The Two Dragons – Taddeus Vever

The Two Dragons (New Cover)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?”

“Yes.”

“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.

The Two Dragons– Hissussisthiss the Green Dragon

The Two Dragons (New Cover)Hissussisthiss is a character in Senta and the Steel Dragon, who I haven’t spoken much about.  This seems particularly unfair as he is one of the two title characters in The Two Dragons (although there are actually three dragons in the story).  Hissussisthiss is a dragon as I envision them to be– intelligent, powerful, almost indestructible, worshipped as a god.  Here is a scene from the two dragons in which Senta has a close encounter with the green dragon.

Stopping to rest just after noon, the party had exhausted all of the food that they had carried with them, but Senta had a secret cache that she had been saving for just such an emergency.  Pulling out nine tins of peaches in heavy syrup and nine tins of rooster in wine, she passed one of each to the other members of the party.  They had almost finished eating when a great kafuffle on the plain drew all of their attentions.

A great herd of monstrous paralititans had been making its way through the grasslands, walking roughly parallel to the humans.  More than thirty individuals strong, ranging in size from eight ton youngsters to a massive matriarch bigger than most buildings in Port Dechantagne, they had little to fear even from the tyrannosauruses which stalked along behind them.  Only Mr. Vever observed all of the action, because only he happened to be turned in that direction at just the right moment.  The giant form of the dragon Hissussisthiss fell out of the sky like a meteor, landing right on one of the largest paralititans—a ninety ton dinosaur that was overall about the same size as the dragon.  Though the sheer force of impact might well have done the job, the dragon with one swift movement, bit through the long serpentine neck, decapitating its prey.

Paralititans ran in every direction, sending all manner of smaller dinosaurs stampeding out of their way.  Only the tyrannosauruses, their scarred red heads an ugly contrast to their black bodies, stayed where they were.  Slowly circling, they waited for any scraps that might be left over by the much larger dragon.  The nine members of the party ducked down as quickly as they could and scurried to the tree line, hoping that they would not be seen.  But it was not to be.

Hissussisthiss, his metallic scales reflecting their green sheen, took a bite of the dinosaur carcass and looked right toward them.

“I know you are there.”  His voice was like rolling thunder.  He bit off an entire shoulder of the paralititan and chewed the meat, bones, and blubber.  A spray of arterial blood showed that the dinosaur’s heart had not realized that its owner’s head at least was dead.  “Come out and chat with me while I eat.”

Staff looked around at the others as if to make sure that none were inclined to accept the dragon’s invitation.  None of them were.

“I was not pleased with the magic you used in my city, Sorceress.”  Hissussisthiss took another bite.  Blood ran down his chin.  “It makes my skin crawl.”

“I thought dragons were magical,” whispered Femke Kane.

Senta nodded, but didn’t look away from the scene on the savannah.

“The Freedonians have showed me a great deal in the past few weeks—machine guns, artillery, poison gas.  You humans have come up with ways to kill that would even have amazed Setemenothiss the black dragon, god of war… were he still alive.  The Freedonians have magic too.   But none of them are a match for you or the other one.”

One of the tyrannosauruses darted in to grab a bite of Hissussisthiss’s meal while he was distracted.  Without looking, indeed without pausing at all, the dragon flicked his tail, crushing the skull of the frightening predator.  The Brechs watched as the green monster tucked in and gobbled down mouthful after mouthful of dinosaur meat, until within only a few minutes, there was nothing at all to be seen poking above the grass at all except for a single gigantic rib bone.

“I’m still hungry,” said Hissussisthiss, and then gestured toward the tyrannosaurus.  “I’m not eating that though.  I have my standards.”

With a quick hop he closed about half the distance between his landing spot and the hiding place of the humans.  His already frightening appearance was enhanced by the smears of blood across his face and neck.  The remaining tyrannosauruses dived upon their fallen fellow but the dragon paid no mind.

