The Drache Girl – Chapter 3 Excerpt

There was chaos on the shore.  Practically every citizen of Nutooka was pressed into the confines of the harbor.  Some screamed.  Some cried. Some waved to get the attention of the battleship off shore.  No doubt all of them would have piled into small boats and rowed out to the ship, if Captain Mould had not already had all of the local boats scuttled.  Even so, some of the people on shore jumped into the water, trying to swim out to the ship.  The city of Nutooka itself was almost completely empty.  This was not surprising, once one looked at the size of the army advancing upon it.  For more than three years, the followers of the Ape god Guma and their allies, the antiforeigner Red Sashes, had built up their strength.  Now they were ready to eliminate the Brechs, whose single naval installation was, they felt, the greatest blight on their great land of Enclep.

On the bridge of the battleship H.M.S. Superb, the captain and his first officer watched the locals’ panic, while several other officers hunched over a map of the region surrounding the port.  Captain Mould was the youngest captain in the Royal Navy of Greater Brechalon, and looked every inch like a man capable of rising quickly in that prestigious service.  His sharp nose and neatly trimmed beard gave him the look of a predatory bird, which his black eyes did nothing to diminish.  He turned on his heel and looked at the men hunched over the map.

“Where are they exactly, Wizard Than?”

One of the officers, dressed no different than any of the others save a blue bar on the sleeve of his stiffly starched white uniform, waved his hand over the map and said, “Uuthanum.”  A hundred tiny red dots appeared grouped in three large bunches on the map, indicating three massive arms of the approaching army.

“Whenever you are ready, Commander,” said the Captain.

“Aye, sir.”

Commander Staff seemed almost the polar opposite of his captain in some ways.  Light blond and clean-shaven, his freckled face made him look far younger than his twenty-nine years.  His small nose and well-formed mouth made him almost too pretty.  For all that, he seemed nothing less of a naval man of action than his superior.  He leaned over the ship’s phone.

“Sixteen degrees, eight minutes.  Twenty-two degrees, five minutes.  Elevation, make it five thousand yards.  Load high explosive.”

The entire ship shook slightly as the two massive front facing turrets, each with three twelve-inch guns, turned into position. Once they were in place, Staff leaned back over the phone.

“Lay down a pattern of fire.”

Six giant guns fired, rending the air with a sound that thunder could only envy.  Huge gouts of flame and monstrous clouds of acrid smoke shot across the bay.  As soon as the flame was gone and the great sound began to die away, the guns fired off again.  And again.  And again. Three hundred massive shells were fired into the advancing army on the far side of the city of Nutooka.

“Hold fire,” said Staff into the phone.  The thundering of the cannons ceased.

“Are they getting the message, Wizard Than?” asked the Captain.

The wizard and the other officers watched the red dots across the map.  They began to spread out from the three masses of their original formation into an even dispersion throughout the jungle.

“Just what we hoped for, Captain,” said the wizard.

“You know what to do, Mr. Staff.”

Once again, Staff leaned over the phone.  “Raise elevation to seven thousand yards.  Load anti-personnel.”  Then turning back to Captain Mould.  “Ready, sir.”

“At your discretion, Mr. Staff.”

“Lay down your pattern of fire.”

The six giant guns began firing again.  While the first three hundred shells had just grazed the advancing forces’ front, this extended volley fell right in their midst.  The raised elevation spread the falling shells throughout the army.  The first wave of fire, laid down with high explosive shells that had blown up upon impact, created huge craters in the jungle battlefield and knocked down thousands of trees.  This second attack was made with anti-personnel shells, which burst upon impact releasing tens of thousands of flechettes, needle-like bits of iron, which then flew in all directions, slicing through the warriors on the ground and their terror-bird mounts, like hot tacks through butter.  Captain Mould and Commander Staff stepped back to lean over the officers and look at the map.  The red dots, indicating the cult fighters and the Red Sash terrorists were disappearing from the paper.  The red dots were fading away not in ones and twos, but in hundreds, in thousands.  By the time three hundred shells had been fired, only a tiny fraction of the symbols representing the enemy remained.

“All right Mr. Staff, hold fire.”

“Hold fire,” called Staff into the ship’s phone.  The great cannons became quiet.

“Mr. Rise.”  The captain turned his attention to the man inside the nearby wireless room.  “Signal Major Black to advance.”

Captain Mould stepped stiffly back to the other officers watching the map.  A line of blue dots began sweeping across the map from the far right side.  These dots represented the contingent of Royal Marines, whose job it would be to finish off the enemy and who ironically enough were dressed in their bright red coats and white pith helmets.  The captain nodded in satisfaction at the outcome of the operation.  With any luck, it would be a permanent blow to the forces of instability in Enclep. If not that, at least it would set them back years.

“Commander Staff, it looks as though you will be able to make your rendezvous with the S.S. Arrow.”

“Yes, Sir.”

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The Drache Girl – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Turning away from the street, Yuah Dechantagne made her way up the stone walkway to the family’s home.  The huge, stately structure was the largest building in the colony, and had taken the better part of two years to construct.  Featuring a large portico supported by four two story columns, a double gabled roof and more than a dozen stone chimneys, every side of the house was covered with large dual-paned windows.  Walking through the gardens and past the large reflecting pool, the fountain, and the sundial surrounded by white roses, she paused to hyperventilate for a moment before tackling the six steps to the portico. Standing at attention outside of the front door was a lizardman, naked except for a yellow ribbon with a gold medallion around its neck.  As she approached, the creature reached back and opened the door for her.

“Thank you, Tisson,” she said, sweeping in through the doorway.

