Welcome to SPFBO 6 and my brand new feature, Party with the Stars! Have you ever wondered what might happen if you could throw a party of your choice and not only could you invite your MC(s) but other literary figures as well? In this feature I ask you to imagine exactly that scenario and some more. Let’s get the party started then!
The Host aka The Author
After spending two years too many living in GA, USA, Ela Bambust moved back to her home country of Belgium. With a deep love of classical fantasy, comedy and horror, she now writes fiction in those genres aimed (but not exclusively) at trans and LGBTQIA+ people, when she isn’t bothering her cat or assembling toy robots.
The Main Guest(s) aka The MC(s)
It’s an ensemble cast, but bear with me.
- Eliza, 9ft tall and a pacifist to her core. Thrust into the position of Queen, she has no idea what she’s doing but she means well.
- Kazumi, her most trusted advisor and a lot sharper – in more ways than one – than you’d think.
- Sabine, someone Eliza hurt (in self defense) and slowly grew to be one of her closest friends, she’s cold when she has to be and warm when she doesn’t.
- Daniel, the retired hero of an untold story. Loves Dad Rock and detective movies and he’s a hopeless romantic at heart.
- Lisa, Eliza’s total opposite, has come and will go a long way in personal growth. Once the pressure of her old life has let up, she’s finally free to explore her passions (like figuring out how to sear scallops).
The Special Guest(s)
Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen), because a garden party where you’re allowed to be yourself (and, ideally, a little gay, though it’s no prerequisite) would suit her just fine, and she’d have plenty to talk about with the other guests.
Esme Weatherwax et al, (Discworld, Terry Pratchett). All the witches would have a blast at the party (though Granny would pretend not to). Three main ensemble’s penchant for introspection would mesh well with the ‘headology’ of the witches, and a little magical competition would be interesting for both participants and spectators.
The Fellowship, (The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien). The main cast is in a lot of ways a direct reflection of the fellowship. From Aragorn and Eliza talking about the frustrations of balancing a healthy work-home-life when you’re the regent, to Gimli challenging the 3ft tall kobold Tilly to a drinking competition, to the hobbits getting everyone on the dance floor, there would be someone every single person can bounce off of.
The Main Attraction
Eliza’s good intentions, if she has any input in the decision making process, would probably lead to a kind of raffle and/or pet adoption fair, where the proceeds go to (re)building local infrastructure.
San Francisco by John Phillips/Scott McKenzie
The MC’s aversion to violence and love of soft and kind things fits in perfectly with McKenzie’s almost fragile singing, the lightly psychedelic tones fit in with the fantastical themes, and in another life, she would probably have (tried to have) been a flower child. And the song works great at more relaxed parties.
For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield
Another masterpiece from the 60’s (I promise it’s the last one) but for completely different reasons. The tritagonist Daniel has a love of music from the era, but also saw his share of injustice and has never really been able to stop fighting. And it’s another banger that works well for a relaxed party.
Cello Suite No. 1 in G Minor, Prelude by Bach performed by Yo-Yo Ma
On the surface it’s one of the most recognisable cello suites in the world and you’ve heard and seen it everywhere, to the point that self-respecting directors and even party planners will stay away from it because it has become almost a cliché. But it is nonetheless a classic that would work well at a relaxed outside party, and fits the character of Lisa perfectly, attempting to seem distinguished by listening to classical music but betraying the fact that, in the end, she likes many of the same things everyone else does.
Musst Musst by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
The soft drums and Michael Brook’s wonderfully understated guitar set a very unique scene that isn’t heard in a lot of western music. Not only is it important to de-center white European culture, but to use that culture to amplify other styles of music. And it’s wonderful to gently sway to while holding a flute glass.
Shoop by Salt ‘n Peppa
Not only does it slap to high heaven, the undercurrent of sensuality is perfect enough to fluster our MC while being comedic enough to provide an air of levity and fun that these parties can often miss. It gets people talking and mingling, and our MC, once she’s over her initial bout of blushing, would be having the time of her life.
The Party aka Who Let the MC(s) Loose?
Eliza would most definitely mingle well with her friends and loved ones for the first few hours, committing the occasional etiquette faux-pas and absolutely failing not to spill food on her clothes. After having had one glass of bubbles too many, at some point someone would find her sleeping on a couch with several of her closest loved ones, fast asleep and smiling happily.
I can’t think of much to add, other than to thank you for reading this far ^_^
Demon Queen was a delight to write and having the story of the book continue past the last page is already wonderful for me. Even if nothing comes from this, I’m already incredibly happy to participate.
Ela Bambust submitted Demon Queen to SPFBO, you can connect with the author here:
To read about more parties and to follow our process in SPFBO 6, please visit my SPFBO 6 Phase 1 page!
Excerpt from Demon Queen
After the official end of the peace talks, Queen Anastasia stayed at Whitehallow for some time. Though she had a lot more experience with regency than I did, I think she enjoyed being able to talk to a fellow Monarch. Especially one she apparently got along with as well as she did with me. I talked about her a few times during teatime with Erza, Kazumi and Sabine, and it was Erza’s idea to invite her. Kazumi was mortified, of course. She seemed to panic at the thought of having to host a queen, until I reminded her I was one too. She relaxed visibly when I put my hand on hers, and Sabine did the same on the other side. Kazumi looked between the two of us and I was worried she’d cry for a moment, and then she just whispered a “thank you”.
After this, she joined us several times for tea. As I’d hoped, over time, she grew accustomed to my more ‘relaxed’ attitude to the people who were supposed to be my underlings, and it wasn’t long before she was laughing along with the rest of us. As it turned out, Anastasia’s complete loveliness and kindness quickly endeared her to the others, as I’d hoped, and she and Kazumi got along very well. I’d been worried that Sabine would be… jealous, perhaps? Envious? But it only seemed to bring them closer together, and the three of us spent a lot of time on the balcony looking out of the glowing green-and-gold hills of Innshire. Sabine was proud of the progress she’d made. When most of the standing army had been disbanded, she’d ordered smithies in the region to take a lot of their weapons and armour and turn them into high-grade tools, and as the months progressed, we’d seen a marked change in the landscape. With Erza’s help, Innshire was flourishing, and Kazumi and I had received reports of similar changes happening across the Kingdom.
“Anastasia, can I borrow you for a second?”
She nodded, curious, and she got up from the pillows. She’d been enjoying tea with Kazumi and Erza, the former slightly flustered still by the presence of royalty — though she was getting better — and the latter hiding her usual playful smile behind her cup of tea. I wondered if Erza kept her ability to make people feel self-conscious in check when talking to Anastasia. It was always a little confronting to realize just how powerful Erza could be if she put her mind to it, and I made a mental note to ask her about it some time. But for now, the charming presence of Anastasia demanded my attention.
“Any way I can help you, Eliza?” she asked as we walked down the hall. I shook my head. She was, as ever, immediately ready to help, which was one of the many reasons it was so hard to dislike her (not that I’d made any effort).
“Not exactly, Anastasia. You asked to meet the girl that’s been inhabiting the Hero’s — Daniel’s — body and I thought now would be a good time. She’s been spending some time learning about this world, Wydonia, but she’s been getting a little… cooped up, I guess. And since you mentioned meeting her anyway…”
Anastasia nodded. “I understand. Where is she?”
“The castle walls. She’s been up there a lot. I think she’s had a hankering for the open air.”
I scratched the back of my head awkwardly. It was going to be hard to explain to Anastasia why Daniel’s old body looked like a cute, winged succubus. I took a deep breath. Nothing to be done about it, but to power through.
“You’ll… You’ll understand when you see her, I think,” I said, and led the way. The stairs to the keep walls weren’t very far, and before long we were standing in the open evening air, the warm breeze coming from… somewhere. I tried to figure out which way south was but I’d always been terrible at directions.
“Where is–” Anastasia began, and then we heard the sound of wings beating as Sally descended. Anastasia took a step back, slightly shocked, until she looked up at me and seemed to realize that, if I wasn’t bothered by the smaller demon girl, then she probably shouldn’t be either. After all, I was almost twice as tall as her, and the succubus was her own height. Sally was also not very threatening. For one thing, calling what she did ‘descending’ was giving it a little bit too much credit. I had to step aside as she barreled into the stonework where I’d been standing just a second ago. Sally had discovered, through trial and error, that succubi were a lot sturdier than regular humans, but the knowledge of flight had apparently not come preinstalled with the hardware, and she was still learning the ropes.
She bounced happily of the stone battlements and jumped up with a smile. “Good to see you again, Queen Anastasia,” she said. Anastasia just stood there for a moment, clearly not sure how to respond to what had to be one of the most flashy introductions she’d ever been privy to.
“Y– you as well,” she finally stammered. She cleared her throat, and seemed to regain her composure somewhat. “If I understand correctly, this is the first time we’re officially meeting, is that correct?”
Sally nodded and approached. She was a little bit taller than Anastasia, especially if you counted the horns. “Yeah. I mean, yes, I think so. I definitely wasn’t myself before. But I also wasn’t…”
“Daniel,” Anastasia helped.
“Yeah. I tried to be Daniel but that turned out to be a dud.”
“Uh… That failed, your majesty.”
“Ah, I understand,” Anastasia said. She seemed a little hesitant to continue. “Your name is Sally, correct?”
“Sally, do… you remember anything about… before?”
Sally looked at me, but I didn’t exactly have the answers there. Perhaps she wanted my input on what was okay to say? But telling her what to say in front of Anastasia would seem weird. I could just shrug softly. She shook her head with an apologetic smile.
“I’m sorry, Queen Anastasia. Before I… woke up in Wydonia, I wasn’t… there’s no memories of Daniel. I’m afraid I’m someone else.”
Queen Anastasia sighed. “I was afraid of that,” she said. “Others have told me as much, but I had to hear it from your mouth, I suppose, for it to be true. Thank you.”
It was clear that Sally didn’t quite know what to say. She just bowed courteously and then said, perhaps just a little too enthusiastically, “I’m very sorry for your loss, your Majesty.”
Anastasia just bowed her head slightly. “Thank you. I wonder, though, Sally… You look nothing like him.”
