‘Fairest’ Snippet

It’s #RainbowSnippet time! Every Saturday, we Rainbow Snippeteers post six sentences of GLBT fiction to share. To check out some excellent samples of such fiction, go to #RainbowSnippets on Facebook.

Here’s mine. I’ve decided to share another teaser from ‘Fairest’, UNEDITED, since ‘Fairest’ is coming out on May 11, 2016. You can currently preorder it at prizmbooks.com.

‘I grasped the mirror by the sides. Despite its large size, it was surprisingly light. I looked into it. My reflection gazed back. She smiled. Her lips were blood red.’

Everyone who follows this Cauldron is more than welcome to come to ‘Fairest’s release party on Facebook, May 11, 2016. You can find the party at

https://www.facebook.com/events/1333158403367746/

 

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Z is for Zenobia

We understand your awe, but you would do well to avert your eyes. Yes, we are Zenobia, Queen of Calanthia. We are not simply one woman, but we represent everyone in our great nation. The Imperatrix of the North would not even exist, if not for us. (see ‘X is for Xian) It was our majesty, which gave her the idea of imitating it. It was our hand, which threw the spear, which freed that simple slave girl from the Serpent she served, making her a Imperatrix. It was our cooperation, which enabled Serena Jasior to create the slave collars and bracelets she used to subdue the magic users of her country. By right, the Imperatrix should have handed Stephen Jasior over to us, as a symbol of our alliance. Instead, she offers him up as a prize to anyone who can defeat him in the magic circle, allowing him to slaughter anyone whom defeats him. Meagre magical talent is still magical talent, which we could have used. It’s foolish and wasteful to simply snuff it out. Now, rumours of a golden haired maiden with the power of the Serpent herself has reached our ears. (see ‘K is for Kyra) This maiden has been seen walking free around the Empire. It is too much to bear. First, Serena denies us her brother’s hand in marriage, now she’s allowing the Serpent’s Brood dangerous liberties. We would march across the Imperial border, to express our extreme disatisfaction, but the Imperatrix has spies everywhere. She’s infiltrated the Order of the Dragon, which has too much power in Kalanthia. We cannot move openly yet, but it’s just a matter of time, before Serena makes a mistake. After all, she’s nothing more than a young, foolish slave, who seized power, which should never have been hers. Once she makes a mistake, we will show her the error of her ways. We’re certain she will make one in ‘A Suitor’s Challenge’, the book our author should be writing about us. Inform our author of your interest, if you wish to know the results of our conflict.

