Senta and the Steel Dragon – Iolanthe Dechantagne

Iolanthe Dechantage is one of the major characters in the “Senta and the Steel Dragon” series. In fact, as I originally imagined it, she was the main charcter with Senta just sort of being the eyes and ears of the reader. The more of the story I wrote, the more it became Senta’s story.
Iolanthe Dechantage is the scion of a once pretigious and wealthy Brech family that has since fallen in both respects. She is determined to return her family to its past prestige and affluence. Along with her brothers Terrence and Augustus she devises a bold plan to commit all their resources to starting a colony on the coast of distant Birmisia.
Suddenly a figure approached the left side of her carriage. It was a dirty man, wearing dirty clothes, with a dirty bald head, and a big dirty nose. He stepped in close to her and ran his eyes down the length of her form. Another, similarly dressed man stepped up behind him.

“Well, this is nice, ain’t it?” said the second man. “We can have us a little fun.”
“Yeah, fun” said first man, pulling a long, thin knife from his belt.

“Careful though,” said second man. “She might have a little pistol in her handbag.”
“Does you have a little pistol in you handbag, Dearie?” the first man asked. He casually waved the knife in his right hand, as he pawed at her ankle with his left. Then he stopped when he heard the sound of two hammers being cocked, and looked up into the twin twelve gauge barrels.
“I don’t carry a handbag,” said Iolanthe, pulling the shotgun to her shoulder.
Iolanthe is serious and unemotional (some would say cold and hard). She is focused on the goal of reviving her family fortune, and anything else (and anyone else) is expendable. She might have a soft side, but few have ever seen it. The only one she considers her equal is her brother Terrence.
“Kafira’s blood, Iolanthe!”

Iolanthe pursed her lips.
“It was Yuah. Don’t you even care?”

“Yes, I know it was Yuah. And of course I care.”
“It didn’t seem like it. God, Iolanthe. I grew up with Yuah. We used to play together. She’s like our sister.”

“I know,” said Iolanthe. “I know and I care. I care just as much for her as I do for you.”
Augie looked her in the eye for a moment. “That’s what I’m afraid of.” He turned and started to walk away.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 14 Excerpt

Iolanthe dismissed the three men and walked swiftly to the stern of the ship where Yuah was awaiting her. The dressing maid was wearing a simple grey wool dress over a white linen foundation. Her hair was pulled up into a tight bun, but even its severity didn’t take away from her obvious beauty. Though Iolanthe was accounted one of the most beautiful women in the great city of Brech, she recognized the truth that few did—Yuah was more beautiful. Their difference in wealth, status, and religion obscured the fact, but it was a fact, none the less.
“Did you see Terrence just now?”
“Yes Miss.”
“You’ve been checking up on him, I know.”
“Yes Miss.”
“He doesn’t look very good. Is he… alright?”
“Yes. I don’t know. I think so.”
Putting thoughts of her brother or the relative attractiveness of her dressing maid aside, Iolanthe toured the ship from stem to stern, from the main deck to the lowest deck. There was much to do and she intended to make sure that it was all done and done properly. When an obvious need presented itself, she assigned the task immediately. When a need was less obvious, she gave Yuah a note to remind her about it later. When they reached deck four, Yuah stopped unexpectedly.
“What is the matter?” asked Iolanthe.
“This is my deck,” said Yuah. “My cabin is just up on the right.”
“Well, there are too many doors in this hallway. The doorway… here,” she pointed to the second door on the left. “That door shouldn’t be here.”
Iolanthe smiled. “Excellent.” She walked over and rapped sharply on the door.
It opened and Senta, Zurfina’s ward, looked out with a puzzled look on her face. Iolanthe was sure that it was the first time during the entire voyage from Brechalon that anyone had knocked on the door.
“Is your mistress at home?” asked Iolanthe.
The girl nodded. A moment later she was replaced in the doorway by the sorceress. She had evidently just gotten out of bed, and was clad in an ankle length but completely sheer nightgown. With no shoes on her feet, she was several inches shorter than Iolanthe.
“We have an assignment for you, sorceress,” said Iolanthe. “The creatures in the bay need to be driven away from the area where we are planning to build a dock. They need to be kept permanently away, or at least long enough for the construction to be completed.”
“I will take care of it,” said the sorceress, and closed the door.
Iolanthe turned around to look at her dressing maid with an uncharacteristically broad smile upon her face.
“That was most satisfying,” she said. “Thank you.”
“Yes Miss.”
“I think it’s about time for lunch,” said Iolanthe.
“If you’ll let me know the menu and the guest list, I’ll contact Mrs. Colbshallow and the wait staff.”
“I was thinking that you and I could have lunch.”
Yuah stood looking blankly for a moment, and then placed the palm of her hand against the wall of the corridor as though she were steadying herself in uneven seas.
“No need to look as though you’re going to pass out,” said Iolanthe.
“No Miss, It’s just…”
“Consider it a weak moment.”
“You don’t have weak moments, Miss.”
“No, well. You see Yuah, I don’t have any friends here.”
“You don’t have any friends back home either, Miss.”
“Thank you for your merciless honesty, Yuah,” said Iolanthe. “Peers then. This is a new world. If I’m going to have any kind of social life at all, I’m going to need a new group with whom to socialize—a new class if you will.”
“I won’t fit into that class, Miss,” said Yuah. “I’m the wrong religion.”
“No one is going to care about that anymore.” “People will always care, Miss.”

