Posted in Uncategorized

The Mixed Feelings of Abe Shinzo’s Step Down

I don’t think I’ve made it all that unclear that I don’t like Abe. As a Prime Minister, he’s usually given more credit than his real due. Most of the social changes done under his tenure have happened more in spite of him and the LDP rather than because of him. The dinosaurs of by gone ages continue to move their feet through sand to make any kind of real progress into the modern era, but since they are moving at all they are cheered for “doing their best.”

He suffered from the past year of the Cherry Blossom Party scandal, wherein money exchanged hands that was the property of tax payers, and without a prosecutor in the pocket that could get him out of it Abe was haunted. The idea of a politician getting to suffer consequences for such things in the Trump era of corruption as default is at best a pipe dream, but still he couldn’t manage to escape the reporters on the subject.

With the pandemic, it depends on which person you ask as to whether Abe’s responses were overblown, just right, or not enough. I’m in the not enough camp, finding the idea of an economic advisor put in charge of COVID19 response very telling (and said economic advisor completely re-doing the team to add more stooges to the pot so no State of Emergency can happen again). Schools, shops, restaurants, none of them are closed now when the virus is still very much active. Since the mortality rate is “so low” with only about 1,300 deaths, Abe and Koike and all the rest have decided it’s worth the risk to keep things open.

The whole Abe-no-mask guffaw that happened over the course of March to literally now has also been lambasted at every turn. The masks were a relic of the 80’s that were too small for most adult faces, moldy masks made their way to pregnant women, and in general most ended up getting donated to homeless than on people’s faces. It was considered a huge waste of tax payer money (funny how that keeps happening) and in general an overall failure. Money that could’ve been better spent helping bars and restaurants stay closed down during the pandemic to limit the spread of the virus went to this horribly wasteful effort.

The whole “Abenomics” initiative is lauded for great change in the economy, when really all Abe did was finally get Japan to recognize that the international economy is on equal footing with domestic economies. Some reporters might want to make it sound like breaking news that “imports finally get more approval” is such a great move, but the international economy is pivotal towards getting most countries out of debt with other nations, and ya know, getting countries out of a recession?

All of this being said, I think Abe did want to do right by Japan. Unlike some country leaders out there I have already named, Abe intended for this country to fare better after he was gone than when he came into the position. For all that I think his accomplishments were minimal, he deserves a modicum of applause for improving things to a point where someone else taking over doesn’t feel like a decision that will leave the country in tatters.

Quite the opposite, because even though he is getting flack for resigning without having groomed a successor, I think there are plenty of awfully useless politicians who will also attempt to perform the bare minimum that are at the ready to campaign as the best replacements. Suga looks like the new favored one to take the job, and sure, why not.

Just anyone but Taro Aso, fuck that guy.

Regardless, Abe stepping down does leave me with questions. Will the next Prime Minister give a damn? Will Japan stick with this international approach or revert to isolation under nationalism pressure? Will the LDP pick the best person for the job or the person they can best control? No answers as of yet, but as someone who can’t vote in this country I just get to sit and watch the show. I can only hope whoever comes next will try to do more, or at the very least continue to do the minimum.

Posted in Blog/Vlog Announcements, Talking about Books

Book Delayed Again: New Release June 26th

I am so, so sorry.

I’m very aware that maybe only about 10 or so people are actually A) aware this book exists and B) that I’ve even been writing a book, but I can’t release “The Queens of Ravenwood” just yet.

In this current climate, I’m part of this Black Lives Matter movement as a supporter. I’m using so many different platforms to try and promote information about a Black Lives Matter peaceful march happening in Tokyo tomorrow.

It feels wrong to try and promote a book right now.

On top of that, as I’ve been re-reading and editing my own book, I realized that I had chance to go back and write in some important elements that it was lacking from these first three drafts. I let the panic of COVID19 force me into a deadline, with the terrifying thought of, “I could be dead in two weeks and have never published a book!”

However, in rushing to get it done, I think I missed some important parts that would really round out my narrative. If I had my own editor and agent, they probably could’ve told me the same thing a while back, but since it’s just me at home with an editor I paid to proofread (his name is Nicholas by the way, he’s a great guy) this first book is a huge learning process.

Now, I’m delaying the book again and I know, it’s dumb, and it’s the worst thing for a first time author with virtually no audience to do. I’m aware it makes people lose interest and makes me look bad.

Still, I think June 26th is a better date for a variety of reasons. It’s the day the USA finally got marriage equality, so it fits with a lesbian main character getting married to a fae wife because [spoilers]. Also, it’s my birthday! I can’t think of a better way to get my own party started than by publishing a book.

I promise by the moon and stars, this is the FINAL RELEASE DATE! I will not be changing it. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Posted in Talking about Books, Teaching Things

Free “Through My Eyes” by Ruby Bridges Supplementary Material Booklet

In honor of Black Lives Matter and the protests happening around the globe, I would like to share a free resource to help teachers who have student in the 5th, 6th, or 7th grades for the American K-12 education system.

I’m putting in some materials I used last year with my returnee students in Japan. These booklets ARE NOT BOOK COPIES, but supplementary materials designed to help students get the most out of the book experience. I assigned this booklet as homework for the students to do every week, collecting the booklets to mark every Friday.

I apologize in advance as I used Publisher in order to create this booklet, so I can only add PDF and image files. I’ll have the images below as previews of what the booklets give in terms of content.

I don’t need credit, I just ask that no one EVER POSTS TO A PAY FOR WORKSHEETS SITE! Please don’t profit off this booklet. I’m intending for this work to be used to help spread awareness of really serious issues involving racism and specifically education.

If anyone would like to share feedback or critiques, I would appreciate it. You can comment on this post or hit me at the email missjessica.edu@gmail.com. I’ll try to find a way to convert my Publisher file into Word in a way that won’t ruin the whole formatting.

Printing instructions: I made all of these for the A3 size paper. It’s quite big, but my students tend to write big so it worked out. However, note that pages 5 and 6 are meant to be copied back to back on an A4 size paper!

The booklet cover
Pages 2 and 9, which should be copied to the back of the booklet cover.
Pages 8 and 3
Pages 4 and 7 which should be copied to the back of Pages 8 and 3
Pages 5 and 6, which need to be copied back to back on an A4 (Letter Sized) paper.

After printing out the pages, staple them together and give them out to your students. I had a system where if I had to make a whole booklet all over again I took away points, but you decide what works best for you.

I apologize in advance if there are any mistakes or somehow I’ve worded something wrong/offensive. Do tell me if I need to change something. I tried to keep my language simple for kids, and as I don’t have Black co-workers to ask for feedback, I did the best I could with this topic.

Note: this booklet is meant to be used in tandem with the book and it’s supposed to have a teacher guiding students through the complex issues of racism and education in the modern era. Please don’t use this booklet as a substitute for in-depth discussion and learning! Thank you!

If you would like to purchase the book, you can get it from Scholastic if you live in the USA. If you don’t live in the USA, the Book Depository website also carries it. Of course, you can use Amazon, but remember the deals there often come at the expense of both worker rights and the authors.

I hope this somehow this little booklet makes a difference for an educator out there! Good luck!

Posted in Slice of Life, Teaching Things

The “New Normal” Is Really Odd

Returning to school means changes are everywhere. It starts with the daily commute. Instead of a train and a packed bus, I decided to bike to work in the morning and afternoon. It’s one hour each way in the wet, sticky heat of Japanese summer only just getting started.

