A Steampunk Christmas Carol-Teaser

Dear Reader,

Thank you so much, for joining me today! My most recent release, A Steampunk Christmas Carol is a steampunk fantasy retelling of a Dickens classic. If you’ve read and loved The Dragon Lady and The Phoenix Lord, than you will recognize the characters joining us in A Steampunk Christmas Carol. If you haven’t read either, not to worry, there are enough details to keep you caught up with everything that is going on, and I hope you enjoy. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! Enjoy this teaser: (also, if you enjoy, remember you can pick it up for just $0.99 on Amazon!)

A Steampunk Christmas Carol

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Chapter One

 

October 1851

Wylie sat on an ornate wooden chair, gazing out the window, overlooking the streets of Oyster Bay. A soft blanket of snow covered the road and was beginning to mound up on top of the lampposts. Darkness was falling rapidly like a cold enemy, and she knew that very soon she would need to once more take on her Teselym form and perform her duties. Her little spirit guide, Quincy, sat on the tiny table, staring wide-eyed at her, as she drummed her fingers.

“Wylie girl… you must snap out of this ho-hum mood you’ve gotten yourself into.” He flicked his tail around, so it gently tapped her drumming hand.

“Why? Why must I Quincy? I haven’t seen Adrian in the past few months except to tell him goodbye. This existence is growing old. I know I must maintain the balance, but after everything that has happened, I need more than that. I need an escape. If we were home in London, I could at least take Chaos for a ride and clear my head. Except that’s not an option. I can’t risk being seen there. I’d have no way to explain myself.”

The little clockwork dragon was already scratching his head, following his usual habit of always trying to fix things. She was often grateful for his efforts, but at the same time this was not a situation that could be remedied so easily. No, she decided, she would just have to go down there and talk to the Professor, herself.

“I know what’s in your head Wylie girl, and I’m advising against it. Adrian won’t be too happy with your meddling. Neither will Professor Granger. You know the Professor doesn’t take too kindly to people sticking their noses in his affairs.”

“Well, neither do I. I have work to do, so if you don’t mind, just sod off.” With that, she disappeared in a flurry of ruffles and stomping leather boots, empathizing her departure with the slamming of the large oak door as she left her and Adrian’s room.

Quincy shook his little dragon head and sighed deeply. The girl would never learn to stay out of the business of others. Never mind that she interfered in people’s lives all night, which didn’t bother her a bit. He wondered if he should turn invisible and flit after her, but if there was one thing he hated more than meddling in the affairs of others, it was being around Wylie when she was angry.

Still, it was his job to protect her… and protect her he would.

He looked upwards and said, “Of all the people in all the world, I get stuck with the most temperamental, stubborn, strong-willed female I’ve ever met in my life.” Quincy stamped his clawed foot impatiently, but the Immortals didn’t answer. Not that he really expected them to. Quincy’s little clockwork gears whirred and clicked as he lifted off from the table and flew after her.

Quincy shrank to the size of a flying ant, and once he caught up to her, landed on Wylie’s shoulder as she descended the steps, heading for the Professor’s office. Quincy felt Wylie tense up at the sound of voices raised in argument behind the door.

“I’d better come back later,” Wylie muttered out loud, as she hastily turned and ran back up the stairs. Once back in the room, Quincy grew to the size of a small house cat.

“Well, that was pointless, wasn’t it lass?”

“You followed me, you irritating little beast?

“Of course, I followed you, it’s my job.”

Wylie mumbled something under her breath about not having any privacy. Quincy chose this as one of the times he didn’t try to hear what she was saying or read her thoughts.

“It’s time for me to ready myself for my Teselym duties, Quincy.” Quincy’s little bronze cogs and gears hummed and whirred loudly, as if in full agreement with her.

“Aye, ma’am. I’ll take my rightful place.” He shrank himself to pin size as the cover of the Dracosinum popped open. The pocket watch style device hanging by a chain around Wylie’s neck was the thing that allowed her to change into a dragon with magical powers. Once he’d curled up contentedly inside, the cover closed over him with a satisfying click. Stubborn she may be, but she never shirks her duties.

Moments later Quincy read Wylie’s thoughts and knew they were headed overseas. Their first stop appeared to be somewhere in Asia, and Quincy could clearly see via Wylie’s vision, a family tied up by an intruder as he was about to rob their home. A child in the vision was screaming in fear, and the intruder’s face was twisted in anger. Quincy hoped they could reach them in time.

Wylie used her power to travel instantly to the location, which turned out to be Bangkok, Thailand. When Quincy felt her touch down, he poked his head out of the Dracosinum.

“Well, that’s not much to look at.”

“Indeed,” Wylie responded seriously. The stone hut, looked much like the ones the Chinese used in San Francisco, or where ever they found themselves during the gold rush. For the life of him, Quincy couldn’t figure out why anyone would expect to find anything of value in such a crude dwelling.

“Kruṇā ch̀wy!” A woman’s voice yelled from inside the hut. Her voice reached a startling pitch. Please help! The woman had said. Not that Wylie needed her dragon powers of translation, to understand a cry for help.

Wylie shrank to a smaller size, and flitted up to the roof. The tiny chimney was constructed of rocks and clay. The home was crudely built at best, and Wylie had to wonder why the woman and her son were there alone.

“Your husband owes me money!” An angry man shouted at the woman as he slapped her hard, sending her flying into one of the flimsy walls.

“I told you, I don’t know where he is!”

“I don’t care if you know where he is or not, there is still a debt to be paid.”

“Please… I have no money… there is nothing I can give you to cover the debt.” The woman pleaded with her captor.

The man roared angrily, and grabbing a copper pan from a crudely fashioned wooden shelf, he raised it above his head.

“What is this?” The man said, referring to the pan.

Wylie could see that he meant to bring the pan down on the fearful woman’s head, so she grew a little larger and rained dragon fire on his back. The man screamed in pain, whirled around and upon seeing a white dragon before him, screamed again in fright.

Wylie lunged at him, taking a chunk of flesh from his raised forearm. That was enough for the frightened fellow, and he flew from the hut, leaving a trail of blood along the path as he fled.

The woman still lay against the wall where she had been thrown by the force of the blow, her little boy had managed to crawl to her side. Flames from the cooking fire had been scattered and were licking at their clothing.

Wylie wasted no time as she grew to her normal size, smashing the tiny hut to pieces, and grabbing the pair of them up in her mouth, she took to the air.

Knowing that a single mother living in Bangkok during the Taiping rebellion, was a danger in and of itself, Wylie flew them directly to a hospital in London. It was one she had used many times, knowing that even though the Thai woman wouldn’t be able to communicate, she would still get the help she needed.

The sisters at the hospital were kind and generous people, and Wylie trusted them.

Setting the woman and child on the ground, she told them in their native language,

“It will be okay now.” She flicked her tail around, using the sharp edge to cut through their bonds. When they were free, they started crying, and the woman grabbed the little boy in her arms.

“Chen-Li,” the woman sobbed. Chen-Li wrapped his arms around his mother.  As Wylie rose back into the air, she saw the doors of the hospital open, and a woman appeared with a blanket, wrapping it around the two of them.

“No one will hurt you here,” Wylie whispered. It wasn’t the first time she had done such a thing, removing someone from their homeland and taking them to London. Being a Teselym didn’t exactly come with an instruction guide.

“What do you call me then?” Quincy asked, a little miffed.

“A pain in my arse.” She answered, and then they were off to complete their next task.

Back at the Octagon Inn, Professor Granger and Lord Adrian McCollum were involved in a heated discussion. Adrian’s responsibility when coming to Oyster Bay, had been to perfect his invention, a steam-powered carriage capable of rapid travel while carrying multiple passengers.

Things had gotten off to a bad start as an intruder had broken into the barn, not long after they had arrived in Oyster Bay. The intruder had destroyed his beloved invention, affectionately named the ‘Petford Pusher,’ after Lady McCollum’s maiden name.

“The problem, Adrian, is that the World-Wide Inventors Symposium has been pushed ahead to December, and it seems you’ve done nothing with your time here. You haven’t even named the motor company for which we hope to use your invention.”

