The thief fell from the tower’s upper window. She had lost her precarious grip on the pitted brick. She remembered that she should roll herself up into a loose ball to protect her head and neck. But by the time she remembered, she had already struck the first branch of the tree in the orchard below. Then she struck another and another. Scratched and thrashed and bounced about, she finally reached the ground, thankful that the soil was soft. She lay there for far too long a moment. The breath had been knocked out of her. And she feared moving for fear she might discover that she could not.
When I was born, a clever mage, who was also my mother, made for me a triptych: three panels, attached in a row by hinges, depicting paintings of our home. The middle panel depicted our capital city, where we lived. The left panel depicted my mother, her hands raised as if in the casting of a spell. The right panel depicted the Arx, the great tower of knowledge where mages learned their trade. The flanking panels were each half the width of the middle one, so they could be folded inward, and the image could be hidden. And strangely, my mother had built a lock into the triptych. Once folded, the triptych could be secured. I did not know why it would need to be locked. There were no secret or blasphemous things depicted in the paintings, as far as I knew.
“Is it true that you once beat Hare in a foot race? It can’t be true. But is it true?”
He continued walking along as the little black bird flapped around him. She landed on a nearby branch.
“I’ve heard that you’ve seen the world from above as a bird does when she’s flying. Is that true? How did you do it? It can’t be true. But is it true?”
Tortoise sighed again. But he also smiled.
Starling was young and eager. But she was also persistent. And she was also perceptive. She noted the smile on Tortoise’s face. She understood what it meant. He had expected her to grow tired of asking him the same questions day after day. But she had done so for five days now. Perhaps he would deem her worthy enough to deserve some answers to her questions.
“By accepting this challenge when you are so obviously unready for it, you are jeopardizing the peace meal—“
“No, you’re jeopardizing the peace meal,” Jae said, as she took a step toward her challenger. “By your obvious poor example of what peace means. There is no graciousness or humility in your demeanor. There is no generosity or compromise in your attitude toward those who have been chosen—or even those who did the choosing. By questioning me, you are questioning, doubting, and disrespecting those who chose me.”
I noticed the magician when he slipped in behind the last person to enter the golden-walled elevator, and I sucked in a breath. I held it, half-subconsciously, as if it would make me invisible to him. It did not. I started feeling thudding of my heart as soon as he started turning to people, one at a time, handing them scraps of paper, touching their hands. I exhaled when he turned to me and handed me a scrap of paper too. He grinned and told me what I was supposed to do the next time he called upon me.
When he turned away, my gaze began to dart around the tiny box in which we were all trapped, looking for a way, any way, out. I glanced up. I glanced at the large tall man whom I could easily hide behind, if he weren’t so far away. I saw no way out, and so I took a deep breath and braced myself for when the magician’s attention would once again return to me.
“Why does there have to be winter?”
The asker was my little niece, all bundled up in black-and-silver fleece blankets. Her favorite colors. She didn’t ask the question just out of curiosity. She was frowning slightly. Winter had swallowed up her favorite season, autumn. (The season to which her only objection was, “why does there have to be so much orange?”).
I smiled. “Do you want the scientific explanation or the non-scientific explanation?”
When buds are twisted too tightly, they will never bloom beautifully, my grandmother always said, all the more so after she’d witness my staying in my little corner of the room at a party in our house while the other children played with each other. But she did not know that I was surrounded by friends in my own world, in Castle Farouche.
Rare are they who can by their very presence bring about the emergence of the fantastic from the most common of things and the most mundane of people.
So rare indeed, that most towns only had one such person, only one whose speech inspired the emergence of energy from lethargy, whose gaze transformed ugliness to beauty, and whose touch could change a blunder into a wonder.
Feodora was one such person.
A person known throughout the realm as a fantasticator.
This week’s story will be posted soon. This is the anniversary post for Storyfeather’s fifth year!
The Year of S.T.E.A.M. is done! That was the theme for Storyfeather Year Five. Science. Technology. Engineering. Arts. Mathematics. Year Five’s stories aimed to center around one of the aforementioned elements. It was quite the challenge.
Also a challenge, keeping the bar for the artwork as high as I could manage after the visual upgrade the site received in Year Four.
Thank you to everyone who read even a single story. And if you liked or commented, thank you again. Thank you for your time and interest, and for being a part of Storyfeather, especially Year Five.
A lot happened in the fifth year stories. A cast and crew of middle school students put on an original play about cosmic heroes and deadly aliens. A malfunctioning beauty product gave whole new meaning to the term “vanishing cream.” An explorer got lost in a spatiotemporal anomaly that was once the treasure vault of an alien pirate. And a woman started turning into a cartoon…
I’ve written over 250 stories now. And I’ve produced 52 podcast episodes (one for each story from Year One). Year Five was a (sometimes delirious) struggle, but well worth it. Storytelling is still my true love, still my destiny, still my path.
Year Six is on the horizon. Here’s to seeing what stories will brew. I hope you’ll come along.
I have stories to tell you.
“Earthquakes? This ain’t California.”
Sheriff Lockley shook her head at her deputy.
“Well it’s not Kansas either and we get the occasional tornado some summers,” she said, peering at the television screen in her office.
The sheriff, two deputies, and the science reporter for the Acton Daily were watching the latest report on the strange rumblings that had started almost a year ago.
“We’re just lucky, Grubbs” the reporter said. “We get a little taste of all the natural disasters.”
Grubbs crossed her arms and frowned. “If it’s just earthquakes, why is it happening a few times a week now? I’ve never heard of that. That can’t be natural.”
Lockley wondered the same thing.