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Posted: Jul 3 2009, 04:35 AM
Member No.: 2
Joined: 12-May 09
I’ve been working on this for a little while and finally got some progress on it today. I am a “Steampunk” someone who dressed up in old fashioned style and this is my vision of a Steampunk fantasy world. Fantastic clockwork machines, airships and magic are the deal. Think Jules Vern style adventure stories.
House of Wings
Elisabeth had been told that she would see something amazing. Woken up in the pre-dawn morning by Lady Alistair, she had bean lead to the airship August Queen’s bridge, where the captain waited with his fob-watch open and the second hand ticking away.
“Just in time my Lady,” The captain said to Lady Alistair, “If you and the young lady would move to the forward window and direct your attention to the horizon dead ahead.”
Lady Alistair smiled and said, “Thank you Captain Christopher.” Then lead Elisabeth forward where they both stood to the left of the young airman at the steering wheel. Elisabeth stood to her Lady’s right with both hands resting on the railing between her and the window. She had never been one for waking early, even after Lady Alistair’s insistence that she wake up and dress well for the day, she had been half asleep while putting on her clothes. As such she was still groggy and didn’t notice the shy glances in her direction from the airman at the wheel.
“Cut the bridge lights,” Ordered the captain, “All but the instrument panels.” At once the bridge was dark. The rhythmic thrumming of the August Queen’s lift core sounded louder in the darkness. Ahead, Elisabeth could see the faint glow on the horizon. Sunrise.
The horizon was a jagged broken line, she adjusted her glasses and peered closer. “My Lady, are those mountains ahead?”
“No, that is our destination,” Lady Alistair said, “The city of New Insight.”
“Already? But I thought it would be another day before we arrived?”
From behind them, the captain spoke up, “The winds were with us.”
“Oh really captain, must you always be so modest?” Lady Alistair chided, “Your skill was unparalleled and your sense of timing impeccable.”
The captain said nothing and Elisabeth smiled. The Lady Alistair never liked modesty, especially in those deserving of complement. The softening glow on the horizon started to have an orange cast. They were heading due east and the sun would rise quickly. The jagged line on the ahead resolved into the shapes of towers and tall buildings. A city skyline on the shore of the lake they were crossing.
“I think I can see it,” she said, “The towers of steel and glass I’ve read about. It is amazing.”
“Just wait for it,” Lady Alistair said. “Captain?”
“Now my Lady.”
At his word, the sun began to top the horizon. Golden light shone through the skyline setting the towers ablaze with light. Elisabeth’s breath caught. The light spread glittering across the water turning the lake into gold. The airship drew closer and the towers that seemed thin and fragile in the distance became broad spires, massive constructions of metal. Webs of criss-crossing iron, cables of steel, columns of marble, shimmering glass windows, buildings made of brass and glittering crystals, all reflecting the dawn’s light to make the city of New Insight catch fire.
Lack of sleep forgotten, Elisabeth watched as the city started to pass beneath, looking down as details began to emerge. She could see the rail lines and a passenger train on its way to the city’s central station. The roads with carriages and some few pedestrians out in the early morning. Patches of green parks and gardens built into the buildings. And the air was filled with flying craft of every sort.
Passenger liners like the August Queen, their lift cores casting glittering rays of light into the air. Long winged gliders rising on updrafts of air like stingless kites. Hot air balloons and large gas filled airships. The sky over the city was alive.
August Queen approached the large spire that was central station. Each level was ringed with docks for aircraft. There was no need for bridge lights now, the morning sunlight was more than sufficient. Behind her, Elisabeth could hear the captain giving orders as they prepared to dock, but she wasn’t paying attention. She was too entranced by the sights of the city around her. New Insight, the first city built in the modern age. Built on the same spot as the ancient capital before the cataclysm. Built by heroes and legends, men of great knowledge and wisdom who brought the world out of the post cataclysm dark ages only a decade and a half past.
Elisabeth was in love.
