Mara and Esher Hill

A lithromantic witch who non-romantically loves a schoolmarm … and should have been told about aromanticism before she sold her soul. An aromantic drover and swordsman who non-romantically loves the people who drove him away … but doesn’t know if he can ever find comfort at home. An aromantic priest who doesn’t love anyone … and shouldn’t endure the questioning of their work and their worth.

The Mara and Esher Hill stories focus on transgender, aromantic characters trying to navigate relationships, work, family and illness in a world that’s got a long way to go in demonstrating its acceptance of aromanticism.

One: The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query

Cover image for The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query: A Marchverse Short Story by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a cemetery at night, with various tombstones in the foreground, surrounded by grassy rises and green bushes, with a tumbledown stone fence and trees in the background. A lit candle sits on the ground at the front of the cover, showing a glow of orange light illuminating grass and part of a tree branch. Cover and author credit are written in a white, fantasy-style text, the type bright against the dark sky and shadowed leaves.Necromancer Mara Hill has waited weeks for the Thinning: the one night the dead walk freely amongst the living. Her wandering great-aunt, Rosie, was wise in the way of magic and the world, and Mara knows of none other to ask. Books and magic alike haven’t restored her fading love, and Benjamin Lisabet is too wonderful to risk losing. Why can’t Mara keep herself from falling out of love whenever the girl she yearns for dares love her back?

She’s sure that Aunt Rosie’s spirit will offer up needed advice. She just doesn’t expect a deluge of deceased villagers set on unravelling everything Mara knows about what it means to love and be in love.

Links: PDF (read in browser) | Patreon | WordPress | Tumblr

PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 8, 221 words / 32 PDF pages.

Two: The Mundane Progression of Premortem Colloquy

Cover image for The Mundane Progression of Premortem Colloquy: A Marchverse Short Story by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a cemetery in daylight with various tombstones in the foreground, surrounded by grassy rises and green bushes, with a tumbledown stone fence and trees in the background. A picnic basket sits on the grass at the front, filled with bottles, vegetables and a purple flower. Cover and author credit are written in a white, fantasy-style text.After a night of revelations to her dead aunt Rosie and her living brother Esher, Mara Hill must dare another with Benjamin Lisbet. If she’s truly the woman Mara hopes, surely Benjamin will be receptive to a conversation of the “I love you and want to be with you, just not romantically” sort? Surely this afternoon won’t stray beyond Mara’s preparations of a picnic basket, chives, rehearsed speeches and less-rumpled clothing?

Yet her months of searching for magic to refresh her fading love means there’s too much she doesn’t know about Benjamin. Too much Mara needs to know to hold this conversation without losing Benjamin’s friendship.

Mara thought speaking of her fading love under cover of dark difficult enough … but speaking of romance in daylight is another challenge entirely.

Links: PDF (read in browser) | Patreon | WordPress | Tumblr

PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 7, 160 words / 30 PDF pages.

Three: What Makes Us Human

Cover image for What Makes Us Human: A Marchverse Short Story by K. A. Cook. Cover shows an archway set into a stone wall, the wall covered by a dull green creeper. A small peach sphere of light glows underneath part of the creeper at the top of the archway. Inside the archway is another stone wall behind a courtyard comprised of a few rocks, two spindly trees and a striped purple cushion. Title and author credit are written in a white, fantasy-style text, the type bright against the grey background.Moll of Sirenne needs prompts in their girdle book to navigate casual conversations, struggles to master facial expressions and feels safest weeding the monastery’s vegetable gardens. Following their call to service, however, means offering wanderers in need a priest’s support and guidance. A life free of social expectation to court, wed and befriend does outweigh their fear of causing harm—until forgetting the date of a holiday provokes a guest’s ire and three cutting words: lifeless and loveless.

A priest must expand a guest’s sense of human worth, but what do they do when their own comes under question? Can an autistic, aromantic priest ever expect to serve outside the garden? And what day is it…?

Links: PDF (read in browser) | Patreon | WordPress | Tumblr

PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 8, 062 words / 32 PDF pages.

