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elementarystan · 2 years ago
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THR: Inside Lucy Liu's art studio, exploring "what we choose not to see" 
Liu's figurative paintings — inspired by shunga, Japanese erotic art popularized in the 17th century — are ruminations on her upbringing in a family where sex and nudity were taboo. When she first began to show these works, a dealer suggested she recut the canvases to eliminate the exaggerated genitals (the work in this article is a relatively tame example).
"I can't do that," she said. "They were like, 'Well, do you want to sell? Do you want to create this career?' I found that so outrageous. [I was] being censored once again. As a child I was not allowed to ask questions but now I can't even show …" she trails off. "I know it's aggressive, maybe it's not your taste, but that's not the point of the piece."
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batboyblog · a year ago
If you like these popular gay books, try these ones out
So I’ve noticed a large and growing fandom/interest in Carry On/Wayward Son, Red White & Royal Blue, The Raven Cycle, The Song of Achilles, Simon Vs, The Gentleman’s Guide to Virtue and Vice, and Six of Crows, and the gay storylines in them, this is GREAT! it’s lovely! not all that long ago the idea of a gay book becoming popular on it’s own, mind blowing. However there are other books out there that need your love, your fandom art talent, etc so please think about cracking open these high quality novels and enjoying any of the following 
Peter Darling
The Lightning-Struck Heart
How to Repair a Mechanical Heart
They Both Die at the End
Alan Cole Is Not a Coward
When Ryan Came Back
Wonders of the Invisible World
Wild and Crooked
More Happy Than Not
Last Bus to Everland
We Contain Multitudes
Love & Other Curses
Jack of Hearts
The Darkest Part of the Forest
The Love Interest
Boy Meets Boy
okay so I have many many more good books, but if you like any of the books I listed in my opening I feel like you’ll love at least some of these, all of these books deserve your love, time, readership, come on, new world’s await 
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arts-andscience · a year ago
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Spending my breaks in between class drinking coffee and reading my books in my university's coffee shop. A little break between engineering and science while savoring great literature.
Currently reading: The unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera.
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noctem-novelle · 3 years ago
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Popped into Alabaster today to have a look around. It's one of the most fascinating independent bookstores in NYC. ✨You never know what you might find! ✨
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pencilscratchins · a year ago
S’cuse me, but I love your zukka hcs — have you got anymore you’d be willing to share?
youse all indulge me too much sksk
— zuko thinks sokka’s like the smartest person alive and his catchphrase is basically “my husband says…” “my husband told me that…” “my husband knows all about…”
— ty lee has no boundaries, so you know she just walks in while theyre making out and sits between them like “hey-- stop screaming its me-- do you think this letter from mai is giving some vibes?” 
— the thing that delays their wedding the longest is sokka trying to figure out what his official title is. prince/ king consort is so long and clunky, and like… fire lord zuko and lord sokka kinda sounds like a stutter…. and king sokka was rejected by every member of their friend group… and “that guy sokka” was vetoed by the council so they just are Stumped
— — hakoda really wants him to go by chief sokka of the fire nation but only to make zuko’s cabinet members angry
— — — i really have no preference, i guess lord sokka? anyway, you know zuko heavily campaigns for fire lord sokka
— not a zukka headcanon, but amongst the gang: they all agree that whoever is currently wearing zuko’s hairpiece is the fire lord. his assistant is like “sir please” and he’s like “i’m sorry i can’t help you :( ask fire lord aang, perhaps?”
— theyre one of those couples that have like 1000 inside jokes that they will never explain to anyone else, so they’ll be in the middle of a party & sokka will just nonchalantly say something like “oh didn’t you hear? ive decided to remove my kneecaps,” and zuko laugh so hard he’ll snort champagne through his nose as everyone else just stares
— every time zuko gets a paper cut sokka fully acts like its an assassination attempt 
— sokka braids zukos hair once it gets long enough since sokka used to braid katara’s hair, so hes like amazing at it
— sokka goes grey first and finds his first one in his early thirties, which horrifies him. zuko has no mercy. he turns to him while cuddling and holds his face all sweet then just
— —“im so glad youre spending the limited time you have left on the earth with me :)” “i dont feel safe in this home anymore”
— sokka: ah yes. bedtime with me, my husband, and my husbands fifteen foot flying dragon.
— after zuko gets comfortable with being publicly out, hes basically always holding sokka’s hand in public
— pre-teen izumi figures out that while her pops sokka wants to make her know the value of a dollar; her dad zuko was, fundamentally, a rich kid so she’ll be like “dad can i have money for a fried meat stick? its 30 gold pieces,” and zuko will be like yeah that sounds right here you go kiddo.
— — sokka does eventually find out and makes her stop though :(
— they wear the same shoe size because zuko had weirdly big feet that sokka teases him about 
— before they date, sokka mentions how much he loves poetry and zuko immediately heads to the library & accosts the librarian like “i need the most impressive poetry we have”
— sokka thinks zuko is so funny even though literally no one else sees it
— when izumi has iroh ii they are the most over involved grandpas ever. when iroh starts showing a real passion in sailing, sokka bawls his eyes out he’s so happy. iroh does ballet when he’s younger and zuko sets up little stages for him to perform for the staff in the courtyard. 
— — sokka also patently lies to him about historical events.
— — — “granddad, grandpa told me that one time, great uncle aangs sky bison was taken by a giant mushroom in the sky”
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sailorsally · 3 years ago
Dear people who write long ass (usually celebrityxreader) fics
Please use the Read More button, it was made for a purpose.
This is me after having to scroll your fic post:
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elementarystan · 3 months ago
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Washington Post Opinion by Lucy Liu: My success has helped move the needle. But it’ll take more to end 200 years of Asian stereotypes.
Lucy Liu is an award-winning actress, director and visual artist.
