QSFer Nita Round has a new lesbian fantasy steampunk book out, The Evie Chester Files: “Lost and Found.”
A gifted slave. A cursed woman. Together can they gain their freedom?
Evie Chester is a slave with a precious gift who lives in a world that both marvels and fears magic and the unexplained.
Evie dreams of being free and of being accepted as gifted. When an opportunity presents itself for escape she finds herself pursued with a bounty on her head. Eyes are everywhere, nowhere is safe and when she is caught, she rsumes her life in chains once again.
An encounter with a cursed woman brings about the promise of freedom in return for her help. Everything changes. Is the price of her freedom at too high a price?
The first time Evie Chester saw the woman, she thought she was a man. Tall and imposing, she planted herself as though she had every right to be there. Shoulders stiff, back straight, and pale serious eyes that seemed to watch everything all at once. Nothing escaped her attention.
She wore a fine suit. A simple cut, not too fancy but well made, with a white shirt that very nearly shone. A dark bowler covered unfashionably short blonde hair. Underneath her jacket, she wore a pale green buttoned vest with decorative silk work and a pale green cravat. She appeared a rather well-to-do gent. All in all, she had no place here in the middle of the smelly, dirty docks, surrounded by the men of the quayside with their coarse dress and coarser manners.
At her side stood another woman, and whilst the first woman was all light and bright, this one was darker. She was also tall for a woman, with dark hair, dark eyes, and a permanent smile upon her face. She wore leather clothing like some distant native of a far distant land. Oddest of all, she carried a sword on her back. Who in their right mind would advertise they duelled with a sword? A woman, too. Odd. Independent. Strange. Free. They were free, and she was not. Seeing them made her despise her lack of freedom, which made her place in the world even darker.
Left to her own devices, Evie would never have known of their existence, but like the two women, Harold, her escort for the day, had stopped to listen to Iskabard Speare. Harold wanted to listen to everything he said. Maybe for the promise of work or the chance to learn how to get rich quick, like Iskabard claimed. None of it mattered to Evie; all she wanted was to gawk at the woman who looked like a man. Her companion, too, for she was also an unusual sight in Bristelle.
“Friends,” Iskabard called out over the noise of the gathering crowd. “I have a new design. One that will turn long-distance travel on its head.” He waved a roll of paper like a wand. “The propellers of the future will move the dirigibles and blimps at speeds beyond that of even the fastest ocean liner. We see the future of air travel opening even further, and we, the ship builders of Bristelle, want to be a part of that future.”
The crowd made appreciative noises to his claims.
“Once, we built ocean-going ships of every size, here in these very docks. But those days have gone. When the time of the airships came, we adjusted. Alas, there are always other yards and docks, and we’ve lost much of our shipbuilding to other regions in recent years. That will change, my friends, I promise you. We will regain our place amongst the greatest shipyards of the world.”
There were cheers at this statement. They liked this.
“We will rebuild our business here in Bristelle with new ships and new propellers. Once more, we will be the greatest shipbuilders in the whole of the world.”
Now the crowd roared their approval, and there were a great many people to add their voices. The lure of fine words and the promise of work made many men, and their long-suffering wives, happy.
“Girl,” Harold said. “We need to go now.” He didn’t wait for her answer. He wrapped his thick hand around her arm and pulled so hard she almost fell over.
Evie wanted to tell him that she wasn’t a girl, she was a woman. Yet she dared not speak for fear of an even greater reprimand.
“Come on, you stupid good-for-nothing tart, don’t make a scene. We’ve work to do,” he said.
Evie gritted her teeth. If anyone did any work, it was her. Not that she would ever allude to it. The last time she’d even come close to saying so, he’d punched her right at the top of her arm where the bruise would not show. Her arm had probably bruised under his grip already without her adding to the damage.
He half dragged Evie to a warehouse on the southern edge of the quay. A little way beyond the warehouse, the lifting platforms stood quiet. Little cargo moved from the river to the canals these days, and the mechanisms stood rusting. This was yet another symptom of the prosperity that no longer flowed into Bristelle.
Quiet and rundown, the warehouse was a good place for the kind of business Harold conducted. A cobbled street extended the full length of the building and all the way back into the heart of Bristelle. Several small carriages stood to one side, their drivers huddled in their seats waiting to be recalled to duty. It wasn’t far to walk to the warehouse doors from where the carriages were. Perish the thought that the gents of the city had to muddy their nice shoes in the filth of the working man. Thirty yards in front of the warehouse ran the river itself. Riverboats berthed right outside the warehouse, too.
Harold knocked on the door. Three solid bangs, a pause, followed by two more bangs.
“Who’s there?” asked a voice from inside.
“Jed, open the damned door, you bloody fool. It’s me, Harold.”
The door opened wide, and Jed, with black hair, pale skin, and protruding teeth, stood in the doorway.
Nita has written all her life, whether short stories, games scenarios or novels. She loves to write about strong female characters, fantasy and speculative fiction.
When not working, she is an avid gamer, she escapes to any world, any format, any console, and any time. She also plays Role Play Games (AD&D, Werewolf, Cthulhu) and is sadistic enough to be the dungeon master on occasion.
Other interests include: visiting cemeteries for gothic inspiration, cooking (a skill inherited from a family of chefs), making damson gin, and of course tasting it. You have to make sure it is fit for consumption.