Jan 09, 2021

Fantasy Speculative Fiction

“Changelings are the fish you’re supposed to throw back. A cuckoo raised by sparrows. They don’t quite fit anywhere.”

“Korina!” A bright, singsongy voice calls my name through the woods. My mother’s voice, as strange as it seems. Her voice always catches me off guard, like a baby bird chirping in the spring. It blends right into our surroundings as I run towards her, through the overgrown trails full of vines and wildflowers. I stumble on the path, tripping over a large root with saffron colored leaves popping out from under a tree.

I look up. The tree is large and beautiful, just like the root that tripped me. Its bright golden leaves growing out from its roots are exquisite sprouting out from the cool branches, a dark brown the same color as winter mud. The bark looks almost like scratches against the wood, so uniform that it could be a clothing pattern, yet so distinct that it almost looks like the inside of a flower. 

I gasp. It’s wonderful. 

“Korina!” She calls me again, and I continue running, my feet bouncing above the roots from the giant tree. It towers above us, above the entire forest. “Korina, there you are,” she says, as I pant at her feet. My long, brown hair reaches down to my arms, swinging about as I finally stop running. “I-” she starts, thinking about what to say. I know what she wants to let slip out of her mouth. I didn’t know where you were. I was worried about you. 

I love you, Korina.

But alas, these are all lies, and therefore, she is invocal. 

“I’m glad you’re back,” she finally settles on, something we both know to be true. She is glad I’m back, because I am her prize and joy. She may not love me, but she still wants me here, for some inexplicable reason. She hands me a sequined comb, the same one that causes the calluses on my imperfect hands. It’s ivory, a white so sickening you can see your reflection through it. 

I look down into it, watching my own bright blue eyes burn. They are burning with power, as I hold the comb. Burning with the power I now have over my mother as we sit down. 

“How was your day?” I ask her, my own voice sounding like a song. Not like a song of baby birds like hers. It’s a human song, a song expressing the pains of the world through music. It is beautiful, but it is human.

I know she hates it. But she cannot tell me so, and she cannot lie. So, she is silent, as we all are when we do not know what to say. 

“This comb is very pretty,” I add, despite us both knowing about the calluses on my hands. “Ivory is a beautiful stone.”

She laughs, her heads rocking back and forth, the comb drifting through her flawless golden hair. “Silly child,” she says, a smile coming across her face. “It’s not ivory. It’s made from moonbeams. Why did you think it burns your hands?”

My cheeks turn a bright red. “I guess I never knew,” I say, pulling the comb through her hair once more. Her hair is the same saffron color as the leaves from the tree I tripped over earlier, so picturesque and beautiful. The comb slides right through it. I would barely have to make an effort to bring it through, if it didn’t burn. “I assumed it was from nature.”

“Are moonbeams not natural?” Her voice rises in a questioning tone. As if she’s testing me. 

“Of course they are,” I say. “But not to humans. To us, they are magical.”

Yet again, I know what she wants to say. You are no human, Korina. You were raised by me. You should know where your loyalties lie.

But, of course, she cannot be too honest with me, and I cannot be too honest with her. But she cannot lie to me either, of course, so she must settle for something in between. 

“Humans are elusive creatures,” she says. It’s not technically a lie, and so she can say it. But it isn’t quite the truth either, for it implies that humans are more elusive than the fae folk, and that, while an opinion, would be false. 

We are not.

My hand grips the comb tighter as I feel the pain increase. I want to let it drop, but she has trained me not to, and so, I hold on as tight as I can. I feel the hair slipping, but I cannot stop it. I scream in pain, letting my unavoidable humanity show. 

I let go of the moonbeam comb, as it falls and shatters into a million tiny pieces. My yelping stops, as I run as fast as I can to the lake. 

She shouts after me, but I cannot hear her, not above my mind’s screeching sounds of pain. Yet, I stay silent, hoping she will not be able to follow me.

It’s a stupid hope, I know. I know that she can smell human from a mile away. But I have been around her for so long, my stench is of flowers and air, only with a tiny bitter tinge of humanity. 

