Perilous Artifacts: Tell me what you know
Harry drove out with a tip of his hat to the lift attendant, who ignored him and saluted Pieter instead. Harry had no attention to spare for the attendant’s choice of honoree: he had stopped at the entry to the alcove to wait for a signal to exit from a uniformed trafficman standing on a raised platform in the center of the well-lit intersection.
“Uncommonly busy up here, Pious,” Harry observed after five steam phaetons and two sprung carriages passed them quietly heading east, and a procession of luggage carts creaked past heading west.
Olive turned round in her seat and skewered Pieter with a look. “And that reminds me,” she murmured. “You still haven’t answered my questions.”
As if motivated by the action of a steam-powered piston, Pieter sprang up and waved to the trafficman. “Urgent!” He called. “Governor’s business! Pass us through.”
The trafficman blew his whistle and held up white gloved hands to stop the oncoming traffic before he waved the steamer forward.
Harry cranked it into gear and crossed to follow the luggage carts. At the corner of Vernier Way and Gifford, the carts turned right—and so did Harry.
“I wonder—are they headed to Carew House?” Olive murmured.
“Oh, Mother will be beside herself if they’re early,” Pieter fretted from the back seat.
Harry shifted into higher gear. “Look—they’ve turned off on Pell Mall, heading into the city. You might be safe yet.”
“Faster,” Pieter urged him. The thoroughfare stretched its whitewashed tunnel ahead of them into the far distance, lit not just by gas lanterns but also by sunlight spilling down shafts offset by pillars and protected by wrought-iron railings between doorways framed in plaster lintels and posts with carved and painted doors embellished with heraldic emblems, scrolls and flourishes, and mythical allusions to the vanished age of Before. Uniformed doormen stood at attention, waiting to be summoned while nurses walked children and infants by the light shafts, passed by maids and footmen on errands.
Olive came to a decision. “We’ve at least eighteen blocks yet to go. You might as well tell me what you know.”
Pieter settled back into his seat, gripping the canvas covered edge, and lifted his chin. “Mother says—”
Olive skewered him with her best tradesman-intimidating glare. “Spill it. Now.”
Pieter wilted—and sighed. “A message came through on the wireless at eight a.m.; ‘Floating City ETA 09:30, Avornians aboard. Have Olive meet us.’” He cleared his throat. “Mother is, of course, beside herself with joy at her dear friends’ return–and also, ahem–some apprehension?”
Olive shook her head.
If Lady Carew had chosen to take Olive into her own household and raise her with Pieter, there would be no reason for alarm. But instead, upon notification of the discovery of a tot lost and wandering in the Landing Yard, and professing doubt as to Olive’s true parentage despite the laundry labels in her clothing and her cleverly fashioned outfit, she had foisted her off on Miss Millrig at the Academy for Abandoned Waifs.
For the next installment (available Tuesdays), read Perilous Artifacts: Am I really me?, Harry, Pieter, and Olive discuss her uncertain identity.
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