Brechalon – My Own Review

Brechalon (New Cover)I’ve been reading Senta and the Steel Dragon and have been doing a bit of editing and revising of the same as I go along.  I’ve had a change of opinion about some of these books.  I had the image of what I was thinking as I wrote them as my main view.  Now that I have a bit of time between writing and reading, I think I have a bit more perspective on them.  Here is a quick review of my own book.

When I wrote Brechalon, I was not overly happy with it.  It was designed to be a bit of extra to go along with The Voyage of the Minotaur.  Now I see it more favorably.  There isn’t a lot of plot in this book– no great events or adventures.  But there is a great deal of back story.  There is also a lot of set up for The Voyage of the Minotaur, so much so, that I really wouldn’t recommend reading it without reading Brechalon first.

The book follows the characters of Senta, Iolanthe, Terrence, Zurfina, Zeah, Yuah, and Augie, as they go about their lives.  Angie is arguably in the most adventuresome story, as he is in Birmisia, dealing with dinosaurs and lizzies.  Senta is still a kid.  Iolanthe is plotting and planning.  Yeah is pining for Terrence.  Zeah is being Zeah.  In all of their cases, the book is mostly characterization.  The characters with real plot are Terrence as he descends into drug abuse, and Zurfina who attempts to get out of prison.

I enjoyed this book, but then, why wouldn’t I?  I wrote it.  If you don’t trust me, check it out on your own.  It’s available free wherever fine ebooks are sold.

Magic Battles: Brechalon

Brechalon (New Cover)Zurfina had her ticket on the B511 out of Brech to Flander on the southern coast, where she had already arranged to meet a boat that would take her to a ship bound for Mirsanna. There was no way that she could stay in Brechalon any longer. The government had refused to accept her independence. They would have her join the military or they would see her destroyed. They had already sent a dozen wizards and two sorcerers against her. But Zurfina was the greatest practitioner of sorcery in the Kingdom and was more than a match for any wizard.

A man in a brown suit stepped out from behind a pillar. To the other people in the station, he seemed nothing out of the ordinary, but to Zurfina he glowed bright yellow and was surrounded by a sparkling halo. She didn’t wait for him to cast a spell. She pointed her hand toward him and spat out an incantation.

“Intior uuthanum err.”

Immediately the man doubled over, wracked with uncontrollable cackling laughter. But before Zurfina could smile appreciatively, she was thrown from her feet as the world around her exploded in flames. She had been hit in the back by a fireball, and only the fact that she had previously shielded herself prevented her from becoming a human candle, as four or five innocent bystanders around her now did. Rolling to her feet and turning around, she found that she faced not one, but four wizards. The one who had evidently cast the fireball was preparing another spell, while the other three were casting their own. Her shield protected her from the lightning bolt, and the attempt to charm her, but one of the four magic missiles hit her, burning her shoulder as though it had been dipped in lava.

“Uuthanum uastus corakathum paj—Prestus Uuthanum.” Zurfina ducked into a side alcove as one of the wizards turned to stone and her own shield was replenished. Several more magical bolts struck the stone wall across from her, creating small burnt holes. Peering quickly around the corner, she saw the four wizards just where she left them, the three trying to use their petrified comrade as cover. Looking in the other direction, she saw that the wizard cursed with laughter had recovered and he had been joined by two more.

Seven wizards—well, six. That was a lot of magical firepower. But then Zurfina looked across the station platform. Directly opposite her was the open door of a train; not the B511, but a train bound for somewhere else. If she could reach it, she could get away. She glanced quickly around the corner again. The smell of burnt bodies mixed with thick black smoke in the air, but though there was plenty of the former, there was not enough of the latter for Zurfina’s taste.

“Uuthanum,” she said, and a thick fog began to fill the station platform.

“Maiius uuthanum nejor paj.” The three wizards to her right suddenly faced a dog the size of a draft horse, snarling and foaming at the mouth, and they felt their spells were better aimed at it than any blond sorceress.

Turning to her left, Zurfina cast another spell. “Uuthanum uastus carakathum nit.”

The cement that formed the other end of the platform turned to mud. The petrified wizard, deprived of his secure foundation toppled over onto one of his comrades, crushing him, while the other two struggled to pull themselves from the muck. Zurfina shot out of the alcove and ran toward the train. She had almost made it, when Wizard Bassington stepped into the open doorway in front of her.

