragon Series, she took on more and more importance. When I added books 0, 2, and 4 to the mix, the entire story really became her story.

Senta is precocious and self-confident. As she grows up she learns more and more magic and discovers that she is a powerful sorceress. One of the most fun things about writing this series is that the characters are so inter-connected. Senta has relationships of one sort or another with more than a hundred major and minor characters. Hopefully this diversity makes her as much fun to read about as she is to write about.

There is a book ten of the series (technically the eleventh book, since there is a book 0) and it will probably come out next year.

The Sorceress and her Lovers – Chapter 14 Excerpt

Hsrandtuss looked around.  Yessonarah didn’t look appreciatively different than it had yesterday, or the day before, or for that matter, ten days ago.  The dam was still under construction.  The roadway down to the river was still being lined with gravel from the riverbed.  There were more wooden houses situated around the hill—over a hundred, but the great buildings that he had envisioned were nothing but foundations, at the most. The lizzie population had grown though. He shook his head.

“What is the matter, my husband?” asked Szakhandu.

“Things are not moving fast enough.”

“We are making great progress.”

“It’s not fast enough.  We don’t even have enough houses for all our people yet.”  He pointed toward the hill.  “I’m supposed to be looking at Yessonarah there.  Does that look like a city worthy of the one remaining god to you?”

“Tsahloose was not built in a day.”

“Was it built in ten days?” he asked.  “We’ve been here ten days now.”

She hissed mirthfully.  “No, Great King.  I don’t think it was built in ten days either.”

“I’m glad you find things so amusing.”

“My husband, you have to look at the positive side of things.  We have made contact with seven of the nearby villages and we’re already trading with three of them.  Game is plentiful.  We’re feeding all our people.  Workers are quarrying stone.  In another ten days, it will begin to look like a real city.”

“I don’t want to wait,” he said petulantly.

“Why don’t you take a walk?  That will make you feel better and it’s good for your health.”

Hsrandtuss grunted, but started down the path toward the river.  It was a hot, humid day.  Insects filled the air—more and more so as he approached the water.  He hadn’t even reached the edge of the trees before he spotted half a dozen feathered runners scavenging the refuse piles.  His people were dumping their garbage too close to the settlement.  The six velociraptors, as the humans called them, lifted their heads to watch him pass.  They didn’t approach, but they didn’t flee either.

When he reached the river bend, he stopped.  About a hundred lizzies were moving large stones into place.  The dam, having been started on this side, about halfway spanned the riverbed.  On the far side of the river, several channels detoured the water around the work area.  He didn’t see any crocodiles.  The hunters had killed one two days earlier and the others might have moved down river. Then again, maybe they were just hiding under the surface.  The gigantic beasts were known for their swift and savage attacks, but not their intelligence.

Turning southwest, Hsrandtuss followed the bank upstream.  As the forest grew a bit thicker, the patches of dappled sunlight grew less frequent.  Here he stopped to examine some blackberry bushes, but they had been denuded of fruit.

He heard the rustling of brush behind him and turned, expecting to find more of the raptors, but it was instead four lizzie males.  He didn’t recognize any of them.

“If it isn’t the great Hsrandtuss,” said one of the males, “out for a walk in the woods with no weapon.”

Without looking down, the king ran his hand along his belt.  It wasn’t completely true that he was weaponless. After all, he had his knife.  But he had gone and left his sword and spear at home.  He rested his hand on the knife handle, but didn’t pull the blade from its sheath. One of the males moved to the left, while two others moved to the right, so that they quickly had him surrounded.

“I think it’s time somebody showed you that you’re not so tough.  You can’t just move in wherever you want and take over the country.  People have already claimed this land.  It isn’t yours.”

Hsrandtuss hissed with annoyance.  He hated when they wanted to talk.  If he had his sword, he would have used the opportunity to attack, but since he didn’t, he had to wait for them to make the first move, and this warrior apparently thought he should give a speech first.

“I’m not sure I understand,” he said.  “You have weapons, but it seems you’ve decided to bore me to death.”

