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!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least five stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
- No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
- You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
- Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
Village Mother’s Festival
by Oliver Enslad
It must have been just under a year when they made their first plea to me. The Village Mother before, my mother, had been plead to many times and I never saw why until I saw them. Each night I would sing my village to sleep from beyond the veil of the treeline, and each night they were compelled to abide.
I missed my sisters, their hugs, their warmth so dearly. I missed what would’ve been namedays and village promotions. But most of all, I missed the flames and wicks of the candles and the warmth of a bonfire. As Mother I had to do my best to stay hidden from them.
Their plea, despite yearly, caught me by surprise this time. I stared at the moon, the winds in my chest but it was caught. Hundreds of tiny blue lanterns floated towards the sky. A plea that I would not sing them to sleep tonight.
I remember when I first had to craft them, not understanding due to my insomnia, my father taught me how to blow the thin glass that made them blue. The leaves seemed to gather the brilliant hues, but the village grew red with their own flames.
They wished to party, to drink, to be merry for one night without sleep. A lantern flew to me and, despite its diminutive size, warmed me. I would oblige their plea. The flames danced over their heads and above my trees as the night went on. How did the first mother know this was a plea, if there were none to guide her? With mom gone, would I still make it? A question for another night, I must presume.
Their bargain, alone, warmed me.
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.
Not Meant To Be, But We Must Try
by Newt Manhattan
He dances upon my still body, many lazy pirouettes to cross the vastness of my depths. The forms he is shaped to are warm and effervescent contained in a package so fragile, yet so powerful. Without the fleeting nature of our partnership, our bondage, then we would never appreciate what we have; what we had.
Our rendezvous is no secret, it comes like clockwork once a year when my spirit calls for him the most. At the peak of my longing I watch for the signs. When the night sky is the deepest shade of black and the nearby villages become raucous with noise and excitement, that’s how I know I’ll see him soon. I dare not manifest my joy for fear of losing him, but that is the way of things no? For if either of us let the true breadth of our feelings show; if for even a moment we lost our self control, then one of us will kill the other.
This is our curse, this delicate balance that has been shaped by many hands over eons, held in place by only the fragile shield of paper. This barrier seals our fates. To love and to lose are two sides of the same coin and as the fates toss us in the air, for one brief unbelievable moment we are together. We are not one, we are ourselves together. His form is fragmented but I can see his silhouette in the many lights crossing over me. The whole world lit by him makes me see beyond the dark I embody. Hundreds of him and only one of me, how lucky. Time passes and one by one I see him die. I know that we will separate soon and so does he, but what is love without meaning and is there meaning without an end? As his many paper forms burn out one by one and he becomes another part of my deep unending shade, I know that this existence is worthwhile. Goodbye my love, I will see you soon.
By Matthew R. Wright
Sirens, shootings and unsolicated terminal illnesses. God L.A could be bleak when it wanted to be. Early-onset Alzheimers – first thing Andrezej had ever been early for. Figures it would be for something that wouldn’t pay. He was a writer in a city full of them, a pretty good one, but they were all pretty good. Now he was a dying writer and right after his career had just started to take off. A hack inciting incident if there ever was one.
He took another burst of Lucha Juice High Flyer and opened up the ideas journal. The not-so-gentle breeze forceably flicked through several dozen pages of prose and punchlines that would never see an audience and landed on a blank double page. A stunningly accurate enactment of what his brain would go through in the final coming months. Hilarous. Hysterical even.
‘RRRRIIIIIIPPPP’ went one page from within the journal – on it was a surreal sketch about a family trying to have the sun arrested. The idea, mostly complete, flapped in his hands like it was trying to break free. The prompt had asked for ‘paper lanterns’ but Andrzej didn’t know how to make one, he was a writer, naturally untalented at most things besides winning fictional arguments that he’d written. He had only ever made paper planes, so that would have to do.
He creased corners, bent flaps and folded down edges; Voila! It wasn’t anything more than your basic dart design, but it’d function.
Plane in-hand. Arm drawn back then released. Off it went down to the city of admiration-starved creatives and too-damn-bright street lights.
He tore out another page, then another. He would tear them all out.
It was his way of saying goodbye. Of donating. Of one last look before the ideas and the memories slip away forever.
