The Reluctant King

Fantasy/Fairy tale

King Eirdsidh was only twelve years old when he became the ruler of Dhaingneach aah Sithiche. A child. Merely a babe, to the fae whose lives he ruled over. Ten years had passed since then, yet he still felt like a child.

“Again, my Blessed King,” his attendant encouraged.

Eirdsidh grimaced. They all called him that; blessed king. As if he had done anything to deserve such a title. He couldn’t even bring himself to hit a practice target at the end of the field. If incompetence were a person, it would surely look like Eirdsidh of Sithiche.

His agitation grew strong when the attendant, an old Cairn Sidh that protected the ruler in the forests of the Sithiche, handed him another arrow to string on the absurdly long bow that dangled from his fingertips. Eirdsidh hated hunting. He hated death. Yet here he was, practicing archery to lead the wild hunt as the king of the fae was meant to do. Had the rulers of old felt such disdain for the practice or was it only Eirdsidh that found it so repugnant?

Flowers stirred around his feet and vines crept up his legs, reacting as they so often did to the king’s discomfort. It was nature’s blessing, the sign that he was the rightful ruler. Yet it only ever served as a reminder of the burden that had been forced upon him since childhood. He clenched his jaw, shutting his eyes and breathing deeply.

It wasn’t the fault of the flowers that he was irritated. They only meant to provide comfort.

“Must I engage in such a dreadful thing?” Eirdsidh asked at last. He slowly forced himself to relax, sending peaceful energy back into the flowers that loved him so. They clung all the more tight to his body.

“M’lord?” the attendant asked.

He sighed again. “The hunt. It troubles me.”

“It is the duty of the King, to lead in such events,” the attendant insisted. He grinned, though, coal-black eyes flashing with mirth. “Austere Brid once threw a fit and shot a chamberlain. So much did she despise the Hunt, she tried to run away. He told her Queens should do as told, and she grew fast incensed. He dragged her to the training grounds and there she pierced his toe.”

Eirdsidh grinned, truly relaxing at the tale of Queen Brid, his predecessor. “Am I not strange for my distaste?”

“More strange if you agreed,” the attendant assured him.

Eirdsidh nodded, taking comfort that he resembled the well-loved queen in any way. He placed the arrow on the bow and aimed at the target once more. This time, he imagined the bullseye to be the toe of the fusspot chamberlain of old and released. The arrow hit the center mark with a heavy thud.

“A truer shot was never made, oh my Blessed King.” The attendant bowed deeply. The flowers and vines crawled further up Eirdsidh’s body, singing their joy at his pleasure. It was the first time in his life he’d ever felt like a king.

The book I’m writing is a fairy tale with a pixie as the main character. She and her sister have moved away from the land of the fae, but I’ve been thinking a lot about where they came from and the King who once ruled it before the humans gained power in the world. I like my idea of King Eirdsidh and his benevolent nature. Most of the time the fae are either depicted as sweet, innocent creatures or as cruel beings. My vision of the fae in this world is a bit of both, but also neither. Much like nature, I don’t see them as good or bad. They are what they are. Peaceful. Vindictive. Lively. Soothing. The world rarely exists in duality, and I didn’t want the fae in my story to exist that way, either.

This story is a bit of a prelude to my book, and I’ll probably write a few more short stories as a way to cement the history of the world in my head, even if I don’t intend to include any of it in the book itself. Sometimes it’s just nice to know a thing. This particular history of the world may not be directly important to the story overall, but it still has some influence on the way the world looks later on. Maybe next I’ll write a short piece about the end of King Eirdsidh’s reign, which is tragic and meaningful in its own right.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun writing this coming of age story about a young king coming into his own, and I hope you enjoyed it as well. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next week!

