Novel Excerpt: Table Talk

Jason rolled his eyes. “Will you calm down and eat, Isabelle? Everyone else is halfway through and you barely started.”

Isabelle had a pen and her journal where her plate should have been. The excitement still hadn’t worn off after meeting her favorite author and artist Aravis Quarterfire then finding out Aravis was Nesrin’s niece, and that excitement was especially strong with Aravis sitting across the table from her in their apartment.

“Just a few more questions. So Nesrin and Ceylan both use the last name Halfire, but you use Quarterfire. I know the ‘fire’ part means ‘hidden one’ because their bodies are made of fire, and I know Nesrin and Ceylan are half human, so that must be the ‘half,’ so for you to be half of half fire, your father must have been human too, is that right?”

Aravis gave her a smile. “Nicely done. Yep, that’s what it means.” She wiped her mouth. “See how my face looks a little more wrinkled than Aunt Nesrin’s; she looks twenty- or thirty-something and I look forty-something? That’s another way you can tell. The fire’s more watered down.”

Nesrin put down her glass of water. “I still wish you wouldn’t say it that way. Just because I have slightly stronger powers doesn’t mean you don’t have as much fire in you as I do me. You probably have more.”

“Still means Grandmother Samira considers me a human instead of a hidden one.” Aravis stabbed her stuffed mushroom with her fork and knife.

Isabelle twirled her pen in her hair, processing what Aravis had said. She’d thought of something that seemed common sensical now that she’d realized it, but it hadn’t dawned her till then.

Jason came right with it, speaking through a bite of crab cake. “So being less hidden one makes you more mortal?”

Nesrin cut her eyes at him.

Aravis nodded. “Essentially. I’m still immortal, it just took me longer to stop aging. My children were mortal but lived much longer than normal humans.” She made a ‘spiraling out’ gesture with her fork. “So on.”

Isabelle flung a cube of ice at her brother and made a face. He shrugged in reply and they let it drop. There was about a second of silence, broken by Isabelle.

“So are any of the characters in Starspirit based on people you know?” In her mind she added And if they’re not can I be one anyway?

Drabble: Confrontation

This is the conclusion of the flash fiction sequence I read in St. Louis. As such, it does finish the arc, but since these drabbles have only been the skeleton of a story, without all the pieces filed in, excerpts featuring these characters will still be posted out of chronological order from time to time.

 

We watched from behind walls of glass smoke as a dark shade fell over the highest chamber of the Great Hall. Mithal was now in the full splendor of his true form, and Wathanni appeared as a skeletal dragon made of fire. At last the dragon leapt into the air and spewed fire over Mithal as it descended. Mithal lunged into the flames, reaching out his arms to strangle the beast. As their forms grew closer their bodies exploded into streams of text that whirled around each other like two dueling tornados of words. Stories and statements flew past my eyes too quick to read, moving faster and faster until the two cyclones merged in a pillar that rose from the floor to the ceiling in the middle of the room. A single sheet of torn parchment flew out of the plume, followed shortly by two more, then a handful, and soon volumes were scattering themselves on the floor. When the floor was nearly covered a light flickered in the tornado, and the pages flew all at once into the column. There was a burst of scorching wind as they all came together and the tornado vanished. Only Mithal was left standing.

Double Drabbles: “Soon” and “Sempiternal”

After our ordeal Gobelen teleported us home and let us collapse on the couch. It was a nice rest until we noticed the word “soon” written in giant, smokey letters across the wall.

“What is it?” Jonathan asked.

“It is a note from Wathanni.”

I asked, “What does it mean?”

“It means I can expect a more definite confrontation before long, most likely without warning.” Gobelen reverted to his human form in what I hoped was a show of confidence, but to be honest, I was passing out while I had the chance whether it was or it wasn’t.

***

I stood with Alhana in the Great Hall. I still didn’t know exactly where that was geographically, but I’d learned not to ask.

She said, “Tell me, why are you not more concerned about Wathanni’s challenge to Mithal?”

I just shrugged. “Because genies live forever. For you ‘soon’ could mean a millennium from now.”

“That is not exactly true, Young One. You suppose that the jinn are eternal. In reality we are merely sempiternal. We may live forever, but true eternalness implies that one is not effected by time. We are just as aware of every second that passes as you are. No, when Wathanni says he will challenge Mithal soon, he means ‘soon’ very much the same way you would.”

