Issues
Issue #307
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Featuring new cover art: Grassy Ocean by Alexander Ostrowski.

Buttercream and Broken Wings

The old woman had no human mourners, so Willowbright stayed; if not to mourn, then to mark her passing at least. By the time the widow's grave had been covered over and the gravediggers sat atop the new wound in the earth to pass a cup between them, the moon had pressed its thumbprint deep into the sky. Willowbright wrapped her arms around her hollow stomach.

The old woman had no human mourners, so Willowbright stayed; if not to mourn, then to mark her passing at least.
Seven Dreams of a Valley

I urged the men to pack their belongings and abandon the village. But the boy who had become a man laughed and said that he had never met anyone who, when a fire began to burn, advised to walk towards it instead of running away. So, as we lay in the quiet of the lake, I sang them a song of endurance, taught to me by the warriors of the desert, to whom I would unfailingly go every year carrying letters from their families, smudged in tears.

On the fourth night... ...I was at a wedding.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Seven Dreams of a Valley

Podcast: Download (Duration: 24:06 — 16.56MB)
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On the fourth night... ...I was at a wedding.
From the Archives:
The Night Bazaar for Women Becoming Reptiles
One, two, three eggs into her mouth, one sharp bite, and the clear, viscous glair ran down her throat.
Issue #306
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Kill the Witchman

I can recall something about this boy—a memory that dances at the outer edge of my thoughts. This is a sign that it is time to redose. Above all else, I must not allow myself to remember. I pat myself down until I find a hard leather canteen in the inside pocket of my jacket. I pull the canteen out and sniff it. Yes, this is the broth. I take a small sip and wash it down with water.

I do not know when or why I began chasing this boy, but I trust in the self that came before and the self that will come after.
The Augur and the Girl Left at His Door

The augur taught the girl to read letters and numbers but not the signs of the flesh. One day, when she was as tall as a fencepost, he came back from the tea fields to see her with his augury book. The anatomical sketches spread out upon the splintered table, the pages yellow and thin as butterfly’s wings. The augur lashed out with such haste it was as though his body had forgotten its age. “This is not for you,” he said, snatching the heavy book. “There is no happiness in some knowledges.”

The augur could read on her skin that she would be cared for by an old man who was not her kin.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Augur and the Girl Left at His Door

Podcast: Download (Duration: 27:14 — 18.7MB)
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The augur could read on her skin that she would be cared for by an old man who was not her kin.
From the Archives:
Seasons Set in Skin
Horimachi's own tattoos were from before the war, when black ink was made of soot instead of faery blood.
Issue #305
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The Widow

I hear you are yourself of low birth, Monsieur de la Martinière, and so may understand what it’s like to experience, for the first time, not even luxury but safety. You might understand how just the taste of it fills you up as if for the first time and you can never again be content with the same old hungry fear. So mayhap, Monsieur, you have been right all along, though not quite in the way you suppose.

I hear you are yourself of low birth, Monsieur de la Martinière, and so may understand what it’s like to experience, for the first time, not even luxury but safety.
Breath Of The Sahara

I began to carefully watch my path when going to visit Esohe in the well. I visited only once per day, with little food that would last her. I would nestle her to myself to shield her of the scarce yet poisonous air and tell her of the latest happenings in the village, not sure if she could hear. I read to her, scoured for all the books I could find, and would read aloud. But in my alone time, I read records on the lives of Zephyrs, searched for what could make them last longer. There was no other way; only the sanctum.

The lemon oil I had sprinkled in the well could scarcely dwarf the underlying stench. But Esohe said she could barely smell a whiff; she was gradually losing that too.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Widow

Podcast: Download (Duration: 39:08 — 26.87MB)
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I hear you are yourself of low birth, Monsieur de la Martinière, and so may understand what it’s like to experience, for the first time, not even luxury but safety.
From the Archives:
Playing for Amarante
The man with my face opens his eyes.
Issue #304
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Featuring new cover art: “Sea Shore” by Anton Ninov.

Clever Jack, Heavy with Stories

He walked around the chapel, once, twice, three times widdershins. He caught himself and found he had crossed over. The castle walls and towers were all gone, and the stone chapel was a lonely boulder with a great cleft leading into darkness. The forest all around was twisted, tall and thick as the curled hair of a sleeping giant, full of shadows deeper than should have been under the summer sun. The grass was bright as emeralds, richer hued than fine Holland cloth. It was trampled by the hooves of many horses, and their trail led away into the west.

