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By the Light of Fire and Stars

By Rachel M.J

By Rachel M.JPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 12 min read
By the Light of Fire and Stars
Photo by Moodywalk on Unsplash

The sun lulled a lazy pink fog over the cobbled-streets. It sunk, like an orbed fishing hook, into the lake that parted the city. A gentle gust of wind swept under the dying leaves that had been bundled in the trenches, and scattered them across town like stepping stones.

A small mouse - that had nearly toppled in the breeze - scampered from home to home, searching for a nook to nestle in. The houses lining the streets had been all but sealed in anticipation of the oncoming winter, and just as the frost began to turn it's nose purple, the mouse happened upon a small haven; an opening, beneath a poorly pillared home in which a number of intertwined wooden beams provided a warm spot for sleeping.

Above, a young boy lugged firewood from porch to hearth.

"Coming Grandma!"

Jasper sat and warmed himself by the fire. He rolled his fingertips over the plush rug that was laid out by the hearth, and pulled at the tassels decorating the ends. It was a clear and cold winter, and the star-speckled sky could be seen through a slice of the open window. The curtains shifted gently in the breeze, throwing shadows over the wrinkled face of a woman who sat with arms draped over the lounge that overlooked the street.

Jasper pulled an old-book from the shelf. Inscribed on the back in gold calligraphy were the words "Too Evelyn" ... The book, which was almost as old as her, was Grandma's favourite talisman.

Jasper placed it by her side.

She shuffled through it with careful fingers, skimming through the stained pages, before creaking it closed with a soft thump. "I'll tell you the story about the Fire-Folk." she said, decidedly.

Jasper was curious. Grandma rarely told stories that weren't from the book, but when she did they were always his favourites. The Fire-Folk. He'd never heard of them.

"Yes Grandma," he said, eyes growing wide.

"The Fire-Folk..." said Grandma, running her hand across the book in her lap, "is the name we give to the stars."

Her voice washed over him like a cup of Spanish coco; warm, and rumbling. She always spoke like this - in a way that suggested her words were not to be tampered with. Jasper knew not to argue with her.... but the townsfolk didn't, and that's why they were afraid of her. Jasper wasn't. He knew her voice as only a comfort, and on cold nights like this he found himself sinking into it as if it were a warm bath.

He padded over to the window, with his gaze focused on the night sky. He propped his head on the cill, and scanned the stars. The Fire-Folk...

"They were born into this world before you existed..."

Jasper considered this for a moment. He looked at his Grandma, who had too many lines on her face to count; almost as many as stars in the sky. "What about you, Grandma?" He asked, with genuine curiosity. She laughed and Jaspers skin raised in goose-bumps.

"Yes Jasper," she rasped, "before I existed, too."

Jasper nodded, thoughtfully. "The stars are brighter tonight," he observed.

"You know that feeling you get, Jasper, when you wait for your turn to cross the canal?" Grandma asked.

Jasper did know. He liked to watch the other boys with their fathers teaching them to paddle, and the groups of children who laughed as they played and splashed by the water. Sometimes the droplets would sprinkle Grandma's skirts where Jasper clung, silently observing; too shy to join in, but too curious to look away. He loved trips down the canal.

"Like a tiny fire in the pit of my belly," he concluded.

"Yes," Grandma breathed, with the hint of a smile. "The stars feel that too... in-fact," she continued, "some Fire-Folk are too spirited to sit in one place for an eternity." She leant forward in her chair, causing the taut fabric to groan under pressure. "When that little fire in their belly burns strong," she said, prodding Jasper with a gentle finger, "they leave. It looks like they're falling from the sky."

Jasper gasped, "are they dying, Grandma?"

She chuckled, and sunk back into her chair. "No my boy, they're travelling."

Travelling. Jasper mulled over the word. It wasn't the kind of word people used when crossing the canal. It was a word reserved for the bravest adventurers. Jasper knew one - the old bookbinder from Maple Street - who had packed his bags and tracked all the way out of town, leaving his wife and children behind with nothing to their name but the trail of tears left in his wake.

