QSFer E.D.E. Bell has a new queer quiet fantasy out: Night Ivy.
Xelle is sure in her passion for magic, but struggles to find her place within the constructs that enable its study. Night Ivy offers the first verse of a wandering bard’s tale of fancy and fantasy, amidst the spires and shadows of the seven towers of Alyssia.
The first book in the fantasy world of Alyssia, featuring plant magic, friendship, and dragons.
Xeleanor Du’Tam. You petition before us?
It was always like this. She’d collect her mind to address someone (in this case a room of Spire Mages), and then right as she was ready to speak, some casually tossed item would trip her. Like this inherently obvious question. Which she never knew how to answer without being seen as sarcastic.
Was she supposed to answer no? They were all watching her.
“I do,” Xelle said as solemnly as she could. Like a flame-tossed wedding, which was the exact opposite direction she was trying to go.
Yet. Why hadn’t they addressed her by title? Study Xeleanor Du’Tam. When they must know what she was here to ask? Her heart was thumping now; she knew her voice would shake when she spoke, as though she were a nervous initiate, not a senior Study with solid experience.
“I’m here to ask the Arc Spire for my certification as Mage.”
In any normal circumstance, she would offer them standard reasoning. Her unusually extended training, her accolades from the Tower Watchers. They knew all that; she could see the file she’d put together sitting on the table, disheveled as if someone had read it, assuming it’d not just been tickled for fun.
Truly, pulling herself back in, she was surprised they’d agreed to hear her petition at all. They’d rejected even hearing her before, so what had changed? She’d hoped it was a positive sign, but now she was worried she was missing something. She was definitely missing something.
The seven Spire Mages sat around the wooden table with varying expressions of discomfort, an odd juxtaposition to their velvet and metallic-threaded finery. Some leaned back nearly to the vine-carved pillars behind them. Others pressed fingers upon lips. It was as though they already had something to say but wanted to be polite and let her finish. Or, start.
Fira, it was always too much. She didn’t need this. She didn’t need status and title. Except, apparently she did. She was trying to create new and better uses of magic, and being a Mage, even a base, non-ranking Mage, would grant her access to libraries and artifacts that were not trusted to Studies. She knew this group was heavy on symbolism, so that was the angle she’d planned to take today. They were watching her. Pretending she could see through the growing fog of her uncertainties, she jumped in.
“In the spirit of cooperation embodied by Helina, my lab work has been noted by visiting Mages, highlighted in ranking exchanges, and employed in major projects affecting the populace. With the base rank of Mage, I would better be able to build those relationships, bring the respect that I can to To’Arc, and better serve the populace. I would—”
“Xeleanor, you know how this works.” Nainol leaned forward, pushing with him a cup of tea that was comically small next to his bulky figure. “If you’ll pledge to To’Arc, then we can consider you. You have strong qualifications, and we encourage it.”
That frustrated her in about as many ways as Nainol’s vest had gold buttons. Nothing against his buttons; they were stylish, and nothing lavish for a Spire Mage. But the point was she was frustrated. They’d gone right to a binary before she’d made the case they’d waited so patiently for her to begin. Which meant, she supposed, they’d been hopeful she’d agree this time to pledge? That she was bluffing? Throwing a last long shot? Sure, she rather was. But not like that.
She’d made her position clear before. She wasn’t ready to pledge. Studying at To’Arc was an absolute honor; she’d made the best friends of her life, and Arc Magic intrigued her deeply, in a way that her brief studies at To’Ever and To’Frond had not. But one shouldn’t be pushed into a lifetime commitment to use the good library, or to make others feel proud of one. On top of that, they’d complimented her—practically offered her the position. That was not normal. Some Studies never earned that type of acceptance, ash, some Mages didn’t.
So what was going on?
E.D.E. Bell (she/e) loves fantasy fiction, and enjoys blending classic and modern elements. A passionate vegan and earnest progressive, she feels strongly about issues related to equality and compassion. Her works are quiet and queer and often explore conceptions of identity and community, including themes of friendship, family, and connection. She lives in Ferndale, Michigan, where she writes stories and revels in garlic.