Literature: Moonflowers

Moonflowers is about an Irish guy, an American girl who ends up living with him, and the dog they rescue. Who is secretly the girl's presumed-dead father.

...Yeah, it's that kind of story.

And by story, I mean "Fairy Tale."

And by fairy-tale, I mean "the unsettling kind."
- The album summary.

Moonflowers is an Urban Fantasy Troper Work published on the HitRECord website by Sharysa, under the name "Logophile." It was started in April of 2014, and is in-progress. It was submitted in three Season 2 theme collaborations: "Home," "Secrets," and "The Dark." (Although "Home" didn't make it into the final cut for Season 2 themes.)

Alima Song is an Asian-American young woman who moves to the fictional Irish town of Cloncarrig, about two months after her parents vanish. When her hike on the Cliffs of Moher ends in an unexpected storm, she waits it out in Moher Tower with Malachy Bray and his little brother Logan. Over the weeks that she settles into her new life in Ireland and gets to know Mal and his friends, she gets pursued by the Hunter, a Folk man wearing an Irish Elk skull who leads The Wild Hunt.

She then stays at the house of the town's innkeeper and cunning-man, Ogma O'Luain. Soon afterward, Alima finds an injured white wolfdog, takes him in, and names him "Moony," unaware that the dog is actually her now-cursed father Ned.

The main Story Arc for Moonflowers is almost Slice of Life apart from the Fair Folk wreaking havoc, as it follows Alima adjusting to Ireland and dealing with her parents' loss. The second one follows Ned and reveals that Alima and her parents are three of the soon-to-be victims (called "marks") in the Fairy Raid. The Raid happens every seven years on Halloween/Samhain in a random Celtic country, and is dreaded since nobody knows who the marks will be or can stop it from happening.

Moonflowers draws heavily on Celtic Mythology and Fairy Tale elements. While the plot focuses on an ensemble cast, Malachy and Alima are the main leads, with Ned also featuring heavily.

Not to be confused with the Japanese folktale called "Moonflower."

Tropes in the work:

  • Adult Fear: Very prominent throughout the story.
    • You and your spouse get kidnapped one day by a guy in a deer-skull. You try to escape, only for one of you to get cursed before losing track of each other. When you finally find your daughter, you find out that it's only been one or two weeks in the spirit-world, but months in the mortal one and she currently thinks you're dead.
    • Your handsome, talented son nearly gets killed just because he's gay.
    • Owen has a vision of Alima's mother hanging naked from a tree. Later on, he says that Alima found her. Since Owen's vision sent him into hysterical screaming for his mother, he was most likely experiencing it as Alima.
    • The Hunter disguises himself as Mal and enchants the already drunk Alima with magical fruit, then just drives off with her. The rest of the group doesn't notice because they think she's just getting a ride home. This happens over the VERY short time of real-Mal going to the bathroom.
    • The Fairy Raid. Every seven years in the Celtic countries, seven people get cursed as "marks" and killed by The Wild Hunt. No one can tell who the marks are until Samhain, and as the god Hermes only saved two out of seven marks because he happened to be traveling in Brittany, it's pretty much a death sentence. And sometimes the marks are foreigners, who have even LESS warning than the natives.
    • Alima's Muslim aunt was killed shortly after the September 11 attacks.
  • Alliterative Name: Several, but not enough to be unusual.
  • All Animals Are Domesticated: Averted. Ned/Moony acts like a dog and is assumed to be a wolfdog, but Persephone wonders why Alima hasn't noticed that a wolf is acting tame. Turns out the humans only think he's a wolfdog due to the curse.
  • All Myths Are True / Fantasy Kitchen Sink: In addition to Celtic mythology, Alima gets advice from her Louisianan friend's aunt (a Vodun mambo), and is friends with a Blackfoot guy who gave her a sweetgrass shampoo recipe.
  • Bambification: The older and non-sugary version, tying in with Celtic Mythology. The Hunter wears a deer-skull with burning red sockets, and is referred to as "the deer-man" by Ned and Lucy.
    • The Marvelous Deer: Inverted; the Hunter wears a deer skull to hunt people. Ogma says when the Hunter wears an Irish Elk skull instead (whose antlers are as wide as a car), he means business.
    • Bambification is played straight with the Fianna, who give Alima a deer-antler whistle. It turns out useful when Owen gets gay-bashed in Galway.
  • Big Damn Heroes: When the Morrigan rescues Lucy, she turns into a horse, smashes a glass room to pieces, and turns the shards into crows. The crows then slow down the Hunter when he tries to chase after them.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The glass room in the fairy-hill; it seems to have no doors or windows, takes a goddess to break through, and may double as a portal into rings of fairy-grass.
  • Blood Oath / Magically Binding Contract: Ned swears to kill the Hunter before he kills anyone in the Fairy Raid, as the first known victim is his daughter.
  • Bloody Murder: Folk blood burns humans, and can also corrode car seats and metal.
  • Bonding Over Missing Parents: The main point in Mal and Alima's friendship (Mal's parents died, and Alima's are missing), which becomes a relationship in the twenty-second chapter.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The Fianna are a group of boisterous young men/gods wearing suits. They're also the first people Aengus Og calls for help, and two of them can lift a car.
    • Matthaeus is clumsy and awkward, but he's a skilled enough jeweler that Alima's impressed by Owen's runestone. The Norse gods give him weird jobs like "make jewelry out of your boyfriend's hair" and "make jewelry in the dark."
  • Calling Card: The deer/Irish-elk skull is the Hunter's calling card, as Ogma O'Luain has both kinds of skulls. The Hunter also leaves a carefully-reassembled orange peel in Mal's parking spot, which changes into a deer skull after Owen inspects it.
  • Can Not Spit It Out: Ogma knows that Alima's new dog is actually her father, but the curse forces him not to talk about it.
    • Mal's deceased mother Carrie mentions that nobody living can help Alima, because the Hunter's curse is too powerful.
  • Celtic Mythology: Hoo boy, where to start?
    • The main plot revolves around The Fair Folk. People use iron weapons, salt, and inside-out clothing to ward them off, and it is heavily advised to stay within the town walls.
    • The Wild Hunt, and especially the Hunter, is the main group of antagonists.
    • The gods are very much active in the mortal world.
  • Changeling Tale: Invoked; Owen was "suspected" to be a changeling and nearly killed by the Knights of Aaron several years ago. The group stated numerous times that it was just an excuse to kill the gay guy—not only was Owen twenty years old instead of an infant or a small child, the Knights didn't even bother testing him first.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Alima is very protective of her hip-length wavy hair, which catches the Hunter's attention. Also, her offerings to her missing parents in case they were dead helps keep her mother Lucy from getting malnourished in the Otherworld.
    • Also played when Alima's revealed to have a bear tattoo, and the Tuatha de Danaan immediately bring in the bear-goddess Artio since tattoos can establish links to deities.
  • Cool Old Guy: Ogma. An unflappable Deadpan Snarker who can lift his unconscious adult grandson.