“Die invader!” hissed the warrior to Hsrandtuss’s right, thrusting his spear at the king.

Hsrandtuss sidestepped and grabbed the spear with his right hand, jerking the now off-balance warrior forward.  Spinning around, he unsheathed his knife and jabbed it into his attacker’s neck.  The talkative male jumped toward them with his sword raised above his head. Hsrandtuss shoved the wounded lizzie, a fountain of blood now spraying from his carotid artery, into the other’s path. Then he launched the spear he had taken at the male originally on his left.  It skewered him through the middle of the chest.  The lizzie with the sword tried to swing, but only managed to hit his already bloody companion.  As the poor wretch dropped to the ground, Hsrandtuss reached over him and stabbed the first warrior in the eye with his knife.

At that moment the king felt an impact on his back and a suddenly excruciating pain.  He knew the fourth lizzie had hit him with a sword.  Stabbing the first male again, he left his knife stuck in the warrior’s face and reaching up, took the hapless male’s sword.  Swinging it around, he decapitated the male who had hit him in the back.  Then spinning back around, he did the same to the warrior with the knife still stuck in his face.  A quick look at the other two told him they were in no shape to fight, though still alive. He retrieved his knife from the severed head.

Sitting down on a log, he felt his back.  There was a pretty deep slice, at least a foot long, which was bleeding freely. It was a recoverable wound, assuming he made it back home safely.  The smell of blood would attract predators.  After catching his breath, he stood up and stepped over to the warrior with the spear stuck through him.

“Where are you from?”

The warrior said nothing, just looked up with his yellow eyes.

“I can find out from your war paint, assuming the feathered runners leave enough of you for my people to find.”

“We are from Achocktah.”

“Did your chief send you?”

“No, it was Stohla.”  He looked at the body of the talkative lizzie.  “He wanted to be king.  Killing you would have given him much suuwasuu.”

The Sorceress and her Lovers – Chapter 13 Excerpt

Baxter leaned out as far as he could, looking at the beast swimming in the ocean two hundred feet below him.  Though a modern naval vessel, or for that matter the dirigible in which he now found himself would have dwarfed the marine reptile, it was still quite a monster. It had to be at least thirty feet long and it shot along the surface of the ocean like a dolphin.  It blew up water from its blowhole like one too.

“How soon before we reach Mallontah?” asked Senta, snaking her arm over his shoulder.

“Just after dinner this evening.  It will still be light out.  I understand it doesn’t get dark until after 9:00 this time of year.”

“That’s fine.”

“Where’s the baby?”

“She’s asleep.”

“I don’t like to leave her in the cabin alone.”  He turned and started toward the promenade door.

“She’s fine.  She has her babysitter.”

“And I don’t feel comfortable leaving her with that beast either.”

“It’s hard to believe you’re not her father.”  The words caused him to stop in his tracks.

“I’m very fond of her,” he said, turning.

“Oh, I know you are,” said the sorceress, sliding toward him.  “I think it’s very nice.  You’re a very good man, you know.”

“What’s your point?”

“Oh, I don’t think I have one.”  She wrapped her arms around his neck and licked from his chin to his nose.

He pulled her arms from around him and left the promenade, hurrying down the hallway to their cabin.  Opening the door, he found the baby asleep in the middle of the bed.  Perched on the corner of the bedstead was the coral dragon.

“Good baby,” it said.

Hurrying over to the bedside, Baxter quickly examined the sleeping child. Nothing seemed amiss.  He tucked her blanket around her and scowled at the little reptile.

“You see?  Nothing to worry about.”

He turned around to find the sorceress stepping out of the dress that was now in a pile around her feet.  She was still clad in her undergarments, though she wore fewer than most Brech women.

“You really are a horrible woman, you know.”

“I have my moments,” she smiled.

They spent most of the next hour making love, after which Senta curled up on the bed next to her daughter and went to sleep.  Baxter lit a cigarette and sat down in a chair, less comfortable than it looked, against the wall.  His eyes went from the woman to the child to the dragon, though he wasn’t conscious of any particular thoughts about them.  Just after he finished the cigarette, baby Senta fussed in her sleep. He stepped over to the bed and picked her up, taking her back to the chair and holding her against his chest. She stopped fussing and went back to sleep.  He smelled the baby’s blond hair.  She needed a bath.

