Writing Challenge

It’s one of those weekends.  My keyword for the vignette either wasn’t sent, or it was eaten by internet hamsters.

On top of that, there don’t seem to be any books to promo.


I’m going to put a picture (from pixabay) below as a writing challenge and let you guys have fun shall I?


34 thoughts on “Writing Challenge

  1. Ornithopters are so last century! Real aviators fly dracothopters!

  2. “I say, what’s the London Bridge doing out here” cried Caractacus Pott! “And Chitty why are you looking like a mechanical dragon”?

  3. The whiirrr click whirr click of the knights mechanical dragon was reassuring under him as he turned back fro chasing the civilian balloon out of the controlled airspace around London Bridge. You really didn’t want nosies like that approaching too close as they might set off some nasty defenses…

  4. The 12:47 Dragon Air flight from Cambridge made an emergency landing in the Thames today, aviation experts reported.

  5. Belangere looked almost green. “That’s a dragon.”
    “An automaton dragon,” said Carolus. “We faced one in the city seven years ago. At least this one, unlike that, can not fly in these confines, let alone over rivers needing a bridge.”
    He sounded grave and princely, but his mouth was tight.

  6. “My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the 561st London Air Show! Today we start the festivities off with an exhibition dogfight between Her Majesties Royal Steampunk Balloon Squadron and the visiting Lithuanian Robot Dragon Brigade! Lets have a big hand for those girls from Lithuania!”

  7. hey guys, remind me please. is not London Bridge in Arizona? Hot air balloons yes, Mech. flying dragoons … should that not be in New Mexico?

    1. There is a bridge in Lake Havasu that once went over the Thames in London. It is not the London Bridge of song and nursery rhyme. The good citizens of Lake Havasu built an entire faux English village, complete with ye olde shoppes to go with their faux London bridge.

      1. It is the real London Bridge at Lake Havasu. It is merely not the Tower Bridge.

  8. Gnivata had been amused to discover that Daruith and Humans shared the fantasy steampunk genre. Once she had found out, she had scandalized her hosts by hanging several examples in her office, along with counterparts from back home on Nafan. Once her new colleagues had gotten over the shock, they’d had some lively discussions about differences in technique and artistic conventions, and she’d decided to do the same thing for the seminars she would be teaching in the fall.

    She’d hung more such prints in this smaller office, which she called the lookout. It was a tiny thing, only about three meters square, without even a worktable, but it only had one purpose. From here she could watch Humans react to the sculptures in the plaza below without her species attracting attention. The Nine Elders Speak to the People About the Duel on the Fan River was about a story better known to her own people than to the Wayfarers that had first discovered Human colonies, and watching that story hunt would provide amusement, satisfaction, and perhaps inspiration.

    Or would the Humans hunt the story, instead? She didn’t know, for she didn’t pretend to think she understood these people. So she settled in, her dark fur blending into the chair that had come from Nafan, ears high in anticipation, and watch the daylight build, and waited to see.

  9. The balloon ride over London was supposed to be Ezra’s final treat before he got back on the steamer for Boston. A nice, quiet trip with plenty of time to gaze down on this city that had been ancient when the first houses rose on the banks of the River Charles, maybe even do a little sketching.

    Except where did that dragon mech come from? Irish rebels? French spies? Germans up to who knew what since they’d united their scattered principalities into a single Reich? Ezra wished he could recall the intricacies of European politics.

    He could tell one thing: it was trouble, and it was turning to come their way.

    Except if he were to warn the pilot, he’d have to explain just how he knew. And the English were not nearly so comfortable with these peculiar gifts as their American cousins.

  10. Looks like my attempt got caught in moderation h*ll. Because it’s been a while since I posted? Because of the use of a certain German word that’s often associated with a hateful regime, although my reference was to the pre-WWI regime? Something I couldn’t even guess?

    1. It looks like the standard WordPress random delay. If it doesn’t tell you it’s in moderation, it’s the hamsters. Give it 5-10 minutes, and it should (!) be there. Maybe 1% of the time, WP will completely eat a delayed comment.

