My short fantasy story, Defying Kikimoras, was published this month in Bards and Sages Quarterly. The story is about a young mother whose baby son is sick. She is going to do whatever it takes, defy living people and malevolent spirits, to save her son’s life. Below is the start of the story.
Gleb patted his beard. “We robbed a huge caravan—fifty wagons and only ten guards. Lucky for us, the greedy merchants skimped on the guards.”
Aglaya nodded absently. She didn’t care about the raid. “Levi is ailing again.” She gestured at the curtain separating their two-year-old son’s den from the kitchen. “He’s been coughing and fevered since you left.” She settled beside Gleb and put her hand on his huge hairy palm. Her thin fingers seemed feeble on top of his. “Gleb, take us to a Healer tomorrow morning. Levi will die otherwise. I’ve done all I could. Nothing helps.”
A wet cough and a weak cry from the den underscored her words. Aglaya flew to her son’s side. She scooped him out of bed and held his thin little body to her breast, caressing his skinny back with its sharp shoulder blades. Levi whimpered and coughed some more before sliding back to sleep. His tangled blond curls tickled her cheek. His skin was hot and dry, and hoarse bubbles raged inside his small chest on each stuttering inhale. Despite all her ministrations and herbal tinctures, her son would die, if she didn’t get him to a Healer.
Gleb held the curtain with his hand, watching her, his mouth a grim line. “I can’t take you to a Healer. The hills teem with the tsarina’s soldiers. They’re hunting us. They’ll never find us here, but if we leave the vale, we’re easy prey. They’ll torture us until I break. They’ll kill everyone here. No. Petro would never permit us to go, not for Levi.”
Aglaya didn’t reply. She should’ve known…
You can read the rest of the story by buying the issue from the magazine’s website.
When I wrote this story, I wanted it to have a Slavic flavor. Kikimora from the title of the story is a creature of Slavic folklore, a bad-tempered female spirit. I used a couple more Russian terms inside the story, but when I searched for a cover image, no Russian painting reflected my heroine. I found my Aglaya in a painting by Charles Sillem Lidderdale (1830-1895).
Lidderdale was a British painter specializing in the portraits of idealized young women, usually from lower and middle classes. I’m not sure about the realism of his images, but they are pretty, and their clean lines and pastel colors agree with my sense of beautiful.