She stoked the boiler and jerked onward. She had no concrete plan except to take the Ganesha on into Tungareshwar’s heart. Hopefully, there she might see or receive some sign.

Rue developed a pattern of stoking, checking her dials, pumping the guidance lever and glancing out of the two windows. Occasionally, she cracked the door and looked down into the forest, hoping for an inkling of Percy or Miss Sekhmet, not certain what form that inkling might take. After all, she was the only one with the fire sparkler. And if there was a path beneath her, it was overarched by trees.

After an hour or so of stoking, Rue was beginning to think her arms might never recover from the night’s experience. And I still have to climb back down. She considered stopping next to one of the poles, but her stubborn streak kicked in and she soldiered on.

Idiotic stubborn streak as it turned out. Because on her next check of the cable ahead Rue realised several things at once.

First, there was no more cable.

Second, the upcoming pole was her last and she was moving too quickly towards it.

Third, the boiler had been cold and the water reserves low because this engine wasn’t meant to go anywhere at all. It was meant to test the stability of the line at each stage of installation.

Fourth, that was why it was so antiquated. As it was only there to check the cable, they had used cheap old technology.

Fifth, the man in the cabin to whom she had appeared as a goddess was not an engineer but a guard.

Sixth, no crew would be chasing her because there was no crew.

Rue realised all of this even as she grabbed for the break lever, hauling back on it as hard as she could with a strength mere moments before she would have believed impossible. If only she had a second person to cool the boiler, to rake back the coals. Alone, her best option was a mechanical one. She hoped the lever wasn’t too old. Her arms screamed in pain almost as loudly as the brake screamed in reality.


The Ganesha head slowed. The brake locked down, no longer requiring Rue’s measly strength. The engine shuddered against it. Freed suddenly, Rue dived for the firebox. Grabbing the rake, heedless of her own safety, she pulled the coals out into the slop grate, although part of her knew it would not be sufficient to cool the boiler. A few embers fell to the floor of the cabin, scorching Rue’s bare legs. She hardly noticed.

The firebox was empty and the brake had managed to slow the elephant head, but not enough. With relentless precision Ganesha crawled towards the last pole, after which the cable dangled down like a limp snake.

Rue slammed open the door and looked for a second parasol parachute – nothing. At a complete loss of what else to do, she grabbed her sparkler and dipped the fuse into the slop grate, aiming for a still smouldering coal. It lit. She leaned out of the door and threw it as hard as she could up into the air.

She heard its loud bang and the forest below lit up with a flood of yellow light. Everything was in sharp and sudden relief, the vibrant green of the trees extending endlessly in every direction, every leaf painfully clear. Rue could see the end pole with its builders’ scaffolding, obviously in the middle of construction, coming relentlessly closer.

And then Rue saw something she wasn’t expecting. The face of an extremely unfriendly-looking monkey pressed upside down to the window of her cabin.

Rue screamed and backed away from the door, slamming it shut.

The monkey creature swung over the top of the elephant head with consummate skill, performing a flip that put him on the other side of the door. A door he proceeded to rip off of its hinges and discard casually into the jungle below.

Well, I call that unnecessary. The door has a perfectly good handle.

The creature swung through the opening to land gracefully on the floor facing Rue.

He was much bigger than a monkey should be and stood fully upright like a human, but with more muscles than any human Rue had ever seen – except maybe one strongman at a carnival. He had very long arms and an extremely articulate tail. He was wearing a loincloth of expensive blue silk, a breastplate of beaten gold, and a great deal of jewellery.

Rue stared at him, open-mouthed. Impressed despite herself. Well, golly. I guess Vanaras do exist.

Without an attempted introduction or making any noise whatsoever – could he speak in that form? – the creature advanced towards her. His eyes were riveted on the monkey charm necklace.

He made as if to pick her up.

Rue held out her hands, warding him off, not because she didn’t want the help – if he wanted to rescue her, she had no objection to being rescued – but because she would likely steal his form just as she could steal that of a werewolf or werelioness.

With a noise of disgust, the Vanara ignored her non-verbal protest as a hysterical female reaction and scooped her up with his tail. Wrapping it tight about Rue’s naked midriff.

Only to suddenly have no tail at all.

The man who now stood before Rue was comely with dark almond eyes, ridiculously thick eyelashes, and velvety tea-coloured skin. He was slighter as a human than he was in his monkey form, muscles having been redistributed into lankiness rather than bulk. As a monkey he was golden with black feet, hands and face, but as a man he was a true child of India, princely in his bearing and appearance. If not in his utter shock at being suddenly mortal.

Rue tried to look apologetic.

Only to find that it was very hard to do apologetic wearing a monkey face.



The transformation was sudden and a great deal less painful than when turning werecat. Rue supposed not as many bones needed to break and shift about when going from human to monkey. Instead, it seemed mostly muscle being redistributed. Her hair turned short and extended to most of her body. It was a mottled dark brown colour, much like her fur in wolf form, only fuzzier. Her arms, previously so sore and tired, recovered and gained additional strength and length. Most peculiar of all was her tail. As a werewolf, Rue’s tail rather took matters into its own hands, as it were, reflecting her moods and waving about indiscriminately. As a werecat, it had seemed only mildly under her command. But as a weremonkey, she had total control over this appendage, like an extra arm with only one finger. It was rather fun.

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