The Dragon’s Choice – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Yuah Dechantagne slowly opened her eyes, wondering how she got sandpaper on the inside of her eyelids. She stared up at the unfamiliar blue ceiling for several minutes before realizing she should look around to see where she was.  As soon as her head moved, she was sorry.  Somebody had hammered a big spike into her head, she decided, as she rubbed her temples.  Climbing out of bed, she staggered over to the washstand and poured the pitcher of cool water into the basin.  Setting the pitcher on the floor, she reached into the water with both hands and lifted it to her face.  She did this several more times, the last time with her eyes open, trying for some relief of their itching.  They hadn’t felt this bad since… well, since she had abused them.  After drying her face, she looked down at her body.  She wasn’t wearing nightclothes.  She had on her foundations from the day before.

Looking around, Yuah saw a big, fluffy robe hanging from a hook on the inside of the door. Staggering across the room, she pulled it off the hanger and slipped it on.  Then she opened the door and stepped out.  Immediately, she was blinded by shaft of light beaming in through a window at the end of the hallway—her stepmother’s hallway, she realized.  Her father had been married to Egeria Korlann née Lusk for some fifteen years now, but she still thought of it as Egeria’s house.

“Good morning, sister,” said a sweet voice from behind her.

She turned to see a thin girl, with alabaster skin and vibrant red hair, standing at the top of the staircase.  She had on a pretty white play dress and carried a large emerald egg in the crook of her arm.

“Good morning, Olivia. What time is it?”

“It’s quarter to the hour. Mother said that I was to come bring you to breakfast.”

“A quarter to what hour?”

“A quarter to nine. I’ve been up for hours.”

“And what is it you have there?” wondered Yuah.

“It’s my troodon egg,” replied the girl.

“Is that what’s for breakfast then?”

“No, silly.  I’m hatching it.  Mother said I could only have a troodon if I hatched it myself. That way it would know I’m it’s mum.”

“All right.  Breakfast then.  Lead the way.”

The girl hopped down the stairs in a way that Yuah thought would ensure that the egg didn’t make it, but it did.  She followed her half-sister down to the dining room.

Olivia had been born to Yuah’s father and his second wife almost seven years into their marriage. She had been a surprise to everyone, especially her mother who had been told by doctors and priests that she would never be able to conceive.  It had bothered Yuah that her father had married a woman only two years her elder, but she found it surprisingly pleasant to have a sister who was only seven. It made her feel younger.  She felt for Egeria.  She wouldn’t have wanted to raise a child at forty-nine. It was hard enough being forty-seven, and her children were essentially grown.  Terra would turn nineteen soon, and Augie twenty just a few days later.

“Good morning, Yuah,” said Egeria, as her stepdaughter plopped into a chair at the table. “Would you care for a scone?”

“Oh, just tea please. What happened to me anyway?”

“You had quite a bit of wine last night, so I thought it better that you stay the night with us.”

Yuah looked around, noticing that it was only Egeria, Olivia, and she in the room.

“Where’s Papa?”

“He’s already gone into work.”  Egeria poured the tea and then stirred in several ingredients before handing it over. “Here you go, dear.  It has honey, lemon, and ginger.  It will make you feel better.”

“Thank you,” said Yuah. “What do you mean, he’s gone in to work. He’s retired.”

“He has an office at Uni. He likes to go in and keep an eye on things.”

“Mm-hm.  Did I hear Olivia say that you were going to allow her to have a troodon?”

“Yes, but she has to take care of it herself and keep up her studies.”

“You could have just had one of ours.  Augie has at least a dozen of them.  I can’t go in or out of the house without feeling like they’re going to leap on me and attack.”

“They aren’t aggressive, are they?” asked Egeria.  “If one is aggressive towards a human, it should be put down.”

“Well, they don’t actually do anything, but I can see in their eyes that they want to.”  Yuah sipped her tea.  “I will have that scone now, thank you.”

