Vibrant. Like no one else Amm had ever seen. Her brother’s colors swirled with strong cries of fear and confusion across his tiny wet body. He glowed in shades of cyan and cerulean. Of bright sea and cloudless skies. He shone through the dullness that surrounded him so strongly that Amm flinched away, breathless at his beauty.

Surely here was proof that the tribe was not falling so fast into darkness. Surely he would stand against the worry they held, telling them they wouldn’t descend into muteness, so far away from the cities where people shaded in extraordinary spectrums Amm could only imagine.

She only wished he did not have a sister so limited in range, voice always muddied and blurred.

They presented him to the Black Veil two months after his birth—not the norm, but Amm’s parents wished to wait to be sure that his voice would not fade. Amm watched as Mother described the birth in shades of dried blood and fresh wine, her deep reddish tones conveying far more intricacies than either Father or Amm could ever hope to accomplish.

The Black Veil watched patiently, her eyes hidden behind the dark drapery that hung down her body. When Mother finished her story and looked down once more at her son cradled in her arms, the Black Veil made no response for a long time.

Then she lifted one dark hand and let them see a dull speckling of color. To Amm it looked as if the Black Veil was attempting to mimic her brother’s vibrancy, but without the power. Instead, the Black Veil’s voice came across cracked and mottled, the color she intended obvious but horrifyingly far from the hue it should have been.

“Cerrune,” shaded the Black Veil. At least Amm thought that was what the Black Veil shaded.

Mother and Father bowed, their tones deepening in respect and streaking with delight. Amm followed them out, then averted her gaze as she realized Mother was admonishing her lack of respect for the Black Veil. When her Father rapped her upon the back of her head, she responded, “Why is someone so dark, who can barely form words that make sense, considered better than everyone else in the tribe?”

“She has become such because of the pressures of leading us, helping us to survive,” shaded Mother. “It wasn’t always so. She was once the most vibrant of us all. No one else could match her then, just as no one now can match Cerrune.”

“Did you ever see her when she was as vibrant as... Cerrune?” asked Amm.

Mother became mottled in astonishment at the question. “No, of course not. I was too young. The Black Veil has been leading us since before I was born.” Then the astonishment dissipated, leaving in its wake a wistful pinkish blotch. “And in the future, mayhaps your grandchildren will speak to the fact that their once vibrant leader had been born in their line.”

Amm sulked, though neither of her parents noticed, or if they did they didn’t care. They had a son named by the Black Veil herself, with a color range so expansive, with tinting so bright he outshone them all. They looked for all the world as if they were the happiest parents in the world.

Amm couldn’t be upset with Cerrune. Not when he shaded things he shouldn’t. Not when he garnered more attention with their parents. Not ever. He was simply too bright. Too cheerful. Too loving.

She often brought him to the river with her, let him wade while she washed their clothes. He nodded to her when she shaded a warning to not let the water rise past his thighs. Saw her, though he often pretended not to see Mother’s coral shades telling him no, telling him he couldn’t play with the others because he had a destiny that didn’t include them.

When Amm finished, she would hike up her dress, let him see the dark happy amber of her legs, and chase him until he crawled onto the shore with tired arms and curled up in the basket, waiting for her to heft it and carry him home.

He’d sleep peacefully. Colors swirling lazily. Trusting her because she never hinted of destiny. Because she never shaded to him he had a path set out already.

Her own sleep was never so peaceful. She’d dream of having the colors Cerrune had. Of seeing the voices of the world. Of being able to step beyond the tribe for herself.

But she’d always wake with pounding heart, her colors churning in fear. For the dreams turned to nightmares the moment she stepped beyond the tribe’s protection where her range couldn’t scare off even the smallest of beasts.

When Cerrune turned ten, the Black Veil called the family to her side once more and appraised him. He shaded no fear, making Amm’s heart swell with pride. She’d been the one to teach him to stand up for himself, after all. Her parents had always enforced the opposite, trying to enforce blind obedience.

As if someone as vibrant as Cerrune could be contained.

“I am old,” started the Black Veil, her voice even more cracked and dull than it’d been ten years before, leaving Amm to wonder why the old woman bothered announcing her age at all.

Amm must not have kept her thoughts as private as she’d thought because the Black Veil paused and glanced her way. She quickly schooled her body to a respectful shade.