Senta and the Steel Dragon – Brech

The story of Senta and the Steel Dragon begins in the great city of Brech, although the scene moves on to other locations after chapter eight of The Voyage of the Minotaur. Brech is patternend after Edwardian London, with the addition of some steampunk ideas (specifically steam-powered automobiles). Horse drawn trolleys ply the streets and coal powered industry has left a fine covering of soot over everything. Fortunately there are plenty of orphans to employ in cleaning surfaces. The city is split by the River Thiss (pronounced Tiss) which brings ship traffic from the sea.
image Copyright 2009 by

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 13 Excerpt

It was chilly and wisps of mist hung in the air. On the distant shore, beyond the wall formed by impossibly tall redwood trees, large spruces, massive maple and bay trees, filled in between by thick huckleberry and azalea bushes and wave upon wave of rhododendron, some giant and no doubt frightening monster roared out a challenge. From its tiny animal carrier on deck, the little dragon answered.
Senta stepped onto the deck and knelt down by the box. Zurfina had dressed her in another weird outfit, this one a floor length black dress with a white collar. A black ceramic rose right in the front of her neck that made it difficult to look down at the high-heeled black sandals on her feet. Of course Zurfina had on a matching dress, and cut a striking figure standing along the railing of the forward deck with the Captain, Miss Dechantagne, the Dechantagne brothers, and other notables, all of whom were dressed in light summer clothing, as they surveyed the coastline.
“Pet!” said the dragon.
“Yep, it’s me,” said Senta. “I’m going to take you out, but you have to have your leash on.”
The dragon hissed. She opened the door of the carrier and the dragon climbed out onto the top. He turned his head and pointedly looked the other direction as she snapped the little chain onto the ring around his ankle. Once the little clip had snapped shut, Senta attached the other end of the chain to a bracelet on her right wrist.
“See there. We’re both chained by the wrist. Nobody’s the boss.”
“Gawp.” said the dragon, and then spreading its wings to balance, it climbed up her arm and onto her shoulder. It slithered down to lie across her shoulders, one hand and one foot holding onto her dress and one hand and one foot holding onto her hair. Senta stood up. The little dragon was now over four feet long from nose to tip of tail, but he was only about six inches thick across the belly and he was surprisingly light.
“What do you want to do?”
“Me too. This is sooo boring.”
The ship had been sailing parallel to the coast for the past four days and Senta was getting tired of it. What was the point of sailing all the way to Mallon, if you didn’t get out and walk around on it? Twenty days was more than enough time to explore every square inch of the largest battleship and Senta had spent more than three times that length of time on the Minotaur. Not even murders, gunfights, and drinking wine until you threw up could take away the boredom forever.
“Fina,” said the dragon.
Senta walked toward the front of the ship. She had gone only about halfway to where Zurfina and the others stood watching the coastline roll past, when a figure stepped out of the shadows. A freckled face and striped shirt quickly identified the shady figure.
“Hey Graham,” said Senta.
“Hi Senta. What’ya doing?”
“Nothing. He wants to go up by the grown-ups.” She indicated the dragon with her thumb.
“Can I come?”
“Sure. Just don’t get too close, cause he’ll bite you.”
“I thought he was tame.”
“You can’t tame a dragon. Zurfina says you can’t tame anything that’s smarter than you are.”
“Who says he’s smarter than me?” Graham was indignant.
“Not just you, stupid. Dragons are super smart. When he gets big, he’ll be able to talk and do
magic and all kinds of cool stuff.”
“Brill,” said the boy.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 12 Excerpt

