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Leah Cutter writes page-turning, wildly imaginative fiction set in exotic locations, such as a magical New Orleans, the ancient Orient, rural Kentucky, Seattle, Minneapolis, and many others.

She writes fantasy, science fiction, mystery, literary, and horror fiction. Her short fiction has been published in magazines like Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Talebones, anthologies like Fiction River, and on the web. Her long fiction has been published both by New York publishers as well as small presses.

Read more books by Leah Cutter at www.KnottedRoadPress.com.

Follow her blog at www.LeahCutter.com.

The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom by Leah Cutter

The Greater Oregon Fairy Kingdom hides beneath the Pacific Ocean cliffs. Between their own lost dreams, battles with the dwarves, and the encroaching humans, the kingdom continues to diminish. Only two young humans can save them now.

Will Dale, the young human Tinker, answer their call? Can he repair the malfunctioning clockwork of the kingdom? Help them finish their great machine?

Or will Nora, his twin sister and a human Maker, align herself with the hated dwarves and destroy the fairies instead?

The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom—the first novel in this exciting New Adult trilogy—combines fast-paced action with magic and modern day clockwork. A delightful read for all ages!

Be sure to read the other two books in the trilogy, The Maker, the Teacher, and the Monster and The Dwarven Wars.

 
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

Chapter One

"Dale! Don't go that way!" Nora called in vain as her twin brother disappeared into the tall grass off the main road. His whitish-blond hair matched the four-foot tufts, blending in immediately.

Nora looked up and down the road, biting her lip. She stood alone on the gravel, no dust trail of a car in sight. The sun beat down on her from a deep blue sky. She couldn't hear the traffic on the Interstate, not this far inland. The quiet wash underlying everything had to be the ocean.

"Mom's going to be pissed!" Nora called as she stomped after her brother. Idiot. Mom wasn't just going to be angry. She'd freak if they were late. They'd only just moved to Oregon a few months ago and this was the first time she'd let Nora and Dale walk home alone from the main road where the school bus dropped them off.

The grass rustled, blown by a wind Nora didn't feel, muttering to itself. She walked faster, shoving the swaying stalks aside. "Dale!" she yelled, pausing for a moment. The grass grew high above her head, making it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of her. Stillness ran icy fingers down her spine. She shook herself. No one was watching her. "If Mom doesn't kill you, I'm going to," she muttered as she made herself continue forward.

A knotted bunch of stalks swayed in front of Nora, blocking her path. Just beyond them lay an open yard. With a final push Nora broke through. The edges of the grass slid across her palms, leaving stinging welts in their wake. "Ouch!" she complained and looked at her hands. None of her cuts appeared serious. Still, she told Dale as she walked up to him, "You are so dead."

Dale, of course, didn't pay any attention to her. "Isn't that cool?" he asked, pointing at the abandoned cottage perched on the cliff. Sad red paint covered the wood-shingled walls. Windows, outlined in white, stared at Nora with dark eyes. Only the doorknob shone in the bright sunlight. Gold flames licked the wood at either end of the doorplate. The knob itself resembled a collection of interlocking gears.

"Don't touch it," Nora warned. The teeth of the gears looked sharp.

Dale immediately reached for it. The door swung open silently.

"Dale," Nora warned.

"Just for a minute. Then we'll go home. I promise."

"No."

Dale walked into the darkness.

* * *

Denise looked up from the dishes and down along the road again. The kitchen clock ticked quietly behind her. Soft winds blew the curtains framing the window. Nora and Dale would be appearing any minute now. She took a deep breath, calming herself. She shouldn't panic; it was bad for her heart.

Chris, her husband, had no idea where they were. Denise had paid only cash during their drive to Oregon from California, using aliases and hiding the kids when she could. She hadn't contacted any of her old friends, and had only called her mom a couple of times since they'd arrived. She'd changed all their names here, as well. Chris couldn't follow them. It was just a formality that they were still legally married. Denise would never go back.

