Queen of Autumn Leaves: Prologue
Posted 06 December 2009 - 11:58 PM
Jenitra stood in the clearing, breathing in the energies from the earth, feeling power wash through her body, from the tips of her fingernails to the soles of her feet. A chilly September wind rushed around her form, a series of leaves riding the breeze. The leaves caressed her body as the gentle zephyr passed around her. The dehydrated foliage stuck to her hair and skin, joining the uncountable number of leaves already there.
The night sky was dark and starless; the air was cool, but not freezing cold. Jenitra basked in the blackness, holding her breast to the heavens, closing her eyes, her face showing extreme pleasure. She stood like this for unknown breadths of time, bathing in the cool autumn air.
At length, she opened her eyes. A chill wind abruptly passed through her thin dress and withered the leaves adhered there. Feeling a sudden presence behind her, Jenitra turned to see a man with a white beard and a short robe standing strongly on the grass. He stepped forward, and frost crept quickly over the leaves that laid on the ground. “Gnorran. I thought I sensed your fell presence.”
Gnorran smiled, a smile without warmth. “Jenitra…my darling sister…is that how you treat me, after we have been apart for so very long?” Gnorran took a step towards her.
Jenitra met Gnorran’s eyes, challenging him with a glare that stopped him in his tracks. “What news forces me to see your face once again, Gnorran?” Her gaze turned from icy to positively venomous. “Or are you finally making your assault?”
Gnorran was aware of a few patches of leaves near Jenitra’s feet shiver in what could have been anticipation. “Of course not, dear sister. I would never do anything to wound you. I am merely here to inform you…” He paused. His face was serious, but it was not fancy that allowed Jenitra to see a smile behind his countenance. “Our sister is dead.”
Jenitra started. “Fiethys is…dead? If this is some deception, Gnorran, Tir na Nog help me…”
“He speaks the truth, would that he wasn‘t,” came a voice from behind Gnorran. Gnorran did not turn as a spindly man came from the shadows with a flourish. He nodded at the two already there. “Jenitra. Gnorran.”
“Aramis,” responded Jenitra.
“What the miser says is true,” said Aramis, leaning back, “Fiethys has been swept from this world. I saw the scene myself, and it was a most grisly sight. I had to cleanse myself after just attending to it.” Aramis mimed wiping his hands.
“And have you also seen the sight, Gnorran?”
“No,” responded Gnorran. “I’m afraid it might have been too horrid for my sensibilities.”
“Are you sure you weren’t there?” asked Jenitra darkly.
“I fear I do not know why I would attend, dear sister.”
“The killer?” asked Jenitra, turning to Aramis suddenly.
“Unfound, my sister,” responded Aramis, shrugging his shoulders. “The Court is sending an inquisition, but,” his smirk widened, “would you ever admit to such wrongdoing?”
There was a pause then between the siblings, emotion hanging in the air. Gnorran was ultimately the one to break it. “How long has it been since we last met like this?”
“Decades upon decades,” said Jenitra. In her opinion, it was not long enough, especially for Fiethys.
“Yes…” murmured Gnorran, with a tiny smile. “We must be sure to meet like this again…soon.”
“Mundane measurements of time,” laughed Aramis, “Why do you insist on using such trifles?” He stretched towards the sky. “So…the Queen of Summer Seedlings is dead. Now…who holds sway over her former dominion?”
Gnorran opened his mouth to speak, but was suddenly interrupted by a high pitched noise. Aramis, Gnorran, and Jenitra paused, unable to figure out the noise. When it repeated, the identity was clear; it was a babe’s cry. The three moved toward the origin of the noise, and did not walk far before seeing the child.
The child lay on the ground in swaddling clothes of green leaves, her skin damp and her tiny mouth open wide, crying to wake the dead. Jenitra cupped the child’s head and lifted her into her arms. She could barely see a shining gold rim on the child’s forehead.
She turned to her brothers. Aramis simply looked amused, as he often did. Gnorran, however, looked nothing less than shocked at the appearance of the child. Jenitra looked at the two of them, then, as if daring them to dispute her, said, “The Queen is dead.” She looked down at the child. “Long live the Queen.”
Posted 07 December 2009 - 02:05 PM
Inside, he unwrapped the scarf he was wearing and basked in the warmth, so delicious after the frosty nip outside. As his eyes wandered, he contemplated again about the interests of his boss. According to Barbecue himself, there was a time he and a group of others went out to find hidden treasure. A romantic life to be sure, but not exactly a stable one. After it was over, he kept his fascinations alive by becoming a pirate maniac which eventually led to this.
