Vignette

The Sky-Child and other stories

Sky-Child Cover

The cover reveal was breathtaking, to be sure, but now it’s time to look beneath the beautiful surface, and speak of its soul, its stories, and its songs. First, taken one at a time…

*****

~ Song-o-the-Lute ~
A breathtaking free-form poem in its own right, worthy of esteem. Brief as the brush of fingers on strings, it is a worthy opening to this compilation, and worthy of mention. (Clearly it was so worthy I was overcome with its worthiness.)

~ The Sky-Child ~
The longest tale herein–and the aching, melancholy beginning to the life of one Gant-o-the-Lute. Long before rescuing Villem Deere on The Seventh Spell’s roads, or destroying unnatural rock formations in The Song Caster, the incredible bard’s life brimmed with music and yearning, sweetness and sorrow, and a remarkable fight against the mundane. A spin on Jack and the Beanstalk like no other, the giant is the least of the difficulties the minstrel-in-blue takes on. As a tiny taste of its quality, I give you the excellent reworking of the traditional fee-fie, foe-fum folderol.

“Fie!” said the roar. “Is it a foe who’s come?
Do I smell the blood of a mortal man?
If foe he be, his life’s the fee
For venturing here to challenge me.
If man he be, his life’s blood red
And bones will spice my stew and bread.”

This may be my favorite story in the whole collection, but the last gives it some competition. I suppose that, as cruel as it sounds, the suffering of the incredible simply takes my breath away. But then, ‘The suffering of the incredible’ might be a line to suit most of the tales here seen.

~ Still Broken ~
A hundred-word jaunt back to Sula and Villem.

~ Day Broken ~
A vignette set just before The Swan Prince‘s opening chapters.

~ Skie Welduwark ~
A vibrant myth of the kings of the sky and the world’s waking. I find that I always love following the (often harrowing) antics of the Welkens. Perhaps it’s one of those just-human-things.

~ Starheart ~
The two intertwined hearts of The Stone Kingdom exchange enchanting tales under a starlit sky. A myth of how the stone kingdom came to be, and a myth of the forging of Wilderhark’s nations are tailored around a gentle conversation, humming with love.

~ The Shining Son ~
A story with the regular beat of a fairy tale, of pride and jealousy in the heavens. I also get to see my favorite sneaky wind working terrible deeds, so this is a win for me.

~ Affected ~
Set first behind the stone eyes of Denebdeor’s children, we watch the chaotic beginning of The Seventh Spell unfold–then on to the woman behind the curtain, as it were, the witch behind most of the magic in The Wilderhark Tales. Then to Gant-o-the-Lute, and a quiet conversation with Edgwyn, of love and hope in the dark of night. And back at last to the thoughts of the children, awaiting the breaking of the seventh spell’s tangle.

A mini-anthology in itself, this short story following the seventh spell’s affected suits the melody of this collection perfectly; passionate, funny, sweet, melancholy, and hopeful.

~ A Gallivanting Soul ~
A lute’s music tells its owner a tale known to it alone, bringing the string of stories full circle and tears to my eyes–tears for love forever lost, and tears for treasure found.

*****

Seamlessly woven together in perfect order, this Wilderhark Tales collection can stand proudly next to any of the novellas. (A good thing, too; as book six-and-a-half, it will likely stand between The Surrogate Sea and the series’ final volume.) D. E. Shipley’s prose is beautiful and melodic, almost lyrical, her characters as lovable and exasperating as ever, (you know I’m looking at you, Lute–and a fine view it is, too,) and her wit as charming as ever.

A fantastic anthology for any readers, workable as a standalone, the abundant easter eggs would nonetheless be most appreciated by readers of the previous six Wilderhark novellas.

This lovely creation is available in Kindle and paperback forms on Amazon and on Nook with Barnes and Noble.

 

Marginalized

The margins spill over with
intricate loops of doodle-cipher,
every flower and leaf a silent scream,
every cross-hatch-darkened corner
hiding secrets
of the soul.

It’s a garden

–no

a jungle

into which
the girl tried to escape
every day.

And now
she has.

With a breath of a wish
and a brush of a curse
she fell flattened and inked
into a world of her own making.

If they flip through the pages,
if they look in the right places,
they’ll find her

climbing the vines to a floating island
a blue sketched demon-dog
snapping
at
her
heels,

a graphite bazooka
slung over her shoulder.

The next day, and pages later,
they might see her
riding a living
feather
into a forest
of
perfect
spheres.

They might, but they don’t.
They never look at her world.
They never did.

She told them where she was going;
in between neat rows of
facts and numbers,
she told them.

In black and grey and blue
she told them
In rarer reds and greens
and in bright highlighter s
creams
of yellow,
she told them.
Her nightmares and dreams,
she told them.

She told and told
and
told them of
her two-dimensional haven,
but no one knew her language
and no one saw her screams.

