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art by Melissa Mead

And The

Alyc Helms did her graduate work in anthropology and folklore, which makes her useless for just about anything except writing. She lives and writes in a dilapidated beach bungalow outside of San Francisco, and she works as a content coordinator in economics and biology for an academic press. She writes what she likes to call "critical theory fanfic," which allows her to explore her obsessions with liminality, gender, and foxes. She's currently shopping around her first novel, a pulp adventure fantasy that's rather like Big Trouble in Little China meets The Shadow, and she's hard at work on her second novel. She can be found online at teleidoplex.com.
When the Bargain was first made--so the stories went--the leaves on the trees had just turned. The world was dressed in rubies and gold, and autumn rains darkened wood to ebony. But each Bargain lasted a year and a day. As the seasons cycled, the day of sacrifice crept through the winter. This year, a spring ice storm sheathed the sprouting branches and new leaf buds in a silver thaw. From everywhere, crystalline brilliants flashed and winked.
The Sacrifice stood on the approach to the Keep, though neither of them deserved their titles. Enid was just a scared girl, and the keep was less like a dwelling built by men and more like the cocoon of some great larval insect. Brittle, colorless stone dribbled down from an amber-glass dome to grip at the hilltop like the fingers of a keloid scar. The entry causeway stretched before her like the gullet of the great beast she was slated for.
Her floral regalia dripped cold tears down her cheeks, the branch she carried was slick and leaden. It creaked with every step
"You will not falter," she said when her feet refused to carry her further. She was a stranger to courage; when in her life had she ever needed it? "Somehow, you will win free of this. Step forward, Enid. Step lively."
The ascending tunnel was long and twisted. Orbs of green witch light appeared along the walls, herding her toward her demise. The rough floor became polished marble. A sprinkling of water trailed in her wake, and the muddied hem of her gown left a smear on the mirrored stone. She came to a massive door, its smooth surface made of reflective stone. She pushed it open, her shoes slipping on the marble floor.
The room beyond was a wonder. Walls of colorless stone curved up to the high, amber dome. Sunlight, warmed to honey-gold by the glass, dripped heavily into the room, glancing off the motes of dust that had been set to dancing when she opened the door. A low hum cycled in a slow rhythm, rising and falling. It was not loud, but it made her feel uncomfortable in her bones. At its apex, it made her teeth tingle.
In the center of the room was a misshapen mass of amber, half as tall as a man. The floor was covered in richly dyed and woven carpets of every shade and hue. There were sofas and divans in plush velvets, bookcases lined with leather and gilt spines. A sideboard boasted silver-covered dishes, and a table nearby was set for two.
She stilled at that sight. Dread chased away awe as she recalled her purpose. Numbly, she set her dripping regalia onto a small table. She dried her hands in her skirts and smoothed the front of her plain gown.
"Hello?" she called into the emptiness of the chamber. Her voice echoed in the arched recesses of the room.
She cleared her throat and called again, "Hello, Dragon?" There was no answer. What was the etiquette of introducing oneself to one's devourer? A nervous bubble of laughter escaped her throat at the thought; the room laughed back at her.
She ventured inside, her steps leading her past the chairs and bookcases, toward the honey-gold orb. Its glow came from within, light glancing off pockets of air trapped long ago. The lacunae shifted ever so slowly, as though the stone had not fully hardened. She reached forward to test the surface when a voice stilled her hand.
"You are not so pretty as the other ones."
She pulled her hand back. Her eyes flew up to meet those of a strange man. He was tall and stern and hard. Dark hair, colorless in the same way of the doors and walls, framed his face. His eyes shone like the amber between them. She stumbled back a pace at the disdain in them.
"Who are you?" She could hardly speak for breathlessness. There was something about his hardness that made her respond with yielding.
He paused a beat. Then: "Who do you think I am?"
The only possibility seemed ridiculous to her, but she uttered it anyway. "The Dragon."
His lips twisted, "And so I must be. And you are...?"
"I am..." she paused, unsure what to answer. The strangeness of her situation was beyond her. Nothing had prepared her for this. She fumbled for the familiar.
"I am the sacrifice sent to appease your hunger." She gestured toward her abandoned regalia. "So that you will not terrorize our land, according to our ancient Bargain."
Something flickered in his eyes. Their golden glow dimmed and grew as hard as the rest of him. "And so you are." He moved to the table and gestured for her to do the same. "Sit. Eat. We will discuss how things will be, according to the Bargain."
