Stitched Wings

Issue #137

Madeline fled from her new governess and into the shadowy strangeness of the garden. Strange, this garden, because she and Mother had scarcely been in that house for a week, and more so because Mother had expressly forbidden her from that part of the property. That made the garden the ideal hiding spot.

After their months in the desert hinterlands of Drell, the greenery of the stone-walled paradise delighted Madeline. Panting, she paused on the coarsely-laid brick path and breathed in the muskiness of lichen-laden branches. Something about such places always made her feel indescribably alive; Mother seemed to react similarly within her laboratory, surrounded by oil cans and metal detritus.

“Gertrude! Where are you, child?”

The voice carried over a great distance, but Madeline bolted forward. She needed to hide from Miss Shelly, and fast.

She crawled between grasping shrubberies, wiggling on her knees without care for skirts or lace. There, within a tiny cathedral of boxwood branches and desiccated leaves, she spied the fairy in the cage.

The fairy sat, twiggy legs akimbo. His tunic shirt and trousers seemed woven of moss, the intense green almost camouflaging him against the grass flattened by the cage. With one hand he wielded what appeared to be a whisker or quill, and with the other he held together a tidy stack of overlapped leaves.

“Hello!” A real fairy, in her garden! Madeline’s filthy skirts rustled as she sat. “What are you doing?”

“Makin’ me wings for fall.” He didn’t look up. “Us lot, we make wings with what we ‘ave.”

“Who set the trap? Is it meant for fairies?”

“Haven’t a clue who put the blimey thing here, but here it is, eh?” He lied. He knew. The awareness tasted like pickled onions—oh, how she hated pickled onions.   

“I can let you out.” She needed to let him out. Cages reminded her of Father, in his box.

The fairy met her eye then, gaze baleful. “I’m just idling for a while, minding me own business.” More lies, with a hint of garlic.

He tested the hold of his spider-silk thread. The newly-sewn wing featured an array of small leaves in a dozen shades of orange and vermillion. His sort of sewing looked interesting—not at all like the drudgery Miss Shelly expected of Madeline, forcing her to sit with feet rooted to the rug as she stitched the hours away as a proper girl should.

Madeline had no intention of being proper. Mother had taught her that much, even as Mother expected domestication from her.

Madeline sat back, frowning. “What’s your name?”

“Snuggleweed Rothchild the Third.” He stitched another leaf into place.

“You’re lying.” The stench of his words made her stomach roil, though his untruths were nowhere near Mother’s grand scale.

“That’s the smartest thing you’ve said yet, it is. And what’s your name, then, eh?” He met her eyes then, so briefly, and they pierced her in a way that made her shudder.

Names had power, Mother had said, which was why Madeline was not allowed to use her true name wherever they lived. With a name, they could be discovered by reeves, or soldiers, or worst of all, bank investigators.

“Gertrude,” said Madeline, and tasted the foulness of her own lie on her tongue. Gertrude, her new name in this new place.

“Gertrude.” The fairy chortled. “You lie like a fairy, you do. Mightily impressive for a human child of your age.”

She pondered him for a moment. “Fairies lie a lot?”

“‘Course not.” He tied off the thread.

The sourness of his words lingered. She lifted the gate of the trap. “I don’t want you to lie to me anymore.”

He scowled at her most fiercely. “Well, now you dunnit. You done me a kindness and now I’m in your debt. If you’d left me alone to do me spot o’ sewing, life woulda been much simpler.”

“I couldn’t just leave you like that. You could’ve starved to death.” Madeline shuffled back to give him space.

He shuddered. “Even worse, a life debt. Damned and double damned.” He ambled to freedom, and a peculiar smell grew stronger—that of fresh-cut grass, mouth-watering cheese, and dusty cat.

The fairy stood only two of her hands-spans tall, his body emaciated in the way of a deep winter twig. “I mighta lived. The queen coulda saved me. She could bust through that iron, maybe. Iron’s tough on fairy magic, even hers, and she’s the most powerful thing in this whole forest, she is.”

