Me 2012

Good Morning (47/80)

TME Header 047

Ardent woke to find herself curled around Miro: one arm and one leg over his blanketed body, his head tucked under her chin. Her back was cold, because at some point she’d kicked off the blanket, and her chiton had ridden up around her waist. Not that modesty had any bearing here since she’d paraded about naked in front of him for fifteen minutes last night anyway. She cringed inwardly and shifted her head back, using aether to reposition her chiton.

Miro turned his face up to hers as she withdrew. “Good morning,” he said, softly.

Embarrassed, she moved her arm and leg off of him. “Morning. Sorry about…all that.”

His golden-tan features looked perplexed. “What are you apologizing for?”

“Forcing myself on you – I should’ve let you make another bed, I mean – I just…” She trailed off, not wanting to make excuses for herself.

He lifted indigo eyebrows, incredulous. “Forcing yourself on…you realize we’re in the Broken Lands, right? I can evade if I do not wish to be touched.”

She scrunched her nose at him. “Yeah, all right, maybe not literally forcing. But you still want my help to save your father. You’re not really in a position to do anything that might offend me. Like rejecting my drunken advances.” She rolled onto her back and put her hands over her eyes. “Thank you for rejecting my drunken advances, by the by.”    

“You’re welcome,” Miro said, with a strange timber to his voice. After a moment, he added, “It did take considerable effort on my part—”

Ardent cringed deeper into the mattress. “I really am sorry.”

“—because I desperately want to make love with you, and having you pliant and willing and eager next to me made it extremely difficult to keep in mind the ‘drunken’ part. Ardent, I was not making an excuse when I said I didn’t want to take advantage of you.”

Ardent parted the fingers covering one eye to peer between them at him, half-hoping, half-afraid. “Miro, I…I don’t want you to think you need to…make me feel better…”

He reached out to take her hand from her face, curled her fingers over his and pressed her knuckles to his lips. “Do you know, I have been terrified from the moment that I met you that I would discomfort you with my unwanted interest? You are right; I have been afraid I would offend you. I am still afraid I will offend you.” Miro’s hand trembled under hers. “But not by rejecting your advances. By making my own. I am not saying this to make you feel better, except insofar as I cannot bear to have you under the misapprehension that I am repulsed by you. You are the most compelling, attractive person I have ever met. If you prefer that I not act on this attraction, for whatever reason, of course I will not do so again. But that will not change that I feel it.” He swallowed, his almond eyes intent and terrifyingly earnest as he met her gaze, his breathing shallow.

She rolled onto her side again to face him, moved her free hand to caress his cheek. It seemed so improbable, that her position of power over him could be what had stopped him from voicing his own desire, rather than what stopped him from expressing a lack thereof. He’s still afraid. Even now, he might be saying what he thinks he must to keep my goodwill. The thought seemed unkind, to accuse him of being so manipulative. Ardent whispered, “I won’t…Miro, I am helping you because it’s the right thing to do. Whether we make love or not, that won’t change. I don’t want you to fear that I’ll abandon you or leave you stranded because you said the wrong thing. Or because you were a little too forward, or not forward enough, or…whatever. I’m not gonna desert you, or turn my back on your dad while he’s enslaved. You understand that, don’t you?”

Miro closed his eyes and turned his head enough to kiss her palm. “I do. Thank you.”

This might be a mistake. Ardent couldn’t convince herself that it was; he was too close, too inviting to resist. She threaded her fingers through his silky indigo hair and cupped the back of his head. He was breathless, his lean body arched into her touch. She shifted forward the remaining inches between them, and brought her lips to his.

That first contact was tentative. Miro kissed her gently, lips only brushing hers, as if he feared she would tell him to stop, or could not believe he’d been permitted to start. He freed one arm from the blanket to stroke hers, then used aether to remove the blanket entirely. He slid into her embrace, flattening curly hair under his palm as he cupped her head and kissed her deeply, with a desperate hunger. Ardent felt light-headed in the face of his passion, drunk again on shared desire. She caressed his bare shoulder, then slid her hand under the toga to stroke his back: the skin velvet-smooth and fresh from his latest transformation the night before. He was an Etherium native, with no need for roughened skin or callouses. Even she had softened her skin at Katsura’s insistence for the High Court, and then left it soft. For this, if she was to be honest. For him. She’d wanted to be touchable, for Miro to touch her.

And now he was.

And Love, it was glorious.

Miro pushed her onto her back against the bed and knelt over her, knees to either side of her waist, hands on her shoulders, thumbs sliding under the fabric of her sleep-rumpled chiton. He moved from her lips to kiss her cheek and jaw, then licked and nibbled at her throat. When she whimpered with pleasure at the graze of his teeth against the sensitive skin beside the jugular, Miro’s hands clenched against her. He lifted himself and her from the bed on a cushion of aether, so that his arms could curl unimpeded around her while his mouth lingered on her throat. She held his head in place with one large hand as she played with loose strands of straight hair and breathed in ragged gasps, half-lost between pleasure and need. When he paused for breath and sat up just enough to see her face, Ardent traced her thumb over his soft, sensuous lips. “Love,” she whispered, trying to catch her breath. “Are all Sun lords this sexy or is it just you?”

He chuckled, nipped at the ball of her thumb, suckled it while she arched into him. “All I know is that there is no other fey anywhere as enrapturing as you. Ardent. Divine, Ardent. You are amazing.” He brought one hand around to smooth her chiton over her collarbone, inched lower, paused. “May I…?”

Ardent giggled and arched her back to press the upper curve of her breast against his palm. “You know I could evade if I didn’t want to be touched, right?” she teased.

Miro half-laughed, breathless, and caressed the soft flesh through the cloth, cupping his fingers around a breast larger than his hand. Ardent used aether to cut a slit down the front of her chiton, and pulled the top section apart to bare a few inches of warm brown skin in silent invitation. Miro caught his breath, swallowed, and slid his fingertips under the fabric to explore silken skin, to brush over the stiffened nub of a nipple. “Ardent.

She arched into his fingers, electrified as he took the nipple between finger and thumb, stroked the thumb up and down over sensitive flesh. “Oh Love. Love, please,” she whimpered, not even sure what she was begging for. “Please.”

Miro pushed the upper half of the chiton to one side to bare her chest and gazed down at her for a moment, his expression one of wonder and awe. Then he bent to flick his tongue over the hard peak, and she writhed in the grip of longing. He fastened his mouth over her and sucked, licking, nipping, while she whimpered and squirmed and begged incoherently for more. His hand slid down her ribcage, over her stomach, along her hip. His body shifted on aether from on top of her to pressed against her side, exposing her other breast to his attentions. His tongue lapped in broad strokes and then flicked in little motions over the taut nipple. His hand pet the curve of her thigh underneath the chiton, exploring soft fur, and then moved between her legs. She spread her thighs and tilted her hips into his hand, eager for his touch. Miro groaned around her breast as he parted her labia and slid one finger over the slick, sensitive skin between. He drew slow, sensual circles over her clitoris, then slid one finger into her and rubbed his thumb over her clit instead. Miro used aether to make subtle adjustments to his hand to fit her better, to reach deeper inside her, to make his thumb vibrate against her nub. She writhed wildly, thrusting into his hand. He raised his head to watch her face. “Tell me what you like,” he said, his voice a hoarse, urgent whisper, demanding. “I need to know what you want.”

“You,” she gasped, hardly able to articulate anything more. “That. Oh, Miro, that – please—” her hips pulsed as if under his control, not hers. “—please – I need – if you don’t stop, I’ll—” Instead of stopping, he slid another finger inside her, thrusting deeper, pressing hard until her body buckled in climax. She clamped her thighs together around his hand, gasping at the intensity of release, the rippling aftershocks of ecstasy.

Ardent opened her eyes to see him watching her, smiling, looking as happy as she felt. “Miro,” she said, and kissed him, because it was enough and yet not nearly sufficient. She rolled him over on the aether and stripped him, while he let her, while he finished undressing her. She’d known what his nude body would look like; she had restored him to it often enough. But it was different to see it with her eyes, all warm beige skin over firm, flexible muscles, the body of a well-trained acrobat at an impossible peak of physical condition. Ardent knelt against his thighs to caress his chest and abdomen, watching his face as Miro closed his eyes to arch into her touch. How weird must I seem to a Sun lord, with my bent furry legs and extra height? But there was no mistaking his arousal, as her hand moved down from his stomach to his groin. The hard length of his penis twitched in anticipation of her touch. He tilted his hips towards her fingers, and she caved to temptation and took him in her hand. She ran her fingers up and down his erection, wondering if his was actually smaller than those of males from the Moon Etherium or if her memories from more than a decade ago were inaccurate. Ardent couldn’t bring herself to actually care. She curled her body to take him in her mouth, her senses so attuned to him she could feel his pleasure as her own. He curled his fingers through her hair, thrusting against her mouth. After a few moments, Miro slid his hands to her shoulders and tugged her higher. “Ardent – please – I want to be inside you – may I…?”

In answer, she shifted to straddle him, and gasped as he slid into her, his whole body arching into the union. After a few thrusts, Miro pulled her down to kiss, then spoke in breathless gasps. “I don’t know how it is…in Moon. But in Sun, ahh, the recipient adjusts the giver’s body to their satisfaction. If you like…?”

“Ohhhh. That’s practical.” Ardent used aether to enlarge him inside of her, a slow shift as she pulsed her hips against his. She shivered at the renewed intensity of it, at the building pleasure.

