wyld_dandelyon: (Default)
So, computers operate on planned obsolescence. Unlike a washing machine or stove (a good one of those is designed to last for at least a decade), computers are designed to fail after a few years. And that’s not a bad thing—we’re still making enough advances in computer technology, both hardware and software, and in how we use computers in our lives, that after a few years, a computer doesn’t do what most people want it to do. So for most of us, it doesn’t make sense to pay five times as much to have higher-quality materials and workmanship and have the thing last four times as long.

Knowing that, when my now-old computer started acting up earlier this year, I got a new one. They did eventually manage to fix the old one, but still, I don’t want to trust it with my writing. And I like the new keyboard better.

The thing is, where the old computer had a poor connection to our wifi in my office (which was OK, waiting for stuff to load gave me time to get bored with the unnecessary distractions on the internet and return to writing), the new one just doesn’t connect at all. So every time I’ve wanted to research something or consider submitting things or check e-mail or anything, I’m back in the room with the TV.

Now, in general I can write with the TV on in the background. One story was written mostly with reruns of Criminal Minds as the background soundtrack—some channel was doing a binge. I’d seen them all, mostly more than once, so I could tune in and out pretty seamlessly, and just enjoy the tone of the characters’ voices in the background for a lot of it. It made my partner nuts, though, that she could come in and ask a question about the show, and it became clear to her that I hadn’t even been aware when one episode ended and the next began. Even though I was mostly ignoring it, it seemed to me that the pacing was somehow helping me keep focused on moving the story forward.

But I clearly cannot do productive writing while tracking current events that threaten stuff like my health care or reports on hate crimes against people like me. Nor can I write while watching a new show that I like, one where I want to actually follow the plot, or a show like Face Off where I want to actually look at the TV screen. So sitting in the room where we have the cable coming in just isn’t working for me. And sitting in the office, with no internet at all—well, though I’ve heard it recommended as a way to increase productivity, it isn’t working for me. I can’t research, I can’t read writers’ blogs for inspiration (or to feel challenged/ashamed/inspired by their word counts), I can’t do word wars, I can’t put on Pandora and listen to music chosen specifically as a mood-setter for the story, I can’t submit stuff, and so on. I can’t do mindless noodling-games while I consider how to fix plot holes and the like. I can’t even bribe myself with sites like Written Kitten (once I get going, those things are not a good distraction, but sometimes they can get me moving when other tricks don’t).

It’s all part of my current focus on boundaries and sacred space. They don’t mean the same thing to everyone—and doesn’t mean the same thing even to me all the time. I have, in the past, been able to write while news is on—but then we had a President who was working hard for the interests of people like me. For me the “no internet” boundary that so many people suggest isn’t functional, but I need to be able to curate the internet and other media in ways that help to inspire me and help me to stay focused. And it’s very clear to me that right now, that means getting out of earshot of the news for a while every single day.

So I’d determined that the modem needed to move, but not gone out and bought the very long co-ax cable I’d need, and then fate kindly intervened. We had an issue with the cable signal (it was making both TV and internet cut out briefly at the most irritating times) and they sent out a tech. So, while he was here, I asked for a longer co-ax cable so I could move the modem into the hallway, where it will be a few feet further from my computer if I’m in the TV room, but almost 20 feet closer to the office. If I’d called them to ask them to send a tech to move the modem, that would have cost money—but him coming out to fix a service issue, that is already part of what I pay for. He left me a cord, since replacing old cords is also free, if they happen to be here anyway.

So, this morning, I got up and cleaned off the tall bookshelf I plan to put it on. Then I’ll snake the cord up through the (ugly) drop ceiling (I want to just fix the plaster ceiling and get rid of that thing, but I have lots of higher-priority stuff to attend to first) and drop it down and through the doorway to get to the bookshelf, and I can move the modem! (My partner wants to drill a hole in the wall up above the door so we’ll be able to shut the door, but since we never shut that door anyway, that’s another project that is low priority. Unless while we’re stringing the cord through the ceiling, she gets the drill and just does it. I’m good with using the doorway.)

And then, moving the modem itself can be accomplished, and the circle of internet will cover the house more properly, and there will be much celebration. At least, I will celebrate.

Hah—I wrote all this and didn’t hit “post”, so if you can read this, all this work did what it was supposed to, since I just moved the modem.

Finally, readings are still open, if you want one, head over here.  You can also share your thoughts about Patreon over there, or here if you prefer.  But if you want a reading, please head over there.  Thanks!

wyld_dandelyon: (Polychrome Wizard)
It was at a fannish gathering--at my house, I think--that I first heard the term "Mary Sue". Some large person with a beard was using it to put down the work of a female writer. I protested. I didn't see anything wrong with the very competent female character he was taking exception to.

Oh no, he said, it's not because she's female, it's because the author has inserted an unrealistically idealized version of herself into the story. It's bad writing, he said. The character isn't interesting and is too perfect and that hurts the story.

Well, ok, I thought, reluctantly. It's kind of like a deus ex-machina critique, but about a character rather than the plot. But it didn't sit well that the critique was given a woman's name, instead of something descriptive of the alleged fault. Why make the critique inherently gendered? Oh, well, I thought, whatever. A name is just a name, and the definition isn't gendered at all.

But over and over, I've heard that particular critique aimed at a woman writer who created a competent woman character. The critic was nearly always male. And the critique was leveled at all very competent female characters, not just the ones with a demonstrable resemblance (beyond gender) to the writer. I have even heard that complaint when the writer wasn't female. The term came, more and more, to be just a generic complaint about very competent women being "unrealistic".

But wait--our genre has a long history of unusually competent protagonists. When the world is at risk and the odds are against you, you need a very competent protagonist. The stories we tell demand one. And we've loved many super-competent characters. No one ever, in my hearing, called Luke Skywalker a "Larry Stu". Or Valentine Michael Smith or Superman or Paul Atreides or Ender Wiggin or Gandalf or James Tiberius Kirk or Dr. Who. In fact, although I am aware of the alternate term to use when applying that critique to male characters, I can't remember ever hearing someone bring that complaint against a male character except in the context of having been asked why it's only women characters who are so labeled.

Now, I certainly have not been a party to all conversations about characters in speculative fiction! But I've been an active party to a lot of them and have overheard or read a lot of critiques of fiction as well. So I think it's safe to say that overwhelmingly the term "Mary Sue" is the term in active use, and that it is exclusively used to belittle and dismiss kick-ass female characters and the female writers who created them. (If the term truly applied to any character, why would someone coin a rhyming term to use when the character is not female?)

The more I think about it, the more I think this isn't due to a change in how the term is used. I believe the term arose out of the unconscious conviction that women are not exceptional. All of the big names in science and politics and engineering (and religion and literature and, well, everything) have been men, right? Certainly that's the impression my textbooks seemed designed to give. The rare woman mentioned was presented as the exception that proved the rule.

But I know better. A lot of women are exceptional. I find more and more of them when I look, both in history and in today's world. Periodically I share a story about one of them on Facebook. I could share a dozen a day and not run out of exceptional women to talk about, if I wanted to post that much. Many of them have had men take the credit for their work, crediting them only with the status of "assistant" and characterizing their work as merely "clerical" or "supportive". Other women were given credit at the time, but quietly and briefly, their presence glossed over as soon as practicable. Others, like Joan of Arc, were discredited or even punished for daring to surpass the roles approved for women. But one way or another, exceptional women have been--and are too often still being--consistently and systematically belittled and dismissed.

I look at all those male heroes in fiction and in history--men who are loved and admired and celebrated. Little boys are encouraged to take them as role models and to attempt to emulate them. Never mind that they are arguably aspiring to more than they will ever achieve, they are still encouraged to dream and to work hard and to excel. They and their heroes are not belittled and dismissed; instead they are praised.

The contrast is pretty obvious.

It's time for us to discard the term "Mary Sue". It carries with it a heavy baggage of sexism, regardless of what an individual critic means to convey by it. If there is a valid critique about authorial insertion or poor characterization, then let's use non-gendered terms for those things.

And above all, let's stop complaining every time a female character is exceptional in a genre which has always focused on heroes. Instead, let's embrace and celebrate all of our heroes, regardless of the gender of the author, the character, or the reader.
wyld_dandelyon: (Polychrome Wizard)
So, there I was, happily writing on the current novel, when I realized we had to leave right away (in the middle of a climactic scene!) or we'd miss Mystique​'s doctor appointment. The sun was shining, the cats were playing, and all was well with the world. Well, the outer world. In the world of the novel, all was definitely not well, and was quickly getting worse. I was excited to see how things would play out, and my fingers were flying on the keyboard.

Oh, well, no help for it but to get up and go. Good doctors are like mothers. The more you reliably show up when they want to see you, the easier it is to convince them that there is a real emergency when one happens.

So then it was drive and drive and wait and wait and see the nice doctor (who really is a nice woman) and talk about all the routine boring things that people with chronic illness have to talk to their doctors about.

After that, a quick stop at the natural foods store that is just a couple of blocks from the doctor's office (well, that was the plan). This trip was mostly for my food, so a "quick stop" meant reading all the ingredients (in temporal duplicate) to make very sure there's nothing in the food that I'm allergic to and none of the manufacturers have changed their recipes. Then get in line. Wait and wait. Tell the checker that the fruit isn't black or red plums, it's pluots. Pack stuff into the bags we brought. Then to the pharmacies.

Oh, but first, rush hour traffic. Drive and wait, drive and wait, and then drive and wait some more. I've read that some people plan out their novels while driving; I don't know how they can do that. I'm just fine with talking on my cell phone (hand-free) while driving. That isn't more distracting to me than talking to someone who's physically in the car. But plotting novels? I tried it once, and I got so very, very lost. I do zone out while reading, and apparently also while writing, even the purely mental part of the process. Being totally uninterested in experiencing an automobile accident first-hand, I'm not trying that one again. So, when the rush hour traffic devolved into coast and brake, coast and brake, over and over and OVER again, all it did was waste time.