Andrezej reminded himself that he won’t need them, not anymore.
Hopefully, he thought, someone aspiring could find them, maybe even be inspired by the strangeness of finding dozens of squadrons of scribbled-out screenplays, thrown from an LA hotel roof.
Maybe there was something in that.
Rise in Night’s Parade
By Ethan Jesse
My head beats, my body rots, sodden beneath the earth. I feel cool flesh in the night, with not a worm to stir as the fading blasts above ring silent. I see black, for what light reigns here? I know only steel and what its piercing brought. I, the soldier, was called in fear as “The Reaper”, but look who unveiled to feed on dying breath!
Ignoring feeling, I learn now what resides, here below the earth where lanterns float. In not every space, but every view, lanterns drift here and there without aim. These, surely, are something I once knew, for they sing ballads of tales we had bred. And yet, with every word that escapes, I know them ever less, which I imagine is what makes them “lanterns”. Ornate, like Aurora, but fleeting, fickle things that float from the land from which I rot. Where they go, do they look down upon us? Or maybe they look not up nor down nor even straight ahead, and where they shall rest is no longer a concern.
I realize now that I indeed look, with eyes and withered nails that grasp and pull. Though numb, my eyes are open, and I feel in rapt a beating from above, despite all that I’ve known shedding weight down below. Torment, pain, all with a vessel. Nevermind that I, life’s pawn, was by tragedy fulfilled in days old. I can hear, I can feel, even if it all would be absence. My claws rend the plane, I can curl these blistered toes, and I ever know why try when I’ve yet to know Moonlight?
Dirt splits apart, and by open air, I rise. I stand for the flowing wind that carries the scent of a new meal, and I scream in the hopes that maybe then, satiation will come. I carry in me a perfect void, left in the absence of both lanterns and light, and my voice grows hoarse in this never-ending night. I step, and I walk, I run, what for? Oh, may it come, for the Ghoul hungers once more…
A Trust Exercise (The Ballad of the Monsters: Savion)
By i-prefer-the-term-antihero (Kaylie)
When the vendor saw Lynai and me she trotted up to us. “Paper lanterns? Great for couples!”
(Hoping I wasn’t blushing), I glanced at the ones littering the sky. “What do we do with them?”
She pulled a piece of paper from her booth. “You each write a secret and put it in the lantern.” She smirked, explaining theatrically,“Then you give the lanterns to each other. Will your beloved look at the secret, or will they release it to the sky? Find out if they really trust you.”
“Ooh, that sounds fun!” Lynai paid before I could think about it.
The vendor lady handed us the lanterns, slips of paper, and a lighter. Lynai ran off to one of the tables nearby, directing me to a different one.
As I sat down, a knot coiled in my stomach. This was supposed to be a fun, silly exercise but…secrets were not a trite subject for me. One lurked in the corners of my every action, my every word, my very being.
I tried to think of gentler secrets…but using something else would just make me even more of a liar.
It was only fair that I do this right. That if Lynai decided she didn’t trust me…she was rewarded for it.
After mentally going through many different phrasings I simply wrote the truth, short and…not-so-sweet.
Once I wrote it my heart thudded in my chest, proceeding to bang on my ribs as I folded up the paper, slipped it into the lantern and walked over to her. We headed together to the area where everyone was lighting them off.
“If you are.”
As we traded, she looked over the top of mine, reaching into it, and for a moment I thought she was really going to read it. Then she smirked, revealing the lighter, clicking it.
I pressed the tip of my finger to the wick, lighting hers. We let them go together.
It was only when my heart kept thudding in my chest afterwards, harder still, that I realized I had wanted her to read it.
“Lights” (Shadows of the Stellar Age Setting)
The city spires stood stark against the skies above, and cast a warm glow against the night. Above it the vast darkness of the cosmos grew slowly as the sunset dwindled. The stars faded into sight above them. On a balcony among those spires Petra and her sister Nianna gathered to honor their father.
“They say our ancestors once sailed the stars a long time ago. That’s why we send up paper lanterns on Remembrance Day. They say it caries the spirit of those we’ve lost upward to the sky to sail the stars again,” Petra recounted to Nianna. The recounting itself an act of remembrance calling back to when their father had said the same thing on a Remembrance Day a long time ago for their mother. Petra knelt and lit the paper lantern.
