Steampunk Family

A Clue

January 1, 2010
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

The children clustered aft in the boiler launch, guarded by a yeti controlled by an evil Italian botanist. The boiler crew’s launch was larger than the Schmetterling, but far less organized. Equipment parts were strewn about, as were tools, mechanical parts, cushions, broken chairs, tin cans, forged iron puzzle toys, a Chinese checker board with its marbles everywhere,  clumps of dust and hair, and food.

The yeti stood between them and the Count like a furry wall, but never looked at the children, staring straight ahead. While Montesanto looked out the fore windows to guide Adolphus’ flight, the children explored their prison.

The twins methodically checked the broken chairs for use as clubs. Claire and Gerhardt examined tools and equipment parts in the mad hope of building something useful. Bettina sifted through the rubble as well. She found a bag of marshmallows, and gave them to Gerhardt without eating a single one. As he took it from her he saw the reddish brown thatch clutched in her hand.

“Where did you get that?” he whispered.

Bettina pointed to the yeti.

“May I see it?”

She held out her hand for his inspection, but did not relinquish her souvenir.

“That’s not fur,” he said, perplexed. “Claire, that’s not fur.”


“Quiet from the children!” sang the Count. “I have so many hostages, I can afford to keep only quiet ones.” He turned and smiled a wicked smile at them, and they noticed for the first time that he had an unpleasant, smudgy mustache. They repressed a collective shudder.

Cavolo! Keep your eye on your work, you foul boy! You nearly ran us into the mountain.” Their captor turned back to supervise Adolphus, who had tried to crash-land the craft while the Count wasn’t looking.

Claire returned to the project at hand, sorting possibly useful detritus from not.

Gerhardt persisted. “Claire,” he whispered, “it’s not fur, it’s moss!”

“Who cares?” she mouthed.

“It may be important, you know, a thing… a whatsit.”

“A weapon?” whispered Mirabelle.

“No!” Gerhardt looked harassed. “A thing that makes you figure out things.”

“A clue?” Annabelle whispered.

“Yes! Why is there moss on a yeti?”

Claire had sorted all the mechanical bits she could find without crawling past their hirsute guard. She looked wistfully at a small welding torch hanging on the wall behind the Yeti, but it was out of reach.

The others examined their guard. It towered over the children, head grazing the ceiling of the launch. It was all over in reddish brown shaggy hair, except its face and the pads of its paws, which were much more like feet and hands than paws.

“I don’t see any moss,” Annabelle said.

Bettina pointed up, and their gazes followed. The fur on the yeti’s head and neck looked matted, short and tangled compared to the hair on its body.

“It’s like a helmet,” Gerhardt said, “a helmet and gorget.” He had made a study of warfare in the middle ages, as boys of a certain age are wont to do.  “I don’t think that’s natural.”

“Poor Bear-Man,” said Bettina.

“More of an Ape than a man, I think.”

“Poor Bear-Monkey Man.”

“I think that botanist chap with the nasty mustache put the moss on the yeti,” Gerhardt said, “but I don’t know why.”

“Does it matter?” asked Mirabelle. “If we take it off, we’ll be fighting the mustache man, right?”

Gerhardt looked skeptical, but Annabelle nodded, and without another word they turned out their pockets.


This story began in On Grandmothers. The previous episode is Kidnapped! and the next is The Yeti and the Comb.
Entries in this series:
  1. On Grandmothers
  2. With A Bang!
  3. In Search of Ancient Angiosperms
  4. Assault on the Galley
  5. The Sorrows of Chef
  6. Faeries, Helpful Siblings, and other Mythological Creatures
  7. Meanwhile, Back in the Lab
  8. A Day of Discovery
  9. The Children’s Hypothesis
  10. A Research Date
  11. Aboard the Schmetterling
  12. The Cave
  13. The Cage
  14. Knee of the Yeti
  15. Kidnapped!
  16. A Clue
  17. The Yeti and the Comb
  18. Fighting the Count
  19. Fighting the Yeti
  20. Falling
  21. Breadcrumbs
  22. The Search is On
  23. Flight to Saigon
  24. On the Streets of Saigon
  25. The Sad Man
  26. At the Grandiere Club Aeronautique
  27. If you Give a Count a Cookie
  28. Out of Cookies
  29. Stuck!
  30. Airships Float?
  31. Where is Claire?
  32. Drowning
  33. Into the Drink!
  34. Boat!
  35. Mushroom Trip
  36. Ambush
  37. The Variegated Strangler
  38. In a Strange Land
  39. Hand over Hand
  40. The Last of the Gouda
  41. An Unusual Breakfast
  42. Downstream
  43. What's for Dinner?
  44. Axe and Fire
  45. Meanwhile, Back at the Airship
  46. Over the Gobi
  47. Return of the Grandmothers
  48. Warning from Huang
  49. Anxious Hours
  50. Ulrik Prepares
  51. Destruction by Dawn
  52. Finding Philomena
  53. No Luck in Pekin
  54. The Children Rescue...Something
  55. Corndog Liberation
  56. The Fate of Corndogs
  57. Have you Tea?
  58. Antafrican Hosptitality
  59. Onion Porridge
  60. Homesick
  61. On the Hunt
  62. Farm Living
  63. Singing for Supper
  64. You Say Potato...
  65. Curiosity is the Foundation of Discovery
  66. An Awkward Position
  67. Trouble Comes Riding
  68. Capsicum Capture
  69. To the Palace
  70. The Death of the Lincoln
  71. War Wings
  72. A Long Way Down
  73. Enter the Lightning
  74. Before the Queen
  75. You are a Tomato!
  76. A Sunken Ship
  77. Eglantine Aubergine
  78. Children of the Soil
  79. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  80. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  81. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  82. The Price of Popcorn
  83. Ulrik and Chef
  84. Fire!
  85. Claire's Bluff
  86. Tomato Queen and Aubergine
  87. It's Going to Blow!
  88. Rhodri in the Gardens
  89. The Servant's Fountain
  90. History Revealed
  91. Fight at the Fountain
  92. Repercussions
  93. Father Discovers the Yeti
  94. Aboard the Lucy Stone
  95. Summoned
  96. The Queen's Accusation
  97. The Queen's Rage
  98. The Khan
  99. The Last War Wing
  100. Eglantine Departs
  101. Thumping Rhodri
  102. Bad News from the Boys
  103. Where's the Count?
  104. In Search of the Count
  105. Spying on the Queen
  106. Confronting the Count
  107. Orphaned?
  108. Orphaned?
  109. Montesanto's Experiments
  110. Montesanto's Experiments
  111. The Queen's Tantrum
  112. Bettina's Tantrum
  113. The Flaming Queen
  114. Uprising!
  115. Uprising!
  116. Escape
  117. On the Run
  118. The Mysterious Coach
  119. Red Racer!
  120. Revolution Reset
  121. By the Acid Sea
  122. Farewell Antafrica
  123. Home Again!
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