FEATURED STORY
RECENT STORIES
STORIES BY TOPIC
NEWS
TRANSPORTER
Take me to a...
SEARCH
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
For more options, try our:
SUBSCRIBE
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private
TIDBITS
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
KINDLE
Kindle Edition
DSF stories are available in monthly digests for Kindle!
SUBMIT
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
If you've already submitted a story, you may check its:
DAILY SCI-FI
Not just rockets & robots...
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.






Fantasy

Magic & Wizardry


A bunch of intro text about Magic & Wizardry

by Matthew Amati
Unk Unger was boiling his head. "If a real Wizhard ye would be," his voice burbled from the roiled waters of the charmed pot, "ye must commit. Commit! Many a prentice cometh wheedling to my stout oak door. Born with Powers, they say. O Maister, teach me Secrets, they say."
Published on Apr 2, 2018
by Brenda Joyce Anderson
I was two years old when my father disappeared. I cried for a whole week. "Cheer up, Alexander." Aunt Morgause always sounded nasty. "He'll probably come crawling out from under some rock."
Published on Aug 14, 2017
by Therese Arkenberg
He was more and more a wizard each day now. He even had a staff, tall as he was, that he had found where the tracks wound through the trees a few days back. The pale wood had strange symbols in it, like the magic wand he found in his backyard once Before. Dad had said the symbols weren't carved, just the chewed tracks of bark beetles, but that was because Dad hadn't believed in magic. The wizard knew it was real.
Published on Nov 23, 2012
by Daniel Ausema
By law and tradition, everyone in the city of Malshennes carried a mirror at all times. The inhabitants of the city handed their fancy mirrors down from generation to generation. Frequent traders to the city would carry extras in their mule trains to re-use each time they returned. Visitors were required to purchase one from the merchants outside the city gate. Mirror merchant Enjo didn’t know the origin of the tradition, but he liked to sound wise to his customers as he charged them a premium to be allowed inside. “The sky god gave us the rule,” he might tell one group of travelers. “Each mirror is a piece of the sky, so in carrying it through the city, we remember the gifts of the gods that come to our city.” Or another time, “The tradition comes from the sea.” Though Enjo has never seen the sea himself, living out here in a dry country. “As the sea reflects the blue above, we transport a sea of glass to this land of drought and tumbleweeds. Someday it will draw the goddess’s eyes our way, and the sea will bless us with rain.” Stories of deities left him unsatisfied, so more often he invented the heroes of the past to entertain his customers. “The hero Falla swore an oath to always watch behind her own back, and doing so saved the city from an attack by a mercenary army, hired by a corrupt councilman. We carry mirrors in her honor.” “The guardsman Torm once caught three thieves in a single night, using a mirror to peer around corners. Thieves in this city have had terrible luck ever since we all began carrying the mirrors.” “The first mirrors were gifts from a visiting ruler who carried them from his extensive mines. But while he was here, he disappeared into the mirrors, and we never learned where his land lay or how to bring him back. We keep the mirrors as a service to him and his retinue, so he can return someday, if he ever makes the attempt.” “When the rock formations marched against the city, the Wizard Whose Name is Forgotten crafted a gigantic mirror to shelter the entire city. The stones, made animate, laid siege to Malshennes for almost a year, and our ancestors lived on gathered sunlight. On the brightest day of the year, the sun grew so intense that it melted the mirrors, but before all was lost, a blinding flash petrified our attackers. You can see them out there still today. And these--these are the fragments of that mirror, cooled and hardened and still holding a touch of that wizard’s power.” His customers thanked him for the stories, paid a handsome price, handled their cheap mirrors with reverent awe, and entered the city. But words spoken over mirrors have a reciprocal power, and Enjo’s stories reached into realms he knew nothing of, jealous realms that longed for the lands of deities and heroes and works of magical wonder. Enjo began to see shadows within his mirrors, mists and movement out of the corner of his eye. Distracted, he stumbled over his stories, invented even wilder tales to cover his moments of distraction. When voices rose from certain mirrors, he flipped the mirrors face downward. Visitors to the city shied away from his stand and bought mirrors from the other vendors. Enjo grew gaunt, though whether it was hunger because he was selling fewer mirrors or sleeplessness from the haunting of the voices in the mirrors, he couldn’t say. At first the mirror voices were unintelligible. They rose from the mirrored worlds within in vague syllables and unformed phonemes. In time, the sounds settled into words he could understand. They spoke of the sky god and the guardsman Torm, of the goddess of the sea and the hero Falla and wizards without names. None of them real. Each of them merely his own inventions. He stumbled away from his vendor table, dizzy and weak. Still the words sounded, over the other market sounds, over the distance that grew between him and his mirrors. The words reflected Enjo’s stories back to him, calling on those imaginary beings to answer the mirrors’ summoning. A pair of travelers were climbing up the road toward the city. Enjo was hungry, desperate to sell something. Desperate to get rid of his mirrors entirely, if he could. He ran to the couple and said, “I have just the mirrors for you. Come to my stall, please.” His desperation no doubt showed through. A desperate seller was not a trustworthy one, but he couldn’t disguise his straits. “Please. I have the exact mirrors you need, and for the two of you, cheap. Very cheap.” The two women exchanged a glance and let themselves be led over to Enjo’s stall. “These mirrors.” Enjo ignored the voices within, talked over them as if they didn’t exist. “These have been dedicated to the Heroes-to-Come. They are the masters of the mirror. Little is known of them. How many they are, their appearance, or how their powers will manifest.” He spoke the words directly over the two mirrors, and the glass clouded with his breath. “So we insist on everyone carrying a mirror, so that when it’s needed, the Heroes-to-Come will have their tools at hand. And when the beings within the mirrors attempt to rise, those heroes will wrest control from them. They will pull the beings from their home realms, defeat the threat they pose to ours, and confine them in new mirrors that have no escape.” The voices within grew quiet, stilled. The women shook their heads and kept their distance from him as if they feared his mad ravings would infect them. They crossed to a different vendor, but Enjo didn’t care. He would perfect the story next time, and it would be his story, reflected downward into the reciprocal realms of the mirrors within. And the voices would finally leave him alone.
Published on Nov 2, 2021
by Robert Bagnall
“And this is the room in which the Cantor Gregory invented the hat....” Elizabeth had suspected for most of the morning that their tour guide was making it up as she went along. This latest one-step-too-far factoid seemed to confirm it. She glanced around the rest of the tour party, but the faces had all the dull credulity of cattle. Except for her family, of course. They weren’t falling for this pseudo-historical drivel. Because they weren’t even listening.
Published on Mar 19, 2021
by Mishell Baker
When I shook Femi's hand in the office break room on my first day, everything faded: the snot-colored linoleum, the nauseous fluorescent lighting, the wheezy hum of the refrigerator. Instead of "Nice to meet you," I heard myself say, "You are a fragment of heaven." I pulled my hand back, feeling like a complete moron, but her tranquil expression didn't waver.
Published on Apr 7, 2011
by Michael T. Banker
There's something about the Vanishing Girl. I watch her from the Presto Portraits booth of the county fair. A man in a cowboy hat is painting my portrait with punchy, animated strokes; if he's not finished in six minutes, the portrait's free. He tells me to angle my head left, and that's when I see her. The Vanishing Girl, her sign proclaims her. I allow myself to stare. After all, I'm posing for a picture; I can't look away.
Published on Sep 4, 2013
by Jacquelyn Bartel
The door swings closed with a soft click. I rest my back against it, chest heaving, as I strain to hear any sounds from the other side. My pounding heart is deafening. My eardrums pulse with its rhythms. I tiptoe across the plush, burgundy carpet and peek out the heavy curtain. The driveway is still empty. Bobby Donne is right. I am a coward. I sink to the floor. Shivers run wildly up and down my skin. Having adventures is so much easier when I'm lying safe in bed at night. With my Scooby-Doo pajamas and my red, plastic flashlight I can be anyone; a knight saving helpless and beautiful damsels, a suave space explorer, a crafty detective who always gets the bad guy, a daring first mate on a perilous sea voyage. But in the daytime, I'm just me: weird little Casey Adams, the "Space Case" of Roosevelt Elementary.
Published on Jul 17, 2012
by Alan Baxter
***Editor's Warning: Adult Tale*** "I need a volunteer!" Mephisto scanned the crowd, one hand shielding his eyes as if from a bright sun. His red-lined black cape whipped around as he strode from one side of the stage to the other.
Published on Jun 23, 2014
by James Beamon
The Festival of Undying begins as it normally does, with the Pushing of the Wizard. Virtually every one of the eighty villagers trots out their own effigy of Deranged Blomssaft, many of them beautifully crafted with colorful robes, polished stones for eyes and sheared sheep's wool for hair. The villagers gather at the edge of the village and upon the sounding of the ram's horn, they release their individual Blomssafts. While the seventy-seven effigies fall silently to disappear as specks into the distant landscape miles below, the crowd emulates the desperate last screams of Deranged Blomssaft. And then they cheer. Next comes The Eulogy, given by the village mayor in the town square. This year it's Leymin Draft, a portly man who looks like a chubby cheeked, happy baby when he smiles.
Published on Dec 16, 2019
by David Beyt
Jack gets the animal home to his apartment and sets it on the counter in the kitchen. Then he just stands there watching it. He's sure there's no such thing as whatever this is. It doesn't even look like an animal really now that he thinks about it, more like something out of a fairy tale. It has wide, trusting eyes and a body like a stuffed toy. Jack puts a hand out, and the animal nuzzles its head into his palm. Its fur feels like lambswool on his fingers. The woman who sold it to Jack had another dozen, maybe twenty animals Jack had never seen before. She was old and warty and smoking a pipe. Sitting there in the shadows between the crates and the cages, she looked exactly like the kind of person who would own a magical pet store. It kind of ruined the moment when she spoke with a thick Brooklyn accent. "Sure, buddy. Have a look around. Mi casa, su casa, y'know? No pictures, though, okay? You know how it is, man. Got to protect my investments."
Published on Jul 11, 2017
by Thea Boodhoo
My Dearest Lahar,
Published on Jul 20, 2021
by Sue Burke
Rule 0. Magic works. But few people believe in it. A half-dozen students awaited their teacher in a secluded garden. The sorcerer, they thought, would be an elderly man with a long white beard and wise, sad eyes. Instead, a carefree young woman strolled in, wearing a fashionable hoop skirt, bell sleeves, and corseted waist. She hummed as she sat on a wicker bench.
Published on Apr 19, 2021
by Curtis C. Chen
I really shouldn't have taken any of it personally. "Is this accurate?" the insurance adjuster asked. "Thirteen different protection and concealment spells for a single building?"