She stopped right there in the open, unbalanced, unsure now whether to run left or right or back the way that she had come. She felt uncomfortably like an animal caught on the road in the headlamps of an oncoming steam carriage. Bassington didn’t move. He stared at her with his beady eyes. His eyes went wide though when Zurfina reached up to snatch something out of the air. Normal, non-magical people couldn’t see them, but he could—the glamours that orbited her head were spells cast earlier, awaiting the moment when she needed them.

She crushed the glamour and pointed her hand at the spot where Bassington stood, just as he dived away. The entryway where the wizard had been, and the passenger coaches on either side of him exploded, lifting much of the train up off the track as metal and wood shrapnel and human body parts flew in every direction. The flash knocked Zurfina herself back onto the cement and sent her sliding across the pavement and into the far wall. Before she could get up, she was hit with a dozen bolts of magical fire, some but not all of them deflected by her magic shield. It was a spell of weakening, followed by one of sleep though that finally dropped her head unconscious to the ground. The last thing she saw was Bassington’s hobnail boots walking toward her.

Brechalon – Chapter Eight Part Three

Brechalon (New Cover)Yuah stood in the courtyard, idly staring up at the eclipse, and totally unaware that she was being watched from a window on the third floor. Terrence watched her, appraising her in a way that he didn’t bother appraising other women. There was no doubt that she was beautiful. She wore no makeup, had her hair pulled back into a bun wrapped by a maid’s cap, and she wore a simple servant’s dress with minimal bustle and almost no color. And yet she was one of the most beautiful women that he had ever seen. There was no doubt about that. Iolanthe was thought to be a great beauty and with her flawless skin and those striking aquamarine eyes, she was something special. Yuah’s chocolate brown eyes had a tenderness and an innocence in them though that one would never find in his sister’s, and Yuah’s features were perfect. She could have been one of those women that the great sculptors of old used as a model. She was just the right height and she was well proportioned. So what if she was a bit skinny.

Yuah was almost perfect. But Terrence didn’t want an almost perfect woman. He had thrown away any chance at a wife and a family and a home. That was not going to be his future. His future was far away, in another time and another place, on a great field of purple flowers with a woman who was frighteningly perfect. He turned away from the window and climbed back into bed, pulling the box filled with small blue vials from beneath the pillow.


* * * * *


A large square of sunlight filled the center of the cell floor, and sprawled naked in the center of that square, was Zurfina. She lifted her head up just enough to look around and then she slammed it back against the stone floor. Then she lifted it up and slammed it back down again: once, twice, three times, till there was a bloody spot on the floor and a bloody contusion on her forehead. The walls of the cell had all returned to their original stone texture. Not even the arcane bloody scrawling remained.

Schwarztogrube really was proof against magic. She had summoned the most ancient magic in the universe, a feat only possible because of the eclipse, and had used it to release the dead demon-gods that waited beyond the edge of sanity. But even they had not been able to completely pierce the veil. All of that magic was still not enough. Without the power of the eclipse, it was not enough, and the eclipse had not lasted long enough. And it would be a long time before the next full eclipse over Schwarztogrube.

“Eight thousand four hundred thirty-seven days!” Zurfina wailed. “Kafira’s bloody twat!”

She looked up at the ceiling as if she could see the sky beyond it and dared the Zaeri-Kafirite God and his crucified daughter to strike her dead. Could even his magic penetrate this magic-proof hell? Prove it!


* * * * *


“Is it over?” asked Senta.

“Yup.” Maro stood up from the pinhole camera that he had made to watch the eclipse, in actuality nothing but a small pasteboard box with a hole cut in the side. Shining in through the tiny hole, the image of the sun had been visible on the back side, and as the moon had moved across the sun, the small white orb in the box had been covered and then uncovered.

“That was pretty ace, wasn’t it?”

“I guess so,” said Senta. “I wish we could have watched the real thing.”

“You’d be blinded.”

“Yeah. I’m glad you were able to make it with only eight fingers.”

Maro nodded and looked at the three remaining fingers on his right hand.

“Maybe someday you’ll be really rich and you can pay a wizard to regrow your fingers for you,” offered Senta.

“Maybe I’ll get so used to having eight fingers I won’t want my other ones back. I bet pretty soon I’ll be able to do my eight times as good as you can do your tens.”

“What’s seven times eight?”

“Fifty six.”

“Is that right?”


“Wow.” Senta looked impressed and she was. “What are we doing now?”

“I don’t know what you’re doing, but I’m going to play Mirsannan cricket at the park. You can’t go because you’re a girl.”

“Then I’m going to the toy store and buy a doll.”

“You don’t have enough money to buy a doll.”

“Uh-huh. For pretend.”

“Yeah, alright.”

