So let's talk about the inspiration behind "Brothers". You have probably pieced together the fact that I've been telling a few familiar Greek myths (Medusa, for example) from the point of view of the traditional "monster" rather than from that of the "hero".

I have to say, I really love doing this. It's a device that I often take with stories, and there are several reasons. The first time I really remember the concept making an impression on me was when I read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. It's mostly a picture book, told from the point of view of the Big Bad Wolf- and needless to say, his story differs considerably from that of the pigs. In his story he is the victim, not the villain (I mean come on- even in the traditional story they light the dude on fire).

As an adult who's done a bit of study into literature and creative writing, I've learned that the truly great villains never consider themselves villains- and they are never evil just for evil's sake. That smacks of prop more than character, and an evil-for-evil's sake villain may as well be replaced by an evil mop- it won't matter, because the villain has no personality beyond Evil. And that is boring.

The other thing I've learned over the years is that the victors write the history- and according to history the victors are never, ever villains. Which is kind of an amazing coincidence, don't you think?

Yeah, me neither.

So it stands to reason that at least some of the time, the victors really were the villains- and that there might just be a story of the forces of Good on the other side. (This is, of course, ignoring the fact that in the real world it's more often a pretty good mix of good, evil, and neutral on both sides of the conflict).

Add to that the fact that I have an absolute fascination with legends, fairy-tales, and myths of all sort (most story-tellers do, I find), and you end up with a girl who finds Medusa a potentially damn sympathetic character- not to mention her poor sisters. The nice thing about myths, of course, is that they are so beyond public domain it's not even funny. They've entered the collective consciousness of civilization, and everyone has their own personal version of them. They can be told again and again, with new discoveries each time, new moments of "Well why did character X do this? What if s/he had an actual motivation, one that made sense to them beyond narrative necessity?". I like to delve deeper into those "what-if"s, and I think that the answers make pretty good tales, breathing new life back into the old.

I hope that you like this version of Medusa's myth, and I hope that you'll enjoy where I'm going with the story of Pegasus and his brother, as well. Once it's all over I'll probably do an entry explaining where I got each of the characters from, so if there's someone about whom you're saying, "Wait, who is that obscure figure?" you'll get to go, "Oh! Right!" (Or maybe you'll go, "Nope, never heard of 'em. Good thing Jenny O has taken it upon herself to further my knowledge of Greek mythology!" And then you'll send me cookies in gratitude.) (Or a cake. I'm not picky.)


Brothers, Pt IV

When Sthenie and Eurie returned, they found no trace of their sister’s murderer. To make matters worse, he had taken her beautiful head. Only a single, sad snake remained, wriggling feebly in the gore around her severed neck.

Weeping bitterly, the twins gathered up what was left of Meddie (including the little mutilated golden snake) and bore it down to the sea, where Benthie had appeared just moments before. When the nymph saw the remains of her friend, a terrible storm rose up about her, and she screamed her grief and rage to the skies.

Suddenly she stopped, a wild look in her eyes.

“Give her to me!” Benthie said, surging as far out of the water as she could. The twins, confused by her urgency, hesitated. “Give her to me!” she shrieked. “I might still save the children!” Quickly, but with as much gentleness as they could, they placed the still-warm body in the water- trying not to notice the way the blood swirled out from the neck. Benthie immediately slashed the abdomen open, ignoring the cries of distress from the twins. There in the exposed womb, curled snugly around one another, were two little forms, neither of which moved.

“Oh little cousins,” the nymph moaned, and pulled them out, still entwined. Sthenie and Eurie could see that one was a perfectly formed little boy, with hair as golden as his mother’s had been- the other was a delicate foal, blood-smeared wing-stumps folded tightly to its gray flanks. They watched, dumbfounded, as Benthie cleared out the children’s mouths, and then slapped each one firmly on its back. Infant wails soon filled the air.

“You shall be called Chrys,” she crooned through her tears to the boy. “And you,” she turned to the foal, whom she’d placed on the sand. He was struggling up onto his spindly little legs, wing-stumps trembling with effort. “You we shall call Pegs.”

And they did.


After long discussion, the three women decided that the safest thing for the children was to separate them, the better to hide them from the war goddess’s continued wrath (for it was well known that gods had a tendency to visit punishment unto many generations of whoever they felt had trespassed against them). Chrys they could easily foster out to a mortal couple, but Pegs presented more of a problem.

“I’ve never seen his like before,” Benthie murmured, watching the little colt run and kick about his human brother. His tiny sharp hooves came close to the baby’s head, but never once did they touch him- it was obviously a game to Pegs, meant to entertain Chrys, who laughed delightedly the whole while. Unfortunately, whenever Pegs stamped too hard, a tiny spring would form, resulting in his twin spending much of his time half-soaked. The wings looked less stubby and pathetic now that they’d dried, and the gray down on them suggested that one day they would be covered in feathers.

“A winged horse,” Benthie continued. “Truly he is marvelous and unique, and likely to draw attention. He’ll need protection more powerful than I alone can give him.”

In the end they decided he must be taken to a far-off mountain, where the muses dwelt.

“They are kin to me, and can pass him off as one of their idle creations,” Benthie had explained. “They are greatly favored by the king of gods, and none would dare offend them. Also, they take a certain delight in pulling a fast one over on those they deem too serious.” And certainly few were more serious than the gray-eyed goddess.

The only problem was Pegs. He, being a foal (and of divine parentage, at that), was shockingly mature for his few days of age; he understood perfectly well they were going to separate him from his brother- and he did not like it. He hunkered down over the baby and bared his teeth when they came close, daring them to bring a finger within striking distance. Chrys, for his part, babbled contentedly and patted at his brother’s legs.

“Oh Benthie,” wept Sthenie, stroking the little golden snake that was all they had left of Meddie. “It breakth my heart to give them away! And tho much worthe that they mutht be divided! When our parenth gave uth up, at leatht we had each other!” Eurie, who was re-wrapping the snake’s stump of a tail, shook her head to keep tears at bay.

“It’th the only way to keep you thafe, Pegth! Jutht becauthe your mother ith dead won’t keep thothe horrible heroeth from coming back around- ath far ath they’re contherned, there are thtill two monsterth to thlay. And the moment they thet eyeth on you, they’ll take you by forthe! And then you’ll be theparated from Chryth with no hope of ever theeing him again! At leatht thith way we’ll know where both of you are, and thomeday, when you’re grown, you can be together again.”

Pegs snorted at this, but relaxed his stance ever so slightly.

“Little one,” Benthie coaxed, “Sometimes we must sacrifice our own momentary happiness for a deeper, harder to perceive happiness- the happiness of knowing one you love is safe. Can you not do that for Chrys?”

Pegs drooped, and stepped aside. Benthie reached up a transparent hand and ran it over his muzzle.

“It will be alright, Pegs. You’ll find him again someday. Or he will find you. He won’t remember, so you must remember for him.” The colt whinnied sadly as Benthie took his brother into her arms, and lipped at the baby’s fat arm. Chrys gurgled in reply.

“Sthenie, Eurie- look after Pegs for a few days more. Once I’ve delivered Chrys to his new parents, I’ll return for him. Try to stay out of trouble.”

“Oh, we’ll thtay away from trouble,” Eurie said grimly, flexing her talons, “Ath long ath it thtays away from uth.” Sthenie nodded her agreement.

“Yeth- we aren’t the innothent maidenth we onthe were.”


Brothers, Pt III

As the months passed their collection of violent-looking statues began to outnumber them, and Sthenie and Eurie took great pleasure in arranging the stone men in disgraceful poses. The twins had grown accustom to their half-serpent forms, and were now quite graceful, sometimes even using their wings to raise themselves above the ground for short spans. Meddie, on the other hand, was growing quite large and clumsy. She spent as much time as she could floating in the ocean, the only place where she felt at peace. Her handsome god never reappeared- but then, she didn’t really expect him to. They were so capricious, those great ones.

She only ever let her tears mingle with the seawater, so that her sisters would not see them on her face.

One clear evening while she was floating a head popped up in the water next to her. Meddie, taken by surprise, thrashed about awkwardly before managing to cover her eyes. Her hair snakes writhed in confusion, and one of them attempted to hide in her ear. The other head giggled.

“It’s okay,” said a light, fluting voice. “You can’t hurt me. I’m not made of flesh.” Meddie peeped out from between her fingers. Sure enough, the head appeared to be formed entirely of clear, shining water- a feminine head of great delicacy and beauty. The girl smiled, and dimples appeared in her transparent cheeks.

“I’m Benthie ,” she said, “And you must be Keto’s daughter.”

“Yes,” Meddie responded, letting her hands drop and wondering why so many of the immortals of the world seemed to be concerned with the offspring of her monstrous mother. Her hair-snakes lifted in curiosity. “My name is Meddie.”

“Nice to meet you, Meddie. I’ve come to be your friend.”

And it was as simple as that.


Every few days Benthie would make an appearance near the caves- although of course she could not leave the water. She was so sweet and nurturing, so utterly charming that Meddie could not help but love her- and the twins did, as well. She was a strange combination of sister, mother, and friend to them all, and they bloomed in the radiance of her affections. It provided a much-welcomed contrast to the increasing number of hostile young “heroes” that kept popping up. It reminded all of them that they were not really monsters, for what monster would enjoy such simple things as sharing hot fish chowder, or giggling over girlish jokes, or singing nonsense songs to the child growing in Meddie’s womb? And Benthie turned out to be a wonderful midwife, full of knowledge pertaining to all things pregnancy and birth related. She always had some piece of advice or an herbal concoction to soothe Meddie’s stomach, and the girl began to be far less afraid of what would happen to her when the baby decided to be born. Gods-children births were notoriously hard on the mothers, after all- often fatal for both parties.

