Saturday, December 29 , 2018
Here we are, in that limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s still a festive time, but it is rather a “between” time. However, the #SteamPunk train has arrived at the platform and we’re ready for another chapter of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers. Although the mode of transportation is about to change. This time we also learn a little about Felicity’s heritage.
Previously with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
When the entire large shape was in full view, I still didn’t know what it could be. “Cornelis…” I began, but found I was at a loss for words. “Wha—”
Cornelis Drebbel clasped his hands and a gleeful expression lit his face, as if he beheld something he had long missed.
“It’s my submarine!” he crowed.
Through one of his “tricks” the alchemist saw a dozen villains rapidly approaching the family estate of the Wongs. Alastair’s ancestral connection to Cornelis made him as eager to defend the alchemist as he was to protect his home. Alastair and Victoria used the road locomotive to rush back home while our trio waited to board Cornelis Drebbel’s submarine.
“Cornelis Drebbel, are you trying to tell me that this submarine is powered by a magical creature that farts a highly concentrated vaporous form of absinthe?” I asked and I couldn’t prevent my voice going up a full octave on the last word.
Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
24 — Coyote, La Llorona, Chupacabra
Being under water in a submarine had not phased the bricky little girl. So, her frantic reaction to a supernatural presence surprised me.
“We have to help her!” Copper screamed and burst into tears.
“She can’t be helped, Copper! She is not alive. Her pain follows her in death. She is not human,” I urgently tried to explain as the girl struggled in my grasp.
Copper couldn’t be allowed to go to that woman. If she did, she’d be killed.
I looked back to the water’s edge. A woman with long dark hair wailed in sorrow as she walked along the shore. Her dress of flowing white was a false suggestion of purity. Although no one could hear her intense grief and not feel sympathy as she repeated the distraught cry.
“¡Ay, mis hijos!”
“Quickly Cornelis! Pull Copper inside before the magic completely beguiles her,” I called to the alchemist.
His blonde head popped back up from the submarine’s hatch where he had gone ahead of us. He said the Green Fairy would need reassurance, so we wouldn’t startle it. Meanwhile Copper and I were poised, levitated on a cloud of green above the water beside the submarine.
Wide-eyed, Cornelis hissed a warning that the noise we were making would frighten Absinthe, the Green Fairy who powered the submarine. However, a glance at my face was enough for him to know something was wrong. I motioned with my head toward the shore — I daren’t move one of my hands from the struggling girl so I could point. She was already bespelled enough to try and reach the Weeping Woman.
“What is that…?” Cornelis asked, meaning the woman.
“It’s La Llorona! She beguiles children. Hurry and help me get Copper inside,” I urged.
However, Copper twisted free of my grasp. She jumped from our levitated spot and dove toward the water in attempt to reach the sorrowful woman.
“Cornelis!” I screamed.
A thin thread of luminous green shot after Copper. It was same trick the alchemist used to pull me from the river when the alchemically-amped road locomotive had taken a turn too fast and my hatbox (containing his skull) went overboard. I had jumped into the river to save it, but we both ended up with head colds. The alchemist’s sneezes had odd results.
The magical thread wrapped securely around Copper before she even touched the surface of the water. With a couple of hand motions Cornelis reeled her back and quickly pulled her into the submarine. I jumped in behind and closed the hatch.
“Such a tortured soul! How did you know what would happen?” the Dutchman asked.
Cornelis seemed to sympathize with La Llorona. I looked at him closely, wondering if her spell had affected the Dutchman as well as Copper. Her magic was only supposed to be effective on children, but Cornelis was no ordinary human being, so I felt a moment of uncertainty. However, looking into his eyes, I decided he was not influenced, just uncharacteristically empathetic.
“It was La Llorona,” I explained. “I learned the legend from my maternal grandmother. She was from Mexico. Although it now seems to be more than just a story,” I said shaking my head in disbelief at the scene I had just witnessed.
“Some say La Llorona was insane with jealousy, but whatever her reasoning, she drowned her children. My grandmother told the story that she came to her senses enough to comprehend something was wrong, and she wandered, searching for them. When La Llorona realized what she had done, she drowned herself as well. But her spirit was forever trapped between life and death. So she wanders and beguiles children, leading them to a watery death,” I explained the legend as my grandmother imparted it during my childhood.
“With that kind of bedtime story, you must have been afraid to close your eyes,” Cornelis said and I nodded. “Why, your grandmother was a woman after my own heart,” he said with a lopsided grin.
I rolled my eyes at the incorrigible alchemist.
“She would have said you were an old coyote,” I retorted. “And she would have liked you,” I added in a sardonic tone, knowing I spoke the truth.
The Dutchman looked over his shoulder and again reminded me to be quiet.
“And whatever you do, you must not startle the Green Fairy,” he whispered.
Carefully, I climbed down the ladder from the hatch. I was about to ask where Copper was when I heard muffled sobbing from a corner. She was huddled under a piece of furniture that seemed to be a sort of desk, and she was crying from the influence of La Llorona.
Whether it was a desk or something else, it was an interesting piece. The hutch opened out, wing-like with numerous compartments of boxes and little apothecary type drawers. Those drawers had crystal faces with little brass knobs. The open boxes were filled with all manner of glittering apparatuses.
On the desktop two broadly different variations of Cornelis Drebbel’s perpetual motion clock were mounted within shimmering glass domes. I couldn’t help shuddering at the amount of trouble those might cause.
The desk had an ordinary desktop supported by drawered cabinetry on each side. The middle, where a chair might go, had a roll-down covering which was part-way down. That’s where Copper crouched, sobbing.
