Book Promo and Vignettes 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. I reserve the right not to run any submission, if cover, blurb or anything else made me decide not to, at my sole discretion.– SAH


While removing a prototype sensor from the prow of her new Alliance battleship, the Ausa, Captain Elizabeth Goodwin and her crew encounter a setback when one of the engineers sent to remove and stow the device is injured in an accident. Before the other engineer can help the man, the two are surrounded by amoeboid creatures which seem immune to the effects of vacuum.

Thought to be hallucinations experienced by early spacers who had been alone in deep space too long, these creatures – known as “angel fish” – startle the crew by their sudden appearance. Despite her misgivings, Goodwin allows three of the aliens to be taken aboard for study. But less than an hour after the aliens have been brought on the ship, one of Goodwin’s men is killed and another is seriously wounded.

Her search for both the murderer and the escaped “angels” soon leads to a disturbing revelation. Eventually, Goodwin must decide which threat is greater: an old enemy of the Alliance, or the fabled “angels” encountered by the first explorers from Terra.


John Wolff has been handed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Again.
He’s already saved the love of his life from an early death – thirty years after she died.
Now, a beautiful young woman, who is clearly his daughter, has appeared from the timeline branch where that same love of his life survived and married his counterpart.
She says they need his help fighting off invaders from the far future. Who, by the way, are looking for him. Why? Because they want the starship drive he and a friend invented, the precursor to their time machine. Problem is, in her timeline, it hasn’t been invented yet.
What man can resist a cry for help from his own daughter?
Particularly when the invaders think she’s a saint. Or possibly, a devil wearing saint’s clothing. And they’re looking for her, too.
Thus begins the Timelines Saga, and the story of the Lion of God.

FROM KAREN MYERS: The Ways of Winter – A Virginian in Elfland

Book 2 of The Hounds of Annwn


It’s the dead of winter and George Talbot Traherne, the new human huntsman for the Wild Hunt, is in trouble. The damage in Gwyn ap Nudd’s domain reveals the deadly powers of a dangerous foe who has mastered an unstoppable weapon and threatens the fae dominions in both the new and the old worlds.

Secure in his unbreachable stronghold, the enemy holds hostages and has no compunction about using them in deadly experiments with newly discovered way-technology. Only George has a chance to reach him in time to prevent the loss of thousands of lives, even if it costs him everything.

Welcome to the portrait of a paladin in-the-making, Can he carry out a rescue without the deaths of all involved? Will his patron, the antlered god Cernunnos, help him, or just write him off as a dead loss? He has a family to protect and a world to save, and little time to do it in.

FROM MARY CATELLI: Spells in Secret

Magical doors and other mischief mix badly with tales about murder, as young scholars return to Graytowers.

Kenneth, as prefect, thought he had his hands filled with the beginning of the new session, but when one magical door takes him and another scholar far past the bounds of a prank, they barely escape with their lives, and their escape means only that they are in graver danger. They must hide, leaving the school, and casting all their spells in secret.

FROM LEIGH KIMMEL: Grandmaster’s Gambit

The disastrous war of 1913 is over, and young journalist Isaak Babel has used his fame as a war correspondent to win a peacetime job covering an international chess tournament in New York City. However, trouble is aboard the airship Grossdeuschland, in the form of the notorious Bolshevik terrorist Koba and his henchmen. Men with a dark plan, and New York City will not welcome their visit

FROM HOLLY CHISM: The Last Pendragon

“The last thing I expected when I went to grieve in the mountains was to get chased by werewolves, kidnapped by a dragon, or meet a legend. But that was exactly what happened.”–Sara Hawke

Sara Hawke, a highly-educated former PhD candidate in Linguistics, is plunged into a situation that strains her skepticism: first she meets a pack of werewolves while camping on the night of the full moon, then she’s rescued by a man the werewolves seemed to fear. Her rescuer then decides that she’ll be good company until he decides to let her go. Then he tells her that she has the potential to be a sorceress, and offers to teach her.

Along the way, she learns that legends aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be, and are occasionally more than they seem…


The Three Hundred Families control the Three Part Alliance. To the Elite, their Family is their first priority.

Twenty years before the Fall . . .

Lord Dzon Konstantin Aslanov returns Home after a five year long assignment to another World to find his Family as poor a fit as ever. He is about to find out the cost of disobedience.

If only they’d tell Konstantin why he needed to marry so soon, to the right woman. And not like his idiot brother eloping with . . . the daughter of Kon’s new boss at the Bureau of Intelligence. And why should Kon marry this particular woman when her aunt was so much more interesting . . .

