The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 19 Excerpt

Terrence followed his gaze and saw spread out across the savannah, a line of lizardmen. They were so well camouflaged that they blended right into the rising landscape behind them. They stretched out to the left and the right so far that they created a half circle around the humans, and this at a distance of more than a mile. Many of the lizardmen were painted red and white and black, and most wore feathers. Most also carried the swords, made of wood and flint, that the men had seen before.

“Kafira,” said one of the soldiers. “There must be a thousand of them.”

“More like five thousand,” said Labrith.

“Talk to them,” said Terrence to Augie, indicating the two lizardmen with them. “Find out if these are our friends or the enemies.”

Augie hissed. Sarkkik hissed back. Augie translated.

“We know of your people. Though it is far away, we know of your people living in Mallontah. We know how they have enslaved the natives there. We know you intend to do this here. We have shown you to Suusthek.”

“What does that mean?” asked Terrence. “We have shown you to Suusthek.”

“Oh, sorry. My mistake,” said Augie. “Not ‘show’. It’s ‘delivered’. ‘We have delivered you to Suusthek’. Oh, that doesn’t sound good.”

“We have dealt with you in good faith,” said Terrence.

“Your blood runs warm. You cannot be trusted. We have heard your talk. Szuss can hear your speech. He hears how you want to rule the land.”

“Bugger!” shouted Terrence.

Sarkkik hissed again.

“He says ‘now you die’,” translated Augie.

Terrence turned around and walked two steps then turned around again. Then he pulled out his .45 revolver and shot Sarkkik in the head. It seemed as if the reptilian would fall backwards for a moment, but this was prevented by his tail. He rocked back, then from one side to the other, and then collapsed in a heap. Before Sarkkik had hit the ground, Terrence had fired a second time, and Szuss had a hole through his skull as well. He fell forward onto his alligator-like face.

More than a mile away, a deep rumbling sound rose up. It was a low gurgling, growling noise. It came from the massive army of lizardmen and it grew louder and louder as five thousand warriors joined in.

“Formation!” shouted Augie. “Get into formation!”

The soldiers rushed to form two lines, one behind the other, ninety men wide. The formation looked pathetically small compared to the line of reptilians that dominated the landscape.

“First rank, kneeling positions!”

The front row of soldiers knelt. The rear row stayed standing.

“Fix bayonets!”

Each soldier pulled a wicked looking dagger from a sheath on his belt and attached the six and three quarter inch blade to the end of his rifle.

The throaty sound of the lizardmen continued for several minutes. Suddenly and seemingly without a signal, it stopped. Then like a wave moving from the ocean onto the beach, the lizards surged forward. They moved quickly, at a sort of slithering trot, brandishing their stone-encrusted swords as they came. And they were silent—eerily silent.

“Ready!” called Augie. “Aim!”

“Fire!”

The one hundred eighty soldiers fired their rifles in unison and more than a hundred reptiles fell to the ground. The hole created in their moving line quickly filled in with others of their kind, and kept moving forward.

“Ready! Aim! Fire!”

The soldiers fired again, and another hundred reptile warriors fell. Running headlong into thundering death, the lizardmen directly in front of the humans began to falter, while to either side, they surged forward. Terrence had holstered his pistol and pulled the .30 caliber rifle from his shoulder.

“Uuthanum rechthinov uluchaiia,” said Labrith, and a lightning bolt, beginning at his fingertip, spread out shooting through the bodies of a dozen reptile warriors.

“Fire at will!” shouted Augie. The soldiers began to pick their own targets.

“Watch your flanks!” he shouted. Fanning out slightly on either side, the humans began firing on the lizardmen coming in from the sides.

“Uuthanum beithbechnoth,” said Labrith, and a missile of magical energy darted from his fingertip, striking one of the lizards square in the chest, killing him. A half second later a second magical dart shot forth, and then a third.

