Saturday, January 26, 2020
The #steampunk riverboat is back, my chuckaboos!
My Writing Process
From the beginning, back in the original version of The Delta Pearl, I wanted to give the story two unique characteristics (along with the magical riverboat setting). One was the gemstone names for the crew. The other was having the crew be from many different places.
Agate, the Cook, is from Scotland. I had been wanting to give her more dialogue. When Carol left bloomers as a “random reader thing” I knew how I wanted to use it.
When we were discussing gemstone names, Dan Antion, who also lets me use a lot of his photographs, mentioned Malachite. Since I was already aware of the hazards of working with the gem, I knew it was perfect. I should have listed it as a thing last time, but the simple truth is, I forgot. This chapter’s other random thing is crochet hook from Resa.
Thanks to everyone who responded to my “call for things” last weekend. I’ve added them to my story matrix. Everyone is still welcome to leave a random thing — that existed in the Victorian or Steam Era, please do so in a comment. I love to give shout-outs for the things.
Are you ready?
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 21 — Poison
For a second my eyes were on the brown cloud and whatever it concealed. However, it rose quickly, and I had more important concerns.
“Quickly, we need to clear his lungs!” Jaspe exclaimed.
The charm of his New Orleans accent did nothing to lessen the impact of the Dealer’s demand. The words hit my stomach like an icy fist.
Jaspe seemed unhurt, although his face was dirty and his cravat was gone. His shirt was pulled half open and the sleeve of his coat had a large cut. Thankfully, I didn’t see any blood. The Dealer stooped beside the Captain. His concern was obvious.
“He has breathed malachite dust and it’s poisonous,” Jaspe stated.
I didn’t know what to do, as I stood there shocked and useless. All I could think was that it was stupid of me to notice that the emerald of the Captain’s all-seeing eye pin still glowed. It was not as bright as it was when they were inside the brown cloud, but it still glowed. I wondered that no one else seemed to notice.
“I know what we can use. I need help though,” Dr. Victor T. Elam said and hurried down the stairs.
Garnet Redford, the Chief Porter, and Obsidian Durango, the Cadet, were quick to follow him.
My sigh of relief was audible. Victor wasn’t much older than me, so I wasn’t entirely confident. However, he had known exactly what to do to repair the leech barometer. So, I dared hope.
Cecil Perlog coughed and hacked like a man who had been pulled from a burning building. Agate sprawled on the deck beside him, wiping soot from his face with her handkerchief.
Agate’s gown hiked above her knees. Coral reached down to pull Agate’s skirt back into place. It was only natural for one woman to try and help another preserve her modesty.
The Cook always had trouble containing her temper if she was afraid for a loved one. Agate’s distress spilled onto the good intentioned chamber maid.
“Did ya think I cared that my bloomers were showin’?” Agate demanded of the surprised chamber maid. “Right now, I wouldn’t care if my whole bahoochie showed!”
The Cook took a deep breath and looked sheepishly at Coral.
“It’s all right, lass. I know you were only trying to do what you could to help,” Agate told her.
Moments later, Garnet, Sid, and Victor came back up to the Hurricane deck. They maneuvered a very large case up the stairs. I recognized the towering portmanteau that Dr. Elam was so fussy about when he boarded the Delta Pearl.
They were breathing hard from carrying the heavy leather covered case.
“It’s just an invention I’ve been tinkering with,” Victor commented as Garnet helped him lift a large steel tank from the case.
Everyone who could see into the case gasped. A chorus of murmurs arose. Inside the portmanteau was what looked like a metal man with bulbous joints.
“And how is it you dobbers think a suit of armor will help?” Agate exclaimed in a Scottish accent that was heavy with emotion. “Besides, it’d never fit Cecil!”
“That’s only the atmospheric diving suit, Miss Agate. The Carmagnolle brothers in Marseilles, France built the original. This is my variation,” Victor began while the Cook sputtered.
The young inventor touched, tapped, and pulled at various spots around the neck of the suit. To manipulate the smallest ones, he used a tool that I thought must actually be a crochet hook. A few seconds later he detached the thing’s big round head.