I moved to go to Copper. The poor girl couldn’t possibly understand what had happened, or the spell La Llorona’s wail had cast upon her. However, Cornelis caught my arm. He held a finger to his lips and then pointed toward the space just above the desk.
“Is that…?” I began in fascination. “Is that the Green Fairy? And that tiny creature can power this vessel?” I asked.
Cornelis smiled like an indulgent parent and nodded.
“Actually it is our energies combined, mine and his, that power this vessel. Although I do believe Absinthe could produce enough power to run this submarine and another as well — if he were of a mind.”
I tilted my head and watched in amazement. Absinthe would have fit in my outstretched palm. He looked like a fluffy baby skunk, but where a skunk would’ve had black fur the Green Fairy’s was, well — green. Moreover, it was bright green, just like the liquor. On butterfly wings, he fluttered down toward Copper.
Absinthe chirped once as he investigated the girl, who had yet to see him. Copper, sobbing, didn’t pay any attention to the next chirp either. The tiny creature began snuffling at her hair, snuffle-chirp-chirp, snuffle-chirp-chirp.
I edged closer very cautiously, not wanting to interrupt the wondrous display. I detected a faintly sweet aroma like licorice. Apparently all the snuffling and chirping must have tickled, because Copper started to giggle through her tears. I didn’t know if skunks, or rather Green Fairies, could smile, but tiny Absinthe looked like he was smiling when Copper looked up at him in delighted fascination.
Cornelis pointed to the roll-down covering where Copper had tucked herself.
“He must really like her,” the Dutchman said. “That’s his favorite pouting post. Whenever Absinthe gets annoyed or frightened, he darts under there and slams down the cover,” Cornelis explained with a mystified chuckle.
A sharp ping distracted me and I turned toward the sound. Beside what I thought must be a periscope was a multi-limbed brass contrivance. Each arm ended with a walnut sized faceted gemstone. The device gyrated and whirred so much that it was difficult to count its arms, but I thought there were seven, each capped with a different colored gem. The base of the device lit up causing the gemstones to cast a rainbow effect.
Absinthe fluttered toward the colorful machine. Apparently the tiny fairy had failed to notice me until I spoke.
“How pretty, Cornelis. What does it do?” I asked pointing at the device.
Absinthe the Green Fairy, by Teagan
When I moved my hand to point, the Green Fairy fluttered backward a beat. Luminous emerald eyes widened. Absinthe hissed at me. Then I heard a farting sound. From his bantam backside blew a billow of bright green vapor.
“I told you not to startle him!” Cornelis admonished. “Copper, stay where you are and don’t stand up until that cloud clears!” the alchemist instructed hastily. “Felicity, hurry and open that hatch!”
“Hurry and open the hatch how?” I giggled as I wobbled up the ladder.
“Dear heavens it’s already too late,” Cornelis groaned as he climbed up beside me.
“I can’t budge the beastly bugger open,” I complained. “Who needs fresh air, Cornelis. It’s fine in here. You’ll just let in that dank, damp… Oh! Keep your daddles to yourself. Watch your hands!” I cautioned as he reached around me trying to get to the hatch handle.
A whoosh of air hit me in the face. When I looked toward the shore I could have sworn I saw a hippopotamus singing to a group of infatuated mermaids who played music upon lyres. La Llorona danced with a chupacabra — a goat-killing blood sucker from another of my grandmother’s stories. Then, as the alchemist had commented, I wondered how I had ever managed to sleep as a child.
When I turned my head, the world lurched.
The green vapors of concentrated absinthe streamed up through the opening around us. When I looked at Cornelis, he seemed to be standing at a peculiar angle. He looked back at me and snorted laughter. He took my arm and pulled me upright. Apparently I was the one who was leaning far to one side.
For a moment he looked just like a coyote in a silk jacket. I snorted out a laugh, then covered my mouth in embarrassment, then I collapsed in giggles.
I noticed that Cornelis held his harmonic tuner. He looked quite bleary-eyed.
“Cornelis you should take better care of yourself. Are you coming down with another head cold?” I asked feeling more than a little arfarfan’arf.
He held the tuner above our heads and gave it one sharp ring. The sound reverberated inside my skull in an unpleasant way. I groaned as the world around me started to spin madly. Cornelis rang the harmonic tuner again.
“Stop that!” I cried trying to reach high enough to take the damnable bell away from the alchemist.
As the ringing subsided, the coyote faded with it, leaving only Cornelis. The chupacabra and La Llorona danced a final turn before they blurred and disappeared, leaving the shoreline deserted.
I took a long deep breath.
“I told you not to startle the Green Fairy,” Cornelis said drolly.
Real World Notes
Abraham Roentgen’s Writing Desk. Imagining the cabinetry inside the steampunk submarine made me think of the work of Abraham Roentgen. He was a very successful cabinetmaker in the eighteenth century. In his hands, a piece of furniture became a work of art. His customers included sovereigns, aristocrats, and other influential people. Roentgen’s style was characterized by grandeur, inventiveness, and meticulously detailed shapes. He is known for writing tables that not only have numerous secret compartments but could also be transformed into a private altar.
This serial continues on Hidebound Hump Day. Next time, the “three things” were inspired by my Atonement novels: Home, Neighbors, and Mimosa.
I’ll be looking for you at the station on Wednesday.
Now some shameless self-promotion.
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
USA: Atonement in Bloom
USA: Atonement, Tennessee
(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 and 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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