For King and Country – Chapter 7 Excerpt

Lady Dechantagne climbed down from the driver’s seat of her car and called to Maxwell.  He obediently hopped out of the backseat and hurried to her side, pressing his head to her thigh.  She took several deep breaths before climbing the three steps to the front door of the three-story house.  This was not because her tight-fitting corset made it difficult to breathe.  In fact, she had chosen not to wear one at all beneath the slate grey walking dress with dark blue piping.  It was, rather, that she was very nervous.  She had seen the Grand Sorceress of Birmisia many times.  She had even had her to dinner on occasion.  However, she had never been alone with her, and had never been to her house.

She looked up, half expecting a black cloud to be hanging above the roof, but it was a clear, if somewhat chilly day.

“I suppose we should go in,” she told Maxwell.

“I think you should,” said a female voice.

Maria looked to see that the door was open and Senta stood looking down at her.  The sorceress was wearing a simple black skirt and a white shirtwaist.  She had on a black tie, but no hat, and was barefoot.

“Leave that animal outside though.  Felicity is around here somewhere.  Maybe they can be friends.”

“Stay,” said Maria, before climbing the steps to the door and stepping inside.

“Come into my parlor,” said Senta, leading her on through.  The door closed behind them of its own accord.

“You have a lovely home, Miss Bly.”

“Thank you, and please call me Senta.  Have a seat by the fire.  I just had the butler move these chairs over.  I’ve been chilled lately.”

“It’s this weather,” said Maria, taking the leftmost of two overstuffed chairs.  “I never expected to find someplace damper than Regencia, but it is.  It makes it seem all that much colder than it is.  It just kind of sinks into your bones.  It’s even worse in the summer.  The humidity makes it feel so much hotter, and you can’t get cool.  Even when you take a cool bath, you just stay wet…”

She stopped suddenly, realizing that her nerves had made her chatty.  She looked at the sorceress, who was smiling back from the other chair.  Senta pulled her feet up under her, giving Maria the impression of a cat getting ready to pounce.  This image became even more pronounced, when Senta leaned forward and spoke.

“So, what can I do for you, Lady Dechantagne?”

“Before I say, can I ask you to keep this confidential?”

“Oh, I shall be as silent as a crypt.”

“Well, I want to know… if I’m with child.”

“And you’ve been to the doctor?”

“Yes.  I went yesterday.”

“And what did he say?”

“It was a she—Dr. Maerlone.”

“I don’t know her,” Senta said.

“Well, she told me that they couldn’t tell for at least a month.”

“But you’ve been married for quite a while.”

“She said that they can’t tell until at least a month after… after…” Maria covered her face with her hands.  “You know.”

“Till at least a month after girl time?” Senta offered.

“Yes.”

“A priest could tell.  You could go see Mother Auni.”

“It wouldn’t be right to see her, I don’t think.  I converted; you see.  I’m a Zaeri now.  And I couldn’t go to Mr. Clipers.  I can’t talk to a man about this.”

“I see.”

“Do you think you could help me?”

“Oh, I can help you.  It’s not a hard spell, but it is somewhat advanced.  I gather that you suspect you are pregnant?”

“I guess I just about have to be.  Augie has um, visited me almost every night for the past two weeks.”

“Mmm.  Are you ready for me to begin then?”

“Yes.”

Senta leaned forward and reached out to touch Maria’s hand.

“Sembor uuthanum edios nit.”

The sorceress smiled.

“Well?” wondered Maria.

“You are pregnant.  You will give birth next Sexuary thirteenth, at 8:04 PM, after six hours and fifteen minutes of labor.  There will be no notable complications.  Do you want to know what it will be?”

“No.  Don’t tell me.”  Maria sat wide-eyed for a moment, and then spontaneously burst into squeals and clapping.  “I’m going to have a baby!”

“Indeed, you are.”

After another ten seconds of giggles, Maria looked at the sorceress with wide eyes.

“I can’t believe that you could tell me so much.  Is all of that true?  Sexuary?  Eight of an evening?”

“Four minutes after.  Divination is not my specialty, but it’s easily enough done.  Now, mind you, that’s not set in stone.  If you do something silly, like get yourself eaten by a utahraptor or run over by the trolley, then all of that goes out the window.”

“I’ll be very careful.  Oh, I can’t wait to tell Augie.”

“Are you going to tell him right away?”

“Of course.  Why wouldn’t I?”

“Well, Zoantheria will be asleep for a few more days, at least.  If you tell him, he might stop, mightn’t he?”

“Well of course.  Why would I want him to continue, if I’m already with child?”

“You don’t like it?” asked Senta, honestly shocked.

“Well, I don’t hate it.  It won’t hurt anything, will it?  To let him do it when I’m already… you know.”

“No, it won’t hurt anything.  I did it all the time when I was pregnant.  Sometimes a lot.”

“Well, I shall have to think on it,” said Maria, rising to her feet.  “Do I owe you anything?”

“Just your first-born child,” said Senta, and then laughed at Maria’s shocked face.  “I’m kidding.  Children are tedious.  Besides, I already have an arrangement with your husband.  I am available for all your family’s magical needs.  Feel free to call on me anytime.”