A Foray Into Steampunk

I’m not sure how it happened but today, I came up with a steampunk story. The only clue I have is that some of my NaStyRoMo colleagues are dipping in steampunk and I found that kind of setting appealing.
When the idea came to me, I tried to push it away. I have enough project as it is. I don’t actually need to start a new one. I tried to resist. I really did! I resisted for a whole two and a half hours while the idea stewed in my brain. But then it just smelled so damn good…
I had to write something. I had to expel a part of it. The other ideas will go on handwritten sheets and I’ll do my best to store them away and not look at them until I’m done with my other projects. I’ll try.
Now that it’s done, I’ll be able to pull away from the screen and go eat. My stomach has been complaining for quite some time now.
Since I wrote it, here is a would be first chapter of my steampunk, novel length worth, story.

The door slammed shut in my face. The hinges ringed from the shock for a couple of my angry heartbeats. I looked down at my bulging breasts, cursing them as my newfound habit instructed. I tried everything to get through the mahogany threshold and never was I allowed stepping in.
Once, I strapped my breasts, which isn’t as uncomfortable as releasing the glued strap after wearing it for a day. I borrowed my brother’s clothes tied my hair in a fashion appropriate for young educated lads. Altering my voice would have been tawdry. I wanted to agree with the general image of people allowed in, but I hold my gender in high regards and wouldn’t go as far as to forfeit it. They derided me.
I opted for a new approach, one that lied at the other end of the spectrum. I put my breasts on a nigh indecent display and wore pricey perfumes. I adorned my neck with my most beautiful jewellery, powdered my nose and reddened my lips. They offered to accompany me somewhere else. Somewhere private.
It seemed to me I had done it right this time. I wore the appropriate kind of corset, humble yet full of promise. I spoke in the low, charming voice suitable for a lady. I bowed, I fluttered and I smiled. I even laughed at the sad excuses for a joke and blushed at compliments I hear on a daily basis. I had timed it so the drizzle would cut the conversation short and force any gentleman to invite me in.
And yet, here I stood, absorbing buckets of coal-charged rain in front of a door I wished I had the muscles to kick down. Not that it would help in any capacity but I have my temper. I settled for a heartfelt spit and turned my wooden heels toward the port.
Time for plan B.
I gathered my petticoats in my arms, caring very little for decencies. No effort would make me ladylike in the rain so I might as well not bother with skirts hindering my walk. I stumped down Maryott Avenue with the high held head of my rank if not the proper pace for court. Little known is the fact that courtesans gladly ran to gallant rendezvous ; they just avoided being caught.
A coach stopped by my side and a slothful voice hailed me over the grunt of the steam engine. From the sound of it the pistons were a bit loose and the chimney needed sweeping. I faced the driver squarely, my bundle of fabric gaining weight by the second and my hair threatening to fall. My sight must have been quite arousing because the man straightened his posture. I had planned to walk but how could I pass the opportunity to roll instead.
“I would be much obliged if you drove me to the Loose Cogs tavern.”
“Milady, that place is down by the port. It’s hardly a place you’d want to be after dark.”
“I am well aware of that and shall insist on reaching it before the sun hides for the night.”
“I cannot, in good conscience, agree to drive you there. I know a few commendable establishments…”
“I’ll have none of that.” I shook my well-endowed purse so he’d hear the jingle. As expected, it charmed his good conscience right out of his mind. He stepped down his coach to open the door and held my hand as I climbed in. He resumed his position behind the wheel and pressed the pedal. As we sped down the pavement, he handed me a handkerchief over his seat.
“And what use might I have of that? I doubt a tiny piece on cotton can gobble up the rivers weighing down my skirts.”
“What about your face?”
“It’ll be wet again when I step out to enter the tavern. I shall thank you for your kind gesture but refuse to make use of your handkerchief.”
Fortunately, the drive to the port was a short one. It kept the conversation from resuming to smother the uneasy silence. It would have headed down roads I know all too well. Silly questions such as “What does an educated young lady want with the port’s brutes?”
“Educated”, I laugh every single time that one enters my ears. Because my skills include talking with complete sentences and a fair variety of words, sowing, ironing and performing music with either instrument or voice, I am considered an educated woman. All the while, real education is jealously guarded by scholars behind mahogany doors. Scholars I think just as barbarian in their ways as the flesh and alcohol-driven sailors.
We reached our destination and I dropped a few coins in the driver’s extended hand. I touched the ground before he rose off his seat. He would have opened the door if I had given him twice the tip, as he expected I would. Since handles are easy to turn, I’d rather keep my coins. I gathered my skirts up again to cross the street and entered the tavern.
My entrance was punctuated by a reasonable amount of whistling. I ignored it and headed for the table where my brother’s brown hair bobbed with the flow of discussion. He saw me approaching from the corner of his eyes and turned his hazelnut gaze on me. Then, he quickly pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket and extended it in my direction.
“What is it with you men and those damn handkerchiefs? I soaked all the way through. Can you not think of a less silly solution?”
“Well hello to you to, love. Would your misdirected anger be explained by yet another refusal?”
“What does the mechanical bird tell you? If you could refrain from delaying me, I would like to know where is your luggage.”
“Under my bed. Why?”
“To borrow a pair of pants. I need to change.”
“I’m sure one of the men will be please to offer you a seat by the fire so you can dry out.”
I dropped my bundle of wet petticoats on his lap. He jumped under the cold and the surprise.
“What does your stubborn self say now?”
“No wonder you hate those things.” He winked.
“Thank you. Could you show me the way to the room now?”
“Sure, love.” I turned around and started to walk as he rose from his chair. He spanked me familiarly, which I barely felt through the layers of my skirts. I spun and slammed my foot on his tibia. He cursed and I muffled a similar reaction. Shoes were just another reason to despise womanly attire.
“Please avoid suggesting such courses of action to the slobs.” I motioned for him to lead the way. He walked past me and I fell in line behind his leather boots. Another hand reached my posterior before I reached the stairs. I shifted my weight slugged the disrespectful tenant.
“Hey! Why didn’t you punch him?” He yelled with wide-eyes and a bruised jaw. My brother positioned himself by my side, hands on the dagger he always kept on his belt. The groping man probably couldn’t rise for his chair but no one could ever be too safe.
“If you recall correctly, I did hit him. But more importantly, and what as surely escaped your intoxicated self…” I grabbed my brother’s jaw and pulled it a few inches down so his head rested on my shoulder. The sailor was obviously slow on the uptake. “Allow me to help you.” I retrieved the long comb that held most of my hair up and waved down my back, closer to how my brother’s fell. “Try to imagine him without the sideburns and goatee.” The show attracted a gaggle of drunkards. Most of them had already gotten my point. One perfectly chiselled face nodded in approbation and saluted me with his tankard. Finally, my interlocutor’s eyes lit up.
“Oh… siblings!”
“Twins, actually, but close enough. Congratulations! You are now privy to the reason why I might tolerate more from him than I ever will from you.” I stomped toward the stairs under thundering applause, my brother trailing behind me.
“Do you really need be that rude, love? It really isn’t an attractive trait.”
“They enjoyed it and you are as bad when you’re upset, steamy.”
We reached the landing and he unlocked the door to the bedroom he booked for us. My luggage rested on my bed but my goal was under his. He dropped to a chair while I bowed to retrieve the heavy suitcase.
“Must you really wear pants? Haven’t you brought any skirts?”
“I have but I’ve been a lady long enough for today.” He quit his chair to assist in my undressing. As layered of wet fabric abandoned the silkiness of my skin for the harshness of the floor, we both relaxed our stances and humour. Once I was clothed again in a borrowed pair of breeches, my favourite corset and my tailor-made boots, we indulged ourselves with a long hug.
“I guess where are moving forward with plan B, then.” He petted my wet hair gently.
“I guess we are.” My stomach indicated his depreciation of my neglecting it.
“When did you last eat?”
“For breakfast. Before we left the manor.”
“Ah, Tatiana! You’re restlessness is going to be the death of you. Couldn’t you be content with every woman’s station?”
“Could you?” He sighed.
“I’ll braid your hair, then will head down for supper. And you will behave this time around. Please?” I nodded. “Good! I might have the skills to defend your honour against a well-trained fellow but I’m unsure I could take a tavern’s worth of drunken pirates.”

