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Hither & Yon

Tales of the Rose Knights

A series of stories written by award-winning authors Ruth Nestvold and Jay Lake.

by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Terracotta Once upon a time there was a rust-brown rabbit who lived in an ancient castle. The roofs were gone, the towers tottered, the courtyard was rife with brambles and roses gone as feral as an invading army. The sun shone through the eastern gate of a morning, and he would go out and nibble among the hardy grasses which thrived in the less shaded corners of the parade ground and wonder at the rotted banners hanging from the walls and why the world was shaped so.
Published on May 25, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Jan 6, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Jan 20, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Feb 3, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
The Rose Knight known as Golden Unicorn was a creature of field and forest, flowing across the mountain slopes as fire flows across the stubbled fields of autumn. She was born in the misty hills of the Farmost West, raised among the simple nut farmers of Chemeketa, bound to the service of no man nor spirit save her own will and the glories of those mountains. Her coat was the brown of polished walnut burl, and the horn upon her head glinted sunset gold. The relationship between unicorns and virgins is storied past the point of recognition, but the question of unicorn virginity is another matter entire. The Golden Unicorn had spent her youth dancing around the attentions of stallions and lusty lads alike, preferring to hold her heart--and body--for whatever the future might bring. Thus she arrived at adulthood with distant dreams and little grounding in the ordinary mechanics of pleasure. And so she dwelt at the center of her power, crackling with potential but with no grounding for her fulfillment. In time she left the Farmost West to find adventure and service in the Kingdoms of the East.
Published on Feb 17, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Mar 2, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Mar 16, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Mar 30, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Apr 13, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Apr 27, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on May 11, 2016
by jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Oct 12, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Oct 26, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Nov 9, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Nov 23, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Dec 7, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Dec 21, 2016
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Jan 4, 2017
by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Published on Jan 18, 2017
by Ruth Nestvold
Imagine this rose, streaked with a yellow so pale to be almost white, a red bleaching into salmon, a swirl of colors in one small bloom; imagine the scent, sweet and fresh, and then perhaps you will understand why the Particolor Knight from the Summer Lands chose such an unknightly name for himself. Fruité did not fight with swords; his weapon of choice was words, the power of promise and memory and regret, of fear and longing and illusion. Knights of yellow and red and salmon and white were at his bidding, following him and the spell he created.
Published on Jan 2, 2019
by Ruth Nestvold
Published on Jan 9, 2019
by Ruth Nestvold
Published on Jan 16, 2019
by Ruth Nestvold
Swan Lake Swan Lake was not always a Rose Knight. Once she was a princess who had ruled over a vast demesne. As a princess, she had no need of swords for her battles. She just smiled, speaking her way through walls and gates and brambled pits to talk the very monsters from their lairs, soothing the raging ocean, humbling the proudest men. She strode the world wrapped in laughter and a charisma that could stun stone idols. She could have had the world at her feet. But war--and love--were her downfall. "I worry," the Princess said one evening over a clearwater beer and a plate of lamb sausages. She shared her words, and food, with one Marcel, a Rose Knight of middle years long in her service. Marcel licked his fingers, cleaning off the tangy grease. "Good," he said with a grin, then reached for more beer. She laughed, a rising cackle that caused traffic to pause outside the window of the inn. "Good? You think so little of me that you wish me worry?" "No." He cut into another sausage, glanced at her with twinkling eyes the color of a mountain stream. "If you had no worries, you would pine for lack of focus. Your worries allow you to be happy." "Such insight. You should be at court." She stabbed a finger toward him. "Worry me this, my knight. What happens when your heart's desire is achieved? Who do you become?" "Ha." Marcel poured her some more beer. "What happens when a fine meal is eaten? Are you ever hungry again?" "You're twisting words," she grumbled. "That's my work." It was his turn to laugh. "Why do you think I can abide with you time and again? We spin together, neither ever quite mastering the other. Be honest. There are few enough who can keep pace with you." That drew a smile from her. "No." "So. You worry. Have you achieved your heart's desire? What is this wondrous thing?" "Perhaps." She stood, pacing the little room to the window overlooking the street, then back to the door. "Though it pains me to even think so. Desire has divided my heart, and dividing it, conquered it." "Division is just multiplication by another name." She whirled fast as the sword she rarely carried, though with a sparkle in her eyes. "And a man is just a fool by another name." "So what has become of your heart?" She moved back to the window, her face moody and dark as a summer storm. Someone shouted at mules in the street below. "Some man moved into the thickets of my love when I was not watching carefully enough. I did not want him there, but now that he is, I find I cannot let him go." "So you are in love. This happens from time to time, I am told." "I am not free to love him," she whispered, so low he barely caught the words. "You know my situation, my oaths at court, my betrothal in distant Hy Rugosa. But I am not free to refuse him, either." "A pretty problem." Marcel set down his knife and mug to regard her flowing blonde hair, her muscled legs, the fall of her shift across her back. "Who is this mystery lover?" Her answer was a long time coming, and the words were longer still in following. She showed him the light of her heart there in that rented room, and burned her mark upon him. In return for the light, he showed the Princess the best of who she was, and who she could be. This is how the future Rose Knight won and lost her greatest battle--Marcel was hers forever after, and she his, her strength surrendered and increased in one great movement. His fire burning in her made her all the more powerful, and the knowledge that her fire burned in him made her all the more gladsome. In other days and times they might have made no further mention of the business, suffering in separate silence, but for a time they had the occasional chance to celebrate each other in the odd moments of their years.
Published on Jan 23, 2019
by Ruth Nestvold
Norita Imagine....

The building has ten spiral staircases, and nine of them go nowhere. But how to tell which is the one that leads to a tower where you can stand and look out at the vista of dark woods and castles and cathedrals and rolling hills covered with rows of vineyards and which of them ascend into crumbling ruins or air or oblivion or impossibility? Look at the wear on the stones, the differences in front of the stairs circular here, a long groove there, making a strange light colored pattern between the five archways and the five free standing staircases. The room is a pentagon, with archways to towers of stairwells in each corner, the other five stairways at regular intervals in the middle of the room. Although they are made of stone, they look somehow airy, lacy, their patterns graceful and entrancing. The balustrades seem to curve in on themselves, looping between handrails and columns and newels. The room is dank and musty, old and deserted, smelling of abandonment. On an eastern wall hangs a painting, fantastic as this place, seemingly forgotten. Perhaps it will tell us what the stairways mean, what we no longer know, what could never be. The painting shows a solitary rider on a road through a meadow, stylized so that every detail stands out and yet it is impossible to tell if the rider is man or woman. The features of the face are beautiful and handsome at once. The horse has come to rest as the rider gazes ahead to a fork in the road. But there, in the shadows, is that not a woman? There, behind the staircase to the west? Yes. She just stepped towards the window, and she is dressed in dark robes. Her hands are encased in fingerless gloves displaying the many rings she wears. Look, do you see? There are rings on every finger but one, the ring finger of her left hand. She walks toward one of the archways and pauses, her head cocked to one side, as if she hears something, but there is no sound here except the wind whistling abandonment. Has she been forgotten too? Her beringed right hand rests on a stone column of the archway entrance, and she places her foot on the bottom stair. Look, in the stairs curling up behind her dark figure, images, shadowy and vague--a knight, I think. A Rose Knight, wearing shades of yellow and orange. She gazes at him a moment and turns her back, walking quickly to the nearest central staircase. But what appears here, she likes just as little as the Rose Knight a young man with intense eyes, sitting on the steps and carrying a lute. The woman in black looks away, her lips pursed, and touches a ring on her little finger. Her head down, she moves to next spiral staircase. Here a strange vision appears, a vast city climbing the stairs, with tiled roofs and clock towers and church spires. As she looks at the shadowy city in miniature, a slight smile comes to her lips. After a time, she walks to the nearest stairwell, but her gaze still lingers on the city she left. She is not watching where she is going, and when she turns to the archway, she starts back. Ah, is that not blood seeping down the stairs? But she whirls away, and the image is gone. She hurries back into the room, resting her hot forehead on the stone railing of the next central staircase. From her expression, the vision there appears to be even worse than the blood. But it is only a young boy with hair the same shade of dark red as the woman's own, looking up at her trustingly. She bursts into tears and stumbles away. There is some comfort to be found in the vision of the next spiral staircase, to judge by the way her posture shifts and her chin rises to its natural proud angle again. Here there is nothing but a shifting image of a middle aged man in the robes of a scholar, but she smiles as she plays with a heavy signet ring on the middle finger of her right hand. When she leaves him to continue to the next archway set in the cold stone wall, it is with a certain degree of reluctance. Here the vision is of a handsome young man, a noble or a prince by the wealth of his garb. Nonetheless, she turns away quickly enough, yanking at the large stone on the ring finger of her right hand. There seem to have been many men in this beautiful woman's past or is it her future? The next free standing stairway reveals yet another. This man has no lute, no finery, no surcoat of a Rose Knight, only a merry smile and an unconcerned way of cocking his head. She stands and gazes at him for a spell, and tears begin to roll down her cheeks. Then she turns away and continues to walk her pentangle, to the side almost opposite in the five sided room. The archway here contains the image of an easel, and it holds what looks to be an unfinished version of the painting on the wall. She leans against the decorative stone whorls and crosses her arms in front of her chest as if she expects the canvas to paint itself. It does not, and she spins around to stride all the way across the room to the final stairwell she has not visited, completing her star of destiny. Shall we follow her, the ghosts of lives she never lived? What harm would it do? We are not even her past; we cannot hurt her now. With hardly a hint of hesitation, she begins to climb the cold, dank stairs. When her dark robes hamper her progress, she pulls them over her head, discarding them behind her. If we were real, we might trip on the garments, but we do not. She emerges naked onto battlements with a view of the lands of Hy Rugosa. On the stone floor of the tower lies a linen shift, a suit of chainmail, a surcoat of darkest red with a shimmer of black, and a gleaming sword. A warhorse waits patiently in the yard below. In the distance, two armies are meeting on the crest of a hill. She dons the garments and the armor and takes up the sword. The hilt is engraved with a single word. Norita. She can live her own life now.
Published on Jan 30, 2019