She followed and served herself a small portion of food, sitting as far from him as the table allowed. They sat in silence for some time, his plate empty and hers untouched. She stared at her plate and tried not to fidget under his gaze. He broke the silence with a sigh.
"You are not hungry?"
"No. I am too afraid," she answered. Good manners forced her to further the conversation. "Are you not hungry?"
"No, I have fed recently." He had fed. Enid had not known the girl who was sacrificed the year before, but of course there had been one. She took a small bite of food so that she would not run screaming from the table.
"You do not mean to devour me, then?" Her tone was falsely light, as if she were discussing the weather and not her imminent demise.
"Whether that occurs is entirely up to you."
"I beg your pardon?" She raised her eyes to his for the first time since they'd sat, unsure she had heard him correctly.
"You may not have it," he responded, taking her words literally. "You must earn it. Are you familiar with the terms of the Bargain?"
She nodded. Of course she was. Every girl-child was weaned on the tales of the Bargain, and cut their teeth on tales of how they would be the one to defeat it: bravado voiced in pipsqueak tones.
"If I were chosen," they would avow when summer warmth had chased away winter's dread, "I would never be caught by the Dragon. I'd winkle out some hidden place, and that clever old wyrm would never find me," or, "If I were sent as sacrifice, I wouldn't hide like a mouse. I'd confront the monster, and slay him, and free us all."
The Dragon said nothing, merely looked expectant. "I... I am to pass the year with you, and during that time I will attempt to learn the secrets of this place. At the end of the year, you will leave me to hide during the day, and at sundown you will come seeking me. If I succeed in staying hidden until sunrise, then I will be free to name as my reward anything in your keeping."
"And if you fail," he smiled. His teeth flashed sharp and white, "then I will be well-fed when the next girl arrives."
Her stomach rolled; the bit of food sat in her belly like a leaden lump. She stood without thinking and backed a step away from the table, away from him. He stood as well, but did not approach her.
"You may go now. Feel free to explore the Keep, and to choose a room for yourself. When you wish to speak with me--and eventually, you will--return here, and we will speak."
Perhaps she should have responded, but instinct and fear were already propelling her from the room. She expected to hear his laughter trailing after her. The bone-jarring hum, pulsing and ubiquitous, was even worse.
She picked a room from among the many identical doors along the corridor, and huddled there for the first day and night, terrified to venture forth. Meals were laid out by invisible servants. A bath was filled at her whim, and rich gowns appeared in the wardrobe. No other being disturbed her. The second morning she ate and washed herself and scrubbed the mud from the hem of her plain gown before donning it again. She rebelled against trussing herself in silks for the Dragon's benefit. She bound her hair back in a simple plait and ventured forth.
That day she explored the Keep, from the highest spires to the deepest bowels. She found no one else, and no evidence of the Dragon. That night, as she readied for bed, she began to form her plan.
As the days slid into weeks, she mapped her explorations. She kept her maps close, rolled into a scroll case and sealed with wax, lest he had some means to spy on her. When she had fully mapped the winding maze of rooms and corridors, she retraced her steps in confirmation. Barely two months had passed, but she was sure she knew the terrain as well as she could. Ten more months. She could drive herself mad retreading the Keep, reconsidering her plans.
She wondered how many other victims had done just that.
Eventually, as he had predicted, she sought him out. It was not boredom or weariness that led her to return to the grand circular chamber. If she could encourage him to talk, then she might learn from the mistakes of her predecessors. There were no stories she knew of a girl winning her freedom.
He was there when she entered the room. He sat on a sofa with a book in his lap, but his gaze rested on the amber orb. She stood a few paces away, waiting for him to acknowledge her. Minutes passed, and she began fidgeting from foot to foot. She cleared her throat.
"Ask your questions," he said, tearing his gaze from the orb, but it was only to return to the book he held.
She had many, but in irritation she snapped out the one she most wanted to know: "Am I allowed to simply leave?"
He looked up at her then, his eyes sharp on her. She could read nothing from his expression.
"What do you think?" His face might be unreadable, but his voice dripped with disdain, as if the question were so stupid that it didn't merit a response. Once again, she quailed before his hardness, the confidence she'd built over the past few months melting away. Her shoulders hunched forward.
"...No." Of course she couldn't. That disastrous possibility figured in many tales. "If I left, you would still hunt me down, and no person you encountered along the way would be safe. The Bargain would be broken."