The Jolly Roger was designed to look like the inside of an old-fashioned inn, perhaps copied after that one pirate movie with Depp. The decor was further enlivened with murals of famous pirates of literature and history alike, with displays of flintlocks and sabers and such with a sign that claimed "authentic". But the crowning piece was an actual Jolly Roger that hung behind the wet bar which grinned at all customers that dared to come. It was certainly an interesting place to work, and he was a good boss despite his eccentries.
Just don't say "ninja" in front of him.
As he strode back to the wet bar, he plucked up a rag and began to automatically wipe down without really thinking. Because as he was, one of the best reasons he worked there came out of the back dressed for her classes.
Jessica Syn. Half-British, half-goddess and one of the nicest people he'd ever met. Almost automatically, his head went down to avoid eye-contact. As he concentrated on a non-existent stain he heard the click of her heels as she came his way.
What a voice. He looked up and smiled back. "Goodnight Jessica, good luck on your quiz tonight." She laughed and said "thanks, I'm really gonna need it." And with that she was out the door. James put down the rag and put his head in his hands.
God, he was pathetic.
From the direction of the kitchen, a rough voice said "so how' bout now?"
"I just went down without firing a single shot."
"Don't worry, a few years from now and you might finally speak complete sentences in front of her."
"Your a riot as always Barbecue."
Posted 07 December 2009 - 05:19 PM
The mid-sized SUV was moving at 40 mph on a small road in the dark September night. It threw shiny yellow and red reflections in a small pond by the road. On the shore stood a young deer, which kept on looking at the car's lights long after the car itself had been swallowed by the darkness.
The inside of the car was hot like after a day in the sun, but neither of the occupants seemed to care. They were two college boys on their way back to their dormitory after a long day in Indianapolis, the capital of the state of Indiana. While the driver was completely sober, the passenger, a young man with a goatee... was not. He was leaning forward without his seat belt on, furiously rummaging through the glove compartment. When he found a blank CD cover, he quickly looked inside, then threw it in the backseat before starting the search again.
"What do you think, Andy?" he said with a frustrated voice, while examining the cover of another old country CD. "Which Queen might I be referring to? John Deacon? Roger Taylor? Brian May? Freddie frickin' Mercury? Ring any bells?"
"I know what you mean", Andy said, calmly. "But I don't have any Queen here." Jake stopped the search, and looked at Andy. The expression on his face was not unlike that of a person who saw a giraffe for the very first time.
"What do you mean you don't have any Queen? How can you drive around without at least a compilation disc? I want to hear Don't Stop Me Now now! And I mean now!"
"Still, that doesn't change the fact that this is my dad's car, and he'd spank my cheeks cherry-red if he found music from what he calls 'that faggot nightmare' in his car. Besides, it's not far to the campus. Try to hang on."
Irritated, Jake leaned back in his seat and folded his arms. Then he said, with a much happier voice: "Well, can we at least change the channel? This Kansas junk just isn't for me, you know." Andy gave him free hands, and immediately Jake proceeded to dabble with the tuner.
"Listen, Jake, I wanna thank you for coming with me. I really needed your moral support."
"No problemo, amigo", Jake said, still concentrated on finding a radio station that would suit him at this particular moment. Andy gave Jake a short glance, but quickly turned his eyes back on the road before continuing:
"I know it seems silly, but I just couldn't bring myself to ask Janine to a date without you helping me out. I would probably spend next Saturday alone in my room again if it wasn't for you. So thanks again."
Jake, who had given up the search for another channel, threw himself back in his seat and lifted his right foot on the dashboard as he said:
"Forget about it. Always happy to help a pal out. Besides, you paid for all my drinks. It was a win-win deal." Then, he grinned. "I think the chick who worked as the bartender at that joint was hot. You've lived there, do you know what her situation is? Is she available?"
"NO!" Andy nearly shouted, before quickly coughing and pulling himself together. "I mean, forget about her. She's a gold digging heartbreaker. Bad news." This just broadened Jake's smirk.
"Well, so am I. We could really hit it off." Andy sighed. What would it take to get through that thick skull?
"Jake, quit that macho thing. I know that behind all that act, you're a good guy, and you deserve much better than her. " But Jake cut him off.
"Yeah, yeah. Hey, can we stop for a beer before returning to the dormitories? I think the pirate place is still open. Yarr, I'd fancy a bottle of rum, you scurvy dog!" As was usual, Jake quickly changed the subject when the conversation turned too serious for his taste.
"Jake, listen..." Andy tried, but to no avail.
