Noticing that Finkler’s Bakery was open, Senta started across the square toward it. She wasn’t hungry, having just finished tea, but was interested to see what service at Port Dechantagne’s first eating establishment looked like. Halfway there she suddenly stumbled, sprawling across the gravel, wet and muddy with melted snow and scratchy with rock salt and jagged pebbles. Looking toward her feet, she spied a large rock that had obviously been the cause of her tumble. But how could she have missed it? Looking toward the pfennig store, she saw Streck laughing heartily. Jumping to her feet, she aimed a spell at him.
“Uuthanum,” she said, and six or seven gallons of water appeared in the air above the Freedonian’s head, dousing him.
Senta could see him mouthing the magic word even though she couldn’t hear it. Her feet flew out from beneath her, plopping her onto her bottom in the wet gravel. She fired right back, causing the pfennig store door to fly open, smacking Streck in the back of the head. With a shout in Freedonian that was no doubt profane, he made half a dozen determined strides toward her before remembering himself and coming to a stop in the middle of the square.
“Why don’t you shoot a lightning bolt?” he called to her. “Or perhaps a fireball?”
“I don’t want to burn down Mr. Parnorsham’s store.”
He sneered, then raised both hands toward her and said. “Talik Uuthanum.”
It was the first magic above the most basic cantrip that Senta had seen him do, and because the spell was an unfamiliar one, she didn’t know what to expect.
“Prestus Uuthanum,” she said, throwing a shield up around herself. She felt the magic bounce off and she saw Streck’s eyes widen. She mentally flipped through the spells with which she could counter-attack, but she didn’t use any of them. She waited to see what he would do. He stared at her for a moment, and then turning on his heel, he strode swiftly from the Town Square.
“Too right,” she called after him. “And don’t come back.”
Brushing off her coat, Senta turned to see about twenty people watching her from in front of the bakery. Their expressions were not difficult to read. There was concern, curiosity, and yes there was definitely fear. Some turned and went about their business, but most continued to watch her as she slowly crossed the square toward them.
“How’s the food?” she asked, when she was just a few steps away.
“It is of course, excellent,” said Aalwijn Finkler, stepping forward from the back of the group. “Would you like me to wrap up a couple of sandwiches and some soup for you to take home for dinner?”
“Um, I don’t have any money.”
“I will be happy to extend you credit.”
Senta waited outside the bakery, half watching to see if Streck would return. By the time Aalwijn came out with a small box loaded with wrapped packages of food, most of the gawkers were gone.
“I added a nice large piece of strudel—my gift for anyone who fights the Reine Zauberei.”
“So you know about them, eh?”
“There has been much talk of them and of him, among the Zaeri colonists.”
“Well, don’t get your corset in a twist. He’s just a wanker.”