Bones, Belts and Bewitchments


Cover of Bones, Belts and Bewitchments: A Marchverse Collection by K. A. Cook. Cover features a book open to a page on a wooden table, showing the title text written in antique black ink as if the book's own title page. The page is stained, inspotted and discoloured as if to show age.Did you ever hear the fairy tale about the trans, autistic witch who doesn’t fall in love with the pretty villager and instead learns the word “demiromantic”? Or the one about a gay allo-aro man who agrees to travel into hell in return for the gift of his own identity? Or the story about a young sapphic woman who needs a dragon’s reassurance on the nature of her non-romantic attraction?

Bones, Belts and Bewitchments collects fifteen ficlets, short stories and novelettes in a world where transgender, queer, aromantic and autistic characters name themselves, cast spells, take on quests, struggle with family and discover that there’s no end of magic, friendship and connection in just being who they are.

As a Patreon exclusive, I’ve created a collection of Marchverse ficlets, short stories and novelettes, including the short story Kin of Mind (featuring Darius from Certain Eldritch Artefacts and Azhra from Hallo, Aro.) If you want to know what happens when a young magician meets an ancient dragon, this is the only place you’ll find out!

Blurbs and content advisories are listed below, along with links to the original publication of each piece. All pieces in the collection are published in chronological order, making this book the easiest way to read my stories. It’s also worth noting that there are gaps waiting for future stories to fill them, as I don’t write in chronological order.

While none of these stories feature alloromantic narrating protagonists, not all of these pieces are about aromanticism, and some stories will reference romance, romantic relationships and amatonormativity. More information about the kinds of queer characters I write is available on my fiction page or my website.

Friendship

A sapphic aromantic wishes to partner a dragon’s handmaiden without the complications of a romantic relationship, but finds comfort in her friendship with her own dragon.

Content Advisory: Casual references to fantasy violence including dragons and fire. Depiction of amatonormativity and expectation of romance in relationships from both sexual partners and parents.

Length: 993 words / 4 PDF pages.

Links: Patreon | WordPress | Tumblr

Attraction

A sapphic aromantic fears that her interest in another girl may be best explained by a word she doesn’t wish applied to her–romance.

Content Advisory: Casual references to fantasy violence including dragons and fire. References to amatonormativity and the vague nature of what is (and isn’t) decided to be romance or romantic.

Length: 989 words / 4 PDF pages.

Links: Patreon | WordPress | Tumblr

A Gift of Naming

If one’s parents provide a shirt that tears when tugged over their child’s shoulders, isn’t it cruelty to force the wearing of it, however well-intended the gift?

Even in the best of circumstances, it’s no easy thing to tell the parent who named you that your name no longer fits.

Content Advisory: References to cissexism, particularly as it surrounds a change of name, both historically and from the protagonist’s great-grandfather.

Length: 1200 words / 4 PDF pages.

Links: PDF (read in browser)Patreon | WordPress

Ringbound

Kit can’t find anything unfair about the contract or the man, so why is the ring so heavy?

Kit March is a signature away from marrying the man who loves him. He should be delighted, but for reasons he doesn’t understand and can’t explain, his future with Lauri weighs upon him. What is a magician to do when no script extant has words for the confusion he feels?

Content Advisory: Depiction of the pain of an aromantic man trying to deal with being aromantic while possessing no understanding of it, who makes a questionable decision in abandoning his partner.

Length: 1, 873 words / 6 PDF pages.

Links: PDF | EPUB | WordPress

Absence of Language

Three months ago, Kit March abandoned his fiancé without even a note of explanation for a deserving man. Leaving Lauri should have brought him a wondrous freedom from the pressures of romantic expectation, so how does a talented magician end up performing flash magic for buttons and hairpins in Raugue’s worst tavern? Kit doesn’t know, and doesn’t care to think about it as long as he can keep drowning guilt in beer and spellworking.

When a stranger offers the word “aromantic” followed by a dangerous quest to the Gast, Kit may be about to discover more distraction than he can survive.

Content Advisory: Depictions of or references to amatonormativity, allosexism, cissexism, heterosexism, depression, autistic-targeted ableism, alcohol and alcohol used as a coping mechanism for depression. This story takes place in Astreut where heterosexism and cissexism are endemic, but there’s also references to the way people see aromantics in particular as heartless or hateful. There’s also several non-explicit sex references, Kit’s use of sex as another coping mechanism, some casual references to and depictions of violence, and a heaping mountain of guilt.

Length: 7, 209 words / 20 PDF pages.

Links: PDF | EPUB | WordPress

Old Fashioned

Amelia March is tired of suitors breaking into her house after dark to express their undying love. Sure, it might be the fashion, but whatever happened to getting to know someone first? Why won’t they listen to her when she says she isn’t interested? And what does it mean that her cousin Kit thinks there’s a word for her approach to romantic relationships?

