I thought perhaps folks might like to see what a first place winner looks like. Specifically, what I submitted to The Sandy that netted me the top score in the Fantasy/Science Fiction, the second highest overall score (only one scored higher, and only by 1 point), and a full manuscript request from Jim Frenkel. I’m so proud of this story! It has a little bit of everything for everyone; romance, adventure, action, bad guys, steampunk tech, a vast array of multicultural characters, and a touch of magic. Even if you’re not sold on the whole steampunk thing, this is still a story you can get into!
In the interest of space, I’m breaking up the excerpt into multiple parts, so you’ll have to read multiple posts to get the whole thing. Without further ado, may I present part 1 of the Antigone’s Wrath excerpt…
“It is time, Brother.” The silver-haired young man drifted into the room without so much as a warning knock on the door. His steps were soundless against the black metal floors, an irritating feat most men could not achieve. He stopped near the end of the iron cot and waited for acknowledgement.
The man in the small quarters cast him a glance then resumed scraping the straight razor over his chin. “Have travel arrangements to Pevensey been made?” He wiped the blade on the towel draped over his shoulder.
The corners of the visitor’s mouth turned up almost imperceptibly. “There has been a change of plans, I’m afraid. Brother Boldin has been dispatched for that job, along with the book. Your services are required for retrieving the other item in Grimsby.”
The man glared at his pale reflection and lowered the razor. His thick, black mustache twitched with irritation. “Brother, surely there are other men capable of handling that task?”
“Mmm. Yes, but you have been chosen for this errand specifically.” He opened his palms outward, as if to show this was a thing he had no control over. “I would hate to inform the others that you refuse to-”
“Do not play that game with me, Matthias.” His voice dropped into a dangerous tone. “My loyalty to the Brotherhood is absolute.”
A placating smile spread across Matthias’s face. “I would never question that, Brother. I only meant that displeasing news is not met well by your superiors. I trust we can leave the matter of the old woman in your capable hands then?”
His mustache gave one last twitch, and he nodded at the self-satisfied messenger.
“Very good. Your transport leaves in ten minutes. Try not to keep them waiting.” Matthais turned and left the way he came, the edges of his black robe brushing the steel doorframe.
The straight razor clattered into the washbasin, a small rivulet of blood slipping into the foamy water. The man muttered a soft curse, aimed not entirely at the fresh nick below his chin. He wiped the shaving soap from his face. He would see to this child’s errand.
His black bowler hung next to the watertight door. After slipping his arms into his black overcoat, he placed it on his head and strode out the door. How much trouble could one old woman be, anyway?
“There you are, my lovely,” Captain Rachel Sterling whispered as she approached the grand ship docked at Grimsby, England’s commercial port. She took a moment, as she always did, to carefully inspect the exterior of the vessel. Her gaze drifted up the side of the steel plating to where the round hull stopped and gave way to the railing. Turned wood capped with bright brass shone in the early morning light.
She smiled to herself as she looked up to the sails attached to the three thick masts. The sail configuration was the most impressive feature of her ship. These were not made of the humdrum canvas of Royal Navy watercraft. This material was far superior. Delicate filaments of steel had been spun and woven to create the thin mesh that made up the six sails and ballooning. The mesh was so fine it weighed the same as its fabric counterpart, but could still hold up to the pressure of the heated gases that filled it for flight. The layers were locked together by rigging for water travel, but as soon as the ropes were loosed, they could be inflated with gas the mast pipes pumped into them. The Antigone’s Wrath was a mighty vessel, and she boasted technology that turned Air Transport Authority officers unabashedly envious.
“Have the men finish loading the shipment for La Rochelle and prepare for departure,” Rachel instructed the First Mate as she boarded the ship. “I’ve some charts to draw up before we leave, so I’ll leave the details to you, Iris.”
Iris pushed back the hood of her cloak to tie back her dark curls. The crisp morning air brought a hint of color to her cocoa skin. “Aye, Captain. I’ll see if Monsieur DuSalle won’t lend a hand after he’s arranged to collect the supplies from the market.” With a brisk nod, the First Mate headed for the crewmen arranging crates on the deck.
The Captain watched for a moment before heading below decks. While there were, in fact, charts to be marked, something else demanded her attention.
She reached the door to her quarters and inserted a cog-shaped key into its matching indention and turned. The gears inlaid in the exterior sprang to life, unlocking the portal as they rotated. After hanging her cloak and hat on the wall hooks, she removed a blue velvet pouch from her vest pocket and weighed it in her hand. Grasping it tightly, she flopped down into the chair behind her desk and let out a heavy sigh. Including the tiny spray of althea flowers, a sprig of birch, and celandine tied with cream-colored satin ribbon given to her this time, none of the trinkets Mrs. Tweed had sold to her in the past were a fraction as valuable as the one she held now. It was so strange for the octogenarian to have such a thing that Rachel could think of little else after their meeting in the crowded street market of Grimsby. How had this woman, the one who had watched over her as a child and now reduced to near poverty, come to own a piece of such master craftsmanship?
The ring felt warm and heavy between her fingers as she slipped it out of the cloth. Rachel held it at arms’ length, studying it as the light reflected off the many ruby chips of its surface. As she rubbed her thumb over the gold band, a hum filled the air, like a machine rumbling to life, and the scent of burning grease accosted her nostrils. The hair on her arms stood up as though a wave of electricity had passed through her, and she dropped the thing on the desk as she pushed away from it. That was no ordinary piece of jewelry.
END OF PART ONE… TO BE CONTINUED!