Sunday, October 27, 2013
Apell for the Choosing - Part 1
This is the other story that was not accepted for the anthology. I wrote it in something of a hurry as the deadline was nearing,
and I can feel the rush as a reread it. My first edit would be to break up some of the longer sentences to cram less into
each one. I'll try to keep it mind that if I want a scene to feel rushed on purpose, that might be the way to do it!
27 oct 13 @ 2:34 pm
Spell for the Choosing
While I have much to say and share about that place that we call Surinam and the Dutch now call New Guinea, suffice to say
that the place is not England, in all the worst and best ways. It is warm the whole year around near the shore. The coast
where I spent my time--I was Miss Aphra Johnson in 1663, not yet having met my husband, Mr. John Behn--is damp as any English
shore, but the air is clear of London's dark and coal-filled fogs. It rained daily, sometimes the whole day and night until
eventually I became so accustomed to damp clothes that I, like my companions, commented how dry and pleasant the weather was
when it only rained an hour or so in the afternoon.
Paramaribo is a noteworthy city and they say it holds half the people of that small country, but it is not London, being more
like an English village in flavor and equal in danger to any of the American colonies, especially for a young woman left by
fate on her own.
It was one of those seasons when the weather was mostly dry and the heat wearying by early morning when I met Oochia. Well,
her name isn't quite that, being one of those curious Coromantee names that defy pronunciation on an English tongue, but the
people with whom I lived and worked called her that and that is the only name I ever learned for her. I had made my walk
from the boarding house on King's Street, where I lived after my father's death, to one of the great houses near the shore.
There I taught reading and writing to the children of Mr. James Masterson. It had not yet started to rain, but there was
a certain hushed feel as I approached the house as if a storm would crash down on us in the next breath and I was most relieved
to reach the safety of the back porch.
Mrs. Sampson the cook bid me take a rest on the back porch while she served us both tea, for the family had a guest and the
children would not be ready for their lesson until the guest was gone. I draped my shawl over an empty chair and settled
in the shade of a palm tree, listening to the noisy chatter of birds and monkeys.
"The children are upstairs in their room. We can wait here until that woman is gone." That woman. It wasn't quite
a curse but it might well have been. Mrs. Sampson, a proper English woman, come to Surinam with the Mastersons much as I
and my father had come with Lady Constance, was quite agitated, her eyes weary from the strain of trying to look in too many
directions at once, and I realized that she was afraid of the unseen guest.
A burst of sound, Mr Masterson's boots on the stairs, a clatter of lighter footsteps in heels, and the soft thump of some
bag, perhaps, bumping against the railing, sounded loud from inside the house, then the porch was suddenly filled, though
anyone referred to as a guest should have been taken to the front door. The reason for the behavior was at once obvious.
"That woman" was like no one I had ever met before and the image of her is etched on my mind: the blackest woman
I had ever met, so that it seemed like I was gazing into the shadows from the open sunshine rather than standing in shade
beside her. She was wearing at least three scarves and two shawls, every one of them a different color, and several necklaces
of beads that seemed to glow against the dark throat. She moved like a wind squall, not getting ahead of her host but every
part of her body and even her loose clothing moving in different directions, alternately muttering to herself in some foreign
language and speaking in careful English to Mr. Masterson and the servants that had accompanied them from inside.
"The juice with a pinch of the herbs every hour, a fan whenever she desires it, and fresh water with a song. Shesheena
here has a good voice. Send for me instantly if a bird should perch in her window or a Margay cat at the door." She
grabbed up my shawl, paused, and studied it a moment. "Can I have this?" she asked Mr. Masterson.
"Yes, anything, take it," he said before I could speak up. It was a broad but very thin shawl, pale blue and very
different from anything she wore. With a flick of her wrist she coiled it and wrapped it around her neck, where it looked
like a child's toy amidst a bouquet of flowers. Then she was gone, with not even the click of heels on the stairs to say
that she had bothered to touch the steps on her way, leaving behind only a cooling breeze that had not been there before.
Everyone stared at the tree where she had disappeared behind a spray of orchids. Then I managed to regain my ability to speak.
"Mr. Masterson, that was my shawl," I said, trying not to sound as if I were complaining. Besides being unsure
of his mood after the curious visitor, I could not afford to lose my most steady position. I taught for many children, but
most I only taught once a week, all that their parents could afford, and all those combined would not be enough for rent,
much less the ticket back to England for which I was trying to save.
"I'm sure it is not your only one," he said. "It is important to keep Oochia happy until Mrs. Masterson is
well." He sighed slowly and brushed off his coat though it had neither a dust particle or strand of hair that i could
see. "Mr. Bannister would most likely buy you as fancy a scarf as you could wish, and much more."
I held my breath and tried to hide my reaction to the thought of Mr. James Bannister stooping to buy me anything. "Perhaps,"
I said, only because Mr. Bannister and Mr. Masterson were both royalists, as Lady Constance had been, and my father with them.
They might be friends on that account, for Mr. Bannister visited the Mastersons often, though they were otherwise little alike.
Mr. Masterson and Lady Constance had hoped that my father, a good barber and well practiced at seeming neutral in the matter
of politics, might find himself hired by both sides in the ragged politics of the Surinam colonials, and especially by the
allies of Deputy Governor Byam, who by then ran the colony. With my father's death, hope of that particular arrangement had
Mr. Masterson had hired me as a teacher for his own children and been helpful in finding me positions with some of his own
friends, but Mr. Bannister, thankfully, was not a father. It was said that, after the death of his first wife, women of his
own class had turned away from marrying him, repulsed by his cruelty and offended by his manners, and that he was seeking
elsewhere for any woman who would give him a legitimate son. I had no interest in such a marriage and my imagination was
still sorting my confused memories of the colorful Oochia. I had no expectation of seeing her again, nor of getting my shawl
"I'll fetch the children," one of the servants said, and the porch was quickly emptied of all but myself and the
"Who was that?" I asked in a whisper.