“I am old,” repeated the Black Veil, “And thus in need of a successor. Someone who knows how to carry himself. How to shade properly in as great a spectrum as possible. I had worried for a long time that no one would appear in our tribe. That the tribe would be forced to settle for a person of less capability. But you, Cerrune, have the capability to keep trade open with the cities, to learn new ways of keeping the tribe alive and well.”

Amm had suspected the announcement, and so too had her parents, but that didn’t mean her colors didn’t churn inside. One part jealousy, one part pride, many parts worry that her brother would lose the beautiful colors that defined him and begin to take after the Black Veil.

But she had no say in the matter.

Cerrune bowed, his shades perfectly practiced to give the correct amount of respect and excitement at the Black Veil’s announcement and subsequent desire to have him begin his training.

The Black Veil and their parents were too caught up with their own emotions to notice, so it was only Amm who saw the nervous shading that threatened to streak up from Cerrune’s heels.

She tried to visit him. At first without reason, thinking the fact that a sister wished to see what her brother had to shade about his new life would be reason enough.

Amm thought wrong.

The Black Veil’s shading might be difficult to discern at times, but her meaning was blatant when she was angry...and she was always angry to see Amm. As if Amm would somehow rub off on Cerrune. As if Father had told her of the things Amm used to shade to Cerrune—of the cities to the south so large it’d take a day to walk across them, or the mountains to the west that would take a month to climb. As if afraid that Cerrune might leave the tribe to follow the foolish desires of his sister.

So Amm came up with other excuses. Carrying fresh water, bringing messages, assisting the assistants. She’d watch with rapt attention as Cerrune told her of the things the Black Veil taught him.

“She shaded that I might be allowed to go to a city once to see what it is like. That I’d be able to survive the journey easily,” shaded Cerrune one afternoon when Amm had snuck in. The excitement overtook the rest of his coloring.

She was startled. Not that Cerrune would be considered capable of surviving the beasts beyond their tribe, able to communicate effectively with others because of his spectrum, but because no one who’d left had ever come back.

They were chosen, from time to time, those with color ranges that spread further than others. They were the tribe’s only hope for trade. Sometimes they sent back news, given only to the Black Veil for her to pass out. Sometimes they sent back medicines or spices that the assistants would distribute. Always there was a portion of harvests and weaved goods, along with painted messages, that were sent away to those living their lives in service far from home.

“When?” Amm asked.

He didn’t know and the Black Veil had not given him a season, but the excitement lingered for months, then years.

The girls in the tribe flirted with him, and their not-as-secret talks were dominated by how beautiful this one or that looked in the bright sun reflecting a rosy complexion or pale butterfly wings.

Cerrune leaned close once, his chest the only part of him shading as if he feared the very walls had eyes. “The one with a range from ripened oranges to evergreen needles.”

Amm nodded, making sure her tinting didn’t tease him too much. “I know her. Ferr. Always looking like apricot skin, voice so smooth she’s singing me to sleep when she shades.”

Cerrune nodded, not noticing the laughter in Amm’s shading. “Yes, that’s the one. She’s absolutely beautiful.”

Amm didn’t agree, but she didn’t disagree either. And from then on, for months, she’d sneak messages between the two, glad that her brother’s admiration was returned in kind by Ferr.

Maybe a bit jealous as well. On rare occasions she’d sneak a peek at the streaks of berry juice cutting across the messages, noting how simple they seemed in comparison to the reality of color that existed in both Ferr and Cerrune. Those moments left her even more dull than ever, wishing she had a range that could be considered desirable in another’s eyes. Wishing she might be considered worthy of having a man shade the things Cerrune said to Ferr.

More than those though, she wished she had a range that would let her survive on her own beyond the outskirts of the village.

The moments passed and became nonexistent when Cerrune began to sneak away from the Black Veil’s large home to have secret meetings with Ferr. Then Amm didn’t have time for self-moping, too caught up with keeping their secret safe.

“I know what you’ve been doing,” shaded the Black Veil.

Amm swallowed and kept her earth-toned, grey streaked body still as she focused in on the Black Veil’s dark hand, not wanting to miss a single speck of color.

For a long moment the Black Veil was colorless. Then she shaded, “And I have no objections to Ferr. She has lovely shading, a beautiful range. Cerrune is silly to have hidden his desires. Being my successor does not mean he cannot be happy.”

Amm felt her legs lighten and guessed that her shading must be more akin to a deep amber with how light-headed in relief she felt. Before she could collect herself to form a coherent response the Black Veil went on.

“Of course, I had planned on sending her to a southeastern city. She has the tones and likely the ability to pick up their language quickly.”

Amm slowed the swirling of her limited shades, unsure why the Black Veil was telling her this. Cerrune would be devastated if Ferr were to leave, but it’d be Ferr’s choice, or the Black Veil’s, not Cerrune’s. Not yet, at least.

The Black Veil shifted behind her dark covering. “We shall see what I decide. Or rather, what Ferr decides.”

Amm left wondering if the Black Veil knew how often Ferr visited Cerrune. Whether she’d known the whole time, or if Cerrune and Ferr had simply become indiscreet, leaving a message where one of the assistants could find it.

She left wondering, but with no way to find out.

Afterwards, Amm berated herself for telling Cerrune. For he told Ferr, thinking she’d choose him over the possibility of experiencing life beyond their tiny circle of a tribe.

“You should have known better!” shaded Amm, her body streaking brighter than it usually did. If only she could keep it up beyond the anger that lanced across her now.

“I thought she loved me,” shaded Cerrune. “I thought she’d give up that option to be with me.”

This was heartbreak, Amm realized. She recognized the blurred patterns mottling his body. She’d felt that way once, twice before. The day he’d been born, when her parents began their slow dismissal of her. The day Cerrune had moved in with the Black Veil. Both times she’d died a little, thinking the ones she’d loved no longer wanted to be around her.

But this was greater by far than what she’d ever felt. Stronger. More violent. Cerrune and Ferr had been together for over a year, long enough to form a bond that now gave Cerrune such pain it made even his vibrant body seem muddied.

“You should have known better,” shaded Amm again, this time letting compassion leak in. Then she hugged him, closing her eyes so he could sob in peace.

But Ferr never left.

She spoke with the Black Veil and announced her decision to move southeast, away from the tribe, promising to do her best. To learn to haggle and send back treats for her favorite nephews.

Cerrune spoke of it with bitterness, and Amm watched his eyes follow Ferr’s every move in public. She tried to speak of it with Ferr once, only to be rebuffed soundly. Not just rebuffed. Mocked. In front of half of Ferr’s family and many friends, all of whom could boast a wider spectrum than Amm.

“Thank you,” shaded Amm, when the swirling laughter had died somewhat.

“For?” asked Ferr, amused.

Amm merely shook her head and turned around, caught between seething in anger and wanting to cry. But there was no one to hold her. No one to care how twisted and faded her colors churned inside of her.

Cerrune refused to even shade of it, not wanting to see another word about Ferr as hurt as he was. So Amm left it. Spent a week in relative solitude, eyes unfocused whenever she passed another so she couldn’t see what they might be shading to her.

When she finally tried to visit Cerrune again, no longer blocked by the Black Veil’s assistants since she’d proven she wasn’t putting thoughts of running off into his head, he seemed a shade darker than normal. No one else seemed to notice, but Amm did. Amm had held him tightly in her arms when he was a squalling, swirling river-blue babe.

“She once shaded I’d get to visit a city or two as well,” shaded Cerrune.

“What?” asked Amm, before realizing he meant the Black Veil and not Ferr. Then she brightened amber-like. “Perhaps you’ll get to visit Ferr then.”

He laughed, reminding her of the laughter of others throughout her life, mocking her limited scope. But she pushed it aside. She could forgive the boy she’d tossed into the air just to see how many ways he could color ‘I love you’ unconsciously in his excitement.

“That’s not what I meant.”

Amm shaded confusion.

“When I first moved here, away from you and Mother and Father, I would talk all the time about climbing mountains and wading in oceans and seeing all the different types of people coloring our world. She promised to give me hope. To keep me here. Not because she truly would send me out in the world.”

“But—” started Amm.

“It’s useless. Those who leave never come back. That’s the truth of the matter, Amm.”

There was something more to his shading. Something that spoke of more than simple bitterness over a false promise from the Black Veil. But Amm couldn’t read it.

Ferr became sick, her skin losing colors it had always used before. She was limited, streaking uncontrollably. She shook and shaded things to people, angry words full of hate. Especially for Cerrune.

“This is your fault!” she shaded as brightly as she could one day. The day she’d been supposed to leave. “You’ve cursed me with your anger!”

Most in the crowd averted their gaze, respectful of the pain swirling within Ferr. Amm didn’t, so she saw the snippets of thought, unchecked and confused, blowing across Ferr’s body without a hint of privacy. Blaming Cerrune over and over again. Hating him as if his love had been the sickness she suffered from.

