Issues
Issue #341
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A Manslaughter of Crows

The moth-eaten republican institutions of ancient Eldshore had been re-tailored with egalitarian trappings by Pirate Empress Zayne fifty years ago, and officials were now Chosen every year by a thin slice of citizens. Zayne had labeled those who were eligible to stand for office, and to participate in the Choosing of the officers, the Free Brethren, in model of the Spiral Sea corsairs she’d dallied with in exile. She’d still been firmly in charge, but many decisions had been left to a consensus of the officers in much the manner of corsairs choosing their captains, or their targets.

(I, Shadowdrop, most exquisitely somber of black cats, am not wrong now.)
The Last Days of Summer in the City of Olives

Exmere was studying her as if seeing her, for the first time, as the woman of medicine she’d become. For a moment Luzetia wanted to press this advantage, to prove to him that Agata was in her past; that she was a different person, now, with different concerns. Then she remembered that she had not been aware of an influx of Woltani refugees into her city. The lesser evil was still an evil. She would look it in the face.

"Tell me, Maria," she said. "What is happening to our people?"
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Last Days of Summer in the City of Olives

Podcast: Download (Duration: 00:36:08 — 24.81MB)
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"Tell me, Maria," she said. "What is happening to our people?"
Audio Vault:
Every Tiny Tooth and Claw (or, Letters from the First Month of the New Directorate)

Podcast: Download (Duration: 00:27:45 — 19.06MB)
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Introduced by the author, discussing the story’s approach to characters and politics and to political systems.
From the Archives:
The Influence of the Iron Range
The Faery-Free Election Commission stands between you and the debacle of 1876. America will never have to fear again. Because of us.
Issue #340, Thirteenth Anniversary Double-Issue
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Thirteenth Anniversary Double-Issue! Featuring two bonus stories, a bonus new episode of the BCS Audio Vault podcast, and new cover art: “African Relic” by Godwin Akpan.

The Burning Girl

I held the candle before me where the Normans could see it. Its weight was potential; the wick beckoned. Already the spark rose up under my skin. Mother Ursula could not put a candle in my hand and expect I would do nothing. I touched the wick. The candle lit, a tongue of fire flaring and settling. "Mon Dieu." This was whispered by the wiry, chestnut-haired man standing to Sir Gilbert's right. The nuns made the sign of the cross. Sir Gilbert smiled.

I held the candle before me where the Normans could see it. Its weight was potential; the wick beckoned.
Stronger

Once upon a time, they were just them. But monstrous creatures from the north, crook-backed savages who shot from the saddle and ate babies, drove them from their homes until they reached the sea and had nowhere else to go. So they built ships, and eventually after many cruel wanderings they reached the Black Isle. It's a fertile country, they say, deep-soiled, well-watered. Left to themselves they'd have been happy there. But they didn't get vacant possession. He was there before them. They say he's nine feet tall with the body of a man and the head of a bull.

Love is the arrow that pins us down so we can't escape.
Nemesis and the Sorcerer

In the breathless tomb, Orios touched my shoulder and stood close, as if to comfort me, but before I could protest and tell him I feared only dying disgraceful as a badger in its den, that I shook not for fear but for the action, ready to die glorious and bright, fighting beside my love as all the gods adored, he whispered that I should look out the crack of the door; my eyes were keenest. That far at least he knew my worth and trusted it.

I would dare, and I would return to his embrace.
Song So Pure and Cruel

One star-bright night, I watch Bitta chase after fireflies. I experience a spike in my chest—a hot something I can’t name—at the sight of her, so delighted by them, not me. So I shift into a firefly myself, and I lead her to the edge of a precipice. She’s so amused by my weaving, dancing flight, that she doesn’t realize where she is. She falls.

I broke her. And while I love broken things, I realize that I do not love a broken Bitta.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Stronger

Podcast: Download (Duration: 1:10:51 — 48.66MB)
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Love is the arrow that pins us down so we can't escape.
Audio Vault:
The Mermaid Astronaut

Podcast: Download (Duration: 00:43:49 — 30.09MB)
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Introduced by the author, explaining the inspiration for the story and its ending note.
From the Archives:
Do Not Look Back, My Lion
“I will not feed another child to the Emperor. I will not.”
Issue #339
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In Case You’re the One to Devour a Star

When I travel to the monastery for the first time after our marriage, I bring Lilist with me. She has traded her silk gown and velvet cape for wool and furs at my advice, and only a jeweled broach, hairpin, and rings betray her status. The wind in the mountains is harsh without the shelter of the monastery’s walls and the heat of dragon breath. Thankfully, though, there is a well-traveled path.

Her voice is soft when she speaks, as if anything louder could aggravate my old wound.
A Bird in the Window

When Beatrix leaned forward, a story playing around one corner of her mouth, the dust came alive, the tower full of held breaths. When I sat at prayer, long hours of silence, the angels laughed at me from the windows of the chapel. I wandered through my thoughts like trees. Behind every tree an angel waited. They winked at me until I lost the path, until I couldn’t bear it, until I went back to the tower to meet her again.

I followed her up past the long hanging bell-ropes. At the top of the stairs, there was a landing.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
In Case You’re the One to Devour a Star

Podcast: Download (Duration: 00:33:01 — 22.68MB)
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Her voice is soft when she speaks, as if anything louder could aggravate my old wound.
From the Archives:
Forgive Me, My Love, for the Ice and the Sea
I made my way to Issheth, my boots crunching on the deck frost. Her eyes shone wet in the sunlight. Maybe it was the glare. Maybe it was not.
Issue #338
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The Shape of Wings and Feathers

For a moment, she considers repeating the spells that she tried before; it would be easy to give in to that desire, to assume stubbornly that everything she was taught in school will be the solution and that the spells might only require a second casting to work. But this is a test designed to weed the weak from the strong, and part of Bryce realizes that she must try something different.

But this is a test designed to weed the weak from the strong, and part of Bryce realizes that she must try something different.
Those Virtues, Those Poisons

"You feed on the loathing that you ask of your betters. You never ask for help. You are addicted to self-hate. Your fuel will undo you, son. Unless you find something better to burn. That, or remain lost. Let the jungle swallow my two sons, and let me have the mystery of your disappearance rather than the knowledge of your failure. At least then I can pretend you tried."

His voice fades as I wander further with you in my arms, the remnants of his derision lingering like smoke.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Shape of Wings and Feathers

Podcast: Download (Duration: 00:36:32 — 25.09MB)
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But this is a test designed to weed the weak from the strong, and part of Bryce realizes that she must try something different.
From the Archives:
Who Goes Against a Waste of Waters
We are the only ones left to herd the ghost-sheep.
Issue #337
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For Rain Is To Wet and Fire To Burn

They plunged into the orange glowing mouth of my kiln—yes, the whole choir dove straight into the fire. It blazed white and emitted a stench of burnt feathers. Then the angels were nothing but dark bodies going to ash, leaving me on my knees staring after them shocked and silenced in disbelief.

The angels plunged into the orange glowing mouth of my kiln.
The Bonfire of the Unknown and the Foreign

“Those with a husband would inflame the jealousy of the goddesses, and those who have never known loss would incite their rage.” It is one of the white-sareed women. Her lips are without paint and her hair is hidden under the drape of her saree. My companions at the bonfire have taken several bodily steps away from her. The effect is comical. It is as if she is a snow-white horse wading through the brown and black mud of us unknown and foreign types.

Everyone is welcome—even us unknown and foreign types—to partake in the grace, so long as we leave the village right after.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
For Rain Is To Wet and Fire To Burn

Podcast: Download (Duration: 00:35:11 — 24.16MB)
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The angels plunged into the orange glowing mouth of my kiln.
From the Archives:
The Black-Eyed Goddess of Apple Trees and Farmers’ Wives
My favorite story as a child was the one about the farmer who slits open his wife’s belly and plants an apple tree amongst her insides.
Issue #336
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Featuring a giveaway for a copy of the We’re Here anthology, edited by BCS authors C.L. Clark and Charles Payseur, and new cover art: “The Kingdom of Alexandria” by Jérôme Comentale.

What the Wind Saw

“Why not?" I demanded. "What am I supposed to remember?” So Zephyrus knew the truth after all. I grabbed his arm, well aware I might offend him and frustrated beyond belief that they shared some secret I did not. “Leave Kallias be. It was my idea to come. He follows my orders.” When Zephyrus didn’t acknowledge me, I added, “The wind sees all. The wind knows all. That’s what Thamyris told me.”

A chill overcame me, and I was certain it was not the god’s doing. The wind saw.
A Theatre

O Albany! O pure comfort! After so many days in a down-at-heels cart on a dusty road through wretched weather (to say nothing of the food), to have now, at last—well, not bathed, precisely (a mishap he planned to repair later), but to at least have made an acquaintance with the sponge; to have at last donned clean clothes, a new wig, a respectable hat—why, he was, himself, shaved and shorn and sprightful, a bit long of face and short of leg, perhaps; his hair, or what showed from under the wig, at best mousy; yet here he was, Mr Augustus Burnham, the very spitting image of the exquisite gentleman (if one might politely overlook the scar that plowed a red furrow across cheek and brow); an actor's rôle to be played, without a doubt, but one that fitted him to the skin, like silken stockings on a well-turned leg. (But what was to be done about Sergeant Steele?)

Burnham had found himself unwilling to cozen honest, upright citizens with any of their cargo of false notes.
From the Archives:
Liaisons Galantes: A Scientific Romance
Galanteries did invariably appear whenever one truly loved another... even, as Zéphine well knew, if that love was unwanted and inconvenient.
Issue #335
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Featuring a giveaway for a copy of BCS author Josh Rountree’s new short story collection Fantastic Americana: Stories.

The God Skrae Eats Death

We realized why the scouts were so shaken by the scene when we arrived. The body lying in grasses smeared with blood was a Mandate. I stared at it in disbelief. Mandates were the voice of the gods. Even during the War, they gave their oracles without partiality and remained untouched. No one, not even a deathmage, would kill a Mandate.

We realized why the scouts were so shaken by the scene when we arrived.
Faithful Delirium

The conviction of the flesh weakened when that flesh was hacked away. Conducting a thousand interrogations of his own taught him that. Belief came easily in times of comfort. Contemplation and reflection were petty offerings to the goddess when weighed against the truth of how her glory needed to spread. People did not know what they needed until you forced them to see it. And sometimes they were particularly stubborn in the process.

“Burn them all!” The command had not come in a lucid moment. But he recognized its passion and necessity all the same.
From the Archives:
Dead at the Feet of a God
The portents float at the edge of your vision, haunt your dreams, shake themselves free with each throwing of the bones.
Issue #334
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Featuring a giveaway for a copy of BCS author Charles Payseur’s new short story collection The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories.

The Lingering Weight of Estrian Steel

What Stafe left unspoken was what had been gnawing at him since he’d met Viktor. By remaining in Ofra, Stafe had become a traitor to the Crown. Viktor, if he chose to be an upstanding and honorable knight, could right that wrong. Stafe’s head could sit beside the dragon’s organs for Viktor's journey home and would surely earn him more titles, lands, and the king’s favor.

“I failed. I fell down the mountain, mere bloody meat with the faint memory of a mind.”
A Land of Saints and Monsters

Ah, but he can. I can already feel his words curling through me like roots, the magic woven into them as real as my own. These are the words of a master to a slave. These are my reward, the price I paid for leaving the dervish, Ilyas. For Armen.

I release the rib. My power snakes up the monster’s spine.
From the Archives:
The Crow Knight
“The birds?” Ser Wynn looked around, but the only bird she saw was her own.
Issue #333
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For the World’s More Full of Weeping

“No, there’s no living there,” Tarrow said, more gently. “Not for anyone who wants to be human. They’re fascinated by life, just like humans are fascinated by death and raise up doctors to fight it and gods to preside over it. But that fascination doesn’t make the fair folk alive. It merely makes them cruel.”

The most beautiful tree on the road up to Limhill was the old oak they used for hangings, and it knew it.
The Witness Brûska Lai

Brû could not imagine what that was like. She had spent her life hearing of the Palace of Confluence with no sense of what it actually was, always a far-off storybook feeling. To be a servant here, to live the mirror of that feeling and know reality was out there, shaped by the everyday work done in the Confluence but to never see it—was it bizarre? Cruel? Another kind of normal?

Brû was beginning to feel that something more than chance had brought her to the Confluence.
From the Archives:
The Six Skills of Madame Lumiere
And like so many others, what the Rust Lords like best is exactly what we have.
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