"But you would have the world to hide in," he offered. He leaned forward, and she quashed the urge to scurry away like prey. "Such a wide world. I might never find you."
"No," she said, "I won't do that. I won't free you to do that."
"Very well." He gestured for her to take a seat. She settled uncomfortably on the edge of a chair, ready to flee at any moment. He shifted back and regarded her, fingers steepled under his chin. "Although, it is by far the easiest way to win."
"But not one that any of your other victims has taken?" she pressed.
"No. More's the pity."
Pity? "Why make the Bargain, if you do not wish to keep it?"
"Why do you think?" he asked again. Her anxiety broke into frustration.
"I think that I want to know what you would answer," she snapped, "otherwise, I might as well stay in my rooms and talk to myself."
His brows arched, and for the first time since their initial meeting, she saw a flicker of warmth in his amber eyes. The straight line of his mouth quirked upward.
"When I first came here, the people feared me. They approached me with their Bargain. I had no plans to do the things they feared, but I was obliged to accept. And now, after so long..." He shrugged and once again bared his sharp teeth.
"You've become accustomed to it." She answered her own question, her voice soft with horror. What had her people purchased for themselves?
"If you like."
"They say you are a Dragon, and this is your lair. Why do you look like a man? And why is this place so strange?"
"Those are very good questions." His eyes were warmer still. Sunlight drizzled into the room, making everything seem warmer. Even his hair had reflected color in it.
"But what are the answers?"
"What do you see when you see me? When you look upon this place?"
"I..." She was sure this was another test, but she knew not how to respond. "I see a hard man with amber eyes and colorless hair. I see a palace of wonders here in the upper reaches, but underneath it is like a warren of tunnels made by some beast. The outside, when I approached, looked like a great cocoon."
"That is not what most see," he said.
"What do they see?"
"What they expect."
"Then... then you are not really a Dragon?" she asked. The prospect of a bloodthirsty cannibal did not strike her as a comforting alternative.
"I both am, and am not, a Dragon." His eyes slid past her to fix once again upon the orb of amber.
"I don't understand." He flicked a disdainful glance at her, as if to say, of course you don't. She tried again. "Why do I see things differently? Why do I see what I see?"
He heaved a sigh and looked down, fingering the thick pages of his book. "You see things as..." He trailed off.
"As they truly are?" she prodded.
He laughed, a deep and terrifying sound. "What does that mean? No, you see things as I do..." His lips thinned and his eyes narrowed. His gaze snapped back to hers. "I do not desire to speak of this anymore. Tell me, what is your name?"
"Enid," she replied automatically, stunned by his sudden shift in demeanor. He frowned.
"Unacceptable. Enid will never do. It is a hard name. It does not suit you. You will be Ysiad. That is softer. More appealing. Ysiad." He nodded, as if declaiming it made it so.
Anger coursed through her, for his evasion on a topic she felt sure would lead her to victory, for his insults, for his erratic moods, for the loss of her former life. She clenched her hands and stood.
"No."
"Hmm?" His attention had already moved back to his book. He hadn't even noticed her standing.
"I said, 'No.' My name is Enid. It is a perfectly acceptable name, and it is mine. You will not change it." She trembled, wondering if he would react to her challenge with violence.
He looked up then, regarded her briefly. Wistful. "We shall see, Ysiad." He returned to his book. Shaking with fear and fury, she stormed from the chamber.
It was several hours later, after her fury had cooled, that she realized she had discovered nothing about her predecessors, and that she would need to seek him out again.
"Tell me of your other victims. Where did they hide?" she demanded. Once again they were in the circular chamber. He never ventured from it, or she never saw him if he did.
"Are there no stories that tell of such things? Consult them and leave me in peace." He didn't look up at her. In those early days, he rarely did. It was as if he had trod this ground many times before, and knew the route by heart.
"Has anyone ever won free of you?"
"No." His voice was low. She had to strain to hear him. "Every maid who has come here has met her end here."
It did no good to let her mind dwell on that. She forged ahead. "Then what use are those stories to me? They tell me nothing of those girls."
"Do you think to learn from their mistakes?"
"Yes." There seemed little point in denying it.
"Perhaps, having once discovered my quarry in those places, you believe I will not bother to search them again?"
"No," she responded, considering. "You will search those places out first, if only to quickly discount them."
