Into My Shadow: Dark Beginnings (Preview)

Fantasy • Dark • Drama


Dira’s found himself trapped in a literally underground magic lab, and he knows this isn’t something he’s worming his way out of. Not alone. Luckily, his concept of “living things” is pretty flexible.

Content Notes: swearing, non-graphic torture | Dira reference (yes, he’s different, yes, there’s a reason)

A 400-word preview:

Read the full version on Simily or on Patreon

A nameless mage prodded him with some magic staff, precharged with a lightning spell if he had to guess. A hard task to do, what with his screaming blending with a resonant thrum, rising and falling like a stormy sea thrashing against an imposing cliff. No one was getting anywhere. Not the mages, not him, and definitely not the entity living in that glowing crystal.

He must’ve struck a chord because that zap pressed on past the point of Dira enduring it that time around. His grip on the wooden bars as he shook would probably leave him with splinters once he could feel his hands again. Problem was, whatever they had trapped down there bonded with him and that made it all worse. It felt his pain, which he felt it feeling. The shock in his muscles bounced around the facets of its plain crystalline form. When Dira could catch glimpses of the entity there with him, he could see the smoke swirling around it and almost pressing against what had it smothered and powerless. All with a low and faint gong sensed more than truly heard. Whether in sympathy or pain, or some combination, Dira didn’t know from the short and miserable weeks he’d been there.

But kindness was kindness, especially in a place so likely to be his last. The spell eventually faded from that awful staff, and Dira took that rare chance to put his hand on the bars closest to the crystal. He heard someone step closer and crouch down but didn’t bother to move. Whatever they were going to do next to test this connection they couldn’t have or understand, he didn’t want to see it.

At least he wasn’t alone down there. He’d been getting pretty tired of that.

“You pity it.”

Slowly, Dira turned to look at the elf studying him. He’d seen him before. Sometimes, Stefan snuck him extra food when he knew no one else would be around. Being the least terrible person in the forbidden magic den didn’t exactly get him any awards. Dira squinted, bringing another arm to the bars and wrapping his hands around both. Might help to have those in place for whenever someone came back with a new staff.

“I’d pity any creature’n a place like this.”

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Holmes Institute: Legacy (Short Story)

Modern • Academy • Drama


Being one of the top students at Holmes Institute involves more responsibilities than Jasper Madero really wants. Luckily, she’s pretty clever and can slip out of those with only a little fuss. Her friends want to help smooth things over, and her school’s founder just wants her to live up to her potential. She gets that. She just really wishes she didn’t. 

Words: 1200 (2 to 10 minutes) | Content Notes: swearing | Patron-Only WIP | Also on Royal Road

Sneaking back home from Watson Hall was the first step to comfy clothes. Jasper would rather be in the era-inspired commons, flopped sideways on the carved sofa with her legs over the arm, than standing backstage in a suit. Getting stared at by an ocean of donors in their stuffy outfits with deep pockets—that Verity Holmes wanted a piece of—wasn’t Jasper’s idea of a top tier Friday night. And what did she need an award for anyway? To prove she was smart? That’s what the grades were for.

Jasper didn’t regret the decision once the bus dropped her off, and she didn’t by the time Darius got back with the other two best students either. The only thing she wished she’d done differently was bring the remote closer for when Netflix asked if she was still watching.

Min and Everitt came to find her first, which she figured gave her about 15 minutes before Miss Holmes stopped lecturing Darius by the door and marched into the living room to sort Jasper out. They stood in the open archway with their dumb starry glass trophies, plus one for her. Poor souls were still in their show gear to be paraded about. Never bothered them, though. Everitt thrived in his perpetual state of being dressed like an inclusivity model for Ralph Lauren, and Min barely needed a reason to make new clothes. Biggest differences were that he took out his ‘lucky bowtie’ for special events and she put her ethereally straight hair into a ponytail.

“So,” she deadpanned, “was it lit?”

“Miss Verity delivered an exceptional speech,” Everitt chose to describe how lit it wasn’t. Jasper just sighed. She couldn’t roll her eyes, or he’d mope for days when he took that personally. “And she awarded us with these.”

He presented her with a smoked glass trophy, aka an expensive rectangle with her name engraved on a silver plaque at the bottom. They changed the trophy style each year but kept it as pointless as ever.

