One Page Worlds - Steamcraft Anxieties
A whole world on a single page!
The short story morsels of One Page Worlds are flash fiction adventures of all flavors. Every Wednesday will feature a complete story in one page, or the first page of what could be a novel or novelette.
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“Did anyone outside the mountain find out I work down here?” I rumble at Janey the mechanic.
“No, our enemies think it’s geothermal energy or some new advanced steamcraft we’ve got,” Janey shouts. Her flame retardant suit dulls her voice. So does the distance between the catwalk around the massive cavern’s inner edges and the drilled hole beneath my feet leading down to my accommodations at the mountain’s center. “They don’t think we have a fire giant. You’re safe down here.”
I let out a whuff of hot flames in relief. The heat funnels from my mouth into a steamcraft vent that looks like a converted smelter. Maybe ‘funnels’ is the wrong word, but that’s what the steamcraft machines always do. They sense heat in a certain area, stop it from moving, then suck it inside in a funnel shape to use to power steamcraft ships. Funnel. Siphon. Drain. Magic. Steamcraft.
Squinting, I see Janey walk around the catwalk between one vent and the next, a tiny wrench in her hand. Tiny for me. She calls out, “Hey Ba’aulk. It’s been two hundred years since the Shearquake. Why’s a giant like you so worried? Our enemies can’t get into this cavern.”
“Not your enemies that concern me,” I say, blowing flame into a second vent. “It’s mine.”
“The Shearquake days are literally ancient history. Everyone in my shop says the giants who broke the mountain open are extinct now. And they would know since their ancestors built the steamcraft ships that took them down.”
I nod, stepping over the hole that leads down to my accommodations. The closer I get to Janey, the more I expect a flinch or a scream. Instead of doing either, Janey adds, “And I think my mechanics and I would notice a huge not-fire giant stomping around up there.”
Squinting again, I peer around the cavern’s edges at the twenty steamcraft vents that I fuel every day. A couple walls are limestone, and a couple are sheer shale, but that didn’t stop the people from digging into a good mountain like this one and building steamcraft docks once the giants had broken it open. The docks drew people, who carved out safer homes here.
I breathe deep, belching flames into a third vent, then clear my throat. The sound ricochets off the cavern walls. “Two hundred years ago, people needed steamcraft ships to defend them, so guess where I fled to when the giants threatened to break me open the way they did this mountain? To the last place I would be useful. The last place where I wouldn’t be hunted.”
Janey hangs her head. “So you only came here to hide and not to help?”
I scratch my beard and lean closer to her. “It was a choice I made in fear, but with side effects that became main effects. Can you understand that without resenting me?”
She crosses her arms, the wrench sticking out from her armpit. “We discovered steamcraft by accident too, so I guess I can.”
“Funny how we are all where we are both on purpose and by accident.”
From this close to the tiny person, I can hear the smile in her voice. “If your past comes back to haunt you, I’ll let you know, but I think the cave walls collapsing would be a big enough sign of an attack.”
“Thank you,” I rumble, breathing fire into a fourth vent. I place a palm against the shale. “Not many would understand a fire giant’s anxieties. Two centuries of being a shut-in is safer than venturing out there, and I have enough fish and blindsharks down there to—“
A tremor pulses through the solid stone beneath my hand.
“Did you feel that?” We say in unison.