About wesleyallison

Author of twenty science-fiction and fantasy books, including the popular "His Robot Girlfriend."

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 7 Excerpt

Knowing that she had lived a privileged and easy life, Terra expected that the lizzies would get up earlier than she would, so that upon rising, she would find herself alone in the hearth room.  That wasn’t the case.  She was the first one up.  She stood and stretched, surprised also that, even with no pillow and practically no mattress, her back was not sore.  As she stood wondering where her clothes might be, she heard her stomach growl. She didn’t remember seeing a laundry, but she did recall seeing where the food was prepared, and she thought she could find it.  So, wrapping the sheet around her, she started off in search of something to break her fast.

It didn’t take her long to find the kitchen, where there was no one about.  Looking through several large pots along the wall, she discovered a cache of dragon fruit.  She had eaten the red and green pokey orbs before, but found them bland and not very filling.  Continuing with her search, she soon discovered a kiwi, a green melon, and thank Kafira, some strawberries.  With a bronze knife that had been left sitting on the counter nearby, she cleaned and cut all the fruit, making herself a little salad.  She used the hollowed out melon rind as a bowl.

Holding the makeshift container in one hand, she used the other to pass the pieces of fruit to her mouth. She ate as she walked back to the hearth room.  Along the way she passed several servants going here and there.  The palace was beginning to come to life.  In fact, when she arrived back in the hearth room, all of those who had been asleep, were now awake.  Ssu and Sirris were up and gone.  A servant was helping old Tsollot out of the room.  Both Szakhandu and Tokkenoht were in close consultation with Hsrandtuss.

“There you are,” said the King when he saw Terra.  “Some were afraid you had run away or gotten lost.”

“No,” said the girl.

“What do you have there?” He waved for her to approach.

She held out her fruit salad for his inspection.

“Look at this,” the king said to the two queens.  “She made a bowl out of this melon.  This is why humans are so dangerous.  They are always coming up with something new.”

“I don’t think this is a good example,” said Tokkenoht.

“No,” agreed Szakhandu. “I have seen fruit served this way before.  Surely you have too.”

“Who looks at fruit bowls?” growled Hsrandtuss, ignoring the fact that he had just been doing that very thing.  “Both of you, go away.”

Both females left the room, leaving Terra alone with the king.  He lay back down on his mat.

“Sit beside me.”

Terra sat cross-legged beside the great lizzie.

“Feed me some of that fruit.”  He opened his mouth and she tossed several pieces in.  “I used to like fruit, but I don’t eat as much as I used to.  I probably don’t eat as much of it as I should, but don’t repeat that to any of my wives.”

“It’s odd, isn’t it, that nature would provide such a thing just hanging from the trees?” said Terra. “It’s a kind of magic.”

“You are an odd little thing,” he said, opening his mouth and allowing her to throw in a few more pieces. “Why exactly have you come here?”

“My brother sent me.”

“Yes, I know that. But why?  What are you here to do?”

“I am here to see with fresh eyes.”

“What does that mean, little female?”

“I think it means to see without fear.”

“And you aren’t afraid?”

“I’m afraid of many things, I think.”

“Then we shall go see with fresh eyes together, eh?”  The king shot to his feet much faster than the girl would have expected based on her previous observations.  He pointed to her sleeping mat, where her clothes, her helmet, and her pistol, were stacked.  “Get your paint and feathers on and then come to the dining hall.”

Terra ate the last few bites of her fruit, licked her fingers clean, and then got dressed. Though she had worn her clothes only a few hours, women in Brech society routinely changed several times a day, so she was happy that her khakis had been laundered while she had slept.  She managed easily to roll up the cuffs of her pants, and tried to do so with the sleeves of her shirt.  Eventually she had to take it off to perform the modification. At last she was completely decked out and started off toward the morning meal.

The dining hall was far less crowded than it had been the evening before.  Though the palace served a morning and evening meal, most lizzies ate only once a day.  Hsrandtuss was already in his seat while Ssu gathered food for him.  Terra went to the food tables and put together her own meal. When she sat down in the same chair she had used the previous night, she had a plate half filled with kippers. The remainder was mostly roasted vegetables, including parsnips, potatoes, and green peppers, along with some small but meaty tomatoes.

Terra surprised herself by eating so much.  When she looked up she noticed that the rest of the diners were watching her.  At first she thought that this was simply because she was a human, but then she noticed that most of their plates had less than half the food of hers.  She shrugged. It wasn’t her fault that she was warm blooded.

