Tag Archives: LitFest Tours

LitFest Tours Special: Story from OtherWorld

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Seven Empty Thones
By Saffia Widdershins

“What do you see?”

“I see seven thrones on top of the highest hill, in the shade of the standing stone and the great tree,” said the young King.

“Are they all thrones?” asked his First Minister. “Look more closely.”

“Ahhh … only two are thrones,” said the young King. “They’re more decorated than the others. But even the others are … I don’t know … more formal? It seems a strange word to use here, where nature is so predominant.”

He was silent for a moment, considering. The First Minister watched him, a half smile on his face. It is possible to be proud of your King in many ways, especially when your King is young.

“Then perhaps a King, his Queen and their advisors,” he said. “Look how they are set out – a line, but curved a little. The advisors … like arms spread out to embrace. And there … that strange little stool by the foot of the thrones.”

“Perhaps a place for a prince or princess to sit and learn the business of government,” suggested the First Minister.

The King frowned a little. Young or old, the First Minister reflected, kings do not care for the thought that they need to be training up their successors.

The thrones face inward,” the King said suddenly. “Towards the land. If they turned them around and looked out over the sea, what a jolly view they would have!”

“But inland is where the people would gather,” said the First Minister gently.

“That’s true,” said the King. “I wonder if it was for judgements or law giving. Perhaps it was for entertainment … to hear music, or to see plays. Or fire dancers. That would look splendid – although they’d have to be careful not to let that huge tree catch on fire!”

There had been fire dancers who came to the palace three years previously. The King had not forgotten.

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But now his attention was still on the tree. “I wonder how old it is. Centuries, I’d think. You could have a whole town of houses in that tree – like the Dumbodins build, in the Creen Uplands. But none of their trees are as big as this! And all alone … I wonder if it was lonely.“

His voice dropped. He had no brothers, but even if he had, he would still have been set apart. And honest friends for a King, a young King, were not easily come by.

“I know these plants,” he said suddenly. “The mushrooms … and that one – there – with trailing fronds that glow. I have seen them in the palace gardens.”

The First Minister nodded. “Yes, you will find them in many gardens. And more … The island … the island can be found. Or rather an echo of that island. Somewhere to the west of here, beyond the Gulf of Rhionis.”

“So I can visit it?”

“Oh yes,” said the First Minister. “Though some say … it is an echo of this island. A loving – and much-loved – reflection.”

“The tree is there? And the thrones?”

“The tree is there. But the thrones … are not.”

“Perhaps,” said the young King thoughtfully, “the thrones have decayed. With time, you know.”

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“Perhaps,” said the First Minister. “But legends tell of a court of fair folk, wise and learned, who would gather here in a pavilion of crystal, to tell tales and to hear tales told. And that people would dance here on a magical boat, anchored high in the trees.”

The young King gave an astonished laugh. “A boat? In the tree? How did they get it there?”

“Legends say that it was lifted there – and held aloft – by a kindly dragon.”

The young King laughed again. “Now that really could do some fire damage to the tree!”

“Indeed.”

Somewhere in the chambers, a clock chimed a musical note. All the palace clocks were musical and gentle reminders of the passing time, but the young King’s face fell.

“Already? But there’s so much more to see – and talk about! The dragon skull, resting on the edge of the island. Was that the dragon who held the boat, do you think?”

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“No,” said the First Minister. “That was a young dragon, I believe, and full of strength. The dragon’s skull … that was a dragon who grew unimaginably old and rested, full of years.” Was there a wistful note in the First Minister’s voice?

The King’s gaze was still fixed on the painting.

“Your Council will be waiting,” said the First Minister.

“Yes,” said the King, a little glumly. Then he looked around the room, at the paintings that shone like jewels in this dark wood panelled room, where the light came gently through the mullioned windows.

“But we can come again tomorrow and see them?”

“Perhaps not tomorrow,” said the First Minister. “For your days are full, and very busy. But I promise you – we will come again and see more.”

“Good!” said the young King, and he moved to the door.

But the First Minister paused and looked around the room, at the fourteen bright paintings, each showing a different imagining of a different realm. And he sighed, very softly, for he knew – as the King did not – that when they came again, the realms would be there …. But utterly changed.

For that was the magic of the Fairelands.

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LitFest Tours – Stories from the Regions: Blackmoor

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The Ballad Beyond
by Saffia Widdershins

Alone in the mists, the fae waited, her fair hair covered by a dark red hood. At her side, the little unicorn shivered and stamped a nervous foot. The motion caught her eye and she looked down at him and smiled.

“Patience.”

He shook his head, but then stilled as though he heard something.

Sharp elven ears heard it too. The fae drew a deep breath, audible as the sigh of wind over night seas, and she stepped further back into the shadows.

Footsteps, approaching slowly. A slight shuffle, as though one leg was dragging.

Slowly a figure approached, through the tunnel and into the park. Slowly, it made its way down the wooden walk between the watchful gargoyles towards the lighted bank of candles on the broken, half-forgotten shrine. There he stopped – for it was a man, wizened, old and bent. He gazed at the candles for a long moment.

Then with a sigh that was nearly a groan, he reached inside his shabby cloak and lifted out a candle, a rare beeswax candle, tall and elegant. He leaned forward stiffly to light it from one that already burned there, and then set it down in an empty space, taking care it was set upright and proud.

Then he stepped back and gazed at it for a while.

“Tam.”

She spoke softly but he clearly heard, for he stiffened and then straightened a little. But he did not turn towards her.

Ah well, he had always been proud.

“Tam,” she said again, and now she stepped forward, the little unicorn trotting at her side.

“I came to see you, Tam,” she said softly. “To see if you have forgotten … “

He was still staring at the candles, obstinately silent, as though to give her words was to give her power over him.

He had not forgotten, then.

“Do you light the candle for me, Tam? Or do you light it for her?”

She was close enough to him now to see the tear making a track down his face, although he still held his face averted, staring ahead.

“Was she good to you, your Jennet? Did she love you like I loved you? Or did she just want a name to give as the father of her babe? How soon did the life of mortals begin to weary you, Tam Lin?”

At that old, old name he turned suddenly, showing her his face for the first time, facing her fully. Despite what she had known, she shrank back. And he saw it and smiled grimly, displaying the ruins of teeth in a face lined with wrinkles.

“Yes,” he said, and his voice was hoarse, as though from years of disuse. “You did this. You gave me the life of the fae lands, but forgot to give me youth. Jennet died … as mortals must. She was full of years – and they were good ones, the years we spent together, watching our children grow and in time, rule the land. And their children … ten generations now between me and the Lord of Blackmoor, and yet still I live.”

She took a step towards him, her hand raised and held out to him.

“Then come with me,” she said. “True Thomas, my Tam Lin, come along with me. It may be harder to find now, but the way is still there. We will not take the hard road, we will not take the soft. We’ll take the bonny, bonny road to fair Elfland, and we’ll take it together. And there … I will give you the gift you crave – your youth.”

And he laughed softly.

“Ah, my Queen … my fairest Lady … you never understood mortals, did you? You think I crave my youth again? No.

“I crave what you stole from me. My death.”

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Blackmoor
by Midniight Dae

I never really felt that I knew my father, but I lit a candle for him anyway and wished him well in his next incarnation. Things had been tense between us since my mother died and he discovered that his bereft daughter wasn’t willing to concede to his every whim. Banging on the table with his knife wouldn’t get him dinner any faster, and after I threatened to throw it in his lap, he got the message. Yes, things got tense.

I was there to light a candle, when I first saw the stranger. Hesitant footsteps down the tunnel sent me scurrying for cover. The sanctuary is a desolate spot, especially on one of our usual foggy winter evenings. I scrambled up the bank, familiarity allowing me to move slowly and silently. I was above the tunnel when he emerged. By his grey hair, he was older than I, but not by much. My own face held its share of lines. The sweat of sudden fear was quenched by cold fingers of fog, but the folks of Blackmoor soon learn the ways of silent disappearance.

I saw him again, a few nights later, near the shrine for hope. By then I’d heard he had been asking about me, but caution outweighed curiosity and I had no desire to confront him on another night of fog and scarce company. I backed away, careful on the slick cobbles, and vanished easily into the evening.

I was meditating near the waterfalls when he finally cornered me. It’s one of my favourite places, but that didn’t excuse stupidity. He backed away when he saw my frightened glances, looking for an escape route.

“I only want to talk. The Arcadia inn at the main square in an hour?” He backed away when I nodded, but I never stopped gripping my dagger until I reached the roadway and the streetlights.

When I reached Arcadia, he was staring outside, as bemused as most outworlders, staring at what appeared to be a lake inside the building. I muttered the words of power from behind him and the normal inn returned to view. We like to keep our inn for locals only, but occasional guests are permitted. I waved the barmaid over, and she brought two flagons of the better ale.

“You have something that you want from me?”

“No, not at all,” he looked down at his hands then back to me, and I noticed some very familiar blue eyes. “I think we share the same father.”

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“Gemfire and Obsidian”
by Talia Sunsong

“Catch me if you can!” said Gemfire. She beat her wings faster and dove into a fog bank.

“Gemfire, no, that’s heading towards Blackmoor. It’s dangerous.” Eran called at Gemfire’s fleeing back. “The elders said never to go to Blackmoor.”

The only answer was Gemfire’s laughter, that somehow sounded more hollow as it echoed off the fog.

“Come back! Oh, curses.” Eran dove into the fog after her. “Where is she?” Eran could see nothing in the dense fog. He slowly flew forward. Strange trees with twisting branches appeared in the fog.

“Whoa!” Eran dodged a branch that seemed to reach out to grab him. He scrutinized the tree, in case it was actually trying to grab him. It stood motionless.

“It must have just been my imagination. The tree looked like it was moving, because I was moving in the fog.”

He could see the thick branches of more trees poking through the clouds of fog. If he kept flying, he might find himself entangled in a branch, or hit his head on trunk.

“Gemfire jokes that I am thick headed, but it still would hurt to ram a tree.”

Eran flew down to the ground. He landed on an uneven stone path. Immediately, a cold dampness soaked through his Fae shoes. Shoes made of flower petals did not offer much protection from the cold.

They were made for the sunnier lands that Fae lived in.

“Gemfire, where are you?”

Eran strained with his sensitive ears to hear any sound of Gemfire.

All he heard was the dripping of water echoing inside of a tunnel, and a murmur of a waterfall many yards away.

I hope she didn’t hit a tree, thought Eran with a sense of foreboding.

This place was so dark compared to the Fairylands he lived in.

There was a low sound, of a foot scuffing on stone.

“Gemfire?”

Eran crept forward. The sound had come from the other end of a tunnel. He hesitated at the opening. It was dark and smelled of rotting vegetation. Everything told him this was a dangerous place to go, yet if Gemfire was hurt inside the tunnel, he had to go to her.

Eran entered the tunnel. He felt the clinging of a hundred threads of spider silk.

“Yuck!” Eran wiped the web off his face. Something landed on his left shoulder.

Spider? thought Eran, brushing his shoulder quickly. He felt dampness. It was drops of water dripping from the top of the tunnel onto him.

There was another scraping noise. Eran moved more quickly through the tunnel. It opened next to a gray body of water with a wooden walkway over it. Winged stone gargoyles sat atop columns next to the walkway. A shadow moved on the walkway.

“Who is it?” said Eran.

There was a low laugh. “Me,” said a gravelly voice.

Eran spun around. He saw no one. “Who spoke?”

“Don’t you have eyes to see?” said the rasping voice.

Eran looked up and realized the stone gargoyle was speaking. “By the Fae gods, you are alive.”

The gargoyle lifted a leg to scratch at a spider crawling on its side.

“Of course I’m alive. Where have been, that you have never seen a stone gargoyle speak?”

“In the Fae lands,” replied Eran automatically.

“Hah!” said the gargoyle, narrowing his eyes as if Eran had lied.

“These are the Fae lands.”

“The Fae lands are not like here. They are sunny and warm, with a great tree many Fae live in.”

“These are the Fae lands, foolish boy,” sneered the gargoyle. “Why are you here?”

“I’m looking for my friend, Gemfire. She’s Fae too.”

The gargoyle laughed. “She’ll be staying here then, with Obsidian.”

“What?” Eran stepped closer to the gargoyle. “Gemfire, stay here, in this dark place? Where is she? Show me.”

“Show yourself, boy. Obsidian is wooing her now. With his magic and dark beauty, you don’t stand a chance.”

“Where?” Eran clenched his jaw tight. How dare anyone use love spells on Gemfire. No one would take her from him.

