“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”
The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.
“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”
As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “His first entrance in ‘To Walk the Storm’ came with this description:
The Stormbringer appeared. Taller than the most overgrown Great Lander. Stronger than the sturdiest of spine trees. Smooth skin brighter than copper, long hair blacker than core-fire rock, eyes that flashed like his blazing veins of lightning.
“Although, of course,” Allyn continues, “my first introduction to him, in ‘The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’, went more like this:
“Euroval,” said the last of the male winds, the utterance of his name punctuated by an assault of lightning and thunder before he stepped up to present his hand. “Wind of the East.” And at the end of it all, Allyn’s fingers felt warm and dry again, though his whole arm was left tingling and his ears ringing for minutes afterward.
Allyn had never been so politely terrorized in his life.
“Wait…” Will Scarlet’s face has paled from ruddy-golden-fair to seen-a-ghost white. “The Stormbringer is Euroval?!”
“One and the same,” the wind rasps melodically, gusting down into the chair across from Will’s own. His smile glints wickedly. “Nice to see you again, Scarlet.”
“Um, ha! Yes! Totally!” Will falters, his answering smile too wide by half. “Welcome, Euroval! So glad you could join me. First things first – why did no one warn, ah, notify me you’d be coming today?”
Euroval crosses his legs, hair wafting around complacently. “You scheduled an interview with the Stormbringer of the Far Eastern Isles. That is the name my people address me by.”
Will startles. “You have a people?”
“Of course I do. I am the Wind of the East. Thus, the people of the east – the Islanders – belong to me.”
“Why under Welken would the Sun give you a whole region of people to kill with impunity??”
“Kill?” Euroval flashes in disdain. “With an entire world of worthless humans to kill, why would I attack those who belong to me? Who worship me? Who actually care that I exist,” he hisses, “when no one else on earth or in Sky really does?”
The high-key anxiety radiating from Will takes a sudden dive into something like sympathy. “What makes you think no one else cares?”
Euroval stares Will down from beneath half-lowered lids. “Do you know what my name means?”
“No, fool. Euroval. ‘Realm of nothingness.’ So did the Sun call the Far East’s desert isles, and so did he name me. He thinks me the least of his winds, and my territory the least of his lands. On that last count, the self-important humans of the Great Land agree with him. They live in careless ignorance of my people’s ways, thinking themselves superior simply because they and their land are the larger. You, Allyn,” the wind addresses his great-nephew. “Do you think the traveling Islanders that were your father’s family wouldn’t have sought to move higher in western society, were they allowed? Do you think the famed Gant-o’-the-Lute would have had quite as effortless a minstrel career if he had happened to take after his mother’s dark, foreign looks?”
Euroval returns his full-force glare to Will Scarlet, the crackling air’s movement around him not quite a tornado. “To the world at large, the Islanders and I are all Euroval. Thus do I consider it us against the larger world.”
“Damn,” says Will. “So much for fairy tales. I can’t believe Wilderhark’s racist.”
“Everyone’s racist,” says Euroval, bored. “Every group has a ‘them’ they can blow off as ‘less than us’. For me, as a Welken, that lesser ‘them’ is you humans – excepting the ones from my islands.”
“Huh. So, are the other winds like that about the people in their territories? Aquinore with those in the Farthest North, Austeryn with those in the Farthest South, Vesparya…?”
Euroval laughs a crack of thunder. “Of course not. Aquinore has love for no one and shows no mercy. To be Austeryn’s human favorite would likely mean he extends your life to torture you the longer.”
“(Sounds like an author,)” Will mutters to Allyn.
“And Vesparya…” Euroval flicks a hand. “She’s not worth talking about.”
“(Lesser ‘them,’)” Allyn mutters to Will.
Will inquires of the East Wind, “Do you think having a prominent role in this new short story of Danielle’s will bring you something closer to the recognition you deserve?”
Euroval shrugs. “It’s better than nothing. But the count so far is seven Wilderhark Tales and a short story collection focusing on a silly lot of Great Landers, and the two short stories of ‘Beyond Her Infinity’ that still have a silly lot of Great Landers in them, despite the subtitle ‘Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea’. To date, Danielle knows more words in the language of the Sky than she does in my Islanders’ tongue – several versus zero. So I’m pleased at my story’s publication, but far from impressed at any effort toward… what’s the word humans like fuss about? Equality.”
“Harsh,” says Will. “But not unfair. My final question, however, has ever been asked of all, regardless of race or culture. Tell me, Euroval, what is our author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” Will’s smile regains its nervous edge. “Or would you rather kiss me?”
“Oh, do let’s kiss, Scarlet,” the wind purrs, rising from his chair, dragging his host to him with invisible, inescapable force. “For old times’ sake.”
Will accidentally looses a whimper, but rules are rules, and so their lips meet amidst a wild swirl of stage detritus and a dazzling lightning show. The building’s electricity burns out. Will’s hair is a corona of static. Allyn thinks it best to hurry ahead to the word from their sponsor before the whole of the talk show set comes apart.
“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” Allyn pitches his voice over the weather, “is brought to you by ‘To Walk the Storm’ from ‘Beyond Her Infinity: Tales from Across Wilderhark’s Great Sea’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now (e-book only) for just 99 cents!
Once upon a time, you knew tales of Wilderhark’s Great Land.
But what of the Isles to the Far East?
In “Beyond Her Infinity”, Wilderhark Tales author Danielle E. Shipley spins two short stories with leading roles from the fairytale world’s minority culture.
“The Queen’s Lady” – Three gallant royal guardsmen learn just how far one Islander will go for the sake of her friend: Into a strange land. Into a cruel exile. Even into the hands of a darkly dangerous power.
“To Walk the Storm” – With his country falling to ruin, a king sends his heirs in search of foreign aid. But the favor of the Isles’ supernatural patron is not so easily won.
Tales of loyalty. Tales of passion. Most of all, tales of true love.
“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says numbly, dropped half-breathless back into his chair as the air falls still with the wind’s departure. “Thanks to you, too, Euroval! And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”