YA fantasy fiction, clean books for teens, shape-shifting, magic kingdoms, elemental abilities, indie publication, princesses, fairy tales, nanowrimo winner, desert setting
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Bonus material

Sterling Smelt

Posted by Christie V Powell on October 19, 2016 at 1:25 PM

A year after "The Spectra Unearthed" ends, Sterling Smelt is still feeling its effects... 

Sterling endured an hour of the celebration marking the anniversary of his brother’ s death. Crowds thronged around the storytellers, begging to be told how the evil tyrant Jasper was overthrown by his valiant cousin, our beloved king. The story unfurled in all its splendor, with great battles and contests of bravery, every stitch of evidence unearthed that would fit into the proper form. The children gasped and cheered in all the right places, the adults nodded and told each other that was exactly how it was. But they were wrong. The storytellers told no falsehoods, and yet somehow in their simplified story, they missed everything.

A spear of black obsidian pierced the sky above their heads, its glossy side scarred by the names of Jasper’ s victims. Despite its demanding presence, none of the happy crowd even glanced upward. Sterling ran a rough hand over the rock as he found the names of people he knew. Like Eben Finix, not quite sixteen, proud of the wispy beard that made him look older. Or Bruno Pierce, quiet but occasionally making some dry remark that would send his companions into gales of laughter.

Real people. Real personalities, real stories, real potential for everything wonderful in life. All gone.

Cheery music wafted from a nearby bandstand, and many of the children were dancing, free and safe and alive, while their carefree feet crushed flowers that the families of victims had planted that morning. Orange daylily flowers. Blooming one day and gone the next. They were Jasper’ s favorite, but no one knew that. No one knew he might have been up on that bandstand with his banjo, given enough encouragement. No one knew.

The Unshod Professor

Posted by Christie V Powell on March 5, 2016 at 2:30 AM


Professor Brand Flinten arrived for the opening of the Stienfry Institute of Science with bare feet beneath his proper scholar’s uniform. The fashion statement brought curious looks from students and professional scientists alike; Professor Flinten is well-known for his professionalism and neat demeanor. Curious glances from the bright hope-filled faces of future students did not ruffle his calm demeanor.


After the ceremony, Flinten explained, “I wanted to recognize the impact that crossovers like myself have had on our culture, to expose anti-crossover persecution across the country, and to give hope to others like me.” Many know of Flinten’s contributions to the field of science and the hundreds of students he has inspired, but few know of the difficulties that have shrouded his past.


Brand Flinten was born in the year 216, ten years before the Crossover Protection Act that forbade the abandonment or killing of crossover children. At the age of six, he came into his abilities and his parents discovered that he was a Cole. Like many others of the time, they abandoned him in the desert rather than admit that they had produced a non-Nome child. He was picked up by a sympathetic family and sent to live at the Colony, a safe haven for unwanted children. His advisors, Sterling Smelt and Jewel Stienfry, noticed his intellect and questioning mind and gave him the best educational opportunities available in their humble colony. He kept a garden despite the harsh desert conditions, even developing several new varieties of corn.


As a young man, Flinten attempted to attain an education, but was denied at every institute because of his clan. He earned money by painting houses, doing laundry, and any menial task he could find, but even with the money in hand he was unaccepted at every college. At last he moved to the Cole Kingdom and found a college that was glad to take him. He graduated with the highest honors available and returned to the Nomelands to teach his fellow crossovers.


Flinten retained his thirst for knowledge. He continued studying out of the royal library and conducted interviews and experiments on his own. His hard work eventually paid off and he is regarded today as the father of modern agriculture.


Kings and councilors alike have praised him, and letters arrive from across the continent demanding advice. He was the natural choice for headmaster of the new Steinfry Institute of Science. Yet, despite the temptation to turn his back on his troubled past, his first steps over the threshold of the first Nome school to accept him were taken in dusty, well-worn feet.


