Monthly Archives: August 2014

Time’s Torture

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“All this doesn’t tell us how the sun was stolen from the Unseelie,” Stranger said.

Aleth laughed above his head. “I thought you’d fallen asleep.”

“So did I,” Stranger admitted. “Go on, though.”

“There’s not much to tell, I’m afraid. Oberon was outraged that the thing had dared to possess him and use him, and wanted revenge. But the truth is that nobody really knows how he took the sun from the Unseelie. Most think a dragon owed him a favour.”

“Dragons can do that?”

Another laugh, a little incredulous. “Why, dragons can do almost anything, my sweet. As long as it doesn’t require the use of thumbs.”

Stranger sat up. “Don’t call me that,” he said, not looking at the Teller.

“Are you not sweet?”

“I’m not yours.”

There was a silence. “I see,” said the elf. Stranger looked at him sharply, but Aleth only seemed pensive. A wave of embarassment rose to his cheeks.

“I have a sweetheart,” he found himself saying. “In… in Cat’s Court. And a child. A daughter.”

Aleth frowned. “So?”

Stranger sighed and tried to find an explaination that would satisfy a fairy. Their notion of relationships rarely included monogamy. “I would… prefer not to become… distracted, on the road back to them.”

The elf laughed, the delighted laugh of one faced with a child’s logic. “Indeed,” he said eventually. “Very well, then.” And still laughing, he lay down to rest.

After a moment, Stranger lay down next to him. He tried not to touch the other man, though he knew he would wake up in his arms. That morning (if you could call it morning), he had been the one holding the elf.

She wouldn’t blame you, a voice in his head whispered. She wouldn’t even have to know.

He knew that sailors at home indulged in such things frequently.

That’s not the point, he told the voice. Who knew what mishap might await him should he let himself be tempted by fairy flesh? Would succumbing to that desire have the same effect as eating englamoured food?

It’s probably too late for that, he thought.

He tried not to think of the possibility that if he did manage to return to Cat’s Court, his wife and child might be dead and gone for centuries, but since Aleth’s arrival he had found it far more difficult not to think. His usual routine of walking and foraging and avoiding enemies and finding places to sleep was changed. His past blurred into his memory so that a week or a century might feel the same, but since Aleth had joined him, it felt like time had begun to flow again. Of course he knew it always had, but his newfound awareness of it was less than comfortable.

He’d heard talk of new things in Cat’s Court, the names of kingdoms he did not know, and seen things exchanged that he seemed alien to him. Surely these were simply barbarian kingdoms and their odd inventions, things he had never had the chance to learn of before he had left. Surely it wasn’t too late.

Was it?

What if it was? Time moved differently here. He might return but a moment after leaving, or he might find himself back centuries later. Aleth had teased him at first, with tales of humans that only put a foot back in Cat’s Court and found themselves crumbling to dust as time caught up with them. Stranger had hit him then, and told him to shut up. Surprisingly, Aleth had.

But the seeds of doubt, so long ignored, had begun to sprout in his mind. Should his wife have remarried, he could bear it. He would at least have the chance of winning her back then. And if not, seeing his daughter would suffice. But what if both had grown old and died without him? What of his brothers, his descendants? Those children would never know what had happened to their grandfather. Or even who he was. What if his descendants were all dead? What if he had none?

What if another era had come and gone, and the world he had left was no longer his? That thought, so long avoided, turned his blood to ice.

Stranger buried his head in his arms and tried to remain still and silent as waves of panic and grief smashed through him. He felt like a child lost at sea, surrounded on all sides by cold grey water, kicking frantically to stay on the surface, and not knowing which direction to swim in, or what monsters were lurking below him, watching those tiny kicking legs and wondering whether it would be worth the effort to reach up and pluck him for a snack.

He did not move away when Aleth laid a warm hand on his back, nor did he resist when the elf shifted closer and pulled him into his arms, hushing and crooning like a mother soothing her child. The apprehension he felt as he buried his face in the other man’s shoulder and let Aleth’s hands stroke his hair was nothing compared to the pain in his chest. His last half-sane thought before he surrendered entirely was that trick or no trick, he hadn’t felt a moments comfort in eternity.

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War’s End and the Birth of the Unseelie Court.