The Dragon’s Choice – Chapter 1 Excerpt

It was a warm spring day in Birmisia Colony, and the people of Port Dechantagne were making the most of it. The parks were full of families, watching children play football or eating picnic lunches. Several practice cricket matches were being played, with more than a few spectators.  Outdoor cafes were full and there was a concert scheduled in the downtown amphitheater for later that day.  Many strolled along the sidewalk, rather than taking a car. However, one young couple was driving their steam-powered carriage northward into the warehouse district on the peninsula.  Both looked to be about twenty years old.  Both were dressed in expensive and fashionable clothing, his a sharp grey suit with a red waistcoat, and hers a creamy peach day dress trimmed in white lace.

“I thought we were going to the concert,” said the young woman.  She ran her hand over the blond hair that spilled down to her shoulders from beneath the peach tri-corner hat perched atop her head.

“We are,” he replied, steering to the curb of Seventh and One Half Avenue.  “I just have to check something first.”

Engaging the parking brake, he hopped out of the vehicle, running around back to open the relief cock. A loud whistle of steam escaped the pipe.

“I’ll be right back,” he said, peeling off his driving gloves and tossing them into his seat.

Then he stepped quickly down the street some twenty feet and disappeared into the narrow space between two warehouses.  His destination was a locked door near the rear of the leftmost building, and he was busy fishing the key from his pocket so he didn’t notice the two men coming from the other direction.

One was a shorter man with a thick chest and muscular arms.  He was bald and wore an eye patch.  The other was a huge fellow, towering over the young man’s six-foot height; with a huge mop of blond hair that half obscured his face.

“We’ll be takin’ your wallet,” said the shorter of the two.

The well-dressed young man looked up, startled.

“Now see here…” his words were cut off when the giant slammed a fist into his stomach.  He doubled over, looking up with wide eyes. His expression was not one of fear, but of shock, as if it was simply inconceivable that someone would lay hands on him.  He was helpless as the one-eyed man reached into his breast pocket and pulled out his wallet.

“We’ll take that watch too.”

“No…” the young man tried to say.

The giant took him by the shoulders and slammed him against the building wall.  The one-eyed man grabbed his watch by its chain and yanked it from his pocket.  One brass button shot off his waistcoat and bounced off the neighboring building’s wall.

“Don’t feel bad, boy,” said the thief.  “It’s all a part of growing up.”

The two stepped back behind the building and were gone.  The young man struggled to take a couple of deep breaths.  Then he slowly rose to his feet to find the young woman next to him.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

He shook his head. His eyes brimmed over with angry tears.

“I’ll be right back,” she said.

“No,” he said, but she was already gone.  “Kafira damn it all,” he growled, punching the corrugated tin wall of the warehouse, leaving a fist-size indentation.  Then he took several more deep breaths, carefully straightened his jacket, and bent down to brush the dirt off his trousers.  His bowler hat fell off and rolled several feet away.  He retrieved it and brushed it off too.  When he stood up straight once again, she was back.

“How are you?” she asked.

“How am I supposed to be?” he said, wiping a stray tear from his face.  “I’ve been emasculated twice in one day.”

“Hardly emasculated. There were two of them and they were no doubt seasoned criminals.”

“Once by them and once by you,” he accused.

“Me?  What did I do?”

“You tell me.  What didyou do?”

“I just taught them the error of their ways.”  She held out her hand, holding his wallet and watch.  “Here.  Don’t be upset, Augie.  You are a very powerful man.”

“Not the right kind of powerful, in this case.  I shouldn’t need my woman to fight my battles for me.”

“I’m not your woman.”

“You’re supposed to be.”

“What I mean to say is, I’m not awoman.  I am what I am, and when somebody harms someone I love… well, they must die.  It’s as simple as that.”

“This is my father’s watch,” he said, placing it back in his pocket.  “I dare say no one ever took it from him.”

“You shouldn’t let this bother you.”

“I’m going to hire a boxing coach.”

“You don’t need a boxing coach,” she said.  “I doubt your father had one.  He just acted instead of thinking about it.  You’re not a fighter.  You’re a thinker.  Now don’t look at me that way.  I didn’t mean it as a rebuke.  Thinking is your strength.  Use it to your advantage.”

“How?  Hiring a bodyguard?”

