Moments in Magical Modernity: XI (The Godly Edition)


Author’s Note: This one is much inspired by Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods, both favorites of my husband’s.

There is one night a year where deities get the night off. Gods, lords, fae barons, all the like: it’s their night to relax from answering prayers, helping destinies along their way, healing, protecting, teaching, growing, and abiding. Big and small gods.

But that doesn’t mean that the world is left unattended. One god is always left in charge, a sort of designated survivor, as it were. They take it in turns and that god oversees the world at large for that twelve-hour stretch, keeps records and tallies, notations on prayers and needs, and answers earnest prayers that might have time-sensitivity. Oh, and Cerberus needs to be walked, after all.

Everyone knows of God’s Night but life doesn’t pause, even for the gods. Their line of work’s cogs never stop. That’s why there is always a designated deity on GNO.

 

A favored spot for GNO is often Banebridge Farms. One: it is far from cities and multitudinous souls that inhabited them, and two: Bryan’s property boasteds a large acreage of ancient forest, purposefully left un-tilled and to run wild wild. In it are groves and fairy circles, templed ruins and venerable, cracked stone tables of old. The Lord of the Hunt himself considers this place a pleasant  respite and so, once every year, Bryan Banebridge and his staff find themselves playing host to the most glorious and varied of pantheons ever assembled. Ahead of GNO, Dionysus always  brings up the ambrosia and liquor, all the tastiest ingredients, and Bryan and his cooks whip up some absolutely ethereal and otherworldly dishes and drinks. As a result, though Bryan still has to work hard and romance his investors, there are godly machinations to make sure that Banebridge Farms is never deeply in peril.

Now, it is true that not all gods attend GNO at Banebridge Farms. Some of them choose their own ways to enjoy the night off. Some of the eternally-watching gods take the opportunity for a good twelve hours’ sleep. A power nap, if you will. Others, like Atlas, take a walk to stretch their stiff legs, night, underworld, and winter gods sometimes basking in the bright, warm sunlight of a beach in Bora Bora or Maui (hey, it’s not nighttime everywhere at once, after all).

Everyone knows about Gods’ Night Off. Even the eternal need a break. Tomorrow, it will be right back to work. Stars will be tended, sun and moon set and risen. Prayers will be assessed, some answered, requests weighed, comfort given, and answers given by the designated deity reviewed. Every god back in their place and position, their faithful adherents breathing a sigh of relief, like a child whose mother has finally returned from her night out and kissed their head as they lay waiting in their bed.

All is right with the world, and big and small gods–tanned, fed, rested, and slightly hungover–have a few new stories to tell until next year.

[X-men: Legacy] The Time Has Come


Stale cigar smoke. Bitter beer. Earth. The coppery tang of blood that soap can’t touch.

She inhales deeply as iron strong arms wrap around her and hug her. Not too tightly but close. She can hear a heart beating alongside hers; strong, maybe a little slower than in the past, but still there. Tired. But still there.

When he releases her, she gives a small smile. barely there. “I’ll keep an eye on them,” she promises, not needing to state just who “they” are.

He doesn’t say anything in return, doesn’t have to. It’s been long enough that they understand each other without having to say much at all. Time will do that to you. Time marches on but, eventually, it takes you with it.

He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even say goodbye. Just utters a grunted huff, the edges of a rueful smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. No…not just rueful.

Proud. Sad. Determined.

Reaching out he puts a hard, rough, calloused hand against Betsy’s cheek for a moment before letting it drop to her shoulder and giving it a squeeze that would crack the bones of a less hardy person.

Then the old bastard shoulders his pack and heads off down the drive. He hops into the old ’68 mustang, roars it to life, and is gone.

It’s hard to say goodbye. Maybe that’s why they don’t say it. For them, can it ever really be goodbye, though? Or will they just end up side-by-side again when the world has turned enough times?

Who knows? In either case, goodbyes are hard. That’s why they don’t say them. Time will do that to you.

Time marches on and, eventually, it takes you with it.

(Graphic credit: Imgur, by ManWhoLovesSuperheroes)

[X-men: Legacy] The Feline and the Charmer: Mardi Gras Moon


Betsy giggles as she pulls the pink plastic baby from its cakey cocoon. 

