The Dragon’s Choice – Chapter 17 Excerpt

Yuah opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling for just a moment.  It was the same gold pattern fresco that it had been for years, matching the intricate pattern of pink roses between gold bars on the wallpaper and the gold floral carpeting on the floor.  It was high time for a change.  Turning to the side, she came nose to nose with Gladys Highsmith, who was looking back.  Without her glasses, her eyes looked larger and sadder than normal.

“How did you sleep?” asked Yuah.

“Not very well, I’m afraid.”

“Why not?  I slept wonderfully.”

“What will you do now?

“What do you mean?” wondered Yuah.

“Are you going to throw me out or have me arrested?”

“Why would I do that?”

“That’s what they usually do,” said Gladys, sadly.

“Do you think I’m some little girl that you took advantage of?” asked Yuah with a laugh.  “Maybe you think I was so overwhelmed with passion that I didn’t know what I was doing.”

“People do things in the heat of passion that they wouldn’t otherwise do.”

“No they don’t. That’s just an excuse.  Or maybe it’s true for stupid people or those who are not particularly self-aware… my God, I sound just like Iolanthe.”  She kissed Gladys on the forehead and then sat up. “You should go back to your room.”

“You don’t want anyone to see us together.”

“You have to get ready. We’re going to shrine.  You do still want to go, don’t you?”

Twenty minutes later, Yuah entered the dining room and took her place.  The others were present, though as yet, no one had been served.  A line of lizzies arrived from the kitchen carrying enough food for twelve people, and began serving the four at the table.  Yuah watched as her plate was filled with white pudding, sausages, bacon, fried potatoes, grilled tomatoes, beans, scrambled eggs topped with cheese, and toast.

“I am so hungry this morning,” she said.

“We can see that,” said Iolanthe, raising a brow.

“That’s good, Mother,” said Augie.  “I think you’ve gotten a bit too thin of late.  Better to keep up your strength.  And how are you this morning, Miss Highsmith?”

“Very well, Your Lordship.”

“We’re friends now,” he said.  “Please call me Augie.  After all, you’re dining at my table and living in my house.”

“Yes,” said Iolanthe. “How long is that to be, exactly?”

“I have asked Gladys to live here permanently,” said Yuah.  “She is my good friend and will be my companion.”

“Indeed,” said Iolanthe, with a smirk.

“Well, I think that’s wonderful,” said Augie, spearing a piece of sausage with his fork.  “Mother can arrange an allowance for you.  I sure you know by now that if you spend much time with mother it will include copious shopping.”

“Thank you, Your… Augie.”

Yuah had Walworth drive them to shrine.  She wore her new dress—the black one with a small bustle and the high neck, along with her black top hat.  Gladys wore a black over dress with white skirts.  It was nice, but not the type of thing usually worn to shrine—a bit on the fancy side.

As Walworth helped them down from the car, Yuah stopped to take a look at the majestic building and the beauty that surrounded it.  The sun was shining through the trees.  The grounds around the shrine were newly mowed and the shrubs had been trimmed. Yuah didn’t even mind that the street sign had Iolanthe’s name on it.

Just outside of the entrance, they ran into Yuah’s father and his wife and young daughter.

“Good day, Papa.  May I introduce my friend, Gladys Highsmith? Gladys, this is my father Zeah Korlann, his lovely wife Egeria, and my little sister, Olivia.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Gladys,” said Zeah.  “Someone told me that you were staying at the Dechantagne home.  Who was it now?  I don’t remember.”

“It was Augie,” said Egeria. “He told you at tea the other day.”

“Oh yes.  You know, he loves to visit his Grandpa.  Some other people could stand to visit a bit more often.”

“If you’ll have us,” said Yuah, “we will come to tea today.”

“You are always welcome, Yuah,” said Egeria.  “You know that.”

“Since you have your friend with you, are you going to sit in back with us today?” asked Olivia.


“Lovely,” said the girl, clearly excited.  “I’ve so wanted you to sit with us.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” asked Yuah.  “For that matter, you could sit up front with me anytime.  You are a kindeschrein.”

“Mother says I must sit in the back until I’m sixteen.”

“Then she can decide for herself whether she is a Kafirite or a Zaeri,” said Egeria.

Though Zeah was Zaeri, his second wife was a devout Kafirite.  They and their daughter attended both shrine and church.  This was possible because the two religions had Sabbaths that were two days apart.

In shrine, though visitors were always welcome, they were required to sit in the back.  Children whose fathers were Zaeri, like Yuah and Olivia, were known as kindeschrein and were automatically members of the faith.  Children born to a Zaeri mother and a Kafirite father, as was the case with Yuah’s children, had to convert like anyone else who wanted to embrace the Magnificent teachings.  As a group, they entered the building and took seats near the back on the right.

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