A Muse Bouche Review: May 2020

Ideas and Inspiration

Dear Readers,

Welcome to our Ideas and Inspiration Issue!

The soul of the muse is one of the most elusive elements to a creative. From ancient myth to modern ritual, people have battled for control over their imagination and the ability to channel it.

Whether it be from deities, coincidence, or intoxication, ideas can come from anywhere. When they do, we strive to catch that lightning in a bottle.

In this issue, we hope to explore some of those methods, and some of their fruits.

Warmest Regards,
The A Muse Bouche Review Team

A Muse Bouche Review Logo

Feature: One Man’s Grit is Another’s Inspiration (Guest: J.P. Walters)   Essay
Flight of Fancy (E.G. Deaile)   Fiction
Inspiration: A Musing (Guest: A.P. Miller)   Essay
Inspiration is Dedication in Disguise (Guest: Aedyn Brooks)   Writing Advice
From Idea to Inspiration to Magic (Crystal L. Kirkham)   Essay
Let It Rain (Renée Gendron)   Fiction
The Fairy Hunter (D.W. Hitz)   Fiction

One Man’s Grit is Another’s Inspiration

by Guest Contributor, J.P. Walters (@WaltersAuthor)

When something changes your life, you don’t always come out a better person. Time’s much the same. We say it’s a river we’re glad to sail, but the truth is, when left unchecked, time would sooner rain salt onto the earth than leave you better off. Does that make life the lengthiest chapter in a tasteless novel? No, but ask me fifteen years ago, and I’d have tattooed a list of affirmatives to your skull.

It takes a while to come to terms with inspiration. It’s not a matter of months and years, it’s a mindset, fleeting at the best of times. The way an action movie pumps you up, the way a weight-loss success video melts your heart. Those things encourage us, but they’re quick fixes, painted on the veneer of a reality we often ignore. But if you peel away that protection, you’ll discover there’s more light in the murkiest parts of life than there are waves in a tempest.

I can’t define what inspiration is, nor can I draw you a pyramid on how to attain it. Like any muse, it waits in the shadows, its dress lowered, high-heels glittering before a dusty bar. It’ll stay there, forever sober until you dare to dip your toes in the mud. Being a writer, however, there is one thing I possess, stories. They’re glimpses into the uncertain tongue of somebody in search of being a something.

It’s funny what you remember about childhood. I can’t tell you what I did for my ninth birthday, but the scent of my mother’s baking remains as fresh in my mind as the saliva it invites to my lips. Some memories, on the other hand, refuse to weaken. To fragment them is to deny their rank, and doing so would alleviate their influence over our lives.

Here’s one such recollection.


I didn’t stick out as a teen. I was scrawny, awkward, and had the vocal range of a chew-toy. I went to school, did my work, and raced home. I wasn’t running from anyone, not yet.

Mid-July, music class. As though the universe wished to spice things up, it spoiled the allure of the ticking clock, a creaking door, followed by the headmaster. His face was redder than usual, not quite a tomato, not fully human either.

Somebody’s messed up,” I thought, watching him whisper to the teacher.

They turned to me in unison, the kind of synchronized movement usually reserved for the military.

“You, come with me!” the headmaster yelled.

I turned to the teacher, confusion crumpling my brow, disappointment on hers.

I’d sat in the headmaster’s office for over an hour, the tie around my neck, slowly choking me for most of it.

“Do you have anything to say before I call your mother?!” he roared over the desk.

I was silent, staring intently at the paperweight on his desk. It looked like an elephant, but the edges were too soft to tell. I wondered if it’d ever felt terrified.

My mind was grappling with a mountain of accusations, and it outweighed me in megatons. Not only had he claimed I bullied a fellow student for shy of a year, but that I’d also brought the kid to attempted suicide. I knew of my innocence, the thought of some child releasing their life, razorblade in hand, it punctured my soul, but I didn’t say a word. I was a child, and adults always knew best.

After several months of daily ass-kickings, I’d been instructed to revisit the police station. New allegations had arisen. Luckily, I’d been away for a month, so I possessed clear evidence to disinfect the bullshit that’d stuck to me.

“You think he’s fat, right?” the policeman said.

“No, I told you, I wasn’t there,” I replied, my eyes, sore.

“So, you hit him too?!” he snapped.

“It’s not true,” I sobbed, struggling to grasp why this officer seemed to detest me. “You keep trying to make me say things.”

