Here’s another excerpt from the story I recently sold to the 31st Sword and Sorceress anthology (projected publication date of November 2, 2016). I’ve also been in volumes 22, 23, and 30. Click over to my Short Stories page for excerpts and buy links.
Pimchan is a female warrior, a devotee of Lady Chaos. Nadia is her household overseer, who has no interest in being a warrior but has a natural talent for magic. “Fahr-ang” and “monsters” are words Pimchan and Nadia and their fellow citizens use for foreigners. The “young monsters” were put into Pimchan’s care against her will.
excerpt from “Simplicity”
by Marian Allen
Nadia greeted her in the compound’s entry court with a wide grin and a dance step. “I have it! It’s an enchantment I’ve been using in the kitchen!”
Pimchan felt her expression go flat and her eyes go hooded as she suppressed her outraged pride. “Kitchen magic?”
“Be silent and speak!”
“It was given to me by the butcher, after I mixed an herb packet that eased his headaches. It’s called bone-break.”
“He focuses it on where he wants to chop through a bone and the cleaver goes through it like warm honey through bread.”
Could it work? Pimchan saw the Fahr-ang army again in her mind, saw them marching with their terrible exploding weapons, saw their legs buckle, saw them fall, whole ones tripping over the broken ones, tangled and distracted and vulnerable. Chaos triumphant!
“Teach it to me,” she said.
“I can do that,” Nadia said, “and I can do more, if you’ll consent.”
“Do more in what way?”
“I can inscribe a rune.”
Now Pimchan saw Nadia truly humble, truly offering a service she wanted to give but was afraid would be rejected. And rightly so. Warriors’ runes became a part of them, bound to them through ink in flesh. Done badly, a rune could be a waste of time, pain, and scalp; done very badly, it could be a detriment.
“Do it,” said Pimchan, without hesitation.
Nadia was good. She was so good, Pimchan didn’t have to ask and Nadia didn’t have to tell that she had been doing more than collecting herbs and enchantments; it was obvious she had also been studying rune-making and tattooing from the village artist-magician.
Bone-break was long and thin, with sideways spikes like stylized lightning. Nadia inked it in the white and red of bone and marrow. As she worked, she murmured the words of the enchantment, breathing them into Pimchan’s flesh and blood and memory.
The Warrior obliged the Overseer and amused the young monsters by practicing her new spell on their sucked-clean chicken bones and barbecued pork ribs. The spell was more difficult than she had expected. By the time the skin of her new tattoo had scabbed, she could snap small cooked bones with relative ease, but fresh ones and thick ones took concentrated effort. Rubbing the rune would have helped, but she knew better than to rub it before the healing was complete.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write about a broken bone.