Book Promo and Vignettes by by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

Book promo

If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. A COMMISSION IS EARNED FROM EACH PURCHASE.*Note that I haven’t read most of these books (my reading is eclectic and “craving led”,) and apply the usual cautions to buying. – SAH

FROM ALMA T. C. BOYKIN: Lord Adrescu’s Blade: A Familiar Origins Tale.

A legendary sword, and the man who wielded it.

Lord Danut Adrescu returns to his keep to find a mystery and a warning. A battered young Healer who cannot speak, and a vision of battle with a half-bull monster. What links the two? And what ties them to his new sword, a battle-claimed blade made by the finest Italian swordsmiths?

FROM C. CHANCY: Tell No Tales

Some nights it just doesn’t pay to rise from the grave….Corbin wants to uncover the truth behind her death at a demon’s hands. But her memories have been shattered by the grave, and even with footloose Sighted mechanic Devon Fortunato helping her search for answers, a restless ghost is up against the darkest spells and lies of the living. If they can’t unravel who sabotaged the Cunning Folk circle’s spellcast defenses, the child Corbin meant to protect will suffer a fate worse than death. Corbin’s notes hold clues, but the broken circle would rather die than admit the truth….

FROM LAURA MONTGOMERY: Relief Afar: A Martha’s Sons Short Story.

Even on a lost colony world, secret enclaves have something to offer—but not when an insider sees a newcomer as the enemy.

Twenty-year-old Peter Dawe’s exile gets worse. Not only is he forbidden the lost colony’s city and his family’s freehold, but even his brother’s isolated farm no longer offers refuge. Of necessity, he heads north, away from humanity’s terraformed valley towards the hidden enclave where pioneers push back the forbidding flora and fauna of the planet’s native terrain. They call it Kentucky

Young volunteers from First Landing’s northern families work to terraform the plains beyond the mountains. They’ve known each other all their lives and spent the summer working together. Peter’s presence should be a welcome addition to the small group.

After what he did to protect his brother’s family, Peter has resolved not to fight again—at least not for a good long time. When another man seeks to test himself against Peter and Peter’s past violence, Peter faces a choice. Does he confront what he’s tried to leave behind, or does he show he understands the hard lessons life insists on teaching him?

Relief Afar offers another window into the lost colony world of Not What We Were Looking For. If you wonder what it’s like to build a new life on an unwelcoming planet, and if you want to see what lies in store next for this son of Martha, you’ll want to jump right into the newest tale.

Buy Relief Afar to transcend exile today!

FROM NATHAN C. BRINDLE: The Tale of the Crane Princess.

Ordinary, everyday shopkeeper Horiuchi Tsurue is running a little general store and mini-café on a small island in Japan’s inland sea, two centuries after mankind was nearly wiped out by a virus.

One day, Yamaguchi Yukiko, the kamaitachi of legend (The Cross-Time Kamaitachi), and her daughter Mikoko, appear in front of Tsurue’s shop, and she invites them in for tea.

That’s when Tsurue discovers she is anything but ordinary. And in the end, the island she is sworn to protect will depend upon it.

FROM WILLIAM STROOCK: The Aftermath of 1976

In a Different 1976
The sequel to The Great Nuclear War of 1975
The Salvation of 1976
As nuclear winter turns into spring, the Rockefeller Administration must rebuild America.
The task is enormous.
Every major American city and state capital has been blasted to radioactive rubble.
The nation’s infrastructure is smashed.
Tens of millions of Americans are displaced and homeless.
President Rockefeller runs the nation from the Western White House in Casper, Wyoming.
A rump congress convenes at the Greenbrier in West Virginia.
Somehow, the nation must hold a presidential election.
Politicians scramble to rebuild their parties and find viable candidates.
Overseas, America’s enemies take advantage of a world without superpowers. Can America fight a war abroad while clearing the nuclear rubble at home?
Meanwhile, a man walks across half a continent to reunite with his family.

FROM LEIGH KIMMEL: Lunar Surface Blues

The High Frontier is no place for foolishness, but nature can always make a better idiot.

Four years ago, Molly’s parents brought her up here to the Moon when their work brought them to Shepardsport. In the time since that move, she’s earned her place here and a seat on this field trip. Only one problem — she’s been given the worst possible EVA partner.

