Throne of Mirrors

Submitted for Contest #87 in response to: Write about a mischievous pixie or trickster god.... view prompt

35 comments

Apr 01, 2021

Fantasy Horror


Beware, ye wise, the mirror-glass fae

The trickster vain and cruel

He hides ‘twixt glass and dark and day

To seek and catch the fool


Somewhere in dusk and dying light,

The mirror fae lurks and waits

His smile is bright as stars a-flight

His glass-gaze ne’er abates


Take care that ye not stare too deep

Or at the mirror linger

He there awaits new souls to reap

And wear upon his fingers


Those ringéd fingers, shadow-thin

Would scarcely hesitate

To grasp at ye, rend soul from skin

And bind ye to his fate


***


Three of the children of Lyhre walked the dusty streets, enjoying their last few moments of freedom before nightfall. Even in the dusk, the town was busy and bright, nestled tightly in the foothills of the mountains. 


“Watch yerself, Bronson,” called a wire-haired boy named Will. The gangly child was the oldest of the band, and their self-proclaimed leader.


“What for?” Elyan Bronson asked as he strode down the narrow alley, illuminated by torchlight and the setting sun. He was new to Lyhre, a boy from the countryside who’d come in search of work after his uncle, a farmer, could no longer afford to keep him.


“We’re nearing the mirror keep,” whispered Illen. She had sandy hair and a fiery temper when provoked.


“What’s the mirror keep?”


Will scoffed. “Have ye not listened to the bard songs? It’s the mirror fae’s prison.”


“Where?” Elyan looked around eagerly. In the country, the only gods he knew were the rain and the wind, who were as merciless as they were deaf to petition. He did not believe in the fae, and dismissed the town’s chilling bard songs with an easy smile.


“Up ahead, that building there.” Illen pointed at a plain-looking wooden structure, windows boarded up and door nailed shut. 


“Our forefathers rounded up every mirror in Lyhre and locked them inside, to keep the fae from stealing more souls,” Will boasted. 


“That’s just a tale.” Elyan glanced at the building, which seemed to pull at the fading daylight in strange ways, twisting pale sunbeams into shadows. “He’s not really in there... is he?”


Illen shrugged. Will pointed at a back window, where the glass was shattered inwards and a few of the boards hung loose, creating an opening just large enough for a boy to slip inside.


“Find out for yerself.”


Illen gasped. “Will, ye can’t be serious? He can’t go in there.”


“Why not? If he’s right, he’ll survive.”


“And if he’s not?” Illen asked darkly. 


“I’m not wrong,” Elyan said loudly, eager to prove himself. “There’s no such thing as fae.”


Will stared at him for a moment, sizing up his courage. Reaching into his worn leather bag, Will found a small candle, stolen from some unwitting candlemaker at the market. He handed it to Elyan ceremoniously.


“No,” Illen whispered. The boys ignored her.


Elyan took the candle and lit it at a nearby torch. He set off towards the building without a backward glance, so his friends did not see his conviction waver. They watched him peel another rotted board away from the window and clamber inside, disappearing into the shadows.


“Have ye never wondered, Illen? If it’s all just tales told in the dark?” Will asked.


Illen shook her head fearfully. “The mirror fae took my grandmother’s sister when she was just a child. Ye should not have let him go, his blood is on your hands.”


***


They call me trickster, dark fae, demon. I drink their curses to the dregs, let the sick sweetness of overripe fear linger on my silver tongue. Let the mortals rage, I care not for the taste of their anger. Let them swear at me, their words mean nothing. I am held here in this realm of glass by a curse much stronger than anything they can muster.


My fingers are long and shadow-thin, adorned with the souls of mortals bound in delicate bands of silver. My teeth are like shards of glass, glinting in the dim light. I have reigned on my mirror-throne longer than any mortal has drawn breath. I will reign even when their world is reduced to shadow and ash.


They think they can forget me, just as you think that you can reduce me to a tale and nothing more.


