“Why Mr. Finkler,” said Senta. “I thought we were on a first name basis since I was ten years old. And you were what? About twelve?”
“Something like that. Still, one doesn’t want to take anything for granted with the world’s most powerful sorceress.”
She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “Give my very best to your lovely wife. You don’t need to show me back. I see my party already.”
“She seems a bit nervous,” he said.
“She should be.”
As Senta slowly made her way through the filled-to-capacity Café Ada, every eye was upon her. Her black evening dress, trimmed with beige ribbons around the hem and upon the multilayered fall over the bustle, was the height of fashion, newly arrived from Greater Brechalon. The back daringly displayed her shoulder blades and the magical dragon tattoo between them. Her small, three-point hat and gloves were matching black with beige trim. It wasn’t her expensive dress, or her hat, her gloves, her carefully arranged hair, or even her tattoo that drew their collective attention. It was the simple fact of who she was—The Drache Girl.
She swept into her chair, not seeming to notice the member of restaurant staff who pulled it out for her, and she looked across the table. Her dinner companion bore more than a passing resemblance, tall and thin, with an expensive dress and carefully coifed hair, though hers was salmon-pink. Instead of eyes looking back, Senta saw her own reflection in gold-framed dark spectacles.
“So, you’re not a dragon anymore, Zoey?”
“I’m still a dragon,” her companion answered defensively. “I’m just… I enjoy this form, if it’s any of your business.”
“It is my business. You’re mydragon.”
“No, not really,” said Zoey, looking up toward the ceiling. “It turns out one can’t own a dragon.”
“I didn’t say I owned you. You’re not a slave. I’m your guardian. Who else is going to teach you how to be a proper dragon? Who’s going to keep you safe until you’re grown?”
“I found someone else to teach me. Someone powerful enough to keep me safe. He’s more powerful than you.”
“No one’s more powerful than me,” snapped Senta.
“He is,” she replied, primping her hair with her right hand.
Aalwijn appeared beside the table. “Ladies, what can…”
“Beef Dechantagne,” said Senta quickly.
“Steamed Lobster,” said Zoey, almost before Senta had finished.
“Right away ladies.” Aalwijn was gone as quickly as he arrived.
Senta stared across the table for a moment.
“Have you finally made friends with Bessemer? He really is a good role model.”
“No, I’ve not seen Bessemer in a couple of years now.”
“His name is Voindrazius,” said Zoey, quietly.
“Voindrazius?” hissed Senta. “Voindrazius the dragon? Voindrazius, who terrorized the entire continent of Sumir for centuries. The one who is in the Holy Scriptures, laying waste to cities and… and… and whatever else the scriptures say he did?”
“Yes, and he’s made friends with your precious Bessemer too.”
“I’m gone for a little while,” snarled Senta, “and the whole world turns upside down!” She stopped and looked around. Every single face in the restaurant was turned in her direction. She snapped her fingers and every one of those faces snapped back to toward the centers of their tables. A few people cried out. A few others whimpered.
“You didn’t even speak an incantation,” said Zoey, with an air of wonder.
“Don’t change the subject. Voindrazius is evil.”
“I didn’t say he was nice. I said he was powerful.”
“This explains a lot,” said Senta.
“Like you eating a wizard.”
“I didn’t eat a wizard,” hissed Zoey. “I would never eat a person. You have to know that.”
“What did you do with him then?”
“I let him go.”
“You let him go? You let him go, to terrorize other innocent victims?”
“Oh, I doubt he was in any shape to bother anyone, considering the height I was at when I let go of him.” Zoey covered a large grin with her gloved hand.
She looked up to see Aalwijn again, his head turned to look away over his left shoulder.
“My kitchen staff may be unable to prepare your meals if they can’t see what it is they are cooking.”
“Oh, sorry.” She snapped her fingers once again and his head slowly turned to look toward her. He reached behind his neck and rubbed. The patrons of a dozen tables all stood up and headed toward the exit.
“I’m billing you for any lost business,” he said, hurrying away again.
“Let me see your eyes,” Senta told the dragon in human form.
Zoey lowered the spectacles, revealing solid pink eyes from lid to lid.
“You know, you look a bit like my cousin Ernst. Were you copying her?”
“Actually, I was trying to look like you. I am your dragon.”