The Young Sorceress – Chapter 6 Excerpt

As the warmth of the sun woke him to his fifth day on the island, Baxter felt a new sense of vigor.  He had worked hard the past two days.  A dozen hammers, twenty boxes of nails, four hatchets, two axes, twenty coils of braided rope, and the remains of an empty wooden crate seemed meager enough possessions, but it still took him an entire day to tote them piece by piece to the clearing.  He had worked hard that day and had eaten very little, though thankfully he now had a plentiful fresh water supply.

The next day he had spent finding food.  Eating the slimy remains of small crabs had sustained him during his first two days, but they were less than appetizing when eaten raw.  Scouring the jungle had provided a great pile of coconuts and several different varieties of bright purple fruit.  Some were tastier than others, but they all seemed edible.  During the day he spied several species of large birds, all of which seemed unable to fly.  He tried chasing two of them, but they were swifter through the jungle undergrowth than he was.  He did however discover one of their nests, and within it two speckled eggs larger than his fist.  He ate both of them raw, but determined to make a pot of some kind so that in the future he could boil or fry them.

The little lake in the middle of the jungle, perhaps one hundred yards long and almost as wide, was so clear that it was difficult to judge just how deep it was.  Swimming within the crystal water were numerous fish and a few large turtles.  It had formed in some kind of crater, probably volcanic, though the cool water indicated that there was no thermal activity below it at the time.  There was a lip that ran around the edge, several feet above the water that would make it impossible to climb out of, with only a single exception.  At the end closest to the ancient ruins, a set of stairs carved into the rock, descended down into the water.

The ruins were obviously man-made and resembled the remaining parts of old world Sumir, especially Donnata, rather than the reptilian constructions of Birmisia.  A forty by sixty foot platform was raised some ten feet above the forest floor, reached on all sides by a dozen stone steps.  Upon this platform were six thirty foot tall pillars and the bases and broken pieces of forty two more.  There were also hundreds of pieces of broken stone that must have once come from a roof.  Huge vines and tree roots were growing across the base and up the pillars, partially obscuring it.  There was no mistaking that it was once a temple.  The broken stonework was uniform enough, that Baxter reasoned it could be pieced together to form at least the walls of a shelter, though it would be a great deal of work.

Getting up from his sleeping place on the temple platform, he descended the stairs to the ground and then stepped down into the cool waters of the pool.  Washing himself and his clothes without taking them off, he was in the water long enough that he started shivering.  Climbing back out, he found a warm sunny spot in which to rest as he dried off.  He wanted to explore the rest of the island, or at least the part of it on which he found himself.  There had once been people here.  Perhaps there still were.  Primitives no doubt, but were they friendly or not?  Before he could embark upon that task however, he had to set up enough food for at least a couple of days.

Baxter started by collecting more coconuts and more of the fruits that he found most tasty.  The large and plentiful fish in the lake captivated him.  But how to catch them?  He had rope and toyed with the idea of somehow making a net, but set the idea aside as too time consuming.  He could make a spear though.  Almost all of the shoreline was easily accessible and he could launch spears from above the water.  Cutting down a sapling tree, he trimmed it and then sharpened its tip using his hatchet.  Using it to spear a fish was more difficult than making it.  He followed the schools of fish along from the lip of the lake and threw his spear again and again.  He didn’t hit anything and on the fifth throw, the spear drifted away from the edge of the water and he was unable to get it.  He quickly went back to work crafting another spear.

Rather than risking his second spear, Baxter determined to find an easier spot to fish.  He started through the jungle in the opposite direction from where he had found the lake, following a similar but different small stream through the forest.  Several hundred feet from the lake, the stream widened to eight or ten feet and became less than four inches deep.  Here Baxter found not fish, but crustaceans.  Crawfish with red shells that were nearly as big as most lobsters, swam through the shallow waters.  There were also fresh water mussels, but he left them until he had a pot to boil them in.  The crawfish retreated to holes in the bank, but when he stuck his hand in one of the holes, the little beast clamped onto his finger and he was able to pull it right out.