"I don't rightly know what she's called, Aphra, but the slaves say she can cure Mrs. Masterson if we obey her instructions,
and curse anyone she chooses."
Contrary to my expectations, I soon saw Oochia again. It was in a place more natural for her and less for me. Mrs. Masterson
was recovering from her illness slowly, and I was asked to fetch more of the herbs, since the slaves and servants were too
afraid to go. The weather was only lightly misting and I didn't mind the walk, so Mrs. Sampson loaned me a shawl and a bag
and I followed Mr. Masterson's directions to the little shop at the end of a row of houses several blocks inland on Graven
Street. I could follow Front Street along the river shore and look at the beautiful houses there for much of the route, which
made the walk more pleasant than it might have been. Graven street was less interesting, being mostly more modest homes and
boarding houses much like my own for the first few blocks, then filling more tightly with small shops and houses pushed together
into a pile. I knew it must be the right place: a little shop front hardly more than a shack with a long low awning, a crooked
roof, and bright banners hanging out in front at every height.
In front of it was parked an English carriage, a pair of matched black horses at the front, so I slowed my pace, not wishing
to intrude. My pace and caution brought me past the open window, and hearing Mr. Bannister's voice, I paused to listen.
"Do you see these strands of hair?" Oochia asked. "They are very fine."
"I see them," Bannister said. I peeked in the window and saw that Oochia was holding out her hands to him. His
hands fairly twitched to reach out and touch whatever it was he was seeing, though from my position by the window it might
have been no more than air. I saw my blue shawl, as I still thought of it then, laying draped over a hook at the back of
the parlor, almost bright against the darker furnishings and teak wood of the table and chairs.
"Carefully take one in each hand."
"One in each hand," he repeated. One hand twitched as he took something from her hand, pinching it between two
fingers. Then he reached out the other hand and grabbed the air, as it seemed to me, with his whole hand.
"Now hold your hands out to me," she said, "and open them."
"And let go," she confirmed.
Mr. Bannister turned his hands up and uncurled his fingers as if to let her examine what was in them. It seemed to me that
dust drifted in the sunshine around them, though the air was damp as ever. Oochia, looked at his hands and shook her head
and much of her body over what she saw there, her loose gown swaying in the opposite direction of her own long shape.
"You still have a chance, but only one" she told him. "You must fight your instinct to hold on. The tighter
the grip the less chance you will hold on, until nothing is left."
Writer's challenge? Read a little about an unfamiliar place or time and use the resulting impression in a scene or story.
Quilter's challenge: Read a little about an unfamiliar place or time (fiction or nonfiction) and choose a color scheme or
several block patterns that would serve as a reminder of it.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Finished posting the story
I finished posting "Fairy Crossing". I'm not usually a short story writer so I would appreciate any tips on what
would have made it a better story. I still have one that might be accepted by the anthology for which the two stories were
written, but I had very little time to polish it.
14 oct 13 @ 6:54 pm
Here are the historical notes that I provided with the story:
Historical Notes for "Fairy Crossing"
The late 14th and early 15th C. in England, the middle classes were noticing that the world was both larger than their home
town's and small enough to reach in a season. Henry V started his reign in 1413, and the Church was in Schism, with no clear
idea of which country hosted the "real" Pope. All of them sanctioned pilgrimage, and that offered many a chance
to see the wider world, in a time before the concept of "vacation".
It was also a time of spiritual growth and readjustment before Reformation. With traditional Church leadership in disarray,
leadership and action was coming from elsewhere in many forms. The Lollards, including Oldcastle--avoiding imprisonment by
Henry V in 1413 and 1414--and "average" folk like Margery Kempe, were seeking the spiritual peace and guidance that
rote tradition and sometimes-corrupt church officials didn't satisfy. Many were accused of being heretics and Lollards, who
didn't believe in indulgences, relics (the primary focus of pilgrimage), and questioned the need for intercession by saints
and priests. Margery was frequently accused of being a Lollard--she was certain that her visions were coming directly from
God--but passed many religious exams to prove that she was no heretic and accepted Church teachings, despite that she was
Margery was considered by many of her contemporaries to be insane and no more than an annoyance, but many church leaders
and spiritual guides, such as the anchoress Julian, accepted her as devout and pious, and persuaded several who at first discounted
her as at least potentially having true visions, though they often cautioned on how to watch for false visions that could
lead her astray. She heard heavenly music and had visions that offered a more direct path to the promise of heaven than through
long suffering in purgatory, a message of hope for her time.
Fairies and elves were widely accepted to be real magical creatures; however, sightings were typically limited to ancient
forests, swamps, and other untamed places where magic was considered the only guarantee of survival. The "royal"
ones traveled together, sometimes on horses as magical as themselves, ethereal, passing unhindered through underbrush and
swamp waters with unexpected speed or appearing and disappearing mysteriously, as if they were merely using the real world
as a shortcut, phenomena that the POV character Arorala refers to as "flickering."
Collis, Louise. Memoirs of a Medieval Woman: the Life and Times of Margery Kempe. Harper and Row Publishers, 1964
Lyle, Marjory. Canterbury: 2000 years of History. Tempus, 2002. ISBN 0-7524-1948-x
Writings of Julian of Norwich, ed. Nicholas Watson and Jacqueline Jenkins. Brepols, 2006
Ben, F.. Women and Mystics: Experience in the Middle Ages. Boydell Press, 1992.
Writer's challenge: Pick up a history book, open it somewhere, and read a few paragraphs. Let it serve as a story prompt.
Fairy Crossing Part 4 final
"What's that to you?"
14 oct 13 @ 6:45 pm
"I've heard enough to think no one would willingly go there," Arorala said.
"Don’t be whistling at the wind, you fool girl, or you’ll curse us to that tower whether we would or no!" Oldcastle
said, throwing a pinch of salt over his shoulder.
"Do you think that will flavor the soup? I can't change that any more than I can change whether those that go there
ever leave. That much is written in the stars, and a pebble over your shoulder won’t change it.”
“You watch how you speak to your betters, girl!” Oldcastle said, swinging his fist. Arorala flickered back a step and he
staggered as he missed her by a foot.
