Hadrian makes his move

Miss Lyria? Might I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

She stepped towards him, extricating herself from the giggling knot, but not otherwise making any move to leave. Did she expect him to ask her here, right now? Well, of course she would. Serpents were voyeurs—or at least, not shy. Damn. Would it be offensive to ask them to leave? Or ask her to leave with him? That’s what he was doing, indirectly, asking if she’d be open to more private conversation. So why was he waffling now?

Damn it all, this was exactly why he’d resolved to do things his way, on avian terms. He just couldn’t hope to keep up with the delicate dance of serpent flirtation. If he had any hope of holding his own, it would have to be by avian standards, safe within avian tradition.

Do or die.

“Miss Lyria. I would like very much to go walking with you. To court you. After the avian fashion.”

His throat began to tighten, the familiar nervous cough building in the back of his throat. He could do this. He would do this. Do or die.

“I hate to ask it in such coarse terms, but I have been entertaining the idea for a while now, and this is the only way I can see to manage it. I am not a demonstrative man,  as you may have noticed, and quite frankly, the idea of a serpentine courtship terrifies me. But I am not so naive as to be unaware of the natural progression of relations between a man and a woman, and I see no reason why we could not do the same. In time. If you’re amiable. And we decide we actually like each other. That is. Oh dear.”

It had all gone so much better when he’d proposed to the apple trees.

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OC Interview

Been doing a lot of fun stuff over on ye olde tumblr and I thought I’d share this little tidbit with you all here on the blog. I think it turned out surprisingly well. It’s always nice to be reminded that the main three seem to carry on when I’m not looking. They came into this interview feeling one way (impacted by events that I’m currently unaware of), and worked some stuff out and went on to have a perfectly lovely time (I assume). Either way, I hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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Playing

Seven of Pentacles, Ace of Wands, Ten of Cups

We are born into it. From before our first breaths, we are rocked by our mother’s dancing, soothed by the songs on her lips. We sway with our first steps, we sing before we can speak. And underneath it all, the knowledge, the promise, that all of this down for Her. That all things of the body are Li’Daea’s gift. That all our pleasure is done in offering to her.

But, when touch isn’t a pleasure, when song doesn’t move your heart… Because you know every drumbeat carries expectation. Because that thrill of nervousness in the pit of your stomach isn’t excitement. It’s dread.

We are born into it. This idea that love and beauty and song and flesh are one and the same. That to celebrate the Goddess that made us all, we are to worship with tongues and teeth and body, that every body is her temple and every prayer is whispered on lovers’ lips, pressed and sealed with a hungry kiss. She is craving, she is Life, and what speaks more of life than the act of creation itself? Even those pairings that don’t result in children…

It is still expected. We are born into it. We are serpents. We dance, and the Goddess smiles. We sing, and she sings back. We kiss, and the world is made anew.

And we hide…

Why would we hide?

I am thirteen and have never felt the stirrings of desire. It will come, they tell me. No rush to spoil my youth. But every smile is knowing. Every eye is casting about that that special glance, that certain someone. There is no one. And I do not feel it a lack. But soon…

I have watched my friends couple off one by one, swelling in the flowers of their adulthood. It will come, they say. No need to rush.

But no need at all?

We are born into it. We are serpents. We dance.

So why does the thought turn my stomach?

Star, Hierophant, Knight of Pentacles

“What makes you think there’s something wrong with you, dear?”

Mikey squirmed in the doorway. He hadn’t even come all the way into the room, and already Adelina had cut right to the root of the problem. Of course.

(break to find what Queen of Swords has to say, cause that’s clearly the advice Addy’s gonna give him)

Six of Pentacles, Queen of Swords, The Devil–Be yourself, Dingo 😛

“You have to make time for just yourself, Mikey. I know you love Donnie, and you’re right, he does need you. But you need you too.”

He stared into his teacup, watching the leaves swirl around the bottom. “Is that even allowed?”

So many things he wasn’t sure of. So many questions—no, not questions, really. Things he wanted, and knew he couldn’t have.

“Why not?”

Adelina’s answer startled him. He’d forgotten he’d even asked a question. Probably because it wasn’t one, really. They both knew that. But she did him the courtesy of acting like it was one. That was one of the things he liked best about Adelina. She went along with him, pretended his worries and concerns carrying just as much weight as real problems.

A spill of pale hair fell into his vision. He looked up.

Adelina was kneeling in front of him, waiting for his eyes to meet hers. He hesitated, but the other choice was staring at her chest, or letting his eyes fall back to his cup. Both seemed equally stupid. So he met her gaze, even though it made him want to just curl in on himself.

“Why not, Mikey? Why don’t you think what you want counts? Why aren’t your problems real?”