Magic! Mother had recently muttered about magic as she studied her blueprints. Madeline clasped her hands. “Do you use magic to make your wings?”

“To attach’em, sure. We gotta stitch wings each season, as magic fades after a time.”

He held up his new wing. Bending his gangly arm in an impossible way, he angled the wing to rest at the top of his shoulder blade. That bizarre smell of him increased, as strong as the aether and butane in Mother’s laboratory. A few twitches and the fairy stood straight. The wing had attached, even through his mossy shirt.

“Amazing!” she breathed. He did look a little smug at that. “And your queen can do much more?”

“Most assuredly. Glow like the sun, she can, though not much call for that sorta ting.”

“Does she lie, too?”

“Best liar o’ anyone.” His truth was sweet as nectar.

“Ger-trude!” The two syllables belted out, off-key and far too close. Madeline and the fairy cringed.

“It’s Miss Shelly!” Madeline looked around, keenly aware of the brightness of her red dress and the patchwork cover of the autumn foliage. “I’ll have to talk to you more later.”

“As you will,” he said, though didn’t seem entirely displeased. “Crawl straight on, huggin’ the wall like them vines, ‘n she won’t see you. I best go deeper in the woods, avoid more temp-pa-ta-tion from these cages.”

“Why? What’s the bait?” she asked, angling her head around.

“Sugar cakes.” He sighed his delight. “Bait like that, ‘m bound to be caught ‘gain.”

Madeline could well understand that. “G’bye, Sir Fairy!” She choked back a yelp as the nearby garden gate creaked and footsteps crunched on dry leaves.

“Sir!” The fairy’s voice was faint, but delighted. “You honor a nobody like me, little liar-who’s-not-lying.”

She wormed her way through the jasmine as she faintly heard him say, “And jess so you know, the name’s Rowan.”

Truth.

Rowan hadn’t been lying when he said his queen was the best liar of all, but Madeline knew that was only because he hadn’t met her mother.

Madeline sat at the big long dining table. Glass windows poured ruddy sunlight into the room, like pomegranate juice from a pitcher. An old servant shuffled to bring out food from the kitchen. Beside Madeline, Miss Shelly sat rigid as stone, napkin tucked over her lap just so.

Across from Madeline, Mother’s place was set, food steaming in wait, as always.

At the head of the table sat the biggest lie of all: Father’s seat. Food awaited him, as it had every night as long as Madeline could remember, even though he had eaten nothing in over five years.

When she was younger, she had believed the lie and thought Father would whirl through the door at any moment, smelling of horse and dusty roads, and his saber rattling at his side. She still recalled his fervent love when he looked her in the eye—she could taste it, sweet as sugar cakes—and the potent foulness when he walked towards the door so often and said to Mother, “I’ll see you soon, my love.”

Lie, and lie. The former was the realism that came with being a soldier, as he was most always away; the latter, because Madeline knew the love that made him return home from each campaign was for her and her alone.

But Mother’s love for him was true and absolute. She was absolute in everything she did.

“Ah, dinner!” Mother entered the room, demure in a clean frock. Gloves covered the permanent stains of oil within the creases of her hands, and the two stubby fingers from an explosion last year. “Good evening, everyone.”

Mother’s chipper mood was a shock, nearly as much a shock as the elbow that jabbed into Madeline’s ribs. She lurched to her feet at Miss Shelly’s prompt. “Mother,” she said, curtsying, and Miss Shelly stood and did likewise.

“Gertrude, my darling.” Mother stepped close enough to plant a fleeting kiss on her cheek. By habit, Madeline did not cringe from the fog of falsehoods that clothed Mother. Indeed, her very clothing was false. Mother could play the part of a proper lady better than any actress on stage, but she was neither. She was a scientist and a thief, and Madeline was not sure where one ended and the other began.

She had, from a tender age, understood there were certain things not done by proper ladies.

