Letter From The Editor - Issue 68 - April 2019

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Issue 56
by E. Catherine Tobler
The Warrior and the Sage
by Shweta Sundararajan
The God in the Window
by Steven R. Stewart
IGMS Audio
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Vintage Fiction
A Choice of Weapons
by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Bonus Material
The Gathering Edge
by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

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

The Warrior and the Sage
    by Shweta Sundararajan

The Warrior and the Sage
Artwork by Tomislav Tikulin

A year before the mountain disappeared, my life was simple.There were lessons and chores, as for any nine-year-old girl. There was my family, and the house we lived in, in the Brahmin colony next to the temple.There was play, and there were the stories my grandmother told me.

Then, one afternoon, Ashraf muddled it all up.

It started innocently enough. I was on the mountain, up in a tree, pretending to be the warrior-goddess Chamundi, when I saw seven-year-old Ashraf, in a purple kurta-pyjama and a white cap, climbing up.

"Halt!" I yelled. "Who goes there? Are you a henchman of the terrible demon Mahishasura?"

"N-no," said Ashraf, looking all around for the voice. "Who are you?"

"I am Chamundi the terrible!"

Ashraf finally looked up and found me. "Oh, it's you, Soujanya. Can I be on the good side?"

It turned out that, just like me, he did not like to sleep in the afternoons. After weeks of wheedling, he had finally been allowed to go out and play.

I was glad of the company. These were enchanted hours, when the sun burned the dust under our feet, when the trees themselves looked thirsty and even the flies looked for shade. It always seemed such a shame that everyone else chose to sleep them away.

So together we fought the mighty demon Mahishasura and, after a tremendous battle, annihilated him.

Wesat panting under the tamarind tree, wondering what to play next,and Ashraf said, "Let me be a khwaja and you can be a rani, coming to ask him for advice ruling her kingdom." He straightened up into a cross-legged pose.

"Isn't a khwaja like a sage? Someone who meditates for magical powers?"

"Well, for wisdom, really. But yes, they get magical powers too."

Playing at sages was the most boring thing on earth, something grown-ups liked to get us to do,something we always resisted. But Ashraf looked so eager and excited that it seemed possible he knew how to make it fun.

"Oh. All right."

I bowed to him and said, "Great khwaja, our north borders are being attacked--"

"No! No attacks. Come on, Soujanya, think of something else."

"Good god. Fine! Let's see. I know. Great khwaja, the rains have disappointed us this year. Crops are failing across the land. What do we do?"

"Please be patient, Your Majesty, as I meditate on this problem."

And Ashraf was gone, just like that. He closed his eyes and had them closed so long that I thought he had fallen asleep. Disgusted, I moved away a little and resumed fighting--a whole army of asuras this time. While I was lobbing cannon-balls at a particularly nasty fellow, with scaly silver skin, blazing red eyes, and wickedly sharp talons, Ashraf woke up.

"It has been taken care of, rani," he said.

"But you haven't done anything, silly. How has it been taken care of?"

"I worked a miracle, you ninny. Dark clouds are gathering over your people's lands as we speak. The problem is solved."

This was why I hated playing at sages. Not that they weren't every bit as stupendous as warriors were: Durvasa-muni could curse the very gods themselves; Vishwamitra-muni could create a whole new heaven just to spite them. But where was the fun in sitting in one place with your eyes closed?

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