When I was growing up, no one on television, in movies, or on magazine covers looked like me or my family. The closest I got was Jack Soo from “Barney Miller,” George Takei of “Star Trek” fame, and most especially the actress Anne Miyamoto from the Calgon fabric softener commercial. Here was a woman who had a sense of humor, seemed strong and real, and had no discernible accent. She was my kid hero, even if she only popped up on TV for 30 seconds at random times.
As a child, my playground consisted of an alleyway and a demolition site, but even still, my friends and I jumped rope, played handball and, of course, reenacted our own version of “Charlie’s Angels”; never dreaming that some day I would actually become one of those Angels.
I feel fortunate to have “moved the needle” a little with some mainstream success, but it is circumscribed, and there is still much further to go. Progress in advancing perceptions on race in this country is not linear; it’s not easy to shake off nearly 200 years of reductive images and condescension.
In 1834, Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman known to have immigrated to the United States, became a one-person traveling sideshow. She was put on display in traditional dress, with tiny bound feet “the size of an infant’s,” and asked to sing traditional Chinese songs in a box-like display. In Europe, the popularity of chinoiserie and toile fabrics depicting scenes of Asian domesticity, literally turned Chinese people into decorative objects. As far back as I can see in the Western canon, Chinese women have been depicted as either the submissive lotus blossom or the aggressive dragon lady.
Today, the cultural box Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders find themselves in is more figurative than the box Afong Moy performed in, but it is every bit as real and confining.
Recently, a Teen Vogue op-ed examining how Hollywood cinema perpetuates Asian stereotypes highlighted O-Ren Ishii, a character I portrayed in “Kill Bill,” as an example of a dragon lady: an Asian woman who is “cunning and deceitful ... [who] uses her sexuality as a powerful tool of manipulation, but often is emotionally and sexually cold and threatens masculinity.”
“Kill Bill” features three other female professional killers in addition to Ishii. Why not call Uma Thurman, Vivica A. Fox or Daryl Hannah a dragon lady? I can only conclude that it’s because they are not Asian. I could have been wearing a tuxedo and a blond wig, but I still would have been labeled a dragon lady because of my ethnicity. If I can’t play certain roles because mainstream Americans still see me as Other, and I don’t want to be cast only in “typically Asian” roles because they reinforce stereotypes, I start to feel the walls of the metaphorical box we AAPI women stand in.
Anna May Wong, my predecessor and neighbor on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, lost important roles to White stars in “yellowface,” or was not allowed to perform with White stars due to restrictive anti-miscegenation laws. When Wong died in 1961, her early demise spared her from seeing Mickey Rooney in yellowface and wearing a bucktooth prosthetic as Mr. Yunioshi in the wildly popular “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Hollywood frequently imagines a more progressive world than our reality; it’s one of the reasons “Charlie’s Angels” was so important to me. As part of something so iconic, my character Alex Munday normalized Asian identity for a mainstream audience and made a piece of Americana a little more inclusive.
Asians in America have made incredible contributions, yet we’re still thought of as Other. We are still categorized and viewed as dragon ladies or new iterations of delicate, domestic geishas — modern toile. These stereotypes can be not only constricting but also deadly.
The man who killed eight spa workers in Atlanta, six of them Asian, claimed he is not racist. Yet he targeted venues staffed predominantly by Asian workers and said he wanted to eliminate a source of sexual temptation he felt he could not control. This warped justification both relies on and perpetuates tropes of Asian women as sexual objects.
This doesn’t speak well for AAPIs’ chances to break through the filters of preconceived stereotypes, much less the possibility of overcoming the insidious and systemic racism we face daily. How can we grow as a society unless we take a brutal and honest look at our collective history of discrimination in America? It’s time to Exit the Dragon.
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coffeecakecafe · 7 months ago
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right okay so I’m still having party time in the crossover zone but the gist here is what if I made a family huh what if I did that (gonna dunk some more info under the cut)
okay so the basic premise is what if we take a Danny at the end of one of those real angsty fics and he does Our Favorite Crossover Door Escape into bnha of course and then he kicks off Aizawa and Mic adopting all those kids we want them to have. this is called what if I had all of the cake I like and stuck it all in one fic I probably won’t write lmao but also: - Danny is crazy op of course, and way too experienced for what the bnha crowd thinks a 16 year old should be. this is mitigated initially by Danny having to recover from the injuries acquired during whichever phandom angst fic he was running from (pick your poison). also he may or may not remember how he got hurt I’m on the fence - I think I want him to sort of exist alongside 1-A til after the sports festival? I think Mineta probably gets kicked out around there, and Danny and Shinsou compete for his place in the class but then they both get in bc I think they should be friends. Shinsou looks half dead and Danny is half dead and this is my basis for that thank u - Wail training w Mic bc yelling son - I think he would be a very cool older brother type person for Eri, who deserves as many siblings as we can give her just sort of in general. also they have matching hair and this is cute. - support department upgrades for Danny’s costume! mostly just so he stops getting plasma laser burns but like who doesn’t love an outfit change - I don’t actually know if Danny goes home but if he doesn’t I think he’d make a cool astronaut-slash-pro-hero bc in this world at least his powers wouldn’t be a roadblock to following his dreams - did I throw electric core in here again? yes of course I did shh - thank you for coming to my TEDtalk I have more maybe but I’ll try to do some comics or something after I get through the zine stuff I’m working on lol
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pencilscratchins · 11 months ago
Okay okay okay I'm obsessed with your Zukka headcanons, more please?
okay this one got long lmaOO
— zuko buys sokka many nice things. he says “my boyfriend enjoys nice things...fine silks...jewels...who am i to deny him this?”and suki says “please zuko these are the royal funds—“
— before they know the next avatar is korra, zuko hopes and prays the next avatar is a swamp bender, because he knows if they’re from the north water tribe it’ll be a whole thing and if they’re from the south he’ll literally never stop hearing about it
— in the beginning, zuko has no qualms about courting sokka. he’s the son of an ally country’s leader like yeah classic political marriage like what’s the issue (other than his own stifling awkwardness of course.)