Seconds later similar magic missiles shot from the lizardmen’s lines, hitting two of the soldiers. Terrence aimed his rifle in the direction from which they had come. The reptiles had their own magic user. He was easy to spot too. Unlike the others whose greenish skin was painted black or red, he was covered in blue. Terrence shot him through the throat.

Suddenly the lizardmen stopped coming and dropped down into the tall grass. So sudden and so well coordinated was the move that it seemed that they had just vanished into thin air.

“Hold your fire!” shouted Augie. “Are they crawling? Watch the grass!”

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 18 Excerpt

Many people on the shore were watching as the two ships steamed out of the bay and no doubt many people had many different emotions flowing around within them at the sight. Some might have felt frightened with the realization that their last tenuous lifeline to the world of civilization was now severed. Some might have been excited that the challenge of taming the new world was now theirs and theirs alone to pursue. Zeah Korlann didn’t know what he felt. He didn’t have time to dwell upon any feelings however, he had plenty to do.

By the time the sun set that evening, he had accomplished quite a bit. He had arranged for new work details for the former Freedonians. Like the colonists who had arrived eight days before them, these individuals would be expected to provide six months of service to the colony. After that, they could purchase land and begin whatever lives they wished. That was the theory, anyway. He had also overseen the clearing of the first bit of forest outside the protective wall. The first shops and stores would be built here hopefully, when that six month period had ended. Zeah looked forward to visiting a bakery there. Inside the walls, they had finished constructing a large smokehouse. And finally, that afternoon, the colony’s first fishing boat had floated out into the bay.

Zeah had two stops to make after dinner and before he went back to his own apartment. The first was to the headquarters tent of Miss Dechantagne. He would have gone to report to her in any case, but he felt doubly obligated to stop because the Royal Colonial Governor was alone. Her brothers had left at first light the day before with one hundred eighty soldiers and accompanied by a half dozen reptilian aborigines. Their mission was to elevate one of the local chiefs to dominance, and at the same time show off modern Brech firepower—put the fear of God into the locals, let them know who was the boss. Nobody expected stone spear equipped lizardmen to be able to face the power of four platoons of riflemen, and both brothers had spent their time in the army. Still, it was a combat mission, and things could happen.

Knocking on the tent pole that served as a doorjamb, he was rewarded with a “Come in.”

Miss Dechantagne was not alone. Zeah’s daughter Yuah was in the tent. She was sitting in one of the folding chairs in front of Miss Dechantagne’s massive desk and Miss Dechantagne herself was sitting in the heavy oak swivel chair behind it. The two women were sipping cups of tea.

“Hello Papa,” said his daughter, standing up to kiss him on the cheek.

“Good evening. I didn’t expect to find you here.”

“We were just having tea,” said Miss Dechantagne. “Would you like some?”

Only Zeah’s carefully regulated composure allowed him to reply without stuttering. Miss Dechantagne inviting him to tea? The heat must have somehow addled her.

“No, thank you. I just wanted to check in and let you know that everything is on schedule.”

“I’m quite excited about the smokehouse, myself,” said Yuah. “Mrs. Colbshallow is already planning sausages.”

Zeah looked at his daughter with a raised eyebrow. It seemed that the governor was not the only one who had lost her mind. Yuah was sipping tea and making small talk with Miss Dechantagne.

“Thank you Zeah,” said the governor. “I’m pleased to see that our new arrivals are proving to be more of an asset than a hindrance.”

“Indeed.” Zeah stood for a moment

“You should go get some rest.”

“Very well. Good night.” He nodded to the women and stepped out the tent flap. The two women laughed. Zeah shook his head and walked off.

His second stop was to see Egeria Lusk. She had completely recovered from her wounds at the hands of an unknown attacker and had in fact, spent much of the day supervising work on the Result Mechanism, though she had left the actual pressing of buttons and throwing of switches to someone else. He knocked on the door of her apartment and again was asked to “come in” and again found two women sitting and sipping tea. This time it was Egeria and Sister Auni, the Kafirite cleric. Sister Auni rose as he entered.

“Good evening, Mr. Korlann,” she said. “I was just leaving.”