“Stop lying!” he criticized. “Do you know what happens to lads who lie?!”

It took a year for the truth to unravel. Manipulative parents, hellbent on receiving talk-show fame and book deals. Their child, an instrument, parroting their guardians’ tales of oppression. I wasn’t targeted, just unlucky. Anybody could have become caught in their crosshairs, I was just there to bear the brunt of the buckshot.

Some would wish to pet something fuzzy after reading such a tale, tears in their eyes, an ache in their ribs, but it’s not a sad story. It’s a well of lessons that never shallows. I didn’t hold onto the rage I felt for that kid. He was used and mistreated, and I’m sure if you went back far enough, the parents wouldn’t fare any better.

We’re all troubled in our own ways, but when we gravitate toward others, there are treasures to be found in accepting their plights. Wounds, whether your own or not, are chasms in which to mine inspirations. Chip away at them, shape, and whittle your fingers to the bone until something new is formed. Show that something to the world, share it, and nurture it because you’re not the only one who needs to see it.


J.P. Walters can be found:
Web: www.jpwalters.net
On Twitter: @WaltersAuthor

Flight of Fancy

by E.G. Deaile (@egdeaile_writer)

The dreams parted, and lo came the muse on gilded clouds of heaven, wealth, and salvation itself. Destiny filled with riches and the easy life of a best-selling author. One day, my name would grace covers and shelves and cardboard cutouts (that would hopefully be a little less than life-sized).

My Bic Crystal pen ignited the pages of my marble Mead notebook left over from 1997, a last vestige of my high school years. I laid down my tale flawlessly from start to epic climax in a single eighteen-hour bind filled with healthy coffee, vegetables, and yoga.

I emerged out the other side of my writing cocoon energized, inspired, and ready to complete my next project. An epic sequel of even more mega-proportions as the first. I entered my safe writing space once again, and completed my next work with even less time, all the while attending lovingly to my family.

Upon completion, the ink had finally dried on my first royalty check, which while modest, allowed me to begin interviewing for my new house staff. I found a fantastic cook from a New York Five Star restaurant who was so enthralled with my work, she offered to cook for my family for free.

As the flood of adoration (and money, let’s not forget the money) rolled in, I found myself reaching again and again into my muse’s reservoir until it resembled a discarded banana peel in Death Valley.

By then it didn’t matter, because I was still in bed, blinking the sleep crusties from my eyes. The completed story gone swiftly on wings of fantasy and fancy.


E.G. Deaile writes thrillers and killers across multiple genres. Currently prepping a series of murdery-goodness writing advice series on YouTube. Follow @craftingkillers on Instagram for updates!

Inspiration: A Musing

by Guest Contributor, A.P. Miller (@Millerverse)

To me, inspiration is like a spark. Like the actual conception of infant flame, I have no control over whether or not it will become a raging fire — I can only hope for the best and create environments that are flammable. Perhaps keeping a notebook in places where creative thought happens often or a voice memo of the great idea that you’ve had.

Once the spark becomes a flame, then it is my responsibility to produce fire. I am lost and alone in the deep, dark forest of boredom and I need to light up the night with my creative work. I’ve produced a spark, and thanks to the notebook that I’ve kept stashed, I’ve been able to turn it into a substantial flame. In order to turn it into a fire, I need to give it what it needs. You give your story the elements of interesting characters, intriguing conflict, organic change that has to be adapted to. With the right combination and appropriate volumes of each aspect, you can either burn down the barn or you can suffocate the work. Too much change and you are going to drown out the conflict, without enough character, you aren’t going to care about the resolve.

I’m not happy with a campfire, I want a structure fire, I want a five alarm forest fire — in terms of creative work. That analogy relates to what kind of a scale you are looking for. A story like Hemmingway’s Old Man and the Sea may rank low on the scale (depending on your perspective, of course), whereas epics like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy may top your charts — it could very well be the other way around. It’s not the size of the work that determines how big of a fire your work is, but the intensity.

Say you are able to get another fire started from your first one, well then you have yourself a spin-off, perhaps a sequel.

Once the fire has settled and you’ve fed it everything that you can, it will ultimately consume itself and reduce to ash, and that’s good. Nothing is meant to be a continuous work in progress; life is a ladder and the rungs aren’t meant to be stood on. You will have climbed that ladder and that ladder will have served its purpose to you, as not every path you traverse will need that latter. Once your work has reached its apex, you can look back on it and discuss with others how it made all of you feel as it burned for you the first time, how brilliant the flame was as it etched its history into your recollection, but that fire will be discussed in the past tense.