I continue to run. I run and I run, until I reach the lake. Quickly, I sink my burning hands into the water, as it extinguishes the bright sparks dancing off of my fingertips. I rushed so quickly, I couldn’t bask in the beauty of the fire. But I could feel it’s power, and I could see it rushing in the wind. 

Sometimes the most beautiful things require you to be slow and bask in the beauty, I remember my mother saying to me back when I was a few years younger. So you must bear through the pain.

I used to think she was lying. That was before I learned that she couldn’t lie. Before I had ever really known what she was, and how different we were. All I knew was the sky, the woods, and the lake in the distance where I was now. The lake I would run to to extinguish my burns from her combs, each one shattering against the ground after a few months. 

The first was gold. I assume now that it was truly sunbeams, which is why it burned. The rest were always gold as well, just slightly darker than her hair. They each had different adornments, but they all stung the same. They stung like a bee, if a bee had fire that ignited on it’s stinger. 

But the same bee that stings also makes honey, so there had to be something sweet about the burns, like her mother would say. There was always something sweet about being a faerie, and each time I demonstrated my understanding of that, I was rewarded. Each time I shattered the comb or did anything else remotely human, I would have to live with the regret of not being truly fae. 

I lift my hands out of the icy waters, my burns leaving more and more scars over the surface of my skin. I wasn’t lying before when I said my hands were imperfect - they were covered with burns from my palms to the tips of my fingers, despite the rest of me being styled to look as charming as my mother. I had to look fae, just like her darling little child she had replaced with me. 

She had never named her, just gave her one look and determined her sickly. And, as they say, when we are sick we become changelings. But I know she regrets it. She has an ounce of humanity in her, somehow, enough to choose me over all the others despite my appearance not being quite ideal. My hands had not yet been covered in burns, but they were still larger than normal. She fashioned me hands of wood, but they burned immediately at the touch of the combs, so I kept my imperfect hands. Her faerie child’s hand wouldn’t burn, and I know she regrets replacing her with me. 

She never named her, but she named me. She named me Korina, after the Greek goddess Kore. I was a xanino, after all, so why not add the ina? I don’t know what my real name is, but I know that it’s not Korina. My real mother would never name me the greek word for maiden, just like she wouldn’t make me hold the combs.

And she would always lie to me. 

My whole life, I have never heard another person utter a lie. My mother can’t tell when I lie. It’s yet another reason why I know she wishes she kept her sickly child. She would be able to trust her, unlike me. 

She never named her child, but I call her Persephone, because she would have been Kore. Persephone was Kore later in her life, after she married Hades and became the queen of the underworld. She then became the bringer of death, as her name states.

My mother’s fae child is probably dead already, in her human home. And so, she had become the bringer of death to me and my mother. I wonder if she ever calls her Persephone in her head, too. I bet she does. I bet in that head of hers lies circulate, lies she can never tell me.

I run away from the lake, my hands still freezing from the cold, the burns slowly healing. I run through the woods, back to the tree I basked in the beauty of only about an hour ago, though time means very little to faeries. 

Still, I keep track of time, as best I can. 

I continue to run, jumping over the roots of neighboring trees. The tree with the saffron leaves is still there. Slowly, I grab the trunk with my recovering hands. 

It hurts. But if there’s one thing my mother taught me, it would be to smile through the pain. 

I try to scooch myself upwards, but I keep falling down. Gravity hits me over and over, like a flower in the wind. 

I keep trying. 

Eventually, I get far enough to swing my legs up onto the nearest branch. I sit there for a moment, the leaves twinkling like stars in the sunlight. I watch them, basking in their glory, like my mother always taught me to. The burns on my hands still hurt, but I ignore them. Slowly, I start to climb again, taking short breaths in between each branch I climb. I want to get as far away as possible. I want to fly away. 

I forget that I am human sometimes. 

Still, I continue to climb, until I reach the top branch. I can hear my mother below me, scouting for my scent. I know she will not find me. She is faerie. 