Your friend,

CC Lepki

The Forest’s Heart


The forest slept, and my unsteady feet
pursued a path through thicket, thorn, and bush
to long-forgotten shrines of nature’s heart.
With youthful rage and little thought besides,
my hands began a work of ill design–
to burn and break; as I was, deep inside.
As forest’s heart succumbed to ash and fire
and critters fled in fear of wrathful acts–
perpetuated by a foolish child–
the spirits of the forest mourned as one.
Their stirring cries awoke a kindred soul.
Emerging from the depth of night, the war-
rior was tall and fair. A crown of this-
tle tangled in his hair and silver eyes
observed my every move. The knight removed
a golden sword and lashed a mark upon
my skin. He grinned, his mouth too wide and long;
and death itself could not instill such fear.
I fled as fast as stumbling feet would go
into the boughs I once destroyed with glee.
Behind, the calls of wild pursuit came near;
but trees gave shelter I did not deserve
and kept the raging fae from drawing near
until, at last, the knight perceived my lair.
The golden flash of sword ripped through the air;
into my chest, the precious metal plunged.
A sting of fire encroached upon my core
and I awoke amid a plain of ash.
Inside the ring of blackened trees I’d felled,
my smoke-filled lungs expunged themselves at last.
The hunt of night before was but a dream,
and yet my weary thoughts could not forsake
the memory of shelter in the dark.
I plunged my hands into the ashy soil
and grew myself amid the ruined earth.

It’s been a while since I’ve written in iambic pentameter, but I decided to try it out again as practice for a book I’m about to write where certain characters only speak in iambic. It’s a fun exercise either way, and I hope you all enjoy what I was able to come up with this time.

I love the idea of a character finding respite in a place she tried to destroy and then mourning for the destruction that she caused. The last line, where she says she grew herself, was purposefully ambiguous. The story is a fairy tale, so I wanted the reader to decide whether growing herself was a reference to emotional maturity or if it was literal growth as the narrator became a tree to replace what she’d taken from the world.

Some of my writing practice from here on out will most likely include themes of nature and magic while I’m working on my current book. I tend to focus my writing practice on certain elements that will be helpful in crafting the themes and prose of whatever larger story I’m trying to tell. This type of practice also builds a certain level of excitement in me with regard to the books I write. It’s always exciting to try out new things that I might be able to use to improve my prose.

Anyway, thank you so much for reading my poem! I’ll see you again next week with something new!

Your friend,

CC Lepki



The forest wept quietly around Zephyr. He closed his eyes and breathed as the rain pelted his skin. Rainy weather never bothered him, but there was something hypnotic about the asymmetrical rhythm that it drummed into his hide.

“I told you last time, you’ll not get another ounce until I see payment for the last batch.” The man was heavily armed. He wore a waxed cloak that made the water bead and roll as it touched him.

“I could take it from you,” Zephyr growled.

The man scoffed. “You’ll get no more if I’m gone. We both know it. Who else but me would bother coming to your infernal forest?”

Zephyr growled, but the man wasn’t wrong. He prided himself on keeping the most dangerous forest in all of the Eastern Continent. No human in his right mind would dare encroach on Zephyr’s forest. Which probably said something about the man who now stood before Zephyr with the gall to withhold the thing that he most desired.

“If you haven’t got a way to pay then we’re done, here,” the man said.

Zephyr panicked. He reached out one massive forepaw and snatched the man off the ground. A high-pitched squeal tore from the man’s throat as his feet left the ground.

“Don’t go.” He meant for it to be a command. It was supposed to be a command. Instead, the words that ripped out of Zephyr’s chest came as a desperate plea. “I need it.”

The man breathed heavily, his skin pale and sweaty. He tried to speak. Failed. Cleared his throat, then tried again. “Then you must pay.”

Zephyr set the man on the ground gently. “Wait here. I will return shortly.”

He turned and loped through the forest to a nearby cave. A host of creatures scurried away at his approach. Jackalopes skittered into their dens. Wrens and dryads hid amongst trees and bushes. A lone dire wolf yelped and disappeared into a thicket of trees. Zephyr dove into the massive cave and breathed heavily. A spout of flame burst from his maw to light up his cave.

Once, the cave floor was lined with gold, diamonds, and precious gems. Great scrolls and magical texts lined the walls. He’d slept atop heaps of treasures from near and far. Now it was empty of nearly his entire hoard of treasures. Save for one.