After all of that, you find yourself laying down beds of kindling, keeping the flint close to the steel, the magnifying glasses tilted towards the sun, looking for the next spark.

I know that I’ve beat the fire analogy like a dead horse, but I couldn’t think of a better way to describe how inspiration works for me. I have notebooks filled with ideas that I thought were surefire best sellers, but I couldn’t get the story to take life. Maybe I’ll be able to go back to some of those ideas and make something happen when the conditions are right …when the grass is dry and the gallon of gasoline is nearby (okay, that’s the last fire reference, I promise).

As writers, we need to keep our skills sharp so that we are ready for the inspired idea to arrive. A lot of the time, the practice strengthens the centers of the brain for creativity and reasoning — by writing more, we are actually equipping ourselves with the brain ability to take an idea and run with it much faster. By blogging, contributing to flash fiction prompts, and just putting in your words daily, you are training your brain to receive a suggestion and flesh it out in months instead of years, weeks instead of months, days instead of weeks, and hours instead of days.

We’re all going to view inspiration as a different method of idea delivery — the very concept of the muse (as a noun) stems from the Greek goddesses that delivered inspiration to the creative types. To you, inspiration may be devine delivery, it may also be as simple as the “a-ha!” moment in an 80’s movie where the protagonist has discovered the resolve to the conflict. Is there an easy way to demand inspiration at will? If that were the case, everyone would be writers and we wouldn’t bleed over our keyboards because we’re compelled to write, would we?

Fellow writer and creative type, I hope that inspiration visits you often and I hope that you are glad to receive that inspiration when it arrives. When the idea strikes you, I hope you are prepared to run with it, prepared to flesh it out and find a way to make it the biggest idea that you can. I hope that you are in a museum and a classic painting inspires a story that has never been told, I hope that a piece of conversation between strangers gives you an idea that knocks you down with how big it is. I hope that your muse(s) are familiar to you and visit often, I hope they are generous with their blessings.

More than anything, I hope that inspiration visits you all the way to success.


A.P. Miller is an author, novelist, and blogger from Wilmington, North Carolina. A.P. is the author of 2017’s Broken Promise Records and 2019’s Days of the Phoenix. Check out his blog and get more information on the man at www.millerverse.com.

Web: www.millerverse.com
On Twitter: @Millerverse
On Facebookfacebook.com/Millerverse

Inspiration is Dedication in Disguise

by Guest Contributor, Aedyn Brook (@AedynBrooks)

The sun’s shining, house is clean, kids are busy, bills are paid, and laundry’s in the wash. Finally, time to write. Wait, should I watch the show I recorded? No, I forgot to post the latest episode of Birdfeeder Wars between Squirrel and Sparrow. That’ll go viral. Oh, look Jayne has a new post. Her son’s car was stolen? Well, I need to share this and get my network looking for that car. Two hours later you glance at the clock. It’s time to start dinner. Writing will have to wait until tomorrow.

If you find yourself putting writing on the back burner until inspiration drifts through the window, the breeze lifting your hair like Fabio at a book cover photo shoot, then it’s time to take your dreams into your own hands and make them happen.

As writers, we’re often crafting scenes in our heads, thinking of a better way to describe a character, location, or create snappy dialogue. However, if you spend more time thinking about writing than actually writing, you might need to hack your own life and KICK start your own inspiration.