Published on Aug 9, 2016
by Tara Calaby
When the townspeople found Rosalind sitting astride the mayor's daughter with her skirts hoisted to her thighs and her bodice loosened at the chest, they knew she was a witch. She was feasting at her victim's lips, sucking the soul out of poor Leda's body as she lay, bent, in the shadow of the mill. The preacher was summoned and, although Leda protested, Rosalind was shackled and presented to the mayor for trial. On the first day, three witnesses were called. The miller stood with flour on his shirt and stammered as he told the townspeople that Rosalind had been seen near his mill before. Once, he had watched her gathering flowers and, the next day, the crooked form of a bird's embryo had been found in the nearby grass. "And she never took a husband," he finished. Indeed, she had turned the miller down.
Published on Jun 17, 2013
by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks
The goose tumbled through Jayce's open kitchen window, getting its wings tangled in the curtains and pulling them down with a crash to the tiled floor. By the time the goose freed itself from the gauzy fabric, it was no longer a goose, but a man. Jayce sat at the table with a mug of coffee. She tossed over the jeans and AC/DC T-shirt that the man had been wearing when she first had transformed him to a fowl. Her choice of animal had been deliberate because he was foul. Behind that handsome face and charming smile was the foulest man she had ever met.
Published on Jul 11, 2016
by Jay Caselberg
Marsius pulled his coat tight against the wind. The snow blew in flurries swirling about his face and his fur boots sank deep. The sharp, dirt-ice smell crept under his hood, edged and filthy like the season. He looked up at the sheer stone Academy walls, their tops lost in darkness. Somewhere above, the remaining college members were heading off to dinner, or the library, or bed, secure and warm. There was no point dwelling on it; the prison awaited. He pulled his coat around him more tightly and lowered his head into the icy wind. It took him half an hour to trudge to the broad prison gates, battling through the narrow streets. The high buildings funneled the wind and whipped it around him. Twin torches sat on either side of the gate, guttering and flaring, sending the acrid scent of burning swirling about with the wind. He lifted a leather-gloved fist to bang on the iron-shod door. At his third attempt, someone heard; a small door recessed in the main portal swung inward and a head poked out. There was annoyance on the face it presented.
Published on Nov 11, 2011
by Beth Cato
Not even the soothing heat of a full cup of tea could ease the agony in Sir Oren's hands. Each finger joint throbbed as if it contained a burning coal. He cursed, trying to cradle the cup between his palms, but the brew sloshed and speckled his velvet housecoat. Oren exhaled in frustration and set the cup aside. If he couldn't drink tea, how in the ten hells was he supposed to manage pen and ink? The secret of his pained hands had been kept this long because the king had no immediate need of him, and his other commissions had far-off deadlines. Oren claimed headaches, avoided the map room entirely, and tried every available concoction to heal his hands. Nothing worked.
Published on Aug 24, 2012
by Beth Cato
Congratulations! Your magic manifested itself. Maybe your teenage years won't suck quite so much, right? Wrong. The good news is, you found my website. The bad news is, I'm not the top result on Google. If you're under imminent threat of death because of your experimental spellcasting (a cacodemon pursues you as you read this on your phone), call 911 or your nation's equivalent. Local police train to handle these things. If you're injured, doctors can glue your body together again--perhaps literally, if someone/something turned you into Humpty Dumpty. (This has happened. Do an online search for "Fresno High School Humpty Dumpty Tragedy.")
Published on Nov 22, 2016
by Diane Chattaway
Hunched over her cane, hidden behind people, she stared ahead at the girl, happily jotting her name down in books. Plagued by memories of failed attempts, and drunken stupor, she stepped forward in line, pushing the book she'd burned six years after publishing it, over.
Published on Jan 14, 2021
by Amanda Clark
"You're not looking hard enough. Why aren't you down at the embassy, harassing them into helping? They won't listen to me. I'm just the mother." Elise had gone to the safe then, which he thought she didn't know the combination for. She had silently taken out the small book, the one she was never to touch because it was confidential, for work. "Ask one of them how to reach him," Elise had said, handing it to his mother, just to get some peace. After calling the women, each of their names written in perfect block letters, his mother gave it back. She retreated to the living room, saying she would wait for the export officer.
Published on Jun 13, 2012
by Elizabeth Cobbe
For the crust: 1 sleeve Graham crackers, crumbled
Published on Mar 16, 2021
by Donald S. Crankshaw
"It's eccentric," Alric said, "but surely it's not dangerous." "The Council's vote was unanimous," Duke Richard said. He looked ridiculous in a bright yellow doublet. The color would make anyone look foolish, as the other old men seated around the table proved, but its gaiety was especially jarring against Richard's habitual dark expression. "You know your duty, Guardian."
Published on Sep 29, 2011
by Guy Anthony De Marco
"What is it?" I asked, marveling that the dusty, timeworn box was able to actually keep its shape. "Why," he said with a sly grin, "it's a Case of Curiosities. Very rare these days, not many of them left."
Published on Apr 11, 2012
by Preston E Dennett
"You need what?" I asked, unsure I'd heard her correctly. I'd done love spells more times than I'd care to say, but a hate spell? A stunningly attractive woman stood before me. She had a rather plain look, but there was something indefinably gorgeous about her. "You heard right. A hate spell. You are the Great Wizard, Melton, are you not?"
Published on Feb 6, 2018
by Nicholas Diehl
She looked like soot and snow, kohl eyes and spiky black hair and pale, pale skin, as if she carried an umbrella, rain or shine. If she did, he wondered, would it be black or white? One or the other, given the rest of her clothes. She wore black jeans and small white tops, tight across her chest. That was how he met her, in fact: She caught him staring at her breasts across the lab table one day. He flushed and dropped his eyes, but she winked at him later and blew him a kiss when she left. The next week they were lab partners, and every week after that. Still, he wasn't really expecting anything. He'd seen her around, holding hands with a blonde girl a couple of times, so he figured he wasn't her type.
Published on Jun 8, 2015
by Emily Dorffer
"Hand me your wand and tell me what happened," Principal Woodson said. Grover clutched the bag containing the shattered remains of an intricately patterned vase closer to his chest. "Please don't expel me, sir," he said between sobs.
Published on Jan 24, 2019
by Amy Clare Fontaine
Sadie is playing in the sandbox at the park the day she casts her first spell. "Mommy, look!" she cries, her chubby five-year-old fingers sticky with crumbs of clumped sand. "I did magic!" Mommy looks at Sadie's castle: the moat, the ramparts, the pennants snapping in the wind. She squeals with delight, lifting Sadie up and hugging her tightly. "Oh, sweetheart! It's beautiful!" Sadie giggles as Mommy twirls her through the air. "My magician!" Mommy sings, covering her cheeks with kisses. "My little magician!" Sadie beams from ear to ear, laughing and waving her arms like a fledgling taking flight. After that morning in the park, Sadie finds magic everywhere. In kindergarten, she brings galaxies to life with her crayons. In first grade, she turns popsicle sticks into trees. In second grade, she converts her classroom into a tiny ocean using a paper cup filled with tap water. After Mrs. Macintosh's hair gets wet and sharks nibble the teacher's toes, she tells Sadie to please practice her magic only at recess. From then on, Sadie's school days are mostly spent waiting, fidgeting in her seat. When the bell rings for recess, she bursts out the door like a river bursting its dam, running to the field. She delights the other children, summoning trumpeting elephants from lumps of soil and soaring swans from blades of grass. With a few special words, she turns kids playing on the swings into swallows as they go up and back into people when they come down. One day, a snake Sadie makes from a jump-rope rears up and bites her best friend Marcy on the knee. Marcy only returns to school after three days in the hospital. Sadie is scared and heartbroken. The principal forbids her from using magic at school ever again. Recess grows quiet and solemn, a funeral march for what used to be.
Eventually, Sadie goes to high school. It's much bigger than her elementary school. Her mother moved the two of them to this larger town hoping Sadie would feel more welcome here and find friends like herself. Sadie does not find friends. Sadie is no longer special. Almost everyone does magic here, even some of the teachers. Sadie's magic is not as good as theirs. When she creates ponies, they craft unicorns. While she builds a nest, they birth an entire murmuration of starlings. In fact, Sadie finds out that she has been doing many spells all wrong. She works hard to correct them, all the while secretly hoping to rekindle that feeling she had in the sandbox when she was five. She never does.
Later, Sadie attends college. She earns a degree in Magical Theory and Practices, then gets a job in the Big City and moves there. She learns that magic is meant to be difficult, that the only respectable kind comes from hard work and suffering. She decides that she is terrible and her magic is, too. The only way she can get ahead is by clawing her way to the top. Sadie starts cutting herself at night, saving the blood in jars so she can pour it into her work in the morning. After all, magic is no good unless you bleed.
Her mother's funeral happens on a full moon night. Afterwards, Sadie comes home and changes clothes. She cuts up the lacy black dress she was wearing earlier into triangles, then folds those triangles into bats. They flutter upwards and hang from the ceiling, blinking down at her as she writes a letter to her landlord. She stuffs it in an envelope with her monthly rent and leaves it on the kitchen table. Sadie exits the apartment, turning and waving to the bats. They follow her down the street like a dark cloud. Barefoot, she walks through the city, over concrete and cigarette butts and broken glass. At last, she reaches the freeway overpass. She lifts her arms, as she used to lift them to ask her mother to pick her up. Lifts her arms and asks the bats to carry her down into the traffic below, to kill her without harming anyone else. She is disciplined now, so very disciplined and precise. What happened to Marcy has never happened since. Obediently, the bats lift Sadie up. But they don't carry her down into traffic. Instead, they rise hundreds of feet into the air. Only then do they pull her northward, following the path of the freeway far below. She struggles against them, but to no avail. They are out of her control now, like everything else. The bats carrying Sadie chase the freeway through the suburbs and out into the countryside. Even from a thousand feet above, the landscape starts to look familiar. The bats remembered the route much better than she did. Gently, the flock descends, setting her down on her feet in a playground sandbox. Then they dissipate like a puff of smoke. Sadie looks around at the empty park through a veil of tears. She sinks to her knees in the sand, clutching at it as it slips through her fingers. And then, quite suddenly, she laughs. She springs to her feet and dances wildly in the sand. Then she moves to the grass, leaping and prancing, laughing all the while. Flowers spring from her footprints. Rainbow light shimmers across the park in rippling waves. She conjures creatures from dirt and rocks and grass and twigs, and they dance together in a twirling ballet. At last, out of breath but deeply satisfied, she flops onto her back in the dewy grass, panting with laughter, gazing up at the moon and stars. She blows a kiss to the sky, beaming from ear to ear. "Thank you, Mommy."
Nowadays, Sadie loves magic again. She is not the best magician in the world--she doesn't need to be. Nor is she a child in a sandbox anymore, yet that child's tender heart still beats in her chest. She becomes a magic teacher at her old elementary school, helping children unearth their natural gifts. She shares with them the rich joys of a magic without bloodshed. "Your magic doesn't have to be perfect," she tells her students. "It just has to be yours. That's what makes it special. That's what makes it real." Their spells get out of hand from time to time, but Sadie doesn't mind.
