Archive | September 2017

The Great Pumpkins- a bonus story of Fae Apoc for Patreon

This is Viddie (Viðrou, but his mother didn’t want to call him Vitthie.), the son of Cynara and Leofric from, among other things, Addergoole: a Ghost Story.


In theory, it should have been easy.

Viddie knew pumpkins.  He’d grown up eating pumpkin pie from scratch, and he knew all of the ins and outs of what made a pumpkin a pumpkin.

He had a book with diagrams and a list of the appropriate – or close enough to appropriate – Greek and Old Tongue Words.

And he was in the grotto, kneeling in front of a little patch of dirt, alternately muttering words and spitting out curses his mother probably didn’t know he knew.

The vines were growing, sure.  They were even putting out little flowers.  But there wasn’t – right.  He needed to pollinate them.  He couldn’t remember if this sort of plant was self-pollinating, so he started another one. Continue reading

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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Bereavement Leave – a bonus story for Patreon

A bonus story of the occurred-to-me-in-a-flash sort.  Warning: a bit of morbid humor here.

“Miss Hemlock, you have been on Bereavement Leave seven times this year.  Nobody has that many—”  The HR manager clearly changed what she was going to say “–grandfathers.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Harris, but I do.”  Juniper chose to answer what the woman had meant instead of what she’d said.  “Dead relatives, that is, not grandfathers.  I had six of those in living memory… No,  I’m afraid it was something of a chain reaction.”

“…Chain… reaction?”  Mrs. Harris had heard a lot of things in thirty years in HR.  From the look on her face, this was not one of the things she’d heard.

“So, it all started with my grandmother’s second husband, my Grandpa Rich.  You know about that one.  He lived a long life and passed away easily, may the spirits take his soul.”

We commend his soul to any god who can find it.  The funeral had been quiet, a little snarky, and full of tension. Continue reading

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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Bread Crumbs – a recipe blog for Patreon

We have been experimenting with bread, now that the warm weather has subsided a bit (well,it had.  It appears to have come back with a vengeance but… hey).

The current experimentation is breadcrumbs.

The thing about homemade bread is that it goes stale far more quickly than store bought bread, so if you have a couple days of not eating bread, you have a rock in your fridge.  Good for breadcrumbs or bread pudding or stuffing… but there’s only so much of that you can eat, and Igo through maybe one tube of breadcrumbs every five years.

So… mixing bread crumbs back into bread.  The first experiment was ¼ cup to a 2-cups-of-fluid recipe, and you could barely notice any difference.  The bread was a little crumbly in texture — but that could have been the lackadaisical kneading.  (I am not all that good at making all variables the same, but OTOH all variables are never the same over a stretch of days.)

The second bread was one cup of breadcrumbs into the same 2-cups-of-fluid standard House Thorne bread recipe.  This one, I kneaded with the machine, and I also had a longer (overnight) sponge period — both of which build gluten.

Super chewy bread! The breadcrumbs made a nice texture in the bread without interfering with the crumb or the structure.  Hooray!

Next: cup and a half.  That’ll be this weekend, if we finish the second loaf before then…

…or maybe we’ll end up turning yesterday’s loaf into breadcrumbs for tomorrow’s loaf.

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Small Victories – a story of Aunt Family for Patreon

A story of the Aunt Family, in the same time period as Excuse Me? ; i.e, very early in Eva’s tenure as Aunt.🌱


“Evangaline, what are you doing?”

Evangaline’s Aunt Ramona had a habit of inviting herself in that Eva had not yet broken her of.  She blamed her late Aunt Asta, who had found it easier to allow the family to appear to walk all over her than to contradict the pile of aunts and great-aunts, grandmothers, mothers, and sisters (In their family, the men knew better, at least, than to contradict the capital-A Aunt).  Aunt Asta had not been gone long enough, and Eva had not established herself well enough, that the family had managed to differentiate between Asta’s bad habits and Eva’s.

On the other hand, she had no interest in listening to that tone for the rest of her life – or at the very least, for the rest of Aunt Ramona’s life.

“I am making a greenhouse on the sunny side of the stable barn,” she answered calmly.  Calmly was best.  It irritated the older relatives.

“You are – yes, I can see that.  The question, Evangaline Jane, is why you are making a greenhouse.  Workers!  On our property!” Continue reading

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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