Wednesday, April 17, 2019
It’s time for Hidebound Hump Day, my chuckaboos! I’m grateful to everyone who started this wild ride on the #steampunk train, and then the submarine. What mode of transportation will we take next?
As you know, the serials on this blog are pantser stories. They are completely unplanned. I let the “three things” readers send drive the plot of each episode. This conclusion is the exception. It was not driven by three things — rather it was formed by the “things” from each of the previous episodes — so that’s 99 things! I warn you that it’s a long chapter, but like I said — 99 things!
Hang on tight. The story concludes today!
Previously with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
Chapter 38. Cal Hicks held Felicity’s arm. “Quickly,” he hissed into her ear. “Get into the gondola.”
When Felicity turned she saw that Copper was already climbing into the aerial screw. Absinthe and Aubrieta fluttered around it, touching various apparatus with their tiny paws. Felicity looked back at the interlopers from her own world. They were looking right at her.
Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
39 — Conclusion
“I’m sorry my friend, there’s no time for proper goodbyes!” Corenlis Drebbel called to Cal Hicks, the amethyst ape. “It will save an enormous amount of energy if we take the aerial screw through the opening the villains created.”
“I understand, Lord of Alchemy,” Hicks told him.
Just then Itsy ran back into view. The chimpanzee rushed straight for Cal Hicks and I thought she meant him harm. I yelled for Cornelis to do something, but he only gave me that pucker-faced contemplative look of his. Itsy slipped as she ran at Hicks. She slid to a stop, sobbing at his feet.
To my astonishment she turned her tear-streaked face up to Hicks and handed him the mystic people harmonic tuner. Itsy seemed to be apologizing, but it was difficult to distinguish her words with all the weeping and wailing.
“What the devil?” I began.
Cornelis cast an impatient gaze on me and I didn’t finish my sentence.
“Do you really mean to tell me that you didn’t know?” he asked with a sardonic twist of his mouth.
“Know what?” I sputtered.
The alchemist gave a negligent waive of his hand at the contrivance above our heads. The threads of the device glowed yellow-green and the noise was magically silenced. I could hear Itsy clearly as she spoke to Cal Hicks, repeating her remorse.
“They said they’d kill you!” she cried. “Ced told me so. Those people are the ones who enslaved Ced. Thinking he was only a stupid animal, the fiends discussed it in front of him. They plan to kill your doppelgänger, once they get what they want. And we think you will die when your double is killed!” Itsy bawled. “I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you Cal— I mean Mr. Hicks.”
“No, no dear child,” Hicks told Itsy as he patted her hand. “It doesn’t work like that with the doppelgängers. If they wanted to kill me, then they’d have to kill me.”
The villains, including Bitsy the erstwhile maid at the Belle Inn, moved closer. Abruptly Itsy gave a horrified look at Cal Hicks, and put both hands to her mouth, desperately trying to avoid sicking-up. Still halfway across the burned out yard, I saw Bitsy being less successful at controlling her reaction to the nearness of her double.
“Do you mean to tell me Itsy was in love with Cal Hicks and you deduced it that quickly?” I demanded crossly of Cornelis Drebbel.
The Dutchman of course, only gave a self-satisfied smirk.
“I know what they were after too,” he added with a wriggle of his bushy blonde eyebrows at the foes who chased us all the way into the amethyst world.
I tapped my foot, silently waiting for him to answer. I wouldn’t give the man the satisfaction of asking.
“What did they want?” Copper asked, spoiling the point I was trying to get across.
“Why you are standing in it, Copper!” Cornelis said and tousled her new penny colored curls. “We all knew it was a potential, we just didn’t really think they knew about the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci.”
“So they wanted to make one of these things? Will it really fly enough to carry us?” Copper asked.
“Oh yes, Copper. This one will fly and carry us wherever we want to go,” Cornelis Drebbel told the girl and grinned before turning to me.
Copper looked preoccupied with her surroundings. The alchemist moved closer to me and spoke in a faint whisper.
“They knew about the valuable drawings all along,” he told me. “But they needed a talented inventor if they were to have any hope of making it work. Calvin Hixon slipped through their fingers. So they set out to kidnap his daughter, planning to use Copper to force her father to do their bidding,” Cornelis finished.
“Ignatius,” I hissed accusingly. “Bitsy got the information from him, one way or another, didn’t she,” I said and Cornelis nodded. “Hixon surely told him about the drawings when he tried to bring Ignatius into the family fold, if he in fact didn’t tell him before.”
“Wave goodbye, Copper. We must hurry and be off,” Cornelis told her and she waved and blew kisses to Cal Hicks, who looked very sad to see us leave.
A horrified expression came to Copper’s blue eyes.