Published on Mar 18, 2022
by Lise Fracalossi
Mine is not the face of evil. It is more of a rotten toadstool of a face, after fifteen years of my twin's hard living. Too much jowl, teeth decayed to stinking pulp, lips cracked with venereal sores.
Published on Mar 26, 2021
by Helen French
Wesley and Kara sat on the side of a hill in Etriun, facing the water below them and the night sky above, waiting for the future to happen. "The fireworks will begin soon," Wesley pointed out, breaking the silence.
Published on Jun 16, 2017
by A. T. Greenblatt
Kaylee's first act as sorceress was to bring the voices back. The rain thrummed on the shingles of her quiet home as she lit the candles, drew the diagrams, and read out the names of each dusty ancestor, carefully laboring over the subtle inflections of the gh's and 's. One by one, she called the raspy, aged voices back from their silence.
Published on Mar 31, 2015
by Lee Hallison
The day Ruth met her fairy godfather started out poorly. She sat across from Frank, twisting her cup between her hands. "Yesterday was our anniversary," she said, watching the coffee swirl.
Published on Mar 20, 2012
by Sean Patrick Hannifin
"We might kill the wizard tonight," Jonlen whispered. "Or be killed," Slip whispered back.
Published on Dec 15, 2010
by Elliotte Rusty Harold
Magical and Professional Services Diagnosed with demonic possession? You may be eligible to participate in a study of cutting edge exorcism techniques. Qualified participants between 12 and 200 will receive room, board, magical care, and may be compensated for time and travel. (Not liable for pre-existing damnation.) Contact Fr. Wirrhenius at St. Stephen's Temple, Priestly Quarter.
Published on Mar 21, 2016
by Erin M. Hartshorn
It was the quality of Reina's silence that first drew Sarna to her as she sat in the gardens outside the old palace ruins. Sarna had come to the outskirts to gather the grasses that would be used for the First Meal at the convent, after the midsummer fast. Her sickle for harvesting hung at her belt, untouched; the gardens might be on her way to the gathering fields, but she would not remove plants from the palace gardens. Nor would anyone else -- too afraid of ghosts or magic or the ire of the current prince of their city-state, even if he would never have the power kings once did. She knew she had nothing to fear from magic, from essence, and ghosts could be banished to drift. Crossing the prince, however, would not be wise. Thinking how fortunate she was to have the gardens to herself this morning -- the city was increasingly crowded as the fast and its ensuing feast days approached -- Sarna walked along a path tiled with bricks from one of the broken walls. She rounded a corner to see a girl of perhaps twelve sitting on a fallen pillar, intent on a red lily in the nearby grass. Her black hair was tied on the top of her head in an Estian artist's knot, exposing the flat planes of her face to the summer sun. The one bit of ornamentation she had was her hair clasp, of volcanic glass the same sheen as her hair; otherwise, her attire was as quiet as she herself, an unremarkable dove gray blouse with a charcoal-colored divided skirt. The girl could have been the child of anyone in the city were it not for her complete stillness of body and soul.
Published on Nov 5, 2010
by Amanda M. Hayes
A penny plunked into the fountain outside the Chinese restaurant, and one of the resident goldfish swam up to investigate. He tasted metal in the water. He took the penny in his mouth--he was large, as goldfish went--and tasted something else beneath the tang of countless human hands: the coin carried a woman's wish for a new job. He couldn't discern details without swallowing it, so he did, and began to digest. By evening a bright, shining, almost golden penny lay where he had been, until the owner's son scooped the fountain clean of wishes, and threw them in the register with the change.
Published on Oct 6, 2011
by Kate Heartfield
Maudlinday Empathetic magic is cruel magic: the more skilled the wielder, the more he risks every time he enters the trance. Now that you are senior apprentice, it will not get easier. It gets much, much harder.
Published on Dec 4, 2014
by Alicia Hilton
More glad than mad, the hatter greeted a new customer, a petite man whose spectacles gave him the dour expression of a vexed beetle. The customer said, "I want a chapeau crafted from broken promises and pitch." He scratched his nose, rubbing a rather large mole. "No, not pitch, can you use spider webs and witch spit?"
Published on Apr 23, 2020
by Sylvia Hiven
Gabriel wouldn't ever have thought there would be circumstances rough enough for him to set foot in lower Manhattan Chinatown. In the old days, perhaps, but not after the integration. Too many dragons. There were mainly humans, of course; clingy people chattering in Mandarin as he walked by in the drizzle, one offering traditional Chinese souvenirs while the next tried to sell him pornographic holograms--"real girls, real action, not Jsunji made!" But in the shadows beneath the awnings, he saw their willowy shapes, the odor of their dirty scales wafting against his face as he walked. They wouldn't do anything now, but ten years earlier, they would have scorched him and promptly sucked the meat off his bones. It made him pull up his collar and walk faster.
Published on Feb 18, 2011
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
I'm not the one who should get the family recipe. It has passed from mother to daughter for more generations than anybody can count, and I'm a son, not a daughter. But my three sisters didn't have the vision to read the writing on the family recipe page, and I did, so Mom was stuck with training me to make the solstice cakes. I'm seventeen, and I was looking forward to running away to the Western Culinary Institute next year, partly to get away from Dad, who says these things that sound like compliments but aren't, like, "Nice quiche, Zach. Very flavorful. Who knew you had it in you?" I've been interested in cooking since I was nine, so he should know I had it in me by now.
Published on May 20, 2014
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
"I don't want to," I told my younger sisters. I punched my frustrations out on the bread dough, then folded it into itself on the floured board, and kneaded. "Come on, Lila. What would it hurt?" asked my sister Stray. She was sitting at the kitchen table, shelling peas into a big bowl. Juniper, the youngest sister, put the kettle on to heat water for tea and stayed out of the argument. They were in it together. The two of them had created a profile for me on a dating app and summoned a date. I bet Juniper came up with the idea. Stray should know better. "Get dressed," said Stray. "He'll be here in ten minutes." "The bread," I said. Which was feeble, but I'd already said no three different ways. Stray cast a stasis spell on the dough, took it out from under my hands, and put it in the fridge. I looked at my familiar, Gillyflower the calico cat. She was smirking, all her whiskers quivering with delight. "You're no help," I said. You haven't been on a date since you were twelve, she thought. You don't know how to have fun. Go. I stuck my tongue out at my cat, which was such a mature thing for a twenty-five-year-old witch to do, and fled upstairs to my room. I didn't know what I was dressing for, since the younger sisters had set the whole thing up, and I wasn't about to give them or the date the satisfaction of thinking I put any effort into this project. I threw on my dancing dress, which had long white sleeves, a green bodice, and a twirly skirt made of blue and green scarves. Well, okay, it was my best dress. Everything else in the closet was work clothes, which meant basically T-shirts and jeans. I cooked and baked for our household, and I cleaned and maintained the rooms we rented out to AirBnB clients. I would have liked to have a bakery, but everybody in Grantham knew my sisters and I were witches, and because of a few piddling experiments we'd conducted in our teens, nobody who knew us would eat anything we prepared. I tied my red hair in a knot at my nape. My date prep was done. Someone knocked at the front door, and someone let him in. "Hello," Juniper said. "Good evening," he said in a voice like melted chocolate. "Are you Lila?" "Lila's little sister," she said, almost squeaking. Hmm. I put on my black flats and headed toward the staircase. Then went back to my room and grabbed my traveling bag of witch supplies. Then ducked back into the bedroom once more to collect my wallet. I had vague memories from movies of women needing mad money if a date went wrong. Grantham was small enough I could walk home from anything in town, but if he took me somewhere else-- "This is Lila," said Stray as I came down the stairs. "Lila," he said, and the word stroked me. I frowned at Stray. What kind of dating site had she gone to? Was the man a wizard? My sister shrugged. "So nice to meet you! I'm Ken." He held out a manicured hand. Everything about him was fresh and elegant, from his silvery hair to his green cotton shirt, dark slacks, and shiny black shoes. He had a face that was boy-band pretty, plus time and a few scars. "Hello, Ken," I said, having flashbacks to my friends' Barbie and Ken dolls when I was younger and allowed to visit normal houses--before my powers manifested. "I'm Lila." I took his hand and felt a staticky shock. I glanced at Gillyflower. My calico familiar was hunched on top of the bookshelf, her fur puffed up so she almost doubled in size. Her eyes were slits. Oh. Good to know. I could change my mind right now and send him packing. I looked at Stray. She blinked slowly. Okay, she was all right if I cancelled, too. Juniper bit her lip. She'd been asking me for six months if I ever did anything fun. I had brushed her off. Fun for me was spellcasting, but we were so hemmed in here. Everyone in Grantham knew to come to us for healing, help, and magic, but we had to watch our step. As long as we were good witches, we and our town got along. One had so few opportunities to get up to mischief. I slung my witching bag over my shoulder and smiled at my sisters. "Where are we going, Ken?" I asked. "I thought we'd start with the Truffle House," he said, naming the only upscale restaurant in Grantham. "Lovely." I glanced at my sisters and twinkled. Stray frowned and went for the broom standing in the corner. The one with the long, knobby broomstick and a big bush of mixed twigs for the brush. I stepped out onto the porch with Ken and shut the door behind me. His car was large, sleek, and dark, and had a jaguar on its bonnet. He held the door of the passenger side for me. The leather seats were covered in plastic. When he shut the door behind me, I saw it had no handle on the inside. While he walked around the car, I looked into my purse. I had several spells prepared for emergencies. I picked out three. I would refine my choice once I knew what Ken was. He slid behind the wheel and turned on the sound system. Soft music. Not the kind I would ever listen to voluntarily. He started the engine and drove to the end of the block, where he turned left--away from town. "Isn't the restaurant the other way?" I asked. "It is," he said, "but I have something else in mind for us." I gave him side eye, which he didn't notice. He was smiling. "Ken, do you have any family?" I asked. "What an interesting question. No, I don't. Not anymore." "Nobody to notice if you're gone?" "What?" He looked at me, which was good, since Stray and Juniper, on a single broom, wobbled into view, and then lifted up out of sight. "People where I work would notice. I bring in a lot of money for the GOP," he said. He pulled into a wooded area, far back into the trees. He turned off the engine and stared at me. "You interest me, Lila." "I should hope so. What's the plan now?" I said. "Terror is usually part of it. That's the part I savor. The killing and eating is an added bonus. I have a feeling you knew something would happen, though. Are you trying to trap me?" "Why, yes," I said, and picked the chicken transformation spell. I added a gender flip. We didn't need a rooster in our flock. He changed elegantly into a gray-blue, silky-feathered Isbar. They laid green eggs. My strength was cooking magic, and there were special things I could do with green eggs. Stray pulled open the driver's side door. "Are you all right? Oh!" She looked at Ken, squawking in the driver's seat. Maybe we could call him Kendra. "How do you like our new car?" I asked.
