When I wrote The Drache Girl and The Two Dragons, Cissy the lizzie had a small but important part. So when I went back and wrote The Dark and Forbidding Land as a prequel, I couldn’t resist the chance to write a big part for her from her point of view. I did the same with Brechalon and The Young Sorceress.
Here Yuah and Cissy have a confrontation with each other after the woman finds out that the lizzie has been learning to read.
The woman led the way around the side of the house and through the still dead-looking garden. At the far side of the backyard was a gate which opened into an alleyway that made up the middle of the block between the Dechantagne house and the empty lots behind it that would someday host large stately homes. Turning right, Yuah walked through the alleyway. It was not covered with gravel as were the surrounding streets, but was mostly covered with dead grass and a few patches of dirty snow, with a meandering footpath roughly in the middle. At the end of the block, she turned west down Acorn Street. Glancing quickly behind her, she saw that Cissy was following at a distance of three paces. She stopped and pointed to a spot on the ground just to her left. The reptilian quickly moved to the spot by her side.
“You will stay close by me to help discourage velociraptors.”
Yuah took a step and then another, but did not return to the quick stride she had been taking earlier. She lazily strolled from step to step. From the corner of her eye, she could see Cissy’s great greenish bulk beside her.
“So,” she said slowly, and then burst out. “Who has been teaching you to read?”
“Hy you hant to know?”
“Don’t you sass me!” Yuah turned quickly to look into the round yellow eyes. “You are my servant. You live in my house. Answer me, damn it!”
“He say not tell,” said the lizzie, very quietly.
Yuah just stared into the yellow eyes.
Yuah stared, her mouth falling open again.
“You liar,” she said quietly. “How dare you lie right to my face like that?”
“Cissy not lie. Terrence teach to read. He say not tell.”
“Why would he do that? He hates you lot. He hates all of you.”
Cissy shrugged. “Cissy look at…” She made an opening book hand gesture. “Cissy try to read. Terrence find her. He give testasstilas chogghua tostisthiss…”
“Stop, stop. I don’t understand. I know a few lizzie words, but… testarosa?”
“Testasstilas… He… teach.”
Cissy shrugged again.
“Why teach a lizzie who can’t even say ‘book.’ You can’t say ‘book’ can you?”
“I say ‘took,” said the lizzie, suddenly straitening up. “I say took. I read took. I read Holy Scritures.”
Cissy seemed to have grown twice her original size and Yuah shrank back, glancing down at the long claws on each hand. The reptilian followed her gaze and then returned it back to the woman’s eyes. She leaned backwards away from Yuah, but didn’t return to her hunkered down smallness.
“I do not know why Terrence teach reading,” Cissy said, carefully enunciating each word. “Terrence haff own reason. He not do anyone say. He do he say. No else.”
“Yes, well that is certainly true. He does what he wants and to the devil with what anyone thinks. He always did, even before his mother died. But still, I can’t imagine… He didn’t give you the scriptures to study, did he? I think he’s secretly an atheist, though he denies it.”
“No. I see ladies reading Scritchers. I read.”
“Surely you can’t find any real interest in them. They are stories of people and places long ago in the human world. What are they to you?”
“It is the whord of God.”
“Yes, but not your God—not the lizzie’s God.”
“I think hoonan God is God,” said Cissy. “Lizzie gods not create lizzies. How hoonans here? How lizzies here? How trees here? How anything here?”
Yuah stood thinking for just a moment.
“I’m not saying you’re wrong,” she said at last. “I don’t know enough to say one way or another. I wish we had an Imam that we could go ask, or even a Kafirite Priest for that matter.”
“I not see you read Scritchers. I see you read other tooks.”
“I should be reading them. Maybe that’s why I’m not… maybe that’s why some things aren’t turning out the way that I want them to. I read them a great deal when I was young. I had to. I had to be able to recite the names of the Scriptures by rote.”
Cissy tilted her head to one side, clearly unable to follow all the words the woman was saying.
“I had to learn them,” said Yuah.
“You know all Scritchers?”
“Oh yes, I can name them all. Listen carefully.” She took a deep breath, and in very quick succession she listed. “Creation, Odyssey, Discovery, Old Prophets, Stars, Laws, Kings, Writings of Nom, Letter of Nom, Middle Prophets…” She stopped. “See? And that’s only the beginning. You know I can name the Kafirite part of the scriptures too. Master Akalos made sure I could recite them. He was our tutor. Well, he was the Dechantagne tutor really.”
“Yes, well you see, the ones I just listed are the first part of the Grand Scriptures. They along with the Magnificent Law make up the Zaeri Holy Book. The Kafirites have thrown out the Magnificent Law, but they have another whole set of scriptures that they call the Modest Scriptures. So their book has the Grand Scriptures and these Modest Scriptures, which if you ask me have very little modesty in them.”
“You teach Cissy Scritchers?” asked the lizzie.
“No. I don’t think so,” replied Yuah, shaking her head. “I am not Terrence. I most assuredly do care what other people think of me—I suppose I shouldn’t, now that I’m a Dechantagne, but I do. And teaching a lizzie? I just don’t know what people would make of that.”