The Traveller bites their lip and nods their appreciation. After a second’s hesitation, and without another word, they join the Keeper at the line and begin hanging the wash. Their fingers linger on the fabric, so soft and shimmering, woven from starlight and space dust. Her home traps so much light, so she spins it into threads. It’s satisfying for it to go to good use, and the robe looks lovely on the Traveller, their warm brown skin emerging from the amorphous golden-white wraps.
“Thank you,” the Keeper says. The last time anyone volunteered to help was eons ago. Two million, five hundred sixty-three thousand, four hundred and eighty-nine days ago, to be exact.
The Traveller nods again and drapes a sheet with deft, practiced movements. When they speak again, there is a wistful tone in their voice. “I used to help my mother with the laundry. We hung it outside in the summer, and by the fireplace in the winter. Fourteen sets of clothes, every week. I’m sure you can imagine how long it took to match the socks.”
“That’s the benefit of living alone in the bottom of a black hole. No one cares whether you match your socks.” The Keeper gives them with a conspiratorial wink, and hikes up the edge of her skirt just enough to show the different patterned footwear.
This scene is from Storge’s second draft, in chapter 9. The Laine family is hiding after Luca and Grace revealed their powers during The Arena Attack, which you can read here. 1100 words, no content warnings. I hope you enjoy this look into my magic system!
“Luca, what in all of Laoche’s Lands do you think you’re doing?” Grace asked, flinging open the door of the apartment. Luca jumped, dropping a metal knot with a clatter.
“Um.” He fumbled for the puzzle and tried to hide it behind his back, but she snatched the still-glowing object before he could pull it from her reach. It buzzed with the magic, warm to the touch, and she clamped her hands around it as if silencing a bell. The feeling transferred into her fingertips and arms, pins and needles that danced along her skin, a surge of life. Then it dissipated, and the metal cooled again.
“Enne noticed your practice,” she said, handing it back to him.
“Only Enne can hear the magic,” Luca protested.
“We don’t know that. Besides, Acheran feels magic with his wings. What’s stopping others from noticing too?”
Luca sighed. “There’s nothing else I can help with, and mom and dad won’t let me come find work with them. I’m bored out of my mind and I just thought…” He trailed off. He let his fingers idly dance over the puzzle’s edges, but didn’t release his power. “It was a stupid thought. I’m sorry. That could have put us in danger. I’ve worried Enne, haven’t I.”
“Annoyed, yes, worried, maybe. I don’t see any guards banging on the front door, do you?” Luca gave her a half-smile at that, and she sat cross-legged next to him. “What were you trying to do?”
Wait, do not walk away! Don’t wander off to play! You think you’ve heard this tale before? You think this rhyme will be a bore? Please give me but a fighting chance. I bet two cents you’ll be entranced.
This poem tells the story of one eccentric fellow who lived a rather eventful life (and afterlife)! Jack of Fables is the name I’ve given to the character behind the stories of Jack in the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Killer, Jack be Nimble, Stingy Jack, Jack and Jill went up a hill, Jack O’Lantern, and Jack Frost. His story has been sitting in my phone notes since 2015, and I’ve been itching for a chance to tell it ever since. It made the perfect candidate for a newsletter launch giveaway as a short story, but when I put pen to paper, I found that poetry fit better, and had a ton of fun writing this new rhyming version. A special thanks to my good friend Siarven for beta reading this!
I did this illustration as a “cover” and a teaser for the story! Can you find the symbols from each of the fables I mentioned in the last paragraph? If you haven’t signed up for my mailing list yet, here is the link to do so. Once you sign up and confirm subscription, the first email should be sent right away. I hope you enjoy reading!
Runaways is my middle-grade portal fantasy novel, currently in the drafting stage. If you’re unfamiliar with its plot and characters, you can find an introduction to the story and read its first lines on the WIP Page. This scene comes from near the middle of the story, once Hannah has finally reached the faerie realm in search of her younger sister. 1447 Words, CW for glamour/illusions.I hope you enjoy reading!
The guards led Hannah from the cavern through a dark tunnel that twisted one way, then another. She tentatively reached one hand out to follow along the wall, and they didn’t stop her. It didn’t help her sense of direction. The walls of the tunnel occasionally caved out into branching pathways, and they turned so many times, Hannah was sure they must have retraced their path twice or thrice. Seashells in the woods wouldn’t help her find her way home. A spool of golden string did Theseus no good sitting back at home. She doubted there were seashells aplenty or string long enough to find the way through this maze.
Something roared. Distant growling grew louder as her captors forced her ever forward. Hannah didn’t dare slow her steps, even as dread knotted in her stomach. But her fears were unfounded as finally, the earth took a sharp slant upwards, and they emerged out of a cave behind a waterfall. The thunder of water echoed off the rocks, and she let out a sigh of relief as she realized it wasn’t a monster. The mist sprayed in her face as they rounded the barrier and emerged into a forest of blazing red. Autumn leaves graced the branches of trees that towered unbelievably high. She craned her neck, but couldn’t see the end.
