LitFest Tour Stories: Bright Haven

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Bright Haven Cats
by Midnight Dae

Bright Haven kitties were famed far and wide,
Parents went shopping while kids played outside.
They all stroked the kittens and loved their soft fur,
The giant winged cats would bow down and purr.

Then came some louts to disturb the calm,
They found the bright city, their hearts set on harm.
Turned over stalls and sprayed paint around,
Stole what they wanted, destroyed what they found.

They then reached the largest store in the land,
The Faire folk already wanted them banned.
Cans at the ready, with garish spray paint,
The store still escaped with never a taint.

For down swooped the kitties and playful no more,
Swatted the louts away from the door.
Then followed on after, with claws sharp and bright,
The louts, being stupid, tried starting a fight.

The folk hear a scream and then the fight ceases,
The cats, very tidily, ate all the pieces,
And then sauntered back without any care,
Never disturbing the flowers from their hair.

Come to the Faire Lands, come one and all,
We’re delighted to serve you, no purchase too small,
But those planning mischief had best stay away,
Our kitties so cute, haven’t eaten all day.

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A Line in the Grass
by Caledonia Skytower

Eve reveled in the feel of the sun-warmed stones on her bare feet as she walk leisurely down the wide boulevard. Joy seemed infused in everything here. The brick-trimmed walkways seemed to greet her cheerfully, their blended stones could have been formed by her own paintbrush. The buildings lining the streets were oh-so-slightly rounded and curved, looking just a little inflated by unseen air pump. The flowers in colorful profusion seemed to smile and sing to her as she passed. Even the old stone steps looked like they had been carved by a happy chisel, the stonemason whistling as he crafted them.

A gray cat slept in the sunshine, softly shaped like everything else. It raised its head, yawning, and beckoned Eve with it’s emerald gaze just as she was about to pass it by. Two green eyes locked with two green eyes, and Eve heard an ancient voice speaking in her head.

“Dark of night, light of day; waters calm, flames ablaze. Creation thrives on both, not one; but where you live can come from none . . . but you.”

Then the cat stood up, stomped in a circle, lay back down in an only slightly different location, and curled up again to sleep.

The sweet wind blew Eve’s skirt, making it dance around her, and she continued her walk. The air hummed happily as she entered the lower town, feeling each step, enjoying the vibrant twirling pinwheels whirling colorfully overhead. Even the street corners here were soft, bending rather than turning abruptly. As she rounded this one, she slowed. What she saw before her stole her breath.

As she walked through the arch the air went dead, and cold. She cleared the portal and halted, looking at her feet. Her toes barely touched a line in the grass. On one side, verdant luminous life, on the other was jagged rock and dirt – gray and antagonizing. Sharp spikes and jagged weapons formed a fence, and caustic torches sputtered angrily, warning of something less than a genial welcome awaiting.

This was a world Eve remembered well. A place of anger, fear, and treachery from an all too familiar past. She was stunned, and in her numbness she heard the cat’s voice again, “Dark of night, light of day; waters calm, flames ablaze. Creation thrives on both, not one; but where you live can come from none . . . but you.”

She wondered what she should do. Should she dare to revisit that which had once been so familiar? Step across the line in the grass into the world of her past, confident and unafraid. There was no denying that they both existed, the dark and the light. Her freckled nose wrinkled as she frowned, wishing she could just let go of all of it; the hate, the anger, the wounds deep inside her. She wished she could walk away from it as if it never existed. Taking a few tentative steps backward, Eve was about to turn and run, denying the presence of the dark sharpness, the painful past, escaping into the light.

Instead, she raised her head high, and addressed the looming shade before her.

“I cannot deny that you exist. You have influenced my life, and I will not gainsay that.”

She took a swift, confrontational step forward, “I have choices, oh darkness. While I cannot forget what you have been to me, and while that pain will never completely subside, I forgive you. I will never speak of those days again, and if in the future I may assist some darkened soul in need, I will not withhold my hand in aid just to spite you.”

She squared her shoulders, took one final triumphant look at the sharp points, the honed edges, the gloom and the shadow.

“I have made my choice.”

She turned and walked back, into the bright haven that brought her soul peace, filling her with joy and light.

As she returned up the stairs and the upper town, emerging once more into the fullness of the sunlit main street. She paused at the gray cat.

“I think I have served my sentence there, but I wonder: Do you think it is wrong, to forsake the dark? To choose the light?”

The cat just blinked, rolled over and looked at her upside down, its tummy offered to the sun and anyone who might scratch it. Eve could have sworn the cat was smiling at her, as green eyes met with green eyes, and she heard the ancient voice once more in her head.

