A bonus chapter, you say? What? Why?
Here’s how this came about. While reading a multitude of fan reviews of Goliath, the last book in the Leviathan trilogy, I noted a common theme. Many of you felt as though there was just one more illustration you wanted to see.
After all, we’ve all spent a quarter-million words and 160 illustrations with the crew of the Leviathan. Letting go isn’t easy. So I thought it would be fun to commission one last piece of art from Keith, as a sort of Hanukwanzamas present to you all.
Yes, The Manual of Aeronautics comes out next year (August 21), full of deck plans, cutaways, beasties, uniforms, etc. But that’s not the same as the characters doing stuff.
Of course, what image Keith should draw was a matter of debate. Deryn at last wearing a dress? A close-up version of the final kiss? Bovril doing pretty much anything?
So I decided to hold a vote, here on this post called “One Last Piece of Art”, and there was much enthusiasm. A bit more than 1200 comments’ worth of enthusiasm, in fact.
I have read your comments and run them through a complex algorithm, and Keith came up with a wonderful piece of bonus art. And yet this still didn’t seem like enough to repay all your enthusiasm for the series. On top of that, Keith’s new illustration was quite evocative, and made me wonder exactly what was going on.
So I decided to write a piece of fan fiction to go with it. This turned out to be more than 3,000 words, longer than most of the chapters in the series, because writing those characters again was a total blast. I’d almost forgotten!
I am sorry to say, though, that this chapter and Keith’s piece are bumping Fan Art Friday till next week. But there’s some really awesome fan art (by real fans!) coming up then. And early next week, I’ll be posting the winners of the concluded Show Us Your Steampunk contest that’s been happening over on FaceBook.
But for now, at long last, here is the secret last chapter of Goliath. (Well, it’s really more fan fic than a long-lost chapter. It’s full of fan service and cross-dressing and all sorts of shippy stuff. And yet: By my authorial authority, I DECLARE IT CANONICAL.)
One piece of advice, don’t look at Keith’s lovely illustration until you get to the end. IT HAZ SPOILERS! So I hid the image way down there below the text.
“This is a preposterous situation,” Alek said.
“One for which you have only yourself to blame.” Count Volger reclined on the hotel room’s purple velvet divan, a smirk on his face. “I told you not to take that wager.”
“It was a matter of principle.”
“Ah, young prince—or ‘Mr. Hohenberg,’ if you insist—will you never learn that there are no principles when it comes to a show of arms? Only brute strength.”
Alek turned from the mirror to give the wildcount a cool glance. “A show of arms? Very droll.” He sighed. “But I really didn’t think she would best me.”
“Miss Sharp did spend several months climbing about the on ratlines. It does wonders for the muscles, I’m sure.”
Alek nodded, rubbing his still sore right bicep. It certainly had been a battle. A show of arms, indeed! One moment, he and Deryn had been having a perfectly reasonable discussion on the merits of the two sexes—strength, endurance, tolerance of pain—and then suddenly he had said something unforgivable and Deryn was challenging him to an arm-wrestling contest.
Losing to her wouldn’t have been so bad—she was Deryn Sharp, after all—but Alek had gone and made this idiotic wager.
If only this New Year’s Eve party hadn’t been fancy dress. What was it with the British and their love of costumes? The entire staff of the London Zoological Society has been buzzing for days about what they would wear. Most were going as beasties, of course, or great boffins of history, or modern-day buffoons such as politicians and clerics of the Monkey Luddite stripe. Others were sticking with classical costumes: angels, devils, ancient Greeks, or fairies of the wood.
New as they were to the Society, both he and Deryn had been anxious as to what they should wear. (And to Alek, frankly, the whole fancy dress thing seemed a bit common, even if he had foresworn his royal heritage.) So an arm-wrestling contest had seemed like a brilliant way to settle the matter for at least one of them. As Volger kept reminding him, the terms had been entirely Alek’s idea.
It might’ve been most amusing, if only he hadn’t lost. Then it would have been Deryn wearing a dress and not he. He had to admit, much of the motivation for his rash wager had been his own curiosity. What would Deryn look like in the proper clothing of her own gender?
Not that he minded seeing her in a jacket and trousers every day. It was part of the frisson of their romance, that he knew something about her that only a handful of others did. But still, he was as curious as any boy would be in these circumstances.
“Is this bustle in the right place?” he asked.
Count Volger snorted a little. “There’s only one place for a bustle, Alek. And that’s it.”
“Doesn’t it seem . . . unnecessarily large to you?”
“A question women have been asking for decades, I’m sure.”
“Don’t be impertinent, Count. I meant the bustle.” Alek straightened the bows that positively covered the dress. “And I wouldn’t be so ready to mock others if I were dressed up as a message lizard!”
