Reaching Out from a Mind as Dirty as All Outdoors
If you get lucky enough, I might post adult-only material from time to time, so be 18 or over, or please be elsewhere.
I'll be discussing erotica here, the writing of it and the people who write it, as well as what we've written. I find all these aspects stimulating, but if any of them bore you, feel free to skim. You never know what you might miss, though.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Blog Tour Post 12, Witches, Princesses and Women at Arms: Lea Daley-"The Sorceress of Solisterre"
All these decades later, their voices echo in memory: My mother, the singer. My father, the storyteller. How many hours did she rock me while crooning? How many times did he grant my fondest bedtime wishes, rereading “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” or “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” until he must have dreaded the coming of nightfall? The poetry of Mom’s music, the stately rhythms of those fairy tales, took up permanent residence in my heart.
They were an atypical—almost radical—couple for their time. My mother was a proto-feminist, a role model whose every act suggested I could forge my own future without fear. My father, orphaned early and raised in an oppressive institution, was all-too-aware that bad things befall good people. Harsh experience taught him that rescue can only come from within. His heroism didn’t reside in a capacity to defeat dragons, but rather in his willingness to surrender male privilege, entering into equal partnership with the woman he loved. And the two truly did live happily ever after.
Their romantic relationship, their insistence on living without regard for convention, left a profound mark on me. Their bold example paved the way for my embrace of lesbianism. And their infatuation with language and literature influenced every sentence of “The Sorceress of Solisterre”. Without their uncompromising individuality, this story would not exist.
May I now introduce Aivlynn Janisdottir, a sorceress in training, whose emergent talents make her second to none? May I likewise present Queen Ilyaviere the Third, a rightfully proud sovereign, not too arrogant to recognize her equal at first meeting? To claim their destiny, they have merely to overcome the traditional barriers society establishes between commoner and queen, between two women in love.
It was my great pleasure to imagine their journey to eternal fealty. With luck, you’ll take some joy from making their acquaintance.
THE SORCERESS OF SOLISTERRE
By Lea Daley
The polished torchwood table seemed to stretch to infinity. Seated at its head, Ilyaviere the Third—Queen of Solisterre, Venestria, and the Prithian Islands—counted the councilors in attendance. All present, twenty grave faces turned toward their sovereign. But aligned with one another, in opposition to her.
Conscious that too much conflict might cause the immense table to ignite, the monarch faced the prime minister and chose her words carefully. “Marriage is a weighty matter, not to be undertaken hastily, Lord Nestrington.”
“Yet not to be deferred forever,” he countered.
That was true. After ten years on the throne, Ilyaviere understood that certain obligations were non-negotiable. She belonged to Solisterre, existed only for its purposes, had less freedom than any laborer. Now at five-and-twenty, the pressure to wed increased with each passing day.
The prime minister regarded his queen from beneath hooded eyes. Rumor had it she was lusty between the linens, but had never given her heart to a lover. Ilyaviere was like high summer’s afternoon—resplendent, golden, fiery, seductive, flowering. Always too warm, she dressed in the gauziest of robes, threw open windows, flung off coverlets. Her intemperate heat was a perilous distraction, Nestrington thought, capable of warping sound judgment. And actively dangerous in concert with the torchwood table. “Moreover, Majesty,” the prime minister said cautiously, “with Helgartha gone to Summerland, your empire is at ever greater risk.”
Ilyaviere’s amber eyes blazed. How dare Nestrington patronize her? Who knew better that Solisterre—so rich, so desirable—was dreadfully vulnerable to attack now. Without Helgartha’s intuitive powers, her impregnable spells, enemy forces would soon be on the march. If they weren’t already massing at the borders. Then Ilyaviere’s subjects, young and old, would be hostage to fortune. The table grew warmer, the queen’s voice cold. “I have summoned a new witch, as well you know. She is due within this week. Taliander assures me she possesses the skills necessary to safeguard our lands.”
At the mention of the high priestess, Lord Nestrington changed tactics. Steepling his fingers, the prime minister spoke delicately. “There is also the matter of an heir, Majesty. Which is another form of security.”
An inarguable statement. The line of succession in Solisterre stretched back some three-thousand years unchallenged, every monarch blood kin to Ilyaviere. She could delay no longer. “Very well. Make the arrangements. We shall begin receiving candidates forthwith.” Twenty sets of shoulders relaxed.
But twenty pairs of eyes narrowed when the queen raised a regal palm. “However, I will only accept someone who sees me truly, loves me deeply, strengthens me where I am weak, accepts such gifts and faults as I may possess. I will marry one who venerates neither my wealth nor my position, but only my spirit—in bed and out. Find such a suitor, high-born or low, rich or poor, and I will wed.”
She pressed judicious fingertips to the tabletop, which was gathering fire as her councilors fought back angry rejoinders. Rising, Ilyaviere smiled upon them. “Pray forgive me, gentlemen. I must take my leave before we induce a conflagration.”
