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

Rhodri saw her first, attuned as he was to life in the Nightshade Court. He set down his stick and bowed low. Mirabelle took the opportunity to score a goal against him before realizing why he had let down his guard. As the von Hedwig children watched her approach, followed by guards and courtiers, Rhodri hissed at them.

“Drop your sticks! Drop your sticks!”

They looked at him, and then at the guards, who were pulling their truncheons from their belts.

“Drop them,” Claire said, setting her stick down. “Hurry.”

They did so, and made their way from the playing field to cluster around Claire. As the Queen and her entourage approached, Lady Aubergine appeared between her and the children, carrying Bettina on one hip. She did not appear to be the least bit out of breath, even though she had been out of sight of the game when Rhodri had dropped his stick. She set Bettina down and bowed low. Bettina curtsied.

“How beautiful you look this morning, Majesty,” she said. “Do you like your guests? They look fine in your livery, do they not?”

The Queen surveyed the children, who bowed and curtsied, except for Rhodri, who had bowed low as soon as he dropped his stick, and stayed down.

“They look well, though they looked quite sick last night. My colors make everyone look better, even grub-pale persons such as they. Not like purple. No one looks good in purple.”

Bettina scowled.

“Does it not gladden your heart to see children playing in the gardens? The laughter of the young is a tonic.” Lady Aubergine ignored the Queen’s insult.

“Who are they? Who are their parents? Where is their estate?”

“They come from far away, Majesty. They were traveling with their parents and were separated from them.”

“They have fallen very far, from the cloche to a peasant’s hut.”

“Now that they are in your protection they may wait for their parents in comfort and safety.” Eglantine spoke loudly and clearly, so all the court could hear. “Thus is the generosity of the Nightshade Crown.”

The Queen stared hard at Eglantine, gratification and suspicion battling in her dark eyes. She looked to the children, who attempted the most humble and grateful expressions they could muster, with varying success.

“Of course,” the Queen said, “were it not for the serious charges laid against them. Did you or did you not attack my popcorn herders and disrupt my harvest?”

“We meant no harm. We saw men hurting little animals and chased them away,” Annabelle said.

“We did not know they were yours, your Majesty,” Mirabelle added.

“Such a delicacy as popcorn is unknown outside the royal court,” Eglantine said. “Even noble children of the cloche caste, if they are raised far from the influence of your sophistication, have never seen such a thing. They did not understand the process of the harvest. It was a misunderstanding, my Queen. They meant no disrespect.”

“Hmm. Did they not?”

The older children shook their heads. Gerhardt added his scowl to Bettina’s.

“What is wrong with the red-headed one?”

“He’s part carrot, your Majesty,” Eglantine said. “They get a bit funny in the head.”

“What?” Gerhardt said.

Adolphus pinched him, flashing the Queen his most winning smile. She sniffed.

“Well, they have cost me my popcorn and they shall pay for it!”
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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