Ah, the foolishness of mortals.


***


Welcome.


Elyan could have sworn he heard a whisper as he stood and shook the dust from his sleeves, surveying the room. Inside, mirrors lay along the walls, on the floors, stacked atop each other. Some of them were covered by canvas or cloth, others lay beneath a coat of dust and grime. Still, the glassy surfaces caught the candlelight and cast it about, throwing shadows and flickering figures onto the walls of the dark building. 


“There is no such thing as fae,” he muttered to himself, and took another step into the room. 


Perhaps you are right.


A shudder ran through Elyan, which he quickly suppressed. It was only his mind playing tricks, or Will and Illen playing a joke. He thought about leaving, but something held him fast.


He walked up to the tallest of the mirrors, which leaned against the far wall, its brass frame peeking out from beneath a black shroud. Elyan’s ears rang with blood and doubt, but he reached up anyway and grasped at the dark satin. He froze, hands shaking. The candlelight danced wildly and his breath came fast and shallow. 


You need to know.


He did need to know. Elyan thought of his parents, whose death was but a vague memory. His uncle always said it was a fever that took them. The other farmers said it was a fae’s curse. Elyan no longer knew what to think. He wanted proof. 


Come, see for yourself.


Without another thought, Elyan pulled at the shroud. It fell in a cascade of dust and darkness. He choked as the dust cleared, rubbing the dirt from his watering eyes.


From somewhere in the room came the sound of fingernails on glass.


Heart pounding, Elyan looked into the mirror and leapt back with a start.


He began to laugh. It was only himself, his own reflection: a thin boy with dark hair and skin, coated in dust and laughing with mad relief.


But then, in the reflection behind him, something shifted in the darkness. He heard a voice from the mirror: high, thin, and raspy like the wheeze of a dying man.


Who is this, who comes so boldly into my throne-room?


“Show yerself, Will. Enough games.”


Ah, you think I would trick you so?


“I know ye to be a prankster, Will. Ye won’t fool me.”


And if I say that I am not Will?


Elyan paused. “I won’t believe ye. Not unless I see ye.”


A doubter, then. Very well, if seeing is what you wish, look closer. 


Elyan leaned forward towards his reflection, his feet tangled in the black shroud. A figure stood behind him, faint and thin, scarcely darker than the shadows in the room. As he watched, the figure grew clearer and closer, until he could see the glint of its glassy eyes and its long, twig-like fingers hanging loose, adorned with glimmering rings.


Do you believe now?


The boy’s breath refused to come. He looked away, seeking an escape, but could barely move. Beside the mirror, he noticed a small table, broken into pieces. He felt an icy hand brush at his shoulder and dove towards the table, grabbing at a wooden leg with his free hand. 


Elyan turned, swinging his weapon. He smashed it into the mirror, watching cracks spread across its surface. The figure was gone.


The boy turned to leave, breathless and clutching at the candle and stick tightly. 


You cannot be rid of me so easily, mortal.


In a single gust of wind, the canvases, cloths, and layers of dust covering the remaining mirrors were swept away. The room gleamed in the refracted light of the candle. Elyan saw his reflection a hundred times over: a terrified boy clutching at wood and flame for salvation. And in the mirrors behind him the faint and distant figure loomed.


Elyan glanced around. The discarded canvases and cloths were old and dry, as was the wood of the building. With a wicked smile, he held his candle aloft.


“Let me go, or I’ll burn your throne to ash, fae!”


You cannot possibly destroy all the mirrors with your silly little flame. You would die in the fire.


“Maybe not,” he replied, his mind racing desperately, “but I can smash them all.” He began striking at the nearest mirrors with his stick.


NO! Foolish boy! 


Elyan dodged as a long arm reached out for him, just missing the stick. He smashed another mirror for good measure, and the fae howled.


“Ha!” Elyan shouted triumphantly. “Let me go, and I will let the rest of your mirrors be.”


There was a long silence. 