Nianna sighed quietly. “I – I can’t remember dad’s voice anymore. It’s been less than a year. Why can’t I remember? He was so important in our lives,” Nianna cried softly.
Petra paused as Nianna cried quietly. Petra reached out and stroked her shoulder, and nodded slowly. “When people pass away, it’s inevitable we should lose parts of them even in our memories. It isn’t wrong of us to lose those things. It’s part of healing. It’s part of letting go.”
“But I don’t want to let go!” Nianna sobbed.
Petra embraced Nianna silently. Then quietly she handed Nianna the paper lantern symbolizing their father. Nianna didn’t want to let go of the lantern either. She wanted to hold it close to her and feel its warmth, like the warm softness when she held her father.
Instead, Nianna did what was hard. She reached out holding the paper lantern away from her. Then with a quiet gasp of breath, she let it go.
It lifted away, rising higher and higher now. Higher amidst the towering city spires. Joining the hundreds of lights rising away from a city of billions. The light of hundreds of candles caught in their eyes, shining like the stars above, until at last those lights sailed away into the night.
The Lanterns in the Sky
Walking down the street to my apartment I can feel the teardrops running down my face as I look up at a clear sky with the moon, however, there is no light from the lanterns. In the past, I would look up into the sky and see countless lanterns in the sky and I remember my mother telling me, “Chika when I am gone, I have joined our ancestors in fueling the lanterns in the sky. We will always watch over you and help guide you.”
Now, however, all I can see is the light of the moon in the city. When I look down all I can see are the bright street lamps and people walking under them without a thought about our past or how we cannot receive guidance from our ancestors.
The street lamps were brought by outsiders who said, “We want to make it safe for people to walk home after a late shift” or “These lights will help keep people safe from being robbed”. At first, there were only a few on the block, then half a dozen, and now twenty on each side of the street. The more street lamps that were placed the less I could see the lanterns in the sky, knowing that my mother and grandparents were watching over me. I am losing hope of ever being able to see them again.
I mourn what people have done. In wanting to make it for us to be safer we lose a part of ourselves, our past, and our guiding force for the future. I enter my apartment and start to look for a place to visit, where I can see the lanterns in the sky on a clear night. To ask for guidance and wisdom. To finally be free of always rushing around and instead can relax. Away from all the noise of the city and for just one night to hear my mother’s voice again.
The Origamicron Part 1
“So, I made a paper lantern,” said Dan.
Tom looked up from his book with child-like bewilderment. “Oh, you did? Let’s see it.”
“Weeelll…” they held up burned paper.
This disappointed Tom. “What instructions did you follow?”
“The instructions in this book.”
Dan held up a book and handed it to Tom, who read the title.
“This book is called the ‘Origamicron’.”
“Yeah, that’s why I bought it.”
“Because of the show?”
Tom narrowed his eyes. “You uncultured swine.”
Tom opened the book to the first origami. “The Paper Lantern, summoner and anchor of the dark parchment.” He muttered the instructions to himself, and raised his head up with a frown. “These instructions say that a paper demon gets summoned when the lantern is complete, and not to let it damage the lantern otherwise the demon cannot be anchored to the room it was made.”
Dan fidgeted a little. “Um..”
“Did you summon a paper demon?”
“I mean, not intentionally.”
“Where is it?”
“RIGHT HERE MOTHERFOLDERS!!”
“Augh!” exclaimed the two friends.
“HAHAHAHAAAH!” cackled the pale parchment-skinned demon. “Now that I am released from the confinement of PARCHATORY…BATHROOM!!” The demon barreled through Dan, whose body flopped off the wall to the ground.
Dan got up. “Bathroom?!”
“Yeah!” The demon responded from the bathroom. “I’ve been backed up for centuries. Put up yellow tape and stear clear!”
“Well,” said Tom casually. “We have a demon using our toilet.”
“What do you think comes out?”
“Spit balls, but like logs.”
“Courtesy flush!” The demon flushed.
“So what’s your name?” asked Dan.
“Name’s Alyxidghophia, or Alyx for short.”
“Well, Alyx,” said Tom. “You seem friendly, so far.”
“But what are your intentions?”
“What kind of food?” asked Dan.
“I don’t know. What’s good around here?”