Drabble: Proposal

Gobelen had warned us that an old enemy of his named Wathanni might come looking for him. At the time I was unconcerned. Now that I’d been encased in a pillar of charcoal, I was more concerned, and slightly frustrated that I could still hear the two of them eating and talking.

“Gobelen, do you remember the last time we had a meal together like this?”

“Oh yes. It was just before you had me imprisoned in that infernal bottle.”

Wathanni laughed. “Quite right. Strange how easy that was to arrange, but that’s of no consequence. Have some bread; I assure you it’s excellent.”

“I notice there is no salt. I suppose you remain devoted to some unholy purpose.”

“Naturally. My name does mean ‘heathen’ after all.”

For a time I only heard silence, then the air hummed with a voice like a song.

“You never even wanted the title. The life you asked for was one of humility and freedom. Why not yield to the one who desires the authority you consider a burden? I vow you would have all the freedom you dream of. When my shadows cover the world they will leave you untouched.”

Again I only heard silence, and the longer it lasted the more panic set in.

Drabble: The Power of Alhana

Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and post. Part of the reason (among other things) is that I spent a few days at the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society convention in St. Louis, Missouri, where I had the opportunity to read a selection of my flash fiction as part of a panel. It was my first time participating in a reading of that sort, so it was a thrilling experience. The flash fiction sequence I read reused some of the posts I’ve published on here, and also featured new material centered on the characters, so I thought I’d post the new scenes here as well, starting with this one. The previous posts that appeared in the sequence are: Meanwhile, The Bottle Opens, Reentering the World, A Hidden Image, and The Traveler.

 

 

Fire flashed from Alhana’s eyes, and Gobelen was forcibly changed back into his human form, which began aging swiftly as the building around them turned to dust that blew into the wind. The clouds turned to rocks and began falling around them while the ground evaporated like steam.

“Look around you, Mithal, and alter what you see if you can. You may the Caliph of all Jinn, but I am the Prophetess to the Caliph, and you will hear my words if I must lock you in a thousand bottles first. Do you yield?”

“Cease your signs, Prophetess, I yield.”

The world began returning to normal. Alhana’s eyes dimmed as her power was reigned in. “Good. You will accompany me to the Great Hall, where we can discuss matters in a manner befitting the dignity of our powers.”

It wasn’t until Gobelen nodded that she returned him to normal as well.

Novel Excerpt: Previous Chapters

Nesrin removed the Colombina mask she’d worn to the parade as she, Isabelle, and Jason walked back into their apartment. She held it up to watch the light dance in the red, orange, and yellow sequins that formed a dancing flame design over a background of black felt. When she’d played long enough, her eyes glowed gold and the mask disappeared back into storage. On the way to change out of her parade attire she walked passed Isabelle’s room. The door was open and Nesrin happened to catch sight of Isabelle sitting on the edge of her bed.

Isabelle hadn’t taken off the Mardi Gras beads she’d collected at the parade. She was holding a book and a pen, and she was brooding over a page with an intense look of contemplation.

Nesrin knocked on the door. Isabelle looked up, smiled, and motioned with her head for Nesrin to come in. As she got closer she saw the book was Isabelle’s journal. The page contained a rough sketch of Isabelle’s birth mother with a large question mark beside it.

Nesrin sat down beside her roommate. “You know we can return to Arizona and see her again whenever you wish.”

Isabelle nodded. “Yo se. Might take you up on that if I thought I could speak to her this time.” Her fingers traced the question mark beside her mother’s picture. “Madre, our adopted madre, says who we are is whatever story we write, but there’s more to it than that. I’m just a chapter. I wanna know what the rest of the book was about.”

Stand alone drabble: Nesrin’s Comet

When Nesrin looked into the burning rock hurtling towards her, she was grateful to have her uncountable siblings around her. One hidden one acting alone can only divert a comet with monumental effort, but a large gathering of them can manage quite easily.

She heard her mother say “Wait till it comes through the clouds to give it time to burn off, then we’ll all charge it together and send it away with one strong push.”

Nesrin could already feel the heat starting to dry her skin. Even so, she was so entranced by the white shine of the flames on the apparent smoothness of the stone that she would have forgotten to change into her hidden form if one of her brothers hadn’t yelled “Nesrin, change before your flesh burns.” Shaken into reality, she glanced at her newly red arms. She shifted to her other self without thinking. Her mother had told her that her hidden one half made her immortal, but she hadn’t fully understood what that meant until she’d put her human half to the test.