Isis and the Valley of Song

Isis was on a mission to find a special flower called the Jabari Violet. As the second born to the chief, it was her responsibility to become a powerful priestess and learn all of the most powerful spells known by her people so they could turn to her in the event of a crisis.

Isis and the Valley of Song

A short story by Emma Lee Downs.

Summary: Isis is a young centaur who lives in a culture that values the power of music. Unable to sing herself, she sets off on a journey of self-discovery to find her place among her people.

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Isis and the Valley of Song

By: Emma Lee Downs

Isis, a young centaur of thirteen years old, was out on an adventure exploring a cave system which rested on the outskirts of the town of Analia, the place she was born and raised. Analia was a small village in the Zaire kingdom which rested in a far western land on the world of Iregeya. It was the head village of many that dotted the bottom of the Damari Valley. Her father Malik was the town chief and her mother Kala was the town healer. Her elder brother Enoch was the first in line for the title of chief, after their father retired from his position in the community and was usually out with Malik on town business to learn the ins and outs of his future role. In addition to their town, Isis’s family ruled over all of the villages that were nestled in the Damari Valley. Because of her high position in the town as the chief’s daughter, Isis didn’t have many young centaurs her own age to play with. This left her alone to explore the lesser known corners of the Damari Valley where the many villages of her tribe, the Yehuda, made their home.

The Damari Valley was protected by a magic force field, generated from all of the magic songs of the centaurs who lived there. Because the villages were protected by the tribe’s ancient magic, most young centaurs were free to explore the caves and other interesting aspects of the valley on their own. The force field had been put up many generations ago by the first Yehuda Tribe members to keep the goblins who lived at the far edges of the valley away. In order to keep the force field up and running, every centaur had to learn to chant ancient and mysterious spells in order to generate enough magic to strengthen the force field. Just one centaur that did not learn to sing could break the power of the force field and allow the goblins to get in. The centaurs who didn’t learn to sing the ancient songs were sent away to live with their cousins, the Zylus Tribe, who made their home at the top of the valley. The centaurs there didn’t sing because they didn’t need to use magic to keep the goblins away from their villages. This was the tradition of the Yehuda Tribe and that is why learning to chant incantations was so important to their people.

Today Isis was on a mission to find a special flower called the Jabari Violet. As the second born to the chief, it was her responsibility to become a powerful priestess and learn all of the most powerful spells known by her people so they could turn to her in the event of a crisis. Her mother had taught her many healing spells already and her father had taught her a few protection spells. Despite her extensive knowledge of the magical arts at such a young age, Isis just couldn’t make any of her spells turn out the way she wanted to. Her mother explained that she wouldn’t be able to cast any of the spells she learned properly until she could speak in song.

Earlier that day, when Isis failed at casting another healing spell her mother had told her, “My child, the most powerful spells are cast in song. Our tribe sings throughout the day to keep all evil goblins from entering the valley. Until a young centaur can learn to sing the ancient song of our people, they will remain an outsider to our tribe. Once a song flows fourth from their heart, their bond with her people will be eternal.”

Chanting was a long tradition that all of the high members of her tribe had to learn to do in order to earn the respect of the other centaurs and to become powerful magic casters. If a centaur with a high position couldn’t sing they would never become powerful enough to lead their people and would lose the respect of all of the members of the tribe. They would be sent to live with their cousins, the Zylus Tribe, at the top of the Valley, and could never become a full member of the Yehuda Tribe. Kala reassured Isis that all centaurs eventually learned how to sing and not to rush into it all at once. But Isis was not convinced she could do it on her own. She had never been able to sing the ancient spells of her people in all of the eleven years she had been alive. Even her father was starting to worry for her.

One night she had heard her parents talking and she overheard her father say, “Kala, I am worried about our daughter. If she can’t learn the ancient chants of our tribe, we will have to send her to live with the Zylus Tribe. That will be a very sad day for our village.”

Isis didn’t want to be sent away to live with the Zylus Tribe and she didn’t want to be a disgrace to her people so she decided she was going to explore the Kasabian Caves in search of the Jabari Violet, a plant that was said to make any centaur have the ability to sing if made into a special potion and drunk in one gulp. She had explored pretty deep in the cave but had yet to come across the legendary flower. Near one of the cave chambers further back she had seen a flower very much like the Jabari Violet; tall, blue, with large yellow tubes growing out of the center of the petals but the color of the stem was wrong. The flower she had found had a green stem, while the Jabari Violet had a blue stem. Feeling disappointed, she kicked the imposter flower with one of her front hooves and carried on deep into the cave until she reached the chamber she was currently in.

The chamber gave of a faint blue glow because minerals clinging to the rocks growing out of the side of the walls glowed in the same blue color. Isis stood on a natural stone bridge over a sea of stalagmites which congregated together at the bottom of the drop. It seemed like the strange room was the last opening in the network of caves and still no Jabari Violet was to be found. Isis felt very frustrated and let out an agitated grunt.

“I’ve searched all day and still I can’t find the flower I am looking for. It’s not fair. Why can’t I sing like the other centaurs?”

Isis plopped down on the stone bridge, hitting the ground with a large thud that echoed off of the cave walls. Some of the stalactites from above were shook loose from the sudden vibration from the ground below and came tumbling town around her. Isis shielded her head to protect it from the falling stalactites. When it sounded like most of the loose mineral deposits had fallen, she uncovered her head and then gave a small gasp in shock. There, lying in front of her were three Jabari Violets. Isis looked up at the ceiling and realized that the Jabari violets had fallen from there, for they grew all over the cave ceiling above her on vines winding in and out of the stalactites. Isis was so excited she could hardly contain herself.

She immediately set to work taking out the peach nectar, cinnamon, and other ingredients necessary to make her special potion from a small brown satchel hanging at her side. She mixed them all together in a small bowl she also pulled out from the brown satchel and then added the three Jabari Violets as the last ingredients to the mix.

She said the words she had learned from her magic book out loud, “And now I will always know the songs, that centaurs have spoken since early times!”

When the words were spoken, she drank the strange mixture in one large gulp from the small wooden bowl. When the contents were empty, she placed the bowl back in her satchel and waited patiently for the results. At first nothing happened, but then Isis started to glow a faint blue color that matched the color of the glowing mineral deposits that clung to the rocks jutting out from the cave wall. The faint blue color lasted a few minutes and then disappeared, leaving Isis the same young centaur she once was upon entering the cave.

She decided that she would test her new ability so she attempted to sing out loud, “My name is Isis and now I can sing whenever I please.”

Nothing even close to a song had left her lips. She frowned.

“No, that’s not right. Let me try again. Ok, now this time for real.”

Isis sucked in air and then attempted to say in a sing-song voice, “My name is Isis. I ate that Jabari Violet plant, and now there isn’t any song out there that I can’t sing.”

Isis shook her head in frustration when she was unable to sing once more.

“No, no that isn’t right either! Why isn’t this working?”

Isis stared up at the cave ceiling and gave the Jabari Violet plants an evil stare.

“Some help you plants have been. I think I’m even worse than before, which is saying a lot because even my non-singing voice was better than this!”

Isis begun to cry and ran full gallop toward the entrance of the cave. When she reached the mouth of the cave system she looked down at the valley below where her people had lived for generations through cloudy tear blurred eyes.

