Friday, December 28, 2012


"It's about innocence," Jennifer said.

Kel frowned in thought, strategizing. "So, what, you lose your magic the first time you have se--"

"It's not about virginity," Jennifer bit out. She'd had this conversation before, it seems. "It's about innocence. And no matter what strange ideas people keep confusing, virginity and innocence are not directly related. Someone who'd just been grabbed into a dark alley would probably have more difficulty casting a spell than someone who'd just slept with someone they love."

"Huh," Kel said. "Any idea why that is?"

Jen rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Theories. What magic feels like you're climbing a rock wall, and there's a handhold you aren't quite tall enough to reach, but you could jump for it. But it's difficult, because if you hesitate, if you put anything less than all your strength into that jump, then you won't make it."

"And jumping means letting go of what you know is solid, for what might work," Kel finished.


"So I have to trust...what?"

Jen spread her arms. "Trust that you are built for the world, and the world is built for you. Trust that you are made to fit, designed specifically to be able to make that leap. Trust the universe, trust your body, trust yourself. And"--she closed her eyes and took the sort of deep breaths that Kel had seen Anne take when she had a panic attack. Jennifer flattened her palm and pointed all her fingers forward--"focus." Fire shot from her fingertips in a straight line.

Jen looked to Kel. "You try."

Kel looked at Jen's hands, then her own. I am made for the world. This is nearly indistinguishable from the world being made for me. I am a being of leaps and bounds and energy. I survive. I can do this.

Kel held her palm as Jen had, then paused. I have no need of fire. My survival does not depend upon it at this moment. What do I need?

This was gentler, and so Kel softened the line of her palm into curves, then swept a motion through the air. A sphere of water floated where she had gestured.

"Interesting," said Kel.

Friday, December 21, 2012

How Tumblr Got Me Writing Poetry Again

Happy apocalypse!
When I write poetry, I tend to prefer writing in free verse. I am not sure if I could pinpoint when this started, though I believe it is connected to my obsession with sharing my thoughts, and that my streams of consciousness are more likely to come out in poetry space d     oddly than in  n e a t  l i t t l e  r o w s . Admittedly, I generally prefer to read something with a strict meter and rhyme scheme. This makes poetry the only place where what I like to read and what I like to write differ. At least, it is the only place where they differ due to my preferences rather than my ability.

Tumblr has a dialect of its own, and its own accent, which shares some characteristics with my free verse. There's a tendency to avoid proper capitalization and punctuation, but the thing is, this choice is meaningful. Odd spacing, as I demonstrated in the first paragraph, means something to the reader. It slows the sentence down a bit, and makes it more intense. Similarly, an absence of proper capitalization and ending punctuation makes the text look gentler. Pauses are indicated by commas--commas do not have to be used for their grammatically accurate purpose, which frees them in this way--and more emphatic pauses are indicated by line breaks.

Tumblr's dialect lends itself to more intimate blogging. Is it a stream of words with no particular pausing points? You can see the author meant to do that; there are no line breaks, capitals, or commas. Similarly, does one pause in the middle, as one does for a joke? Just hit 'enter' at the relevant moments. Your audience will hear you.

When I hear people talking about how this format came to be, they usually bring up the tagging system, and the fact that tumblr-users tend to make commentary in the tags. Commas are right out, since inserting a comma breaks the tag. With commas out, putting in periods looks odd, and without periods, there's hardly any reason to capitalize the first letter of a sentence. For that matter, breaks are obvious between tags, but they are not exactly like periods or commas, which encourages various ways of expressing such things outside tags--commas and exclamation marks, yes, and also line breaks.

The origin is fascinating to unravel, and I enjoy hearing (reading) new theories, and seeing new reasons for old and new theories. But there's another question, one I find equally interesting: Why did it stick?

People make up new words all the time, often with very intuitive etymologies. However, unless the terms roll off the tongue, they do not stay around very long, or they stay only in technical discussions. Those sorts of terms often get pieces of jargon attached to them, nicknames.

Tumblr is, by its purpose, not technical. So why did these patterns of writing stay?

They're how we think.

They are at least how I think, or as close as I could come to it in the medium tumblr gives me. People use odd words and acronyms, odd line breaks (stanzas), and even gifs. All of these are part of how the tumblr dialect works. One can write on tumblr and not use this dialect, but it would be difficult to work on tumblr without understanding it.

I began writing on tumblr, and falling into those habits. Expressing thoughts in the way which was most intuitive to me, closest to how I would speak if my speech were a few steps closer to my thoughts.

I feel that rhythm in my bones now, as well as I know how to write stories in English, at least as well as I can carry on a conversation in Spanish. So, when I fall into a rhythm where I might have given up on a poem for lack of ability, or never thought to write a poem at all...I can write it.

Thank you, tumblr community. You got me writing poetry again. I never realized how much I missed it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

If I were not able to play music anymore...

I would keep music in my life. I would likely become a sound engineer, because I am interested in math, though I might also become a music critic to be closer to the audience’s experience of music. If I were not able to play music nor able to participate in the professions related to music, I would still be a fan. Music is too large a part of my life for me to drop it completely. Though I have other interests, such as math, story-writing, and acting, none of them are as thoroughly a part of my life as music. I enjoy them, and I would be distraught to lose any of them, but they are not my passions in the way music is.

I do not know who I would be without music, because so much of my energy and devotion are tied to it. If I could not play music directly, I would still be a part of it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Write an essay in which you describe your hopes and plans for your educational and professional development during the next ten years. Include such aspects as diverse interests, career goals, and options you wish to explore.

Oberlin Conservatory essay. (I'm re-applying.)

I am interested in music theory, and in learning how music and math work with each other. The mathematical patterns in music fascinate me. Be it math in music, logic in storytelling, or expressing the same idea through various media, I enjoy connecting everything I know.

I want to explore writing, drawing, mathematics, and music. I have been interested in all four of those things for several years now, but I did not feel I could learn as much as I wanted about them, especially in a formal setting. I drew very rarely because it seemed too impractical and time-consuming when I knew I wanted my focus to be on music and mathematics, but I enjoy it and want to become better at it. I have written in my spare time, but since my high school had no dedicated creative writing classes, I have mostly learned through reading and trying new ideas. I would like to learn in a class setting, because I feel that formal lessons have helped me the most in my math and music.

I have learned more about music and mathematics formally, and so know that I enjoy them in and out of class settings. I look forward to learning more about vocal technique, especially expanding my range and my dynamic control, and learning more about music theory. I also look forward to learning more about mathematical proofs and other parts of pure math that go beyond my high school curriculum.

In my professional career, I hope to perform at the San Francisco Metropolitan Opera. I love performing, and I love story told through song. I want to perform in an opera, because I enjoy every part of opera, and also because I admire the people who perform in operas regularly. Later in my career, I hope to play Brünnhilde in The Ring Cycle, because The Ring is the first opera I fell in love with, and Brünnhilde was my favorite character, both for her character and for the talent and dedication required to sing the part.

I also hope to teach. I feel that education is, from a cultural standpoint, the single most important thing one can do. I know from my friends’ experiences how much a bad teacher in any class can kill an interest in a subject, and also how important teachers are in kindling and rekindling interests. I want to help spark interest, and help people follow their interests, and I love teaching people new things.

Whatever I do, I will be happy if I bring joy and knowledge to people around me, whether that is primarily through performing art, visual art, writing, or teaching classes.

Friday, November 30, 2012


When I am in an idle state of mind and I think of my someday-mate, I think

I shall have a poet, one who shall whisper words into my skin


I shall have a singer, one who shall serenade the world with our love


I shall have a writer, one who will paint drafts on my skin

In slow-fading henna ink, drawn with soft calligraphy pens

But when I am in the solid world, I think

I’ll have a mathematician who will be as excited as I am by new proofs


I’ll have a marketer who will understand when I say that science needs presentation to spread


I’ll have an economics major who will discuss policy with me

Whose mind will cut through airy “should”s and show the statue in the marble

But then

I don’t think I would ever be happy with just one

I think

I shall have a mathematician who writes equations on my skin


I shall have a writer who understands the importance of presentation


I’ll have love


I shall love

Friday, November 23, 2012


"What is she to you?" Diana asked. "Your sister, your lover, your ward?"

I stared off into the distance, checking the facets of the thoughts, the bond, until I found words that could express them. "We share no blood," I said, "neither through shared lineage nor ceremony. We have spilled no blood beside each other, so she cannot be my sister-in-arms. We do not have sex, so she cannot be my lover. Neither of us are weak or ignorant enough to be the other's ward."

"Then she is nothing."

I tipped my head back, searching the clear sky for an answer. Stranger things have happened. "Chrysanthemum is the most important person in my world. We are not bound by blood or by sex or by vow or by duty, and yet." A corner of my mouth tucked up and I looked at Diana. "I love her. And she loves me, though that only barely matters. We are ourselves, and we are better together." I spread my hands. "Sisters, if you must, though no oddity done should we become lovers. Or lovers, for we share love, if not in that fashion. Perhaps we are each other's wards."

I shrugged and began walking. "We are friends. I would not trade it for anything."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Drinkers and Mages

Literally prompted by this.
It’s easy to find someone to drink from the water glass. Accepting water into one’s body is natural, normal, we all learn it.