“Absinthe hurry — come here! Aubrieta!” Copper yelled to the little fairies.
The last time I noticed the Green Fairy and his mate the two skunk-looking fae fluttered around the upper parts of the aerial screw, making adjustments. However, I followed Copper’s gaze and saw them through the tall window of the laboratory. They were inside the building and investigated the array of gadgets on the long worktable.
Aubrieta, the Purple Fairy who had been trapped in a transformation as the one-eyed-one-horned-flying-purple-people-eater when she first came to this realm, chirped as she darted from one instrument to another. Absinthe, the Green Fairy behaved similarly. The two moved a few strange looking implements aside for reasons only they knew.
The acute hearing of the fae caused them to stop what they were doing and turn toward Copper’s voice. The fairies dotted on the girl. A purple and green aura surrounded the small collection of implements. Absinthe shook his fluffy striped tail at the aura and it disappeared — along with all the devices it covered. Aubrieta nodded to her mate in a satisfied seeming way and the two fairies popped out of sight.
An instant later Absinthe appeared on Copper’s shoulder. Aubrieta fluttered in the air beside her, delicately playing with a strand of her coppery hair. The display was charmingly affectionate, but it seemed sad to me.
A tear rolled down each of Copper’s cheeks. Absinthe kissed one and Aubrieta kissed the other. Without realizing I spoke aloud, I had murmured the word no. Absinthe flew to me and playfully pulled the bright purple streak in my hair. I knew the metering device would turn completely purple if we stayed too long in the amethyst world. But the alchemist never warned me that my hair might begin to turn ultra-violet!
Absinthe turned his bantam backside toward me and fluffed out his tail, pretending he was about to spray his potent potable of super-powered absinthe poot. Aubrieta chirped a warning at him, but both still seemed playful to me.
“They’re not coming with us?” I asked Cornelis, but I already knew the answer.
“Felicity, I do believe you’ve become attached to our farting fae,” Cornelis said. “No they aren’t coming,” he continued. “Well, not right away. They’re far too fond of Copper to stay away. No, they’ll make sure the portal closes properly behind us. We don’t want all manner of riffraff from our world coming into this idyllic purple place.”
“So they’ll join us again in moments,” I said hopefully.
Copper shook her head sadly, but then brightened.
“They have a surprise for Cornelis,” she confided in an over-loud whisper that immediately got the alchemist’s attention. “They’re going to stay and fix his submarine. Then they’ll bring it with them,” she told me as a grinning Cornelis turned his back, pretending he didn’t hear.
As the threads of the contraption whirred the gondola lifted up into the air. Cornelis didn’t take it up very high though. The portal through which the hydrofoil entered was not far above the ground. The aerial screw entered the edge of the bright pink aura that outlined the opening to our world. Copper looked intently all around at the crowd of simians.
“Viola’s not here. I didn’t get to say goodbye, and I really liked her. Can’t we go back so I can tell her? Maybe she’d like to go with us,” Copper pleaded.
“No child,” Cornelis told her looking genuinely regretful as the flying machine began to enter the gateway. “Do you remember when I said this portal was not expertly made? Things and beings can only use this particular portal once. If we tried to go back now, we’d be lost between.”
“Between what?” I had to ask.
“Between here and there,” Cornelis said and my mouth twisted, because I should have known he’d say something to annoy me. “I hear it’s not a terribly pleasant place,” he added.
When I looked back toward the laboratory, I saw the lavender sky. Turning my head the other direction I saw a sky of blue. I sighed a relieved, happy breath. Sometimes I wondered if I would ever see that blue sky again.
Just as the gondola finished traversing the gateway, I looked back and saw the hydrofoil charging toward us.
“Oh no…” Cornelis muttered.
I could see Bitsy’s angry face. The men with her held up guns aimed at us, ready to fire the minute they got close enough.
“Cornelis, shouldn’t you put some kind of shield around us. Those guns fire real bullets, you realize,” I reminded the alchemist.
“He wasn’t oh-no-ing about the guns,” Copper said with a light of comprehension in her blue eyes as she watched the scene in wonder.
The hydrofoil entered the portal and immediately the view was dimmed by a foggy veil. The craft lurched violently. Then it rocked as if in slow motion.
The mist became so thick we could no longer see inside the portal. The fog bulged out from the gateway and then drew back. I heard the hydrofoil’s engine cough and muffled yelling from the people manning the craft. After a moment there was silence.
Copper, the alchemist, and I stared dumbfounded. Finally, the shrill cry of a hawk broke the silence. I gave an involuntary shudder, pondering the kind of place that must sit between the two worlds. I wondered if Bitsy and those men deserved whatever their fate actually was. However, I reminded myself that they were willing to do harm to Calvin Hixon and to Copper to get what they wanted. Suddenly, the idea of their fate didn’t bother me so much.