"Come away, La. You've no business talking to them alone," Fenway growled and tugged on her arm.
Have you noticed Rialon complaining? she wanted to ask him, pulling her arm free. She was sure she had figured out where
the inn's troubles would come from, and wanted to tell him that, to prove she was no fool, but whatever she said, he would
believe the opposite.
"What did you say?" Oldcastle demanded, clutching her other arm.
She ducked her head and pulled away. "Nothing," she said, then remembered Mrs. Kempe's advice that she speak up,
but it wasn't Oldcastle that she wanted to speak to.
"Are you going to let her get away with such an attitude, my lord?" Trompar prodded Oldcastle.
Oblivious to what was going on behind him, Fenway shook his head. Over his shoulder he complained, "Stirring up trouble
again, are you? My father should marry you off instead of trying to teach you sense, bind your powers and let the knight
teach you manners."
Arorala wanted to shout at him, to make him pay attention to the changeling, who was clearly trying to make more mischief
in the confined space, but knew he would discount it as petty and didn't want to hear anything she had to say. She backed
away from all of them and withdrew toward her quiet corner.
"That's right, Fenway. Let-" Trompar said more loudly and in English, a gleam in his eye.
"Don't!" Arorala breathed, realizing what the changeling was about to do even as Fenway turned, responding to the
call of his name.
"Sir John Oldcastle mishandle your pet," Trompar finished with a laugh.
"You said Oldcastle?" Charlie's companion asked, his voice rising as he stood. Beside him, Charlie jumped to his
Arorala flickered, reaching for Trompar, but it was already too late. Oldcastle and his men at arms were standing almost
as suddenly as if they had flickered instead of her, and so were the other soldiers. John pulled at his wife's arm to draw
her into a corner, and the parson and Carver ducked under the table.
Their host waved his arms in the air. "No, no, no fighting in here!" he called out as the king's soldiers and the
Lollards drew their swords. A blade swung close to the inn keeper's belly and he jumped back, stumbling over something, and
crashed into the first of the long tables, which tipped off of it's end sawhorse under the weight. The other end of the table
cut upward, sending mugs of ale flying and forming a momentary barricade between the two groups. They kicked platters and
tossed benches aside, shouted obscenities at each other, and loosed their swords from their scabbards. A candle drowned in
the puddle of water, not yet dried where Mrs. Kempe had lain on the floor.
"You're not getting out of here so easily, Sir John. Locked the door on yourselves didn't you?" Charlie said with
a grin. "His Majesty will be well pleased with us, bringing in a prize like you, won't he?"
"Who says we're leaving? A few less of your like will serve us well enough."
Blades clanged over the table top ineffectively. Charlie and one of his men worked their way around, swinging their sword
wildly above their heads as they kept low, using the table as a shield. In the confined space, it seemed like blades filled
the air. Beside Arorala, Rialon and Fenway drew their own swords, hoping to quell the fight before blood was drawn.
"Arorala!" Mr. Kempe called from across the room and suddenly she found herself in front of him, shoved him aside
and ducked as a sword swept through the air above their heads. She sent flame to the sword and it sagged like slowly melting
wax, in a shape that reminded her of the wave of soup. A candle wobbled on the Oldcastle table as a body jumped against it.
The candle toppled onto pooled wax and doused itself, but other falls seemed likely to be less lucky when flame and ancient
wood met. Arorala smiled at the thought. Those were all elements of Faerie.
"Shona!" she called. The woman spun at the call of her name. "In your sleeve, throw it in the air!"
she said, miming as if she were tossing a coin.
Shona nodded vigorously, pulled loose the cord snugging her sleeve around her wrist, and flung her arm into the air. The
blue bead flew out, slowed into a spin, and a wave of water poured from it, growing as it progressed.
"What do you think you're doing?" Fenway demanded, jumping aside.
A great wave of water continued to form in the air, cold as ice and chilling the whole room as if the door had been flung
wide open. It widened and continued the bead's arch, sweeping over and around the combatants with a low murmur that reverberated
at the base of her ear and swelled into a roar like a winter storm or the crash of old stone flung by a siege engine. Oldcastle's
cape was caught by the wave and pulled along by the force of it as it swirled around his shoulders. The pull of the cape
spun him around. The swelling wave curled into a powerful white foam, crashing into Oldcastle's men. Swords flew into the
air and the wooden beams of the ceiling grabbed them by their tips. The wave curled around the table to slam into Charlie's
spokesman. Then Charlie and his other man were struck by the tumbling waters and knocked off their feet as the wave spread
outward like an opening fan.
Rialon called the water's name and it slowed, then stopped before it could finish its arc down to the floor and out across
the rest of the room. A feather touch from a great roiling curl of foam pushed Margery back onto her bench.
"Lord preserve us!" she called into the sudden silence. "The lord has sent the Blessed Folk as his angels!"
"What do you think you were doing? Didn't you hear that woman's request for prayers against water, for fear of drowning?
Were you trying to drown us all? You're as crazy as-" Fenway shouted.
"Don't you say it! Mrs. Kempe was the only one touched by that wave that didn't deserve it and I noticed that she was
the only one concerned about water tonight," Arorala shouted back. She knew she should stop there, but once loosed,
the rest spilled out. This wave wasn't stopped by Rialon. "I was busy bringing an end to this fight while you were
too busy fussing about what I should or shouldn't be doing, that's what I was doing. I could have asked the water to stop
as easily as our master. Forgive me if I'm not yet as fast as he!"
"You did well, Lala, and Fenway spoke too harshly," Rialon said with a frown for his son. "Your insight has
been right on the matter that brought us here and many others besides. We can speak of controlling your charms another time."
Weaponless, the soldiers slowly climbed to their feet. Under the close supervision of both Ashtolls and with many quick glances
toward the fairies, they started uprighting tables and benches. Mrs. Kempe was blinking rapidly, her husband calm as ever
at her side, and Timolen had his back to the room, refusing to see anything there.