Faeries never look up. They look down at what is directly in front of them, determining the future from the present. Humans look up. They try to grasp the future before it’s there for them to reach. 

I am hiding, but I cannot hide for long. I know she will find me eventually, even if she doesn’t look up. She will ask the tree with the golden leaves to find me, and there is no way it will protect me. It has no allegiance to humanity. 

I look down at my hands again. The burns have begun to blister, leaving large welts covering my large palms. On top of them are splinters from the wood. I flinch. I wonder what my hands looked like when I was younger, before my mother exchanged Persephone for me. I know they were larger than normal, because I remember the wooden hands my mother gave me, but I wonder what my hands would look like without all the scars. 

I watch the saffron leaves fall. When I squint, it looks just like my mother’s luscious locks of hair, the hair that causes all of these blisters. I wonder when she’ll find me. 

Silently, I sit, my eyes gazing back and forth from up at the sky like a human and down at the golden leaves like the fae. 

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111 comments

Wow Maya, your wrote a story so quickly! I loved it so much! :)

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Maya W.
18:43 Jan 09, 2021

Thanks Hari!

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Your welcome Maya!

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Maya W.
16:30 Jan 09, 2021

I knew as soon as I saw the prompt I had to do something with faeries, but I also wanted it to not be already done before, so this is actually based on a northern Spanish version of the changeling story. In the story, xanas are faeries who switch their sickly children for humans. They often are depicted holding gold or silver combs made from sun or moonbeams, and tend to live near large lakes. This was my first time not for school or anything writing in present tense, so I hope it turned out well.

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18:37 Jan 09, 2021

It did! Want to be in my fantasy? Just tell me your character's: Hair color Eye color Skin color (it's fantasy so it could even be, like, silver or blue if you want to) Age Height Magic power/element Talent Spirit animal Thank you! :)

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Maya W.
18:48 Jan 09, 2021

Oh, sure! Uh, my hair and eyes are both brown, my skin is sorta olive colored (like the shade of tan not the green, lol), I don't really wanna disclose my age but let's go with 16, around 5'2, water, and I guess you can make up my talent and spirit animal because I have no clue, lol.

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18:51 Jan 09, 2021

Ok! You don't need a spirit animal of you don't want one, but I can give you something like a cat.

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Maya W.
18:52 Jan 09, 2021

Okay, I don't think I need one then. Btw, would you mind commenting what you thought of this story, too? I really could use advice on it.

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19:18 Jan 09, 2021

Ok! I gottalog off, though, so I'll do it soon.

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Neha N.
17:40 Jan 09, 2021

This tale paces in such a soothing and calm manner, that I almost thought of it as a gentle lullaby. An extract from the everyday life of faery mother and her changeling daughter, it's quite the poignant and bittersweet story. Honestly, when I first saw the prompt, the first thing that ran my head were the fae folk too! But I mostly won't be submitting this week, so it really made me smile to see that someone else has already written about it. I had a slight confusion in this line : "But the same bee that stings also makes honey, so there ...

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Maya W.
18:17 Jan 09, 2021

Thank you! I will edit that as soon as I get the chance.

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Neha N.
05:55 Jan 10, 2021

:)

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Kristin Neubauer
21:21 Jan 15, 2021

I'm late to the party, but just echoing everyone else, this was a beautiful, magical, poignant story. I loved that a sense of longing oozed out of it, but without ever hitting us over the head with it. Your descriptions were so lovely and ethereal. And there were some lines that really resonated with me...this was one of them: "Faeries never look up. They look down at what is directly in front of them, determining the future from the present. Humans look up. They try to grasp the future before it’s there for them to reach. " Great job, M...

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Maya W.
21:26 Jan 15, 2021

Thanks, Kristin! I'm actually working on a story cycle novella right now, and this is one of the chapters in it!

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Kristin Neubauer
21:50 Jan 15, 2021

That's amazing.....let me know when it's published and I will order a copy!!

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Maya W.
21:55 Jan 15, 2021

Oh, awesome! I definitely will!