The next one takes the plant. This may take a few times, for chewing the plant doesn’t work, but it’s simple enough to understand how to eat such a thing whole, and the plant is alive. Once swallowed, it will tell one what to do.

Next comes air. The third drinker doesn’t breathe the air; they swallow it. Just odd enough to push people towards water or earth, but not nearly so tricky as the last.

Then there’s fire. Singers take the fire, and always singers. It makes sense, as those dedicated to the art only lose their voice for a day, and the rest will lose it forever.

One must hold the fire in one’s belly for a day, without hesitation and without doubt. Fire spat out in the first day will give one’s voice back immediately.

One needs one’s voice for the incantations of a mage, so the fire-drinker must be a singer, must love and need singing. It is nearly impossible to find one so dedicated who does not fear the loss of their instrument.

Elisia breathed deeply. She knew what this description was supposed to do, and knew that there were probably different versions given to each drinker. Probably about how the water drinker must be brave, to go first, alone. How the plant drinker--the word didn't fit, but it was still the word--accepts a foreign life into one's essence/mind/soul, how courageous it was to do so and how fulfilling to be whole.

She knew they were understating air. Her friend Jenny had taken air, and had described it as, "a torrent sweeping through every part of you, except no one can tell why you're upset. The old air-drinker warned me I'd go temporarily insane, but I didn't realize zie meant it. I wasn'" Elisia shook her head.

That was probably it. They didn't want her to back out, so they'd overstate the prestige and understate the consequences. The consequences must be similar, for fire and air.

Elisia stared at the glasses, briefly thinking back to when the four had been full. There was only one left, now. Fire. Destroyer, healer. Warmth, burning. Loss of voice, loss of self, but perhaps recovery, perhaps movement to something greater.

Fire of life. Pyre for your deathbed.

Elisia stared at her glass. She took a breath of air through her nose, then exhaled, "My glass." That was wrong. "My fire." That was right.

She took the glass of fire and drank, all in one go. Her throat closed, but that was fine. The fire reached through her skin, called oxygen that way. It also burned her skin, but that was fine. She was made to drink fire, she had burned herself often enough. She had enough moon-pale stripes to prove it, stark against bronze skin.

A dozen people came to her. After the first two (Jenny, her mother), Elisia realized that she was hallucinating. They told her that she wouldn't be a mage, not properly, a drinker but never a mage, that she'd never get her voice back, that everything of her would burn and nothing would grow from the ashes. After two more people (her father, a stranger), she wasn't sure if she was in the same room anymore, or if she was still standing or had fallen.

Elisia couldn't fight. Her nails slipped through the illusions, and her words couldn't pass her lips. She couldn't take deep calming breaths, because the fire burned on steadily, giving her what air she needed and none more or less.

So Elisia did not fight, and she did not try to calm herself. She did not attack, and she did not hide. She relaxed every muscle she had control over, and she let it happen.

Some hours later, the visions dissolved. A hand appeared. The fire-drinker before her, the one who had been the fire mage. "Welcome, fire-drinker," Samantha said.

I took her hand and stood. I breathed through my never-closed throat and said, "Fire mage."

The older fire-drinker smiled at me. "So you are."

Friday, November 9, 2012


Camellia walks around the room, looking at or pressing a finger to the relevant art pieces.

The first is called "Love". It's sequential art, so she taps the four ports in succession. Index finger is a soft blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Middle finger is a lover's smile, where the smile is put together like a memory or a dream, attached to the idea of "lover" and a general sensation of pleasant warmth rather than a particular lover's body. Her ring finger is a bright radiance and joined hands. The pinkie finger is the sensation of wrapping a blanket around someone else's shoulders.

She touches all four fingers at once and basks in the collective sensations for a moment before moving on.

The next is "The Rape of Persephone". Camellia pauses a moment to consult the ratings to the side, to know whether she should steel herself or skip this one altogether. There are a few standard notes that show up on any intentionally unpleasant works, but a few absent trigger warnings imply that the artist isn't using rape in the modern sense.

This is a single port, under glass so that people don't touch it accidentally, as is standard for the pieces rated above G. Camellia presses her palm to the pad under the glass and feels cold fingers wrapping around her rib cage, holding her firmly and stealing her warmth. Her discomfort continues after she takes her hand away, implying that the piece is intended to evoke it, rather than creating it whole cloth.

She tapped her key chain for the smell of old books until the feeling left her, then walked on to a section labelled "Green". The pamphlet explained that the word "Green" had been given to each artist, and so the pieces ranged from an immersive few moments in the Amazon jungle to greed to a scene viewed through night-vision goggles. Camellia walked through, tapping a few and skipping the ones with warnings for things she isn't in the mood for. It's a lovely afternoon, right up to the point where it's a lovely evening.

She buys "Love" to hang on her comfort key chain, even though the sequential stuff is a bit pricey. After some internal debate, she buys the Amazon-jungle "Green" and "The Rape of Persephone", the former because the artist took meticulous care in getting the small details right and she wants to be able to go back there, the latter because she's got a soft spot for art that only uses one of the senses to evoke complete scenes.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Scorpion and Frog had earned their nicknames in ways that were fairly average among people from their neighborhood. Everyone got an animal nickname around the age of five, and then it stuck for the rest of their life unless something overwhelmingly better came up after a major change in their life. Wolf, for instance, had been Wolverine until she left for a month and came back a lot less likely to pick fights and a lot friendlier. She made a pack with Rat, Deer, and Frog within the week, and they'd been nigh-inseparable since.

Scorpion had hitched a ride with Frog on Frog's boat, because Scorpion's kept developing holes. She claimed not to know why, though Frog suspected she drilled them in herself. Frog had, in fact, just accused Scorpion of as much.

Scorpion went quiet. She had always been quiet--scorpions didn't hiss or growl, just struck--but her silence was exceptionally loud this time. "I don't mean to," she said.

"How can you not mean to?"

Scorpion shrugged. "I...destroy things." Her expression flickered through a few unidentifiable emotions. "Mess things up. 'It's in my nature,'" she said, though Frog didn't know whom Scorpion could be quoting. "S'why I bring my toolkit with me everywhere."

"Well, just so long as you don't do anything to my boat." Frog smiled, turning away from the wheel for a moment. "Not that you would now;" she laughed, "you'd sink along with me."

"Yeah." Scorpion smiled sadly as she tapped Frog's shoulder with a piece of wood. "Pretty stupid."

Frog looked confused for a moment before she recognized the rudder. She spun the wheel and found none of the resistance there'd been when they started the trip. "The current's fine here, but it'll take us out to open ocean without any steering--" She turned back to Scorpion and said, halfway between upset and baffled, "How could you do that?"

"I play tricks. I steal stuff. It's all I'm good at, but I'm the best at it." The smile grew, though it stayed out of her eyes. "Wolf learned, when we were off alone together. It's how she learned to have friends to help her. She told you, remember?" Frog remembered, though she'd dismissed it as unreasonable animosity until that moment.

They repeated, together, " 'It's in her nature.'"

Friday, October 26, 2012


This is my 200th post.
When I was in my senior year of high school, there was a scholarship that would be given according to who wrote the best essay. The prompt was, "What is the best word in the English language?"

The essay interested me, because it was clearly an opinion piece, but I was supposed to phrase it as an absolute. A question lurking behind the prompt was, "What is your favorite English word?" but they didn't say that. There were quite a few questions I could answer in that prompt--"What is the English word with the most historical importance?" "What English word has the most interesting etymology?" "What English word has the most interesting definition?" All of those are opinions, as well, though I've phrased them in keeping with the original prompt.

When I started writing the essay--before I dropped it--I landed somewhere around "What English word has your favorite definition?" Had I been approached with that question originally, I would have probably said something like "apotheosis", but because I barely knew the question I was answering, I decided on "temptation".

I like the strain in temptation. It's a moment in time, and a question in itself. Temptation doesn't exist on its own; it exists in relation to. Who is tempted? By what? And, in the background, there's the most important question: Why isn't the tempted person giving in?

It isn't temptation once the person accepts it. There's no tension left. Refused temptation can remain temptation indefinitely, forever in the simultaneous stage of, "I want to," and, "I shouldn't." Temptation is a time--be it a moment or an eternity--of tension between parts within.

If I put it in the physical realm, then temptation could be the moment of uncertainty before our star-crossed lovers kiss. If I put it in the mental realm, temptation becomes a subset of curiosity: "I am forbidden, but why forbid me in the first place?" Like all curiosity, giving into such temptation is punished and rewarded in equal measure in our stories. The hero needs curiosity to move forward, but forward is not always better. Isn't that right, Mrs. Bluebeard?

Emotional temptation is trickier, as emotional temptation looks like other things. Take Adam and Eve and the Serpent. The apple could be a physical delight for its flavor, or a mental delight for its knowledge, but I do not think Eve or Adam saw it that way--too well fed and too ignorant. Emotional temptation is want for want's sake: a thoughtless desire.Thoughtless desires win out often in our tales, both because it moves the story along and because curiosity's hunger will grow as the fear of punishment fades.