“Obsidian is starting to play his magic lyre. That always works on the ladies.” The gargoyle jerked his head towards a spot down the walkway over the murky water. The faint sound of music drifted across the waters.

Not wasting another second, Eran ran down the rickety walkway towards the music. A board suddenly cracked under his foot, and he leapt to the next one to avoid twisting his ankle. The walkway ended at a series of alcoves. Most were dark and forgotten things, but there were candles burning in an alcove down a pathway to his right.

The music drifted from that direction, as well as the sweet notes sung by a man.

Eran ran closer. In the candle light he could the face of a man, slender and youthful looking, like many magical creatures with long lives who looked eternally young. The eyes seemed dark and full of cunning, the lips twisted into a self satisfied smile. The man strummed a lyre and sang a crooning song of desire for a beauty to come to him.

A woman stepped closer to the man. Her red hair and gem like wings caught the candlelight.

“Gemfire!” cried Eran.

Gemfire turned to Eran, her eyes widening in surprise.

“Eran, you’re here?”

“I followed you. We’re not supposed to come here, remember the elders said to stay out of Blackmoor.”

“Eran is your name?” said the man with disdain. Eran looked at the man. Now that he was close, he realized the man did indeed have Fae wings. Although they were jet black wings with chips of shiny crystals like obsidian.

“Eran is my name, and you are Obsidian, I would guess?”

Obsidian raised his eyebrows. “I am Obsidian.”

“He was playing a song for me,” said Gemfire. “It was so beautiful! Please sing it again, Obsidian.”

“No more songs, Gemfire. It’s time to leave.” Eran held out his hand to Gemfire to pull her away from Obsidian.

“Eran said that his elders told him to stay out of Blackmoor, so Eran should obey his elders.” Obsidian pierced Eran with his look.

“Come Gemfire, time to go.”

“Gemfire can stay.” Obsidian set down his lyre and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Oh, Eran. I can stay for a while. I’ve never been here and it’s such a lovely place. I never knew there were Fae here.”

“I still haven’t shown you the waterfall,” said Obsidian picking up his lyre and holding out his hand to Gemfire. “You must see it.”

Eran heard the extra emphasis Obsidian put on the word “must”. He could hear the magic tones underlying the word “must”. It was a command spell.

“Gemfire, do not listen to him,” said Eran, but Gemfire had already taken Obsidian’s hand and they were flying down the path. Eran flew after them.

Holding Gemfire close, Obsidian flew rapidly down the twisting pathway. Eran dashed after them, barely avoiding collisions with boulders and trees.

Obsidian and Gemfire landed on the grass at the top of a tall waterfall. Obsidian strummed his fingers across his lyre.

“Come with me my beauty, Gemfire. Stay with me my love. Be by my side, Gemfire, and forget about the others.” Obsidian sang, his dark eyes meeting Gemfire’s eyes.

“Don’t listen, Gemfire, it’s a spell!” yelled Eran.

“Ignore the voice of others, listen only to me,” sang Obsidian. “The other one will be caught by a tree.”

A tree bent down and tried to entwine its branches around Eran. Eran threw himself sideways. The tree missed getting a grip on Eran, but a twig scratched Eran’s face.

Eran swooped down on Obsidian, and snatched the lyre from his hands.

“Gemfire, don’t listen to Obsidian. He is an evil Fae. He will just try to trap you with his evil ways,” sang Eran desperately. Gemfire’s eyes turned to Eran.

“Eran, you’re singing? You never sing.”

“Come away to safety, let’s leave this awful place.” Eran rose higher in the air, and Gemfire followed.

“I’ll get you next time,” called out Obsidian. “This isn’t over.”

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LitFest Tours: Stories from the Regions: Breeze

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“Breezes and Chocolate Rivers”
by Talia Sunsong

The people of Breeze lived in peace, but feared the nearby dark lands with the rivers of molten chocolate and the clock tower that kept ticking.

Tick-Tok

Tick-Tok

The clock tower was counting the days until the dark villagers came to Breeze and took away the sunshine.

The dark ones would fly over Breeze in their sky boats with the big balloons blotting out the sun.

The Breeze windmills would turn, picking up speed as the dark ones sky boats rapidly approached.

The dark ones would bring their xylophones made out of skeleton bones and play their grim tunes.

The dark ones would dance to the bones with their bodies jutting out at odd angles, sharp knees and elbows everywhere.

Even the unicorns would pick up the beat of the dark one’s song. Their hoofs would pound the strange rhythm.

The dark ones came to Breeze for its water, because water was life.

Water in the dark one’s lands turned to molten chocolate. The children were delighted, until thirst set in.
To live, the dark ones needed water from Breeze.

“We must keep them away!” The mothers would say, clutching their children to them.

“To the temple of the fish,” cried the village alchemist. “We must plan a defense.”

The villagers of Breeze gathered in the temple on the hilltop.

“We can’t fight them. We have no weapons,” said the farmer.

“We can’t reason with them, they won’t listen,” said the teacher.

“We can’t deny them the water, or they will die,” said the wisewoman.

“The dark ones will always return for the water,” said the mayor sadly.

“I have an idea!” cried the alchemist. “To the tower.” He rushed to the tower, and climbed the spiral stairs, around and around.

When he reached the top room. He opened his vials and his books.

“Raindrops from the underside of a double rainbow,” the alchemist murmured as he poured the raindrops into a cauldron.

“Breath from 200 hummingbirds,” he said as he pulled a stopper from a jar that looked empty, and tipped it over into the cauldron.

“And finally, the black stripes from a zebra unicorn’s mane.” The alchemist dropped long stiff hairs into the cauldron.

He held his hands over the cauldron and chanted. “From dark to light to clear, make the sweetness more dear. Turn the candy into what is more handy.”

The cauldron glowed an eerie light from pink to purple and back again. The alchemist bent down and whispered one final magic word at the cauldron.

Suddenly, the cauldron boiled, faster and faster, until with a “whoosh”, the steam mushroomed into a small cloud that coated the tower’s ceiling. The blue roof of the tower danced with sparks of energy. They gathered into a bolt of lightning that shot from the pole at the top of the tower roof.

The bolt flew towards the chocolate river that ran through the dark ones’ village. It hit the water with a splash and a sizzle.

The chocolate river hissed and boiled. It went from the color of dark chocolate, to milk chocolate, and to white chocolate. The river then turned clear.

