Archive for January, 2012

It was in something of a daze that Rashavi entered the captain’s cabin.

Oh, he knew full well what he’d been hired to do. And after he’d got past his initial bitterness at the decision being made without him, it had turned out to be pleasant enough. A deckhand’s work was straightforward – he never needed fret about how the sails were rigged, so long as he didn’t clip his head on a boom. It was sometimes dull, but it could be satisfying; and, of course, his other duties kept the voyage from being too dull.


Dak Travenis hefted his flechette gun over his armoured shoulder and inspected the feeder socket. It was clear; he’d checked it twice in the past five minutes. What he was really inspecting was the rest of his squad.

Not that they needed it either. They were all ready, and, like him, checking their equipment almost as a ritual, or in case it had spontaneously decided to break in the last five minutes, while they assured themselves of the readiness of their squadmates. Everyone was, if not exactly at ease, as close to it as could be expected when they were about to deploy.

The front hatch hissed open, and Lieutenant Joraquin entered, in full battle armour but with his faceplate up. Within the space of three breaths all eyes were on him; everyone sat a little straighter in the racks, expectant.


Varyn frowned at the sight before him, slipping the haft of his mace back through its loop at his belt. “Well,” the big wolf murmured, “this is an unusual turn of events. How are you feeling?”

“Strangely enough,” said Kob, stretching to reach over the table, “I feel fine.”

It wasn’t that grand a table; a normal-sized adult would have had no trouble reaching across it for the silver candlestick that now filled Kob’s hand. Nor would that candlestick have been hard for that normal-sized adult to get his or her fingers around. That dissonance was really what hammered home Kob’s current state of affairs.

Even more than Varyn looming over him. Kob was used to that, even if the wolf didn’t normally loom quite so much.


Putting on the Duke’s green and brown had been the proudest moment in Misha Dantrig’s so-far-short life. Not even when he’d made lieutenant a few weeks back had it compared – and he’d been ecstatic to have those stripes sewn onto his cloak and his jerkin. He’d been promoted for doing his job and using his head, so it wasn’t that he wasn’t proud of his progress – and he was only nineteen, young to have an officer’s stripes. But entering the service of Duke Wafret had been entirely his choice, a decision that set himself apart. A defining moment of his life.

Being told to leave the green and brown behind, to dress like a tradesman in plain, unremarkable clothes and keep his hood over his face, to leave his sword on the rack and keep his pistol out of sight – those were things that didn’t sit well with him. It was like the Duke’s livery had suddenly become something to be ashamed of.


Eric dropped down to the dirt and took a breath of fresh air.

“Here we are,” the bobcat said, turning toward the back of the truck. “Off the grid for five days.”

“You sound way too happy when you say that,” Will teased from the other side of the truck. “Sure, it’s a pretty place and all that, but did you have to pick somewhere this isolated for our little weekend getaway? You saw that road, my poor truck barely made it up the road!”

“Yes, I did.” Eric grinned as he started undoing the cargo net. “I know you, man. If I’d picked somewhere closer – say, somewhere with electricity – you’d have been plugged in all weekend and we might as well not have bothered!”


Darius was expecting a quiet day. Reach one city, drop off his packages, receive some new ones, move on – in all the time he’d been a courier, that was how his days had gone. Sometimes he stayed there for only a short time, sometimes longer, sometimes he spent the night; it all depended on how tired his beast was, and how far he could expect to get before nightfall. At the moment, he was looking forward to a warm meal, a cold drink, and a soft bed once he arrived at Gervin’s Vale.

His plans did not include the whiff of an arrow past Jadetalon’s wing, but this, in fact, happened.


Snow was falling as she stepped out into the gardens. Already in covered the ground in a thick blanket of white, and still more fat flakes were drifting down, sparkling in the light of the lanterns.

She left her retainers at the door, striding slowly along the paths. The cobblestone mosaics were hidden under the snow, and the sweeping hem of her robe didn’t move nearly enough to make those patterns visible again; still, she had walked these paths more times than she could count, and in snow or summer, under sun or moon or stars, she could always find her way.

Beyond the stone walls, the city never slept. Here, though, all was tranquil and still. Not even birds disturbed the perfect silence of the night.


What was I to do?

My sire the great horse-tamer delivered me into Bellerophon’s service. As Poseidon’s chosen, the man brought glory to himself, to me, and to his patron. Kings sent him to his doom for that which he had not done, and with the favour of the gods he met that doom and emerged triumphant. He could have been an inspiration to the just, a warning to the wicked. He could have owned honour beyond telling as a hero of the ages.


It wasn’t all that comfortable. It wasn’t even all that discreet – if anyone saw them there in the garage, and especially on the bed of Mom’s truck, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out they were up to something. But it was away from prying eyes, and specifically the prying eyes of Blake’s little sister.

“You’re sure about this, stripey?” The rat gave the edge of Mom’s emergency blanket a twitch, spreading it out a little better.

“It’s okay, Flynn. I’m not twelve.” Blake smiled, reaching out to touch the other youth’s jaw. “I haven’t done it before, sure, but I know what it is.


Markus came to with a throbbing headache and an instant sense that something was wrong.

The last he’d known, he’d been hiking along a quite ordinary forest path. Or so it had seemed. The fact that he was now struggling to regain consciousness that he couldn’t even remember being about to lose in the first place rather suggested that something out of the ordinary had happened.

He was lying on bare wood – smooth, seamless wood, not sawn planks; his questing fingers found no edges, no nails, though there wasn’t light enough to see by, just a tiny square of it off to one side that did more to emphasize the darkness than to alleviate it. He still had on his trousers and tunic, but his cloak, boots, pack, and his belt knife were all absent.

Some kind of prison, obviously. But whose? And what in the world had he done to land himself here?


Day 19, late evening.

Lots to take in lately. Too much. Will anyone believe me? Even with this feather I hardly believe it myself.

Got to try.

That feast the Davai have been preparing for the last eight days was today. Only see now just how extensive those preparations were. The food has just been the last few days – lots of it. Hunting, first – never knew so many beasties around here were edible. They’re economical about it, too, using everything they can, right down to tanning the hides. Stews and cuts of meat, spice breads, at least a dozen kinds of fresh fruit – incredible variety, all of it freshly harvested or found within an hour or two’s walk.


Whatever some people thought or said, Zack could tell when someone was not available to him.

Oh, he liked to keep his eyes open. And if he didn’t know, he was always willing to ask. Sometimes he got turned down, and that was all right; sometimes the turning-down was downright aggressive, and while he thought those people needed to not take it quite so seriously, he had no problem leaving them alone once he knew they were off-limits.

Sometimes, of course, he didn’t need to ask. Like that caracal, the one that had come in with Toni’s stripey roommate. Charlie. Zack had overheard him at the bar, turning down another guy with an easygoing “Thanks, but I’m straight.” Zack wasn’t stupid; he didn’t need to pester the guy himself just to get that confirmed firsthand.

But that didn’t mean he couldn’t dream a little.


It took Vernon longer than usual to find his name on the chore roster.

Granted, that was the result of habit. Different apprentices were at the Academy to study somewhat different things – all under the broad aegis of magic, yes, but there was little in common between a biomancer’s work and a pyromancer’s, say, beyond the very basic underpinnings. So, having seen his name confined to some sections of that roster for two and a half years, when the young man didn’t find his name there at first glance, he checked again – twice – before letting his gaze roam farther.

There it was. But…

He looked around. Off to his left was Rolund, the journeyman who taught the basic elements of conjuration; all things considered, that seemed like a good person to ask. “Pardon me, Instructor Rolund?”