“You know when you said my mom didn’t want me?”


“I don’t understand it.”


“Well, look at me. I’m just cute.”


* * * * *


“Eight thousand four hundred thirty-seven days,” Zurfina told herself. “I’ll be old. Well, I’ll be older.”

The sorceress was already far older than she appeared. Thanks to magic used long ago, her body was much younger than it should have been. But it was aging now. Here in this place where magic had no hold, it was aging. In eight thousand four hundred thirty-seven days, she would most surely begin to look old—not as old as her true age, but old. Too old. She would have no youth, just as now she had no magic. She couldn’t wait eight thousand four hundred thirty-seven days. She had to get out. But she couldn’t use magic. What could she use? What did she have?

She had her youth… for now. She had her beauty… for now. She had this body, this body that men wanted… for now. She had to use what she had.

Brechalon – Chapter Eight Part Two

Brechalon (New Cover)“So can you see the eclipse?”

“Sure. It’s ace,” said Saba, standing in the courtyard. Then he turned and saw who was speaking and flinched.

“Would you like to take a look, Miss?” he asked, offering Iolanthe the magic glass pane.

Taking the almost opaque square, she held it up to her eye and pointed her face toward the sky.

“Interesting. It looks like a halo.”

“Yeah. Yeah, it does look like a halo, um… Miss.”

“It doesn’t feel like a halo, though, does it?”


“Look at it again,” she said, handing back the magic glass. “This time, tell me what you feel.”

The boy looked again and suddenly shuddered. When he looked back at her, his face was accusing. She had made him aware of something he hadn’t noticed before. There was something evil about the eclipse, and though he had looked forward to the event since he had first heard about it from his mother, now all he wanted was the return of the sun in its full glory.


* * * * *


The thing on the other side of the membrane between two worlds tested it once again, and a moment later it burst through. It was long, thick tentacle, necrotic grey and covered with suction cups. It searched along the stone floor of the cell, tentatively at first. Then it touched the sorceress sitting naked and chanting and suddenly it shook and thrashed throughout the chamber.

“No!” shouted Nils Chapman and he jumped in front of Zurfina. The tentacle found him and wrapped around his waist.

“No!” he cried again, and then it yanked him so violently that the snapping of his neck was clearly audible, as it pulled him beyond the shimmering veil.

Suddenly the room was filled with a hundred tentacles, touching every inch of the cell, caressing the woman like a demonic lover. She slowly rose to her feet, the tips of the alien appendages touching every inch of her skin.

“Uuathanum eetarri blechtore maiius uusteros vadia jonai corakathum nit.”

A black fog poured into the cell from all four walls. It filled up the tiny chamber and sprayed through the openings in the door, creeping down the corridors of the prison and into every room and every cell, every nook and every alcove.


* * * * *


“How is it?”

“It was ace,” replied Saba. “Now I just want the sun to come back.”

“Don’t be like that.” Yuah stepped down the stairs from the back door and put an arm around the boy’s shoulders. “Let me take a look.”

Saba held the square of magic glass up and Yuah pressed her eye to it, leaning back to find the sun. “There. The sun’s starting to move out from behind the moon. In a few minutes everything will be just like it was before.”


“You shouldn’t let Miss D ruin your fun. She’s a right bitch, you know.”

“No, she’s not.”

“She is.”

“Well, it’s not her fault.”

“What do you mean?” asked Yuah.

“Nothing. Here. Do you want this?” Saba pushed the magic glass into her hands and started up the stairs into the house.


* * * * *


Zurfina smiled as the dead grey tentacles caressed her.

“Now I will leave and now I will lay my vengeance on this stony prison and this little kingdom and this world.” She raised her arms and began her final incantation. “Uuthanum…”

At that moment a thin streak of light entered from the small window high up on the wall. It was so tiny that it might have gone totally unnoticed, had it not stuck the first and largest of the grey arms moving around the cell. But the tiny sliver of sunlight burned through the tentacle like a hot ember through a slice of bread. The great tentacle jerked and thrashed about the room and the other appendages did too, one of them striking the woman and throwing her halfway across the floor. More sunlight entered through the window and all of the unearthly, unholy members were yanked back through the portals that shimmered where the walls of the cell had once been.

“No! No, I’m not finished!” screamed Zurfina.

Brechalon – Chapter Eight Part One

Brechalon (New Cover)“What do you have there?” asked Zeah.

“It’s magic glass,” replied Saba, holding up a small square of very dark but very shiny material.

“This conversation sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale. Did you trade your magic beans to get this magic glass?”

