8FOLD: Mighty Medley # 13, January 2015, by Messrs. Brenton, Perron, Russell, and Stokes

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Tue Jan 6 17:52:49 PST 2015

-------------EIGHTFOLD PROUDLY PRESENTS-------------
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------------- ISSUE # 13  JANUARY 2015 -------------
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-------------SAXON BRENTON--ANDREW PERRON-----------
--------------TOM RUSSELL---COLIN STOKES------------
--------------- Editor, Tom Russell ----------------


"Empress of Pages", by Colin Stokes
In which we welcome Mr. Stokes to our merry coven. A study in magicks
and daemons, the spirit and the letter. A spell is cast-- over the

"Seven 'Gainst Thebes" Part 12, by Tom Russell
Touching briefly upon the differences, or lack thereof, between our
heroes and our villains. The West is a gray place.

"Beyond the Fields" Part 13, by Saxon Brenton
In which one of extra-dimensional tourists finds themselves in the
hands of magical Nazis. The desk officer, the Man with the Green
Gloves, and a legendary place over the ocean to the West.

"Matariki", by Andrew Perron
A New Year is celebrated under the night sky. When you gaze into the
stars, the stars gaze also into you.

"Last January", by Tom Russell
Concerning how Darkhorse spent the first few seconds of
twenty-fourteen. The New Year invites reflection, as it often does, on
the previous year's joys and sorrows.

---------------- EMPRESS OF PAGES ------------------
-----------Copyright 2015 Colin Stokes--------------

Eerie blue light flickered in the depths of the beachside cave,
reflecting off pools of stagnant water and making shadows dance
weirdly along the irregular walls of black rock.  Some distance into
the cave, the fine white sand from outside thinned out and eventually
vanished altogether, revealing the uneven stone floor with the same
shape and roughness as the walls and cavern roof.
   The environment lent itself well to the sort of practices that were
better off left in the dark, and the deepest chamber of the cave held
the hallmarks of just that: not only the strange blue fire burning in
carefully laid lines and curving designs along one of the smoother
parts of the cavern floor, but also a set of five bronze braziers with
five smoldering coals in each one.  Only a properly dressed altar
could have made it a more textbook summoning ritual.
   Fn'ordh the Lesser cared little about adherence to the more
ceremonial parts of the ritual, at least functionally; he would appear
regardless of how precisely the circle was constructed or what
condition the braziers were in or even, remarkably to some, what time
of day or night it was.  But, had the question been put to him which
was more preferable, he might deign to mention how much easier it was
to manipulate those willing to observe the spirit of the summoning
'law' rather than merely the letter.  He might.  But Fn'ordh was
rarely given to talk unnecessarily.
   As he materialized above the flickering flames, confining his
spirit in fleshy and delightfully visceral physical existence - the
only method a daemon could use to affect the physical plane directly -
Fn'ordh realized that something was amiss. There was a single summoner
in front of the ritual circle, standing a strangely cautious distance
away from the edge, their form covered with a long robe; not of black,
nor adorned with trinkets of bone and other appropriate accessories,
but a faded and featureless light gray with tattered edges.  For such
a fine summoning circle, the summoner's choice of apparel was
unexpectedly quite shabby by comparison; and with only a single
summoner, the worn robe seemed even more out of place.  With the
resources it took to construct a circle like this one, one would
   Fn'ordh's misgivings were confirmed in a most unexpected way as
something that felt like a bundle of thin, heavy snakes slammed quite
painfully into his side, knocking him out of the summoning circle,
nearly upsetting one of the braziers, and tossing him into the wall
upside-down as though he was nothing more than a pest to be swatted
aside.  His pride injured more than anything else, Fn'ordh came back
to his feet with a single, powerful flip and a quiet rumble that would
have been a growl or snarl from his less-restrained kin.
   "Tell me, daemon, can daemons feel pain?  And can they die?"
   The question, delivered in a clear and confident voice, caught
Fn'ordh completely off-guard, even to the extent that he actually
paused in his advance toward the summoner.
   Taking advantage of that hesitation, the summoner threw back the
robe's cowl, revealing the face of a slim young woman - no more than
perhaps twenty years of age - with shoulder-length light brown hair,
pale skin, and intensely focused blue-gray eyes.  She stood in sharp
contrast to the tall, muscled daemon, with his mottled rust-red skin
and dull crimson irises set in black sclerae, but for all that she
seemed not the least bit intimidated.  "Do you have a name?" she
continued, her gaze scrutinizing Fn'ordh's body with mechanistic
precision.  "Can you even /speak/ the human tongue, or do daemons
simply growl like /dogs/?"
   The nerve of this woman!  Fn'ordh had to restrain himself from
lashing out and turning her to ash on the spot, armed with the
knowledge that the proudest of mortals were the most delightful to
break.  He would be sure to savor this one for a long time... but for
that, he needed patience.  "I am Fn'ordh the Lesser," he returned in a
low, deep voice, his eyes narrowing ever so slightly.  "Your conduct
is... unseemly."
   She snorted.  Snorted!  "That's rich.  Unseemly?  /Unseemly/ is
eating your summoners /whole/, Fn'ordh, as I've already witnessed your
kin do.  But you've answered two of my four questions, so I'll answer
two you haven't asked.  I am the Librarian, and my conduct is
/unseemly/ - as you put it - because I have gauged that daemons only
respect /strength/."  Her eyes narrowed in return.  "Now.  You have
two questions still to answer, and more beside that I have yet to put
to you. The character of our relationship, be it friendly or...
otherwise, is contingent on your first answers."  She paused briefly.
"And your continued honesty."
   Fn'ordh honestly didn't know what to think - but he was certain
enough of one thing to voice it.  "I do not think we can be on
friendly terms, Librarian."
   The Librarian simply smiled.  "But you /will/ remember that I made
the offer."

