Fiction: The Cage and the Road

Banner for Nine Laws: Allosexual Aromantic Fairy Tales. Image features a tree in the foreground, lanterns hanging from its branches, against a background of heavily-overgrown grey stone walls and archways leading into smaller courtyards. Vines and ivy cover the walls, archways and steps; an array of grasses grow around the bases of trees and walls. Text is set in a white, slightly-curving serif type; white curlicues matching the text, set in each corner, form a broken frame around the text.

Prudence Revered revels in her work as witch-hunter. (Well, census-taker.) What’s not to appreciate in travelling new roads, meeting new people and experiencing new freedoms–ones impossible as the demure once-wife to the Sorcerer Potentate? If she prefers to bed and befriend the witches she tracks down, well, she doubts the Citadel cares (much) about a minor official’s lack of interest in investigation and interrogation. The only clouds on her endless horizon are those ignorant souls who preach the rules that once caged her–the rules witches taught her to break.

She thought herself content wearing the Citadel’s uniform, but when a chance-met companion expects Prue to wage a moral war against unwed witches and provocatively-shaped trees, she fears that her new life isn’t different enough from what she thought to leave behind.

Mother told such stories. Their silken filaments clung to everything Prue knew herself to be, until she was less a person than an actor upon the stage, reciting the lines of a play so old that the audience mouthed the words along with her.

Continue reading “Fiction: The Cage and the Road”

Hallo, Aro: Hunter – K. A. Cook

Banner for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aro Flash Fiction. Image features dark black handwritten type on a mottled green background. Diagonal rows of arrows with bands, heads and fletching in the colours of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold allo-aro pride flag cross the image above and below the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Contains: A cis, pansexual, quoiromantic, polyamorous protagonist who knows what she wants … and hunts the Ring’s witches to gain it.

Only then did Prue know herself as destined to wither inside stone and melt beneath glass, and few appreciate rebellion more than a witch.

Continue reading “Hallo, Aro: Hunter – K. A. Cook”

Fiction: Like the Other Prince, Part Three

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the mint/light mint/white/light pink/pink stripes of the abro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

(In Which Harper Can’t Avoid Nevo’s Questions)

Be sensible,” Mama says, “or be dead.”

Harper Mitzin Seili is many things: fashionable, witty, queer. Cautious … not so much. Nonetheless, life as a tavern server on the working side of Ihrne’s dividing wall demands preparation and limitation. He obeys the rules that matter. He remembers what Mama sacrificed for his chance to live as a man. Besides: the end-of-war Proclamations, issued in the name of Ihrne’s trans crown prince, promise a new, better world. A world in which safety doesn’t require his rejecting connection, intimacy and that shifting, nebulous thing called “attraction”.

But when the Traditionalists take up violence in protest of noble-issued laws, Harper’s risky ventures and glib tongue don’t just fail to steer him out of trouble: they destroy the life he and Mama spent two years building. He can stay and suffer at the hands of his neighbours … or begin anew in another place, under another name. A place where he must now submit to every restriction Mama, in her fears for him, deems “safe” and “sensible”.

A third way exists for Harper, if only he dares break Mama’s foremost rule … and several of his own.

Why must he exchange one set of expectations for another? Why can’t he pick what suits him from a wealth of possibilities and craft a masculinity that’s uniquely Harper?

Continue reading “Fiction: Like the Other Prince, Part Three”

Fiction: Like the Other Prince, Part Two

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the mint/light mint/white/light pink/pink stripes of the abro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

(In Which Harper Is Not Actually Fine)

Be sensible,” Mama says, “or be dead.”

Harper Mitzin Seili is many things: fashionable, witty, queer. Cautious … not so much. Nonetheless, life as a tavern server on the working side of Ihrne’s dividing wall demands preparation and limitation. He obeys the rules that matter. He remembers what Mama sacrificed for his chance to live as a man. Besides: the end-of-war Proclamations, issued in the name of Ihrne’s trans crown prince, promise a new, better world. A world in which safety doesn’t require his rejecting connection, intimacy and that shifting, nebulous thing called “attraction”.

