Of Mice and Swordsmen

Dormouse
I live in the woods. Mice are a way of life, and while I’ve always had ferocious hunting cats, mice are very resourceful, especially in the fall when they’re looking for winter shelter. Who can blame them? Winter is nasty, here.

You could make an interesting psychological study some 3AM, wide awake staring at the ceiling, listening to a mouse chewing on something, who knows what, insulation, wiring, rafters; it’s stockpiling caches, building nests, making baby mice–the sucker is at least a foot long, has to be–yes, you could be the Great Shaman of all Wildlife Lovers but after imagining the horrible results of nocturnal mouse business you’ll be capable of anything.

Pattern Sense Cover ArtA while back, I wrote a little story called Pattern Sense, about a knitter who discovers the strengths and pitfalls of an ancient power through the love of a swordsman. I wasn’t being tormented by mice at the time (past trauma maybe), but in a vivid description of the aforementioned scenario, I came up with the perfect impetus for my protagonist to discover the extent of her skill.

If a mouse in the middle of the night can’t bring out a woman’s hidden powers, nothing can.

Pattern Sense made it to the second round finals with Daily Science Fiction, and then I published it in Tales of the Talisman. And then, something magical happened. This story, it seemed, was a glimpse of a full blown novel. This began to unfold and eventually became Outpost, Book One in The Fylking. In that story, there is more to our knitter’s power than mere hedge witchery; and the love between her and the swordsman goes to dark places indeed, a subplot driven by sorcery, treachery, war, and even the gods themselves.

Who knew? Mice have a good place in my life after all. Besides, they are cute.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Outpost Cover ArtOutpost, Book One in The Fylking.

A race of immortal warriors who live by the sword.
A gate between the worlds.
Warriors, royals, seers and warlocks living in uneasy peace on one side of the Veil.
Until now.

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

It all started with a mouse….

The dormouse is found mostly in Europe. A romantic creature, it has a long furry tail, beautiful markings and can hibernate for a remarkably long time. It tends to show up in fairy tales and fantasy stories such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

This dormouse, perched in a ivy-covered tree in autumn under a frosty moon, was inspired by a short story I wrote called “Pattern Sense,” in which the nocturnal activities of said mouse cause a woman to discover magical powers in the stitches of her latest knitting project. “Pattern Sense” appears in the print edition of Wizards, Woods and Gods and Tales of the Talisman, Volume 10, Issue 1.

Photography Prints

© F.T. McKinstry 2014. All Rights Reserved.

The Fifth Verse

Shade Falls

Born of stars and witness to the rise and fall of civilizations, an immortal entity takes for granted the vastness of her knowledge—until she falls in love with an ordinary mortal warrior. But the price she pays for this indiscretion involves knowledge of something much greater and more powerful than war, wizards or even the gods themselves.

Excerpt

The wizard lived north in the foothills of the Spectral Mountains, in the ancient castle of Altaeros. A god of that name had built it; he lived in the sinews of the castle through a towering opal spire that focused his mind in the world. But the Shade cared nothing for that. As a terrible storm, she raced over the sky wailing in a legion of shadows, a maiden’s grief, a mother’s wrath. She struck the towering moss-cloaked stones of Altaeros, shattering panes of crystals and glass, uprooting generations of herbs and flowers and shaking the earth beneath the foundation stones. She rained and split the sky with thunder, she howled like wolves and screamed like owls, and blew the trees and brush into tangled, cracking hands until at last, when she had become too heavy and empty to rage anymore, she fell.

The castle shuddered when she hit the floor.

Time slowed, spun around for a moment, and stopped. An overcast sky gazed down dispassionately as the immortal rolled over in her woman’s form, pale as a broken shell.

“Are you finished?” said a voice above her.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

“The Fifth Verse” originally appeared in Tales of the Talisman, V5-4.

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 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.