It was Benthie, too, who came up with the idea of training Meddie to function like a blind person.

“You need to get used to moving about using your other senses. Your gaze doesn’t hurt me or your sisters, but there’s no guarantee that it won’t hurt your little one- and I’m certain that’s an experiment you don’t wish to conduct.”

Meddie was horrified- she’d never even considered the fact that looking at her newborn child was a potential death-sentence. She immediately began wearing an eye-mask that her sisters fashioned for her from discarded packs, and she devoted many hours of every day to learning to navigate without sight. Such was her determination to protect her baby that she made amazingly swift progress, and could soon maneuver through the caves in utter darkness.

One evening, as she was practicing dodging waves by the sounds they made, Benthie brought up something else that had never occurred to her.

“You know, Meddie, you’re awfully gigantic. And even tho’ I know you have monstrous heritage, and it’s entirely possible that your little one will have some… interesting traits, I am fairly certain that it’s not a little one you’re carrying. I’m pretty sure it’s a little two.”

Meddie froze, and cold water rushed up to swirl around her ankles. Her hands moved protectively over her belly, and in response someone’s limb gave a particularly forceful jab.

“Oh my,” she finally said, but she didn’t deny it. The moment she heard the words, she knew. There were two little lives sharing space within her body, just as Sthenie and Eurie had once shared Keto’s womb.

“I mention this not only to prevent surprise at the birth,” Benthie continued, “But also because twins have a habit of coming earlier than singles. Which means that rather than two months left in your pregnancy, you may have as little as one.”

“Oh my,” Meddie repeated, and plopped down, breathless, in the surf.


Meddie was exhausted.

Her body had been rippling for twelve hours, but true labor (as Benthie had once described it to her) had still not yet begun. To make matters worse, Benthie herself was nowhere to be found- a fact which, while it was of mild concern to Meddie, the twins found absolutely terrifying. They kept rushing in and out of the caves to look for her, hopping and fluttering in their agitation. It might have been funny if Meddie were not so very tired, and so desperately wanting some quiet so she could sleep. Even her hair-snakes had curled up tightly against her skull, trying to hide in their own coils.

Finally, using her best Big Sister voice, she gave her sisters tasks.

“Sthenie, you must go up into the cliffs to find me some of the bark Benthie told us about, to ease my pain. Eurie, you must go down to the sea and call for her. Maybe a passing nymph will hear you, and get her the message.”

At first they refused to leave her, but finally she convinced them that she would be fine for an hour or two- certainly the babies were in no danger of making an appearance- and moreover she promised she would leave off her eye-mask for self-defense.

“My hearing has gotten so acute- you know nothing will enter the caves without waking me, and one glance is all it will take to ensure my safety. So go! Go, go, go, because you won’t have a chance to go once my pains begin in earnest.”

Thus it was that Meddie found herself alone, and was finally able to slip into a fitful slumber.


It was not a noise that a normal person (or perhaps even a normal former-semi-immortal) would have noticed. It was so light, just the gentlest movement of air, but it woke Meddie immediately. She sat up, glancing around, wincing as her body gave the first shudder of a true contraction.

“Who’s there?” she demanded, although she saw no one- not even a shadow in the torches’ light. Still, she knew there was someone there. She could smell male sweat, leather, and that strange scent she had come to associate with the ‘heroes’. If pressed she would have labeled it arrogance. She turned towards the empty air that- according to her ears, nose, and the air currents against her skin- should have held a figure.

“Show yourself!” she hissed, and the snakes of her hair hissed with her, fanning about her head in their most impressive aggression-display.

“Oh I think not,” came a young, laughing voice. “Although I must admit, being invisible does not seem to be nearly the advantage she assured me it would be.”

Meddie wrapped her arms about her middle, glaring as hard as she could. Even if she couldn’t actually see him, if she could get him to accidently catch her eye she might add another statue to the collection. Her sisters would probably be delighted by an invisible statue.

She heard the sound of a sword being drawn, and her blood went cold.

“What do you want?” she demanded, panic rising. Her gaze was her only defense- without it there was nothing she could do to protect her babies- not even run, with her body in spasms. For the first time she found herself wishing that the grey-eyed goddess had cursed her with the same fangs and talons she’d given to the twins.

“Oh, it’s not what I want,” the young man said in a conversational tone. He seemed to have moved closer, although she had heard no footsteps. “If this were about what I wanted I certainly wouldn’t be here, in this filthy little cave. I’d be fishing the open sea, or- better yet- I’d be sitting by my true father’s side, enjoying my rights as his natural son. But no, instead here I am, carrying out the whim of that stupid tyrant who only wants to sleep with my mother and doesn’t have the stones to do it while I’m around. But just you wait- I have plans for him.”

During this speech Meddie had scootched herself as far up against the cavern wall as she could. Now she glanced surreptitiously about for a rock to throw.

“If you hate him so much, why do his bidding?” She reasoned, fingers closing about a likely-looking stone.

“I’m not,” came the petulant reply. “He only thinks I am. I told you, I have plans-“

Just then Meddie flung the rock with all the force she could muster right where she guessed his nose should be.


“Hey!” screeched the youth. Then he laughed, and Meddie’s stomach sank. “Not bad for a swollen old monster. Too bad for you I’ve got this excellent helm.

"And now I think we’re done talking.”


Brothers, Pt II

It didn’t take long for the first of the heroes to show up.

Sthenie and Eurie were too ashamed of their new forms to show themselves, and Meddie (after several unfortunate, miserable accidents with the surrounding wildlife) had learned it was best for her to stick to shadows. Thus it was, when they heard a young man hallooing at the mouth of their caves, none of them rushed forward to greet him.

“Halloo!” His voice was getting nearer.

It was Meddie who finally responded. The fangs that now filled the mouths of her sisters made their speech difficult to understand, so they spoke as infrequently as possible.

“What do you want?” she called from behind a stalagmite. Her voice was as cold as the stone that surrounded them, but just as beautiful as it had ever been.

“I-“ the young man sounded taken aback. “I heard… there were… monsters?”

“Not here, there aren't. Just three sisters who never hurt anyone. Now leave us alone.”

But he would not.

“Please, lady- might I not be of some assistance?” Meddie opened her mouth to spurn his offer, but immediately shut it again. It was difficult for them to obtain food. She was useless at hunting, now that her gaze turned living flesh to stone, and her sisters, still not used to their legless forms, were not much better.

“Do you have any food?” she finally asked.

“I- yes? I mean- yes, I do! Of course you may have it! But- are you sure there aren’t any monsters you need me to slay?”

“No monsters,” she said firmly. “If you truly wish to help, you will leave the food and go.” Suddenly, inspiration struck- “My sisters are ill, and it is not wise for you to be here.”

“I could bring you medicine!” he declared. She sighed.

“There is no medicine you could bring us that would help. Only a god can heal them.”

“Then I shall petition the gods for you!”

“Yes, yes, go do that. But leave the food.” She heard rustling, then the sound of a pack hitting the ground.

“I shall return, my lady! You need not languish in exile forever!”

“Wonderful,” she rolled her eyes. As soon as she heard his footsteps receding, she emerged. Sthenie and Eurie did the same, giggling.

“You’re tho mean!” Eurie said, and Meddie’s heart gave a squeeze. It was the first time either of them had smiled since they’d been cursed.

“Do you really think he’ll find a way to help uth?” Sthenie asked wistfully.

“I really hope he doesn’t petition the war goddess,” she replied grimly, and reached down to pick up the pack. “Although I suppose she’s the one we have to thank for rumors of monsters circulating amongst the mortals.” She dug a bit and produced strips of dried meat, handed them to her sisters. Further rummaging produced a few soft apples, and a heel of hard bread. At the bottom, carefully wrapped, was a bit of still-soft cheese. It was a veritable feast compared to the seaweed, eggs, and few small fish her sisters had been catching. The sisters soon devoured it all of it. Meddie tried to make sure the twins got larger portions, but they ganged up on her and forced her to take the largest.

“You’re eating for two, Meddie!” they insisted, with affectionate glances towards her rounded abdomen. “We’re thtill immortal- a little leth won’t hurt uth. But your baby needth all the food you can give it!”


Other heroes came, and Meddie managed to get food out of them, as well. Usually she could get them to leave their packs and go without too much trouble, but every once in a while she ran into a stubborn one. Some of these were foolish enough to come into the cave, and eventually one caught sight of Eurie. He cried out in revulsion, and then made the mistake of taking out his sword and lunging towards her. Meddie, who had never considered herself particularly brave, found that when it came to people threatening her little sisters, she had no fear- and absolutely no mercy. She leapt in between the so-called hero and her cringing sister (who had somehow managed to get tangled in her own tail) and fixed him with a furious stare, snake-hair hissing. His face twisted in terror before he turned to stone- so swiftly that his arm was still upraised to strike.

Meddie found she didn’t feel the tiniest bit sorry for the man, either- although she did regret that his food had changed along with him.


