Honored in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes fantasy, historical fantasy, science fiction, contemporary fiction, and New Adult speculative fiction. Suspense plays an important role in many of the tales; the conflict in those tales is both external and internal. Peterson's stories are often placed in dark settings, such as prisons or wartime locations. The mood of the stories, however, is not one of unrelieved gloominess: friendship, family, heterosexual romance, gay love, and faithful service are recurring themes.
In addition, Peterson has worked as a journalist and history writer, specializing in narrative nonfiction.
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"They had to settle the issue of sex first."
Sentenced to life in prison, Tyrrell didn't have many opportunities for bed-play . . . unless he could count what the guards did to him as "play." So his future seemed brighter when he was paired with a cell-mate he'd been eyeing for a long time with affection and lust.
If only Tyrrell could keep from becoming his cell-mate's latest murder victim . . .
This short story can be read on its own or as a side story in the Life Prison series. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.
They had to settle the issue of sex first.
"No," said Merrick flatly as he shoved his only belonging a toothbrush given to him by his previous guard under the stone bed-ledge on the other side of the cell.
Well, that was a direct enough answer. Or would have been, if Tyrrell had been the type to accept 'no' for an answer.
If he had been the type to accept 'no,' he wouldn't have spent two years persuading Merrick to become his cell-mate.
"Is it because . . ." He paused, wondering how to put this delicately. Because the Magisterial Republic of Mip had originally been colonized by the two warring nations of Yclau and Vovim, cultural clashes among Mippite citizens were inevitable. It was said that even Cecelia the great Cecelia had been rejected by a suitor's family, which was clearly a sign of lunacy in that family. Some of the Yclau-descended folk had strange notions about maintaining the purity of their families. Anyone ethnic or foreign or darker than a pasty shade of white was considered off-limits. That would make Tyrrell extremely off-limits. "It isn't because I was born in southern Vovim, is it?"
Merrick looked annoyed. "What, do you think I have something against players?"
Tyrrell straightened his spine. Like most emigrants from Vovim, he had acted in plays from time to time. Street plays, with no props other than broken objects dug out of the local garbage heap, but they were plays just the same. "Do you?" he responded in a challenging voice.
Merrick's mouth twisted. He was busy tightening the blankets on the bed-ledge with what seemed to Tyrrell to be unnecessary thoroughness, given that they were both about to go to bed. Unless Tyrrell brightened at the thought Merrick intended that they use only one bed-ledge.
After a moment, Merrick said, "The Bijou. The City Opera. The Frederick. . . ."
It turned out to be a very long recital. Tyrrell was impressed. "You've been to all the theaters in this city?"
"All the theaters in the whole of eastern Mip." Merrick mumbled the words.
"Gods preserve us that many?"
Merrick glared at his blanket. "Does it matter? I've spent plenty of time with players. Let's move on to more important subjects."
Tyrrell hated to think what Merrick's idea was of an important subject. Probably how to strangle all the guards at Mercy Life Prison. He asked, "Is it because I'm short?"
Merrick sighed as he turned toward Tyrrell. "Look," he said, "you could be six feet tall, with dashing dark eyes, and skin a delicious shade of sepia"
Tyrrell began to tick off in his mind which men in the prison fit this description.
"and I still wouldn't fuck you. I'm just not interested in doing that. Not with you. Not with anyone here."
"Married?" Tyrrell asked sympathetically. So many men in the prison were, or had left behind love-mates, male or female, when they were convicted of their crimes and sent to spend the rest of their lives in Mercy Prison.
Merrick's gaze turned toward the flagstoned floor. "Hell."
"You don't have to swear at me," said Tyrrell reproachfully.
"I'm not swearing. I'm praying to Hell to rise up and kidnap you to his domain so that I won't have to continue this conversation. Look"
And suddenly his voice was low, as low as it had been when he had finally made the amazing declaration that he would submit a formal request to his guard that he be transferred to Tyrrell's cell. So Tyrrell held his breath, because he knew that Merrick was never low-voiced never, never, never unless he was saying something that cost him a great deal to say.
¶ Available as a DRM-free multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Cell-mates.
"'Never!' she exclaimed, shocked, when he asked her to marry him."
She was attending the ball at the palace to dance. That was all. Which made it annoying to face a proposal of marriage from a guard who was distinctly not the sort of man she would ever consider marrying. Certainly not.
It was even more annoying to find that she kept thinking about the man. Why would she want to continue to speak to a guard who rudely implied that she led a frivolous life?
And why oh why were all the balls in the capital suddenly so boring?