Old Fashioned is a story about finding words and the importance of fake cobwebs in the windows.

Content Advisory: Depiction of a woman somewhat enthusiastically wounding a home invader (despite awareness of the fact that said invader isn’t there to kill her). It also depicts this love interest engaged in the creepy but traditional act of invading her house, unasked and uninvited, as a sexual/romantic gesture towards a woman who doesn’t want it and is explicit about this. The protagonist also threatens and imagines violence and murder on several occasions as a form of bluster.

Length: 5, 108 words / 14 PDF pages.

Links: PDF (read in browser) | PatreonSmashwords | Gumroad

Conception

With Kit gone to the Greensward, Amelia March is content with her faked witchery, the ailments of her villagers and romance confined to a novel. She isn’t pleased, therefore, to find her cousin darkening her doorway—her cousin with two feet, a belly, a sword of some distinction, a story, a young girl named Osprey, a beaming smile and an undying hatred for the elves. Still, Amelia thinks she can survive the chaos, at least until Kit announces a grand plan to start a school for divergent magicians…

Content Advisory: References to and descriptions of elfish racism, ableism and eugenics (especially as it targets autistics) practiced by the Greensward, summarised in Kit’s description of the lack of autistic elves and the dismissing and condescending way in which Kit is treated and used. It also references the abortion services Amelia provides as village witch and makes mention on how her work differs from the same options with which the elves pressured Kit. Additionally, this story shows a few incidences of ableism and use of ableist terms, general discussion of the alienation Amelia feels being a-spec and the alienation Amelia and Kit both feel and experience being autistic in allistic-centred worlds.

Length: 7, 966 words / 19 pages.

Links: PDF (read in browser)Smashwords | EPUB | MOBI

Kin of Mind

A dragon in need of a human attendant finds providence in the arrival of a magician in need of a library, but more than phalanges and history binds Azhra and Darius in companionship.

Content Advisory: Casual references to fantasy violence involving fire, carnivores and dragons, ageism, autistic-targeted ableism and the medicalisation of the autism spectrum.

Length: 4, 047 words / 12 PDF pages.

Links: Part One | Part Two | Preview

Certain Eldritch Artefacts

Newly-graduated, divergent magician Darius Liviu has scoured half the world in search of the rarest of rare magical artefacts: a tolerable talking sword. After a year of failure, one last rumour sees him risk Rajad’s chaotic, cluttered, terrifying Great Souk. The noise, the smells, the people and his inability to move without provoking disaster make everything difficult, but Darius dares the nightmare of chaos and conversations in hope of an item will draw the eye of the man he thinks he loves.

The sword he finds isn’t elegant. It isn’t tolerable. It has no intention of being gifted as a lover’s token. It is, however, set on destroying Darius’s acceptance that awkwardness and a life of misunderstandings is the best he can hope for.

Certain Eldritch Artefacts is a story about autism, adulthood and the reasons why one should never enchant inanimate objects…

Content Advisory: Several depictions of ageism, ableism and one moment of cissexism. There’s also multiple depictions of anxiety/social anxiety provoked by being a dyspraxic autistic having to navigate a world truly not designed for him, and multiple descriptions of the sensory hell Darius endures in the marketplace. The sword is a pushy, demanding, frustrating entity, one who may be ideal as a mentor for an autistic teenager because it isn’t an easily-offended allistic/neurotypical human. Whether it is being cissexist, deliberately provocative or both is open to question.

Length: 10, 588 words / 29 PDF pages.

Links: PDF (read in browser)Patreon | Smashwords | Gumroad

Love in the House of the Ravens

After seven years in Rajad, Darius has fallen out of love with the unattainable and failed to fall in love with the companionate. When the right person offers a romantic relationship and he doesn’t understand why yes won’t grace his tongue, the only thing an autistic man can do is ask the Ravens–and hope he can survive the word they give him in return.

Love in the House of the Ravens is a story about what it means to be aromantic when one is also autistic and the world isn’t accepting of either.

Content Advisory: Aside from references to various acts of violence and combat common in fantasy, this story includes references to or depictions of bullying, abuse, assault and ableism, as well as the way these things shape and impact the people who survive them. Please expect references to sexual attraction, non-explicit sex mentions, amatonormativity, physical intimacy, kissing and romance. The protagonist also practices blood magic in a way that intentionally echoes self-harm. More detailed advisories for each chapter can be found at the links below.

Length: 10, 436 words / 29 PDF pages.

Chapter Links: One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten | Eleven

The Adventurer King

Seven years ago, Darius Liviu met a talking sword belt in the Great Souk, an eldritch being who changed his life forever. In that time, he has learnt something of the sword, mastered strange magic and survived dangerous jobs, but while he has friends in Rajad, he still feels out of place—too divergent to be welcomed and accepted as mercenary and magician.

