Sunday, September 25, 2016

Meghan O'Bries: Part III

*  *  *

Last time...

“It is not for human kind to divine the future,” Death said slowly, “but for your sake, in your dying moments, I can give you a gift.”


Taking hold of her shoulders, he turned her so that her back was braced against his chest and directed her gaze out the window.

“Attend carefully,” he murmured.

Meghan swallowed and looked to the horizon, where the hills seemed to roll on and on forever, until they were met by the pale, milky sky. But suddenly, that sky began to shift and twist in her vision, merging with the ground and drawing her in, so that the hut and the wooden panes of the window began to blur and fade. Meghan gasped and felt her stomach drop as her surroundings melted away in a blur, so that all around her there was nothing but vague, dancing colors that swished by like branches in a forest. She felt Death's grip on her tighten, and at once found a strange assurance in that firm hold. She closed her eyes, concentrating on the feel of him behind her, knowing that they still stood together in the hut, safe and on solid ground.

“Open your eyes, Meghan! Don't be afraid.”

Steeling herself, Meghan cracked her eyes open and took stock of her surroundings once more. To her surprise, the world had fallen back into place- but it was not the hut where they stood, rather it was the ridge that overlooked the village of Fainhearn, where Dairn and the rest of the Free Folk were preparing for battle.

She could see him moving far below through the tents of the soldiers they had gathered, talking with the generals at his side, patting the shoulders of the men he passed. Meghan smiled. That was Dairn, ever the friend of the common men, even when discussing the pressing matters of politics and battle strategy. If only she could see his face...

As if sensing her wish, he paused and turned, gazing toward the heavens for a moment in consternation. Meghan drew in her breath, noticing immediately the changes in his countenance. He was marked with grief- fresh and tender, as if he were mourning the loss of a dear friend. And yet, despite that, there was a cool, calm sort of resolution set deeply in his features, and in that moment Meghan knew without a doubt that he would be victorious in whatever battle was to come.

“It is for you he mourns,” Death spoke, his smooth voice slipping into the silence without causing so much as a ripple.


“What you see is the future.”

Meghan's jaw dropped.

Death squeezed her shoulders. “After your death and failure to arrive at the meeting place, your cousin Heich will search for you. Upon finding your body, he and his people will be outraged, and your death shall move them to align themselves with Dairn and his people.”

The scenery began to shift again, whirling into a battlefield, where the sounds of clanging swords and men locked in mortal combat rang out into the cold air. Meghan cast her eyes about for Dairn, and found him at last, in the center of the fray, swinging his broadsword masterfully, bringing down an enemy with each blow. He was blood-spattered and damp with exertion, but he showed no signs of slowing. His face was twisted with fierce determination, and in the falling snow he looked every inch a king.

Death continued, still speaking softly, but somehow able to be heard over the noise. “Together, your forces will defeat the Norn and drive them back to their own land.”

The battlefield fell away, and the land beneath them sped away until Meghan could see the Castle Cutorney, where the Old Kings had once reigned, rising tall and strong from the rocky fells. They seemed to be soaring down toward it through the sky, and as they grew closer Meghan could hear the sounds of a multitude, cheering triumphantly.

She peered closer as she and Death came to rest on the battlements. A great crowd was gathered in the courtyard below. With a sigh of relief, she smiled as she saw Dairn ascending the steps that led to the outdoor dais, where his elders and generals waited to crown him king. Heich of the Siobhan stood there as well, and in his tall, lithe frame Meghan could see traces of her own mother.

Humbly, Dairn knelt with his head bowed low, dark hair shining in the morning sun.

Stepping forward, General Ruel, their right-hand-man held the crown above Dairn's head.
“Dairn MacGabhann, we the people of Ern have gathered here today as freemen for the first time in four generations. When the Norn foreigners invaded and declared themselves our new rulers, your royal ancestors were cast from their place and forced to live in secret. But now you have risen against all odds to lead us, your people, into victory. Now we ask you to continue this duty and take your rightful place as our king. Do you accept this duty?”

“I do,” Dairn said, and the sound of his calm voice ringing out over the crowd brought tears to Meghan's eyes.