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Finally, an update! You have no idea how long I was blocked on this scene for. Actually you do, just look at the date on my last Glimmerlands entry. I didn’t know how to finish this scene, and so I got out of rythm, and lost my motivation to write, and it was summer and I wanted to go and play guitar in the park anyway, so I thought I’d wait a while. And then recently I’ve had that restless need-to-write-but-can’t-get-it-out feeling…

Many thanks to Zen|Xen for giving me that one last little push that happened to come just at the right time. 🙂 (Also, check him out, he’s getting published.)

Oonagh, whose family had disowned her in an effort to kiss up to the acting queen Titania, dropped her Seelie name and took instead a name she had once been given in a human incarnation: Morgana. She and Tamlin hid out in the countryside under a Name, waiting for the search to calm down and assume they had gone elsewhere, to the Dragonlands perhaps, or even to Cat’s Court. Back then it wasn’t unusual for fairies to emigrate to Cat’s Court, usually infiltrating circuses or posing as magicians or bards, and changelings were quite common, too. Some Seelie families swapped their babies for prettier human ones if they didn’t particularly like how theirs had turned out.

Morgana disliked this practise, insisting that all fairy children were potentially valuable, and as such, her recrutement strategy first targeted children. There was no shortage of orphaned Seelie children even then, and cross-breeds were usually abandoned. Morgana took them all. Under her care and Tamlin’s guidance, they grew strong and vengeful. When they grew too many to hide under even Tamlin’s spells, they chose a remote hill, hollowed it out and enchanted it, like the gates in Cat’s Court, and inhabited that.

Each one had a role to play according to their abilities, and they thrived in a way they never would have under Titania’s rule. Morgana encouraged competition, including with herself and Tamlin; of course, both were far more powerful than any of their protĂ©gĂ©s. In beating all of them, they proved that not only were they worthy to lead the rebellion, but they were also far more honourable than their Seelie counterparts, since they had been willing to put their places as leader on the line.

As the army grew, they began to occupy more and more hills, and these hills formed a line where our border is now. The plan was to surround the Seelie capital and then lay seige to the palace, attacking only the nobles, not the servants or the common folk, who they hoped would join them.

But before this could happen, Oberon’s spies found the hiding spot and told him about it. Oberon reacted by gathering his troops in order to attack, but they were slow to gather and many of them refused to fight for Oberon. When they heard an army was gathering in the hills, they gave themselves over to Morgana.

So Morgana and Tamlin quickly learned of Oberon’s plans, if such a brutish idea could be called a plan, and struck first, doing great damage to the Seelie army. But Titania had used couriers to spread rumours amongst the people that Tamlin had killed his mother and Morgana was out to kill all the weaker folk, so they met unexpected resistance from the common folk. Of course, that did away with the idea of not attacking the common folk or the servants, so it turned into an outright massacre.

Titania sent messages to the Dragons to come and help defend them, and two came. Two is more than enough to right the balance that until then had tipped in Unseelie favour, and so the seige was broken and Morgana’s forces retreated back to their hills.

But nobody had thought of the impact of Titania’s rumours on Tamlin’s reputation, and as everyone knows, reputation and belief are what give gods power. More and more Unseelie loved Tamlin, who was always on the front line of any battle, and more and more Seelie feared him, who had managed to injure one of the dragons badly enough that it had retreated from that battle, allowing much of the Unseelie army to escape. Whether they hated or loved him, all knew that Tamlin was powerful, and the more they knew it, the more powerful he became. And power corrupts.

After so many battles, his beaten fairy form became too fragile to hold so much power any more, so like Morgana, he became an incarner. It is said that all gods are incarners, and that fairies who share such traits are gods fallen from belief.

So Morgana held another competition of power, and this time the reward would be the honour of becoming Tamlin’s body. It may sound horrifying now, but Tamlin was so well-loved by his soldiers that there was no shortage of candidates. The winner was a female fairy named Wick, a small but powerful cross-breed between a pixie and a leanan sidhe. Tamlin took her body and possessed it, and it changed to fit him, which showed that he truly was a half-god, since incarners’ bodies do not usually change. Awe in him grew once more, and it soon became evident that Wicksy’s body would not last long unless Tamlin could spend some of his power.

So another attack was launched. And another. Eventually Tamlin felt Wicksy’s body dying, and another competition was held to replace her. When he changed bodies, Wicksy came back for a few moments before death, and the look of ecstasy on her face was such that soldiers came to believe that being possessed by a god must be pleasurable. Even more candidates competed, and so Tamlin never had a shortage of bodies to possess, even though they kept dying off.