"Phew, man, turn down the heat, will ya? I'm dehydrating here!" Jake said. Andy sighed and gave up.
Unrelentlessly, the car pushed its way through the darkness, its headlights slicing up the shadows, which quickly put themselves together behind the car. A hare jumped on the road seconds after the wagon drove by, stopped and looked at the red lights that soon vanished behind a curve, and continued hopping to the other side.
Posted 07 December 2009 - 07:29 PM
"So Sammy how was your day, see anything interesting yet?" Jason casually asked as he walked alongside Sam making sure to keep his eyes forward in case little Sammy was about to walk into something or someone. Jason's unbuttoned flannel shirt, baggy jeans, and untucked white T-shirt gave the impression of a go with the flow kind of guy, a stark contrast to Sam's tucked in and neat collared shirt and black slacks.
"Oh ummm nothing yet I guess." Sam replied his eyes shifting upwards for a few seconds to look at Jason. Sam always sort of looked up to Jason, he had this demeanor of calm to him like nothing ever really got to him, he'd often wonder what it must be like to be so at peace and relaxed, though he could never quite imagine it fully before he'd start worrying. What would people think of me, what would Jade think, would those bullies still come after me. Soon Sammy was running dozens of hypothetical situations through his head each more improbable than the last. Through it all his eyes remained fixed on the ground, the lines of the separating cement blocks and cracks being counted as he walked over them. It took approximately 1.5 seconds before he passed each dividing line, how many lines could he pass in a minute? His mind shifting gears began running calculations of different measures of time and distance using the line blocks making him lose all focus with with the world around him. Suddenly a hand from behind grabbed his shoulder and jerked him back causing him to swirl around his vision spinning until he stopped face to face with Jason.
"Whoa easy there buddy, you almost ran into a lamp post there." Jason chuckled as he pointed out the lamp post that Sammy nearly walked right into. Once again Sam had been saved by Jason, he was always so cool Sam really looked up to him, both figuratively and literally them having a good foot of height difference between them. "Easy there little guy, ya gotta watch where ya going you know, me and Jade won't always be there to watch out for you." Jason laughed giving Sam a firm pat on the back as they continued on Sam making sure to step around the pole this time. They were just passing that queer Pirate themed place, Sammy had heard about the place but never been there himself, money was tight enough that things like eating out was pushed aside in the face of things like groceries, necessities, and bills at home. Add to that that he didn't even have a job and Sammy's entertainment budget was almost non existent. He could always resort to asking Jade for money but he could never bear to do that, she had sacrificed so much to take care of him and she already worked so hard at a job she hated to support the two of them. That reminded Sam that when he got home he had to clean the bathrooms and kitchen by the time Jade got back home. Seeing as she does so much for him he always figured it was the least he could do to make sure the house was always clean and tidy for her by the time she got home. She always acted like it was not that big a deal but he knew it meant a lot to her for her to be able to come home and relax to a nice clean house. Thinking about Jade being happy always gave Sammy a big smile as he almost giggled to himself.
"Oh think of something nice, was it maybe, M-a-r-i-a?" Jason teased poking Sam in the side playfully. Sam's face quickly flushed up a cute shade of red at the mention of his long time crush.
"N-n-no it's not that it's just uhhhh..." Sammy stammered putting up his hands and waving them as if this this motion could work as some sort of defense to the embarrassing accusation. He and Maria had been friends for years but she never seemed to notice his affection for her.
"Well here's your chance loverboy." Jason kidded as he elbowed Sam in the ribs alerting him to Maria walking down the opposite side of the walkway. She waved over to the two of them flashing her dazzling smile her long golden hair bouncing and trailing behind her as she walked towards them.
"Hi Sammy, hey Jason." She politely greeted as she walked past them. They saw each other often enough that a casual meeting on the street was fairly common and not calling for a social catching up. A few seconds after she passed Sammy finally managed to speak.
"H-hi!" He squeaked out his voice pitch spiking high for the slip second her spoke. Jason gave a nice big belly laugh as he slapped his knee at his friends timidness. "Don't worry pal you'll see her again soon enough." He chuckled as he slapped Sam on the back again as they walked past that pirate place.
Posted 08 December 2009 - 11:10 PM
Rolling out of her bed and heaving herself to her feet, Gwen made a noise like a door creaking. She yawned, stretched and felt the beginnings of a headache pressing at the center of her forehead. It was going to be one of those days, she could already tell. Still huddled under the covers with the blankets pulled up to his eyes was Liam, squinting at his cousin. He'd slept over, insisting that his apartment was too cold for a being so sickly as himself. Gwen wouldn't have minded so much if he had let her know he was going to show up at one in the morning, reeking of whiskey and leaking fluid from several orifices. An amazing immune system kept her from being completely mortified when he let himself into her apartment and then jumped into bed with her. It wasn't unusually for Liam to sleep over but snot-faced and drunk made Gwen cringe. At least he'd fallen asleep fast enough, if making Gwen uncomfortably warm with him cuddling her like a favourite teddy bear. He had a temperature of a hundred and it made her sweat in her sleep from heat transfer.