She should have just gone to meet the bus. However, both Nora and Dale had complained about it. According to them, none of the other moms waited like she did. She didn't point out that none of the other moms had as much reason to worry.

The water in the sink had grown cool by the time Denise stuck her hands back in. She pulled the plug, drained half of it, then added more hot. She made herself wait while the water level rose before forcing herself back to the task of washing both the breakfast and lunch dishes. It was one of the chores she'd negotiated with her kids, pleased they'd been so insistent on helping out. She did the early day dishes while they did the evening dishes. They took turns cleaning and cooking as well. Sometimes they seemed so grown-up, though they were barely teenagers.

Denise washed an orange juice glass, then checked the clock again. Maybe the bus had been late.

* * *

"Dale!" Nora called. "Mom said we had to go straight home!" The only reply was the sound of the waves crashing onto the rocks. Nora turned from the abandoned cottage and looked out, over the edge of the cliff. A white smear marked where the gray ocean met the sky. Just below her, bleached-bone-colored boulders jutted out of the water. She shivered despite the warm sun. Falling on those would hurt.

Nora looked back at the house. Vines dotted with sharp thorns grew up across the red wooden walls. Scraps of paper, plastic bags, and fast-food wrappers lay plastered against the foundation. The strangely flat roof absorbed all the sunlight striking it, reflecting none of it back.

Nora took a hesitant step toward the door, the rocks crunching loudly under her feet. The smell of decay and mold drifted from the dark entrance, as if the ocean had crept inside and rotted everything. She clenched her hands into fists, wincing when her cuts stung. She looked at her palms again. They were going to be in so much trouble when they got home.

"Come on," Nora said. She made herself walk all the way to the door, peering inside. Blackness greeted her. "Dale?"

A muffled cry came in response.

* * *

Only after Denise had emptied the water from the sink and dried her hands did she allow herself to look at the clock on the wall above the kitchen table again.

The twins were officially late now.

Denise assured herself repeatedly that nothing bad had happened to them. Maybe the bus had been late or they'd gotten distracted on the road. Perhaps they'd made friends with other kids who lived just up the street and were walking slowly. There was no reason to panic. She still grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge, as well as her cell phone and her car keys. She'd walk down the road, not drive, but she still wanted them with her in case she needed to get somewhere quickly.

Just as Denise opened the front door, her phone rang. Her cell showed the call came from a restricted number.

"Hello?"

"Denise?" a quiet male voice asked. Denise didn't recognize it.

"No, sorry, hon—you got the wrong number," she said, affecting a slight twang and a breeziness she didn't feel.

The man chuckled. "Sorry for disturbing you, miss." He hung up.

Denise stared at the phone in her hand. She should ditch it. Or at least turn it off so no one could track it. But what if the kids were hurt? It was the only number the school had.

It had just been a wrong number. No one was looking for her. She was just being paranoid, she told herself as she started walking down the driveway to the road.

The phone rang again.

* * *

Nora took a hesitant step into the dark cottage. The carpet squished under her foot, moist and soggy. The musty smell made her wrinkle her nose. Before she could take another step, Dale raced toward her. Nora squeaked as he pushed past her, out into the sunlight. She quickly followed, her shirt catching on the sharp gear teeth of the door handle. The sound of tearing startled her, but didn't stop her from rushing over to her brother.

Dale stood in the sunlight, head bent over a jumble of gears and wires.

"Are you all right?" Nora asked.

Dale nodded, but paid no attention to her, still staring at the thing in his hands.

"What is it?"

"Broken," Dale said, looking up and grinning at her.

Nora sighed and shook her head. Her brother loved to tinker, to take things apart and put them back together. She didn't care for his gears and schematics; she preferred soft wool and hard needles, to shape things out of mere knots. "Where did you find it?"