Dating, and Other Horror Stories

(Okay, not really. I just liked the title.)

A friend of mine had a date today. She just got out of a very serious relationship, and so it's been a while since she's had to deal with the whole "dating" thing. The resulting anxiety she's been experiencing has gotten me thinking about my own dating history- in particular my Finest Dating Moment Ever.

Let me regale you!

Once upon a time I worked next door to a really hot guy. And I mean really hot. The general consensus amongst my female coworkers was that he looked like Ryan Gosling, but with buzzed hair and a more reddish beard. Also he was a med student, so hella points there.

Anyway, one of my male friends knew him, and also knew that he was a)recently single and b) had been eyeballing me in return, so he oh-so-kindly introduced the two of us. Later that week I went to visit him at work, and made it a point to strike up a conversation with him- the kind of information-gathering conversation that one has when one is scoping out a potential date.

Now, gentle readers, I cannot remember, word-for-word, my conversation with this gorgeous, highly coveted, soon-to-be-lucratively-employed, displaying-interest-in-me man. What I do remember was that by the end of it I had my Finest Dating Moment Ever. Because when he stopped talking I said this to him.

"Look, I'm interested in you, but the thing is, you seem to have a lot of issues. So when you get your shit in order, you should give me a call and we can maybe get a beer. In the meantime, good luck and see ya' around!"

And I walked out.

My coworkers were flabbergasted. So what if he lived (begrudgingly) with his parents? He was going to be a doctor! So what if he seemed a little overly obsessed with his ex? He was gorgeous! And interested in me! Etc, etc. But the fact of the matter was, I'd gotten to the point where I just didn't have the time or the patience for "projects" anymore.

I ran into him again a month or two later, and he asked how I was doing. By that time I was gearing up to move to Alabama, to be with Nathan, and said as much. "Wow," he said, sounding a little annoyed. "You certainly moved fast. I didn't expect you to be practically married so soon." But the thing is, when you hit the point in your life that you're done settling for less, the universe seems to take care of providing what you need. And what I needed was Nathan.

I tend to cringe when I think back on a lot of my dating history, but that moment makes me so proud of myself. And I can't help but laugh that my Finest Dating Moment was me walking away from one.


Brothers, Pt I

(Author's note: again, this is more of a prelude to the actual story I have in mind, which struck me like a bolt of lightning today. It just so happened to segue beautifully from a story idea I've had for ages, so I'm combining the two into the following...)

Once upon a time, there were three beautiful maidens with hair of shining gold. To say they were immortal would be stretching it a bit (in spite of their divine parentage) but they certainly weren’t quite mortal, either. The three sisters loved one another very much, and the eldest, Meddie, although by nature somewhat shy, was fiercely protective of the younger two, who were twins called Sthenie and Eurie.

The maidens, having been left to their own devices by their parents (god-monsters not generally being well-equipped to nurture), had entered in to service at the temple of a wise but temperamental goddess. The goddess was a sworn virgin, and she expected as much of her temple-maidens. This was not as great a burden on the girls as you might have thought- in large part because there were no men around to tempt them.

At least, no mortal men.

It just so happened that the temple was located not so far from a particularly lovely beach, and when the sisters had no other duties they enjoyed spending time there, walking the sands and splashing in the surf. On this particular afternoon, Meddie was alone, and so perhaps that is why events unfolded as they did.

“You’re Keto’s child, aren’t you?”

The voice was deep, beautiful, and absolutely resonated with power. It could only belong to a god. When Meddie turned she was surprised to see not the large and terrible form suggested by his voice, but a slim, handsome man just barely out of youth, with hair as golden as her own and even more tangled by the salt-spray. He gave her a charming smile, and her heart squeezed in her chest. She fell in love with him right then, and who can blame her? It is not every day the Earth Shaker gives his favor, especially to the daughter of a monster.

Even so, Meddie was a fairly sensible girl (oldest sisters often are) and she knew better than to fraternize with the higher gods. That way lays only heartache, and often destruction. She gave him a polite nod and tried to take her leave, but he would have none of it.

“Where are you going, daughter of Keto? Surely you can make time for your mother’s friend?”

“I have to go now,” she insisted. “I have duties at the temple.”

“But you’ll return?” he pleaded. “I will see you again?”

“I don’t know,” she said, trying to ignore the way her blood was surging towards him, strong and inevitable as the tide.

“I’ll see you again,” he drawled, but she turned and fled before he could say any more.


He did see her again, for in spite of all her best intentions she returned to the shore the next day, in the company of her sisters. He saw her, but she did not see him, for he did not appear while they were about. A full week passed without her seeing him, and Meddie began to grow ill with longing. She hated herself for the weakness, but could not help it, and when the moon shone full in her window that night, she slipped down to the sea, certain he would appear if she was alone.

When she reached the sand she found it glowing silver against the stark black and white of the surf- beautiful, but empty. She sunk to her knees, feeling more foolish than she had in many years.

“Why so sorrowful, golden one?”

She jerked her head up and there he was, still dripping with ocean water.

“Surely not for me? Why, just the other day you had no time for a salty sailor. Does your heart wax and wane with the moon, then? Is it now full of love for me?” She could not answer him, but her eyes never left his. She watched in silence as they grew dark as a storm-tossed sea, and he knelt beside her.

“You will come no further, will you? I must bridge this last span myself.” So saying, he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers. And in that moment, Meddie lost herself completely.


Meddie’s handsome god was sometimes called ‘the Tamer’, which implies that he knew a thing or two about coaxing shy wild things to do his bidding. Thus it was, as the months passed, he managed to become Meddie’s lover, and in the beginning they were very careful of where and when they had their trysts. Sthenie and Eurie were not blind to their sister’s sudden blossoming into joy however, and when they confronted her on it she confessed all to them. They thrilled at the forbidden romance, and volunteered their services as diversions, should Meddie need them. At first she was reluctant to involve them, but the Earth Shaker was delighted by their devotion, and took full advantage of their enthusiastic youthful wiles.

As one might have suspected, things could not continue this way forever. One day, perhaps six months into her relationship with her handsome god, Meddie and her sisters were bathing in the temple when their goddess appeared. She took one look at Meddie’s naked form, and rage clouded her pale grey eyes.

“What. Is. That.” She demanded, pointed at Meddie’s abdomen. The girls looked down, surprised. They could see nothing out of the ordinary- perhaps her belly was a little more rounded than usual, but surely that was nothing to upset the goddess!

Oh, but surely it was. For the goddess, while herself a virgin, was not unfamiliar with the ways of the world, and she knew full well what the swelling of a womb looked like, even a womb so recently filled as this one.

When she realized what Meddie had been up to, and that her sisters had been aiding her, her anger was what one might expect from a goddess of war. She demanded to know the father- but none of them would tell her.

“This is what I get for taking on the children of monsters!” she shrieked. “I was taken in by your fair forms and seeming innocence, but this is how you repay me? With whorish betrayal? Well never again shall you trick another deity as you have me!” So saying, she flung a curse at the twins, causing their bodies to become snake-like, their teeth to become fangs, and horns to curl down from their smooth temples. From their backs sprang forth wings, and the girls wept in terror.

“Stop!” yelled Meddie, throwing herself between the angry goddess and her targets. “Leave them be! Their only crime was their love for me! If you must punish someone, let it be me!”

“Oh you will be punished,” snarled the goddess, “but I shall not be as lenient towards you as I have to them! For all that I have given them shapes more befitting their treacherous natures, I have let them keep their immortality. You, however- I vow you will die butchered like the monster you are! In the meantime, never again shall you use your face or your hair to seduce a living creature. You shall be terror and death to all who approach you: in life, and after! See if your paramour wants you now!”

With that she once again hurled a curse. Meddie’s hair began to rise with the breeze- then began to dance on its own. She heard hissing, and suddenly realized that her golden hair had become a nest of snakes. She shrieked in terror, but still did not call out for her beloved. Her two sisters, their own fates forgotten, rushed to surround her with their arms and wings. The three girls huddled down against the now raging wind, clinging to one another as anchors against the storm.

Silence descended with the suddenness of a thunder-clap. When Meddie raised her eyes she saw that they were alone on a strange and foreign shore. In the distance she saw caves, and gently she coaxed her still sobbing sisters towards them. They might be monsters in form as well as lineage now, but she had no intention of letting them come to further harm. They would collect themselves in the safety of the caves, and then they would plan.


This One's For You, Mom

Some of you may know that my mother is a stained glass artisan. As a result, I have grown up surrounded by some singularly gorgeous glass. (Here, have a few more for good measure.)

Now, I am certain that if I were to ask her, my mother could give me a fairly accurate history of her craft, tracing it's origins back beyond the cathedrals of the middle ages to whichever mineral-rich, lightning-struck beach it got its start on.

But that is way too easy. And also probably not as much fun as the theory I've just stumbled upon:

In ancient times people looked around themselves, saw the transient beauty of nature, and wished to capture and preserve it for their own perpetual enjoyment.

The original stained glass artisans were powerful shamans- magic users who could command the elements and trap them in crystalline form. In the beginning this is all they did, bring pleasure to themselves and others by capturing moments of beauty to be gazed upon eternally. It wasn't until centuries later that an enterprising young magic user got the idea of using these shimmering artifacts to craft still more powerful spells. She began to piece the disparate shards of nature into entirely new images, with which she could shape the very dreams of mankind. It was a powerful working, and one that could easily be used for ill, as some of her pupils would later prove.

