5 Days To Go! Let’s Fund Crows on Heartstrings!

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WE’RE 85% FUNDED AND NEED ONE MORE PUSH TO GET FUNDED IN THE NEXT FIVE DAYS!

CLICK HERE TO PLEDGE!

We only have FIVE DAYS! We can do this with your help!

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Crows on Heartstrings is a fully illustrated anthology of short stories. We have a little something for everyone, no matter what your gender, sexuality, or color, we have something for you. We are proud to say that we are mostly created by, for and about lgbtqa+ folks. It’s nothing like you’ve ever seen before. We are also comprised of 23 women, and 3 men, so READ WOMEN!

The project is in its last FIVE DAYS on kickstarter and we need all of your support to bring our dream to life! please pledge if you can, and spread the word. thank you for everything, guys. we would not have made it this far without you!

 

Here are some of our contributors:

@aegisdea @aubreymeeksart @pannan-art @sonialiao @maxwickstrom @weatherfox @alisabishop @heavenlyeros @dodtt @spectre-draws @thevioletknight @shutterbones @artofpan

@theconstantvoice

What Crows on Heartstrings NEEDS:

We need FUNDING. We need your pledges to make this a reality. If you can pledge even just five dollars if you can, and tell five friends personally to pledge as well, we can do this! We want to give you the characters you want to read. Please help us make this inclusive book written and illustrated by 23 women, and 3 men, some or most of us LGBT+ writers and artists.  Come on! We can do it!

CLICK HERE TO PLEDGE!

We only have FIVE DAYS! We can do this with your help!

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Crows on Heartstrings TEASER! Roses Grow for Mammet Men by Aubrey Meeks

What is it about?!

Elves and Faeries walk among humans in this urban fantasy set in New York City. The young, Elven clan leader, Daði Manfredsson, and Fae Prince, Mercurie Nightray have bigger things to worry about than integrating into human society.

But politics and love don’t mix, and soon, the two boys are slinging curses to sacrifice their love for control of the Hudson river trade routes.

Do the boys know love at all?

Can they work through true love and balance duty and desire? Or is it really as doomed as Crows on Heartstrings promises?

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“So, on this clear summer day, the tourists caught tall Dathi the elf in their pictures of the New York City Skyline and the Statue. It was like they’d never seen an elf before. Then again, Dath reminded himself, most people on this side of the ferry, the wrong side of the ferry, came from places like, the midwest, or the south, where Elves were still a bit of a myth.

He took the photo anyway. He put on a nice face for her to show her friends at book club. He smoothed his cornsilk plaits and his Rolling Stones t-shirt so whoever saw the image on her Facebook page thought something like, hey, that guy looks alright. Instead of whatever prejudiced bullshit they might say otherwise.

If Mercurie were here now. Dath chuckled to himself. If his boyfriend, my man, were there, the tourists might’ve gone home with slightly pornographic pictures of my Fairy boy and an Elf boy making out–And then they’d both be arrested for being a public nuisance. New Yorkers are liberal, but they’re not that liberal. Elves and Fae were still sort of taboo.”

-Excerpt from Roses Grow for Mammet Men by Aubrey Meeks

If you’re interested in Crows on Heartstrings, check out our kickstarter by clicking here!

(art by Ashley Feemster)

Finishing Things!

I just finished my first draft of Roses Grow for Mammet Men for Crows on Heartstrings.

For those of you who don’t know, Crows on Heartstrings is a collection of short stories I am curating. Each story is accompanied by an illustration to pull us into the deep darkness of doomed love.

While it’s quite the relief to have something finished, I am itching to get back into the story and pull out all the stops for you guys. In the next round, I edit with the intention of making the reader cry.

😀

 

Magpies: A Book of Muses- WIP Update

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I’ve made some changes and put the finishing touches on this guy since this version, but this is the final WIP update for my Muse/Magpie! If you want to see the final version, check out the Magpies: A Book of Muses Artbook on Tumblr

Tolthe vs Eliana P.4 : Good and Dead

Eliana and Tolthe 4“Ready.”

“Oh, after, that really changes every-” She was cut off by his hands cupping her face, the soft press of lips against hers in such a sweet moment it almost made her heart break for the older Elf. She put down the knife and rested one hand on his cheek, the other tightening gently against his waist. It felt like a good bye, a thank you, and hope rolled into one, causing her to close her eyes and just press herself closer to him.