He cried out in pain and was suddenly sitting in the corner of the supply closet where he had been when he had rubbed the White Visio on his eyeballs. His eyes were tired but that was not why they were watering so profusely. His nose hurt like hell, and he looked down to see a huge amount of blood running down onto his shirt front.

Getting up, he grabbed a white towel from a stack on a shelf nearby and pressed it to his face. It was quickly turning red. It was the only bit of color in the room of white and grey. Still holding the towel to his bleeding nose, he opened the supply closet door and peered out into the hall in both directions. There wasn’t a person in sight. He stepped out into the hallway and closed the door behind him. He moved quickly away from his hiding place. He had to take the towel away from his nose in order to climb a ladder up to the next deck. The blood began to drip quickly again as he climbed.

On the next deck, he pinched his nose with the towel to try and slow the blood flow, but winced in pain. He looked around for a moment and then realized where he had to go. He stepped quickly along forward, but had to stop after a moment and lean against the wall because he was feeling lightheaded. He took a few deep breaths and continued on. At last he came to the cabin door he needed, and knocked. The door popped wide open and the broad body, big stomach, and round, rosy face of Father Ian appeared.

“Good to see you, Captain Dechantagne!” boomed Father Ian’s voice. “Don’t stand out in the hallway. Come in. Come in. Good gracious, what has happened to you?”

“I cut myself shaving,” said Terrence, pulling the towel away from his face. “I was hoping that you could help.”

“I should say you have!” Father Ian let out a long whistle. “Sit down. As a matter of fact, I have just the help you need right here. Sister Auni here is just the person to set you right again.”

In the corner of the room, unnoticed by Terrence until this moment was a very thin woman in the long white robes of a church acolyte. Her jet black hair was cut straight across her forehead, and hung down low in back. She had deep set grey eyes and prominent cheek bones. She stood up from her seat and was several inches taller than Terrence, though only about half as wide at the shoulder. When she spoke, it was in breathy tones.

“I’m very please to make your acquaintance, Captain Dechantagne,” she said. “May I take a look at your nose please?”

She placed long thin hands on either side of his face and tilted his head upward so that she could look at his injury.

“Razor slice,” she said. “I would expect to see an injury like this in a tavern brawl.”

“Sorry. No taverns available,” said Terrence.

“In the name of the Holy Father I see your pain,” she said. “In the name of the Holy Savior I heal your wounds.”

Terrence felt life flowing from her hands. Not only did his nose stop stinging, but the pain in the back of his head and in his shoulders that he hadn’t even noticed before went away. The residual stinging in his eyes also went away. He was sure that any redness caused by the White Opthalium was gone now. Sister Auni pulled her hands away from his face and smiled.

“I knew I came to the right place,” Terrence said.

“Of course you did, my boy,” said Father Ian. “Perfect timing, too. The sister and I had just finished our prayer session. You are just in time to see her back to her cabin.

“You couldn’t be in any safer hands,” he said to Sister Auni.

“Oh indeed,” she said. “I know that already.”

Shrugging, Terrence offered his arm to the acolyte and led her out of the room.

“Good night to both of you!” Father Ian called out in his thundering voice, and then he closed the cabin door behind them.

