Tag: "love"

EP483: Boris’s Bar

by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali
read by Kaitie Radel

author Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

author Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

about the author…

I was raised in New Haven, Con­necti­cut.  I attended the Uni­ver­sity of Con­necti­cut for a cou­ple of years but left to marry my hus­band of more than twenty years.  I have three beau­ti­ful chil­dren, who like most chil­dren these days, far out­strip their par­ents in intel­li­gence and cre­ativ­ity.
My days, my con­crete life, are spent car­ing for breast oncol­ogy patients as a reg­is­tered nurse.  I love work­ing as an oncol­ogy nurse.  It keeps me grounded and forces me to remem­ber the tran­sient beauty of life, and the impor­tance of doing what one loves while one can.  It also keeps God fore­most in my mind as I jour­ney through this brief life, that my choices might be accord­ing to His will.
My less ordered life (Don’t we all live mul­ti­ple sep­a­rate lives?) is spent mostly in my head.  I am always attempt­ing to order the mul­ti­tude of ideas that rise unbid­den in my mind when I least expect them.  To some peo­ple this makes me look deeply spir­i­tual and wise, to oth­ers I look angry.  I assure, I am nei­ther.  Some­times the voices of half-formed char­ac­ters speak to me, beg­ging to be recorded for pos­ter­ity, that we might learn from them, or them from us.  Some­times the voice I hear is my own, remind­ing me of my oblig­a­tion to this life.  Unfor­tu­nately, I rarely have time for any of the voices cre­at­ing the chaotic din in my head.
narrator Kaitie Radel

narrator Kaitie Radel

about the narrator…

Kaitie Radel is a music education student and aspiring voice actress, has been voice acting as a hobby for two years.  In addition to this project, she has participated as both a VA and administrator in several fan projects such as The Homestuck Musical Project and Ava’s Melodies.  She can be contacted at kaitlynradel@mail.usf.edu.

 

Boris’s Bar
by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

 

“Orani, tell Boris what is wrong.”    

I told Boris about Enoch and our shared dreams, about how he abandoned me.

“He said I was frigid,” I confided, my head on Boris’s shoulder, his hand stroking my back.

Boris nodded, “What else?”

“He said that for all the credits in the system, I would never learn how to love.”

I’d been drowning in loneliness when I contracted Boris to help me recover from losing Enoch. After two years of long distance communication, Enoch had traveled from Earth to be with me, only to later decide it was a mistake. “You’re not the human being I thought you were,” he said, which was rich because he wasn’t a human being at all.

When I was spent of energy and tears, Boris lifted me into his arms, like steel support beams, and carried me to the bathroom. He undressed and washed me. He kissed my tearful eyes. He rubbed my skin with oil. With Boris I finally felt warm and safe.

“Orani, you are worthy and lovable. I want you to know this,” he murmured to me as he carried me back to bed. “I want you to feel like a little baby.”

“I don’t remember what that’s like,” I told him.

#

EP479: The Evening, The Morning and the Night

by Octavia Butler
read by Amanda Ching

author Octavia Butler

author Octavia Butler

about the author…

from OctaviaButler.org:

Octavia Estelle Butler, often referred to as the “grand dame of science fiction,” was born in Pasadena, California on June 22, 1947.  She received an Associate of Arts degree in 1968 from Pasadena Community College, and also attended California State University in Los Angeles and the University of California, Los Angeles.  During 1969 and 1970, she studied at the Screenwriter’s Guild Open Door Program and the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop, where she took a class with science fiction master Harlan Ellison (who later became her mentor), and which led to Butler selling her first science fiction stories.

Butler’s first story, “Crossover,” was published in the 1971 Clarion anthology.  Patternmaster, her first novel and the first title of her five-volume Patternist series, was published in 1976, followed by Mind of My Mind in 1977.  Others in the series include Survivor (1978), Wild Seed (1980), which won the James Tiptree Award, and Clay’s Ark (1984).

With the publication of Kindred in 1979, Butler was able to support herself writing full time.  She won the Hugo Award in 1984 for her short story, “Speech Sounds,” and in 1985, Butler’s novelette “Bloodchild” won a Hugo Award, a Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and an award for best novelette from Science Fiction Chronicle.