"It was on the floor," Dale said. He flicked one of the flywheels, setting it to spin. "There were a couple of things like this. The first one I grabbed bit me." He held out his palm for her to see. Two tiny jab marks, like a spider bite, marked the fleshy part of his thumb.

"Why'd you run out like that?"

Dale looked back at the cottage. "Thought I heard something in there. It was kind of spooky," he said softly.

Nora nodded, hearing the truth. Dale would never admit to being scared to anyone but her. "Probably just a rat or something," she said.

"We better get going home," Dale said, stepping back into the tall grass, easily finding the path. Nora followed. "Mom's going to kill us for being so late."

"Kill you, you mean," Nora said.

"Nor…don't be a spoilsport," Dale wheedled. "Can't we just say you lost a bet or something?"

"Come on. You know we only do crazy things for bets." Nora grinned, remembering the last time she'd won: She'd made Dale walk backwards for three hours.

"Maybe you could say you fell."

"You just don't want to get in trouble."

Dale paused. "I'll do your dishes for a week."

"How are you going to explain that to Mom?" Nora asked, taking a deep breath to fight off the closed-in feeling of the stalks over her head. She told herself again that no one hid in the grass, watching them.

"You didn't fall. I pushed you," Dale said.

"What?" Nora asked. She gratefully stepped onto the road. Still no trail of dust from a car. Mom was probably waiting for them at home.

"Pushed you," Dale said, shoving Nora's right shoulder and toppling her over onto the dirt road.

Nora put out her left hand to catch her fall. "Ow!" she complained as her palm skidded across the hard stones. It bled more freely now. She looked down at her jeans, covered in dust. "Why did you do that?"

"I'll do your dishes for a week," Dale promised, holding out a hand to help his sister back up.

"You're damaged, you know?" Nora said, disgusted, but she still let Dale pull her back to her feet.

* * *

"Hello?" Denise said into the phone, still using a slight twang.

"Dang it, I just called you, didn't I," the same male voice said. "Say, you wouldn't happen to know a Denise Monroe, would you? Out your way?"

"Can't say as I have," Denise said, puzzled. That wasn't her name, or one of the aliases she'd used.

"Are you sure? She's an old friend of the family, was my sister's best friend growing up. And Sally…well, Sally's dying and I really need to find her."

"I'm real sorry, I just can't help you."

"Well, thank you for your time," the man said. "I won't call you again. Goodbye."

Denise hung up without another word. What had that been about? Had it just been a wrong number? Or something else? Had it been a test of some kind? She turned in place, looking over the yard. Her car was in the driveway. How long would it take to pack? What did they absolutely have to bring, what could they leave behind? She'd lose the deposit on this place, and she still was waiting for money from her last editing job to be deposited into her online account.

With a soft laugh, Denise took a deep breath, calming herself. Everything was fine. No one was looking for her.

When Denise looked up again, she saw Dale and Nora walking down the road. From the dirt on Nora's clothes, she'd guess they'd had a fight, which explained why they'd been late.

Everything was fine, she told herself again.

* * *

Kostya the dwarf rose from his hiding place outside the abandoned cottage, the gateway to Queen Adele's kingdom. Even when he stood, the pampas grass towered over his head. He tottered across the uneven ground, his large boots surprisingly silent. With the curved knife he pulled from his belt, he cut down the stems he'd used to block the girl's path. Muttering a quiet spell, he licked the grass, deliberately slicing his tongue, mingling his blood with the girl's.

Strong. Stubborn. With a streak of Maker, thin and tightly knotted, but there.

Then Kostya walked toward the cottage. He raised his left hand and moved it through the air as if turning a large wheel. The doorknob of the cottage didn't respond. Frowning, Kostya used both hands. Slowly the door handle rotated.

Kostya rocked back on his heels. He didn't need to go inside, to check his jabber, to test the blood it had collected. The boy also had power, enough to set clockwork right, just by passing by.

He could fix Queen Adele's kingdom.

