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Welcome to Dandelyon's Worlds!

Welcome to my blog
I'll share my creative life
I hope you share too!

I value friendship and good conversation.  I look forward to talking with you all. 

For the 2014 A-Z challenge, I'm doing ficlets in a new fantasy world, featuring catkin and other fantastic beings.  Here is the A-Z prompt list, with links to the posts as I write them. As I write this, I'm still hoping for prompts for many letters of the alphabet.  Thank you in advance for your questions, prompts, and comments!

You can find links to my flash fiction, to my serialized story, Fireborn, and to my poetry and songs over at my new (under construction) website,

You can also find some of my fiction, poetry, worldbuilding, and artwork over at, along with the fiction, poetry, world-building, and art of my talented co-creators there.

If you miss my old, long-winded landing page, you can find it and the landing pages for various projects by searching on the "landing" tag.

Thank You to everyone who's supported me
with your comments, nominations, and sponsorships!

I look forward to chatting with all of you!

Dreams of Rocketships

I've never been nominated for a Hugo, never even come close, not in all the years I was a fanzine writer, not as a storyteller, and certainly not as a filker.

The filker thing is a sore point for me. There are fan writer, fanzine, and fan artist categories, after all. Why are fan musicians ignored? But it's more than that, really.

Like I said, I used to do fanzines. I stopped--and I can pinpoint when, in retrospect. It's when all the "friends" I had who thought fan writing was a big deal not only were unwilling to support a filk Hugo, but they were really nasty about it. Laughing in my face was the least of it. It was like getting a series of slaps in the face, though actual hands weren't swung. It made me flinch away from those people, and focus my energy in areas of fandom where I wasn't being ridiculed and belittled.

Still, the dream remains. Someday, maybe, if I get good enough, I might win a Hugo. It's a very long term dream--not a goal, really; for a lot of reasons, but mostly in my mind, "goals" is a label for things that are more in my control. But still, the Hugo is one of the markers high on the speculative fiction mountain, and knowing it's up there helps keep me focused on writing and learning skills to keep climbing toward my goals.

In the last year, that dream has seemed a little more real to me than before, not because I was doing anything different, but because for once the Hugos weren't dominated by people who happened to be heterosexual white men. Over and over I've seen the hype (in Hugos and elsewhere) go mostly to men, despite the huge number of very talented women in the field. Even back when I was talking about a filk Hugo, there was a distinctly misogynistic aspect to the comments people made to my face. I can only imagine what they were saying behind my back.

So this whole "sad/rabid puppy slate" thing feels just like another set of slaps in the face. Not only are these "puppies" unwilling to welcome people like me into the fold, they chose to to reach out to people known for trollery and death threats to try to keep us from even getting on the ballot. Like, you know, those were their natural allies.

In looking to see who was on the slates, I also saw that "for a small fee, you can vote". In a world where women make significantly less than men (even women nurses earn less than men nurses, and that's a traditionally female field), the fee is a larger part of women's budgets. I can't speak for all women, but I know that the fee isn't "small" to me. As much as I hate it, I've mostly resigned myself to living in a world where gender matters more than competence, but this was just one more slap. These guys are apparently happy to use their bigger economic power to further the goal of keeping us down.

The whole thing bothers me. This is an aspect of life that I don't want in my politics, much less in my fandom.

So, I saw posts about the slates and the Hugo nominees, but I was trying not to think about it much. I was doing the real work of a writer--planning stories while I reviewed paperwork and worked on my taxes. Then I saw someone saying (and I paraphrase), "I'm not a sad puppy, I worked hard." That's what led me to seeking out the slates. I found, to my dismay, that he was on both of them.

To be fair, I believe he did work hard--but so did the people in his category who weren't on the slates. So did all of the people who were qualified to be nominated in the other categories too. I do art and writing and, as a musician, dramatic performance. Doing any of those well requires hard work. Heck, doing them even at a mediocre level is hard work.

So now I am left wondering, is this guy really one of the puppies, who is trying to further game the system by claiming otherwise? Or was he put on the slate and didn't know? It's possible, despite his connections in the field, that he was just as clueless that he was on those slates as other people were clueless that there was a conspiracy to keep certain kinds of people off the ballot. If so, it's possible that he still didn't know about the slates when he accepted the nomination.

If all of that is true, then this situation is unfair to him. By putting together a slate and by going outside of the community to get more votes, the people who made the slates ensured that he will never know if he would have been nominated without their scheming. They ensured that if he does win a Hugo this year, people will always wonder if he deserved it. They are the reason people are already wondering if he deserved the nomination, or if he's on the ballot because the slate-makers approve of his politics.

Similarly, it is unfair to the people who were put on one or both slates, and who removed themselves from consideration from the Hugos only because they were unwilling to benefit from what they (and I) feel was an unfair nomination practice--though they, at least, get (and deserve) kudos and recognition for their integrity.

I don't need to mention why this was unfair to the people who didn't get recognition they did earn and would otherwise have received, had the slates never happened.

I'm so sad about the whole thing. It isn't fair to anyone, and it wasn't the kind of unfairness that's unavoidable (for instance, disease or bad luck). Someone engineered this unfairness on purpose. And I hate it when people go out of their way to be unfair to other people.

I started this post needing to express this overwhelming sadness, but as I got to the end of my ramblings, I realized that underneath the sadness I am angry--those rocketships are supposed to be fueling my dreams, not making me sad.

