The Dragon’s Choice – Chapter 8 Excerpt

The clouds were low over Brech City, turning everything to a dull monochrome. A wave of drizzling rain dropped without cease—tiny drops that a person scarcely noticed until he was wet through. Smoke from fireplaces, steam carriages, and factories barely rose above the tops of houses and lingered there just below the proper clouds, making everything that the rain touched dirty, greasy, and grimy.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” asked Prince Clitus from beneath his umbrella. His usual uniform had been replaced by a formal black suit, making him as monochrome as his surroundings.

“Do what?” asked his older half-brother Prince Tybalt. “Stand out in this Kafira-wretched rain?” He too was dressed in black formal.

The two of them stood surrounded by a massive crowd at the dockside, staring at a great black steam liner: S. S. Lied des Vaterlandes.

“No. Are you sure you want to marry Princess Henrietta?”

“It’s time for me to marry.”

“You love her at least, don’t you?”

“Love her?” Tybalt frowned. “I don’t even know her.”

“But you’ve corresponded.”

“She wrote me some stupid letters. I didn’t read them.”

“Why then did you agree to marry her?”

“I have to marry someone. With Henrietta, we will cement our rule over Freedonia.”

“You could have picked anyone you wanted,” said Clitus. “You had a choice.”

Tybalt rolled his eyes.

“What choice? That fat Bordonian pig Lady Enid? I don’t think so. Princess Ophelia of Mirsanna? She’s a whore. Maybe you think I should have chosen the idiot Hortence Moorn, or the egghead Iolana Staff?”

“Lady Iolana is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” said Clitus, exasperated.

“She talks all the time. Have you noticed? Henrietta doesn’t even speak Brech. I’ll never have to listen to her. All I have to do is mount her a couple of times and pop some heirs into her. Then I can send her back to Freedonia to her family, and I can spend my time doing something more exciting with someone more exciting. That’s the beauty of it all. As King, I can have any woman I want, any time.”

Clitus sighed and shook his head.

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The Sorceress and her Lovers – Chapter 6 Excerpt

Hsrandtuss opened his eyes and stretched. He had to push both Ssu and Tokkenoht off of him before he could roll off his sleeping mat. Only the latter female woke up. He stretched again. He felt better than he had in months, better than he had in years. A lot of it had to do with the fact that he was sleeping much better. He didn’t know if it was the proximity of the young god or the fact that for a change, things seemed to be going his way.

The other chiefs had all gone home. The last to leave had been Tistakha. Before Tistakha had left for Tuustutu, Hsrandtuss had managed a brief meeting. To say they had formed an alliance would have been too much, but they did seem to have an understanding. The two would work together to see that their trade with the soft-skins increased and that the plans of the God of the Sky were not disrupted by the likes of Szisz and his band of broken yokes in Suusiss.

“Your morning meal, Great King,” said Sszaxxanna, handing him a pomegranate.

“I don’t want another fruit,” said Hsrandtuss. “Where is my meat?”

“Your bowels, Great King.”

“Never mind my bowels. Find me a bird, or at the very least a nice fish.”

“The fish are not very plentiful here in the mountains, Great King,” said Sszaxxanna, with entirely too much sass.

He glared at her.

“I will try to find you a fish,” she said, scurrying off.

“See that you do. And send Sirris in here!” he called after her.

Sirris hurried into the room.

“Paint me,” Hsrandtuss ordered.

“If you wish, Great King, but the God of the Sky is gone.”

“Gone? What do you mean gone?”

“He flew north. Kendra says he has gone to visit the soft-skins in their city.”

“Yes, I see. That is good. What else does Kendra say? What about Szisz? Is he being watched?”

“Shouldn’t you wait and ask Sszaxxanna?” she asked quietly.

“You will never be first wife with an attitude like that,” he said.

“Kendra has trackers following him and his people. They are halfway back to Suusiss. She also says that there is a way for you to rise high in the esteem of the young god. She says you should do it, but Sszaxxanna won’t…”

Suddenly Sszaxxanna was there, striking Sirris repeatedly with her clawed hands, driving her from the room. Tokkenoht jumped up and hurried after her. Ssu continued to snooze on the sleeping mat.

“I have a bird for you, Great King,” said wife number one, thrusting the charred carcass of a bambiraptor toward him.