“We shall go hunting this morning, Earthworm!” called the king.  He looked at another male who sat across the room from the girl.  “What do you think, Slechtiss?  Can you find weapons small enough for this little soft-skin to use?”

“I will see to it, Great King,” the male replied, staring at Terra.

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A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 6 Excerpt

Lady Terra leaned over to one side, so that she would have a better view of Yessonarah around Nichol Borrin’s shoulder.  The lizzie city-state was quite impressive.  It rivaled Port Dechantagne in overall size, and was much more dense. Surrounded by a great stone wall, it stretched up the side of a mountain on the right and touched the shores of a large lake on the left.  Within, were a multitude of wooden and stone buildings.  Poking up from among them, were six large pyramids and five other enormous buildings.

“Let’s move along,” she told Nichol.

The iguanodon upon which they sat started forward at his command, but with a pronounced limp due to a horrible gash on its right flank.  This uneven movement caused the two men squeezed into the howdah behind Terra to bump into her with its every step.  It took the better part of the morning for the poor creature to make it from the hilltop to one of the large gates in the city wall.

As they approached, hundreds of lizzies stopped what they were doing to stare and point and the strangers.  It was perhaps not the event that it might have once been.  Human visitors were no longer completely unheard of.  Still it was an unusual sight, even without the severely wounded mount.

Just inside the gates, the dinosaur stopped in front of a wooden building.  Two human men and three lizzies came running out, joining the hundreds of lizzies who were watching from both sides of the broad street.

“Nichol, what happened?” asked a grey bearded man, looking up.  “Where are the others?  Where is Uncle Phoebus?”

“Dead,” came the reply. “All dead.”

The driver slid down from his mount’s shoulder and tapped the beast on his front leg until he sank as close to the ground as possible.  The two men on the back hopped down and then the three of them held their arms up for Terra.  The girl climbed out of the howdah, turned, and dropped backwards into their waiting arms.

“Seven men lost on one trip,” said the older man in a barely audible voice.

“Only six,” said Nichol. “Claude broke his arm playing rugby and stayed home.”

“What happened?” asked the other man from the building.

“Gorgosaurus—seven or eight. They hit us all at once.  We didn’t stand a chance.  I would be dead too, if it wasn’t for Lady Terra.  The beast hit Choco on the haunch and knocked us ass over teakettle.  She just stood up and shot it in the face.”

“Thank you, My Lady,” said the older man.

“I expected a .45 would only make him angry,” said Terra.  “Still it’s better to do something than nothing in those situations. Surprisingly, it hurt him enough to send him on his way.”

“I’ve never heard of the gorgoes working in a team like that.”

“Mating season,” said the old lizzie just behind him in spit-n-gag, as humans frequently called the lizzie tongue. “Unattached males will hunt in groups until mid-summer.

“I’m Garl Borrin,” said the man, taking Terra’s hand and pumping it so hard her entire body shook.  “Come inside where we can offer you some hospitality.”

“We haven’t eaten in two days,” said Nichol.  “We used the last of our water yesterday.”

“Sweet Kafira!  Come, come.  Kellerick will take care of your mount.  We’ll get you fed and get some water into you.  You must be ready to collapse, My Lady.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say no to a cup of tea and a biscuit, but what I really need is to clean up and change clothes.  I may end up naked, as we’ve lost my entire collection of luggage.  I shall be very cross if I find a gorgosaurus wearing my best new evening dress.”

Some two hours later, Terra left the building, which turned out to be the offices of The Borrin & Tate Trading Company.  Guided by one of the lizzie employees, she trudged up street, among the great throngs of reptilians going about business of their own.  The Borrins had supplied her with a fresh khaki shirt and trousers. Though both were size small, they were huge on her.  The sleeves of the shirt were rolled up four times, giving her huge cuffs at her wrists. They matched the huge cuffs at her ankles.  Her own belt now struggled to hold up those pants and to support her holster and the heavy pistol.   She was able to wear her own boots and helmet too, but while she hadn’t mentioned it to anyone, she had simply forgone any attempt at underwear.

As they walked along, the lizzies avoided her even more than they did in Port Dechantagne.

“They have never seen an adolescent human,” explained her guide.  He might have meant wild human, as the lizzie word for adolescent and wild were the same.

“Is the god at home?” she asked, looking skyward as they passed the base of a massive pyramid.

“No, but he is expected for the Spring Festival.

Terra was exhausted by the time they reached the palace gate.  She couldn’t remember ever having walked that far.  By the gate stood a massive lizardman whose body was painted completely red.

“This human is here to see the king,” said her guide to the guard, and then to her, “I will bid you goodbye.”

Terra watched him walk back the way they had come.  She took off her helmet and wiped the perspiration from her brow with her sleeve. Then she looked up at the frightening red creature towering over her.

“If they chopped you up, they could make four of me and still have something left over.

The lizzie took a step back and hissed.

“Take me to your leader, please.

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 5 Excerpt

Twelve thousand miles away from Birmisia Colony and the rest of Mallon, was the continent of Sumir. It was the smallest of the world’s twelve continents, but it dominated the others, because Sumir was the ancestral home of all humans.  Many people said the continent was shaped like an upside down teardrop.  Others said it more resembled an upside down candle flame.  At least they agreed that whatever it was, it was upside down.  On the northern end was the land of Freedonia, and just off the coast from it, was the island nation of Brechalon, for the past twelve years, forged into a single political unit—The United Kingdom of Greater Brechalon and Freedonia.  Roughly in the center of Brechalon, the largest of the three islands that made up Greater Brechalon was Brech City, the capitol of the Kingdom, as well as the vast and still growing Brech Empire.

Birmisia Colony was thick with lizzies.  Outside of the colony, there were even more, as most of Mallon was dotted with villages and city-states of lizardmen.  In Sumir however, the lizzie population was limited to one.  Esther was that one lone lizzie on the continent, and had been for more than four years.  If she hadn’t been aware of that fact before, she was constantly reminded as she made her way though the halls of the vast four-story mansion of the Dechantagne-Staff family.

Esther had risen early. She had a suite of rooms in the rear of the third floor that overlooked the courtyard.  It was quite nice.  She had been raised to sleep in a human bed, but still sometimes took to the floor, sleeping on the rug, with her nose pointed toward the fireplace.  Having taken a bath in the wholly inadequate human bathtub, she had dressed in a new pink morning dress.  It had been made from a design for typical Brech women, but the seamstress had radically altered it to fit her body, and not the least for her long tail.

As she walked through the hallway, toward the stairs, she encountered five of the household staff. It seemed quite odd to her, but here in Brech City, the servants were as human as the masters.  In each case, save one, the staff members had gone to great pains to avoid her, either taking a sudden turn down another hall, or ducking quickly into a room.

Willa Armice was an upstairs maid who took care of Esther’s room among others.  The two had become friendly over the previous months.

“Good morning, Lady Esther,” said Willa.

“Don’t be sssilly. There’s only one lady in this house and it certainly isn’t me.  What are you about then?”

“I’m off to clean your rooms.  I hope you didn’t leave a big mess for me.”

“I tried not to. Would you mind leaving me more towels?”

“Of course, My Lady,” she said with a curtsey and a wink.

Esther continued down the hallway, hissing happily, which might not have been such a good thing on the balance.  She turned to start down the sweeping staircase and came face to face with Finley, the underbutler.  Almost running into her hissing snout apparently startled him so badly that he dropped the silver tray loaded with the morning post, and leaned precariously backwards.  He made an “eeep” sound when she grabbed him by the collar, but at least he didn’t topple down the stairs.

“Kafira!  That was close,” said Esther, as she steadied him on the step below her.  “Are you all right?”

“Nothing a couple of liver pills won’t fix,” he said, bending down to pick up the dropped letters.

“If you’re sure then,” said Esther continuing down the stairs.  At the foot of the staircase, she turned back around to see him still watching her. Esther gave him a little wave and, turning right and then right again, entered the dining room.

Two women, both in their early twenties, sat at the immense table, enjoying a breakfast feast. Esther sat down across from them. Fodora Epps and Regina Elipton were guests in the house rather than residents, at least nominally.  Both had been staying there for almost a month.  Besides being members of the aristocracy, and obnoxious twits, they were acquaintances of Lady Iolana’s from University.

“Good morning,” said Esther, taking a serving spoon and adding two slices of bacon, two large pieces of black pudding, and one basted egg to her plate.  “Would you pass the ssscones, please?”

“Imagine letting that thing eat at the table,” said Fodora, looking from between the brunette ringlets that framed her face and down her long nose.

“Where is your owner?” asked Regina, a blonde with big eyes but no appreciable chin.

“I don’t know where Lady Iolana is,” said Esther, taking a bite of black pudding.  “Ssso no ssscones then?”

Fodora pushed the plate of scones three inches toward the lizzie.  Esther had to stand up to reach them.  Taking a scone in one hand, she picked up the dish of lemon curd in the other and sat back down.

“I am ssso happy that you two are staying,” she said.  “It would pain me if your families’ current financial sssituations forced you to live on the ssstreets.”

“My family is richer than yours,” snarled Regina, forgetting for a moment to whom she was speaking.

She had either forgotten or never bothered to commit to memory the fact that Esther had been adopted by Iolana Staff at a very early age.  She had no proper lizzie family, and among the lizzies, even village chieftains would have been poor compared to the Eliptons of Brech.  On the other hand, if one considered her part of the Dechantagne-Staff family, as Iolana did, there was no question that the Eliptons would have suffered in any comparison of wealth.

Lady Iolana Staff swept into the room.  At nineteen years of age, she had reached her full five foot seven inches height, and developed what among Brech women was considered the perfect figure.  She was not particularly buxom, nor was her bottom, without a bustle, particularly large, but her waist was quite thin even without a corset.  She was stunning, with waves of golden hair falling well past her shoulders and the same aquamarine eyes as her mother.  She was already dressed to go out, in a rose and pink velvet day dress with a matching hat.

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 4 Excerpt

The very eastern edge of Port Dechantagne, just south of Zaeritown, was dominated by many groups of small housing developments constructed by BB&C and other firms who wanted to take advantage of the city’s growth.  Most of these consisted of a score or so of small cottages situated around a little park.  The area quickly became the most sought after real estate for Birmisia Colony’s burgeoning middle class—those who could afford better than an apartment in the brownstones near Lizzietown, but who were nowhere near affluent enough for the great mansions and estates near the northern central part of town.  The main thoroughfare through neighborhood was Victory Boulevard.  It was a four lane red brick-paved street, lined on either side with gas streetlamps, and with a broad grassy median that accommodated side-by-side trolley tracks. The west end of Victory Boulevard ended at Victory Park and in the east it, along with its trolley line, extended two hundred yards past the last group of houses.  From there it turned into a single lane, winding gravel road that led some eleven miles to the small village of Villa Cochon.

Turning south from Victory on Ghiosa Way led one through one of these little neighborhoods.  Five houses sat on the left and three on the right, and then there was a turn west on Dante Street.  Around the corner was the park with swings, park benches, and a pond, frequented by shore birds from the ocean several miles to the north.  Ghiosa Way itself, ended with a wood fence as a barricade. Though beyond it, the street might some day continue, for now, it was remarkably dense woodland just a dozen feet away.  The last house on the left side of the little street, right next where it ended, was a small yellow cottage, with a white railing and posts on the front porch, a white-framed window just left of the white front door, and a similar window looking down from the attic between the eaves.  The cobblestone pathway leading up to the front steps was lined with large ferns of the type commonly found in the area, and the yard was filled with several pines and a maple that had escaped the fate of those that had been cut to make room for the comfy little domicile.

Near the back right corner of the little cottage’s yard, about halfway between the house and the nearest trees, was a large barrel in which trash was burned once or twice a week. Though the refuse did not include foodstuffs, it did sometimes contain newsprint that had once wrapped a purchase from the butcher or the fishmonger.  It was these smells that sometimes drew animals from the forest to the yard, as it did on this particular day.  The animals in question were three velociraptors.  They were two and a half feet tall and five feet from the tip of their many-toothed snouts to the ends of their tails.  Hairy feathers covered their bodies—yellow near their small arms and green everywhere else, but for a black band around their necks and a black tuft at the ends of their tails.  Easily mistaken for a more benign bird from a distance, those familiar with them were wary because of the teeth and clawed hands, but mostly because of their feet, each of which had a three-inch claw curving upward, used to disembowel prey.

One of the velociraptors jumped up onto the edge of the barrel and looked down inside, trying to discover something edible.  Before it could learn whether any such thing existed, it was knocked off by another, which then let out a squawk and promptly fell inside.  All three began a horrendous cacophony of shrieks and cries, even after the most adventurous of the three had found his way back out and onto the ground.  Suddenly the side door of the house burst open and a woman ran out swinging a broom and shouting her own shrieks and cries.

