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

They had finished breakfast and were crossing the yard, hoes over their shoulders, when the riders came.  The children stopped to listen, but did not recognize the sound of their approach. Something was coming, something that sounded familiar yet was not. They waited in the yard to see what would come. At last the first rider crested the hill.

“Horsie?” Bettina was uncertain. She saw a man (or something very much like a man) mounted on a larger creature. The creature was pale pink, spotted with yellow and had six legs. The men were taller than Ifan and had long faces and red skin. Not dusky maroon like Ifan, not reddish tan like natives of the Americas, but bright red like a British army uniform. They wore smart green jackets with yellow braid and insignia that even Gerhardt did not recognize, although he made quite a study of the world’s armies.

“Watch it!” Mirabelle snapped out of her amazement. “They’re surrounding us!”

Too late. The riders encircled the children. Claire dropped her hoe and picked up Bettina. The other von Hedwigs tightened their grips on their hoes; a rock tied to a stick is better than nothing. The lead rider rode up to Ifan, who kept his eyes down, answering questions.

“What are they saying?” Adolphus kept his voice low.

“He’s asking about us,” Mirabelle said. “Who we are, where we came from… I can’t hear Ifan.”

“He looks scared, though,” Gerhardt said.

“Well, he shan’t get into trouble on our account!” Claire stepped toward the leader, trying to get his attention in faltering Welsh. Annabelle lowered her hoe (but did not put it down) and caught up with her.

“Excuse me, sir,” Annabelle translated for Claire. “We are strangers here. We came from far away and do not know how to get back. These kind people have given us a place to sleep for a night or two. Are you looking for us?”

“They are looking for a group of pale-skinned savages who disrupted Her Majesty’s – I don’t know that word – harvest.” Mirabelle took up translating for the rider. “Oh, no! They’re here about the corndogs!”

“Then you are looking for us,” Claire said as Annabelle translated. “If we were wrong to save little creatures from a horrible death, so be it. But this family knew nothing of that. They have been generous to strangers and done nothing wrong.”

The rider stared hard at Claire, then at each of the children in turn. His long face had high, chiseled cheekbones, and his eyes were entirely black with no whites. They held no trace of kindness. He spoke.

“He says we are smaller, and not as mean, or rather, as fierce as described.” Mirabelle said. “Well, we’re cleaner than we were then. Oh, dear. He says to put down our weapons and come with us. I mean them.”

“Where are we going?” Gerhardt burst out. “Are we going to jail?”

Annabelle and Mirabelle had to consult on this one. “Jail” was not a word Mr. Evans had taught them. Finally, Claire interrupted with a passable Welsh “Where to?”

“Llys Solanum.”

“Solanum,” Claire mused. “That sounds familiar.”

“Llys is court,” said Gerhardt. “It sounds bad.”

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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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