A Short Story for the Stolen Series, by Marlena Frank
A Short Story for the Stolen Series
Featuring Mawr and The Lady Sphinx
The roses were in full bloom despite the cold breeze that swept through the fair City of Aife. Everyone said they smelled so sweet. Some of the scholars who visited the Great Library claimed that
was the main reason they traveled to Aife to study. Mawr couldn’t smell them, but he loved to look at them. The ones that grew up the side of the dressmaker’s home were bright pink with yellow in the
center, and the bees loved them. Mawr could spend hours watching the little insects buzz around them, exploring the petals, until finally finding the nectar within.
Another cool breeze swept through and he smiled. It was still too cold for the children that he loved so much to come play with him, but it wouldn’t be for much longer. Soon he would have lines of
them, all wanting to ride on his back or listen to a story. Some might even ask about the fierce dragon Tanwen, and Mawr might give them a tale or two if they were good. It was amazing how a good dragon story encouraged children to behave.
“Not many visitors today, I take it?”
Mawr turned to see the Lady Sphinx walking toward him on her delicate black paws with a smile on her lips. She was carved from black slate, unlike his boring gray stone. She had a human face with
large, cat-like eyes, and a tall cylindrical headdress on her head. She said it used to be a sign of royalty in the Human World. Mawr had yet to find a book to confirm that.
“It’s too cold for the children still,” he said, unable to keep the hint of disappointment out of his voice. “Most of the scholars haven’t traveled down yet either. So it’s just me on my pedestal all day.”
“You mean, it’s just us on our pedestals,” she smiled. He couldn’t help but rumble with purrs, which made her laugh. “I’m glad to see you too.” He marked her headdress and she kissed him on the
“I was thinking,” Mawr said, his tail batting shyly at hers. “Since it’s almost spring and this might be one of the last days we have together for some time, would you like to go see the ocean with me?”
The Lady Sphinx pursed her lips, “I would like to, but I have students coming soon to ask me riddles. I’m to be their final test for the winter season.”
Mawr pawed at the ground. “I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if they got one extra day to study. I know your riddles, they aren’t easy at all.”
She wrapped her tail around his, and leaned in close to whisper into his ear. “Let me go ask. It never hurts to ask.” Another kiss on his furry cheek and Mawr was all purrs again as she trotted away on
her quick paws.
Mawr watched her return to her pedestal. Sure enough there were two bundled up teenagers, Casey and Devon he was pretty sure, sitting on the ground awaiting her return. It was funny how those
two used to play all over Mawr’s back when they were children, but now that they were older, they seemed so scared of the Lady Sphinx. She did look more intimidating even though she was slightly smaller than Mawr. She opened up her great black wings as she climbed up on her pedestal, then leaned down close to the two when she spoke to them. Maybe that was why they were frightened of her.
He paced back and forth, waiting, watching, and hoping. Until finally the teens got up to leave and the Lady Sphinx returned. Mawr tried not to look excited, but he couldn’t help kneading his paws into the dirt.
“Think we can make it back before daybreak?” she asked.
“Oh, absolutely!” Mawr purred.
It was always the same whenever they traveled together. The Lady Sphinx would fly ahead and wait for Mawr to catch up. It wasn’t that he was slow. He would bound ahead if there was space and he
was certain that the little ones weren’t nearby, but if there was even one person, he was too frightened of hurting them to move too quickly. The Lady Sphinx would land yards ahead, laughing and kneading at the ground in excitement, ready to leap into the air again once he caught up.
He loved playing this game with her. It was always more fun traveling together than it was to travel alone, and even though it was no small distance from the Great Library of Aife to the seaside,
their game made it seem like hardly any time at all. Once the dirt turned to sand, the Lady Sphinx landed in front of him, and he nearly toppled over trying to avoid her. She laughed as he flopped down to the ground, and she landed beside him, rolling onto her back, her black wings partially outstretched. They lay like that for a moment, staring at each other. Mawr put a paw out onto hers, gingerly extending his claws.
“I love you, my Lady.”
She kissed his paw. “I love you too,” she looked up to the turquoise sky up above them with its great puffy clouds moving like ships across the horizon. “I wish we could come out here everyday, and
not only when it’s cold or rainy.”
He gave her a sad expression, “But I would miss my little ones. They have so much fun with me.”
She smiled, “I know you would. I just love being able to stretch my wings and for you to be able to really run once in a while.”
He smiled, “I prefer my books to running.”
She gave a deep laugh and Mawr got to his feet. The Lady Sphinx rolled back over and went with him to the edge of the water. The waves lapped at their feet, making their stone paws dark and shiny.
The cool water felt good to Mawr after his little race up here. Above a gull called out on its hunt for food.
The Lady Sphinx leaned her head against him. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
Mawr was silent for a moment. It wasn’t that he didn’t agree with her; it was lovely. The birds up above were beautiful, and if he focused on the water or on the sky, he didn’t have to think about the
dangerous forests of Pello Pines that were just out of sight on the other end of the gulf. The gull above called out again and found another gull to fly with.
“Do you ever wish there were more of us?” Mawr felt the Lady Sphinx tense at his words, and he knew it was difficult to talk about. It was something he hardly ever spoke of, but something that
pained him more than the thought of not having his little ones. “It’s not that I don’t love you, my Lady, you know that. It’s just that-”
She finished for him, “Sometimes you get lonely.” She placed a paw on his, extending her claws ever so slightly. “I know what you mean. I’ve asked the scholars if they could make more of us, but they always have excuses.”
Mawr shook his head, “No, it’s more than that. I think they’re afraid of us.”
The Lady Sphinx gave her crystal laugh. “The idea of them being frightened of you with children hanging on every ear, toe, and tail is absolutely ridiculous. You are the kindest of all of them.” She
planted a kiss on his cheek and Mawr kneaded his paws again.
“I want to see what happens when the Great Library gets bigger, when more people come to see us. Surely someone will want to make more Living Statues.”
“Maybe one day,” she said darkly, “we’ll be able to make more ourselves.”
They locked eyes, each of them knowing and fearing that possibility. Then Mawr laid down on the soft sand, feeling the little granules crawl up into every wrinkle of his stone skin. The Lady Sphinx curled up beside him into a ball, her head against his chest so that she could hear his deep purrs. He felt her softer purrs against his skin. He looked up at the sky and had to readjust his spectacles.
There were two smaller gulls with the parents now and Mawr smiled. One day, perhaps, he and the Lady Sphinx could have a family to call their own.
It’s difficult taking care of a delusional father by yourself. Sixteen-year-old Shaleigh Mallet would rather explore and photograph dilapidated buildings than cater to her father’s dark episodes. But when she’s kidnapped by a creature who carries her atop a flying bicycle into another world, she realizes this wasn’t the escape she wanted. In a kingdom known as the Garden, where minotaurs pull carriages and parties are held in hot air balloons, Madam Cloom and her faerie servant, Teagan, rule over the land with incredible but terrifying magic. Shaleigh must prove that she is the reincarnation of a long-dead ruler, not because she believes it, but because it’s her only chance to survive. With the help of a trespassing faerie, a stoatling, and a living statue, Shaleigh hopes to outwit everyone. She aims to break the bonds of servitude and finally make her way home. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that she’s playing right into the hands of a far worse enemy...