Flash Fiction Friday #13: “The Will of the Gods”

Definitely the longest flash fiction I’ve written so far, coming in just shy of 900 words. Enjoy!

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“The Will of the Gods”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The young man looked up at the stairs leading to the temple in the clouds. Atop its pointed crest glowed a fire, haloed by cloud vapor.

He turned to his grandfather, who was stooped over, wrinkled in age, and covered in the midnight-blue robes of the Order of the Sun.

“Must I do this?” the young man asked, a quiver of fear in his voice.

“It is the will of the gods,” his grandfather said, his eyes filled with sorrow.

“But what if the gods are wrong?”

“The gods are never wrong,” his grandfather said sternly.

“But I don’t understand why I must do this.”

“You don’t have to understand—you just have to trust. Have faith.”

Faith. It sounded like such a dirty word at that moment, thinking of what lay ahead.

He looked down at the crowd gathered at the base of the temple. Torches flickered and hissed in the wind, the yellow glow of fire highlighting the familiar faces of the villagers. Of his family. They looked up at him with tears in their eyes.

His gaze lifted to the shadowy forest beyond, to the tips of the trees bathed in moonlight.

Would he make it to the treeline before the archers shot him down? Was there truly no escaping his fate?

As if sensing what he was thinking, his grandfather softly repeated, “Have faith.”

The man wanted to scream. What good was faith if it cost him everything?

With a resigned sigh, he looked at his loved ones one last time. He swallowed past the knot in his throat, and, with a nod to his grandfather, started the long trek up the temple stairs.

The ceremonial drums beat in the distance, a steady thrum-thrum-thrum that contrasted with his fluttering heart. With each step that brought him closer to his doom, everything in him screamed at him to turn around and run.

Would it hurt? he wondered as he climbed, his legs like lead. Would he scream when the dagger pierced his heart?

Around him swayed temple maidens, their faces covered by gauzy veils, their robes rippling in the increasing wind. They seemed not to care that he was about to die. And for what? To appease gods he had never seen? Gods who had let his prayers for food to feed his starving family go unanswered? Crops had not grown in this region for the past three years. Trade with neighboring countries had ceased. Some believed the gods had truly abandoned them. And he was their last hope.

A sacrifice worth a thousand lives.

In a blink, he was at the top of the temple, a white-cloaked figure his only companion. The high priestess, her beautiful face illuminated by firelight from the four great cauldrons burning at the top of the temple, bowed in greeting. The dagger, its hilt encrusted in jewels, glittered in her hands. “Welcome, son of the gods.”

“I am no such thing. I am an ordinary man.” Who will never truly get to experience life, he silently added.

She shook her head, her ruby lips smiling slightly. “You have more power than you know. Come and see.” She gestured to the stone altar.

Reluctantly, he dragged his feet and lay upon its cool surface.

The priestess hovered above him, smearing a sweet-scented oil on his forehead and cheeks. She gently closed his eyes. “Sssshhh…” she cooed. “It will all be over soon.”

He barely had time to grab a breath before the dagger pierced his flesh, diving straight into his heart. His eyes flew wide open, a scream forming in his throat. Columns of fire burst from the cauldrons, towering into the sky as the wind shrieked and howled. Charred clouds roiled overhead, and lightning whipped against the furious night.

The priestess chanted and sang a song of their people, and they echoed her from far below. In a few seconds, it was all over. There was peace, quiet, and a steady humming in his veins. Stiffly, he reached up to touch his chest. His heart beat! Was he not dead after all?

Slowly, he opened his eyes—and stared in wonder at the glow upon his flesh, like a thousand glittering diamonds had been embedded in his tanned skin. “How is this possible?” he said in wonder. “How am I still alive?”

“It is the will of the gods,” the priestess said simply, as if surprised he even asked.

He climbed off the table and stood. Power sizzled along his fingertips. An image popped into his mind, and suddenly, he knew what he must do. With a laugh, he raised his hands to the sky. Magical rain, shimmering like stardust, poured, nourishing their land. The brown and dead changed to green and lush with life. Crops grew. Flowers bloomed. The people rejoiced and danced in the rain, laughing for the first time in ages.

The Order had been right. He had been their last hope.

He hung his head in shame. “I did not have faith.”

The priestess approached and lifted his chin, her dark eyes kind. “The gods never demanded that you erase your doubts, just that you have faith. You climbed on that altar despite your fears and reservations. That is faith enough.”

