QSFer Layman Kingsford has a new queer fantasy short story collection out (non-binary), a Living Empires prequel: Anacrusis.
Before embarking on the epic Living Empires trilogy, learn a little bit about some of central characters and the magical world where every living thing is emblazoned with one divine signMark. Evorstrom has only ever had one living dual-signed saint at any given time. What happens when there are six?
Ernon Thol’Win, first person ever to be born with two signMarks – bone and tree – in the remote wilderness Uthingo valley, is hailed as the great unifier destined to unite the two symbiotic but contentious tribes of their parents.
Bitter, lonely and jaded, Chinz’Aree Bohk is recognized by all the civilized lands as the one true saint. Sure, when they were young, their flame and tone signMarks caused them to raze an entire neighborhood killing their family, but they are still the most revered person in the world. Their choice to avoid politics and religion entirely has yet to keep the powers that be from meddling in their life.
This collection of three short stories serve as a prequel to the trilogy’s first book, Root Position. Meet Trentun Fiikus, a windSign menagerie entertainer who has been fearfully hiding their second waveSign their entire life.
Note: ALL characters are functionally non-binary.
Trentun lay on the worn cot memorizing lines for a play when Feris’ approach became audible. Without getting up from bed, Trentun glanced out the open front of the tent they shared with the triplets and caught sight of Feris’ swirling black robes and shining onyx hair all a-flutter in the sunny afternoon breeze.
“The day has arrived, my fellow performers,” the elf announced grandly to everyone in the thoroughfare accompanied by spastic gesticulations. No one on the grassy avenue separating residency tents paid Feris any attention, a detail of which Trentun knew the elf to be entirely unaware. “The Broostrus embark on theirz debut solo tour! We shall make all the world our fans as we provide entertainment never before seen, heard, felt or smelled. Tears shall overflow the dried river bed of Tunaska. Tumultuous cheers shall cause Milnor’s volcano to erupt most violently. Every new child birthed shall be named after us! Such will be our fame and influence!”
Sometimes Trentun wondered if the triplets were truly ignorant of everything around themz or if theirz bizarre behavior was all part of some elaborate life-long performance. Maybe it was a mental side effect caused by not having a signMark?
As Feris drew near, Trentun noticed the menagerie’s resident ogre strong-arm was stumping along a short distance behind the elf. “Hey, Feris,” Trentun called out to their friend. “What’s up with Moolg? Is the big booger following you?”
Feris spun about to grandly gesture at the hulking ogre. “Why, dear Moolg is simply falling into orbit around my stupendousness. I suspect they wants to apply to be the first of our new shrieking fans.”
Trentun chuckled. The thought of big old, taciturn, monosyllabic Moolg shrieking at anything was comical.
“Summon mine siblings, my good friend,” Feris ordered as they swirled to face Trentun with such verve they nearly fell off their high-heeled boots. “I must tell themz the news.”
“Theyz should be back any moment,” Trentun said as they glanced back to the paper script. “Theyz went to find Gram Gram Matrika, but that was about an hour ago. I think Patrik was feeling frisky so Kwentin decided to help them pick flowers as a gift to the old seer before bedding them.”
As if on cue, the rear flaps of the tent brushed open admitting two more lithe elf folkz. “Romantic success, yet again!” the bare-chested Patrik proclaimed joyously as they grandiosely rolled a ridiculously large-brimmed hat down one arm into their five-fingered hand. Patrik pirouetted gracefully before taking a flourishing bow that swept their long, pink top-knot of hair across the floor.
Trentun smiled. They admired Patrik’s tight, svelte musculature the elf so often kept on display. The pale pink skin, the well-defined pectorals, the rippling muscles along the spine. Trentun quickly pulled the blanket higher about their hips to hide the swelling in the crotch of their pants. “So Matrika liked the flowers? Did they finally agree to court you?” Trentun hoped to distract the elf with the question.
“Quite so,” confirmed Patrik as they tossed the hat back on top of their head with the casual flip of the wrist.
“But…” interjected the other elf, Kwentin, “only after I provided them my famous Side Eye of Love glance.”
“That is quite right,” agreed Patrik who heartily patted their sibling on the back. One of Kwentin’s drooping, green, false eyebrows came partially unglued at the impact to dangle like a treeCaterpillar in a noose. Kwentin absently patted it back into place.
Feris took an exaggerated step further into the tent, flapping both arms to free themz from the heavy folds of their sleeves. “Broostrus, I have fabulous news.”
“Tell us, Broostru” Kwentin and Patrik said in unison.
“Please, illuminate us as to our impending good fortune,” clarified Trentun, thankful their erection was subsiding. They silently vowed not to look at Patrick until the elf was fully dressed.
Feris cleared their throat. “We are taking our act solo and shall commence to venture forth post haste.”
Kwentin squealed while clapping hands together like a kid receiving their first plush toy. Patrik danced a jig while tossing their hat as if it could fly high into the air. The large floppy headpiece hit the ceiling of the tent a mere hands-width above and dropped to the floor with a soft whisper. Patrik continued to gaze upward as if the hat had sailed majestically across the sky.
Trentun was taken aback, dismayed. “So youz’re leaving the menagerie?”
“Quite right,” crowed Feris. “Bosmon Blaspheme…”
“Bostwik…” Trentun corrected.
“…. yes, the very same… has asked us to embark upon a well-deserved performance endeavor featuring us Broostrus as the headlining act entitled ‘The Crazy Elves From Earlier’!”
Trentun’s heart began to pound. Their forehead became warm to the point of perspiration. The triplets were their only friends in the menagerie and, like Tentun, the only other members not treeSigned. The thought of being left to fend on their own in the troupe was unexpectedly devastating.
“Would I be able to come with youz?” Trentun asked hesitantly. “I’ve been part of yourz act for a long time now, ever since I was ten years old. I wouldn’t know what to do if I were left here. Alone.”
As one, all three siblings turned to face Trentun saying in unison, “But of course!”
“You are an honorary Broostru,” Feris stated as if it were universally understood to be true.
“Despite your violet complexion,” said Feris.
“And your overly-large ears,” added Patrik.
“Though at least they’re finely pointed,” noted Kwentin, academically.
“But I must say, if we elves had your digitigrade troll legs, I would be the finest leaper ever to have leaped upon the stage,” Patrik sighed longingly.
Trentun felt like crying. “So I can come with youz?”
“Assuredly,” Feris confirmed. “We would have it no other way.”
Layman Kingsford grew up in New Mexico and now lives in Denver, Colorado. He has a BFA in music and creative writing but spent much of his adult life as a professional ballroom dancer (one-time US Champion). He has undertaken stints as a professional trombone player and also as Brock N. Alnite, a drag performer and cofounder of Haus Alnite.
He currently spends his time writing Living Saga stories and novels while designing/publishing tabletop games – some of which are also related to Living Saga.