Read Tinker's War (The Tinkerer's Daughter Book 2) Online

Authors: Jamie Sedgwick

Tags: #Science Fiction, #Steampunk, #Fiction

Tinker's War (The Tinkerer's Daughter Book 2)

 

 

 

Tinker’s War

 

 

By

 

Jamie Sedgwick

 

Published by Timber Hill Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

I was a fool in the company of fools, and I was the greatest fool of all. I was naive to believe the world could change so quickly. I wanted to believe -
I needed to believe
- because it meant so much to me. I was so desperate to have those narrow-minded fools who meant so much to me accept me into their fold. I was foolish enough to believe that they could, and that if they did, I would be happy there. But it was only one small way in which I misunderstood the world, and there were so many more. Yes,
we were all foolish, and for that, we would pay a terrible price.

 

After a thousand years of bloodshed, men and elves had found peace. We were building roads and bridges, sharing our wildly different technologies with no expectations other than a better life for all. Our understanding of the world and the sciences grew exponentially. For a time, it truly was a golden age. But the Kanters, the cannibalistic giants from the Badlands to the south, were reluctant to abandon their old superstitious ways. The small tribe of Kanters that integrated into our society came alone. Meanwhile, their brethren fell into a civil war that King Ryshan fueled as he gifted weapons and machines to help the sympathizers overthrow their tribal leaders. Soon the Kanters knew how to use bombs, cannons, and blunderbusses, and they did so with great efficiency.

The newfound peace we had achieved in the north lulled us into a sense of complacency. As the Kanters poisoned the ground with the blood of their kinsmen, many of the tribes began to foster a deep resentment towards both the humans and the Tal’mar. Trouble was brewing. In the end, it was not the Kanters that would bring us to ruin. It was something entirely different.

We had long since become aware of the special properties of the steel made from ore mined in the Blackrock Mountains. It possessed a unique quality, the ability to store energy at an incredible rate of efficiency. In fact, the simple act of heating and forging steel made from Blackrock ore appeared to imbue it with even greater capacity, so that when done correctly, the steel almost seemed to possess an energy all its own. Some metallurgists speculated that the energy contained in Blackrock Steel was the same energy that gave the Tal’mar our magical abilities, though our science was far too primitive to prove this theory.

Regardless, it wasn’t long before word of our special steel spread beyond our borders and eventually, even beyond the seas. It was the lure of this powerful ore and the machines and weapons it could create that enticed the Vangars from their icebound continent in the west, across the Frigid Sea.

Nothing could have prepared us for the onslaught. We had fallen back into our petty ways, bickering over territories, coinage, and power. We were unprepared. We were fools, and for that we would pay in blood.

Tinker used to have a saying:
“A revolution may take centuries to happen, but when it does, it happens overnight.”

I always thought I knew what he was talking about. After all, I had lived through many of the same experiences he had. I had seen the centuries of bitter warfare and intolerance give way to a new, peaceful society. That change had happened seemingly overnight, and I thought Tinker’s words had referred to this. What I didn’t understand was that Tinker’s proverb wasn’t a recollection of history, but rather a vision of the future.

Little did I imagine how prophetic Tinker’s words would prove to be, or how quickly we would fall under the wave of black dragon ships that stormed our shores that fateful summer.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Robie asked me to marry him on a breezy summer afternoon under the shade of an old elm tree on a hill overlooking the Riverfork Midsummer Faire. It was not the first time he had asked, though he had grown increasingly persistent in recent years. I said “No,” of course, as I had so many times before.

Ten years had passed since the death of Prince Sheldon and the end of his ambitious coup attempt; ten years since the end of the war between the humans and the Tal’mar, and the destruction of my home town of Riverfork. In the years that followed the war, the humans rebuilt the town and eventually Riverfork grew into a small but bustling city. Brick walls and tile roofs replaced the thatched-roof, split-log construction of the old village. Tall buildings grew up in place of the rustic cabins and frontier homes, and muddy paths became wide cobbled streets with boardwalks and intricately wrought gas lamps. The streets were lined with bakeries, shops, restaurants, and inns.

Docks sprang up along river. Barges made regular trips back and forth between Riverfork and Anora, the large city to the north. Commerce thrived. Families grew. Young men and women left their family farms in increasing numbers to move into the city where they could work and earn money to buy the wonderful things that industrialization had provided for us.

In the center of Riverfork, the residents built a park as a memorial to the brave souls who had died during the war. It was a lovely, sprawling piece of land with a wide grassy meadow and trees scattered throughout, and a dense old growth forest along the western edge. It was there, beneath the shade of an ancient elm that I found myself cornered by my would-be mate.

It had been an exhausting morning filled with faces both familiar and half-remembered. I had seen farmers and storeowners I had known in my childhood, as well as many of the children that I had gone to school with, now grown and raising children of their own. Among them was Terra Cooper, a farm girl I’d met while living with Tinker. I had never known Terra very well but I remembered her family fondly, especially for the dog that Tinker had bought from her father to protect me when the Kanters invaded. That dog, a flame-coated heeler I named Cinder had been my constant companion for years, until the inevitable creep of age and an especially cold winter took her from me. I missed her terribly. I had considered finding a new companion many times, but I knew that no other animal could ever replace Cinder.

That afternoon, Tinker and I left the faire to have a picnic up on the hill overlooking the park. Tinker’s fans followed us, and it wasn’t long before he wandered off surrounded by a flock of admirers - mostly elderly women who had outlived their husbands and were now reveling in the glow of a true hero. They took great pleasure in catching the attention of the wily old adventurer, and he took great pleasure in giving it to them.

