Saturday, August 1, 2020
Welcome back to my sanctuary, my chuckaboos. Here are some notes for those of you who were not aboard at the beginning of this riverboat journey. Chuckaboo is a Victorian Era slang word for “dear friend.” Everyone who reads and leaves a friendly comment is my chuckaboo.
The setting is a magical riverboat, the Delta Pearl. It’s a steampunk fantasy, so there are elements of magic, along with real (and potentially real – that’d be the fantasy part again) technology that is suitable to the Steam Era.
The most important crewmembers of the Delta Pearl have gemstone names. They are also known by their positions as if their titles were proper names. The Captain, the Dealer, and the Cook are parental figures for the young protagonist.
The heroine is Émeraude, who recently had her sixteenth birthday. Poor thing has a crew full of “big brothers,” in addition to the parental figures — who think they know what – and who is best for her This is not appreciated by our heroine, who immediately took a shine to a passenger. He’s a geeky but genius inventor named Victor T. Elam. Along the way we learned that the initial T is for Topaz. Hmmm…
This is a rewrite of a novel with which I just wasn’t satisfied — so I’ve been reworking it as a serial here. After the serial is finished, I will “bookize” and publish The Delta Pearl. I’ve been adding “random reader things” to the existing text, and letting the things drive new material. Diana Wallace Peach and Mary J both left the word nefarious and used it in a similar way. As they say, great minds think alike. Read on to see how I used this “thing.”
Let’s get on with this episode.
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 43 — Dart
We couldn’t let the clockwork bug get away! I jumped out of bed much too fast. Black splotches and dizziness got the better of me and I plopped back onto the bed.
“Emmie!” Agate began with the hated nickname. “You keep your bahoochie in that bed.”
Tiny copper wings flitted all around the cabin. I tried to push past the Cook and her fussing.
The miniature clockwork scarab latched onto the ceiling. Victor stood on the foot of my bed trying to catch it.
“Do you think this one is connected to the malachite scarab we encountered ashore?” he asked.
“It’s too much of a coincidence not to be. The only question is, did it get aboard while we were docked in Cairo, Illinois? Or did it come from the brown cloud ― and whatever was inside it that attacked at my sweet sixteen party?” I replied, still trying to get past Agate.
I pulled my legs out from under the Cook and stood on the bed. Only then did I realize I was wearing a nightgown. I vaguely remembered Agate helping me out of my river-soaked green frock.
“Oh… my favorite gown was ruined, wasn’t it?” I remarked in sudden dismay, and then set about trying to grab the bug.
“Émeraude, have you no shame?” Agate cried aghast, as I stood, wearing bedclothes in the presence of a man.
The scarab darted down to the bedside table and grabbed the little papyrus scroll. The larger malachite scarab had dropped the strip of hole-punched papyrus to me while I was trapped in the net, suspended high above the ground.
The Cook shrieked and tried to swat the copper bug. Agate missed, but she succeeded in keeping the papyrus from it.
“Didn’t you say you know what the little holes mean?” I asked Victor as I jumped for the scarab when it darted past me.
A thump-thump-thud caused me to look at the floor. Cal, the clockwork horse Victor made, pranced trying to bite the bug. Despite the urgency of the situation, I almost laughed when I saw Amethyst sitting on Cal’s head. My spider appeared to be scanning the cabin. I knew she liked to get to the highest spot in a room.
Amethyst pounced from Cal, to Agate, and to my shoulder. Then she launched herself to Victor’s head, and from there to a light suspended from the ceiling near the door.
“Yes,” Victor answered. “I think it’s a template for a music box cylinder.”
I bounced on the bed as the bug made another pass. Victor jumped impressively high when it buzzed him, knocking his own spectacles askew.
“Will you children stop jumping on the bed this instant!” the Cook cried.
Amethyst leapt from the ceiling lamp just as the copper scarab flew for the open door. She swung from a fine silver thread. With her pincers, the clockwork spider caught the bug by one of its legs.
Victor quickly put his top hat over them both. Amethyst gave an indignant shrill.
As soon as Victor had uttered the term music box, my mind started working. The Captain had an antique music box. Also, there was one among the multitude of details in the portrait. We were unsuccessful in our attempt to learn more about the portrait when we went ashore. However, I had only been thinking about the woman who was its main subject.
A strange associate had told Randall Needleman about the Green Scarab Gallery, where Randall suggested we might learn about the portrait. However, we found the gallery boarded up, completely closed. A clockwork scarab had been in the window. A malachite stone decorated the green scarab.
That scarab was an ominous thing because when an unseen force attacked the Delta Pearl at my birthday party. I didn’t understand what the nefarious force was, but the Captain and the Dealer mentioned someone called Malachite. He had been banished from the riverboat before I became part of her crew.
Hissing sounded from beneath the top hat. A clockwork struggle was taking place. Agate handed Victor the empty water glass from my bedside. He approached his hat carefully, glass ready to capture the tiny scarab.
Victor eased toward the top hat, ready with the glass. Just then both clockwork creatures burst from under their millinery prison. Amethyst had not let go of the little scarab. It gave a high-pitched cry and broke free. A miniature copper leg was still in the spider’s mouth.
The scarab darted out the open door of the cabin.
End Chapter 43
Your friendly comments are welcome. Be well, be happy, my chuckaboos.
This serial is made possible in spite of (not because of) the deplorable lack of Internet service from TDS Telecom. They are even worse than the government about claiming no problem exists in the face of failure. TDS Telecom meets every complaint and service call by saying they find no problem. Their technicians come to my home and refuse to do any work or replace equipment, even when their offsite managers have instructed them to do so. They brought equipment that they openly state does not work properly. They refuse to let me talk to a manager. They refuse to promise to send someone other than the previous do-nothing tech. They refuse to make sure the technicians have working hardware with them. My letters, emails, and tweets go unanswered. Dear readers, please do not comment here in response to this paragraph. Just be aware of my awful experience with this so called provider.
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 2020 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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