“Don’t be silly Mr. Korlann. I didn’t have any magic beans and this cost me 75P.”

“Good heavens. Why would you pay 75 pfennigs for that?”

“For the eclipse.”


“Sure. There’s an eclipse today. Almost a full one. If we were in the channel it would be full. It would get dark in the middle of the day.”

“Oh yes, yes. It was in the paper. I imagine it will be spectacular enough right here in Brech City. But what is the glass for?”

“Haven’t you ever heard that you shouldn’t stare at an eclipse because you’ll go blind?”

“Of course.”

“I can’t tell you how much that has worried me since I found that out,” said Saba. “I’m always afraid that I might accidentally look at the sun and it would be just my luck that there was an eclipse going on right then and I would go blind.”

“Well, first off, there’s nothing special about an eclipse that is worse on your eyes. Stare at the sun anytime, eclipse or no, and you risk damage to your…”

“Anyway,” the boy interrupted. “I got this glass so I can watch the eclipse. You can stare at it all day through this and not get blinded. Can’t see a bloody thing through it now though.” He tried to look at the head butler through the small pane held to his right eye.

“Let’s hope it really works,” said Zeah skeptically. “I trust you bought it from a reputable dealer.”

“Sure. I got it at the potion shop on Avenue Phoenix. They’re selling loads of them. If it doesn’t work, they’ll be hip deep in angry blind people.”


* * * * *


“It’s almost time now, Pet,” said Zurfina looking at the sun, through the tiny window high up on the wall.

Nils Chapman was crawling on his knees next to her. Shaking and twitching uncontrollably, he no longer had the ability to stand on his own. This didn’t bother him because he no longer had the ability to think on his own either. He crawled along on all fours drooling like a dog to the center of the cell.

Zurfina peeled off the filthy rags that had been her only clothing since she had been brought to this hellhole one thousand nine hundred eighty-four days before. She tossed them aside and sat down cross-legged in the center of the cell. Chapman pressed against her, but she pushed him away. Closing her eyes, she began to chant.

“Uuthanum, uuthanum, uuthanum, uuthanum.” She repeated the word over and over again. Twenty times. A hundred times. Slowly the room became darker and darker. She continued to chant. The eclipse was at his height.

Chapman screamed. Zurfina opened her eyes and smiled. The four walls were walls no more. They were shining, rippling, silvery surfaces like the surface of frighteningly cold and deep water. Sounds could be heard from the other side—freakish, awful piping noises that tugged at one’s sanity. Then the surface directly in front of her bubbled and churned, touched by something on the other side of that boundary between the cell and the abyss beyond.

“Yes!” Zurfina screamed. Then she began reciting a new set of words. “Uuathanum eetarri. Uuthanum eetarri. Uuthanum blechtore. Uuthanum blechtore. Uuthanum maiius.”

First Work vs. Prequel

Brechalon (New Cover)I struggle with whether to tell people to read Breachalon (Book 0 in Senta and the Steel Dragon) before or after reading books 1-5.  Brechalon is an actual prequel.  It is book 0 in the series, but I didn’t write it until I had already written books 1, 3, and 5.  Therefore I had to think very carefully about what I wanted to reveal.  Some of the plot points from book 0 are surprises that happen later in the series.  Other elements have more impact if the reader has read the rest of the series before reading book 0.

An example of the former is Zurfina in prison.  In the rest of the books, we don’t hear about Zurfina being imprisoned until book 5 nearing the end of the original series.  It explains a great deal about her character, but not revealing it until book 5 made it a huge revelation.  By revealing it in book 0, it detracts from that a bit, even though I like the story line with her in prison in Brechalon.

An example of the latter is Zurfina’s nickname for Senta.  Beginning in book 1 and right through the entire series, Zurfina seldom if ever refers to Senta by her name.  Instead, she calls her “Pet.”  It seems on the surface a sweet nickname for your child and it stands in the face of some of Zurfina’s careless actions as far as child-rearing goes.  You can say, well, you know she loves Senta.  She calls her Pet.  Then in book 0, you find Zurfina calling Chapman the same name– this a man she has no feelings for and actually plans to destroy and maybe use as a sacrifice.  It kind of has a chilling effect when you then hear her giving this eight-year-old child the same nickname.

Brechalon – Chapter Seven Part Three

Brechalon (New Cover)“I make a hundred and fifty feet,” said Lieutenant Arthur McTeague, without taking his eyes from the binoculars.

“Decrease elevation two degrees,” called Lieutenant Augie Dechantagne.

