Excerpt from Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling–Chapter One

While I’m querying Eastside Hedge Witch, I thought I’d post excerpts from my current WIP. This one is based on the Ballad of Tam Lin. The original Beauty and the Beast is loosely based on Tam Lin, so is Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses.

In the original ballad, a young woman named Janet plucks a rose from a forest in Carterhaugh, Scotland. An elf (or fae) Knight named Tam Lin appears and tells her to stop picking roses from his wood and how dare she even come around without his permission. Janet tells him she’ll do as she pleases because her daddy is the lord of the lands. Still, she finds Tam Lin hot and takes him for a lover. The big problem with that is that Tam Lin is already the fairy queen’s man.

Janet ends up pregnant. When her father suspects she’s carrying a baby he presses his knights to find out which one got her pregnant. Janet is having none of that. Instead of letting her father marry her off to just any old dude, Janet tells her father she didn’t take no mortal idiot to bed, she found an elf knight with an awesome horse and all sorts of cool stuff.

She doesn’t go begging Tam Lin to marry her. She goes back to the wood looking for an herb to abort the child. She’s not ashamed of their union, but she can’t raise a kid without her father’s support. Tam Lin begs her not to kill the baby ‘got between’ them. He tells her he used to be human. Then he says that the fairy queen is going to sacrifice him to the devil as a tithe. He says if she pulls him off his horse and holds on to him until he turns into a coal, then throws him into a well, he’ll become a man again.

Janet literally has to hold on to her man to keep him. She does and that’s where the story ends.

My story takes place five hundred years after Tam Lin’s true love rescues him from the fairy queen. It is the story of their last living descendent and his own run in with the fae:


Here’s an excerpt from Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling:


This was it. 

They were breaking up.

What was a skinny, ginger, word nerd, ghostwriting to make ends meet, doing with a professional baseball player/model let alone asking for more, Tom asked himself. His throat tightened and tears pricked the back of his eyes. He regretted what he’d said last night as he watched Ariel swipe a large hand over sculpted features, pausing over his mouth as if the big man had to physically hold back the words until he found the least hurtful ones. 

He could kick himself for admitting he wanted a commitment, wanted a promise of some sort that this was for the long haul. Ariel had a perfect blend of looks: strong nose, long-lashed eyes, high cheekbones, killer jaw, and full set of shapely lips, and the body of a bronze god. Ariel was kind and sweet, and had the best stories about growing up in ‘el campo’ of the Dominican Republic. He listened well and was smart enough to appreciate some of Tom’s more esoteric writing.

Why did Tom have to fuck it up with asking for some sort of public commitment?  

Instead of speaking the words Tom didn’t want to hear, Ariel reached a well-muscled arm behind himself and pulled a letter out of his back pocket. He handed it over. Face unreadable.

Tom eyed the envelope suspicious and somewhat surprised the talkative athlete would hand the writer the Dear John letter when he didn’t admit he was in a relationship publically, yet. In a day and age anyone could take a photo of the letter and post it on social media, it would be a risk. Ariel trusted him, which would warm Tom’s heart. What did that trust mean if it were all going to end anyway?

Ariel’s supple mouth spread in a teasing grin, and then he let out a raucous chuckle. “Dude, it isn’t gonna bite. Go on. Open it, papi.”

Tom let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding and crossed the living space of the apartment they sublet from one of Ariel’s friends to his desk. Among bobbleheads of his favorite science fiction, comic book, and anime characters, and haphazard piles of books, Tom found a letter opener one of his professors gave him upon graduating from the MFA program. Along the seam of the letter opener, an inscription read, “Bearer of Glad Tidings.” A joke on the professor’s part because it was King Arthur’s fabled sword in miniature. Back when writers and publishers sent letters instead of emails, the professor had used the letter opener on envelopes containing more rejection letters than acceptance. He gave it with the note that he hoped Tom would have better luck with it. Tom used the Excalibur miniature to open bills but now sliced open the envelope with satisfying precision. 