— — sokka has the brain cell so he’s probably hesitant to jump into a relationship. they’re both public figures and gay marriage was just decriminalized— zukos already a contentious leader. not to mention, sokka has dated royalty before and the devotion to duty only lead to heartbreak. 
— — — kataras the one who straightens him out. she is like “we gave our entire childhoods to these countries— don’t let some grandeur of responsibility keep you from the happiness i know you deserve”
— whenever they’re separated for long periods of time, sokka writes these gorgeous, long winded, purple prose letters about how much he loves and misses zuko, and his travels etc that are upwards of 20 pgs
— — zuko responds with “saw a frog today 👍” and sokka chokes up like “he has such a way with words”
— sokka sleeps on the right, zuko on the left
— just being around each other is enough to put them in way better moods. when one of them is gone, both are insufferable to be around.
— sokka goes on a life changing field trip with redemption arc!azula to find the stone for zuko’s engagement necklace and they bond & really connect in a weird way bc like... theyre sorta of the smartest people either of them know
— — meanwhile zuko, toph, and katara go on a life changing field trip for the metal for sokka a royal hairpiece and accidentally create probending 
— sometimes it will get reeeeall quiet and sokka will just lean over and whisper to zuko “you know your great grandfathers were fucking right?”
— zuko obviously has days where he needs to just like escape and not to talk to anyone, so sokka will take the crown in his absence. 
— — he spends those days doing all the shit zuko hates doing so he doesn’t have to
— sokka still struggles with feeling useless sometimes and thought it baffles zuko how he could possibly think that, he immediately will try to rectify it.
— — so zuko will show him the proof of a history textbook he had to approve, and show him every chapter dedicated to everything sokka invented, planned, or lead during the war and after to prove how important sokka is.
— sokka will be writing and when zuko sits really close to him on his right side, hell just switch the brush over to the left to hold his husband’s hand. 
— when korra is first taken in by the white lotus, sokka insists they spend some time down there. zuko tutors her firebending and she loves him, but she’s obsessed with sokka who sneaks her out and teaches her sword fighting. 
— not really a zukka head canon but when zuko first starts sleeping with the group at the air temple, he looks over and sees aang just levitating a few inches off the ground and is like “what the fuck” sokkas like “oh yeah that’s how he sleeps you get used to it”
— when katara finds out sokka helped toph have suyin, she’s like “it’s so touching that you want our families to be forever intertwined and for our children to always be connected!” and tophs like uh totally yeah 
— — nobody tells her the interaction went “sokka be the father it’ll be funny” and sokka said let me ask my husband and zukos went “lmao do it it’ll be so funny”
— izumi ice dodges when she comes to age and crushes it, which makes hakoda and sokka both cry. 
— — when iroh II wants to ice dodge, izumi refuses. she is however not supported by her fathers who are like “you did it! it’s a right of passage, izumi” “dont be a nerd, izumi”
— zuko, being a huge nerd, does indeed have iroh style his hair before their first date and sokka laughs so hard he cries
— sometime straight people will be like “oh the ladies must be sad you two are off the market!” and they will respond “our ex girlfriends are dating each other.”
— their wedding is extremely opulent, as pure sokkas request. zuko would’ve married him in a broom closet.
— zuko calls sokka “socks” and sokka calls him “zuks” 
— sokka is very much that guy who wants to pretend he’s all cool but brings up his boyfriend all the time
— — “ugh it’s so hot i can’t breathe” “oh my boyfriend breathes,”
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shanastoryteller · 3 years ago
she is the snow queen
there is a summer queen, a fae by the name raveena, who lives in a place of warmth, and bright colors, and laughter. although the world she lives in is not perfect, is not always easy or good or fair, she does not allow that to touch her. she is a woman of pure heart, who believes in kindness, in forgiveness. raveena rides the backs of elephants and touches flowers to make them bloom, she brings fireflies into the world so that people can find light even in darkness. she coaxes banyan trees into being, and carefully arranges their canopy of leaves so the light would shine through in beautiful patterns. people sing to her and pray to her, people believe in the hope and beauty their summer queen brings to them.
one day, deep in the forest, a tiger known as bhanu finds her. tigers always know where to find her. “there is a girl lost in the forest,” he says, “she’s crying, and so much too salty to eat, but she hurts my ears.”
“i see,” raveena says seriously, knowing better than to smile, “well, then, i suppose i must go help her.”
bhanu huffs and raises its head in the air, “if you wish, summer queen.”
she finds the child, a scrap of a girl with a mass of unruly hair and bony knees, and kneels beside her. she’s stopped crying, looking at raveena with wide eyes. “hello,” the summer queen says, “i think you may be lost. would you like me to take you home?”
she shakes her head, “no, please don’t! i can’t go back.”
raveena takes the girl’s hands in her own, and has to resist the urge to flinch. it’s the height of summer, heat hangs heavy and wet in the air, but the girl’s hands are freezing. “why? is someone hurting you? are you in trouble? i can help.”
she shakes her head again, “no, no please – i am anika, and i came here to die. you must let me!”
“to die?” raveena asks, shocked. “you are much too young to die! you must let me help.”
the girl tugs at her sari, and she shows the queen her chest. there’s a small piece, about the size of her thumb, that is like crystal, iced over and twinkling in the light of the sun. it would be beautiful if it wasn’t so grotesque. “my little sister was ill, she was born with a hole in heart. and my parents cried and cried, and told me she would not live to grow up. but i wanted her to live! so i gave her a piece of my heart to fill that hole. it worked, and she’s getting better! but it was a cold night, and ice found its way into my heart, and it keeps on growing. i’ll die once it covers my heart. i do not want my parents to cry more, so i came to this forest.” she looks up at the banyan trees, “i wanted to die somewhere beautiful, somewhere my parents couldn’t find me.”
raveena is moved by the little girl’s story, this brave, foolish girl, and she says, “you must return to your parents, but it wont be so you can die. i will melt the ice from your heart, and you will live to grow with your little sister.”
