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First Chapter Of My New Steampunk Novel

Posted by djingodjango on Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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 Baron Cornelius VonBonnk

A Tale of Steam Power - Future Earth and Treachery

 

 by

George Heath Locke

Preface

      The following is an excerpt from Juan Ivan Plotski’s unprecedented “Encyclopedia of Small Planets”, Volume CVII “Earth and Minor Kingdoms of the XV Millennium; After the Reign of ‘Emperor Poxx (“The Cockroach King”)” 2nd Edition; Published by Niggle Press with additional notes by Lexus Stoop. © 2525-201 UND

     Some fifty million years after a nuclear disaster, known as  the “First Great Error” (“GE1”) which saw the reduction of human life on Earth by some ninety-five percent, this small planet once again has enjoyed a small, if somewhat erratic, rise in population. These include not only the indigenous life forms, some twisted by faulty DNA and years of cross breeding and out-of-control evolution but many which had been considered apocryphal or unknown; their names gathered from historical records, folk tales and other anecdotal sources.

     Earth retains none of the familiarity from the pre-GE1 age. Global warming melted the ice caps. Oceans rose. The Earth cooled again. Nations tottered and fell. Civilizations sprang forth and faded into a setting sun, ripe with age.

     Another ice age descended, this time gripping all but a fraction of the planet, and centuries of snow clamped all in its icy mow.

     But then, a shift of the poles, ever so slightly, and jungles grew with green vitality as the winters retreated. Earthquakes rumbled through mud and wattle huts and soaring stone cities, toppling the homes of the rich and poor alike.

     Technology was claimed by the cogs of time. The mighty engines of atomic power had crumbled to ash and were forgotten. At the time this edition of the encyclopedia was published, industry on earth was powered by steam and waterpower, windmills and long lasting spring wound devices. Science had also, to a certain degree, harnessed electricity and, with the help of small, extremely efficient steam devices, had succeeded in producing robots of copper, brass and iron rods which began the job of serving mankind.

     Most important of all was the discovery of oilwood, a rare and remarkable fossilized fuel source. If even one or two ounces of the substance, properly cured is ignited, it can burn for hours and with enormous ferocity and efficiency.

     In a small section of a land mass that once held a mighty river and where the waves of a deep  ocean once washed against a densely populated coast-line, the “Five Kingdoms of Aavalon” have matured; stretching north and south along an  impenetrable forest to the west and the aforementioned eastern ocean known as “The Emerald Sea”.

     In the south and, blessed with the combination of  nutrient rich water from the great “Plink River”, and dark, heavy loam that measures five to six feet deep in many places and under a generous sun that produces year round growth, is the vast “Kingdom of Offwanastan”.

     This country strides eight hundred miles east from “Redstain City”, home of the Von Bonnk holdings, across the “Great Steppes” to the “Emerald Sea” and the port communities of “Brong” and “Foop”. North to south another seven-hundred plus miles from a point northwest where the Kingdoms of “Maztrickle” and “Weedge” run together, terminating somewhere in the thick verdant “Rambling Forest of Phonk” to a point where the “River Plink” makes an indolent loop in its unhurried eastward journey.  

     Beyond the southern border of “Offwanastan” is the “Great Waste”; a flat and monstrous desert which bakes in an endless summer. Iif one were to look further south he would come across a land filled with thousands of lush green oasis which in turn were splintered by miles of buff tumbleweed and cactus covered sand.   Pink and white sea-shell sand edged turquoise beaches. And all this inhabited by a race of sly, quick people small in stature with thick black-blue hair in tight curls and almond eyes that held promise of danger and passion.

     Few had ever travelled that far south and then only on a dare accepted by some young rake wishing to impress eyes of sapphire behind fluttering fans. Some trade had been established with those living in this land of contradicting green coolness and oven heat. Iron deposit were dug from wide pits and heaped on great carts along with crushed sea-shells and trundled into Avaalon to be transformed into black chunks of iron and then wrought with skill into engines that cut through water flecked with green and blue foam or rolled along rails that laced the hills and valleys and other devices, filled with gas and propelled by wide iron wings that conquered the thin air above.  

    To the north, imposing Mount Snerrd rises thousands of feet in a clear, icy sky.  Surrounded by brothers and sisters of almost equal size they, in turn, sweep west and embrace a somewhat smaller mountain range in a stony grip of dark gray granite buttressed by wide veins of pink, white and crystal marble. And there are other treasures buried deep within its snow-girt towers Laced from north to south is the mysterious and thick forest of “Westwood”, a dark and green mass of mystery and terror. 

 

Chapter One

Of Gunes and Vampyres

 

     The sun set gracefully behind a purple and orange cloudbank that flowed out of the west.  Viewed through lacey-black shadows, Captain Chullullu Ashtabula Fudd, or “Lu” to his friends, stood as silent as death beneath a massive rock-maple tree on the fringes of the Westwood.

