The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 11 Excerpt

The Dark and Forbidding LandCissy left the parlor, passed through the foyer, and picked up the bag of rock salt by the door before going outside. Once in the garden, she began walking up and down, spreading the salt on the cobblestone paths and the stepping stones. She looked up at the dark clouds moving in from the north. If Toss had been there, he would have been able to tell her if this was going to be the last storm of the cold season. He wasn’t there, and it was unlikely that Cissy would ever see him again.

Just then Mr. Streck walked through the front gate. Cissy was about to turn around so that she could go inside and inform Mr. Dechantagne of the Freedonain’s arrival, when she saw a bright glint shoot across the otherwise gloomy sky. The object, which it took no great intellect to recognize as the steel dragon, swooped downward. Streck had taken four steps into the yard, when the beast shot by his face so fast that he could not have seen what it was. Cissy was watching it as it sped by, and could tell not only what it was, but could see that it was carrying something wrapped in white paper, clutched tightly to its chest. The dragon was already out of sight when the Freedonian let out a blood-curdling scream. Looking back at the man, the lizzie could see cuts across his nose and both cheeks that suddenly began to bleed profusely.

She hesitated as red blood oozed from between the fingers held to his face. Saba Colbshallow suddenly appeared at the gate and rushed to the man’s assistance. He took him by the shoulder and rushed him toward the house. Cissy quickly took Streck’s other shoulder. Before they reached the steps, Streck’s legs gave out beneath him and he crumpled into half consciousness. Tisson rushed down the steps and took his legs while Saba and Cissy carried him by the arms.

Once inside, Streck was rushed to the dining room, where amid much shouting and hissing, he was laid out on the great table. Mrs. Colbshallow arrived from the kitchen and immediately ordered that clean linens and tincture of iodine be brought. Just as Clegg was arriving with the requested items, Mrs. Dechantagne Calliere stepped into the room carrying a brown bottle of healing draught. Streck’s face, upon examination was seen to have five razor thin slices, quite deep, across its width.

“Yadira, send someone to fetch Dr. Kelloran,” said the Governor as she leaned over the wounded man and carefully poured the potion onto the cuts.

“I don’t need a doctor,” said Streck.

“Be quiet. This is your face. We need to make sure that it isn’t scarred.”

Clegg was sent as directed and by the time he returned with the doctor, Streck, no longer bleeding, had been moved to the parlor.

Cissy had seen Dr. Kelloran before. She was easily recognized for her more pronounced female characteristics. She usually also, as she now did, carried her small black bag. Sitting down on the sofa next to Streck, she carefully examined his face.

“The healing draught seems to be knitting the skin together nicely, but I still want to put a stitch or two on this nose.”

“Ouch!” cried Streck, as the stitches were sewn. “Damn Birmisian birds. It flew by so fast I didn’t even see it.”

“Birmisian birds don’t fly, at least none that I’ve heard of,” said Mr. Dechantagne from the doorway. His wife was standing with him. “We have a few large flying reptiles, but I’ve never heard of one attacking a person.”

“Saba?” asked the governor.

“Sorry, I didn’t see it. I heard someone cry out and came running, but whatever it was, was gone before I got there. But your lizzie was in the yard. Maybe she saw something.”

“Cissy?” asked Mrs. Colbshallow. Cissy took a step back as all of the human eyes in the room focused on her. “Cissy, what did you see?”

“It was the little god,” she replied quietly.

“Little god?”

“She means the dragon,” said Mrs. Dechantagne. “Zurfina’s little dragon.”

“It seems, Mr. Steck,” said Governor Dechantagne Calliere, “that you have made a powerful enemy. Just what have you done to Zurfina to raise her ire?”

“I have not even seen the woman.”

“He didn’t do anything to Zurfina,” said Saba, frowning. “I’ll wager he didn’t do anything to the dragon either. But he has had at least one well-known row with Senta.”

“That child belongs in an institution,” said Streck.

No one responded. Dr. Kelloran having finished, packed up her little black bag and the others began to disperse to other parts of the house. Cissy headed for the stairs, going up to the nursery.

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