Y is for Yuri

Yes, I’m Yuri Cross. Don’t ask if I’m descended from Judith Cross, the famous artist. It shouldn’t matter who I’m descended from. I’m an artist in my own right. My work is nothing like Judith’s. She was a portrait artist, even if she did other things on the side. I’ve chosen to embrace my surreal side, which was more of a dark secret for her. Surrealism wasn’t really an art form, while Judith Cross was alive. More of a type of madness. I fear it’s becoming a madness for me, as well. Too much of my art comes from my nightmares. The setting changes, but the woman is always there. She’s pale, with long, dark red hair. Her hair is actually quite beautiful, but there’s nothing beautiful about her smile. Her lips literally slide off her teeth, exposing long, sharp fangs. I scream myself awake at this point of the nightmare, if I’m lucky. Sometimes, the woman chases me through an old house, filled with stairs. There’s a portrait on the wall. It’s of the same woman, who’s chasing me. Her painted mouth is moving, but I can’t hear what she’s saying. I can’t stay and listen. I have to keep running. I’ve managed to stay out of her reach, thus far. I wake up, before the redhaired woman can touch me. I keep dreaming about her, though. I try to paint what my nightmares, in an attempt to exorcise them from my mind, but my attempts are failing. Only a fraction of my dreams make it onto my canvas. I can never paint the woman, not entirely, just bits and pieces of her. Westerleigh loves these paintings. (see ‘W is for Westerleigh) He doesn’t care if they reveal a terrifying aspect of my psyche, any more than he cares if I’m male or female. I’m Yuri, which is enough for him. It means more to me than I’ll ever admit, his acceptance. How could I be any less accepting of him? Even when he does things, which seem reckless, or unwise. This was why I swallowed my fears, when ‘Leigh showed me a letter from his long lost cousin, Fiona Hartford. (see ‘F is for Fiona’) Fiona lives in a great old house, which belonged to Westerleigh’s ancestor, Elizabeth Hartford. Westerleigh is in love with every tale, trinket, or sketch, which has anything to do with Elizabeth. He’s so proud to be descended from a mad magician, obsessed with immortality. Well, he’s also proud to be friends with a crazy artist of ambiguous gender. One learns to smile indulgently at ‘Leigh’s pride. For years, he’s wanted to visit Hartford Hall, to see Elizabeth’s portrait hanging on its wall. Portraits of strange women in an old house? Not to mention it’s Elizabeth Hartford, of all people. Yes, I know about Judith’s affair with her. I’ve ever read some of Judith’s letters, so I know Elizabeth became the source of many a nightmare for her. All of this is way too close to my own nightmares for comfort! Not for Westerleigh. An invitation to come to Hartford Hall for a dream come true for him. Only that was the catch. Fiona Hartford was very keen to meet any other ‘female descendants’ of Elizabeth Hartford. Yes, she was under the impression that Westerleigh was a girl. ‘Leigh thought of confessing the truth, but he *really* wanted to visit Hartford Hall. Dressing in drag seemed like a small price to pay for seeing it at last. It struck me as a really bad idea, but when ‘Leigh asked me to turn him into a girI, I couldn’t say no. Not, when he was looking at me with those big, soulful eyes, brimming with childish hope. Besides, I’d secretly fantasized about dressing Westerleigh Hartford up in white lace for years. I had an antique gown in my closet I really wanted to see him in. Sure enough, ‘Leigh was as lovely as any Gothic heroine, once I put him in the dress. Off he went to Hartford Hall, every inch a girl. Well, almost every inch. I haven’t heard from him, since. I’m starting to worry about him. I’m starting to worry about me, too. My nightmares are coming true, at least a little. I’m starting to see the redhaired woman in my dreams, in the corner of my eye. Sometimes, she’s outside the cafe I visit, looking through the window. Sometimes, she’s walking down the street. Other times, she’s been right outside my bedroom window. Always looking, but not really seeing me. She can’t find me, not yet. She’s searching for me, though. What will I do, when she finally catches a glimpse of me? I’m not sure if I want to find out. If you want to find out, let our author know. Westerleigh and myself are part of an idea she had, when she wrote ‘E is for Elizabeth’ and ‘F is for Fiona’. The idea has a story title, ‘A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words’. If you’d like that idea to become a story, let our author know. Not that I’m sure if you should. I don’t want the woman from my nightmares to come any closer to me, than she already has.