Temptation is not a kiss, or new knowledge, or biting an apple. It is the stretched, sometimes-forgotten moment just before. Temptation is feelings of uncertainty and inevitability that can be made certain or can be evaded. Temptation is what-we-want-to-do touching what-we-want-to-be, and realizing we must choose. Temptation is a moment of choice. Temptation is the moment before the sacrifice. Temptation is sacrifice; or at least, sacrifice is temptation. Temptation is satisfied or denied or both or neither, forever straining, forever wanting.

Temptation is delicious.

Friday, October 19, 2012


I miss things in food.

I first realized this at a funeral. My great-grandmother had died, and my grandmother-who-was-her-daughter wasn't in attendance. There was a flavor on my tongue that I wanted, and I placed it after staring at the food table for a little bit. Lemon bars.

I told a parent this, and got a sad smile. My grandmother made lemon bars--it was a specialty, exactly the sort of dish she would've brought to a funeral.

Given that I'm at college, I've been missing many things, and not quite finding them. My father's fudge, San Francisco sourdough, homemade macaroni and cheese, my mother's popcorn, my brother's sandwiches (pickles, cheese, honey), avocados--which appear to simply not come whole here even though I can find them as mashed sandwich toppings and guacamole.

I've found myself missing a caramel that I last had when my age was in the single digits. If I were home with this craving, I would open up Joy of Cooking and ask my dad for help, because I know caramel is difficult.

I miss roasted marshmallows. I haven't been to a campfire in a long time, but I browned them over the stove top. (With a promise to clean up any mess should I drop one.)

I miss mashed potatoes, from Thanksgiving and almost always when I got to choose the meal. I've found them here, though the gravy isn't right.

I miss things in food.

I miss home-cooked meals because I miss home.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sleep Speaks

We are no longer entirely in the realm of Greek mythology.

"Oh, please," he said. "Your domain is sleep. What are you going to do, make me drowsy?"

She stared at him a moment. To someone who had only met her, she would have appeared unmoved. "You are not wary of sleep as you fear other facets of your life. You should be." She cocked her head to one side, looking nostalgic. "You would be, if I cared to explain why." Her smile turned chilly as her focus came back to the present. "But you are in no mood to listen, and I am in a good enough mood not to explain. So I will say this, instead:"

In the flicker of an eyelash, she closed the distance between them.

She said lowly, "My mother is life. When she could not find me, the Earth froze and burned in the wake of her misery. If she thought she could remove an obstacle to my happiness, that power would become rather focused." The last word was a hiss, and the man's eyes widened as his skin turned ashen.

"But, oh, we must remember who took me from her, must we not? The one she could not simply focus on. You insolent beast, my consort is death. And do believe me when I say cessation of existence is a mercy compared to what he would do for me, if I asked it."

She smiled in the way that someone of  immaculate breeding will when they are beyond anger, beyond fury, and well into planning. "You do not fear my powers? Very well. I will allow you that luxury. But do remember the powers of those who care for me, or you shall quickly find yourself unable to forget."

Friday, October 5, 2012


"Why do you want that?"

She looked at him. She had simply looked at him, and he had turned his gaze away and done as she bid. But that was long ago, before a more charismatic noble had risen.

Oh, how the mighty do fall.
Winna owns a small fortune-telling shop. Most of the locals believe that what she does works. It fails just often enough that she never quite become known beyond the locals. She knows better.

There are a great many things Winna uses to tell the future. There's a bowl of water, which, when lit, shows the future in its flames. She never tells anyone, but it lights on its own; she has no control over it. It is the only piece in her workshop that is always accurate.

There are others, of varying accuracy. Save for the burning bowl, based entirely on the grace of Lady Luck, their accuracy is directly proportional to the sacrifice required. A drop of her blood on a piece of special parchment makes a snapshot from a possibility; a slice of her flesh burned on a crystal will show an image for as long as the flesh remains lit. The larger the flame, the larger the image, though accelerants mean less time to the prophecy.

And then...there's the one she doesn't tell anyone about. Not just doesn't describe, like Winna's bowl, but hides in a locked box in an unobtrusive cabinet in her back room. She goes there now, settles on the ground, and holds the box carefully. However good the box's padding, she does not want to drop this.

"Hair as black as ebony, lips as red as blood, skin as white as snow," she murmurs, lips barely moving.

Winna opens the box, touches they yet-beating heart, and sees the future.

She ignores the screams. They're from the past.

Friday, September 28, 2012


When there is a Mother below, there is no Daughter beside, and Mother beside mourns her.

People move on with their lives.

They don't forget--of course they don't forget--but the things that consumed their lives take up smaller pieces. We are born to survive, and though that is true of creatures bound by more traditional rules of evolution, it is particularly true of those who are immortal.

Immortals are not known for reproducing regularly. They live, individually and eternally, or they do not exist.

The seasons follow Mother beside's moods. She does not always force this, though she can. Often, it is simply the natural way of things. Often, none but Mother beside could say whether the moods follow her weather, or the weather her moods.

When her daughter is away, she mourns, for she knows her daughter's hurt, and for this is the closest thing to death that Daughter beside is likely to experience.

Yet, still. People move on with their lives. Mother beside is no different in that.

There is winter, and there is snowfall, and these reflect her moods. The weather reflects her emotions. The gods give us names for many things, and concepts for more. Though the word is not named after her, there is a word for Mother beside's happiness in the midst of her mourning.


Friday, September 21, 2012


It's a fairly standard classroom. On a northwest corner, which means it has a splendid view of the main green area and a parking lot, and that the sun gets in everyone's eyes if no one draws the shades in the afternoon.

There's a clock, though it is perpetually frozen at 7:15. I've never been sure if that was 7:15AM or PM, though I wonder every time I go in the room. Chances are good no one knows--it's been stopped long enough to be relegated to, "No one considers telling maintenance" status, and chances are good that there had been no classes between 7 and 7 the day it stopped, so even the first class who saw it stopped probably wouldn't know.

I'm the timekeeper, because I always wear a watch, and because I check it nigh-compulsively, so I might as well be. Classes end ten minutes before the hour, so the church bell that chimes on the hour only tells us when class starts, not when it's finished.

The timekeeper is usually more important than I am, I'm told. Someone has class just after choir, and so we have to end at ten minutes before the hour on the dot, or else they'll be late to math, or biology, or whatever else. This year, no one has class after choir is supposed to end, so the whole affair is rather more casual.

Our director doesn't keep us. Or rather, she doesn't make us stay. Every time, she'll ask, "Do you mind staying a few more minutes?" If someone says yes or has an uncomfortable look, she'll dismiss us. If everyone is just looking around, checking for anyone else to have an issue, we'll sing for a few minutes more--five or ten, twenty once when we had a concert the next week.

In an old room, where the sun shines too brightly in your eyes and the clock hasn't told time more often than twice a day for some years, I have my favorite class.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Between this post and the previous, this blog hit 5,000 views.

Once upon a time, I wrote a story. Well, truly that would be something like several thosandce or millionce upon a time, but I finished this one, which takes it down by a few orders of magnitude.

Specifically, I wrote this story--a mash-up of Stardust and Thor--while on an exceptionally long pair of plane rides and a layover when I should probably have been doing homework. I was flying back from a visit to Oberlin, and now I am beginning school here, and should probably be doing homework. Symmetry!

Below the story are several comments, all of which I appreciated. One word, however, surprised me. The word was, "Gaiman-y". I'm sure the commenter thought that I had been trying to emulate Neil Gaiman's style, as he had written Stardust, and so I took the comment for the compliment it was. I appreciated it beyond that because I admired Neil Gaiman's style. But, since A)  I like to think I have a style of my own, B) Neil Gaiman can change style quite a lot between his books when it strikes his fancy, and C) I had never read Stardust, only seen the movie, the fact that someone thought I had mimicked his style struck me as odd. So, as one does when someone makes a comment I do not understand, I reread the story.

Oh, I thought. It's a fairy tale.

Which, in a way, it wasn't at all. Fairy tales are supposed to come from aural tradition, and have specific rules which I bent and skipped around every which way. But, in another more important way, of course it was. I was taking the stories of my culture, the world I knew, and putting them together in the fairy tale format. The fact that I happened to be adding together a movie based on a series of comic books based on a mythology and a movie based on a fairy-tale-ish book and then pushing those through the oddity that is my mind didn't matter terribly much. Or rather, it did.

Fairy tales are retellings. Even fairy tales like Hans Christian Anderson use the stories we grew up with, the rhythms and patterns we have in the back of our mind that tell us what should happen next. I used the patterns in the readers' minds, and used a few cues to tell them which headcanons I was accepting, and which I was tossing aside. There's no more obvious way to introduce an AU than describing canon and then saying, But that's not this story, and if there was a more obvious way to establish that I was trying to keep their personalities functionally the same, I did not know it. Having reread the story and thought, I reread the comment and smiled.

And that, dear children, is the story of how the most perplexing comment became my favorite.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Persephone, Kore, Prosperina

She was taken, a long while ago, longer ago than any could remember. Her mother found this, and so flew into a rage, or fell into a depression, but the important thing is that her mother was moved to an emotion, and that her mother was the mother whom we may call Mother Nature, Mother Earth, Harvest.

Mother lost her child, lost her to the barren below, and so all above became barren. Unlivable, nearly--not truly unlivable, as you know for we are not all dead, but many died, and many other prayed to Mother and to Father and to anyone above who might listen.