As for Cerrune, he stood stoically beyond her, watching as if he felt he must, never once letting his gaze leave the incredibly low range of color that Ferr now used to send him her anger.

In his shading, Amm saw shame and horror and sorrow.

And when she looked beside him, the Black Veil sat behind her long drapery of dark cloth with even her hands tucked in so that not a single person gathered could tell what she thought about the proceedings.

No one ever found Ferr’s body. They determined she’d wandered off, unstable and uncontrolled, and had attracted the attention of a beast. Without the range of color she’d had before, she’d not be able to strike fear in the beast’s heart and cause it to race away.

She’d have been the same as Amm. Unable to brighten effectively enough to save herself.

Some in the tribe shaded in low spectrum colors that Ferr’s mind couldn’t remain stable after losing so much from her sickness. Amm asked them if they thought her unstable as well, given that even with Ferr’s loss, she’d still had a wider range than Amm. They averted their gaze as she shaded, pretending to have never seen the question.

Cerrune stopped seeing Amm at all the day after Ferr disappeared. And when Amm passed him, she swore his body had darkened. She shaded to him, told him she was here if he needed to let out his pain, to let the healing begin.

He shook his head, colors barely moving, and kept walking.

She clenched her fists and thought long about Ferr. Wondered how painful it might be to lose huge sections of her voice. Feel as if she were going mute. Ferr hadn’t the experience that Amm had with limitations. She had reacted strongly, lashing out in anger and hurt, instead of pulling all of those feelings inward and bottling them, hiding them.

No, Ferr wasn’t like Amm at all. Ferr wouldn’t settle.

Amm took a machete, stolen from Father, and a reflective coin, stolen from Mother, and started into the forest. She kept her body as bright as possible, still a deep amber, in an attempt to keep the beasts at bay. The coin, she tucked into her hair, wedging it under a tie where it could shine and still be reachable were she to be attacked.

Never before had she gone out alone. With Father. With large groups of field workers. With Cerrune, always so bright no animal would dare come near but the blind bats of the night who’d not bother them anyway. Never alone.

Now she clutched at the machete and jumped at noises as the trees thickened and the fields and homes of her tribe faded quickly behind her. She traveled south, southeast, towards the city Ferr had been assigned to before she’d become sick.

She walked for half a day. Rather, she took tiny steps, barely making any progress as the sun rose high in the sky and pierced though the leaves to heat her back. Amm felt her control over her body slipping, colors dropping murkily. Partly from the heat, partly from the ever-present worry.

The bright cry of the carrion birds’ wings and a reflected snarling echoing off bark led Amm to Ferr’s body. More east than south, towards the lower lands that eventually led to the ocean and the blue-voiced tribes that lived there.

The carrion birds were settled in the trees, eyeing the body below with greed and annoyance at having been interrupted. The bear shaded a growling, then it dipped his head, mouth crunching, making Amm shiver in disgust and want to tear her eyes away from rippling brown fur so she wouldn’t have to see the delight shining from its skin. She saw Ferr’s dress, now bloodied and torn, and ceased to think, knowing that if she paused for even the slightest moment her body would likely freeze in place.

She gripped her machete and ran at the beast, catching it in its side before it’d realized she was there. Then she felt her body fly through the air, her shoulder pounding where the bear had instinctively raked at her.

Amm rolled and looked up in time to see the bear turn towards her. Her machete dropped to the earth as the bear shaded in pain. Pieces of Ferr hung from its jaw. Then it came at her again.

As she pulled herself to her feet, she summoned delight, thinking of warm long ago days wading with Cerrune, and spun her limited range to as bright an amber as she could muster. Her fingers closed over the coin in her hair and she pulled it to her chest, ripping her dress down so her body could scream and shout rather than simply shade gently.

The bear reared back as the coin expanded the color and warning of Amm’s body, reflecting it sharply with help from the sun straight into the bear’s eyes. The bear surged forward again and Amm threw herself to the side, landing heavily on her injured shoulder, flinching at the pain as debris rubbed against her wounds.

The bear kept going, then turned once more, nose sniffing as it searched for her without the help of its eyes. Amm remained still, praying that the stench of death would overpower her own scent.

Slowly, the bear twisted around, casting for Ferr’s body again, mouth scraping the ground. Amm looked behind her, at the relative safety of the rest of the woods, and almost started to crawl away, thinking that she could inform others who could come back and retrieve Ferr’s body in order to send her colors back out into the world.

Two things stopped her. One was shame. Having to tell the tribe once again she had less ability than them. Less range to frighten a beast off. Unable to even walk a day towards a city before having to turn around and run home.