The alchemist watched all this with his telescope, set up in the tower’s window.

“Eureka! I’ve done it.” The alchemist dashed down the spiral tower’s stairs. He ran across the village square, past the crowd of villagers.

“What was that lightning, alchemist?” asked the major.

“Come and see!” yelled the alchemist over his shoulder. He raced across the bridge separating the village of Breeze from the dark ones’ land. Several startled dark ones poked their heads out of their open, warped doorways.

A crowd of Breeze villagers and dark ones followed the alchemist to the chocolate river.

The alchemist bent over the river, and grabbed handfuls. He lifted his wet hands towards his face.
“You’ll be a mess, throwing molten chocolate on yourself!” cried the farmer.

Ignoring the farmer, the alchemist cupped the river liquid and splashed it over his face. Instead of a chocolate syrup face, clean water dripped over the alchemist’s features.

“I did it! I turned the chocolate to water.” The alchemist danced in glee.

A dark one shuffled forward. “No more chocolate river?”

“No more chocolate river. You have clean fresh water instead. You won’t have to come to Breeze anymore.”

“But,” said the dark one. “You won’t get to see our sky boats or hear our song or see our dance.”

The villagers of Breeze were struck silent.

“Come and visit us anyway,” said the wisewoman with a smile.

The dark ones smiled back.

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Where Breezes Blow
(A “Pooh Song” poem)
by Caledonia Skytower

The wind
that winds
intertwines
abreast
around
beneath.

A golden path
encircles
above
beside
betwixt
between.

It’s hard to know
just where you go
up high
below
somewhere
or no.

Lost and losing
in whirling
and spinning,
almost winning,
at last succumbing
to joy and laughter.

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The Darker Side
By Gwen Enchanted

You’d think it was a dream, when you first arrived. You would. You’d revel in the bright colours, the neat gardens, the compact and pretty houses, all differently coloured and all covered with the greenest grass to be seen in the Land. You’d think in a place so full of light, there could hardly be a dark. In a place so full of colour, there could hardly be any dullness. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that there would be nothing hidden, nothing going on beneath the surface, no lies, no subterfuge, no peril. Wouldn’t you.

You’d be wrong.

It’s funny when you grow up there, because you know instinctively to stay away from the insane drop-offs, the steep cliffs, the sorts of things no one notices if they keep to the paths. But you’ve been exploring, haven’t you? You’ve been behind the windmills, seen the little caches of stolen goods there. You’ve noticed the things tourists miss because they’re so busy with the delightful scenery.

I grew up in Breeze. And I know how to tie my laces in bows, and I know how to match bright colours with bright colours, and smile at the people passing, and always have a kind word. I also know how to lift a lady’s purse off a chatelaine with my fingernails, how to divest a man from a month’s wages with a lighthearted game of riddles, how to hide a king’s ransom in plain sight.

I come by it honestly, of course. My parents run a little shop in Breeze that’s nothing more than a front for the mob. That’s right: the mob. The smiling, kindly, might as well be from Munchkinland mob that thrives on the tourist coin and keeps the neighbours silent.

It took me years to realise why the other girls in school didn’t always want to play with me. My mother said it was because their fathers had had fallings out with my father many years ago. And of course that was true, as far as it went. My father explained to them that it cost this much to keep a shop in Breeze, payable directly to him. And when they balked, because he charged a great deal more than his father had, he turned to my mother and just said, “Celeste.” And one by one, their children got sick, and sicker, until they agreed to pay his price. Now, everyone is very healthy and everyone looks wonderful, and none of them want to have a thing to do with me.

Well. None of the girls want to have a thing to do with me. The boys, they all want to get to know me. They know I’ll inherit the family business, you see. My mother made sure the first child was a girl. And she teaches me, after school, how to mix a poison that looks like lemonade. How to prick a baby’s finger from a half mile away. How to smile and smile as you utter a curse under your breath that will haunt a man until he is dead and buried and carry on to his children.

My father teaches me how to intimidate people with a word or a glance. He tells me, “Don’t carry a dagger, carry a club: they’ll never expect a girl to go at them with a blunt instrument.” Don’t laugh: it’s good advice. I’m no cliche blade-wielding lady. And I couldn’t hit the broad side of a windmill with an arrow. But I do have surprisingly good upper body strength, and I know where a man’s kidneys are.

Not that I’ve ever had to use a club. Honestly, rocks are more readily available, less obvious, and just as effective. No one stupid enough to get in my way would ever think my physical closeness meant any danger to them at all.

So I walk up to the fountain and look over the Land of Breeze. And I smile. I smile like everyone else smiles, but for a very different reason.

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She moved through the Faire
by Saffia Widdershins

Thomas leaned over me as I sat on the rim of the fountain.

“It will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

He reached out his hand and stroked it over my shoulder, and then took the edge of the neckline of my gown between his fingers and adjusted it, pulling it upwards.

“Please leave it,” I said, trying hard to keep the edge of sharpness out of my voice. “I do like to feel the warmth of the sun on my shoulders.” For it was indeed a beautiful day, with just breeze enough to keep our lovely windmills turning.

He smiled then, that gentle, half smile that I had grown to dislike so much, the smile of someone who always knew better than I did. Someone who was always right.

“It’s not modest though, is it?” he said. “To be showing your … shoulders like that.”

Yet as he said that his eyes moved lower down, to where the curve of my breasts showed.

“Perhaps a little cape,” he said. “To cover your shoulders and … the rest. Like a good, modest wife.”

It was on the tip of my tongue that my mother was a wife of thirty years, and she still loved the feel of the sun on her shoulders when she stepped outside her little store to call across the sunny way to friends and visitors. But I said nothing. Thomas would just see it as another opportunity to explain that my mother was not quite … the thing. He had already hinted broadly that once we were married and settled in our pretty hillside home, I would have far less time for my family.

“Well,” I said, “for today I am still a market girl, and I need to take this jug of water back to Mother.”

I reached in to the fountains and pulled the jug up, now brimming with cool, fresh water. As I did so, I glanced up at the face of Opo, the fish god of olden times, who was still the conduit from which our water fell. Would Opo give me a way to avoid this disastrous marriage? Unlikely. After all, in the spring-time feastings, I had joined my friends by the fountain in wishing for a husband. They had all described young men of the village, each one recognisable. I was the only one who had wished for something different – a serious older man, with wealth and experience of the Fairelands. And when Thomas arrived less than a week later in Breeze, more than one of my friends declared he was my “Opo-sent” husband.”

