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

They walked for hours. Annabelle made Bettina and Gerhardt hold her hands, glaring suspiciously at the underbrush for signs of attack. On the opposite bank Claire was anxious.

“What shall we do when it gets dark?”

“We need to all be together,” Mirabelle said. The river was wider here, but they could not see through the water.

“I’d like to know when it will get dark,” Adolphus said, staring up again. “I can’t see the sun! The whole sky is the same; there’s no bright point.”

“It must be behind the trees,” Claire said. “Oh! I wish we hadn’t lost all the rope!”

They trudged on. The river broadened, and from time to time they lost sight of each other. When they did they called out to reassure their siblings on the opposite bank. It was nerve-wracking. Whenever they shouted the forest around them became silent, as all the unseen clicking, chirruping, and trilling creatures hushed to listen.

“Are those birds or bugs?” Gerhardt asked. “I don’t recognize any bird calls I know.”

“Nor I,” Annabelle said. “I don’t think we’re in Europe, the Americas, India, or China.”

“I wouldn’t rule out the center of the earth,” Gerhard said, nodding towards the suspicious cloud cover. “We should be on the lookout for dinosaurs.”

“Boat!” said Bettina.

The river took a turn, cutting deeply into Claire’s side, leaving a sweep of sand on theirs. There, washed up on the sand was their mushroom cap, overturned (which is to say right-side-up for a mushroom, but upside down for a boat).

They called out the news, then checked the bank for vines before climbing down to it. It is a kitchen myth that mushrooms absorb water like sponges. Despite its time in the water the mushroom was still light enough for the Annabelle and Gerhardt to set right, with little Bettina’s help hardly slowing them down at all. Bettina jumped in and crawled around, patting the gills.

“Good boat,” she sang, “boat, boat, boat. Lantern!”

Wedged in the mushroom’s gills was their algae lantern, still glowing. Further exploration discovered a geology pick.

“That’s some luck, at least,” Gerhardt said. He threaded the lantern on his belt then reached for the pick, but Annabelle had already claimed it. He sighed. At least he still had his crossbow.

“Shall we push off?”

“Where are the others?”

They scanned the opposite bank, calling halloo. The unseen forest creatures instantly hushed, but all was not as silent as before. The children heard a rustling whisper over the sound of the gently flowing stream. The steeply cut bank across from them was alive with waving, seeking, hungry vines. Their siblings were nowhere in sight.



This story began with On Grandmothers. The previous episode The Variegated Strangler and the next is Hand over Hand.
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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