"And so I will," he said, and she knew that he would. He smiled as he said it, as if he held some secret denied to her. She frowned in response.
"Tell me the previous locations," she commanded, and he did.
She consulted her maps again, noting the patterns of hiding places. Her explorations took on a counter-organic quality. When inclination prompted her one way, she would resist and go another. Her steps led her to the highest reach of the highest spire. Through windows of yellowed glass, a Panopticon in amber, she could see the entire countryside. The bulk of the Keep coiled beneath her, sunlight soaking into its dull, scarred surfaces. Her shoulders twitched. She was too exposed here. She would need to find some other place.
As the months passed, she sought him out more regularly. He was her jailer, but he seemed as confined by the Keep as she. Their conversations were twisted and frustrating. At times her questions amused him, but then he would answer coldly or not at all. He was always reflecting her questions back upon her, so that she answered them herself. Whenever she felt she might be approaching something useful, he would ignore her, or grow cold, or change the subject.
"How do I know that anything you tell me is true?" she demanded in frustration one day when he was being particularly obtuse.
"You do not," he replied with equanimity. He was peeling an orange. He sectioned it with care, regarding each segment with deep concentration before eating it.
"Then why should I trust you, or anything you say?" She was near tears. He looked up at her, and perhaps she imagined the compassion in his gaze. He offered her half of his orange. Unthinking, she accepted it.
"You have no reason to. It is entirely irrational that you should do so. And yet, what other option is there for you? Either there is the game, or there is not. Either I will devour you, or I will not. Either I tell you the truth, or I do not. I obey the rules of our situation. We each must accept what the other states as given. You have no means of knowing what you are to me, save what I tell you. Just as I have no means of knowing what I am to you, save what you tell me."
"I hate you," she said, but there was no fire to it.
"Now that," he said, inspecting another section of orange, "is entirely rational."
When she was bored and could no longer stomach his company, she would explore the treasures of the Keep. She wandered through gallery upon gallery, all filled with examples of fine craftsmanship--furniture, tapestries, sculptures--the work of many hands long gone. Dust dulled the carved woods, and tarnish corroded the metal fastenings and embroidery. One corridor was lined with portraits, each featuring a different girl, all of them prettier than her. At the end of the corridor was a mirror. It set her to shivering, and yet she could not stop herself from returning time and again.
As the months passed, she began to comprehend the power that speech held in this place. She had only to say the word, and she would be provided with food, or a bath, or what she would. She thought back to her conversations with the Dragon and wondered if events might have proceeded differently had she spoken differently. She wondered what he might have been, if the Bargain had never been struck.
She began to take more care in choosing her words.
"Tell me a place where you cannot find me."
"I may not." He made a moue of disappointment. They had gone well past such games. She tried another tack.
"What if I say that you will never find a particular location, and then hide there?"
"Then I will look there, Ysiad." The name he used made his point. There were limits to the power of words in this place, as if language and reality were constantly at odds.
"Enid," she said.
She availed herself of the books in his library. There was little else to do once her daily explorations were finished. Many of the tales were familiar, but others were new. She began to recognize a certain sameness to all the tales. Silence and obedience were rewarded, vanity and cruelty were punished. Cleverness... that could go either way, but monsters were always defeated. And yet, the Dragon still lived after many years of devouring girls like her. She could not make sense of it. She began to wonder whether the tales were of any use at all.
"What is that constant humming?" she asked once. He was teaching her to play chess on a set of onyx and moonstone. He always won.
"That is a very good question." She had come to hate that statement more than any other. If she could only discover the answer, perhaps she would have the answer to the riddle of the Bargain. He never responded with more than the words and a smile. She gave a vexed snort to be met with the response yet again.
"Well, whatever it is, please make it stop. I can hardly sleep for it."
"I could as soon stop breathing," he responded, still smiling as he moved to checkmate.
The corridors in the bowels of the Keep were rough, the air stale and fetid. She spent more time than she cared exploring them. The chambers there were filled with jagged, uncut jewels and unworked lumps of metal. She became easily lost amid arcane twists and turns; around every switchback there were hidden pockets in the stone. It seemed perfect for hiding, yet too many of her predecessors had met their end down here, if his word was to be believed.
"What are you?" she asked one evening as they dined. They always dined together now. Some days, they never parted company.
"Even if you had the capacity to understand, I may not explain. I am bound to keep the Bargain. By those rules, I am a monster, and a monster may never answer such questions directly."
"You both are and are not a Dragon," she echoed the words he had spoken so long ago.
"Precisely."
"So then, what are you, when you are not a Dragon?"
He smiled, and she knew his response before he gave it: "That is a very good question."
She wondered sometimes if she were meant to fall in love with him; there were certainly many stories that told of such things. She was never bored in his company, and she was becoming a very uncommon sort of woman in her quest to free herself--she, who had always been so commonplace. But her terror of him was never far from her thoughts, and though she did not find him boring, neither did she particularly like him. She could never forget that he had killed and devoured many women before her, and would do the same to her if she did not win his cruel game.
She continued to read the tales. What would it be like, to be wed to a monster? Would it be preferable to being devoured by one? She found herself wishing she had brothers.
"How did the Keep come to be here? Who built it?"
A heavy rain was bearing down on the amber dome, darkening the honey-light to a gloaming. The streaming rivulets distorted the light in the chamber. The droplets clinging to the glass cast lacunae on the walls and floor. She mused that this must be how the world looked to a creature trapped in amber.
"I did... after a fashion." One finger idly traced the edges of a shadow-lacunae on the arm of his chair.
"What does that mean?"
"That you are asking the wrong questions."
"What are the right questions?" He simply smiled. She ground her teeth in frustration and tried again. "Where are your people? Your kin? The other... not-Dragons?"
His hand paused in its tracings. "What do you mean?"
"The other creatures like you." He rarely sought clarification. She tamped down a flutter of excitement. He would avoid answering. Surely he would, as he always did.
He was silent for several moments. "There are no other creatures like me."
She shook her head as her chance for understanding slipped away. She fumbled for it. "But... surely... a mother, at the very least. You have a man's shape. Who birthed you?"
"I birthed myself."
"You ... yourself?" Her voice was faint. Disheartened.
He resumed tracing the shadow's edge. "After a fashion."
It was a dismissal, but she wouldn't give up. "What do you see when you gaze into the orb?"
Instead of reflecting the question, he stilled and turned his gaze on her. Everything stilled with him. The rustle of pages fell quiet. The dust motes stopped dancing. Even the rhythmic hum paused, like a hitch between breaths. He shifted, and time started again.
"Nothing of note, save my own thoughts."
Her shoulders sagged. She had so hoped that she'd guessed the secret. She pressed the matter, just to be sure.
"So, it is not some great scrying glass that you use to watch the Keep?"
He shook his head with another smile. "I know all that goes on here, but that is not the way."
She stomped off in frustration. She had less than a month before the year was up.
The morning of the challenge arrived. Enid awoke with a start. She had avoided the circular chamber--and him--for the entire week previous. She could not look into his eyes and remain calm. She was seized by terror and fury in turn.
It was the absence of noise that woke her. The rhythmic humming was gone. She felt the echoes of it in her bones, the way a sailor sometimes walks with the sea while on dry land. Throwing her covers aside, she bathed her face and arms and flung on her worn gown. She gathered her maps and set out for her final day in the Keep.
One prospect after another she visited and discarded--the windowed spire, the treasure galleries, the twisting bowels below. There was nowhere... nowhere in this place where he couldn't find her. She fretted the day away, going from one prospect to another. In desperation, she ventured to the circular chamber. She had quickly discarded it as a possibility. Other than that first day of arrival, she'd never been there when the Dragon wasn't. When she entered, it was to find the room bare of all furnishings. It was empty of him, like the rest of the Keep. Only the amber orb remained. The setting sun glanced light off the rim of the dome, but the orb was dark and still; no glow lit it from within.
She'd looked into a dead man's eyes once or twice, and more than her share of chickens. This felt the same--bodies without souls. This was how he knew where they all hid, those girls who had gone before. The clues were there all along, but it had been too strange for her to grasp. She had gone down his gullet that first day. She'd mapped every inch of his body: the spire that gazed out upon the land, the gallery with treasures gathered close, the tunnels below with undigested scraps of rock and metal, even the air that circulated through the corridors with its rhythmic hum. She never realized. Already a year she'd been in the belly of the beast.
There was no place to hide. She pulled out her maps, seeing their shape anew. Her fingers traced the terrain of his body, this empty husk she stood in. She wondered about the man she had spent the year with. What aspect of the Dragon was he? Mind? Heart? Soul? Her defeated gaze fell on the darkened orb. She stilled. Dropping her maps, she approached the viscous lump.