Once inside, she walked through the foyer and into the parlor, just in time to see her sister-in-law, the colonial governor, slapping her hand across the protruding snout of another lizardman.  The creature wore a similar medallion and ribbon as its counterpart outside, though it was a silver medallion on a green ribbon.  The reptilian was also slightly shorter and had darker green skin.  Even so, it towered over the woman in the olive green herringbone dress that faced it.

“One more time and I’ll cut off your tail and send you back to that mud hut you came from,” she snarled at the lizardman.  “Do you understand?”

“Yess,” hissed the reptile.

“What was that all about?” asked Yuah.

Iolanthe rolled her aquamarine eyes.  “How many times have I explained?  They still don’t get it.  When the flower petals fall off, the flowers are replaced.”

“I think they like the flowers better when they are wilted,” replied Yuah.  “It must be a lizard affectation.”

“Well, I’m not going to put up with it.  Say, where have you been all morning?”

“New dress.”

“Oh yes.  Very pretty.” If there was one thing Governor Iolanthe Dechantagne Calliere could appreciate, it was a new dress.  “The baby was crying a little while ago.  I had Cissy feed him.”

“Sirrik!” called Yuah.  Another lizardman, mottled yellow with brown stripes, stepped into the parlor from the doorway which led to the library.  “Go have Cissy bring down the baby.”

Sirrik walked through the parlor and into the foyer. The two women could hear the creak of the stairs as the heavy reptilian then made his way up.  Yuah set her large loaf of bread on the coffee table and sat down on a divan, recently brought by ship from Mirsanna.  Iolanthe carefully sat down across from her in a sweepback Prince Tybalt chair.

“I am surprised to find you still at home,” said Yuah.

“I will be going to the office later in the day.”

“Are you going to address the new arrivals?  I saw that the ship was being unloaded.”

“I will leave that to your father.  He actually enjoys that sort of thing, you know.”

“Yes, I know.”

The groaning of the staircase announced Sirrik’s return.  Following closely on his scaly heels was a smaller lizardman, this one wearing a yellow skirt just above its tail.  The ridiculous garment was only about eight inches long, hiding nothing because the reptiles had no external genitalia to hide.  Nestled carefully within the smaller lizardman’s arms was a small bundle.  The beast walked across the parlor and gently passed it to Yuah.  She carefully pealed back the blanket revealing the tiny, pink, perfectly formed face of a baby boy.  His tiny mouth was puckered and his eyes were closed.  He twisted slightly in his sleep, as Yuah tickled his chin.

“Who’s mama’s big boy?” she said, in the voice people reserve for babies, pets, and anything else that can’t actually hear or respond.

“How long has he been asleep?”  Yuah asked the lizardman in the yellow dress.

“Haff hour,” said the creature, rolling its yellow eyes toward the grandfather clock along the east wall.

“Half an hour?” confirmed Yuah.

“Yes.”

“He’ll be asleep for some time yet,” said Iolanthe.  “Why don’t you let her put him back in his crib?”

“No, I want to hold him for a while.”  Yuah turned to the lizardman.  “You may go now.  Why don’t you check back at three?”

Both reptiles bowed and left the room, Sirrik back toward the library, and Cissy through the foyer.  Yuah leaned back and gently bounced the baby boy in her arms while he slept.  She marveled at his dark eyelashes and the tiny bit of dark brown hair just sticking out below the blanket.

At that moment a little girl, almost three, in a bright floral dress ran into the room.  Her blond hair seemed thin around her chubby, round face, but was supplemented with a large red bow on the top of her head.  Bouncing along on her chubby little legs, she was not quite in control of her body, and bumped right into the stuffed arm of Iolanthe’s chair.  She was up again quickly, though she left the item she had been carrying, a doll with a dress exactly like hers, lying on the hardwood floor.

“Auntie Yuah,” said the toddler, running to the woman with the baby.  “I want to give Augie a kiss.”

“All right, but carefully.  He’s asleep and we don’t want to wake him.”

With the exaggerated movements that are so endearing in the very tiniest human beings, the little girl reached up on her tip-toes and puckered up her lips, stretching them out as far as they could go, and kissed the baby, held out by its mother, with a smacking sound.  She then rolled back on her heels, almost losing her balance and falling back onto the coffee table.

“Very sweet,” said Yuah.  “Now go see Mummy.”

“Don’t you dare jump on me,” said Iolanthe, as the child trundled around the table toward her.  “Your dress is filthy.  What have you been doing?”

“Making mud pies.”

“Making mud pies,” muttered the governor.  “Sirrek!”

The mottled yellow and brown lizardman returned.

“Who is supposed to be watching Iolana?”

“Kheesie,” hissed Sirrek.

“Remind her that the child is supposed to stay clean. If she can’t do her job, I’m sure that there are others who can.  And have her draw Iolana a bath.”  Iolanthe turned to Yuah.  “If there is one thing you can count on the lizards to get right, it’s bathing.”

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 Drache Girl

More than three years have passed since the colonists arrived in Birmisia, and Port Dechantagne is a thriving colony, with the railway line almost complete. Twelve year old sorceress’s apprentice Senta Bly, Police Constable Saba Colbshallow, and former maid Yuah Dechantagne must deal with wizards, prejudice, steam carriages, boys riding dinosaurs, and the mysterious activities of the lizardmen.

The Drache Girl is available at Smashwords in a variety of ebook formats for $2.99.

The Dark and Forbidding Land – $2.99 for Kindle

The Dark and Forbidding Land is available for Kindle for just $2.99.

Two years have passed since Senta, the sorceress Zurfina, and Bessemer the steel dragon arrived in the strange land of Birmisia. Now it is up to the settlers to build a home in this dark and forbidding land, ruled by terrifying dinosaurs and strange lizardmen. Ten year old Senta must discover which is the greater threat, a would-be wizard or the ever-increasing presence of the tyrannosaurus.