His attention was drawn back to the dragon as it slithered down from the bedpost to the mattress.  Its little forked tongue played across the sorceress short hair for just a moment and then it bit her on the ear.

“Ow!  Kafira! You bloody twat!”  She backhanded the little dragon across the snout with her right hand, while cupping her ear with the left.  A thin trickle of blood dripped between her fingers.

“You horrible, vicious…”  She rolled off the bed and bent down in front of the cheval glass to examine herself. “Sweet Kafira Kristos, look at my ear! It’s full of holes!”

“Shh,” soothed Baxter as the baby, disturbed by the noise wriggled.  He kept his voice low as he spoke to her mother. “Maybe you could just put earrings in the holes.”

“I don’t have that many earrings,” growled the sorceress.  “My ear looks like a Mirsannan cheese.”

“Get your healing draught,” said Baxter, getting up and setting the baby in the chair.

When Senta had retrieved the brown bottle from her luggage in the other room, he had her bend her head over while he poured the clear liquid over the wounds. It fizzed a bit and then ran clear. When he wiped the remains away with a handkerchief, her ear was as cute and unblemished as it had been before.

“You!” said Senta, looking at the dragon, which withered under her gaze.

“Mirsannan cheese,” it said.

“Get in your carrier!”  She pointed to the still open connecting door.

The coral reptile flew off the bed and through the door, opened the animal carrier door itself and climbed inside, shutting the door behind it.

“I told you I didn’t trust that creature,” said Baxter.

Senta waved a hand dismissively.  “It’s just one of those things when you’re dealing with dragons. Bessemer must have bitten me a hundred times when I was a kid.”

“You’ll still have that attitude when it eats your baby, will you?”

“She couldn’t eat all of her.  Still, I suppose it’s better if we don’t leave them alone together… for now.”

“Goo.”  They turned to see the baby, awake and sitting up in the chair, watching them with her large grey eyes.

“At least the dragon can speak,” said the sorceress.

“You said the dragon’s four years old.  Senta’s only nine months,” said Baxter.  “Besides, she can speak.  She just said ‘goo’.”

“Good Kafira,” said Peter, when the three of them sat down to tea at his table in the dining room.  “If this voyage goes on much longer I’m going to go out of my mind.  I’m so incredibly bored.”

“You were at sea longer than this when you came to Birmisia before,” said Senta.

“Yes, but I had the other guys with me.  We played games and practiced our magic… chased a few girls… all right, we talked about chasing a few girls.  All I’ve done this trip is eat and sit in my stateroom.”

“I’m sorry we’ve been neglecting you,” she said.

“It’s all right.  I understand you want to be alone and all.”

The Sorceress and her Lovers – Chapter 12 Excerpt

“Good morning, Iolana,” said Radley Staff as he entered the library.

“Good morning, Father,” replied Iolana, turning to the next page of The Girl from Beneath the Earth.

“Still working your way through Inspector Colbshallow’s books?”

“Yes, Father,” she said, turning the page.

“I wouldn’t think you would find them all that interesting.  They’re written for young men.”

“They just speak to me,” she said, turning the page.

“Are you actually reading that?”

“Yes, Father,” she said, turning the page.

“How can you read that fast?  Do you skim through the words?”

Iolana stopped and took the sterling silver bookmark embossed with the Dechantagne family crest from the lamp table, placing it between pages 44-45 of the tattered paperback, which she set next to the unlit lamp.

“No, I don’t skim.  It’s all about training one’s mind to recognize an entire sentence at a time instead of only a single word.  People do it occasionally without even realizing it.  It comes naturally.  For instance, you may read the letters B A S S, but how do you know if that word rhymes with ace or ass?  Your brain tells you because it sees ahead to the rest of the sentence.  So you read ‘the bass is the largest instrument in the orchestra,” or “the bass fishing is best in the lakes of Booth.”