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

15 responses to “A Foray Into Steampunk

  • Phil

    Aha! You’ve really taken to this genre. You capture the flavor of the era, behavior and speech. Very impressive!

    • Aheïla

      Thanks Phil. I must say it was daunting for the Frenchy in me. Luckily, when a story comes to my mind, it has its own voice and all that is left for me to do is to type it. I’m glad it makes sense when I’m done! 😉

  • suzannelazear

    great job. 🙂

  • Antonio Rich

    Steampunk doesn’t “have” to be english. Maybe you could give it a French Canadian flavor? I think that would be really interesting! You could still write in english of course, but add a little Quebec flavor here and there(just an idea 🙂 ) Are you sure your not a team of creative people? It’s hard to believe there’s only one of you! 😉

    • Aheïla

      Lol! I know steampunk doesn’t have to be English. That’s how the characters and stories came to me though. And it’s not going to be straight English either. I wrote that in about two hours which means that I had been thinking about it for about three hours before starting to type. It’s very early developpment and some things are bound to change. 😉
      The only thing I know is that I need universities and Tatiana has to be a noble. We never had much of that here.

      And yes, there is only one of me. I swear I am not cheating. 😉

  • Phil

    I like Antonio’s point that it doesn’t have to be English/British. I’d love to read your story with French or French-Canadian elements. And I love the sensuality in this as well.

  • Marsha

    I love this Alyssa. I like Tatiana’s determination to prove that she is as smart, not make that smarter than most of the men who are in the university. She is a facinating character.

    • Aheïla

      Thanks Marsha (though I’m afraid you’re confusing me with someone else ;)).
      I’m pretty intrigued by her too. You guys haven’t even seen the best parts but as I said, I have to keep myself from sending time on that story.

  • Jenn

    Wow! Very well done! I don’t have a lot of knowledge about steampunk, but I used to read a lot of historical romances & I’m really enjoying what you are doing with it.

    It sounds like a great beginning to a full length novel. I can’t wait to learn more about Tatiana & her twin. A french pirate sounds like just the thing for her! As long has he is well educated…lol

    • Aheïla

      I’m glad you like it. This whole story is going to have to sit on a shelf for some time though. I have way too many things on my “To write” list right now.
      I do know for sure that Tatiana is going to end up with pirates. How else would I be able to plug in those lines:

      “Did you save me so I’d agree to bed your son?” I asked once we were out of arms’ way.
      “No, I saved you because you’re part of my crew. If my son ends up less cranky, all the better.”

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