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.”
“Where’s the baby?”
“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.”