She pulled herself away with a shaky breath. Centering herself, she picked the knife up again, pressing the edge to his cheek, watching quietly as it broke skin and the dark red blood ran down his face like a tear.

The tiny pop of his skin breaking under the point of the cool knife startled Tolthe in the slightest. He didn’t make a sound, only felt the bead of blood glob down his face at his slight movement. All his skin was burning. Anxiety marched like ants under every inch of his skin. There was no turning back. The monumentality of it threatened to relieve him of his consciousness but he was determined to be alert for the last moments of his life.

The knife was spelled, charmed to spread the necessary enchantments and restraints through the target’s body without the tedious task of manually casting every spell and drawing every damn sigil. She pressed the knife against his other cheek, cutting two smooth x’s across his cheeks. It would begin to hurt now, the feeling of something crawling under your skin and bleeding through your body like poison.

Tolthe moaned through his once again clenched jaw. He tried to bite through the pain, but was met with chipping teeth. His body went rigid wickedly fast. Whatever he was expecting, this wasn’t it.

Eliana grabbed Tolthe’s shoulder, both to keep her balance and to be able to push him back down if he moved. She cut a thin, shallow line across his throat, pressing her fingers and murmuring to herself. It was crucial that she did everything correctly, that every cut was precise and purposeful. She would hate herself for it all to go to waste because she was distracted. I’m sorry.

She pressed her fingers harshly against his pulse, cutting his lips quickly.

Blood filled his mouth like a flood and gargled through the slice at his neck. The blood loss was making the room spin and giving him a migraine. If it lasted much longer he’d puke and pass out.

If she were a more heartless person, she might think of her clothes and hands. The stains of rusty red blood that would be left there for days. The necessity to pour bottles of bleach through a small tub and scrub her clothes until she couldn’t feel the dry mess underneath her fingertips anymore. She continued her task, cutting the necessary lines, trying not to pay mind to the gurgles and wet pops of blood.

Blood splattered into his freshly plaited hair like he were a wounded white rabbit. Pitiful and sad yet still remaining grotesquely beautiful enough to make any good person sick at the sight.

Tolthe was far past restraining himself, or worrying about appearances. He was being gutted, his blood flowed through him like it were filled with shrapnel and ripping his veins apart, only to fill them with a burning chemical poison so burn the rest of the flesh away.

He looked up, searching for Eliana through the rust colored lenses his blood was filtering for him. Just for a smack of humanity, familiarity, something to keep him from going mad. But if she were a necromancer, simply performing another job, perhaps he didn’t want to see her face, and have business Eliana be the last one he saw.

He finally surrendered to his body and let out a desperately guttural groan of pure torment, fighting to keep hold of his sanity.

“Be quick, please.” He hissed, before his body throbbed in an allover piercing pain. He begged for it to be over quickly, begged her to go faster. He shouldn’t have been so proud, he should have welcomed unconsciousness and threw away the last moments, because these minutes certainly weren’t worth it.

“Eliana…”

The smell of blood was thick, hanging heavily between them. Was it sad, she wondered, that she no longer gagged at the sight and smell because she had become so used to it? Or was it just inevitable? His blood stuck to his pale blonde hair, like paint the color of strawberries splattered across the snow.

“I’m sorry. I must be careful with this.” She smoothed a hand over his hair, tacky with the blood that stained her hand and sleeve. She cupped his cheek, bringing him to look into her face. Like a lifeline or some odd comfort. “Vera sterk.” Be strong. A voice in the back of her mind, that hard voice that she leaned back on when the blood wouldn’t wash off and the images of cold, cut up bodies wouldn’t leave her at night, spoke softly. Do not pause. Do not hesitate. Your hand shakes and this will be all for naught. Be strong. Be strong. Be strong.

She pushed the knife into his gut without flinching, keeping her eyes on his.

“Be strong.”

If Eliana hadn’t used Tolthe’s native tongue to speak, he wouldn’t have settled over if she were asking him to hold on for a few moments longer, or if she were giving herself strength to finish him off.

The corners of his mouth jerked upward in a twitchy, amused grin, allowing his blood to cascade  out the sides and down the tense muscles of his neck and pool in his matting hair.

Unngh” He gasped when she removed her knife out from under all the torn muscles of his stomach. His breath was erratic and shallow. It couldn’t be much longer, could it? How much more would he have to endure? He found her eyes in the haze of his failing vision. She must have felt worse than he looked.

“It’s okay. Eliana. I asked for this.” He breathed.

If this had happened only a year or two before, she would have cried at the smile that stretched across his face. That stuttering motion followed by a wet gasp and pop. The blood spilled freely, nothing she hadn’t seen and felt before, but every experience was always different. Always personal. Always burned into her mind in a way that was deeper and crustier than dry blood stains or the stale smell of death.

She rolled the words around in her tongue, the pronunciation foreign on her tongue. The shape felt strange to her, the stilted words that she melted together and shaped into something soothing rather than awkward. Soft and sweet, spoken more like a ‘See you again’ rather than a death sentence.

“þitt stríð er lokið. Fara hratt í ljós, með the guðir leiðarljósi leið.”

Blood splayed from Tolthe’s lungs like beer being forced through his nose after a bad, but terribly funny joke.

“My Lady, while that was very kind of you, I don’t think I’m going anywhere.” He gasped through a fit of all encompassing laughter. He needed air, wheezing as he choked on his own blood, forgetting the pain for just a second.

“You’re much sweeter than you pretend to be.” He lost the last bit to lost air and failing organs, but he hoped Eliana heard it just the same. She was covered in his blood and for once it wasn’t himself he was pitying.

Eliana blinked, flinching backwards at the unexpected spray of blood, covering her in red raindrops. It was…strange. Weird. Insane. No one had ever laughed before, twisting the usually warm and opening sound into something red and black and red. She supposed she might have seen this coming. The elf prince was one to defy expectations, and she would have laughed herself if he admitted to being religious.

“Yes, but that’s a secret you take to the grave.” Without hesitating, she plunged the knife into his heart, her breath turning sharp as she let the spell slip between her lips. A call forth towards the dead, pulling and shoving and demanding before Tolthe could lose his heartbeat. She felt a cold air wash through her, familiar and terrifying all the same. His body slumped forward as she pulled the knife out, running her finger over the blade and drawing a sigil across his forehead.

“Go in peace, Tolthe Baltsersson von Staaten. You were one hell of company.”

“TOLTHE!” A throaty cry pierced the silence. An elf, not much younger than Tolthe was, stood in the door frame with horror plastered over his blood drained face. The only color remained over a fading burn cupping his sharp jaw, from ear to chin.

Vander.

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”
-Written Collaboratively by Aubrey ‘Meeks’ Brown and Cara….. All characters belong solely to the author who wrote them ie:Cara owns Eliana and the world to which she belongs to, and Aubrey owns Tolthe and the world to which he belongs to. All items are copy-written accordingly.

Illustration by Aegisdea

Previous

Tolthe vs Eliana Pt. 3: Ready

Tolthe and Eliana 2Tolthe touched the braids as she twisted them without pulling at his scalp. His mother would have slapped his hand away.

With a deep exhale he decided to make progress on relaxing.

“Tell me about yourself.” He requested, a little too sharply.

She raised her eyebrow. She tied the elastic around his braid, pulling it gently.“Pushy. What do you want to know?”

“Everything. Take my time.” He protected that sharp edge to his voice because if it shattered, he’d be left with pleading and whining for more time. “Why are you a necromancer, do you hate it or love it, what’s your favorite pizza place in the city, why do you dislike leather pants, is it because you haven’t had a good look at my ass in them?” Tolthe rattled off a few of the essential questions for Eliana. He stretched his legs out in front of him and cupped her bum so she didn’t slide off when he shifted. He shook his legs out until the pins and needles dissolved and he could return to serving as a chair for his soon-to-be killer.

“I’m a necromancer because it’s interesting. Some people compare it to an addiction, the rush you get when you cast a spell and pull yourself through the veil of life and death, playing God with people’s lives. It’s certainly different. A better buzz than drugs or whiskey. I can’t say if I love it or hate it, it’s too much of a gray area to decide. My favorite pizza is Nino’s, leather pants belong on a stripper whose rent is due by the end of the week, and your ass isn’t that great, princeling.” She patted his cheek, her eyes widening when he cupped her ass, keeping her from sliding off his lap as he stretched himself out. “My ass on the other hand, it’s out of this world.”

Tolthe snorted and tugged at his lower lip with his teeth. “Agreed.”

