Steampunk Family


February 12, 2010
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

Herr and Madame vonHedwig made their way from the mad scientist’s underground lair, trudging toward the surface. They were tired, and mired in thought, but alert for any sign of Montesanto or yeti.

A distant throbbing broke the silence of the cave. Exchanging concerned and puzzled looks, they hurried toward the sound. Suddenly, bright white light flashed against the tunnel wall ahead of them as the throb became a roar. They ran pell mell toward the fading sound, skittering to a halt at the mouth of the volcanic tube they had discovered on their way in. The engine sound that had shattered the underground silence was only a muttering far below them.

The Fearless Fabricator listened intently. There was something familiar about the engine sound, disturbingly familiar.

“What’s that?” Madame pointed down the wall of the volcanic tube. “Was that there before?”

Her husband cupped their lantern in both hands, focusing the light. There was a tiny smear of white clinging to the rock wall, its charred edges blending with the dark rock. When at last he spoke, he could only utter a harsh whisper.

“It’s a marshmallow.”

For a moment, they clung to each other in the darkness.

Madame wrung her hands. “Dear Gods! What can have happened? Can it be the children?”

“Let us hasten to find out,” he answered. “We’ll save the champagne, and share a glass with Ulrik when we find everyone safe.”

With grim determination, they ran and scrambled to the surface.


Back aboard the Schmetterling, Madame piloted back towards the Schöneluft while her husband searched the terrain below with the smaller ship’s powerful spotlight.

“There’s an S.O.S. below,” he announced.  “Spelled out dark against the snow.”

“We’ll land and look!”

Herr vonHedwig fired his harpoon-anchor at short range and the projectile buried deep into the ice. Once moored, they descended by rope ladder.

Madame threw herself to the ground, calling the children’s names in turn. Herr vonHedwig examined the letters of the distress call.

“They’re blankets. Very hairy blankets.”

A tall figure loomed at the edge of the darkness.

“Mein Herr, Meine Frau, you can never forgive me. I will never forgive myself.”


“Where are the children?”

“Kidnapped. From right under my nose.” He told them how the boiler launch had taken off while he was setting the crewman’s broken leg, and described Claire’s message. He showed them the boot and paw prints he had found in the snow, and pointed out the flight path of the stolen ship.

“It disappeared over the ridge,” he explained with visible distress. “There was a sound-”

Madame gasped. She stood motionless, hands clutched tight together. Ulrik hastened to reassure her.

“It was not an explosion, nor a crash – well, not a big enough crash to have been the ship. After that sound, there was none. We could no longer hear their engines.”

With a cry, Madame vonHedwig ran back to the Schmetterling. Herr vonHedwig followed her, calling back to his assistant.

“We will return for you. Where is the crew?”

“They found a hot spring – they’re all sitting in it, up to their necks in hot water, piles of snow on their heads.”

“Go and join them, my friend. We will return.”

Ulrik did not answer. He picked up the blankets that formed the letter closest to him and wrapped them around his shoulders, continuing his icy vigil.



This story began with On Grandmothers. The previous episode is Falling and the next is The Search is On.
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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