Miro made an alteration of his own; Ardent couldn’t tell exactly what, except that it felt even better to slide against him, his groin pressing exactly right against her clitoris when they thrust together. She cried out in delight, and he asked, “Is that good?”

“Love, Miro, it’s incredible,” she said, or tried to say. It might have come out as just, “Miro, oh, Miro…!”

They fed on each other’s pleasure, aether-enhanced senses attuning them so well that they climaxed together, in a fog of bliss. Ardent rolled over in the air and cuddled Miro to her chest as they drifted back down to lie against the bed.



Don't want to wait until the next post to read more? Buy The Moon Etherium now! Or check out the author's other books: A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements.
Me 2012

Editing Why You So Hard

My Editing Process

Ugh I don't want to edit.
*read Twitter*
Still don't want to edit
*write a scene in a new book*
why is the editing not done already
*open spreadsheet of planned changes, Evernote, three different Google word docs*
*read Twitter some more*
*stare at spreadsheet*
All of these are too hard
*read LJ friends' list*
*pick one item from spreadsheet*
*flip between different parts of book in total despair*
*play with Flight Rising*
*select a scene from book*
*re-read scene*
*despair some more*
*read Twitter*
*go back to scene. Insert two new sentences*
*cross item off editing list*
*wonder why this is taking so long*
Me 2012

Not Yet (46/80)

TME Header 046

Ardent gave a breathy little laugh and shaped a glamour to light the interior. She smiled down at him, still holding his hand. “Just gonna get you a little farther out, then I can patch you up.”

“It looks much worse than it is,” Miro assured her.

“That’s great, because you look like a mortal who lost a fight with a thresher.”

“Are threshers very dangerous?”

Ardent laughed. “Don’t get into any fights with them. Especially if you’re mortal. Or as vulnerable as one.” She swallowed, her smile strained by worry.

Sessile’s motion ceased. “We’re here. Should I surface?”

“Yes, thanks, Sessile. Shift to the mortal world only.” They ascended into a dark wood, the shape of the leaf canopy above barely visible. Ardent curled her caprine legs onto the bed beside Miro, and leaned over him. “I haven’t healed anyone but mortals and animals in the last couple of centuries, so…here’s hoping I remember how.” She dismissed the bandages over his face, and wrote in aether over his skin. Miro sighed and closed his eyes again as the pain faded. Ardent worked her way down his front, then had him roll over and did his back. She made a few extra passes around his head, biting her tongue in concentration. “There…how’s that?”

“Much better, my lady. Thank you.” Miro shifted to sit upright, and covered her hand with his. “We can go back now, if you please.”

“You’re still shivering.” Ardent steadied him with a hand on his shoulder.

“It’s nothing. Just nerves.”

Ardent shifted a little closer and kissed his forehead. “You can stop being insanely brave now,” she whispered.

Miro shook his head. “Not yet,” he answered, just as softly. “When my father’s safe. Then I can stop.”

Another breathless laugh. “Look, we both need sleep. We can do that just as well in the Broken Lands, where you’re as invulnerable as any other fey. So let’s stay out here for tonight, and in the morning we can talk about what’s next. All right? The thrice-blighted Moon Etherium will still be there tomorrow. More’s the pity.”

Miro bowed his head in acquiescence. “As you wish.”

Ardent let out a breath. She moved his hand to rest on her wrist. “Here. Channel from me.”

He blinked at her. “What? Why would I—”

“I brought my boots, I’ll walk back to the Etherium and fill up again after you channel from me. There’s no reason for you to be helpless out here.”

I’m not helpless. I have you. Her pulse under his fingers was strong and steady, her skin warm, the aether palpable and inviting as an oasis to his no-longer-dulled senses. Miro swallowed. “As you wish.” He scooted back to make more room for her in the bed.

She hesitated. “We don’t really need…I mean, we’re not in an Etherium, and I’m not even High Court, so…” He raised his eyebrows at her, and the satyress gave another nervous laugh. “Never mind.” She lay down next to him.

Miro pressed against her side. He curled one leg over her thigh and rested his hand against her throat, feeling her pulse. “Tell me if it’s uncomfortable.”

“Mm hmm.” Her breathing was not quite steady, her pulse quickening. Miro relaxed, opening himself to her aether. It flowed in, and he gasped at the pleasure of it, the relief of being quenched after days of acute thirst. His awareness of Ardent beside him only increased as aether enhanced his senses. Her back arched to press her throat into his fingers, as if eager to pour herself into his body. Her lips parted, breathing in quick gasps, body writhing against his in a way that was deeply sensual, unimaginably alluring. His own pulse pounded with growing lust, his erection throbbing against her hip. Ardent made a tiny whimpering sound, her arm clutching at his side. Miro tore himself away, panting, afraid he would lose control entirely if he remained. She whimpered again at his withdrawal, her back arched as if to lure him back. He moved further away, putting a foot of empty bed between them, and fought to control his breathing.

Ardent slumped back against the bedding. Dark eyes fluttered open, and she turned to him with a slow, half-lidded smile. “Mmm. Love, but you’re so good at this. If it feels even half this delicious for you, then I finally understand why you’re so willing to channel for me.” She stretched her arms lazily over her head, the generous curves of her breasts shifting under her chiton. His fingers itched to caress them, to explore their inviting softness. He fisted his hand around the blanket instead. “I’ve still got more, if you want. It won’t hurt me.” Her husky contralto beckoned with the promise of a warm reception. She reached out to caress his cheek, but at his stiffness, her face fell. Ardent withdrew. “Sorry, I shouldn’t—”

Miro caught her hand, unable to bear the rejected look in her eyes. “I would love to,” he said, hoarsely, kissing her fingers. “I just – if it’s half so intoxicating for you – I can’t take advantage of that.”

She raised her eyes to his, then lowered brown lids, a smile flickering and fading on full lips. “Fair nuf. I should run back to the Etherium an…” The satyress swung her legs off of the bed and almost fell out of it. Miro scrambled to grab her shoulder and steady her. “Whoa.”

“It can wait.” Miro tugged gently, and she half-toppled back to lay her head in his lap, lower legs still off the bed.

“Dizzy,” she said. “’s a nice dizzy, though.” She reached up to pat his cheek, and he turned his face to kiss her palm. Ardent smiled, then curled onto her side and nuzzled his stomach. “I forgot to make a bed for me.”

“I’ll make one.” Miro started to gesture.

She put her hand over his arm and he paused. “Do you have to?”    

Miro swallowed, trying to will his renewed erection away. “…no. If you’re sure you don’t mind.”

Ardent gave him a lazy, dreamy smile that did nothing for his ragged self-control. “I’m sure I don’t mind, sugar.”

He did use aether to float her into a more comfortable position in the bed, straightened out lengthwise. He made a new blanket to put over her, and slid under the first set himself, figuring an extra layer of cloth between them was advisable. Miro decided the toga she’d put him in already was comfortable enough to sleep in.

“Mmm.” Ardent watched him with sleepy black eyes. “Lights out.” Her light-glamour vanished, leaving them in darkness. “Oh, Sessily, you sleep too, little girl. Gotta conserve aether out here.”

“Uh-huh, m’lady.” Sessile went still, and her walls turned opaque, making the darkness absolute.

The mattress shifted as Ardent moved closer to him, until she could wrap an arm over his side and snuggle into him. “G’night, Miro.”    

“Sleep well, Ardent,” he murmured. Given all his conflicted feelings and the rush of adrenaline from his escape, Miro did not expect to sleep soon. But the warmth of Ardent’s soul, and her body pressed close despite the blankets between them, comforted him. The unwanted arousal faded as she slept, and soon he was asleep as well.



Don't want to wait until the next post to read more? Buy The Moon Etherium now! Or check out the author's other books: A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements.
Me 2012

The Business of Writing

In the last few days, I've had people ask "how do you attract an audience?" You can skip to the bottom for my advice, or read my rambling on the subject beforehand, as you prefer.

Prelude
Before I say anything more, I want to be very clear about my level of success, or lack thereof. My three books have, combined, sold around 2000 copies in the 21 months since I first published. I've made about $7000 from writing. Something like $5500 of that was from my first book, A Rational Arrangement, mostly in the first four months after publication. ARA's sales qualified me for membership in SFWA (which I joined) and the Author's Guild (which I did not). If I had to re-qualify on a different book (neither organization makes you do so), I could not do so.

Those sales are much, much higher than the $0.00 I made in the previous 20 or so years where I was earnestly writing stories that I hoped to sell and have readers for. It is "real money", in the sense of "I just paid off my mortgage a year early because of this."

It is not "real money" in the sense of "I could live on this". My current writing income is around $80 a month, which is enough to pay my Internet bill. It would not pay for groceries, much less all my other expenses. It does not amount to minimum wage for the many hours I've put into writing, editing, and publishing, or for the many hours my friends have donated to beta-reading, proofing, and typesetting my books. I am pleased with my level of success, but I am not making a living wage by any American standard.

There are a lot of people more qualified to give advice than me. Really, you should be reading them. But if you're still here:

On Failure
There is no path to a career in writing that has a high chance of success. There is no equivalent to the standard career path of "get good grades in school, get a degree in X, and you have a 80-95% chance of making a reasonable annual salary doing something in the general field of Y." Most people who want to make a living as a full-time writer do not.

Most people who want to be writers give up, at one stage or another. Before they finish writing their first book. Before they finish editing it. Before they finish a book they are happy enough with to try to publish. While trying to find an agent. While trying to find a publisher. After publishing their first book. After publishing their fifth book. That writer who wrote this one trilogy you loved and then you never heard from them again? Probably one of the ones who gave up.