“I wasn’t aware that was part of my responsibilities,” Adrian stated matter-of-factly.

“Oh, it wasn’t originally. It was up to Professor Cornelius, but he’s not exactly going to be able to perform that particular duty now, is he?” Langdon said, irritated by the tone that Adrian had taken.

“Er… um… Professor Granger, with all due respect, and if you don’t mind my interrupting. You know full well that my steam carriage, the Petford Pusher, was destroyed twice. There’s no way we could have gone on with the Symposium in two weeks even if we wanted to. Also, I have been mulling over the name and logistics for quite some time.”

“Oh, you have, have you?” Professor Granger responded.

“Indeed, I have, Petford Motors will be the greatest transportation company in America.”

“Petford Motors? How does a motor have anything to do with it?” Professor Granger snapped.

Adrian smiled widely, anxious to show Professor Granger what he had been working on for the Symposium. He opened his top desk drawer and pulled out some plans.

“This is it, Professor Granger.” He unrolled a worn sheaf of papers and flattened them on the desktop. He pointed emphatically at the main drawing. Professor Granger had never seen anything like it, and his face turned pale.

“What exactly is that? Is that what I think it is?” The Professor’s voice had taken on an edge of excitement.

“What do you think it is Professor Granger?”

“An engine of some sort?”

“Precisely, Langdon,” Adrian responded.

“It’s Professor,” he was reminded curtly.

“My apologies, sir. It is indeed an engine. I’m hoping it will eventually replace the steam power system we’re currently using on the Petford Pusher,” Adrian continued.

That got the esteemed Professor’s attention immediately.

“An internal combustion engine for carriages?” The corners of his mouth turned upward just slightly.

“Now, there is a truly remarkable idea! I mean, there’s been talk of such things in the transportation world, but to see it here… before my very eyes. It’s never been done before. How far are you from accomplishing a working engine?”

“Honestly, Professor, I’m not quite sure. I am still perfecting the Pusher. We need to improve the design, make it more dynamic. I’d like to implement a more efficient steam pressure system until we can get an internal combustion engine perfected. We already know the power of steam, and how to implement it. So, it will be simpler to improve the design we have, temporarily of course. Our aim should be to complete this new design, the moment we can get our hands on the components.

“Our goal is to allow for travel over longer distances, and to make the overall concept of the steam-powered carriage more convenient.”

“Well, it’s certainly more convenient than having to harness up a stubborn horse or two, not to mention the cost of food and the upkeep of the animals. I’d say if convenience is what we are looking for, we are well on our way.” Professor Granger let out a hearty laugh that rumbled up from his belly.

“I know you’re not just looking for convenience Professor. You’re looking for the best system available. As am I. I’m looking to build a business out of this. If anyone understands that, it’s me.”

“Oh yes?” Professor Langford’s eyes raised at the idea that Adrian might actually understand what he was talking about.

“Professor, my father built his fortune from the engineering business. Thanks to his know how, he owned a beautiful estate in Dobbinsturn, London, one of the wealthiest parish’s in all of London. You may well remember that your prestigious Exhibition was held at Hyde Park, not far from Dobbinsturn.”

“Indeed Adrian,” Langdon said.

“I can and will make this happen, but until I do… we should set about to make Petford Motors, well at least Petford Steam Travel, a name that you can be proud to put your money on.”

“Adrian, if I am to be proud to have my name associated with it, why wouldn’t it be Langford Steam Travel?”

“To be honest, I had hoped to name it after my wife’s family name as a tribute to her father.” Adrian said firmly.

“Sentimental reasons, eh?” Professor Granger looked annoyed. He shot Adrian a look as if warning him of his annoyance.

“Yes, sentimental reasons indeed,” Adrian replied.

“Here’s the deal Adrian…. If we are going to do this, it’s my way or no way. We’ve already had to push the Symposium two months ahead. You must know that this whole debacle, involving the snake… and whatever else happened out in that barn, made me look like a fool? I am the financial backer for this company, so it’s my name that goes on the business. Understood?”

“I think that’s fair enough, Professor, But, if I may, Professor Cornelius and I spent many nights talking about the future of my steam powered carriage design. It’s not just for my wife that I wish to name this design, but in honor of Professor Cornelius, the man who persuaded you to give me a chance. However, at the end of the day, I am just a humble servant.”

Adrian felt sad that he would not be able to give his wife the one thing he had hoped to give her, her father’s name on a prestigious company. It would have been a fine way to honor him for years to come. Adrian hadn’t spoken to her of his plans, but he knew it would have delighted her.

“How does putting your wife’s maiden name on this company honor Cornelius?”

“I know that you and he were friends and colleagues, sir. When I explained the idea behind the Petford Pusher, and why I had named it ‘Petford’ Professor Cornelius was delighted with the idea. He told me he had always been a bit of a romantic and that the name was perfect. In all honesty, Professor… I sincerely believe he would have loved the name.”

“Yes, well… Cornelius was always a bit sentimental, and look where it got him.” Professor Granger paused, allowing what he had said to set in. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll be naming this motor company after myself. I’ll have the legal documents drawn up, and a salary agreement written up for the two of us. You’ll receive them by tomorrow afternoon. Please sign them and send them back to me at my address in New York.”

Defeated, Adrian nodded his head.

“Also, a reporter from the New York Daily Times, will be coming over, day after tomorrow to discuss the new article for December. They had to print a retraction of their earlier article. Not that anyone noticed due to the spectacle that occurred here.”

“You’re still set on rescheduling the Symposium for December?”

“Yes indeed, Adrian. That’s not a problem, is it?”

“I think it will be too close to Christmas, don’t you sir?”

“Yes, well… Christmas is for romantics and sentimentalists.” With that, Professor Granger whirled, and huffed out of the office.

 

Chapter Two

 

Adrian was deeply disappointed at not being able to name the motor company after Wylie’s maiden name. One glance out at the darkness and he knew she would already be performing her Teselym duties.

Who would have thought that I would be married to a woman who would be a dragon at night, and human during the day? They had only been married a few short months, and in that time Adrian had learned the history of the Siapheg and Teselym dragons.

The Teselym dragon, a beautiful pure white creature that flew the night skies and balanced the good in the world, was only capable of being a Teselym, if the human who the duties had been bestowed upon, accepted the job. That human was Wylie, and she had indeed accepted her fate as the Teselym dragon, as she magically turned into one every night by the power of a magical device called a Dracosinum that she wore around her neck.

The Siapheg dragon, was the exact opposite of her, and in this case, Adrian had personally known the Siapheg dragon. A former acquaintance of his, Lord Jameston Ukridge, who had rejected his destiny and passed on the responsibilities and powers to his daughter, Lady Judith. Judith had been Wylie’s best friend, and in a showdown between the two dragons, Wylie had killed Judith. As a result, the Siapheg duties of balancing the evil had reverted back to Lord Jameston.

Things had ended badly when a dark being far worse than the Siapheg, an evil Immortal One from the underworld, had made his presence known, and tried to kill Wylie. The Siapheg, Jameston Ukridge, had died in that battle, but not without trying to right some wrongs, and Wylie had fought the evil beast that had tried to kill them all.

Now, a few months later, they were all still trying to recover from the unbelievable turn of events. While rebuilding their lives one day at a time, Wylie was still maintaining her Teselym duties.

The Teselym and the Siapheg were a species of dragons called Dragaleths placed on Earth to balance good and evil. It was an attempt by the Immortal Ones to protect the human race.

A lot of the things that had happened seemed so preposterous at times, Adrian found it hard to believe them. However, he still had flashbacks of his time as a Phoenix, the Greek bird of mythology, and how he had fought to rescue Wylie when she nearly died. Jerked back to the present, he said in all sincerity, “Immortal Ones, please protect her this night, as she performs her duties.”

He knew that Wylie in her Teselym form would not be back until daybreak.  It didn’t bother him that she was the one appointed to balance good, nor did it bother him that there was no longer a Siapheg dragon, meant to provide the balance of evil, even though evil remained on earth without him. What bothered him most, was that her human form remained cold and lifeless in their bed, until she returned from her dragon duties each morning.