“They’re still around?! Huh.”
The two friends shared a concerned look.
“And after that?”
“Well, I have to protect the Origamicron. The seal to Parchatory was broken, and now our worlds are colliding.”
“Damn it, Dan,” said Tom.
“Oops,” said Dan.
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!”
Spirits in celebration.
“You know I thought life after death wouldn’t be this…” Max said
“Common? Normal? Mundane? ” Yurael, the death angel with many eyes responded to the question of the recent dead persons. “This is a question that, I was asked for eons at this point.”
“Yeah…but I imagine people wouldn’t celebrate their funeral?” Max said, watching the other recently departed preparing paper lanterns. They were using objects traded from the material world. “I mean, I get it but you didn’t find it bizarre that we were wishing the living a good luck in life while were are essentially done for?”
“Well, I observed it like… this is a way for us to pay respect for the living as the living pay respect for us,” Yurael said, flapping some of his ethereal wings. “We may be eternal in the sense that we don’t experience death anymore, but that doesn’t mean we should forget the living and their struggles just as we struggle here.”
As he pointed out a huge crowd of souls grouped together and started letting their lanterns float in the ethereal afterlife. Not only that, some used themselves in the process of converting the gesture into a symbolic march.
“Guess you have a point. People in heaven still protest due to the structure here in limbo and other afterlives are still trying to reform,” Max said, “Ja! It’s almost as if life didn’t end for us, and there is no eternal rest.”
“Well, Father above in heaven always wanted this place to test the souls of his children,” Yurael responded looking at the lanterns. “But times change, souls change, the death, the living, and even gods.”
Max could only smile at the soul of the Angel which responded in kind, both got their paper lanterns ready and joined the march. Reaching heaven the residents of which also joined as they filled the space with twinkling lights.
Light-like stars illuminate even the darkest pits of hell.
All to wish good things for the living.
The Day of Lights
The time is coming. The day is getting closer, the day I’ll see him again. He’s been gone so long… Will he even remember me?
It’s taken me weeks to get this lantern ready. Even with my weak and fragile magic I’ll surely be able to summon him, even for a second… That’s all I want… That’s all I need…
I’ve been bullied for years for my lackluster magic, often gaining the name “Half a Witch”, I hate it so much, but what can I do…? Here the strong reign over the weak and no one cares enough about it to do anything… But he didn’t care in the best of ways, he was always there for me and he always supported me. He would be the first thing I saw in the mornings and the first when I got home. Up until he wasn’t… He was gone and all I knew was that he had died, but I never saw the body…
An old myth says to bring back a true loved one the Day of Lights is the best time to do so. The time has come, I see in the distance the rest of the townfolk raising their lanterns. I sit on my ankles and look at my lantern. In hindsight, I could have done it better, but I don’t have anymore time and I have put enough effort into it for it to work. Maybe.
I light the center wick and let it float up as I mutter the phrase “Fulu, bring him back, I give to you this offering of light and warmth.” And I wait for something to happen, feeling the sting of tears as I realize that nothing will happen and I close my eyes in grief and pain. But that’s when I feel his touch. His soft fur rubbing against my arm, the way he used to do when I would cry. And I open my eyes to see his adorable cat face, transparent in the moonlight with eyes filled with much love.
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.”
It was truly a magnificent sight, as thousands of paper lanterns rose up to the night sky at once, filling the air with their orange light.
“Beautiful” X murmured, as he watched the spectacle from the balcony of his room.
“Indeed, young lord” a man standing next to him agreed.
He wore an elegant black outfit, all in all being the spitting image of a well-dressed butler. His face was decorated by a well-trimmed silver beard and his hair was of the same colour.
“And you are certain that some of them contain…”
“Faes? Definitely. I have looked at it thoroughly and am certain that a few British faes have accidentally found their way to the colonies.”
“May I ask then what you intend to do about it, young lord?”
“I can’t really do anything, Johann. It’s all part of nature…invasive species have always existed, no matter if they are supernatural or not. Just like the British Empire grasping all these different countries, like the Kraken stretches it’s tentacles, so too do British supernatural beings…some out of their own free will, some get shipped accidentally…”
“Forgive the interruption young lord, but do you compare the British Empire to the Kraken?” Johann asked, his tone as polite as ever.
