Issues from 2020
Issue #318
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The Garden Where No One Ever Goes

My jug is still dry. My magic has always been difficult, complicated, messy. In my mother's parlor, all my will can barely manage a droplet. Even by the banks of the sacred Cantara, I gave up and drew my water with a bucket. But in the garden, when I'm with you, magic is so simple that it seems to happen on its own.

I meet you in the middle of the night in the garden where no one goes. 
After Me, The Flood

My city trembled and screamed as the waves battered the granite. The wall still held when the storm waned, but the sea-quake had frightened us all. That night, as soon as my hands stopped shaking, I wrote a letter to my father, asking him to send a magician. I sealed it with the imprint of my thumb in the warm wax; he always said that a caress, even at a remove, was better than a cold signet.

I was still not my mother. But all I could hear now was the sea, whispering in a rhythm that matched my heartbeat and slid under my teeth.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Garden Where No One Ever Goes

Podcast: Download (Duration: 14:22 — 9.87MB)
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I meet you in the middle of the night in the garden where no one goes. 
From the Archives:
Two Bodies in Basting Stitch
Sere wouldn’t be able to send letters.
Issue #317
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Featuring new cover art: “Sunset in the Village” by Avant Choi.

The Science and Artistry of Snake Oil Salesmanship

The jail cell’s not the least comfortable place Al’s slept. There’s a cot and a blanket and a chamber pot. Could be worse. The sheriff must be a decent enough sort, if a tad suspicious for a snake oil salesman’s liking. Al’s not concerned, though. The sheriff may not have sampled the elixir, but near enough everyone else in town did. Come morning, the townsfolk will all be better than ever. If the sheriff refuses to let Al go, they’ll push him to do the right thing.

If there’s one thing that Aloysius has learned over his years selling snake oil: the stuff's a damn sight easier to sell when it actually works.
A Feast from Tile and Stone

Two days ago, Gastel had walked through the floor plan of the Last Pudding with his sous chef, who was working architect and chief mason. There was a terrible friction, Gastel knew, any time you dragged something out of a dream and into mortal life. Things ruptured. Things were scraped away. One felt terribly small, living for so long with a vision and finally settling for an earthbound knockoff. He had carried this vision longer than any other. With three slow breaths, he wished it farewell. He turned the corner into the great hall.

The soup, the glaze, the labyrinth— All around Chef Gastel Dillegrout, cooks shouted, pots clattered, kindling crackled in ovens. The soup, the glaze, the labyrinth—
From the Archives:
The War of Light and Shadow, in Five Dishes
(I like to pause here too, to let a different note creep into my voice, now that we have laughed, now that we have agreed to forget. This is not only a story.)
Issue #316
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The Gwyddien and the Raven Fiend

“Enough!” Llewyn shut his eyes. When he opened them the veil returned, bathing the world again in mortal normalcy. He stared at the space above the altar, where he knew the raven fiend still crouched, hidden from him now. Still watching him. Old and powerful enough, he hoped, to consider him little threat.

Boundaries he had been created to defend, long ago, on a dark night buried in cold earth, with ghostwood and silver biting his flesh...
A Land of Blood and Snow

While we waited for the hourglass, the blacksmith dug a line in the snow with the heel of his boot. This would be the starting point. Until the final grain of sand fell to the bottom, the prince could not cross it. Some of the older boys had once told me that the sand inside was the long dead ashes of Dracula himself, but I don’t know if I truly believe them.

There is no safety for us anymore in the waxing and waning of the moon.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Land of Blood and Snow

Podcast: Download (Duration: 29:59 — 20.59MB)
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There is no safety for us anymore in the waxing and waning of the moon.
From the Archives:
Father’s Kill
I lock both Father and the night away.
Issue #315
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Girls with Needles and Frost

That I want her to come back. That I'm not sure her contacts will trust me. That I'm not able to balance being me and being an informant for Maksim and not telling Elzbet anything and sewing violet stars and leading a silent revolution. That I'm not sure I can see it through to the end alone. That all of this may be the price that the dragon demands, even if it isn't here yet and may never come. That maybe the only way forward is to let the pressure chew you up until there's nothing left, and that's how you win.

