February 11, 1907 By the time we arrived in the Manchu settlement of Tanbian, the Russian expedition had already left a day earlier. For the last five days, we have been moving through deep snow and dense primeval forest in the Changbai Mountains, trying to catch up. The superiority of the mechanical horse is becoming […]
Audrey took her dinner quietly, without words beyond the obligatories (please, thank you, no, work was fine), and I obliged her the silence. We just ate, together but not together, in that way that you do when there are too many things to say. The meal in question was on the bad side of decent, days-old stir-fried noodles from the Japanese place down the street from her apartment, reheated and reconstituted into a slimy Pan-Asian gruel with the addition of fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha, curry powder, chili powder, and neglect.
But I know the one there is, and this is not his story. This is mine: I might have spent the summer in Tuscany, if my mother had visited Iceland in 1968. I could have found a boy in Siena with the face of an Etruscan faun and read him D.H. Lawrence among the vineyards and the oak-groves, olives silver in the sun; in Brittany, paced the stones of Carnac and the pine-dark tumuli .
Kamaria turns into a helicopter gunship at the full metal moon. She stalks the fallow killing fields by night, chop-chop lost in the wind. Helicopter thoughts are slick with oil, but she will not fire her guns. That much she holds in place, like a single sputtering candle underneath the roar of her blades.
I don’t just want to be with you. I want to live with you. In the kingdom under the hill, we could have been together forever. I didn’t want that. I wanted you — all of you. But that was before I understood what that meant.
Diomedo Obron and the Archon Filidor passed the evening and much of the night in the latter’s study, discussing the next day’s journey into the wastes of Barran and the expected confrontation with whatever survivor of the Nineteenth Aeon wizards’ cabal still lurked in the Seventh Plane. Erm Kaslo struggled to try to understand the concepts the two thaumaturges threw onto the table — sometimes literally.
The demon, like all the others before it, appeared first in the form of a horizontal plume of rust-red grit and vapor. Almost a kilometer away, it moved low to the ground, camouflaged by the waves of hot, shimmering air that rose from the desert hardpan. Lieutenant Matt Whitebird watched it for many seconds before he was sure it was more than a mirage. Then he announced to his squad, “Incoming.”
“Don’t go down to the well,” said Theo to his son. So, of course, Tim went to the well. He was thirteen, and his father told him not to. There was no magic to it. To get to the well — and not the well in the center of the village, because everyone knows where that well is, and no one has any stories about it except for whose grandfather dug it and how soon it’s going to go dry.
The journeyer was still a young man when he embarked on his search for the all-powerful witch Cerile. He was bent and gray-haired a lifetime later when he found a map to her home in the tomb of the forgotten kings. The map directed him halfway across the world, over the Souleater mountains, through the Curtains of Night, past the scars of the Eternal War, and across a great grassy plain, to the outskirts of Cerile’s Desert.
I’m in your house, wearing one of your shirts. I’m sitting on your floor, with all the drawers of every desk and dresser open. I have them poured out and I’m looking at what you’ve kept. Your old laptops and love letters, your hard drives full of photos and emails, your string and wire tangled into little knots, hard and tiny, twisted so tightly that I can’t crush them more than they’ve already been crushed.