|I'm king of the mountain!|
One of Constable Aubrey Hartmann’s first adventures (chronologically speaking) took place on the battlefields of the Cimarron before she lost her leg—Grenadiers and Dragon’s Fire. It was featured in Gears,Gadgets & Steam (Tinkered Tales Book 1) anthology. It was a fun story to write, and to get to some of the realism, I read William Howard Russell’s The British Expedition to Crimea which was a first-hand account of many of the battles as told by one of the world’s earliest “war correspondents”.
I wondered if anyone would want to read the entire story, just a free download from my website.
The story is solid, Victorian-era steampunk, but it’s the characters that really make this one shine. I’d already written two stories about Aubrey—another short story called And Into A Watery Grave and the novel The Clockwork Detective. Both allude to her military career, but there were no details. Grenadiers and Dragon’s Fire provided some of that background information:
Screams crossed the sky, spitting sparks and fire until they slammed into the lower slope of Bourgogne Hill. Explosions erupted a moment later with a shower of dirt, bloody limbs and two unfortunate Imperial soldiers.
“Lieutenant!” a voice yelled down the line. Panic broke the soldier’s voice.
“Don’t you move,” Lieutenant Aubrey Hartmann called back. She didn’t use his name. There was no need to shame him when everyone was equally scared. “Don’t you dare. Keep your heads pressed into the dirt until you’re kissing rock.”
Another volley screamed over her head. The Hamill cannons had a poor angle from the top of the fortified redoubt. Their mortar crews, on the other hand, had nearly perfected the range. Aubrey took her own orders to heart and pressed her body against hill’s hard-packed dirt and scrub. She turned her face left to breathe. Sergeant Simmons looked back at her and gave a grin.
“I hate you,” Aubrey said.
Simmons grinned wider. The mortars began to scream and fall again with explosive roars. The Sergeant said something to her, but it was completely lost in the noise.
Overhead, two Imperial air platforms thundered into position, their bulky Simm-Daimlers driving them into position and holding them in place. Some of the soldiers called them airships, but that was incorrect. They were nothing more than a flat platform slung under a dirigible frame, crowded with two mounted guns, five crew members, and the stinking, smoking, thunderous engines. They couldn’t travel any real distance without support for refueling and riding on the platform was uncomfortable for any length of time. Even with all their faults, the looming presence of the air platforms made the heavy mortars stop.
What do you think? Would you want to read the rest? Let me know in the comments below!