“I will never be like the rest of my people. I will never learn how to sing. Then I will be kicked out of town and be alone…for…forever. I still can’t do it. It’s just not fair!”

Looking down at the happy Yehuda below Isis continued to cry as the breeze gently pulled at her long black hair.


Later that day when Isis had finally managed to stop crying and had journeyed back into town, she ran into her mother gathering ingredients for her healing potions at the town market. Kala cheerfully called her daughter over and had her help with the late afternoon chore. When the ingredients were purchased, Isis and Kala carried them in their satchels back to Kala’s Healing Lodge. As the two started to put the ingredients away, Kala asked Isis about her day.

“Well my daughter, did you have fun exploring all of the chambers in the Kasabian Cave?” Kala asked, placing her portion of the ingredients in a nearby cabinet that had other healing ingredients in it already. Isis sighed as she placed the perishable ingredients in the ice box.

“No momma, I did not have fun. I tried to find the Jabari Violet, and I thought I found a lot. But when I made a potion out of the flowers, and said the spell, I still couldn’t sing at all. It was the worst day ever.”

With the last ingredients placed inside the cabinet, Kala slammed the cabinet door shut in panic and turned around to face her daughter with a worried expression on her face.

“My daughter, please tell me that what you have just said is not true. If what you say is genuine, then there is no cure for your current condition!”

Isis kicked the ice box shut with her front hooves and met her mother’s concerned stare with her own.

“I’m telling the truth. I made the potion and I drank it. Then I said the spell I found in one of your magic books. I don’t understand mamma; why are you so upset?”

Kala began to chew on the bottom of her lip nervously.

“Because dear Isis, that spell was created to make sure all of the other creatures of the world cannot use the ancient power of our songs for themselves. The musical chants of our tribe, the real spells we use, are something our people keep hidden. We spread the rumor of the Jabari Flower so all of the creatures of the world will seek its magical properties. They eat it in the other kingdoms of the world and hence can never learn our ancient songs. When you turned twelve in just eight days, I planned to show you all of the ancient chanting techniques and give you the potion to make you able to sing, but now I can’t. All is lost. And you ate three of the flowers. When three flowers are eaten at once it brings on a curse that will not ever let a person sing; even if it isn’t one of our tribe’s ancient songs! Perhaps a cure could be found for one flower, but the magic of three flowers cannot be reversed”

Kala began to weep as Isis placed a hand on her right shoulder.

“Don’t cry momma. Maybe there is a way for me to b alright. Maybe if we told daddy or brother they could find a spell to help reverse the spell and everything would go back to normal.”

Kala shook her head sorrowfully as she continued to cry.

“No my child, they must never know of this problem. If your father or brother were to find out about this crisis they would be the first to suggest we send you to live with the Zylus Tribe. While your father and brother are good centaur men and have compassion for all of troubles of their people they still must follow the ancient traditions of our tribe. If they were to know you cannot learn to sing because of a curse, they would surly ask you to leave in time. My little one, you must go to the land of the ancestors and seek the help of the High Queen Zuri. I believe only she can reverse the powerful spell of the Jabari flowers for anyone else who might attempt to help you would just make it worse. I will transport you there with one of my spells and then you can tell the high queen all of what has taken place. While you are away, I will tell your father and brother that you are training in another village with your aunt Mala. It will buy you some time, so no one will suspect that you ate a Jabari Violet by accident.”

Isis gave her mother a reassuring smile.

“Ok Mamma, I will go. Just make a portal and I will tell the High Queen everything. Don’t worry; I’m sure that Queen Zuri can help.”

Kala whipped away her tears and gave her daughter a weak smile.

“I know you can carry out this task. When it comes to finding solutions to problems, there is no one better than you. Now help me gather the items we need to make the portal as quickly as we can!”

Isis nodded and helped her mother gather some of the ingredients they just purchased along with ingredients that had been sitting at the Healing Lodge for a while into a large cauldron in the center of the kitchen. They added one thing after another until the final ingredient was added and giant spiral of green energy shot up toward the ceiling. In the center of the spiral formed a circle which took on the semblance of a mirror at first but slowly started to reconfigure into the scene of Queen Zuri’s throne room, where the high queen was sitting on her throne, looking over one of her many royal documents.

With the portal open, Kala gave her daughter a quick hug and said, “My daughter, you must now go and talk with the High Queen. When you are done with your quest, return home as quickly as you can manage. I will keep the portal open on my side while you are away. All you have to do is speak the words ‘take me back to the origin of the portal’. Then you will be sent back to the Healing Lodge, where I will be waiting patiently for your return.”

Isis returned her mother’s embrace and then nodded and she pulled away from it.

“Don’t worry mamma, I’m going to fix this. I’ll be back soon!”

With her final words spoken, she hopped into the portal and was instantly taken to the High Queen Zuri’s throne room. Queen Zuri was startled away from her reading when she saw a huge flash of green light shine above her and a little centaur with long black hair and a grey flank crawl out of the green light. When Isis reached the edge of the green light she immediately plummeted down towards the High Queen. Queen Zuri dropped the royal document she was reading when Isis landed forcefully on top of her lap. The queen stared down at the centaur girl sitting before her with a mixed look of shock and awe.

“Oh my,” Queen Zuri said in a startled voice, as Isis turned around to face her.

Isis smiled up at the high queen of their land sheepishly. She realized that her entrance into the throne room wasn’t very polite or proper so she did a quick bow and then said, “Um your majesty, I am sorry to drop in on you like this but I need your help. I accidently ate three Jabari Violet flowers, which gave me a curse that will never let me sing again unless you can help me find the cure. If you can’t help me, I’ll never be able to go back to my clan, so please help me High Queen, oh please!”

Isis did a full bow on the high queen’s lap and waited to hear what she had to say. To her surprise, Queen Zuri let out a merry laugh and gestured for her to rise from her bow.

When Isis did so, the high queen said, “I would be honored to help you little one, but first I would like to know a little bit more about you. What is your name and tribe do you come from? What magic did you use to get into the throne room? I don’t think I have seen a centaur like you before. I want to know everything.”

Isis looked up at the high queen of her land shyly. She was larger by at least two heads than the centaurs of her land. She had long, brown hair plaited with many silver ornaments. She had kind green eyes and a light brown horse body. She was very beautiful and emitted a very peaceful aura. Isis knew she could trust the high queen so she crawled down from her lap and did her best to answer all of the questions Queen Zuri had asked her when she reached the tiled floor underneath the throne.

“Well,” Isis began, rubbing her chin deep in thought, “I come from the town of Analia. My tribe is called the Yehuda. We live at the bottom of the Damari Valley. The high members of our clan cast magic with potions that we cook up in special brews. I am the daughter of chief Malik and head village woman Kala. My brother Enoch is first in line for the title of chief. I am training to be the village high priestess, as is custom for the second born child. In order to become a full member of our clan, everyone has to learn to sing, especially the high members of society like my mom, my dad, and my brother, so we can cast spells to protect our people from danger. I tried to learn how to sing the ancient spells of our tribe for eleven years but I just couldn’t do it so I tried to make a potion with the Jabari Violets I found in a cave located outside of my village but I just ended up getting cursed. If I can’t find a way to lift the curse, I will never be a member of my tribe and won’t be able to become the village high priestess, so my mamma sent me here in hopes that you could help me. Please tell me that you can, Queen. I really need your help! If you can’t help me, I won’t ever be able to go home.”

