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

The grassy floodplain ended in a steep wooded hill, from which Claire and Adolphus could collect firewood. Now that the river had left the wooded mountains Claire could better study the local topography.

“We’ve been descending from higher in the mountains through the foothills and into this valley,” she told Adolphus. “But we haven’t come straight downhill out of the mountains. We’ve curved around them; the river’s running right alongside the hills. There’s taller mountains downstream of us, I think.” She peered up along the chain of hills as it disappeared into the violet-white swirling sky.

“Well it’s jolly steep going, that’s for sure,” he said. When they each had a big bundle of sticks they picked and slid their way back down to the field.

“Smell that sulpher? I think we’re right, there is a volcano here, and I think we’re closer than ever.”

They came out of the woods far from where they had entered. Adolphus threw down his bundle in disgust, fishing in his waistcoat pocket for the compass he’d removed from the boiler crew’s ship.

“That will only help if you looked at it before we left,” Claire said, hoisting her bundle into a more comfortable position.

“Nonsense. I kept track of our bearings on the river. We need to go…” He faced one way and then another, consulting his compass and the horizon.

“We need to go down hill,” Claire said. “Then we look along the river.” She started off, leaving Adolphus and his firewood and catch up. After ten minutes they heard voices off to their left (“To the North,” Adolphus asserted.) and set down their burdens to investigate.

They climbed the crest of a small hillock. Below them Mirabelle and Annabelle were chasing … something. They had tied their pinafores together, and each holding a side they tiptoed across the field, stalking. Then, for no reason observable from the hilltop, they pounced, throwing themselves headlong onto the ground, pinafore outstretched.

Adolphus drew breath to shout down at them but Claire touched his elbow and shook her head. They watched the twins repeat their bizarre hunt twice more, until the pounce led to excited shouts from below. Then Adolphus and Claire ran down to see what had been caught.

As they approached they saw the field, so still from above, was alive with movement. Round, grubby white-purple things rolled and bounced through trails and tunnels in the grass. Adolphus gave chase, but as soon as he was close enough to make out what the rolling things were, they disappeared into the grass. Or into the ground, perhaps.

Mirabelle finished tying their pinafores into a bag. Something in the bag was trying to get out.

“They feel the vibration of your footsteps,” she said. “You can’t run up on them; have to walk lightly.”

“What is it?” Claire asked.

“Don’t know,” Annabelle said. “Looks like a turnip.”

“Turnips don’t roll away from footsteps!” Claire peered into the grass, trying to get a glimpse.

“And vines don’t strangle you and fish don’t have six eyes and taste like violets,” Mirabelle said. “We’re hungry, it’s dinner.”

“I don’t think we should eat it,” Claire said, “if it can roll away from us.”

“I don’t think we should eat it if it’s a turnip,” Adolphus said.

“Well, I’m going to try it. If you catch something better, we can eat that too.”



This story began with On Grandmothers and continues weekly. The previous episode was Downstream.
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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