“What do you taste like?  I have to admit I’ve been wondering since I met that Korlann fellow.  You might be so small I wouldn’t even be able to taste you, but then there are a bunch of you.  What do you think, Sorceress?  Do you have enough magic to protect yourself, or have you used it all up?”

“Why don’t you come and find out!” shouted Senta suddenly.

Staff rolled his eyes, then grabbing the girl by the shoulder pulled her away into the forest.  The others ran after them.  Hissussisthiss roared and suddenly the entire area was one great conflagration of burning trees, burning brush, and burning grass.  Even the air seemed to ignite in places.

50% Off Books for Read an Ebook Week

March 2-8 is Read an Ebook Week and during this week you can get the following books at 50% off– only at Smashwords.  Follow the links and use the coupon code REW50.

The Dark and Forbidding Land

The Dark and Forbidding Land

The Drache Girl

The Drache Girl

Blood Trade

Blood Trade

The Young Sorceress

The Young Sorceress

The Two Dragons

The Two Dragons (New Cover)

The Two Dragons– Smedley Bassington

The Two Dragons (New Cover)Smedley Bassington is a character that appears in Senta and the Steel Dragon.  He originally appeared in book 3: The Drache Girl.  I expanded his story a bit and added him to book 0: Brechalon.  Bassington is a wizard for the Brech War Ministry.  He’s shown himself to be devoted to their service, even when it conflicts with his own life, or the life of a loved one.  Here he is with Senta in The Two Dragons.

Café Etta was one of two new eating establishments opened by Aalwijn Finkler as an expansion of the bakery business that he had inherited from his now retired mother.  It sat on the corner of the Boulevard and Forest Avenue, and featured a large awning-covered outdoor dining area.  There was a queue of patrons waiting to be seated, though the maitre d’ ushered Senta and her guest inside first and no one waiting complained.  Once seated on finely crafted wrought iron chairs from Mirsanna, they ordered the house specialty and got down to business.

“Zurfina wants to stay away from service to the King, but she can’t anymore,” said Bassington.  “War is coming.  It’s going to come to Brechalon and it’s going to come to Birmisia as well.”

“We’re on the other side of the world from Greater Brechalon,” replied Senta.  “And from Freedonia.”

“So you’re not completely ignorant of what’s going on.”

“I know that Brechalon and Freedonia have broken off diplomatic relations.  It’s in the papers.  And I’ve dealt with Freedonian wizards before.”

“I’m only too aware of that,” said Bassington.  “Who do you think kept you out of prison?  You didn’t think it was Zurfina, did you?  What’s not in the papers is that Freedonia has ten million men under arms—the largest army assembled in the history of the world.”

“Brechalon has you though.  You’re the Great Wizard Bassington.  Just how good a wizard are you anyway?  You can’t be all that if you get yourself tied up in a barn.”

“I’m a third level Master Wizard,” said Bassington, waving his hand and lowering his eyes in what, Senta was sure, was false modesty.  “I do quite well.  But there is nobody on the planet today with Zurfina’s power.  That’s why she’s needed.  You’re needed too.  Don’t think that Freedonia doesn’t have plenty more wizards of its own.  It has many of them, and magical weapons too.  When war comes, it will involve the whole world.”

“Zurfina says that she and I don’t have to worry about countries and kings.  And I don’t think she has to worry about any wizard.”

“What about Suvir Kesi?”

“He was a bug,” sneered Senta.  “He got lucky.”

“Lucky or not, he could have killed her… and you.”

“Zurfina won’t let her guard down again.”

“You may be right, but what about other people?  Do you know what they’re doing to the Zaeri in Freedonia?”

“Yes, Mr. Wissinger, the writer, told me about the ghettos.  But the Zaeri are mistreated everywhere.  They are mistreated in Brechalon.”

“In Freedonia, they are being rounded up and put in cages—far worse than the ghettos.  All their possessions are taken away and sold.  They are worked to death in labor camps.”

“Well what is Zurfina supposed to do about that?” wondered Senta.  “What am I supposed to do about it?”

