My story “A Hero of Grünjord” was published today in Outland Entertainment’s new anthology Hath No Fury. The book was edited by Melanie R. Meadors and features a foreword by Robin Hobb and an introduction by Margaret Weis.
My story is an epic Lovecraftian science fantasy adventure. Nicolás R. Giacondino created a great illustration for it that you can see on his DeviantArt page. Here’s the first part of the tale:
Vinca felt her stomach twist as the vast Outlander skyship, black as the night betwixt the stars, rose from the valley Rift. The winter sun shone harshly through wispy clouds and gleamed on the snowy mountains ringing that cursed chasm. But the ship reflected nothing. If it were not for the nauseating hum of its engines shaking her very bones, she would have thought the ship to be a catastrophic absence in the sky, like the strange, distant, invisible stars the monks argued over. “Black holes” some called them, but Vinca found that name unsatisfyingly prosaic. A hole was something to be filled, nothing more, and the word did not convey the planet-devouring danger the strange stars held.
Perhaps the Outlanders hailed from a world near one of those dark, hungry stars, and built their ships as homage to those world-eating celestials they worshipped as ravenous gods. Or perhaps the unrelenting darkness was simple camouflage in those cold star-reaches. Either way, if this lone ship made it past the defenses Queen Ahlgrena and her armies had raised, it would wreak terrible destruction across Erd’s ten continents.
A century before Vinca’s birth, the Rift first opened after Grünjord’s most powerful wizard botched a spell intended to create a new freshwater spring. One of the Outlanders’ ships had burst through and laid waste to kingdoms and nations as far south as the Qiimaha empire. Where the ships landed and the Outlanders spilled forth, those who met their blister-eyed gazes suffered seizures and madness and could not defend themselves. Hundreds of thousands died, mostly humans but dragons, too, and the ship was only brought down when the human kingdoms and dragon tribes pledged to set aside their grievances and work together. The land still bore blackened scars where no plants would grow and people who stayed too long inside their borders later sickened with malignant tumors. Queen Ahlgrena’s great-grandfather took responsibility for his wizard’s accident and pledged to the neighboring kingdoms to do whatever he could to keep all their lands safe.
“This one’s bigger than Queen Ahlgrena’s keep,” Bhraxio said as he pumped his leathery wings harder to try to rise above the Outland invader. His voice sounded profoundly worried inside Vinca’s mind.
She could feel the quiver of his wing muscles’ strain through her sheepskin saddle. Fire-breathers like Bhraxio were inherently hot-blooded and could fend off the chill far better than humans, but this bright morning was exceptionally bitter. The extreme cold was taking a clear toll on the young dragon. The first breath of outside air had sent her into a coughing fit. If it were not for her magic-imbued flight helmet – which in her wisdom Queen Ahlgrena had commissioned for all the dragoneers – her face would have already frozen as hard and solid as a marble statue’s.
“We can bring it down.” Vinca leaned forward in the saddle and gave Bhraxio a comforting gauntleted scratch through the wooly fur of his neck. There were thirty dragoneers in the skies today; they’d be able to surround the ship and bombard it with grenades enchanted to home in on and cling to the hot places on the hull where the strange, tough metal that composed the craft’s skin was weakest. It might take two hundred bombs to sunder the ship, but they had plenty of grenades and fliers with hand cannons. “We will bring it down.”
This story will also appear in my forthcoming collection Garden of Eldritch Delights.
Hath No Fury has a stellar list of contributors that includes Seanan McGuire, Carol Berg, Lian Hearn, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Nisi Shawl, Anton Strout, Philippa Ballantine, Elaine Cunningham, Gail Z. Martin, William C. Dietz, S.R. Cambridge, Sarah Kuhn, Marc Turner, Dana Cameron, Elizabeth Vaughan, Diana M. Pho, Erin M. Evans, Carina Bissett, Delilah S. Dawson, Michael R. Underwood, Monica Valentinelli, M.L. Brennan, Django Wexler, and Eloise J. Knapp.