Gods, nymphs, vampires, deathless clones, cursed mages and those who serve them face perils where immortality acts as either curse or blessing or…both. Souls and selves lie at stake in this eclectic bundle.
The Goddess Problem by Sherry D. Ramsey
Glamour of the God-Touched by Ron Collins
A Man and His God by Janet Morris
Unnatural Immortal by Russ Crossley
First Chosen by M. Todd Gallowglas
Walking Gods by Leah Cutter
Rainbow’s Lodestone by J.M. Ney-Grimm
Brainjob by David Sloma
Silver Dust by Leslie Claire Walker
Vale of Semūin by Eric Kent Edstrom
Fate’s Door by J.M. Ney-Grimm
Kaylyn the Sister-in-Darkness by Barbara G. Tarn
The Legend of Oeliana by A. L. Butcher
Jamal & the Skeleton’s Heart by Ezekiel James Boston
Excerpt from A Man and His God by Janet Morris
On the landspit north of the lighthouse, rain had stopped work on Prince Kadakithis’s new palace. Only a man and horse, both bronze, both of heroic proportions, rode the beach. Doom criers of Sanctuary, who once had proclaimed their town “just left of heaven,” had changed their tune: they had dubbed Sanctuary Death’s Gate and the lone man, called Tempus, Death Himself.
He was not. He was a mercenary, envoy of a Rankan faction desirous of making a change in Emperors; he was a Hell Hound, by Kadakithis’s good offices; and marshal of palace security, because the Prince, not meant to triumph in his Governorship/exile, was understaffed. Of late Tempus had become a royal architect, for which he was as qualified as any man about, having fortified more towns than Kadakithis had years. The Prince had proposed the site; the soldier examined it and found it good. Not satisfied, he had made it better, dredging deep with oxen along the shore while his imported fortifications crews raised double walls of baked brick filled with rubble and faced with stone. When complete, these would be deeply crenelated for archers, studded with gate-houses, double-gated and sheer. Even incomplete, the walls which barred the folk from spit and lighthouse grinned with a death’s head smirk toward the town, enclosing granaries and stables and newly whitewashed barracks and a spring for fresh water: if War came hither, Tempus proposed to make Him welcome for a long and arduous siege.
The fey, god’s breath weather might have stopped work on the construction, but Tempus worked without respite, always: it eased the soul of the man who could not sleep and who had turned his back upon his god. This day, he awaited the arrival of Kadakithis and that of his own anonymous Rankan contact, to introduce emissary to possible figurehead, to put the two together and see what might be seen.
When he had arranged the meeting, he had yet walked in the shelter of the god Vashanka’s arm. Now, things had changed for him and he no longer cared to serve Vashanka, the Storm God, who regulated kingship. If he could, he would contrive to be relieved of his various commissions and of his honor bond to Kadakithis, freed to go among the mercenaries to whom his soul belonged (since he had it back) and put together a cohort to take north and lease to the highest bidder. He wanted to wade thigh-deep in gore and guts and see if, just by chance, he might manage to find his way back through the shimmering dimensional gate beyond which the god had long ago thrust him, back into the world and into the age to which he was born.
Silver Dust by Leslie Walker
The horde of white seven-day candles I’d left burning on top of the blue milk crate in the far corner flickered. The two rolled sleeping bags were where we’d left them, propped against the wood planks of the wall. Ditto the crude charcoal drawings I’d scribbled and felt compelled to tack everyplace, lost pieces of myself that formed no pattern and made no sense. When the ghosts of memory came, they curled and faded like smoke if I didn’t draw them right away.
I had no clear recollection of anything that happened to me before two weeks ago.
Not the little things, like brushing my hair or the first time I tasted a ripe peach or the particular orange glow of a sunset. Not the big stuff, like how I’d met Max, or the first time I’d kissed him. Or why he still hung around in spite of my not being the same Faery princess he fell in love with.
Amnesia did that. Made you into something different. Someone else.
The Legend of Oeliana by A.L. Butcher
Rii’Athellan, the Morning Star, was a hunter, magic showed itself in many ways and the elven princeling was graced with a goodly portion. This day he had given his entourage the slip. The forest contained many dangers, even for one of his bloodline, but he preferred to hunt alone; the larger and fiercer the beast the more it pleased the elven prince. As silent as the grey fox and confident as an eagle, Rii’Athellan crept towards the clearing on the trail of a huge dire-boar. His father thought him reckless, but the young man craved danger, bored as he was from the politics of court and wishing he was allowed a little more excitement. He was not the heir, and he had not yet found his place in the world; he cared not for diplomacy and was jealous of his brother. He knew the Grove of the Maiden; oft before had he brought the girls whom he also liked to hunt and capture, although they were more willing prey and his favoured weapon was not a bow. These passions were conducted, if not in secret then with discretion, for this lord of the elves had been promised long since to Almethea, the daughter of the house of Il’thricken, a house both powerful and magical. This bride he cared not for, but duty-bound he would suffer the marriage. Such a one had little choice; alliances were all when elves made war.
This particular beast was Indis the Fierce, large, ill-tempered and canny; even the Great Cats walked in fear of Indis and the boar himself feared nothing, for he had never yet met his match. As tall as the elf at the shoulder, the hooked tusks of the boar were as long as his forearm. The elf murmured a prayer to his gods and nocked his bow as the boar snuffled among the trees, gobbling orange fungus and fallen apples. Occupied with filling his mighty jaws, the boar did not hear the elf, nor perceive the threat.