Other books by Octavia E. Butler include the Xenogenesis trilogy: Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988) and Imago (1989), and a short story collection, Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995).  Parable of the Sower (1993), the first of her Earthseed series, was a finalist for the Nebula Award as well as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.  The book’s sequel, Parable of the Talents (1998), won a Nebula Award.

In 1995 Butler was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship.

Awards
  • 1980, Creative Arts Award, L.A. YWCA
  • 1984, Hugo Award for Best Short Story – Speech Sounds
  • 1984, Nebula Award for Best Novelette – Bloodchild
  • 1985, Science Fiction Chronicle Award for Best Novelette – Bloodchild
  • 1985, Locus Award for Best Novelette – Bloodchild
  • 1985, Hugo Award for Best Novelette –  Bloodchild
  • 1995, MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant
  • 1999, Nebula Award for Best Novel – Parable of the Talents
  • 2000, PEN American Center lifetime achievement award in writing
  • 2010, Inductee Science Fiction Hall of Fame
  • 2012, Solstice Award, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America
narrator Amanda Ching

narrator Amanda Ching

about the narrator…

Amanda Ching is a freelance editor and writer. Her work has appeared in WordRiot, Candlemark & Gleam’s Alice: (re)Visions, and every bathroom stall on I-80 from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis. She tweets @cerebralcutlass and blogs at amandaching.wordpress.com.

Amanda last Read for EP episode 461: Selkie Stories are for Losers

EP477: Parallel Moons

by Mario Milosevic
read by Bill Bowman

 

author Mario Milosevic

author Mario Milosevic

about the author…

I live in the Columbia River Gorge, one of the most beautiful places anywhere. My day job is at the local public library. I started writing quite young, and submitted my first story to a magazine when I was 14 years old. Nowadays I write poems, stories, novels, and a little non-fiction. I’m married to fellow writerKim Antieau. We met at a writer’s workshop quite a few moons ago and got married a year later. We’ve been deliriously happy for many years now. My advice to any would be writers: Don’t do it! It’s a crazy life. But if you absolutely must enter this nutty profession, here’s three things that just might help you out: 1. Write regularly (every day is good). 2. Read constantly. 3. Get a job. Seriously.

about the narrator…

Bill started voice acting on the Metamor City Podcast, and has wanted to do more ever since. He spends his days working at a library, where he is in charge of all things with plugs and troubleshooting the people who use them. He spends his nights with his wife, two active children, and two overly active canines and all that goes with that. Bill last read for us on EP440: Canterbury Hollow.

 

Parallel Moons
Mario Milosevic

1a
I never understood the term “new moon.” When the moon is invisible, how can it be new? “New moon” should be called “empty moon,” the opposite of full moon. I resolved to use the term when I was quite young. I figured all my friends would agree with me and we’d start a new way of talking about the moon. Only thing is, the phases of the moon don’t come up in conversation all that often, so the terminology never caught on.
Another thing I remember about the moon: I used to put my finger over it to make it disappear. Lots of kids did that There’s immense power in erasing an object big enough to have its own gravity. Kids crave that kind of power. They want to rule the world.

2a
You work at a medium-sized law firm. You get a call from some nerds. Space cadets. They want to reclassify the moon. They say it’s a planet, not a satellite. You think this has to be some kind of joke. But no. They are dead serious. They have money to pay for your legal work. Seven hundred and eighty-six dollars. And thirty-two cents. They collected it by passing a hat.
You are amused. You take the case. Why not? No point in being who you are unless you can have some fun once in a while, right? Right?

3a
Alice Creighton knew as much about Richard Mollene as anyone who ever looked at a gossip website, which made sense, since she wrote for one of the most popular. Mollene was the richest person ever, a complete recluse, a widower, and dedicated to three things above all else: stopping global warming, halting disease, and making the moon disappear. He had already accomplished the first with his innovative solar cell technology, had made real progress on the second with his universal vaccine, and now, with the pepper mill in orbit around the moon for the past twenty years, he was well on his way to achieving the third.
Alice approved of Mollene’s first two dreams, but was not in favor of the third. A lot of people said they understood Richard Mollene and his pepper mill.
Alice Creighton did not. She asked for an interview with Mollene to get more information. To her surprise, he said yes. Alice would get face time with the man who set the pepper mill grinding and seasoning the moon from lunar orbit almost twenty years ago. A lot of people said its mission was impossible. They said fine non-reflective dust, no matter how abundant, couldn’t quench the light of the moon.
But they were wrong.