He’d been a mere hatchling when the adventurer stumbled into his cave. He slew Zephyr’s mother and attempted to take her treasures for himself. Zephyr took the man’s murderous arms first. His hunger sated, he crippled the adventurer and enjoyed him slowly over the course of several days. When naught was left but a pile of armor and bones, Zephyr took the magical sword that the adventurer had used to pierce his mother’s flesh and he kept it. His very first prize. His first treasure. And his last.

Zephyr brought the magical sword to the man who waited patiently in the woods. The man jumped to his feet when Zephyr emerged from the weeping woods with a glowing sword between his teeth like a toothpick. He spat it at the man’s feet.

“This will be more than enough to cover my debt,” Zephyr snarled. “As well as the next few batches.”

The man stared down at the sword and smiled. “Indeed, it is.” He picked the sword from the ground and carefully tucked it into his belt before removing a pouch from an inner pocket and tossing it gently up to the monster who waited eagerly for the prize. “Try not to use it all at once.”

Zephyr barely noticed the man’s departure. His entire mind was focused on the small purple pouch before him. Glimmergreed. It was a drug that Zephyr has first tried only six months before. Even small traces of it could kill a human instantly. But for a dragon, it was bliss.

He took a small crystal between two claws and popped it into his vast maw. The colors of the forest grew more vibrant. He could suddenly spot fairies dancing on the treetops, celebrating the gloriously rainy day. His entire body vibrated with ecstasy. This was better than any heap of gold or treasure he could imagine.

Of course, it would run out soon enough. He had no more treasure to trade for the stuff. A shiver of panic ran through his spiny back and made his leathery wings flutter. Something would need to be done before then.

The man had mentioned a castle town, not far away. He called it the capital of the something or another kingdom. Zephyr barely remembered the rise and fall of human kingdoms. But kingdoms held treasures. And treasures could buy him more Glittergreed.

Zephyr popped another crystal into his mouth and shuddered with pleasure. Yes, perhaps it was time to venture into the human realm once more. For a good cause, of course.

The Bagman


The forest temple was crumbling. Stone walls had long since given way to creeping vines and crushing tree roots that upended the floor tiles and crushed the worn old stone benches surrounding the altar.

The altar itself was hewn out of dark wood and surrounded by thorns. The tips of the thorns were covered in the blood of sacrifices long since forgotten. Piles of bones littered the floor and coated everything in fine white dust that clung to the tongue and choked the lungs.

Erowyn stood in the crumbling entrance of the temple, her mouth dry. The druid elder said this was the only place left where her soul could be cleansed. She needed the power the druids had to offer. Soon, the lich king would send his armies to the east and destroy the last stronghold of civilization. The druids held the power to overcome the lich king’s armies, but they would not part with it easily.

She stepped forward into the temple and unseen energy hummed. It was as if the walls themselves could peer into her soul. They knew her. They’d counted her every breath, seen to the heart of every thought. Erowyn’s skin pricked and the hair on her arms raised on end. Every instinct told her to flee this ungodly place.

One foot carefully stepped forward between a pair of vines. The other foot followed, just a baby step ahead. The altar came closer, bit by bit. Erowyn took a shaky breath. She could do this.

As she approached, wary of traps hidden among the thick vines and undergrowth that marred the temple floor, she noticed a simple bag perched at the center of the thorn-covered altar. It was made of worn, bare leather, but every stitch thrummed with power. It lay open on its side where she could see the distinctive ochre drawstring tipped with a golden feather. She stopped moving. Her breath hitched.

“Oh gods.” She rushed forward, snatching the bag of holding from the table. Tears poured down her face as she held the bag carefully so as not to jostle it too much. “Telor?”

She hadn’t uttered his name in months. The pain of his memory was too great for her to bear. But here it was, at last: the very bag of holding in which her best friend had escaped when their party had been overcome by the Lich King’s scouting party in the Marshes of Everden. The bag had been ripped from Erowyn’s hands and carried away, her friend along with it.

