Hello, all! So, I have this new story. It's actually my first steampunk one I've ever written so suggestions and opinions are much appreciated. This new story idea is the work of Imperial General of Grado, who I thank very much for. Also, the title is subject to change so if you have suggestions lay them on me. I wish to thank all readers for giving my story a chance and to enjoy :)
"Please be quick, Eleanor. Gary will be here any minute." Harper told her long-time maid, feeling impatient as she waited for her hair to be finished.
Eleanor placed a hand on Harper's shoulder, meeting her indigo gaze through the mirror as she told her. "Be still, gal. 'tis not my fault yer hair 's so thick. Ye know it takes forever to curl."
Harper did know that. It was one of the reasons she always opted to not curl her hair most days, not caring it was the latest fashion. As far as she was concerned, curls were just another way for well-born misses to waste time during their boring days of doing nothing.
The difference between Harper and others in her age group was that she was almost always busy. Rarely did she have time to sit idle and sip tea while gasping about the latest gossip. Most often, she was in her father's old lab building new gadgets or creating elixirs. Science was her one and only hobby. The only thing she excelled in and found comfort. And for someone as socially awkward as Harper, a small lab where she could do whatever she wanted while alone was heaven.
She glanced at the corner where her newest invention sat on her chair hidden under her favorite ruby blanket. It was the most exciting thing she had made in a long time. Gary was going to go bonkers when he saw it. The two of them have been discussing the idea of trying to make their own metal human for a while now. If people could have their missing limbs replaced by metal one, which were fully functioning and controllable by brain waves, why couldn't there be such a thing as a complete metal person? One that thought for itself and had a conscience as a real human.
Though, making such a thing was thought to be impossible. It was a theory that was spoken of for the past decade during the few conventions held by scientist and inventors, like Harper and Gary, but many had failed in the attempt of creation. Harper had read the notes of those who openly shared their trails and began her own experiment about a year ago.
It hadn't been a problem making the bodies. That was the easy part. Getting those bodies to talk were simple too as long as you placed a voice box in them with the complete language. Her metal humans had even been able to walk, run, pick up and carry objects, and much more things that regular humans could do. The one thing she couldn't figure out was how to make them self-efficient.
That was until last month when she stumbled upon a book of sorcery in the local library. After reading through the book, Harper discovered many things in the world that couldn't be done with science could be done with magic. So she made it her mission to track down someone who was well versed in the art. Which was easier said than done.
It was a frowned upon practice by most of the elite and government thus the users had dwindled down over time. Only in the back alleys and decrepit parts of town could one catch whispers of it. Just to travel to those areas, Harper had to don a disguise as a boy and learn the broken English spoken by the maids in her home. Just when Harper began to believe she would never find a sorcerer despite all her efforts and was ready to give up when she stumbled into a small tavern where she discovered an ungodly beautiful sorcerer sitting in the back corner with a small group, showing them a few of her tricks.
Thankfully, the woman had been kind enough to help Harper with her experiment and in exchange for Harper's best jewelry set, bring her metal human to life. Granted her metal human wasn't that big. The sorcerer had instructed Harper to make one no taller than twelve inches because larger objects required more power than the sorcerer could conjure but it was still a start. After showing her metal human to Gary, she was hoping her friend could help her hunt down an even stronger sorcerer that could aid in her progression. After building a life-size metal human, she hoped she could bring it to one of the conventions and share it with her like-minded community.
"Ow!" She yelped as she felt the hot steam from the curler touch her scalp.
Eleanor tsked at her. "What did I tell ye about goin' off into yer mind while 'm doin' yer hair?"
Harper grumbled an oath under her breath. "I apologize but do you think we can hurry this up a little." Gary would be here any minute to pick her up for their picnic and she didn't want him to be waiting too long.
Just thinking about what was to come made her want to giggle. Gary was not only her best friend but the man she believed she would marry one day. He was everything she wanted in a husband. Smart. Kind. Funny. Handsome without being devilishly so. On top of all that, he was also one of the only men Harper knew who had no problem with Harper's hobby.
And her feelings weren't one-sided. On many occasions, Gary had told Harper how much he adored her. It always made her blush. Then there was the time that he kissed her… Harper couldn't help smiling just thinking about it.
"Calm ye self. 'tis almost done." Eleanor set the curler on the dresser before gathering Harper's auburn curls twisting them into a chignon on top her head with the ends of the curls falling onto Harper's forehead. "Perfect."
"Thank you, Eleanor." Contrary to her words, Harper wanted to undo her hair and put it into a ponytail, her go-to hairstyle in the lab.
As Eleanor began to clean the area, Harper began to gather her notes to bring with her for the picnic only to be interrupted by a knock at the door. Pausing her ministrations, she turned towards it to find her mother.
"Dear, your father needs you in the drawing room."
Her mother's words weren't something that would normally set Harper on edge but something in her mother's voice said it wasn't a simple talking to her father would give her about something she done wrong, which were the only times the man spoke to her. Harper always believed his lack of attention was because she came out of her mother's womb as a girl instead of boy. Not only that, but her mother also had a nervous expression on her face. The one she always wore when she was doing her best to hide something.