"You are to blame for this, Trompar," Rialon said. "What were you aiming for?'"
"You know well enough. You've seen it, too, or at least she has," Trompar said, his voice low. His own clothes
had been soaked through by some part of the wave and clung to his skin, unwilling to dry.
"I've seen many things, nothing to make me think that redirecting these travelers or getting them killed would serve
"Or some other ferry years hence," Arorala said in the language of the Faerie. "Pilgrims, soldiers, merchants,
this isn't the only boat such a group will share. Mrs. Kempe has more children to go before the worst boat ride she'll risk."
"And Oldcastle? How many more does he have time for?" Trompar asked, this time following Arorala's lead.
Arorala frowned, finding her tongue still hesitating to speak up against someone so much older than herself, now that she
had stopped. But Margery Kempe's encouragement to speak up seemed to ring in her ears. She took a deep breath and spoke
calmly. "It isn't ours to predict the unseen future from nothing, sir, only to understand what the world chooses to
show us of the possibilities. I suggest you play your proper role, changeling, unless you prefer that of a hedgehog."
Trompar made his way over the fireplace, hoping that would induce his clothes to dry.
"That woman is a bit of a hedgehog," Fenway said with a nod toward Mrs. Kempe. He sat on the bench that slid up
behind him, offering to be used. "I imagine she was getting on his nerves."
Arorala would have liked to retire for the night though it was still early, but Rialon wanted to stay in the pub long enough
to be sure tempers weren't going to flare again and that the king's soldiers didn't resume their perceived duty as soon as
their own tempers calmed. After all, the king's word was law and their duty was being challenged by Oldcastle's continued
freedom. The truce could not last long, but the fairies were determined that it last until the ferry crossing was done and
the inn safely behind them. If Oldcastle had any wisdom in his bones, he would be headed the other way come morning.
"What would the world be like if she never dictated her book?" Arorala asked, wondering if Rialon knew that part
of the world's possibilities after the events of the evening.
"She won't get it right. As she says, she is also fallible," Fenway guessed. "She'll leave us out altogether."
"Of course, they always do," Rialon said. "The best servants are those no one notices."
"And easier to simply ignore what we can't understand," John Kempe, though he was far enough away that he shouldn't
have been able to hear. He lifted an eyebrow at the fairies, and reached a long arm around his wife's waist.
- End -
Fairy Crossing Part 3
The heavy curtain threatened to come off it's line as it was shoved aside, and three more customers came inside, bringing
with them a chill damp breeze. The men were all armed with swords, and wore clothes that might once have been fine, the rich
blues and red's of their original dyes much faded.
14 oct 13 @ 6:37 pm
"A silver for the horses and the late arrival. Full night is on and you might want to lock up for the night," the
leader of the three called out, and spun a coin in the air toward Mr. Ashtoll. He caught it more like blocking an attack
than with joy, though it had to have been the biggest silver he had received in weeks. Unless this one was a regular. Though
he wore no clear livery, the inn keeper seemed to recognize the knight from some other light.
"Y-yes, my lord. - Cody, see to the gates," Ashtoll called out through the back room. Unasked, one of the newly
arrived men-at-arms squeezed past his knight to free the inner door of the drapery, hooking the bulk of it over an iron bracket
set in into the wall. He closed the door and dropped the bar into iron bands on the door and on the far wall with a heavy
thud that brought momentary quiet to the room. Arorala shuddered.
"Afraid of a little iron, girl?" Trompar asked with another grin.
"Why did we bring this frightened creature, Father?" Fenway asked.
"Because she has sense enough to know the gates might only lock the trouble in. Sir John Oldcastle is walking trouble
these days, waving fire around a hornet's nest, here."
"Will you let them simply lock the door and have done, parson?" Mrs. Kempe demanded. "Will you let them bar
the gate to good and ill alike and let the evil spirit enter freely? Where's your blessing for our protection? You know
well enough that we are all sinners here, imperfect, too readily tempted by all things lustful and evil, and tempted by the
world. We might all be doomed to an endless purgatory if we let anything in!"
"You needn't carry on so. Iron is enough to keep out-"
"Iron, Mr. Ashtoll? You can suggest it when half of these poor sinners think we have the Blessed Court in our midst?
I have been chosen then to do it," she said, standing again. "I cross you against night goblins and evil sprites
in the name of Jesus Christ, the Virgin, and St. Benedict. Prayer and abstinence tonight would do us well, too, so that we
not die by water," Mrs. Kempe added when she was done, again eyeing the parson with a silent suggestion that he perform
the next task.
"I don't believe in water sprites, nor magical floods. Perhaps at matins, when the ferryman is here to take us across."
"You speak as if it were the boat of death! I can't believe that you-" her voice went shrill, then suddenly cut
off and she fell back and toppled off the bench, twitching and moaning.
Mrs. Ashtoll, who had come from some back room behind the serving counter with a skewered roast, screamed. "The devil
and God are wrestling within her, she is so pious and devout!" she shouted. She dropped the meat to the counter, grabbed
a mug and pitcher, and came out.
"The Carmelites have said so, Mrs. Ashtoll," John said, cradling his wife's head as she writhed. Mrs. Ashtoll splashed
water on Mrs. Kempe's face, then more until Arorala wondered if the woman, to be so afraid of the water, had envisioned this
slow drowning on the floor.
Mrs. Kempe recovered in a few minutes, wiped her face with her veils and Mrs. Ashtoll's apron, and adjusted the rolled fabric
of her hat. She sat up, wringing the water from its padding with long, bony fingers.
"You are punished for your boldness, madam," Charlie scolded.
"Enough of that. If Julian has blessed her, she has right enough and not for man nor woman to question," Shona
Ashtoll said. She reclaimed her apron and returned to her food preparation, then settled to rest on a stool beside the service
counter. If rest it could be called. She was quick to dig needle and thread from a pouch and reached for a houpeland from
behind the counter. She set to mending. "Will someone sing us a song or tell a tale?" she directed at those who
had finished their dinners. Though the fairies had yet to eat, she looked toward them, obviously hoping that they could contribute
some unique entertainment. Shona's eyes were full of dreams. She would, Arorala was sure, tell her friends how the fairies
had danced on the tables and sung songs merry to hear but impossible to recall.
