I wrote a thing for a prompt linkup! It once again involves weird fairies and even weirder people, to the surprise of absolutely no one! Anyway, here, have an absolutely awful part-time assassin badly attempting to make up with her brother
I feel like all of my characters are very autistic-coded. I don’t know if these two come across as autistic, but I know in my heart that they are ❤ Also, yes, everyone in this story is aromantic, I don’t make the rules (I mean, I do, I’m the author, but you know what I mean).
Henry Zheng often said that he would welcome his sister back with open arms whenever she came to her senses, but when Marian finally showed up at his door, looking much like a wet dog left out in the rain, he very nearly slammed the door in her face.
He could not bring himself to be so hardhearted, however. He understood what must become of a woman left on the streets with no connections, and he would not bring such a thing on his sister, no matter how little care she may show both to others and to her own reputation. How he wished she were a man. She might have been happier, then, and he would have been able to leave her there on the doorstep. But she was not a man, so he only stared her down for a few moments before allowing her inside and brewing her some tea.
She wore some ridiculous green gown, something that the lionhearted Marian from the medieval story may have worn. He remembered back when Marian used to wish to be able to wear fashionable clothing. She sat down on the armchair, the red one with the rip down the back of it. Marian still looked the same as when she had left him, with her wild hair and her pale, oval face, and her dark eyes that people said shined with an otherworldly sort of look. He had always been a prosaic person, himself, but even he had to admit that there was something odd about them. A mystic’s eyes, his father had always said about her.
“Well, this cottage is much as I remembered it,” Marian said, more to break the silence than anything else, most likely. Henry had not changed a thing since his father died and he inherited the place, not even bothering to fix the spot in the roof that always leaked. “You never settled down and found a wife for yourself? I always thought you might do well with Agnes.”
He’d always thought—most unkindly—that Agnes was a sweet girl, without much substance, though he knew in the back of his head that he would not dislike her half so much if half the people he knew didn’t subtly try to push them together. “I’m not inclined towards marriage,” he said coldly.
“Oh, neither am I,” she said, not perturbed at all by his tone. “And here I thought I was the only one on this earth not inclined to fall in love in the slightest. Is it not amusing how…” Her voice trailed off at his expression.
“You ran away with some fairy prince,” Henry bit out. “I had to listen to everyone speak of how you had run off to live out of wedlock with some traveler passing through town. And—” His voice shook, which was embarrassing. “You never once came back. You never even wrote.” He knew the last complaint was childish, for it wasn’t like she’d have much opportunity to send a letter way down in the barrows below, was it? And yet it still stung. “If not for the letter you left on the mantle, I would never have known what had become of you, Marian. So tell me, what motivation did you have, if not love?”
Marian’s face froze. She rested her chin in her hand, brow furrowed. “Well, I would never love him romantically,” she said. “I mean, I am very fond of him, and he is fond of me, but that is simple friendship.”
Henry struggled to remember how to speak, with the anger clouding his mind so. “So you ran away for friendship?” he asked finally. Henry had never considered any friend to be more important than his family, but perhaps he was simply not cut from the same cloth. He poured the tea into the only teacup that wasn’t chipped, and handed it to her without a word.
He wished things could go back to how they were as children, when they would play by the riverside, and Marian would say awful things about their neighbors while she dragged her fingers through the filthy river water, and he would say nothing. He had gone down to that riverside a few months after she left, but it carried nothing of Marian. It was just a river.
“And he thought I was very good at killing things,” she said brightly. “I suppose you’ve never had to assassinate anyone before. I cannot say I recommend it. It tends to be very messy.”
This was all a little much to take in. He tried to imagine Marian, a gun in her hands, or perhaps a knife, and he found that he could. She always had been the more ruthless of the two of them. “Do tell me, is the Prince in the Barrows a good friend?” he asked. “Because he sounds like he must be absolutely charming.”
Marian tilted her head, considering. “Oh, he is,” she said. Henry gave up hope for their relationship once and for all. “Wicked by a mortal’s standard, surely, but very charming.” She finally caught his meaning. She leaned back, crossing her legs. “You were being sarcastic.”
Henry refused to respond. They sat in silence for several minutes, which probably was more awkward for him than for Marian.
Marian was much more confident than he remembered her. She seemed to him to be the sort of woman who would lead armies. It bothered him, the idea that she had changed so much and he had not changed at all.
“You know I could never have stayed, Henry,” she said. “To live as a proper woman, and get married, and be a mother! I would rather not live at all, and what other choice existed for me?”
Henry stared resolutely at the mantle. It really needed to be dusted. The whole house could use it. The place was starting to look uninhabited.
“And the whole town looked askance at me because my parents came from China, and because—well, I will admit that I am a little odd,” she said, squaring her shoulders. “But being odd is hardly a sin, and everyone treats it like it is.” She turned the teacup in her hands, chewing on her lip as she stared off into nothing. “The Prince in the Barrows never cared for any of those things. What would he do, judge me for being odd?” A note of affectionate scorn came into her voice.
He had been through most of the same things that she had, and yet he had never run away with a fairy prince.
He never meant to yell at her, but he fancied it really was more than any man could bear. “You say no other choice existed,” Henry snarled, “but I would have provided for you! If things were bad for you, I would have been there by your side! Why did you not confide in me, if you felt you had no other choice?” He stopped short at the sight of her tearstained cheeks. “Marian,” he said gently.
“I love you,” Marian said. “How could I not love you? I would be unnatural if I had no love for my brother. And whatever happens, whatever you or I do, you’re still my brother.” She lifted a trembling hand to her brow. “But I could never be happy in this place. I hope you know I am sorry, Henry,” she added anxiously. “I came here to apologize, and then when I saw you, I couldn’t. But I’m apologizing now.”
He shook his head. “I understand,” he said quietly. In truth, he understood her a little more than he liked. “You won’t be staying, will you?”
She stilled. “No, Henry,” she said. She took a deep, shuddering breath. “I must leave soon. But I can stay for a night.”
He still found it hard to convince himself that she cared a whit for him, and he still found himself angry at her. But she was finally here, at least. He had never expected even that.
He might not ever find it in himself to forgive her, but he could never turn her away. “Then stay,” he said. She smiled at him, and he smiled back, neither of them happy. But he was not nearly so sorrowful as he had been the past five years, so perhaps that was enough.
Anyway, tell me what you think! I hated this at first but I’m starting to get a little fonder of it lmao. I’m almost tempted to turn this into something longer, but I think it’s staying a short story for now? Probably???
Okay first off I am so sorry for writing a short story that requires lore to understand. But if you don’t know anything about Gareth and Lynet, I think this story will really make more sense if you read the Wikipedia page about the story. This works out for me, because I really want more people to learn about Lynet! *insert evil laughter here or something*
Anyway, spoilers for a seven hundred year old (or something, I can’t be bothered to count) story: Beaumains is actually Gareth, Gawain’s little brother, in disguise as a kitchen boy for reasons known only to himself. Also you know how Arthur killed babies or something in an attempt to murder Mordred because of the whole prophecy thing and then it was never addressed again in Le Morte D’Arthur? Well, this story is my attempt at (sort of) addressing it.
(Also Gareth has ADHD in this. I don’t go into it too much in this story but yeah forgetting which conversations I’ve had including ones like ‘did I ever tell you about that time one of my family members tried to murder the other one’ is 100% something I would do.)
Here’s my pinterest board for these two characters! Also, I have an AO3 account now? (Also I have nothing to say about my username other than that my sister encouraged me and thus may also be held responsible. Obscure Arthurian in-jokes for the win I guess???) I don’t have anything posted on it so far besides this story, but I do want to write more fanfic, so hopefully I can change that assuming I can write fanfic that I can also convince myself to publish.
Also, on a more serious note, I found this NPR article listing charities doing work in Ukraine that you can donate to!
Lynet was ashamed to admit that she woke up much closer to Beaumains than she had ever meant to get in her life, and even more ashamed to find that he had woken up first. She had thrown an arm over him in her sleep.
She pulled away from him, face uncomfortably hot. Wind howled softly high up in the trees around the clearing. The night air was cold against her skin, making the hair on her arms prickle, and only a few flames guttered in the campfire by now. Lynet wrapped her cloak around herself, not having the energy to try to build the fire back up.
“I’m sorry,” Beaumains said softly, getting up and walking a short distance away before sitting down again. He rubbed at his eyes. “I think I woke you up. I had a nightmare.”
Lynet nodded, only halfway taking the words in. “What about?” she asked. The question suddenly seemed much too personal for some reason.
Beaumains tilted his head as he looked at her, considering. “Did I ever tell you about my younger brother? The youngest of the lot,” he said, with a smile that almost looked bitter.
She looked to the side. Each new thing he revealed about his brothers was stranger than the last, and she suspected he took some pleasure in that fact, which annoyed her. “No,” she said finally. And I don’t want to hear about him, she wanted to say, but she was too tired to carry a confrontation through to the end, so what even was the point?
“I didn’t think I did, but I wouldn’t know. I never remember anything. I heard my uncle drowned him when the boy was a baby.” He stared at his hands, his eyebrows scrunched together.
“Your uncle did what?” Lynet said, her voice much too loud. She stared at him, wishing she could get up and leave to avoid what was going to be an emotional conversation, and aware that doing so would be crueler than even Lynet was willing to be.
A wild animal scratched around in the underbrush behind her, and Lynet couldn’t stop her shoulders from tensing up, something in the back of her mind screaming that someone had finally caught up to them to murder them. It was just a wild animal, and not a very big one, from the sound of it.
If she could do away with knights and chivalry and all those things that had put her into this position, she would in a heartbeat.
“Oh, my uncle killed my younger brother,” Beaumains said, horribly unfazed. She was really too tired to deal with this. “No one speaks of it, but it was certainly either my uncle or…well, the man who was something of a mentor to him. I never figured it out. It happened when I was very young, and I only ever heard people whisper of it after, and they stopped the whispers as well soon enough.” He shrugged, as though he were simply mildly disappointed about this.
“Well…” Lynet worked to find the right words. “I’m sorry?” she hedged.
“Don’t be. I barely remember the poor lad.” Beaumains poked at the dying fire with a stick in a failed attempt to revive it. The fire sputtered, but otherwise didn’t respond. He sighed, gave up, and threw the stick in.
Lynet screwed her face up as she stared at the embers. She tried to reconcile this new information with the other things he’d told her, and she found she couldn’t. “I thought you said your uncle was a good man!” she protested. “What on earth—”
“More than one thing can be true at once,” he said, looking up at her with those keen brown eyes of his. “He’s a good man to many, and a bad man to my dead brother. Assuming he even killed the boy.”
He reminded Lynet of her sister, with those nice words that fell apart as soon as you thought about them for more than a split second. Both of them said such horrible things, and Lynet didn’t think that either meant a word of what they said. At least, she hoped neither of them meant a word of what they said. It was all so unsettling.
Lynet wanted to grab him by the collar and shake him until he said something that made sense. “You can’t commit infanticide and still be a good person,” she said, slowly and forcefully.
Beaumains leaned back onto his elbows, staring up at the stars. “I suppose not,” he said. “But then, I don’t even know that he did it.”
