Issues from 2009
Five-Time Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine
Issue #24August 27, 2009

Sorrow’s Blade

Meurig scrambled to his feet, confused. “Your pardon, that I missed prayers,” he said to Father Ambrose. “My heart is too heavy for my words to rise.”  He had pierced the skin of worlds, however briefly. Now Rhiannon was a sword again, and Caedmon would die.

Father’s Kill

The bite of winter spins in and Father whirls on all fours to face the doorway. Beyond, the night is almost here. He barks, then shakes his pelt into place and trots out into the darkness. His tracks stand stark in the snow and the moonlight.

"A child's worst nightmare realized.  Recommended."  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Winner of the 2009 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Prince’s Shadow
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My hands were reading the elaborate carvings on the fireplace when I heard two halting footsteps behind me.
Issue #23August 13, 2009

Between Two Treasons

Unified by poison—by the power of the elder’s will—the ragged line of sorcerers dissolved, passing through a ring of tall stone stelae carved with human shapes. Nods and mumbled words shaped tenuous alliances along demarcations of homeland and creed. The buzzards found perches among the empty seats. This, Periphas realized, is why Eurytus waited. The humans would fight, exhaust themselves to within inches of death; then the centaurs would gallop in, laughing.

"has a strong sense of urgency, and the ending deliberately defies conventional reader expectations"   —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Oil Fire

Oh, poor Enanatuma! We had been estranged long before my banishment. I had seen her only once since the day ten years ago when I had given up dancing and devoted all my energies to magic. I had done her a favor in return for the thousand kindnesses she and her father had shown me and had intended never to see her again. But she was still my sister.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Blighted Heart
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His eyes, shining yellow in the night, were the ones I remembered from the day I had lost my heart.
Issue #22July 30, 2009

Blighted Heart

I felt the first cut like a violation. Pain burst in my chest, would not cease. I screamed and screamed until my voice was raw. No. No. I never asked for this! I saw a priest lift out a bloody, pulsating thing dizzyingly high above me, and a sensation of emptiness spread from the hole in my chest and swallowed me.

The Prince’s Shadow

Blindness taught me to use my other senses and trust in portents, balancing the evidence of sound, touch, smell and taste against the ambiguous suggestions I sometimes received in dreams or in waking. The Sisters praised God for granting me self-sufficiency even as they forbade me to speak of my ‘visions’ to strangers. Needless to say, when the king’s sister arrived in person on a warm morning in the early summer of my twelfth year, demanding to see their blind charge and claiming we had met in a dream, the Sisters were mightily confused.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Walking Out
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For a second or two Creeper just strained against our hold, pale eyes locked and empty on the horizon.
Issue #21July 16, 2009

Thieves of Silence

The song became a chant, slow and rhythmic as a sleeping heart. The dance wove together three women, then four, then one alone with steel in her hand. Zel dreamed on her feet, free of pain, comfortable with the prospect of death. The white bed, the rubied throat. Two of the sisters went away into the darkness beyond the ring of fire. When they returned, they bore a white ghost between them. A white-feathered ghost with yellow eyes that burned brighter than the flames.

Locus Recommended Reading List, 2009

"a rich net of betrayal and maneuvering, shifting loyalties, unexpected emotional responses"  —Rich Horton, Locus

"Recommended"  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Honorable Mention, Year's Best SF 27 (ed. Gardner Dozois)

Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2009

Walking Out

Then Sunshine had his hand on Creeper’s shoulder, and in another ten fighting strides Thiever and I were there too, forming a wall between him and the emptiness beyond. Holding his arms, we braced our feet in the living sand and hauled back toward town. Did I mention distance is funny out there? It seemed a very long way back.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Bone House
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 34:12 — 23.49MB)
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I am my father’s son, poisoned by the same rituals that have turned his flesh to rock.
Issue #20July 02, 2009

The Land of Empty Shells

The rest of the birthing was hard work, but painless. Dziko and Terra sprinkled water over the clay to soften it and kneaded the flesh together until there was no way to separate his riverbed brown from her sunset orange. Then they divided the babyflesh into two equal pieces, soon to be their children.

The Bone House

I am an ugly thing of flesh and stone. My eyes, like glittering points of quartz, peer out from beneath the ridges, dark as coal, that protrude from my cheeks and forehead. I am my father’s son, poisoned by the same rituals that have turned his flesh to rock and that have already begun to do the same to me.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Mansion of Bones
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 48:21 — 33.2MB)
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I know it was wrong of me to savor the look of fear on Kenji's face, but some temptations are not to be resisted.
Issue #19June 18, 2009

The Mansion of Bones

Kenji began to chant. It might have been a passage from the Diamond Sutra; I was not pious enough to know one book of Buddhist scripture from another, but Kenji, despite his flaws, knew nearly all of them and could recite the appropriate passages at will. Which he was doing now. The shadow moved away from us toward the outbuilding as we stepped out onto the rear veranda, always keeping the structure to its back, or such I judged its back to be. It was hard to be certain with something so close to formless.

"Recommended"  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Honorable Mention, Year's Best SF 27 (ed. Gardner Dozois)

One of the Ten Best Fantasy Stories of 2009  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Havoc

And then some nights we’d cross the river. Cumberan soldiers would discover that someone had insinuated flux-weed into their pottage greens, and in the dark end up with handfuls of nettles with which to wipe. Baskets, lobbed into a bivouac as supper was served, broke apart, freeing swarms of hornets. Spores of certain fungi, introduced into casks of wine, sent soldiers shrieking and stumbling in panic through the woods. And the polecats....

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Haxan
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Her words got me to thinking about my past. What there was to remember.
Issue #18June 04, 2009

Wolf’s Clothing

We settled in a semicircle, me facing the others, just far enough outside the ravine that the smell of wolfsbane and their sweat covered all traces of sheep's blood on me. I knelt on one knee, ready to leap away. The shepherds clustered behind Nydor, all but one of the men, who stood apart, an arrow nocked and ready. "What are you?"

Thistles and Barley

I get up and go to my old war chest. I wipe down the carved top once a week, but when I open it dust wafts up from the inside. My weapons are all well put away, but the metal looks dull from dust sticking to the oil. I kneel. The scent reminds me of an attic, of things forgotten. I pull a sleeve over my hand and wipe the dust away. It leaves a shiny spot and a greasy stain on my cuff. It’s just a work shirt but the stain bothers me.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
System, Magic, Spirit
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 31:41 — 21.76MB)
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There's nothing better than low-ranking, fad-following royalty for extinguishing any last desire to even bother fighting for one's life against other wizards in the Ring.
Issue #17May 21, 2009

The Tinyman and Caroline

It came to Jabey that Sloan’d never looked at these glasses in proper light; what if they were just a cheap shiny? But the sudden sharp panic receded as he pulled them from his pocket and unwrapped the linen. They were indeed a tiny pair of opera glasses, with a simplicity and a heft about them that suggested expense.

Honorable Mention, Year's Best SF 27 (ed. Gardner Dozois)

System, Magic, Spirit

But experience had taught me that dissertations on magical systems are incredibly dull for all save the oblivious nincompoop who actually believes anyone wants to listen. No, when people ask you what you 'do', all they really want is a snappy line or two they can repeat over dinner later. Well, to hell with that.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Sacrifice Pit
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 34:56 — 23.99MB)
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She was beautiful. But it was forbidden, in the eyes of the Tetharan.
Issue #16May 07, 2009

The Sacrifice Pit

Sanquor shook his head. How could such foolishness, such misunderstanding, have taken root? Of course the thoravids had to be destroyed; of course any trace of them had to be scourged. They were an abomination in the sight of the Tetharan.

Clockwork Heart, Clockwork Soul

The Doctor looked back at us, his expression equal parts contempt and amusement. "I accept your commission," he said. "Come back in a month, on the night before the dedication, and not before. You shall have your clockwork man. Whether the demon you have bargained with accepts him, well, that is not my affair."

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Driftwood
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 28:44 — 19.74MB)
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She would probably die before her world did.