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.
The Unnatural Philosophy of Kit March happened because I want genre stories about autistic queer and trans adults. (This does not much exist outside of fanfiction and internet writing. The vast majority of books about autistic characters are children’s books, YA books or adult books that feature a child autistic protagonist.) While all my novels feature autistic trans protagonists with the benefit of hindsight, they need rewriting to make this purposeful, not accidental. (The absence is all the more painful when one considers the vast number of autistic people who aren’t cishet. Honestly, it feels like most of us, although I have no idea what the data actually is.) So I’m writing this in order that something exists in the interim because I want to exist, somewhere. It will be far from polished; in fact, it’ll likely suffer all the plot holes and editing failures of a serial work written on the fly. Nonetheless, right now I believe representation to be more important than perfection, so I’m shoving my inner perfectionist into as deep a hole (or a wine jar) as I can manage.
The setting is very much bisexuality/pansexuality (or biromanticism/panromanticism) as default because, quite honestly, I see that as a far more sensible and functional premise. While trans identities aren’t always as accepted, they’re far more normalised here than they are in Western society, including non-binary trans identities. Sadly, some corners of the world still have a long way to go in terms of ableism, in large part because I wanted to give voice to my experiences as a disabled autistic person who lives in an ableist world.
For those who need it laid out, Tes is an ace-aro non-binary trans autistic and Darius is a pan-aro trans masculine autistic. Everybody else is some combination of non-binary/binary trans, bi/pan, gay/lesbian, ace/aro, autistic, disabled. (There may be a few random queer cis people floating about. Maybe.) This story isn’t a romance, despite the fact that dueting protagonists usually end up falling in love, because I am so damn tired of queer characters existing in only in terms of their romantic experiences.
Welcome: Tes Alden arrives at a school impaled by giant rhubarb, faces the bacon test and finds an ally in the College’s headmaster.
Introduction: March introduces Tes to the College, Master Faiza, the kitchen and his theory of telepathic bacon.
Connection: Tes meets hir new roommate Holly Naoko, learns from the chattering historian Iris Edmé and discovers ze does, in fact, possess a valuable trade.
Homecoming: Darius Liviu arrives in Greenstone to take up March’s offer of a teaching job, only for the belt to betray a certain confidence involving the dead Efe Kadri.
Shadows: Tes overhears March talking to Darius, ponders the mystery that is the Greensward and decides to risk the Left Tower in search of fabric.
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.
Skin: Darius survives the gnomes and contemplates the stories told in scars. Amelia tries to make a well-trodden point. March waves a spoon. What do their words matter to Darius, though, when all he hears is the choking, insufferable envelopment of safety?
Flight: The obligation a rescuer has to a ward gives Darius a sense of purpose and the added benefit of avoiding Amelia, but finding Tes means negotiations with the belt and Tes hirself…
Interlude – Resonance: Kit lives by the rule of the crow and the rule of story, but neither, despite a life of guardianship, quite prepare him for the fate suggested by a coil of worn, brown leather.
Maker: Darius chose Tes’s presence over his health. Amelia wants hir to gain his trust and his story. Tes doesn’t think ze belongs, not when ze’s still so different from everyone here, but blood and books just might change that…
Curiosity: Trying to work with Darius might be harder for Tes than learning magic, but hir real problems occur when Darius leaves the College on a mysterious midnight journey and Iris decides to follow him.
Longevity: Lack of sleep doesn’t help Darius figure out how to handle Tes. It really doesn’t help when Amelia blunders her way into their talking about silences, suicide and cats. If anything will render exhaustion irrelevant, though, it’s the bubbling breath of a bloody messenger…
Exsanguination: One word shatters the College’s peace, but Darius needs must figure out how to handle Tes’s headlong rush into dangerous magic … and March’s dislike for the blood trade.
Magicianverse Short Stories
Old-Fashioned (available in Crooked Words): Amelia March is tired of suitors breaking into her house after dark to express their undying love. Sure, it might be the fashion, and they might be people of the correct gender, but whatever happened to getting to know someone first? Why aren’t all the witchy tricks she knows enough to keep them out?
Conception: Amelia is just starting to think that she has this witch thing figured out … until Kit turns up on her doorstep one spring day, returning from the Greensward with two feet, a belly, a sword of some distinction, a story, a young girl named Osprey, a beaming smile and a grand plan to start a school for divergent magicians… (forthcoming)
Certain Eldritch Artefacts: Alliterative magician and College graduate Darius Liviu has travelled half the world in search of the rarest of rare magical artefacts: a tolerable talking sword. He knew it wouldn’t be an easy quest, but, after a year of failure, one last rumour sees him risk Rajad’s chaotic, cluttered, terrifying Great Souk. The noise, the smells, the people and his inability to move without provoking disaster make everything difficult, but Darius dares the nightmare in hope of an item that just might draw the eye of the man he loves.
The sword he finds may or may not be tolerable. It may not even be a sword. It has other ideas on the matter of being a lover’s token, however: ideas that make Darius ponder the reason he travelled at all…
(Note: This is a rewrite of the same story in Crooked Words. Darius, out of all my characters that weren’t written to be autistic but are autistic as I know it with the benefit of hindsight and personal development, leapt out as a character that should have been explicitly autistic. What I got, due to my own ignorance, was me poking fun at me and a character arc I’d have written quite differently. That said, I want to see Darius be a dyspraxic, awkward, autistic wordsmith of a swordsman who moves to a different sort of beat and finds opportunity and strength in it, so I didn’t rewrite it to take those things away – just to make Darius a character who has awareness of his autism and experiences it in a setting that is, doubtlessly, Sensory Hell.)
The Adventurer King: Seven years ago, alliterative magician Darius Liviu met a talking sword belt in the Great Souk of Rajad. Since then, he trained as a swordsman and now works as a mercenary guard. He picked up a few jobs with merchants who don’t mind the loquacious belt, but he is yet to find the work—or the employer—that gives his training and life purpose. Efe Kadri of Siya, or at least his sister Aysun, might have the answer, if Darius has learnt enough from the belt to handle an arrogant, ignorant and impassioned monarch set on saving the world…
A Courtship of Magpies: The river-sundered town of Ier Jalin should have marked the beginning of Efe’s plan to assassinate Hadi Kian, minor noble and would-be Lord. Or it would have, if Efe hadn’t spent the journey across Ashad being a distressing combination of considerate and ignorant. A stroll through the night market in the guise of partners, in what Darius believes to be in the name of information gathering, reveals that Efe has another plan entirely—one that involves apology in the form of roses, hand-holding, trinkets and kisses.
Trying to figure out why Kian’s minions and magic workers display a troubling connection to Laiphu and the Phoenix Guard is complication enough for Darius. Having to tell Efe just where he stands on the matter of romance, when Darius is none too sure himself, is a whole other nightmare, especially when the local guard show signs of suspecting Darius’s magical ability. How does he educate a confusing man on what he needs when Kian’s own magicians are listening to his every word and Efe’s safety lies in how well Darius can feign romantic love?