On the first day back, I brought a bunch of my cool biz attire and threw them in my teacher locker. When I get to work, I change out from the gross workout clothes to the nice button up and pants combo. I managed to do this new commute from Monday to Friday, but today I woke up with my knees demanding a break.

Luckily, on Saturdays there aren’t many people taking the trains in the morning to my work station in Chiba. People are usually going the other way towards Tokyo for fun and such. I walked from the station to the school. For some reason, today is blistering hot instead of humid. I am worried I have a sunburn across my eyes, leaving the mask part super pale in comparison.

The number one rule is, “Wear a mask!” The school provided two paper thin masks for every teacher at their desk. I bought and made cloth masks to use instead. I don’t want to kill the Earth anymore than I already do with take out food and whatever.

Wearing a mask every day shouldn’t in and of itself feel so strange to me. For over eight years I’ve worn a mask off and on, usually just in flu season to try and stay a little more cautious to not get sick. Wearing it every day for weeks and weeks on end? No, that’s a very different way of living there.

The cartilage on my nose hurts a bit. I don’t wear glasses, so this is a new kind of pain for me. I’ve worn heavy cloth masks all week for over nine hours at a time. I can’t complain much in the face of the medical workers who have to don huge plastic goggles on top of masks with sheets over their body and hair. I’m getting off easy with just the one place with a minor ache.

Other school rules are, “Don’t talk in groups!” and “Stay one desk between each student!” and “Always use the entrance with the thermal cameras!”

We have two thermal cameras set up. If a student is shown with a temperature of over 37.2 C, an alarm will go off and they have to report to the nurse. Problem is, as previously mentioned, it’s summer. Many students are like me, biking or walking into work to avoid the stuffy trains and buses. This means the alarms will go off, and a student will have to get checked out, even though it’s really just exercise heat, not a fever.

We can hear the school announcements in the morning for rule changes. This morning it was just announced that students can take off their masks for P.E. class. Apparently, there were problems with the kiddos getting their masks dirty while playing sports, and to that I say, “No shit, Sherlock.” The solution is kids can take them off or leave them on, but it’s “highly recommended” they keep them off. I’m still surprised we’re having P.E. at all with how hot it is and the AC units are on low.

Still, the the overall caution is appreciated. All the teachers are tense, an underlying stress, unspoken but there in the air. We’re strict on the rules, whereas last year the teachers let kids get away with murder, this year it’s all hard business. “Don’t break the rules! You can be suspended.” Students who don’t comply must be taken out of this system, because all it takes is one.

One asymptomatic student who shared a bottle of water. One teacher who took of their mask and leaned over a desk. One parent with good intentions that brought food for a whole class. We have to limit the risk of exposure as much as we can.

But I can tell just by the end of this week, the students are already getting lax. More are clustering in the halls and in the classroom while on breaks. The homeroom teachers monitor them at lunch time, but even the teachers are feeling the toll of lecturing over every little thing.

It’s awful for bonding, too. Homeroom teachers are often like a second or third parent here in Japan. They have to keep track of each kid in their progress (or lack of) in education, of course, but also their health. If a students gets sick, the homeroom teachers contact the parents. If a student is having mental health issues, too, our school has the homeroom teachers talk with the school counselor. It’s hard to get kids to open up and talking to you when you have to be this level of strict right off the bat.

I’m also feeling a disconnect from most of the students. My new schedule has me essentially starting from scratch, with a bunch of classes full of students who didn’t have me last year. It’s already difficult as a foreigner who is forced to speak to them in only English, but now I have a whole new set of strict rules in addition to a mask covering my face and muffling my voice.

I feel like I’m shouting through the fabric most days. The students can barely hear me in the back of the class, and I wish I could get a microphone set or something, but I know the school would never go for it. My voice gets raw by the end of four classes, but what can I do? Gotta keep going.

The classes are divided by evens and odds with only forty minutes per lesson. While less class time sounds easier, it’s strangely not? Most of the lessons I prepped last year involved fifty minutes of work, also a lot of group work, presentations, etc. Everything needs to be re-done with a new time frame, and I’ve got to cram enough stuff in there in order to make a final exam for my special returnee class.

I don’t know how this can be sustainable with the new active cases fluctuating. I’m predicting in the near future we’ll have a small surge. It won’t be as big as the one in April and May, perhaps, but I’m thinking it will happen. When it does, I need to make a plan for the school closing down again, even just for a few days or temporarily.

Honestly, what even could we do if that happens? I don’t know. Kill off summer break completely? Just work through until December? But with the experts calling for a possible resurgence of COVID19 in the fall, as most viruses tend to change by that time, would we be out for the rest of the year if we get a third wave?

I don’t know, and I’m not alone in the floundering uncertainty of this unknown future. Teachers whisper and chat about it in Japanese all around me, all in hushed voices about what to do, how to plan, should we even bother at this point? We’re all in this “new normal” that feels like at any second it could fall out from under our feet.

These are all struggles teachers are facing on an international scale. We’re trying to fit the students and ourselves into a place where we have to fight against our very human nature to be social, and if we don’t, we’re putting these kids at risk. Without being social, though, we’re sacrificing the bond between students and teachers that makes school life at least bearable. Now, it feels like I’m just fighting against the inevitable tide of another wave incoming.

Regardless, I’ll keep going, just like everyone else. Hopefully the third wave won’t come, and I’ll have these kids for a good two months before the fall hits. I prefer to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best, so that’s my goal for this next week. If I get enough prepped and done by this week, I could do online classes this time that aren’t rushed.

The new normal kind of demands this readiness, the preparation for the eventual (maybe) floor drop. COVID19 has stolen any sense of certainty for the next year or so, but that doesn’t mean we give up or just stop moving. I have to keep going, because these students are counting on me to be there. I can’t let them down, so I’ll be here, however I can be.

Posted in Uncategorized

Sorry, ya’ll! Book Release Delayed in Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter Protests

I’m gonna make this short and to the point. I was planning on releasing “The Queens of Ravenwood,” my first novel, on May 31st. However, due to the recent events set in motion in the United States right now, it doesn’t feel right to try and put out this book (especially promoting it on platforms like Twitter and Facebook) on a day that’s going to be a digital Blackout protest.

Many apologies! I’ll be releasing instead on June 14th.

Posted in Japan News, LGBTQ in Japan, YouTube Videos

LGBTQIA+ Groups in Japan that Need Your Help!

Due to the cancellation of many pride events, such as Tokyo Rainbow Pride, many communities are left without their usual donation funds to get through the year. These donations are essential to community groups that serve the LGBTQIA+ communities in Japan. It can go towards HIV/AIDs awareness, helping LGBTQ refugees, and so much more.

You can watch my face talking about it, too!

I’m representing one of them, as the Stonewall Japan Kanto East Block Leader, but there are other organizations who need you to donate, too.