      1. I’ve noticed a seeming correlation with the length of the comment. Yesterday’s item (228 words) took about 20 minutes to appear. Items under about 30 words appear almost immediately. The one time Sarah asked for long submissions WordPress ate it entirely.

        1. My previous reply took more than 5 minutes to show up. I’ve had random delays for varying lengths of comments. WordPress Delenda Est.

          1. Apparently WP has been declared spam. Or at least some new posts. Last week a lot did and spent all weekend catching up. Today’s didn’t, but this post did. Oh well, will keep reminding gmail “not spam.”

  11. “*Sigh*, Where to begin, look I know that the series is popular, but really,” Hargrim said on his youspew.com channel, “the mistakes that they made in this adaption are simply astonishing.”
    “Look at this still from the opening sequence, that barding is waaaaaay to heavy for that class of dragon, it should be sparcer and the microfuze mana store is to exposed on the back. And don’t get me started on the helmet, dragons hate helmets, why do directors keep screwing that up, its not like they can’t ask the dragon, its right there for Serifirn’s sake!”
    “I know, I know, this is Rowantree, and appearance is paramount over realisim, but still…a little better thought first? Lets now look at the balloon, as you can see the colors are completely wrong……”

  12. Brilliant roseate lightning — mossy-branched and marble-veined, the pink of the brief dying embers of a mundane lightning stroke — snarled across the bleak wastescape of sea and mudflats below; obscuring it, obliterating it, then swiftly withdrawing to reveal a very different vista of curdled stormy cloud and vague clearer distances.

    Percival Loring, Lord Lykkenbrugge, smiled at the prospect, both the success of one more Leap (never guaranteed) and the idea that yet another worldful of accessible wealth might lie beneath those potentially gift-wrapping clouds and fog, and so the ‘Dauntless’ and her guns. Half a furlong in width and breadth, half that in height, the gas in her envelope could lift three hundred tons of cloth and wood and steel and coal and powder. And though he’d spared barely a glance at the slower-fading rosy glow around the Hamster Ball right after the Leap, he had still noted that the score of ‘hamsters’ inside the 20-point silver-wire Platonic solid looked healthy and indeed happy. (Far easier on them than in generations past, before applied geometromancy caged them and gently tapped their native talent, before steam power and applied kinetomancy took charge of all the heavy work, before a cunningly adjusted Magickal Orrery aimed their talent judiciously into the world next door, or if one were sufficiently skillful and subtle, perhaps the fifteenth one after that.)

    He always wanted to shake his head at the sight, or even the very thought; carnivorous, pack-hunting, world-skipping… vorpal hamsters, some wag had named them in the days of Bacon and Dee. An odd foundation indeed for an empire that spanned many worlds, but stranger things had been stumbled over in a dozen, a gross, by now a thousand and more mappable, revisitable, exploitable worlds.

    All cousins of his Earth, even (mostly) his Europe, usually with but slight variations of history, or else such flagrant and catastrophic ones they were all but unrecognizable. (Yet even the waste just visited, lifeless as it seemed, might perhaps someday be mined to the tune of a king’s ransom in, for instance, tin out of its not-really Cornwall.) Few of them indeed truly pernicious; yet those rare few were sometimes quite genuinely horrific, full worthy of the black and yellow flag…

    “My compliments, gentlemen, to you all on a smooth and successful crossing. Sherry?”

    Navigator Cloudsley Sheridan Shovel — known felicitously and likely inevitably by that shorter name — replied with his typical calm. “Pressure height 1200 fathoms, dropping near 30 per minute. Pressure fell 150 fathoms on transit, air temperature rose 12 degrees so far, thus we’re most likely a bit heavy in the warmer air” (that ‘warmth’ was a relative thing, nearly a mile and a quarter above nominal sea level, it was “colder than a witch’s tit” much of the time), “so let us know if you want to lighten ship.”

    And he stopped, because from outside the Venetian-glass, near-perfectly clear windows of the control cabin came a sound as if from the dawn of the world — built on a basso rumble like a great waterfall, but surmounted by a high and slow-warbling whine. It swelled in a somewhat awesome crescendo over perhaps a dozen seconds, then tailed off over about the same span more; but it never did seem to draw very much closer, and the misty cloudscape gave no hint of its nature.