“Ready!” called Corporal Worthy from the centermost 105mm howitzer.

“Fire!” There was a long pause and then a distant explosion.

“Oops. You’re long,” said McTeague. “I mean, longer.”

“Kafira damn it!” yelled Augie. “I said decrease elevation! Decrease!”

“Sorry sir! Ready sir!”


“On target,” said McTeague, after the wait.

“Lay down a pattern of fire!” The five guns began rapidly firing, only to be immediately reloaded and fired again.

McTeague lowered his binoculars and pulled his earplugs from his pocket. Stuffing them into his ears, he walked over to stand next to Augie.

“Why are we shelling this village again?”

“I didn’t ask,” Augie replied.

“Do you suppose they’re going to counter-attack?”

“It’s not my job to worry about it. It’s theirs.” Augie pointed to the line of Royal Marines, their red coats and white pith helmets clearly visible halfway between the guns and the lizzie village that was rapidly becoming a flaming hell.

“Well, I suppose they needed to be taught a lesson. Put the fear of God and his Majesty into them.”

“This will certainly teach them something,” said Augie.


* * * * *


“It says here that the remaining robber will be moved to Herinnering Gaol as soon as he is ready to leave hospital,” said Mrs. Colbshallow, her face buried in the morning paper. “And Miss D is being considered for a Citizen’s Safety Award.”

“It’s considered safe to shoot two people now, is it?” It was Merriman, the main floor butler. “If I’d shot two men, I’d be in prison. She shoots two men and they give her a bloody medal.”

“Best not to think things like that,” said Zeah.

“Especially out loud,” added Yuah.

“It’s you, Yuah, that she usually wants to shoot,” said Barrymore, the upstairs butler, grinning.

“She can’t shoot me. She couldn’t live without me.”

“Don’t get cheeky,” said Zeah. “I had to hire four new ones this week.”

“Well, it’s not as if these men didn’t deserve to get shot,” said Mrs. Colbshallow. “Imagine trying to rob someone in broad daylight. We need more police, that’s what we need.”

“I’m going to be a copper in a few years,” said Saba, walking in from the front hallway and sitting down.

“No you aren’t,” his mother informed him. “I would be forever worrying. It’s far too dangerous for any child of mine.”

Saba didn’t reply to his mother or point out that he was the only child of hers. He just scooped up large mounds of fried eggs, white pudding, and sausages. Mrs. Colbshallow went back to commenting on the news, particularly how information of the coming eclipse did not belong in the weather section. With Saba’s addition there were eleven people eating breakfast in the servant’s hall at that moment, a good portion of the staff having already eaten and started on their morning duties, and those few who had the overnight shift had mostly already gone to bed. Marna, one of the last of the latter group came in from the side hallway, looking like she could fall asleep on her feet at any moment.

“Yuah, Master Terrence wants to see you,” she said.

“I’m not interested.”

“I’m just the messenger.”

Yuah turned to look at Marna, and saw Terrence standing in the hallway several paces behind her.

“I’m not his valet.” With careful precision, she lifted her chin into the air and turned back to the table. “I’m the dressing maid.”

A minute later, under the guise of reaching for a scone, she cast a sideways look at the spot where he had been standing to find that he was now gone.


* * * * *


Karl Drury was a shadow of his former self—literally. As far as anyone knew, he still made his rounds through the fortress of Schwarztogrube, he still hurled insults at almost everyone, and he still stuffed his ugly face in the mess hall. If he beat some of the prisoners less than he used to or abused the boys less than he used to, who was going to complain about that? The only one who seemed bothered by Drury these days was Nils Chapman. He began to shake every time Drury entered the room and he refused to look at him. But Chapman knew what nobody else did. That was not really Karl Drury. The real Karl Drury was dead. He had dropped the sadistic guard’s body into the ocean himself. Of course Nils Chapman was a shadow of his former self too—figuratively. His eyes had gone dull and his skin was pale. He didn’t sleep anymore and he could hardly eat.

“One thousand nine hundred eighty-three days,” he muttered to himself over and over again, from his spot, curled up in a ball in the corner of the cell.

“Don’t worry, Pet.” Zurfina reached down and stroked his hair. “It’s almost over. This time tomorrow we’ll both be gone.”

Chapman grabbed hold of her leg and held it close as he kept his eyes pressed tightly shut. He couldn’t bear to see the walls, all four of which were covered in ghastly markings of smeared blood, and all four of which pulsed and throbbed sickeningly.

