Letter From The Editor - Issue 55 - February 2017

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Issue 54
Stories
A Heart in the Hand
by Jeremy M. Gottwig
Yuletide Warrior
by Frances Silversmith
The Emperor's Gift
by Jonathan Edelstein
A Special Extra Christmas
by Eric James Stone
IGMS Audio
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Vintage Fiction
A Thing of Beauty
by Charles E. Gannon
Bonus Material
Caine's Mutiny
by Charles E. Gannon

Writing Fantasy

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Yuletide Warrior
    by Frances Silversmith

Yuletide Warrior
Artwork by Nick Greenwood

Jul Naht, Year Seven after the Great Draught

Jul fires blazed, flickering in the mold-scented breeze, and hundreds of candles illuminated the plainly clothed people huddling in the clearing on top of the burial hill. All the granthers from the three closest villages had turned out for tonight's ritual, as had all the unwed young men, and every person above childbearing age who didn't have a crucial role to fill in the community.

The parents, the healers, the craftspeople, everyone the villages couldn't spare . . . those had stayed home, huddling in small groups in front of their hearths, with every available candle in the house lit, praying to every god who'd listen that the darkness would be defeated one more time and the sun would rise in the morning.

Out here in the clearing the jar rad--the straw-packed wooden wheel meant to be set afire and brighten the year to come--waited in its traditional place, propped up against the burial ground's entrance boulder in position to be easily pushed downhill when the time came.

From the shadows of the ancient grove in the back of the graveyard, thirteen pairs of eyes watched, hidden under the hoods of thirteen black ritual robes.

On the far left wing of that half-circle of watchers, Bertlinde Gelsatohter shifted her weight, carefully balancing her center above feet exactly one shoulder-width apart. One step behind her and two to the left stood Adelheid Hildegardtohter, followed by eleven more Sisters, positioned in a zigzag line designed to give them space for the coming battle.

Soon now.

But not quite yet. The closest village's Eldest was just gathering his fellow villagers, shooing them in the direction of the wheel and the huge bonfire beside it, in order to start the ritual dancing. The wheel wouldn't be lighted for some time yet--though if the villagers waited too long and predawn arrived before the ritual was complete, Bertlinde and her sisters would have to fight without the wheel's magic to back them up.

Not that this was likely to happen. The Eldest of this particular village was reputed to be a levelheaded man and could be trusted to get his part of the night's battle right. Resting her hands on the hilts of her enchanted sword and matched dagger, Bertlinde let her mind drift, settling into the energizing pre-battle trance she'd drilled so many times over the past five years.

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