As the centuries continued to turn and magic began to recede into slumber, a descendant of the Image-maker (the last of her line, and barren) made one final, desperate play to keep a trace of her family's legacy in the world. She created a panel that drew all the glass-magic in existence to itself, and used it to gift a young, mortal artisan with a dream that had never before been possible: the dream of non-magical glass production.

The effort involved in such an endeavor led to the magician's death- but what she gave to the world lives on.




They walked together through the parking lot, so close their sleeves brushed- but not their hands. Their heat-signatures may have mingled, but never their flesh. It was better that way. Safer. Safer for her, anyway. She doubted he would notice if her knuckles grazed his. But she would. Like a completed circuit, his energy would arc into her, giving her non-fatal electric shock, causing a nauseating ache deep in her bones. If he ever kissed her, it would probably stop her heart.

No, it was better not to touch, no matter how much she might long to. It was enough to know that he was there bringing light to the darkness of her days.

She stopped when he did, and they sat with their backs against a winter-bare tree, staring up through the branches at the wind-whipped sky. Here and there sunlight fought to pierce the scuttling gray clouds, but it was a losing battle and she could tell that the storm would hit soon.

She liked it when the sky was like this- wild and fierce and reminding the creatures below that it was once worshiped as a god in its own right, Father to all of Mother Earth's children. She thought people got too comfortable with the benevolence of a sunny day, and that it did them good to remember what it meant to be at the mercy of something greater than themselves.

She shied away from that thought, from the thought of forces greater than one's self. Like electricity. Or love. She closed her eyes against them all, sinking deeper within the carefully insulated core of herself.

(Right Place Right Time)


How to Make Love Stay

I recently, at the none-too-gentle-prodding of a dear friend of mine, read Still Life with Woodpecker, by Tom Robbins. I enjoyed the book immensely (score one for Dear Friend) and not just because it was about redheads.

One of the primary focuses of the story was the question "How do you make love stay?" The book posits several theories on how it might be accomplished, which of course got me to thinking about the question as it applies to my own life. Which brings me to today's events.

Nathan and I have been cleaning the apartment today (it's a time-consuming process, as we are not just "picking up" the apartment- we are scrubbing things) and the whole thing has put me in a ridiculously good mood. I've been working the back part of the house (bedroom, bathroom, studio/ratroom) and he's been working the front (kitchen, living and dining rooms) so we haven't really been together during all of it, but it is making me feel so very extra affectionate towards him, almost like we were on a date. Around one o'clock we had leftovers for lunch and watched a movie we'd seen before (O Brother Where Art Thou), then went to the park so I could help him with his photo of the day (Swingers). And right this particular moment (as we continue our house-cleaning break) he's working on dinner: fennel-encrusted pork with root vegetables. I went in and offered to help, but he said he was fine and then remarked how much he enjoys cooking- that he wished he'd known cooking could be fun back when he was a bachelor. I smiled and told him it's generally more fun when there's someone you're cooking for.

So it's been a very domestic day for us, a day of doing things that needed to be done, but things that needed to be done for us and no one else. From the outside, not a particularly spectacular or amazing or romantic day at all.

And yet it really has been.

You see, what struck me today is that maybe one way to make Love stay (that a lot of people seem to overlook) is just this: be kind to it. I'm not talking about big, extravagant gestures, like buying Love a pony. Sure, that might impress Love, but it won't ease the burden on its soul. True kindness is in the little things, those thousands of little things that most people don't even think about, but that pile up around and above us until we're drowning in them. Being kind by letting someone go ahead of you in line, or holding the door for someone, or even by speaking gently to them after a rough day- these are the sorts of things that Love is impressed by. Kindness feeds Love, and Love (I have found) is prone to sticking around where it knows it can get a good meal.


Two White Queens, pt IV

It began with such a simple thing, a thing that might so easily have been overlooked. And had it been overlooked, our story might have had a very different outcome, indeed. But it was not overlooked: it was looked at, and looked at hard, and most importantly it was remembered.

Rohlan was, as many young boys are, prone to getting into Mischief. Moreover, Rohlan was particularly fond of raspberry tarts. The combination of these two factors meant that when his mother baked said tarts it was fairly typical for them to turn up one or two short of the number she had thought she’d baked. On the day in question, she had baked two dozen, and set them on the sill to cool while she did some mending outside in the sun. Now, lest you think Rohlan’s mother some sort of fool, let me assure you she knew perfectly well what happens when you leave raspberry tarts un-chaperoned. Thus it was when she heard a clatter from the kitchen she smiled a hidden smile and, in a severe tone, called out to ask her son how many tarts were left on the sill. His guilty voice assured her that there were two-dozen, which made her laugh as she walked back in- only to stop short as she saw that there were, in fact, the full two-dozen tarts cooling, in spite of her son’s somewhat sticky-looking mouth. Confused, she left the kitchen. When she again heard the clatter, she asked how many were left now- to which he once again responded that there were the full four and twenty. Again she returned to the kitchen only to find he was telling the truth- although his mouth retained the sticky look, and he had a bit of a queasy cast to his features. Disturbed, she bade him follow her back outside to assist with the rest of her mending. That night, Rohlan only picked at his supper, and when he was offered a raspberry tart he turned pale and refused it. His mother promptly sent him to bed, certain that only a great illness could kill his desire for the treats. When she related the story to her husband that night he looked concerned, but said nothing.

The next day the farmer brought Rohlan with him to the fields, and walked beside him up and down the rows of tender green plants. Finally he asked his son why he had not wanted any raspberry tarts. At first his son only shrugged and looked guilty, but as his father’s gaze bore down on him, he confessed: he had wanted raspberry tarts- in fact he had eaten the greater part of a dozen. His father commented mildly that it was no wonder the boy had been sick, and by the by, how had he managed to replace those he’d devoured?

Rohan, wretched and miserable, said he did not know. All he knew was that his mother had asked him how many remained and when (in a fit of panic) he lied, he suddenly found it to be truth. The second time had been more to see if he could repeat his feat than because he’d actually wanted more tarts. It had worked, but he still was not certain how.

The farmer was silent for a long while, and then advised the boy not to talk about what had happened to anyone but himself. Next he pointed out that not only is theft wrong, it is also heartily foolish to stuff one’s self to the point of illness, regardless of one’s motivations. Finally, he commented that he really ought to beat Rohlan for lying- but that he wouldn’t this time because he’d come clean in the end.

Rohlan was appropriately grateful.


Church Bells

I always love church bells, but they are particularly appropriate on this day- this day that I am going to a funeral. I’m not sure why they should be appropriate- the pealing out of the hour. Maybe because church bells remind you that time is passing… and so do funerals. You are in this moment, this moment marked by such gorgeous notes reverberating in your skull- but in the next moment all that’s left are the echoes, and then only your memories, and then… silence. The normal noises of the world slip back in, taking over, carrying you on until the next dramatic moment, when you stop and remember- oh yes, another moment. Another hour. Time is passing.

It’s an odd thing, knowing you’ll never see a friend again, never talk to them again. It’s as though I am slightly disconnected from reality, not quite in synch. A sort of… drifting-through kind of feeling, more akin to vague regret than true sadness. It’s a feeling I’m fairly familiar with, at this point in my life, and occasionally I wonder that it does not affect me more. Maybe it was my upbringing (growing up military does rather get one used to permanent partings) but maybe it’s just me, just how I’m wired. Maybe it means there’s something wrong with me-or maybe it means there’s something right. I don’t know. Chances are I’m just storing up for a truly spectacular meltdown sometime in the future.

At the funeral home, my mom and I approach the viewing room, and I find myself going into a sort of low-grade panic. I do not want to go into that room, do not want to see my friend’s empty shell. I’ve pretty much gotten to the point in my life where I am not on board with the whole corpse-viewing tradition. I understand that some people have a psychological need for the sort of closure that seeing a dead body brings, but honestly- I’ve decided I can accept that someone is dead without seeing their remains, I really can. And to tell the truth, I prefer not to add that particular shot to my catalogue of mental images. Because then it’s always there, and I can’t get rid of it, and sometimes it shoves the warm, living images out of the way. And I hate that. So maybe in the future I’ll just politely bow out.

But this time I am with someone (I later remark to my mother that funerals are strangely like prom; everyone dresses up, and while you’ll go alone if you have to no one really wants to) and so I do not bow out- we go in together and I see what is left of my friend, and then do my best to scrub it from my brain.

After the service we all make our way up to the gravesite where final words are said (although we cannot hear them because we are in the back). The clouds are gathering, but one by one people wander off until there’s nothing left but a hole in the ground waiting to be filled- and, of course, the silence.


A Break From Storytime (With Plenty of Digression)

Although I do have most of the next installment written, I thought I'd take tonight off from Two White Queens- sort of. See, I thought I'd take an entry to talk about how it came about.

It started as many of my stories start- in a dream. And boy-howdy, was it a star-studded dream. The two queens were played by Timmain of Elfquest and Jadis of the Chronicles of Narnia. Rohlan? Oh, Rohlan was straight-up Harry Potter of, you know, Harry Potter. As my best friend put it, my dreams have an incredible production budget. I won't go much further into it, for fear of giving away plot points, but let's just say that other major pieces of the story also have their roots in great children's literature (although to be fair, Elfquest is not so much for the kiddies...)