Why do they give up? Because they're not inspired any more. Because they decided the odds of finding an audience were too slim. Because they're not making a living wage and they'd rather use their free time to play video games, or run RPGs for their friends, or garden, or whatever. Because publishing is too much work for too little reward, even if they're still writing. (Yes, I know of at least one author who kept writing after they quit publishing. The publishing side is a lot of work and mental energy.)

So those are some of the ways you can fail. There are many other ways to fail. Most people fail. My guess is, that of the people who have earnestly labored at writing for hundreds of hours, most will never produce a polished manuscript. Of those who do, most will never publish, not even self-publish. Most of those who publish will earn less than $1000 in writing. Most of those who make over $1000 will not earn enough to support themselves independent of a day job.

I don't know what those fractions are. No one really surveys for this stuff. Jim Hines did a "novelist income survey", and in theory the people who made $10 self-pubbed on Amazon last year could fill it out, but I strongly believe they self-select out of it. "I'm not a real author, this survey is for real authors." And that survey still puts the median income at under $20,000 a year.

I do not write this to discourage writers. This is actually my weird, roundabout way of encouraging you. Because if you feel like "no one will read my work!" then you need to know that this is a problem for 99.9% of writers. You are not doing something horribly wrong and everyone else can do this so why not you, what are you missing, why is this so hard? It is so hard for you because it is so hard for virtually every writer. Writers who fall into a career in writing are one in a million. (*waves to Ursula Vernon!* Who, it must be noted, worked incredibly hard to fall into her career in writing.)

Actual Advice

These are the things which are necessary, but not sufficient, to making a living as a writer:
  • Write in an engaging, compelling manner. If you're writing fiction: tell a good story. In many forms of nonfiction, telling a good story will also help. Humans like narratives.
  • Finish what you write.
  • Make your work available to readers in some fashion (submit to publishers, or self-publish in some fashion)

Everything else is neither necessary nor sufficient, although it might help. If you're self-published:
  • Cover: This is your main advertisement for your book. Make sure it is attractive, suitable for the genre of your book, and looks interesting at thumbnail size. If you are going to invest money in any part of the publishing process, investing it in the cover is probably the best place.
  • Social Media: If you don't like using social media for its own sake, it is a waste of time and resources. Don't. I use LJ and Twitter because I like using LJ and Twitter. My social media presence for the last 15 years or so did help in promoting my books, but, y'know, that's $7000 for 15 years of activity. If I'd been doing it for the money, so not worth it. But if you like social media, being active on it and engaging with new people in a friendly manner can help you expand your audience.  Using social media primarily to say "Buy my book", however, is worse than useless.  
  • Paid Advertising: If you have a body of published work (at least 3-4 books in one series), Bookbub is easily the best value in the business. You need to discount your book in order to submit to Bookbub, and Bookbub generally only takes books that are already at least modestly successful. There are a number of other advertising outlets, most of which do not offer a great return on investment (if any), but they might be enough to get your book into the "modest success" range needed to get on Bookbub. YMMV. I have not tried paid advertising anywhere, myself, entirely due to laziness on my part.

My Personal Favorite Advice


This comes from Kristine Kathryn Rusch: The best use of a writer's time is to write what you love, get it out there, and repeat, as fast as possible.

Does this work reliably? No. But neither does anything else, and at least this way you're spending most of your time and energy writing, which is why you decided to do this thing in the first place. Right?
Me 2012

Interruption (45/80)

TME Header 045

Miro appeared in Ardent’s darkened living room, next to the spiral staircase. He dashed up them two at a time. “Ardent! Ardent!” Below, he thought he heard a crashing noise by one of the walls. He reached the top of the spiral into a moonlit bedroom and ran, half-stumbling, towards the giant bed. “Ardent! Summon Sessile, she’s under attack!”    

Ardent twisted about, sitting upright in the bed. “Justice! Miro, what happened?”

Miro stumbled to a halt at the edge of the round bed, suddenly seeing what was in front of him. Ardent was naked, and not alone: Whispers Rain was sitting up beside her. She was wearing a tunic and tights now, but Miro had the impression she’d been naked a moment ago. No time to process this. “Summon Sessile,” he repeated, “she’s—”    

Sessile was in the room, curling up around the bed. Bull was crawling into her through a gap forced open between two of her segments. “What in the name of Justice are you doing with my golem?!” Ardent roared.

Bull wisely teleported away.

Ardent vaulted across the bed at Miro. He twisted to see what was behind him, and narrowly dodged as Cat tried to grab him. Ardent curled Miro to her chest with one arm instead. Her eyes flashed with stored power as she lashed out with her other fist. Cat attempted to evade.

And failed.

The blow sent him reeling, arms flailing as he struck the floor. Rain screamed. Ardent leaped from the bed, Miro still held tight in one arm, and planted a hoof on the panther-man’s chest. “Who are you, and what are you doing in my home messing with my people?”

The panther snarled and teleported away. Ardent stomped her foot to the floor with a growl, then glanced down at Miro. “Miro, sugar, what happened? How badly hurt are you?”

“I’m fine,” Miro lied. “We need to go after them before the teleport-trail fades.”

“Honey, you’re wounded, I can’t—”

“Loyalty,” Rain whispered, crawling to the edge of the bed. “They hurt you.”

Miro glanced at her, at the hideous rope of obligation on her soul. It is not chance she is here, or chance that my assailants were sure Ardent would not receive messages. And if I accuse her, Ardent will not believe me.

Ardent hovered a hand over his cut and bruised face, not touching him. At some point she’d remembered she was naked and made a chiton for herself. “I can’t heal you in the Etherium – Justice abandon it all—” she looked over her shoulder to the place where Cat had disappeared.

Rain followed her look. “Go after him. I’ll take care of Mirohirokon.”

No! Miro clutched at Ardent’s chiton. “Don’t leave me here. You’ll need more power to catch him,” he said. She hesitated, torn. “Please, Ardent. Please.”

A new bubble formed in the air before the bed, and all three of them looked to it in surprise. Play Until Collapsing Dreams stepped out of it. “Ardent, you’ve had a breach, and they left a major vulnerability in your wards, and your pet—” the cat-eared fey started to say, then took in the scene. “—oh, I guess you know.”

Ardent smiled grimly, and shifted her grip on Miro to cradle him in both arms. “Yeah. I know. Can you identify the intruders and tell me who they are?”

“Uh.” Play rubbed the back of her neck, fluffing her short dark hair. Her eyes went to Miro, took in the blood-smeared slashes on his face, the shredded, blood-stained clothing. “Yes. Yes, I can do that. Give me a minute.”

“Take all the minutes you need.” Ardent walked over to Sessile’s injured side and used aether to mend the rent. “How’re you doing, baby?”

Sessile sighed and wiggled her tail tip. “Better. My wards still hurt, though.”

“I’ll see what I can do. Play, give me everything you can on those Idealless rot-ridden beasts. You need anything from me? Permissions on the home. I’ll set those now.” She shifted to support Miro on a cushion of aether against her chest, and made a series of runes in the air.

“Yes, that. That should be good. Where are you going?”

“I’m gonna get Miro out of this Justice-deprived blighthole of a city.” She gave Whispers Rain a regretful look. “Sorry, sweetheart, but—”

Rain shook her head, waving off the apology. “No, no. You do what you have to do. We can catch up later.” She offered a hesitant smile, eyes worried.

Miro tried to disengage from the satyress’s hold. “Ardent, no, I can’t leave—”

“Honey, you can argue with me when you’re not bleeding. We’ll know who they are and have evidence against them soon, I can catch them later, I am fixing you now.” She cupped the back of his head in one hand to look in his eyes. “All right?”

He wanted to argue with her, feeling a terrible urgency for reasons he couldn’t articulate, the sense that they needed to do something now. But Ardent was right. Those inept minions would not have been entrusted with the location of the phoenix rose. He and Ardent would be in a better position once they had whatever information Play could obtain. Miro sank down, wincing, and closed his eyes. “All right. But I am coming back.”

“We can talk about that when you’re not bleeding, too. Sessile, open up, please.” Ardent ducked as she carried Miro into the earthserpent’s body. She waved a hand over the empty cargo area, conjuring a bed that spanned the width of the serpent’s body, and lay Miro down in it.

“I truly am not dying,” he told her.

“That’s great news, hon. Stay put for me anyway.” She sat on the edge of the bed and laced her fingers through his. A conjured toga replaced his shredded robe, and summoned bandages covered the rent flesh. Ardent closed her eyes and extended her arm to touch Sessile’s side, tracing patterns over the transparent wall. “Is that better, Sessile?”

“Mostly, I think. It still feels a little weird.”

“If you’ll be all right for tonight, we’ll take you to Contemplation After the Storm tomorrow and he can straighten you out.”

“Sure, I’m fine. Where are we going?”

“Just a min.” Ardent pulled her bag out of her locket, then dumped the contents of the bag on a chair. The space-expanding enchantments on both items would fail quickly in the aether-starved Broken Lands. She summoned a few other things, including her walking boots and a crystal ball. She found her destination in the scrying device, and floated it out of the golem’s mouth to socket into her nose. “There. Port as far as you can, then earthswim to it.”

“On our way!” The view outside flickered to starlit darkness on the ridgeline at the edge of the Etherium. That darkness became absoute as Sessile plunged into the slope. A flutter of aether from the golem held Miro and Ardent in place against the change in orientation.

Miro drew in a deep breath in the still darkness. The absence of Moon aether all round him was a weight removed. The Broken Lands were parched, but at least they didn’t press upon him with an insistent demand he couldn’t meet. “I’m sorry I got you hurt, Sessile,” he told her, quietly.

“Oh, no, don’t be! You needed help!” Sessile said. “I’d much rather I got a little dinged up then you got killed! Or kidnapped or worse! That’d be terrible. And Ardent would be sad too.”

Miro’s lips twitched. “And we can’t go making Ardent sad.”

“Nuh-uh!”



Don't want to wait until the next post to read more? Buy The Moon Etherium now! Or check out the author's other books: A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements.
Me 2012

"Phantom of the Opera" and "Love Never Dies"

Lut and I watched "Love Never Dies" on Sunday, which was .... really pretty bad. We saw "Phantom of the Opera" last weekend.

I am going to rant about them, with lots of spoilers, below. Although really, "spoiler" is the wrong word, because the good things about them can't be ruined by revelation, and the story is already so execrable it can't be spoiled further.

I don't like the story of "Phantom": the title character is the only one with any personality to speak of, and he's a monster. He stalks the female protagonist, tries to control her, manipulates everyone, murders multiple people, and destroys the opera house and probably kills more people to cover for kidnapping her at the climax. And we're supposed to feel bad for him because he's been feared all his life for his scarred face but ... yeah. I am not really up to excusing murder because people are mean to you. Most of the people he kills weren't even directly mean to him. They're just random fellows who happened to be in the way at the time.

Anyway. Didn't really like any of the characters, and the plot often made no sense. For two examples: Carlotta, their diva, refuses to perform early on, so they have Christine fill her role. Everyone -- literally everyone -- is like "wow, Christine is so much better than Carlotta."

Next, the Phantom says "I want Christine in the leading role of the next production," and offers a vague threat if the new managers don't comply. Carlotta refuses to play the leading role in the next production. The managers proceed to beg Carlotta to perform, for no apparent reason except "cut off your nose to spite your face".

Second example: there's a scene where Raoul defeats the Phantom in a graveyard duel, and Christine says "don't kill him!" So Raoul walks off with Christine and makes no attempt to, oh, capture the murderer instead. Then, in the next scene, some weeks later, Raoul is plotting to ... capture the Phantom. Oooookay. Like you could've done that in the last scene but you decided to wait until now for drama, I guess.

Still, setting aside the cardboard characters and the incoherent plot, the film was an over-the-top spectacle: gorgeous sets, costuming, dance numbers, etc. The music is fantastic. I got a little bored in the middle as what passed for the story just dragged on and on and they ran out of new music, but the ending was touching.

I have seldom seen a story less in need of sequel, and "Love Never Dies" is definitely the sequel that "Phantom" didn't need. This was a recording of a stage show, and was, I gather, the sequel to the stage musical. It references key events that didn't happen in the film. Either that, or it's set in a Phantom AU, maybe one where he's not a murderer who intentionally destroyed the opera house. (The intro references him being "chased by an angry mob that regards him as being responsible for the opera fire", which made me say to Lut, "Perhaps because he was responsible for the fire?")

Regardless, it's set a decade after the opera house burned down. It's set in Coney Island, where the Phantom is running a creepy carnival-like show under the name of "Mister Y". The choreographer who was his friend in the "Phantom" runs the show, while her daughter Meg is one of the stars. Meg is forced to performs some mediocre musical numbers by way of making Christine look good, which is just depressing all around. The sets were lovely but the music was uniformly meh. I am not sure if the choreography was also meh, because the camera tended to focus on the protagonists whenever some big complex number was happening. So you didn't really get to see the complex numbers. In an effort to make Phantom look more like a romantic hero, the script turns Raoul into an emotionally abusive man who gambled away his fortune and put his family deep in debt. He resents his wife for having a valuable skill (singing) that might bail them out of his mess. OK, so now I hate Raoul AND the Phantom.

In case you might hope, "maybe the Phantom has matured in 10 years", NOPE. When Christine hesitates at his offer to hire her for a single song, he threatens to abduct (and possibly kill) her son if she won't perform for him.

Oh, and if you were thinking "how could I hate the men of this show more?" Ding! We have an answer! Phantom and Raoul make a wager: If Christine performs the song, Raoul will leave her alone forever. If Raoul talks her out of it, Phantom will pay Raoul's debts anyway, plus a bonus.

Neither man tells Christine about the wager, so Christine thinks she choosing to sing a song that will get her family out of debt and then she can get back to her life with her husband.

Oh, and stage manager + daughter are bitterly resentful of Christine because the Phantom is basically dumping everything they worked for into Christine's lap. In case you thought anything might end well for anyone or you were hoping for someone to like.

There is no possible resolution where anyone is happy, which is okay because no one really deserves to be happy. Christine randomly dies at the end. This is probably the best thing that could plausibly happen to her within the constraints of "things anyone who wrote the rest of this garbage fire would think of doing". At least she can't be tormented by the horrible men in her life any more.

If I were the sort to write fix-it fics, I would change the ending to: "Christine, stage manager, and daughter kick Raoul and the Phantom out of their lives, go on to run successful theatre without them." If it needs romance, well, Christine and Meg will make a cute couple. Fin.
Me 2012

Cat Toy (44/80)

TME Header 044

Miro woke to darkness and a sense of wrongness. He pushed off the bedclothes and sat at the edge of the bed, trying to figure out what had woken him, trying to decide if it was nothing and he should go back to sleep. Perhaps it’s the wrongness of being sense-blind that woke me, he thought, dryly. He rose and drew on a dressing gown anyway, and had started for the stairwell to the living room when he saw a fey stranger with an ugly soul coming down it. Miro ducked back into his room and conjured a messenger to send to Ardent: “Intruder in the apartment. Please come.”

Instead of winking out to deliver the message, the will-o-wisp reported, “Ardent is not accepting messages at this time.”

Miro cursed inwardly, and instructed the wisp to relay as soon as it could: “Intruder on the bottom level, perhaps several. Includes a fey we saw at the party talking to Fallen: flying merman with black and white scales. Please come.” It had been too dark to make out the fey’s shape on the stairs, but soulsight needed no light. Miro reviewed his other options quickly: I can teleport, but only to where I already am. I can message my father, who can’t message me back. I could send a message to Play Until Collapsing Dreams, or Contemplation After the Storm, and hope that doesn’t make matters worse. I can hide.

He ducked into the wardrobe and closed its door, sinking down to its floor. He heard the door to the room open, and voices talking. “He was staying in this room, don’t see him now. Check the bathing chamber?”

“Didn’t we just go through the bathing chamber?”

“I assume there’s a private one.”

A third voice said, “Search the bedroom, too.”

Miro sent a message to Play Until Collapsing Dreams. “Intruders in Ardent’s apartment. At least three. Ardent blocking messages. Please help if you can.” The wisp winked out as someone yanked open the armoire door.

The strange fey had a monstrous shape, even by the standards of the Moon Etherium: a kind of giant wolf with tentacles rayed out from their back, and a scorpion’s tail. They grinned at him. “Found him!” they yelled.

Miro considered yelling for help, but even if Ardent’s room wasn’t soundproofed – and why wouldn’t it be soundproofed? – the intruders were unconcerned about being overheard and could have rendered the area soundproof themselves. Instead, he rose and stepped from the armoire with all the Sun Etherium dignity he could muster. “Good evening, gentlefolk. May I inquire as to the reason for this visit?”

The other two intruders entered the guest room behind the wolf. One, who’d been the merman with the ugly soul at the party, was in the shape of a six-armed humanoid panther, head crested by horns. In his upper right hand, he held a short rod with purple-striped white petals bound to the top. The third fey had a minotaur’s form. All three had corrupted souls and thick obligations, though the mer-turned-panther was the worst of the lot. The panther-man parted his jaws in a fanged-tooth grin at Miro. “Heh. You may not. Bull, is he watched?”    

Miro didn’t recognize any of the three forms, but he knew the panther’s soul, and the minotaur’s looked vaguely familiar. They cared enough about being caught to use disguised forms. That’s something. “The hour is quite late, and you are intruding upon my space. Kindly depart,” Miro said, more to establish a tone of civility than out of any hope of compliance. The wolf lolled their tongue, amused.

The minotaur ignored him to fiddle with a crystal ball, tracing runes over it and twisting it.

The six-armed panther tapped one foot impatiently. “Well?”

“Give me a few minutes.” Bull tapped the crystal’s surface. “It’s designed to check for the wielder, not a random other fey. And it’s slow anyway.”

As the other fey were looking at Bull, Miro dove between the minotaur and the panther towards the open door behind them. The humanoid cat roared and made a grab for him with his left set of arms. He wasn’t accustomed to the extra limbs: the lower two were clumsy and the upper one didn’t have the reach as Miro somersaulted across the floor. He came to his feet by the door and ran for the stairs.

Aether swirled into a wall of rock before him. Miro pulled up short as his hands hit it. “Really, Sun boy?” The panther stepped through the bedroom door. He gestured, putting a stone wall on the corridor behind him, and another to cover the door opposite his bedroom. “How far do you think you can get without aether?”

I can still straddle to the mortal world and walk through this wall, Miro thought, but they can straddle too, and they’ll have aether-speed on me. And that trick will only work once. What is my strategy, here?    

The panther stalked towards him. When the other two fey joined them in the corridor, the feline put a wall over the door to the bedroom, too.

A will-o-wisp messenger formed by Miro’s head. Right. I’m stalling for time and hoping someone rescues me. He reached for the message. It was from Play Until Collapsing Dreams: “Can’t port in without permission. Trying to bypass Ardent’s block. Hang on.”

