Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Paula's Prompts: The Spiral

On March 7, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words writing prompt involving a baby bird, a stream, and a spiral.

Lord Ruthvyn chose to take over my imagination with this On the Other Side of the Mask freebie story about Byron. No, it's not the actual Lord Ruthven and Byron. This Lord Ruthvyn is one of the mysterious pale lords whom rule the isolated gray city of Paradise from the palatial estates. This Byron is a former choir boy who chose the name of a rebel poet from another world, only to find himself banished from Paradise to the tender mercies of Lord Ruthvyn.

On the Other Side of the Mask is a steampunk alternate world story I submitted, only it was rejected. Expanding it is one of my many Works in Progress. :)

The stream trickles its way through my garden. It could take you back to Paradise, my dear, if you followed it one direction. 

If you were to reverse it, why, who knows where it might lead? To your precious freedom, perhaps. 

I can feel hope fluttering in your breast, baby songbird, even as you try to flap your immature wings. Oh, yes, I feel your resistance, your wish to take flight from the nest I’ve prepared with such care for you. 

Such ingratitude. Did you think I wasn’t prepared for that, too, Byron? 

You attempt to fly in the direction of the stream, but you’re caught in a spiral, a dance of wind and wings. You’re pitting your will against my design. 

We descend, circling each, descending into each other’s madness, the rings of our opposing desires. 

You cannot escape from my grounds, the lands twisted with my pain and broken dreams. They’ve been peppered and seasoned with so many others. 

I can’t escape from you, either, my little songbird, beating your wings and pecking in defiance at everyone and everything that’s ever hurt you. 

Especially me. 

You’re so much like I was, Byron, back when I had a soul. Back when my pain belonged to me and me alone. 

This was before the Goddess cradled me in her bosom, blessing me with her chill immortality. 

If only you knew the peace and purpose which lies in her embrace. 

Someday you shall. I must simply care for you and cage you until you stop flapping your wings, trying to fly toward a stream leading to a freedom that doesn’t exist. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Interview with Alkibiadea

Quartz: So you’re the lucky pirate who gets to carry Sokrat off. I’m not sure if I detest you or admire you. 

Alkibiadea: Why, thank you! (grins, showing sparkling white teeth) Hopefully I’ll eventually do that. Right now, I’m just the pirate chasing Sokrat across the universe, putting into practice her own teaching.

Quartz: And what teaching would that be?

Alkibiadea: Seek out the good. Pursue the good and obtain it at all cost. For me, that good is Sokrat. 

Quartz: Hah! And what does Sokrat have to say about that?

Alkibiadea: Well, she was here doing Secondary Characters Speak Out last month! Didn’t she say anything about me? Anything at all? 

Quartz: Your name may have come up a few times. Although she also talked about Phaedra. Along with Agathea. As well, ahem, me. (nose turns red)

Alkibiadea: Why, that silver-tongued flirt!

Quartz: Can’t say I disagree. 

Alkibiadea: Oh, the things I’m going to do to her once I catch her!

Quartz: Now, calm down a bit, my dear! Really, she didn’t flirt that much!

Alkiabiades: She’s always doing this. Wandering away, offering wisdom to everyone who crosses her path! What can I do to make her pay attention to me and me alone?

Quartz: I’m not sure if you can do anything, my dear. Ahem, that might even be part of Sokrat’s charm. (rubs nose)

Alkibiadea: You may well be right. No matter. I’ll find Sokrat. I’ll make her pay attention to me. 

Quartz: Didn’t you hear what I said? I’m not sure if you can make her do anything, ah, no, never mind. I’m sure you’ll find out for yourself. 

Alkibiadea: I’m sure I will. Ah, I’m so looking forward to being humbled by her again! (claspes her hands and looks starry eyed)

Quartz: Eh? I thought you were going to find her and make her pay attention to you. 

Alkibiadea: Oh, I will. After which she’ll humble me with her words and I’ll end up kneeling at her feet. It will be so romantic!