--------------SEVEN 'GAINST THEBES------------------
---------------------Part 12------------------------
------------Copyright 2015 Tom Russell--------------

It being true that a man should never kill on an empty stomach, they
had a light supper in the late afternoon, light and quick, light and
quick and quiet. Even Adams didn't say anything. Three-Nine, being a
mechanical man, didn't need to eat, so he saddled up the horses
instead to save time.
   Near dusk, the seven rode, and rode hard. Silke and Strife took the
van, with Silke's boy riding his horse between them, Adams and the
injun each took a flank, and Three-Nine guarded the rear. Over their
heads, burning faintly like a far-away comet, flew Gulliver.
   As the sun streaked violent red and orange and pink across the
clouded sky, they ran the horses hard. After an hour, Silke eased his
horse into a lope, and the others did the same, perhaps to show the
beasts some mercy. Silke then had some words with Mr. Strife.
   He said, "Now, Mr. Strife; now I'll find you Jack Peake."
   "Oh, oh, oh!" his employer ejaculated copiously. "Curse me for a
fool! All the times I did press you about Mr. Peake, and he was all
the while a skilamalink and scoundrel!"
   "Just a man," said Silke. "All men can be scoundrels."
('Skilamalink' was not the sort of word Silke would use; it was more
of an Adams kind of word, probably.)
   "But not you, Mr. Silke," said Strife eagerly. "You're an honorable man."
   "I kill men for money," said Silke flatly. Flatter than usual,
anyway; everything Silke said had a flatness to it.
   "But not women," said Strife.
   "Sometimes," said Silke. "When I had to. Women ain't much different
than men, Mr. Strife. They die the same."
   Strife fell silent, and assumed the conversation at an end. To
Strife's surprise, and that of the boy, Silke continued speaking. "We
don't ride with you because of the rightness of your claim, Mr.
Strife. We ride with you because you're paying us. If your brother
came to me before you did, might be I'd be rounding up a different
posse to protect the ranch. We ain't no different than Peake."
   "You speak for yourself," said Adams, coming up alongside them. "I
ain't nothing like him."
   "Your place is at the flank," said Silke. Adams fell back into place.
   Strife cleared his throat. "But you'll rescue the woman first. Celine."
   Silke nodded, his jaw tight and shadowed in the falling night.
   "Well, I ain't paying you for the woman," said Strife. "Seems to
me, the way we're riding, we're not moving toward the ranch as yet. If
we ride hard, we could take the ranch back from my brother. Then I'd
have the money, and I don't think Peake would bother us."
   "The woman first," said Silke.
   "I know," said Strife. "It just seems to me that that's not
something a man like Peake would concern himself with. It seems to me
that that's a way you're different."
   Silke spurred his horse back into a gallop, riding hard. The others
did the same.

-----------------BEYOND THE FIELDS------------------
---------------------Part 13------------------------
-----------Copyright 2015 Saxon Brenton-------------

Corporal Bothe was the desk officer at the local Schultzstaffel office
in the town of Rotewald, and he was not having a good day.
   The Nindenheim camp just outside of town had been destroyed.  The
third such camp within two days!  The general populace had been told
to keep calm and stay indoors, but the Reich authorities were in a
frenzy. The main SS headquarters for this area had been headquartered
at Nindenheim, and been obliterated along with it, forcing the captain
at Rotewald's branch office to take command.  By rights Captain
Kellert should have simply waited for the appointment of a replacement
camp commander from the Reichsmages at Wewelsburg - but the Party
leaders back in Berlin were screaming for answers from the SS
leadership, the SS leadership in both Berlin and Wewelsburg were
leaning on Kellert for a quick solution, and it didn't take much to
realise that if they could, the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe would be
sniffing around, trying to take advantage at the Schultzstaffel's
expense.  As a result Captain Kellert was not happy, and was spreading
his unhappiness among his subordinates with a large shovel.
   So it was something of a relief when Sergeant Holn radioed in
saying they had a prisoner.  Bothe dutifully informed Kellert, then
continued with his work.  It was about fifteen minutes later that they
brought the beaten and unconscious form of Lee Ardock in.
   Holn sketched a quick salute to Kellert as the Captain entered the
holding area.  "This him?" asked Kellert.
   "Yes, sir."
   "Very well, Holn, report."
   "Sir, he might be involved in the destruction of Nindenheim as
either directly or indirectly.  But his cover story is frankly
insane," said Holn.  He handed Kellert Lee's wallet.  "He speaks
German with an accent that sounds like some type of English, and
claims to be a party member in a place called the United States of
   Captain Kellert looked up from his preliminary glance at the inside
of Lee's wallet with a puzzled frown.  "The States of What?"
   "The United States of America, sir," repeated Holn.  He pointed at
Lee's driver's license.  "I didn't know what it was either, but
Private Edmunds identified America as one of the legendary lands over
the ocean to the west, like Atlantis or Hy-Brasil."
   "Sergeant, I have a camp burnt to the ground by a ball of magical
fire half a mile across, and you're bringing me fairy tales?" snapped
Kellert with exasperation.
   "Sir, whoever prepared this man for infiltration went to a lot of
trouble to create an impossible story," answered Holn woodenly,
retreating into blunt facts.
   "Which means what!?" demanded Kellert.
   "That is something that I will need to investigate," said a new
voice.  Captain Kellert turned to meet the face of Obergruppenfuhrer
Dane, one of the most senior members of the Reichsmages, and a
sinister man known by his nickname 'The Man With the Green Gloves'.
   "Heil," said Dane, raising his hand in a perfunctory salute and
smiling sardonically.  "Captain Kellert, I am here to relieve you of
at least some of your burden."

-------------------- MATARIKI ----------------------
-----------Copyright 2015 Andrew Perron-------------

  They bundled up for protection from the chill June air and walked
out to the beach. In the sunset sky, they flew kites.
  Grandpa and Grandma were sitting in the old beach chairs. The first
year they'd done this, Pita hadn't really gotten it - something
something history, something something culture, and he was too old for
kites. But nowadays, he was too old for 'too old', and Matariki was
something special for his family. Anyway, anything that made Areta
happy again was worth it.
  When it got too dark to see the kites, they huddled up around the
fire pit, had sandwiches and looked up at the stars. Grandpa pointed
up at Matariki, the seven stars which high school teachers called the
Pleiades. "You know, I met someone from there the other day."
  Areta squinted. "Seriously?" she said, voice doubtful. A few years
ago it'd have been "you're crazy", but the world had changed a lot
  "That's what they said. Nice place, apparently."
  "What," said Pita, "did the spaceship break down or something?"
  "Nah, just another tourist." Gramps chuckled and poked the fire.
  Grandma spoke up suddenly, as she usually did, her mind grinding the
conversation down to find the gold. "I'd like to go there someday. Be
a hell of a way to celebrate."
  Pita stared at the cluster of stars, like a clump of tangled
Christmas lights hung in the sky. For a second, he was able to
visualize the vast distances, a hundred billion times further away
than Hollywood. It snapped back and hit him in the back of the head;
he shook out his skull and looked up, and the sky was back to being a
bowl over the earth. "...I wonder what it's like there."
  "Blue, apparently. The plants, that is," clarified Grandpa. "And too
warm, this time of year."
  "There's... there's gotta be a bunch of planets out there," said
Areta, tinge of doubt still in her voice. "Seven stars. Did the alien
tourist say which one?"
  "No - just that he could see us, or rather, our star, from there."
  "Yes. It seems we're the tip of a celestial figure, a sculpture made
by gods to remind the people to live in harmony with their neighbors.
I can't pronounce the name, but apparently, there's a peace treaty
that's ten thousand years old named after it." Gramps took a handful
of dry twigs and tossed them on the fire. "It's amazing, actually -
you can't see half the other stars from here without a telescope.
We're at the wrong angle, or they're too dim, or whatever. And they
certainly don't make a figure from here!" He chuckled.
  "Heh." Areta laughed. "It's all perspective, Gramps. I get it, I get
what you're doing, you big liar." But her laugh was genuine, not the
bitter half-grunt of the last few weeks.
  "I'd sure like to see us from that perspective," said Grandma, which
seemed to cap off the evening. They doused the fire and packed up the
leavings and headed back to the house. But Pita stayed behind for a
  Hands in his pockets, he stared up at the stars. He could see
thousands just with his naked eye, and each one could see him,
twinkling in the dark.
  He waved, and ran inside.

