An Uncommon Road
Governess Temperance Caldwell has several misgivings about her upcoming mission trip. First, she can never take a ride on an airship without getting sick. Second, her charge has been quite recalcitrant lately. And third, she's heard terrifying things about the Amazons.
That fear proves to be justified when Amazons take over the ship, mistake her for someone else, and take her hostage. Her best chance of survival is to make a liability of herself, prove to be too much trouble for the Amazons—and that would be much easier to do if Cynara, the leader of the Amazons, wasn't so captivating...
“Isn’t it time to go yet?”
“No. The airship doesn’t leave for another hour,” Temperance said, gently brushing the little girl’s thick, black hair back into a ponytail. She tied it with a bright blue ribbon that matched the dress her mother had bought her for this trip.
Amphitrite sighed loudly. “You said that an hour ago!”
“No, I said it ten minutes ago, and I’ll probably say it again five minutes from now,” Temperance teased. “They’re in the middle of their final inspections. Come on. Let’s double-check your suitcases.”
“Would you rather sit here and stare at the clock?”
“I’ll check the biggest one.”
As she flipped through her clothes, making sure that she had everything she needed—their previous go-through had revealed that she was missing Peggy, her favorite stuffed Pegasus—Amphitrite frowned. Temperance let her be, knowing that she could be a recalcitrant child, and that pressing her about whatever concerned her was a sure way to make her hold her tongue.
Finally, she said, “Temperance?”
“Is mother going to want me to preach about Zeus, too?”
“I don’t believe so,” Temperance said. “I think she just wants you along to see what kind of work she does and to enjoy the trip. However much she may want you to follow in her footsteps, I doubt she expects you to become a missionary at your age.”
The frown didn’t disappear; that question was only the tip of whatever was truly bothering her. But further discussion would have to wait, because Dorothea Lightning bustled into the room. The white dress she wore seemed to gleam against her black skin, and she wore a belt made of tiny lightning bolt charms that matched the ones threaded into her updo.
Her original last name had been not Lightning, but Dalton. But upon entering her fifth year of being a missionary, both she and her daughter had taken the last name Lightning in deference to their patron God.
“Everything together, darling?” she asked, leaning down to kiss the top of her daughter’s head. Amphitrite nodded, and Dorothea beamed at Temperance.
“Thank you so much for getting everything arranged, Temperance. I don’t know what we’d do without you on regular days, let alone these past three weeks. Just think! In seven days’ time, we’ll be speaking with the Amazons.”
Assuming they don’t try to kill us for approaching in the first place, Temperance thought. Two of the earliest missionaries who’d tried to make contact with the Amazons had become martyrs to their cause.
She sincerely hoped that once they reached their destination, that Dorothea would leave her daughter on the airship. That the Amazons traveled to a nearby mine to harass and sometimes even kill the workers was bad enough, but they were also a tribe made up entirely of women. The horrific things that were done to male children born to them, or to men who happened to wander too close to their territory…
Dorothea was certain that she would be safe. The missionaries who had been killed decades ago had both been men, after all. She was sure the Amazons would be more receptive to her.
“Can we go wait on the airship?” Amphitrite asked.
“Certainly,” Dorothea said, taking her daughter’s hands. “Temperance, I’ll send someone along to help you with the bags.”
“Thank you,” Temperance said. Once the two of them were out of the room, she sighed and sat down on the little girl’s bed. “You’ll be fine,” she muttered. “It’ll be okay.”
The last time she’d traveled by airship, she’d gotten dreadfully sick and had spent the entire two-day journey holed up in her room, barely able to get herself to the facilities, let alone take care of Amphitrite. Yes, the island they’d vacationed on had been beautiful, but all she’d been able to focus on the entire stay was the inevitable airship ride home.
This wasn’t a two-day voyage, but seven. Seven there and then seven back, and that was assuming she would have any break in-between. If the Amazons and the surrounding villages weren’t receptive to Dorothea’s preaching, then they would turn right back around and come home.
She hadn’t eaten a thing all day, but the idea of going onto the airship already had her stomach wavering.
Then one of the servants, Erasmus, came into the room, and she got to her feet with a smile.
“Well. Good thing there’s not a lot of bags to carry,” he joked, looking at the five bags Amphitrite had gathered and the two that Temperance had packed.
“Do I want to know how many Dorothea had?” she asked.
“Over a dozen. Though I think half of them were pamphlets and Zeusian pendants.”
“Undoubtedly,” Temperance said, picking up her two bags and one of Amphitrite’s.
“Have something for you,” Erasmus said, holding up a small brown paper bag and folding it in half before sticking it into her apron pocket. “Fariha made them. Says they might help with the airsickness.”
“Oh, I hope so,” Temperance said. “Tell her thank you? Amphitrite is wanting to wait on the airship, so…”
Erasmus nodded, and preceded her into the hall. “We’ll see you when you get back. Safe travels.”
She exited the main building and headed out into the enormous central courtyard where the Lightning family airship, The King of the Gods, was docked. On the way, she passed by a smaller version of the statue that graced the front of the library; it depicted one of the earliest settlers to this world, Sophia, as she knelt down and reached her hand toward a young Mimicry.