Oeliana watched, unseen among the low light of the trees, sunlight flickering on her ivy-coloured hair and skin like polished oak. A gown of bright leaves covered a slender frame, flowing around her like leaves in the autumn breeze. Indis did not hold any fear for her, an avatar of the forest as she was. The nymph had fed him apples and occasionally sweet-bread as he loomed, bristling and ferocious, taking the fruit gently from her; she had seen him born from the sow Elricana and survive his siblings to be Lord of the Forest. This young elf was either foolhardy or uncommonly brave, but she did not rate his chances either way.
The squeal of anger and pain rent the forest as the elven arrow found its mark. Indis turned eyeing the trees for his tormentor and spying a shadow plunged into the forest. Seven hundred pounds of enraged pighood felt the pain of the arrow in its flank and was going to make someone suffer for the indignity. Shrubs and undergrowth were no match for Indis and, tearing them aside, his gaze locked on the elf.
Rii’Athellan saw the error he had made, too late. He was a good bowman but even an elven lord may miscalculate and, although wounded, the boar was still formidable. Swiftly the elf loaded his bow, stepped back and fired, grabbing another arrow from the quiver. The arrow skittered along hide tough as cured leather and bristling with stiff grey hair before burying itself into the flank, although not deep. He had hoped to fell the beast but had simply succeeded in driving the boar even madder with rage. Rii’Athellan dived among the trees, running; he was not a coward but even a brave man knows a foe he cannot beat. Hearing the boar gaining ground, the elf tried to quicken his pace, feeling the pain of tearing muscles as he ran faster than he had ever run, and expecting to feel the tusks in his back or be trampled into fertiliser. He had not banked on such a large beast being so fleet footed. The light flickered beneath the canopy of the trees and in his fear, he failed to see the root in the rough, moss-covered ground. Tumbling down he thought it likely to be his grave as his ankle snapped, pain ripping through him and unable to stop himself the elf cried out, the bow flying from his hand as he fell.
A wind rose and with it a song, soft like the lapping of the waters yet powerful as the ancient trees. Leaves swirled and danced, faster and thicker until Rii’Athellan was blanketed, mesmerised by the sound and the sight of the creature which stood between him and the boar. Ivy green hair swayed around her feet as she strode, unafraid, towards the boar which had slithered and slipped to an unsteady halt in mud, blood and undergrowth. A small soft hand the colour of hazelnuts caressed a bloody, saliva-flecked snout until the panting, snuffling breath eased. Oeliana gave the pile of leaves a long look and saw the elf, and the pain and fear in his eyes, yet they were eyes which followed her every movement. The arrows were gently teased from the pig’s flesh, and Rii’Athellan was amazed such a fierce beast simply stood and let the nymph tend him, although her song would have calmed a dragon. Soft light, green as springtime, rippled across the wounded boar and flowed down to the ground and into the half-hidden elf, and as the flesh and bone began to knit, saplings sprouted through leaves and coal black soil. The song rose to a crescendo, a primal sound filled with primal magic and, as it poured through the elf, he had never felt such intensity, such desire and longing, or such terrible sadness.
Excerpt from Jamal and the Skeleton – Ezekial James Boston
Worse than being punched in the chest, Jamal Morris clutched the wooden stake that had been shot deep into his heart as he stumbled backwards, and fell into an open grave.
Flat on his back. On the hard, damp dirt.
Stunned, his vision swam and a ringing filled his ears. Oddly, his mind tried to analyze the dirt of the grave that he laid in. Was it fertile? Could a garden be planted here instead? Was it hallowed so the dead couldn’t rise from this grave? Fuck, now I’m going to be dirty.
Shock did weird things.
The sliver of a moon high in the Miami night sky, smiled down at Jamal. Still trying to come back to his senses, his mind made a zombie-ized Cheshire cat from the stars around the moon.
“You can’t help that, Jamal.” Zomb-Cat said, “We’re all dead here.”
No, they weren’t all dead.
Take, for example, the mother fucker—and his mother fucking friends—who drove a mother fucking stake into his new, seven hundred, mother fucking dollar, burnt umber Burton Brothers suit. A suit that Jamal had bought specifically not to offend Perry, the prissy shapeshifting necrophile necromancer known to grave rob in the Ashton Homes Cemetery.
Only to be ambushed and staked by some gung-ho ass-hats.
Jamal sat up, and rubbed his head. His vision was clear and steady. A slight ringing still played on his ears, but the world made sense again. Mainly from discomfort, Jamal tried to pull the stake out. Nope. The fucker was in there deep.
He sighed and stood. His brown-black Johnston Murphy dress shoes—shoes that he had shined to a high gloss—sunk into the earth.
Jamal mumbled, “Mother fuckers.”
Now he looked like shit. And this was the one night he specifically didn’t want to look like shit. If he had known this was going to happened, he wouldn’t have changed out of his favorite stained, threadbare t-shirt, worn thin blue jeans or holey—not holy—tennis shoes.
Rustling sounds came from above. As did whispers. “Did you get him?” A woman’s voice.
“Yeah. I got him.” The guy sounded like a palooka. Jamal hoped the guy had something on the ball. Nothing was worse than being bested by someone who had no idea what was happening.
The woman. “Where’d he go?”
She asked, “Where’s Mark?”
“Dunno.” He was sounding more and more palooka-ish by the moment.
Jamal squatted and went to fully leap out of the grave. While his forward movement was on point, he had no hops. Only lifting a foot from the ground, he thumped into the earthen wall and fell backward.
The stake must’ve been bathed in holy water by someone who believed.
He stood. He was going to need help. And the only folks who could help him were the ones who got him into this mess.
They took turns whisper-calling Mark’s name.
Mark wasn’t going to answer. Mark had an accident.
Really, an honest accident.
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