  1. Know you’re in charge. Anything important to you gets done. Setting priorities is key to managing your time, instead of your time managing you. Yeah, you’ve heard this before. But—but—but. There’s always another “but” in your life. What’s not happening is your butt in a chair, putting words on the page. You schedule dentist and doctor appointments, even the regular night out with friends. Why is your writing time scheduled last? Why is writing not getting a top-six priority in your life? If you don’t treat it like it matters, others won’t either. The only person who can write your story is you, and only you can make it a priority.
  2. Inspire yourself. I’ve heard plenty of writers say they need inspiration to feel like writing. “I need to be in the right mood in order to write.” Our senses can trigger memories, emotions, and yes, hack inspiration. What’s your favorite scent? Put a candle or essential oils near your writing space so your brain associates writing with making you happy. What about music? Are there certain songs that set the mood for you? When I write, I listen to movie soundtracks, nature sounds, drum music, or Tibetan bells. Sounds can trigger emotions. That’s why Hollywood uses music to amp tension in movies. Now, for the visually triggered writer, did you know you can make a PowerPoint slideshow—much like a movie trailer—of your characters, the places they hang out, their families, the villain, and words that encourage you to write? Seeing faces and places you’re creating in your book can also hack your brain into wanting to write that next scene.
  3. Curb distractions. You know what happens every time I sit down to write? Everything on my mental to-do list flashes before my eyes. The bill I forgot to pay, a phone call I need to return, even items I forgot to put on the grocery list. I keep a pad and pen in front of me. As these time-stealing nuggets pop into my head, I jot them down. That way my mind is free to be creative and all those micro-interruptions won’t be forgotten once I’m done writing. The faintest ink is better than the strongest memory.
  4. Kiss regrets goodbye. When you look back over your week and realize not one word from your blooming, amazing story found permanency on the page, you’re left having a coulda, woulda, shoulda regret party. The difference between you and your friend, who’s publishing their fifth novel, is that they’ve made writing a priority and realized that inspiration is dedication in disguise. They don’t wait for that magical moment to strike in order to set words to the page. They write crap. Edit it later. Keep charging forward. Remember that turtle beating the hare to the finish line? You don’t have to write five thousand words a day. If all you have time for is two-hundred words, then write that two hundred words and do a victory dance—because you moved forward. That coulda, woulda, shoulda party isn’t a party you enjoyed attending, and you’re determined not to let another day, or week, slip by without at least gaining a positive word count. Get creative with sneaking moments to get more words in like using a talk-to-text feature on your cell phone. Sure, it’s not pretty, but did you know the average person speaks at 250 words per minute? Can you imagine having two-thousand unedited words to copy/paste into your story in ten minutes? Who cares if the punctuation is missing—edit later. Then look back and think—wow, I wrote two chapters this week.Side note: Also, grant yourself grace when LIFE happens. Given our current pandemic, crisis is happening to people around us, or to our own families. Grant yourself the time you need to heal or grieve. There are seasons in life when sometimes writing comes last and beating yourself up doesn’t help you. If you’d tell a friend, “Take some time.” Then give that same message to yourself.
  5. Bonus: Save—and save often. Nothing will curb your enthusiasm for writing faster than losing chapters, whole novels, or even the words you wrote today. Backup every time you write. Future you, will love past you, because you set healthy data-saving measures as part of your writing routine. Also, save in more than one place. Backing up the backup can help when you accidently save over something you didn’t mean to replace. #SpeakingFromExperience

I’m hoping a few of these tips will be the nudges (or KICKS) you need to go from stagnant to productive in accomplishing your writing goals.

Happy Writing!
Aedyn Brooks


Aedyn Brooks is an award-winning author who feeds her spreadsheet-addicted psyche by day (aka data-driven ninja), and crafts wicked paranormal romances at night.

After living most of her life in haunted houses, Aedyn decided to put her terrifying, and sometimes funny, experiences with ghosts into books. One thing she learned from an early age is that the dead can be your greatest ally, especially in your darkest hours. When it came to writing, she couldn’t help but share this extraordinary world with her readers, crafting the Haunted Romance paranormal series Grave Intentions based in the Cascade foothills in Washington State, USA.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest with a postage-stamp sized yard, with one of her three grown children. She also manages to squeeze in time babysitting her new granddaughter. Being a grandmother is the bestest ever!
You can follow Aedyn on FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest (another slight addiction) @AedynBrooks, while her website is being updated.

From Idea to Inspiration to Magic

by Crystal L. Kirkham (@canuckclick)

I am going to be honest with you. It’s almost 10pm on the day of the deadline for writing my contribution to AMB Review. This month’s topic, though, is something that has been on mind for most of my writing career. Not due to a lack of ideas and inspiration, but an excess in ideas.

So, if I have so many ideas and inspiration, why did I have a hard time writing this article? That was exactly the problem.

I was writing two short stories, trying my hand for the first time as an editor of an anthology, working my day job, designing the landscaping for my property, tackling marketing plans with my publisher, planning a new book release, and celebrating the upcoming release on an anthology I’m a part of.

That’s only a small portion of my life though. It’s one of the reasons I love and loathe the deadline. Maybe you are reading this and wondering what it all has to do with the topic of this month’s Review.

The answer is: everything.

Ideas don’t start in a vacuum. Ideas find their basis in our experiences, conversations, random floating thoughts. They come from every aspect of our lives and are the very beginning of so many story ideas.

Perhaps you have a busy life too, but the ideas aren’t flowing so readily?

While ideas may be everywhere in life, you can only recognize them if you’ve trained yourself to be aware of them. All this means, is that every time an interesting scene, person, snippet of conversation or thought crosses your path, make a mental note of it. Write it down if you must, but the key is to start paying attention.

Often a single idea isn’t enough to ignite that spark of inspiration. Sometimes a few of these ideas need to bang together before you’re ready to be inspired.

Inspiration is where the stories start to flow. From the seed of the idea, it inspires us to create worlds that may have never been considered before. This is the magic of writing. Idea to inspiration to magic.

Inspiration to take an idea and make it more can be tricky at times. Hell finding my inspiration for this article took a bit. What works best for me, may not work for you. In this case, and often in many cases, I find it in my life as I do the ideas. Sometimes it comes slow and faltering, and sometimes I can barely keep up with it.

For some writers, this is all they need to create. For others, they still struggle to find a way to make the magic continue past the initial thrill of creation.

For me, this is where the deadline mentioned above comes in. Self-imposed ones never work. I know the person who made that deadline and I can’t take her very seriously. I need those deadlines to help me focus.

This takes me full circle to why I have so many ideas for stories. My life is busy, or perhaps chaotic is the better term, but I have a folder full of ideas, I am never lacking for inspiration to see where these ideas go. Although sometimes I am lacking in time, those deadlines (mostly) keep me on track.

I hope this late-night, last-minute article about ideas and inspiration strikes a chord with one or two readers. If not, well, I hope you enjoyed this look into my often busy and frequently chaotic lifestyle.

Let it Rain

by Renée Gendron (@ReneeGendron)

Cyrus shoved the door open and charged outside.

Brielle called after him, but her words were lost to the rush of millions of raindrops against the thatched roof.

The metal doorknob rattled against the house’s wooden planks.

Not now. Not when the last copper he had was in those goats.

The sky was dark with heavy clouds, bursting their contents onto the fields. His fields. The fields where his goats bleated in panic.

One goat ran towards a puddle in the centre of the pasture, slipped and tumbled into the mud, and struggled to stand.

Cyrus jumped over the fence and charged towards the goat, slipping on the same patch of mud as the goat and lunged forwards. He stretched out arm to brace himself, but he landed hard, his head dipping into the puddle, swallowing mud.

“Cyrus,” Brielle called from behind him. She looped an arm around his shoulder and helped him stand. “Are you injured?”

Only his pride.

The downpour washed the mud from his lips. He took her hand and they ran across the soggy ground towards the goat. The goat bleated and thrashed. Then it stopped its struggle and rested its head in the puddle, lifting it every so often to gasp for breath. The goat’s copper-coloured eyes drooped.

The goats. His idea of an investment. Make cheese and sell the meat. Sell the hides. Use the coin to get a better plough.

“It’ll be all right.” Cyrus crouched and scooped his arms under the animal’s belly, carried it out of the pit, and placed it on the ground.

The goat stood stunned before him and hauled in breaths. It gave its coat a shake, then darted from him and rejoined its flock.

Cyrus crouched, his fingertips pressing into the mud. His lungs wrung out the air, and he allowed himself one breath, then another. They wouldn’t be destitute. The gods were merciful.

Brielle walked with arms outstretched and herded them to the barn. Her amber hair was plastered against her head, the pins having long given up the struggle against the storm. One defiant lock curled around her neck, disappearing down the front of her shirt.

She chased after a kid playing in the rain. It hopped onto a wheelbarrow, then a barrel, then back to the wheelbarrow. She scooped the kid in her arms and threw her head back, a radiant smile parting her lips. Her shoulders lifted and fell in laughter.

Cyrus’ pulse quickened at the sight.

Goats in the barn, he ran his fingers through his hair and leant against the door looking out onto the fields. Drenched fields. Fields he had planted one week earlier. He sighed. “None of the crops will come in.”

“You don’t know that.” She crossed the barn to stand next to him and leaned her head against his arm. She shivered.

His arm coiled around her waist, and he pulled her to his chest.
Her delicious scent of cinnamon curled around him.