The second was that the bear suddenly shook its head violently, shifting Ferr’s body so Amm could see the naked line of her back clearly.

White. Pure White.

The color had already fled from Ferr’s body.

That was impossible. Amm had seen death before, and always the people of her tribe had their color linger in their cold bodies until the ritual to pull it out and let it be free to color another.

It meant Ferr had been devoid of color before she’d died. A mute. Unable to protect herself. Unable to shade, to communicate. No sickness Amm had ever known of could accomplish such a feat.

Amm grabbed at her shoulder and squeezed the claw scrapes until her eyes watered. Then, in a fit of fury, she raced at the bear, sweeping up the dropped machete and swinging it into its throat as it started to turn.

It staggered as it died, trying to reach her.

Amm ignored it and knelt by Ferr’s body, trying not to retch at the sight. Of either the blood or the pale, colorless skin.

“This is grave, indeed,” shaded the Black Veil when Amm finished giving her report.

Her shoulder still ached and her blood had dried her dress sleeve to the wounds, making motions, however slight, pull at the scrapes. She tried her best to ignore it. Tried her best to hold her amber color steady so that she would not dissolve into a muddy, blurry mess in front of the Black Veil and Cerrune.

Cerrune had changed as Amm spoke, his body growing stiller, his colors stopping their swirling. This close, Amm could see how he seemed to have darkened a tiny smidgeon. Not enough anyone else would notice, but she’d known him since he’d been born and could see even the slightest changes in his vibrancy.

She’d been jealous of his spectrum, after all, more so than any other. She had covered it with becoming the most loving sister she could, but that didn’t mean she didn’t dream of her own body swirling in colors such that Cerrune could control.

“A beast that can steal our color away, if it were to attack...” shaded Amm, priding herself that her colors remained as steady and clear as they possibly could.

“It could still have been the sickness,” shaded the Black Veil, voice cracking so Amm had to squint to double check the broken lines of dark color on the older woman’s hand. She wondered if this was what Cerrune had to look forward to. His color slowly becoming so dark that he could barely shade, his voice little better than a mute’s.

That thought led to another, more dangerous. But before Amm could clearly string out the shades in her mind to make sense of it, Cerrune finally shaded.

“You shouldn’t have gone out by yourself,” he admonished her. “You could have died out there without the proper ability to send the beasts away.” She saw real worry behind his front shades and it made her heart warm.

“But I didn’t,” she shaded.

She hadn’t. She had survived an attack by a beast of the woods without having a range even a fraction as great as Cerrune’s. She hadn’t just survived, she’d killed it. Why then were the rest of the tribe so worried when even the lowest of them had twice as much range as she?

The thought she’d had earlier came crashing back as the Black Veil lifted her dark hand. Amm shuddered unconsciously, wondering how much of her thoughts had been streaking across her skin.

“This can’t get out,” shaded the Black Veil. “It is too dangerous out there already without people worrying about a beast who can steal our spectrums.” Her fingers beckoned Amm closer. “Come, I need to whisper in your eyes.”

For one crazy moment, Amm thought about running, then she looked at Cerrune. He wouldn’t be so calm if something were about to happen to her. She took a breath and stepped closer to the Black Veil until the woman reached out and laid dark fingers upon Amm’s arm.

She watched as the color on her arm pulsed and began to leak upwards into the Black Veil’s fingers, turning her an even darker shade of black. Amm felt her body shriek, all the range she had streaking upwards, downwards, spotting and swirling, but though she tried to pull away, she found her body had ceased responding.

Vaguely, she was aware of bright flashes to her right, and somewhere she translated Cerrune’s horror and weak demands. Then arms wrapped about her torso and pulled her backwards.

But it was far, far too late. She lifted her hands in front of her face.

White. Perfectly white.


She tried to scream. She tried to sob.

In front of her a loud conversation brightened the room. Cerrune lit the dullness like a fire in the dark of night, but he made no motion to advance upon the Black Veil.

Amm barely saw the words he shouted. Couldn’t see the Black Veil’s response at all for the blurring in her eyes. She gave one last push, trying to glow a deep amber once more. Nothing. She dug fingernails into her skin and saw red drops form. At last some color. Mother would have known how to use it with her reddish range. Amm stood staring at it numbly.

Finally, she looked up. Cerrune was losing the battle. His anger was dying, full of shame. Because he agreed with the stealing? Because this was part of what the Black Veil had been teaching him? To bolster his own range, an addiction to be fed?