“No need to leave on my account.”

“No, no. We’ve had a lovely talk, but now I must get back to my own room.”

“Well, good night,” he said, as he held the door open for the clergywoman.

“I’m so glad you came by,” said Egeria, once Sister Auni had left. “Please sit down.”

“Thank you. What were you two talking about?”

“Oh, life, the universe, and everything.”

“And what was her take on it.”

“We were just chatting, really,” said Egeria. “I was sorry that we didn’t get to have supper together.”

“I didn’t really have time for supper today,” said Zeah. “I was hoping that you would join me tomorrow though.”

“I would be delighted,” she smiled.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 17 Excerpt

“Look at all these lousy zeets,” said Graham Dokkins, as he and Senta walked between the hundreds of makeshift tents on the southwest side of the hill from the barracks.

“What are zeets?” asked Senta.

“That’s what they’re called. My Da says they’re evil, and they don’t even believe in Kafira.”

“Zurfina doesn’t believe in Kafira either. I mean, not like us. She says the Church is all bullocks.”

“Yeah, well my Da says she’s evil too.”

If Senta was offended at the idea that anyone would call Zurfina evil, she didn’t let on. She bounced ahead, her skipping steps seeming to defy gravity. In one hand she carried a stick and in the other her doll. Graham stomped after her.

“Why do you gotta carry that doll everywhere?” he asked.

“Cause I’m a girl, stupid.”

They reached the edge of the tent village. Some of the women from among the Freedonian refugees had set up a series of clotheslines and were hanging up clothes. Almost every piece was black, white, or grey.

“They don’t seem any different to me,” said Senta. “Except they talk funny.”

Suddenly several of the women who had been hanging clothes began to scream and they all began to run toward the tents. Looking up, the two children saw a steel colored streak flying downward from out of the sun. The steel dragon buzzed the tops of the women’s heads and then zipped along parallel to the clothesline and with a flick of its tail, knocked every other piece of clothing from the line into the dirt. Spreading its wings out to their full six-foot breadth, it stopped in mid-air and dropped to the ground at Senta’s feet. It opened its mouth to the sky and a small puff of smoke shot out.

“Funneee,” said the dragon.

“It’s not either funny, you potty twonk. You’re going to get everyone angry, and who’s going to get in trouble? Not you. Me, that’s who.”

Despite Senta’s declaration that the dragon’s actions were not funny, Graham was laughing heartily. The dragon hopped over to his feet and rubbed his head against the boy’s leg as if to share in his mirth. Graham, still laughing, slapped his knee. The dragon suddenly bit his hand.

“Sod it!” shouted the boy, his laughter suddenly gone.

The dragon looked up in the air, with feigned innocence.

“See, now you’ve made Graham angry too,” said Senta. Both the girl and the dragon looked at the boy, who had gone all white and sweaty.

“My Da didn’t say it, but I think dragons are evil.”

“Pet,” said the dragon, in a pleading tone.

“Yeah, all right,” Senta said, fishing a small brown bottle from the pocket of her baggy black dress. “But if you bite anyone else, I’m going to need a new bottle of this.”

She poured the draught from the bottle onto the wound on Graham’s hand. The liquid bubbled and fizzed on contact with the boy’s blood, but after a few moments nothing was left of the injury but a small scar.

Senta, Graham, and the dragon looked up to see they were completely surrounded by a crowd of people. The reptile leapt to the girl’s shoulder in one swift motion and curled up around her neck. Graham stood up next to Senta and took her hand in his. The people began to whisper amongst themselves. Finally one of the women stepped forward.

“Sorry about your clothes,” said Senta.

“Der drache is, how you say, vunterfull,” said the woman.

“Oh yeah, he’s great,” said Graham, sarcastically.

“He is bootifull. He is yours?”

“Yeah, sort of,” said Senta.

“You bet he’s hers,” said Graham. “She’s a really powerful sorceress and he’s her dragon. And they’re really scary and magical. Just look at them. And that’s her magic doll.”