* * *

After dinner and the dishes, Dale escaped to his room. He spread a sheet of plastic out over the scratched wooden floor. He knew that he wouldn't hurt or spill anything, but his mom insisted he use it anytime he worked. Then he got out the piece of machinery, placed it in the center of the sheet, and examined it. He had the feeling that it was a prototype, though he couldn't see what it was supposed to do or what powered it.

The plastic crackled as Dale turned the piece on its side. He grimaced. He missed the workshop at their old place. He turned the piece again and identified six mounting brackets, where the mainspring came in, the primary flywheel, a balance, and where the tension springs curled. He speculated it was a type of battery—somehow it would be wound, then slowly tick out. However, he didn't see an obvious place for a handle.

With a silent curse, Dale reached for his tool set. Mom had let him take only the one set. He'd tried to grab the one with the largest variety of sizes, but right now, he wished he'd taken all the jeweler's tools, the ones he'd inherited from Grandpa Lewis when he'd died.

The bottom and side panels came off easily, exposing more gears than Dale had expected. The piece was either more than a battery, or its creator had believed in multiple backup systems.

Excited, Dale started to take apart the primary mechanism. He couldn't fix it; too many gears were missing. However, maybe he could get the secondary set to work. He wished he could call his old friends. They'd love to see this.

"Hey," Nora said softly.

Dale grunted in reply, impatient at the interruption. He turned the piece, missing his workbench again—what he wouldn't give for a proper vise. Or lights. Or tools.

"You figure it out yet?"

"No."

"Liar."

"I only have a guess," Dale said, exasperated. "I don't know."

"Even Mom on a cleaning binge isn't as anal as you."

Dale looked up at that. "Well, not all of us are slobs," he added, gesturing at her sweater. "Why are you wearing that thing?" He called it her Franken-sweater. Nora had knit it from a variety of different colored yarns. One sleeve hung down over her hand while the other barely reached her wrist. The neck opened to the side, not down the center. She continually tore out pieces of it and re-knit it.

"I finished redoing the cuff. See?" Nora held it out to him. "Peacock lace," she said, trailing a finger over one of the "feathers."

It was a cool pattern, though Dale wasn't going tell his sister that. "It doesn't match." Green bobbles dotted the sleeve above the purple lace, and tightly knit, braided rows in orange joined the shoulder to the body.

"That's not the point," Nora scoffed. "It's my practice sweater, where I try out new yarn and stitches."

"Yeah, but you don't have to wear it," Dale pointed out.

Nora shrugged. "I like it," she said as she sat down on the floor next to the plastic. "Can I help?"

"No," Dale said automatically.

They sat in silence while Dale poked at the innards of the piece, reattaching a wire, then rerouting the flow of power. Nora picked up one of the tiny gold screws. Dale was grateful she didn't ask about it. It wasn't a flat head, or a Phillips, either. It had three slots and took a special screwdriver. Like most of the machine, it was handmade.

Still, questions built in the quiet room. Nora toyed with a spring, not really looking at it. Dale braced himself. It wasn't that they could talk without words, like twins he'd read about. They were fraternal twins, not identical. However, Dale still knew that Nora wanted more than to just watch him work.

"What do you think Dad's doing?" Nora finally asked.

"Don't know. Don't care."

"He'd never hurt Mom."

Dale merely glared at her.

"She was the one who spanked us as kids. Not him."

"He threatened to hurt her." Dale remembered the stark terror in his mother's voice as she'd talked to her own mother, told her what her husband had done, how he'd threatened to strangle her. Mom didn't know Dale had heard her; he'd never told her.

"Dad was just exaggerating. You know how he is."

"Yes, I do." Dale couldn't tell Nora, couldn't tell anyone that his dad was a bully. Like most of his class, Dale had laughed and rolled his eyes at his teacher's solemn proclamations of what a bully was and how they needed to report any such behavior. Inside, he'd been shaken.

Everything they'd said had fit his dad.

