The Young Sorceress – Chapter 12 Excerpt

A full complement of diners surrounded the Dechantagne table for the first time in a great while.  Radley Staff sat at the head of the table, his wife on his right hand and his daughter on his left.  Looking proudly from his spot directly opposite his uncle was Augie Dechantagne, a stack of books between his chair and his bottom.  His mother sat on his right hand and his sister, in her high chair, on his left.  Filling in the seats between Iolanthe and Terra were Mrs. Colbshallow and her son and daughter-in-law.  On the other side of the table were Cissy and two guests—Honor Hertling and her little sister Hero.

“How wonderful to have us all together,” said Staff, waving for one of the servants to start filling the soup bowls.

“It will make for a lovely Oddyndessen,” said Honor Hertling.

“For a what?”

“It’s a Zaeri holy day,” said Yuah, her eyes never quite moving up from the table.  “We don’t really celebrate it anymore in Brechalon.”

“Well, how lovely,” said Mrs. Colbshallow.  “It’s always wonderful to learn new things.”

“Should we…” said Staff.  “Would you… Is a prayer appropriate, considering?”

“We don’t usually do that,” said his wife, drumming her fingers on the table.

“Surely it can’t hurt… guests and all.”

“I could offer a simple prayer,” said Honor, and when Staff gave a nod that she should continue, she closed her eyes and intoned, “Great Lord, as you did with Odessah before his great journey, give us your blessings on this day.  Amen.”

“In Kafira’s name, Amen,” said Loana Colbshallow, making the sign of the cross.

She was followed about three ticks later by both her husband and mother-in-law.

The lizzies quickly served onion soup.  This was followed by a fruit and cress salad.  As soon as the salad plates had been removed, the servants began placing the main course.  Mrs. Colbshallow, though of course knowing nothing of Oddyndessen, had put together as fine a meal as she ever had.  A large pork roast was the center point, though there was also poached fish.  Pudding, peas, chips, and roasted mixed vegetables were placed on overflowing plates around the table.

“Wonderful as always mother,” said Saba Colbshallow.

“I think you’ve outdone yourself, Mother Dear,” said his wife.

“Here, here,” agreed Staff.  “Dearest?”

“The problem is Mrs. Colbshallow,” said Iolanthe, “your meals are always so perfect.”

Everyone at the table sat staring, not sure if there was more to come, and not sure whether this was intended as an insult or a compliment.

“Thank you,” said Mrs. Colbshallow after a minute.  She turned to Honor Hertling.  “It’s a shame that your brother couldn’t attend.”

“Yes.  He sends his regrets, but two ships came into port today, so he was needed at the docks. I hear that the lizzies have begun to move back in to Lizzietown, General Staff.”

“Yes, some of them have.  It’s just Mr. Staff.”

“Some are moving back into town,” said Iolanthe.  “But I have let it be known that these savage witch doctors will not be tolerated.”

She turned and stared at Yuah, but her sister-in-law never looked up from the table.  Yuah just sat and absentmindedly moved the peas around her plate with her fork.

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The Young Sorceress – Chapter 11 Excerpt

Senta left the dress shop and walked next door to the Pfennig Store.  The establishment was filled with lizzies, and although they seldom seemed to move very fast, it was less than fifteen seconds from the time that the Drache Girl entered and the last of the reptilians left.

“Thank goodness you’ve come in,” said Mr. Parnorsham.  “I need a break.”

“Can I buy you a Billingbow’s, Mr. P?”

Mr. Parnorsham thought for a moment, and then said, “I think you can.”

He pulled two bottles from where they were cooling and set them on the counter.  He handed Senta a straw.  Then he popped the cork from his own bottle and tipped it back, pouring the cool soda water down his throat.

“You must be making money hand over fist,” said the girl. “The lizzies sure love your store.”

“It has been very profitable, I won’t lie.  Honestly though, I think I’m getting too old for this. And to tell the truth, Mrs. Parnorsham is feeling lonely at home by herself.  I think a year or two more and I’ll have to retire.”

“What would we do without a Pfennig Store?”

“Oh, I’m sure someone will open up another establishment. I’m surprised they haven’t already. For that matter, I might sell the business or pass it on to someone.  Mrs. P and I were never blessed with children, but I have quite an abundance of nephews back in Brechalon.

