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Everyday Drabbles #599: Twin Cities

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With their supplies exhausted, the ship approached the cliffside and the fabled Twin Cities high above.
According to legend, it was once one island and one city. But half the people were so virtuous, and the other half so wicked, that the gods split it in two, divided by a deep, wide canyon.
The city on their right was built of white stone, with tall spires topped by colorful flags. The other was the drab stone of the cliffside, and their architecture was functional and graceless.
As usual, the ship picked the wrong port, drawn in by the pretty flags.

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Everyday Drabbles #597: Mountain Citadel

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It was morning when he reached the mountain citadel, and the glaring sun gave the stone and ice a blue glow. The monastery was built from the same rock as the surrounding peaks, and unless you knew where and what to look for, you’d never find it. Many brave wanderers had gone searching for it and found only their deaths on the unforgiving slopes. 
But it was a sword that cut both ways, the pilgrim figured. The monks must be starved for news of the outside world.
He adjusted his pack. He was going to sell them so many encyclopedias.

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Everyday Drabbles #595: Modern Witch

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The young witch sits down in her living room and sets to work. There is a candle-topped skull on an end table and a stack of tomes are piled on the floor. The space is otherwise modern and comfortable.
She is a thoroughly modern witch who crafts her spells in a text editor instead of a cauldron. The rules are the same. She just uses new tools.
She pauses when her laptop screen shuts itself, and an unseen yet fuzzy presence makes itself known in her lap.
Another immutable rule of witchcraft is that the cat will always cause trouble.

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Everyday Drabbles #592: Canal

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The little packet boat moved through the old canal at a slow and steady pace. Walls of cyclopean stone blocks hemmed in both sides, and leaning towers loomed above them, as though giants watching their progress.
The ruined waterway was still traversable, but it was filled with hidden dangers and old ghosts. The three-man crew kept their wits about them and eyes sharp for fallen blocks in the water and ambushes on the levee.
As they emerged back onto a wider stretch of river they muttered a prayer of thanks to the forgotten builders and set their sail for home.

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Everyday Drabbles #589: Lost Dragon

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Something went wrong with the summoning. The dragon felt the call of magic pull it through dimensions, then the spell snapped, and it emerged into a gale.
The dragon struggled to stay aloft in the howling wind and freezing rain but fell towards a strange city.
Inside the bakery, Indigo heard a thump. They looked up to see a little dragon pressed against the window.
They brought the dragon inside to dry off. Unsure of what it ate, Indigo grabbed a handful of sultanas and offered them to the creature.
To the little dragon’s eyes, the fruit sparkled like gold.

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Everyday Drabbles #588: The Goddess of Music

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The goddess of music sat on her throne and listened. To an uninformed observer, she might have seemed a prisoner, lashed to her chair with pegs and strings of all different materials and thicknesses. But nothing could be farther from the truth.
Each string led to the heart of a bard wandering the wider world, spreading her songs, and bringing her power.
She listened as each one reverberated in a different frequency, the whole array perfectly tuned and harmonious.
The goddess did not need to travel. Her mortal servants made music, but she was music. And they were her instruments.

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Everyday Drabbles #586: Flying Castle

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The Border Watch spotted the Flying Castle approaching the valley at dawn and quickly spread the word for people to stay in their homes.
Naturally, the village green was crowded by the time it passed overhead, crumbling towers blotting out the sun. A few adventurous apprentices tried to climb aboard, but it hovered out of reach.
Although rumors and stories abounded, nobody in the valley knew where the castle came from, how it worked, or what caused it to fall into ruin.
The town watched it pass overhead and out of sight, ruins drifting by unknown means to no destination.

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Hugh Likes Fiction: Black Sun

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Black Sun: Between Earth and Sky Book One
Written by Rebecca Roanhorse
Published by Saga Press

The Skinny: An epic adventure full of fascinating characters in a unique and vibrant setting.