A pencil-necked dweeb with an attitude, Benji wants to be one of the guys. But his stunts keep putting them both in danger, and the adults keep blaming Molly.

When Benji gets in over his head, can Molly save him before it costs both their lives?

A short story of the Grissom timeline.


This is a collection of the pamphlets I’ve put out through the month of December. The material is edited and I have added news headlines in-between each article. I am covering current events as the world gets worse every day, as well as analyzing our tyrants and the hope for resistance. I am also grouping the individual essays together by subject matter, at least as much as I can. There’s the virus, the perversions, the economy, our elite rulers, world events and just trying to work out how it all gets put together. It’s a mess, which is actually quite accurate in-and-of itself. Look and see.

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: IMMINENT

110 thoughts on “Book Promo and Vignettes by by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

  1. There’s something about facing imminent disaster that focuses the mind. Although weary from having dealt with one crisis after another for the last three days, Valery Mishin snapped to alertness the moment the alarm went off.

    What now? He scanned his surroundings.

    His ears popped, leaving no question of the nature of the latest calamity to afflict the Soviet moonbase. The only question was its extent — but right now his first priority was getting the emergency breather. Its supply of oxygen would buy him the necessary time to get suited up so he could start searching for the leak.

  2. “Mankind is doomed, Nyntators have infiltrated and have complete control of all earth’s governments .”

    “So you’re saying our future is bleak, we have nothing to look forward to except endless drudgery and slavery, that all this is imminent?”

    “Imminent, whats you mean we, human boy, imminent? I’m a Nynt!”

    1. Some of us were wondering about you but we figured you were busy. Welcome back regardless!

      1. I am truly impressed that you find the wherewithal to post something EVERY DAY. Apparently I find it difficult to keep up with reading something every day, much less writing comments.

        No comment on your work – it’s very good! Some quirk of my brain that I don’t understand yet.

      1. > “One might even say that it is optimal.”

        What metric are we using? ‘Cause I’m still up for lichdom if it ever becomes available.

            1. I’d also prefer I not, but invoking Monty Python can take the mind to some strange places.

              Still, I’m glad to hear you’re prepared for trouble.

    2. Welcome back. Everything okay over there?

      And as for suspecting you might be dead… Yeah, even if you don’t have time to read or participate a quick “alive but busy” comment every 2 or 3 weeks would not go amiss. We do tend to worry when friends go absent for too long without explanation.

        1. Speaking of us being clucking mother hens…

          Hey Fox, last time this came up you said Shadowdancer was having unusually severe health problems. Any improvement?

      1. Everything’s fine, and I do apologize for making anyone worry. I’ll make sure to check-in in future.

        Winter break was family, Christmas, and my birthday (early January, though I won’t go into more detail)… and some less pleasant situations. Namely, a pair of glasses broke at the nose-piece (they looked rather funny broken in half), and an epidermoid cyst that’s now almost healed.

        And for whatever reason, I think I have a weird cycle when it comes to this blog. I read it regularly for weeks on end, then ‘fall off the wagon’ for another several weeks and watch the notifications cram my gmail. I’m not sure why my brain works that way, and it’s kind of annoying.

        1. Ouch, that does sound rough. We’re glad you checked in regardless, though, since we really were starting to wonder what happened. I’m not the most consistent commenter here either (outside these posts) so most of my checking in with Sarah and the Huns is done by other means where we’d be happy to have you if time allows for it! 🙂

        2. > “I’m not sure why my brain works that way, and it’s kind of annoying.”

          Eh, it’s not just you. Sometimes I get burned out and take a few weeks off from the blog myself. And I pretty much HAVE to stop during the holiday rush because I’m just too busy.

          Although… I’ve never noticed anyone being this concerned about MY wellbeing when I vanish. So, congratulations new girl – in less than a year you’ve wormed your way further into their hearts than I have in most of a decade.

          [raises glass – okay, it’s just a water bottle – in salute]

        3. > “Namely, a pair of glasses broke at the nose-piece (they looked rather funny broken in half), and an epidermoid cyst that’s now almost healed.”

          By the way, I know what you speak of here; I once had my glasses broken that way too. Granted, it was largely my fault for taunting a girl who couldn’t make a basket by standing directly under the basketball hoop.