X is for Xian

Once, I was called Xian. It was the secret name my master gave me. She revealed it to no one, even though I betrayed her. Xian became Serena Jasior. Serena and Xian betrayed Nevalyn, so we could become Imperatrix. We gave Zenobia our master’s secrets, so Zenobia could forge the spear, which she could drive into the Nevalyn’s breast, sending her into the Abyss. Zenobia gave us the secret of forging the slave collars, ankle, and wrist bracelets, which we could use to bind the Serpent’s brood. Only one has ever escaped these bindings. We still don’t know how Kyra Nevalyn did it, but we will uncover her secrets. After all, Kyra has fallen into our hands, once more, hasn’t she? We thought we’d lost her, once she escaped the chains. She never saw our face, not truly. She doesn’t know we’re the Imperatrix. It’s hard, after ruling as Serena Jasior to go back to becoming ‘Xian’. We need to do so, for our little brother’s sake. Yes, we have a little brother. He’s not truly our blood. You only have to look at his golden hair, as well as his shifting eyes, which change from blue to gold to know he’s one of the Serpent’s brood. We found him, when we searching for the Serpent’s kin. You see, when Zenobia drove her spear into Nevalyn, my master cast a curse upon us. We’re no longer be able to use any of the magic she’d taught us. The knowledge is still there, but the power is not. We need people with magical power, so we can draw on their energy to fuel our spells. The slave bracelets and collars are very useful, in binding those people, so they’re of one mind with the one holding their chain. We intended to bind this child, but one look in his eyes, and I…we…hesitated. We took the little boy home, cleaned him up, and fed him. We gave him a name, Stephen Jasior. Yes, we adopted him, making him our own brother. I think we must have loved him, a little. We dressed him in finery, gave him an education, and made him the proper princeling. Xian also taught him everything she knew, well, almost everything. I do have a few secrets I must keep, even from Serena’s heir. Begone, self! We are the Imperatrix. We will continue to speak, as one. We were discussing Stephen Jasior. Every other magic user we either bound with the chain, or inducted into the Order of the Dragons. Not Stephen. Any gentleness we had within us, we bestowed upon him. And how did he repay us? He challenged any one, who wished for his hand in marriage, to meet him in the magical dueling circle. He promised to marry the victor, as well as to hand over to her (or him) half of our empire, if the challenger could defeat him! As if Stephen had the right to hand out our empire like that! We demanded to know what the boy was doing. Stephen said not to worry. No one would defeat him. If anyone did, well, a powerful magic user would be revealed, wouldn’t they? One we could bind to the service of the Empire, or induct into the Dragons. I should have recognized my master’s smile on his face, when he spoke. For Stephen is still one of Nevalyn’s brood. Ever since he issued his challenge, he has defeated and killed every single one of his suitors. Such a waste of magic! I could have used those mages, even if we were weak. No one can enter the magic circle, so I’ve been unable to save any of Stephen’s suitors, or victims. Not once combat has begun between the two magic users. Or so I thought, until Kyra Nevalyn did it. She appeared, out of nowhere, to walk right into the circle. She blocked Stephen’s power, right when Stephen was about to dispatch yet another foolish suitor. Did she want to save the girl that badly? Or was she stopping Stephen from doing something he truly did not wish to do? Yes, Kyra drew our attention to the fact that Stephen might be acting the way he is, because of a curse. On a whim, I decided to become an individual, again, hiding the identity of Serena Jasior, Imperatrix. I played the part of Xian, once more, in Kyra’s presence. I whisked Kyra away from the circle, dodging my own Dragon guards. I introduced myself as Xian, the servant of a powerful noblewoman. I talked to Kyra, using as soft speech, as I could. I’ve managed to gain her trust. I’ve offered matronage to her, as a potential suitor for Stephen’s hand, in the name of my fictional mistress. We failed with the collar and bracelet to keep Kyra, when we captured her long ago. Perhaps honeyed words can achieve what chains failed to do. Besides, she does appear to be the only one with a chance of saving Stephen from whatever ails him. I must play along with Kyra, be her ally, even be her friend, if I am to save him from my old master’s grasp. For we can now see my master; in his face, in his smile, and in his words. How long she’s been possessing Stephen, we don’t know. We must save him, by any means possible. If those means include allying ourselves with a member of the Serpent’s Brood, we will do so. Besides, it’s an excellent opportunity to study Kyra Nevalyn, to discover her weaknessness. When we do eventually put the slave bracelet upon Kyra, it will stay on. You can read about all of this, once our author pulls all our fragments of story together into something complete. We believe she’s considering calling it, ‘A Suitor’s Challenge’. If you would be interested in reading more about us, inform our author. It may motivate our author to spend more time on ‘A Suitor’s Challenge’, turning it into a complete novella, or novel.

