This is part of an ongoing steampunk fantasy story. See the introduction to get at the story from the beginning.
The first thing I noticed when I awoke were the sounds: a cacophony of almost liquid tweets, rustles, hoots, slithers, cracks, and pops. My other senses clicked in one by one. I lay on my back, facing up at the canopy. The thick smell of jungle and water mixed with decomposing tree flesh and the sickly-sweet scent of nearby flowers. Slimy mud squished beneath me and a pressing pain spiraled across my spine, the taste of blood overwhelming.
I forced myself to open my eyes a slit.
Green. More green than I’d ever seen. Green everywhere.
Trees, vines, lizards, even the light – all of it green.
All of it moving.
All of it alive.
The canopy, about thirty feet above me, had been broken where I crashed through. My open chute and harness dangled from crooked branches that looked like fingers. It was almost as if the jungle had reached out and stole my lifeline so I would fall the rest of the way.
But my chute did deploy, thanks to my serpentine.
I sat up and scanned the crash site. I had landed alone in a clearing of about sixty square feet. My rifle was cracked, and my pack wasn’t in sight. The serpentine lay broken in half near my feet.
I carefully inspected the gadget. The bottom half was crushed. After twenty minutes of tinkering, I replaced the chem-fluid battery and wound the key at the back of the mechinician’s skull. A puff of steam spat out, and it clattered to life again. The device was a credit to Ilsan science and the Master Artificer who designed this steam and electric-powered daemon.
Especially considering where I’d crashed. The Twilight Forest was named for the legend of Tagen, an old myth about a man who saved Anadell from the evil First Lords. This whole area was thought to be cursed against machines and science and reason. It wanted only living, majick-breathing creatures.
Of course, that was savage superstition, and it had gotten the local people nowhere. They still toiled with their spells while Ilsa and the civilized world discovered the powers of steam, electricity, gears, and gadgets. Science. Real power. After Ilsa conquered the area, we offered things like juggernaut railroads and electric medicines to the locals. Some had even begun to adopt civilization. Then a few months ago, the uprisings that began in the Trisk Colonies spread here. Rebels began to fight.
They wanted a revolution. We gave them a war.
A war we’d all but won.