A Meeting: the Rives and the Overground

Posted by Christie V Powell on October 31, 2015 at 2:20 AM

Nomelands, near Misia village, year 223

Four pairs of already gritty hands thrust into the sand as their owners giggled and told stories. Ruby was the first to discover that the sand could be shaped, and so, naturally, she was in charge. Lucy, deemed old enough to help shape the castle, was doing most of the giggling and story-telling, while Ruby’s little sister Amber was relegating to moat digging. Her clever hands scooped and piled, creating bridges and lookouts, wide ponds for fishing and narrow channels that would have held the water, if they had any to spare on these things. Clarence was not invited to help, but he was more interested in dumping sand on his own head, where his blonde curls clung to it and refused to let go.

Under the shade of a nearby cottonwood tree, two mothers kept watch. Opal, too young to be their mother but trying anyway, scanned the empty desert for tale-tell dust plumes that would give away enemy patrols. This was second nature to the 16-year-old, so much so that she could keep watch for enemies and observe the children at the same time. Ruby and Amber had had few enough joyful moments, as Opal and her friends sought some way to keep them and other abandoned children safe.

Helena, once princess of Lectranis, leaned against the tree’s trunk, her eyes fastened on her children as she and Opal talked about nothing in particular. Hands that had once been fair were spattered with calluses and small burns and scrapes, yet they waved with enthusiasm as she spoke. Her homespun trousers and short hairstyle would have shocked her parents, but Helena was always good at doing things her own way.

A step further away, where distance muted the shrieks and laughter of the children, two men conducted business. Sandy, barely out of boyhood, wiped unkempt hair from eyes that shone with newborn hope. Luke Rives smiled with his whole face, a perfect match to his little daughter Lucy, now adding a creosote stick for a castle flag. The men shook hands, Sandy with a hand brown and leathery from exposure to the harsh desert sun, Luke’s broad with crescents of dirt under each nail.

A scream louder than the rest grabbed all attention. Clarence was stomping on what had been a carefully sculpted sand castle, and three girls circled around, howling, unwilling to forgive but not quite ready for retribution among so many witnesses. The theatrics demonstrated to the women that the gathering was over. They separated into two groups, bid farewell, and disappeared into the dusty landscape.


Rusty's Story

Posted by Christie V Powell on October 3, 2015 at 8:40 PM

At first I wanted to write a short story about Rusty, but he was not cooperating. He did at least give this interview to little Mason Smelt. -CVP

Me? What do you want to know about me for? I haven’t left this place in forty years—nothing interesting happens to me. Sure, I’ve heard plenty, seen plenty, and I can tell you about those. Want to hear about your uncle’s escape from the dungeon he grew up in? What do mean, he’s already told you? Well, you’re not hearing anything more interesting than that from me.

Yes, that’s true, I haven’t always lived at the hidden palace. I started out in the capital city. I was the youngest son of the Nome king. Ha, didn’t know we’re related, did you? Yep, we’re… let me see… your father’s father’s father’s brother… oh, forget it. I wouldn’t want you calling me uncle anyway.

What do you mean, finish the story? I told you already I don’t have much of a story. My parents wanted to make sure they had plenty of spare princes, just in case, and so I ended up the youngest of six boys. And what do you know, every single one of them lived. Good for them, not so good for me. Some of mixed with the nobility. One bought a mine down south and became the richest of all of us… oh, the fights he had with your grandpa… great-grandpa… whatever… all about taxes and regulations and all sorts of big words. Nah, that wasn’t for me. I liked playing nobility sometimes, but all the time? I don’t think so. Now that was power. I could play nobility like the best of them, looking down my nose and talking big and wearing the right fashions. And inside I’m laughing my head off at the ridiculousness of it all. I could play servant pretty good too. Acted as Seven’s butler one day and he didn’t even notice the difference. Seven? That’s Clayton the Seventh. My oldest brother. You’re lucky they lost that tradition, eh? Want to be Tanner the second? Steiner the third? Oh, right… that is awkward… well, never mind.