Count Volger regarded the papier-mâché lizard snout sitting next to him on the divan. Then with a shrug he lifted the mask and placed it on his head. It was painted a mottled brown with green highlights, matching the colors of an Air Service message lizard perfectly. The count’s face peeked out from between the jaws of the monstrous head-gear.
“One must always be ready to mock, Your No-Longer-Serene Highness.” Volger raised his glass, maneuvered it between the jaws, and took a sip. “Otherwise, politics becomes unbearable.”
Alek took a closer look at the wildcount. His cheeks were a little ruddy, and the champagne bottle beside the divan looked suspiciously depleted.
“Are you drunk, count?”
Volger laughed at this, then took another sip. “It is New Year’s Eve, Mr. Hohenberg, and in order to curry favor with the world’s most mysterious organization, I am costumed as the most disquieting creature in the history of fabrication. Given that I am about to throw myself into a party full of boffins and secret agents, I would not call myself drunk—merely fortified.”
“Indeed.” Alek turned back to the mirror, wondering how much more fortified Count Volger was planning on getting tonight.
Ever since Alek had joined the Zoological Society, the wildcount hadn’t known what to do with himself. The war was winding down, the Kaiser realizing that his enemies were too numerous now that the US had joined in. There was talk of a peace conference in the early months of 1915, one that would end the battle between Darwinism and Clankers forever, or at least reduce it from a world-wide bloodbath to a healthy competition of technologies.
With no war to influence and no young prince to raise to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Volger’s two purposes in life had suddenly disappeared. The Austrians would remember that he had snatched away their young heir, so going home might be tricky, and Britain was too full of godless beasties for him to stay here.
And yet . . .
“Curry favor?” Alek asked, picking up the parasol that Deryn had picked out for him. It matched the color of the dress, at least. “Why do you care what the Zoologial Society thinks of you, given what you think of them?”
“I might have need for their expertise in the future.” The count sounded quite sober now. “I have a great love of nature, you know, and one day there will be a struggle between natural creatures and those fabrications who escape out into the wild. The Society may be able to help in that.”
Alek raised an eyebrow. He’d never thought of Volger as a preservationist, given that the man had shot at least two hundred stags with Alek’s father, the archduke. Of course, there had been vast tracks of wilderness in the heart of Europe back when Volger was a young man collecting hunting trophies. There was not so much wild left anymore.
“I’ve heard of that happening,” Alek said. “Parrot frogs running rampant in Australia and such, chattering in those funny accents. It does seem unsettling.”
“Not as unsettling as those heels,” Volger said, the seriousness of a moment before forgotten. “But a bet is a bet, Mr. Hohenberg.”
The New Year’s Eve party of the Zoological Society of London was downstairs from Alek’s room, in the main ballroom of the Savoy Hotel. Alek was surprised, and a bit alarmed, to see how many people were in attendance. He had assumed that the audience for his humiliation would be limited to members of the Society proper—a dozen boffins and perhaps twice that many animal trainers and handlers. But the great ballroom was nearly full, with the Society’s patrons, political supporters, and special agents like him and Deryn all in attendance, along with their spouses, guests, and various hangers-on.
“Oh dear,” Alek said.
“Indeed,” Volger muttered through the jaws of his lizard head. “Perhaps you should have worn a mask.”
“That would have been cheating.” Alek took a fortifying breath, shouldered his parasol as if it were a rifle, then headed down into the crowd.
He felt conspicuous and absurd, and wobbly on his heeled shoes, but somehow the entire room didn’t seem to be staring at him. In an odd way, his costume was relatively tame. There were too many elaborate fabricated creatures about for one young man in a dress to cause a stir. The Society’s aging director, Dr. Spencer, had an entire Huxley Ascender hovering above him, devised from some sort of painted mesh thrown over a cloud of toy balloons. The director nodded at Alek and Volger and started to come toward them, but then realized that his floating Huxley was caught on a chandelier. Several assistants rushed forward to help him disentangle the costume. Alek pulled the wildcount into a hasty retreat, just in case the balloons were full of hydrogen instead of helium.
He scanned the crowd for Deryn. It was best to get the revelation of his costume over with as quickly as possible. He wondered what she had chosen to wear, and hoped that it didn’t include a mask. The thought of her seeing him dressed this way was annoying enough, without her spying on him from across the room and giggling to herself.
“Alek?” came a voice from the crowd. “Good heavens, is that the count with you?”
Alek turned and bowed. “Good heavens, indeed, Dr. Barlow.”
The lady boffin was dressed as an avenging angel, with large feathered wings and a wooden sword painted sliver. She looked appropriately terrifying. Tazza, as always at her side, had a tin foil halo on his head.
Dr. Barlow eyed Alek up and down. “Perhaps a curtsey would have been more appropriate.”
“Alas, my dancing master was never so kind as to teach me how.”
“I’m sure Mr. Sharp could help.”
The loris on her shoulder, who was dressed as a cherub, chuckled and said, “Mister Sharp.”
Alek gave them both a hard look. Dr. Barlow was the only other member of the Zoological Society who knew Deryn’s secret. It seemed unwise of her to make light of it, however subtly, in a room crowded with their colleagues.
“I should think not,” Volger said. “Mr. Sharp is far too manly to know such things.”
Dr. Barlow’s eyes widened. “The lizard speaks!”
“The lizard only repeats what he is told,” Volger said, tapping his ear. He extended his hand. “Would you care to dance, doctor?”
“Of course. One so rarely has an opportunity to dance with a reptile.” She nodded at Alek. “Good evening, Mr. Hohenberg.”
The two swirled off toward the dance floor, Tazza padding behind them after Alek gave him a pat on the head.
Now, where was Deryn? She had always been early to any party back on the Leviathan. No doubt she was hidden behind a mask somewhere, watching Alek twirl his parasol and mince about in these heels.
As Alek scanned the crowd, a strange apparition appeared before him. It had a bird-like head, and a shaggy yellow pelt and huge, cat-like claws.
“Is that you, Dylan?” he asked.
“I am not a bellman,” the beaked head said in a familiar voice, then the clawed hands reached up and lifted the mask. “I am a mighty gryphon!”
Alek took an involuntary step back. Beneath the eagle head was Adela Rogers, the young American reporter who had joined the Leviathan‘s journey in California. But what was she doing in London, and what was any reporter doing at a private function of the Society? Especially one at which Alek happened to be wearing a dress.
At least she wasn’t one of those reporters who always carried a camera, like the insufferable Eddie Malone.
“I trust you recognize me now, Prince Aleksandar.”
“Indeed, Miss Rogers. Though I’m afraid I am no longer a prince.”
“Ah, of course. Mr. Hohenberg, isn’t it?”
“At your service.” Alek attempted a curtsy, but failed completely.
The reporter smiled. “Not much of a mister this evening, I see.”
Alak shrugged. “A fancy dress party has its share of indignities, I suppose. But now that I am no longer royalty, perhaps a bit of humility is in order.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that dress is humiliating, Mr. Hohenberg. On the contrary, it’s quite flattering.”
“Thank you.” Alek bowed this time. It felt more natural, even with a bustle as a conspicuous counterweight to the maneuver.
For a moment, he wondered at all the adjustments, small and large, that Deryn must have made in order to carry off her deception. The way she walked, talked, and stood, along with every social nuance, all of it had to be considered every second of every day. It was incredible to have succeeded at something so difficult, with only her brother Jaspert and her own observations of humanity to guide her.
Deryn was quite astounding, really, and entirely worth throwing away an empire for.
“But if I may ask a question.” Miss Rogers produced a notepad. “Who exactly are you meant to be?”
“Ah.” Alek swallowed. After the agony of his arm-wrestling defeat and amid all the palaver of finding a dress to wear, he had failed to take the question of his costume any further. He could hardly tell this reporter that he had lost a bet, and the thought that she would write in her newspaper that he had attended a party dressed simply as a woman was somehow unsettling.
He wracked his mind for an answer, and one came.
“I am dressed as one of the great Clanker boffins of the last century,” he said. “Ada, Countess of Lovelace.”
Miss Rogers looked perplexed for a moment. “I’m not sure I recall this countess. She was a Clanker boffin, you say? But the name sounds very English.”
“She was. And yet her work is at the core of every mechanical analytic engine. The balance system of my own Stormwalker, for example.” As he said the words, Alek’s hands clenched imaginary saunters. It really had been too long since he had piloted a walker. He hoped his and Deryn’s first mission for the Society was in a Clanker nation, where he might get a chance to.
“I see.” Miss Rogers’ pencil was scribbling. “Like you, she was able to cross battle lines. A subject of the queen, but a Clanker. A woman, but a scientist.”
Alek bowed, relieved to have stumbled upon so apt a choice. “Just as I was born a royal and a Clanker, and yet stand before you a common Darwinist.”
She smiled. “And a boy in a dress. I think I’m finally beginning to understand you, Mr. Hohenberg.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, you must know that many are perplexed by your choice of employers.” She glanced about the room, at all the costumed beasts, grotesques, and monstrosities. “It seems an odd avocation to trade an empire for. In fact, that’s why I’m here in London. To do some follow up.”
Alek raised an eyebrow. “You mean, to spy on me.”
“You might say that,” Miss Rogers said with another smile. “It seems to me that something’s missing in the story of Prince Aleksandar of Hohenberg, who traded his crown for a post as a zookeeper. Surely there’s something you’re not telling us about the Society. Or perhaps about yourself?”
Alek shrugged, and twirled his parasol.
“I shall be watching you, Mr. Hohenberg.”
“It will be my pleasure to be watched, I’m sure,” Alek said, bowing again. “But if you will excuse me.”
He headed off into the crowd without waiting for an answer, because near the giant ice sculpture of Charles Darwin taming a lupine tigeresque, he had seen a blond head bobbing above the costumed masses. It was definitely Deryn, and she wasn’t wearing a mask.
Of course, Deryn wore a mask every day, her disguise as a boy a constant in her life. By all rights, she should be able to show up at a fancy dress party in nothing more than her usual trousers and jacket.
Of course, making a point of such behavior would somewhat spoil her secret.
Alek pushed his way through the crowd, setting aside a Spring-Heeled Jack and an iron-headed Ned Kelly, the famous Outback bandit. Deryn’s blond hair flashed ahead of him again, but she was moving away. Had she seen him coming and decided to lead him on a chase?
Finally, though, the crowd parted, and he came face to face with Deryn Sharp. Alek froze when he saw her costume, a look of astonishment spreading on his face.
“But I . . . ,” he sputtered. “You won the contest, not me.”
“Aye, of course I did.” She made a muscle with her bicep. “But we never said the winner couldn’t wear what they wanted. And we reckoned you’d feel less awkward if you weren’t the only lad in a frock.”
Alek looked her up and down. Deryn was in the sort of evening dress that fashionable young women-about-town wore, with a fringed back and a broad belt high on her waist. Long beaded necklaces were draped around her neck, tucked into her belt or hanging to her thighs. Perched on her head was a close-fitting hat, a long fabricated peacock feather jutting almost straight back from it.
Alek looked down at his own dress, so formal and old-fashioned with its fussy bows and bustle. He suddenly felt frumpy, whereas Deryn was positively stylish. Her short hair and slim figure, the core of her disguise as a midshipman, no longer looked masculine at all.
He wondered if there would ever come a time when women wore their hair so short. Surely such a thing would never happen, but he had to admit that it looked quite fetching.
Then he realized what Deryn had said. “‘We’?”
“Aye, both of us.” She snapped her fingers, and Bovril waddled out from beneath the ice sculpture table.
Alek’s eye widened further. The perspicacious loris was in costume as well, in a backless dress that looked distinctly French. Indeed, the creature resembled a tiny Pierrot doll.
Bovril looked up at Alek, then said with a giggle, “Lad in a dress.”
Deryn shook her head. “Frankly, Alek, I thought you’d come up with something a bit more up-to-date.”
“You chose the parasol.” Alek twirled it. “I had to find a dress that matched!”
“Aye, but you’re not as fetching as I expected.” She tsped a few times. “Still, it’s nice to see you in something besides yours old Clanker gear. You really should be dressing up in new clothes, now that you aren’t a barking prince.”
Alek raised an eyebrow. “You mean, you would have been happy with a new jacket? You might have said.”
“Aye. Anything that doesn’t look like an old cavalry uniform!”
Alek sighed. Since renouncing the throne, he had no money to speak of, only the small income the Society provided. He doubted his granduncle the Emperor would be sending him an allowance anytime soon. So all he had to wear were his Hapsburg Guard uniforms and the formal wear that Mr. Hearst had provided him. And, of course, a few things he’d bought in Istanbul, which were hardly suitable for London. The dress he had on now had been provided by a wife of one of the Society boffins, and not the youngest or most fashionable.
“I must say that you look stunning, though,” he offered with a bow.
“Aye. It’s not as bad as I remember, being stuffed into a dress.” Deryn extended her arm. “Shall we go?”
Alek knelt and snapped for Bovril, who leapt up into his grasp.
“Of course. But where?”
“There’s a wee changing room off to the side, where some of the boffins left their regular clothes. It’s locked up, but I’ve got the only key.” Deryn looked him up and down again. “And bottle of champagne, if you’re not too much a lady for a drink alone with a former sky sailor.”
“I assure you, Mr. Sharp,” Alek said. “I have no concerns about your intentions.”
“That’s good to hear, Mr. Hohenberg. For my intentions are clarity itself.” And then she was leading him away from the throng of monsters, beasts, and freaks, toward someplace private and safe. A place where it didn’t matter who was wearing what.
Bovril, riding on his shoulder, giggled one more time.
“Mister Hohenberg,” the creature said.
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