"We must have courage, accept our past failings but try always to correct them, to face whatever ridicule we must,"
Mrs. Kempe said. "Our Lord is forgiving of our mortal failings. He will-"
"Must you go on, madam? No one else is praying and preaching every time they open their mouths," Trompar complained.
"To face life is courage enough," Mrs. Ashtoll said, studying her damp hands as she wiped them on her candlelit
apron, turned to gold in the glow. Her cap and veil put her face in darkness. "We can take comfort in fulfilling our
own duties as wife and mother, and in bringing comfort to the family, Mrs. Kempe. Then you would not stir yourself so. That
is our lot and we should be grateful for the Lord's help in doing it well."
"If the father dies, the family suffers. If the mother dies, the family dies, my mother said," Trompar said, fairly
gloating. Arorala wanted to hush him, and more than that, so much did his smug tone remind her of Fenway at his worst. Rashford
Ashtoll fetched the platters his wife had filled, squeezed himself against the counter to avoid having to step over Margery,
still occupying the crimped space between the two long tables. The newcomer, whom Trompar had referred to as Sir Oldcastle,
grabbed his elbow.
"That'll be for us then," he growled.
"N-no, sir, for them," Ashtoll said, greatly daring as he juggled the platters and pointed with his chin.
The knight's eyebrows seemed to dance at having someone among the crazy guests put before him. Staring openly at the fairies,
Oldcastle let go of Ashtoll, who hastily continued on his way, fairly throwing the platters to the table as he tripped in
his haste. Rialon waved at the leaping liquid before it could reach clothes or table. A rich red-brown, with small pieces
of onions and beets, the soup paused in arching waves, then curled back into its bowls, leaving behind the tangy perfume of
pepper, fennel and sweet marjoram. The rest of the contents bounced as the platters landed. "Excuse me, highnesses,
excuse me," Ashtoll said. "Shona, we'll need three more platters," he called over his shoulder. "She'll
have it in two shakes of a pig's tail, sirs. Not much for smarts, as you may imagine, but a fine cook, she is, a fine cook."
"And a lusty one, I imagine, to keep you so well content," Oldcastle said, still staring at the fairies. "Send
her our way. We'll be wanting plenty after such a day and she can sit on my knee to fill the waiting."
"There's no call for that, sir! She's a good Christian woman and the Lord says-" Mrs. Kempe objected before anyone
"Pah! You're still hysterical. Are you a priest?" Timolen grumbled.
"She'd like to be, I imagine," Fenway muttered. He tore off a chunk of the bread and dipped it in the soppes.
Arorala took a quick taste and found that the roasted quail had been stuffed with honey, clove, and apple slices dried with
cinnamon and ginger. She licked her lips, savoring the spicy sweetness of it. Fenway's silence was its own complement.
The soldiers at the first long table had been eyeing the rest with lowered brows and deep frowns. They had ceased to focus
on the Kempe table after hearing Mrs. Kempe's proof that she wasn't a Lollard, but turned their attention repeatedly toward
the newer arrivals. Arorala wondered if they had overheard the name, though it had been pitched for fairy hearing.
No one volunteered to sing. To start off the entertainment, one of Oldcastle's men told a tale of adventuring in the wildwood
and fleeing evil pursuit that was too unbelievable to be anything but truth. As the room quieted, Shora made her way over
to Arorala and crouched by her side. "I know it's much to ask and I've no money with which to buy it, but perhaps there
is some service I could trade. I would very much like a blue bead to ward off evil from my family and the hall."
"Not for you?" Arorala asked.
"What is a woman without a family or home?"
"A woman still, and a brave, strong one to deal with such as these every day," Arorala whispered, with a twitch
of one finger toward the occupants, most armed with more than their eating knives.
"It's true, it's hard sometimes to have new people in every day and night, no order or reason to the flow save some action
far away. So lovely it would be to visit your peaceful world, where all is beautiful and bright and kingdom boundaries never
change." She laid her head on Arorala's lap. Arorala stroked the woman's shoulder.
"Beautiful, yes, and often bright, but do not think to come to our realm for order, lady, nor expect pattern in time
or place. We have no boundaries, only change. One day I might be flame, another water or deer, racing across the waves and
the sky. Those who visit us might step back a moment later, old, or hundreds of your years later, unaged, their families
long gone." Seeing the woman slept, Arorala touched her finger to Shona's apron to collect a drop of water and asked
it to form a bead. She breathed on it lightly, shaping it into a teardrop. It sparkled ice blue and was hard enough to slip
into Mrs. Ashford's sleeve.
While Arorala felt in that moment as if she were surrounded by a peaceful corner of the lands of Faerie, around her the inn--filled
with nothing better to do than pass the time--had taken on the aire and odor of a pub. Someone had delivered plenty of the
family's brew. Mrs. Kempe was scowling at the table top, half under her veils at something Timolen or Trompar had said to
her, and Mr. Kempe had interposed himself between her and them. The soldiers at the first table were singing something bawdy
to themselves with much arm waving and thumping on their table. The Oldcastle group were well along on their dinners and
had set up a curious arrangement of bones, mugs, spoons and a couple of bread corners on the table between them. They had
their heads together, frowning over their creation as they pointed at elements of it with their knives.
Shifting Mrs. Ashtoll's head carefully to the table, with the matron's own apron as a pillow, Arorala slipped over to where
she could see the arrangement better. One of them glanced at her, grunted, and turned back to the discussion, ignoring her
as they might a fool or a child. She saw that it was attack plans, something like a siege, though there were too many gaps
in the dishes to have successfully blocked the opponent from getting in food or water.
"Is that the new London Tower?" she asked.