It took him almost an hour to start a fire, but once he did Baxter was able to cook his crawfish in the coals.  That night he feasted for the first time since his arrival, reveling in the taste of fresh fruit, crawfish, and toasted coconut.

Then next day, he put aside more food than he could consume in a day, and even managed to spear two fish.  He also recovered the lost spear which had floated to the southern edge of the lake.  On the day after that, his seventh on the island, using his shirt as a satchel to carry his food supplies, he started off in the direction of the crawfish shallows, but determined to explore as much of the island as possible.  He had a hatchet tucked into his belt and carried an axe in hand.

The Young Sorceress- Chapter 3 Excerpt

Cissy finished tying the yellow bonnet below Terra’s chin and stood up.  The bonnet matched her cute little yellow dress.  Where was the boy?  He had been here just a moment before.  It seemed so odd.  Human children were almost unable to move when they were born, but by their second year, they were almost as quick and wild as lizzie offspring.
“Hyah!” shouted Augie, jumping out from behind the door.
Cissy threw her hands up, shaking them in mock fear.  Terra squealed and then laughed, just as she did every day when her brother jumped out at her.
“Now come,” said the reptilian, scooping up the girl, and taking the boy with her other hand.
“Where are you off to?” asked Mrs. Dechantagne, when they reached the foyer.  She was still in her night dress, though it was well past noon.
“To the store.  Yuah come too?”
“Not this time.  I have a headache.  I’m going to take a nap.”  She looked down at the children.  “You both look precious.  Give Mama a kiss.”
First Avenue was one of the most well traveled roads in the colony, at least on the east side.  It stretched from Town Square to the small homes of Zaeritown, along the way passing the largest homes in Port Dechantagne—some deserving the title of mansion.  Dozens of lizzie work crews were here, laying bricks on the roadways, pouring cement sidewalks, or installing little wrought iron fencing around the trees that were designated not to be cut down.  Many of the lizzies stopped to stare at the female with two human children.
A large male who was pushing a wheelbarrow in the opposite direction from the Dechantagne children and their nanny, Cissy knew him only by his human name of Zinny, hissed “khikheto tonahass hoonan.”
“Kichketos tatacas khikheto tonahass hoonan?” asked Augie, looking up at Cissy.
“Talk hoonan,” she ordered.
“What did he mean you ate a human?” asked the boy.  “Who did you eat?”
“I not eat… Cissy is lizzie.  Cissy act hoonan.  Tsass khenos khikheto tonahass hoonan.  Lizzie on outside  Hoonan on inside.”
“That’s stupid,” said the boy.  “You don’t act like a human.  You just act like Cissy.”
She reached out a clawed hand and tousled his hair.
The inside of Mr. Parnorsham’s Pfennig store was crowded with patrons, both reptilian and warm-blooded.   The proprietor, a bespectacled older man with very little hair who was shorter than Cissy, waved over the shoulder of his human customer as they came inside.  Cissy walked the children through the aisles to 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 airships, tin soldiers, doll sized tea cups with saucers, and wooden dogs which could be pulled by a string.  Augie immediately went for the red-coated tin soldiers, pulling them out one after another and comparing their poses.
“I wanna see,” complained Terra.
Cissy lifted her up so that she could see over the top of the counter.  She picked up two of the soldiers and held them close to her face.
“Boy soldiers.”
The bell above the doorway rang again and another female lizzie entered pulling along two human boys by the hands.  Cissy recognized Sanny, who had worked in the Stephenson home, working her way through the other patrons to the toy counter.
“Tsaua Sassannasanach.”
“Tsaua Ssissiatok.”
“Tsaua Claude, Tsaua Julius,” said Augie to the boys.
“Tsaua Augie,” they replied, not quite in unison.
The boys immediately started in on a conversation about the tin soldiers and the limited number of poses that were available for them.
“Did you see Angorikhas this morning?” asked Sanny quietly in the lizzie tongue.
“No, I didn’t see him today.  I know who you mean.”
“They say he disfigured Szarakha and blinded one of her eyes.”
“The Kordeshack maid; the one the humans call Sorry.”
“Why did he do that?  And if he did, why is he still here?”
“You know why,” said Sanny.  “Szarakha khikheto tonahass hoonan.  And as for the why… you know the humans don’t care what happens to us.”
Cissy abruptly stopped the conversation with a wave of her hand, as she looked down to see the three boys paying careful attention.
“Inghaa nicta Cissy…” said Augie.
“Talk hoonan.”
“I won’t let anyone hurt you, Cissy.”
“Little child not to whorry.  Cissy is fine.”
“I’ll punch that Angorikhas right in the goolies,” pronounced Augie.
“Yeah,” agreed Claude Stephenson, though his younger brother seemed less sure.
Cissy hissed mirthfully, partially at his sentiment and partially because she understood that he had no idea where the goolies might actually located on a male lizzie.
“I want the park,” said Terra.  “Park, park, park!  Let’s go!”
“Yessss,” acknowledged Cissy.
She bid farewell to the other nanny and ushered the children to where Mr. Parnorsham stood behind the counter.  Augie had a tin soldier in his hand and when Cissy picked up the little girl to set her on the counter, she saw that one of the small red-coats was clutched in her fist as well.
“Two soldiers.  Three Dillingdoe’s.  Account.”