          Although… For some reason basketballs were just homing in on me that day. I got hit multiple times – once right in the testicles, hard – and finally left the gym vowing never to return. Painful at the time, but amusing looking back on it.

          1. winces Ouch. Yeah.

            Everybody has those stories… I’m still working on turning mine from ‘painful to think about, so never do so again’ to ‘actually a pretty funny story, come to think of it.’

            1. If you mean turning them into funny stories to write about, you’re welcome to steal mine and inflict it on one of your characters. Details of my suffering are available on request. 😛

      2. There have been Those Days. Those Days? When “moo” is about all I can say, but it at least indicates I haven’t left this mortal condenser. Er, coil.

          1. You could base it on your avatar.

            “I’m not actually an angel yet. And Hell is still litigating a claim on me anyway.”

  3. I write this morning for a pun
    The prompt! the prompt is very hard.
    I deeply search my word stock-yard
    Not yet a twist, but I’ve just begun

    To play these words; that’s always fun.
    I will not claim to be a bard
    Infused, perchance, with columbard
    And in my musings all unspun

    Yet holding true to misread text
    True punster cannot fail
    To generate a sentiment
    That somehow well connects
    Beyond the reach of countervail
    To pun for imminent.

    1. doggerel imminent. (*Not) a drabble, sorry.)

      My Muse

      Erato is a fickle bitch,
      (A muse of Poetry just in case
      You’re not familiar wth the witch’
      S name, or sadder yet, her face.)

      She’ll grace me with a poem’s base,
      Then dance away without a care,
      To leave me running slow in place
      And tearing out my thinning hair.

      I pluck some words out of the air
      From where around my head they flit.
      She taunts me and makes me a dare,
      To rhyme and meter make them fit.

      And when I put my hand to it,
      The thing together starts to run.
      Then with luck, just a little bit,
      The poem finally is done.

      I look back and see it was fun,
      And start to feel a little glow
      Of pleasure, not the starting ton
      Of angst and anger, pain and woe.

      And then my work to friends I show.
      I see their faces start to twitch,
      And I begin to see and know
      How bad it is that I did stitch.

  4. “What’s your favorite song?”

    “Imminent Front.”

    “You mean ‘Eminence Front’?”

    “No, ‘Imminent Front’, by The What.”

    And that’s how I learned that I jumped timelines yet again.

    But she was cute, with a pixie cut, so I rolled with it.

  5. I figured it’d be back to this group…

    “Come again, minister?”

    “I-It’s true, Your Majesty,” the unfortunate man stammered, shrinking away under the withering gaze of his empress and icy one of the Lord Protector. “Not only has King Friedrich formed an alliance with Wenlock and Loire but the Lapis Maelstrom is active again!”

    “The Lapis Maelstrom? Really?” the Lord Protector asked, raising an eyebrow. “Who did he finally see fit to wake himself for?”

    “Alphonse Faucher, the late King Philippe’s disgraced former assassin,” the minister replied, trying not to flinch at the question. “King Kylian invited him back to Loire and reinstated him once Sadalmelik woke up and accepted him as his Chosen.”

    “So that’s why that wretched girl was there to save Austin!” Lysandra hissed, slamming a fist on the armrest of her chair.

    “What shall we do, Your Majesty?” the minister asked, unable to keep himself from shuddering. “Not that I doubt that you and the Lord Protector will lead us to victory but…”

    “Do not concern yourself with such things, minister,” the Mad Empress replied with a dismissive flick of her hand. “Friedrich von Thunerswald has never been anything but a classless brute. If he thinks his victory is imminent just from a shaky alliance he is the biggest fool on the continent.”

    “Though if you must make yourself useful make contact with the emissaries from Bastetani and Odrysia,” the Lord Protector stated. “Tell them there are opportunities they will not want to miss while Austin, Adair, and Faucher and their armies are occupied.”

    “R-Right away, Lord Protector!” the minister exclaimed, bowing before the Mad Empress and her enforcer before scurrying out of the tent.

    “I do hope you did not mean to imply that we are too weak to handle such matters ourselves, Edmund.” Lysandra said to the blonde man once the minister left, her tone one of mild reproach rather than the towering rage she was famous for.

