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 that 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.

Senta had scarcely passed the spot in which the velociraptor had stood when she was brought to a stop by a honking coming from behind. She turned around to see a shiny steam carriage chugging down the road toward her.  As she waited, the vehicle slowed and came to a stop.  A tall man in the uniform of a police sergeant looked down at her.  His thick blond hair, flashing moss green eyes, and confidant air made him handsome in a way that the recently acquired bend in his nose couldn’t detract from.

“You shouldn’t walk on this side of town alone,” said Police Sergeant Saba Colbshallow.  “Velociraptors have been thick lately.”

Senta nodded.

“Nice car.  I didn’t know you were so rich,” she said.

“It’s police property, as you well know little girl.”

“I’m not a little girl,” replied Senta.  “I’ll be fifteen in six days.”

“Don’t I know it?  I’ve got it marked on my calendar.  Climb in.  I’ll give you a ride home.”

“It’s only about a hundred yards.”

“Sure, but how often do you get to ride in a steam carriage?”

“I don’t think they’re safe.  They used to blow up all the time back in Brech.”

“You’ve never ridden in a steam carriage have you?” Saba grinned.  “The Drache Girl is too frightened to ride in a car?”

Senta stuck out her lip.  “I’m not frightened.”

Saba reached across the passenger seat and offered her his hand.  She stared at it for just a moment, then accepted it, and climbed up onto the empty seat, reaching behind to ensure she didn’t flatten her bustle.  A quick press on the forward accelerator sent the car shooting down the gravel road.

“You’ve passed my house,” said Senta.

“I thought we could take a turn around the block.”

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Back on Track for Real

Well, I’m back at work today and I’m feeling pretty good.  I still have to follow up with a pulmonologist and a hematologist, neither of which I even knew existed.  In any case, I’m good, and not going to die anytime soon.  Now I can get back to work.

It should be obvious by now that His Robot Wife: Patience Under Fire is not going to be published in September.  It’s not going to be October either.  At this point, I am still hoping for 2018 though.  I’m really happy with what I’ve written, but no so happy with how much. Stay tuned here for updates.

Off Track and In the Hospital

I was happily getting caught up with my writing, when I hit a little snag.  I couldn’t breathe.  Turns out I had a pulmonary embolism– a blood clot in my lungs (actually more than one– more than several).  I spent some time in the hospital, and thought I could do some writing, since I had my trusty MacBook.  I didn’t take into account the IVs in my wrist making it all but impossible to type.

Well, now I’m home again and ready to get started again.  Maybe I can’t breathe easy, but at least now I can breathe.

Patreon

I’d like to take a moment to thank those who support me on Patreon.  These wonderful people are spending some of their hard-earned money to support me and my writing on a monthly basis.  They, along with those who buy my books, make it possible for me to write rather than take a second job.

I don’t want to whine about how little teachers are paid.  Most are already aware of this fact, and sadly, this is unlikely to change any time soon.  Many teacher spend their summers and their weekends working in malls and temp agencies.  I decided a few years ago that I would attempt to support my family by writing.  Some months I sell many ebooks and this seems like a good idea.  Other months… not so much.  The supporters on Patreon help by providing a regular monthly supplement to book sales that guarantee that I can keep doing what I’m doing.

If you would like to join those fine people who currently support me, and to earn a few small perks doing so, visit https://www.patreon.com/wesleyallison.

The Drache Girl – Chapter 10 Excerpt

Saba Colbshallow rapped his knuckles on the front door of the five-story structure, again, louder than he had before, but there was just as little response as there had been the first time.

“Police constable!” he called.  He waited a bit longer, and was just about to leave when he heard a distinctly sultry voice from inside.

“Who is it?”

“Police constable,” he said again.

The door opened and Zurfina stood in the doorway, her strange little leather dress displaying a good portion of her breasts with their star tattoos as well as her long legs.   Her thigh high boots had such high heels that she could almost look Saba in the eye.

“Yes?  What is it?” she said, with the air of someone who had just been interrupted in the middle of something vitally important.

“May I come in?” he asked.

With an exaggerated sigh, the sorceress turned her back and walked into the house, leaving the door wide open.  Saba followed her in and looked around the large room that formed the lower level of the structure.  It was, he thought, a surprisingly mundane looking combination of kitchen, parlor, and dining room.  The place was tidy and organized, none of the furnishings looking particularly worn or new, expensive or poor.  Zurfina waved her hand and the door slammed shut behind him, causing him to jump a little.

“Well?”

