There is still magic to be found. Even in the bleakest of places.
Hank Goodenough has spent his entire life in the smoggy streets of London trying to keep his head down and not to get noticed. Not an easy feat when you’re the tallest one in the room and have a brass funnel protruding from your head. When he finds himself laid off work once again, his dad wants to drag him away on a crazy quest. Before he can figure out how to get out of it, he finds himself on a steam-driven airship in search of Odin, the old Norse God, and is sharing a room with Captain Elazar Steel, a man strutting around on one high-heeled boot and one peg leg.
Steel doesn’t care that the winks, smiles, and small touches he and Hank share might get them hanged once they land on the ground again. He is determined to show Hank there is magic in the world and that there is no better place to be than on his balloon ship steering towards the Arctic Circle.
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Adventures and Velvet Coats
A long time ago, during the darkest of the midwinter nights when the wind was howling like the ravenous wolves chasing the sun, the Wild Hunt began.
Hank Goodenough pinched the bridge of his nose and wished he was somewhere else—anywhere else. “Dad…” How the fuck should he put this to not make the situation worse? His gaze landed on the old Yule Goat he’d placed on the mantelpiece yesterday. It had been his mother’s, and it was the only Christmas ornament he had…or rather Yule ornament. She had believed in the old gods, had held on to her beliefs despite the sickness tearing her apart. Hank had wanted to yell at her—couldn’t she see there was no higher power there to ease her pain?
He sighed and focused on his dad again. “I don’t think—”
“No, but you never do.” The sentence ended in a coughing fit, and Hank hurried to get him a glass of water. This was the worst idea his father had ever had…probably. To be honest, Hank didn’t know what his worst idea was; there had been so many throughout the years. His shoulders slumped. They couldn’t do this now; he didn’t have the energy. He had to stop it somehow.
One option after the other swirled around in his scrambled brain, but not one of them would stop Demetrius Brownsmith—the Demetrius Brownsmith. It didn’t matter that he was his son, Hank had never figured out a way to prevent him from doing something he’d set his mind to, but then again, Hank was a useless bastard.
Pain flared from behind his right ear where the brass funnel came out of his skull. Like lightning, it shot through his brain to a spot behind his left eye. He didn’t want to think about the mess the surgery had caused in there.
The doctors claimed they’d fixed him, but Hank didn’t feel fixed. Sure, he hadn’t woken up shaking on the floor with froth running down his chin in years, but fixed… Hank couldn’t be fixed. The operating doctor, an inventor friend of Demetrius, claimed the seizures came due to a lack of oxygen in Hank’s brain so he’d created a hole and a funnel as some sort of valve. Why it couldn’t be something small, a little air vent of some kind, he didn’t understand. Maybe if Demetrius had taken him to a real hospital and not searched for the cheapest solution…there was no use in thinking about it now.
If only Polly were here. He’d promised he could take care of Dad for a month—one lousy month. It shouldn’t be too hard to do, should it? But Hank was nothing if not useless.
“Stop fussing!” Demetrius pushed his hands away when he tried to help him sit further up.
“But Dad, you’re an old man—”
“What did I tell you?” Demetrius got to his feet, and pain blossomed behind Hank’s left eye when he tried to follow the motion.
“But Dad… We can’t afford it. I can’t afford it.” He swallowed down the ashes in his throat. “I-I there’s no more work to be had…for me.”
“Of course not!” Demetrius whirled around. His long leather trench coat flew around him, the coppery buckles jingling like festive bells, and his grey hair stood like a halo around his head. Hank guessed they looked alike, they had the same a-little-too-big nose, the same wide brown eyes, and neither of them could go more than a few hours before a bristly stubble covered their chins. Demetrius’s hair had already lost all colour when he’d been Hank’s age, but Hank’s was still a dark brown, perhaps the only physical trait he’d inherited from his mother.
“Why they hired you in the first place is beyond me.”
Hank swallowed again. Nice. Evidently, Polly wasn’t the only one who thought he was an idiot. “Thanks, Dad, that means a lot—”
“Oh stop being such a baby. You’re not meant for working. You’re meant for adventure!”
Adventure? Hank was as far from being meant for adventure as anyone could be.
Demetrius dug out an old leather suitcase from beneath the bed—it was more of a cot, really—and tossed it to Hank.
