Archive | September 2017

The Hidden Mall: Cozy and Clean?

Liv-clean opened the door and peeked inside.  “I think we’re still in the same world,” she murmured.  “And I don’t think it has anything to do with Beavers, but I think – well, come on.  I think it’s a store.”

“A store.”  Dirty-Liv grumbled.  “If it involves clowns, knives, or fish, I’m going the other way.”

Abigail was with her on that one.  “Let’s peek?”

They ducked in through the doorway and looked around.  It was – well, it really did look like a store would look, if it were inside several trees all at once.  There were large branches stuck out from the walls at strange angles holding clothing on hangers, and in the front was a desk like a register.

“Hello?” Abigail called out, at a loud whisper.  “Hello?”

“There’s dust everywhere,” Liv pointed out.  “Half the malls we’ve been to have been abandoned.  This one looks – a little less recently abandoned, maybe?  I can get clothes that fit.  Even if I do want a shower.”

“There’s a fountain back here,” Clean-Liv called.  “We could all clean up.  And maybe leave something for payment.  I mean, I guess we could just take things.  It’s not shoplifting if they’re not coming back, is it?”

“Cleaning up sounds great.”  Even if Abigail was still wearing her normal clothes, she still felt like she’d – well, fought an army and waded through an ocean in them.  “Is there any food?”

“Would it be safe to eat, if there were?”  Dirty-Liv sounded worried.  “We gave in to eating after a while, but I never have figured out if it was safe.”

“Well, you’re… you’re still alive, right, and it didn’t make you sick?” Abigail offered.  

“But what if it was like Persephone and the pomegranate and I’m stuck?  We never did find a door that opened into anything like normalcy.”  They could hear splashing from the other side of the small store, where Liv’s voice was occasionally obscured.

“Well… then you’re probably stuck, now, but we could find a nice, cozy mall to settle down in if it comes to it?  I don’t want to.”  She held up both her hands, stopped as she remembered she was still holding on to a Liv, and shook her head.  “Not that I WANT to stay in the mall.  I want to go home.  We all want to go home.  But maybe – well, maybe we should start thinking about a Plan B?”

“So far,” Liv-Dirty pointed out, “we haven’t seen anything like a nice or cozy place since the first weird one.  Not unless you count this, and I’m not really sure this counts as cozy yet.  We’d have to see if there’s sharks or bears or something first.  Come on back here, you two, there’s plenty of room.  And Liv, grab some clothes in your size.”

“You’re not actually my size anymore.   I know the clothes hide it, but you’ve lost a lot of weight.”  Liv picked up a couple handfuls of clothes and handed a couple to Abigail.

“I want to be happy about it, but believe me, you do not want the Mall Hopping Weight Loss Plan.  Come on back, the water’s – oh.”


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A Different Stripe

Written to Anke’s prompt. 


When you spend your time trying to learn as much as possible about the other people around you and working on finding the best in all of them – sometimes by viewing them by your cultural standards, sometimes by theirs, sometimes by some neutral third party – and then you find them using a kind of casual racism against creatures you think of as being the same as them, you tend to find yourself a little shocked or, if you are like me, a little stupefied.

I was, I’m afraid to say, used to the casual racism of humans towards the magical races, especially the categories we called The Small (or Tiny) Races and The Beast Races – Tinies, Pixies, Gremlins and the lot in the first category; centaurs, harpies, fauns and such in the second.  But I spent a lot of my time talking to Zizney, and thez, it seemed, treated all smaller races as, well, smaller but not particularly lesser, just curious. And the worst I had ever heard any of the Smiths say about another dragon was a sort of personal insult, along the lines of “messy and untidy scales.”

Now, I full well know the danger of extrapolating such experiences out.  Not only is one dragon different from another, a dragon is inherently different from a harpy, and so on.  “We are all people” is a good way to treat people but not a good way to try to understand behavior patterns.

But knowing the dangers of something is different from remembering and internalizing those dangers. So when I encountered Leeland, the dapple Bay centaur from down the street, passing by the new neighbors’ stable, I was stunned to hear him mutter “ugh, Zebra-centaurs.”

I was actually stunned enough that I stopped and stared at him.  He was several steps along before he stopped to look back at me.  “What?”  He flicked his tail at me.

