Epiphany of a Swan Wife

Part VII: The Visitation

Part VII: The Visitation is now up!

Photo: grobery wolf via photopin (license)


The story is coming to a close, with just two more chapters coming next week.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Midwinter tale!

Epiphany of a Swan Wife

Part VI: Aftermath is now up!

Photo: Oscar Keys

Epiphany of a Swan Wife, Part VI: Aftermath is now up!

The story is coming to a close, and ends next week on Epiphany. Catch up on previous sections below. Thanks for reading!

Part I: The Owl

Part II: Challenges

Part III: The Baby

Part IV: The Rabbit

Part V: Offerings

Epiphany of a Swan Wife

Part V: Offerings is up

Photo: Cliff Johnson

Offerings, Part V of Epiphany of a Swan Wife is now live!

Part I: The Owl

Part II: Challenges

Part III: The Baby

Part IV: The Rabbit

Check back for Part VI: Aftermath on Wednesday!

Thanks for reading!



Pork pie, Sherry, and Death

Photo: Pavan Trikutam

One can imagine that for as long as we have been, and perhaps longer, humans have huddled together in the darkest time of the year, for warmth, for safety, for reassurance, seeking those things with feasting and fire. Every culture has some form of a Festival of Light. Whether we seek to draw the sun back from death or retreat, to rekindle its faded flame, or simply to provide our own succor, Midwinter has always mattered. Sun gods have long laid themselves down at the night of the solstice and carried the promise of the warmth and plenty of springtime on their morning return.

These patterns continue to shape us, whether we light candles or sing carols. The memory of those distant winters when survival was not assured clings in the darkest recesses of physical memory. Bolt the door, draw near to the fire, drink something warm, and listen to tales of how we have survived, year after year, and through harsher times than even these.

Recently I’ve seen a resurgent interest in Christmas ghost stories, and I think this is why. When we despair, when we are afraid, when we feel the world trembling in sickness and age and decay, we want to know… it’s all happened before. And we survived.

Our fairy tales, rituals, and traditions remind us that even as nights grow long, though it is cold and dark, still we are alive. And who knows but that tomorrow might not be a little brighter? The small thrills, the tiny fears, give us space to map out how we, too, will fight the rampant darkness, and bring warmth, and plenty, and light back into the places we inhabit.

By this we are also reminded that stories change. They grow, and shift, and take on new meaning, and discard old metaphor. We’re reminded that stories can be rewritten. And that is powerful magic indeed.

Tonight I will be watching The Hogfather, my annual tradition, to be reminded that we must learn to believe the little fairy tales and fantasies, so that we can believe the big ones, like love and justice and mercy.


May the Yule Lads bring you a potato to eat, and may Befana bring you coal for warmth, and may the Ghost of Christmas Present remind you to be kind.

Happy Hogswatch, and goodnight children everywhere.

Epiphany of a Swan Wife

ESW – Part IV: The Rabbit

Hare by Hans Hoffmann, via Wikimedia Commons

Epiphany of a Swan Wife, Part IV: The Rabbit is now posted!

Reader Warning: Some violent content

Part I

Part II

Part III


Epiphany of a Swan Wife Part III

Photo: Gwen Bailey

Epiphany of a Swan Wife Part III is now up!

The Baby

Read Part I: The Owl

Read Part II: Challenges

Thanks for reading!


Epiphany of a Swan Wife

Epiphany of a Swan Wife Part II

Photo: Peter Lewicki

The next segment of Epiphany of a Swan Wife is now live!

Read Part II: Challenges here!

Read Part I: The Owl here!

Epiphany of a Swan Wife · Writing

New Serial – Epiphany of a Swan Wife

swan wife cover
Photo: Rene Bernal

You might notice a new heading across the top of the page!


For the next few weeks, I’ll be serializing Epiphany of a Swan Wife. I’ll published the next segment of the story every Wednesday and Saturday between now and Twelfth Night (Epiphany, January 6th) so check back!

Part I: The Owl, is live now!

Thanks for reading!


I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.


My fish died

My fish died today. She wasn’t furry, and didn’t cuddle, and in terms of griefs, this is a small one. That is fitting, because, of course, she was very small. She was blue – a vibrant cobalt blue – and when I first got her, she was smaller than the first two joints of my little finger. I gave her a little two gallon tank with a light and filter and rocks and plants – we went through a few plants. I would pull the goopy, decaying vegetable matter out of the water, and it would cling to my fingers like so much slime. But eventually a couple little sprouts stayed with us, and would float around in the water with her. I never had dirt or gravel, so the plants swam, and so did she.