He couldn’t look at her and speak. He just couldn’t. Her eyes were too intense, too focused. She really saw him, and that made him nervous.

“I don’t like it when people look at me.”

“I know sweetie. But you’re not looking at yourself. Somehow has to.”

He gave in to the urge to ball up. He felt bad about his sneakers on her couch, but he felt worse under the demand of her gaze.

“I don’t matter. This is stupid.”

She didn’t even have to speak. He could feel her watching, waiting patiently for him to acknowledge what was truly stupid about this whole exchange.

“I know I matter.” The silence stretched, everything about Adelina perfectly still and perfectly at ease. It was almost like she wasn’t even there. Just a quiet… openness, waiting for him to continue. The pressure built in his chest, sending his words spilling out when he finally gave them voice.

“But it so much easier to just ignore it! When I’m focused on Donnie, I can– Usually, I just… It’s not so bad. Not really…”

He was going to throw up. Gods, there wasn’t even anyone else around, and he still felt like he always did when people were… doing things…

“Why do I feel this way? Everyone talks about butterflies, but they say it like it’s a good thing. I feel like I’m literally going to be sick, and if I could just throw up and get it over with—but it never gets any better. When I think about—when I try to imagine what it would be like…”

“I feel him sometimes. Donnie. I can feel him… doing things. I can tell he likes it, but it makes about as much sense as liking eating live slugs. I feel like the whole world is crazy and I’m the only one that understands that having someone else’s tongue in your mouth is just awful! Why do people do it?”

“I can’t say.” Adelina’s voice was soft, patient. Her usual easy, neutral calm. “No one can, I’d imagine. It’s for each person to discover what they do and don’t like in a partner. If anything.”

Ch 7 Part 1

 

In which Naj is introduced to a wide variety of dancing.

Coming down from the garden stairs, Nica spotted movement in the scaffolding just above the stage. Travis was realigning lighting and straightening cords along the heavy beams. She wondered if he had only just woken up to take care of it, but let the thought go. He was working on it and that was what mattered.

She hadn’t realized her steps had slowed to watch the pup. Naj had slowed as well and she took the opportunity to gesture to the man on the catwalk. “That’s Travis, he does a lot of the lighting for our shows. If you have any interest in learning to do that, he’s actually a good teacher for the technical aspects of stage work.”

Nica didn’t add that it was one of the few areas in which Travis showed any discipline or gravity. She liked that the pup was light-hearted, it helped boost the whole nest.

Travis. The wolf. He was one of the dancers Naj was finding it easier to remember. Probably because of his own time in the rafters. Perhaps he would have an affinity for the work up here as well as the wolf.

I just might have an interest, at that. “a’parn’ei.

He eyed the metal walkways, trying to connect this perspective with the much lower vantage point he’d had as a serpent. It was disconcerting, to be both familiar and unfamiliar with the space, but as far as he could tell, it would offer neither help nor hindrance to him, so he let it go.

As they moved further downstairs, Nica took advantage of the tight space to lean in to Naj as she spoke. “The stage is open for general practice until three. Most people will work on the dances they intend to perform that night, but it’s also an excellent time to test a performance on the stage to see how it fits the space. When someone is working with the lights, it can also be a good time to see if you’ll need any special consideration with the lighting for your performance.”

She held the handrail as she stepped down to the second balcony, leaning against it as she stood a moment to consider the stage. No one was currently dancing, as an impromptu meeting seemed to be happening in the center. Nica fell silent as she watched the exchange, which mostly seemed to consist of Emily patiently saying something, to Marie bouncing in place as she animatedly talked with her hands in return. Lena and Nat were watching the conversation silently, following the points back and forth as if it were a tennis match.

The group broke apart when Carrie interceded. The short blonde’s charming smile never wavered and whatever she said left the group laughing as they moved off stage.

Knowing the fox, it was probably at her husband’s expense. Matthew’s good natured scowl as he joined Carrie on stage confirmed Nica’s theory. The wolf seemed to enjoy being overly serious and she suspected he did it more now to play up being Carrie’s straightman than from any actual dour mood on his own part. As the pair of them posed in various places on stage and began discussing where to start their dance, Nica turned her attention back to the serpent at her side.

My favorite part of practice time is simply watching everyone. I often will sit at one of the tables and offer suggestions, since I can offer the audience’s viewpoint. It also gives me an idea of what sort of show we’ll be putting on at any given time.” She glanced at the clock over the bar, nodding when she confirmed it was only a little after noon. “I’d actually like to watch the rest of practice today to see where the nest stands currently… You’re welcome to join me if you like.”

a’Parn, eija. I would like that very much.”

She nodded with a smile. “I thought you might.”

Nica settled in her chair, looking over as Naj did the same. Whatever she’d been about to say was derailed by the overhead lights flashing off, then back on.