FROM ALMA T. C. BOYKIN: Preternaturally Familiar

Where is home for a Hunter?

Uneasy rests the head upon which rests the leadership of the River County Hunter clan. Arthur Saldovado’s older brother grows distant and untrusting. Arthur must balance his duty to the senior Hunter with protecting the shadow mage Hunter in Shadows and preventing strife within the clan. Arthur’s adopted daughter, Lelia Lestrang, watches and worries. That is, when she’s not trying hard to keep from ordering her children to marry (she wants grandchildren!) and sighing mightily when her much loved husband leaves his clothes lying in front of the laundry hamper yet again.

Then a sorceress discovers the remains of a gate between the worlds, cast with blood-path magic.

Where can an out-cast Hunter find shelter, save for the grave?

“I wish something would happen and clear the air!” When the storm breaks, Lelia, André, their Familiars, and their family pull together to fight a battle Lelia though had ended fifty years before.

The end of an era? Or the start of something Preternaturally Familiar?


Teenaged author Charles Cloukey did not lack for ambition when he wrote The Swordsman of Sarvon. It combines Edgar Rice Burroughs-style planetary romance with an anachronistic planetary culture (they have airplanes, but never discovered gunpowder) with an espionage technothriller about averting a world war between Europe, Asia and North America; with the secret of atomic energy, and its potential to annihilate all of civilization, as one of the MacGuffins in play. And he did all this in 1931, sixteen years before the birth of Tom Clancy, eleven years before the Manhattan Project began, more than ten years before the US entered WWII, and at least six years before the beginning of WWII as a whole.

FROM M. C. A. HOGARTH: To the Court of Love: A Peltedverse Collection in the Fallowtide Period

Sediryl Galare’s first official function as the formally invested heir to the Eldritch Empire is to open the summer court, on Escutcheon and on the world of Chalice. But behind every big event are a myriad of stories—some smaller in scope, and some enormous in implication. Join the Eldritch and their allies in this Fallowtide collection for a glimpse into those everyday stories. Who are the musicians of Ontine? What happened to the nobles of Asaniefa who didn’t care to fight the Empress? Will Jeasa and Haladir ever come to an accommodation? And how are the social changes sweeping the world affecting those who wish they hadn’t?

This reader-commissioned collection includes stories written by the author at reader request. Come home to the Alliance with seven tales of hope, renewal, romance, and change.

FROM CEDAR SANDERSON: Crow Moon: A Collection of Fantastic Tales

Eight fantastic tales of swords, sorcery, love and justice.

The honeymoon is over…. before it even began. Nico and Emie face the biggest decision of their lives, and hope that it won’t kill them.

Cecelia’s dowry is a worthless field, and a friendship begun in a macabre deal.

Soleh fights her way out of a cruel marriage and swears vengeance by the lost gods of a dead clan. She rides with the darkest of companions at her side.

In a breath of air on an unmasked face, the worth of a life is laid bare.

Amaya Lombard faces her past, risking her future, in the very place where her magic was stripped from her blood and bone.

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: FETCH

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

      1. Thank you! Wings are a little tired, but other than that, no complaints.

        The avatar, by the way, is a work by Anne Stokes called ‘Prayer for the Fallen.’ She does some really gorgeous gothic/dark fantasy art which I would highly recommend looking up.

  1. Ah Sarah, the link for CAROLINE FURLONG: Contact: Angeles takes me to an Amazon cover image not to where I can purchase the book. 😉

  2. “Here Boy! Fetch This! Oh Sh*t”

    “Fred, Never Never Tell a Werewolf to Fetch something.”

    “Yah, I should have known better.”

      1. There are certain known werewolves with PUFF exclusions with whom I would NOT try that. They are VERY likely to bat it or throw it back at you given their very quick reactions. Perhaps the old German style grenades with a stick might be appealing though.

  3. Fetch and carry, take your turn.
    Fetch and carry, watch it burn.
    Fetch and carry, day by day,
    Fetch and carry all away.

    Fetch your silver and your gold
    Fetch your amber bright and bold.
    Fetch your treasure, bring it all
    Fetch yourselves to our hall.

    Fetch the feasting to the hall
    Fetch the guest, sound the call.
    Fetch the King to his throne
    Fetch them all to mountain home.

    Fetch them all from far and near
    Fetch them all to come and hear.
    Fetch the word from magic charms,
    None will fetch you from our arms!

    (I think that may be a goblin song.)