In the lower reaches of New insight where the suns light rarely reached passed the spires, bridges, roads and elevated rail lines above, a figure watched from a recessed doorway. These were the poorer districts, where the workers who toiled inside the machinery of this vast new city lived. Most were immigrants from Ashenlest to the north, forced form their native home by the perpetual clouds of volcanic ash that caused widespread famine. The gloom didn’t seem to bother these people much, after all Ashenlest had been forsaken by the sun for generations, so they were comfortable in the lower district.
The figure in the doorway was not from Ashenlest. He was dressed in a fine suit and top hat. However those who did notice the figure quickly looked away. He was of average height but exceedingly thin. His clothes hung loosely, his bony hands were covered with leather gloves and his face and head were wrapped in black cloth and he wore a large red scarf around his neck. Even his eyes were hidden behind dark goggles like those of a foundry worker.
He leaned on a cane and watched the crowds gathering on the sides of the street, but none near him. There were rumours about this man in the lower district.
Approaching music, the workers were celebrating with a parade. Most of the instruments were improvised, broken cogs, springs and sprockets were struck with metal hammers to make them ring like bells, bits of scrap brass tubing had been bent and beaten into horns that sounded almost like trumpets and there was even a instrument made from metal scraps and cables played by two men-- one drawing a makeshift bow, the other operating the frets with gloved hands. It carried on a cart pulled by two horses and it produced a deep bass tone.
Behind this band came a mechanical dragon. Far more complex than the ones used in Ashenlest for this festival. The dragon was self propelled, built most likely around an old steam engine. A team of men pulled leavers and handles making it move in time with the music. On the dragon’s back there was a throne with a young girl sitting in it.
The man in the doorway watched this procession, the Ashenlest Dragon festival was a very important observance for these people. It was said to win the favour of the dragon spirits. Such notions were dismissed as superstitious nonsense by those of the upper city. In fact the man in the doorway was sure that none in the upper city were even aware of this parade.
He stepped out of the doorway and started down the dimly lit street, his cane clicking on the cobblestones.
Lady Alistair had hired a carriage after she and Elisabeth disembarked from the August Queen. Lady Alistair even invented the captain to dinner at the hotel they would be staying at, but the captain declined saying he and his ship would have to depart again soon.
The Lady and Elisabeth were taken to a large counsel hall. The carriage would take their luggage on to the hotel while they saw to the Lady’s business. The counsel building was fronted with towering green marble columns ringed at the bottom at top with gold. The steps leading up to the large darkly stained wood doors were a similar stone. After Elisabeth and the Lady Alistair reached the top the doors opened with a loud *Clunk* and the ticking of clockwork gears.
A man Elisabeth took to be a page waited inside with his head bowed to Lady Alistair. He gestured with one white gloved hand for them to enter. He fell into step behind them once they were through the door.
Elisabeth could hear the door shutting behind them as Lady Alistair led her through the main hallway. The lights were electric like those used on lift core type airships and they made the hallway bright despite the dark stained carved wood on the walls.
Lady Alistair stopped in front of a door and the page stepped ahead to open it for her. Elisabeth stepped in after the Lady and the page followed and closed the door then stepped off to the side. The room looked to be a kind of antechamber with a set of large double doors opposite. The walls were wood similar to the main hallway and there were sets of chairs to either side of the double doors. Also in the room were three men.
Two were about the same age as Elisabeth but the third was older. She recognized the older man, he was unchanged from the last time she had seen him several years previous. The same bushy white beard and long white hair. The same deeply lined face around those ever sharp blue eyes.
“Grandfather Atlas!” Elisabeth shouted in surprise as she rushed across the room before remembering that she wasn’t a little girl anymore and came to a stop a few steps away. A little embarrassed she said, “It’s good to see you again, sir.”