Quartz: It will?

Alkibiadea: Oh, yes. We’ll spend some time together. She’ll be my prisoner until she overwhelms me with her wit, getting the upper hand. I’ll end up her slave. Afterwards, she’ll escape and I’ll chase after her until I catch her once more.
Quartz: Er, you do this a lot?

Alkibiadea: We’ve done it a few times. (drops her hands in a prim fashion) It’s complicated. 

Quartz: I’ll wager it is. When will this chase and capture scenario ever end?

Alkibiadea: Never? At least I hope not. 

Quartz: Right. Good luck to you. 

Alkibiadea: Thanks! (beams)

Quartz: (sighs) Relationships. Never touch them if I can help it. 

Nimmie Not: (cackles from backstage) We’ll see about that!

Quartz: (glances over his shoulder in an uneasy fashion)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Paula's Prompt: The Players Are the Thing Freebie Story

On February 28, 2018. P. T. Wyant offered for her Wednesday Words prompt at a birdhouse, a brown pony, and a superstition.

My own memories of being thrown from a pony's back mingled with the memories of Rhane, insecure roleplaying gamer from my Work In Progress, 'The Players Are the Thing'.

This freebie story is told from the perspective of Amberwyne, Rhane's character, whom is often quite real to her.

Some say gaming isn't healthy, that people get too involved with their characters and their campaigns.
The characters in this campaign, however, are trying to help their players overcome a lot of their insecurities through the game.

This is one example of this...

“Come on!”

I could feel Rachel tugging at my arm, although this was Rhane’s memory’s, Rhane’s shame. 

Rachel dragged my player away from the birdhouse, all the chirping voices and tiny feathered heads, beaks open. 

“Can’t we feed the birds?” Her voice was childish, yet not quite as uncertain as it was now. 

She turned her head toward those expectant beaks. “I’m sorry. I don’t have any worms.”

“Why are you talking to birds?” Rachel demanded, not bothering to look back at the birdhouse. She continued to steer a much smaller Rhane towards the field.

“Why not?” Rhane asked with defensive innocence. 

“They’re not parrots. They won’t answer you back.” Rachel raised her head with all the superiority of two extra years. “Ponies are much better. Trust me.”

“I think talking to birds is charming,” I murmured in my player’s small ear. I don’t think she heard me or noticed. 

She was too busy remembering this.  

A brown pony, swishing her tail in a corral. 

“This is Buttercup.” Rachel waved a hand toward Buttercup, beaming with all the pride of an indulgent mother. “My new pony. Isn’t she beautiful? I’ll show you how to ride her.”

Buttercup bared her teeth at Rhane, daring her to come any close. 

My player shrank back in response. 

“I’ve never ridden a pony before,” she stammered. 

“Oh, don’t worry! Buttercup is very gentle!” Rachel enthused, completely oblivious to Rhane’s lack of reciprocal feeling. “I’m sure she’ll let you climb on her back. Besides every girl loves ponies. I’m sure you’ll love her, too, once you’ve had a chance to ride her!”

Rhane tried not to tremble as Rachel lifted her onto the pony’s back. Rachel was already tall and muscular, more than strong enough to pick her cousin up. 

The exact opposite of Rhane. 

“Besides, you know what they say.” Rachel observed her handiwork as Rhane struggled to get herself upright on Buttercup’s bare back. “If you can’t love animals, no one is going to love you.” 

Rachel patted the pony’s flank. 

Buttercup began to canter, jostling Rhane up and down with each step. 

I could feel her earnest wish for a saddle, something to hold onto. The pony wasn’t moving all that fast. Rachel loved riding Buttercup. 

Why wasn’t Rhane enjoying this? All she felt was terror. 

A particularly deep step nearly knocked Rhane off the pony. 

A cry escaped from her throat, knocked free. 

Spooked, Buttercup snorted and turned sharply at the sound. The movement dislodged Rhane. 