I named her Marie Gracieuse Martin de Fontanelle Mercier, after a name I saw on a plaque in the Quarter, and I called her Cici.

I got her a fish, an otocinclus to eat the algae that started to grow on the glass, but S&WB did something and it changed the water chemistry, and he didn’t make it.

She did though. She was always very active and seemed happy as fish go. She might be exploring the filter, or swimming between and under the rocks, but when I came to the glass, she always swam right to me and seemed to just… flutter. She would twitch her tail and fins with so much energy and excitement, I felt she was happy to see me. I probably overfed her, encouraged by such enthusiasm. I had trained her to jump and touch my fingers before I fed her, though in the last several weeks, we had stopped doing that.

She was more lethargic, and so was I, though she never stopped coming to the glass and dancing when I came by the little aquarium. Even last night, when I watched her move so slowly, and she seemed to struggle with her air bladder – and I said to my husband, “I think she’s going to die” – she still swam to the glass and fluttered her fins at me, before swimming to a spot by the filter, where it was less of a struggle for her to be still.

She had lost a little color recently, and her head had taken on a gaunt look, even though her little belly stayed full. Her fins started to look a little tattered in places. She looked like she might have developed cataracts, if fish can get cataracts. Either way, she was always happy to come dance at the glass, but slower to eat. Then we suspected ick, and I was treating her for that in the last few days.

This morning, she was tucked beside the filter again, and I could tell she was gone. There was a stillness and a grayness and bubbles where there ought not be. Her scales flashed with rich and luxuriant color when I moved the filter, and she sank slowly to the bottom of the tank.

I made a mess, getting water everywhere, trying to scoop her body into a zip-top bag (the traditional “burial at sea” for fish can introduce piscine disease to the water table), while she floated around in a ghostly dance, ever just out of my reach. Water sloshed onto the floor and onto some curios, and I asked my husband for help, while I mopped up the funerary spill.

He succeeded in getting her bagged. I wiped up the mess.

I keep peeking into her tank when I walk by this evening. It’s still full of water and two little plants and rocks, and the filter keeps the water moving. But there’s no little blue flash to greet me.

As I said, it is a small grief. She was a small fish, with a small tank, with small plants, with a small life. Yet in her littleness, she still brought me happiness, and in however much a fish can be concerned with such things, I hope she, too, had a good and happy life.

Farewell, Cici. May you continue to dance in the floodplains of the afterlife.

via Wikimedia Commons

Not Cici, but this is close to what she looked like. She always danced and so just looked like a blue blur when I tried to take her picture.


The Tale of Anchin


Photo: Christian Joudrey

The girl was a fool, they said. She’d gone out alone. She was pregnant, or eaten, or killed. She’d brought it on herself, they said. How, I wondered, could she be responsible for her own murder? But that brought me a stern look, the one that said they were certain I meant trouble. I got few answers after that.

The priest came to town, and then he left. It was the same in every case. And the girl was a fool. The old merchant’s daughter. The farmer’s sister. The miller’s new young wife. And in every case, she was simply gone.

I had heard the prayer in the temple, the double clap of the petitioner drawing my attention. It was the local lord. “Please find my daughter,” he said, bowing before the altar. He came day after day with the same simple plea. “Please find my daughter,” again and again.

Finally I left my post. I asked in at the lord’s house. I asked in the village. Anchin, they said. The priest was called Anchin.

I followed the river to the next village and found him easily enough. I went to his rooms and disguised myself as the lord’s daughter.

“Anchin,” I said, when he came in. He was young and handsome, but everyone had said as much.

He held up his lamp to see my face, and recoiled. “You – how?” He paled before me as I advanced on him.

“What did you do, Anchin?” I asked through the missing girl’s lips, in her voice. “Where did you leave me?”

He fled back through the door he had entered, and dropped his lamp. The tatami caught and flames started to bloom. I started after the priest, but stopped. “Fire!” I yelled, to alert the villagers. The cry was taken up, and bells began to ring. I dove over the flames, and returned to the river as the villagers began to collect there, forming themselves into a bucket line. The fire spread through the building quickly. I sucked in gulps of river water, returned to the burning building, and released a drenching spray over it. With the villagers bucket line, we managed to douse the flames before they spread to the surrounding buildings. They cheered and sang my name.

