Fiction Circular 2/9/19

Editor’s note: Links affixed to author/publisher names will redirect to social media or personal website of the author/publisher. Links affixed to story/article names will redirect to the named story/article.


INDEPENDENT AUTHORS

From John Parham, The Old Man & The Three Legged Goat. The story of a young man, down on his luck, who encounters a strange old man and his three legged goat. Whilst the story is interesting and the message poignant, the dialogue and particularly the descriptions, suffer from a peculiar kind of stiffness engendered by repetition. For example, the amount of times that we are told that Curly “sipped his coffee” is quite superfluous; the author could simply have said, “Curly sat sipping his coffee” and that would have sufficed. That being said, repetition can be used to create rhythm, as in the works of Cormac McCarthy, however, in McCarthy the repition is limited (generally to “and”s and “left off”s) and occurs fluidly in the space of a single sentence and consequently, one shouldn’t take up a stance against it, in totality.

“Please sit and I will pour you a cup of coffee, then tell me about the three-legged goat.”

— The Old Man & The Three Legged Goat

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS

From 101 Words, The Crossing by Philip Scholz, a flash fiction about a man fleeing to Mexico. I’d say more but I wouldn’t want to spoil it.

“Your passport, please,” the guard said, holding out his hand.

He handed over the fake one, hoping his shaking hand wasn’t noticed. This was the test. He had to stay calm.

— The Crossing

From The Arcanist, Plunk At The Foot Of The Mountain by Peter Hurtgen. A tale of a vicious barbarian possessed of a deep-seated hatred for magic. Its a interesting piece of dark fantasy, humorous as it is thoughtful; a cautionary tale against being too quick to take action against that which one does not fully understand.

He was a boy of about eight. Before the Trying Times. The magic user was a young girl from the nearby village. A little older. The tinsmith’s daughter. A black-haired beauty. Tall and graceful. Wild and bronze. She cast a love spell on Plunk. She made him love her. They kissed in the yak barn hayloft. This made Plunk very happy. Then the girl used her love spell on another village boy. This pissed Plunk the fuck off. Plunk found the two lovers in the hayloft and separated them. From their heads.

— Plunk At The Foot Of The Mountain

From Drunken Pen Writing, Coffee Shop Blues by Caleb James K.; Mr. K’s prose is impressive for being able to turn as mundane an exercise as waiting in line for a cup of coffee into a introspective and engaging exploration of social disenchantment, charity and purpose. Easily the best of the week.

The world moved in slow motion as Jeff waited in the seemingly endless line at the coffee shop. It was like he was in a dream—like he was an unseen spectator watching the world move around him. He saw the faces of men and women, young and old, but couldn’t make out any details.

— Coffee Shop Blues

From Fictive Dream, Family Gathering by Paul Beckman. Title self-explanatory.

The laughers come first. They always arrive early and announce their early arrival to the hostess who isn’t ready yet for company.

— Family Gathering

From Monkeybicycle, The Next Life You’ll Make by Ellen Rhudy. A sad, poignant ghost tale.

I imagined they had a graveyard behind the hospital crowded with people who had never quite been alive. — The Next Life You’ll Make

From The Molotov Cocktail, The River Wedding by Tim Roberts. A dreamlike tale of horror and desire.

When The Big Night finally comes around, I lay awake waiting for the demons to take my father.

— The River Wedding

From Reflex Press, Strawberry Tarts and Serial Killers by Mary Thompson. A brisk sketch of the life of two lovers in a sleepy town (not actually about serial killers).

In August I left to be an au-pair in Amiens. Said I would write.

‘You won’t,’ he said.

— Strawberry Tarts and Serial Killers

From Spelk Fiction, Liquid Gold In Big Sky by Michael Carter. A tale of a hard-up family seeking gold beyond the American plains. Beautifully written.

“We’ll stop in Helena to see if they’ve struck gold again. Then we’ll make our way to Carson City, Nevada, to see if they have gold there. We’ll buy food with the gold, and you’ll all be full.”

I said, “Maybe there’s gold here?”

Mother said, “No, sweetie, there’s no gold out here in the Plains.”

— Liquid Gold in Big Sky

From Terror House, The Maggot Life by Nick Willis. The story of one man struggling within his own moral vacuum. The piece is raw, punchy and likely more than a little autobiographical. Highly recommended.

I can almost see the voracious, amoral little worm squirming around at the core of me, at the core of all of us: it’s what keeps us alive.

— The Maggot Life

From X-R-A-Y, Robot Mother by Brittany Weeks. A surreal tale with a experimental style, somewhat disorienting style.

I can’t shake the image of Everly with mechanical valves in her heart-

— Robot Mother

LITERARY EPHEMERA

From The Allium, Pandas “Totally Relieved” None Of Their Body Parts Made Of Anything Valuable.

A Panda spokesperson told The Allium earlier today that there was general relief in Panda communities that their body parts are valued at actual zero. Even in Sterling.

— Pandas “Totally Relieved” None Of…

Author, James Kirkland announces the release of his first novel Friend of the Devil.

Very pleased to announce that my first novel, “FRIEND OF THE DEVIL”, A Bill Walton Mystery, will be released March 13 by Meathouse Publishing. Excited for you all to see this. I’ve worked very hard and I hope you will enjoy! — J. Kirkland

Lastly, inimitable Jokes Review editor, Peter Clarke (Politicians Are Superheroes) participates in a roundtable discussion over at The Review Review on the subject of editorial practice. Specific topics include how far into a bad manuscript one should read before passing it over and whether or not a poor title disqualifies a manuscript. Insight for writers and editors alike.

At the very minimum, I’ll read the first paragraph and then skim to the end. I have scrapped stories based on the title and the first sentence, but that’s rare. Generally speaking, I don’t dedicate much time to stories that don’t catch me pretty quickly. The vast majority of my time reading submissions (probably 90%) is spent fretting over the stories that definitely demanded a full read but may or may not demand publication. If I’m already thinking about rejection after the first paragraph, then I’m probably just going to reject it.

— Peter Clarke, Managing Editor, Jokes Review


Thanks for reading.

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Fiction Circular 2/5/19

Editor’s note: Links affixed to author/publisher names will redirect to author/publisher social media; links affixed to story/article names will redirect to the named story/article.


INDEPENDENT AUTHORS

First up, Andrea Nicosia published a untitled short story concerning a dream.

A dire battle, and I was fighting. — A. Nicosia

Jason Simon published, On Returning, a fever dream rumination on social isolation and personal transformation.

-my heart no longer felt affection for these alien people and their barbaric rituals, their trivial matters of fleeting importance or their malevolent, false gods. — On Returning

Noah J. Wayne published the long-form short story, Convict. A story of one woman struggling within a partially automated prison. Highly recommended.

“Five minutes have been added to your sentence due to disobedience,” the guard said. — Convict

Sara Codair published Are We Like The Phoenix? A steampunk flash-fiction concerning volcanoes and time-travel. Whilst the plot and characters were interesting, it suffered from the perennial problem which afflicts nearly all flash fiction: being too short.