Anyway, I woke up after this incredibly elaborate dream and so wanted to get back into it that I knew I had to write it down while I remembered it, or I would seriously regret it. Needless to say, after I'd spewed the entire (rather incoherent) thing onto the computer screen, I started tweaking. Some tweaks came immediately (for instance, changing the players into characters that had their own back-stories, rather than being reproductions of other writers' efforts), others developed as I started turning the dream into an actual story (and to tell the truth what I'm putting up isn't the story, per se- it's more like an elaborate outline) (rough-draft of an elaborate outline). For instance, having the queen devour her son came from Nathan commenting (after reading the first part) that it reminded him of a fairy tale- of the old fairy tales that were dark and didn't always turn out so pleasantly. Immediately my brain went to the tales wherein the evil queen frames her daughter-in-law, making it appear she's eaten her own children. I already knew that T'myra would be spending time as a wolf, so that seemed the perfect vehicle for a little horrific infanticide.

My dream primarily dealt with the "prologue" (laid out in parts I-III) and then the "ending" (quite a few story-years in the future). I'm currently at the point in the story that my dream conveniently glossed over (edited for television, I'm sure), and it's definitely requiring more effort to mine it from my subconscious. The first parts were like walking into a valley and picking up raw diamonds- yeah, maybe I needed to chip away a little rock to get at them (and still need to polish the hell out of them), but for the most part there they were, waiting for me to gather them up. Now I'm having to carve out tunnels and such. It's possible I may need to kill a former teen heart-throb or two. You know- for the greater good. ::cough::

At least I know where I need to end up- that's some help.

This is kind of how I imagine the Powers That Be feel like (yeah yeah- lightning for arrogance; don't worry, I'm pretty sure you can't be smited by association). They know where we'll end up, but They're watching to see what sort of crazy adventures we'll make up for ourselves on our way there. Because at this point, it really is like I'm poking my characters to see which way they jump. And if they jump in a way that's not conducive to the story I'm trying to tell?

Well then I'll just poke them again.


Two White Queens, pt III

The hunters did not find the white wolf as easily as Siddis thought they would. What should have been a glorious time for her- the beginning of her rightful rule- was marred by the fact that no one seemed able to produce her mad, transformed sister. It did not matter what rewards she promised, what punishments she inflicted- the white wolf remained elusive. That is until the day almost three years later when a new hunter appeared from a strange land. This hunter assured the new queen that there was not a beast alive- or dead, for that matter- that he could not track and destroy. He would bring her the pelt of the white wolf, or die in the trying- and all he asked in return was a single drop of her royal blood.

Siddis was not pleased by this request: she knew better than most what could be accomplished with a single drop of blood. But this hunter had no whiff of magic about him, let alone that particular, tainted miasma which spoke of dark powers- and no-one else had been able to what she asked. She agreed that he could have his price- but not until or unless he brought her what was promised.

The moon had come to fullness three times before the hunter returned with a shining white wolf-pelt slung over his shoulder. Siddis was pleased- until she saw that there was no trace of the collar she had crafted. When she demanded to know its fate, the hunter shrugged and said she had not requested the jewels: that he could tell they were poisonous things not to be trifled with by ordinary folk such as him, and so he had let them lay where they fell on the forest floor. If Siddis wanted them, she would have to search them out herself. As for the hunter, once he had collected his payment he had plans to leave this troubled kingdom, and never return.

Although she seethed at the loss of her handiwork, Siddis did admit that she had not requested he bring it to her, and as such she would give him his due. Using her terrible stone knife, she pricked her wrist and let a single drop of blood fall into a tiny glass vial, which she gave to the hunter. Once he had gone, she ordered her most vicious assassins to follow him and retrieve it, but it was as though the hunter had vanished from the world: they could find no trace of him or his passing.

Siddis had a fine cloak made from the wolf’s fur. In recent years the winters had begun to last longer, and were more bitterly cold than any in memory: the fur served her well, and if any thought it an inappropriate use of her sister’s remains, no one dared say as much to the ruthless new White Queen.

Winter was not the only thing that worsened as the years passed; there were also more droughts, more plagues, and a gradual dwindling of trade- not to mention the increase in floods, vermin, and crop-blight. The kingdom itself seemed to be wasting away, its borders shrinking and its lands withering, its soil growing thin and infertile as its people. Even the shining inland sea that once surrounded the royal island had shrunk to one eighth its former size: barely large enough to be called a lake. But in spite of all these disturbing happenings, Siddis ruled without mercy, for she knew the land and the people were hers to do with as she wished: all that concerned her was remaining in her rightful role as queen, and having time and materials to pursue her unquenchable thirst for dark knowledge.

In the meantime, although he enjoyed his promised place of favor amongst the Siddis’s court, Kyl’k had fallen into great disgrace with the common people. He was known far and wide as the Traitor, the man who had betrayed one White Queen to the other, and was neither trusted nor welcomed anywhere in the kingdom. This seemed to eat away at his body as well as his soul, and he became a small, twisted, and bitter version of his former handsome self. He often disappeared into solitude for months on end and was missed by none- not even the queen he had given all for.

This was the state of affairs in the kingdom known as Zhiala, in the eighth year of Siddis’s reign. But it is not in the kingdom of Zhiala that our real story begins. It is in the small, almost forgotten land to the south-west of it. So small was this land that it did not have a real name, nor even a formal ruler. But it was decidedly not a part of the surrounding countries (Zhiala included), and thus seemed immune to the trials and tribulations that might plague the others.

In this un-named land there lived a dark-haired famer and his dark-haired wife, and they had an even darker-haired son they called Rohlan. They kept to themselves and worked very hard, and all in all did quite well, and were quite content with the quiet ordinariness of their lives.

Content, that is, until the day Rohlan realized maybe he wasn’t quite so ordinary, after all.


Two White Queens, pt II

Siddis did not feel herself to be unreasonable. Although she harbored no affection for her younger sister, she did not see why things could not be settled peaceably. After all- she wasn’t asking for anything irrational: just her rightful place as Queen. And so she gathered up the courtliest of her associates from the Outer Dark and with them approached her sister’s palace- with intentions to parlay rather than attack.

T’myra was shocked to see Siddis alive- still more so to see her so strange in appearance and so obviously wreathed in alien power. But when she heard why her sister had returned- to claim her crown- she could not acquiesce. As gently as she could, she explained to her sister that she had been gone for too long: Siddis was a stranger to the people, and they would not accept her as their ruler. Moreover, T’myra felt that perhaps Siddis, having left so young, did not have a full understanding of what the kingdom required from its ruler.

This response infuriated Siddis, but she did not immediately lash out in anger, for she saw that T’myra was surrounded by powerful allies, and that it was not the time to move against her. Instead she seduced T’myra’s most trusted companion, a young serving-man named Kyl’k, and bent him to her will. She set Kyl’k to spy for her, that she might become better acquainted with her sister’s strengths and (more importantly) her weaknesses. This accomplished, she withdrew to the Outer Dark to build her armies, and to plot.

Years passed, and soon it was known throughout the lands that the White Queen T’myra was with child. This piece of news interested Siddis greatly, for she remembered something that no-one else knew; when her mother, the former queen, had been pregnant with T’myra, all her shape-changing magic had gradually gone deep within to aid the development of the child, until by the ninth month she was left virtually powerless. Siddis knew that finally her time for vengeance had approached.

Under the pretense of bringing a birthing-gift to her sister, Siddis returned once more to the palace of her childhood. T’myra, thinking Siddis reconciled to her fate, welcomed her with open arms, and gladly accepted the gift: a beautifully wrought collar made of silver and set with colorless gems that glittered coldly in the sun. T’myra told her sister she would wear it to the next night’s feast, which of course Siddis must stay for. This was exactly the sort of invitation Siddis has hoped for- it would give her an opportunity to move against T’myra with no-one the wiser.

That next night Siddis brought an herb to the feast that would cause any pregnant woman to bleed heavily and bring forth her unborn child before its time. If T’myra managed to survive, Siddis had a still darker plan in reserve- but for now she would focus on this one.

T’myra suspected nothing as she ate and drank at the head of the table. When her sister, seated in honor to her left, shared a dish with her, no one could complain- for Siddis ate as much from the plate as T’myra did. It was not until hours after the feast had ended that the cry went up- the queen was in labor, and far too early! Siddis remained in her chambers, biding her time to see if everything would end quickly and cleanly (for her, anyway) or if she would have to go to more elaborate plans. When a page arrived bearing the news that both mother and child were thought to be out of danger, Siddis smiled sweetly (a disturbing look for her) and sent him away.

She waited until the following night before she summoned Kyl’k, and told him his time had come. To prove his loyalty to her he must kill the newborn and bring her its body. If he would do this thing she would make him the most powerful lord in the land: perhaps even her Royal Consort. Kyl’k protested that T’myra would never let him do such a thing- and now that the child was born she had her full powers back. Siddis explained to him that he need not worry- the collar she had gifted T’myra with was in fact an instrument of dark power. All Kyl’k need do was speak a certain word, and T’myra would be trapped in her animal form- but what’s more, she would be trapped with the mind of whatever dumb beast she had chosen. She would not know who Kyl’k was, let alone think to protect the human child in the room. Siddis gave him secret word and sent him forth.

