“That was a lovely lunch,” said Gladys, as she and Yuah passed through the foyer and into the parlor, both loaded down with shopping packages.
“It’s the most I’ve eaten in a while, I can tell you,” said Yuah.
She stopped abruptly when she found Zoantheria sitting on the sofa reading a newspaper. She was, of course, in her human guise, wearing a black and white day dress, her long blond hair cascading halfway down her back.
“What are you doing in my house, monster?” snapped Yuah.
“Have you seen this?” asked Zoey, ignoring the question and holding the paper so that the banner headline was visible. “HRH CONSORTS WITH BIRMISIAN WILD WOMAN!”
“That’s not the Gazette,” observed Gladys.
“No, it’s a Brech City paper.”
“Answer my question,” Yuah ordered.
“I just thought you might want to read it, as the Birmisian wild woman in question would appear to be your daughter.”
“Terra Posthuma Korlann Dechantagne. That’s nice. They got all four names. That is your youngest, isn’t it?”
Yuah stomped forward, snatching the paper from Zoey’s hands.
“We’re not done,” she hissed, and then started reading. “Dressed like a man! Face paint? What is wrong with that girl? Augie should never have sent her to that lizzie city. It’s made her mind weak. Still, you would think she would have mentioned something in her last letter about going to the opera with a prince—or sent a telegram.”
“Children,” said Zoey. “What can you do?”
“If Augustus wants to consort with you, I can’t do anything about it. He’s a grown man. But until he returns, I want you out of my house.”
“Must we have all this discord?” said Augie, suddenly stepping into the room.
Zoey jumped up and ran three steps into his arms, nearly knocking him over. In a fierce embrace, they pressed their mouths together.
“Really?” said Yuah. “In the parlor?”
“Mother,” said Augie, disengaging his lips, if not the rest of his body. “Zoey is welcome in this house at any time and will be treated with the same courtesy that all guests receive.”
Zoantheria smirked at Yuah, whose eyes and mouth went very thin. A moment later, it was Zoey’s face with a very similar look as Dr. Megistus followed the young lord into the room.
“What are you doing here!” she hissed.
“Do you know one another?” asked Augie. “He’s not a relative, is he?”
“He’s another dragon?” wondered Yuah. “In my house?”
“Everyone settle down!” ordered Augie. “Gladys, take my mother upstairs. She’s overwrought.”
“I’m not overwrought and I’m not going anywhere!”
“And you,” continued Lord Dechantagne, looking at Zoey. “Yes, he is a dragon, but he’s one of the good ones, like you.”
“What makes you think he’s good?” she snarled.
“This,” said Augie, holding up a brown vial.
“What is it?” asked Gladys.
“It’s an advanced healing draught. Not only is it more powerful in every respect than the regular potion, Dr. Megistus assures me that it will cure the Blue Sweat.”
“I made no such assurance, Lord Dechantagne,” said Dr. Megistus. “I merely said that I believe it will cure the dreaded disease.”
“I have faith in you, Doctor.”
“What the hell is the Blue Sweat?” wondered Zoey.
“Just a deadly disease that affects us soft-skins,” said Yuah. “Nothing for you to concern your spiky head about, I’m sure.” She turned to her son. “How much does it cost? Will average people be able to afford it?”
“It’s expensive,” said Augie. “Four hundred marks per bottle.”
“Golly,” said Gladys.
“That’s why I’m paying for the first one hundred bottles, to be kept by Mother Aunie for anyone stricken. And we shall keep a couple of bottles here too.”
“You can’t spend 4,000 marks on healing draughts,” said Yuah.
“First of all, it’s 40,000 marks, and secondly, yes I can.” He turned to Dr. Megistus. “We must go celebrate. I’ll buy you the finest steak in the colony. Or maybe a whole cow, eh?” Then looking at Zoey. “You’ll come too, dearest?”
“I don’t think so.”
“All right. I’ll see you later then.”
He ushered the Doctor out of the room and back toward the foyer from which both had emerged.
The three women stood for a moment staring back and forth between one another. Then Zoey stomped off toward the foyer. Gladys and Yuah both sat down, the former in the chair and the latter on the sofa. Yuah looked at the paper, still in her hand.
“My family,” she sighed.