Hero Day

The bells in the towers rang out through the kingdom on the first anniversary of evil vanquished. From behind reinforced palace walls dripping with spikes and arrow slots, the queen heard music drift up from the town.

“The townspeople celebrate our success,” she said offhandedly as her dresser laid out the day’s finery.

“Yes ma’am. They celebrate someone’s success.”

“Whose?” the queen asked, watching her head dresser from the mirror as the woman drew her lips tight. “Whose success do they celebrate, Madge?”

“They celebrate our hero, today.”

“Their hero… The many men and women who fought to free this kingdom from evil, you mean?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m sure that’s what I mean.”

But the queen was not an idiot and she did not come to power by ignoring the signs when she was being put off. She went to the dark cabinet in her dressing room, the one where her previous life was locked away. The cabinet was dark wood the color of a forest burned by fire. The brass lock was kept oiled, the filigree dusted. From the outside, it looked like any other fine cabinet in the palace. The musk of old lavender and cedar chips trapped too long assaulted her face as she opened the door. This was her life before. The life she lived in exile. The lessons lived with her even though she was careful not to let them show.

She slipped into her previous identity more easily than letting down her hair. The guise of a young man sat on her shoulders, his face covered by desert cloth, his boots and gauntlets fine but built for utility rather than artifice. She slipped from the window before there were questions among the staff and joined the crowd into the city proper.


False Spring

It was the weary end of winter, when crisp snow and spangled nights turn to grim and grey endurance and the drifts slumpd in slovenly piles along the hedgerows and ditches. A rare warm breeze coaxes the songbirds from their perches huddled deep in the evergreens, and they hop from branch to branch seeking out desiccated berries and overlooked pine nuts. The sun peeks her face from the shrouding covering the sky, bringing welcome brightness to the dark months. Wise men rejoice in the brief taste of springtime, knowing that it will fail quickly and winter’s clench will return.

See then, Roya, the Trickster, the god of travelers and beggars, of false promises and false hopes, trudging down the road. He is dressed as a beggar in rags the color of old snow and fresh mud; his staff is a crooked branch.

Roya enters the town to see the merchant and the craftsman, the trader and the maker, as they cleanse their homes of soiled things, of broken things, of things no longer useful. He sees the beggars and the poor, the finders and the scroungers, the fixers and the menders, who claim the broken and unloved things for their own use. He sees generosity, and he sees industry, and both gladden him, for waste and meanness are wicked.

Roya approaches a wealthy man’s house, and peers through the gate. Here too, the man’s servants are cleaning and clearing, but they do not put these things on the street for others. The man has built a fire and directed his servants to burn those things he does not want.

Roya passes through the gate, for locks are nothing to the patron of thieves. He sees a servant carrying out a warm coat. “Give me that coat,” Roya says, “for mine is thin and ragged.” But the servant is afraid of his master, and puts it on the fire where it is burned up.

Roya sees another servant, carrying a pair of fine boots. “Give me those,” he begs, “for my feet are bound with rags.” Like his brother, the servant dares not bestow the boots, but places them on the fire where they are burned.

Roya implores the servants again and again, for gloves, for a scarf, for a hat to keep off the rain, and every time it is the same; the fire grows larger, and Roya remains cold and miserable.

At last the master comes away from his door to scold Roya. “What do you here? These are my servants, and I have instructed them to burn these things.” Roya queries, “Why burn them at all? They are worn, but still fine enough for me. If you had given them, you would be blessed.”

But the master has no use for blessings. “Why should my coat be on your shoulders? Why should my shoes be on your feet? Would not my neighbors see you wearing them, and know? You are poor and ragged; their seeing would bring me naught but shame. It is my pleasure to burn these things, and it is my right. You are not of my house, and I owe you nothing. Begone, or I shall have you beaten!”

Roya then cast off his cloak of illusion, revealing himself as a god. “If burning is your pleasure, then burning you shall have!” He pointed his crooked staff at the fire which grew until it engulfed the master’s house. Not the master, nor none of his servants, could put out the fire until all of the master’s fine house and possessions are burned, and the master cowered, begging Roya’s forgiveness.

Roya told the man, “Beg not for my forgiveness, but for that of your neighbors, who might have benefitted from your generosity. Go forth to them, and ask them for a dwelling, and for those things they have no further use of to furnish it.”

Ever since that time in Roya’s season, the season of false spring, the people bring out those things they no longer have need of to pass on to their neighbors whose need is greater. Any who hunger or are cold may beg in the name of Roya and be satisfied. And the people build a fire in the town that all may be warm, and prepare a feast that all may be fed.


April Stories at the Confabulator Cafe

April Fool’s day is an interesting holiday. Many cultures celebrate it, but even its origins are a mystery.

So for this April, Confabulators were prompted to make up their own holiday and tell us a story about it. We hope you’ll visit us throughout the month to see what they came up with.

Here’s the April schedule:

Monday, April 8: “False Spring” by Aspen Junge
Monday, April 15: “Hero Day” by Dianne Williams
Monday, April 22: “Carnival of Farts” by Eliza Jaquays


The Strength of Winter

There was too much summer in Winter when she met the other queens. Blackberry wine burned her stomach as Summer and Autumn approached, pale in the blue light of her palace. Summer shivered in her cotton dress, her sandaled feet ankle deep in snow. Winter understood the bitter touch of ice. Her wife was dead. The winter would not end by her choice.

“Come to wrest power away from me, sisters?” Winter welcomed the hollowness the summer berries carved inside of her.

“The winter months have long passed and Spring is due her right to rule in turn,” Autumn said beneath the carved arches.

Winter laughed, gesturing to her ice palace around them. Windows of interlocking snowflakes, her crown of icicles, tapestries spun from frozen threads. All of her nice things. The rooms that her wife, Nadine, spent time in. The statues of her, carved in ice. Her face was already fading from Winter’s mind.

“You speak of turns like we’re children? You would take everything I’ve built this season and leave me with a puff of frost amongst the dew.”

“We want to help,” Autumn said. “We were sorry to hear of her death.”

A flash of a memory burned Winter’s mind before she managed to freeze it back out. Dark skin against the snow. The warmth of her kiss. Rage bubbled up hard and cold. “You were against us from the very beginning.”


Bound in Blood

Fire rushed down Vivian’s throat and pooled in her stomach, soothing her nerves. After tonight, she would be someone’s wife. She’d never been anyone’s wife before. The tight, gnawing sensation returned to the pit of her stomach. Just a nip never hurt anyone, her granny always said. She’d only had one nip. Over and over again. She took another sip from the bottle.

A scrape on the other side of the door had her hiding the bottle away and hurrying to the washroom to brush her teeth. She wanted to be minty fresh for their first kiss. For her first kiss.

“Vivian, darling?” Her future mother-in-law called from the other side of the door before it squealed open, setting Vivian’s teeth on edge. “You’re still in your robe? Darling, you’re expected in the chapel in minutes! Come here.”