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Two Sides of the Forest

by E. Sparkweed
He was stumbling ahead, every step slipping on the wet ground, leaves gliding under his feet. His clothes were wet and hanging in shreds off his sharp frame, sweat and blood on his forehead, dripping into his eyes. Though he blinked, the stinging and pain would never go away; he’d seen too much. For four days he had been running though the forest: four cold, wet, long days. He was used to hunger, but the strength he was using now, getting up after falling, again, was nearly his last. He knew this. It had been two days since he heard the barking dogs, but he was not safe yet. The stream to his right ran cold and clear, and because of it he was still alive. On the second day he came across it in the woods and it saved him, twice. It quenched his mad thirst, life streamed back into his body with every gulp he swallowed. Then, as he heard the dogs closer and closer, he waded into the quick waters, up to his waist in its icy flow, and walked in it until he could no longer endure the cold. He crawled up on the opposite bank and lay motionless for a few breaths, a terrible cramp growing in his legs, not feeling his feet at all, cold as ice to the bone. The stream saved his life, and then nearly took it. He knew he would surely freeze to death unless he could somehow get warm. He forced himself to get up, on legs throbbing with pain, and feet which seemed no longer a part of him. He started walking, or hobbling, whilst manically rubbing his stiff limbs until they stopped throbbing and started buzzing instead, and a sensation of fire and ice awoke in his toes. They were a blossoming reddish colour, but any colour was better than the blue and yellowish white they had been. He kept moving.

On the third day he found a small wild apple tree and on it, a couple of brown, shrunken, sour crab apples. He managed to eat them, horrible as they were, and although they made his tummy ache, he was temporarily cheered. But then the following night was terrible, the coldest one yet. He had no way of making a fire, and he couldn’t risk one anyway. It was too cold to rest; he had to keep moving, but had barely a faint glimmer of energy left in his body. Somehow he was able to keep going, still following the stream which snaked along on his righthand side, going east, only his instinct guiding him away from the camp and the pursuing guards. He could barely keep upright now, was on his hands and knees at times, crawling. But still moving, still following the stream, still going east.

When the Wind is in the Trees

Written and illustrated by Honoria Tox
The moon flickers like a gaslight behind the torn, torrid clouds as I watch out the upper window, straining my ears for the sound of horse-hooves. The earth falls away from my home and down to the river, only one thin horse-trail separating its wildness from mine; and the darkness courses above us.
I sigh at the silence, leaving the window to move about the room: first to the stack of thick azure paper that sits on my work-bench. I cut the paper into cottony slices with my knife in strong, swooping gestures, like a factory-woman tossing the shuttle-cock back and forth across a loom. I fold the paper with quick, skilled strokes, my dainty fingers darting them into points and curves. Then I fit them with their mechanisms, small gears and springs thrust into their wings, and set them free: a hundred tiny blue-birds, my automata, winding their way through the air and into the night, flapping all their pretty wings against the moonlight as they go.

Clockwork Heart

by Lyra Ayres
“Boy! Clean up this rotten mess and close the blasted shop. I don’t pay you to play with toys,” roared Mr. Rochfort.
     “Yes, right away Mr Rochfort,” sighed Anson as he pushed his spectacles up his nose. Without another word, his employer slammed the shop door, making the bells shake in fear.
     Brushing off Mr. Rochfort’s vehement demands, Anson returned to his workstation to tinker with the necklace he’d been previously focusing on. His latest creation, and, in his mind, his best, was a neatly crafted heart on a silver chain. Black stones stalked the outer edge of the pendant and a multitude of tiny bronze gears ticked under a glass plate. Locking the final catch, Anson gently clicked the glass plate in place with a pair of miniature pliers.

Edward Lane’s Argosy Chapter Seven: The Suddenly Appearing Thief

Edward considered just walking up to the front gate of the yard and sending his calling card to Gideon via the carbine-carrying Red Indian guards, but he dismissed the thought almost immediately.  Such a re-introduction to his friend after so long an absence would seem so . . . mundane, and worse, unstylish.  Edward had always been a bit intimidated by his chum’s affluence and social position, and even more so by his indifference and disdain for it.  Gideon’s indefatigable self-confidence and boldness was infectious and alluring, but it could also be overwhelming.  Edward could not match it in volume, so he had always sought to complement it with his own, more subtle accomplishments.  A common handshake at the gate just would not do for the occasion of their reunion.

The Watchmaker

by Wendy Quallsham
She stepped through the doorway skittishly, as if the room contained all manners of mechanical horrors lying in wait for her. The watchmaker brushed his hand gently across the small of her back, a tiny caress, and urged her forward.
     “Come and see, my dear.” He closed the door, the lock clicking shut behind them.
     She stood docilely while her eyes adjusted to the dim light of the single gas lantern burning quietly in the corner. The shadows resolved themselves into blobs, and then into shapes, those of the watchmaker bustling around his newest invention in the semi-darkness. There was a click, a whirr, and something in the device started to move.
     “I promised you would like it, did I not?” he asked. “Two years I’ve been building it, in between my other projects, and you will be the one to help me put it through its paces. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
     “Yes,” she whispered.

