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

Rhodri stood in the ankle-deep pool, cupped his hands and drank and drank. To amuse his sisters, Adolphus mimed kicking his backside. When the young pepper was done helping himself, Adolphus loudly declared, “After you, ladies.”

“Thank you, Adolphus,” Claire answered, “how thoughtful you are. Bettina should drink first, as she’s youngest.”

Rhodri showed no embarrassment but sat on a bench with his feet in the pool.

“Can’t reach,” Bettina said.

Although Lady Aubergine encouraged the children to fit in as much as possible, they refused the Palace custom of going barefoot. It seemed a wonderful idea at first, and they enjoyed themselves immensely for a few hours until Mirabelle wondered if it would not slow down any chance of escape. They put their sturdy boots back on. It would never do to be unprepared to run.

Claire, who could reach the fountain’s spout without getting her boots wet, delivered handfuls of water to her sister until she was sated.

“I don’t know why you all-”

“Shut up, Rhodri,” Adolphus said.

“Adolphus!” Claire looked up from her own drink. “Manners.”

“You don’t even know what I was going to say,” Rhodri whined.

“Why do we wear shoes? The palace grounds are carefully tended with legions of servants combing the grass, you should trust her majesty to provide for your every comfort blah blah blah.”

“Oh. Well. I just don’t know why-”

“Please, Rhodri,” Claire snapped, “we’ve heard it – can we just sit and listen to the birds, or something? Just not argue?”

“Anything for you, Claire,” the boy pouted, “as long as he stops being so-”

Claire glared at him and walked away, towards the food plots. Rhodri subsided; there was no point in complaining to Adolphus. Bettina climbed up onto the benches and walked around the circle. When she got to Rhodri she put a hand on his head to steady herself and walked on his legs. He sat perfectly still for this treatment, as she still held her stick. When she got to the gap between benches that provided access to the drinking spout, she held her arms out to Adolphus, who picked her up and flew her over to the next bench, where she began her circuit again. On the fourth time around, she stopped directly behind the spout.

She leaned towards the carved wooden pillar, observing it closely. Adolphus sauntered over to see what she was up to, because it might be more interesting than waiting to start a fight with Rhodri, which is what he had been doing. Bettina took her ball-game stick and poked at the pillar. A flake of mud fell off into the pool. She scraped at it and more fell.

“What have you got there?” Adolphus asked her.

“Picture,” she said.

Adolphus climbed onto the bench and knelt, stretching to reach the pillar. Clumps of dry mud flaked off in his hands, revealing indistinct carvings underneath. He retrieved his pocketknife and began scraping in earnest. Bettina wriggled out of her boots and jumped into the pool, scooping water onto the carvings,  scrubbing at them.

“What are you doing?” Rhodri demanded. “You’re making the water muddy.”

“So? You’re not drinking it.”

“I’m absorbing it. Mummy says I have sensitive ankles with lots of phloem passages.”

“That sounds nasty,” Adolphus said.

“It isn’t! You have them too.”

“Bet I don’t,” he muttered, scraping at another section of dried mud.

“You’re just coarse and rude and not as sensitive as I.”

“I’ll show you sensitive, you snitch.” Adolphus stood on the bench, fists balled into fighting stance. “Any time you’re ready.”

Rhodri ignored the challenge. “What’s that in your hand?”
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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