Saba swallowed.  He had known Zurfina for four years now, and found her just as wondrous, mysterious, and fascinating as he had when he was sixteen.  He had of course grown up to be a police constable, but she had grown to be a legend. She was an attractive woman: not as beautiful as Mrs. Dechantagne of course, not as charming as Mrs. Dechantagne-Calliere was at least capable of being, and nowhere near as adorable as Miss Lusk. Neither did she have the curvaceous figure of Dr. Kelloran.  But as writer Geert Resnick wrote in his novelThe Pale Sun, “the painting that most draws one to it, is not the most beautiful, but the one hanging to the wall by the most tenuous thread.”  Zurfina held the same appeal as a fast horse, an unstable bomb, or a canoe in a river filled with crocodiles.  And there was power.  Power was always appealing.

Zurfina sensed his hesitation and moved to stand very close to him.

“Now, little Saba,” she said, with exaggerated slowness.  “What brings you to see Zurfina the Magnificent?”

Saba had perfected his stare: a piercing look that let those he was interviewing know that he would brook no nonsense.  He gave the sorceress one of these stares, but it didn’t seem to work as well as it was supposed to.  She stepped a little closer and he suddenly realized he could smell her breath.  It was minty.

“Little Saba.”  Her charcoaled grey eyes seemed to be looking at something just below the surface of his face.

He swallowed.

“Police Constable Colbshallow,” he corrected.

She leaned forward so that the tip of her nose was only an inch from his.

“Little Saba,” she repeated.  “There’s something you’ve been dying to tell me.”

“No there isn’t.”

“Then why are you here?”

“I’m here about a Miss Amadea Jindra.”

Zurfina leaned back and scrunched up her nose.  “Now what business is that of yours?”

He retrieved the notepad from his coat pocket and flipped it open.  Turning so that he had better light to read by, he took the opportunity step away from the sorceress.

“It was reported that you kidnapped, um… acquired Miss Jindra from the deck of the S.S. Arrow four days ago, and no one has seen her since.”

“I say again, what business is it of yours?”  Zurfina spoke distinctly, chopping each word as if came out of her mouth. The temperature of the room dropped several degrees.

“You cannot simply snatch people off the street…” His voice trailed off as he noticed the sorceress’s eyes flashing.

Zurfina folded her arms across her chest and raised one eyebrow.  At that moment the door swung open and Senta walked in. Her bright pink dress peaked out from beneath a heavy white overcoat, with a fur trimmed hood.  She was carrying a large bed pillow under each arm. She kicked the door shut with the heel of her shoe, and walked over to stand next to the sorceress.  She looked first at Zurfina and then at Saba.

“Okay,” said Senta.  “What’s going on?”

“Little Saba was just telling me what I can and cannot do.”

“Well, this isn’t going to end up well, and you know who will have to clean up the mess?  Me, that’s who.  Here are your pillows,” Senta shoved the pillows into Zurfina’s hands.

Once the sorceress had taken the pillows, Senta took Saba by the hand and led him toward the front door.

“Let’s talk outside.  I love the smell of pine trees and chimney smoke.”  She led him outside, closing the front door behind her.  “What exactly are you doing?”

“Conducting police business.”

“Stopping me from taking care of those wankers who shot Bessemer has gone to your head, eh?”

“This is my job.  This is what I do,” said Saba.  “I protect the public peace.”

“And do you ever think about how you would do that job if you were turned into, say, I don’t know, a pig?”

“A pig?”

“Maybe a pig.  Could be anything really.  I thought I was about to see a Police Constable shaped lawn ornament.  But then I don’t have Zurfina’s wide experience and peculiar wit.”

“Well I have to go back in and talk to her.”

“Did they have to take your brain out to make that helmet fit?”

“That’s not funny little girl.  I have to find out what she did with Miss Jindra.”

The Drache Girl – Chapter 1 Excerpt

It was the second day of Hamonth, the first day of winter, and a chilly breeze blew across the bay and into the bustling colony of Port Dechantagne.  A ship, the S.S. Mistress of Brechbay had docked at the recently upgraded port and a row of happy immigrants were descending down the gangplank.  They stared with fascination, mixed with a small amount of fear at the dockworkers below them.  Dozens of lizardmen served at the port.  Sluggish now that the cooler weather had arrived, they used heavy winches to lift cargo from the deck of the ship and to deposit it on the gravel road beside the dock.  Other lizardmen then scooped up the crates, boxes, and barrels with hand-trucks and ferried them to the nearby warehouses.  Both groups of lizardmen were supervised by human foremen.