“Huh.” Jasper pointed to the trash next to the redwood archway. “There.”

Everitt gasped, clutching the trophy against his sweater vest like she suggested throwing out a baby. “But you earned this! Take more pride in your intellect.”

Min held her hand out for it instead, and he recovered from his shock with a smile as he passed it off. They always made quite the duo from the first day they met at the academy. His curly hair failed to make her height over him less obvious. She had three piercings in each ear and two in one eyebrow while he had those academia rectangle glasses. And Everitt made more than enough chatter for both of them.

“I’ll put it on the reptile shelf,” Min informed Jasper. That’s what she called the collection of figures Jasper’d picked up over the years. Personal pets weren’t allowed at HI—just the community cat. Min tucked the trophy-baby in the crook of her arm with her own Smart Kid award and pulled her ponytail in front of her shoulder. “You should’ve stayed.”

“Waste two hours and then some so the donors can feel fuzzy warm?” Jasper sat up and gave them a forced smile. “Hard pass.”

“Miss Verity was upset.”

“Oh, goodness me,” she answered Everitt, holding a hand to her mouth in fake shock. “Vera, upset? Like her usual? Or—” She pulled out an exaggerated tight smile, nowhere near the PR-approved expression the newest Holmes descendent had on hand. The important part was Jasper got him to hide a snicker behind a hand. The worried pout look was getting old. “Okay, so that one. Don’t care either way.”

Didn’t need to be a genius detective to solve the mystery of whose grumpy footsteps were coming around the corner. The heels on hardwood signaled the approach of one irritated Verity Holmes, if her friends looking at her like she had a terminal diagnosis wasn’t hint enough. Jasper had just enough time to flop back on the couch before she manifested behind them.

She kept a careful neutrality when she glanced from Min to Everitt, stormy sea eyes searching for weakness. Even her hair was made to appeal to anyone with stylish waves ending in a harsh, even cut right at her jawline. Just add smokey cat eye makeup for your very own organic bitch.

“I need a moment with Miss Jasper.”

“But of course,” Everitt chimed, eyebrows still furrowed as he smiled and followed Min upstairs. She wondered for a second if Verity would care if the award took her place. Jasper didn’t want to be there then either. With her hands clasped in front of her ombre sweater, the school’s founder waited for her good students to be out of earshot.

“Every opportunity you have, and for every student in these walls,” Verity explained for the hundredth time, hoping it might stick, “is due to these donors. You have an obligation to—”

“Why did they give us money if they don’t want to? Why do they need to see us?”

“Because they want to see their charitable deed paying off, Jasper, and,” she cut off Jasper’s next reply, jabbing a manicured nail in her direction. “There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is compromising those donations because you want to sit around and do nothing.”

“What’s wrong,” Jasper corrected her, because someone had to, “is taking back donations because you didn’t get something from it! Donating is literally giving things away for nothing.” She shrugged and looked up at the vintage-style cream ceiling. “That’s the point.”

“Jasper!” Verity closed her eyes, taking a bracing breath and giving Jasper a precious window to stick her tongue out. “You have talent. You are smart, determined, and clever.” Having a seat on the light grey reading chair she usually occupied in the promotional material for the school, Vera leaned forward. “But none of that will make you exempt from doing things you don’t want to do or understand the purpose of.”

“What, like you living off the legacy of your dead great-great-whatever?” The way her jaw locked, Jasper realized she hit home with that. Too close, probably, but there was no stopping now. She grinned and rested her hands behind her head to get a better look at that ‘don’t you dare’ glower. “Bet you had job offers in the womb just because you had alleles in common with the great Sherlock Holmes.”

Vera stood, brushing invisible lint from her pencil skirt before folding her hands in front of her one last time.

Resting bitch pose. Although Jasper knew just what she did to deserve it, and she could bank on Darius pulling her aside before breakfast to talk about it.

“Report to Miss Hawthorne in the morning for your volunteer schedule.”

Jam Notes

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Where Ages Meet: Ch. 1: Paths Crossed

  • Word count: 1900 (4 to 17 minutes) | Rating: T
  • Available on Patreon and Simily
  • Note: Magic, historic elements.
  • ©2021 Quillful

The carriage ricketed down the path, rocking from side to side not too unlike the boat Oliver left behind a few days ago. Honestly, he should’ve puked up his entire stomach by then. If not from the motion, from the anxiety, if not from those, from the excessive spellcasting and all-nighters, and if not from all of that, from the fact that everyone he met was tired of him already.