She slid off the pony into the waiting mud of the corral. 

“I guessed it at that moment.” Rhane closed her eyes to the memory, returning to her adult self. She didn’t want to remember lying there, covered with gunk, humilated at her failure. “No one would ever love me.”

“That’s not true.” I reached out to seize Rhane’s head, cupping her face with my hands. “Something like that is just a childish superstition brought on by a mistake. A mistake which was your cousin’s as much as yours.”

“And you’re a fictional character, no matter how beautiful.” Rhane opened her blue eyes which swam with tears. “Amber, you’re not real. You’re only telling me what I want to hear.”

“Better than telling yourself what you shouldn’t hear,” I retorted. “Rhane, Buttercup was simply spooked when you screamed. You shouldn’t have gotten on her back without a saddle, not a first time rider. You know this. Rachel shouldn’t have put you on Buttercup’s back either.”

“Why?” Rhane reached up to cover my hands on her face with her own. She no longer noticed I wasn’t real. “Why didn’t I love ponies as much as Rachel did? She said all girls loved them.”

“There’s no such thing as ‘all girls’, my darling. In fact, there’s no such thing as ‘all is’.” I entwined my fingers with hers. “Everyone is different. It doesn’t make you as less a girl for not being comfortable in the saddle.”

“I don’t dislike ponies.” Tears spilled down Rhane’s rounded cheeks. “I am afraid of them, though. Ever since that day, I’ve been afraid.”

If only Rhane could let go of that day. If only she could exorcise that memory in some way. 

“Perhaps in the next gaming session I could fall off my horse?” I suggested, winking at Rhane. “That way, you wouldn’t be alone.”

“No!” Rhane recoiled, dropping her hands. “You wouldn’t!”

“Why not?” I release my player, trying not to feel hurt at her manner. “Isolde and I have been walking throughout the breadth of the campaign. Why would I know how to ride?”

“You’re a lady.” Rhane gazed at me with wide, solemn eyes. “Surely you’ve had riding lessons.”

“Perhaps not.” I glanced up, picturing the blue sky over the palace where I’d grown up. I could almost see the little girl with strawberry blonde curls I’d been. “Maybe ponies shy away from me because I’m a changeling. They might have loved their true mistress, the real Amberwyne. They might be the only ones who can smell an imposter, for all I look exactly like her.” I shot a sideways glance at Rhane. 

Rhane frowned, jutting out her full lower lip in a pensive manner, while a light flickered in her eyes. Her thoughts raced. 

This would be a way to play out her weakness in a way that developed my background. It appealed to her imagination even though it terrified her. 

“Isolde may have noticed this.” I could picture a tall, toe-headed girl with greenish blue skin standing at my younger self’s side. The two of us stood apart from the other children. “She may have had problems riding herself, due to her nonhuman blood.”

“This could have been how the two of you met.” I could feel Rhane’s imagination, picking up speed, as if it were a galloping pony. “Before Isolde was enslaved by the witch, she might have met you at the field where the ponies were. Neither of you could ride.”

“Talk to Mona.” I doubted there would be a problem. From what Isolde has observed of her maiden, err player, Mona was eager to explore any relationship potential between Isolde and myself. 

Not that either of us minded. 

“Ask her if she’d be interested in doing this bit of character backstory.” I fingered one of my curls, trying not feel bashful. I wasn’t supposed to be bashful. 

“I’ll have to talk to Beatrix, too.” Some of the light dimmed in Rhane’s eye. “She won’t like it. Not being able to ride will slow our characters down in getting to our destination.”

“Talk to Mona first.” I nodded for emphasis. “You’ll have a better chance of convincing your Gamemaster to let you do this if the two of us suggest this to her at the same time.”

“That’s true.” Rhane bit her lower lip. “Besides once Beatrix has a chance to think about it, she’ll realize this is a chance to thrown even more dangers at you during your journey.” 

