Aphelion Issue 291, Volume 28
February 2024
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Fairy Tale

A Sestina

by Kathleen McCarthy

A stretch of land reaches beneath the mist
An honest hope enfolded in a jewel
That once, confined, adorned a kingdom’s child
Bequeathed this land and sea by father’s word.
Now lies the jewel waiting ‘neath the snow
That drifts down silent, covering a stone.

Across this very land, another stone
Stands upright, sudden sight within the mist.
Branded by time, it marks beneath the snow
The resting place of this fair kingdom’s jewel,
Sent there by knives commanded by a word
And now their hope lies buried with the child.

‘Tis said by those who once revered the child
That graven spells twice carved upon the stone
Make plain in picture, hieroglyph, and word
A quest for those who bravely dare the mist.
”Go forth,” it reads (they say), “and claim the jewel
And bring it here, and lay it in the snow.”

“This done, go forth again into the snow
Not very far: then watch and wait. The child
Long buried now will sense the jewel
That once crowned it crowning now the stone.
The earth will part, and rising through the mist
The child will come, obedient to the word.”

A foolish hope, say some, the empty word
Of conquered people, lost within the snow
That drifts and piles and underlies the mist
And covers up the ground that holds the child.
Shaking their heads, the wise look to the stone
Ringed round by guards who fear the spells, the jewel

And what it may bring forth. A single jewel
Long hidden, not forgotten, hope’s only word.
This grave, they say, is but a bed of stone
From which the sleeper rises, melts the snow
And walks its land unfettered, not a child
But grown in power, divides the shrouding mist.

Crowned by a jewel, covered still with snow
And graven word, the kingdom’s child
Throws off the stone and ragged shreds of mist.

© 2006, 2007 Kathleen McCarthy

Kathleen McCarthy is an eighteen-year-old author new to poetry but not to fantasy. Her short stories have appeared in the anthologies “Invitations” and “Modern Magic, Witches and Wizards.”

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