Then the pharmacies. (Wait--I said that already, and now you're wondering about the plurality.) One pharmacy has a pharmacist who's very helpful, but a computer system that loses one of the doctors' prescriptions. They're not perfect; the pharmacist has been unable to get one of my medicines for over a month, unless I want to buy the brand name at full price instead of the generic with the help of my insurance (though if I was completely out of it, they might approve me making a copay for the brand name at this point). But the nice pharmacist is working on that. The other pharmacy gets the one doctors' prescriptions reliably, but is less helpful in other ways. Happily, Mystique's insurance will cover prescriptions at both locations (unlike mine).

Recently, Mystique's insurance suggested she move to getting most of her meds on a three-month basis instead of every month. That's a good thing, except there seems to always be one or another prescription that gets filled for one month, either due to pharmacy error or a doctor's error in filling out the electronic prescription form, which apparently defaults to a one month prescription. So, go to one place, wait while they fix the one that was filled for only one month, then to the other to find out they didn't fill all of the prescriptions, only about half, so we'll have to wait a half hour while they do their thing. While waiting, get a call from the first place that one of the bottles didn't get put back into the bag when they were fixing the one filled for 30 days instead of 90. Circle back to get the missing bottle, then back again to get the last of the prescriptions, but one of the newly filled prescriptions was only filled for one month! *sigh* How on earth do people who are too sick to think straight or who just lack mental spoons manage?

Eventually, we got home to put groceries away and figure out dinner, and I was very pleased that my reusable cloth bag collection includes a couple of insulated zippered things designed for carrying cooked or cooled stuff to parties or picnics. The stuff we got frozen at the grocery store was still frozen when we finally arrived home.

The cats, who think we should stay home and pet, play with, and feed them on demand all day, were not impressed.

Now I'm yawning, a reminder that I need to make an appointment to try on CPAP masks, since I lost enough weight that the one I've been using isn't fitting so well any more. But it's too late to do that today!

And my poor characters, who are in the middle of confronting the faceless opponent who has been causing them misery for many chapters now, are likely to stay that way until tomorrow. Hang in there, folks, you'll figure it out, I have faith in you.
wyld_dandelyon: (Polychrome Wizard)
This weekend is the Torn World Muse Fusion (if you are so inclined, we'd love to get your questions or topic suggestions, whether they are specific to Torn World or just inspiration in general).

To Ellen's prompt, Tidepool Memories, I wrote this piece. They live in the arctic of a world that includes sea monsters and other dangers. Ivara is featured in a number of other stories over at www.tornworld.net.

Torn World is crowdfunded; this story is my freebie glimpse at the world for this weekend's Muse Fusion.

Tidepool Memories

Ruvardu sat by the ocean, listening to the waves. Her toes rested in a pleasantly warm tidepool. She had a bowl of red beans in her lap, and her fingers worked clumsily at the once-easy task of separating the rich beans from the bitter husks. The stroke that had stolen the cleverness from her fingers had not taken her ability to enjoy the sun and water on her skin. She looked up to see Ivara hang a gutted fish onto the smoking rack and set her knife down to stand and stretch.

For just a moment, Ivara looked stiff, like an old lady, like Ruvardu herself, but then she twirled and did a few dance steps, her long hair sailing around her like a shawl. She looked so young, dancing with Reqem on the big drum, their feet pounding out the rhythms of young lust. Ruvardu danced too, but not on the drum, she was more interested in flirting with Firl and drinking beer. The combination made her giggle, and the firelight shimmered like the ocean, and her toes were wet with spilled beer. “Oh, that was a night!” She opened her eyes, and saw a tiny fish in the tidepool nibbling at her toes. She could barely feel the soft fish lips against her skin. “You and Reqem were so beautiful dancing on the drum.” Her words were blurred, but she knew Ivara would understand.

Ivara danced over and bent to make sure Ruvardu’s shawl was tucked close around her. “You and Firl were beautiful too.”

Ruvardu laughed. “We were silly and drunk. To hear you talk, all new-adults are beautiful. Just like all babies are beautiful.”

“Well, they are.” Ivara smiled, and sank gracefully to the sand, picking up her knife again. She reached for a fish, humming an old tune. A pregnant young woman came by with a basket of new-caught fish and poured them into the basket next to Ivara. “Who was that Itakith woman?”

Ivara didn’t answer; she sat there with one hand on her swollen belly, then reached for Ruvardu’s hand to place it there. Inside, the baby-to-be was moving, and Ruvardu caught her breath. Her own pregnancy wasn’t as far along. So far, all she could feel was a tickle, a sensation in her gut like beer felt on her tongue, tingly and intoxicating.

The woman from Itakith leaned forward, her brown hair falling over her shoulders. “Can I see too?”

Ivara pulled her shirt up, and they all saw the shape of a foot pressing out, to one side of her distended belly button. The woman reached out her hand, hesitantly.

“Of course.” Ivara nodded.

The other woman put her hand on Ivara’s belly and then laughed. “The baby is so—so alive!” She reached back to lift up her own shirt and bare her own brown belly, which was only starting to swell. “Will I see my baby’s foot like that?”

“Probably.” The old mother-tender set a bowl of fresh fruit and greens in front of her charges. “But every baby is different. Some move a lot, while others seem content to sleep all through a pregnancy.” She smiled, her wrinkles moving on her face like grass in the wind. Ruvardu wanted to thank her, but her mind was as stiff as her old fingers.

“I can’t remember their names.” Ruvardu looked down at her belly, finding it old and flat and full of a bowl of red beans. She had forgotten the beans again, and so she reached into the bowl to pick up another, squeezing it to split the hull and free the beans.

“That’s nothing to worry about.” Ivara sounded sad. Ivara so rarely sounded sad, but there were times. There had been so much blood, the day the whalebear surprised her little son, Firuu, on the beach. She had screamed and threw rocks at it, and Ivara snatched up a fishing spear and charged the bear, snarling like a snowcat.

The bear clamped its jaws around the boy’s leg, and Ivara darted in, pushing her spear into the thing’s chest. Teeth still clammped, it roared, loud enough that Ruvardu couldn’t hear her own screams, and swiped at Ivara, who danced away and then back again, over and over. Finally, as Reqem ran up with a heavy hunting spear, Ivara sunk the fishing spear deep into the creature’s eye and it collapsed.

Reqem pried the bear’s jaws off of the boy, but it was too late. He was hanging limp from the monster’s jaw, and not breathing. Where he wasn’t covered in blood—his and the bear’s—his skin was too pale. Reqem laid the boy, blood and all, in Ruvardu’s arms. Tears fell silently from her eyes, her grief too strong for sound.

“Firuu—“ She choked it out, and was shocked, again, to hear how blurred and frail her voice was. She couldn’t even say the name of her firstborn properly any more, and that made her cry even harder.

Suddenly, Ivara was there, holding Ruvardu, humming a different tune now. They had made this tune together, when Ruvardu’s first grandchild was born. Varlii had wanted to travel to Itrelir, to be with the baby’s father for the birth, and Ivara and Ruvardu had accompanied her on the journey. They should have reached Itrelir a month before the birth, but the baby was impatient, and Varlii had gone into labor on the trail.

Ruvardu had been so scared for her daughter. They didn’t have a healer with them—what if something went wrong? But Ivara kept them telling stories and singing tunes until the baby came, such a perfect, tiny girl she was, all red and wrinkled and hungry. They camped by a small lake for a tenday, Ruvardu setting traps and Ivara tending them and gathering firewood. The lake was so beautiful, and so were her daughter and granddaughter. Ivara was right. New-adults and new babies were all beautiful.

Ruvardu tried to sing along with Ivara, but since the stroke, she couldn’t hold a tune. She smiled at Ivara. “You can sing for the baby.”

Ivara patted wetness from her cheeks, nodding. Ruvardu looked up—was it raining? The sky was clear, except for a few Others floating far above, out over the ocean. It must be just the surf. She asked Ivara, “Dance for me?”

Ivara looked sad, though she smiled at Ruvardu. “I will always dance for you.” She tucked the shawl tighter around her age-mate and stood to whirl and leap in the sand at the edge of the waves.
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
This is Denel's reading, posted here for [livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion. It's a little long to post as a comment in the card draw, so I'm giving it its own post.

Note: Torn World’s language does not use gendered pronouns, and their names are also not marked as one gender or another. As Rai-Kunabei arrives in Affamarg, she has not yet heard any detail that would let her know if Scientist Oranaan is male, female, or no-gender.

The Shaman and the Scientist

Rai-Kunabei looked out of the window as the train rumbled into Affamarg. The thing was noisy and smelly, but she had to admit it was more biddable than a goat. It also moved faster than she could walk, and saved her the trouble of carrying her bag of divination disks and her bulkier, but lighter bag of clothing. The attendant had also helped her improvise a way to secure her staff, with its dangling bells and wraith-scarred spinning balls, so that she didn’t have to hold it all day to prevent it from falling and hitting some poor citizen in the head.

The city was all straight lines and crisp 90 degree angles, and none of the buildings had a fringe of bells strung over the roof. It looked so strange to her mountain-bred eyes. Her people built homes in low, sheltered spots or on gentle hillocks that had good views of the surrounding mountains. Buildings might have four corners, like the ones here, or five or seven. But the biggest difference was the roads—mountain roads curved with the hills and valleys; these each ran straight from the rail line to the horizon. There must be many hundreds of people living in this lowland city, none of whom would understand her sacred role as priestess. Once again, and despite her long-standing desire to see the world, she wondered, what was she doing here?

It was an emotional response, of course, not a logical one. Logically, she knew that the lowland scientists had invited her to this far northern city to learn what she knew of the mysterious danger that haunted her world’s heights. She glanced away from the window to the letter she clutched, like a talisman, in her hand. It had been delivered to her home, high in the Affabreidalam mountains, in a fat envelope filled with special licenses.

The licenses were tucked into her pouch; this Oranaan had promised to meet her train, and she certainly hoped he would do so, or at least would send someone. She had no idea whatsoever how to find her way around that huge city without assistance—all the streets looked identical to her eyes, and she imagined herself wandering for months down the identical straight streets, wasting away into a wraith herself.

Kunabei laughed at her own fancy, drawing cautious looks from the people in the same train car. Logically, she knew she could ask for directions, and any Monitor would take a look at the letter and licenses, and help her on her way. You’d think she was a crochety great-grandmother, lost a bit in her age and incapable of dealing with the slightest challenge.