Very well. But tell me your name before you leave, that I may remember who it was that outwitted me.


The boy drew himself up proudly. “Remember well, demon, that it was Elyan Bronson who bested ye.”


He turned to leave, but a gust of wind held him in place and ripped the candle from his hands. He swung his stick wildly at the mirrors, smashing as many as he could. Behind him, the satin shroud caught fire.


Foolish mortal. I have your name. I bind you to me, Elyan Bronson, from now until the end of time.


Elyan screamed and tried to run. A slender hand held him fast as the flames ate away at the building. Mirrors shattered, knocked about by the wind and flame, but the fae’s grip did not loosen. 


The boy wailed fearfully at a sudden flash of light, and saw nothing more.


***


The people of Lyhre rose from their dinner-tables at the scent of smoke and set out in search of the blaze. Even a single fire could pose disaster for the town.


As the townspeople gathered at the mirror keep, rumors ate through the crowd like flames. Will and Illen dashed about, begging for someone to help, but the people of Lyhre stood frozen in fear. This was not a place they were willing to save, no matter who was inside.


A gust of wind caught the smoke and tore it upwards, allowing the townspeople to see the building more clearly. From the ruins and the flames, a figure emerged and approached the crowd.


“It’s the fae!” a woman screamed. 


“No, wait!” Illen cried. “It’s Elyan!”


The boy staggered forward, away from the burning building, and collapsed. Illen rushed through the crowd towards him and shook him awake, sobbing.


When he came to, she screamed and dragged herself away.


Curious, the townspeople gathered around to get a better glimpse through the smoke. Those who saw him turned away in fear, covering their faces.


The boy stood and stared out into the crowd with unseeing, mirror-like eyes, a thin smile on his face. 


At last, I am free.

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35 comments

Michael Boquet
14:35 Apr 02, 2021

I loved the verse at the beginning. I think giving the pixie the perspective for that short section was a nice touch. The dialogue feels very authentic and it was a smart move to italicize the pixie's words. Very cool ending as well. I must admit, I was a little confused at the beginning. They talk about a mirror throne like it's a place/tangible, but then ALL the mirrors are locked up in the building. I'm confused as to if the fae are trapped in the mirrors or if the mirrors are a portal to their realm, etc.. Those details I just mentione...

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Claire Lewis
14:56 Apr 02, 2021

Thanks for the read and for pointing that out! I’ll go back and see if I can edit to clarify a bit. He exists in the mirrors and can travel between them, which is why they’re all locked away.

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Michael Boquet
15:07 Apr 02, 2021

Okay, it makes sense and is a very clever invention, I just felt a bit lost at first. Just brainstorming but perhaps call the building 'mirror hall' (I personally like the fun house connotations of that, especially in a story about pixies) or maybe 'mirror keep'?

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Claire Lewis
15:25 Apr 02, 2021

Oh I love mirror keep... keeping it! What a great suggestion, thank you!

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Ellie Yu
04:38 Apr 01, 2021

This was good. So, so good. Honestly, that's all I have to say. The poem at the beginning was especially gorgeous. Despite expecting what was going to happen, the story kept me hooked through every twist and turn. The only criticism I'd offer is that you use the word "eyes" a lot in the closing paragraphs. I understand that they offer lots of symbolism, but if you could find replacements, that would probably make it flow better. All in all, though, amazing. Brilliant. I could go on and on.

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Claire Lewis
11:34 Apr 01, 2021

Thanks, Ellie, I knew there was something I didn’t like about the end and you’re absolutely right!! I’ll make those edits now :)

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Claire Lewis
00:07 Apr 01, 2021

I’m not good at humor, so have some horror instead. This one’s loosely based on a nightmare, so blame any plot holes on my subconscious ;) As always, critiques are absolutely welcome.