EP476: In Loco Parentis

by Andrea Phillips
read by Mur Lafferty

 

author Andrea Phillips

author Andrea Phillips

about the author…

Andrea Phillips is an award-winning transmedia writer, game designer and author. Her book, A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling, is published by McGraw-Hill and is used to teach courses at USC, Columbia, McGill, and many other universities.

Her transmedia work includes a variety of educational and commercial projects, including Floating City with Thomas Dolby, The Maester’s Path for HBO’s Game of Thrones with Campfire Media, America 2049 with human rights nonprofit Breakthrough, Diesel Reboot with Moving Image & Content, and the independent commercial ARG Perplex City. These projects have variously won the Prix Jeunesse Interactivity Prize, a Broadband Digital award, a Canadian Screen Award, a BIMA, the Origins Vanguard Innovation Award, and others.

Her independent work includes the Kickstarted ongoing serial transmedia project The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart.

Andrea has spoken at TEDx Transmedia, Future of Storytelling, SXSW, MIT Storytelling 3.0, the Power to the Pixel/IFP Cross-Media Forum, and Nordic Games Conference, and many more events.

Andrea cheats at solitaire (a victimless crime) and Words With Friends (which is less forgivable). Consider yourself warned.

 

In Loco Parentis
by Andrea Phillips

The video stutters at the eighteen-second mark. Yakova knows by heart precisely when it happens. As she watches, she mouths the words along with Autumn. “So this girl just, like, opens up her bag, right?”

And here is where it happens: Autumn elbows her and knocks her glasses off. Yakova knows she should edit it out, those few seconds of skewed and jarring footage as her glasses skitter across the lunch table. Instead, she studies each frame carefully.

Jad is there, nearly off-frame and out of focus, light gleaming off the angled planes of his cheekbones, dark hair curled over his eyes. He starts from his recline, and he looks at her (looks at her!), eyes widening. His hand reaches up, and —

She cuts it off here, before she has to hear her own brassy laugh, before she can hear herself telling Autumn to be more careful. If she doesn’t hear it, she can pretend HE didn’t hear it, either.

She bites her lip, studying Jad’s expression of… concern? It must be concern. Probably. But is it the aloof concern of a bystander, or a more significant concern, floating atop a deep ocean of unspoken feeling?

At the base of Yakova’s skull, her minder, Seraph, uncoils and stretches. “You have homework to do,” Seraph says. When she speaks, it is a warm vibration behind Yakova’s ear, all thought and no real sound. Her voice is the same as Yakova’s mother.

Yakova zooms in on Jad’s inscrutable degree of concern. “Do you think he likes me?” she asks.

The video panel winks out. “Homework,” Seraph says. If she has arrived at any conclusions regarding the boy’s feelings, she keeps them to herself.

Yakova shouldn’t have glasses at all, of course. Not anymore, not at her age. The last two years have seen her friends blossoming into adulthood — one by one peripherals have fallen away, leaving their eyes clear, their faces open and unguarded. Yakova is left behind with a goggle-eyed wall between her and her newly coltish, beautiful peers.

EP472: The Mercy of Theseus

by Rachael K. Jones
read by Dave Thompson

author Rachael K. Jones

author Rachael K. Jones

about the author…

Rachael K. Jones is a science fiction and fantasy author, and the Submissions Editor of Escape Pod. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, PodCastle, the Drabblecast, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Crossed Genres, Daily Science Fiction, and Penumbra. She has a degree in English and is currently pursuing a second degree in Speech-Language Pathology. She lives in Athens, GA with her husband and perpetual alpha reader, Jason.

You can follow her on Twitter @RachaelKJones.

narrator Dave Thompson

narrator Dave Thompson

about the narrator…

Dave Thompson is the California King and the Easter Werewolf, and is the host and co-editor of PodCastle. He has narrated audiobooks (by Tim Pratt, Greg van Eekhout, and James Maxey), written short stories (published in or forthcoming from Apex, Drabblecast, Pseudopod, and Escape Pod), and lost NaNoWriMo twice. He lives outside Los Angeles with his wife and three children.

 

The Mercy of Theseus
by Rachael K. Jones

Greta and Jamal have three arms, two legs, and one working kidney between the two of them. The kidney belongs to Greta. Its twin went to her little sister three years back, and now she has a laparoscopic keyhole scar over her belly button to remember it by. She can feel it pull tight when she rolls her creeper beneath the chassis of the next project in the shop. Thanks to the war, Jamal has lost the arm, the legs, and the other two kidneys.

