Issues from 2021
Issue #335
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Featuring a giveaway for a copy of BCS author Josh Rountree’s new short story collection Fantastic Americana: Stories.

The God Skrae Eats Death

We realized why the scouts were so shaken by the scene when we arrived. The body lying in grasses smeared with blood was a Mandate. I stared at it in disbelief. Mandates were the voice of the gods. Even during the War, they gave their oracles without partiality and remained untouched. No one, not even a deathmage, would kill a Mandate.

We realized why the scouts were so shaken by the scene when we arrived.
Faithful Delirium

The conviction of the flesh weakened when that flesh was hacked away. Conducting a thousand interrogations of his own taught him that. Belief came easily in times of comfort. Contemplation and reflection were petty offerings to the goddess when weighed against the truth of how her glory needed to spread. People did not know what they needed until you forced them to see it. And sometimes they were particularly stubborn in the process.

“Burn them all!” The command had not come in a lucid moment. But he recognized its passion and necessity all the same.
From the Archives:
Dead at the Feet of a God
The portents float at the edge of your vision, haunt your dreams, shake themselves free with each throwing of the bones.
Issue #334
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Featuring a giveaway for a copy of BCS author Charles Payseur’s new short story collection The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories.

The Lingering Weight of Estrian Steel

What Stafe left unspoken was what had been gnawing at him since he’d met Viktor. By remaining in Ofra, Stafe had become a traitor to the Crown. Viktor, if he chose to be an upstanding and honorable knight, could right that wrong. Stafe’s head could sit beside the dragon’s organs for Viktor's journey home and would surely earn him more titles, lands, and the king’s favor.

“I failed. I fell down the mountain, mere bloody meat with the faint memory of a mind.”
A Land of Saints and Monsters

Ah, but he can. I can already feel his words curling through me like roots, the magic woven into them as real as my own. These are the words of a master to a slave. These are my reward, the price I paid for leaving the dervish, Ilyas. For Armen.

I release the rib. My power snakes up the monster’s spine.
From the Archives:
The Crow Knight
“The birds?” Ser Wynn looked around, but the only bird she saw was her own.
Issue #333
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For the World’s More Full of Weeping

“No, there’s no living there,” Tarrow said, more gently. “Not for anyone who wants to be human. They’re fascinated by life, just like humans are fascinated by death and raise up doctors to fight it and gods to preside over it. But that fascination doesn’t make the fair folk alive. It merely makes them cruel.”

The most beautiful tree on the road up to Limhill was the old oak they used for hangings, and it knew it.
The Witness Brûska Lai

Brû could not imagine what that was like. She had spent her life hearing of the Palace of Confluence with no sense of what it actually was, always a far-off storybook feeling. To be a servant here, to live the mirror of that feeling and know reality was out there, shaped by the everyday work done in the Confluence but to never see it—was it bizarre? Cruel? Another kind of normal?

Brû was beginning to feel that something more than chance had brought her to the Confluence.
From the Archives:
The Six Skills of Madame Lumiere
And like so many others, what the Rust Lords like best is exactly what we have.
Issue #332
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Featuring new cover art: “Rabbit House” by Avant Choi.

A Flower Cannot Love the Hand

I am still myself and so I am answered at last: yes, I have a soul, no matter what shape its vessel is forced into. I remember that I am sunlight made tender flesh, even as I stir soundless feathers against a starlit sky. I remember the wind in the woods, the gift of nectar, the graze of wings. Though I cannot see the sun, I fly ever closer to its resting-place, and I pray it hears me, in its dreams, when I call.

I am still myself and so I am answered at last: yes, I have a soul, no matter what shape its vessel is forced into.
My Mirror, My Opposite

I hit the water headfirst. The sea latched onto my clothes and weighed me down like armour and crowns and scepters, all those vestments I had never wanted. I didn’t glance up at the ship. Didn’t care if the captain’s panicked eyes were peering down at me or not, and felt grateful the sea drowned out his calls. I breathed in water and choked on it, feeling my mind and vision slipping away. Then something wrapped around my waist and began dragging me... up.

Let’s clear up one thing: that night, the storm didn’t hurl me into the sea.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Flower Cannot Love the Hand

Podcast: Download (Duration: 00:21:44 — 14.93MB)
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I am still myself and so I am answered at last: yes, I have a soul, no matter what shape its vessel is forced into.
From the Archives:
Everything Beneath You
I wanted to ask her more questions, about the way the world was made, about death and dreams, but did not want to know the answers.
Issue #331
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The Woods Echo Back

Shon isn't afraid. This isn't the stark silence of his empty home. This living quiet conceals the stretch of new leaf to sun, the rustle of the worm, and the squirm of pink pinioned baby birds. It is the held breath of small lungs in small bone cages around small swift hearts that beat a little faster waiting for the listener and the whistler to pass by.

Shon knows silence well.
Worth the Whistling

The wind turned, and the rustle of the field bled into the whistling of the wood, and more smoke blew closer. The air was bitter with it. He didn’t turn his gaze away from her. Anger. It was anger, there in its depths. She’d never had that directed at her before. Hadn’t had the chance to cause it, really. She let the hand holding the coins drop. “Tomorrow night.”

