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.
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.
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.
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.
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.