Oh, well, they're just a signpost along the way. Those people may be able to steal or deface the sign (temporarily) but no matter how much they try to own the whole mountain, speculative fiction is way too big for any one faction to own it.

Now, that I can set the sadness aside (at least temporarily), I'm off to claim a bit of that mountain the proper way--by doing the work, writing and submitting the stories, and hopefully enriching a lot of people's lives thereby. And if a bunch of those words are fueled by my anger, well, that's a constructive use for that kind of energy. I can live with that.
In fact, I can see it from my window. How cool is that? I won't get to watch the whole thing--the moon will drop below the horizon all too soon. Still, I got to see it with my eyes, and without the intermediary of a computer or television screen.

That's something I couldn't do during the last few eclipses due to cloud cover. I had to satisfy myself with other people's pictures, taken in other parts of the world. But just as there's a special magic in being able to do that, there's also a special magic in being able to see it here.

(pause for sleepy moon-watching)

So, I had to go to the attic eventually, since the moon dropped behind the houses across the street, and then watched it vanish--not at totality, really, just slivered to the point where the pre-dawn light and the tree limbs between me and it obscured it quite handily.

(pause to watch the total eclipse online, and to fall asleep on the couch, to be awakened by the wise advice that it's better to sleep in bed, and by a day's work of chores and errands)

I wonder, if I could live forever, or at least for thousands of years, would I reach a point where I was bored by things like eclipses, or tulips opening in the spring, or the taste of a perfectly ripe strawberry?

I don't mean, if I reach a point where I can't see or smell the perfect beauty of the first rose of spring, and can't taste the butter melting into my potato, and can't enjoy sleeping and waking due to pain and infirmity--it's not boredom if the body can't take in things properly, that's something else altogether.

But would I get bored if I were perfectly healthy, but had just experienced so many meals and flowers and strange phenomena that I didn't care?

I don't think so. It's a very personal answer, of course, but looking back, the times I didn't appreciate the little things as much as I normally do were all times, in retrospect, that I was sick or exhausted (and usually both). And even then, it was more like not seeing the sun rise because of the fog.

You'd think I'd remember this faster, when I'm having trouble focusing and finding the joy in getting things done, with all my experience with chronic illness--but that's the thing about chronic illness, it's sneaky. It's not like breaking your leg, it's like an eclipse. Things seem perfectly normal, then just a little off, and you never quite see a moment of discontinuity, a moment when there's a big change, it's just at some point, you realize not only have things been changing, but the change is dramatic and significant.

And unlike the eclipse, chronic health issues don't just go away. You have to do something about them.

But that's another post altogether.

This post is about appreciating the good things in life--the playfulness of a cat, the taste of halapeno jack cheese, the green smell of spring returning to the world, and soon, the soft gold of dandelions in the sun.

And stories--stories of cats and dragons and magic, of love and truth and kindness, and always, always, stories of people.

But for tonight--check out that moon! Isn't it cool?
pictures!Collapse )

Tidepool Memories, a Torn World ficlet

This weekend is the Torn World Muse Fusion (if you are so inclined, we'd love to get your questions or topic suggestions, whether they are specific to Torn World or just inspiration in general).

To Ellen's prompt, Tidepool Memories, I wrote this piece. They live in the arctic of a world that includes sea monsters and other dangers. Ivara is featured in a number of other stories over at

Torn World is crowdfunded; this story is my freebie glimpse at the world for this weekend's Muse Fusion.

Tidepool Memories

Ruvardu sat by the ocean, listening to the waves. Her toes rested in a pleasantly warm tidepool. She had a bowl of red beans in her lap, and her fingers worked clumsily at the once-easy task of separating the rich beans from the bitter husks. The stroke that had stolen the cleverness from her fingers had not taken her ability to enjoy the sun and water on her skin. She looked up to see Ivara hang a gutted fish onto the smoking rack and set her knife down to stand and stretch.

For just a moment, Ivara looked stiff, like an old lady, like Ruvardu herself, but then she twirled and did a few dance steps, her long hair sailing around her like a shawl. She looked so young, dancing with Reqem on the big drum, their feet pounding out the rhythms of young lust. Ruvardu danced too, but not on the drum, she was more interested in flirting with Firl and drinking beer. The combination made her giggle, and the firelight shimmered like the ocean, and her toes were wet with spilled beer. “Oh, that was a night!” She opened her eyes, and saw a tiny fish in the tidepool nibbling at her toes. She could barely feel the soft fish lips against her skin. “You and Reqem were so beautiful dancing on the drum.” Her words were blurred, but she knew Ivara would understand.

Ivara danced over and bent to make sure Ruvardu’s shawl was tucked close around her. “You and Firl were beautiful too.”

Ruvardu laughed. “We were silly and drunk. To hear you talk, all new-adults are beautiful. Just like all babies are beautiful.”

“Well, they are.” Ivara smiled, and sank gracefully to the sand, picking up her knife again. She reached for a fish, humming an old tune. A pregnant young woman came by with a basket of new-caught fish and poured them into the basket next to Ivara. “Who was that Itakith woman?”