However, Nora didn't see it. Dad also hadn't picked on her as much. Or when he had, she'd put him down in return. That was another thing Dale wouldn't tell his sister: how much he admired her. "And no, you can't call him," he said, cutting her off.

"It's his birthday at the end of the month!"

"Send a card to Grandma. Have her forward it."

Nora nodded slowly. "I could do that."

"Just don't call. And don't tell him where we are."

"But maybe if Mom and Dad talked—"

"No."

"She never gave him a chance to tell his side!"

"What part of 'I'll kill you if you try to divorce me' should she listen to?" Dale asked, fuming.

"But—"

"No, Nora. Now just shut up for a second. Let me concentrate." Dale used tweezers to move a delicate wire from one gear to a different one, then carefully coiled a spring. When he let it go, the flywheel spun on its own.

The lights went out.

"Damn it!" Dale said. "I hate this place." The electricity went out on a regular basis. Even their cell phones only worked half the time.

"Nor—do you remember where my penlight was?" Dale asked, patting the ground on either side.

"Why? Afraid of the dark?" Nora teased.

"No, I just like to see," Dale complained. He wouldn't tell her that he was a little frightened. It was so dark out here and they had no close neighbors. He turned and felt behind him, searching for the familiar shape.

A light came on near Nora.

"Did you find…" Dale let his question die.

The little piece of machinery had kept turning and now glowed with a cool blue light.

"Kids?"

"We're in here, Mom," Nora called out before Dale could stop her.

"Shhh," Dale hissed. He finally grabbed his flashlight and tried to turn it on. When it didn't light immediately, he tried a second, then a third time. Finally it lit up.

The light from the machine softly faded.

"Come on," Dale said, standing.

Mom appeared in the doorway. "Looks like candles and cards," she said. She held a small flashlight as well.

Nora turned to Dale. He knew what she was asking, and nodded. Mom needed them. It wasn't like he'd be able to get any more work done, anyway.

Dale closed the door to his room as he walked out, then grabbed Nora's arm. "Don't tell her about the machine," he hissed.

"Duh," Nora said, pulling away. "You still owe me," she reminded him.

Dale grinned. Sometimes his sister was all right.

* * *

Anger kept Queen Adele's backbone ramrod straight through her husband Thaddeus' funeral. She shed no tears behind her black lace veil; rage had burned them all away. Now, at the end of the ceremony, she stood on a makeshift platform supported by wooden scaffolding, above the white marble staircase leading into the depths of the hill and the catacombs.

By watching over the proceedings from a high vantage point, Adele's presence was meant to reassure her people of the continuation of her rule. She wanted to comfort them any way she could: though her loss was great, theirs was, too. She'd lost a husband, but they'd lost their king.

Gray tombstones dotted the hill behind the queen. They fanned out on either side, crowding out any flowers that might have bloomed or brightened the graveyard. They'd lost so many fairies in this strange new land.

Adele watched the funeral procession wind its way from the temple and through the village toward her. Like all things magical, her underground kingdom had three focal points: the golden temple in the East for birth, the graveyard in the West for death, and the dark brick palace, to the North, for order and life. Far above them, the dugout ceiling emulated the night sky and twinkled with half the light that normally shone there, another sign of what they'd lost.

The two other important locations in the kingdom stood empty that day: the fields beyond the temple and the factory behind the graveyard. Tradition insisted that no one in the kingdom work for at least three days. Adele had given the order easily, though she'd hoped that the servant caste would do some work with the time off. From where she stood, she could see thatched roofs that needed repair, broken carts and rubbish blocking smaller streets, as well as abandoned areas of the village falling into decay. She'd heard the complaints: The servants were too busy working in the factory for simple maintenance. Too busy drinking and complaining, was what she thought.

