The TIDES Universe is an alternate history version of the Cornish coast during a time of intense culture contact.  Adiún's people are the original inhabitants of the environment, and suffer under environmental degradation and social oppression wrought by Norvanders from across the sea...

Once upon a time, a boy was riding his bike, sans helmet, on an icy winter’s day.  Alas, the boy hit a slick patch and fell and hurt his poor unprotected head.  While he recovered over the next few months, his friend Lee wrote him little stories to help pass the time.  By the time the boy was better, Lee had sent him about 30,000 words worth of vignettes about another hapless boy called Adiún who must master a number of skills on his quest for love.


MASTER OF NONE is the first tale set in the TIDES Universe.  The second is POLYPHONY.

A naïf from the coast, Adiún sets off in search of Devi, the lover who was taken from him the previous autumn. His travels to the city teach him hard truths about how his world is changing, and how little he knows beyond his own village.  Arriving in the nearest city, he hooks up with a troupe of performers. They take Adiún in, helping him as he searches brothels and those in the slave trade for signs of his love. But when they finally find Devi, he’s not the man Adiún remembers… 

Paul G. Bens, author of KELLAND, says, "Benoit crafts her story with a fluid, easy prose that matches the protagonist’s long journey down an unknown path. ...It’s romantic and sexy and I can not recommend it strongly enough." Read his review at Uniquely Pleasurable.
MASTER OF NONE was my first story for Torquere’s Arcana line (inspired by Tarot cards) and uses imagery from The Eight of Pentacles.  The principles of Tarot play a part in the story, but I think folks who aren’t familiar with the cards will enjoy the story as well.  I interpret the Eight of Pentacles as an “apprenticeship” card, and that really informs my main character, Adiún.
Like its predecessor, MASTER OF NONE, POLYPHONY includes imagery from a tarot card. In this case the card is the Two of Cups, which often signifies love and balance. It's no different in this story, though the love is spread around pretty widely and the balance depends upon many lovers, not just two.
POLYPHONY: Abandoned by their employers in a hostile city, Adiún and Matti, together with liberated slaves Devi and Sauda, must find a safe place to spend the winter. While searching, Adiún and Devi struggle to remember how to love each other. The unexpected return of some old friends prompts a flight to the mountain fastness of a rebel people. Have the companions found a home at last? Will Devi and Adiún finally learn the hardest lesson of all: that true love might just be the work of many hearts? Find out in this sequel to "Master of None: The Eight of Pentacles."

"...the world building the author has created is truly unique and astonishing. The level of detail never overwhelmed but added layer upon layer of richness to the environment .... For a truly unique story that breaks all molds and boundaries, this certainly delivers." Kassa, Rainbow Reviews 

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Adiún blinked smoke from the funeral fire out of his eyes. Most of the villagers had walked away from the pyre, but he would stay until morning, watching over Melle and her babe until the fire died.
One figure remained on the far side of the flames and approached when Adiún raised his head.
“You will leave us now, I fear,” the old man said.
Adiún regarded the village story-father with bleak eyes. “Fear? Rejoice instead, for I go to bring the other half of our stories back to us.”
“And have you spoken with the mab rhi? Surely your father objects.”
Adiún looked into the story-father’s startling eyes --in his wrinkled, ruined old face with its faded tattooing they glistened like new coals, dark and full of promise. “I am not first son, and I am no one’s father.” He swept his hand to take in the fire. Melle and the infant were no longer discernible within it.
“You will not return.”
Adiún blinked hard, this time from surprise. Sometimes the story-father saw true. “If I do not, then our stories die with you.” Perhaps it was unkind to remind the story-father of his oncoming death, but the winter that just passed had taken so many, and had also taken Adiún’s tact.
“The oldest ones remind us that half our stories are dead already. We burned them with my story-sister months ago. There is no balance without them.”
“So even if I find Devi and bring him back...” Devi! His love’s name, spoken as the fire took his hearth-mate and Devi’s sister, wrung his heart.
“Even if you find Devi and bring him back, and with him the stories my sister taught him, half the stories, the ones I taught Melle, die a true death.”
Adiún looked out over the water at the little rounded fishing barks ranged along the shingle. He couldn’t imagine this old, pocked coast without this village. It had always been here, so it seemed. “Surely half our stories are better than none,” he countered, feeling like a child begging for reassurance.
The old man regarded him evenly. “Is half a heart better than none?”
“It’s worse than none,” Adiún whispered.
“Go forth, find Devi, but do not return. Even after he left, when you and Melle began to share a hearth, I had hope.”
Adiún heard what the story-father didn’t say; that now there was no hope. No hope for the village, none for the stories of their people. He remembered hopelessness from the late autumn, when the last caravans of strangers had come through, trading on their way to the cities of the eastern shores where the norvanders now ruled. Crops had failed and fish departed all along the coast, and whole villages were on the move.
Adiún stared into the flames and remembered the last caravan of autumn. At the very end of the warm season, when it had become clear that the crops would prove unequal to the winter, and that the fish would spurn their nets, strangers came as they had been doing all summer. Like all the young people of their village, he and Devi and Melle went to the guesthouse to offer hospitality to the strangers, completing their welcome and acknowledging their contributions to the feasts laid in their honor. All three lay with the same man, who said they were a pretty picture, Devi and Melle so light and Adiún so dark. Big and friendly, he took them with good humor if not much gentleness.
In the morning, when the strangers left, Devi went with them, with the laughing man, who laughed loudly and left more goods with the mab rhi. Adiún wept for his love and Melle wept for her brother and the story-mother wept for the end of the stories only Devi would know after the story-mother died (she knew she was too old to teach a new boy). The rest of the village rejoiced because the gifts the laughing man made to the village would feed them until the fish ran again in the spring.
When he and Melle had each mourned their grief to soft tatters, and wore it like old clothes, they raised their heads and realized they had begun to share a hearth, and that Melle was with child. Adiún called the child his, though none could know whose loins had sparked it.
The story-father’s quiet voice broke his reverie. “Take this, when you go.” He pressed the storymother’s amulet into Adiún’s hand, the vessel carved upon it digging into Adiún’s palm.
“He will wear it,” Adiún promised.
“And you must wear this,” the old man said, removing his own amulet and dropping it over Adiún’s head. Adiún stared dumbly at the round shell with its relief of the polestar standing out pale against the deep purple of the surface.
“I have no stories, father,” Adiún said bitterly, trying to smile so the story-father wouldn’t think he reviled the gift.
The story-father looked closely at Adiún with his glittering black eyes. “Your father intended to save our people, Adiún, not ruin them. The traveler wanted Devi and none other. The goods the he offered seemed a worthy trade, to the mab rhi. After all, one cannot eat stories.”
And with that, the old man walked away, his stooped shoulders wreathed in funeral smoke.
Adiún watched the dawn through the dwindling flames and drifting smoke of Melle’s fire, then went to find his father.
There was no argument, for Adiún kept the spark of his anger hidden, grasping the story-elders’ amulets hard in his hand to remind him why he must go, and why he must keep his own counsel. His departure would be scant loss to the village, for he wasn’t first son. His father nodded and gave Adiún a knife and pelts enough to make a pack.
At the next tide, Adiún rubbed his body with the cooled ashes of Melle’s fire, then plunged naked into the freezing sea, sending her spirit and the child’s onward. He emerged blue and shivering, resolved. He had loved Melle, would have loved the child, but Devi, even at a winter’s distance, warmed his blood until it glowed in his limbs.
He would follow Devi, even if it were across the western sea, as inescapably as Melle had screamed over the unnatural river of blood that brought their child. Adiún turned his back to the sea and watched the inland trails for the first caravans of spring.
© Lee Benoit 
In his dream, Devi was fucking Adiún, frantic and free, on the riverbank outside Keoded short days after his emancipation.
Adiún’s damp hair coiled around his wrists, twined with his fingers. In Devi thrust, and in and in, with nothing more than spit and river water to ease the way. He knew he was hurting Adiún, and he knew Adiún wanted it.