In reality, she was a young woman, but definitely old enough to be past letting nerves make her fanciful, except, she thought, that she was bored. For days, she’d been whizzed along, passing the countryside so fast she couldn’t examine the wildlife and plants, much less enjoy their beauty or see how they differed from the ones she was used to. And though there was plenty of time, not a single person had asked for a reading or requested more mundane advice.

She looked again at the letter and wondered who this Oranaan was, besides an important, brilliant, and, by people’s reactions, eccentric scientist. She imagined someone like her grandmother, vibrant despite age and experience, with a sassy sense of humor. Or maybe someone like her grandfather, who compensated for his wife’s fame as a priestess by dressing in the gaudy, bright-colored clothing and jewelry, and flirting with all the old people. She remembered the tales of Oraaan blowing up things and setting his workplace on fire, and decided the scientist must be more like her grandmother.

The train started to slow, and Kunabei checked to be sure her bags were tied securely shut. The people running the trains had little tolerance for people who weren’t ready to disembark promptly. Travel was a privilege and required special licenses, so travelers were expected to be prepared for the normal events of a train trip.

The train pulled into Affamarg Station and lurched to a stop. Kunabei stood and untied her staff from the wall of the train. She slung her clothes onto her back and lifted the divination disks. They made a satisfying weight for her hand. She followed the other passengers to the door and into a room where a Monitor checked licenses.

The Monitor, a tall, very pale man, read her personal and travel licenses carefully, glanced at her priestess license and stopped, looking up at her. “Rai?”

Kunabei nodded, using every bit of calm authority she had learned since killing the wraith. “It’s a traditional title.”

He started to leaf through the multiple pages dubiously.

Kunabei smiled, and offered her letter. “I was asked here to meet with Scientist Oranaan.”

“Oranaan, huh? What does the Scientist need with a--a Priestess?”

Rai Kunabei was pretty sure he had a different word in mind. “I do not believe he wants to consult me in that capacity. I believe he has questions about certain phenomena I witnessed in the mountains.”

The Monitor apparently found her answer dull, which didn’t disappoint Kunabei at all. He folded her licenses together and tucked them back in her pouch. “Here you go, Citizen.” He handed her the pouch and then a small booklet of local rules and regulations. “Be careful, Citizen. Oranaan had a fire in the laboratory again just last week. My sister’s kid said Oranaan was tasked with teaching safety in second form.”

She laughed at that. “Teaching is a good way to learn, actually.”

But the Monitor had already turned to the next person in line, so Kunabei strode toward the door.

At the far end of the waiting room, she saw two people in Indigo scientists’ robes. One was a demure-looking woman, and the other was a very young man with tousled hair. The man was waving his arms, talking animatedly, and barely missed knocking a hat off of a passing matron. Though she couldn’t hear them, from the look on her face it was clear that the woman started scolding him, and he dropped his hands to his sides, then she saw Kunabei and gestured, stepping past him to walk toward her.

Kunabei smiled with relief, and walked forward to greet the woman. “Scientist Oranaan. It is good to meet you and your assistant.”

The woman blushed and dimpled. “Rai Kunabei?“

Kunabei nodded.

“Welcome to Affamarg. I am Scientist Denel, and this,” she gestured to the young man, who was gaping at her, “is Scientist Oranaan. How was your trip?”

Up close, Oranaan looked a little less like a scatterbrained teenager, though it was clear he’d never been mistaken for his own assistant before.

“I’m sorry, Scientist Oranaan, no one ever told me what you look like.”

He suddenly grinned, an expression that didn’t exactly make him handsome, but was so very alive and genuine, Kunabei grinned back at him. He turned to the other scientist. “You see, Denel, you should have more faith in your ability to impress people. She thought you were me!” He turned back to Rai Kunabei. “Here, let me help you!” He reached forward and grabbed the bag of divination disks, just under where Kunabei held it, swinging it toward him before getting her permission.

Kunabei let go of the bag—he was a lowlander, after all, and didn’t know he was being disrespectful.

The bag swung into Oranaan’s shins. “Ow!” He gave Kunabei a measuring look. “What’s in here?”

Kunabei smiled, deciding that she liked this impulsive young man. Despite giving himself what would doubtless be substantial bruises, he had not dropped the bag. “Those are my divination disks.”

Denel laid her hand on Kunabei’s arm. “Are you hungry? There’s a restaurant near here that claims to serve Affabreidalam-style food, or we can go get some traditional Mojeveterk specialties if you prefer.”

Oranaan’s stomach rumbled. “Oh, yes! Can we get you some food?”

Kunabei nodded. “I’d like to try the local food, if that’s all right. I’ve never been further than Affabreidalam before.”

They guided her across the street and Oranaan was greeted by name at the restaurant. Soon, they had a good-sized table and Oranaan presented a chit and ordered a sampler plate.

When the server left, Oranaan started to untie the bag of disks.

Denel put her hand over his. “Oranaan, my boys know better than to open someone else’s luggage.”

He blushed. “Ah, I apologize, Rai Kunabei. It’s just I’ve never seen divination disks before.”

“I could do a reading for you, but our tradition is that the Rai should not do readings for the disrespectful. And as Rai, it is my job to uphold the traditions.”

Oranaan’s face fell. “But I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.”

“That’s all right. You can ask again tomorrow.”

He looked woefully at the bag, and then back at her face. “Wait—Denel wasn’t disrespectful, was she?”

“That’s right.”

“Then you could do a reading for Denel!”

“I only do readings for people who ask for them.”

The server arrived with a large platter of food, and set it in the middle of the table, placing small plates in front of each of them. Oranaan turned to Denel, “You will ask for a reading, won’t you?”

Denel thanked the server and shifted the topic to the different foods on the sampler plate.

Oranaan sighed, “Denel? Will you?”

Denel smiled at him fondly. “I might ask after lunch.” She pointedly turned to Kunabei and asked, “What would you like to try first?”

Lunch was pleasant, and most of the foods were very good, if a little sweeter than Kunabei was used to. Oranaan threw himself into the role of host with evident enjoyment of the food, but his eyes darted back to the leather bag holding the disks even while he related hilarious stories about his mostly-failed first attempts to cook the dishes she was tasting.

Kunabei started to wonder how much of Oranaan’s reputation for carelessness was really a reflection of his joy in being outrageous. Did this reputation let him achieve more leeway to do unconventional experiments than he would otherwise get away with?

The server brought out some after-meal pastries, which proved to be even sweeter than the lunch itself.

Finally, when the server had cleared away all the food and left them with hot drinks (Kunabei had managed to score an unsweetened tea, to her relief), Denel asked Kunabei about the divining disks.

“It would take too long, I think, to try to talk about all of them now. But I could give you a reading, if you like.”

Denel paused just long enough to see Oranaan biting his lower lip, and then responded, “Yes, please. I would like that.”

Rai Kunabei untied the bag. “Do you have a particular question?”

“I—do I need to?”

“No. But you can choose to.”

Denel thought for a minute, but then shook her head. “No particular question—no, wait—tell us about our research, if you can.”

Kunabei nodded. “All right then. The simplest reading is three disks. The first one shows you the nature of the situation the reading is about.” She started to reach in to the bag, then paused, glancing rom Denel to Oranaan. “You do have the right to privacy if you want it.”

Oranaan opened his mouth, holding up a hand.

Denel laughed. “No, no. It’s fine for Oranaan to watch.”

He sat back in his chair.

“That’s what I thought you wanted, but you can’t learn the traditions unless I share, since you did not grow up in the mountains.”

Denel nodded. “That makes sense.”

“All right, I shall begin.” Kunabei reached into the bag and pulled out a disk. It was big enough to cover her entire palm, and was made of soft, shiny bronze. She turned it over to show an enameled image of a hammer smashing some piece of wooden furniture.

“The nature of the problem is Destruction, the embodiment of human-made endings. Whatever you are studying, human actions have made the situation worse, or perhaps caused the situation, either recently or in the distant past.”

Oranaan held out his hand. “May I look at the disk, please?”

Kunabei let it slide gently from her own hand to his. Most people, faced with the image of destruction, didn’t want to touch it, but this young scientist was fearless. He turned it over and over, running his fingers over the metal and enameled sides of the disk.

Kunabei turned to Denel. “The second disk has to do with the tools that are involved in the situation, which, in this case could be either the tools that were or are used to bring about this situation, or it could be the tools you need to address the problem.”

Denel nodded her understanding.

Kunabei reached into the bag and drew out another disk. This one was gold, and showed an elder seated on the ground, a bag by her knee and holding scorched ball whistles in her hands. It was a tolerable likeness of Kunaei’s grandmother, though the artist who made it had never met the old priestess. “This is the Shaman, who is the embodiment of abstract knowledge. From this, I would say that physical tools are of limited use in addressing the problem you are studying. Human perception, intelligence and the knowledge handed down from our ancestors will be vital to understanding what is going on. That is interesting, because usually the knowledge and attitudes that shed light on the topic at hand shows up as the third disk.”

She passed the Shaman to Oranaan, then reached in a final time and brought out an iron disk. The image enameled on one side was a sheer cliff, with a tiny figure clinging precariously to the rock. “The Cliff, which is the dangerous aspect of borders.” Kunabei fell silent, considering the disk. “It might be that the knowledge you need has been passed down by people in very different parts of the world, so that the social divisions remaining from the old borders are a barrier to obtaining the information you need. Or perhaps this is more literal, and the old borders have something to do with the problem. Or maybe,” she looked over at Oranaan, “it could simply be a warning that pushing your licenses to their limits is perilous in and of itself, and the chaos you cause could be threatening your effectiveness to obtain the information you need.”

Oranaan frowned at that. “You’ve heard stories about me. Is that all this is, stories?” He gestured at the disks.

Kunabei shrugged. “Stories are an effective way to teach, and to get people thinking about their problems in a new way. If you are asking me is there some science behind which disk is drawn when, all I can say is that if there is, I don’t know it. All I can offer is my personal observations that people who ask for readings do get some benefit from the experience.”

She placed the final disk into Oranaan’s hand, and unhooked her own scorched ball whistle from her staff, which was leaning in a corner. “It’s similar to this—I didn’t see what scorched this whistle, but something did. It’s not very satisfactory that I cannot tell you what a wraith looks like or why it attacks people in the highlands, but I take comfort from knowing that the whistle protected me.”