The Lion and the Lamb: Part 1

by Lho Brockhoff
There was a brief break from the continuous howls of the storm. Through the momentary silence you could hear careful scribbles of the tiny scientist echoed slightly against the bare, metallic walls of the small cabin.
     The two men were in a comfortable silence, ignoring the rocking movements of the ship, as rain whipped against the single porthole. Vincent was stooped lightly over his paper filled with orderly chaotic calculations and numbers. Raoul absorbed by his book.
The comfortable silence was brought to an end as the ship made a sudden turn, and Vincent’s inkpot knocked over, soaking the fine papers in sticky, black liquid.
     Vincent cursed under his breath.
     “This is impossible,” he grumbled, trying to save the work he had spent most of the evening with.

My Sailor

by S. Czolgosz
I’d like to say that the first thing I want to do with him when his boat comes back into harbor is talk. After all, I’ve got so much to say to him. The awkward telegraph-booth conversations, clicking out “I miss you” and trying to tell him about my days, those are wonderful but so very detached. Sure, he sends me letters, and I read them three times over. The personal ones are scented with lavender, so every time I go out to my garden I think of him.
     But the first thing that I want do when I see him isn’t talk. I want to gag him and put his cock in my mouth. I want to run my tongue up the groove at the base of the head of it. I want to push him up against the wall, with my forearm against his hips to keep him from thrusting—though I’ll happily let him try—and slowly let the whole length of it into my throat. Come to think of it, maybe I should sink some bolts into the wall at the level of his waist. I’ll have to ask him to measure himself for me, next time we talk.

Autumn, In Which I Tell You How I Came

by Grania Goldblum

Your lips were warm, of course, and your shoulder sweaty where I tried to rest my hand. My fingers kept sliding down your skin. The wind whistled over the roof of the hothouse, and when I inched closer to you on the bench, you smelled of wood steam and the squash that we ate for dinner. You pushed your tongue tentatively against my lips and I opened my mouth. Your tongue swept slowly along my teeth and palate and tongue. I sat up in your arms, our lips making a soft smacking noise. My hand went to your head to thread its fingers in your hair.
     “Oh,” I said, pulling back, surprised at myself, “Is that okay?”
     “Mm. Yes,” you managed. You forced yourself to focus on my face. “Can I touch you?”
     I blinked, watched a drop of sweat roll down your neck. I nodded.

Edward Lane's Argosy Ch. 6: The Plummeting Duke And The Baldwin Bag

by Ian Ironwood
Chapter Six: The Plummeting Duke and the Baldwin Bag

“Are you ready to depart then, Captain Becker?” Baron Amadahy asked Gideon on his penultimate day in service to the Kingdom of Oklahoma. They were meeting in the Foreign Minister’s opulent office, easily as posh as any in England, though some of the decorations might have raised an eyebrow in London. But his ship’s recent heroism had earned Gideon the privilege of meeting with the third most powerful man in the Prairie Realm in his private office. Tomorrow he would go aloft from the Tillassa Yard one last time, his service ending the moment he crossed the border into the province of Lafayette, in the Empire of Louisiana.

He had chosen that route to protect the Louisianan locomotive that would haul fifty cars through the Empire’s northern frontier, through the provincial capital of Petite Roche. From there the cars would be loaded aboard barges and floated the rest of the way south to the Lousianan capitol at the mouth of the Mississippi. The shipment was of especial import to Gideon, as fifteen of the fifty large steel canisters of compressed Helium belonged to him, not to mention sundry baggage of his crew that could better travel by ship to Europe than on the Victrix. That provided him a great interest in the locomotive arriving at Petite Roche intact – that is, safe from the various Negro bandits, renegade Reds, gangs of Louisianan outlaws and opportunistic Atlan soldiers who might consider attacking it.

Edward Lane's Argosy Chapter Five: The Hopi Monk In The Beer Hall

by Ian Ironwood
Chapter Five: The Hopi Monk in the Beer Hall

When Chief Jacob Two Star, of the Cherokee Nation, and Chief Everett Mauser of the Chocktaw led their bands of native mercenaries to the frontier of the White Man’s empires to found the Oklahoma Kingdom on the basis of the vast reserves of gasses naturally occurring to the otherwise bland and disinteresting land, they had invited (some said kidnapped) a number of German chemists to assist them in exploiting the resource.

The Germans were fabulous chemists and physicists, and they had happily assisted the Prairie Crown in developing the industry to wrest the gas from the earth, then separate out the precious helium from the less noble elements. The pay was extravagant, compared to what they could command as instructors and professors in the universities of the Rhine, and many worked two and five year contracts with the Crown and retired to Europe rich men. But their presence had had another, unintentional effect, however: the construction of an authentic German beer hall in the middle of a dusty native Kingdom.

Das Jagerhaus had the feel of a Saxon hunting lodge – or, that was what the original design had intended. Made of wattle-and-daub, complete with rune-like exposed beams, Das Jagerhaus had become the unofficial headquarters for both the German scientists who toiled for the Prairie Crown’s Helium monopoly and the airship mercenaries who protected it. The two groups mixed freely, providing one of the few truly cosmopolitan venues in Tillassa, both attracted by the hall’s near-monopoly on the brewing and dispensing of good German beer.