Head in his hands, the prime minister sat alone in the council hall until the gleaming table cooled. Thinking, At least when Helgartha was alive, Solisterre had a mature presence guiding the helm—even if she was only a woman, subject to every female caprice and vagary. It’s past time for a man to rule the empire again... And I know just the fellow for the task...
Back in her chambers, the queen was far too heated to wait for assistance. Tossing the ancestral diadem to the bed, throwing off her formal garb, she asked her ladies, “Has the white witch yet arrived?”
“No, Majesty. Perhaps she is delayed by poor weather to the north.”
Ilyaviere paced impatiently. “Having lost my dear Helgartha, I am in dire want of her talents.” And for the first time, the queen admitted to herself how much she needed the counsel and support of another shrewd old woman, another surrogate mother. “Present her to me as quickly as may be, no matter the hour. She may dine here.”
In fact, Helgartha’s successor was only a witch in-training, albeit an Estrellian adept, able to freeze time and motion at will. She had also an emergent flair for sensing trend lines, the tilt of cosmic probability, the faintest strands of interconnection. Still, Aivlynn Janisdottir seemed a peculiar choice for the Queen’s Court—nay, for Her Majesty’s most essential advisor—and an extremely unlikely channel for the awesome powers required of a royal sorceress. Certainly she thought herself too green to defend an ancient empire. And this was a time of great hazard. Unguarded Solisterre was the jewel of the continent, with a thousand miles of coastline, deepwater ports, mild climate, fertile fields, unparalleled craftsmen, and coffers overflowing. Wherefore Aivlynn wondered what Taliander had been thinking to anoint someone so untried. Again and again she reviewed the high priestess’s parting words. “Fear not, my daughter. You are more than ready for the tests that lie ahead. You are right for them. And your capacities will only gain potency over time.”
Yet how wrenching it had been for Aivlynn to leave the only home she remembered! The venerable Wiccan community, that small world of wise women and their aspiring acolytes. The Grandaliese Forest, where she’d spent her girlhood studying whitecraft. The sheltering stone dormitory, where the Four Rules—LIVE, LOVE, LEARN, ENJOY—were carved above the entrance, and unfailingly observed within. Even now, her friends remained there, happy and carefree, unburdened by the weight of encroaching responsibility.
Despite the urgency, though, despite impending danger, Aivlynn had declined transport to Denethra—royal seat of Solisterre—choosing instead to walk the Hallowed Way. For she needed the length of that transit, needed time to ponder the mystery of her appointment. Much too soon she’d be a captive of the queen’s court, imprisoned in unsought luxury by her own extraordinary aptitudes.
Each noon, she supped at some local inn. And afterward, she amused herself by playing her flute in the marketplace for an hour. Releasing a deceptively simple minor-key tune into the air, a song designed to strip passersby of pretense. Many mistook her for a busker, a few tossed coins her way—some from generosity, others for show. Aivlynn never had to guess at their motivations, for in the presence of her music, a person’s true essence was revealed. She watched a scold stroll past, and a peacemaker. A miser and a misanthrope. A meddler and an altruist. But only she saw the secrets of their hearts.
On her last night of travel, she slept outdoors, on the generous bosom of fair Gaia, under the protection of Mother Moon. Sheltering below the downward curving branches of a kibko tree, she was little more than a shiver of loneliness concealed beneath her thick cloak, awaiting the turn of the world, the comfort of the sun. When day broke, Aivlynn made a meal of succulent kibko berries, bathed in a nearby stream. Then she gathered her courage and pointed her feet toward Castle Paschendrale.
Lea Daley wrote fiction while raising children, claiming a lesbian identity, earning a BFA, teaching, and heading a nonprofit agency. She now writes full-time. Daley’s debut novel, Waiting for Harper Lee, received an Alice B. Lavender Certificate and was short-listed at the Golden Crown Awards. In 2015, her second book, FutureDyke, won a Goldie and was a Lambda finalist.
THE GIVEAWAY and LINKS
Anyone who comments on any of these blog posts will be entered in a drawing for a paperback copy (in North America) or an ebook (elsewhere) of Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms. Each blog you comment on gives you one more entry.
Here’s the lineup of blog posts—the links may be adjusted as we go along, so check back here every now and then.
June 14th: Sacchi Green-“Trollwise” (plus the Introduction)
June 15th: Cara Patterson-“Steel”
June 16th: Michael M. Jones-“The Miller’s Daughter”
June 19th: H.N. Janzen-“The Prize of the Willow”
June 20th: Annabeth Leong-“The Mark and the Caul”
June 21st: Brey Willows-“Penthouse 31”
June 22nd: Salome Wilde-“The Princess’s Princess”
June 23nd: Emily L. Byrne-“Toads, Diamonds and the Occasional Pearl”
June 26th: A.D.R. Forte-“Warrior’s Choice”
June 27th: M. Birds-“Woodwitch”
June 28th: Madeleine Shade-“Robber Girl”
June 29th: Lea Daley-“The Sorceress of Solisterre”
June 30th: Allison Wonderland-“SWF Seeks FGM”