Ruthie and the Darkening Prince

This began as a very short flash fiction piece inspired by a story from my good friend Ruth Long in The Fairy Ring Flash Fiction Contest.  I was wading through some old files the other day, took this out, expanded it a bit and thought I’d share it with you. A bit of a blast from the past but updated.

The image is one I could not find an attribution for but it is part of the basis for this story so I’ve included it. If anyone knows who the artist is, please let me know. Hope you enjoy…

Ruthie and the Darkening Prince

The Darkening bordered the western edge of the Glade that stood between our world and the other. The gloom hadn’t crept in over time or spread through the trees like some dark malady. It simply appeared one summer day, turning the brightly magical woods to a dimmed and dusky version of itself, the edge of it an invisible line through the woods.

As Guardian of the Glade, it was Ruthie’s duty to discover the cause. For nearly a fortnight she sought high and low but could find no culprit for the strange perversion. That is, until a warrior in barbed armor met her at the border. Silently, he walked in the shadowed half of the wood, mirroring her steps like some dark-natured counterpart.

Impatient, she stopped and turned to glare at him. He stopped in the same breath, turning to observe her with cool disdain from beneath his demon-shaped helm. He was tall and imposing, but she did not fear him for she held the power of the Glade.

“Are you responsible for this?” she asked, gesturing along the line dividing her green bounty from his murky landscape.

The warrior eyed her for a moment more.

“I am,” he said finally. His voice was silken and cultured and laced with a leashed power that sent chills down her spine.

She was about to demand more of an explanation, when he lifted a hand to remove the helm. Alabaster hair cascaded like silk over his sinister epaulets. His tawny inhuman eyes ensnared her, freezing her heart mid-beat.

In that stark proud face, she recognized a boy she had once known. A boy she had loved dearly when she’d been but a child. Before she’d become a Guardian. Before he’d inherited the power of his Fae father.

“My Prince,” she breathed, nodding in deference. She would once have had to kneel, but the Guardian of the Glade bowed to no one. Not even the Fae King.

“Guardian,” he said, tilting his head slightly in return. Then, he said, “I remember you.”

“Have we met?” she asked, taking a step toward him as tendrils of chill mist from the darkened wood crossed the line to swirl about her ankles like a cold caress.

A flock of pixie attendants rushed to her, drawn by the threat of his power. They circled her in a cloud of fervent cacophony, their fear obvious in the earthward cant of their diaphanous wings.

“Yes,” he said. “You stole something from me.”

Ruthie nearly took a step back, shocked that he would accuse her so.  “I have taken nothing of yours, my Prince.”

“Ah, but you have,” he said, taking a step toward her. “You stole … a kiss.” A conspiratorial smile creased his cheek, warming his features and peeling back the years to one afternoon beneath the shade of a willow’s cloak. An afternoon she remembered only now.

Her sharp intake of breath confirmed the truth as a long-denied memory burst upon her mind. The press of his lips to hers like summer wine in the cool shade.

The boy prince had been raised in her village. His fair hair and her auburn locks had bounced through the sunshine as they ran in and out of the dappled shadows of the Glade. They had been close as children, too close, taking liberties with each other that were against the Law.

Had he come now to punish her?

“My lord…” she began.

“No, do not fear,” he said gently. “I seek only a small recompense.” He leaned toward her without emerging into sunlight although his face was mere inches from hers. His voice and the unexpected tenderness in his eyes beguiled her and she leaned in to meet him.

“And what penance is it you seek?” she asked, her heart stirred with a heady emotion she was reluctant to name.

“I would like my kiss back again,” he whispered, his eyes on her lips.

His dark yet noble heart beckoned to her, as it always had. The child she had been longed for the innocent rebellion of those bygone days, but they weren’t children anymore. He was a Prince and she a Guardian. What had been only frowned upon long ago would now be a grievous sin. Still, she wavered, tempted to grant him this one small trespass.

Sensing her weakness, the pixies admonished her in a whirlwind of fluttering, their wings like so many butterflies on her cheeks. But she shooed them away angrily. She didn’t need their council. She knew quite well what hung in the balance.

She had taken an oath as Guardian. Her loyalty was to the Glade, and the Glade alone. Her heart and the Glade’s were one and the same. As the neutral border between the Fae and human realms, she could not give that heart to one side or the other. As Guardian, she must refuse him even the smallest of favors, for to grant one would be to endanger the peace that was the Glade’s reason for being.

“What say you?” he prompted into her silence as he lifted a long finger to trace the line of her jaw.

“You know I cannot,” she whispered, her voice full of a longing she had meant to suppress.

His golden eyes roved over her face and came to rest on her lips. “Then, my dear lady, the Darkening will remain until justice is served.”

He stood back from her, letting the cool mist rise between them. It sent chills up her arms as she watched him bow and turn on his heel to stride off into the gloomy woods.

She knew him well enough to know he would find a way to get his kiss in the end. And she wanted him to. But, she had a few tasks she required in return. Her lips curled with mischief. It would be an interesting summer.