Serapio is a god reborn. Before he was born, his mother’s people, the Crow clan, were brutally slaughtered in the city of Tova. His mother barely escaped with her life, bearing an unslakable thirst for revenge. Now, blinded and raised for a single purpose, he must make his way back to Tova and confront the Sun Priest, whose office orchestrated the genocide. But the path ahead lies through rough seas, and his only ally is a ship captain with mysterious powers who is distrusted by her own crew.Meanwhile in Tova, the newest holder of the office of Sun Priest, Naranpa, is caught in a web of political intrigue, and narrowly avoided assassination attempts. As the winter solstice and a historic eclipse approach, will there even be a city still standing when Serapio arrives?
With this this new epic fantasy series, Rebecca Roanhorse gives readers a look into a richly imagined world filled with deep and complex characters. Broadly based on Pre-Colombian cultures surrounding the Gulf of Mexico, The Meridian is a land full of mysterious magic, warriors fighting from giant crow-back, and Machiavellian ruling castes of priests and merchants. It is a very fresh take on the genre, and breathes new life into tropes so soaked in the trappings of medieval England.
But the real highlights of this compelling work are the deeply realized characters and the ratchet-tight pacing. Epic fantasy has a tendency to ramble and repeat itself, wallowing in feasts and camp tents, as heroes and heroines brood over politics. From the first page, Black Sun rushes towards the destined climax, as political machinations, ancient prophecies, and even the sky itself push the players towards their destinies as surely as Captain Xiala sings up a current. Speaking of which Xiala was my favorite character, an opportunistic and morally gray wanderer searching for a home she doesn’t know how to even ask for, let alone find. Her chemistry with Serapio was easily the most fascinating part of the book for me.
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse is available in print, ebook, and audiobook, from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your local independent bookstore. I strongly recommend it!

Hugh Likes Fiction: Harrow the Ninth

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Harrow the Ninth
Written by Tamsyn Muir
Audiobook ready by Moira Quirk
Published by Recorded Books

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The Skinny: The sequel to Muir’s impressive debut novel delivers more mystery, gothic weirdness, and dad jokes. (Spoilers for Gideon the Ninth)

Any novel can make you think the main character is mad. It takes a very special book to make you wonder about the author. Harrow the Ninth, manages to do both, with style and grace. And it does it leaving my desperately looking forward to the last volume of the trilogy, due out sometime next year.
And how does Muir follow up the massive success of her debut Gideon the Ninth? In second-person, and with the conspicuous absence of any mention of the first book’s beloved title character. Harrowhark the Ninth has done what she set out to do, and became a Lychtor at Canaan House. But instead of waking up a mighty immortal in the full flush of her powers, she’s sick, dying, and probably going mad. There’s something wrong with her, and she cannot understand what. Also, she is dreaming of her time at Canaan House, and those memories don’t match the events of the first book at all.
Things only get worse when she’s brought to the Emperor’s haunted Space Station for training. The other Lychtors are as likely to kill her as teach her, and the Emperor Himself is far from the living god she imagined. Her only remaining friend is Ianthe, her fellow newbie necromancer, who has plans of her own. Oh, and a monstrous undead Death Star is on its way to kill them all, so no rush getting all that sorted out.
Muir has struck gold once again with this space opera that is equal parts Gothic and Arch. The mysteries are tantalizing, the characters are that same signature mix of badass and horrible people, and her writing just sets the page on fire. The second-person perspective and jumbled nature of the first sections of the novel might be a bit of work to get through, but the payoff is definitely worth it, and it’s a brilliant use of literary device.
Moira Quirk also returns to read the audiobook version, and her narration and voice work are spot-on.
Harrow the Ninth is exactly what I wanted out of this sequel, full of gothic space crypts, planet-sized undead, and witty dialog from decadent lesbian space necromancers. It’s not a good place to start the series, but if you enjoyed the Gideon don’t miss it!

Fiction: Dragon Friend

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When Clematis started hanging out with the dragons, the other fairies were shocked. They were a insular and xenophobic people, terrified of anyone bigger than they were, which was just about everything. They lived deep in the forest, enchanting their gardens and cursing the rare passerby.
Clematis was different. She wanted to fly through open skies, to see the high mountains and the vast oceans her friends spoke of. The fairy elders didn’t care for her dreams, and they cast her out.
Now Clematis flies where she will, accompanied by her chosen family. And her hoard is coming together nicely.

This story originally appeared in Everyday Drabbles, a daily free fiction project on Wattpad. Visit the link for over a hundred free stories. And if you enjoy my writing, support my work by buying me a coffee!

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