He suddenly started laughing. The dragon made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a smirk.

“We’ve got to go now,” said Senta. “I’ve got to lock up my dragon and my troll here.”

“Hey!” shouted Graham, following Senta who was already hurrying through the opening in the crowd that magically parted before her. “Who you calling a troll, monkey face?”

The two children walked up to the top of the hill and parted without saying goodbye, but with the innocent expectation that they would see each other later and continue on just as they had. Senta made her way to a quiet place that she had found next to the protective wall. She plopped down in the grass and the steel dragon climbed off her shoulders. She stretched out and he curled up beside her and placed his whiskered snout on her stomach.

Senta held her doll up and looked at it. The doll had on an outfit just like hers. She called the dress she was wearing her doll dress for that very reason. The doll had the same hairstyle that she did. She could almost imagine that the doll was made especially for her. But it hadn’t been. She had seen it many times in the toy store before she had purchased it.

“I wonder what Geert’s doing now?” she mused. “He’s my cousin,” she explained to the dragon.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 16 Excerpt

The shouting and gunfire brought Terrence out of the white opthalium induced state. He was sitting on the ground with his back to a massive redwood tree. It was in fact, that first tree that Iolanthe had tagged with a ribbon to save its life. It was completely dark all around him, and at first the lapping of the waves nearby was the only sound that registered with his befuddled mind. When he again heard the shouts and gunfire at the far end of the compound and he recognized them for what they were, he was actually happy. It meant that he hadn’t been awakened by someone discovering him while he was seeing.

Could you call it “seeing” if you didn’t really see anything? Terrence had used the drug from the small blue bottle several times since the arrival in Birmisia, but he had seen nothing in the other world except that endless fields of the ever-present purple flowers. Never before had he been there without meeting Pantagria. Now he searched for her and she was nowhere to be found.

Terrence picked up his helmet, which was sitting next to him, and then stood up and began trudging up the hill at a modest pace. When he saw a blood covered Zeah Korlann being escorted by two riflemen into Iolanthe’s headquarters tent, he ran the rest of the way.

“What’s going on?” he asked, as he burst into the tent. He stopped short when he saw Miss Lusk, lying on her side, bloodied, on the dirt floor. “Let’s get Father Ian in here.”

“Father Ian isn’t coming,” said Zeah shakily.

“Sister Auni, go get another acolyte to cast a cure wounds spell,” ordered Iolanthe. Then she opened the top drawer of her desk and pulled out a brown bottle. “Soak her bandages in this and poor the rest down her throat.”

She handed the bottle to Dr. Kelloran, who was kneeling over the red-haired woman’s prone form. The doctor did as directed and a moment later was rewarded with Miss Lusk opening her eyes. Sister Auni arrived after a few minutes with Brother Galen, who followed the exact same procedure that she had in casting a spell. Color returned to Miss Lusk’s face and she began to breathe freely.

“Who did this to you?” asked Iolanthe.

“I didn’t see them,” said Miss Lusk. It was an obvious labor to speak. “Someone was running the Result Mechanism. I went around the corner to see who it was, but…”

“There were papers coming out of the machine,” said Zeah.

“Go find those papers,” Iolanthe ordered her brother. “Maybe we can find out who was using it.”

Terrence nodded and left the tent. He picked up a gas lantern nearby and stomped down the hill toward the still chugging and clanking Result Mechanism. Just before he reached it, the machine stopped, letting out a long whistle of leftover steam. He pulled out one of his nickel-plated .45 revolvers and circled around the huge device. Standing at the controls was his brother Augie.

“What’s going on, old man?” said Augie, when he noticed Terrence.

“What are you doing here?” Terrence asked.

“You know you really shouldn’t answer a question with a question,” Augie replied. “The machine was running and nobody was here, so I shut it down.”

“You didn’t see anybody here?”

“No, and I waited around for a couple of minutes too.”

“Are there any papers coming out of the slot on the side of the machine?”