“You don’t need a bodyguard.”  She gave him a toothy grin.  “You have me.”

“They’re dead then?”

The Dragon’s Choice – at Smashwords

The dragons seemingly have returned to the world and are once again in vying for power. Bessemer the steel dragon is worshipped by the reptilian lizzies, while the evil Voindrazius tries to put together a pantheon that he will control. Zoantheria, the coral dragon, feels pulled in all directions. Wanted both by Bessemer and Voindrazius, she is called to a world she has never known, her mistress, the sorceress Senta Bly encouraging her to take up the mantle of goddess. Her heart, however, is pulling her in a different direction, toward the young viscount Augustus Dechantagne. Which will prove stronger– love or destiny? Both Senta and Augie have their own problems, hers with teaching her wayward eponymous daughter the ways of magic, and him dealing with the yoke of leadership and a headstrong mother. Meanwhile, far across the ocean, the Dechantagne girls are taking Brech City by storm. Will one of them land a prince?


A Plague of Wizards on Kindle

In this, book 8 of Senta and the Steel Dragon: Senta Bly, the most powerful sorceress in the world has disappeared and no one knows where or why. What happens to Port Dechantagne and Birmisia without her protection for four years? Wizards with all sorts of their own agendas descend on the colony, and the citizens must cope the best they can. Nineteen-year-old Iolana Staff lives the life of a famous author, far away in the capital city, but how does her friend Esther, the only Birmisian lizzie on the continent deal with human society? Meanwhile Iolana’s cousin Terra has made the journey to the lizzie city of Yessonarah, to learn what living in the palace of a reptilian king is really like. Plague of Wizards is available for just $2.99 as a Kindle book.

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 19 Excerpt

Sixteen-year-old Augustus Lord Dechantagne, waited somewhat less than patiently for the crowd to part just enough for his car to make it through the intersection.  Sadly, it wasn’t only this intersection that was filled with people. Almost all were drunk, carrying open bottles with them in some cases.  Many sang patriotic songs, or at least as much of them as they knew.  Many hummed Accord Banner Forever.  Others just shouted slurred slogans.  Here and there were signs saying “The Beast is Dead!” or “You got what you deserved!” If one didn’t already know, it would have been difficult to determine the cause of the celebration, but everyone knew.  Almost everyone in town was celebrating the death of the lizzie King Hsrandtuss, who had done what no one else had ever done—defeated a Brech army in Birmisia.

The car finally made it through the intersection and came to a stop in front of the new Doreen’s Millinery.

“Thank you, Walworth,” said Augie, climbing out.  “I won’t be too long.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

A pneumatic whistle rather than a bell sounded when he entered the shop.  There were no other customers at present, but both Doreen and her daughter Dovie were there, stocking shelves.

“Good day, ladies.  I understand my hat has finally arrived.”

“Yes, your lordship. Come back to the mirror and try it on.”

He walked to the mirror and whipped off his bowler.  Doreen quickly opened the hatbox to reveal a brown homburg with small multi-hued feather in the band.

“Marvelous,” said Augie, planting it on his head and adjusting it to a jaunty angle.  “Well worth the wait and every bloody pfennig. I’ll wear it out.  You can put the old bowler in the box.  I’ll take it with me.”

“Very good, your lordship.”

“Is there any word from Terra?” asked Dovie.

The young lord was still admiring himself and apparently didn’t notice her failure to correctly address him.

“She left Yessonarah five days ago, just before the news rider.  She should be home in nine to twelve days.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have date for tea.”

“Is it really a good thing that the lizzie king is dead?” asked Dovie.

He shrugged. “Probably not.  Sometimes its better to stay with the devil you know than the devil you don’t.  Who knows what kind of leader will replace him?  These fools in the streets are just taking any excuse to drink themselves stupid. Since they were none too bright to begin with, it should at least be over soon.  Good day, ladies.”

Thirty minutes later, Lord Dechantagne sat at his table in Café Idella, pouring honey over a crumpet with one hand, the other holding up his head.  His new hat was hung on an unused chair.

“I’m sorry I’m late, My Lord.”

