The carriage hit another bump, as Clara instinctively grabbed the handle to the door. The blue velvet curtains swayed allowing some light in from outside. She had tried to get a few moments rest before her busy evening.

Looking behind her, where a large window peered into another compartment, she watched as her luggage hopped slightly in their neat piles. The bumpy ride didn’t seem to disturb her things as much as she had thought, hoping that the small trinkets from her travels inside were still intact.

There came a sudden feeling of someone’s hand on her lap, as she turned to see the older man. It was her manager, an older gentleman with a thick stash. It twisted in a peculiar direction, at times pointing down as the ends twisted into little zigzags. His bald head, when outside the carriage was always covered by a large felt top hat of brown and green, though on stage he seemed to choose to wear a straggly black wig.

He moved his hand back to sit upon his hat, which sat upon his lap. A small smile creased his lips, showing his two front teeth. When Clara had first met Mr. Duncan Rogersford, she hadn’t been sure of her father’s decision on letting her go with him. He had been scatter brained, and his voice was squeaky. Those unusual traits didn’t hinder his ability to manage her though; if anything, he had brought her to the front stage thanks to his unusual eye for details and strange persuading skills.

“Are you all right, my song bird?” Rogersford pouted, lifting his big fuzzy brows like two caterpillars bouncing on a twig. She had been travelling with this man around the world for over four years. She had seen the Eastern Isles, Western Valleys, across the ocean to Felbek, and so much more. The clothing she wore was tailored by the greatest hands in Regbin, with silk material from Erg, as her jewelry was from Calin, and perfume from Syder.

When she had been a child she had wanted to see the world. It was her luck to being the only child to a wealthy inventor that she was taught by those of her art. The very best teachers in music, writing, and vocals were at her disposal. It had been her late mother’s wishes for her to be a child of the arts and stage. If her father had any say she would have likely gone into science.

Clara had been blessed with both a voice and her father’s troubling skills with tinkering. It was by the age of fourteen she had made her first automaton companion. A waste of time and resources, her father had thought as there were enough automaton servants within the house, but Clara knew none of them would ever be hers. She had found the scrap pieces around her father’s workshop, and when she had the time, worked on building her companion.

“I can’t wait to be home; to see my friends from the Ministry of Art. To perform with them on the first stage I sang on. It all will be so wonderful.” Clara sang, looking at the velvet curtain with flushed cheeks. She hadn’t seen Demor in years, though she read about the changes while she was gone. The papers read of new discoveries of steam engines and flying ships. Her father had helped build the first of the flying ships. Surely he had been happy with the results as it was all over the newspapers. The Isles had bragged about Derm’s navy, while Syder envied Derm’s medical advancements.

A group of medical experts were researching the use of old automaton limbs. They were hoping that with mild modifications that a human could use such limbs. Maybe those who had suffered in the war would soon have working limbs again. That thought, made Clara’s heart leap.

Still, she was sure to hear more details about it once returning to her people. They would brag to her about what she had missed. But, wouldn’t they be surprised that she had kept an eye on her country.

This evening would prove to be her welcome back into her home. She would take a short two months break to recover from the constant travelling before going back onto the road and performing once again for the Isles, this time adding Morza to one of her stops. She had been asked to perform in an opera for them, a rare opportunity that made Rogersford’s mustache tingle.

Tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear, Clara was counting down the hours until she would be home. Maybe her friends would greet her with their warm smiles and simple jokes. Possibly her father would find the time to come to her show. Either way, she knew her fans would greet her.

“We will be arriving in two hours. It will give us enough time to prepare you for this evening’s performance. Your father wishes you to have dinner with him afterwards as well. He will likely bring along some partners to the show, but it will be just him for dinner. One of his most recent partners is a young man making his way in the world with talking boxes. Whatever those are?” Rogersford muttered, moving the curtain to look outside. He knew the young woman was excited to be performing on the stage in her city of Demor. Her return to Demor would prove to be more exciting than when she had left it. “You’re father will be happy to see you.”

“He’s been busy enough; I hope he’s been resting and eating right. I made sure to leave him in good hands after all. ” Clara grumbled, feeling every muscle in her body stiffen as they hit another bump. This time she could hear a faint clicking coming from the back of the carriage. There were all sorts of gifts for friends and family in those trunks. If one had broke – she would be heartbroken. “We need to stop the carriage. I need to check on the luggage.”