“I would kill someone over my sister,” Lynet said, her fingernails digging into her palms until it hurt. “I wouldn’t be able to rest until I found out—”
“Well, you see, it’s a good thing you’re not me,” he said, with a lopsided grin. “Seems like more people will stay alive this way. I’d kill to not find out. Although I’d rather not kill at all,” he added in a bitter undertone.
Lynet thought of telling him that he wouldn’t have to kill anyone if he simply left saving her sister to a more capable man, but even she had to admit that it was the wrong time. “Why?” she asked. “Why would someone murder a child like that?” She couldn’t wrap her head around the mindless cruelty such an act would take, and she had spent the last year and a half attempting to wrap her head around various acts of mindless cruelty.
Beaumains hesitated for a while before answering. “I don’t know,” he said, with a grimace of a smile. “I never tried to find out.”
“I really don’t understand you.” Her voice came out flat. “I’m sorry for you, but I don’t understand you, and I hope I never will.”
Beaumains let out a laugh. “I hope you never do either,” he said soberly. “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” He shifted, rubbing at his forehead. “I never told anyone this story before for a reason,” he whispered, half to himself. “Please speak of this to no one. I don’t know at all if what I overheard was true, and sometimes I convince myself that I never heard it at all.”
Lynet lifted her chin. “I’m not stupid,” she told him. “I know when things should be kept secret. Stop worrying.”
He let out a laugh. “You aren’t half as bad as you pretend to be, you know,” he told her as he went to lie back down. “As foolish as it is, it is a relief to tell someone. So thank you.” He pulled the blanket over himself.
Her cheeks felt hot for some reason. “Shut up,” she snapped. “I despise you, and I want you to shut up.”
“If you wish,” he said, sounding like he was holding back laughter.
Lynet hesitated, before she decided that she was very cold. “Don’t you ever dare speak of this to anyone, either,” she said, as she lay down beside him, wrapping her arms around him for warmth.
“I wouldn’t dream of it, my lady,” he said sincerely, as he pulled a blanket around her.
They fell asleep that way, curled up into each other.
I hope you enjoyed! I kind of feel like it wasn’t my best, but also I don’t care, and I like it well enough. Please, tell me your thoughts!
Hey, I’m finally writing short stories again! The last time I posted one was in January of last year. Let’s just say it’s been a while.
Anyway, I wrote this one for Jem’s prompt linkup, One Quirk Later. The prompt got my gears turning, and then I churned out something with a Victorian mansion that just might be an eldritch abomination, a genderfluid child who is possibly a fairy, and a (mostly) normal guy who is honestly so tired.
One last thing to clear up any possible confusion: the child getting referred to by both he and she pronouns throughout the story is 100% intentional.
Nothing was ever the same twice in the House.
Things shifted and changed, sometimes from moment to moment. Edward was never lucky enough to see it with his own eyes, but sometimes he would look up and find that the walls were now a peaceful sage green instead of the white that they had been a second ago, or he would look down and see hemlock springing up through the floor, as though his floor were a garden instead of part of a house. But it was not his house, though he may live here, and he did not even pay any rent, so he put up with it and did not say anything whenever anything moderately objectionable happened.
He had wandered into this place once, many years ago, and he had never been able to find his way out of the grounds again, for the grounds grew twisted and tangled each time he tried. Edward had been on vacation from Oxford, and quite drunk, and his friends had been very curious about the old ruins of a mansion on the hill. They were much too afraid to come with him, though they had teased him for a coward when he expressed hesitation. Edward supposed they had all gone on to be successful members of parliament, and likely they were all very happy as well.
He was not alone in here, at least. A child followed him around the place, haunting his every step. The child appeared as a boy one moment, and a girl the next, but he knew it was impossible for them to be two different people. Those blank, endless eyes could only belong to one person. The probability of eyes that strange belonging to two children were ridiculously low.
The child had terrified Edward at first. He had been sure that the child was a demon. Perhaps a vampire like in those penny dreadfuls his mother always complained about him reading. But it never did anything, just stared at him with those big blank eyes, and he had been reminded of his old nursemaid’s tales of changelings. A changeling ought to have scared him also, he supposed, but anything was a relief after suspecting himself of having been haunted by a demon.
Ivy covered the library shelves, intertwining too tightly with the books to ever hope to extract them. He doubted it would be much use, even if he had managed it. The books the House tried to create—at least, the only ones he had ever found—had always been fractured in some way, when he tried to look inside. Sometimes literally so, the pages crumbling to pieces and reforming again. Sometimes they were filled with nonsensical hieroglyphs, not Egyptian or any language he would recognize. The only books he had were the ones he had had in his pack he had carried in.
“All I want is to reread Carmilla,” Edward complained to the child, who was currently, incomprehensibly, reading a picture book. He looked over her shoulder. The pictures blurred and reformed into increasingly unfamiliar shapes and colors until he was sure that they must be attempting to depict God. (Not God from the church. That was a watered-down God, made more human so as to be understandable to his followers. This was attempting to depict the God that could leave Edward locked up in a fracturing, unhinging house and still love him.)
The child did not answer. He never did.
“I think I’ll call you Carmilla,” Edward decided. The child looked up at him, narrowing her eyes, which was more of a reaction than he had had all week. Edward responded with a shaky smile. He always thought they were friends, but it was hard to tell with children, especially with fairy children.
The House tried to provide for him, even though it did not know how. The next week, he found a book on the table beside his bed with Carmilla written on the spine in shaky lettering. The words inside were nonsense, of course, written in Latin all jumbled up.
Edward found a piano in the dining room, one day. He looked over it, expecting to find an apple tree bursting out of the body of the piano, or for it to only create sounds that sounded like they might have been produced by one of the odder angels, the ones that were simply concentric rings with eyes. But it sounded the same as any other piano.
“Come here,” he said to Carmilla. The child cocked his head and walked over. “Do you like Mozart?”
She waited, presumably for Edward to say something important.
“I never liked Mozart when I was a child,” Edward continued, “but my mother did, and she taught me to play. I never appreciated it when I was young.” His laugh sounded breathless. “I don’t think I appreciated the things she did for me half as much as I ought.” He sat down, hammering out Mozart’s minuet in G major. His playing was clumsy and graceless, and he often struck the wrong notes, but he had not been able to practice for many years, and he thought he did quite well, considering.
The child listened, fingers twitching, and when Edward had finished, the child played the melody back to him, with perfect intonation and without a single mistake. Edward sighed. “That…that was very good,” Edward said. “If you ever decide to leave the business of haunting places, you ought to become a musician.” Fairy children were supposed to be good with music, Edward remembered from the stories. It wasn’t his fault that the child was better than him, despite the fact that he didn’t think she’d ever touched a piano before.
He played piano the rest of the afternoon, though eventually he ran out of pieces he had memorized, and he had to repeat some, or struggle through the half-remembered ones. The child seemed to enjoy it, all the same.
Edward, while he played, thought that he might remember how to be human like this. He would later think that it was this moment that caused the House’s power over him to weaken, but he would never be sure.
Spring was a time of renewal. The grounds did not always remember to match the seasons—sometimes he would wake up to find a light frost on the ground outside, and the trees orange and gold in the summer—but it tried its best. Edward lay in the orchard, letting the cool sun shine on him, as he reread his Latin textbook for the fifteenth time. He had learned Latin well enough by now to make his old professor weep with joy. Full, red apples weighed down the branches of the trees, alongside white flowers just beginning to unfurl their petals. He picked up an apple that had fallen, turning it over into his hand and wondering if it was worth trying. He shrugged his shoulders and bit into it. It was juicy and sweet, like the apples he had eaten as a young boy stealing from his neighbor’s orchard. There were no apples better than stolen apples, at least not to a child. He laughed to himself, taking another bite.
He looked to the side, wondering if there would be anything at all beyond the orchard or if there would just be a blank nothingness. Sometimes that happened, when he opened doors to rooms that the House had forgotten to fill. His eyes chanced to fall upon a toad in a watering can. He stilled, the apple falling from his hand. He had never seen another living creature in the House before, aside from the child. The toad waited, meeting his eyes, and then it hopped away down a path that had not been there before.
Edward scrunched up his eyebrows, then decided that the toad meant for him to follow. He took another second to decide that he would not be wasting his time. A living creature in this place was a novel enough thing.
The path led down a hill and by a fishpond—stocked with actual koi fish, he would have wept for joy and then talked to them for hours just for the feeling of someone listening if not for the fact that he thought the toad would be very unimpressed—and finally, to a twisted, crumpled silver gate that would not shut all the way, and beyond that was a wood.
“Oh,” he said. “Oh.” This wood was not the hill in Yorkshire that he had walked up to enter the house. In fact, he suspected that the wood was not any place on earth at all, but it was certainly a real, living place, and not something pretending to be that like the House. Or perhaps attempting was the better word; it wanted to be real and living, but it couldn’t quite manage.
Five years of living here, and he still wasn’t sure if it was malevolent or if it simply did not understand.
“Is this place fairyland?” he asked the toad. It did not respond, not particularly having a voice box suited for creating sounds in human languages. Edward looked back uncertainly. The house stood high and proud, in ruins and in the prime of its existence. “What about Carmilla? The child, not the vampire,” he added hastily. He wished, with a keen sense of embarrassment, that he had named the child anything more normal. Jane was a perfectly nice, respectable name.
Edward had never known toads to have expressions, but this one managed to look at him as though he were a blithering idiot. “He can make it out of the house any time she wants to, can’t he?” he said. Edward had always known she was not trapped in the House like he was, but he hated to leave her, all the same. Perhaps Edward would miss him, in a strange way. Perhaps he would miss him quite a bit.
Edward had not the slightest idea what awaited him in the world outside. It might be worse than the House. But he could never go back, any more than he could will himself to jump into a freezing lake with no cause. “Well,” he said. “With my Latin textbook at my side, I feel quite ready to take on anything.” He smiled awkwardly.
He looked ahead, taking a deep breath, and stepped outside the grounds for the first time in what felt like a century. He would survive. Somehow or another, he always did.
Short stories, how I have missed thee. It feels really good to just sink my teeth into a project for two or three hours and then be done with it, lmao. It also feels like it’s been a little while since I’ve written historical fiction, though that may just be because I’ve spent the last two months in fanfic purgatory. It still feels good to get back to the genre even though I haven’t been gone that long, though! Anyway, tell me what you think!
Greetings, ladies and gentlefolk! I have not been editing the stories I put online lately very much, so I’m sorry if this sucks please don’t kill me ahhhh
I realized I sometimes had trouble writing sapphic stories (@ internalized homophobia), so I wrote a ton of flash fiction in order to try and fix that! And they are all set in uni because I am in uni and it’s terrible! I also made picrews for most of my characters because I found a cute one. And then I made them all with different pride flag backgrounds because pride flags are pretty and I love stripes.
I’m kind of starting to come around to contemporary as a genre. Fantasy is still my favorite, but there is something about the romanticization of everyday life that I love. I do have a hard time finding contemporary stories that I like, but! There are a lot of great contemporary authors out there! And I have a hard time finding stories I like in general. Contemporary romance is honestly a pretty cute genre, and I feel like I’ve been kind of unfair to it in the past (internally, not on the blog).
Anyway, I got the list of prompts from a tumblr blog I stumbled across
prompt: “hey i’m late on our first day and oh no, the only free seat is next to you. wait do you have a pen?”
This has a swear word in it but I’m pretty sure that’s the only content in these?
Also, I love my absolutely bizarre descriptions. ‘handwriting like a 19th century scholar’s if that scholar were really drunk.’ I don’t know what tf that means but it made me laugh. so
The girl next to Miyeon yawned and stretched her arms out. The professor sent her a withering glare, which she answered with an off-center grin. “Sorry for being late,” she drawled, having come in twenty minutes after the start of class. She did not sound sorry at all.
She had wild red hair and dark eyes. She did not look like she gave a fuck about anything. Miyeon was not sure if she should be annoyed or in love.
“You have a pen?” the girl muttered. It took Miyeon a moment to realize she was talking to her. “I forgot mine. I forgot my entire bag, actually.” She was currently taking out a large stack of post-its from her pocket.
Miyeon blinked twice, suddenly not hearing the professor’s lecture on Latin verb endings. She took a pen out of her backpack, fumbling it twice, and slid the pen over to the girl, her ears slightly pink.
“Thanks,” she said, writing down her notes. Miyeon pushed down a smile.
A minute later, the girl slid a post-it note over. “You’re cute,” read the note, in impossibly scrawled handwriting.
Miyeon picked it up in her hands, unsure how to answer. Should she say that she wasn’t currently looking for a relationship? That wasn’t necessarily true, and moreover, would have been presumptuous. It was just a comment. Should she tell her that she thought the girl was cute too?
“What’s your name?” Miyeon’s handwriting looked like that of a disaffected 19th century scholar, if that scholar was really drunk.
“Katherine. God. Call me Kate,” she muttered, looking up at the teacher to see if they had noticed them talking.
Miyeon smiled a bit. She tugged the post-it over and scrawled her phone number down. She supposed it wouldn’t hurt.
She turned toward the professor, determined to listen now, but out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kate give a quiet fist pump under the table.
prompt: “we got paired up for a presentation but we’ve never really spoken and you’re pretty nice despite what other people say”
Oh, wait, this one has another swear word. These are the only ones, though! I double-checked. This story was the hardest for me to write and also the one that veered the farthest away from the prompt
Okay I reread this and wtf is this you can tell i wrote it at like. 3 am
Deryn coughed as she slid into the seat beside Nehama. Nehama’s short black hair fell into her pale face as she stared at her phone with enthralled intensity. She was pretty. Or at least Deryn thought so. She had a soft spot for aquiline noses.
“They say you’ve gotten into a fist fight over ten pounds,” Deryn noted. “And that you’ve singlehandedly stolen the girls of half the men in our dorm. Of course, I don’t believe that one, because Simon is a fucking liar and I don’t believe the girls who would date the men in our dorm have half such good taste.”
Nehama looked up. “Well, you’re right there,” she said. To Deryn’s annoyance, she didn’t seem to register it as a compliment or flirtation, but rather as simple fact. “Tell Simon that his girlfriend is straight and he drove her away all by himself. Of course, I’m not saying I didn’t help.” A rather ferocious grin cut across her face. “In the form of advice,” she added, in response to Deryn’s raised eyebrow.
Deryn nodded slowly. Well, she had not denied the first one. “My roommate tried to tell me all about how you stole her microwave platter when she lived with you,” she said, a smile beginning to crack through her expressionless face. “I remain unsure what she was going on about.”
Nehama threw her head back in a sharp laugh. Deryn couldn’t help but laugh along with her. “She was a–” she paused, lost for words. “Strange. She was strange.” She looked down, almost seeming pensive. “Why are you telling me this?” she asked, her voice casual.
Deryn looked down. “I like to get a good idea of who I’m dealing with,” she said happily.
Nehama crossed her hands behind her head. “And do you have a good idea?” she asked. It was a challenge, but it was a playful challenge.
Deryn looked up at the ceiling, thinking for a minute, and then nodded. “An idiot,” she said. Nehama’s face slowly settled into a scowl. “I like stupid people,” Deryn protested. “Let’s get a coffee together sometime.”
Nehama leaned back slightly, opening her mouth and closing it again. “You mean—” she said finally. She didn’t respond for a moment.
“Yeah,” Deryn said. She crossed her arms. “You aren’t so bad. People are ridiculous. And I think you’re cute.”
“It’s not the weirdest way someone’s asked me out,” Nehama said, a reluctant smile tugging at the corners of her lips. “So sure.”
They shared a mutual, evil smile and returned to their respective tasks.
prompt: “so i totally didn’t spend that entire lecture doodling/on my phone and i had no clue what i was being taught pls help”
I literally love this one so much
The images are a little blurry but I give up, WordPress has defeated me
“Uh.” Gyeong-Suk coughed awkwardly.
“Go away,” Ha-Yun said. They sat on the floor in their apartment that smelled of mold. Ha-Yun’s brown hair was twisted up in a high bun, and she wore an over-sized sweater that she had sewn herself—a dusty pink sweater that she had copied from a 300 dollar one in a magazine.
Gyeong-Suk sat in the center of a notebook circle, looking like she had been summoned from hell in a strange ritual. “Please,” she said. “The lecture was so boring. I couldn’t listen to it. It melted my ears.”
Ha-Yun rolled her eyes. “You were on your phone.”
“Eonni,” Gyeong-Suk said. “You’re so smart. Please let me read your notes.”
Ha-Yun hesitated and slid her the phone with her lecture notes. “I love you. You idiot.”
“Thanks so much,” she said. The full sentence finally hit her. “Oh.” She coughed. “I love you too,” she replied, blushing.
Ha-Yun bit back a sarcastic reply and a smile.
prompt: “it’s 3am and the library is pretty empty but you’re sat there stressing at your laptop, so i brought you a coffee and a bag of chips from the vending machine”
Are any libraries open after 3 am???
This was the first one where things just really clicked for me, which you can tell since it’s about 300 words longer than the other ones
I named a lot of these characters by randomly picking names from Nameberry
Kathleen bit her lip, deeply focused on whatever-it-was on her computer. Probably something for her organic chemistry class. She’d been ranting about that class the most lately.
Mahaila leaned her head into her hand, watching her. She could study Kathleen’s hands for hours. They were long and delicate and spidery, hands that belonged to a pianist or a craftsman. Kathleen’s skin was deep brown, and her eyes were large and expressive. She was the most beautiful girl Mahaila had ever seen, except for herself, of course.
She coughed slightly, but Kathleen didn’t so much as glance at her.
Mahaila was, in general, widely considered to be charming, both in platonic and romantic contexts. Sometimes, in fact, she could be a little too charming and create trouble for herself. It was a trait that had gotten her places, though, and she wouldn’t have traded it for the world—but she would have traded it for Kathleen. She didn’t think Kathleen had ever looked at her as anyone more than someone to study with.
She didn’t think Kathleen looked at most people as much more than someone to study with, but that didn’t take away the sting.
She sighed and shook her head, looking at her. No one else was in the library. It was now three in the morning, the windows pitch-black outside, and no one else was desperate enough for a grade or a friend to be here.
“You should sleep,” Mahaila said finally. “You’ll get better grades if you sleep.” She sent Kathleen a teasing smile that was lost on her, for Kathleen did not once look up from her notebook.
“You can if you want,” she said. Her voice was hoarse. She hesitated, her hand held in suspension above the page. “It’s not like I’ll be able to sleep anyway.” The statement was a raw admission of guilt, and Mahaila couldn’t for the life of her figure out what she’d just wandered into.
“I think you can talk to doctors about that,” Mahaila ventured—
“Don’t have enough money.” There was no sound for a moment but the clatter of the keyboard.
“Oh,” Mahaila muttered. She stood up and stretched. Well, at least she could do something for the poor fool. She wandered outside to the library entrance and got a coffee from the vending machine. She came back and placed it next to Kathleen’s keyboard.
Their hands brushed. Mahaila froze. Kathleen jerked back, too. Mahaila wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad one.
She decided to pretend it hadn’t happened, and Kathleen seemed determined to do that, as well. “What are you majoring in?” she asked.
Mahaila looked down to hide a smile. “Nothing half so difficult,” she said. “Although it is hard, I guess. Literature.”
They didn’t speak for the rest of the night, but it was enough. It turned into a ritual for them, over the next week. They stayed up late at the library. Mahaila brought Kathleen a coffee when she started to look too tired or frustrated. Mahaila pulled one small conversation from Kathleen each time. Kathleen liked foxes. Kathleen could spend hours staring at the stars. Kathleen could be a bit spiteful. Kathleen was wonderful.
“My chemistry project’s almost done,” Kathleen said carefully one morning, taking a sip from her coffee.
Mahaila glanced up, her gaze guarded. “Oh, really?” she asked. She attempted a smile. “Congratulations.”
Kathleen nodded and thumbed through her notes. The morning sun streamed through the window. “So I guess I won’t be coming here as often,” she muttered. Mahaila fancied she sounded disappointed.
“I guess not,” Mahaila said, subdued.
Kathleen stared intently at the floor. Her eyes had never been as expressive as they were now. She looked flooded, overwhelmed. “I don’t want to finish my project,” she said finally.
Mahaila chuckled to herself. “Weirdo,” she teased, shaking her head.
“No, that’s not true,” Kathleen said. A frown creased her forehead. “I want to finish my project. I don’t want to stop spending time with you.”
Mahaila’s breath caught. She looked up and stared. Had they finally become…friends?
“I never thought I’d feel this way for anyone. There hasn’t ever been anyone I wanted to spend this much time with.”
Mahaila flicked her eyes upward and prayed for patience.
“I want to spend…a lot of time with you,” Kathleen said, her voice as raw as when she confessed that she could not sleep. “Mahaila, do you want…do you want to get a coffee together after class?”
Mahaila took a moment to gather herself together. “Are you…asking me out?” she said, before she could think better of it. Of all possible outcomes, she hadn’t expected this.
“I guess,” Kathleen said, her voice suddenly watery. “I’m asexual. That doesn’t matter, does it?” She stared up at her. Mahaila couldn’t help but feel her soul was being dissected.
“Of course not, of course not.” She waved her hands. “I’d like to get a coffee together.”
They stared at each other for a moment, both of them fragile and unsteady. They sat down. But now Mahaila sat next to her, and they did not flinch away from each other when their hands touched.
prompt: “you came over to hang out but i fell asleep while you were playing video games and two hours later you’re still here”
personally, i think this story is pretty cute
Bahira woke up with a start and rubbed her eyes. “Dreamed I failed all my college coursework,” she muttered. She took a moment to orient herself. She was on the couch. The leak on the ceiling was still dripping into a bucket—an old emergency, already taken care of. Clanging came from the general direction of the kitchen. That was new. She should probably check that out. She sat up.
Someone was humming loudly and offkey. If someone had broken into her house yet again, Bahira was going to commit crimes. She grabbed a broom from beside the door and slammed the door open. The person in her kitchen dropped a pot lid with a yelp.
“Oh, it’s you.” Bahira’s shoulders slumped in relief. “You haven’t left yet?”
Finian shrugged. “Did you want me to?” She stirred the pot, which currently contained unidentifiable brown stuff. It didn’t smell too good.
Finian was a fat girl, with apricot-colored short hair and fair skin. She was beautiful, a god in a dingy apartment with a flickering lightbulb. Bahira’s lips quirked.
“Of course I want you to stay,” Bahira said with a yawn. “But I thought you would have gotten bored and gone home. I’ve been asleep for a while.” She checked her watch. “Two hours.”
“I got kind of caught up in the video game,” Finian admitted. “I wanted to make you dinner before I left. Sometimes you forget.”
Bahira nodded. That was true. She was not, however, looking forward to Finian’s cooking. “I’m sure your dinner will be wonderful,” she said.
Bahira leaned back in her chair, staring at the dying lightbulb until she had spots in her vision. She hated to bring things up and disturb the peace. She hated to let things stay as they are and rot.
“You like me, don’t you?”
Finian’s hand slipped on her spoon. She cursed, nearly dropping it. “Of course I like you,” she said comfortingly.
“I mean like like,” she said. Oh, she might as well say it. She didn’t move a muscle. “Love.”
“Uh—” Finian was starting to sound more and more panicked, and Bahira cursed herself for bringing it up. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess I do.”
Bahira blinked several times. She told herself it was to get the spots out of her vision. “I—I like you too,” she said, her voice quiet. “I guess.”
“I mean, we always knew, right?” Finian asked. She started to spoon the glop into a bowl. She paused, looking at the floor. “Let’s start seeing each other,” she said in a rush. “Make it official or something.”
“That sounds like a good idea to me too.” Bahira reminded herself to breathe.
She’d eat Finian’s cooking every day of her life if it meant that Finian would be there every day of her life. She’d give anything for her.
Finian cracked a smile. “That—That’s wonderful.”
prompt: “wow my lecture sucked ass, i’m stressed asf and here we are at the on campus bar at 11:59am waiting to buy a drink because it’s been that kind of a day already”
haha i accidentally put in a lot of my feelings about college and dysphoria and made this way too personal oops haha
I’m lowkey regretting my decision to mostly not edit these
Cole slumped onto the seat beside Abigail, downing her margarita before saying anything. The bar was dead quiet aside from the occasional clink of a glass from the employees. The lighting was dim. Cole nestled into a corner. It was a perfect place to hide.
“Bad day, huh?” Abigail asked with a quirk of her lips.
Cole grimaced. Everything felt uncomfortable. Her name, her clothes, people’s perception of her. “Kinda,” she said. She shook her drink around, enjoying how the ice clinked together. “Nothing makes sense.”
“Nothing ever makes sense,” Abigail said comfortingly. She chewed on her lip, considering her. “This is probably a bad time to bring up…what I wanted to, then.” She coughed.
Abigail showing any sort of foresight was rare, so Cole made sure to thank her. They sat still in silence that grew heavier the longer it went on.
“Look—” They finally both said.
“You can go first,” Cole said.
Abigail waved her hand at her in a motion to continue. Cole sighed and rubbed her forehead. She didn’t really want to explain…anything.
“I don’t feel like a guy,” she muttered. “I don’t get it. I’ve started referring to myself as a girl just because it makes me feel better. My teachers suck. I’ve been barely able to stay on top of my homework and now more is just piling up. I literally hate it and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to graduate.” She took a deep breath. “Sorry. What were you going to say?”
Abigail opened her mouth, changed her mind, and took a long sip of her beer. “That’s a lot. So you’re trans?”
Cole had never really thought of herself that way. “Yeah, I guess.” She shifted, stretching out her legs. There was a squirming sensation in her stomach. “This is like when I found out I was asexual because I accidentally clicked a Wikipedia link,” she muttered. “Except more painful.”
“How come you wouldn’t be able to graduate?” Abigail sank into her seat and leaned forward, looking like she was resisting temptation to grab Cole and physically shake answers from her.
“Well, I don’t…” Cole scratched her ear. “I don’t know,” she admitted.
Abigail nodded, hanging onto her every word.
“I guess I kind of exaggerated that part to myself,” Cole said, coughing.
“Do you still like the name Cole?” she asked.
“Uh…” Cole hated having to make snap decisions. “I guess,” she said. “I might change it later, but…” She shrugged. “It’s fine.”
Abigail patted her hand. “If you have problems with your homework, I can help,” she said. “I’m not as busy this semester.”
Soft jazz music came on the radio.
“Thanks,” Cole muttered. “So what were you going to tell me?”
A pink flush spread over Abigail’s cheeks. “Well, uh…” She coughed loudly. “It’s fine, I can tell you later.”
Cole tilted her head almost imperceptibly.
“Well, I was going to ask you out,” she admitted. “I always pick the worst timing on these things. One time I asked a guy out and it turned out his dog had died that morning. It was the worst experience of my life.”
Cole almost cracked a smile. “If you’re interested in girls, I’ll accept,” she said.
Abigail laughed. “Honey, I’m bi as—” She coughed. She’d said a little while back that she’d been trying to cut back on swearing, but she rarely followed through on those kinds of things. “AF,” she said instead. There was room for all things to change.
Cole gave her a fistbump. “I like having a girlfriend,” she said, with a smile. “Thanks for helping me get things worked out.”
“I like having a girlfriend too,” Abigail said, with an absolutely devoted smile. “You’re welcome.”
Hopefully this wasn’t too terrible! I don’t really mind showing my practice stuff, though
My sister refused to read through my stories before I posted them, so I’m cyberbullying her now. [Edit: I meant to edit this sentence out, I–oops]
Hello! PLEASE ENJOY MY ABOMINATION. Thank you, and good night. *bows*
Okay, I guess this requires a bit more introduction than that. Jem created a flash fiction prompt linkup a couple of months ago, and I finally got in on the fun and wrote something for it. So please enjoy…whatever this story is.
I came up with something involving fairies, much talk of murder, and small children, as you do. Please enjoy (or don’t enjoy. It’s your business, after all, and no one else’s).
(Does anyone else ever get the urge to apologize for everything they write? I don’t know why, it’s not like a bad story is a crime against humanity. Usually, anyway.)
The little girl with the long red hair crept away from her birthday party. It was not really her party. Her mother had invited lots of children, a few she knew and many she didn’t. The party was too loud. Mary had almost cried at the noise when one of the girls popped a balloon, but she didn’t, because her mother would have called her whiny. Why were little kids so loud? Did she scream like that when she played?
Mary slumped to the ground underneath a tree. She could still see her house from where she sat on the hill, a tiny blue dollhouse of a thing. The hill smelled of grass and fresh rain.
The forest was directly behind her, dark and tangled. Ellie, one of the girls at the party, had tried to scare her with some story about her brother finding a monster in the woods. Mary sniffed. How stupid. She was careful not to look behind her, though, just in case. It wouldn’t make any difference if she saw the monster coming or not, but it felt better not to look.
A monster’s not what I need to worry about, Mary thought. The only thing I should be worried about is what Mother will say when she finds out I’ve run off from my own—from my own party— She should not have had to run off from her own party. She should have enjoyed herself. It should have been a day when her parents paid attention to her, not one where they invited a bunch of kids over and left her to do her own thing with people she didn’t know and was apparently supposed to like. Her eyes watered and she began to cry in earnest.
She sat like that for what felt like ten minutes. Her breaths came in gasps by the end of it, and her face was warm and sticky. Nothing made sense. She couldn’t untangle one feeling from another. The ground blurred as her eyes watered again.
“Crying doesn’t seem to do anything,” a lilting voice said from above her. “Except make your face blotchy. Why do you cry? It seems…” The voice paused. “Counter-intuitive.”
Mary jumped to her feet, her hands balled into fists. “I heard that,” she snapped. She didn’t know who this person was. How dare he come and interrupt her crying session? Couldn’t she even cry in peace on her birthday? And it was rude to call someone blotchy.
“You were supposed to!” His laughter sounded like the wind rustling the trees. She whirled to see a boy sitting on a tree branch, one knee pulled up to his chin. It looked like a precarious position, but he seemed comfortable. He had brown, curly hair that came down to his shoulders, and he wore a red tunic, a gold torc, and several bracelets. She almost thought he was a girl at first.
She couldn’t tell how old he was. Either a tall boy, or a short man. She blinked, puzzled. “You look like a Lord of the Rings character,” she said blankly. “Why are you dressed weird?”
“No one but my mother is allowed to comment on my fashion choices,” he answered smugly, crossing his arms. “And my mother’s dead. So why are you crying?”
Mary pursed her lips together, looking down. She thought about it for a few minutes, but wasn’t able to piece the answer apart. “I guess I don’t know why,” she answered. “I’m sorry your mother’s dead.”
He leaned his head back toward the sky, as if he were contemplating a great philosophical question. “So you do something that gets your face blotchy for no reason,” he said. He didn’t sound critical, but that didn’t stop her from glaring. “Fascinating. And you don’t need to be sorry about my mother. You didn’t kill her.”
The wind blew through her long hair. What an eejit, Mary decided. She crossed her arms. “I guess one could say crying makes me feel better,” she said stiffly.
He flashed a smile, showing sharp teeth. The smile sent shivers down Mary’s back. She couldn’t say why.
He was going to kill her. It felt like he was going to kill her. But that was stupid. How often did one stumble on murderers? So she ignored her prickling spine.
“So, perhaps a better response to distress than murder,” he replied, making her jump. “But maybe not as efficient.” His eyes were always laughing. “I should inform my brothers. They are always trying to kill things, but perhaps they should try crying instead.” He nearly fell out of the tree cackling. “I cannot imagine my brothers crying,” he explained in response to her raised eyebrow. That had not been what she wanted to ask.
“I’m sorry you have brothers who…try to kill everyone all the time?” she said slowly. She should be running away by now. She never ran away until it was too late.
He paused, looking genuinely puzzled. Why was he confused by her? He was the confusing one. “You didn’t cause them to kill anyone, either,” he pointed out. “Why do you keep apologizing for things you didn’t do?”
“Well…because—” It was her turn to flounder. “Sometimes people just say ‘sorry’ because they’re sorry for what you’re going through,” she explained.
“No one has ever said they felt sorry for me before,” he said, and she opened her mouth to tell him she was sorry again before she realized he said it with a bit of a sneer and an upward toss of the head.
“Well, there’s no need to sound so proud of that,” she retorted. “That just means you don’t have any friends.” He stared at her, his eyes round, and she almost wondered if she had gone too far. He tilted his head back and laughed so loudly he scared a nearby bird into flying away. She guessed she hadn’t gone too far, then.
“What about you? Do you have any friends?” The question felt so…impertinent. Her mother had used that word before.
She thought for a second. “I guess not,” she said, nudging a pinecone out of the way with her foot. “I used to have a friend, but she moved to Dublin. And she promised to write, and she didn’t. I haven’t seen her in months.” A bad idea came into her head. “Could we be friends?” she asked, gesturing first to him and then to her. She was pretty sure he was either a murderer or a monster.
“Well,” he yawned, stretching his long arms behind him. “Climb up here and we’ll see.” He raised his eyebrows at her in a challenge.
It was a stupid decision, something a character in a bad horror movie might decide to do. She grabbed one of the tree branches, the bark rough in her hand. “Only if you answer my questions,” she said, because she liked being in danger. It was exciting.
“Have I not been doing that already?” he asked, so she began to climb.
The wet bark slid and scraped against her hands, and the tree shed bark and leaves all over her dress. She grit her teeth and kept climbing. “Why did your brothers try to kill someone?”
“Oh,” he said, sliding onto a branch above him as easily as a cat. “Sometimes they kill for love, sometimes for honor, many times for nothing but a scrap of power. Now a question for you. What brought you to grief?”
“Stop climbing!” she snapped, but she laughed, too. It felt like a game. She was much clumsier than him, wriggling onto branches, sometimes slipping and catching herself in the nick of time. “I was upset because my parents never listen to me. And because the party was…” She bit her lip, unsure how to explain it. “Too much,” she decided. “Have you ever killed anyone?” She asked the question in nothing but curiosity.
“Not yet,” he said, sounding a bit bored. “A seer told me that I would kill my mother’s murderer, though. So now my sister Aoife keeps trying to kill me.” She gave him a puzzled look. “She murdered our mother,” he explained. “I don’t even want to kill her. I wish Aoife would stop and listen for five seconds.”
Mary didn’t exactly know what to say to that. She looked down as she found her footing. She had not meant to climb so high. The ground looked very far below. She felt a bit sick to her stomach, so she looked back up.
“So,” she said, her words coming in a bit of a rush, “my friend Ellie said her brother found a monster in the woods.” She stared up at him. He was just out of reach. She might be able to reach him if he bent down.
“Yes?” he asked, watching her. He tilted his head, reminding her strikingly of a cat.
“Are you a monster?” She was not careful as she stepped. She slipped on the branch. She reached out and grabbed nothing.
She screamed as he reached down and gripped her hand. Thorny vines grew between them, stretching over his arm and hers. Gold dust hung from the leaves. She winced at the thorns, but though they pricked her skin until she bled, it did not hurt. They stared at each other, their faces equally serious. “I think you know the answer to that,” he said. “Friends?”
She grabbed the monster’s arm with her other hand. The vines grew over that one, too. “Friends,” she said on mad impulse.
She did not go back home that evening.
Feel free to give me constructive criticism! I want to know what you think.
Also, I swear ‘he flashed a smile, revealing sharp teeth’ has to be one of my most overused sentences ever, but oh well.
(And! Needless to say! If you ever get a feeling that a person is going to harm you, please do not follow the bad examples of my characters. Always prioritize your safety first. 😉)
So, I love The Snow Queen. I love it I love it. The only reason why I haven’t covered the fairy tale here on this blog yet is because the story is looong (seriously, I’m pretty sure it’s told in five parts), but it’s a wonderful fairy tale and you should read it if you haven’t already.
So, what’s this all about? Well, the blog Fairy Tale Central is recapping the fairy tale this month, and so Arielle has posted a Snow Queen-related prompt on her personal blog.
Isn’t the prompt wonderful? Of course I had to write something for it. I love the characters in The Snow Queen so much, from lonely, bitter Kay to bright and resourceful Gerda to the mysterious and enigmatic Snow Queen. (and the Snow Queen is not necessarily evil I will fight you on this. You may ask me more on this point, but be prepared for a fifty page essay if you do). (Kidding I can’t even write a fifty page story without collapsing. It’ll probably be like three sentences that barely explain my point.)
Anyway. I wrote a story and will proceed to unleash the monster I created onto the world, along with the pinterest board
I made Kay, the main character, non-binary, which is why I refer to them with the singular ‘they’. The character didn’t really come into my head with a specific gender, so then I decided that I might as well keep them that way? I also got to make Kay Orthodox Christian, since the setting is vaguely Russian-inspired! Orthodoxy, if you don’t know, is the denomination of Christianity that I belong to. This may be the very first time I’ve had an Orthodox character?
Btw, the story is kind of a metaphor for death and depression and suicidal ideation. It’s not a direct metaphor, obviously, but it’s still very much there, and while I don’t know if reading the story would trigger anyone, I feel like I should mention it just in case.
A million stars speckled the night sky. Kay sunk to the ground, their knees hitting the freezing stone of the palace courtyard. It was Nativity, and surely Grandmother must be praying in the small stone church at home, the oil lamps lit in front of the icons. Kay would never pray there anymore. Kay had left their home long ago to follow some elusive woman from the forest with hair white as snow and a crown made of bone, and they would never see the old church again.
Kay did not weep. They did not even feel anything particularly heartwrenching. They never had, since the Snow Queen had taken them away.
Kay’s umber brown hand clenched in their lap. They could barely remember the past. Those memories had faded, along with everything else, as soon as they kissed the cold lips of the Queen that one night long ago. But they had not forgotten everything. Kay did not know who, exactly, the clear brown eyes and sharp-lined face in their memory belonged to, but they remembered the sense of place and steadiness the person brought. They had not forgotten their grandmother’s soft voice singing the prayers, nor the smell of the candles in church. The ice could not quite take everything from them.
The words tumbled out of Kay’s mouth without them being quite aware what they were singing. “Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable…The Unapproachable One…” Kay’s voice faltered, and the rest of the tune slipped from their memory. They stared at the snow as the sheer overwhelming futility of it all overcame them.
“Kay,” a clear voice said. Kay nearly jumped out of their skin.
They stood and turned to see a woman in a tattered white robe and a crown made of bone and antler. A soft smile hung on her lips, but it did not reach her eyes. There was not a trace of humanity in her eyes, and though Kay had searched for it over the many years they had been here, they had never found anything in her eyes except the cold echoey expanses of a snow-capped mountain.
Her eyes were such a soft shade of green, though.
“You are frightened of me,” she said. “You did not used to be.”
Kay let out a breath, the mist trailing upwards to the sky. “Only a fool would not be frightened of you, my lady,” they said. “I was a fool when I first met you, and I am still a fool now.” Kay’s hand slipped into hers.
The queen took their hand with a satisfied smile and pulled Kay closer. “If you are a fool,” the Snow Queen asked, “then will you kiss me?”
Kay nearly jerked their hand out of her grip.
The queen’s eyes were horribly earnest. “I cannot and will not make you,” she said. She paused, waiting for an answer. “Well? Will you kiss me, or will you not?”
Kay might have agreed, when they first met her that night on their eighteenth birthday. “Your Majesty,” they said. “You said that kissing me would kill me.” They swallowed. “I happen to value my life right now.” That was a lie. They did not value anything much, anymore.
But something bitter and stubborn inside them would not agree to it. Kay had lost so much with the first kiss they had given her. They’d lost half of themself. Why should they lose the rest?
The queen breathed out. “It would not be truly dying,” she whispered. “You would simply become like me. Am I alive?”
Kay looked down. A dust of snow began to coat the courtyard. “You say you used to be human,” they said. They could never bring themself to believe it.
“I was once as you are,” she agreed. “Though no one ever had to convince me to make any rash decisions. I have always been very good at doing that by myself.” She laughed a little. “The people of my village were never kind to me, to say the least. So I went on a journey to meet the fabled queen in the north, and I kissed her on the agreement that I would never hurt again.” A twisted smile made its way across her face, and something almost like sorrow shone in her eyes. It was not quite sorrow. “She told me the truth. I do not hurt anymore. I am not quite sure it was worth it.”
The queen had never told them before why she had chosen this. Kay very easily could have done the same as she did at several points in their life, and that knowledge felt a little strange.
“What will happen to you?” Kay asked. “If I should take your place?” That was what stopped them, always. Sometimes Kay forgot themself. Sometimes the thought of kissing her ice-cold lips and losing everything was the most tempting prospect imaginable. But what would truly happen?
“Me?” A laugh tumbled from her lips. “You would think about me. I will pass on, into the wind and snow. But when have I truly been here?”
The resolution came back into Kay’s voice. “Then I will not. I will never kiss you.”
The laugh shook her slight frame, and her eyes shone with something like admiration. “You are truly a fool,” she said, her voice hoarse. “I have not loved anyone in a thousand years, but I half love you.”
“But I feel the same,” Kay whispered, as if they could ever have had the same experiences. “I will not let you go away from me.” So they did not quite feel the same.
The queen pulled them into a hug. “You are truly a delight, Kay,” she said. “But you cannot save the both of us from ourselves. We were not the sort of people destined to live.”
Kay had often found themself thinking the same. But it was not true. Who knew how they were both destined to die? “I will make you live,” they said. “As much as I am able.”
She sighed and leaned her head into their shoulder. “Kay,” she said. They thought she would say more. She did not. She just said their name.
Kay had been walking the cliff’s edge for a very long time, and they got closer and closer to falling over the edge each day. But they had not fallen yet. They would not. They made a conscious choice to keep living each day, even when living felt futile. They would not kiss the queen, they would not give themself over to the snow, and they would not let her die.
Kay was not sure if they would hold out forever. But right now, they felt a burning determination course through their bones, something that they had not felt for a very long time. They could almost feel…hopeful. Kay would not kiss her. Neither of them were destined to die that way.
I feel like the story wasn’t very good, but I’ll still post it. I honestly might do something more with this story, or else I’ll just let it rot in the vaults of my memory for eternity. We’ll see. 😉
Okay, so I cannot write fluff. Right? I just don’t. I don’t write fluff, I write tragedies.
UNTIL NOW, that is. Of course, it figures that when I do write fluff, it would end up being about people who in real life probably were not very fluffy. Let me just go die now. (Writing about real life historical people is so awkward. Am I misrepresenting them? Am I portraying horrible people as wonderful or wonderful people as horrible or strong people as weak or?…) Also, did you know that King Edward II was gay? And he had a boyfriend named Piers Gaveston? And have you ever come across this Edward II blog that I read several articles from and got really emotional over because it was three in the morning and I promise that under normal circumstances I would have a much more reasonable reaction? (lies)
Well, yeah. I’m sure you can see where this was going.
This whole story was so badly researched, I pretty much only read several posts from the history blog and maybe one section of one Wikipedia page. So I apologize, historians. I know this must be about to make you guys scream.
Ooh, one more thing: I don’t believe Margaret’s reaction to Piers’ affair is known at all. It’s entirely possible she hated it, it’s possible she didn’t know at all, it’s possible she didn’t care. We don’t really know much about the personal lives and personalities of these historical figures. (Basically, it is hugely possible I could be sanitizing ALL these people.) It’s even possible that Edward and Piers weren’t even lovers and they were just extremely close friends! But I mean…the evidence stacks up, though. I believe even medieval chroniclers tossed around the idea. Also, yes, Edward II really was interested in the common folk and their lives, and he was criticized for it by his contemporaries. Goodness, I’m starting to believe he was a YA hero after all.
And I made a Pinterest board (funnily enough, I made this one after I finished the story). I’m sorry the introduction for this is so long; I had a lot to say.
Piers sat down by the king, wrapping his arm
around Edward’s shoulders. The king had listened to his noblemen about their
various issues for as long as he could stand, until he finally lost patience
with them and sent them and the servants away. And that was how Piers and
Edward had finally managed to get some time alone, together in the king’s
chambers. It was the first time since Piers had come back from Ireland.
Edward leaned his head into Piers’ shoulder,
stroking his dark hair. “I’m not at all suited to be king, you know,” he said.
A smile quivered on his face. “I can’t bear it. Politics bores me, and I wish I
could give this throne to someone else.”
Piers laid a hand on Edward’s wrist. Trust
Edward to start complaining about something as soon as he got back. “You aren’t
a bad king,” he said.
“You aren’t a very good liar,” Edward
replied, passing a hand over his eyes. “Piers, my love, I wish I were a
commoner. I love nothing more than working with my hands. Why couldn’t I have
been born the wheelwright’s son?”
Piers fought the urge to roll his eyes. “You
wouldn’t love working for your food, however much you think you would,” Piers said.
“How is Isabella?”
Edward shot him a look. “Well, how is your
wife?” he asked.
As if that question would ever bother him as
much as it bothered Edward. “She has been doing wonderful embroidery lately and
is currently in love with one of my knights. Margaret and I have been very
happy, thank you very much.” Piers paused, looking down at his hands. An absent
smile played over his face. “We—we’re friends, Edward.” His voice was uncertain,
and he studied his hands. He didn’t know why the topic of Margaret had been on
his mind so much lately, but he supposed Edward was a better person to bring it
up to than anyone else. “We truly do not care about who the other sleeps with,
and I’m fairly sure she knows I’m with you. Is that strange?” He chanced a look
up at Edward.
Edward opened his mouth, then stopped short.
He put his fingers to his lips, his eyebrows knitted together. “Actually,
what’s more concerning to me than your debatable amounts of strangeness is the
fact that your wife apparently knows about our affair and I’m only hearing of
this now?” he said thoughtfully.
“It’s Margaret,” Piers scoffed.
“She’s known for likely three years, if not more. And it’s not like you’ve been
exactly subtle on your end.”
Edward leaned back with a practiced flop,
tilting his head back to stare at the ceiling. “That is untrue slander and I
will not stand for it,” he said. As if. “You really don’t care if Margaret has
a child that’s not yours?”
Piers shrugged. He’d thought of what would happen, sometimes, if that happened or if she were ever caught with another man. He couldn’t bring himself to care if she had a child that wasn’t his, to be honest, and if either of them were caught with their respective men, it would be horrible for the both of them. It wasn’t as if Piers were with a girl, or with someone who was not the king of England. If he was doing something stupid and dangerous, then why shouldn’t Margaret? “If she has a child that isn’t mine, then we shall simply pretend it is my own. Much less scandal that way. Much less drama. I leave those things to the bastards at court.” The other bastards, that is. He wasn’t counting himself in that sentence.
“Well, that certainly is strange,” Edward
admitted, not taking his eyes off the spot in the ceiling. “But you know what’s
stranger? The fact that you and Margaret can get along so well. I can never
tell what Isabella is thinking. How do you do it?”
Piers didn’t know, exactly, how to explain the course of his and Margaret’s relationship, other than that they had started off with the expectation of mutual hatred and been pleasantly surprised. “We never expected to eventually fall in love when we got married,” he said slowly. “So I suppose we never had the expectation.”
Edward sighed loudly. “I like Bella,” he
admitted. “Not in that way, of course, I don’t think I ever will at this point.
But I like her, and I respect her. But I don’t think she feels the same way
about me. Except sometimes I think she does.”
Piers looked up at him, a smile suddenly on
his face. “Edward? Edward.”
“Yes, love?” Edward asked him, mirroring his
“I just got back here. Why on earth
are we talking about each other’s wives? Unless we’ve truly turned into the
stodgy noblemen we hate.”
Edward shuddered. “Oh, heavens, anything but
that,” he said. He took Piers in his arms and kissed him, long and hard. “Of
course you’re strange, Piers, and that’s why you’re the man I fell in love
with. Happy Christmas.”
“And it’s not like you’re any more normal,”
Piers pointed out.
“Of course not.”
“Happy Christmas,” Piers agreed.
It’s a really bad story. But I hope you learned something about the history, at least (I certainly did, wow). If you happen to know more about this time period than I do, do feel free to talk about it all day long, because I absolutely love history. When I get around to studying it. Ahem.
Also, why are all my stories titled The something and the something? At least I don’t use The something of something and something, which is possibly my least favorite title structure after it spread EVERYWHERE in 2017 like some sort of invasive species. (That was the right year, right? I just remember one year where you couldn’t find a title that wasn’t like that. It was horrible.) But I just had this title stuck in my head when I was thinking about how to title this one, and I couldn’t get it out.
I just realized that, not counting my fanfic, this is actually my very first historical story? And I mean historical without a shred of magic, I’ve done plenty of historical fantasy. Huh. Not bad for a first!
I have come to you today with a short story retelling a English/Scottish ballad! There are tons of versions of this, some showing up in places as far away as Sweden or Norway. And it shows up in other places in Northern Europe, too. Basically, it’s an old story that has had time to spread around.
It seems like posting a story once a month has sort of become a bit of a thing for me lately. I haven’t been writing much this month (I’ve begun to get started again, but I’m still sort of trying to find my groove), but I’d written this one last month. So! Here you go.
Variants of the ballad may be found here; a version put into song may be found here; and my Pinterest board (yes, of course I made a Pinterest board) may be found here.
There had been silence in the castle ever since their sister
Isobel had fallen into the river by the mill, and right now it hung over the
great hall, feeling tangible. Even the knights and servants were quiet as they
ate, the only sounds an occasional clink of metal or a murmur as someone
whispered something. The silence surrounded them all and cloaked them like a
funeral shroud, and Jane felt smothered and choked by it. “The river has
flooded,” Jane said softly, just to say something.
She leaned into her older sister Ellen and listened to the rain begin to
sprinkle down in the courtyard. “William said so when he came in.” William was
the only person who would listen to her speak now, the only one who’d listen as
she babbled some nothing as she embroidered, the only one who told her the
gossip from the town. She was in a sorry state when the only person who would
talk to her was a man she despised.
Jane huddled into her cloak, but the cold still bit into
her. William was her father’s knight and her sisters’ lover—both her sisters. He had courted Ellen,
giving her all kinds of gifts, but that hadn’t stopped him from kissing Isobel
when no one else was there. Except Jane. Because she kept walking in on them by
accident. Jane had hated them both, and hated the smile on Ellen’s face
whenever William walked in the room. She’d kept quiet, until William began to
talk to her father of marriage. Then she’d finally broke and told Ellen. Ellen
had listened, her lips tight, but her only change was her treatment of Isobel,
and she never sent William away. Jane wasn’t sure what she had expected to
happen. Isobel had drowned a month later, walking along the river strand. Ellen
had cried herself to sleep for months afterwards, and she’d barely had an
appetite since it happened. She was too thin.
Jane scraped her chicken onto Ellen’s plate with a smile. The
knife scratched loudly against her plate, earning her a look from her father.
Ellen looked at it and pushed it away. Jane’s smile faded into a bitter
grimace, her hands clutching the cold wood of her chair. There was an emptiness
to this castle that could not be chased away, no matter how many nice things
she did. It had always been there. But now it tightened around their necks like
A loud crack of thunder pealed, and the rain began in
earnest, pelting the stone. The doors of the hall were thrown open with a
crash, and a dead woman walked through them, her skin stretched tight over her
body and a skeleton smile on her face. Jane’s father sprang to his feet with a
loud curse, the only life this hall had seen in months. Ellen did nothing
except watch the woman with a fanatic expression almost as dead as hers.
The only living thing the woman had was her golden hair,
bright and gleaming and falling down past her waist. There was something
horribly familiar about her hair, but Jane would not think why. “I come
bringing a miracle and a curse,” the woman said in a rich, resounding voice.
“But this place will no longer hold miracles, and so I deliver only the curse.”
“What devil dares
impersonate my daughter?” her mother whispered. The cold dread that had been
coming over Jane washed over her in a flood, nearly bringing her to her knees.
So her mother had noticed, too. “Begone from this place.”
“I am no devil,” said Isobel, with a smile that sent a
shiver through Jane. “I am nothing but the river.” She waited for a response,
but none came. She shrugged and brought out a harp from behind her. Jane did
not realize at first what it was made of until it hit her in a horrible
realization. She clapped a hand to her mouth, trying to push down the vomit
rising in her. This was a nightmare. “A harper found my body and cut my
breast-bone for his harp and took my hair for his strings,” Isobel said with a
laugh. “He thought he could make a fortune with the magic, but the magic sung
him to madness and took his soul. He clawed out his own eyes,” she added
happily. Someone had desecrated her sister’s body? Or…She couldn’t process it
anymore. “But it was magic, and dark
magic, too.” She stepped back, and the harp began to sing, and this was
Isobel’s voice, high and clear.
Farewell, my father
and mother dear, and another song intertwined with it to sing of a sister
who pushed the younger in as they were walking along the river strand,
By the bonny mill-dams
Farewell to William my
Binnorie, O, Binnorie,
And woe to my sister
who drowned me,
By the bonny mill-dams
The harp broke with a loud crack that sounded through the
room. “Sister?” said Isobel to Ellen, holding out her hand.
“Of course,” Ellen whispered viciously, walking over to her.
She took the hand, and Isobel began to lead Ellen out of the room.
“No!” Jane screamed, running toward them. “No, leave her!”
Her parents did nothing. She clawed at Isobel’s hand, but both her sisters
shoved her to the floor.
“A life for a life,” Ellen said. “That is what you desire,
isn’t it, river?”
She tossed a smile over her shoulder at Ellen. “It is
possible.” Jane jumped back to her feet, pulling at Ellen and trying to tear
her away from this spirit, but she couldn’t break Isobel’s grip. She fell down,
feeling as if all the strength were gone from her body. She tried to push
herself up, and found she couldn’t.
“Take me,” she pleaded. “Take me instead.”
“No, Jane,” Isobel said. “You have no part in this. Leave this place and find a home.” And she led Ellen out the doors and into the misty rain.
I feel like that was unusually dark even for me. Wow.
The number of sisters varies from version to version. Most of the ballads only have two sisters, but a few have three, and I opted to tell it from the point of view of the third sister because, frankly, she is the only sister who comes out of this ballad looking okay. I don’t know that there are any versions where the ghost (or…whatever she was) of the sister comes to the castle rather than the harper, but hey, artistic license.
Once again, Arielle from Fairy Tale Central came through this month with another awesome prompt! I’ve been really enjoying doing them!
The prompt can be found here if you want to come up with a story for it! I tweaked the prompt a little, as I usually do. And the fairy tale (along with truly amazing commentary) can be found here.
I have no idea where this is set and if it’s a fantasy world or if it’s historical fantasy, but you know what? Let’s just call this historical UK. Now, where is it in the UK? Is it in Scotland? England? What time period is it? I don’t know! I’m professional!
I tried to give Snow selective mutism, and I hope everything was accurate. *fingers crossed*
And I made a Pinterest board, of course. I also found this board that I did not make, but that inspired me while coming up with this story.
And as always: No plagiarism, do not steal. I’m sure that I don’t have to say this and that everyone who reads this is a lovely person, but it can happen occasionally, so. 😀
Snow rested atop the boulder, her tattered red cloak covered in snowflakes. She sat very still, as usual. She sat so still that she looked as if she were waiting for someone or something, and she stared intently out into the distance past the cliff’s edge where the thick, roiling grey clouds coated the earth beneath, and if Rose hadn’t known her, she would have thought she were doing something very important. But she was not. She was simply thinking about something, and Rose didn’t know what. Rose was never privy to those particular thoughts.
Rose snuck up behind her, the snow crunching loudly under her feet, and she ruffled Snow’s white-blond hair, accidentally tugging some of it out of her braid. It wouldn’t have worked on anyone but Snow. Rose was horrible at sneaking.
Snow jumped and turned around to see her. Her eyes narrowed,
and she turned away. “Don’t do that,”
she said, placing a hand to her hair.
“Sorry,” Rose said with a grin, brushing Snow’s cloak off,
because she’d never do it herself. She sat down on the boulder with her back to
Snow. She bit her lip, a million things she wanted to say and the words for
none of them. But she had to tell someone, because the words tightened in her
chest until they wanted to burst, and she should have said these things to her
family by now anyway. “We’ve been
growing older, haven’t we?” Her voice was soft and a bit hollow, but Snow didn’t
“Obviously,” Snow said dryly. “Did you think we would be
sixteen forever?” Rose shut her eyes. That hadn’t come out right at all.
“What I meant was…” She licked her lips. “Not physically. But I feel older.” She
thought for a moment about leaving the subject there and saying something else.
“You’ve made a friend, and I’ve…” And Rose didn’t fit in with her old friends anymore,
and she looked at them now and she felt ancient and apart. “And I’ve been
feeling positively antiquated,” she said frankly. Snow didn’t say anything.
Snow’s friend was—he was a man enchanted to be a bear, and
Rose was never quite certain about the details, or if Snow had ever remembered
to tell their mother about him. He’d come in late one winter’s night when their
mother was away, covered in snow and soft whispers, and Rose had fled under the
table, her hands over her head and waiting for the sharp teeth to pull her out.
But Snow stood there in the doorway for a moment, watching him with her serious
eyes, and then she stepped aside and let him in. Rose hadn’t been able to
believe her eyes for a moment. Snow would probably have shut the door to a person. Rose thought that she must have
But the bear hadn’t eaten them, and he began to talk to Snow,
softly. Rose could not hear what he said, and she was too out of it to try to
listen. Snow said nothing—she never said anything to strangers—but she nodded,
shut the door, and began to stoke the fireplace, gesturing at Rose to come out.
And he had stayed there for the night, and Snow rested her head against his
back and went to sleep.
He’d come to their house a few more times, never when anyone
besides them were there, and Snow had even begun to talk to him sometimes. Rose
couldn’t begin to say how much of a relief that was to her, despite the fact
that he was—well, enchanted to be a bear. Snow never talked to anyone who could talk back, besides her family. Rose
had no idea what their prior relationship was, or how he had been enchanted,
and sometimes the fact that she was left out of so much in this family rubbed in her throat, but she never said
“Antiquated how?” Snow asked. Rose jumped. She’d been silent
for so long Rose hadn’t expected her to answer.
“I—” She waved her hand. “I…” Because the woods had gotten a little too deep into her and sung her their wild uncanny ways and– “I fell in love,” she said, changing the subject. “I think.”
She did not turn to see Snow roll her eyes, but Rose was
fairly certain she was. Or maybe Rose was being paranoid. “With whom?” Snow
asked, and her voice was not sarcastic.
“With…With…I met him during a dance.” She felt Snow nod her
head against hers. “And I danced with him a lot, and he…” She swallowed. Her
voice was a little higher-pitched than usual. “He wanted me to stay there
forever with him,” she said slowly. “But I would not, because I still loved
this place, and I loved my friends, and I love you and Mother.” Her hands trembled. She had never, ever said this
aloud, not to him nor to anyone else. She had never even whispered it, but the
thought kept coming to her in the dark of night until she felt certain that it
would eat her. “But I don’t want this anymore.” She was whispering. “I want to
be there with him—”
“Who—” There was a dangerous edge to Snow’s voice—“Is him?”
“His—his name is Bran,” she said. “You wouldn’t have met
him.” Her hands twisted in her lap. They felt frozen, even with gloves on.
“What is he, then.” It was not a question. Rose thought of
trying to lie, but there wasn’t much point.
“He’s fey,” she whispered even softer, “and I’ve never seen
his true form, but he always appears to me as either a beautiful man or a wild
antlered thing from the woods. But he is…” She swallowed. Holy. Sublime. She
could not say that without sounding utterly ridiculous.
“Oh, good heavens,” Snow said, and her voice could not have
been more dry. Trust Snow to react that way. “Why couldn’t you have fallen in
love with a human like an ordinary girl, Sister?”
That stung a bit. “Says the girl who is falling in love with
a bear,” she snapped back. Snow did
not say anything for a moment, and Rose was not sure if she were hurt or
surprised; but when she turned to apologize, Snow was only looking thoughtfully
past the cliff’s edge, her lips parted slightly. Rose found she did not know
what to say.
Snow shook her head sharply, breaking out of the reverie.
“Don’t make our relationship sound stranger than it is,” she said, her voice
gentle. “Have you told Mother?”
Rose bit her lip. “No. Have you ever told her about the bear?” It was a question she’d wanted
to ask for a while.
Snow paused. “No.” Her voice was a little different. “We had
probably…better do that soon, shouldn’t we?”
Rose sighed, her breath turning to mist in the cold air.
“Yes, we probably should. So let’s go and do it, because we’ve waited an
embarrassingly long time. Poor Mother.” She got up, dusting the snow off her
dress, and held her hand out to Snow.
Snow looked at it for a moment and took it with a wry smile. “Poor Mother,” she agreed. “Yes, let’s.” And they walked off together, Rose not entirely sure what she was going to say when she got home.
I like the idea of Bran a lot, and I might reuse that idea for another story, honestly. The same goes for Snow. I’m probably not going to do anything more with this story in particular–at least probably not, though there’s always a possibility with me–but my little sister did give me the idea of doing a Snow White and Rose Red retelling set in Alaska, and just…Excuse me, let me go add that to my queue of stories I want to write. (Has anyone else done Snow White and Rose Red with Eskimo characters yet? And can you rec it to me if they have?) [Edit: I did NOT know back when I wrote this that ‘eskimo’ was very much not the right word to use, I am so sorry. (◞‸ლ) ]
This story’s working title was ‘Awkward boyfriends’ and if that doesn’t sum up this story I don’t know what does. My mom helped me come up with the actual title, and can I just say…Thank you?? That title is perfect??
Also, in case you’re wondering…I most certainly named Bran after the character from one of my very favorite Irish poems.
I wrote an Aladdin story! And no, that is the fairy tale Aladdin, not the movie Aladdin, which, from my understanding, is pretty different. (I’ve somehow lived my life without watching the Aladdin movie, which is something I need to fix as soon as possible.) Fairy Tale Central is covering this fairy tale this month, and Arielle posted this prompt on her personal blog:
Rereading the fairy tale, I realized that the princess seriously goes through a lot. First Aladdin magically wrecks her marriage (yes, she was very briefly married), then she gets kidnapped by an evil magician, and seriously, so many bad things happen to her. I also realized that Aladdin and I don’t exactly get along. I do love his larger-than-life attitude, but…he magically wrecks her marriage. He does all these things and never seems to think about the consequences or how that will affect people, and he never seems to get any consequences, either. And my question was, ‘How easy would someone like Aladdin actually be to live with?’ And that was what inspired this story. It’s a bit of a sequel to the original fairy tale, I guess.
I’ve actually been avoiding writing non-novel related things lately, because I used to have the worst problem with switching stories mid-way through and never getting back to the story I was working on originally, and Iwas afraid of that happening, especially since I’ve been having trouble with my novel lately. But I think working on this short story helped me! I feel a little more confident with my characterization now, and more ready to get back to work on my novel.
And of course, the obligatory Pinterest board, because apparently I need one for a seven page story…
One last thing: ‘Jinni’ is the exact same thing as ‘genie’, just spelled in a different way. ‘Genie’ is the exact same thing as ‘jinn,’ except ‘jinn’ is the plural of the word. So hopefully that clears up any confusion. That could have been something everyone knew except me, but I didn’t know it until I started getting into The Arabian Nights at age fifteen and read the wiki article on jinn. So.
One last last thing: Plagiarism is absolutely not okay, do not steal, etc. It’s not nice. Though that is assuming anyone would want to steal this story XD
on the balcony overlooking the garden, turning a lamp around in her hands. It
was sunset, with a wash of red and gold in the sky, and a gold hue cast over
the garden. The warm evening wind rustled the leaves of the orange tree and
lulled her into a tired stupor. She had stolen the lamp in a kind of furtive
desperation. Aladdin was not home, and thus could not walk in on her out here.
She was alone.
This is not a good idea, the one still-sane part of her brain whispered as she rubbed the lamp. It was an ugly, rusted, tiny oil lamp that did not look at all magical. But she knew better. “Jinni,” she whispered. She had seen Aladdin do this before, when he thought she wasn’t looking. “Jinni, I am unhappy.” He did this, too, crooning to it as he polished the lamp, and she mimicked him almost without realizing it.
A trail of
fire leaked out of the mouth of the lamp and snaked through the air, forming a
body. The jinni looked like a human woman, but…it was so wrong. Her skin had a greyish undertone to it, and her hair was dried
out, and she looked like she had died in a cave. But that was not what made
Sepideh stare. It was her eyes. There was something ancient and savage to them, and Sepideh could not
This was not
her true form. Her true form was probably even stranger, even more great and
terrible. Sepideh could not fathom something more great and terrible than those
“You are not
Aladdin,” the jinni said, stating the obvious. Sepideh said nothing, staring at
her face. The jinni waited for a while and got no response. “What I meant was,
would you explain why I am here?” she demanded. Sepideh jumped. She
straightened her shoulders and swallowed hard, but she still found her face so
hard to look at. Why had she expected
a jinni to look human?
“I—” Her voice did not come out at full volume. She swallowed. She—she couldn’t. She was faced with the solution to her problems, and she couldn’t reach out and grab it. She was afraid. Maybe being afraid was rational, and a solution involving magic and a jinni had been a horrible idea in the first place. But all she could think was, bloody coward. “It was an accident,” she whispered. She’d just give the lamp back to Aladdin when he got home, and he’d tease her a bit and not ask why. And they’d never speak of it again. “I was polishing the lamp. I’m sorry.” She reached for the lamp, but the jinni pushed it away with her foot. It fell over, clanging against the floor.
said loudly. She gripped Sepideh’s shoulder, her claws pricking her. Sepideh’s
shoulders went rigid, but she didn’t pull away. Her face. She was not human at all. “You’re lying. Who are
you?” Her voice was too loud, too hoarse.
been such a stupid decision. What did she know of dealing with jinn? “I am
Aladdin’s wife,” she said, her voice shaking a little. “Who are you?”
eyes widened, and she let go of her shoulder and sat down on the floor with a
practiced flop. She leaned back on her elbow and crossed one leg over the
other. She was a muscular, hardened-looking woman, and she had the confidence
of an empress. “Did you just ask for my name?” she asked, her voice a little
sorry—” Sepideh said, unsure what her point was but apologizing anyway.