“Well worth the wait, Miss Hexacoralia,” he said, jumping up.  He started around the table to pull out her chair, but was beaten to the punch by a waiter.  “You look quite lovely today.”

He looked carefully at her face, thinking that she had improved in her ability to mimic human anatomy.

“I hope you don’t mind that I already ordered.  I confess I was a bit bored.”

“Of course, My Lord. The truth is that food is not my main reason for taking tea.  I usually have to eat a medium-sized dinosaur afterwards anyway.  My main reason is the company.”

He smiled.  “I hope we can be good friends.”

“Oh, we are.  And business associates.”

“Oh yes,” he said, nodding. “The dragon and its legendary horde of wealth must be respected.  On to business then.  How many wizards did we have in Port Dechantagne?”

“The police count is forty-eight registered wizards and 106 hedge wizards, though they missed a few. I place the total number at 192, not counting those employed by the police department.  The police have 14 currently awaiting trial and they banished 30. Of course most simply left when Senta returned.”

“Please tell me you at least eliminated more than the police did.  I can’t rub it in Chief Colbshallow’s face, but at least I’ll know.”

“Forty-five, My Lord. One more than the constables in blue.”

“Outstanding!” shouted the boy.  Looking around and seeing he had drawn too much attention, he lowered his voice and leaned in close.  “And did you… eat… all of them.”

“I hate to eat and tell,” said Zoey.  “And to be frank, I much prefer dinosaur or fish.”

“Outstanding,” said Augie. He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out an envelope, which he slid across the table to her.  “I anticipated you doing well, so I included a substantial bonus.”

She took the enveloped and opened it just enough to see the contents.  “Oh daddy!  This makes me all warm inside.”

The boy shivered. “Um, two other things.  I need to make an appointment to see Senta.  When do you think she might be available?”

Zoey looked deeply into his eyes.  “That’s not a good idea, for your own safety.  It might be better if you used me as an intermediary or alternatively sent a message by post.”

“If you think that’s best.”

“Oh, I very, very much do,” replied the dragon.  “What was the other thing?”

“I was wondering if you would dine with me, at my house.  I would, of course, send a formal invitation.”

“I will have to decline for the moment.  I’m very busy the next few days, preparing for a trip.  Then I shall be gone for at least three months.”

“Oh,” said the young lord, his shoulders and face slumping downwards.  “I understand.”

“We still have this afternoon though,” she said, and he suddenly felt her stocking clad foot sliding up the bottom of his trouser leg.  “Let’s enjoy this lovely tea.  I’m so very excited over this money.  I can’t wait to deposit it in my savings account.”

“Savings account?”

“Yes, well it’s not safe to just leave it in a big pile like the dragons of old.  It’s probably down to that silly old idea that we’ve got so few dragons left in the world.”

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 18 Excerpt

The lizzie servant finished painting Terra’s face, half red and half black.  Terra added a yellow circle on each of her cheekbones.  Then the servant slicked back the girl’s hair, which had grown long enough to cover her scars, using fragrant plant oil. This allowed her to arrange the feathered headdress on the Terra’s head.

The young human girl arrived at the dining room and took her seat.  Though it was almost filled with lizzie nobles, the king had not yet arrived, and no one would get any food until one of his wives had fed him.  The human girl had only sat for a minute or so when her stomach let out a loud growl.  The female lizzies on either side of her tried to look without turning their heads towards her.

Terra turned to look over her left shoulder at the sound of people arriving.  In marched the queens: first Szakhandu, followed by Tokkenoht, Sirris, and finally Ssu.  The first three took their seats, while Ssu went to the food table to begin assembling the king’s meal.  Hsrandtuss at last stomped in.  He looked unusually sober.  As he walked to his seat, he looked toward Terra, and spotting her, threw a gesture toward her that the girl had never seen.  Suddenly uneasy, remembering Bessemer’s comments that the great lizzie might be looking for a new wife, she gave him a simple wave.  He took his seat just as Ssu brought him his dinner.

Now that the king had been fed, females from around the room got up to prepare meals for their males, or in a few cases just for themselves.  Terra fit into the latter category and picked up a bronze tray, filling it from the food table.