Ignoring the niggling feeling in her stomach, Harper stuff her notes into her bag before following her mother out the room. She was probably getting worried over nothing. Maybe her father decided to give Harper her birthday gift early this year. Her twenty-first birthday was tomorrow. Typically, the morning of her birthday, she would receive a lecture from her father for not picking out a husband the previous year before giving her a book on how the proper lady should act.
The practice began on her sixteenth birthday and had stayed in place since. She was never bothered by it all. Her parents had married for love and she knew they hoped she would do the same.
As Harper entered the drawing room with her mother, she discovered her father speaking with a man she never laid eyes on before. He was average height and dressed in a brown three-piece suit, the current fashion of the upper-class men with matching brown loafers. His blonde hair was gel back into a small ponytail at the base of his neck. When he turned to noise created by Harper and her mother entering the room, she immediately noticed his crystal clear blue eye. His tan face was very boyish but handsome none the less. Harper wouldn't be terribly surprised if he had many mothers going after him for their unwed daughters.
"Lord Chambers, I would like to introduce you to my daughter, Harper." Harper's father's grin was wide and offsetting as Harper drew closer to the pair.
When she was about a foot away, Lord Chambers grasped one of her gloved hands, bringing it to his lips as he bowed slightly. "The pleasure is mine, Lady Harper."
Offering a polite curtsy, she returned his greeting. "Nice to make your acquaintance, Lord Chambers."
"Please call me Ethan," he said, giving her a dashing smile.
Harper felt her check begin to burn. While her heart had already been given to another, any women would blush under the attention of such a handsome gentleman. It was also pleasant that he seemed quite nice, unlike many of the other men Harper encountered when her mother forced her to attend parties and balls held by their peers.
"Is she not as lovely as I told you she was?" Her father sounded overly proud of Harper, something that was uncommon and had Harper giving the man a worried glance.
"Yes, she is." As Lord Chambers said this his gaze never left Harper's face causing it to burn even more. She was sorely unused to the undivided attention of anyone but Gary.
No one said anything for a while as he just stared at her. It began to make Harper feel a little uncomfortable. Hoping to clear the awkwardness, she decided to try and strike up a conversation once more.
"Have you been in Aeroton long, Lord Chambers?"
"No. I grew up in the country for most of my life before heading off to Ducport to aid my father in establishing some new business interest there." Well, that explained why she hadn't seen him in their circle before.
Ducport was one of the newest land acquired by the colony of Golem in the last war, which ended nearly twenty years ago. Though Harper had never been there, she heard that it was a beautiful place with exotic food and people. Gary had traveled there once and brought back holograms for Harper, which sat on her nightstand.
"I've heard it's lovely there."
Lord Chambers nodded. "It's a place that puts all of Golem to shame, especially our capital, Aeroton."
"You two suit quite well," her father stated, interrupted their brief conversation.
Harper frowned as that weird niggling feeling returned to her stomach. What exactly was her father getting at and just what did it have to do with her and Lord Chambers?
"I think so as well." For the first time since Harper entered the room, Lord Chambers turned away from her to look at her father. "If it doesn't inconvenience you, I would like to have our wedding tomorrow."
"Wedding?" Harper gasped, glancing from her father to Lord Chambers. "Papa, what is going on?"
"You see Harper, Lord Chambers is in need of a proper bride quickly—
"What does that have to do with me?" She interrupted even though she already knew the answer to her own question. Harper still couldn't believe it, though.
"Harper," her mother's gentle voice came from behind her causing Harper to look back, "I know we wanted you to marry for love like I and your father, but sometimes love can come after marriage. Lord Chambers is a very kind gentleman and you two shall get along famously."
"And your twenty-first birthday is tomorrow, Harper. Most will think of you as a spinster." Her father added.
Closing her eyes, Harper began to shake her head. This couldn't be happening. Why was it happening? What about Gary? What about what she wanted? "I can't marry Lord Chambers tomorrow. I don't even know him."
"You will and you won't put up a fuss about it!" Came her father's sharp retort.
Harper looked to Lord Chambers, hoping he would put reason into her parents' minds, but just by his gaze alone, she knew he wholly agreed with them.
She was lost for a moment. Uncertain what to do or say. The only thing she could think of was Gary. Harper had to see Gary now. So without another thought, she picked up her skirts and spun towards the door. She ignored her mother's and father's calls and headed to the foyer and out the front door.
But that was as far as she got because she realized she had nowhere to go. Besides Gary, she had no other friends and what little family she had lived out in the plains. A depression came over her as she realized this. She searched up and down the road hoping to catch sight of Gary who was supposed to be here ten minutes ago. If only he was here now when she needed him most.
Behind her, her mother called her name. Harper looked over her shoulder at the woman, knowing her gaze held desperation. From the look in her mother's eyes, the woman saw it and wanted to be understanding but was already set in her decision. The only person that could help Harper now didn't plan on getting her out of this.
Her mother came to her, taking Harper's hands in hers as she spoke softly, "I know we are asking much of you but it is for your own good, dear. You may not understand now. Maybe not in the near future either. But one day you will."
Tears welled in Harper's eyes as she accepted her fate wouldn't be changed. "Mother…" A small cry escaped her as she threw herself into her mother's arms.