“Two toy soldiers and three cold bottles of Billingbow’s sarsaparilla and wintergreen soda water.  That’s one mark fifty two P on the Dechantagne account,” said Mr. Parnorsham.

The Young Sorceress- Chapter 2 Excerpt

Senta was waiting at the side of the road in front of her home when Graham arrived the next day at eleven.  She was dressed in her latest acquisition—a sunny yellow dress with a low back that showed off her shoulder blades.  Graham didn’t own a steam carriage, so she expected him to arrive on foot.  He surprised her by instead showing up in the back of a rickshaw, reclining in comfort as a large lizzie pulled him along.  There were two seats on the vehicle balanced above two spoked wheels and the lizzie pulled it with two long poles which stuck out the front.
“What’s this then?” she asked.
“Pretty ace, isn’t it?  Mrs. Government had them brought over from Sumir.  The lizzies can buy them and set up their own business pulling us softskins around.”
Senta picked up the picnic basket from beside her foot and stuffed it behind the rickshaw seat next to the similar basket that Graham had brought with him.  Then she climbed up and sat down next to him.
“Do you think this lizzie can pull us both?”
“You hardly weigh anything at all.  Besides, Canron here could pull four or five of these things tied together.”
He turned to the reptilian and gave directions in the lizzie language, which many humans, perhaps unkindly referred to as “spit-n-gag.”  After a quick reply in the same tongue, Canron turned the vehicle around and took off toward the center of town.
Augustus P. Dechantagne Park sat far out on the peninsula beyond the dockyards.  It had been designed by Governor Iolanthe Dechantagne-Staff and had been named for her youngest brother who had died in a battle with lizzies from the city-state of Suusthek.  It featured a gazebo, a walking path, and a statue of the aforementioned Augustus P. Dechantagne.  It also had a lovely copse of trees under which picnickers would gather during the summer.  As it was early spring however, Senta and Graham both preferred a spot in the open under the warming rays of the sun, and it was here that they headed, though they had not conferred aloud on the subject.  After unloading and dismissing the lizzie rickshaw, Graham spread a blanket out and they sat down to assemble roast beef sandwiches.
Roast beef in and of itself was something of a novelty, since it was only recently that cattle had arrived in Birmisia Colony.  Pork had been available for some time and many people, Graham and Senta included, had grown used to dinosaur meat as well.  This roast beef was tender and delicious, not surprising as it had come from Café Ada, which in addition to being the newest and most talked about eating establishment in Port Dechantagne, had a Mirsannan chef named Pierre Something.
As they ate their sandwiches, Graham looked around.  They were not the only people in the park.  Several children were playing an ad-hoc game of football.  Five or six other couples and at least one family were seated on their own blankets enjoying their own noon day meals.  A young couple, four of five years older than Graham and Senta, sat on a park bench and kissed when they thought no one else was looking.
“We could be doing that,” said Graham.
“Oh, so now you want a kiss.  What happened to ‘she’s not my girlfriend’?”
“I haven’t said that in a long time—years maybe.  Everybody knows you’re my girlfriend.”
“Everybody who?” wondered Senta.
“Everybody everybody.”
“Well I don’t just give kisses away.  I need a sign of devotion.”
“What kind of a sign?”
“Something that lets everyone know that I’m your girlfriend.”
“And what would that be?”
“You’ll figure something out.”
Leaning back on her hands, she turned her face up toward the warmth of the sun.