     He was dressed in dark green and browns and wore a small fur fez with an embroidered decoration of rust-colored oak leaves encircling the crown. His feet were shod in soft buckskin. His blue eyes peered from a thin, deeply tanned and creased face, beneath which a full red beard bristled in the evening twilight.  He was hunting gunes.

     The shambling creatures had lived ages long in the depth of the forest. One gune stood the height of an average man and, when fully grown, weighed up to five hundred pounds. Matted red/black fur covered their bodies and gave off a putrid stench. Their faces projected a fearful mask of hate and cruelty. They hunted and ate the flesh of all animals, including their own and humans. Especially humans.

     From a distance, Lu heard a plizzard whinny and then a small twig snapped in the tree above him. The breeze suddenly swished a cold, foul odor. He instinctively pulled the steam-dart sparker and whirled away from the trunk.

     Seconds later, a huge shadow dropped to the forest floor inches from him with a massive thud and a large hairy arm swung and knocked him sideways and onto the ground. It was a mature gune, and, from the bone decorations on the thick leather straps bound about his groin and chest, a soldier of the “Gron” clan and a long way from home.

     There was also a medal of some sort hanging around his neck.

     Lu only had a few moments to consider this fact before the brute attacked with a horrifying roar.

     The wood-cossack rose on one elbow and pushed home the bolt on the steam pistol. Oilwood flared, water boiled instantly and a poisoned dart punctured the beast in the left eye. He coughed once and then, without another sound fell to the forest floor dead and already solidifying.

      The poison, a compound from the Westwood itself, and smeared liberally on steam and spring darts, caused a instantaneous massive and permanent coagulation of the blood within veins, arteries and muscles that petrified the victim - turning corpses to concrete.

     It was called “a shot of ‘Medusa”. Baron Cornelius VonBonnk, himself, had bestowed the rubric after some creature of eons past that had the ability to turn mortals to stone.

     Lu kicked the gune over. He reached, ignoring the fetid smell that arose from the matted fur and half opened mouth, filled with rotted teeth and frozen in the rectus of death and. examined the medal hanging from the dead beast’s neck. It was struck in gold and very large; perhaps six inches or more in diameter.

     Embossed was the image of a two-headed basilisk; the device of the kingdom of “Yanz”.  He caught his breath. Never had any of the creatures of the Westwood born the symbol of any of the houses of the Five Kingdoms. 

     Perhaps the gune had taken it from the body of one of King Flattules soldiers?  Lu considered this possibility, and shook his head.  Although “Yanz” had a small army; the latest reliable reports indicated no regiments from that country quartered in or near the Westwood. 

     The capitol of Yanz, Stoop City, on the coast, was headquarters for the “Aavalon Bureau of Oilwood”, a tight knit organization made up of members of all the kingdoms, which set fuel prices, regulated TMs’(see Chapter Six footnote), among other things and also harbored a somewhat shadowy and autonomous internal Oilwood Police Force (OPF) of which little was known. 

     However the kingdom had never provided Bushman and was cradled comfortably with the military support offered by Snerdonia and Maztrickle.

      Fudd pondered this as he slipped the heavy necklace off the stiffened gune and placed it in a pouch at his hip.

     Here was a mystery that might yield terrible possibilities.

     Then with one swift motion, though the ears of the creature were beginning to stiffen with a small metallic crinkling sound, he sliced them both off with a short saber-like knife that hung from his shoulder. Gune ears brought money from collectors and the sale of them had provided well for his mother and family in Pickney over the years.

     It was far from over, however.

     If one was around, others were sure to be near. Very seldom did the monsters hunt alone.

     And neither did Lu.

     He whistled softly and listened. The brush crackled off to his left, and then to the right and some distance away, he heard the soft nickering of the plizzards that had been left near the entrance to the woods. Fud and the rest of the hunters could have ridden the beasts into the dense forest, but preferred stalking their game on foot in silence. The plizzards were known to snort and lurch when their sensitive nostril picked up the scent of gunes or other such denizens. This time, that reaction from one of them had saved his life.

       Two wood-cossacks, dressed in light wool trousers and shirts of browns and greens and of no particular style, stepped silently from the shadows.  Wood-cossacks preferred utility to military fashion.

       The exception was a fez emblazoned with an oak leaf token similar to Fudd’s; generally tilted to one side of the head in a display of panache.  Most cosacks carried steam carbines and wide bladed knives. 

     With them was a Bushmen from King Absinthes household.

      The Bushman had a string of eight ears looped over his neck. He was dressed in a dark gray uniform with bloused trousers over knee-high soft, black boots. A thin scarlet stripe ran up the pant leg. On his shoulder were epaulets embroidered with the dark brown insignia of two bear paws indicating his rank as a corporal. On his head perched a simple crushed black beret displaying a red shield with lion rampant emblazoned on the front.

