My Name is Minette, Chapter Eighteen: Another World (Final)

They sang along with the old man, raising their arms to the sky and moving their hips to the music. Their movements were free, liquid, completely unrestrained. The music possessed them.

They were free.

Paw swore, nudging Lumpy to move faster. The horse snorted, bothered, but obeyed, moving at a faster clip. With a tight jaw, Paw spit onto the front steps of the building as they passed. The patrons didn’t blink an eye.

Minette couldn’t look away, either, maintaining eye contact with the old man until the building and its music vanished out of sight.

“Paw, what was that place?” Minette asked.

“Droz’s only sin,” Paw growled with a startling vitriol. “That place is for freaks and thieves. Everyone knows that place is dangerous. Our walls are to keep riff-raff out–they don’t belong in here with us. If they can come in, they can get the bees out.”

“Oh. That’s… terrible,” Minette said, trying very hard to sound disgusted.

“You’re damn right,” Paw snapped. “Just keep working, marry a nice woman, give her a good son, and keep your head down, and you won’t end up like any of them.”

Minette didn’t respond. She turned around, trying to catch another glimpse of the mysterious establishment, but it was gone.

***

This signals the end of part one of My Name is Minette, and also my final submission as a blogger for Arts, Ink., as I am graduating in May! I have just completed the novel as my honor’s thesis, and hope to query it to agents and eventually get it published.

I would like to thank Joe and all the lovely folks at Arts, Ink. for all their support and for making a dream come true.

You can find my other works at theopoling.com, and my student org at transgncartsreview.org.

Thank you,

Theo

Sagas Among the Arcana: The Knight of Swords and Three of Pentacles

One day a knight happened upon my shop. She held a blade so sharp and so polished, it glinted blindingly even with the dark overcast. She handed me three coins and said:

“Make me a crown.”

Her eyes slate eyes spoke dangerous promises, so out of self-preservation I gathered my white robes and said:

“Yes.”

Her black stallion marched her away. My legs still shook beneath my skirts, whether from the cutting winds or fear I knew not.

I used her three coins to forge the finest crown in the nation, fine enough for a Queen. 

Years later, in the summer, the stallion returned with its owner. I was sweating, yet I still shook. It was never the wind.

The knight had made a name for herself since I gave her the crown, now dirtied and unshined, leading many a warrior to victory. Now it seems that she wants to lead me to the palace.

“Come with me, your skills may be useful for things other than jewelry.”

Her arm is stretched out. I can make out the chords of muscle beneath the thin sleeves.

Her palm is warm and she grips me firmly as I allow her to haul me upon her mount.

She gives me three thousand more coins and under her guidance, I make much, much more.

My Name is Minette, Chapter Seventeen: Something New

She looked to Paw and his clenched jaw. “Where are we? Do you know where we’re going?”

“Of course I do,” Paw grit out. “We’re out in the sticks. It must just be a little bit further.”

Minette shook her head at Paw’s stubbornness. The only thing they stood to lose if they turned back and went another way was Paw’s pride. Minette stared straight ahead, hoping the hills would rise up over the next turn, guiding them safely to the mines. 

Droz didn’t feel like Droz here. Like this place was something unspoken–something not to speak about. And it was true, in a way—Minette had never been taught that Droz was anything other than a merry little community, safe in its walls.

Seeing something that contrasted that so aggressively made a cold feeling sit in her gut. How little did she know about the world beyond her front door?

A new building caught Minette’s attention. This one had a life dissimilar to the shacks and homes around it. It was two-story, brick, with a broad porch that wrapped around the building. All of the windows were open, and music, noise, and voices echoed out from the premises.

On the porch, a couple of old men with sunburned, sagging skin and bright white hair sat nursing their beer bellies in rocking chairs. One of the men had a banjo. He played a song that was like nothing Minette had ever heard before. It was twangy and morose, but oddly upbeat: she felt like she could weep over a dead lover and beat the bees out of a bad guy while listening to it.

The banjo man caught Minette’s eye. Her breath caught in her throat. Instead of glaring at her, or chasing her away like she thought he might, he smiled over at her, gap-toothed, and played even faster, singing along with a raspy croon. His eyes never left Minette’s, even as his fingers flew across the banjo strings.

Some other people came out from inside the building, and Minette couldn’t tell if they were boys or girls. People without shirts on. People with their shapes hidden under cloaks. They were of all heights and weights, skin colors and origins. They dressed like bandits and street workers, bartenders and night-walking women. They smoked and spit into spittoons.

They were something utterly new to Minette.

New, and not terrifying. No, they piqued Minette’s curiosity.

Sagas Among the Arcana: The Court of Swords

This week’s card picks: Page of Swords, Knight of Swords, Queen of Swords, King of Swords

 

One day you see them

 when you are within the clouds as the air cuts past you. It’s a dangerous thing to be surrounded by a court so skilled with the sword. 

