Living in the nostalgia spaces again. I've been thinking about my past.
Near as I can figure...it goes like this:
I was born sometime in the early 1800's to a feral neko mother and a tengu father. As my father told me later, my mother's clan were practical cats who waited to see which of any clan litter would survive in the harsh mountain conditions of Ezochi prefecture, in feudal Japan. Hitomi, my mother, was one that did, and she was named a year after her birth because of her color-shifting eyes, a trait I inherited.
As my father, Shin, told the tale, he was flying in a comfortably large avian form when a rock from a sling struck him forcibly over his left eye, starring his vision and sending him spiraling to the ground. He hit with such force it knocked the breath from him for a moment, and he felt the excruciating snap of his left wing, and when the black surge lifted, he saw a grinning neko girl over him with blazing red eyes, straddling his hips. As she brought her blade to rest against his throat, he asked softly that she not kill him.
She watched him, and he watched her eyes shift to a deep, reflective purple, before she nodded. She helped him up, tied a scrap of soft leather from a belt pouch around his wound, and half-carried him back to her clan's village.
There was some outcry at this, but not as much as when Shin and Hitomi were found together in the clan's temple in each other's arms. He was seized and dragged away, and imprisoned, and he fumed at the inability of his left arm to function as well as it had. He was kept locked away, fed only taunts, rice and water, for the entire time that Hitomi carried his children to term.
He was allowed out when none of them died, and it was a clan wonder that not a one succumbed to the winter's cold. But it was urged--strongly, and with sharp claw and blade--that he leave, and it would be decided later whether Hitomi and his brood would be forced out or would be killed.
This injustice was too much, and that night, he burst from his enclosure, gathering up Hitomi, me (which they named Emi), and three other kittens--all he could carry of my brothers and sisters--and flew off to the coast, where he booked passage on a Russian trade vessel bound for Alaska. Even such a short flight tired him greatly, and, over the course of the journey, the harsh early spring seas claimed the lives of seventeen sailors, Hitomi, the three other kits, and himself.
He died wrapped around me, feathers flared, his breath labored from the upper respiratory infection that had devastated Hitomi so greatly. A sailor heard my young-kit wails and carried me to the crew deck, trying to find a way to communicate for the rest of the journey.
Surprisingly enough, the next morning, where the pale striped neko had been the night before was discovered a violet-eyed, platinum-haired human child. The sailor didn't care, though, save to note to his fellows it would make it easier around folks who'd never seen the cat-people of Japan before!
As a result of the multinational crew's attempts to teach me, I'm something of a polyglot--I remember very little of my native Japanese, and only some Russian; most of what I practiced was the crew's occasionally hysterical attempts to learn English, in order to better communicate with traders coming up from the American territories, and Canadian trappers on the coast.
Once in Alaska, Josef Orischenko, the sailor who'd kept me by his side, introduced me as his daughter. For the next several years we would go on sea journeys--I dressed as his cabin boy--and we roamed widely across Alaska whenever our ship returned to shore. Granted, my curiosity got me into and out of several hazardous situations, but along the way I learned some small bits about shipcraft, some of sail repair, some simple cooking skills...and I was a voracious reader, reading any book that drifted across my path.
Unfortunately, puberty struck with a vengeance, and it was no longer possible to disguise me as a pretty-faced boy on ship. While we spent some time in Alaska debating on what to do, the Battle of Sitka broke between Russian settlers in the area and the local Tlingit tribe. The Tlingits were crushingly defeated, but Josef was killed in the bargain.
I remember running off, heartbroken at this new loss, and hiding in the woods for many days. I don't remember much, other than the comforting sounds of wind in trees, the feel of rain through the green, the unfurling early-summer leaves. When I was found by the tattered remnants of the local Tlingit, I was taken for a tree spirit. They carefully brought me down from the high branches, seemed unfazed that I resembled nothing less than a human-shaped Arctic white fox, and cared for me until memory became stable, and my grief had lessened. I will ever be grateful for their care. They treated me as any other--if slightly furrier--Tlingit maiden.
To this day, when I am in fox form, I feel more comfortable wearing buckskins, or beaded doeskin dresses. It was all I wore when I was another Tlingit, I got used to it.
Around 1840, I'd managed to identify several forms--nekos of varying shades, Arctic fox, and the platinum-haired human. I remember one day, walking through the woods, I was practicing what little my father had managed to teach me of his magics. I was never very good at it, but I thought I was slowly improving. Suddenly something swept me off my feet, sent me spinning into a odd vortex striped with burning colors. All my senses disoriented, I felt directionless, I knew neither up or down. When I landed finally, shuddering, I looked out on the night-time shadows of a green and temperate land. And when I rose, beginning to wander, I recognized not a single name of the lands I'd known. The shock of such unfamiliar surroundings brought my human form back--to an extent: this time, I had brilliant blue butterfly wings.