The Young Sorceress: Chapter 1 Excerpt

Birmisia was full of life in the spring.  Wildflowers seemed to suddenly appear just about everywhere.  The days were warm and wet, with frequent fog and almost daily rain showers.  The giant maples grew new leaves, adding their lustrous green to the ever-present deep emerald of the tremendous pines.  Ferns opened up their fronds in the dappled light beneath the mighty trees and in those places with no light, large and varied mushrooms showed their rounded heads.  Plants were not the only life forms present though.  The land was alive with both birds and beasts.  One could easily spot cormorants, snipes, rails, and wrens hopping through the trees along with the strange four-winged microraptors.  A few godwits, grebes, puffins, and pelicans occasionally strayed inland from the shore.   On the ground caudipteryx, buitreraptors, bambiraptors, meilong, and mahakala ran among the ferns looking for small lizards and snakes and large insects which were everywhere.  They didn’t bother the opossums or the mice, which stayed snug in their dens until nightfall.  In the open areas huge iguanodons grazed, sometimes accompanied by triceratops and ankylosaurs.  Most of the large predators like the tyrannosaurs and utahraptors had become scarce due to the presence of man, though the velociraptors and deinonychus were still thick, as happy to scavenge human trash as to hunt the other Birmisian creatures.

A flock of seven velociraptors made their way down the road.  They went in fits and starts, pausing to snatch a lizard or small rodent from among the ferns and squawking at each other.  They were, like all of their species, covered with hairy feathers, yellow near their small arms, and green everywhere else.  Most of this particular group had a black band around the base of their necks.  They were only about two and a half feet tall, but their long tails stretched straight out almost five feet.  The most famous features of the velociraptors were their feet, each of which had a three inch claw curving upward, and their long many-toothed snouts, more like something one would expect to see on a crocodile than on a bird.  The leader of the flock raised its head as it spotted a human walking toward them from down the lane.

Velociraptors seldom hunted human beings unless one was wandering alone and injured.  It had little to do with size.  Some of the animals who fell to the feathered runners were much larger than man-size.  Though velociraptors were not known for their intelligence, they possessed a cunning that matched most aerial birds of prey and this allowed them to determine which potential targets were more likely to become their supper than the other way around.  Simply put, most humans didn’t act like prey.  A few did.  They started, and jumped with fear.  But most didn’t.  They didn’t quite act like predators either.  They blundered around the forest without regard to what they might run into.  To the velociraptors, they were simply too confusing to be bothered with unless there was nothing else to eat.  And in spring, here in Birmisia, there was plenty to eat.

Regardless of their intent on hunting this particular human, the flock fanned out, following their instinctual behavior for both hunting and defense.  Three took positions on either side of the road, moving in and among the shelter of the trees, while the leader moved into direct confrontation.  This way they formed a triangular trap around the animal, in this case a human, directing it forward and keeping its attention away from potential attackers on the side.  What happened next cemented in the tiny minds of the velociraptors as much as anything could, that this human was a poor choice for prey.

