Sunday, November 1, 2020

NaNoWriMo 2020

 It's November once again.

But it's still pandemic. And for some reason, I still have so much to do!

That doesn't mean I'm giving up on NaNoWriMo this year.

NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month is an annual celebration of writing a novel. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I have set myself a realistic goal. I know that try as I might, I can't reach 50,000 words with what I'm doing. So, I'm putting a small Short Story goal of 15,000 words. My aim is to write 3,000-5,000 words a week. Hoping during the Christmas break to edit or expand.'

So, since it's day 1, here is my progress.

This is a working title. Might change it.

Big Bad Wolf Meets Big Beautiful Woman

A BBW Girl Paranormal Romance


Chapter 1


Wolves were terribly superstitious.

That was an understatement.

No. Really. Gus was a perfect example. Argus Urbane, also known as Gus, was addicted to horoscopes. He kept looking at the newspaper and reading the daily horoscope. Every Friday, he had a special reading with Mad Mariah, the resident fortune-teller. As long as it didn’t interfere with work, Markus allowed it.

Markus was the Pack’s Alpha. He founded and held the pack for over a century. Last year, the Alpha found his mate and they lived happily ever after. Then, Markus’s best friend Caleb got married the other month. A lot of his packmates were married so it wasn’t anything special yet Gus was longing for something… anything. Any type of relationship. He’s had flings and girlfriends but they never lasted.

“How’s the Dungeon going?” Markus called him over to his office to talk business.

Markus Simeon, apart from being an independent Werewolf Pack, was also a business pack. It means they weren’t bound by land but by the business. The Pack under him also worked for his businesses. Markus owed a chain of resorts and casinos called Wolves. In it was a playground for both humans and supernaturals. It also had a luxury hotel called The Simeon.

Argus was tasked to create The Dungeon. The Dungeon was an exclusive club for supernaturals. It was located in Basement 4 of The Simeon. Gus was head of construction and maintenance for all of Markus’ properties. 

Markus was a very hands-on guy. He opens his own resort and personally sees to every aspect from design to build. He even designs each room by himself. Markus studied interior design this decade so he was well qualified. Gus’ specialty was building things. He went and built anything and everything Markus wanted. As a member of Markus’ inner circle, he could practically read Markus’ mind. Unfortunately, it went both ways.

“The Dungeon’s construction is complete. We’re just testing our twenty-four-seven backup generators and revolving stages,” Gus answered.

“Good, then what’s keeping you occupied?”


Markus looked at him, still that cold, expressionless face that told Gus he said something stupid. “Nothing. The Dungeon is holding auditions tonight and hiring of staff tomorrow. Everything is going according to schedule.”

“Gus, we’re four months behind schedule,” his alpha pointed out.

“Markus, this lockdown isn’t doing anyone any favors. We’ve just about to get a handle on things. Its hard to get labor and performers because of this pandemic,” Gus pointed out.

“There are supernaturals that we can hire. Why aren’t you hiring them?”

Gus huffed in frustration. You think I didn’t do that? They are all scared. Ever since they saw how even the higher forms of being could contract the virus, they have gone underground, hiding from the world. It’s like back in the middle ages!”

“We’ve never reached the middle ages,” Markus pointed out.

“I’ve read the books. The point is, labor of any kind is hard to come by. Also, our profits have halved so there wasn’t any allotment than the ones already budgeted for my department.” Once a bustling resort, it was a veritable ghost town. Only vampires were out and about because they were immune. Witches, Shifters, Elves, and even Werewolves were being cautious.

“We’ve been disinfecting with bleach and benedictions every evening.” Markus wanted all bases covered. He also wanted to protect pack and family who were living in the resort.

“Yeah, you’re going to have to bark at Marketing. My job is construction. I’m trying to be on schedule here,” Gus huffed. He’s been doing that lately.

Well, as much in schedule as after-COVID as they can get. The lockdown pushed back all their plans month later than schedule. Here they were, back in business or trying to be back in business.

“Gus, you’ve spent most of quarantine practically building the Dungeon by yourself.”

“As previously stated, labor problems. I needed it to be complete. Besides, I’m bored. What else was there to do during the lockdown. At least, I didn’t contract anything.” Yeah, he spent three months holed up in basement 4 hauling cement, tiling things, grouting tiles, polishing marble. It was a feat a Werewolf can do especially if he was bored.

“You are in need of a mate.”

Gus frowned. “You are changing the subject.”

Markus shrugged. “Well, we’re done talking about construction. As your alpha, I’m sensing your need of a mate.”

“You make it sound like it’s easy to find them. I’ve had girlfriends before. None of them stayed.” Gus wasn’t the easiest of Werewolves to live with. But no girl can really tell because he never lives with any girlfriend. He stayed with Markus, following where he went.