Six warriors carried Thaddeus' body, including Bascom, their chief. Although Thaddeus had been born into the royal caste, Adele came from the warrior caste, so the warriors claimed him as their own. Each warrior had one or more of Thaddeus' clockwork pieces imbedded into his or her flesh, such as a jeweled eye, a mechanical hand, or a piston-like leg. The warriors had shocked the court by arriving at the funeral wearing only loincloths, cloaks, and their fiercest paint. The younger royals had tittered nervously at such a frightening display. Adele had immediately quelled all dissent. The warriors honored Thaddeus as one of their own by their appearance. Too many in the court had forgotten how fierce a people they'd once been. The royal caste no longer bred tall and true.

The only nod to current convention Adele had given was to instruct the warriors to do their bloodletting in the privacy of the tomb, after the others had left. Not all approved of, or wanted to honor, their cannibalistic past.

Following the warriors came the contingent of royals from a fairy kingdom to the south, a place they called the Silicon Kingdom, after some human reference. They towered over the warriors, thin and ghostlike. They had arrived unannounced, three days before Thaddeus' death, seeking an alliance. Adele didn't trust them. Fairies met only in battle, or afterwards, paying tribute. She assumed they'd come to find the weaknesses of her kingdom. They wore traditional garb: white glittering scarves flowing from their wings, silver skirts, and pale blue jackets.

Thaddeus' apprentices and journeymen, led by Cornelius—Adele's best friend and closest confidant—trailed after them. Adele found their somber, black silk coats, heavy brocade waistcoats, and white shirts comforting. Goggles, perched one on top of another, sat on the crowns of their hats. A number of gears and delicate tools hung from their pocket-watch chains. Many pouches bulged on their belts.

Adele's own clockwork wings stirred, the familiar ache of metal-on-bone flavoring her anger with fear. She'd refused all help, even her regular oiling and polishing, since Thaddeus' death. None of Thaddeus' underlings was worthy of her patronage. Not that Thaddeus hadn't trained them well. All of them could copy a piece, once he'd explained to them, as well as fix almost anything out of improvised and scavenged parts. None of them had that spark to create, though, to design new machinery. Many had never passed the final apprentice test: creating their own gear-cutting tools.

As the first of the warriors disappeared under the ground beneath Adele, she let out the traditional loud wailing cry of mourning. Everyone in the court joined her, as well as the servants massed behind them, their shrieks bouncing off the cliffs and rocks, rising to the dugout roof above them, echoing through the vast underground kingdom.

Adele still refused to weep. The fierceness of her continued howling served two purposes: to show her broken heart, as well as to serve as a warning to that thrice-damned dwarf, Kostya. He would pay.

* * *

After the entombment, Adele walked restlessly from one waiting room to the next. Cornelius trailed behind her like a sad cloud. She couldn't blame him; he worried about her. They all were. The somberly dressed court sat in clusters on backless couches, their wings drooping with mourning, their eyes hooded and darting, not having the courage to speak with her and risk her anger. Servants, also in black, walked between them, serving chilled moonbeam wine. The southern contingent had been politely directed to different rooms.

The brightly painted, unmatched walls of the waiting rooms further set Adele's nerves on edge, and her rage continued to build. Everyone in the fairy kingdom had forgotten how they'd once been. They should be tearing their clothes or destroying everything around them in rage, not politely talking in whispers. She ached to see how far they'd fallen.

Only the priests broke the solid collection of fine black mourning-frocks. The priest of Anabnus, the sun god, wore brilliant yellow robes; while the priestess of Clotana, the moon goddess, wore only a white skirt, with glitter covering her torso and breasts. Matching streamers decorated their wings and floated in the air behind them. The priests eschewed all clockwork and followed even older ways, without gears or mechanics, as the southern court appeared to. Adele didn't want to go all the way back to the bad old days. She'd grown up in the country, barefoot and dirt poor. She appreciated running water, clean clothes, and soft sheets. The priests didn't present a threat, though; they came from the smaller servant caste and would follow her lead as they always had.