Father above came down to Father below on behalf of Mother beside, and asked Father below to give Mother beside her child.

The child was strong. People forget that sometimes. They take her image and dissolve it into one of tears and suffering and silliness, forget what she did. Sometimes we forget that the ability to endure is a virtue. Or we focus on the fact that she ate six seeds--six seeds of fresh fruit, when she had gone without any food, of above or below or beside, for so much longer than the months that we wait until harvest. She made one mistake, and that was important, but its importance is no reason to forget her strength.

The ferrier, the one who fed Persephone-Kore-Prosperina-Sleeping Beauty-daughter-child the pomegranate seeds, told Father below that she had eaten. Father below was pleased, for eating food of a realm binds one to that realm, and so now the daughter of Mother beside would stay with him.

Father above mediated, and decided that the daughter should remain below for one month for each seed she had eaten, and above for the other six. Half the year she is Daughter beside, and half Mother below.

Half the year she stays happily in her mother's place for her, where she dances in the light, and her mother makes light for her.

Half the year she sits by the one who stole her, and though her mother is moved by emotion, she sits unmoved by anything, and she endures.

(There was one good thing, in Father below's home. A young man came through, who had the power to move her to tears. But that is his tale, and this is hers.)

Friday, August 31, 2012


A few months ago, I wrote of lasts and firsts. I'm back there again, this time entering a school rather than leaving one. Here is how it felt to me:

You are shown a large canyon, which you are meant to cross by jumping. This is possible, though difficult. You are shown this canyon often in pictures and other media, though you don't really understand the process of jumping yet. So you go off, and you learn jumping--not just because you will need to jump that canyon, but because canyon-jumping is a good skill. Along the way, you pick up a variety of other skills, some of which will help and some of which won't.

Then, you get a bit closer to when you're meant to jump. You start learning more about the canyon, though not a lot. You may visit it, and some of your friends are on the other side. They come back and visit every now and again--you can jump back, though most people don't do it a lot, because it's a bit of a pain. Some of the ones who jumped over smaller canyons do it--they get graded on things other than jump length, usually--but you saw the other sides of those canyons and decided you didn't particularly like any of them.

All that was school up until sophomore year of high school. During junior year, you're still training, but by the end your stretching, then walking toward the canyon. You start jogging, and feel like you're going faster than you've ever gone. There's a break where you walk in the middle, because you realize that the canyon is a ways off yet.

Then, you're running. Your life has come down to this one thing: just running. Whatever happened in the past doesn't matter, unless you think to be happy that you took some course in running, or berate yourself for being so slothful, before or now. Some people help--this is a marathon, and you need water, sometimes food, nearly always support, though sometimes the best support is simply being left alone to run, because this is life. This complete and utter focus, and this speed, these compose all your life. You finally reach the canyon, and you, along with many friends, jump.

The world goes black.

You think you're going to make it. Are you going to make it? You can hear a few classmates asking similar things, and others speaking from the other side. A few fall before the other side, and, to your surprise, they live. The surprise is odd, as you knew the canyon was not that deep. Still, it feels odd to know that one can miss this and be...fine.

In freefall, the world is different. A little disappointing. No total and complete focus, like the running. It feels a little empty for the first bit, though your feelings improve as time goes on.

You get your vision back, and can see, before most of the others, that you are right on track. The rest of this is freefall, and all will be well for you. Others stress for what seems like the longest time, the same stress you felt in the darkness, though the fear feels foreign to you now.

The ground. You see it coming, and make the most of this last bit of freefall. The running meant you could do little else, and you've been doing what you could to enjoy the in-between space after the stress before the canyon, before the stress after it. You'll be running again.

You hit the ground running, and take off at the same solid sprint you did right up to the other edge of the canyon. You get a few odd looks, and finally someone takes your arm, slowing then stopping you.

"You know," they say, "You have time. No rush."

You blink and step back, staring at the person, as it occurs to you that running isn't the only thing in your life anymore. Jumping the canyon isn't a major goal--it isn't even a particularly difficult one, anymore. You pause, trying to remember the last time you weren't running.

Then you thank the person, shrug at yourself, and go off to find what this side of the canyon has to offer.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fox and Rabbit

Once there was a trickster named Rabbit, who often fell into misfortune and always dug her way out of it. Fox, who lived close by, was in the habit of finding her way into trouble and falling out of it.

A few miles from the pair of them, there lived a farmer who raised chicken and planted lettuce and corn. Now, Rabbit could live fine off what she could find in her neck of the woods, but lettuce was her favorite treat, so sometimes she'd sneak into the farmer's garden and run off with a few leaves of lettuce. She would always wait until the farmer was asleep, and she'd always only barely get out before the farmer shot her.

Fox could also live fine off what was around where she lived, but she happened to have a weakness for chicken. She wasn't much for planning, so she just copied whatever Rabbit did. Fox'd check every night to see if Rabbit was setting off to make the journey, and then Fox would follow. While Rabbit was sneaking silently into the garden, Fox would trot into the chicken coop. But, as Fox didn't choose for herself when she ate the chickens, she always took as many as she could, and so raised a great ruckus among the chickens and the metal in their coop.

As the farmer's sleeping quarters were nearer the garden than the chicken coop, she would awake to see Rabbit snatching a few leaves from her lettuce garden, and run off to shoot her before checking on the chickens--by which time Fox would have run off, scared from the shots and with a fat dead chicken in her mouth.

"Fox," Rabbit grumbled one day, when she'd nearly got her tail shot off the night before, "Why do you always make such a noise when you take the chickens?"

"Why not? It's never hurt me." Fox gave a smile and eyed Rabbit in a way that mad Rabbit a bit more careful.

"But what of the dead chickens you leave in the chicken coop?" Rabbit asked earnestly. "Wouldn't you rather have them, too?"

"I suppose..." said Fox.

"If you kept quiet, then you could take more than one back," Rabbit said. "And if you learned to pick your nights, then you wouldn't have to wait on me to want some lettuce--you could just go and eat a few chickens whenever you wanted."

"Very well. What can you teach me?"

"Well, you surely know that chickens are harder to catch than a few pieces of lettuce." Fox preened a bit as she nodded in agreement. "So you'll need to follow three rules if you want to catch them quietly. First, you'll have to go on a full moon." Going on a full moon wouldn't make any difference, but Rabbit didn't much like the idea of Fox eating up all the chickens--after all, rabbit meat was mighty tasty to a fox. "Second, you've got to go in quickly and quietly. And, third, when you leave the coop with your chickens, you've got to wash up in the water basin--as long as you've got water on your snout, the farmer can't follow you home even if she finds some chickens missing the next day." These rules struck Fox as reasonable, and so she agreed to them.

The next full moon, Rabbit snuck into the lettuce patch, and Fox snuck into the chicken coop, each as quiet as could be. Rabbit listened for Fox's footsteps into the chicken coop, then settled into some bushes a ways off to munch her lettuce and wait.

Fox splashed in the water barrel, being as thorough as she could, and naturally being quite loud in her splashing. A lamp lit in the house, and the farmer came out with her gun. As soon as she saw Fox, she shot after her, and Fox took off running, two chickens in her mouth.

When Rabbit came back to her home--after the fuss had died down--she found Fox waiting for her. "I nearly got my tail shot off!"

Rabbit hid a smirking twitch of her whiskers. "Didn't you wash up?"

"Of course! That's what got the farmer after me in the first place. I don't think your rules did me a lick of good."

"Well, did you get to eat more chickens than usual?"

"Yes...but that was just because I was quiet and quick, not because of anything you told me!"

"Then you've learned a good lesson, Fox." Fox started, realizing she'd been tricked, and Rabbit hopped into her home. By the time Fox recovered enough to chase Rabbit, she'd had already hidden herself neatly away.

Fox did learn, and she's come up with many tricks since then, but she learned her first from Rabbit, and has run three steps behind her ever since.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cassidy May

Cassidy May knew her priorities.

Many people did, she found. They might pretend they didn't, or try not to think of it, but they knew, and she'd been taught to be honest with herself.

They were nearly always the same, too. The shared ones, anyway. Where you valued yourself varied with your self-worth, and there weren't any words for different kinds of friends, so those could go anywhere, but family was easy.

First, the children. Many people genuinely had trouble here, but Cassidy May didn't, because she had but one child. A beautiful child with hair as dark as night, whom she'd die or kill for.

Next, one's mate. This was an important term, and one Cassidy May couldn't find a perfect word for. One's spouse almost always counted, and one's boyfriend or girlfriend rarely did unless you were married in every way but the ceremonial one. The salt and pepper shakers were mates, because they weren't a whole thing without the other. That's what a mate was. And, though a mate would nearly always occupy this space, you would do more for a mate you had a child by.

Then came siblings. This was where people would start to balk at her. Those who weren't siblings would say siblings should come after parents, and those who had siblings but not mates would insist that siblings would always be more important. But those who had both tended to go quiet in the way that meant agreement.

Some cousins and some friends were siblings, in truth, and were sorted that way. It would be hard to choose between them, but the issue generally didn't come up--if only one sibling was in danger, you all fought for them. If more than one was, you fought for everyone. Siblings fought for each other.