Isis began to tear up at the eyes a bit, although she didn’t allow herself to cry. She didn’t want to make herself look foolish in front of the High Queen.

Queen Zuri took in everything Isis said and thought long and hard about a possible cure. She knew that with a set of ancient relics called the Ulani Swords she could certainly restore the young centaur to her original state. Since the royal family was always able to wield the power of the swords she could harness the power of at least one. Her husband could also wield a sword and aid her with the task but unfortunately he was away on his diplomatic mission to establish friendly connections with the surrounding kingdoms. The problem was that she would need to find six other centaurs to wield the other Ulani relics and the little centaur didn’t seem to have enough time to wait for the centaurs to be found and brought to the castle. Sometimes it took years to find the right candidates to wield the ancient weapons and Isis needed a cure that would help her out quickly before any of the other centaurs caught on to what had happened. There was one other thing she could do but…it would come with a great price.

She sighed and then said, “My little one, the only thing I can do in a short amount of time is cast a banishing spell. The spell will cancel out the effects of the flowers. However, banishing spells always require something in return of equal value. The spell would return you to normal, it might even bring out your latent singing ability, but in return, you would not be able to return to Analia. Maybe you could return to your people and explain your situation. I am sure if you talked to them, there might be another way for you to become a member of your tribe.”

Isis whipped away the tears starting to flow from her eyes.

“No, your majesty. In our tribe, if you can’t sing, you can’t be accepted as a true member of the Yehuda. I would have to leave in shame and live with my cousins, the Zylus Tribe, who make their home at the top of the Damari Valley. I think using the banishing spell is the best option. At least I can prove I am a true member of the Yehuda tribe before having to go away forever. You could come with me in eight days, when the ritual to initiate me into my tribe was supposed to take place after my mom gave me the real potion. After I get initiated you can cast the spell on me and then I can…leave my tribe for good.”

Queen Zuri stood up from her throne. She picked up the little centaur standing before her and held her close.

“Now, now little one, we won’t give up that easy. I will have my royal chariot drivers take us to the town of Analia and I will speak to your family myself. Surely we can all come up with some solution that won’t get you banished forever.”

Isis nodded weakly as the high queen let go of Isis and summoned her chariot drivers to the throne room. The six built centaur men with black horse bodies came galloping into the throne chamber together as if on cue and kneeled at the throne of their queen.

The leader of the chariot drivers, a tan skinned centaur named Cassius rose his head slightly and asked, “What is it you require of us your majesty?” as the other chariot drivers continued to bow.

“Cassius, I want you to take this young centaur and I to the town of Analia, with the directions she provides. We shall leave immediately. Have royal advisor, Lord Theon, take over while I am away.”

Cassius nodded and signaled for one of his men to inform Lord Theon of the queen’s departure while he instructed the rest to get the royal chariot ready. With his orders given out, he faced the High Queen once more and said, “The chariot will be here in less than fifteen minutes. I sent Tyrus to inform Lord Theon of your departure. We will have everything ready soon and will wait for further orders once the chariot is ready.”

Queen Zuri thanked him and then sat Isis up on her shoulders.

“Now little one, while we wait I will tell you everything I know about my kingdom since you were kind enough to tell me everything about your kind.”

Queen Zuri carried Isis around the throne room on her shoulder and showed her all of the stained glass windows with the stories of all of the lands of the centaur kingdom of Zaire etched into them. She told Isis the story of how she and her husband had once defeated an army of goblins together with the help of her royal army. She explained that her husband was now traveling across the world, attempting to establish friendly relations with all of the other kingdoms. She told Isis about the special power of Ulani Swords that had been passed down in the royal family for seven generations by a wizard of the land of the dwarves and how they could only be used by those with the purest of hearts. Queen Zuri told one story after another until the royal chariot arrived and the two of them boarded it to journey to the far off town of Analia.


After many days of travel, Isis, Queen Zuri, and the royal chariot drivers arrived in Analia. The centaurs of her village were surprised to see the larger centaurs from the capital city of Xael in their native lands. They were even more surprised to see that Isis was standing among them. Isis’s mother had seen the chariot land from the town Healing Lodge and was pushing her way through the crowd of onlookers to get a better look at the new arrivals. When she caught sight of Isis, she broke through the first ring of centaurs at the front of the crowd and ran forward to hold her daughter in her arms. After the mother and daughter had a heartfelt reunion, Isis’s father Malik and her brother Enoch also came and gave Isis a warm welcome.

Greetings out of the way, Chief Malik examined Queen Zuri and the Royal Chariot Drivers with questioning eyes. His wife had told him that Isis was away studying magic with her Aunt Mala and had not mentioned anything about visiting the mysterious centaurs from the other side of the Zaire Kingdom.

Chief Malik intended to get some answers so he faced Queen Zuri and asked, “Your Majesty who comes from the capital city of Xael, what brings you to the lands of the Yehuda Tribe? And furthermore why did you bring along such a frightening group of centaur men? I have so many questions for you, such as why my daughter has arrived with your party in my people’s native lands. I was told that she was studying magic with her Aunt Mala. But I see that she was visiting your kingdom instead.”

And at that Chief Malik gave his daughter a stern look. Isis shrunk back behind Queen Zuri, hiding from her father’s critical gaze.

Queen Zuri bowed politely toward the chief and said, “Please forgive my rudeness for not giving you a formal introduction. I, the High Queen Zuri, have come to this town because your daughter Isis came to me with a big problem that I am afraid can only be solved with a banishing spell. I brought her back in hopes that I could talk to you about another solution to her problem that would not cause me to use the spell on her.”

Chief Malik nodded in understanding and gestured for Queen Zuri, her team of chariot drivers, his wife Mala, his daughter Isis, and his son Enoch to follow him to his house at the other end of the town. When they arrived, Chief Malik led the group of centaurs to a conference room with many chairs set up around a large square table. Kala, Malik, Enoch, and Isis took the four seats near the front end of the table, while Queen Zuri and her chariot drivers took the other seats positioned around the table.

After everyone had settled in to their chairs and introduced themselves, Queen Zuri was the first to break the new silence that hung in the air by saying, “Isis has eaten three Jabari Violet flowers. These flowers have given her a curse that will prevent her from ever learning how to sing. In your culture learning the ancient songs of your tribe is something that all centaurs need to know, especially centaurs in high positions of power. Isis came to me hoping that I could help her break the curse. I do possess the magic to do so but it would come at a great cost. Isis would be returned to normal if I were to use a banishing spell; it might even bring out her latent musical abilities. However, in return she would have to leave Analia forever. The nature of the spell is to banish one thing in exchange for another. In exchange for becoming a full member of the Yehuda Tribe, Isis would have to be banished from it forever. I am hoping that we can find another solution that will not have to result to such an extreme measure on my part.”

Chief Malik felt great sadness upon hearing the curse brought upon his daughter. Enoch was also very sad for his sister. The two centaur men exchanged weary glances. They both knew what needed to be done but it wasn’t something either one of them wanted to carry out.