“What’s that?” The panther grabbed for the message, but the will-o-wisp dissolved into mist at his touch. He snarled at Miro. “Who’s talking to you, Sun boy?” He’d taken a large form, almost a foot taller than Miro, and glowered down at him.

Miro kept his back straight. I will not cower. “My lady Ardent Sojourner. She checks in on me periodically.”

“Hah. She’s got better things to do right now than talk to you. And how would you answer?”

The wolf-beast conjured a messenger. “She’s still blocking, Cat.”    

Cat narrowed his eyes at Miro, and tried to grab him. Miro didn’t have fey evasion, but the Moon Host fey was clumsy enough in his unaccustomed form that Miro was able to dodge the first hand. Miro feinted a counterstrike, which Cat evaded automatically, and dodged to the left. A brief scramble ensued. It ended when the panther slammed cage walls into place on either side of Miro, then seized him by the throat from the front. “Don’t lie to me, light-brat.”

Miro clawed at the panther’s fingers ineffectually. The panther-man took his wrists in his extra hands and dragged them down with aether-fueled strength. The panther raised him from the floor and slammed him back against the stone wall, grinning ferally. Miro fought for breath, spots swimming in his vision after the impact.

“Don’t break him, Cat. We need him alive,” the lupine said. “How’s that check coming, Bull?”

The minotaur approached Miro, circled the crystal over his face, then drew back. “Sorry, gonna be another minute.”

“Take your time,” Cat growled. “I always wanted a fey toy to play with, anyway.” He loosened his grip on Miro’s throat slightly. “Who sent you a message? What did they say?”

Miro gasped. “That you’re a clumsy buffoon and Fallen should find a better class of minion.”

The panther-man bared fangs as long as fingers. “Wrong answer, cat toy.” He unsheathed the claws of one free hand and ran them lovingly down the side of Miro’s face, drawing blood. “But you get it, don’t you? I can see it in your eyes. Fear. You can act arrogant, but you know how helpless you are.” He closed, pressing the length of his body against Miro’s. “Can’t evade. Can’t escape.”

“Wait, how’d he know Fallen sent us?” the wolf asked.

Any time you would like to bypass that block would be lovely, Play. Miro closed his eyes. “Well, I know now. And you can’t do anything, little kitty. I’m no good to your mistress dead.”

“He’s not being watched by anyone,” Bull reported. “Still waiting on the tracking.”

“That’s all right, cat toy. It’s more fun playing with your prey while they’re still alive and squirming,” the panther growled. He licked a broad, abrasive tongue over the cuts on Miro’s face, then shredded Miro’s robe and night shirt dramatically under two sets of claws, lacerating the skin underneath

“Uh, Cat, what are you…” The wolf edged nearer.

“Just having some fun. Haven’t you ever wanted to fuck a scared fey?” Cat flipped Miro around, evading without effort Miro’s vain attempt to kick him. Cat slammed Miro’s face against the wall, and shredded the back of his clothing, leaving shallow furrows in the skin. Miro gritted his teeth under the urge to scream.

“No. That’s disgusting, Hunt – Cat. Stop that.” The wolf drew closer and slid their tentacles between Miro’s body and the panther-man.    

Miro wished he could think of something else brave to say, wished he weren’t grateful for the intervention, wished he wasn’t just as sick and scared as Cat had taunted him with being. He could have made my clothing disappear but it was more fun to tear them. Just playing, with a sapient possession – Miro opened his eyes as he suddenly realized who else he could contact. If I can get out.

“He’s not being tracked, either. Can we just go now?” Bull asked.    

Time to use that one chance. Miro shifted to the mortal world. He fell through the wall, Cat’s hands, the tentacles—

—the floor.

He heard the fey shout and grab for him, but fey who never left their Etherium had no reason to shift to the mortal world, and were not quick to think of the possibility. By the time they realized what had happened, he was below the floor and conjuring a farspeaker. “Sessile, port to me NOW!”

Before he’d finished the message, Miro struck a ward – the fey below Ardent had made their wards impenetrable in both worlds. He scrambled and slid to the edge of the ward. As he dropped into empty space, Fallen’s second-rate minions shifted to the mortal plane and flew after him.

The air beside Miro shimmered, and then Sessile uncurled out of nothingness. She blinked. “Help!” Miro shouted at her, in freefall. She snaked after him. The lupine ported to him, and Miro twisted away from his tentacles as Sessile caught up to them and chomped her mouth neatly over Miro. “Port, top of the Etherium,” he told her. “Keep falling.” Still floating in freefall inside of her, Miro grabbed for one of the ridges of her interior segments, and pulled himself to one of the chairs. He tried to seat himself as best he could, wincing at the touch of the backrest against his lacerated back. Through Sessile’s glamour-window-walls, he could see them plummet past the towers and skybridges of the Moon Etherium. “Pull out of the fall now, please, gently. As if you’re hauling a fragile cargo you didn’t want to break with a too-sudden stop.”

“Um. I can’t actually fly,” Sessile said, sheepishly.

“…right. Can you port to the ground and earthswim to slow the fall?”

“Sure, I can do that.”

“Please do so.” The scene outside shifted from the glamour-lit cityscape to the road before the palace. They plunged through it and into complete darkness. Miro lurched forward in the chair as Sessile began to decelerate. “Is your interior warded?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” Might be safer underground anyway. Although that justice-lost cat has an airswimming form and is probably familiar enough with earthswimming to do so casually. “Please let me know if anyone makes contact with you or tries to enter, all right?”

“Sure! So…why are they trying to kill you, m’lord?”

“I think they mean to capture me so Fallen can have another channel. Can you teleport into Ardent’s bedroom?” Miro did not have much hope that Sessile would have better luck than Play, but they should at least try.

A moment’s pause, then: “No, she’s not responding to the request.”

“Are you able to port about at random?” Miro asked.

“I’m not so good with random. Can you give me a place?”

“The Promenade?”

Sessile grunted. “There’s someone on me.” The scene outside changed from darkness to the Promenade. The arched crystal bridge with its shop-portals was a brightly lit jewel against the night. The golem juddered as she hit the street, almost knocking Miro loose from his chair. She hadn’t quite finished decelerating from their earlier freefall. He twisted to look around them, and saw Cat clinging to Sessile’s tail.

“Blight take him. Can you shake him off?”

“Probably not.” She thrashed her tail, but he didn’t jar loose. “He’s…ow…he’s hurting me.” She sounded suddenly small and scared. Bull ported in near Cat and clung to a couple of the long spines adorning Sessile’s back. Cat was doing something with his rod against Sessile’s side. Miro saw an actual hole, not just glamour-transparency, start to peel open on her flank where he was prodding.

“Make a fuss. Yell for help. I’ll try to draw them off you, Sessile.” Miro jumped out of his chair and yelled at the gap with a bravado he did not feel, “You want me, O Pitiful Inept Hunter? Come get me.

Then he snapped his fingers on both hands, and disappeared.



Don't want to wait until the next post to read more? Buy The Moon Etherium now! Or check out the author's other books: A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements.
Me 2012

Old Friends (43/80)

TME Header 043

Ardent watched Miro descend the stairs with a mixture of longing, regret, and relief. As pleasant as cuddling with him was, it stirred too many feelings she really, really should not act upon. She didn’t need to channel from him right now and had no excuse to want to, and the close contact had been an unwanted reminder of how easy it would be to just take. Whatever she wanted from him. Everything she wanted from him.

He is absurdly brave, to be here, helpless and vulnerable, among people who are encouraged to hate everything he represents. She tried to imagine walking into Sun Etherium under such circumstances, to be a channel for a stranger and with absolutely no defenses of her own. Yeah, no wonder I’m attracted to him. I always have liked the brave, noble types. Not to mention sweet and vulnerable. But while ‘hello, you’re helpless and completely in my power, wanna fuck?’ may not quite top the list of Terrible Things to Do to a Person, it’s definitely way up there.

All right, there are a lot of worse things I could do, starting with “everything Fallen is doing to poor Jinokimijin”. Notwithstanding that: still awful, still not going to do it.

Ardent squirmed on the couch, still fantasizing about Miro despite her resolve. She could go downstairs now, tell him she wanted to channel some power so she could make an amulet to protect him against mind-clouding glamours, like the immersion. He wouldn’t object to that. He’d encourage her; he always did. She wouldn’t take much; enough to relax him, intoxicate him. And afterwards, Miro would kiss her again, but this time when he apologized, she’d silence his protests with a kiss of her own. It wouldn’t be as if she were forcing him; he’d enjoy it too…

All right, Ardent, that’s enough of that. You’re two hundred and thirty-five years too old to be indulging in this kind of nonsense. Go to bed. Your own bed.

Too lazy to walk upstairs, Ardent teleported to her bed. Like her living room, the bedroom was round, with a glamour to make the ceiling look like a dome of glass. It showed the starry night sky above the Moon Etherium, streaked by clouds, crescent moon waxing on the horizon. Her bed was an enormous round thing that filled a third of the room, piled with silvery blue silk pillows and velvet blankets. The colors reminded her of Whispers Rain as she burrowed into the disorderly heap. Sure. Great. Let’s think about my former wife instead. At least I don’t have to worry about taking advantage of my power over her.

Love, but it’d been good to see her again, after all these years. I wish we’d had time to talk. I wonder if she still performs? She was aether dancing, but that’s not the same. I should’ve asked her to dance. Not that I could’ve and still kept an eye on Miro. I wish I could talk to her now. I wish I could fall asleep.