Well, I thought sourly, Opo had made a big mistake this time. Perhaps I had been initially lured by Thomas’ conversation, his seeming wisdom, and his tenderness. But since we had become pledged to handfast, either he had changed … or I had. Although he was determined to make our home in the beautiful dwellings of Breeze, he was constantly criticising the people for being narrow, parochical and small-minded.

But to me it seemed that it was Thomas who was small-minded in his criticisms of people and places. Breeze is so lovely, with our little homes and stores half buried in to hillocks that shelter us from the breezes that drive our famous mills.

And Thomas could never bear for anyone to disagree with him about anything – least of all me. While being treated as a delicate flower had been delightful at first, the line between being a delicate flower and an idiot child had been a narrow one, and Thomas had definitely crossed it in his treatment of me.

At the same time, his courteous manners had faded too. Instead of taking the heavy water jug from me, as he would have done once, he suffered me to lift it to my shoulder myself, merely frowning at me as a little of the water splashed and spilled on my gown.

“You should be more careful,” he said reprovingly. “When the water has splashed, your gown is almost translucent.”

“And more will fall as I walk back to the store,” I said pointedly, but he made no move to help me, merely pacing beside me as we walked down the sunny grassy lane towards the store that was my mother’s.

“I’ll leave you here,” he said presently. “And we will meet this evening at 5 o’clock. Now, don’t be late – I know what a laggard you can be!”

“The last time I was late was ten days ago,” I said wearily, but he was already striding off, politely doffing his hat to people as he passed.

I sighed, and lifted the jug more firmly on my shoulder.

And then I saw him. Dark and slender, with thick dark unruly curls. Those eyes, set at a slight angle. And, of course, the ears. Little curling horns. And the hooves.

He was beautiful. He was trouble. And, as I gazed into those deep, dark eyes, I wanted him.

##

FF Tour Breeze Fish Head1_001

“Breeze”
by FidgetsWidget Resident

Time flew.
I flew.
… and still no butter pony.

Spells. Huts. Thatched roofs.
… but no butter pony.

Would the butter pony have melted in the warm sun?

I was looking for a butter pony.
It was not looking for me.

So what will I tell the storyteller now?

Once upon a tyme, there was a butter pony ….

FF Tour Breeze Giant 2_001

 

LitFest Tours – Stories from the Regions: 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.

Fairelands Soundtrack Playlist

Fairelands Sim Soundtrack Playlist (Sample) from Nyza Stillwater

Nyza Stillwater has DJed several of the Literary Festival’s Region Tours, compiling soundtracks for the Fairelands. Read his story about what it was like here. 

Blackmoor Sponsored by Arcadia-Justen Tyme-009
Blackmoor, picture by Justen Tyme

Blackmoor
– Amethystium, for Transience – Saudade OR Nightfall
– Midori, for A Promise of Enchantment – In the Whispering Light
– Yoko Shimomura, for Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX OST – Hollow Bastion OR for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX Remastered OST – Reviving Hollow Bastion
– Jeremy Soule, for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – The Streets of Whiterun
– Threefold, for Troubadour – Reflections

Breeze
Breeze, picture by Alisaundra Andel

Breeze
– Howard Shore, for The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring [ST] – Concerning Hobbits
– Falcom Sound Team JDK, for Ys VI The Ark of Napishtim OST – Gratitude for Nature’s Blessings
– Kenji Ito, for Children of Mana OST – Longing
– Dynamedion, for Runes of Magic OST – Pioneers Colony
– Motoi Sakuraba, for Star Ocean: The Second Story – Pure a Stream

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Bright Haven, picture by Wildstar Beaumont

Bright Haven
– Hitoshi Sakimoto, for Final Fantasy XII OST – Royal Capital Rabanastre (City Upper Ground)
– Yang Bang-Ean, for AION OST – Step into the Next World
– Motoi Sakuraba, for Star Ocean: The Second Story – In a Lightsome Mood
– Koji Sakurai, for Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits OST – Yewbell, ~ Balmy Breeze
– David Arkenstone, for Atlantis – A Symphonic Journey – Festival of the Goddess

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Dangarnon, picture by Alisaundra Andel

Dangarnon
– Yoko Shimomura, for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX Soundtrack – Darkness of the Unknown
– Howard Shore, for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – The End of All Things (feat. Renee Fleming)
– Two Steps from Hell, for the Power of Darkness – Ironheart
– Jeremy Soule, for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – From Past to Present
– Adam Skorupa & Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz, for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings OST – Vergen by Night

Echtra Sponsored by The Lost Unicorn Gallery-Justen Tyme-010
Echtra, picture by Justen Tyme

Echtra
– Antti Martikainen, for Eternal Saga – Eternal Saga
– Corvus Corax, for Sverker – Havfru
– Trinity, for Single – A Journey in the North
– Cultus Ferox, for Wiederkehr – Tamfanae
– Wardruna, for Runaljod Yggdrasil – Fehu

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The Golden Delta, picture by Caitlin Tobias

The Golden Delta
– David Arkenstone, for Myths and Legends – Song of Sheherazade OR Temple of Isis
– Loreena McKennitt, for An Ancient Muse – Kecharitomene OR The Gates of Istanbul
– Jack Wall, for Myst 3: Exile OST – Theme from Edanna
– Greg Edmonson, for Uncharted 3 OST – Atlantis of the Sands
– Mark Morgan, for Fallout 1 & 2 OST – Trader’s Life (The Hub)

Lucentia Sponsored by The Looking Glass-Justen Tyme-014
Lucentia, picture by Justen Tyme

Lucentia
– Jesper Kyd, for Assassin’s Creed 2 OST – Venice Rooftops
– Jeremy Soule, Guild Wars: Prophecies OST – Crystal Oasis
– Diego Mitre, for Chronicles of Creation – Rain of Stars
– Mysteria, for Tempting the Muse – Elixir for Sunsets
– Conjure One, for Holoscenic – Miscreant

Serenity5
Serenity, picture by Alisaundra Andel

Serenity
– Antti Martikainen, for The Last Chronicle – The King of the Highlands
– Medwyn Goodall, for Renaissance – The Legend
– Jeff Danna & Mychael Danna, for A Celtic Romance – The Blood of Cu Chulainn
– The Europa Ensemble, for Collection – Emerald Passion
– Imagine Music, for Aeterna – New Beginnings