“Tsaua, Kaetarrnaya.”

Terra looked to see Hsrandtuss’s High Priestess/Queen standing next to her.

“You should try some of these fruit.  I hear humans enjoy them.”

“Yes.  We call them grapes.”  She grabbed a bunch and tossed it onto her tray next to three roasted birds that she had already acquired.

“I have something for you,” said Tokkenoht.  “I got it from the human traders.”

She handed Terra a little wooden box, about an inch wide and two inches long, with a sliding lid.

“What is it?”

“It is daksuu.  It is for your food.”

The human girl slid the box open to find it filled with what looked like fine gravel or very course sand. She held it to her face and stuck her tongue in.

“Salt!  Kafira bless you a thousand times.”

Tokkenoht nodded.

“Can I ask you something? When he came in, the Great King made a gesture toward me that I’ve never seen.  It was like this.”  She recreated the gesture.

“That is a warrior sign. It means victory.”

“Oh, good.  Then he doesn’t want to marry me.”

Tokkenoht burst into a hissing fit that was the lizzie equivalent of an uncontrollable belly laugh.

“That would never work,” she said, still struggling to get control of herself.  “It simply would not physiologically work.”  Suddenly she stopped and looked toward the king.  “Then again, such an alliance would be unprecedented and very valuable, even if it was not a real marriage.”

Terra leaned on the table, as her head swam.

“Don’t worry. Hsrandtuss knows humans better than anyone else.  You’re hut… your family would never allow such a thing, would they?”

“I’m quite sure they would not.”

“It would mean war?”

“Maybe.  In any case, it would bring Hsrandtuss nothing but hatred. And I would certainly be disowned.”

“Hsrandtuss knows this. You have nothing to fear. Besides, the other wives would have to approve of you, and I would not have a human zrant as the wife of my husband.”

Terra realized that she had been insulted just as she set her plate in front of her seat.  She climbed into her chair and looked at her meal—a huge feast of roasted birds, grilled fish, grapes, and what she was fairly sure was some kind of white asparagus.

Just then, the door opened at the far end of the room and two lizzies were marched in, both wrapped in chains and escorted by a dozen warriors.  They walked morosely to stand before the king.

“What is the meaning of this?” growled Hsrandtuss, looking at one of the guards.

“We were told to bring them before you, Great King.”

Hsrandtuss deftly hopped over the table.

“Get these chains off them!”

The warriors hurried to follow his command, but it took a minute.  As they worked, the lizzie king continued speaking.

“King Oreolock of Xecheon, please excuse the rudeness of this meeting.  These fools understood the meaning of my order, but not the manner. My intention was to invite you to dine with me.  That reminds me.”  He looked over his shoulder.  “Sirris, Tokkenoht, get food for our guests.”  He looked back to see Oreolock, clearly at a loss as to what to do or say. As the last chain fell away, Hsrandtuss put his arm around the smaller king’s shoulders and led him around the table to a spot left of his own.

Terra realized at the last second that the seat for which the defeated king was destined was directly opposite hers.  As he sat down, Oreolock looked up and saw her—starting.

“That is Kaetarrnaya. She is my tiny human.  You will know you are a great king when you have your own tiny human.”

Terra threw a gesture at him that, which was technically the same as the one he had given, only with the hand facing the other direction.  It would have, at home, gotten her face slapped by her mother or auntie.

“Like this!” said Hsrandtuss, give her the victory sign.

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 17 Excerpt

Kieran Baxter stood on the doorstep for at least fifteen minutes working up the courage to knock. It seemed foolish when one actually thought about it.  He had walked in and out of that very same door a thousand times at least, without knocking and usually without announcing himself.  But the heart and soul didn’t function with the logic of the mind. They were full of distractions. Finally he knocked, three times quickly, his knuckles barely touching the painted oak surface.

“That’s not loud enough for anyone to have heard,” he told himself.  “Knock again.  No. Better to wait a while, just in case. I can always knock again later.”

