By Court Ellyn
Smashwords / Amazon Kindle
Price: $0.99 USD
This story begins curiously with a sickly draeling (half-human creature of demonic appearance) chained inside well. Mother Mirrah rescues this creature from the fate of being demolished along with the old prison. She has him transferred to a new prison that Mirrah has laid out to be more like an involuntary rehabilitation center. (I say the story begins curiously because we are introduced to two turnkeys, or jailers, of peculiar speech and are told that they didn't want to offend "a priestess of Vatanne," that is, Mother Mirrah, for it "wouldn't earn them the gods' favor." This adds to the setting, but since they disappear from the story, they add nothing to that. The tale becomes transcendent of its fantasy world so that the more fantastical elements stick out.)
Despite the suspicions of those who also work in the prison, Mirrah is determined to find these prisoners' worth. She wants to believe in these inmates so badly and has few reservations about the rightness of her cause. She seeks out any evidence that they need her help and that they aren't the criminals they are made out to be, even when their crimes stare her right in the face. Mirrah is drawn to one prisoner in particular, the draeling named Derinzan. As she digs into his past, she begins to see that maybe this creature was wrongfully accused, a scapegoat because of his appearance. In the end, she finally sees what Derinzan is worth.
The plot is as straightforward as Mother Mirrah is. Nothing unexpected happens. (Or so we think.) Yet, Mother Mirrah and her cause are very involving. Ellyn's deft hand at prose compels the reader on -- page after page right to the end. I found myself hoping that Mirrah is right and that the justice she sets to bring about is truly just.
Verdict: If you like character studies set in a fantasy setting, then this is the short story for you.