She held up
a hand. Her hands looked like bird-feet, withered and bony, with long claws on
the ends of her fingers. “Don’t,” she said. “I was only commenting on the fact
that it is unusual among selfish adventurers, who are usually the sorts of
people to find my lamp. My name is Roshanak. Do go on with what you were
saying.” Was ‘selfish adventurer’ an insult to Aladdin? Or was she
“I…I’m not happy,” she said. She swallowed. She had
already said this. Roshanak nodded, her eyes shut, and waved at her to
continue. “I married the vizier’s son, and I wasn’t happy then. But at least I
understood why I had to. Behnam and I
had been expected to marry each other, ever since we were children. It was
something I knew would happen eventually. And then Aladdin shows up and en—enchants
him—” She paused. “And Behnam calls off the marriage and Aladdin dances away
with a palace and a princess. And…I’ve never loved him a day in my life.” She
said the last sentence in a rushed, quiet voice.
sympathize,” she said, waving her hand again. “Go on.”
up at her. “That was all I had to say,” she said, her brow furrowed.
tilted her head back and sighed. “Nothing else?” Roshanak asked. Her claws
drummed on the blue floor tiles, making a clitter-clatter
noise. “Do you want your problems solved? Because if you’re hoping I can make
Aladdin think of someone other than himself for once, the answer is no. I can
make palaces, but I can’t change anyone’s heart.”
That had been what she was hoping. That
Roshanak could make them fall in love, or that she could make Aladdin think of
someone besides himself or his mother. Or something. Anything would have been
said quietly. “I should have known. Thank you.” She swallowed. “Do you—do you
think I could run away?” she mumbled. She’d never have asked this question to
anyone except a jinni. She was a bit surprised at herself for having asked that
question to a jinni.
wondering this for the past year, looking out at the garden wall and wishing. But she knew nothing would ever
come of it. It didn’t matter how many jinn she asked for advice. It wouldn’t
change the fact that she was such a coward. “I don’t think he’d understand if I
asked for a divorce.” Roshanak snorted, probably because it was a ridiculous
understatement. Aladdin had never even realized she was unhappy. Aladdin was
remarkably good at not noticing things he didn’t want to.
she said, sitting up. “But dear, don’t you know the old saying? If you are
saved from the lion, don’t be greedy and hunt it. And both poverty and
adventure are worse than lions.” She looked down at her claws, looking
remarkably pleased with herself for summing that up. “Consider yourself blessed
that you’ve never had to experience them…well, one of them,” she amended. Sepideh
had already had an adventure. But she had never called it that. Sepideh called
it a horrible and traumatic time.
laid her hands in her lap. Would Roshanak
have ever experienced poverty or adventure? Had she lived her whole life
inside the lamp, or had she actually gone through those things? Either way, her
attitude was unbearable.
hands clenched into a soft fist in her lap. She just—that was the equivalent of
giving her a nice pat on the shoulder and telling her to have a good day. A jinni
was apparently no different from everyone else. “But jinni,” she said. She was
barely aware of what she was saying. “Don’t you know the saying, ‘if a wind
blows, ride it’? Are you incapable of being my wind? Or simply unwilling?” Her
hands were shaking. As if she couldn’t do it. Well, Roshanak could watch her. Why had she expected Roshanak
to tell her anything different from all the other people she’d asked help from?
A flock of
white birds flew out of the tree next to the balcony, their wings beating a
harsh drumbeat against the wind. Roshanak sat up, eyeing her appreciatively. “I
am not necessarily incapable or
unwilling.” She watched her. “Anger suits you,” she mused. “You should be angry
more often.” Sepideh didn’t know what to say to that. “It isn’t as if you’re inept,”
she added. “You’ve been kidnapped and you killed a man, and I’m sure you can
handle other things.” Sepideh flinched a little at the memory. There was an
ugly side of her, a side she didn’t want to face, a side of her that had been
vengeful and satisfied when a man’s eyes went empty. She hated being reminded
of that. “That was very nicely done, I might add.” Roshanak’s voice was
cheerful. Sepideh blinked at the ground, hard. So a jinni approved of her
murdering skills. How…gratifying.
true,” she said quietly. “I’ve had that kind of adventure.”
“I was only
pointing out that you might find it a little harder to do it on your own than
you might think.” Roshanak leaned back again, looking out toward the sunset.
“But I like you,” she said, with the air of someone making a generous
concession. “You’re the first to ask my name in a while. I can’t change
Aladdin’s heart. But I can make you a
palace. Didn’t I say that?” She didn’t exactly smile, but her eyes crinkled.
conversation had…Sepideh had lost track of this conversation. That didn’t
usually happen to her. “What?” she asked, her head coming up.
waved her hand at her again, more emphatically this time. “I said to ask for
something! Make a wish! Come on! Make it crazy and stupid and fun!” Sepideh
took a deep breath. That was a sudden change in attitude.
dreamed and dreamed of one thing until it became an almost obsessive thought,
and then she got married and dreamed of it more.
not bear others’ company anymore. She
could not bear Aladdin, who tricked her husband into a divorce, she could not
bear her father, who put her in that situation to begin with, and the only
person she had ever sort of loved was
her mother, and she was beginning to not be able to bear her, either. And she
had no other friends, people who would listen without judging or being bored.
And so her dream was to be alone. Completely and utterly alone.
This is a horrible decision and how
do you even know she has your best interests at heart, a small part of her screamed. But she
looked into those savage, sharp eyes and forgot all common sense. “Then I want
a palace,” she said, her voice soft and flat. The cold floor pressed into her
ankles. “I want a palace in the middle of the desert where no one ever comes.
And I want big, grand gardens and fountains wherever you turn, and I want to
live there alone, with no one to hurt
me or misunderstand me. Is that too much to ask?”
too much to ask,” Roshanak said. “If you’re sure you want it. But you wouldn’t
ask if you weren’t sure.” She said that with a breezy confidence Sepideh did
not share. Sepideh was not entirely sure she wouldn’t scream at herself in the
“I suppose I
wouldn’t,” she said softly. “And…is there anything you want?” She did not know what she could do for an immortal. But
she asked anyway. She hated owing
people, and she didn’t particularly want to be in debt to one of the jinn. And
she would be in debt, and she
wouldn’t be surprised if Roshanak knew it.
stared at her. Sepideh breathed out a little. Well, she hadn’t thought the
offer would come to… “Anything I want what?” Roshanak asked blankly.
could do for you,” she said. What was so confusing about that?
said. “You’re the first person to ask me that in five centuries.” That put
Sepideh’s problems in perspective a little. Roshanak snapped her fingers at
her, making her jump. “There is a lot you can do for me. Will you?” Something
in her eyes dared her to back out of the deal.
she mumbled. She meant to say it louder.
me from the lamp,” she said, leaning forward and crossing her wrists over each
other in her lap. “Will you? I’m sick of being trapped in this lamp, enslaved
to selfish humans who think they can conquer the world with my talents.” There
was a bitter, hard edge to her voice that Sepideh understood more than she
wanted to admit. “I hate it, and I hate them, and I hate the ones who put me
here. I want out of my lamp, and I want to take a rest, and then I want revenge
after that.” Sounded like a worthy goal. “Will you help me?” Her eyes dared her to back out.
Sepideh looked up and nodded. She didn’t even know if she should. Would this hurt her later? But then, she oughtn’t to be doing any of this, and she had promised. Backing out of a promise had been what had gotten her father in that Aladdin-caused mess in the first place. “Yes,” she said. “I will. What do I have to do?” Roshanak eyed her as if she weren’t quite sure what to make of her.
it. Say that you want me to be free of the lamp,” she said, and suddenly her
voice was uncertain and vulnerable,
and Sepideh didn’t know what to make of that either.
“Then I want
you to be free of the lamp,” she said. “I want you to be free so you can take a
rest and get your revenge. Will we meet again?” Sepideh wanted so badly for her
to say yes, and she wasn’t sure why.
looked at her for a moment, and then threw her head back with a laugh. She
laughed too long, and too loud, until the hairs on the back of Sepideh’s neck
stood up. “Why not?” Roshanak said. She swooped in closer to her, a grin on her
face. That was another sudden mood change. Sepideh winced but did not move away
as she would for most people. She related better to a monster she had had one
conversation with than the humans around her, and that summed up her life. “I do like you quite a bit. Should we live
together? I said I wanted to rest, and I have to rest somewhere. Why not in a palace? A fine palace with lots of big,
grand gardens and fountains wherever you look?” Sepideh stared at her for a
moment, and the laugh slowly faded from Roshanak’s eyes. “Or not,” she added,
Sepideh held up a hand. “No, it’s not that I don’t want to,” she said quickly. She realized what she had said. The ingrained desire to not be rude really was going to kill her one of these days. But for some reason she…She was lonely. She was so, so lonely some days she felt like screaming at the walls just to see if anyone noticed. So…she didn’t want to say no. She didn’t want to reject her even though this was so stupid.
Roshanak’s eyes lit up. “Really?” she said, her voice a
low murmur. She got to her feet and held out a hand to Sepideh. “You want me
like this? An ugly, unashamed monster?” There was a wicked laugh at the back of
mind you for being a monster,” she said, gripping her hand and pulling herself
to her feet. Roshanak’s hand was cold, even though the air was swelteringly
warm. “I could not mind you for
that.” She had felt too much of a monster at times to ever judge someone else
for being monstrous. Not in that way.
smiled down at her, and for once her face looked soft and open. Sepideh would
not have guessed she could look like that. “Then close your eyes, and I’ll tell
you to open them when we get to your palace.”
palace will be magical,” she said, squeezing her eyes shut.
“And it will be magical,” Roshanak agreed.
[Edit: Using the word ‘savage’ to describe a non-white character was not the best choice. Sorry. I find tough girls sexy, but I should have put thought into how I described her. 🤦🏻♀️ God, I can’t believe 17-year-old me didn’t catch that.]
So, a part of me is going, ‘this is the best story eveeerrr!! The whole world will read it and bow in awe of what an amazing writer I am!!’, a part of me is going, ‘noo, it’s so bad,’ and the sane part of me is going, ‘so, you do realize probably only two people are going to read this, right?’
Usually when I write a character, I have the hardest time keeping track of their body language and how I last described them–are they sitting down, or did I say they stood up three paragraphs ago, etc. And actually figuring out how to describe said body language is also hard, but for some reason with Roshanak I always knew where she was in the scene and how to describe that. It was really, really nice.
Eyes show up in my stories as a theme quite a lot. I’m not sure why, but I’m always describing my characters’ ‘hungry eyes’ or ‘cold eyes’ or ‘dead eyes.’ It’s a weird writing quirk. I have no idea why that keeps showing up, but it does. Oh well, I’m here for it.
Also, Roshanak’s name is similar to the name of another character I have, but I don’t care. It’s a nice name. (It’s the only female ancient Persian name I could find during a quick google search.) Fun fact, I actually misspelled Sepideh’s name all throughout the first draft of this? It was only when I googled the name one more time just to make sure I was spelling it correctly that I realized I’d been misspelling it. Thank God for google, people.