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

Despite her declaration, the Queen showed no interest in taking care of the children, and ignored them completely as soon as Lady Aubergine was away. Addfwyn Annuum from next door fussed over them, invading Eglantine’s chambers as though it were a maternal duty instead of a gross imposition. She kept them in chambers all the next day in case her Majesty should send for them, but the call did not come.

The punishment of the servants began at midday. Adolphus, pale but determined, wanted to witness it.

“It’s my fault,” he told Claire. “It should be me, not them.” They spoke quietly so Bettina wouldn’t hear. She was never far from tears this morning, and the others were distracting her with games and stories.

“That pepper won’t let us leave.”

“Oh yeah? I don’t see any guards.” He turned and stalked down the hall. Mrs. Annuum gave a nervous shriek and ran after him, calling. Claire heard her pleading but did not hear Adolphus respond. She found herself bouncing up and down, considering stratagem. Finally, she screamed. Mrs. Annuum ran back to chambers, breathless.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” Her features were pinched in distress, and her hand fluttered over her heart.

Claire shrugged. “You wouldn’t leave my brother alone.”

Mrs. Annuum let out a little panicked shriek, an utterance which occurred with increasing frequency the more time she spent with the von Hedwig children.

Adolphus sat, arms wrapped around his knees, partially obscured by shrubbery. He could see the field where the servants knelt in rows, waiting their turn in the muggy, sulfurous afternoon. Capsicum guards paced the rows, whipping one shirtless back and then the next and the next. Clear sap ran from striped wounds and the victims moaned or cried out or were silent according to their nature.

Adolphus swore he would watch them all but he could not. He forced himself to watch, to feel their hurt as his own, but he felt no lash, only miserable shame, and hid his head again and again. Nearly a hundred people were beaten. It took hours.

Long after they had been dismissed to treat each other’s hurts and prepare the Court’s feast, Adolphus sat, sunburn on his bare neck. He heard a rustling nearby but it stopped sharp and retreated quickly. Too quickly. His head snapped up in time to see a tall green figure slip away. He jumped up in pursuit, catching up to the older boy at the kitchen fountain.


When the boy turned, Adolphus punched him in the mouth. Surprised, he staggered back, falling over the bench and into the pool. Water splashed around him from a bamboo pipe; the carved pillar had been taken away. Adolphus jumped onto the bench.

“Get up! Get up you coward! I told you I’d thrash you now get up.”

Rhodri sat up in the water, squinting up at Adolphus.

“Did you watch? Did you see what you did?”

Rhodri got up, dripping. “I saw.”

“How could you tell like that?”

“I didn’t think it would go that far,” he mumbled.

“Are you coming out or am I coming in?” Adolphus demanded.

“I’ll come out, and you can thrash me.” Rhodri sat on the bench at Adolphus’ feet.

Adolphus jumped off the bench in case it was a ruse.

“Do you know why my mother’s so nervous, von Hedwig?”

“Because she’s got a worthless son like you,” Adolphus snarled.

“I used to have a sister.”

Adolphus frowned, but he could not bring himself to fling an insult at that.

“She made up a funny song about the Queen. She was Gerhardt’s age, I suppose.” He looked Adolphus in the eye at last. “No one’s safe here. You do what you must.” He stood up, facing Adolphus. “I’m ready.”

Adolphus shoved him back onto the bench. “Well stop doing it to us. I sill have sisters.” He walked away.
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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1 Comment for this entry

  • Sharyn McGinty says:

    I’ve somehow missed a great many of these stories and have spent the last few hours reading the ones I’d missed. I’m looking forward to the next episode. I can’t wait to see how the children escape from the evil Nightshade Queen.