His heart thudded while his brain thought if he let the conversation die, he’d go with it. “Have you ever been in loveHow much will you love killing meHow long will the high last?” He barrelled through the questions as if the more he asked the longer it would take for the minutes to tick by.

“Yes. Not at all. Sometimes for days, sometimes only for seconds afterwards.” She answered calmly, twisting his braid in her hands. One of them had to be in control of themselves when this happened, and it clearly wasn’t going to be him. “Are you scared?”

Tolthe dropped his head and glanced up at Eliana. He rolled his head to the side and sucked in his lip.  If he wasn’t able to prematurely bloody up his mouth, he had to find a new plaything.

“No.” He stated with as much clarity as he could muster. Well, he lied.

He slid his hands until the found the small of Eliana’s back.

“If you’re going to be a damn necromancer, you might as well enjoy it.” His voice caught and rasped in his throat.

“Liar.” Residue of the spell she had cast tipped her off, a slight nudge in the back of his mind. But what else could she have expected? There was no one who truly didn’t fear death, fear the unknown and mystery and pain of dying and leaving behind a million what if’s.

“I do enjoy it. The knowledge and flow of it. But I don’t enjoy killing those who don’t deserve it.”

Tolthe shrugged. He could have spit out that he did deserve it. The sour taste of the words stung in his mouth, but he kept them there anyway.

A faint buzzing sounded in Tolthe’s pocket.

The superficial glee stayed with him until he glanced down at his mini tablet sized mobile phone. Vander flashed across the screen. Overcome by sighs and rolled eyes, Tolthe leaned into Eliana and set the phone down on the table. He let it buzz. He stared at it. It started and stopped through three buzz spans and he stared at it the whole time.

He had looked at the phone for only a second before he put it down, staring at it like it held all the answers to the universe. “Not going to answer it?” She peered at the bright screen before it stopped buzzing. “Vander is your brother, isn’t he, the one who is barely alive? Don’t you want to speak to him before you decide to die?”

“He’s alive. More than barely.” Tolthe tutted. “He just had a nasty burn. It will heal within the hour. I could never maim my little brother.”

Tolthe watched the phone buzz. “No. Let’s just get this thing over with. How long is it going to take?”

“Maim your little brother? Did you cause that nasty burn of his?” She raised an eyebrow, turning away from the phone to stare at the blond elf.

“Preparation shouldn’t take very long. You’ll be out and passed before the sun sets.”

“I did. He was enraged, and he’s much more of a skilled fighter than I am. I needed him to calm down and he wouldn’t. So I shut him up.” Tolthe nodded with a wistful stare at nothing in particular.

“Okay, Necromancer. Do your thing, prepare me.” He demanded with the slightest tremor.

“Rightly so. I think anyone has the right to be angry if their brother gave them a burn.” She gave him a significant look, leaning back slightly to give him a better look. She leaned back, pulling her bag forward and taking out the necessary tools. She twirled the knife in her hand, watching the silver glint in the light.

“Ready?”

“No. Two things. Firstly: I burned him AFTER he was being a murderous lunatic. Secondly…” Tolthe snaked his hands on either side of Eliana’s face. He met her lips with his in the innocent and sad final kiss of his life. He breathed her in, the toxic sweetness of her scent, drove him mad. He filled his lungs with her sweet scent and kept it there so he might hold on to her as he passed. He savored the warmth of her skin and the taste of her lips and weighed the pros and cons of going further. Alas, he decided to stay true to his Skaftafellen Elvish roots and honor her. He broke the kiss to accept his fate.

“Ready.”

-Written Collaboratively by Aubrey ‘Meeks’ Brown and Cara….. All characters belong solely to the author who wrote them ie: Cara owns Eliana and the world to which she belongs to, and Aubrey owns Tolthe and the world to which he belongs to. All items are copy-written accordingly.

Illustration by Aegisdea

Previous . Next

Tolthe vs Eliana P.2: Trading Energies

Tolthe and Eliana 3Tolthe wasn’t going to apologise for favoring sympathetic magic over blood magic, nor would he apologize for suspecting he could do the same with sympathy – better even, than Eliana could do by slicing herself up and swapping spit, biting like cats in heat. Instead of whining, he pressed his lips into a tight line and enjoyed the coppery taste in his mouth from her bite.
“You could have just asked.” He sifted through a range of snide remarks he could have used and settled on this relatively mild one, to make up for the voodoo bit.

Eliana smiled prettily, “What fun would that have been? I needed to prove a point.”

“Oh? What point would that be?”

She trailed a finger down his cheek with a sweet smile, twirling a finger into his pale blond hair. “What I’m capable of. A blood mage, I think it’s what your people call it.” She paused, biting her lip. “Tell me more about your people. About you. You seem to think you know everything about me.” She slid off of the table and into his lap, watching him carefully under long lashes. “Talk to me.”

Tolthe’s body resisted his silent request to not shudder when the tips of Eliana’s fingers grazed the slightly raised dotted tattoos on the cliff of his cheekbones. He clenched his jaw and gulped hard.

“My people?” He stalled.  What to tell? That their king was dead and the favorite prince was lying comatose in bed while his grieving mother sobbed at his bedside, too distraught to eat or drink. Could he tell her that his people were suffering with their dying royal family and if he didn’t fix it he’d really be up shits creek? What would a witch do with information like that? Would she give two shits about the elves of New York?

“My people are a Kingdom of Icelandic elves, hence the creative swearing – it’s Icelandic. Uh. I too am. I’m a mage. My brother is in charge of the military, and I the mages, and…” He leaned back and thanked the gods for his apparently ridiculous leather pants which were acting more like a clever encasing at the moment. “My mum. She’s alive. My brother just barely. I. I am also alive. My father is definitely dead and it isn’t really…” he cleared his throat so he continue running circles around this warranted talking about himself business. “Necromancer,” he stiffened – not in the aforementioned area, this time his back. “I’m going to need to strike that deal with you. I’ll pay the price. My people are suffering.”

Eliana tilted her head at his hesitation, her pointer finger, tapping the bottom of his chin as he paused. She couldn’t say she knew much about Elves and their culture, nothing more than the obvious that every witch had to know. Tall, elegant beings with a flair for magic and royalty. Enchanting. Deadly. A more democratic form of monarchy than one would think from them. She shifted in his lap, moving her free hand to play with the drawstrings of his hoodie.

“Tell me how your father died. What happened to your brother?” She pulled lightly on his hair. “Are you truly ready to pay the price?”

There it was. The question he had wanted to avoid.

“My brother was meant to be king after my father. My father was murdered. I suppose the killer wanted to cover his bases.” He caught her hands to still the incessant futzing with his hair and clothes, and held them against his chest. His heart beat fast under the burn of his anxious skin. “It’s not about being ready for anything. I have no choice. I don’t have to be ready, I just have to do it. My father wasn’t ready. Why should I be?”

“And now you’ve taken it into your hands to try and save the day.” She flattened her hands against his chest, raising her eyes to meet his. “Murder and necromancy are two very different things. The victim of a murderer rarely ever gets a choice in their death, but the payment in necromancy must be fully prepared and willing to die for another to live. The spell doesn’t work as well if you are reluctant. You aren’t ready to die. You just think it’s a better option than living with your guilt and regret.”

“Semantics.” Tolthe pushed her hands off his chest like a squeegee on a wet windshield. “You said nothing about readiness. Only that I had to be willing and well prepared. Who the fuck is ever ready to die? Name me one goddam person you’ve worked with who actually wanted to die.” His pout was back and he wasn’t stamping it from his face.

She raised her hands up in the air, a common ‘I surrender’ position that might have been seen as something submissive and respectful if not for the smirk on her face and the amusement she felt spotting his pointed ears turn red. “Readiness is all part of the game. Plenty of people are ready to die, some come to me to give their death some greater purpose. Moving on with the idea that their life and death was not meaningless. It’s more common than you might think amongst some darker circles.”

Tolthe pulled his hood up over his face and pulled the drawstring tight. “Yeah, all right. All of that.” He waggled his reedy fingers at Eliana. “I want exactly that, all of it.” He said without looking at her.

Eliana laughed, her blonde curls bouncing cheerfully. She caught his fingers, slipping her smaller hand into his and creating some semblance of holding hands between them. “You look really convincing, I should tell you, all pink ears and hiding behind American Apparel hoodies. It’s almost adorable.”

“How dare you.” The corners of his lips twitched upward and he tried not to squeeze her hand very much. “I’m sitting here begging you to let my death mean something and you’re laughing at my ears. Heartless, I tell you.”

She tapped her fingers on the back of his hand, smiling brightly. “I tried to warn you. What were your words again, ‘the most amoral hussy?’” She pulled on his drawstring with her free hand, tightening the hoodie so that it only showed his nose. “Completely heartless, I am. I laugh at the possibility of your death.”

“Prove me right then and get it over with. Be a good amoral necromancer just like everyone says you are and get to the energy bartering. Should I give a nice speech about how you shouldn’t listen to the haterzz when I’m gone? I’m quite good with speeches.” His face went slack, save for his hidden crinkled brow. “How do we go about doing this?” He mumbled into the fuzzy lining of his hoodie. “Do I die first and you do the voodoo later? Are we doing this now or need I make another appointment?”

She patted his face.

“I’m sure you can save your haterz gonna hate speech for later. I can’t take you seriously now that I’ve seen you with loner hoodie face and have smooshed your face.” Eliana rested her hand on his waist, leaning in to peer at him closely. “Do you really want to die in a college campus library? It’s kind of a terrible place to die, if you ask me.”

“No no, of course not. I want the bed of roses, bury me in satin shit. Of course we must go back to the kingdom and fetch my crown and…” he unsmooshed his face so they could talk about the business that was damn near going to make him retch if he didn’t keep going over the importance of this deal in his head – and how retching might blow his air of confidence with the whole death and readiness garbage.  “… Well you see, it doesn’t really matter anymore, does it? You can go ahead and bury me in an unmarked grave so … Oh. Should we do that? Can you take care of getting rid of me or should I just wear cement shoes and wade into the Hudson? Have you a plan of action?”

“Pretentious. I can get behind that.” She shrugged. Usually the client had very particular plans on what would happen to their body when she was done. Some wanted to be cremated and tossed into the ocean, others wanted to be buried in a family plot. Those usually required more delicate work, making sure that the cuts and spells she made didn’t injure the body too much. If not, a simple glamour would last long enough until the body is in the ground. “Well, I’m going to have a lot of fun stabbing you, but that isn’t how you are going to die. We could do it now, if you really, really wanted to. But most people like a little more time to prep, to say good bye, etc, etc.”

“You’re going to stab me? More than once? Having fun stabbing at a man sounds like more than once… and it’s stabbing and not killing?” His jaw clenched and he caught the inside of his cheeks with his teeth, refusing to let go like a lock jawed dog. “Ríða mér

“Depends on how much I like you, really. It’s all in the precision.” She grinned, tapping his cheek with her pointer finger. “Well, if you insist.”

Totlthe angled his head away from Eliana. What were the chances that she knew enough Icelandic to misunderstand the figurative use of his words? The thought sent an unwelcomed ripple through his body.

“Are you…?” He narrowed his eyes at her. “…being a true amoral hussy?”

Surprisingly, his looming brutal death was weighing him down. The back of his neck was damp under his hoodie. He slid down in his seat with the soundless grace of an alley cat born on the streets. He unzipped his hoodie, pulled his arms out of the sleeves and tugged at the hem of his muggy white v-neck.

“The one favor I ask, if I may – Can you braid hair fairly well? It’s a pain in the ass to pull off the Nordic plaits. It’s probably an asinine request to you, but could you just braid my hair?” He sounded like a tool asking. “My mom normally does it because I don’t have the patience for it.” He was arguably an even bigger tool for admitting his mom still braided his hair. He closed his eyes. His poor mother.

Eliana tapped her fingers across the buckle of his belt, her grin widening. “Sex, darling, does not make a girl amoral. Besides, it hardly looks like you’re complaining.” She tightened her hold on his hand when he slid down, balancing herself on his lap. She watched quietly as he shrugged off his jacket, raising an eyebrow at his request.

“You want me to braid your hair?”

She almost laughed when he admitted that it was his mother that usually put his hair in its braids. It reminded her of when she was little and would sit in front of her own mother while she brushed through her mess of curls and pulled it into a tight ponytail before school. “I can do that.”

His eyes darkened and he shied away from her. She was clearly having a ball and he was feeling particularly unfunny.

“I know, sex is great. I was only joking.” He spoke the low, soothing voice of a damned man who had accepted his fate. It was the perfect cover, not even a quiver to his voice. He reached up to tuck a blonde coil behind her ear but plunged his hand into her hair instead, shaking the curls out because trying to tame her would be cruel and an ill-fated attempt.