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Tinkers Hollow, picture by Alisaundra Andel

Tinkers Hollow
– Gene Wilder, for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – Pure Imagination
– Amethystium, for Isabliss – Strangely Beautiful
– Camille Saint-Saëns – Le Carnaval des Animaux (The Carnival of the Animals) – Aquarium
– Danny Elfman, for the Nightmare Before Christmas – This is Halloween
– Loreena McKennitt, for The Book of Secrets – Mummers’ Dance

Twilight Illusion 2
Twilight Illusion, picture by Alisaundra Andel

Twilight Illusion
– Russell Brower, Derek Duke, & Glenn Stafford, for Diablo III OST – Caldeum
– Howard Shore, for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – The End of All Things (feat. Renee Fleming)
– Nightwish, for Once – Planet Hell
– Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard, for Gladiator OST – Now We Are Free
– Toby Fox, for Undertale OST – Megalovania OR Hopes and Dreams / Save the World OR Your Worst Nightmare

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Fairelands Junction, picture by Alisaundra Andel

Fairelands Junction
– Minstrel Spirit, for Enter the Woods – At the Castle Gate
– Jeremy Soule, for the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – The City Gates
– Secret Garden, for Once in a Red Moon – Gates of Dawn
– Future World Music, for Volume 8 (Worlds Apart) – Welcome to Your Fantasy
– Ekaterina, for the Music of Moth – Journey Home

OtherWorld Sponsored by Cerridwen's Cauldron-Justen Tyme-020
OtherWorld, picture by Justen Tyme

Otherworld
– Andrew Kinsella – Evolution (The Whole Album)
– Runestone, for The Raven and the Moon – Wildwood Night OR Spellbooks & Candles
– Antti Martikainen, for Set Sail for the Golden Age – Otherworld
– The Europa Ensemble, for Collection – Primrose Garden
– Brad Derrick, Rik Schaffer, for the Elder Scrolls Online – Dawn Gleams on Cyrodiil
– (Special Mention for William Shakespeare Day): André Rieu, for Romeo & Juliet – Love Theme

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Sapphire Mirror Lake, picture by Alisaundra Andel

Sapphire Mirror Lake
– Christopher Tin, for Sid Meier’s Civilization IV OST – Baba Yet
– Adiemus, Songs of Sanctuary – Kayama
– Loreena McKennitt, for the Mask and the Mirror – The Mystic’s Dream
– Diane Arkenstone, for Aquaria – Voice of the Sea
– Enaid, for A Celtic Legend – Lady of the Lake

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Malfience, picture by Wildstar Beaumont

Malfience
– Blue Stone, for Messages – Midnight Tides
– The Noble Demon (Original: Koji Kondo), for The Legend of Zelda: – Ocarina of Time – Shadow Temple (Orchestral Arrangement)
– David Arkenstone, for Echoes of Light and Shadow – Dark Star
– Danny Rayel, for Collection – Red Moonlight
– Blackmore’s Night, for Autumn Sky – Darkness
– (Special Mention for the Hunt): David Arkenstone, for Music Inspired by Middle Earth – The Quest

LitFest Tours Special: Sapphire Mirror Lake

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On Monday, 25th April, Haveit Neox and Lilias Artist took the LitFest Tour on a tour of the region they had created, and told us not only about the background story of the region, but also a beautiful story that they had created.

This is that story.

Firstly, the background story to Sapphire Mirror Lake:

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Centaur Rites
Once each Spring, the people at Golden Mirror Lake attempt to assemble a centaur’s skeleton. Recorded on the bones are the secrets of their long ago advanced culture.
The ancient centaurs’ burial rites included cleaning all the bones to a smooth white surface so that their most important discoveries could be recorded onto the ‘soul paper’ of their civilization. Each bone, even the tiniest among them, was hollowed and pierced with several holes, as is done with a flute. Then, every bone of the body was carefully stored in a parchment bag, and buried under a 10 meter wide stone platform.
Reconstructing the ancient beings correctly is a fantastically improbable task. It has always been believed that if each bone is removed from the bag in perfect order, from hind left hoof to head, then the message would reveal itself, singing out the knowledge of the Universe in the sweet chorus of bone flutes. But there is only one try per year allowed: a doctrine strictly upheld per the rites the people practice.
There has not yet been a success. But every Spring for four thousand years, a new centaur grave is unearthed, and the bag opened in ceremony. Until the day a skeleton sings, the people celebrate with stories and performances over the tombs, and string the skeleton up like a marionette, in a life-like gesture. In this, they hope to appease, entertain, and even encourage the next deceased centaur to arrange itself properly in its bag so it may deem Golden Mirror Lake a worthy place to reveal the secrets.

And now, the story that Haveit and Lilias created, and led us to explore:

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Only once a year, do the people at Sapphire Mirror Lake perform the centaur skeletal ritual. Unearthing the bones is a first easy step. But reconstructing the Iron Age beings ‘correctly’ is a fantastically improbable task. The rite requires that each bone is removed from the top of the heap in the exact order they were found in the burial wrappings. It is believed that one day, a fully formed centaur skeleton will emerge in perfect order from its wrappings, starting from the hind left hoof and ending with the skull. Only then would the message reveal itself, singing out the knowledge of a lost technology in the sweet chorus of bone flutes. There has not yet been a successful reconstruction of the skeleton in completely perfect order. However, the festivities are a central key to the people of this lake. Performance is so central that in the very heart of their region lies a large uplifted stage, coming alive for 11 days of continuous performance.

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The village people arrived one by one at the lake. Sanaffe watched the greeters throwing flowers onto them but she couldn’t concentrate on the cheerful crowd. Her mind kept wandering off to the incident that had changed her life. It didn’t take long before she had become a widow, a matter of seconds. Sanaffe is a practical woman, though her husband was far from it. He was a scholar, very seriously researching the history of the centaurs that people believe lived here on Sapphire Mirror Lake. Like most, he felt certain centaurs had once been real, and this was their empire. Sanaffe tolerated this from him, and others like him. People greeting each other in the street with a scrape of the foot to the ground, much as a horse would do, was really comical behavior as far as Sanaffe was concerned. But her husband went quite deep into his studies, way beyond what anyone else ever had. The bookshelf was overloaded with reference material, mostly books, but also artifacts, a couple of authenticated centaur bones, a very thick glass goblet with horse motifs, and even a chunk of earth said to still have the seeds of the extinct blue wheat, said to have been the staple of the centaurs. The bookshelf always made her nervous for the overload of material the man packed into it. She worried one day it would fall on him, and the day it did, she was nevertheless surprised. Her tears did nothing to bring him back. And as might be expected, he died with his hand over the manuscript he had been writing. He never wasn’t writing.

