March and April are clean-up months in Massachusetts, because there is still a chance of frost. I used them to fertilize the daffodil bulbs (4 lbs of fertilizer per 60 sq ft), mom’s been planting pansies, and we put together eight seed trays of seeds for planting around Memorial Day weekend between us, in light boxes we’ve set up in the basement. Look, pictures!
First up, daffodil bulbs poking their heads up out of the dirt. Then our seed boxes, and seed trays full of potential (and water). Plus two pictures of pansies.
Since I started this post the world has entered May, to my dismay and hurry. I lost two weeks to a throat infection and two more weekends before that to a heavenly vacation in England, which was great but not really helping me keep busy. Our sunflower and tomato babies are outgrowing their space, and if I’m lucky they’ll put up with being inside until Memorial Day weekend, the traditional time to plant in this part of the world. It’s been dry here, with sparse rain and a constant stream of conversation about hoses and drip hoses and while we’re at it, how about adding a water feature back by the dogwood bush? It’s a lovely season with everything leafing, and I’ve been spending the day wrestling with the push mower. Mom’s been making candied violets with egg whites, a paintbrush, and multicolored sugars. There is also a rhubarb cake on the conference table, thus proving why we garden in the first place. I have quince flowers on my desk, that deep red that is hard to capture with words, because it has overtones and undertones and a sense of solidity that defies my attempt to explain it.
-..three ladies voices so fine,
The hills were red with twilight, and in the woods beyond town the crimson-etched oak leaves vibrated with an eerie descanting song. Three voices were raised, songs with words beyond our ken rising to the heavens and falling into glens already shadowed by night.
tempers on em each one and all,
The traveler was lost and not from these parts, and heard the song but was not so clever as to take it for the beautiful markings on the poisonous butterfly. He knocked upon the door of the cottage, under the fading light beneath the eaves. The door opened and he was invited inside, polite as you please, as the song fell silent. The women were beautiful, though he could not place their age, and their gazes were brown and level and wise and filled with an emotion he could not name.
so ware your mouth drinking with them watch your cup drinking with them take your grace with them
They sat him down by the fire, and busied themselves with cauldron and kettle. Their murmurs were once more in a language he knew not, but their hospitality was unescapable.
“Thank you,” he said, and, “It’s very nice to meet you,” he said, but they did not reply in tongues he understood, and, “What sort of stupid people can’t understand plain English,” he said, and the three women smiled at him and pushed him back down into his chair. They were not strong, those pressing hands, but they pushed him down despite that, and into the woven chair he fell. They offered him a goblet, red and steaming, drawn from the cauldron over the fire and the hot water from the kettle.
Three witches; all both cruel and kind, drinking cups filled with tea, rosemary…and darrrk..red wiiine…-
The sun set. The song began again.
For the prompt “Reform-New Charter Lycanthropes.”
“What’s up?” Janine asked her friend Lyssa, who was currently in the form of a very lazy green snake with yellow eyes and a flash of red tongue. Lyssa was curled up on the school yard bench, making herself ornamental around the wrought-iron arm.
“Another schism,” her friend replied, in a perfectly clear and understandable human voice. Janine never did get that part of the whole thing.
Janine plopped her bookbag down between them and sat on the back of the wooden bench, perching precariously. Lyssa was unconcerned by her tone, unblinking. Not that Lyssa ever blinked, except in that weird milky way.
“Seriously,” Lyssa entoned. “They decided it after morning prayer. We are now the Honorable Reform-New Charter Lycanthrope School of the North, and the south building is the Venerated Reform-Traditionalist Lycanthrope School of the South.”
Lyssa stared at her, unamused by disbelief.
“We just split off from the Orthodox Lycanthrope Tradition last month,” Janine wailed, glaring at the south building across the green as if she expected it to try to eat her. “Which teachers did we keep?”
“Professor Alastair. Professor Rizon. Professor Shasha. Plus their assistants and most of the ground staff. Um… you’ll be pissed.” Lyssa glanced away, sinuously.
“Why am I going to be more pissed than I already am about this?”
“Professor Mokni is the head of the School of the South.”
“But he’s my advisor – why would – aren’t I in the School of the South, then?”