“Don’t worry.” I made Rhane a courtly little bow. “Your players can handle whatever challenges your Gamemaster throws at them.”

At least I hoped we could. 

Beatrix could be a malevolent and dangerous opponent. She’d already thrown evil fae, wicked witches and a giant at us. 

Who knew what might spring from her devious imagination once she started thinking about our long trip on foot?

The Gamemaster wouldn’t deny her players’s request for shared backstory, but she would hold it against them. Not to mention figure out ways to make any changeling spookiness very unpleasant for both of us. 

If there was any chance roleplaying this out would help Rhane overcome that awful superstition that no one would ever love her, I’d take my chances with the gamemaster. 

Whatever didn’t kill Isolde and myself would only make us stronger. 


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Paula's Prompt: An Aissa and Polyxena' Freebie Story

On February 21, 2018, P.T. Wyant offered as her Wednesday Words prompt at a horse, a daughter, and a cake.

I'll admit, horses are beyond me. I grew up as a city girl. My second and last time on a horse's back ended with me getting thrown into the mud. It didn't leave me eager to repeat the experience.

At the same time, horses were a major part of life in historical times and many a mythic one.

I'd already established that Troile, my main character from 'Aissa and Polyxena' (my m/m mythical Work in Progress) had a horse. When attempting to come up with an assumed name, he ended up using hers.

This seemed like an opportunity to meet Polyxena. The real Polyxena in a 'Aissa and Polyxena' freebie story. :)

“You used the name of your horse?” Cressida didn’t bother to keep the outrage from her voice. “You met Achille, son of Peleus, the child of the Goddess Thetis himself and the best you could offer him in return was ‘Polyxena’?”

Polyxena let out a reproving snort from her stall, as if letting Cressida know my name was good enough for any man or woman. 

“It was the first name which came to mind,” I confessed. “Besides, Polyxena has been a brave and loyal companion.” I glanced back at my horse. “Far better than certain members of my own flesh and blod I could name.”

Polyxena tossed her mane back, appearing a bit mollified by my words. 

“Don’t be too proud, Lady Mare.” Cressida wrinkled her nose and helped herself to another of the cakes we’d snuck out the stables. “You don’t have much competition in this virtues when matched against Paris.”

I bit my lower lip. 

“Try telling my father that.” I attempted to keep the bitterness out of my voice and failed. As far as King Priam was concerned, Paris could do no wrong. When he’d appeared out of nowhere, our father had been ready to shower ten times the affection he’d offered any of his other offspring. 

Not that I’d ever seen much of that affection. 

“About that.” Cressida pushed her veil aside to bite into the cake, dropping crumbs to the floor. In the palace, she would have taken dainty bites. Out here in the stable, she could devour sweets with unfeigned, unladylike enthusiasm. 

Polyxena nickered in a wistful fashion, stretching out her neck, but she couldn’t reach the plate. 

“Perhaps you should look for a father’s affection elsewhere.” She fixed a dark eye upon me. “One who has the right to bestow it upon you.”

Heat rushed to my cheeks. “We don’t know that.”

“Troile.” Cressida chewed and swallowed. “Have you ever thought to ask?”

I avoided her gaze. I reached for a cake and offered it to Polyxena.

She accepted my offering in an enthusiastic bite. I barely got my fingers away from her teeth on time. 

“If your true father is whom we all suspect he is, I doubt very much he’s abandoned you.” She gestured to the window. “He may even be watching you right now.”

“It’s nightime.” I gazed at the darkness waiting outside. “Apollo doesn’t reign in the sky at present.”

There. I’d dared to name him. 

“No, but his sister does.” Cressida stretched out her hand. Moonlight gleamed upon the folds of her sleeves. “Neither of Leto’s children are as unsympathetic to Troy as some of the other Olympians.”

“We can thank Paris for that.” Once more I didn’t bother to keep the bitterness from my words. “What can I do, Cressida?”