When Enoch could see that his father couldn’t bring himself to say what needed to be said he raised himself up from his seat and said, “We want nothing more for Isis to stay with our tribe, however I am afraid that if she cannot sing, we have no choice but to send her away, like the five centaurs we sent off earlier this year. You see, all centaurs who live in the Damari Valley must learn to sing in order to help summon a force field of magic that surrounds each of the villages and keep the goblins at bay. It is our Tribe’s custom. If just one centaur cannot chant the ancient spells, the force field will weaken and then in time the goblins will break through the protective shield. When they reach the many villages of our tribe they will attack us like they have done in the past. They will fight to take all of our lands and if they succeed, they will drive us away from our home in the valley. Those who can’t sing will suffer the worst, for the goblins that find them will not show mercy to them. They will take the weak centaurs of our tribe back to their kingdom and keep all of the captives as personal slaves. Those who do not comply with their demands will be murdered. This is what has happened in the past before our ancestors put up the force field to protect our people from the goblin’s raids. The goblin kingdom is built into the outer cave systems of the valley. They are always waiting for the moment when our force field will weaken and they can invade. In order to protect Isis, we must send her to live with our cousins the Zylus Tribe who make their home at the top of the Damari Valley. The Zylus Tribe does not need to learn the ancient chants of our people because the goblins stay in the valley below, in the lands where only our people dare to tread upon. The Zylus Tribe has its own magic and its own mysterious ways. They are a peaceful people who have lived at the top of the Damari Valley since the ancient times. My queen, you must help take Isis to the top of the valley. She cannot go by herself, for the goblins are always waiting to snatch up a stay member of our tribe and turn them into a slave. Please send some of your men to guide her safely to the top of the Valley. Instruct your men to keep Isis protected from any goblin attacks and to make sure to keep her from being captured by them or worse.”

Queen Zuri thought about what Enoch had told her. It seemed like all of the traditions of the Yehuda Tribe were built around protecting their kind from goblins. If she could somehow get rid of the goblin problem, Isis wouldn’t have to be sent away. The centaurs in the Damari Valley wouldn’t have to live in fear anymore.

Her mind made up, Queen Zuri said, “Chief Malik, Enoch, Kala, and Isis, I would like you to wield four of the seven Ulani swords and use their power to banish the goblins from this land. I believe that Isis has demonstrated great courage by asking for my help. One of the swords will surely allow her to wield its power because of her courageous heart. I will bear one of the swords like I did when I went to war with the goblins with my husband and the royal army many years ago. The royal family is always able to weird the power of the Ulani Relics. It is our birth right. Chief Malik, you are a wise ruler and very powerful. I think you are the perfect candidate for one of the Ulani Swords because of your wise heart. Your wife Kala is powerful and has a gentle spirit. I believe she is the perfect candidate for one of the weapons because of her gentle heart. Enoch, you had the courage to tell everyone that truth about the situation with the goblins. Because you have a steadfast heart, I believe you are perfect candidate for one of the swords. If we can just find two more centaurs to wield the last to Ulani Relics, we will have all the power we need to drive the goblins from the land, and to cure Isis of her curse. I can send one of my Royal Chariot Drivers to the Xael palace to retrieve Ulani Swords from the Chamber of Oracles, where they are kept locked away when they are not in use.”

Kala’s eyes filled up with tears. She was so happy that there was a solution to the problem that had plagued their tribe for so long that she couldn’t help but tear up a little. They would just have to find two more candidates to bear the last two Ulani weapons and all of their problems would be resolved. Kala thought about this and then she recalled that her two older sisters were some of the most powerful magic users in their tribe.

“Queen Zuri,” Kala said excitedly, whipping the tears from her eyes, “My sisters Mala and Imogen are two of the most powerful magic users among our people. Surely they can help us to fix this disaster!”

Everyone around the table agreed that Kala’s sisters should wield the two other Ulani Relics. Queen Zuri sent the head of her Royal Chariot Drivers, Cassius, to retrieve the weapons from the royal palace in the capital city of Xael. Cassius did a customary bow and sped off to retrieve the swords from the special room Queen Zuri kept them in back in the Xael Palace. Chief Malik sent for a messenger to summon Mala and Imogen to the central village of Analia. The messenger bowed and sped off to summon Kala’s two sisters from the neighboring village of Thea.

When the messenger left the room, Chief Malik turned to everyone at the table and said, “When Kala’s two sisters Mala and Imogen and Queen Zuri’s royal chariot driver Cassius arrive at the village in two days’ time, we will set our plan into motion. All of those chosen to carry out the task of wielding the Ulani Swords will do so. We will use the power of the relics to drive the evil goblins away from the Damari Valley for good. This is all thanks to the High Queen Zuri’s brilliant suggestion. Our tribe will forever by in the High Queen’s debt. Now, while we wait for the other members of our party arrive, we will throw a feast in honor of our guests from the capital city. Tell all of the centaurs of the Damari Valley that they are welcome to join in on the festivities. We will show the queen and her men all about the Yehuda Tribe’s traditions and ways while we wait for the others to show up in the main village!”

After Chief Malik made his speech the council was broken up and preparations were made for the two day feast that would show Queen Zuri and her Royal Chariot Drivers all about the Yehuda Tribe’s traditional ways. Queen Zuri helped Isis and Kala gather a group of centaurs together to decorate the town. Tyrus and the other remaining Royal Chariot Drivers helped Chief Malik and Enoch put together the entertainment. When Queen Zuri, Isis and Kala were finished helping the other centaurs decorate the town, they gathered up centaurs to help them make food for the event.

With all of the preparations complete, the town had a grand celebration to welcome the visitors from capital city of Xael and to celebrate the plan of banishing the Goblins away for good. The first day of the celebration, the centaurs performed the traditional welcoming dance where the female centaurs stood on one side and the male centaurs stood on the other in two grand lines that stretched from one end of the town to the other. The female centaurs started the dance stomping their front hooves and singing an ancient chant. The males joined in afterward, stomping their back hooves and chanting in deep throated grunts. The newcomers to the town, Queen Zuri and the royal Chariot Drivers were led down the line by Chief Malik and his family. At each centaur they passed, the centaur bowed and threw a rosary of flowers over the necks of the visitors. This repeated until Queen Zuri, The Royal Chariot Drivers, Malik and his family got to the end of the line.

At the very end, where Chief Malik’s house stood, he had two guards open the doors of his grand estate and then he called back to the crowd behind him, “Let the feasting begin!”

The centaurs all thundered their hooves against the ground and clapped their hands together in a grand applause and then ran toward the open doors. The centaurs filled the many rooms of the estate, now lined with dining tables stacked with all sorts of food and caterers moving back and forth across the room giving assistance to any centaur who needed it. The feast went on most of the night, until it finally came to a close with another traditional dance. With the first day’s celebration over, Malik showed Queen Zuri and her royal Chariot drivers to rooms in his estate that they could use during their stay in town of Analia, and the visitors thanked him graciously.

The next day, when the sun rose up over the cliffs of the valley, the town held the second celebration. It was a full festival complete with games, all sorts of merchant booths, dancing, music, theatrical productions, storytellers, bards, and lots of food at every turn. Isis showed Queen Zuri a game that young centaurs played where they stood on each other’s backs as tall as they could go. The centaurs split into two different teams. The centaurs who created the highest towers were the winners. Isis joined the leaf team, while her brother joined the acorn team. Centaurs stacked up on Isis’s and Enoch’s backs way up into the sky. At first it seemed like Enoch’s team would win but then all at once, the newest addition slipped and the whole tower came tumbling town, making Isis’s team the winners.