A twitch of aether stripped her chiton of its ornamental trim to make it a nightgown and removed her undergarments. She tried to turn her mind back to the problem she was actually here to solve. She retrieved Play’s tracer from her locket and checked the list of locations Ocean Discourse had been at since the tracer had started. None of them were of any interest, though it turned out she had been at the party earlier. The golem informed her, with a disdainful sniff of its cartoonishly large canine nose, that Ocean Discourse was now in a private area of the Moon Etherium. The tracer tapped its quill against its scroll. “I will record her location when she’s in public again.”

Ardent patted its canine head. “All right, great.” She set the golem down on the glass stand by her bed.

A blue hummingbird messenger winged into the room from the stairwell. Ardent froze, watching as it flew to her. Rain’s messenger.    

The bird whispered its message into her ear. “Hi, Ardent. It was good to see you at the party. I’m sorry we didn’t get more time to talk.” When it finished, the messenger melted into a curl of mist.

Ardent hesitated, then conjured her farspeaker. “Me too. How have you been?” I already asked that at the party, didn’t I? Idiot.

“I’ve been…missing you. Are you busy? May I join you?”

“Sure, I’d love to see you.” Ardent told the apartment’s wards to let Whisper Rains in, then held her breath until aether curled in the air before her bed. It uncurled again like flower petals, revealing Whispers Rain at the center. She was still wearing her spangled body suit and ribbon-dress from the party. Ardent remembered belatedly to ornament her chiton into more of a day-wear garment. “Hello, Rain.”    

Rain smiled, offering a little wave, and then turned a circle in the air, butterfly wings fluttering. Her curly, vibrant blue hair swung in a halo around her head. “Everything’s just the same.”

“Yeah. I don’t come by much. Kinda surprised the Queen never reclaimed the space. I suppose it’s just about as easy to make new space if you need any, nowadays.” Ardent lay on her stomach on the bed, torso propped by her elbows and a pillow. Rain wasn’t exactly as she remembered, but she was still tiny and delicate, the physical opposite of Ardent. Ardent patted the bed beside her. “Have a seat, if you want.”

Rain perched on the edge of the bed, curling one graceful leg beneath her as she twisted to watch the satyress. “I still can’t believe you re-affiliated.”

“Heh. Me either.” Ardent covered one side of her face with a hand. “The High Court’s worse than ever. I don’t know if I can make this stick, to be honest.”

Rain reached out with a slim brown hand to touch Ardent’s wrist. “You have to stay out of politics this time,” she chided, with a fond smile.

“Yeah, tell politics to stay away from me and we’ll see.” Ardent let Rain draw her hand down, then folded Rain’s small fingers between her own. “How’s that working out for you?”

Her former wife shook her head and waggled the fingers of her free hand. “Imperfectly,” she said, wistful. “But! I am the lead performer for the Winter Solstice Festival this year.”

A smile split Ardent’s face. “That’s fantastic! Do you have your dance choreographed yet?”

“Mostly choreographed. We’re still working out some issues. Vixen and Dagger are wing-painting with me. And of course we still have a lot of practice to go through before it’s ready.”

“Of course.” Ardent looked up into Rain’s oversized golden eyes. “Show me?”

Rain lowered blue lashes. “You know it’s still very rough, and I haven’t practiced nearly enough, and it won’t look right without the others—”

Ardent rolled onto her side, resting her head on one hand, bringing Rain’s hand close to kiss her fingers. “Show me anyway?”

“…all right.” Rain rose above the bed on beating wings. “Give me some room?” Ardent stirred the aether with one hand, and her bedroom’s interior expanded fivefold.

Rain flew straight up, then shifted her wings larger, and swooped out in a spiral of geometric precision. Her wings trailed white light behind her, describing the exact arc of her path. After several passes, she terminated the spiral in a large, perfect circle. The white light in her wake was slowly decaying through the color spectrum, now purple and blue where she’d begun. With the circle complete, Rain twisted through a flurry of organic motions, crafting a stylized dragon in light. Then she darted across the spiral, cutting a new white line to a spot 60 degrees offset from her dragon. By now most of the spiral had decayed to half of a rainbow. Rain drew a sphynx, and flew across to finish the triangle set into the spiral-circle and make a winged horse. Most of the work was now in rainbow colors, the center of the spiral gone to red and then vanished into black. The mythical animals twisted and struggled at their points, as if trapped. As Rain finished with the pegasus, she glanced to the dragon. With exaggerated surprise and concern at its plight, she flew to it, grasped the fading yellow-orange line of the spiral, and tried in vain to pull it off. The dragon’s green jaws parted, and it breathed fire onto the line.

The remains of the spiral and circle exploded in fire. The mythical animals broke loose and spun away. Rain, in a feigned daze, plummeted away from the scene. Ardent scooted into position on the bed beneath her, and caught the fey in outstretched arms. Rain opened her eyes and giggled at Ardent’s smile. “So Vixen and Dagger do three more mythical creatures each, so it’s a nine-pointed star, and theirs are water and ground creatures. We don’t really like the ending yet, though…”    

“I love it,” Ardent said, sincerely. “It’s gorgeous. I am awed by how quickly you work. And that precision flying!”

Rain kicked her heels and looped her arms around Ardent’s neck as she squirmed upright in the satyress’s arms. “Did you really? Even the end?”

Ardent cradled her close to her chest. “Honey, especially the end.”    

“You’re terrible,” Rain said with a giggle, then kissed her.

Ardent closed her eyes, savoring that shy, tentative touch, as if Rain feared she might be rebuffed or evaded. Ardent slipped a hand behind her head and kissed her in return, stroking her soft blue curls, delighted by the feel of her, the silk of wings folded beneath her arm, the litheness of that small, perfectly-formed body against hers.

After a moment, Rain drew back, watching her with huge, luminous eyes. “I really did miss you,” she whispered. “I wish I could have gone with you.” She shifted positions, to straddle Ardent’s lap.

“You couldn’t give up the sky.” Ardent touched her unfolding wings. “I’m sorry I made you choose.” I’m sorry you chose the sky. I’m sorry I chose Try Again. I’m sorry we didn’t make it work, somehow.

“But you’re not making me choose now.” Rain kissed her again, and Ardent fell backwards, pulling Rain down on top of her. When the smaller fey drew back next, it was to frown at a messenger wisp. Rain flicked it away in annoyance, then made the gesture to stop any more messages from interrupting her. She looked down at Ardent. “Do you want to…?”

Ardent smiled, mirroring the stop-messengers gesture. “Oh yes.” Rain kissed her again, and for a few moments they did not talk at all. Then Ardent drew back to speak. “Rain, honey…I wasn’t really joking when I said I don’t think I’m gonna make it last. Staying in the Etherium. I don’t want to mislead you about that.”

Her former wife smiled, though her golden eyes glittered with emotion. She traced a finger over Ardent’s lips. “Do you think you can manage to stay through the night?”

“Yeah.” Ardent kissed her fingertips. “I think I can do that.”

“Then let’s make the most of it,” Rain whispered, and then they were kissing again.



Don't want to wait until the next post to read more? Buy The Moon Etherium now! Or check out the author's other books: A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements.
Me 2012

Expert (42/80)

TME Header 042

Comfortable as Ardent’s guest bed was, it was nonetheless far less comfortable than the satyress herself. Miro lay sleepless in it for some time, wondering if it was possible Ardent was attracted to him or if he was misinterpreting friendliness and a kindly tolerance. And even if his wild optimism was justified, was it worth it to complicate matters further, with his position already so precarious?

To distract himself from his problematic infatuation, Miro directed his thoughts to the problem he’d come to the Moon Etherium to solve. Alabaster and ivory, he remembered. I need to check the notebook for exactly which extractors need those. But Ardent might already be asleep. I shouldn’t disturb her for this. It’ll keep until morning. His mind drifted from that to his father, and then to the Sun Etherium.    

§


It had started twenty-five years ago, at one of Miro’s mother’s lavish breakfast gatherings.

The Sun Queen did everything attended by an array of sycophants, favorites, and courtiers. Miro had long ago lost her favor and was seldom subjected to a breakfast invitation, but he’d been summoned today. In theory, he did not have to go. In practice, it was less trouble to attend than not. He arrived exactly on time, sat at the far end of one of two lesser tables, and waited for the event to end so he could leave again.

But before that happened, the Sun Queen craned her neck about from her throne at the high table, and beckoned to him. “Come here, Mirohirokon. I’ve a question for you.”

Miro braced himself and approached with all the equanimity life as a Sun Host prince had drilled into him. He knelt to her, as was the queen’s due. “Your majesty.”

“Dear Tiqo—” Eletanene favored her youngest child with a smile that did not strike Miro as genuine “—has urged me to acquire a new garden for the Palace of the Sun, in that new plant-sculpture style. You have a friend who dabbles in that, don’t you, Mirohirokon?”

“I do, your majesty.” Miro’s closest and oldest friend, in fact. Miro had no desire to bring him to the Queen’s attention.

His mother wrinkled her golden brow in a frown at his reticience. “Well? What’s his name?”

Obviously, I should have concealed this friendship twenty-two years ago, when I formed it. At age six. It was not as if he could conceal it now. “Lilaqalilan, your majesty.”

Eletanene’s brow smoothed, returning her face to flawless perfection. She smiled, expression slight enough that it created no new wrinkles in her skin. “Lilaqalilan. I shall hire him, then.”

Next to their mother, Tiqo clapped her hands in delight. “Oh, thank you, Momma! You won’t regret this!”

