The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 15 Excerpt

Ssichutuu was probably not nearly as frightening as his chief.  He did not for instance, appear to be wearing any part of a skeleton as decoration.  He also did not carry any obvious weapons, save a small stone knife with wooden handle. Nevertheless, Zeah Korlann found his new companion every bit as frightening as the tyrannosaurus that stalked the forests of the region.  Ssichutuu was a little over six feet tall and looked more than a little like an upright alligator.  His deep olive skin had few obvious scars or discolorations, marking him as a younger member of the fifty-strong group of visitors.  He kept his dewlap for the most part tucked up against his neck. The truly unnerving thing was the fact that his yellow eyes never seemed to leave Zeah for long and they almost never blinked.

Most of the natives had left the compound to go on a hunting expedition with Master Terrence, but ten had stayed to observe the lifestyles of the newcomers. Each of these temporary visitors had two colonists to look after them.  Zeah and Saba Colbshallow were both escorting this particular lizardman or lizzie around.  Saba had already nicknamed the creature Sichy.  The aborigine took a keen interest in almost everything that they were doing.  They walked along the shore and watched the finishing touches being put on the dock’s crane, which once finished began lifting the last of the heavy cargo from the battleship.  They walked up the hill, now mostly denuded of trees, which was being spread with gravel to form a roadway.  At the top of the hill, they watched the construction of the barracks. Ssichutuu seemed fascinated by the smoothness of the wood used so they walked back down the hill, just south of the dock to observe the power saw slicing logs into boards.

At lunchtime, the lizardmen were brought together along with their hosts around a large table just inside the great protective wall.  Two foot long log segments were turned on end to be used as chairs.  This was functional enough for the colonists and even better for the natives than real chairs, which interfered with their thick tails.  A kind of shish kabob, with pieces of meat, onions, and potatoes was served.  The reptiles eschewed the vegetables for the most part, but ate the meat happily enough. Zeah suspected that they would have preferred it raw, and maybe aged to the point of rotting.

Afterwards the humans watched as the lizardmen gave a demonstration of their method of creating stone blades from the local flint and obsidian.  They used large rocks to break off long slender flakes and then used pieces of bone to chip tiny bits off of these flakes and make them even sharper.  When they were done, they attached the now very sharp stone blades to handles of wood. Ssichutuu presented his completed knife to Zeah and indicated by hand signals that he should keep it as a gift. The former butler marveled at the keen edge.  He didn’t think that even the steel knives brought from Greater Brechalon could match them.  The real advantage of manufactured tools would be their durability.

Late in the afternoon, the hunting party returned carrying massive amounts of dinosaur meat.  Once again there was a great feast, with members of both races eating large amounts of the new world’s unusual meat.  The natives seemed to have the ability to pack away gargantuan portions of food. Zeah overheard Saba remarking on this to Professor Calliere.

“I believe it to be a function of their reptilian nature,” replied the professor. “They can eat great amounts of meat at one time and then go without for perhaps weeks.  I’m sure that this will be of benefit to us once they begin fulfilling their purpose as our natural servants.”

Zeah didn’t pay too much attention to the professor’s pronouncement—in truth, he seldom paid a great deal of attention to what Calliere said—but this time it was because of the presence of Egeria Lusk at Calliere’s side.   She wore a teal brocaded dinner gown with large gold buttons from the neck to below the waist, and a straw boater with a teal ribbon around it.

“You look lovely Egeria,” Zeah thought he probably sounded as though he was gushing, but he didn’t care.

“Thank you, Zeah,” she said.  “I must say you look ruggedly handsome.”

Zeah looked down at himself.  He had been wearing the same type of khaki safari clothing that the soldiers wore. In fact, he had requested a set of the clothing from the mercenary company supplies when he found that he would be spending the day playing tour guide to an oversized lizard.  He had to admit that the color accentuated his tall, thin form.  And he thought the stone knife blade worn at his belt made him look manly.  He took her hand and led her away from the crowd.

“I haven’t seen much of you the past two days,” he said.

“Don’t expect to see much of me the next few days either,” she said.  “The Result Mechanism is being brought ashore tomorrow and the professor will need help getting it up and running.  After that I need to input the measurements from the survey.”

After watching the look on his face for a moment, she burst out laughing. “You really are medicine for the ego! If you’re going to be all that broken up about not seeing me, you might as well come by and help me with the great machine.”  She said the words “great machine” in an abnormally deep voice.

Zeah perked right up.

“I might just do that,” he said, guaranteeing himself in his own mind that he would.

The next morning, most of the colonists were amazed to find that the lizardmen had all left.  Only the sentries had seen them rise early in the morning, gather together their meager gear and the collection of food and manufactured goods that the humans had given them, and exit through the gate in the wall.  They took nothing that did not rightfully belong to them, and they left no word with anyone that they were leaving—anyone being Master Augie, who was the only one fluent in their language.

Zeah knew that Miss Dechantagne’s plans for the colony ultimately depended on the lizardmen. They would be needed extensively for manual labor.  He also knew that Miss Dechantagne had negotiated well into the night with Chief Ssithtsutsu.  He didn’t know what the outcome was.  He had better things to do that listen to Master Augie’s back and forth translation. Better things being looking at and talking to Egeria.  All the same, he was glad that the lizzies were gone.  They were so very… well, reptilian.

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