Tyrus and the other Royal Chariot drivers were enjoying traveling booth to booth and playing the various festival games. Tyrus played a game which required its player to toss a ring over one of the many glass jars filled with fish laid out on a grand platform. If the player could get a ring around one of the glass jars they could keep the fish inside. Tyrus managed to win a goldfish that he ended up giving to a village child with short white hair since he had little use of it once he got back to the capital city. The village child thanked him and ran to show off her new pet to her friends. The other Royal Chariot Drivers were not so lucky and decided to move on to other booths and try their luck there. Kala showed Queen Zuri to an area of the festival where a traditional magic show was being put on. The High Queen watched as the centaurs putting on the show told the story of how the ancient Yehuda Tribe found the Damari Valley and drove the goblins deep into the outer caves with their magic. Each part of the show was highlighted with magical effects that rivaled the magical artistry of the shows put on by the centaurs in the capital city.

After the magic show, Malik led Queen Zuri to an area of the festival where the male centaurs were wrestling each other. It was a magical wrestling match, so the centaurs were using any trick they could think of to get an advantage over their opponent. The ultimate winner of the competition was a centaur named Demarcus, who proved to be the strongest of all the competitors after being victorious in fourteen matches. His prize was a large green mask carved in intricate patterns that showed he was the ultimate victor of the competition.

The festivities carried on throughout the night, each Centaur and pony enjoying all of the entertainment it had to offer. The festival ended once again with a grand dance before all of the centaurs returned to their homes. Queen Zuri and her Royal Chariot Drivers stayed in their rooms at the grand estate of Chief Malik once more. They each went to sleep quickly, eager for the night to pass so all of the pieces to banish the Goblins from the valley for good would finally fall into place with the arrival of the other party members in the morning.


The next day was brought forth as the sun slowly crept over high stone walls of the Damari Valley. The centaurs were working together to put away all of the decorations and return Analia to the way it was before the two day celebration. Chief Malik’s messenger, Eliseo, returned from the neighboring village with Kala’s two sisters, Mala and Imogen. Cassius returned around the same carrying a giant golden chest that held the Ulani Relics. With everyone now present, Queen Zuri instructed Cassius to open the chest and hand out each of the Ulani Swords to each of the seven party members. Cassius did as he was instructed and handed out each of the weapons one by one.

With the weapons distributed, Queen Zuri commanded her Royal Chariot Drivers to guide the team of adventurers to the edges of the valley were the Goblins made their home. Malik, Kala, Mala, Enoch, Isis, and Zuri boarded the chariot and were whisked away to the cave systems where the goblins had built their kingdom by the Royal Chariot Drivers, who followed out the Queen orders without a second thought. When they arrived in the territory of the goblins, a particularly ugly goblin with spiky black hair and red eyes was there to greet them.

As Zuri and the others got down from the chariot he came over and asked in a grumpy voice, “What business do you travelers have in goblin territory? Leave at once or we will take you all as our captives!”

No sooner had those words left the goblin’s mouth, a whole army of goblin men and women appeared behind him, wielding all sorts of awful looking weapons and wearing spiked armor from head to toe.

Zuri frowned up at the spiky-haired goblin.

“We will not leave. You goblins have caused enough trouble for the Yehuda Tribe. Now it is your turn to go!”

The spiky-haired goblin gave out a wicked laugh, echoed by the many goblins behind him.

“Oh yeah lady? Who is going to stop us?”

Isis jumped forward and frowned up at the Goblin.

“We are! You terrible goblins have made many of our people leave the Damari Valley just because we don’t know how to sing. Now we are going to put you in your place.”

The Goblins laughed wickedly again as the goblin with spiky black hair and red eyes drew in closer to the group.

“Perhaps you don’t know who you are addressing. I am the King of all of the goblins, Sedric, and I have the most power of anyone in the land. It takes the magic of an entire tribe of centaurs to keep me out of the Damari Valley and you think only your small party of travelers can defeat me? What a joke!”

Sedric waved his hands in front of him and lifted Tyrus into the air. Without warning, he flung the queen’s chariot driver into one of the sides of the valley. Tyrus came crashing down violently, breaking one of his legs in the process. The other Royal Chariot Drivers rushed over and helped tend to his wounds as the seven main members of the party continued to stare their adversary down.

Kala narrowed her eyes as she said, “You monster! How could you do that to him? We are going to teach you a thing or two!”

Sedric continued to laugh and started to shake the rocks free from the canyon walls. The rocks came tumbling down in droves, barley missing the small group of centaurs standing in front of him. Queen Zuri gave a signal to her fellow warriors which they all interpreted as use the power of the Ulani Swords. Each centaur in the party nodded in understanding as they placed the blade of the weapons in front of them. It was not long before each of the swords begun to light up one by one. Eventually Zuri’s weapon lit up and the combined power of the relics shot out from the ends of the swords and put a force field around the group of goblins.

Queen Zuri pointed up at Sedric and bellowed, “You and your people will be sent to a land far away where you can never bother anyone again. Be gone evil goblins! And never return!”

The magic swirled around all of the goblins and lifted every member of their tribe up into the air. It shook each of the goblins until they were relieved of their weapons. Then it flung the goblins off into the distance until they reached an uninhabited land blocked on all sides by hot pots and other geothermal activity. Next, Queen Zuri used the power of the swords to heal Tyrus of the injuries Sedric had inflicted on him. The magic engulfed his body and healed his broken leg in a flash of white energy. The last thing to do was to heal little Isis of her curse. Queen Zuri summoned Isis forward and whispered an ancient spell. A blue light wrapped around her body and she could feel the curse unraveling from her like the peel from an orange. Next, Queen Zuri cast another spell that would awaken Isis’s latent musical abilities. A purple light engulfed Isis’s body and she felt all kinds of music awakening from within the deepest parts of her soul. When the spell was complete, Queen Zuri told Isis to try out her new gift.

Isis cautiously moved to the front of the group and sung out, “Queen Zuri has awoken my ability to sing so I will be a powerful magic user in my tribe!”

Isis’s eye lit up with wonder as she realized that she had sung for the very first time.

“Oh my! I made my very first song! Did you hear everyone? I can finally sing!”

Isis danced around in joy, followed shortly by her father, mother, her two aunts and her brother. Everyone was happy that after all of those years Isis had finally learned the ability to sing and could become a true member of the Yehuda Tribe. After a small celebration by the party in honor or Isis’s newfound ability, Cassius collected the Ulani Relics from each centaur they had been lent to and placed them back inside the golden chest they had been taken from. Then the party stepped on Queen Zari’s chariot and was whisked back to the town of Analia by her team of royal chariot drivers.

When the group returned to the town of Analia, another celebration was planned to welcome Isis as a new member of the tribe. Everyone decided to hold the celebration on the same day as her birthday, which was only five days away. Queen Zuri sent Cassius to return the Ulani Relics to the palace. Cassius carried out Queen Zuri’s orders immediately, returning the ancient relics to their rightful place in the Chamber of Oracles. Queen Zuri and the rest of her men stayed behind while Cassius carried out his task. The visitors from the capital city continued to visit with the Yehuda Tribe and learn all about their traditions while they waited for Cassius to return.

