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“The Finest Spectacle Anywhere,” by Genevieve Valentine
I was a plant in the crowd to drum up excitement. Boss stayed in the tent all show and gasped during the finale when Elena “fell” and only caught herself by one foot in the very last second. I could hardly keep from laughing at the rubes that panicked and then applauded three times as loud as they would have if it had all been perfect. Elena and the others had Boss’s copper bones–what could happen to them that couldn’t be mended?
“Buzzard’s Final Bow,” by Jason S. Ridler
They ran through the tumbles and bumps, grips and leaps, Buzzard tossing and turning with Razor as she barely noticed, thrashing about to make it look real. And as they tussled on the ground, Buzzard snaking his python choke around Razor’s mighty furred neck, he spied the balcony. All the children were leaning over, pointing and laughing, ignoring Lady Astra, who smiled and nodded, then shoved Konrad hard through the stone rail–
“The Fairy Gaol,” by Heather Fawcett, from BCS #66
I do not want his scrutiny now, with the cool blade of the dagger pressing against my thigh. On the nearest dance path, a woman laughs as a fat prince covers her ears and throat with wet kisses. I feign interest as he spins her across the path, through the starlight that pours into the atrium. Unbidden, I picture our last dance together, on a night so similar and so different.
He’d called her excellent! Four’s heart soared, and she sped up to keep pace with the music’s racing beat. Oh, let them watch. Let them ooh and aah, them with their foul stinking breath. Even when sweat rolled down their noses and fell to her platform in large blobs, splashing so she had to jump out of the way, she never flinched. Let Master see how strong she was.