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

“I beg your pardon, Madame?” Lady Aubergine said.

“Majesty!” Queen Drysi shrieked the word.

Lady Aubergine bowed low. “I beg your pardon, your Majesty. Might I enquire as to the location of the art of which I am accused?”

The enraged Queen slumped back in her throne and flicked a wrist at the Capsicum Chief.

“Her Highness refers to carvings on the kitchen fountain, which are seditious in nature,” he said.

“Majesty, as I recall, the kitchen fountain is of great antiquity, being the oldest fountain on the grounds.” She turned to an elderly tomato. “Lord Llyr, is that not so?”

The gentleman blanched, shaking his head as if to disagree, but at last he spoke, almost in a whisper. “It is so. That fountain has not been replaced since my great-grandfather’s time.”

“Then I cannot have made the pictures on it, my Queen, no can any person now living,” Eglantine said. Her voice was soothing now, as though calming a child’s tantrum. “They are no doubt some quaint folk tradition of no importance.”

Queen Drysi rose slowly, hands shaking. “You defy me, Eglantine, you mock me! I will not have it! All my life you have undermined me, standing behind my throne, my throne as though it were yours!” The Queen was screaming, pink spittle flecking her mottled face. “You have no right. I am Queen and have always been and shall always be Queen. Not one more day, not one more hour will I bear your challenge to my authority!”

Claire felt movement in the hall behind her, a shifting in the crowd, but could not tear her eyes away from the awful spectacle of the mad queen. Queen Drysi took a trembling step forward, then another. Bettina clung to Claire’s skirt, hiding her face in it. Claire reached for Gerhardt’s hand, squeezing. He took Mirabelle’s, she reached for her twin, and Annabelle took Adolphus’ hand.

“No more,” the Queen said, raising a finger to point at Lady Aubergine. “I sentence you-”

The chamberlain cleared his throat and whispered in his mistress’ ear. She tore her gaze from Eglantine and looked past her into the throne room. Her face twisted into a grimace of fear and hate. The chamberlain whispered on, one hand hovering over her sleeve as though to restrain, though he didn’t dare touch her.

Claire watched the Queen’s eyes dart around the hall and could bear it no longer. She looked over her shoulder in to a sea of purple faces. Dark purple, lavender, lilac, and purple-tinged cream, every eggplant at Court stood united behind Lady Aubergine. They had gathered from the crowd, displacing other vegetables to support one of their own. Silent but unmoving, they did not challenge, but used their mass to speak for them.

Queen Drysi mastered herself at last and pushed the chamberlain away.

“Banished,” she croaked. “You are banished forever from my Court. No one may give help or succor to you, else be guilty of treason. Go this day and never be seen again!”

Eglantine bowed low without a word and turned, meeting Claire’s eye. Claire pulled her siblings back into the crowd, trying to slip away.

“Oh no, no!” Drysi stamped her foot. “The children remain with me. I shall care for them.” Her eyes glittered as though fevered.

Eglantine turned and bowed again. “Great Queen, children are such a bother, and your Majesty has so many important concerns. Let me perform this last task for you, whom I have served all your life. Let me care for the children.”

“No.” Drysi smiled again, a nasty, triumphant smile.

“Just the littlest one,” Eglantine pleaded.

The queen laughed. “You need her more than she needs you! This makes your punishment perfect.” She turned to the Chief Guard. “See that she is gone by nightfall.”

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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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