Letter From The Editor - Issue 55 - February 2017

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Issue 53
Stories
Not on the Gallows
by Harry Turtledove
The Fairy Godfather
by Tim McDaniel
Carry On, Torus
by Gregor Hartmann
Turncrowe
by Michael Meyerhofer
It Becomes You
by Laura-Marie Steele
Why Death is Silent
by William Fischer
IGMS Audio
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Vintage Fiction
The Toll
by Chuck Wendig

Writing Fantasy

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-   -   -   -   P   r   e   v   i   e   w   -   -   -   -

Turncrowe
    by Michael Meyerhofer

Turncrowe
Artwork by Tomislav Tikulin

The first lie they tell you is that it smells like wildflowers in there. Actually, it's more like burnt cinnamon. And he's not totally whole, just sleeping, like the priests say. Yeah, he's all there--no rot, no limbs or digits missing--but that doesn't change the fact that he's been dead for roundabout six hundred years. His cheeks are all sunken in and his arms look like broomsticks wrapped in leather. He's kind of grown into his chair, too, so that if you look real close, it's hard to say where the stone ends and the Saint begins. But he's not a skeleton. I guess that's what's important.

I still remember when Hughes brought me in to take my oath. It was pouring rain outside. You could hear the wind howling through the eaves, like it was about to tear the whole damn roof off the monastery. Not that you'd guess it by the way the priests were acting, though. Half of them were off meditating or stirring the slices of apple in their porridge. The other half were fast asleep. So there was no one else in the chamber when I took my oath--besides Abbott Hughes and the Saint, of course.

I was nervous, sure, but it wasn't like I expected. Growing up, you hear the village priests talk about the Saint like any second, he's just going to straighten up and get out of that chair and go back to performing miracles. You see him sitting cross-legged, half-smiling, on every coin and temple sign, carved into the wooden face of begging bowls. Sure, the priests insist he's not really a god, but you wouldn't know it by the way they pray to him. When you actually see him, though, it's different. For one thing, he's tiny, not much bigger than a child. For another, you can tell right away he's dead.

"Now, my child, swear fealty to he who has gone and shall one day return."

It felt weird to be called my child by a man whose vows meant he'd never undressed a woman in his entire life, but just the same, I knelt down like I was supposed to, in that chamber full of candles. The Abbott handed me a sword--not my old bastard sword with all the notches in the handle, but a ceremonial thing bound in brass and pretty stones. I laid it at the feet of the Saint and kissed the bare stone floor, which was about as clean as stone gets. The candles hissed and sputtered.

Meanwhile, Abbott Hughes said some words I couldn't understand--Old Frayd, I guess--while I knelt there with my hands folded and tried to look humble. Really, I was staring at the Saint's toenails, which looked like tiny ovals of blackened firewood. I wondered if they still grew. Wouldn't that be a miracle? I figured they must not, because if they did, the priests couldn't wait to tell everybody about it.

Anyway, when Hughes was done praying and chanting and carrying on, he touched my shoulder, and I actually had to kiss the Saint's feet. I wasn't looking forward to that, but I did it anyway. The Saint's skin wasn't warm, like they say--another lie. No, his feet were cold and clammy, like my Sorah before I buried her.

Still, being that close to somebody that important, alive or no, it gives you the shivers. When I straightened up, I half expected the Saint to be smiling at me. But no, he was still sitting there in his gray stone chair, his face the color of bronze in those flickering candles, his eyes closed. Oblivious. Wise or dumb--I couldn't decide.

"Welcome, my child," the Abbott said, formal as an icicle, and showed me to my quarters.

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