Ivara didn’t answer; she sat there with one hand on her swollen belly, then reached for Ruvardu’s hand to place it there. Inside, the baby-to-be was moving, and Ruvardu caught her breath. Her own pregnancy wasn’t as far along. So far, all she could feel was a tickle, a sensation in her gut like beer felt on her tongue, tingly and intoxicating.

The woman from Itakith leaned forward, her brown hair falling over her shoulders. “Can I see too?”

Ivara pulled her shirt up, and they all saw the shape of a foot pressing out, to one side of her distended belly button. The woman reached out her hand, hesitantly.

“Of course.” Ivara nodded.

The other woman put her hand on Ivara’s belly and then laughed. “The baby is so—so alive!” She reached back to lift up her own shirt and bare her own brown belly, which was only starting to swell. “Will I see my baby’s foot like that?”

“Probably.” The old mother-tender set a bowl of fresh fruit and greens in front of her charges. “But every baby is different. Some move a lot, while others seem content to sleep all through a pregnancy.” She smiled, her wrinkles moving on her face like grass in the wind. Ruvardu wanted to thank her, but her mind was as stiff as her old fingers.

“I can’t remember their names.” Ruvardu looked down at her belly, finding it old and flat and full of a bowl of red beans. She had forgotten the beans again, and so she reached into the bowl to pick up another, squeezing it to split the hull and free the beans.

“That’s nothing to worry about.” Ivara sounded sad. Ivara so rarely sounded sad, but there were times. There had been so much blood, the day the whalebear surprised her little son, Firuu, on the beach. She had screamed and threw rocks at it, and Ivara snatched up a fishing spear and charged the bear, snarling like a snowcat.

The bear clamped its jaws around the boy’s leg, and Ivara darted in, pushing her spear into the thing’s chest. Teeth still clammped, it roared, loud enough that Ruvardu couldn’t hear her own screams, and swiped at Ivara, who danced away and then back again, over and over. Finally, as Reqem ran up with a heavy hunting spear, Ivara sunk the fishing spear deep into the creature’s eye and it collapsed.

Reqem pried the bear’s jaws off of the boy, but it was too late. He was hanging limp from the monster’s jaw, and not breathing. Where he wasn’t covered in blood—his and the bear’s—his skin was too pale. Reqem laid the boy, blood and all, in Ruvardu’s arms. Tears fell silently from her eyes, her grief too strong for sound.

“Firuu—“ She choked it out, and was shocked, again, to hear how blurred and frail her voice was. She couldn’t even say the name of her firstborn properly any more, and that made her cry even harder.

Suddenly, Ivara was there, holding Ruvardu, humming a different tune now. They had made this tune together, when Ruvardu’s first grandchild was born. Varlii had wanted to travel to Itrelir, to be with the baby’s father for the birth, and Ivara and Ruvardu had accompanied her on the journey. They should have reached Itrelir a month before the birth, but the baby was impatient, and Varlii had gone into labor on the trail.

Ruvardu had been so scared for her daughter. They didn’t have a healer with them—what if something went wrong? But Ivara kept them telling stories and singing tunes until the baby came, such a perfect, tiny girl she was, all red and wrinkled and hungry. They camped by a small lake for a tenday, Ruvardu setting traps and Ivara tending them and gathering firewood. The lake was so beautiful, and so were her daughter and granddaughter. Ivara was right. New-adults and new babies were all beautiful.

Ruvardu tried to sing along with Ivara, but since the stroke, she couldn’t hold a tune. She smiled at Ivara. “You can sing for the baby.”

Ivara patted wetness from her cheeks, nodding. Ruvardu looked up—was it raining? The sky was clear, except for a few Others floating far above, out over the ocean. It must be just the surf. She asked Ivara, “Dance for me?”

Ivara looked sad, though she smiled at Ruvardu. “I will always dance for you.” She tucked the shawl tighter around her age-mate and stood to whirl and leap in the sand at the edge of the waves.

I Found the Perfect Desk -- Fundraiser

I found the perfect desk at the Milwaukee Restore this morning. It's big enough for art projects, has two small drawers for pencils and pens and the like, and instead of blocky drawers at both or one end, has legs like a table. It's covered with glass and is a beautiful walnut (the wood, not the stain). And there's the rub. Because it's old and walnut and in good condition, it's way over my budget for a table.

perfect desk

Even if I wait until Thursday, when the store has a general 20% off price, it's well over my budget, and there's no guarantee it will be there that long. The Restore is a place where people donate furniture, tools, and building supplies to benefit Habitat for Humanity, so when they get something in, it's gone when it's gone.

So, if you're willing to help me buy my dream desk and benefit Habitat for Humanity, I'm willing to do Card Readings (for fun and inspiration, as per federal law), write, or do art. If we don't raise enough or if this desk sells before I can buy it, I will reserve the funds until something else suitable shows up at the Restore, so your donation to me will still go to the same place eventually.

The sticker price for the desk, which would probably be more than $1000 in a regular, for-profit store, is $495.

Current funding level: $25 of $495 (This total includes donations from people here and people elsewhere)

You can send gifts to me at deirdremmm at aol*com or use the Paypal button below to tip. Paypal does take a cut of the donation if you use the button.

Thank you!

Please post here to let me know what (within reason) you want as a thank-you for your assistance in furnishing my writing office. I do reserve the right to refuse a request and refund your money.