She leaned over to quietly explain, “The flashing lights mean we’re about to start a rehearsal piece, potentially several in a row – we don’t often do complete run-throughs of the night’s show, as we put on several a night, but sometimes we do a few in a set if we need to see how the songs pace together.”

Naj simply nodded and took his seat, facing the stage without a word. He would not interrupt this for the world. Intellectually, he knew this was merely a practice, nothing serious, but he still brought to it every ounce of gravity and respect he would for any performance. These were his nestmates, and how their footfalls sounded, his heart would follow.

Travis flashed another light to signal he was ready and the music started with a jaunty beat as Abba’s “Does Your Mother Know” filled the air around them. Matthew and Carrie started at opposite ends of the stage, each tapping one foot in time to the music, before Carrie started across the stage determinedly. Then stopped dead.

The music shifted abruptly, an all too familiar rift, with a counterpoint of shouts and groans.

Chris!” Matthew stalked across the stage toward the soundbox, fists clenched, the warm musk of alpha wolf rising. His words were a low growl, ground out from between clenched teeth. “What are you doing? We are trying to practice.”

Chris just grinned, holding up a finger. “Wait for it…”

Carrie was right behind her husband, small hand wrapping around his very muscular arm. “Chris, you know better. We voted as nest, no more Rick Rol-”

But it wasn’t Rick Astley. In a masterful, unlikely blend, the auto-tune vocals layered over the classic pop beat.

Dog goes woof, cat goes meow…”

More groans, but a squeal of glee covered it all. Marie burst from behind the curtains, arms flailing like a mad muppet, screaming something about “her FAAAV!” as her tail whapped everyone in her path. Nica stared, torn between bewilderment and amusement. Just as she decided to do something—she didn’t know what– the music cut to a halt.

Enough.”

Kain scooped Marie up by the waist, tail still happily circling. He turned on Chris, leaning against the soundbox, grasping his side, gasping out “Worth it! Worth it!”

Video transcript: Happy April Fool’s! When I saw the update day fell on April Fool’s, I couldn’t resist. I did, however, restrain myself, largely because I was straying into spoiler territory. So, you’re welcome, or I’m sorry. Whichever. Either way, I promise real dancing next week, and none of this *queue Rick Astley and Yvlis*

Outtake: First Person Naj

Naj’s “voice” gives me fits. He is easily my hardest character to write, flowing easily one moment, running off on wild tangents the next. Sometimes, these tangents work, sometimes, he says something like “Dude!” and I have to seriously consider if it fits or doesn’t. Naj is magpie (not literally, he’s a serpent :P), collecting mannerisms and attitudes from those around him. It makes him extremely difficult to nail down, and this is before I throw in all the complications of his “otherness”.

So, I do a lot of writing exercises with Naj. One of those is the following, where I attempted to retell the first chapter of Asylum in First Person POV, through his eyes. It’s …a fun piece? Even now, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. FP is just not for me. But that’s from a writer perspective. Enjoy!

If I were to tell you the story of how I came to Asylum, I would start in its rafters. This is not the beginning of the story, as no story every truly has a beginning or an end, but it is the first memory I have of the place, so that is where I would start. It is the place I would have stayed, if my first memory had not also been an imperative: Midnight. Don’t be late.

I didn’t remember who I was. I didn’t remember why I was here. As I slipped from the rafters, the best I could remember was human hands. It is always my hands that bring me back to myself. Every time I am lost, I come to my hands first, trailing them over every surface I can, experiencing the world through my skin when I cannot explore it through scales. Slick lacquer chairs, polished table tops, smooth, buttery leather of overstuffed couches. The cold bite of the metal railing, never warming under my hand because I never stop moving, down, down, down the stairs, out of the clouds, into the din.

Perhaps it was my hunger to return to my own scales, to run back to the rafters and hide again in the hot dark. Perhaps, I really was hungry for my own kind, though I had no memory of sensing kin. Perhaps, I was more hungry for life, and passion, heartbeats—Devin’s skin glowed with it. Pearly, translucent skin stained in the delicate blue reds of blood, hot with lust and anger and fear. All of the strongest emotions, all singing just below those shimmering scales.

I should have known no mortal scales would shine so clearly with life. But my own scales were an equal anomaly, where they not? I can just rationalize now all I like, but in the moment, I was as purely serpent as one can be—utterly in the moment. Scales called to scales, and I rejoiced in hers and my own, though I knew she was frightened. The bitter bite of it was so common to me, I doubt it would have swayed my choice, had I actually made one. But no. I had acted on instinct, and on ingrained habit when she ushered me away. She was in command here, and was to be followed.

Even then, I think I knew something was not quite right, but what did I have to compare to? I followed, and the story you know as Asylum followed after.