They both stepped around to the far side, where the printing slot was located, but there were no papers either sticking out of the slot or on the ground below.

“You don’t have anything to do with this, do you?” asked Terrence.

“Anything to do with what? A bloody machine making a bunch of racket?”

“The stabbing.”

“Stabbing? What stabbing?”

“Egeria Lusk has been stabbed. Right over there, by the look of the ground.”

“Kafira! And you think I had something to do with it?”

“No. But you were at three of the crime scenes, at least three, so some people are going to get the idea you could be involved.”

“What do you mean three? The murders on the ship? I thought you pegged Murty for that, and pegged him good too, I might add.”

“Yes, I did. And Murty was a bad sort; I don’t doubt it for a moment.”

“You know I wouldn’t stab a woman. What’s that all about? I was very fond of Danika.”

“Danika?”

“Miss Kilmurray.”

“Oh, Kafira. You knew her?”

“I knew her, but I didn’t do anything to hurt her. I certainly never killed her, and I didn’t kill Miss Lusk.”

“Miss Lusk is alive.”

“Well, thank heavens. Now she can tell you I didn’t stab her.”

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 15 Excerpt

Ssichutuu was probably not nearly as frightening as his chief. He did not for instance appear to be wearing any part of a skeleton as decoration. He also did not carry any obvious weapons, save a small stone knife with wooden handle. Nevertheless, Zeah Korlann found his new companion every bit as frightening as the tyrannosaurus that stalked the forests of the region. Ssichutuu was a little over six feet tall and looked more than a little like an upright alligator. His deep olive skin had few obvious scars or discolorations, marking him as a younger member of the fifty-strong group of visitors. He kept his dewlap for the most part tucked up against his neck. The truly unnerving thing was the fact that his yellow eyes never seemed to leave Zeah for long and they almost never blinked.

Most of the natives had left the compound to go on a hunting expedition with Master Terrence, but ten had stayed to observe the lifestyles of the newcomers. Each of these temporary visitors had two colonists to look after them. Zeah and Saba Colbshallow were both escorting this particular lizardman or lizzie around. Saba had already nicknamed the creature Sichy. The aborigine took a keen interest in almost everything that they were doing. They walked along the shore and watched the finishing touches being put on the dock’s crane, which once finished began lifting the last of the heavy cargo from the battleship. They walked up the hill, now mostly denuded of trees, which was being spread with gravel to form a roadway. At the top of the hill, they watched the construction of the barracks. Ssichutuu seemed fascinated by the smoothness of the wood used so they walked back down the hill, just south of the dock to observe the power saw slicing logs into boards.

At lunchtime, the lizardmen were brought together along with their hosts around a large table just inside the great protective wall. Two foot long log segments were turned on end to be used as chairs. This was functional enough for the colonists and even better for the natives than real chairs, which interfered with their thick tails. A kind of shish kabob, with pieces of meat, onions, and potatoes was served. The reptiles eschewed the vegetables but ate the meat happily enough. Zeah suspected that they would have preferred it raw, and maybe aged to the point of rotting.

Afterwards the humans watched as the lizardmen gave a demonstration of their method of creating stone blades from the local flint and obsidian. They used large rocks to break off long slender flakes and then used pieces of bone to chip tiny bits off of these flakes and make them even sharper. When they were done, they attached the now very sharp stone blades to handles of wood. Ssichutuu presented his completed knife to Zeah and indicated by hand signals that he should keep it as a gift. The former butler marveled at the keen edge. He didn’t think that even the steel knives brought from Greater Brechalon could match them. The real advantage of manufactured tools would be their durability.

Late in the afternoon, the hunting party returned, carrying massive amounts of dinosaur meat. Once again there was a great feast, with members of both races eating large amounts of the new world’s unusual meat. The natives seemed to have the ability to pack away gargantuan portions of food. Zeah overheard Saba remarking on this to Professor Calliere.

“I believe it to be a function of their reptilian nature,” replied the professor. “They can eat great amounts of meat at one time and then go without for perhaps weeks. I’m sure that this will be of benefit to us once they begin fulfilling their purpose as our natural servants.”

Zeah didn’t pay too much attention to the professor’s pronouncement—in truth, he seldom paid a great deal of attention to what Calliere said—but this time it was because of the presence of Egeria Lusk at Calliere’s side.   She wore a teal brocaded dinner gown with large gold buttons from the neck to below the waist, and a straw boater with a teal ribbon around it.

“You look lovely Egeria,” Zeah thought he probably sounded as though he was gushing, but he didn’t care.

“Thank you, Zeah,” she said. “I must say you look ruggedly handsome.”

Zeah looked down at himself. He had been wearing the same type of khaki safari clothing that the soldiers wore. In fact, he had requested a set of the clothing from the mercenary company supplies when he found that he would be spending the day playing tour guide to an oversized lizard. He had to admit that the color accentuated his tall, thin form. And he thought the stone knife blade worn at his belt made him look manly. He took her hand and led her away from the crowd.

“I haven’t seen much of you the past two days,” he said.

“Don’t expect to see much of me the next few days either,” she said. “The Result Mechanism is being brought ashore tomorrow and the professor will need help getting it up and running. After that I need to input the measurements from the survey.”

After watching the look on his face for a moment, she burst out laughing. “You really are medicine for the ego! If you’re going to be all that broken up about not seeing me, you might as well come by and help me with the great machine.” She said the words “great machine” in an abnormally deep voice.

Zeah perked right up.

“I might just do that,” he said, guaranteeing himself in his own mind that he would.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 14 Excerpt

After dinner both women changed into khaki jungle outfits. These, though they resembled the men’s in color and sturdiness of the material, were still primarily feminine attire with long skirts cut large enough for an appropriate bustle. Iolanthe also belted on a holster with a .45 caliber revolver. Yuah had never used a firearm before and thought that if she had taken one, it would be more likely that she would discharge it into her own foot than into any threat. They didn’t need to go back topside. The external hatch on deck six opened onto the middle of the temporary staircase, which had been erected on the side of the ship. Here a launch was awaiting them, the sailors who had just come from the shore having been replaced with a fresh group of rowers. Also waiting in the boat was Wizard Suvir Kesi.

“Good afternoon, ladies.” His accented voice seemed naturally oily. “Do you mind if I accompany you today?”

“Not at all,” said Iolanthe. “In fact, this is my first trip ashore and I think Yuah would welcome the company of a magic user as much as I would. Have you been ashore already?”

“Yes,” he said. “I was with Captain Dechantagne this morning as he chased the dinosaurs off the promontory. I made a small contribution myself, and so I had to return to my cabin to replenish my spells. I am once again fully prepared now.”

The sailors pushed the launch away from the side of the ship and began rowing across the relatively calm water of the bay. Several hundred yards away, Iolanthe could see the smooth back of some enormous reptile sliding through the water as the beast cut the surface to take a breath.

“Not to worry, Miss Dechantagne,” said Kesi. “That’s not one of the big mouthed fellows. That is what Professor Calliere described to me as a plesiosaur. They have large bodies, but small heads suitable for eating only small fish.”

“I wasn’t worried,” said Iolanthe.

“I bloody was,” said Yuah.

As she said this a fish, a monstrous fish the size of a steam carriage, leapt completely out of the water and fell back with a splash thirty feet from the launch.

“On the other hand,” said Kesi. “I’m pretty sure whatever was chasing that little minnow has quite a large mouth.”

It became increasingly difficult to talk as they neared the shore because of the sound of steam engines and power saws. The boat reached the shore and two of the sailors jumped out to secure it to the land. All of the sailors were then ordered to wait as the two women and Kesi met two waiting riflemen. It felt remarkably good to walk on dry land. Dozens of men were working nearby, chopping logs into segments, pulling them to the massive power saw, and slicing them into boards. A large swath of the once beautiful forest had become a wide muddy path, and it was expanding.