Oranaan dropped the disks into Denel’s hands and reached for the ball. “This—this came into contact with an anomaly? And you were there? You survived? You’re not mad?” He stopped short of touching it. “May I hold it?”

Kunabei nodded. “I met a wraith in the mountains and survived. That is how I came to be the shaman for my people.” She put the ball into his hands. “Certainly you can look at it. But remember it is sacred to me. You may not subject it to explosions or laboratory fires or do anything else to it without letting me know exactly what you plan and getting my prior approval.”

Reluctantly, he nodded, but still, Kunabei watched him carefully as she took the disks from Denel and returned them to her bag. As she tied it up, the server walked up and bowed to the scientists. “If you are finished with your lunch, we would like to clean this area and get set up for the dinner crowd.”

“Oh, of course. I apologize, we didn’t realize how late it has gotten. Denel took the ball from Oranaan and handed it back to Kunabei, who tied it securely to her staff.

Oranaan smiled at the young woman and reached into a pocket, taking out a thin sliver of metal that shone with swirls of bright color, almost like the mystery disk in Kunabei’s bag.

Oranaan stood and pulled out a pen and signed the rectangular bit of metal, then handed it to the server. “I’m not much of an artist, but this is part of a plate that was damaged in the last laboratory fire. It is, if nothing else, unique.

The server’s eyes grew round, and he took the slip of metal. “Thank you, Scientist. You are welcome to return any time.”

They guided Kunabei back outside into the sunlight, and turned left. Denel started laughing as soon as the door closed behind them. “You turned your—your slag—into tip cards? Oranaan, you are incorrigible!”

Oranaan smiled, and offered his free arm to Kunabei. “Let us take you to the room we reserved for you, and then we can go find an Assistant to take notes while you tell us all about your encounter with the wraith.”


As usual, this is posted prior to Canon-Board review, so it may be edited for coninuity. There are other stories about Rai-Kunabei, Denel, and Oranaan over at www.TornWorld.net
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
So, this is a continuation of Tom and Jeri's story. Hmmmm...writing it that way, well, I have to admit that my subconscious self must be laughing at my conscious self. I hadn't realized until right now that these characters are namesakes of that famous cartoon! I do want to keep him as "Tom", but now I wonder if I should change Jeri's name. (You're welcome to weigh in on this suddenly earth-shattering question.)

Anyway, for people who don't want to pick up this story in the middle, here is a glimpse of Tom as a boy: E is for Education, and here are the two bits that lead directly up to this one. D is for Dancing and F is for Witch/Familiar relations.


Jeri looked around as she arrived at Mrs. Maher’s. There was a little stage in one corner, currently adorned with several guitars and a bodhran. There was a small dance floor in front of that, a well-stocked bar, and lots of tables.

Tom waved at her from a spot near the stage, smiling. His long blond hair was loose around his shoulders, a much more attractive look than she’d seen before, though she had to admit a ponytail was practical for acrobatic dancing.

Jeri smiled back and weaved her way through the tables. They exchanged pleasantries and Tom took her coat, hanging it on a hook nearby. A waiter showed up with menus. He greeted Tom by name, and Tom introduced Jeri.

“So, you’re a regular here?”

Tom nodded. “They have good food, good drink, good music, and a place to dance. What more does a man need?”

Jeri found herself grinning back at him. “Magic?”

His grin widened. “Touche! But now that you’re here, this place has it all.”

They ordered drinks and Tom settled back a bit. “I’ll have friends arriving in a while; if we’re going to talk about magic, you might want to do it now.”

Jeri nodded. “I don’t exactly have a syllabus, you know. Familiars mostly can’t read.” She kept her tone light. “But I do want your company for a few evenings. I can’t promise anything flashy, though.”

Tom leaned forward. “Is something going on? You sound worried.”

He was perceptive—either through the familiar bond or just noticing details she tried to hide. Despite herself, Jeri wondered what it would be like to actually date someone this sensitive to her moods.

“Yes, a little. My friends—my human friends—have all been having a run of bad luck. Cars breaking down, plumbing exploding, chimneys tottering, co-workers quitting for no reason, all sorts of things. Stuff that happens, but not to everyone all at once.”

“My friends too, now that you mention it.”

“I’m afraid there’s something magical that’s increasing entropic effects, hopefully by accident. I want to drive around the city and see if I can find—well, I really don’t know what.” She looked up at him, “You drive, right? It would be easier if you could drive so I can focus on the magic.”

He tossed his hair back decorously, a bit of a frown showing on his face. “Of course I can drive. What do you—“

Jeri put her hand out to touch him, felt the comforting spark of the familiar bond as they touched. “I didn’t mean anything by that; I just didn’t want to presume. Most of my human friends drive, but only about half of the magical ones.” She rummaged in her purse and brought out a box. “I—I have something for you.”

“A gift? It’s not my birthday.”

“This—or something like it—is traditional. It’s the first gift a witch gives to her familiar. I—I hope you like it. I tried to pick a form that would be suitable.” She slid it across the table, like a peace offering.

“You’re nervous.” It wasn’t a question, but at least it wasn’t an accusation.

He lifted the box and opened it. Inside was a heavy gold chain with an enameled triskel set as a centerpiece, in line with the chain rather than dangling like a pendant.

“This is awfully expensive for a first date.”

Jeri frowned. “It isn’t about the date. You agreed to a season. I have obligations. Ignoring magical obligations, well it isn’t wise.”

“Obli—“ He dropped the necklace back into the box, frowning. “You had to get me a collar? Why not just buy a leather one with spikes!”

Jeri felt herself blushing. “I didn’t know you swung that way.”

They glared at each other and suddenly burst out laughing at the same moment. The connection between them thrummed like a harpstring, reassuring them that the other didn’t mean harm, and the anger just couldn’t hold up to that sure, inner knowledge.

The waiter brought drinks and took food orders, and smiled when they had trouble stopping the laughter long enough to speak.

Eventually, though, Tom pushed the box back toward Jeri. “Seriously, this isn’t necessary. Take it to the store and get your money back.”

Jeri shook her head. “Seriously, it is necessary. That isn’t store-bought, it was made by a catkin craftsman and carries several layers of enchantment. The simplest one marks you as my familiar, so you can go places and talk to people on my behalf when needed.”

He frowned again, and Jeri rushed to complete what she had to say before he interjected. “The second enchantment provides you with some protections that you will need in case I lose control of a spell and the magic backlashes, or someone sends a magical attack our way, or we stumble into something that you have no natural protection against. The third—well, the third was a special gift for you, and will remain active even if we no longer have this connection.”

He closed his mouth again and raised his eyebrows.

“The third is the gift of what some people call The Sight—so long as you wear the necklace, you will be able to see, hear, and even smell things that normal humans can’t.”

“Like the ephemerals?”

She nodded. “And a lot more.”

“Even if I stop being your familiar?”

“Yes. You refused to let me support you, so you are due a substantial gift. I hope this one is acceptable. It’s not an easy enchantment to perform.”

He smiled slowly, and lifted the necklace out of the box. “I’ve always wanted to see the ephemerals.”

“They can be very distracting. Also, one could argue that I chose that enchantment more for my convenience than yours. I must give you a necklace or collar, but it doesn’t have to be this one—“

“No, I like this one very much. Thank you.”


Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] skajm for today's prompt, and to dreamwidth user Claredragonfly, [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner and [livejournal.com profile] kelkyag for the prompts to the earlier ficlets I linked to at the top of this post.

If you like what you read, and want to encourage me to put more time into one or another of my projects, please let me know. Requests from people who sponsor me will get priority!

wyld_dandelyon: (a wizard writing)
Sandie read the local papers obsessively, though most of them weren’t even on paper any more. They had kept her finger on the pulse of her City, so she could sell feature articles and humor pieces to the magazines. Now she also read the #Chicaugwa twitter stream and various local blogs and Facebook pages too. Chicaugwa was endlessly fascinating, vibrant and alive.

But today she frowned as she read. There were more want ads, but people complained of insufficient jobs. Apartment ads were plentiful, and house sales were down. Economic indices were up, but the spirit of the people of Chicago was unhappy, restless, even hopeless. She had seen it first on the street, in the grocery stores and restaurants, but now it was everywhere, even on MySpace. People were leaving, packing up their families and pets, abandoning beloved jobs, and, like it was an afterthought, putting their dream homes into the hands of harried real estate agents. It just didn’t make sense.

Sandie picked up the next neighborhood paper and scanned it, then shook her head. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong, but this only showed the symptoms. She would have to go out and find the cause—but where?

It was time to check a different source of information. The old ways were usually vague or as maddeningly symbolic and obscure as the Delphic Oracle, but sometimes they were needed.

She cleaned her dining room carefully and took the leaves out of the center of the tablee, leaving herself with a proper circle to work on. She laid out a fine, microfiber tablecloth, then set five candles equidistant around the edge and lit them. Five tiny carved cats, each with a cone of incense were next. Then she started to spread the papers on the dining room table. For this, she needed real paper, so she identified a number of the puzzling articles and posts online and set her printer to chattering.

She shifted the papers until the pictures, columns of text, tweets, and advertisements shaped into a pentacle, and the whole table was covered. Finally, at the center of the table, she placed the stand for her crystal ball. It was brass, and depicted five cats, each with different precious stones for eyes—amber, opal, peridot, sapphire, and amethyst. Finally, she lifted the crystal ball from its case and set it carefully on the stand. It was natural quartz, expensive and beautiful.

Then she lit the incense and breathed deep, walking around the table and opening her inner eyes. She sank into the process; she had inherited enough of the catkin magic for this, but only barely. She chanted as she walked, waiting until she felt the flare of the magic deep inside, then turned toward the table and opened her eyes.

She was facing the cat with opal eyes, and saw its tail twitch angrily. It was not looking at her, however. It was looking over at a picture of the Lakefront earlier that year, the article about tourists visiting the ice caves before everything in the city had gone nuts.

Sandie didn’t remember printing that article, much less placing it on the table.

She whispered to the cats, “Show me, please—who is messing with my city?” She leaned over the table and gazed into the ball. Immediately, as clearly as if it were a cute baby animal post on Facebook, she saw a beaver frolicking in icy waters, swimming in circles, up and down and around and around. She watched for a moment, but like a facebook video, that was really all there was to it. As expected, a riddle.