The crowd cheered and raised their fists in salute. Ruel placed the crown on Dairn's head and bowed. Slowly, Dairn stood and turned to face his people, raising his hands for silence, then smiled, his eyes shining with both joy and sadness. People of Ern,” he said, “my beloved kinsmen, my heart is warmed by your bravery and loyalty. Though we are a small people who have long been held in bondage, no nation could have matched the courage I witnessed during this war. We have risen against all hope to claim a victory we hardly deemed possible- but my friends, I cannot bear the credit as your leader. I began my quest fully believing it was a solitary one. All I wanted was to bring those who killed my family to justice. But when you flocked to my side, it was only then that I realized we could stand and fight. And even then, there were many moments when I doubted. When had I but had the chance I might have fled from the trials of war and hardship.” He swallowed, faltering. Even from the distance from which she watched, Meghan could see the tears that shone in his eyes.

“No my friends,” he continued, “I would not be here today were it not for the inspiration that drove me, even until the very end- my cousin and dearest friend, Meghan O'Bries, who gave her life for our cause. She who was as a sister to me, whose royal blood shone brighter than my own, was the true life of this revolution.”

The other generals bowed their heads, and Heich put his hand over his chest in respect.

Dairn sighed. “Let us remember her sacrifice, and the sacrifice of all those who have fallen for our freedom. Let us honor their memory as we step into this new era, where justice and freedom shall reign!”

Again, the people cheered. Yet though this cry was more raw and and saddened, it seemed to Meghan all the more beautiful.

“He acknowledged me,” she whispered. “He told them of my birthright, and my involvement. I never asked for it, and yet he has given me a place of honor.”

She bowed her head, and she felt Death release her slowly. When she picked her head up and looked at him again, they were once more standing in the dark hut.

The embers of the fire flickered dimly in the corner, so low now that the room was shrouded with shadow. Yet somehow she could still see Death's face clearly. She found she could return his gaze more steadily now.

“Thank you,” she said softly.

He nodded, giving a slight bow. “It is a privilege I can seldom give. For my part, I was glad to show it to you.”

Then, as if he sensed something she could not see, he shifted and looked out the window. “Are you ready now?”

Meghan looked down and heaved a deep breath. “I think so.”

To her annoyance, she felt fresh unbidden tears spring forward. But before she had a chance to quell them, she felt a hand cup her face.
Death looked down at her and brushed the tears away. “What is it, child?”

Meghan chuckled irrationally. “Nothing! It's just...”
Death looked at her expectantly.

“I never fell in love.” Meghan sighed, ashamed of herself. After seeing all of her wishes realized, how she could still desire more? “I had always dreamed.... that after the war, if we won, I might live long enough for someone to see me, truly see me. To look at me and find beauty both inside and out...”

She trailed off and shook her head. But to her surprise, Death smiled.

“I see all that,” he said gently. Slowly, he bent and kissed her forehead. “Don't be ashamed, Meghan. It is only natural for you to hunger for more life- for despite your hardships, you loved life, and lived it well. You were happy in what you had, and because of that, you can now leave in peace. Trust me, you were loved, and dearly so.”

Holding out his hand, he backed toward the doorway. “Come with me, Meghan. It's time.”

Meghan blinked away her tears and smiled. She felt, after all, that it was time to leave. Her time had come, and she had no regrets. With one last breath, she reached out and took hold of his hand. As his fingers closed around hers, Meghan closed her eyes and thought back to all she had seen, all she had done. It was true- despite her trials and sorrows, there had also been joy, and triumph, and above all love. The love of her parents, the love of her guardian Finn, and of her cousins, Heich and Dairn. And someday, she now knew, the love of her people as well. Her restless heart settled its wings and a sense of peace came over her.

“Are you ready, Meghan?” she heard Death's voice ask again.

I have nothing else to wish for, she realized. This time the tears that flowed held no sadness or shame, only relief. She squeezed his hand.


They stepped through the door.

* * *

In the winter's cold
there blew a horn
when Free Folk of old
overthrew the Norn
In triumph Dairn
as king did rise
and the land of Ern
loved Meghan O'Bries

* * *


-Emmarayn Redding

(Image taken from the public domain)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Meghan O'Bries: Part II

*  *  *

The stranger sat with one ankle propped over his knee, looking quite at ease. He was long-limbed and pale, with a slender build, but strong, square shoulders. His raven-black hair was swept back and tied at the nape of his neck, contrasting sharply against his clear, narrow face. Clad entirely in black but for the silver embroidery that embellished his cloak and belt, he made quite an imposing figure, despite his casual position.