“I don’t think you want to be in the School of the South,” Lyssa hissed. “They’re talking about mandatory robe wearing. Didn’t you enjoy wearing jeans this month?”
“Sure, but that doesn’t mean – which school are you going to?”
“It isn’t that obvious to me,” Janine retorted.
“Young ladies,” a masculine voice said from behind her. Janine quailed, turning. It was Professor Mokni, looking beautiful and sleek in full formal robes and spectacles, black hair held back by a ribbon. Janine supressed a purr.
“Yes, professor?” She asked, Lyssa falling silent.
“Gossip is inappropriate. Your class schedules will be released to you as usual on Sunday after prayer.”
He softened the admonition with a smile.
“Go hunt. It clarifies thought and strengthens the body.”
Janine nodded, form flowing into that of a great spotted cat. Her tail twitched, catching the scent of him, and catching the scent of him catching the scent of her. They were a rare pair in that they were technically the same species. He was a black panther, and she a simple panther, and he made her want to – she turned, bounding away, and Lyssa slithered after her, leaving the religious questions to their elders.
For the prompt “parley and proposals.”
The rustle of chairs.
“Thank you for coming, Lord Tillwood.”
“I had to admit to some curiosity, your ladyship. It is seldom I receive a proposal from someone I am currently making war upon.”
“I did consider other methods of communication, but I’ve never been known as a woman whose talent lies in coming to the point.”
“Your ladyship confuses me. If your proposal was not to the point, what is?”
“I wished to speak with you upon a subject.”
“What subject, if not marriage?”
“I did not say the subject was not marriage.”
“Now your ladyship has as much as said the subject is marriage.”
“I did not say that either, Lord Tillwood.”
“Are we to argue in circles, then, your ladyship?”
“If it pleases you, Marquis of Tillwood.”
“I came here to assuage a curiousity, your ladyship, and out of courtesy. Pray be courteous.”
“Have I offended you, your lordship?”
“No, no, not offended. I simply ask that you speak plainly.”
Silence, broken by the swish of a fan and a finger tapping against a leather glove.
“Tea, your lordship?”
Small, bustling noises. Tea pouring. The silver clink of a spoon.
“I will take both, please.”
“Very good,” came her murmur.
The sound of a cup moving against a saucer as it is passed from hand to hand.
“Very well, lady, if you will not speak plainly, pray speak at all. Say on, and I will attempt patience.”
“Do you ever succeed at patience?”
“Not often, no, though sometimes on the hunt.”
“What do you hunt?”
“I prefer men, but deer will do. Wolves provide a challenge, and the wild boar is terrifying.”
“Something terrifies you? I’m surprised.”
“I am a man.”
“Yes, as I am a woman. I take a woman’s approach to solving problems.”
“What do you mean by that, your ladyship?”
“You see, Lord Tillwood, I’ve poisoned the tea.”
For the prompt “beads go flying.”
There’s a swirl of color in the center of the room. It’s blue at its core but beaded in black and purple and silver, surrounding a woman who surrounds herself in a veil of swaying arms and clever, inviting hands. She is wearing a midrift-baring silky sapphire top and a skirt of the same shade, covered in a net of dark beads and flashing coins that sound like bells with each stamp of her foot.
She has a backup singer in the background, and a man in a vest playing some sort of drum. It’s hard to pay attention to them, when her movements snap with a precision that seems almost painful, and then sway with a langoir that almost puts you to sleep. The music slows, and her hands slow with it. The arc of her black hair turns downward, flowing around her shoulders, and the rhythm of her hips is a gentle shh, shh. Her skirt, you notice, is embroidered with a pattern of feathers in black thread, just visible under the black net of beads and silver coins that make that sound that is getting under your skin and weaving itself with your heartbeat. You find your breath slowing in sympathy. Her figure is round and has no hard edges, except her nose, which writers might call ‘striking’ and you would call flat and oddly appealing, though that might be the way it looks with the blackness of her eyelashes and the curve of her neck, the line of her shoulder, the way the light flares golden across her skin as she circles and you can see the spread of her upper back above her shirt.
The drum begins to beat louder, slowly. Drum. Drum. Drum. She finishes the dance with a swaying walk, and as her hips echo from side to side, the beads on her skirt go flying.
