Chapter 1: Nonbinary Howl Pendragon
The post that started it all, from an ask by metal-arm-bitch-moved that said simply:
"Concept: Non-binary Howl Pendragon"
Howl, what’s your gender? Wizard. No, but what’s in your pants? MAGIC.
Nonbinary Howl Pendragon who kicks ass at Rugby but is never exactly “one of the lads”
Nonbinary Howl Pendragon who took the move to Ingary to experiment with gender presentation, who felt more comfortable at first bc the standards of masculinity and femininity are different in Ingary than they were in Wales
Nonbinary Howl Pendragon who grows their hair longer and pierces their ears and starts to love makeup and is allowed to experiment safely bc the worst they gets is “wow, what a dramatic shit” (which is true, Howl IS a dramatic shit).
Nonbinary Howl Pendragon who catches a falling star that has no concept of gender and asks for an explanation that Howl can’t give. Howl shrugs and slithers out of answering, and Calcifer takes the pronouns Howl is using and seems happy enough with them.
But Howl starts to wonder, to blame Calcifer for making them think. Maybe Calcifer’s genderlessness somehow got switched with Howl’s definitely fully formed sense of … manhood?… but no, that’s not right at all.
Nonbinary Howl Pendragon who is forced to confront a lot of things about themself, who talks to their fire demon late into the night and pieces things together
Nonbinary Howl Pendragon who comes out with a wave of their hand on the way out the door, “oh and Sophie dear, I’m not actually a man, and I might be changing pronouns, I’ll let you know about that.” Who flashes a charming smile, using flippancy to hide their fear, and leaves Calcifer to field any questions.
Nonbinary Howl Pendragon who comes home to find Sophie saying “You’ve mucked up the bathroom again, and then you left before giving me a chance to answer. You’re an absolute child. No, don’t look at me like that. Of course you’d slither out of having a gender. I should have guessed. What pronouns do you want?”
Nonbinary Howl Pendragon who sifts restlessly through pronouns, who feels more comfortable relaxing their beauty routine in private because if people know they’re not a man, they don’t feel as much pressure to compensate in the opposite direction. Who hasn’t come out to their sister yet and isn’t sure they want to. Who continues to be a little shit and find themselves at the end of Sophie’s ever-more-creative insults.
Nonbinary Howl Pendragon.
Chapter 2: Queer Sophie Hatter
amaryllis14612 asked it it was time for queer Sophie. It's ALWAYS time for queer Sophie.
Queer Sophie who notices her attraction to girls when she’s in school, but stamps it down bc stories haven’t just told her that the Oldest Of Three is supposed to fail, they’ve told her that the only Happily Ever Afters are heterosexual, and since she’s also attracted to men anyway, it oughtn’t matter.
Queer Sophie who never has to come out to her sisters because they already know; she’s not actually that subtle.
Queer Sophie who works out her queerness while talking to hats, and accidentally causes a quarter of Market Chipping to question their own sexuality whenever they’re dressed up to go out.
Queer Sophie who feels threatened by sexuality in general when her depression gets bad, who feels less threatened by it when she’s an old woman, and develops enough confidence to work through it afterwards.
Queer Sophie who accidentally tells Howl (and Michael and Calcifer) during in argument, when Howl is being dramatic about how she can’t understand the difficulty he’s gone through falling in love with different women, and she blurts out “what do you mean I can’t understand, I’m attracted to girls too, you know!”
Queer Sophie who feels instantly more comfortable when Howl retorts that “well I can be attracted to men too, that doesn’t make you special. And how many have you actually courted?”
(”Lots,” she lies without thinking, “you don’t get to be as old as I am without making a few women happy.”)
Queer Sophie who is fiercely protective of her queer family, which keeps growing as she and Howl take in queer apprentices (Michael set the perfect precedent).
Queer Sophie who is aggressively out as she becomes one of the most powerful witches in Ingary, who makes it clear she loves her dumb nonbinary wizard spouse, who takes no shit from anybody.