Flash Fiction Friday #12: “Crystal Corn”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Crystal Corn”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

There was a kingdom once known as the Gold Land because nothing would grow there if it wasn’t the color gold. No one knew why this was; they just accepted it without question because their lives were happy and peaceful.

One day, a farmer’s corn crops produced cobs of crystal. “Egads!” cried the old farmer as he pulled back the stiff green leaves. The crystal sparkled in the sunlight, looking perfectly innocent and completely unaware of the distress it was causing the farmer.

He looked around. What if someone saw this? Would he lose his profession? Be mocked by the locals? Or worse, be banned from Gold Land?

He had to cover this up. There must be some way to fix this!

Yet day by day, stalk by stalk appeared, laden with crystals.

“This cannot be!” he cried to his wife one day. “I cannot sell this!”

“Have you tried?” she asked.

“Have you lost your mind? Of course not! No one can find out!”

“Why not?”

“Because this is Gold Land! Crystals are not gold!”

“What if the people of Gold Land like crystals more than gold?”

“They won’t.”

“Have you asked them?”

“No,” he grumbled, crossing his spindly arms.

She chuckled. “Being different isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe this ‘hiccup’ is good. It was getting rather boring around here with all this gold.”

Terrified and convinced it would not work, the old farmer followed his wife’s crazy plan and began to attempt to sell the crystal corn around town. At first he told people he’d been gifted the corn from a traveling, unnamed merchant. After all, he couldn’t possibly tell them the corn was his!

Word rapidly spread, and soon, the corn began to sell. First by the bushel, then by the boxful. When people began bringing carts and loading it up with corn, he told his wife, “It’s working! They love it!”

“Of course they do,” she said. “They were bored.”

“We have more money than ever!”

“And so we shall, all because you were willing to take a risk and be different.”

Flash Fiction Friday #11: “Shadow in the Wind”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Shadow in the Wind”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The wind howled and scraped against the boy’s ears as he climbed the mountain.

“Turn back,” the wind said, raking its icy claws against his cheeks.

“Give up,” whispered another voice.

He felt the tug of dark hands but resisted. “I can’t give up. I have to reach the top.”

“The top is too far.”

“You’ll never make it.”

“I must.”

“No, you can’t. You are just a boy.”

“My father was just a boy when he climbed this mountain.”

“He was stronger than you, smarter than you.”

The boy ignored the shadows moving amidst him. He didn’t acknowledge their glowing red eyes or mocking grins.

Sweat dampened his brow. The wind beat against him, threatening to snatch him off the jagged cliffs. Cold numbed his fingers, his toes, but he kept going.

“Stop, before you hurt yourself.”

“I’m stronger than I look.”

He gritted his teeth, climbing higher and higher as the wind shrieked and swirled.

“Give up!”

“No!”

“Turn back!”

“I’ve come too far. I’m almost there.”

“You’ll fall to your death.”

“Then at least I gave it my all. I’ll know I died after never giving up.”

At last, he hurled himself, exhausted, onto the top of the mountain. He lay there a while, breathing in the crisp, clean air, and marveled at how calm it was up here. Sitting up, gazed out in wonder over the raging storm below.

It tried to stop him. But he won. He’d persisted, and he’d come out on the other side to something wonderful.

Sunshine made the clouds glow gold against the bright blue of the open sky. Up here, the air was so clean, so fresh. There was nothing but calm and peace.

And joy.

He laughed. He always knew he was strong enough to conquer the mountain.

He’d just needed to prove it to himself.

Guest Flash Fiction by Fantasy Author Jennifer Silverwood

*First appeared on We Write Fantasy. Reposted with permission.

Read more of Jennifer’s writings at her website – https://jennifersilverwood.com/.

***

Mama first told her about the magic in trees after Papa disappeared in the flood.
“Listen good, Lou,” she had whispered, “the tree’s memory is longest. They got roots dug deep in that old earth. Water washes us away but the trees remember.”
There was no headstone for Papa, just a tree Mama carved his Christian name into.
CONRAD LAFAYETTE MASON
Sap bled over the letters often.
“See the tears the trees shed for your Papa?” Mama had said.
Lou took her papa’s knife to the bark, carefully carving Papa’s name over and over.
She marked moments in her life under that tree.
Carving Papa’s name with their dog, Rusty licking her tears away.
Carving Papa’s name again with her first boyfriend pressing kisses down her neck.
Sometimes, when she was alone, Lou swore the tree whispered with her father’s voice.

