Fantasy Kids

Author's note: This is a scene from a longer piece of high fantasy I'm working on. It's my first shot at lore-building in a fantasy world. Let me know what you think!

“Gather round children, gather round,” Yarna instructed, beckoning the youth in the room to her. One-by-one, young faces turned toward the old woman, tearing their attention away from the games of fivestones or wisher’s dice that they were playing. Others, particularly the older ones, peeled their bored gazes away from the scenes of dreary rain and fog outside to look at the woman.

              “Are you going to tell us a story Yarna?” asked a strawberry-haired girl in a tattered dress.

              “Yes, precious I am, now fetch Granny the stool from the corner like a good tot.”

The child scurried to the far end of the room and retrieved the stool. The old woman directed her to place it near the fireplace and then took seat, using her twisted wood cane to support the movement. Her joints audibly creaked with the motion, and her knuckles ached from rheumatism as her hands bore down on the cane.

Slowly, children started taking their places in a crescent around the woman. The youngest sat up front on the wooden floor, huddled together. Pots or buckets set on the floor collected water that leaked through the ceiling. Older children sat on windowsills or leaned against the wall to listen.

Yarna, finally settled, reached in a pocket on her apron and withdrew a simple pipe. She lit a piece of kindling kept near the hearth and used the flame to light the pipeweed. “Now let me see,” she commented thoughtfully, “What should I…Oh!” She lightly smacked her knee with recognition, “I know just the story.”

              “Whichun is eet Yarmba?” a freckled boy asked, using the thin sleeve of his shirt to wipe snot off his upper lip.

              “Isit the one wif the princess and the wolf?” asked another little girl with straw-colored hair.

              “No no,” the old woman replied, “This is an old story. One my granny told me when I was your age.” She cleared her throat before continuing. “It’s the story. The story of how everything, you, me, and the fishes in the sea came to be. It’s the story of how our world, the Radiant Expanse, was born from fire, clay, and the love of the Goddesses.” She leaned back in her chair and removed the pipe from the corner of her mouth. The smoke from the burning weed gathered in a mysterious haze on the ceiling. Then, the woman told the story thus:

At the dawn of time, the world was bare formless clay, enveloped by the void. Pilotia, the Claym­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­other shaped the coarse substrate endlessly, molding hollow, lifeless forms that in time would vanish back into the mass. As she watched her creations fade, the Claymother was consumed by loneliness and despair. This all changed when Pyrella, the Ashmother, lit the Archflame and, with Pilotia, combined clay and fire to create life.

Together, the Goddesses formed mankind, flora, and beasts innumerable. They shaped seas and plains and bore unto them every manner of creature to inhabit their space. To the skies they blessed wind and fashioned winged creatures able to soar above creation. From the earth they pulled the mountains of Lumaror and the great trees of Arborn.

With their work on our world finished, the Goddesses took each other hand-in-hand and danced across the heavens. Their love sent sand and sparks colliding across the sky, leaving stars wherever they settled.

The old woman inhaled from her pipe deeply and blew smoke into the ceiling.

              “Oh Yarna!” one of the older boys complained, “This is a mushy love story.”

The woman scowled at the boy and jutted the stem of her pipe at him. “Don’t you interrupt little Federick Farr. Shush before I tan your backside.”

              Yarna settled back on her stool and continued:

When finally, their creation was finished, Pyrella raised the Archflame to the sky to provide light to the lands below. Thus was born the Radiant Expanse, the lit portion of the world, where life flourished.

With creation, came consequence. The lighting of the Archflame introduced dichotomy to the Eternal Strand. With light came darkness. With life came death. Heat now contrasted with stifling cold. And humanity, which was born from dichotomy, learned to love and hate, be charitable and greedy, collaborate in peace, and segregate with violence.

During the First Age, the Goddesses watched the race of men succumb to avarice and be engulfed in war. Despairing at the brutality of mankind, the Goddesses turned away from their creation. Yet before returning to Cindermun, the world of the gods, the Ashmother took a coal from the Archflame and gifted it to a young girl who did not yet know hate. She instructed the girl to consume the divine coal and right the wicked ways of men. Thus, was born the first Alumella, able to wield, tend to, and, some say, even speak to fire.

