Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 10 Excerpt

The storm continued to rage outside the walls of the little house on Dolphin Island. The five young women had to make due with lighting from a single flashlight and several candles. They only ate food that could be eaten cold, and concentrated on that which was in the refrigerator, since without power the food within would eventually go bad.

“I wish I knew which direction the storm is moving,” said Penelope, as they sat around the table, eating a dinner of cheese sandwiches and cabbage and fennel salad.

“We had a hand crank radio,” said Eleanor, “but I broke the crank off of it.”

“Cranked it too hard?” wondered Penelope.

The blonde nodded.

“I can hook up the laptop directly to the internet,” said Astrid. “We’ve got enough battery power to run it for several hours.”

Unplugging the now unusable router, the girl inventor connected one MPro 5 notebook to the cable. Loading up the browser, she pulled up the satellite image of the storm.

“It’s passing to the north of us,” she told the others. “It’s not moving very fast though. I would guess we’ve got another two days of rough weather.”

“That’s what I figured,” said Adeline. “We’d better turn off the computer and conserve the battery.”

“First though,” said Penelope. “We each need to send a message to our loved ones telling them we’re okay.”

When it was her turn, Astrid sent the following message, making sure to address it to her mother, father, and to Toby. Power is out here, so no phone, but we are safe and sound. Don’t worry. Love to you all. Call you when we get the power back.

“Sending your love to Toby?” asked Penelope, looking over her shoulder.

“No, I’m just… That’s just what people say. You don’t think he…?”

“Stop worrying about it. He knows how you feel about him and he has since he was old enough to stand.”

“Well…” said Astrid, shrugging. “I guess.”

That night, the wind rattling loose boards and shingles on the outside of the house, made sleep difficult for Astrid. When she finally dozed off, it was late, and she was awakened at least three times during the night. It was a surprise therefor to find that she had slept late into the morning. All of the other young women were up and dresses and sitting around the table eating bread and jam.

“Why did you let me sleep so late?” asked Astrid, as she wiped the sleep from her eyes.

“There wasn’t much point in waking you,” said Penelope. “We can’t do anything but sit around staring at one another.”

“I thought now that it’s light outside, I might take a look at the generator,” returned Astrid.

“It’s light out,” said Eleanor, “but it’s still too windy to go outside. You would be blown off your feet. I’m a little surprised that we haven’t lost the roof.”

“The house is sturdy,” said Adeline. “We are also protected somewhat by the trees.”

“I hope the dolphins are okay,” said Astrid.

“They will be fine,” assured Océane. “They will swim out to the deep water. The storm won’t bother them at all.”

There was just enough light coming in through the boarded up windows that they were able to play a French version of Monopoly during mid-day. In the afternoon, the wind seemed to die down a bit, giving Astrid some hope that maybe the storm would soon be over. Then it grew suddenly dark, and minutes later, the island and the little house were deluged by waves of rain. The girls immediately had to scramble to lay out pots and dishes under the sixteen leaks in the ceiling that ranged from a steady drip to a constant stream.

“I feel like we need to look for two of every animal,” said Penelope.

It was so dark by five o’clock that it could have been midnight. Astrid peaked out a crack in the boards covering the window. All she could see were bushes being bent by the wind and pelted by the rain.

“Astrid,” said Océane, at her elbow. “Will you come help me make dinner?”

The girl inventor followed her to the part of the room that made up the kitchen.

“You seem very nervous,” said the French girl.

“Do I? I guess I am. This is the first hurricane that I’ve ever been in. We don’t get a lot of stormy weather in the southwest U.S.”

“Everything will be fine.”

“Oh, I know it will be,” said Astrid. “At least I know that in my head. I guess some other part of me isn’t so sure.”

“You will feel better after you eat. I’m making sandwiches with the last of the bread and hazel nut spread. I want you to chop of this bag of pistachios and whatever fruit we have left to go on them.”

Astrid found a handful of strawberries and two bananas in the no-longer-cold refrigerator, and diced them up fine, along with the pistachios. Océane sprinkled them on the hazel nut spread before placing the two pieces of bread together.

“I have a secret treat,” said Océane. “We’re all going to have hot cocoa.”

“How are we going to do that?” wondered Astrid. “We don’t have any heat.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 9 Excerpt

Astrid kicked her legs as hard as she could, shooting through the water over Swen’s Atoll. The grey monster shot up from behind and passed her like a bullet, only to roll over and propel itself directly toward her. At the last moment, it rose just enough to pass above her without touching. Seeing him from the surface, it was difficult to tell just how big Alister was, but seen from here beneath the waves, he was huge—over ten feet long and weighing about a thousand pounds.

“Alister play. Alister play,” the device in Astrid’s hands translated the dolphin’s signals.

From twenty feet to Astrid’s left, came another sound. Alister’s partner called out to him.

“Alister. Alister”

Astrid didn’t know for sure, but she suspected that John was trying to get Alister to pay him some attention, rather than lavishing it on the surface-dweller. Five consecutive days of swimming with him had certainly given Astrid the impression that Alister enjoyed her company. She couldn’t say the same about his companion.

She dove down and flipped over, swimming in the reverse of the direction she had been going. As she approached where the boat was anchored, she saw Penelope and two female dolphins playing with the scarf. Then she saw Adeline, who was signaling to return to the surface. Astrid followed her until both their heads popped above the waves. The girl inventor was surprised to find it darker than it had been when she had submerged.

“We’ve got to go in,” said Adeline. “The clouds have rolled in and the wind is picking up.”

“Okay,” Astrid replied. “Let me get Penelope.”

Pushing the regulator back in her mouth, Astrid dove down to where her aunt was floating, tapping her on the shoulder. When Penelope looked, she signaled to head for the surface. When their heads reached the air, they could see that the ocean was already becoming choppy. They quickly climbed into the boat.

“Were we expecting weather?” asked Penelope.

“It’s Hurricane Diego,” said Eleanor. “It was supposed to be far north of us, but it’s turned our way.”

She pulled up the anchor and then took her place behind the wheel, starting up the engine and steering toward Dolphin Island. The dolphins swam along behind them for a while, riding the wake, but then disappeared.

“That was great fun,” said Astrid. “I can’t believe that Alister is saying whole sentences—well, at least a two word sentence.”

“I think our translation is problematic,” said Adeline. “The dolphins use gestures and other signals, but I think they should be saying more. I think we are only getting a little slice of what they could say to us.”

By the time the boat was cruising into the lagoon, the waves of the open ocean were five feet or more.

They pulled the boat as far onto the sand as they could and tied it to not one, but three trees. Then they hurried inside the little house.

Eleanor turned on the radio and dialed into the weather.

“I’m going to pull up the storm on the Internet,” said Astrid.

“I’m going to puke,” said Penelope.

She staggered to the front door and stepped outside. The others could hear a retching sound. Astrid stepped out to make sure that she was all right and found the sky so dark she could have been forgiven for thinking it was night. The wind was so strong that it pushed her two steps to the left. Steadying herself, she stepped over to where Penelope knelt in the sand and bent down over her.

“Are you okay, Aunt Penelope?”

Her aunt arched her back and heaved again in reply. Astrid pulled her aunt’s black hair back to keep it out of the pool of vomit in the sand.

“I think I’m going to be turned inside out,” gasped Penelope at last.   “I haven’t felt this bad since the after party at the Grammy’s.”

“What were you doing at the Grammy’s?”

“Getting sick. That’s really all you need to know. Well, I think I’m done.”

She began struggling to her feet. Astrid helped pull her up and then threw her shoulder under the elder Maxxim’s. She led the way back inside and into the office, where Penelope crawled into her sleeping bag.

“Here, Penelope, drink this,” said Océane, stepping into the room with a glass of amber liquid.

“What is it?” came the croaked reply.

“It’s ginger ale. It will settle your stomach. We keep it on hand because Eleanor gets seasick too.”

“Is she sick now too?” wondered Astrid.

Océane nodded. “You should drink some too, Astrid.”

“I’m not seasick.”

“Not yet.”

“I need something stronger,” said Penelope. “I think I need to be put in a medically-induced coma.”

“I’m sorry,” said Océane. “I’m afraid we don’t even have motion sickness pills.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 5 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionThe next morning, the girl inventor headed out the door, luggage in hand. She climbed into the car with her parents and then they all drove into the Maxxim Campus to the dedicated airfield. A Maxxim Starcraft 170 waited on the Tarmac. Toby, Austen, Denise, and the two Valeries were all waiting to say goodbye. Christopher, who would be making the trip to Antarctica with Astrid, was there with his parents, as was Denise’s brother Dennis, who would be piloting their flight to Los Angeles.

“Hello Nerd,” said a familiar voice from behind Astrid. The girl inventor turned around to come face to face with her cousin Gloria and Gloria’s parents.

“Be nice to your little cousin, now,” said Aunt Lauren.

“Indeed,” said Uncle Carl. “She’s going to be an important part of the new company.”

“What company is that?” wondered Astrid.

“The new Maxxim.”

“Hello Carl,” said Dr. Maxxim, smiling.

“Roger,” responded Uncle Carl, tersely. “Kate.”

Aunt Lauren turned her head, ignoring her in-laws.

“So, did you guys come to see me off?” Astrid asked her cousin.

“Oh no. I’m going to Cali to spend a week with Aunt Penny,” said Gloria. “It seemed a shame to charter another plane, when you’re already headed that way anyway.”

“Gloria’s very cost conscious,” added Aunt Lauren.

“I’ve always thought that about her,” said Astrid with a straight face.

Once everyone had said their goodbyes, the travelers stepped across the tarmac and up the steps to the plane’s hatch. Astrid had hoped for a moment alone with Toby before she left, but she didn’t get it. She shot a quick look back to see him watching her through the glass wall of the terminal building. They gave each other a quick wave. Dennis Brown and Marty Crockett, one of the Maxxim pilots, took their places in the cockpit, while Astrid and Christopher sat down together near the front. Gloria walked all the way to the back of the cabin and staked a claim to the seat directly in front of the small restroom.

“The view is better up here,” Astrid called back, thinking that Gloria’s window view would be obstructed by the rear canard wing.

“Survivability in case of a crash is greater in the rear of an airplane,” said Gloria. “I would think a nerd like you would know that.”

“The joke’s on her,” Astrid said to Christopher. “If this plane crashes we’re all going to die.”

“That’s it, Astrid,” he replied. “Always look on the bright side.”

For King and Country – Chapter 22 Excerpt

Saba entered his home through the front door.

He peeled off his fall coat and looked at it.  It was pretty scorched.  It probably wasn’t worth keeping.  As he hung it on the coat hook, DeeDee stepped into the foyer from the parlor.  She had a worried look on her face.

“What’s the matter with you?” he asked.

“Are you all right?”

“Well enough.  Do we have a healing draft?”

“I think there is one in the parlor hutch,” she said.

“Get it.  I’m going to need you to pour some on my back.  Give me about ten minutes to clean up and then bring it upstairs.”

He climbed up the stairs and entered his room.  It was cold and empty, though the maid had straightened up and made his bed.  Stepping into the closet, he quickly changed into fresh underwear and a clean set of trousers, though he stayed shirtless.  DeeDee hadn’t arrived, so he washed up and brushed his teeth.  He was just finishing as she timidly entered.

“Pour some of that on anyplace that looks burned or red,” he said turning around.

“That’s your whole back.”

He grabbed the hand towel that he had used to dry his face.

“Pour it on this and then rub it all over.”

She did as he directed.

“Where is your Gran?” he asked.

“She’s gone visiting.  I think she just wanted to get out of the house.”

“And what have you been up to?”

“No much, honestly.”  Her eyes began to fill with tears.  “It feels like our family is falling apart.”

“Families are like any other living thing,” said Saba, stepping across the room to retrieve a clean shirt.  “They’re born with the combining of male and female.  They grow.  They reproduce.  Then they die.”

He put on his shirt, buttoned it, and tucked it in.

“You’re our little seed.  You’ll be off to start your own family soon enough, but sixteen is too young to be married.”

“I know,” she said.  “I told Julius I wouldn’t marry until I was eighteen.  He’s fine with that.  Our engagement will be just a little over a year long.  We could get married in Restuary or Festuary of 1926.”

“Hmm.  That actually sounds sensible.”

“Will you talk to Julius, please?  I can send a lizzie to fetch him here.”

“All right DeeDee.  As I’ve noted many times, you do eventually always get what you want.”

 

* * * * *

 

Senta opened her eyes and looked at the daylight streaming into the window.  She found a quick glance at the clock, which read 10:00, confusing.

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“You’ve been asleep for almost seventeen hours,” said Karl’s voice from across the room.  He was sitting in a hardbacked chair across the room from her.  “I would have called for a doctor, but you seemed fine.”

“I was just very tired.”  She rolled out of bed and looked at him.  “How are you.”

“I’m fine.”

“Get undressed,” she said, noting that he was wearing only his underwear.  “We’ll take a bath, and both feel much better.”

By the time he entered the bathroom, she already had the water flowing and scented bath salts in the tub.  With a wave, she encouraged him to climb in, and once he had done so, she joined him.  She leaned back on him and gently tickled his thighs with her fingers.

“How many men have you had in this tub with you?” he asked.

“Surprisingly few.”

“I was planning on asking you something—taking you to dinner, and… Well, I don’t know if you care for all the ceremony…”

“Oh, I do.  We will have dinner this evening at Café Idella, and you can ask me then… whatever it is.”

“I think I love you,” he said, kissing her neck.

“That is good to know,” she said.

For King and Country – Chapter 21 Excerpt

Saba signed the letter, dated it the tenth of Magnius, and then placed it, unfolded, in the large official-looking envelope.  And so officially ended his term as chief of police.  Twenty-two years with the Port Dechantagne Police Department.  That was a lifetime.  Maybe it was time to let that lifetime go.  He had time for another one.

Hearing footsteps, he looked to see his daughter enter from the kitchen.  She was wearing a white day dress trimmed with black that made her look older than her sixteen years.  Almost seventeen years, he thought.

“Where have you been, DeeDee?”

“I’ve been staying with the Stephensons.”

“You what?”

“It’s all fine.  Gran has been my chaperone the whole time.”  She crossed her arms and gave him a look that he had seen from her mother on many occasions.  “You know, you haven’t even asked where Mummy is.”

“I know she’s not where she’s supposed to be,” he said.  “She’s not right here supporting me.”

“You know how she is, Dad.  You have to be the strong one.  I know you’re having a terrible time.  I do.  But you’re able to see yourself through.  Mummy’s never been strong, but she is your wife.  It’s your duty to take care of her.”

“When did you get so bloody inciteful, little girl?” he growled.  “Is this wisdom a product of your vast sixteen year’s experience in life?”

He licked the envelope, placed it on the table, and then sealed it shut by slamming his fist down on it with only slightly less force than it would have taken to splinter the sturdy pine.

“I’m going to my room,” said DeeDee, turning and starting up the stairs.  “Julius will be by to speak to you later.  He wants to ask you something.”

“Perhaps he should come another day,” said Saba, pointedly.  “I’m not in a very agreeable frame of mind.”

She didn’t answer or look back, just continued up the stairs.

 

* * * * *

 

“What else can I get you?” Bryony Baxter asked her husband, as she hovered around the breakfast table.

“More beans would be ace,” he said.

She hurried into the kitchen and returned with the pot, hot off the stove, ladling more of the sweet, smoky beans onto his plate.

“I could do with a few more beans,” said Sen.

“Of course, dear.  How about my big boy?”

Kerry shook his head, though his attention was on a tiny wooden replica of a battleship, parked just to the left of his plate.

“I believe the future navy man is full,” said Baxter.

Bryony returned the beans to the kitchen and then took her seat next to her husband.  Just as he was reaching out for his teacup, she snatched his hand in hers, and pulled it to her breast.

“When do you think you’ll be leaving?” she asked.

“Leaving where?”

“Leaving here… for Yessonarah.”

“Oh, not for weeks.”

He looked at Sen, who swirled her finger next to her head, forming a crazy gesture.

“You need to stop fixating on my trip,” he said.  “It’s not a big deal.  I won’t be leaving until the princess goes home, and by then, the train line will have covered a great deal of the distance.  It will be no more exciting than taking the train from Brech City to Booth.”

“Then you won’t mind if Kerry, Addy, and I come along?”

“Don’t be silly.  Being safe enough for a man and safe enough for a little girl are two very different things.”

“Well, at least you’re taking Sen with you.”

“That hasn’t been decided,” said Baxter.

“Oh, it has,” said Sen, taking a bite of bacon.  “We all voted, and you lost, so you have to take me.”

“Getting to spend time with you is not something that I consider a loss, but I do think I should be informed ahead of time when these so-called votes are taken.”

“We’ll be sure to let you know in the future,” said the thirteen-year-old with a smirk.

For King and Country – Chapter 20 Excerpt

Iolana woke with her head resting on Ascan’s bare chest.  She didn’t move, though she could tell by his breathing that he was awake.

“Pfennig for your thoughts,” he said.

“I was just thinking what a horrible hypocrite I am.”

He chuckled.

“No, really.”

“Oh, I’m not arguing,” he said.  “What brought on this amazing realization?”

“My mother became pregnant with me before she was married, and over the years, I’ve called her so many horrible names because of that fact.  Now here I am, like a pampered animal that rages in savage sensuality.  I am as intemperate in my blood as she was in hers.”

“Iolana, things look different when you have a different perspective.”

“Kafira,” she said.  “My father said almost those exact words to me.  Have I always been such a fool?”

“You’re not a fool,” he said.  “You were naïve.  There are worse things to be.”

“Like what?”

“Unforgiving.”

She lifted her head up and looked into his eyes.

“I should forgive my mother?”

“Yes,” he said, “right after you forgive yourself.”

“How did you become so wise?” she smiled.  “Perhaps you should become the professor and I’ll be the merchant.”

“I’m a banker, and a successful one at that.  Now get up and fix your fiancé something delicious to eat.”

Iolana’s large eyes grew even larger and her cheeks blushed.

“I can make eggs and toast, but… I’m… not a very accomplished cook.”

“The marriage is off then,” he said, grabbing her and pulling her up to him.

She struggled for just a minute before surrendering and letting him kiss her mouth.

 

* * * * *

 

Governor Iolanthe Dechantagne Staff carefully examined herself in the mirror.  She had long ago faced the fact that her days of great beauty were behind her, but she still looked strong.  She looked ready to face down any threat to her family or her colony, be it man, dragon, or act of God.  The day she looked in the mirror and saw a feeble old woman, she decided, she would eat the barrel of her revolver.

Leaving her rooms, she walked past the elevator and briskly navigated the stairs to the first floor.  It was still before seven and Maria scheduled breakfast for eight each morning, so Iolanthe marched to the kitchen for a crumpet and tea.  It was with some surprise that she saw Yuah and Gladys sitting in the south sunroom as she passed by.  She stopped and stepped through the doorway.

“You two are up unusually early,” she observed.

“We have a great deal to do today,” said Yuah.

“Well, you don’t have on your swimming costumes, so I take it you don’t intend to spend the entire day pearl diving.”

Yuah gasped.

“You’re disgusting,” growled Gladys.

“You shut up or I’ll slap you into next Festuary, you little deviant!”  Iolanthe turned to Yuah.  “Keep a muzzle on your pet.  You, I have to put up with.  Her, I don’t.”

“What’s going on here?” demanded Augustus, appearing in the hallway behind Iolanthe.  “Mother.  Gladys. Auntie.”

“Just Iolanthe being her usual cow of a self,” said Yuah.

“I built this house as large as it is primarily so that the two of you would not randomly run into one another.”

“You’re up early too,” Iolanthe observed.

“I wanted to catch a ride with you to the office,” he replied, still frowning.

“Then let us be on our way.”

 

* * * * *

 

“I really wish you and mother could get along,” said Augustus, as he steered his aunt’s car down First Avenue.

He was the only one she suffered to drive her.  He was the only one she had ever suffered to drive her—he or his father.

“I take full responsibility for the kerfuffle this morning,” she said.  “I said something that hurt her feelings.”

“What did you say?”

“I made a comment about what she was wearing.”

“Well, it seems innocuous enough,” he said, “but you know how sensitive Mother is.  You should know it if anyone does.  The two of you have been together longer than most married couples.”

“That is true,” she said, tapping her chin thoughtfully with a fingertip.

“We certainly don’t need any blowups at the wedding,” he said.

“Oh, there won’t be.  In any case, I’m glad you’ve come in early.  I want you to consult with Colonel Mortimer.  You will be commanding the Colonial Guard in the upcoming action against the dragons.”

“Auntie, I’ve never commanded men in battle.  I’ve never even been in a battle myself.”

“You’ve studied military science.”

“It’s not the same thing,” he said.  “I’ve read about military strategy and tactics, but you can’t learn everything you need to know from a book.”

“That’s not what my daughter says.”

“I’m surprised to be the one to tell you this, Auntie, but Iolana does not know everything.”

“Don’t let her hear you say that.”

He laughed.

“The two of you are exactly alike.”

“She’s nothing like me,” said Iolanthe, sticking her chin into the air.

For King and Country – Chapter 19 Excerpt

Augie leaned back and sipped his tea.

“It’s been a very nice week,” he said.  “You know, it’s been several very nice weeks.  Things are looking good.  God is in his heaven, the king’s on his throne, and all is right with the world.”

“Nothing to worry about but the impending doom sure to destroy us all,” said Zoey, from the other side of the breakfast nook.

“You need to stop worrying, dear.  After all, you’re a dragon.”  He laughed.  “If the rest of us get burned to ashes, you can still fly away.”

“How can you say that?” she gasped.  “Don’t you know that anyone or anything that means you harm has to go through me?  Even if it kills me.”

“Don’t be upset, my love.  Senta assures me that she has everything in hand.  Furthermore, she tells me that no attack will occur before Treuary 22nd of next year.”

“What if she’s wrong?  What if she made that date up?”

“She wouldn’t do that.  Would she?  I mean, to what end?”

“Does she really need a reason to do any of the things she does?” wondered Zoey.

“Yes.  Well, maybe not a good reason.  Now you’ve gone and made me depressed.”

“I’ve just given you something to think about—the same thing I’ll be having nightmares about for the next few days.”  She stood up, bent over, and kissed him deeply.  “See yourself out.”

Then she was gone.

Sitting until he finished his tea, Augie finally got up and made his way out of the huge house he had built for his dragon paramour, and crossed the gardens, now bare and grey, to the side entrance of the Dechantagne mansion.

At the top of the steps, Hsturrn opened the door for him.

Does my wife have people here for breakfast?” he asked in the reptilian’s tongue.

Breakfast is over.”

Nodding in acknowledgement, he entered and made his way to the elevator.

Walking down the hallway, he slowed to examine some of the photographs mixed among the paintings on the wall.

One in particular caught his attention.  It must have been taken in late Magnius or early Kafirius, almost exactly twenty-two years before.  The photograph was a family portrait taken in front of the original Dechantagne house in Birmisia.  It was a large house with two stories and gabled roof, though nowhere near the size of their current home.  From left to right were Auntie Iolanthe and Uncle Radley.  He was holding Iolana tucked in one arm.  She would have been about two and a half.  Then there was Mrs. Godwin, whom Augie had heard of but didn’t remember, then Augie’s mother, holding him, still a newborn, in her arms.  He wondered for a moment where his father was, but then remembered that he would have been in Brechalon at that time.  Finally, on the right, was Mrs. Colbshallow and her son Saba, in his blue constable’s uniform.

Saba had been having a rough time lately, Augie mused.  Lost his job and charged with manslaughter.  Augie didn’t hold with wife-beaters.  Still, beating the man to death was a bit much.  Saba was a family friend though, and such things had to be seen to.

Augie was so lost in thought that he scarcely noticed when he entered the elevator, or for that matter exited it.  He caught himself as he passed his wife’s door.  He wondered for a moment if he should stop in and see how she was feeling, but he didn’t.  He continued to his own door and entered his suite.

The room was a warm, comfortable space that still featured many of the items that had been in his room when he was a boy.  Stuffed dinosaur heads were hung on the wall.  A hutch filled with carefully painted tin soldiers was directly across the room from the fireplace.  Between them was a sofa and chair.  He stepped over to the sofa and plopped down.

“I didn’t know you were home.”  The voice of his wife, as she stepped out of his bedroom, startled him.

“What are you doing here?” he wondered.

“I was organizing your shoes, and once I got started organizing, I couldn’t stop.  I’ve gotten your suits organized now.”

“That was very thoughtful.”

He stood up and crossed the room, kissing her on the cheek, before continuing through his bedroom and into his closet.

“Well done,” he said.  “A place for everything and everything in its place.  I need to get rid of some of these suits.  I don’t wear them anymore.”

“If you’ll point them out to me,” said Maria, “we can donate them to shrine members.  I’m sure there are many young men among them who would appreciate a fine suit.”

“That’s fine.  Say, what are you about today?  Do you plan on organizing the kitchen or the gardener’s shed, or did you have something else planned?”

“As a matter of fact, I decided that I would do a little site-seeing today.  There are still many places in the colony that I haven’t seen after nearly two years here.  I haven’t been out to any of the dinosaur ranches.  For that matter, I haven’t been out of the city limits at all.”

“Are you going with some of the ladies from Shrine, or perhaps Mother and Gladys?” he asked, still flipping through his suits.

“No.  Just me, and of course, Maxwell.”

“Well, we can’t have that,” he said, turning around.  “I’ll take you around.”

“You’re not too busy?”

“No.  I do have to stop by the Gurrman Building and pick up some paperwork, if you don’t mind, but that won’t take but a moment.”

“That would be lovely,” said Maria.

“Shall we meet downstairs then?”

For King and Country – Chapter 18 Excerpt

Senta sighed and opened her eyes.  She had been dreaming a very nice dream.  She and Baxter had been making love on the beach under the warming rays of the sun.  Bryony had been there too, sitting on a blanket nearby, having a picnic.  The sorceress rolled over and saw Willie Watson lying on his back next to her.  His mouth was open, and drool was running down his chin.  He let out a deep snore.  She lifted her leg and kicked him hard in the side.

“Get out!” she yelled.

“What?  What are you going on about?”

“Get out!  Get out of my house!”  She kicked him again, knocking him completely out of bed.  “I don’t want to see you anymore!”

The sorcerer climbed to his feet.

“What’s the matter?”

The sorceress went from the bed to standing beside it in one fluid motion.

“I’m tired of you.  Get out.”

“Fine,” he grumbled, looking around for his clothes.

“Now.”

“I have to get dressed!”

“Now!”

She reached up and plucked an immaterial glamour from around her head and threw it at him.  He blinked out of her presence.  His clothes were still on the chair near the door.

Waving toward the bathroom, she used magic to turn on the spigot to the bathtub.

“He might need these clothes.”

Senta glanced at her daughter, standing in the doorway.

“Nobody needs clothes in the middle of the forest.”

She started toward the bathroom but stopped and looked back at Sen.  Realization hit her like a punch in the face just how much her daughter resembled her when she was thirteen years old.

“By Kafira, you know you are such a beautiful girl.”

“Who are you and where is my mother?” snarked the girl.

“Don’t brass me off.  I’m in such a good mood.”

“You didn’t sound like it when you were yelling at that ratbag.”

“I mean since he left,” explained Senta.  “Come into the bathroom and talk to me while I have a soak.”

The tub was still only half filled, so Senta left the faucet running as she climbed in.  Her daughter followed her into the room, picked up a box of Mrs. Pilfer’s Carbonated Bath Salts, and poured them in under the running water.

“This way I don’t have to stare at your crinkum-crankum the entire time.”

“If you didn’t come to look at my best bits, why are you here?”

“Magic,” said the girl.

“Excellent.  I shall give you your new spell after I get out of the bath.  What else has been going on in your life?”

“My birthday is coming up.”

“I am aware.  Was there something special you wanted?”

“Not really.”

“How is your father?”

“You should know.  Haven’t you been shagging him?”

“What?  No!  Oh, I mean your other father.”

“My dad is fine.  I’m probably going to go to Yessonarah with him.”

“Absolutely not!” said the sorceress, sitting bolt upright and sloshing out some of the water.  “That trip is way too dangerous for him!”

“So, I can go but he can’t?”

“Well, you can take care of yourself,” she said, sliding back down into the warm water.  “What time is it getting to be?”

“It’s past lunch.”

“Do you want to stay for tea?  I have a special guest coming.”

“Bessemer?”

“Yes.  How did you know?”

“I can feel him.”

“Then why don’t you go down and tell Cook to prepare an extra-large tea.”

For King and Country – Chapter 17 Excerpt

The Festival of Lanterns in Mallontah celebrated the arrival of Greater Brechalon to the continent eighty-three years earlier.  It was celebrated with a dozen formal parties and hundreds of informal ones, where Long Live the Kingwas sung, usually in slurred drunken voices.  The three-day long festivities were heralded by a parade, in which swinging lanterns held aloft on long poles were a major feature, in between a military marching band, a float made by the Ladies’ Auxiliary, and school children carrying hand-painted Accord Banners.  The Duke and Duchess of Argower rode through the streets in a car with Governor Burnaby and Orr Finby, Mayor of St. Ulixes.

The parade lasted three hours and at the end of that time, Terra begged off the remainder of the day’s appearances, letting Clitus go alone, while she returned to Sovereignty to rest.  When he returned, he found her snoring away in bed.  He roused her for dinner, and she got up and ate, but immediately went back to bed.

“Bob, go find a doctor.  I’m a bit worried.”

“Right away, sir.”

Bob returned an hour later with a smart looking fellow carrying a black doctor’s bag.  He was introduced as Dr. Hambsin, and he examined the Princess, all too briefly to Clitus’s mind.

“She’s dehydrated,” pronounced Hambsin.  “It’s not uncommon in pregnancy.  Her body is producing more blood for the unborn child.  Have her drink more water and she should be fine in a day or two.”

“But she’s been so tired just recently,” said Clitus.

“Many women exhibit signs of fatigue.  It’s all part of the process.  Women are the weaker sex.  This can take quite a toll on them.”

“What a pompous prig,” growled the Prince, once the doctor had left.  “Imagine someone thinking Terra was the weaker anything.  Go out and find me a decent doctor this time.”

“Your Highness,” said Stigby.  “If I might be so bold, you should call for a midwife.  They’re the real experts in this situation.”

“Do it.”

Stigby returned with a middle-aged woman introduced as Mrs. Callen.  Her examination was not much longer than the doctor’s had been, but she insisted that Terra be awakened so that she could speak to both husband and wife.

“The doctor is correct about dehydration and the reason for it.  But you must do more than simply wait for it to pass.  I don’t think the young lady is taking as good a care of herself as she should.”

“I have too many things to see to,” said Terra.

“You must take care of yourself and your baby first,” and when Clitus nodded in agreement, she told him, “and you must see that she does, and force her to when she doesn’t.”

“All right,” agreed the Prince, all the while wondering if he was really capable of forcing Terra to do anything.

“You must exercise, even if you feel tired,” continued Mrs. Callen.  “A brisk walk each day is sufficient.  Get nine hours of sleep each night and take a morning and afternoon nap.”

“That’s too much sleep,” said Terra, with a frown.

“I was about to say that you should keep your naps short.  Only fifteen to twenty minutes.  That way they won’t prevent you from sleeping at night.  Do you drink tea or coffee?”

“Tea.”

“Well, stop.  Water.  Lots of water.  Milk and juices are fine too.  You must eat right too.  You should have extra helpings of eggs.”

“Oh Kafira,” said Terra, turning pale.  “Don’t even say that word.”

“Are any other foods making you sick?”

“No,” Clitus answered, as his wife’s hand was still over her mouth.

“Then lean meat and beans, peas, and nuts can be substituted.  Have plenty of milk and cheese, fish, broccoli and dark leafy greens, berries and whole grains, and dried fruit.  Alligator pears are also recommended.”

“She’s really had a craving for black pudding and bacon.”

“The black pudding is fine.  Have you moved your bowels today?”

Clitus laughed.  His young wife who never seemed embarrassed about anything, suddenly looked mortified.  She shook her head ever so slightly, her large eyes even larger than usual.

“Cut back on the bacon then.  I would recommend some prunes or dried pineapple to get things moving again.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Callen,” said Clitus, walking her to the dock where Stigby waited to take her home.  “I feel much better knowing what to do.”

“She seems in good health overall.  Follow my directions and with Kafira’s help, she’ll have no trouble.”

An hour later, Stigby returned from dropping the midwife home.  He handed the Prince a jar filled with dried pineapple slices.  With a smile, Clitus carried the container to his wife’s room.  He was surprised to find her awake and writing at her desk.

“Here you go,” he said, holding out the pineapple.  “This should get you all sorted.”

She narrowed her eyes but took the jar.

“Tomorrow, the King’s storehouse is open to the trogs.  It’s an annual tradition but Burnaby thinks we should be there—put a face on the monarchy for the locals.”

“No,” said Terra.

“I can certainly understand you not wanting to go.  I think it might be a good idea for you to stay here and recover.”

“Neither of us should attend.”

“Me neither?  Why not?”

“I just don’t want to go, and I don’t want you to go either.”

“All right, I’ll send word to the governor.  Now, let’s get you to bed.  You heard what the midwife said.”