“It’s easier now than back then.” Markus was half a century older than Gus. Caleb was a full century older that Markus. Facebook only came in the last decade and supernaturals came out just about at the same time. It was easier to communicate now more than ever but that didn’t stop Gus from feeling the isolation.

“Join SuperTindr.”

Gus made a face. “That dating app crap? No thank you.”

“How, pray tell, will you find a mate?” They weren't all as lucky as Markus and Caleb who just bumped into their mates. Some people found it hard. People saw them as a pillar of strength and skill but deep down, they were shy and vulnerable creatures.

“I’ll ask Mad Mariah.” the eighty-four year-old lady was his go-to for any question.

“Speaking of Mariah, she’s having a party this afternoon at the Cavern. It’s her retirement party.”

Gus was shocked. “Retirement? She’s not that old!”

Heh! Humans age faster. She’s been wanting to retire since the last decade. Tomorrow, she’s leaving for a cruise.”

“What? Who’s taking over her store?” 

His alpha shrugged his shoulders. “Her lease is already up. The store is now open for a new tenant.”

Gus started to hyperventilate. Mad Mariah was not just a tenant but the resident fortune-teller. She entertained people at a special backroom where she reads their palms or cards.

A soft knock followed by a hulking goliath of a man came in. “Oh, whoa! Should I call for a medic?”

“Caleb shut the door and maybe you should catch Gus when he keels over,” Markus told his best friend. “Mad Mariah is leaving,” he explained.

“Oh. Gus, are you okay?” He asked the Werewolf who was desperately trying to catch his breath.

“Do… I… Look… ho-khaaay?” 

Caleb, the hulking bulk of a vampire, came behind him and shoved his head down. “Breathe between your knees. I’ll see if I can get a paper bag for you to breathe in.”

“Or barf in,” Markus quipped. 

No other person could shove Gus like Caleb or Markus. Markus was a big man with dark brown hair and deep green eyes. He was a half-a head taller than Gus. Caleb was an odd vampire. He was all-muscles and as big as Markus, strange for a vampire. Most vampires were tall and lithe but Caleb was not. He was tall but all-muscles like Markus. Black hair and black eyes were from his vampire heritage but his love for the outdoors and gardening came from his human mother. Now the vampy was arranging flowers all over the resort. The vampire was smitten by his new wife.

Gus had to admit, Stella, Caleb’s wife, was adorable. She was big and beautiful but she didn’t know it. Her family was mean to her. They didn’t know what treasure she was. She and Caleb grew some herbs for the resort at the rooftop garden and in her little plot of land. Markus even made some changes to the menu to accommodate more fresh food at the resort.

He had to admit, his kind of girl was around Stella’s size. Gus didn’t like petite wilting flowers who only ate salad and water. Werewolves loved to eat and they liked taking care of their mates.

“Don’t worry, Gus. The world’s not ending just because of Mariah’s leaving tomorrow. You can still Skype her.” Caleb’s words were not comforting. The woman can’t read palm through Skype.

“Two weeks’ notice,” he muttered.

Markus sighed. “She actually gave me a two-months’ notice but she asked that I not tell you. She thinks you’ll get emotional about it.”


“She’s proving her point. You’re getting emotional,” the alpha pointed out.

“Am not!”

Markus threw him a box of tissue which he caught easy enough. “Then why are your eyes all red and teary?”

Gus blew into the tissue. “Germs!” He meant to say allergies but germs seemed to pop into his head. To stop embarrassing himself further, the teary-eyed Werewolf stomped out of the office and went to find Mad Mariah. He needed to see her; ask why she wouldn’t tell her best customer of her leaving. Didn’t they form something stronger than just a client-Werewolf relationship? Gus was always the first to greet her, send flowers on her birthday and send a car package when she got a cold. He found her just as her party was starting. Her friends were around her, giving her gifts and passing the champagne around.

Mariah, a seventy-four year-old woman, was not an aging old crone. She was spry, had a spring in her step and loved to color her hair in crazy colors. She was rumored to have a dance instructor of a boyfriend forty years her junior. Although, some accused her of bewitching the poor bloke. Gus knew she did no such thing. Mariah was wholly human. She had very little witch blood.

She looked up to see the hulking Werewolf standing at the entrance of The Cavern. Markus threw a special party for her. Although she had only been in The Shops at Wolves for a year, she was considered a pioneer. She also attracted a lot of people to come to Wolves during the first few months. It was only proper to give her a sendoff.

“Argus Urbane, are those tears?”

Gus wiped his eyes on his sleeves. “No, just allergies.”

“I hope you’re not allergic to champagne. Come on over,” she called to him.

“Are you leaving already? You’re the most important lady in my life this year,” he sniffled.

Mariah laughed. “You mean you just want me to keep reading your cards every week.”

“That and more.”

Champagne and cakes were passed along. Werewolves and most Shifters were constantly eating because they burned calories much faster than humans. Little finger sandwiches in tall trays were also passed along the table.

“Don’t worry, boy. I’m sending my niece to read cards every week. I’ve arranged it with Markus. She’ll set up a tent in the gallery and take up most of my clients.” She pushed and frowned. “Be nice to her, Argus, I’m sensing your fangs around this girl,” Mariah warned.

“I’ll make sure she’s welcomed properly. But Mariah, she won’t have your touch,” he teased.

Mariah kissed his cheek. “Nobody is like me, Gus. That’s why I’m me. My last forecast for you. When you are looking for something, you won’t find it. So, don’t bother. It will find you in the right time.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Unmasking the Great Kingdoms of Ancient Philippines: The Tagalog Kingdoms

Madayaw, my peeps!
Welcome to Maita Unmasks History! This is the third episode of Unmasking the Great Kingdoms of Ancient Philippines. In this episode, we are tracing the steps of who the first Tagalogs were.
Please watch the first two videos of Great Kingdoms or Ancient Philippines. You don’t have to watch them in order since these kingdoms overlapped each other.
This episode will be done Story-style. Sit back and relax. I hope you Enjoy!

Once upon a time, there were 10 Bornean Datus under a power-hungry sultan named Sultan Makatunaw. Sultan Makatunaw took the wives and lands of the 10 Datus. The 10 led by Datu Puti decided it was time they left Borneo. They took their Balangays or long boats, filled it with family and supporters and rowed away. They landed in Panay which was, at that time, owned by the Negritos. Datu Puti befriended King Marikudo and purchased a large portion of land. It was said he paid it with a golden sukud or salakot. Datu Puti divided the land into three: Hantik (Later called Antique), Aklan and Irong-Irong (later called Ilo-ilo). They called this the Confederation of Madia-as. Many Chinese chronicle stated that this confederation thrived because of their cooperation. Soon, they were getting too crowded and Datu Puti took three of his fellow Datus to seek other places. He put Datu Sumakwel in charge of the confederation. He was said to be the wisest of the 10.
Datu Puti settled into the Taal Region. He cobbled a 40-kilometer road around this district. It was said to be the Philippine’s first highway. It was here he established the Kingdom of the Tagalog for it was the river that flowed to the lake in which they prospered. They spread out and settled many of what is Tagalog Territories of today: Balayan, Bataan, Quezon, Rizal, Cavite, Even as far as Romblom and Palawan.
Still, Datu Puti wanted to liberate his fellow countrymen from Makatunaw. In 1234AD, he divided the kingdom to the remaining six datus and sailed back to Borneo. Datu Balensusa was their next acknowledged leader. Datu Puti was never heard from again. Nobody knew if his quest was successful or not.
When Datu Balensusa was old, he named his successor Datu Kumintang. Datu Kumintang founded the Kingdom of Kumintang. The Chinese later called this Ma-i. The seat of power was in Balayan, present-day Batangas. In the 16th Century, When conquistador Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo explored the region, they were still able to interact with the progressive Kumintangs. The peace-loving Balayans were unsure of the Spaniards’ intentions so they were guided in the area and offered hospitality. With 300 gunmen, they laid to waste the Taal Kingdom.
Thus, the Spanish conquered the large Tagalog Region.

Fun Facts
Tagalog takes its name from Tag-Alog. Alog means river delta. So Tagalog means people of the river delta. Many argue that it could also come from a shortened Taga-ilog. Ilog means river. Taga-ilog meant People from the River.

Hat of the Day
The golden sukud is a hat worn by the datus. It is the equivalent of a crown. It was considered very expensive and passed on from father to son. Perhaps the value is great for the Datus were able to purchase most of Panay with it.

I hope you liked this segment. I’ll put a link to the previous videos in the series down in the description. Please like and share. You may also drop a comment. Which kingdoms have you heard of and which you liked? I really hope that this enlightened you as to who the people living in this country was. Magellan did not discover the Philippines. It was already populated and trading with fellow Asia Countries and some European Countries by the time the Spanish bumped into us.
Please follow my social media channels: YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. I’ll also be posting these fun facts in my website.

Ep1: The Namayan Kingdom
Ep2: The Rajanate of Tunduk
This episode will be done Story-style. If you want to read the script/text of this video, I'll be posting it on my website. Sit back and relax. I hope you Enjoy!
Instagram & Twitter: BabymoonMaita

Looking Back at the Lost Kingdoms of the Moro by Yusuf Roque Santos Morales and Dr. Meinrado Martinez y Dimaandal, 2011.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Unmasking the Great Kingdoms of Ancient Philippines: The Rajanate of Tunduk

Madayaw, my peeps!
Today we will be talking about one of the oldest Kingdoms of the Philippines. This is the second part of the series so I will be putting the Video about the Namayan Kingdom down in the description. Please watch out for the third which is the Kingdom of the Tagalogs.
Don’t forget to follow my social media channels and of course, this channel. I’d love to hear from you so drop me a comment!

Let’s begin!
Tondo, Tundun or Tunduk was a major trading hub which centered around the Pasig Delta. It is within and around what is now Metro Manila.
The first mention of Tunduk was in the Laguna Copperplate Inscription. The plate is dated to 900AD. It implied trade relations with this kingdom at that time. Nobody knows the exact date of the establishment of Tunduk but it had many names and changed many hands. As far as historians believe, Manila or Tondo is the oldest established Kingdom in the area.
In the 12th Century, it was known that Tondo and China had a trade relationship. This would be the Ming Dynasty. All over the Philippines, many Ming Pottery have been excavated. Even after the end of the Yuan Dynasty, the Rajanate of Tunduk was considered a major player in trade in the region. The sent envoys to China regularly.

When Tondo was established, it was considered a city-state. However, it was monarchial. What I mean is, it is unique in how it is run. Each barangays or balangays or districts had a datu. Among them was a Lakan or Raja who ruled all other datus. In a way, that is still being done. Each Barangays in the Philippines has a Barangay chairman or Cabeza. These local government is managed by a higher tier of leaders.

So, where exactly is Tondo? Oddly, its dominions do not cover present-day Tondo. That area is part of the Namayan. Parts of Manila, Bulacan, Caloocan would be part of this area.
The Rajanate of Tunduk was heavily influenced by the Majapahit Empire, The Kingdom of Brunei and Malaysians. The Majapahit Empire was a Javanese Hindu-Buddhist empire that was strong in South East Asia at that time. It stretched from Sumatra to New Guinea.
In 1500’s Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei wed his son Gat Lontok to Dayang Kalangitan, a Namayan Princess, and an alliance was formed through that marriage. By this time, the Namayans ruled Tonduk and all its surrounds and Sultan Bolkia didn’t want a war. Part of the Princess’ dowry was the territory of Seludong which is part of present-day city of Manila (not metro). Gat Lontok is a royal prince. The prefix Gat is still used today to denote a man of high regard. Quite like “Sir.” Dayang means Princess. Kalangitan is a Tagalog Word for Heaven. Her name means Princess of Heaven. In Seludong, a fort of wood and stone was erected to be the satellite trading post for Sultan Bolkia. They called the new fortress Kota Selurong. This will become Intramuros when the Spanish conquered it.
Dayang Kalangitan was a formidable lady and she was no damsel. Eldest daughter of Raja Gambang, who had no male heirs, she became a female Raja in her own right. Kalangitan co-ruled with Gat Lontok who became Raja Lontok. She was often noted to be the stronger ruler. In 1450 AD, she was widowed but continued to rule. Under her reign, The Kingdom of Tondo reached its Golden Age. The territories stretched from Cordillera to Bicol. She was also the last Buddhist Ruler of Tondo.
In 1470, Kalangitan’s reign was coming to an end. Kalangitan wed her daughter Panginoan to a prominent Namayan Prince named Bagtas or Balagtas to rule after her death. Panginoan and Bagtas ruled well and united the two kingdoms. However, in the 1500, the Sultanate of Brunei attacked Tunduk and put Kalangitan’s son Salalila as Raja. Bagtas and his wife were relegated to rule the Namayans. Thus the Namayans became their vassals instead. Salalila converted to Islam and adopted the name Sulayman, establishing the Royal House of Sulayman. However, it will be short-lived. The Rajanate of Tunduk and the Kingdom of Maynila became separate. The once unified kingdom split into three. The Namayans separated but still a vassal to Tunduk while Tunduk split to Tondo and Maynila. Later, there were some tensions with their heirs. Maynila was ruled by Raja Matanda whose name was Prince Ache, Son of Sulayman. His Son Sulayman III was his heir. In Tunduk, Lakandula, a cousin, ruled. When the Spanish came, they played against each faction and destabilized the rulers. Thus, the fall of the three kingdoms.

Fun Facts
The name of Tondo or Tunduk came from a River Mangrove of the same name. The name Maynila came from Nila or Indigo Plant which was growing abundantly at that time.
Manila only fell to the Spanish at the Battle of Bangkusay in 1571. By that time, the Kingdom of Tondo and Maynila were already in decline. Tariq Soliman, rumored to be Sulayman III’s son or grandson refused to surrender and accept Christianity. He died in battle ending the line of Sulayman. The Moors in Maynila and Tunduk were either expelled or killed.
Kota Selurung became Fort Santiago in honor of Santiago, the saint who conquered the Moors. Later that century, the wooden palisades were replaced with stone because Manila kept getting harassed by Limahong the Pirate.