    “I meant no such thing, My Lady,” Edmund replied, giving his liege a courteous bow. “The King of Bastetani and Sultan of Odrysia are free to move or not depending on whether or not their interests, and those of the Topaz Shadow and Carnelian Avalanche and their respective Chosens, align with ours. We shall prevail regardless, My Lady.”

  6. “You’re not thinking enough.”
    That announcement, from Ezhak of all people, made Jon snort. Which would have been less of an issue if he hadn’t been in the middle of trying to finish his mug before it got cold. The big man passed him a kerchief without comment so Jon could mop the mess off of his face and chest, then looked up through the window at the stars. Since that view didn’t include the system they were in, it was an obvious attempt to be polite. Emphasis on obvious and attempt.
    “Pardon me?” He mock glared up at Ezhak, who looked like he was trying not to giggle and refused to meet his eyes as Jon swiped at his nose. “That is definitely the first time I have ever been accused of that.” Finishing himself, he started at the table.
    “Leave it, the kobolds will have to go over it anyways.” Ezhak stopped looking out the windows and accepted the cloth back with a good natured wrinkle of his nose. “And ‘course you got told you over-think, your people’d be the ones pulling stuff like this on you most… Sorry, but it’s true.”
    Jon unclenched his fingers from his mug as subtly as he could manage.
    “Go on. This– I think your phrase is– ‘I gotta hear’?”
    “You really do.” Ezhak’s nod was devoid of even a hint of irony. “Your brain’s way better than mine, but you don’t use it for a lot of stuff.”
    “Such as….?”
    “How about ‘imminent danger’.”
    Weird, but Jon shrugged and went with the first thing to come to mind.
    “By Fleet regulations, any situation causing imminent danger, that is, where one can reasonably expect direct harm, requires that the crew withdraw and reconsider the options, formally.”
    “Alright. Now apply that to leaving a runt like you with a known hostile spacer in a power-suit.” Ezhak tapped a knuckle against his collarbone, indicating the currently absent suit.
    Jon glared.
    “It really sucks when you have a point.”
    Ezhak brightened, and reached across the table to clap a hand on Jon’s shoulder.
    “Hey! That sounded natural, this time! We’ll make a spacer of you yet, Fleeter!”

  7. I knew trouble was immanent when Sam walked in, trying to be casual and moving too fast. Jurt twigged it immediately, straightening, brushing his hand against his holster. Edris looked up sharply, her eyes darting; but then she went straight back to smiling at / psychologically wrestling with her offspring. The only one not aware of a storm rolling in was the kiddo. He was smearing food on my countertop in lieu of eating it.
    So gross.
    “HellCop,” Sam explained.
    That didn’t mean anything, unless–
    Jurt’s hands were loose at his sides.
    “Jurt, does the Kite have a tracking beacon?”

  8. If they needed her to throw down a wall to escape with their lives, they would die.
    The grains trickled onward.
    Perhaps she could tell herself that Isabella’s rage was imminent, and she had to do better to escape that.
    She looked up. Isabella looked at her without any surprise.

  9. The tensions of the room had changed and I could feel it in my bones, in the new senses I had gained six months ago when I watched men in action. There was the interplay of lust and sex and violence and desire, and it wasn’t aimed at me, which I felt rather insulting.

    Instead, it was aimed at Sean, who was flipping over his cards. “A royal flush,” he grinned maniacally. I knew that grin, he only grinned like that when he had managed to get something over someone. “And, you made sure that you had loaded the deck so I couldn’t win! For shame!”

    The air in the room started to change, I realized that there was going to be a murder, that violence was imminent. Sean had embarrassed these men and they were going to take it out on him.

    1. Oh, dear. This isn’t going to end well for someone. Possibly multiple someones.

      If you’re trying to develop this further, do you think you could describe the narrator’s senses more explicitly? Does he/she smell emotional undercurrents, maybe hear them ringing in his/her ears, see them as a particular color?

      1. It isn’t going to be fun for anyone, and how she perceives these emotional states…it’s an interpretation thing. The “language” is one that will probably be rendered as a gestalt as the story is told.
        (PS-It’s not a supernatural power, but technological. Lots of deep background…)

        1. Might it be something like this?

          “Don’t forget, I’m neurally linked to a computer billions of times more powerful than anything you can imagine. I can analyze your posture, subtle flickers of expression, your blinking, shifty eyes, nervous breathing, voice stress and the like in minute detail, integrate the results in milliseconds and determine that you are lying. I don’t even need you to answer. Your involuntary reactions to my questions tell me enough.”

          1. I am a mass of sensors in a human form.

            Chemical sensors that make a bloodhound look like Helen Keller on a three-week bender with a sinus infection. Electromagnetic sensors that can find micro-galvanic responses from your skin to the point where I can tell your heartbeat and blood pressure from across the room. Your pupil and eye motions betray you, as does your posture and gestalt. I don’t even need to see the twitching of your erection to know what your attracted to.

            Women, it’s harder. More scent, less eye motions, more posture and facial motions. Gay men are creepy as hell. But, I can read your desires like a book.

            I can call all of your bluffs.

            And any sleight-of-hand might as well be dipped in neon paint.

            1. She’s speaking in front of a Congressional subcommittee that has been persistently…annoying her.

              To be fair, she annoyed them, too. Two weeks ago I posted the beginning of that hearing, and it went downhill fast:

              The Chairwoman had grown an unpleasant little smirk. “You are now under oath. Do you understand what that means?”

              “Yes. I do have one question, though.”

              “What is it?” she snapped, clearly impatient to get on with her grand inquistion.

              “Why are none of you ever required to tell the truth?”

              After a moment of shocked silence, the room erupted in pandemonium. The Chairwoman pounded her gavel for a long time, shouting for order.

                1. Actually, lying kind of sets her off. She’s not from our world, and hasn’t been lied to all her life. She never developed a tolerance.

                  “Lying to the government is a serious crime. You can be thrown in jail for years. So then, why can they lie to us constantly, with no limitations and no consequences? They should be thrown in jail, too.”

  10. “Sir, you are in imminent danger.”

    “How imminent?”

    “How many bodyguards are with you this moment?”


    “Three of them are already dead, they just don’t know it yet.”

  11. Light gleamed. From its snow-white shade, from the way it glowed beneath the branches, Lucie deduced it was not dawn.
    At any rate, she told herself that when she realized she had scrambled behind a bramble to hide, despite any prickles. This peril she had to escape, first of all.

  12. Following a gross navigational error, Finlandia was far out of position. Sensing an easy kill, two Hierarchy cruisers broke formation to pounce on the lone Earth ship. While the remaining Earth ships adjusted formation to account for the missing Finlandia, the Hierarchy fleet made no such correction. Action was imminent.

  13. While their ship handling was poor, Finlandia’s crew was prepared for a fight. The Hierarchy cruisers and Finlandia opened fire at the same time. Finlandia’s volley blew one Hierarchy ship to cinders, but Finlandia received a serious battering. And the remaining Hierarchy ship was undamaged.

    An epic battle was imminent.

  14. With internal fires raging and two of four turrets gone, Finlandia sent out a distress signal. OXYGEN DEPLETED. STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY COMPROMISED. COLLAPSE IMMINENT.

    The Earth fleet, however, was busy exploiting the gap left by the two Hierarchy cruisers, and could not assist. Finlandia’s remaining crew turned to face their fate.

  15. The skipper of the destroyer Stiletto, paired with sister ship Dagger, dispatched the following: SHALL BREAK, RELIEVE FINLANDIA.

    The wording was important. “Will break” would be interpreted as a plea for permission. “Shall break” denoted imminent action, approved or not. Stiletto and Dagger swung about, ready with torpedoes and obscurant.

  16. The forest closed about Liam. The soldiers might still reach him, from armies that lost their way or men who deserted their commanders, but he still felt glad to leave the kingdom that was at war.
    A little man stood by the road, which surprised him a little. He stopped.

  17. “Hello, Ann?”


    “Diana has now given birth… the girl is fine. We’re naming her Cynthia.”

    “I’m an Aunt?”

    “Yes. I’d be quite worried if you were her uncle.”

    “You’re impossible!”

    “No. Just very, very improbable. ‘appy aunting!”

  18. “Here now, I know this writing! It’s Old Nietizan.”

    I felt the ghost of a smile touch my lips. Dear Eri. Even the arrow-shaft through her thigh couldn’t daunt her spirits, it seemed.