Even over the rhythmic growl of the ships engine, Lisbeth heard thousands of micro gears churning away. Of all the arcane devices she possessed, this one was the most powerful. — Are We Like The Phoenix

Stumbled across Vic Smith‘s 2018 short story, Caged, a gritty crime thriller.

He’d got Frank out of Dartmoor, and had to stand guard over him in this dingy flat and wait for orders.

They hadn’t come. Whatever the plan had been, it had failed. — Caged


INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS

From Cheap Pop, Sanctus Spiritus, 1512 by Sarah Arantza Amador.

The camp cried and prayed, and she sat in her cage, focused on the smell of sea brine and the cook’s meaty neck. — Sanctus Spiritus, 1512

Also from Cheap Pop, Still Life With Prairie, 1860, by Natalie Teal McCallister.

Little girls be brave, brave as your mother. Little boys be meant for the earth, let your blood water the prairie and come alive again in the red of sunset. — Still Life With Prairie

From Coin Man Stories, Puzzles, Part 1, by José Alves de Castro.

– And now, for 200 points: Find the difference!

The audience stared excitedly as the contestants probed into the two universes looking for anything that might be different, each of the contenders searching differently for the tiniest changes. — Puzzles, Part 1

From Flash Fiction Magazine, Dead by Joe Cappello.

Martin Aurely was dead inside. It wasn’t physical, but a persistent feeling that there was no feeling. Where there is no feeling, there can be no life. — Dead

From Hagstone Publishing, Let Me In by Michelle Simpkins.

She can deal with the fingertips scuttling over the glass window of her front door. She can pretend they are tree branches scraping the house. She doesn’t mind the muddy footprints on the porch. If she doesn’t look too closely in the morning, she can tell herself an animal visited during the night.

It’s the voice that sends her diving under the blankets with crawling skin and clenched teeth. — Let Me In

From Jokes Review, Tropicana On Steroids by Sean Trolinder.

“You don’t drink juice from a needle.” — Tropicana On Steroids

From New York Tyrant Magazine, I Called Shotgun When You Died by Christopher Kennedy.

I come to understand eventually: There is no sun. There are no stars. The coast is never clear. — I Called…

From Reflex Press, Night Swimming by Susan Carol.

She could not swim but we still swim for her. Search the ocean for her and find her only at night. — Night Swimming

From Spelk Fiction, Roachburn, 1908 by Neil Campbell.

In the village of Roachburn, all blinds are drawn. The pregnant woman cries night and day. Another woman cries. A mother and an aunt cry too, behind walls buffeted by winds across the moorland. — Roachburn, 1908

From Terror House, Moments, Part 1 by Chika Echebiri.

I feel my shoulders slump as I begin to weep softly, thinking that Richard could be lying helplessly somewhere, seriously wounded or even dead. — Moments, Part 1

From X-R-A-Y, Blood! by Oliver Zarandi.

I remember, he says. Your life is one filled with tragedies. I may order another soup. — Blood!

LITERARY EPHEMERA

From Ghost City Press, Bird Bereavement by Alisa Velaj.

Morning was slow to come,
with a lonely canary in the other cage,
now facing the empty one in front.
Oh, how long we waited for our canary to sing!


Thanks for reading.

If you have recommendations for inclusions in the next LOGOS fiction circular, or wish to submit work to LOGOS, feel free to contact our administrator.

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Todesregel Isle (Part II)

The scavenger watched the newcomers from a tor-borne perch above the marsh. They had found the body. It was only a matter of time until those that had put it there found them. He did not envy them their predicament.

*

Villavic and the hundred and nineteen cast-aways trudged up out of the marsh to the north, shuddering with the cold and all the while not a single soul spoke. Villavic’s mind churned relentlessly, with thoughts of the terror in the swamp and what could possibly have done it. It was no native island animal, of that he was certain. He had seen nothing but crows and gulls and lizards and insects since he had been interred on the worthless strip of land and all such creatures proved unaccustomed to Man and his ceaseless intrusion and darted for the shadows or the sky upon his approach. It had been a man. Or a woman. Or a band thereof. Who were they? Why had they committed such an atrocity? Perhaps there was no accounting for it, he thought dejectedly. Why did cats torture their prey, sometimes without eating it? He could find no answer. There seemed to be no evolutionary advantage to the action, no increase in survivability, if anything, the feline’s decadence both wasted energy and put it in danger of becoming prey itself.

The pangs of hunger there overtook him and broke the man from dark reverie. He paused and unshouldered the sacks of flour and rolled his shoulder with a grunt of pain and looked to the hideous swamp, now behind him. The scent of moldering fungus and decaying vegetal matter seethed about the forest which rose up around the wayward prison-band. The temperature dropped in tandem with the rise of the moon, which shone like the eye of some ghastly and eldritch being and snow began to flutter from the sky.

“What kind of place is this?” Derrick exclaimed.

“Cursed.” The old crone declared with some difficulty, “Cursed.” Shortly, the old crone swayed and slumped against a young fir, too tired to continued on as the mangy congregation surrounding let up a cry of dismay at their ill fortune. Murmurs of discontent rebounded throughout the forest.

“Where are we going? We’re on an island, there is no where to go.” A burly ex-boxer grunted.

“Better in the forest than on the shoreline. ‘specially with a storm coming in. Look at the clouds.” A middle-aged and mustached barkeep replied.

The waif braced the old woman and struggled to move her from the fir to a mossy, low cave some fifty feet off in the distance as the wind kicked up and tore at cloth and skin. Villavic gave a shout for all to press for the cave at which point the murmuring ceased and all looked with hungry hope towards the dark crevace. A disputation erupted when it was discovered that only half of their number could fit within the cavern. A fist fight broke out and shortly Villavic’s voice thundered across the portal to the abyss as the snow began to stream in thick whorls.

“Enough. Fighting will gain us nothing. All the elderly, young, womenfolk and sickly should be allowed harbourage therein, all else, who’er of sturdier stock, can find other safety elsewhere and, at daybreak, we can meet once more.”

“Are you mad, man?” The ex-boxer growled, stalking towards Villavic threateningly, “If we stay out here throughout the night, there won’t be a morning. We wouldn’t live to see daybreak.”

“Only if we stay out in the open. Your name?”

“Gunter.”

“Help me, a moment,” Villavic gestured to the big man with his left arm and girded the snow from his face with his right and moved to a fallen tree branch, thick and gnarled, like a withered hand.

“Help your bloody self, you fool.” The pugilist turned his back on Villavic and strode imperiously towards the cave, when a few of the men tried to stop him and talk he struck he shunted them aside. A brawl erupted once more. The women and children ran from the broil and hid in the cave as the men grappled neath the auspices of the wind’s savage increase.

“Imbeciles,” Villavic muttered before flinging himself into the fray, heading straight for the prime instigator.

“Gunter, there is no time for this idiocy.” Villavic’s voice, despite its strength, was barely audible above the skyhowl. The men around the fringes of the contest paused and watched like famished wolves as Gunter turned to his challenger. Villavic stood tall. Their gaze met like rending steel. Muscles tensed. Seconds later there came a dull thud and the big man crumpled to the snowy ground. Behind him stood the waif with a long, thick tree branch in her scarred and shaking hands.

Fiction Circular 10/5/18

With October underway, Halloween swift encroaches — which means a bevvy of horror fiction will be cropping up as a prelude to Samhain festival and fantasy.


INDEPENDENT AUTHORS — SELF PUBLISHED WORK

First up from circular regular, The Dark Netizen, a serialization of microfictions culminating in the unnerving and surreal short, Uninvited Guest 2. Here are all the parts in the series in chronological order:

Cave TripCave Trip 2Uninvited GuestUninvited Guest 2

“Dear uninvited guest, you don’t have the right to refuse my offer…” —Uninvited Guest, 2.


From the excellent Iain Kelly, the humorous microfiction, View Askew.

“Archie heard the ominous creak.

After the dust settled, Agnes poured Winnie a top up. They watched Archie pick himself up and dust himself off, before charging after the small squirrel, profanity turning the air blue.” — View Askew.


From Jhedron, The Dark (excerpt from Revenge Of The Hyrm). A intense, visceral slice of scifi fury.

“Schripp was focused on the eyes of the girl. His sword, razor sharp, a fractions gap from her throat, and then the world exploded. His face was an agony of pierced flesh and his vision was gone.” — The Dark.


From Blogggedit, a new horror story, IT’S OVER. Its little jumbled (we’d recommend a editor) but her concepts are always gripping.

“So how can I stop all this?” Alice pointed towards the broken mirror on the wall of the dance room and said “that’s the exit. Go. Go fast-” — Its Over.


BaronZM Magazine published the amusing fantasy micro, Goblins Nest.

As I picked up the helmet, I started to hear them move in. “No take” said one of the goblins while shaking his club. “I can punt you into sky, Goblin.” — Goblins Nest.


INDEPENDENT LITERARY MAGAZINES

From Terror House, The Bunnies Are Killing Themselves by Adam Matson.

“We hit a squirrel, honey,” said her father.

“Cool!” said 8 year-old Logan. “Do it again!” — The Bunnies Are Killing Themselves.

You ask me they had it coming, given their crass lack of rapprochement, especially the beavers…

From X-R-A-Y, Noose Tattoo by Nick Farriella.

“”He said something about casting his own judgment, that the rope was a reminder.” — Noose Tattoo.


LITERARY EPHEMERA

Dead End Follies (very aesthetically crisp website) has a Book Review of Laird Barron’s mystery novel, Blood Standard (2018). The site’s overall impression is positive, with particular applause for Barron’s complicated characters.

Blood Standard’s best asset is Isaiah Coleridge himself. Career criminals are dime a dozen in literature and they’re too often derivative of the same kind-hearted outlaw archetype. There is some of that in Coleridge, but he’s much more complicated and, let’s say it better crafted character than most. He has personal stakes outside of the job, feuding with his father, who’s also a dangerous and shadowy type, over the death of his mother. He has a personality, you know? Fears and desires that make us bond with him and give a shit when his life is endangered. Coleridge might’ve not chosen this life if he hadn’t been ushered into it by an abusive father a shady uncle. — Dead End Follies.

However, the reviewer also notes that sometimes the old-school pulp vibes Barron goes for don’t always translate well when…

Full disclosure: I had a love/hate relationship with the aura of romanticism around Isaiah Coleridge. Sometimes it made him really cool and larger than life and others where his misplaced tough guy banter made him sound like a 12 year old who’s never got a whooping in his life. It’s an unfortunate side effect of Laird Barron alternating between old school pulp and more of a high brow literary approach throughout Blood Standard, but it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel. Truth is, I just love the man’s writing. It speaks to me in a powerful, visceral way. He understands how to write inner darkness better than most and while Blood Standard doesn’t nail that concept constantly, it gets transcendent when it does. — Dead End Follies.

Dead End Follies gives Blood Standard a 9/10.

We have not yet read Blood Standard, but it was a text we were certainly looking forward to and we’ll be publishing a thorough review once we acquire a copy.


Fantasy author, Baron Z. M. announces the launch of his official Patreon account — so if you enjoy his work consider skipping on the expensive lattes and giving him some support.


Library of Nell, published the seasonal poem, After Michaelmas by Nell.

“After Michaelmas, when the bramble turns sour; is when our love is put to bed, smothered by gold. Its last breath is warmth – to guard against the Winter, and the cruelest scratch of cold.” — After Michaelmas.


From the surprisingly good Patreon Blog, How To Make Money As A Writer With 43-Time Published Author Seanan McGuire by Olivia Seitz.

Recently, we stumbled across a excellent book promotion, Indie Books Promo, which is geared to raising the visibility of independent authors (much the same as us). Check them out.


And lastly, to celebrate the advance of October, Alina Hansen offers up A Brief History of Halloween (Samhain).


Thanks for reading. If you wish to support our work publishing and promoting independent works of fiction, you can do so here.


End note: Simply using “professional” in PROFESSIONALLY PUBLISHED as short hand to mean that one’s work was vetted by a individual or individuals (typically an editor) other than themselves.


 

Fiction Circular 9/14/18

For writing circular recommendations, drop us a line at: logosliterature@yandex.com.

Editor’s note: Flash/microfiction length pieces which forms part of a continuous series that goes beyond the length of a flash fiction will be included either under the SHORT STORIES or NOVELLAS & NOVELS sections, depending on the length of the series in totality; they will not be included in the flash section from here on out given that they are only a portion of the whole story and not a true flash/microfiction unto themselves.


FLASH FICTION

Richa Sharma of iScriblr published the appropriately scribbly short fiction fragments, Fahrenheit 451 and Million Dollar Baby as part of a literary challenge to create a story in only three lines. In my opinion, she did a sterling job of it. If you’re a new fiction writer looking for practice, look up her form and try your hand.

“We’ve got 24 hours before they burn them all down! Hurry up!”

The literary journal, Gone Lawn published Empire of Light by the talented and charming Melissa Goode. The short piece is brisk and uplifting as her prose.

“We are a blip in time and space, nothing compared with matter and history, but that does not diminish a single thing about us.”

From Ellipsis ZineThe Axolotl by Rebecca Field. A sad but powerful shortform tale which encapsulates the maxim, “you never know what you have til its gone.” In this instance, life.

“I remembered the axolotl. Some creatures aren’t meant to grow up.”

 of Miles Before I Go To Sleep… recently published Finish The Story: The Art Student. As the name implies, Ms. Tantry’s story is as-yet incomplete; the point of the post is to see how other fiction writer’s build off of her existing microfiction. Its a pretty fascinating tale so far (and getting fairly lengthy so I suppose I could have also placed this in ‘short stories’) concerning art and magic, a burned man, Dante’s Inferno and a pact with a ‘crossroads demon.’ Some writers have already made flash contributions, including circular regular, The Dark Netizen. Go check it out and – if you’re a fiction author – consider trying your hand.