All his parts have since been replaced.

#

When Greta picked up Jamal in Washington, D.C. three days back, the first thing she did was insult him.

“You look like shit,” she said. His left hand–the good one–flew up to his right cheek where the surgical scars stood out like red cords. His bionics were top notch–the Army had to put you together again before they could legally discharge you–but you could still see where the silicone skin ended and his real face began.

Greta snorted. “Not your face, you moron. Your sweatshirt. You look like a psycho killer.”

Jamal wore an oversize gray Army sweatshirt with the hoodie cinched tight beneath his chin. He dropped his hand and sidestepped when she tried to hug him. “Where did you park? Let’s get out of here.”

She ignored the slight and led the way to the parking lot. She felt secretly gratified when Jamal’s jaw dropped at the sight of the ancient Mercedes. “Jesus fucking Christ, Greta! You found Mercy!”

Greta sidled up behind him and eased the duffel bag from his hand–the bionic one. It looked like a real hand up close. Just not like Jamal’s hand. “Get in. We’re going on a road trip.” She slung the duffel bag on a stack of Heinleins in the back and took the driver’s seat.

“I don’t remember it smelling like French fries in here,” said Jamal.

EP468: Law of Gravity

by Sam Ferree
read by Dave Slusher

author Sam Ferree

author Sam Ferree

about the author…

Sam Ferree grew up in what Neal Stephenson called a Midwestern American College Town (MACT) and has never really left. That, and being surrounded by lawyers for most of his life, has made him somewhat obsessive-compulsive about supporting his comments with citations and factual evidence.

In 2010, Sam graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA in English after spending a year abroad in Freiburg, Germany. He spent most of his college career haunting the Mill and Java House, producing short plays with Free Association Student Theatre, agonizing through writing workshops, and pestering the college and English department into making a undergraduate creative writing program.

After graduating, he did that cliche post-English-BA-thing and worked in a coffee shop and bookstore before signing up for AmeriCorps. He moved to New Orleans and wrote grants and copy for a housing rehabilitation nonprofit. In June, he moved to St. Paul and now works as a communications associate at another small nonprofit.

In the summer of 2011, Sam published his first short story with the great Sybil’s Garage, and his work has since appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magainze, Deimos eZine, and Daily Science Fiction. His play, “The News is Next,” won the Nicholas Meyer Scholarship for Dramatic Writing and he is a alumnus from Young Playwrights’ Incorporated from 2006.  Mostly he writes speculative fiction, personal essays, and plays and takes a perverse pleasure in copy and grant writing.

Also, Sam reads a lot, and drinks too much coffee. He wears sports coats for the pockets and has a habit of ending his sentences with “so…” He is estranged from reality and divorced from practicality. Driving instructors have said he is a master at parallel parking.

 

narrator Dave Slusher

narrator Dave Slusher

about the narrator…

As an undergraduate at Georgia Tech, I was very involved with the campus radio station, WREK 91.1 FM. I’m back doing some things for them now, including an airshift (that I no longer do but I’m leaving the page up.) That page has some of my play lists from when I was doing the shift – jazz, baby! WREK is a very good and very different station, so follow the links and learn more about it. I rebuilt their automation system, revamped their database and did the CGI scripts that show you (limited) playlists, recent additions to programming and the music database search.

I now have online a project that I did in some AI courses in grad school. It is a digit recognition neural network and if I say so myself, I think it is pretty cool. It was one of the first things I did in Java, so it isn’t as elegant in design and execution as it could have been, but it does the trick.

 

The Law of Gravity
by Sam Ferree

That sunrise was the best they had made yet.  The air was cool, not cold, and the Termination was just the right shade of pomegranate red around the sun.  The light breeze smelled like oranges.  It reminded me of candy, not real fruit, just that imitation flavor that somehow tastes better than the real thing.

“I think Lauren’s dead,” Lukas repeated, his avatar’s young face contorted in disgust.  Lukas had chosen a runner’s physique, because, out there, he’d been a track star in college; why that mattered to him was beyond me.

“What do you mean you think she’s dead?” I asked.  We were sitting at Reel Café — a not-so clever pun, I thought — at the edge of the patio.  We had met there every Monday morning for years.

My coffee was cold and my cigarette spent.  Lukas had ordered his usual Earl Grey and a grapefruit, but he hadn’t touched either one.

Lukas shook his head.  “Her avatar is in Smith Field.  Just standing there, staring off at nothing.  It’s been doing that for weeks.  I spoke with a friend of mine, an administrator.  They’re shutting down her account because her fees are overdue.  She hasn’t been away from the Flat for more than two days in decades.  She’s dead, Noah.”

“So she’s been away for a few weeks.  That doesn’t mean anything.”

“But it’s a pretty good sign she isn’t coming back.”

The orange scent was fading and Lukas was silent.  I said, “Well, what do we do?”

“What?”  Lukas looked up.  Eventually, he shrugged.  “I suppose we arrange a funeral.”

I nodded, but said, “I don’t actually think she’s dead.”

“She is,” Lukas muttered.  His twenty-something avatar wore an old man’s bitterness.

I picked up my coffee.  The mug looked like it had been made by a five year old.  Everything about the Reel Café had that hokey-imperfection. When you sat in the chairs, you half-expected a distinguished looking gentleman to walk up and ask you to please not sit on the dadist art.

I dropped the mug. It shattered with a disappointing crack.  A nearby waiter started toward me, glowering and brandishing a towel like a gladiatorial weapon.

“Why did you do that?” Lukas asked.

“Just testing,” I said, knowing that Lauren would have been less than amused.  

EP440: Canterbury Hollow

by Chris Lawson
read by Bill Bowman

 

Links for this episode:

about the author…

Chris Lawson is a doctor and writer living in Australia. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s SF, Realms of Fantasy, Eidolon, and Dreaming Down-Under. In late October he blogged at www.talkingsquid.net about his process of creating a short story, but those posts concerned a different story. For this one, you won’t find any glimpses of the wizard behind the curtain — you’ll just have to enjoy it on its own terms.

bowman_billabout the narrator…

Last read for us on EP424; Bill started voice acting on the Metamor City Podcast, and has wanted to do more ever since. He spends his days working at a library, where he is in charge of all things with plugs and troubleshooting the people who use them. He spends his nights with his wife, two active children, and two overly active canines and all that goes with that.

EP404: Zebulon Vance Sings the Alphabet Songs of Love

by Merrie Haskell
Read by Amanda Ching

Links for this episode:

About the Author…

Merrie Haskell grew up half in Michigan, half in North Carolina. She works in a library with over 7 million books, and finds this to be just about the right number.

Merrie’s first novel, THE PRINCESS CURSE, was a Junior Library Guild selection. HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS is her second novel.

About the Narrator…

Amanda Ching is a high school teacher turned freelance editor and writer. Her work has appeared in WordRiot, Candlemark & Gleam’s Alice: (re)Visions, and every bathroom stall on I-80 from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis. She’s currently posting free content for Clarion West Write-A Thon at her blog, Panda-monium. If you desire to read about how Grandma got mauled by a plastic reindeer, please visit her at amandaching.wordpress.com.

 

Zebulon Vance Sings the Alphabet Songs of Love
By Merrie Haskell
I am Robot!Ophelia. I will not die for love tonight.

#

The noon show is the three-hour 1858 Booth production. The most fashionable historical war remains the First American Civil. Whenever FACfans discover that Lincoln’s assassin played Horatio, they simply must come and gawk at this titillating replica of their favorite villain playing no one’s favorite character.

FACfans love authenticity. To the delight of Robot!Hamlet, today’s clients insist that Edwin Booth stride the stage beside his more famous brother. Most performances, Robot!Hamlet remains unused in the charging closet, for the first law in our business is _Everybody Wants to Play the Dane_.

Today, Robot!Hamlet is afire with Edwin Booth’s mad vigor, and runs his improv algorithms at full throttle; he kisses me dreamily, and rips my bodice in a way that would never have been allowed in Victorian America. The FACfans don’t look hyperpleased about this; it tarnishes their precious authenticity.

Robot!Horatio also loves the 1858 Booth. It’s the only time anyone comes to a performance for him alone. But what about the rest of us, the remainder of the AutoGlobe’s incantation of robots? We bear with it, as we bear with all the other iterations of our native play.

The FACfans barely notice me when either Booth is on stage. I clutch my ripped bodice; exit Robot!Ophelia. I get me to a nunnery.