Hat of the Day
I’m sketching the hat of the day instead of showing something from my collection. Our hat today is this European-inspired top hat. Many goods filtered to Manila from Europe during the Galleon Trade. Manila was such a melting pot that their taste in clothing became mixed. Apart from the European mixes, there were Indo-Chinese, Mexican and Aboriginal influences as well.
I hope you liked this video and please consider subscribing. This is the second in the series of Great Kingdoms of Ancient Philippines. I’ll be putting a link below to the video of the Namayan Kingdom. Like and follow my Social Media channels and please share my content. You may also comment on what you liked about the video and maybe what you want to see in the future.
YouTube: Maita Unmasks History 
Instagram or Twitter: BabymoonMaita

Unmasking the Great Kingdoms of Ancient Philippines: The Namayan Kingdom

Madayaw, my peeps!
I have a YouTube channel! It is called Maita Unmasks History! A channel dedicated to unmasking little-known facts in history. If you want to see more, just subscribe and follow my Channel. I have Historic Tidbits on Thursday on my Instagram.
Today we will be talking about one of the oldest Kingdoms of the Philippines. This will be a 3-part series so please watch out for the others.

My name is Maita and I hope you enjoy this.
Don’t forget to follow my social media channels and of course, this channel. I’d love to hear from you so drop me a comment!
The Namayan Kingdom became the dominant force in the Pasig Delta in the 10th Century AD and ceased to exist in the 16th Century just before the Spanish invasion. Where exactly is this Kingdom located? It is in central Luzon where present-day Metro Manila sits. Its capital was called Sapa, now Sta. Ana de Sapa, Manila, and it stretched all the way to Mandaluyong. Pasay takes its name from a prominent Namayan Princess, who inherited and reigned over what is now Pasay, Baclaran and Paranaque.
Also called the kingdom of Sapa or Maysapan, it was noted to be one of the older recorded inhabitants of Maynila. There were many kingdoms in Philippines around and before the Namayans. They traded with each other and often against each other. What is significant about the Namanyan is that the kingdom was divided into major barangays that still bear the name or is still recognized by the locals today. Some of those names are now major cities in Metro Manila.
  • -          Maysapan (The Royal Seat of Sapa, now Sta. Ana)
  • -          Meycatmon
  • -          Calatondangan
  • -          Dongos
  • -          Dibag
  • -          Pinacauasan
  • -          Yamagtogon
  • -          Malate
  • -          Dilao (Now called Paco)
  • -          Pandacan
  • -          Sampaloc
  • -          Pinaglamayan (Mandaluyong)
  • -          Taytay
  • -          Sampaloc
  • -          Quiapo
  • -          Pateros
  • -          Taguig
  • -          Paranaque
  • -          Makati
  • -          Pasay

The kingdom relied heavily on trade especially with China, Brunei and India. An influx of goods came in to the Pasig but the Tondo area was also known to produce goods for trades like Pina cloth, embroidery, masonry, tinapa or dried fish, cigars, bricks and sugar. Because the Namayans became a superpower, they monopolized the influx of Chinese goods entering the area.
Preceding the Rajanate of Tunduk, which had heavy Indian influences, The Namayans were mainly Muslim. Tunduk leaders follow a mix of Hindu-Buddhist beliefs. The Indo-Malayan blood of the Namayans or Maysapans still had some Indian-inspired beliefs but due to intermarriages with Bornean kingdoms and Sulu, they were Muslims by the 12th Century.

Fun Facts!
So what else do we know of our long-gone ancestors? Apparently, they don’t wear bahag or G-strings. Many records describe the inhabitants as “Enlightened People.” They had sophisticated tastes. The ladies’ clothing styles were rich in design and very varied. This sketch is an 11th century approximation of what a typical noble or royalty would wear. They had fabrics of cotton and silk coming from all over Asia. Embroidery and prints were a major trade in Namayan itself. These ladies would be at the height of fashion and due to the conservative nature of the Islamic faith, they would have long skirts and long blouses. Paper fans brought by Chinese and gold from the north were common accessories. Ladies had parasols or ornate sukud or Salakots to protect their skin from the sun. Even back then, we loved moon-white skin.

Hat of the day!
Since I am not at home, I have left my collections of hats. No worries. I’ll draw my hat of the day.
This is a S’loung. Mainly, it is a salakot covered with fabric, embellished and beaded. This headdress is worn by ladies of high birth to protect them when they go out. It was used not just to protect their skin from the sun but protect them from unwarranted attentions. It was said that envious people could send a curse to Princesses so their identity is hidden under the fabric. They either were carried by their bodyguards or guided by their maids.

I hope you liked this video and please consider subscribing. Follow my Social Media channels and please share my content. You may also comment on what you liked about the video and maybe what you want to see in the future. You can drop a comment or private message on:
YouTube: Maita Unmasks History 
Instagram or Twitter: BabymoonMaita

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

A Steampunk World Away...

Sample of what I'm working on:

“Come one, come all! Try a free show at the Crystal Theatre and we guarantee you’ll be in for a treat!” The man was dressed in feathers and gears. Ali looked in wonder. The man smiled at her and handed her two tickets.
“F-for me?” She stammered.
The man nodded. “The show starts in an hour, lad.”
“B-but I’m no gent, sir. Surely, only the members of the ton can watch,” she pushed the ticket back to the man.
He shook his head good-naturedly. “No, lad, the Crystal Theatre is for general public. The Marquee declared it so. You may watch and take a companion with you,” he pushed back the tickets to her. “Good day!” He walked around the street announcing the show and giving tickets to other passersby.
Absently, she caressed the tickets. Can she enter the premises? She did have tickets. But how will she act inside? If she ran inside, then what? She knew seeing this show would change her life forever.
While she was deep in thought, she walked straight into a broad chest. Ali looked up to apologize to the man. It was a familiar face. “Oh, your grace! I’m terribly sorry.”
Lord Weller smiled. “Well hello, my little butterfly. What brings you to Battersea Park?”
“I wandered a little too far. I guess I was distracted,” she shrugged.
“Would you like me to give you a ride back?” He was clearly worried about her.
She shook her head. “I’ll just walk a bit more to clear my head.”
He sighed. “I'm not going to judge where you live. You have my word. It's getting dark. Let me drive you home.”
“I was thinking of seeing a show.” She showed him her tickets.
“What have you got there?”
“Free tickets. The show is about to start.”
He frowned. “The Steam Theatre does not give anything for free.”
She nodded but looked to the imposing structure beyond. “I've never seen a show before,” she admitted. “I wonder... what does it look like inside? What are the shows like?”
“I have. The shows in the theatre are wonderful, like nothing you've ever seen before. The theatre interiors are a world apart. I have seen other theatres and this is by far the grandest.”
“Really?” She looked down at the tickets in her hand.
He saw the longing in her eyes. She really wanted to see the show. “Get in the carriage. Nobody goes to the theatre on foot.”
Her face lit up. “Oh, thank you! Thank you!” 

“Welcome, Monsieur and um...” The man behind the ticket counter wasn't quite sure how to address Ali. She had dressed as a boy again today. He stared at her for a long time before the Duke intervened.
The Duke handed her tickets to the ticket teller. “The lady and I will upgrade to a private box.”
“Oh, no your grace!” Ali tried to protest but he waved her off.
“A Duke does not sit down in the general seating area. We sit in a box,” he insisted and paid the man.
They were led to a private box that had only two seats. The view was center and high up from the rows of seats. Velvet Curtains lined the walls. The balustrades were gilded. Crystals and pearls dripped from the chandeliers. The Stage was large, bordered with gilded carvings and had layers of red curtains.
“It is like a dream,” she breathed.
“It is. I felt the same when I first came here.” He remembered his own innocent moment. The theatre had beguiled him, lured him until he sold himself to the Phantom. Even as he enters the theatre again, he still felt the same awe when he first entered the geared halls.
“Yes, my sweet. I was once young and my first time in the theatres had overwhelmed me.”
Alison smiled. “I’m glad I’m not making a fool of myself. I was afraid to go inside.”
“We are private here. Nobody will see us,” he said. “You may act however you wish.”
“Um,” she said. “Your grace, am I not dressed for the theatre? People seem so formally dress.” She twisted the playbill on her lap.
“Well, attending the theatres is a formal affair,” he pointed to the general crowd below them. They were wearing formal gowns and black coattails. “We are underdressed for the occasion but do not worry yourself, my butterfly. We do not know them so their talks will not affect us,” he admonished. “As I said, I was once a green lad and had lost myself in the theatre. I too was underdressed during my first visit.” In more ways than one, he was bare and stripped of garment, status, and shame.
“One day, I shall come back and see more of this theatre,” she promised more to herself than anything.
“One day, we shall see a show at the Red Hall. Perhaps a concerto at the Octagon Theatre as well. Those shows boast a far more extravagant spectacle than this.”
She nodded but not expecting anything. Lord Weller noted that she must have been disillusioned so many times that she didn’t want to believe his promises. He decided not to press her. One day, he promised he will bring her.
The stage dimmed and the curtains parted. The show was about to start. The first performance was a ballet. The man in white feathers was graceful and elegant. The second performer was a singer. He sang one long and haunting ballad. His costume consisted of a gilded doublet and a gossamer cape that billowed around him. The final performer was a violinist with a mechanical arm. When the curtain closed, the show had ended. Ali and Lord Weller went out to the main lobby.
People were milling about, some were entering the drinks room for cocktails. As they went through, gents he knew came to talk to the Duke. He turned to talk to them. Soon, he was pulled from one conversation to another.
“My dear Lord Weller,” an imposing lady called the Duke.
“One moment, my butterfly, I shall be right back.” He looked up and smiled at the lady. “Lady Delia, how are you?”
“Ashton, we simply must get together!” Delia, the lady, was tall, in a beautiful silk green taffeta gown that Ali knew she would never afford. Her face was artfully rouged. Pearls and gems dipped from her ears and neck. Ali could see this lady was wealthy. Delia pouted and clung on to the Duke’s arm. She then pulled the Duke’s arm and led him away from the crowd.
The Duke waved to Ali to wait. She nodded and stayed on the sides. She tried to make herself as inconspicuous as possible.


The Duke was preoccupied. As the crowds thickened, Ali decided to wander the galleries. There were brass statues that seem to move and dance. She watched the human-like brass appendages move and sway. A small automaton chugged its way to her and offered her some sweets. She took some and found the confectionery delicious. She snacked to her heart's content forgetting her worries even for a moment.
“Ali?” Someone called to her. “What are you doing here?”
Ali looked to the man approaching her. She frowned. “Octavius?” It was him. Of course, it was him. He’d have enough money and status to come and go into the theatre as he pleased. She began to panic. “I was… Um, I was accompanying a friend... of my employer,” she lied. Octavius, her former friend and neighbor walked up to her. He was a man with a good physique, not too tall, not too short, had light brown hair and his skin was as smooth as marble. But Ali never was attracted to him. She knew her place in the world. She just thought she shared a friendship with him and Princess. Apparently, she had a rude awakening.
Well, well, well! I could hardly believe it! It is Ali, a little tomboy Alison! So where do you work?” He pressed. “Do you work here?”
“No, I work for a Duke's household.” It wasn’t quite true but not quite false. She was working for a Duke. “I'm a lowly errand boy,” she added.
He eyed her. She was still wearing her boy outfit. “Does he know what you are?”
“Should it matter? I work. That is all that matters.” She knew what he meant. Her breasts were developing and that meant she could no longer hide what she was.
He laughed and leaned in closer. “Same Ali-cat.”
She shook her head. “I’m not the same, Octavius.”
“No, you’re still the same,” he smirked. “So, where are you staying?”
She shrugged. “Why and what for?” She didn't want to tell him. As far as she knew, their association was over.
He leaned even closer, trying to sniff her or catch a kiss. “I missed you, Ali. It's been weeks since we saw each other.”
“You were the one who closed the door, Octavius,” she reminded him. “You left me out in the rain.”
He frowned. “My father was coming home. I can't have you around the house, now could I?”
“So, you won't. Please, I have to go back to the Duke now.” Ali always hated that he was so condescending. He made her feel like she was a scum who had to be reminded of her place. She left him, walking back to the main lobby.
He trailed after her. “What's the hurry? I thought old friends should catch up.”
“Leave me be, Octavius. We are not friends, not anymore. You wanted to end our association. Why are you trying to talk to me now?”
“I missed you. Maybe we can meet now and again.”
She shook her head. “I don't think so.”
“Don't be in a hurry to throw our friendship away.”
“Again, you were the one in a hurry to throw it away. Now, I don't want Princess to see us together, especially since your engagement party.” With an official engagement party, it was now official that the Baronet Claire’s son was engaged to a wealthy heiress.
“You know about the engagement party?” He sounded surprised.
“At the Cogs and Spoon? Yes, I know about the engagement. So please, for Princess sake, leave me be!” Ali walked away and headed to the Grand Lobby. There were people there so Octavius would have to behave himself.
He made a grab for her, catching her arm in a bruising grip. She tugged away but Octavius was determined to drag her into the shadows. “Let go, Octavius! Princess might see us!”
“No, she won’t,” he sang. “She’s at her house dutifully planning our wedding.”  
She struggled, determined to get away. Octavius’ arms were forceful and strong. They were bruising her skin. Ali began to panic. She didn’t want to cause a scene, afraid to draw attention to herself. “Stop! You’re hurting me!” He was dragging her into a shadowy part of the hall. Suddenly, she was being pulled away and thrust into the light. A tall man had Octavius hanging by his neck.
“There will be no trouble in my theatre,” the tall man intoned.
“No trouble here,” Octavius gasped when he recognized the man. “The chit and I were just talking.”
The man eyed Octavius. His glowing red eyes seemed to see the truth in him. “Scram, boy.” He let Octavius go and he scurried away in fright.
Alison breathed in relief. But now she was alone with the tall stranger with red eyes. She shuddered in fright.
“What a succulent morsel! This little moth has wandered into my parlor. Comment allez-vous, ma petite?” He took her hand and kissed it before helping her up.
She looked up to see the tall man. He was wearing a long billowing cloak and had a mechanical mask. Cogs and other parts were busy at work. She gasped, afraid of him.
“Don't be afraid. It is only my automatic parts. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Exter Bricomman, the manager and caretaker of the Steam Theatre.”
“G-good eve, sir. You have a wonderful theatre,” she gave a lopsided curtsy. “Thank you for getting Octavius off me.”
“Such impeccable manners.” He extended his arm and she put her hand around it. He guided her around the hall. Ali was uncomfortable. She had always tried to act like a boy but she was naturally feminine. As she grew, it was getting more prominent.
“I was a shop boy, sir,” she answered.
“Shop boy?” His monotonous voice sounded confused.
“Um, I um...” She didn't know how to explain it to him.
“So, that is the reason for the strange garb.” He eyed her vest and breeches. “And now you are with Lord Weller. How interesting...”
She fidgeted where she stood, not knowing how to act while being scrutinized by his glowing red eye. The way he intoned interesting sounded ominous but it wasn’t how he said interesting that had her shuddering. It was the way he mentioned Lord Weller’s name. This man was the famed Phantom of the Steam Theatre. It was said he was half mechanical. She couldn’t believe he was talking to her.
“What is mademoiselle's name?” He asked her.
“A-Alison,” she answered.
“Interesting. Did you enjoy the show, Alison?”
She nodded. “Yes, very much, sir.”
He nodded and smiled at her. “Lovely. Do you sing? Your voice is melodious.” She saw his face clearly. It was no mask but small gears ticking on his cheeks. His face and arms were clearly mechanical. She wondered what else?
“Would you like to come work for me? The theatre has many generous patrons and guardians that keep boys like those away.” He showed her a painting of a theatre scene. She looked closely. It seems to be an ordinary painting, except the painting seemed to be moving. Mesmerized, she watched the scene in the painting come to life. It was a stage play of some sort.
“I thank you for entertaining my friend, monsieur, but it is beneath you to poach talents,” Lord Weller interrupted. He came up behind Ali and was scowling at the man. Just like that, the spell seemed broken and she gasped when Lord Weller grabbed her and pulled her to his side.
“Is it?” Monsieur Bricomman dared. “Lovely to see you again, Ashton Weller.”
The Duke frowned. He clearly was not pleased to see Ali in the company of the mechanical man. “Bid your farewells, Ali. We must head home. The hour is quite late.”
“Of course, your grace.” She turned to the mechanical man. “A good evening, sir. It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
The mechanical man smiled. “The pleasure is all mine, Alison.”
The Duke all but pulled Ali away. He marched her down the hall and navigated her around the crowded staircase. They exited the building and waited for his carriage to arrive. It came out promptly and drove them away from the theatre.
“That man! He should not have spoken to you.” He was clearly angry.
“Um, why not? He was being friendly.”
“Decorum, my little butterfly. You are in the company of a Duke. He should wait for me to introduce you.” The laced his gloves tighter, angry at the encounter in the theatre.
“Would you have introduced us?”
“No,” he admitted. “Monsieur Bricomman is called the Phantom of the Steam Theatre for a reason. He is a monster, a dangerous man. Just because he deals in entertainment, people forget he used to and still deal in arms for the Marquee de Chats. He beguiles people, lulls them in the theatre then uses them for his own purpose.”
“I'm sorry, your grace. It was at my insistence that we entered the theatre.” She felt bad for bringing this tension to the Duke.
“No, you did not force me. I was a willing participant. Please be careful, my little Ali. He can take lives when he pleases and it is so much worse than death,” he shuddered.
“I don’t understand.” What could be worse than death?
Lord Weller shook his head. “That man is a creature capable of destroying everything in its path. Never let your guard down if you encounter him again. His red eye can hypnotize you, make you do things you didn’t want to.”
“Yes, my lord,” she frowned but nodded. “It’s just… well, he rescued me from a bloke who was bothering me.”
“Did he now?”
“I didn’t want to seem ungrateful for his help.”
He shook his head. “No, to be rude to the Phantom is equally as dangerous. If you do not hold enough sway, he could take anything and everything from you.”
She frowned. “Did he take something of yours?”
“No,” was all he answered.
The sped through the streets of Neo Industrial London. It was as if they were speeding away from Battersea. He turned away, refusing to answer. The streets of Neo Industrial London were quite a sight at night. Street lamps lit each corner and street sign. Establishments had lit signs of their own.
“I do not think I belong in your world or any world,” she admitted.