AAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH my first bite-sized collection of short stories, Love and Other Impossible Things, is now on sale as an eBook on Amazon! You can buy it by clicking on that link or by hitting up the Fire & Clockwork Press page in the top menu and clicking THAT link. And it’s available on Kindle Unlimited, if you’re into that sort of thing!
To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt from the first story in the collection, “The Deal”. I hope you enjoy it!
Gala had been waiting in the crypt for seven days when Counter arrived.
Gala had waited longer. A handful of days was the passing of a thought, nothing more.
Counter had not used the door to enter the torch-lit chamber. One moment, Gala had been alone. The next moment, she was not. This did not perturb her, although she expected it was supposed to.
Like last time, Gala saw that Counter did not cast a shadow. It walked with the help of a cane, lurching haphazardly toward the crypt’s sole sarcophagus. Its ratty gray cloak shifted around it, swaying with each uneven stride.
A heavy ticking came from under the old cloth, like a clock striking long, uneven seconds.
Even the devils are dying, Gala thought, standing. The idea seemed… Satisfactory.
“I did not think you would return so soon,” Counter said. Its voice clicked and popped and grated. “You must have such interest in balancing out your mistress’s heart.”
“I brought what you asked for,” said Gala, setting a burlap sack on the plain stone sarcophagus.
Counter arrived at the sarcophagus, stopping on the side opposite Gala, hood hanging low over its face. The devil’s free hand rose. Tarnished metal talons—perhaps fingers, once—widened the mouth of the sack and reached inside.
Gala resisted the urge to look at her own fingers, which were silver and filigreed with gold. She and Counter were only alike in… Elements. Nothing more. She spoke: “The sound of a cat’s footfall was simple enough.” The devil rummaged as she continued. “The breath of a fish was a bit harder. The light of a lover’s eyes is in there, and it was probably the hardest.” No need to mention that it came from her own eyes. “I’ve also got a leaf from the Iron Tree, the tail of a falling star, and a chip of the chain that keeps the world from flying apart.”
“Hm, yes,” Counter said. “The leaf is of exceptionally fine quality. There appears to be some rust on the chain-shard, but that can be overlooked so long as the other items are present…?”
“The souls of thirteen wicked men and women,” Gala said. “Present and accounted for.”
“Oh yes, I see.” Counter prodded at the contents of the bag and chuckled to itself, low and grinding. “So impressively evil, these.”
“They are suitable, then?”
“Yes, yes.” The devil’s talons gripped the bag and swept it under the stained gray cloak. “The scales are balanced, per the agreement. The soul of Mali, daughter of Hali, will not be fed to the Ammut Engine.”
“Good.” Gala refused to let her relief show. She straightened, almost imperceptibly. “Then our business is concluded.” Footsteps, sure and metered, carried her around the sarcophagus and toward the crypt’s stone door.
“A moment!” Counter called. Gala stopped, tension knotting in her stomach. “And a question, if you don’t mind. A point of personal interest.”
Gala turned, fixing her gaze on the devil. “What do you want, creature?”
If Counter took offense, it did not show it. Instead, it extended one arm in an amiable gesture that looked strange on the haggard figure. “This is the first time I have ever tipped a scale so… Weighted. So thoroughly beset by sin. You have roamed the ends of the earth seeking the requirements for this exchange. Many would have said the tasks were impossible, but you accomplished them all in twenty short years. Aren’t you the least bit curious what your Mistress Mali did?”
“I know what she did,” Gala said, voice steady.
This caused Counter to step back, cane tapping against the stone. Somehow, the hooded figure looked uncertain in the torchlight. “You do?”
This story is continued in:
Two creatures meet in a crypt to conclude a deal struck decades before…
A caravan guard is delighted to see that the strange rose she carries has been stolen…
An immortal gazes down into a vast chasm full of stars…
A woman must ask the unthinkable of humanity’s last savior…
The world has been ending for a very long time. The sun turns red. Sinister obelisks whisper. Strange beings walk the earth. But love and hope do not die so easily.