People all along the dock stopped and stared as Senta walked by. Hundreds of passengers leaned over the railing of the ship and others on the gangplank pointed and gaped with open mouths.  Senta carried herself with a bounce that made her long blond hair sail behind her like a proud banner in the wind.  She was dreadfully skinny, though the bustle beneath her yellow dress gave her a little bit of a figure.  She was a child soon to become a young woman, and she was brimming with confidence. She was well known in the colony and she thought that she was quite pretty too.  She had to admit though, that the people were probably not gawking at her, but at the dragon which walked along next to her.  It was the size of a small pony, covered in scales the color of polished steel.  Every step it took was a study in grace, and from the tip of its whiskered snout, past its folded wings, to the tip of its barbed tail, it seemed to just flow along.

“They look as though they’ve never seen a dragon before,” said the dragon.  Had someone heard his voice without seeing him, they would have thought it was a young gentleman speaking.  It was a rich voice, but still young.

“They probably haven’t,” replied Senta.  “Dragons are pretty rare.”

“Rare and very beautiful…”

“Oh do shut up,” said the girl, and then, “There he is. Hey Graham!”

A boy about the same age as the girl and about twice as heavy even though he was almost a head shorter, ran toward them.  He had on the dungarees and heavy shirt of a dock worker, and both were stained here and there, no doubt from just such a form of labor. His unkempt brown hair and freckled face made his smile seem all the more genuine.

“Hey Senta.  Hey Bessemer.”

“Hello Graham,” said the dragon.

“You look a mess,” said Senta.  “You did remember that we were supposed to go for lunch?”

“Sorry, I can’t go.  I gotta work.  I can’t leave my crew alone.”  He gestured over his shoulder at the group of five lizardmen awaiting his return. Looking like a cross between an upright alligator and an iguana, with skin ranging in color from a mottled olive to a deep forest green, each of the reptilians were two feet taller than the boy. They stood waiting, scarcely moving, and giving the dragon and his companion surreptitious looks.

“I don’t care for those reptiles,” said Bessemer.

Graham snorted.

“What?”

“It cracks me up every time you say that,” Graham told the dragon.  “Besides, you know they think you’re a god or something?”

“I didn’t say they didn’t have taste.”

“Come on,” said Senta.  “I’ve heard this entire conversation already twenty times.  If you can’t come with us, we’ll just go get lunch ourselves.”

One of the lizardmen hissed something, and then two others began replying in the local reptilian dialect.

“Up your trolley!” yelled Graham at them, and then he too began to hiss in the native tongue.

The lizardmen turned and walked back over to a pallet full of cargo, which they had evidently been in the process of carrying to the warehouse.  With what seemed to be a great deal of unhappiness, but not a great deal of speed, they returned to work.  One of them hissed again.

“That’s right you!  You keep your pecker on!” yelled Graham.  He looked at Senta and flushed slightly.  “Sorry.  Ma says I shouldn’t use the language from the dock around the young ladies.”  He said the words ‘young ladies’ in a strained falsetto imitation of his mother.  “I’m sorry, but I can’t go.  I didn’t know the Mistress was going to be docking today.”

“Fine,” said Senta.  “I’ll just dine with Hero and Hertzel.”

“Hertzel’s working too.  I just saw him take his crew up on the crane.  It’s probably going to be a late night and we’ll probably be working this schedule for the next four days.  Look, I’m sorry.  But I’ll make it up to you next week, Okay?”

“Fine,” said Senta, unhappily, and Graham set off back toward his cold-blooded staff members.

“Don’t be so sad,” said the dragon.  “You can have a ladies’ luncheon.  You can be all hoity-toity and proper.  You know how much you love that.”

“What about you?”

“I’m going hunting for my own lunch.”

“Just be careful.  Watch out for predators that are bigger and scarier than you.”

“There may be bigger, but there are none scarier!”  He emphasized his last four words for the crowd of immigrants fresh off the ship who were forming around for their first look at a living dragon.  Bessemer took a deep breath and blew three small smoke rings in their direction. The crowd, moving as one, took a step backwards, even though none of them had approached within a twenty foot radius of him anyway.  Then, with one swift motion, the steel dragon shot into the sky like an artillery shell and disappeared.

Senta walked up the hill, following the white gravel streets through the warehouses and workshops that filled the area near the dock. She passed along the fence that separated the militia barracks and parade ground from the commercial storage facilities.  Finally she passed through the gate in the Emergency Wall that had once separated the colony from the terrors of the primeval forest, but now separated the older part of the colony from the newer.

Just beyond the gate was the town square. This was the only portion of town that was paved with cobblestone, and it had only been completed the previous summer. In the very center of the square was a small area of grass, lined with flower beds and set aside with small ornamental wrought-iron fencing.  In the middle of the grass was a large flagpole, flying now, as it always did the red, white, and blue Accord Banner of Greater Brechalon.  Around the edge of the square were about twenty buildings that comprised almost all of the community’s shops and stores.  Senta had been in every single one of them.  She had been in most of them many times. Today her stop was on the corner of the square at Mrs. Finkler’s Bakery.