Proper ladies did not give false names to everyone they met, and different names in different places. They did not enter strangers’ houses and leave with new jewels, which were then exchanged for jingling bags of coins. Ladies did not choose which households to rent by the ability to adapt chambers into laboratories—in the case of their current abode, a ballroom—nor did they often set such households afire or create other disturbances that required fleeing in the night. And foremost, ladies did not keep their dead husbands hard-packed in salt like barreled cod, and continue to haul their pickled life-mate by dirigible from city to city for five years.

Madeline remembered the day the soldiers came with their giant metal box. She had spied on them through a cracked door; watched Mother nod, stoic as always. After the soldiers left, Mother rested one hand on the casket, so briefly, and went straight to her drafting table to begin the first of her many efforts to resurrect Father.

Even tasting the truth as she did, part of Madeline needed that lie, that sliver of hope, that Father would return. Love for him was the one thing she and Mother shared.

Mother’s gloved hand caressed the back of Father’s chair and she moved to sit opposite of Madeline. “Have you had a good day, my dear?”

“Yes, Mother.” She tasted fermenting crabapples in the lie of Mother’s love, and her own feigned obedience.

“She is doing well in her lessons?”

“Oh yes,” gushed Miss Shelly. “She’s such a bright child.”

Madeline and the governess smiled at each other with the pleasantness of roving tomcats making an acquaintance.

“Good. My husband will be displeased if she’s behind in her lessons.” Mother began eating.

Everything Madeline did—her lessons, her etiquette training—all of it was a show for Father. She had realized this a few years before, around age seven, after an incident at a past residence. The staff abandoned them, and Madeline survived alone for a week and ate the pantry bare. Mother finally emerged from her locked laboratory and berated Madeline for not being clean—”What would your father say, if he saw you like this!”

Madeline stared at Father’s chair as she chewed and wondered what he would say, about that and so many other things.

“I believe the master of the house will not be with us tonight, so you may go ahead and remove his plate,” said Mother, motioning to the old man. “Perhaps tomorrow he’ll return.” Promise brought a rosy haze to her cheeks.

Something had happened in the laboratory today.

Madeline could not remember Mother being so happy since right before they had left the hinterlands—and then they had fled the city in the dark of night. Absolute dark, as the steam systems died, casting the streets into blackness that had rivaled Mother’s ferocious mood. As their little airship rose, it was hard to discern the horizon between two spans of darkness.

“Madam?” The cook stood in the doorway, fidgeting. “I gots more made for you. Sweetened them up, I did.”

“Very well. Bring them out,” said Mother.

Madeline smelled the sugar cakes before she saw them. So sweet and citrusy, they brightened the very air. The tops of the little discs sparkled in the evening light. 

Mother keenly inspected them, then took a precise, dainty nibble. “The sweetness could be tweaked,” she said, one hand up to cover her mouth as she chewed. “Just a slight adjustment.”

“Yes, Madam.” 

Why would a scientist like Mother want to capture fairies?  She spoke of magic sometimes, true, but her talent was in machines.

“That reminds me.” Mother pushed away her still-mounded plate and stood. “I do believe I’ll walk in the garden.” She practically skipped as she left. 

A harsh doorbell resounded again and again from downstairs. Madeline placidly continued her stitchery, her posture perfect in the leather library chair. Finally Miss Shelly could take the obnoxious sound no more.

“Gertrude!” she snapped. “Continue your work. Where are those servants?”

Miss Shelly bustled off and closed the door behind her. Madeline lurched to her feet at the distinct click of the lock. The governess had locked her in! The nerve!

Through the floor, Madeline detected shudders and whirs. Mother was at work in her laboratory directly below, and had been all morning. Madeline could only hope to be so enterprising.

She tucked her needle into the canvas and looked to the rainbow-hued shelves around her. She could easily read away the hours, but she had no desire to read in captivity—she would be like Rowan, stitching his new wing within his cage. At the thought of the fairy, she dashed to the window.

The second story view showed several trees and the garden gate. She swung the pane outward. The peculiar magical smell of him tickled her nose, and she smiled.

