O'Brien; the excerpt is not identified as such, and simply begins "Chapter 1". The collection ''Two Stories'' by Ken Scholes and Jay Lake appears in its entirely beginning on page and ending on page On page begins an excerpt of ''Lockdown'' by Alexander Gordon Smith; the excerpt is not identified as such, and simply begins with the chapter title "Buried Alive".
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Hartwell, appears in its entirely beginning on page and concluding the anthology. The same story and its illustration are published twice in this publication. Frederico felt several things at once. Frustration and confusion fought for predominance. He paced, now, holding the silver crescent to the side of his head. It sounded reasonable to Frederico and he found himself nodding before he realized he was doing so.
Then, he shook his head. What is his name? Her laughter was contagious; he suddenly found himself smiling. Her voice took on a note of concern and lowered in tone. He opened his mouth to speak and the bell ringing at his door caused him to close it. He thought for a moment, then lowered his voice to just above a whisper. Frederico hastened to his bedside and put the silver crescent deep beneath the pillows. Then, he rang for his servants and instructed them that he was taken ill and not to be disturbed until the next morning.
The waters and frogs had soothed him, had become a secret calm for him in distress he could not fully comprehend. As if it had known his need and bent towards it. And now, this new development both intoxicated and terrified him. Some part of her voice was all the innocence of maidenhood but there was sly intellect—cunning even—beneath the skin of it. He made a note to ask after that House. Could it be as easy as that? Perhaps this bit of mirrored silver was truly a toy of the Younger Gods, a way to speak across great distance.
Some leftover like the hills of their long-ruined cities, or the sighs and groans that leaked out from their tombing caves or those rare lights that swam the deep ocean floors. Their playthings scattered the world. A chain of coincidence? For those not of noble birth, coincidences like that were what life was made from.
But not for a Czar. Everything ordered and purposed. Taking a sip of water from the crystal glass on his night table, Frederico reached into the pile of pillows and drew out the silver crescent.
Amal was at her harp again and the tune was the same that had haunted him awake. He could not see her fingers move over the strings but he heard them as a dream filled with passion and woe. Frederico lay in his bed and did not feel the weight of weariness he should have felt for having gone without so much sleep. He took his meals there, barking for the servants to be quick as he hid the crescent behind his back or beneath the silk sheets of his bed.
And when they left, he brought it back to his ear and resumed a conversation days in the making. There had not been many, but enough to keep him busy for a few hours here or there. Books with titles he did not recognize. References to places he had never heard of. These were the barbs on a larger hook that held him fast and kept him never more than a few spans away from the bauble that had gone from offering strange comfort to defining something empty within himself that he had not noticed before.
And it had done so in such a short amount of time that it frightened him but the fear could not compete with the sense of exhilaration.
A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon
Now, he lay upon his back and stared up at the moon, waiting for Amal to return. Tonight, he would have to sleep. Tomorrow, despite the strong desire not to, he would return to his work.
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Still, he would take a few hours with her tonight before giving himself to rest. He heard the noise of her thrashing her way into bed. There was coquettishness to her voice that played him like a harp. He could hear her smile now around her words. I can not escape your voice, even when you are silent. Today, my father scolded me three times for my inattention to his alchemy lesson. Frederico noted the unfamiliar word but lost it when the rest of her words registered.
You are not haunted; you are merely enchanted by my powerful magicks. After, they fell into another conversation that carried them until dawn touched the sky with pink fingers. He smiled at them and noted their surprise. The Minister of the Interior spoke first. He started speaking as he sat. Blushing, Josefus fumbled with the papers before him then realized he had not returned the nod. He blushed even more and inclined his own head. I am delighted that you are well. Frederico opened the portfolio in front of him and scanned the agenda for their meeting. He glanced to Pyrus and Josefus.
They nodded and then the meeting swallowed them all. There was unrest in Espira—accusations of Lunarism that led to violence in the taverns and streets as that region continued to grieve their lost wife. Frederico smiled at this as well.
The meeting continued beyond the unrest, covering plans to evade increased trade tariffs with Engmark and their other neighbors, intelligence reports of muster fires in the northern tundra region of the Hanh, and an executive session regarding the last action items of the Lunarist Purge and the earliest reports of re-socialization potential among some of the captured cultists. As the meeting flowed on around him, Frederico found himself engaging as if it were a fencing match. He darted in with a thrust of a sentence here, a parrying question there, steering the meeting to a crisp and quick conclusion.
As the others left, he stood and waited with Pyrus and Josefus. When all but the guards had vanished, he bid them sit. Federico glanced to Pyrus. The Minister of Intelligence said nothing but inclined his head ever so slightly. I believe it is in a tropical clime either near or on a sea. Inquire of the Shippers Guild; put the word out to our agencies at home and abroad. Josefus opened his mouth to speak but Frederico rang the bell of dismissal and stood.
They turned their eyes down and he paused out of respect. He felt more confident; found himself doubting less in his own decisions. The fog of the sadness was lifting from him now. Frederico lay in his bed and stared up at the blue green moon. My people consider me a god. He heard the mock incredulity in her voice. He rolled onto his side, feeling the warm metal against his cheek. Frederico joined her in laughing. What would he do? Sail the world to make an offer to her father for her hand?
