Pocket Puppy. When Mikoto receives the gift that is, was, and always will be Glint Starmark’s answer to grief, he looks for a name that’ll be just right. His puppy is tiny, just a puffball, really … especially compared to a big guy like Mikoto.
Noble Son | art by FoxOfTwilight
The puppy was a bigger handful than he would have guessed. Not literally, of course. He was more of a scant handful, barely large enough to count as canine. Especially in a village where Kith-partnered battlers rode their dogs. The girls had been quick to suggest names. All of them cutesy. But Mikoto firmly rejected them. He wasn’t leaving something so important to them. Plus, he’d wanted a name with more dignity. Which had brought Yulin to mind. And then the name was suddenly there and perfectly right. A doggish name that was already an endearment. Noble.
Colt and Hallow. More art for Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate, which rounds out the six who make up “Hisoka’s finest.” Boon & Moon are partners. Juuyu and Sinder are partners. And here are Colt and Hallow.
Roommates | art by FoxOfTwilight
Since When? Hallow was first introduced back in Governed by Whimsy. At the time, he was still an adolescent.
“You need to meet my friend. Hallow and I share a compartment. We’ve been friends since he was just a little guy.” Turning expectantly toward the door, Colt said, “Come along, Hallow. She’s warded.” After a moment’s hesitation, Hallow stepped into the open. He was slim and pale, a youth with sharp features and a stiff manner. Straight black hair hung loose around his shoulders, and he glanced around the room with deep red eyes. “Come along, Hallow,” Colt repeated. “Don’t be such a grump.” Flashing a look of injury, Hallow flowed across the room with a swooping gait that caused the leathery folds that webbed under his arms to billow slightly. He presented himself to Greta with a silent bow.
Governed by Whimsy (Songs 04)
In Governed by Whimsy, Colt is the theater company’s healer. If you piece together the pertinent details, you’ll figure out that both Colt and Hallow are from the Glintrubble cooperative. “Glintrubble is a cooperative that specializes in mining and shaping the stones that amplify a reaver’s abilities. Their community includes horses, rabbits, and bats. And reavers, of course” (Michael Ward, Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox). Yes, Hallow is a grandson of Trisk & Glinna Brunwinger.
His regional accent was a match for Colt’s, lending credence to their long association. “How do you do? My name is Hallow Brunwinger. I apologize for withholding myself from association. Especially if my presence can bring some comfort.” “You’re … half?” “Yes.” He lifted an arm, giving her a clearer look at a misfit wing. “Bat clan.” Greta asked, “Your mother?” “She is well enough. My father was human.” Hallow’s gaze turned apologetic. “I’m not sure what any of you expect from me. It’s not as if I was much use during my own birthing.” Colt slung his arm around Hallow’s shoulders. “You’re here. Isn’t that enough?”
Governed by Whimsy (Songs 04)
More than two centuries later, readers caught another glimpse of this duo in Mikoto and the Reaver Village. Sinder mentions them in passing, because he’s close to them. (Two words: elite taskforce.)
Lost in a daydream in which Juuyu and Hallow were sent to extract him, Sinder nearly missed his cue.
The man smoothed the shirt over his back, pulled free his thick braid, chafed his arms—all the fussing made Sinder miss Colt.
Surely there was some strategic significance here. Offensive and defensive potential? A possible means of protection, both for them and for their sibling? Hallow would figure it out if anyone could.
“Are they insane?” he muttered. Hallow was obsessed with tuned crystals, so Sinder had been exposed to every variation known to carry Cadmiel’s song. That’s why he knew that this rookie scheme might actually work. But not necessarily in the way they hoped.
Hallow must have grabbed the phone because his voice came sharp and clear. “Get to him. Immediately. His crystal’s vibrating nearly to pieces, and its song tells of pain.”
Mikoto and the Reaver Village
Which brings us to Book 5 in the Amaranthine Saga, when Fumiko meets the oft-mentioned “elite taskforce.” Hallow’s all grown up now.
**NOTE** If you haven’t yet read Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate, the remainder of this post contains excerpts which might be considered spoilers. Comments are also suspect. You have been warned.
“Added security, you understand.” When Argent Mettlebright sets his trap for the Gentlemen Bandit, he arranges for a security team he can trust. So Juuyu Farroost meets the formidable duo known as the Lost Harbor Lockets. ::twinkle::
Lost Harbor Lockets | art by FoxOfTwilight
. . .
