A Call to Love

Weave a broom, grow a maple; float the child upon the east.
Bloom the woodruff, grow an oak; light the child upon the south.
Drink of violets, grow an apple; bathe the child upon the west.
Reap the barley, grow a cypress; dance the child upon the north.
In the dark, a call to love; in the light, a bridge.

 
Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

From “The Fifth Verse.” In this story, an ancient immortal entity defies the rules of her kind by falling in love with a mortal warrior, an indiscretion that leaves her grieving, pregnant and dependent on the help of a wizard whose army was responsible for the death of her beloved. “The Fifth Verse” appears in Wizards, Woods and Gods.
 
© F.T. McKinstry 2013. All Rights Reserved.

The Origin

The Singing Girl

Things aren’t always what they seem. Perception creates reality. But there are rules, such as the linear progression of seasons or the natural and unquestioned confidence one has in the solidity of things. One woodsman falls in love…and the rules change.

Excerpt

He had built this path to the top of the hill where he had first seen her. She had appeared over the grass like a sunrise, walking slowly, her eyes as dark as the night with a tawny star in the depths, her skin the color of the earth and her hair a tangle of moss and roots, reddish and wild, like her. Together they had planted a grove, when the meadow rippled in the wind and birds fluttered and chirruped among the brush and flowers. They had dug the holes for the trees with their bare hands and gently placed the seedlings in. They had smoothed the path by walking to the stream with a fat clay jug, returning to the grove and watering each tree with a jugful, one at a time.

She sang to the trees, the dark-skinned girl. He remembered her voice, rich and full of subtleties, as she stood in the sun with her brown breasts bared and her arms and fingers splayed like the branches of an ash, her voice spiraling into the sky. Underneath the warm green moss, silence loves the water, she would sing. High above the cool blue wind, sunlight loves the air.

He had lain with her, and made her a woman.

He did not yet understand what she had made of him.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

“The Origin” originally appeared in Aoife’s Kiss, Issue 21.

This story is included in Wizards, Woods and Gods, a collection of twelve dark fantasy tales exploring the mysteries of the Otherworld through tree and animal lore, magic, cosmos, love, war and mysticism.

© F.T. McKinstry 2017. All Rights Reserved.

The Bridge

The Bridge

Gods appear to wizards as one thing; to warriors, another. A priestess in search of love in the Otherworld has spent her life preparing for a planetary alignment that will materialize a beautiful nature spirit only she can perceive. But the path to her birthright plunges her into her blackest fears when she is abandoned to a war for which she is indirectly responsible.

Excerpt

The autumn sun cast long beams across the mauve, green and gold tapestry of the brushy field. A woman emerged from the shadows, breathing deeply as a cool breeze drew her cloak around her bare thighs and stirred the rose-violet oil on her skin. She spoke an ancient word from the pit of her womb and passed through the towering gate of Sol Keep, poised like a forbidding hand on the edge of the plain.

The High Master would know she had gone. But he would not know where. Or why.

A chill swept over her flesh as the naidrin’s voice caressed her mind in a whisper of branches, leaves and flowing water. Efae, he said in his gentle way. Where do you fly?

“You should know that,” Efae said aloud, addressing the tree line in the distance. “You told me in a dream last night. Now is the time. Tonight I will cross the Bridge, and we shall be together.”

The naidrin said nothing.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

“The Bridge” is included in Wizards, Woods and Gods, a collection of twelve dark fantasy tales exploring the mysteries of the Otherworld through tree and animal lore, magic, cosmos, love, war and mysticism.

© F.T. McKinstry 2017. All Rights Reserved.

The Om Tree

The Om Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Trees know things. A tree planted by a god at the dawn of a forest and raised in close proximity to an energy well beneath a wizards’ citadel knows a great many things. In this short story, a wizard-assassin loses what is most dear to him and thereby learns the true nature of his art.

Excerpt

In the beginning stood a tree.

I always start my tales with that; it is fitting, as I have stood here for so long. I have spread my roots on many worlds, being seeded by an undying star named Om. He has a child named Ealiron, the creator of this world on which I now grow. He knows I am here, of course. When I took root as a sapling, he sang to me. A charming fellow, really.

But my tale begins with a mortal. He calls himself a wizard, but he is not like any wizard I know. His name is Lorth, which in Om’s tongue roughly means “water-loving root.” A nice name for a most unsavory man. I call him the hunter.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

“The Om Tree” originally appeared in Tales of the Talisman, Volume 7, Issue 3.

“The Om Tree” is included in Wizards, Woods and Gods, a collection of twelve dark fantasy tales exploring the mysteries of the Otherworld through tree and animal lore, magic, cosmos, love, war and mysticism.

The protagonist of “The Om Tree,” Lorth of Ostarin, is also the main character in The Hunter’s Rede, Book One in the Chronicles of Ealiron. An Om tree appears in the novel as well; it stands in the wizards’ citadel itself.

© F.T. McKinstry 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Gods and Cats

Love is whole. Love cannot be divided from itself. Love knows all paths, where even gods and cats are blind. – From The Old One’s Domain

The greater a wizard’s power, the bigger his problems—and the higher the price he pays for not attending to them.

Order of Raven, by F.T. McKinstry

Standard for the Order of Raven

Urien of Eyeroth belongs to the highest order of the Keepers of the Eye, a hierarchical order of wizards who maintain balance in the world of Ealiron. He has the ability to shapeshift into flora, fauna, earth, or fog. He can cast an apparition or merge with the minds of gods. He knows the Dark Tongue, a primeval language spoken by the votaries of the Old One.

He also has a broken heart. And it has driven him to make some lousy decisions.

Excerpt

Raven at Night, by F.T. McKinstryUrien of Eyeroth, a Master of the Eye of the Order of Raven, hurried along the winding forest path beneath a sky shrouded in midnight. Restless wind stirred the trees, and the air smelled of rain and moldering leaves. The light from his torch painted the barren forest in shades of his own reflection, black-haired, gray-eyed and pale for want of a touch. He pulled his cloak close, unable to determine which made him more uncomfortable: the dreary woods or the new moon settling onto his heart like a cloud of moths.

Earlier, he had been ensconced in a comfortable chamber high in the citadel of Eyrie, home of the Keepers of the Eye, reading a text on the principles of structure and formlessness. He had not wanted to leave when the sun descended into the mists, and dusk cloaked the land in damp, unpleasant cold. But he had agreed, under the hollow gaze of the high priestess Wilima, to look into the Void.

He had to ignore his unease that something bad would happen if he did not.

Water Dark, a tale of desire and deception told on a fairy-tale landscape of arcane texts, herbal lore, visions and disasters at the hands of the powerful.
 
© F.T. McKinstry 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Songs of Soft Petals

See me, see you
The mirror is dark and full of light
Show me the landscape
Tell me of moons and water
My love in motion

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

From Water Dark, a tale of desire and deception told on a fairy tale landscape of herbal lore, arcane texts, visions, and disasters at the hands of the powerful.

 
© F.T. McKinstry 2013. All Rights Reserved.