Hello arts and crafts enthusiasts, festival goers, and lost souls!
Do you see those lights in the distance? No, they’re not stars, my dear. I do hope you have your scissors and candles ready! Because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
The paper lantern originated in China and quickly became a recognized decoration throughout several Asian cultures. There are many Asian festivals that celebrate with them. In China the Shangyuan Festival is speculated to celebrate the supreme Chinese deity of the heavens, or the Taoist god of good fortune. Others believe the red lanterns were a trick to make the Jade Emperor, or a fiery fairy, believe a town they were going to set on fire was already on fire. In Sri Lanka, during Vesak people hang colorful “vesak kuudu” that symbolize the guiding light of the Buddha.
But Asia isn’t the only place that celebrates with lanterns anymore: in New Mexico, the Christmas tradition of luminaria (or farolitos) has lanterns that act as a guiding light for the Christ child. In Germany, for Sankt Martin’s day, kindergarten-age children parade through town singing songs, carrying paper and carton lanterns suspended from the end of wooden sticks, which they often craft themselves.
Another type of lantern you might see are sky lanterns, allegedly invented by a man called Kongming. In China, they’ve been used for festivals, but also for sending signals and messages during war. In Taiwan, one district holds a lantern festival in which people release sky lanterns to send wishes and messages to God. In Thailand, the Lanna people use sky lanterns year-round; their release symbolizes problems and worries floating away.
Speaking of floating away, there are also water lanterns, paper lanterns that float on the water’s surface. In India, they are released on many festivals and holidays for many reasons: as an act of worship, to send disasters away, to welcome happiness, even to pray for a good marriage. In many parts of Asia where Buddhism is practiced, people release water lanterns to guide wayward spirits and hungry ghosts to the afterlife.
But you don’t have to write about a known festival from our world. You could create a fictional fantasy festival that uses paper lanterns in its celebration. Much like in Tangled how paper lanterns are a celebration of Rapunzel’s birthday, as well as a mourning for her loss, and a call for her to return. Or like in Terraria, how lanterns go across your screen the night after you defeat a boss. To my knowledge, paper lanterns at large aren’t associated with a sole emotion/celebration, so you could use them for all sorts of events. Maybe a funeral uses water lanterns. Perhaps a married couple lights off lanterns after a wedding. Maybe a fictional city celebrates the defeating of a dragon with lighting lanterns.
Your paper lanterns don’t have to be the ones used for festivals either. The prompt relays the idea of a lantern made of paper, and this could mean many things. There are lanterns with a spinning mechanism, which show pictures on the walls, and I’m sure these could be made of paper. It could be an origami lantern a child makes in class. Or simply a drawing of a lantern on paper. Maybe this drawing will come to life? You could write about a world made of paper, so of course any lantern there would be made of paper—everything is!
Maybe other objects could be described as a paper lanterns. Hot air balloons work much like paper lanterns do, just on another scale. Perhaps you could describe the silk as a sort of paper? Maybe a letter burning in the fireplace could be described metaphorically as a lantern. As long as you find a strong enough connection to the paper aspect, you could draw comparisons of many burning objects to lanterns. Could even a dragon, who breathes fire, be described as a lantern of sorts? Maybe its skin has the texture of paper?
Lanterns can easily be associated with spirits. Maybe they ward against evil spirits, or trap them like bug nets. Or perhaps it’s not fire that lights the lanterns, but rather little spirits fly within them. Are the spirits delighted by their new transport? Is a festival hosted to honor their release? Or maybe the spirits ARE the lanterns. It might look like there’s a paper lantern floating in the distance, when really it’s a will o’ wisp trying to lead you astray.
A paper lantern could be a symbol. Some lanterns are made of metal and glass, but the interesting thing about paper lanterns is that the fire could easily burn the paper around it. It’s a delicate balance where the fire is just far enough from the paper to make it rise instead of destroying it. Water lanterns add another element to this symbol; the fire is so close to burning up the paper, and the water is so close to snuffing out the fire. The water might save the paper from the fire…but it would destroy the paper too, in a different way. Perhaps you could use these ideas as metaphors in your story.
Another symbol it could stand for is a book. The words upon the pages spark the human imagination like a match, or pass on ideas like a torch. A paper lantern could even be a symbol for a person—or any living being, really—a soul housed within a fragile vessel. Perhaps you could write about how the fires of our own ambitions and passions—or even love—can sometimes burn us up with them.
My challenge for you this week is to use this as an opportunity to explore other cultures through your writing. Pick one of the uses mentioned above, or something you can find in your own research, and write a story about it!
