(Book I of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 1999 BY
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"What in the hell is that ringing sound?!" W'mefa growled, striding down the corridor quickly.
"It's here, W'mefa! Hurry!" Xaa called. He was standing by the door to Merle's quarters with Tlahn, his face showing excitement. Tlahn, on the other paw, was showing nervousness. W'mefa trotted up, and took a look.
Just inside the door, Merle and Johm'rouh were standing, clapping and laughing as Merle's Time-eater merrily rang it's little bell - brrrrrrring!
"Can't that be stopped?" Tlahn asked.
"No, sorry, Tlahn! Merle says that once it starts, you can't stop it, you just have to let it go and wait for it to pop!" Johm'rouh said, giggling.
"Wonderful," Tlahn grumbled.
"Indeed," Xaa said, grinning.
Suddenly, the ringing stopped, and the pot began to whistle. "Here it goes!" Merle yelped. Steam whistled from the little hole at the top of the cylinder for several minutes, then BANG! The wooden plug flew out, spraying steam and hot water everywhere with an accompanying gurgling from the pot. Merle and Johm'rouh squealed and clapped, giggling.
"Do you see what I see?" W'mefa asked, his eyes wide.
"Yes, my lord. I see two naughty girls who have made an enormous amount of noise and a terrible mess," Tlahn replied, glaring at Merle and Johm'rouh. They both looked sheepish and hung their heads, but before Merle could apologize and explain it was all her fault, Xaa spoke up.
"Yes, I do, old friend. I see a steam engine," Xaa replied, grinning broadly.
"No, no, Xaa. It's not a steam engine. It doesn't turn a wheel, it just rings a bell, and it doesn't really work, it jams after a few minutes, and-" Merle began, but Xaa cut her off.
"Merle, it's a steam engine. It doesn't turn a wheel because you didn't know how to make it turn a wheel, and it jams after a few minutes because you didn't know how to work metal. But it's a steam engine, Merle. It's one of our dreams - and YOU made it, not Tinker," Xaa said, and knelt down to hug Merle.
Merle hugged back tight, then leaned back and giggled. "Well, I guess that getting a hug is a lot better than finding out if Tlahn would actually spank me for making a mess," Merle said.
Merle and Johm'rouh burst out into giggling,
Xaa and W'mefa began to guffaw, and even Tlahn eventually grinned
a gummy grin.
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