“Your majesty is most considerate.” Miro regretted it already.

§


Lilan was excited about the commission, despite Miro’s misgivings. The pay was excellent, and while no one in the Etherium needed money, per se, luxuries like golems and custom-made art, particularly well-designed clothes, were much in demand.

Lilan had been plant-sculpting almost since the art form had been invented, just twenty years ago. It was an art practiced by making small alterations to a plant as it grew, and allowing nature a part in shaping the final work. Because it was such a new art, Lilan’s youth had been less of a hinderance in cultivating his reputation as an expert.

Ama, Miro’s favorite sister, shared his concern about their mother’s motives. “Tiqodomiqon’s been badgering her about plant-scultping for months. It’s all Tiqo talks about. She wants to learn it,” Ama told him one afternoon. They were just outside the Etherium, flying in bird form with one of Miro’s other childhood friends, Talo.

“So perhaps your mother wants to buy Tiqo the credit for designing a garden?” Talo said. “If Tiqo wants to bully Lilan into designing according to her specifications, Lilan’s not got the spine to stop her.”    

“Oh, I wish. Mom hates plant sculpting. She thinks it’s an undignified pursuit.” Ama canted the brown and beige wings of her peregrine’s body and turned in the air.

Talo and Miro dipped to follow her. “What if Tiqo changed her mind?” Talo asked.

“Her majesty is not known for changing her mind. Especially in response to badgering,” Miro said, grimly.

“What Miro said. The best possible option is that she’s decided to tolerate it for Tiqo’s sake.” Ama flapped her wings to level out.

“I hope so. For Lilan’s.” Miro did not ask what Ama considered the worst option. He could envision plenty of those himself.

§


The Sun Queen gave the new garden a good location, at the top of a Palace tower where it could get plenty of natural sunlight and even rain, if Lilan wanted. Lilan gave it a greenhouse shield, which could be attuned to be transparent or opaque, and to permit, filter, or block wind or rain. From the outside, he kept it screened by privacy wards, to preserve the mystery.

Not that Lilan minded if people watched his work in progress. Miro dropped by often to visit, sometimes helping and more often distracting his friend. Lilan’s typical form was of a fashionably handsome man: tall, with a muscular build, dark oversized eyes in an oval face, bronze-gold skin, and deep red hair. He had long, mobile ears that he canted up and down to reflect his mood. Miro had always liked Lilan’s soul, blues and greens full of kindness and gentle affection. He had an eagerness to please that made him good company, if unassertive. That was his soul’s greatest weakness. His fear of being disliked made him easy to manipulate. The occasional streaks of corruption in his soul were the result of times he’d done things he knew were wrong because someone else had talked him into them.

Tiqo did come to help with the garden, but not because the Sun Queen commanded Lilan to work with her. Nor did Lilan object: Tiqo accorded Lilan the deference due an elder fey and a master artisan, which he found endearing. The fey teen was more eager to learn the art than to impose her own vision over Lilan’s, and she was not so obtrusive as to be in the way. Tiqo had a healthy soul, especially for one of Eletanene’s children. She was full of enthusiasm and energy. While she’d been spoiled by too much deference and attention from fey courtiers, it didn’t mar her company most of the time.

The garden grew and blossomed into a mix of fanciful shapes, most organic, with some touches of mathematical regularity. A canopied tree that had each branch fork into two exactly half the original length, at a forty-five degree angle, and each of those fork again, and again. Tree “families” paired two trees of different breeds and surrounded the pairs with a brood of miniature trees that blended their traits. Bushes so dense with flowers that their leaves were obscured. Miro loved it without reservation, a little microcosm of everything that made life in the Etherium worthwhile. And since it was not yet open to the public, it contained none of the people who made life in the Etherium unpleasant.

“You can’t truly like it just because no one else comes here,” Lilan teased him one day. Lilan was working in one of the flower beds, adjusting the spells on the blooms so they’d be more natural and less rigidly controlled.

“Why not?” Miro lazed on his back in one of the garden benches. He batted away a messenger bird made of folded paper as it loomed close. “You should put up a wall that won’t let farspeaking work in here, too. That’d make it perfect.”

“Only for you, Miro. Besides, it’s not as ‘safe’ as you think. Your mother’s been in here a few times.”

“She has? What did she say?” Miro propped himself up to look at Lilan.

“Not much? I can’t tell if she likes it or not. But she hasn’t said anything bad, and she’s been quite understanding about it taking time.” Lilan had his ears canted down. “Princess Tiqo did turn into a mouse to hide from her one time, though. Apparently her majesty told Princess Tiqo at the start that she wasn’t supposed to be involved with the garden at all.” He glanced at Miro. “I told Tiqo I wouldn’t tell, but that she shouldn’t come any more. And now she’s showing up in the form a of a giant bear of a man and calling herself ‘Domi’. Domi claims to be a gardener the queen assigned if I need help. I dunno. Should I keep pretending I can’t tell it’s her?”

“I don’t know, either. I wish you hadn’t taken this job.”

Lilan laughed. “But you’re my biggest fan, Mirohi. You wouldn’t even have this garden without the commission.”

“You’d’ve made another garden. It’d still be great.”

“Not like this. I couldn’t have afforded all the assistants and special plants and tailoring on my own. I know you hate court intrigue, but how bad can it be? It’s not like I’m a courtier. I’m just a gardener. Seriously, though, if you think I should keep Domi out, I will. I don’t want to make trouble.”

Miro shook his head. “I don’t know what’ll make trouble, Lilan. I truly don’t.”

§


After several months, Lilan finished the garden, or at least pronounced it ready for public viewing. To Lilan’s gratification, the Sun Queen planned a large party with an exclusive guest list to celebrate its completion. The party would be the first time the garden would be seen by more than the handful who’d watched its development.

As the artisan responsible for the garden, Lilan received an invitation to the celebration. Miro was not invited, which did not entirely surprise him. Queen Eletanene wasted no love on him, after all. Still, after she’d made a point of asking his best friend to do the work, leaving him off the guest list seemed a little tasteless even by her standards. But at least Tiqo will be there; Lilan will have one friend already, and probably make more on the strength of his artistry.

On the afternoon of the party, Miro was working with his father in Jino’s laboratory. They were dispensing firebuds to various extractor prototypes when Miro received a message from Tiqo: “Miro, Miro, you have to come to the garden. Right now. Justice, please, it’s a disaster, please come.”

Miro summoned a farspeaker scroll to write out his reply. “What happened? I’m not invited, I can’t get in.” The scroll tore a square of itself off, folded itself into a paper bird, and winged away. Aloud, he told Jino, “I have to go, Dad, something’s happened with Lilan’s project.” He teleported to the Palace foyer, then shifted to a sparrow and flew through the corridors and up the stairwell towards the tower top.

Tiqo’s reply came “I know, I opened a gap in the wards on the southeast tower wall, by the peonies. Please, Miro, I can’t – just come.”    

Heart in his throat, Miro flew out one of the windows and winged his way to the southeast wall. He half-expected to see the garden in ruins, but it looked fine. Miro ducked down and wriggled through the gap in the wards, still in sparrow form. Tiqo was there, dressed in an elaborate jacket and full-skirted gown, but with tears on her cheeks. He landed on her outstretched hand. “What happened?” he asked again. From the interior, the garden still looked as splendid as ever. The party didn’t look like a disaster, either. Most of the attendees were clustered near their queen at the center of the garden, laughing uproariously.

“It’s Momma,” Tiqo whispered. “I tried to—” she gulped air “—make her stop, but I, I can’t, she’s horrible—”

Miro launched into the air and flew towards the group. Queen Eletanene was presiding over the crowd with Lilan frozen at her side, her hand gripped about his. “Now, tell us what inspired this group?” the Sun Queen cooed, her voice full of false sweetness. “Ooh, wait, I know. Pubic hair! Just that kind of thin tangly sparseness. And now I know why that little concealed stream is right there!”

The attendees swarmed about her laughed even harder. Lilan did not even try to respond. A few of the partygoers looked embarrassed or sorry for him, but even they had a hard time not smiling. One courtier offered a contribution: “All it needs is a few rabbits! To represent lice!”    

“An excellent suggestion! Do make note of that for the revisions, Lilaqalilan. Now, what’s next…”

Miro moved to Lilan’s side and shifted back to his fey shape as the Sun Queen continued her brutal dissection, mocking everything that was beautiful, elegant, and graceful in the design. She must have spent a lot of time working out the right quips, finding insults with just enough resonance to make the crowd smile, perfecting the delivery of her satire for maximum impact. Miro put an arm around Lilan’s shoulders and ignored everyone else. “Let go of her hand,” he told his friend. “We’re leaving.”

The crowd had stirred in surprise at Miro’s appearance, and his mother glanced over her shoulder to see the source. “But Mirohirokon, he can’t leave now. Why, we’re not even halfway through! There’s so much left of this abomination to explain!”

Miro ignored her. “It doesn’t matter that she’s queen, Lilan. She can’t make you stay. You don’t have to listen to this. Let’s go.” Lilan turned to him, oversized eyes brimmed with tears, features otherwise lifeless. He slid his hand from the queen’s grasp. Miro shifted himself into a bird and Lilan into a mouse to carry him away. The queen would make him pay for this, Miro knew – she’d find a way, just like she’d found this way. But at the time, it seemed more important to help his friend. As soon as they were outside of the Palace’s teleport blocks, Miro teleported them to his house.