Next came parents. It was easier than one might think to put parents after one's children, mate, and siblings, because your parents saw it as their grandchildren, their child's happiness, and their children. Cassidy May never asked, and they never said, but this is the highest place on the list that the parents would accept.

The rest got fuzzier. No etiquette, no demands. Friends didn't need to be family to be some of the most important things in the world to you. But, important as they were, they were still friends, and there was no familial duty to them. That was what a friend was, when they weren't family, too--you choose them, every step of the way, and they choose you. Cassidy May could imagine choosing to anger a family member for the sake of a friend, or even to cut off all contact. But when it came right down to life or death, she knew where she'd place herself.

Whatever else family might be, it wasn't a choice.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Heart's Blood

The first clue that I had it was paranoia.

Well. One could make an argument that the first clue was being fucking stabbed, but the second symptom is paranoia, and I happened to be drunk for the first symptom. And obviously, if I get drunk, then stumble back saying I got stabbed, it must just be an early manifestation of the paranoia. Which, y'know, hadn't actually manifested yet. But who's counting?

The second symptom was paranoia. Then mood swings, which were dismissed as part of the paranoia--they might well have been, though I've been told mood swings can manifest first. I'm not entirely sure why they bothered telling me this. I'm sure it could have waited.

Waited until after what, Kissinger? I'm glad you asked. And mildly surprised you know my name.

You remember the "fucking stabbed" part? Yeah. It was half-stabbing, half-injection, though it felt for all the world like a slick knife. And it's this weird chemical thing that has been explained as "magic" when I asked, which isn't actually any more of an explanation than, "science", but apparently explaining the thing I asked about was less important than talking about the theory of the manifestations of various symptoms.

I'm above a tray. They gave me some local anesthetic, which is good since they sliced straight from skin to heart, but any drug that would put me under would kill me with this "magic" in my system, so I happen to be wide awake. They gave me my computer when I made the point that a paranoid whose heart was being drained was not going to fall asleep. The doctor didn't seem entirely used to the idea of a functioning paranoid. I thought that they might kill me, not that they'd be stupid enough to do it when I'm in screaming distance of this many people. Or something. Admittedly, my justification for this is growing fuzzier as the magic wears off.

The first inch or so in the dish was this green stuff. It didn't smell like anything, but it looked deadly. Apparently that's an instinctive reaction, which is impressive if you ask me. Humans have instinctive reactions to smells and sensations--rotting human flesh, for instance, or fire--but that sort of reaction to a thing I just saw? That's rare. We have to learn that fire is hot, for heaven's sake. Sight just doesn't link up to instincts that often.

They sliced between two ribs, by the way. Apparently all the slime will drain out on its own, once we give my body a way to push it out. I'm not supposed to touch it, though they didn't need to tell me. Like I said--this green slime looks like death. I don't want to know what it feels like.

After a while, the slime started thickening up--like exposed blood, moving more sluggishly. Someone came in with a really small hose, like a dentist tool, and turned it on high power into the slit. The goop came out in chunks in the bubbly-white stream of water, then stopped coming altogether. The doctor sprayed for a bit, then, ah...

Apparently the local anesthetic doesn't effect visceral pain. Or something. I dunno. It wasn't pain, really, it was more my entire body deciding that nothing was important except using my sensory system to say STOP. Apparently that's normal.

She took out this really smooth blade. There were two sharp edges, the flat of the blade bowed outward, and the whole thing looked like a chunk of graphite. Whatever it was, it wasn't as soft as graphite, since it didn't come off on her gloves.

There were two more. One was actually grown into my heart, so she had to twist it like a loose tooth hanging on by that last thread of gum. Which, you may remember from childhood, hurts like hell. Again, no sharp pain--just the visceral THIS IS BAD from every part of my body, strong enough to unfocus my vision.

The hose again, this time in the incision, to dislodge the last bits of diamond-graphite-whatever. Visceral pain. I'm probably boring you by now. Honestly it bored me; the visceral pain was still the whole-body NO of the first two times, but when I got my wits back I thought it was sort of boring of the disease to be reduced from paranoia and other psychological difficulties to just some random spasms of pain.

The shiny grey bits landed in the tray. One hit the tray itself and went ting, a few hit the goop and didn't make a sound beyond a very quiet plop, and one hit another chunk of the stuff and made a quieter tapping noise.

The hose water cleared up, though I hadn't noticed that it'd been a little gray until that moment. Then it added another color, and I got one more boring split-second of visceral pain before she took the hose out and I recognized the shade: the peculiar orange of blood in water.

"Almost done," she murmured soothingly. It got pretty boring. A needle that I couldn't feel, a tiny thread stitching the hole together through the blood. She might as well have been sewing up a hole in my shirt.

"That will smart a bit when the anesthetic wears off," she said. "And you'll get a small bruise that should fade two weeks. The"--she used a word that had four syllables and sounded Greek--"was transferring the physical pain into psychological pain, so if you've got any scrapes, you'll start to notice them, and we'll be keeping you overnight for observation. Change the bandage according to the instructions on the packet and don't sleep on your stomach and you'll be fine. Only use the bandages we provide, because..."

I nodded, eyes dipping drowsily. It was more information than I felt like processing, but it boiled down to not disturbing the bandages and following the instructions on the paper I'd be given. That was intuitive enough.

I slept.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Gather 'round the camp fire, little ones all. I've a story to tell.

There is a place, oft described simply as gaping chaos, twixt frost and fire. It swirled, and still does, and once it brought together two important shapes. One was nearly like a man, though no more so than he was like a bear, and who was warm, though could find a home in the snow. One was a cow, who ate what was around and gave milk to the man. From these two shapes came nearly everything else, directly or indirectly.

Three came before the two. One might call them sisters, though they did not have parents any more than the cow, or the man. If you saw them for what they were, but did not ask their names, you would call them the fates. They know all that has happened, and all that is happening, and all that will happen. They keep the stability needed for life in this world, and they weave the threads that mark one forgotten, unsung, or remembered throughout the world. Fate. Duty. Future.

The three may have had power over the gaping chaos, or perhaps had as little power over it as any other being. But what came from it--they knew that, had that.

They weave threads, weave lives. And I, though I may be but one thread, weave stories. I make something of nothing, as the three's originating chaos did.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Spun Gold

Almost everything has rules. We forget our own, often, because we are so used to them. And we forget the rules of ordinary things, for they are around us so often. Even so, we know them. We can spot when a tree's growth has been disturbed, because some rules for trees are, "Grow like this in no wind. Grow like this when someone has sliced through you. Grow like this when the wind always blows in this direction." Such rules are unbreakable, for the tree does not know how to break them.

Humans have rules. These rules are breakable, so we know the penalty is death. Eat regularly, but do not eat this. Breathe. Be around others occasionally, though they need not be human.

Similarly, other folk have rules. Their rules of growth are not a tree's, nor their rules of food a human's. But the rules are still there. There is one creature, a small one, who often goes covered in the dust of the road--for dirt does not make such a being ill, but stillness does. It is gifted with many wondrous powers of metalworking, and needs little food, little rest.

The being's rules are at once selfless and selfish. The being may only work in service of a deal made with another. Working, always, for another, but without payment. This is a rule, and one of this kind could no more break this rule than you could drink poison.

One day, during his travels, such a being came by a room where a maiden lay weeping. He climbed up the wall and slipped through the window in the rock. "Why do you cry, miss?" (Lack of politeness leads to lack of deals leads to idleness and illness. His mother had made him memorize that one as a boy, in exchange for a trip to a stream he had been interested in.)

"My father has told the king that I can spin straw into gold, and if I do not spin all the straw in this room by morning, then the king shall kill my father and me both for lying to royalty."

"Why do you not spin?"

The woman turned to him, then adjusted her gaze downward to account for his height. "I can't!"

"Oh." The littler one paused. "I could. What would you give me, for doing it?"

"I--I can't thing of anything I could give of value to one who could spin straw to gold. But my father dressed me as well as he could for my visit to His Majesty, would you take this silver ring as payment?" The woman took a simple silver band off her ring finger.

"Silver is quite valuable to me," the metalworker said. It was true, if misleading--not, more valuable than gold, but still valuable, since he could not take the gold he could spin. "The ring is payment enough for spinning this room. Rest, and it shall be spun when you wake."

The woman gave him her ring, and let the wheel's spinning lull her to sleep. The next day, the little spinner slept in a nook where a stone had fallen out of the castle, for he had need of a rest after having spun all that night.

That evening, he was again woken by crying. He climbed around the king's castle until he found the new and larger room, with the same woman. "Why do you cry now, dear?" (The second time you make a deal with the same person, make sure they know you remember them. Do not be forward, but be friendlier than you were last time. The piece of advice his elder sibling had given him, when they met and exchanged wisdom.)

"The king--he demanded that I spin another room of straw into gold for him, and tells me that if I do not, he shall kill me at dawn for impudence, and take father's mill as a lesson to those who raise ill-mannered children."

"Ah." The little metalworker looked about. "I could spin this in a night. What would you give me, if I did?"

"I--I have a bronze charm, on my necklace," she said, tapping a circle of bronze that hung on a flimsy-looking chain. It had an image of a dove carved into it.

