HELL and STAGECOACH MARY: Excerpts from the Steamfunk novel, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2)
EXCERPT 1: I am Harriet Tubman
Harriet crouched low in the thickets. She counted five – no, six – adults in the house. Four men; two women. They were at the supper table, eating a grayish-brown mass from wooden bowls with their fingers.
A constant, dull thump emanated from the rear of the house.
“Must be the child,” Harriet whispered. Harriet reasoned that the girl was bored and was pretending to skip rope, with the heavy chain she was tethered to.
Harriet crept towards the back of the house, but a familiar voice made her pause. She looked skyward. “I ain’t one to question yo’ Word, but is you sure, Lawd?” She nodded. “Thy will be done, then.”
Harriet stood and brushed the dirt from her dress. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. The night air cooled the sweat on her forehead, and the flickering flame in her gut. She opened her eyes and locked her gaze on the house.
In three strong bounds, Harriet was standing at the front door of the house. She pounded her tiny, brown fist on the rotting wood.
The thumping of the heavy chain ceased.
The door was flung open wide.
And the stench of sweat and spoiled milk assaulted her nostrils.
Harriet quickly peered into the house. Everyone, except for the wiry man standing before her, was still sitting at the table. But they were no longer eating and their eyes were fixed on the doorway.
The man in the doorway spat onto the porch, the bilious sputum just missing Harriet’s boots. “You hear me, nigger? I said…”
The web of flesh between Harriet’s thumb and forefinger struck the man’s throat. She glided past him as he fell to the floor, clutching his crushed windpipe and gasping for air.
The men at the table jumped to their feet and rushed toward her, as the two women ran toward the rear of the house.
Harriet exploded forward, pummeling the nearest man to her with a flurry of elbow strikes.
Blood erupted from the man’s nose and mouth as his face collapsed under the force of Harriet’s swift and powerful blows.
Harriet threw her head back forcefully. A crunching sound followed and then a scream.
She felt something warm and wet soak the back of her bonnet.
The grip on Harriet’s waist loosened slightly. She took advantage of the opportunity, bending forward and grabbing the man-mountain’s leg with both hands. Holding on tightly, she rolled forward.
The momentum of the roll forced the giant to tumble over onto his back.
Harriet landed on her back, with the giant’s leg between hers. She thrust her hips forward forcefully, ramming her pelvis into the man’s knee, as she yanked his ankle back toward her shoulder.
The man-mountain’s leg made a loud, popping noise. Harriet tossed the badly twisted leg aside. The giant screamed as his leg flopped around on the floor, no longer under the goliath’s control.
Harriet sprang to her feet.
She was met by a powerful punch toward her face as she stood. Harriet shifted slightly to her right and the punch torpedoed past her.
Harriet countered by slamming the heel of her right foot into the man’s solar plexus, which sent him careening through the air. He came to rest on the supper table. Slivers of wood and chunks of gray-brown mush sprayed into the air.
The last man turned on his heels and ran toward the door. She kicked an overturned chair. The oak chair flipped through the air and struck the man in the back of the head. The man’s head split open like an over-ripe plum. Harriet turned from the dying man and walked to the rear of the house.
The back door was wide open.
The wind had extinguished the candles, but the moon bathed the room in a silver-blue incandescence. The women were – wisely – long gone, but the girl was still in the room, crouched in a corner. An iron manacle was locked to her right ankle. The manacle was connected to a heavy, iron chain, which was screwed into the floor.
Harriet crouched before the little girl, and placed a gentle hand upon her shoulder. “You alright, baby?”
The little girl perused the room, as if to ensure they were alone, and then nodded.
“You Margaret, I reckon.”
The child nodded again.
Harriet rubbed her hand over the girl’s matted, light brown curls. “We gon’ get you outta here and get you cleaned up. Gotta have you presentable for yo’ daddy.”
The little girl’s eyes widened and the corners of her mouth turned up in the hint of a smile. Yet the act of smiling seemed to strain her, as if she had not smiled in quite some time. “My daddy? He sent you for me?”
Harriet pulled an L-shaped, sliver of metal from behind the ribbon in her bonnet; and slid it into the back of the manacle around Margaret’s ankle. “He sure did.” The manacle clicked and slid open.
Margaret caressed her bruised and swollen ankle. “Ma’am, if you don’t mind me asking…”
“Go ‘head, child.”
“Who are you?” Margaret asked.
Harriet stood, and helped the little girl to her feet. “Me? I’m Harriet. Harriet Tubman.”
EXCERPT 2: And Hell Followed
They would bury Father Ramon today and – if the Lawd saw fit to let Harriet have her way – she would bury John Brown today also.
Harriet turned away from the window and resumed her search of Sinai’s cabin.
Argentine blades and bullets, used for killing lycanthropes, were in abundance; as were stakes of sharpened oak; and axes and swords of cold steel – common tools of the trade of one who hunts monsters.
Inside a silver box, tucked under Sinai’s bed, Harriet found what she was looking for – the Bello Mule – a .48 caliber revolver that possessed two barrels and a drum-like cylinder, with twenty chambers arranged in two rows – a monstrous weapon with which to fight monstrous foes.
Baas had given the Mule to Sinai for his birthday a decade ago. The old monster-hunter had put the weapon to use many times.
“Lawd, let me wield this half as good as old Sinai and I’ll be satisfied,” Harriet whispered, slipping the Bello Mule into its massive, leather holster, which she now wore strapped across her chest.
Harriet scooped several fistfuls of silver .48 caliber bullets from the box that housed the Mule and tossed them into leather pouches on the belt she had secured around her waist over her charcoal-gray, cotton blouse.
She stepped out of the hot shadows of the house into the cool breeze that blew across the oasis in the desert that was the village of Punta Blanca.
The warrior woman hopped into Sinai’s cart and inspected its contents to ensure she had not forgotten anything important during her hasty packing of the vehicle. “Two shotguns…crate of buckshot…bag of jerky…barrel of water…I don’t think we missed nothin’, Lawd, so I’ll be takin’ my leave now. I ‘magine you’ll be showin’ me **** *****’s whereabouts soon, Lawd and – as promised – I’ll be sendin’ him on down to perdition, where he belong.”
Harriet looked toward the horizon. A large dust cloud rolled toward the village. Harriet reached inside her overcoat and withdrew her goggles. She slipped them onto her face. The bronze and leather eyewear cooled her cocoa skin.
And then the world tumbled…tilted…fell…whirling around Harriet like a maelstrom, filled with ire and spite.
The monstrous relic sported a cape fashioned from dirt and a sword forged from the putrid corpses of Mexican soldados – the plumed helmeted soldiers Harriet faced three days earlier, in Punta Blanca. The skeleton’s heads laughed and then the creature slashed toward Harriet’s neck with its corpse-sword.
The whirling of the world stopped.
Harriet rose from the floor of the cart and hopped into the drivers’ seat. “Yah,” she shouted, snapping the reins she clutched in her fists. The twin horses bolted toward the church.
“Your guns!” Harriet screamed. “Get your guns an’ get ready!”
The villagers turned toward Harriet with puzzled expressions.
“Get ready for what?” A nun asked.
Harriet pointed toward the cloud of dirt rolling toward them. “Hell.”
EXCERPT 2: Harriet meet “Stagecoach” / “Black” Mary Fields
The smell of freshwater and the sound of gently breaking waves told Harriet that she was at the Mississippi River.
“Get the vehicles on board and feed the horses,” she heard Kleinhopper say. “Then, rest well, my children; we head upriver in the morning…oh, and dump Madame D’Oliva’s remains in the river, please. Goodnight.”
Harriet felt a slight bump, followed by the intermittent sound of wood pelting metal as the wagon, under which she hid, traversed the steel bridge.
A few moments later, the pelting sound gave way to the sound of the heavy, wooden wheels of the cart rolling across a wooden floor.
The cart shook as man-sized and toddler-sized knolls exited the vehicle. Massive legs shambled past Harriet, shaking the deck with each step.
A few minutes later, all was quiet. Harriet lowered herself to the floor. She lay there for a moment, stretching her aching back and stiffened fingers, and then rolled from under the cart.
Harriet scanned the area. All was still.
Crouching low, she crept toward a spiral staircase that rose before her.
Harriet paused, taking a moment to study her surroundings. She was on a riverboat of incredible craftsmanship. The floor and walls were constructed from ebony. Etched into the hard, dark wood were symbols similar to those tattooed upon the face of an old Chinese assassin she once encountered. Harriet wondered if Professor Kleinhopper would be as difficult to kill as that assassin.
Harriet crawled up the stairs, her light steps further muffled by the plush Persian carpentry that ran up the center of each step.
At the top of the stairway, Harriet quietly dropped to her belly and perused her surroundings. The floor was covered in the same rich carpeting as the spiral staircase. The ebon walls were covered with paintings of – and, most likely, from – exotic Eastern lands, of which Harriet had dreamed of visiting since she first heard tales of such places from Baas Bello. Baas had visited nearly every country in the world. Harriet recognized – from Baas’ vivid descriptions – an armor-clad Japanese samurai striking a red-faced demon with his gleaming katana; a Maori queen, riding upon the back of a giant blue whale; a pair of boxers from Thailand, fighting from the back of an elephant…
“An art aficionado, eh?”
Harriet whirled around toward the voice.
No one stood before her.
She snapped her head upward.
Clinging to the high ceiling, like a spider, was Professor Amschel Kleinhopper. “Unfortunately, you will soon be dead, so you purchasing a piece is not an option.”
Harriet leapt upward, grabbing Professor Kleinhopper’s neck in mid-air.
Upon their descent, Harriet snapped the Professor’s head toward the floor with a powerful jerk.
Just before The Professor’s skull met the hardwood floor, however, he vanished in a puff of black smoke.
A swishing sound came from behind Harriet. She rolled forward, barely evading the pulverizing strike from Professor Kleinhopper’s cane.
Harriet peered over her shoulder. Professor Kleinhopper knelt on one knee. A spider web-shaped crack in the floor extended from the tip of his cane.
“You have chosen to purloin from the wrong gentleman, Miss…”
“Tubman,” Harriet replied. “Harriet Tubman; and I ain’t come to steal; I came to settle a score for a dear friend.”
“Wait…you are the woman who accompanied Baas Bello,” Professor Kleinhopper said.
“That’s right,” Harriet replied.
“You are quite…talented,” Professor Kleinhopper said. “I have no quarrel with you. Baas Bello – and that fool son-in-law of his – were my intended targets.”
“Why? Why Talltrees? Why Baas?” Harriet asked.
“Baas Bello!” Professor Kleinhopper hissed, turning to face the old genius.
“Are you okay, Harriet?” Baas asked, pointing his Bello Rifle at Professor Kleinhopper’s throat.
“I’m fine, Baas,” Harriet replied. “I was just about to kill The Alchemist, is all. How you be?”
“No, Harriet, this one is mine,” Baas replied.
Two shots rang out from below them, followed by a ghastly scream.
“But, please,” Baas continued. “Mary can use your assistance downstairs. It would appear the knolls have awakened.”
“Mary?” Harriet said, shaking her head. “Black Mary Fields?”
“That would be her,” Baas replied. “Now, please, if you will…”
Harriet darted past Baas and scurried down the stairs.
A hammering backhand to her chest from the gargantuan knoll sent Mary sliding backward.
As she slid past Harriet, she nodded and smiled. “Evenin’, Harriet.”
“Hello, Mary,” Harriet replied dryly.
Mary’s back slammed into the wall behind her. She bounced off the wall and leapt forward, slamming her elbow into the clockwork that was the heart of a charging knoll. Gears, chain links and a haze of steam flew into the air. The knoll fell.
A squad of toddler-sized knolls charged toward Harriet.
“Catch,” Mary shouted, tossing one of her Colt Dragoons to her.
Harriet plucked the pistol out of the air and – with blinding speed – fanned the revolver’s hammer as she repeatedly squeezed the trigger.
Knoll after tiny knoll fell, screaming in agony as oil, dirt, gears and stone peppered the walls and floor.
A loud, cracking noise came from within the gargantuan knoll’s fist.
“Mary!” Harriet screamed, fearing that the cracking noise was the sound of Black Mary’s bones being crushed to dust.
Oil dripped from the creature’s fist and it unleashed a wail that shook the entire riverboat. The giant knoll’s injured hand sprang open, revealing a smoking hole made by Black Mary’s Colt Dragoon.
Mary wrapped her muscular arms around the giant’s thumb and then forcefully arched backward as she raised her arms high above her head.
The giant knoll released what could only be described as a gasp of shock as it was turned upside down, its feet leaving a trail of dirt and grass across the ceiling as it careened through the air.
The creature landed on its back with a tremendous thud. A torrent of steam erupted from its mouth.
“Lawd,” Harriet gasped, impressed by Black Mary’s tremendous strength.
Mary landed on her feet next to the giant corpse’s head. She raised her fists to her chin. “Come on, y’all; I’m just warmin’ up!”
I hope you enjoyed reading these excerpts as much as I enjoyed writing the novel. If you desire to read more, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Book 1: Kings * Book 2: Judges) is available in paperback from Amazon.
NOTE: The illustration of Harriet Tubman was drawn by Stanley Weaver, in homage to Tony Ballard-Smoot, aka Captain Tony LaGrange of Airship Archon. Mr. Ballard-Smoot is a Steampunk model and is worthy of being considered the first Steampunk action hero.