Jasper broke his silence, "where are they going?" he asked. But before Grandma could answer Jasper held up his finger as if in an epiphany. He gaped, "are they looking for a friend?"

Grandma stilled her breath. She didn't move in her chair, and to Jasper she looked like an amber statue, set to rust along the canal.


She studied Jasper, and her mouth twitched at the corner.

She sighed - breaking the cold silence that had began to permeate the room.

"No one knows," she said, finally.

Jasper unclenched his fingers from the cill, and watched her from under his lashes. Her bony fingers were pressed into the armchair, causing the colour to drain from her skin... It was unusual for Grandma to fidget, and Jasper thought that she might be lost for words - but when she finally spoke her voice returned with familiar cadence; "They say if you wish upon a travelling star." She paused...

"you might just have that wish granted."

The sentence lingered by the open window; an incantation, ephemeral in the cold air, as it waited for its anchor. Grandma eyed Jasper from her peripheral, and her eyes twinkled, perhaps from the fire, or from some other force, as she delivered her promise on a honeyed tongue,

"So long as you remember to blow a candle out in their wake."


"Can we light a candle, Grandma?"

"It's not safe," she said, as she placed the story-book back on the shelf.

Jasper followed her, "but you do."

"That's because I always remember to blow them out," she retorted.

"I'll remember."

Grandma sighed, although it was tender. "Okay," she said, leading Jasper to his room. "We'll light it by the window-cill." She paused, and looked down at his tiny frame, "you must remember to blow it out."

"I will Grandma."

She gathered a box of matches and a tall wax candle that stood upright in a brass-holder. "Secure the curtains," she said as she shuffled over. Jasper ran to the windows, and fastened the curtains to a hook. As Grandma placed the holder on the cill, Jasper dragged a heavy wooden chair to the window, and crouched atop it, with his chin nestled in his palms. He stared out the window.

Grandma ran her hand along Jaspers hair. "You can stay up for a little while," she told him, "but when my candle goes out, so does yours."

"Yes Grandma," he agreed, not taking his eyes off the sky.


The candle wax gathered in the pit of the brass-stand, glowing in the flickering light. Jasper could see the light from Grandma's window adjacent to his own; so even though his eyelids were drooping, he kept them open, and searching the sky.

There. Just to his left, a subtle twinkle drew his gaze. He fastened his eyes to the glimmering star, but no matter how much he willed it, it did not fall from the sky. He felt a pang of disappointment, and tried his best to stifle a yawn. He rubbed his palms over his eyelids, and as he opened them - foggy vision slowly defrosting - a bright and distant star dislodged itself from it's perch in the sky, and began... to travel.

Jasper gasped. He stood high on his chair with his mouth hinged open, but wasted no time breaking himself out of his stupor.

"Umm..." he urged, as the star continued it's travel.

"I wish," he muttered, looking at the candle that was now standing half it's height. The single flame was swaying, as if to a lilting tune, and suddenly Jasper felt a familiar warmth in his belly. He knew what he wanted to wish for. He stared into the flame.

"I wish... for the warmth of a friend."

He blew out the candle, and watched the travelling star as it finished it's trek across the sky. He smiled to himself, smoke from the candle tickling his nose. "Good luck," he whispered, to the fading tail of the travelling star.


A small and unusually bright ember, carried in from the hearth - or perhaps ignited by the waxing candle - tumbled to the floorboards on a gentle breeze. Wedged between the cracks, the ember sifted through the boards, and landed atop a wooden-plank that was intertwined in a maze of rafters. It dripped from there, and then to another, until it landed on the lowest hanging plank. It trickled, and pilled at a notch in the wood, until the weight of it sent it hurtling over the edge, towards the earth.

Before it collided, it seemed to fall in slow motion, caught in the time warp of a tiny mouse's snores. The ember finished its downward plight with a splash atop the mouse's nose, causing it to sniffle. For a moment, nothing happened... then, a luminescence so meek that it wouldn't have been noticed from the streets began to emanate from the rodent's body, starting from its nose.

The mouse shook itself awake, and stretched its toes. As if by clockwork, a sudden burst of light erupted from the tip of its tail, filling the nook with a musky orange. Delighted by the heat, and invigorated by its newfound warmth, the mouse ran in an excited circle around its sleeping space, and scurried up the wooden planks in search of a late-night snack.

It clamoured high until it reached an opening in the boards, just large enough to squeeze through. As it peaked its snout into the adjoined room, it noticed a human boy turning restlessly in his sleep. The mouse padded past him on silent paws, and followed the scent of fresh fruit, floating from the hallway. It scuttled up the shelves, and sat upon a wooden table laden in wreaths of purple grapes. Holding one between its paws, it nibbled at the juicy treat, until its belly was full and round.

Satisfied and sleepy, the mouse dragged its belly back the way it had come, until it reached the precipice of the sleeping boy's bedroom. The boy still turned restlessly in his sleep. Curious, the mouse leapt onto the nightstand that overlooked the bed, and watched as the boy pulled a thing blanket close to his chin.

The mouse launched itself onto the mattress, and landed soundlessly by the boys elbow. To test the waters, it nudged carefully at the boy's fingers, and froze in watch as the boy giggled in his sleep. His breath fell in gentle puffs - catching in the bend of his elbow - and circulating like tumbleweed. The mouse propped a paw upon the boy's arm, and paused as the boy's eyelashes fluttered upon.

The boy did not gasp or shout in alarm; he merely smiled, as if caught in the throes of a pleasant dream.

With meagre footsteps, the mouse carried itself over the boy's arm, until its body rested in the crook. The boy sighed - either in response to the warmth or to the soft touch - as the mouse pressed itself against his cheek, and propped its tail atop his wrist, where it settled in the likeness of a dimly lit matchstick.


Evelyn padded down the dark hallway, stepping on gentle toes so as not to disturb the eerie silence. It was too dark to see, so she didn't notice the sooty prints and purple grape skins that decorated the runner, but she could make out a faint luminance seeping from under Jasper's bedroom door. She gasped - too anxious to be angry that he neglected his candle - and squeaked the door open.

Her eyes strained in the dimness, and her long hair was suddenly swept back by a gale from the open window. She pulled the shutters closed, and noticed the candle, lying cold and colourless on the wooden floor. Her back creaked as she bent to pick it up; the wick was cool between her fingertips.

She spun around, scanning the room with hawk-like fury, and noticed with a flip of her stomach that the apricot wash was brightest by Jasper's cheek, and his eyelashes cast shadows like long spider legs. Evelyn's shadow joined them, and as she bent down to inspect her Grandson, a breath caught on a lump in her throat.

"A mouse?" She whispered.

She reached a long and shaky finger toward the creature, and withdrew suddenly when she felt the heat. Her hand was unscathed... she reached again - this time, to inspect the light that flicked at the end of the rodent's tail, sure that it would scald her...


Nothing except a mild caress that licked at her fingers like a stray dog. She laughed; the sound was unexpected - even to her - and she held a hand to her mouth as she waited for Jasper to stir. He only stretched, long and languid, and pulled the mouse in closer to his chest... as if he'd already grown accustomed to its presence.

Evelyn felt her worry abate. Taking its place was a sense of wonder before it rapidly transformed into something else.

Something that she hadn't felt in its entirety for a very long time... warmth. She grinned; a wide and creaking thing as she drank in the scene before her. The mouse dispelled its breaths in tiny snores, and Jasper's cheeks took on a peachy glow, warmed from the rodent's body. She laughed, low and chiming like a bubbling pot, and this time she let the joy engulf her. Her hand fell from her heart, and dangled carelessly by her thigh.

She sighed, deep, as if dispelling steam from a dormant hot spring, and whispered to herself,

"So this is what becomes of the Fire-Folk."


About the Creator

Rachel M.J

Magical realist

I like to write about things behaving how they shouldn't ~

Instagram: Rachel M.J

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