Soon the castle was once again in an uproar. A wolf, its muzzle stained crimson, had been seen fleeing the palace. The queen and her child were nowhere to be found. Siddis smiled her bloodless smile, and waited for Kyl’k.

When the manservant finally re-appeared he was soaked in blood, but alone. He told Siddis that when he spoke the word of power T’myra had transformed into a wolf- and immediately leapt upon her own child, intent on devouring it. He had tried to wrest the babe from her jaws (aware that he must bring Siddis proof of its death) but she had turned and savaged his arm, then grabbed the pitiful remains and run. Kyl’k groveled before Siddis, apologizing for failing her, but instead of the terrible punishment he had feared, she threw back her head and laughed. It was far better than she could have planned for! The queen had gone mad, transformed into a wolf, and devoured her own child! No one could blame Siddis if she sent out hunters now!

And so she did.


Two White Queens, pt I

Once upon a time there was a beautiful young princess who loved her mother very much. She and the queen spent hours together playing, dreaming, and sharing secrets. The princess’s favorite secret was that of her mother’s magic: she could transform herself into any animal she chose. The queen promised her daughter that one day, when the princess was old enough, she too would learn to do such things. The princess could hardly stand the wait.

One day, when the princess was seven years old, the queen told her daughter the most important secret yet- soon she would have a little brother or sister. The princess was worried- would her mother love the new baby more than herself? But the queen reassured her- she could never love anyone more than her daughter, and that although the love she would have for the new baby might, in its own way, be equal to the love she held for her eldest, it would never surpass it. And Siddis (for that was the little princess’s name) would come to love the new baby as well, and the three of them would be the best of friends. Thus comforted, Siddis began to eagerly anticipate the new addition to the family.

But then came the Terrible Day. There was frenzied activity, and screaming, and wailing, and no one would tell Siddis what was happening in her mother’s chambers. All that night the little princess hid in an alcove near her mother’s room, crying with helpless fear, and no one thought to look for her. When she emerged the following morning she found she had a little sister – but no mother. And her father, the king, would hold the new sister in his arms and weep while others tried to comfort him, but Siddis was left all alone.

Siddis did not come to love T’myra (for that was what her sister was called): not one bit. T’myra had killed their mother, and what was worse, T’myra could never understand what she had taken from Siddis. T’myra and their father grew as close as two people could be- as close as Siddis and the queen had been- and there was no room in their love for Siddis, so Siddis kept no room in her heart for them.

One day a mysterious stranger came to live at court. He said he was a magician, and he showed them amazing things, like transforming a small rabbit into stone- but such acts made T’myra cry and so the king asked the man to keep his tricks to himself. Siddis was furious at this dismissal; she wanted to know how the magician had come to command such powers, because her mother had been the only one she had ever known to show any mastery of the arcane. She followed him to his chambers and demanded that he teach her, which he did; he showed her many dark and wonderful things in exchange for a few drops of her royal blood. When the king discovered what had happened his wrath was terrible- he banished the magician and locked Siddis in her rooms while he contemplated her punishment. But she would not be punished, and so she escaped and ran away from the palace, determined to learn the magic her father would deny her. She traveled for a long time, until she reached the Outer Dark, and what she learned there does not bear repeating. Suffice to say, never again would she be helpless to the will of another.

During the long years of her absence, the king gave his eldest up for dead, ordered the kingdom into mourning, and finally declared T’myra his heir. In time it became apparent that she had inherited her mother’s gift for shape-change, and she spent much of her time flying, swimming, and running through the kingdom in many beautiful, snow-white forms. She was gentle, good, and wise beyond her years, and the people loved her dearly; they called T’myra the White, for she was white as all-color, iridescent and ever-shifting as sunlight on the water.

When the king finally died and T’myra ascended to the throne, the people grieved the loss of him, but they rejoiced in her reign as the White Queen. The land prospered, and people were content, and it seemed that “happily ever after” was something more than just a fairy-tale.

But in the Outer-Dark a terrible force began to stir...

Siddis had become very powerful during her self-imposed exile, and although she herself did not appear to have the inborn magic of her sister, she was able to craft tools that bent the natural order of the universe to her will. She, too, was known as the White- but her white was the white of no-color, of the blood-drained corpse: cold and hard and never-changing. She had heard tell of the events in her former homeland, and was not pleased; T’myra had stolen her birthright- both her birthrights- and Siddis meant to have them back.


Oh, Where Art Thou?

I am not feeling inspired tonight.

You’d think that I would- after all, I just got back from my first ever pageant (viewing of, not competing in), which theoretically should be rife with opportunity for pithy comment. But the truth of the matter is that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. And while it’s true that several of those girls were hilariously ungifted at their so-called “talent”, some of them were really quite good, which made the day feel not entirely wasted. Plus it was nice to be around a bunch of people so excited to cheer on one of their own. There was one young man in particular who filled me with a warm fuzzy feeling; he was cheering for his sister with the same sort of enthusiasm I used to cheer for my brother during his wrestling days.

It made me miss him (my brother, I mean) most horribly, and led to me contemplating the variety of ways in which the relationships between siblings can manifest. I am incredibly grateful for how it turned out between us; we’re close in a way that is unique amongst all my friendships, in large part (I believe) because we have special insight into the emotional traumas of our shared childhood. Not, of course, that there was any particular indication during said childhood that we would end up this way. I’d have predicted ‘death-by-murder-suicide’, maybe- but not ‘exchanging-hand-written-letters-on-a-weekly-basis’.

It’s the only thing that makes me think that maybe, just maybe (if I reproduce at all) I would want more than one kid. Because my relationship with my brother is so awesome- so incredibly precious to me- I would hate to deny that chance to my own offspring. I know it’s not guaranteed, of course- sometimes we grow to resent the person in the foxhole with us, rather than love them- but even a slim chance to experience this is better than none at all.


The Rounds of St. Vincent

Being a saint was not, of course, the same as being an angel- not by a long shot. But it did carry with it certain privileges, intangibility and super-speed amongst them. It might not be quite so romantic as flight, but it served Vincent well enough; it let him keep up with his ravens, anyway, although he never had managed to figure out their affinity for him. Still, there were worse companions to pass the millennia with- angels, for example, tended to border on insufferable whenever they took it into their celestial heads to bother with you. It made a body question the existence of heaven, it really did.

The super-speed was also especially helpful for doing his rounds- he could make it around the perimeter of the hospital faster than a mortal could blink. Sure, taking the time to actually stop and do the occasional miracle might slow him down a bit, but not by more than another mortal blink or two.

He didn’t always careen at near light-speed, however. Some days he preferred to saunter, trusting the ravens to alert him, should he be needed in a crisis. The number of Catholics had dwindled over the past few centuries, so it was much rarer for him to be summoned by name. When he was, he must appear, but for the most part he was left to his own devices. His own devices had led him to the hospital.

The angels had tut-tutted, of course.

“What are you thinking?” they would demand. “You’re a patron saint of vintners, not healers! You have countries that need looking after!” Vincent ignored them and went about his business. It was not his fault that he was but rarely called upon by “his” people. Whenever he was, he made it a point to show up promptly and help out (again, the benefits of super-speed) but sometime over the past few centuries he had realized that he was being called on less and less often- and that, by the Father, he was bored. Hence he had gone in search of entertainment. And nothing, nothing was more entertaining than mortals. He sometimes had a very hard time believing he had ever been one- although it was easy enough to believe that the angels hadn’t. They hadn’t a humorous bone in their bodies (nor humerus, for that matter).

Anyway he wasn’t going around helping out the healers- they had more than enough help. Saints, angels- even the occasional foreign spirit or deity. No, the healers did just fine without Vincent’s intervention. What interested him were the patients. And not even all the patients- although he helped where he could, regardless of his own personal interest (he was a saint, after all). He was particularly fascinated by those patients who were cheerful atheists. They were, as one might expect in a hospital, few and far between, but that was part of their appeal.

He liked to visit them in his human aspect- sometimes as a doctor, sometimes as a janitor, sometimes as a fellow patient- and engage them in conversations about their lack of faith. It seemed a wonderful joke to him, the idea that he was talking to someone who not only didn’t believe that he existed, but also didn’t believe his boss existed. The angels found such patients an affront- worse than the patients who summoned up the foreign gods (whom the angels inevitably ignored with a pointed sniff, which Vincent thought was rude considering all their shared history).

Vincent, however, found such patients delightfully refreshing. He had vague memories of having died for his faith (although it had been so long ago he sometimes wondered if the angels hadn’t made it up to keep him in line) but for the afterlife of him he could not remember why, at the time, it had seemed so important.

(St. Vincent by Night)


Phrases You'd Never Have Thought You'd Say

"Are you being a naughty rat baby?" amongst them.

Well, Zelda and Camilla have come to stay. Zelda is currently rooting around the inside of my hoodie (the safest place for her "out of cage" time when there are kittehs about) while Camilla continues her nap inside the cage (I don't believe in forcing them to socialize if they're not feeling it). Camilla tends towards the naps, I find- yesterday she was perfectly content to curl up around my neck and snooze. It was sweet. But not our intrepid Zelda, oh no- she is living up to her namesake, exploring whatever I will give her access to.