Some other old geezer ran the hidden palace back then. Don’t remember his name at all, he was the kind of guy who didn’t do anything, just told everyone else how to do it. But when I was in my twenties, he passed away, and I saw an opportunity. To manage the palace would be perfect. I could play nobility in front of the visitors, a servant behind closed doors, and then have long quiet stretches without any visitors at all when I could be whatever I wanted. And the stories I hear! The people I’ve met! I tell you, this is the perfect job. Convincing my parents wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you that. I couldn’t just outright ask, not them. You think your Pa’s bad with the formality, you should have seen mine! Tanner’s a cushion next to the old rulers. So I had to go about it very carefully, putting hints in all the right places, very carefully…

Wait a minute, what am I doing? Teaching you to manipulate your elders? Oh no, I don’t think so. Going to get me in trouble, that’s what you’re going to do. No, no, not another word. Not a one. Not unless you want to hear some other story. Want to hear about when I entertained a pair of Stygians under this roof? What do you mean you’ve already heard it? And don't call me uncle.


Jewel's Choice

Posted by Christie V Powell on

I remember, before my oldest was born, people telling me how motherhood would feel. “It’s amazing,” they said. “You’ll want to give the baby anything. You’d be willing to die for him.”

I’m sitting now on a dusty floor of a cave deep in the mountains. The sun is just rising but the air is still chilled. The small blanket across my shoulders is barely anything, yet I can’t seem to force myself to get up and put it down. I will have to, soon. My son will awaken and we both need to eat. Better to gather the wild plants we need now, before the sun gets too high and the desert air becomes so hot your soul seems to melt through your pores.

At home, I had a comfortable bed. Thick brick walls that reflected the worst of the heat. Staples in the cupboards that I could combine into a million different dishes. Friends. Children. Halvard.

By my side, Dale stirs. His elbow brushes my side. The cave was uncomfortably small when he was eight. Now, two years later, we barely fit. His shaggy dark hair falls into his eyes. He has his father’s features, though I am told his dark eyes resemble mine. Easier to see is his resemblance to his siblings’: all five are dark haired, but Dale and Nedra are lighter than the others. I compare them often, when he’s asleep. He was once paler than the others but our years in the desert have darkened his skin. He was always the lightest, fast on his feet, slim and trim. Scrawny, Halvard said, and insisted the boy exercise and eat more, to get him to the solid build of the others. I blamed it on his being the baby: the other four are much older. He was a happy surprise, and what did it matter to me if he were a bit small?

We waited eagerly for Dale’s debut day, when his abilities would surface. Halvard was already suspicious. I was eager to prove him wrong. He even brought up the options, if our son were a crossover. Abandonment. Petrification. With our climate so inhospitable, which would be most merciful? I was angry at the talk. Dale is small. That meant nothing. No freckles, no unusual hair. Just small. Just a baby.

I remember the look on his face. Pure joy. He held a wire sculpture in his hands, a mass of little wires that buzzed when I touched it. “Very nice,” I said, “but don’t show Daddy.”


I could not answer. How could I tell him that his special talent made him guilty? My silence proved our undoing, for he showed Halvard when my back was turned. I won’t recount the arguments. The tears. The hate where love had been. My older children had their own families. Halvard had friends, yes, friends who would have disdained his different boy. But Dale had no one. No one but me.

His eyes open. His face is too thin, his skin course from the sun, but he is alive. “Morning, Momma,” he says, bouncing to his feet. Where does that energy come from? Did he somehow siphon off all of mine? I remove the blanket from my shoulders, straighten my ragged dress, and stand. Out on the desert we will find food. We have a rusty pump—once a spring, but Dale had assembled garbage to create the pump that brought us water all year. All two years. He’s got a gift, my boy.

My friends were wrong. I am not willing to die for my boy. I give him not a single act but an eternity of choices, day by day, moment by moment. I live for my boy.