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.
© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart