Category Archives: YA Fiction

Bardlii Noonstar

I once had a plan, to write a story. The plan began like many do, with some initial step, or two – then would continue, each page before the other, until it wasn’t done.

So some number of things got written, and I posted them places, then lost a password here and there, but found those again, and recovered some things, forgetting where I was and was going.

I’ve even somewhat forgotten which of these things ended up here already, but under other, uninformative titles where stuff could hide and never be found again. I might write a blog post about feeling happy, and call it something like When Again Have I Been Here Last? Or I might write a chapter about Dooley the family dog (Maeve’s family, Maeve being a character in the story), and call it Some Tuesday When Something Happened.

The Dear Reader might see my self-imposed problem. I do in the electronic world what I do in the physical one: pile things atop one another, enthusiastically mislabeling them as I go. How many junk drawers do I keep on the Internet of Things? Perhaps I’ll write a post about it someday, and maybe I already have.

The bit below is about a character who is part of the story but has not been so far. His place in things is somewhat unclear. He is based loosely on a friend I’ve known for years – the only character who is most templated after a single person (though with magical powers and mystical origins); the rest for the most part are amalgams of many people, with bits of myself mixed in, and then imagined stuff on top of it all. Where all characters come from, I sometimes suspect.

I think of a lot of this stuff as backstory. I don’t necessarily plan to stuff a book full of diverging trains of thought, that’s just how my brain likes to do things. I find backstory great fun to write, because I’m under no commitment or constraint to go anywhere with it, and yet it helps me tell myself the story first. This too is part of the sketchbook mentality that I am quite fond of these days (meaning the ones that make up my lifetime).

The character image I keep using to mark the posts that are actually part of the story (rather than my story) is the character I’m referring to – Bardlii. He has this thing called the Flaming Scroll of Aggregated Opinion, which you might say is like his world’s version of the early Internet. It is a great device for getting into contentious debates with other opinionated wizards at great distances.

I do not like how I drew his eyebrow(s).

I have now prefaced the piece overly much.

An image of a Mana Architect
Bardlii Noonstar

Bardlii Noonstar was, according to those who knew him best, “unusually charged”. This meant different things depending on the day and circumstance.

On the evening he was born, for example, I would be referring to the excess of electricity used to perform the feat – his parents, practitioners of the Elemental Arts, had read in a manual about such things that a lightning rod of seven to fourteen Arms (Estherflutter Arms, to be exact) in length, struck twice by lightning in succession on or near the stroke of eleven on a late Autumn evening could shock life into a clay form made with loving and conscientious hands – Bardlii’s clay form had been struck a full five times by the time his parents had pulled the wires from their hand-made child-bearing contraption. It was unprecedented, you might say, for so much charge to be applied to such a young golem as he.

Regarding this unusual charge, during the year of his fifth birthday (which both wizards and witches would call his anniversary of awakening), we would be referring to Bardlii’s being the youngest (by far) Junior Mana Architect ever to be admitted to that fine though by then fading and venerable institution known still and simply as the South College of Magical Arts, to which no other golems or assorted automatons having been ever or since so admitted.

In conversation with others – particularly in matters most pressing (he was pressed so by many matters), I would be referring to the sheer energy he would bring to bear in both his questions and his answers and also his commentary… and also intentions. And attention, for the matter.

He was, in short, an intense young man.

You might now be imaging a five-year old, made of clay, and prickling with electrical charge. Metaphorically he was most of those things, but in matter of fact, he then as always had resembled a fully grown man, having been formed that way from the outset, on purpose, and by necessity. The charge itself was simply within him, though you could well say it leaked out in all things that he did. He was not dangerous to touch, if one did not mind an occasional static jolt for doing so.

The clay, having been charged thus by good and loving parents well-practiced in the arts of automation, had since congealed into something much more closely resembling Human flesh, though with a slight sheen when seen in just the right light.

Bardlii Noonstar was an unusually charged fellow, in all those ways and more. And why have I yet to say much at all about this central character in our tale? Well that could be revealed later on, I suppose, for it is too far a departure to manage at the moment – the story as you have no doubt come to know has one too many characters already. To omit Bardlii now though would demand we replace him with another, even more artificial creation of the imagination, for his role in moving our story forward, at this time, is (perhaps inappropriately) unequivocal.

It begins – or rather, continues – within an Inn, as so often these sorts of stories do. Remember, we are telling a tale of fantasy and high adventure, and the setting is none you’d be able to see here on Earth, at any time past or present, for where it occurred (or is occurring, or might yet someday occur) is in the Central and Western region of the Westfarian Isles, where, when we last visited, a man and his mule had met an invisible woman named Wimsel, and became soon and secretly stalked by a bounty hunter whose name was Brom.