The Alumella initially fulfilled their calling and helped right the wicked ways of mankind. For millennia, they guided the peoples of the Radiant Expanse in the ways of peace. Cultures worldwide blossomed in collaboration. Roads were built. Great cities were constructed out of stone. The seas were conquered, and the blank edges of the map were filled in.

              “My Pa says this story is complete kimbershedd,” jeered another one of the older boys. He was seated away from the rest of the children, still playing fivestones with Frederick. “He says the fire witches put everyone in chains and suck the fire straight from the sky!” He jumped up, puckered his lips, and imitated sucking in deeply to illustrate his point. Frederick snickered at the mockery.

              Yarna gave the boy a scowl and again gestured using the stem of her pipe. “Listen here Benny Bruck, you sour runt,” the old woman scolded, “Any more of that language and I’ll make sure your arse is riddled with welts. And another thing, I knew your Pa from when he was but a pimpled stripling. He had naught but seawater and phlegm between his ears then as he does now.”

              The boy sneered as the woman looked away but sat back down obediently.

              “Yarna,” the strawberry-haired girl protested, “Where are the fire ladies now?” The young girl’s face bore an expression of mixed curiosity and yearning that the old woman recognized.

              Yarna’s face softened and the way the wrinkles on her forehead deepened betrayed a sense of sorrow. “Oh child,” she began, “I’m afraid there aren’t many of the fire keepers left. And if there are any, they’ve hidden their talents away from the King and his cronies to see.”

              She placed her pipe, which had extinguished during the storytelling, back into her apron. She clasped her hands over her lap and sighed heavily. “The truth is that Benny’s father is right...in a way. The Alumella did eventually succumb to the very greed they sought to snuff out. For a thousand years, the powerful Iridemme ruled their empire with fire in their fists and iron in their hearts. They’re long gone now, overthrown by the King who merely refashioned their cruelty and focused it at a new victim.”

              “Why would he do that Yarna?” asked the strawberry-haired girl.

              “Because dearie,” the old woman responded, “Hate and greed serve only to nurture more hate and greed. Once you get to my age, you’ll have seen evil take many forms, don many masks, and corrupt many hearts. But it is aways the same. The core of the thing is still there, festering and spreading like a pox.”

              Yarna caught a glimpse of light shining through the window shutters. The fog had dissipated, and clouds were parting to allow light to shine through. The old woman smiled, placed her hands on her knees, and stood with substantial effort. She reached down to grab her cane off the floor and began walking to the window. Using the cane, she flipped up the latch on the shutter and pushed it open.

              Fluffy clouds were scattered across the powder blue sky. Light that the clouds caught painted them in soft hues of yellow, orange, and pink. The air, fresh with smells of rain that had, at least momentarily, cleansed the reek of the city, filled Yarna’s lungs and energized her old muscles.

              She looked up to the source of illumination in the sky and saw a massive concave arc of yellow-orange light that spanned North to South. The old woman smiled. The Archflame had burned brilliantly for as long as she’d known. Its sight was a rare comfort in her life.

              “But you should remember one thing children,” the woman spoke, closing her eyes to let the warmth of the light wash over her face, “The Archflame reminds us of the eternal love of the Goddesses. A love that burns away darkness and a promise that good will yet prevail.” 

April 10, 2024 04:26

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23:16 Apr 18, 2024

Interesting introduction to a larger story. I love your ability to give each of the characters a unique voice.


Michael Jurasek
03:26 Apr 19, 2024

Thank you Joshel! I appreciate you reading!


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RJ Holmquist
17:21 Apr 11, 2024

Rich intro into a fascinating world. Dichotomy is a clear theme, and a tidally locked world (or perhaps it is a flat world?) is a good fit. The Archflame is intriguing, and I would continue reading if it were a larger work to learn more about what exactly it is and how it functions. I am also left curious about Allumella, (is Yarna with her smoking pipe and secret wisdom ppossibly a fire keeper?) and if there is an order created by the other goddess with dark/cold/clay aspects that fill out the dichotomy theme.


Michael Jurasek
00:24 Apr 18, 2024

Thank you RJ! I'll try to upload snippets from this novel as I work through it so folks can follow along. It's long been a goal of mine to create a world akin to Middle Earth, Hyrule, or the Lands Between, curate a cast of characters, and set them loose on it in an engaging story. We'll see how it goes. Thanks for reading.


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