They buried Mama under that tree years later, adding her name in strong block letters under Papa’s.
LETTIE WOOD MASON
A new dog and boyfriend stood by her side as she insisted on carving Mama’s name.
“The trees remember best,” she whispered to the boyfriend, to the dog and the wind whispering through the branches with Mama’s voice.
The family thought it unhealthy she took so many trips back to the old farmhouse alone. They wanted her to bring her boyfriend. But she couldn’t bring him and hear Papa and Mama’s voices.
She brought her dog instead, for the family’s peace of mind. The tree liked her dog.
“I won’t forget,” she promised the aged bark, cheek pressed to the freshly carved names of her parents.

Years passed, adding wrinkles and gray hair to hear head. Her children accepted her need to visit “the tree” as they called it, though none understood “Mama’s obsession.”
She laughed with the tree about her silly children.
“They worry I’m getting on in years, too old to come up here alone. Too feeble to use a knife.” Her cackle sounded brittle.
The wind whispered back Papa’s hearty chuckle with Mama’s sing-song gale.
When Lou pressed her ear against the tree, she listened to the creaks and groans that seemed to promise, “Soon.”
Lou smiled, agreeing, “Soon.”
Death didn’t frighten her like it frightened her children and grandchildren.
In those final weeks with sickness eating away her limbs, she often told them, “Time turns us all to dust, but the trees remember. When I’m gone, listen for me by the tree.”

Her children buried Lou beside her mother, beneath the tree she had loved so much.
They carved her name in strong block letters, just like she had wanted.
LOUISE MASON BIRCH
They took turns each month, visiting Mama’s grave and carving over her name.
The tree cried tears of sap along with them.
The wind often whispered with her voice, “Remember.”
So they did.

****

I love this so much, and hope you did, too. Jen is a fabulous writer and such an awesome person. Read more of her writings at her website – https://jennifersilverwood.com/.

Thanks for letting me share, Jen!

Flash Fiction Friday #10: “Bright as Stars”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Bright as Stars”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

“You must hurry, my dear!” said the old wizard, clutching the young starling’s hands. “Tonight is the night. You must release your power into the sky, or you will turn into stardust.”

“Stardusting” was what her friends called it. She’d seen her sister turn into stardust because she couldn’t release the Light in time. The loss of her sister ached deep within her, but she couldn’t focus on her pain now. She had to release her gift.

She let the old man usher her up the stairs of the palace. “Why do the royals keep starlings?” she asked as their footsteps echoed off the cold stone walls.

“Because your Light is precious. It lights up the night sky with beauty and wonder. Otherwise, we would have nothing but darkest night, stretching on forever. New starlings are needed once the Light burns out up above.”

“Why do I even have this gift if my fate is to give it away?”

“Why do flamecasters bear flames? Or watermancers create water? Why do wizards shepherd all the magical children? Everyone has a purpose, my dear. Now hurry.”

Up and up they climbed. Already dizzy, the girl didn’t dare look down. Her sister was afraid of heights. That’s what did her in—she couldn’t make the climb. She would not—could not—be her sister. Her mother and father wouldn’t survive the loss of two children.

Out they burst through a wooden door and onto the rooftop terrace. Bright yellow flags rippled on the night wind, and the moon cast a silvery glow on the crests of waves in the surrounding moat.

The girl looked up, straight up. So many stars! So many had released their gifts—or became stars themselves. Was her sister watching her right now? Was she proud of what she was about to do?

Sparkling white light began to build in the girl’s hands. She lifted them as her blood began to thrum.

“Now, child!” hissed the wizard.

Unsure what she was supposed to do but trusting instinct, the girl thrust her hands up. Light shot from her fingertips, and she cried out at the joy and the pain. It bolted into the sky, ricocheting off clouds and moonbeams until at last settling into thousands of tiny drops of glittering starlight.

Weary but grateful to be relieved of her gift, the girl stumbled.

The wizard caught her. “Well done, my child.” He stroked her hair. “You’ve done this kingdom a great service. All those people below—” with his staff, he gestured out at the twinkling city below—“will be so glad you were selfless enough to brighten their days.”

“Yes,” she murmured, her eyes growing heavier. “Selfless. I’m thankful to share my gift with others.”

She drifted off to sleep, seeing her sister smiling down at her, the pride and affection in her gaze shining bright as stars.

Flash Fiction Friday #9: “Dreams of Gold”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Dreams of Gold”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The duchess couldn’t remember why she’d entered the trinket shop, except that something gold and shiny had caught her eye from the window. Again.

She could hear her husband now. “You spend all our money on jewelry!”

“I have to have it!” she’d whine. “Life’s not the same without the shiny.”

“Hello!” said the girl behind the counter, dropping a curtsy. “Looking for something in particular?”

“Oh, I’m just browsing. Don’t mind me.”

“Sure, my lady,” said the girl, with a knowing smile.

The duchess browsed the wares, silver rings laden with gems, sparkling earrings big as her palm, and necklaces made of ribbons and crystals. It was all so magical and wonderful!

“Do you have anything in here that will grant wishes?” the duchess asked suddenly. She’d never owned a piece of magical jewelry before. She should add that to her collection, flesh it out a bit more.

A haunted look came over the girl’s face. She pressed her lips together.

The duchess eyed her shrewdly. “You do have something—I can see it in your eyes. Come on, out with it.”

“I—it’s not for everybody.”

“I’m not just everybody. I am a duchess.”

“I can see that, my lady. I just don’t think you would want this particular item.”

“Clearly, if I didn’t want it I wouldn’t have asked for it! Bring it out.”

Resigned, the girl ducked her head and went to the back to fetch said magical item. She returned with a small black box.

“If I give this to you, all your dreams will come true.”

“Well, that sounds fantastic!”

“No, you don’t understand. The ring pays no mind to how your dreams come true. Anything can happen.”

“Oh, what could possibly be so bad about that? How much do you want for it?”

“It’s priceless.”

“Nothing comes without a price. Name yours.”

The girl bit her lip. “I will give this to you, freely, if you promise never again to return to my shop.”

The duchess eyed her suspiciously. “That’s an odd request. Let’s see this magical ring.”

The girl opened the box. Light shone faintly from a simple ruby set in a band of burnished gold. The gem seemed to pulse and call to her, beckoning her to pick it up and put it on. Mesmerized, the duchess started to reach for it.

The lid slammed shut. “Promise me,” snapped the girl.

Taken aback, the duchess blinked several times. “Dear girl, I promise.”

“Good.” The girl shoved the box into the duchesses’ hands before she’d barely finished speaking. “Now, please, take your leave.” Without another word, she turned away.

“Well, how rude!” said the duchess. But she couldn’t complain too much. She’d gotten a free ring! Exactly what she’d come in here for!” Was it odd she’d seen the box on display in the window, or thought she had, and yet the girl had retrieved it from the back? Maybe she had seen a similar item. Jewelers tended to copy each other, after all, once a piece became famous and started to sell.

After arriving at home, she put the ring on and made a wish. “I wish to be able to buy as much jewelry as I want!”

That night at dinner, the duke choked on a piece of steak and died right there, face-down in his plate. The duchess, distressed at suddenly becoming a widow, fretted and fussed over him, but alas he was gone.

The next day, she found out she was to inherit his fortune. “But I don’t want that!” she whined to the handler of their estate. “I want my husband back!”

The day after that, she found out her father, mother, and siblings died in a tragic fire, leaving her the family fortune.

“You are wealthy beyond dreams, my lady,” said the estate planner. “You are able to afford anything you wish—including as much of your beloved jewelry as you want.”

“But I didn’t wish for this!”

“Did you not?” asked the planner.

She blinked at him. “Who are you, really?”

His eyes glowed faintly red, and he smiled, looking at the ring on her hand. “I am the granter of wishes. Not all genies come in lamps.”

With that, he vanished in a plume of smoke, leaving the duchess alone with her ring and a great big empty house.

 

Flash Fiction Friday #8: “Purple Rain”

I know it’s not Friday, but I owe three flash fictions because I’ve been traveling and have had a lot on my plate. This one is less fantasy and more straight fiction, but it was still fun and cute to write. I hope you enjoy it!

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Purple Rain”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The little girl cupped her palms together as it began to rain. “Why is the rain clear, Mother?”

“Because that’s just the way it is,” she said matter-of-factly, fishing through her bag for her umbrella. “Put your hood up before you get wet.”

