Archive | October 18, 2016

(Range) Ladies’ Bingo: Transformation – The Unicorn/Factory & Ursel

Written for my [community profile] ladiesbingo card after Change and with a nod to Strange

Short Summary: The unicorns keep the water clean for the villages, but the price they demand is maidens… and their children are born from those maidens.

Content Warning: The unicorns in these stories are heavy on the rape metaphor, and it’s very heavy in the below story. Also, violence, via unicorn horn, discussed in the past tense.

I think this has an ending but it wasn’t sure.

People, as a rule, were not very good at keeping secrets.

The more unusual the information, the worse they were at keeping them close.

There was a girl in Shepachdar’s tavern, and she was a unicorn-born who hadn’t changed, already an anomaly.

There was a foal in Lastowe that had changed early, and it had grown wings instead of a horn, strange beyond strange – and yet it seemed to be needed.

How will he mate? some people muttered. But very quietly: they didn’t talk too loudly about what happened down at the river. They might know – almost everyone knew. The unicorns and the maidens, they made more unicorns, and there was blood, there was always blood, whether the result was a dying girl or a pregnant one.

What will come of the girl? some people asked. They were far less quiet about that; personal tragedy was interesting, it was personal, and it didn’t come tainted with the guilt of the Silver Road and the blood of all those young girls.

Eventually, the questions came back to the tavern in Shepachdar, and back to Ursel, the girl with the nubbin of horn on her forehead.

“So…” It was Fazenia who asked, Fazenia who had started this whole mess rolling. “If you haven’t changed…”

Ursel sat down and stared at Fazenia for a long time. The men looked away. The other bar-maids looked away. Fazenia did not.

“Every child a unicorn sires is a unicorn,” Ursel began. “This is the truth of things.”

Around her, people were muttering. Fazenia, who had gone down to the river in her own time, held Ursel’s gaze and waited.

“Common knowledge says it’s the horn, but that is only a an indicator of certain things.” She touched the nubbin on her forehead. Fazenia touched her own stomach, below the navel. “I know,” the woman who should be a unicorn continued, “that many children are born after the river trips, and more than half of those are born with no horn. Those births are easier. Those men live fine lives, and their daughters have an easier time of the river. Those women… they either have an easier time at the river, or everything goes horrible.” She ducked her head. “Unicorns, the ones who have four legs and who swim the river, they are not human, whatever they were born. They don’t think like humans, and they don’t communicate like humans. And unicorns either favor the two-legged of their kin, or they hate them unbearably.”

Fazenia’s fists clenched in her lap. Ursel, now, was the one to look away, but just for a moment.

“I digress. Every child conceived at the river is a unicorn. I know. So many babies you have all seen, maybe yourself, maybe the child you raised as your own. All unicorns.”

Somewhere, someone opened their mouth. One of the bar-maids shushed them before they cloud say a word.

Ursel nodded, although nobody had asked anything. “It’s not what we’re taught, any of us. Only the ones who transform – only the sons, and not all of the sons. I think many mothers tell themselves that the daughters, the sons who don’t change, that they all come from somewhere else. But the truth, as I have been told it, is that we are all, every child the unicorn-horn puts into you, unicorns.”

“Who told you?” Fazenia’s voice was very quiet. Nobody in the bar had trouble hearing it.

Ursel hesitated, swallowed, and nodded. It was a fair question.

“I didn’t change,” she said, which was obvious to everyone. “I was born with the shining spot on my forehead, but my mother ignored it, because I was born a girl. When I was a young child, the nub developed, the way it did for some boys. My mother styled my hair to cover it.” She brushed her hair out of the way. “We pretended it was a place I had hit my head, or a strawberry mark. When the boys in the town started, you know, their voices changed and then, if they had the nub, they changed, my mother sent me to live with my aunt and uncle, who lived far from the water. She was keeping me safe, she said. I didn’t question it. I was a good child.”

“But I got the black bean, when I came back home. That’s what my village does, draws a black bean to see which girl goes down to the river. And I went, because how could I not? I was a child of the village, the same as anyone else. We hadn’t told anyone, not even my mother’s husband, what I was. And I went down to the river.”

Fazenia reached out, dropped her hand, and reached out again. Ursel didn’t pull back, so Fazenia put her hand over the barmaid’s.

The men were silent. The other tavern girls were silent. This story ended badly so many times, even when it ended well in the long run.

“The biggest unicorn I had ever seen came up to me. She — it was a mare, and those are so rare, you know — she touched her horn to my forehead, and it was…” Ursel’s voice broke. “I didn’t belong there. Too human,” she told me, and I could feel her horn pressing… pressing into the nube where my horn should be growing. Too much, too full, too many words.” Ursel looked up. “I have been looking for an explanation since that day. I had to many words. I was too full of humanity. Why?”

