A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 4 Excerpt

The very eastern edge of Port Dechantagne, just south of Zaeritown, was dominated by many groups of small housing developments constructed by BB&C and other firms who wanted to take advantage of the city’s growth.  Most of these consisted of a score or so of small cottages situated around a little park.  The area quickly became the most sought after real estate for Birmisia Colony’s burgeoning middle class—those who could afford better than an apartment in the brownstones near Lizzietown, but who were nowhere near affluent enough for the great mansions and estates near the northern central part of town.  The main thoroughfare through neighborhood was Victory Boulevard.  It was a four lane red brick-paved street, lined on either side with gas streetlamps, and with a broad grassy median that accommodated side-by-side trolley tracks. The west end of Victory Boulevard ended at Victory Park and in the east it, along with its trolley line, extended two hundred yards past the last group of houses.  From there it turned into a single lane, winding gravel road that led some eleven miles to the small village of Villa Cochon.

Turning south from Victory on Ghiosa Way led one through one of these little neighborhoods.  Five houses sat on the left and three on the right, and then there was a turn west on Dante Street.  Around the corner was the park with swings, park benches, and a pond, frequented by shore birds from the ocean several miles to the north.  Ghiosa Way itself, ended with a wood fence as a barricade. Though beyond it, the street might some day continue, for now, it was remarkably dense woodland just a dozen feet away.  The last house on the left side of the little street, right next where it ended, was a small yellow cottage, with a white railing and posts on the front porch, a white-framed window just left of the white front door, and a similar window looking down from the attic between the eaves.  The cobblestone pathway leading up to the front steps was lined with large ferns of the type commonly found in the area, and the yard was filled with several pines and a maple that had escaped the fate of those that had been cut to make room for the comfy little domicile.

Near the back right corner of the little cottage’s yard, about halfway between the house and the nearest trees, was a large barrel in which trash was burned once or twice a week. Though the refuse did not include foodstuffs, it did sometimes contain newsprint that had once wrapped a purchase from the butcher or the fishmonger.  It was these smells that sometimes drew animals from the forest to the yard, as it did on this particular day.  The animals in question were three velociraptors.  They were two and a half feet tall and five feet from the tip of their many-toothed snouts to the ends of their tails.  Hairy feathers covered their bodies—yellow near their small arms and green everywhere else, but for a black band around their necks and a black tuft at the ends of their tails.  Easily mistaken for a more benign bird from a distance, those familiar with them were wary because of the teeth and clawed hands, but mostly because of their feet, each of which had a three-inch claw curving upward, used to disembowel prey.

One of the velociraptors jumped up onto the edge of the barrel and looked down inside, trying to discover something edible.  Before it could learn whether any such thing existed, it was knocked off by another, which then let out a squawk and promptly fell inside.  All three began a horrendous cacophony of shrieks and cries, even after the most adventurous of the three had found his way back out and onto the ground.  Suddenly the side door of the house burst open and a woman ran out swinging a broom and shouting her own shrieks and cries.

“Get out of here, you horrid beasts!”  She made every effort to swat them, but the velociraptors easily evaded her and went running back into the woods.

“I’ve told you before not to do that!” shouted a tall red-haired man, running around the side of the house.

“They’ll make a mess,” she replied.

“Better they make a mess than they injure you, or worse.”  He stopped in front of her, looked down into her bright blue eyes, and then kissed her on the lips.  “I don’t want to lose you.”

She smiled, and reached up to run her fingers along the line of his square jaw.

“How did I ever get so lucky, Mr. Baxter?”

“I’m sure most would say that I’m the lucky one, Mrs. Baxter.”

“Come inside.  I have been slaving all day to have your luncheon ready.”

She took him by the hand and led him into the house.  Just inside was the small dining room.  Painted yellow with green trim, it was as cozy as one would have expected, having seen the outside of the home.  All of the furniture was new and of the highest quality, manufactured locally in Birmisia.  There was a flatware hutch, displaying behind the glass doors, a collection of beautiful porcelain dishes, a small table with two chairs, and an occasional table upon which sat two framed pictures.

She pulled out a chair and waved for him to sit.

“Your seat, Monsieur.”

He sat and pulled her into his lap.

“If you’re playing at being a Mirsannan, shouldn’t you be dressed like one?” he asked.  “Their women usually wear these gauzy gowns that one can practically see right through.”

“You, sir, are very naughty.”

He admired her very Brech appearance.   She wore a pretty white pinstriped day dress, trimmed with white lace and bows. She wasn’t wearing the matching hat and her collar-length dark brown hair was parted on the side and combed over with only a few curls in the back.

She slapped him on the shoulder, and then reached to remove a knitted cozy covering his plate.  The plate was filled with mashed peas, several slices of tomatoes and a very large helping of meat pie.

