Issue #262, Tenth Anniversary Month Double-Issue II

The second of two special double-issues for the month of our tenth anniversary, featuring four stories, a guest-narrated podcast, and new cover art: “King of Ruins” by Mats Minnhagen.

The Tale of the Scout and the Pachydormu

The Poet Laureate was fetched from his retirement in a lighthouse on the far shore of the Founder Mer to compose a song of eighty-six interlocked stanzas like steps on a stairway spiraling down into a cool dim quiet. But on the forty-seventh stanza of its recitation, the Governor squinted into the space over the Poet's shoulder and said, "listen, any deeper and we shall hear the words those beasts sing as they pass" and demanded that the previous stanzas be read in reverse; "back to the surface," he said.

The Crow Knight

On one of her rests, Ser Wynn checked the banyo tree; the Lady Loreen had taken an ax to its mouth, destroying its ability to tattle on her evening disappearances. It was then that Wynn knew that Loreen held inside her a rage like that she herself had experienced in her fight with the king father’s bear. The kind of rage that she knew would burn her up if she let it.

Magic Potion Behind-the-Mountains

The magistrate thinks he will go mad. What does it matter what exact angle his wrist must be turned at? But Grandmother Seung scowls at him; opens her mouth to start repeating herself about the need to be present, for the awareness of his intentions in the potion, and if he cannot be aware of his own body’s workings in this last crucial stage of the magic potion, then how will he rein and discipline his mind for the task?

The Tragedy of Zayred the Splendid

With that she swept her cloak around her and walked smoothly to the door. All eyes watched her. She opened it, sending a skirl of sleet across the threshold, and stepped out into the blizzard. The assembled crowd waited, more than one of them expecting her to pause in the doorway to make some last dramatic pronouncement, but she only drew her hood over her face against the wind and disappeared into the dark. But the story spread...

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Magic Potion Behind-the-Mountains

Podcast: Download (Duration: 43:35 — 29.93MB)
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But the magistrate firmly believes that this pursuit will pay off. He will learn the secret magic potion, and he will be vindicated.
From the Archives:
The Telling
The bees' feet had pricked, Mel remembered, and their fur had tickled as they marched across cheek and through lips, teeth, and tongue.
Issue #261, Tenth Anniversary Month Double-Issue I

The first of two special double-issues for the month of our tenth anniversary, featuring four stories, a guest-narrated podcast, new cover art “King of Ruins” by Mats Minnhagen, and a giveaway for a signed Caroline M. Yoachim short fiction collection.


Out the cat door I found two hellsnouts remaining below the tower, hopeful of a good rending. I puzzled again as to who—or what—had made the beasts, and why they increasingly threatened our city. Archaeopolis was older than recorded history, and the underground coughed up ancient horrors the way other soil might reveal arrowheads or potshards. But of late, creatures stalked the open air that had no counterpart in story or scroll. Even a black cat might be mildly concerned.

Court of Birth, Court of Strength

Samariel took in a deep, trembling breath. Asmodeus was watching him, with that distant, amused curiosity, the sketch lightly resting in the palm of his hand. That smell came again, orange blossom, with something else, something tangier and more acidic. Lemon; lime?

Ruby, Singing

“Let me go, Poppa,” I said. "I'll watch out for our interests." I wouldn’t say more. Brac said nothing, but he smiled for the first time. He had dimples, like you do, child. And that was my second mistake, noticing them. For Father's eyes narrowed further.

We Ragged Few

I looked at them each. Hard, well-blooded men and women: those wearing Talgrun’s iron yoke, eager to break it, and those with faces tattooed as mine was with the seventeenth knot, the sign of our holding. The fiercest of the holdings, the strongest. We who had lifted our beam half a league from the narrow place, unknowing; who had been harried by the gray more than any other holding and never broken.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Ruby, Singing

Podcast: Download (Duration: 1:00:24 — 41.48MB)
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There are some in Quadril who will call that my first mistake. They'd be wrong, my child.
From the Archives:
The Sword of Loving Kindness, Pt. I
“If this is meant to deter me,” Persimmon Gaunt said, clutching her rope beneath Bone, “I’m deterred.”
Issue #260
Ancestor Night

Jasna was silent as we completed the Ancestor Night rituals and songs and laid the wreaths over our parents. On the way back to the house, we walked unspeaking, joined by the dark figures of others who had finished their rituals. Jasna walked apart from us, as she had since last spring, and the rest of us linked hands.

It’s Easy to Shoot A Dog

For months she prayed for a puppy, but God did not relent, and one chill October morning she wandered off into the forest to find a pup herself. She was seven years old, hemmed in on all sides by chores and rules and commandments, her brother scampering in her wake. As always, she was supposed to watch him, the louse, same as every day since he’d been born.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Ancestor Night

Podcast: Download (Duration: 15:55 — 10.93MB)
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As the oldest, I had to make sure I and my four sisters and little brother gave greetings to our parents in their first year under the ice.
From the Archives:
Dirt Witch
Dorota crept up between the porch's pillars, raised her hand to knock, and heard from inside the sound of a man shrieking.
Issue #259
Cold Ink

The cold burn of electricks stung Hester, like the touch of wires bearing a live current—exactly where the cancerous ink had invaded her flesh. But Verity screamed outright, again and again, each fleck of raw iron sparking with electrick discharge as it touched her skin. No, not Verity, Hester realized. The screams came from the patterns of black ink on Verity’s skin. The shapes tore free, each springing into a surreal semblance of life.

Periling Hand

He drove their bov wagon, standing up behind the storage box and nudging the beastmind along through the sett’s covered passages, delivering La Chanda’s sporecake dishes all over the sett, his new arm itching where his flesh met the dull sculptwood, its spirit, its immanence, not woken from bloom and fully mated to his yet. That morning, everywhere he drove he heard about the murder that wasn’t murder but business done by different name. “A dead incast in Pingree. Shot, tche.”

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Periling Hand

Podcast: Download (Duration: 32:20 — 22.21MB)
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That morning, everywhere he drove he heard about the murder that wasn’t murder but business done by different name. “A dead incast in Pingree. Shot, tche.”
From the Archives:
The Inked Many
Whereas even to the Inked Man it sounded like he had said "Boom," it wasn't actually what he’d whispered.
Issue #258
The Wyvern Rider and Those of the Land

There is an ache within the Captain. A silence where a voice of wonder and curiosity should speak. The absence left when the Machaenum stole their soul of air with a blade of liquid light. Veled, the fourth quarter of their being, who had longed for the vastness of the world. Now they are only three.

Shattered Hand

Kayta withdrew her arm from the thick liquid, the leather straps that bound the amputation now jet black. Salt peppered my carapace; near-misses kicked up sand sprays. Kayta, shielded for the moment, crouched, drew deep breaths. I picked up her detached hand, held it against my thorax.

From the Archives:
The Wizard’s House
The clouds began to glow around us, and slowly the schools of jellies dropped and came into view.
Issue #257

Featuring new cover art: “Swamp Relic” by Piotr Dura

A Legacy of Shadows

A moment longer, Rallos watches in disgusted fascination as the vile man-beast's body twitches and lurches as he puts his muscles into grinding something in a large mortar and pestle before him. Reagents, no doubt, for some rite or malicious magick.

Old No-Eyes

Most of the teeth in his jaw didn’t belong to him—after one-hundred and eighty years and a small mountain of corpses, he lied through other people’s teeth. He’d pulled them out of the mouths of other mages, mostly dead ones.

From the Archives:
The Castle That Jack Built
He knew there was more to the story he’d told Greta. Not just later, not just the forgotten ending.
Issue #256
Drawing The Barriers

Nonar leafed through the pages of the notebook, trying to connect with the long-ago long-dead engineer who had worked with a different magic to sew worlds together. The drawings there were precise. Free. Accurate. Really, what harm would it do if she drew? What harm would it do if she couldn’t draw?

Flesh and Stone

Perrin would have preferred to cleave off his own fingers rather than accept the commission the count was asking of him. But Marie was waiting, and she had made a request. “My wife believes that by seeing one of my statues, she might love me. If you would let her come to the château, see one of them...”

From the Archives:
The Breath of War
She would have run, but her legs betrayed her—a contraction, locking her in place, as frozen as the baby within her womb.
Issue #255
Speak Easy, Suicide Selkies

And then she was running after the retreating ocean waves as they sheeted from the beach, as it curled under like an enormous sunlit tongue. Louise jumped into the color, into the wet, certain she had never seen anything so beautiful, until the skin, emboldened by the water, swallowed her whole.

The Scrimshander

A wind picked up, and a half-torn poster of the Scrimshander flapped on a lamppost. The caricaturist walked over to it, reached out to rip it up into pieces. One word was partially legible above the face, and the way the poster flapped in the wind made the word there, gone, there, gone, as if flashing. Strike

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Scrimshander

Podcast: Download (Duration: 15:27 — 10.61MB)
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He stared into the flickering eyes of the monster he'd drawn, hypnotized, stricken, and his shivering stopped as grief became anger.
From the Archives:
I much desire to drink myself into blackness with a flask of the grog I trade for but I have my daughter with me and a man cannot live who loses his daughter due to insensibility or slowness of reaction.
Issue #254

Featuring new cover art: “Mace Landscape” by Mihály Nagy

The Sweetness of Honey and Rot

Jiteh remembers when Gurteh, father of the spring's tithe, broke down sobbing and refused to drink. The sloths skinned him as they had the tithe and added his flesh to the broth. Each villager was then made to drink two spoonfuls. No one has refused since.

Three Dandelion Stars

Amarine wanted to plant a garden and was wild with her plans. Shai watched her wife's lips as she went on and on about which vegetables would winter well. Amarine had chipped a tooth yesterday while chopping wood, and it gave her beauty a feral quality. Now she looked dangerous, and Shai liked catching glimpses of it while she talked.

From the Archives:
Stitched Wings
Rowan hadn't been lying when he said his queen was the best liar of all, but Madeline knew that was only because he hadn't met her mother.