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

The others were not far. Claire, Annabelle, and Bettina dragged Rhodri as far as throne room, but all passages that might have brought them to the queen’s chambers had at least one guard in them. Rhodri shook with fear, begging them not to do anything rash, or anything dangerous, or anything – anything at all, really. When Claire saw the guards coming for them, she turned on him.

“Get away from us,” she hissed. “Run!”

With a half-swallowed yelp the boy skittered away. He scrambled into a corridor and disappeared.

“I didn’t know you could do that! Why didn’t you do that an hour ago?” Annabelle said. “Weeks ago?”

Before the guards reached them, Bettina shoved the handle of her stick into her boot, tucking the top under her skirt, fluffing up her pinafore to hide it. By the time the guards reached them she was the very picture of wide-eyed innocence.

“You will attend the Queen,” the guard commanded.

“Of course,” Claire replied. “We are honored by her invitation.”

Annabelle gave her sister a sidelong look. Claire was standing straight and dignified, as though she had never spent a single moment sneaking around corridors. She gave the guards a gracious smile, giving him permission to lead on. Annabelle straightened as well, and tried to take Bettina’s hand. Bettina pulled away. She was sulking in the border between anger and fear; comfort might push her into fear, and it was not safe for her there.

The queen’s chamber was crowded with guards, perhaps a dozen just in the room. Annabelle could see flashes of red through the shrubbery wall; they were milling about outside as well.

Her brothers and sister were kneeling in a line, guards behind them. The queen, her chamberlain, and the Capsicum Chief stood facing them.

Annabelle took the lead to give nearsighted Claire a moment to study the blur of figures. She stood beside Mirabelle, squeezing her shoulder in greeting. Claire stopped beside her, and Bettina stood in front.

“Well, well, here they all are,” Queen Drysi began. She did not get another word out, however, for just then Bettina shouted.

“Bad man!”

She pointed at the Count, standing behind the chamberlain with a flowery fellow they didn’t know.

“Watch your tongue, little one,” Drysi spat. “You are addressing the Royal Magician.”

Claire curtseyed. “Your Majesty, we know this man, and have information that may change your opinion of him. If I may be allowed to explain the history of-”

“Your brother has explained everything, and see where it got him.”

Claire peered at Adolphus, perceiving the gag and deducing his bonds from the angle of his arms.

“Oh dear. Majesty, if I might give you our side of the story?”

“You have no side! My side! My side is the only side!” The Queen screamed, stamping her foot. “You come here and disrupt everything! You promised me magic. Where is it? You’ve done nothing for me, nothing! You found that awful, lying fountain and made me punish everyone and it’s all your fault!”

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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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