           This human being was a teenaged female, and though biologists still debate whether velociraptors can distinguish between the sexes of mammals, others of her kind could immediately recognize her gender by the long flowing deep violet velvet dress, made more expansive by an extensive bustle over her rear end, and the long flowing blond hair held back by the deep violet velvet ribbon fastened on the side.  Tens of thousands of other human beings could in fact identify this particular human female, because this particular human female was the young sorceress Senta Bly.  She was hurrying home from the Hertling house where she had enjoyed afternoon tea.  When she noticed the brightly feathered creature standing directly in her path, she flipped her hand toward it and muttered a single word under her breath.  A bright blue ball of energy flew from her fingers to the velociraptor, which exploded into a puff of yellow, green, and black feathers.  Its comrades disappeared into the forest.

The Young Sorceress Now Available

Senta and the Steel Dragon Book 4: The Young Sorceress is now available for $2.99 at Amazon for the Kindle.

and at Smashwords for every other device.

You should see it appearing at Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, iBooks, Diesel eBooks, Sony Bookstore, and other fine ebook sellers within the next two weeks.

Update: The Young Sorceress

I just finished the first revision of Senta and the Steel Dragon Book 4: The Young Sorceress, and it is back from the beta readers.  As I write this, I’m listening to the audio proofreading version.  It should be ready to go to Smashwords by the end of the weekend. 

I also just finished a new revision of Book 5: The Two Dragons.  I’m getting pretty excited about getting them done.  It goes to the beta readers next.  There are a few changes to book 5 based on what happened in book 4 and rewrote the epilog entirely.

Update: The Young Sorceress

I just finished the first draft for The Young Sorceress.  It clocks in at 65,000 words, which makes it the shortest book in the series (with the exception of book 0), but I think there are a few chapters I need to add to flesh out the story a bit.   I feel pretty good about it.  Chapters 11-14 really came together well.

This has been the most difficult of the series to write.  At times I felt like I was running out of steam for the series.  I love the characters and the setting, but after I finish book 5, I’m going to take a long break before I write any more. 

Watch this spot.  I’ll let you know when I finish the first revision.  In the meantime, here is the chapter list as it stands now.

1. Spring
2. The Blond Girl
3. Nellie Swenson
4. Birthday
5. Birthday Part II
6. The Real Senta
7. Predators
8. Gods
9. Sorceresses and Witch Doctors
10. The Two Sentas
11. Pirates and Princesses
12. The End
13. Mallontah and Hell
14. All Your Fault

Update: The Young Sorceress

The Young Sorceress is dragging along.  I have to set it aside and work on Astrid Maxxim for a while because, quite frankly, this book is a hard one.  The real problem is that working a day job while I write, I can only manage a page or two a day, and it is hard to keep a complicated plot in my head from day to day.  Astrid is easy.  It’s all pretty straight forward.  The Young Sorceress follows seven major characters through their own stories and when I rewrite it, that number may increase.  Ideally I would really like to have this done before summer, but there is a possibility that I may not be able to get it done before then.  I’ll keep you informed here.

In the meantime, this is the latest version of the cover.  Same picture, but with a border to make it look more like the rest of the books in the series.

Update: The Young Sorceress

I just finished chapter 8 of The Young Sorceress.  My enjoyment of this project has waxed and waned, but it is high right now as I get to some of the more exciting parts of the plot.  Originally plotted to be 17 chapters, I’ve combined a few things as I write (something I always do) and right now it’s looking like 14 chapters which will make it the same length as The Dark and Forbidding Land.

A note: My son, who is the world’s biggest Senta and the Steel Dragon fan, having read each book (including the unpublished book 5) six times, tells me The Dark and Forbidding Land is his favorite. 

I think when I finish Book 4, I’m going to go back and read 1, 2, and 3 before editing it.

Update: The Young Sorceress

Still on chapter 8 of The Young Sorceress.  This is a particularly tough part of the book, as a few plot lines start to come together.  Look for another update next month.  I’m working alternately on this and Astrid Maxxim 2, but I’m going to have to give this one my all, or I can’t get it done.