We’re back with a brand-new episode of our queer, Philly-based switchblade-and-sorcery web novel, The Dread Eclipse, with new updates published weekly on Thursdays!
In “Cauda Pavonis,” Ash learns more about his late mother and undergoes a strange awakening.
story by Mabel Harper & Emrys Webb
written by Emrys Webb
Ash and Soren stayed up talking in the drawing room well past the moment Caren and Nathaniel walked by in the hall with a tray of food floating behind them (“Those two are getting along well, aren’t they?” remarked Soren, with a mischievous quirk of his brows), about music, growing up in Arcadia, being self-made. Soren spoke of starting life over in his twenties, coming to Philadelphia, assembling the ragtag gang of young queer men who were now his inner circle.
“How did you manage to recruit so many like-minded people?” asked Ash.
Soren looked at him meaningfully. “We have a way of finding one another…don’t we?”
Ash gazed back at him—wondered what exactly Soren thought he was.
The conversation turned back to music. Soren got out his violin to show Ash its unique features; explained, with great enthusiasm and several spontaneous demonstrations, why he insisted on gut strings instead of steel or nylon (“Gut is organic material; it’s more complex in structure, so it emits a richer sound, more overtones”) and why he played with a Baroque bow (“As a devotée of Bach, I’d rather play with a bow that’s made for speaking; the hair moves but not the stick itself; the hair immediately grips. With a Baroque bow you are free to create the shape of the note; with a modern bow one needs to play a lot of vibrato to color the sound, to make the tone carry”).
“Truly,” he said, as he laid violin and bow back in their case, “and no disrespect intended to Nathaniel, who is a wonderful talent—you are the most gifted keys player I’ve ever met.”
Ash flushed. Shifted in his seat.
“Did you learn in Arcadia?”
“Who was your teacher?”
Soren blinked, furrowed his brow, uncomprehending. “I’d take that for a joke, but you don’t seem very much the joking sort.”
“My…father didn’t approve of my learning,” said Ash, “so I simulated a piano keyboard using gnostic visualization, with specifications I gathered through online research, and taught myself to play by ear.” He paused. “Yesterday was the third time I’ve sat down at a physical instrument.”
Soren stared at him. “Is that why you said you ‘don’t really play’? I thought you were just being absurdly modest. Now I reflect on it, though, you’re no more modest than you are a comedian.” He chuckled delightedly. “Why, that’s fantastic! What constraints could hold you with such a mind?”
The question caught, looped in Ash’s thoughts.