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Thom Brodkin
20:10 Apr 14, 2021

I'm back!!!! This story takes amazing talent to craft. Was the poem at the beginning original? It felt as if it was written hundreds of years ago. It felt like it belonged in an old book in an old store on a dusty shelf. In a good way. I also was surprised at how the story captured me. I was lost in the trauma and fearful of the end. Oh and the end, it was masterful. You trust the reader enough to understand. Another great story. I can't say I'm surprised. I just posted one that is still in need of some edits but I'd love to kn...

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Claire Lewis
04:27 Apr 15, 2021

Hi Thom, always nice to see your name again!! Thanks for the kind words :) The verse at the beginning is original; took me a while to edit the meter correctly but I’m glad it paid off Looking forward to your new story! I’m very behind on everyone’s stuff at the moment and slowly catching up, so it might take a bit. I’ll try to get to it before it’s approved :)

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Cathryn V
22:27 Apr 03, 2021

Hi Claire, This story is so creepy! You’re prose is quite poetic. Like this: My fingers are long and shadow-thin, adorned with the souls of mortals bound in delicate bands of silver. My teeth are like shards of glass, glinting in the dim light. I agree with other suggestions made here. Not a lot to criticize. It a terrific story. Thanks for writing!

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Claire Lewis
01:37 Apr 04, 2021

Thanks Cathryn! It’s fun to pick a genre that’s out of my comfort zone once in a while, I enjoyed writing this one.

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Cathryn V
01:47 Apr 04, 2021

I hear you. I picked the same prompt. It was a very different tone than my usual. Happy for a change and a lot of fun to write. Dandelion Parachutes😄

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Christina Marie
01:50 Apr 03, 2021

Wow again! I am so envious of your talent at poetry. I have always loved the creepy, surreal nature of mirrors and fae, and to combine them was brilliant! The touches of horror were well done. My only small critique is the accent in the dialogue (and this may only stand out because I'm currently reading outlander) but I wonder if there is more that could be done than just "ye" to really drive it home. But such a small thing, honestly. Such great work!

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Claire Lewis
03:49 Apr 03, 2021

Thanks! Glad you pointed it out, I’m not super comfortable with dialects in dialogue lol... I will puzzle it over and see if anything comes to me! Maybe I should read Outlander for some inspiration 😂

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Rachel Smith
19:39 Apr 02, 2021

Ooooo so creepy! I'm going to have nightmares now. I enjoyed the verse introducing the mirror fae, immediately draws you in to the world. Brilliant ending. Congrats on the shortlist by the way, I loved that one too.

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Emma Louise
04:05 Apr 02, 2021

I loved this story so much! I just read the one you wrote about the heart of the forest, and came in search of more, hehe. I honestly have no critiques. I do have an off-topic question, though, how come we can see your submission if this week's prompts aren't closed?

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Claire Lewis
04:18 Apr 02, 2021

Hi Emma, just got back from your page haha! Glad you enjoyed it :) Good question, you’re able to see stories from people you follow as soon as they’re posted, either by going to their page or going to the activity feed in the stories section.

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Heather Mc Quaid
10:13 Apr 01, 2021

What nightmares, must you have, Claire??? Now you're going to give me some. I liked this very, very much. Loved the poem at the start, and how you described the mirror room and demon. Only one paragraph that I thought could be simplified a tad, but it's more about personal preference, because it's fine grammatically. “What for?” Elyan Bronson asked, slowing his traipsing pace through the narrow alley, which was illuminated by torchlight and the setting sun. He was new to Lyhre, a boy from the countryside who’d come only a few months pr...

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Claire Lewis
11:41 Apr 01, 2021

Thank you for those edits, Heather! I’ll make those changes now My nightmares usually come with plot twists and surprisingly cohesive storylines, very unlike my dreams. This one kept me awake for a while lol

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Heather Mc Quaid
12:30 Apr 01, 2021

Thems some fancy nightmares 🤣 One other thought was the title. I think it could be a bit scarier, if you wanted, hint more at the darkness.

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Claire Lewis
13:03 Apr 01, 2021

I did wonder about the title, do you have any suggestions?