"That much bronze is not of much value to me"--her face fell--"but the working on it is. Hand me the necklace, and rest. The gold will be spun when you wake."
The woman gave him her necklace, and let the wheel's spinning lull her to sleep. The next day, the little spinner searched for the third and largest room filled with straw. (The advice he'd told his sibling when they met was, When you've made two deals of the same sort with the same person, there will probably be a third.) He settled in the straw, and waited to hear the king's terms this night.

"Weave this straw into gold. If you succeed, then you shall be my wife the queen." Then he left the room.

"No threats?" The metalworker commented, jumping down from the straw.

"I don't think he feels he needs them anymore," the woman said back.

"Right." He looked around the room and was glad he had come early rather than looking for her. He could spin the room into gold in a night, but only barely. "What would you give me, if I spun this to gold in a night?"

"I have nothing left to give you," she said softly. The woman might have wept, but it was the third night where she might die the next day, and there's only so much weeping a body can stand.

"Hm." He glanced about the room for any inspiration, then noticed the small indentation he had left in the straw. "Your firstborn child, when you are queen."

"He won't make me queen, not really."

The little spinner shrugged. "Then you would lose nothing. Is it a deal?"

The woman hesitated, then nodded and shook his hand.

"Rest. I shall spin."

The woman slept fitfully. The wheel lulled her to sleep, but she had troubled dreams that night. The little spinner put it down to not being worn out from crying and not knowing if he could spin as quickly as he said he could.

After that night, the small fellow wandered, as was his wont. Eventually, he judged that there had been time enough for a child to be born and weaned, he returned to the castle to finish his deal. He climbed the walls and looked for the queen, this time starting as far away from the rooms of straw as he could, since he was searching for a place where the queen felt safe enough to sleep.

"Your Majesty," he said by way of greeting. "I have come for the child."

Pain flashed onto her face, and it surprised him. His mother had sent him off on his own earlier than this, and humans left their children to churches all the time. Why...?

"Can't there be another way?" she begged. "Please, another deal?"

The begging was what made him stop. Facing death for herself and her father, losing the only valuable possessions her family had ever had, she had never begged, only bargained. "Very well," he said, trying to think of something he could do. Betting would do, he decided. Gambling the child, and leaving him in his room as neutral ground until the gamble was decided. "If you can guess my name in three days, then the child shall be yours."

The woman nodded, but clutched her child rather than shaking hands. The little spinner slipped out.

The first night, she guessed odd names, which were all the odder for being odd human names. He knew some of his kind who took common human names to blend in, but he had never seen one of his take such a rare name. He shook his head at every guess.

The next night, she guessed a few names that were somewhat common to his kind, and exceedingly rare in humans. They had more syllables, and had the right rhythm to them.

Just before sunset of her last day, the little metalworker went to the forest and found a trusted servant the queen had sent to search for names. He played the part of a bard, and asked for a few coins to perform a song. The servant, who had not been able to find any names but the ones the queen had already guessed, flipped a few coins at the little spinner, on the half-hearted hope that the song would have some name she had not yet found.

Though the queen thinks herself wise,
None she sends use ears, only eyes,
And look as they might, they'd never see,
A name only spoken--'Rumpelstiltskin', me!

The servant leapt up without another word, to tell the queen of what she had heard.

When Rumpelstiltskin entered the room for the last night of guesses, the queen could hardly contain her delight. She guessed two names, which she doubtless thought were silly guesses--names common among humans, perhaps even from friends she'd had when she was young. Then, eyes glittering with suppressed laughter, she asked, "Is your name...Rumpelstiltskin?"

"Oh! You have won the bet, Your Majesty, and I must be off." He bowed low, then bounded out the nearest window, all pent-up energy and wanderlust.

Three days was far too long to be in one place.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Witch-Queen (Witch)

Not the same story as the other two, but inspired by the same idea.

Once, there lived a princess who was also a witch. She make her land perpetually prosperous and well fed. For reasons of her magic, she could not marry without love, even when her parents died, leaving the kingdom without heirs and without the respect her parents had drawn. Many armies came to take the lovely kingdom, so the witch-queen drew up a thick and thorny bush about her home. When the armies failed, the kingdoms began to send princes and other nobles from their lands, to win her heart.

From her room in the highest tower, she would challenge each suitor to make their way through the thorny bushes, where just-slashed thorns would grow back as soon as one entered, striking through armor and skin. None could defeat her magics.

One day, a young man rode up to the bush nearest her tower. "Hail, Witch-Queen."

"Hail, traveler," the witch-queen said, coming to her window. "Are you here to present a suit?"

"No, Your Majesty. I merely wished to meet one as strong in will and magic as yourself."

She nodded, a large enough gesture to be seen from the top of her tower. "So you have done." Many nobles took great offense at such replies, and it was a simple enough way to have fewer fertilizing her briar and more protecting their people.

The man grinned widely enough for the witch-queen to see it from her tower. "I would know you better than an exchange of hellos. I have some magics of my own, and I am in need of a tutor. Whoever taught you must be a fine teacher indeed."

"I taught myself."

"Then you are more powerful than any tale has told me."

And the witch-queen granted him some of his wish, for it is bad luck to turn away a traveler, and because a fellow mage interested her.

Soon enough, the witch-queen allowed the man within the thorny bushes, though when the witch-queen slept, the young man stayed in a room which locked from the outside. Friend or not, the man was indeed versed in the craft, and gaining new talent each day.

"May I not sleep somewhere more comfortable?" The man asked after dinner, in his eighth or ninth month in the witch-queen's palace.

"You may choose any chambers in the castle, though I shall place a lock on any chambers you choose." The man was no noble after her heart for a prize, and anything else was irrelevant.

The man smiled. "I may choose any chambers in the castle?"

The witch-queen nodded. "Should a servant wish to not share a room with you, they could always move."The witch-queen did not say, but thought, If you wished to do one harm, you would not need to enter their chambers.

"There is one room I enjoy, I admit." The man smiled in a way that made something twist in the witch-queen's gut. "I quite enjoy the view from the room atop the highest tower in this palace."

The witch-queen's eyebrows rose, and then she laughed.

"As I have given my word, so shall it be. You may move in a week, when the smith has made an appropriate lock, and I have spelled it as I need."

The man rose from the empty table. "Thank you, Your Majesty." He said with a smile and a deep bow.

By the next week, they shared chambers, though not a bed. Because it was most convenient, their lessons gradually moved to before breakfast and after dinner, when the subjects petitioning the witch-queen were in their beds, and even the bravest of suitors would not enter the thorny bushes.

"How did you learn all this on your own?" the man asked as they settled for the evening.

The witch-queen looked at him, considering. Then she said, "Magic is simple to do on oneself."

He nodded.

"The ruler is the land. The magic you know me so versed in is magic of the land. Every spell I cast, I cast on myself." They remained quiet for a time after that, and the witch-queen knew that there would be no more lessons discussed that evening. She dimmed the lamp.

"What does that do to you?"


"You are the land. You drew up a great wall of thorns to protect you home. I may not know as much magic as you know, Your Majesty, but I know enough."

The witch-queen shrugged. "I became what my people needed, as the land did. I could only wed one whom I loved, but I promised my mother and father that I would marry if I could." She stared at the ceiling. She'd never told anyone that. "I could not be marrying the first man who came along. I put up thorns against armies, and thorns against suitors."

There was a silence long enough for the witch-queen to believe the man had fallen asleep before he said, "You parted the thorns for one."

The witch-queen glanced at him, his eyes bright and keen in the moonlight. She remembered what she had learned of him: that he was clever, quick to learn, and kind to her and to her subjects. And, though he had not been handsome when they first met and his appearance had never changed, she found herself thinking him quite handsome now.

"A kind stranger who asked for entrance, rather than demanding it as a right. Yes."

"And who counts himself blessed to have gotten as far as he has." He smiled. The witch-queen thought, Oh. That's what that is.

"I love you," she said, tasting words that she hadn't used since her parents' death.

"I love you, too." Odd to hear him say it second. He had declared his love ages ago; she had simply ignored his heart as she ignored the other suitors'.

"And had I not?"

"Then I would have a wonderful teacher and a better friend than most could find in several lifetimes." He paused. His brow furrowed. "Do I ask you to marry me, or do I ask you to ask me?"

"I will be sure to look it up later, and then we shall both say that the correct person asked." The witch-queen nodded to herself. "I always wanted to wed at midsummer, when I was a child."

The king-to-be grinned widely. "That sounds wonderful."

The witch-queen kept her powers, and at midsummer gained a witch-king. The thorny bushes about her kingdom remained, and every summer, from that day to this, bright roses bloomed upon them.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Witch-Queen (Woman)

There are many ways to spin a tale.


However, neither witch nor woman nor queen was content to leave it at that. Her kingdom needed an heir.

The witch-queen knew romantic love, or what it was supposed to be. She also knew that she had not felt it. Sex held little interest for her, and though she knew that was what pure and innocent women were supposed to say, she also knew that most women didn't mean it.

But the geas had never mentioned sex, simply love. The witch-queen knew of love. She sent out a new challenge: one of cleverness and charm.

The first test was to find the messenger, the second to politely ask for the password to gain entrance to her kingdom. Since the witch-queen chose the servants she sent, three suitors made it past.

