A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 7 Excerpt

Knowing that she had lived a privileged and easy life, Terra expected that the lizzies would get up earlier than she would, so that upon rising, she would find herself alone in the hearth room.  That wasn’t the case.  She was the first one up.  She stood and stretched, surprised also that, even with no pillow and practically no mattress, her back was not sore.  As she stood wondering where her clothes might be, she heard her stomach growl. She didn’t remember seeing a laundry, but she did recall seeing where the food was prepared, and she thought she could find it.  So, wrapping the sheet around her, she started off in search of something to break her fast.

It didn’t take her long to find the kitchen, where there was no one about.  Looking through several large pots along the wall, she discovered a cache of dragon fruit.  She had eaten the red and green pokey orbs before, but found them bland and not very filling.  Continuing with her search, she soon discovered a kiwi, a green melon, and thank Kafira, some strawberries.  With a bronze knife that had been left sitting on the counter nearby, she cleaned and cut all the fruit, making herself a little salad.  She used the hollowed out melon rind as a bowl.

Holding the makeshift container in one hand, she used the other to pass the pieces of fruit to her mouth. She ate as she walked back to the hearth room.  Along the way she passed several servants going here and there.  The palace was beginning to come to life.  In fact, when she arrived back in the hearth room, all of those who had been asleep, were now awake.  Ssu and Sirris were up and gone.  A servant was helping old Tsollot out of the room.  Both Szakhandu and Tokkenoht were in close consultation with Hsrandtuss.

“There you are,” said the King when he saw Terra.  “Some were afraid you had run away or gotten lost.”

“No,” said the girl.

“What do you have there?” He waved for her to approach.

She held out her fruit salad for his inspection.

“Look at this,” the king said to the two queens.  “She made a bowl out of this melon.  This is why humans are so dangerous.  They are always coming up with something new.”

“I don’t think this is a good example,” said Tokkenoht.

“No,” agreed Szakhandu. “I have seen fruit served this way before.  Surely you have too.”

“Who looks at fruit bowls?” growled Hsrandtuss, ignoring the fact that he had just been doing that very thing.  “Both of you, go away.”

Both females left the room, leaving Terra alone with the king.  He lay back down on his mat.

“Sit beside me.”

Terra sat cross-legged beside the great lizzie.

“Feed me some of that fruit.”  He opened his mouth and she tossed several pieces in.  “I used to like fruit, but I don’t eat as much as I used to.  I probably don’t eat as much of it as I should, but don’t repeat that to any of my wives.”

“It’s odd, isn’t it, that nature would provide such a thing just hanging from the trees?” said Terra. “It’s a kind of magic.”

“You are an odd little thing,” he said, opening his mouth and allowing her to throw in a few more pieces. “Why exactly have you come here?”

“My brother sent me.”

“Yes, I know that. But why?  What are you here to do?”

“I am here to see with fresh eyes.”

“What does that mean, little female?”

“I think it means to see without fear.”

“And you aren’t afraid?”

“I’m afraid of many things, I think.”

“Then we shall go see with fresh eyes together, eh?”  The king shot to his feet much faster than the girl would have expected based on her previous observations.  He pointed to her sleeping mat, where her clothes, her helmet, and her pistol, were stacked.  “Get your paint and feathers on and then come to the dining hall.”

Terra ate the last few bites of her fruit, licked her fingers clean, and then got dressed. Though she had worn her clothes only a few hours, women in Brech society routinely changed several times a day, so she was happy that her khakis had been laundered while she had slept.  She managed easily to roll up the cuffs of her pants, and tried to do so with the sleeves of her shirt.  Eventually she had to take it off to perform the modification. At last she was completely decked out and started off toward the morning meal.

The dining hall was far less crowded than it had been the evening before.  Though the palace served a morning and evening meal, most lizzies ate only once a day.  Hsrandtuss was already in his seat while Ssu gathered food for him.  Terra went to the food tables and put together her own meal. When she sat down in the same chair she had used the previous night, she had a plate half filled with kippers. The remainder was mostly roasted vegetables, including parsnips, potatoes, and green peppers, along with some small but meaty tomatoes.

Terra surprised herself by eating so much.  When she looked up she noticed that the rest of the diners were watching her.  At first she thought that this was simply because she was a human, but then she noticed that most of their plates had less than half the food of hers.  She shrugged. It wasn’t her fault that she was warm blooded.

“We shall go hunting this morning, Earthworm!” called the king.  He looked at another male who sat across the room from the girl.  “What do you think, Slechtiss?  Can you find weapons small enough for this little soft-skin to use?”

“I will see to it, Great King,” the male replied, staring at Terra.

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