The Emperor’s Bride

I did not use a prompt for this short story. It was initially a concept for a longer work. Feel free to ask me any questions if any part of it confuses you. Written 25 December 2019

Teagan sat in front of her mirror, one servant braiding back her hair, another brushing pigments on her face. She took several deep breaths in an effort to steady her nerves. Her engagement to Emperor Anselm would be officially announced at the start of the ball that night, and so she must be dressed accordingly. Her gown was comprised of two main layers: a split tunic that reached her ankles, and a circle skirt, both made of rippling pale silver silk, the skirt painted with so many different flowers Teagan thought it must be an entire garden’s worth. His Majesty the emperor would be wearing white and gold, she knew.

Another servant entered, holding a small box. “My lady, His Majesty sent you these, requesting that you wear them tonight.” Teagan waved her over and opened the box. She gasped.

It was a full set of moonstone jewelry, set in white silver. There was an armband shaped like a coiled dragon, a choker necklace, an anklet, and a delicately braided circlet. “These must cost a fortune. I’m nearly afraid to put them on.”

“I assure you they are quite durable.” came a voice from the doorway. “May I come in?”

“Of course, my liege. I am perfectly decent, if you would excuse my bare feet and unfinished hair.” Teagan replied.

The emperor stepped in wearing robes even finer than Teagan had previously seen him in. The white was almost creamy, pure and seemingly soft as down. The gold that rimmed the sleeves, hem, neck and opening flowed like liquid. His feet were also bare, the jewel-encrusted slippers dangling from his right hand. The robe hung open and left his chest bare. Teagan turned back to the mirror and bid the servants continue their work.

“I don’t suppose you plan to tie that robe for the ball tonight?” she asked, and one of ther servants struggled to hide a smile.

“Would it bother you if I left it open all night?” he replied with a boyish grin.

“Well, I do believe your courtiers would have a fit. Maiden Sasha might just faint.” The sevant coughed to hide a snicker.

“I suppose you’re right. Will you wear them?” he closed his robe and gestured to the box.

“Of course. They’re exquisite.” she said. lifting the armband. The servant finished her hair and moved to help with the jewelry, but the emperor stopped them.

“You’ve done wonderfully, ladies. May I take over from here?” the women curtsied low and left without a word. He took the armband from Teagan, a strange, soft look in his eyes.

“I can do it myself, Your Majesty.” Teagan protested.

“Yes, you can. But I wished to have a quiet moment with you before we went in.” he explained. Teagan nodded and offered her arm. He slipped the band on, then the anklet, the choker, and finally the circlet. “I will go in first, after the guests have entered. Then I will announce my engagement, and you will enter. From then on, you will be at my side unless I am needed where you are not.” she nodded, and they stepped into their shoes.

They walked down the hall together until they reached the ballroom. Emperor Anselm gave her hand a squeeze before letting go and stepping inside. Teagan heard the music die down and the emperor start his speech.

“As I am sure everyone here is aware, I have been searching for a Maiden to make my wife and consort. It is with great joy that I may now announce that I have ended my search. My trusted court, I present to you my future bride, former Maiden, Lady Teagan.” She stepped out, curtsying to the emperor, then facing the now-applauding audience. She nearly jumped when he intertwined their fingers.

Emperor Anselm led her down the steps, and the music started up again. They danced until she forgot her nerves, and when they stopped, the Maidens were the first to flock to her, flooding her with questions and congratulations.

“Will you do one more dance with us, Teagan?” Maiden Sasha asked. The others took up the cry and she relented with a laugh. They made a circle on the dance floor and Teagan melted into the music, noting how much she would miss dancing with the Maidens.

The Reed Pipes

Prompt: “The marshes stank of rot and old magic, smothered beneath the fresh scent of spring Written 20 January 2020

She hadn’t wanted to go to the marsh today. It was misty and that meant that the Fair Ones would be watching her. But her mother needed the herbs, and so Asura took her basket and her sturdiest pair of boots and hiked through the forest to the marshes. They stank of rot and old magic, smothered beneath the fresh scent of spring.

Her boots squelched, and she moved ahead slowly, turning to either side to check for prying eyes. The hem of her skirts were damp and muddy, and she huffed as her hair fell in her face. Still, she crouched in the muddy water and felt around for the roots she needed.

There were few flowers in the marsh, and even less color. Everything was muted browns and greens, turned gray by the mist. But she felt the magic, like an old man breathing down her neck.