“’Ugh?’” I quoted back at him.  The family moving into the stable was, indeed, zebra- looking, the stripes going up into the clothing they wore over their humanoid torsos. “Really?”  I didn’t even have the words for I thought you were one of the good guys, come on.

Now that I think about it, those would have  been the words.

“They’re not centaurs.  Everyone thinks they are, and, I mean, in English the word is just zebra-centaur, but they’re no more centaurs than zebras are horses.  They’re pushy.”  He wrinkled his nose and pushed out air in a very horsey gesture.  “And that’s the problem.  They’re going to come in.  They’re going to be loud and pushy and in everyone’s faces, and everyone’s going to say ugh, centaurs, and it’s not us, it’s them.”

I didn’t really want to interfere in intra-species – or inter-species – troubles, but I couldn’t help myself.  It’s what I do, after all.  “So you know these zebra-centaurs already?”

“I know about zebra-centaurs.  We’ve been through this before. They’re loud.  And messy.”

I lifted up an eyebrow.  “And all centaurs are brilliant scholars and great aims with an arrow,” I added, as if I was agreeing with him – with Leeland, who was a blacksmith.

“That’s not true!  That’s…”  He huffed at me.  “That’s not the same.”

“Well then.  Perhaps I’ll have your family and the new family over for dinner, and you can all explain it to me.  In detail.”

“…With tea?”  He looked at me out of the side of his eye.  I smiled at him.

“Yes, of course, with tea.”

“… I can handle loud and messy for that long.  Fine.”

I hadn’t solved anything.  All I’d done was planted a seed, and it might never take root.

But when you spend your time trying to learn as much as possible about the other people around you, sometimes you have to spread that back out a little, like collecting manure, and hope it doesn’t stink up the place too much in the process.


I had been watching: over my husband’s shoulder. (Ignore the part on cats; they’re wrong). 

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Know When To Walk Away (Know When To Run)

Written to esemeprompt.  This comes after Tangles and Knots, Snarls and Combs


There were bits of Tattercoats everywhere.

Sometimes literally: pieces of his coat tended to come off in the strangest places, so that he was always sewing on new bits.  Sometimes figuratively: a book he’d left in her place or a letter he’d written, the smell of his particular musk in a blanket she’d put away.

Autumn did not know exactly what had happened.

She knew that Tattercoats had precipitously left Faire without a fare-thee-well or anything but the forwarding address of the itinerant courier network. She knew she was done with him, as if she’d woken up one morning and understood that pining was shredding her to pieces and she really needed to pick herself up and stop hurting so much.

The radio had played The Gambler and Autumn had nodded as if Kenny Rogers had been speaking right to her.  Know when to walk away.  Know when to run.

She burned his letters in the Moot Fire that they held every Thursday night to rid the air of “shit, drama, the modern, and the miserable.”  But she could still close her eyes and see that ridiculous smile. She could still reach over to the nightstand and see the little jewelry box he’d sent her for Christmas.

She sold the ring to a pawn shop and gave the money to a hunger campaign.  She dropped the skirt and the corset he’d given her in the Salvo box.  Maybe in a Faire town, someone would find a use for them.   The other gifts went to used book sales, sometimes the Salvo or Goodwill, a church rummage sale.

That left the things that belonged to him. A carved figure he’d bought from a vendor.  Three DVDs he’d brought over to watch and then left in her van.  A book on figure drawing that she was pretty sure he’d stolen. A vest of his.  His underwear.  A long green ribbon she was pretty sure was a token from another lover.

She burned the underwear, to a great deal of groaning, moaning, and laughing, using the longest tongs she could find.

The rest she wrapped up.


Three layers of shrinkwrap and then two layers of duct tape.

For every two items, then in a box.  Duct taped.  Then wrapped carefully in butcher paper with more tape than any three parcels needed.

She had a friend with curly, swirling, girly handwriting address the boxes, and then each one went with a different itinerant courier to a different drop spot.

They had to be light, of course.  She wanted to be careful, because the drop spots sometimes got wet.  Of course.

She wanted to irritate him, to get under his skin and make him twitchy, the way he was under her skin, the way she couldn’t quite wash him out.

She drew a long pattern of empty open roads and paths she hadn’t yet walked along her entire body, wrote his name on a piece of paper in her best handwriting, and drew a sketchy portrait that took in what she could remember of him.