the summer queen presses her hand against the small patch of ice on the girl’s chest, and carefully applies heat, as delicate in this as when she paints the designs on the butterflies’ wings. it works, and the ice is gone. but when she removes her hand, ice sticks to her palm, and for the first time in her life, she feels cold.
anika is crying again, asking for the ice back, offering her own heart yet again, but the summer queen won’t hear of it. she summons the same tiger that had told her of the girl, and instructs him to guide the girl back home.
as the days past, raveena tries everything, but nothing she does can get the ice to stop spreading. near the end, she pulls her own heart from chest, and thinks it looks beautiful like this, glimmering and shining in the sun. the last of the flesh of her heart hardens, and shifts. she holds a ruby in her hand, and her life is gone. as her life leaves her, the ruby falls from hands, and shatters on the ground.
she looks up, so her last sight can be of the sun shining through a canopy of banyan trees.
gerda is a simple village girl. she has a best friend named kai, and they grow up together and fall in love together, and gerda is convinced they are destined to do everything together for the rest of their lives. but one day, in the thick of winter, kai slips and falls. this is not so remarkable, for he has slipped and fallen may times.
but this time a sliver of ice gets stuck in his eye. it hurts, but he doesn’t bleed. he looks in the reflective pond, and there is a red speck in his eye. he tries to get it out, but it seems as if he only manages to push it in further.
kai changes after that. he’s no longer the kind boy whom gerda loves. he grows cruel, seemingly for no reason at all. he doesn’t care for his grandmother’s garden, doesn’t play with the neighborhood children, rejects and rebuffs gerda whenever she tries to help him, to talk to him.
he goes wandering in the forest one night, even though there’s a snowstorm and he can barely see a foot in front of him. he never returns.
gerda mourns. kai may have changed in the end, but he was still the boy she had grown up loving, still the man she’d intended to marry. she is unable to accept that the love of her young life is gone forever, so she goes marching into the forest, determined to find him. she treks through the snow for days, but finds no sign of him. she’s just beginning to despair when she happens upon a cottage. she knocks on the door, and an old woman with silver hair and eyes answers. “hello,” gerda says, “i’m looking for my friend. he is very tall with dark skin and hair, and his name is kai. can you help me?”
“of course,” the old woman says, “i am a sorceress, and i can find anything. come inside, come inside.”
gerda goes inside, and is instantly warm, the snowflakes clinging to her melting and dripping away. she looks out the windows, and doesn’t understand. she came here in the dark, in the snow, but outside the sorceress’s windows shines a high sun, and a bright summer. her garden is flush with colorful flowers, and she can’t help it – gerda runs out the back door, sure this has to be a trick, an illusion. but she steps outside and the sun remains, and she gently touches the petals of the flowers, and it’s as real as she is.
the sorceress scries for kai, and she finds him. “oh dear,” the sorceress says, “he’s a servant in the snow queen’s court. best to forget about him, child. he’s gone now.”
gerda knows of the snow queen. she appeared like an early frost when her grandmother was young, a pale woman with dark eyes and white hair. she lived in the mountains, and gerda was warned never to venture there, lest the snow queen ate her whole. she was told the snow queen was like the winter – beautiful, uncaring, and powerful.
“i have to find her!” she cries, “please, can you tell me how to get to the snow queen’s castle?”
the sorceress looks at her sadly, then says, “this is for the best, i promise. those who pursue the snow queen only find misfortune.” she reaches for her, hand glowing, intent on erasing kai from gerda’s memories. gerda tries to run, but she can’t find anywhere to run to, and the sorceress’s hand reaches ever closer.
there’s a slam as the front door bounces open, letting in flurry of snow and ice into the warmth of cottage. a woman stands there, not quite old, but with lines just settling into her face. there’s a sturdiness to her, a sureness, that only comes with the passing of years. she has skin the color of fawns in spring, and a frowning, disagreeable mouth. “they said a woman who controlled summer lived here,” she says, stepping into the sorceress’s cottage. “but this is no summer.”
“please!” gerda cries, “help me! she means to take away my memories!”
“it’s for her own good,” the sorceress says, “she pursues someone who can never be saved. it will be her doom!”
a smirk curl’s the edge of the woman’s lip. “oh, i know a thing or two about pursuing an unsavable person. if it’s to be her doom, so be it. but it is her choice, crone, and not yours.”
the sorceress looks as if she wants to argue, but at that moment there’s a deep growl that reverberates through the cottage. behind the woman steps a massive animal with glowing eyes and barred teeth, covered in snow. it shakes itself off, and it’s only then that gerda sees it’s a tiger. she’s never seen one in person before, but she didn’t think they were this big.
“fine!” the sorceress spits, “on both your heads, be it!”
“there,” the woman says. “now no one is taking your memories. you better leave with me, in case she changes her mind once my back is turned.”
gerda hurries after the woman, carefully skirting around the snarling tiger. “please!” she says, “can you help me? i’m trying to find my friend, kai, and he’s been captured by the snow queen.”
“sorry,” she says, “i’m looking for my own someone, and i’ve travelled a long way from home to find them. i can’t help you find yours.”
gerda grabs the woman’s hand, struggling to keep her grip with her mittens. “please! i love him very much, and i miss him, and i need to bring him home. no one dare approaches the snow queen’s court, and i don’t know how to get there on my own. please!”
the woman meets her gaze and stares at her for a long time. then she gives a great sigh and says, “oh, look at your young eyes! i suppose i can help. i get the impression you’ll get into a world of trouble if i leave you to your own devices.”
relief sweeps through gerda, making her weak. “thank you, thank you so much!”
“i am madhubala,” the woman says, then pats the massive tiger on his flank, “and this is bhanu. where might we find someone who knows where this snow queen’s court is?”
they go to many hedwitches and wisewomen, none of whom can tell them where to go. they say the mountains, but madhubala insists that’s not enough to go on, that venturing into the hundreds upon hundreds of miles of mountainside with no clear sense of direction will only end misery or death. so they keep searching.
gerda asks madhubala who she’s searching for, hoping that she’ll be able to help. but madhubala only shakes her head. “every dayaan i’ve spoken to says she’s here, that this is the land to which she fled. and daayani are often malevolent, but they are also rarely wrong. she must be here, but if you have to ask – you must not know her.”