“What else could it possibly be? Just as the Kraken pulls ships to the bottom of the sea, we pull so many cultures and countries down. We claim to bring them civilization…but we actually just destroy it instead. It’s the first lesson I learned on our travels.”
“I believe your parents would be quite proud of you for realizing that” Johann said, and X turned to him, a mixed look on his face.
“Hardly matters now, does it?”
The butler shook his head.
“It does. Maybe we should engage in this tradition as well?”
He handed X a paper lantern and placed his hand on the young teenagers shoulder.
“Who knows, perhaps they’ll receive it.”
A weak smile appeared on X’ face.
“I suppose. Thank you Johann.”
He lit the lantern and let it float away, to join the others.
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.
An Embrin’s Gift
Kyleb followed his mentor through the forest with growing excitement. This was his first lesson in magic devoid of books.
“What do you remember about Embrins?” Ural asked, navigating the dense trees with a grace that Kyleb lacked.
Attention torn between watching the ground for roots and recalling knowledge learned days prior, he hesitated. “They… ack!” he exclaimed, stumbling over a rock. “Beings that crossed to our world when the planes merged. They help mages perform magic”
His mentor gave a nod. “They don’t just help. They allow us to channel their magic. We don’t have our own.” He stopped in a clearing. “Which brings us to why we’re in the woods.”
“Are we?” Kyleb blurted out, becoming flustered after having tripped.
Ural turned, taking in a deep breath as Kyleb fidgeted. “Kyleb,” he said at last. “Sit down.”
He sat, silencing his nerves so he could focus on the lesson.
Setting the satchel beside him Ural sat opposite of his apprentice. “I feel you are ready for your own Embrin. Nimeia will help us.” The lantern at his hip swirled with lavender energy and a tawny owl apparated on Ural’s shoulder.
Kyleb wondered how it would feel to channel magic through his own Embrin instead of his mentor’s. “How do I get mine?”
“With this.” He reached into the satchel and pulled out a lantern. “Plus a little intention and a lot of patience.” Ural set it in front of Kyleb. “Focus your will onto the candle. Think about why you want to use magic.”
Kyleb fixed his attention on the candle.
The candle flared a dull green. His mentor smiled. “Excellent first try, though based on the dullness, your intention was vague. All we do now is wait. If an Embrin wants to aid you it will hop into the lantern.”
“That’s it?” Kyleb was shocked at the simplicity.
“Indeed, but a stronger, precise intention is more likely to attract a powerful Embrin.”
Kyleb was barely paying attention. He gazed about, giddy at the thought of having his own magic companion.
The one that flew away
By Tamela Redfin
Augen called his eldest son to his office. “Lukas? Where is that stupidly flirty child?”
He watched Lukas enter. “What is it? Otto and Odile were talking about your hot assistant…”
“Keep your dick in your pants, Lukas! Remember what happened last time you didn’t? What was that girl? Robert? Ronald?”
Lukas crossed his arms. “Reagan was different, Klon Vatti.”
“Ah yes. Because she was a dirty cypha.” Augen kicked Lukas’s shin. “No clone of mine would be caught dead fucking a cypha.”
“She was a good person! And you have no room to talk!” With that, Lukas stormed out of the room. What was the point of all that?
“Hey bruder, what happened?” Lukas looked behind himæ to see the twins Otto and Odile.
“I want to bid farewell to Reagan. Can you two or Gilbert set up a paper lantern to launch? Who cares if it burns down half of Western Rolt.”
Odile smirked, “I like your style. I’ll ask Gil.”
Later that night, Gilbert lit a lantern and the four sang a song of loss in their native Cryspellen.
“Reagan, wherever you are, ich vermisse dich.” Lukas whispered.
But somewhere, someone was watching. “Look mom, see the lantern?”
Lighting the Way
Pitch darkness reigned over a small windowless study, the sound of muffled voices came from outside, hampered by the walls. The floor was lacquered wood, and the walls and ceiling were made of beech panels and an unlit paper lantern hung from the ceiling, as if eager to illuminate the study. The desk, chair and bookcase were made of rosewood. The bookcase was laden with old books and the chair was leather bound for comfort. Cobwebs hung from the walls, the lantern and the chair. A clack came from beyond the wall and the sound of mechanical rumblings started as one of the wooden wall panels slid to the side and light fell into the room for the first time in decades.