Chapter 3: Queer Michael Fisher
Requested by anonymous.
Queer Michael Fisher who drifts around Porthaven after his parents die, sleeping on doorsteps and taking odd jobs to make it by. He cuts his hair short so it’s easier to manage and for the first time people see him as a young boy. He doesn’t correct them. He chooses a new name.
Queer Michael Fisher who gets taken in by a wizard and a fire demon and becomes the wizard’s apprentice. Calcifer listens (whether he wants to or not) as Michael cries about his parents, and listens some more when Michael talks about gender, wonders how long he can keep Howl believing he’s a boy. “Why wouldn’t he?” Calcifer asks. “If that’s what you feel like. This is very confusing.”
Queer Michael Fisher who has read the same stories Sophie has, who knows that gender-bending stories always end with a dramatic reveal or a comedy of errors, and by that logic he’ll end up being someone’s wife sooner or later. Who braces himself for the eventuality, and dreads it more with each passing day.
Queer Michael Fisher who’s living in a wizard’s castle now; who will be going through puberty soon, who enlists Calcifer’s help in finding spells that will make it work for him, not against him. Eventually Howl and Sophie get involved, at Michael’s discretion.
Queer Michael Fisher who wanders through Market Chipping for the first time, amazed by all the pretty people of all genders. Then, out of curiosity, he joins the throng of men and women in Cesari’s, catches Martha’s eye and falls in love instantly.
Queer Michael Fisher who blanches the first time Martha brings up her plan to have ten children, who stammers “I don’t… I mean I would… I don’t know if I can do that.” Who waits with his heart in his throat as Martha frowns and thinks this through. “Could you use magic?” she asks, and when Michael answers that he’s not sure, he hadn’t thought that far ahead, Martha says “well, if you can’t, we can always adopt. It might be easier to get ten that way, anyhow.” Michael decides to ask Calcifer about it later.
Queer Michael Fisher who comes out as trans to Martha at the same time she reveals she’s not actually Lettie. They laugh in relief and release, and Martha leans forward, and then they’re kissing.
Queer Michael Fisher wears a suit as he gets married. Who starts his own wizarding practice and continues experimenting and developing new spells. Who’s a fantastic dad to twelve children (”we were GOING to stop at ten,” Martha explains, “and then we couldn’t.”).
Queer Michael Fisher.
Chapter 4: Queer Lettie Hatter
Requested by peggaboo.
Queer Lettie Hatter who, when told as a child that she was supposed to marry a man, responded with, “Well I’ll marry all the girls in Market Chipping if I want to, so there.”
Queer Lettie Hatter who will not shut up about how she is not straight for like a year when she’s twelve. She cuts her hair short, she dates a girl for three months and thinks they’ll be together forever before they break up over something stupid, because they’re twelve.
Queer Lettie Hatter who’s bi-fi is incredibly strong. She has Sophie and Martha pegged before either of them have figured it out for themselves, holds onto the information and then, when they finally say something, bursts out with “I knew it!”
Queer Lettie Hatter whose bisexuality continues meaning something new to her. First it means she’s sure to marry a girl, because people have said she can’t. Then it means she can marry whoever she damn well pleases, because she can. Then it means she doesn’t have to marry anyone, because screw expectations. She’s going to become a witch.
And then she meets Percival and is like ‘oh no
I’m a furry he’s hot’ but y’know what, Lettie Hatter does not do anything by halves, and she’s gonna own it, and do her best to get him un-cursed.
Which turns out to be a liiiiiitle more complicated than she’d first thought, and what, exactly, does it mean to be in love with someone who was actually two someone mashed together?
Queer Lettie Hatter who ties back her hair and stays up late into the night hashing things out with Suliman and Justin, who were already A Thing but who can’t deny that, as Percival, they fell in love with her too. Queer Lettie Hatter whose fully developed sense of screwing expectations comes in handy when she decides that the best solution is polyamory, because there’s no sense in disappointing everybody for the sake of splitting off into pairs.
Queer Lettie Hatter who reaches out to her queer friends in Market Chipping for advice because she’d somehow never looked into polyamory before, who shares her own experiences, who remains heavily involved in the community.
Queer Lettie Hatter who welcomes Princess Beatrice into their polycule when Justin can’t stop raving about her, who finds she quite likes the brash princess, and the two become fast friends and eventually lovers.
So the polycule consists of two of the most powerful magicians and two of the most powerful royals and that’s honestly a frightening combination. They can do ANYTHING.
Queer Lettie Hatter who never stops exploring the different dimensions of her bisexuality, who never stops building and using networks of support, who owns everything that she is.
Queer Lettie Hatter.
Chapter 5: Asexual Sophie Hatter
Requested by booksaresacredspew.
Ace Sophie who resigned herself to an eventual sex life in the same way she accepted her eventual marriage and eventual failure seeking her fortune, without bothering to think about what she actually wanted. But just because it’s going to happen someday doesn’t mean it has to happen now, and she comes up with reasons why she’s not dating anybody, why she hasn’t kissed anyone yet, why she’s not putting herself out there.
Ace Sophie who feels threatened by people finding her attractive and dressing as blandly and unflatteringly as possible. If no one takes interest in her because she dresses like an old woman, so much the better.
Howl notices her anyway, and it’s terrifying. Who is much more comfortable as an old woman and doesn’t have to worry about people’s eyes on her, or misunderstanding sexual references and intentions.
Ace Sophie who can’t help jabbing at Howl as he moons about over Lettie. “I hope you aren’t only planning on sleeping with her. You can’t just assume a girl wants that.” Howl replies “you wound me,” in such a dramatic way that Sophie can’t tell if he’s serious or not, and it makes her crosser than ever.
Ace Sophie who’s anger about falling in love with Howl is partly fueled by the fact that, she’s certain, if they do end up together and do think about sex, one or the other is going to be miserable. Easier to fry Howl with deadly weed killer than deal with that.
Ace Sophie who transforms back into a young woman, who’s so swept up in the moment that she almost forgets to be afraid, who is overjoyed to hug Howl, to be free of their respective curses, who sleeps soundly in her own corner that night, and several nights after.
Ace Sophie who’s full of pent up frustration because she doesn’t know how to talk to Howl about this, who screws up her courage and ends up announcing in the middle of a completely unrelated conversation that “I don’t want to sleep with you,” and then, in the space it takes Howl to open his mouth, add “and you’re such a self-centered brat that I bet you think it’s about you, but you’re wrong.” Who scowls as Howl turns that over and asks a few questions and finally says “But you still adore me, don’t you?”
“Of course, you idiot,” Sophie replies.
“Well, that’s all right then.”
Ace Sophie who develops all sorts of non-sexual intimacy with Howl, from hugging and cuddling, to her brushing his hair, to him peppering her shoulders with kisses to get her to relax. Who hold hands and sit on and swat at each other. Who cast complicated spells together and at each other, who set entirely more things on fire than intended, who become one of the most powerful couples in Ingary.
Chapter 6: Queer Charmain Baker
Requested by Anonymous.
Queer Charmain who knows she’s different somehow, who feels out of place in the real world so she buries herself in books. She learns to read sideways so she doesn’t feel out of place in fictional worlds too, falls completely into the stories and let’s them transport her to anywhere but the here and now, lets them turn her into somebody else. Who’s always looking for something but has no idea what.
Queer Charmain who was barely aware that being anything other than straight/cis was an option, because her parents were too Respectable to discuss it, because it was never more than a passing mention in the books she read, because she spent as little time as possible out in the world.
Queer Charmain who moves into a wizard’s house and finds herself completely out of her depth. Who hates being outdone by Peter, but is more confused than anything when he says “you can’t do laundry either? Wow, I thought I was a useless gay, but you are something else.”
“I’m not gay,” Charmain huffs. “Or useless.”
“You’re not?” Peter says, eyes going wide. “Are you sure? Is it possible to be straight and this bad at everything?”
“Of course it–” Charmain begins. “And I’m not bad at everything, either.” She doesn’t understand why Peter seems suddenly uncomfortable, and it’s not until that night when it occurs to her that he’d just said he was gay. That doesn’t seem any less respectable than doing magic, though, so she says nothing.
Queer Charmain who meets the Witch and Wizard Pendragon and, a month later, receives a parcel filled with books. Many of them are magical, but others are stories she’s never seen before; emphatically queer stories. Stories she reads and rereads, that settle between her ribs, that turn out to be that missing something.
Queer Charmain who thinks have these books turned me gay? Has magic turned me gay? What a bother!
Queer Charmain who spends a long time before telling anyone, because she’s not sure, and anyway she’s not interested in dating anyone. Who finally blurts to Peter “I think I might be gay after all. Or, well, something. There’s a lot to choose from,” and is surprised to find herself smiling to match his own wide grin.
Queer Charmain who decides that being queer is not all that different from being magic. It seems so distant and not respectable, and then suddenly you’re in the midst of it trying to find your bearings while powerful magicians give you advice, and then you realize that you are, and always were.
Chapter 7: Queer Martha Hatter
Requested by saltycontessa and anonymous.
Queer Martha who has the unique position of growing up with two queer older sisters, one oblivious (Sophie) and one VERY loud about it (Lettie), and must shape her own queerness around those personalities
Queer Martha who comes out for the first time the day after Lettie did. “I’m bisexual too,” she declares proudly at 10, only to be met with 11-year-old Lettie retorting “no, I’m bisexual, you’re copying me” to which Martha retorts “I just didn’t know about it before.” They fight, because they’re sisters and Lettie doesn’t want people invalidating her identity if Martha is treating it as a joke, and Martha just knows that it feels right. And enjoys annoying Lettie.
Queer Martha who actually does doubt herself, even if she never tells Lettie. Because what if she is just pretending in order to be a bratty younger sibling? She says nothing about it for a long time and lets the issue drop. But when she comes out as pan a few years later, Lettie responds with a gleeful “I knew it.”
Queer Martha who feels like pan suits her, and as an added bonus is a label she doesn’t have to share with her sisters.
Queer Martha who, as she grows up, finds herself drawn to the quieter areas of the queer community. Towards one-on-one education and individual support. Who, while Lettie is railing against the institution of marriage, thinks long and hard about what kind of family she wants and what’s expected of her. Who decides on her own that she wants to be married, and have children to boot.
Queer Martha who works in a bakery and makes no end of break/cake pan jokes. (“Where’s that cake pan?” “Here I am!” “DAMMIT MARTHA.”)
Queer Martha who finds the perfect husband in Michael, who settles down and adopts tons of kids just as she wanted, who is queer and comfortable and happy.
Chapter 8: Nonbinary Flower-In-The-Night
Requested by i-am-a-star-dragon.
Nonbinary Flower-In-The-Night who had no idea how varied gender or gender presentation could be until Abdullah produced 189 pictures of men. Who couldn’t tell and started asking around about who was what gender, and how you could tell.
Who, even after beginning to recognize patterns, still gets it wrong sometimes (Howl), and starts to feel more and more uncertain about where the differences actually lie. Who does not stop asking questions about gender that Abdullah does not have the answers to. Abdullah just knows that you do not question someone if they correct you about their gender, because you lose customers that way.
“Okay but what if you can’t tell if someone’s a man or a woman?” Flower-In-The-Night asks.
“You either guess or avoid naming them as either,” Abdullah answers.
“Why wouldn’t they want to look like whatever they are?”
Abdullah shrugs helplessly. “Maybe they just don’t. Maybe they’re one of those people who isn’t a man or a woman.”
“There are people like that?” Flower-In-The-Night leans forward, eager, and Abdullah explains that he’s met a few people who were neither man nor woman but who did buy carpets from him.
Nonbinary Flower-In-The-Night who can’t let the idea go, who just wants to understand. Who talks to as many princesses as they can to get the female side of things. Who learns about trans folks and nonbinary folks, and starts imagining what that would be like. Who realizes ze has no frame of reference for how any gender works.
“How do you know you’re a man?” Flower-In-The-Night asks Abdullah one night. “Other than how you look?”
“I don’t know,” Abdullah says. “I just feel like one.”
“What does that feel like?”
It takes most of a night for Abdullah to figure out how to describe how he feels gender in words to Flower-In-The-Night’s satisfaction. The conversation ends when Flower-In-The-Night says “well what if I wanted to be a man?”
“I want to try it.” And that’s how Abdullah suddenly finds himself with a husband. He doesn’t mind a bit, because he loves Flower-In-The-Night as a person (and is also definitely more bi than he’d realized). The two find clothes and spells so Flower-In-The-Night can experiment with looking more and less like a man. Flower-In-The-Night studies the situation very thoroughly, and Abdullah is, as always, impressed with zir intelligence.
A few months later, Flower-In-The-Night tells Abdullah that ze’s not sure being a man is right, and they want to try being someone who is neither. Nonbinary. Abdullah takes this in stride, and takes the opportunity to come up with even more pet names and flatteries that are specifically non-gendered.
Nonbinary Flower-In-The-Night who decides, after considering the matter very deeply, that this feels better than either of the previous options. Who keeps the appearance spells and clothes organized so ze can choose if ze wants to seem masculine or feminine or androgynous. Who takes advantage of all the options. Who chooses new pronouns because they seem comfortable, and dabbles in others.
Nonbinary Flower-In-The-Night who never stops asking questions in an attempt to understand their own and others’ genders better.
Chapter 9: Demisexual Howl Pendragon
Requested by saltycontessa for saltycount.
Demisexual Howl who loves flirting and courting and kissing and looking appealing, but never thinks of those as means to a more physical end. Who assumes sex is one of those things that people pretend to care about far more than they actually do, simply because it’s seen as improper. Who thinks his rugby mates are a bit boorish the way they go on about sex, and who unintentionally charms a few of their girls (and one or two of them) with his nonchalance.
Demisexual Howl who is too busy for sex anyway, with rugby and accelerated classwork and independent research and Dungeons and Dragons, and who also has a bad habit of pining after people who are unavailable.
Demisexual Howl who, after a few years of terrifyingly intense study under Ms. Penstemmon, remakes himself as a charming wizard. Unfortunately, he loses quite a few partners who feel slighted when he doesn’t respond to their subtle, and sometimes blatant, sexual advances. Who, being the dramatic bastard that he is, doesn’t think of communicating better, but decides that this proves he is cursed to be profoundly unlovable.
Demisexual Howl who begins a very exciting and dangerous courtship with the Witch of the Waste. The Witch comes on strong, and Howl finds himself making excuses, “no, terribly busy tonight,” “actually I’ve been studying this completely unrelated spell can you take a look,” “have to spend a few days in Wales, actually, bye!”
It turns out that slithering out of sex with a very powerful, very old, very proud, very vain witch-who-is-mostly-fire-demon is a good way to get yourself cursed.
And the Witch is ruthless. She sees Howl’s insecurity over his volatile past relationships and tells him that he will never be loved. She draws in poetry from his beloved Wales so there is nowhere for him to escape, she tempts him into great power, she calls him out on all his lying. And Howl is more scared than he’s ever been in his life.
Demisexual Howl who gives his heart to a fire demon because it doesn’t seem to work right anyway, who only later finds the word “asexual” and goes “oh. well fuck.” Who continues courting and develops a wicked reputation because he enjoys the act but his heart is literally not in it; he’s trying to make someone love him enough to break the spell but he’s not trying to love them back because he’s a trash fire. He is rather offended that everyone thinks he’s just in it for the sex.
Demisexual Howl who feels just as sexually protected by Sophie’s old age as she does. She’s given the freedom of not being seen as a sexual being, and Howl is given the freedom of not being expected to see her as one. They fight. Things catch on fire. It works.
Sophie grows young again, and Howl finds he is terribly in love.
But he’s terrible at communicating and never tells Sophie he’s asexual until they’re in the middle of an argument about what being a couple even means. Sophie says “you could have told me, instead of me spending months thinking I was doing something wrong!” Then she laughs and says “and to think Fanny made such a fuss about it.”
Demisexual Howl who is never particularly sexually motivated but discovers he does like being intimate with Sophie. Once he watches Sophie chase off a particularly persistent noble who expects Howl to pander to his every whim, and suddenly realizes what it is he’s feeling. For the once and only time in his life, he manages to be smooth around Sophie, he pulls her into his arms and says “I think I know what sexual attraction is now.”
Sophie snorts and says “wonderful, but you really ought to do your own dirty work. Honestly, you’d think you just keep me around to shout at people.”
Howl flusters for a good fifteen seconds, then kisses her deeply.
Chapter 10: Ace Lesbian Charmain Baker
Requested by falliblefabrial.
Ace Lesbian Charmain who was always drawn to the female characters in her books. Who would read about her favorites over and over, and talk about them whenever anyone would listen, and doodle them in the margins of her notebooks. “Is that who you want to be?” her mother asked, and Charmain said yes even though that wasn’t quite right. It was more like she wanted them to hug her while she read, and then tell her more stories in person.
Ace Lesbian Charmain who sits in the park reading one day, and doesn’t glance up from her book for hours. Then she does, when she gets to the end, and sees a few pretty girls her age, laughing and walking, and thinks oh and then oh dear, though she doesn’t know why. She quickly flips back several pages and reads the last few chapters again. When she next looks up, the girls are gone, and she’s not sure if she’s relieved or disappointed.
Ace Lesbian Charmain who reads anything that’s put in front of her, but becomes more and more annoyed with heterosexual endings and the male characters in romances (who don’t seem romantic at all). Who closes more and more books with a slightly sour taste in her mouth that she can’t quite place.
Ace Lesbian Charmain who has a rule not to skip anything in a book… but makes an exception for sex scenes. Because they’re gross and awkward and never have anything to do with the plot anyway.
Ace Lesbian Charmain who, while reading in the Royal Library, occasionally complains to Princess Hilda about the books that rub her the wrong way, and Hilda, who had been getting baby lesbian vibes off her from the very beginning, begins recommending literature and histories that are queer in content and sensibility.
They go over particularly well.
And this leads to Charmain becoming the recipient of Hilda’s collected lesbian wisdom. She learns about the marriage proposals Hilda turned down, and hears the impassioned declarations about heteronormativity she’s got pent up. If there were more lesbians in Royal Circles, Hilda says, politics would look a lot better for everyone. Charmain is inclined to agree.
Ace Lesbian Charmain who takes a while to adopt labels for herself because while she likes the words, there’s always a part of her that doesn’t want the story to be about her. And yet. And yet. Lesbian, she tries out, and thinks about the girls in the park and the world Hilda has been teaching her about, and she decides to keep it. Asexual, she tries out, and she thinks about how she would rather do literally anything other than have sex, and how she’s never once felt inclined to try even with the girls who captivate her attention. She keeps that too.
Ace Lesbian Charmain who, one day, becomes the head of the largest collected queer and magic and queer magic books in several countries, and is very satisfied with herself.
Ace Lesbian Charmain.