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

.Villarrica lava fountain

The children used their poles to pull the boat over to the bank. (They were getting much better at it.) Although it was quite warm here, the ground was lush with plants and there was no sign of lava, so they secured the mushroom cap boat and followed the sound of the dogs. Adolphus and the twins had armed themselves with oars and the boat pole. Gerhardt clutched his stone axe.

They followed the sound away from the river, up a slope. It was rough going. Gerhardt lead the way, hacking a path through the undergrowth with his axe. Within a few hundred yards the dense vegetation just stopped, and they stood at the edge of a desolate landscape. Before them the blackened ground rose gently to a summit in the distance, scattered with rubble.

Mirabelle nudged her twin and pointed. Three figures were outlined by the orange glow behind them, and the children could see a mass of moving, lighter colored shapes at their feet. The orange glow came from a crack in the ground just above them on the hill.  Two at a time, the children darted out to the closest pile of rubble and clustered behind it, and darted to the next, making their way closer to the volcanic fissure.

Then a heartbreaking squealing sound shattered the air followed by a terrible POP POP POP POP POP. Bettina put her hands over her ears and squeezed her eyes shut.

Claire stuck her head up out of their cover and dared a look.

“Three men,” she said, “three men with sticks driving the dogs… um, dog-things into a volcanic fissure.” She spun round to face her siblings, pale with horror. “They’re driving them across the fissure to set fire to them!”

“By golly they won’t for long!” Adolphus said. Gerhardt brandished his axe in agreement.

“Just three of them with sticks?” Annabelle asked. Claire nodded, and Annabelle offered her the geology pick.

Mirabelle took Bettina’s shoulders. “You stay here and be our back up. If it looks bad, give us a warning and blow something up.” Bettina nodded, looking grim.

“Ready chaps?” Adolphus said, “On my mark. One…”

The heartbreaking squeals started again, and Gerhardt charged with Claire right behind him, howling like a banshees.

Adolphus, Annabelle, and Mirabelle followed, yelling a frightful din.

The men, if that’s what they were, looked up in shock at the screaming, running, stick- and tool-waving children. The children were streaked with dirt and blood and turnip juice. They were angry, hungry, unwashed, frightened, and howling. The men dropped their sticks and fled up hill, disappearing into the woods. The von Hedwigs stopped and watched them retreat, surrounded by the animals they had saved.

Bettina toddled out to join them and one of the creatures ran to her. She picked it up and cuddled it, giggling.

“Doggy!” she squealed. The older children stared at her, then down the swarm at their feet, then back at Bettina.

The creature squirmed in her grip, brushing her cheek with long, pale fibers. Its belly was bumpy and yellow, but its back seemed papery, as though it were sheathed in folded wings. Claire blinked several times.


The creatures yapped and yipped, jumping up onto the children, and generally milling about away from the heat of the fissure.

The boys knelt to play with them, but Claire and the twins looked across the fissure. Through the waves of heat distortion they saw fluffy white piles on the other side.

“Popcorn,” Mirabelle confirmed.

Adolphus laughed as half a dozen wriggling creatures tickled him with their silk.



Photo credit: By Jonathan Lewis from London i ´spose….., Blighty (Volcano Villarrica, Pucón, Chile) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. This image was originally posted to Flickr by welsh boy at
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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