Announcement

So I’ve been very quiet here, but that’s not because I don’t have stuff to share.  Instead, it’s because I’ve started on a new project.  Or rather, finally started on an old project that has been bumping around in my brain for quite some time but I couldn’t quite manage to put it all together until just recently when the last piece of my creativity puzzle fell into place!

A big project.  Well, a big-for-me project.  I’ve been putting off saying anything because I didn’t want to jinx myself or something or make promises and not deliver.  But I am going to tease you mercilessly now.  I have begun writing a book in earnest.  Well, a book-sized collection of stories.  I have no date of completion yet, for now I’m just going to say it’ll be done when it gets done.  But I will give you a hint as to what lies inside:

Disguised gods, warrior maidens, magical items, kidnapped princes, lost children, tricksy gentlemen, binding vows, dark forests, enchanted creatures, powerful witches, cruelty, greed, bravery, love – and yes, even some happily ever afters, but mostly not in the way you expect them.

I am writing what I hope will be fairy tales with heroes and heroines for our modern age while maintaining the essence of classic tales.  Though I say ‘essence’ I don’t mean that I will simply be retelling existing stories in a new way, but rather I will be completely deconstructing the very building blocks of these tales and rebuilding them in a new way.  I want to create stories that feel familiar and yet are refreshingly new and different in how they play out.

I don’t have a title for the collection yet, though I’ve jotted down a number of ideas.  “Once and Ever After” is currently the best, but I’m still looking for something that just says “ah, yes, that’s it!  That’s the title!”  And I don’t have that quite yet.

I do have at least working titles for most of the individual stories, and you may think you will recognize a few of them, but I promise you won’t know the ending until you’ve turned that last page.

Some of the stories already in work include

Skin of Ash
The Snow Raven
The Two Kings
Xiao Dan
The Wise Queen
The Woodcutter’s Children
A House in the Woods
Seven of Hearts
A Bird May Love A Fish
The Empty Cradle

There are more that don’t yet have titles, also.  Some of these titles might change, and some of the stories might go in a way I didn’t expect and end up changing the title that way… but I have a pretty good start on most of these and a clear end in mind for most of them, too.

I’ll leave you to (hopefully?) be excited for this!  I know I am 😀

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8 Times More Awesome?

So I’ve been sewing lately, got on a sewing kick and did a few dolls.   Which of course means I had to spin a bunch of yarn to make doll hair.  But then sort of unexpectedly… this happened: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYep, it’s an octo-mermaid!  Or… something.  I don’t even know what inspired me, I just got the sudden urge to make an octopus-mermaid hybrid and… did! 😀  Made the ‘necklace’ with shells and beads strung onto wire.

octopusmermaidSpun the hair, almost didn’t have enough.  That’s all the gold wool I had on hand, but I’m really happy with how the style turned out!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASee, all 8 legs are there, honest. 😉

Of course, then my uncle had to do this…

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Prophecies Are Funny Things

The hem of her dress hung in shreds around her bloodied legs where the thorns had grabbed and ripped.  Though she could not yet see them through the dense forest, the howl of the dogs grew closer; they would overtake her at any moment.  She could not outrun them; her only concern now was securing her child before it was too late.

A strength found only in the need of a mother to protect her daughter propelled her up the tree to where the trunk split three ways, forming a natural cradle where she tucked the babe and then covered her with moss for warmth.  Without time to give even a last kiss, she dropped back to the ground and ran down toward the river.

She knew they would not find the child on her body and would hunt for it, so she had kept the blanket, wrapped now around a stone and clutched tight to her breast.  The turbulent waters would carry her away and the sharp rocks would do the work of the dogs.  She had wanted this to be a last act of defiance: let them find her body and be denied their blood-lust, but it was too late.  Even as she plunged into the water, the arrow found her back.

When they approached the river, they found the blanket caught on a snag just down stream.  Her body came to rest a mile down on the riverbank.  They dragged her from the water and turned her over on the grass.

The leader, Brugar, a bear of a man, stepped forward and drew his axe, lining up his blow before taking off her head with a single stroke.  When he lifted it by the hair and held it up, the other hunters erupted into wild shouts of victory.