Brechalon – Chapter Seven Part Two

Brechalon (New Cover)“I doubt there’s anyone left in either of those towns.” Terrence led his sister to one of the few remaining empty tables, pulled out a chair for her, and then sat down himself.

The two team captains joined the umpire on the pitch for the coin toss. It was determined that Ville Colonie would bat first and the players took their positions. The West Brumming bowler was getting his eye in as a heavyset blond batsman waited. At last the match started as the bowler sent a beautiful bouncer down the wicket, but a loud crack indicated a shot and the two batsmen, including the big chap, went running.

“Would you like something to drink?” Terrence asked.

“Is there a waiter?” wondered Iolanthe, looking around.

“No, there’s a snack kiosk over there.” He pointed to a small shed just beyond the visiting team hutch. “What would you like?”

“I don’t suppose they have any wine.”

“I doubt it.”

“A beer then.”

Terrence took his place in the queue, only occasionally looking back at the game. He wasn’t really that interested in cricket, even though he had played it at university. There was no point in telling Iolanthe though. Once she had her head set on something, it wasn’t likely to change. He purchased two bottles of beer, which came in tall brown bottles with cork stoppers.

Just as he turned around to leave, he was approached by a young woman with long red hair. She was dressed in a long brown skirt and a white blouse and looked as though she might have just come from a factory job. She was pretty, in a course sort of way, and she wore no makeup.

“Can you help me, sir?” she asked, and then turned and began to walk away before Terrence could answer.

He shrugged and followed her, a beer bottle in each hand, around the corner of the kiosk and between a pair of small sheds. As he made the second corner, Terrence came face to face with three men. Two of them were brandishing knives. For a second he didn’t recognize them. Then suddenly he did. They were three men outside Blackwood’s. The memory of the white opthalium made his eyes water slightly. What was it that Blackwood called the first fellow… Mickey, Mikey, Mika?

“Thanks luv. Hurry on your way,” said Mika to the girl, who quickly left. He then turned and smiled unpleasantly at Terrrence. “You’re so happy t’see me your eyes are waterin’ eh?”

“I’m sentimental,” Terrence replied.

The toughs had chosen their spot well. They were shielded from the street by a hedgerow and from the cricket game and the spectators by the sheds. Without conscious thought, Terrence’s mind ran through his options. He could drop one of the beers and go for the pistol in his pocket. He could simply bash the bottles into a couple of skulls. In either scenario, he’d probably take at least one knife blade. He could always yell for help. There were plenty of people within earshot, probably even a copper. Again, he’d probably get stabbed. Besides, he’d never yelled for help in his life.

“Care for a beer?” he asked.

“I’m goin’ t’enjoy lettin’ the air outa you.”

Suddenly there was a loud report followed by a wet smack and the man behind Mika, Mika’s brother Terrence suddenly remembered, dropped to the ground with a massive hole in his chest pouring out blood like a johnny pump. Before anyone had time to think or to move or to think about moving, three more shots rang out. The beer bottles in Terrence’s hands exploded and then a good portion of Mika’s jaw was ripped off his face. He dropped to the ground with a gurgled scream, while the third man in the group turned and ran. Terrence turned to his left, still holding the shattered remains of the bottles, to find Iolanthe in a cloud of gun smoke, a .45 caliber pistol pointed in his general direction. It was an exact match to the one in his pocket save only that hers had a pearl handle.

“Kafira’s tit, Iolanthe! You almost hit me!”

“You’re welcome,” she replied, closing her left eye and taking a bead on the fleeing man’s back.

“Let him go,” he said, and looked down at the sad remains of Mika, now whining pitifully.

A police constable came jogging up from behind Terrence, followed by a few cricket players, one carrying a bat, as well as a few stout fellows from the grandstand.

“These men were trying to rob my brother,” said Iolanthe, stepping forward.

“Oh, it’s you, Miss Dechantagne,” said the constable. “Are you injured?”

“No PC, thank you for asking, but I believe one or both of the men I shot may be in need of ambulance service.”

The constable knelt down and checked Mika’s brother for a pulse.

“This one doesn’t need an ambulance. He’s dead. What are these boys doing so far from the Bottom?”

“Not to belabor the point,” said Iolanthe. “But I believe they were practicing daylight robbery.”

“Even so. Will you be leaving now?”

“Of course not. The match is not over.” She flipped open the revolver and used her fingernail to pull out the spent cartridges. “Come along Terrence.”

The constable left for the police telegraph box to call for an ambulance, while a man from the grandstand rendered what aid there was to give. Everyone else, including the Dechantagne siblings wandered back toward the game. Terrence, who was still holding the spouts and necks of the broken bottles, dropped them in a dust bin as they rounded the corner to the snack kiosk.