  4. My fingers could feel the prana around the doll like liquid sandpaper. I could see brunette hairs braided in the brown yarn that made the scalp and a sense that the brown spots weren’t rust stains from something it rubbed up against. “The fool,” Deborah whispered, “that dammed fool made a fetch of his daughter!”

    “A fetch?” I asked, taking my hand back.

    “It’s an act of sympathy and contagion,” Deborah replied, as she opened up her belt pouch to pull out some string and chalk. “He’s using the fetch, which has her blood and hair and maybe something else-fingernail clippings or her milk teeth-to make it easier for him to track and use magic on her. Symbolic representation of her, right down to the eye and hair color, the right general shape including the budding breasts, and how much do you want to bet that the dress is made from something she valued a few years ago? Because this wasn’t his first fetch-it’s far too well made for that. And where there is one, there are more. The fool probably didn’t even destroy the old ones!”

  5. Every now and then, Reggie Waite got a sharp reminder of just how different a pioneer’s mindset was than that of the old country. Today he’d been teaching a pretty straightforward military history course, and was talking about the transformation of naval combat as sailing ships gave way to steamships. That had led to a discussion of the role of fetch and swell in determining sea state, and what it meant for the old wooden ships of Nelson’s era vs the steel ships of World War II and the Energy Wars.

    To him, those factors were an intensely personal thing — just talking about them could bring back vivid memories of his days aboard the Nimitz. To these young people, raised on an airless, waterless world, they were abstractions, of more interest in terms of the physics that underlay the phenomena.

  6. Just another thief out to fetch what she needed. And a more honest one than most, who sent no guards and swords to steal and call it the law. One who went herself and herself did the labor to claim the goods, with more skill than even the guards had.

  7. “Your Majesty.”
    Rosaleen blinked at the dark young man, with a limp, who walked up.
    “Not Your Highness. Your Majesty.” He turned from Polly to Rosaleen and bowed. “My kin sent me here after the army lamed me. But if the army knew you were here, they would fetch you.”

  8. After praying, after pleading, after nootropics failed, after nights it took yet more drugs to make quiet, they came back.
    They came in a dream. I understood them not until they spoke their meanings out loud.
    “We will not be bidden, neither will we be forced. The words come at their own accord, and they will not be fetched.“

  9. Whatever you prior posters may have been wearing, all of the costumes were most fetching outfits!

    Also …

    “You say these are retrieval arrows?”

    “Indeed. Once well struck, a living target will be drawn back to you. Not living, well, the best we can do is emit a beam of light, to draw the archer to the target.”

    “And, the mechanism?”

    “Special feathers, applied by our fetchers.”

  10. June gave an encouraging smile across the table to Doug and Lurie. She had insisted to her husband that it was past time to treat their neighbors to dinner, and Tom had suggested taking them to the country club. Now the Adamses, never having been to one before, were almost too distracted to carry on a conversation. They seemed more interested in peering around the dining room and eyeing the view of the golf course.

    “Nice dance floor,” Doug commented. “Do they have dances here, or is it more for weddings?”

    “They do have quarterly dances, but we haven’t been to any in a while,” June commented. “Too busy.” It would have been more truthful to say that Tom had never taken her to a dance at the club, and she suddenly wondered why he hadn’t.

    Just as Lurie was commenting on the floodlit fountain on the patio, the dining room completely blacked out. Doug talked calmly over the gasps and murmurs filling the room:

    “Gonna ask that nice lady if she can fetch me a flashlight.” He headed cautiously toward the hostess stand and a moment later, a beam of light moved toward the door to the kitchen.

    “What on earth is he doing?” Tom muttered.

    “That’s Doug for you,” Lurie chuckled. “He’s got to see what’s goin’ on.”

    In the kitchen area, Doug talked one of the assistants into showing him the electrical box. “Well now that’s interesting,” he muttered as he pried the door open and a smell of burning insulation wafted out. “You stand back now, young fella. Get me some more light if you can.”

    A few minutes later, the staff began bringing out candles to the diners and lighting them. The flustered manager announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re sorry for the inconvenience, but there’s been an electrical malfunction in the kitchen. Dinner is canceled for tonight, and we won’t be charging your accounts.”

    As both couples packed into the Weylands’ car, Doug suggested a local pizza place and Tom headed to the restaurant without argument. “I’m sorry, everybody. The club must be having a run of bad luck.”

    “What do you mean?” Doug asked.

    “There was a problem not that long ago the Baylors told us about – they were at a wedding and the air conditioning quit, and now I think about it there might have been a fire in the kitchen.”

    “I think somebody’s makin’ their own bad luck,” Doug drawled. “‘Cause I had a good look at that electrical box. And that thing was vandalized. Somebody shorted it out – wires were pulled every which way and there was water in there.”