“It’s cooked?”

“It will be easier on your stomach.”

“What was it that Kendra suggested?” he asked, taking the bird and biting off the top half.

“It is nothing. It is ill conceived.”

“Would I not be a better judge of that than you?”

“Of course, Great King. But the god already favors you. You don’t need to risk yourself unnecessarily.”

“Bring her in here. I want to hear it.”

“But Great King…”

“Now.”

“As you wish,” said Sszaxxanna, stomping sulkily through the doorway. Hsrandtuss had no doubt that both Kendra and Sirris would be on the receiving end of Sszaxxanna’s claws later, but what was it to him how the females settled their differences?

Kendra entered and stepped very close to him. She placed one hand, palm outward, on her dewlap in a sign of respect and reached out familiarly to touch him on the shoulder with the other. She and Ssu were the youngest of his wives, and Kendra was very tiny, barely reaching up to Hsrandtuss’s shoulder.

“All right, what is this about improving my esteem?”

“There is a creature living beneath this fortress—a horrible creature.”

“Like the dead monster we saw when we arrived?”

“Much smaller than that one, but much more horrible. It lives in a place the young god cannot reach. One must pass through a narrow hallway and down a long flight of stairs. The red-caped one has sent five groups of warriors to kill it and they have all been unsuccessful. Most of them died.”

“So I am supposed to go down there and get myself killed too? Is that what you want?”

“No, no, my husband. You know that is not what I want. You must know how proud I am to be your wife.” She pressed her chin against his chest. “You are a great warrior and Tokkenoht and I will go with you, in addition to your warriors.”

“I am supposed to take two females into battle?”

“I have been on many hunts, and Tokkenoht has great magic. We can both aid you.”

Realizing that he still had half a bambiraptor in his hand, Hsrandtuss tossed it in his mouth and chewed. He did want to show Yessonar his worth, and Kendra was right that this might do so. And he was feeling better since he had been here. Maybe this was just what he needed to get back to his old self—a good battle. Yes, he decided. He would do it.

The entire fortress was a whirlwind of activity. The wall that had been completely disassembled when the group from Hiissiera had arrived was now almost completely rebuilt. Now a pair of high towers was being constructed just inside the walls. Wooden ladders and braces acted as an exoskeleton for the stone spires that when completed would house spiral staircases. Hsrandtuss found the god’s red-caped envoy easily enough. He had learned the important lizzie went by the name of Khastla.

“I hear that you have a problem beast.”

Khastla hissed slowly and eyed the king. “You speak of the vile creature below ground.”

The Dragon’s Choice – Now on Sale!

Senta and the Steel Dragon book 9 goes on sale today wherever fine ebooks are sold.  You can find it at Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other ebook distributors.  The price is $2.99.

The dragons seemingly have returned to the world and are once again in vying for power. Bessemer the steel dragon is worshipped by the reptilian lizzies, while the evil Voindrazius tries to put together a pantheon that he will control. Zoantheria, the coral dragon, feels pulled in all directions. Wanted both by Bessemer and Voindrazius, she is called to a world she has never known, her mistress, the sorceress Senta Bly encouraging her to take up the mantle of goddess. Her heart, however, is pulling her in a different direction, toward the young viscount Augustus Dechantagne. Which will prove stronger– love or destiny? Both Senta and Augie have their own problems, hers with teaching her wayward eponymous daughter the ways of magic, and him dealing with the yoke of leadership and a headstrong mother. Meanwhile, far across the ocean, the Dechantagne girls are taking Brech City by storm. Will one of them land a prince?

The Sorceress and her Lovers – Chapter 5 Excerpt

The L.Z. Frühlingshuhn descended from the clouds toward Royal Tybalt Hall, the top stories of which had been converted ten years earlier to a dirigible port. From the great window on the observation deck, Senta Bly watched as Brech City slid by below her. The buildings all looked like toy models of themselves. The boats in the Thiss and the carriages on the streets likewise looked like the playthings of children. It was a sight well worth the cost of a ticket, even without the three-day voyage from Bangdorf.

“It’s quite a sight, isn’t it?”

She turned to Kieran Baxter, who was sitting in one of the comfortable lounge chairs bouncing the baby on his knee.

