Joy was theirs, the night they wed!
That very morn the groom gave her the keys
to every door of her new home. The blood
within her rose; she danced through every room
that now was hers: save one. A single door,
he said, was his alone. She did not know –
never, never would she know! –
what secrets dwelt within the man she'd wed.
She would not run them down. Behind the door
forbidden her (though well she held the key)
the bridegroom kept a secret bloody room –
his former brides, all dead, all dressed in blood –
lace and ribbons, carved in blood.
Yet all of this the bride would never know.
His secrets were his own. She
Oscar’s closet was filled with wonderful things: fashionable clothes; skeletons the likes of which might see him imprisoned, if ever they were to come out; a portal to ancient Macedon, where he had been enjoying adventures of more than one kind with Alexander someday-the-Great; another, smaller portal, which never led to the same place: he and Alexander had visited distant planets through it, and ancient tombs, and impossibly high rooftops from which they gazed down on oceans of lights; and a stash of spare peacock feathers (for one could never have too many peacock feathers).
Oscar spent much effort in appearing as though he lived wit
My friend Jonny, he’s good with words. He can tell me in six languages what he wants me to do with him, different accents coating his tongue like honey. Or so he tells me, anyway: I can only understand the one. Me, I know just enough English and Dutch to buy myself a drink when we’re in port here. For anything else I need Jonny’s help to get by.
Only he’s not here with me, and I don’t know what the man in the uniform is saying.
He strides back and forth in front of us, his voice harsh and sharp, his cheeks reddened with anger or cold. Us is a group of men I don’t know, mostly – some of their faces l
I’ve heard my share of folklore and fairy tales, which is why I wasn’t immediately surprised to see what at first appeared to be a tiny old woman at the end of the bridge. It wasn’t a forest – just the city park – but I was down on my luck and carrying my last free lunch, so why shouldn’t there be an old woman?
She was wearing a tuque, sunglasses, and a wide skirt. It was only when I got close that I noticed her red-brown fur, her pointed muzzle, her long pink tongue and sharp white teeth.
“Spare a bite to eat, dearie?”
Vixens are tricksters, but all the same I did as the fairy tales taught m
It gets weird out there in the black. Unfathomably far from – well, anything at all, really – with only a thin sheet of aluminium between your own life and an infinite void, it’s really no surprise if you start to go a little space-mad.
Spacers know this. You know it better than you’d like, yourself: what a spacer sees in the black and what’s really out there might be as different as a Whirling Cosmos and the glass it’s served in. The tales they tell have no bearing on reality.
You listen anyway. You’re one of them, after all.
“Its tail was like a nebula,” Mirri is saying, “all gl
The faerie child ran away. He never said farewell to us; we only know that he is gone because we saw his lifeboat form from the great tree-ship like a seed on the wind, wrapped in a golden shield-spell much like our own. We watched it float away through the black between the stars till it seemed to become one of them.
“Damn,” said Brianna, through gritted teeth. “Damn it all. Damn it!”
I was sorry to see him go. He was not like me – he wasn’t even altogether human, anymore, though I think he was not quite as much a faerie as those he helped us to rout from their ship – but like me he was unlike the
He will live.
Like a shadow, he will hide at the edges of whatever world he comes to. He will steal and scavenge to survive. He will eat no meat.
He will always be alone.
In time, he will grow into a man: fine-boned and graceful, sharp-toothed, with eyes like all the mysteries of the night. He will shun iron, and flee from the sound of music. He will name himself Neirad.
He will be loved by some and feared by others. He will forge no bonds, and when the whispers around him grow too loud he will vanish to some other land where he can try to start anew. He will tell no lies.
One day, perhaps, he’ll find a place he dares to call his h
The scabby bones of Brianna’s right hand are growing over with thin bluish skin. The faeries are gone; only corpses remain in the halls of their tree-ship, resting in sparkling pools of blood. Darien is safe from them now. If only he will remember who he was he’ll be Hara’s five-year-old child again, as human as ever, and she can bring him home.
Hopeful, triumphant, Brianna begins to sing.
When he hears her song the faerie child flees into the ship, through a maze of branches and roots. Everywhere lie the bleeding remains of those he betrayed, posed in terror and agony. They wanted to change him, to shape him, to turn h
Three cannot stand against a thousand, not with all the weapons in the world: and they have none. The faerie knives they’ve stolen are all of glass, and the faeries heal quickly from everything but iron. The wide bracelet on Krati’s wrist burns them at a touch, but it isn’t shaped to do much damage. And any poison they pour into the water would kill the ship as soon as its masters.
But they have no need to destroy the faeries in order to commandeer their ship. They must only drive them away.
A slow campaign of fear – ruined food supplies, undecided skirmishes in lonely halls, a misguided attack on a nest of their chi
He buys lemons on the black market, squeezes them out on salvaged scrap metal and stirs in sugar looted from the wreckage of the store he once worked at, before everything went to shit. Each glass is sweet, refreshing, and worth twenty times its weight in water. He sells them for only ten.
Or he would, at least, if anyone were buying.