“Telor, I’m so sorry,” she cried into the open mouth of the bag. “Please come out. Please be alive. I need you.” She dropped to her knees. “Telor, please come to me. Follow my voice. It’s all my fault. We could have saved you. I should have saved you. Telor!”

A hand shot out of the bag. Erowyn dropped it, startled, and scrabbled away.

“Telor?” she asked. Hope and dread sank into her chest, warring with one another as whatever creature had answered her call scratched and clawed, trying to gain purchase on the crumbling stone floor of the temple.

The skin of the hand was pale like death, waxy and bloodless. The bones protruded, starved as the creature was. It hefted itself out of the bag, inch by inch. The arms were sickly thin. The hair on its head was long and filthy. The creature’s cheeks were sunken and its eyes were milky white. Clothes hung off of its emaciated body, faded and tattered.

He still wore the chainmail that Hildegard of Nighttown sold him. It had her sigil on the chest. And the tunic shirt he wore under it was a gift that Erowyn had woven from the fibers of healing herbs. His favorite dagger hung from the beat-up belt that still adorned his waist.

Erowyn sobbed and scrabbled to pull her yew wand off of her belt. “Telor. No. Please, no.”

Telor, or the creature that used to be Telor, was still only halfway out of the bag. His sightless eyes swiveled in her direction and he growled. He clawed his hands over the floor, dragging himself toward Erowyn.

Her hands shook. Every spell, every cantrip she’d ever memorized, was gone from her head as if they had never been. “Telor, please stop. I can’t do this.”

The creature was already halfway across the temple floor, his grunts of effort increasing the closer he came to the terrified woman.

“What happened to you?” she asked desperately. Her back was against the wall. There was nowhere she could go to escape him.

Pale white fingers closed around her ankle and his mouth dropped open as if to scream. Instead, a string of sounds issued from his throat as if spoken from far away.

“With me. Come with me. Join me.” He yanked at Erowyn’s ankle and she slid away from the wall.

“No!” Erowyn screamed, trying to yank her ankle free. “Telor, no! Please!”

His grip was too strong. She slid across the floor, going ever closer to the bag from which he was not able to fully escape.

It was her fault. If she had only been strong enough. If she hadn’t been so reckless in seeking out the Lich King, none of this would have ever happened. Erowyn wept and leaned forward to place her hand over Telor’s cold fingers.

“I know I deserve this,” she whispered. “I left you to die. I would do anything to take it back.”

“Then come,” he groaned. “Be with me.”

Erowyn smiled through her tears. “I wish I could, Telor. But there is more that must be done.” She raised her yew wand and released a spell that blasted Telor back into the bag of holding. Tears spilling down her cheeks, she crawled forward and cinched the drawstring tight, closing her friend inside forever.

“Forgive me, Telor,” she begged, holding the bag to her forehead. “One day, I promise I will free you for good. Wait for me.”

Erowyn tied the pouch to her belt and climbed up from the floor. All the mysterious energy from the druidic temple had fled, and she was at last alone. She allowed herself a moment of silence in the quiet forest. At last, with the final vestiges of fear drained away, she left the temple. It was time to seek the druid elders and receive the power for which she was due.

It was time to end the Lich King’s reign. She had a promise to keep.

Florence Everley’s Book Emporium


The air smelled like fresh ink and warm paper. Light filtered through stained glass to adorn the spines of row upon row of books in the packed bookstore. There was no particular organization to the books that lined the shelves. In some places, romance books were double-stacked against treatises on human rights. Adventures lay next to tragedies stacked on top of instruction manuals. But for the regular patrons of the store, it didn’t seem to matter. There was something special about Florence Everley’s Book Emporium, but no one could quite define it. No one who came to the bookstore ever left without finding exactly the book that they needed.

A harassed-looking father stormed into the shop with a baby slung across his chest in a carrier and a series of shopping bags loading him down like a pack mule. He looked around the bookstore in confusion before stomping up to the front desk. His eyes were wide and frenzied.

“Where is the children’s section? I need to find the Moo Moo Achoo book,” he demanded.