Cornelius finally got Adele to stop for a moment in the far room, where few had gathered. The green walls reminded Adele of slime-covered water.

"You need to rest," he told her sternly, bending his gray head toward her. Most fairies never showed their age, and Cornelius wasn't that old. He'd just gone gray as a young man. Adele had teased him that he thought too much. He wore a black-on-black striped vest with matching pants, and a blinding white shirt under his dark coat. Rings with precious rubies, emeralds, pearls, and other gems covered every finger. "You can talk with me, if you need to. He was my best friend as well." As the Master Jeweler to the kingdom, he'd worked closely with Thaddeus, the Master Tinker.

"Not—not yet. I can't," Adele confessed. She winced as her wings moved. A gear had slipped out of place on her left one, making the mechanism that opened them grind.

"At least let me take care of those for you."

Finally Adele nodded. "Later tonight." She looked around. The servants were now serving the cold mourning tea. "Help me escape," she whispered. Her own petticoats and underskirts chafed her. At least she'd been able to remove her veil. Looking through it gave her the impression that everything was dirty. She longed to be as free as the warrior she'd once been, screaming and stomping her feet in anger, stripped bare of gown and corset. She consoled herself that soon she'd lead the raid against Kostya. He'd die more honorably than her husband, who had been killed with a booby trap while exploring one of the deep tunnels. Only the dwarf would have set such a trap.

Cornelius pressed a finger against his nose in thought, and then nodded. "All right." He blew on his cupped hands. A gray cloud filled his palms, wispy and light, then gained weight. He stretched the tendrils out, like a spinner carding wool, until a fine net was strung between his fingers. With great care he lifted it until it hung like a gossamer veil over Adele's dark hair. It shimmered briefly, then faded from sight.

"Thank you, old friend," Adele said, briefly squeezing Cornelius' arm before slipping out. Few fairies had the power to hide from each other. Some in the court didn't trust Cornelius because of the strength of his magic, but Adele knew he always had her best interests in mind.

Adele first went to her rooms, cast off the illusion, and then changed into working clothes: white overalls and a tight-fitting shirt. Her maid Clarissa sniffed in disapproval, but didn't say anything. Then Adele went down back corridors and stairs, her bare feet moving silently over dusty wood and brick. All the servants she passed looked down and away, maintaining the illusion that she moved unseen, as the servant class frequently did for the royals. Many of the back halls weren't lit, but Adele easily called a will-o'-the-wisp to dance beside her, bobbing and circling, lighting her way.

Bright lights filled the machine room. Thaddeus' greatest creation dominated the center of it. Adele walked slowly around it, then spread her wings and continued her circling, going higher and higher. She could identify only the major pieces: the mainspring, the four pallet levers, the primary motion works, and some of the balances. So much of it went beyond her, as well as Thaddeus' assistants. That was partly through design; no one was supposed to know what their master created.

The machine had been the main component in Adele's plan to bring her people out of the shadows and into the world again. All the resources of the kingdom had been funneled into its creation. It had taken them decades to get to this point. So close.

Electronics hurt Adele's people. One of the clockworkers had tried to explain about waves and magnets, but Adele didn't care. This modern world repelled her, literally. She was tired of retreating. She and Thaddeus had finally come up with a plan for fighting back. The smaller-scale models he'd created had been successful. Powered partly by magic, partly by machine works and cranks, they could stop all electronics, but only in a limited area.

Adele wanted to kill them, all of them, for miles and miles. Then she and her people could rise from the ground, return to being the fierce hunters they'd once been. Not only the warrior caste would fight. All of them would return to their former glory, be as they'd once been. It was her fondest wish. They'd drive the humans out, then move east, send their machines ahead of them, and take back their world.

Of course the humans would fight. Adele was certain her people would remember their skill at killing once they tasted human flesh again.

However, Thaddeus had never finished his machine. Now he was dead.

Adele floated to the floor, and then crumpled, finally weeping.