“I don’t mind if I get wet. I can always dry off.”

The next day it rained again, except this time the little girl was visiting at her grandpa’s. “Grandpa,” she said, “why is the rain clear?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know, little one. It’s just the way it is.”

Dissatisfied, the girl frowned but said no more.

One week later, it rained again. This time the girl was in a carriage with her father, rumbling along a gravel road. Removing her glove, she stuck her hand out the window and said, “Father, why is the rain clear?”

“Because it just is,” he said, skimming over the morning paper.

“But I want the rain to be purple.”

“Such a thing is impossible, dear.”

“Why?”

“It just is.”

Why couldn’t the rain be other colors? She loved rain, and she loved the color purple. She wanted the rain to be purple! There had to be some way to make her dream come true.

The following week, she returned to her manor. She was sitting in painting class when it began to rain. Their teacher walked around, commenting on her students’ work. She stopped by the girl’s easel. “You’ve painted purple rain.”

“It’s the only way I can make the rain purple. To dream about it. Everybody else tells me it’s impossible.”

The teacher grinned. “Nothing is impossible.”

The next painting class, it was raining again. Only this time, the teacher had her students meet her outside. Half of them met on the roof while the other half stood on the ground far below, including the little girl. The teacher had instructed them to wear something they didn’t mind getting a little bit dirty.

The little girl wore her normal clothes, because she figured she could always wash them. She wasn’t afraid of hard work and rather enjoyed it.

“Are you ready?” the teacher called, leaning over the side of the building.

“Ready for what?” called back the little girl.

“For purple rain!” The teacher grinned from ear to ear as she positioned a wooden beam contraption with many little holes in it along the side of the roof. Once it was in place, she instructed two of her students to take a large bucket and slowly dump it into the contraption.

They did as she said. Tiny, dark raindrops sputtered out of the contraption, falling, falling, falling—

The little girl cupped her hands.

The water was purple.

Her face lighting up with glee, she threw the purple rain in the air and danced in it with her friends. When they all got back to class, soaked to the bone but happy and free, the teacher handed each of them a dry towel. “What was the moral of today’s demonstration?” she asked the class.

Small hands shot up.

“We can paint the rain!”

“That the rain can be multiple colors!”

“Yes, it was all those things. But what else?”

The little girl raised her hands, smiling. She now knew the secret. “That the impossible can be possible.”

“Yes, little one. That is exactly it.”

Flash Fiction Friday #7: “Moon-Kissed”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Moon-Kissed”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

Leaves of gold and crimson crunched under the woman’s boots as she trudged through the forest. The sun was almost set now, the last rays of daylight casting everything in a dim golden glow.

“Are you ready for the Change?” asked her mentor in a ragged voice. He was too old to be hiking, she thought, though she wasn’t about to tell him that.

“Yes,” she replied without hesitation, though nerves thrummed beneath her skin. She kept climbing the hill, kept her eyes on the darkening horizon.

The air turned cool and misty. Crickets and frogs began singing and belching in the thickening night. Fireflies danced in the fog, glowing like fairies.

“We’re almost there,” said her mentor.

Her heart skipped a beat. Could she survive the Change? Did she truly have what it took to be one of the Moon-Kissed?

The trees parted, revealing a placid lake. The sky, now indigo and star-dappled, began to glow near the horizon.

“It is time,” her mentor said. “Kneel.”

She did. He tapped his staff on both shoulders. A blade hissed as it was drawn from its scabbard, and he held the point to her heart. “If your heart is not true, run yourself upon the blade now and be done with it.”

“My heart is true.”

“As one of the Moon-Kissed, one of the sacred warriors assigned with protecting our village, you must complete the Change to officially join our ranks and complete your training.”

“My heart is still true, Mentor.”

“Good. Rise, and let’s test your will.”

She stood. Though her legs wobbled, she straightened her spine and shed her thick robe. Her white silk dress billowed in the breeze blowing off the lake, and goosebumps popped up along her pale skin. Her white hair whipped behind her. Heart galloping, she lifted her eyes to the sky and felt her skin begin to itch and tingle as the moon rose.

Her mentor began chanting.

Her breath came faster and faster as silver light spread across the meadow, then the lake, then—

She cried out as the first rays of moonlight hit her, setting her flesh aflame and her bones twisting. All the while her mentor chanted, his eyes glowing with the same silvery light that now drenched her and was tearing her body apart.