New Moon Card Draw after a Busy, Snowy Day

It's been a busy day so far. We ran around town doing errands, deciding to leave the last one for tomorrow because the snow was getting heavier and heavier. I also do want to write about Capricon, which was focused mostly on art and music for me, but first, it's the new moon, and I promised a One Card Draw.

Are you starting something new? Feeling stuck on a creative project? Want a reading for one of your characters? You can ask for something specific or just ask for a card.

I'll do a limited number of free readings, and an unlimited number of paid ones. I will leave the post open for free readings for at least a few hours; if free readings are closed, I'll edit that in here, so you don't have to guess. If you tip, it's helpful to mention that here and also to put your LJ name in the comments when you tip so it's easy for me to match the request and the tip.

I've written before about why I do readings and some of the decks I use here, feel free to hop over and check me out. I'll wait.

Today you can pick from the Shapeshifter Tarot, the Whimsical Tarot, or the Faeries' Oracle. You can ask a question or just ask for a card. If you tip, you can also ask for an additional card, or a card from any other deck I have. Not sure if I have a particular deck? You're welcome to ask.

Alternatively, I can draw you (or your character) a Guide for the season (or a project or some other period of time that you specify) from my combined deck of Susan Seddon Boulet art cards. You can ask for this as your free reading if you don't ask for a card from one of the decks listed above.

Finally, you could ask to have my Torn World character, Rai Kunabei, do a disk reading for you or for a torn world character of your choice. This will take the form of an imaginary visit to Torn World and will feature the divination disks I designed for that world. Feel free to include some details about yourself to help me portray you in this world.

Please consider dropping something in the case! Readings take time and energy, and I am currently funding home repairs. Signal boosts are also appreciated. If you are tipping, please include that in your reply here, so I'm not guessing when I sit down to do your reading.

I understand all too well that sometimes people don't have cash or spoons, and it is generally during those times when people most need inspiration! Don't be afraid to ask for a card if you can't tip.

Tips should be at least $1 (Paypal charges fees) or at least one Torn World credit. If neither of these work for you, drop me a message and we'll work something out.

You can get a private reading if you tip; I'll send the reading to the e-mail you use for tipping or you can send a private message to make other arrangements. I'm also open to doing longer paid readings, for instance Celtic Cross or Wheel of the Year; again, please send a private message if you're interested.

I will do readings promptly, but I have other work and commitments, so if I get a lot of requests or if I have internet problems, it may take a little time. I will reply to all requests. If the number of requests nears my limits, I'll close this One Card Draw rather than risk leaving anyone without a response.

Thank you!

As always, in accordance with federal law, these readings are for entertainment and inspiration only. See my "Dandelyon's Readings" page if you have questions.

It's been a busy week, what with necessary paperwork (already blogged about) and getting ready for Capricon. What I thought would be the easiest thing proved to take hours--finding the black paper for the Midwinter Faire workshop. I'd put it on a shelf with other crafting stuff when I brought it home from my Aunt's house, but then that shelving unit had to be moved, and I set it up as a place to sort stuff instead. So I ended up spending hours cleaning and not finding the paper anywhere.

Until I realized that the cats had made a mess on the sheets I used to cover my daughter's bed when she was off at college. The sheets are in the wash as I write, and I went to grab something else to cover the bed and found the paper. Thank goodness! So, now I'm mostly packed, with art to put in the art show (if there's room), and two very full recycling bins are waiting to be pulled to the "curbside" of the alley for pickup on Friday. We already managed to fill the trash bin this week (I tossed some old shoes and relegated some plastic dishes to the "donate" bags), I wrangled some doctor's appointments, went to the bank, and got someone in to look at the leaky pipes and get them fixed. Not a bad week's work, so far, though more expensive than I had hoped. And I still need to get boards on my front porch repaired, but at least I've got someone planning to do it soon now. There's still more I'd like to have gotten done, of course, but that's nothing new.

Next Tuesday is New Moon, and I've decided to do another One Card Draw. I hope it will help defray costs of home repairs, and I'm certain it will help get my writing flow going. At least it did last time.

So, if you want a reading, or know someone else who might, I'll look forward to seeing you then!

So, do you have a favorite deck or decks, whether it's one I've used here or not? If so, why?
I've got new icons! djinni finished the last set of icons, and a new "icon day" is open for requests. If you want a new icon, his LJ has a link to his website. The first one is this cat with paintbrush, and the second is:

rainbow kitty running 100x100

It's fun just scrolling through each batch of icons, and even better to add to my personal trove of Djinni-art. It's a good break from the more drudgerly parts of life.

I always dread February bureaucracy. Taxes are no fun, and I always worry that I missed some important detail. The addition of Obamacare deadlines hasn't helped that. Reading through just one insurance plan's details is overwhelming. Trying to compare them is beyond that. I finally resorted to calling the insurance plans, trying to figure out important things like whether my allergist and asthma meds would be covered.

I hate it when it looks like my medicine will be covered, but when I try to figure out exactly how much it will cost, I find a message that it isn't in this plan. Right. Another call. I looked up and told My Angel that there has to be a better way!

Well, this insurance company put me in contact with an insurance agent, who made multiple calls on my behalf before I made a decision--but the decision is made. The next bit of paperwork is taxes, but I'm still awaiting a 1099, so I can put that off at least until after Capricon.

