Witches, Warriors, and Wyverns


Reward, Uncollected

Marcas McClellan

Editor: From the strangest beginnings do endings make.

Geckodrakes, as a species of wyvern, weren’t known for their friendly dispositions and patience, DeLeon mused over his mug of ale. He watched the beautiful woman haggling with the goodwife of the Flatulent Farmer Ale House. He cringed when he heard the yowling of yet an-other cat outside in the alleyway near the ale house; another midnight snack for Chauncey, his wyvern.

If the other drunken louts of the pub heard anything, DeLeon supposed they chalked it up to a scrumble of tomcats, not the small geckodrake attached to the outer walls of the alehouse with its octopus-like foot pads helping himself to the native felines thereabouts. No, Chauncey was leaving nothing to chance, even though DeLeon had promised him a pork butt. But Chauncey probably had the right of it. The Beautiful Woman, a.k.a. The Witch, would likely not come along peacefully.

Chauncey was great for night work though, with his extra-large eyes that he kept well-groomed through his tongue-washings. And a better witch-sniffer-outer couldn’t be found any-where in the Three Kingdoms. And anyway, most villages like this little hamlet wouldn’t miss a few cats.
The haggling, meanwhile, seemed more of the friendly traditional sort than anything seri-ous. Even from where DeLeon sat at his table, he could see that the goods offered by the witch were of the cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onions, and egg varieties. That, and a heaping handful of herbs. Farm goods with a relatively set price. That assumption was borne out by the goodwife’s parting shot as she counted out several coppers to the witch. “Aye, and a bowl of stew and a mug; if for no other reason than I don’t want to see you off to your cot in the dark with an empty rumble-sack.”

The witch smiled her thanks and turned around. Seeing DeLeon, her smile faltered but quickly slipped back into place. She made her way over to his table and sat down before him, measuring him with the darkest eyes DeLeon had ever seen in a human being. She tossed her long-raven hair, bound up with a green velvet band, over one shoulder. Her lips pinched, but be-fore she could speak the goodwife sat down her stew, ale, and a hunk of barley bread.

“Here ye be, Meladora an’ sir. Would ye be havin’ a topper on your ale, sir?” She said the honorifics as though she were spitting out a slug that had crept into a bite of her cabbage.

“And another meal just like mine for the gentleman, please, Goodwife Maudry,” She counted out two coppers which disappeared in a flash into a pocket of the goodwife’s none-too-clean apron. The goodwife frowned at DeLeon but nodded just the same and turned back to re-turn to the kitchen.

The beautiful witch continued to regard him in silence. The goodwife returned and set DeLeon up with the meal and a topper. Meladora sipped her mug first, then took up her spoon and dished up mouthfuls of stew. DeLeon decided to join her.

Another cat yowl outside, this time intruding onto their silent meal. Meladora chuckled and smiled.

“Your wyvern, I take it. Don’t tell me, a geckodrake?”

DeLeon didn’t return the smile, but he nodded all the same. “Yes, mine, and Chauncey is a geckodrake.”

“Best witch-sniffers in the Three Kingdoms, you know.”

DeLeon nodded again. “So I’ve been told.”

The strange meal continued. DeLeon was hungry so he didn’t attempt to make conversa-tion. The witch, for whatever reason, respected that. Before long, both were finished with their meals and the goodwife swept away the leavings as she topped off their ales once again. This time, DeLeon paid.

Meladora sighed. “I suppose you mean to have my head then?”

DeLeon shook his head. “It’s not preferred. My…client wishes to have you returned live.”

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Scars and Solace

Kevin Stadt

Editor: In some cases the loss of memory is a blessing rather than a curse.

She woke to a dull ache in her bones and a rhythmic throb through her flesh. She sat up in the soft bed and surveyed the small, simply furnished room. Where was she? Yellow Krakthorn flowers in a vase on the nightstand, soft ironhorn music coming from somewhere, and a table piled with food. But nothing in the least familiar.

The next question drove a spike of black fear into her belly. Who was she?
Panic rose in her chest as she groped for an answer. Her name, her age, what part of Equi-larion she was from. But she had no idea.

The woman closed her eyes and took a deep breath to collect herself. The smell of fresh-baked rootbread filled her nose and set her stomach rumbling. She rose and peered at the food. In addition to the bread, roast piven, marblefruit, and wine crowded the table.

Her eyes fell upon the window and she went to it. The height and sweep of the view made her breath catch in her throat. She looked down to see the castle she stood in was built on the peak of Mount Grimdar at the center of the island of Equilarion, with the ancient trees of Malnova Forest to her right, the squares of farm fields to her left, and the city to the north, many of its most magnificent stone buildings floating one above the other. Beyond it lay the Ruga Cliffs and the enormous purple waves of the Slow Sea, which crashed so slowly that to the eye they appeared frozen. But how could it be? Mount Grimdar had no castle, she felt sure.

She shook her head and reached into her mind. While her memories on many subjects seemed quite full, none of the knowledge revealed anything about her. She knew about Equilari-on, about its people, places, and even history, but when she tried to bring forth even so simple a detail about herself as a name, she found nothing.

She turned back to the room and noticed a tall mirror near the bed. She hesitated for a moment and then stepped before it. A gasp escaped her mouth and her hands flew to her face.

Her heart hammering in her ears, she stared into the dark eyes of a stranger. Long scars lined her face, some of them less stark, some of them a fresh and angry red. Her hair was shorn nearly to the skin. She pulled back the sleeves of her robe and found scars there, too. Farther up on the insides of her inner arm she discovered scars of an entirely different sort, words clumsily carved in her flesh. The left arm screamed “YOU WILL PAY,” and the right shouted “KILL YOURSELF BEFORE.”

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Princess Rina’s Execution Day

Vonnie Winslow Crist

Editor: The night is darkest before the dawn.

“If it had not been for the dragon, I would be queen of one of Lenatnahi’s neighbors by now. Though Her Royal Highness of which realm, I am uncertain,” said the princess.

The man in the black hood nodded.

“Ouch! Please, Sir Death, do not tie the bindings so tightly around my wrists. I swear, I have no intent of running off.”

The man took pity on his subject by loosening the rope wrapped around the princess’s arms—slightly.

“Ah, much better. Thank you for your kindness. I will now continue my tale while we wait.”

After yawning, the executioner leaned against a wooden pillar.

“My father, Uniford the Magnificent, was negotiating with three countries at the time of my sacrifice. My hand in marriage was part of the deal between Lenatnahi and her chosen ally. Security and economics were the deciding factors in the negotiations, not my preference of hus-bands. In truth, none of the candidates was to my liking—a toothless old goat, a child, and a cal-culating widower whose previous wives had all met untimely, and I might add, suspicious ends. So you might say the dragon was my best choice.”

Not wanting to wait until the last minute to get things in order, the executioner bent down and picked up a bundle of heavy rope.

“Wait!” cried the young woman. “You need not put the noose around my neck yet, Sir Death. There is still time for that when the crowd has fully arrived.”

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