Published on Sep 24, 2021
by Liam Hogan
"So," the crone said, looking up at the tall, muscular man holding a stout cherry-wood pole, "You want to be a Hero, do you?" Her cackle was cut short as he shook his head and his wife stepped forward, a cloth covered bundle in her hands. "Wise woman," she said, tugging back the shawl to reveal a sleeping baby, a wisp of pale hair on his crown. "Please--it is not for us, it is for our son."
Published on Feb 18, 2016
by D.K. Holmberg
The bright green truck pulled in front of the house and parked in the driveway. Tracy watched as the driver leaned toward the passenger seat before getting out. He wore bright blue coveralls and a funny looking hat--not quite a beret--with a shamrock logo on it and carried a thick wooden clipboard in one hand. She pulled the door open before he reached the step. Taylor squirmed in her arms but she refused to set him down until she knew what was happening. Noise blasted behind her as she pulled it closed.
Published on Mar 17, 2015
by M.K. Hutchins
First Wish: I wasn't stupid. Someone had abandoned that lamp in the gym locker room for a reason. I thought about just wishing to lose weight, but the genie might vaporize my arm or something to meet that requirement. So I wished that I could lose weight.
Published on Oct 14, 2015
by M.K. Hutchins
The smoke in the speakeasy swirls between me and my date. She's dolled up with lipstick and a swell hat, but she'd be pretty without all that. "You work as a court stenographer, right?" I ask, nervously fidgeting with my drink. We sit near the back, where the piano-man hammers out a rag. "You must hear fascinating stuff all day."
Published on Jun 17, 2015
by Jess Hyslop
The first time he knocks at your door, be cautious. Your mother will pluck at your sleeve, hiss at you to come away--but do not feel you have to obey her. Do not feel you have to open the door either.
Published on Jan 7, 2014
by Thomas F Jolly
The crypt had not been locked. The graveyard was so remote and so rarely visited by anyone that vandalism had never been an issue, so getting access to the crypt was like visiting a 7-Eleven. Ras had walked right in. The air inside was musty, and the center of the room was dominated by a large stone sarcophagus. Green moss decorated the corners of the room. Ras wondered for the hundredth time if Jerome LeVine had chosen the crypt just for the sake of easy access, knowing that someday, some other necromancer would come along and try to raise him using one of the many spells LeVine had written while alive.
Published on Nov 14, 2011
by Naim Kabir
Em didn't have a single drop of magical blood in her body--and yet here she was. The fiftieth annual Occulta Luda Ad Promotionem Veneficii Et Ignotorum.
Published on Sep 11, 2015
by Simon Kewin
"That's Erelong, child. That's where you were born." Mayve pointed down the hillside to the valley laid out beneath them. Elian, still breathing hard from the climb, squinted against the bright sunlight, the dazzling silver of the river winding wide through the valley. Between stands of trees she saw a patchwork of ruined stone buildings and, in a round open field, the circle of standing stones. Jagged white rocks rose from the ground in an uneven circle, like the earth's crooked teeth, like impossible summer snowmen.
Published on Aug 23, 2011
by Joshua Curtis Kidd
Brady Coleman joins a crowd of kids in the park after school to watch Jed Martin make two toy robots fight using magic. The simple, plastic toys don't have batteries but, when Jed waves his wand, they begin to take slow steps toward each other. Punches land with the sound of groaning metal and sparks burst from mangled joints. "Whoa," Brady says along with the other kids. "Oh, man!"
Published on Mar 7, 2018
by Michelle Ann King
Katrine grew up with the stories, she knew them as well as her own name. First there was true love's kiss, then the fair maiden became the radiant bride, and she lived happily ever after. But the stories all stopped there, and Katrine hadn't realized just how much ever after there would be.
Published on Apr 15, 2013
by Edward Gary Kratz
Arnold Gold walked in timidly, holding a cardboard sign. "This says knock and come in." Robert Brewster was sitting behind a desk. "Sorry for the chaos. We're just relocating. Construction is not quite complete. And my secretary is on her break. But we'll get by."
Published on Oct 27, 2011
by Jamie Lackey
Clouds gathered on the horizon, even though no wind churned the smooth face of the gray-green ocean. Marlene scowled. "The weather witch is angry again."
Published on Aug 12, 2015
by Anne Leonard
The night after her father died, Anya brought a tea set out of her dreams. How odd, she thought, looking at the cups and saucers scattered on the bed. Cunningly painted golden fish, lifelike, swam on blue glaze that looked like water. It was not unusual for her to dream things into existence--they always vanished at nightfall--but they were never so useful. So domestic. Small red flowers which shed sparks, a painting with images that moved, a set of daggers with jeweled hilts and sickle blades made from glass. Once, memorably, there had been a basilisk. Then she recalled that her father was dead, and the hollow spot of grief within her opened up again, a well from which only bitter water could be drawn.
Published on May 29, 2019
by David D. Levine
Ibude's door slammed open, waking him from exhausted sleep into chill and darkness. Silhouetted in the flickering light from the hall was the hulking form of one of his guards. "Wizard!" he growled. "Warhaft Kraig demands your presence. Immediately!" "I obey," Ibude replied. It was the first phrase in the Karshan language he had learned to utter. Quickly Ibude slipped from his bed and dressed himself in the rough woolen robe and fur overcloak his captors had given him. They themselves seemed to thrive on the cold. The guard watched impassively as he dressed. Once Ibude would have protested this intrusion, or at least tried to shield his warm brown skin from the cold blue-eyed gaze of his captor. But three years of captivity had inured him to the absence of privacy. "Bring your little dolls, your bones and rattles," the guard said. "Whatever you require to work your magic." Ibude ignored the Karshan's sneer at the effigies of his ancestors. Shivering in his heavy fur boots, he bowed before his little altar and begged his ancestors' forgiveness for the sudden disruption before gathering up the few items upon it: the crude clay figurines, the skull of a horned puff adder, a tattered red parrot feather. The poorest servant back in Ubini would be ashamed of such a paltry altar, but if approached with the proper reverence it was just as effective as the Great King's altar with its trappings of polished brass and fine ivory. Even a simple stick, painted white and thrust into a mound of earth, could serve as an altar. Ibude placed the altar items into the satchel that held his other ritual materials. "I am ready." Without a word the guard set off down the hall, where seal-oil lamps guttered in niches hacked from the stone-hard ice, staining the air with fish-stink smoke. Ibude scrambled to keep up. "Why am I summoned in the middle of the night?" "War," the guard said without turning back. "The Svaargelders are massing on our borders." Ibude stopped dead at the news. War. Invasion. Destruction. Again. Three years ago Ibude's life had been torn in half by war. He remembered the flames, the screams and clash of swords, the taste of smoke and grit... but worst of all, he remembered how he'd argued with his beloved Ejira. "This is no time for niceties!" she'd shouted, the beads in her hair rattling with the fierceness of her words. "What you propose is worse than defeat!" he'd replied, and smacked the knife from her hand. Startled, she'd relaxed her grip on the black cockerel she held, which fled squawking from the room. "You would dishonor our ancestors!" "For the sake of our children!" Before he could reply, the barbarians had burst into the room, taking them both hostage. They'd never had a chance to reconcile. Karsh and Svaargelt had been allies then, united by hatred of their neighbor to the north -- Ibude's homeland, the warm and golden land of Ubini. But even then the Karshan Warhaft Kraig and the Svaargelder General Njarsten had distrusted each other. They'd divided Ubini's magical artifacts and practitioners between themselves with meticulous care, each unwilling to cede any potential advantage to his rival-ally. This meant that Ubini's greatest team of research wizards must be split right down the middle. The random spin of a bronze dagger had sent Ibude to Stugar, the Karshan capital city, and Ejira -- mother of his children, originator of some of their most important ideas, possessor of the darkest, smoothest skin and deepest brown eyes in the whole city... Ejira was sent to Svaargelt, slung across the back of a sweating reindeer like some plundered carpet. Ibude had screamed and fought so hard to follow her that they'd had to chain him up. For two weeks he sat in his chains, refusing to speak, eat or drink. Then Warhaft Kraig had come to him and told him he'd struck a deal with his Svaargelder counterpart: if Ibude died in custody, or was killed resisting orders or attempting escape, Ejira would be killed as well. "We must retain parity with our allies," Kraig had said, and though the sweating Ubini translator had delivered the statement in diplomatic language, the grin on Kraig's half-ruined face had been even uglier than his usual scowl. From that moment Ibude had ceased to resist. At first he'd tried to only appear to cooperate. But Kraig was too clever to be easily fooled; he demanded verifiable progress, on pain of death. And after the first year, Ibude found that concentrating on his research was the only thing that took his mind away from the cold and privation of the small ice-carved cave to which he had been exiled. The work was, in its way, a form of escape... and it reminded him of his dear Ejira. The guard hurried Ibude from the ice cave to Kraig's headquarters, a two-story peeled-log structure in the center of the city. Karshan soldiers drilled in the ice-choked streets, guttural chants accompanying each practice thrust of pike and sword. Everywhere whetstones shrieked, filling the air with the smell of metal and oil. Inside the building, Kraig hulked over a map in the council chamber, surrounded by advisers and lieutenants. The Warhaft's face reminded Ibude of the ice-crusted rocky crags that surrounded this place: hairless, white and hard as a glacier, and scarred as though one cheek and eye had slumped away in a landslide. "Wizard," he rumbled when he saw Ibude. "Tell these men what you have been doing with my money for the last three years." A dozen pairs of hard blue eyes converged on Ibude; he felt as though he were skewered on two dozen icicles. He swallowed. "Most worthy Warhaft," he said, "I have been researching _nakowa-gbalu_." Despite the chill of the room, sweat ran down his sides beneath his cloak. "It is a specific way of focusing the mind in worship, which my wife and I originated not long before the fall of Ubini." "And what does it do?" "If it works, it will create a force that presses outward. Like a wall of wind around a city, even a whole country." "How close are you to delivering me this weapon?" Ibude had never promised a weapon. Even if it could be made to work, _nakowa-gbalu_ was an essentially defensive principle. "My researches make good progress. I feel that the ancestors are warming to my new formulation." "The ancestors are warming?" Kraig sneered. "The accursed Njarsten has five legions massed on my borders. What can your precious ancestors do against _them_?" "Do not mock the ancestors." Kraig covered the distance between himself and Ibude in two long strides that made the wooden floor shudder. He was a full head taller. "If your ancestors are so by-Gods powerful," he roared, "why can't you smite the Svaargelders this minute?" Ibude held up his hands. "Magic isn't metalwork, Warhaft! It takes time to develop the correct mental formulations. Even a small error in mental attitude can offend the ancestors, or attract evil forces from the invisible world." Kraig closed his one good eye, clenched his hand into a trembling fist. "How. Long. Will. It. Take?" "I... I don't know, Warhaft. Perhaps another year." "You've already had _three_ years!" "If the process were more rapid, we would have defeated _you_ three years ago." But even as he said it, Ibude realized he had crossed a line. The Warhaft's ice-white visage twisted with rage and he grabbed the front of Ibude's robe. "Is there _anything_ you can do for me?" Kraig shook Ibude until his brains rattled. "Or are