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Frances ☾
21:52 Jan 25, 2021

You've got the perfect blend of showing and telling--one of the hardest things to do, in my opinion. What I love most is how every word sparkles. And the title is something a little more than enchanting. I used to be a huge fantasy fan but it dulled a little. I'm not sure what happened. This was a wonderful reminder for me to not forget about the colourful feeling that comes with fantasy stories. Thank you for that.

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Maya W.
21:55 Jan 25, 2021

Thanks, Frances! I really enjoyed writing this one. It's also a chapter in my novella I'm currently working on, a collection of short stories related to mythology. I'm working on a story right now for Reedsy, actually, so keep your eyes out for that!

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Frances ☾
22:00 Jan 25, 2021

Of course, I definitely will!

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Maya W.
00:08 Jan 26, 2021

I just posted it. Not very proud of it, but I'd appreciate feedback.

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Frances ☾
12:54 Jan 26, 2021

Heading on over :)

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I feel like I've heard that first line somewhere, but I can't remember. It is a really good hook though!

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Maya W.
13:55 Jan 25, 2021

It's a quote from a Holly Black book, lol.

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Darkest part of the forest?

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Maya W.
14:12 Jan 25, 2021

Yeah.

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Hope Reynolds
23:07 Jan 21, 2021

Oh my gosh!!! 10 out of 10. Especially in the latter half of the story, there are just so many hints or symbolic or relatable meanings that we can take from the allegory of looking up and looking down - her feeling conflicted, and so on. Absolutely love the implicit, but simple, hinting allegory. Beautiful! Only thing to say -- she is mature beyond her years, using words like invocal (or maybe it works cause she made it up ;) ) and the BEGINNING expression of her mother/and those emotions. Perhaps. :)

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Hope Reynolds
23:08 Jan 21, 2021

oh p.s. -- did you also submit another story under this name, too?

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Maya W.
23:30 Jan 21, 2021

Thank you, Hope! You just earned yourself a follow! This (along with many of my other stories), is a part of my novella, a collection of mythology related short stories. I'm not sure what you mean by submitting another story under this name - I have many stories under this account, but none with the same title as this one.

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Hope Reynolds
00:11 Jan 22, 2021

Oh, so is it based on a myth, then? I noticed your follow -- Hopefully my feedback was good and you enjoyed my stories :) . Thank you!

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Maya W.
00:14 Jan 22, 2021

Yeah, but very vaguely. Just the changeling myth in Celtic folklore, though this was more based on a Spanish version of the myth. I haven't gotten a chance to read your stories yet, but I definitely will! What did you mean about the name, though?

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Hope Reynolds
00:47 Jan 22, 2021

Oh, I just thought I had seen that title before, possibly before the 9th. Okay!! :D

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Maya W.
01:05 Jan 22, 2021

Ah, okay.

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Brooke Hazelip
11:24 Jan 18, 2021

I really enjoyed this story. The pacing is well done and it kept me engaged with imagery from start to finish. I was genuinely interested in the world you created and the characters within. The only part that fell flat for me was when you discussed the naming of the discarded child. The little blip about the history of the names felt like an info dump. You could really tighten the piece and keep it on track by clipping that bit out.

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Maya W.
16:02 Jan 18, 2021

Thank you, Brooke! I'll definitely keep that in mind - this is actually a chapter in my novella, so I can still change it more before it's published.

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Brooke Hazelip
16:19 Jan 18, 2021

Knowing that it’s part of a larger work potentially changes my opinion on this. It probably works well when accompanied by the rest of the story, so take my advisement with a grain of salt. I only had a tiny (very enjoyable) piece of the puzzle!

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Maya W.
16:32 Jan 18, 2021

Haha, okay!

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19:56 Jan 17, 2021

I’ve heard of the fae child-swap in stories, but I hadn’t read one about the child who was actually swapped, until now. Good job depicting the tension between them!

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Maya W.
20:33 Jan 17, 2021

Thank you! This is actually a chapter in my novella, a collection of myth retellings loosely connected.