She stood in the rain until the pattern she’d drawn on herself washed into the earth, watering the ground with her ink and her hopes and setting them free.

She stood by the fire and watched his face burn until it was ashes, and finally felt free.

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To Hell in a Handbasket

It was a very nice basket, Yeri had to admit.

It was pretty, well-woven, and tidy, and it was just large enough that he could fit in it.  Not particularly a hand-basket, if you were really going to think about the term as such.

Then again, most baskets were not man-sized, most baskets did not have lids, and most of them did not have wheels.  Continue reading

Desmond’s Climb Twenty-Nine: Getting To Know…

First: Slaves, School
Previous:  Seeing Things


Desmond was exhausted.  He dragged himself from dinner to the dormitory with hardly a thought other than finding his bed and becoming as horizontal as possible in it.

::We have homework,:: the collar reminded him.  ::And it will not be dark for another hour.::

“I could sleep for an hour, then, do my homework, and sleep some more?” Desmond offered.  “They have lamps here.  Everywhere.”

::Homework first, then a bath, and then sleep.  We are going to commune, are we not?::

“You and I commune just fine.” He wasn’t the only one muttering to himself as they trudged up the back stairs; next to him, Talia was mumbling incoherently, and behind them, so was [cc]

::You and I also make force-shields just fine, do we not?  Help out your fellow students.  You’re going to need it on the portals.::

“Gee, thanks.  All right, all right.  Jefshan,” he raised his voice, “want to do that communing thing with the group tonight?’

“Tonight?  Oh, man, I wanted to – urrgh.  Is your collar telling you that  you can’t go to sleep, too?”

“Mine is being super helpful.”  His voice was dripping with sarcasm.  “In that sort of ‘helpful’ way that won’t let me sleep and reminds me that I’m supposed to commune with it.”

“I suppose there’s ways that could be considered helpful,” Wesley pointed out.  “What if going to sleep after doing too much magic makes you sick, or it’s like sleeping with a head injury and you never wake up?”

“Then you’d think they’d tell us that,” Jefshan complained.  “But fine.  We’re going to commune with our collars and ask them questions.  We’ll – hrrm, we’ll sit on the bottom bunks, that’ll work best, and each of us will ask a question and we’ll share the answers.  I mean, if the bottom bunk people don’t mind?”

“I don’t mind,” put in Doria.  Wesley and Lufet agreed.  They settled down – everyone but Cataleb, who was sitting on the middle bunk on the far side, sulking – and looked around at each other.

“All right.”  Jefshan seemed to have lowered her voice to a whisper.  “I’ll go first, if nobody minded?”

Desmond certainly didn’t mind, and nobody else seemed to either.

“Okay.  We’ll start with … does your collar have a favorite color?”

Someone giggled.  Desmond was pretty sure it wasn’t him.  Doria was certainly smirking.

“I’ll go first,” Doria put in.  “So my collar tells me that color is completely different for collars, since they see the world only through our eyes and through clairvoyance and other magical sense, but it likes, um, the feeling of magical portals and the hue of the inside of said portals.”

“Oh, hey,” Wesley says in surprise.  “Mine likes the portal color best too.”

“Mine likes the sensation inside a clairvoyance. Or…” Talia giggled.  “Or, okay, looking at blue through my eyes.   Aww, that’s nice.”

What about you? Desmond thought carefully.

::Green.::  There was something prim about the collar’s answer.  ::Green and the hue of a sunrise just touching the water.  We can TOO see real colors, we just see them with our Bearers, with our people.  That’s what we are, and they’re being rather silly if they want to pretend otherwise.::

“Green and sunrise-on-water,” Desmond reported carefully.

They went around the circle with that one; most of the collars has magical colors, but Kayay’s preferred blue, purple, and sunlight-through-glass.

“Do you think they missed sensation?” Jefshan mused.

“Do you think they ever knew sensation?” Talia countered.

::Don’t ask,:: Desmond’s collar warned.  ::Not yet.::

From the looks on the faces around him, everyone was getting the same warning.  Desmond cleared his throat.

“All right.  So, how about: does your collar have hopes for a placement for the two of you after school?”

“Oooh.”  Jefshan leaned forward.  “That’s a good question!”