No one read the margins.

They look for her
in the facts
but they’ll never find her
there.

She’s lost to them

forever

in the wild,

willful

margins

This Chance

The following is a “double drabble,” or a vignette told in precisely 200 words. In the spirit of the upcoming Valentines day, I’ve gone sentimental.

*****

This is the chance I’m taking. These are the words I’m saying. Every path is fraught with risk, all words breathed as dangerous as any words that sit tongue-trapped. To love, to fail to love, to find no love—well. It’s all of a piece, isn’t it?

“I love you.”

There, I’ve said it, and it was as bad an idea as any. I’ll come to regret it, and only you and time and life and I will tell whether I regret it in two heartbeats, or a score of days, in a year, or ten. Only time and you and I and life will tell whether the regret lasts longer than its worth.

But this is the chance I’ve taken, and these are the words I spoke, and in this glowing moment, with my heart and face burning like a white-hot iron, and just as ready to be beaten and flattened by a cruel hammer, with the words unfurling on the air and waiting, right now, I’m glad of my choice.

(A risk? I know, but what on earth isn’t?)

For these two heartbeats, I know I’m glad. You and time and life and I will tell the rest.

*****

More than Magic

Quara sighed, dabbed her eyes, and said that emotions, once used up, must break up into tiny pieces and drift in the air like dust motes. “And that’s why it’s sometimes full of feelings not your own. Sometimes I want to cry or laugh, just breathing. Do you think that’s possible?”

Her father looked up from a small sterile containment field and its gaseous contents, grey eyes tracking the air as if for evidence. “Not scientifically.”

“But maybe magically?” she asked hopefully.

He tutted. “Think like that, and you’ll never learn a thing. They’re not separate fields. Magic is the highest science known to man, and our greatest instrument of progress. No; intents may be laid into an object so that it carries the quantum imprint of a conscious being’s will, but neither magic nor mathematics nor any other branch of learning would suggest that emotions break up into an—an ethereal dust.” He swished his hand through the air.

“So it’s not possible?”

He threw her a sideways glance, even as he scribbled down a noted change in the containment field’s monitor. “Think like that, and you’ll never discover a thing. I said magic is the highest science known to man. I did not say that man knows all. There are mysteries still in the world. There are things even magic can’t explain.”

“So you think there might be something—something real that’s greater than any of the sciences?”

“As a Lord Magi and a professor of alchemistry, I must say that it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever find any phenomenon that cannot be eventually comprehended. Continued progress permitting, I expect that everything will eventually be resolved into a science. Though,” he murmured, in near-inaudible afterthought, “I dearly hope otherwise.”

His eyes winced shut, and Quara saw his face turn sweet with melancholy.

“There’s an ache in the air, isn’t there?” She could taste it like a tang, the tight sadness in her lungs.

He blinked the moment away, stepping to the next containment field. “Highly unlikely. But you can research airborne emotional fragments on your own time. Meanwhile, be a dear and check the group two’s dissolution rates, there’s a girl.”

The Cunning Slip

A 100-word story, commonly known as a drabble.

*****

Everyone was always waiting for him to slip.

Even if they didn’t think they were, even if they didn’t know it, they were waiting. Waiting, with predatory hearts and minds. Now his loyal court, they could and would turn the instant they felt a weakness.

And of course he would slip. There was no avoiding mistakes; there was only disguising them.

The thief lord smiled and held out a scrap of meat to the stray cat who sat, sniffing arrogantly in post-tumble mortification.

“I know,” he whispered as it licked his fingers. “It’s all part of the plan, isn’t it?”

*****

Laced Fingers

A 100-word story.

*****

Laced fingers.

The silence and the fear, the silence and the fear.

Darkness flashing past the whizzing window.

All will be well, for all must be well, and if it all isn’t—well?

Time stretches, dry on the tongue, holding dangers, questions, hopes, fears, and nothing, nothing to be done.

Quiet. Waiting for what will be to be.

Laced fingers, and the gleam on the dark glass.

The hum of wheels and the drum of the heart, the only swift things in the stretching uncertain.

The heart wonders, what will come?

And what will come wonders nothing of the heart.

*****

Part Ten: A Mortal Lover

The final 100-word chapter of a 1,000 word story. Part one here.

******

She looked so tired. Had he kept her up too late? She must say if he did. She burst into tears, then, and he knew.

Very tired. I know. Come here, love. Hush. You’re only human, it’s natural that you should feel tired. I know. You need to rest.

Sobbing, she begged a song and a kiss, and he gave her both. Shh. Shh. She was sorry she couldn’t—couldn’t stop crying, she was trying—

It’s alright. Shh. It’s alright, my love. Everything will be fine.

Sobs faded into silence.

Better?

Silence.

D-dear one?

Silence.

And his aching heart broke.

*****

The end.

The whole story can be found on the short story page of my website.