Yuah Korlann turned away from the street and made her way up the stone walkway, through the large snow covered yard of the Dechantagne estate. In a way it seemed odd that she wasn’t living there. She had lived in one Dechantagne house or another all her life. She had grown up with the three Dechantagnes of this generation, gone to school with them, worked for them. She paused to hyperventilate for a moment before starting up the steps to the portico. She had a white fur coat over a new pale pink dress and a new, extra tight corset beneath that. Standing at attention outside of the front door was a lizardman, naked except for a yellow ribbon with a gold medallion around its neck. As she approached, the creature suddenly moved. She flinched, but it was only reaching back to open the door for her.
“Um, thank you,” she said, stepping hesitantly through the doorway.
Inside was a maze of boxes and furniture heaped up against the walls. She navigated through them and into the parlor, surprised to find it clear of any such obstructions. A large comfortable sofa and several stuffed chairs had been set up around a small table. There was even a hutch against the wall with a full bottle of sherry and several glasses upon a silver tray. A fire was burning in the fireplace. There was no drapery in place yet, but two large trees outside kept the light from being too harsh. Above the mantle was the only picture hanging in the room—a portrait of General Augustus Q. Dechantagne, the younger brother of Iolanthe’s and Terrence’s grandfather. “Good morning Yuah.”
Yuah turned to find Terrence standing in the doorway. He looked good. He had gained a bit of weight, though he was still too thin. He was neatly groomed and dressed in a black suit. His bandaged eyes were hidden behind a pair of dark spectacles. With his left hand, he held onto the doorframe. Terrence had been captured, tortured, and blinded in the lizzie city of Suusthek, along with Corporal Bratihn. Ordinarily a magic user of Zurfina’s skill could have restored their sight, but they had been cursed by a lizzie witch doctor and there was no priest in the colony powerful enough to remove the curse.
“How did you know it was me?”
“The smell. With all those potions and lotions you use, it had to be either you or a group of a dozen other women. And since I didn’t hear any chattering, I decided it couldn’t be the latter.”
“Very astute. I was just admiring the portrait.”
“Great Uncle Augie, is it?”
“Yes. Isn’t he the one that… um…”
“Lost his manhood to a musket ball. Yes. I think Iolanthe is trying to send me a message, but I don’t know what it is.”
“I’m not certain I would want to know.”
Terrence made his way to the hutch, stepping confidently but following along the wall with his left hand.
“It’s way too early for me to drink,” replied Yuah.
“Fortunately, it’s not too early for me.” He poured himself a glass, his finger dipping over the lip of the glass so that he could tell when to stop pouring, and took a sip. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“I was hoping I could get you to take me somewhere. You really should get out.”
“Get out? I’ve just gotten in here.”
“You know what I mean. You’ve been cooped up inside, first in the apartment and now here, since the first snow fall.”
“Where do you propose that I take you? Birmisia isn’t exactly known for its lively social spots and it’s too bloody cold to do anything out of doors.”
“Well, we could take a stroll to Mr. Parnorsham’s Pfennig Store.”
“Notions actually,” Yuah replied pertly. “I need a bit of thread and a needle.”
“Of course you realize that you passed Mr. Parnorsham’s on the way over here.”
He took another sip of his brandy, and then set the glass down next to the others. “I’ll have to get my greatcoat.”
While Yuah waited, she pulled a hand from her fur muff and primped her hair. Within five minutes Terrence had returned, dressed for cold weather. Yuah took him by the hand and led him through the mazes of boxes and furniture to the front door. The lizzie opened it just before they got there.
“What do you think about all these lizzies your sister is hiring,” she said as they made their way across the front yard.
“I prefer not to think of them at all.”
They reached the center of the road and began walking west toward the Town Square. The road was slightly slippery from the snow, which had over the past few nights turned into ice. There were no vehicles in Port Dechantagne, unless a wheelbarrow could be considered a vehicle, so the roads were often left to the vagaries of the weather. Yuah tucked her hands in around Terrence’s arm as though he was guiding her rather than the other way around.
“I went to the execution the other day,” she said.
“Why would you do that?”
“I don’t know why I did it, but it was awful. There was so much blood, and that poor creature with her tail cut off.”
“What possessed you to go?” Terrence asked again. “I don’t understand why you would want to see that.”
“I didn’t want to see it! I don’t know why I went. I just wish that I hadn’t.”
“That’s one thing I don’t miss seeing.”
“Well, I can’t see how anyone or anything could have deserved that,” said Yuah. “Having the skin scourged off your back for a few marks?”