Titania, meanwhile, had finished letting Oberon pretend to be Queen, and taken over the army once more. When she got wind of Tamlin’s incarnations, she sent a message to Morgana, offering her husband’s body to Tamlin in order that the three might rule together. She claimed that Oberon’s body would be far stronger than those of the half-breeds he was using, and would last much longer even in times of peace.

Morgana didn’t fall for it for a second, of course, but that wasn’t the idea. She knew that Titania must have a plan, but perhaps she could turn it on its head. So Morgana agreed, and the four of them met, backed by their respective armies. Order had been given not to attack, but the tension in the air was so palpable, storm clouds gathered and lighting began to zip from cloud to cloud.

Morgana thought Titania’s plan was to kill Tamlin’s body before he had a chance to incarnate to Oberon, leaving him bodiless, and had hatched a plan of her own. Tamlin had to touch a body in order to possess it, this was common knowledge. Morgana therefore held on to his hand so that he could possess her first, passing into Oberon’s body through her’s. She kissed Titania formally, and Tamlin waited. Then she kissed Oberon.

Tamlin shot through both of them like the lightning above, and at that moment, a dragon reared its head from under the platform they were standing on and bit Oberon’s body in two.

Titania smiled, and Morgana screamed. She had never imagined Titania might kill her lover. Her forces attacked the Seelie, and she threw herself at Titania, and the two Queens fought like only Queens know how. But without Tamlin, Morgana’s forces were confused and scared, whereas Titania’s still had their dragons. Morgana refused to give in, and nearly managed to kill Titania, but at the last moment Oberon himself rescued her. Morgana understood that the Oberon she’d seen earlier had not been the real one, although she hadn’t felt a glamour on him. Later it turned out that Oberon had Named one of his most loyal bodyguards to become him. Not ressemble him – become him.

Oberon fought Morgana while Titania escaped, and finally Morgana was forced to retreat. She and her rebels went back to their hills, exhausted and grieving for their lost leader.

But that evening something strange happened in the capital. In every home, family members turned against each other and killed each other and themselves. The next night, and the one after that, the same thing happened. It was the first case of possession ever heard of in the Glimmerlands – although such things had been said to occur in Cat’s Court before – and on the third day, the folk went to the palace to complain to their Queen. Titania and Oberon sent guards back with certain families, but guards were by no means impermeable to possession, and they are more practised at killing.

People began to fear their own families. They would turn against each other on their own, on suspicion that one was possessed, and thus began a series of killings that would later be known as the Incarner’s Mass Murder. Oberon rounded up Incarner families everywhere and executed them all. When some tried to flee to Cat’s Court, he closed off the entrances and reinforced the barrier between this world and the next, making anyone who tried to pass through an outlaw. Their only refuge was with the remnants of Morgana’s rebels in the hills.

Titania finally caught her. She sent the dragons after the rebels and laid seige to the hills, and Morgana gave herself up. Titania knew that if she killed her, Morgana could incarnate again, so she and Oberon enjoyed torturing her instead. One day she received and urgent message while this was happening, mentioning the possessions, and Morgana, despite her cuts, burns and broken bones, started to laugh. She laughed so long and so hard that even torture couldn’t stop her, and eventually this unnerved Titania so much that she made the connection between the possessions and Tamlin. Killing the body of an incarner fairy would allow them to reincarnate in a newborn, but Tamlin was no ordinary fairy, and had been able to incarnate – or possess – grown bodies before, leaving the original soul in it intact.

The killings had only happened in Seelie families. She brought some of Morgana’s loyal soldiers out of her dungeon and put them in a cage in the middle of the village, and called the rest of the villagers to come and jeer at them. Sure enough, as twilight fell, the Seelie villagers stopped stoning the prisoners and turned on each other, one at a time, leaving the prisoners – but also their guards – untouched.

Titania watched from the palace, and noticed the possessor seemed to target children and weaker fairies. She rightly guessed that Tamlin’s power had been weakened when his forces had seen him die. The nobles were safe, then, but if she wanted to keep the people on her side, she had to get rid of it somehow.