“Thank fu– thank the heavens for that.” Sally smiled. She was much happier with the way she looked now, but looking back on what she’d gone through when she first arrived here was clearly still a sore point. “No offense to Daniel, your Majesty, but that wasn’t me at all.”
Queen Anastasia raised an eyebrow and looked her up and down. “Clearly,” she said.
“Heavens, Queen Anastasia, you’ll make me blush if you look at me like that,” Sally joked and I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment. I was worried for a moment that Sally was going to provoke an international incident by hitting on the queen. Anastasia responded, and shattered my worries, by laughing loudly, ending with her adorable little snort.
“I like you, Sally. You really… You say what you think, don’t you?”
It was Sally’s turn to laugh. “Whenever I think, I do, your Majesty. And sometimes when I don’t.” Sally looked up at me. I simply smiled at both of them. They were having a moment, I wasn’t going to get in between them.
“How are you enjoying your stay here, your Highness?”
Anastasia looked over the ramparts at the rolling hills, Shereton in the distance. The vista was breathtaking if it was your first time seeing it, and only amazing the hundredth time. She sighed wistfully.
“It’s been truly wonderful here, if I’m honest, Sally. I expected things to be… quite different. I’ve been doing a lot of ruling from the camp, of course,” she said. She’d been doing most of her queening from her private tent. It wasn’t, she’d assured me, a matter of not trusting our hospitality, but rather that she didn’t want to risk getting altogether too comfortable here. She’d have to go back home at some point, after all. “Innshire has been a delight, and so have my hosts.”
She nodded graciously at me. Sally grinned inappropriately.
“You noticed it, right?” Sally tried. “About Eliza?” Anastasia cocked her head.
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean. Eliza has been nothing if not absolutely delightful to be around, and I’m sure I’m not the only one to hold that opinion.” She sounded almost insulted on my behalf, and I couldn’t deny it was a little flattering to have a beautiful girl defend me like that, let alone a queen.
“I… that’s what I… Oh my god, not you too,” Sally laughed. I didn’t know what she was talking about. Was I that bothersome to be around? Had I just deceived everyone somehow, and was Sally the only one who could see through me?
“She’s amazing, Queen Anastasia, don’t worry. I’m not implying anything that’s not… I’m just saying Eliza has a unique… magnetism.”
That wasn’t what I’d expected. Maybe she was referring to the fact that I’d noticed that kindness begets kindness. I was proud to say that most of the people I’d surrounded myself with had been more than kind to me. If that’s what Sally was referring to, then I was grateful for the compliment.
“Oh… Oh.” Anastasia smiled. It was a conspiratorial smile and now I was thoroughly confused. “Yes, I have noticed it. She’s very…” she turned to me and the look in her eyes made me glad that my unusual skin tone made blushing very difficult. “Magnetic.”
I felt ganged up on for some reason, despite the fact that I towered over the two of them. I stammered something about leaving the two of them to catch up and escaped down the stairs. I didn’t know what had just happened but it had made me feel either anxious in a good way, or good in a new and weird way, and I was very confused as to what to think, and spent the rest of the night overthinking the entire interaction.
But, like a summer vacation, eventually Queen Anastasia had to go back, and we said goodbye several times. It wasn’t quite a tearful goodbye, but it was clear to everyone that she didn’t really want to go back to the capital, and I wondered what her life was back there. Sally and the companions elected to stay behind. Sally, for obvious reasons, and the companions for reasons that were only known to themselves. I wasn’t in a hurry to make them leave. Even Tybalt had proven to be a somewhat pleasant conversationalist, when he got over the whole “you killed my best friend” thing that people had to keep reminding him wasn’t my fault.
The other reason Queen Anastasia’s departure was difficult is because it was also part of the time-table we’d set for ourselves. When she’d leave, Kazumi and I had decided, she and I would do a tour of the other counties, and have a solid look at the state of what was now solidifying into my country. Of course, neither of us wanted to leave, because it meant leaving Sabine behind, whose duties as a countess demanded so much of her time that taking a trip around the country wasn’t something she could really afford right now.
We spent the last night of our stay at Whitehallow a little quietly, and I was sad to see that Kazumi took Sabine away for a moment, but it was understandable that, if they’d really gotten as close to each other as I thought, and hoped, they’d want to spend some time together. Erza was packing in her room, so I spent some time alone on the tea room terrace, looking at the setting sun, when the door opened behind me. Kazumi and Sabine walked in together, holding hands, and I almost squealed. Despite them having danced around it for so long, it was still a surprise to see them be so open about how much they cared about each other, and I was happy to see them like that. They were both amazing and anyone would be envious of how good they would be for and to each other.
“Liz,” Sabine said, and I nodded. They wanted to make their relationship official, and I was flattered to be the first person they announced it to.
They stood there for a moment, sheepishly. I was wondering why they’d be shy now, when them holding hands was already such a clear sign of what was going on.
“We would…” Sabine began, but seemed to lose her words. Kazumi took over.
“We’d like to date you.”
To read about more parties and to follow our process in SPFBO 6, please visit my SPFBO 6 Phase 1 page!