The Captain tried to sit up, but another fit of coughing overtook him. His eyes were even redder than they were when he emerged from the brown cloud.
“I’m blind,” the Captain muttered in a voice that was hoarse but matter-of-fact. “Why is the Pearl spinning?” he asked.
The riverboat had become still as soon as the cloud and whatever it obscured moved away. If the Captain was dizzy and sightless, I feared his condition must be very bad.
Agate gave a whimper when the Captain said he was blind. She turned pleading eyes to the young inventor.
“The important part is the oxygen cylinder,” Victor continued as Garnet and Sid lifted the heavy canister. “I haven’t been able to get the pressure right for underwater use. You see, I intend this cylinder to be used instead of the long hoses that attach to diving suits,” Victor added in response to our blank stares.
“Since we are not under water, that doesn’t matter that my invention didn’t work properly. All we need is the oxygen and the helmet,” he continued.
Victor looked at the Captain as if for approval.
“Go ahead, son,” Cecil Perlog said, gasping for breath.
Jaspe held up the Captain’s shoulders while Victor and Garnet fitted the helmet around his head.
Victor twisted knobs connecting a small hose from the oxygen cylinder to the round metal helmet. I heard a soft hiss as the air came out of the tank. Victor nodded in satisfaction.
Agate had managed to keep hold of the Captain’s hand the entire time.
“Just hold on now, Big yin. He’s a cannie lad. We’ll get you fixed right up,” she assured the Captain, though a tear ran down her cheek.
The Delta Pearl had ceased her wild movements as soon as the sooty cloud, and whatever it hid, left the riverboat. As soon as the Pearl returned to normal, the Mate rushed out of the pilothouse.
When the Captain’s condition had improved enough that he could be moved, Jaspe and Blue John helped him to his quarters. I followed, as did Victor and Agate. The Cook and my little inventor stayed with the Captain. Victor wanted to administer more oxygen. Agate simply wouldn’t leave his side.
The Captain assured me that his sight had returned. Jaspe seemed to know a lot about the poison. The Dealer said the blindness was only a temporary effect of exposure to the poison. The Captain promised me he would be fine. I nodded, trying to be mature.
The emerald of his all-seeing eye pin sparkled brightly, but only as a perfect gemstone would. It no longer glowed.
Blue John, despite his emotionally frazzled state, was calm in the face of the crisis. I wondered if he would stay that way or fall completely apart, in a delayed reaction, once he felt sure everything was safe again. At any rate, the Mate returned to the pilothouse.
I followed the Dealer out of the Captain’s quarters. I studied Jaspe closely. Unlike the Captain, there was no redness in his eyes, no fit of coughing. Yet Jaspe had been inside the cloud longer than the Captain.
“Don’t think I’m not relieved,” I began uncertainly. “But you were in that poison cloud longer than the captain. You seem unharmed. How?”
Jaspe took my hand and bent to kiss it. As usual, his face was not very mobile. His mouth twisted slightly. For the Dealer, that was a rueful expression.
“Ah, cher, what a terrible thing for your sweet sixteen, no?” he said to deflect my question.
My lips curled inward to a petulant line. I tapped the toe of my green velvet boot to make sure he saw my impatience. Jaspe gave a long-suffering sigh.
“There are a number of reasons why I escaped unscathed,” Jaspe began. “Firstly, the entire cloud was not toxic. The cloud of smog was from a coal powered engine. The poison dust was from a weapon. Unfortunately, the Captain bore the brunt of Malachite’s use of it. Secondly, I suspected such a weapon and had covered my nose and mouth with my cravat.”
“Who is Malachite?” I asked when the Dealer started to turn away.
“That is a name I hoped you would never hear, cher. Malachite is my nemesis.”
Jaspe made the statement as if it was simple. He walked away, leaving me gaping in astonishment.
End Chapter 21
Research is also a huge part of my writing process. Without taking time to go into detail, here are just a couple of the links I used for this episode, if you’re curious.
Thanks for reading. I’ll see you at the riverbank next weekend, my chuckaboos!
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 © 2016 and 2019 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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