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Twelve Months, Plus One

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Cerus - janvier

"Joie, may the longest Night pass swiftly and the light return." Miriam Bouscevre drained her glass and the joy was sweet. Fleeting. All loveliness fades. All around the children danced and coupled smiles with a willow's walk. Their clever masks concealed smooth skin. The unsubtle silk of their garments revealed what joys the Long Night held.

They were not children, but they seemed so.

Her bones ached to see them move and leap and run. The Snow Queen had yet to give way her age.

She took another glass of joie and toasted to the joy that remained.

Dahlia - fevrier

The gold velvet laced apple skin tight and Morphyse no Dahlia's breasts had nowhere to go but up. She sat upright and unbending in the center of her litter as the house servants in crimson coats trotted her down the grey-ice-filth streets. The people of those cobbled stones pointed for they knew that someone of importance passed them by.

As she arrived at the city home of the Comptesse d'Eon, Morphyse waited for a servant to hand her out. She stepped lightly in the small steps that her clothing would allow. She picked the clothing. She picked the patron. As she arrived, Morphyse nodded coolly to let the Comptesse know the great honor that Dahlia might bestow. Bestowed it with a regal tongue that parted folds of flesh like so much degrees of majesty. Of degrees of winter. Cool pleasures that did not bend. That shattered themselves and when done, laced back up again.

Alyssum - mars

Winter held on with grim fingers and Etienne no Alyssum shivered. Not at the cold. A fire burned a forest in the fireplace. His half mask hid his face. The folds of his black robes hid his body from seeking eyes. He trembled at the eyes on him. It was a private fete. Nothing special. No feast day. No longest or shortest night.

It was night and when the Duc D'Angouleme beckoned, Etienne followed. Eyes averted as he'd been taught. Trembled as the Duc wooed with tongue and hands. Etienne gave in with a blush that the mask mostly hid. Back bent the bow and gave in to the Duc's pleasure, which was the Duc's pleasure.

He glanced up once as the Duc gasped into his spine. A flicker of lashes that no one could see. The painted wall would not tell.

Valerian - avril

Each Vernal Equinox, Valerian closed its doors. Didier Vascon held the rough iron key in his hand and turned the lock. He bolted the door and removed his shoes. It could not be said that winter had truly gone. It could not be truly said that winter had come. But at Valerian, they yielded to the balance of the day.

He climbed the steps to the top of Valerian House. There he sat with the others on the cold stone and watched the night riot across Elua. At night, their city looked like a courtier in gem sewn silk. Arms wrapped around legs and bare toes curled at the cold. They listened to the screams and cries of the night as it tipped into the morning.

Orchis - mai

The sun had decided that it had had enough of winter and all the roads were blooming rebel flowers on their edges. The world was laughing and Jeanne no Orchis felt a queen to that laughter. She felt all the joy in laughter that a body could hold.

She made for herself a golden crown of flowers and bowed to the unwrapped urchins at their corner. They giggled at her. She rewarded her faithful subjects with a cartwheel through the shape of their child's game scratched in the dirt.

They clapped then. Though she lost her crown, it was worth it.

Heliotrope - juin

"Thou, and no other." Yvnonne no Heliotrope brushed the rose petal against her patron's lips. She was nameless. Her patron needed no name. Yvonne had moved so against her for years. Forever. There was nothing but her. Nothing but the feel of her sun warmed skin as Yvonne curved herself around peach beauty.

The world came alive around them in honor of this moment. In honor of love. For there was nothing but the brush of her. Nothing but this moment as it waved its way into the next.

Camelia - julliet

She'd found another grey hair this morning. On her chin. Heloise no Morain looked at herself in the bronze mirror and plucked it out. It would not do to flinch. She packed her face with mud mixed with lavender that she might hold back the turning of the years. She chewed mint that her breath might be sweet. She walked down the streets of Mont Nuit and felt the weight of the unfilled marque on her back.

Still she smiled the smile that cast no lines. In the hot days of summer, she did not sweat. She glowed as her patrons moved inside her. As they filled themselves with the pleasure of having that which was without fault or flaw.

At least for now.

Byrony - aout

The ivory bounced against the felt and came to its inevitable rest. While the remnants of court with no country homes sweated out the inevitable end of summer, Edmonde no Bryony parted them from the wealth they could ill spare. "Wealth seeks company." He winked at potential patrons and had the man next to him blow on the dice. His breath was warm on Edmonde's skin. As warm as gold pressed against flesh.

Edmonde rolled the dice.

Eglantine - septembre

Favrielle no Eglantine knelt before the skein of raw silk. She held her favorite scissors lightly in her hand.

In this moment, this cloth could become anything. The bias drape could grace curves or hard lines. It could hide whatever flaws nature gave or reveal what there was to see. Her hand hesitated in that moment over the chalked lines.

She sneered at herself and cut.

To create is to live. In this moment, she made herself.

Mandrake - octobre

It was the day that the dead walked the world. Or so they said. When day and night were equal, there was nothing more natural than to seek a taste of Kushiel, to yield all.

Dianne no Mandrake wielded the clamps and spun the wheel. She had dark eyes and hair, so she wore red leather. It suited her. Supple and strong.

On the day when the doors opened, Dianne spun the wheel and wore black for her dead.

Jasmine - novembre

Rolande no Jasmine bit into the ripe fig and let the sugary juice plump on the sides of his mouth. The fruit colored his lips. It also left his teeth mildly seedy. But for pleasure's sake, he bit down again. Licked his lips and grinned at the marketplace.

Farmers at their last gasp of harvest called their prices. Fish from the river. Apples. Melons. They didn't just throw down their food. No. They arranged food like art. Glossy squid splayed in the configuration called magnificent woman. Olives arranged to spiral their red and white eyes in a tower called Babel. Pig's feet coyly crossed a' Alyssum.

Rolande gobbled down his fig as if it were the last fig in the world. Then he licked his sticky fingers and went in search of more.

Gentian - decembre

The resin exhaled blue grey dreams from the bronze brassier. Raphael Murain no Gentian bent to the knowing of his patron. In these the nights of growing dark, the troubled turned to Gentian for peace. For truth and vision. Raphael kissed the edges of eyes that had seen such darkness in fields of war. They did not flutter to a close. Tarren d'Eltoine was not a one to flutter. Strike a rhythm on a black shield. Shout for what was lost in the darkening days. Until finally wearied, he came in search of what he already knew.

Raphael bent abeyante then for the languisement. Long strokes of the flower. Round pressure of the mounting moon until Tarren gave way to the night. Gave way his dreams and Raphael drank them in. Breathed out truth.

Balm - Leap

The world was out of joint. It had too many days in it. Jadeth no Balm had been born to a leap year. By that reckoning, he was six years old and today was the celebration of that six times day.

He brushed his fingers across the young soldier's face and said, "Rest and be soothed." Then he bent down low. Brushed skin against skin. Whispered, "Love as thou wilt."

Then he did.