It was near midday when she heard the door open behind her, his cautious steps shuffling through dry, ash-coated leaves.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Woods Echo Back

Podcast: Download (Duration: 00:43:28 — 29.85MB)
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Shon knows silence well.
From the Archives:
Men of the Ashen Morrow
Sal stood alone in the field, feeling the absence of her friend's touch. Being open to death was the cost of living free.
Issue #330
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Hassan the Executioner Walks Out of Jawasar for the Last Time

Hassan had loved her, but his eyes had still been clear enough to know how the world saw her, the horror of her power and her magic and her intolerance of human weakness. It was easier to think of that now, in the way that it was easier to see after stepping from too bright sun into a shaded room. Lamia was not here to blind him anymore.

Hassan had loved her, but his eyes had still been clear enough to know how the world saw her.
To Crack the World

As magehandler, I technically outrank them during transit. But what's a command here on the frontier, ankle-deep in corpses? Danger's one thing. Soldiers expect that. Some even enjoy it. But certain death? No one walks into that just because some asshole with rank tells them to. Besides, what use would they be, soft flesh and brittle steel, with a world-cracker on the loose?

And here's us, trapped on the plain, nothing more than shivering flesh and bone. Well, us and it.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Hassan the Executioner Walks Out of Jawasar for the Last Time

Podcast: Download (Duration: 00:32:34 — 22.36MB)
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Hassan had loved her, but his eyes had still been clear enough to know how the world saw her.
From the Archives:
The Grace of Turning Back
Semira watched Aniver hold audience with the Queen of the Dead, nerving herself to cross the river to them.
Issue #329
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Featuring new cover art: “Lost City of Ganesha” by Ankush Sharma.

Oak Apple Night

“I hid him in that tree.” Her grandfather nodded at the famous one, its lopsided head barely visible in the gloom. “Gave him a ladder to climb with, and my wife Joan—you’re named for her—she fetched two pillows to cushion him. William Carlis sat there with His Majesty all through the day, while those Roundhead dogs searched high and low, but we never said a word.”

None of them would talk about it—except to say, as her father had, that this was Penderel family tradition.
The City of Kindness

"Not me," Isaac said. "But all things are connected in the Ayn Sof. Maybe I can help him be found. Hochmah and Binah. Wisdom and understanding. Seventy-three and sixty-seven—a hundred and forty." He felt a change in the air and knew that Mansour, too, had risen; he turned to the house to get the things he would need before they went to the university. The smoke of burning Tuluz came to him one more time, and his familiar home had the smell of death.

"Not me," Isaac said. "But all things are connected in the Ayn Sof. Maybe I can help him be found."
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Oak Apple Night

Podcast: Download (Duration: 18:02 — 12.39MB)
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None of them would talk about it—except to say, as her father had, that this was Penderel family tradition.
From the Archives:
John Simnel’s First Goshawk
Though in the muffled dark of my room I wonder if I might instead go mad.
Issue #328
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A Stranger Goes Ashore

There had to be other islands capable of supporting human settlements, Alain told himself. Life should be possible beyond the shores of Heora. That was the article of faith that drove all Exploration. They simply haven't sailed far enough to find a new home. It was their own failure, not the obvious fact that Heora did not want them.

Every new shore was the same: a blue expanse conjoined to unyielding volcanic stone, wreathed in a furious margin of foam.
Traces

But think—if we succeed, I’ll acquire a whole boxful of memories. Big, jewel-like memories whose sharp edges will tear my master’s world around me like old silk. I’ll escape. Eat a whole orange rather than a mere pip. Oranges are bright, like the sun. Do they taste like the sun? I think they might. I almost remember that they do.

My master keeps my memories in a carved stone box tucked in a pocket of his silver-foam coat.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Stranger Goes Ashore

Podcast: Download (Duration: 45:19 — 31.13MB)
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Every new shore was the same: a blue expanse conjoined to unyielding volcanic stone, wreathed in a furious margin of foam.
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 #327
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Every Breath A Question, Every Heartbeat an Answer

She wanted to ask the nurse at her elbow if any of the others had survived, but while she was thinking about how she might phrase it, the woman gestured to a padded wooden dais meant for centaurs and abandoned her to the sunlight. She wondered how long she would be left there. This dais was close to the hedge maze’s entrance. A figure sat there on the long stone bench. Where the sun fell, the surface along her limbs and chest greened: a Rose Knight.

A walk that would have taken her seconds once now was a handful of moments for each tiny leg of it, stopping to replenish herself.
Concerto for Winds and Resistance

The piece was by a composer from Labadi. The trumpet had gone to the library to find out more about him, but all the books on Labadi were gone. The Dictator wanted the trumpet's home to not exist, to not ever have existed. Every rehearsal made the ache inside him hurt worse—the Labadin words in the margins, the little changes the conductor would make. She would bring in new pages, switching a part from one instrument to another, each time making it sound more like home.

"Now," the new conductor said once they were tuned, offering a smile that promised infinite secrets. "We begin."
From the Archives:
The Oracle and the Sea
Every month when the soldiers bring her supply of flour and milk, they also bring waterproofed parcels of manuscript paper and cool bricks of ink.
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