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

To Adolphus’ great satisfaction, Rhodri would not tell his mother what happened to him. The von Hedwigs, without trying very hard, heard snatches of argument, accusations, and pleading questions, but at no point did Mr. Annuum come next door for words with Adolphus.

“Did you thrash him?” Annabelle demanded with envy. “I want to thrash him.”

“You can do it next time,” Adolphus said. “I think he felt bad about the servants at least. It was awful.” He drifted off, and for once his sisters waited quietly. “He told me…”

“Nothing. Never mind. I’m going to get a bath while they’re still at it.”

Mrs. Annuum checked on them at meals, and managed to intercept them in the hall nearly every time one of them left Lady Aubergine’s chambers, but left them alone otherwise. She wanted them to stay in chambers all the time, but Claire insisted that they play in the garden every afternoon. It was healthy, she argued, and they’d go stir crazy without. And besides, she hadn’t given up on finding a weak place in the hedge wall.

They fell into a melancholy routine, moping in chambers in the mornings, feeding the few finches that had not flown away when Eglantine released them. (Annabelle snuck into the Annuum’s  rooms and spread rice on their pillows so the birds would feed there, which cheered them all briefly.) In the afternoons they would go out and play accompanied by a subdued Rhodri who trailed them at a distance. Nothing happened for days.

One afternoon they split into teams to search for gaps in the hedge wall. Claire and Bettina drew Rhodri with them. After a couple of hours, the boys found Annabelle and Mirabelle in a sheltered nook in the hedge that they favored. It contained a bench and a burbling fountain fed by a cold spring. The fountain itself was carved of wood in the shape of a woman they supposed to be the Queen, standing in a basin with water pouring from her cupped hands. The twins had quite liked the fountain until Claire pointed out its resemblance to Her Lycopersic Majesty. They were put off the nook until Adolphus drew a mustache on the statue. Then it was all right.

Adolphus came running up on his longer legs with Gerhardt jogging behind. He threw himself on the bench.

“You’re never going to believe this!” he proclaimed.


He made a show of wiping his brow and catching his breath while Gerhardt caught up.

Mirabelle folded her arms. “Well?”

“He has a-” Gerhardt began, but his brother cut him off.

“You know the Chief Guard, the nasty one who’s always with the queen?”


“He has a-” Gerhardt tried again.

He’s in the gardens now, practicing maneuvers.”


“He has-”

“He’s trying out a new weapon.” Adolphus paused for dramatic effect, inadvertently giving his brother the chance he’d been trying for.

“A knife!” Gerhardt burst.

Annabelle eyed her older brother. “Not a stone knife?”

Mirabelle answered for him “They wouldn’t make such a fuss if it were a stone knife. What kind of knife?”

“Not a very big one,” Adolphus admitted. “He’s cutting up a bunch of squash with it – slashing them. Making a big show.”

Gerhardt jumped up and down. “Where’d he get it? That’s the question!”

Annabelle gasped. “Did you drop yours?”

Both boys dipped hands into pockets, producing their pocketknives.

“We never had one. We’ve still got our screwdrivers and spanners.” Mirabelle pulled a bundle out of her pinafore pocket. Her tools were wrapped in rags to keep them from making noise, a precaution the twins had taken at the farmhouse. “Did Claire?”

Adolphus shook his head with great satisfaction. “You’re forgetting someone,” he said. “We all forgot him.”

Both girls gasped. Gerhardt vibrated with the excitement of the revelation.

“The Count!”
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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