“Curious?” The woman smiled broadly and crooked a finger. “You can look, but don’t touch. They’re loaded.” The sigils stood out like lace upon her skin, inked in white, shimmering with power. “These are what I like to call a competitive edge.” She turned, encouraging his perusal. “This set has shields for deflective attacks. Ever been hit by an airbag in a moving car?” Juuyu’s eyes widened. So did her smile. “Broke my nose once. Gave me the idea. Defensive measures can pack a wallop. So does my partner. I’m Magda Locket, by the way. We’re the Lost Harbor Lockets.” As if he should recognize them. He met her palms and admitted, “I am … unfamiliar.” “Seriously?” Magda propped a hand on her hip. “We’re on the battler circuit. The games are televised and everything. Ever watch any extreme sports? No?” “I apologize.”
Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate Amaranthine Saga, #5
Assembling a Taskforce. With Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate‘s release date a mere 20 days away, I’m teasering all I can without spoilering anything of import. Since these two are known entities, they’re getting their turn in the limelight a little early. You already know that Juuyu and Sinder are partners. What I’ve never mentioned (before now) is the identity of Boonmar-fen Elderbough’s partner. ::twinkle::
Elite Trackers | art by FoxOfTwilight
If you haven’t had the chance yet, I do hope you’ll pre-order Book 5 in whatever format (or formats) you prefer. Print/Digital release is October 22. Audio is scheduled to release on November 9. And I’m now open for pre-orders on author-signed books.
While in Keishi. In a fairly recent story arc in Lord Mettlebright’s Man, Jacques was in Keishi, which is notable for being the home of Harmonious Starmark, Hisoka Twineshaft, and Kikusawa Shrine. Since it will also be the setting for Kimiko and the Cycle of Moons, I decided (in my usual way) to sneak in a bit of foreshadowing. I’d always planned to have an Amaranthine-run tea room in Kimiko’s neighborhood, but I didn’t need it for Bk2. But Jacques needed a spot of tea, and I have a marvelous serial pending, so I pretty much invented Moonglade Tea Room (and its proprietors) on the spot. (It’s shocking how often I do this. Let’s call it authorial privilege.) THEN, (quite predictably), I got attached. Therefore … art!
Moonglade Tea Room | art by FoxOfTwilight
Cousin?” Sonnet called through an open screen. “May I beg a favor?” Bare feet made no sound upon tatami mats. Built and bronzed, this male had silver eyes and black hair arranged in a topknot. The flowered kimono hung open, suggesting wolf. “Paltry!” Sonnet kissed the cousin’s cheek. “Help me warm this human?” Jacques was past pride. “Have mercy on this poor wretch.” Palms met. Nostrils twitched. Brows arched. Paltry remarked, “It’s raining cats and wolves today.” In English. Bless him.
Kimiko and the Cycle of Moons, you ask? If you haven’t yet heard, I’m going to be writing a full-length novel that follows (among other things) Kimiko’s courtship of Eloquence Starmark. The story will be serialized as a Patreon exclusive … and I’ve promised to begin the tale once we’ve reached the (admittedly daunting) community goal of 400 patrons. We’re about 30% there! “Loosely based on the old Amaranthine tale, ‘The Wolf and the Moon Maiden,’ this serial will involve three sisters, twelve pledges, and the long-awaited stirring of a sleeping landmark.“ + Paltry & Churlish ::twinkle::
Titular Character. Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate is set up for pre-order (digital edition, Amazon, so far) and will release in October. So … I thought I’d give you a peek at Fumiko. It’s no spoiler to include her sister, since Fumiko’s status as tree-kin is mentioned in the story summary. But other details will have to wait. (I abhor spoilers!)
Sisters | art by FoxOfTwilight
She could make a mess of everything. Especially him. The Junzi—also known as the Four Gentlemen—are a set of ancient weapons fashioned from remnants. Dragons refer to them as the Four Storms, and Hisoka Twineshaft believes they will make a difference in the hunt for the rogue. But someone else is interested in gathering up these crystal masterpieces. The so-called Gentleman Bandit is responsible for two thefts already, and Hisoka is concerned for the Bamboo Stave. So he deploys an elite taskforce to guard the treasure. And to catch a thief.
