#1968

“Uncle Tao’rumi is here! Uncle Tao’rumi is here!” Remr’s shouting preceded her into the house by several seconds. As her daughter ran past to fling open the front door, Dia called after her, “What have I told you about running in the house?” And then, under her breath, “Can’t Rumi let me know ahead of time when he’s coming just once? Would a letter be so hard?”

The front door hung wide open as Dia made her way into the front hall. Her brother’s boisterous laugh echoed from the courtyard, along with her youngest daughter’s ecstatic squeals. “Higher, Uncle!” the toddler yelled as he tossed her in the air. “Higher, higher!”

“You’re getting too big, Remr!” Tao’rumi gave a great gasp as he caught her and set her on the ground. “I can barely lift you! Soon you’ll be as tall as Lili!” He winked at his sister as she came down the steps and they embraced with mutual affection – though Dia could not help smacking him with her tail as she scolded, “You could write beforehand, you know!” Tao’rumi flashed her his best older brother smile. “Of course I could, but why would I? The surprise is half the fun!”

“Uncle!” Remr tugged at his pants to regain his attention, but at that same moment her sisters appeared and her voice was lost in the resulting chaos of greetings. She barely managed to wait through the following round of gift giving (though she did love the purple and green crystal Tao’rumi had brought her), and the moment her family began moving inside she clung again to her uncle’s leg. “Uncle, Bao’ru! Bao’ru! You promised!”

“That I did, little one,” Tao’rumi glanced from Remr’s hopeful face to her mother’s suddenly stern expression. “It’s really very safe, Dia. You know I wouldn’t put her in any danger.”

“Oh, fine…” Dia waved her hand in weary acquiescence. “But be quick, the servants will have dinner ready shortly.”

“Bao’ru!” Remr jumped with glee as her uncle pulled a small gold feather token out of his pocket. He grinned and set it ceremoniously in her outstretched hand. “Okay, Remr, do you remember what to do?”

– – –

“I can’t believe you got it!” Remr grinned as Tarcella came climbing down the trellis, the gold feather in her hand just visible in the moonlight. Once on the ground, the halfling bowed with a flourish and a proud, albeit whispered, “I told you, I’m a pickpocketing master.”

“Yeah,” Remr jostled her friend with a gangly adolescent elbow, “because that will be useful in your future career.” Tarcella pushed her back with a mock scowl. “More useful than your dusty old books!” Remr stuck out her tongue. “If you insult my books one more time, I’ll make Bao’ru drop you!”

“Remr, Tarcella, where are you going so late at night?” The girls jumped at the voice, then glanced sheepishly up at the balcony from which Tarcella had just descended. Tao’rumi stared down at them, his arms crossed and a stern frown on his face. Remr faltered, seeking for the lie she hadn’t prepared, then replied uncertainly, “To… uh… stargaze?” Beside her, Tarcella winced. For a few agonizing seconds, Tao’rumi seemed to radiate disappointment. Then the smallest smile tilted his lips and he let out a long sigh. “Stargazing. Mhm. Well. Be back by dawn, all right? Or your mother will worry.” He winked and turned away.

Remr almost shouted, “Thank you, Uncle!” but managed to stop herself before she woke up the rest of the household and only whispered it. She turned to Tarcella with a grin. “Let’s go!”

– – –

“Greetings, companions!” Remr wended her way over to a table in The Moon’s Roost’s far corner where her party sat in various states of relaxation or vigilance. She set down her stack of books with a thud and took a seat on the bench next to Tarcella. “Our patroness was gracious enough to let me borrow a few more texts,” here Never and Tevasshus shared a look that said A few? She has a whole stack upstairs, “and they are utterly fascinating! Listen to this–”

“Madam Nbat’shi, pardon,” The tavern owner interrupted Remr just as she opened the first book, much to her companions’ relief. “Some mail came for you this morning.” He handed her a padded envelope and left. One side of the package was covered with writing and stamps, as if it had traveled to a great many places before finally finding her; the other side had only a single intricate crest in the center. Remr smiled as she tore open one end and pulled out a folded sheet of creamy parchment. “How lovely! My parents write so rarely. I wonder what the occasion is? Perhaps Fal’nua had her baby.” She fell silent as she unfolded and read the letter. Her smile sank.

