Set in an engrossing, fully realized fantasy world, Aloren is a romantic, young adult retelling of the classic fairy tale The Wild Swans.
Reyna Lauriad is a Gralde--her spirit grows from the ground in the form of a flower. She and her four brothers have been taught the risks associated with touching, even looking upon their birthflowers: strange maladies, potential madness. But when Reyna's brothers are bound by a deadly curse, she is forced to do the unthinkable: in order to break the curse she must pull her birthflowers from the ground.
E. D. Ebeling lives with her family in the upper Midwest. She enjoys beer, brats, and playing the banjo.
When I was three, my nurse brought me to see Leode––my fourth brother.
Mother sat up in the bed and sang softly into his ear. A salt wind came through the window and stung my eyes. I’d wanted a sister, and was determined everyone should know it, so I wailed and fell across the bed.
Nurse picked me up and took me into the corner where a rocking chair collected the last of the sunlight. She sat down and placed me in her lap, her hand over my mouth. We rocked slowly and Mother sang. I was the only one of us who remembered.
The ice aster throws high her gossamer skirtsOn the brow of the Pirnon Mireir.
She laces her slippers and dances a waltz,
And she weaves her a door in the air.
Could she weave herself through,
She would find a sweet land
Filled with noon-tides of nectar and cream.
But the door wants a key,
And the key will not show
Till she walks neath the water in dream.
The light slid off my lap, and I fell asleep with Mother’s dark head in my mind’s eye, crowned in the sunset. When I woke she was dead.
When a person’s body is tired, my father told us, the body gives up, regardless of what the person wants. So even then I knew it wasn’t her fault. But her death shook everything apart.
Norembry was a small country, cut off from the rest of the world by mountains and sea, and the Lauriad family was bound to Norembry like bittersweet to a hemlock. My parents were bound tighter. The Queen died in childbirth and dragged the King halfway after her.
The King, my father, disappeared westward for long circles of time––in part, I suspect, because my eldest brother and I so resembled our mother.
A year passed. On an early spring morning he came back to us with a new wife. I’ve been told a number of explanations, this the most common: My father was wandering the western mountains, hunting a fox. Some folk say not a fox, but a doe. Others a wolf, or hound. I prefer the fox––a black fox, which was strange enough, and suited her besides.
Father’s situation grew significantly stranger when he held the fox at the point of a precipice––his arrow eager and his horse blowing––and she proceeded to speak to him in the most common of the Elde tongues. “Spare me the arrow, sir,” she said. “How will you find your way without a guide?”
Father looked about him, at the dark, misty hills, and saw he was lost. “What ought I to do?” he said.
“Accept my condition, and then I will lead you back.”
Father asked what the condition was.
“After I have led you back, you must chop off my head.”
He was taken aback. “Seems a wicked thing to do.”
“You must. And then you must marry the first woman you see.”
He accepted, and followed her through glens and marshes, over canyons churning with meltwater and great, broken stones, until they were out of the wild. The mist pulled back and the sun shone, and the fox lay in front of him, waiting. The King unpacked his little hatchet.
In one blow the job was done. And the fox twisted into a woman: a marvelous lady with a face white and sweet as the flesh of an apple.