Atlas was smiling, “Elisabeth, my how you’ve grown. You look so much like your mother.” He extended a hand and touched her arm, “It’s good to see you again too.” Using his hand on her arm to turn her slightly Atlas faced the two men again; “This is Elisabeth Maywin. I was a good friend of her mother. She has been in the care of Lady Alistair while I was traveling. Elisabeth,” Atlas gestured to one of the two men, “This is Lord Edward Stravest.”
Lord Edward smiled and bowed, “A pleasure Ms. Maywin.” He was a somewhat average man, short brown hair, optimistic blue eyes and an honest smile, but somehow the combination made him a little handsome.
Elisabeth gave a proper curtsy in response, “For me as well Lord Stravest.”
Lord Edward laughed a little, “Please” He said, “That title is still new to me, until a few short months ago I was a simple inventor trying to make ends meet. You may call me Edward, I’m much more comfortable with that.”
Elisabeth smiled and said, “Then no more of this ‘Ms. Maywin’ then. Elisabeth will be fine.”
Edward offered a handshake, “Very well then, I accept your offer, Elisabeth.”
She grasped his hand and they shook in the fashion of businessmen agreeing to a deal. Elisabeth noticed a slight smile from the man standing just behind and to the right of Edward. She glanced over and Edward must have understood what her question was going to be.
“This gentleman to my right is Mr. Addell” Edward said, “My assistant and man servant.” Addell nodded. He was something of a contrast from Edward. Average height but thinner. He had long blond hair combed back and tied into a ponytail at the back, exposing his forehead and making his eyebrows seem more pronounced. Addell’s mouth was nearly a frown and there was a moderately sized handlebar moustache between his top lip and round nose. His eyes were also hidden behind darkly shaded spectacles like those of a blind man.
Even his clothing was different. Where Edward was dressed in fine black trousers, a short collared linen shirt and a red vest with gold stitching, Addell was nearly all in black, making his pale skin stand out.
Elisabeth nodded in return. There was something about this Mr. Addell that made her feel slightly uneasy. It wasn’t simply his dark attire or dour attitude, it was something intangible that Elisabeth couldn’t find a word for.
Lady Alistair had approached during the introductions, “You are looking better than last time I saw you Edward,” She said.
“Much of that is thanks to you Lady Alistair,” Edward said. “I’m glad you are here when I take my findings to the counsel.”
Lady Alistair was about to respond when the page stepped forward to interrupt, “Apologies my Lady, but the meeting will be starting shortly and your…” he glanced at Elisabeth, “your charge will not be permitted within. She is welcome to stay here but the meeting is expected to take much of the day and may run long.”
Lady Alistair sighed, “Of course, Elisabeth dear, I’ll have a carriage come and take you to the hotel.”
“Actually,” Said Edward, “I have a suggestion. Mr. Addell won’t be able to accompany me, I’m sure he could escort Elisabeth on a tour of the city.” Edward looked at her expecting an answer.
She was conflicted; she still felt that nameless feeling towards Mr. Addell, but the chance to spend the whole day in this city of wonders… “I… would like that Edward, if Mr. Addell wouldn’t mind.”
Addell’s heart sank slightly, he had been looking forward to some time to himself, now he was saddled with a tourist. He leaned closer to Edward to whisper, “You owe me for this.” Edward said nothing and simply smiled.
The double doors opened, the meeting was soon to start. One by one people started towards the door. First the page, then that enigmatic old man Atlas who glanced at Addell and narrowed those sharp blue eyes. Next Edward who smiled that damned honest smile. Lastly Lady Alistair. The look she fixed on Addell was a promises of grave consequences if any harm came to Elisabeth while she was in Addell’s company.
What had he done to deserve such mistrust?
The doors to the meeting chamber closed and Addell was left alone with Elisabeth. She was about twenty years old, long strait burnet hair tied into a braid down her back. Her dress was conservative but fit well enough to show her figure. Elisabeth wasn’t as buxom as the current trend in lady’s fashion preferred, but Addell was never one to pay attention to such things. She seamed to have something of a dancer’s figure with perhaps a larger bosom. All things considered, there was worse company to be in for a day.