For the prompt “How could you forget THAT?” Fanfiction of Addergoole Year 9.
Zita was a student at a boarding school known as Addergoole. She was in her fourth year, a few months from graduating, and was endlessly surprised and impressed with the school’s ability to throw fresh challenges in her face, where they proceeded to try to claw her eyeballs out and turn her tongue into a new and delicious form of popsicle.
Today, Zita was wearing one of her favorite outfits, a short white skirt and white blouse with a matching white ribbon choker and tiny white hat that took nursing past the practical and into the risque. It made her bosses at the school nursing station make old fashioned sounds, but Zita knew for a fact that both of the women in charge of her supervised last year of earning her nursing certification in her spare time would be busy with patients and then busy eating and sleeping and having some semblance of time off to recharge. It was a hectic time.
Right at the moment, the challenge facing Zita was her English homework. Despite batting considerable eyelashes at the English professor, she still had an essay due Tuesday. Or was it Wednesday? She was pretty sure she had it written down in a day planner that she realized, running a hand over her face, she had left at home. Zita sighed, and plowed on with her notes.
A sound in the doorway made her look up. Zita blinked. Leofric, Leo, her best friend and the center of her life, was standing in the doorway covered in blood. That was not, in itself, unusual. Leo liked to fight, and blood was easily replacable. Leo’s shirt was missing a sleeve. Also not particularly unusual.
Zita stood up.
Leo’s arm was missing from inside the sleeve. Zita’s teeth clenched.
“Leo, you lost your arm. How could you forget that?”
For the prompt “night walks” and “medieval fantasy.”
Aspen preferred nighttime in the city. It was his preference to go unseen and unnoticed, which was far easier in a crowd than in a small town. He was from a small town, originally, with a petty lord and small town problems – village officials who stole small amounts from their town’s coffers, rather than wandering off after larger prey. Their motivation, he supposed, was an aversion to risk, and was not an aversion he shared. Aspen preferred risk.
He did not share as much risk by night as a woman might have, wending her way home through the torchlit streets. He had been mistaken for a girl one dark night on an unpleasantly memorable occasion, though his own particular talents had lent themselves to escape and a quiet certainty he was never taking that road home again. He’d been younger then. Today, perhaps, he would be more proactive.
Aspen eyed his fellow travelers, with their mix of local and foreign looks, their packages and their donkeys. One, a woman, met his eyes with a direct glower and her hand on her purse. Well, she wasn’t wrong, for all he wasn’t working yet tonight. Nothing was gained by engaging her, so he turned his head, a trick that worked on street vendors as well as those with the instincts to spot a thief. She passed him, rust-colored skirts held out of the mud with one hand, hair covered with a pale blue scarf. For a moment he wanted to say something, just one word, to bring himself closer to this sea of strangers. What would he say? His pace picked up, the soft soles of his shoes shhhing against the cobbles. Hello. Good evening. Lovely stars tonight, aren’t they? Nice big moon.
The moon was indeed bright and the stars were particularly clear, with no clouds to obscure either. Bad weather for his work.
Eyes on the sky, Aspen was startled by a jostle, as a young – yes, female pickpocket, if he wasn’t mistaken – ran into him artfully. Her hands ghosted over his clothing almost imperceptibly, and came away empty. She apologized, and Aspen summoned up a smile from somewhere. He was, he thought, in an odd mood tonight.
“Quite alright,” he said, his own voice sounding alien to his ears. His mood, he decided, was fae, or perhaps silly. He was not so alone as all that. Not really.
The young pickpocket shrugged, and he stepped around her to move on. He glanced backward, to catch her foot, the last of her, disappearing into an even darker alley. No torches to illuminate the way there. She’d be lucky to avoid a bigger fish. Had he begun to look so prosperous he was prey as well as predator?
He shook his head, and aimed himself for the next dark alley. From there, it was a matter of minutes to climb the crumbling brick wall, covered in equally crumbling dauls of tan clay, and reach the tiled roof. He’d take the high road the rest of the way. He was sick to death of not dealing with people.
For the two requests for more Colony X, here’s the full text so far.