W is for Westerleigh

Hello, I’m Westerleigh Hartford. Yes, I look exactly like some dewy gothic heroine, don’t I, with my golden hair, large blue eyes, and flowing skirts, which hide my figure. You’d never suspect I wasn’t a girl. Yuri did a really good job of disguising me, didn’t s/he? Actually, I’m not sure if Yuri himself is a pretty boy, or an androgynous girl, although I lean towards the former. Not that it matters. Yuri is Yuri, all spiky bangs hiding in an elfin face, with paint under nails, which have been bitten too many times. Yuri Cross is one of the few people, who knows my secret. You see, I’ve always loved old houses with history attached to them. I love history, as well as the legends attached to old houses. I’ve also had this crush/admiration on my ancestor, Elizabeth Hartford, for years. (see ‘E is for Elizabeth’) She was an educated woman, twice the man of any man. Twice the woman, too. She studied magic, wrote extensively, traveled, and had any number of lovers, including the painter, Judith Cross. Judith painted Elizabeth’s portrait, which hangs on the wall at Hartford Hall. I have copies of the portrait, which my mother handed down to me, but I longed to see the original my entire life. Hartford Hall is private, you see. You can only visit by invitation of its current lady, Fiona Hartford. (see ‘F is for Fiona’) Fiona practically never leaves. She didn’t know very much about Elizabeth’s other descendants. She thought I was a girl. When Fiona sent me a letter, saying how much she’d love to meet another ‘daughter’ of Elizabeth’s maternal line, how there were things she could only tell another female descendant of the Hartfords, I realized I had the chance of a lifetime. Cross dressing seemed a small deception to commit for this chance. It’s not like masculinity had ever been one of my strong suits. A lot of people mistook me for a girl, anyway. Yuri thought this deception was a really bad idea, but s/he helped me, anyway. Even provided me with the gothic lace outfit I’m wearing now. Off I went to Hartford Hall in drag; eager to meet Fiona, to see the Hall, and above all, to see the portrait of Elizabeth. When I got there, I realized nothing was what it seemed. Fiona ran around in a labcoat, all wild eyed as any mad scientist, but spouting off the most superstitious drivel I’d ever heard! At least, I thought it was drivel, until I saw Elizabeth’s portrait. Her painted eyes looked right back at me and she started speaking in my head. I thought I was going mad, but Elizabeth would have none of that. She claimed to a ghost, attached the portrait, but her body was still alive, possessed by a demon, or a vampire. I wasn’t clear on which, since the body is keeping itself young and beautiful, by drinking blood. This sounds like a vampire, but Elizabeth insists it’s a demon. She says we have to find her body and destroy it. ‘We’ meaning ‘I’. She’s quite insufferable about her quest, ordering me around, as if my body were hers to command, simply because I’m descended from her! Hardly the meeting I hoped to have with my childhood idol. However, things are going to get worse. Elizabeth claims the entity in her body is looking for the descendant of Judith Cross. This creature needs that descendant’s life’s blood, or life force, in order to continue its eternal existence. It’s connected to Elizabeth’s painting, just as Elizabeth’s ghost is. All this is bad enough, but a horrible thought occurred to me. Yuri’s last name is Cross. S/he’s made comments about his/her ancestor being an artist, how s/he got the talent from her. I’d think s/he’d have mentioned it, if Judith Cross was his ancestor? Or perhaps not. I’m remembering all the bad dreams Yuri used to have, the hollows under his eyes, because s/he couldn’t sleep. In his rare, unguarded moments, s/he’d say something was coming after him, constantly, in his dreams. Yuri used to say a lot of strange things, but after what I’ve seen, I’m starting to worry. I don’t dare tell Elizabeth or Fiona about Yuri, though. They want to find Yuri, too, supposedly to save Yuri from the demon/vampire possessing Elizabeth’s body, but is that all they’re trying to do? I must find out more of what they’re up to, for Yuri’s sake. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to, if my author writes my story, ‘A Portrait is Worth a Thousand Words’. If you’d be interested in reading more about this, please let my author know. It might encourage her to come up with more than simply blogs and a title, relating to this.

