short story, story promptKaia travels from place to place, making a living by selling small wooden figurines enchanted with spells to make them move. No one knows who she really is or what secret she hides. Not until Teilon appears one day and asks her to come back with him as the High Illusioner… can she return to the place where so many bad memories remain?


“Wow!” The children in front of Kaia stared in amazement at the little wooden figurines dancing elegantly on the table. Most were tiny figures of princesses and princes, but there were a few small animals that ran around the tabletop. A hound chased a rabbit towards one edge. She deftly caught the rabbit as it made a heroic leap into empty air. The hound skidded to a halt, tail wagging energetically. The children giggled as she placed the wooden rabbit on the far side of the table.

“How do you make the princesses dance?” a small girl asked, eyes shining as she watched a princess with a painted pink ball gown.

“Magic,” Kaia replied with a secretive smile. It was a rather complex spell that she’d weaved into the grain of the wood. It wouldn’t last much longer than a week of use, but it made her figurines her best-selling wares. Besides, by the time the spell wore off and irritated parents tried to get their money back, she’d be long gone.

“Mama, can I get one?” One of the girls tugged at her mother’s skirts. “I want the little bunny! I think he likes me.”

“Wouldn’t you rather have a princess?” her mother asked. “Look, there’s a pretty one in a purple dress.”

“No, I want the bunny,” the child said stubbornly.

“How much is the rabbit?”

“Two crowns,” Kaia replied, keeping a sweet, innocent smile on her face.

“Two crowns!” the woman gasped. “For a tiny animal carving?”

Kaia shrugged apologetically. “The princess ones are five crowns, if that makes you feel any better. The spell that makes these move so realistically is quite complex, time-consuming and expensive to cast. You won’t find figures like these anywhere else.” She indicated a stall across from hers. “If you want a cheap and crude toy with no spells attached, I believe he is selling carvings.”

The man across the way was glowering in her direction, irritated that she’d stolen all of his usual customers. The woman glanced across at his wares and the child shook her head vehemently.

“No! I don’t want one of his boring toys! I want the little bunny! Mama, I want the bunny!”

“Fine!” Grumbling, the woman fished out the two gold coins and passed them across.

Kaia hid her satisfied smile. She’d chosen this spot for a good reason. You could always count on a child’s temper tantrums to get parents to open their wallets. She accepted the coins graciously and handed the little girl her rabbit. “Take good care of him, won’t you?”

Beaming, the girl nodded. “I will! Thank you, miss!”

Several more children began nagging their parents for animated toys after seeing the little girl walk off with a coveted figurine. More gold flowed her way and within an hour, she’d sold out of her stock. She carefully stashed away the pouch of coins as the last customers left and began packing up her stall. It was always best to get moving as soon as possible. Occasionally, a spell wouldn’t hold for as long as it was supposed to and she liked to be far away from the town if that happened.

“Good day for business, I see.”

The male voice made her look up from stacking crates in her wagon. A tall, lean young man stood nearby, his hands clasped behind his back. Square-rimmed glasses framed his grey eyes. He looked very slightly familiar, but she couldn’t place him.

short story, story prompt

She nodded to him. “It was.” She waited to see if he would say something else. He wasn’t chatting to her idly. He wanted something from her.

“I don’t think the parents will be happy about spending a small fortune on a toy when the spell wears off in a few days.”

Kaia straightened. “Even without a spell, those toys are beautifully hand-made and decorated. They’re worth all the money paid. The spell is just an extra bonus.” She’d had that little speech prepared for years and used it when the spell was called into question. It was hard to argue against it when the toys were in fact better than anything else the children would find in these small towns and villages. “Besides, I never said that the spell would last forever.”

“You never said it would only last a week at most, either.”

“They never asked.” Was it her imagination, or did his lips twitch up at that?

“Fair enough.” The man bowed slightly. “On to business then. Kaia Greenwood, my name is Teilon and I have been sent by Her Imperial Highness to request that you return to the Amber Palace and take up the responsibilities of High Illusioner once more.”

Kaia took a faltering step back. It was hard to breathe. “So that’s what you wanted from me.”

“The Empire is on the brink of something big and we desperately need an Illusioner with your skill set. Without you,” he glanced around and lowered his voice before continuing, “we could lose everything we’ve ever known.”

She shook her head. “No. No! I left all that behind for a reason! I’m not going back. I won’t be your Illusioner again.”

“Look, I know what happened seven years ago-”

“If you really knew, if you really understood the toll that took on me, you wouldn’t be here asking me to do this.” To her shame, tears started forming in her eyes. She turned away from him. “I’m not doing it. I’m sorry, you’ll have to find someone else.”

She heard him sigh. “There is no one else,” he said quietly. “You’re the only Illusioner in the Empire who has the power to help us.”

“I guess we’re all doomed then.” She stacked the last crates and hitched her horse to the wagon. Tugging on the lead rein, she began the trip out of town. “Goodbye, Teilon.”

Something scares her about going back to the Amber Palace…

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