Walking through the narrow halls of the ship, Terrence usually found it difficult to escort a lady and had to walk in a sort of shuffling sidestep to make room, and if the woman was wearing an evening gown, it was pretty much impossible to walk side by side in any case. This was not so with Sister Auni. Not only did her clerical robes flow straight from her shoulders to the floor, her entire form was scarcely as wide as his two hands splayed out side by side. Her shoulders seemed almost too narrow to hold up her normal sized head.

“Sister Auni!” A young woman Terrence didn’t know came running down the hall toward them. “Sister Auni! Mrs. Duplessis is having her baby, and the doctor wants you there as quickly as possible.”

“Lead the way, child,” said the acolyte.

The three of them made their way through a series of hatches and corridors until they came to a closed cabin door. A group of several women and girls were standing outside in the hallway. The door was quickly opened and the young woman who had fetched her, led Sister Auni inside. As she turned to close the door after her, she looked into Terrence’s face.

“Thank you, Captain Dechantagne,” she said in her breathy voice. “But I think I shall go on from here alone. Have a pleasant evening, and watch out when you are shaving.”

Terrence stood thinking for a moment. Then he gradually noticed that he was being watched from all sides by the six or seven females around him. He felt as though he had stumbled onto a stage without a script, or stepped into the middle of some savage ritual whose codex he didn’t understand.

“Ladies,” he said, and slowly backed out of the hallway, and then turned and made his way up to the topside of the ship and out onto deck.

He was surprised to find that the sun had already set. It seemed that he no longer really had any concept of time. His stomach reminded him that he hadn’t eaten in a while. He had porridge for breakfast, but wasn’t really sure if that was this morning’s breakfast or some day in the past. This was just about dinner time though, and he decided to take his sister up on her standing invitation to dine. So he stopped by his cabin to change into a clean shirt, then went and knocked on Iolanthe’s cabin door.

The salad had already been served when he arrived, and the wait staff were just setting out the main course of roasted chicken, creamed potatoes, and pea fritters, which was just fine as far as Terrence was concerned. The waiter set a very manly portion in front of him and the other staff member, a waitress in this case, poured him a large glass of sparkling white wine. He didn’t waste any time tucking in.

“So what have you been up to?” asked Iolanthe.

“Mmph,” he shrugged non-committaly, his mouth full of food. He looked around the table. Iolanthe, Lieutenant Staff, Wizard Labrith, and an empty chair faced him. On his side of the table, Terrence’s was the only one of the four chairs occupied. He swallowed his mouthful of chicken.

“Loosing some of our popularity, are we?”

Iolanthe wrinkled her nose, but didn’t answer.

“There seems to be a medical emergency that requires Mrs. Marjoram and Dr. Kelloran,” said Lieutenant Staff. “I believe they were all invited to dinner this evening.”

“Oh yes,” Terrence said. “Mrs. Duplessis is having her baby.”

Iolanthe blinked in surprise. She had evidently not expected for him to have any idea of what might be going on. She no doubt had assumed that he had sequestered himself away somewhere, which of course he had, but he wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of knowing that.

“Yes, I’ve just come from there,” he said. “Sister Auni is there as well. I’m sure they will take very good care of the woman.”

He smiled to himself and took another large mouthful of chicken, then followed it with a pea fritter, mashed up peas dipped in batter and deep fried. He would have recognized the flavor of Mrs. Colbshallow’s batter, even if he hadn’t known that she did all of Iolanthe’s cooking.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 11 Excerpt