The Paige stands on the edge of rocks, fearless. But you fear that the harsh wind may blow her over. She sizes you up, curios — who would dare come to level with them?

Perhaps, you begin to regret that it is you who dares.

A snow mare stallion trots around you, the Knight mounted upon it. He has yet to take action, yet you sense he may soon. His twisted, swerved sword aimed in your direction. 

You begin to count your breaths.

One

Ah

Two

Ah

Three —

The Queen.

She levels you with a gaze so frigid. You don’t doubt her sword has the ability for the same. Blood spilled so coldly it freezes. But you sense there may be more. Underneath all the layers of heavy silk and flowers. Calculated intentions. What they hold for you? You’ll never know.

Then comes a shrill screech demanding your attention. Demanding you to take action so that it may make its move so that they all can.

The King is a rainbowed beast, circling above you ready to take its dive. You see metal glint with it. A sword? You wonder why the griffon may ever need it.

You see the King pause every now and then above its kin. It observes. It protects. Loyalty.

You wonder what it would do if you wronged any of them. Those who lay above the clouds. In his realm.

But you need not test it. After all, you aren’t armed with a sword.

My Name is Minette, Chapter Sixteen: The Other Side of Town

The mines were on the opposite side of town, set into the hills and crags just beneath the walls like orange and brown canyons. Dark caverns stretched underground for miles, yawning, black mouths opening out from the hillside.

They headed toward Main Street, which was a straight shot through Droz and out the other side to the hills full of copper.

When they got close, though, Paw’s nose grew just as wrinkled as hers.

Main Street was the center of life in Droz, and apparently all that life was all out in the streets today.

The heat pushed crowds into its shady streets and pubs, food and drink in high demand. Bodies and donkeys and horses crowded one another, elbows bumping elbows and shoulders hitting shoulders, creating a density like that of cranberries shoved into a bucket to be smushed into juice.

“I know another way,” Paw grunted, jerking on Lumpy’s reins, directing the horse away from the loud, overlapping shouts and cries of peddlers and hagglers on Main Street. He took them on a zig-zagging route, moving farther and farther east until they were on the edge of Droz.

Minette had never been to this part of the city before in her life. She sat up straighter, holding her hand up as like a visor and squinting into the sun, peering at the buildings strewn about.

This neighborhood felt abandoned. Instead of cobblestones and pavers and bricks, this part of town was dotted with listing huts with gaps in the thatch; warped-wood, grey wooden buildings; and scraggly, unkempt vegetation creeping along dirt roads.

They were close to a run-down section of the wall, black with soot and shiny with moss, close enough that the entire area was cast in a permanent shadow.

They passed a few people walking in the road, wandering in the fields, lurking on porches. Each and every one of them stared up at Minette as she passed, stopping in what they were doing. She was a spectacle, something new, and the tired mistrust was apparent on their lined faces.

It made her feel itchy, sweaty, like eyes were sticking to the small of her back along with the humidity.

They were outsiders. They weren’t welcome here.

My Name is Minette, Chapter Fifteen: The Promise

She felt like a specimen on a biologist’s desk about to be dissected, insides revealed.

But she was being selfish.

It wasn’t all about her. It wasn’t about her hair or her clothes or what she wanted. It was about Rhys, and Irma, too, and Maw and Paw. It was about the house and the animals and the smithy and the copper awnings covering businesses all over town. It was about a legacy and a promise.

A promise Minette had been held to since the day she was born. A promise she could not break.

She blew out her candle, sinking into a collection of nightmares filled with disembodied hands touching her, pulling her taller and wider, ballrooms burning away, mirrors breaking when she passed them.

 

***

 

That morning, she awoke on time, ignoring Edric’s Tale on her nightstand. She went downstairs, kissed Maw on the cheek, and grabbed a chunk of goat cheese. She ate it while sitting in the back of the cart, watching Lumpy’s tail flick persistent flies away.

It was even hotter today than yesterday, and the whole world seemed to groan under it, Minette included. The cicadas were loud this year, and their cries sang of exhaustion. They made Minette feel like she was permanently caught between sleep and wakefulness.

They were their only cart large enough to haul from the mines, which also happened to be their shittiest cart. Minette felt straw and dirt and nails poke her in the butt, and the slightest pothole or pile of horse shit sent her flying. She held onto the cart with a white-knuckled fist, chewing at the inside of her cheek and trying valiantly to block out any and all of her thoughts.

At the mines today, she would pick a nice big lode of copper to take to the smithy and demonstrate her skills to the town in a masterpiece of some kind, probably a fancy awning. This would start her partnership with her father. And that would turn her future from molten metal, shape-changing and uncertain, into something solid, hammered down. Inescapable.