A million twinkling stars hung in the dark sky. A galaxy of fireflies lit the clearing with dancing lights. The stone path continued before them, lined by wildflowers that grew as high as her waist. Garlands that held golden lanterns lined the path as well and drew the attention of diaphanous gossamer moths. They flitted about the party, and one even landed on her hair. Hannah couldn’t stifle a laugh of delight as it perched on her head. She caught the lead guard grinning at her out of the corner of her eye, clearly pleased that she enjoyed the spectacle.
In the distance, the sights and sounds of a gathering solidified into the form and sounds of a palace. The guards marched her up the front steps, through the towering columns, and through the throng of gawking fae. Hannah could scarcely watch before they spun away in a mad dance. It felt like Masquerade. Each played the phantom, and she the unwitting attendant. The music soared and twisted, a lively melody that wound around her and pulled her into the intoxicating revelry. She resisted the urge to twirl in time with the tune. If she began, she could not stop, and for the first time, she was thankful for her guards pulling her on ever forward to her destination. She clapped her hands over her ears. What if the piper was here? As part of the band, with his mask of a face, and colorful clothes, he’d fit right into the motley crowd.
As she entered the throne room, she thought maybe she shouldn’t be thankful they brought her to yet another trial. Two thrones stood atop a raised dais in a semi-circular room. Servants hurried to bring trays of food to their monarchs. The queen sat distinguished in a silvery celestial gown and enjoying delicacies, dropping no fruit on her dress. She had a wild look in her large golden eyes, indigo skin that marbled with violet, and black hair that spilled over her shoulders like clouds of ink. Her wings were like Luna moth’s, huge and pale green, and she held a glass of chocolate wine just in danger of tipping over.
If the queen embodied night, the king personified day. He sprawled across her lap, leaning casually sideways in the throne they shared. Dark freckles stood out like sunspots on pale yellow skin. A tousle of golden curls framed his face, crowned with a wreath of ivy. He wore a plum colored robe and sandals that now dangled from his feet. One hand held a glass of sparkling champaign, and the other held a leg of meat. He laughed with an attendant, and his dark eyes flashed with enjoyment.
“Now what do we have here?” Hummed the queen.
The guard that had been leading Hannah stepped up to speak with a sharp salute, lifting the beetle wings high and proud. “We found this one at the northern gate. Fell through fighting one of the Piper’s agents. Said she wasn’t a spy. Looking for a changeling. Told her we’d let you decide.”
“Well done, soldier!” said the king. “What fun, what excitement! A wonderful opportunity!”
Hannah shuddered to wonder what that meant. She took a step back, abruptly sober and wary.
“May we have your name, little one?” The queen crooned. Hannah set her jaw. She prepared for this.
“You may not have my name, but you may call me Maria,” She answered. There were millions of Marias in the world and they bore a good name – a safe, powerful, beautiful one, but not hers.
“Let us offer you these sweet cakes then, Maria,” The king said. A platter materialized out of the air, filled with luscious tarts.
“I humbly decline, for I had my meal at home.”
They grinned, an identical, sharp-toothed grin. “What do you seek from the Seelie Court of Autumn?” The queen asked.
“Which do you want?” the king asked, “For there are many.”
“My dear,” the queen purred, “You’ll have to be more specific than that.”
Yes, she would need to be exacting in her request, lest they pull a horrid trick on her for their amusement. Lest they endanger Cec- her sister. Best to avoid even thinking her name in their presence. Who knew what they could do?
“I believe your people took my sister last night during the thunderstorm, between the hours of midnight and four today. She spoke of the Piper, and his flutes on the wind. I couldn’t hear his music, because he didn’t come for me. She vanished the next morning. I wish for her freedom to return to our home and our parents.”
“You wish, hmmmmmm?” The king mused. “We do not owe you a wish, but yours is a noble plea.”
Her heart leap with hope. Would they consider?
“Why?” the queen asked.
Why? A million reasons, but should she reveal her heart now? Hannah ventured for a safe answer. “Because our mother and father will be cross with us if we return late for dinner,”
“Why?” Insisted the king.
Hannah’s stomach turned as they pressed into her with that driving tone. The facade of indulgent amusement dropped like taking off a mask, leaving behind hard, angry eyes. Why did they toy with her? Was her request so unreasonable?
“Because she left without a word, and I am worried for her.”
“Why?” Hissed the queen.
“Because I miss her. Because I love her.”
They gave her those same, sharp-toothed grins again. Hannah wanted to slap those smiles right off their silly little faces. She held her breath as they waited for an agonizingly long moment before the king spoke.
“How do you know her, when you cannot call her by name?”
Around her appeared a dozen figures–girls that all looked exactly like Hannah’s sister. They all gazed at her with wild, desperate expressions. She shrunk back, but more popped up behind her. Hannah scowled at the ring of possible imposters as she realized the trick. One would be the truth, trapped in the game. The others would be illusions. She had to choose.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to steady herself.
