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.”
“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.”