“Cottage pie?” he asked.

“I’m calling it Charmley pie.”

“Dinosaur meat then?”

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The Dragon’s Choice – Chapter 14 Excerpt

Lord Augustus Dechantagne sat in a chair at a conference table in The Office of Lizzie Affairs. Around him were seated Mr. Millard Tomley Esq., Mr. James Dawes Esq. and Amoz Croffut, the three of them, with the exception of two secretaries, the entire complement of the organization. The young lord flipped through the papers in front of him and blew air between his lips.

“I don’t think you gentlemen understood what I wanted.”

“You wanted to expand,” said Tomley.  “We’re planning to more than double our staff.”

“Two more lawyers and four more secretaries.”

“Exactly,” said Dawes.

“Look,” said Augie. “Up until now, all you’ve done is help the lizzies here in Port Dechantagne when they’ve come afoul of our laws and customs.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Yes, you need more help in order to fulfill that mission.  You should definitely hire these additional people.  But I want this office to keep track of all the lizzies in and around Birmisia Colony.

He looked at Amoz Croffut.

“You’re a military man, Croffut.  When I need intel on the lizzies, I want to be able to come to you and for you to have it.”

“You mean you want it available for Governor Staff, don’t you?” said Croffut.

“I mean both of us.”

He pulled a paper out of his breast pocket, unfolded it, and handed it across the table.  Croffut read it over and then handed it back.

“All right.  So you have the full authority of the Governor.”

“Yes, so when I tell you to hire the people you’ve found, you should do it.  You should also get more secretaries, at least one statistician or accountant, a military liaison, a linguist, and at least one anthropologist… or would you call it a reptiologist?”

“The term would be cultural herpetologist,” said Croffut, “but I don’t think there is such a thing.”

“Well find someone. I’d recommend Tiber Stephenson as your liaison, but hire whoever you want.”  He looked up through the glass wall that separated the conference room from the outer office, and a smile broke across his face.  “You’ll excuse me, gentlemen.  My other appointment is here.”

Zoantheria stood at the far side of the large room in a beautiful sleeveless sky blue day dress. It was decorated across the breast with white lace and trimmed down its length in blue bows.  She had a smart white boater atop her curled blond hair. She grinned when she saw him hurry across the room to her.  When they touched, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. Then she licked his chin, neck, and finally his ear.

“You are so yummy!” she said.  “I could just eat you up.”

“Did you have an extra large breakfast this morning?” he asked, pulling back a bit.

“I did.  I ate a two young iguanodons.”  She cocked her head and raised a brow.  “You don’t think I would really eat you.  Do you?”

“Of course not, my love. Still, better to ask the question than to assume the answer.”

“Are you done with your meeting?” she asked, excitedly.  “Are you done?  Are you done? Are you?”

“It so happens that I am done for now.  What is it that has tickled your enthusiasm?”

“I have to show you. It’s so wonderful.”

“Well then, let’s go,” he said.  “I assume you’re driving.”

Grinning, she led him by the hand out of the office building to where her car sat steaming away.  He climbed up into the passenger side, as she got behind the wheel.  Seconds later, they were zipping up Bainbridge Clark Street, and through the gate in the Emergency Wall.

“Where are we going?” he asked, as the vehicle careened around the corner of Shadow Street.

“I met some new people,” she said.  “They just bought a house at the west edge of town.  They’re from Arbrax.”

“Arbrax?  Are they polar bears?”

“No, silly.  They’re perfectly nice people, and they said I could visit their house any time.”

She brought the car to a stop in front of a new home.  It was constructed in the recently popular all wood style, with a high sloping roof. Zoey hopped out and ran around back to release the steam.  By the time Augie stepped out of the car, she was there to take his hand and lead him down a walkway that led past the south side of the house and into the back.  The property didn’t seem to have a proper garden, just a carefully placed path that led through pine trees as thick as anywhere in the colony.

“Are you sure we’re allowed here?”

“They said I was welcome anytime.”

The path came to an end before what appeared to be a tiny version of the house.  It was constructed of pine and stood at full height with the same sloping roof, but was no more than twenty by twelve feet in dimension. Zoey opened the door and stepped inside, pulling Augie along with her.  Inside was a small anteroom with hooks and cubbyholes presumably for the temporary storage of clothing.  Beyond that, was an unadorned wooden wall, with a wood door that had a twelve by twelve inch window at face height.

“Take off your clothes and hang them up,” said Zoey.

“What is this?” he asked.

“I’ll explain it all when you’re naked.”

“Um, explain it to me now.”

“It’s a sauna!” she squealed.  “It’s, well, it’s a hot room.”