Florence smiled warmly. “If you take a moment to look around, I’m certain you’ll find what you need.”

“But-” he spun around, then turned back to her. “I’m really in a hurry. My wife will kill me if I don’t get the book.”

The woman smiled again, her face soft and comforting. “It won’t take but a moment. I can help you with the baby while you look.” She held out her hands and the man stared at her for a moment before sighing.

“Yeah, actually, that would be great.” He set his bags down next to the front desk and carefully handed off the sleeping child. “Is there…anywhere I should start? I don’t see any sections.”

“Why don’t you try in the back?” she suggested. “I have a feeling you won’t be disappointed.”

The man walked to the back of the store, his eyes catching on titles here and there as he went. As he walked among the quiet bookshelves his shoulders began to relax and he smiled, remembering the many days he spent lost among the books at the library in the town where he grew up. His mother used to take him there every weekend and she would spend hours reading him stories.

He stopped walking. There, sitting on a shelf in front of him, was an old children’s book about a stuffed rabbit that lost its way trying to get back to the child it loved. For a moment, he was completely lost for words. It had been his favorite story, growing up. He’d never been able to find a copy of it, before. Couldn’t even remember the title. But the moment he laid eyes on the cover, he knew that this was the story he loved.

The man picked up the book and flipped through the pages, tears coming to his eyes at the fond memories of the time spent with his mother. He’d lost her when he was only a teenager. Seeing the book now, after all these years, made him feel like she was with him again, if only for the moment.

“Have you found what you need?” Florence asked. She bounced the baby lightly in her arms, and the baby cooed happily at the movement.

He turned toward her with a gracious smile. “Yeah. This is exactly what I needed.”

Florence smiled. “Books have a way of finding people, here. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll get you settled.”

“Yeah. That sounds great.” He followed the woman back to the front of the shop with the book clutched close to his chest.

The Last Fare

Writing Exercise

“Why am I here?”

The woman wore pajamas, her feet adorned with unicorn slippers. A taxi rumbled quietly in front of her. The window rolled down and the driver tipped his hat. “Ma’am? I can take you where you need to go.”

She pressed her lips together and nodded at the man’s kindness. “I want to go home.”

The taxi doors opened and warmth poured out. She hadn’t realized how cold she was. With a relieved sigh, she settled into the back seat.

“It’s been a difficult night,” the driver commented. “But you’re safe, now.”

“I must have been sleepwalking,” the woman whispered. She sat up straight, suddenly worried. “My wallet! It’s not with me. I can’t pay you for the ride!”

The driver laughed, a comforting sound that cut through her panic. “It’s fine, my dear. If you dig around in the seat, I’m sure you’ll find something to give me.”

She ran her fingers along the seams of the seats. The two copper pennies jammed in the cushions were shiny and new.

“It’s not much,” the woman admitted. She handed the pennies to the driver, who examined them with a sad smile.

“Don’t worry, dear. It’s enough.”

Hot Air

Writing Exercise

Blood flows from her nose.

“I-I’m warning you,” she stutters.

The boy in front of her laughs. “What are you gonna do, Oxy? Blow a puff of air at me?” His hand ignites with flames. “Even for an air manipulator, you’ve always been weak.”

“I’m not an air manipulator,” Oxy says. Her eyes flick over to the panel of bored judges. They don’t think she deserves to be a student at Olympia Heights Academy, the foremost school for metahuman studies in the country. It’s why they paired her with Pyrotech for the entrance exam.

Pyro rushes forward. He’s stronger. Faster. He pins her to the ground, raining blows against her face and chest that sear her skin. Oxy screams in agony.

“You can barely make the air move, Oxy,” Pyro laughs, one arm poised savagely overhead. “You really think you’re enough?”

“I told you, I don’t manipulate air.” Through a mouthful of blood, Oxy grins. “I manipulate oxygen.”

His flaming hand erupts as the pure oxygen she shoves around his body ignites.

Pyro lands on the other side of the testing field, unconscious. Oxy lays flat on the ground, breathing heavily. After a long, exhausted moment, she stands with shaking legs. She glares at the shocked judges.