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Radhika Diksha
08:17 Jan 15, 2021

I would suggest you read my story" Be mature". And after reading my message please make a decision to support me or not.

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Maya W.
13:49 Jan 15, 2021

I'm very sorry - I've been really busy with both school and writing my novella, as well as many other things. I will read your story as soon as I possibly can.

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20:38 Jan 09, 2021

Oh wow, okay I have so much to say (as per usual and I’m not even sorry about it anymore) 1. Just from the title I knew it was going to be a good story. I know I’ve used the word “ethereal” a lot to describe your writing, but again the descriptions were exactly that. Do you have any tips on that, by the way? The only story I’ve written with descriptions that I’m really proud of is “Waiting For Twilight”, so I could use some advice. 2. I really like your take on the prompt, I was wondering how you could make it realistic for everyone to jus...

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Maya W.
21:43 Jan 09, 2021

Thanks so much, Imaan! Yeah, as soon as I saw the prompt my mind immediately went to faeries. And singling out only two people made it much easier not to copy Holly Black, lol. My advice for descriptions - don't think about it too hard. Let your mind try to flow. Whenever you try forcing out descriptions it never works out well. I know that's kinda bad advice, but it's the best I can give. Thanks again!

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00:19 Jan 10, 2021

Nono that was helpful, thank you!!

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Maya W.
00:40 Jan 10, 2021

Haha, np.

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Zilla Babbitt
19:36 Jan 09, 2021

I'm reading a book about changelings! This was both fun and sad. My only critique would be to say spell out why she can't lie. Other than that, great job!

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Maya W.
19:38 Jan 09, 2021

Thanks, Zilla! Actually, I have a few questions for you - I'm thinking about trying to self publish a collection of myth stories as a story cycle sorta novel and I was wondering if you had any suggestions for self publishing.

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Zilla Babbitt
00:05 Jan 10, 2021

Oh awesome! Lots of advice, anything specific?

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Maya W.
00:40 Jan 10, 2021

Yeah! Well, I'm thinking about using either Barnes and Noble or Amazon, but I'm not sure which is better. I also don't know the general costs that they take/how much it even costs to self publish, so if you know that, that'd be great.

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Zilla Babbitt
00:48 Jan 11, 2021

Okay, well, I know a lot of things now, so when you go through with that you can come to me any time. This is exciting! I used Amazon Kindle or KDP. As long as you have an account it's totally free to publish, though Amazon will take 30-70% of royalties depending on if you have a copyright for the material. Of course, I only did ebook format, but even then I think they'd not charge you, they'd just take it out of your royalty money. I have links, too, if you want them.

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Maya W.
00:53 Jan 11, 2021

Thanks! I actually got an account with Amazon and started filling stuff out. I plan on formatting with Reedsy Editor, though I have no idea how that works. If parts of it are already posted here, do you not have copyright? Also, do you have any ideas for a title? Having the document just read "novella thingie" is a little bothersome for me, lol.

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New story out Maya!

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Maya W.
18:44 Jan 19, 2021

Awesome, I'll read it soon!

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Andrew Krey
12:57 Jan 18, 2021

Hey Maya, I really enjoyed this story, and faeries was an excellent fit for the story. The nature based references for imagery/metaphors throughout were really good, and helped to immerse me into the scene of your story :) I also really like that this is based on a real mythology. I especially liked this line - "But I have been around her for so long, my stench is of flowers and air, only with a tiny bitter tinge of humanity." One point I would say is that you reference ivory as stone. I'm not sure if this is a myhological reference (if so...

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Maya W.
16:01 Jan 18, 2021

Thanks, Andrew! Yeah, I know ivory isn't technically a stone, but I think it would probably be viewed as one in Korina's viewpoint. Also, this is a chapter in my novella, a collection of myth retellings!