“Let it be known,” Brugar cried, “Sigrithr the witch is dead; her demon-child drowned.  The prophecy is  powerless!”

Brugar stuck her head on a pole, holding it aloft as the troupe marched back to the village, making such a sound they did not even notice the child, nor the male figure crouched over her, in the tree above their heads.  When the hunters were far past, the figure lifted the child into his arms, finding a scroll tucked in with her.  He put the scroll into his pouch and held the child up to see her.

“Ah, there went your mother, little one,” he cooed, bouncing her gently in his arms.  “A sad day.  Now you are an orphan, but don’t fret.  I will take care of you.”

She yawned and made some little whimpers.  He cradled her in two arms and she settled back into sleep, closing a hand around one of his fingers on his third hand.  He took his mantle off to wrap around her, for though she was covered with a rich, brown fur starting at her waist and down her hind’s legs, the top half was still bare human skin and no doubt cold.

A woman appeared out of the forest and came to stand at the base of the tree, her wolf looking up, ears perked in curiosity.  “What have you found, Renir?”

He stepped off the edge of the tree, floating easily to the ground on leathery wings.

“The witch’s child,” he said.  “Hidden here with-”

“Enri’s child?” she said, peering at the bundle in Renir’s arms.  “Give her to me.”

“Meet your aunt, Inanna,” Renir whispered as he eased the babe into her arms.   He gave her cheek a little caress and grinned as she fussed and gurgled, eyes closed.  “We will have to name her.”

Inanna nodded.  “I will return and seek the council’s advice.”

“You could take council with me,” Renir said, his smile fading.  He had been reaching into his pouch to take out the scroll he had found with the child, but now he paused.  “Or am I not to be the child’s adopted father?  It was I who found her.”

“She is Enri’s heir, and my kin,” Inanna reminded him, not liking what Renir was implying.  “You may have been the one to fetch her, but that hardly entitles you to further claims.”

“I can be her adopted father without being your consort,” Renir snapped, then softened his voice when the child sounded as though she might cry.  “She will need a father.”

“Enri is her father,” Inanna said between clenched teeth.  Her wolf growled and took a step forward.

“And he is dead by the same hands as those who slew her mother,” he said, trying to temper his anger.  “I offer only to stand in his place in the care and guardianship of her, not claim her away from him.  Or you.”  He let that final phrase ambiguous, letting her draw from it whatever interpretation she wished, whether he was speaking of the child or of herself.

Inanna looked at the child in her arms, caressing her palm over the girl’s head barely covered with hair but already showing her two tiny horns.  “I will seek the council’s advice,” she repeated at last.  “If they agree with you, I will not stand in your way.  But if they side with me, do not think to interfere.”

“As my Lady wishes.”  Renir gave a mock bow and disappeared, deciding to keep the scroll secret for now.

Inanna stood in the growing gloom of the forest and gazed down at her niece and daughter.  “We will destroy them, you and I.  We will squeeze every last drop of blood from them for what they have done.”

Continue reading

The End

Of mighty dragons, proud knights, sacrificial virgins, and digestive upset:

The ceremony had been real pretty, Mira conceded. The liturgy was poetic in its own way and the priest had been quite handsome. She hummed as she pictured an idyllic future with him, imagining the brood of children playing on the floor. Pity she’d be dead soon.

The chains bit into her wrists as she writhed against the cold stone wall, trying not to think about the bones around her. Sir Boden would come for her, she was certain. She could almost see his dashing figure riding over the hill, his lance leveled as the sun glinted off his helm. When he came he would slay the dragon, cut her bonds and carry her off into the crimson sunset. He would take her to his father’s house and marry her, ensuring she’d never again be the victim of a virginal sacrifice.

She did wish he would hurry, though, as this was not at all a comfortable position in which to be strung up and the flimsy dress they had put her in was useless in defying the wind. Why did they insist on dressing up sacrifices in skimpy clothing as if to advertise to just any passer-by ‘eat me’? After all, it was not as if she could hold the skirt down when a sufficiently strong gust blew past.