The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 11 Excerpt

Cissy returned to the Dechantagne estate after delivering the message to Saba Colbshallow.  Cissy couldn’t read the scrawling script of the message like she could the printed words in books, but she knew what it said.  It informed the young corporal that Mr. Streck was off the premises and that he should be watched.  It was amazing what could be discovered by standing and listening.  The humans usually treated the lizzies as though they were furniture.

Tisson was at his usual place by the front door and Cissy stopped for a moment to speak to him.  She placed the back of her hand on her dewlap in greeting and the gesture was returned.

“You were not gone long,” said Tisson.

“It was a simple errand.”

“Did you receive any extra copper bits?”

“Not this time.”

It had taken a while for the lizardmen to realize that the humans would often give them additional copper bits as a bonus when some tasks were completed. The humans called these “tips.” Now the lizzies looked for them.

“Kheesie was looking for you earlier.”

“Why?”

“She wants you to take your turn caring for the young one.”

Cissy bobbed her head up and down in the human fashion and started for the door.

“Ssissiatok?”

“Yes?” asked Cissy, turning around, slightly surprised by the use of her lizzie name.

“Some of the others are talking.  They say Ssterrost will not let you return to Tserich.”

“I thought you didn’t want to go back either.”

“I don’t.  But I am old. You are still young.  You could have returned with all your wealth and had a good life.  But now they are saying that you are ‘khikheto tonahass hoonan’.”

“Maybe I am human on the inside.”

Inside the house, Cissy found Kheesie.

“Thank Hissussisthiss you are back.  I haven’t had a chance to sleep since yesterday.”

“The god of forests had nothing to do with it.  Where is the child?”

“The thin white and brown one has it.”

“Her,” corrected Cissy.  “Where are they?”

“They are in the great room, but don’t go there.  The matriarch is there and so are the blind warrior and the old frightened one.”

“It is fine.  You may go rest.  I will watch the child.”  Cissy squinted, amused.

Cissy made her way into the parlor and took a place quietly in the corner. She was not afraid of the humans in question.  In fact, she found them fascinating.  All of the individuals described were present—Mr. and Mrs. Dechantagne, Governor Dechantagne-Calliere, Mrs. Godwin, and of course Iolana.  The lizzies had their own descriptive names for all of them; the names Kheesie had used.  Professor Calliere, whom they called “the tall one who makes no sense”, was not present. Mrs. Colbshallow, whom they simply called by the human word “lady”, was in the kitchen as usual.

“I think I should have something to say about it,” Mrs. Dechantagne was saying, “because of my unique situation in this house.”

“I am well aware that you are the lady of the house now,” replied Mrs. Dechantagne-Calliere sharply.  “Are you trying to rub my nose in it?”

“No!  I don’t… that’s not the position to which I was referring.”

“My wife is alluding to the fact that she is the only Zaeri in the house,” said Mr. Dechantagne.

“Really?  I suppose I just assumed that she was going to convert.”

“Leave that alone, Iolanthe.  You know she has no desire to convert and you know that I wouldn’t have asked it of her.”

“I will leave this alone.  And she must leave that alone.  Mercy and his… solicitor are my concern, and I am more than capable of dealing with it.”

Mr. Dechantagne turned back to his wife, though of course he could not see her. “She’s right Yuah.  You should stay out of this.  You get too worked up over it.  You’re too emotional.”

“I’m emotional?” cried Mrs. Dechantagne, jumping to her feet.  “I’m the least emotional person in this house!

She stomped her foot twice, and marched out of the room.

“Oh, well done sister,” said Mr. Dechantagne.  “Now I have absolutely no chance of a decent night’s sleep.”

“That’s your own fault.  I didn’t tell you to marry her.”

“Yes, well I occasionally do things other than what you specifically tell me to do.”

“As long as you don’t forget to do those things.”

The child, who until that moment had been playing quietly on the floor with a stuffed animal, began to fuss.  Mrs. Dechantagne-Calliere scooped her up and carried her from the room. The room was quiet for just a moment, and then Mrs. Godwin let out a large snore.

“Mrs. Godwin?  Mrs. Godwin?”

“Yes?  What? Yes?”

“Do you want to go upstairs to your room and take a nap?”

“Yes, that’s a lovely idea.”  She got to her feet so slowly that Cissy took it on herself to step forward and help her. The elderly woman accepted the clawed hand and made it to her feet.  She looked at the man sitting across from her.  “Which one are you again?”

“Terrence.”

“Yes, of course.  You were always my favorite.  Have you finished your studies?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“That’s very good.  You keep it up and you’ll go far in this life.”