Tes Alden, collector of words, rescuer of books and counter of objects, knows ze isn’t like everyone else. This wouldn’t be such a problem if everybody else didn’t struggle with it. Hir mother prays a run-down school in the middle of nowhere may be the best place to stow hir brand of peculiarity, and Tes has nowhere better to go.
Darius Liviu lost a limb and his lover in the hell of Mul Dura. He spent the last three months as a guest of the Greensward, crafting a jointed hand from elf-sung wood and trying to ignore the mutterings of the ghost that haunts him. Now, he returns to the College to take up the second-most dangerous job open to a magician: teaching.
Tes just might be a magician in the making, if ze can survive adventures in alliterative magic and hir own lethal curiosity. Darius, though, keeps a secret that makes the usual problems of overgrown rhubarb, basilisk hordes, verbose eldritch objects, shrieking purple monkeys and cauliflower explosions look like nothing at all.
The elves are coming, and nobody fears elves more than Kit March.
Consequences: Tes enters the Tower with hir pack, hir plans and hir magic only to discover that ze isn’t the hunter—and the consequences of hir mistake aren’t hirs to bear.
Chapter count: 9800 words.
Content advisory: Description of a near-emaciated man who bears the scars of something that plays with the line between self-harm and blood magic. Enough descriptions of cobwebs and light, brushing touches to make this arachnophobic autistic shudder. Hordes of gnomes intent on sucking Tes’s blood and then eating hir (no hyperbole). References to previous/off-scene usage of the gnomes as a means of torture. References to previous incidents of insect-related torment and bullying enacted by Tes’s former fellow students that parallels the experience of being mobbed by a horde of gnomes. March’s lighthearted approach to talking about things that are too dangerous for this failure to enunciate reality is observed by Amelia and Darius (and is as much an ongoing theme as anything else, although there is a reason).
Note the first: Thanks to Microsoft’s sheer incompetency in the art of saving a document despite my going through the ordinary procedure of saving to my cloud drive, a horror compounded by Microsoft’s sheer incompetency in the art of producing an operating system that doesn’t periodically crash after a certain system update, I lost several pages of edits. A loss, of course, promptly followed by a severe pain flare.
Note the second: We’ve got thousands of years of storytelling, not to mention our own lived experiences, to give any writer fuel for the art of describing a venture into hell. The reality is, though, that I’d sooner walk up to a snorting horse than I would enter an aviary or allow myself to be touched by cobwebs. How I perceive the world—including an intolerance for light touch and anything touching my head—shapes my nightmares. Venturing into a dragon’s cave seems less terrifying to me than a tower full of dangling cobwebs (and is vastly less terrifying than being swarmed by insect-like gnomes). I wanted to write a scene here that allistics may regard as nothing (until the eating starts) but makes some of us autistics curse me as the bringer of nightmare fuel. We need stories that show our courage on our own terms and acknowledge those actions that seen ordinary but require a bravery for which allistics don’t give us credit.
Note the third: The species of caterpillar Tes calls “spitfire” bears no relation to the actual spitfire sawfly larvae (which aren’t caterpillars) and are very likely some variety of Chlenias moth (I think Chlenias banksiaria, but this has proven difficult to confirm online, despite these caterpillars and moths being exceedingly common in regional western Victoria). Knowing this, these “spitfires” (I was unable to find a colloquial name) are very likely harmless in addition to being incorrectly named. However, locally, I’ve always known them as spitfires and my classmates (I think knowing they were safe, for they cheerfully handled the caterpillars themselves) spoke of how much they’d hurt before tormenting me with them. The actuality, here, is rather irrelevant, although my intent is for Tes to later learn that speaking of a harmless creature as dangerous is another form of bullying.
You’ve the ability to dare a tower and dare magic. Dare this.