“It won’t be the same without you, Mr. P.”

“That is very kind of you to say,” said the man.

Just then the bell over the door rang.  A lizzie walked in leading three human children.  Senta sipped her Billingbow’s and watched as the group made its way to the toy counter.

“Tsaua Cissy!” called Mr. P.  Then to Senta, he added, “the governor’s lizzie.”

“Yes, I recognize her.”

In the relatively quiet store, the children grew louder and louder until they were almost shouting at each other.  The lizzie hissed, quieting them.  Senta strolled over to where they stood by the toy counter.

“Can I be of assistance?” she asked in the lizzie tongue.

“It is nothing for you to worry about, Drache Girl.”  The words “Drache Girl” were in Brech, but he rest was in “spit-n-gag.”  “The children can’t decide which toy they want.”

“Hello kids,” said Senta, in Brech.

“Hello Senta,” said Iolana Staff and Augie Dechantagne at almost the same time.

“Where’s your dragon?” asked little Terra Dechantagne.

“He’s sleeping, but I’ll tell him you asked after him. So you can’t decide which toy to get?”

“I want another soldier,” said Terra, in her hoarse little voice, “but Mommy says I have to be a princess.”

“You should get a soldier.  Then you can be a queen and order him around.  Queens are better than princesses any day.”

“She’s getting her soldier mixed in with my regiment,” said Augie.

“Yes, I can see how that would be a problem,” said Senta. She turned to the oldest of the three.  “And what is your problem?”

“I don’t think we should get a toy every time we come to the Pfennig Store.  We have so many toys already that we can’t play with them all.  There are little children in Enclep that can’t afford a single toy to play with.”

“I don’t suppose your mother knows you’re a socialist?”

“See?” said the lizzie.  “Just kids.”

“Mr. Parnorsham,” called Senta, back toward the counter.  “Can you get me a tin of those butter biscuits and perhaps put a bow on it? I have a sick friend.”

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 10 Excerpt

Isaak Wissinger leaned over the ship’s railing and stared down into the dark blue water.  He wasn’t the only one.  Dozens of other passengers on the S.S. Waif des Vaterlands were lined up to watch as half a dozen giant turtles, each larger than a kitchen table swam along apparently oblivious to the steel vessel chugging past them.  They were large, but not nearly as amazing as the writer had expected, having heard for years legends of the monsters to be found in Mallon.

After leaving his employment with Herr Fuhrmann, Wissinger had taken the train from Butzbach to Friedaport, where he had worked on the docks until he had enough accumulated wealth to book passage, steerage class, to Mallontah.  This had taken him several months, but at last he had set sail.  Now, he had been on the ship for forty-five days.  His daily meals consisted of porridge in the morning, a piece dried tack for lunch, and for supper a soup made of beans and rancid pork.  It was infinitely better that his diet in the ghetto had been.

“Herr Holdern?”

It took Wissinger a moment to remember that he was Herr Holdern.

“Yes?”

He turned to find a greasy looking little man standing behind him.  He didn’t recall seeing him before, and after a month and a half at sea, that was remarkable in and of itself.

“Do I know you?”

“I do not think so, but I know some Holderns.  Do you come from Boxstein?”

“No,” replied Wissinger.

“Do you have relatives there perhaps?”

“Not that I know of.  You know how it is.  People move all around and lose touch.  You meet someone with the same last name and they may or may not be related.  My people come from Bad Syke, but who knows?”

“What is it you did in Bad Syke?”

“Oh, I’m not from Bad Syke.  I still have cousins living there, I think.  I grew up in Wahlstedt.”

“And what did you do there then?”

“Teamster.”

“A teamster?” said the greasy fellow.  “I took you for a scholar.”

“I doubt you get calluses like this reading books,” said Wissinger, holding up his palms.  “Why, I try to stay as far away from schools and books as possible.”

“I see.”

“But it is pleasant to meet you, Mister…”

“Spinne.  Adolf Spinne.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Herr Spinne.  Maybe we can talk again before we make port.”

“Perhaps,” said Spinne with an oily smile.