She sighed and looked at the cat, and was surprised to find herself looking at the one with amethyst eyes. She sighed with relief. The cats were willing to answer more than one question, this time. That was rare, and precious, and probably meant that her city was in even more trouble than she had realized. She considered, then asked, “Where should I look first?”

All the articles she had been reading spun in front of her eyes, as if to say, “everywhere”. She pushed at the magic harder and leaned in to look at the crystal ball. Words from headlines and ads flashed by as the articles kept spinning, faster and faster. Animal rights, natural habitat, pollution, wilderness. Then she was too dizzy to focus and the magic she could call, exhausted, was slipping away.

It wasn’t enough! She reached, swinging her arms out, reaching in an attempt to grab at least one more clue, and her left hand hit a small glass bottle, knocking it over.

What? She had cleaned the room! Where did the bottle come from?

Dizzy, she fell against the wall. She was by one of the doorways, and she grabbed the moulding there, looking over at the table. What had she hit?

An open bottle of indelible India ink lay there, open, on its side. She watched as the ink spread across the papers on the table, forming a complex set of perfect concentric circles, each one overlaid with strange symbols. She watched in horror as the ink sank into the paper, twisting faces from smiles into grimaces of fear or anger or longing and obliterating or reshaping words. The smoke from her incense cones swerved in the still air of her apartment to avoid the area.

She’d gotten her additional clue—someone had cursed Chicaugwa, cursed her city carefully and thoroughly.

She stared in horror at the mess on her dining room table, knowing that it had become her responsibility to rescue her city, though she didn’t have the training or the magical power to even really understand what had been done. And the symbolism of the India ink was not lost on her. The curse had already soaked into the fiber of the City, like a stain on the tapestry woven by the fates.


Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] tigertoy for the prompt!

If you like what you read, and want to encourage me to put more time into one or another of my projects, please let me know. Requests from people who sponsor me will get priority!

wyld_dandelyon: (Disintegrations and Defenestrations! by)
We've been working on the goal of Making Room lately. It's hard to not feel overwhelmed, we bought this house from a family of hoarders, and while they removed a lot of stuff, they didn't get rid of it all. One of the ways we have made things manageable is to have smaller goals. One is to fill the trash bin every week.

We did fail to do this the week we both had the flu and it was sub-zero temperatures outside. I really wanted to do it every single week, but hey, either one of those things would justify a week off of going through old, dirty stuff.

But otherwise, we have succeeded in throwing a bunch of stuff away every week. We have also been designating stuff that's still usable to be donated to The Restore or one of the local thrift stores, and metal stuff that's not usable (or not worth cleaning up) to be sold as scrap.

It being winter, we had been piling the scrap metal by the back door, mostly blocking the corridor that leads to the room that used to be a bathroom down there. Who wants to carry old dehumidifyers, broken pipe, and other heavy, rusty stuff out to the car in snow and ice? We could go sell the scrap metal in the Spring, I thought.

Then I started draining the bathtub and headed down to do laundry and my ears were assaulted by a soft, but very unwelcome sound. I really didn't need to hear falling water back there! And it was totally inaccessible. It was only 3 or 4 years ago that we replaced a bunch of those old pipes, so we didn't expect to need to mess with them again already. But we didn't replace all of the old pipes, just the ones that were leaking, so...lucky us. Time to take the metal away.

This morning, we filled the car with what turned out to be about a quarter-ton of old crap. It netted us about enough to go have lunch or a movie, not exactly a good payday for the work involved, but at least the metal will be reused instead of rusting away in a landfill. We'll need to make another trip soon, since the hallway isn't clear yet, but we can now go around the remaining stuff to get to the room where the pipes are leaking, so at least we can find out how bad the leak is and maybe get a bucket under it. I remind myself that slow progress is still progress.

In other news, I've had a lot of fun writing up One Card readings for people. In light of the need for plumbing repairs, I haven't yet closed the window for free requests (though I plan to limit free requests to whenever I head to bed tonight); I will keep the window for paid requests open for a few more days. If you haven't stopped by yet, you're welcome!

Tomorrow, I hope to have a bit of flash fiction (as yet unwritten), and this weekend is Sketchfest and the Torn World Muse Fusion, so I'm planning to put creative things to the forefront for a couple of days. Hopefully I'll see you around!
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
With thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner, for the prompt, here is another Catkin ficlet. I am also posting this as my #flashfriday story. I'm hoping to do this more often, though I've been focusing on finishing a novel, whose working title is Clockwork Dragon.

H is for Helpful

Bindi walked the frozen alleys restlessly, changing from human to cat form when the moon rose. Sean followed, his sleek black pelt letting him hide in the shadows. As they drew near to her apartment, he came over to her, rubbing against her brown-furred shoulder with his own. He looked pointedly at the open window.

Bindi stood, her dark tail twitching. The neighborhood felt wrong, as if cold air was emanating from the beaches, though it was early in the winter, and the weather maps showed that the lakeside was, as always before midwinter, warmer than the rest of the city.

She jumped to a wall, and murmured the cantrip that tucked her clothes neatly around her skin as she changed to human form again. The black cat jumped to her lap, and waited. Sean was fun in bed, but lacked either the magical talent or the will to practice even such minor spells. Changing back would have left him naked in the snow.

“There’s something wrong,” she told him.

He rolled his eyes, a very human gesture on his slender feline face.

“Yes, I know I’ve said that before. I just wish I knew what it was, or at least where it’s coming from.”
He looked east. From here, they could see Lake Michigan, or at least the part near enough to the shore to have been turned into a frozen wasteland by the unseasonable cold.

“Yeah, the feeling is worse the further east we go, but there’s nothing out there but ice. When we drove up to Waukee and then all the way to Manistee, the bad feeling was clearly coming from the Chicaugwa area, not someplace in the middle of the great lake.”

Sean purred, remembering the pleasantries on the trip, and rubbed against her, looking again at the window.

“I’m really worried,” she said, not reacting to his invitation at all.

He stood on her lap and shimmied, running a dramatic shiver down his body, and looked again at the window.
“You think it’s the cold? I don’t think so. Weatherworking takes a lot of power…but then, tying magic in to the weather isn’t as hard as shaping it.” She petted his head absently, thinking hard. “It still takes more power than one person is likely to have. If some group is casting a spell, tying it into the cold somehow, that could account for me feeling things are getting more ominous every day.” Bindi shivered for real. “They’re not predicting a thaw for weeks. I don’t like this. I don’t like it at all.” She lifted the black cat up to her face and kissed him. “Thanks, Sean, you’ve been very helpful.” She rubbed his head. “I’ve got to talk to some people about this. See you later.”

Bindi put him down on the windowsill and shifted, her clothes vanishing magically only a moment before she disappeared in the normal feline fashion.

Behind her the tomcat jumped into the window and packed his meagre belongings into his backpack. He left a figurine, a black cat windsurfing, on her dresser to thank her for her hospitality and let her know he was headed to warmer climes. He hesitated, then left a bottle of subtle perfume next to the figurine. The bottle was tied shut with a twist of his own black hair. He would happily take Bindi with him, but Chicaugwa was her territory, and female catkin were as bound to their territory as toms were to wandering. He knew she wouldn’t leave—they never did—but he would be very happy to see her again. And maybe, if this impending doom was bad enough, Bindi would track him down.

He murmured the one cantrip he had mastered, and the enchanted pack shrunk down into a battered-looking collar around his neck. He prowled through the small apartment one last time before leaping to the windowsill and pushing it closed from the outside. He leapt lightly to the alley, and set off. He felt lonely already, but even so, it felt good to be on the road, headed away from whatever doom was aimed at Chicaugwa.
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
I still owe you folks a bunch of urban fantasy worldbuilding ficlets. So, with thanks to [livejournal.com profile] msstacy13 for the prompt, here we go:

G is for Glasses

Katie scowled and followed her mother into the store. It just wasn’t fair. She pulled and dragged and stomped her feet, which wasn’t nearly as satisfying as she imagined swishing her tailmight be. Not that she could do any such thing, of course. Her twin sister changed forms just fine, but the only sign that Katie was catkin were the slit pupils in her very nearsighted eyes. Pupils that would look even stranger seen through thick lenses.

Katie’s mother sighed. It was hard enough having a kit that was stuck in human form, but foot-stomping, as if her child were a mere human, and an ill-mannered one at that? But all she said was, “What can’t be cured must be endured.”

This was met with more foot stomping; words didn’t make things better, and those words in particular usually signaled a turn for the worse. But those words also meant that her mother wouldn’t change her mind, no matter what her children did or said, so Katie sighed and tried on a frame, and then another. She expected it would be quite the chore, trying on frame after frame, leaning back to see how the color and shape fit her face, and then leaning forward to peer at the details.

It wasn’t the experience she expected. There was something magical in the way a pair of glasses could make her look like someone else, someone quite different than her sister, Pearlie. Some of them were like costumes, making her look like her mother or a teacher, a doctor or a judge. Together, they posed a new question: who did she want to be? And then she found something even better. A few, a very few, gave her the sense, for the very first time, that she was looking at herself.

She leaned into the mirror, grinning, going back and forth between those frames to pick the best two, the ones that made the world look brighter when she had them on. Then she walked quickly, with light, sure steps to her mother. “Look at these! They’re so marvelously, splendiferously perfect!”

Her mother took the frames and read the prices on the tiny labels. “These are awfully expensive.”

“The sign says two for one, so I can have a pair and a spare!” Katie pointed to the sign. “Please?”

Her mother had her try on some other frames for her, but it was clear that she was eager to wear those two, and reluctant to wear any others. The change in her demeanor when she was wearing those frames was quite pronounced. It was as if she gained two years of poise and maturity in those frames. Finally, her mother agreed to pay more than twice what she’d told Katie was their limit, and the technician in the back room made the glasses while they waited.

The first glasses were purple metal, with tiny pale blue stars, and the second pair were also metal, but had purple, green, and blue strands twined in a pattern that reminded Katie of braided hair or Tiffany lamps. Katie danced around the room in the second pair, waiting impatiently for the first pair to be finished. She felt free and graceful in the glasses, a new feeling for her. When other customers came in, she didn’t stop dancing, but she also managed to never be in their way. Catlike, she never tripped or knocked anything over.