“Get ready.  The governor of Birmisia is sending an expedition to Tsahloose to establish trade relations.  They won’t be able to.  The Freedonians already have a foothold there.  Go with the expedition and see for yourself.  While you are there, if you find out anything interesting about Freedonian forces in Mallon, give that information to the governor.  She’ll contact me.”

“What makes you think Zurfina will let me go three hundred miles into dangerous territory, to a lizzie city?”

“Ask her.  If she says no, don’t go.”  Bassington smiled slyly.  “Do you think she’ll say no?”

Senta pursed her lips.  “Probably not.”

The waiter brought their food just as the sun was going down below the tall redwoods and another waiter was lighting the gas lights strung along the edges of the awning that covered the diners.  The wizard and the sorceress faced two great platters of pork chops with brown pudding, green beans, polenta, boiled potatoes, sliced tomatoes, and the course, dark bread for which the Finkler family was famous.  Senta picked at her food a bit, but Bassington dived in.

Senta leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms.  “You said you would answer any questions I had.”

“That’s right,” he said, carving his pork chop.

The Two Dragons– Iolana Staff

The Two Dragons (New Cover)Iolana Staff is one of the characters in Senta and the Steel Dragon.  In book 5, The Two Dragons, she is just a child of 7.  It’s particularly fun for me to look back at her, as I’ve just finished writing an 11 year old Iolana in The Sorceress and her Lovers.  This is a pretty typical domestic scene in the Staff home.

“Augie and Terra are with their grandmother again today.”  A strange look passed over Mrs. Colbshallow’s face.  It was a combination of impish humor that Egeria Korlann, barely thirty-five and looking twenty-five should be called a grandmother, and discomfort that she herself at fifty-two did not yet warrant the title.  “Iolana is in the library, I believe.”

“She didn’t want to go?”

“I’m sure she was invited.  I think she wanted to stay home and read her book.”

“That girl reads too much,” opined Iolanthe.  “I don’t remember reading at all when I was eight years old.”

“She reminds me of Master Terrence when he was a boy.”

“Yes, well…”  Iolanthe untied the ribbon below her chin and took off her hat.  She handed it to Skye, who had just walked in, then turned to Ursal.  “You’re staying for dinner?”

“Thank you.  I will accept your invitation.”

Sweeping through the kitchen and down the hallway, Iolanthe made her way to the library.  Sure enough, Iolana was sitting in the overstuffed chair that her uncle had so often occupied.  Her feet were propped up on the antique tuffet and a massive book was splayed across her lap.

“Good afternoon, Iolana.”

The head of thick blond hair rocked back revealing the bow-shaped mouth, small freckled nose and striking aquamarine eyes.  Those eyes darted to the cuckoo clock on the wall and then back.

“Good afternoon, Mother.”

“How long have you been in here reading?” asked Iolanthe, stepping across the floor as a hunter approaches a doe.

“About three hours.”

“You shouldn’t read so much.  You should go upstairs and paint.”

“I don’t like to paint.”

“Why didn’t you go to Egeria’s?”  Iolanthe cupped the girl’s chin and tilted it up toward her face.  “You could have played her piano.”

“I wanted to read my book.”

“What is it that has you so engrossed?”

“It’s called “Steam”.

“Garstone?  In this house?”  She lifted the heavy volume out of the girl’s lap and turned to the inside cover.  In a careful scrawl across the page, was the barely legible signature of Kasia Garstone.  The corner of a white paper stuck out of the flap of the book jacket.  She pulled it out and found it was a receipt.  “Breeding Booksellers Limited.  Second of Hamonth, 1902.  Terrence Dechantagne.  Signed Garstone first edition.  Four thousand one hundred twenty-five marks!”

She sat the book down on her daughter’s knee.  “Is it any good?”

“Oh yes.”

“Have you given any thought to your party?”

“Um… not really.”

“Have you at least thought of a theme?” wondered Iolanthe.