Inside the envelope were several travel brochures for Ireland. Advertisements for tours with pictures of castles and ruins, lakes, and lots of green rolling hills and for villages and cities he’d never heard of. On the cover of a pamphlet for Ulster Extras Tours, a man who looked like he could star in a show about highlanders or vikings caught Tom’s attention. The man had dark silky hair, tons of jewelry like an 80’s rock star, and long lean-muscled body that looked like it could easily wield a sword or guitar. Next to the Irish Adonis, a petite, red-haired woman with ample proportions held a shield and sword. Her short plaid kilt revealed muscular legs, pale as ivory. Tom had never labeled himself gay because, on occasion, a woman like that would turn his head, and he’d just melt for her. 

A woman like that had brought him together with the man that hovered nervously nearby. Kelsey had served as a bridge, but she’d been exhausting and demanding, talked over them whenever they went out. She treated what happened in the bedroom like her fantasy scenario. 

Ariel and Tom had found themselves doing dinner or movies without her, enjoying each other’s company.  Kelsey lost her original allure, and Tom had found himself wanting it to be just him and Ariel all the time. For weeks, he’d worked himself up to ask Ariel if they could be not exactly exclusive, but that their dates stopped including Kelsey. Fortunately, he never had to have the conversation. 

Kelsey announced she’d moved on to another triad the day Ariel proposed they all move in together. So, instead of the three of them sharing the apartment and each other, it became the two, and it had been fantastic.    

 An airline boarding pass fell from one of the brochures. One boarding pass with his name on it in bold print. Tom sifted through the rest looking for Ariel’s ticket but only found a meal voucher and something regarding pre-paid travel insurance.   

He furrowed his brows, unsure of what this meant. “Are we going on vacation?”

“Remember how you found out you weren’t German like your adoptive family after all? I got this cousin who does ancestry stuff. I gave her that test you took. She’s set up a whole trip. Except, the movie extra tour. I booked that. I thought you might like a break from history and have some fun.”

It had to be the most creative and considerate breakup Tom had ever experienced. He felt like someone sat on his chest and sprayed vinegar in his eyes. He took a deep breath, but it didn’t help. His voice cracked when he asked, “Alone?”

Ariel bit his lip, brown eyes puppy-dogging. “I can’t go, pap-o. I got spring training.” He grasped Tom’s shoulders, thick fingers pressing into the smaller man’s flesh. There was so much strength in those hands, but the hold was reassuring, not threatening. Ariel’s feelings were always so clear. It was almost as if he could superimpose them on Tom’s. Right now it seemed as if Ariel was reassuring both of them it was going to be okay. “This is an opportunity to learn about your people. Who knows? You might come up with a story or two while you’re there.” He smiled, broadly, revealing perfect white teeth. “Imagine all the men in kilts like on that one show we watch.”

Tom’s gaze landed on the brochure with the highlander-looking man and redhead. “It’s Ireland, not Scotland.”

“They film historical flicks there, Mr. Pedantic.” Ariel pressed his full lips to the tip of Tom’s nose. “Flip as many of those kilts you like and have some fun.”



Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Image by Susann Mielke from Pixabay


To hear a lovely rendition of the Ballad of Tam Lin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3yTEUnyYDA


Buy Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HX91MYD

Published by Tammy Deschamps

Tammy loves to build worlds with words, exploring themes the effect of diaspora on the generations born elsewhere than their ancestors with the backdrop of tech or magic and dragons (sometimes both). These stories are inspired by her own family's immigrant experience. She's queer and many of her characters fall somewhere on the LGBTQIA spectrum (though that is not the focus of her work). She's married to an engineer who dances. Together they are raising three precocious teens in the Seattle suburbs. Two of her children are neurodiverse. Her experiences have taught her as much about the world, its beauties and its injustices. All of this comes through in her fiction with a healthy dose of absurd humor.

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