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

The throne room was crowded, but the dais was empty. As they passed through the company the children endured the brittle smiles of nervous courtiers, who looked away as they drew near.

Lady Aubergine pulled the children into a huddle. “I am counting on you to be quiet. I may still be able to protect you, but only if you stay out of it, whatever it may be. For once, try to be seen and not heard.” She met the eyes of each child in turn. Then she knelt and embraced Bettina, whispering in her ear.

Conversation in the throne room hushed when they entered, but the longer they waited the crowd got louder, noise and tension building until raucous laughter and too-loud shards of conversation stabbed at the children’s jangled nerves. They huddled together around Lady Aubergine, who smiled serenely.

At last a quartet of guards filed onto the dais, followed by the chamberlain, who announced “Her Most Royal Lycopersic Majesty Queen Drysi, Right and Only Ruler of the Only Nation and all its Peoples, appointed by the Soil and Revered by All.” She entered on the arm of the Capsicum Guard Chief, who bowed her to her throne, then stood behind it.

“Lady Aubergine,” Queen Drysi began, “I am greatly distressed.” She did not look distressed. Her eyes shone and her mouth curled up just at the edges. Although her comment should have required no response, she watched Eglantine with great expectation.

“I am sorry to hear it, Majesty.”

“Are you indeed?” The queen narrowed her eyes. “But you are the cause of my distress.”

“Oh dear, I am so terribly sorry. How may I make amends?”

“You can confess that you have spread treasonous lies! Do you deny it?”

“I do, my Queen.”

“Then you defy me as well!” The Queen crowed.

“I fear there has been some misunderstanding, Majesty.” Lady Aubergine kept her eyes on the Queen’s feet, but her voice had steel in it.

“You have lied to these children, spreading vicious and untrue rumors,” Queen Drysi said.

“Your Majesty, I have not lied to the children.”

“Then who has?”

“What is it the children have heard that so distresses you, my Queen?”

There arose a rustling of anticipation in the crowd. Claire snuck a glance at the dais and saw the Queen’s red complexion mottled with purple.

“I shall not repeat treason in my own court! You have further conspired with and, and corrupted those beneath you to create the most vile and untrue pictures to cause unrest among the peasants!”
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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