In the morning I returned as myself, not disguised as the missing girl. I asked about Anchin. I asked about the girl. They knew him here, they knew him well. He was a traveling priest. They knew nothing about the girl I described, but there had been another, one of their own, a few years back. They told me what direction he would usually head in on his route each year, and I returned to the river.

I found him again in the next village. I asked around on my arrival. The people here were wary. They housed the priest because he was a priest, yet they kept their daughters safely away. He seduced young women, I learned from the men in a tea house, he dishonored them and left them to their fate.

The mothers told me something different; it wasn’t seduction, it was force. He was vile. No, they knew nothing of the two missing girls.

I thanked them. As I turned to leave, a woman grabbed my arm. “Don’t be alone with him,” she said urgently. “Don’t ever be alone with him.”

They told me where to find him.

“Anchin,” I walked into the noodle shop where he was eating. “Anchin, you left me.”

He glanced up, and then looked back at his bowl. “You got the wrong guy.”

“Anchin, I know you. Anchin, you promised marriage. What else did you promise?” I showed him the face of the girl from the last village.

He looked at me, annoyed. “I never promised you anything. I’ve never seen you before in my life.”

I sat across from him. “Look closer.”

He smirked, betraying his lie, “Look, sweetheart, it’s done. Your honor is your problem.” He chuckled. “I guess you shouldn’t go out alone at night.”

“I wasn’t alone though. You were there.”

He shrugged, “I shouldn’t get rewarded for escorting you home?”

I displayed the faces of the three young women in turn.

He yelped like a dog, and drew the attention of the other customers, but they paid me no mind.

“Anchin, you carry the weight of three lives. You have no honor. And that is your problem.”

“Get away from me!” he cried, lurching back. “What are you?”

The shop owner came out and waved a towel at him, as one would shoo a cat, “What’s wrong with you? Keep it down!”

Anchin fled.

I pulled his bowl to me and ordered more noodles for the broth he’d left behind. The proprietor served me and apologized for the scene.

I asked around about where he would go from here. The villagers didn’t know, but there were a few other hamlets further along the road.

After I’d eaten, I continued my pursuit. It was days, maybe a week. I collected more faces in the hamlets. Another one at a village at the crossroads. There was a town at the headwaters of the river, and I looked for him there.

He saw me when I arrived. I’m not sure how he recognized me, but he tried to run. The faces of the girls played through my mind, and the stories of what he’d done to them.

“Anchin, you cannot flee your guilt.”

He ran to the water’s edge and I heard him shouting at a group of fishermen. He grabbed one by the shirt and shook the man. The fishermen looked at me, bowed slightly, perhaps in some recognition. I nodded, and they placated the frantic priest. They watched me as they loaded him into one of the boats, and watched me as they shoved off the bank, and watched me as they rowed out into the river.

I ran, shifting shape as I did, and dove into my cool, clear waters in my true form. My scales were feeling tight even then, but the river soothed me. I followed the little boat from below, and launched onto the bank as the boat came to rest.

Anchin looked at me, wild-eyed, and began to run.

He ran to the temple at the river’s edge, and I followed behind on four legs. The local priests bowed at our approach, and Anchin disappeared inside. I climbed the steps.

“This way, my lady,” the good priests said, and led me inside to the giant bell. I could smell his sweat, and his fear, and his sin. I coiled my long body and tail around the bell. “It is time, Anchin,” I said, and blew flame over the bell.

It melted down into a medallion that the temple now uses as a sacred gong.

I returned to the water and swam down river, still carrying the faces and stories of the girls with me.

I climbed out of the water at my old temple, and my skin was rough and tight and itchy. I clawed at it as I went, leaving behind long, stinging stripes along my
limbs and sides. I flexed, cracking the surface of the taut, grey leather, and clawed at the gap.

I sloughed it off, tearing at it with my claws, and with each step felt the memory of each lost soul bid me farewell, as she could now go in peace.

I stepped into my human form, exhausted, but feeling strengthened by the prayers of the villagers for the memories of their lost daughters. I left my old skin behind at my river’s edge, where my rising waters would carry it away, and climbed the steps to my temple to await the next supplicant.

I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.