We stitch the violet stars in secret.
Degeneration

I had to remonstrate with the Artisans over the coffin. They wanted to apply only four layers of lacquer, arguing with great impudence that it would suffice. I informed them with no uncertain terms that, though the Barbarians were at the gate, this was no license to degenerate to the level of savages ourselves. Seven coats of lacquer should be considered a bare minimum, and for the quality of wood I have supplied and the cost of the preparations, some might consider seven coats sparing. I have started to regret engaging them.

But all too soon the mocking voice of reason intruded. It was a trap, I realised.
From the Archives:
Every Tiny Tooth and Claw (or: Letters from the First Month of the New Directorate)
I don't want to make all our letters about shrews, love, but... I've attached a table I'd like to see filled out with different properties of the shrews and their venom. Thank you!
Issue #314
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Eyetooth

Gaunt folded her arms and studied Bone in partial jest, but only partial. “I will tell you a thing, Imago. The more fully you live, the more ridicule you get... and the more admirers too. There are those who long to become big by knocking others down. But there are those who long to grow. By growing yourself, you help them. What if you are not a 'thief' but a quick-thinking man who steals at times—but at other times also saves? What if the second quality defined you and not the first?”

“You think this is a trap?” Bone said. “Could the cackling skull have steered us wrong?”
The Drowned God’s Heresy

Gorel could smell the sea. It was always there, the water like a black mirror, upon which glided the enormous black ships with the seven-pointed star on their hulls. From time to time spells crackled in the air above the port. Wind-mages and speakers-to-whales and astrologer-navigators and sun-talkers and battle-sorcerers with the power to level whole cities. Goliris’s fleets sailed across the World and brought the civilising influence of the empire to its furthest reaches. They came back laden with the World’s goods; with all the riches the World had to offer.

Now, forever exiled, he sought his home, his birth right, his throne. He would not rest until he found it.
From the Archives:
The Delusive Cartographer
“Between you and I, the administrative policies of this prison are rather a mess.”
Issue #313, Twelfth Anniversary Double-Issue
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A double-issue to celebrate our twelfth anniversary, with two bonus stories, a bonus podcast episode, and new cover art: Colossus by Vladimir Manyukhin.

Many Mansions

There's no higher incidence of witchcraft in the gentry, and so the oppressed-and-victimised theory doesn't convince me. Myself, I figure that anyone, man or woman, who has the talent but isn't identified and whisked off to the Studium at age ten to be taught polite behaviour would naturally use such powers to bully and torment others because that's human nature for you. Let any man pick up a stick and he'll use it to hit someone else, unless the other man's got a stick too.

My colleagues and I, however, are civilised, educated men.
A Minor Exorcism

I couldn’t blame Kenji for that. The weight of my current position could only be avoided temporarily, not put aside at will. I was now the head of my own clan and responsible for a vast estate. My life was no longer solely my own, and in truth I would not have changed that fact for the world, but sometimes it was pleasant, for a little while, to pretend otherwise.

A more tunnel-like hole had been dug into some of the graves, possibly to test them for the freshness of the corpses.
The Heart That Saves You May Be Your Own

You eat and you eat, too hungered to fuss over the blood scent in your nose. Though what’s a little blood between you and the prairie? Blood is the binding between hunting and womanhood, and yet, and yet, the dress the virgin bride wears is white, no matter how much she hunts or menstruates. White dresses are impossible to keep clean on the prairie. White dresses lie.

You carry a rifle and a dream of a white dress. You sleep under the stars. You hunt.
A Tally of What Remains

They died, or they didn’t, and Helena burned them or handed their things back before they headed down the road to fight for a place among the farmsteads and ranches that didn’t want the cities’ survivors. Her oldest brother and sister-in-law, they’d been good at celebrating the small victories, but she didn’t have the knack.

They died, or they didn’t, and Helena burned them or handed their things back before they headed down the road.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Minor Exorcism

Podcast: Download (Duration: 39:23 — 27.05MB)
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A more tunnel-like hole had been dug into some of the graves, possibly to test them for the freshness of the corpses.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Heart That Saves You May Be Your Own

Podcast: Download (Duration: 31:46 — 21.82MB)
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You carry a rifle and a dream of a white dress. You sleep under the stars. You hunt.
From the Archives:
Told By An Idiot
He put his head on one side and thought for a moment. Rather, he acted thought; I wouldn't have given him a job.
Issue #312
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Deep in the Drift, Spinning

A pause only Winnifletch herself notices, a twinge in her guts as she unsacks the gull that Gert Mews has lugged to her sea-spindle shack. Dazed but not dead, the bird crawks down onto her workbench. Think of shearwater honey, Winni tells herself, with predictions truer than gold. She grabs its fat fluttersome breast. Jams it wings-and-all between her vise’s steel jaws. Holds firm. Don’t think of shattered sailors.

A pause only Winnifletch herself notices, a twinge in her guts as she unsacks the gull that Gert Mews has lugged to her sea-spindle shack.
The Patron

Outside, the cries of the blood locusts swelled, as they would until month's end. These creatures writhed below ground for seven years before breaching the surface to feast on fruits and flesh alike. It was during the prior plague that she'd set foot in this shanty for the first time, foolish and desperate, in search of her own bloody accord. By the daemons' whispers, it would be during another such plague—this one, with any luck—that she'd regain her freedom. But if the daemons lied, or if her replacement failed to arrive—

The Patron grimaced. As if a plate of millet would heal these wounds any more than a pint of water would slake the desert's thirst.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Deep in the Drift, Spinning

Podcast: Download (Duration: 45:19 — 31.12MB)
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A pause only Winnifletch herself notices, a twinge in her guts as she unsacks the gull that Gert Mews has lugged to her sea-spindle shack.
From the Archives:
Through the Doorways, Whiskey Chile
He sloshed to the side of the tunnel, toward thick strips of skin raised up like steps on a station platform, a foot or two above the river of hooch.
Issue #311
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Featuring two giveaways for a copy of BCS author R.B. Lemberg’s new book The Four Profound Weaves.

The Past, Like a River In Flood

It was a very strange feeling to be past forty and creeping about my old college quad under cover of darkness with my old college advisor who was bald, had a bad knee, and usually went to bed at half eight. Were it not for the flooded Potions Vault and its hauntings, I think Jermiah would have retired five years since, but he had to see it through, and now the only way he could see to do that was to bring me in. My stomach twisted, that I was his last hope.

They'd built a new Vault of Potions after the flood—of course they'd had to, with the thaumatically cursed mess that had become of the old one.
Doorway, Smile, Kiss, Fox

Somewhere within me must be memories I could call my own. But how am I to extricate them from the cacophony of other voices, other visions? Layered over the person I once was are a hundred thousand half-remembered dreams, stories, glories, losses. All the pieces that will be passed on again when I am dead; the secret history of my life stowed away in my blood's enormous cargo.

I have wondered these past two years which of us would meet our end first—myself or the city.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Doorway, Smile, Kiss, Fox

Podcast: Download (Duration: 38:53 — 26.7MB)
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I have wondered these past two years which of us would meet our end first—myself or the city.
From the Archives:
Wooden Boxes Lined with the Tongues of Doves
We dry the tongues on butcher's paper beside the stove. Once desiccated, they barely have a scent.
Issue #310
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Featuring new cover art: “Valley of the Fallen” by Alexey Shugurov.

Fire and Falling

Mir slept lightly that night, her back to the bulkhead and a knife in her hand. In that strange region between sleep and waking, a curious doubling overtook her thoughts; an awareness of things her reasoning mind would never have accepted. She woke in a sweat, gasping. Dogwood was still asleep. Even so, Mir felt the pressure of eyes, or the focused awareness of something that lacked them. The feeling was—what? Reassuring? Comforting?

“If you ever bet,” Mir said, “I bet you cheat.”
The Transubstantiation

The story was always the same. Trapped in a world that could never match their expectations, they were doomed to break everything they found in the hopes of making it perfect. At my nod, a crossbow bolt slammed into Bao's chest. Normally, his hero's skin would've been proof against such a tawdry missile, but the steel for Sthis' quarrels had been quenched in saints' blood, the bolt propelled by the bones and sinew of martyrs. And if that wasn't enough, it had been coated in enough coldwillow sap to drop a team of oxen.

Trapped in a world that could never match their expectations, they were doomed to break everything in the hopes of making it perfect.
From the Archives:
Laws of Night and Silk
They pass through everything that will be lost if they fail.
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