Four: Those With More

Cover image for Those With More (and Other Suki Stories) by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a garden growing against a grey stone wall, with trees and blue sky visible behind it. Garden includes several layers of beds filled with palms, ferns and yellow and red orchids. The foreground shows a green lawn with a moss-covered tree-trunk and two translucent blue mushrooms. Cover and author credit are written in a white, fantasy-style text.Suki Lewis has always known what she wants—or, more correctly, what she doesn’t want. She also knows that a good woman of Freehome, deserving of her mother’s uncritical love, wants something she can’t fathom or mimic: a stable, lasting romantic relationship.

She can’t safely stay, but leaving means surviving the challenges of priesthood, her mother’s abuse and the belated finding of a name for her differences: allosexual aromanticism.

Those With More collects four stories showing Suki’s lifetime navigation of her belief, family, community and identity.

Links: PDF (read in browser) | Patreon | WordPress | Tumblr

PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 17, 205 words / 61 PDF pages.

Five: Love is the Reckoning

Cover of Love is the Reckoning: A Marchverse Novelette by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a cartoony-styled indoors tavern scene with a lot of different brown wood textures: wood panelling on the walls, wood floor, a square wood window frame, a crooked wooden table in the centre of the image and a wooden stool and a wooden barrel sitting in front of it. A candle stub sits on the window frame, looking out to dark green trees against a star-lit sky. The table bears beer glasses, a green wine bottle, a brown bottle of spirits, orange liquid in a glass, a plate of biscuits and a plate bearing a wedge of yellow cheese with red rind. A wooden log rests against one side of the window frame, an unsheathed longsword against the other, and a sack sits against the wall underneath the table. A cage bearing a twisted, vine-style plant sits in the top right-hand corner, above the table. Text is written in a white, handdrawn, fantasy-style type.Esher Hill left his home and kin a crying wreck of a man, too depressed and dysphoric to care what his people make of him. If he’d had his way, that would have been the end of it.

His sister Mara, the village witch, made sure he didn’t.

Two and a half years later, Esher owns two dogs, a blade, a career and a new body—the shape of masculinity he always felt he should be. A miracle Mara refuses to explain. A miracle the Sojourner’s priests reject and fear. A miracle, say the Grey Mages, that cannot exist without something precious sacrificed in exchange: a soul.

Returning home in search of his sister and the truth isn’t just a matter of enduring stares, whispers, explanations and the condescending pity from those he left behind.

Love holds edges sharper than Esher’s sword, for nobody wins but demons in the sale of souls.

Links: PDF (read in browser) | Patreon | WordPress

PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 10, 463 words / 39 PDF pages.

Six: A Quest of Spheres and Phalanges

To save Mara’s life, all Esher Hill need do is ride to Sirenne, get his guiding priest to permit his addressing the Grey Mages and convince representatives from a powerful collective of magic workers to heal a dying sorcerer. He has his fathers’ money and a willingness to work off any remaining debt. How much more, short of his now-unsellable soul, can her life cost?

It seems simple enough a prospect, if Esher ignores the encumbrance of a family friend, his inability to remember his medicines, his hand’s meeting a wall, a tray-spilling mishap and the Greys’ staggering disdain for altruism. Not to mention his increasing lack of sleep, stability and sanity following his kin’s revelations and manipulations! But when Esher learns what—and where—he must seek for the Greys’ promise of healing magic, his hope of retrieving their long-lost artefact seems as broken as his right hand. How can he survive the Gast’s pantheon of horrors when he feels increasingly unable to survive his own mind?

How can he help Mara if he can’t even help himself?

Contains: A graysexual, aromantic trans man struggling to cope with the aftermath of his family’s secrets; a collection of neurodiverse priest-psychologists in service to their community and god; an enigmatic sect of magic workers in pursuit of an eldritch artefact; and a genderless, aromantic Rajadi noble with a passion for archaeology, maps and well-explained social customs.

Patreon Links: Met the Wall | Vertigo | Sufficient Level of Normal

Length: 14, 185 words (so far).

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