About Iron Paws and the Tinker’s Forged Marriage by Juli D. Revezzo
A year ago, Vesta Bartlett received a rather unusual assignment.
Now, as if perfecting her clockwork puppies for Queen Victoria weren’t enough, a surprise invitation to present them to the Texas Republic president makes Vesta question a number of things, including will the president accept the clockwork from a woman? Unsure, she agrees to allow Henry to go along, as her spokesman and husband, regardless of how her father may feel about a fake marriage.
But they have bigger problems than her father’s anger when an anti-alchemist group takes issue with her clockwork creations and decide they need to stop Vesta’s work. By any means, no matter how violent.
She handed him Mr. Toliver’s letter; her father leaned against the crank of a massive bellows attached to one side of the oven, to read the letter she handed over. “Well, well. I knew you’d succeed, my girl.”
“At least someone likes it.”
“Just look around town to find more.” He patted the bellows crank. “Are you ready to go back to work?”
She shoved the letter into her pocket. “Yes, sir.”
“I shouldn’t do this, but just to get you started. You remember what I showed you?”
Vesta tied a heavy, black apron over her yellow and blue gingham dress, but refrained from slipping on their work gloves. “Of course I do.”
“Don’t think about it too much. Just put the ingot in the flame. If you need it, I’ll give you a bit of air to help out.”
“I won’t need it.” She cracked her knuckles and picked up the cup of ingots, set it in the flame. Then she held her hands towards the fire. Heat licked her palms. You can do this.
Lowering her hands to the flames, she thought the spell. R’very Canine Verbemum. Picturing the flames melting the brass in her cup, she cracked one eye open. The cup did glow.
Joy tickled her. “I did it. Daddy, look!”
“Very good, princess.”
Ignoring a stab of triumph, knowing she might falter at any moment, she stepped back and snatched a small vial off the shelf. Blue and gold sparkled inside. She opened the top, releasing the tangy scent of aether into the forge shed. Taking a breath, she concentrated further and added three drops to the cup. Where the brass would’ve taken several minutes, with pure fire, this measure of brass melted and bubbled the instant the aether met the brass.
“Good girl,” her father said. “Keep going.”
Fingers shaking, she removed the mold from the fire. R’very Canine Verbemum.
The brass writhed within the mold, settled. Vesta removed it and plunged the shell of brass into a waiting bucket of water then set it on her anvil. The cylindrical lump of brass rolled on the anvil and her father stopped it with a skilled hand. “There now, that’s one piece.” He knelt down to study it closer. “And no maker’s mark this time. Good work, my dear.”
“Hm…” She picked it up and dried it off, turning the cylinder. A bump shone in the metal. “No, no maker’s mark, but see here?” She tapped the lump. “I ruined it.” With a scoff, she tossed the cylinder onto her reject pile. “I’m never going to get this right, am I?”
Her father retrieved the piece. “Nonsense. This piece looks like the beginnings of a fine fat canine to me. Finish it up and we’ll set it with the others to go to the queen.”
“Not this one. It’s for Running Cloud’s boy, remember?”
“Even better.” He patted her shoulder and setting the piece down, took a hammer off a hook on the wall. “The boy’s bound to add his own lumps to the puppy’s derriere, sooner, rather than later. It’ll be good practice for making toys for Elise’s boy.”
“When you bring her home, I’ll have one ready for you.” She smacked the hammer against the brass. “Maybe I’ll even make the two of you some wedding rings while you’re away.”
Her father scoffed and kissed her forehead. “Think about making your own, although, I’m sorely disappointed with Henry that he hasn’t bought you one yet.”
Vesta’s gaze strayed to the house her beloved was busy raising. “He is building me a house.”
“You can’t wear that around town to show he’s yours and vice versa. I will be reminding him before I leave that he doesn’t want those tavern wenches getting their hearts too set on him.”
She tapped the hammer against the hull. “Daddy, they won’t.”
“No?” Her father took the hammer from her and added a bit more force. “You forget, my outfit included many Irish and British boys.” That was how he’d met Henry’s father.
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