Wissinger turned and made his way through the portal and down several sets of stairs to his berth.  His was one of twenty-five bunks stacked five high in the relatively small cabin.  Most of his roommates slept at night, so he tried to spend as much time as possible outside at night, instead taking in a long morning and afternoon nap.  He climbed into his bed, second from the top and pulled the sleeping curtains closed around him.  He could hear the sounds of a woman moaning in passion close by.  She was in the same room, but in one of the other bunk stacks.  This wasn’t all that unusual.  People grabbed what comfort and satisfaction they could, and there were very few places to find any real privacy on a ship as crammed as this one.

“Sweet music isn’t it?” said a husky voice near his head.

Before he could respond, the curtain surrounding him was pulled aside to reveal Zurfina’s face, framed in a shock of blond hair.  She climbed up into the bed on top of him. There was no room to lie side by side even had that been her intention.  He was surprised though not unhappy to find that she was completely naked, and let out a deep sigh as she rubbed herself up and down his entire length.

“Missed me?”

“Yes indeed.”

She kissed him deeply, letting her tongue explore every part of his mouth.

“Have you been true to me?” she asked as she kissed his neck and reached down to unfasten his pants.

“Yes,” he said, then sighed again as she freed him from his trousers.  “Um, have you been true to me?”

She stopped and looked guiltily up at him, then shrugged.

“When you get to Birmisia, if you want, I’ll be true to you then,” she said, “for a while.”

“Oh, Lord help me, at this moment I really don’t care.”

There was almost no room for him to maneuver, so he simply lay back and let her do all the work.  It was a work for which she once again proved her skill, though she was somewhat louder than the woman who had been in the nearby bunk.  Wissinger didn’t realize it at the time, but he was none too discrete himself.  Afterwards he fell asleep with her still wrapped around him, and when he woke she gave him a repeat performance.

“The day after tomorrow you dock in Mallontah,” she said when they were done.

“That’s good.”

“Yes, but you still have a problem.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s that Spinne fellow you just spoke to.  He’s a Zaeri-catcher.”

“I don’t think he suspects me.”

“But you’re not sure, are you?”  Zurfina licked his lips.  “I have to admit, I admire how good a liar you’ve become.  I wouldn’t have expected it.”

“It’s a writer’s skill,” he replied.  “What do you think I should do?”

“Just make it to Birmisia the best you can.”  She kissed him deeply.  “I have to leave and you won’t see me again until after you leave Mallontah.”

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 9 Excerpt

It was early in the morning, and those residents of Lizzietown who were awake, were moving slowly as their bodies warmed up.  From the north, a line of uniformed humans made their way down the street, stopping and snapping to in crisp formation.  Six uniformed constables, still wearing their blue jackets, but having replaced their blue trousers with khaki pants and shin high boots, were in front of the formation.  The other forty men wore khaki uniforms and pith helmets.  All except the two at the front of the column carried B1898 magazine-fed bolt-action .30 caliber service rifles. Radley Staff carried a naval service sword, though a revolver rested in the holster at his belt.  Fifteen year old sorceress Senta Bly carried nothing that could be construed as a weapon.

“All right, where are they?” Staff asked the girl.

“Uuthanum,” she said, raising her hand.

A small blue ball of light rose from her hand and started toward the ramshackle houses.

“Two by two,” called Staff.  “Double time, march!”

His orders were repeated by the sergeant halfway back in the column.  The soldiers started off in a jog, two by two, into Lizzietown.  Staff held his sword close to his chest and the soldiers behind him carried their rifles the same way.  The little blue light flew above and in front of them at exactly the same speed they moved.

The smell of panic rose from the lizzies.  Some came out of their doorways to see what was happening, only to be shoved back by the soldiers.  Anything in the way of the march, whether it was a cart or wagon or a lizzie was knocked aside by a booted kick or a rifle butt.  Senta jogged along beside Staff.  He slammed a large lizzie out of the way with his shoulder, rather like a rugby player.

Lizzietown held several hundred houses, but it didn’t take long for the soldiers to reach their destination.  The little blue ball of light rose high up into the air and burst, raining down fine blue dust, which then glowed brightly as it coated six nearby shacks.

“Squads one and two, encircle positions!” shouted Staff. “Squads three and four, turn out those huts!”