“Rowan!” she hissed.

“What you goin’ on about?”

It took her a moment to spy him, small and green-garbed as he was, perched atop a bush just below.

“Can you help me get out?”

“Mischief is a specialty of mine, ’tis true. Just jump down and I’ll catch you, and bring that spot o’ sewing in your hand so we can take a gander.”

“You’ll catch me?” The words confused Madeline, as they rang true. “How can you catch me? You’re not even as tall as my arm!”

Rowan sighed. “You’ll not come by harm, not from me. I’ll keep you good ‘n safe. This I vow, ‘n folks like me don’t take vows lightly, y’should know.”

That truth shivered in its might.

Still, her heart twittered against her breastbone as she climbed onto the sill. She took two deep breaths, squinted her eyes shut, and jumped, barely swallowing a shriek as she fell.

Sticks cupped beneath her legs and grabbed her, sure and strong. Madeline opened her eyes and gasped. Rowan was as tall as any grown man, his arms wrapped around her.

“How?!” she asked as he set her down on the grass. As soon as the warmth of his contact withdrew, he shrank down to normal size and scampered toward the bushes where they had met.

“Sizes ‘n shapes can be lies same as anything, and like most lies, can’t hold up for long. Come along now, girly-girl.”

She brushed aside bared twigs as she crawled. “If you could get big, why didn’t you break out of your cage that way?”

“Tut! That’s iron. Binds magic within. Speaking of which, wadn’t being exactly phil-ann-thropic when I brought you down.” He pointed ahead to where the trap had again been laid, complete with a sugar cake. “See that? Stick me big-human-sized hand in there, and it’d box me magic right up. ‘Fraid to know what’d happen ta the rest of me. There’s a few more cages ’bout the garden now, ‘n all. And a few missing fairy kin, dare say.”

“Oh.” She sucked in a breath. “I know where they are. Mother’s setting the traps.”

“Well, she can keep me cousin Dandelion. He’s a twitter-twit, through and through. Here. Lemme see that stitchery you gots going while you fetch ‘ere that cake.”

She had almost forgotten about the sampler in her hand. She gave it to him, then disabled the trap and reached inside. The tiny cake was still soft, the dome crusted with turbinado sugar and candied bits of orange. Her mouth watered, but she offered it to Rowan.

“Split it as y’ will.” He unfurled the sampler on the grass between them. Madeline tore the cake in half, and Rowan nodded as he accepted his share.

The sampler was a twelve by twelve canvas, intended to be proof of her proper training as a young lady. Miss Shelly might be aggravating, but she did know how to sew, and her shrewd eye had honed Madeline’s skill—well, prevented laziness, in any case. The sampler had been started only a few days before, but Madeline had accomplished an important bit: her name.

“My oh my, yes, I sensed the potency of this un from down here.” Rowan traced a knobby finger along the “G” of Gertrude. “Lies are magnificent, knotty things, and this is a beaut. You must be havin’ some fairy in yer blood, way back.”

Madeline’s tongue worked at a bit of candied fruit stuck between her teeth. “That doesn’t make sense! People lie all the time, and they can’t all carry fairy blood. My mother....”

“Oh, there’s lies ‘n then there’s lies. It’s how it’s done, bein’ aware of the words and still saying ‘em. Some folks, they say a thing often enough ‘n it become true to them, but not us fairies. Lies are Things.”

“Do lies have a flavor to you?”

Rowan grinned, all gap-toothed. “Sweet as that cake.”

“Oh. Lies taste bad to me, hearing or saying them.”

“Sounds like some fickle human corruption of somethin’ pleasant, it does. Fae blood’s way back, but there, I’d bet me wings on it.” Sure enough, he did have two full wings now, radiant in autumn glory.

“Ger-trude!” The syllables belted out from above, followed by a roar of rage.

“Does that mean I could stitch wings, too?” Madeline whispered.

Rowan tapped his chin. “I truly don’t know that, girly-girl. It takes a lot of magic, doin’ that kind of thing, even if you’re fine with needle ‘n thread. ‘N what would you do with wings, eh? Big as you are?”

She averted her eyes, suddenly shy. “I don’t know. Go away?” She grabbed a handful of dry leaves.

“Even when birds fly south, they know where ’bout they’re goin’.”

Madeline thought of the crazed moves with Mother, the rented houses, the midnight rides by wagon and dirigible, the names she had accumulated like dust after a hinterland windstorm.  “Maybe I don’t need to know where I’m going. Maybe I just want to go.”

“Maybe.” He squinted at her. “So why’d you let me outta that cage? And don’t jess say you’re bein’ nice ‘n all.”

The suddenness of the question caught her off guard. “I—I had to. You didn’t belong in a box. No one does.” Not even Father, though she could never say that aloud. Mother’s work had to come to some purpose, surely.

Rowan studied her for a long moment. “What’ll it take to free you from yer cage then, eh?”

“I’m not in a cage! I’m here right now, aren’t I?” The words, the thought, tasted as smooth as satined cream. She escaped Miss Shelly most whenever she pleased. How could Rowan even think otherwise?

The fairy’s next words were so soft, the chilly breeze almost stole them away. “Told yourself that plenty, eh? Even caged birds ‘ave space t’ stretch their wings, little liar.”

Madeline clenched her hand. Leaves crunched and crumbled in her grasp. 

The next day, the estate emanated with heated sugar. Breakfast and lunch had been simple fare, as the cook was under orders to make sugar cakes all morning long—dozens of them. Hours later, the scent lingered even in the second floor library, where Miss Shelly drilled Madeline on numbers, letters, and how to walk with a dainty point to her toes. Below, ruckus radiated from the laboratory.

Madeline hadn’t seen Mother since dinner two days before. If Mother had chosen to sleep or leave her laboratory, Madeline certainly would have seized the opportunity to sneak inside the repurposed ballroom. But Mother was in the full sway of her mania, and food and sleep meant nothing.

The busywork with Miss Shelly was good, in a way. It kept Madeline’s dread to a tepid burble in her stomach.

Whenever Mother arrived at this point, everything always went wrong. Cities fell strangely dark. The house would burn. It meant long days bobbing on the wind, Father’s coffin rattling within its tethers along with Mother’s laboratory equipment.

The thought of leaving this place—and Rowan—brought tears to her eyes.

Something flashed by the window. Miss Shelly had opened the pane to let the sweet smell vent, and now Rowan perched on the sill.

Madeline forced her gaze to her verses on pistils and anthers. The peculiar odor of Rowan grew stronger as he flew closer.

“The queen is missing,” he whispered, distress quivering in each word.

She sucked in a sharp breath. The fairy queen was the most powerful thing in the forest. Rowan had said so.

The floor rumbled underfoot as machinery clunked and groaned and whirred. Always, always, it was about Mother and her machines, about Father’s dinner plate set and waiting each night. 

“Please. ‘Elp me.”

The agony in his voice was what did it. Madeline closed her book and set it on the side table alongside her sampler and sewing kit.

“I need to talk to Mother,” Madeline said to Miss Shelly. It felt strange and refreshing to speak such an outright truth. “She’s doing something below, something very wrong.”

“She is a busy woman and not to be disturbed. Now—” Miss Shelly’s jaw fell slack. “Oh goodness. What is that... thing?” She froze, staring at Rowan.

Madeline cast him a quick look. “That’s my best friend. Just wait here for me, please. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Miss Shelly shrank back in her chair, and Madeline turned and walked from the room, empowered by honesty and rebellion together.

“Think the queen’s below with all that thrumming and whats-its?” asked Rowan and he fluttered into the hall ahead of her. “Smells of metal, even from outside, it does.”

“Yes. In Mother’s laboratory.” A place Madeline had not yet entered in this house. Fear quivered through her, just as vibrations quaked through the stairs.

