Taddeus Vever was one of those characters who grow naturally out of the writing process. Writing the story of The Voyage of the Minotaur, I mentioned Mr. Vever as someone who was a jeweler and had jewelry parts. I was then able to use the character in The Dark and Forbidding Land, when Terrence needed a ring for Yuah. Finally, I was looking for characters to make the great journey with Senta and crew in The Two Dragons, and I added him into the mix. Here is Mr. Vever and the others on that trip.
Radley Staff stopped to look back at the line of people following him and make sure that there were no stragglers. The formation remained tight, which was a miracle considering the diversity of the party members. Behind Staff was Amoz Croffut, a veteran soldier only recently retired from the militia, or the Colonial Guard as it was now officially known. He had already proven more than once on this trip that he could spot danger. Third was Senta, the tall, thin, blond, seventeen year old sorceress. Next came Taddeus Vever, sweating and puffing as he marched along on his short legs. Vever was a jeweler by trade, a sedentary job that gave him little time to exercise, so he was horribly out of shape. He didn’t complain though. Unlike Paxton Brown, who followed closely behind Vever and whose constant protests had long since worn thin. The man was supposed to be a scholar of lizzie behavior, and Staff had chosen him over several other naturalists for that reason. Now he was beginning to regret his decision. Behind him was the husband and wife duo of engineers, Ivo and Femke Kane. They looked at each other and smiled, apparently enjoying Brown’s discomfort. They were followed by Isaak Wissinger the writer. Arriving from Freedonia two years before to join relatives, Wissinger had already published several well-known works of fiction and non-fiction. He was on this journey for his keen ear and understanding of language, though he spoke the hissing tongue of the lizzies less well than some of the others. He was followed by Lawrence Bratihn, the head of trade for Birmisia Colony, as well as the only person in Port Dechantagne besides Senta who had been in a lizzie city before. Occupying the tenth spot in line was Edin Buttermore. Buttermore was in much better shape than he had been when he arrived in Mallon. Now though, he was struggling under a pack filled with a good seventy pounds of photographic equipment. Pulling up the rear were Bertrand Werthimer and Woodrow Manring. Both were accomplished soldiers, though they like Croffut and Bratihn for that matter, no longer wore uniforms. All members of the party, excepting only Senta, wore khaki shirt and khaki trousers tucked into high boots. Senta wore black leather pants and a black and red leather corset that left her shoulders covered only by her long blond hair.
Staff let Croffut pass him and took up a spot beside the girl.
“I should have had you change into your khakis.”
“I didn’t bring any. Zurfina packed for me.”
“Black is too hot for a journey.”
“Do I look hot?”
“No. You look remarkably comfortable. But there is the question of camouflage. You stand out.”
“I’m supposed to stand out.”
“All right. Are your spells ready?”
She grinned at him. “You’ve worked with wizards in the navy, eh?”
“I’m not a wizard. My spells are always ready.”
“Potent too, from what I understand. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve actually seen you do magic.”
“How is married life?” she asked, changing the subject. “I would think it would be hard being married to the governor.”
“It’s good. It’s a bit like being in the navy. If you don’t mind taking orders, it’s a good life.”
“Say there, Senta,” said Vever catching up to the other two. “Is it magic that you’re not exhausted like I am?”
“Yes, it’s magic,” replied Staff. “It’s the magic of youth. She has twice the energy that either of us has and half as much idea what to do with it.”
“It’s a shame,” said Vever, though he didn’t complete the proverb. “That youth is wasted on the young.”
“Would you like me to carry your pack for a while, Mr. Vever?” asked Senta.
“I would never allow a young lady…”
She patted Vever, who was a foot shorter than she was, twice on the top of his head and then grabbed the pack by one of the loops on the back and lifted it off his shoulders. Pointing downward and swirling around her index finger, she said “Uuthanum Izesic.” She tossed the backpack into the air just above where she had pointed, and it plopped onto an invisible surface, three feet above the ground. Senta smiled and continued on, following Croffut who was none the wiser. The backpack and whatever transparent thing supported it followed five feet behind her.
Staff and Vever stopped walking and wondered at the hovering object. As they stood thus amazed, Paxton Brown rushed past them. Catching up with the invisible transport, he flung his own pack on top of Vever’s. Now both haversacks followed along in the air behind the girl.
“Do you think I could..?” asked Buttermore, puffing up beside them.
Staff turned to see that the entire column, besides Senta, Croffut, and Brown were bunched up around him. He shrugged. They hurried to catch up to the sorceress and one by one began placing their backpacks on what Staff began to think of as the invisible wagon. By trial, they eventually determined that it was a disk about three feet in diameter. They were only able to get seven packs to stay on it, and then only by balancing them one on the other in a three-story pyramid. In the end, they were so distracted by the game that they scarcely noticed the miles that had passed, and even Brown’s complaining had ceased.
An angry screech brought their attention back to their surroundings. Hopping down the sloping landscape from their right was a pack of frightening beasts. Staff didn’t quite know whether most of the animals in Mallon belonged in the dinosaur family or the bird family, and these did little to unmuddy the question. They were fifteen to twenty feet long, slightly larger than the utahraptors seen near Port Dechantagne. From their shoulders back, they were covered with brilliant crimson feathers with a dash of black on the tufts of their tails. Their heads were feathered in black. They had large lizard-like mouths filled with knife-like teeth. Eight of the creatures ran, in little fits and starts, toward the line of humans.
The stock of Staff’s rifle was at his shoulder before he realized he had slipped it over his arm. He aimed at the first creature’s head and fired. The .30 caliber bullet exploded out the back of its skull. The spent cartridge clanged onto a large rock at his feet and he targeted a second charging animal. But the first one didn’t fall down. It kept running, going right past him and continuing down the slope for several hundred more feet, its legs no longer directed by its brain, but continuing to kick anyway. His second target he shot twice, once in the neck and once in the chest. He heard a couple of shots fired by the others, but by this time the entire pack was upon them.
Staff didn’t let the sounds of battle distract him. He fired quickly at a third and fourth beast. He heard Vever’s voice shouting over the others and he heard Brown screaming. The crack of rifle fire was suddenly overpowered by an even louder crack as a tremendous bolt of lightning shot horizontally across the hillside. Staff fired one more time, but the crimson-plumed monster in his sights was already dead—killed by the lightning. Looking around he saw it was the last one.
“Surgeon!” yelled Werthimer, out of habit, as he jumped toward the prone form of Mr. Brown.
Staff picked his way through the large feathered bodies to where the man lay. A quick examination revealed however that he was unharmed. He had apparently fainted from sheer terror. The only one injured was Manring, who had dived out of the way of the vicious claws, but not quite quickly enough, and had sustained a horrible gash across his forearm. Staff quickly drew a healing draught from his pack and poured half of the contents of the small brown bottle onto the cut and had Manring drink the remaining potion. Within seconds the bleeding had stopped and the injury had already begun to heal.
“Thank heavens for magic,” said Mr. Vever.