“Go inside. Get warm.” He rubbed his hand along her back.

“And leave you out here to brood?” She pressed a kiss to his chest. “It’s not the first time there’s been a storm like this. We’ve always come out of them. We’ve got chickens. Goats. We still have winter vegetables in the garden. They’ll withstand the storm.”

He tucked her head under his chin, drawing her as near as two clothed people could be.

She nuzzled against him. The tip of her cold nose rubbed the one spot on his neck that always caused heat to surge through his body.

He pressed a kiss to her temple and stared out of the barn.

Rivulets flowed across the pasture. Water pooled at the base of the southern field. The neat rows he’d ploughed days prior sagged under the pounding water. So much work. Lost. He glanced at the goats. One was large enough to take to market. Not large enough to fetch full price but enough to buy seed. He’d sell that one. He hoped not to. “I’ll have to replant the fields. I doubt the seeds will take.”

“They’ll grow.” She planted another tender kiss against his neck and rested her head against his chest.

Rain crashed in horizontal sheets against his farm washing away his sweat, his work, his profit.

His eyes narrowed on a flooded area of his field. “Not if this continues.”

“It’s not the only seed you’ve planted that’s taken.” She smiled against his chest. Her fingers pressed his into his shoulders.

“The corn didn’t come in as well—” He chewed off his words. He blinked. Then blinked again. A third time for good measure, then peeled away from Brielle.

A knot of tension formed in his gut. Tight and twisted.

She pressed her lips together in a failed attempt to hide a smile. A comely shade of red painted her face. She angled her chin towards her chest, thick eyelashes pressed against crimson cheeks.

A song rang out in his heart that would make songbirds jealous. He hooked her chin with a calloused finger and moulded his chapped lips to her silken ones. Brielle tasted of sunshine and hope.

She arched against him, her lips searing his in a kiss that rocked his core.

“There’s always a barn or a house in need of repair,” he said between kisses.

“There’s always a merchant’s wife in need of a dress.” Each word was punctuated by a kiss.

“I can always sell firewood.” He drew away and nuzzled the tip of his nose with hers.

“Hmm. Spring is awfully cold.” Her fingertips teased the base of his neck.

His cheeks peeled back in a smile, then he dipped his mouth to claim hers.

The knots unraveled, releasing a flood of joy.

Let it rain.


Renée Gendron
Extends beta reading and structural editing services. To find out more, please visit here.

The Fairy Hunter

by D.W. Hitz (@dustinhitz)

It had all seemed like a dream. The blood, the blade, the screaming. Kenneth had awakened in the forest, his hands red, and after finding a small grip on his consciousness, understood it had been real. He understood what it meant. He could never go home.

His vision was blurred as if he’d swallowed a barrel of wine. But he hadn’t, not a drop. His memories returned through a fog. He held his head and wanted to weep. At least five were dead, but his tears weren’t for them. They were for his loss, his wife and his daughter, who would never speak a word to him again.

“It was them damned fairies.” Kenneth rubbed his boot in the mud, agitated at the clump of grass beside him for existing. “I’ll get ’em. Flyin’ little devils. I’ll catch ’em an’ pluck their wings from their ribs, before I roast them over a pit for dinner.”

He remembered the encounter on the trail at dusk, the sparkle of their wings as they buzzed past him and plead for him to stop and, then, something. After that were only fuzzy images of gore.

Footfalls crunched leaves to Kenneth’s right, and a stranger’s head poked through the foliage. Kenneth jumped to his feet and stumbled over a rotten log.

They’ll hang me, I know it!

“Easy friend.” A man stepped into the clearing, stout and wearing a cloak and shoulder bag. “I’m here to help.”

Kenneth regained control over his panic and stared back at the stranger. “What do ya mean, help?”

The stranger held up a burgundy stone. It glowed faintly in his hand. “I know you were under a spell. Compelled by the Tree Folk.” He tossed it onto the ground beside Kenneth, and its brightness doubled.

Kenneth stared in silence at the gem. It’s light radiated a peaceful pulse.

“It’s enchanted, my friend. Glows in the presence of fairy magic.”

Kenneth’s head tilted. His stare deepened. After several seconds of gazing, he looked back up. The stranger was gone.

# # #

It was a quarter-hour or more before Kenneth felt the weight of the fog over his brain pass. And, as it did, the shine of the stone faded. It was with this fade that an idea came. He would go back to where the fairies passed the roads at dusk every day. No one knew where they went from there, but with the stone, maybe he could find out. He could find them. He could punish them for what they did to him.

# # #

Kenneth hid inside the berry bush beside the road. He picked and ate as the sun dipped. Any minute now. His stone brightened.

Wings fluttered, and by they raced. Four fairies, flying wingtip to wingtip, crossed the road and vanished into the brush on the other side.

Kenneth leaped from the bush and ran. He jumped from the road, between the trees, and kept his eyes on the sparkles ahead. They were getting away. He knew they could fly fast, but this was so much quicker than he thought possible. The tiny bodies grew smaller in the distance. Their shine faded to a spark and then nothing. He kept running, studying the gem. Maybe if I keep it glowing, it can still lead me…

He bounded over a bush, through another group of trees, into a clearing. The stone still shined. He crossed the clearing, passed between two fallen logs, and a snap sounded from under his foot.

A shock rattled Kenneth’s heart as the ground disappeared from beneath him. He sunk, the forest rising and the earth below climbing like cliffs. The sky darkened. He felt a thump and damp soil against his back.

# # #

The air vibrated. Gentle puffs skated across Kenneth’s nose and ears. He tried lifting his hand to brush the sensation away, but the appendage wouldn’t move. Opening his eyes, he saw a thousand fireflies. They hovered above and clung to the rock walls around him. They clung to the roof of the chamber. A cave?

He tried again to move his hands, they were tied. He tried moving his feet, tied. They’ve got me. They’ll kill me now, for sure.

“Help!” Kenneth yelled.

A female fairy with golden hair hovered over Kenneth’s head. While shorter than his finger, her unclothed form began to arouse him. “No one can hear you,” she said. Her voice was small, but it resonated inside his head.

“Let me up. Let me out!”

The fairy regarded Kenneth with a smirk. Her dimples brightened her smile as she opened her mouth to speak. “You were following us.” She wagged her finger left and right. “You’re working for Glimnor.”

“I’m not workin’ for anyone! Let me up!”

The fairy shook her head and landed on Kenneth’s chest. A male fairy zipped over Kenneth’s face and landed beside his kin. He held a sword, perfect for his height. He handed it to female and flew away.

“What’re you doing?” Kenneth huffed.

The fairy sliced open Kenneth’s shirt and spread it apart. She held the blade pointed down in both hands. She lifted it above her head.

Kenneth trembled. He flexed his arms and his belly, trying to roll, to fling the creature away. He was bound too tight. He didn’t move.

The blade dove. It sank into Kenneth’s chest, beside his sternum, between the ribs. He felt its searing point a breath away from his heart. He howled.

The fairy hovered up and over Kenneth’s head, leaving the sword planted in his chest. “What does Glimnor know?” she yelled.

“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about!” Kenneth cried. “You! Ya put a spell on me! Made me crazy! Made me kill five people in the village! Made me lose Shawna and Cassie. I came here to kill you for them!”

“You had Glimnor’s stone. The wizard sent you to find us!”

“A man gave me that. He wanted to help me get revenge.”

The fairy floated above Kenneth, not speaking for several seconds. “We did nothing to you, human. I suspect it was Glimnor who charmed you and brought out your inner demons. It was him that tricked you into finding us, since our spells have blocked him from our trail.”

“No,” Kenneth said, “’twas you. I spoke to ya last night, and then—”

“No, human.” The fairy landed on back Kenneth’s chest. “Your muse is Glimnor. He inspired your madness. But don’t worry. You’ll get your revenge. We’ll return the favor.”

The fairy whistled. Buzzing from a thousand directions, fairies swarmed over Kenneth. Their vibrations hummed over his skin, inside his head, and through his bones.

As the creatures dove at him, he saw a haze lift from their bodies. Their soft, smooth skin became harsh and dry. Their perfect, tiny fingers became grimy black claws. Their faces hardened into sharp-boned beasts with horned foreheads and the fangs of wolves.

Kenneth gasped, braced his throat to scream, but as thousands of fangs and claws dug in, not a sound came out.

# # #

Kenneth’s eyes opened to a misty morning. His aching frame laid in the mud. He was stiff, and thirsty, and covered in blood. His body felt light, like it was hollow, missing parts of itself. But that didn’t matter right now. There was a sword beside him, and it had a purpose. He growled at the night before, where Glimnor had killed his wife.