“My daughter,” Fazenia spoke softly, her voice like water over gravel. “She went down to the water. No horn, no nothing, but she’d been born from the unicorn stab.”

The whole bar flinched. Nobody said stab connected to unicorns. Nobody but those who’d felt the horn.

“She went down to the water, and this stallion, he… he savaged her. I wasn’t supposed to be there, you know, it’s the thing between the girl — the young woman and the river. The unicorns. But I hear her scream.

“So I ran down, what mother wouldn’t?” The dryness in her voice spoke of mothers who hadn’t, all the mothers who listened and bit their lip and did nothing while their daughters screamed. “I ran down, and there’s this giant stallion. standing over her, his horn red with her blood, and still shining, still looking pure, ridiculous, I remember thinking, how can he be pure, with her blood all over him? but he was still pure like the snow, white, even the black-red of her blood shining. And,” she pounded her fists on the table. “And he spoke to me. That creature, that monster, he spoke to me.

“‘Too human,’ it said.” She spat the words out. “‘Tainted. She tastes of the clear water where it meets the factory’s spew. It sickens me,’ he said. Sickens him, my beautiful daughter, bleeding out on his shore.” She slammed her fists into the table. “And his delicate stupid horsey taste-buds nearly killed my perfect daughter…” She looked up at Ursel. “And you’re telling me it’s because he made her? His kind made her, slammed their horn into me and put her in there, and, and, and that thing that the unicorns made, that perfect daughter,” she repeated with an angry sob, “that’s too much for them?”

“They don’t like making girls,” Ursel admitted very quietly. “I think. They don’t like talking, you know, and they do it so rarely. But something about the seed of theirs turning to a girl… we taste too much of humanity.”

“But,” an unwise barmaid offered, “wouldn’t we all, then? We’re all human. And yet, she said..”

Fazenia grimaced. “‘Where the river meets the factory water. Those bastards. They piss in our stream and call it pure and clean.”

“The factories?” one of the men asked, more cautiously than the barmaid.

“No.” Ursel touched her forehead. “The Unicorns. We’ll never be enough for them… because we made them.”

It wasn’t quite a sob she made, and not quite a whimper, but Fazenia made the noise for both of them, sob and wail and whimper in one long noise. Mother and foal and yet never kin, they sat together in the center of the bar with their tears and their scars.

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Worldbuilding Bingo – ‘Verse now called Arlend, Card 2

To fill a bingo on card one of my Worldbuilding Bingo Card: Culturebuilding. Fashion – Body Types, Housing Arrangements, Fashion – Clothes, Entertainment

In my new world for my YA paro-drama, different characters (although my protag appears in discussion)

“Come on, Shekie, you’re going to be late.” Miagreth burst into the older-girls’ bedroom, her Daybreak-finest twirling as she did a couple pirouettes. For a couple years, it had looked like Miggie was going to be in the Home Office dance corps, but she’d been shoved out in favor of a General’s daughter and a Corporal’s niece. Their family line was not military-oriented, so Miggie was left dancing for fun and entering reports for a cigarette manufacturer for her vocation. She tugged on her cousin’s arm. “You look fine. The dress is beautiful. Come on.”

“I don’t know.” Shekleen twirled around three times in front of the mirror, frowning. “I think it makes me look flat.”

“Oh, nonsense.” Miagreth squeezed Shekleen’s small breasts. “You have plenty, and you’ll grow into the rest. Just wear something really tight at the waist like this and poof the shirt up a little more, like that. There.” She moved around Shekleen, tugging and fussing and arranging. “You look beautiful. Just because Peyy Redhouse has,” her hands described round in the front and round in the hips with hourglass like-gestures, “and she’s sticking them in everyone’s face like she’s been..”

“It’s not Peyy,” Shekleen demurred. She adjusted a few of Miagreth’s changes and looked at herself again. “It’s Onnal. He’s…”

“Tch. You don’t want to end up with an entertainer, anyway. A boxer? They don’t last past their thirties, Shekie. Sure, he’s handsome right now and he looks like he could pick up a cow, but think about after someone breaks that nose… or he gets hit in the head too hard… or he breaks a leg and can’t run those miles every day. And if he’s telling you that you need to rounden up, well, he needs to ante up, doesn’t he? First baby will get those things nice and round.”

“He’s waiting till he has a good run of fights,” Shekleen offered weakly. “But I think he’s going to start going after Avy from the mill-run anyway. He’s been eyeing after her for a while.”

“Well, then what do you care if he thinks you need more rounding? It’s Daybreak. We’re going to go eat until we want to puke, and then we’re going to wait twenty minutes and eat some more. Come on.” Miagreth grabbed Shekleen’s hand and dragged her outside. “The dancers are just about to start, and the drummers are already going.”

The Square was crowded cheek-to-jowl, everyone in their Daybreak Specials. Shekleen looked around for Onnel, but there would be boxing demonstrations, so he’d be preparing for that.