Fairy Crossing Part 2
Rashford Ashtoll was much like his predecessor--most likely his grandfather, she guessed, adjusting for the human realm's
monotonous flow of time. That one had collected the toll for the bridge. The bridge and the tollman were both long gone
in the same war, but the current inn keeper was as generously proportioned, with thick strong arms and a face that had faced
river, war, and storm together. Rashtoll's smile was wider, his red sideburns longer, and his laugh heartier as he saw who
had come to greet him.
14 oct 13 @ 6:30 pm
"White bread and sweet quail for my beautiful lady?" he asked with a gallant bow. "Grace adorns you like a
"And meat for my master and his son if you please, sir. Our greetings to your wife and family and warm thanks for the
welcome. By these many people gathered here, I presume there is a ferry tomorrow?"
"A full ferry, I fear, sweet lady," he said, the smile wavering and his focus angling away. "It's the only
way across the Great Stour in these parts, so they all come here," he added without conviction and without looking up
from the towel to which he had turned to wipe his hands.
"Full?" rose a woman's voice behind Arorala, "Nonsense. A generous heart will win better favor from Our Lord,"
the woman at the near end of the second table proclaimed with a sharp lift of her chin.
"He was being polite, wife," the thin man beside her said quietly.
"Polite, Mr. Kempe?" the wood carver asked and turned his head toward Ashtoll and the new arrival. His eyes shifted
focus and his expression stilled as one does who has come to a crossroads and continues without pausing because he lacks anything
on which to base a change of course. "To whom?" he asked. "He speaks to an overheard whisper."
"She is quite lovely for a whisper. Don't mind him, my dear," Mrs. Kempe said, reaching out a thin hand to pat
Arorala's. The woman's eyes were slightly pinched over a short nose and thin-lipped smile, and her fingers were as bony as
an old woman's. "Timolen is critical of all save himself, and saints and martyrs have been called worse than me or thee.
By your dress I gather you are from some distant place. Come and tell us stories of your travels, but be aware that some
here are true Christians and know that heaven is full merry. We won't be tempted away from that fair place by the delights
of your own. I'm Margery, Margery Kempe."
Timolen the wood carver had rough features, his expression wooden and his eyes refusing to focus on Arorala. The tall gentleman
beside Margery assessed Arorala quietly with a slow pan of his lake blue eyes, one hand cupped around his plate and the other
beneath the table. He believed what he saw but offered little reaction, as if he chatted with fairies every day. Fenway's
words of the madness of the humans gathered here seemed prophetic.
Fenway and Rialon wouldn't like the one who refused to even see them. Arorala herself preferred that to those who believed
and thought the faerie all evil. Those like Mrs. Kempe, who could obviously see her but refused the wisdom of her eyes, made
her nervous. Without first accepting that someone from a world as different as Faerie were near, she was bound to object
to any behavior not standard for humans. On the other hand, it would amuse Rialon to seek some action or charm that the woman
could not deny or rationally explain away. He and Fenway would prefer that to being invisible. She was more used to it.
"From a far place indeed! Outside this world's door, Mrs. Kempe, didn't you realize?" Rashford Ashtoll said and
laughed. "Well pleased I am to have paid the keep of the local elves, and to spend salt on the brownies! Welcome, welcome."
"Surely she is nought but a foreign princess?" the craftsman on the far side of Timolen Carver said, slapping the
shoulder of his befuddled companion. "Greeting, highness," he said, half stood to make a mocking bow, and settled
back again on the bench he shared with Timolen.
"On pilgrimage without a full entourage, Mr. Trompar? Ladies-in-waiting, a confessor? Nonsense. - Don't mind them, dear,"
Mrs. Kempe said. "A good young lady you are, and if they claim you aren't behaving as a Christian, you can't be afraid
to tell them they're mistaken. Our hosts are under the illusion you are one of the Good Folk, as if they were any more than
sun dreams and children's tales for the fireplace."
"My master's son says I should-"
"Never mind what he says. I've been told plenty of nonsense myself. Mad, they've called me, threatening to put me in
some dark hole to suffer and die. Virgins and martyrs and saints have put up with worse, but some of us know when we're in
“Perhaps you are mad," Arorala offered with a smile, "but in the way that the dryad are mad, as if you were carried
by a silver arrow on a single, unstoppable course. No sense or worldly reason will make you shift from you course."
"As it should be."
"What are you going on about, talking to the air?" Timolen said, dismissing the whole of the discussion with a wave
of his hand. He stood with his platter in both hands and shifted to the far end of the table. "A fairy princess in
our midst? Someone here has cast a witch's spell on all your eyes!"
Mrs. Kempe gave a gasp and paled as heads from the soldier's table turned. She pushed back the bench she shared with her
husband, nearly toppling him, and stood, shaking her head so hard that her cap wobbled and her black veils shivered across
her back. She waved her arms, "Lord forgive the fear in our frail human hearts and the evil that makes us speak such
words! We are all imperfect, but the saints, too, had their faults. The Lord made them saints in the end and gave them healing
powers and all fine skills for the glorification of the Lord. I pray to the lord that this sinner-"
"Must you go on, woman?" Timolen growled and hit the table with his fist, bouncing food from his plate. "Keep
to your own place! I can pray for myself if I feel the need, heretic."
The sharp cut of the last word was enough to interrupt the prayer, and faces that had begun to turn away snapped back. Mrs.
Kempe's response, hardly more quiet than her prayer, filled the silence around her.
"I'm no fool Lollard, to have so little faith in our Mother Church. I will buy indulgences for those who accuse me and
pray for their souls. No follower of Oldcastle would do no such thing. We'll be getting the blessing of the Bishop at Canterbury
when we've made our way there, after this ferry crossing. I will pray for even our enemies so that they may one day reside
in the blessed glory of heaven and hear it's wondrous music, as I have done already."
"What music, lady?" Charlie's talkative companion asked, nearly hairless brows pinching together. "How do
"I have heard the blessed music many times but can never remember more than that it is beautiful and wondrous beyond
dreams. Why they have come to me, what God has chosen me for I do not know, for it is true I am no saint, but when the time
comes, I'll persuade Mr. Kempe to let me take a vow of chastity so I can take the pilgrimage to Jerusalem."