“I thought maybe… goodbye to summer?”

“It’s three months till fall.  How about Accord Day?  That will give you almost a month.”

“Can we have fireworks?”

“There won’t be time to order any from Brech, but I’m sure we can find some, if not in town, then in Mallontah.”  Iolanthe cupped the girl’s chin again.  “I want a guest list tomorrow.  We’ll need to send it to the stationer by the end of the week.  And talk to Auntie Yadira about the food.  I’ve already spoken to Mr. Ghent about the music.”

“Yes Mother.”

“And thank you Mother,” prompted Iolanthe.

“Thank you Mother.”

“Don’t be late for dinner.”

“I won’t Mother.”

The Two Dragons– Radley Staff

The Two Dragons (New Cover)Radley Staff is a character in Senta and the Steel Dragon.  In book 5 of the series, The Two Dragons, he has a big part to play, as he leads an expedition, including Senta, to the distant lizardman city-state of Tsahloose.  This is one small part of that journey.

The landscape had changed as the altitude increased.  Thick forests of redwood, maple, and aspens had given way to stunted cedar trees and large bushes sticking out from between massive and strangely square boulders stacked in odd piles here and there as though a giant had set them up like blocks and then kicked them over.  The twelve members of the expedition moved easily enough on foot through the uneven terrain.  Unlike the plains they had passed through the day before, which had been filled with great herds of horned triceratops, giant sauropods, and packs of vicious dinosaur predators, here there seemed to be little animal life.  A single telmatosaurus, full grown but only fifteen feet long, wandered between bushes munching on conifer needles.  Several long-nosed white-furred opossums were startled from their hiding places as the column of men and women passed by.  A squat-bodied furry creature halfway between a bear and a dog barked at them from the top of a rock and then ran over the hill and out of site.

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?”

“Yes.”

“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.”

The Two Dragons — Hero and Hertzal

The Two Dragons (New Cover)Hero and Hertzal Hertling are twins, characters in Senta and the Steel Dragon.  Hero is seen more often in the series than her brother, and definitely is heard more often since he doesn’t speak.  They make great supporting characters for Senta and collectively make up the “best friend” between her and Graham.  In chapter four of The Two Dragons Senta, Hero, and Hertzal visit the victims of a shipwreck.

The S.S. Arrow left port only hours after the captain learned of the wrecked ship.  The Ebon Forest unloaded its passengers and the shipwreck survivors that it had rescued, then refilled its coal hoppers and set out again the following morning to aid in the search.  On board was an emergency team consisting of a doctor, several clerics, and two dozen volunteers.  Mr. Radley Staff, who had planned and organized the team for just such an emergency, was in overall command of the rescue efforts.  As the massive black ship slid across the calm waters of the bay, he could be seen standing on the deck.  Next to him, dwarfing him, was the steel dragon, with gleaming scales reflecting the early summer morning sun.

Senta unhappily watched the ship going.  Bessemer had only arrived home the day before and now he was already leaving.  Though they had stayed up the entire night talking, the dragon had not had time enough to relay all of his adventures.  The girl had certainly not had time enough to tell him about hers.  It had been an unhappy few months, as it always was when she was separated from her steel-colored friend.  She would have been on the ship with him if not for the fact that Zurfina, who seldom seemed to care what she did, had expressly forbidden her from doing so.  Senta wondered about this as she idly rubbed her lower back where the dragon tattoo had appeared.  Bessemer had agreed that it looked like him, though not as he was now.  It was an image of him when he was not much bigger than a cat.

Senta heard her name called and turned to see Hero and her twin brother Hertzal running toward her.

“What are you guys doing here?”

“We’re with Honor, helping out at the governor’s warehouse,” said Hero.  “We saw you over here and Hertzal wanted to say hello.”

Hertzal, who had never spoken a word as long as Senta had known him, raised his hand in a friendly wave.

“Hey Hertzal.  You’re not working today?”

Hertzal shrugged, which Senta translated in her head to, “I was going to, but the ship I was to work on went back out to sea.”

“So what’s going on in the governor’s warehouse then?”

“That’s where they have the people from the shipwreck.  They’re getting everyone identified and finding places for them.  That’s not easy when they arrived at the same time as four thousand people from Freedonia.”

“I suspect they’re getting special treatment because they’re Kafirites, don’t you?” Senta said, voicing an opinion that would never have come out of the mouths of the twins, regardless of whether it had residence in their heads.

“They’ve been through an awful hardship,” said Hero.  “Honor brought tea and cakes for them.”

“Your sister is pretty special,” said Senta.  “You would think that Aalwijn Finkler would have brought some tea and cakes.  He owns three cafes.”

The twins turned to look behind them and watched as Aalwijn Finkler in a fine new grey suit walked into the warehouse.  He carried nothing with him.  The three young people looked at each other and then walked down the short block to enter the building after the restaurateur.  The large warehouse was filled with cots, though none were at present occupied by people.  Rather people wandered around the room in groups and pairs, those obviously from the ship making connection with those obviously from the colony.  Aalwijn was speaking to a handsome man of middle height with a slight paunch in his stomach not quite covered up by a nice black pinstriped suit, now that it was wrinkled from long exposure to seawater.  He had thinning blond hair and a happy though tired face.

“Here come some of your future diners now,” said Aalwijn.  “This is my new chef come all the way from Greater Brechalon.”

“How do you do?”  The man held out his left hand to Hertzal, and both girls could see that this was because he had no right arm below the elbow.

“Kafira’s tit!” shouted Senta, causing dozens of people around her to stare, open-mouthed.  “I know you!  You used to work at Café Carlo.”

“Yes.  I did.”

“You’re Gyula.  You were a line cook.”

“That’s right, Gyula Kearn.  Do I know you?”

“I’m Senta.”

Gyula looked no more enlightened than he had been a moment before.

“I used to sweep the sidewalk and polish the brass dragon.”

“Oh yes, Carlo always had the local children doing odd jobs.  It was his way of helping out, Kafira bless him.  We had quite a few kids in and out of the café over the course of the years.  I’m afraid I don’t remember any of them very well.  They just sort of blend together in my memory.”

“You used to make me a sandwich, when Carlo said it was okay.”  Senta’s voice sounded abnormally high in her own ears.

“That I did.  Carlo had a soft spot for children, though he didn’t let it show.  He would always have me load them up with food.  I suppose that’s why he had me working there too.  Who else would have hired a one-handed line cook?”

“Well, I hired a one-handed chef, and I expect great things from him,” said Aalwijn.  “And I dare say if you don’t remember Senta now, you will soon not be able to forget her.”

Senta was feeling something she hadn’t felt in a long time.  What was it exactly?  Chagrin?  Few people whom Senta saw didn’t already know who she was, and those that did, like Oswald Delks had heard of her.  That someone she had met would not remember her—that just didn’t happen.  It was inconceivable.  Whatever the feeling was that Senta felt, it was about to be turned on its end.

“Senta?”

The young sorceress turned around to face a young man and a teen-aged boy standing side by side and staring at her with large eyes.  In a split second, she subconsciously registered a few bits of information—the similarity that the man and boy had to each other and the similarity they had to the image she saw each day in the mirror.  Before her brain had made much of this information though, both had grabbed hold of her and pulled her into a three-way hug.

“I can’t believe it’s you Senta.”

“Who would have thought we’d find you in Birmisia?”

“Geert?  Maro?”

“Of course it’s us.”  They pulled away and Senta could clearly make out the features of the twelve year old and eight year old boys that had been her cousins, in the faces of the twenty year old man and the sixteen year old teenager.

“How long have you been here?” asked Geert.

“Eight years.”

“You’re kidding?  You look great.”

