AU, Epic, Historical, Urban, Magical Realism, Steampunk,
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Xin believed that on Revolution Day, she would kneel in the courtyard of Prosperity House and feel the razor’s touch.
Instead, a black car brought her and Scholar Tan to Smiling House, home of the Honest Guard. Men with white uniforms and black clubs escorted them into the towering building where the enemies of the Path were interrogated, judged, and executed.
On a hard wooden bench in a bare grey room, Xin waited. She served the Common Path. She had nothing to fear. But when she was called into the room, when she saw the man, the thing, tied to the table, she wished they had left her to the clean emptiness of her meditations, to her silent slavery.
Lead Illustration: James Zapata
thumbnail this page: Fran Eisemann
I’d only glamoured him so I could get a better look, maybe ask a few questions, but when I looked back the man was dead. Riding a storm down from the snowline, cloaked in swirls of wind-driven ice, I went to find his family, to explain, to help. But when I found her sitting next to the embers of a dying fire, she was cursing the storm, the unseasonable cold, the dying crops.
She was cursing me.
The dignified woman in gray and the little man in loud tweed were both in Lincolnsville about the goblin reports. To her they were marsh gas and poppycock. To him they were certain proof of his theories. And he had plenty of theories.
The battle lines were clear, but the outcome was not.
She stood atop the wall and stared at the shifting black towers of the Nameless City, as if this time she might spot the shadows of its bygone masters. She flexed her toes against the rampart’s top, the basalt as cold and solid as ever. Only the wall and her vigilance held the City in check, but one of those would not last.
The river’s daughter had hair as long and green as eelgrass, and skin the livid white of a fish belly. Her teeth were sharp, and through her thin lips, she sometimes whispered spells and curses, for her mother had been a sorceress.
Since her mother’s departure, swathed in furs in the middle of a winter storm, the river’s daughter had not seen a single outsider to the valley. She spoke to the winds and her siblings the creeks, and she amused herself by practicing charms to change her shape.
This dwarf, this outsider who moved with such purpose, fascinated her. She watched him from silent concealment in the forest.
“In here. Name’s Ben Wilton. Been possessed thoiteen times now.” She held out her crosses as if they were shields, and shuttled backwards.
“Ma’am, it’s not a vampire. Crosses won’t help.” Father Belloch unlocked the decrepit old door, and let it slowly creak open.
The walls were covered with blood-red heretical writings, curses, evil symbols, and dirty limericks. The green ooze covering the floor added a foul smell to the overall ambience. What he didn’t see was the victim in question.
He rummaged through his backpack and brought out a small umbrella. He popped it open and stepped cautiously through the doorway.
Elu smelled demon.
It was a raw scent, like blood in the mouth. The smell that promised a belabored death, a clawing death, a fangs-upon-flesh death.
Sometimes, the memories of his ancient heroics played themselves out in his mind, and the gore colored his sight, but the scent of demon was always there.
It kept his fear alive.
And fear had kept him alive.
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When she clawed her way up out of the frozen earth she tried to gauge how much time had passed – were all her kin asleep, gone this time? Her husband had died before his time and she had vowed never to leave her children, for death or nobody — she’s always come back when they had need of her.
I think Father has forgiven me now. He’s been telling me of upstairs, where people live in buildings taller even than Joe’s tunnel. He says they have ‘windows’, big holes filled with glass that they can look through and watch the City. He says there is no sludge up there, and people have soft skin and clothes that aren’t torn and muddied. He said he once saw one of the Four that came on the Ship and rule over the City with an iron fist. I don’t know what iron means…
The price of change
Illustration by Mark Purzycki
March 6, Fantasy: “The Magpie of Souls” by David Tallerman
Sword, sorcery, and enchanted castle
“Egil, Thane Uthred’s Huskarl” by Chris J Kuhlmann
Midnight, New Year’s Eve, 2015 into 2016. Greetings and Happy New Year. Here is the very first of our stories — Fantasy: “TO THE MONSTERS WITH LOVE”, by A. Merc Rustad, illustrated by Rob Shields
A short wild ride. Have fun!