V is for Vanessa

Yes, I know you can’t help staring, but could you make it a little less obvious? I suppose one should make allowances for common folks. My beauty does have a tendency to make everyone speechless. Unless Duessa, I, Vanessa Ashelocke, actually have the Ashelocke raven hair, the alabaster skin, and the traditional blood purple eyes. What? How dare you suggest my eyes are fuschia?! They are bloody purple golden of a sunset! Ask anyone! Yes, I have only six eyes and six arms, while Duessa Ashelocke has the full eight. Not that any of you could tell. As far as human eyes can see, I have only two eyes and two arms. Only the very special can see my additional four eyes and arms. As for Duessa, you’d have to be something quite extraordinary to see all eight of her arms and eyes. I’d be tempted to devour you on the spot. Oh, don’t look so frightened. Unlike Duessa, I try to save myself for my marriage feasts, but I do get carried away by my passions, from time to time. What is a marriage feast? Why, it’s our most sacred, special tradition as arachnocrats! It’s the source of a lady’s extra arms and eyes, not to mention the happiest day of a boy’s life, along with the most glorious end! Every arachnocratic boy looks forward to his marriage feast. It takes place, usually when he’s around sixteen. Once his feast is announced, for a season before, he’s treated like a prince. There are unending festivals, where he’s the center of everything. There’s at least one sweet and one savory shower, where everyone brings the bridegroom tasty treats, ‘showering’ him with treats, so to speak. It’s considered good manners to inculde the bridegroom’s favorites among them. The day of the marriage feast is spent with the bridegroom being bathed, oiled, dressed, anointed, and his hair adorned with flowers. His boyfriends spend their last hours with him, singing and sharing stories with him. Female friends and relatives can be present, but it’s a day mostly for the boys. The bride, of course, cannot see him before the feast. There was a time, when a bridegroom ate too many treats, before the feast. He got too fat, so he was no longer remotely appetizing. Upon seeing him, his bride refused to have him. So emasculated was he that he killed himself that very night. As a result, It’s considered very bad luck to see the bridegroom, before the marriage feast. The bride must wait, until the evening, when the feast begins. Before the bridegroom enters the chamber, garden, or standing stones where the feast takes place, he’s injected with the Bridegroom’s Bliss. This is usually administered by the bridegroom’s guardian via her fangs, although there have been a few times, when the guardian has been male. Venom is gathered from the closest female relative to make the drug, which the guardian gives to the bridegroom in a ceremonial cup. What is the Bridegroom’s Bliss? This is a drug, which ensures the bridegroom feels no pain, or terror, during the feast, only bliss. The guardian leads the bridegroom to the location of the feast. There’s usually a public area, where the bride and her ladies wait to undergo the opening ritual to the feast, as well as the private location, where the feast itself takes place. The bridegroom’s guardian leads her charge to the public area. He walks down the aisle, where every lady there can drink deeply of his beauty, and admire him. The bride waits at the end of the aisle. She, too, is magnificently attired for this occasion, for she wants to look her very best for her sweetmeat. Sometimes a few of the bridegrooms’ male friends are allowed into the public part of the feast, but I think it’s a mistake. Damian Ashelocke, Duessa’s pretty little nephew, was allowed to attend during one of his aunts’s feasts, where the bridegroom was his boyfriend. It was too much for the poor chilld, I fear. It may explain his strange reluctance to become a bridegroom himself, but I digress. In the olden days, the bridegroom was placed upon a dais, where he lay, while every lady approached and touched him, encouraging his passion. I find that practice crude and voyeuristic, not to mention disrespectful to the bridegroom. It hearkens back to a time, when every lady at a marriage feast fed upon the bridegroom. Now a days, the bridegroom’s hand is simply placed in the hand of his bride. The bride says a few words about how the bridegroom’s beauty will live within her forever, nourishing her future daughters, giving her fair, strong arms, with which to further his inner magic. For arachnocratic boys can’t cast magic themselves, poor things. They’re prettier than any other boys in existence, have enchanting voices, and a gift for making anyone listen to what they say, but they have no true magic. Well, a few have been able to tear their magic loose from within themselves, but it’s been at a terrible price. The magic bleeds and leaks all over the place, driving the boy mad in the process. No sane youth would ever do such a thing, when his magic can be safely ingested by his bride. This is what happens, during the marriage feast. Within a private chamber, the bride consummates her marriage with her bridegroom and devours him. If she’s a lady, she’ll make certain the consummation is pure ecstacy. Quite a few ladies practice on willing (and unwilling) victims to make certain they’re quite skilled, before taking a virgin bridegroom into her web. The feast itself can involve either swallowing the bridegroom whole, or draining him of blood, or vitality. What’s important is the bridegroom’s life force, along with his magic, is taken into the bride. Once the feast is complete, she’ll find herself growing an extra pair of arms. An additional pair of eyes opens upon her face. She may even be pregnant, with a daughter, if she’s lucky. What happens to the bridegroom, after his life force is ingested? Well, pardon my lack of delicacy, but you must have noticed we have no grown men among us. All our males are young, sweet and unmarried. Almost every arachnocratic boy becomes a bridegroom. Once he’s been feasted upon, he’s no longer a part of this world. There’s never an unsightly corpse, though! Our bridegrooms become translucent, crystalline statues, leaving behind a beautiful shell of their former selves. A former bride places them in her garden, or other places of respect, honoring their part in her growth in power. After all, she wouldn’t have her extra arms, or any daughters, if not for them, would she? Don’t look at me like that! It’s a great honour to be a bridegroom. If a lady doesn’t want a boy as her marriage feast, it means he’s undesirable. Other boys start teasing him, calling him ‘left overs’. I can’t understand why Damian doesn’t want to be a marriage feast! He’s perfectly delectable, bursting with power, just waiting to be devoured! We’re both Ashelockes, so he’s guaranteed to give me a beautiful set of arms, as well as a powerful daughter! Duessa really should discourage him from trying to develop magic of his own! I’ve never seen her act so foolishly indulgent of a boy before! It’s as if he administered Bridegroom’s Bliss to her! Well, it’s of no matter. Damian Ashelocke must come around. After after, a wedding feast is the only possible ending to an arachnocratic boy’s life and I’m the only bride worthy of him. Soon, he’ll have to accept my embrace, along with me. I just need to be patient and wait.

Snippet of ‘Fairest’

Here is a snippet of my upcoming f/f fantasy femslashy novella, ‘Fairest’. It’s being released May 11, 2016 by #prizmbooks.com.

There are some amazing snippets of GLBT fiction at #RainbowSnippets on Facebook. Check them out!

“Once upon a time, she was the kingdom’s greatest treasure. Now, she is its greatest sorrow,” the good witch murmured. The anguish in her voice made my chest tighten in pain. I didn’t know why. “She was the fairest of them all.” With a visible effort, she turned her head. She looked at me, as if she were forcing herself to see me. “You’ve met her. She’s the one who put the curse on you.”