#

Act 4, Scene 4. I wait for my cue and check the callsheet for the six o’clock show.

EP390: Cerbo un Vitra ujo

By Mary Robinette Kowal
Read by Veronica Giguere

Discuss on our forums. 

Cerbo un Vitra ujo
By Mary Robinette Kowal

Grete snipped a diseased branch off her Sunset-Glory rosebush like she was a body harvester looking for the perfect part. Behind the drone of the garden’s humidifiers, she caught a woosh-snick as the airlock door opened. Her boyfriend barreled around Mom’s prize Emperor artichoke.

Something was wrong.

The whites showed around Kaj’s remarkable eyes, a blue-green so iridescent they seemed to dull all the plants around them. “Mom and Dad got me a Pass to a down-planet school!”

The blood congealed in her veins. Kaj would leave her. Grete forced a smile. “That’s the outer limit!”

“I didn’t even know they’d applied. Fairview Academy—game design.” His perfect teeth flashed like sunshine against the ink of space.

“It’s wacking crazed. Should’ve been you, you’re a better hack than me.”

“I’m already entitled to school.” Grete winced as the words left her mouth. Like he didn’t know that. He was the middle of five children, way past the Banwith Station family allowance. She picked up the pruning sheers to hide the shake in her hands. How would she live without Kaj? “So, I guess you got packing to do and stuff.”

“They provide uniforms. All I’m taking is my pod with music and books. Zero else.” Kaj slid his arm around her waist and laced his long, delicate fingers through hers. “And I want to spend every moment till launch with you.”

She loved him so much, it hurt. Grete leaned her head against him, burning the feel of his body into her memory. She breathed in the musky smell of his sweat and kissed his neck, sampling the salt on his skin.

After a moment, Kaj hung a chain around her neck. The metal tags hanging from it were still warm from his body.

“What?”

“Dogtags, like they used in the oldwars. I put all my bios on there so you’d remember me.”

“Kaj Lorensen, don’t think I could forget you.”

But if he was away at school, he might forget her. She studied her rosebush and freed the most perfect rose with her sheers. She held it out to him, suddenly shy.

He kissed the rose and then her palm. Grete sank into his gaze, lost in the blue-green of his eyes.

EP383: The First Book of Flaccid Swords

By Edward Cowan
Read by Bruce Busby

Discuss on our forums. 

 

The First Book of Flaccid Swords
by Edward Cowan

It was a snake–and Gods, what a snake it was. Fifty feet from sweeping tail to flicking tongue, its eyes as cold as deepest space and dim as the farthest star, its fangs dripping poison so vile the stench alone would kill a lesser man.

This, then, was the dreaded Doom of Lla Haathra, into whose black maw the unlucky and damned were fed to the Impotent God. Never having counted myself among His faithful, I saw no reason to submit meekly to His wrath.

His priests had made one crushing mistake when they lured me onto the trap door: they failed to relieve me of my blade. _Wind,_ they called it, those for whom that name was the last word to leave their lips. I rushed the foul altar, upon which lay my Darinda, black chains coiling about her supple form, her body purest alabaster against the crimson stone marbling her flesh. Tsutu Kalai, highest of the wretched priests, cackled as I approached, throwing the lever that opened the trap. Darinda’s scream followed me down the endless, serpentine flue. Beyond that, darkness.

Rolling to my feet, I stood in the shaft of light piercing the abyss from the chamber above, Wind held before me, daring the almost tangible shadow to draw near. Within moments came a rasping omen, as of a great mass dragging itself awake after a slumber of eons.

Now the Doom reared before me, thrusting its head into the light. We goaded one another to strike–it with the insolence of the predator that has never known failure, I with a rage that would never be clenched till the serpent’s blood coated my blade from point to pommel. From above echoed the laughter of the priests and the muffled screams of my Darinda. Here there was only silence–the sweet anticipation of the moment before death.

Finally I saluted the beast with a nod and spoke: “At least your masters have granted me a worthy adversary. Very well; let us have at it. I will not pretend to the ancient patience of the serpentfolk.”

It hissed its reply.

At that I lunged. Its mammoth head darted forward quicker than mercury, but primal speed avails not against human cunning. I ducked its strike and gripped my blade for the piercing jab: up under the jaw and through the skull. I sprang up, mighty thews tensing for the killing blow–

And found myself holding a wet noodle.