The man from the south was golden as the sun, from his hair to his skin to his tawny eyes, and as outspoken as one would expect. The northeasterner was dark and quiet as the night: deep colors to his skin and hair, deep and quiet thoughts behind his eyes. The northwestern man was starlight itself, true blond hair, eyes silver and skin a few shades away from it.

The sunny one was charming, but cared little for non-social pursuits. The dark man was quiet, but polite, and opened up like a moon flower if one spoke to him without forcing him into small talk. Dear starlight was the only one everyone seemed to get along with happily, for he could sit in perfect silence and read, or he could chatter for hours on end. The witch-queen took to thinking of him as a mirror, reflecting whatever his conversational partner wanted. When she asked him his favorite book, he responded with hers. If the dark man asked the same question, the northwestern man chose a title that made his eastern neighbor smile, and when the sunny one asked, he grinned and said, "Oh, I don't care for reading; I'd much rather spar."

When the sun grew tired of being stuck in one place for so long, the witch-queen gave him passage back to his kingdom. When the night had grown bored of every book in the palace, she let him go as well. "You've won by default, it seems, mirror."

He looked at her, eyebrows drawn up. "No. I would win if you loved me." Mirror spread his hands. "Those were the terms, and I abide by them."

The witch-queen looked at him. "Have you ever loved someone, in the way people expect?"

"I am everything one expects, Your Majesty." But he smiled as if he hid something.

"That sounds tremendously shallow of you."

The man raised his eyebrows, the first surprised gesture he'd made over his entire visit. "I have never felt a particular affection for the flesh," he admitted. The witch-queen thought of other reflective things. The deepest lakes and streams could reflect perfectly, on a still day, but shake them the right way, or look past your reflection, and suddenly you see life and rocks of every color and breed, all the way down...

"But?" she asked.

"I am like you, Your Majesty." That moment, when you've looked past your reflection for so long, and someone swims beneath you. "One does not need to want physical touch to love."

The witch-queen sat, and gestured for her mirror to do the same. "We would need to, if we married," she said simply. "Personal desires aside, I am a queen, and I shall need heirs."

"Does that mean you love me, then? Since bastard heirs are generally frowned upon." He smiled.

"You are as attentive as I am. You know I do."

His smile turned into a grin. "It is traditional to say it, Your Majesty. Like this: I love you. I want to marry you and raise children with you."

The witch-queen smiled back. "I love you, too. I've been envisioning us married in spring, and eventually raising children who learn to walk among wildflowers, and little else makes me so happy as to think of being married to someone clever enough to play the game of courts against me." She raised an eyebrow. "Sufficient?"

"Well, this is never going to be boring," he laughed.

"Oh, I hope not. T'would be dreadful to misjudge you so horribly."

Friday, July 20, 2012

Witch-Queen (Queen)

Once, there was a clever princess who was also a very powerful witch. She could make buds bloom, flowers fruit, and heal the unhealthy. While her mother and father were young yet, she was a blessing upon the land.

As is the way of things, her power came at a price. Should she marry and not love her partner, her powers would disappear, and what she had healed would rot with her magic. An odd price, certainly, but it was the rule her magic gave her. Had she not been a princess, this might have been fairly simple. But then, if this geas were simple, the magic doubtless would have chosen another one. Such is the way of things.

At first, this rule was a small annoyance. As a girl, the princess could help far more than most her age, and took well enough to etiquette and diplomacy to endear herself to those who might otherwise become jealous. A younger sibling could always marry for political reasons. Odd though it might be for a younger to marry before the eldest, anyone would understand. Her mother and father had their daughter in the first year of their marriage, and so all believed another child would come swiftly. They believed this in the first year, and the second.

On the princess's sixteenth birthday, none believed there would be another child.

Suitors had always courted the lovely princess--those brave enough to approach a witch, and confident enough to believe they could win her heart. Noble after noble approached the princess, all foolish and arrogant. Many understood how to play the game, but the princess played it better than they did. She saw their lies, and saw all of them for what they were: poor liars, immature tricksters. She could perhaps love one who could play the court as she did, but never one who thought her less than she was. Everyone who approached her underestimated her.

One day, she awoke to find that her parents lay dead in their bed, still holding each other. The princess-now-queen knew what was coming then, and come it did: armies upon armies. Her kingdom had been prosperous for decades under her care, and blessed even before that. Even split between her three neighboring kingdoms, her kingdom would be a bounty, and they knew she would not let it die. Though it would have been easier, there was no reason for one to marry her to gain the kingdom. They would simply attack it.

The princess had only ever healed and brought bounty to her land, so it was little wonder that no one thought of what else powers of growth could do.

Around her kingdom she drew up thick, thorny bushes, as tall as a score of men and at least as deep as three at any place. As a show of her confidence, she had three palaces built, facing each of the three attacking kingdoms. In summer, she lived in the central palace where her mother and father raised her, in fall, she moved Northwest of it, in winter, South, and in spring, Northeast. In each palace, her bedroom was in the tallest tower, a boast and a challenge to any who would attack her home.

The queen was willing to give her life to her kingdom, as any good ruler would, and give it she would, however long or short it might be.


Friday, July 13, 2012


There’s a glass dome.

Inside the dome, there lies a beautiful place. We can see it through any screen. There, people are normal. They are all quite similar, and all fairly happy. They are sometimes hurt, in the ways we are hurt, but there are ways that we are hurt that they do not have to worry about, and ways we are commonly hurt that they rarely are.

Sometimes people inside the dome give me odd looks. “Well, if you don’t like it outside there, why don’t you just come in?” Occasionally, others understand a bit better. “You could pass, if you just did your hair differently. Why don’t you?” Some understand better still, and stand near the edge—even come outside. They don’t understand perfectly, but they understand that they don’t understand. That means a lot.

One day, while chatting with Jordan on our opposite sides of the dome, I saw something glittering on her side. “What’s that?”

"What?" Jordan turned her head, then looked back to me with a grimace. “Ah. That’s the dome.”

I furrowed my brow. “But this is the dome.”

Jordan shook her head. “This dome is easy to move through, so we call it the gauzy dome. That dome”—she nodded her head—“is impossible to get through.” She rolled her eyes. “They just say we’re not trying hard enough.”

I opened my mouth, then closed it. I couldn’t think of a polite way to say, You do the same thing, so I just said, “Thank you.”

A thought had occurred to me, and one I thought important. I set out to test it. I walked for months, stopping wherever I thought I saw something.

I was right. There were other domes—I saw dozens. Some of them had other domes in them, like the one I’d grown up closest to. It was obvious, once I was looking. Some touched other domes, and being in either seemed to make it easier to go to the other.

Then I came to a very large one. It was peculiar enough that I hardly recognized it as a dome at first. Every dome I had come across arched away easily, like someone had taken a half-sphere and planted it in the ground, to grow and shrink as necessary. This one was different. It arched toward me, not away, and the material was lighter and somewhat opaque, more like gauze than glass.

I went still.

Then, very slowly, I craned my head back. It arched up and over, in a perfect line that kept me separate from…well. Them.

It’s always ‘them’, isn’t it?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer and Winter

There are many tales of the seasons, and of how the gods brought them into being. Some of them are even true.

“Winter, dear, hurry up!” Summer called over her shoulder, green skirts swishing over skin the color of fertile earth, under hair like fresh grain. “It’s nearly time.”

“Sunset isn’t for some minutes yet, Summer,” Winter said. Winter had been as young as Summer, some months ago. His hair had been true blonde, his skin as pale and smooth as ice, his eyes a blue or a purple so pale as to be nearly white. Winter was pale yet, but a wan pale now, rather than a youthful one. Gray hair, rougher skin, failing eyes.

Summer laughed and ran back to him. “I know. But the sooner you get there, the sooner you can rest, and the better you’ll feel next long night. Look at me: I was there nearly an hour early, and I feel fantastic!”

“You’ve only just woken,” Winter chuckled as Summer nearly danced around him, “of course you feel fantastic.”

Summer helped Winter to his place of rest, an oddly tall peak for the area, where he would rest for the next few months, as Summer had rested in her spring when her hair had been dull and her feet heavy. “Rest well, dear friend.”

“Thank you, Summer,” he murmured, then yawned. “See you around even night?”

“Of course.” She sat by him until the sun touched the horizon, then stood.

With Winter resting, there would be fewer flowers, more fruit. It was an energetic time of her life, and a draining one. An exciting one.

Summer strode out to greet the new younglings.

“Come on, Summer,” Winter said quietly. “Almost there.”

Summer had faded. Her hair was the white of age now, rather than the lively corn-blond it had been early in her season. Her skin was still the deep color of fertile soil, but it had less shine in it, and had roughened some.

From a distance, Winter might look the same. He was pale, his hair was pale, and his irises were the palest one could have without all but the pupil being white. But, for all his pallor and quiet, he was as strong at his height as Summer was at hers. Burning or freezing feels the same. Everything else is a matter of personal preference.

“I did more than I should have, I think,” Summer mumbled.

“It’s fine. Rest now. Come on, there you go.” He took her arm and led her into the hot spring.

“See you spring’s even night, mm?” Summer asked drowsily.