“Queen needs a whole forest to let ‘er magic breathe! Girly-girl, this is what’s what. I’d gone mad, bound up with me magic in that iron cage for more’n a day, popped like a mosquito in a bonfire. Queen’s got a thousand times more power ‘an me.”

She looked to him. “I’ll get her out.”

Rowan said nothing, but for a moment, the magic of his palpable faith squeezed her like a hug. She hadn’t known such a feeling since Father died.

Madeline yanked on the double doors to the laboratory. Even with her full body weight pulling, they didn’t budge. She looked to Rowan.

“Iron bolts inside, nasty stuff.”

“The wall,” she said. “It’s wood and wallpaper, isn’t it?”

“The metal’s raised such a stink that I couldn’t tell! Wood, I can work with, aye.” He raised his hands. Starting at the baseboard, the wall tore like parchment and stopped at the same height as Madeline’s tunnel through the brambles.

The noise worsened, the smell of oils and strangeness smarting at her nose. She dropped to her knees and crawled through, and saw Mother.

Here, the mist of deception evaporated from Mother’s skin. She was utterly herself, surrounded by gaskets and gears, her black hair coiled so as not to snare, her brown dungarees happily layered in stains of various coloration. The vast room shuddered in cacophony, the racket made visible in the sifting of ceiling plaster and belches of steam.

Father’s tomb rested nearest to the door. A habit, no doubt, from their quick exits from so many previous laboratories. He was fully encased, with pipes and tubes connecting him to the larger apparatus.

And now, Madeline could smell magic.

The potency was fiercer than Rowan’s peculiar scent: a mixture of jasmine and garlic, horse sweat-soaked leather and the first rain of spring. Particulates gushed from vents in vivid hues of violet and green, shifting by the second like ornate stained glass rendered to powder against the light.

“She can’t be contained!” Rowan’s voice was scarcely a whisper against the din. He flew at a metal tank, but his leaf-and-web wings were buffeted backward by the awesome power that radiated from within.

“Madeline!”

Madeline flinched at the rare sound of her true name from Mother’s lips. She took a step back, expecting Mother to fly at her, enraged at her presence. Instead, Mother glowed and spun in place like a girl gifted with a pony.

“This is it! I finally have a functional resurrection apparatus. Not even the steam generators in the capital created adequate power, but a fairy queen...! It’s the perfect meld of science and magic.”

The vibrations intensified. Cracks lined the marble floor. A fog of powdered plaster burned Madeline’s eyes. Gears clanked with the violence of a locomotive engine on the tracks.

Mother clasped her hands. Her voice was like a tinny whisper against the roar of machinery. “We’ll have your father to dinner tonight, Madeline. Miss Shelly must curl your hair and press your best dress!”

“No!” Madeline shouted. “He’s dead! He’s dead! He’s been dead five years!”

The joy on Mother’s face didn’t shift. She was oblivious, as always. Raw power stewed and swirled, and Madeline’s lungs struggled against its weight and the heady scent of a hundred muddled things. The walls wiggled like an army of worms.

Yes, Mother had discovered a source of power. Too much. Mother couldn’t sense it, not like Madeline, not like Rowan.

No fairy queen could be contained in an iron tank of that size, of any size.

Rowan flew at Madeline, his arms wide. Metal pinged and steam whistled. Bolts zinged free of a tank, the discordant symphony rising to a crescendo. Terrible tension quivered in the air as everything turned hot and cold at once.

Rowan grew to full human size, then more, his body seeming to expand like a sheet held to a gale. His bright colors dimmed as his essence poured out, thinning his body to translucent, and she tried to shout “Rowan, no! No!” but the cocoon of his power constrained any sound and suffocated her with its overbearing scent.

“Your vow to help me ‘n the queen was good ‘n true, and my vow to you stands jess as solid. I’m keeping you safe, Madeline-who-is-most-assuredly-not-a-Gertrude.”

She didn’t see his lips move, but she felt the words like needle pricks against her heart. Magic woven into the truths of a vow and a name.