Tea with Miss Lusk presented a welcomed change for Zeah. Each day seemed to be just like the day before it. Almost all of his time was spent organizing activities for the passengers, which would provide the necessities of life or a change of pace to prevent boredom or depression caused by long confinement on the ship. The first two days after their departure from the island of Enclep, he had been occupied seeing to the inventorying and storage of the supplies purchased there. The following day, he had to arrange for the priests onboard and Dr. Kelloran to deal with a fungus infection that had broken out on various parts of the bodies of a great many passengers and crew. The day after that had been washing day, which always kept him busy. It had ended with the death of Miss Kilmurray and the summary execution of Mr. Murty by Master Terrence. Zeah would have liked to have seen Murty tried for his crimes, but he was as loud in his laudation for Master Terrence as anyone who else on the ship. His daughter could have easily have been Murty’s next target, or Miss Lusk. The following day, Zeah had organized a memorial service for Miss Kilmurray. Two days after that, when Lieutenant Staff had completed his investigation, Murty’s body, which had been kept on ice, was dumped unceremoniously over the side.
It was surprising to Zeah, who had expected that there would be a somber mood among the passengers following the memorial, but the atmosphere on the Minotaur actually seemed to lighten. There had been a cloud hanging over the lives of everyone onboard since the murder of Miss Astley, though most had not realized at the time that the murder was one of a series. Now with the murderer dead, people were much freer with their smiles, their attitudes, and their actions. Zeah had originally planned a series of games and activities to slowly raise people’s spirits, but had changed his plans and instead scheduled a dance. It took place the evening of Pentuary ninth, ten days after leaving Enclep.
The danced proved to be a great success and everyone who was there seemed to have a wonderful time. Miss Dechantagne surprised everyone by attending. She wore a beautiful royal blue evening gown with large balloon sleeves and a white satin belt with embroidered blue and silver silk flowers. She had a bouquet of fresh flowers at her waist and atop her curled auburn hair. And the bare expanse of her shoulders and the choker of pearls she wore made her long, thin neck look even more so.
Everyone admired Miss Dechantagne’s beauty, but Zeah found Miss Lusk’s charms even richer. She had arrived in a buttercup yellow gown with butterfly sleeves. The skirt had little pleated waves of fabric falling straight on the sides, and was trimmed with vines of embroidery in gold and beads extending down each side of the front. It was ornamented on one side with a velvet panel, and on the other with two large velvet bows.
Zeah had not yet spoken to either of the two women, when Master Augie arrived with Dr. Kelloran. Lieutenant Dechantagne was dressed in a fine cutaway coat which exposed a red vest embroidered with a dragon motif. He had a new grey felt derby, which he must have purchased just before leaving Brech, with a red carnation in the band. Dr. Kelloran’s Thiss-green silk gown might not have stood out as much as those of yellow or royal blue, but it was equally fine in an understated way. Decorated with beads of jade and tiger-eye, it was wonderfully offset by her long white suede gloves.
Every passenger attending, especially the women, came in their finest clothes. It seemed less like a simple dance staged rather quickly aboard a crowded naval ship than the social event of the season. More than a few officers and sailors attended as well, and all of them wore their dress-whites. Notably absent was Lieutenant Staff, who was on duty that evening. Master Terrence was not in attendance either. Zeah thought that this was a shame, as seventy four unmarried women, and more than a few who were married, all seemed to be looking for him.
The two most talked about entrances were the wizard Suvir Kesi and Sorceress Zurfina, whom Zeah thought must have been meeting for the first time. Kesi wore traditional Mirsannan garb—a long brown robe, lined all along the open edge with ferret skins, and reaching to short, black boots. Beneath the open robe, he wore blue silk pantaloons and a yellow and red striped silk shirt. His ever present yellow fez with blue tassel made him visible from anywhere at the dance. Zurfina wore, or Zeah would have said ‘almost wore’, a black dress that was cut much like the togas worn by the ancient coastal cultures. It was loosely draped across her front, continuing to cover her breasts only through the use of magic or perhaps some kind of glue. Between her breasts, it fell to her naval and there were no sides at all above the waist. Below her waist, the dress went all the way to the floor, but there was a slit cut up one side that reached to her mid-thigh. It was the type of garment to be worn only by someone who had no care what other people thought. Zeah noticed that while many scandalized looks were aimed in the direction of the sorceress, almost no one at the dance mentioned her dress, or lack there-of. The story of her having turned a dressing maid to stone had lost nothing in the telling.
As it turned out, there was no need for Zurfina the Magnificent to be the subject of conversation. There was much to talk of. Earlier in the day, many aboard had watched a small fleet of seven ships, Enclepian Junks, sailing west toward the land that the Minotaur had so recently left. They were probably on their way back from the Mullien Islands to the feudal lands in southern Enclep, with holds full of spices and strange trade goods. Zeah was rather peeved because he had been busy at the time and had not been able to reach the deck before the square-rigged, double-ruddered, wooden sailing vessels had passed out of sight. He always seemed to miss the great sights. He had missed both the Freedonian dirigible and the school of giant whales which many passengers had noted before they had reached Enclep’s port. Despite not being able to participate in the gossip about the many strange things that had been observed from the deck of the Brech battleship, Zeah thoroughly enjoyed the dance. He danced the night away in the presence of Miss Lusk, missing only one piece, when for some unknown reason Zurfina had insisted upon his accompaniment on the dance floor.
“Mr. Korlann, you seem distracted,” said Zurfina, in her deep, sultry voice.
“I am always distracted,” said Zeah. He was in fact, trying very hard not to stare at the vast expanse of skin which the sorceress had left uncovered. Though the two star tattoos above her breasts, which were often seen by many, were now covered, a new one around her naval was now clearly visible.
“You aren’t afraid of me, are you Mr. Korlann?”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter 7 Excerpt