As Adrian resumed work on the schematics for his new motor design, he couldn’t help wondering what would have happened if Professor Cornelius had not died so tragically. Perhaps Cornelius would have been able to influence Langdon’s choice of name for the motor company. However, now was not the time for mourning, or delay. Adrian and Wylie had already sent a message back to Dobbinsturn to inform the folks at home, they would not be coming home for Christmas.

The servants would definitely be disappointed, as the one thing they looked forward to every year, like clockwork, was the McCollum Christmas celebration. The former Lord McCollum, Adrian’s father, had always made sure the servants and their families were part of the festivities. It was the one time of year that none of the family’s servants were allowed to work. Adrian’s father would hire some of the less fortunate in the community to prepare the meals and take care of other work around the estate.

On Christmas day, every family was given gifts. Clothing, and a ham, handcrafted wooden toys for the boys, and dolls for the girls. The previous Christmas Adrian had handled everything himself, but the idea of a McCollum Christmas with Wylie by his side, was even more appealing. He was sure that Wylie would eat it up as she had a naturally generous nature. She would get a thrill out of watching the children, and servants opening their gifts.

He fell asleep at his desk with dreams of a Christmases yet to come, playing in his mind. When Adrian awoke, sunlight was beaming through the windows. He sat abruptly upright, scrambling to roll up the plans and put them back in the drawer.

There was a soft tapping on the door.

“Enter.”

Wylie pushed open the door and at sight of him said, “Adrian, why are you still out here?”

“I’m afraid I fell asleep, m’dear.”

“Is everything all right?”

“As all right as can be expected, except for the fact that I don’t know when we will be able to go home, and you’re going to miss your first Christmas in Dobbinsturn. And…” He wanted so badly to tell her what he had planned, even if Professor Granger had shot his idea down like a deflated air balloon. “I wasn’t going to tell you, it was supposed to be a surprise.”

“Tell me what, my love?”

“I had planned to name the motor company after your father, Petford Motors. Cornelius loved the idea when I told him, but alas, he’s gone.”

“Oh, dearest… that is the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Yes, well, unfortunately, Professor Granger insists on calling the company by his own name, which makes sense I suppose, since it’s his money backing it. However, I can’t help but feel sad at the thought of not being able to do this for you.”

Wylie crossed the room and clasped Adrian’s hand in hers.

“It’s the thought that counts dearest. I’ll tuck your gesture away in my heart, for always.” She leaned across his desk to kiss him on the cheek. “Come on, let’s go out somewhere and enjoy the day,” she urged.

“That sounds delightful. I’ll have Cyrus ready my carriage.”

“No, my love. I’ve given Cyrus the day off as well. He wanted to go into the city.” Adrian nodded his approval at this gesture. His devoted footman had been terribly tense since the disastrous events had taken place a few months before.

Adrian still recalled his conversation with Cyrus after Lord Jameston had died, and a giant snake had tried to kill them all in the barn where Wylie, in an effort to save them, had set the whole thing ablaze with her Teselym dragon fire.

Once everyone had recovered, and the police and reporters had stopped coming, Cyrus, had knocked on Adrian’s office door one night.

Three Weeks Earlier

“Lord Adrian, I need to speak with you at once.”

“Why of course, Cyrus. I knew this day was coming. Please come in and have a seat.”

“With all due respect, sir, I need to understand what occurred the night that Lord Jameston died.”

“Cyrus, I’ll be honest, even though it will sound so fantastic… I don’t know if you’ll believe everything that I say. But you’ll have to trust me.”

“Lord Adrian, I saw a gigantic white dragon set the barn on fire. I saw a huge snake kill and eat Professor Cornelius, and I saw Wylie… who we buried, walking around like nothing happened. I need to know the truth before I go completely mad.” Cyrus’s dark brown eyes, were tinged red, like the eyes of a man who had not slept in a long time.

