The Price of Magic – Chapter 5 Excerpt

When Senta woke the next morning, she assumed it was very early, as there was hardly any light coming in, even though all the curtains were open.  Then she heard the distant rumble of thunder and looked at the clock. It was almost eleven.  She stretched decadently across her bed.  That bed had cost as much as the average working man made in a year, and was the only one she’d even been in, at least since she’d been fully grown, in which her feet didn’t hang over the bottom.  As her hand stretched across, she felt the other side—the empty side.

She really didn’t expect Baxter to be there.  He almost never was by the time she got up.  But when he was there, he was a horrible, insatiable monster.  She smiled slyly at the memory of last night, and yesterday afternoon, as she rolled over.

On the far side of the room, Aggie, the lizzie dressing maid, was carrying hangers full of dresses to the closet.

“Bring me my foundations,” she said.

The lizzie started and hissed.

“I’ll wear that green walking dress.  Yes, the one with the white underdress.”

Aggie bobbed her head up and down to indicate she understood.  The lizzies were surprisingly good at helping human women get dressed.  Senta had been to a number of lizzie villages and two of the great lizzie city-states, and she knew how they festooned themselves with paint, feathers, and beads.  She supposed it really wasn’t all that different than dressing in gingham, lace, and make-up.

“Paint,” she said to herself.

Mistaking her meaning, Aggie rushed over to the vanity, where on rare occasions, Senta applied rouge, eye shadow, and lip color.

“No, not now.  After.”

When Senta stepped off the bottom of the staircase, she found her lover and her child in the parlor. The former was reading the paper and the latter was pushing herself along on a two-foot-tall, three-foot-long wooden iguanodon. Each of the creature’s four feet was attached to a pair of small wheels.  A miniature saddle was fixed into the creature’s back, making it just high enough that little Senta could reach the ground with her tiptoes and propel it.

“What’s this then?”

“Brilliant, isn’t it? Mr. Dokkins made it.  I thought it was a wonderful idea, since the real ones proved too scary.”

“Lift your feet a moment, Pet.”  The little girl did so.  “Uuthanum tachthna.  Now just think where you want to go, and you’ll get there without having to push.”

Within moments, Sen was zooming around the room, nowhere near the speed of a baby iguanodon, but much faster than she would have been able to on her own power.  Senta dropped down into a plush chair and draped her left arm and her head over the chair arm.

“Come and give kisses,”she ordered.

Sen raced by, crashing into the coffee table, backed up a bit, and turned to kiss her mother on the cheek.  Then she was back to zooming around the room.

“I take it the morning post has arrived,”said the sorceress.

Baxter lifted the paper he was reading in reply.

She walked to the foyer and retrieved the stack of letters from the small silver plate on the table by the door.  Flipping through them, she found among several bills, a letter addressed to her from Dr. Agon Bessemer.  She smiled, as she picked up the silver opener and cut through the envelope.  Back in the parlor, she plopped back into the overstuffed chair and read through the message.

“I have a letter from Bessemer,”she said.

“I saw that,”Baxter replied without looking up.

“He’s invited us to spend some time at his fortress.  We will be leaving in four days time.”

“We who?”

“Why, all of us.”

“Traveling overland through unexplored wilderness, presumably on foot, through wild lizzie territory, with vicious dinosaurs all around?”

“I’ve made the journey before. We’ll be perfectly safe.”

“It’s not safe for a child. Even if we all arrive in one piece, that fortress is no place for her either—surrounded by lizzies, without another human face.”

“Nonsense, we’ll be there.”

“For that matter, I don’t think it’s a safe place for Zoey.”

Senta let out an exasperated sigh.  “They worship dragons as gods!”

“You told me how they treated Bessemer before.  Even now, not all of the lizzies have accepted him.  But he’s big enough to take care of himself.”

“We will discuss it after dinner,”said Senta, standing up.  “Now I have business elsewhere.”

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