 I watched Tinker’s highly animated movements as he described some old battle that he’d probably never even witnessed, much less fought in, with the gaggle of old women hanging onto his every word. He soaked up their adoration like a sponge. Honest man that Tinker was, he wasn’t beyond exaggeration from time to time, especially in the company of admirers. I didn’t want to deprive the old man of his simple pleasures so I smiled and let him enjoy the attention as I watched him from the shade of the elm tree. And that was where Robie found me.

“Can I sit with you?” he said as his long shadow fell over the blanket that I had spread out on the ground. I glanced up at him sideways, squinting against the sun. He was dressed in a fine white shirt with a long-tailed coat and tall knee-high boots that he’d folded halfway down. He wore a cutlass on his side –not an expensive one, but a quality weapon that a man could trust with his life- and a long brown cloak with the hood pulled back. He hardly looked like the young pilot I had known all those years. He was more like a buccaneer out of some storybook.

“Of course,” I said, as congenially as I could manage.

He happily joined me on the blanket, leaning back against the tree and ran his fingers through his thick black hair, brushing long bangs away from his face. “It’s a nice park,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Yes, it is.”

“It doesn’t look anything like it did before.”

“No,” I agreed, nodding slightly. I was purposefully curt. I had been sitting alone, watching Tinker and enjoying the blissful weather. I found Robie ruining my mood. I had a feeling that I knew where the conversation was headed, so instead of helping it get there, I just kept quiet.

“I hear General Corsan retired last year.”

“He was getting old,” I acknowledged.

“Not as old as Tinker,” Robie said with a chuckle. He was watching Tinker with a wide grin. The old man shouted something and waved his arms in the air, reenacting some battle between our air force and the Kanters, or perhaps Sheldon’s loyal foot soldiers. “I wonder when Tinker will retire.”

“Tinker will never retire,” I said. “What would he retire from? All he does is build things and he certainly won’t quit that until he’s dead. The man’s mind never stops.”

“Good for him,” Robie said. “I hope I have half that man’s energy when I’m his age.”

I watched Robie as he watched Tinker. There was no arguing the fact that Robie had grown into a fine young man, but somehow I still saw the boy I’d known in his face. Perhaps it was because I had matured so quickly in my youth, my years advancing well beyond those of my peers. Though he was my senior by several years, I had attained physical maturity years ahead of Robie. Such is the nature of the Tal’mar. Even as a half-breed, I’m no exception.

“He has a farm north of Anora now,” I said. “General Corsan, that is. I was there last spring. He has a vineyard. He makes excellent wine.”

“Is that so?” Robie said. “I’d like to try it some time. Good wine is hard to find.”

He had been gazing across the field, watching Tinker, but now he turned to look me in the eyes. “Breeze, don’t you think it’s time to stop all this?”

I narrowed my eyes. “Stop what, Robie?”

“The planes, the air force. You don’t have to do it anymore. I don’t even know why you bother. Your entire life these days is delivering packages and shuttling ambassadors back and forth. How can you stand it? How can you stand to be in the same plane with those people?”

“I’m not with them,” I said. “I’m with the sky.”

He sighed, exasperated. “Is that all that matters to you then? The sky?”

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t be foolish.”

He twisted slightly and slid closer to me, taking my hands. He folded his own large, rough-skinned hands around them. “Breeze, marry me. Let’s put all of this behind us and get on with life! We can buy a farm, and you can have children-”

“What are you talking about?” I said, interrupting him.

“A family, Breeze. A life!”

“I already have a life.”

“This?” he said cynically. “Shuttling fat diplomats back and forth so they can feed each other greasy food and buy each other fancy clothes with our taxes? This is no life you have, Breeze. You’re not living, you’re hiding.”

I pulled my hands away from him and placed them in my lap. “I’m doing exactly what I want to do, Robie. Look at me. Look at my face, my ears. Do you think I’m one of your farm girls? Do you envision me standing at a cook stove all day, my belly swollen with child, our house full of chaos and noise? Is that what you want?”

A mystified look swept across his face. “Cook stove? I don’t know… you do cook, don’t you?”

I snorted, pushing away from him, and rose to my feet. My skirts caught in a root as I did, and I tugged them free, causing a small tear in the fabric. “I hate these things,” I snapped.

“You hate trees?”

“No, fool! I hate skirts. I’ve half a mind to throw them all away and buy a drawer full of breeches like yours.”

“That’s ridiculous,” he said, laughing. “Women don’t wear breeches.”

I stared at him furiously, and the smile vanished from his face. “Do you mean to say that after all I’ve gone through, you’d refuse to let me wear comfortable clothes because I’m a woman?” I pressed my fists to my sides. “Do you think
you could stop me, Robie?

His face reddened. “I, uh… no, of course not. It’s just that-”

“I know.
Women don’t wear breeches.

He stared at me, suddenly speechless.

Perhaps he was right. Perhaps I was being foolish. After all, it was tradition -not only for the humans, but also for the Tal’mar- that the womenfolk wore skirts and dresses. It didn’t matter so much for children, but when young girls grew into women they were expected to wear the right clothes and to cook and work in the garden, and to have children. That was simply the way things had always been.

Why did it suddenly bother me so? After all the things I had accomplished, how had I been reduced to hating my skirts? Was it simply that there was nothing else to worry about? Was I so safe and comfortable in with my life that the little things seemed more important than ever before? Or was it something else? Was it really about skirts at all, or was it because I was hiding, as Robie had said?

I didn’t have time to examine the thought more closely because a plane whooshed over the park and sent ribbons and streamers spinning across the grass. The faire-goers froze, turning their faces skyward and stared frightfully at the aircraft.  

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