“Who are you?” Meghan asked, taking a step forward.

The man didn't move, but regarded her with a calm yet peculiar expression, almost unreadable. Meghan thought for a moment he seemed amused, yet there was also a hint of sadness, and then something else flashed deep within his eyes... something utterly foreign.

“Please, don't be alarmed,” he said. “You are Meghan O'Bries, are you not?”

Meghan didn't answer, too unsettled by his sudden unexplainable presence.

The man looked her over and nodded, answering his own question. “Yes... yes you are,” he said with, Meghan thought, a note of approval.

Frowning, Meghan's eyes darted to where she'd hung her coat. There was a dagger in the breast pocket, and she'd been a fool not to keep it on her. It was that infernal grogginess, clouding her mind and addling her senses.

“I wouldn't do that, if I were you,” said the stranger, raising his brows.

Meghan sucked in a breath and clenched her fists, her surprise and fear turning to anger without warning. “Who are you? Why have you come here? And why have you been shadowing me these few days?”

The man rose and moved forward, gliding smoothly past Meghan as she shrank back. Turning, he looked down to meet her eyes and Meghan realized suddenly how very tall he was.

“I am here because I have business with you, and I have watched you for the same reason.” He cocked his head, watching her carefully.  

Meghan shook her head in confusion. “What business? Do I know you?”

“In a way,” he said. Blinking, he turned away and looked through the window, leaning against the wall. From some hidden pocket in his cloak, he pulled out a worn booklet and flipped it open, scanning the pages with a cool gaze.

“Yes,” he murmured, “you may know me better than you think. Meghan O'Bries, five-and-twenty years of age. Born in the year 1530, to Lachan and Raeda O'Bries. Your father died in a skirmish with the Norn when you were but ten years.”
Meghan glanced at the booklet and frowned, nodding. “Yes...”

“During your fifteenth year you also witnessed the Fainhearn Massacre, in which you lost your mother, and you were taken as a ward by your father's younger half-brother, the blacksmith Finn MacGabhann- correct?”

Meghan nodded again, more baffled than ever. The stranger met her eyes for a moment before turning back to his booklet.

“And it was under MacGabhann's care that you met his son Dairn, who promised to protect you with his life. Which was well since Finn MacGabhann passed away less than two years later, of an illness in the lungs.”

Meghan swallowed.

The stranger continued, his voice dispassionate, and yet somehow not unkind. “On his deathbed, MacGabhann revealed that he was descended of the Old Kings, and that he now named Dairn his heir, the rightful king of Ern.”

Meghan blinked slowly and looked away, her upper lip curling. “Anyone could know this. You had only to question those who knew Finn MacGabhann or my parents.”

The stranger smirked and shook his head, turning the page of his booklet. “I'm not finished. In his dying moments MacGabhann also revealed that since your father, Lachan, was his elder brother, that it was he who had been the original heir, and as such you too were an heir to the throne.”

Looking up, he folded his booklet and replaced it in the depths of his cloak. “And as he closed his eyes in death, you and Dairn swore a vow in blood that there would never be any rivalry between you. You would work as one to take down the Norn and bring order back to Ern, with or without aid: or you would die in the attempt. Thus, eight years and six months ago, your fate was sealed.”

Meghan felt cold. Not a soul on earth had known of her own royal blood, or seen the vow she had taken with Dairn. Dairn said it was too dangerous for anyone to know who she really was. They had never spoken of it since that day. She remembered how lonely it had felt in those first months after Finn's death, with only each other and their mission as comfort. But when the first of the Old Clans sought them out, hope had ignited in her heart like spark on a bed of dry leaves. She had always known that Dairn was destined for more, and that if the people of Ern would only band together they might stand a chance against the tyrants who had robbed them of their land. Quietly she had encouraged Dairn, pushing him gently until he could at last see the hope that had brought the clans to them. That hope had spread until it was a roaring fire, and the united clans dared for the first time in generations to call themselves the Free Folk. Not one of them knew how ready she and Dairn and been to die just months before...