Then the saleswoman came out to fit the first pair of new glasses precisely to her head, while the second pair was sent back for its lenses. Katie cooperated with the fitting, her heart pounding and her eyes darting around the room whenever the lenses were perched on her nose. The world was so bright and clear! People and things had a bright inner glow. Dutifully, she read the words on the wall and the small print on the card the woman handed her. She patiently waited while the woman cleaned the glasses one last time, then returned to dancing.

The other girl, the one who had come in while Katie waited, looked unhappy. “They’re all ugly!” she cried. Katie couldn’t help but let her eyes fly to the scene as the girl’s parents offered a new set of glasses to try. The girl had a clear blue inner light; the glasses they parents offered matched their own orange and brown glows. Predictably, the girl hated all of those too. She ran to the far end of the store, where she stood facing a wall with her face red and eyes closed. The mother hung on to one of the frames, while the father put away the rejects.

Impulsively, Katie went to the cheapest wall, and grabbed frames whose inner glow matched or complemented the girl’s glow, and walked over to the girl. “Excuse me,” she said, “I—I didn’t want to come here for glasses either.”

“It’s not fair that I need glasses!”

“No, it’s not. But they will buy you a pair you hate if you don’t find some you like. And what good is that?”

“None.” The girl opened her eyes. “Hey, those glasses you’re wearing look good on you. Do they have more like them?”

They did, but the glow was the wrong color for this girl. “I don’t think so. But maybe you could try these?” Katie felt an odd confidence, but let her voice sound hesitant as she held out the glasses she’d picked out.

The girl tried on one of the frames, and then another. “These are all better than the ones my parents picked out.” She smiled. “I’m Alma.”

“I’m Katie.” Solemnly, the girls shook hands, and then Alma dragged Katie to meet her parents and help them look through frames.

By the time Katie’s second pair of glasses was ready, Alma and her parents had agreed on two frames and they were comparing addresses. They only lived three blocks apart, and were scheduled to go to the same middle school the next year.

As they left the store, Katie said, “These glasses are magic!”

Watching her daughter’s eyes dart excitedly back and forth, lingering where the world’s hidden auras were brightest, her mother had to agree.
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
I know, this is my space, I can do whatever I want here, as much or as little, and so on and so forth. But I do value this space, this connection with other thinking, creating people. And I am not using it as much as I want to.

On the other hand, I'm doing more of window repairs, wall repairs, bathroom repairs, painting and plastering (well, that one's in the wrong order), errands, and stuff like dishes and mopping than I want to be. To say nothing of arranging for things like fixing squirrel damage or cutting down the old dying rowan tree before it falls on my car or somebody's house or garage. Somehow, when I get to the computer I'm tired. It takes a while to get into writing mode and I then try to turn first to fiction, and I rarely get focused for Live Journal after that. (And I won't even mention trips to the dentist.)

I know I will appreciate windows that have been tended prior to winter, and walls that look whole and pleasing, and bathrooms that don't leak, and not having my sparkly purple car crushed, and not having holes in my teeth, etc. Those are all good things, but they're not enough.

Maybe I can change that--at least, the not posting much part. Here's hoping.

In the meantime,

"Hi out there! I'm still here, and glad to see you."
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
I went to an excellent panel on anger in fiction at Loncon. They started with a quote from Abigail Nussbaum, who said there is an "increasing prevalence of vengeful victim characters, who are condemned not for the choices they make in pursuit of revenge, but simply for feeling anger..." (emphasis added)

My first reaction on reading that quote was, Wait--that's not fair! Anger is an emotion. Sure, it's a powerful one. It's a reaction to bad things happening, but the emotion itself isn't bad, and feeling it doesn't make you a bad person. Sure, anger can inspire you to do bad things, but so can any emotion, including "good" emotions like love. And it's just not right to punish people for their feelings.

I have long maintained that anger is a powerful emotion, and potentially a strong force for good. Anger is the energy that says "this is wrong and has to change". Sometimes you need to move past anger without making a change--for example, if you are dying, no change is possible, and you have to move on in the grief cycle.

But other times change is both possible and desirable; the challenge then isn't to eliminate the anger, but to find ways to channel that energy constructively rather than destructively.

The panel itself was interesting; people said you need to separate the emotion from the consequences; it was clear that they were recognizing that when you feel anger, or another emotion, you have choices to make not only about whether to express it but how to express it. I would have said you need to separate the emotion from the action, and also the emotion and action from the consequences. That might seem nit-picky, but I have run into problems in the past where one person assumed that the only possible reason for an action was his reason for that action, and he condemned someone else not for the action, but for what he thought was the motive for the action.

Another thing that was discussed by panelists is something I could rephrase into the old cliche, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." You have to speak up to initiate a change, but sometimes merely speaking up isn't enough. Sometimes you have to be loud and persistent to be noticed. (Of course, sometimes being loud just gets the people you need to listen to shy away in fear or distaste. Other times, it locks your desired audience into a closed defensive mind-set where they are too busy defending against a perceived or real attack to really hear your words.) But that doesn't change the fact that sometimes yelling is needed to convince someone to listen.

Panelists also mentioned things I hadn't realized, for instance the fact that if a minority expresses dissatisfaction with the status quo, no matter how politely or calmly they speak, they are perceived to be angry. This was a big "aha" moment for me, since I've been bewildered at the reactions I've gotten from white men at times--them believing I was making an angry attack would explain things nicely.

This also (in my mind, anyway, though I don't remember any one panelist stating this conclusion) may explain why we are taught that anger is a negative and harmful emotion--it's a force of change, and the people in charge want to stay in charge. Anger is dangerous to them not only when it is expressed destructively, but even and perhaps especially when it is expressed constructively.

Anger might lead to real change, after all.

And there's certainly things that need changing all around us.

So, if you're angry (and I hope you are, at least some of the time), be careful. How you express your anger matters. If you're not careful, you could destroy things you value, hurt your friends and alienate your allies. You could make the needed changes harder.

You've got to remember that the goal isn't merely expressing your feelings. That's important, but it isn't nearly enough.

So if you're angry, consider what your bigger goal is, consider your audience, and act carefully. Good luck making the changes you need manifest in your life!

And now I'm off to consult with certain of my characters, because I suspect some of the stuck-bits in my stories have to do with not identifying or clearly showing their anger. I wonder how many of them will heed my advice? Will they make changes or dig themselves in deeper? You know, from a writing perspective, this is exciting stuff!
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
Tom frowned at the handout, and then at the substitute teacher. Rebelliously, he raised his hand.

“Yes?” The teacher raised her grey eyebrows, an effect that was magnified and distorted by the thick glasses she wore.

“We can’t even see these ephemerals. What’s the point of studying them?”

“Can you see the flu virus?”

“I don’t want to see a flu virus!” That was really the problem. Tom wanted to see the ephemerals.

The girl next to Tom raised her hand, but didn’t wait to be called on. “We can see a flu virus in a microscope, or we could if we had a good one.”

“Very good, child.” The substitute teacher didn’t even pretend to be learning their names. “And it’s possible that someday you will be in circumstances that are, metaphorically speaking, like looking through a good microscope. If that ever happens—”

“Yeah, right.” Tom groused, just loud enough for the teacher to hear. The magical world was notoriously secretive, though the few magical folk who’d been interviewed on the news (their faces and voices distorted or masked) called themselves “private”.

The teacher rapped on his desk with an old-fashioned wooden ruler, and Tom jumped. Where had that come from?

“If you do ever see an ephemeral, and cannot successfully pretend that it’s not there, this knowledge might save your life.”

“I thought you said ephemerals are not dangerous.” The voice came from the back of the room.

“Not normally. But most situations that let ordinary humans see them are quite dangerous.” The old woman smiled then. “There won’t be a quiz, you know. Just life. If you don’t want to study, you don’t have to.”

The bell rang then, and Tom reflexively tucked the handout into his backpack. He darted out of the classroom, glad to be away from the creepy teacher. Very glad she was just a substitute teacher. He hoped he’d never see her again.

But that evening, he found himself looking at the handout, which was already yellowing like the pages of an old paperback. He pulled out the extra notebook his mother had bought him, and started copying it, word for word, intensely enough that he missed his mother’s dinner call. After dinner, he finished the copy, as if he had been placed under a compulsion. Finally, he closed the fragile handout into the notebook; he could check his work in the morning.

He dreamed of catkin that night, a jumble of fast-paced alley adventures that seemed chaotic and unlikely when he woke the next day. Night ephemerals were everywhere, watching the whole thing as if his adventures were their equivalent of TV.

When he woke, he reached for the notebook, planning to write down his dreams and re-read the handout, but there was nothing left but dust, except for his scribbled copy. By the time he found his pen, he couldn’t remember enough of the dreams to make it worth writing anything down.

“Wow.” Tom sat there, staring at his notes, wondering who—and what—the substitute teacher had really been.

He wasn’t surprised to find his friends remembered a cute young substitute teacher who had set them to read Macbeth aloud. The magical world was very private, after all. But it had reached out to touch him, and that gave him hope. Maybe, someday, it would touch him again.


Thanks to DreamWidth user ClareDragonfly for the prompt.
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
(With apologies to people who are waiting to see the E entry. This one comes next.)

The offer of hospitality, which included meat pastries, cookies, and milk, settled Jeri a bit, but left her no less baffled.

The human, Tom, verbally accepted the milk and a cookie, but left them sitting in front of him, untouched. “I—I don’t understand,” he said.

The old woman took a bite of one of her own meat pastries. “No, I don’t suppose you do, Thomas.”

His eyes widened. “How do you know my name?”

“You told us your name, or at least that you are Tom, while you danced.”

He blushed. “Yeah, or at least, I tried to tell Jeri.” Then his eyes narrowed, and he frowned. “But how did I know her name?”

The old woman took another bite of her food without answering him. “The two of you have a decision to make, and you should make it before you touch. The connection is already quite strong.”

“What connection?” Jeri thought the question, but the human spoke it aloud.

The old woman turned to Jeri. “You must have been searching, lately. One doesn’t come uncalled.”

Suddenly, Jeri understood. She nodded. “I sent out a call at the new moon.” The ceremony had been peaceful, lit by candles in colors signifying the qualities she hoped for in a companion.

“A call for who?” The man looked from her to the old woman.