you _completely_ useless?" If Ibude didn't give Kraig _something_ he might die right here and now. Three years of research had not achieved the results he was sure _nakowa-gbalu_ could deliver, but he had discovered other, smaller effects along the way... "I can show you exactly where the Svaargelders are and what they are doing." Kraig's hands tightened on Ibude's robe and his one eye glared like sun on a frozen lake. "Do it. Right here, right now. Show me why I should not regret buying you costly materials for the last three years." Then, with one last hard twist at the fabric of Ibude's collar, he pushed him away. Ibude staggered upright. "I obey, Warhaft." He had no choice. He began by mixing a potion: powdered eye of fish-eagle for clear sight, flakes of puff-adder scale for quick action, burnt vulture feather for wisdom. Even after many years of magical practice it was still hard to choke the vile stuff down. Then he set up his paltry little altar on a log from the firepit. He ran the parrot feather between his fingers before setting it down. Kraig had offered Ibude his pick of the magnificent magical artifacts looted from the Ubini treasury, but Ibude had declined them all, not wanting to give Kraig's possession of them any legitimacy whatsoever. Tattered and faded though the feather was, it still reminded him of the raucous bird that had perched on his father's shoulder in life. Ibude bowed before the altar. _Honored father_, he prayed, _I require your assistance._ Beyond and behind the visible, physical world lay an invisible world, where people lived before they were born and returned after they died. The invisible world was also home to the gods and many other spirits, and like the visible world it contained both good and evil. The two worlds affected each other in many ways: sometimes subtle, sometimes profound, and often difficult to understand. But the spirits of departed ancestors could sometimes be persuaded to exert their influence in the invisible world on behalf of their living relatives. As he prayed to his father and his grandfathers and all the fathers before them, Ibude bent his mind in the patterns of _nakowa-gbalu_. The magic he was trying to work was much simpler than the full _nakowa-gbalu_, but it was a novel formulation and there was a good chance the Svaargelders' captured Ubini battle mages had not set up wards against it. Anyone could pray, and if they were worthy and pure of heart the ancestors might fulfill their wishes, but a true wizard could focus his spirit, attune his essence to the flows and currents of the invisible world, and achieve otherwise impossible results. It took years of practice, and the more Ibude learned the more he realized he did not know. But sometimes, if the climate in the invisible world was right and the ancestors were in a receptive mood... Someone screamed. Ibude's eyes snapped open, but it took a moment to focus. An enormous fire had broken out in the middle of the Karshans' map, sparks spitting, flames leaping man-high, smoke spreading across the ceiling beams. Kraig and his lieutenants ran around, shouting and slapping at the fire with their fur cloaks. "Wait!" Ibude cried. "This is from the ancestors!" And, indeed, a moment later the fire extinguished itself, flames furling up and vanishing into space, smoke dissipating like a flock of frightened birds. A moment after that, Kraig smacked Ibude to the floor with one enormous hand and drew the dagger from its sheath at his hip. "This is how you repay me?" he yelled. "By destroying my map?" He yanked Ibude to his knees and raised the dagger for a killing blow. "Hold, Warhaft!" shouted one of Kraig's lieutenants. "What?" Kraig paused, but did not release Ibude's neck. "Look! The map!" Kraig looked. Then he dropped Ibude like a discarded rag and ran to the map table. He and his men gathered around, pointing and muttering in wonder. Rubbing his sore neck, Ibude stood and approached the map. Burned into the map's surface were crisp, precise lines and symbols -- dots and arcs and tiny squares. "Amazing," said one of the lieutenants. "You can see every single soldier." "Impressive," Kraig agreed. But as he continued to examine the map, his expression passed from satisfaction to puzzlement to annoyance. "These formations make no sense," he said. "The passes to Karsh are here, and here, but the troops are lined up over here." He turned and scowled at Ibude. "Your magic is worthless. It tells me the Svaargelders are about to march into a cliff of solid rock." Ibude inspected the map and cast his mind back to the vision he had been granted during his communion with the invisible world. "I saw the soldiers lined up as you see them here, as clear as though I stood on the peak above them. I swear by all my ancestors that this is true." The Warhaft's teeth ground together, and he raised his fist... but then, with a visible effort, relaxed it finger by finger. "Pah!" he said, and brushed Ibude away with a wave of his hand. "Get out of my sight, wizard. I have a defense to plan." # Some time later, Ibude sat on a rough wooden bench in Kraig's mess hall, trying to choke down a mug of the sour barley brew that was the finest drink the city of Stugar had to offer. Kraig was right. The enemy formations made no sense. But he'd seen them, as good as with his own eyes, and the ancestors had burned them into the map -- they must be accurate. Why would the Svaargelders not be lined up at the passes? Something in his vision nagged at him... a snatch of memory, or perhaps a whisper from the invisible world. He felt that he'd missed something. What could it be? From his satchel he took powdered oryx horn, for memory, mixed it with the last of his fish-eagle eye, and swallowed it with a gulp of the sour Karshan beer. He bowed his head and prayed to his father for a second glimpse of the Svaargelder forces. Again he saw in his mind's eye the barbarian soldiers, lined up in the snowy passes under the watchful eyes of their leaders. And at the head of the long row of troops... a pair of elephant tusks, curving columns of ivory taller than a man, wrapped in bands of brass etched with potent magical symbols. Throughout the Ijju Empire, brass and ivory could be worked only by the artisans of the Great King. Ivory combined the strength of the elephant with the color white, cool and pure and sacred to the ancestors. Brass, too, was a powerful union: fiery copper and white zinc, the great heat required to fuse them symbolizing the fierce power of the gods. Objects combining the two materials were among the most potent of magical artifacts. Ibude knew this pair of tusks. They had been brought across the Great Southern Ocean from the imperial capital of Ife-Ijju seven generations ago, part of the treasury of artifacts that formed the magical and spiritual foundation of the new colony of Ubini. But the brass bindings and the symbols etched upon them were new. Ibude knew the symbols too. They were notations of _nakowa-gbalu_. And only one other person on earth knew those notations. The person with whom Ibude had invented them. Ibude's joy was so great it broke his concentration, the vision vanishing like a dream. Ejira was alive! What was more, she must be right there -- in the Svaargelder camp at the Karshan border -- at this very moment. The great banded tusks themselves, powerful though they might be, were useless without a magical practitioner to awaken that power. And no one but Ejira could perform the magic associated with those symbols. _Nakowa-gbalu_ was too complicated, too unlike anything that had come before, for any other practitioner to have mastered in only three years. Ibude had to go to the border, and quickly, before Ejira's captors could move her elsewhere. He would go to Warhaft Kraig and demand to be sent to the front. He'd come up with some kind of story to justify it. The bitter brew sloshed across the table as Ibude bolted for Kraig's quarters. # "Warhaft, you must listen to me!" Ibude shouted through Kraig's closed door, struggling in the arms of the two soldiers who were trying to haul him away. One placed a hand across his mouth and he bit it, tasting metal and leather and vile filth. "Please!" But the door remained resolutely shut... until a sweating, panting messenger, a skinny long-legged boy with long hair the color of flax, came barreling down the hallway, caroming off of Ibude and the two soldiers and sending all three sprawling. "Warhaft!" the boy shouted as he pounded on the door. "We are invaded!" Instantly the door slammed open, revealing far more of the Warhaft's pale, scarred, and hairy flesh than Ibude had ever wanted to see. "What?" he roared. "Svaargelder troops are inside the city wall! Platoons and platoons of them! And more every moment!" Kraig pulled on a pair of tough boiled-leather pants. "Tell Commander Hargel to take five platoons of troops and two of engineers and seal the breach immediately." "There is no breach!" the messenger panted. "The enemy is... sir, they're coming out of nowhere!" Ibude squirmed out from under one of his soldiers. "I know what is happening!" he shouted. At that Kraig stopped in the act of donning his heavy fur cape. "What is it, wizard?" The two soldiers still held him, though they had stopped trying to drag him down the hall. "It's my wife!" The most convincing lies were always grown from a kernel of truth. Kraig just looked at him. "She's using _nakowa-gbalu_ to transport the soldiers directly into the city. There's no one else in the world who could do such a thing." "Stop her, then!" Kraig bellowed. "Stop her at once!" "I can't do it from here. I have to go where she is. Have some soldiers take me as far as the border, and then..." The look of disgusted disparagement in Kraig's water-blue eye stopped Ibude cold. "You must think me a fool." Ibude had no reply. He was certain the Warhaft was about to take up his sword and strike his head from his shoulders right then and there. But all he did was spit at Ibude's feet. "Get out of my sight, you worthless charlatan." Turning from Ibude, Kraig addressed the messenger boy. "New orders. Tell Hargel to take seven platoons of troops and fan out across the city. Find where the enemy is appearing and engage them as close to that point as possible. Go!" "I obey, Warhaft." The boy took off at a run. Kraig headed for the council chamber without even a glance at Ibude. The two guards looked at each other. Then they dropped Ibude like a sack of rubbish and followed their Warhaft. Ibude lay on the chill slate floor, littered with rushes and tracked-in reindeer droppings, and wept. After so many years, to know that Ejira was only a few leagues away -- but still as unreachable as the sun -- caused a pain greater than he'd believed his battered heart capable of feeling. But even the worst storm must come to an end, and eventually Ibude wiped his eyes and pulled himself to his feet. Through the log walls of the building came the clatters and screams of men in battle, not too close but coming closer. There was no way in the world he could cross the war-torn leagues between him and Ejira without a military escort. No way in _this_ world. Ibude made his way to the building's second story, a quiet chill space for the storage of grains and furs. There he set up his altar, swallowed a potion of tortoise shell for strength and nettle for tenacity, and bowed to the crude little figurines. _Honored father_, he prayed, _help and guide me now as you did when I was a boy. Help me to reach my beloved Ejira, the mother of your grandchildren._ A harsh cry and a flutter of wings drew Ibude's attention. Perched on a beam high above his head was a bird -- a raven, but unlike any raven Ibude had ever seen before. Its feathers were purest white, with not a trace or streak of black anywhere. White, the color sacred to the ancestors. _Thank you, father._ Again the bird cawed, cocking its head to examine Ibude, its eyes like glittering garnets. Then it spread its wings and flew out through the smoke-hole. Quickly gathering his altar items, Ibude crammed his hat down low on his head, hoping to hide his dark face in the shadows of its brim, and headed for the door. The street outside was a panicked hell of people -- soldiers striding determinedly toward the sound of battle, screaming civilians running in the opposite direction. The sun had already set, but the glow of many fires reflected off the buildings and even the clouds above. The air stank of smoke, the filthy smoke of burning houses. Ibude scanned the sky and soon saw the raven, the white of its wings turned to copper by the flickering firelight. The bird wheeled once and then headed off in the same direction as the soldiers -- toward the battle. Keeping close to the walls, Ibude followed. He kept his arm across his face, to shut out the choking smoke as well as to hide his appearance. He rounded a corner and nearly ran into a shouting mass of men, a melee of Karshans and Svaargelders hacking at each other with swords. He quickly ducked down a side street to avoid them. Another group of soldiers charged past, heading toward that battle, and he pressed himself into a doorway out of their sight. The white raven circled above for a time, then sailed off again. Ibude poked his head out. The way was clear. Following the raven, alternately running and hiding, Ibude eventually found himself in a small plaza. A grain warehouse at one side of the plaza was burning, but at the moment there was no sign of fighting. The raven wheeled above the plaza once, twice, three times, then settled and folded its wings on the peak of the warehouse, ignoring the flames that licked up to the sky behind it. A moment later the plaza filled with a mass of flame as the burning warehouse collapsed into the street. From the flaming rubble stumbled a small, slight figure. Even silhouetted against the flames and clad in bulky furs, he recognized instantly the shape and gait of the body that had haunted his dreams every night for the last three years. "_Ejira!