I'm going to be doing the Midwinter Faire at Capricon again, and in honor of my Aunt, who left some black paper behind, I'm going to do spacescapes with whoever stops by my table (unless they request something different). So, I'm going to share some in-progress shots of the painting. I started with a canvas that my Dad had primed with black long ago. I have no idea what he was planning, but I started with a little hint of a nebula and then added a planet.

nebula planet

After I started adding more to the painting, I figured I should back up a bit and get the whole canvas for today's in-progress picture:


And now, I should head to bed. There's more to do tomorrow!

But hey--if you'll be at Capricon, stop by the Midwinter Faire and we can art together! I may also be set up in the Capricon Cafe at some point. If you haven't painted before, I'll provide intsructions, and if you have, maybe I can learn something from you.

The Shaman and the Scientist (fiction)

This is Denel's reading, posted here for ellenmillion. It's a little long to post as a comment in the card draw, so I'm giving it its own post.

Note: Torn World’s language does not use gendered pronouns, and their names are also not marked as one gender or another. As Rai-Kunabei arrives in Affamarg, she has not yet heard any detail that would let her know if Scientist Oranaan is male, female, or no-gender.

The Shaman and the Scientist

Rai-Kunabei looked out of the window as the train rumbled into Affamarg. The thing was noisy and smelly, but she had to admit it was more biddable than a goat. It also moved faster than she could walk, and saved her the trouble of carrying her bag of divination disks and her bulkier, but lighter bag of clothing. The attendant had also helped her improvise a way to secure her staff, with its dangling bells and wraith-scarred spinning balls, so that she didn’t have to hold it all day to prevent it from falling and hitting some poor citizen in the head.

The city was all straight lines and crisp 90 degree angles, and none of the buildings had a fringe of bells strung over the roof. It looked so strange to her mountain-bred eyes. Her people built homes in low, sheltered spots or on gentle hillocks that had good views of the surrounding mountains. Buildings might have four corners, like the ones here, or five or seven. But the biggest difference was the roads—mountain roads curved with the hills and valleys; these each ran straight from the rail line to the horizon. There must be many hundreds of people living in this lowland city, none of whom would understand her sacred role as priestess. Once again, and despite her long-standing desire to see the world, she wondered, what was she doing here?

It was an emotional response, of course, not a logical one. Logically, she knew that the lowland scientists had invited her to this far northern city to learn what she knew of the mysterious danger that haunted her world’s heights. She glanced away from the window to the letter she clutched, like a talisman, in her hand. It had been delivered to her home, high in the Affabreidalam mountains, in a fat envelope filled with special licenses.

The licenses were tucked into her pouch; this Oranaan had promised to meet her train, and she certainly hoped he would do so, or at least would send someone. She had no idea whatsoever how to find her way around that huge city without assistance—all the streets looked identical to her eyes, and she imagined herself wandering for months down the identical straight streets, wasting away into a wraith herself.

Kunabei laughed at her own fancy, drawing cautious looks from the people in the same train car. Logically, she knew she could ask for directions, and any Monitor would take a look at the letter and licenses, and help her on her way. You’d think she was a crochety great-grandmother, lost a bit in her age and incapable of dealing with the slightest challenge.

In reality, she was a young woman, but definitely old enough to be past letting nerves make her fanciful, except, she thought, that she was bored. For days, she’d been whizzed along, passing the countryside so fast she couldn’t examine the wildlife and plants, much less enjoy their beauty or see how they differed from the ones she was used to. And though there was plenty of time, not a single person had asked for a reading or requested more mundane advice.

She looked again at the letter and wondered who this Oranaan was, besides an important, brilliant, and, by people’s reactions, eccentric scientist. She imagined someone like her grandmother, vibrant despite age and experience, with a sassy sense of humor. Or maybe someone like her grandfather, who compensated for his wife’s fame as a priestess by dressing in the gaudy, bright-colored clothing and jewelry, and flirting with all the old people. She remembered the tales of Oraaan blowing up things and setting his workplace on fire, and decided the scientist must be more like her grandmother.

The train started to slow, and Kunabei checked to be sure her bags were tied securely shut. The people running the trains had little tolerance for people who weren’t ready to disembark promptly. Travel was a privilege and required special licenses, so travelers were expected to be prepared for the normal events of a train trip.

The train pulled into Affamarg Station and lurched to a stop. Kunabei stood and untied her staff from the wall of the train. She slung her clothes onto her back and lifted the divination disks. They made a satisfying weight for her hand. She followed the other passengers to the door and into a room where a Monitor checked licenses.

The Monitor, a tall, very pale man, read her personal and travel licenses carefully, glanced at her priestess license and stopped, looking up at her. “Rai?”

Kunabei nodded, using every bit of calm authority she had learned since killing the wraith. “It’s a traditional title.”

He started to leaf through the multiple pages dubiously.

Kunabei smiled, and offered her letter. “I was asked here to meet with Scientist Oranaan.”

“Oranaan, huh? What does the Scientist need with a--a Priestess?”

Rai Kunabei was pretty sure he had a different word in mind. “I do not believe he wants to consult me in that capacity. I believe he has questions about certain phenomena I witnessed in the mountains.”

The Monitor apparently found her answer dull, which didn’t disappoint Kunabei at all. He folded her licenses together and tucked them back in her pouch. “Here you go, Citizen.” He handed her the pouch and then a small booklet of local rules and regulations. “Be careful, Citizen. Oranaan had a fire in the laboratory again just last week. My sister’s kid said Oranaan was tasked with teaching safety in second form.”