Keeping herself occupied was hard; thinking of anything besides her impending doom was difficult at this point, really. Before long the wind subsided and the sun warmed the air. She dozed as the day lingered, her eyes closing against her own good sense until her semi-conscious mind thought she heard an echo of hooves on the dry ground. What roused her fully, however, was the unearthly growl that emanated from the mountain’s cavernous mouth.

She watched the mist issue forth, curl about her feet and slip down the hillside in diaphanous tendrils, which, under better circumstances, would have been real pretty, too. Thunderous footfalls rumbled through the ground, setting some of the smaller rocks dancing. Undoubtedly, this was a bad sign.

The rank foulness of the creature could be smelt long before its massive form lumbered from the darkness. Sable scales covered the hulking frame, claws sharper than spears protruded from cumbrous feet, and teeth more terrifying than… than… well, Mira couldn’t think of what they were more terrifying than; the threat of looming death was effectively driving such imagery from her mind.

What did not leave her mind were the most eloquent of curses against Sir Boden as she took what little pleasure she could in questioning his parentage, legitimacy and sexual potency. Hope was fading as the dragon’s eyes landed on her, so it was with great relief that she spied the feathered helm atop Sir Boden’s head come into view over the crest of the hill, followed soon after by Boden himself atop a dashing white steed.

Ribbons streamed from the end of his lance and a pure, ringing note sounded from his trumpet, echoing over and again through the vale. He looked like the prince from a fairy tale tapestry as he galloped up the hill, a dashing figure bathed in sunlight, exuding glory and honour.

The dragon turned. First its neck arched around to get a look at what was approaching, then its behemoth body followed, massive hindquarters swinging out behind.

The lance lowered, the horse charged. The dragon let out a frightful bellow. The ground between them quickly shrunk. The dragon lifted its foot and smashed Sir Boden flat.

Disappointing was not the word for this.

The dragon took little time consuming Mira’s would-be rescuer. She could not even say she was feeling sorry for him – maybe for his horse. Her feelings were more a resigned hopelessness for herself bordering on irritation at having no chance for a proper rescue now.

Neither lasted for Mira soon became dessert, savored for all of the five seconds it took the dragon to pull her from the rock face, chains and all.

It would be prudent at this point to note the true cause of the mass extinction of dragons is grossly misunderstood. It was not brought about by the brave knights who were quested to destroy them for glory and fair maid’s hand, but rather by the advent of metal armor that invariably mucked up their insides as dragons rarely bothered to strip victims before consuming them.

So it was that this dragon suffered from an acute case of indigestion brought about by Sir Boden’s mail and Mira’s chains and expired not long after. Mira allowed herself a bit of smug satisfaction over that.

The Circus

It was the kind of shady dealing that made the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, but you went through with it because some part of you just had to know the truth. It was the kind of offer that you couldn’t walk away from and not have it plague you for the rest of your life, no matter how much you tried to convince yourself it couldn’t possibly be true. So you take the tickets and the strange man smiles and melts back into the shadows and you’re left with that sense of having just traded your cow for some magic beans, only this didn’t cost you anything.

At least, that’s what you keep telling yourself.

You look at the tickets again.

COME TO THE MAGICAL, MYTHICAL BEASTS TRAVELING CIRCUS
GRIMSTEAD PARK. ONE NIGHT ONLY
TICKET GUARANTEES ENTRY. ARRIVE AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT
ONE TICKET PER PERSON: NON-REFUNDABLE, NON-TRANSFERABLE

You keep staring at them, waiting for the tickets themselves to do something magical, almost disappointed when they remain simple strips of colored paper with faded black printing. You shove them in your pocket, intent on forgetting about it, but the voice of the man keeps teasing your thoughts.

‘You look like you need something that will change your life.’

You had no intention of stopping for strange men lurking just inside dark alleys. Sounded like an offer of drugs and so you continued on, but then he said something else.

‘You always wanted to know; you need them to be real, and they are.’

What a strange thing for a perfect stranger to say, so you turn around to demand an answer but the only explanation he offers is to hand you these two tickets and disappear. The sensation of being followed trails you all the way home and you find yourself bolting the second lock on the door for the first time since that awful shooting last year.