“but who is she?” gerda presses.
the giant tiger rubs up against gerda’s back, and she reaches up to scratch the massive beast behind his ears, right where he likes it. “you might as well tell her,” bhanu rumbles, shocking gerda into stillness. she hadn’t known the beast could talk! “she’s a trustworthy girl, and pure of heart.”
madhubala sighs and reaches beneath her heavy coat. she takes out a silk bag, made from all the colors of the rainbow, and slowly undoes the string. in her hand is a ruby, and it somehow sparkles even in the weak light. however, riddled through it are what looks like spider web fine cracks.  “i was born with a hole in my heart, and so my sister found a dayaan who could give me some of her heart. it worked, but it left her heart vulnerable, and when a chill swept through our village it became infected with ice. she ran away from home, but was found by our summer queen, a fae of exceptional power. she saved my sister’s life, but the ice infected her too, and she couldn’t stop it.” she gently places the ruby in gerda’s hand. “this is her heart. it froze, and shattered into a thousand pieces. you and me can’t live without our hearts, but she could. they say she changed without her heart, and ran far away from home. my sister and i have spent our whole lives collecting the shards and reconstructing her heart, but there’s still a piece missing,” madhubala shifts the ruby, and points out the tiniest chip in one corner.
“how did you find the shards?” gerda asks, fascinated.
“pieces of a fae’s frozen heart can only do harm to mortals. there were people who came upon them, and tried to barter or control them, and were taken under it’s thrall. there were innocent people, who happened upon them, and were changed utterly. both became the worst sort of person, so that’s what we pursued – terrible, horrible people, who may have been infected by a shard of the queen’s heart.” she nudges gerda and cracks a smile, “it turns out lots of horrible people are just horrible. but, sometimes, it was the shards. we’ve looked all over, for years and years, but we can’t find the last piece. it will have to be enough. we think, maybe, if we return her heart, then maybe our summer queen will be able to come home. and if not – well, she’ll know that we didn’t forget her, and that we tried.”
gerda is crying at the end, hurrying to wipe at her tears before they freeze on her face. “that’s so sad! and so kind!”
“raveena was a kind woman,” bhanu says, “i don’t know what she’s become. but who she was would have appreciated the kindness, the effort.”
they keep traveling, and asking, and finally they catch a break. a crow happens upon them, and says there is a prince who reigns over the mountains and its people. they say he knows the snow queen, and has an alliance with her. they say he sends her babies to gobble up, so she won’t eat any of his people. “that’s horrible!” gerda says, twisting her hands together, “who would do something so awful?”
“maybe he has the last shard,” madhubala says, “or maybe he’s just an awful prince. either way, he’s the only lead we have.”
it takes days upon days of climbing to get to the mountain prince’s castle, and gerda fears her legs will snap in half from the strain. halfway there, madhubala puts her on bhanu’s back, and he carries her the rest of the way up.
they get to the castle, and guards bar their way in. “are you here for the contest?”
“what contest?” madhubala snaps, looking very much like she’d like to grab the guard’s sword and skewer him through with it.
“she looks like she’s here for the contest,” one of them says, looking to gerda huddled up against bhanu’s side. “she’s pretty, and young, and slight. she’d make for a nice princess.”
“we’re here to see the prince,” gerda says, summoning a smile for the guards.
they shrug, “if you win the contest, then you can see the prince.”
“what’s the contest then?” madhubala asks.
“our highness cannot ascend the throne without a bride,” he says. “but he’s refused all the noble ladies. instead he seeks a clever woman to rule by his side, saying he’s not very clever himself. if you can pass three tests of cleverness, you win the prince’s hand and a throne.”
gerda despairs. she’ll never win! she is only a village girl, and has never had any need of cleverness. and if she doesn’t win, they won’t be able to speak to the prince, and they’ll never find the snow queen, and kai will be lost forever! and besides, she’s not interested in being a princess anyway. she doesn’t think they let princesses work in gardens.
“very well,” madhubala says, and gerda turns to her to tell her it’s a waste, “i accept. i will face your tests.”
the guards look at madhubala dubiously. “our prince is a young man,” one says carefully, “and you are, um, not.”
“i am not a young man, that is correct,” she says, raising an eyebrow. “i don’t particularly care for a throne, they’re all so uncomfortable. but if the only way to speak to the prince is to win this silly contest, then i suppose i have no choice.”
“it’s not so easy as that, no one has beaten it yet,” the guard warns, opening the door to let them in.
“everything happens for the first time,” she says airily, and into the palace they go.
it’s so much warmer than any place they’ve been, and soon gerda is shedding layers like a snake skin, carefully piling them atop bhanu. madhubala looks dubiously to a waiting attendant, then says, “do not lose it, it was quite difficult to find in my home country.”
she undoes the clasps to her dark, heavy coat and hands it off, then another, then another. when she is done, gerda can’t help but gasp and look on in wonder.
she wears flowy light pants in a light blue, dotted with what looks like sparkling jewels and edged in gold. she has a matching dark blue tunic that goes nearly to her knees, a long scarf the same color as her pants wrapped around her neck, and a half dozen golden bracelets on each arm. gerda had thought madhubala had short hair, but now she can see it’s just pinned up. madhubala untwists her hair, and a heavy, messy braid falls down her back. she undoes it, running her fingers through her hair so it falls like a heavy black waterfall over shoulders down to her hips.
gerda thinks that the guards were wrong. she thinks that madhubala looks an awful lot like a princess.
they’re shuffled to the next room for the first test, and it contains ten ancient riddles. just hearing them makes gerda’s head hurt, but madhubala frowns, and taps her fingers against her arm, and mutters to herself. then, one after another, she gives her answers. one by one, she is told she’s correct.