Remember, these challenges aren’t mandatory! They are meant to be a fun bonus if you’d like to have a little extra challenge. But, if you don’t want to use them, please don’t feel obligated to!
There! Our lantern is ready! Now, let it go, and make a wish as you watch it float away.
—Derek, Pearce, Paul & Kaylie
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Saturday at 3:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
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“To Snuff Out the Wicked Flame”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
Chandra panted as the soft moonlike light of her jellyfish shikigami floated beside her. This exorcism was tough. And it wasn’t because of the hososhi’s natural strength. No, this kegare, this spiritual pollution, was unlike anything she had seen before. The hososhi stood tall, the east-facing of his four eyes falling on her. His body writhed in agony, his fangs bared, and his mouth foamed. The symbol on his chest burned through his kimono: three lines of equal length in a column with the second line broken in half.
Chandra knew this symbol. The trigram of fire. Why such a symbol would be appearing on a possessed yokai’s chest, she didn’t know. The onmyoji sighed. Three purification talismans hadn’t been enough to purge the kegare from the hososhi. A fourth wouldn’t help.
Just as the talisman entered her hand, the hososhi crouched like a snake ready to pounce. His already red skin glowed even redder and steam emitted from his pores. With alarming alacrity, the possessed yokai charged Chandra and slammed his fist into her navel. The onmyoji fell to one knee, the force of the blow pushing her back. The part of her robes over her stomach burned away, leaving an angry red mark. Chandra quickly patted out the flames and dodged another punch, a gout of fire missing her by millimeters.
The possessed hososhi skidded to a halt, falling to all fours like some sort of beast. Chandra panted. This was bad. If he hit her again… The onmyoji shuddered. She didn’t want to think about it, and she didn’t have the time. The hososhi already crouched, ready for another charge. Chandra racked through her mind.
‘The kegare manifested as fire.’
The possessed yokai sprang forth, fist engulfed in flame.
‘Water destroys fire. And the body stores water energy…’
The punch soared towards Chandra’s exposed stomach, but she swayed out of the way.
‘In the pelvis!’
With the flick of her wrist, Chandra slapped a talisman on the hososhi’s thigh. The possessed yokai flew forward with the inertia of his dodged blow before hitting the ground face first.
A Good Memory (Chronicles of The Dragon)
“Hey, knock knock.” Jonathan said, rapping a knuckle against his little step-sister’s bedroom door, and pushing it open.
“Jonathan! You’re back!” Jostica cheered, setting her homework down and running over. “Did Mom and Dad see you yet? They were MAD when you didn’t come home last night.” She peeked around him and down the hall before grinning. “Were you with Caitlyn?” she asked with a sing song tone.
Jonathan rolled his eyes. “No.” Then he leaned towards her and put a finger to his lips, “But if they ask that’s exactly where I was.”
Jostica’s eyes lit up as she realized she was brought into a secret. She didn’t know what it was, but she was part of it now.
“More importantly, while I was gone I saw a store with all these cool knickknacks.” He pulled a bag from behind his back and walked over to set it down on her desk. “I couldn’t afford any of the stuff that was supposed to be magic, but I did find this…”
He pulled out a paper cylinder that was covered in swirls of color, and had a strange top that kind of reminded her of a fan. Next he removed a thin wire frame and a candle.
“Do you know what it is?”
“Is it…like a nightlight?”
“Kind of, but I wouldn’t recommend using it as one.” He put the candle in the frame, and then hung the cylinder over it, before giving it a spin and looking at Jostica.
“Oh! It’s going put the patterns on the wall when the candle is lit!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands. “There are matches in the kitchen, I’ll be right back!”
“Wait you don’t-” he stopped as she was already down the steps. He gave the lantern a spin.
When she came back up candle had been lit and was casting patterns of galaxies and nebulae on her walls.
“Oooh! It’s so pretty!” But then pouted. “I wanted to light it though.”
“Oh, well, here,” and he reached out to the candle with his bare hand.
The Spirits Around Us
by Gerrit (Rattus)
Yaichi stared out the window of the ship at the distant stars. He remembered countless nights of his childhood staring up at them, dreaming of one day being among them. He hadn’t realized how far away they were, then. He’d imagined himself weaving between them in a ship of his own, so close he could feel their heat. Still, there was a beauty in the unhindered view he now found himself with.
The pinprick lights that broke up the dark expanse reminded Yaichi of the lantern festival back home. If memory served him correctly, that should be coming up soon. Or had it already passed? Time had become such a blur in the past few months.