Desmond found himself flushing and smiled crookedly. “Thanks.  Thanks, I – we’ve been talking about it a lot?  But like, uh.  The stairs.  We could go until we didn’t agree with our collar anymore?  So it seems like agreeing with our collar is a good idea, for things like position.”

“Blasted smoke and the dead hells no!”  Poiy stood up and pushed away from the bunk as if trying to get away from the collar around their neck.  “No!”

“Poiy?”  Lufet hopped off the bunk hurriedly to hurry over to Poiy.  “Why, what did-”

The sea!  Who but a madder wants to go to the sea, tell me that?  They’ve given me a broken collar, I tell you!  Broken!  The sea,” Poiy scoffed.  “No.  No, I don’t care if we end up shoveling horse shit for the rest of our lives – hells and drowning, we could make portals and drop the stuff into the deep sea, there you go.  Sea enough for you, you mad thing?”

Desmond shared a glance with Jefshan and Doria.  Doria had turned pale, so pale it looked like even the blue cravat was losing color.  Jefshan looked, Desmond thought, possibly a little amused, but trying to cover it well.

The sea? He asked his collar quietly.

::Have no fear on my behalf.  I am not particularly interested in the water, or in ending up spending a collar’s lifespan deep beneath it or in the tidepools.::

Good.  Lufet had managed to calm Poiy down, although the latter was still tugging at the collar and muttering.  

Jefshan cleared her throat.  “Mine wants to work on the caravans.  Says there’s a lot of interesting things to learn that way, new people, lots of chances to grow with magic.  I – well, I guess we’ll see.  It’s not my first choice.”

They went through a couple others – some reasonable things, no other water-based occupations – before Desmond asked his so?

::Caravans sound very nice, but ideally we would be bodyguarding the Potentate.::

Desmond coughed.  “My collar has a lot of ambition.  Which, ah.  I already knew.  He wants us bodyguarding the Potentate.”

“Wow, think highly of yourself?”  Kayay snarked.

“Hey!  It’s not me, it’s the collar!  Come on, we’re supposed to be getting to know our collars, right?  So I know my collar has a lot of ambition.”

“’Which you already knew’,” Kayay snapped back at him.  “Why, by the way, might you have already known that?”

“Because it wanted to push up higher than I did in the stairs. Come on, I’m not trying to prove anything here.”

“I suppose if you were, you’d find the spare stairs AND find out what they’re for without being caught, wouldn’t you?”

“If I was trying to prove something-” I’d manage to get a portal open, he meant to say, but everyone was saying ooo and “come on” and before he knew it, Desmond had allowed himself to be goaded.

::This is going to end poorly,:: his collar informed him.

I know, Desmond agreed.  But he was committed now.



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“Curse-teroids” Lexicon Game

I am considering running a slightly-atypical game of Lexicon to fill in all of the gaps in my MRI-created world (lot of time to sit and think, you know), “Curseteroids.” ☄️

(technically, Curse-teorites, but hey)

I would be using the Order Variation Follow the Phantoms and the type variation Codependence.

I’d be open to up to 8 other people, and am holding 4 slots for the people who played with me in Inspector Caracal’s earlier Lexicon game.

Why atypical?  Because I already have a novel started in my head for this setting, which requires SLIGHTLY more background than the normal, to quote, “You are all scholars arguing about how the Void Ghost Rebellion led to the overthrow of the theocracy and the establishment of the Third Republic.” I.e., we will all be scholars of some sort working on the Enclopedia, uh Cursteroidia, but I’ve set up the introduction to the world.

Since time immemorial [at least 500 years] the land of Otenysa has been beset by the Curse.

The Curse manifests as flaming rocks from the sky, some as small as a fist, some as large as a city.

Some land with a physical presence; some have only a magical shape, but all of them wreak havoc on the world around them.

A Curse Rock has a range of effect normally in proportion with its size; within that range of effect, buildings are destroyed or simply changed — melted, their material altered, turned upside down.  Animals are killed or changed, shrunk or grown, their colors changed and their milk or wool or meat altered.  Humans, too, are changed, magic given or taken away, ears and limbs and nose grown or shrunk, added or reduced, skin altered, internal organs broken.  Some of the changes are survivable; some or not.  Some are beneficial; most are not.