Kink does not seem to (pardon the pun) give a rat's ass about the newest additions to the household. Krumps, on the other hand, is just waiting for the moment I wane in vigilance. She does not seem to care that I tell her it's wrong to eat your baby sisters. Older siblings, I swear.

So tonight was my second time teaching H2O Bootcamp. It went smoother this time- and at the end of it Nathan said he wanted to vomit, so I take that as a good sign... (that's right- he came out to support me. What a good husband!) Monday will be my first day Shadowing a Flow instructor- which gives me an excellent excuse to go buy new workout clothes! Woo!

Anyway I'm exhausted. I plan on getting a lot of writing done tomorrow, so hopefully there will be something more creative for you guys to read (I mean, if you're reading. Whoever you are.) Time to put this rat baby to bed!

(Ratquiem for a Dream)

PS Of course I put one down and the other one wants up. Camilla is currently poking her little rat head out of my sleeve, attempting to help me typeh...r vh eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee bu uppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp/p/ p



In his heart of hearts, he knew it was just another door.

But not really "just" a door- he believed it was the door. The door to where, he couldn't have told you- but somewhere Important. Somewhere Different. Somewhere Better than the Warren. He dreamed of that unknown place, and each time it was different. But the feeling was always the same- freedom.

It was the color, you see. Several of the doors within the endless passages of the Warren were a similar shade- so whenever he caught a glimpse of the distant blue during his brief dashes AboveGround, he just knew that it, too, was a door. And someday he would find a way through it. A way out. A way to that better place where people and objects weren't perpetually drowning in rust-colored powder.

He never told the others about any of this. They would mock him, he knew. They thought it was odd enough that he went willingly AboveGround when the occasion warranted- for who didn't prefer the security of the tunnels? AboveGround, lacking the constant smelting fires, was cold- the lack of crowds made it lonely. Sometimes its ceiling would leak, far more than any of the Warren's ceilings ever did, soaking whoever had Upper maintenance duty to the bone. Everyone agreed that AboveGround was a highly unpleasant place, to be avoided whenever possible.

Everyone but the boy who dreamed of doors.



We're Not Pregnant...

...but we are expecting.

Specifically we are expecting a pair of rat babies. Rat babies that are not actually babies, they are fully mature female Rattus norvegici (is that how you make "norvegicus" plural? Anyone?), but it is more fun to call them "rat babies", and so I do. (Also, "ratkins".)

Now, those of you who know that we are already the proud parents to a pair of most excellent felines (Milktiger Kink and Krumpet Mon-Mothra) may be puzzled at this development. I don't blame you. Puzzle on, my friends. Truly, as much as I love rats (and I do- I really do love rats. It's a thing...), I probably would not, of my own volition, have adopted a pair while the kitties were still in perpetual-indoor residence. It could just lead to too many hilarious tragedies. But this is a special case, and so we make an exception.

The special case, you ask? Well, let's go back to the origin of the species. No, wait, too far- let's just go back to the origin of those rats into our lives. See, a while ago Nathan's brother Ben and his wife Heather decided that the time had come to teach their children (specifically their oldest daughter- we shall call her Thing One) responsibility towards a pet. Rats being social creatures, they got two, the other one supposedly property of Thing One's little brother, Thing Two (who is, in fact, two, and thus not really responsible for his rat).

Things were going along quite well until Ben and Heather noticed that Thing One had a truly horrific cough that never seemed to go away- except when she was at her grandparents' house, away from the rats. Yup, it looks like my poor little niece is quite allergic to her beloved pet. Much sadness all around. Ben mentions to Nathan that they are trying to find a new home for the rats (Zelda and Camilla by name) and I say, oh-so-casually, something to the effect of "Rat babies! Gimme!"

The way I see it, this is a totally do-able thing- half of our house is closed off to the kittens, so the rat babies can have their (really rather plush) cage in there. Plus they don't live more than about two years, so it's not like getting another cat. Plus, you know... rat babies.

To be completely honest, what I actually said was more along the lines of, "Hmm. It's feasible that we could take them. Let me do some research and think about it," which Nathan took to mean "Rat babies! Gimme!" and then the next thing I know Thing One is being all extra snuggly with Nathan and myself, which her mom says is probably due to "her relief that the rats are being taken by someone who will love them rather than going back to the pet shop."

And that's how I found out that we are expecting rat-babies.


Seventeen Jewels

She had come so far, she thought to herself as she stared despairingly into the distance. Too far to give up now.

There was only one empty setting remaining- sixteen jewels currently shone in the sword-hilt her father had left her: one for each year of her life; one for each of the tasks she had so far accomplished; one for each enemy she had defeated. The remaining opening was in the crown of the pommel, and she knew that once she filled it the sword Onoriel would return to life. Once the sword returned to life she could use it to free her people from their bondage, to bring peace and prosperity back to the land.

But first she must fill the remaining scar.

Her eyes remained fixed on the structure on the horizon, but her body refused to move. At such a distance any reasonably sized dwelling, even one of palatial proportions, ought to be no larger than the nail of her littlest finger. But this place... it absolutely covered the horizon, stretching up arrogantly to challenge the stars for their dominion over the heavens. She watched as the setting sun glinted fiery orange and red off the bronze gears that formed the structure's facade, casting blackest shadows amongst it's many crevices.

This was the Watchmaker's Labyrinth , and she would find no mercy here.

(An Orange Clockwork)


The Plant of Living Flame

As we all know, tree blood is combustable.

What's that, you say? Tree blood? Flammable? Who-what-how?

Well it's simple, really. Tree blood (aka, sap) and its derivatives are highly flammable. Ever heard of turpentine? There ya' go.

I am telling you this, best beloved, so that you will better understand what I will tell you next. Perhaps you have heard of the phoenix? That legendary bird who, once every five hundred years, bursts into flames, only to rise up again from it's own ashes? Have you ever wondered what such a creature might subsist on? I shall tell you.

High on the tallest of mountain-peaks, far above the ordinary tree line, in complete and utter solitude, there grows a plant of living flame: the pyre-tree. The leaves of this tree glow with such an incandescent heat that no other living creature (save the phoenix) can approach it. Each day, over and over again, the leaves smolder away into nothing, only to be re-sprouted from their own ruins. It is upon the fruit of this tree that the voracious phoenix dines.

But this tree is more than just a source of sustenance- it is also where the phoenix makes it's nest. Most trees, you understand, are prone to exploding if the phoenix alights for too long (this is why, in the stories, the hero always sees them just flying away)- but to the pyre-tree, itself burning hotter than an ordinary fire, the phoenix is like any other bird- except that the phoenix can, in return, withstand the heat of the tree. Furthermore, the phoenix finds the frigid temperatures of the thin mountain atmosphere to be especially comfortable to sleep in.



Day Two of the Bear

Well I didn't puke during presentation (or even after) so I'm willing to call this day a win. ^_^

I now have a new track to learn tonight- and this one will not be as "easy" as the first one, for two reasons: the first because it's not a song that I already know and love and am familiar with the counts of, and the second because it's abs, which means pilates, which means argh. ::sigh:: Ah well...

I slept so well last night- I was thoroughly exhausted that I literally could not process information. I tried to read an email pertaining to our upcoming trip to England, and it was like the words were just sliding off my grey matter... I haven't been like that since college.

Now Nathan and I will settle down to some delicious roasted vegetables (with whole-grain pasta!) and then? Oh, it's study-time!

(It's really nice to have him here with me, actually- he was surprisingly helpful when it came to helping me discern musical cues. My handsome musician...)


How to Eat a Bear

Today was my first day of training to become a Qualified Body Flow instructor.

Dear gods, I am in pain.

It was only seven and a half hours (originally scheduled to be nine), approximately five-and-a-half of which was pure physical exertion. Normally I save that sort of concentrated muscle-torture for things like Surf Days… bleh.

My first thought upon walking into the room was, “Holy crap! Everyone is tall and wearing makeup!” I was(/am) neither. The makeup also gave me the impression that everyone was impeccably put together and beautiful, and my poor little ego shriveled. Then I remembered that it it’s pretty much retarded to be that done up for a group fitness class, and my self-confidence rose. My unmade face spoke of serious athleticism! Nevermind the fact that I was literally one of the least fit people in the class… No, seriously. I know that I’m fairly fit, but these people? They made me look doughy and turtle-like. ::sigh:: And oh how my triceps betrayed me- after about hour four they just plain wouldn’t work anymore. As I lay there, useless appendages crumpled beneath me, all I could think was, “What happened to my surfer-girl arms?” (To be completely truthful, my thoughts were more along the lines of, “I love you, floor.” The surfer-girl thought didn’t come until later…)

All that being said-

I loved it. Oh, how I loved it. And as much pain as I’m in (and again- I am in pain!) I am also thoroughly relaxed. And totally stoked to be learning this with such personalized attention to my personal form.

Tomorrow was originally slated for eleven hours, but I’m hoping we’ll be closer to eight. The high point of the day? I get to teach a track. I’ve just spent the past hour or so trying to learn it well enough to teach it (verbal cues and all) on the morrow. The thought of eventually having the entire thing memorized is just mind-boggling… so I won’t think about it. I’ll eat my bear one bite at a time.