Fantasy and the problem with Tolkien — The Write Stuff

The eternal dilemma of the fantasy writer: Has every story been told or can I tell an old one in a new way?  Read what Sue Vincent at The Write Stuff says about it. Regardless, I will continue to write my own fantasies and hope they have half the depth of Tolkien’s Middle Earth…

It has to be said that Tolkien causes problems. Quite apart from being so addictive that, once read, you are likely to go back and read the books again, you may never find anywhere quite as rich as Middle Earth within the pages of another book. Anyone whose introduction to fantasy is via The Hobbit […]

via Fantasy and the problem with Tolkien — The Write Stuff

Review: Tower of Thorns

Tower of Thorns

by Juliet Marillier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Enchanting characters that will win you over.

A medieval mystery series, Blackthorn and Grim are two dispossessed souls trying to do go in a world they no longer believe in. Blackthorn because of a deal made with the Fae, and Grim because he’d follow her anywhere. I have enjoyed the mysteries, though at time I felt they could move on a bit faster. Nonetheless, I enjoy the language and the characters enough to be content.

I’d listened to the first Blackthorn and Grim book by Marillier a while back. It is done with a full cast and when I heard Grim for the first time (though the voice actor is delightful) I cringed. I didn’t think I’d like him enough to stand a whole book with him. But thanks to Marillier, by the time I was done with that book, I liked Grim. And a third of the way through this one, I loved him. The relationship between stubborn Blackthorn and her “lump of a man” is something you find yourself rooting for, though her obtuseness about his feelings at the end was a bit unbelievable. After all, she is supposed to be wise.

Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the next installment to see what trouble they can get up to now. If you like fantasy and a bit of romance, you’ll love these books.

This was not actually read but was an audiobook. I do love being read to!  There was a full cast and they did a lovely job, as they did in the previous book. I’m buying book 3 now and hope the same actors will be doing that one too.  Definitely worth a listen.

View all my reviews

Mirror Man – MidWeek Flash

I haven’t done flash fiction in ages and so when I got a sudden craving for it, I went over to check out  Miranda Kate‘s MidWeek Flash for this week.  The rules are simple and listed on the site. If you like to write, you should give it a shot.  This week’s picture prompt is below. Isn’t it gorgeous?  

I hope you enjoy my flash. Be warned, this one’s really weird. Not sure what I was on today, but at least I wrote.  ROFL.

Mirror Man

by Stacy Bennett

I don’t know if you remember those dark days, my friend. The days before the Mirror Men came. Mimicatronic, that was the new tech. At least, I think that’s what it was called.

The Mirror Men. Imitation counselors to soothe our collective unconscious. Silica suits stuffed with bits of AI and Freud and a weedy whiff of new age. (For the lingering hippies, like Mrs. McDonough.  Do ya remember her? And her pissing little dog?)

Anyway. We lived in the tenements then. Rook Street. Ten of us to a room. Like roaches, you said. Squirming on top of each other in the stinking swelter of post-Warm autumn.  We were on the verge of riots that year. Fueled by an internet drought. Electricity was scarce as sex. Remember only being able to charge every three days? That kind of restriction could drive a man to kill, wouldn’t you say?

Well, I don’t know if you remember when the first one came to our town. But I remember when they hauled all of Rook Street out into the drizzle to be “saved.” Were you there, or had ya walked to the Plaza? I can’t remember but I know they lined us up on the street. Continue reading “Mirror Man – MidWeek Flash”

My Favorite Movie of 2016

This past week, my daughter and I rewatched what I consider to be one of the best movies of 2016 (and one of my new favorite animated films):  Kubo and the Two Strings.

Honestly, this movie has one of the best beginnings ever. Really. As I sat and listened to the beginning voice over, I was immediately pulled under the narrator’s spell.

“If you must blink, do it now.

Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem.

And please be warned,

if you fidget,

if you look away,

if you forget any part of what I tell you, even for an instant,

then our hero will surely perish.”

How much do we as writers slave over our beginnings to achieve this level of instant engagement.

“If you must blink, do it now.”

Gives me chills! This is so finely wrought it’s almost painful. It sets the tone of the story, a mythic scale with overtones of the fantastical that make everything that follows fit into a tale at once grand and simple.  The story is relayed with humor and a sense of mystery.

And the end… well l don’t want to spoil it for you, but it was not the solution I expected. Which delighted me to no end.  The final battle fit the genre of heroic fantasy and yet was a completely new twist. At least for me.  I totally loved it.

You know, lately the trend seems to be to take a bestselling novel and put it on the silver screen.  And while I don’t disagree with this practice, I dearly love to see fresh stories told. Ones written for the medium of film. Then the depth of the story doesn’t need to be truncated to fit the time, as is often the criticism of book to screen endeavors.

Kubo is definitely a unique story and one I loved from the very first minute.  I heartily recommend it to anyone who loves classic animation, like that of Coraline, or fairy tales.

“His name is Kubo.

His grandfather stole something from him.

And that really is the least of it.”