Almost two weeks had gone by and Iolana’s mother was still angry with the sorceress. She sat at the head of the great table while she and the other three women of the house had their tea. With a cup in one hand and a report in the other, she clicked her tongue. Carefully folding the paper, she handed it to Kayden, the lizzie majordomo, who carried it into the other room. Iolana caught the eye of Zandy, another lizzie, nodding to indicate that he should follow. She wanted to see just what was going on between her mother and Senta.
“Garrah, please bring out that new chutney,” she called, more to distract away from Zandy than anything else.
The four women couldn’t have been more different. It was less than two months until Iolana’s fourteenth birthday, but she seemed older. She had always been precocious and now her body was catching up with her mind. With her great waves of golden curls, she was a striking girl. Her ten year old cousin Terra, on the other hand, seemed pale, thin, and sickly though all the best doctors assured that she was perfectly healthy. Her light brown hair, curled each morning, was limp by tea. Iolana’s mother was still a beautiful woman, but stress had taken some toll. Her Auntie Yuah though was one of the great beauties of the colony, with thick dark brown hair and large brown eyes.
“When does Augie get home?” asked Terra in her scratchy little voice.
“The train is scheduled for a 2:00 PM arrival tomorrow, as I’ve told you at least five times,” said Iolanthe.
“She’s excited to see her brother, is all,” said Auntie Yuah. “I can’t wait to see him either—my precious boy. It seems like he’s been gone a year.”
“I really miss him too,” said Iolana, sincerely. “And Father, of course.”
“Yes, it will be good to have them home,” said Iolanthe.
“We’ll need them to run off all the boys,” said Auntie Yuah, leaning forward. “A hundred suitors at the age of thirteen. Whoever heard of such a thing?”
“They’re not suitors,” said Iolana with a frown. “It’s just the New Year’s tradition. And there weren’t a hundred. There were eighty-two.”
“That’s more than any other eligible girl, I’ll bet,” said Terra.
“I wouldn’t know. I haven’t compared notes with anyone else. And I’m noteligible.”
“Not yet,” said Iolanthe. “But it’s good to start observing them now. Weeding out the weak, as it were. How many of the eighty-two were acceptable matches?”
“None of them,” said Iolana. “None of them are acceptable matches. I’m not looking for an acceptable match. I’m not looking for anyone at all.”
“Well you will have to marry someday,” said her mother.
“No, I won’t.”
“You don’t have a choice anymore. Your father went to a great deal of trouble to provide for your future. He had to have Parliament pass a law, so that his new titles pass through you to your sons, rather than to his third cousin as his closest male heir. He had to get the blessing of the King.”
“This isn’t the dark ages!” shouted Iolana, jumping to her feet. “I don’t give two figs for the King, the Parliament, or the Barony of Saxe-Lagerport-Drille. I won’t be traded around like a prize cow!” She stomped toward the doorway. “Forget the Kafira-damned chutney!” she shouted at the hapless lizzie coming from the kitchen.
At the top of the stairs, Iolana almost ran headlong into another lizzie. This one, unlike every other reptilian in the house, or the whole city for that matter, was wearing a yellow sundress, a hole cut in the back for her tail to stick out.
“Why weren’t you at tea?” demanded the girl.
“I’m sstill full from lunch,” said the lizzie in almost flawless Brech.
“Hardly an excuse. Without you there, they all gang up on me.”
“Oh Esther, I’m not angry with you.” She leaned forward and hugged the lizzie. “You can’t imagine how much I’m looking forward to Father being home.”
“I’m just so sick of this house. I need to get out. I need to do something.”
“Yes,” said Iolana. “That’s perfect. Have Garrah get out the bows and set up the targets.”
“Shall I get Lady Terra?” asked Esther.
“Lady Terra.” Iolana rolled her eyes. “Yes, we all have titles now. Do go invite Lady Terra to join us. Oh, and find out from Zandy where Kayden put those papers of my mother’s. I want you to read them and tell me what they say.”
“Don’t get cheeky.”
“No, Lady Iolana,” said Esther, turning and making her way down the stairs.
Though far younger than Iolana, Esther was about an inch taller. The lizardmen grew much faster than human beings. The girl had adopted the lizzie when the latter was little larger than a hat box, determined to civilize her, and to all appearances, she had been more than successful. Esther was Iolana’s companion and helper, participating in almost all of the girl’s activities and having her own room in the house just down the hallway from Iolana’s.