Two days in on my discovery of this very odd land, still trying to figure out where I was, and how things worked here, I came across a silver-haired vampire princeling, who charmed me quite completely. He took me to some of his favorite places, gave me a gift of Lindens--the local currency--and vanished, I thought never to be seen again.
Months of wandering, footsore and impoverished, brought me to a small industrial building with a large, raised round stage. I wandered around it, wondering, feeling the cool off the poured stone, the clatter of my boots against the grey floor. I climbed over the low railing, watching the moving patterns on the circular blood-red floor, the neon glow of female-shaped signs enticing my eyes. The owner of the building caught me dancing at one of the poles, and called me down.
They needed more dancers, she told me. Would I like to be trained?
I nodded, of course, enthusiastic about the possibility, and that was the beginning of several dancing years at the Enigma.
I had no problem taking my clothes off for donations--Josef had frequently left me in the care of one or more ladies of, shall we say, dubious pursuits between his infrequent journeys from my side--and I found didn't particularly have a problem with sharing my body, with those who wished to pay for it. I found I was more closely drawn to men, but I took female clients when asked, and the only thing that chafed was the club owner's insistence on humans only. Nonhumans were seen in the club--raccoons, wolves, a very elegant tiger, fellow neko, exotic dusky patrons with silver hair and sharp elongated ears the locals called Drow--but I was bound to a human form for most of my dancing days.
The club grew larger; the building did not. The choice was made to rebuild, and I--now calling myself Emilly Orr, for my adopted father Josef, as well as a more 'natural'-sounding first name in this place--was hired as manager.
In my off-times I went exploring, as much as I could, walking long hours across magical lands, discovering wonders beyond imagining, but never a way home. I made friends--a vampire and his mate,several of the dark Drow, an enthusiastic young raccoon in a bright yellow jumpsuit, a man named Stiv with a shaggy haircut and a guitar.
One day I was redecorating the new club building, when a flash of silver hair not mine made me turn. It was my long-ago met vampire princeling, standing in dark leather and darker silk doublet, blinking quizzically.
It took me some time to realize he'd come to the club looking for the small blue-winged, purple-haired fae he'd met, and was somewhat puzzled at seeing the rosy-skinned, silver-haired woman I'd become.
Thus started a tumultuous and ultimately heartbreaking love affair, sweeping me in and out of grand vampire wars, shootouts with redneck elves, and one memorable day the setting afire of the musician Stiv. While I and the princeling stood arguing over the corpse, the corpse asked for quiet, and as both looked on in amazement, the corpse rose, shedding the blackened skin.
Thus was the God of Rivula born, and the next night, he pronounced that anyone who'd witnessed the Resurrection was more than happy to be sainted in the new church, and he'd toss in an invite to anyone else who wanted to be sainted that night.
The vampire's mate opted for Saint of Vampires, the vampire opted for Saint of Healing, a fellow dancer opted to be Saint of Creepy Girls...and I chose Relationships.
Be careful what you wish for, the saying goes, Thus ensued the train-wreck love life.
I kept practicing her father's magics in secret, and I thought I was getting closer to finding a way home. Once I found herself in a place called Caledon, which was very nearly a perfect set of Victorian cities...only slightly off from what I remembered.
Once I felt I was able to get back to Rivula safely, I started taking more chances, leaping from odd portal to odd portal with relative ease. One of them led me to Steelhead City, on the coast of Oregon, which was again, so very nearly what I remembered from my reality...but there was a catch; the Sheriff was a pale-skinned incubus, the land manager was a ruby-red succubus, and there was a centaur waking the streets with burning red eyes.
As I wandered the town, I overheard voices talking about a lack of staff at a local business. On occasion my hearing is very acute, so...I drifted over to gain more information. Le Jardin was in need of staff, and I got the madam's attention to ask if I could help.
I was told--firmly, but regretfully--that what the madam was really looking for was another non-human. I actually laughed, and changed into neko. The madame hired me on the spot.
I was instantly charmed by the town, and made friends with many at Le Jardin. I admit, I was more charmed by the Sheriff, and astounded to find a local resident who was also a shapeshifter. I began to feel that if I couldn't make it home to the Alaskan coast, that the Oregon coast would do just fine...
Nostalgia. So much has changed from those heady optimistic days. My vampire princeling, dead, and gone; brought back, and still gone. The Sheriff not the sheriff, and now gone; now even demon, no longer. My neko lad a strong presence in my life; the statue come to life arrived; the darkened moon, circling in orbit.
And still the train-wreck, off and on. Should've known. Saint of Relationships, that doesn't only mean the good ones...