“A Tithe for Homecoming,” published in Human Tales edited by Jennifer Brozek from Dark Quest Books.
And My Sky Full of Stars
It’d be snowing in a couple of days, but that night all was still. Everything was sharpened, everything had an edge. The stars cut, the moon presided in haughty splendor. Buildings looked more real, cut in deep relief by their shadows. People shimmered and, where we touched, connections trailed. Our breath steamed life in the cold air.
We all had a reason to be mistaken, to make mistakes.
The dream shocked through him.
Another of the doe’s legs went out from under her, ripped by the predator’s teeth. Her eyes rolled, front legs flashed forward in the full desperation of this dance with death. He trained his arrow upon the wolf, breathing harsh as the fanged creature easily evaded her thrashing hooves and fastened to her throat, tearing it out as he jumped away.
They only come in winter or summer. In extremis, by extremes. In summer, my door opens upon Baghdad alleys, in dunes southwest of Mut, upon the infernal wastes of Ifrin and the trackless breadth of Death Valley. In winter, penitents must come through Moscow sewers, walk leagues north of Helsinki, dig through snows in the Ice Queen’s realm, or steer fifth star to the right and straight on till morning toward the Antarctic.
The Brotherhood of Applied Sciences
The men were brilliant, marvels and masters of modern science. All the papers would say so, would hail them as the conquerors of death and enhancers of life. Or would have done, if they’d ever heard of Dr. Henry Sexton and Dr. Adam Valincourt. The papers never would hear a whisper, though, and death would continue unchecked, blithely harvesting each life in its time.
Each life, that is, except for two.
Our Lady of Crows
They say Crow stole light for us all, burned black when he set it in the sky. They do not say he was not alone or that his feathers were the color of starlight. His mate was the color of burnished gold in a westering sun, and it was her keen mind that prompted the act: stealing fire from the gods.
Some women remember the true tale: the women of dawn, with dew on their lips; the women of noon, with skin scorched umber; the women of midnight with eyes full of stars. These women of moment, perfect clarity, remember still how two crows took off in the nothing-dark, winged in tandem, together tamed the spark of life, and how it was she who first grasped the glittering brand.