“Why not? I have!”

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Bright Haven
by Gwen Enchanted

We took a boat, from the dark shores of what was once our homeland, we tiny refugees, we insignificant ones. And a long journey it was, long and arduous. Often, our stomachs were empty and our minds grew hard against the elements.

We do not like water, not overmuch. But we do what we must. Some ships will not allow us on board: bad luck, they say. Bad luck, we are.

I have never given any one bad luck. I do not really even know what bad luck is.

But there we were, forty of us, forty-seven if you count the new babies born to Galakinnett along the way.

And there never was such happiness as when we landed, finally, on the shores of Bright Haven.

I could see why they called it that: we came blinking from the hold into the light, forty of us and seven babies not yet old enough to walk.

And they let us in. There were warm homes, bright hearths, blankets aplenty, beds to sleep on, and the food! My stomach had never been so happily full, first of delicious fish and then some kind of poultry, roasted in a sweet sauce. Oh!

I thought I would never tire of wandering from house to house, always being offered food and a bed, always being offered a cuddle.

But then, on the fourth day we were there, I came to a little house, not unlike all the others, into a little family, not unlike all the others. But when I looked in to the eyes of the woman who kept that house, I knew it was my home.

I slipped through the back door and made myself at home, settled on to a high platform that seemed to have been built just for me.

“Well, you’ll be living here now, then?” was all she said. And she passed me a little red ball that delighted me for a few minutes before I realised I was hungry.

“And you’ll want your own place to eat, I suppose.” She smiled at me. She didn’t try to pick me up. She kept her distance and didn’t look me in the eye: I guess they’d told her how to talk to refugees.

She didn’t scare me. That was nice.

When she poured warm milk in a bowl for me, and I got my first taste of that, well. And eggs! And something made with butter! Oh, butter! What wonderful stuff that is! I want to lick it.

I stayed there three days and never left the house except to explore the back garden.

“I guess you’ll want a name,” she said to me that afternoon. “What should your name be?”

I already had a name, of course, but I couldn’t tell it her: our languages were too different. I was curious, though, what she’d call me, so I tilted my head and looked at her.

“Well. you’re clearly a Princess, but that’s too plain a name for you,” she said, considering. “No, no; perhaps you’re a Queen. But not just any Queen.” Dimples appeared on her cheeks, and for the first time, I leapt up in to her lap. I rubbed my head along her hand, and she stroked my ears, my neck, my chin.

What would she name me? I wondered.

Then, a smile appeared on her beautiful face. I thought it was the loveliest thing I had ever seen. “Cleocatra,” she said. “I’ll call you Cleocatra.’

And then she read me stories about Egypt.

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“Imp”
by Talia Sunsong

With triangular ears pointing to the blue sky, she sat by the entrance to the strange store. Although built with the curves of a cuddly cat, she had wings sprouting from her back.

“Jumping Jehosafat!” The old farmer cried. “I never did see a cat like that. Have you, Ma?” He turned to his wife, a woman dressed in her Sunday best, which was a blouse with no stains or tears, her hat with the big fake sunflower on it, and her skirt that she wore to the ladies tea social.

“No sirree. I have never ever seen wings on a cat. Are you an angel?” Ma said to the winged feline.

“No, I am not as I seem,” the cat said with a wink. “I am more like an imp.”

“An imp? What is that?”

“You could call it a minor demon.”

“A DEMON! We need to head for the hills, Ma.”

The cat calmly licked its paw. “No need to worry. I only do minor pranks–a stolen fish from the kitchen, a missing sock becomes my toy mouse–nothing too bothersome.”

“So you don’t steal souls?”

The cat laid down on her belly and stretched out. “What would I want with a soul? Does it taste as good as tuna?”

“I don’t reckon my soul tastes anything like a fish,” the farmer said slowly, as he was considering the matter. “If my soul did taste of fish, I think it would be salmon instead of tuna.”

“You do like to walk upstream like the salmon go to spawn,” added in Ma, trying to be helpful.

“So I couldn’t eat your soul for breakfast. Could I play with it like a catnip mouse?”

“Well, I don’t know if my soul smells like catnip.”

“Would your soul roll like a ball?”

Ma snickered.

“What’s so funny?” Pa scowled at his wife.

“He did trip and roll down the hill like a ball.” Ma smiled at the cat.

“Well then, maybe your soul could be a ball to play with.” The cat looked uninterested despite the enticement of rolling Pa’s soul around between her paws.

“So there, my soul is useful to you,” declared Pa triumphantly.

“Good for you, Pa,” said Ma nodding her head.

