QSFer Kira Harp has a new spec fic short story collection out: Rainbow Briefs.
Dragons don’t care what gender you are.
A small town may be a refuge, or a trap.
Some younger brothers really do save the planet.
Three people can be the strongest shape.
There’s nothing quite like a gorgeous girl on a shape-shifting motorcycle.
This second Kira Harp collection brings together LGBTQ teens in 21 stories of adventure, discovery, and romance, in fantasy, paranormal, contemporary, and SciFi settings. Ranging from a few short pages to 12,000 words, each story was inspired by a prompt picture from the YA LGBTQ Books Group on Goodreads.
(Content warnings for abduction, bullying, self harm, substance abuse, suicidal ideation.)
All of Me, With Dragon
photo description: A slender figure stands inside a stone hall, submerged to the waist of her elegant dress in a pool of water. Her long, dark hair is held back from her pointed ears with an elaborate diadem. A gold armband worked in similar curves wraps around her upper arm. All of her attention is focused on the face looking into hers – the narrow muzzle and intent eyes of a scaled, spiny, sinuous, cat-sized dragon, wet and dripping in her hands, its long tail draped across her wrist.
I knew before I opened my eyes that this was a girl day. I felt softer, and my body rested on my down mattress lightly, almost weightlessly. The sheets glided over my skin when I moved my legs. I smiled, opened my eyes, and looked up. Through the skylight above me, the clouds scudded thick and dark across the sky. It was odd, how often a dark and stormy day woke the girl in me. Somehow, I felt stronger to stand against the wind and rain as a girl.
Like being a princess makes me a weather goddess? Hah.
The self-mockery didn’t keep me from leaping dramatically out of bed and laughing up at the brewing storm, from the safe haven of my stone bedroom. I pulled off my sleep-shirt and cleaned up, using a razor to shave myself silky smooth all over. I’m not hairy anyway, but on girl days I want my skin to shine. I combed out my hair and clipped it back loose with a feminine diadem around it, instead of doing the tight braid with the tuck under. My silk dress went on like flowing water over my sensitized skin. I love, love, love the sensual quality of girl days.
My father called to me from the front room, “Kana? Are you coming to breakfast?”
“Just a minute!” I did a quick whirl and strike, making sure this new dress didn’t cling too tightly for me to kick and run, because girldoes not mean fainting flower. Then I headed down the hallway.
When I entered the eating room, he looked up. As usual, I saw the moment of calculation, when he looked at my dress, my hair, and shifted his expectations for me. I’d been his prince solidly for the last week, so he’d probably seen this coming. “Hey, honey,” he said. “Your mother left early, so we’re fending for ourselves. I made oatcakes.”
I glided over and kissed his hair, wound an arm around his neck. “Thanks, Father.”
He smiled. “Sit and eat. You’re too skinny.”
“Hah,” I said under my breath. Every inch of me was honed muscle and he knew it well. But Mother was plump and round, and Father claimed to like that in a girl. I bit into an oatcake with darinberry jam and licked my lips. He slid the pitcher to me. “Have some milk.”
“So,” I said, remembering to take smaller bites, “What’s the plan for today?”
“Well, the ambassador from Croyden is presenting Princess Anali to court. I’d thought…” He looked me up and down. “Well, I guess it’s up to you. You can come and sit through the ceremony, or not, as you please. You’ll have to be there for Betrothal tomorrow, of course.”
“I’ll come today.” I bit the next cake harder. He tries, my father the King. He truly does. Here inside our apartments, with all duties and servants left at the door, he tries to be the perfect father. He works so hard to accept me on all my days, even the ones where I’m remote and not girl or boy, but my cool and unknowable self. But he can’t help wishing, I think. Wishing that I’d make his life just a bit easier as his heir. He’d probably meant to present his son, Prince Kana, to the princess today. Instead he got his daughter.
I almost offered to go and change. I could do it, become the other, even if my heart wasn’t in it. But I hated to wear my selves like a disguise, when they didn’t fit. And if the princess was truly meant to be my consort, she’d have to deal with girl-me soon enough. Better now, before the betrothal, when she could still back out gracefully. I licked the jam off my fingers. “You’re a better cook than Mother is.”
“I should be.” He snorted. “Your grandfather made his sons care for ourselves on hunting trips, to toughen us up. Your Uncle Ton is a terrible cook, so I learned in self-defense. While your mother’s parents never let her white hands so much as touch a pan.”
“So she says.” I had to smile. My mother had never been the society type. My father likes to tell of their betrothal day, when they wrote their one true concern in the Question Books. His question was, “Do you truly want children, or just feel obliged to have them?” Hers was, “If I marry you, can I study medicine?” It turned out to be a match made by the gods, although the only child they got from it was me.