She laughed at that. “Teaching is a good way to learn, actually.”

But the Monitor had already turned to the next person in line, so Kunabei strode toward the door.

At the far end of the waiting room, she saw two people in Indigo scientists’ robes. One was a demure-looking woman, and the other was a very young man with tousled hair. The man was waving his arms, talking animatedly, and barely missed knocking a hat off of a passing matron. Though she couldn’t hear them, from the look on her face it was clear that the woman started scolding him, and he dropped his hands to his sides, then she saw Kunabei and gestured, stepping past him to walk toward her.

Kunabei smiled with relief, and walked forward to greet the woman. “Scientist Oranaan. It is good to meet you and your assistant.”

The woman blushed and dimpled. “Rai Kunabei?“

Kunabei nodded.

“Welcome to Affamarg. I am Scientist Denel, and this,” she gestured to the young man, who was gaping at her, “is Scientist Oranaan. How was your trip?”

Up close, Oranaan looked a little less like a scatterbrained teenager, though it was clear he’d never been mistaken for his own assistant before.

“I’m sorry, Scientist Oranaan, no one ever told me what you look like.”

He suddenly grinned, an expression that didn’t exactly make him handsome, but was so very alive and genuine, Kunabei grinned back at him. He turned to the other scientist. “You see, Denel, you should have more faith in your ability to impress people. She thought you were me!” He turned back to Rai Kunabei. “Here, let me help you!” He reached forward and grabbed the bag of divination disks, just under where Kunabei held it, swinging it toward him before getting her permission.

Kunabei let go of the bag—he was a lowlander, after all, and didn’t know he was being disrespectful.

The bag swung into Oranaan’s shins. “Ow!” He gave Kunabei a measuring look. “What’s in here?”

Kunabei smiled, deciding that she liked this impulsive young man. Despite giving himself what would doubtless be substantial bruises, he had not dropped the bag. “Those are my divination disks.”

Denel laid her hand on Kunabei’s arm. “Are you hungry? There’s a restaurant near here that claims to serve Affabreidalam-style food, or we can go get some traditional Mojeveterk specialties if you prefer.”

Oranaan’s stomach rumbled. “Oh, yes! Can we get you some food?”

Kunabei nodded. “I’d like to try the local food, if that’s all right. I’ve never been further than Affabreidalam before.”

They guided her across the street and Oranaan was greeted by name at the restaurant. Soon, they had a good-sized table and Oranaan presented a chit and ordered a sampler plate.

When the server left, Oranaan started to untie the bag of disks.

Denel put her hand over his. “Oranaan, my boys know better than to open someone else’s luggage.”

He blushed. “Ah, I apologize, Rai Kunabei. It’s just I’ve never seen divination disks before.”

“I could do a reading for you, but our tradition is that the Rai should not do readings for the disrespectful. And as Rai, it is my job to uphold the traditions.”

Oranaan’s face fell. “But I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.”

“That’s all right. You can ask again tomorrow.”

He looked woefully at the bag, and then back at her face. “Wait—Denel wasn’t disrespectful, was she?”

“That’s right.”

“Then you could do a reading for Denel!”

“I only do readings for people who ask for them.”

The server arrived with a large platter of food, and set it in the middle of the table, placing small plates in front of each of them. Oranaan turned to Denel, “You will ask for a reading, won’t you?”

Denel thanked the server and shifted the topic to the different foods on the sampler plate.

Oranaan sighed, “Denel? Will you?”

Denel smiled at him fondly. “I might ask after lunch.” She pointedly turned to Kunabei and asked, “What would you like to try first?”

Lunch was pleasant, and most of the foods were very good, if a little sweeter than Kunabei was used to. Oranaan threw himself into the role of host with evident enjoyment of the food, but his eyes darted back to the leather bag holding the disks even while he related hilarious stories about his mostly-failed first attempts to cook the dishes she was tasting.

Kunabei started to wonder how much of Oranaan’s reputation for carelessness was really a reflection of his joy in being outrageous. Did this reputation let him achieve more leeway to do unconventional experiments than he would otherwise get away with?

The server brought out some after-meal pastries, which proved to be even sweeter than the lunch itself.

Finally, when the server had cleared away all the food and left them with hot drinks (Kunabei had managed to score an unsweetened tea, to her relief), Denel asked Kunabei about the divining disks.

“It would take too long, I think, to try to talk about all of them now. But I could give you a reading, if you like.”

Denel paused just long enough to see Oranaan biting his lower lip, and then responded, “Yes, please. I would like that.”

Rai Kunabei untied the bag. “Do you have a particular question?”

“I—do I need to?”

“No. But you can choose to.”

Denel thought for a minute, but then shook her head. “No particular question—no, wait—tell us about our research, if you can.”

Kunabei nodded. “All right then. The simplest reading is three disks. The first one shows you the nature of the situation the reading is about.” She started to reach in to the bag, then paused, glancing rom Denel to Oranaan. “You do have the right to privacy if you want it.”

Oranaan opened his mouth, holding up a hand.

Denel laughed. “No, no. It’s fine for Oranaan to watch.”

He sat back in his chair.

“That’s what I thought you wanted, but you can’t learn the traditions unless I share, since you did not grow up in the mountains.”