But when the Traditionalists take up violence in protest of noble-issued laws, Harper’s risky ventures and glib tongue don’t just fail to steer him out of trouble: they destroy the life he and Mama spent two years building. He can stay and suffer at the hands of his neighbours … or begin anew in another place, under another name. A place where he must now submit to every restriction Mama, in her fears for him, deems “safe” and “sensible”.

A third way exists for Harper, if only he dares break Mama’s foremost rule … and several of his own.

Hindsight offers only the obvious: a man with too stiff a spine to kneel, too glib a tongue to grovel and too weak an arm to fight has no business making himself available to those wishing harm.

Continue reading “Fiction: Like the Other Prince, Part Two”

Fiction: Like the Other Prince, Part One

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the mint/light mint/white/light pink/pink stripes of the abro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

(In Which Harper Can’t Talk His Way Out of Trouble)

Be sensible,” Mama says, “or be dead.”

Harper Mitzin Seili is many things: fashionable, witty, queer. Cautious … not so much. Nonetheless, life as a tavern server on the working side of Ihrne’s dividing wall demands preparation and limitation. He obeys the rules that matter. He remembers what Mama sacrificed for his chance to live as a man. Besides: the end-of-war Proclamations, issued in the name of Ihrne’s trans crown prince, promise a new, better world. A world in which safety doesn’t require his rejecting connection, intimacy and that shifting, nebulous thing called “attraction”.

But when the Traditionalists take up violence in protest of noble-issued laws, Harper’s risky ventures and glib tongue don’t just fail to steer him out of trouble: they destroy the life he and Mama spent two years building. He can stay and suffer at the hands of his neighbours … or begin anew in another place, under another name. A place where he must now submit to every restriction Mama, in her fears for him, deems “safe” and “sensible”.

A third way exists for Harper, if only he dares break Mama’s foremost rule … and several of his own.

If Mama trusts him to lie about a betrothal to a girl in Astreut, why can’t she also trust him to decide when to risk participating in a world void of safety?

Continue reading “Fiction: Like the Other Prince, Part One”

A is for Allo-Aro Pixel Art Icon Set

Handdrawn illustration of a mountain road scene with trees in the foreground and bushes in the background. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Resources sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

I’m finishing my quest to post something new each day of @aggressivelyarospec‘s Aggressively Arospectacular 2020 event by … squeaking in an extra Sunday post, because it’s still Saturday elsewhere in the world! I wanted to post an allo-aro set of my letter “a” pixel art icons and digital stickers, so why not take advantage of some time zone trickery?

These stickers are available for personal or non-commercial use with credit to one of my accounts.

The selection of allo-aro combo flags is still limited, but on Aro Arrows I have stickers and icons for trans, non-binary, bi lesbian, pansexual and bisexual allo-aro flags, as well as multiple flag variants for some of the stickers shown above. This set of twenty-eight images is also available in both simplified icon and bordered sticker styles!

For flag creator posts, please see my Allo-Aro Flag Guide and the #alloaro tag on @aroflagarchive.

DiOW: Men Bound By Blood

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Nevo learns his mystery man’s name, but Harper’s slip of the tongue means that Nevo makes a promise to his father he may not be able to keep.

Setting: Two years before the beginning of the war referenced in Their Courts of Crows and Maybe When the Bones CrumbleDifferent in Other Ways introduces a brand-new set of characters and circumstances; readers don’t need any familiarity with my other works.

Content Advisory: Casual swearing, depictions of working-class anxiety and classism, alcoholism as an expression of trauma, references to casual fantasy-style violence. Many references to heterosexism and cissexism.

Links: Series Master Post | Patreon

Previous: Booksellers Who Know Things

Length: 2, 736 words.