She screamed, which turned into a roar as straight, white teeth became fangs the size of the blade he’d held to her heart, and her nails turned to darkened claws. Her flesh stretched and stretched as her bones broke and reformed, as muscle and sinew twined and bent around a new shape.

A stronger, more powerful being than human or animal.

The pain at last subsided, and she slowly straightened, the transformation complete. Her long, fur-tipped ears perked. So many noises. There was the rush and hiss of the waterfall, five miles away! And the sound of wagons rolling along cobblestone in Mistburn, the city ten miles from here. And the smells, so many new smells—rain-soaked earth, the incense of wildflowers, the freshness of the nearby stream—and the sights, a million vivid colors, colors she’d never dreamed of or knew even existed.

This is amazing, she thought with wonder.

All her fears abated, replaced by awe and triumph. And as the last of her doubts died, she knew her faith in herself had been rewarded.

She was strong enough to survive the Change. Strong enough to be a warrior, one of the Moon-Kissed. And now she would take her place among her people and do what she was born for.

To protect, to believe in a better tomorrow. To elicit fear in the hearts of her enemies.

And to inspire faith in those who needed it.

Flash Fiction Friday #6: “The Pegasus and the Princess”

I owe two FFFs, so here’s the first one! My goal for the year is the write 50 flash fictions. I don’t know if I’ll keep this up next year, but it’s a fun challenge in the meantime and a great way to get over my “I can’t write short fiction” fear.

***

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“The Pegasus and the Princess”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

B

K. D. Jones

 

Wind swept over the meadow, rippling the tall, green grass about the young princess’ legs. Her mother clutched her hand. “Careful. This grass is nearly as tall as you, little one! You’ll trip!”

“I saw a unicorn!” The princess pointed to the deep blue sky, squinting against the bright sunshine warming her skin.

“Don’t be silly. Unicorns haven’t existed for more than a century.”

“But I saw one!” The princess tugged on her mother’s hand, but the queen held firm.

“Come now, daughter. We’re going to be late for dinner.”

Later that night, when the moon was high in the sky and the princess was tucked away in her bed, she awoke to a happy jingling sound. A shadow moved beyond the curtains swaying on her balcony, and she climbed out of bed, rubbing her eyes as she went to see what was outside.

She walked out into the night and gasped. “You are real!”

The Pegasus, a beautiful white horse with magnificent pearlescent wings and a spiral horn made of sparkling crystal, neighed and pawed at the marble floor. Delicate silver bells hung from crimson ribbons tied to its long, silvery mane. I am real, the Pegasus said, its lilting voice echoing inside the princess’ head.

“You can speak!”

Through magic, replied the Pegasus. I only appear to those who believe. As a reward for your faith, I can grant you a wish. What is dearest to your heart?

The princess thought about what she’d like. “I’d love to fly!”

And so you shall. The Pegasus knelt, and the princess, giddy with excitement, climbed atop the sloped back of the Pegasus.

Hold on, said the Pegasus. The princess grabbed two handfuls of its mane before the Pegasus bounded into the sky.

They flew among wisps of moon-kissed clouds and stars that sparkled like diamonds. The princess couldn’t believe her eyes, and she laughed in wonder at the marvels she saw. They flew all night, and when the sun at last tinged the sky pink, the Pegasus returned her to her balcony at the castle.

“Will I see you again?” asked the princess.

If you keep believing in magic. The Pegasus turned and leapt into the sky, the music of its bells growing fainter and fainter.

The princess watched it go until it was a speck on the horizon. Sighing, she climbed back into bed and dreamed of the wind whipping her face, dreamed of laughing with such profound joy at the freedom of flying.

When she awoke, buttery sunshine covered her curtains, and the maids were coming in to start their morning chores. Her mother, clad in silk and jewels, swept into the room and sat upon her bed. “Dearest, you’ve slept in. Your tutors will be waiting.”

The princess sighed dreamily. “I had the best dream.”

“What did you dream about?”

“I dreamed I rode a winged unicorn—a Pegasus—and we flew all night!”

“That sounds like a marvelous dream.”

“A dream,” the princess murmured. “I guess it wasn’t real, after all.”

She swore she heard the distant ringing of silver bells.

Or maybe it was real, or still could be real, if she never stopped believing in magic.