"A wife belongs at home, raising more children, not taking vows like they were a virgin maid," Charlie grumbled.
"Don't mind her. She's a mad woman," Trompar said. "She'll go on about it half the day if anyone will pretend
"I was invited to sit at the table of a Carmelite Abbot, and we are on pilgrimage with a pouch full of indulgences and
badges to show our way. How should anyone think me a Lollard?" Margery insisted. It was clear she had faced such accusations
before. Defending against them only seemed to energize her the more, as if they were an invitation to speak more freely and
Arorala watched, fascinated by her courage, even as the soldiers lost interest.
"Because they choose to, dearest," her husband said, squeezing her hand.
"The Lord has welcomed all to come sit at his feet or his right hand, even weak-willed women like the sainted Mary, our
Lord's disciple, and I have been promised the door to heaven direct, if I retain faith. It came to me in vision and has been
confirmed by Julian."
The others fell silent at the last, but Arorala couldn't hold back her own astonishment. "You speak of her with reverence
yet dare speak her true name aloud?"
Margery gripped Arorala's hand with her free one. "Julian is an anchoress, my dear, dead to the world, even to being
given the last rites, walled up in her cell for a life purely spiritual. Perhaps if I had been stronger of will, I might
have taken such a course myself, but I was self indulgent and chose a more worldly life. Nor am I permitted to fast as much
as I would like for the purging of my soul, but I will yet learn to give up all worldly pleasures as she has done."
"Come, my dear wife, resume your seat and rest," her husband said, tugging on her hand. "You get too excited
this way. The meal is getting cold and the young lady will wish her own supper. - I am John Kempe, by the way. Is there
some name we can call you, good lady?"
"I am apprentice in the house of Rialon, Mr. Kempe," she said aloud, then whispered her name in the man's ear, for
she knew with his first words that he was a kind man with a generous and loving heart for his devout wife.
"La!" Fenway growled at Arorala before she had reached their table. "Such a row you caused with your fool
question. I suppose you didn't get as far as asking about our dinner. Sit down and I'll straighten it out."
"You sit down, too, Fenway," Rialon ordered. "He knows well enough what to bring us and will do so in good
As Mrs. Kempe resumed her prayer for the table--the odd group were traveling together for longer than the wait for the Fordwick
ferry, it was clear, though they remained less than amicable--the three fairies settled at their claimed table. Rialon persuaded
the table and pillar to make room for a fourth when one of those from the Kempes' group followed Arorala.
"Apologies for my companions and I couldn't help but overhear," Trompar said, claiming a bench. "The girl
is not to blame. They are constantly at each other for one thing or another. You may call me Trompar. It's better to ignore
the crazy woman, especially in front of the parson. He, like the rest of us, is more interested in seeing the way than reaching
the destination, but the parson likes us to at least pretend we're on pilgrimage either for the salvation of our souls or
out of religious fervor."
"And the arguments, not your doing?" Rialon asked, his gaze sharply aimed not at their visitor but his recently
abandoned table. Arorala turned her own attention there and saw that the cords from John's shoes had came loose as he rose
from his bench. As she watched, they started to curl around the table leg. She shook her finger at the leather and it quickly
wrapped itself back around his leggings. Mr. Kempe made his way safely to the curtained chamber to the side of the room.
Trompar scowled at her.
Even knowing what she was looking for, it took Arorala a second try to see through the man's well-polished disguise to recognize
one of her own kind. The layered tunic, coat, and trousers were both worn in such natural places, so perfectly imperfect
that she was sure he must have been wearing them regularly and in many kinds of weather, playing his role not just for this
journey but for years.
The changeling Trompar grinned, the pull on his cheeks and jaw lines finally giving his face more of the angles and points
of a pixie. Then it was gone and he was a human again.
"Sometimes, though they do enough themselves. You use Beltane to take form here?"
"No, we've only just arrived. The inn's doorway was powerful enough, no doubt your presence has strengthened what was
provided by the care he has given to the old rituals. If all goes well, the road will take us on the human's pilgrimage route
by fall equinox and we'll return to Faerie Home at Samhain."
"This group's only going as far as Canterbury, and not all together at this rate. If any of this lot divert to Dover,
it's only to taste the sea, not to cross, but you might hook up with others there."
"Perhaps. Time and tides will steer our course. For tonight, we're more interested in the folks here. And arriving,"
Rialon added at a noise in the doorway.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Free short story - Fairy Crossing
This one wasn't accepted for the anthology I wrote it for, so I'm providing it here free. Please feel free to provide feedback.
Then maybe the next one I try will be accepted!
9 oct 13 @ 7:32 pm
Fairy Crossing, part 1
by Emmalyn N. Edwards
"Told you Fordwick was still enchanted, just look what's come in," Arorala heard as she stepped through the curtain
of the inn doorway. She smiled as her foot made solid contact with the floor within, and peeked back at Fenway through the
gossamer fabric of her cloak hood. Still coming through the transition gateway from the land of the Faerie, he opened his
mouth as if to speak. Arorala knew he couldn't resist responding to the human, but his father, Rialon, master of their house,
elbowed his ribs. Neither spoke. They hadn't been addressed, and the human had been polite enough to avoid speaking the
name of their kind, if only accidentally.
"Could you have chosen a darker, smellier destination, Arorala?" Fenway asked instead. His voice was a whisper
of music, spoken in the language of the Faerie and a sharp contrast to the human's guttural English. A rumble of male voices
dominated, and the scrape and rattle of wood at the shift of uneven benches and sawhorse-and-board tables. Spring rains had
left a musty scent along with the sharpness of wet leather, but a generous fireplace warmed the air. Arorala took a deep
breath, enjoying the sour tingle down her nose and throat from old beer and fresh bread. Candlelight brightened four scarred
military faces at the nearest long table, and more pleasant ones at the next.
"The host is generous with candles. It could have been tallow lamps," Rialon pointed out, pushing his hood back.
Green eyes sparkled. The candlelight highlighted the line of his narrow nose and the long sweep from cheek to ear tips.
