Steampunk Family
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

They called and hallooed much louder, to drown out the whispering vines and their own panic. They were answered at last by a splash upstream. Adolphus had thrown a branch in the water. They retreated upriver to parlay.

“How can we answer you back with all that shouting?” Adolphus demanded.

“Never mind that!” Mirabelle interrupted. “It’s all those nasty vines over here unless we push back into the woods.”

“Bettina found the boat!” Annabelle said. “We need to find a way to get you all over here.”

The vines waved in the air as though seeking the source of all the noise. Gerhardt eyed them with distaste, running his finger along the string of his ammunitionless crossbow.

“Or you could cut through the woods and we could float down to meet you.”

They discussed this option at length. Finally Claire refused to do anything that might separate them further.

“Aaagh!” Gerhardt shouted and pointed to the river. “It’s swimming across!”

Annabelle looked. “Don’t panic. It’s just some vine that the yeti uprooted.” She raced the clump of dead killer vine downstream, jumping down to the sandy beach where the boat rested. To the pained dismay of her siblings he waded into the water, grabbed the dead vine and dragged it to shore.

“We know it’s strong and flexible,” she said. “Let’s see if we can use it.”

She taught Bettina to tie a sheet bend (Gerhardt already knew) and they tied the vines together. When the resulting rope was longer than the river was wide, she tied it to the pick. Instructing her siblings to move well back, she swung the impromptu grapple into the trees on their side of the river. She hit a branch on the first try but the pick bounced off and fell right into the middle of the living vine!

The vines grabbed the pick, feeling it all over. Annabelle yelled in frustration and yanked on the rope. The vine yanked back. Gerhardt and Bettina grabbed the rope too and all three of them pulled as hard as they could. More vines slithered over the pick to hold it.

Working under whispered instructions from Annabelle the children made as if to let go the rope, only to yank it all the harder on her signal. It didn’t work and they all fell into the dirt. The vines rustled and swayed. Gerhardt glared at them.

“It’s laughing at us!”

“Get ready over there!” Adolphus’ voice carried over the river.

Annabelle, Gerhardt, and Bettina jumped up and grabbed the rope again. They heard a brief scratch, and a small yellow flame fell into the midst of the clinging vine. The vines flailed and waved, frantically trying to escape the brief flame. The children pulled the pick free in the few seconds before the match went out, and von Hedwigs on both sides of the river cheered.

“How do that?” Bettina demanded.

Her eldest brother laughed. “Waterproof match case! Come on, Annabelle, don’t worry about getting it over a branch, just heave it over here and we’ll tie it off.”

She did so, and Adolphus, Mirabelle, and Claire crossed the river hand over hand on a rope made from the very vine that had tried to kill them.


This story began with On Grandmothers. The previous episode was In a Strange Land and the next is The Last of the Gouda.
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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