Denel nodded. “That makes sense.”

“All right, I shall begin.” Kunabei reached into the bag and pulled out a disk. It was big enough to cover her entire palm, and was made of soft, shiny bronze. She turned it over to show an enameled image of a hammer smashing some piece of wooden furniture.

“The nature of the problem is Destruction, the embodiment of human-made endings. Whatever you are studying, human actions have made the situation worse, or perhaps caused the situation, either recently or in the distant past.”

Oranaan held out his hand. “May I look at the disk, please?”

Kunabei let it slide gently from her own hand to his. Most people, faced with the image of destruction, didn’t want to touch it, but this young scientist was fearless. He turned it over and over, running his fingers over the metal and enameled sides of the disk.

Kunabei turned to Denel. “The second disk has to do with the tools that are involved in the situation, which, in this case could be either the tools that were or are used to bring about this situation, or it could be the tools you need to address the problem.”

Denel nodded her understanding.

Kunabei reached into the bag and drew out another disk. This one was gold, and showed an elder seated on the ground, a bag by her knee and holding scorched ball whistles in her hands. It was a tolerable likeness of Kunaei’s grandmother, though the artist who made it had never met the old priestess. “This is the Shaman, who is the embodiment of abstract knowledge. From this, I would say that physical tools are of limited use in addressing the problem you are studying. Human perception, intelligence and the knowledge handed down from our ancestors will be vital to understanding what is going on. That is interesting, because usually the knowledge and attitudes that shed light on the topic at hand shows up as the third disk.”

She passed the Shaman to Oranaan, then reached in a final time and brought out an iron disk. The image enameled on one side was a sheer cliff, with a tiny figure clinging precariously to the rock. “The Cliff, which is the dangerous aspect of borders.” Kunabei fell silent, considering the disk. “It might be that the knowledge you need has been passed down by people in very different parts of the world, so that the social divisions remaining from the old borders are a barrier to obtaining the information you need. Or perhaps this is more literal, and the old borders have something to do with the problem. Or maybe,” she looked over at Oranaan, “it could simply be a warning that pushing your licenses to their limits is perilous in and of itself, and the chaos you cause could be threatening your effectiveness to obtain the information you need.”

Oranaan frowned at that. “You’ve heard stories about me. Is that all this is, stories?” He gestured at the disks.

Kunabei shrugged. “Stories are an effective way to teach, and to get people thinking about their problems in a new way. If you are asking me is there some science behind which disk is drawn when, all I can say is that if there is, I don’t know it. All I can offer is my personal observations that people who ask for readings do get some benefit from the experience.”

She placed the final disk into Oranaan’s hand, and unhooked her own scorched ball whistle from her staff, which was leaning in a corner. “It’s similar to this—I didn’t see what scorched this whistle, but something did. It’s not very satisfactory that I cannot tell you what a wraith looks like or why it attacks people in the highlands, but I take comfort from knowing that the whistle protected me.”

Oranaan dropped the disks into Denel’s hands and reached for the ball. “This—this came into contact with an anomaly? And you were there? You survived? You’re not mad?” He stopped short of touching it. “May I hold it?”

Kunabei nodded. “I met a wraith in the mountains and survived. That is how I came to be the shaman for my people.” She put the ball into his hands. “Certainly you can look at it. But remember it is sacred to me. You may not subject it to explosions or laboratory fires or do anything else to it without letting me know exactly what you plan and getting my prior approval.”

Reluctantly, he nodded, but still, Kunabei watched him carefully as she took the disks from Denel and returned them to her bag. As she tied it up, the server walked up and bowed to the scientists. “If you are finished with your lunch, we would like to clean this area and get set up for the dinner crowd.”

“Oh, of course. I apologize, we didn’t realize how late it has gotten. Denel took the ball from Oranaan and handed it back to Kunabei, who tied it securely to her staff.

Oranaan smiled at the young woman and reached into a pocket, taking out a thin sliver of metal that shone with swirls of bright color, almost like the mystery disk in Kunabei’s bag.

Oranaan stood and pulled out a pen and signed the rectangular bit of metal, then handed it to the server. “I’m not much of an artist, but this is part of a plate that was damaged in the last laboratory fire. It is, if nothing else, unique.

The server’s eyes grew round, and he took the slip of metal. “Thank you, Scientist. You are welcome to return any time.”

They guided Kunabei back outside into the sunlight, and turned left. Denel started laughing as soon as the door closed behind them. “You turned your—your slag—into tip cards? Oranaan, you are incorrigible!”

Oranaan smiled, and offered his free arm to Kunabei. “Let us take you to the room we reserved for you, and then we can go find an Assistant to take notes while you tell us all about your encounter with the wraith.”


As usual, this is posted prior to Canon-Board review, so it may be edited for coninuity. There are other stories about Rai-Kunabei, Denel, and Oranaan over at

J is for Jewelry? A catkin ficlet

So, this is a continuation of Tom and Jeri's story. Hmmmm...writing it that way, well, I have to admit that my subconscious self must be laughing at my conscious self. I hadn't realized until right now that these characters are namesakes of that famous cartoon! I do want to keep him as "Tom", but now I wonder if I should change Jeri's name. (You're welcome to weigh in on this suddenly earth-shattering question.)