next, she is presented with a set of numbers, and a scenario. a terrible storm has swept through the mountains, and many villages have lost their food supply. how can the royal stores be best redistributed?
madhubala needs scratch paper for this one. she spends a long time writing and scanning the map and comparing. finally, she presents three solutions. she says that she did not know enough about populations for the various villages, so these three solutions are dependent on the amount of elderly and children in each village. she is told all of her solutions are viable.
everyone is looking at her in wonder now. gerda gets the impression that no one has ever gotten this far before.
the final test is a game of chess, and gerda wrings her hands and frets, but it’s a wasted effort. madhubala beats the old man soundly, and when he looks from her to the board in confusion, she only smirks and says, “we should play chaturanga sometime.”
the old man blinks, then breaks out in a smile. “i am looking forward to it, your highness.”
they’re whisked away after that, everyone whispering and pointing as they walk past. they’re brought to the throne room, and sitting there is the prince.
he looks to be not much older than gerda. he’s got the brightest blue eyes gerda has ever seen, and a wide smile. “you did it!” he says, striding forward. he takes madhubala’s hands, something she wasn’t expecting by the way her eyes widen. “finally, i had almost given up hope – but here you are! a clever queen for my people!”
“prince,” she says.
“call me enok,” he interrupts, “you are to be my bride and my princess, and then crowned as queen when i am crowned as king. it is only right that you call me by my given name.”
“enok,” she says, “i did not come here to be your bride. i am not even of this land.” she explains their predicament, and the smile slides from prince enok’s face.
he doesn’t let go of madhubala’s hands. “are you truly so against being my bride? the sunsets here are quite beautiful, and we have excellent woodcarvers. anything it is within my power to give you, you shall have.”
“i am a little old for you, enok,” she says, “perhaps you would benefit from a younger bride?”
he tugs her closer, and wraps an arm around her waist. gerda fears for the prince’s safety, but madhubala is blushing, and bhanu looks incredibly entertained, and not like he’s getting ready to rip the prince’s throat out. “i do not want a young bride. i want a clever bride. that you are as beautiful as the first bloom of spring does not hurt, however.”
“i am looking for someone,” she says, swallowing, “well, two someones, really. If, after I find them, you still desire me as a bride – I will accept.”
“excellent!” he says, spinning her around. then his faces smooths into seriousness. “you do not plan to harm the snow queen, do you? i know you believe she has taken your friend, but that does not sound like the queen i know.”
“do you not feed her babies to get keep her at bay?” gerda asks, then winces and adds, “sir! uh, your highness, i mean.”
he laughs. “not exactly. oh, what a rumor! there are children that are born ill, or become ill late in life. they are born with hearts that don’t beat right, or lungs that can’t expand, or missing bits that they need to live. if they are young enough, and we are quick enough, the snow queen can save them. they’re not quite human after that though. they’re fae touched, as it were, children that don’t really fit in with the rest of us humans. which is fine, because human is rather broad term, but often they are unhappy, and nothing their parents nor i can do has the ability to satisfy them. if they can find no happiness in my kingdom, in the land of humans, then when they are sixteen years of age, they go back to the snow queen to serve her. if they are not happy with her, then they come back.”
“do they come back often?” gerda asks.
“no,” he says, “i’ve never known one to come back at all.”
madhubala looks dubious, and gerda can’t help but agree, but all she says is, “we mean this queen no harm. all we intend to do is retrieve the young man called kai.”
prince enok seems mollified by this. he gives them a carriage and powerful horses to carry them, and directions to the snow queen’s palace. he also removes a ring from his finger and slides it onto madhubula’s. “so that she knows you come with my blessing,” he says, although by the way he shuffles and can’t quite meet their eyes gerda supposes it’s more than that.
they see the snow queen’s palace long before they arrive there. it’s gorgeous, made of ice and twinkling like thousands of jewels in the rising sun. it’s not like any palace gerda has seen before – the tops of towers are round and bulbous and end in a point. instead of bricks or stones, and the palace walls are carved with intricate, beautiful patterns that seem to glisten with their own light. “oh,” madhubala breathes.
bhanu has been loping alongside them, far too big to fit in the carriage, and he stops for a moment in surprise, then sprints to catch up to them. “that’s something we haven’t seen in a while,” he says, “not since we were back in our land.”
“strange,” she says softly, and gerda means to ask her to explain, but they’ve just arrived at the front of the palace. they get out of the carriage, and approach the ornate, tall doors.
four guards stand there in white leathers and furs, ice spears clutched in their fists. they look human, and gerda wonders if these are some of the people that go to serve the snow queen and never come back. madhubala takes off her gloves and flashes her ring to them. “we come with the blessing of prince enok. we mean no harm, but we must speak to the snow queen. we are looking for a human boy named kai.”
they trade looks, and one says, “we know of the human you speak. but there’s no point in looking for him. if it’s him you seek, then you should go home.”
madhubala’s eyes narrow, and bhanu’s hackles rise. gerda pushes forward and clasps her hands together, “oh, please, you must let me see him! i grew up with him, he’s my very best friend in the whole world.” they hesitate, and she presses her hands against the arms of the nearest one, pressing herself up against the ice spear, well aware one wrong move could end with her sliced to ribbons. “please! i love him, you see, so i can’t leave without him.”
they sigh, and step aside, pushing the large doors open. “don’t say we didn’t warn you.”
gerda goes to her tiptoes to press a kiss against the guard’s cheek, ignoring the way her lips frost over when she touches him. “thank you!”
they enter the palace, and the inside is just as lavish and beautiful as the outside. people in pure white walk past and around them, and finally they find someone to take them to the throne room. “our queen is very busy,” says a young woman with hair as blue as her eyes, “you mustn’t distract her for too long.”
when they enter the room, she’s not sitting on a throne. she’s standing at a desk with her back to them, giving orders to a dozen or so winter foxes, while a dark, handsome man takes notes besides her. “kai!” gerda yells, and runs forward. she throws herself at him, startling him and the queen and causing the foxes to scatter back. madhubala and bhanu get ready to fight, but the snow queen hasn’t turned. she’s tall and pale, with pure white hair piled atop her head and a white dress.
madhubala blinks, then squints. it doesn’t look like a traditional dress for these people. it looks like – well it looks like a sari, like women wear back in her home.
“hello,” he says, putting gerda gently on the ground. “do i know you?”
gerda’s heart breaks. she reaches up to cup kai’s face in her hands. “of course you know me! i am gerda, your very best friend in the whole world!”
he shakes his head, his eyes darting to look behind her. “my queen?”
“oh dear,” says the snow queen, and madhubala and bhanu go completely still. “i was afraid this would happen. child, please, look at me.”
gerda feels the queen’s cold hand on her shoulder, and rubs at her leaking eyes before turning to face her. she’s so stunned by the sight of her that for a moment she forgets to be sad. the snow queen is achingly beautiful, dark eyes and pale skin and pale hair, plump lips and delicate wrists. has kai chosen the queen, and simply left gerda behind? was she foolish to search for him so desperately?
the queen tucks a piece of gerda’s hair behind her ear. “i’m afraid he doesn’t know you, and that is my fault. i found him wandering in my mountains, half frozen and near death. i kissed him once, in order to make him invulnerable to the cold. but i sensed a malevolent magic about him, something that clouded his heart and his actions, that threatened to destroy his soul as surely as the cold would have destroyed his body. so i kissed him again, and locked all his memories away, so that the magic had nothing to grab onto, and he would be safe.”
“but he does not know me,” she says, lips trembling, “and i know him so well. he was the one that knew me best in the whole world. could you not kiss him again, and set him free?”
“i am sorry,” the snow queen says, “but a third kiss from me would be the kiss of death.”
gerda turns back to kai, and asks, “am i not familiar to you at all? does nothing of me feel like home?” before he can answer she leans in close and says, “oh, kai, your eye! what happened?” it’s got a sliver of red stuck in it, like an eyelash, but it looks far more painful.
“i don’t know,” he says, “it was like that before i was with the snow queen.”
“it was settled deep in the back of his eye,” the snow queen says, “it came forward after my spells, but i haven’t been able to get it out.”
“it’s the last piece! i can complete the heart!” madhubala says excitedly, speaking for the first time.
the snow queen whirls around, “oh, my apologies, i didn’t mean to ignore y – oh, bhanu!”
she holds out her arms, and the massive tiger bounds forward, nuzzling into the snow queen’s chest and reaching up to lick her face. “i have been looking for you!” bhanu says crossly. “you are far from home.”
“i was like this when i woke up,” she says. “i had already frozen and destroyed my favorite banyan tree, and i did not want to cause harm to the rest of my country. so i came here, to a place where my snow and ice wouldn’t hurt anyone, where they had so much of it already that surely i couldn’t cause any damage.”
madhubala steps forward, “queen raveena, i have something that belongs to you.” she reaches into her coat, and takes out the fist sized ruby.
“my heart!” she gasps, “it fell from my hands and shattered, scattering to the four corners of our land. how did you ever find it?”
“i am the younger sister of anika, who’s life you saved by taking the ice from her heart,” madhubala says. “my sister and i have spent our whole lives reconstructing this heart. after we finished, she sent me to find you, and the daayans says your where here. but it’s missing one more piece – the piece, i believe, that is in kai’s eye.”
gerda says, “there must be a way to get it out! please, i’ll do anything.”
raveena frowns, looking at gerda with a considering gaze. “do you love him, gerda?”
she flushes and gives kai a shy glance, who ducks his head, an uncertain smile curling around the edges of his mouth. “i do, queen raveena.”
“truly? do you love him more than anything? if he were to get his memories back, and did not care for you, would you love him still?”
“of course!” she says, “love doesn’t work any other the way.”
raveena says. “gerda, i think you should kiss kai.”
“i am no queen or fae!” she says, “my kiss won’t do anything at all.”
“you are a girl of pure heart and a kind spirit, who loves him dearly. if your kiss can’t help him, then i fear nothing can,” she says.
gerda looks to kai, her best friend, and asks, “do you mind terribly if i kiss you? i’ve never kissed anyone before, and my lips are quite chapped.”
“i suppose it’s all right,” he says, voice an octave too high.
gerda is too short to reach, even when she grabs his shoulders and goes on her tip toes. kai carefully settles his hands on her hips, and bends down to meet her lips with his.
at first, nothing happens, and it’s just a kiss. but then they all see a red drop of liquid drip out of his eye and down his cheek. gerda’s love has melted the shard, and they break apart just in time for kai to catch the drop of liquid as it freezes once more into a shard.
“gerda!” he cries, recognition lighting up his face. he grabs her in a tight hug.
she wraps her arms around his neck, burying her face into his chest and crying, “you know me! you really know me!”
“of course i do,” he say, beaming, “i reckon i know you better than i know myself. you’re my very best friend in the whole world.” his cheeks go pink, “you kissed me!”
they step apart, and she shuffles her feet. “er, yes, i did. was it awful?”
“not at all,” he assures her, “uh, maybe we could do it again? sometime?”
“i’d like that,” she says, and it’s freezing in the snow queen’s palace, but she feels warm.
kai hold out his hand to madhubala, “here, i think you need this.”
he drops the red shard into her hand. madhubala carefully slots the shard into place on the ruby. there’s a bright burst of light, and madhubala isn’t holding a ruby anymore – it’s a beating heart.
raveena comes forward and presses a finger against it. “it’s warm,” she says in wonder. “oh, you and your sister must have put so much love in these pieces for it to melt my heart. thank you!”