“Well! Look at dat, chere,” Julien chuckles to the feral girl as she pulls the treasure from her slice of king cake.  “And wit’ your firs’ King Cake, too.”

She sets the baby down on the side of her plate and licks her fingers.

“Now you know dat findin’ de bebe comes wit’ a whole host of responsibilities as well as the luck, righ’?”

“Oh, like what?” Betsy ripostes smilingly. 

“Ohhh, well!” The Guild Prince sidles up to his feline-esque companion, close but not touching her yet. “Some people say dat whoever finds it will end up with a little’un by end o’ year, especially if you a woman.”

Betsy fairly screws up her face at that. “Yeahhhh….no litters for this feral, thanks. Even if they would turn out as beautiful as you.”

“Oh, Lor’, no!” Jules agrees, still smiling, and those ebony and ruby eyes glimmer in the lights that glimmer off the French Quarter. “There are other responsibilities, tho’.”

Betsy looks up at him, her own eyes melding to a shimmery gold. “Tell me.”

“In our househol’, the finder owes the baker a kiss,” he says with a completely straight face.

“Oh, so I should go find Henri then?” the feral girl quips mischievously.

“He would be righ’ surprised at you, I’d say. Especially since he didn’ make dis one,” Jules assures her with that self-confident smile. “I did.”

Betsy arches an eyebrow in surprise. “You?”

“Well, I couldn’ let my lovely Elizabet’s first Mardi Gras be anytin’ but the most’ special, could I?” Julien Boudreaux smiles fit to be tied at his girlfriend’s surprise.

Betsy’s cheeks pinken deeply at that and her eyes become molten, like gold heated in a forge. Stepping towards the tall Cajun, she rises up on her tiptoes, even in six-inch heels, slender hands reaching up to draw his face down towards hers. “It’s been amazing, Nawlins,” she purrs through wine-dark lips. “The parties, the parades, the food…but you…you are by far the best thing about tonight.”

Julien meets Betsy more than willingly, hands reaching out to grasp her waist and pull her close to him, lips meeting lips and a contented (and simultaneously hungry) sigh rumbling in his strong chest. That rumble lights a warmth in Betsy’s belly that sits low and heavy, her form flushing in his grasp in the warm New Orleans evening.

The music and ruckus of the French Quarter float up to meet them, the party going strong down in the streets. But here on this little rooftop oasis that Julien has concocted, they are as alone as they could possibly wish to be. Betsy has felt no silent, hidden presence watching them; Belladonna has in fact warned her people off the two teenagers for the night. Let them have their fun. Tomorrow the streets will be quiet, the church bells ringing in Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. But, for now…

Leaving the cake behind, Betsy draws Julien under an ivy, flower, and curtain strewn bower, letting the gossamer and heady scents envelope and hide them from the world for a while. After all, why go into Lent with no “sins” to confess?

Moments in Magical Modernity: X


X.

Pixie-small feet find terra firma as a mother warns against flying on the public sidewalk. On the baseball diamond in the park, there are complaints against winking from third base to home in a kickball game and the rules are changed to keep things fair all round. Starlings swarm and meld into eccentric shapes at the turn of a childish finger, the tiny birds eager to please an equally tiny artist.

Nemiah, the park’s caretaker, watches with appraising eyes as his young students imagine unruly hedges and bushes into lovely topiaries for the Children’s Garden, coaxing the plants into the shapes without every clipping or snipping a single leaf. Animals, geometrics, knights on horseback, and shapely towers materialize under the fruitful imaginations of nature-sensitive children.

Leina leads her prenatal yoga class in her studio of soft blues and whites. She guides and transitions her class through the movements in soft, soothing tones, the sound of water pouring and rushing through her dulcet voice. Together, they bathe souls and bodies weary with the work of fostering and growing life in consolation, commiseration, and calm.

A young satyr blushes from his horns to his hooves with joy as a lovely, rosy redhead accepts his invitation to the Solstice Block Party and Dance with a pretty smile.

Childhood and growth are as full and varied and joyful and tumultuous as it can ever be. Babyish “I love you’s” still give way to the intermittent “I hate you’s” of adolescence and puberty. New life is celebrated profusely and milestones. First steps, first words, first flights, first shapeshifts, first discoveries of hands, feet, tails, wings. Lullabies are sung over cradles, midnight feedings stumbled and whispered and sleepily cooed through. Children grow and learn. They make friends and attend school. Magic does not separate them. Rather, it pulls these little ones together in a world sewn together by Magic.