“Get out of here, you horrid beasts!”  She made every effort to swat them, but the velociraptors easily evaded her and went running back into the woods.

“I’ve told you before not to do that!” shouted a tall red-haired man, running around the side of the house.

“They’ll make a mess,” she replied.

“Better they make a mess than they injure you, or worse.”  He stopped in front of her, looked down into her bright blue eyes, and then kissed her on the lips.  “I don’t want to lose you.”

She smiled, and reached up to run her fingers along the line of his square jaw.

“How did I ever get so lucky, Mr. Baxter?”

“I’m sure most would say that I’m the lucky one, Mrs. Baxter.”

“Come inside.  I have been slaving all day to have your luncheon ready.”

She took him by the hand and led him into the house.  Just inside was the small dining room.  Painted yellow with green trim, it was as cozy as one would have expected, having seen the outside of the home.  All of the furniture was new and of the highest quality, manufactured locally in Birmisia.  There was a flatware hutch, displaying behind the glass doors, a collection of beautiful porcelain dishes, a small table with two chairs, and an occasional table upon which sat two framed pictures.

She pulled out a chair and waved for him to sit.

“Your seat, Monsieur.”

He sat and pulled her into his lap.

“If you’re playing at being a Mirsannan, shouldn’t you be dressed like one?” he asked.  “Their women usually wear these gauzy gowns that one can practically see right through.”

“You, sir, are very naughty.”

He admired her very Brech appearance.   She wore a pretty white pinstriped day dress, trimmed with white lace and bows. She wasn’t wearing the matching hat and her collar-length dark brown hair was parted on the side and combed over with only a few curls in the back.

She slapped him on the shoulder, and then reached to remove a knitted cozy covering his plate.  The plate was filled with mashed peas, several slices of tomatoes and a very large helping of meat pie.

“Cottage pie?” he asked.

“I’m calling it Charmley pie.”

“Dinosaur meat then?”

The Dragon’s Choice – Chapter 14 Excerpt

Lord Augustus Dechantagne sat in a chair at a conference table in The Office of Lizzie Affairs. Around him were seated Mr. Millard Tomley Esq., Mr. James Dawes Esq. and Amoz Croffut, the three of them, with the exception of two secretaries, the entire complement of the organization. The young lord flipped through the papers in front of him and blew air between his lips.

“I don’t think you gentlemen understood what I wanted.”

“You wanted to expand,” said Tomley.  “We’re planning to more than double our staff.”

“Two more lawyers and four more secretaries.”

“Exactly,” said Dawes.

“Look,” said Augie. “Up until now, all you’ve done is help the lizzies here in Port Dechantagne when they’ve come afoul of our laws and customs.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Yes, you need more help in order to fulfill that mission.  You should definitely hire these additional people.  But I want this office to keep track of all the lizzies in and around Birmisia Colony.

He looked at Amoz Croffut.

“You’re a military man, Croffut.  When I need intel on the lizzies, I want to be able to come to you and for you to have it.”

“You mean you want it available for Governor Staff, don’t you?” said Croffut.

“I mean both of us.”

He pulled a paper out of his breast pocket, unfolded it, and handed it across the table.  Croffut read it over and then handed it back.

“All right.  So you have the full authority of the Governor.”

“Yes, so when I tell you to hire the people you’ve found, you should do it.  You should also get more secretaries, at least one statistician or accountant, a military liaison, a linguist, and at least one anthropologist… or would you call it a reptiologist?”

“The term would be cultural herpetologist,” said Croffut, “but I don’t think there is such a thing.”

“Well find someone. I’d recommend Tiber Stephenson as your liaison, but hire whoever you want.”  He looked up through the glass wall that separated the conference room from the outer office, and a smile broke across his face.  “You’ll excuse me, gentlemen.  My other appointment is here.”

Zoantheria stood at the far side of the large room in a beautiful sleeveless sky blue day dress. It was decorated across the breast with white lace and trimmed down its length in blue bows.  She had a smart white boater atop her curled blond hair. She grinned when she saw him hurry across the room to her.  When they touched, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. Then she licked his chin, neck, and finally his ear.

“You are so yummy!” she said.  “I could just eat you up.”

“Did you have an extra large breakfast this morning?” he asked, pulling back a bit.

“I did.  I ate a two young iguanodons.”  She cocked her head and raised a brow.  “You don’t think I would really eat you.  Do you?”

“Of course not, my love. Still, better to ask the question than to assume the answer.”

“Are you done with your meeting?” she asked, excitedly.  “Are you done?  Are you done? Are you?”

“It so happens that I am done for now.  What is it that has tickled your enthusiasm?”

“I have to show you. It’s so wonderful.”

“Well then, let’s go,” he said.  “I assume you’re driving.”

Grinning, she led him by the hand out of the office building to where her car sat steaming away.  He climbed up into the passenger side, as she got behind the wheel.  Seconds later, they were zipping up Bainbridge Clark Street, and through the gate in the Emergency Wall.

“Where are we going?” he asked, as the vehicle careened around the corner of Shadow Street.

“I met some new people,” she said.  “They just bought a house at the west edge of town.  They’re from Arbrax.”

“Arbrax?  Are they polar bears?”

“No, silly.  They’re perfectly nice people, and they said I could visit their house any time.”

She brought the car to a stop in front of a new home.  It was constructed in the recently popular all wood style, with a high sloping roof. Zoey hopped out and ran around back to release the steam.  By the time Augie stepped out of the car, she was there to take his hand and lead him down a walkway that led past the south side of the house and into the back.  The property didn’t seem to have a proper garden, just a carefully placed path that led through pine trees as thick as anywhere in the colony.

“Are you sure we’re allowed here?”

“They said I was welcome anytime.”

The path came to an end before what appeared to be a tiny version of the house.  It was constructed of pine and stood at full height with the same sloping roof, but was no more than twenty by twelve feet in dimension. Zoey opened the door and stepped inside, pulling Augie along with her.  Inside was a small anteroom with hooks and cubbyholes presumably for the temporary storage of clothing.  Beyond that, was an unadorned wooden wall, with a wood door that had a twelve by twelve inch window at face height.

“Take off your clothes and hang them up,” said Zoey.

“What is this?” he asked.

“I’ll explain it all when you’re naked.”

“Um, explain it to me now.”

“It’s a sauna!” she squealed.  “It’s, well, it’s a hot room.”

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 3 Excerpt

Governor Iolanthe Staff slid out from under the body of her lover.  Collapsing against the cool surface of her pillow, she ran a hand over her body, slick with perspiration.  After several deep breaths, she rolled off the mattress and stepped to the washstand, where she poured the full pitcher of water into the basin.  Setting the pitcher aside, she cupped both hands in the cool water and brought them up to splash it over her face.  She didn’t bother to dry herself.

Gazing at the man on the bed, she took careful note of his muscular back and buttocks, before moving back and crawling cat-like to him.  She draped herself over him and kissed the nape of his neck.

“This was very nice,” she said.

“I’m glad to hear that,” he said, drowsily.  “I wasn’t sure I was welcome at first.”

“You’re welcome to stay as long as you like.”

“No, I have to get up.”

She rolled off of him, sitting up, and fluffing the pillow behind her.

“I thought as much.” Her voice turned from sultry to crisp and commanding.  “You should be on your way.  It’s almost tea.”

“Yes.”

He got up and walked around the bed to the washstand.  There, he took the hand towel, and dipping it in the basin, used it to wash his body. He quickly dressed and used her brush to put his sandy blond hair back into its usual neat precision.

“Will you be by tomorrow?”

“I don’t know.  I have a great deal to do.”

“I’m surprised you have any time for me at all.”

“I have a weakness for powerful women,” he said.  “It must be down to how I was raised.”

“Perhaps I’ve grown too old and ugly for you.”

“Don’t be stupid.”  He glanced over her naked body, nodding in appreciation.  “I said I have a great deal to do.  I have to take care of this wizard problem.”

“My nephew is dealing with it,” said Iolanthe.

“It’s a police matter,” he said, slipping into his suit jacket, “and I am the Chief of Police.”

“So you are.”

He stepped to the door and started to turn the knob.

“Saba?” she called.

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” he called over his shoulder.

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Lord Augustus Marek Virgil Dechantagne, Earl of Cordwell, March Lord of Birmisia, Viscount Dechantagne, and Baron of Halvhazl, stood in the parlor, looking out the front window.  A dragonfly, somewhat larger than the palm of his hand, flew up to hover just on the other side of the glass from his face. The two stared at each other for a moment, and then the insect buzzed away.  The young nobleman had grown from a chubby boy to a tall, fit young man. He had gained three inches in height just since his fifteenth birthday more than a year before.