Two people approached, both of which appeared to be of Chinese descent.
“Aha! I told you! It’s a secret room!” Steve declared triumphantly as he entered, oil lantern in hand.
“I didn’t say there wasn’t one.” Lan retorted, turning his statement against him.
“Whatever, Lan turn on the light.” Steve ordered and Lan turned to him with a look of askance. Steve looked at her to see why she wasn’t doing as he asked, then rolled his eyes as it hit him. “Light the lantern, please.”
“That’s better.” She said, before complying. Lan turned around to see lantern’s pattern that was cast throughout the room, seemingly decorative.
“Alright, I’ll check the desk, you check the bookcase, the map needs to be in here somewhere.” Steve said as he sat down and started opening the drawers. Lan turned the books aside but found nothing.
“Damn it! Where could it be?” Steve said with frustration.
“Wait, please put out the light.” Lan said, Steve raised an eyebrow but decided to humour her and reached for the paper lantern. “No, put out your lantern.” She said and Steve complied, and the images of the paper lantern could be seen properly. Cast about the room was the map and they both smiled as they saw it.
“We’re going to be rich!” Steve said gleefully as they both reached for the lantern.
My life feels like a liminal space. I can’t get over the feeling that something amazing had been cut short, and now everyone seems so far away. I wander over these old mountain trails past more ghost towns than I can count. The spirits still linger there, rainbow souls watching me as I pass through.
My own hands are as white as a sheet, sometimes I forget that I’m dead too. I wonder, what did I leave behind? I know that someone is calling me home; I can feel them pulling me like the earth pulls a migrating bird. I will find them.
It’s been days and the scenery is getting boring so I stop to sleep at a temple. Under a statue of a golden phoenix I see other spirits in deep sleep, waiting to rise again. A blue spirit, a man I think, stops me from joining them.
“Halt, young soul! You may not rest here, not yet,” he said.
I reply with a yawn, “well, why not?”
“You have no color, if you sleep now you will fade away forever,” he said, concerned.
“Oh, but this place feels so nice. I don’t think I’d mind,” I said naively.
“Tch, lost souls,” the man said all too knowing. “Let me help you. If you feel the call, we should follow it while we still can.”
So I think I made a new friend. After the temple, we traveled together for another hour or so. I began to gather that the blue man was a soldier, I think I was too. It’s hard, he keeps asking me about who I was, but I don’t know.
We go down into a moonlit valley and then I feel them. Hundreds of thousands of little flames. I see them rising above the silhouettes of familiar roofs. The blue man pulls me on top of a boulder for a better view. I see more paper lanterns than there are stars in the sky, and I cry because I remember them. The love for my family, my life, it’s red.
The World’s Worst Inventor
A singed and sooty beard poked out from behind the door.
“Yes?” it asked.
“Marco Pencilo, Renaissance Times,” answered the man with the quill and parchment, “Are you Tieri Dioti?”
“Yes…” replied the beard.
“I’m doing a piece on Great Inventors of the Age. May I see what you’re working on?”
“Why yes!” cried Tieri excitedly, throwing the door open.
Marco followed the filthy inventor into a chaotic, acrid-smelling workshop. Bent tools, twisted pipes, and half-eaten sandwiches littered the room. On a cluttered table sat a collection of yellow knives. They smelled strongly of curds.
“What’re those?” asked Marco, pointing at them.
“Cheese knives,” replied Tieri, “The Countess de Spairo ordered a set.”
He gestured to what looked like a regular iron lantern. “Now, an ordinary lantern, ’tis a heavy thing!”
“And notoriously difficult to light.”
“Can be tricky.”
“Well, pick this one up!”
Marco lifted it and gasped at its unexpected lightness.
“It’s paper!” he cried.
“Yes!” said Tieri, lighting a match, “Now watch!”
He opened the flimsy hatch and lit a cup of oil inside.
A large flame sprung up from within the lantern. Marco covered his eyes from the blinding light.
“Wow,” he gasped, “It brighter than – OUCH!”
He sucked his fingers as the paper lantern’s embers burned out on the floor.
Tieri grinned awkwardly. “Still working out the kinks,” he said, “Never mind, let me show you my masterpiece.”