Sanaffe had taken no interest in her husband’s work. But after she’d been alone for some time, she opened up the house to the villagers to take what they wanted. She hoped removing his possessions might relieve the sadness which refused to lessen. Being good neighbors, and wanting to help, they took everything. Everything, except the manuscript book over which the man had died in mid sentence. She was alone again, facing the book. She took it up and cradled the manuscript in her arms. The cover was unremarkable, dark thick leather softened by age and use. Its solid feel gave her comfort and she took it with her wherever she went. Now, at the festival, opening it up for the first time, she got quite a shock. There on the first page were two naked centaurs, a male and a female. In this very first chapter, she found the anatomy of these human-horse people somehow logical, yet something she’d never before considered. She turned the pages being dragged into reading the description.

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“Centaurs had both a human torso and an equine torso. They were therefore endowed with two pair of lungs, kidneys, two hearts, two livers, and so continued the list of doubled organs. With such gifts from nature, these creatures had excellent longevity, and for their enemies, it was hard to kill the centaur. The opponent, at very least, would have had to strike two fatal blows. In times of war, the heavy helmets protected the vulnerable head – for they only had one of those. Accompanied by their ancestors, the defense was waged both above land, and from beneath it. But war was infrequent. No army had ever defeated the centaurs. The legend generally deterred aggression from outside the land of the horse people. The unfortunate enemy who attempted to conquer the land paid dearly; a fate not unlike a spider’s prey kept alive for feeding. But these ways were part of an ancient world, threethousand years removed from our present time.”

Sanaffe looked stupefied. Did her husband really believe all this? The whole village seemed to. The annual ritual of unearthing a centaur and reconstructing it in the sea temple would probably require a bit of communal faith, she reasoned. Frankly, the bones looked more to her like those from a cow, perhaps mixed with a bit of horse. Nevertheless, what moved her husband meant something to her now. Looking down at the book, all she had left of him, she took the first steps towards a journey for the ancient temple.

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Reaching the vicinity of the temple she was stopped by a dense crowd of dancers and musicians celebrating the festival. An ocean of colours unfolded before her eyes, the waves moving along the tunes. The whole area seemed to vibrate pure joy but the rhythm was not able to catch her and wrap her up into its warm arms. Instead, she backed away, into another direction. Remarking on the prevalent architecture of stairs in the region she now faced, she turned more pages in the manuscript and read this passage:

“The ancient centaurs’ burial rites began by finely sanding all the bones of the deceased to a smooth white surface, then the four-legged priests wrote on them, so that the culture’s vital knowledge could be preserved onto the ‘soul paper’ of their highly advanced civilization. Each bone, even the tiniest among them, was hollowed and pierced with several holes, as is done with a flute. The centaurs believed the body to be composed of music, and that the pulsing beats from the breast were caused by blood coursing past bone in the tidal pool of the ribcage.

suddenly a voice can be heard, faint as the echo of someone’s dream

You never saw me

You never saw me
placing my toes into the footprint of a mammoth
You never saw me
grinding the grain between two stones
You never saw me
cheering the gladiator
You never saw me
dying in the first big worldwide war.

All you got are my scattered bones
Splinters of a history never revealed
And all your science can never tell you
The fragrant colours of my dreams

 

the faint voice subsides back into nowhere

“All the bones of the body were carefully wrapped in multiple layers of thick parchment, and buried under the stone stairways of the temples. It was believed that the spirits of the deceased continue to live, but upside down in relation to the living. When temple goers ascended the long stone stairways, they must certainly have felt the soles of their hooves being supported by the soles of their ancestors’ hooves – one dimension of existence pressed against the other. It was called mirror trotting: a meditative and dignified prance. Two worlds were thus joined in the extended echo of hooves reverberating throughout the temple.”

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Sanaffe shivered, suddenly remembering the steps of her husband coming into the kitchen where she prepared their meals at the hearth. It always had made her smile, the way he had leaned over her shoulder inhaling the rich, spicy steam rising up from the copper pot. The memory let her eyes fill with tears. Sudden sobs she could not suppress made her run off, away from the cheerful crowd. She headed towards the tall arch of the sea temple looming in the distance.

Sanaffe’s heart paused a beat, her breathing stopped at the very first step toward the temple, for she was almost certain to have felt a gentle pulse levitate her a hair’s width above the stone stair. Loud music and voices from the worshipers crowding the temple’s entry, was nearly mute to her ears. She felt so distant from her fellow villagers at this moment. Only the book, her husband’s book, and this overwhelmingly strange sensation seemed to exist. She stopped, and took another breath to compose herself. The stair seemed to keep a soft pressure against the soles of her shoes. Looking down at the book in her arms, she gained courage to continue up another step. It was as if the staircase were climbing upon her shoes the same as she climbed upon the stairs. She kept walking, right through the colorful activity of the people, as if they didn’t exist. She followed a carpeted path. Her husband must have followed it many times before. Where did it take him?

As Sanaffe entered the high archway, she could no longer stop herself, even though she wanted to. Sweat dripped profusely down her face, and wet her arms and the manuscript so dear to her. Down she went along the winding staircase, to a wet floor of mirror. She saw herself holding the book in the horizontal reflection. She did not recognize her expression, yet it felt more truly to her than she’d ever seen before. It was contorted like a frown, but washed with amazement and destiny. Please hold me back she pleaded to vacant ears, but her husband, resting in her arms as moist pages, beckoned her on. She took a step onto the mirror, and her foot sank into it… and another and another… until her head was all that remained above the reflection. All her life she’d walked upon the Sapphire Mirror Lake, it was only inches deep everywhere… how now was she lowering her body into it? Another step and her head submerged. And she saw.

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The sapphire dissolved into such soft water, misty blue, and thick with a fruity aroma. Before her lied the long and curving hall, palace-like in its size. Adjusting her eyes to the underwater murk, the walls on one side of the hall were lined with painting after painting, and on the other wall, entirely made of transparent glass, was a view onto the deep lake below her village. It appeared so quickly to her, that at first, she felt it had flooded into view and would drown her. But Sanaffe stared into it, seeing it was more stable than her beating heart, and she just looked into it.