Except this man.

“How can you know these things?” Meghan breathed.

The stranger looked at her, his face twisted with what almost seemed like a challenge. “I know because I was there.”

He moved toward her slowly, seeming taller by the step. “Your parents' demise, the massacre, Finns passing, the vow. Surely you can guess my name.”

Meghan shook her head, lost.

“Think, Meghan! What common element to these events in your life share?”
“The Norn,” Meghan began, a hard edge entering her voice. “Are you-”

“No.” The stranger reached out and grasped her shoulders, and Meghan found herself drawn into his eyes, so dark and deep they seemed like endless chasms.


Meghan felt her heart drop. Flinching, she withdrew from his touch. “Death? She whispered. “B-but that means you- you're here for-”


Her lips curling in a sneer. She shook her head vigorously. “I don't believe you. Whoever you are, you've been sent by my enemies and-”

“That's true, in a sense,” he conceded, cocking his head in thought.
Meghan seized her chance and ducked past him, rushing for the door. No thought for the coat or dagger, she had to get away from this man, from this place! She reached for the handle-

But his hand appeared there, blocking it. He looked down at her and shook his head, tsking ruefully.

“No use running Meghan,” he said calmly.

Meghan gasped and stumbled back, She whirled around toward the window, but no sooner had she turned than saw him crouching there in the sill, looking almost amused.

“You cannot fight this, child! I'm sorry, but your time has come.”

Meghan's heart pounded and she could feel her limbs trembling. Death stepped down from the window and approached her, pity crossing his face again.
“Come, Meghan. You've had a difficult life, but you've fought hard. It's time to rest now.”

“But- but....” Meghan shook her head in confusion, unable to reconcile what her eyes saw with what her mind screamed. “I-I'm not done! I'm still here! I'm alive and well..”

Death shook his head. “No, you aren't. At this very moment, you're dying.”

He touched her shoulder gently and gestured behind her toward the hearth. Slowly, Meghan turned, afraid to look, but too afraid not to see.
The fire had burned low, and in the flickering light, she could see herself sprawled on the floor, pale-faced and glassy-eyed, convulsing weakly.

Meghan clapped her hand over her mouth, horrified. She turned away and stumbled to the window, unable to face what she had seen. She could feel tears burning at the back of her eyes, but could find no reason why. She shook her head slowly, trying to put the image from her mind.

“Poison,” Death stated matter-of-factly. “They put it in your water-skin, the Nornish spies, that is. Not so much that you or anyone else would notice right away, but after drinking enough... well, you see the results.”

Meghan mind reeled. Poisoned... after all the times she had escaped disaster, cheated hunger, and survived illness, poison would have her at last. After all of her work to take back the land she so loved, this was how it ended?

“Are you... do you always appear this way?” she asked suddenly, hardly knowing why. She kept envisioning that body, twitching on the floor. She squeezed her eyes shut.

“No, not always. It greatly depends on the person, and their perception of me. Most die too quickly or suddenly to see me coming. Others feel me like a deep foreboding, and some see me as a shadow, or even a great black dog. But it's the slow ones that see me as I am... the ones who are still too attached to this earth, who need convincing.”

“Convincing...” Meghan repeated.

Crossing her arms tightly, she glared into the distance, refusing to meet Death's eyes. “No. Give me more time! You can't take me yet. You've taken enough lives in this country, let me be!”

“I don't control who goes and when,” Death said flatly, a hint of annoyance entering his tone. “I merely uphold the law.”

Meghan shot him a glance, but could not bring herself to look at him long. “It's too soon,” she murmured, “too soon. I-I'm not finished! I have things to do.”

She moved back from the window and paced the hut, running her hands through her hair restlessly. Death looked at her askance, leaning against the fireplace with one leg propped beneath him.
“I have to meet with Heich and my kinsmen, Siobhan. This meeting is crucial! Without them we cannot stand against the Norn, but with them our victory is almost certain. So much depends on these next few days...”
Swallowing, Meghan looked up at him pleading eyes, silently begging for him to understand. She gather nothing from the cold expression with which he regarded her.

“If we wait much longer to strike the Norn, we will lose our momentum. Our people have found this hope under Dairn's leadership, but with winter coming on their energy will flag. We will be struck down, and hope for reclaiming our land will fade into legend.”

Meghan looked down and covered her burning eyes, ashamed of the emotions she could not control. What a fool she was, pleading with Death himself like a common coward, afraid to leave behind a life she had never known she loved until now. It's useless, she realized quietly. Her shoulders slumped. It's over. Best face it as a warrior ought, not weeping like a beggar.
Drying her tears, she looked up, stone faced and resolute. But as soon as she opened her eyes, she jumped in spite of herself, for Death stood before her, so close she could feel the tips of his boots on her own.

“It is not for human kind to divine the future,” he said slowly, “but for your sake, in your dying moments, I can give you a gift.”

*  *  *

To Be Continued...

-Emmarayn Redding

(Image taken from the public domain)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Meghan O'Bries: Part I

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The following short story is a project I started on a whim after imagining a scene one night and wanting to explore its possibilities.  It was harder than I expected, and ended up being longer than I anticipated, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the process.  And now I hope you can enjoy the results as you read the short fantasy of Meghan O'Bries, in three parts...

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Image result for scottish moors public domain

* * *
The tales are told
by men today
since the days of old
of the one they say
was a queen born poor
one Meghan O'Bries
On the windswept moor
where the blackbird cries

* * *

The plains were eerily silent as Meghan rode, black clumps of soil spraying out behind as her horse sped along the overgrown road. Pale, colorless skies stretched overhead, casting a sickly light on the path, but Meghan could see dark, dangerous clouds gathering on the horizon. That did not bode well. She needed clear weather for her journey tonight.
Slowing her horse to a canter as they crested a hilltop, Meghan paused to scan the open fields, searching for any sign of danger. She had seen no sign of any soldiers, which was surprising, considering her mission. Dairn MacGabhann, the leader of the Free Folk, had sent her to negotiate an alliance with the Siobhan Clan, her mother's people. Heich, the chieftain, was her cousin several times removed, and Dairn hoped that Meghan's connections might sway the Siobhan people in the Free Folk's favor.
If she was successful, the alliance could guarantee the Free Folk's victory over the Nornish invaders. Then Dairn could claim his birthright as the high king over the Free Folk, and the land of Ern would be set to rights at last.

With such high stakes, it was a wonder she had not yet encountered more difficulty. True, she'd been forced to leave behind her escort in the last village to dispatch with the local guardsmen, but they would soon meet her at the rendezvous point, which she could already see just down the hill.

The lack of resistance did bother her. It wasn't right- however preoccupied the Norn may be with the Free Folk, surely they must have had word of her mission. Surely they would have sent men after her to stop the meeting from happening...

Yet aside from the few guardsmen stationed in the village, she had seen no soldiers.


Except... there was the black rider.

Thinking of him woke a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach. Meghan tightened her fist and furrowed her brow, remembering the first time she had seen him. Silhouetted against a glowing sunset, astride a tall black horse, seeming both as noble as a king and as ominous as a crow. She could not see his face, or the make of of his clothes, only the black shadow of his being, framed with the light of the setting sun.

Again, she had seen him, but a few miles later, and this time she had notified her escort, hoping they might perceive friend or foe where she was blind. But before any one of them had turned their eyes to the hilltop, he had vanished. Meghan could not shake the feeling that he was watching her, and her alone, and that thought both unsettled and intrigued her.

Whatever the case, she had not seen him again since then. Even still her eyes swept over every inch of the spreading plains in search of him. But in the whispering quiet of the windblown hills, there was not a soul to be seen.

Relaxing her fist, Meghan sighed and took a sip from her water-skin. With one last glance at her surroundings, she urged her horse forward again, trotting the rest of the way to the little hut which would serve as her shelter for the night.

* * *

Meghan's legs ached as she dismounted, but she put aside her discomfort until she had given the horse a proper rub down. He was a strong young gelding, but it had been a long day for the both of them. If she was to meet with Heich and the Siobhan by tomorrow's eve, she would need the horse in good health.

Meghan squinted as she led the gelding into the dark stable. Particles of dust drifted slowly in thin beams of light streaming through cracks in the weathered wood walls. Thick cobwebs coated the ceiling in an eerie veil, and she grimaced as one grazed her face.

Kicking aside a grubby pail, Meghan loosened a bundle of straw and laid it in a stall. She saw to it that it was well stocked with hay, oats, and water, and then left the gelding to his rest.
She rubbed her arms slowly as she entered the hut. Now that she was sheltered at last, she could feel her exhaustion setting in. The October winds had been merciless for days, and though she had not yet seen her reflection, she knew it had taken its toll on her face by the feel of her chapped cheeks.

With a sigh of relief, Meghan shed her coat and scarf and hung them by the cold hearth. She rubbed her brow and bent down to kindle a fire. Not long now and she could have her rest, and be warm for the first time since she had left Dairn's side three days ago. She would wait here until her men joined her and in the morning they would continue to the High Hills where Heich awaited her.
But first, fire. Then rest.

Swallowing, Meghan smacked her lips, trying to ease the dryness in her mouth. She took another sip of water and shook her head. Now that she had time to think, she didn't feel well at all. Her head ached, her muscles ached, her face and lips were raw, and now her mouth was dry. She couldn't afford to be sick now- not when so much depended on this meeting.

Having arranged the firewood in the hearth, she pulled out a flint and struck it, sending sprays of sparks down onto the kindling. Feeling a sudden wave of dizziness, she had to brace herself against the stones to keep herself from falling forward. She rubbed her brow again and kept striking the flint.

There! A small flame licked around the twigs and grew larger. She watched for several moments as the little fire gained its strength. Satisfied, she stood, and promptly stumbled backward, catching herself just in time. Her head spun, and she felt so terribly thirsty...

Megan pulled a chair up to the table and sat with her head in her hands, drinking slowly from the water-skin. She supposed she ought to have gone to the well for fresh, cool water, but she was so tired she only wanted to sit for a while.

Her head continued to throb and spin, and Meghan felt her eyes drooping more and more heavily. She could feel sleep tugging at the corners of her mind, and she did not resist. Too weary to even move to the cot, she put her cheek in the crook of her arms and lay draped across the table.

Something flickered inside of her, a warning, as if there was something she was forgetting. Forcing her eyes open for one moment, Meghan glanced out the window instinctively. And there on the hill, just before she drifted off again, she saw him! The black rider, watching as always.

Starting, Meghan bolted upright into wakefulness. Standing swiftly, she pushed the chair back and rushed to the window, shielding her eyes against the milky white of the sky.
He was gone! Again, she had missed him. Shaking her head in disbelief, she turned to the door and thrust it wide, casting her gaze over the plains, searching. She had a mind to rush out to the gelding and hunt for the mysterious stranger and demand to know his identity, his loyalty, and the reason he watched her these last three days.

But before she gathered up her courage and rushed for the stables, something held her back. That same flickering, nagging warning fluttered in her mind, and she stepped back into the shelter of the hut.

For several moments, she scanned the horizon, watchful and expectant. But, seeing nothing, she closed the door and turned slowly away...

… and froze.

He was sitting there on the cot, looking up at her eyes so dark they seemed seemed to swallow her whole.

“Meghan O'Bries,” he said softly, his voice smooth and level.

Meghan opened her mouth, incredulous. “You...” she breathed.

*  *  *

To Be Continued....

-Emmarayn Redding

(Image taken from the public domain)
(NOTE:  Due to some very helpful feedback, Meghan's last name has been changed to O'Bries, since the original name bore a disconcerting resemblance to a similar word.  Thank you to those who pointed it out!  I never would have seen it myself.  ;)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Beautiful Music: Intermezzo op. 118 no. 2 in A Major

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Greetings, one and all!  This month's beautiful music is another classical piece, this time by Johannes Brahms.  I first became aware of it through listening to a movie soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat, one of my favorite composers.  I was immediately taken by the sweetness of this heartfelt piece, and though it's title is a bit of a mouthful to say, the music speaks for itself.  Romantic and full of emotion, this piece is perfect for a quiet evening of contemplation or prayer.

*  *  *

(DISCLAIMER:  I do not own the music or recording used in this post.  Recording here is of Nikolai Lugansky.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Book Review: The Wingfeather Saga

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A several months ago one of my dear readers recommended this four-book children's series to me.  I can't remember who that was at this point, but whoever it was.... thank you so much!  
And then on the other hand.... How could you??  Nevermind, it's not your fault.  You can't help the- oh, sorry, spoilers.  -_-  I'll just get to the review, I guess.

*  *  *

In the land of Skree, there lives a lovely family known as the Igibys.  And aside from when they sing in the garden, or when they tell lively tales, or when they play zibzy, they are pretty miserable.  The nasty Fangs of Dang overshadow any happy moment in the lives of the three Igiby children, Janner, Tink and Leeli.  But they know very well that as long as they keep quiet and stay away from the dark forest where the Toothy Cows live, they'll be fine....
Until one little dog bites the wrong Fang and all Deeps break loose. 
Suddenly, Janner and his siblings are thrown into turmoil as their lives turn upside down.  The Nameless Evil named Gnag the Nameless searches relentlessly for the Jewels of Anniera, and it's up to the Igibys to make sure he NEVER gets them.  Mystery, lies, secrets, and danger lie around every corner.  To defeat the darkness, the Igibys will embark on a journey that will change them forever...
IF they are not eaten first. And IF they can survive the Dark Sea of Darkness.
Maker help us.

*  *  *

Image result for wingfeather saga the igiby familyThis series is among the most enjoyable I've ever read.  In fact, I don't believe I've read a fantasy book that made me laugh quite so much as these ones did. 
 Andrew Peterson has created something unique here.  The tone reminds me of a perfect combination of C.S. Lewis, Lemony Snicket, and Dr. Seuss.  One moment it was heartwarming, the next hilarious, and then quite dark indeed.  And all of it laced with distinctly Christian views, though the series itself is not overtly Christian.  
The world of Aerwiar is enchanting, though quite dangerous.  There is great beauty and whimsy, and also a load of crazy, scary creatures that you should thank your stars don't really exist!  
And the characters!  Oh, how I loved the characters.  They were the highlight of the series for me.  Well, them and the hilarious footnotes scattered throughout the books to expand on various wacko ideas and history.
Janner, the main character, is the oldest of three children, and his mother and grandfather have raised him to be the protector of his younger brother and sister, Tink and Leeli.  I found him incredibly relatable- probably because of him being the oldest (and a writer!), but also because of his very personality.  He is perhaps a little grumpier than I, but the things he struggles with really do mirror my own personal faults.   Though lovable, Janner struggles with apathy, pride, and selfishness- which can probably be applied to anyone, but his emotional reaction to those faults is pretty much how I would have done at his age.
And I just must say that my new character love is Artham P. Wingfeather.  Not a crush, mind you, but more of a... squish.  A squish is what my sisters and I call that feeling when you just like someone a lot, and want to be their friend, and want the best for them no matter what, and seeing them happy makes you smile inside.  
Artham was such an interesting individual.  I can't really talk about him much without giving much away, so I'd best stop while I have the chance.  
The other characters were wonderful too.  There are too many for me to talk about, so I'll just get down to the pros and cons.  


Okay, maybe I should have labeled the above section as Pros instead, since I've already sung the praises of the lovely series.  But, in a nutshell, The Wingfeather Saga is full of loveable, memorable characters, witty humor and an emotional plot that's sure to draw anyone in, whether they're 10 or 100.  Themes of redemption are woven through all the books, which opens up many discussion opportunities for parents who wish to teach their children about God and the redemption that He offer us.


(Spoilers ahead.  No names are mentioned, but just the same...)

These books do have a dark side though.  The antagonists are quite evil, and there are a lot of sad things that happen to the characters, and it's not the kind of bad think where you can just shrug it off and say, "Oh well, in the next chapter everything will be alright."  The tragedies that occur throughout the series have lasting consequences.  Some sequences can be a bit intense and may be frightening to children.  (SPOILER: for instance, the villain creates his minions by transforming humans into beast-like creatures, causing them to lose their free will.)
Parents should be aware that themes of imprisonment are prominent through the stories.  Children are captured by the enemy and snatched away from their parents, and they are locked up in prisons or made to work in factories with no reason to hope for rescue.  One character is revealed to have been captured and tortured for quite some time, and he has never been the same since then.  Characters are changed forever by the events that transpire, though in the end things are worked out for the best.   There are some character deaths too, which may be quite upsetting to young readers or listeners.  Parents will be the best judge for their children, since they know what they can handle.


I would recommend this series wholeheartedly to anyone who loves fantasy, comedy, drama, and adventure.  Just a word to the wise, though- it is emotional, and so be prepared as you read.
For young readers, I would personally recommend you to be thirteen and up before reading this book on your own.  However, as I said, that depends on the parent, the kid, and the family.  If you can handle it, great!  Because this series is not something that should be missed by anyone.

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-Emmarayn Redding

(DISCLAIMER:  Images taken from The Wingfeather Saga)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

My Last Days as a Teenager

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That's right... the end is dead ahead.  With my twentieth birthday coming up in the next forty-eight hours I will bid goodbye to my teen-aged years.   
It's a bit of an odd feeling... on one hand, I feel pretty relaxed.  So what if I'm entering another decade?  Big deal, I'm good, I'm cool, I'm fine....
But on the other hand, HOLY COW, I'M TURNING TWENTY.
I rarely use all caps for more than one word, by the way.  

I remember when I was sixteen or seventeen and I was suddenly struck with what I called a "late-teens crisis", when I realized that I was more than half-way through being a teenager, and just a few short years from being an official adult.  For some reason I thought that my eighteenth year would signify the end of my childhood, for good.  I kept thinking of all the things I hadn't done as a kid, that maybe I'd wasted those precious years with useless and meaningless activities that really weren't that memorable.    This troubled me for months, though I didn't say much to anyone because deep down I felt it was sort of silly.
Finally I realized that becoming an adult didn't mean the end of fun- but was rather a gateway to a whole new world to explore at my own pace.  As long as I could pay for it, I could be a kid as long as I wanted.  :)
So this year, instead of worrying about entering a new decade and what-am-I-doing-with-my-life, I've been thinking of how blessed God has made me throughout the years.  Right now I have everything I ever wanted as a kid.  I grew up to look the way I wanted, I have a car of my own, I work at a library, I've published a book, and I'm still writing.  I have everything I need and more, and it's all because God  has protected me and nurtured me, and has been gracious enough to give me things I could never deserve.  For that, I am so thankful.

Now!  Just for fun I'm going to list the top ten things that come to mind when I think about my coming birthday.  Maybe someday when I'm married and have a ton of kids I'll look back at this and smile.  Or maybe one of my future kids will look at this and say, "Mama, this website looks really, really old!   I can't believe it still exists!"

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I wonder if I'll meet my future husband this year?  Or have I already??  When will he come to me... and how long will it take us to realize we're meant to be?


What kind of cake should I do this year?  I've already had all my favorites at least twice, if not three or four times for all my previous birthdays.


I will now officially be older or as-old-as all of my current female protagonists.  I've still got some male protagonists who surpass me, but not for long.


I should really go through my clothes and evaluate which ones I want to keep.  Some of them I've probably had since I was sixteen.  0_0


I wonder when that 20's-ish "I-suddenly-understand-everything" feeling will start to kick in.   According to the reading I've done, some serious mental development occurs in this next decade for me.   Wonder what that will feel like.


I need to find some college-age events to go to or something.  I'm still hanging out with young teens, which is fine, but it would be nice to get to know some people my age or older.  Especially thinking back to #1 up there....  after all, it's not like Sir Right is just gonna tap on my window sill and say hi.

"What light from yonder window doth break?  It is her lamp, and it's burning my eyes like the sun..."


When I think of it, I can't actually see much changing this year for me.  Barring any unforeseen tragedy, I'll probably pretty much as I've always been.  


I should really, REALLY finish Rise of Ralienah this year.  It's about time!


It seems my twelve-year-old self forgot to write a note for me on my twentieth birthday.  She wrote notes for my older teen-aged self, but somehow she neglected me.  >:(


Maybe that's for the best.  If twelve year old me had known that I would cut our hair and start listening to 80's rock music, she might not have wanted to speak to me anyway.  

But you know, that all started with her.  I was probably twelve years old when I first picked up a mild interest in 70's Christian Rock, so that's what softened me up.  As for the hair, it was time for a cut anyway.  Too heavy to deal with anymore!

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And there we have it!  On Monday, I'll wake up in a new chapter of my life.  So long, teen-aged years.  I had a great time.  ^_^

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-Emmarayn Redding