Steampunk Family

By the Acid Sea

September 1, 2012
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

There was a great deal more to be said, of course. One speech, no matter how heartfelt, is not enough to change centuries of tradition. Lady Aubergine met with farmers and groups of farmers all day. Captain Charette assisted her however she could. Language, or rather the lack of it, was no stumbling block to La Belle Capitaine. She guided, she pantomimed, she made pot after pot of compost tea. She seemed to be enjoying herself hugely, delighted to make the acquaintance of every vegetable there. And, of course, she left the von Hedwig family alone to enjoy their reunion.

The children told their parents all their adventures, from the end, from the beginning, and from the middle. Each peril, each discovery had to be explained from six perspectives. At last Mother procured a picnic from Lady Aubergine’s pantry and proposed an afternoon by the sea.

“But it’s acid!” Gerhardt warned. “Why would we want to go there?”

“If it were acid I should like to see it just for that,” she replied. “With proper safety precautions, of course. But Captain Charette assures me we are on an island in the Pacific Ocean, which we know to be water, not acid. Let’s take a look.”

So they walked over the ridge, forging a path where none had ever been. They were loaded with blankets and sandwiches and pots of water and strange, bell-shaped parasols. These were porous, to let in wind and rain, but dark to keep out the sun.

“It’s Lady Aubergine’s cloche!” Claire exclaimed. “To keep her out of the sun so she turned pale instead of purple.”

Then they had to explain everything they knew about vegetable culture to Mother, who had far more questions than anyone could answer. She was still asking the unanswerable when they reached the sea.

“There,” Mother said, “smells like ocean, not acid. I suspect that if you are a plant, quantities of salt water are far more dangerous for you than they are for animals such as ourselves.”

It was the least pleasant beach on which the von Hedwigs had ever picnicked. The sulfuric clouds that paved the sky reached down to meet the sea only one hundred yards or so off shore. They were bathed in bad smells and weird violet light, and the sandwiches got sand in them (as beach sandwiches always do). But they were together. The waves were gentle, the sand was white, and they were together. They talked, splashed, built elaborate sand castles and captured helpless sea creatures to live in them (all of which burrowed out or were released by Gerhardt), and just sat or walked together, all afternoon.

“How did you find us?” Adolphus asked.

“It was the fire you started at the palace, of course,” Father said. “We thought the land was uninhabited at first; there were no sign of hearth or industry. Then we found some odd plantings, large hedge-maze sorts of things which in retrospect were certainly houses, and there was evidence of farming – row crops and strange herd animals. But we hadn’t seen anyone. Then there was a huge pillar of smoke. We sped to it.”

“Were there – was there a lot of damage?” Claire asked with a glance at Bettina. Bettina was sitting at her mother’s feet, burying them in the sand.

“Only one wing of the palace showed significant damage. There were plenty of people there, too shocked and confused to hide from the sound of our engines, I suppose. We couldn’t talk to anyone, of course, but a young green fellow with yellow hair darted up and gave your mother a map. Then he ran away.”

“Rhodri!” Claire said.

“Friend of yours?”

“Yes,” said Claire, just as Adolphus said, “No.”

“Well the map led us here,” Mother said, catching one of Bettina’s ringlets around her finger, “so I count him to be my friend.”

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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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