§


Alone in Miro’s home near the edge of the Etherium, Lilan disintegrated in Miro’s arms. “I don’t understand. If she hated it, why didn’t she ever say so? She was there a dozen times. I’d’ve changed it. Or stopped. Or anything.”

Miro led him to a couch and pulled him down, holding him, with no idea what else to do. “It doesn’t have anything to do with your garden, Lilan.”

His friend shuddered, slumping against his chest. “You didn’t hear her, oh Love, she despised it, everyone did, they just laughed and laughed—”

“Shh. Shh.” Miro kissed the top of Lilan’s head, helpless to soothe him. “It doesn’t matter what she said. It doesn’t have anything to do with you, or your work. She’s making a point to someone else. Me, maybe. Tiqo, probably. To show Tiqo what she’d do if Tiqo took a hobby her majesty didn’t approve of. Your work is wonderful. Nothing she said can change that.”

Lilan shook his head. “I can’t, I can’t ever do this again. I think I’m going to be sick.” He conjured a basin and bent over to retch into it. Miro held back his hair until he finished, then cleaned his face with aether and magicked away the waste. “Justice, is this what she did to your dad? I never knew. I never knew how horrible people can be. Court’s not always like that. Is it? It can’t be.”

It can be. “It doesn’t matter, Lilan. It’ll be all right.”

But it wouldn’t.

§


Queen Eletanene paid Lilan the balance owed on the commission, of course. She would not have it said the crown did not pay its debts.

On every feyour, she’d had a little picture drawn and a quip written, in mockery of the garden.

Miro found the scrip two days later, scattered across the floor of Lilan’s foyer, spattered with blood. Lilan was dead in the bathtub, with his wrists slit. As Miro wept beside the tub, he wondered if this last twist of the knife had been because of him. Was this the price Eletanene had exacted because Miro had taken her prey away before she’d finished?

Later, at the funeral, his father had said, “It’s not your fault,” but Miro was never sure that was true.

The Sun Queen did not attend, nor did she express any hint of remorse or apology for her actions. She did not even offer condolences to her son.

Tiqo came to the funeral, in the giant male form Tiqo’d called “Domi” before, but this time identified as Tiqodomiqon. The garden party was the last time Miro ever saw Tiqo in a female form. After that, he was always male. If Eletanene’s performance had been intended to terrify Tiqo into obedience, it had the exact opposite effect. Tiqo studied the methods of justiciars, after that, although there was no chance the Sun Queen would ever make him the Justiciar. But Justice was his obsession now.

Miro’s too, in a different form.



Don't want to wait until the next post to read more? Buy The Moon Etherium now! Or check out the author's other books: A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements.
Me 2012

At Least That’s Over (41/80)

TME Header 041

Ardent set Miro down, flicked away the leash, and fell face-first into her pillow nest. She gave an incoherent groan.

Miro sat at the edge of the pit for the sunken sofa, dangling his feet down the back rest. “Are you all right, my lady?”

She thrust out an arm with one thumb up, then struggled to roll onto her back. “Sorry, honey. I’m fine, just glad that’s over.” She lay her head back, frowned, and flicked the elaborate coil of braids back to her normal fluffy mass of loose hair. A short soft chiton replaced the long formal dress. “Wish I knew what was up with treating the Sun Host like a cross between a week-old pustulent corpse and a locust plague. How about you? Want your usual shape back?” She fumbled his homunculus out of a pocket in her chiton and proffered it.

“Yes, thank you.” He took the doll and sighed in relief at losing the extra inches and musculature, then chuckled. “I imagine most of your people can’t even tell the difference between the two shapes.”

She giggled, and shifted to her knees on the couch before him, leaning forward on one arm. She hooked a finger of her free hand around a lock of his once-again deep purple-blue hair. “Color difference here’s a little striking.”

He smiled. “Fair enough. But that aside…”

“Yeah, you’re right. I mean, I’ve seen you swap between them so the whole farmhand vs dancer build is pretty obvious to me. And I talk to mortals a lot so I’m used to telling people apart by slight differences. No offense. But most Moon Host aren’t.”

“Farmhand!” Miro laughed. “I should share that with the Sun Etherium. Perhaps that would give them pause in perpetuating the trend.”

Ardent cocked her head. “What else would you use all that muscle for?”

“It is the build of a Great Warrior,” Miro pronounced, with a self-important bluster on the final words that made Ardent giggle again. He smiled down at her, enjoying the rare chance to see her from a higher vantage. She had looked magnificent at the party, but he liked her better in her everyday clothes, when she looked comfortable and natural. Or perhaps he was drawn to her wide, open smile, with no secrets behind it. Or her warm, radiant soul. So much to admire.

She released the lock of hair and leaned sideways against the couch’s backrest, her legs curled next to her. “Lotta calls for Great Warriors in Sun Etherium, are there?”

“Of course! Almost every immersion, it seems,” he said, making her giggle again. The Sundering had ended the actual martial ambitions of the fey. Fey evasion made it virtually impossible to subdue other fey by force, and having the Etheriums drifting from one world to the next in an uncontrolled and often random fashion made conquering mortals rather pointless. If, indeed, there’d ever been a point to it at all. His memories of being Wind Rider in the immersion rose to the forefront of his mind: his joy in battle, the thrill of using aether as an irresistible weapon, of seeing enemies fall by the dozens under his blades. He – Wind Rider – had been so sure of his own rightness. Of course mortals should bow to fey might, of course fey should rule, of course rebellion must be punished. Anything else was a contravention of the natural order. In the immersion, he could not question it. Now that he was himself again, it was difficult to comprehend a fey mindset that cared how mortals ordered their own affairs.

Ardent’s hand on his knee recalled him to himself. “You doing all right there, honey?”

He tried a reassuring smile. “Yes. I think so.” Miro hesitated. “I don’t know.”

“Want a hug?” She held one arm to her side in invitation.

More than anything. He slid down from his perch on the backrest and fell forward with unseemly haste into her embrace. She enclosed him in powerful arms, pulling him into her lap and holding his head against her shoulder. He took a deep breath and relaxed into her. The contrast between the pillowy softness of her breasts and the strength and solidity of her arms and shoulders was both striking and delightful.    

Ardent carefully extricated his long hair so that it wouldn’t be trapped or pulled between them. “Anything you want to talk about? Is talking about your problems another thing Sun Host doesn’t do?”    

He chuckled, eyes half-closed. “It depends on the problem. And whether you can discuss it without looking weak and dominated by emotion.”

“So, anything that’s an actual problem, basically.”

Miro smiled again. “Just so.”

“Mph.” She rested her face against his hair. “I’m surprised they don’t tell you touching folks is a sign of weakness.”

“Oh, it is. I just don’t care. Dad never cared either. ‘I’m going to hug my son if he’s sad and if you don’t like it you can be impersonal and judgemental elsewhere.’” Miro waved a hand vaguely. “All of us least-favorite offspring tended to rebel by being inappropriately affectionate.”

Another snort. “No wonder you don’t love Sun Etherium. I like your dad. Jinokimijin handled that immersion mess so well.”

Miro grinned. “That’s him all over. He’s always been good at taking a bad situation in stride.” He shuddered. “And dying must have hurt, too, in full immersion.” Another shiver. “I’ve never been so relieved to escape an immersion before.”

Ardent stroked his back. “How bad was it? I didn’t realize how it’d affect you until it was too late – I should’ve—”

“No, you shouldn’t have,” Miro said, sternly. “Although I do appreciate you taking Loreveroro’s role for me. Even I didn’t realize how the immersion would set in until it did. Still, Wind Rider’s part was disorienting, but enjoyable, up until almost the end. Not being able to save Loreveroro was shocking. As if I’d lived my whole life thinking everything was sure to work out as I wanted. The entire revelation of the betrayal came out of nowhere from my perspective.” A half-laugh. “Though obvious enough from my true one. Of course Moon Etherium would make one of the Sun prince victims of the Sundering into a villain.”

Ardent wrinkled her nose. “Oh. That’s right. You don’t actually know the whole of it.”

“Mm?” Miro lifted his head from her shoulder to look at her face.    

“The idea wasn’t to blame the Sundering on one Sun Host prince. It was supposed to be a whole top-down Sun Host plot. Loreveroro knew the whole time. I was just waiting for the best time to muck it up.”

“Oh.” Miro’s long ears canted down. “Oh. And if I’d had Loreveroro’s part, I would have gone along with it. I’d not have had a choice. Fallen wanted my father and me in those roles.”

“Yeah. And sure, everyone would know ‘that’s not how it really went’, but…still. Not sure what she’s getting out of stirring up this old feud. Must be something.” Ardent stroked his hair, lost in thought.    

Miro gave a slight nod, feeling dangerously comfortable. He tried to focus on the concerns at hand, but it was much more pleasant to focus on how good it felt to be cuddling Ardent. To be safe, with someone he trusted, and away from the uncertain and questionable desires of the Moon’s High Court. It’s too bad you couldn’t have made your deal with someone like Ardent, Dad. But if you had, then I wouldn’t’ve been able to get Ardent’s help to rescue you. None of this would’ve worked.

His eyes closed. After a minute, he opened them again. “Have I started to snore yet?” he asked.

“Not yet.” Ardent kissed the top of his head, and Miro wanted to purr. “Should I put you to bed?”

In your bed? Absolutely. Share it with me this time? Miro forced himself to sit upright. “I think I can manage. But I’d best go now, or I will be leaving you with that chore. These mysteries will still be there in the morning.” He took her hand and kissed it. “Good night, my lady.”



Don't want to wait until the next post to read more? Buy The Moon Etherium now! Or check out the author's other books: A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements.