Welcome to Hereabouts!

Welcome to Hereabouts!

Home to Westfall, Liliput and many other odds and ends of my writing and randomness.  Feel free to browse, or search by category with the links below.  I’ve added warnings and ratings on request.

Short Stories – Shorter works written in my downtime to keep my gears turning. (TV-PG)

Poems & Songs – Verse and rhyme, often included in longer works.  (TV-G, mostly)

The Real Life – Personal journals of moments too nice not to share. (TV-G)

Liliput – A lesser-known Russian fairy tale about love, identity, and truth. (Warnings: fantasy violence, some adult themes, death.

Westfall – A teen’s desperate attempt to save a nation from The King of the Western Fairies. (Warnings: violence and violent deaths, some sexual references and language, politics)

11: Connections

Not quite there yet?  Here’s Chapter One.



Galen reappears and sinks back against the stones.  He shuts his eyes, but has trouble concentrating.  He twists folds of his cloak in his fists, breathes, looks up at the high tower, then tries again.



Hold on, my lady.


His half-closed eyes turn to blue as he watches…




Blue flowers open nearby.



(to herself) I’ve never played this all the way through.


Pavel winches again.  She finishes tuning. 



Veles, if you’re with me, please help.


She shuts her eyes and plays Sonya’s song.  As she plays…

…the Stone shines.  Eyes blink out of the wood, curious.

…dew gathers, sparkles, turns to mist.  The eyes watch it, shivering.

red light goes white and all color drains to gray, the fire turns snow white.  

Sasha plays on, eyes closed.

The fog tightens into people, vague, childlike, curious, and the watching eyes widen, shrink, and draw back, bow in reverence

— as VELES (ND) rises from the mist.

His dew-damp coat is sheepskin wool.  He carries a harp and spear.  He is manlike, but double-crowned with cattle and goat horns.  Coiled around his spear, asleep, is a small white serpent with folded, feathered wings.


Note: The last chord of the song lingers throughout.


Sasha opens her eyes, looks up, stares shocked.



(a breath) Veles?


He bows to her, then gestures to a spirit that steps forward and gains clarity:  LIZA (YELIZABETA) ILMENOVA, 40s, the woman from the Ilmenov family portrait.

She looks from Veles to Sasha, then Pavel.  Recognition.  She kneels and touches his forehead, then the marks.  The deliberate touches remove the poison.


(maternal) Too soon, Pavlik


Finished, she kisses Pavel’s forehead and looks up.  She smiles at Sasha.



Thank you.


She stands and bows to Veles, steps back into the haze.  The god nods to Sasha.  The figures all turn to fog… mist… dew… then nothing.

The lingering note fades.  The Stone goes red, dims, and color washes back.

Pavel stirs in his sleep, moans, sits up, falls back, exhausted.



(disoriented) What happened?


Sasha quickly wraps her harp, looks around.  She quickly pulls out the Ace of Hearts.

A wooden groan.  A path opens up on one side of the clearing.  She sets down the card.



I have to go.



Wait, who are you?



A friend.  Gleb?


As she walks away, the Glumy men slink and tumble out of the forest.  Gleb follows her.



So soon, harper?



Take care of him, won’t you?


Pavel blinks, picks up the card, puzzled.



(weakly) Wait, who are you?  Where’s the king?



I’ll be back!


She ducks into the forest.  The trees groan shut.



For a minute there…


He shakes his head



It couldn’t be.




Swordsmen grunt and clang through drills by firelight.

Sonya crosses the courtyard with a basket.  A servant lights torches by the gates. 

Nikolai watches from a high window.


The fire’s low.  Sonya enters from the back door, squints, shivers…

…watches her breath fog.

Worried, she hurries toward the hearth.  Wood scrapes, she stiffens. A log falls on embers and sparks scatter.

Nikolai minds a poker.



It’s cold for spring, isn’t it?


Sonya sets down her basket.  She doffs her cloak heatedly.



Where have you been, old man?


He leans on the poker like a cane.



I’ve been very busy, Sonya.



So I hear…


Kettle, cup, tea.



Drink up.  You’re not as young as you used to be…



There are younger men to look after what matters.



Yet I’m the only one who looks after your health.



Nonsense, I’ve never felt better.


She snatches his hand, checks his nails, frowns.



You’re cold…


He snatches it back.



It’s amazing what a man gains from clarity of mind.



If you want to call it that.  Something’s gotten into you.


She chops vegetables.  He sips tea.



How’s the princess?



The body and soul each have their own afflictions.


Nikolai pours himself a second cup, stands and leaves it.



(inspecting jars) Last week, it was a headache.



So it was.



And a few days ago, the servants mentioned a cold?



You’re diligent, as always, Nikolai.  Viktor never appreciated it.


Nikolai pulls a full jar of mustard seed from the shelf.  Sonya hears the seeds ping and her knife slows.



For colds…   You usually use mustard powder for that kind of thing, don’t you?


The knife stops.



I remember, that winter Pavel was sick.


Sonya waits.



Everyone complained about the smell.



They did.


He puts the jar back, then he turns to walk pass her —

— snatches the pouch off her belt.





She follows.  He takes out the key and tosses the rest back at her.



I know harper’s calluses when I see them, Sonya.  I’ve already sent a dozen knights to look for her.


He unlocks the drawer, pulls it open.

Sonya’s harp is there.  He glares.  Sonya opens a hand and pretends not to notice.



Are you finished taking my things?


Nikolai almost returns the key…

…and sees an empty space in the drawer.



She’s in disguise.



You gave us no choice.



I don’t tolerate liars, Sonya.  I guess war proves us all.


A crackle.  Sonya turns and looks at the black-veiled mirror, snatches the veil off.

The glass is frosting over.



(frightened) Nikolai…?



I do wonder what part the princess plays in all this treachery.



(turning back) What has happened to you?



No matter.  I’ll find out eventually.


He beats a fist on the door.



This will be the last time you trick us.


Both kitchen doors creak open.  GUARDSMEN enter, one with a torch.



(to them) Lock up this sorceress.  She’s been aiding our enemies as a spy.



(stern) You’d lock up an old woman?


They hesitate.



We’d lock up any traitor to King Viktor.


Angrily, Sonya brings her hand down on her harp.  A deliberate discord, and the hearthfire and torch go out.

In the near dark she glares.



No man should be ruled by a dead king.



What have you done?



“As is the king, so is the kingdom.”


He slams the drawer and the mirror cracks.  They all flinch.



(to the guards) Take her away.


They head out the back door…



Nikolai, you’re a better man than him.  Don’t…


…and leave.


 Every light in the castle has gone out.


Nikolai stands in the near-dark.  Winces.  His chest again.  He shivers.

Viktor’s hand is on his back.



Don’t let her twist your thoughts, Kolya.  It’s a witch’s way.



You really think she’s betrayed us?


He walks back to the table and picks up the teacup.  Viktor melts back into his shadow.



Sorcery, magic, it’s all the same in the end, unless you believe in gods.


Nikolai puts the cup down, and leaves it.



Questions of the Week:

  1. Coming down towards the end, do the stakes feel high enough?
  2. Is the magic/sorcery dynamic of this world explained well enough? Should anything be added sooner?
  3. Scene transitions.  How are they feeling?  Natural?  Jarring?

Notes for the Week

  1. I did some YouTube browsing when I first learned about gusliars.  If you’d like a soundtrack while you read, feel free to visit any of the links below.  The last two are from an album called Six Days of Spring, I’m not sure about the first.
  2. Facts about Veles in mythology: In the oldest Slavic texts, The Vedas, Veles (or Volos) is a trickster from the watery underworld who steals cattle (or in some versions a wife) from Perun, his rival in the sky.   Their battles create the rain.  Veles is a shapeshifter and generally likes humans.  He’s modeled as a forest dweller, a shepherd, or a herdsman, and carries a spear and a harp.  As the culture was Christianized, Perun became “Ivan” the Baptist and Veles became St. Basil.  One interesting thing to note is that while European forest deities have wild horns like antlers, Veles has a crown made from livestock horns.  The myths around him depend largely on region, some making him the chief creator god and others a simple forest keeper.  The words veles or volos are likely derived from the word “woolly,” because of his clothes.
  3. Facts about Veles in this story:  I read a number of online sources, among them this one and this one, as I was studying both old and new Slavic mythology.  Since I had to choose one mythos to develop in this story, Veles made the cut as “god of souls,” not only for his association with harpers and the underworld, but also for his shepherdlike qualities.  While in myths Veles isn’t always directly connected to death, the dew, mist and fog are associated with both him and souls.  The aspects I chose to focus when I had to choose on depended on what fit the story’s themes, so his portrayal here is far from complete.  Some aspects are invented solely for the purpose of this story.  For example, the snake is an allusion to his ability to shapeshift into animals, and the rule of magic vs. sorcery is my own invention as a way of contrasting different uses of power.

10: The Harper and the Sorcerer

Not sure what’s happening?  Here’s Chapter One.



Startling quiet.

Sasha looks around.  Moonlight cuts the dark like bright needles sewing velvet.



I’m here.


A few blue flowers open.  She sets out down…


Sasha fumbles in the dark, at times on hands and knees, up…


Now and then, sifting sounds.  At times, distant lights from…


Rustling.  Sasha looks back.  A darker shadows slips between trees behind her.  She presses on to…


She trips on the roots.  A rattle of thorns, and something small and white gleams in a ditch:  She plucks it from a thorn: the Ace of Hearts.



(whisper) Pavel?


Rustling again.  She bristles.



All right, if you want a harper to help Lady Irina, you can stop being so shifty about it!


A lantern light springs up in a tree.  Sasha yelps at the sight of a wolf’s mask.  

A dozen more wild beasts appear all around — masks.  Sasha cowers back, but voices laugh, all mischief.  It’s Gleb and his Glumy Men — though not all are men.



You’ve missed the news, harper.  Our people are at war with a dead man.


The lights wink out and on, and the masks have all changed place.



I might be on your side then.



But who are you?


Sasha hesitates.  A woman, KATIYA, 18, calls from another tree.



He doesn’t know, Gleb!


They all laugh as Gleb drops from the tree.



Are you thieves?  I have no gold.


More laughter.  The masks change again and again as the TROUPE speaks.



We can mock thieves if you like…



…or scoundrels even…



…or damsels…



… or heroes…



…or beasts…



…so long as it gets a laugh.



(realizing) You mean that you’re clowns?


Patronizing applause.



Clowns, tumblers, actors.  Very good, harper.  I’m called Gleb, and these are my Glumy men…



And maid.



…and maid, while she is ours.


Teasing whistles.



We are whatever will entertain, but what else might you be, harper?



(seeking faces) I’m… what’s it matter?



Even an actor knows who he is once a day…





We’ll let Galen decide.



Wait, who?



Lights off and let’s be off!


The lights go out.



Whoops and hollers in the dark as Gleb and his men herd Sasha blindly through the wood and into…


Starlit:  A clearing, surrounded by tents and tree fortresses.  It seems empty, but for a bonfire pit with wood, unlit.

The disembodied laughter fades as Sasha staggers to a stop.



Hello?  Gleb?


Nearby, a painful gasp.  Sasha looks.  By the firewood, a man lies on a pallet, shivering in his sleep.  She approaches cautiously, sees



Pavel?  My goodness… Pavel!


He tosses, sweating in his sleep.  She checks for fever, sees strange purple marks.

A pulse of red.  She pulls out the Stone, looks at it.



(softly) I don’t understand, what do you want me to do?


Galen’s behind her.



You know this man, harper?


Standing she turns, holding the Stone.  Its light dims.



(warily) Who are you, sir?



You’re in my forest; I could ask you the same question.



I’m called Siny, sir.



And sometimes, I’m called “sorcerer,” but that’s only a word — at the moment.



Are you the man who keeps this forest for the Silent King?



(puzzled) That is not the rumor in Dolina.



Another harper told me of you.


Galen hopes, checks it.



He told you we have your king then?



That’s why I’m here.


Mutual suspicion.



But who sent you?


Sasha swallows a little.



(warning) I’ve dealt with liars from Dolina before…



I’m not lying.



Your kingdom declares war on us, then sends a harper.  Do you expect me to believe…?



No one sent me but myself.


They study each other again.



How old are you?



Much older, and stronger, than the last time Dolina invaded.


The forest rattles ominously with thorns.



(remembering) But the last time King Viktor was here was thirty years ago.



I remember.


Galen holds up his tattooed arm.



It’s quite impossible to forget the day my father was murdered.


Sasha’s stunned again.



He passed the forest onto me just before Viktor stabbed him in the back.  I won’t be fooled again.



You must have been only a child.



“Sorcerer” is now more than a word, isn’t it?


Sasha is angry, then pities him.


I promise, I’m here to help.



I could turn you to ash in an instant if you’re lying.



But you don’t want to.  (a beat) Otherwise you would have attacked Dolina long ago.


Galen is startled, then bitter.  He composes himself.  At a gesture, the fire leaps up.  Sasha gasps as she sees Pavel’s wounds more clearly.



A test is in order then.



What have you done to him?


Thorns by the glade clatter.



I’ve done nothing.  The poor fool fell into a nest of snake nettles, one of the curses my father sewed into this forest.


Sasha winces as she studies the swollen wounds.



It took Gleb almost a week to find him for me, greedy things.



You could have brought him back to Dolina…



(coldly) Why?  Only two things can undo curses:  A god or the sorcerer’s kin.



So you want me to cure him?



If you know the song to lift my lady’s curse, you can lift this one.


She holds the Stone again.



Does this have something to do with Veles?



A soul hangs in the balance.  I would think that’s obvious.


He turns away.



Your question gives me little reason to trust you.



I can do it.  How will I find you?



I’ll still be watching.


He vanishes.





The fire snaps.



Were you just going to let him die?  Your mother would be ashamed of you!



(feverish) Who are you?


Sasha hurriedly kneels, unwraps her harp.



A friend.


She calms herself.  She tunes it a moment and he squints, confused.



It’ll be all right.  Just hold on.

Notes of the Week:

  1. As creepy as the word “Skomorokh” sounds, it actually refers to a band of Russian clowns, as does the term “Glumy men,” who were similar to jesters.  They tended to be anti-institutional or at the very least satirical, considering themselves outside the law.
  2. The idea that only a “fool” would enter Skomorokh is a pun on this idea.  Gleb and his clowns favor Ivan, but will happily help anyone, granted, only after giving them a hard time.

21 September 2016

A call back to last year.  Originally posted on Tumblr.  A train-of-thought exercise after reading so many hard stories and wishing I could reach my hands through the computer to all of them.


On Power

there is no will to power
and where power predomintes,
love is lacking.
The one is the shadow of the other. 
– Carl Jung

The privilege of a lifetime
is to become who you truly are. 
– CG Jung

And so…

Deep calls to deep.
Like calls to like.

Shakespeare said that those who see the dancers
but do not hear the music will think the dancers mad.
Someone will always try to stop you from being you.
They can’t hear the music.
Only you can.

Are you trying to leave a harmful relationship?
With family?
A lover?
A whole community?

Deep calls to deep.
Like calls to like.

If you are not like them anymore, leave.
If they want nothing of you from you, leave.

They might tell you that you’re selfish,
Or weak,
Or proud,
Or immoral.
They may say that it is dangerous
For your body,
Your mind,
Your soul.

They may praise you for being virtuous
If you obey,
If you stop being you,
If you do as they say.
They will say to kill the part of you they hate,
To “die to yourself,”
When you still don’t know who you are.

Deep calls to deep.
Like calls to like.

So leave their shallow waters.

Here is what’s selfish:
Letting others think for you.
Here’s what is dangerous:
Giving up power to someone else.
Here’s what’s virtuous:
Taking on power,
Even when it’s hard,
And keeping it.
The last is the hardest thing.
For milennia,
We were told power is evil.
And so only evil people sought power.
For milennia,
We were and are being lied to:
To have power over yourself
Allows you to do the most good.

Deep calls to deep.
Like calls to like.

They plant the fear
and then call to it.
They take what you love
and they ransom it.

Deep calls to deep.
Like calls to like.

Somewhere, somewhere,
There is someone who will love you.
Somewhere, some place,
There is a place where you can live.

Find it.
Find yourself.
Call to it.
You will find it.

Giving up power is only a virtue
if it is power over another person.
Giving up power over yourself is, at best,
Not bravery,
Not selflessness,
Not good morals.

Leave the things that harm you.
Leaving will be the second bravest thing you ever do.
Leave the ways that harm you.
The bravest thing you’ll ever do, will be never going back.

Deep calls to deep.
Like calls to like.

Release your fear.
Leave it behind you.
Search for love.
It will call to you.

And when you stop listening to them
You will be able to hear it.

A break for a poem

Looking forward to posting on August 2nd.  I’ve finished my third draft!  Huzzah!  Drinks all around! (Er, we’re going dutch though, so just toast as you can…)

For now,  I’ve been digging through old material so there’s still something I can post for you all to read.  Enjoy my poetric attempts from my college days.   Continue reading

My Lack of Appetite

Another two inches.

I pull the wrapper off the sugar-free chocolate again and toast the horizon and, somewhere, a small New England town.

I don’t say, “cheers.”  In Japan you don’t say that for the sad things

I keep my milk chocolate in the freezer right now.  The summers of Japan are too hot for it to survive on the kitchen table.  It also keeps it out of sight, and somehow this helps (against all proverbial expectations) keep it in mind.

That’s where I want it.  In my mind, it’s close to the other thoughts, the ones that make me careful of it:  Thoughts of my father, still in the rehabilitation clinic, because home is on a second floor and he can’t do stairs.  He’s not been home since the one toe, then the other toe, then the rest, and then the top half of the foot.

And now they’re taking more.

I’ve seen his “footsies” of all end results, taken with his ipad with candid alacrity, on our private family Facebook page, all wrapped up in bandages of course, a nub that should be going farther than it does, that my mind knows should go farther than it does.  Once, there was a troubling spot of blood.  I wait on selfies when this happens, and save them, and date them, with unspoken and untyped fears.

They’ll take two more inches, they said.

Like butchers, I glower at the news.  Like his leg is a hunk of deli meat.  Like they’re paid by the cut, so they’re taking their time, instead of fixing the problem so he can go home.

It’s not a reasonable thought, but it’s how the anger comes, even like it did before, and joins the fear and the chocolate in my head, with that picture:  Ham.  On a slab.  And white aprons behind a glass counter.

How much a cut, doctor?  In a hurry?  You took your time getting a scooter ordered in, didn’t you?  So he had to hobble instead and it got infected again.  And how much insurance did that time buy you?  With all the q-tips and jello and rolls of toilet paper in between?

I fall asleep feeling like my ankle’s in a garrotte.  The next morning it’s just a rubber band, so I try to walk it off.  I wonder if it’s sympathy pain or fear for the future, or prophecy.  The next day it’s the bottom, near the toes, whenever I walk on it, like a bruise.

The anger’s really at myself, isn’t it? I reflect as I limp.  There’s a reason I’m keeping the chocolate in mind.

Word comes that the surgery went fine.  “Fine” is relative when the word “surgery” is close by.  I know there’ll be another footsie from the ipad, but I wait to look at the family Facebook page when its notification pings my phone with the text.  I don’t think my mind has room for it.

I just reflect, as you do past age thirty, when death is not a distant myth.  Death is a truth that makes you selfish, even when your father is getting his foot shaved.  It steals thoughts away from the man who carried you in from the car as a child (because you knew he would if you pretended to sleep).

I sit appalled at how his misery feeds my survival with the good kind of fear, the kind that makes me walk, cut back on the salt, and turn down second helpings.  It makes me do all those things I couldn’t do by myself.  It keeps that bag in the freezer a “sometimes food,” when just months ago half or more was a daily fix.

I still need my father, I realize, in the selfish way that children do.  It’s the kind of need that can’t give back for it.  And I get angry at myself, because I’m an adult now.  It was supposed to be my turn to help him.  There should be grandkids by now.  He should have gotten the chance to carry them.

I go to my room and lie in my bed, and read the IMs off Facebook Messenger, because I’m still shying away from the family page.  My father makes jokes and puns with far more emojis than most people use with three word sentences.  The last, “I’m going under the knife again,” doesn’t get me so much as his, “Love you bunches,” for its extensive use of almost every heart emoji, and then a kissy face.  I’m in Japan.  He’s in New England.  He loves with heart emojis and I love with worried questions about back-alley surgical degrees.  And I don’t know what else I can do.