Stories from the ‘Fantasy’ Collection

I was barely seventeen when I decided to cross the black deserts of the Kai and brave the deadly midnight dunes of Kirrel, said to be full of lying ghosts and hungry, vile beasts.

No longer a child, dressed now in sacred star-patterned robes of blue and white worn by the men of the Kaihk, my parents wept as I left with all I owned upon my back — and little it was. There was nothing more they could do but curse and weep at my foolishness, for I was a man and they could no longer protect me from my dreams.

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Black Flames

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Thirteenth-Jaguar-Sun did not like the smell that lingered in the air.

It was like the smell of the great temple fires that burned at the foot of the temples to Child-of-the-Bloody-Moons when the winds shifted and blew their black smoke down over the city: it was the charnel smell of flesh taken by flame, the smell of sacrifice, of bodies given over to the eternal fires by the priests.

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The red-orange haze of the far horizon as it curved away north and south bled into the pink-and-white of the sky, the sun boiling red and angry hot in the sky above like a drop of shimmering crimson blood on the flesh of the air.

And near the edges of the sky, separated from each other by celestial arcs, hung three small objects: two were pale white and washed out in the brightness of the daytime sky, lumpy and irregular, their shadows the color of the sky. The third was little more than a metallic glimmer in the heavens, though its brightness would grow in intensity as dusk approached. These were the three moons.

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Yellow Skulls

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Insects buzzed like thick clouds in the air as we rode up to the grassy, yellowed hill. The white sun burned down upon us from the cloudless blue sky above. The heat was oppressive and dry.

A rocky, winding path led between the craggy hills of dry grass and dusty stone. We followed it around the side of another of the nondescript hills, this one courted by a large pile of broken stones resting upon its side…except our passage by revealed this hill wasn’t so nondescript after all.

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He sat upon a shelf of rounded stone exposed among the verdant grasses of the hillside, staring up at the pulsing flickers of quiet lighting chasing one another through the clouds and painting the sky with an ever-shifting series of unfocused light and dark shapes.

The light show had been going on for hours without a single cry of thunder, just the light filling up the heavens in broad, bright sheets, nearly drowning the swaths of stars that shone through the tattered and oft-broken canopy.

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Red Sun

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…After the Wars of Extinction, the Cleansing Wars, the Champions of Rajaat became the all-powerful sorcerer-monarchs of Athas, overthrowing their master when it was found that they, too, would become victims of his desire to return Athas to the near-mythical Blue Age…

“So, do you think we did the right thing?”

“Destroying the world?”

They looked out upon the barren dust, the heaped corpses their armies were piling onto a massive, smoking funeral pyre downwind. Carelessly tossing bodies of comrades and enemies alike onto the blazing, stinking pile. The billowing black column of greasy smoke could be seen for miles. Centuries ago, such a scene might have disturbed either of them.

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Misha’s Rejection

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His fingers had withered to gray, brittle sticks, worn down by years of rape and defilement, of rampant excess and the sickness that comes with too much power left unchecked and unopposed. This punishment extended to the rest of his body as well, which was equally withered and decrepit. He wore skin the pale color of the diseased, skeletally emaciated except for the bloated paunch of his naked belly, his back bent and cratered with ridges of bone and thin flesh.

“Why do you hate me so?” the decrepit man queried, his voice a strained whisper of age, the whole done without gesture and immersed in a slack wantonness.

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In the second Year of Dragons during the reign of the illustrious Emperor Flying Cloud of Silk, of the tenth century of the Noble Dynasty of Sleeping Water, a great festival was held in the province of Exalted Daughter of the Moon in the capital city of that province, and citizens came from all corners of the province to celebrate. Among them were many who had never been to a great city before.

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Wolf-shirt

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Night had crept cold around the mountain, wrapping the air in an icy blanket and sucking the day’s heat from the barren stones on the heights. Thorsur slapped his numb fingers against his thick, bare arms and breathed a cloud of white from between clenched teeth. It did little to warm him on this night.

He sat in a crevice long ago formed from rock slabs fallen off the mountain side, without the warmth of a forbidden fire, and stared down into the dark valley below. Somewhere in that black mass was a forest, cloaked by night, and his village, visible only as inviting, burning-orange sparks in the enveloping darkness around it. High above, the night was clear and the stars shone blue and white, glittering crisply in a sky that seemed brighter than the land below, a dark blue opposed to the earth’s inky black.

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Sun, Ship, Siren

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They blamed the sun, so jolly and yellow, too full of itself and too bright, hanging up above the world. Well, that is what the most-bitter said, for the sun was beautiful and bright, and brought joyous color to the world, like the emerald green of grass and the endless blue of the sky. These were colors no one wished to miss, brought out only by the sun.

Still, everyone blamed the sun, the beautiful sun, for drawing the sirens up out of the depths to sing their terrible, beautiful songs and keep little girls from sailing their toy boats across their swimming pools on sunny days.

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