Steam and Magic
Steampunk is a new genre for me, with this story being inspired by the image above from DireImpulse on DeviantArt and Trudi Canavan’s Thief’s Magic which I recently read. As ever, I hope you enjoy and there may be more to come!
The chugging of the train shook Isiri awake and she jerked her head away from the steamed window, turning to stare at her fellow passengers as they rustled with their bags. They were not used to travelling in the company of someone with such dark skin; few of the Faranti, as her people were called, could afford travel by rail and certainly not in second class.
And she was not any Faranti. Isiri studied the spirits, spoke with them even, when they consented to answer a mere mortal. She was a witch doctor, though the Atarrans, who had conquered her land many years before her birth, had other names for her. Part of their distrust came from ignorance, the rest from fear of the dark magic the witch doctors had performed to defend Faranti during the war.
Their sorcery had done her people no good against the airships and the walkers – the mechanical spider like creatures powered by steam and magic that had swarmed over the land with cannons and guns the likes of which the Faranti had never seen. Isiri rose first levitating her bag as she stepped out of the compartment, the train pulled into the station and cogs twirled as the door opened to the platform.
She breathed deeply as the door slid back which proved to be a mistake. The air was heavy with smoke and the scent of chemicals and Irisi coughed. Another passenger saw her and stopped in his tracks, she turned with a smile on her face and he ducked hurriedly into into a compartment. With a laugh she stepped out and looked at the city around her. A vast airship drifted slowly overhead as walkers mingled amongst the crowd, seeking trouble. These were police machines, not army, and while they carried no weapons, they could emit a surge of electricity to disorientate a crowd.
Human policemen stood by the end of the platform too and they watched her approach, one spat as she past but she did nothing. Isiri knew that responding to every slight or insult would leave her no time for anything else. She would never admit it, but the soaring iron and stone arches of the station were impressive, as though the builders had strived to construct a temple to transport and industry. The city was bustling despite the early hour as people went to work and Isiri followed the main thoroughfare from the station passing statues of the generals and governors who had conquered her people and subdued them ever since.
She wanted to feel rage but the statues were covered in soot and pigeon shit, it seemed the Atarrans didn’t care much for their leaders either. Upmarket stores and hotels lined the street and even though she could well afford a room, she knew she would never be given one here and so Isiri turned to follow a canal, remembering the map she had studied before arriving. Soon the buildings became poorer and the shops were replaced with tenement houses crammed with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people. Some stared at her, muttering angrily as she passed, while others averted their gaze – their fear obvious. Yet the people here were desperate and she had money, Irisi simply needed to find someone willing to take it in exchange for simple lodgings and a meal. She had not realised quite how hungry she was till her stomach growled.
“You look lost,” said a voice behind her and she turned to find four men approaching her with evil intent in their eyes and primitive machetes in their hands. Sourcing magic from the air around her, she willed into existence a hyena. The ugly beast would obey her alone and was smarter and more ferocious than any of its wild counterparts. It wouldn’t last long, but as her would-be robbers recoiled, she knew it wouldn’t have to.
Perfecting her most devilish smile, Isiri uttered a single word, “kill.”
Image: Steampunk Witch Doctor by DireImpulse