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Involuntarily, she approached the glass and peered into the sight unfolding before her. The murky blues parted enough for her to see the life teaming in this world… some sea creatures… but not mostly. What she saw were centaurs, living centaurs. She quickly swam down the curves of the hallway, seeing centaur after centaur, and some which were enormous as a two story house. Suddenly it occurred to her that she was the only human down here. She stopped swimming, and came to a standing position on the jewel encrusted floor. Watching the centaurs, and they watching back to her, the chilling thought arrived if she had come to forbidden territory.

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She looked onto the face of the horse-man closest to her behind the aquarium-like wall. His eyes were gentle, tender, familiar. With a smile, he lowered his glance to the manuscript she was still clinging onto. He took a step toward her, and from beneath the bejeweled floor, she felt his reflected stance. It could be no other than her husband’s.

Written and performed by Lilia Artis & Haveit Neox

Sapphire Mirror Lake, Fantasy Fair 2016

LitFest Tours – Stories from the Regions: Serenity

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Serenity
By Gwen Enchanted

Only the lost will find it
Only the found will stay
Only the parched one will drink from its waters
And only the sated will swim to its shores

This is the tale my mother told me of the temple in the clouds that is Serenity. And we thought it was a folktale. We heard songs where people went to it, poems they composed of it, fantasies brought back from it, but we did not believe.

Long, long, long into the night, I sat up, looking to see if its glowing spires revealed themselves after midnight as some stories said. And then I peeked behind my left shoulder on the first day of spring for three years running, but nothing happened.

I may have been as young as twelve when I decided I did not believe in it, that it could not exist. I scoured all the books in the cunningwoman’s house. I asked the passing traders. I asked the birds (which wasn’t the best idea because they had me thinking in circles for weeks), I asked the bees, I asked centaurs and satyrs.

The clock of the universe ticked slowly by, and the stars moved, and the moons moved, and some fell to earth and some passed by, and I grew into a woman of middle age. My lover said, “You are tired. Let’s walk.” She took my hand, and there was a breath of wind, just a breath, as I settled into step beside her, our warm fingers twining together like ivy on a green goddess.

It was at that moment when the world shifted, my sight cleared, and I could see that all around me there were steps.

“Darling,” I said, “how long have we been climbing these steps?”

“I think we met about half-way up,” she replied. “Look, just a few more.’

And so, hand in hand, we stepped round candles, onto a landing, then up yet five more steps.

And found ourselves in the commune, the community, of my childhood tales.

And if you think that sounds like the end of the story, well, that’s where you’d be wrong. The story hadn’t yet started.

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1b Serenity Great Tree with Lyr and the Giant

The Fae and the Giant
by Lyr Lobo
after seeing the giant Kraven Moreau on Serenity

1a Giant in the Water on Serenity

Do you hear
the beat of wings
as I drift past your ear?

2 Buzzing by the giant

Does the breeze
waft ’round you
as I circle you so near?

3 Gazing out to sea

What sounds beckon
you to turn fast
and yet I disappear?

4a View from the lily pad 2

Only to land
upon the lily and
quiver at you with fear?

5 Cale likes his eyes

‘Til you speak
words deep within
that only I can hear.

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SERENITY
by Midnight Dae

Numbly I plod through my days,
Shadows fill the space from which you were torn,
My thoughts spiral in a maze,
My existence becomes only to mourn.

In Serenity a candle captures my mind,
Fleeting peace in the flame I find.

Healing begins.

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Serenity #1
by Caledonia Skytower

The sea is calm and constant.
the breeze wraps its arm around me,
Turning
Inviting
“find the light”
it murmurs softly
as invocation.

A tiny warmth
tucked in the shadow of stone
Greeting
Entreating
“I am here,
we are here”
it welcomes.

The stairs are cool and worn,
the wildflowers tickle
Cajoling
Encouraging
“climb high,
as high as you can”
they cheer.

Each one calls, more lights
on the water, in the spray
Refracting
Reflecting
with a voice
unique, distinctly
singing out.

Flame, mist, wisps and starlight.
more and more everywher
Tens,
Twenties,
trees wafting the song
of a glowing chorus
climbing higher.

A Choir in every corner
every corner and cranny
above and below
Incanting
Expanding
that which is easily forgotten
“Not alone, never alone.”

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Outside Plastik_001Serenity #2
by Caledonia Skytower

Lily lights
butter flights
pink and blue,
hue of sunshine.

Leafy and wisp
flutter, twist
teasing
flirtatious wink.

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Air that shines
bright entwines
luminous
filled with life.

Drawing, beckon
“come and reckon,
waltzing
inside our joy”

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Exploring Serenity
by Melyna Foxclaw

Upon reaching Serenity, I wandered around the grounds and after coming across the cove, I had to stop and stare at its beauty. Flitting around it seemed unfitting. And so I walked down the stone stairs and stood at the edge of the walkway to just listen to the sounds of the waterfalls and look upon the calmness of the cove.  Such beautiful flowers in the water, I wanted to just lay on them and feel the sun beaming down on me, keeping me warm. But I did not want to disturb anything more since I’d already fallen in the water and had struggled just to get out! I felt silly!

So, I flew to the top of big waterfall and stood to stare out upon the water again. I so love the sounds of the waterfalls….I love it, so serene should I say. Such a name is so fitting for this place! I feel I could come out here if I feel that I can’t take the world any longer. I have always loved writing or reading to the sounds of water in the distance.

I took in the sight of the big tree near the landing point. Its roots must be able to reach the water in the cove; the tree was so big and so lush, as was the grassy area surrounding the buildings around the sim.  The sunsets must be unbelievable here! Or it could just be me, in awe of such a quiet, calm, beautiful place. I tend to get lost in places that seem to push me to forget everything but the here and now.

And so I sat quietly atop the stone wall near the big waterfall not far from the great tree. Looking, daydreaming and just enjoying life itself. I sat until nighttime came and then made my journey home.

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short poem  by Ishara Longstaff
     attending the
     poetry prompt with Lesley Writer

hear,

Crunch goes my footsteps, upon graveled ground.
Splash goes the waves. I feel spray against my skin.  I hear seagulls mocking cry.
listing, hearing,  music in sun rise. It is song of my companion.