Portal Button. Elongated rectangle. Rings of colored light emanate from the center. Inset on the left, a square with the Storyfeather feather logo, a feather quill shaped like the letter "f" with a drop of ink hovering below its tip. To the right of the image, the word "Challenge." At top right, the word "Year." Below "Year," the numeral "1."


Every year’s short stories (mostly) follow a theme. Well, I didn’t consciously intend that when I started. So the only “theme” for the stories in Year One was the challenge I had set to myself to write a short story every week for a year. It was a struggle (of course). But I did it. And then I kept going. And if I do say so myself, the stories got better overall. The writing. The artwork. It all started here.

Welcome to the first year of Storyfeather.

Below are the titles, primary genres, and taglines for each story in the order it was originally posted.

  • READ button opens story post where you can read the story.
  • LISTEN button opens podcast episode page where you can hear the story, narrated by Nila over music (and the occasional sound effect).
  • GO TO THE END button jumps you to the bottom of the page. It’s a long way down, and depending on your device, important navigational links may be below the page or in the sidebar.

Digital drawing.  Silhouettes of two human-like figures facing each other in battle.  Both are seen from waist-up, and appear to have risen from stormy clouds.  The figure at left wields a branching lightning bolt in upraised bent arms.  The figure at right holds arms and hands straight out, launching forth small objects like rocks or ice.

Who really lives in the middle of the forest in the stone hut that always smells of amber?

Digital drawing. A gingerbread house viewed from one corner.  The front of the house has chocolate door under a curved awning. A pathway of rectangular cookies leads to the door. Bordering the path on either side is a garden filled with candy flowers with red bulbs.  The shingles on the gabled roof are gumdrops.  At left, a large opening at the side of the house is shuttered with candy cane sticks. A short fence is seen at left, and patches of grass at the base of tall tree trunks that extend up out of frame.

Did Hansel and Gretel defeat a wicked witch?  Or was it all just a terrible misunderstanding?

When a young villager faces the dragon that has terrorized his people for generations, who will be first to beg for his life?

Digital drawing. An anatomical depiction of the human heart, showing a small portion of the aorta and other blood vessels leading into and away from the heart.

Why is the first artificial heart ever created suddenly behaving as if, well, as if it has a mind of its own?

Digital drawing. Rough silhouette of a humanoid stick figure outlined with a rough, patchy texture. At the center of the torso is the rough shape of an upside down triangle.

Two agents investigate an apparent explosion in a suburban home that leaves the family living inside with uncanny injuries.

Digital drawing. A cat’s right eye surrounded by patches of fur.

Twenty-nine cats set out on a mission to find a rare resource that will save their people and their way of life.  How many will make it back home?

Scan of drawing. An emblem. Top half of a human figure with the wings of a bird extended straight out. The robed figure has eyes and mouth closed, and holds hands in front of chest, gripping the hilt of a sword that extends downward, comprising the bottom part of the emblem. The blade is inscribed with a motto in Latin, “Paulisper summus in hic mundo,” which roughly translates to “For a little while, we are in this world.”

Why do the five children of a recently arrived family in town believe that their new stepmother is up to no good??

Digital drawing. Silhouette of a boy from shoulders up. Only the eyes are seen within the silhouette and they appear to be tilted in an expression of anger.  Curling around the boys head are emanations in a pattern of rows of barbs or spikes.

What does one boy do when he suspects that someone in his family has an illegal psychic ability?

Digital drawing. Composite image. Foreground, silhouette of a red-hooded figure seen from waist-up. The hood is drawn, face obscured behind black shadow. A rough depiction of an axe extends out of the cloak to right. Behind the figure is the silhouette at a larger scale of a wolf’s head in left profile, head raised in a howl.  Behind the wolf is a symbol only partially seen: a broken circle curving around the wolf’s head, lines forming a triangle extending down from the circle and down behind the wolf’s head, vertical lines on either side of the wolf’s head.

A young woman discovers that her beloved grandmother has been killed in her own bed.  Was her grandmother killed by a wild animal, or by something sinister?

Digital drawing. An eight-pointed star.  The points extend out into wispy streaks.  At the star’s center, are the small overlapping depictions of planets from the solar system native to humans, Venus, Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn.  The planets are not to scale. Between the points of the star, there extend more wispy streaks.  The star is set within a circle of cloud or fog, only visible at the corners.

How does the crew of an exploration vessel respond, when they encounter a strange creature of legend, floating helpless, in the middle of nowhere?