“She gave me a list.” Nevo slams his empty mug onto the scratched table, wishing that he dared drink enough to distract himself from Lenlil. “Of everything I’m supposed to do around customers. But I’m also supposed to finish books quicker, and if I don’t she’ll hire someone else because there’s fifty people who want this job and I should be grateful.” He tries not to snarl and fails. “I have to stop what I’m doing and serve, but stopping means I can’t finish everything else she expects finished, and how can I do anything when there’s not enough space? And books get nicked when I can’t properly stack and sort…?” He ends with a strangled exclamation, too frustrated for words.

Da just gives an encouraging grunt.

Except for Nevo’s habit of hiding queer books from outside bulk lots and listing them as school readers when selling to folks in the underground, he’s done as right by Lenlil as anyone can. “And she knows … I think she knows that I need to work somewhere like a bookshop. Not why, exactly … you know?”

He looks across at Da’s craggy face, an older, sunbrowned version of Nevo’s broad forehead and wide-set brown eyes. Tangle-prone blond hair, white skin, thick brows, the kind of height and brawn that makes every bed and doorway in Ihrne a trial and suggests less gentleness than both men own. Nevo knows what he’ll look like at forty: Da.

Perhaps without the eyes oft bloodshot and watery or the tinge of sallowness lurking underneath flushed cheeks.

Perhaps.

“She doesn’t think…?”

Nevo shakes his head. He’s no actor, but thus far his build discourages the speculative whispers plaguing the men Ragen and his boot-lickers like to accuse. If he isn’t working on a build lot surrounded by men discussing women, his appearance undermined by his inability to respond to questions, jokes and attempts to set him up with everyone’s daughters, Nevo needs only avoid obvious displays of interest. Lenlil may be a trial, but Nevo doesn’t fail as badly at masculinity when he spends his days indoors. A bookseller is allowed more space for shyness and awkwardness than a labourer.

“You’re not going to get yourself fucking killed by having words at her?” Da speaks slowly despite the cursing.

Nevo still recollects the days when such words never passed Da’s lips.

“I try hard not to get myself killed, Da.”

Keep reading at Patreon: Men Bound by Blood

DiOW: Booksellers Who Know Things

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

An ordinary day of selling, shelving and mending becomes less ordinary when a mysterious stranger saves Nevo from disaster while asking questions about fairy tales.

Setting: Two years before the beginning of the war referenced in Their Courts of Crows and Maybe When the Bones CrumbleDifferent in Other Ways introduces a brand-new set of characters and circumstances; readers don’t need any familiarity with my other works.

Content Advisory: A gay, quoiromantic man making eyes at another man against a culture of cissexism, heterosexism and working-class anxiety. Non-explicit references to sex and erotic media. Casual swearing.

Links: Series Master Post | Patreon

Length: 1, 783 words.

The tinny, cracked bell rings out. Nevo, smoothing the endpapers of a newly re-covered almanac while wrestling with a desk too small to hold a stack of waiting books, the cashbox and his pot of congealing glue, looks up. Lenlil won’t abide anyone entering her store without an enthusiastic greeting, as much as Nevo doubts most customers welcome it. “Good morning! Morning? Good … noon?”

A stranger, dressed like a man, struts toward Nevo with his green felt cap askew. He winks at the young women giggling over a book’s lurid illustrations—Adelin and Yuissa on break from the drapery around the corner—and beams, crookedly, at Nevo.

Nevo lowers the scraper, smiles and turns. “How can I hel—oh, fuck!”

His elbow smacks into the pile of books.

The man’s gloved hands block the books a heartbeat before they cascade onto the glue. Nevo whisks aside the pot and brush, biting back a string of Da’s more colourful curses. Mending books supposedly brings in more money than sorting and selling them, but then why doesn’t Lenlil invest in a proper workshop? Or at least a desk big enough to hold his record book, the cashbox, glue and a few clamps?

Keep reading at Patreon: Booksellers Who Know Things