“you are our summer queen,” madhubala says, smiling. “it was our pleasure.”
raveena pulls the top of her sari down, “would you put it back for me?”
madhubala steps forward, and carefully presses the warm, beating heart against raveena’s chest. at first nothing happens, then it sinks beneath her flesh, settling inside of her once more. as her heart beats, and spreads warmth through her once more, raveena changes.
her pale skin turns brown in places, splotches appearing over her arms and face. her pale hair darkens, until it’s black streaked through with white. “wonderful!” she cries, spinning around as she stares at her new skin in delight.
“you are not as you once were!” bhanu says, upset.
raveena says, “oh, bhanu, we can never be as we once were. we can only go forward, and become something new instead.” she winks, “besides, i’ve grown rather fond of this land, and i’d be sad to leave it forever.” she holds out her hands. in one, a lotus flower grows. in the other is the same flower, but made entirely of ice. “i am the summer queen, but i am the snow queen as well. now i can travel between my lands, and love and care for them both! i would say that’s much better than simply being as i was before.”
“i like it!” gerda enthuses, “you’re even prettier than you were before!”
raveena absently tucks the real lotus flower into gerda’s hair, “would you like transportation back home? i imagine you and kai are far from your village. and madhubala and bhanu do you want to travel back to our land with me?”
“please,” she says, leaning into kai’s side. “i think we’ve been away from home long enough.”
madhubala flushes, “ah, actually, my queen, i made a deal with a prince.” she rubs the ring on her finger, almost self consciously. “i don’t think i’ll be going home anytime soon.”
“prince enok is a delightful young man,” raveena says. “it seems that soon i shall be addressing you as queen. bhanu? what about you?”
the great tiger hunkers down, then says, “well, you see, i’ve been with madhubala since she was a baby. and i don’t know about this prince enok fellow. you never know, with these prince types. it’s probably best i hang around, just in case anyone needs to be eaten.”
“i see,” raveena says seriously. “well, you’re not really meant to be someplace so cold for so long, bhanu. but i can fix that.” she leans down and gives the tiger a kiss on the nose.
he shivers, then shakes all over. by the time he’s done his orange fur has become white, and his eyes are a bright blue. “i’m warm!” he exclaims, pleased, “thank you, summer queen.”
“excellent,” she says, “now, let’s get everyone where they need to be.”
gerda and kai return to their village. they open a flower shop, and get married, and live in blissful happiness. they often take trips to the mountains, and people whisper stories about how gerda fought the gods of the dead to bring kai home, but they never comment on it. every morning she weaves an eternally fresh lotus flower into her hair.
madhubala and bhanu make themselves at home in the mountain palace. madhubala is shocked to discover how easy it is to fall in love with her prince, how easy it is to be his wife, his princess, his queen. enok is kind and courteous, and madhubala is clever and determined, and under their rule their land and people flourish. anika visits often, and when nobles are particularly irritating, bhanu will stare at them from his place sitting by madhubala’s throne.
raveena spends half her time in the land she came from, painting butterfly wings and arranging the patterns of leaves in the canopy, and the other half in her home of ice, carefully crafting beautiful snowflakes and making the ice sparkle.
although the world she lives in is not perfect, is not always easy or good or fair, she does not allow that to touch her. she is a woman of pure heart, who believes in kindness, in forgiveness. people sing to her and pray to her, people believe in the hope and beauty their queen of snow and summer bring to them.
and they all lived happily ever after.
read more of my retold fairytales here
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pencilscratchins · a year ago
ma'am...... spare zukka hcs ma'am....
you dont know what youve just begun
- before they start dating- sokka’s just a diplomat and he’s not used to the heat, so he only wears sleeveless shirts. this is problematic for zuko, who has never walked into so many walls.
- they use A LOT of pet names
- sokka uses them in public (honey, sugar, sweetcheeks) but zuko only uses them privately (dear, turtleduck… etc) but their favorite pet name is “buddy”
- katara is like “youre married don’t call him buddy” and zukos like “yeah but just cuz we’re married doesn’t mean we arent still friends :(”
- sokka realizes that zuko never got another real haircut after he cut his own ponytail off  and is horrified (“i wanted to grow it out” “OKAY but you can’t just LEAVE it choppy” “i cant see it though”) so he appoints himself zuko’s hair maintenance man
- zuko notices sokka misses the south pole especially during the winter, so he has a water bender freeze a lake near the capital so they can go ice skating together.
- I love the itszukkatime headcanon of zuko introducing himself as “sokka’s husband” its VERY good
- also bato exclusively refers to zuko as “sokka’s husband”, which everyone thinks is a bit but then they realize… he just genuinely doesn’t know zukos name.
- sokka could literally listen to zuko talk about anything for any amount of time. 
- which is good because zuko has a lot of emotions and opinions. 
- iroh LOVES sokka. like... LOVES sokka. he carries water tribe tea blends in the ship even though sokkas literally the only person who likes it.
- hakoda also loves zuko, because he’s never had a gentle spirited child before. zuko one time sent him a sculpture he found in the market just because he thought hakoda would like it and hakoda cried for like an hour.
- since i simp for this fic, i love the idea of zuko as a music prodigy who refuses to do anything less than perfect. but sokka is like “dude don’t overthink it just have fun” and sokka is a decent singer and truly disgraceful dancer, so they have jam sessions together all the time.
- suki has come back into the war room with something important and finds zuko just SLAMMING on the tsungi horn as sokka is going ham and just… leaves.
- zuko is a man of art, he enjoys the theater. sokka doesn’t get it, he has to ask every six minutes “wait whos that?” about the main character.
- despite knowing aang i think its hilarious that sokka just never believes in spiritual stuff that much, but zuko does and they constantly bicker about it.
- “dear, have you seen that report i was reading?” “i dunno maybe a ghost took it.”
- that being said, zuko once said fortune tellers were bullshit and sokka was like “ive never been more turned on in my life”
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noctem-novelle · 3 years ago
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Another way of saying good luck. - @lbardugo Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are two of my favourite books, so when the paperback was released with new art, I decided to officially join the Dregs. And, yes, it’s real. 🗡️ IG: the_lit_witch
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