“Not who, exactly.” Jeri looked more closely at the human. Here, inside, she could see his eyes were hazel, green and grey with flecks of gold. His skin was well-tanned and he wore a t-shirt sporting an image of a wizard with an owl on his shoulder. She shook her head. “I would have been less surprised by an owl,” she muttered.

“An owl?” He followed the line of her gaze to his own shirt. “You—me—an owl? You’re saying you were looking for a familiar? For real?” He didn’t look shocked, merely skeptical.

Jeri nodded. Now that she thought about it, she could feel the pull of her own spell. She could feel that they were a good match, magically speaking. “It’s—it’s not settled, you know. My spell only identifies a possible match. You can say no—or I can.” Jeri realized she didn’t want to say no. The spell pulled her to him, even though the obligation to support one’s familiar could be much more complex, and expensive, if she accepted a sentient being in that position.

“Having a human as a familiar is complicated in a lot of ways, for both the mage and the familiar.” The old woman poured herself more milk. “Unless one of you wants to bow out immediately, I suggest a temporary agreement. The traditional term is a year and a day, but you could also choose a moon phase, or a season.

“A year and a—are you talking about a handfasting?” The man frowned.

Jeri crossed her arms protectively. They weren't talking about any form of marriage—but she resented the implication that it would be so terrible to be handfasted to her.

“No.” The old woman shook her head. “Magically potent time periods are appropriate to a variety of different situations.” Then she cocked her head, as if reconsidering. “You know, normally I’d strongly recommend against even considering a romantic relationship—but you, young Tom, showed up at the courting dance. I don’t think that’s merely the coincidence of your given name.”

Jeri frowned. She wasn't about to be pushed into a relationship by the old queen, her own magic, or anyone or any thing else. “I’m not looking for a marriage-like relationship,” she said, very firmly. “Just for a familiar.”

The old woman nodded. “So, what other terms do you want to set?” She looked at Tom. “That question is for you too, young man. If you want to consider the position at all.”

Jeri leaned forward, “I will support you, as is traditional, if you say yes.”

Tom shook his head, and her heart dropped. “I can support myself, thank you.”

“So, you’re not interested?”

“I didn’t say that. But I can't really say if this is something I'd want, though I'm curious. I propose instead that we date—for a season, you said?” He turned his head toward the old woman again.

The old woman nodded. “That’s one of the options.”

“Then for a season. After that we can decide, if we want to continue, to continue as friends or as more.”

“Don’t get your hopes up.” Jeri frowned.

He laughed. “Too late. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the magical side of the world. And you're pretty." He saw the expression on her face and stopped. After a moment, he said, "Look—my friends will understand me dating a pretty new woman. I can’t tell them I’m no more than—than an owl or a black cat to you. That might go over with magical folks, I don't know. I'm betting if I'm to somehow aide you magically we'll be seeing a lot of each other, so..." He fell silent, then finished lamely, "This will let us get to know each other, right?”

“You make it sound so logical.” Jeri still felt the magical pull, but was almost certain this was a mistake.

He smiled, a much nicer look on his face than confusion or his earlier frowns. "Isn’t that what you wanted?”

The man was irritating, but if she turned this familiar down without even a fair trial period, she’d have to wait at least a year to try again. “All right, then. Let’s discuss other terms.”


With thanks to [livejournal.com profile] kelkyag for the prompt.

P.S. I could still use a couple of prompts, over here.
wyld_dandelyon: (a wizard writing)
Jeri sat on the rough bark, swinging her feet, ten feet up into the tree. She leaned down to whisper to Anya, who sat on another branch, her long white-blond hair gleaming in the moonlight. “I like the blonde tiger, I think.”

“He’s pretty, but look at the way the tortie moves. I think he’ll outdo the blonde.” They referred to the tomcats as if they were in their feline forms, and strangers, though neither was the case. It wasn’t tradition, exactly, but it kept the focus on the dancing, and away from the more tricky topic of feelings.

Bindi leapt to the top of the fence, her form flowing from brown fur to browner skin in mid-air. “I like the black one.” She gestured, fingers twisting in a complex sign, and was covered by cut-off jeans and a t-shirt, but her eyes didn’t leave the palest young man. He’d been courting her for several full moons, so they knew his pelt, like his hair, was deep black.

Anya sighed. “It would be nice if you’d teach me that trick, Bindi.”

Bindi laughed. “Which one?”

“Both of them. All of them.” Anya’s answer was automatic; her eyes were on the tomcats, who were stretching and posing, showing off their muscles for the queens.

There were six men in the alley; following tradition, they stayed out of the neatly swept patio until the last of the queens arrived and the competition began.

Another queen arrived in human form, hair dyed purple. She was new, and didn’t introduce herself, just leapt into a tree on the other side of the yard.

Their host, an elderly woman whose greying hair resembled the stripes of a silver tabby, came out of the house, stepped into the patio and walked around, quietly greeting the new queen, then each of the toms. She nodded at Jeri, Bindi, and Anya, and accepted their casual nods in return. Finally, she settled into her chair under the tree, not quite under where Jeri was sitting, and nodded to the men to begin.

The newest tom, a redhead with brilliant green eyes, leapt into the center of the patio and started to dance. He was strong and limber, but not, Jeri thought, as graceful as some of the men who’d danced here before.

The blonde jumped in, an acrobatic move that flowed into a somersault and then into a bit of break dancing.

Then the tortie, a short man with nondescript brown hair in human form, slid into the center, with more break-dancing.

The next two danced together, with modern dance moves, mirroring each other. It caught Anya’s attention, and Jeri caught her leaning forward, her tongue between her teeth.

The final dancer, a slender man with dark skin, started with ballet moves and then some impressive Russian folk dance moves.

After the first round, there was another round or two before refreshments, but before any of the toms returned to the patio, a new young man jumped in. He was slender, with wide shoulders and narrow hips, and combined some modern dance moves with Riverdance-style kicking and tapping. His hair was long and blonde, and his eyes—Jeri caught her breath. Despite the full moon, she couldn’t tell the color of his eyes. He was either wearing contacts or was, simply, human.

The area was warded. A normal human should not have come so close—he should have either not noticed the party or remembered he had urgent business elsewhere. But this one had walked right in and joined the event before anyone even noticed he was there.

She glanced down at their host. The old woman was looking at the new queen, and then looked up over her shoulder at Anya, Bindi, and Jeri. Her expression was not upset or alarmed, just curious. Surprised and curious.

The toms were dancing two or three at a time now, each focusing on one of the watching queens, making a few moves and then taking a short breather, before dancing again. The human spun in the middle, eyes closed.

The blonde tiger and the paired toms focused in turn on Anya; the black continued to court Bindi. The other two toms danced for each person in turn. Jeri found her eyes lingered on the human, which soon led the other two toms to take turns in front of the purple-haired woman. He was not as limber and strong as a catkin tom, but he was quite good. There was something compelling about him, not so much the dance as his essence, like he was, or would become, important to her.

The human danced closer and closer to Jeri, his eyes drawn to her. She could see lines of confusion and curiosity on his face. Reflexively, she sent a thought his way. “Who are you?”

His eyes widened, and he lost a step, but he mouthed his name, “Tom”.

His mental voice was full and rich. It rang through her mind like a bell, or like the scent or catnip. It seemed as loud as a shout, and Jeri startled, but no one else noticed the exchange. No one else seemed to hear him at all.

She found herself sliding out of the tree and reaching a hand to him. He stumbled, then walked forward.

Suddenly, the old woman stood between them, not letting them touch. She looked every bit as mysterious as a cat could. “Come, kittens, let us go inside so we don’t disturb anyone else.”

The man nodded, and Jeri stared. He was human, she was certain of that. Why had the old queen called him a kitten, a phrase normally reserved for catkin?

The old queen watched her steadily until she also nodded, then she led them inside and offered milk and pastries.

(to be continued)


Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner for the prompt
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
The beaver walked out onto Lake Michigan as the sun rose. She was in her human form, in worn insulated pants and jacket. She scuffed her feet a little, ice-fishing equipment in her back pack and pole in hand. A low bank of clouds hid the sun, but its light spilled over, slowly turning the shadowy violet twilight into a monochrome landscape of muted blue-greys. The world grew quiet as she moved steadily onto the lake from the outskirts of Chicaugwa. The noise of millions of people crowded together never stopped, not even in the natural hush before dawn.

It would be more than an hour to get to the ice caves, but the Beaver enjoyed the walk. She felt like she was being cleansed of the pollution and chaos of modern life. Out here there were no cars or cellphones, no coffeeshops or skyscrapers. Just frosty blue sky overhead, snow-covered ice below, and the sharp clean winter wind. She fell into a meditative state naturally, filling her soul with the simple actions of breathing and walking. The unusually cold winter was a blessing for her, in more than one way.

A seagull circled overhead, then dove downward in the distance, directly in front of her. She frowned. Chicaugwa-area gulls mostly ate human leftovers. They’d gone from glorious hunter-scavengers to living as parasites off the least wholesome mammal species the planet had yet produced. It was sad. Something had to be done about it.

She didn’t want to eliminate all humans, of course. She had friends in the city, and family. But she longed to return the area to wild swamp, or at least to once again have rivers and streams that beavers could enjoy. She’d never been able to build a dam in her ancestral waters, and it made her blood boil. As long as Chicaugwa was a major metropolis, she never would.

It was past time for change to come to Chicaugwa. She walked steadily onward, returning to the meditative state that let her pull in the natural beauty to fuel that change.

She was almost to the caves when the roar of several snowmobiles approached. She turned and shook her fishing pole at them, and they smiled and waved. “Idiots.”

The snowmobilers zoomed past the first, tiny cave entrance, heading for the larger, more spectacular one a little further out. But they had been to her small cave already, the pile of trash being picked over by a smug-looking seagull was testimony to that.

She shook her fishing pole in the direction the humans had taken, then dropped to her knees and crawled inside. It was beautiful inside the cave, but she had seen it before, and was no longer in the mood to appreciate the sight. She crawled, wiggled, and scooted until she reached the hidden area where she’d dug her fishing hole.

This area was partially open to the sky; once she reopened the fishing hole, she stood in the narrow beam of sunlight and stripped off her clothing, folding it neatly to cover where the sunlight hit the ice. Then she transformed and dove into the water.

