A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 5 Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

“Good morning, Lady Esther,” said Willa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 4 Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They’ll make a mess,” she replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your seat, Monsieur.”

He sat and pulled her into his lap.

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

“You, sir, are very naughty.”

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

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

“Cottage pie?” he asked.

“I’m calling it Charmley pie.”

“Dinosaur meat then?”

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 3 Excerpt

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

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

“This was very nice,” she said.

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

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

“No, I have to get up.”

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

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

“Yes.”

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

“Will you be by tomorrow?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So you are.”

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

“Saba?” she called.

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

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 2 Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, Little Worm, you do.”

“If you say so, Augie.”

The reptilian servant nodded and hurried from the room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What in the deuces are you talking about?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll buy you a car.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are you going?” asked Augie.

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

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

“That seems likely.”

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

“Whatever you say, Augie.”

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

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 1 Excerpt

The first thing that Senta noticed was that she had a headache.  A second after that came the realization that her jaw hurt and the understanding of just why it hurt.  There was something stuffed in her mouth, forcing it open.  She felt the foreign object with her tongue.  It felt like a rubber ball.  There was no forcing it out either.  A strap around her head was holding it in place.  Then her tongue found something else.  There was a large sore on the inside of her cheek—hard, with a painful dimple on the top, like a bee sting.  She slowly opened her eyes.

She was in a small dark room.  The walls were metal, with long streaks of rust running from the ceiling down the sides. A metal door was directly in front of her.  She was seated on a chair, also metal, her hands fastened with steel manacles to rings on the sides.  The entire room suddenly pitched to one side.  She was aboard a ship.  She tried shifting her weight and felt a sharp pain in the small of her back.  She must have been seated for a good long while. The chair didn’t move however, and glancing down to her side, she saw that it was bolted to the floor.

“Back among the living, are we luv?”

She turned her head both directions but couldn’t see the owner of the voice somewhere behind her.

“Not to worry.  One of them two will be down directly.  I’d give you a little splash of water if I could, but theys said not to take your gag out under no circumwhences.”

Senta suddenly realized how thirsty she was.

“Yes, one of them two will be down soon.  Theys never gone from you for more than haft a moment.  You gots tem all jittery, that you do luv.  And them’s two high magical mucketies.  You must be all that, to get thems in such a state.”

The door suddenly opened and a tall, thin man stepped inside the room, closing the door behind him. He wore a brown suit with a bowler hat and spectacles, and had long, pointed chin whiskers.  Senta winced at the brightness coming off of him, though it wasn’t a light that anyone else would have seen.  It was the magic that clung to him.

“I told you to contact me as soon as she was awake,” he snarled.

“What’s to bother, guv. Yous down here all ta same, ain’t cha?”

“Hello, Miss Bly,” said the man turning his attentions to his prisoner.  “My name is Wizard Durham.  I’m sure you’ve heard of me.”

Senta didn’t nod or shake her head.  She simply glared at him.

“I understand.  You’re not only angry, but embarrassed as well. How did someone of your power come to this?  Well, you needn’t feel that way.  Your magical wards were unassailable, even better than mine.  I’ll go ahead and admit it, and I’m a fourth level master. No one could have harmed you with either physical force or magic.  But you see, there was one vulnerability.”  He leaned down and smiled into her face.  “Yes, you know now, don’t you?  The idea came from our naturalists.  Did you know that ants are at eternal war with termites?  It’s true.  But the ants can’t kill the termites, because they are protected by their armor.  So what are the ants to do?  They hold open the termite’s jaws and sting them inside their mouths.  That’s what we did.  You were shot with a tranquilizer dart, right inside your pretty mouth.  And so, like the lowly termite, was the Drache Girl, the world’s most powerful sorceress, brought down.”

“That’s herself then?” asked the voice from the back.  “That’s who she be?  You shoulda told us what then.  We deserve ‘azard pay in such cases, eh?”

“Oh, there’s no hazard here,” said Wizard Durham.  “I’ve so many magical protections on me that a dozen wizards couldn’t cause me harm. I’m sure I’m even protected from Miss Bly’s most devastating art.  What do you call it?  Epic pestilence, I believe.”

“Oi, fine for yous and the other himself.  What about little old Dick then?  What happens to me?  I ain’t gots no magical protections.”

“Oh, you have nothing to worry about.”  The wizard leaned back and rubbed his palms together as an oily smile took charge of his face.  “As long as she’s gagged she can’t speak, and as long as she can’t speak, she has no power. Isn’t that right, Miss Bly?  If you had your mouth, you might give us ten or twenty arcane words and bring about the most furious devastation, or call forth God-only-knows-what to do your bidding.  But you can’t.  I know how badly you want to utter those four little syllables.  Those four syllables give us all our power, but without them, no magic… no magic at all, no matter how gifted we think ourselves.”

“Is that so?” thought Senta. “Let’s test that hypothesis.  That and your magical wards.”

Durham leaned over at the waist and looked into her eyes.

“Uuthanum,” thought Senta, concentrating with all her might on his face—his obnoxious gloating face. “Uuthanum, uuthanum, uuthanum, uuthanum. Uuthanum, uuthanum, uuthanum!”

Wizard Durham stood up straight.  For a split second, a look of surprise overtook him.  And then his head exploded, sending blood and brains in every direction, coating the walls, the floor, the ceiling, and everything else in the room. Tiny little bits of brain hung in the air like pink snowflakes.

The sorceress closed her eyes, both in satisfaction, and because a bit of the wizard’s grey matter was dripping from her forehead down onto her cheek.  A giggle, unable to make its way past her gag, escaped through her nose.  Then something hit her on the side of the head, hard, and everything went black.

A Plague of Wizards

In this, book 8 of Senta and the Steel Dragon: Senta Bly, the most powerful sorceress in the world has disappeared and no one knows where or why. What happens to Port Dechantagne and Birmisia without her protection for four years? Wizards with all sorts of their own agendas descend on the colony, and the citizens must cope the best they can. Nineteen-year-old Iolana Staff lives the life of a famous author, far away in the capital city, but how does her friend Esther, the only Birmisian lizzie on the continent deal with human society? Meanwhile Iolana’s cousin Terra has made the journey to the lizzie city of Yessonarah, to learn what living in the palace of a reptilian king is really like.

A Plague of Wizards is available as an ebook at Smashwords for just $2.99.

 

The Price of Magic – Chapter 21 Excerpt

Lady Iolana Staff opened her aquamarine eyes and glanced around the interior of the tent, startled. She knew exactly where she was, but for the life of her she couldn’t remember falling asleep or even laying down.  Colonel Bentford looked down at her from just inside the tent flap.

“I’ve had them bring you a bit of breakfast,” he said, gesturing toward the folding table and chair. “Needless to say, you’re to remain here until the battle’s conclusion.”

With a click of his heels, he slipped outside.

Iolana could hear the sound of marching boots all around.  She stood up to peer outside, but her eye caught the plate on the table. It wasn’t a feast worthy of the Dechantagne Staff house, but it was a finer meal than she could remember having seen in what seemed like a year—a large fried egg, two pieces of black pudding, a slice of bacon, and an honest-to-Kafira scone.  She slid into the chair and tucked in, finishing her scone and bacon before even thinking to look for the silver fork.

Her mind no longer on her stomach, Iolana thought about what to do next.  Then she heard a horrible chugging sound, accompanied by a pounding on the ground that almost lifted her off her feet.  She stepped out the tent flap and looked around.

“Nuffin’ to worry ’bout, y’ladyship,” said the sentry, throwing out a restraining arm.  “It’s just ’at crawler war machine.”

The crawler was indeed making its way past, not fifty feet away.

“Yes, thank you,” she said, ducking back inside.

Without stopping, she crossed to the back of the tent, pulling her knife from her belt.  For a moment, she mourned the loss of her pistol, but then it wouldn’t have been nearly as handy at that exact moment. With a single cut, she opened a Iolana-sized slice in the canvas and stepped out, to find herself in a space between two rows of tents, both pointing away from her.  She followed the little alleyway to the end, and then stepped out.  Soldiers were hurrying this way and that, though most in the same general direction that the crawler had been moving.

“Which way to the prisoners?” she asked, grabbing the arm of a passing soldier.

He looked her up and down, then pointed, and hurried off.  Iolana went the general direction indicated and soon found a circular wire pen holding six or seven lizzies, most of them lying prone.  The single guard watching them, rifle in hand, had little to do. The lizzies, in addition to being inside the pen, were all shackled hand and foot.  The girl quickly stepped up in front of the soldier.

“Oh, I’m feeling faint!” she cried, throwing her arm up over her eyes and falling backwards.

“Careful, Miss,” said the man, catching her in one arm, holding onto his rifle with the other.

“Oh, I’ve just lost my air, I’m afraid.”  She leaned back into him, fanning herself with one hand and feeling his muscular arm with the other.  “My, you’re so strong, Sergeant.”

“Whatever are you doing out here, Miss?”

“Oh, I’m such a silly girl. I was so excited that I ran all the way from the Colonel’s tent.”

“The colonel?”  The soldier tried to straighten both of them up at the same time.  “What about the colonel?”

“He wants you to bring one of the lizzies to his tent… for questioning, I expect.”

“Did he say which one?”

“I don’t think it matters. Maybe one of those that was captured early on.”

“All right then.”

Fishing the keys off his belt, the sergeant opened a padlock on a makeshift gate, nothing more than slice in the wire really.  Stepping inside, he kicked one of the prone lizzies with the toe of his boot.

“Come on, scaly.  It’s time to go meet your betters.”

It was doubtful that the lizzie understood a single word, but he seemed to understand the gestures that went along with them, climbing to his feet and followed the man out of the enclosure.  After replacing the padlock, the soldier took the reptilian by the arm and began to lead him away.

“Sergeant,” said Iolana, throwing her body in his way.  “I’ll stay here and guard your charges for you.”

“Not really necessary. They’re chained up anyway.”

“Well, thank you for your chivalry,” she said, giving him a quick hug.

No sooner had the man and his charge started away, than Iolana turned to the enclosure.  Examining the key ring she had just taken from the soldier’s belt, she unlocked the gate and slipped inside.  It was easy enough to identify the lizzie priestess, even for one not nearly so familiar with the reptilians as was Iolana.  Tokkenoht, the only lizzie that didn’t seem half asleep, stepped right up to her.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” said the girl, bending down to unlock her leg shackles.  “I’ll leave your hands cuffed until we get beyond the camp.”

“Unlock the others,” said Tokkenoht.

“We can’t,” said Iolana, trying without success to pull her along.  “Soldiers might not think twice about one prisoner being moved.  Besides, it would probably only get these lizzies shot.”

“She is right,” said one of the lizzies on the ground.  “Hurry and go, Your Eminence.”

Tokkenoht allowed the human girl to pull her out of the gate and then through the military camp. There were far fewer soldiers moving about than there had been even just a few minutes before.  The last battle units had formed up and moved toward the field. All that remained behind were sentries and support personnel.  A few gave the lizzie and the human girl in a military uniform a strange looks, but no one accosted them.  Within five minutes, they had reached the southwestern edge of the camp.  Fifty feet beyond the last tent, they ducked down into a large bush.