“Excuse me, yes, pardon me,” he began, possibly out of desperation for some social aspect to break up the blur of practice and half-sleep, “Hypothetical question for you,” he said through the small window to the carriage driver. Rick was his name, just a dull-eyed teen who didn’t turn or acknowledge him in any fashion.

“If you were heading toward a massive contest, or at least formerly massive, that would earn you possible worldwide renown and a great portion of your material desires for the rest of your life, even if it would put that life in certain danger of an abrupt and humiliating end– Would you still go?” He waited. A jerk of the reins brought the horses on a steady turn and the driver scratched at his stubble.

“Just wondering. Purely hypothetical.”

“…No, sir. I believe I would not.” Ah, he did speak. Truth be told, the mage wished he would speak more. There was a certain rustic eloquence in his flowing tones and raspy voice. It matched his weathered appearance, skinny though he was, draped in rough clothes and leather packs. “But I’ve little use for fame or material things.”

“Really. That is interesting.” Oliver never could tell a convincing lie. Perhaps that was the source of his societal shortcomings and those evident traits that allowed him to become a mage in the first place. “Well now. Thank you, thank you very kindly. That will be all.”

And they didn’t speak again until the sun eased its way down and the moon slid its way up. Rick originally turned the horse onto a path to the miserable village of Kendon. That was before Oliver got him to swear to turn the carriage around, drive through the night no matter the threat, and travel to Aethia, the (waning) magical capital of the world. Rick made some money off the vow.

He woke up not to Rick, like he expected, but to Aethia’s bubbling morning bustle and the accompanying distant bird calls. The ocean was off by a day or so, but the sea birds still graced the city with caws and droppings. Even that early, six or maybe seven in the morning, people moved about the streets and brought the carriage’s pace to a patient amble. Fortunately for them, there were few of the new “automobiles” about…

Still, they made it to the arena at the city’s approximate center before noon and that was all that mattered. Even if that was when the driver got the other half of his payment, Oliver was thrilled to finally arrive, to look at the vaulted stone spires and rows of pointed arch windows.

Oh, to take it all in firsthand… As Rick unloaded the mage’s two carpet bags onto the limestone path and eventually stared at the stout steamer trunk on the rear luggage rack. Oliver was so fixed on the arena, imagining his way through corridors to his assigned and truly unremarkable room (though it would impress him to no end), that it took the carriage boy speaking to get his attention.

“Sir, the trunk.”

“Oh, of course, right,” he corrected himself, joining an unimpressed Rick at the back of the carriage and pulling up his sleeves. “I’ll handle this.”

With a whispered incantation, his eyes closed, he missed Rick’s muted expression of shock and revulsion as the trunk rocked. Sticks of cedar jutted out from its side, the wood cracking in the strain even as the process left no marks in the trunk or the leather straps. Oliver kept his eyes closed, muttering the made-up language while the sticks bent as if they had an elbow, coming out further until they ended in square hands. They had no form, looking like thumbless mittens even as they closed and opened.

It got up on its rangy haunches, shook the new arms and legs as if their stiffness could be fixed that way, and clambered down the side of the carriage to pick up the waiting bags.

“Well, thank you for all your help, kind sir.” Oliver took Rick’s hand in his, shaking it and leaving a small sack of money in the driver’s palm. “I expect my gratitude will cover your homeward expenses.”

“Sure,” he said, seeming a little concerned about something. It had to be one of their mental states. But he put the sack in his pocket and returned to the carriage led by the chestnut horse with stunted ears and eerily large eyes. Riding inside the whole time, the mage didn’t notice until now just how unsettling they were.

The two turned their separate ways and that brought Oliver to the arena’s gate, guarded by security officials in navy blue uniforms with glinting silver trims almost outshone by the spotless black of their shoes and for some, the badges on their uniforms. Naturally, only two of the ten officials would talk to him.

He went through unsurprising questions without much trouble. What sort of mage are you? How long have you been practicing? Have you ever been detained or arrested by the Mages’ Council for any purpose? Passing that test, they moved on to the practical portion of the exam. Cast any spell for us, okay, that’s great, now use another to unlock this chest no wider than a tankard and get your Trialist Charm. Great, you did that, now…

“Where’s your aide?”