Stonewall Japan: https://stonewalljapan.org/donate/

Stonewall Japan is a community group for LGBTQIA+ people living in Japan. We intend to provide a safe space for people to network with others and provide information and resources. We do this by:

  1. Facilitating an active group on Facebook
  2. Holding events
  3. Sending out Block Emails
  4. Answering questions via email
  5. Maintaining resources on our website

Help Us Sue The Japanese Government for Marriage Equality: https://www.gofundme.com/f/3p65eg

From the GoFundMe Project Description: “We — Elin McCready and Midori Morita — have been married for 20 years, originally filing paperwork in Japan, where we live. Elin filed a petition to change her name and gender in the US in October 2018 and changed this information on her passport. However, Japan has refused to recognize her gender transition on some documents, because doing so would result in de facto acceptance of same-sex marriage, which Japan doesn’t currently allow. This means that some of Elin’s paperwork says M and some F, even just within Japan, which is as far as we know a unique situation, and our marital status is ultimately unclear.

We are crowdfunding for a lawsuit to sue the Japanese government and get this situation fixed. The goals are (1) to fight for recognition of Elin’s transition and get all her paperwork consistent with her gender, and (2) to ensure that they recognize our marriage in the process. This will result in the Japanese government admitting a same-sex marriage, which will be a big step toward full legal status of same-sex marriage, and possibly even become the legal challenge which forces the government to make marriage possible for everyone. Please help us fix our situation and by doing so help us make things better for everyone here!”

Nijiiro Kazoku (Rainbow Family): https://queerfamily.jimdofree.com

Bank Transfer Info- ゆうちょ銀行 10170-83637011 名義 にじいろかぞく

This NPO is specifically dedicated to supporting gay, lesbian, trans, and other rainbow families! They even have LGBTQIA+ friendly books for sale for kids. Unlike most other NPO’s, this one isn’t as well known.

Equal Marriage Alliance: http://emajapan.org/#

The EMA is fighting to get same sex marriage recognized in Japan. It’s also helping to support people in same sex partnerships have their legality recognized when they encounter trouble with companies that won’t see their partnership as legitimate.

Also, there’s a movement getting started to support Nichome in Shinjuku. For those of you who don’t know, Nichome is the gay district of Tokyo (and also essentially my second home). I gave only 1,000 yen, but every little bit counts towards helping the community!

You can go to the Change.org petition here to sign to help the businesses receive the aid they need from the government, or to help chip in some money to keep these at risk businesses afloat.

Please consider helping out! Or if not, please like and share so the word can spread. Thank you!

Posted in Talking about Books

“The Queens of Ravenwood” Book Launch Date Announcement!

It’s hilarious to me that I started writing books at like eleven years old, but it’s not until I’ve reached thirty that I finally get around to putting one out. Better late than never, though!

I’ve decided, kind of arbitrarily, that the book’s launch date will by May 31st!

I think given my current situation wherein I have the ability to work from home for the first time in my life will help me reach this goal. I’m a newbie to the self-publishing sphere, but in this learning curve I hope I will be able to create something people will love.

I’m going with Lulu as my option for self-publishing. I love the control that Lulu offers, while also not being Amazon. Even though Lulu does offer books to be sold on that website, with Lulu I can sell my ebooks on my own website! Hopefully with the small attention I’ve garnered will bring people to the site and people will buy directly.

I’m excited to share Elan and Ravenna’s journey into the wider world. There are other books and other stories I want to put out there, too, but I think for a first novel I’m glad to go with two characters who’ve been with me through some turbulent times.

I want to thank a thousand plus people for helping me get this novel to where it is now. I’ll start with Tara and Kris, who read through the horrid rough draft that wasn’t even half complete. Their input really changed the whole course of the novel! It’s completely different now. I want to thank the encouragement from my Tokyo Closet Ball family, who have supported me when I was sure that I wasn’t really lovable, and to the Kings of Tokyo for becoming part of this journey, too. Artists all of us, supporting each other in this bizarre chosen family.

And of course, thank you to my mother, who read “The Hobbit” to my brother and I as a bedtime story. We bonded in a new house in a post-divorce world going there and back again. Fantasy will always hold a special place in my heart, close to where she’ll always be.

I’ll save the rest for the book acknowledgement section everyone skips over. I’m going to return to the regularly scheduled programming of things happening in Japan. Thanks for everything, more book announcements at the end of the month! Whoohoo!

Posted in Talking about Books

And here’s Chapter Four! The last free Chapter for “The Queens of Ravenwood”

Thank you for your patience, I had a rough twenty hours. Between a lot of confusion about my work from home situation and general depression issues, it’s been hard to concentrate to get this re-write all smoothed out.

I finally managed to sit down to really edit this whole chapter out. Much like with Chapter Two, Chapter Four was originally supposed to be much longer. Thankfully, after a couple of revisions, I’ve gotten it down to a more reasonable length.

Please enjoy my adorkable main characters refusing to slow the fuck down.


Chapter 4: Temptation 

They walked together to the estate gardens. Other courtiers milled about here and there, all whispering when they caught sight of Elan with Ravenna. None of the whispers seemed to bother the fae queen a bit, she focused on the woman on her arm instead. 

“It’s fascinating to see the estate at full capacity,” Ravenna remarked, her dark eyes roaming around the gardens as she spoke. 

“That wasn’t originally the plan,” Elan said with a small sigh. 

“Oh?” Ravenna tilted her head in that bird-like way of hers. “And what was the first plan?”

Elan shrugged, making her headdress lines jingle. “A simple gathering, much like the one you had with my mother and father.”

Ravenna laughed to herself. “I suppose in comparison to this, it was simple.” She shook her head in fond remembrance. “Your poor mother, she was suffering. She won’t say otherwise now, I’m sure, but she continually ran off to her rooms. She was trying to play the part of hostess all the while losing every meal she ate.”

“I didn’t know that,” Elan confessed, shocked. How did she not know about this? Her mother never said anything about it. 

“Yes, so when we had the opportunity to be alone, I gifted her with a few bits of magic to help her along. It was the least I could do for her hospitality.” 

Elan stared up at her. She’d never heard of her mother being blessed with magic by the fae, but it made sense she never revealed it. People would forever gossip and fear monger about it. The fae were known, tolerated, but the old stories still held their sway. It was actually very surprising they weren’t being followed by a guard or two. 

Elan murmured, “Thank you, for helping her.” 

Ravenna waved a hand in front of her in dismissal. “Magic is my lifeblood, a bit of it given for peace is well worth it.” 

She tugged Elan gently towards a staircase. They walked up together to a high balcony, one that overlooked the ballroom and the guests below. Ravenna shot Elan a crooked smile before she waved her hand. The air crackled, shone before them for a moment, then settled with a fuzzy grey between them and the crowd. Elan looked around her, realizing they were encompassed inside a small ball of magic. 

“What is this?” Elan asked, a bit nervous. 

“I’ve made us hard to see and hear. Not quite invisibility, I think your parents would have a fit if you were suddenly gone. Still, keeps away unwanted eyes and ears.” Ravenna turned to encroach on Elan’s space. “We look like we’re just chatting.”

“Are we?” Elan asked.

“Perhaps.” Ravenna brought up a hand to smooth a single finger down the side of Elan’s face. “Perhaps not.”

Elan hated that she blushed again. She kept Ravenna’s gaze, refusing to turn away and be coy. She wanted her, she wanted this, whatever this was. The finger moved to skim over her red cheeks, and Ravenna looked vastly amused by it. 

“Tell me, do Contenders often dress so?” Ravenna’s eyes flickered down to the skin exposed by Elan’s dress. 

“Not at all.” Elan smiled, a winning one she perfected over years of training. “We usually wear whatever the Queen of our land prefers.”

“Is this what Queen Valeria prefers?” Ravenna asked, a brow quirking up.

“She wasn’t the queen I was thinking of when I dressed.” Elan said, ignoring her racing heart. She heard the phrase ‘weak in the knees’ before but never really understood it until this moment. She couldn’t believe she was being so bold! 

Ravenna got in close, her hand cupping the side of Elan’s face. “Do I presume too much?” She said as she drew her thumb along Elan’s bottom lip. 

“No,” Elan said, “you don’t.”

The kiss was warm. Elan sighed into it, bringing a hand to Ravenna’s shoulder to pull her just a bit closer. Ravenna obliged, pressing into Elan with her body, a line of heat somehow traveling through the layers of clothes to fire against Elan’s skin. 

A flyaway thought filtered through, ‘She tastes like winter.’ Mint with a hint of wine. She wanted to get drunk off it. Another part of her wanted to bite down, not to hurt, just to tease. Would the queen hate it though? 

Oh. 

Ravenna beat her to it, biting gently down on her lower lip in a soft squeeze. Elan couldn’t help but moan, a long and wanting note. When Ravenna pulled away, she chuckled with her teeth bared. 

“I could devour you,” Ravenna said, her thumbs tracing lines under Elan’s eyes, “and I rather think you’d like it.”

But then, Ravenna’s eyes squinted at her. Her form went tense, and her playful smile lost it’s form. 

Elan returned her gaze. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I suppose I do have to wonder why?” Ravenna licked her lips. “We’ve only just met…Would there be a particular reason you’ve decided to catch my attention?”

Elan’s face lit up red. Oh, the real why of it? She stuttered trying to express her truth. “Well, I, that is to say, I just thought you were quite, uh, beautiful. Yes, there are diplomatic things to discuss and to-.” What was happening? Where was her tongue! Why was this suddenly so hard? “But I don’t have anything that would, I wouldn’t use this for any of those things, I just wanted you…to see me.” 

Hands cradled her face, bringing her eyes back up to meet Ravenna’s. The Queen was smiling again, an absolutely gleeful expression. “I see you, Elan, I see you.” 

And they were kissing again. Ravenna gave no quarter, kissing Elan like she wanted to have all of her. All her words, her soul, her air, all of it. Elan couldn’t escape, and that worked because she didn’t want to. She couldn’t gasp, only moan into the motions with her own fervor. 

When they broke apart, Elan sucked in air like she was drowning. Ravenna laughed. 

Ravenna released her face, instead taking her hands down to squeeze at Elan’s waist. “If we were in my own realm, I would take you here and company be damned..” 

Elan put her hands up to hold Ravenna’s shoulders. She felt unmoored, unbalanced, and those words, company be damned? As in having sex in public? She never imagined doing such a thing, but Ravenna made it seem like a good idea. 

“But alas, we’re not, so I’ll have to summon some form of patience.” Ravenna took Elan’s hands in hers. She kissed the backs of her knuckles one by one. “I think keeping good relations relies upon more than just pretty words. If you would indulge me, please keep your window open tonight so we may discuss further endeavors together?” 

Elan leaned in close to whisper, “If you can find my window, your majesty, it shall perhaps be open.”

~~~

Returning back to the ballroom, Ravenna released her with a small kiss to the back of her hand before returning to her fae entourage. The leathery winged man said something to her, and Ravenna glared at him. Elan had only a brief moment to herself before Amelia nearly tackled her from out of nowhere. 

Amelia hissed at her, “How did it go?” 

“Later,” Elan promised her with a blush. 

“No, now!” Amelia pushed. “Something happened, I can tell. You’re blushing worse than Larent did when he proposed!”  

Larent appeared to drag Amelia away. “You are the worst whisperer! I can hear you across the ballroom!” He took her off, the two of them sniping at each other until he pulled them into a new dance. 

Jalek took their place and extended his hand. “Can I have a dance now? Without the overflowing of lust and whatnot, of course.” 

Elan accepted, letting Jalek guide her onto the floor. Attending the rest of the ball, Elan couldn’t really stay in the moment. All of it was mechanical and automatic. She danced with people here and there, chatted with courtiers about this and that or the other. None of it really stuck in her memory, and Elan couldn’t force herself to care too much.

She’d never been kissed like that before, like she was the whole world and nothing else mattered. She wanted to just sneak off to her rooms early, but she knew that wasn’t a remote possibility. No, there was a feast to oversee, and it would last well into the evening. 

The Grand Hall of the Northern Province Estate wasn’t grand in comparison to Valeria’s Palace, but it had ample room for all the guests. It was to the left of the ballroom, and Lady Brienne told everyone to come and go as they pleased for food and drink until the official feast began. On the tables was a simple fare of breads and some cheese to hold off whining from vigorous dancers.

Flora would be seated at the tallest chair they could find in the estate, but it was nothing so lavish as the throne. Everyone ate and mingled together. Until Flora called for all to sit, they would simply mill about near their respective tables. Elan watched out of the corner of her eye as Flora slowly made her way to the Grand Hall.  

The other Contenders noticed, and moved as one, helping to bring the people towards the Grand Hall without having to shout for them to follow. Elan opted to make it obvious by standing near the entrance and welcoming guests as they entered. She loved chatting with a few courtiers, such as Jalek and Larent’s cousins from over the sea. 

Marina and Ash were twins. Marina liked music and poetry, but Ash liked to just drink while telling stories. In another life, both of them were probably bards traveling across the lands, but in this life they were simply the second in line to a Dukedom neither one of them even wanted. 

Marina asked Elan, “Did Valeria tell you why Flora was picked?”

Elan sighed. “You’re perhaps the tenth person tonight to ask me.”

Ash muttered into his cup, “I’m surprised it’s not more.”

“She’s capable of being Queen. Flora has the intelligence, grace, and all the other qualities of a Queen.” Elan could probably recite those words in her sleep. 

“Yes, but,” Marina shrugged, “you just seem like the person who’s the best at the rest of it. I mean, you put up this ball and this feast in mere days. That is very impressive. It’s all been so smooth because of you. She just doesn’t have that same element to her, I think.”

“Mere days?”

All three of them turned to the interruption. The dark fae with leathery wings stared at Elan in shock. “You did all of this in days?”

Elan stared at him in return. “Well, yes, there were some circumstances that required us to move venues. I’ll be discussing them with Ravenna and all of your comrades tomorrow, if that’s alright?”

The fae shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t handle the diplomacy part of things, I just make sure her majesty stays safe.” He rolled his eyes. “As if she’s not a vastly more powerful and magical force than I, but a job is a job.” 

Elan bowed slightly to him. “I’m Elan Altier, once Contender and Duchess in Waiting. Pleasure to meet you…?”

“Oh sorry, Garth. I’m not really used to parties.” He bowed as well. “I have titles, but none of them are terribly important. Just call me Garth.”

Ash tipped his cup to him. “Hello there, Garth, I’m Ash. This is my sister Marina.”

“Pleasure to meet you, sir.” Marina bowed a little and then motioned to Elan. “Elan did indeed prepare everything-.”

“I had help, all the other Contenders-.”

“-as I said, everything, in just a few days. Isn’t that just truly amazing?”

Elan gave her a side glare, but Marina just grinned back. 

“I will be horrible and tell you all a secret.” Garth motioned them all close. He whispered with a cupped hand as his wings flared out to shield them all. “Ravenna is awful at planning things, so she couldn’t have managed anything like this.” 

Marina and Ash gasped dramatically, “No!” 

Elan rolled her eyes as she said, “She’s a Queen, so surely she at least has a Court and people for that.”

“The Fae Court isn’t like the human world,” Garth said as he leaned back and tucked his wings to his sides again. “It’s more of a military council, not gentle folks milling about. The Court generally does meet for the solstice and such, but we haven’t had a good party in ages.”

“Sounds like you need to borrow Elan!” Ash said a little too enthusiastically. “We were just saying we’re actually surprised she wasn’t chosen to be Queen. Flora is a real nice girl, but Elan is just so much more-.” 

Marina smacked her brother hard in his gut. “Brother, you might want to consider shutting your mouth right about now.” 

Ash let out an “Oof!” and rubbed at his stomach. “What? It’s not as if it’s a big secret?”

Marina groaned as she grabbed her brother by the arm and dragged him away. “Please excuse us!” She grumbled things under her breath as she told her intoxicated brother exactly how he messed up. 

Elan turned to Garth with a forced smile. “Please pay no mind to what you just heard. We all love and adore Princess Flora, and she will make a great Queen, I assure you.” 

Garth tilted his head to the side. Elan took note that his eyes didn’t blink, but there were white folds that did instead. She also noticed his dark skin rippled a bit along his forearms, changing from a black-blue to dark violet. She wondered if there was a creature equivalent of him in her own world. She wanted to ask, but would that be considered rude?

“I’ve been standing around and listening. They’re right, it’s not really a secret.” Garth shrugged again. “Honestly, the human matters don’t affect us, so I see no reason to tell Ravenna about it. I’d bet my talons she already knows. She’s an inquisitive little bird.”

Elan blanched at the last bit. Wasn’t it rude to comment on his Queen like that? Surely it must be? She scanned the room and found Ravenna walking up to Flora. The two of them bowed and began chatting seemingly in an amicable way. 

“I don’t see anything little about her, though,” Elan said, and then clacked her mouth shut. “That is to say…”

“Madame, literally everyone saw you on the dance floor, I get where you’re coming from.” Garth didn’t seem upset about it, but instead amused. “I also saw her jaw drop to the floor when you entered the room.” He sighed and put a hand over his heart. “Oh, I’ll treasure that moment for a long time, I assure you.” 

Elan felt a blush creep up her cheeks while she tried to remind herself firmly that she was a woman now, not a love sick child. She could woo and be wooed, it was fine. At the same time, it was one thing to want something, it was a whole other thing to realize everyone knew you wanted it. 

Her eyes flicked back over to Flora and Ravenna. Flora said something, and Ravenna’s smile faltered just a slight bit. When Ravenna responded, her smile no longer matched her eyes. Elan felt Garth beside her tense. 

“That’s not a good look.” He said softly. “Your Princess said something rather innocuous, though, I don’t get why she’s upset.”

“You can hear them?” Elan asked, surprised. “What did Flora say? Please tell me, I can fix it if I know, maybe?”

Garth shrugged and said, “Princess Flora said, ‘We appreciate your presence, Queen Ravenna, and will treasure you even when your absence comes about all too soon.’ It sounded fine to me?”

Elan scrunched up her brow. Depending on how it was said, perhaps Ravenna thought Flora wanted her gone? Surely, not, but still she had to make sure no one felt insulted. Elan bowed to him slightly before moving away. “I’m going to go over there to try and mend things.”

As she moved through the crowd, Elan kept her eyes right on the two women. She hated to think that the Queen of the fae realm might come out of this night thinking poorly of Princess Flora. It was fairly obvious that Flora wasn’t as beloved as Elan assumed, as everyone felt such keen surprise that Flora was chosen instead. 

“A divided Kingdom is a broken one, and a broken one is a dead one.” It was one of the first lessons the Contenders ever learned. 

Elan walked up, and Flora turned to her with a dazzling smile. “Hello dear! Queen Ravenna and I were just chatting. I don’t think I mentioned it, but you look rather spectacular today. I think Ravenna agress?” 

The Queen’s smile was more bared teeth than warmth. “Oh, that I do.” She nodded to Elan. “Red was certainly not my favorite color before, but now I must admit I like it far better.” 

Flora laughed with her teeth clenched together. Elan wondered why Flora was so upset about the compliment. “I must admit Queen Ravenna that I’ve always found the color red quite fetching. It is after all the color of passion and love. When it comes to both, I am very serious in my pursuits.” 

Ravenna nodded. “Of course, as the heir to the throne, your partner must be a good match.”

Flora’s grin only widened. “Better than, I intend to have the best.” 

Elan decided to gently interrupt. “Princess Flora, should we proceed to the feast? I believe my father is getting peckish.” 

At that Flora’s shoulders lowered a notch and the few lines on her brow went smooth. “Of course, how rude of me to keep everyone starving. After all the hard work you put into every detail, it would be a shame for everything to go cold.” 

Ravenna surveyed the long table. “Are we seated to the right as we were before?” 

Elan motioned towards a long table. “Yes, the right side of the Princess, please.” 

Ravenna held out her hand. “Would you mind escorting me to my seat?” 

Elan took her hand and tucked it into the crook of her elbow. “Of course, couldn’t have you getting lost.”

Flora rolled her eyes and shook her head as she turned towards the table. She walked along the back way towards the head of the seating arrangement. Ravenna and Elan trailed behind her, Ravenna asking a few questions about the people in attendance here and there. 

When brought to her seat, Ravenna pulled Elan down to sit next to her. Elan shook her head and tried to get back up.

“No, no, this isn’t the plan!” Elan said as she tried to get up. 

Garth appeared beside her. “I don’t eat human food, and I’d rather stand behind my queen as a good defensive position. No offense, my lady.” 

Ravenna kept hold of Elan’s hand. “I would appreciate your company over his, anyway.” 

Garth snorted. “And I would appreciate a better job, your majesty.” 

Ravenna gritted through her smiling teeth. “Get to the wall and hush, guard.” 

Elan giggled at the banter. Apparently, Ravenna and Garth must’ve known each other for a long time, for they spoke like friends or siblings rather than some servant and master. Garth’s skin rippled again, this time to an ebony with light blue lines running along his arms. Ravenna turned her head away from him with a scoff as Garth stepped back to the wall. 

Flora announced to the Grand Hall at large, “Dear nobility of Surene, it is a good day. We will sign tomorrow the treaty that has kept both the fae world of Ravenwood and Surene together in peace for over two centuries. May it be another two centuries yet, so that our grandchildren may know the blessings we have had in these years.” 

Ravenna stood up as well. “It is a great honor and privilege to once again reinforce these bonds between Fae Kin and humans. May the future reign of Princess Flora be full of blessings.” She bowed her head in respect to Flora, and she did in return.

“Let us feast!”  Flora announced with her wine cup in hand. 

Elan started off with her soup and bread. Ravenna watched the other nobles talk with each other at their chairs. She leaned over to Elan and asked, “How is Queen Valeria? Is she well?” 

“Oh, very,” Elan said as she dipped her bread into the broth, “and I expect Valeria will still be Queen for some time.” 

Ravenna moved in closer. “But then, why coronate a Princess?” 

“Ah,” Elan paused to think, “it’s just to secure someone in case something happens. Queen Valeria doesn’t want to leave anything to chance, even in this time of peace.” 

“I see.” Ravenna picked at her bread, only eating small pieces and ignoring the soup completely. She turned to Flora and asked her, “And how are you faring in your new role?” 

“Oh, I’m managing very well.” Flora sipped on her wine. “It helps that Elan has been with me for every step of the journey to where I am, and I know she’ll continue to be by my side even when I take the throne.” Flora gave Ravenna another rigid smile. “But of course, it won’t be without it’s challenges. I intend to face them all head on, and come out the victor.” 

Ravenna let out a small laugh. “I suppose that is the right attitude for an heir to the throne to have.” 

Flora laughed a little as well. “Yes, I have been told I’m a bit headstrong, but what contender isn’t?” She glanced at Elan out of the corner of her eye. “The only difference between us is what we’re willing to do in the end to win.”

“Such as?” Ravenna asked. 

“More than what is asked of us.” Flora motioned to the crowd at large. “No one here will ever really know what it takes to run a kingdom. You understand, of course, you’re a queen. The people will always judge and gossip, but they shall always be blind to the real mechanisms of politics.” 

“True indeed.” Ravenna picked at the bread again before turning to Elan. “But not everything about politics has to be difficult and full of conflict.” 

Elan shrugged her shoulders. “I like the more compromising and persuasive approach, myself. Finding some common ground and then moving from there.” 

“Hmm,” Ravenna leaned in close to whisper against the shell of her ear, “and what if I don’t need persuading?” 

Elan whispered back, “Then I suppose all that’s left is compromising myself.” She heard a disgusted noise from Flora, but ignored it. “My room is on the fourth floor. I’ll leave a candle burning for you to find me.” 

“Very good, I will see you when the moon is high.”


OK, and on that note, this will be the last chapter I’m putting up on the blog. Tomorrow I’ll be announcing which platform I’m finally going to commit and just self-publish the book. I think I’ll also do promotional things, like giveaways and such. I’m so new to all of the self-publishing tricks, so we’ll see how this goes.

I’ll also announce tomorrow for the day. I’m kind of torn on the exact day I’d like to post the book, and my cover art is still a work in progress from the person I commissioned for the book.

So yeah, final post for book week is tomorrow, see you then!

Posted in Talking about Books

We Get a Dance! Chapter Three of “The Queens of Ravenwood” is Up!

Sorry for the delay! As I mentioned in the previous post, I was dealing with a bit of a depression crash for the past couple of days. It happens sometimes, and I couldn’t push myself to get the re-write completed.

However, don’t fret, chapter four is still incoming. I’ll be posting it tomorrow in the late evening for me here in Japan. After chapter four I’ll announce a date and final decision on how and when I’ll be posting the actual book.


Chapter 3: The Dance 

With only an hour left before the ball was set to start, Amelia found Elan trying on her tenth dress. 

“What is going on in here?” Amelia asked with arms motioning to the dresses strewn about the room. 

Ken followed behind her, his eyes roaming about from dress to dress. “I was going to ask if you might need some assistance getting ready.” He picked up a shawl off the floor. “It looks as if I came just in time.” 

“I’m trying to find the right look, that’s all.” Elan said, as if it was not a big matter that she’d tossed half her closet about the room.

Elan couldn’t believe she hadn’t thought to request something new for the event, but she had no time. Between trying to become a Queen or trying to keep the kingdom running, why would a new dress matter? But now! Oh, the regret!  

“Oooooooh?” Amelia got that look on her face, the same look she had on before she suggested they go find the wine for just a taste

“Don’t get any ideas,” Elan said as she got out another dress to look at in the mirror, “it’s only for the sake of diplomacy.”

“I see, and would this diplomacy take place in the foyer or your bed?”

“Amy!” 

“What? Just asking.”

Elan went into her closet with a huff. She elected to ignore the fact that Amelia was coming in right at her heels. With quick hands, she went through two more dresses but hated them immediately. 

“Elan,” Amelia said, her voice losing its teasing tone, “you don’t need to impress her, you know that right? She’ll just be here and gone again anyways.”

Elan paused, but then went right back to shuffling skirts around. “I know that, Amy, but the kingdom needs her on our side. The signing of the Alliance Accords is a pivotal part of our peaceful relations. The Altier family has a reputation to uphold-Where are my damn belts?” 

 “Right,” Amelia said as she plucked out a red gown from the depths of the closet. “Which is why you’re so panicked, then?” 

“Yes, of course!” Elan grabbed the red dress, putting it in front of herself. 

With a slight wince, she remembered this particular outfit was a gift from a man out East who wanted her hand in marriage. He had chosen golden edges, a curvaceous design with a long dip between her breasts, just enough to show off cleavage without technically being too much, but it hinted at more. The fabric clung instead of flowed. 

Elan never wore it out in public, fearing the gossip. “It’s not our colors, and I would look like a harlot.” 

Amelia rested an arm on her shoulder, giving Elan a cheeky grin in the mirror. “And that’s a bad thing?” 

Elan stared at the mirror for longer than she cared to admit, a hand smoothing the fabric down onto her frame. “Perhaps with a bit of jewelry and coat it would be more acceptable.” 

Amelia shook her head. “No no, we need a statement.” She tapped her fingers on her bottom lip. “You want to match her in esteem and looks, play on an equal field…” She turned around to peruse the closet again. “A bit of jewelry. Yes! This will do.” 

She raced over with an intricate golden headdress in hand. She put it atop Elan’s head, settling it atop the crown of braids Elan created that morning. The headdress itself was molded like that of a flower crown made of roses.  

On each side of Elan’s face, two very wide and long lines of golden tassels fell down to stop just above Elan’s hips. The decorative lines held tiny roses here and there, sparkling in the light. The headdress hung just long and thick enough to cover up Elan’s breasts, but still teased about what was underneath. 

“Raven-kin supposedly love shiny things,” Amelia said.

Elan stared at the ensemble. “It’s risky, and it’s not a bit of jewelry. This is practically a crown!”

“It’s perfect.” Amelia said with a purr. “If you want a fae queen to pay you any attention, a safe outfit would be the wrong way to go.” She whispered up to Elan’s ear. “Besides, I think Ravenna would appreciate the risk. Admit it, you want her, and more than just some diplomatic rendezvous.” 

As much as she didn’t want to admit it, Elan quietly confessed to herself that yes, she did wish for more. Ravenna awoke desires in her she hadn’t felt in so long, not willing to compromise her place as a Contender for the Crown. Her mother would have been furious about her “getting distracted.” But she lost, and she did need to court before marriage anyway. No one would fault her for a little flirting before marriage.   

Elan nodded as she shifted the dress. “Help me get it all on, then.”

Ken sighed as he continued picking up clothes. “I shall get the makeup.” 

Amelia squealed. “I’ll get the perfume.” 

Just in time, they managed to get on the whole dress with its back laced up tight and the headdress secured with pins. Ken had taken two of the braids to allow some tresses to fall with the headdress’ tassels. Amelia worked on the last bits of makeup as Ken smoothed out the hair. 

Elan’s eyes were lined with very concentrated liquid charcoal, a relatively recent trend. Her lips were painted a deep purple to contrast with the red. With her fingers, Amelia put on a bit of light white powder on Elan’s cheeks to make a glowing effect. 

Ken noticed the look in the mirror and said, “I don’t think you’ve ever looked so stunning, my lady. Well done, Miss Amelia.” 

“Thank you! I think she’s got exactly the right amount of beauty and poise to pull this whole thing off. Don’t you?” Amelia moved to the side to let Elan get a real good look at herself.

“I do, my lady.” Ken put down the brush. “It’s perfect.” 

Elan breathed in and out. She’d never, ever dared to try and stand out to this degree in her entire life. Sure, a few pretty looks in court and she wore makeup before, but this look? It made her look completely different. 

“I hope it’s appreciated,” Elan said. “Thank you both for your help. We should go.” 

~~~

Princess Flora stood at the top of the stairs, her eyes narrowed at the lobby. When Elan walked up to her, Flora didn’t turn to see her. Elan’s eyes roamed over the princess’ dress. 

It was odd. Instead of her usual elegant dresses, Flora chose one with a thick, sapphire blue, and around her waist as a silver belt meant to tie in tight at the back. In the usual fashion, most women chose a dress with an open neckline to counteract the more fierce look of the high waisted belt. Flora chose one with shoulder pads and a sharp-V neckline instead. 

And of course, her hair was braided up around her head, holding the light silver crown stable. 

When Flora did turn to see her, for a split second Elan swore she saw fury cross over her face, but it was gone in the next. With a tight, small smile, Flora said, “Ah, Elan, you look fantastic!” 

Elan bowed her head, but kept her eyes locked with Flora’s. “Is something wrong? You seem tense.” 

Flora’s smile didn’t falter as she shook her head. “Of course not, I’m merely impatient to begin. Are you ready? Follow me in, your parents are already downstairs.” 

Flora motioned to a servant below. A man downstairs shouted out to the general attendees, “Princess Flora Calden, Heir to the Throne of Surene!” He also announced Elan and then Amelia. The Princess of Surene held her head high, her smile much brighter now. 

Following after her, Elan made more of an impression by stark contrast alone. She was aware of the gasps in the room, people immediately whispering to each other about her outfit and headdress. It took effort, but she didn’t look over at the fae across the way. Pretend you are above the people in the room, pretend you are above the people in the room, she kept telling herself. Valeria’s advice helped her immensely with this situation. 

She approached her father, who gave her a winning smile. He said something to a man beside him, who in turn rolled his eyes. No doubt, a poorly done compliment. Behind him was her mother who looked…displeased. Elan knew she would be hearing a very strong opinion from Lady Brienne about her chosen dress later. Oh well, too late to go back now. 

Her father kissed her on each side of her cheek and said, “Elan, my one and only, what a look you’ve chosen for tonight! You look absolutely dangerous. I didn’t even think this dress would suit you, ha! Look at what I know.” 

He took her arm, tucking it into his own as they walked towards the ballroom. Elan could feel her mother’s glare into the back of her head, but continued to just ignore it. However, she did try to see out of the corner of her eye if Ravenna was pleased with her.

Elan found those dark eyes open wide. Ravenna didn’t glance like a lady of the court would, quick to avert and stare from peripherals. She stared with obvious fascination. Her lips were parted as if she wanted to say something. Her guard beside her with the leather wings knocked his elbow into her side, and Ravenna shut her mouth into a thin line. She was interested, success! 

In the ballroom, Ravenna walked along with her group towards the edges of the circular dance floor. She said something to her entourage, and they all spread out along the outer line. The music began playing a soft warm up song, a simple and old tune from Lady Brienne’s time. Everyone began mingling about, but not yet dancing, it wasn’t that kind of song. 

Flora stopped the procession, turning around to whisper to Elan. “Elan, if anyone asks, my ankle is tender and I wish to let it heal.”

“Understood,” Elan whispered back. 

What was actually understood was, well, Flora perhaps appeared to be the most graceful of all the contenders. In reality, she simply could not dance. Not for lack of trying or for lack of careful instruction, the woman just lacked any semblance of rhythm within her movements. Flora once broke a dancing partner’s toe with the heel of her shoe when they were all about thirteen or so. Since then, it’s been an unofficial decree to never, ever let Flora twirl about with courtiers.

Elan turned to whisper to her father, “Be sure you and mother keep a close eye on the fae, try to keep them at a distance from Flora. They might wish to have some fun, but…”

“I understand, love, we’ll be discreet but forceful.” He quirked a brow and his eyes flickered to her dress. “So, what’s the story with your attire, may I ask?”

 Elan shrugged. “I just felt like making a statement.” 

The Duke Altier chuckled as he released her into the dance hall. “Then you’ve succeeded, love, good luck!” 

He winked as he took his wife’s hand quickly before she could shoot over to his daughter for a discreet tongue lashing. Brienne shot words at him as they went towards a stage meant for them to oversee the party. Princess Flora drifted away to mingle with her parents and their friends. 

Elan was moving to go closer to Ravenna when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to see Jalek, his cheeks red and a hand held out for her. “If you wouldn’t mind, Elan, I’d like to steal your first dance. You look amazing.”

“Oh, Jalek,” she said with a big smile, “I don’t mind at all.”

Amelia coughed as she suddenly appeared by her side. “Don’t you think you should wait for a certain someone to come up to you?”

Elan looked out of the corner of her eyes to see Ravenna chatting with one of the other fae. Ravenna was looking at her, it was obvious, she didn’t even bother to try and hide her gaze. It bore into her, ignoring everyone else in the room. 

Elan grinned. “Somehow I doubt she’s going to let me get away.” 

Jalek’s eyes widened into saucers. “Are you serious? You’re trying to seduce the damn fae queen?” He hissed at her. “Elan! She’s a fae, and she’s a queen, what is wrong with you?”

Elan shrugged a shoulder. “I’m allowed to court who I please until engagement or marriage.”

Fae and queen,” Jalek said slowly and with force. “Not to mention, she’s got heartbreaker written all over her. She’ll love you and leave you!” 

Larent walked up to them and growled. “Can all of you just go around the room or something? It’s strange to see contenders on a dance floor all bunched up like this. People are getting nervous.”

Jalek said in a rush to his brother, “Elan wants to seduce the fae queen!” 

“And how is that a problem? She’s twenty years old, she’s allowed to court whomever she pleases.” Larent took his fiance’s hand and tucked it into his arm. “And furthermore, it’s in the name of diplomacy. You courted the princess from across the sea once.” 

“Hey, that’s different!” 

“Why?” Elan asked. “It’s not that different, I suffer no illusions about her temporary stay. It’s for a couple of days, what harm could it do? To have some fun?”

“Why are we all whispering and gathered around in a circle in the ballroom?” Flora interjected with her sudden arrival. 

“I will explain later!” Amelia hissed at her. 

“That’s not an answer!” Flora retorted. 

“Everyone, just shhhh!” Jalek put a finger to his lips. Flora glared at him and pointed to her crown. Jaleck rolled his eyes at her.  “Elan, listen to me, Queen Ravenna doesn’t look like the kind of person you court; she looks like the kind who wants to-.” 

Jalek gasped at something he saw over Elan’s shoulder. “Coming over, coming over, everyone scatter!” 

Amelia grabbed Flora’s hand and tugged her along with Larent. They went over to Amelia’s parents to talk. Jalek rushed over to his cousins who had some drinks in hand from the kitchen. Elan turned to face her. 

Ravenna stepped up to Elan, and the Duchess in Waiting tilted her chin up. The raven fae bowed at the waist with respect and Elan bowed as well. When Ravenna stood up, she took another step forward, and Elan could smell something like pine coming from her. Her black eyes gazed over everything, from the headdress and over her face, her lips curling into a devilish smile further down. 

“If I admit ignorance to your steps, would you teach me how to dance?” Ravenna held out her hand.  

Elan placed her hand in hers. “But of course. You’re in luck, your majesty. Dancing was my best class.” 

The fae queen grasped her fingers firmly and pulled Elan gently towards her. They were all of a breath away from each other now. Elan could hear people whispering furiously back and forth around them. Ravenna glared at the gossiping mob before returning her focus back to Elan. 

Ravenna said, “It is a disadvantage of our kind keeping to ourselves, that we lose out on the modern ways of your people.” 

“I doubt it would be the worst disservice to staying away.” Elan said as she turned to place herself beside Ravenna. She tilted her head back and puffed up her chest. “You might miss out on forming better relations. And wouldn’t that be a shame?” 

Elan saw from the corner of her eyes that Ravenna’s gaze lingered. 

“Yes, what a tragedy,” Ravenna finally said as she stepped in the dead center of the dance space. “I shall endeavor to make amends.” 

“See that you do,” Elan ordered with a slight tremble. 

She put a hand on Ravenna’s hip, then brought the fae queen’s other hand up to hold. She stepped back on her left foot. “Do you know the waltz?”

Ravenna nodded, following Elan’s movements, going forward. “Easy, a boxed pattern timed in four, switch out partners after five rounds.” She sounded disappointed by the idea. They moved together in the simple box pattern for a couple of beats, against the mellow music playing. 

Elan shifted to Ravenna’s side, surprising her. “We’ve made some adjustments. This dance is timed the same, but the movements change and the music speeds up, then your feet move faster as well. If you can keep up with me, it should be easy enough.”

Ravenna laughed low. “I think I can manage. I’ve been told I’m light on my feet.”  

Elan glanced over at the musicians. Ken was there, awaiting her signal. When she nodded her head, he said a few words to them, and they all grinned. The tempo changed abruptly. 

Everyone moved at once. Husbands and wives left strangers for their loved ones. Partners stood side-by-side, facing away from each other, in three circles around Elan and Ravenna. This dance demanded mirrored actions, closeness, and more. 

Elan slid a hand across the middle of Ravenna’s back. She loved how her dance partner’s eyes widened in surprise. “Do the same to me,” Elan said, “just do as I do.”

“Exactly?” 

“Exactly.” 

Ravenna caressed a line along Elan’s back. “I will endeavor to follow your lead.”

One of the musicians strummed his fingers along the strings of a large lute, while the harpist tugged on one thick string, holding a bassline. A violinist added another layer off the lute’s melody. After a minute to allow everyone to get in positions, they began the Final Affair

Elan moved into the simple box step, Ravenna following in time. She released and twirled, and Ravenna caught her back up in her arms smoothly. Elan let her hand travel across the small of Ravenna’s back. The queen squeezed her hand, and smirked. The fae queen kept up as Elan moved them two steps around. As the song picked up, she did another release and twirl. The other courtiers moved around them in the circles, but Elan and Ravenna stayed in their small space. 

“In two more measures.” Elan told her, we’ll break apart, twirl, and then return to each other.”  

“How scandalous,” Ravenna said dryly. 

Elan rolled her eyes. “Be a bit patient.,” she said as they moved again, “that’s not the end.”

“Hmmm,” Ravenna stared into her eyes, “good. I would rather like to keep seeing you move.” 

Elan stopped herself before blurting out, “I would like that too.” She bit her lip instead. She didn’t want to seem too wanting, Ravenna might not like that, or might get the wrong idea about her being clingy. A bit more teasing seemed more important. 

At the right moment, the violinist let out a long note, and the dancers parted to twirl around. Just as Elan and Ravenna came back to each other, the pace sped up yet again, and the beats allowed for little time to twirl and return. Elan pulled at Ravenna. 

“In three, two, one, support my back.” 

Ravenna moved her hand just as Elan bent backwards. They shared a knowing smile, and then Elan was back up and sliding back into the waltz. 

Elan liked how much skill it took to get the next part right, as well as how close it brought the two dancers. 

“And now, we are going to need to trust each other,” Elan said.

Ravenna squeezed her shoulder. “I think I can extend a measure of trust.” 

Elan blushed and smiled in return. “Good, I’ll try to be worthy of it.”

She grabbed Ravenna’s hand. “Go back!” 

The fae queen did as told. 

“Now twirl quick and come back.” Ravenna laughed. She executed a perfect twirl on one foot, then grasped Elan’s hand once more. 

Elan moved two quick beats right and whirled on her foot. She caught Ravenna’s hand right on beat. The music sped up again, giving them no mercy. They had to be in sync, moving in their circle and doing their twirls right. 

A few other dancers laughed as they side stepped wrong, unable to keep up. Elan couldn’t be bothered to see who they were. She was winded, needing to focus on her own moves, even though she was more interested in the queen catching her.

Ravenna looked like she was excited. Her smile was all bared teeth from ear-to-ear. Unlike Elan, she wasn’t breathing hard, but her feathered hair stuck up in odd ways with each new move. 

“Next?” Ravenna asked.

“We come back together to put our arms around each other’s necks,” Elan said, panting and rushed. 

Ravenna’s face scrunched up in confusion. “What?” 

The music slowed. Ravenna’s eyes widened as Elan got in close, wrapping her arms around Ravenna’s shoulders. Ravenna laughed gently as she wrapped her arms around Elan’s waist. 

“I like the additions,” Ravenna said as they rotated together slowly. 

“Me too,” Elan said, “Would you like to know the story?”

“Of?”

“The dance.”

“If it means we stay this way, yes.”

Elan rolled her eyes and laughed a bit. “It’s the story of a lady who wants to marry an elven man, but her parents refuse to let them even see each other.”

Ravenna rolled her eyes. “Why is it always the elves?”

“Perhaps because we actually see them more than once a decade?”

The queen nodded her regal head. “Hmmm, true. So, let me guess, it ends in tragedy?” 

“Yes, he goes to their meeting place in the woods, and she isn’t there, but a basket with a baby is.” 

“Ugh,” Ravenna eyes nearly rolled into the back of her head. “Why do you humans have to always make them have babies in these tales?”

“Perhaps because we’re mortal? So babies mean a part of us lives on?” Elan shrugs. “I think humans desire stories with legacies, but I’m not a great storyteller, too. Perhaps if someone else told it-.”

“No, it’s fine, really..” Ravenna’s gaze changed to a more contemplative one. “The child of a Duchess, so a Contender for the Crown.”

“Yes, precisely,” Elan said as she ducked her head, trying to ignore the bit of pain that stung from her failure. 

Ravenna got even closer, surprising Elan into looking back up. Her lips were close enough to kiss, but Elan didn’t dare, not in the open. People would accept her flirting in the name of diplomacy, but not outright kissing intimacy. 

“When the music ends, what do we do?” Ravenna asked, her lips nearly brushing against Elan’s. 

“I suppose,” Elan said as she tucked a stray feather out of Ravenna’s face, “that’s up to you, your majesty.”