    I couldn’t say the same for myself, unfortunately. The injuries I’d received were so minuscule compared to everyone else – a couple of pinpricks, really. But I felt like I was drowning in sweat, and the world was swimming dizzily around me.

    Max was seeing to Eri, while she examined the door we’d barred behind us. He must have broken the head off the arrow already, as he was drawing the shaft out from her calf. I could see his grimace as he took her pain.

    I had no idea how he managed. How any healer managed, if that was a common part of the job. Bearing another’s pain on their behalf – it was incredible.

    “It says something like, ‘Let no blood be shed here, lest Death be unleashed upon the world.'”

    Dac broke out in a series of colorful oaths. “Maybe they should have thought of that BEFORE they set up all these – ” another string of curses, even more virulent than the first – “BOOBY TRAPS!”

    A black sea swallowed me for several moments, but when I woke again, Eri was speaking –

    “- shouldn’t be a proper name, I don’t know why they used the elyin on it -”

    “Eri. Shut. Up.” Dac’s tone was black, and I shivered. Though that might have been from the sudden wave of cold. “No one cares. Half of our group is dead, the rest of us are bleeding, broken, or just plain tired. Whatever secrets these godslaves wanted to hide down here, let them keep.”

    That was a bit cruel, I thought. And not just to Eri. Whoever constructed this place was clearly quite clever, and very determined. Calling them ‘godslaves’ was rather harsh.

    The world tilted to one side, then melted. I gritted my teeth and tried to will it back into shape.

    I must have succeeded, at least a little, because I could see everyone staring at me. Max looked worried. When had he gotten so close? I thought he was helping Eri.

    “I was,” he grumped. (I’d never understood that verb, ‘grumped.’ Not until I met Max.)

    Max snorted. “Gee, thanks. You couldn’t have mentioned you were hurting earlier?”

    He was busy earlier. And I didn’t want to bother –

    Bother me? Are you serious – ”

    “Hey! You shouldn’ be readin’…”

    “Not reading your mind, you moron, you’re talking out loud. Hold still -”

    I squinted up at him. He seemed to have gotten a lot taller all of a sudden, even though he was sitting down. “Think I’m gonna… go t’sleep now…”

    “You die on me, Ved, I’ll kill you myself. Hold on.”

    That didn’t really make sense, and I wanted to tell him so. But the world was melting again, and I couldn’t quite manage to force it back up again…

    Max’s voice was the last thing I heard.

    But there was a moment. I didn’t hear it – I don’t think I had ears to hear, anymore. I didn’t see it either, really.

    It wasn’t the ringing of an enormous bell. It wasn’t burning letters etched in stone. It wasn’t a voice echoing from some nameless cavern.

    But I knew it, nonetheless.


    And a strange not-voice whispering to me.

    “Have no fear, feel no pain. Follow me, little one, dear one. Come home.”

    1. That’s the other thing we all missed while you were gone, your writing in these posts! Glad to see you’re still doing well with it!

    2. Oh, my, yes.

      Surely I’m not the only one who’s missed these cinematic little scenes, that could not only be filmed much as they are but even used in a trailer for the rest of the (incipent) movie. It’s good to read/see them again, and you, even after what sounds like a bit too much “interesting”…

      1. My immediate reaction, upon reading your comment: “Wow. That good? Really?” (insert slightly dopey smile here).

        Seriously, thank you. I know in the past year (maybe couple of years) that I can write, and then go back to read it for enjoyment’s sake. And not have the rug pulled out from under me by suddenly realizing just how much editing needs to be done to make it tolerable.

        But I’m truly touched by just how good you think it is.

    These vignettes are a welcome break from “serious thinking”. Given the topic, your mind can take off in flights of fancy, bouncing from thought, to glimmer, to nascent idea: “so what shall I write about today?” The added challenge is to write it in exactly fifty

  20. “The king had heard of the Conundrum.”
    Rosine winced. Everyone had heard of the Conundrum, built by the mad governor with all the enchantments he could muster.
    “And he insists we must know what lies within it. Who knows what perils might be gathering, or how quickly they could strike?”

              1. It strike me (THUMP) (huh?) that ‘Augean Knot’ sums up the Administrative State of D.C….. people just want them to CUT THE CRAP! Er, so to speak.