“Hm?” Oliver looked up at the stern woman’s face, finally over the scar at her left jaw line and not staring at it instead of her eyes anymore. His new fixation had been on the opalesque gem in the center of the stone charm. He was in the middle of wondering if everything at the arena was made of stone when she interrupted him. “Excuse me?”

“Your aide. Where are they?” Aide. Aide. Why hadn’t he heard of this before? Oh no, not good… They were starting to question his hesitation.

“Oh, my aide, you meant them. Well, they’re off looking after the horse. Chestnut, a real dear. Well, no, she’s a horse, but…” He trailed off and sensed that they had lost their patience. “I’ll go and get him, she’ll be alright.”

He didn’t even ask if he could join without an aide since he already had the Trialist Charm and all. He just left the trunk behind to wait, running past the landscaped woods towards central Aethia. If he could find Rick at the stables, if any remained, offer him yet more money, which he was running out of, and convince him to be his aide, learn some magic… Well, that shouldn’t be hard. Wasn’t that everyone’s dream?

Panting, Oliver stopped in the first motel he came across and began the search. He wouldn’t leave the city that day because he hadn’t slept the night before, which left that night and the next morning to find him. “Excuse me, pardon, if it’s not too much trouble,” he paused for a gasp of air, “Did a young man come in here named Rick? To stay the night?”

They said no in that place and demanded to know who was asking in the second one, assuring that he wasn’t there mostly because Oliver didn’t want to argue. So the hunt went until the fourth place of lodging, where the staunch doorman told him what he so wanted to hear. If the horse and carriage outside weren’t obvious clues. “Yeah, a few hours ago. A real lanky thing he was. Looked like he hadn’t slept in a day.”

“Oh, that’s him,” Oliver sighed, daring to smile now that he had the news he wanted. “Which room is he in?”

He got a leery look, a once-over to see if maybe he looked the sort who would kill someone in their rented room and cause a huge mess for the owner. Another few coins lost, but the room’s location gained, he went upstairs to the third door on the left and banged an open hand on the door.

“Rick, open up,” he called, staring down at the knob and forcing himself to not go in anyway. “I have another favor that needs doing. I wouldn’t trust anyone else with it, of course, so I came to give you the first chance. Extra money, Rick, I can promise you that if you’ll help out with this one favor.”

Oliver jumped at the thump inside the room, maybe something slamming against the wall or onto the floor. He waited, biting his lip and biding his time. “Rick,” he ventured after a few seconds without another sound. “How is everything in there? Are you alright?” Soft rhythmic creaks got louder and then the door opened just a crack. Rick looked worse now than before, a lot worse.

“What is it.” Eyes half shut and the look on his face just begging Oliver to give him a reason to punch the mage, Rick wasn’t in any mood for politeness and Oliver wasn’t crazy enough to demand it.

“Can I come in and talk?”


Well then. Alright, Oliver could work with that. Running both hands through his hair, taking a deep breath, he started up with his explanation.

“Remember that probably massive contest?” And his future aide’s eyes shut even more. He lost some ground there, granted, but it would be won back as soon as he got to tell the story. “Well, to be in it for real, I need an aide.”

“I’m not it.”

“Hey, hear me out,” he bargained, stopping the door with his hand only because Rick didn’t slam his hand in it. If he really wanted to, he could. Being a carriage driver made him a lot stronger. “There’s a lot in it for you, Rick, I promise. I’ll pay you twice what you made as a driver,” Oliver said, counting the benefits on one hand and watching the driver’s interest pique as his eyes almost nearly opened.

“I thought magic was dying off,” he answered, but he was swaying, Oliver could just feel it. Or perhaps that was the numb, light feeling of lacking oxygen.

“And isn’t carriage driving? Look, I’ll teach you magic, and that in itself is an experience to behold. Plus, you can stay at the arena with me and a ton of other mages and their aides, and the Council will take care everyone completely free of charge! What do you say?”

And then there was the wait. He kind of hated looking at Rick leaning against the doorframe, thinking, wondering if this was worth it. When that smirk finally came, it brought a flood of relief with it and Oliver smiled back. Wasn’t often that both of them felt happy for the same reason. “Alright, Mr. Oliver,” he agreed and held out his hand that wasn’t on the doorknob of his side of the door. “You’ve got a deal.”