When an unexpected meeting with potential employers goes wrong, his first instinct is to flee. But a wandering monarch, Efe Kadri, has an offer that might provide the certainty for which Darius has been searching, if only he has the courage to say yes…

Content Advisory: Casual autistic-targeted ableism, misgendering and cissexism from an allistic cis man. It also contains references to previous instances of ableism and non-detailed acts of violence caused by ableist perpetrators, as well as the depiction of an act from the protagonist that is a damaging moment of revenge to his abuser. Additionally, this story depicts gender dysphoria provoked by said cissexism and depictions of the want to self-harm.

Length: 11, 322 words / 31 PDF pages.

Links: PDF (read in browser) | Patreon | Smashwords

Their Courts of Crows

The best he can find is ugly compromise.

Prince Paide ein Iteme has lost his father, his family, his people and his home to a conquering necromancer queen and her armies of the risen dead. A last horrific battle sees him forced to discuss surrender, but that conversation is no small amount complicated when said conquering necromancer is his mother. Who might not have been entirely wrong in her overthrow of Paide’s father…

Content Advisory: General depictions of a battlefield and fantasy-type combat violence and property destruction, a few casual references to horrific choices made in war by both combatants, some depiction of blood and injury, non-detailed references to murder and assault, and non-detailed references to the cissexism experienced by two trans characters.

Length: 5, 108 words / 14 PDF pages.

Links: PDF (read in browser) | PatreonSmashwords | Gumroad

Maybe When the Bones Crumble

And how is your hand today?

His hand broken, his father dead, his brother rebelling and his mother dancing the bones, Einas ein Iteme has nobody at the Eyrie but his uncle and one cursed question he can’t escape.

Content Advisory: This story depicts several shades of ableism targeted at autistics and chronic pain patients, along with a good amount of casual cissexism and more direct heterosexism. It also takes place in the context of civil war and familial abuse, with references to both. Please note that there’s references of medical mismanagement and poor handling of meltdowns; there’s also depictions of and references to self-harm, one of which may be interpreted as suicidal ideation.

Length: 4, 945 words / 14 PDF pages.

Links: PDF (read in browser) | Patreon | WordPress

A Prince of the Dead

Too alive to die and too dead to live.

Bones interred under the palace, gold given to field-ravaged farmers and Parliament dallying over amendments: war is ended for Prince-Regent Paide ein Iteme. Or so it should be, but returning home to Ihrne in a broken body ensorcelled by a necromancer leaves Paide struggling with politicians who ignore him and servants who condescend to him. What good is a title and purpose when his words and desires have become meaningless to those around him?

Surviving the dismissal of the Eagle Court is harder than facing an army of shambling corpses. How does a dead soldier fight it when he no longer wishes to live?

Content Advisory: A few casual references to horrific choices made in war, some depiction of injury, references to the cissexism experienced by a trans character, references to the dysphoria experienced by a trans character, some of the less-pleasant fantastical aspects of reanimating the dead, and multiple depictions of and references to the ableism experienced by a physically-disabled character. Please note that this story is about the depression and suicidal ideation that so often accompanies disability when that disability is ill-supported/subject to ableism, and this story not only discusses suicidal ideation but depicts it in a way that may be confronting.

Length: 9, 890 words / 28 PDF pages.

Links: PDF (read in browser) | Patreon | Smashwords

The King of Gears and Bone

In a nation of liars, an honest man cannot rule.

Einas ein Iteme knew he wasn’t a princess. That first truth provoked violence, murder and war, leaving him the heir to the throne of Ihrne—a throne he doesn’t want and can’t hold. How can he when he struggles to put words together, won’t look courtiers in the eye and avoids people on general principle? Yet the Eyrie, even Zaishne, simply assumes Ein will find a way to become the allistic ruler he can never be.

When his brother Paide invites him to a private discussion, Ein sees a chance to voice the second truth. Paide, though, keeps secrets of his own—and doesn’t seem to recognise the fate bound to him by hundreds of devouring angels.

To begin to save Paide’s soul, Ein will have to learn what the world never stirred itself to teach: trust.

Content Advisory: This novelette takes place with reference to a history of long-running autistic-targeted ableism, cissexism, and abuse. Please expect constant and ongoing references to these things by a character who is living the anxiety, distrust, suspicion, self-hatred, confusion and chronic pain he earnt from enduring them. Ein’s memories also depict, in a sense more of the moment, some of the acts of cruelty—physical violence and emotional abuse—he has experienced.

Length: 12, 495 words / 34 PDF pages.

Links: PDF (read in browser) | Smashwords | EPUB | MOBI

 

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