--------------------LAST JANUARY--------------------
------------Copyright 2015 Tom Russell--------------

At midnight, Melody presses her lips against Ben's, and she thinks,
yes, this is how I want twenty-fourteen to start. It's not Ben. She
doesn't even like Ben. Doesn't not like him, either. Just met him,
really. It's just that she wanted to be kissed at midnight, and he did
   One of the many advantages of being a speedster is that every kiss
happens in slow motion, and if you're nineteen and you want a single
moment to last something close to forever, it does. Yes, yes; this is
how I want twenty-fourteen to start.
   Twenty-thirteen was pretty grotty, all told. Oh, there was some
neat stuff in it, to be sure. She did her run-around-the-world thing
when the Tribots invaded, which was pretty boss, and since then there
hadn't been a week where she hadn't had a request for an interview, a
team-up, or her hand in marriage (mostly from Terry, but hey, a girl
likes to feel appreciated). She turned down all of the matrimonies and
most of the interviews, and for the same reason-- she doesn't have the
time to waste.
   But she never turned down a team-up. (Well, almost never; Blue
Boxer got a little pervy, though Bethany said he's a lot better than
he used to be.) Every team-up, someone good got saved and someone bad
got put away. Bethany, Jules, Brian, Kate, even Docrates-- she had
learned from every one of them, every time. Each team-up made her
better at the work, and it's the work that matters. In
twenty-thirteen, she was the best she'd ever been.
   But twenty-thirteen was also the year when Melody, who always knew
her days were numbered, at last discovered what that number was. On
December 27th of twenty-fourteen, her watch would stop, then her
heart, then her brain. It won't take more than three minutes for her
to die. She will still have super-speed when she dies, and in fact it
will become more pronounced, and so her last three minutes will
stretch out to something akin to a year.
   "Geez, that must be depressing," Bethany had said in June.
   "Nah," said Melody with a shrug. "It's a good life if you don't
weaken, and I'm gonna finish strong. Going to be a good year. I'm
going to make it good. I'm not worried about the twenty-seventh. Brian
and Dani will be there with me."
   Those words sting a bit now. Because the back end of
twenty-thirteen was when Brian went to prison for a crime he didn't
commit and the cancer took her Aunt Dani. Because of twenty-thirteen,
Melody is going to die alone, and she can never forgive it for that.
   And just to cement its place as the annus excrementis, she spent
the last hour of twenty-thirteen chasing after a bunch of stupid thugs
who gained electrical powers at a New Year's rave. She could have been
fighting FEVER or a space-god or who-knows-what, but instead her last
December 31st is wasted on a bunch of dumb penny-ante bulb-heads. At
11:59:59:99, as she dodged one bolt of electricity and redirected
another using her speed as a "static magnet" (shut up, it's totally a
thing), Melody decides that twenty-fourteen is going to be better, and
that it's going to start with a kiss. She scoops up a bystander in her
arms and speeds him outside. She decides that he's cute enough to do
in a pinch, and that his name should be Ben.
   His lips are cracked and dry and thin, and hers are full and wet
and plump. His lips stick to hers for an eternal half-second, then
peel reluctantly away like a shell from a boiled egg. He smiles at
her, still cradled in her surprisingly powerful arms, blinking and
bewildered, and also more than a little pleased with himself. She
smiles back, raising her eyebrows over wide green eyes as if to say,
yep, that just happened. Then she sets him down and runs back inside.
   Back to work.

-----------------SEE YOU NEXT MONTH-----------------

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