She went to see Morgana and offered her a deal: if Morgana could destroy the Thrumli then she and her remaining rebels would go free. Morgana, tortured and exhausted as she was, negociated further: that she and her Unseelie rebels would be allowed to have their own Court, in the lands beyond their hills. Titania accepted.

So Morgana was healed of the worst of her injuries, just enough that she could walk from the dungeons to the center of the village under heavy guard. As soon as she appeared, a silence fell, and even the wind stopped blowing, as if the land itself waited.

Oberon was unhappy that they were letting Morgana go. He cared little for the weaker folk, and would not have mourned their loss. Titania had had to exercise her ultimate right as Queen in order to make him go along with the plan, but still he muttered and fidgeted like a human child, and nobody noticed that something was wrong until he stood and pointed at the crown of villagers, shouting “They are his weapons that we must destroy!” and with that, he hurled his sword into the crowd, grabbed the spears off two guards and threw himself into the melĂ©e.

“Guards! Stop him!” cried Titania, but even she did not realise what was happening until she saw Morgana laughing again; the high, manic laugh of one who is irreparably insane. Seeing this, Titania put a spell on Morgana so that her skin writhed and her gut wrenched, and approaching through the chaos, ordered her to make it stop.

“Unspell me…”

“I will do so if you obey me,” said Titania, and Morgana knew then that she had no choice. Her face twisted in pain, she uttered a word that went unheard in the pandemonium, but stopped it immediately.

“Come to me!” she said, and then Titania’s spell stopped without Titania stopping it, and Morgana stood straight and tall as before. She looked at Titania. “I have fulfilled my end of the deal,” she said. “Now it is your turn.”

“You have betrayed us!” Oberon roared, but Titania signalled to the Guards to hold him back.

“Take your mongrel folk and leave,” she said.

The Guards and people stood aside as Morgana walked out, back straight, calling as she did to those who had been loyal to her, and others who would join her now. Only her melodious call and Oberon’s roars could be heard as she left.

Confessions of a bigoted TERF mum

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I love the part where she ridicules a form of oppression so prevalent we’re all in some way affected by it, and shows just how stupid it really is.

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I can’t remember when I first realised my son was a person. I guess as a mother you always know these things. Right from the moment he was first placed in my arms I sense there was something person-y about him, almost as though he might be an individual with his own consciousness, fully capable of developing a sense of himself which was not inextricably linked to gender stereotypes. Quite why this should be, I couldn’t say, but now that he’s older, I believe more and more that I was right. Nonetheless, like any mother, I have moments when I still wonder if I’m failing him.

From an early age my son has liked things. Some of them have been pink and some of them have been blue and some of them have been other colours. He has also liked activities, some of them boisterous and aggressive, some of them…

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Castlefest

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I just got back from a medieval/fantasy festival in Holland that celebrated its tenth edition this weekend. There is something about that place, the atmosphere, those people, that completely disconnects you from the real world and brings out some of who you really are. I found myself in a state of well-being so deep that I barely noticed it until I got back last night and realized I really, really didn’t want to turn on my computer. I don’t want to care about facebook, twitter or youtube, I don’t want to lose myself in Buffy or any of my online comics.

I want to put on a gypsy dress, take my new tin whistle to the park and play jigs and airs on the grass. I want to surround myself with people in brown leather and tribal tattoos, pass around a horn of mead, and sing in bad Irish to the rhythm of a bodran, a djembe, or an empty pringles packet. I want to find a music shop – not just any music shop either, but one that sells harps and hurdy gurdies and didgeridoos – and let the Dutch vendor explain to me in accented English how to play each instrument. I want to headbang to Coppelius, stamp my feet to Corvus Corax, weave my hips to Prima Nocta, link arms and spin-jig to Scrum until I’m dizzy and gasping for water and yet unable to stop before the music, surrounded all the while by friends doing exactly the same thing. I want to eat vegetarian curry, and honeyed pork on a stick. I want to to wander round the market, trade salt fudge for a ball of wool and a wooden crochet hook to occupy my hands and lengthen the shawl I made. I want to wrap said shawl around my shoulders against the cooler evening air, sit cross-legged on the ground (being careful not to bend my corset) and let my sweetheart lay his head in my lap, stroking his face and hair until he dozes off, hypnotized by the jugglers and dancers and the timeless, earthy music that is Warduna.

I am such a fucking hippie, and I love it.