_" he shouted, running toward her and waving his arms. "Ibude?" They ran together into a furious embrace, a deep passionate kiss. The flavor of her mouth was a sweet familiar balm. But the city burned around them and he cut it off after little more than a taste. "How?" he said. "How did you come here?" "It was the Lizard," she said. That was their nickname for one of the mental formulations of _nakowa-gbalu_. "We were wrong to think that you must guard yourself there. If you _open_ your heart there, all else falls into place." "Of course!" He thought a moment, the implications of the change cascading through his mind. Opening the heart would create, not the outward force they'd originally sought, but a pull... a force that could draw a person right out of the visible world. "But how do you return to the visible world in the new location?" She turned her eyes away from him. "My guards will be here soon. We were separated by the fire." He stood, waiting for an answer. But Ejira only reached out her hands to him. "Come with me, my precious. General Njarsten has such amazing plans." On her wrists, he realized, rattled brass bracelets strung with beads of costly red coral, and her head was crowned with a tall, curving hat of the type reserved for the Queen Mother. Her cape was zebra skin, imported from the imperial capital across the Great Southern Ocean. The tight luxuriant curls of her hair glistened with roasted palm-nut oil and her face was plump and sleek. But the eyes in that face... It was as though the ice of these southern climes had penetrated all the way to the core of her soul. "_How do you return?_" "I'll tell you later, precious." But her hand moved, very slightly, toward her satchel -- fine beadwork, heavy with red coral. The motion was nearly invisible in the flickering firelight, and only one who had spent most of a lifetime with her would ever have noticed it. With one swift motion Ibude snatched the satchel from her hip. Ejira shrieked and tried to grab it back, but not quickly enough. In the satchel he found a hand. A human hand. The grisly thing was dried, hard and light, with a brass cap fixed over the severed wrist. But unlike other such specimens he'd seen, this one was very pale -- paler even than the pale people of this ice-rimed land -- with a strange translucence to its skin. Albinos were specially favored by the ancestors. Their body parts, highly sought by evil wizards, were magic charms of unprecedented power -- especially if removed while alive. Ibude stood appalled, holding out the hand as an accusation. "You were always too fastidious about the most powerful artifacts," Ejira said. "But Njarsten has given me free rein. You should see what I've accomplished with his support!" "Ejira..." With a crash and a clatter, another wall collapsed into the small courtyard. But no flame followed; instead, a crowd of Svaargelder soldiers tumbled into the street. Immediately they pointed at Ibude and Ejira, shouting with their strange elongated vowels, and charged toward them. "Ejira, we must run!" But though he pulled hard at her arm, she refused to budge. "Don't go back to that barbarian Kraig! Come with me to Njarsten... together, not even the oceans can stop us!" Ibude's heart froze as though one of the icicles that hung from every roof in this sunless land had fallen and plunged straight through it. The Svaargelders were now only a dozen paces away. Ibude grabbed Ejira around the waist and tried to put her over his shoulder. "Put me down!" she shrieked, kicking him and pounding him with her fists. Ibude tried to run, but Ejira's wild thrashing unbalanced him and he fell heavily to one side, knocking the breath from his lungs and Ejira from his arms. The albino hand went flying, landing in a snowdrift. Ejira scrambled over the snowy cobbles toward the approaching soldiers, calling out to them in their own language. "_Ejira!_" Ibude sobbed, but she did not turn back. Some of the soldiers were bypassing Ejira and heading straight for him. He could see the puffs of snow raised by their pounding boots, the firelight glinting on their drawn swords. He turned and fled. Heavy footfalls sounded behind him, just steps away. He rounded a corner. Two dozen Karshan soldiers milled in the street. "Help!" he shouted in Karshan. "Svaargelder soldiers right behind me!" Then he threw himself to one side, rolling in the snow as the two groups clashed together. He lay in a drift, panting and sobbing as the sounds of battle moved down the street, heading back the way he had come. "Ejira..." The tears froze on his cheeks. For an unknown time he wandered the streets, paying no attention to his surroundings and not really caring what might happen to him. But in the chaos of the Svaargelder invasion, one small dark wizard was easy to miss, and the fighting didn't touch him. The changes that had come over Ejira in their three years apart were bad enough. Her easy acceptance of human sacrifice, her enthusiastic alliance with the Svaargelder general, the callous chill in her eyes. But the worst thing was her last remark: "not even the oceans can stop us." For Ubini, the shining light of the southern continent, was only a colony of the Ijju Empire, beating heart of the world's civilization. Ubini had been established as a check on the southern hordes, but now that Ubini had fallen, only the broad Southern Ocean lay between the barbarians and the tempting riches of Ife-Ijju, the imperial capital. And Ejira's discovery meant that they could stride across that expanse of water like a man stepping over a gutter. They might not prevail against the might of the Empire. But Ejira's magic allied with Njarsten's ambition and warcraft made a powerful force indeed. The ancestors alone knew how many lives, how much treasure, would be lost trying to repel it. That force could be stopped here and now, if he acted quickly. Magic depended on knowledge and attitudes in the practitioner's mind and soul, attributes not easily transmitted to another. No one but Ejira could use _nakowa-gbalu_ as she had, even given the same magical artifacts. Well, there was one other. Now that he knew about the Lizard. He looked around and found that he was in a street of merchants' houses, their doors standing open, the inhabitants fled in the face of the invasion. He entered the nearest one and knelt by the firepit, still warm though its fire had been extinguished. He reached into his satchel... and found it empty. The contents must have fallen out, unnoticed, when he'd tumbled trying to carry Ejira. His powders and preparations, his altar items, the mementos of his ancestors... all gone. No, wait... not quite all. Snagged in the rough weave of the satchel's lining was one item. The ragged, faded feather of his father's parrot. With his hands he took ash from the unknown merchant's firepit and formed it into a little mound. Gently he teased the feather from the fabric, inserted it upright in the mound of ash, then bowed before it. _Honored father_, he prayed, _once again I must humbly beseech your aid..._ As the sounds of battle raged outside, Ibude bent his mind to the complex formulations of _nakowa-gbalu_. When he came to the one called the Lizard, he opened his heart... and the invisible world in turn opened to him. Ibude gasped. This must be how the gods and ancestors perceived the worlds -- the visible and the invisible swirling together like oil and water, the currents of each influencing and being influenced by the currents of the other. He could see everything at once. Here Karshan and Svaargelder soldiers struggled, there the spirits of the newly dead stumbled in confusion, over there the Warhaft exhorted his men in a desperate last defense. But, most importantly, there -- less than half a league distant -- sat Ejira, at the center of a web of forces that warped the flow of both worlds. And the spider in that web was the albino hand... a dark knot in the flow, around which fluttered evil spirits like a flock of filthy birds. The disciplines of _nakowa-gbalu_ could use that artifact's power to open a gate between the worlds and draw a person into it. But a second artifact, equally powerful, was needed to return the person to the visible world in another place. Ejira had used the Great Tusks to come to Stugar, but they were many leagues away, and Ibude had nothing so powerful of his own. All he had was his feather, his humility, and his purity of heart. _Help me now, father_, he prayed. And then he felt something he'd never felt in all his years of magical practice. It was as though his father were standing behind him, looking over his shoulder, as he'd done in life. And behind him stood his grandfathers, and their fathers behind them. Ibude had always known that they were there in the invisible world, but he'd never felt their presence so viscerally before. He felt their warmth, their breath, their love. They had come to help, he knew. But there would be a cost. _I understand, my fathers_. Ibude returned to the visible world. Tears were running down his cheeks. A harsh caw made him look up; the white raven sat at the edge of the merchant's smoke hole. Ibude nodded and rose, leaving the parrot feather behind. The raven led him through the churned slush of the streets, past soldiers distracted by sudden fires or falling icicles. After half a league he came to a tavern where four Svaargelder soldiers stood guard, and paused in the shadows while the white raven flew away down the street. A moment later a pack of Karshans came charging down that same street, screaming and waving their swords, and the Svaargelders rushed to the defense. Ibude slipped through the chaos and into the tavern. Ejira sat tailor-fashion before a large folding altar, all brass and carved ivory and red coral. At the center, where the idol of her father should have stood, lay the albino hand. Her eyes were closed, all her attention in the invisible world. For just a moment Ibude looked on Ejira's face, remembering the woman he'd loved. Then he reached out and grasped the albino hand. The thing seemed to squirm malevolently in his grip. With a burst of anger, he exerted the disciplines of _nakowa-gbalu_, forming his mind into the shapes he'd researched over the long years of captivity. The gate opened. Ejira shrieked as she was drawn into the invisible world. Ibude cried out as well, for the hand too was pulled through the gate, and though he tried to release it, it dragged him along. In the invisible world, Ibude found himself and Ejira encircled by his ancestors, silently watching. The white raven was here too, perched on Ibude's father's shoulder. There was no sign of Ejira's ancestors. _Take us back, my precious!_ Ejira insisted. _We still have work to do!_ Her fine clothing began to dissolve, like morning mist, and Ibude realized that nothing physical could long exist in this place. _I cannot,_ he replied. _Not without a second artifact. Nor would I if I could. __Why?_ Ejira wept, and as she did he saw that her face was weeping away as well. Ibude looked at his own hands; they too were dissipating like smoke. _Do not cry, my beloved_. He embraced his wife, their bodies fading and dissolving into each other. _Our sons and daughters are better off in a world without us. Without _nakowa-gbalu_ on either side, the barbarians will be defeated and peace will return._ After his body faded away completely, Ibude's spirit stood alone and wept. Then his father came and led him away. There was much work to be done.