Any given Curse Rock will have the same sorts of effects on everything of a given “type” hit by its wave, leading to Balkanization of groups of mostly-humanoids.

Things I need for plot of The Potential Story:

  • Water (possibly also things like rock?) will have a muting effect on some Curse Rocks and an amplifying effect on others
  • In the waters off the East of the mainland there is a small island chain.  Situated mainly on the largest island, there is a nation which has been untouched by Curses for over 200 years — the longest of anyone — and whose last curses were mild and mostly-beneficial
  • This leads to them being a bit smug and superior, and it also leads to “missions” to the mainland to bring them technology, foodstuffs, and the like.  These missions are *cough* not always well-received.  

That’s it. There can be any number of “races” of altered stock of humans, plants, etc.  There can be almost any effect you can think of from the curse rocks.  There can be almost any level of techno/magic from Stone Age to Approx. Development Of Electricity, and almost any sort of magic that you want.  Any governmental system, any utopia or dystopia, and any extant or historical nation from the size of a single city to up to half the continent.  

The mass of one land mass has been determined, as well as a broad handwave of the Island of “Elves”, but the rest of the planet is up for grabs, as is geography, climate, where exactly the equator is in re. this land mass… 

So!  Anyone Interested?

  1. Me
  2. Lilfluff
  3. Rix Scaedu
  4. []
  5. []
  6. Literorrery
  7. Sauergeek
  8. [you]
  9. [you]
  10. [you]



The Hidden Mall: Into the Woods

“If we see a faun,” Abigil muttered, “I’m running away.  Just so you know.  All right, so, we’re going to go…”  She consulted her mental map.  “This way.”  She jutted her chin. “And we’re going to go quietly, Liv-one, because Liv-two is right.  It’s snowing.  We want to move quietly.  Liv-two, we need to deal with that wound, okay?  Snow tracks are bad enough, but you’re trailing blood.  And we want to move fast, because we’re going to freeze to death if we don’t move.”

They took a hurried moment, Abigail holding tightly to Liv-one’s hand, while Liv-two cleaned up her wound – a scrape high on her leg – and tied it with half of the scarf Abigail had used.  She cut the scarf with a long, nasty knife – Abigail didn’t ask where she’d gotten it.  She wasn’t sure she wanted to know how long that Liv had been in the malls. Or, for that matter, where Abigail-two had gotten to.

And then they hiked.  They were moving in a mostly-straight line, not because Abigail thought it was a good idea, but because the trees were way too dense to move through otherwise.  Once, when she thought she saw an opening, the trees seemed to shift, and the opening was gone.

The only positive, as far as she could tell, was that the snow was falling fast enough that their tracks were obscured.  There was no wind, either, which was a blessing of sorts.  

She was still pretty sure they were going to freeze to death.  Wherever they were didn’t seem to have doors, didn’t even seem to be a mall.

“Hunh.”  Dirty-Liv stopped and frowned. “Did you see that?”

“S-s-s-ee what?” Clean-Liv was clinging close to Abigail.

“Oh, come on, if I’m not that cold, neither are you.  Did you see something moving in the trees?”

“There’s no room for anything to move,” Clean-Liv complained.  “It’s all packed together like – hunh.”  She frowned at the trees.  “Abigail, do you see that?”

“What?”  Abigail hated the way she wanted to snap at her friend, and the way her heart sank at Liv’s did-you-see.

“There, between the trees, or maybe in the trees.”

“Don’t tell me it’s a beaver,” Dirty-Liv groaned.

“No, but it’s, look.”

They looked.

Abigail frowned.  

It was a doorway.  In a tree.  It was a little small – all of them would have to duck – but it was definitely a doorway.

“Well,” Abigail muttered, “at least it’ll get us out of the snow.”  She tilted her head.  “Go ahead and open it, I guess.”


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What I Did on My Summer (not-really-Vacation)

So, let me tell you about my summer!


So far, Summer 2017 has involved medical foo, home renovations, surprise!funeral and not-a-surprise godbaby.

Medical Foo I have blogged a bit about in That Was Spinal Tap and That Was Spinal Tap Two.  I’ve also fic’d and freewrote about it in Diagnostic Machine and Just A Little Structural Rot.