Her task was half done when she heard the reed pipes. They whistled hauntingly, begging her to follow them to their source, dancing across the water carelessly. She froze.

“I am terribly sorry if I have offended you.” she called. “My mother is the village herbalist, and she sent me to gather roots for her work. I will leave if you wish me to.”

There came no answer besides the sound of the pipes, which had become more insistent.

“I cannot follow you into Elphane, Good Neighbor. I am needed here.” A soft trill followed her statement. She hesitated. “I trust you not to hex or enchant me, and to let me return to my village before the week is out. Do you agree to my terms” The music bounced around her happily. “Alright then. I come with the understanding that I have been invited, and am thus under the protection of hospitality.” she stopped to set down the basket, then lifted her skirt and trudged onwards.

When she entered a copse of trees on firmer ground, she felt the gaze of many and the weight of old magic around her. The air smelled of damp soil and dying roses. With a deep breath she brushed off her skirt and unlaced her her boots, tying them to her belt. The ground was soft and mossy, and she found no discomfort in walking barefoot. Still the sound of the pipes pulled her along, and she found herself wanting to dance the rest of the way.

Her journey ended at the bottom of a waterfall, where a slender man with pale hair and bluish skin sat on a boulder, playing the music that had led her in. His eyes were closed, his expression serene. Asura found herself wondering what his lips would feel like against her skin.

He seemed to register her presence as soon as the thought crossed her mind. His eyes opened unhurriedly, and a kind smile warmed his face.

The fairy boy wore a tunic and breeches the color of wet pebbles. His feet were bare, and one foot stretched lazily into the water. “You are a wise one, girl. How did you learn to interpret my music?” he asked, with the look of a cat napping in the sun.

“Your intent was clear, my lord.” she replied.

“Your faith was the intent behind my music? Could it not have deceived you?” she shrugged.

“The Fair Folk are not capable of lying, and even human music is the most honest representation of one’s spirit. You mean me no harm, I could hear it.” she said.

He tilted his head. “You believe I am no danger to you?”

“Not yet.” she said, smiling.

He laughed, a high, trilling laugh that vibrated across the forest. “Come sit with me, girl. I called you here for company. You will lose no time from your realm while you are here.”

A Changeling’s Sister

Prompt: she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders, and the weight of her sister in her arms. [written 29 September 2019]

“Evie!” she screamed, stumbling as she ran to her sister’s side. When she reached her, she fell to her knees, cradling her head in her arms. “No, no, no! You’re gonna be okay, Evelyn. I’m gonna get you home.”

“Cadence.” said the voice in her head. “Cadence, can you hear me?”

“Yeah,” she croaked. “I can hear you, Toby.”

“What happened?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” she sobbed. “One minute I’m fighting, the next Evelyn is on the ground.”

“Can you get her out of there safely?” She looked around. The only enemy left in the clearing was Mordecai, the one who’d been attacking her before Evelyn stepped between them. Cadence tried to tamp down her fury, but the air still crackled with heat around her, and her eyes blazed white.

Mordecai took a hesitant step towards them. “I… I didn’t mean to… She jumped in front of me. Is she..?” he stuttered.

She shot him a glare. “What did you do to her?”

“I don’t know. It was meant for you, to bind your magic. This shouldn’t be happening.

She ignored him, carefully picking up Evelyn as she stood. “She’s a changeling, you bastard. Her entire life force is her magic.” she growled. “And if you ever come near her again I swear on everything sacred in this world that I will kill you.”

“Cadence” Toby warned.

“I understand.” Mordecai said, head low. “Go. Take her home.”

The fire in her eyes dimmed a little, and she nodded at him. “Mordecai.” His head lifted hesitantly. “If you ever cared for either of us, I won’t see you on the battlefield again.”

She walked away, with the weight of the world on her shoulders, and the weight of her sister in her arms.

Welcome

Welcome to Pen Name Not Found, home of daydreams and flights of fancy. Before we get into the fun stuff, I think some introductions are in order.

There is magic in a story. Joining the characters on their adventures is exciting, and I learned that the only thing better was creating those adventures myself. But the thing that makes a story magic is that it touches people. A story is meant to be shared.

So here I am. I have a backlog of short stories starting from around December 2018, and those are what I’ll be starting with. Each post will include the date the story was written, but they won’t all be posted in the order I wrote them. Keep in mind that most, if not all, of the stories will be completely unrelated to each other. My longer works aren’t ready to be presented to the world. Yet.

Thank you for joining me at the beginning of our adventures together