Published on Mar 30, 2012
by Marissa Lingen
You are not the first to read this spell. The others have all been like you. All exhausted, all desperate. All sure that you will close the circle before you finish the invocation, let the energy drain. All sure that you cannot afford to. That your people--city or country or province--cannot afford for you to.
Published on Apr 3, 2017
by Ken Liu
In the moonlight, Magda walked through the memory room. This was her room, even more so than the kitchen. Nate never came in here. Piles of papers and bags of old clothes turned the floor into a maze. Along the wall were broken bookshelves, chairs missing legs, old toys from her girlhood.
Published on Aug 10, 2011
by Marina J. Lostetter
The magic appeared in 2019, when a rogue comet performed an impossible loop-de-loop while passing Earth. The strange astrological phenomenon was a sign, a sigil, a portent--or perhaps just a pretense. Whatever it was, the day after, millions of people around the world awoke to find themselves blessed--or cursed--with magical abilities. The magic appeared random, with no rhyme or reason as to why some people had received powers when others had not. Worse, the majority of the new warlocks, sorceresses, alchemists and whatnot couldn't pin down the rules to their particular brand of hocus-pocus before things got out of hand. Luckily, MaryLin wasn't like most people. She'd figured out her place in the new world right away. Having been raised by a professional poker player turned semi-professional con man, she'd learned early on: find an angle. All you need to survive is an angle.
Published on Aug 14, 2015
by Mary E. Lowd
Angie and Tyler's hands touched the green-gold brass of the magic lamp at the same time. The metal was slick with creek water and they had to dig away the mud and wet moss that had half buried the lamp using their bare hands. Their fingers smeared the mud, leaving their hands and the lamp dirty. Someone must have thrown it into this creek, deep in the woods, years ago. Angie and Tyler had strayed from the trail hours ago, and Angie kept oscillating between feeling thrilled to be alone with him in the forest... and terrified that she was making a dangerous mistake. She and Tyler had only been dating a few months. He seemed perfect and kind, but she knew that abusive men used a honeymoon period to lure their girlfriends in and then isolate them. Right now, they were pretty isolated.
Published on Jul 31, 2020
by Emilee Martell
It's amusing, the men who coo at our virtue, our spinsters' garb, the way we walk down the street with arms linked and eyes demurely downcast, amusing how they could scarcely imagine how well we know each other with our petticoats off, corsets ripped with haste, hands and tongues dancing, devouring, worshiping in ways it has never occurred to them to worship a woman. It's amusing, the jealousy in their eyes when they see the prosperity of our small inn, the way they loudly attribute our success to the kindly sympathy the customers must feel for us as we struggle with unfeminine labor, as though hard work and good food and a strict lack of lice are entirely irrelevant efforts.
Published on Nov 13, 2019
by Sarah G Matthews
The name collection started as insurance. The elder witch got by on dribbles of her power. She played the part of the doddery old healer, the minor magician. She peddled tinctures and told her neighbors to call her Granny Burdock, or just Granny, please. The villagers introduced themselves in turn, friendly, unsuspecting. With each new name, the elder witch would smile and say, oh, how very charmed she was to meet them. And then she would retire to her hut at the edge of the village, and she would open a tattered book and record the new name.
Published on May 26, 2021
by Shamus Maxwell
The shop was almost bare. A few unpromising objects lay scattered willy-nilly on its rickety shelves. As he gazed at the forlorn selection of wares Magnus was approached by the proprietor, an old and wizened man with a mild, yet sinister, grin. "Are you looking for anything in particular, sir?"
Published on Feb 13, 2012
by Dafydd McKimm
Soon after the old man wakes, he takes his lyre to the cave where the sleepless dragon guards the golden hoard of a long-dead king and plays songs he hopes will send it to sleep. Before leaving his hut, he feeds the dying fire from a dwindling pile of foraged wood and sets a pot of bitter tea to boil. With trembling, scrimshawed hands, he ties back his hair, as thin and translucent as the chill breath of winter that covers the hard ground outside his door. His bones, which creak like the wind-ravaged pinewood that spreads for miles around his hovel, implore him to stay indoors. But nothing can distract him from the fervor he feels at the thought of the wakeful dragon and its hoard of ever-guarded gold.
Published on Jan 31, 2020
by Lynette Mejia
The magician wobbled a little on his bar stool. "Ask me what I did for a living," he said. Somewhere deep inside of him a small voice was shouting to shut up, that he sounded like a fool, but he ignored it. His plane was likely delayed until morning, anyhow.
Published on Nov 2, 2015
by Caw Miller
"I need a choir," Kindor shouted at the bookseller. "Calm yourself, my good sir. I have many choirs and many full books. What book?"
Published on Jul 26, 2018
by Gabriel Murray
When he looks at you it's obvious he has no idea what manner of fellow you are, and that is how you know that you've got him. No one likes knowledge, after all, least of all curious individuals like Spencer. Oh, certainly he thinks he does--why else would he collect all those fine books, that beautiful blue globe in his conservatory, and all the planets strung on iron rings in glass?--but you're familiar with the tang of curiosity. Mr. Spencer likes not knowing. The pleasure is in the chase, as with copulation; he wants to be puzzled. You're happy to oblige him. So when he studies you, you meet his eyes and look away. Johanna introduces you with a brave little smile: "Geoffrey, this is my friend Claude," she says to him. She's winding a little strand of tea-colored hair around her index finger while she speaks. Poor Johanna: she is a poetess, after all, and the Spencers believe in free love, but you can see the knot of worry for his disapproval in the tendon of that finger. Even a happy wife would know whose name was on the deed of that house, and you're well aware that Johanna Spencer is not a happy wife. "Claude is a friend of Mr. Partridge's; I met him at the Partridges' salon, in the city. Have you ever thought of coming?"
Published on Apr 16, 2013
by Mari Ness
He had replaced his hands with wands, one tipped with amethyst and lined in silver, the other dotted with emeralds and lined with gold, spraying a continuous fountain of golden sparks. When the wands came together, carelessly or deliberately, the resulting clash of colors and sparks stung the eyes. People whispered that he had been a poet once. A failed poet. A _very_ failed poet, sniffed some. His work had lacked rhyme, meter, meaning, beauty, sophistication, experimentation: he'd been begged never to recite again, never to bother the learned journals with his pained and ugly words. That explained the missing hands, the glowing wands, although others protested this explanation. No poetry, however ghastly, could bring anyone to _that_. No, it must have been some other obsession playing on him: a lover, a child, a demon.
Published on Sep 28, 2010
by Maria Melissa Obedoza
Prince James winced as he watched the court jester stumble back into an open cabinet in a futile attempt to catch a wayward juggling ball. The jester fell amidst a shower of colorful props and knick-knacks ranging from odd to downright ludicrous. James sighed. Pantolino was undoubtedly an awkward, bumbling fool. The only thing worse than his jokes was his bad sense of timing. For all his clumsy ways, though, he was beloved by the entire court--from the lowliest servant to the king himself. Pantolino had a heart of gold and a gentle nature to match. He had a warm smile and a ready ear for anyone in trouble. Simply put, he was everyone's friend.
Published on Jul 27, 2011
by Aimee Ogden
Coffee at Cardinal Cups always comes with an off-menu bonus. One of Jojo's regulars pulls up to the drive-thru with his Wednesday morning office order: three frappes, two lattes, one soy mocha. He always leaves a good tip, and he always pays with a credit card. Credit card users are great for customer service witches like Jojo, who need a full name to do their best work. "Have a good one, D!" she says, handing him the carrier tray, and she knows he will because his coffee comes with a nice cantrip that'll help him send all his emails for the next week with zero typos and exactly the right number of exclamation marks.
Published on Aug 21, 2019
by Kat Otis
Deep in Chislehurst Caves, the children play Pin the Mustache on Hitler while a battle rages unseen overhead. The children laugh as they spin, dip, and glide, arms outstretched like Hurricanes and Spitfires. Cheers and groans follow each attempt, for no one has come near the mouth though Billy did manage to pin his over one baleful eye. Ruth declares it is her turn next, snatching the blindfold from Billy's hands and tying it over her eyes.
Published on Jun 10, 2015
by Kat Otis
Marchesa Barbara Gonzaga of Mantua minced her way across the sickroom in foot-high platform shoes. As I had already treated several broken ankles resulting from such fashionable footwear, I was duly impressed by this skilled display. However, I was not nearly as impressed by the bouquet of lavenders she held superstitiously close to her face. Flowers might help offset the foul stench of her dying husband, but they did nothing to protect against plague. "How fares he?" Barbara lowered herself into the chair beside the blood-splattered bed and studied Ludovico's fever-stricken form. Though I detested the filth, there was no point in cleaning the bed; he would simply cough up more blood as soon as the task was complete.
Published on Oct 31, 2016
by Carma Lynn Park
The sorcerer was young, still with a downy beard, his power small and flickering. He set his mind to obtaining greater strength, and after much study he decided to lure the creature of living darkness, whose energies he could then tap. The creature would need a pit, deeper than the lowest basement of his castle, deeper than the copper mines of the Frostshadow Mountain, deeper than the Everquiet Caves. Because blood and fear would stoke the creature's life force and swell its energies, supplying it with victims would give him even greater power. His mouth stretched in a smile as a plan struck him, and he congratulated himself on his cleverness.
Published on Oct 3, 2011
by Aimee Picchi
what is a sorcerer
Published on Jul 8, 2019
by Stephen S. Power
I've vetted the manuscript for Hazel Amor's "Lovecasting: 73 Spells for Finding and Binding the Man of Your Dreams." Legal requests the following changes be made and queries resolved prior to publication. Page xii: The author expands on the story that opens each episode of her show on Lifetime: An "Asian doctor" with a "wand" touched her "meridian point" and said she suffered from "low energy." He then prescribed the "magical regimen" that inspired her Lovecasting program. Has the doctor granted permission to use what could be considered his IP?
Published on Mar 30, 2015
by T.A. Pratt
Marla Mason, sorcerer in exile, looked over the railing of the balcony, down at the lavish resort hotel's pool with its swim-up bar and tanned, happy people lounging on chairs, and thought, I can't take another day of this. "I can't take another day of this," she said aloud to her companion, Rondeau, who leaned on the rail popping macadamia nuts into his mouth from a tin. He wore the most outrageous aloha shirt Marla had ever seen--its eye-wrenching pattern included not only parrots and palm trees but also sailboats and sunsets and what appeared to be carnivorous plants--and had the self-satisfied look of someone with more money in the bank than he could spend in even a fairly dissolute lifetime.