“Yeah. Of course.”

Summer safely deposited, Winter went out to the land. The trees welcomed him already, with bright leaves and a satisfying crunch under his feet. The animals were quieter, but no less clear: a hundred hundred breaths moving air to the same beat. Trees abscising, animals resting, Summer settled…there was only one thing left, to make the land truly Winter’s.

He made it snow.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


There are facets to everything.

Some people talk about two sides to the same coin. That’s true, as far as it goes. Male and female; good and evil; black and white; up and down. But, the closer one looks, the harder it is to be a coin, the easier to be a spectrum, or a jewel. Genderqueer; well-meant harm and accidental help; gray; sideways or counterclockwise.

There’s an old story. The stories that survive that long must be important, mustn’t they? If the Book of Kells were just another story, it would be lost. We lose so many important ones, oh dear Alexandrian library, how could anything unimportant remain?

But then, what could be unimportant?

The story begins with paradise, where another provides all food and shelter, where bodies are not yet sexual, nor shameful. Then a man gives birth to the first woman, donating a bone, a deep part of himself, just as a woman risks her life and health in any normal pregnancy. The paradise remains—this birth is odd, to us, but no sin.

(Father did it; Father can do no wrong.)

The great provider, the one who gives shelter from the outside and keeps food in this home, makes one rule. Though there are many sources of food, many fruit trees, there is one they may not eat of. It is poison, if they eat it they shall die.

Then, a snake—as in any story, intelligent, and as is common, a force opposed to the order of things. Any creature who is always bright and usually chaotic will often be trickster, as this one may be.

Try the fruit of the tree. No ill will come. Try it.

(The snake appears to be of paradise. What reason had she to distrust it? What reason had she to trust it over Father?)

She takes a bite, and has an epiphany, or the reverse of one. A realization of self, a recognition of body. She covers herself, and goes to the man whose rib was the first part of her to exist.

(She is of paradise. What reason had he to distrust her? What reason had he to trust her over Father?)

He eats of the tree, and has the same inverse-epiphany, or so close as to appear identical. He sees why she covered herself, and covers himself.

The provider sees that they have covered themselves, sees that they have eaten of the tree, casts them from paradise. Casts them into where they must work for their own food, out of Father’s house.

Some call this Original Sin. Indeed, it is the first time any broke a rule.

Others question. The tree was a Tree of Knowledge. They were curious, without experience, without knowledge. How could they have done anything else? Father was wrong to expect different

Others say it isn’t wicked, or good, but another facet on the same jewel. The boy and girl needed to grow into the first man and woman. The woman ate first, as girls mature more quickly than boys. She gifted him knowledge, as a member of the tribe would initiate another into the world of the adult. The questioners are right, Father paved the way, but not to bad. Simply to the next thing that would happen.

Regardless. They were forbidden the tree, and ate of it. They grew more capable, and had to work on their own. Such is the way of the world.

Friday, June 29, 2012


The first step is fake. Or, at least, done from expectation rather than compulsion. The brew takes some time to take effect, as I noticed the first time I took it, when I didn’t know what to expect. Those around me think it simply becomes easier to slip between. As far as I can tell, the reverse is true.

Though maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it just feels so natural, now, that I can do it whenever I please, so after drinking it I feel no different. I feel as though I can be the same as the first time, whenever I choose to, and perhaps only when I choose to, drink or no.

But the first time I drank…I still remember that.

I expected nothing. They hadn’t told me anything, except that it would make me a better warrior. It smelled of alcohol, and something else. I thought little of it. Courage. Others started growling, and I thought, That’s an interesting part of the culture. Becoming closer to animals, when they were about to start a fight. It made sense—they slept closer to their dogs than the tribe that had taken me before this one, and their dogs were closer to wolves than any I had ever seen.

A few started up a howl, and the others ran after them as one. I noticed that I was following, then I stumbled. A warrior to my right caught me, nudged me up, jerked her muzzle toward the front. Follow.

From there, it was…red and black, impacts and silence and growls.

The next morning, I woke up by the river, amidst a pile of my tribe and our furs.

My memories of that battled have never become clearer, but they have never faded. I cannot tell you the face of any I fought, any I saved, any who saved me, but I can still hear the howls, growls, and snarls.

Friday, June 22, 2012


There’s a rule.

There are many things people call rules, where Harriet works. Don’t kill; don’t forget; don’t be obvious. But they’re all guidelines. Any book in which they’re written has without a good reason written after in white ink and in a very small font. Any conversation where such a rule is spoken, without a good reason hangs unspoken between the interlocutors’ eyes.

But there is a rule, one rule, for those who guard what needs guarding. One who knows each world, and knows enough to know that (nearly) everything is worth protecting.

The rule is simple: Never get attached.

The rule is simple, except when it isn’t.

She reached her hand through the hole in the wooden fence. Her hand met another hand, very smooth, smoother than the day before. Manicured, Harriet guessed.

“Hello, lovely.” Neither knew the other’s name, the other’s face—safer that way hangs in the air, between every word they speak—but Harriet knows this woman well enough to know her lovely. “Relaxing day?”

The other woman’s hand shifted in a way that meant a smile. “Yes. Beautiful day at the spa. You’d’ve hated it.”

Harriet laughed. The other woman could get Harriet to laugh; that would be enough to earn lovely on its own.

They spoke for longer, of many things. The evening was beautiful, as long as it lasted. Their date night always one of challenges and achievements and wonder and lips brushing gently over knuckles.

Harriet broke first, as she always did, when she stopped thinking, What a bright mind; what a lovely voice, what expressive hands, and started thinking, A woman with exactly this shade of skin, with enough money to pay for a spa day, but at a job that lets her hands run as rough as she feels like, that needs neither calluses for practicality nor smooth skin for perfect appearance—

Harriet stood, suddenly. “I should go.” She said that a little differently each time, but their last words, never spoken, were always the same.

I’m sorry. I can’t figure out who you are. If they ask, I can’t know you well enough to answer.

Friday, June 15, 2012


EDIT: The html for this was not cooperating. If it didn't make sense to you on first read-through, that's because it made no sense. I've fixed it now. 
This was written as part of a challenge to write thirty things in thirty days based on thirty prompts. The posts from this challenge are tagged "challenge", and the title to the posts are the corresponding prompts.
"You'll only find peace while traveling."

Spells, Samantha decided, should be more dramatic than that. Really. There should be chanting, or markings, or at least a moment of clear focus, for heaven's sake. But no, the spell that defined her entire life was six words in the vernacular. It wasn't even a good story. She couldn't even remember what she'd done! It was embarrassing. And now...

"It's in my bones," she whispered.

Most people wouldn't mean that quite so literally, her bones whispered back, in their annoying, upper-crust-accented way.

"Stop it." Samantha paused a moment, then tried mouthing, [Can you hear me like this?]

Of course. If I were a being of air, I would be much easier to live with. She felt the voice ring with a definite smirk. Sam couldn't explain how she knew that, but then, the voice wasn't really coming in through her eardrums, so that was hardly odd.

She kept her mouth closed this time, and thought, Can you read my mind?

It was hard to keep time, without a watch and away from any place with a big town clock, so she counted steps. At twenty, she tried moving her tongue without her lips, [Can you hear me like this?]

Of course. Again, immediate and smug. Good. It couldn't read her that deeply.

[What happens if I stop?]

You know.

Sam did. That hunger, thirst, itch, lust, want, that started in her feet and moved up, until she couldn't focus, could hardly eat, certainly couldn't sleep, until she ran and ran and ran, drinking in every new sight and sound. She'd fought it, at first.

[But no injury.]

A laugh, one that wouldn't be anything but genuinely amused if it didn't echo through her rib cage, ick. No food, no water, no sleep, and then you run mindlessly until you collapse. But no, no injury beyond that. I need none to prod you into finding me something new.

[It isn't new to you,]
she bit out, as far as she could without opening her mouth.

I like how new things taste. Besides, if I set you running until you saw something I hadn't seen--well, you'd die first. And then where would I be?

Sam's eyes flickered to the knife at her belt. [Huh.]

You won't do it.
 There was just the barest something, so slight it didn't translate into anything but a feeling, wouldn't be there if she weren't actually in the same body.

[But if you make me miserable enough, I might.] She walked to a weeping willow, drew her blade, sat under the bowing branches. [You like the taste of new things, but you're not a being of air.] Another flicker of understanding. Instead of pushing at the creature in her bones, pulled the feeling closer. [You like things to be a little the same. You don't want me attached, but you're attached to me.] Sam put the blade to her throat. [How attached?]

You wouldn't. You wouldn't!
The cry went from echoing to buzzing, climbing in pitch as the spell woven through bone reacted.

"It's balance," Sam murmured. "You can't make me too miserable, because I might." She put the knife in her lap. "But I won't, because you can still make me plenty miserable." Her fingertips lay on the hilt now. "We rest, at the next town. I will be friendly, and I will stay until I am done," her bones thrummed indignantly, "or until I sleep with someone, whichever comes first. Just because I'm not starving doesn't mean I'm happy with this set-up. Deal?"

Her bones went quiet. Deal.

"Good." Sam closed her eyes. [Do you need to sleep?]


[Then keep watch. Neither of us wants me dead yet.]
© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart