The Dark and Forbidding Land: Terrence

This book covers part of the story that, when I originally plotted out the series, I had not intended to write.  For Terrence it was both the time of his blindness and his marriage to Yuah.  That being said, when I got around to writing it, I really had fun.

They walked across the grounds of the base toward the temporary City Hall, which was nothing more than a converted barracks building.  Though there were a few who called out a greeting, such as “Hello Captain”, Yuah was unhappy to see that most of the people they passed just stared at the woman leading the blind man.  Terrence was silent as they crossed the militia grounds and Yuah had the impression that he somehow knew that people were watching them.  When they reached the door of the roughly-made twenty five by two hundred foot building with a small painted sign identifying it as their destination, he suddenly stopped and took her by the elbow.

“Do you still want to marry me?” he asked.

“I don’t recall ever saying that I wanted to marry you in the first place.”

“You said that you loved me.”

“That’s not really the same thing, now is it?”

“Don’t you want to marry someone you love?” he asked.

“I want to marry someone who loves me,” she replied.

“We could have your father do it right now.  He’s the mayor.”

“Why do you suddenly want to get married?” asked Yuah.  “You’ve never shown two figs of interest in marrying me, or anyone else come to that.”

“I’m a blind man.  There’s not a lot I can do…”

“You are going to get your sight back.  It’s just a matter of time until we have the curse lifted.”

“Maybe.  Maybe not.  In any case, I can still provide for a family.  I’m on my way to being disgustingly rich.  You could be rich with me.  And if you have six or eight children, you might even plump up enough.”

“What about religion?”

“I don’t care about that.”

“How would we raise the children… I mean, if there were any?”

“However you want.  I leave that entirely up to you.”

She looked at him with one eyebrow cocked.

“I can’t appreciate the look you’re giving me,” he said.  “I’m blind.”

“You still haven’t said that you love me.”

“Is that a deal breaker?”

“Yes,” Yuah said, rather forcefully.  “It most certainly is.”

“I love you then,” said Terrence.

“Oh, this is stupid!” she shouted, pulling her arm from his grasp.  “You’re playing some game with the poor little Zaeri maid.”

“I’m not.”

“We’ll see,” she said, taking him by the arm and opening the door.

She pulled him into the small room inside and past her father’s pinch-faced secretary, despite the beginnings of protestations coming from the woman’s surprised face.  She opened the door to the office beyond and found her father sitting at his desk, surveying a series of papers laid out side by side.  He looked up, his face shifting from one of surprise to one of pleasure.

“Yuah, how lovely…”

“Papa, we want you to marry us,” Yuah interrupted.

“Muh, muh, muh…”

“Right now.”

Zeah Korlann stood up from behind his desk.

“Absolutely not,” he said.

“What?  Why not?” Yuah demanded.

“Um, well… I was hoping to make a better match for you.”  Her father shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other.

“You’re not likely to find a better match, Papa.  They’re practically royalty.  You know that better than anyone.  Our family has worked for them for generations.”

“He means that I’m not good enough for you,” said Terrence.

“That’s not what he means,” said Yuah.  “That’s not what you mean, is it, Papa?”

“Well, yes it is.  And of course there is the question of religion…”

“It’s been settled,” said Yuah.

“You’re too young to get married,” said Zeah.

“I’m almost twenty seven!” shouted Yuah, with a slight edge of hysteria to her voice.  “I’m already an old maid!  If I wait any longer, my insides will shrivel up and blow away!”

Zeah stared at his daughter for a moment, watching her flushed face as she gulped for air, her corset and her excitement combining to take her very close to a swoon.  Then he looked at Terrence, searching his face for some inkling of motivation.

“I can’t appreciate his look either,” said Terrence to Yuah.

“There’s no hurry,” Zeah said at last.  “Why don’t you plan a spring wedding?  We can have it done right.  A big wedding.  Everyone will want to be there.”

“We are doing it now,” said Yuah.  “There is no Zaeri Imam, so you have to do a civil ceremony.  If you won’t, we’ll go and have Brother Galen marry us under Kafira’s watchful eyes.”

“We need a best man and a maid of honor.”

“You can have your secretary stand in, and get one of the soldiers outside to be the best man.  We don’t care who it is.  Anyone would be proud to stand up for a Dechantagne.”

Zeah took a deep breath and stepped close to Terrence.  “You must take care of her.”

“She will always be provided for,” said Terrence, though it sounded to no one in the room as if they meant the same thing.

It was only a few minutes later when Zeah unhappily began the civil marriage ceremony for his daughter and Terrence Dechantagne, framed on either side by his secretary Cadence Gertz and young Saba Colbshallow.  There wasn’t much to it, really.  He asked Terrence if he would love and cherish, and then he asked Yuah if she would honor and obey.  They both replied “I will”.


The Dark and Forbidding Land: Yuah

“Well, you can rest…”  Terrence suddenly felt Yuah stiffen.  She turned around to look behind her, and then came to a halt, halting him as well.

“What is it?”

“It’s those horrible birds.  There’s a pack of them following us.  I just saw one off to the left and there are two more behind us.”


“No, the bigger ones.  The ones with the brown feathers.”

“Deinonychus.  You can bet that if you see three, there are three around here that you can’t see.”

“Will they attack?”

“Maybe.  Don’t worry, I’ve got this.”  Terrence reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a forty five caliber revolver.”

“Wonderful,” said Yuah.  “It’s enough I have to worry about killer birds.  And now a blind man with a gun.”

“It’s not a gun.  It’s a pistol,” said Terrence.  “And I’m not going to shoot it.  You are.”

“I can’t shoot a gun… a pistol.”

“Don’t worry.  I’ll guide you through it.”  He took her by the wrist and placed the revolver, handle first, into her small hand.  “Where are they now?”

“Two are in the road about thirty feet back.  I don’t see the one in the woods anymore.”

At that moment a squawk came from the woods to the left, and was answered by a similar call in the woods to the right.

“Well, we know they’re there.  Hold the pistol in your right hand, and cup your left hand under the grip.”

Terrence stepped behind her and reached around to hold her hands in his.  His body pressed against her backside so that her bustle collapsed inward and her dress ballooned out somewhat in front.  She could feel his breath on her neck.

“Pick a target and line it up with the sight at the end of the barrel.  Do you have it?”

“I’m afraid.”

“Don’t worry.  I have you.  Do you have the bird lined up?”


“Then gently squeeze.  Don’t pull on the trigger.  Just squeeze.”

There was a tremendous boom and a cloud of metallic smoke.  The gun’s kick had pushed Yuah back, but Terrence’s body hadn’t moved.  She leaned backwards into him.

“Did you hit it?”

Yuah opened the eyes that she hadn’t even realized she had closed. 

“Oh, no.  Now there are three of them.”

“Do you see any in the woods?”

She glanced to either side.  “No.”

“How about behind us?”

“No.  I hear something moving in the woods now though.”

“Yes, I hear it too.  Let’s take aim again at the one we missed.”

“I don’t know which one it is.”

“Just aim at one Yuah.”

Yuah took aim down the barrel of the pistol at the deinonychus which was closest to the center of the road, and just as Terrence had instructed before, squeezed the trigger.  Again there was a tremendous boom and a cloud of smoke.  This time as the gun pushed her back, Yuah leaned into Terrence’s body.  He didn’t move.  The birdlike creature that she had aimed at was hit.  Its chest exploded and it was flipped end on end.

“We got it,” said Yuah turning her head so that her face was only an inch from Terrence’s.

“Good,” he said, but made no move to take his arms from around her shoulders or to turn his face away from hers.

“Should we shoot another one?”

“I don’t know.  What are the others doing?”

“The other two on the road are sniffing it.  Wait… three more are coming out of the woods, but they’re not looking at us.  Do you think they’ll eat their friend?”

“Maybe.  Proper animals wouldn’t resort to cannibalism, but these Birmisian creatures… Let’s get out of here anyway.  If they don’t decide to eat it, they might come after us yet.  And something else might come along.”

Terrence unwrapped his arms from her and took the gun, putting it back in the pocket of his great coat.  They continued down the road.  As they walked, he put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close.  Yuah looked back once to see that the deinonychus, now six, were still sniffing at their dead companion’s body.

The Dark and Forbidding Land is a high point for Yuah.  As I’ve mentioned before, she has the most drastic story arc of the major characters and this is still just the beginning, but I so enjoy writing about her.

The Dark and Forbidding Land: Mrs. Colbshallow

I was just telling my wife how much I love the minor characters in Senta and the Steel Dragon.  Mrs. Colbshallow is one of those.  She starts in Brechalon as the cook for the Dechantagne Family.  In the first draft of The Voyage of the Minotaur, she was just called “Cook”.  By The Dark and Forbidding Land, Mrs. Colbshallow has come to be the lizzie wrangler of the household.

“I Tisson,” he said, then pointed to each of the others in turn.  “This Sirrek, Kheesie, Cissy.”

“Wonderful!” shouted the human, clapping her hands together.  “My yes, you are a fine fellow.  Excellent.  You will all come along with me.”  She waved for them to follow and then started across the base towards the great wall.  “My name is Mrs. Colbshallow, though I don’t imagine you’ll be able to pronounce it.  You can say ‘Lady’, yes?”

“Lady.”  Each of the four lizzies tried out the word.

They reached the edge of the base when they were suddenly waylaid by a soldier with one of the big weapons slung over his shoulder.  The four lizzies instinctively shrunk back and tried to look small.

“Did you get a good selection, Mother?” the soldier asked Mrs. Colbshallow.

“Yes, yes.  No need to worry about that.  I’ve been hiring servants for nearly forty years now.  I know how to spot a good one, be he man or beast.”  She turned to the four lizardmen.  “This is my son, Saba.”

“They don’t need to know my name, Mother.”

“Of course they do.  You’ll be coming to dine at the Dechantagne house at least once a day.

“I’ve got my own house in the works you know,” replied the soldier.  “And besides, I don’t think the Dechantagne house will ever be finished.”

“Oh hush.  It’s practically done now.  A bit of paint here and a bit of plaster there.  My room will be ready by next week.  In fact, we’re all moving in next week.  We’re going to squeeze in downstairs until the upstairs is complete.”

“Well I just hope you don’t freeze to death, Mother.”  The soldier walked away and Mrs. Colbshallow led Cissy and the others off the base and up the street toward the great gate.

“Did you understand that conversation, Tisson?” asked Mrs. Colbshallow.  “How fluent in Brech are you and the others?”

“I talk lot words.  I understand.  Cissy talk.  Sisson, he understand, no talk.  Kheesie understand little, no talk.”

“Excellent.  You will make a fine majordomo.  You may explain to the others anything that they might not understand.”

The Dark and Forbidding Land: Cissy

When I wrote the Drache Girl, I place a fairly prominent aborigine character in the story– Cissy.  I didn’t have anything from her point of view though, so when I went back and wrote the prequel, The Dark and Forbidding Land, I put parts of it from her point of view.  This really fleshed her and the other lizzies out a bit.  Quite a few lizzie characters play parts in the story and here are a few of them.

Ssissiatok (Cissy) becomes Yuah’s dressing maid– making her the dressing maid of a former dressing maid.  Cissy more than any other lizzie identifies more with the humans than her own kind.  This is because she was always treated as an outsider by her own people.

Hekheesiatu (Kheesie) is another dressing maid in the Dechatagne home.

Tissonisuk (Tisson) becomes the major-domo for the Dechantagne home.  He is a fairly respected elder among the lizzies in the colony.

Sirruk (Sirruk) is a butler.  He’s a spear-carrier character– frequently present, though not vital.

The Dark and Forbidding Land: Aalwijn Finkler

She turned and went back into the store.  Senta took a swig of her Billingbow’s and looked across at the construction of the bakery.  A boy only a few years older than her was directing several grown men working on the project. 

“Do you know that boy?” asked Miss Lusk, coming back outside.

“That’s Aalwijn Finkler.  I guess he wants to make sure that his mom’s bakery is put together right.” 

Miss Lusk had apparently gone back in the store for a straw, which she now stuck into the top of her soda bottle and daintily sipped from.  Noticing the girl looking at her, she said, “I never learned to swig.”

They both heard a commotion across the square at the same time and turned back to the bakery.  Aalwijn Finkler and the men working with, or for him had stopped what they were doing and were speaking loudly, though Senta could only catch a few of their words.  The subject of their discussions soon became apparent though as a line of some forty lizzies came walking into the square from the south.  A sole militiaman, armed with a rifle slung haphazardly over his shoulder accompanied them.

The workmen went back to their hammering, but Aalwijn Finkler hopped down from the construction site and skipped across the square just in front of the line of lizardmen, who were moving so slowly in the cold weather that it looked to Senta as though they were suffering the effects of a slow spell.  The young man walked up to the woman and the girl.

“Hey Senta,” he said.

“Hey.”  Senta took another swig of soda.

“Um… Hello Miss Lusk.”

“I’m flattered that you know me, Mr. Finkler,” said Miss Lusk smiling.

“Oh, everyone knows you, Miss Lusk,” Aalwijn said, not registering the fact that she knew his name.  “I suppose you’ll be heading over to the base after this lot.”

“Why would you suppose that?” wondered Senta.

“These are the lizzies that are going to be the household servants,” explained Aalwijn.  “I expect you’ll need quite a few for that fine house of yours.”

“My home won’t be ready for a few weeks yet,” said Miss Lusk. 

“Someday I’m going to have a house like yours.  Then my mother and I can take it easy and we’ll have dozens of lizzies to wait on us.”

“I’m sure you will.  I’ll tell you what.  When my home is completed, I’ll have both of you over to tea.”  She smiled at the two young people.  “In the meantime, I’m on my way back to my apartment, so I must say adieu.”

“Good day Miss,” said Aalwijn.

“Bye,” said Senta.

Alwijn is another minor character who shows up again and again in Senta and the Steel Dragon.  He’s one of the Zaeri that arrive in the colony from Freedonia and with the help of his mother’s cooking, he becomes one of the most successful.  I was looking for unusual names when I found Aalwijn.  I think it fits him.

The Dark and Forbidding Land: Egeria Lusk

Miss Lusk glided across the snowy square and Senta followed, watching the swaying motion of the woman’s fashionably large bustle.  It was just about large enough that Senta and another ten year old could have hidden themselves under it.  Miss Lusk’s bright red coat was cut wide at the bottom to expand and encompass her very large lower half.

“That’s a great dress,” remarked Senta.  “You must have a huge hip bag under there.”

Miss Lusk glanced over her shoulder and winked.  “All part of the price of fashion.  I’m afraid that without the proper foundation I just don’t have the necessary shape.”

“I don’t think anybody has a bottom that big,” said Senta.

“No.  Nobody does.”  Miss Lusk stopped to pull open the door of the Pfennig Store.  “And nobody walks around on their toes either, but we wear high-heels to look like we do.”

Senta stepped inside the door as the bell hanging above it jingled.  Miss Lusk followed and the bell jingled again as the door closed.  Mr. Parnorsham looked up from behind the counter where he was rearranging costume jewelry in the glass case.  He squinted through his bifocals and wiped his hands on his white apron. 

“Good day ladies.”

“Good day Mr. Parnorsham.”  Miss Lusk politely feigned interest in the costume jewelry.  “I’m in need of some two inch lace today.”

“Let me show you what I have.”

Senta wandered over to look at the toy counter.  It was a small twenty four inch square counter divided into six inch square compartments, each with a different type of toy.  There were rubber bouncing balls, toy guns, tin soldiers, doll sized tea cups with saucers, and wooden ponies with yarn tails.  Senta picked one up and made a horse noise by blowing air between her lips.

“That’s just the one I need,” said Miss Lusk from the other aisle.

“How much is the toy horse, Mr. Parnorsham?” called Senta.

“It’s a toy pony and it’s five pfennigs.  Oh, by the way Miss Lusk, I just got in some more tins of butter biscuits.  I know how much you like them.”

“Yes I’ll take one of those too.”

“Just one?”

“Just one,” she peered around the aisle at Senta and whispered loudly.  “I won’t need that bustle if I keep eating these.  Aren’t you a bit old for a toy pony?”

“It’s for Bessemer.  He’s been playing with my doll lately and I’m afraid he’s going to bite her head off.”

“Do you have five pfennigs?”

“Yeah.  I just don’t know if I want to spend them.  I guess I will though.”  She picked up the wooden pony and brought it to the counter.

“That will be seventy five P, Miss Lusk.”

“We’ll have two of those as well,” said Miss Lusk, pointing at a large framed picture of a brown bottle emblazoned with the words “Billingbow’s Original Sarsaparilla and Wintergreen Soda Water.”  Then she winked again at Senta.

“Well that will bring you total to ninety seven P.”

Miss Lusk reached daintily into her bosom and withdrew a small roll of paper banknotes of which she peeled off a single one mark note and held it out.  Mr. Parnorsham looked at it for a long moment as if not sure whether it was appropriate for him to touch something that had just come from within a young woman’s garments.  Finally he took it by the very corner and carrying it carefully, as though he thought it might spontaneously combust, he placed it in the cash box, and withdrew three copper pfennigs change, which, now overwhelmed by the idea of more intimate physical contact, he placed on the counter instead of in Miss Lusk’s hand.

He turned around and pulled two Billingbow’s from the ice box and set them next to the other purchases and then turned his attention to Senta.

“Five P.”

Egeria Lusk is a character who appears a relatively small amount in each of the books, but is never the less important for the plot.  She was in part inspired by the historic Ada Lovelace and Lovelace was her name in the draft.  She’s also sort of a combination of two of my favorite aunts.

The Dark and Forbidding Land: Mr. Darwin

“Hello Mr. Darwin.”

“Oh hello, Senta,” said the bespectacled older man, who was only slightly taller than the ten year old girl.  “How are you this cold morning?”

“I’m okay.  Which of these buildings is going to be yours?”

“This one right here,” he replied, pointing to the left most of the two having their roofs put on.  “I’m right next to Mr. Parnorsham’s Pfennig Store.  I think that’s the best spot in the square.  Don’t you?”

“I kind of thought you would have moved in there when Mrs. Wachtel died,” said Senta, indicating the shop just to the left of the Pfennig Store.

“Yes, well… to be honest, when Mrs. Wachtel… a…  passed away,” Mr. Darwin crossed himself.  “I had already signed the paperwork.”

“So what are they going to do with her place?”

“It’s my understanding that Mrs. Bratihn is going to take over the business.”

“I guess that will be good since her husband can’t work on account of being blind.”

“Mmm,” nodded Mr. Darwin, noncommittally while he took off his glasses to wipe them with a clean handkerchief.

“I didn’t expect Mrs. Government to let us go too long without a dress shop.”

Mr. Darwin bit his lower lip.  “Senta, you are irrepressible.  You are going to have to learn to watch what you say.”

Mr. Darwin is a very minor character.  He is of course named for Charles Darwin.  I just thought it would be great to have the man who made things from dinosaur skin be named Darwin.