"You will be fine, just sleep it off. I have to get ready for class."
And with that, she left him huffing at her and snuggling himself against her pillows. Those would need to be washed as soon as possible. Safely hidden with the bathroom door between them, she striped and ruffled her hair and started massaging her scalp. It was cold in the bathroom and it made the shadow of a headache grow. It would only get worse when she went outside. She wondered if she had time for breakfast so she could take an Excedrin before class. Nothing like an eight A.M. class with a bunch of freshman to persuade one towards drug use. She could squeeze in a chicken bake if she rushed. Notorious for being late, she felt she was setting a bad example for her students by being five minutes late to every class. Ah well, they'd live.
She turned the knobs for the shower and started to brush her teeth quickly. As steam began to fill the bathroom, she spit and rinsed. Gwen was a fan of scalding hot showers first thing in the morning and it stung just a bit at first as she stepped into the water. She loved the way it made her tingle as it warmed her to the core and saturated her hair. Sighing as her moment of enjoyment was over, she set about lathering up and doing what she had to with practiced efficiency. She indulged herself with one more moment of standing under that almost too hot water before she stepped out and instantly began to shiver violently. She really needed to get a space heater for the bathroom.
Wrapped in a bath sheet, she made for her dresser and hastily pulled out fresh underwear, knee socks with blue hearts on them, black skinny jeans and a tee shirt with "Made in the 1980s" printed on it before darting back into the bathroom to dress. Toweling her damp hair took some time and she was still rubbing it vigorously when she flopped back onto her bed, making Liam groan unhappily.
"Earn your keep and braid my hair, Liam. Why? Because I suck at it."
She assumed the noise he made was him asking the question of why. Gwen often though that she had too much hair and as a child used to threaten to cut it off, much to her mother's horror. She didn't know why all the women in her family grew their hair long, but they did and her Aunt Deidre had it bistre locks down to her knees. As she'd grown up, she'd appreciated its feminizing effect. Cutting it short, she realize, would really get her called shemale by Aine.
Begrudgedly, Liam sat up and began dragging a comb from her night table through her hair. She envied his ability to work with his hands, deft fingers pulling knots apart without the slightest pain to her. He should have been a hair dresser, always doing her hair and cutting his own in wild and stylish ways. And he could actually colour his hair without damaging it permanently. Then it was black with bright blue tipped bangs and an emover or whatever it's called. Gwen did not approve of this faux goth look he'd fallen into lately but declined to comment. It was his hair.
"One braid or two?"
"Make it two, you'll get tighter braids that way."
She was too lazy to actually style her hair so she was generally content to braid it one day and undo it so it was wavy the next. Just barely breaking into being a fashionista with Liam and Natasha's help, she allowed herself some laziness. Liam allowed for it too, saying that she was lucky to have such good hair naturally. He sniffled as he worked and was done in just under two minutes. With hair down to her waist, even now she was impressed that he could do two French braids along the side of her head that fast, let alone finish the job completely. She thanked him with a kiss on the cheek and tucked him into bed. The wardrobe was her next stop and she threw three vests at him and held up a fourth black vest with grey pinstripes. Holding it against her chest, she asked him to pick one and he chose a solid black vest with an embroidered detail on the breast to go with her teal tee. After that, it was simple enough to dress herself and throw things into a bag. A solid black hoodie, black trench coat, teal rain boots that her jeans could tuck into, a grey scarf and matching gloves, and ushanka complete with a hammer and sickle emblem embroidered on the side completed her "*vulgarity*, it's cold" ensemble. She took no chances when going out in the cold, with wet hair no less. She didn't have the body fat to keep herself from freezing to death and it wasn't even that cold yet. Snatching up her tote with the print outs of that day's pop quiz and the graded midterms, she waved goodbye to her invalid cousin and briskly exited the room. From her kitchen she grabbed her keys, fully charged cell phone, ATM card, a pomegranate and threw it all in her bag. Last, it was goodbye to her fish and off she went.