Every year, the people of Yamato would honour their dead on the first day of spring. Everyone who had lost someone in the past year would make a lantern in their honour. Then at night the lanterns would be released, filling the night sky with their flickering lights.
Being born into a servant family, Yaichi’s family had never been able to afford much when it came to lanterns. Theirs were simple at best, some of them so slapped together it was a wonder they stayed together long enough to survive the festival.
Yaichi had always wondered what happened to the lanterns after the festival. He had never seen old lanterns fall back to the ground. Most likely they burned up in the air, he figured. But legend had it that the lanterns ascended to the heavens, where they were received by the spirits of those they had been made for.
It was easy for Yaichi to imagine that each little light around him, each glimmering star, was a lantern floating to the heavens. That he was surrounded by the spirits of those that came before him, watching and guiding him on his journey. Deep down, he knew that wasn’t the case.
But it was a comforting thought, and one that he was more than happy to let himself believe.
[DM me on Discord for details!]
Seekers of the Lighthouse
Where does one hide the solution to a mystery?
In plain sight, it seems.
I can’t help but feel amused by the revelation, as I walk (once again) to my destiny. Just last month, I spent more time in that library than any other place – after all, I found myself there even in my dreams. Researching the various clues to the puzzle’s solution required my prolonged stay there… and the place is, indeed, quite welcoming.
An island of calmness and wonder in a tumultuous sea of anxiety and bleakness.
And it surely doesn’t hurt that the people working there are so helpful.
Where do the hints towards completing the map take us?
All over the city, and also all over any possible research field. And still, in the end, all the spread out clues form a web of relations whose central node seems to be the library.
One of the first books I borrowed there was Treasure Island. And from it I learned that getting the map and knowing where it points to is just the beginning of the journey. X marks the spot, the library itself. I’ve been there during most of the search – now, how to solve its labyrinthine access?
That’s where the other clues come in. I hope I deciphered them right.
I think the librarian was about to greet me by name (I’ve become a regular), but as she sees the book in my hands she stops herself.
I nod, while I put the “Tales” on top of the table. The copy with missing pages in “The Purloined Letter”.
She opens it up, and nods. “Do you have a library card, Mr. …?”
“Seeker. Wanderer D. Seeker.” I nod, while lying my name. Is it still lying, when we are exchanging passwords?
I present her my “library card” – a Hermit Tarot card.
She smiles. “Welcome home, Mr. Seeker.” She gestures to the other assistant, who invites me into a room I’ve never noticed in my previous visits. The Lighthouse: the room where puzzle-solvers become puzzle-makers. The hunt for the Lighthouse begins anew.
Elderwood – The Festival of Fireflies
The boat gently shifted beneath us. The giant Pyremoths were out in droves tonight. Between them and the moons above, the lake glowed in amber-tinted light. The vast, mirror-like water gave perfect reflections in the excited calm of the summer night. Hidden beneath the ancient trees that sparsely grew from far beneath, Lake Sorossaun was teeming with life.
“Momma?” The small voice drew my attention, “Will Pappi know it’s for him?”
Looking down with a tearfully forced smile, I placed a hand atop her beautiful little head, “Of course, Niyh… I bet he’ll watch over it too.”
She held the tightly woven paper lantern to her chest. As if it were a prized treasure. Which it was. The thick paper had taken weeks to press and cure. Even more time went into weaving the magical glyphs into it.
A horn sounded low but loud in the distance, more cascaded into it as the celebration began. Niyh fumbled the lantern and hastily covered her ears.
Lifting the lantern and unfolding it, long beaded tails fell from it, the lantern was a pentagon with a rounded top. “Watch this!” I told her, carefully setting the lantern on the water’s surface.
“Okay, Momma!” She shared my excitement, making my smile genuine.
Focusing and drawing in the magic of nature… I could feel it… My love for my husband, his daughter, my home and my forest. The warmth of magic.
I pressed the lantern below the waters’ surface. Cool water lapping at my wrist, I emptied my magic into it. Releasing the lantern, it drifted up from the water and into the air. The paper was dry and glowing a pale yellow, the glyphs; as red as smoldering embers.
Niyh’s awe was evident as she took in the sight all around us. “There’s so many, Momma…everything’s so bright!”
We watched it float up and away, joining hundreds of others… Giving the world one more source of collective light.
“Tell Pappi you love him,” I coaxed her.
Pouncing on the edge of the boat, she waved to our lantern, “Love you, Pappi! Bye-bye!”
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
She never liked to feel weak.
Did anyone? Not usually, of course. But she didn’t know what anyone else felt except herself, and she knew for a fact that she did not like to feel weak.