When I looked down I expected to see the tops of giant redwood trees, or the beaches of the Pacific coastal area where we were before we accidentally entered the amethyst world. Yet I didn’t see anything of the kind.
“Cornelis, that doesn’t look like California or Oregon or any part of the Pacific coast,” I pointed down and declared.
“No?” he said and nonchalantly looked down from our vantage point, which was much higher after we went through the portal. “Well, it is not exactly to be expected that the flying machine would return us to the place where we left in the submarine. That portal was opened haphazardly, without professional design or calculations,” he said, finally looking a little bit concerned.
“Actually there’s no telling where it opened or where we are,” the alchemist said with that sardonic twist that curled his upper lip while his lower lip twisted to the side.
“There’s something down there that looks pretty large,” I commented, trying to see through a feathery white cloud.
Cornelis pulled a lever and twisted a crystal knob and the aerial screw moved gently lower. I saw a massive complex of stone buildings.
“Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” Cornelis exclaimed to gales of laughter from Copper. “It’s Windsor Castle. We’re in England. I haven’t been to England in at least a hundred years! Shall we pay them a visit, Copper?”
“I don’t know Cornelis,” I began. “That seems like a bad idea. One doesn’t simply drop in on the Queen.”
Naturally, the Dutchman paid no attention whatsoever to my protest. The aerial screw hovered above a green area within the castle walls. They seemed to be holding a small faire on the lawn. I thought it must be to showcase inventions, as several large and unusual things were on display on each side of the lawn.
I saw a boat dry docked that looked a lot like the paddle steamer that belonged to Ignatius Belle, as well as a dirigible tethered by a rope so that it floated twenty feet above the ground. There was something made of gleaming metal that I supposed was a steam powered motor car. Then I saw what I could have sworn was our road locomotive!
Our flying machine slowly drew closer to the ground and I could see the people clearly. A tallish Asian man stood before an elaborately decorated seating area. He wore a brocade of a white lion and a very tiny woman stood next to him. “Alastair!” I cried in astonishment when I recognized Alastair Wong and Victoria.
With my shout, everyone on the ground turned to look up at us. I was even more surprised, if less pleasantly so, to see Sheriff Bullard and Ignatius Belle inspecting the strange looking motor car.
However, it was no surprise when the alchemy went awry and Cornelis began having difficulty controlling the aerial screw. Our craft loomed dangerously close to a tall model of the Eiffel Tower. The gondola became ensnared on the tower.
Alastair Wong, nimble as ever, rapidly climbed the scale model of the French wonder. In a moment he freed the gondola and hopped onboard. I stared in stunned appreciation of his feat.
“I hope you didn’t expect me to climb back down,” Wong commented jokingly. “It’s only fair that I get to experience this magnificent machine from up here.”
Of course we assailed him with questions about the event below and the people we knew. We already knew about the money problems of Copper’s father. Alastair informed us that Calvin Hixon had reached out to nobility all across Europe, looking for a benefactor for his inventions. He had kept that mostly to himself, in fear of rejection.
It turned out that Copper’s father had not abandoned her at all. Hixon got a response to one of his requests for a sponsor. He arranged for a woman to take care of his daughter while he, on last minute notice in the form of a royal command, sailed across the Atlantic to meet his new benefactor.
Unfortunately, the woman he hired to take care of his daughter was Bitsy. The conniving maid had already been at work on Ignatius, having overheard conversations between the two men that revealed Ignatius was Hixon’s illegitimate son. She also heard them discuss re-creating Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions. She suspected that Hixon possessed the priceless drawings.
Bitsy intercepted Hixon’s communications so no one knew where he had gone. She made it look like Copper had been abandoned. Bitsy went to Ether Farthing of Merciful Haven Orphanage and put a bug in her ear that Copper had been left on her own. Bitsy had thought that if the orphanage took Copper, the girl would be neatly out of Bitsy’s way. Then Bitsy could search for the drawings and anything else that might be of use in her scheme.
One thing in Alastair’s narration surprised me. I would have thought the mean-spirited people from Merciful Haven were involved in the mess. However, it seemed that they were simply bad people, and not otherwise involved.
Cornelis regained control of the aerial screw and the threads twisted smoothly again. We floated slowly closer to the grandstand where Alastair and tiny Victoria were standing when we arrived.
“Oh! That’s the Queen isn’t it? Queen Victoria?” I said excitedly and Alastair chuckled and confirmed my brilliant bit of deduction.