Juuyu Farroost and his teammates regroup at a safehouse tucked under the boughs of one of the oldest—and most heavily fortified—orphan trees in the Americas. Fumiko and her tree twin have enough rooms for all of them. If they can shift enough of the woman’s clutter to set up their equipment. Juuyu’s expertise is essential to the success of their mission, but he can barely focus thanks to Fumiko, her messes, and Akira, who apparently owes Boon a favor.
Happy Father’s Day. I’ve been saving up an illustration of Timur’s smol family, and this is the perfect day to unveil it. I am placing it under a cut, though, since it’s a spoiler for the end of Mikoto and the Reaver Village (Amaranthine Saga, #4). I consider it a companion piece (of sorts) to “Two Halves.”
Taking Pride. It’s always nice when readers care about a character I’m fond of. Jacques Smythe of the Uppington Smythes has come a long way since Bk1. (And he has a long way to go, too! ::eyebrow waggle::)
Little Ladies. Back when I posted “Naproom,” art that features Michael reading bedtime stories to Lilya & a bunch of boys, someone asked if there were no female crossers at Stately House. There are! Fox and I had already been plotting a companion piece of sorts, with Ginkgo in the garden.
“Garden Girls” | art by FoxOfTwilight
. . .
From left to right: Be’el-garva, Ginkgo, Tawny, Mei, and Kyrie. Plus assorted kittens and Ephemera. (Who else has begun playing spot-the-nippet in Fox’s art?) Yes, Tawny is part lynx. And Mei’s Amaranthine parent is from one of the cozy clans. A chipmunk!
Tawny’s arrival at Stately House can be found in Lord Mettlebright’s Man, Ch55:
Argent appeared suddenly, as if he’d been leaning against the door this whole time. He relieved Adoona-soh of a tawny-tailed toddler who hissed and bared tiny fangs. “Desist,” he chided. Like that would help. She went limp. Touché.
Most of the time, the girls are mentioned alongside the boys, like in LMM, Ch83:
Gilen with his banded tail. Tawny, the little feline with a big hiss. Raife of the unfortunate hair. Mori, whose eyes were far too old. Mei, who clung to Mori and called him brother. But where had Nonny gone?
But they’re sometimes singled out for special attention, like in LMM, Ch155:
Sansa and Isla paddled in the shallows, giving Annika and Mei a swimming lesson. How they’d pried Mei from Mori’s side was a mystery. Tsumiko sat close enough to the water that waves swished around her and a skittish Tawny. Poor kitten.
And naturally, when Kyrie & Lilya are reminiscing about home in Bk4, its their foster siblings they miss:
She could almost see Gilen’s banded tail disappearing high above, with Tawny in close pursuit. And hear Mori’s stern voice reminding everyone to stay with their buddy. Right now, she even missed Nonny, who was a terror and a tease with everyone except Uncle Jackie. Kyrie stopped inspecting a cluster of mushrooms growing up the side of a tree like stairsteps to say, “Jarrah would call for a climbing contest.” So true. She said, “Finnick would have lost his shoes by now.” “Disa would beg to be carried.” “And Raife would give in first.” Lilya tightened her grip. “I wish we could have brought everyone.” With a wistful smile, Kyrie said, “We miss them because we love them. They are a part of us. Our family.”
Our little cobra-crosser is Be’el-garva, who also received a mention in Bk4. (She hasn’t yet arrived at Stately House in the current timeline of LMM.)
Mother asked him to be gentle and kind and patient. Give newcomers a chance to see past the red eyes and horns and scales, to see how much his other denmates liked and trusted him. And mother was wise, because that’s how it always worked out. Even the worst crybaby—which was Be’el-garva, a little half-cobra—would trail after Kyrie, wanting to hold hands.
Look forward to daily chapters of Lord Mettlebright’s Man in June. (It’s become a Pride Month tradition.)
Available Everywhere (Finally). Since it looks like Captured on Film has turned up in virtual storefronts internationally, I can finally share some quotes, art, and snapshots. Let’s begin with the brothers themselves! ::twinkle::
Dare Together | art by FoxOfTwilight
His brother ran a hand over a dark blond beard. “Hear me out.” Okay, this was already bringing back bad memories. “No.” “I came to invite you.” “No.” “Remember how Dad would take us camping?” Caleb held up a hand. “Invite Dad. He’d be thrilled.” Josheb’s eyes narrowed. “I’m making this official. I dare you, Caleb Dare.” “You can’t.” “Can, too. Just did.” From his doubly superior height, Josheb smirked. “Live up to the name, or live down the shame. You know what’s riding on this.” He did. As one, they both looked to Nessie, whose tail thumped the floor.
