Issues
Issue #325
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Dead at the Feet of a God

Aware of what awaits you, you proceed as if you are not. There is no avoiding it: your story will end with you dead at the feet of a god. Your divinations have told you this. There is no ambiguity. The portents float at the edge of your vision, haunt your dreams, shake themselves free with each throwing of the bones.

The portents float at the edge of your vision, haunt your dreams, shake themselves free with each throwing of the bones.
Parchment Sky

I asked him once how fast the sky rose up from the horizon. I thought if one could put a number to that, and if the sky had the shape of an inverted bowl as we had been taught, then that speed could be used to determine its size, to determine how far the ink-etched parchment of the sky arched above us and descended down toward the fabled western horizon.

When I was younger, I asked my brother why we wrote the names of God on the sky.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Dead at the Feet of a God

Podcast: Download (Duration: 24:31 — 16.83MB)
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The portents float at the edge of your vision, haunt your dreams, shake themselves free with each throwing of the bones.
From the Archives:
The Black-Eyed Goddess of Apple Trees and Farmers’ Wives
My favorite story as a child was the one about the farmer who slits open his wife’s belly and plants an apple tree amongst her insides.
Issue #324
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Quintessence

He could hear her voice more clearly now, as though the notepad were merely a synchronizing gear between the two minds caught in his head. She sounded sick and frightened and tired—like a young woman trapped alone in a strange place, not like a witch threatening to castrate him or murder his wife. Guilt blossomed in his mind, followed by pity.

“The winter stock of red,” Loren’s mouth said. It seemed to have gotten ahead of his brain.
Cleaning Up After the Blackout Boys

Ustuus scoured the halls for bloodstains, pail and sponge in hand. The framed pictures upon the mantle described a family of two parents, a son and a daughter. The toys cluttering the upstairs bedroom suggested a self-sacrificing love, judging by the threadbare state of the mother’s wardrobe. Four plates had been set at the table, where the blood was festooned most thickly. Each room told a fragment of a story. His job was to silence them.

His belly rumbled like an idling engine.
From the Archives:
A Handful of Sky
Praying she still had the skill to do it, if indeed anyone alive could do it: gather, and sew, four square yards of sky.
Issue #323
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When Your Being Here is Gentler Than Your Absence Hard

What I cannot tell Fallon is who I am now. I cannot tell her about the new home I make. I cannot tell her that you were the only person I could ever fight for, because you looked at war and saw only despair. That, having set my blade down, you were the only person for whom I would pick it up again.

She is Fallon Deere, First Minister to the Free State of Altorania, and you are you, the woman who sent me to her side.
Rose Kissed Me Today

I feel as if something important has passed between us, but I cannot fathom its true nature. As I make my way back to the ground, I think that descending should be harder, slower, more arduous than the climb had been. A return to the everyday. But it’s no more difficult than the ascent. Nowhere near as much fun, though.

It takes all of the restraint I possess not to close that space between us.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
When Your Being Here is Gentler Than Your Absence Hard

Podcast: Download (Duration: 53:47 — 36.94MB)
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She is Fallon Deere, First Minister to the Free State of Altorania, and you are you, the woman who sent me to her side.
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 #322
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The Guadalupe Witch

The way he said ran away from home made it sound like I was a child who’d snuck out after dark, gotten lost in the woods, and cried until her parents found her. But my leaving had purpose. Laboring under our son’s memory for so many years had bent me beyond repair. And I knew one way or another, Ellard would kill me eventually. He had killed so many Indians in his youth that he’d developed a taste for the violence. I could read the hunger in his eyes every time he looked at me. I should at least make my death worth something.

I was never that person, no matter how hard Ellard and so many others tried to turn me into her.
Her Black Coal Heart a Diamond in My Hand

I staged a fight on the ground floor, scattered the broken furniture Ashton had found me and pinned scraps of the boy, the middle child, all around. He hadn’t been a fighter, but people would believe things of a boy they wouldn’t of a girl, and they had to believe for this to reach them. I put some breaks into the bulk of him with my knife and left him bent into unnatural angles beside the stove. A little ghost stuff and witchfire added to the coal would make it burn cold green, and I left that room with no other light.