“I see.”  He sat down in the other chair.  “So what is this book about?”

“They’re all essentially the same.  A plucky Brech hero must make his way through dangerous terrain, fight hordes of frightening monsters, and defeat evil masterminds in order to rescue an exotic princess.  This particular princess comes from a hidden world beneath the surface where humans are enslaved by a race of intelligent but evil burrowing insects.”

Mr. Staff laughed.  “And this speaks to you?  Do you identify with the princess or the hero?”

Iolana shrugged.  “All I can say is that I don’t see myself as a burrowing insect.”

“Glad to hear it.  Remember, we are going hunting tomorrow.”

“I don’t think I will go this time.  I have too much to do.”

“You have to go.  I planned this trip weeks ago, and besides, it was your idea.  What exactly is monopolizing your time lately?  I feel like I hardly ever see you anymore.”

“I’ve been spending time with my friends.”

“It’s not a boy, is it?  Do I have to start sending a chaperone with you everywhere you go?”

“I assure you Father, there is no boy interested in me.  I’m either too young, or too smart, or too famous, or too stuck-up, or too ugly to be bothered with.”

“You aren’t ugly, Iolana,” he said.  “But the rest of those are all true.  So you will be ready to go tomorrow at 7:00 AM.”

“As you say, Father,” she said, taking up her book again.

“You must help me see to Terra.  I’m still not sure about taking her with us.  I had the devil’s own time convincing her mother that she should be let out, so you will need to help me.”  He stood up. “Still, she seemed more worried about Augie.  I think she’s had a premonition that he will die young.”

“That’s silly.”

“Of course it is.”

“It’s far more likely that Augie will outlive Terra or me.”

“Why do you say that?  Women usually live longer.”

“I wasn’t speaking of men and women, but of Dechantagnes,” Iolana explained. “Mother was the middle child and she outlived Uncle Terrence and Uncle Augie.  Our grandfather was a middle child, the second of four.  His older brother was killed in the Bordonian War, while his younger sister died of a fever and his younger brother was shot in a disagreement over a gambling debt.  If one were to extrapolate from history, one would have to assume that Augie was destined to survive both his sister and me.”

“Don’t forget, you’re a Staff,” said her father, before he exited the room.

“At least according to my mother and Zurfina,” said Iolana quietly.  “Two women, neither noted for their adherence to the truth.”

Sixteen minutes later, Iolana closed The Girl from Beneath the Earthand returned it to the crate sitting along the south wall.  She skimmed through the container for the book she would read tomorrow, finally picking up Slave Girl Captive of the Piratesbefore tossing it back into the box with the realization that she wouldn’t have time for it the following day.  The rest of her morning reading was cut short too.

“Kayden!” she shouted out the library door.  “Where in Kafira’s name is my Gazette?”

The lizzie major-domo stepped close to her.  “Khikhiino tacktotott.”

“No one is to get that paper before me.  Khikhiino Iolana.”

“Tacktotott?”

“Not even my mother.”

“You whant I get?”

“No, there’s no sense you getting fired over my newspaper.  If you see her set it aside, grab it and save it for me. I’ll read it tonight.”

“Yess Stahwasuwasu Zrant.”

“My name is Iolana.  I know you can say it.”

“Lizzie name is Stahwasuwasu Zrant.”

“While I admit that ‘Child of the Sunrise’ has a certain ring to it, I’m only too aware that the same words also mean ‘Pest of the Sunrise.”

Avoiding both the dining room and the family at breakfast, Iolana cut through the kitchen from the back hallway, grabbing a crumpet on the way though. Once out the back door, she ordered a pair of lizzies to wheel the steam cabriolet out of the machine shed.  Much smaller than the other cars, the cabriolet had come all the way from Mirsanna.  With two large wheels just behind the driver, just in front of the engine, it had two very tiny wheels out in front and was steered not with a steering wheel but with a tiller.  Though it officially belonged to her mother, Iolana was the only one who used it, and it was the only vehicle she was allowed to drive herself.  The lizzies topped off the water, but Iolana started the coal fire.

“Going?”