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Danny O’Leary: Steamfitter’s Apprentice

Danny O’Leary: Steamfitter’s Apprentice by Mark Wolf Art by Lars Opland Danny O’Leary leaned out from the airship’s balloon rigging, inhaling deeply of the ozone in the afternoon thunderclouds, and reveling in the rising winds. He watched the rig-rats, envying the duties of those sailors that clambered about the rigging, raising and lowering sails, and repairing the outer skin of the balloon. In the near distance, lightning leapt from one cloud to another. The resulting thunder made Danny scream in joyful terror as he hooked his peg leg behind the spar of a stud sail for a more secure...

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Why Spearfinger No Longer Stalks These Mountains

Why Spearfinger No Longer Stalks These Mountains by Lawrence Barker Young Corn Tassel ran through the darkened forest, moccasin clad feet crushing pungent meadow garlic plants beneath them. His heart pounded harder than it ever had throwing smooth stone balls in the game of Digadayosdi. What he now did was no game. Despite the light of the crescent moon hanging over Dahlonega Mountain, the risk of colliding with a hickory or chestnut tree remained. That could prove fatal . . . or worse. Had the thing that reared from of the darkness a few moments ago, sending him running, really been Spearfinger? Spearfinger was the most dreaded of the Devouring Spirits that plagued the Aniyunwiya; or, as their neighbors called his people, the Cherokee. The sound of something pursuing him, crashing noisily through the brush, made him fear that it was so. If Spearfinger caught him, her long, sharp, stone finger would pierce his liver. No matter how tiny, he would die as soon as a chunk reached Spearfinger’s mouth. Not only that, but Spearfinger would be able to take his form. Even worse, Spearfinger would know everything that Corn Tassel knew. That included where his parents, Red Clay and Grouse, and his younger sister, Startled Deer, lived. Once Spearfinger started, she rarely stopped until she had claimed an entire family. For the dozenth time since his wild race...

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The Missing Morning

The Missing Morning by Tim Reed One day my granddaughter said something harmless, with all the candour of girls her age, but it tickled me funny – though I couldn’t tell you why. “Granddad, why do our Saturday mornings always go missing?” I mused on that innocent question for a moment, putting down the broadsheet and staring her straight in the eyes. “They don’t go missing, Katy,” I muttered, full of my usual tact. “You’ve just had it. Waking up, breakfast, bath – ALL this morning.” She bit her lip, went back to fiddling with her Barbie, and I thought the matter had dropped. I was wrong. “No, but that wasn’t THE morning, just stuff that I do every morning. The morning went missin’, while we moved along, and now it’s afternoon, granddad. Don’t it feel . . . funny?” I sighed, accustomed to her strange speech and children’s bona fide logic. “I do feel funny,” I admitted, and her blue eyes momentarily lit up. “Always do after one of Mrs Jackson’s lunches.” Mrs Jackson was our housekeeper – a silent, sullen type who looked at Katy like an elephant does a mouse. She was also an ‘interesting’ cook, creating concoctions that always ended up looking like moss scraped from a stone. “Don’t joke, grandpa,” replied Katy, pouting. “This is serious stuff. Don’t you like philos…philosphying with me?” “The...

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The Dragon Blade

The Dragon Blade by R. S. Pyne Art by Christine Graham The market town of Hard Riding waited, ready as it would ever be for the three day sword fair soon to descend on it. Jevan Blade-master sat in the early morning sunshine with a large, stave-bound tankard of ale and watched the road, a favorite hammer resting on his lap. His forge was carefully sited for this very purpose, an ideal place to while away the rare moments when he did not have ‘too much to do’. You can die from that, his father said, the old man quickly proving himself right by dropping down dead in the middle of an impatient warlord‘s order. For much of the year‘s turning, Far-western Hundred towns saw few strangers, but the midsummer trading event drew them like wasps to a mug of honey beer. “Are you still here?” he said to his apprentice. Kai was twelve years old, and unable to settle to sweeping the floor. The son of his favorite sister, desperate to go to the fair, but he lacked the courage to ask for a day off. The boy was away with the fairies and, in a place of red hot metal and large hammers, such distraction often proved fatal. “Get yourself away before I change my mind.” “If you are sure,” Kai hesitated, sent on his way with...

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The Inheritance

The Inheritance by Jenna McKay Art by Dale Bott   “A Griffin?” Thomas stared uncomprehendingly at the letter. “What on earth am I supposed to do with a Griffin?” The postman shrugged. “Beats me, mate. But it’s also none of my business. Can you just sign here?” Thomas sighed and signed the little red pocketbook being held out to him. The postman bowed and hobbled away down the path in his too-tight uniform. Thomas shut the oak door, shaking his head. He leaned back against the door. “What on earth am I supposed to do with a Griffin?” “We could eat it,” came a voice from the table. Thomas turned. Maude wasn’t even looking up from her dried flowers. “I bet the meat would last all winter. And the fur would make a lovely rug.” Thomas glared at his wife. “Don’t be ridiculous, darling. Auntie Jocinda would turn in her grave. It was her most prized possession. It . . . ,” he blinked in disbelief, scarcely acknowledging the words as they came from his constricted throat. “It’s name was Eric.” “Eric?” Maude snorted. “Well, that’s a silly name for a Griffin.” She pushed her chair away from the table and stood up, folding her blue-rimmed glasses and placing them on the table. She looked quizzically at Thomas. “Tea?” “Oh? Yes, yes. Thank you.” Thomas tottered numbly to the...

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