A change of pace from my series of teasers for the stories in Wild Rides, a collection of my own work. I’ll get back to those soon.
My news now is that I’ve just had a story accepted for The Nobilis Erotica Podcast (“The Most Prolific Science Fiction and Fantasy Erotica Podcast in the Known Universe”--nobilis.libsyn.com . I’m new to podcasts, except for a few times I've read my work when I was being interviewed by one blogger or another, but now that I’ve discovered some podcasts that allow submissions previously published in print, I’m sitting up and taking notice.
This particular story, “A Dance of Queens,” is one I wrote many years ago, for Best Transgender Erotica, edited by Hanne Blank and Raven Kaldera for Circlet Press. The setting is Elizabethan/Shakespearean England, on the banks of the Thames at the Lord Chancellor’s country estate where A Midsummer Night’s Dream is being produced. The three main characters are the actors who play Queen Titania and Queen Hippolyta, and Queen Elizabeth herself, nostalgic for her youth when she might roam free in disguise through Midsummer revelries. I had a great time writing this, doing research on the kinds of bawdy pantomimes and banter of that era, as well as getting deeply involved with my characters in their various twists and turns of gender complexity, even more than you might at first suspect.
Let’s see whether I can fit in enough excerpts here to give you a proper—or improper—taste of the whole.
From “A Dance of Queens”
Midsummer’s Night, the play safely done, dusk sweet as a languorous touch on yearning flesh...and still I could not take my love into the greenwood and lay her on my cloak and be consumed in her fire.
I cursed my own impatience. We should have pressed on without pause, but Quenta had tormented me so, slipping a hand beneath my shirt and then down into my breeches until I could scarce walk, and must stop for a taste of the feast to come.
So the Queen’s messenger had caught us. And truly, by the shimmer in the air at the instant she appeared, I knew there had never been hope of escape. In the Welsh hills and valleys we have tales, more than tales, of such creatures, though I had thought the filth and disbelief of London must repel them. At another time I would have been glad that the green countryside along the Thames still held such folk. Glad or no, we had no choice now but to let the greenwood’s promise fade into shadow.
Frustration pounded in my veins. I jerked away from Quenta’s touch, the mere
brush of her hand making me forget that I must not even think of “him” as “her” until we could be blessedly alone.
I focused on the wide skirt sailing just ahead. Though the farthingale was not devised with a lady dwarf in mind, its absurdity was more than countered by the messenger’s bearing and the Queen’s crest broidered on her sleeve. It scarcely needed Quenta’s nudge to put me on guard against those keen, merry eyes, though they had looked up at me from about the level of my belt.
Such danger should have chilled my ardor. But surely the Queen would waste little time on us, might have forgotten already her whim. At most there could be a gracious word or two, perhaps a small purse. Why, then, command that we bring our play-garb? A jest among her ladies?
But in the great bedchamber we found Her Majesty alone, a slim, pale figure whose aura crackled through the paneled room like heat-lightning.
Our diminutive guide swept a curtsy. “The player boys, Madam. Quentin O’Connor and Kit Rhys.”
Bright tired eyes assessed us. “Well enough, Gwen. Now keep us private for a bit.” The attendant gave me a wicked sidelong glance as she went to sit between the great oak door and the carven screen before it.
Quenta elbowed me sharply. I joined her in an elegant stage bow, feeling the royal glance caress our snug-hosed calves. Her Majesty was said to have ever an eye for a well-turned leg; if it went farther than a look, or a leg… But I had never heard so much as rumor that it did.
Her voice was cool enough. “So, Titania and Hippolyta. You played the queen’s parts well, each in your own way.”
“Never so well as you, Your Highness.” Quenta’s green eyes gleamed wickedly, and I suppressed a groan. This was no time for her sly wit!
An answering gleam lit the Queen’s eyes. “Ah, but I have performed the role far longer!” Her face seemed less weary now; it was hard to credit that she had more than twice our years. “Do you not think I could play Queen of Faery as well as England’s monarch?”
I tried to break the manic current between them. “Yes, in truth, Highness. Or Queen of Amazons, or any ruler ever conceived.” I knelt with Hippolyta’s tunic and gilded leather breastplate across one knee. Her gaze turned toward me, lingering on my long legs; I felt as when Quenta would stroke me from calf to thigh and beyond, and my flesh would melt and surge in sweet torment.
“I have not your height, lad, to play the Amazon,” she said. “You did well enough, though one could scarcely credit that you would yield to Duke Theseus, whether in battle or in marriage bed. But come, it was bravely played, if a slighter part than Titania’s.”
She turned to Quenta with a thoughtful look. “Have you two played Master Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet?’ You would suit well as lovers.”
Did she toy with us? What hope had we against the wits of one who played with envoys, kings, even the Pope, for her own and England’s gain?