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Heather Mc Quaid
13:17 Apr 01, 2021

I'd suggest Black Mirror, but that's already taken. ;) I'll throw out some ideas and see if anything clicks: Dark Mirror, ‘twixt glass dark and day, Mirror World, Mirror Throne, Throne of Mirrors, Through a Glass Darkly (ha!), Glass Eyes, Dark Eyes (<-- wonderful gypsy jazz tune) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r77Fn5td-n0]

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Claire Lewis
14:32 Apr 01, 2021

Ooh I love the suggestions (titles and song haha). You’re the absolute best with titles, thank you!!

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02:41 Apr 01, 2021

This is genuinely terrifying. I was foolish to read this after dark!! Your turn of phrase is beautifully archaic in all the right places, but also very readable and I enjoyed the poetic introduction. Even though you could tell what was going to happen, the very inevitability of it made it so much worse! I was silently screaming at him when he told the Fae his name! The the idea of wearing mortal souls on his fingers is a great image and very unique, and being trapped behind glass makes a very aesthetic, compellingly visual setting... I co...

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Claire Lewis
03:46 Apr 01, 2021

I’m not sure about the mirror + fire thing, actually, thanks for pointing that out! I’ll do some research and/or some editing in that scene. And thank you, I shouldn’t be glad you got scared but I’m happy I’m not alone haha!

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Leilani Lane
22:42 Apr 07, 2021

This was SO COOL. I'm a huge fan of horror/thriller, especially supernatural horror, so this was right up my alley. I loved the way you built suspense here!! My only thought is to consider not directly mentioning that the fae binds itself to Elyan in the second-to-last section, perhaps stopping that section at "He turned to leave, but a gust of wind held him in place and ripped the candle from his hands" (and maybe a couple more details). That way, the reader knows something is wrong, but the twist is fully revealed at the very end. Just a ...

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Claire Lewis
00:23 Apr 08, 2021

Oh that would have been a great edit! Sadly it was just approved the other day. And yay- my roommate is a huge horror fan and she’s gotten me hooked. It’s really fun to write!

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Leilani Lane
03:53 Apr 08, 2021

They get approved so fast! I love it how it is anyways, I just hate that I never have any constructive criticism to give you, I feel like my comments are so useless... but it just goes to show how great of a writer you are!!

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Claire Lewis
04:03 Apr 08, 2021

They really do! But I’m kind of a perfectionist so it’s nice to be forced to put stories to bed sometimes haha Your comments are never useless Leilani!! They literally always make my day! And it’s infinitely helpful to have reminders of things to look to improve in future stories

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Sam Ackman
18:16 Apr 07, 2021

This is a very captivating story! The verse at the front does great to help ground you in the world but also makes the plot a bit more predictable - the ending though had some smaller turns I didn’t expect. Love the description of the fae. Specifically loved this line “ rumors ate through the crowd like flames”. I found this line almost hard to read - had to go over it a few times “ The people of Lyhre rose from their dinner-tables at the scent of smoke and set out in search of the blaze”. Might just be me. Might help with flow if you ...

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Ryan Dupont
02:34 Apr 07, 2021

Claire, I loved your wicked creation. The way you described the fae was very detailed and really brought it to life in my imagination. The poem was a great addition and made the legend more believable. I liked the way you did the ending. Too bad Elyan didn't know about the "name game" with fae. Never reveal your name until you are sure you have won! Great story idea and a very enjoyable read!

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Ryan Lm Colli
19:43 Apr 08, 2021

First of all, a big thank you for such an excellent critique of my story. And coming from someone who's heading the leaderboard this is very humbling. I gave read a couple of your stories, and as I had mentioned I am a huge, huge fan of writing skills. Let me tell you, this is my first attempt at a longer story though I have penned four full length novels besides two books of poems. I wrote this on my phone, and hit the sent button without so much as a second look. Also, it's something to do with my phone button keys- I get confused and at t...

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