Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Knight of Time"

This poem is from the June 6, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] ng_moonmoth and [personal profile] ari_the_dodecahedron. It also fills the "transgender" square in my 5-29-17 card for the Pride Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the Dr. Infanta thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes awkward sex/gender issues, vulgar language, dueling, arson, torture and mutilation, organized crime, police corruption, betrayal, police violence, rioting, insecurity, and other mayhem. The tone is largely upbeat, though. Please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"The Knight of Time"

Alicia been called a lot of things
over the years, and she has
seen a lot of years.

She has been
Giltinė in Lithuania,
Freund Hennie in Germany
and la Petite Mort in France.

In Ireland they say
that she is a dullahan
after that time someone
cut off her head and
it didn't kill her.

It is perhaps the British
who named her best:
the Knight of Time.

When she hears
that Jeanne d'Arc
converses with saints
and angels, Alicia says,
"Tell God he's a bastard for me.
He never listens to me."

Jeanne is horrified.
"I can't do that!" she says.
"God is perfect -- infallible."

"He put you in the wrong body,"
Alicia points out, and Jeanne
has nothing to say to that.

When Alicia hears about
the stake and the flames, she
thinks maybe Jeanne
said it anyway

and they were right.

Francois De Choisy
is a childhood friend, and
they trade dresses until he
outgrows Alicia's size.

She goes away on business,
and when she comes back, she
finds him miserably stuffing himself
into a stiff masculine suit.

He's lost the impish smile
that she recalls so fondly.

"Whyever are you trying
to torment yourself with
that thing?" she asks.

"I don't know," he says.

"Let's go shopping,"
Alicia says, and they buy
beautiful dresses, and then
her friend finally smiles again.

It's such a simple thing to fix,
she just doesn't know why
more people don't do it.

Alicia dances
with Julie d’Aubigny,
and when they quarrel,
the duels are legendary.

Alicia doesn't care if Julie
wears petticoats or trousers,
and never complains that she is
too masculine or not woman enough.

When Julie bemoans the loss of her lover,
it is Alicia who whispers, "The nunnery
is made of wood, and wood can burn."

As the two young women
scamper away, Alicia waves
cheerfully and then goes her way.

Decades later, she meets
Andréa-Timothée d'Éon de Beaumont,
also known as Chevalier, who at the time
was working as a maid of honour.

What Chevalier really wants
to be, though, is a dragoon.
She's frustrated that the bigots
in the military won't let her.

"You remind me of a friend,"
Alicia says with a laugh.

By then, French jewelers
are working wonders, and
occasionally make items that
could themselves work wonders.

It is Alicia who finds the golden pin
that can change the bearer's sex
and insinuates to the jeweler that
in the right hands it could save France.

In 1792, the Habsburgs stir so much trouble
that not even the best espionage efforts
of la Petite Mort can settle it all --
but she can see what could.

So she whispers to Chevalier, who
contacts the French National Assembly
and volunteers to recruit, train, and
lead a special troop of female soldiers
to fight against the Habsburgs.

Who better than someone
capable of posing as a maid
or a dragoon as required?

It leads to several victories.

They are her friends,
and all too soon,
they are her memories.

Bittersweet, she thinks of them
and smiles as she pokes out the eyes
of the Nazis, then frees the people
wearing pink or black triangles.

When she perceives the body of
the person wearing the burgundy triangle,
she slips a gold pin from her pocket.

"Take this," she says, "and you will
become a spy no one will suspect."

Alicia doesn't ask for a name,
and it is never recorded in history,
but she remembers the swath cut
through the Nazi ranks, the codes
crushed like goblets underfoot.

This, too, becomes a memory,
for she remembers what
the world must

never forget.

Alicia is visiting a bar
run by her Italian friends
when police raid the place.

Doesn't anyone stay bought these days?

She isn't the first person to start
throwing things -- that's Marsha
and Silvia -- but when she does,
she doesn't throw bottles.

Nobody ever finds out why
some of the most violent cops
die of "inexplicable causes."

It's better in modern times,
still not perfect, but getting closer.

Alicia remains the Knight of Time,
but the battlegrounds have shifted
over the years, and some things
are almost accepted now.

After a battle, Alicia admires
the superhera in the costume of
pink, blue, lavender, and cream.

Clearly Calliope thinks no one is
watching when she jumps up and hits
an overhead sign in celebration, because
when she notices Dr. Infanta, she panics,
and it's not about the supervillain thing.

"Don't worry, sweetie," says Alicia.
"I've seen it all before."

* * *


Dr. Infanta -- Alicia Martins is a world-class supervillain who looks like a little girl about 7 years old, but is actually centuries old. She has hazel eyes, shoulder-length wavy hair of light brown, and slightly tinted skin. She has a heart-shaped face. She admires altruism and loyalty, hence the makeup of her minion contingent. She isn't malicious, just ruthless. She is effectively asexual, due to her biological age. In French she is called la Petite Mort ("the Little Death"); in Italian, la Angioletta ("the Little Angel").
Dr. Infanta is extremely well-protected by other super-villains and many wealthy naries because of her powers. She always travels with a "nanny" and bodyguards, masquerading as a rich young heiress. She can't be killed, has rarely been captured, and it never takes long for her to escape. She is that powerful and connected.
Dr. Infanta often uses her influence to quash legislation that could harm soups. She is a key reason for how little institutionalized oppression there is, given the amount of informal oppression. This makes even some superheroes secretly appreciate her, if they haven't personally had to fight her or watch her give their archenemy a new face.
Origin: Alicia was a peasant child purchased by a noblewoman for experiments to extend life. They worked. She killed her owner and ran away. When Alicia discovered what she could do with her powers, she soon gathered adult protectors and traded her skills for what she needed.
Uniform: street clothes, usually whatever is fashionable for children of her apparent age.
Qualities: Master (+6) Children's Folklore, Master (+6) Wealth, Expert (+4) Intelligence, Good (+2) Cute, Good (+2) Gunplay, Good (+2) Living History
Poor (-2) Pint-sized
Powers: Master (+6) Time Control (Signature Stunts: Erase Memories, Transfer Lifeyears; Spin-Off Stunts: Danger-sense, Precognition), Expert (+4) Healing (Signature Stunts: Plastic Surgery, Regenerate Lost Body Parts), Average (0) Immortality
Average (0) Minions: The Guardians are a set of 7 trusted grownups, in charge of the collective personnel. They protect Dr. Infanta and usher her through the adult world. They are all relatives of people whose lives she has saved, thus all sharing the Poor (-2) Fanatically Devoted to Leader quality. In addition, each has a Good (+2) profession (usually Nanny or Bodyguard), another Good (usually social for Nanny, physical for Bodyguard), and one Average (0) superpower (often Teleportation, Invulnerability, Super-Gizmology, or Sorcery). They currently include Nanette, Cheval, Lorry, and Melissa.
Motivation: Survive and prosper.

Chevalier d'Eon (Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d'Éon de Beaumont) -- Chevalier had fair skin, hazel eyes, and curly golden-brown hair. S/he was androgynous and an excellent mimic, variously going by Charles, Louis, Auguste, Timothée, André, Andréa, Geneviève, Lea, and other names. S/he was friends with La Petite Mort, later known as Dr. Infanta, who at the time was also working as a spy. In 1792, Chevalier contacted the French National Assembly volunteering to lead a troop of female soldiers against the Habsburgs, resulting in several victories. (In our history, this offer was declined.) This later provided inspiration to female resistance fighters during World War II.
Chevalier lived from October 5, 1728 to May 21, 1810 and was anatomically male at the time of death. The body was laid to rest in the churchyard of St. Pancras Old Church. In 1813, Christie's sold the remaining possessions; the disposition of the golden pin is unknown, as it was not included in the sale, and general belief is that Chevalier passed it on to a chosen heir.
Origin: Chevalier received a golden pin as a gift from a Super-Gizmologist jeweller.
Uniform: variable depending on current gender and profession.
Qualities: Master (+6) Agility, Master (+6) Endurance, Good (+2) Friend of La Petite Mort, Master (+6) Spy, Good (+2) Diplomat, Good (+2) Dragoon, Good (+2) Lawyer, Good (+2) Maid of Honour, Good (+2) Secretary
Poor (-2) Handling Money
Powers: Good (+2) Golden Pin
The golden pin allows the wearer to change physical sex, and to speed or slow time for a duration of nine minutes.
Motivation: To serve France.

Calliope (Calvin Sanna) -- Calliope comes from Oklahoma; the father's family is Greek-American, while the mother's family is American. Calliope has light olive skin with gray eyes and short hair in shades of lighter and darker blond. Cal is demiromantic demisexual. She speaks English, Greek, and Esperanto.
Origin: Sucked into a tornado.
Uniform: Feminine-styled costume of dexflan and capery in dusty shades of pink, blue, lavender, and cream.
Qualities: Good (+2) Consideration, Good (+2) Flexible, Good (+2) Handiwork, Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Word Puzzles
Poor (-2) Distractible
Powers: Expert (+4) Air Powers (meta-power including Flight, Phasing, Sonic Blast, Tornado Straws, Whirlwind, Windtalking), Average (0) Empathy, Average (0) Shapeshifting
Vulnerability: Air Powers are opposed by Earth Powers. Some Air abilities do not work on an Earth-powered opponent, and vice versa, typically those meant to affect a person directly. Others gain an upshift on damage, typically attacks.
Limitation: So far the Shapeshifting only works to switch between Calvin and Calliope. As the power improves, additional shapes may be gained.
Motivation: Self-discovery.

* * *

The Lithuanian nickname for Death is Giltinė, derived from the word gelti ("to sting"). In German, it's Freund Hein, and Hennie is the feminine form of Hein. The dullahan is a fey messenger of death.

Joan of Arc (January 6 c. 1412 – 30 May 1431) was famous for wearing men's clothes.

Francois De Choisy, Writer (1644 – 1724) was a historical crossdresser.

Julie d’Aubigny (1670/1673–1707) was just a total badass. Her self-identity is unclear. However, she caroused with both women and men, excelled at masculine pursuits such as dueling, wore breeches, and generally did as she pleased. Whatever her identity was, it certainly wasn't the expected sort for women of her time.

Chevalier d'Eon (Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d'Éon de Beaumont) (October 5, 1728 to May 21, 1810) mastered skills and presentation of both genders.

The history of jewelry is long and complex. In Terramagne, the French jewelers developed the ability to create mystical artifacts that could bestow superpowers, some temporarily (as long as the item was worn) and others permanently (just unlocking a latent gift). There aren't many of these items, they can do quite a wide range of things, and you never know when you're buying handmade French jewelry if it's ordinary or super.

The Nazis used a variety of badges to indicate the "offenses" for their prisoners. Pink triangles marked gay men. Black triangles marked the "antisocial" captives, including lesbians. L-Germany had rumors of a burgundy triangle for transgender prisoners, which has not been confirmed; as you can see, it was quite real in T-Germany, and they were more serious about hunting lesbians too.

Crushing a goblet is part of a Jewish wedding, with many symbolic meanings.

"Never forget" is the rallying cry of Holocaust survivors, including soldiers.

Stonewall marks the beginning of the modern Queer Rights movement. At the time, the Stonewall Inn was owned by the Mafia, hence Alicia's connection -- because in T-America, it also welcomed people with superpowers and didn't care about cape politics as long as people didn't pick fights indoors. Also bear in mind that while Alicia looks white or nearly so to modern eyes, she was considered nonwhite at that time and was also active in the Civil Rights movement. Unfortunately later portrayals such as the Stonewall movie have engaged in whitewashing, ciswashing, and other violations of historic fact. Meet the real Stonewall veterans.

Transgender flags commonly use the colors pink, blue, white, and sometimes lavender.

"Jump up and hit things" is considered one of the quintessentially guy things to do. While feminine in spirit, Cal had a masculine upbringing, and some of that has stuck. And yes, I have had people clock me that way too, although I find it flattering rather than alarming.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, history, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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