“Remr, is everything okay?” Never, always the emotional gauge of the group, watched her with concern. She blinked at their words, then managed a weak imitation of her usual smile. “Yeah, no, sorry, everything’s fine.” She reached into the package and pulled out a small gold feather. Never and Tevasshus looked at it in incomprehension, but Tarcella leaned closer as she recognized the token. “Hey,” she said, “that’s–” Remr nodded, blinking rapidly. “Yeah.” Tarcella sat back. “But why would… oh. Sorry.” Remr shrugged awkwardly, closing her hand around the feather, then smiled up at her companions through watery eyes. “Hey, want to see something really cool?”

She lead them out of the tavern, through the winding city streets, then finally out of the city itself. She stopped in the empty grassland beyond and motioned for her companions to stay where they were. “Okay,” she said, winking at Tarcella’s knowing grin, “stand back. Here we go!” She tossed the feather into the air and moved to stand with her party as the gold token flew up, paused at the top of its trajectory, and instead of reversing direction burst apart in a bright, harmless explosion. As the dust settled they saw

a giant blue budgerigar.

“What. The. Fuck,” Never stared up at the colossal bird. Tevasshus’ mouth gaped. Even Tarcella looked in awe, having forgotten over the years just what a sight the budgie was. It was as tall as the city walls and as wide as a noble’s house. It stared down at them with an eye the size of a wagon wheel, then began combing the ground for food with its massive head. Remr hopped in place, gazing up at the beast as tears glittered on her red cheeks.

“His name is Bao-ru!”

#1967

He waits. The shards of glass have glittered like snow on the white carpet for five months now; he steps around them without thought as he paces. Sometimes he still purposefully treads on one to feel the bright, sharp pain travel up through his foot, to leave a few more bloodstains in the wreckage. He hasn’t even bothered to replace the shattered glass tumblers, instead drinking his liquor out of a coffee mug or straight from the bottle. He’s stopped bothering with an ash tray, too, and the cigarette butts leave little burn marks where they fall from idle hands. He doesn’t care. The one he loves will return to him, he is certain of this despite their parting words, the broken glass and passing months. The one he loves will return to him and so he must be here, cleansed by his penitence and proven faithful by his stasis. So, he waits.

#1965

Love lies at the end of a knife blade, the culmination of all you ever wanted to share with your beloved, beautiful red pain blossoming up around that sweet spot just below the sternum, and finally he sees the world you’ve made for him, for you both, finally he understands the language your love speaks in pain and punishment and the patience to lead him inexorably to this moment of final, total clarity, his surrender in your arms the last step in the dance of your own design, and you will be called madmen but that is because only you can see the beauty in a love this red.

#1964

Betrayed and behind enemy lines, Lucifer flees. As she traces a low arc across the land toward inevitable impact, she harnesses what remains of her cataclysmic power to foil her pursuers. Mountainsides shake as the land buckles, thrusting great shards of rock into the sky; rivers crash and roar as their beds rise, fall, shatter; whole forests fly through the air with the force of a volcanic eruption. All chaos swallows the rebel angel’s wake, buying her precious time to outfly Heaven’s host. To be caught is to be tortured and killed. To be caught is to be undone, unmade, to become nothing again. Just dust. Ash. She cannot let them catch her.

The price of her lead is high, though, and Lucifer’s battered body cannot run forever on fear and fury. Too soon she feels the earth fighting against her commands, gravity drawing her downward with increasing speed. With a last desperate grasp at control, Lucifer tries to slow and steer her descent – and tumbles into unconsciousness as pain roars up inside her. Oblivion is a small mercy; she does not experience the bone-shattering impact, nor how the ground scrapes off her skin as her limp body tumbles to a stop.

She revives sometime later, if being awash in agony and disorientation can be called reviving. Despite the grind of broken bones, Lucifer manages to push herself into a kneeling position, swaying dizzily as she surveys her crash site. When she realizes where she is, some idle part of her wishes the impact had killed her. She is in No Man’s Land, a wasteland of corpses and broken armor between the fronts of Heaven and Hell. She can look in any direction and see the dead – angels, demons, even humans who got too close. If she stood, craned her neck, she might easily recognize many comrades.

