by Penny Blake

Elevenses: Flower magic and a Steampunk short story

Good Morning ladies and gentlemen! I realise you are all probably feeling a little eleven o clockish at this hour but I must beg your forgiveness and delay the cake for a moment because we have a very special guest in the parlour this morning!

Our lovely Shonchavani friend Mrs Belle Sykes has kindly left her Tea Smuggling Tramper-Van in the capable hands of her husband Gord and their 20 children (whose names I seem to remember are, Yan, Tan, Arthur, Martha, Pip, Seth, Heather, Hogarth, Dorothy, Richard, Yan-Richard, Tan-Richard, Arthur-Richard, Martha-Richard, Barmcake, Yan-Barmcake, Tan-Barmcake, Arthur-Barmcake, Martha-Barmcake and Diggory.) and braved the long trek down here to the docks in order to show us some ways of productively using the fruits of our deflowering labours.

The Shonchavani are a diaspora of the Jentacular Isle but, as the Jentacular Isle is believed by most to be purely mythical (I can personally vouch for the fact that it is not!) the queen has decreed that they must have come from Bohemia. They first arrived in Ire during the reign of Henry The Eighth and the mechanical wonders they brought with them caused them to be instantly branded as witches. It wasn’t until Elizabeth came to the throne that this persecution eased up a little and a deal was struck – if the Shonchavani would abandon their nomadic lifestyle (ie – hiding and running from the witch hunters) and share their technological knowledge with the queen’s wizards they would be allowed to live peacefully in squalid little hovels just like any other peasant. Some agreed and became known as Tinkers, others did not. When Ann became queen she struck another deal, this time with the travelling clans – if they would agree to transport the queen’s tea safely from her plantations to the elite county of Devon in their mechanised Tramper-Vans and prevent it falling into the hands of land pirates, all accusations of witchcraft would be dropped. The Shonchavani are an enterprising folk and some of their very best friends and relatives are pirates… needless to say they immediately agreed to this potentially lucrative arrangement.

Sadly the recent introduction of skyway travel has meant less and less work for the ‘Tea Trampers’ and they have had to find other ingenious ways of making ends meet and so Belle has kindly agreed to pimp her heritage to us and show us how  quick silver can be made by making and selling the ancient magical herbal thingies that her people have used for centuries to survive on the road… hm? …. sorry did you say something about ethics or did you cough? Oh you were just clearing your throat, sorry, do have some tea…

1. Ye Most Olde And Ancient And Bone Fide Magikal Cure For Coughs and Colds

Take as many flowers of violet, white horehound and mullein as you can fit into a large saucepan, cover with boiling water and simmer gently until the mix has reduced by about half. Strain off the flowers and add 500g of sugar. Bring back to the boil and simmer for a further 20 mins or until the mixture coats the back of a cold spoon (you want a syrup, not jam but if you accidentally boil too long you can still use the jam it will have the same medicinal properties!) Pour the syrup (which is a soothing expectorant) into dark glass bottles, seal and keep in a cool place. Take one tsp as needed for a dry or chesty cough up to four times a day.

2. Most Magikkal And Traditional Healing Balm For Skin Irritations

Take 1kg of lard (or coconut oil or petroleum jelly if you prefer) and add to a very large saucepan with as many buttercup flowers (not the green steams or leaves) as you can manage. Melt gently over a low heat for 10 – 20 mins until the mix is liquid and bright yellow (do not boil). Strain off the flowers and add 20 – 40 drops of rose or lavender oil if desired, this will add scent and boost the soothing properties of the balm but may be too much for the most sensitive skins so use with caution. Pour into dark glass jars quickly before it sets, seal and keep in a cool dark place. Use as a healing cream for dry skin, eczema, bruises, minor cuts and grazes.

 

3. A Certain Tonic For The Quarrelsome Wife, Promotes Marital Bliss Guaranteed 

Take as many flowers of the Pink that you can gather and simmer in a large pan for one hour. Strain off the flowers, return the water to the pan with 500g sugar. Simmer gently for about 20 mins to form a syrup. Pour into glass bottles and seal. Drink one tablespoon of this syrup dissolved in a glass of wine as required. Double the dose during the most trying time of the month. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

 

Now then, while Max rolls up his shirt sleeves, fastens his goggles and sets about t help with the brewing of flowers and and boiling of fat, I really feel we ought to step out of the way… s let’s sit down over here and enjoy some calming primrose tea and open a good book shall we?

waistcoats

 

The Brides Of Saint Michael are not your average group of Holy Sisters, when an ancient enemy leaves his calling card Agnes Broadshield and her militia of Women In Waistcoats take to the streets to prevent the evil creature and his minions from exacting their revenge but even as we close the final pages of the book, it seems this is not so much an ending as a beginning…

This is a splendidly crafted short story, a well balanced mixture of steampunk / gaslamp and mythology which we found engaging from the outset. If you are looking for a quick steampunk fix with a strong plot, well developed characters and a good mixture of familiarity and uniqueness then this little gem is the book for you.

Hm? Sorry? No music today? Oh well there isn’t really much room here to set up the radio so… oh well alright then I suppose if you could hold the areal out of the window … yes that’s it …

 

Thankyou very much… is your arm still alright there? Oh dear, well could you stay there for just a little bit longer I’m hoping to catch the news….

 

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