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

They entered the center of the palace, a massive throne room and assembly hall. Spiral topiary lined the walls and were spaced throughout the space like columns. Opposite the children stood a dais, and over it the woven reed roof. The rest of the hall was open to the twilight sky.

The hall was crowded with people of every imaginable hue. Pale yellow ladies with green hair chatted with old men with purple-black skin and long purple beards. Dapper gentlemen in many shades of green huddled together speaking in hushed tones. Most people wore green or yellow, and they were all dressed elaborately in pouffy pants and voluminous shirts or long, full skirts. The Capsicum guards entered the hall surrounding the von Hedwig children and stopped, stamping their feet and coming to attention. The crowd silenced and parted, clearing a corridor between the children and the dais.

A throne of thick, living vines draped with colorful linens dominated the dais, but it was empty. To the left of it stood three elegant people, a Capsicum guard whose uniform was draped with fancy yellow braid and brightly colored insignia, an elderly purple gentleman, and a man whose golden skin seemed almost translucent.

To the right of the throne stood a single lady. As soon as the children saw her, they could not take her eyes off her. Her skin was pale as cream, and her luxurious hair a vivid purple, hanging down to her waist. She was dressed simply, in lavender. She was somewhat short, and somewhat round. It was not her figure but her eyes that captivated the children. Even from across the great hall they twinkled with humor and wisdom. She looked at the children, smiled, and bowed ever so slightly. Gerhardt felt the dread lifting from his heart. Bettina felt so much better that she smiled back at the lady.

Claire sighed, and murmured to Mirabelle, who was next to her. “If that’s the Queen, I think we’re going to be all right.”

They reached foot of the dais and their lead guard ordered them to kneel. They looked at each other in confusion. They had never been asked to kneel before anyone, not the Kaiser, not the British Queen nor the Bengali Rajah. They looked at the guards, frowning and raising their truncheons, then at the pale lady on the dais. She tilted her head and frowned slightly. It looked like a warning.

Adolphus suddenly dropped to one knee. “Look, chaps,” he said, “this is all right. Sir Gawain would have done this. Anything Gawain would do we can do.”

His siblings quickly took a knee, grateful to have a compromise. None of them knew anything about groveling, but were beginning to fear they would soon learn.

A terrible bellowing sound made them all jump. They looked about wildly and found a group of tomatillo men blowing into hollowed stems as though they were trumpets. The company surrounding them bowed deeply, even the lady on the dais. The Queen entered.

She wore a rich green gown, embroidered with yellow flowers and round red fruit. Her skin was translucent, like the yellow gentleman on the dais, but she was orange-red with yellow hair piled onto her head in elaborate curls. She wore a crown of yellow and white flowers that opened and closed constantly, in a rhythm all their own.

She stood, surveying the company, then swept to her throne, enormous skirts rustling as she sat. She studied the kneeling children for some time, as they peeked up at her through their eyelashes. Her eyes were bright, with green pupils. After a time, she smiled down at the bowed children. It was not a nice smile.

“What have you brought me, Gwydderig?”
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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