It was only three blocks from her apartment from the edge of campus and surely enough most of her neighbours were students or other teachers, which was fine with Gwen. It was a welcome change from her family home just outside of the city where there were no less than seven people at any given time. She lived alone for the most part, Liam often invading along with Conor and Aiden when they weren't sleeping around or sponging off their parents. The twins technically shared an apartment on the other side of town but were less likely to be there than anywhere else. Mr. Necthana paid for all the rent for all four of them, although not by choice for Liam. He was just so often between jobs and couldn't make his rent. Gwen thought it awfully unfair on her father and offered to pay for her own place or at least have Liam just move in with her, but her father was stubborn and prone to spoil his youngest. She could only imagine what her wedding would be like. If she ever got married, that is.
She waved to a few of her fellow professors, most of them much older than her and divorced. She found it awkward how friendly and attentive of her they seemed to be but smiled anyway. It would be rude of her not to say hello at least. Two blocks to go and a car rolled through a puddle as she waited for the sign to flash "walk". The trench coat too the worst of it but her knees and shins were gently smattered with grit that had been flung up with the water. She simply looked down at herself as the light changed and pouted slightly as she crossed the street. Gwen could live with a little mud, her tote might need to be washed. One block left and she converged with the general hustle and bustle of the college, jay walking students and impatient drivers, professors with their lattes and the occasional university campus police. She could have been a student and blended in with the other bag lugging, bundled up young people making their way to class.
It was eight o'three when she entered the lecture hall, boots squeaking as she descended to the bottom of the ampitheatre. Two hundred faces looked down at her as she made her way and then set pulled the two massive manila envelopes from her two and dropped them unceremoniously on the table. The last hundred that had paid her no heed when she entered quieted to the noise. They knew what was in those envelopes and were eager to see their scores. One could almost hear their yearning for enlightenment. But Gwen knew that the instant she gave them back their blue books and scantrons, she'd never get their attention back. Half of them would leave as soon as they had the papers in their hands. She knew this from her own experience as a student at this very college and had taken up some of her professors' tactics to keep people until the end. Besides, the pop quiz would be much more fun to drop on them.
"Good morning, guys. These would be your midterms. Many of you will consider converting to Mahayana Buddhism after this because you will want everything to be shunyatah because your grades will be dukha. Who would like to translate for me? No one? Well, basically you'll probably want the grades to be meaningless and empty, or shunyatah, because they are awful and contain only suffering and sorrow for some of you, A.K.A dukha. Mahayana Buddhism says that all things are shunyatah so please, talk seek Dr. Broughton in Religious Studies after class."
This earned her a laugh but it was an uneasy one, the class collectively holding its breath and leaning forward as she paused.
"May I ask, were you guys having a low metabolic Monday? I know it's hard to be up at eight in the morning and every day from Monday to Thursday, but these scores are pretty dismal. So I've decided to give you a pop quiz."
Protest as some of the people actually yelled profanities and most simply moaned. Professor Necthana waited as three hundred unhappy barely-legals got their huffing out of their system. Once they'd settled into a prickling and sulky silence, she pulled the huge stack of papers from her bag and started passing out piles to be passed down the rows of students. She did it herself because she had no graduate assistants to help her and no one ever offered to TA for an associate professor. It was all about tenured professors for recommendations and mentoring. All the better, in Gwen's opinion.
"This pop quiz will be purely extra credit and your score will be added to your midterm score. I will choose the best ten of the twelve definitions you provide. I think that's more than fair. No, you can not know what your score is when before you start, I want you all to try because you could all use ten points. You may start as soon as you get the quiz and when you're done turn it face down and twiddle your thumbs or something. You have twenty minutes to complete this."
It wasn't so hard motivating them if you knew how to do it. Putting the fear of a C and thus mediocrity into their hearts sent their little pens and pencils scratching as fast as they could. Well, most of them. There were always those that didn't care enough to try but they generally didn't complain about their Cs and Ds. It was the ones that found Bs unacceptable that complained and at length. It would be those silly barstools that found their way to her office to beg extra credit. While they frantically tried to save their grades, Gwen spread the midterms out on the long desk, arranging them carefully and alphabetically. It'd be a mess by the time her students were through, but better than passing them out individually. She didn't even know more than a dozen of them by name and face. When they were done, she released the flood gates, asking them to pass their tests to the right aisle where she would collect them and then they were free to go for the day. It was quite the rush and Gwen was glad to be out of it for the first time ever. As the last of her students left, she looked down at the quizzes and smirked. The one on top had one definition filled in out of twelve and it was incorrect. Two classes left and then a department meeting. Her headache got worse and she frowned at her absent-mindedness. Coffee, then food, then Excedrin. The weekend was seven hours away.
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