“If something broke back there it will make you distraught. If worse comes to worse we can always replace it the next time we return to the place you bought it. Whatever you do now will be pointless.” Rogersford grumble; lifting his sleeve briefly to glance at his watch. “We’re making good time. We’ll have a few hours before the show to check up on things.”

“If you think that’s best. I just don’t want money to have gone to waste. Father wouldn’t be happy with me if it had.” Clara sighed, bracing herself as the carriage rocked after another bump. Taking a deep breath, Clara fixed her hat. It had become tilted during the first hours of travel. “Why didn’t you order tickets for a train? It would have been better for everyone.”

“I didn’t do anything. Your father controls the money for this venture. He said take a carriage, we take a carriage. He’s says Rogersford jump, I will bloody jump.” Rogersford spat, as the carriage hit another bump this time throwing his head into the ceiling. “For bloody sake man, are you trying to hit every hole in the ground. There are people back here!”

Clara watched him bang his fist against the window, as the carriage’s pace slowed. So much for having a few hours to spare once they got into the city. The fact her father still controlled her money annoyed her. She didn’t waste her money like other women in her position. She was given a certain amount to spend each month, and rarely Clara spent any of it, unless on gifts or something she truly needed. If anyone spent money pointlessly it was Rogersford. She kept her money hidden from his greedy little fingers, usually going as far as to stuff her bodice with her change purse. It was really the only thing she had to be concerned about with her manager. Still, the older man only wished her to look her best, and to make a statement. Rogersford bought mostly everything she wore, and paid those that made her look like the diva people believed her to be.

If she had the money in her possession she would have given most of it to a charity of choice, and then the rest into savings. Her father would be allowed to invest her money into what he saw fit, but not control all of it. She had some sense.

The strange man was still banging against the window, throwing out slurs left and right. They had been in the carriage for over eight hours now. They had packed snacks, but as the windows were unable to be opened anymore then a slit to promote fresh air flow, they had been locked in a box together. Clara admittedly had slept most of the trip, but she wasn’t so sure about Rogersford.

Performing on stage was second nature to her, not that she had done it for long. Every performance Rogersford was pulling the hair out of his ridiculous wig. Out of the years she worked with the man, never had he been calm. At times she wondered what he was taking to be so high-strung but other’s she ignored him.

“I think a moments rest would be suggested.” Clara’s calm voice had caught her manager’s ear. He tapped on the window, as he nodded at her suggestion. His normally pale face was flushed red. “Stop the carriage, please.”

It slowed, as she opened the door and stepped out. There was farm field as far as she could see. The sky was blue, as she could hear a calling of crows which perched on the fence lining the road. She couldn’t see any houses, but there was a looming black cloud in the distance. Coal mining, likely was in that direction. She hated how much her people relied on it. That was changing now, with the steam engine coming more accessible.

Her father would likely show her the new flying ships she had read about. He would brag about how he had come up with the idea. The man was a fortified genius, of his generation. To think he was from the lower class would be unbelievable. He was meant to be in the upper aristocrats. The man had learned how to live in such a cut throat world, and dare she say; he was good at it.

Tucking the stubborn piece of hair behind her ear again, she took a slow deep breath. It was a sweet smell of fresh wheat, as the golden strands thrashed in the breeze, reminding her of the crystal waves of Isles. She would go there after her stay in Demor. It was her favourite place to perform. Though, to say she had a favourite place would be a lie. Everywhere she had been had a place equal to liking as the Isles. Theaters, hotels, parties, people, food, were all things to consider when travelling. They all made her stay pleasant, even with the recent wars in South.

“Are you feeling better, Rogersford?” Clara asked, turning to see the man sitting on the edge of the door of the carriage. His leather shoes kicking up the dust on the messy dirt road, while his hat sat on the seat in the carriage. The redness in his face had faded as he looked to have calmed down enough to continue.

“Yes, I am all right, Lady Clara.” Rogersford sighed, standing back up to retreat into the carriage. She could see he was back sitting where he had been moments before. “Let’s go, we need to make good time.”