Have Pyrus forge papers and establish her in Espira or—bolder still, extend citizenship to her and provide her an estate openly, risk disappointing the populace? He let playfulness enter his own voice. Frederico pointed to the corner of his bed chamber and watched the servants as they put the harp in place beside its ornate stool. He remembered that it decorated her rooms and towered above him; it seemed much smaller now. Frederico studied the man. He withholds something but does not wish to. He waited until the servants left, then as the steward turned, he called to him.
Come in and close the door. Paling, the steward did so and when Frederico pointed towards an armchair near the unlit fireplace, he smoothed his saffron robes and sat carefully. The steward shook his head. The old man shifted in his seat, his eyes darting to the left and right. That she spent a night with you during your weeping not long before. That you can be heard speaking in your rooms when no one is present, sometimes late into the night. Some say you speak into a silver mirror. Some say you are speaking with the moon.
How I respond is important here , he thought.
Science fiction. Fantasy. The universe. And related subjects.
Still, I would have you keep your ears open and bring any other tidbits of gossip my way that you hear. I have become grateful for what was once my due. He stood, bowed his head slightly, and when the steward did the same, Frederico did not ring the dismissal bell. Instead, he walked the steward to the door. Be certain our chefs can accommodate before the invitation is offered. He locked the door behind the steward and went into the bed chambers.
He pulled the lockbox from beneath his bed and spun the cipher into it. He drew out the silver crescent and held it to his ear. For an hour, she talked slowly and quietly to him as he picked notes out upon the strings. He smiled and signed papers authorizing three months of expenses and a redoubled effort to find this woman who brought music to him.
One more step
They took their dinner in the private dining room and Frederico waited until they were well into their second bottle of kallaberry wine before he asked his favor. The meal had been perfect—broiled salmon drizzled with a white lemon sauce and decorated with asparagus spears across a bed of peppered rice. Crabbed cucumber salad and garlic steamed mushrooms preceded it and Frederico knew that a pear tart followed, once the kallaberry wine ticked their appetites back to life.
He smiled at the senator. It relates to the matter of my need for an Espiran bride. It is no favor—it is my honor. Have you met someone of interest there? Frederico shook his head. It is on behalf of someone else. It will need a good steward—someone reliable and discreet. I have a hunting manor for you in the Gaming Wood. There was the briefest hesitation before Tannen smiled and raised his own glass. Because of the sensitive nature of this matter I will arrange my gratuity with care. Frederico lay in his bed feeling the sweat dry on his skin. It had become a game between them.
She sighed and the sound of it was like soft hands upon his skin. Frederico stretched and stifled a yawn. But if he did, I would persuade him otherwise. She was silent for a moment and when she spoke, the play was gone from her voice. Where do you live? Where are these nine seas you sail in search of me?
He closed his eyes. And I could ask the same of you. That loss seemed a private thing to him or at the very least, something to share when their eyes could meet and their hands could touch. But these matters are…complicated. Being an emperor would be frightfully complex, I should think. Nothing so elaborate as a man. She also hides me from her world , he thought, and he wondered why that impulse was strong within them.
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Initially, they might think it madness but it would only take a moment to draw out the crescent and prove the truth of it to any who wished to know. Perhaps we know it changes when it becomes more than the two of us. When she yawned and stretched, he heard the sound of sheets moving across her skin and heard the pull of sleep in her voice.
Yawning himself, Frederico rolled to his side and began describing the estate with its gardens and butterflies, green pools and white sands. When her breathing became slow and steady, he smiled. Then, carefully, he lowered it into its velvet-lined box, closed the lid and pushed it back beneath his bed.
Pyrus was there was well, his anger barely concealed. Still, he stood and bowed his head. He looked more nervous than angry and Frederico noted that. Broken or not, ill or not, raving or not, I will see her and I will interview her privately. The Czar raised his hand, cutting him off. There was fire in his eye but the old man bit his tongue. They climbed wide and sweeping marble stairs and strode down paneled halls decorated with black and red roses of Empire, past portraits of the royal family.
In the eastern ward, they climbed the corner tower to the midpoint and paused at a walnut door. The Minister inserted a key and turned the lock while Pyrus tried and failed to disguise the anger on his face. Frederico looked to each of them, then looked to the captain of his Crimson Guard.
I will ring if I have urgent need of you. It was a wide open space with a comfortable bed and a small table, a wardrobe and glass-paned doors that opened onto a caged balcony garden. In the garden, a middle-aged woman with graying red hair sat upon a simple wood chair and hummed at the butterflies that lifted and landed from her naked skin. Frederico found himself blushing at her nudity and he turned away from her. He glanced towards her as she turned to face him and saw continental lines of strength and islands of softness in the curving of her body.
He looked away again, a blush rising once more to his cheeks. Frederico felt something like curiosity rising within.
Or perhaps it was fear. He heard traces of it in his voice. She took another step forward. She started humming again, swaying now to the music. Outside, the butterflies danced with her and Frederico blinked at it all and waited for her words to register. The storyteller with his fanciful journey to the moon. He opened his mouth to protest, to tell her that the moon was the poisoned garden of gods long fled or extinct, but he was suddenly caught by the song she hummed.
Her body rippled like a river bathed in light. But you should know this. Your family financed his expedition. Frederico bristled at the nonsense of her words. The Moon Wizard is awake and the end of an age is upon us. He did not remember reading anything about a Moon Wizard. But he did remember something else.
It came to him accompanied with laughter and a playful assertion. He looked at the priestess.
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