“You know I always thought you were too thin,” said Mrs. Gopling, “though I dare say you’ve put on a few pounds recently.”
Mrs. Gopling owned and operated a cart from which she sold smoky sausages on a stick. It was one of five such vending carts in Port Dechantagne that operated within fifty yards of the dock. In addition to Mrs Gopling’s there was Mr. Kordeshack selling fish and chips, Aalwijn Finkler selling cakes and scones, Mrs. Luebking, selling scarves, mittens, and knit caps for those who had either not brought warm clothing or were unable to find it in their luggage, and Mr. Darwin, who sold purses, wallets, belts, and hat bands, all made of dinosaur skin. Since it was well past lunchtime, Mr. Kordeshack and Aalwijn’s employee had packed up. Neither Mr. Darwin nor Mrs. Luebking had been present today because a ship had neither come in nor gone out of port. Mrs. Gopling had been closing up when the young sorceress arrived, but she had a few remaining sausages to sell.
“Give me one more,” said Senta, her mouth still full.
“Here you go, Dearie.”
Senta took the sausage in one hand and passed the woman a quarter mark piece with the other. Taking a bite of the new sausage, she looked at Mrs. Gopling. If she kept eating like she was, it wouldn’t be long before she resembled the round shape of the food cart proprietor, though with her blond hair and fair complexion it was unlikely she would ever have Mrs. Gopling’s mustache.
Senta knew she should be seeking out Graham and either apologizing for her behavior the previous day or at least insuring that he wasn’t still spending time with that what’s-her-name, but every time she thought about it, she started fuming. She didn’t want to stay around the docks too long or go to visit Hero, because she was in no mood to meet that blond girl. Though she had gotten up early that morning, she had stayed close to home, eating breakfast several times. All in all, it had been a pretty poor birthday so far. The only bright spot was the present she had found under her bed. Inside a brightly wrapped box was a woman’s black top hat decorated with a black bird, its wings outstretched. It just matched the black lace dress that was the only one she had found that she could still fit into.
She strolled north toward the park, walking between the warehouses rather than following the road because she wanted to avoid lookie-loos in general as well as a few specific individuals. She was just about to exit the narrow passage between one of the governor’s warehouses and a private one when two men stepped into her way. They were both at least six feet tall and broad shouldered. They both looked to be in their early twenties and they both dressed poorly.
“It looks like we’ve found our little bird,” said one of the men to the other.
“I think you owe us a good time, little girl,” said the other.
Senta took the last bite of sausage and threw the stick on the ground.
“How about it? Are you going to show us a good time?” the second man continued, though the first man’s face showed the first hint of confusion. Why wasn’t the girl showing any sign of fear?
“Here’s a good time for you,” she said.
Reaching out, she touched the second man with her index finger. He let out a bloodcurdling scream and dropped to the ground clutching his crotch. He continued to scream and scream. The first man looked from his friend to the girl and back, panic slowly crawling up his face. At last his gaze stopped on the girl.
“Here’s an oldie, but a goodie,” said Senta. “Uuthanum.”
A blue cone spread from her finger to engulf the man. His skin turned blue as frost formed on his skin. Within a few seconds, he was frozen solid. The sorceress stepped over the prone man, still screaming and holding his privates, and around the standing man, still completely stiffened.
“How much fun are you going to have now, I wonder?” Then she continued on her way to the park.