“He’s gone now,” Jack told her, “taken by the king of the elves or some other dark thing, because you shamed him into foolishness.”
The Honey of the World and the Queen of Crows

The ghost of the Archbishop I had murdered began following me halfway through the trip. You see, he couldn’t cross the nunnery’s walls, but now he had caught me outside, alone. His head was broken in a strange angle, and his hands were cold as ice as they tugged at my skirts. Thankfully he was scared of the holy symbols even in death, and my habit was enough to keep him at bay.

The clock is huge, its heavy frame carved with crow feathers and bees, and I dare not look at it too long for fear the hands will start moving again.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Honey of the World and the Queen of Crows

Podcast: Download (Duration: 25:43 — 17.66MB)
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The clock is huge, its heavy frame carved with crow feathers and bees, and I dare not look at it too long for fear the hands will start moving again.
From the Archives:
Boat in Shadows, Crossing
"Child of fish and ghost," said Bue. "What could be quicker?"
Issue #303
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February Moon

My children have spent so much time living with terrible realities that I’m afraid they no longer take the world’s dangers seriously. I wish for them to simply be children, and for myself to be burdened with nothing more than a mother’s routine fears for their safety. Gretchen should not lie awake at night listening for monsters, and Peter is certainly too young to be the man of the house. Yet here we are. Hugging him is like hugging a warm corpse, and when I release him, he trudges into the cedar line without a farewell.

My children have spent so much time living with terrible realities that I’m afraid they no longer take the world’s dangers seriously.
Fox Red, Life Red, Teeth Like Snow

Hungry wolves eat pieces of the world, and the most ambitious hunters go after pieces of the heavens. Hryggda has heard it told. Wolves have been hunting the sun since her autumn waning, but she has escaped, hidden herself in a den to sleep until spring like a bear. And now, it seems, the forest's hunters aim to eat the moon.

No troll’s life is so shaped by her body.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Fox Red, Life Red, Teeth Like Snow

Podcast: Download (Duration: 17:09 — 11.78MB)
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No troll’s life is so shaped by her body.
From the Archives:
Swallowing Silver
John Halpern knew it should be a heavy weight on his conscience, to wake up and know that he was going to kill a thing that used to be a man.
Issue #302
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Who Goes Against a Waste of Waters

Every day, we walk the graveyard grounds, back and forth, in search of this cursed grass. Mother used to say the graveyard is as big as a continent that only gets bigger; that we have to cross oceans of sand and swamp only to find new ghost-grass. This year it rained only twice, and Who Tames Lions and I walk farther and farther as our sheep grow weaker and weaker.

We are the only ones left to herd the ghost-sheep.
Lonely Children Lost at Sea

From somewhere far below, a shout rises over the sea's roar, and with a glance at Theodore that I was never meant to see, Gina gathers her skirt and hurries ahead. The water churns, turbulent and unrelenting, as we trace her steps to the shore. We rush forth, our duty as inescapable as the tides, to deliver the island's next generation of lost children from one cruel fate to another.

She drifts in at high tide, as those of us who came before and those who will come long after we are gone.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Who Goes Against a Waste of Waters

Podcast: Download (Duration: 19:28 — 13.37MB)
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We are the only ones left to herd the ghost-sheep.
From the Archives:
A Spoonful of Salt
He tasted of salt. Naomi half-expected to see him melting in the places where her mouth had been.
Issue #301
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Her Cage of Root and Bone

We do not discuss, Nell and I. In the early years of my imprisonment, I raged at her during her midwinter visits, but I soon learned that my prison only grew stronger with every fight: roots deepening when I screamed curses on her name, leaves withering when she laughed at my weakness. I stopped fighting the year I realized I could not discern bone from wood when I sliced myself open and peered inside.

We do not discuss, Nell and I.
As The Shore To The Tides, So Blood Calls To Blood

In my pocket, my brother's letter seethed as if a hornet's nest was trapped in its folds. Was the captain another of Ostred's creatures, sent to find me? Or was the godsblood ink warning me—like it had with the messenger—about the captain's final reward if I came aboard his ship? I wasn't sure, but either way I didn't like it. There was only one thing I should do.

Tiago noticed the set of Jaime's jaw and realized his brother's anger was but a low-banked ember on the verge of blazing to life.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Her Cage of Root and Bone

Podcast: Download (Duration: 26:13 — 18.01MB)
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We do not discuss, Nell and I.
From the Archives:
The Deepest Notes of the Harp and Drum
I killed my sister with my own two hands.
Issue #300, Special Double-Issue
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A special double-issue for BCS #300! Featuring two bonus novelettes, a bonus novella, and new cover art: “Arvandil” by Flavio Bolla.

The Hummingbird Temple

On the off-chance she might survive the night, she reached into one of the jade bowls and grabbed the elegantly shaped skull of a Royal Purple hummingbird. She slipped it into her pocket as a memento. Almost a decade of her life had been devoted to this model temple, since she first asked for hummingbirds for her fourteenth birthday, and now this skull was the only thing she had to show for it.

Kuikin glanced at Vertir. The Dynast dying was pretty much the definition of the worst thing it could be.
Uzumaki of the Lake

Kenji, once an itinerant priest, was now the abbot of his own small temple, albeit established on my own estates. Yet it was popular among the farmers, which had led Kenji, like myself, into being responsible for more than we ever imagined... or wanted.

I knew from long experience that yūrei could take on shapes not their own in the course of settling unfinished earthly business.
Bound by Sorrow

Dinga’s words faded into darkness, which suffused the camp. A discomfiting emptiness gnawed at him, one he’d arranged his entire life to avoid. Running from the hollowness of guilt, avoidance had become a way of life. He needed to reconnect with his forgotten lineage. And keep a promise.

“All I understand is that she wanted me to make this journey. Needed me to make it.”
To Balance the Weight of Khalem

He lifts the onion to the lantern’s lone light, and in it, I suddenly see: the goldwork towers and walls of the Old City; the broken bridge, jagged after a recent bombing yet still shining; rows of humble houses etched in ebullient metal; the curve and sway of the historical museum. I reach out my hand, and he drops the city into it. It feels warm in my palm.

Belowdecks on my berth, I eat everything in the ration packet, but I am not full.
Never a Butterfly, Nor a Moth With Moon-Painted Wings

The Ksmala do not deny us our butterflies. To them the brightscale wings are those of a celestial messenger, not the God and mystic that we see. But they did not often buy our embroidery unless we muted our butterfly rainbows. Because the Ksmala praised the virtue of industriousness, we had begun to sew black ants and golden-brown bees in neat soldier-rows at the edges of tablecloths and the corners of napkins.

Don't forget, daughter-mine. Embroider these things on your heart as well.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Uzumaki of the Lake

Podcast: Download (Duration: 29:10 — 20.03MB)
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I knew from long experience that yūrei could take on shapes not their own in the course of settling unfinished earthly business.
From the Archives:
The Crystal Stair, Pt. I
A gifted concubine must flee her emperor, but not without her infant son.
Issue #299 – Science-Fantasy Month 5
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Special double-issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 5, featuring three bonus stories and science-fantasy cover art “Investigate” by Andis Reinbergs.

The Sniper and I

They detached themself from the gun. The nerve cables retracted, including the one from my brainport, which tugged free with a tiny blossom of static. The sniper laid their weapon in its cocoon-like carry case, wiggled backward from the window, then came smoothly upright. They were small without the rifle.

One nerve cable was still in place, snaking from the gun into their skull.
Truth as a Prize

The Game had a new player, so Naomi found herself once more frozen in her place, one ghost among the many owned by the Game. Another chance. Another chance for some fool to die and take a place amongst the ghosts, but another chance for Naomi to guide a player to victory. Impossible to have one without the other.

The Game had a new player, so Naomi found herself once more frozen in her place, one ghost among the many owned by the Game.
Where the World Ends Without Us

Dozens of ghostly figures lit the fields around her--anchors like herself but far bigger, their bodies engorged on the grains’ anger and power, their massive fangs and claws ready to rip apart anyone who defiled the environment. And six years ago they had attacked this very house, to kill the day-fellow family hiding inside.

And now she was to be judged for her predecessor’s crimes?
Only the Messenger

“No,” Ennesta says. She walks toward me on her hind legs, unsteadily, other limbs wiggling awkwardly, and it occurs to me that not only is this the first time I’ve seen her navigate in gravity, it also looks like the first time she’s ever tried it. Or at least the first time in her current form. “I just haven’t told you things.”

I’d give three tentacles to be that lucky, just once.
Song of the Water Bear

We make our line at the farthest edge of the lifefrond, placing ourselves between it and the approaching creatures. I can taste salt-fear in the water around me. These are not rollers, the long whiplike creatures that slither through the water, eating our eggs and biting off our arms and tails. These are nothing we have seen before.

The new creatures find the lifefrond before any of our eggs have hatched.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Sniper and I

Podcast: Download (Duration: 25:23 — 17.44MB)
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One nerve cable was still in place, snaking from the gun into their skull.
From the Archives:
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories
Even though the chilled spring day promised nothing but beauty, the grains in Frere-Jones's body shivered to her sadness as she looked at the nearby dirt road.
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