He shook the damp from curled black lots and they dried instantly, flickering into place of their own accord.
"If you wanted light, you should have specified arrival during daylight, and outdoors," Arorala muttered.
"This is what you get for encouraging her, father. She just blurts out every thought as if they were important to all,
or can't speak any more sensibly than a human."
"Charlie, make a wish, it's the Star Court!" one of the soldiers at the near table called out.
"I'll wish the Lollards just walk in and save us the muddy road," Charlie responded without any sign of his companion's
merriment. He scratched at his oily hair and popped another hunk of meat into his mouth to join the one already there.
"You may regret such a wish, sir, for they can come true without our aid," Arorala answered, raising her voice for
human hearing and speaking in English. It felt odd on her tongue, requiring more pressure and movement against her teeth
and lacking the musical intonation like bird calls of her native language.
"Think they would all fit, Charlie?" the other speaker said without acknowledging that she had replied. "King
Harry wants them gone, all of them."
Charlie looked up at her, then resumed his study of his food. "One gone and another sprouts from the stump. I'd be
satisfied with what we could carry on the horses."
"Where is Rashford? He is usually quick to greet new arrivals," Rialon said, mostly to Fenway.
"I'm sure he didn't expect his wish to be answered in such a fool way as this," Fenway complained. “This lot are
obviously mad folk and humans rarely say what they mean.”
“The inn keeper asked us for protection. That's more than the pixies can manage tonight," Arorala reminded him. "Every
night he puts out a measure of his food for the pixies, even a thimble of wine for our pleasure. Should we decline his request
“Of course not. I just meant this is a mad way to go about it when we could just oust the trouble makers."
"Lala is my apprentice, even if she is a girl, Fenway. It's a mad sort of night," Master Rialon said, to her disappointment.
Arorala knew he meant well, that he even intended the words as a compliment, since he had told her many times that he would
never choose a fool for an apprentice. But he was less inclined to tell his son that. "Your way would only replace
one sort of trouble with another, even if we knew the source of danger."
The two were much alike physically, being tall and thin, long in the leg and graceful as swans. Perhaps that was why they
tended to think of her--a full head shorter--as a child, though she was long an adult, apprenticed in her hundreds and likely
to remain so until she was in her thousands. Change surrounded the Faerie, but they themselves seemed at times unlikely to
change at all. Even the faces of father and son had changed little. At first glance, Master Rialon seemed no older than
his son. But human or fairy always knew at the second look. He had the ages in his green eyes, wisdom in the proud high
forehead and perennial calm. Fenway, on the other hand, still had all of youth's impatience in every muscle and bone, a wide
mouth too inclined to be open, and a certain pixie-like threat of mischief in his blue eyes and little chin.
Arorala shook her head, pushed her cloak back from her shoulders, and let it sweep above the dust with the power that remained
near the doorway. For a little while more she need not worry about mud and dirt, fraying and hems. That would come soon
enough when they went on from this place to the lands more fully taken over by human sense of order and control, all inclined
to weaken and silence the magic. Here, magic still lurked in the shadows, hand-in-hand with chaos and human fears.
The room might have been frozen, so little had changed as she listened to her companions. None of the faces had turned away
or turned to see the latest arrivals. The candle flames seemed hardly to have shifted. Only one table was empty, a small
one further into the room, squeezed between a serving counter and stout oak pillars along the right wall. Rialon aimed for
it, though the two large tables up front were spacious enough to accommodate another half dozen occupants each. The ancient
wood would have welcomed the fairies. The humans seated there less eagerly, despite the wishing and jokes of the soldiers.
Charlie and his men--with the long split overtunics of horsemen and a certain stiffness that suggested they wore light armor
beneath--were eating heartily without the least attention to what they were pushing into their mouths, or out again as they
spoke, pointed, and stared at the new arrivals. They held eating daggers in their hands and stabbed the meat with them as
if it were an enemy. They still had swords at their waists, though hooks on the wall behind them offered a more peaceable
place for their sword belts. The mixed group at the second long table paid less attention to matters outside their own.
A couple held hands though they must be long married. A religious man, and two craft merchants with bags at their feet and
rolls of tools under their cloaks were eating more daintily but with no less gusto than the soldiers, a good sign for the
quality of the food.
"We should ask about tomorrow's ferry," Arorala said without thinking, then chewed on her tongue, knowing she should
be more careful with Fenway bound to complain at her every word.
"Don't cause me to agree with Fenway, Lala. You saw it was the square fronted boat at the pier. That one won't take
us," Rialon said.
"I know," she said coolly as Rialon pulled a bench away from the table to take a seat. There wasn't really room
for the bench to be drawn away from the table enough to seat a child. In it's awkward place beside a support pillar, the
wall, and the serving counter, it was essentially a table for one or two people. However, the wood bench willingly flickered
and slid itself a little into the wall at the touch of Rialon's hand, and the wall bowed fractionally into the Faerie realm
to give Rialon plenty of space to stretch his legs. Arorala took a deep breath and let it out. "I didn't mean that
the answer mattered, sir."
Rialon returned his focus from wherever his thoughts had gone to the room and looked at her. Their eyes met across the strangeness
of the human world and he nodded fractionally, but didn't say whether he could supplement her own premonition. Fenway, his
gaze roaming over the occupants of the inn as if expecting every one of them to turn into an ogre, frowned down at her.
"Go be useful, Arorala, and take our order to the inn keep," Fenway ordered. "This mortal form needs nourishment."
"They'll serve us what they have," Arorala said, though she knew it was a waste of time to coach him on human practices.
"Just make sure that it includes meat, not just soppes and bread. And beer. Their wine is likely to be no more than
It could be a fine vintage, as old as a human's life time, and he would say the same, she thought as she made her way between
the tables. She'd spotted Rashford Ashtoll in the corner, preparing platters for guests already seated. The tables and benches
were close and a serving counter was in the way. So, she tucked in the fine silken layers of her skirt with a touch of her
hand, then flickered between the tables and through the counter.