You will be getting occasional excerpts from the book till I finish editing, just to wet your whistle. Enjoy!
Reimar wondered how much of this trip he would remember in the following years. Two carts were readied to go to the Chuffing Pony. They would spend the night on the train while their fathers would stay at the inn, returning in the morning rather than risk being caught out at night. Reimar’s father could not take the journey for their cart had been damaged and there was work to be done. The waste of a single day could be dangerous even with aid on the way.
The ride was enjoyable as the weather had turned into a pleasant early fall day. Brightly dappled sun cut through the trees’ shadows, which were so tall, their branches played with the clouds, or so it seemed to young eyes. Llamas bleated and groaned in their usual cranky way. Sun warmed wood and dry leaves scented the air. It felt like it should be a play day for the children Brother Finn observed, but their hearts were so heavy from leaving, the good nature of the ride had become a cruel taunt.
Two bright, shining ribbons of iron straps on wood beams appeared and the road turned sharply to it towards the station. You could hear and smell it quite a distance away. The smell of oils mixed with burning peat and wood. Many of the trees here had started losing their leaves in the deepening Autumn. A copse of nearby Tamarack Spruce sighed with the breeze, needles turning orange with the season. Before them, the stone and log walls of the Chuffing Pony waited. Two large gates were closed to the ribbons, with men at the ready to open them once a train was seen. They capped the ends of the long stockade around the siding, warehouse, water-tower and the inn. Huskarls walked across catwalks with either a bardiche or slung battle axe and bow in hand. They were Herse Olin Halgarsson’s huskarls or so their crests proclaimed. The scarlet and yellow tabards were signs of their allegiance to the Asbjornaettir who ruled Neezhodayland.
Hissing steam was punctuated with the clinking and popping of valves as the carts of goggle-eyed children entered the station’s stockade gates. Once through, the front of a great iron beast greeted them. It squatted low on eight wheels, looking all at once like a lion, cricket and dragon. Its body made up of a huge cylindrical boiler and tall funnel which spewed smoke and sparks up into the sky. An angled grate at the front looked like long thin teeth, while its angled pistons were its legs set rampant to claw at anything that dared come in front of it. A tail of ten short carriages trailed behind. They were twenty foot long, double decked carriages. Their top deck was covered by a tarpaulin roof and had sets of forward and back facing bench seats for people to sit. The interiors were more plush, but had less room, with button-down flaps for when it rained or snowed while those who rode up top had to contend with much of the elements. The carriages themselves could hold maybe a dozen or more people comfortably on their pair of four wheeled trucks.
Next to the tender, a flat car loaded with squat boxes separated the carriages followed by a pair of cargo wagons, providing distance and protection from the noisy, dirty engine. The engineer was wandering around the wheels and valves dripping oil on them. The two firemen threw another slab of peat through a large open maw into the rear of the beast. The conductor helped the ladies up into the carriages while the train guards stood post on the top with large springbows at the ready. Their holstered axes gleaming on their back, emblazoned with the crest of the ribbonroad company.
“Wait on the platform for me. I will settle our passage,” Brother Finn ordered the men. With a dancer’s grace, he hopped off the cart and Bergamot followed a short way with a sloppy jump.
Once the carts were empty, everyone stood on the platform keeping close by. The station was busier than expected, as the train was delayed, waiting for the eastbound schedule to come by. The children who’s fathers were not there stayed close to Bergamot, following her like ducklings with their mother. For now, she seemed content to sit lopsided on the platform, panting in the warm day with a bored look on her face. Occasionally, she looked expectantly to the door where Brother Finn had gone, and licking her chops, sloppily at peace but alert. Her shifting ears and droopy eyes the only tell of where her interests lay.
Many people had come from other small farmholds and nearby Thiggardborg which was on the river and had a real sawmill. Some talked about a spur being driven towards Thiggardborg in the coming year to help pull out fresh lumber and shingles. Women in beautiful tapestry-like dresses complained about the ash and smoke from the engine’s crown like stack as it burned small holes in their parasols, and the mud caked their slippers.
“Third Nonae! Damer and herrar, please board the train! Third Nonae! The eastbound is due in a few minutes! Finish your arrangements now!” a station agent called out the time loudly and rang a bell. A man climbed up on top of the front of the lion like face of the engine, changing the banners from green to red and lighting a bright trio of lanterns on the front end.