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Holmes Academy WIP story preview

“Your unkind words will not dishearten me today.” He drew himself up and held a finger up with purpose, too triumphant to be discouraged from whatever speech he settled on. “I’ve paid you a visit because it’s the last weekend before summer, so Min and I will depart for our homes soon. As the top three students of this esteemed academy founded in the name of the prestigious Sherlock Holmes—”

“I will jump out this window,” she promised, nodding to the arched window frame between them. Undaunted, Everitt beamed and brought his ramble to a surprisingly early close.

“It’s only proper that we have a farewell party.”

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Into My Shadow: Loren Character Introduction

Word count: 800 (2 to 7 minutes) | Rating: T | Original Fiction: Into My Shadow | Note: Fantasy races (common), magic, post-apocalyptic setting

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Radiant Dance of Year 1: Shrouded Era

Not as bright as it once was, the summer sun still burned its way through the smog surrounding them to warm Loren’s skin. Maybe it would feel different when she was out there for real, not training in some course hastily set up next to the runners’ base.

Her braid swung out behind her as she leapt over the simple fence in her path, using that momentum to roll over her shoulder beneath the next fence after it. Loren barely cleared that when a training staff came down from her right flank. Raising her wooden shield, it caught the blow in her stead with enough force to ripple down her arm. She pushed off from her crouched position to stand and force the staff away—which shouldn’t have worked half as well as it did. He was going easy on her and they both knew it.

No one asked him to.

He stepped into a wide, bracing stance, and narrowed green eyes at her as he squared his shoulders. If she struck, he was ready for it. And she was ready for that. Human men were generally muscular, well-built, and sturdy. Nothing like dwarves, but a far cry from elves like Loren. But she knew how to leverage her lithe build in her favor over his staunch one. That skill was years in the making by then. He jolted the staff’s end towards her to break her guard, Loren parried that end aside to make an opening, and he spun the other end of the staff up at her head. Ducking again, she jabbed her sparring sword upward towards his chest. With his relatively tall height for a human, that could be enough to stagger him, even without the rules of their training leaving him “wounded” by the blow.

All that, and it was the soft-tipped arrow zipping by her to bounce off his chest that took him out of their mock run.

“Loren,” her trainee-in-arms called out, only barely looking out from behind his cover. Dwarves were hardy, but he knew better than to stand out in the open even if he could take the hit. As one of the defenders in their crew, that was more her job anyway.

With a sharp nod, she darted across the small field to his hedge.

“Thanks,” she offered and he smiled, knocking another arrow.

“Who’s counting?”

“They are.” Noyo, of course. As one of the first runners in Brook Mills, they helped prepare others for the transformed world. That was only two months ago now. It felt longer. They weren’t the most capable runner, according to the village, but they were the best teacher. Patient but firm, they were both realistic and encouraging in their lessons. The townspeople would have to agree to disagree with Loren on the first part.

Noyo waited on the porch, still decorated from the building’s days as an inn, and sand fell through an hourglass next to them on a weathered handrail.


“Wait—” Too late, Loren reached for him as his path sent him tumbling into one the shallow pitfall traps the trained runners set up. Shallow for her, anyway. She could just barely meet his worried gaze, brows knit and forehead smeared with dirt from his fall.

“Don’t go.”

He’d never make it out of there alone. Glancing up to the hourglass, Loren couldn’t make out how much time was left. Not a good sign. The third trainee had gone ahead from the very beginning, and she was already waiting at the end goal, tossing a magic ball of light back and forth in her hands as she waited. Loren frowned at her. If anyone deserved to fall into a ditch, it was that woman.

“I’ll get you out.” Grabbing some rope left on the ground as part of the mock wreckage they could find out there, Loren tied a quick knot, familiar from so much repetition, and tossed the rope down to him. Reaching down, she explained the first step. “The bow.”

He wasted no time passing that up, then climbing his way up as she stood guard. No one was left to threaten them, but that wasn’t the point of this test. She had to prove herself a good runner in all circumstances. So Loren would defend him until he was safe, and the fence post anchored him much better than she ever could.

“Thanks,” he breathed, taking his bow from her.

“Let’s go.”

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