The Two Dragons– Graham Dokkins

The Two Dragons (New Cover)Graham Dokkins is a major character in Senta and the Steel Dragon.  He plays a smaller but nevertheless very important role in The Two Dragons than in previous books.  Here Graham pays the price for having ignored his girlfriend when she wanted him.

“Come in,” called Senta in response to the loud banging on the front door.

“St. Ulixes has been invaded!” Graham shouted as he burst in.

“Go back outside and come in again properly.”

“What?”

“Go back outside and come in again properly.  This is my home.  Show some respect.”

“Come on!”

She raised her eyebrow.

“Fine.”

He went back outside and closed the door after him.

“How long are you going to make him suffer,” wondered Hero Hertling.

“Until he learns to come when he’s called,” replied Senta as Graham once again knocked.

“Maybe he was helping Gaylene with her new baby.”

“No, he was playing around down at City Hall,” replied Senta.  Then she said, “Come in.”

Graham opened the door and stepped in.  He took a deep breath and smiled.

“Good day ladies.”

“Good day sir,” said Senta.

“Hey Graham,” said Hero.

“I, um… have some news.”

“What is it?”

“St. Ulixes has been invaded!”  His self-control gave way like a dam bursting.  “The Freedonians attacked it with a full brigade of infantry and steam powered war machines.  They used their airships to drop bombs.  It’s only a matter of time till they’ve completely taken over Mallontah.  Then they have a straight shot on the train directly toward us.  The whole city is going crazy over the news.”

“That is exciting news,” said Senta, though she didn’t seem excited at all.

“What are we going to do?” asked Hero, who looked not only excited but terrified as well.

“General Staff has ordered all the Colonial Guard out to Iguanodon Heath so they can be ready.  The volunteers are going to start training at the guard base tomorrow.”

“Did you sign up?” asked Senta.  “I won’t associate with a dastard.”

“I can’t,” Graham replied, with a frown.  “I have to supervise the lizzie crews.  We’re going out tomorrow to dig trenches and build an observation tower.”

“As long as you’re doing your part.”

“Is Hertzal going with you?” asked Hero.

“Of course he is.”

“Well, enough of worldly matters,” said Senta.  “Do you have my present?”

“I do.” Graham reached into his trouser pocket.

“It’s not your birthday,” observed Hero.  Senta just smiled at her.

“Um, I have to give her a present every day for seven days,” said Graham, pulling out a tiny box.  “This is number six.”

He handed the tiny box to Senta, who opened it and withdrew a small bejeweled key on a silver chain.

“It’s a skeleton key, so it opens all kinds of locks,” said Graham.  “But the really brilliant part is that the handle is a magnifying lens.”

“Well… I don’t know…” said Senta.

“Oh come on!  It’s the best one yet.”

“What other gifts has he given you?” wondered Hero.

“I gave her a fan, a kaleidoscope, and some gloves…”

“And a silver page marker,” finished Senta.

“Ooh, nice,” approved Hero, who appreciated book-related gifts above any others.

“All right, I think I like it.”  Senta fastened the chain behind her neck, so that the key lay across her chest right next to the silver dragon that Graham had given her several years before.

The Two Dragons– Saba Colbshallow

The Two Dragons (New Cover)Saba Colbshallow is one of the major characters in Senta and the Steel Dragon.  In book 5, The Two Dragons, Saba serves as the police inspector of Port Dechantagne.  Saba is a character who always seems to have more growing to do.  He has gone in the series from a kid to a constable, and finally to police inspector.  This trend continues in the forthcoming The Sorceress and her Lovers.

This scene from The Two Dragons shows us Saba in his everyday role as a leader on the police force.

The police station was almost four years old now.  It had been constructed on what was at the time the edge of town, just east of the railroad yard.  Now it was in the heart of the new business district and a short walk to the brand new rows of brownstone apartments or Lizzietown, depending on which direction you went.  Made of sharp red brick, with white stonework at the corners and above the windows and doors, it was a square five-story building.  On the arch above the door was carved in large letters “POLICE” and just below it, the police motto “punishment follows swift on guilt.”