A little girl is awoken in the deep night, sensitive ears catching the sound of crying through her open window. Peering out, she spies the neighbor boy weeping in his darkened bedroom with only the silver of moon to witness. Weeping for fear of the shadows.  A bit of paper folding, a silvery bit of flame whispered on a breath, and the little Mrs. Darling nightlight floats across the hedge barrier to rest on the boy’s window sill. There the paper lantern sits to cheerily flicker away throughout the night and assure him that he is not alone. Never alone.

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Photo Credit – Pinterest

[Wizarding World] Ruby-Slippered Magical


The stars twinkle and wink, flirting with the hazel-eyed woman who watches them ever so closely from below. She used to imagine the constellations wheeling and spinning to make themselves shine all the brighter, each trying to arrest her attention away from others. She peers through her telescope, noting placement and brightness for her charts, color and orientation, before mobiliscopium’ing the telescope carefully back into its cupboard. She hates leaving it out to the elements and human clumsiness, however shielded the castle may be. Once the beautiful instrument is tucked away, she makes her way from the observatory, her apple-shiny crimson stilettos sounding along the slat boards of the floor before hollow echoes give way to solid clicks as wood concedes its place to stone when she enters the castle proper again. Seating herself on the bannister of the winding stair, she outdoes the storied nanny-witch Mary Poppins as she slides all the way down to the base of the tower. Why walk when one can glide?

“Professor Penuryst is magical!” a first-year, a flash of muted yellow at her skirt, whispers to her companion as they flatten themselves back against the staircase wall at the woman’s jolly “On your right, mamselles!”

“Well, of course she is, you git! She is a professor.” The second-year, badge emblazoned in emerald, rolls her eyes.

“No. I mean, she’s, like, ruby-slippers magical!” the awed Muggle-born sighs.

Of course, her pureblood classmate had not the foggiest notion of what she was talking about, Dorothy and her yellow brick road not being overly common bedtime fare for witchy children.

“And those shoes…!”

The woman hits the floor moving, never breaking stride as she manoeuvres through the night-shadowed corridors. A few students scurry about from the library and study groups, off to their common rooms and dorms before curfew chimes throughout the castle and she hurries them along their way. Making her way to a wing off-limits to students, the female professor draws out her rich cherry-wood wand, waving it succinctly at an unremarkable door in the hallway. It swings open and admits her to a comfortable parlor, the fire in the grate leaping up into life and causing the handsome barn owl perched before it to ruffle his speckled feathers and preen.

“Gawain, you’re supposed to be in the Owlery, or, better yet, out hunting,” she chides, to which the owl only clicks his formidable beak and settles once again on his now-warm perch.

How on earth did the witch expect him to be out hunting when he knew he would be delivering missives near and far for her once she completed her charts? Even an owl needs his sleep.

Delorah Penuryst merely chuckles and proceeds into her study from the parlor, setting down her scrolls and wand. Twisting up her abundantly unruly hair into a bun, which she then secures with said wand, she settles down with journal, fresh stationary, and fountain pen (yes, she was a fan of a few more modern epistolary devices than just quill and inkwell and parchment). She then goes on to compose several different letters, one of which to be delivered just over the hill. But, in that particular case, letters were far safer than face-to-face conversations, as she didn’t wish to get Firenze into trouble with his herd after all.

The night deepens as Delorah writes, first the letters and then in her journal, taking in the sweet silence of the night, with only the crackling fire in the next room for company. She writes not only to Firenze but old friends, colleagues, and mentors. She writes to the head of the Magical Creature Rehabilitation Conservatory in Wales, the mother of her best childhood mate. She writes in German to her grandmother, currently serving on the Board of Governors of Beauxbatons Academie of Magic. Delorah writes until the paper bullets in her brain run out. Letters enveloped, sealed, and addressed, they wait in their parcel stack for when Gawain awakes in the pre-dawn, ready for work.

Delorah, meanwhile, rises from her desk and makes her way to bed, weary of mind and body but utterly content. There is nowhere she would rather be than where she is right now, at home in Hogwarts, teaching the art and science of Charms and Astrology to rising young witches and wizards. No, nowhere else in the world. Freeing her abundant curls, she settles beneath the covers of her bed, a threadbare and oft-kissed rag doll at her side. Tomorrow will be here soon enough for this “ruby-slippered magical” woman. Giving the wand one more flick, Delorah bids the world sweet dreams and good night.