“Well Mr. Addell?” Elisabeth said.
Addell frowned, Elisabeth, it seemed, didn’t feel the same. “Where to first Ms. Maywin?”
Posted: Jul 5 2009, 01:48 AM
The Rouge Comet
Member No.: 6
Joined: 13-May 09
Hey, nice first chapter. I love stories like this, simply because of the airships. I find myself liking Addell already, because no one else in the story seems to. Keep up the good work.
Posted: Jul 5 2009, 05:27 AM
Supreme Overlord of Chaos
Member No.: 1
Joined: 12-May 09
Yeah, steampunk just always seems cool. Especially the airships. I've actually been meaning to write one myself...
Posted: Jul 8 2009, 09:20 PM
Member No.: 8
Joined: 17-May 09
Sounds quite classic steampunk for the most part. The characters seem fine, and I was with you when you described the sun rising up. The parade also brought into mind that scene from Ghost in The Shell. I don't know if that was in any way intentional though.
What I really want to see is the underbelly of the sparkling city; the workers and the drones who toil under a nobility, regardless of their nobility.
I hope Addel will not turn out to be a rather expected antagonist; the black clothes and pale skin a slightly aloof attitude, certainly one not fitting a manservant (it does seem he is more than he appears). I am interested to see how the rest of this plays out.
Posted: Jul 24 2009, 05:21 AM
Ten times smarterer...!
Member No.: 3
Joined: 12-May 09
I'll have to apologize in advance because I'm not exactly the ideal reader for this sort of project. I haven't read any steampunk as far as I'm aware, and I tried to read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea once but eventually kinda zoned out as I "finished" it. Still I can offer some help if at all possible.
You had a few grammar errors here and there, but they were of the sort that are hard to catch unless you're looking out for them. I knew specifically what they were when I read this a few weeks ago, but I can't remember now. Sorry. =( None of it is bad though, as I can still read around it and understand exactly what you mean.
I think the biggest difficulty was that I'm not the sort of reader that can be sold completely by scenery and world-building. The whole time I was trying to figure why everyone was doing what they were, and why I should be paying attention to these people. Who is this? Why are they important? And why is this meeting they're having significant?
Most importantly, you seemed to just gloss over the main protagonist of the chapter until the very end of it. I never even found out why Elisabeth was on the ship, despite how excited she seemed to be, or how everyone was apparently so familiar with her. Because I had no idea who anyone was, all of the interaction between the characters felt somewhat hollow and almost purposeless. I hate to pick on the guy, but I think the ship's captain had this the worst. Forcing the reader to assume all of these details on their own is not a good thing to do to them. And I know this because I have a bad habit of not explaining ideas well in my own writing. Don't ever assume the reader knows anything.
I can say that this writing is a cut above most of what we all ever get to see. You're past all the little problems. You can write, and you can do it well, but you're at that part where you're dealing with issues that exist beyond basic levels. It's hard to figure, but I'd love to see this story really take off.
Posted: Sep 14 2009, 05:51 AM
Member No.: 2
Joined: 12-May 09
See, this is why I wanted somewhere for people to read and give me feedback. I understand exactly what you’re getting at; Elisabeth is too undefined at the beginning. It wasn’t that I was deliberately ignoring her; it’s just that I have trouble introducing main characters from their own perspective.
I suppose I’ll have to work on making the characterization a little more natural. The ship’s captain is a bit character who will probably never show up again, I could either expand on him or cut him back and make him interact with the main characters less. I should also work at making it clear that Elisabeth is Lady Alistair’s Ward.
Also, don’t worry about not having read any other “Steampunk” works. This is a fantasy adventure story that takes place in a steam age world; it’s just a sub category of fantasy/sci-fi. I’m much more interested in how my work on House of Wings is going based on itself and not on comparisons with other steampunk fiction.
More is on the way but I’m going to pause and work on some revisions as soon as possible.