“What can we do?” Cressida countered. She reached for my fingers. “Bring Polyxena, daughter of King Priam to life, so she can do what she can to make peace between the Achaens and the Trojans.”

“What do you mean?” I gazed at her enigmatic smile, gleaming through her veil. 

“I mean to turn you into a princess, my dear.” She let out a throaty chuckle. “You’re a beautiful boy, so I’ve no doubt you’ll be a lovely daughter of Priam once I’m finished with you.”

“What?” I dropped her hand. “Exactly what are you suggesting? I could never-!”

“-do something so shameful as pretend to be a woman?” A sly tone entered Cressida’s voice. “Your Achille did this on Scyros in your vision.” She raised a finger to my lips. “Do you think he shamed himself or was any less the man for doing so?”

Warmth surged through my neck, pulsing through my ears, coursing down my torso. It gathered in my loins at the memory of Achille/Aissa, his burning gaze meeting mine. 

“No.” I lifted my head and voiced my secret truth. “Not only was he twice the man, he was doubly desirable for being every bit the woman as well.”

Women didn’t stride like Aissa had. No one did. How lovely he’d been in skirts, his pride and dignity shining through his veils. Man or woman, he was still Achille. Child of a goddess, burning brighter than any other being whom clothed himself in mortal flesh. 

“Be worthy of him, Troile.” Cressida dropped her finger. “Show your lover what a daughter of Priam you can be.”

No hint of mockery hid within her voice. Just an earnest pride she kept veiled and concealed most of the time. 

Polyxena let out a low nicker of approval. After all, if I did this, I was about to use her name. I’d better be worthy of it. 

Or perhaps I only fancied my horse’s approval. 

I still nodded in response. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompt

On February 14, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt at, involving a pink rose, white lace, and an enemy.

This particular combination delighted me. It works so well for so many of my characters and ongoing Works in Progress. Plus you may have noticed this Cauldron has a bit of a floral theme.

Once more, I found myself thinking of 'On the Other Side of the Mask'. It's been put aside for so many other stories only too often. It's a story I mean to finish one day about the gray city of Paradise ruled by the Pale Lords and the two boys who boldly take on the names of infamous poets from another world in order to claim some measure of freedom.

This story was my homage to nineteenth century artists and literature that I love. At the same time, I tried to create an Alternate World, connected to ours, yet separate.

I just talked to one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Bear about this story. Her encouragement was enough to make me bounce around like a cartoon character. :) (shy grin) It meant a lot to receive it.

Being encouraged by one of my literary idols means I can't leave 'On the Other Side of the Mask' alone. It must go forward.

Here's a little story from Shelley's perspective. He already caught within the mind bending labyrinth of Lord Ruthvyn's estate, confronting Nathaniel, one of Lord Ruthvyn's servants.

“For you.” Nathaniel reached down to pluck a pink rose from the bush with his gloved hand. 

He offered it to me, smiling, revealing laugh lines which soften his doll like perfection with humanity. 

Nathaniel was more Lord Ruthvyn’s poppet than a person in his immaculate white lace shirts, velvet coats, and breeches. Often he concealed his delicate features with a wide variety of masks. 

He chose to expose his face today or did he?

I reached up to finger my own lace collar. I was slowly turning into a doll like Nathaniel. To be taken down and played with whenever Lord Ruthvyn wished. 

Sadness softened the darkened blue sapphire of Nathaniel’s eyes. He dropped his head, still holding out the rose. Anticipating rejection. Unable to keep himself from reaching out to someone with anything. 

I stretched my arm up to touch the rose. Nathaniel was several inches taller than me. I still managed to curl my fingers around his. 

They trembled on the stem, not letting go. 

“I cannot accept this.” I made my voice as kind as I could. “Not without knowing what you wish for in return.”

“What *I* wish for?” Nathaniel released the rose, breaking free of my grip. 

The flower fell to the ground, scattering a few pink petals upon impact with the pebbled path. 