Published on Mar 11, 2011
by Sara Puls
Testing the strength of his wings, Caddis shivered with pleasure. They felt strong and sturdy, ready for flight. And this time they'd grown in brown, just like his fur. A few days ago, before Mr. Taylor sliced them off so brutally, so inartfully, they'd been purple. Far too obvious. Maybe this time Taylor wouldn't notice at all. Or maybe he'd realize that Caddis was not an ordinary dog, that he belonged with a wizard who would teach him magic, who would let him flutter and soar. As Caddis gave his wings another flap, the puppies in the window display began to yelp and yip. Taylor, who was asleep behind the counter, shifted, then opened his eyes and yawned. Caddis scurried into the corner of his cage and set to gnawing dumbly on a bone. Just like a proper dog should.
Published on Jan 6, 2014
by Cat Rambo
At the time he did it, the wizard Moulder found the idea of removing his heart, applying a calcifying solution, and storing it in a safe place, all in the name of achieving immortality, quite reasonable. He performed the ritual in the small but ominous tower he had built in one corner of his parents' amber-walled estate, watched over by dour-jawed stuffed crocodiles and glassy-eyed owls and his faithful servant, Small, who held out the iron receptacle to hold his heart, her face impassive and unjudgmental, and laved his hands afterwards with cold water. For thirty years, the practice served him well enough. A heart is the seat, the root of change, and it is as the soul changes that the body degrades, which is why childhood to adulthood is so marked with its physical transformation.
Published on Jan 29, 2013
by Melanie Rees
Brietta ambled between the rows of stalls, keeping her distance from her mother. A ringmaster bellowed over a megaphone, asking people to join in the fun, and carnies bustled between stalls under the watchful eyes of the seagulls squawking a familiar tune. And for some reason the tune did seem familiar. "We've seen these stalls already," Brietta moaned, lagging behind.
Published on Sep 5, 2012
by Jenn Reese
You were expecting a dank cave, spiders and bats and water sliding down dark rock, or else a yurt, or a thatched hut with chicken legs and the smell of your childhood inside. I'm sorry to disappoint. The sofa is from Pottery Barn, not even on sale, with upgraded fabric. "Sea mist." Who wouldn't pay more for a color with that name? I make no apologies for being good at what I do. You want a witch in a hovel, try Craigslist. First, gather your sticks, your kindle, the detritus of your love. The little things upon which we'll build the working. She gave you a birthday card, but didn't print "love" above her name? Yes. More. The sweater in colors you hate, a souvenir bought hastily in the airport on the way home from a long trip. A coffee mug stained with her lips from the visits to your apartment that always ended before dawn.
Published on Oct 9, 2013
by Julia Rios
"How do you create a memory? With craft and skill, and the right supplies, anyone can learn." Rena smiled, panning her head from one side of the room to the other, catching every client's eyes along the way. The first spread was on vacations. "A little sand, some colorful papers, and a whimsical plastic flip-flop make this piece really shine." Rena pointed to the happy couple, hands entwined as they strolled along a beach at sunset. "Yes, you too can have this experience. It's not as expensive as you might think."
Published on Aug 9, 2012
by A. M. Roelke
You can do a lot of things when you're a wizard. I reached out to touch the boy who lay dying, writhing in agony in the sodden trenches next to me.
Published on Aug 21, 2012
by A. Merc Rustad
Wrought iron fences loop around the gardens: six deep, the outer three progressively higher, more elaborate, and with more spikes atop, while the inner three create a mirror effect. Say you make it over all six fences without impaling yourself or falling or getting trapped between iron bars that suddenly constrict or twist or move. Say you avoid the fourth fence, the electric one, or the second one with the poisoned varnish, or the sixth one with a taste for blood.
Published on Apr 17, 2015
by Kelly M Sandoval
She used to keep track of things. Of dates. Of names. Of time spent in one city before drifting to the next, staying unnoticed and unremarked. Of schools she attended, hands shoved in pockets, head down, saying, "My name is Jennifer (or Susan, or Emma, or Faith) and it's nice to meet you." She used to remember her name.
Published on May 16, 2017
by Kelly M Sandoval
Published on Jun 10, 2022
by Marie Croke
The wyrd for water is water, but my guards give me nothing but tea and wine though they know I hate the taste. I've tried to use my spit, but the Si'aer were much too specific in their language to listen to such disturbing beggary with their wyrds. So I pretend to doodle upon the cell floor, writing and rewriting the wyrd for water. Over and over. But nothing happens.
Published on Jan 10, 2013
by Susan A Shepherd
He went through all nine skills, and found nothing that worked. He carved wood and stone, seashells and goathorn, but the things he made had no life of their own either before or after the waker touched them
Published on Sep 21, 2010
by Cislyn Smith
• It's ok to mourn. You lost something very important.

I'm not talking about your magic lantern, or your friends, or even access to that world. I'm talking about certainty.
Published on Aug 8, 2022
by Robert Anthony Smith
I sat on my work stool, making another meaningless potion. A small flame burned beneath a vial of orange liquid, throwing shadows over the rows of jars lining my table. The potion began boiling and turned a honeycomb yellow. I topped the vial with a wooden cork and dunked it in an ice bath. Once it cooled, I tossed the vial to Urthel.
Published on Jan 23, 2017
by Alex Sobel
“We talked about you in class today grandpa,” I said. The colored parts of his eyes widened like a submerged marble surfacing in a cup of milk. Interested, maybe annoyed. “We got to the chapter in our history book about the Great Wizard War.” I didn’t mention that his name only appeared a single time or that the beginning of each chapter has a bank of important names that are bolded the first time they appear in the text and that his name wasn’t one of them.
Published on Apr 16, 2021
by Eric James Stone
Your Imperial Majesty, Humble though my current condition is, I am proud to write those words to you, for today they are true. The day of your coronation is joyous for the Empire. Most of your subjects believe that you are the prophesied Bringer of Perfect Justice whose reign will be eternal in fact, not just name. Gods grant it be so, if they will still hear the prayer of this, your servant.
Published on Jun 20, 2012
by Amy Sundberg
My guardians, tall and robed in blue, whisper when they see me now and shake their heads. They're dissatisfied because I haven't orchestrated an escape attempt for at least five Champions. Well, okay, exactly five. Since the Champion known as Eric. I'm not supposed to know the Champions' names, of course, but I see it as my job to break the rules (of which there are never-ending lists) as often as possible. Why else would they choose a girl forever sixteen to preside at the Court of the Sybil? They're looking for trouble, even hungry for it. My adolescent fire is what runs the magic they seek. Plus, anybody in my place would have to bend the rules just to provide some variety to the monotonous sameness of never reaching seventeen.
Published on Jul 22, 2011
by Molly Tea
I woke up from a deep sleep to a beautiful face. She was unassumingly beautiful, the kind you could blink and miss easily. A gawky tangle of limbs, a crooked nose, pallid skin as if she were carved from a candle with a blunt knife. Eyes blue and distant beneath two panes of glass. She looked plain, awkward, uncomfortable--and yet.
Published on Apr 21, 2017
by E. Catherine Tobler
The yellow light in the cracked green window flickered and then by degrees began to grow dim, throwing the thing that sat on the warped porch into shadow. Wind stirred leaves; they rustled like paper, dry and ready to ignite with the smallest spark. Cold rain forestalled that. "Jumbo gumdrop serenade, sweet serenade." Nesta scooped the bundle from the wet porch and hustled it inside. She kicked the old door shut behind her and hopped from her left foot to her right as she approached the long table. Splinters danced in her toes.
Published on May 29, 2013
by Chuck Von Nordheim
Evan didn't have much magic left. He'd almost used it all up before he met Trevor. He never had a lot--just enough to make his invisible friend, Nave, come and play. But Evan hadn't needed Nave to come and play after Trevor moved in next door because Trevor became Evan's best friend.
Published on Feb 7, 2012
by Holly Lyn Walrath
When Aria cast the first spell, it was like filling a quarry in her belly she never knew existed. Saying the words and knowing they would work filled her with a sensation of wholeness, with the utter totality of truth. And hot on the heels of this came the rush of excitement, the startled joy of discovery, the blush of success. Sure, she was only trying to lift the stain from the carpet so her mother wouldn't find out about her clumsy attempt at smoking, but it was something, right? Later, at breakfast, she absentmindedly cursed and levitated the milk. Her mother cried out in delight, "Your first spell!"
Published on Aug 13, 2018
by LaShawn M. Wanak
Megan doesn't want to leave the dock after the late shift is over. She lingers, standing with bare feet planted apart on the warped boards, facing the waves that lap across the water. I can imagine her toes growing longer, seeking out knotholes and cracks, stretching towards the murky water underneath. I fear one day I'll find her fully rooted, unable to come back home. Up and down the shore, I can hear the murmurs of the other women, though it's too dark to see them. I can see the water, though, just below the edge of the dock. When I brought the flashlight earlier, the water wasn't so high. It unsettles me as much as the sky. I've stopped looking at the sky directly, but I can feel it spiraling above me, strange, unfamiliar.
Published on Sep 11, 2013
by Sarah Gwendolyn White
From the perspective of the police officer surveilling him, Mark Hampton looked like he was probably regretting purchasing a love potion. The thin, blonde man was visibly struggling to remain interested while across the restaurant table, his wife eagerly promised him that she was willing to do anything--anything!--to make his upcoming birthday special. Did he want to take a day trip? A whole vacation? A second honeymoon?
Published on Jan 8, 2018
by Christie Yant
Estelle knew to avoid the men known as Les Corbeaux in their long, filthy coats, scavengers wielding shovels and pry bars in calloused hands. They were seen less often than they had been in her mother's time, there being no shortage of bodies for the anatomist's table during the long years of Revolution, but here and there one heard of a grave opened and a body missing. It was not unheard of to find a pair of them in the dark of a new moon, or beneath a cloud-bound starless sky. Only a man foolish or desperate would commit his blasphemy alone on a clear night by the light of the Harvest moon. Perhaps Estelle was the fool for being there. She had been glad of the light when she had set out from the factory in Javel to visit her lover's grave, wilted red roses clenched tight in her hand. Now, though, she stood exposed as she came upon a man bent over a weathered marble slab.
Published on Nov 9, 2018
by Tianyue Zhang
The magician says: "The price will be steep. Death magic demands no less." "I can pay." The husband declares it unhesitatingly, but the bedchamber they stand in belies his words. Like the rest of the house, the room is a little too grandiose in size for its few remaining items of furniture; the four-poster monstrosity upon which the body rests fails to obscure the missing wardrobes, the absent bedside stand, the dark rectangles on the wallpaper where paintings had hung. The unwashed windows fade the late afternoon sunlight to the color of old milk.
Published on Oct 31, 2013
by jez patterson
It wasn't just Al Capone and every flower shop the world over that looked to Valentine's Day to make a killing. Nadira ignored the body of Lady Charming--and the love tokens hanging from Lady's skirt, jacket, scarves and multiple belts--and glanced up and down the street.
Published on Aug 29, 2017