Two days later Cassius returned to the valley, and three days after that the initiation ceremony for Isis was brought under way. Queen Zuri watched as the young centaur had flowers tossed at her, her face painted, and her grey fur coat decorated with pollen to symbolize her formal acceptance into the tribe. Although Isis was happy to finally be part of the Yehuda Tribe, she was sad that Queen Zuri would have to leave and return to the capital city of Xael after the celebration was over. While she was in the capital city she felt an immediate bond with all of the centaurs who lived there. She wished that she could travel back with the High Queen, even though she knew it was a selfish request.

Isis’s Aunt Mala noticed that she had gone off into a corner by herself after the initiation ceremony while the other centaurs talked, laughed, feasted, and danced.

She walked up to her niece and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“What is wrong little one? You do not seem to be enjoying the festivities at all.”

Isis teared up a little as she replied, “Auntie Mala I love living with the Yehuda Tribe but I wish I could go back with Queen Zuri and live in the capital city of Xael.”

Mala thought what her niece had said over for a moment and then got an idea.

“My little one, I think you should ask Queen Zuri if you can go. Perhaps it is your destiny to live in the capital city and give your assistance to the people there. You should not worry about the position of high priestess. Although my daughter Ophelia is younger than you by two years, I believe that she has the potential to make an excellent high priestess with the proper training. I will talk to your mother and father about letting your cousin take over your role in your absence. Now go and ask the Queen if you can return with her to the capital city while you still can!”

Mala placed Isis on her back and galloped over to the Queen. When the two arrived, Isis climbed down from her aunt’s back and shy bowed in front of Queen Zuri.

“Queen Zuri, I’m happy that I am now a full member of the Yehuda Tribe but I have a favor to ask of you. In return for helping my people, I would like to travel back to your land with you and live among all of the people of your land. I want to study to become a powerful magic user and help anyone in your kingdom who may be in need of my assistance. Please allow me to serve you and your people from now on.”

Malik, Kala, and Enoch saw their daughter talking to the Queen and came over to get a better look at what was going on. When Kala heard that her daughter wanted to leave their land to live with the queen she felt great sadness in her heart.

She came up to Isis and said, “My daughter I wish that you would remain here in the Damari Valley with us. I do not want you to leave our tribe but if it is truly your wish, I have no choice but to let you go. I always had a feeling that you were destined for great things that would take you far away from our valley. Mala has a daughter that can learn the rites necessary to become a high priestess. I have known this for many years but I always held out hope that you would learn the ancient songs of our people and remain here in the Valley to carry out your role. But if you feel that you must go then I will send you off with a blessing.”

Chief Malik came up beside his daughter and gave her a warm embrace.

“You have helped us greatly my daughter. Like your mother, I do not want you to leave us. But if you feel that you should leave the Valley then I will allow you to travel back to the capital city with the High Queen. You will be missed by all of us here but knowing you are happy will give us all some solace. You must promise to visit us whenever you can. If you can keep this one promise then I will let you go.”

Isis held her father tightly and said, “I promise, daddy. I will visit you, mom, Enoch and all of the members of the tribe whenever I can. Thank you so much for understanding.”

Enoch was sniffling as he came up to his sister and said, “I will miss all of the days we spent exploring the different parts of the Valley together, but I can’t tell you not to go. It would be wrong for me to insist that you stay in our town. Just promise that you will come play a round of Ibak with me whenever you can. I will miss you whenever you are not here.”

Isis let go of her father and gave her brother a big hug.

“I promise that I will visit you and everyone whenever I can. You can count on it!”

Enoch nodded as he held his sister for a few moments then pulled away, whipping away some tears that had started to form in his eyes.

Mala smiled warmly at her niece and said, “My dear do not worry for the tribe. I will teach my daughter everything about being the High priestess. You should follow your heart. We will always be here in the valley, waiting happily for your return.”

Isis smiled up at all of her family members.

“Thank you so much everyone. I will return to the capital city of Xael with Queen Zuri when the party is done! That is if she will allow me to go.”

Isis kneeled in front of the High Queen and said, “Oh Queen Zuri please say you will take me back to the capital city with you. I want to serve you and your people from now on. So please let me go!”

Isis stared up at Queen Zuri with pleading eyes. Zuri smiled down at the young centaur kneeling before her.

“Of course you can come back with me to the capital city of Xael! I will make you an honorary member of the royal court. You can study magic under me and act as a foreign ambassador for all of the centaurs of the Damari Valley! I will make a portal in the Xael Royal Palace that will allow you to travel to your land whenever you want to visit your family or friends. Does this sound good to you?”

Isis stood up from her kneeling position and literally jumped for joy.

“Oh Yes, your majesty, I would love to be a foreign ambassador of the royal court! I will visit my people as often as I am able and will study magic under you at the palace as you have planned!”

Isis’s family members jumped for joy as well. They gave her many warm embraces to congratulate her for acquiring her high position in the Xael Royal Court. They would be sad when Isis had to leave, but they were comforted in knowing that Isis could visit them any time she wanted to. When the celebration was over, Isis packed her belongings and placed them in the Royal Chariot. She said a tearful goodbye to all of her friends and family members in Analia and journeyed with the Queen to the capital city where she became the Official Royal Ambassador for her people. She studied magic with Queen Zuri for many years and when she became old enough to live on her own, she purchased a small estate for herself which rested on the outskirts of the city in the Oriana forest. Queen Zuri moved the portal that linked the town of Analia to the capital city of Xael to Isis’s new home so she could use it whenever she pleased.

Whenever Queen Zuri journeyed to Analia, she summoned Isis to act as her official Royal Ambassador. She always was happy to assist the Queen on her travels and she was also pleased to have an excuse to visit her family during the outings. Isis used her knowledge of the magical arts to teach many of the centaurs in the capital city who wanted to learn the magic of their people. She also taught magic lessons at a local university and was paid very well for her services. Many of the centaurs in the capital city never knew about Isis’s high position in the Xael Royal Court because she didn’t like to boast about herself. But years later, while looking through the many books of the Xael Royal Library, the daughter of Queen Zuri, Princess Naya, found an interesting book titled, The Cost of a Song. The book told the story of a centaur who didn’t know how to sing and commissioned queen Zuri’s help. The centaur in the story wielded one of the Ulani swords and helped the High Queen send all of the evil goblins away from the land of her people. Later the centaur became a Royal Ambassador and even studied magic under the High Queen’s watchful eye. The centaur was never named, much to Princess Naya’s disappointment.

She thought it would be an interesting story to tell to Isis so she brought the book over and read it to her teacher over tea. The princess had been a student of Isis’s ever since she was born into the royal court so the two of them were very well acquainted. Princess Naya knew that Isis taught at the local university and often accompanied her mother when she traveled to other lands but she didn’t know much else about her. Isis smiled fondly as her childhood adventures were brought back into remembrance one chapter at a time. When Princess Naya was finished with the story, Isis thanked the princess for reading it to her.

“So who do you think the centaur in the story was, Isis,” Princess Naya asked, after she took a bite out a of tea cake resting on a plate in front of her.

Isis chuckled and replied, “I am not sure who the young one might be, but that was a great story to be sure.”

Princess Naya nodded and the two friends continued to talk about all sorts of things as they enjoyed the freshly brewed pot of Jasmine Tea, the assortment of tea cakes in front of them, and wondered together about the many mysteries of the world.

A Final Goodbye

Naya waited in a local cafe situated above one of the many subway stations that cut their way beneath downtown New York. It seemed like she had been waiting forever for her beloved niece Avery to arrive.

A Final Goodbye

A short story by Emma Lee Downs.

Summary: Naya waits in a local cafe for a niece she has not seen since her sudden disappearance long ago. When she is finally reunited with the beloved family member she views as a daughter, she learns about the nature of her disappearance which leads her to some shocking realizations of her own.

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A Final Goodbye

By: Emma Lee Downs

This is my entry into Koromo and Empy’s Song Competition. The song I was given to work with was Like A Stone by Audioslave.

Update: This story was listed as second place in the winning circle! Thank you to EmpyrealInvective and The Koromo for the listing. You can read more about this here:


“On a cob web afternoon, In a room full of emptiness, By a freeway I confess, I was lost in the pages of a book full of death; Reading how we’ll die alone. And if we’re good we’ll lay to rest, Anywhere we want to go.”

-Like A Stone, Audioslave

Naya waited in a local cafe situated above one of the many subway stations that cut their way beneath downtown New York. It seemed like she had been waiting forever for her beloved niece Avery to arrive. It had been so long since she’d seen her niece that…no, she didn’t want to think about how lonely she had been without her. She didn’t want to remember the day that Avery had left her those many years ago.

Avery had come to live with Naya at the age of three when her own mother could no longer take care of her. Naya’s sister Helen had struggled with her alcohol addiction for years. Naya always had the feeling she’d end up raising her niece one day if Helen didn’t clean up her act and she was right. She claimed the custody of her niece when she was three years old, under the instruction of a city attorney. Somehow her niece had gone missing from her life after only two years of raising her as her own child. Little Avery was only five years old when she disappeared into the vast oceans of people and buildings that gave New York its reputation of swallowing faint hearted people alive. Naya’s sister never forgave her for losing sight of her.

New York is a big city. Many items have been lost to its streets, parks, and alleys never to be recovered. It was a city where things and people disappeared in a flash of a second and neither was easily found. Despite this fact, Naya always thought she would find Avery. She always hoped she would see her playing outside one of the downtown shops when she was running errands for the law firm she worked at. Avery would run up to her giggling and Naya would take her home to her apartment where she would make sure that she would never lose sight of her again. She always imagined that she could see her when she took long strolls in Central Park, engrossed in thoughts about the times they once shared together.

Now, Naya was so mixed up inside. She didn’t know whether she was happy or frightened to see the person she loved like a daughter again after four years of being apart. Little Avery would be nine years old now. One of the regulars of the café told her that she saw her niece hanging around the lobby a few days ago. Naya had posted her picture on the walls with her name and address in the hope that someone would find her. Avery looked older, but the man who found her niece said he would have recognized her facial features anywhere from the pictures she had posted.

Naya came to the cafe every night since the regular had told her the details of her niece’s whereabouts in the hope of finding her again. She would do anything to have her niece in her arms after spending so many years apart. She was tired of living her life alone. She was tired of the guilt that she had been lugging around for five years from losing her. Her sister’s inebriated curse words stuck out the most in her mind.

“I hate that you are my sister. I hate you more than anyone. Damn you. I hope you rot in hell.”

The drunken words Helen screamed at her the night her daughter went missing often played over and over like a broken record in Naya’s mind. They made her hate herself more and more the longer she was apart from her niece. They made her want to curl up somewhere and let herself waste away to nothing. She had felt worthless ever since she heard had them. She could not face her sister ever since the loss in both of their lives had taken place.

Tonight, the service was slow and when the waitress did speak to her, the young woman with red hair pulled into a ponytail told her that she would meet her niece soon. Naya had talked to the regular at the café who had originally seen her niece and said that she had also seen Avery playing by the subway a few times as well. The regular at the cafe insisted that she had seen Avery hanging around these parts since last August, but Naya had yet to see her walk through the glass doors of the small establishment. She had been waiting for her niece to show up for a while now and had somehow found the courage to pull herself out of her depressive haze, if only for a while, at the prospect of seeing Avery walk through the front entrance. Perhaps this evening would be the moment when she could finally own up to the fact that there were some things in this world that were out of her hands and could not be faced alone.

She couldn’t explain why she was waiting here; she felt completely disoriented. One minute she was driving home and the next moment…she wasn’t sure what happened. Naya assumed that she had stopped at this place because she knew Avery would be here. Maybe she possessed some kind of ESP. Naya remembered that her sister told her once that all aunts have psychic abilities that tell them when their family needs them most. That was one of the many things that make aunts special.

Helen had told her that gem of wisdom before Avery had gone missing from their lives. Naya knew that her sister would say that all family is worthless if they had the same conversation these days. Helen lost her last reason to retain some sort of sanity in her life when her daughter went missing. She started knocking back eight beers a night. The last time Naya heard anything about her, she was serving time in the State penitentiary for being caught drunk behind the wheel for the third time.

Naya kept drawing a complete blank. She knew that she couldn’t be dreaming. She felt the warm air of a heater on a nearby table blowing in her face. This had to be real. She couldn’t remember when she had showed up to the cafe. There were other people sitting next to her table. Some were sitting by themselves, looking out the window facing out onto Twelfth Avenue deep in thought. Others are laughing with old acquaintances.

It made Naya wish that her niece was sitting at the table with her. After she pictured Avery’s brown curly hair and blue eyes in her mind she saw her walk through the door of the café like a vision come to life. All Naya could feel was a combination of relief and excitement. Avery began to talk to her but she did not hear the words. An overwhelming feeling of happiness overtook her body. Naya finally worked up the courage to give her niece one of her famous “Aunty Naya” hugs, ignoring what she had just told her. She smiled and took Naya’s hand.

“Don’t worry Aunt Naya; I’ll never leave you again,” She heard Avery say as Naya took her hand and lead her out of the café to the entrance of the nearby subway station.

After receiving a pair of tickets, the two hoped onto one of the subway trains together, holding each other’s hands. The subway seemed to travel down the set of old steel tracks for ages as it speed out of the city and cut through the rolling hills of a green valley. Small towns popped up every once in a while between each stretch of landscape Naya and Avery passed on the way to their final destination. On their way home to start a new life, Naya asked Avery where she had been all of those years.

“With dad,” Avery had replied.

“Dad took me back and made me live with him. I was so afraid to leave. But daddy said I would be all right. He took me to the place we are going. He told me you would probably be at the café if I met you at the right time. I wanted to be the first person to find you no matter what.”

Naya all at once felt very weak in the knees. Avery’s father had died a few months before she was born. Her niece had to be mistaken. Perhaps some man like her father had been taking care of her but…no that didn’t seem right. Naya stared down at her niece who was smiling up at her. A headache stared to form at the back of her head but everything was staring to become clearer now. It was the fact she had assumed that she’d stopped at the café on her way home from work that got her to thinking. Naya never remembered reaching the café in her car. It was as if she had just shown up there and started waiting for her niece to arrive.

It made little sense that they were taking the subway since Naya had supposedly showed up at the café in her car. And the two had no reason to be heading out of the city. Naya lived in an apartment not far from where the Café was situated. She just had to jump in her car and take the freeway to the downtown area and…the freeway. Another wave a pain shot through her head as she started to recall all of the moments leading up to sitting in the café.

She remembered that she was driving on the freeway, headed to meet with a café regular about a possible sighting of her niece. That is when a truck had started to tailgate her from behind. Frustrated, she had tried to go faster but the truck caught up with her again. This speeding game continued for a while until the truck became impatient and attempted to pass her on the side. But he didn’t have enough room and he ended up sliding into the side of her car.

The last thing she remembered was a tall, lanky man banging on her car window. He was yelling through the window, asking over and over if she was okay. She looked around her and saw that the car was turned upside-down. For some reason she couldn’t move any of her limbs. She could only hear the man saying that he had called for an ambulance and to hold on as everything had faded into darkness. And then she had ended up in that café, waiting for her niece like nothing had happened.

Naya felt her emotions wash over her like a wave. She put her arms around Avery and held her for what seemed like an eternity. Naya held her niece for so long that Avery had fallen sleep in her arms. Naya laid her niece gently on her lap to allow her to continue resting. She took her cellphone out of her purse after a while and scrolled through the list of names in her contact list to her sister’s cell phone number. She knew she couldn’t reach Helen by the number in her cellphone. Helen was locked up behind bars on account of her latest drinking incident and there was no way she could personally visit the State Prison to get any message about her daughter’s whereabouts to her now that she had passed on. Holding the cellphone in her hand, Naya left a single text message on her sister’s cellphone knowing she would probably never receive it.

It read, “I found Avery. You don’t have to worry anymore. I’m going to make sure that she is happy from now on.”

“If Helen is ever sober enough to get her cellphone privileges back, there is a chance she might finally know that I have reunited with her daughter. Maybe then she will be comforted knowing that I intend to care for Avery until it is her turn to return home,” Naya thought to herself as she slipped the cellphone into her purse and watched Avery sleep on her lap as the subway train pressed on far outside the boundaries of New York city limits.

After traveling for a few hours, the two of them finally reached their old home in the suburbs where the two of them had once lived before Naya moved to the city. She had rented a small apartment to have easier access to the café people had reported to see her niece hanging around. It was also within walking distance of her job. She thought about who would take care of her apartment now that she was gone. She wondered what would happen to all of her possessions. It was a strange feeling pondering everything that would happen after she was dead.

The subway reached the suburban area where Naya’s house had once been located. She assumed that it was her place to get off. She gently woke Avery and the two stepped off the subway onto the platform. The walked up to the street above and made their way to the house the two of them had once lived in.

As Naya stood at the iron large gates of the Victorian style house her niece and she lived in eight long years ago, she felt a tear slide down her cheek. It had taken many years, but Naya was finally reunited with the young girl she had always viewed as her own daughter. Her niece continued to hold her hand as the two of them walked through the large iron gates of the property to the house’s front yard. Naya smiled when she realized that from this day forward the two of them could live the rest of their lives out together in the place made of the landscape of their dreams.


It was a year before Helen was released from the state prison but she had heard about her sister’s death while she was still serving her time. The news had devastated her. She had once been angry at her sister for losing sight of Avery but now she couldn’t bring herself to be angry at her anymore. For the first time in her life she was able to accept some of the blame. If she had just been a better mother to Avery she would never been taken away to live with Naya. She could have prevented the disappearance of her daughter and the death of her sister. They had told her that Naya had been driving to follow up on a sighting someone had had of her niece at a downtown café. That was when the truck hit her car and she wasn’t able to hold onto to life before the medical team of paramedics arrived.

Helen had gone through an AA program when she was at the state prison and was now sober. Today was the first real time she had had to visit her sister’s grave. She was still locked up when the family had held the funeral. Although she could not make it, her mother had visited and brought photos and news of the event. Her mother had told her to think about how her actions led to everything that happened and begged her to start turning herself around before she was met with more tragedies in her life. Helen took her mother’s words to heart and had been working hard to stay sober and employed. Shortly after being released, she started working at a small flower shop near the café her sister used to frequent. She liked working there because flowers reminded her of her sister. Naya had had her own garden when she was still alive.

She rented the same apartment her sister lived in as it had fallen unoccupied after her death. She visited the café every day in hopes that she would find some news about her daughter.

It was an early Saturday afternoon when she took a taxi out to one of the inner-city gravesites to visit her sister’s final place of rest. She was carrying a bouquet of flowers from the shop she worked in. She had made it special for this occasion, with all of her sister’s favorite candies and even a stuffed bear she knew her sister would like if she was still alive.

When she reached the cemetery, she walked along the path until she saw the row her sister’s memorial was located in. She walked along the path of headstones until she saw her sister’s name carved on a stone that read, “In memory of Naya Stevens. A loving daughter, sister, aunt, and friend.”

She placed the bouquet of flowers at the base of the grave and had a moment of silence in honor of Naya. As she stood praying over her sister’s gravestone, she heard her cell phone’s ringtone blare from her back jean pocket.

“In your house I long to be; Room by room patiently, I’ll wait for you there like a stone. I’ll wait for you there alone.”

The familiar sound of the ringtone she had set for her text message notifications cut through the silence.

She considering taking her cellphone out and silencing it but something told her not to. The ringtone continued to play into the empty spaces around her.

“And on I read until the day was gone; And I sat in regret of all the things I’ve done; For all that I’ve blessed, and all that I’ve wronged. In dreams until my death, I will wander on.”

The ringtone finished its final pass. Then a sharp buzz sounded, letting her know that a text message had just been sent and was waiting for her to view it. Helen couldn’t explain why she felt so compelled to look at her cellphone. Even though she ignored most text messages when she was doing something important she felt as though she should read whatever text message was sent her way. She pulled the cell phone out of her pocket and read the text message that had set off her cell phone’s ringtone.

The message read, “I found Avery. You don’t have to worry anymore. I’m going to make sure that she is happy from now on.”

Helen put a hand to her mouth in shock. It was a message from her sister. It was dated the exact day and hour that she had died in the accident with the truck. At that moment something clicked inside of her, a deep rooted instinct of knowing that all of her deepest fears had come to pass. She somehow understood the meaning of her sister’s last words. She wasn’t going to see Avery again; not in this plain of living. Not until she crossed over into wherever death had taken two of the most cherished people in her life.

The realization that Naya and her daughter were together gave her a mixed sense of peace and sadness. She was at peace because she knew her sister would take care of her daughter in the afterlife but she was also sad that she would never see her daughter alive in this realm of existence again.

Helen sunk to the base of her sister’s grave grasping the cell phone in her hands. She held the cell phone close to her face with her sister’s last message displayed on the screen and wept at the base of her grave for what seemed like forever.

Published A Story In 6 Plots

One of my writing pieces was published in the short story collection, 6 Plots: Leo & Other Grave Tales!

I Published A Story In 6 Plots: Leo & Other Grave Tales

The book collection was put together by Kenneth Kohl.

My story, ‘The Family Secret’ appears on page 57.

My story, ‘The Family Secret’ has been published in this literary collection.

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