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

Braith pulled him, rather more roughly than necessary, just a few yards to where he had been posted. There was a narrow gap in the hedge wall, invisible to the casual observer because, like the door at Ifan’s house, the passage turned back on itself, a brief maze of an entrance forming a secret door to the queen’s chambers. The guard pushed Adolphus into the chamber, right into Count Montesanto.

The Count jumped back, eyes widening. Adolphus smiled. The oily spokesman stood beside the Count, nearly as pale as Lady Aubergine but with a greenish tint. He and the Count were dressed in fine clothing, suitable to the Nightshade Court.

“How dare you trespass on Her Majesty?” demanded the Capsicum Chief.

Adolphus spun to face him and, reminded by the queen’s angry look, remembered his manners. He bowed to her as she reclined on a mossy couch with the chief guard at her head and the chamberlain at her feet.

“Many pardons, your Majesty,” he said. He meant to say ‘a thousand pardons’, but couldn’t remember the words. “I was playing outside and my ball rolled into your wall. While I was retrieving it I heard a voice I recognized.” He pointed to the Count. “Do you know this fellow?”

“He is a powerful magician come to offer me his service. I won’t need your parents after all.” The queen raised a thin red eyebrow.

Adolphus laughed. “Him? A magician? Has he done any tricks for you?”

At a flick of the queen’s fingers the Capsicum Chief displayed his metal knife to Adolphus.

“Is that it? That’s just a toy! Real magicians give them to their children to play with.” Adolphus pulled out his pocketknife and held it up.

The queen gasped and the chief stepped forward, open hand demanding the knife. Adolphus handed it over with a pang. He stole a glance behind him. The Count and his companion had their heads together.

“My parents will give you much better than that. This fellow’s a fraud. Do you know why he whispers? It’s because he can’t speak good!”

“Your Majesty,” the Count’s spokesman interrupted, “this sprout is the one who speaks poorly, and quite freely for one so young.”

“He is an annoying brat,” the Capsicum Chief said. “If you had this weapon, why did you not offer it to your queen?”

“I didn’t think she’d want it,” Adolphus said. “Of course, if it pleases your Majesty you may certainly keep it.”

“I shall,” she said. “What else do you have?”

Adolphus shoved his hands into his pockets. He fumbled past the watertight match case to his compass. The brass was tarnished, but shinier than anything the Antafricans would have, as they had no metal at all.

“Very little, your Majesty, but please accept this small gift.” He offered it with his most winning smile. “It tells the direction, you see. This arrow here always points north, so you never get lost.”

The queen examined his offering. “What if I don’t want to go north?”

“My beloved Queen and cousin,” the spokesman said, “I beg your pardon but the Magician has recognized this boy and has grave news for him.”

“Speak,” the queen said, engrossed with her compass. Adolphus turned to look at the Count.

“The Magician is most devastated to inform you, but he has seen with his own eyes – your parents are dead.”

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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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