The plan: Every Thursday I write a short story using one of the prompts on writing website Describli within one of the worlds I am developing.
The reality: I’ll try to stick to it, but me and regularity? We’re not the best of friends.
Today I have managed it. I have written a story based on a novel that I’ve been working on for quite a few years. This is the first time I’ve posted anything on his blog connected to this world. It’s short, but I’m interested in reactions. Any feedback will be gladly received.
For Ai, the most beautiful part of the day. The summer breeze touched her face as she watched the ceremony below. The Emperor’s birthday. And as his daughter, she had a prime viewing spot on the balcony above the water.
Miko sat beside her. “Anything I can get you, Highness?”
No, thank you, she said into Miko’s mind. She had a glass of rice wine beside her, and a plate of sweet treats, including her favourite – miniature apricot tarts. She was saving them until last.
Ai got up and looked over the railing. Children were playing their games. She felt echoes of their laughter and random childlike thoughts in her mind. Where’s my father? she asked.
“On his way. I just saw Hino, and he said that the Emperor is just dealing with some last minute business. Then he’s coming to join you.”
Ai could imagine exactly what that business was. Her. Her step-mother. Pregnant, and controlling her father’s every action with the promise of a son. She was due to give birth any day, and therefore confined to her bed.
The cage holding the paper birds was lowered into place, and the fireworks were prepared.
Ai sat down once more. Her view of the sky was perfect. The first star hung above the departing sun, a spark of silver in the encroaching night sky.
“He will be here,” Miko assured her.
Everyone knew where her father’s preferences lay, and they weren’t with his daughter. If it meant appeasing Her, he would miss anything.
Ai didn’t cast out her senses to look for him. He would come or he wouldn’t. She would enjoy the evening either way.
Fireworks exploded in the sky before her. Echoes of surprise and joy and awe and amazement filled the air, rising up from the people below. Ai smiled. Beautiful colours made beautiful shapes against the night sky. showering sparks down on the river and people below. They made a noise as well, she was told. The part of her that hated what she was wished she could hear it.
“They’re beautiful, aren’t they, Highness?” Miko said. Ai felt the awe in her thoughts as she saw her lips speak the words.
They are, she replied. A treacherous part of her heart wished her father was there watching them with her.
No, she told it, I don’t. If he does not wish to be here with me, why should I wish him here with me? I am fine by myself.
More fireworks shot up. The sun was completely gone now. More and more stars peppered the sky, as if they were sparks left behind by the explosions.
Ai picked up an apricot tart and ate it. She savoured the sharp flavour of the apricot against the coolness of the coconut cream on her tongue. Perfection.
A sense of anticipation rolled over her from the crowd below. They were preparing to release the birds.
She finished the tart and fixed her eyes on the sky.
A few heartbeats passed, and then white specks appeared against the blackness. Tiny flames danced with them.
Special candles on the back of thousands of waxed paper birds. Each one signified an Emperor long gone, each one a moment in history, even from before the merging of the Ti’an peoples into one. Her ancestors.
Tears came to her eyes though she tried to hold them in. They dripped down her cheeks. She took the cloth Miko silently offered and dried her face. If her father had his way she would never be one of those lights. Her half-brother would. If indeed her father got his wish for a son.
She held the cloth in her lap between clenched hands. The future was unknown. Full of thousands of possibilities. Each one like a tiny flame on the back of a paper bird.