“But I was only using profanity and I don’t want to mislead you. Not that I would say no. I wouldn’t. You’re far too lovely for me and I’d be lucky to have you – I just wanted to be clear, I don’t want you to feel obligated.  I’m sounding like a pathetic dying man with a list of wishes.” His hands rested over his hip bones, centimeters from where Eliana was tantalizingly playing with the band of his belt. He tried his best not to touch her, instead, he enjoyed the warmth of her energy and the closeness of her fingers to his.

“As for the hair, it’s a tradition. Weddings, coronations, general celebrations… funerals. I get none so the braiding would be the least I could do if I weren’t hopeless at it.”

It was almost adorable, how he shied away from her fun and amusement. She leaned back slightly into his touch, laughing as he tried to shake her curls out from their usual mess. Her hair only ever came down to something manageable with a flat iron, hair spray, and a hell of a lot of determination.

“I know, princeling. I know.” She moved her hand lower slowly, watching him with a pretty smile. “I don’t ever do anything out of obligation. Even for Elf princes with a list of genie wishes.”

She paused her hands’ motions, nodding minutely as he explained the braids. It did make sense, with how much she saw of elves and their braids in large events. Parties and dates and that one odd wedding that she managed to attend so many years ago. “I can give you a nice French braid if you’d like. Or just a handful of smaller ones. It’ll be fun.

Tolthe scoffed. “They’re called plaits, not French braids.” The arrogant twinge to his voice hung around, though he wanted to express his gratitude for Eliana’s acceptance of his last request, his shackled panic was betraying his good intentions.

“This is a serious matter.” His face set and he fought against the stubborn upturned corner of his mouth. He ran his hands through his wavy, shoulder-length hair and parted the top half from the bottom.  “We’ll do this properly, or not at … or to a mildly presentable fashion.” He stammered, changing his mind half-way through.

“If you may, braid this straight back. No French braids just yet.” He eased two sections out, just above his ears and let them hang loosely around his face. “That’s your first task.” He handed her a small clear elastic he’d been wearing around his finger like a ring and tried to relax. Keeping the infinite wheel of internal banter from his face was a fair amount of magic on it’s own. The more Tolthe said things to himself like “Don’t be a fucking coward. You’re weak. Just do this, death thing. Better you than him.”, the more difficult it was to keep those thoughts from reaching his tense jaw and white-knuckled fists full of the soft fabric of Eliana’s skirts.

Eliana widened her eyes comically, tilting her head to the right as her voice took on a familiar Southern drawl. “Why, I am so sorry. Allow me to plait your hair.”

She grinned, watching him fight his own smile as he stammered through his requests. “Don’t you worry your pretty little mind. I can give you neat little plaits that’ll make your Elf heart go thump thump.” She patted her chest in time with her words, pulling lightly at the buckle of his belt before taking in the blond strands of his hair into her hands. She took the clear elastic off his hand, slipping it onto her wrist as she ran her fingers through his hair, pulling at the ends.

“Take a deep breathe, princeling. I can feel how tense you are without even thinking about it.”

“Tell me, is this what you say to all your customers? Pat them on the belly and tell them to relax? It will all be so much better tomorrow, honey… when you’re dead.” His teeth crunched together with an ache when he let them meet once more in a sharper clench to his stressed jaw. He relieved the tension only to catch the already torn flesh of the inside of his mouth between his teeth harder than before.

“Only the special ones.” She cupped his jaw, shaking it loose for a moment. “You’re going to chew your entire mouth out like that. Which really would be a pity, since you have quite the mouth. Hate to see it all bloodied up and tense before it has to be.”

“That’s a mental picture I’d rather not see.” He pushed his head further into her hands. “Is there a time limit to how long Necromancy works? Can you bring me back if after say, ten years someone is crazy enough to seek me out? Or would I be a zombie by that point?”

She continued braiding his hair, neat lines that were as tight as twine. It came in good practice, she supposed, after having to braid so her own hair so many times after she moved out. “I suppose I could, if someone were insane enough to die for you. It’d be harder and much more tedious, as you would have already begun rotting and peeling away, but fixing that is possible.”

Niðurgangur skíta api.  Well that’s good to know.”

-Written Collaboratively by Aubrey ‘Meeks’ Brown and Cara….. All characters belong solely to the author who wrote them ie: Cara owns Eliana and the world to which she belongs to, and Aubrey owns Tolthe and the world to which he belongs to. All items are copy-written accordingly.

Illustration by Aegisdea

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