Digital drawing. A symbolic depiction of the human brain, seen in left profile and cross section. Extending down from the center of the brain are two double-helices.  Sparks surround the brain and can be seen through its empty spaces.

What would you do if your little brother became lost in time?

Cutout from photograph of a red rose in fresh bloom with water droplets scattered over the petals.

Two sisters living in the forest cross paths with a bear, a gnome, and a curse.

Digital drawing. A symbolic depiction of a medieval-style helmet facing forward. The visor area glows with a sparking light.

Who—or what—is the mysterious black-armored knight who roams the roads around the southern town of Thessa?

Digital painting. A dragonfly seen directly from above, wings extended out, and body slightly glowing with diffuse dim light.

What surprises await two newly arrived travelers to a royal capital that seems to be abandoned?

Scan of pencil drawing. A flower with seven petals shaped, stellate, and radially symmetrical, seen from above. The center of the flower is green and four large leaves extend from beneath the flower.  Each petal is colored like the layers of a rainbow with an edge of white and then black.

In a gray world without Wonder or Mystery, can the blooming of a single flower make any difference?

Digital drawing.  A generic brown spider seen from above, with legs arrayed at the sides.  The spider has a faint triangle symbol on its abdomen. Under the spider is the outline drawing of the spider magnified.

How can the gentle people of the Third Village stand up against the ruthless and powerful enemies that have taken over their home?

Digital drawing. A symbolic depiction in outline of a coiled serpent with head raised and mouth open. The serpent lies within a circle with a solid border, which itself lies within a circle with a double-line border. Another circle with a thin line is offset to the left and lies between the inner and outer circles that lie around the serpent.

What is the first thing that a cosmic serpent does after it hatches?

Digital drawing. Silhouette of a woman sitting cross-legged and facing forward with her hands resting on her knees. Spiked lines of energy or radiance surround her.

When a reclusive princess is held hostage by an invader and usurper, how can she possibly escape and save herself and her people?

What will a fractured people do when the mysterious machines that keep their world alive stop operating?

Digital drawing. Silhouettes of two figures. Foreground right, in red, a woman from waist up turned to the left of frame.  Her left arm is extended to the side. Her right arm is raised, bent at the elbow, hand holding a gun. Behind her and to the left, at a larger scale, in black and white, a man facing forward from chest up, wearing a suit and tie and a hat. He is positioned so that the gun is right in front of his face.

Femme fatale…damsel in distress…crime boss?  Who…is Sylvia?

Scan of watercolor painting. A mouse seen from above and left flank. The mouse is standing on all fours. Lying on the mouse’s back is the carcass of a scorpion, so that the pincers extend around the mouse’s head and the tail is raised. The mouse’s tail curls around the scorpion’s tail.

An ambitious young mouse discovers a shortcut to the glory he has sought all his life, but has he considered all the costs to himself and to his people?

Digital drawing. Composite image of three silhouettes. Foreground right, a fist of the left hand, facing forward. Around the middle finger is a yellow ring. Behind and to the left at smaller scale, in black, a human figure, standing and facing to the left of frame. The figure holds a sword by the hilt and rests the tip of the blade on the ground. The figure wears a cloak made of yellow plume feathers. Behind the figure, in left profile, at scale with figure, stands a horse with the wings of a bird, wings folded and raised away from the body.

What becomes of a seemingly simple gift from a legendary creature?

Digital drawing. Foreground, left of center, gray silhouette of a human figure seen from the back from the chest up. The figure wields a sword to their right side. The sword extends up and to the left. In front of the figure, black silhouette of a three-headed dragon facing forward. The head at left has zigzagging horns. The head at center has spiral horns. And the head at right has horns that curve in. A forelimb is raised at left and another at right.

A man experiences daydreams so vivid, he momentarily forgets what he’s been doing while he dreamed.  Are they just daydreams?  Or is something wrong with him?  Or could there be a more…fantastic explanation?

Digital drawing. Silhouettes of five humanoid figures standing in a circle, each with one arm extending straight out into the center. A flame rises from the place where their hands join. The two figures at the sides are seen in gray. The figures standing just in front of them in dark gray. And the figure right at the center is in black.

When members of an alien race defy their own people to help humans advance, and are then punished for their defiance, how will humanity respond?