  21. Snakes and lions were possible if not yet within his grasp. He scowled for a moment. He would rather do a bird. He could see uses for that.
    “Sad thing about clock-work,” said old Master Hannes. “The best is in the mountains, you know, but even if you were a great master, they would never ever let you in the guild. Only their own sons, and frequently not all of those.”
    “I suppose if a son is not good enough, it would not do.”
    Master Hannes snorted. “A son can be a master of marvels and not be allowed in.”

    1. So.. when “da boog” happens, everything “Ivy League” is a target to be returned to Gaia as ashes? Not that I’ll light it off, nor even partake, but I can see the utility.

  22. “The king will not approve. They have made it their fortress, and not cast into the lands about.”
    “We can not rely on that. They may gather forces for an assault. It could happen in the next hour, before we can attack. There is no safety but in their end.”

  23. “Alright, who is next?”
    “Archbishop Theophilias, the personal and diplomatic representative for the head of the Church of God Arriving.”
    “How long have they been waiting for their God to arrive?”
    “Well, about 3500 years, but that irrelevant. You’ll address him by his tile, ‘Your Immanence.'”

      1. IMMINET CARP SHORTAGE!!! screamed the headlines.
        Huns To Blame! was under it, followed by an article so full of crap Herakles would look at it and declare it hopeless. So, yeah, just a typical AP story.

        1. They multiply like fish. Since we don’t have miracles we sometimes have to apply weird temporal effects, but that’s it.

  24. “Mistress?”

    Snotra Hrafnarsdottir Freydisdottir looked up from the Go board where she was playing with her twelve-year-old grandniece. “Yes, Hal?”

    She realized her use of Hal Corvinus’ first name, in return for his formal word to her, was likely her unconsciously trying to de-formalize the whole incipient conversation, then see if that stuck — which wasn’t actually so very comforting in its implications.

    Neither was his reply, “Madame, it looks very much as if we’re needed.”

    We’re needed. Which not only continued the protocol escalation but raised things a notch from You’re needed — so not only Herself as head of House Freydisdottir, but him and her and likely in the end them most or all. And the big folio dataslate under his arm was… odd. Even a palm-size handheld mustered plenty enough pixels to saturate human vision.

    Snotra dug a silver schilling from out of her pocket, handed it to little (or once-little, now knocking on the door of womanhood) Bettina. “Go tell Clark Atkinson you and he can fly into town for a half-hour or so, and get ice cream for yourselves. Only so much as won’t spoil dinner, mind?”

    Bettina’s face lit up under its cap of dark curls, and quickly returned to her current business. “We’ll finish the game when I get back?” Hopeful.

    “We surely will ‘f it can be done, ‘Tina. And if not before sundown today, then as soon as may be.” And she was actually pretty tickled when Bettina pulled out her handheld and pixed their Go board from two or three quick angles. “I’ll not likely forget anything from the middle of our game, my Lady, but this way I’ll not be wondering.”

    And Bettina held her tongue on the correction that wanted to come out; her family (like Hal’s) was very English-speaking and Christian and (like all, or nearly) a valuable and accepted part of their House — but simply and inescapably, “My Lady” was a literal and faithful translation of what the name-and-title “Freyja” was and meant. Some might not take that well. Even if her own name was borrowed from a goddess too.

    And Snotra smiled, realizing the back of her head was, again, trying to duck this intrusive — whatever it was. “Feel free to think over our game with your ice cream, just don’t let it spoil your enjoyment.”

    Bettina Adriansdottir smiled like an orbital sunrise over the rim of some pretty little world. “Never, Madame Snotra! Be seeing you soon.” And she flounced out in a swirl of the long green skirts she’d always favored, for all the nicer parts of the Marquesan year.

    And now to work. “So it’s a bit of a thing, this, is it?” Said with a lift of one eyebrow, jaunty but intent.

    Hal was calm and cheery, but that was always. “Yes, it is, Snotra. I ought to say, the words of the day are Case Imminent.

    And a chill went through her like a summertime wind from off one of those huge old glaciers in ancestral Iceland, so long and far away. “That much? Really and truly?” And she thought, Now, back in the old American pre-millennium Soviet Standoff days, would that be a Defcon One or a Two? Oh, wait, Defcon One would’ve been hot nuclear war, so not that… please?