Heat fizzed up his spine and raced along every nerve until even his fingers and toes felt about to burst apart with orgasm. “With me, Adi-love,” he whispered fiercely in the beloved ear. He hadn’t been brave enough to use the endearment in the waking world, not since he’d been rescued from the slave camp. But in his dream, he was brave, not broken. He thrust again, courageously, wild with love and gratitude and the jagged shards of desperate regret and terror.
It was too much. The hair around his wrists tightened, solidified until it wasn’t Adiún’s hair at all, but strong hands grinding the bones in his wrists together. His thrusts into Adiún’s willing body became hopeless bids to free himself from a heavy, careless man with the face of any and all of the men who’d fucked him in the brothel. He’d never screamed in the brothel, hadn’t fought once; the procurer had beaten it out of him. He’d never hurled invective or ridicule. But here, in his dream, he twisted and hollered and tried to kick. Hard hands held him down, and a hard prick sought, then won, entry.
“No, no! Tides, please! I am not for you, not yours! Please!”
He came awake still begging. Sauda’s face above him was indistinguishable from the dark of the tent only by the brightness of her eyes. Adiún’s arms were around him, not restraining him but catching him instead, easing him out of the nightmare with soft words and gentle caresses.
“All right, love?” Adiún’s voice, sleep-slurred and warm, murmured from under his ear, tempting him to relax back into their blankets instead of letting his panic send him crawling to Sauda. He wasn’t alone anymore, and neither was she; they no longer needed to be each other’s everything as they had been in the brothel or slave coffle. That truth, welcome as it was in daylight, was difficult to remember in the dark.
He laid his head on Adiún’s shoulder and succumbed to the petting of his shamefully short hair, which even after weeks of freedom reached only to his chin.
Matti’s gentle voice reached him as the light in the shelter began to grey into morning. “We have you,” he said softly.
Devi nodded, hoping the others could see him do it. He didn’t trust his voice yet. Trusting anything but the nightmare took effort, no matter how much evidence of his new truth, his new friends, and his old love, presented itself.
His world was a tidal sink, and he’d forgotten where the solid land lay.
Chapter 1. Hunting
“The two of you are such brutes!” Devi knew he sounded pettish, but Adiún and Matti had their bows out and were comparing ways to kill different animals with such mannish glee he knew Sauda was only moments away from joining in. To his knowledge Sauda had never killed any animal but men, and he had no desire to hear her thoughts on the best and most decisive methods. Better to cut the discussion off at the knees and endure his friends’ fond derision.
The four of them -- Devi, Sauda, Adiún, and Matti -- had remained outside the delta city of Keoded after bidding a bitter farewell to Gydha and their norvander friends. More farewells had followed, as a few days later their remaining troupe companions, the siblings Kino and Joh and Mari, had outfitted themselves for a return to Dinas hoping to make a claim for Kino’s lover, who was trapped in a brothel there. Devi didn’t like their chances of getting the boy free of his brothel, but he kept quiet on the matter. Too often since his reunion with Adiun, he had brought dark words and anger. That knowledge held his tongue now. Matti and Adiún were going hunting, and Devi had a bad feeling.
“We need food, and goods to trade, if we are going to make a go of it in the city.” Devi startled. Sauda’s voice came as a surprise. She was the only person who could sneak up on him, so vigilant had he learned to be since leaving home.
“I know,” he sighed. “I just…”
“Fret like an old woman,” Sauda finished for him. But there was no rancor in her voice, only the rough affection he had come to rely on in the brothel and later as slaves awaiting transportation to parts distant and unknown.
“They’re being insufferable,” he groused.
“Tell them so, if that will help you let them go.”
“You’re always so reasonable, tiba,” Devi answered, using the name for each other Sauda had taught him from her mother tongue. It meant ‘dear one,’ and she was, though he still found her frightening sometimes.
“Sure you won’t come, Sauda?” Matti asked. “Your knife will be welcome.”
Sauda waved him off. “I don’t hunt. I am war maiden. Would you like to know what that means?”
The grin she flashed was almost feral, and Adiún stepped up quickly, shaking his head and smiling. “I can imagine.” His face hardened to deadly seriousness. “Sauda, keep Devi safe. If we didn’t need food…”
Hackles up, Devi interrupted, “Tides, Adiún! I can protect myself, or did you forget I kept myself alive without you for months?”
Adiún’s nostrils flared. Devi knew that look from their lovemaking, but hadn’t gotten used to seeing it in anger. “I could say the same to you, all right? Keep each other safe, will you?” And with that Adiún planted a hard, possessive kiss on Devi’s lips. Devi savored the tingle as he watched Adiún plant a quick peck on Sauda’s scarred cheek. Matti offered gentle, shy embraces, and they were gone into the tangle of brush that abutted the road, Kibi the half-grown pup lolloping in their wake.
They had made camp far from the thronging migrants seeking entrance into Keoded night and day. Their intention was to stay a few days, hunt or forage enough to ensure their passage into the city, and take up temporary residence there.
Since the disintegration of Gydha’s performing troupe, Matti’s divination cards had been infuriatingly cryptic in their advice about what to do next. Jürn the juggler had taught Matti the trick of the cards, and helped him make his own deck, but Matti fretted that there was much he had yet to learn. Devi well understood the feeling.
Sauda tugged at his arm. “Come, tiba, there’s no reason we can’t make ready to storm the city while the boys are off playing in the woods.”
Devi chuckled, a rusty sound he was only just trying out again after months lacking mirth. He looked over his shoulder to where his lover had disappeared into the wilderness. Then he followed his friend, cautiously hopeful about what the day might bring.
© Lee Benoit