Taking the tickets out again, you put them on the counter and pour yourself a drink to steady your nerves, laughing at yourself for your childish superstitions. A few hours later and you think it might be a fun adventure. You never wonder how they can make any money giving the tickets away for free.

You call your best friend to rope her into going with you; even if you don’t believe in it you aren’t quite brave enough to go alone. She laughs and says you’re crazy, but then she always knew that, and fine, she didn’t have anything else going on so she might as well go with your sorry ass to the park at midnight. That’s why you’re best friends, after all.

She comes over and the two of you eat dinner and watch a funny movie. You’re still trying to get the words of that man out of your head. She didn’t hear him, you insist, he was creepy, and you don’t know why you’re going. You just want to have a story to tell, you claim, something to talk about in twenty years; ‘that circus’ you saw way back when, do you remember? Boy, was that a crazy night!

Eleven thirty and you get in the car and head to the park. It’s large and you have to park at the far entrance, the other gate is locked at sundown. It’s a chill night for early summer and you both have your coats pulled tight around you. You’re quiet, knowing you would have chickened out by now if you were alone, but your friend is laughing and imagining they’ll have horses dressed up as unicorns and men with filed teeth who breathe fire; proper old-time freak show stuff.

The colorful, fabric walls of the enclosure loom in front of you, as if suddenly appearing out of a thick the mist and yet it’s a clear night. You follow it around to the entrance where an old hag takes your tickets and waves you in with a toothy smile.

There are various cages with animals that, by torchlight and moon-glow, look almost real. Some you know on sight, even though you could never have really seen them before, and some you have to read the carved plaque, saying the names out loud as if speaking such a ridiculous thing might help you see through the illusion.

A phoenix; its feathers were of flaming orange and red; not just color but actual flames. You try to see how it’s done, but the heat on your face convinces you that the fire, at least, is quite real.

‘How do you suppose they did that?’ your friend asks. You shake your head.

Next you come to a cage with two centaurs, male and female. Their eyes follow you and you feel your skin crawl and you walk quickly on, ignoring your gut telling you something is very much not right.

Around the next corner is a large tank of water, and though it doesn’t look too large, the meager light can not penetrate very deep and so you edge closer, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever is in the water. Neither of you can hold back your short screams when a ghostly face with a mournful expression presses against the other side and blue-green fins flip water over the edge.

Mermaids, the sign says. You don’t try to see another.

You walk around and see that the tank is split, another creature on the other side of the dividing wall. The Siren song reaches your ears and you begin to cry despite yourself. The creature is so beautiful, and she reaches down to you. You try to reach back but suddenly a hand grabs your shoulder and yanks you back.

‘Best watch yourselves, missies.’ It’s the man from the alley. ‘She’ll call you right in to drown with her if you don’t keep your wits.’

You look at your friend whom you had forgotten when the song began. You can tell she was affected as you were, her eyes wide and her face gone pale. You look at one another as if to ask if that really just happened.

‘Move along now,’ the man says and you quickly obey him, as eager to get away from him as from the tank.

You duck into a tent just to get out of sight. Inside are more cages, more animals. A Sphinx, with a strict warning not to speak to it or attempt to answer any riddles; a Unicorn, much smaller than a horse, and with a tail like a lion; a Satyr, playing mournfully upon his pipes – he looks at you and you think you see him shed a tear.

Last is a creature that looks human but for the large wings, the sign on the cage indicating Angel. It rushes forward and grabs the bars, speaking low and urgent.

‘No, you must leave, do you hear me? Get out now!’

We run out as it calls after us. ‘You are in great danger here!’

Standing back outside, we look at each other, eyes wide.

‘I don’t think we should have come,’ you say.

She nods, and you grab hold of one another, making your way back to the entrance. You feel like you can’t get out fast enough. The old woman cackles at you as you pass her. It isn’t until you’re out of the gate that you see the bars around you, turning just as the door swings shut with a clang.

‘What are you doing? Let us out!’ you cry, pulling at the bars as if you might be able to free yourself with such action. The man from the alley laughs and begins to pull the curtains down over the sides of your cage. You continue to yell at him until your friend grabs you and points to a sign on the cage.

It says, ‘Human.’