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Far Fetched Fables No. 119 Beth Cato

August 16, 2016 by Gary Dowell

Flash Fiction: “The Quest You Have Chosen Defies Your Fate” by Beth Cato

(Originally published in Daily Science Fiction.)

You are reading a book, and within that book you now walk through the iron gates of the junior high school of your youth.
You don’t understand how you are reading of a real place within this old fantasy book of adventures you found in the closet of your childhood bedroom. These particular pages didn’t exist before, here in this volume that you read until its white spine was bowed, swaybacked, broken.
Today you have fallen between the plot lines, the inked illustrations, the bookmarks you once placed at the major decisions you were asked to make–yes, your cheating is known. The bookmarks are gone. You can no longer flip back to choose between releasing the unicorn on page 32, or continuing into the forest on page 210, or the various other forks in your literary path.


Main Story: “Cartographer’s Ink” by Beth Cato

(Originally published in Daily Science Fiction.)

Not even the soothing heat of a full cup of tea could ease the agony in Sir Oren’s hands. Each finger joint throbbed as if it contained a burning coal. He cursed, trying to cradle the cup between his palms, but the brew sloshed and speckled his velvet housecoat. Oren exhaled in frustration and set the cup aside.

If he couldn’t drink tea, how in the ten hells was he supposed to manage pen and ink? The secret of his pained hands had been kept this long because the king had no immediate need of him, and his other commissions had far-off deadlines. Oren claimed headaches, avoided the map room entirely, and tried every available concoction to heal his hands. Nothing worked.

If King Atsu didn’t see an update on his linked palace map soon, there’d be another messenger. His Majesty would already be marshaling his soldiers to march on Jal and reinforce the Grey Watchtower, so recently cut off by the meandering river. He must draw the new map lines to assert their claim against those Jalian ingrates.

Beth Cato‘s alt-history novel Breath of Earth debuts August 23rd, and introduces a steampunk twist on 1906 San Francisco with geomancy, world war, and magical creatures. She’s also the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager. Beth is a Hanford, California, native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.


About the Narrators:

Geoffrey Welchman recently wrote, produced, and voiced The Reigning Lunatic podcast, a medieval sitcom. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland. You can find him online at geoffreywelchman.com.

Martin Reyto is an educator, writer, and musician. He has worked in an eclectic variety of fields, including 18 years as a technical writer and software developer; 16 years as a teacher of creative writing, computer science, and business communication; and shorter stints as a symphony musician and audiobook narrator. He has published short fiction and two collections of his poetry.


  1. Hi everyone, there must have been a mistake, the main story is the same one as in episode #118, the one about the stone counting, “In the Quiet and In the Dark” by Alison Littlewood.

    • LaHaine,

      Thank you for catching that! I have re-uped the episode with the correct main fiction. Please accept my humble apologies!


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