“Where did you have that pistol?” he asked. “You don’t have a handbag.”

“I have plenty of room for it under my dress.”

He glanced at his sister’s form. While the top of her dress was very form-fitting indeed, the bottom half of her, thanks to her bustle and voluminous undergarments, blossomed out to such a degree that she could have hidden the arsenal for the good part of a rifle company within her skirts.

Brechalon – Chapter Six Part Three

Brechalon (New Cover)It was a large spider crawling across his face that woke Nils Chapman up. It tickled his right nostril and then continued on its way down his right cheek and over his right ear. He turned his head and watched it as it went over the edge of the mattress. He didn’t want to get up. He wanted to count—one thousand nine hundred seventy-nine… No! No, he wasn’t going to do that. He felt sick to his stomach. He had felt sick to his stomach ever since he had seen the impossible undulating movement of the wall in prisoner 89’s cell. He hadn’t gone back to the cell since, but the uneasiness, the slowly creeping nausea did not go away.

He turned over and looked toward Karl Drury’s bunk. The sadistic guard was not there. On the one hand, this made Chapman happy, because he found that he was increasingly happy whenever Drury was not around. On the other hand, if he wasn’t here and he wasn’t on duty, he was probably in 89’s cell, abusing her. Chapman shuddered. He had become increasingly sickened by Drury’s treatment of women in general and this one in particular, but now he felt even more ill at the thought of the cell itself, and the wall, and the strange writing, and the undulating movement… He shuddered.

He sat up and rolled out of bed. Taney was the only other guard in the bunkroom.

“Where’s Drury?” he asked.

“The filthy bastard’s got duty at the loading dock,” came the reply. “I wouldn’t want to be one of the boys working down there.”

“Somebody should stop him.”

“Go ahead,” said Taney, “if you want a knife between your ribs.”

Chapman didn’t want a knife between his ribs, but he didn’t know what else to do, so he went down the ancient spiral stone steps to the docks. Six boys were unloading a skiff, but Chapman didn’t see any guards. But as he stepped out into the open, he noticed something strange. There was a shadow in the middle of the dock where a shadow had no right to be. As he stepped closer, he realized it wasn’t a shadow—not in the real sense of the word. It was a man-shaped blob of shadow, occupying the same area that a man would occupy had he been standing there, but with no mass and no substance and completely translucent.

“What is that?” he asked.

The boys stopped and looked at him.

“What is that?” he asked again.

“What is what?” asked one of the boys.

“Where’s Drury?” he asked, his voice rising.

“He’s standin’ right in front of you, you great tosser,” the boy replied, pointing at the shadowy blob.

“That’s not Drury! I don’t know what that is!”

Turning, Chapman ran up the stairs, oblivious to the open-mouthed stares of the boys. He ran past the bunkroom and down the corridor to the north wing. He ran into the door of prisoner 89’s cell, banging it with his fist, as if she could open it from the inside. Finally he rummaged through his pockets for the great key and unlocked the door, rushing inside.

Chapman screamed. Karl Drury was hanging, naked, upside down from the ceiling. His neck had been sliced open and his blood had been drained into the piss pot on the floor beneath him. His gut had been sliced open and long lengths of bowel and a few internal organs hung down like ghastly wind chimes.

Chapman screamed again, as he felt the feather light touch of the woman on his shoulder.

“I needed more ink.” Her sultry voice cut into his soul like a knife cutting through pudding.

She stepped past him and picked up the bucket of blood, tip-toeing like a ballerina to the north wall of the cell, where she dipped her fingers into the gore and began painting strange images onto the stone blocks. As she drew, she spoke to herself. Chapman didn’t need to hear what she was saying. It had been bouncing around in his head since he had gotten up.

“One thousand nine hundred seventy-nine days.”

“Stop it!” he shouted. “Stop it! Stop counting!”

The woman turned toward him and grinned fiercely. “Not much longer now— just a few more days. Go on back now. Don’t want to draw suspicion.”

He crept out of the chamber like a dog that had been beaten. He didn’t go back to the south wing though, instead climbing the stone stairs until he found an alcove with a small opening to the outside world. Here he dropped to the ground and curled up into a ball and wept.


* * * * *


“That’s pretty,” said Senta. “Is that a sunset or a rainbow?”

She was walking down Contico Boulevard, hand in hand with her cousin Bertice. Mrs. Gantonin, who lived next door, had told Granny about a family whose boys had died and who were now giving away their clothes. With a house full of children, free clothes were not to be overlooked lightly.