Chapter Seven: Wherein my story is interrupted by goblins, thereby explaining why it might not seem as good as it really was.

Goblins are nasty little blighters. They remind me of my cousin Gervil’s friend called Rupert. His name was Sally, which explains why he was called Rupert. But like goblins, he was short and had a big, round head. I don’t know why goblins have such large heads for their little bodies. Of course I don’t know why Rupert did either. There doesn’t seem to be much advantage in it. On the other hand, goblins have excellent night vision, making it very easy to sneak up on people in the dark. And they have abnormally large mouths with an abnormally large number of teeth in them. This was very unlike Rupert, that is to say Sally, who as I recall had only five or six teeth, though he made up for that by having an extra toe. In addition to which I don’t believe his night vision was all that it might have been, for once he kicked me in the head when he was on his way to the outhouse. Of course that could have been on purpose. Rupert was a bit of a nasty blighter too.

“What are you doing?” asked the orphan, as Hysteria took a step back.
“Thinking about a fellow called Rupert,” said I.
“Well stop it, and get us away.”
I said that Hysteria took a step back, but what I should have said is that she took two steps back, one on each side. I could tell she didn’t want the foul little creatures around her feet. She’s very particular about her feet, as most horses are wont to be. As they approached still nearer, she reared up a bit—not enough to bother me, but just enough for the orphan to slip off her haunches and land with a “poof” on his seat in the snow. The goblins cackled grotesquely and I’m sure that they thought they had secured for themselves a snack. They stopped laughing though when I kicked my leg over Hysteria’s shoulder and dropped lightly to the ground.
With a quick motion, I pulled my knife still stained red from crabapple pie, from my boot. It was a small enough weapon to face off six attackers and I would have much rather had a sword, but I had been forced to sell my sword in order to get a fellow out of prison. I didn’t really know him, but he was the beloved of a poor but beautiful farm girl. In retrospect it would have been better if he had not turned out to be a werewolf, but that is another story. If I ever write this down, maybe I’ll say that I sold it to get the poor but beautiful farm girl out of prison and that I slew the werewolf. Yes, that’s a much better story.
“What are you doing?” asked the orphan.
“Recalling the time I slew a werewolf,” said I.
“Finally something useful!” he exclaimed.
The two foremost goblins looked at one another. While six or seven goblins might sneak up on a man when he was asleep, or might chase down a maiden who was alone and defenseless, they would have to be extraordinary members of their species to take on a seasoned warrior with a weapon.
“That’s right potato head!” shouted the orphan, jumping to his feet. “Werewolves, vampires, giants; he’s killed them all.
“Gree yard?” said the first goblin.
“Grock tor,” said the second goblin.
“I don’t think they understand us,” said I.
The first began to skirt around me to the right and the second began to skirt around me to the left. The others were following along. I don’t know whether their intention was to surround me so that they could attack from all sides at once, or to skirt around me to get to the boy, but I wasn’t going to let either of those things happen. I took a quick step to the right and kicked the big round head of the second goblin, which flew almost as far as the kickball I kicked as a child, and of course the rest of the goblin went right along with his head.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 10 Excerpt

Senta watched from the deck of the H.M.S. Minotaur high above, as Iolanthe Dechantagne paced back and forth on the dock, her hands clasped tightly behind her back. Senta clasped her own hands behind her back and paced back and forth across the deck, all the while keeping watch on Miss Dechantagne from the corner of her eye. Miss Dechantagne’s older brother, Captain Dechantagne, walked up to her and Miss Dechantagne stepped close to him and spoke, emphasizing whatever words she was saying by poking her index finger into his chest. Senta walked over to the small tiny steel dragon sitting near her. He had a tiny chain fastened around his ankle, attaching him to his carrier box. She poked her finger at the dragon.
“You listen to me,” she said. “I’m very important and you are only my brother, and I am the boss, and you’d better not do anything I don’t like.”
The dragon half-heartedly snapped at her finger, which she pulled out of the way.
“Don’t tease our boy, Pet,” said Zurfina, appearing behind her.
“He doesn’t want that chain on,” said Senta.
“We can’t let him loose right now,” said the sorceress. “He’s liable to fly off into the forest and not come back until well after we’re gone.”
“He can’t fly very good.”
“That’s just what he wants you to think. Now bring him inside. I have something for you.”
Senta opened the door of the animal carrier, but the little dragon just looked at her.
“Go on,” she said. “Get in.”
The dragon made a noise more like a cat yowling than a reptile. Senta reached out and rubbed the scales on its belly. The dragon bit her on the wrist, not hard, though its needle sharp teeth still drew blood.
The dragon made an apologetic noise and then crawled down into its chamber. Senta closed the carrier and then sat down. The ship was starting to spin around her. She looked down without real comprehension at her wrist and watched as the blood flowed freely down her palms, down her fingers and dripped into a puddle on the deck.
“Cheeky twonk.” said Senta, woozily.
“Oh good grief,” said Zurfina.

Blue Adept – A Review

The latest book I’ve finished reading on my Sony PRS-505 is “Blue Adept” by Piers Anthony. This is the second book in what originally was a trilogy, but as with so many of Mr. Anthony’s series, has grown beyond– to seven books.
It has been my experience that you either like Piers Anthony or you don’t. I have to admit that I am not as fond of some of his writing as I was when I was younger, but overall, I still enjoy his lighthearted approach to fantasy. This series “The Apprentice Adept” is less comical than his Xanth books, with an interesting mix of sci-fi and fantasy as the hero and others cross from a world of one to a world of the other. I was occassionally annoyed by how thick the hero can be, apparently just refusing to accept the reality that we, the readers, have already figured out. This is another hallmark of Anthony’s writing, and sometimes is just tedious.
If you like Piers Anthony, you will enjoy The Apprentice Adept. If you like Neil Gaimon, you will probably enjoy the series. But do not read this book without having read the first book in the series — Split Infinity. This original trilogy is very much one story. This was in fact, the big negative that I had for the book. While there is a climax in this book, it is in the last sentence, and one has to read the next book in order to find out what the resolution of that climax was.
Happy reading and ereading.