He led Marco to a large yard at the back of the workshop, where a black, knee-high cannon stood. A straw dummy was hung on the wall at the opposite end of the yard.
“This is a prototype,” said Tieri, lighting the cannon, “But when I build larger ones, they will improve battle manoeuvrability-”
The explosion blasted the two backwards. Dragging himself up, ears ringing, Marco saw that the dummy had gone, along with most of the opposing wall, and the entire cannon. A stinging pain in his hand alerted him to a small, black shard sticking out of it. He grimaced as he pulled it out.
Fire is often described as the worst way to die. Those who get burned can attest to the pain both in the moment and that lingers long past that ill touch.
People sometimes burn themselves alive, calling it self-immolation, in order to make a statement about the conditions that drove them towards that most dreadful death. Only matched by those who starve or drown themselves I suppose.
So the Black Cloaked’s ‘Festival’ is oddly beautiful in the sheer terror and suffering it represents. Only one holds the festival, nobody wants it, and nobody enjoys it.
Seeing the countless lanterns floating above and through the city as they drift by from place to place in some large circuit is a reminder. An uncomfortable, horrible memory of what comes for many.
It is the one day of the decade when no crime will be committed out of the terror it inspires. Lest they themselves join the festival as an unwilling participant. Not that they’ll avoid it in the long run.
I think the worst part is that no matter how much I want to stay in my bedroom and hide from the malevolent purple glow of the lanterns’ flames, I, like many others, am still drawn out to watch.
Seeing the many legged black iron lanterns with silently screaming people trapped behind the glass walking down the street. Murderers, kidnappers, and more. All chained inside as the flames devour their flesh yet never charring it. Never actually damaging their bodies.
All as that monster that hardly pretends to be a man wrapped in a black cloak creeps past. The indistinct whispers of some ancient being in my ear as I gaze upon its diminutive form. All the townsfolk out on the streets or at windows like I.
We all know the message. We all know what lies in those paper lanterns as they burn themselves and are reborn like phoenixes from the ashes only to burn again.
We know the whispered message even long after it leaves, “Inflicting suffering incites it, and I shall administer what the world doesn’t.”
A Lantern’s Flight
by Old n Gold
The night sky above the city sparkled with the lights of thousands of paper lanterns whose light competed with the stars themselves.
Aster watched these floating lights solemnly as chaos reigned in the dilapidated streets around him. A member of the Blackmanes had killed a leader of the Hylands in a dubious duel, and now the lower district was embroiled in a full-on gang war.
The contrast between the beauty in the sky and the horror on the ground had given Aster pause. The lanterns had been lit for the annual celebration of All-Gods Day, where the city paid tribute to the spirits and higher powers. Aster wondered if the lanterns concealed the fires in the city from the gods.
Suddenly, a woman ran into him breaking him out of his trance and nearly knocking him over. Aster picked himself up and began making his way through the fleeing crowd. On either side of him, Blackmanes and Hylands attacked, torched, and brutalized each other, but Aster’s mind remained on the lanterns in the sky.
He remembered his mother, now-passed, and how she told him that he had been born on this very day many years ago which inspired her to name him after the word for “star.” Supposedly she had named him this hoping that he would be the star to guide the family out of the lower district. Aster gritted his teeth.
Aster had made it to the end of the lower district when two gang members appeared in front of him from the side of the road, both furiously swinging at the other with their knives. Aster tried to get out of their way but it was too late, a wide slash came into contact with his chest and he fell onto the cobblestone street. The two men continued their brawl without pause.
They hadn’t even noticed him.
Aster collapsed onto his back, his hand clutching his chest. His breathing began to slow, his mind cleared, and Aster’s last sight was a lantern slowly floating up into the sky.
Magic to Pass a Rainy Day [KoshDelia Ever After]
C. M. Weller.
Papa was folding large sheets of paper into smaller shapes. Korm Ten and Bene watched with eager smiles on their faces. They’d seen this before. Teg had not.
“What’cha doin’?” asked Integrity Whitekeep.
“Papa’s makin’ MAGIC,” whispered Benevolence. “You watch.”
“It’s not magic, it’s natural philosophy,” said Papa. He finished the last fold and blew into one end, inflating it into a paper box with a sizable hole in one end. He busied himself with a loop of string, a candle stub, and the box, making them all into an artistic tangle so that the candle could dangle below the box.