Anyway, for people who don't want to pick up this story in the middle, here is a glimpse of Tom as a boy: E is for Education, and here are the two bits that lead directly up to this one. D is for Dancing and F is for Witch/Familiar relations.


Jeri looked around as she arrived at Mrs. Maher’s. There was a little stage in one corner, currently adorned with several guitars and a bodhran. There was a small dance floor in front of that, a well-stocked bar, and lots of tables.

Tom waved at her from a spot near the stage, smiling. His long blond hair was loose around his shoulders, a much more attractive look than she’d seen before, though she had to admit a ponytail was practical for acrobatic dancing.

Jeri smiled back and weaved her way through the tables. They exchanged pleasantries and Tom took her coat, hanging it on a hook nearby. A waiter showed up with menus. He greeted Tom by name, and Tom introduced Jeri.

“So, you’re a regular here?”

Tom nodded. “They have good food, good drink, good music, and a place to dance. What more does a man need?”

Jeri found herself grinning back at him. “Magic?”

His grin widened. “Touche! But now that you’re here, this place has it all.”

They ordered drinks and Tom settled back a bit. “I’ll have friends arriving in a while; if we’re going to talk about magic, you might want to do it now.”

Jeri nodded. “I don’t exactly have a syllabus, you know. Familiars mostly can’t read.” She kept her tone light. “But I do want your company for a few evenings. I can’t promise anything flashy, though.”

Tom leaned forward. “Is something going on? You sound worried.”

He was perceptive—either through the familiar bond or just noticing details she tried to hide. Despite herself, Jeri wondered what it would be like to actually date someone this sensitive to her moods.

“Yes, a little. My friends—my human friends—have all been having a run of bad luck. Cars breaking down, plumbing exploding, chimneys tottering, co-workers quitting for no reason, all sorts of things. Stuff that happens, but not to everyone all at once.”

“My friends too, now that you mention it.”

“I’m afraid there’s something magical that’s increasing entropic effects, hopefully by accident. I want to drive around the city and see if I can find—well, I really don’t know what.” She looked up at him, “You drive, right? It would be easier if you could drive so I can focus on the magic.”

He tossed his hair back decorously, a bit of a frown showing on his face. “Of course I can drive. What do you—“

Jeri put her hand out to touch him, felt the comforting spark of the familiar bond as they touched. “I didn’t mean anything by that; I just didn’t want to presume. Most of my human friends drive, but only about half of the magical ones.” She rummaged in her purse and brought out a box. “I—I have something for you.”

“A gift? It’s not my birthday.”

“This—or something like it—is traditional. It’s the first gift a witch gives to her familiar. I—I hope you like it. I tried to pick a form that would be suitable.” She slid it across the table, like a peace offering.

“You’re nervous.” It wasn’t a question, but at least it wasn’t an accusation.

He lifted the box and opened it. Inside was a heavy gold chain with an enameled triskel set as a centerpiece, in line with the chain rather than dangling like a pendant.

“This is awfully expensive for a first date.”

Jeri frowned. “It isn’t about the date. You agreed to a season. I have obligations. Ignoring magical obligations, well it isn’t wise.”

“Obli—“ He dropped the necklace back into the box, frowning. “You had to get me a collar? Why not just buy a leather one with spikes!”

Jeri felt herself blushing. “I didn’t know you swung that way.”

They glared at each other and suddenly burst out laughing at the same moment. The connection between them thrummed like a harpstring, reassuring them that the other didn’t mean harm, and the anger just couldn’t hold up to that sure, inner knowledge.

The waiter brought drinks and took food orders, and smiled when they had trouble stopping the laughter long enough to speak.

Eventually, though, Tom pushed the box back toward Jeri. “Seriously, this isn’t necessary. Take it to the store and get your money back.”

Jeri shook her head. “Seriously, it is necessary. That isn’t store-bought, it was made by a catkin craftsman and carries several layers of enchantment. The simplest one marks you as my familiar, so you can go places and talk to people on my behalf when needed.”

He frowned again, and Jeri rushed to complete what she had to say before he interjected. “The second enchantment provides you with some protections that you will need in case I lose control of a spell and the magic backlashes, or someone sends a magical attack our way, or we stumble into something that you have no natural protection against. The third—well, the third was a special gift for you, and will remain active even if we no longer have this connection.”

He closed his mouth again and raised his eyebrows.

“The third is the gift of what some people call The Sight—so long as you wear the necklace, you will be able to see, hear, and even smell things that normal humans can’t.”

“Like the ephemerals?”

She nodded. “And a lot more.”

“Even if I stop being your familiar?”

“Yes. You refused to let me support you, so you are due a substantial gift. I hope this one is acceptable. It’s not an easy enchantment to perform.”

He smiled slowly, and lifted the necklace out of the box. “I’ve always wanted to see the ephemerals.”

“They can be very distracting. Also, one could argue that I chose that enchantment more for my convenience than yours. I must give you a necklace or collar, but it doesn’t have to be this one—“

“No, I like this one very much. Thank you.”


Thank you to skajm for today's prompt, and to dreamwidth user Claredragonfly, ankewehner and kelkyag for the prompts to the earlier ficlets I linked to at the top of this post.

If you like what you read, and want to encourage me to put more time into one or another of my projects, please let me know. Requests from people who sponsor me will get priority!


Polychrome Wizard

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