“I have two fathers.” In the aftermath of the accidental proposal, I’m sure Quen would have liked Uncle Laud’s opinion on the matter. After all, Laud practically raised him. Quick Reminder: Laud Starmark is one of Harmonious Starmark’s younger brothers. As you can see, Laud strongly resembles his mother (Radiance), having inherited the Ambervelte pack’s distinctive coloring.
Uncle Laud | art by FoxOfTwilight
. . .
Wolfs has tails!” exclaimed Ever, his own a blur. “But dogs is best.”
Tenma asked, “Are you a dog?”
It was exactly the right thing to ask. “Yeth! Like Da. Him’s mine.”
Lapis interjected, “What of poor Eloquence?”
“Yeth.” Ever belatedly acknowledged the dragon a wiggle-fingered wave and patiently explained, “Him’s mine, too. My bruvver.”
“And the silent lout over there?” inquired Lapis.
“Rise. Him’s mine, too.” In a loud whisper, Ever explained to Tenma, “Him’s Kiff.”
The dragon lord chuckled. “I was referring to the one with no ready excuse for his reticence.” At Ever’s obvious confusion, Lapis offered a broad hint. “The one with white hair.”
“Uncle!” With that, Ever slid from Tenma’s lap and trotted across to Laud, who sat on the floor beside the door.
Eloquence explained, “Laud Starmark raised me and remains my mentor. My den is his den.” He tried to think of a way to explain their relationship so a human could understand. “I have two fathers.”
Kimiko and the Accidental Proposal
. . .
Can we just take a moment to appreciate Quen’s training hair?
REMINDER: I have a (novel-length) serial story planned called Kimiko and the Cycle of Moons. Once I reach my community goal of 400 patrons, I’ll begin posting exclusive chapters. “Loosely based on the old Amaranthine tale, ‘The Wolf and the Moon Maiden,’ this serial will involve three sisters, twelve pledges, and the long-awaited stirring of a sleeping landmark.” If you’re looking forward to more Quen & Kimi, join the ranks. We’re currently over 1/4 of the way to that goal. forthright on Patreon >>
Quen & Kimi. Once I made the executive decision to leave Eloquence’s hair unbraided for this near-kiss, it became increasingly obvious that with his hair loose around his shoulders, Quen looks even more like his father. They’re both charmers in their own way. ::twinkle::
Squirreled Away. So many of you ship this. Can’t really blame you. All I’ll say is … these guys certainly need each other. Behold, Jiro “Joe” Reaverson and Alder “Kip” Woodacre from Tamiko and the Two Janitors (Amaranthine Saga, #3).
“My Stash” | art by FoxOfTwilight
… you need to understand that the sigilcraft is mine. They’ll carry my … my signature. And according to the customs of my clan, that makes you mine.” “So it’s a bond?” “Sort of.” He really wished a better idea would occur to him. “It does define a new relationship.” “Umm … in what sense would I be yours?” “My personal stash.” Kip couldn’t quite meet Jiro’s worried gaze as he added, “My food.”
Michael and the Crossers. Thank you to everyone who participated in the recent poll over on Patreon. Fully half of you (51% to be exact) asked to see our “halfers” next. Most of Stately House’s crossers are known by name thanks to Lord Mettlebright’s Man. Of all of my options, I chose Nonny, Gilen, and Jarrah in large part because they’ve had the most mentions & screentime. Jacques mentions Jarrah in Bk3: Tamiko and the Two Janitors, trying to pawn off the little hellion on Kip, and all three of these boys had their moment in Cross and Crosser (that IY x Amaranthine Saga crossover I wrote for my fanniversary last September), which I’ve excerpted below.
Long Sleep. Amaranthine don’t need sleep often, but when they “go deep,” it’s often for days. Of all those you’ve met, Hisoka-sensei may have the most difficult time catching enough rest. His many obligations tend to infringe upon a normal sleep pattern. But Argent (ever the strategist) has found an effective counter. While Hisoka cannot indulge every month (and still pushes his limits), he’s found a safe haven in Jacques Smythe.