“What are you talking about, you little bint?”

“Up there.” Senta pointed off to the right.

“Didn’t you learn that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west? That way is south. How could it be sunset? Besides, it’s only half past four. I’d still be at work if they hadn’t run out of number four thread.”

“A rainbow, then?”

“There’s no rainbow. There’s not been a drop of rain for a week. How could there be a rainbow. I don’t see anything at all.”

“Well, I see something. It’s swirly with red and yellow and blue and purple, like a storm that’s coming, only made out of colors.”

“You need to get your eyes fixed, you do,” said Bertice, giving her arm a yank.

Brechalon – Chapter Six Part Two

Brechalon (New Cover)“What do you suppose this is supposed to be?” asked Arthur McTeague.

“I suppose it was a city a long time ago,” replied Augie Dechantagne, with an emphasis on the second word.

The two lieutenants and the full platoon of soldiers were standing on a smooth surface of stone slabs that had been fitted together. There were steps here and there, breaking the area up into several terraces of varying heights. In a few places there were piles of stone that might have indicated that a wall had once stood there, but there were no buildings. On the far side of the clearing were a series of seven large stones. Each stood about eight feet tall and they were roughly oval in shape. At either end of the row were the remains of other similar stones that had once stood in the line, but had long ago crumbled, either from exposure to the elements or from ancient vandalism. Though those that remained were weathered and worn, one could see that each had been carved long ago to represent a dragon.

A loud squawk announced the arrival of eight or ten creatures that burst out of the trees and ran across the ancient stones. They were only slightly larger than the average chicken and were covered in hairy feathers, though their faces looked all too reptilian and their mouths were full of needle sharp teeth.

“Now, are those birds or dinosaurs?” asked McTeague.

Augie shrugged, but pulled out a book from his tunic.

“And what’s that?”

“That my friend is called a book. People, not artillery officers mind, but other people, sometimes read them.”

McTeague gave him a withering look. “What book is it, you great tosser?”

“It’s Colonel Mormont’s journal. My brother sent it to me.”

“Yes, I’ve heard of the chap. He was here in Birmisia a few years ago, right?”

Augie didn’t reply. He was busy flipping through the pages.

“What does he say about those little buggers?”

“Hold on a minute. I’m looking.”

McTeague folded his arms and waited. Several of the men were chasing the small creatures around the edge of the clearing.

“Here it is. Here it is. I knew I recognized them.” Augie held up the open page to a drawing that did indeed bear a strong resemblance to the creatures in question.

“Buitreraptors,” McTeague read. “Why do you suppose they all have to have such strange names?

“You know how these naturalist types are. Besides, if you just went with ‘chicken-lizard’ and ‘turkey lizard’ you’d soon run out of names. Face it. That’s really what they look like.”

A much louder squawk than those heard before announced to all the soldiers that something larger and more frightening than the skittish buitreraptors had arrived. A monster burst out of the brush and ran toward the tiny creatures. It was a bird lizard too, covered with feathers ranging from a deep turquoise on the head to a light green around the legs, but it didn’t fit Augie’s earlier nomenclature, if for no other reason than size. Its body was as large as the biggest horse, its head bobbing back and forth about seven feet above the ground, but it’s long, feathered tail stretched straight out behind it to make it more than twenty feet long. Though the puny wings would have made any attempt to fly laughable, the clawed fingers and the huge sickle-shaped clawed toes prevented any such jocularity.

The monster apparently had been stalking its tiny cousins through the woods, but now that it saw the human beings, it abruptly changed its targets. Why chase after a tiny morsel when a much juicier and slower prey could be had? It needed only to shift its weight and maintain the same stride to put it on its new trajectory. With a leap into the air that amazed everyone watching, the beast flew more than forty feet to land on top of Private Holloway, clawing him and bending down to give him a killing bite before anyone could react. A second later, the beast was peppered with more than twenty shots fired from all over the clearing.

“Kafira damn-it!” Augie shouted. “Color Sergeant!

“Sir.” Color Sergeant Bourne ran toward him and came to attention.

“Set up a perimeter watch. Make sure all the men have chambered rounds. And prepare a burial detail.” The Color Sergeant hurried off to his duties. Augie turned to McTeague. “Come on.”

The two lieutenants stepped over to the giant bird and Private Holloway. It was only too obvious that he was beyond hope. His head had been bitten half through, though his extremities twitched slightly.

“Nothing to be done,” said McTeague.

“Not for Holloway,” Augie agreed.