Cornelis really didn’t need to snigger at me the way he did. Looking down I saw an elegant man of middle years. He bowed down on one knee before the Queen of England. He seem completely focused on the monarch, hardly even noticing our flying machine.
Abruptly Copper gave a shrill cry, “Daddy!”
Calvin Hixon looked upward toward his child’s cry and a broad smile split his face. Finally he noticed the aerial screw and wonder lit his eyes. The Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India was utterly forgotten the moment Calvin Hixon saw his daughter.
It wouldn’t have been Cornelis Drebbel if we had landed smoothly. The contrivance that carried us gave a loud screech. The Dutchman said he’d have it fixed in a jiffy.
“Cornelis, no! Please, let’s just land as best we can. We’re not that far above the ground,” I pleaded.
“Actually Felicity, we’re at enough of a height to risk serious injury,” Alastair said in a reasonable voice. “I know you wouldn’t put Copper at risk,” he added and I slumped in resignation.
A yellowish green aura surrounded the alchemist. Cornelis climbed to balance on the edge of the gondola. He was doing something to the threads of the screw, but I couldn’t see what he did. The machine stopped making that shrill sound and it appeared to run smoothly.
“See!” Cornelis exclaimed proudly, still balanced on the rim of the gondola. “Simple as that,” he said with a satisfied nod.
The threads of the screw began to rotate rapidly.
“Alastair! The brass lever behind you,” Cornelis cried.
Alastair Wong whirled to move the lever. When he touched it, the aerial screw lurched violently, but immediately slowed to normal and continued to descend.
However, Cornelis Drebble fell from the gondola when the craft lurched. I saw his body falling rapidly toward the ground. At the last instant he popped out of sight.
Sometimes when he popped away like that it was a while before the alchemist could return. I never understood how the pop works.
Alastair Wong, ever a gentleman helped me alight from the gondola — not that I needed assistance thank you. I was just being polite. I was not conforming to the constraints of society.
The diminutive Victoria Wong rushed to join us, delighted to see Copper again. Not to mention the fact that she was quietly pleased with Alastair’s theatrical rescue of the air machine from being snared on the tower. She gazed at her older cousin with an expression that bespoke hero worship.
Copper and her father had a joyous reunion. Hixon had sent an excited telegram to Ignatius Belle when Queen Victoria asked him to take part in the faire that was in progress. Ignatius hurried to join him and let him know the fullness of what was happening at home. However, none of them knew about the amethyst world.
“So where is this amazing alchemist?” Calvin Hixon wanted to know.
I looked around, beginning to feel worried that Cornelis hadn’t yet reappeared. Then I heard a sharp pop. A woman screamed and Palace Guards hurried to her side. When I got a look between the broad shoulders of the guards, I cringed and shook my head.
Cornelis Drebbel had rematerialized. The Dutchman sat in the lap of Queen Victoria.
The Queen’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the strange man who appeared out of nowhere and landed in her royal lap. I feared she’d demand his head right then and there. Then I remembered his skull was safely in my hatbox. He wasn’t exactly alive, so he couldn’t precisely be killed. Although he could suffer terribly.
I was absolutely aghast when Cornelis Drebbel wriggled his bushy blonde eyebrows at Queen Victoria.
Her eyes widened as she looked at the alchemist.
“We are not amused,” she said evenly.
It was even more surprising when a wicked glint came to her eyes and abruptly the Queen pinched his bottom! Cornelis shot up from her lap. For the very first time, I saw shock paint the face of Cornelis Drebbel.
Well dash my wig! That’s all, isn’t it, my chuckaboos… Everyone was so enthuzimuzzy that I’ve truly enjoyed rerunning this serial. It’s been absolutely hanging having you along for the ride.
Cornelis Drebbel gets another adventure — eventually… I started the novel a couple of years ago. I had outlined a very detailed plot and story-line, in the planning for National Novel Writing Month. That’s right — for once I was not going full on pantser.
Then, days before I was to start writing it, I saw a delightful animated movie. The blasted thing had all the details of my intended plot. I do mean details too, from smoke belching steampunk machines, to a missing father (I deliberately echoed that aspect of this serial), to a mother’s betrayal, to an evil scientist! It was April and the Extraordinary World.
Some people call that kind of thing “the Creative One-mind.” Whatever spin you want to put on it, I was completely derailed. I endeavored to create a new plot for Cornelis and a grown-up Copper, but I was thoroughly undermined. I’ve never gone back to the story I tried so hard to produce that November. However, it’s high on my list of novels to finish writing!
The next serial you will see from me is the collaboration with blogger extraordinaire, Dan Antion of No Facilities.
See you next time!
And of course, the obligatory shameless self-promotion.
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
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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 2019 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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