“Quentin is acclaimed as Juliet,” I answered cautiously, “but to tell truth, Hippolyta is my first speaking part, and well may be my last. I am more like to play an accompanying lute, or rattle distant armor.”
“It is an awkward age, I know,” she said. “Your voice is nigh too low already for a woman’s part. Indeed...” Those keen eyes scrutinized us closely. “I might think you both somewhat old for boy players.”
I tensed inwardly, forcing my body to reveal nothing. To stifle Quenta’s special genius would be a crime against art, against life itself! But if she were judged to be a woman...A woman appearing upon the public stage was such outrage that the penalty could only be surmised.
Quenta laughed, and in that instant the tilt of her head, the cock of hip and shoulder, were entirely those of a brash youth. “I can play you any age, Lady, any sex.” She took on the bombastic voice and gestures of Bottom the Weaver. “I can play you a roaring Lion, or a most excellent Wall...” and then her voice softened, its husky purr making my flesh quiver with longing for the velvet touch of her tongue.
“Or I can be the Lady Moon herself.” She stepped toward the high window, every motion, every line now utterly female, despite the padded trunk-hose muffling the sweet curves of her hips. Had I been a jot closer my hand would have slipped of its own accord between cloth and smooth, seductive skin. And had she turned, and my fingers found what waited between her thighs...
“Look you, Lady, how the new moon burns, no silver bow, but a crescent slit through which the passions of the sky pour forth. Can you not see in me that same bright fire?”
And she was, in truth, the very essence of the new moon, its tremulous yearning in her slim grace, its hot intensity in her smoldering eyes. Then I stepped toward her and broke the spell, and it was not her madness but mine that gave us away.
“Sirrah! Do not force me to see that which were better kept hidden!” If the Queen sensed that we were lovers, she had no wish to bring it to an issue. I did not think that she had yet sensed more.
“But Titania may see what England’s Queen may not.” Quenta knelt, proffering her red wig, leaf-green draperies and silver demi-mask. “On Midsummer’s Night, the fancies of mortal and fairy alike may roam free. Come with us, Lady, to observe their merry frolics!”
Even through my outrage I saw what Quenta had recognized at once. Though the Queen might conceal it even from herself, it was for this we had been summoned.
[Then much later, after extensive viewings of many bawdy revelries and pantomimes outdoors in the celebration:]
A slim, imperious hand gripped my shoulder. “Enough, lad. You have done nobly, but the Midsummer’s magic I recalled is gone forever.”
“Nay, lady, there is magic still!” Quenta’s eyes glowed cat-like in the torchlight. “Kit has found a place a fairy queen might lie, and takes me there this night. We shall see what magic three queens together may ignite!”
I could have wrung her slim white neck. The Queen, though, waved dismissively. “I doubt not such a tryst is meant for two alone. Only see me back to the Hall, and then be off wherever youth and Midsummer madness lead you.” She took my arm. “You may divert me as we go. Is there indeed ‘a bank where the wild thyme blows...With sweet musk roses and with eglantine?’”
“As to that, Lady, the scent was more of mint and fern. I saw daisies but no roses, though there were berry brambles aplenty. Perhaps by daylight you might view it.”
“Ay, perhaps.” Her voice was bleak.
“Now!” said Quenta. “Now, by moonlight, or not at all!” Her fierce eyes held mine, her meaning all too clear. When I turned toward the greenwood the Queen, a gleam restored in her eye, did not demur.
[Then the erotica goes deeply into where erotica usually goes, and somewhat beyond, entangled with history and fantasy and layers of long-suppressed emotions. Oh, and here’s an inconsequential spoiler from Gwen near the end:]
“No matter. Our sweet Lady has more need of you than you can know, for service quite apart from this night’s frolic. Neither of you will strut upon the stage much longer; who would credit such protracted youth? But two who act so well can do it on the Queen’s behalf, and be her eyes and ears about the world. Be sure I will send soon to tell you of her needs.”
“We are truly hers, body and soul,” I said. “But Gwen...who, or what, are you?”
“Need you ask?” she said impatiently. “The realm of Faery takes yet a care for England’s welfare, and for her rightful monarch. As for me, think you the Puck must be ever confined in male form?” It took her sharp pinch to make me close my gaping mouth.
I don’t yet know when my story will be up on the podcast. I’ll try to mention that here when I find out. I’ll also mention that “A Dance of Queens” was reprinted in my first collection of my own work several years ago, A Ride to Remember from Lethe Press. It’s available in Kindle format on Amazon for $3.00, and quite likely on Smashwords as well. For that matter, just ask and I’ll send you a pdf copy. The book was a Lambda Literary Finalist, the year two out of four finalists in the erotica category were mine—but neither won. That’s okay, a good friend did win the category that year, and I’ve had winners both before and after.