The man removed all his clothes. It was clear that the melted skin was pretty much all over and not a hair grew out of it. Standing on the platform his head brushed the ceiling tiles.

Amy couldn’t resist asking him “Your skin, were you born like that or….” She couldn’t finish the question, but he answered anyway, it’s what most people asked him.

“No, I was a firefighter, at 9/11. I was caught in a fireball.” He could say it now, seventeen years later, without breaking down.

Speaking of The Dark Netizen, he’s been busy with some poetry as well as the moody flash fiction tale, Another Dark Day.

“This fog can be wiped off with a quick sweep of my hand. I wish removing the clouds in my life was as easy.”


SHORT STORIES

Avani Singh of Blogggedit, who we covered in our last installment, made good on her promise to deliver consecutive slices of horror literature with the final installments of her memorably titled, ‘Weirdo Elevator’ series. Below we’ve provided the series in its entirety:

WEIRDO ELEVATORPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7 [FIN]

“Only 24 hours of my life were left…”

From Burning House Press, Wisconsin by songstress, Sam Lou Talbot, whose fleeting, fragmented narrative is compelling but a little too scattered. Whilst beautifully written I wonder if it might have worked better as a song with the music filling in the narrative gaps in the story. Also from Burning House, Bomb Nostalgic by Mauricio Figueiras; a tale of Hollywood-backed filming of nuclear bomb tests in the wastelands of Nevada. Smacks of Don Delillo.

“His bronchial and alveolar tubes have been replaced with an expanding nuclear mushroom that eats up the entire thoracic cavity.”

From Terror House Magazine, The Manipulators by Jake Belck whose prose reminds me strongly of a less manic Bret Easton Ellis. A tale with many lessons for those with the eyes to see and the best of the week.

“See ya around,” were the last words to his wife of seven years before Leo cut the call.

From Idle Ink, Selling Caramel Turtles at the Concessions is Only Going to Confuse Visitors as to the Intended Use of the Reptile Ones in the Tanks by David S. Atkinson. Which is, as far as I can remember, the single longest title I have ever seen for a short story in my entire life (not that I’m complaining, mind you).

“This is the inner workings side of the zoo. We’re on our way to see the Elephant Lord.”


NOVELLAS & NOVELS

Seen a promo for a teen urban-fantasy romance novel titled, Imminence: Book 2, by Kat Stiles. Now, I’m not knocking the content of the book, I haven’t read it – seems to be quite good if the plethora of 5 star reviews are anything to go by – but the cover gave me a hearty laugh.

Dm_DQcmUcAAYfuU.jpg
Vampiric NSYNC member Sam Harris stalks pre-sellout Jennifer Lawrence in this riveting tale of romance and revenge.


LITERARY EPHEMERA

Neha Sharma of Literary Lemonades published, The Damsel In Distress, an apt criticism of the eponymous trope. It bares noting, however, that though her criticism is spot-on, the trend in fiction, literature, film and TV seems to be consistently away from the-damsel-in-distress and more towards The Mary Sue (any female lead who is good at everything to an absurdist degree and typically displays masculine traits). Ms. Sharma delineates the trope and breaks it down further into three sub-categories.

  • Bushy-haired, bespectacled (optional) shy girl who prefers books over male attention, only to transform later into a gorgeous diva for the hero, who understandably becomes the first ever man in her life.

  • A smokin’ hot girl from an academic background. She is unaware of her good looks and would finally make the hero fall in ‘true love’ for the first time.

  • An introvert girl who has clearly suffered some trauma in the past and she cannot trust anyone anymore. She finally meets our jolly-good hero who saves the day.

My summation is that both the mary-sue and damsel-in-distress tropes (when used a a focal point for a character) are around equally efficient at generating unbelievable and fairly boring fictional persons. Now, as ever, 3D characters are key.

STORGY landed an interview with James Frey (who wrote I Am Number Four with Jobie Hughes under the pseudonym Pittacus Lore) that delved into bibliophilia, literary criticism, bad press coverage and what is most important to a fiction author.

Q: “Do you think that honestly, that you sold out at some point?”

FREY: “I don’t know right? I actually had a tonne of fun doing Pittacus Lore and doing End Game. In some ways I don’t think it’s a sell out because it’s the least likely thing anyone ever expected me to do-“

Lastly, gnOme published the aesthetically engorged NEMO by X. Looks promising.


Thanks for reading. If you should wish to support our work publishing and promoting independent, controversial and unsigned fiction authors, you can do so here.

Fiction Circular 9/7/18

We’re always open to ideas on sites to cover for future installments, so if you know a good writer or collective, let us know via logosliterature@yandex.com


FLASH FICTION

Ramya Tantry of the whimsical writing site, And Miles Before I Go To Sleep… published The Mist, a surreal micro-fiction about (as you might have guessed) a peculiar mist and (as you probably didn’t guess) a lucky garden gnome.

Run, the mist is descending.. Run for your life“, cried Stu.

The poisonous mist was settling on his skin causing blisters. He was in tremendous pain and was in desperate need of water to wash the mist away. But he was unable to move. Poor visibility due to mist was creating hindrance in searching others.

He cried for help. He called for his friends. But no help arrived. As the mist started to clear he could see the bodies of his friends. He saw some of his friends on the other side of the fence crying their heart out.

I bring good luck. I am a good luck charm. I am the protector. Why I am being killed?“, Stu – the Garden Gnome wondered.

Certainly a evocative beginning to a tale, the only question: what happens next? Did Stu survive his ordeal? What is the mist and how did it become poisonous? Where did it come from? Perhaps we shall find out in another installment.

Curiously, The persistently consistent Dark Netizen also published a flash fiction entitled The Mist (presumably both he and Ms. Tantry were inspired by the same writing prompt). His story differs from Ms. Tantry’s in that there are no gnomes, but rather, considerably more giant spiders. Really not sure which situation is preferable…

Newcomer Avani Singh of the horror fiction site Blogggedit published a horror story memorably titled Weirdo Elevator. The story of the strange elevator and the terrifying smile continues in Why? Why Don’t You Leave Me? and is further elaborated upon in part 3, NOW YOU SEE ME! One thing I quite enjoyed about blogggedit’s posts is the usage of disquieting photography throughout, that both fit and intensified the narrative. We’ll be covering the rest of the series once we finish reading it and are definitely interested to see her work develop and progress.


SHORT STORIES

Worth reading from Jellyfish Review, When God Closes A Door by Kathryn Kulpa.

“I could picture the droop of his thinning hair, his hangdog eyes, as he realized the terrible sort of person I was. Like that song that says you always hurt the ones you love, but that wasn’t me. I hurt people I kind of liked-“

Nell begins the first chapter of a series titled The Angelic Conversation. A tale of convening with celestial beings.

angelic-alphabet1.jpg

“The social media app, which had in recent times, become her refuge. Another world she could escape to and be someone else – or perhaps just another version of herself, which was usually carefully concealed in her day job as an archivist.”

A tale of the freedom inherent to anonymity; no nagging questions from friends and co-workers; but are such relationships built as a stage or are they a potential alternative avenue of human connectivity, as real and genuine as talking to John upon the street? And who is this John anyway? I suppose we shall find out in her next installment.

We got around to reading more from OddMadLand’s back-catalog and delved into Ardency and Hysteria, the peculiar tale of a poet, Ren, who, believing himself a bird jumps to his “death” and, under perpetual transformation and internal turmoil, contemplates becoming his own planet and what life upon himself would entail.

“It was reported that the photographer and poet ended his life at the age of twenty-nine, but what they did not know is that he never hit the ground after jumping to his death. Instead the sky fell, and as it went down he went up.”

Like all of the stories at OddMadLand, Ardency and Hysteria is stylish, experimental and dense with symbolism. Highly recommended.

Terror House Mag’s Working The Night Shift by Daniel Bretton has a good premise – a depressed, wayward hall monitor seeing something or someone late at night, or at least he thinks did; this realization then causing total life-reassessment. Life, he realizes, is stranger than fiction, or something (it isn’t really laid out very well how this event changed his perspective, though the set up is well-done). However, this interesting premise is undercut by clunky prose which almost always tells rather than shows. Additionally, the story raises a few philosophical questions (the author snipes at dogmatic materialism (qua Dawkins et al.) and states – rightly – that what is true is not constrained by dogma, personal or collective; “if something is real it can take the pressure [of investigation]”) but doesn’t follow through with this idea, which makes the story feel, unfortunately, rather half-finished.

“In the modern day, the scientific and educational establishments have turned to a dogmatic materialism. No deviation from this premise is tolerated, with researchers and scientists putting their careers at risk by pursuing wider areas of research. Yet, to paraphrase a figure Burke otherwise has little use for; “if something is real it can take the pressure.” The strange, extraordinary, and yes, spiritual aspects of the universe do not simply cease to exist because post-enlightenment men choose to ignore them.”

Also from Terror House Mag, My Shinning Boy by Patty Fischer.

John Siney, whose work we’ve covered previously (The Ghost Of A Flea), has released an extract of his 2016 novel, A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Woman. All I can say thus far is that it is splendidly written, amusing and hold’s too high an opinion of Pollock (who was dreadful).


NOVELLAS & NOVELS

Nothing to report; still working through The White Lioness (Kurt Wallander #3) by Henning Mankell.


NOTABLE NON-FICTION WORKS

Lastly, though not a prose fiction work, Disappearance and Assembly – Extract by David J. Roden is well worth a read.

“-only the speaker, the human, has any place on the stage-“


Thanks for reading!

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Tomb of the Father: Chapter Two, Home & Hearth

Gunvald woke in the dark and buried the brigand upon the northern hill opposite the shepherd’s encampment and departed from the old vaquero wordlessly, before his waking, as the halcyon sphere drifted up across the high, jagged peaks of the far mountain. He made his way over the thin, reedy grass from the northern hill and from there to the stony outcropping where he’d slept as the sheep bawled and yapped like insane children and then passed down between the precarious tors into the lowlands which were spotted here and there with small tufts of shrubbery and strange boulders incised with markings from some people that had since passed from the world’s collective remembrance. The man stopped as if the stones had rooted him to his shadow by some eldritch witchery and slowly reached out to touch the curious monolith before him, gingerly running his dry and cloth wrapped hands across the smooth-hewn crevices of the mighty artifact. He closed his eyes and inhaled and exhaled deeply until his breathing became as rhythmic as a drumbeat and he felt as if his hands and those that had wrought the arcane inscriptions where one and the same. Past called to future. Dead to living. As if the stone were whispering to him, tales for forgotten times and well lived lives and those less well lived and what their folly entailed for the ignorant persisting. It was a peculiar feeling, one that the weary traveler struggled to rationalize but felt powerfully all the same. At length, he opened his eyes and slowly withdrew his hand from the stone and retreated a pace and looked over the monolith entire, from tip to base and judged the breadth and width; some eight feet high, some seven feet wide. The weight of the thing the gods only knew.

When he’d taken in the stone in all its facets he turned full from it and made his way out through the quitch and bracken and past other stones, both larger and smaller than the first, and all similarly marked by ancient hands, the symbols there incised beyond the travelers reckoning. Here and there a recognizable representation, half-masked in abstraction: a man, a woman, a wolf, a bear, a fish, a snail, a tree. The symbol most oft represented was the wolf, over and over again it was inscribed, with near mechanical precision and a primal beauty that he’d scarcely witnessed in even the most lavish of paintings. He could almost hear its call.

Beyond the rune-stones the ground flattened out with astounding brevity, the bracken and quitch giving way to queer lichen and strange vines with small purple shoots and thick, raw swatches of muddy-clay, filled all with fetid water that buzzed with insects of ever size and shape. The further out the man cast his gaze the larger the water-filled depressions grew until they merged unto a singularity, one vast marshen heap of rain-catch and sod and sand and silt. Bogland.

He recalled the old man’s words, “The first false step means death, to man or beast.”

Suddenly there came a raucous calling, a intonation, nearby and strangely human. The traveler whirled, spotting, some forty yards out into the mire, a huge male ram, only his forelegs, chest, neck and horn-crowned head clear above the bog-hold. The creature struggled a moment, flailing its powerful legs against the silt and sand-water and then, quite suddenly, it vanished, sucked down at last; even the tips of its horns sinking below the grim surface of that plane of death.

Gunvald watched the unhappy affair with a mixture equal parts despair and fascination. It seemed too sudden, the way the earth could so swiftly devour. Such a thing to the traveler’s mind was as fantastical as copper turning to gold or water to dust. The bog had not been there when last he’d traversed the moor, those seven years ago. It seemed a whole panoply of lifetimes compressed into the scattered crystalline fragments of his memories and dreams.

He recalled the long march beside his kinsmen, How high their banners flew, the colors of all the clan houses of Tor; after decades of internecine violence, united at last against a common foe, the gray-men of the Hinterlands, those they called, Rimners. How young and wild and full of lofty opinions they had been!

As Gunvald looked out across the moor his opinions flew at considerably lower altitude.

*

Finding no passage through the peat, Gunvald opted to travel round it by the southernmost way. The trek lasted two days and brought him past all manner of queer shrubs and bone piles and dying trees that looked more akin to the phantasmal skeletons of some macabre stage-play. Beyond the surmounted wetlands lay a quiet vale through which ran a babbling brook, girded on all sides by dry forest and vine, the ground verdant-lush and teeming with all manner of skittering things both foul and fair. He sat by the snaking divet and withdrew a wood cup from his travel satchel and dipped it in the water and drank deeply, the liquid sweet and cool to his parched and desirous throat. Then he watched the solar plumes play across the waves as a small school of fish nudged up to the surface, their huge, lidless eyes gazing upon the sun-scorned figure as if appetent of conversation. Gunvald withdrew the last of his stock, a dry half-loaf of bread and broke it into small pieces, eating some and then throwing the rest to the fishes who gobbled at the flotsam and then nervously retreated, wary of Man’s latent, yet ever present perfidy.

Moments later, the sound of creaking wood could be heard all throughout the vale, followed swiftly by a muted cascade of footfalls. The sound followed the wake of an old cart, rope-dragged by four men, filthy, disheveled and dressed all in furs. Their faces were covered by cloth halfmasks, securing the nose and mouth from nature’s multitudinous ravishments. Gunvald rose to observe the strange and solemn congression, eyes widening with horror as he beheld their vessel’s grisly cargo.

Bodies.

Some fifteen in number, human and decaying under the harsh auspice of the sun. They were male and female alike, from babe to crone, covered in all manner of hideous rashes and boils, their skin ashen-red and peeling like the hide of some overripe fruit. Whatever disease it was that had snatched from them the breath of life seemed for the moment to have no hold upon the cart-pullers who paused momentarily, all turning to the man by the river.

One of their number addressed Gunvald sharply, as if in reprimand for some past transgression.

“What easy fool is this?”

“No fool, sir. But a traveler.”

“Those that here make passage are foolish enough to warrant the epithet. Canst thou not see our sorry wares?”

“Tis a pitiable sight. Wherefore didst they meet Dactyl’s scythe?”

Upon the utterance of that most singular name the men collectively gasped, the former speaker, a short man, bow-backed, balding and scarfaced, muttered a muted prayer and then gestured towards Gunvald as if casting some devious vermin from his presence.

“Sound not that unutterable traducement!”

“I meant no offense. Superstition has surely deranged thy temperament.”

“Enough, heretic, we darest not tarry, lest thy, with your calumnious tongue, conjure some new evil to surpass the one that now burdens our aching backs!”

The other workers nodded as if there was great wisdom in the bald man’s words and then they adjusted their masks and ropes and muttered another prayer and bent once more to their toil and moved out across the rutted and grassy way, vanishing at last beneath the cavernous canopy of the wood, swallowed whole by the shadows therein.

Gunvald watched them go and decided to follow the cartmen at a distance, for their path and his were, for the time being, one and the same.

Gunvald rose and gave chase, passing through the thick and tangled forest of oak and ash and fir and gave silent thanks for the thick moss-bed beneath that masked the clattering of his bulky armored frame. Over moss and stone and leaves, dead and alive, he walked, keeping himself well hidden and well apart from the odd foursome and their rickety old cart. After a couple hundred feet the forest opened up, the trees and shrubbery now growing more sparsely, the grass turning from green to yellow-green to a dull orange-yellow. Dying. The cart-pullers took a sharp right and passed fully beyond the forest unto a thin, dirt road that stretched out to the gray northwestern hill-lands like the great and ossified tendril of some mighty leviathan. The road ran down a slight decline in the hummock ridden surface of the world and then diverged, one track splitting off to a small city to the south and the other branching to a butte which rose as the pass to the low, south-eastern mountains. Gunvald waited until the men had disappeared beyond the curvature of the earth and then took the lonely path towards the town stopping by a small wooden sign, hastily constructed, which read:

Ħaberale

The sign was adorned with a large off-white arrow, comprised of some woodland dye, which pointed towards the clearly present outline of the town in the short-off distance, half obscured by small tussles of old trees which poked above a field of withering wheat and the ruins of some primeval fort that lay there beyond. Before the man had fully risen from his observation of the sign the sound of thundering hooves rose up from somewhere nearby, plumes of dust whirling up towards the immediate northern road. Shortly, a fearsome cavalcade stood before the weary and cautious wayfarer, five in number and all armed and armored in strict uniformity. Knights or sell-swords or something worse. Gunvald knew instantly they were not of this land, by both their expensive attire and peculiar breed of destrier, he fancied them denizens of Tor, a kingdom someways off and rarely concerned with its outlying provinces. The leader of the group and the eldest, a man of middling height and some fifty years, at length addressed the armored wayfarer.

“Hail, traveler. A moment to query?”

Gunvald nodded in wordless acquiescence, though he knew that it was not a question proper.

“I am Cyneweard, second-commander of Tor. Word of brigand raids have reached our gracious Lord, Cenhelm, and by his leave we make way to Haberale to rope the misbegotten scoundrels.”

“If that is your venture then you’re headed the way all awrong. Your foe lies beyond the northern forest, past the bogland in the high moors.”

“You’ve seen them?”

“The night last I was assailed upon the moor by three fiends, peasants it seemed.”

“Three you say?”

“Now two.”

“We thank thee kindly. Might I inquire as to your business, traveler?”

“My business is my own to keep.”

“Suit thyself. One word of parting, take heed in Haberale, the town is much changed. For the worse I am afeared. With thanks, we leave you, sir.”

Without another word the knights straightened in their leather saddles and flicked the reigns of their war-beasts and clattered off down the road toward the moor. When they had gone all was silent save for the heavy breath of the western wind that sent the traveler’s long, wavy locks all aflutter. He brushed his locks from out his eyes and adjusted his scabbard-belt and wondered at the knight’s words. Haberale had always been a sleepy little idyll, the only heed one had need to take was of how uneventful it was likely to be so as to better remedy the doldrums. Then he thought of the bandits and the dead men in the cart and the living ones pulling it and the strange masks on their faces, all deep, emerald green. Times had changed indeed.

Gunvald left off down the way and crossed through the fading wheat and the hard clay ground and made camp in the ruins of some old fort as darkness closed about him in minacious plume.

*

Gunvald woke in twilight and passed through the northern archway of the quaint little conglomeration of hamlets as the sun rose full and fierce above the distant mountains heralding the end of Night’s devious reign. Through and beyond the northern stone archway ran a well worn path of rough cobbled stone which merged with the town’s main thoroughfare. It was at this junction that a statue of the goddess Marta lay, a man standing beneath it. The man was young and slim and dreadfully pale and wore a thin leather patch about his left eye. He was dressed all in tatters and sat cross-legged upon the ground beside a little wooden bowl which he glanced at from time to time as if he were afraid it might grow legs of its own and run off to be with its own kith and kin.

Gunvald’s footfalls sounded in short order upon the little, tatterdemalion man’s ears at which point he languidly raised his shaggy, windswept head and affixed the traveler with a most marvelous gold-green eye.

“Greetings and salutations, m’lord.”

“I’m not yer lord, beggar.”

“Not yet, good sir, not yet. Give it goodly time.”

Gunvald wondered momentarily if the man were mad, decided that it mattered not; he was pitiable all the same.

“Wherefore do thy wear that mangy patch?”

“Tis not for fashion, sure enough. But for those necessities of form that civilized men do aspire to. When War upon the Men of the Rimn was declared I, to my everlasting shame, made to abscond from those duties that bind blood to blood. Alas, I failed even in my wretched treachery and was apprehended and press-ganged to the front lines in service to Tor. It was there mine eye met the fearsome edge of a grayman’s axe, hence the patch.”

“Then thou must except my apologies, I myself am a veteran of that heinous enterprise and would never have spoken so tersely to thee had I known…”

The yellow eyed man held up his hands in entreaty and shook his head sadly, knowingly.

“Tis nothing. One as wretched as I am deserving of no apologies.”

Shamed to silence, Gunvald stood a moment in awkward contemplation, his thoughts coming to him with unusual langoriousness. It was in that meditative reverie that he spotted a small cloth mat, rolled and neatly bound with an old vine. A sleeping cover more suited for a cot than the rocky, pitted ground.

“Have you lodgings?”

“No, m’lord. All that I have I carry on my person. Everything else I lost in the war. Now I lodge with the goddess, who, in her grace, has embraced me warmly.”

With a look of horror and self-vexation, Gunvald dug into his left pocket and withdrew a small handful of coins, silver and stamped with the Royal Seal of Tor, a stylized chimera perching atop a proud, jagged spire of stone on one side and on the other the stylized face of King Chester III, Sovereign of Tor.

He proffered the mintage to the faineant without hesitation.

“I can’t accept that, m’lord. Tis far too great a sum.”

“If you shan’t accept my gift I shall force it upon thee.”

“Your magnanimity exceeds all expectations, sire. May Marta bless thee!”

The man-at-arms cracked a wry smile.

“Of that, she’ll have a most arduous time. Tell me, vagrant, what do I call thee?”

“Frey, m’lord. Jameson Frey.”

“Well met, Jasmeson. I am Gunvald. May Marta bless thee likewise.”

“One word, before your leave-taking, m’lord.”

“What is it?”

“The town overfloweth scoundrels.”

Without another word he turned and left off from the shrine as the pale vagrant bowed respectfully as if to some imperial magistrate. Some forty feet down the road Gunvald entered the town proper, passing through the old, low, stone archway which let out into the thin and winding main thoroughfare, passing between two old cobblestone huts, their smokestacks painting the sky gray with their exhaustive alcahest. He followed the road aways, passing between row after row of small cobbled huts with low hanging roofs of laiden brown thatch, small circular windows exposing the heads of a silent and solemn population who gazed out upon the lone wanderer with a mixture of wonder and fear. Their eyes spoke volumes, the unmuttered words those of caution, a collective flashing of looks that seemed to say, “Beware!”

His pace quickened in tandem to his pace, soon he settled into a light jog and closed his hand about the door of the fourth house to the left of the entryway. He braced himself for the coming encounter and feared his heart might wake the inhabitants with its knocking. Then he entered.

Inside there was only a old woman who looked up without surprise, as if she had been expecting him. After a moment, her eyes adjusted and a look of somber knowing came unto her face.

“I remember that face. Gunvald Wegferend, it pleases me to see you alive and well, dour faced as ever.”

He remembered the old crone, Paega well, she the former nurse-maid to his beloved and a fishwife at that.

“I trust you’ve been well, old fox.”

“Ack, don’t try your charms on me, I’m too old for flattery.”

“Very well.”

“To answer true… I’ve been better, all here have-”

He interrupted suddenly, unable to contained his excitement and curiosity.

“Leofflaed… is she here?”

The fishwife paused and gave a long, sad sigh before answering.

“Leofflaed is gone.”

“G-gone?”

“Due your feelings for her I shan’t keep anything aback. Her father sold her to Lord Eadwulf, the cattle baron, I trust you remember him. She lives with the lord even still, in that old stone manse upon the southern plain.”

“Hamon sold her?”

“Yes.”

“For what purpose.”

“To pay off a gambling debt.”

“What purpose for Eadwulf?”

“It were better I not say.”

Gunvald face was red with wrath, his fists trembling. He wanted to loose his rage without hesitation and would have had Eadwulf been there before him.

“My Leofflaed, sold like a common whore!”

“Hush, now, young master Gunvald. She was never promised to you. All vows made were between thee and she alone and none other. Now come, sit, you must be weary with your travels.”

“Nay, but I thank thee for thy troubles, Paega.”

He turned to leave but the old woman rose and grasped his forearm.

“Do nothing rash, young master, Eadwulf will not permit it and-”

“I’ll not be lectured to, especially not by a woman. Now take your hand from me this instant.”

She did as he commanded, fear and worry mixing in equal measure from the dull pallor of her withered cheeks and the slight glint in her weathered, squinting eyes.

Without another word he left off out of the house without closing the door and stalked through the streets with a lion’s fury. For a moment the man was directionless and then he remembered the old inn. A drink would well enough calm the nerves as it dulled the senses. For the present the soldier wished to feel nothing at all.

As he made way to the old inn Gunvald was perplexed by the empty streets which, in his youth, had been so full of mirth and gaiety and merchants haggling their glitzy baubles and minstrels singing songs of heroic struggles of some olden, mythic age, all of lion-slaying and monsters and magical princes and damsels and goddesses so fair they would blind all mortals who dared gaze upon their supple, naked forms. Now there was nothing but silence, broken at sullen intervals by the cracking of the old flags, green and emblazoned with the chimeric crest of Tor, that flew above the ramshackle houses from the watchtowers where they stood before the low, stone walls, overgrown with moss and unkempt as if in abandonment.

It looked liken to the domain of the dead.

He continued along the thoroughfare and passed beyond the low-born housing and moved on to the town square and passed the shuttered armory and the barren fish-market where only a few shadow-faced gypsies sulked, and moved to stand before the inn as an icy wind blew in from the north and crows gathered in the sky and landed upon the eaves, cackling as if with malicious mirth at his present plight. The looked to be Loessians, those curious folk what had crossed the great desert that moored itself to the World Spine and bulwarked the whole of the Kingdom of Tor from the other noted lands. Gunvald wondered at their presence: What were they doing so far from home?

Abruptly, one of them looked to Gunvald with keen interested and muttered something in a foreign tongue to a younger compatriot. The younger man drew himself up and instantly ran off, headed for inn to which Gunvald was headed. The armored traveler paid the boy no minded and moved to stand upon the low, flat veranda of the venerable establishment. He barley recognized the place, so hewn with odd etchings and strange graffiti was it, all in some foreign hand. Loessian, he fancied.

A old man sat upon a overturned bucket upon the leftmost side of the wide porch of the itinerant’s lodge. He was a sunken-eyed creature, dour and vacant, garbed in a thick fur coat and hat, a long wooden pipe gently set between his small, yellowed teeth upon which he puffed from time to time with methodical regularity. At length he spoke without turning.

“You know what they say? Those wall-scrawlings?”

Gunvald shook his head.

“I’ve little penchant for symbolism.”

“Tisn’t symbolism, tis Loessian. I don’t like the way they leer. Like cats.”

Gunvald waited a moment, expecting the old man to say something else and at length, after a long, meditating puff of his wickwood pipe, he did.

“You know how to swing that sword you carry?”

“Well as any.”

“You’ll need it shortly. The sword and the knowledge of its swinging.”

“Is that a threat, old man?”

The withered smoker screwed up his face, as if insulted and then spoke with forced restraint.

“Nay, a warning. I remember you. Gunvald, wasn’t it? Allotar and Aedelstein’s boy, but a boy no longer.”

“I don’t recall ye, old man.”

“Didn’t expect ye to. I knew your parents, knew them well. Thyself I met but on two occasions, ye but a babe, dew-eyed and grasping.”

“I do not wish to be rude, but I’m in no mood for chit-chat.”

“Fine then. To the heart of my warning. This lodge is owned by Lord Eadwulf’s right-hand man, Baldric, a very dangerous and intemperate man. His cohorts are seldom better. It is also, formerly, the favored haunt of the Loessian gypsies you see leering at us so ill-mannerly. Baldric can’t abide the Loessians and they, likewise. There are often fights. Killings. There are other places to drink than here and for a triumphant Son of Tor, I would gladly spare the whole depth and breadth of my samovar twice over, or more.”

As Gunvald opened his mouth to answer the doors to the inn swung open at the behest of a powerful hand, a powerful form swiftly following. A man, some six feet tall emerged, looked left then right then left again towards the duo and moved to stand before Gunvald. Gunvald turned full about and beheld the newcomer. He was some forty years of age with a thick and well trimmed beard all of red set below small black eyes and innumerable scars that ran from temple to cheek and from chin to neck. Gifts of the battlefield.

For a moment all was silent as the scar-faced man gazed upon Gunvald with great intensity. The next moment he surged forwards and latched Gunvald with a powerful embrace.

“Valiant Son of Tor! Welcome back, welcome back! A venerable procession I would have prepared had I known of thy arrival!”

Gunvald returned the old battle-hound’s embrace with a merry smile.

“You’re looking well, Uncle.”

*

The men sat around the rickety wooden round table in the center of the raucous inn. The lodging was all of thick-cut timber, with a small chandelier made of antlers and bone and which illuminated the laughing faces and the amber brew, overflowing, below. Gunvald smiled faintly as he looked about the old establishment. Exactly as he had left it. It was good to know at least some things had remained the same since the passing of the war. The room was still long and rectangular. The pitted, polished bar still stood in the back left corner, arranged all with brilliant crystalline glasses that proudly shone down upon the stuffed animal heads that lined the walls like curious spirits and the chortling merry-makers who swilled their hearty brew and smoked their oversized pipes, dancing light like dutiful sentries. Prune-faced was the owner who barked orders at the service wenches, their youthful limbs, limber and fast dancing about the shuttered ambit, wheeling great mugs of ale and mead and some strange smelling concoction that escaped Gunvald’s ken to the baying host therein who clacked their heels and struck up a tune here, or there quipped back and forth, arguing over a game of cards. The whole of the place a whizgig of energy and motion. A pen of mirthful chaos.

Gunvald starred down into his mug, watching the light play across the contents halcyon surface as Baldric conversed with his men, they all armed to the teeth and red-nosed with alcohol. At length he turned and raised his glass to the meditative veteran.

“Here’s to Gunvald of Tor, Hero of South, Scourge of the Gray!”

“To Gunvald!” The men exclaimed with ecstatic unison as they tipped weighty flasks to lips and downed half the contents therein. They were young to middle aged, armed and armored, but poorly, and each bearing the sigil of Lord Eadwulf, a furious, brass bull, upon the pommels of their well-sheathed swords.

Gunvald at length raised his own glass and looked to each and every local visage and then intoned imperiously.

“To Tor, and all her bloodied men!”

“Here, here!”

After the cheers the Baldric ordered them back to their posts around the perimeter of the town, leaving the gruff vassal alone with his nephew. He turned to Gunvald and glanced to his cup; empty.

“Well that surely won’t do. Not at’tall.”

“I’ve had well enough.”

“Of mead, perhaps, what say you to the other delectable treats afforded us?”

Baldric smiled mischievously as a sultry waitress sided up to him, bearing a bowel of nuts and two fresh pints of mead, which she set gingerly down before the two seated warriors. She looked first to Baldric then to Gunvald and smiled pleasantly. When Gunvald made to pay her she shook her head and held up her heands in entreaty.

“For a hero such as thee, tis on the house. As many as you like. Tis our pleasure, m’lord.”

“I thank thee, and you’re old master,” Gunvald responded stoically, his eyes leaving the dark pool of his cup only briefly, then returning to distanced reverie. The bar maiden stood uncertainly for a moment, as if she wished to speak but could not formulate the words until at last she bowed, saying only, “Well, I do not wish to disturb thee any longer.”

Baldric gave a laugh and, as she left off, slapped her straight upon the bum.

“Get ye off to the other guests, Ebba, my pretty, little minx.”

“Incorrigible scoundrel!”

The bar maid made a show of huffing and puffing but crack a delighted smile despite herself and whirled away tsk-tsking.

“Have ye lost ye manhood entire to the cup?”

“Nay.”

“Ya didn’t even spare Ebba a glance, an she a right ole looker – oh how she makes my heart leap with every new visage! Should go after her, I saw the way she was a’looking at ya-”

“That isn’t what I want.”

“Well, what do ya want? Hell, you and the rest of the town haven’t yet realized it, but you’re a bloody hero, you can have anything you want. Anything. Hear me, lad? I should know, I read you’re letters and the missives tracking your legions movements through the Rimn. When I read the last one my soul nearly leapt from my body, my heart, ceased it’s knocking and… I don’t mind saying it, tears sprang into me eyes. It had come by wing from one of Eadwulf’s falconers; it read:

Fenrald’s 3rd Legion surprised by Grey ambush at Rivenlore.

No survivors.

“Upon its reading I froze and there starred at the words and read them again, but they did not change. The horror was immovable. So many of my friends. Dead. Buried or burnt all. The worst of it was the casting of my mind to thyself, my dearest nephew – to have lost you to that stony, ice-wrapt waste… I know not what I would have done! And yet, here ye sit, glum and stolid as ever, but here and well and alive none the less! I was o’erjoyed when the next letter came – the war was ended; the Grey Chief slain. Split from knave to chops and shoulder to shoulder, his head unseamed from his villainous corpse! And by none other than by thee, my dearest nephew.”

“I’m surprised ye have yet to send for Eadwulf. He’ll be desirous to know of my presence.”

“Oh, no ye don’t, I know you’re ways, ye want me ta call him so that ye can return to the dutiful fold of His Grace. So that you can get aback te fighting! Well, ya’ave slain well enough and now, to rest.”

“Twas four months in the crossing from the Rimn to Tor alone. I’m rested well enough. Now send for Lord Eadwulf.”

“Ack, that kin wait – looky ere, tis Freyda. Isn’t she just the bonniest thing-”

Without warning, Gunvald slammed his fist hard into the table and turned frightfully upon his uncle, his eyes wide, intense and burning with some effulgent property that filled Baldric’s mind with a sudden terror.

“Spare me the bar-room whores. Take me to Eadwulf. Now.”