This is part of an ongoing steampunk fantasy story. See the introduction to get at the story from the beginning.

Tiny gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes. Like the piston of a steam machine, an artery pulsed in his forehead. “I’m going to secure the perimeter.”

“Better hurry,” I pushed. “A squad of Ilsan cadets could take this place.”

Tiny shot another look to Mouse, but Mouse just waved him away. The big man grunted and left. Tiny, Peacock, and the Traitor. Savages and rebels. I could handle them. Mouse, however, wasn’t like the rest. Not even a man.

What was his function? Why was he here?

Mouse turned to the Traitor. “Andrew, take care of her.” He jabbed his finger toward me, then ordered the rest of the men to get the “dreamstealer to the platform.”

Dreamstealer. Part of me shuddered and part of me thrilled. Apparently the monster I had killed was called a dreamstealer because it lures its prey by using majick to create waking dreams like the one I had had about the rebels chasing me. The thing had gotten inside my head.

That’s the part that made me shudder.

That I had beaten it gave me the thrill.

The Traitor approached me.

Andrew, I thought. A strong Ilsan name.

He took my shoulder roughly, sending a surge of pain. I jerked away, but he gripped tighter. He was strong and quick. Clever, too. I could sense that in his eyes.

Andrew led me to a half-covered hovel that passed for their aid station. Inside were just a few cots occupied by ill natives. There was no sanitation basin or clockwork dioramas. Only a pile of dirt- looking bandages and jars of local medicines. A dark-skinned woman sat me on a cot and pulled a small table between us. On the table sat three bowls of fowl-smelling goop, water, bandages and several sizes of razor blades and needles for removing shrapnel and such.

My shoulder wound was turning yellow. I’d learned about gangrene and the danger of infection. These savages didn’t even have proper medicine, just ground up tree shit, but I guessed it was better than nothing. I refused to cringe when they applied the balm.

I had seen combat half a dozen times since I joined the army, but I’d never been wounded. Never captured. I’d probably been declared dead by now.

My throat tightened at that thought. They’d be sending a letter home to Angela Davies’ family. Not that she really existed. With the connections that come with the name Cabbot, it had been easy to invent a person.

As the savage medicine began to numb my wound, I allowed myself a precious moment. If the army had known who I was – if they knew I was from a disgraced House – would they bother to send a letter? Who would it go to?  No one left in the Cabbot House would care.

My eyes stung, tears creeping forward. Damn savage medicine, I choked. Stench is terrible.

The nurse gave me a towel for my tears.

I seized the opportunity.

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Chris Michaels

Storyteller. Researcher. Coder. Innovator. I seek to push the boundaries of storytelling and education.
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