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Uncertain fantasy

I plan to continue with the short story and illustration project (life having intervened as usual) but I would like to share another project I have been working on with you — a chapter from a short fantasy novel, the first of four, entitled The Golden City.

A city stands in the middle of a desert: a single, enormous block of sandstone with passages and rooms cut away from inside of it, an ants’ nest of spectacular scale. In the very center of the city in the very lowest cellar there is a very deep well, and if one dives down to the bottom of the well one finds a passage in the wall, and if one passes through the hole and swims up the other side of the well one enters the same city in a different world.

Only one person has made this journey — the Empress, who rules her hidden land not just by law but also by pulling the very threads onto which reality is fastened — until an escaped slave with two rescued children finds her way into the city. Sephir, stolen from her village years before, wants nothing to do with the strange magic of the two-sided city, but the peculiar and lonely Empress is probably her only chance to return home.

I have been working on this idea for a long time, and I am excited to finally get it out where people can read it. I hope you enjoy the story!


Chapter One

They had been walking in the desert for so long. Sephir had considered trying to mark the days somehow, but all she had were her fingernails and the skin of her forearms. The caravan masters woke them two hours before dawn every morning, clanging a heavy iron bell and driving them from the night camp with whips and staffs. They continued walking until three hours past dawn, when the sun became unbearably hot and the masters feared for damage to their property. The canvas for the shelters was unrolled from the backs of the camels before the sun touched its zenith. The forty slaves huddled in their shade until an hour before dusk, when the bell clanged and they were driven forward again to walk for another four hours.

It had probably only been two weeks since they had crossed from the scrublands into the desert, Sephir thought, squinting across the liquid glare of the shifting sand. The first two days they had been chained together at the neck, but out here, where would they run? The sky was so clear at night that the masters could see eight miles by the light of the moon. A runaway would be lucky to survive a few hours during the day. All the water was in skins on the backs of the camels, protected by long knives and heavy muskets.

The twins had attached themselves to her in the last town before the sand started. Two light-skinned girls with sandstone curls, they spoke a northern dialect of her language, which the other slaves either ignored or could not comprehend. Sephir did not particularly want to be in charge of two terrified, distraught eight-year-olds, but neither could she bear to let them out of her sight.

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Story no. 33. 


The jewel thing sounds pretty stupid when you first hear about it. Like something that should be in a comic book or on a trading card.

I did a sort of internship in San Francisco, on the Blue Earth, running logistics for a couple high-profile exiled Fae, which is how I know about comic books and other human storytelling-things. If you can hide magic on the BE, you can do it anywhere, or at least that’s how the industry line goes.

I like to say that San Francisco is where I got my cynicism from. I read a lot of mangas and ate a lot of carry-out Chinese that year, and my office was underneath the staircase of a burnt-out row house in the Haight. Admittedly, it’s hard to avoid cynicism when your world is an afterthought, jammed between two bigger and more believable realities. Lathustra doesn’t even have a coherent physics. The Blue Earth has got gravity, and strong nuclear forces, and ee equals em cee squared, to keep things running more or less consistently. What’s true in one place is more or less true in another. Read More

Story no. 31. Hey, I was in Ireland, cut me a break.


Ifrid felt in her bones the moment God-of-Judgment set foot into her stepfather’s hall. The men-at-arms felt it; she saw fear and awe and hunger in their faces as she sprinted past them. There was no question if Eren felt it. Ifrid was a fast runner, but the other girl outpaced her like an eagle soaring over a deer.

They had been up in the Glen, a crevasse in the mountain which rose over the keep. It had been sheer extravagance for Lord Jaoth, the father of Lord Veath, to build the defensive walls right up around the Glen with no more motivation than a murmured wish of his wife’s, so that she might go walking in the little wood and look up at the waterfall that danced down onto the rocks night or day.

But it made a fine place to hide from Veath while she was practicing her archery, Ifrid thought, and if she needed to come back in a hurry she needed only rush up the steps and run along the walltop.

The noise from the town below had gone utterly still – no carts rattling, no men shouting, no women shrieking, no stone crashing on stone as they levered rocks one onto one another for the new trade hall. What was left was the sound of a man whistling, if a single man’s whistle could echo over miles of forest and rock. Below the whistle rustled whispering, the patter of footsteps, a child’s laugh. Read More

Story no. 29. Some of my friends are doing a 30/30 poem-a-day challenge for April. As I am not a poet, I am going to try to update this blog every day for this month.


I. Now

Clunk. Clunk clunk clunk. Splash. Clunk.

Tamarla peeked out of the third-story window of the crag house built on the stone in the middle of the river. A dark figure stood on the bank at the end of the chain bridge. It paced back and forth over the dirty quay, pulling bricks and stones loose from the wall to hurl across the river at his door.

“Tamarla, come out,” a voice like honey and the view from a lion’s stomach called. “I want to talk to you. I need you to make me a vest.”

Tamarla the tailor eased the window open a finger’s-width. “Come over the bridge, and I’ll measure you,” he said over the water. Another stone arched through the air before chocking against the wood of the door below him.

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Story no. 16.


Bet you thought I was dead, didn’t you? How’d you think I was telling this story to you, exactly? Orks don’t come back as ghosts. If we leave unfinished business, it stays unfinished.

But I’ll admit that for a while I assumed I had to be dead. Everything was dark and I couldn’t really move my limbs. It did strike me as peculiar that if oblivion were all that awaited me after death I should be aware of it.

As time passed, I became increasingly uncomfortable. My head burned and there was a weight on my chest and my arms. The place where the Fey’s glaive had gone into me, just under my left shoulder blade and certainly puncturing a lung, hurt so much the pain had become an unfamiliar, bizarre sensation: like having surgery done with an icicle while I was flying through the air at top speed. Read More

Story no. 10.

day10

Analise wasn’t sure where the packages were coming from, nor could she guess when the next one might arrive. This one, like all those before it, was delivered by parachute. All of them had dropped gently into her life when she alone – playing in the back garden, sitting in the hallway after being sent out for disrupting class, and this time, walking home from school. The wooden box was wrapped in brown paper, and the top slid free from two slots cut into the inside of the box.

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Story no. 9.


day9

In 1982, a man named Jaime Gonzalez moved from San Juan to the Bronx. Jaime was sick of living in his old neighborhood on the island for a lot of reasons – the heat, the poor sanitation, the bad prospects – but chief among them was that he had the rare talent to taste love, and it was driving him insane.

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