For King and Country – Chapter 2 Excerpt

The dockyards sat at the northern tip of Port Dechantagne.  To the southeast, along First Avenue were the homes of the rich and important of the city, including the colony’s two largest homes.  Both the mansion of the Dechantagnes and the home created for Zoantheria Hexacorallia next to it, were less than two years old.  The eastern face of Zoantheria’s home was very much the same style as the Dechantagne home it faced—three stories, columned, and classically inspired.  It’s western half however, looked like nothing so much as the massive constructs used to house dirigibles.  It was a home designed with the dichotomy of its mistress’s life in mind.  In other words, it was built for a dragon, one who lived much of her life in the form of a human being.

On this morning, Zoey was entertaining another woman in her beautifully appointed breakfast nook.  One wall of the small room was completely taken up with a large window that looked out over a garden filled with yellow roses.  The walls to either side were covered with portraits, many of them paintings, but some photographs.  On the remaining wall, on either side of the open doorway, were cabinets filled with fine porcelain dinnerware.  On the small table, between the two women, were a set of teacups and teapot matching the dishes in the cabinet, and a large platter containing three different kinds of biscuits.

Zoey daintily procured a chocolate biscuit from the platter and brought it to her thick lips.  Her eyes lit up as she tasted the buttery treat.  She shifted in her seat.  Her yellow day dress, which was one of the new styles, having no bustle, was trimmed with white bows.  She ran a hand over her breast to brush away nonexistent crumbs.

“I could never have imagined,” said the other woman, the former Maria Bertha Jerome Workville.  “If you had told me three years ago that I would be living in Birmisia and that my very best friend in the world would be a dragon, well, I would have thought you were insane.  I would have called for a constable.  That’s what I would have done.”

Maria too wore the latest style of day dress, hers white with pink ribbons.  She was shorter than the dragon in human form, with reddish blond hair and only a few freckles across her otherwise alabaster face.  As she formed her relatively thin lips into a smile, her large green eyes sparkled.  Picking up the teacup, she carefully sipped.

“I don’t mean to be rude, Zoey, but it’s still too hot for me.”

“Perhaps if you had some cream?” suggested the hostess, reaching for the creamer.

“No.  I shall wait until it cools.  I don’t mind.  The water must have been extraordinarily hot when it arrived.  I wonder that the teapot didn’t melt.”

“I’m sorry, Maria.  The servants are used to making it that way for me.  I should have thought to have them adjust things.  In point of fact however, water can’t get hot enough to melt porcelain.  It has a finite upper temperature.”

“You would know better than I do, I’m sure.  Don’t worry though.  The tea will be cool soon enough.”  She smiled again and arched one carefully sculpted brow.  “Does it seem cool already to you?”

“I do prefer mine scaldingly hot.”  Zoey tossed the remainder of the biscuit into her mouth.  “So how is life in the big house?”

“Oh, it’s interesting.  I can safely say that.  It took me a while, but I finally feel like I know my way around.  I get along with the aunt fairly well now.  She doesn’t say much to me, but that’s just as well.  The mother is nice enough, I suppose.  It’s that Gladys that I find the most difficult.  You’d think she was the lady of the house, the way she goes on, instead of a perpetual houseguest, which is what she really is.”

“Don’t let her push you around.”

“I try not to, and I’m standing up for myself now.  Unfortunately, it took me a while to get to this point and they’ve all gotten used to running right over me.”

“I could come and put the fear of goddess in them, if you want me too,” said Zoey.  “They’re already afraid I’m going to eat one of them.”

“No, no,” Maria waved her hand.  “I’ll manage.  Mind you, I really do enjoy seeing your dragon form.  She is just so beautiful.”

“Not she.  Me.  It’s still me.  I’m the dragon.”

“Yes, I know.  It’s rather hard to remember.  Looking at you now, no one would imagine you weren’t a natural born human being.”

“Thank you.  I work very hard at it.  I’ve spent more time perfecting that spell than all the other magic put together.”

“Well, it shows.  I’m sure Augustus appreciates it.”

“I hope so,” said Zoey.

“He loves you so very much.  Anyone can see it, the way he looks at you.  You two make such a cute couple.  Will you be seeing him this evening?”

“Probably.  Anyway,” said Zoey, changing the subject.  “You said you wanted a favor, and if it isn’t eating some person or other, then what is it?”

“Well, it is a delicate subject, but I feel sure that you can help me.”

“All right.”

“I’ve been married for more than a year and a half now,” said Maria.

“Yes?”

“Two years next Restuary.”

“Yes?”

“Almost two years and I’m not with child.”

“I have to say,” said Zoey, “I’m not particularly versed in this area of human biology, but I do understand that sometimes it takes a bit of time.”

“I understand that,” said Maria.  “I also understand that it may take considerably longer if the husband does not visit his wife in her bedchamber.”

“He’s not…”

“No.  Not in weeks and weeks.”

“Oh, I… um,” the dragon in human form paused to sip her tea.

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