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Thin Blood

Thin Blood By James Lecky Art by Dale Bott The bird was an ill omen, I was certain of that. But then, the world was so full of portents that one more would scarcely make a difference. Still. “Good day to you, brother magpie,” I said as I passed, hoping to dispel at least a little of the creature’s glamour. “I hope the season finds you well.” The bird cocked its head to one side, as if contemplating an answer. None came, nor did I expect one. There had been a time when my people knew the secret language of birds and beasts, but those days had long since gone. “If anyone should ask, tell them that Elathan of the Aos Si passed this way,” I said, knowing that my words were foolish but held by ancient custom to speak them. The bird continued to stare at me as I made my way down the wooded slope and into the valley. I could feel its glittering black eyes trained on my back, at the small harp slung there and the two short swords that hung in colourful scabbards from my hips. I turned to throw an idle salute, but the bird had gone, mollified by my greeting, perhaps. “Good hunting to you, brother,” I said. There was a small stream running southward through the valley so I followed its...

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Masks

Masks by Megan Arkenberg Snow fell the morning Moretta came to the Queen’s Mirror, blanketing the muddy inn-yard like a layer of ceruse. Lelio and I sat at the edge of the façade balcony, our heads shielded by the gray and peeling Heavens, our legs dangling over the rush-covered stage. The paint flakes and blowing snow stuck to the black-work on my skirt. “What brings her here?” Lelio whispered, his ink-stained fingers plucking at the embroidery. “An actress with half her talent could find better employ anywhere in the city.” “Maybe she’s with child.” I brushed his hands away and folded my legs up to my chest. In the gallery box directly across from us, I could see Moretta’s slender shadow playing across the benches. “Do you remember what happened to Sybell at Midsummer? Even the Keys wouldn’t take her on. I think she wound up at the Tulip. Valentyne was furious.” Lelio shook his head. “It isn’t that. You saw the costumes she brought with her. Even if she was a whore—and I don’t think she is—Valentyne would accept her in a heartbeat, if only to get his hands on all that damask and samite.” He blinked away the snowflakes clinging to his lashes. “What part should I write for her, do you think?” “Goddess and Queen,” I snapped. “We haven’t done a Maiden’s Tragedy since I was...

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Of Dragons and Courage

Of Dragons and Courage By George Stewart Art by Richard Mandrachio For as long as he could remember, James was afraid.  He was afraid of spiders, bullies, talking to girls, and giving reports in class.  There were other things, but these were the top four.  People seemed to sense the fear in him and would ridicule him or harass him over his fears.  He had spent the past 17 years running from whatever frightened him.  He missed going to his junior prom last weekend because he was afraid to ask a girl out and was afraid to go by himself.  He didn’t quite know why he was so afraid.  Well, spiders were easy to figure out as well as bullies.  Girls were a mystery to him, and he didn’t know how to act around them.  And everyone was afraid of speaking in public, right?  James knew that if he ever had to give a report on spiders in front of his classroom full of girls and the bullies who taunted him, he would just melt into his shoes or fall over dead. The week ended much as many others had.  On Friday, he was shoved into a locker while some of the girls’ volleyball team watched and laughed at him.  He pulled himself up and out of the locker and made his way home.  On the way home, he...

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The Temporary Wizard of Locklynn

The Temporary Wizard of Locklynn by S.G. Rogers “You’re a woman,” the Mayor said. “You can’t be a wizard.” Ilene sighed. She’d heard that before, at the last six villages she’d visited. The people of Yden were really behind the times. Nevertheless, she had to be polite. “I most certainly am a wizard,” she replied, with a winning smile. “My name is Ilene McMillan of the Eagle Clan and I was trained by Quixoran.” “The Dragon Clan wizard himself, huh? Well, it doesn’t matter. We’ve already got a wizard working for us. Locklynn is a small town and we...

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A Dragon’s Prerogative

A Dragon’s Prerogative by Mark Wolf Art by Jack S. Rogers The dragon’s egg glowed with a golden hue. This fact amazed the beast that had laid it; so much so, she gave it more attention than she did her other eggs. If the other eggs hatched as remarkable a dragon as this one might, it would have surprised the mother.  When the egg finally did hatch, days after all the others, the mother hovered over the young golden dragonet, breathing hot steamy breath on her to keep her warm. The other young drakes had long since flown off to make their way in the world as soon as their wings dried. They would raise havoc in the villages of the humans around the snowy mountains for weeks to come.  Most would be killed by human and Elven alike. The few that survived would become crafty and live longer to fight and die in competition for territory and mates. These survivors would choose their own names if they lived long enough to develop an intellect above their primal instincts. However, this special dragon telepathically proclaimed herself, Mist, just a few hours after hatching. The mother dragon’s curiosity drove her to finally ask. “Why Mist?” “Why not, Mother?” Mist mentally projected her answer. “It is my first impression. You have kept me warm with your steamy hot breath.” “I don’t...

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