Digital drawing. Silhouette in black of two hands, the left hand at left and the right hand at right, side by side. Symbolic depictions appear within the hands. A red line slices the bottom of the left hand. Three red drops, the center one bigger than the others, hang from the line. A blue node sits at the base of the thumb on the right hand. Lines extend from the node to the ends of the thumb and each finger. Nodes sit at the first joint of the thumb and at the knuckles. Nodes also sit at the topmost joint of each finger.

What unexpected bonus does one organ recipient discover about the liver she received?

Digital drawing. Three figures in black silhouette seen from waist up. The ones at left and center face forward. The one at right is turned slightly to the left of frame. Their eyes are seen in white outline, dripping red tears. The one at left is outlined in white, cloak hood raised. The one at center has long curly hair and faintly visible serpent twined around the neck. The one at right has choppy ragged hair. Above them is a night sky with a single falling star seen at center.

Can those who are born of war and strife find a place in a world of peace and harmony?

Digital drawing. A star-shaped cloud in the sky, seen from below and at an angle, so it appears flattened.  The cloud is surrounded by typical clouds, and thin branches of lightning.

Unidentified ships have been appearing in the sky.  What do they want?

Digital drawing. Silhouette all in black of a man sitting at the base of a tree with a few bare branches. The man’s legs are drawn up and his arms and hands holding and a fiddle.

A rice merchant who dreams of being a bard is given a whimsical gift as payment for a recent delivery.  What does he discover about his gift?

To what extremes will one young woman go to help a loved one who is suffering from an invisible and relentless illness?

Digital drawing. The fuzzy shadowy silhouette of a feline-like face looking forward with two huge lemon-shaped eyes bearing crosses for pupils.

Is something supernatural haunting a young man at night when he’s sleeping?  Or is it all in his imagination?

Digital drawing. A human figure in gray silhouette stands on a rocky shore at left, before a blue sky. The figure stretches out one arm, holding a block of white. In front of the figure, at center, the top half of a blue whale emerges from stylized curling waves. The whale, seen in left profile, acts as a border between the blue sky at left and the orange sky at the right side of the image. Just under the whale’s fin is a small black fish.

So…why is the ocean salty?

Digital drawing. Oval emblem. Main image is a yellow silhouette of a bird with wings outspread set against a black background. The edges of the wings are shaped like flames. The bird’s head faces to the left. The same image at smaller scale is inset within the larger bird. At center, in black silhouette, is a stand holding a closed book. Flanking the book are the silhouettes in black of two human figures in confrontation. At left is a figure holding a knife out with bent right arm. At right is a figure holding out the left hand.

What does a mage, a thief, and a destroyer have in common?

Digital drawing. Symbolic depiction of an eye, drawn in outline.  In place of the iris and pupil is a rough round shape with patches of color in various shades of green.

After an experimental surgery restores a man’s physical sight, what is revealed to be his true blindness?

Digital drawing. A symbolic depiction of a woman facing front seen from waist up. Her face is turned down, eyes closed. She wears a crown. Her left arm is in a sling. Behind her is the silhouette in gray of a castle.

A queen meets a mysterious little boy who tells her a fantastic tale, one that seems vividly familiar, almost as if she’s lived it.  But why then can’t she remember?

What happens when the object that grants the power to tell lies from truth, and is the basis for one kingdom’s entire system of justice, is stolen?

Digital drawing. View looking down at a left hand held out with palm facing up. In the center of the palm is a bean. Both the hand and bean are green.  A dark shadow of the hand lies under and around the hand.

What happens when a poor young farm boy trades the vegetables he was supposed to sell at market for a handful of magic beans?

Digital drawing. Three figures in black silhouette stand facing forward enclosed by a ring whose sides are visible but whose top extends out of frame. The figure at left is the largest and tallest, wearing a cloak and a helmet with horns curving inward. At center, the smallest figure is a humanoid with wings hovering between the other two at the level of their heads. At right a figure holding a bottle, wearing a cloak with the hood drawn up.

How and why did a dying king ensure that his realm would be ruled by three, always three?

Digital drawing. A composite image of three simply depicted figures. At center, a woman in a dark dress seen from knees up, both arms raised. The left is bent at her side. The right is extended out with fingers flared. Her loose hair blows to the right. Curling behind her in an S-shape is a serpent. The bottom of the tail extends in front of the woman and out of frame. The serpent’s head is raised to top right and faces forward. Hovering at top left is a disembodied flaming humanoid head. All faces are bare of features except the silhouettes of the eyes. Solid rays fan out from the bottom of the frame behind the figures.

A Fury is a woman and a dragon is a man?  Is anything as it seems?