To his surprise, the door opened, revealing a lizzie about his height.  He immediately recognized her as Aggie, the maid.  Opening the door was not usually among her duties, or at least they hadn’t been when he had last been in the house.  That job belonged to Cheery, the butler.  Baxter suddenly realized he didn’t know if Cheery still worked here.  For that matter, he didn’t even know if the male lizzie still lived.

Aggie stepped back to allow him to enter the foyer.

“Sir,” she said.

“Is the lady of the house in?”

“Yesss.  Closing the door the lizzie started into the parlor. Baxter followed her through that room and on back to the library.  Senta, in a simple brown skirt and white blouse stood in the room, facing away.  A bookcase and a chair had been removed from the north wall, and in their place was a huge, ornately decorated oak and glass case, of the type usually displaying fine porcelain dishes.  This one however was almost completely filled with small metal boxes, about three inches square and one inch deep.  There had to be more than a hundred of them.

“You’ve messed this all up,” said Senta.  “When you took them out for me yesterday, I asked you to remember where each went. You’ve got Grand Master Wizard Cavendish and Lord Callingham on the bottom shelf.  They belong on the top, next to Master Wizard Goderick, while Dr. Sykes and Nurse Pyle definitely belong on the bottom shelf.”

She turned and jumped when she saw Baxter standing with the lizzie.

“That’s new,” said Baxter.

“Oh, yes.  I’m a collector now—um, snuff boxes.”

“It’s an odd collection. They all look alike.”

“I can tell them apart,” she said, seriously.

“I came to tell you…” he started.

“Wait.  Let’s be civilized.  It’s almost elevenses.  There should be tea.”

A tray containing a teapot, two cups, and a plate of chocolate biscuits was waiting on the occasional table in the parlor.

“Sit down,” directed the sorceress, pointing at a spot on the sofa.  “I’ll be mother.”

He watched as she prepared a cup of tea just the way he liked it—no sugar, just a twist of lemon. She handed him his cup and then prepared her own, with four lumps and cream.  She sat on the opposite end of the sofa from him, turning so that one leg was up on the spot between them.

“As I said,” he started again.  “I came to apologize for my… behavior… the other day, when you came to see me.”

“Completely understandable,” she said, pausing to sip her tea.  “You suspected I was an imposter, and you could have been right.  But you weren’t.  I’m me.”

“Of course you are. I… my behavior was inexcusable.”

“I excuse you,” she said with a smile.  “I should be the one to apologize to you, after all I’ve done to you… leaving you alone, without a word.”

“Why did you?” he asked, setting his still full cup on the end table, and then turning to face her.

“You know how it is. Sometimes you just need to get away, to be by yourself, to get some perspective.”

“You just left?  You just left me?  For four years?”  His voice rose higher and higher.  “You left your daughter for four years?  Four years!”

She looked like she was going to say something else, but closed her mouth and just shrugged.  “What can I say?” she said, shrugging again, an impertinent smile crossing her lips.

“You bitch!”  He slapped her hard across the face.

Her head snapped to the side, but when it turned back, other than a large red handprint, her expression had not changed.  Then she started laughing and reclined back on the arm of the sofa.

“Come, come,” she said. “Be a man about it.”

He leaned forward, for what, he didn’t know.  To punch her insolent mouth, maybe.  He reached down to balance himself and his hand found her waist.  Grabbing the waistline of her skirt with both hands, he pulled, ripping it open.  She wasn’t completely naked underneath, but she had few foundations, no petticoat—only a small pair of bloomers.  He grabbed them and ripped them off.

“That’s right,” she said, breathily.  “Yes, you know what you have to do, don’t you?”

He looked up into those beguiling grey eyes, but he saw something else.  The side of her face where he had hit her was swelling up alarmingly.  He looked back down at her half-naked body, suddenly appalled by what he was doing.

“Don’t think about it,” she said.  “I need to be punished.  Do it!”

He pushed himself back and climbed to his feet.

“No.  Don’t stop.”  Her voice sounded so genuine, he suddenly realized that her earlier words had not. This whole time she hadn’t sounded like Senta at all, at least not like his Senta, the Senta he knew.

“Go to hell, demon,” he said, staggering to his feet.

“I’m not Pantagria.  I’m not an imposter.”