The long and the short of it: After more doctor visits, blood tests, and spinal taps than seems reasonable or even probable (and two MRIs), I have a diagnosis and will start drug treatment soon.  It’s not a thrilling diagnosis, but, to quote Arnold, it’s not a tumor. (It’s not a baby either.  I don’t think they’d need a spinal tap to tell that one).

I now have three weeks without blood draws or doctor visits, and if my dentist calls, I’m going to tell them I’m out of the country for a while.  Or something.  No more co-pays kthnxbai.

Did I really just say kthnxbai?  Please forgive me.   Continue reading

A New World: Carrenonna

First: A New World
Previous: Artle


Kael struggled to hide her horror.  The cliff.  They had…  done something to it.  Something about an edict and a gift?  How did you give away a cliff?  Or power it? Power it away?  She needed to drink this potion quickly; there was far too much missing in her vocabulary.  “They did what to the cliff?  The large one into Artle?”

The clever daughter looked at Kael sharply.  “You have to have seen the bridge.  If you flew in, it is big enough that you can see it from space.   And if you drove in, well, almost everyone comes in from Artle. The train, the bus – did you come in from Carron?”

Kael had the sense from the way the girl shifted topics that she was being thrown a lifeline.  She took it.  “Carron, yes.”  She was going to have to look it up.  “I’m sorry, it is just something that I read about – that is.”  She was supposed to be in character.  She cleared her throat and winked at the girl.  “I know not of these places you speak of.  A bridge over the River Meadon?  A place called Carron?  Is that Carrenonna’s Annex?”

The girl leaned forward.  “Caronn- Caronn, say that again?  Please,” she added hastily, presumably before her mother could tell her to be polite.  Or her father, who seemed very engrossed in the leaflet.

“Carrenonna.  Carrenonna’s Annex, a tower much like this one with several buildings around it, making up a small village of sorts.  It was granted to Carrenonna in the same year that this tower, Kaelingrade Torrent-Step’s Black Tower, was built, and it stood such that on a clear day, you could see one tower from the other.”

“There’s no tower in Carron.”  The older daughter had heretofore been engaged with her tablet, taking notes of some sort.  Now she looked up and turned the tablet so that Kael could see a map – no, a tower’s-eye view of a large town or a small city, rendered in shining glass.  “See?  This is Carron, and there’s nothing taller than maybe six stories.”  She smirked, and considered Kael.  “In the terms of the age, Lady Kaelingrade Torrent-Step, the entirety of Carron reacheth not to the top of your secondary annex.  Which has way too many stairs.  You should consider an elevator.”

Reacheth?  Wait, elevator? Something which raised, that was easy enough. “But then…”  She glanced out the window.  Quite some time had passed.  “Then Carrenonna’s Annex is fallen to dust, and likely Carrenonna with it.”

“Well, uh, Carrenonna, if she lived the same time as Kaelingrade – I mean, as you – lived a thousand years ago.  Even if the old people back then were like Methuselah or something, their towers weren’t.  Right?  I mean, this place is a replica and all.”

Metuselah!  Kael struggled to maintain her composure.  “It would take a great deal of work for a tower to stand for a thousand years, yes.”  She’d thought Carrenonna had such work in her.  Perhaps she hadn’t.  

“So, I do have a question.”  The daughter turned the map back towards her.  “Why’s that one named after Carrenonna, then, and this place isn’t named after you?  After Kaelingrade, I mean.”


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Patreon Posts!

Originally posted February 27, 2015


The fighter pilot with the callsign Spice was new to the team and, although all her credentials assured that she was not, indeed, new to space fighting as a concept or a skill, still the team had to be reassured.

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Fancy Dresses, long lingering kisses, awkward moments with your friends, bullies… Prom!

Anton had figured he didn’t have a chance.

He was new to Hieder Hill High, he wasn’t one of the popular kids – was the new guy ever the popular guy? – his family wasn’t rich or even that well-off, and he didn’t dress like or act like the popular guys.

Open to All Patrons!

I live!  It’s been a hell of a month.  But here I am. 


This story originally posted June 4, 2011.


He came to the school in autumn, once the crops were in. They’d gone back to old habits and old practices in the Academy, as in so much of the world, knowing that the old existed and had survived for so long for a reason.

Read On!