“I’ll let you keep your soul, if you give me fish stew the next time you make it.” The cat blinked her large green eyes at Pa.

“Deal.” Pa smiled and held out his hand to shake the paw of the cat.

“Such a nice creature,” Ma said, grinning underneath her sunflowered hat.

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 Strong Paw of the Law
by Zander Greene

“I don’t know, Zee.”

The tiny bobcat lowered his spy glass, his brow more furrowed than usual. “Maybe I’m wrong but I think she’s up to no good.”

“You are wrong,” Zee said, shaking his head. “Leave her alone, Olde.”

“Look! I’ve got a nose made for sniffin’ trouble and-”

“And boots made for walking?” Zee interjected.

“And! I’m telling you that fairy is trouble.” He returned the spy glass to his eye and sharpened the focus until he could see the suspect clearly. Zee slumped down behind the wall. Yellow, blue daffodils danced in the breeze with white daisies. Zee hummed one of the Arkenstone tunes which suited the dancers just fine.

“Thank you, sir.” One of the daffodils said politely.

Zee nodded and opened his pack. He begin to rummage through it.

“I like Bright Haven, ” Zee said. “It looks like it would taste good. You want a sandwich, Olde? I have some in here. Somewhere.”

Olde snorted with derision. “You’ll see. That fairy will do something any minute now and you’ll see I’m right.”

“There’s a first time for everything.”

Now, you can’t blame Oldesoul Eldemar for his concern. Fairies have been known to cause mischief, mayhem and general disorder. And as a sworn agent of the law, indeed the highest in the Fairelands, this was a bobcat who took a threat to the realms very seriously indeed, be it animal, vegetable or mythical.

“She’s gonna go for the pinwheels?” Olde said and chuckled as only a self-satisfied feline can. “And I have GOT her!”

“What pinwheels?” Zee asked.

The bobcat jabbed him in the side with the spyglass.

“Hey!” Zee shouted.

“Shhhhhh!” Olde shouted louder.

“Will you both please shut up?” asked the daisy politely.

“The pinwheels, the ones hanging – oh I don’t know – everywhere?” Olde turned to face his friend.

“Look, I know you’re not a sworn officer of the law but they’re all out for lunch and won’t be back for six hours. So I gotta know, and I gotta know right now, Zee. Are you a man, or are you a mouse?”

“Man,” Zee said.

“Oh.” Olde blinked. “Well. I’m not gonna lie. I’m disappointed.”

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Old Stripe’s Lucky Day
by Saffia Widdershins

It’s not a bad life, for a cat in Bright Haven.

There’s a harbour and, of course, harbours mean fish. It’s best to go down earlier in the morning when they’re hauling in the nets. That’s what I do, as a rule. You can hide under one of the stalls and wait and watch for the careless slither as a fish slides off the barrow and slaps down on the floor. Right in front of me if I’m lucky. If not, it’s a dash across the stone flags, grab my prize and skedaddle before any of those gormless human wakes up to what I’ve done.

Anyway, this day, this special day … I was minding my own business, under the fruit and veg stall. And – by the way, what is all that about, this liking for, oh my paws and whiskers, PLANTS as food?

But leaving that aside for the moment … I was under the stall, and watching a temptingly precariously loaded barrow being wheeled across the flags, and keeping a wary eye on a box full of ducks, bobbing up and down and quacking loudly when people came by. They were a bit too large and nosy and … well, together, for me to think about grabbing one.

But then the moment I was waiting for – the barrow loaded with fish hit an uneven flag – there was a jerk … and suddenly a great silver mackerel was flying through the air to land splat! Almost at my feet.

I raced forward and grabbed it, as the ducks quacked and the man behind the barrow roared, but he had sliding fish to worry about. So I made good my escape, back to the little corner of sun-warmed ground where I liked to sleep in the morning. And there I started to enjoy my prize.

There’s nothing like fresh fish, is there? And this was a fine plump mackerel, juicy and sweet. I tore into it, ripping into the belly.

And out popped a golden ring.

At first the movement startled me and I stretched out my paw to capture it. But as soon as I had it under control, I realised it was just a ring. And I miaowed – what I wished I had was another fish like this one, but with no nasty ring inside to scare me.

I lifted my paw … and blinked – a slow cat blink.

But there was no mistake in what I saw.

There were now two fish before me on the grass.

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A Mermaid in Bright Haven
by Ishara Longstaff

As I emerge from the water, to take first steps on transformed mer fin to legs, the sound of market hits me, like cacophony, the ground cold to my new feet, while brightly colorful goods stand proud on market wagons along scattered crates bursting with food that smells delicious.