The police sergeant on duty was not Eamon Shrubb, but Richard Butler who had just come on duty and was handing out assignments to six PCs in their bright blue uniforms with shiny brass buttons.

“You’re in early this morning, Inspector.”

“Anything exciting happening?” asked Saba.

“Nothing on the night blotter.  I’m just sending the lads out.  Are there any areas you would like them to keep an eye on?”

“Just the usual—the docks, Lizzietown.”

“Right.  Did you know that Tabby Chesterton is in the holding cell?”

“No.  When did that happen?”

“She came in yesterday about dinner time, I’m told.”

“She’s not here for soliciting?” asked Saba.

“No.  I understand she poked her husband on the noggin with a frying pan.”

“He’s not dead is he?”

“I don’t think he’s badly hurt.”

“Toss me the key then.”

Butler threw a six-inch ring with a dozen large steel keys upon it to Saba, who caught it in the air.  Then he stepped into the elevator, just past the sergeant’s station and closed the cage after him.  Turning the lever, he sent the elevator car downward to the basement where the holding cells were located.  In the first cell, he found the former Miss Malloy sitting on the cot, wearing a blood-spattered brown frock dress, her brilliant red hair a disheveled mess.

“So what happened, Tabby?”

“That no good husband of mine came home pissed again.”

“So you clubbed him?”

“I just gave him a love tap.  Am I going to have to go before the Justice of the Peace?”

Saba placed the key in the lock and turned, then opened the door wide.  “What’s the point in having a friend on the police force then?”

Tabby stood up and walked out of the cell.  She stopped in front of Saba and leaned close to him, pressing her palm against his right cheek.

“I can think of several ways that I could express my appreciation,” she said.

“You’re a married woman now, and I am a married man.”

“Aye.  And your wife is just lovely too.  You made a good match.”

“Maybe.  But speaking of matches.  Are you going to have any trouble at home?  I could come along and give him a talking to.”

“No.  He’ll forgive me for clocking him.  And it’s not as if he beats me.  He just likes to come home ass over tit on payday.”

“So why did you marry him?”

She gave him a sweet smile.  “How often do you suppose I’d been asked?  It wasn’t as if I was an unplucked flower.”

“That doesn’t mean you don’t get to be happy, does it?”

“I’m happy enough,” she said, sounding as though she meant it.

“Come on.  I’ll walk you up.”  Saba led her into the elevator and pulled the lever, taking them to the ground floor.  He opened the elevator door and escorted her out.

“Be careful with the frying pan,” he told her.  “You might accidentally kill him.”

She smiled at him.  “Have a lovely day, lad.”

When Saba turned around, he saw several of the PCs watching him.  He raised an eyebrow and they conspicuously found things to do.  Tossing the keys back to Sergeant Butler, he stepped back into the elevator and pushed the lever to the other side, taking the car and himself up to the second floor, where his office was located.

The Two Dragons – Zeah Korlann

The Two Dragons (New Cover)Zeah Korlann is a character in the series Senta and the Steel Dragon.  I really created him for the first book in that series.  His story arc was one of an older man pursued by a younger woman.  He and his young lady Egeria really parallel Mike and Patience in His Robot Girlfriend, and its no surprise that I put that book together from some earlier pieces, right after I had written The Voyage of the Minotaur.

After that, I didn’t have much for Zeah to do, but I used him as an observer.  He really is a stand-in for me in the Senta books.  In The Two Dragons, his chief occupation is to observe the three women revolving around his life: his daughter Yuah, their shared nemesis Iolanthe, and Zeah’s wife Egeria.  At this point in the story, he watches the conflict between Yuah and Egeria.

The children had already gone through the house and come out in the garden.  Egeria had ordered the dining room table set up in the backyard, and Chunny was already covering it with fancy dishes filled with delicious looking food.

“Can we play games?” shouted Augie.

“We will play after lunch,” said Egeria.

“What games can we play?  We don’t have enough people to play Doggy Doggy.”