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Andrew Krey
18:16 Jan 18, 2021

Perfect, just wanted to make sure the false belief/perception was intentional as I saw in the comments it's a part of your collection of stories :) It just seemed odd to me, as the story revolves around nature so heavily, which would include ivory horns etc. Felt a bit like a vegetarian wearing a fur coat. But if it's the result of the narrator's view/understanding, then makes sense in the context of an unreliable narrator POV.

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Maya W.
18:19 Jan 18, 2021

Yeah, Korina is still a bit of a stranger to nature, even though she's grown up with it her entire life. At least, that's what I meant to let come across.

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Wow, wondeful story Maya! I was hocked from the beginning! Loved how you described the nature and all the characters!

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Maya W.
19:36 Jan 16, 2021

Thanks, Varsha! This (along with my other myth stories here) are all going to be in my novella, so if you're interested in seeing how they connect I'll tell you when I release it!

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Ohh! Sure, I'll love to!

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Radhika Diksha
11:46 Jan 12, 2021

“Changelings are the fish you’re supposed to a throwback. A cuckoo raised by sparrows. They don’t quite fit anywhere.” Sometimes the most beautiful things require you to be slow and bask in the beauty, These were the beautiful sentences from the story. The story has amazing action and thrill. I felt the description and the monologues needed a 10/10. wonderful story. I have submitted a story would love your feedback on it.

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Maya W.
13:50 Jan 12, 2021

Thank you! I will read that soon!

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Azrael Page
16:42 Jan 10, 2021

The emotions I felt through this piece are absolutely insane. Love! Just one question: why can't the mother lie? Other than that, amazing job! :)

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Maya W.
16:46 Jan 10, 2021

Thanks for reading! The mother can't lie because she's a faerie.

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Azrael Page
19:25 Jan 11, 2021

Ah, that makes sense :)

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Yolanda Wu
04:44 Jan 10, 2021

Wow, this was truly a magical story! I love the vibe of faerie stories, and I really enjoyed how you used a lesser-known myth to tell this story. I liked the detail of how the moonbeam comb burns her and how it makes her hands imperfect. You incorporated the prompt so well into the story, because it made her mother such an intriguing character since she can't lie. I thought you wrote the protagonist's voice really well, and the present tense was used effectively! Present tense is such a weak point for me as well, as it comes a lot less natur...

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Maya W.
15:03 Jan 10, 2021

Thanks, Yolanda! I was really nervous about using present tense because I'm not very good at it, either, but i didn't think the story would really work as well otherwise. I really look forward to reading yours! Btw, I commented this, but I'm not sure if you saw it - I'm thinking about self publishing a collection of myth stories. If you know literally anything about self publishing or know a good title, please let me know!

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Yolanda Wu
23:00 Jan 10, 2021

Wow, self-publishing, that's so great, Maya! A collection of myth stories? Even better. Okay, so I don't know much about self-publishing in terms of marketing or you know, the actual selling side of things. But I do know a thing or two about getting your book actually printed, because that's what I do whenever I finish a novel, as in formatting and whatnot. So if you have any questions on that front, I'm happy to help out.

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Maya W.
23:37 Jan 10, 2021

Oh, that's great! I'm not done actually writing it (there are twenty stories - 14 of them are on Reedsy, one I wrote already, the rest I'm still working on), but I would definitely like help with that! It might be easier to communicate somewhere else about this, though - maybe wattpad? Or, if you have any other means of communicating besides wattpad please let me know because I never check wattpad these days, lol.

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Yolanda Wu
23:39 Jan 10, 2021

Yeah I don't really check wattpad that much either, but that might be the only way, as I don't have any other social media.

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Maya W.
23:42 Jan 10, 2021

Cool, I'll go message you there, then.

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Maya W.
23:28 Jan 11, 2021

Hey Yolanda, sorry, my wattpad stopped working for some reason. Do you have any suggestions for titles? I really want something to do with strings or chains or weaving or whatever because a major theme is how everything ties together.

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19:13 Jan 09, 2021

This was so creative and beautifully written. The descriptions of where they were and how her mother felt about her were well thought out. Nice job Maya!!

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Maya W.
19:27 Jan 09, 2021

Thanks!

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