This short story can be read on its own or as a side story in The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning historical fantasy series inspired by late nineteenth-century life.
Begins twenty-two years before Rebirth. Written as part of the 100 Darkfics challenge cycle.
"Are you sure you want to talk to him?" her brother asked dubiously. "He is working these days in the Eternal Dungeon."
"Oh, I know all about that," she said dismissively, in order to impress her brother. "It need not affect matters. We are only meeting briefly, and I am so very bored, Harold."
Her brother grinned and said that he expected so, since this was hardly the sort of event she was accustomed to attending. He made the introduction and then, curse him, he went off to talk with the prison's Keeper, who, as it turned out, had a beautiful, grown daughter.
She and her erstwhile suitor discussed the weather. She was quite careful to avoid mentioning any connection between the weather and crime waves. She was congratulating herself on keeping the conversation well away from dangerous topics when they were interrupted by a commoner who wished to wring her suitor's hand. The commoner was crying, she realized with discomfort.
"Never thought I'd thank you," said the commoner to her companion. "Never thought I'd do anything but slit your throat. But it made a difference, my time in the Eternal Dungeon. It made all the difference in the world, I vow by all that is sacred. I've lived a straight life since then my wife can testify to that."
Her companion demurred, saying something about playing only a small role in such matters.
The commoner, however, shook his head. "Nay," he replied. "That's what they say out here in the lighted world, that it's the Torturers we have to look out for. But it's you guards who carry out the Torturers' orders, and how you do so makes all the difference. If you'd been harsh to me, or cruel or indifferent, then nothing my Torturer said would have swayed me. But you were always civil to me you treated me like a man, not like a miserable criminal. And once I'd seen what it was like to be treated as a man, I thirsted for it, sir. I truly did. I began to think how I might live that way. So what the Torturer said to me, that made a mark. But only because of how you'd treated me, first-off."
This was, to say the least, a disconcerting speech. She made a private resolve to ask her brother afterwards what this was about. Surely all that took place in the Eternal Dungeon was that prisoners were tortured until they confessed to their crimes?
Her companion was apologetic, once the commoner had left. "I had not meant for you to be exposed to such dark matters," he said.
Paradoxically for she had already regretted asking to be introduced to him she found herself saying angrily, "I should think it would be the duty of every gentlewoman in this queendom to know of how criminals are handled in prisons, since the criminals' conduct affects the lives of everyone, elite and mid-class and commoner. That is why I am here today." Which was as bold a lie as she had ever told. She resolved to make her statement true by asking her brother a few questions about the Keeper's plans for Parkside Prison.
The conversation ended then, as her brother fetched her to take her home. She was relieved, knowing that she had passed through this trial unscathed.
And so it was not a little annoying when she received a letter soon afterwards from the guard.
He apologized for being so bold, begged her forgiveness if he was creating distress in her life by contacting her. He had been struck, he said, by the remark she made about the duties of gentlewomen. . . .
¶ Available as a DRM-free multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc) or as FREE online fiction: Never.
If you're interested in following the details of my progress, my personal assistant / apprentice / foster son, Jo/e Noakes, will be retweeting his tweets on the surgery and aftermath at my Twitter account. If anything major and unexpected happens, he'll also post a longer notice at my blog/list.
I'm not sure at this point how long my recovery period from the surgery will be; most likely I'll be getting back to work very gradually. If I can, I'll post my usual holiday gift story on time. Otherwise, I'll see you folks next year.
As usual when I'm offline, Noakes will be monitoring my e-mail.
Please mark any urgent e-mail with the subject heading "Time-sensitive."
A cycle of historical fantasy series about disreputable men on the margins of society, and the men and women who love them. The novels are set in an imaginary version of Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic states between the 1880s and 1910s. One of the series in the cycle, Waterman, combines elements of the 1910s with retrofuturistic imagery from the 1960s.
He vowed himself to his god. Now the god is growing impatient . . . A fantasy series on friendship, romance, and betrayal in times of war and peace.
A soldier courts a young woman on the eve of battle. An aircar chauffeur tests the boundaries of his enslavement. A despairing captive in a Renaissance prison must choose whether to obey the deadly command of a lord. . . . Speculative fiction on friendship, romance, and faithful service amidst hardship and transformation.
The hidden secrets underlying ordinary contemporary life.
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Constructive criticism, enquiries, and idle chit-chat may be sent to
Dusk Peterson at
duskpeterson(at)fastmail.fm. Please note that I am generally online only
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Noakes; please mark any urgent e-mail with the subject heading "Time-sensitive."
(See also this notice.)