Everything beyond turned red and black and pink, an explosion of color. A roar filled her ears and dissipated with a slight pop.

“Rowan?” Her whisper echoed in the vacuum. The house was gone.

Above spanned the cold grey autumn sky. No fire, no smoke. Rain filtered down, a rain of leaves in shades of brown with blackened specks. No, not leaves—books from the library. Shredded pages twirled and danced their way to earth. Not a foot away, her sampler sprawled out. The canvas looked splashed by yellow and blue dyes, but it was there, needle and thread still tucked to one side in wait of another dreaded session with Miss Shelly.

Of Mother’s great machine, twisted pipes and mottled tanks remained, but Father’s casket—the focus of that awesome power—was gone. Only two wheels and part of the brake system huddled there.

“Mother?” There was no answer, but that was so like her. A red blotch marked where Mother had stood.

Madeline knew she should cry—she had cried for Father late at night, so many times—but instead she blinked, dry-eyed, until she thought of Miss Shelly and the servants. Miss Shelly—Miss Shelly would have been standing in the library just above, waiting for her. Madeline had promised she’d be back, and she meant it. She glanced up at the grey sky as tears slipped down her cheeks.

“Rowan?” she called again, looking around. She spied a miniature mossy leg sticking from beneath a growing mound of paper.

She unburied him and touched his shoulder. His wings were gone—shredded to mere nubs. There was no need to check for a heartbeat or breath; she knew he was dead. He had given everything to keep her alive; his debt filled in full.

She blinked and breathed in the last wafts of magic as she sat on the crackled marble of the ballroom floor. Pages twirled downward like falling leaves.

Without his wings, Rowan looked incomplete. He needed to look true, and then she could take him within the forest—whatever remained of it—and lay him to rest.

Madeline reached for her needle and thread, fingers quaking, and cradled Rowan against one knee.

She plucked drifting vellum from the air. Just as Rowan had in his cage, she would use what she had. These wings would be stitched of abbreviated words and shredded rhymes. And when his wings were done, she would stitch her own.

Whether they worked by magic or not, it mattered little. One way or another, she would fly from this place.

That was truth.


Read Comments on this Story (9 Comments)

ShareThis with Friends

Beth Cato's debut steampunk novel will be released by HarperCollins Voyager in late 2014. Her short fiction can be found in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Nature, and many other magazines. Follow her at www.BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

If you liked this story, you may also like:
“More Full of Weeping Than You Can Understand” by Rosamund Hodge
“Cold Iron and Green Vines” by Wendy N. Wagner

Return to Issue #137

Comments & Scrivenings
9 Comments on “Stitched Wings”

9 Responses to “Stitched Wings”

  1. Von Rupert says:

    That was lovely, Beth. Such a delicate sure hand you wrote this with. Each paragraph flowed into the next. The echoing of words and phrases and ideas was perfect. The ending sad, but somehow hopeful.

  2. […] Cato: – short story “Stitched Wings” published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies – novel The Clockwork Dagger now has a release date of September 16, 2014 and is available for […]

  3. Devin Miller says:

    Great story Beth! I can imagine this being a big and difficult project, and you completed it very well. I enjoyed the language and imagery. Look forward to reading more of your work!

  4. […] a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona […]

  5. […] and flash everywhere. Which is your favourite and why? One of my very favorite stories is “Stitched Wings” over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It’s a steampunk fantasy story–set in a […]

  6. […] written and published a number of fairy poems and stories, including a steampunk-fae tale in “Stitched Wings” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and a story in the forthcoming B is for Broken anthology. Fairies are such an important part of the […]

  7. […] her shorter works for free. Red Dust and Dancing Horses is a story delivered in podcast format, and Stitched Wings is a free steampunk story up at Beneath Ceaseless […]

  8. […] Stitched Wings, by Beth Cato (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, December 26, 2013) – A lovely heart-wrenching story about a child who catches fairies. […]

Leave a Comment on “Stitched Wings”