Eight soldiers stormed through the doorways of the lizzie houses and began shoving lizzies and their possessions out onto the ground. Four policemen waited outside the doorways, examining items and pushing the reptilians down onto their faces. The other eighteen soldiers that made up squads one and two had formed a blockade around the six huts, keeping any on the inside from getting out, and any on the outside from getting in. There seemed to be few lizzies outside the circle who wanted to do anything other than get as far away from the area as possible.

Several lizzies appeared in the doorways of the other four houses.

“Kaetarrnaya eesousztekh!” shouted Staff.

Most of the lizzies popped back inside.  One who didn’t had rifle butts smashed into his face by two soldiers who rushed forward from the line.  One lizzie made the mistake of stepping outside while holding an obsidian encrusted wooden sword.  He was cut down by at least five rifle bullets, even though he had made no move to raise the weapon.  The rifle shots were the signal to all the lizzies outside the perimeter of human soldiers to get away and get away as fast as they could.  Senta suddenly realized it was a signal for something else as well.

“Uh oh,” she said, stepping over to the doorway where the dead lizzie was making a large bloody puddle in the dirt.

“Get back here,” hissed Staff, but his attention was pulled away from her.

“We have contraband!” called one of the constables.

Senta ignored the others.  Stepping onto the body of the dead lizardman, she pushed aside the animal hide door and peered into the hut’s interior.  It was dark, but not so much that she couldn’t see.  Four large lizzies stood against the walls, watching her, but she paid no attention to them.  At the far side of the room was a fifth aborigine, his back turned to the girl, but when the light flooded into the room around Senta, he turned to look at her. He was shrunken and shriveled, and his skin had faded away with tremendous age or maybe disease.  He wore a necklace of human hands held together with woven grass.  In his own hand he carried a small lizard, its four legs sticking straight out, mounted on a stick like some strange lizard lollypop.

“Kafira’s Tits!” shouted Senta.  “I know you!”

She did know him too.  The dried-out old creature was none other than the chief shaman of Suusthek, the great city-state that had sat two hundred miles southeast of Port Dechantagne until Zurfina had called down a meteor strike to wipe it off the map.

The shaman suddenly held up his lizard talisman and hissed.  Senta felt herself fly out of the doorway, sailing through the air to smash into the back wall of another hut.  All the air was knocked from her lungs and her ears rang.  She climbed to her feet just as the witch doctor emerged from inside.

Several riflemen fired at the old lizzie, but he simply waved the lizard on a stick and the bullets ricocheted away.  He raised his other hand and a stream of magical energy bolts shot toward the young sorceress.  Senta snatched one of the glamours floating invisibly around her head, activating it just in time to counter the witch doctor’s attack.  The ricocheting energy bolts flew in every direction. The lizzie hissed and a blast of frost and snow flew from his fingertips directly at the girl.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve,” she said, countering.  “That was the first spell I learned.  See what you do with this.  Uuthanum uluchaiia uluthiuth!”

Senta stretched out both hands and a small ball of flame formed, shooting directly toward the shaman.  In the scant score of so feet between the two, it grew to a diameter of ten feet.  The witch doctor held up his talisman as the fireball engulfed him and he remained safe within a little bubble as the flame exploded outward, setting fire to a dozen or more of the lizzie homes.  The buildings popped and sparked and burned like they had been soaked in kerosene. In a few seconds, every house within sight was at least partially ablaze.

“Oops,” said Senta. She could see lizzies running in every direction and hear the soldiers calling to “fall back!”

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 8 Excerpt

“I honestly don’t know what her problem was,” said Senta over her cup of tea.

“It reinforces what I’ve always said,” said Nellie Swenson. “Magic is too dangerous.”

Graham looked from one to the other, clearly expecting Senta to get up and clock the girl reporter in the noggin, but she just smiled and nodded.

“Another bottle of Billingbow’s!” he called to the passing waitress, who happened to be his sister.

“You know where it is!” she shouted back at him.  “Go get it yourself!”

“Does anyone else want anything?” he asked the two girls seated with him.  They both shook their heads.

“All right then, um, I’ll just be right back.”

“So how are you finding Birmisia?” asked Senta when he had left.

“Knock off the chit-chat, you lunatic,” replied the redhead. “You’re a menace and I intend to tell all of Brechalon about it.”

“So who’s stopping you,” replied the sorceress.  “Do whatever you want.”

“Oh, I will.  And before I’m done, I’ll have freed Graham Dokkins from whatever magic you’ve used to cloud over his mind.”

Senta snorted into her cup.

“You’re a daft cow,” she said.

Graham returned with his bottle of soda, but before he could sit down, Nellie jumped to her feet.

“Come on, Graham.  I want to feed the dinosaurs.”

The boy looked questioningly at Senta.

“Go ahead,” she answered his unasked question.  “Run along and play.”

She sat alone for a few minutes finishing her tea, and had just decided to head home, when the chair opposite hers slid back and Hertzel plopped down into it.  He gave her a look, with one brow cocked.

“What?” she asked.  “Do you think I’ve ensorcelled him too?”

He shook his head.

Gaylene stopped at the table.

“Having tea then, Hertzel?”

He nodded and made a circle with his hands.

“Soup coming up,” said Gaylene, and then hurried away.

“Aren’t you supposed to be working?” asked Senta.

Hertzel shook his head again.

“So what are you doing?”

He shrugged.

“You need a girlfriend, that’s what,” said Senta. “Maybe we can find you a little ginger tramp too.”

 

* * * * *

 

It was teatime too at the home of Egeria Lusk.  Her large house, tall with great columns along the front, sat just east of Town Square, behind a tall metal fence.  Large willows grew along the east and west sides and in back was a large, carefully cultivated garden.  Here, tea had been set up on a white wrought iron table and guests sat around it on six matching chairs.

Miss Lusk poured first for her fiancé Zeah Korlann, then his daughter Yuah, Yuah’s lizzy dressing maid, and finally for herself. Young Augustus already had a glass of juice, and his little sister Terra was curled up in the lizzie’s reptilian arms, sleeping.  Famous for her fine white dresses, on this occasion Miss Lusk wore a white and lavender striped day dress.  Her flaming red hair was pulled back into a bun and topped with a white boater.

“I told Mrs. Beynon that if Mrs. Dechantagne wanted to seat her lizzie at the dinner table then that was her prerogative,” she said.

“Cissy isn’t just a lizzie,” said Yuah.  “She’s part of the family.”

“Oh, believe me, I understand.  Why I just couldn’t get by without Chunny.”

Miss Lusk’s lizzie, Chunny, stepped out the back door at that moment, and balancing a large silver tray positively overflowing with covered dishes.  He was a magnificent fellow, tall and heavily built, with bright green skin the color spring leaves on his back and a yellowish olive underside.  Stopping beside the table, he laid out the dishes one by one before the diners.

“Tsaua Khunniitia,” said Cissy.

“Tsaua Ssissiatok,” replied Chunney stiffly.

“Kichketos ets etehos eenu?” Miss Lusk asked him sharply, then turning to Cissy said.  “I would prefer we spoke Brech at the table, please.”

“You seem to have quite a command of the local language, my dear,” said Zeah.  “Perhaps we could make a little game of it—all of us learning a few words.  What do you think, Yuah?”

“What?” asked Yuah, starting as if awakened.  “I don’t… I don’t care.”

“I’m hungry,” whined Augie.  “Ghahk tonahass already.”

His mother smacked him on the back of the head.

“Mind your manners,” she snapped.

“That is exactly why we don’t play those kind of games at the table,” said Miss Lusk.  “Learning the language so that we are better able to interact with our new world is one thing, but if we aren’t careful we shall end up bastardizing Brech culture, Brech language, and Brech civilization.”

“I doubt that our learning a bit of foreign language will have any lasting effect on Brech civilization,” said Zeah.

“You don’t think so?” Miss Lusk tilted her head as she spoke. “Young Augustus will grow up to be an important person—perhaps Prime Minister.  How will that happen if we allow his mind to be polluted?”

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 7 Excerpt

Senta and Hero stepped through the great gate in the emergency wall just in time to see a fireball shoot across the square and crash into the second and third floors of Finkler’s Bakery.  Patrons ran screaming from the ground floor as the upper floors took to flame.

“You stupid cow!” shouted Senta.  “Why would you cast a fireball in the middle of town?”

“Oh my!” said Hero, when she saw who Senta was talking to.

Another Senta was standing in the square in front of them.  This one was wearing a red dress.  Hero thought she looked older than the Senta standing beside her, but then realized it was simply that she was a bit heavier.