    • The god Ogma, whom he's named after, also makes an appearance. He gets rid of the entire Wild Hunt by outwitting the Hunter.
  • Corrupt Church: Shades of it with the Knights of Aaron, who are well-known enough that people in Galway have heard of Owen's near-death at their hands. And they try to finish the job.
  • Culture Clash: While discussing how the peach tree in Mal's garden needed a large branch trimmed off, Alima mentions that her father loved working with peach wood since it's considered lucky in Asia. Mal gives her a comb made from part of the branch as a housewarming gift. Alima's Chinese-born grandfather gets amused and has to explain the important detail that peach-wood gifts are also popular for engagements. Luckily enough, Mal intended it as a downplayed Relationship Upgrade anyway.
  • Everything Talks: Houses, animals, and combs can talk, as per the Fairy Tale elements.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Implied with the Hunter. Sure, he's boxed the Irish and American gods into a corner with their inability to help the Song family, but he's too arrogant to notice (or care) that Ned's father is an immigrant from China with those subsequent national ties, or that Hades and Persephone would step in to help a grieving woman about her missing parents.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: Encounters with The Wild Hunt leave one shivering.
  • Exact Words: The story runs on this, thanks to the antagonists being The Fair Folk.
    • "Nobody living" can help with Ned's specific part of the curse, but that only applies to humans. Animals and spirits/deities are able to see Ned and communicate with him.
    • "The Irish and American spirits" are largely unable to help the Song family. However, Hades and Persephone (Greek) and the Lady of Scales (Chinese) are unhindered.
  • The Fair Folk: Generally unpleasant and feared, although the main antagonists are The Wild Hunt. The goddess Aine is stated as the queen of the fairies, and is viewed neutrally so far. Aengus Og says that the fairy-hills are where the Hunter's main support lies. Maidin is a Folk boy who saved Owen from drowning in a river and is very friendly, if scatterbrained.
  • Fairy Tale: Contains many elements of the genre (overlapping with Celtic Mythology) and is described as a Fairy Tale in the summary.
  • Foil: Blonde, friendly, and Christian Malachy contrasts sharply with blackhaired, snarky, and pagan Owen, who says that Mal's his best friend.
    • Maidin's very talkative and friendly with humans, and takes part in baptisms despite being a fairy. The Hunter is cruel, arrogant, dismissive of Christianity, and enjoys screwing with humans.
  • Food Chains: The Hunter disguises himself as Mal and gives Alima an orange before driving off with her. She thinks they're taking the long way home, but after she realizes who he is and stabs him to make him leave, she wakes up with the car stuck in a freeway ditch, and a police officer has already found her (most likely unconscious).
  • Functional Magic: As in Real Life, most of the sub-categories show up in the story. Sympathetic magic (the Law of Contagion or Locard's Theory) is one of the main plot elements, as Lucy's trapped in the Otherworld because the Hunter has a lock of her hair.
  • Genius Loci: Houses are sentient, so people have a trial period of two weeks before making their final decision to buy it.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: Legal magic is fucking up the Tuatha De Danaan on helping Alima: She's not American anymore, so the American spirits can't help her, but she needs to live in Ireland for five years before being formally recognized as a citizen. Hence, the Irish gods can only help her if she's in direct danger from the Wild Hunt. (Seeing as the Hunter's pulled off at least one Xanatos Gambit, he probably knew this.) On the other hand, spirits from other countries are able to help since the Hunter is too arrogant to consider anyone outside of Ireland stepping in.
  • Grimmification: As stated in the summary, Moonflowers is "the unsettling kind" of fairy tale.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Malachy is blond and very nice. Brighid Brennan has baby-blond hair and works in both a vet clinic and a human hospital. Spirit-wise, Persephone is very much this.
  • Hijacked by Jesus: Averted in the Hunter's Breaking Speech, when Mal tries to defend Alima from the Wild Hunt; Christians are less powerful against the Fair Folk (or at least against the Hunter himself), in spite of syncretized pagan practices. When the Knights of Aaron throw holy water at a Folk boy who helps Owen survive an icy river, it just makes him itch.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The Fairy Raid takes place on Samhain/Halloween.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: After Hades and Persephone arrive, Ogma realizes that Alima and her parents have been chosen for the Fairy Raid—every seven years in a Celtic country, seven mortals get cursed as "marks" and hunted down on Samhain/Halloween. People can't predict who they are, nor can they actually stop the Raid from happening. And since only two of the seven marks survived the last Fairy Raid due to Hermes chancing upon them, the marks' survival rates are very low despite attempts to save them.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The chapters are named after children's games.
  • Insubstantial Ingredients: When Persephone asks if Hades wants some raspberry jam, he declines because he doesn't like too much red. Ned also describes Hades' scent as a mix of dusty money and "the calm at the end of a life."
    • Ned's contract with the Lady of Scales involves him killing the Hunter and returning to human form, in exchange for giving up the color of his eyes. It's not a big deal to humans (though there's some risk of going blind), but the important part is that fairies would think Ned's sacrifice is huge.
  • Invisible to Normals: Everyone thinks Cursed-Ned is a wolfdog, and they can't hear him talking. Only Ogma, gods/spirits, and animals can speak to him and see that he's a full wolf.
  • Knight Templar: The Knights of Aaron are a Christian group who try to kill someone because people claim he's a changeling, despite said person being twenty years old with no sign of the usual Folk traits.
  • Lampshade Hanging: One of Mag's friends was thinking about getting a Japanese tattoo, and Mag is Genre Savvy enough to drag him to the closest Asian possible (the Chinese-Filipino Alima) before he actually gets inked. Alima then reveals that 1) the prospective tattoo is in Chinese since she can read it, and 2) it says "congratulations for your new baby" instead of "warrior" or "soldier." Ned is quite pleased that giving Alima calligraphy lessons paid off, while Lucy thought they were being stereotypical.
  • Loophole Abuse: Nobody living can help Alima, and the Irish gods can only help if she's in immediate danger. Enter Hades, the Greek god of the dead.
    • The Lady Of Scales says that while American and Irish spirits are unable to help the Song family, other countries are fine. Hades and Persephone are the Greek rulers of the dead, and the Lady is Chinese.
  • Magic A Is Magic A / The Laws of Magic: Aside from real-life belief systems (Vodun, pagan/indigenous systems, and ancestor-worship), there's several basic types/rules of magic.
    • University or "normal" magic is taught in schools, and applicable to a range of subjects. There's a labeling system for spell ingredients, many people use basic household spells, and first-aid magic is taught to some.
    • Traditional magic is often linked to inborn abilities. Owen was taught by his grandfather Ogma from childhood, and traditional practitioners (medicine-men, Vodun practitioners, cunning-men) are on par with university-graduate mages.
    • Deity magic is quite powerful. The gods can teleport, shapeshift, lift cars, heal people with a touch, and turn objects into (temporary) living things. However, they do have some rules/limits. The Folk can be nearly as powerful as deities, and are often far more unpredictable.
    • Legal magic is up there with deity magic—since Alima needs a five-year citizenship wait, it's keeping the Irish gods from helping her unless she's in physical danger.
    • Magic's effectiveness depends on ties to the nation you're in, as Celeste mentions that American magic might not work in Ireland. Travelers in Ireland are noted to be vulnerable to The Fair Folk.
  • Magitech: Modern technology (like iPhones and laptops) coexists with magic.
  • Meaningful Name: Invoked culturally; being named after a god, saint, or hero "gives you their luck," according to Aine. Aine never drowns (the goddess Aine was a sea-god's wife), Brighid works at a vet clinic and a human hospital (the goddess Brighid is a healer), and Ogma is a snarky Badass Grandpa (the god Ogma is an aged Warrior Poet).
    • Ironic Nickname: Malachy is a normal Irish name, but his nickname is "Mal," which means "bad/evil" in most Romance languages. Mal is a nice guy who was Promoted To Parent for his little brother.
  • Mixed Ancestry: The youngest generation of the Song family. Alima is Mandarin/Filipino, while her twin cousins Qamar and Hilal are Mandarin/Indian. Alima calls her grandfather Yeye (Mandarin) and her uncle Tito (Filipino).
  • Motifs
    • The moon. Mal is reminded of a new-moon prayer when he first sees the white-clad Alima from a distance; the titular moonflowers are growing in Marian's garden; Wolfdog-Ned is named "Moony"; Owen's scar is crescent-shaped.
    • Home. Sacred Hospitality, the safety of the town walls, and Alima's vulnerability due to losing her old home.
    • Oak trees. Owen's visions are called oak dreams, he breathes acorn powder onto the Hunter's orange peel to turn it into a deer-skull, and the police officer treats Alima's Folk-blood burn with acorn lotion while waiting for the ambulance. Fitting since the oak is a potent symbol, especially in Celtic Mythology.
    • Hair. The Hunter cuts off some of Lucy's hair, which keeps her in the Otherworld. A homophobe chops Owen's long hair with a knife because he's restrained with a spell and can't actually hurt him, but that makes Owen go crazy because his head scar is now visible. His boyfriend Matthaeus is then told to make some jewelry with the hair.
  • Never Split the Party: Getting separated when chased by the Wild Hunt is very bad. Mal is adamant that he and Alima stay together while running from them; when Ned tells Ogma that he lost track of his wife, Ogma's reaction is not good. And then Alima is alone in a car with the Hunter disguised as Mal.
  • Oireland: Averted in general (being an urban-fantasy); while the story takes place near the scenic Cliffs of Moher and Cloncarrig is a tourist town whose population is under a thousand, it's still modern and the characters run the gamut of personalities. Poked fun at early on, when Alima jokes that she was surprised to find electricity outside of Dublin. On the darker side, the homophobia Owen faces is another thing that stereotypes don't address.
  • Oh My Gods!: "Gods in the west" has been used by Owen and the police officer who found Alima on the freeway.
  • Older Is Better: Briefly alluded to; according to a news reporter, "steel and titanium are not effective against the Folk." Also, Christians have no influence on the Fair Folk aside from their own abilities/knowledge, but the pagan "old-walkers" do.
    • Finn MacCool, the leader of the Fianna, has obsidian weapons. The Folk would be able to smell him coming if he wore too much Cold Iron.
  • Painting the Medium: Ned's speech is all in bold, presumably to reflect his curse; other spirits and animals have normal text. Deceased spirits (like Carrie Bray) also speak in bold.
  • Papa Wolf: Ned is the more normal version of this, and he's also a literal wolf due to his curse. He wants to kill the Hunter for all the trouble he's caused to Ned's family, and then he swears an oath to do so.
  • Physical God: Quite a few, since the real-life religions are all known to exist.
  • Red Alert / This Is Not a Drill: When Ogma O'Luain realizes that the Fairy Raid is going to happen by the end of the month, he calls a town official about it. When Alima drives Mal home, they run into a huge gridlock due to everyone desperately coming home. Ogma and Owen are also making a magical signal fire for the same purpose.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Mal and Alima in the twenty-second chapter.
  • Rule of Seven: The Fairy Raid. It happens every seven years on Samhain/Halloween, and there are seven mortals picked as "marks."
  • Sacred Hospitality: Taking in a guest bestows magical protection on them. However, it has its limits; the Hunter is able to bypass it because "kindness is nothing to him."
    • Also works in reverse, as getting Alima her own place is very important in wearing down the Hunter's curse.
  • Shout-Out: Wolfdog-Ned is given the name "Moony" after getting adopted by Alima. Ogma was forced to suggest it due to the Hunter's curse, and Alima lampshades that it's the nickname of Remus Lupin the werewolf.
  • Shown Their Work: The author is an Irish pagan, so she'd be well-versed in Celtic Mythology.
    • Ogma O'Luain has a British accent instead of Irish, since he went to school in London; since his grandson is in his twenties, it's likely that Ogma was either forced to use a British accent by the school itself, or did it on his own to avoid bullying.
    • Owen was nearly killed for being gay. With Ireland being a heavily Catholic nation, it's not a good place to be LGBT even in modern times.
    • The Irish Elk's antlers were gargantuan—some skulls' racks are 12 feet wide, which is pretty damn close to the length of a car.
    • The mortal Ogma is a beekeeper. The beehive weights are accurate, as are the different types of honey (aside from the magical Moher honey, which has no real-life equivalent).
    • It takes about five years to become a naturalized citizen of most countries, including Ireland.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: Ancestor-worship is fairly well-known. Alima has an altar in her room to leave offerings for her parents after they went missing. Becomes a plot point when Hades wonders why a young woman's presumably loving parents would completely ignore her offerings, and he finds out they're not dead.
  • Spoiler Opening: The album summary gives away the fact that Alima's dad isn't actually dead.
  • Story Arc: Two main lines. Story A is in the mortal world, and deals with Alima picking up the pieces after her parents go missing. Story B is in the Otherworld, featuring Ned's struggle to 1) reunite with Lucy, and 2) keep Alima from getting murdered on Samhain.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Not a secret, but Cloncarrig fits. It's described very poetically and located by the Cliffs of Moher, but going too far out from the town walls is hazardous due to the Folk, especially alone. They also tried to kill one of their own people out of homophobia.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The entire Song family. Alima's parents vanish and she goes mute for two weeks, Ned gets cursed and can't tell his own daughter that he's still alive, and Lucy is trapped in the Otherworld due to the Hunter possessing some of her hair.
    • They're also making up half of the victims in the Fairy Raid.
    • In flashbacks from Ned, Alima's Muslim aunt was killed shortly after the September 11 attacks.
    • The O'Luain family is very close-knit, so it can't be fun dealing with the constant and sometimes violent homophobia that Owen goes through.
  • Urban Fantasy: Very firmly so.
  • Weapon of Choice: Many of the Cloncarrig inhabitants carry iron knives to defend against The Fair Folk.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Implied. The traditionally-minded town of Cloncarrig has no problem with trying to kill the homosexual Owen, due to a flimsy excuse that he might be a changeling.
  • When She Smiles: Owen, Mal, and Alima don't smile very often.
  • Xanatos Gambit: The Hunter implicitly set up the entire story by kidnapping Alima's parents for months and getting Alima to move to Ireland out of grief.
    • Xanatos Speed Chess: The gods have to do a lot of improvising around 1) their inability to help Alima, and 2) Ned's inability to talk to living humans.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: Folk-dominated areas of the Otherworld work like this. Ned and Lucy were brought there by the Hunter, and initially think they were only missing for a week or two. Ogma tells Ned that's it's actually been three months since they vanished, and Alima thinks they're dead. This leads to minor Rapid Aging when they come back to the mortal world or the non-Folk areas of the Otherworld.