“The Ifrit’s Trial” by Spencer Ellsowrth
(Originally published in Human Tales.)
Noble courtiers, wazirs, Sultan and lovely Sultana, salaam. Such fanfare for a poor Ifrit you have brought! I see you have seven red-robed sorcerers arrayed about the room, and seven white-robed holy men, each holding the seal of Suleyman whom the Hebrews called Solomon the Wise, and chanting the psalms of David, may peace fall upon him. In the yards of the palace you have arrayed seven times seven of these fork-bearded sorcerers, and seven times seven of these shaven holy men, and they each hold the seal and speak psalms and suras. After the time I have spent in your service, noble Sultan, do you think that I would be so foolish to not stand at my trial? I am a foolish Ifrit, this much is true, but there is enough sense in my head of air and fire to know that I owe you an explanation.
This is the crime of which I stand accused: of my own malicious nature, I cast a wicked spell upon the Sultana Jalima and caused her to love me.
Spencer Ellsworth lives in the top left corner of the USA, the Pacific Northwest, with his wife and three children. By day he works as a faculty/admin combo at a tribal college on a Native American reservation; by night he writes fiction. His short fiction has appeared and is forthcoming at Tor.com, Lightspeed Magazine, F&SF, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and many other places. His first novels, a space opera trilogy called Starfire, will be released in short increments by Tor.com in 2017.
“Last Age of Kings” by Jeremy Szal
(Originally published in Fantasy Scroll Magazine #10.)
Fog approached the town.
Roshar knew it would happen, but it was still unsettling to see it touch the outskirts of his home. The day before, you could still see the fields. And the week before that Lithgard was still visible if you looked hard enough. But they had all been swallowed up by the spectral fog that scrubbed them out of existence.
And soon it would be Northam’s turn.
He was almost glad that Robin would never have to see this.
Born in 1995 with a twisted sense of humor and a taste for craft beer, Jeremy Szal’s fiction and nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in such venues as Nature, Nature: Physics, Abyss & Apex, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and others. He is the fiction editor for a rubbish little-known podcast you probably haven’t heard of called StarShipSofa, a Writers of the Future Finalist, and also has a useless BA in Film Studies and Creative Writing. He’s written multiple novels and is on the hunt for literary representation. He carves out a living in Sydney, Australia. Find him on Twitter at @jeremyszal or at his blog, jeremyszal.com.
Author’s note: This story came about after playing too many fantasy role playing games. There’s nothing more terrifying than seeing everything we’ve created and cherished fall to something that we do not and cannot understand. So I built off the primal fear ingrained in all of us: fear of the darkened room, the quiet cellar, the abandoned mansion: the desperate need to venture inside, even when it will kill us. This story originally had a much happier ending, but I went for the darker twist instead, hopefully subverting classic fantasy tropes by making Roshar — the supposed hero — cave in to the pressure and ultimately be unable to save the world. No matter how strong and well trained and brave the hero is, there are some evils that simply cannot be solved with the sword or human strength alone. Many thanks to the 2014 Creative Writing class at the University of NSW, Sydney, Australia for critiquing this story.
About the Narrators:
Heath Miller is an actor from Perth, Western Australia. Often found in theaters, recording studios, comedy clubs, television sets, convention centers, and YouTube videos, Heath currently finds himself living on an island off the coast of Maine with two improbably large cats, one improbably large dog, one rather small puppy, and a brace of regular-sized chickens. You can follow him on Twitter at @zaboots or at heathmiller.net.
Mark “The Encaffeinated One” Kilfoil loves fiction, so much so that he’s written some (such as the Parsec-nominated Tainted Roses), read quite a lot (a library of over a thousand half-read books and growing), and now narrates it (sometimes actually recorded for others). He’s found that volunteering for a dozen years in radio was a decent way to get a full-time job as a Program Director at a community radio station in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, but not such a great way to finish his thesis, so he stopped at a Masters in Computer Science. He can be heard frequently on CHSRfm.ca, and two of his shows regularly appear as podcasts, and can be found at encaffeinated.ca and theweirdshow.com. He likes cats enough to pet them but not enough to own one, and computers enough to own several but pet none of them. He will someday write a million words, but at this rate, that will require life extension, so he eagerly awaits the ability to upload into a computer, if that hasn’t already happened and this is all only a simulation.