“You stay out of this,” said the red-dressed Senta. “You take care of your business and I’ll take care of mine.”

“I don’t recall burning down the town as being part of anyone’s business,” replied leather-clad Senta.

She grabbed a glamour from the air next to her.  It was one she had kept ever since Mayor Korlann’s house had burnt down. She pointed her hand and the air around the burning building was flooded with carbon dioxide, smothering the fire.

“I’m just sending a little message,” said the other Senta.  “Look. Now you’ve let them get away.”

“Let who get away?”

“Graham and that girl he’s running around with.”

“He what now?”  Senta looked at Hero, who shrugged.  “Whatever’s going on, you have no business trying to kill Graham.”

“I’m not going to kill him.  Only maim him a little bit.”

“Obviously the first thing I need to do is to get rid of you,” said Senta, waving her hands.  “Teiius uuthanum.”

“Uuthanum,” said the other Senta, countering the spell. “You’ve got to be kidding.  No copy is going to out-magic me.  Uuthanum Teigor.”

“I thought she was the copy,” said Hero.

“Prestus uuthanum.  She is the copy.  Go stand out of the way.  Ariana uuthanum sembor!”

A sticky mass of spider webs enveloped the red-dressed Senta.  She struggled for a moment, falling to the ground.  By the time she managed to dispel the webs, the leather-clad Senta had cast a charm spell on her.  Stepping over, she looked down at the image of herself lying almost helpless on the ground.

“If you touch me, you’ll see,” said the prone sorceress, in a sing-song voice.  “I’m the real Senta.  You’ll just cease to exist.”

“Let’s see then,” said Senta, reaching down and touching a perfect copy of her own nose.

The red dress seemed to deflate as the Senta who had been wearing it dissolved and flowed up and into the hand of the standing sorceress.

“Nice,” said Senta, standing up.  “A new dress.  I was wondering how that was going to work out.”

“I should have known you were the source of the trouble,” said Saba Colbshallow.

He looked sternly at Senta from beneath his police helmet, his blue uniform, with the exception of the sergeant stripes, a match for those of the two constables that followed on his heels.

“I didn’t…” Senta started.  “But she… Oh, bloody hell.”

“Come along with me to the station,” said Saba. “We’ll get all the details down in a report.  But I can tell you right now that someone is going to be held responsible for the damage.”

The top floors of the bakery had been saved from the fire, but there was plenty of scorching on the outside walls and no one would be too surprised if some of the supports had to be replaced.

“Fine,” said Senta, and then turning to Hero. “See if Mrs. Bratihn can get this dress cleaned.  Tell her I’ll come around for a fitting.”

 

* * * * *

 

“I don’t know why they let that little witch run around free,” said Yuah, curling up in a fluffy blanket near the fireplace.  “She’s a menace to society.”

Though she had spent the past three days under the careful nursing care of Mrs. Colbshallow, she still looked a bit ragged around the edges. Her always fair skin was decidedly pasty and her eyes were puffy and bloodshot.

“Well, um…” Honor Hertling stated to reply, but finding she had nothing to say, stopped.

“You should be careful, letting her into your home,” continued Yuah.  “You mark my words, she’ll prove a bad influence on your little brother and sister. Too much proximity to that kind of trouble; you’ll see.”

“As I recall,” said Honor.  “You used to be quite friendly with Senta.”

“That was before,” snapped Yuah.  “That was before I knew how… unnatural she was.  It’s that Zurfina.  That woman should never have been allowed possession of a child.”

“I do agree with you there,” said Mrs. Colbshallow, looking up from her knitting.  “She quite frightens me.”

“Yes,” agreed Honor.  “She’s necessary though.”

“Now you sound just like Iolanthe.”

“Let’s talk about something more pleasant,” said Mrs. Colbshallow.  “Like the high cost of coal.”

“Or new dresses,” suggested Honor.  “Yuah, you must have a new dress since we last visited.”

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 6 Excerpt

Isaak Wissinger walked through the cobblestone streets of Magdafeld.  He tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, but that was relatively hard to do on this particular morning because very few others were on the streets.  Magdafeld sat high atop a hill in the center of a long flat plain, so even though it was spring, a chilly wind whipped about.  He tucked his head down and pulled up the collar of “borrowed” trench coat.  When the sounds of a chugging steam carriage approached from behind, Wissinger tensed. He watched carefully as it passed, trying not to seem as if he was watching carefully.  The vehicle had an enclosed cab behind the driver, though it was easy enough to see that there was a man and a woman inside.  The vehicle shot past him, but came quickly to a stop half a block away.  Then it slowly backed up.  Wissinger looked for a side street down which to escape, but there wasn’t one.

The car finally came to a stop next to him.  He tried to continue walking.

“You there!” called a voice as a man climbed out of the car.

To his horror, Wissinger saw that the man wore the uniform of a Freedonian Army colonel.

“Halt.”

With a sigh, Wissinger turned around, affixing as convincing a smile as he could possibly manage.

“Yes?  Good morning.”

“Where can I find a strudel shop around here?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” replied Wissinger.  “I live on the other side of town.  If you’re over there, Volker’s Bakery is the best.”

“What are you doing on this side of town then?”

“I’m visiting my cousin.  She’s sick and I have to help with the kinders.”

“You have papers?” asked the Colonel.

“Of course.”  Wissinger pulled out his forged papers.  He had paid well for them, but didn’t really know just how good they were.

“Fritsie!  Come on!” said a woman, who then poked her head out the car window.  She was a gorgeous blonde in a red dress that left her shoulders bare.  “I’m hungry!”

The officer looked back at her and grinned.

“Be on your way,” he told Wissinger, and then climbed back into the car and the woman’s embrace.

The writer hurried the rest of the way down the street, turning right at the first intersection he came to.  This particular avenue provided a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside as it wound its way down the hill to the river dock and the adjacent train station.  Even Wissinger, who was much more interested in watching for potential pursuers than sightseeing was suitably impressed.  It brought a smile to him and a lightness to his step.

Any burgeoning happiness was squelched however when he reached the railroad crossing.  Three Freedonian soldiers, an officer and two enlisted men carrying rifles, were checking papers of those who would cross the tracks either to reach the train station or the dock beyond.  There was no way around and Wissinger needed to get on the ferryboat to go down the river. He took his place in line behind a woman in a green scarf.  When he got within a dozen steps of the checkpoint, his stomach suddenly jumped up into his throat. The officer checking papers wore a four-legged fylfot on his lapel, with a matching symbol on a red armband.  He was no mere soldier.  He was a wizard of the Reine Zauberei.

“Papers,” said the wizard with a sigh, to the woman in the green scarf.

The woman handed the wizard her papers.  He didn’t open them to read or examine them, but simply ran his hand over the outside cover.  The papers glowed a sickly yellow for a moment.

“Where are you going, Mrs. Kraus?” he asked her.

“I’m taking the ferry to Rivenholz.”

“Your business in Rivenholz?”  The wizard could not have seemed more bored.

“I’m having tea with my sister.  I have tea with my sister every month.  It’s still all right to have tea with one’s sister, is it not?”

The exchange was interrupted by the sounds of men shouting from the train a hundred feet up the track.  Everyone at the checkpoint turned to see a man fall from one of the train’s doors and land flat on his back on the gravel below.  There were more shouts, though what was being shouted was completely unintelligible.  The wizard turned to the two soldiers.

“Go see what it is.”

The two riflemen dutifully trotted toward the parked train. A loud whistle rent the air, and the train on the other side of the station slowly started moving.  It was headed toward Kasselburg and Bangdorf, the opposite direction that the ferry, and the other train, would be traveling.

“Say hello to your cousin, Mrs. Kraus,” said the wizard.

“My sister,” answered the woman, taking her papers and heading on her way.

Wissinger stepped forward and handed over his papers before being asked.  As he had done before, the wizard placed his hand over them, causing them to glow sickly yellow.

“Your name?”

“Von Horst, Wilhelm Von Horst.”

“Ah, ritter?”

“My great-grandfather, on my mother’s side.”

In Freedonia a ritter was a knight, a rank which entitled a man and his descendants to add “von” to his surname, though the actual knighthood didn’t pass on through the family tree.  Wissinger had reasoned that no one using forged papers would be so bold as to use the honorific and hence less suspicion would be thrown upon him. Looking at the wizard though, he now began to rethink that theory.

“And your name, Wizard?”