Sometimes, people told her that she was not, in fact, weak at all. You’re so strong! they insisted. Look at how capable you are! Look at how much you do without breaking a sweat!
She’d had many years to practice smiling and nodding.
Other times, they would tell her she was, in fact, weak. They would tell her she was incapable, at least in her current state. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if they sold her a solution to all her problems? Only for the low, low price of a few dollars, or a hundred hours, or forsaking a moral or three?
So which is it? she’d ask herself. Am I strong, or am I weak? Am I a powerful, burning fire, or am I a flimsy piece of paper?
But she never asked anyone other than herself. Again, she’d had many years to practice smiling and nodding.
It took her a very long time to realize that strength and weakness were not mutually exclusive.
She’d watched bullies break into tears, mice scare away elephants, a raging man freeze at the sound of a familiar voice, and a child destroy a ceramic twice their size. But it took her a few years to connect it all. It took her a few years to connect it to herself.
Sometimes strong things were weak. Sometimes weak things were strong. Sometimes someone could power through a terrible situation without breaking a sweat, and still not be able to do twenty reps of five-pound dumbbells.
And, sometimes, that was okay.
And, other times, she didn’t have a choice.
So it went for her. She fought against the hardships with a gentle smile on her face. She received awards for goodness, but not greatness. She struggled, but in time she would make it. She failed, but got up again.
She was flimsy paper, but with a core of fire.
Su quietly crept into the Ridgecloud mansion, a large shopping bag in her hand. She slipped off her shoes, and tiptoed through the main hall.
“What’s going on, Su?” Sonja asked from the top of the stairs.
Su gasped and dropped the bag. It softly thumped on the floor, and paper rustled within.
“What have you got there?” Sonja asked.
A light blush formed on the young woman’s face. “It’s um, a surprise.”
“Well, for everyone.”
Sonja smiled reassuringly. “Francis, Clay, and Ramona are out on an information gathering assignment, but they’ll be back later. But I think Ryan and Erykah are in the library, and Melissa may be there too. Cristian is flitting about somewhere here. I can go gather them over, if you’d like.”
“The library would be fine,” Su said.
Sonja nodded and followed Su into the library. At a table, Ryan and Erykah were studying a spell together.
Su placed the bag on the table and pulled out a lotus flower made of poster paper. She grabbed an LED tea candle from the bag, turned it on, and set it inside.
“Today is Yeondeunghou, the Korean celebration of the birthday of Buddha. One of the traditions is the lighting of paper lotus lanterns. I made one for each of you. I hope I’m not offending any of you. I don’t mean to push my beliefs on anyone. Frankly…hunting the supernatural has made me question some of my own beliefs. But as you are all my friends, I wanted to do something for you.” She turned and handed the lantern to Sonja.
Sonja nodded and took the lantern with both hands. “Thank you, Su. I appreciate you including us in your cultural traditions.”
Su smiled shyly, and pulled out more lamps for each of her friends present, and handed them over. Finally, she pulled out a larger lantern, made of bamboo and colored tissue. “This is a more traditional lantern. If it’s okay, I’d like to light it here for the rest of the day. And perhaps make a prayer for us to stay safe.”
By Norman Gray
May 8th, 1807
My name is William Stone. I am a lone traveler.
Some have called me a brave fool… Today, my foolishness proves truer than my bravery.
As I write this, I sit upon a nameless rock in uncharted waters, shipwrecked. I salvaged what provisions I could from the wreckage before it capsized; food and drink, lamp oil, candles… And mercifully, my journal.
I have only delayed the inevitable. My rations will run out in the coming days. This place is barren. I am alone.
I find solace in my memoirs, my fate forgotten as I relive my adventures… I settle upon pages written during my time in the Orient; remembering the celebrations, the flying lanterns as they filled up the night sky, people wishing upon their light…
A terrible idea has entered my mind, unbidden.
May 9th, 1807
I have torn out my pages. They will never be read save perhaps for this final entry, which I will seal in a bottle.
My thoughts are plagued by a notion that will not leave me be… Foolish, but a fool’s chance is better than none.
I have bonded the paper’s edges together with candlewax; four pages, four sides. A fifth page across the top. With hairs plucked from my beard, with cloth, wax and oil, I have made a lantern…
My memoirs, out of the water and into the fire. I will destroy my past, for the hope of seeing a future.
I will make many more. I pray that they will fly. And I pray that someone will be watching… A small hope, but perhaps the only hope that remains.
If I should perish, then through this last page I implore my memory to live on… If you find this: Know that I raged against the coming night, that my light burned brightest when the darkness came for me.
If you see lamplight in the midnight sky, know that I wished upon that flame, and that you’ve made my wish come true…
However I may, I will carry on.
I will not die here.
I will carry on.
These Words Are Knives (And Often Leave Scars)
By Taja DaLeen
You know, moon jars are most beautiful when you hold them close; when you imbue them with your magic and make them a part of yourself. That’s when they shine the brightest, when they reach their full potential.
You are no moon jar.
That’s what I had to learn the hard way. I tried and tried to make it work, but it just wouldn’t. No matter how much I cared for you, how much I loved you, I only made it worse.
You’re more like a sky lantern, made of the most precious paper.
They’re most beautiful from afar, when you don’t try to get too close; when you let them go and they fly high up into the sky. They have to soar, be free to reach their full potential.
They won’t be able to fulfill their purpose when you tie them to the ground.
And you have to be really careful while handling them, so they won’t break. Even the smallest hit, no matter how much of an accident it was, can damage them. Every tiny argument hurt you more and more, until you were nothing more than a crumpled piece of paper, a torn shell of yourself.
I got too close… you were never mine to begin with.
And if I was completely honest, by now I’m just as afraid of you falling apart as you are… like a sky lantern with broken wiring. All would crash and burn.
I still love you, I really do, and that’s why… I have to let you go. No matter how much it hurts me, the alternative would hurt even more in the end.
So please, fly and be free, my beautiful sky lantern.
The Enemy of My Enemy
“Get out,” Shayna growled.
Daisy took a deep breath but stood her ground. “We need to talk.”
“If Matt didn’t trust you, I’d be killing you right now.”
“Look, I get it… I do, but-”
“No!” Shayna screamed, her hands balled into fists. “You DON’T get it. When I look at you, all I can see is my family’s killer!”
Daisy took another breath. “Just… hear me out. I was just the tool. Alex is your true enemy.”
“Don’t use your weakness to justify your choices!”
“My-?!” Daisy’s eyes widened before narrowing into a glare. “Alex kidnapped you for a few hours. I was his thrall for over a year! Don’t you DARE talk to me about weakness!”
Shayna shuddered, shaking off the memories of her time with him.
The two glowered silently at each other until Daisy conceded. “Look, we don’t have to like each other. This isn’t about us. This is about killing Alex.”
Shayna rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right. The only one powerful enough to kill Alex is Matt. And he can’t even look for that asshole because of that stupid compromise.”
“Actually,” Daisy began, “…I asked Matt to… change me. Literally. So that I wouldn’t be Alex’s thrall anymore, but still had enough power to protect myself.”
That caught Shayna’s attention.
“Alex found out and… he wasn’t happy. He attacked me and… I fought back. I hurt him. And he couldn’t heal from it. He had to run. I think Matt unconsciously made me an… Alex killer, for lack of a better term. And the only other person he’s changed like that is-”
“Me…” Shayna unconsciously ran her fingers over her belly, where the near fatal injury had previously been. “You think I’m an Alex killer too…”
Daisy sighed. “He’s going to come after me. And even though I can kill Alex in theory, I’m not stupid. He… weakens me… I need someone to back me up if I… fail.”
“…what if he makes you his thrall again?”
Daisy’s eyes darkened. “Then I need someone to kill me.”
Shayna smirked. “You should have opened with that.”
Another lantern rose its way over the treeline. Mikhael wondered if he should go to its origin point, but ultimately could not bring himself to go to it. He knew who had sent it, and he couldn’t bear to face her again. Not after all this time.
How much had she grown since he last saw her all those years ago? Had she grown at all, or did she now bear his ageless curse? To him, she would always be his little girl, but with how much time had passed…
He used to see those lanterns every night, but lately they had grown infrequent. The first time he saw one, he was elated, but did not have the materials to send a return signal. It would be weeks before he was able to access them, but that night there was no lantern. His unbeating heart sank into his stomach that day. Perhaps he should have sent his own up after all.
Mikhael recalled when he taught Rheesa how to make paper lanterns. It was one of those dark, cloudy mornings where he could tolerate the sun until it burned the clouds away. With how hostile the world was to their kind, he knew it was only a matter of time until something managed to separate them, so he taught her of the floating lanterns he remembered from festivals when he was a child. They could use them to find each other, as long as they each had the tools they needed.
It had been so long since she had started sending them up, he wondered how she hadn’t given up hope that he was even alive. For all she knew, he was slain in that raid all those decades ago. Perhaps she was sending them up as a remembrance.
Perhaps it was better that way, he convinced himself. He was better off remembered as the father slain in battle than the father who couldn’t save his daughter.