“Perhaps we could play Honey, Do You Love Me.”

“That’s no good,” said Terra, in her squeaky voice.  “Everybody here already knows who loves who.”

“You mean ‘who loves whom’,” corrected Egeria.  “I have a new game I think you will enjoy.” 

She made a sweeping gesture to indicate that they should all sit, and insisted that Zeah sit at the head of the table.  He was still dressed in his suit, so he still felt rather formal.  His wife certainly seemed formal as well.  Her white day dress made her fiery red hair stand out all the more.  Yuah’s dress was, in Zeah’s opinion, slightly scandalous.  It showed entirely too much back.  She sat at the opposite end of the table, while Egeria and the children stared at each other from either side.  Both women sat with a posture that could only have been achieved by rigid corseting.

“Pass around the chips,” ordered Egeria.

“I want a biscuit,” said Augie.

“Not till after.”

They passed around golden fish, beans, cheese, fruit, and of course crisp, beautiful chips.  Augie wanted nothing but chips and beans, and Terra wanted only fruit.  As the little girl used both tiny hands to hold the platter loaded with grapes, sliced apples, pear halves, bananas, and strawberries, she dropped the edge onto her plate.  With a loud crack, the plate broke into two pieces.  With a little cry, she dropped the platter, and although it didn’t break, fruit went rolling in all directions.  Zeah caught his breath.  Here as everywhere, Egeria employed dishes that were far too valuable to be used by normal humans, let alone children.

Egeria made no sound or expression that could be construed as any kind of admonishment.  She simply got up and gathered the stray fruit.  Yuah was upset though, probably with the same thoughts in her head that Zeah had in his.

“What kind of fool leaves out dishes like this for little children,” she said.

Egeria didn’t reply, but both her mouth and her eyes grew small.

Chunny came out to the table and removed the two plate halves, replacing them with a plate that to Zeah’s mind looked even more valuable than the one that had broken.  A few moments later, the lizardman returned with another platter loaded with butter biscuits.  These were the neat, perfect biscuits that Egeria bought in a tin, preferring them over homemade ones.  Now that his duty had been done by eating his chips and beans, Augie set to work ridding the property of buttery desserts.

When they had all finished, Egeria led the children around the house to the side yard.  Set up across the green lawn was a net for badminton, and four light rackets had been placed on a small occasional table that had been brought down from the upstairs hallway.  Zeah went to the gazebo near the edge of the yard and picked up the wicker armchair, bringing it back.  He intended to be a spectator in this sporting event.  By the time he had made himself comfortable, the sides had already been chosen.  Yuah and Augie were set up on the east side of the net, while Egeria and little Terra, whose racket was almost as large as she was, were arrayed on the west.

Yuah served first, taking the bright yellow shuttlecock and whacking it with a force that should have knocked it clear to the ocean.  The feathered birdie lost its steam though just above Egeria and wafted down right in front of her.  With a mighty backhand blow, she sent it soaring back again over the net.  Despite the fact that neither woman, with their corseted waists, long dresses trailing upon the ground, and voluminous hairstyles seemed ready for athletics, they pummeled the hapless cork and feather device back and forth.

Thwack!  Egeria smashed the birdie directly toward Yuah’s face.  Thwack!  Yuah sent it back.  Thwack!  This time Yuah had to reach around.  Thwack!  It went toward the back end of the court.  Egeria, a good four inches shorter than her opponent was unable to reach it, and the birdie alighted gently upon the grass.

“Ha!” cried Yuah.  Then her eyes rolled back into her head and she fell to the ground in a faint, an often enough occurrence for women walking in corsets, let alone participating in sporting events.

Egeria smiled triumphantly.  She wobbled for a moment and then she too fell down into the grass, gulping for air.

“Hey, I want to play!” shouted Augie, but Terra had already lost interest and was busy chasing a butterfly.

“Grandpa will play with you,” said Zeah, “as soon as we clear the court.”