“Nox.”

 

Moments in Magical Modernity: IX


IX.

The public library is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The Night Librarian is a woman named Lydia Dumont and everyone knows that there is no one better-suited for the job. She is knowledgeable on just about every subject the library holds within its walls; after all, she has lived out the necessary centuries in order to be thusly educated, as well as quite proficient.

Lydia is a statuesque woman with piercing grey eyes that look up at you (or down at you, depending on the sort of question you have just asked her) over cunning cat-eye framed glasses. She always wears a ruby-red lip and impeccably manicured nails to match, as if she has decided that the ’50s and its styles rightfully belong on her person. And, of course, they do. You will ever find her in hourglass-hugging pencil skirts and sheath dresses, kitten-sharp high heels, and hear her declare Calvin Klein a “darling” for his everlastingly vintage vision in dress designs. Oh, her hair, you ask? That is…well…Shakespeare would say “whatever color it please God” (Much Ado About Nothing, 2.3.30). Or rather, in this case, whatever color it please Lydia. Blonde, brunette, redhead, silver fox, ebony-tressed…one can only imagine how they will find the Night Librarian from night to night.

The library is Lydia’s domain, a kingdom all her own. Everyone knows that she rules absolutely here when night falls and the midnight oil burns late. University students spend many a night here, the Librarian’s expertise frequently a lifeline for them. Yes, she is often referred to simply by her profession and in hushed, respectful tones. There are stories of her ire and wrath for those who disrespect the sanctity of her domain and her complete authority within it. There are whispered tales of unsavory behaviour–an excessively foolish set of kits and cubs literally foxing first-edition volumes, for example–resulting in said individuals or even whole coteries never seen in or near the library ever again.  And fines? Return her precious texts late? Let’s not even joke about such a thing. Raucous behaviour is one thing; the loss or, in her mind, theft of a priceless reliquary of knowledge? You had best set your affairs in order and make yourself right with your faith.

Do not, Sirs and Madames, mess with the Librarian. Or you may come to fear the shadow of her citadel.

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Treating Valentine’s Day Gently


Yesterday was that most celebrated and simultaneously dreaded and reviled of days: Valentine’s Day. I know some people who love it, others who disagree with it, boycott it, or downright hate it, all for different and likely very valid reasons. I personally don’t mind it. It gives me an excuse to do what I enjoy doing anyway: letting people know that they are cared for, loved, and appreciated.

In college, I bought carnations from one of the sororities and had them sent around campus to my friends. I snuck around dorms, leaving parcels of fresh-baked cookies or sliding cards under doors.

Nowadays, I send letters and cards through the mail, few to none of them necessarily red or pink or covered in hearts. I sometimes send flowers, goodie/snack baskets, books, or coveted t-shirts.

This year, I bought my husband a card about cuddling up and binge-watching our favorite show, along with a copy of the latest season of “The Big Bang Theory” so we could do just that. He bought me a DVD of a show that I have been looking forward to, too. I bought my daughter some cute outfits for her first Valentine’s Day party at preschool and a card with a spring-loaded heart inside, which she played with and covered in stickers all evening.

Yes, the day has become commercialized. Yes, the keeping of it has become social expectation. Yes, some people try to front-load affection, love, kindness, etc., and then let it lapse the rest of the year.

For some, this day is a day of bitter memory, of hurts tied not to the day itself but to the events of one or several Valentine’s Days. Unfortunately, over time, those bitter cords have attached themselves to the day itself. The circumstances have perhaps faded into oblivion, leaving only the day to stand as a bastion of misery and thus worthy of boycotting.

Again, people’s reasons are valid and they are free to do as they will.

For me, I choose to approach Valentine’s with the thought of, “Whose heart can I gentle today?”

Whose heart can I make smile today?

Who can I remind that they are loved today?

Who needs a reminder of the good that they have done that I’m grateful for?

Who could just use a kind word on what might be a lonely day?

For me, Valentine’s Day isn’t an obligation, it isn’t a burden. It’s an opportunity–for love, for encouragement, for gentleness. But that’s just the way I see it.

I hope yours was good to you.