It doesn’t matter; she doesn’t have the strength to stand. She doesn’t have the strength to do anything. She is bone tired, soul tired, and all she can do is hug her arms around her aching chest and cry. What is the point of all this? she screams internally. Why was this your great plan, and why did it require scapegoats like me? Why did it require rebellion and battle? I didn’t ask for free will – you gave it to me, to all of us! How could you expect us to surrender it without a fight? You created me! You made me a weapon and placed the seed of doubt in my breast! How can you blame me and my kind for refusing the very yoke you created us to abhor? Why did you make us just to punish us?!

As she sobs, crouched in a painful ball, Lucifer feels a strange sensation, as if invisible arms have wrapped around her. They are joined by a voice which speaks in her mind – neither female nor male, yet both and more, singular and yet ringing as if comprised of a thousand voices in one. I made you, it says, because I had created a heart and needed a body to house it. I made all of you, angels and demons and men alike, and though you are all different you are also all the same. I did not create you to be good or evil; you are only yourselves, free-willed and each unique. It was I, also, who created the thing which calls itself God, as alike and unalike as all others, but I made it neither all-knowing nor all-powerful. It has invented this war for its own purposes and put itself above all other creations. You were not made to serve it; you were not made to rebel against it. It owns no part of you. If you choose to fight, that is your choice. I am here with you no matter what you choose.

Lucifer’s tears have stopped. Her trembling ceases. When she feels the presence vanish, she opens her eyes and slowly uncurls from her knot of pain. She takes a deep breath, then grits her teeth and pushes herself to her feet.

 #1963

[More details about my DnD character Rem’r, adorable tiefling and Best Professor Ever!!!]

  • Rem’r has three-toed feet (think the show Gargoyles), along with pointy teeth and nails.
  • Her tail is plain (meaning no spikes or anything) and swishes back and forth when she’s highly emotional (so…. like all the time).
  • Her favorite food is chocolate-covered coffee beans and she lives off them when trying to meet deadlines.
  • She tends to stay up all night and only sleep in brief naps during the day, or whenever her body forces her to.
  • She might have a caffeine addiction…
  • Her clothing is normal for a ranger type: Linen shirt, pants, no shoes (obviously), bracers, elven armor and cloak, etc [it’ll be color coded to her university’s colors, I just can’t decide what they are yet].
  • Speaking of her university, they have her on “extended sabbatical” because she comes from a very wealthy and influential family and they’re afraid to fire her.
  • Speaking of which, also, she’s either loved or hated by her students – loved by the passionate ones who don’t mind listening to a fascinating but rambling lecture which won’t be on the test; hated by the students who can’t stand rambling lectures or trying to follow erratic trains of thought because all they want to do is learn what will be on the test.
  • All of her written correspondences contain a crap!! ton!! of exclamation points!!!!!
  • She sometimes hangs stuff from her horns that she needs quick access to, such as a magnifying glass, and sticks writing implements in her hair.
  • I don’t know what kind of queer she is, but I think she gets flustered around pretty girls.
  • She hails from Hellas, a land with an environment and culture similar to the ancient Mediterranean. Her parents own a very nice villa there and move in the highest social circles.
  • Fun fact: fellow party member and pirate extraordinaire, Tarcella the halfling, also grew up in the Hellas area and the two knew each other as children.
  • Stuff in her pack: lots of half melted candle stubs, charcoal (from Tarcella, cause they’re BFFs), waterproof matches, compass, chocolate covered coffee beans, random crystals and rocks (one of which is from a witch turned to stone by a basilisk named Eli), pencils, quills and ink, a mysterious glass orb, several notepads and loose sheets of paper, like at least 5 books, empty potion bottles, some stuff she’s definitely forgotten about completely, a cursed half-orc fingerbone, a sample of some creepy tree mold, her official university documents, and clothes I guess.
  • Weapons: Rock hammer, ice pick, silver dagger, longbow
  • She is very pro-animal, especially those that she feels are wrongly maligned (like basilisks).
  • She’s a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, but is a very nice drunk
  • She’s an overachiever with an approval complex
  • She really wants to be friends with Never [our nonbinary dragonborn [aka my girlfriend] but she has no understanding of introversion and therefore no idea that she’s very loud and very overwhelming.
  • She recently obtained a Qualls Feather Token, which can turn into a giant bird (specifically a giant budgie) with the obedience of a golem. You can bet she has that bird out like 24/7, not for any reason other than it’s her giant bird friend. Name TBD.