     “Be ready.” Lu motioned to the prostrate figure before him. “This old bugger is probably not alone.” He reached down and reset the spark trigger and pushed another poison bolt into place on the pistol. He rested his trigger hand briefly on the tree trunk.

     The pistol was an old style single shot “Bruteflash Needler ‘01”. It was over a hundred years old and originally cast from an alloy of iron and wedge-rock and weighed in excess of five pounds. But it was effective and accurate to within several centimeters at five hundred feet. The recoil was absorbed by a series of mini-gyros activated by a slide spring and was considered by many of the old-timers as the best steam-pistol ever made.

     Lu slid the oilwood reservoir open and checked on the water level.

     He thought for a moment, and then, in a matter-of-fact tone asked. “Anyone find anything out of the ordinary on your dead gunes?”

     “Like what, capn’?” responded Trinkle.

     “Oh, I don’t know.” Lu shrugged nonchalantly. “Sometimes these ugly bastards take items from a foe.” He spat off to the side. “I thought we mind find something else to take back to Colonel Chkaznick.” He forced a grin.

     The men shrugged and Trinkle said they had seen nothing unusual.

     “But I do think we made short work of this bounders’ mates a while back.” The corporal indicated the straps and bone decorations on the dead gune.

     “That’s all we found on ‘em.”

     He looked behind and pointed. “There be four of those buckos, rock hard and hanging from an elm, about a half mile back yonder.” He brought out a package of cigarettes and after offering one to each of the others, he bent to light his from the oilwood slot on his steam-carbine, and, after doing so, he snicked home the cover and looked up, veiled in smoke.

     Lu grunted. He would pursue the matter of the medal later with the colonel. No sense stirring up questions with the men now.

     “Still, I would not wander far from here.”  He looked up into a canopy of glittering leaves and dark blue sky, already tinged with the crimson of a setting sun. Night was approaching.

     “They are becoming bolder, and I thought I heard a vampyre hoot a while back.”

     The men glanced up and one of the wood-cossacks, Wrench Ry, who along with his younger brother Meesh, was a new recruit, un-shouldered his steam rifle and turned around, his eyes wide. “Vampyres?”  He shook slightly and a freshly rolled cigarette fell from a half opened mouth. He caught himself and laughed nervously. 

     “Thems’ be but fairy tales, captain. Bugaboos spoken to children to keep them safe at home come nightfall.”  His eyes raked the trees.

     Lu laid a hand on his shoulder with a sad, wry smile. “No, Wrench. ‘Them’s’ be true tales. They hunted and swam the skies above Westwood years ago, sucking the life out of any warm-blooded creature that happened to wander below them.” Lu glanced again at the sky.

     “Come. Twilight deepens.”

     With that, all the men turned and hastened towards the now grey expanse of the Plink Downs, beyond the bushes thick before them. Copper skinned plizzards neighed and pawed the ground where they had been left earlier that afternoon. The reptilian-like mounts were some eight feet from nose to tail and stood a half foot taller then a man at the shoulders. Their sinewy bodies were covered with soft leather-like scales that reflected with a gun metal sheen and their heads appeared like that of a horse, but with a longer jaw and large, flat, spade like teeth that jutted over their lower lips. They were herbivores, eating most anything that grew, with the exception of poison spine-weed and cactus brush.

     “Vampyres retreated deep into the Westwood and beyond the knowledge of men long ago when driven out by the first Royal Bushmen.” Lu slung his “Needler” around the pommel, and continued scanning the quickly darkening sky. Stars were visible and the “Buckled Warrior” could be seen leaning above the eastern rim. Lu paused beside his animal in the twilight and looked at each man.

     “But lately, as you well know by now, a fearful cloud of some sort has gripped the woods. From north to south and deeper then even I have ridden, something is be-stirring the things that live there. And they are being driven forth.”

     Meesh paused while lighting a stubby water-cob pipe. A granule of oilwood flared to life beneath the water chamber, bringing the young Cossacks’ face into momentary relief and issuing a tiny plume of steam which slid across his fez.

     “But the ‘Bags can bring them down.” He drew on his pipe and glanced at his captain.

     Fudd shrugged and glanced skyward. “It’s difficult for a gunner on a ‘bag to find a target at night.” He grasped the pommel of his saddle and placed his right foot into the stirrup. He grunted, swinging up, “ And besides, the nearest steambag squadron is miles from us.”

     The men mounted the animals and settled into high-backed saddles. No reigns or bridles were used, as plizzards would brook no restraints.  Simple commands were understood and the plizzards leapt forward with a hiss as the men clucked and whistled softly. The slender red tongues of their mounts flickered in and out as they sped away across the downs in the gathering gloom.

     High above, a murder of vampyres plummeted down upon the riders.

 

 

           

 



1 comment on “First Chapter Of My New Steampunk Novel”

mike gregory Says:
Friday, September 12, 2014 @8:45:31 AM

It's as good as some I've read, and better than some others.

If you need a steampunk banjo for an illustration, there's one in my picture files.

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