“I know her by her footsteps when she creeps into my room at night to watch the thunderstorms.” They took a step towards her, menacing. Those three, those were wrong. Hannah snapped open her eyes and banished several of the imposters. With a wave of her hand, they vanished into a puff of smoke.
“I know my sister by her laugh when I tell her a terrible pun,” Hannah said. The girls all laughed, seemingly on command. She couldn’t tell apart individual voices, but there was a silence from one side as one didn’t laugh. She had said nothing funny. Banished. Vanished. Smoke.
“I know her by her kindness when she sneaks our cats extra treats. I know her by her competitiveness when she jumps off the top of a maple tree to beat me in a race.” One flinched at the idea of breaking bones, but her sister never hesitated with heights. Banished. Vanished. Smoke.
One remained. Hannah locked eyes with it through the smoke and her eyes stung with tears. “I know my sister,” she repeated. “And she knows me.”
Welcome to the world of Laoche! This is the home of all the stories in the (appropriately named) Laoche Chronicles, including a main trilogy (that has yet to be named) and the prequel, Storge. I first came up with the story in middle school, and as I learned more about the writing process, realized that I would need to write the prequel first to set everything up for the series. Now, I’m returning to my original concept, and revising it, which includes some updated worldbuilding and a new approach to my process.
All of this would be explained in-story as well as the reader follows along with the main characters going about their lives and navigating the conflict, so this isn’t strictly necessary to know before getting into the story. However, I’ve found that explaining it in an informational way like this helps people understand what on earth I’m talking about online, so I wanted to share. I also hope that a case-study like this will help be an example of what works (and what doesn’t) when you’re making a high/epic fantasy. 🙂
To start I’m going to share a map, so that all of these locations actually make sense.
When I first revisited this story, I realized that A) I’d lost most of my notes when that thumb-drive got stolen in 10th grade, and B) Most of it was pretty cliche, since I was 14 when I came up with it. So I pitched everything but the premise and my three favorite characters to start over from scratch:
The Premise: Madelyn (a mage with malfunctioning magic) and Seth (ex-prince of Arga) discover a magical artifact that changes how they view magic, and shifts the balance of power in the world, then have to deal with the ensuing fallout.
The scariest part of the season was the exams. The library sat like an empty tomb, devoid of any life as the campus citizens escaped to revelries and momentarily forgot their impending day of reckoning. She set up in the window seat, spreading papers around her as the chai at her elbow growing colder by the minute from the draft. As the leaves turned to wreaths of gold and garnet, she found her mind drifting to more magical times and her fingers straying to the battered storybook at her side. Studies forgotten, she lost herself in the imagery and ink.
He haunted the forest. Every year, without fail, tourists disappeared with the cold weather and seasonal stories of spooks. Children would double and triple dare each other to brave its borders. He watched them scatter with amusement as he hiked through his home. He scavenged the dead branches for firewood, picked the last of the allspice berries for the life that they carried, and build small altars to the Creator as he passed to win its protection for him and his sister. Superstition. Spirits. Maybe this year would be the one he met the ghosts that supposedly protected this wood.
He studied in the graveyard, for both reminder and motivation. Exhaustion dulled the sharpness of his wit and the peace of the place pulled him towards slumber. He didn’t wear a coat against the cold. Too close to failure, so close to success, the stakes driven into his heart – keeping his family fed, and safe, and warm was all that mattered. There was never enough time. He wondered how the names around him used their time. What would he be doing if he weren’t here? His page stretched empty before him. Why did he always have more questions than answers?
He didn’t need a mask or a costume. The stranger slipped among the crowd of the pub to the small stage and set his fiddle case on the ground. Fingers danced over the strings and the popular tune floated over the chatter. The bow flashed. For a moment he forgot his curse. The melody tumbled over itself and rushed to a crescendo. They wouldn’t remember him tomorrow. By the end of the performance, brown replaced the red and new scars dotted his face but he didn’t feel them. A walking ghost. They would remember the music, but never his face.
He spends the afternoon building – the house he inherited made the better for those that would visit. Lights to lead the way, mulled cider to warm and welcome, and treats for any who asked. The winter would be hard but he would make sure his people would have a reason for hope, for fun, and for community, before retreating to their dens. Soon, ghosts, monsters, and characters of all sorts would come by his door, his sword would be ready at his side. And when the young heroes and princesses arrived, he would bow to those greater than he.
I’m excited to be able to introduce some of the main cast of The Laoche Chronicles! I put up polls on my tumblr and IG earlier this week, and you all chose “modern drabbles” for the Halloween Special post, so I hope you enjoyed these! I wanted each of them to be exactly 100 words and a story-accurate snapshot into these character’s personalities while sticking to the spooky theme, which was a really fun challenge since I’m not very used to writing short fiction. What do you think? Which character’s piece was your favorite, and which do you want to learn more about? Let me know in the comments, and have a very Happy Halloween! 🙂