Eaglethorp Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter 6

Chapter Six: Wherein I begin to tell the story of the Queen of Aerithraine

Hysteria clomped along slowly down the snow covered road for some time. The orphan was so quiet that for a while I thought he must have fallen asleep. But at last he stirred and shifted a bit in his seat, which is to say upon Hysteria’s flank. I myself had been quiet as I remembered the events of that horrible night.
“What are you thinking about?” asked the orphan.
“I’m thinking about that horrible night,” I replied.
“Did you never find your family?”
“No, though I searched for weeks. My mother was to make me a blueberry pie that night, and I not only have never seen my mother since, I did not get to eat that pie either.”
“I’m sorry I brought up such a painful memory,” he said, then paused. “Do you suppose that the purple drops on the floor could have been from your blueberry pie?”
I felt the heat rising up within me.
“Fiends!” said I. “To rob a man of his mother and his pie in the same night.”
“Perhaps it were best that we think on something else,” said he.
“Perhaps,” I agreed.
“If you are really such a great story-teller…”
“The greatest in the world.”
“And if the story of the Queen of Aerithraine is a great story…”
“Wonderful. Exciting. True. Profound.”
“Well, maybe you could tell me the story.”
“I get half a crown for that story in Illustria,” said I.
“I have a shiny penny,” said he.
“The story begins in Aerithraine, far to the west, along the coast of the great ocean sea. From storied Illustria, its capital, to Cor Cottage just outside Dewberry Hills in River County, Aerithraine has been a great and powerful country for some seven hundred years more or less. By more or less, I mean that it has been more or less seven hundred years that Aerithraine has been a country and that it has been more or less great and more or less powerful during those seven hundred years. But about fifty years ago, it was less. Then the old king died, and as is the way of kings, a new one was crowned. He was King Julian the Rectifier.
“He was called Julian the Rectifier because he was chiefly interested in rectifying. He spent most of his time rectifying. He rectified all over the place. And he was good at it. He rectified like nobody else.”
“It means setting things to right,” said the orphan.
“Of course it does and that is just what he did. Under his reign, the kingdom was prosperous and wealthy. And as he wasn’t so interested in warring as in rectifying, there was peace throughout the land. King Julian had only one son, and he passed to that son the strongest and wealthiest kingdom in all of Duaron, and if it had only remained so, Elleena would have become a minor princess perhaps or might not have been born at all.”
“Which would not have made a half-crown story,” pointed out the orphan.
“That is so.”
“Carry on then.”
“King Justin was the son of Julian. I hear tell that he was once called Justin the Good and Justin the Wise, though now when story-tellers refer to him, they usually call him Justin the Weak or Justin the Unready.”
“What do you call him?”
“I just call him King Justin,” said I. “Though I truly believe he may deserve the title Justin the Brave, that is not what the listeners want to hear.”
“Go on.”
“King Justin married a princess from the faraway land of Goth. The Arch-Dukes of Goth, which is to say the rulers of that land, have for generations, maintained power through a tightly woven web of treaties with its mighty neighbors. Their chief barter in this endeavor is the marriage of the many female members of the family. I hear the current Arch-Duke has but four daughters at least as of yet, but his father who was Arch-Duke before him had seventeen, and his father nineteen.”
“That hurts just thinking about it.”
“Nothing. Go on.”
“It must have been quite a coup of diplomacy for the Arch-Duke of Goth to make a match with the King of Aerithraine, but he did, marrying to the King his daughter Beatrix. And though I hear that the women of that country wear too much make-up, she was known as a great beauty with pale white skin, raven hair, smoldering eyes, and a gold ring in her nose, as is the fashion in the east.
“King Justin and Queen Beatrix had four strong sons, the eldest of whom was Prince Jared. He was particularly beloved of the people. I saw him once when I was a child of four or five, sitting on my poor old father’s shoulders as the Purple Knights passed on their tall white steeds, that is to say, I was seated on my father’s shoulders and the Prince was not. I don’t remember why they were in River County. It was too long ago. He would have grown to be King upon his father’s death if it was not for…”
“Yes, that’s right. You didn’t say you had heard the story before, though I’ll warrant it wasn’t told as well…”
“No!” screamed the orphan. “Goblins! Right there!”
He pointed straight ahead, and sure enough, stepping out of the shadows and into the moonlight were a half dozen creepy little man-things. They were no more than three feet tall, their over-sized round heads, glowing eyes, and gaping maws giving away their identity. As they came closer those mouths widened into grins filled with jagged little teeth, looking far too much like the teeth on the blade of a cross-cut saw for my taste. They brandished what weapons they had, mostly things they had picked up from the ground—a stick, a length of cord with a knot in it. But a couple of them carried old, discarded straight razors.