It showed nothing of note, he claimed, save his own thoughts. Tonight, he would be thinking of her. Searching for her. Was it possible to hide among them? Standing before the darkened orb underneath the dome, she was ambivalent: It couldn't work. It had to work. She noticed, as she had not done since her first day, the odd fluidity of the orb, the strange lacunae within. It couldn't be possible; surely the orb was impenetrable. Surely, even could she penetrate it, she would suffocate within minutes, well before the night was over.
Yet she knew of no other option.
The quality of light grew thicker and darker as the sun continued to set. Tension sang along her limbs like an instrument tuned too tightly. The light snuffed out, sinking the chamber into gloom, even as a warm glow lit within the depths of the orb.
She dove forward into the honeyed glow.
There was a moment of resistance, like a droplet clinging to the lip of a glass before it falls, or speech trembling on the edge of one's lips before it rushes forth. Her momentum carried her beyond it, and then she was drawn into an infinity of amber light. Her entire being unraveled. She struggled to pull back, to keep some aspect of self, but it was like trying to catch a scattering of dust in a sunbeam.
She understood why he never answered her good questions. They were unanswerable. She could no longer feel her body, nor conceive what a body would be in this place. She cast about for anchors, latching on to the lacunae. Each one was a story, a world unto itself, a door to some other space and time.
The orb was the threshold; he was the threshold--an ephemera that had birthed itself into being, becoming monstrous. His realm was beyond understanding. She had no notion how to navigate it. She was trapped. She could not go forward; she could not pull back. The lacunae slipped from her as she continued to disperse. She tried to contain her being in this place, but it was impossible. She was not Enid. She was not Ysiad. She did not know how to shape herself as he had, and so she lost herself in amber light, warm and welcome as the womb.
"Ysiad? Ysiad..." The sound penetrated the infinite, shaping it, causing something to coalesce that could be called self, but the sound had no meaning. She began to disperse again. Then, "Enid."
And with the shock of being born, she was torn from the orb. She knelt, cold and trembling, on the multicolored carpets. Reality brushed harshly against the boundaries of her skin. He stood before her, and in this place he was a monster. She understood what that meant now. He was as trapped here as she had been there.
It amazed her, how quickly she was able to reconstitute herself. The stories were good for something. She was kneeling on the floor. Propriety told her she should be standing, so she stood. Early morning sunlight skimmed the edge of the dome above. Logic told her that time had passed unnoticed. It was day again. She had won. She thought she should be happy about this, so she smiled. It was easy. It was rational. It made perfect sense, if one didn't think too much about the why of it.
"That was very foolish," he said, but there was laughter lurking in his tone.
"And so it was," she responded, as he might respond. "But it worked."
He paused. "And so it did. You have won the game." He stepped toward her, took her hands. It was the first time they touched, yet it was an illusion. There was infinite space between them. "You have won your reward. You may have anything in my keeping, Ysiad." His amber eyes glowed with heat. His gaze was too intimate; he looked... resigned.
"Enid. My name is Enid. And as to my prize..." She shook her head. "I would claim myself, but I do not recognize that I am yours to give." She squeezed his hands briefly, then pulled away. "The stories would have me claim you, but for my part, you may keep your own self. I want nothing to do with monsters for husbands."
His eyes widened, and his mouth opened in surprise. She knew what he was resigned to. They read the same stories. Before he could interrupt, she continued.
"Instead, I will claim the Bargain, so that I may say it is at an end. You are free to be what you will." She struggled to think of more, but there was naught else to say. The story was at an end. "Farewell."
She turned and began making her long way out of the keep. As she left the chamber, the silence was broken when a shout of laughter burst free of his throat. It was loud and strange and joyous. It warmed the air around her. The walls faded away, and she was left standing on an empty hillside. Bees and flutterbys buzzed lazily among the spring array.
She closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sky. The sunlight that kissed her skin was harsh and thin and chill.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, November 4th, 2011


Several of my beta-readers have pointed out to me that Ysiad and Enid are Daisy and Dine backwards. They asked me if this was deliberate. Questions like this make a writer want to cry. Ysiad is the present progressive conjugation of the welsh verb ys, meaning "to be devoured." You have to wonder about the Welsh, that they need a word that means "I am being devoured right now." In keeping with the monster-bridegroom theme, Enid means "soul."

- Alyc Helms

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6.3 Rocket Dragons Average

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