Digital drawing. Foreground and bottom left corner, a section of a blue and green orb, the Earth. At right is the sun at a much smaller scale.  Between the two is a structure that looks like the five petals of a flower, with each petal made up of little hexagon structures connected together. Two of the “petals” are turned at an angle and appeared somewhat flattened.

Will a device built by human hands from all around the world help us to do what one of its humble makers hopes it would?
Will it help us to follow the light?

Digital drawing. Stylized silhouette in blue of a bird flying over a cookpot sitting on glowing coals with bubbles rising up from the pot. Clouds appear behind the bird.

When a little girl is captured by a greedy warlock, who hopes she will lead him to a secret treasure, will she be able to protect the treasure…and to rescue herself?

Digital drawing. Stylized depiction of two featureless human figures facing forward. At bottom foreground is a toddler, sitting with arms raised to his sides.  Toy blocks hover around him, each with three faces showing.  In front of him is a block with the letter “M” on the main face, the number “1” on the adjacent face, and an eye on the top face. The block at right has the letter “R” on the main face, a boat on the top, and the number “3” on the other side. The block at left has the letter “S” on the main face, the number “4” at top, and a hand on the other side. Behind the toddler, seen from waist up, is an adult figure with hat and gloves, who reaches out to the toddler with the left hand. Random streaks depict rainfall around the adult figure.

A happy new mother thinks her son is extraordinary.  Is she just being a typical proud mom, or is her son truly beyond the ordinary?

Digital drawing. Top half of two figures facing forward. At left is a faceless figure draped in a black cloak with the hood drawn up. With right arm bent to the side, the figure holds a staff made of dark branches twined around themselves. At right is a woman with her right hand held to her side, palm facing up, holding a hexagonal shaped vial or small bottle.

 What happens when a healer can see Death coming, but can do nothing to stave it off?

How far must one young woman walk to find her true love?

What adventures await a sailor who longs to add her name to the book of her family’s heroic history?

Digital drawing. Silhouette of four standing figures seen from waist up in alternating blue and red with several more figures in gray behind them. The figure at far left is standing and glancing to the right at a figure with the left arm in a sling, and right hand propped against the waist.  The next figure, at middle right, has hands on the shoulders of the figures to either side. The figure at far right seems to have arms crossed.

The pressure is on and it lies on the shoulders of one man.  Will he lead his team to certain victory, or to utter defeat?

Digital drawing.  A featureless figure seen from knees up, facing forward, wearing a tunic with a roughly herringbone pattern tied at the waist and a cloak with the hood drawn up. The left arm is bent up to the side with palm facing forward. The right arm is extended forward and to the side, offering a glowing disc of cake or bread.

What happens when a faithful weaver decides to take vengeance on the gods who have betrayed him?

What dangers could there possibly be from gazing into a mirror?

Digital drawing.  Wispy silhouette of a human figure from chest up facing forward with hands thrown up to the sides, surrounding by a glow, which in turn is surrounded by a shadow.

How would you respond if parts of you began to vanish?

Digital drawing. Outline of a human figure from mid-thigh up, facing forward, with arms resting at the sides. At the center, at stomach-level, within the outline is a dark oval shape, vertically aligned. In front of the oval and perpendicular to it is a dark hazy swirling mass that looks like a black hole.

Who is Boston? And what the heck is that thing in his belly?

Digital drawing. A salamander, black with yellow patches, seen from above and left flank. Its tail curls upward. It’s surrounded by a stylized outline of flames.

What does one scientist do when the subject of her research begins exhibiting qualities far beyond the parameters of the research?

Digital drawing. A patch of mushrooms, two with shriveled caps like morels flanks the others, one with polka-dotted cap at left, and three at center that appear to be growing together, their gills visible.

A young man travels to the afterworld to bring his mother back from an untimely death.  Will he become stuck in the place that bridges the worlds of the living and the dead?

Digital drawing. Stylized silhouette in red of a snapping turtle in left profile.  The turtle is covered by spatters of red liquid.

What compels a little girl, a giant, and a harper to try and save a town from a monster that is stalking the nearby woods?

Photograph of a collage. Squares of equal size bearing grayscale ink drawings that represent each of the fifty-two short stories posted during of Year One of Storyfeather. The squares are arranged in rows that form an overall diamond pattern mounted on a black piece of cardstock and then framed. Copyright © 2014 by S.L. Patel

After triumphantly completing the first year of stories, I drafted a “thank you” and “I did it!” post.