Father stood. “I have to go get started. There’s a lot of business on my plate this morning. Princess Anali is due to be presented an hour before the noon bell. I think there’s nothing to catch your interest before then, so there’s no need to arrive earlier.” His forehead furrowed, and he seemed to look inward. I wondered what the trouble was.
“I’ll be there at late-morn bell then,” I said. “Good luck with the morning court.”
He made a sour face. “I’ll need it. If Noble Duran complains once more about Xeres moving boundary markers, I’ll probably…”
“Patiently send out a squire to measure it off again.” I went and kissed him. “You’re the best peacemaker ever. That’s why the malcontents like Duran are so unhappy.”
“Well, I try.” He managed a smile. “I’ll see you later, daughter.”
As he opened the door of our suite, I saw his bodyguard go from parade rest to alert. Father waved, and then closed the door behind him. So. A morning to myself…
I had tasks I could do, including an archive of old books I was happily cataloging. But I had no patience for that today. I decided to go check on the hatchlings and say a word to the Dragonmaster. He was the wisest man I knew, and for some reason my father’s ordinarily calm demeanor had shown a few cracks this morning. I wanted to know why.
I put on sturdy boar-hide boots. Briefly, I considered changing my dress to more practical trews as well, but I liked the feel of the silk, and the contrast with the high black boots. Anyhow, I wasn’t going to be working with the dragons today, just talking to the Master. I buckled on a girdle around my waist, the one with a secret blade concealed on the side. I even reached for my dagger, but in the end I left it. I wasn’t sure why I felt the urge to armor up, but the dagger was overkill within our own castle walls.
When I stepped out of our rooms, Jo was waiting as my guard of the day. She gave me a nod, then fell in at my right, where I wouldn’t block her sword arm. “Where to, Your Highness?”
“The mews,” I said.
“Very well, Your Highness.”
I made a face. “Seriously, Jo. Can’t you call me Kana, the way the others do?”
She shook her head, shaking the tiny braids of her hair. “It’s not fitting.”
“Not even if I ask it?” I gave her my slow smile.
She averted her eyes. “No, Your Highness.” Her next step opened up a little more space between us.
All right, I wouldn’t push. I’d noticed that Jo was more formal on the days when I was a girl. Whether it was from distaste or attraction, I still hadn’t quite figured out. She was an intense woman, solitary and focused, an amazing fighter. I’d never heard her name paired with anyone, male or female. I trusted Jo with my life, because my father did, but I didn’t really know her.
The mews were reached by way of two long hallways and three flights of stairs. The dragons preferred the deeper reaches of the castle. They needed dark, cool nooks, cut into solid rock, for sleeping, and they loved the bathing pool. They’d pop in and out of sight over the surface, shutting their wings to drop down like living stones into the water. As a child, I’d spent hours watching them at play down there.
I knocked on the outer door. As a Royal, I could, of course, have just walked in. But I’d no more barge into the Master’s domain without permission than walk unannounced into my parents’ bedchamber. There was a pause, then the door opened. A boy’s face appeared, at my shoulder level. “Oh, it’s you!” The pale face reddened immediately. “I mean, Prince Kana, oops, Princess Kana, come in.” The boy tugged the door wide.
I smiled at the young page as I entered. He’d only been on mews duty a week. As far as I knew, he’d never seen me in a dress. “Is the Master around?”
The boy ducked his head. “Oh, yes, Your Highness. He’s with the hatchlings.” He pointed across the cavern.
~*~* read more in Rainbow Briefs volume 2
I’ve been writing since I could put words together. Early stories were about dolls and horses and kids who surmounted the odds and came home with a kitten. Gradually I learned about punctuation and point-of-view and my characters grew up. But real life came along, with forays into psychology and teaching and then a biomedical career and children. Writing happened in my head, for my own amusement, but didn’t make it to paper.
Then several years ago, my husband gave me a computer. And my two kids were getting older and developing their own interests. So I sat down and typed out a story. Or two. Or three. Now I have adult novels published, and my love of Young Adult fiction has led me to share some of my YA stories.
I currently write constantly, read obsessively, and share my home with my younger son, my amazingly patient husband, and a crazy, omnivorous little white dog. I can be found at my author page on Goodreads, and look forward to sharing many more stories with YA readers in the future.
Kira Harp books are listed with my adult pen name on my website –https://kajeharper.wordpress.com/books/#18In
And you can find me as Kaje Harper on Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/KajeHarper