“I never get tired of it,” she said.

“Funny, I wouldn’t think it would be that impressive to you… what with you being able to fly and everything.”

“Who said I could fly?”

“Can you?”

She shrugged. “Sort of.”

“I knew it,” he said, hopping easily to his feet, still holding the child. He stopped next to the sorceress. “Look. You can see right into the courtyard of Palace Eidenia. I always wanted to look in there. I expected piles of treasure or something equally grand.”

“Looks like they’re storing old trolley cars in there,” said Senta. “Quite the let-down, I’ll bet.”

“It always is when your fantasies meet your realities. They just don’t hold up.”

She leaned in close to him. Her hot breath reached his cheek and the side of his neck.

“Perhaps not in all cases,” he said.

The ship glided lower, turning so that Palace Eidenia was no longer visible. Instead they had a splendid view of the Palace of Ansegdniss, for 250 years the meeting place of the Parliament of Greater Brechalon. The buildings below became larger and larger until suddenly they stopped being toys and became real full-sized structures. The dirigible slowed to a stop and at last all they could see was the roof of Royal Tybalt Hall.

Though they had packed those belongings that had been in use during their three-day journey, Senta was in no mood to join the ranks of those passengers rushing to get out. So she and Baxter continued to sit in the lounge for another hour. He let the baby crawl a bit on the floor, though he didn’t allow her to get far, and she couldn’t have in any case. Finally with him carrying little Senta and the sorceress carrying the animal carrier, they walked down the gangway, followed by two stewards with the luggage. Quickly procuring a cab, they were on their way to The Clarkson House.

The Clarkson House was Brech City’s finest hotel. It reigned over Avenue Boar with all the opulence of Palace Eidenia—more now that they had seen the old trolleys stored in the latter. Once at the hotel they stepped across the black and white chessboard-like floor of the palatial lobby, past the gilded furnishings beneath the crystal chandeliers. To Senta, who had stayed at the Clarkson for several weeks before traveling to Freedonia, and who had in fact given birth to her daughter there, it almost seemed like returning home. It cemented in her mind the decision she had already made.

When they were safely settled in the imperial suite, Senta let the little dragon out of the carrier. It immediately ran toward the baby.

“Back off you,” said Baxter, protectively pulling the child away.

“Good baby,” said the dragon.

“Kafira’s twat. The bloody thing talks.”

“Yes, well, it’s about time that,” said Senta, opening the balcony door and looking at the beast. “Go find yourself something to eat. There are thousands of flying reptiles in this city that no one will miss.”

The creature took one bounce and was out the door—a coral-colored blur.

“You expected it to start speaking,” said Baxter. “I take it your found out something in the library at Bangdorf.”

“I found exactly nothing.” She turned to her companion. “Have you decided if you are going to come with me to Birmisia?”

“I thought I didn’t have to decide for a while.”

“It seems you do.” She waved her hand behind her and the several dozen buttons on the back of her dress unfastened themselves. “I’ve decided it’s time to go home.” She stepped out of the dress. “I didn’t think I would miss it as much as I do.”

“Do you mean you miss him?”

She stepped toward him. He sat the baby on the rug. The dress flew of its own accord to the dressing room.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.

“No I don’t. There’s a good reason for that. You haven’t told me anything.” Baxter crossed his arms. “I didn’t press you about it, but I have to know where I stand before I decide if I’m going to Birmisia Colony or not. I have to understand whether…”

“Whether you have me or not?” She snaked her arms around his shoulders. He uncrossed his arms and placed them on her waist, though he could feel nothing except the bones of her corset. “You have me for as long as you want me. It probably won’t be long. There are many beautiful women in Port Dechantagne. You’ll throw me over for one of them, I’m sure.”

“Unlikely. But I have to know…”

“I was very much in love,” said Senta. “But he died, years ago. I don’t think I’ll ever love like that again, but I do care about you.”

“What about the child’s father?”

“He’s in Birmisia. I’m not in love with him. Even if I was, he’s not available.”

“What if he was?”

“I said I’m not in love with him.”

“You also as much as said you’re not in love with me. What if he was available?”

“Do you want me to tell you the truth or do you want me to tell you what you want to hear?”

“I guess that’s my answer,” he said, reaching up and pulling her arms from around his neck.

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