His sister’s stall is across the way, and between the scraps and trinkets scavenged from the waste she sells water itself, filtered and boiled into something nearly drinkable. The sun-scorched passers-by have no eyes for a drink diluted with sugar.
“Give it up, already,” she calls to him in
“The question is, where do we go now?”
“We find the children,” Brianna answers at once. “I was watching my boss’s kid when they got us. I have to get him back.”
“And then what?” Krati’s voice is soft, and they sit crouched with their back to the tangle of roots and branches that form the wall, watching for whatever danger might come from ahead or behind. “Even if we free them, we can’t get off this ship. There’s nothing out there to escape to.”
I listen without understanding. I don’t remember a ship. They drove me into the forest, through the shadows,
Fingers numb around the gun, shaking, warm dripping blood down face, oh god, can’t aim, can’t aim it, dead bodies dead teammates dead friends, blood, burn holes, I missed, oh god, I shot them, burning flesh burnt clothes burnt skin I shot them, fingers shaking, hands shaking, gun shaking, I can’t aim, pull the trigger beam of light oh god burning sizzling oh god I missed again charred leaves how can I keep missing blood from my nose, dripping, salt taste, iron taste, shoot again oh god it’s still standing there, smiling beautiful shining alien I can’t hit it, can’t aim, arm rising fingers shaking numb shaki
The faerie was beginning to grow fond of Marla.
She was sweet, as humans were, eager to please, and completely besotted with the person she thought the faerie was. She liked pain, in the right circumstances, which meant that the faerie had every chance to taste her mind. She was delicious: her pain, her ecstasy, her devotion. Her blood, on the nights when knives came into play. And she had a rather endearing interest in paranormal conspiracies.
They’d been living together for three months now, but date nights at the diner were still a weekly event. They had the same waitress as always, wearing the guise of a tired-faced young woman wi
You pruned away what of me touched the light,
then chided me for hiding in the dark
which choked me, smothered me from sight
of everything I longed for. Lark,
your silence was my hell. I never knew
how I should please you. Everything I gave –
my life, my blood, my words – did not appease you.
I could never fill the emptiness you craved.
The second-sweetest thing I ever learned
was that I’d never be what you desired –
and that I was my own. The growing lack
between us gave me wings, and though I burned
I flew beyond our crumbling bridges' pyres,
I'll take me back.
Hand in hand, I walk towards the prison. The people I pass stand still as statues, frozen mid-step, mid-motion: they are timeless in the light of my candle, helpless until the flame goes out. I alone can still walk in this frozen world, still live, still breathe. I alone, because of the hand in my hand and the candle held between its fingers.
My breath mists before my face as I walk. It is a cold day today, so cold that spittle freezes when it strikes the ground.
The doors of the prison, and all the doors within it, are locked – of course; but all doors are open to me. I wave the hand before them, perhaps brush its closed fingers agai
It would be easy enough to flee. The only bond that ties Margarethe to the blind old woman is her love for her brother. But he is all she has left, now, and she will not leave him.
Johannes sits in a cage of bones, eating canned mandarins and jars of sour cherries, awaiting his death. Margarethe visits him there when the old woman is out. “I’ll save you,” she says. “I’ll find a way – somewhere we can flee to, somewhere she can’t follow. I’ll steal the key from her.” The cage is held together with steel cables and padlocks and barbed wire. There is no escaping from it.
“You know wha
EXT. HEOROT BASE – DAY
Thick fog, dead trees, wetland. A GUARD (29, gaunt) stands watch before a fortified compound, armed with a laser rifle.
The Dark Swan lands before him. BEORN, ENNIA and MAXX exit.
The guard raises his rifle.
Who are you? What are you doing here?
I'm Captain Beorn Wulff of the Dark Swan. These are Ennia and Maxx.
We heard your distress signal.
The guard lowers his rifle and nods.
INT. HEOROT BASE – DAY
HROTHGAR (early 50s, richly dressed but bedraggled) sits on a throne-like pedestal.
It began when we first built our town hall.
INT. TOWN HALL – NIGHT
The fox had been hungering for quite some time: its fur was growing thin, a dull blanket over starving ribs, and it walked with the careful steps of one who has but little strength to spare. It limped as it walked, for its left forepaw had been hurt some time before by the trap of a hunter. It had escaped the trap with its life intact: but now it hungered, and could no longer hunt.
Today it had caught a carrion scent on the breeze, sweetish, cloying: the smell of rot. It was a hope, and the fox was limping towards it as quickly as its meager strength would allow. Surely it could find something to scavenge from a kill so old.
But as it follo
Once there was a girl named Sahta. She was courageous and strong of heart and could not bear to see anyone in pain; but what decided the course of her life was only that she was the first.
She was born when the first dragon flew overhead; and the Princess herself stopped by to see her, when she came; and when her mother found that she could name the little girl, she was as happy as a mother can be. And her father was happy too, and the midwife, and everyone who lived in their street - and in the next street, and in the entire city. Sahta had a name, and that name was Sahta, and she was the first child the city had had since the plague passed