Twenty Minutes 'til Pumpkin Time

Dear Diary (to borrow a timely phrase from a totally awesome friend of mine):

Today was my first day of teaching H2O Bootcamp! I was excited and nervous, and kind of afraid that eight little old ladies would show up and be pissed that I expected them to get their hair wet (what I do is what it sounds like- not water aerobics). Of course, a very large part of me hoped that no one would show up, so that I could have an hour in which to try out the routine I'd whipped up, to discover (without a witness, thankyouverymuch) whether it was even feasible.

Turned out I got an even better scenario- one person showed up! And it was his first time trying that class! I told him that was perfect, since it was my first time teaching it. It worked out really well to be able to do it one-on-one like that; my inevitable foibles were more easily laughed off. I know you will be shocked to learn, dear diary, that I was not perfect- but it is true. I definitely realized that some Changes Needed to Be Made. So hopefully the young gentleman will return (and bring a friend or two) and be treated to an even more excellent experience.

That said, it was a good workout. Now I'm just afraid I'll be super sore at tomorrow's training. Yikes! I'm going to work for about three hours, then headed over to the gym for I think eight. Hence my pressing need to be in bed before eleven, hence you are getting another blog (er, I mean diary) entry rather than a well-crafted short-story. Which is really too bad, because today's photo is just itching for a comedic horror story... maybe after this weekend...


Have Brilliance, Will Caption

While I would dearly love to write something creative and mind-blowing this evening, the truth is that I am too tired, and still have much to much to do before tomorrow. Thus you get a nice, self-involved blog-entry. ^_^

I will take a moment, however, to tout my husband's shot o' the day:

Jadis Was Here

The title was a collaboration (I wanted to call it "Jadis Comes" or "The Approach of Jadis" or somesuch dramatic thing- Nate preferred a more humorous route...)

I feel that there is so much beauty in the unspoken implication of that title (Jadis being the White Queen's true name, for those of you rusty on your Narnian trivia) that it would be a shame to take away from it by trying to hammer it into the definitive shape of a story. Hence normal blog entry...

But that's an interesting thought, isn't it? When the idea of the story is so much better than the story itself could ever be. I know that a lot of times one might use this as an excuse to just not write, but I think that occasionally it's a true thing. Especially if one just doesn't have the craft (or life-experience) yet to write it. I used to run into that problem a lot with my art, when I was younger. I could feel it in my head/heart- maybe even visualize it- but my skill just wasn't up to the task. So frustrating! Which is why I completely recommend formal training (and a crap-ton of practice) to any aspiring artists... the honing of craft is every bit as important as the divine inspiration.

I've had some more thoughts on my little heart-dragon concept, as well, but I think they need some more percolating before I bring them to the blog. It is funny how we can (potentially) turn the mundane events of our lives into fantastical stories, isn't it?

On a closing note, I will share with you a fantastic phrase that I coined today (in reference to my best friend and myself after an hour-long mutual bitch session): Sisterhood of the Shrieking Harpies. Applicants welcome. ;)


Love and Other Dangerous Creatures

Once upon a time there was a race of people with creatures bound inside their hearts. These creatures expressed the person's true self- be that self courageous or cowardly, gentle or barbaric- and the force of the host's will dictated their creature's strength. The people learned how to release their heart beasts- working and playing with them in their daily lives, even training the stronger ones to fight.

Although the people were small in number, their strange powers frightened their neighbors, and the surrounding peoples rose up against them, slaughtering many and driving the rest to the furthest, most inhospitable corners of the land.

The people became all but legend to the kingdom, and most who remained hid their heart beasts and intermingled with their conquerors. A few of the better fighters made their fortunes in the coliseums of the kingdom, but many did not even know their own heritage.

Our heroine is one such mix-breed- but she will not remain long in ignorance, for deep within her heart sleeps a dragon... and soon, it will waken.



Today Nathan took a photo of my wedding band.

It is a very detailed shot, showcasing the many pits and gouges this red-gold symbol of our love has accumulated over the past nine months. Nathan has a tendency to exclaim over these scars, expressing both wonder that I could inflict such damage to my jewelry in my day-to-day existence, and a sort of smug satisfaction that the tungsten carbide of his band will remain forever flawless and shining.

But me? I like the imperfections of my ring. I like that it shows hard use. My life shows hard use- it is not a thing that I keep carefully in a pouch under my pillow, or locked away in a safe-deposit box, only to be seen on special occasions. I wear this ring every single day, because I am married to him every single day, and I am glad that its surface reflects that.

Marriage is not always a smooth and perfect thing. At least, not the ones I’ve witnessed. Marriage suffers slings and arrows as much as any other portion of one’s life. And yes, both slings and arrows can leave scars- sometimes ugly ones. But do you know what a scar really is? A reminder of something that, however painful, did not kill you. Chances are, it made you stronger.

So yes, I love the blemishes of my ring- because it means that the ring is there to receive them.



The Gathering

It was an inappropriately beautiful day for war.

The Heavenly Host came together in an army that stretched beyond the horizons of the cerulean skies; They came together in numbers so vast that had They been mere mortals Their mass would have blotted out the sun and plunged the day into blackest night. Of course, once the Host exchanged Their shining, gossamer-like travel-forms for Their dark and fearsome battle-shapes, They would indeed do just that- but for the time being clear rays of morning light still danced between Their ethereal white bodies, sparking off the frost-touched blades of grass in the plains far below.

In that same grass crouched a young woman, wrapped in finely tanned leathers, an infant bound tightly to her breast. The undeniably glorious sight above her filled her with nothing but a desperation that bordered on despair. Soon, she knew, the Host would shift their shapes, growing exponentially more powerful. And then Their great war drums would sound, vibrating deep within the chest of every mortal unfortunate enough to be within earshot of Their multitudes, causing animals and lesser men to tremble and flee in panic. Finally, most terrible of all, They would draw their flaming weapons- swords, spears, and all manner of more exotic armaments. These blades had been forged for the express purpose of drawing Heavenly blood- but the Host did not care who or what else might be struck down in Their wars. Not even the mountains themselves could hope to stand against a errant blow from a divine weapons.

The woman shivered, and wondered who was left to pray to.

(The Gathering)


Circle of Love

They all said it was a summer fling, destined to die with the leaves on the tree. It was a passing phase, a folly of her youth and of the sunshine that beat down upon their writhing forms. But she knew better. She knew that this was the love to last a lifetime, come what may. When she was in the circle of that embrace, nothing could touch her; nothing but the synchronized rapture of their movements.

When the days began to cool, however (and she found herself wearing more layers to keep warm) she felt the first stirrings of concern. She knew it was the bare skin of her torso that kept their bond most secure, and she wondered- could they make it work, with such a barrier between them? For days she stared longingly out the window, too afraid to venture forth for fear of the rejection she might face. Were the doom-sayers right? Was this love destined to be nothing more than a heat-shimmer of a memory?

One night as she lay in her bed, tossing and turning in troubled sleep, a dream came to her. In this dream she was happy- dancing and laughing with her love, moving together as one. When she woke the sense of loss was so great it was as though someone had reached into her chest and stolen her lungs. It was then she knew- she could not let her fear rob her of the purest joy she had ever know. Better to take a chance that might fail and leave her devastated, then remain as she was and ensure her continued misery. The next morning, fighting down trepidation, she stepped out into the cold air wearing a brand new, purple jacket- it's color a symbol of her newfound courage.

Her love was there waiting for her, and she tentatively put first one hand out, and then the other- soon she was once more surrounded by that familiar, comforting embrace. To be certain, it was a little more awkward now that she was covered in thick fabric- she had to thrust her hips with more vigor to keep things going- but as she and her love fell into their familiar rhythm together, she knew that never again would she let the coming of winter separate them.

(Circle of Love)


Off to a Bangin' Start

Let us take a moment to appreciate the particularly "Oh no, Jenny O!" moment I am having: this is my 365 project (which I unofficially began yesterday and am officially beginning right now). Shall we take a quick glance down at the time stamp on this bad boy? What's that? Does it say that I waited until exactly 2315 to begin this entry? (No really- does it? I'm not sure if that thing catches the start time or the post time...) (EDIT: Yes, yes it does)

Yeah, that's right- all day long I have been worring and wondering over what to write- all day long I have said, "I need to get online and write!" But it wasn't until just now, less than an hour 'til midnight (and way past my bedtime) that I finally screeched, "OmigodIneedtogowritethisthingrightthehellnow!"


Part of the reason for this last minute start is that I've spent quite a bit of the day laboring over the design for my brother's next tattoo- a tattoo which he is getting tomorrow, before he flies back to FAFB on Sunday. So there was something of a time crunch- and I'm down at my Mom's house, without all my tools. That particular combination has put me in a full-on Snarly Artist Funk... a mood which, oddly enough, is almost comforting- because it means I am doing art. Wandering around delerious from lack of sleep, muttering obscenities under my breath, feeling put-upon, under-appreciated, and generally martyred- it's almost like I'm back in school. Except there's no one here muttering with me. Granted, Nate began his project today, as well- he is currently processing his photos- but he is irritatingly non-fractious about the whole thing. Which of course only serves to futher grumpify me. How dare he be creative and not insane.

It's a decent start to the year- did three miles this (semi) morning (not all of it at a run, but hush); spent some quality time in the bosom of my family; bought two new books on philosophy; hammered out a (if I do say so myself) freaking sweet piece of art; and (finally) wrote something. Before midnight. All in all, not a bad way to spend the day.

(nevermind the fact that I still have no theme)