This troupe was not even yet that (though you might have already now imagined them soon to be so), and was still at that time in need of a proper catalyst to get their proper adventures properly underway. As you also might now have just imagined, Bardlii was that self-same catalyst, having recently travelled the high and low roads of the kingdoms clear from the city of Owl (where the High College was) to the backwater where our story continues (or begins, depending on your point of view), for reasons I have yet to reveal, for reasons.

I will say no more in advance of simply recounting what then happened next, in more or less chronological order…

No More Applesauce

An image of a Mana Architect

“Young Niall is writing a speculative future fiction story, and I am preparing to read it at The Kinder Gardener’s Childcare, Tech Hub, and Retirement Villa”, informed Bee to her Grandniece Maevis, after the girl had grabbed the sheets of paper from Bee with her jelly-filled hands, and asked her what she was doing, spitting the question all over the pages through a mouthful of crumbs.

The young woman was only minutes in the door after coming home from college for Christmas break, and she was already smearing substances everywhere she could get her hands on, which every year, included more and more surfaces of Bee’s house. Maeve had shot up a full five inches since Bee had last seen her that Summer.

Crumbs-and-applesauce had been the odd girl’s favourite mid-day snack since her second day of first grade, thirteen years ago to this day. Do that math. That’s a lot of applesauce.

They didn’t have applesauce in the college cafeteria, and Maeve had already been missing it quite badly. She told Bee she thought she might be getting the shakes, in fact, to which Bee tut-tutted quite disapprovingly. Maeve hadn’t seen her Grandaunt in months, and all the child could think about was raiding the old woman’s kitchen. Hers. With her food in it. Bee had always been protective of her food. She did not much like that about herself, but there you are.

“There is no more applesauce, Maevis. That was the last bit. I threw out all the rest. They had molds. You opened every single jar I had that last visit, I think”. Bee tried to brush the crumb-jelly from Niall’s manuscript. The boy would most certainly notice.

Maeve snorted, because Bee liked to count molds, as though they were individuals, rather than one unfortunate thing you either had someplace or you didn’t. She hauled open a cupboard and began the Great Rummaging. “I’ll get more later at Too-Toonies. I gotta go drop this… Thing off for Niall and Blueberry before I head over to Normand’s.” She was holding something large and box-like under one arm, appearing to be wrapped in foil and rubber bands.

“Two kinds of molds, Maevis.” Bee re-stated. “Two. That’s two-too many molds to have in one’s applesauce, or any other thing.” The elder woman had put the sheets safely aside, and was now at the kitchen island (“The Isle of Hamm” is what Maeve called it), a butter knife held calmly in one gentle fist, and a soap-cloth clenched quite firmly in the other. Old Dooley was already lumbering down the long, narrow, central back hallway, where he enjoyed spending most days rolling lazily around, slowly following the sun patch as it crossed and stretched its way across the weathered and paint-stained wood flooring. His second-favourite past time these days was licking soap off the kitchen floor, a thing that happened more often when Maeve was around, he had long ago noted. He yawned a hello in Maeve’s general direction.

“Heya, Drools”, Maeve cheerfully slammed the cupboard, cracking something delicate on the other side, and strode across the kitchen to the immaculate sink, to begin filling it with things she would soon smear with the various applesauce alternatives she had just found. She scratched Dooley on the way by, which he huffed at. He wasn’t fond of of that nickname, at all. In all the years he had followed her around patiently, and waited for her to come home patiently, protected her from being possibly abducted (once or twice), and slept on her cold feet patiently (only to get kicked repeatedly in the head all night long,) and all those many other things… Maeve never once seemed to clue in that he knew what she was saying, almost always. In a dog manner, at least. He found the soap spill near Bee’s feet, and started working away at it – being perhaps a whit more careful not to drool any of it, out of principle.

Bee had moved on, to go close the cupboard Maeve had just slammed. There was a trick to getting it to not pop back out. She had meant to ask Bently to fix that, before… well. She put down the butter knife, aligning it perfectly with the counter splash guard, entirely out of habit.


Maeve half turned, eyebrow slightly cocked, a Move she had been working on. “Beatrice”, she countered. She was crumbling an entire loaf of white bread into a bowl now, but had paused mid-crumble. The house ants were already sending signals back to the Queen that the Maevis girl had returned, even taller, and considerably hungrier. There would be celebrations for days, which, bear in mind, is a lifetime for most ants. Some would come to call Maeve’s visit that year as the Age of Plenty.

“Maevis, we need to talk.” Bee said, plainly.

Maeve’s eyes shot a quick glance around the room, spoon poised over an open Nutella jar, and half-whispered, somewhat conspiratorially, “I think we might be already. Talking, I mean.

“Maeve. I’m being serious. Stop trying to be funny quite so constantly. It’s tiring for an old woman.”

Maeve Morgan Laughed Out Loud. The idea of Aunt Bee… getting tired… that was the joke. Except Maeve also knew Bee wasn’t joking, and she knew it almost immediately, which was concerning. She always knew when Bee had said a True Thing, and she could sense the elder woman was tired, maybe for the first time, in quite that way. Had this happened over the last five months? She spooned more Nutella into the breadcrumb bowl than she had first meant to.

“Aunty Bee-”


“Grandaunty Bee, you know I’m just like this because I have the ADHD, right? And I left my meds in the dorm – maybe on purpose – and I’m on Christmas – sorry, holiday – vacation… and I’m just really happy to see you and Dooley -” (Dooley had followed the soap trail to Beatrice, who was still clutching the soap-cloth, which was still dripping lemon-flavoured soap, his second-favourite kind) “- and I’m also happy to finally not have any schoolwork, for, like, two whole weeks. I brought so many books to read I have absolutely no space left on my ReKindle”.

Bee did not know what that was, but she would ask B.B. to “Google it” later for her, a thing she was also not so sure about. The world was changing too quickly these days, she couldn’t remember where or when she was, half the time or more.

“Well, I’m glad you’re still reading. I worry about children – I’m sorry, I meant young people – today. You spend so much time with computers, I wonder when you find time to keep up your reading skills. Also, you do not have ADHD. You have creative spirit, but you should still follow your doctor’s advice about taking your medications regularly.”

Maeve scrunched her face slightly, not quite sure how to respond to any of that. She scooped in some peanut butter packets she found in Bee’s Kitchen Accessory drawer. Bee looked away, her stomach turned a half knot.

“I need my ginger ale…” the old woman queasily half-spoke to herself, tottering off toward the walk-in pantry (“The Food Vault”, in Maeve’s mind and imagination).

Dooley finished the soap cleanup and stepped over to Maeve’s leg, leaning in for a good scratch, before he would retire for the day back to the sun room / art studio. Maeve’s hand met his furry old head reflexively. “Drools, you are a Dog Among Dogs.” Dooley knew that already, having been told it on countless occasions, but it still warmed his old heart to hear his human daughter say it. Every single time.

Maeve watched her Grandaunt Beatrice swing the pantry’s door open, and gingerly step in, in search for the Ginger ale, which she normally hid masterfully from Maeve whenever the girl came to visit. The woman wasn’t even trying to hide that she had some in there, and that wasn’t like her at all.

Don’t change our thing, Aunt Bee, please. I still need it. Maeve thought she only thought that, but it came out in a small whisper anyway, to herself. She had been practicing the art of Speaking Good Thoughts at Short Distances, ever since she had read Great Step-Uncle Bently’s weird wizard notebook, which she found and mostly photocopied last Summer break. The old man left stuff everywhere,which was why Bee would send him away for a while, before eventually letting him come back. Maeve hadn’t had time yet to ask if Bently was in the house, or somewhere else for the holidays.

“Niall is writing speculative fiction?” Maeve mumbled to herself, stuffing half of a PBNS (Peanut Butter and Nutella Sammich) into her mouth, chewing thoughtfully. She hadn’t seen Niall at all last Christmas – that is Holiday – break. She felt slightly sad about that, being honest with herself, as she was now actively practicing at doing more of. Maeve hated fiction – she had always been on record as hating it. She wondered what Niall had written about.

Dooley gave her hand a knowing lick, extracting what Nutella, bread and peanut butter traces he could, and then tottered off toward the long, narrow, central-back hallway to the sunniest and sparkliest room in all of Elder Falls. Maeve watched him go, hiked the awkwardly wrapped tinfoil and rubber-band package up on her hip, grabbed the bowl of Sammich Supplies she had scavenged from Bee’s cupboards, and headed upstairs to do some serious thinking.

When the kitchen had emptied of the fuss of people and their worries and concerns, it would often breathe a long and silent sigh of relief. It expanded as it relaxed, in fact, but not so much that any measuring device in the house might ever notice. Old houses breathe – this is well known. We do not often ascribe reasons for them to do so, but that does not mean they don’t have their reasons. Maevis was home for another Winter visit, and the Old Grey Lady could stop worrying so much about her, if only for a week and a day.

The second wave of advanced scout Ants had just arrived, scurrying quickly from the tall toaster, to better assess the situation around the sink and surroundings. It was even better than They could have expected. The Queens would be Most Pleased.