“Do you think I’m allowed to wish for anything?” Nathaniel withdrew his hand to lay it against his own breast. “All I can do is carry out the wishes of our master.” His smile disappeared from his lips along with any trace of humanity. “He simply wanted me to welcome his lovely little songbird.”

“You were the one who chose to offer me a rose.” I glanced at the fallen flower between us. “Or did Lord Ruthvyn command you to welcome me in such a fashion?”

“Meaning my interpretatios of his will are my own?” Nathaniel allowed his lips to twitch once more. “Ah, Shelley, you still strive to be like the otherworldly poet outside of Paradise whose name you claimed.” He stretched out his gloved hand once more to almost touch my cheek. “Always you beat your beak against our cage, seeking any sign of freedom.” 

He withdrew his fingers. Perhaps he thought better of touching me. “There is no escape. Not from our master’s estate. Not for you. Not for your Byron.” 

He stilled his mouth into expressionless perfection, devoid of amusement. “The sooner both of you realize it, the happier you will be.”

“You want me to be happy?” I ask, bewildered by this turn of phrase. 

Nathaniel raised a finger to shake it at my mistake. 

“Ah, your master wishes me to be happy?” I corrected myself. 

“For the moment.” Nathaniel lowered his hand. “Later he may want you to cry. He’s forgotten how to do so himself.” He gazed into my eyes, striving to appear serene, but he cannot hide the liquid turmoil gathering behind his lids. 

Nathaniel resembled me in his slenderness, his amber hair, and troubled gaze. Nathaniel was the doll I was in peril of becoming if I allowed Lord Ruthvyn to win. To truly possess me. 

“Remember, Shelley, it’s far better to be one of the master’s prized songbirds than to become one of his many sacrificial lambs.” Nathaniel raised a painted eyebrow. “Ask the paintings and the statues.” He let out another sharp, stinging laugh. “Ask your own reflection.”

He turned his back on me, leaving me in the heart of Lord Ruthvyn’s garden, at the center of a maze I might never find my way out of. 

Not if I didn’t plead for help. If I didn’t ask for it on bended knee, acknowledging Lord Ruthvyn as my master. 

Nathaniel was my enemy, something I could never forget. No matter how much I might pity him. 

He’d already given himself up. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Paula's Prompts: A Symposium in Space Freebie Story

On February 7, 2018, Paula Wyant offered up the line "I refuse to let her hurt me" at as her Wednesday Words prompt. 

It became the 'At Her Service' freebie story I offered up on Wednesday. 

It also became this...I'm currently working on an expanded version of 'A Symposium in Space'. 

That line demanded attention from both Phaedra and Alkibiadea, two of the characters involved in that particular story...


I refuse to let her hurt me. 

When she cuts her hands, when she twists her mouth into a condescending sneer, when she used a tone of voice which makes me want to cringe, I hold onto my composure. I cling to my tattered self esteem, refusing to let myself be battered. 

Pausania’s cruelty is a test. I have to pass it if I want to stay by her side. 
I’m so tired of being tested. The conversations that turn into verbal duels with Pausania constantly seeking to cut me down. 

I refuse to let hurt me. No longer will I play her games even if I risk losing her by quitting.

I can’t take this any more. 


I refuse to let her hurt me. 

She stays one jump ahead of me, leaving behind traces of her presence. Tantalizing me with the possibility of capture while slipping through my fingers. 

It’s enough to drive me mad, but it’s a delicious madness. 

I play her game, chasing her throughout the galaxy. I put on a show with the Sokratea, laughing at the universe even as she laughs at me. 

I still refuse to let her hurt me. Sokrat shattered my heart into a million pieces. Now those pieces are scattered across the Intergalactic Democracy, lying in every place she’s ever been. 

She’s done this to me, humbled me like no lover or beloved ever could. 

I’ll never stop hunting her, but I refuse to let her hurt me. 

Never again.