“Very well, Cyrus. Here is the truth,” and he went on to relate the entire history, or at least what he knew about the Dragaleth race to Cyrus.

“And what about the pocket watch Wylie carries around all the time?”

“It’s not technically a pocket watch, it’s more or less what makes Wylie who she is.”

“Which is a dragon?” Cyrus asked, befuddled.

“Indeed,” Adrian answered.

“With that device gone, her dragon essence dies. They cannot be separated from each other.”

“It’s just a pocket watch though?”

“Not necessarily. In the situation we recently faced, Jacob stole her Dracosinum, her pocket watch device, which was why she became so sick and began to die. However, the Wylie you saw, who appeared to have died here, was not dead. It was her human body in its sleep state.”

“I really don’t follow,” Cyrus said.

“Well, when her human essence leaves her body, her human form stays behind in a sleep state that can appear to be death like.” Cyrus’s eyes widened in surprise.

Adrian went on to explain about Jacob the snake, and his own turn at being a magical beast. How the Immortal Ones had made him a Phoenix, and how he had nearly died.  They talked long into the night about the events of that day, and when it was over, Cyrus had only one question.

“Are you still a Phoenix?” His eyes wide with curiosity.

“For the time being, no. It was only temporary, so I could help rescue Wylie.”

“And the Siapheg is gone?”

Adrian took a deep sigh. “Yes, I don’t believe there is one currently living.”

Cyrus went silent, and Adrian ventured a question of his own.

“Do you believe everything I’ve told you?” Adrian prodded.

“I believe it, but seeing as how it’s late… I can’t guarantee that I’ll cease to worry, or stop looking over my shoulder all the time,” Cyrus answered honestly.

“Well, there really is nothing more to worry about. Wylie is on the job, balancing the good in the world, and not letting evil get a grip. Jacob and the Siapheg are dead.”

“Yes, you’ve said that.” Cyrus nodded his head as he rose from the chair. “I am sure I will never stop having questions, but at least now I know what happened the night that Professor Cornelius died. I will attend to my duties now, sir.”

“Do you still wish to remain in service to me, and my family?”

“Without question, sir.”

“You’re a good man Cyrus, please don’t hesitate to come and talk to me, if you need to. We’re in this together now.”

Cyrus nodded his head and departed and that was the last of that conversation. Cyrus went back to serving Adrian with full vigor and loyalty as he always had.

Back in the Present

Cyrus had been witness to Adrian’s former stable boy turning into a snake of mythical proportions. He had seen too much not be told the truth about everything that happened.

“You’re not still thinking about Jacob, are you?” Wylie asked in concern, jerking Adrian out of his reverie.

“How can I not? You died because of him, well nearly. Professor Cornelius is dead because of him. It’s not just that, it’s the memory of The Immortal Ones. The memory of being a Phoenix. Was it all a dream?”

“That’s exactly why we need to get away for the day,” Wylie smiled broadly, “I’ll go change, and you get us a carriage. We can do breakfast at the Steaming Pig.”

“I don’t understand why you like that place. It’s so grimy and full of questionable people.”

Wylie laughed, “They’ve got the best coffee and bacon on this side of the Atlantic. As to the grimy questionable people, you forget where I’m from,” she grinned at him.

“You’re impossible. I don’t know why you won’t let me take you some place with a little more class.”

“How about I pick breakfast, and you pick dinner?”

“That sounds marvelous,” Adrian said with a smile. Wylie bounced away, radiating happiness. Her skin was still a bit pale as she hadn’t fully recovered from nearly dying, but she looked healthier than he had seen her in weeks. The rosy color was gradually returning to her cheeks.

Perhaps it’s time to put all that behind us. The Immortal Ones will soon pick a new Siapheg to balance evil, but until they do, mankind is fully capable of evil acts all on their own. They’re lucky to have Wylie.

Adrian locked the drawer where his plans were kept, and exited his office, calling for one of the inn’s servants to summon him a carriage. His Petford Pusher, the steam-powered carriage that was to have been the beginning of his motor company, was still in total disarray after being destroyed by Jacob, and would not be available for rides into the city for a long time to come.

 

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