“And yeah. I’m enough.”

Gnarly P.I.

Writing Exercise

Gnarly cracked open a bottle of Brosia and poured the frothing mixture into a pair of empty glasses. He lifted one up in his grubby, mole bedecked fist to pass to the tall drink of water who’d poured herself into his office. Of course, Gnarly was a gnome, so just about anyone could be a tall drink of water compared to him. Even so, this skyscraper of a human woman could put any of the high elves in Manhattan to shame.

Her eyes were dusky brown under long, curly lashes. Full, pink lips sat perfectly above a small, pointed chin. A cascade of curly black hair framed her heart-shaped face. She was a looker, and she knew it.

“Please,” she begged, blinking down at him through tear-soaked eyes. “You gotta help me, Detective Gnarly. They said you were the only one who could.”

Gnarly pressed the glass of Brosia into the woman’s hands and downed his own glass in one gulp. “I don’t do that no more, sweetheart. Hadn’t you heard? I’m retired.” He gestured with the empty glass toward the framed page of the New York Times that held a position of honor on his wall.

“Little Person Detective Caught Fencing Ancient Artifacts.”

“Little person,” Gnarly muttered. “Pah! If only they knew.” He kicked the leg of his chair, jerking it out from under the desk, and hopped on. He settled in with a disgruntled growl. “This city don’t believe in people like me.”

The woman clutched the glass of Brosia desperately to her chest and got down on her knees in front of him. “I believe in you,” she said, her voice a mere whisper. “I believe. Please, you gotta help me.”

“Help you with what?” Gnarly was nearly at the edge of his patience, which was actually considerably high for a Goblin.

“It’s the Wanderkin,” the woman whispered, her eyes wide like saucers. “The Wanderkin took my sister.”

Gnarly sat bolt upright in his chair. “Don’t you dare say that name out loud,” he said, his voice trembling in terror. “Don’t you dare.”

The woman whimpered. “It’s back. It’s back.”

“No. It’s not. It can’t be.”

Co-writing a Story with AI


This story snippet was written using AI Dungeon, a game that uses AI to guide your adventures. Everything written in blue was written by the AI and everything in black is my own contributions to the story. I had a lot of fun using the free version of the game, and it’s definitely a game I’d like to eventually return to and see how a full story might play out. I hope you enjoy this first attempt!

You are Puck, a rogue living in the kingdom of Larion. You have a long steel dagger and a length of rope. You walk down the city street looking for somewhere to steal from. You look around and see a shop window full of beautiful vases. You think to yourself ” Vases? What sort of thief are you?” but then you see a little dagger that you think would look nice on your belt. 

You walk up to the window and look at the dagger in your hands. It is a beautiful weapon, made of blue-glazed steel. You place the dagger in your belt and then slip inside the window.

The shop is mostly empty with only a sleepy shopkeeper and a handful of customers idling about. You keep to the shadows, out of sight, and slowly make your way toward the beautiful blade that would make a lovely match for the dagger already attached to your hip.

The display case is at the far corner of the store.

You wait for a customer to distract the shopkeeper, then quietly slip next to the case. The lid lifts easily without a noise, and you withdraw your new dagger. It has the same blue-glazed steel as the one already on your hip, but a curious amber gem adorns the pommel; too fine a piece to be left in a ramshackle shop such as this.

You grip the hilt in your hand, and make sure that the dagger is securely fastened to your belt.

You slip out the front door, and back onto the street. You have your prize.

You walk slowly down the city streets, keeping a close eye on the crowds.

You are Puck, a thief, and you have an important mission to perform.

The merchant’s guild has been fencing in stolen goods, lately. Normally Puck wouldn’t mind, but it caught the attention of the thieves guild. The thieves guild had made it Puck’s business to find out who was behind the black trade and why the thieves guild had yet to receive their cut.

After all, it wasn’t like stealing from small time merchants was really all that profitable. You say “I am ever the loyal dog.” You decide to let the dagger that is already on your belt do the talking and head in the direction of the guild.