Strange stacked stones arc up to higher level, leading to shops with tiled coral coloured roofs and houses. No wonder why they call this Bright Haven! Looking at the brightness of the houses hurts my eyes, so I shield them,  and then I follow along the pavement that curves out of view.

“Oh!” shouts a fairy. “Watch where you’re going!”  as I bump into her, and she glares at me, shakes her head, then hurries on her way with flutter of her wings.

Heading for most prominent merchants dwelling, I spy two slinking furry cat creatures with odd butterfly wings, warming themselves in the summer sun. They mewl as I pass. Further on, I stumble, as I notice moving on the breeze two Catherine wheels stranded on sting. Its remind me home and kelp strands – it must be Fair Day!

Peaking in one of the windows, I find a merchant called Challis: within is a toadstool dance ring! It looks like the locals are having fun. I’d love to join them,  but my purpose is the wizard; one merchant here houses him and I only have 12 hours before clothes dry out and I risk being landlocked for ever or – worse – suffocating.

After hours searching the winding streets and passing castle inner walls, I finally find the wizard and I try to get him to repair ‘the spell trident’, that guards out people form sickness.  150 lindens, he cries, is its cost.

“What is linden?” I ask.

He does not look amused.

Thank heavens a pirate taught me about barter, I show him my pouch of pearls & jewels, and ask him to please take these instead. I ask a merchant for water as I can already feel my thoughts drying out.

As the wizard examines the jewels, taking a break from sipping my water I suggest, “Two jewels and four black pearls.”

“A mix of 6 pearls and 5 jewels. This spell will weaken me for a day!” the wizard counters.

A bargain struck and two pearls returned to me. Then the wizard rose and spoke. “Now if you don’t mind coming back in five hours, I’ll be ready to do the spell.”

The merchant slowly pushed me toward the door. I was worried, for pirates once tried to con me out of my wealth before. Both wizard and the merchant more forcibly pushed me out the door. Like it or not,  I’d have to trust in the world of men.

Once out side, I saw that the sun was creating pink sky; I realised that the sunset was fixed in the sky.  Amused, I headed for castle gate way. An arch, looming or arcing two mer-mens tails high. More stacked stones where mer would put a slope. (I overheard that these were called “stairs”).  I sat on the steps and watched people weave in out from shop to shop. One merchant was chasing after a young Egyptian cat, folding sea horse head tapestry kind dress into her paws and dropping round disks into one of the paws, before waving her off.

Oh, my skin was feeling like sand paper and worse. My tummy rumbled. It was ages since  I had eaten sardines and strands of kelp. How long had it been? I got up, wound my way from merchant to merchant checking out their wares to just take mymind off the dry feeling. The distraction was helping as I concentrated on merchant selling swarm bats, then a merchant that sold flowers, a merchant sell … oh no mer fins! I pull back. feeling dizzy & wary. I can see some attraction to this shopping! But, I decide to head back to the jetty and moisten my clothes. On way back, I take from my kelp pouch a sea shell ready to pour more cool water over once I hit the sims bay area. Finally there, I scoop one then two shells’ worth over me. I can  breathe more easily now.

I head back to the wizard’s workshop, (the back room of merchant’s house). I can see green and sparky flashes light like night sky though the barred window. I see two broken halves lift up – as if flying out water- the stark light hits tips and snaps raw edge, where it broken in two. The wizard is waving around gestures, making squares and triangles as light pours from his finger tips. Then all was black after the sound of a thunderclap. His hands pressed together as ball light glowed around them, then everything faded to black but for the look of tips on trident sparkles with electricity like an eel’s tail.  Seeing he was done and putting the trident on table, then sinking into a heap in a chair a few shuffling steps from the table.

I try the door, It is locked – it resists my touch. But then, as I push harder, it resists until like some barrier going down and the door swings open as if by itself.

”Enter!” says the wizard. I had to knock the merchant Jonathan out, with asleep spell, due to him trying to steal the wealth and grab the jewels…. I read his mind and saw envy in there too. That scared him a little  – did she just read question out my mind? I had wondered where merchant was.

I asked the about the festival going on in the streets: he told me it was to rid great evil; they call it cancer.  Spells do not cure it – but, the butterfly cats found that another magic called science one day might.  So that was why people were so happy.  As I looked down the trident levitated into my hands, allowing me to grasp it.  Before I could ask another question of the wizard, he let loose with another chant… then purple light bubbled and poured out me then enveloped me and the wizard melted away and I was in ocean again. My quest over,  I swam home to under Sapphire Mirror Lake and safe waters.

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