“You’re right, I am from far away,” Will said. “Before I crashed the motorcycle we were …”
He stopped when he saw the girl’s brow wrinkle.
“Motorcycle,” she echoed. “That sounds like one of the Steam Guild’s inventions. What does it do?”
In The Shadow of Malabron, Rowen briefly mentions the existence of a Steam Guild in the city of Fable but nothing more is said about it.
The Steam Guild is a small group of inventors in Fable who have begun tinkering with steam as a source of power. Rowen’s grandfather, the toymaker Nicholas Pendrake, was briefly a member of this group and has used steam in some of his toys. He left the guild after he understood what some of its members were planning for the future of Fable.
So far the Guild’s creations, like the steam-powered book-page-turner, have been small and not very powerful. But it’s said that one of the inventors, Diomedes Howe, is on the cusp of perfecting a much larger engine that will use steam power to pump water out of flooded mines. Howe envisions a time when steam will allow people to rush in horseless carts at great speeds over the roads, and even to soar up into the sky in vessels raised by the power of hot air and sheer audacity.
Many in Fable consider Howe a madman, and they’ve nicknamed him “Howe Odd.” But already inventors and other curious folk from elsewhere have been coming to Fable for a look at the Steam Guild’s work. Some of these strangers show up in what they call steamwear: outlandish hats, cloaks, boots and tinted goggles that they claim will be both useful and fashionable in the age of steam, which they say is going to sweep over the Realm any day now.
Asked to comment on these visions of the future, Nicholas Pendrake said this: “Howe’s engines, he says, will one day dig vast amounts of coal out of the ground and fell entire forests in an afternoon. Even if we can do such things, I have to wonder, should we? What is the real cost of a future wreathed in steam? What I see at the end of that road are machines that will give immense power to a few and take power away from most others. The name for that is tyranny, no matter what costume it wears …”
Illustration by T Wharton