Something didn’t add up. Hank bit his lip as he took in the frantic motions. “How did you know I’d be home now?”
“I live here too…for now.” He went over to a chest of drawers that had been Mother’s. For a few seconds, he trailed his fingers over the surface before yanking open one of the oblique drawers and tossing a pair of long johns at Hank. “Here, pack these. It’ll get a little chilly.”
Chilly? Hank didn’t do chilly…or chillier than he had to. Living in this ramshackle building made it impossible to avoid the chill this time of year, but if there was one thing he was capable of doing it was making sure they never ran low on coal.
“You called my name when you came through the door.” Hank moved his hand over the scarred surface of the leather but didn’t open the locks. Instead, he glared at the scratches on the brass; then he looked at his hands—they had just as many scratches.
“To see if you were home.” He didn’t look at Hank. Instead, he rifled through the drawers.
“You knew I wouldn’t be.” Or shouldn’t have been. Hank put the suitcase on the bed and crossed the cramped room; the floorboards creaked under his weight, and he had to duck not to hit his head on the copper ceiling lamp.
The walls were creeping in a little more with each passing day. If it hadn’t been for the brass pipes snaking their way around the room, bringing in water from the water tower in the courtyard, he’d believe the room was shrinking. Like a wild animal caught in a too small cage, he tried to fit his bulk between the small rickety table by the hearth and chest of drawers. Soot had climbed the wall despite Hank cleaning it just the other day.
“You were here so why does it matter if I called your name or not?”
“But I shouldn’t have been unless I’d lost my job.” Hank stared at his father; the wrinkles had deepened considerably since Mum had passed away seven months ago, but today he was filled with energy—manic almost.
“You would have lost it sooner or later anyway. Stop thinking about it.” Demetrius pulled out the bottom drawer and turned it upside down on the bed, sending Hank’s socks and underwear tumbling down on the dirty floor. Hank frowned at the muddy footprints on the floorboards—he’d cleaned the floor yesterday.
“What?” Demetrius stopped and looked him. “What is it?”
“Did you lose me my job?” Hank heard the cogs turning in the wall clock as he waited for an answer. He didn’t need the knot in his belly, the throbbing behind his eye was enough. Hot and bubbly, anger built in his gut. Couldn’t he, just for once, be allowed to live his life as he wanted?
“We don’t have time for work.”
The room spun, and Hank steadied himself on the iron railing he’d placed in front of the fireplace. “I needed that job; we needed that job. How am I going to pay for this?” He gestured around the room, the glow of the fire reflected in the brass pipes and gave the floorboards a warm tone where they shone through the dirt. It wasn’t much, but it was a roof over their heads.
“What?” Hank tried to blink away the pain blossoming by the brass funnel in his head.
“I’ve sold it.”
“Sold it? You can’t sell it; I don’t own it. This is a rented room, Dad!” The pain flared behind his left eye again, more intense this time.
“I know.” Demetrius threw a double-breasted, wine-red, velvet trench coat at him.
“What’s this?” A coat like that cost more money than either of them had, not to mention Hank never once had considered wearing wine-red. Wine-red wasn’t practical, wine-red made you stand out, and Hank did not want to stand out. With his height and the brass funnel, people stared at him wherever he went; he did not need wine-red to add to the spectacle.
“You needed a new coat, can’t go dressed in rags on this trip.”
“But Dad…” Hank swallowed as he touched the fabric—velvet. Who in their right mind went anywhere covered in velvet?
Demetrius spun around. “There, I think we’re ready to go.”
“Now? What about my things?” Hank gestured around the room.
“You sold them?” Bile wanted to climb his throat. He’d never had much, but what he had he’d worked hard to obtain.
“You don’t need them, can’t bring them on the ship.”
“Ship?” No way was Hank getting on a ship. He had to get hold of Polly so she could put a stop to this nonsense.
“Of course, how did you think we’d cross the seas?”
“Really, Hank, I’m surprised anyone ever hired you. You come across as a bit dim.” He held up a finger. “I know you’re not, not really, but that’s how you come across when you ask all these questions.”
“Dad…I think we need to talk about this—”
“There is no time. Elazar Steel is waiting for us.”
“See, there you go again.” He grabbed the suitcase and brushed past Hank.
Demetrius waved at him to follow, and with a deep breath, Hank did.