“It’s bloody warm today,” he said, brushing back his chestnut hair.  “It’s going to be a hot summer.”

“If you say so, Augie,” said his fifteen-year-old sister, who sat on the sofa embroidering a tea cloth. Her own dull, brown hair fell limply over her shoulders.  Her voice was deep for a girl, but rather weak and scratchy.  “You know best.”

The youth snapped his fingers and a hulking lizardman entered to stand beside him.  The monstrous creature was seven feet tall, dwarfing the human.  He was covered with bumpy skin, light olive down his front from the dewlap below his long snout, and deep forest green on his back and down the length of the long powerful tail that hung behind him, the tip a few inches off the floor.  He looked like a cross between an anthropomorphic iguana and an alligator.

“A cup of tea,” said Lord Dechantagne.  “And one for my sister too.”

“I don’t think I want tea,” she said, without looking up.

“Yes, Little Worm, you do.”

“If you say so, Augie.”

The reptilian servant nodded and hurried from the room.

The young man left the window and walked to the chair by the fire, where the third member of the family slumbered.  His mother was still a great beauty at forty-four years of age, though her dark brown hair now had several thick streaks of grey.  Yuah Dechantagne was still in her dressing gown, with one leg thrown over the side of the chair and her head tucked into the back corner.  A single long snore escaped her thick, well-formed lips. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

“Do you want to go up for your nap, Mother?”

“I’m not asleep,” she said, sleepily.  “I’m just resting my eyes.”

With a sigh, he left her and sat beside his sister.

“She’s been gone four years now,” he said.

“I know.  I can hardly believe it has been so long, but I’ve decided to join her as soon as Auntie Iolanthe will let me.”

“What in the deuces are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about going to Brech City.  I’m going to live with Cousin Iolana.  I miss her so.”

“Well, I wasn’t talking about Iolana.  And I don’t think you’ll be allowed to go live with her.  That girl does nothing but spend money on parties and clothes. There’s no telling what trouble she’s getting into.”

“What do you expect? The poor thing’s lost her father.” She stopped and looked around, and then continued at a much lower volume.  “And honestly, would you want Auntie Iolanthe as a mother?”

“Auntie only wants the best for all of us.  Besides, we lost our father too.”

“You don’t remember Father, and I wasn’t even born when he died.”

“When he was killed, you mean… killed by the lizzies.  Anyway, Uncle Radley was like a father to me.”  He turned to the reptilian servant arriving with a large tea tray.  “Set it here, and there better be some milk.  I’m tired of drinking my tea like a savage.”

“I miss Uncle Radley too,” continued Terra.  “I think he was the most level-headed person I ever met.  Plus he told me he would buy me a car when I turned fourteen.  Here I am, almost sixteen and no car.”

“I’ll buy you a car.”

He poured two cups of tea and then added milk to his and sugar to hers.  After handing the cup to her, he took his and leaned back into the sofa.

“I wasn’t talking about Iolana.  I was talking about the sorceress.”

“You mean Senta?  Oh, I expect she’s dead.  Don’t you?”

“Don’t be daft. Nothing can kill her.”

“Oh, I think anyone can be killed,” said Terra.  “That green dragon died and the lizzies worshipped him as a god.”

“Yes, and look who killed him: Senta, that’s who.  And she wasn’t even at her full magic power yet.  Dragons aren’t gods anyway.  The lizzies just worship them because they’re too ignorant to know any better.”

“If you say so, Augie. You know best.”

She set her half-empty teacup on the tray and moved her needlepoint from her lap onto the arm of the sofa before standing up.

“Zandy, would you fetch Kristee please?” she called to the lizzie standing nearby.  “I need to change into my walking dress.”

“Where are you going?” asked Augie.

“Where else do I ever go around here?  I’m going visiting.”

“Be home in time for dinner. I have something I want to talk to you about.  Oh, and will you be visiting Miss Likliter?”

“That seems likely.”

“Then see if you can find out about the new brown hat I ordered from her mother.”

“Whatever you say, Augie.”

Exiting the parlor, Terra took a right turn and hurried up the sweeping staircase.  At the top of the stairs, she made a right down the long hallway, and then turned left to find her bedroom door just to the right.  Her lizzie dressing maid was already waiting for her.