“Watch, watch,” insisted Korm Ten.
Papa lit the stub with a taper, holding the box above the flame. “Heat likes to go up,” he said. “It’s why we cook above fire. With something in the way to trap some heat… and a little bit of patience…” He let the box go…
…and it did not fall. First staying exactly where it was and then slowly drifting upwards.
Teg shrieked and clapped. “MAGIC!”
“Not magic,” repeated Papa. He peeled off a large sheet of paper for each of them, kneeling on the floor with the boys. “You work with me and you can do it yourself. No magic at all.”
Teg followed carefully. Folding and smoothing and unfolding and turning and finally blowing into what used to be a flat page, but was now a paper box. Then tangling a loop of string around his own candle stub and the box to make a hanging thing just like the one Papa made.
And with a little flame, and a little patience… it did just as the one before.
Teg was just a Human, and he could make this magic. Just like his Papa.
As the sleet tickled Whitekeep’s roofs, one room in the castle began to fill with floating paper lanterns.
Good Mourning, Lonely Child
(A Tale from Aetherion)
By Berith Quinn
Yueling stared at the lantern in her hands. It was such a simple thing. Nothing more than white paper stretched over a bamboo frame, with a solitary unlit candle in its centre. It was unadorned, lightweight, and yet it felt heavier than anything Yueling had ever held.
As she stood on the edge of the docks, all she could do was stare at the lantern, while she reminisced about that girl. This single lantern represented all of the years that she had lived. And all of the years that she was robbed off.
Yueling smiled as a montage of memories flooded through her mind. From the young child too afraid of anything, even of her own shadow, as clutched her mother’s leg. To the young girl that laughed and danced in the garden, full of wonder and curiosity.
To finally of the young lady that bought passage on an old steam ship to the industrious clockwork city of Belrost, on nothing but a dream of a new future. A dream that was nothing but a lie. A scam. A cruel joke played by opportunists to sell others into slavery, just to line their own pockets
Belrost was nothing but a nightmare. Beaten. Abused. Left dying on the street, even as strangers walked past. No one cared. She was nothing but an inconvenience, like mud on a shoe. In the end, she was just another lifeless, lonely corpse on the coroner’s slab.
She was all but forgotten to the world.
Barely a handful of people tried to right the injustice. Though those same traffickers now too laid in the morgue, it didn’t excuse what happened to that young lady.
Yueling’s body shook as she wept. What happened wasn’t fair.
“You don’t have to do this if you’re not ready.” reassured her companion that stood silently behind her.
Without turning, Yueling lit the candle and watched as the lantern slowly drifted up into the sky.
“No one has mourned my life. How can I exist, if I at least don’t?” Yueling whispered as her deathly blue lips curled to a sad smile.
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.”
Mikhael sat in the remains of his office, weaving the paper together. He still had three lanterns to go. It had been a year, he really needed to clean it up, but he couldn’t bring himself to sweep the ashes away.
It was almost upsetting how easily magic came after the Eruption. He no longer had to dig within his own life force in order to use magic. He just had to ask it, and it would appear, although fire was still his specialty. He wondered if the other remaining sages still specialized, or if they branched out to other magics.
He remembered Nox as he began the next one. Light blue was the perfect color for him, to match the ice he would summon. Mikhael recalled the first time they met, trying to laugh to cover the tears forming in his eyes.
Next was the acid sage, although he never knew her name. Hers would be purple, the color he associated most with that element, not that he understood much about acid in the first place.
Finally, lightning. This one would be white. He never met this sage, as he liked to be secluded in the mountains, but the Captain told him that this sage did not survive the Eruption. That was half of them. He was a lucky one.
Or, at least, that’s what the Captain said. Mikhael didn’t feel particularly lucky. The Eruption came without warning, without remorse, and he almost wished it would have killed him. His Eruption, like the other survivors, came with casualties of its own.
He tied the ends around the wires that would house his flames, and grabbed the other three lanterns before he checked outside to make sure that the sun had set.
As he stepped outside, he took a breath before lighting each lantern.
And three, small black lanterns.
As he released their memories into the sky, he also released his own remorse. After all, he had no control over that event. It was not his fault. He had to remind himself of that.