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“Silver Necklace, Golden Ring”

“He takes them for his servants, and never after are they seen again.” That was how the tale used to end, told by grannies at the fire, by performers at the fair.

This story traveled a very odd path.

It started out with me wanting to write a story based on the Russian folktale about Koschei the Deathless and Marya Morevna. (Spoiler: that’s not what I ended up writing.) Soon another idea attached itself to that, which is my fondness for a passing detail in Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series, where one of Christopher’s spare lives winds up being hidden inside his wife’s wedding ring. I had a vague notion of trying to write something where Marya Morevna winds up marrying Koschei . . . and ran aground on just how badly I’d have to break the folktale in order to make anything resembling that romance happen. So, as often happens with me, this idea languished in my list of possible future stories, going nowhere.

Until several other influences glommed onto it out of nowhere. One was a Navajo story about Coyote (this is not a retelling of that story, either), and another was Meredith Ann Pierce’s Darkangel trilogy, and another was Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy, which brought me full circle back to the mood of Russian folklore. They all mashed together into something creepy and cold that belongs to no real-world tradition; I put on the soundtrack to A Plague Tale: Innocence and in the space of I think a day flat, I turned out a draft of what I ended up titling “Silver Necklace, Golden Ring,” in a nod to the poetically paired titles of the fairytale anthologies Terri Windling used to edit with Ellen Datlow.

I am delighted to say the result has been sold to Uncanny Magazine, and it will be out some time in 2023!