Amm cringed inside. Had any of the people with the brightest colors ever truly seen the cities? Had their ranges been too attractive, too desirable? The small packages of spices and reflective coin and medicines... all brought by the Black Veil’s assistants.

She almost sank into the ground in a numb pile. Then she thought of all the berry-streaked messages that loved ones treasured in trunks. Messages from the mute and dead. As dead as Ferr, left to be carried off by the beasts of the wood. As dead as Amm would be.

Fiery shades of orange and red lit in her mind and swirled tighter and tighter. She could not shade, but just as she’d proven out in the woods, that didn’t mean she couldn’t act.

She spared one glance at the assistant staring at Cerrune, then calmly took one step forward, pulled Cerrune’s knife from his belt and swept it across the veil. It fell to the ground, revealing the crisp, black body of the Black Veil. Kept alive through stolen ranges to supplement her own until the colors blurred so fiercely together, so heavy she could barely shade.

Cerrune was shading—questions for her, by the tone she caught out of the corner of her eye—but Amm refused to look. Instead, she took another step forward, slipping beyond his reach. The assistant didn’t try to stop her, searching for intentions upon her body despite her inability to shade.

The Black Veil started to lift a hand in self-defense, but she had long ago lost most mobility, and Cerrune’s knife slashed once in Amm’s hand across her throat. Color spewed forth, rising into the air, separating and twisting apart, voices shading but so jumbled Amm couldn’t see them clearly.

She stepped away from the whirlwind of color, barely able to discern the bright shadings of shock and horror emanating from both Cerrune and the assistant.

Then her eyes caught on the muddy amber of her own spectrum, mixed within the others of so many that had been taken before hers. Her amber range danced and swirled with the rest, enjoying the freedom. She reached for it, and it shied away at first. She didn’t blame it. She’d always been wishing for more, not appreciating what she’d had.

Her fingers closed over the end of the range. The dark end. The deep amber shades flexed in her hand and as she pulled it back, more came with it. A larger spectrum than hers had ever been, from sun to dancing flames to the deep reds Mother had always shaded.

Had Amm once been this vibrant? As vibrant as even Cerrune, but with the hues of the falling leaves instead of the skies and lakes? Could this have been her original spectrum—bled from her by the Black Veil when she was no more than an infant?

Amm felt tears threaten as the ambers seeped into her palm and spread up her arm. She grabbed for the remainder of what might have been hers, bits of sunlight and the darkest reds allowing themselves to be caught and pulled back into her. But she’d been too long unattached to such a spectrum, and most of it slipped through her fingers and fled with the rest of the voices sweeping out of the windows, lifting away and dispersing into the air.

Amm stood, mind intoxicated as the tiny bit she’d taken swelled within her. The colors swirled up and exploded onto her skin, her voice shrieking in amazement. She put a hand to her chest as if it could slow the beating of her heart, dim the brightness of her color.

Then her range sank to its natural range, the moment gone, her spectrum barely larger than it’d been before the Black Veil had drained it from her.

A horrible sadness entered her and a desire to repeat that glorious feeling swept over her. For the briefest of moments.

What was left of the Black Veil was shades of lush algae and grass reflecting the sunlight on a bright cloudless day. She would have been beautiful. Instead, she’d become horrifyingly dark on account of her incessant need for more.

Disgust replaced desire.

“Amm,” shaded Cerrune, fear deepening his range.

The assistant had knelt by the Black Veil, turning the woman’s head, his own colors reflecting shock.

Amm looked at Cerrune but didn’t let her range rise and color her skin. She stared at him mutely, not having the courage to ask about Ferr. She didn’t want to see the answer. Didn’t want to dwell on the fact that Ferr’s apricot range had not swirled into the air with the rest freed from the Black Veil.

Then she turned and left, knife still in hand, and headed south-southeast, content with being only a dark blurry amber. Content with the vibrant ceruleans and silvers and apricots and roses and crisp green grasses being left to others.

Hoping that one day Cerrune would follow.

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Marie Croke is a fantasy and science-fiction writer living in Maryland with her family, all of whom like to scribble messages in her notebooks when she’s not looking. She is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop with over thirty stories published in places such as Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Zooscape, Cast of Wonders, Diabolical Plots, and Fireside. She works as an Acquisitions Editor for Dark Matter INK, a first reader for khōréō magazine, and her reviews can be found in Apex. You can find her online at or chat with her @marie_croke on Twitter.

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