From below, she looked up at the underside of the ice, and smiled. Her inner sight showed a vast magical circle, glowing and perfect. She ran her eyes over the pattern, checking for flaws, then returned for a breath of air.

The foundation was well laid. Today, she would build upon it.

Over the course of the day, she filled in the circle. In the center, she carved blessings for pure water and for wilderness. She blessed the natural world with fertility and abundance. She called on earth, fire, water and air to clean away the ugly, unhealthy excesses, and to eliminate things that stood in the way of an ecological recovery. Closer to the edge, she added sigils for chaos and entropy, to help that which should pass into dust again do so quickly. Finally, on the outer edge, she carved symbols of humanity, adding blessings of wanderlust and envy.

There would be more, as much more as she could add in the days before the ice started to melt again. She fought against her impatience, knowing that each day’s work had to be balanced and perfect. She couldn’t count on cooperation from the weather—the spell was set to be released as the ice melted, so it had to be left ready-to-go every time she headed home.

It was dark by the time she headed back across the lake, tired, but with a sense of accomplishment. Her limbs ached and her stomach growled. By the time she stepped back onto the streets of Chicaugwa, she was too tired to cook. She decided to stop at Blackbeard’s for fried fish on the way home.


Thanks to dreamwidth user Clare_Dragonfly for the prompt!
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
The cat walked up to the police officer, meowing. The sounds resolved into words in Officer Savannah Leahy’s mind. “There is something sinister going on in this neighborhood. The dead are screaming for justice.”

The police officer hooked her fingers in her belt, then frowned down at the cat. “Isn’t that kind of like an over-dramatic movie cliché?”

The cat twitched her tail. “Cliché or not, it’s true. Savannah, they are disturbing my dreams.”

Savannah crouched down and held out her hand for the cat to sniff, as if this were a normal stray. “So, what are they saying?”

“There’s no words, just screaming.” The cat twitched her tail, as if the human were being particularly dense.

“Look, I know you’ve brought me useful information in the past, but I don’t know what I can do with this—this complaint.” Savannah stared at the cat, trying to figure out which neighborhood woman this might be, when she wasn’t clad in tabby fur.

“Find and punish the killers!” The cat sounded stressed-out.

Savannah sighed. That was easier said than done. “I need more than that. I can’t just catch murderers like magic, you know, Cat.”

“Don’t call me Cat.” The tabby’s tail lashed.

“Then tell me your name.” Savannah asked every time the cat approached her.

“You know better.”

“Well, Cat, I can’t exactly fill out a citizen complaint that the dead are unhappy. I have a caseload, and paperwork, and a life.” More accurately, Savannah had the first two in abundance, and a thus-far ignored New Year’s resolution to work on the third. “Look, I’m not unsympathetic, but I’m just a cop.”

The tabby twisted to lick the tip of her tail. “You are a police officer, but you are not ‘just’ a police officer. A crime is being committed, and you will investigate.”

“I can’t investigate something I can’t see, hear, or touch.”

The cat nodded. “I knew you would say that. Here—this is the best I can do.” The cat flicked her tail to the side and revealed a set of earbugs nestled between two protruding tree roots.

Savannah bent to look at them. The earbugs were made of some exotic wood, golden with a remarkably red grain. They were carved into detailed butterflies, and linked with a braided silk cord. Their tiny carved eyes gleamed at her, and somehow the carved wings shimmered with iridescence. They were beautiful. Savannah reached to pick them up, to examine them more closely. She had very little magical talent, but these—they made her fingers tingle. She stood there, staring at what she realized was at least a powerful magical tool, more powerful than anything she’d ever hoped to hold in her hand. She longed to keep it, but found herself thinking about putting it down and walking away. Magic was never free.

The cat’s tail twitched. “They’re for your ears.”

“I couldn’t tell.” Savannah’s sarcasm was reflexive.

The tabby’s tail continued to twitch.

Cautiously Savannah raised one exquisitely carved butterfly toward her left ear, then jerked it away again as a raucous, dissonant howling invaded her consciousness. She tried to drop them on the ground again, but the cord caught in her fingers. “What is that?”

“Don’t play dumb. And don’t lose the earbugs.” The cat turned and vanished into the bushes.

Savannah tucked the earbugs safely into a pocket. She could return them, perhaps, if she could find the cat again, but it would be a dangerous insult to throw them away. For the moment, she was off-shift and hungry. This would have to wait at least until after dinner.


Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox for the prompt. ([livejournal.com profile] queenoftheskies I haven't forgotten you.)
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
The doorbell rang, and Ramai put down the wand she was carving to peek out the front window. No one was on the porch. She went back to her chair and picked up the tiny chisel again. The bell rang again.

This time she set down the chisel and picked up her main carving knife. She ran her fingers along the symbols lovingly carved into its handle, awakening the athame’s defense functions. She went straight to the door this time, mentally reaching to read the wards. There was no one on the porch, at least, not any more. The yard was empty, save for the small critters that lived there. The perfectly mundane bunny was crouched in its warren; beetles and worms and mosquitoes went about their normal business; morning ephemerals shimmered out of existence and mid-day ephemerals shimmered in.

The doorbell rang again, accompanied by a tiny zing of magical force, a bit of energy just exactly big enough to completely expend itself in the physical force needed to compress the mechanism. The only thing she could sense from it in the brief moment before it was gone was a familiar sense of mischief.

Cautiously, Ramai approached the door. Was one of her current or former students testing her? She laid a scarred brown hand on the polished walnut door frame and checked the integrity of her wards. They seemed fine, so whatever was awaiting her on the porch came either from someone she trusted or from someone with enough skill to fool her tightly-woven magic.

The doorbell rang again while her attention was extended into the whorls of her own magic. Reflexively, she reached for it, but caught only a wisp of mischievousness as lyrical as laughter.

There was no good option. Even if this was only a prank, it could be dangerous, but admitting weakness by not opening it was not an option. Ramai never admitted weakness.

Holding the athame ready in her right hand, she unlocked the door with her left, leaving the wards across the threshold in place. There was no flare of energy, good or bad, so she opened the door.

A sweet scent floated in on the wake of air moved by the door. The porch was empty—no, almost empty. Sitting in the exact center of the welcome mat was an apple.

Ramai crouched down to look at it more closely.

The apple was small and round, the blend of yellow and red promising a rich flavor, tart and sweet at the same time, a perfect apple for her tastes. It looked and smelled perfectly ripe. Ramai reached for it, reaching through her house wards in a swift motion, smiling and holding it in front of her nose as if taking in a long draught of the scent. It held a tickle of that mischief-magic, but deep and old, as if the magic had been placed on the blossom before the fruit formed, or even on the tree as a seedling.

Slowly, she smiled and drew it into the wards. As it moved into her home, she wrapped a bubble of ward-magic to encapsulate it, and closed the door.
Athame still ready, she swept the design for the new wands off of her work table to reveal the mother of pearl inlay highlighting the pentagram carved into the ebony. Carefully, she placed the apple on the table and activated the table.

Only then did she set the athame down and return to her seat to ponder the perfect fruit. “Well, my life’s not boring, at least!”


Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] kelkyag for the prompt.
wyld_dandelyon: (Default)
Some of my friends did a world-building month in February and I wanted to join in, but I just couldn't. I didn't have enough spoons--or perhaps pencils would be a better metaphor, in this case. I wasn't quite tired enough to evade feeling envious, though.

So I've decided I'm going to do a world-building month in April instead, and am combining it with the April A-Z challenge. Now all I need is topics for every letter of the alphabet!

If I have to, I suppose I can make up topics myself, but it's more fun if friends challenge and inspire me. I'm collecting prompts over here.  Or you can leave questions or other prompts here.

It's good to see you all!

wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
Well, never mind taxes. I'm going through papers to make sure I don't miss anything, but that's bad enough without blogging about the process.

I spent February feeling envious of my writer friends doing a Worldbuiding Month because I was way too tired to join in.

I am so tempted to continue worldbuilding my catkin universe in April while doing the April A-Z.  But then I'd need suitable topics for every letter of the alphabet to prompt new ficlets.

What do you think?  Are you willing to share some suggestions/questions/prompts to help me make an A-Z list?  If so, I'll edit them in here as I get suggestions:

A A for Apples, be they already enchanted or still growing in the orchard. [livejournal.com profile] kelkyag
B Anything with Cats is Bound to be wonderful [livejournal.com profile] queenoftheskies
.. Butterfly Headphones [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox
C Cave Systems dreamwidth user Clare_Dragonfly
.. Cucumber [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox
D Dancing [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner
E Education dreamwidth user Clare_Dragonfly
F Witch/familiar relationships ... in which either party might be the human or the cat. [livejournal.com profile] kelkyag
G Glasses [livejournal.com profile] msstacy13
H Helpfulness [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner
I I for indelible [livejournal.com profile] tigertoy
J Jewelry? [livejournal.com profile] skjam
K Keys [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner
L A large lovely Luna moth (perhaps magical) [livejournal.com profile] tigertoy
M Much Ado About Marshmallows [livejournal.com profile] seekerval
N Newspaper [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner
O Oblivious [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner Octagon [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox
P Premier [livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion
Q Queue at an Amusement Park Ride [livejournal.com profile] seekerval Quelled [livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion
R Five Toy Robots [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox
S Sandpaper [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox
T It seems as though teleportation would be mighty useful magic. [livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion
U Unfinished Work or U for Undone Work [livejournal.com profile] red_trillium
... Uncovering the Unknown [livejournal.com profile] kelkyag
V Very Hard Work, Very Hard Bones [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox
W Wild cats and their relationship with domestic cats [livejournal.com profile] pyraxis
X X is for crossing boundaries? [livejournal.com profile] kelkyag
Y Yardwork and Yellow Daffodils [livejournal.com profile] seekerval Yowls [livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion
Z Zoology dreamwidth user Clare_Dragonfly
... Zone Out [livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion


ETA: More than one prompt is welcome, and if I don't have at least 26 people participating, will get you more words. Also, a prompt for A would be especially welcome before April is actually upon us.

Here's a picture of me from when I graduated from college.  Gosh, that seems a long time ago now!

college graduaton maybe


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October 2017

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