“If we had arrived any later, there wouldn’t be any trees at all to save,” said Iolanthe. “Ribbon, Yuah?”

Yuah handed her a roll of inch wide red ribbon. Iolanthe started into the woods, working her way up the slope of the land and to the left of where the workmen were. The dressing maid and the wizard followed. After several dozen steps, she came to a particularly majestic redwood. It was about twelve feet in diameter, not the largest tree, but symmetrical and tall. Iolanthe handed the end of the ribbon to Yuah, and then circumnavigated the tree, letting the ribbon unroll off the spool as she went until she returned to the starting spot. Then she took the end from Yuah and tied the ribbon into a neat bow. The red band at eye level would serve as a note to the woodcutters that this tree was to be left undisturbed. The sound of the power saw continued in the background, only occasionally stopping as men adjusted the controls for the types of boards to be cut.

“That’s a nice tree,” said Kesi. “But why this one. There are plenty that are just as nice.”

“This one is going to give shade to the port office, which will be right over there,” explained Iolanthe.

“Do you have the entire city planned out in your head?”

“Of course not. I have a rough idea about the port. Of course everything can be adjusted as needs be.”

She continued up the slope followed by Yuah and Kesi, marking one tree in fifty to be saved as she went. When they reached the top of the promontory and the clearing, they could see the men working on the wall several hundred yards away. Calling the structure a wall was doing it a great disservice. It was a fortification, six feet thick, with an outer wall thirty-five feet tall and an inner wall twenty feet tall, and a walkway between them built atop the inner wall. Though they couldn’t be seen from this angle, two lines of sharpened stakes pointed outward, one at fifteen feet in height and the other at thirty. The spikes were spaced four feet apart.

“Your bother’s design is impressive,” said Kesi.

“I see now why all the trees are going to be gone,” said Yuah.

“The trees around here will be cut,” said Iolanthe. “But remember, we’re sitting on the edge of a forest a thousand miles across. There will be no shortage of lumber.”

Walking the length of the peninsula and tagging each of more than one hundred trees while doing so used the remainder of their afternoon and the remainder of their ribbon as well. Several times Iolanthe noticed Wizard Kesi speaking in low tones to Yuah. When at last she was ready to return to the ship, Iolanthe called the other two to follow her back to the shore.

“If you don’t mind ladies,” said Kesi. “I’m going to stay here and do a little bit of exploring.”

“Do be careful,” said Yuah.

“Don’t worry,” he replied. “I have no intention of becoming a meal for one of the local monstrosities.”

The two women were dutifully rowed back to the Minotaur without incident and they made their way up to the deck.

“I noticed that Suvir Kesi spoke quite a bit to you while we were over there,” said Iolanthe.

“Yes, Miss.”

“May I ask what he is plotting?”

“He was wondering if he could call on me.”

“Really? Can he?”

“I don’t know how I feel about him,” said Yuah. “Him being a foreigner, and all.”

“Yes, foreigner.” Iolanthe nodded in understanding.

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.

“Gawp!”

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?”

“Gawp.”

“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.

“All right.”

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.

Senta and Graham walked forward, the boy keeping several paces behind her at all times, until they reached the group of adults. Miss Dechantage was wearing a yellow dress with lots of lace and a matching hat, tied below her chin with a lace ribbon. Her dress was almost the same color as the suit Professor Calliere was wearing. It made him look like a very large banana. Mr. Korlann was much more dignified. His grey suit was so light that it would have seemed white, had he not been standing next to Miss Lusk in her white day dress. Senta saw Miss Lusk reach over discretely and touch Mr. Korlann’s hand. Wizard Labrith was wearing a light brown suit and Wizard Kesi, for once not in colorful silks, was dressed the same. They both stood near the back of the group, all four of their eyes boring holes into the back of Zurfina’s black dress. The two Dechantagne brothers were both wearing khaki safari clothes and pith helmets. The older brother looked like he was sick. Finally Father Ian had eschewed his traditional robes for a more modern suit with a clerical collar.