Zelkova paddled across the lake, taking care to disturb the water as little as possible. She slipped the oar in the water, pulled it towards her, and gently lifted it before repeating the process all over again. She could almost believe she was alone, and that she was paddling out in the open air. Crystals sparkled in the cavern ceiling, and Zelkova could almost believe that they were stars.

Ruby turned and scowled at her. “Do we have to go so slow?” She pushed a lock of red hair away from her freckled face. “At this rate, we’ll never get there.”

“We’re going fast enough, especially since it’s just me paddling. I could pitch you overboard—see how fast we go then.” She smiled.

Ruby gasped and then narrowed her eyes. “I should expect such rudeness from a goblin.

Zelkova sighed. “You know I’m a dwarf, just like you.”

Ruby seemed to give it some thought, and then said, “We’ll see.” She clutched onto the vase she held in her lap and turned back around.

The water lapped against the boat in rhythmical waves, and a breath of wind stirred their hair. Ruby’s hair was like her name—as red as it was beautiful. Zelkova’s hair was black as ink—a mark of her low birth and even lower caste. That Ruby had called her a goblin was not unusual—others had called her far worse.

They remained in silence as Zelkova paddled. Every now and then, Ruby would sniffle, but she never spoke, and so Zelkova also said nothing. In time, they came to the sparkling shore of an island. Zelkova got out and pulled the boat ashore before extending a hand to Ruby—but the woman just held onto her vase and got out of the boat herself.

Holding a lantern, Zelkova led the way along a path that glittered like beveled glass. Tall grass rustled and swayed, throwing out long and dancing shadows. They came to a grove, within which stood a tree with opaline leaves. Ruby walked up to it and kneeled. She whispered some words, but Zelkova couldn’t hear what they were.

Then Ruby took her vase and poured out a cloud of ashes. The dust dissipated on a gentle breeze, floating up to the iridescent leaves before settling to the ground like a delicate veil. Ruby stood there, vase in her hand, as she stared at the tree, still and silent.

“Are you all right?” Zelkova asked.

Ruby turned at blinked at her. Then she said, “He said he’d take care of me, that I’d never need to worry for as long as he lived.” She turned away. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.”

“But it has,” Zelkova said.

Ruby turned back towards her, her eyes fiery and lips trembling. “What do you care, goblin? What would you know about love?”

“I know that it’s fleeting and can’t be captured, and can only be cherished in the moment in which it lives.”

Ruby’s anger withered, and she clapped a hand over her mouth as she stifled a sob.

Zelkova put her arms around her, holding Ruby as she wept on Zelkova’s shoulder.

“A new beginning,” Zelkova said.

Ruby calmed and composed herself, smoothing her hair and straightening her shoulders. She set the vase down by the tree. “A new beginning,” she said. Then she and Zelkova returned to the water.



And that concludes this year’s A to Z Challenge. I’d like to thank everyone who’s stopped by, and who cheered me on with kind and encouraging comments. You guys make all the toil worth it.

A few people have suggested I put these stories into a book, and I’m planning on doing just that. It won’t be anything fancy, just these stories that were on the blog in ebook form. I plan on giving the book to my subscribers, as a thank you for their support. If you’d like a copy, or if you’d just like to stay in touch, you can subscribe here.

Warning: Shameless self-promotion!

Since I’m on the toot-yer-own-horn bandwagon, I thought I’d take the opportunity to mention my novel The Thirteenth Tower is currently on sale for 99 cents. If you liked the stories on the blog, you might like the book, since, you know, same author and stuff. You can find it on Amazon, Apple, and Google Play. The sale will be going on until May 11th.

Anyway I had a lot of fun this year. It was a great opportunity for me to try my hand at shorter fiction, and to let my imagination go nuts. I’ll probably write a post about it later. Thanks again everyone, all the supportive readers and enthusiastic bloggers and hosts and co-hosts–all of you who make this whole thing possible. You guys rock.


  1. This feels like the start of something longer, it’s a lovely little story.

    Congrats on reaching the end! you did a wonderful job with these stories 🙂 Putting them into a book is a great idea!!

    • Sara C. Snider

      Yeah, that’s a big challenge for me–to make my stories seem self-contained and not leading to something else. I don’t think I’ve quite gotten the hang of it yet.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading Celine! It was really nice having met you. 🙂

  2. I can see the cavern in my head – so sad.
    Thank you for such wonderful stories all month.
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks for reading Tasha! It’s been great having you stop by. 🙂

  3. Thank you Sara, well done for getting to the finish line! Whew! I’m already subscribed (I went to the link you provided) and will definitely check out the Amazon deal …

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks Susan, it was a bit of a task, but we made it! Thanks for subscribing, and thanks for coming by and reading through this whole crazy thing. 🙂

  4. Awe. Saying goodbye is hard, especially when you have to do it more than once.

    Awesome stories. You will do well to put them all in a book. 😀

  5. Good job Sara! There are some great seeds here for some trees to come. I also enjoyed The Forgotten Web!

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks Craig! Thanks hanging out with me on this little journey. I’m glad you enjoyed the stories (and the Web too, yay!). 🙂

  6. Michelle Morrison

    Very intriguing…I thought initially Ruby was just being a witch, but I understood by the end she was dealing with grief. It’s wise to keep in mind you don’t know what people might be dealing with. I liked Zelkova, and I admire her for not tossing Ruby overboard. 🙂 I would love to have these in book form.

    • Sara C. Snider

      I agree, people can be quick to judge sometimes, but one never knows what the other person is dealing with.

      Thanks for stopping by, Michelle. Stay tuned for more info about the book. I’m not quite sure about the delivery details yet, but I plan on sending out a mail regarding it either way. Probably in the summer, if not sooner.

  7. A fantastic end to your A-Z, Sara, congratulations! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your writing this month and I look forward to reading more of it in the future 🙂

    Fee | Wee White Hoose
    Scottish Mythology and Folklore A-Z

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks, Fee. It was great meeting you and I’m glad you enjoyed the stories!

  8. Zelkova — of course, why didn’t I think of that for Z. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.” “But it has.” So true, Sara.

    I have subscribed and I have purchased “The Thirteenth Tower” for my Kindle.

    Congrats on making is through the A-Zs. I will return to read your earlier posts, since I cam in in the middle of this.

    Thank you for your wonderful writing.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thank you so much Samantha! I hope you enjoy it, as well as the rest of the stories. Thank you for stopping by, it was great having met you. 🙂

  9. Jennifer Tyron

    “…What would you know about love?”
    “I know that it’s fleeting and can’t be captured, and can only be cherished in the moment in which it lives.”

    This is beautifully crafted. I love Zelkova’s compassion. Thanks for a great month!

    When is book 2 of Tree and Tower coming out?

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thank you Jenny! And thank you for reading! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the stories.

      Book 2 is currently on schedule for an early 2016 release (if we’re lucky, late 2015–but I’m usually not lucky in things like this). I’m currently working on the penultimate edit, and have been in contact with the artist who did the cover of book 1, so hopefully that ball will get rolling soon as well. *Excited*

  10. This can totally expand into a larger story. Great way to end the A to Z.

    Congrats on surviving the challenge! 🙂

  11. I really loved you theme, and yes, I would love the book! 🙂 With some of the stories I would also have loved to learn more of what happened before or after. Do you plan on elaborating on some of them? 🙂
    Congrats on crossing the finish line! Looking forward to your reflections on Monday!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thank you Csenge! I really enjoyed having you stop by. As for the stories, I’m probably not going to elaborate on any for the ebook, because if I did, there’s no telling when (if ever) I’d finish it. But I might elaborate on some and then post them on the blog. Feel free to give suggestions on the stories you’d most like to read more of, and I’ll see what I can do. In fact, I’ll probably bring that up in my post A to Z blog entry.

  12. Very touching scene.

    Congrats on finishing the challenge!

  13. What a perfect note to leave on! The bittersweet ending of the story matches with the end of the challenge. Can’t wait to see more of these if you do them.

    Congrats on finishing!

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thank you Djinnia. I kind of felt the same thing–a bit sad about it ending, but endings are often beginnings to something else. 🙂

  14. Kind of sad, but I wonder that Zelkova was so nice when Ruby wasn’t so nice to her.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Because she needed it. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Liz!

  15. Congratulations on finishing the April A-Z Challenge – and with daily fiction. Nice job.

    I did whole series with 5 blogs – all on different topics. Whew! Done!

    My Nickers and Ink: Poetry and Humor site included daily poems from A-Z for the blogging challenge and National Poetry Writing Month / NaPoWriMo. That was fun.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Wow, 5 different blogs. I don’t even want to imagine trying to keep up with that. 😉 Awesome that you did it. Thanks for stopping by, Linda.

  16. Hi Sara – so pleased you’ll be putting the stories into an ebook – great I’ll sign up for that and for your Amazon offer .. for Thirteenth Tower .. your imaginative stories have been been just lovely .. and I’ve been a happy reader … sometimes wandering along for more … cheers and see you soon – Hilary

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thank you so much Hilary! I hope you enjoy the book. It was great having you along during the month. 🙂

  17. It was bittersweet, like the end of the challenge. I would love the e-book too, as your stories were lovely. More on the one where you did a two part post – there is something so THERE… 🙂 Or maybe it is just that it was the first post of yours I read and it had a strong imprint. Great work, keep it up! — Jeri

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks Jeri! I’ve actually been thinking a lot on expanding the Hazel and Holly stories. How I might do it, I’m still unsure about. Thanks for coming along for the ride, and stay tuned for more info about the ebook. 🙂

  18. It was great meeting you via the challenge, Sara.
    Congrats on reaching the A to Z finishing line!
    I loved your stories!!!!! I’m just sorry that I didn’t get to read them all. So you may see me lurking around your blog, trying to catch up with the ones I missed.
    This was my 5th challenge, but this time round I didn’t get to visit as many blogs as I’d have liked to…
    See you next year for another month of “alphabet madness”!
    Keep in touch!

    • Sara C. Snider

      You are certainly welcome to lurk all you want. I’m a champion lurker myself. This was my second year and, like the previous year, I had delusions of grandeur of how many blogs I’d be able to visit. Honestly, I need to not be such a slow reader…

      It was nice meeting you too, and I will keep in touch! 🙂

  19. I was thinking Ruby was quite rude, but obviously she’s going through an emotional time. Beautiful descriptions in your story. Congrats on reaching the end! An ebook sounds like a wonderful idea. It would be a good way of catching up on the stories I missed.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks Nick! It was great meeting you through the challenge. 🙂

  20. Wow, your series has ended on such a profound note. I love this story! Thanks for all the wonderful tales. I’m so glad we met through A to Z, and I’m looking forward to keeping in touch!

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks for reading Sue, and I’m also glad we got to meet. Will definitely keep in touch. 🙂

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