It would be easy to ruin if I was careless, but I could work wonders with it, if the space Ashton had found for my next show was right.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Guadalupe Witch

Podcast: Download (Duration: 28:27 — 19.54MB)
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I was never that person, no matter how hard Ellard and so many others tried to turn me into her.
From the Archives:
Boiled Bones and Black Eggs
The inn is a place where the dead get of hand if they aren't placated, honored, and fed.
Issue #321
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Featuring new cover art: “Spirit Village” by Tyler Edlin.

Bast and Her Young

She was different. She was distinguished by the oracles. She spoke to the gods, who descended on her in disorienting, frightening fits that made her vision blank out and caused her to fall down. As God’s Wife of Amun she had been closer to the gods than any man on earth. Except for the pharaoh. Now she would be that, too.

Her father’s great dynasty, sacred to Amun and guided by the hand of the gods, stood shakily on those scrawny legs.
Daughters With Bloody Teeth

I... no, we walk through the forest. We are crowded in this body and made clumsy. And the whispering voice that drives me, that makes us we, has only disdain for my efforts. I was a soft belly waiting for teeth before, and that is what I still am, sharing sharp white teeth or no.

This body is tired and hungry. But the beating of a strange heart keeps me awake.
From the Archives:
Frozen Meadow, Shining Sun
My sister has been missing three days when the fox appears.
Issue #320
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Featuring two podcast episodes and two giveaways for copies of the new epic fantasy novel The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick (a joint pen name of BCS authors Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms), set in the same world as “As Tight as Any Knot.”

As Tight as Any Knot

Ondrakja chose her approach and her moment with care. A Vraszenian-style sash belt and shoulder-buttoned blouse like the girl’s, though less tattered—but not too fine, either. Finery in Lacewater usually meant an Upper Bank cuff come to play games among the river rats, or a madam. And though a few touches of makeup could shift her appearance more toward either Vraszenian or Liganti, she chose to leave her mixed ancestry on display. Under the grime, the girl had more than a hint of Liganti in her features; she might respond better to someone who looked like her.

Ondrakja chose her approach and her moment with care.
Colombina

How can you hide behind a small piece of silk and lace that barely covers a third of your face? But you have me in your pocket, you brought me here, and now you take me out and study me. Put me on, girl, you’ve nothing to lose. Let me touch your smooth brow; your wet, flushed cheeks. Tie that ribbon behind your head, let me become a part of you. It feels reassuring to wear me, doesn’t it?

Put me on, girl, you’ve nothing to lose.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
As Tight as Any Knot

Podcast: Download (Duration: 36:05 — 24.79MB)
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Ondrakja chose her approach and her moment with care.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Colombina

Podcast: Download (Duration: 26:43 — 18.35MB)
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | RSS | More

Put me on, girl, you’ve nothing to lose.
From the Archives:
The Şiret Mask
Dangling from a rope two hundred feet above the rooftops of Râu Tare, I find myself questioning the decisions that have led me to this point.
Issue #319
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And The Ones Who Walk In

“Why put up with ugly and cruel? Why not try to make things better? With our own work, our own suffering, to pay our own way in the universe?” It was the argument Crocus had had with her mother since she turned thirteen. Now that argument was over. She’d never have it with her mother again. And now she could cry, small angry tears.

At sunset on the third day, the girl reached the edge of the blessed city’s hinterlands.
The City Still Dreams of Her Name

My substance is much declined, yet on occasion I draw humans who can hear echoes of what I once was. They climb the winding steps up my pagodas, descend deep into the bowels beneath my palaces, venture between the serpentine stacks of my high-spired libraries. The human soul yearns for cities, even if they do not realize it, and their hearts revolve toward our kind as flowers turn toward the sun. This is true even for cities whose names—like mine—have been swallowed up by catastrophe and oblivion.

This is true even for cities whose names—like mine—have been swallowed up by catastrophe and oblivion.
From the Archives:
Walking Out
For a second or two Creeper just strained against our hold, pale eyes locked and empty on the horizon.
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.)
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