    One of the crew crossed himself. “Better not be one of those gigantic behemoth lizards like up on about Plus 359 or so,” he muttered.

    “No, Sherry, though I don’t want to valve any gas” (which was near impossible to replace, most worlds) “I do want to see if we can’t get clear of the bellies of these clouds and see the ground. Steady as she goes down, till 1000 fathoms or so. But mind the sounding chains.” (A hundred yards below the ship, finished off with either a solid iron weight to sink in water, or a hollow iron weight to float.) And he stopped, visibly, and started again. “Oh, and Sherry, the electroscope?”

    “Oh! Clear, still well charged, the leaves standin’ up like angel wings. Sorry, Captain.”

    Only two of the thousands of known and mapped worlds were this way; but they were empty of any animal life bigger than a fly, and people sickened and next died there quietly, messily, painfully, horribly. Nauseated, suffering from burns that seemed to come stealthily from the inside out, losing their hair and sometimes even half their minds.

    One of them had noticed the effect, whatever it was, was not contagious but did readily collapse the leaves of a charged electroscope. Before she died.

    But as if to lift the figurative darkness of such thoughts, at that the ‘Dauntless’ broke rather suddenly out of the bottom of the cloudbase; to behold a view to gladden the heart of any traveller (and inflame his cupidity too).

    The old Corporation of London, surely, laid out like a map below, the Thames in its long-accustomed place, and Parliament likewise, and (surest landmark of all)…

    “As I live and breathe, the Tower Bridge itself. Surely that’s a sign to treasure,” said the man who’d crossed himself against ‘thunder lizards’ earlier.

    “Loose the air-shrimp,” commanded Percy Loring decisively.

    Karl Tryggvason, first officer, dragged a fool’s cap out of his back pocket and clapped it on his head. “Beggin’ your pardon, sir, but there might be a time to step softly right about now…”

    “Stop playing the fool with me, Karl, I’ll have none of that today. The early bird gets the worm, isn’t that what colonial Mr. Franklin used to say, years ago.”

    The air-shrimp were odd things, not just odd-looking, from quite a renegade off-chance version of history. Articulated metal bodies, dragonfly-like metal wings, finicky steam engines that gobbled coal (or rather finely-divided coke) at a madly ferocious rate. And fiddly as the very devil to pilot.

    But even heavier than air, they flew (most of the time). And mounted guns.

    And that’s how the Coldwater Empire had slowly stacked up more and more power, and wealth, and force. Taking the best from a diverse sheaf of worlds, and making it their own. Adding their diversity to its treasury, and armory.

    “Start the main engines, too, let’s hold position over that bend in the Thames, right around Tower Bridge there. Till we get the lay of the land here.”


    The odd thing spoke with the voice of a Greek god, loud as thunder, from a lizardlike body hung beneath a huge vertical-axis propeller. In front it mounted what looked like an air-shrimp pepperbox long-gun.

    The nearest air-shrimp fired its guns, twice or three times. Then the native did the same, but its pepperbox whirled with a hum and sparked like an induction coil, and the air-shrimp just fell apart in midair. Shredded to tatters, not merely shot to pieces.

    Its fellows lasted mere seconds more.

    Four more of the, air-locusts(?), fell from the clouds. Hovered there like a flock of hummingbirds, ultra-repeater guns pointed right at the control cabin.

    The first turned maybe twenty degrees, and fired… a rocket. Clearly a sort of shot across the bows, it passed right in front. Then exploded nearby enough to crack one of the windows, with a vicious sharp report like a rifle, but far huger.


    It wasn’t Karl or the ‘thunder lizard’ man either. But *someone* said, in a soft Cockney-ish kind of accent that *nobody* aboard truly had…

    “Yes, sir. Early bird ‘n’ all. But sometimes, the early worm gets the bird instead.”

    (With likely nods to both Keith Laumer and Andrew Swann. And no, I don’t even know myself quite what happens next…)

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