    Hal still didn’t look grim, he never really had yet, maybe it was all the Cornish blood in the family. “Class One, Snotra. It’s been warned and then verified, there’s been an incident. But we ought step into the Withdrawing Room for that.” He waved, as if to invite her to precede him, not as if to tell here where to go.

    Class One I’ve never heard before except as a protocal or category. But what it means… thought Snotra as they whisked themselves a few dozen feet through darkly, richly wood-panelled corridors toward the Withdrawing Room. Possible extinction level event, for our House as such, or even Marquesas or its people.

    Her mind flew back in time to sudden scary whirlwind days of a new-minted Prime Minister Churchill. Wish my father were here for this, even as an Adviser. But not so, God rest his soul and Choosers receive him.

    And she smiled, a smile more like steadfast Hlin or one of the Valkyries. We didn’t get here and now by being easy to kill, did we? Meaning not only her Icelandic (and other) ancestors, but all House Freydisdottir and Marquesas herself. What was it someone said, back in the Tension? “There is a Sixth House on Marquesas, and all of us are part of it.” Born stubborn, raised stubborn, bred for stubborn.

    She opened the door to the Withdrawing Room, waved Hal inside, closed the door. Turned the heavy brass handle to slide the bolt home, watched bright tally lights go from red to yellow to cheery green. “Okay, Hal, hit me.”

    He smiled, briefly, at an image of him literally hitting her. “We had a defector turn up at, ah, Lady Izabella’s place. And space pirate nest. Someone… self-authenticating, and another from Iz’s own past. Now we’ve had an incident at one of our deep-space mines, Niflheim 967 in the Kupier Belt, that makes it clear the Empire of Man really is up to something that could be very bad. And I assure you the pictures I’m about to show you come well authenticated.” He held the big slate up facing her, and said “Play cued slideshow, Gamma Six Foxtrot.” Voice-command was rare, out-of-vogue and… typically used as emergency or urgency shortcut, not a fad or for snobsparkle.

    “Niflheim N are the cold-volatile mines? Nitrogen and argon glaciers like old Pluto, all that kind of stuff?” Nitrogen was (cosmically) surprisingly rare, you could distill a whole comet with its silicate dust and star-tar and assorted ices, and not get so much as one percent by weight… unless you found an ‘object’ that’d purified it for you. It was one of the odder but more profitable lines of effort of the House, these days.

    “Yes, Snotra. Not such a productive one, this next little while. That tip I told you of, we have video of her coming up too.” His slate had finished authenicating its holder and re-decoding the file… and there it was. An apparently well-lit (by a pinpoint Sun) scene of semi-exotic but familiar activity, out on the frayed edges of the Big Dark.

    Then, there was a large… thing, there. Looking like nothing so much as a huge artillery shell, from the Dawn Ages or now.

    Then, third frame from the (likely automatic) camera, showed a… linear aurora, as from high-intensity scalar-field energy, from the shell-ship to and through and past the iceball. “That looks just like a Langmuireach void pistol, blown up to…” Snotra felt her throat close on the words.

    Hal’s voice was tight. “Is. Watch.” Fourth frame, much the same.

    Excerpt now there was a somewhat-foreshortened… cloud, on either side of the little iceworld, along the rainbow-sparkly line of the discharge. And her blood ran cold, cold, knowing that ‘iceteroid’ was surely hundreds of miles across. And how a void pistol simply made… holes, in things.

    The slow, relentless pictorial march continued. Now the rainbow line, with the ship that shot it, had gone, and the cloud almost too. And there was a hole in the ‘dwarf world’ with feeble sunlight falling into the via-hole that… beam had emptied. Like a void pistol, but at scale.

    Next the picture jumped to someone obviously wounded, on camera spilling her story. It was still, for now. Her right hand was not only mangled, it was clearly mechanical, so lost already…

    “The defector came before the, ah, attack. Or warning shot, which likely from context it was. That could’ve been, she says, Marquesas as easily.”

    And now her blood felt cold as a nitrogen glacier. “Not so much the hole, but what happens when the hole slams shut from the pressure. Earthquake beyond earthquakes, to start.” And Snotra’s mind was full of old-written words, ones like and the name of the star was Wormwood..

    But what escaped her lips was, “A wind age, a wolf age, the Twilight.”

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