There was Avy, of course, prepping with the dancers. Their little town wasn’t big enough for one of the professional troupes, but their amateur, second-hobby dancers were pretty impressive. Shekleen couldn’t dance. She hadn’t managed to pass even the hobbyist test. Miagreth had, but then she’d had a bad fall during combat training, and that had been it for her dancing.

Avy had the sort of chest and hips Shekleen wanted, wide in the stance, round in the bottom, and with plenty of breast over impressive pectoral muscles. Of course, she spent her days hauling grain and tinkering with the mill for her family’s business. Shekie’s family ran the local fabric mill, which meant a lot of fine work leaning over a loom and less heavy lifting at all.

“There he is!” Shekleen grabbed Miagreth’s arm and tugged. “Come on, I see Onnel.”

“You don’t really want to go after Onnel right now, do you?” Miagreth dragged her feet. “For one, I see Tibor over there, and I’ve been meaning to talk to him for ages. Look at that hair.” She made a soft noise of approval.

Shekleen shook her head. “Come on, Miggie, Tibor, really?” She might have unreasonable taste in men, but Miagreth’s was no better. “Where would you live? He lives in this little apartment over the grocery shop with his mother and his mother’s mother. You don’t want to try to raise a family in that. And you’re not going to get a three or a four and live with their family, not with… well.” Miagreth really did like Tibor, but…

“It’s not like he’s ugly,” Miagreth countered, a little too loudly. She dropped her voice. “And nobody really knows why his father Disappeared. And you know full well that’s why his mother didn’t remarry, and why she doesn’t live with her other family. And why they only have one kid.”

“I know. You know. But how does any of that help you?” Shekleen moved through the crowd to the demonstration rings. In the first one, two boys they knew from school were oiled up and ready to show off their wrestling skills. “Your family’s place doesn’t have room for anyone else, and there’s no place left to build on.” Miagreth was the baby of her family, and three of her older brothers had moved their spouses into the family house already. “His family place doesn’t have any room… and neither of you are in one of those really money-making careers.”

Miagreth frowned. “We could do an apartment, you know. A little place, just until we had a bit more money.”

“Babies cost money, Miggie.” Shekleen sighed. Her friend wanted to dream of happiness, that was all. “I bet the two of you could pull it off, though. It would be hard work, but Tibor does work hard.”

“He does. He really is trying to fix the mess his father got them in.” Miagreth sighed deeply and melodramatically. “Getting himself vanished like that. I mean, it’s just inconsiderate to the family.” She shook her head, in a perfect if unconscious imitation of her maternal grandmother.

“And to you, of course,” Shekleen teased, although it was unkind. “Oh, there’s the boxing ring. Let’s go see what On… oh.”

“Oh?” Miagreth pushed up behind her. “…Oh.”

It wasn’t Ava, and Shekleen wondered if, somewhere, Ava was making the same frustrated trying-not-to-cry face that she herself was making right now. Ava, she could have stood; Ava had the same carefully-patched hand-me-downs as Shekleen, and though she had more curves, she had the same slightly pinched look they all got in a lean year. Ava was someone she knew, someone she’d grown up with, someone she could compete with fair and square.

This girl had the Main-Office look, her dress cut in the latest fashion, the skirt long, full in the back and over ample, well-fed hips, the jacket tight in the waist and open over her broad chest. She’d had her hair curled and twisted up into an elaborate up-do with ribbons of cloth woven through it, and the dyes in the whole thing were bright, vibrant, standing out against the faded look of the rest of the town. “She’s beautiful,” Shekleen muttered jealously.

“And rich,” Miagreth agreed quietly. “Look at that. I saw it in the latest Conscientious Citizen Monthly, well, a smaller version of it. That extra fold of cloth at the back, think of how much fabric that uses.”

“I could make those ribbons. I could take some of my spare pay and buy the materials from the mill, and make myself something like that. Do you think my hair would look nice, curled up like that?”

“I think,” Miagreth offered, in a voice that suggested she was trying to be kind, “that without changing the dress, too, it’s going to be like hanging ribbons on a goat, Shekie. The goat will look fancy, but it’s still going to look like a goat.”

Shekleen couldn’t even bring herself to be offended. “It’s not fair.”

“It’s not.” Miagreth stood up a little straighter. “You’ve given Onnel so much attention, and look at him, ignoring you for some silly Main-Office sort of lady. Come on.” She tugged on Sheckleen’s arm. “I’ve got someone I want you to meet, He’s a troubadour, Shekie, an honest-to-goodness singer, and we got him here, in our little town, for Daybreak. And you know what? Troubadours can keep singing as long as they live, they don’t have to worry about broken bones or twisted ankles. And they take their family travelling with them sometimes, all over the country. Come on, Shekie,” she tugged again. “This one won’t care about Main-office ribbons or how much fabric’s in your skirt. Come onnnn!”

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