            1. Oddly enough, I’ve read a discussion on it where more than half the people realized what was going wrong with their cooking. . . .

  11. Drak looked up as she came back into the room. She blushed as he looked her up and down, admiring the way the blue in her dress matched her eyes and flowed over her figure.

    He smiled at her and finally told her, “That’s a very fetching color on you.”

  12. She let out her breath slowly. “As if I could fetch the secret from the library.” She struck the waters, and they dissolved the shadow, showing only the dark veins through the green stone. “Reading will not help fight the necromancers. The festivities won’t, either.”
    “They may distract you better.”

  13. “Argh! Why isn’t this working. Everything seems good. No syntax or compiler errors, but the number make no sense!”

    “Oh my. New to Forth and forgot something, huh?”


    “You mention variables, but those are addresses, not the contents.”

    “Huh? Any normal language, you mention a variable, you get the contents.”

    “And since when is Forth a normal language? You have to fetch the contents. Fetch is where it’s at.”

    “At… ARGH!”

  14. First of all, he had to make it hard for them to fetch him back. He eased toward the north, to where a river had cut a crevice in rock. The foam was far below, though the roar echoed.
    He took to the air and flew over, breaking his trail.

  15. So… we know about the cat that may be alive or dead, in the box or not…

    But did Schrodinger’s dog fetch the stick before it was thrown?

  16. The sword shone in my hand, golden light spilling forth from its broken hilt. I could barely force my eyes open, spots ebbing and flowing across my vision. The severe blood loss wasn’t helping matters.

    But it had been so long. So long since I’d seen the sunlight. It could blind me, it could burn me, it could blast me to ashes if it pleased. I wouldn’t care.

    Gods, the sun. Even if the light didn’t blind me, the tears would. I could feel them running down my face, mingling with my blood. I could never have imagined that I could miss the sun so much.

    Until I came here. Until I met Him.

    I bared my teeth at the figure whose blade was locked with mine, crimson-stained steel held at bay by a blade of pure sunlight. Ruthven, for his part, simply stood there, staring down at our crossed swords as if spellbound. Pale flesh turned to burnt red before my very eyes, then began to bubble and crack. For the first time, I heard the Blood Lord grunt in pain,

    A moment later, he was gone, across the roof and standing on the parapets before I even realized he was moving. He stood balanced on the ledge, entirely unconcerned by the endless drop less than a step away, but I saw terror blazing in those ruby red eyes.

    And I loved it. In that moment, the fear in his eyes was more precious to me than any love I’d ever seen in another’s. Some small part of me – the part that still remembered Riverford – curled up in shame.

    The rest of me reveled in that feeling, the sudden overwhelming hunger for more. More weakness, more fear. I would have given anything to see him beg. So long I’d been the weak one, so long I’d feared this moment.

    No more.

    “What? Scared of a broken hilt?” My grimace grew into a grin as I approached the monster, watched the shifting of his eyes. I saw the instant he glanced down, staring into the abyss behind him, and it nearly drove me mad with bloodlust. “Is this the tyrant, the monster that we fled from for so long? Where is your power now?”

    Red eyes glared at me, but I felt their power glance off me like a child’s toy lance against a breastplate. I drew still nearer, watching as his rapidly mending skin began to burn again in the light. “Where is the conqueror who brought this land to its knees? You are not he – ”

    Two steps, and I stood on the parapet facing him. The fall meant nothing, was barely worthy of notice. All that mattered was Him, and His reaction to my last words: “- You’re nothing but a beast to be put down.”

    I thrust the blade forward, light shining forth like noonday – and Ruthven’s form rippled and wavered like water, the sword meeting no resistance.

    Arms snaked around my chest, a hand as cold and unforgiving as marble gripping my outstretched sword arm. Fingers like claws dug into my wrist, and I saw my hand drop open against my will, the light dying in an instant as the hilt fell from my hand.

    I watched, frozen, as it dropped past the parapets and vanished into the fog below.

    “‘Where is the conqueror?'” Came His rumbling murmur from behind me. “He is here.”

    Then I was flying through the air, only catching sight of the stone wall an instant before I struck it. I heard the crack as my sword arm broke against the castle wall, and I fell to my knees on the stones, swallowing a scream of pain.

    Ruthven stepped calmly from the parapet, blade sheathed, and came to stand before me, shaking his head. “You children are always so impatient. One taste of victory, and you are lost.” He reached forward in an instant, seizing my wounded arm and hauling me to my feet.

    I couldn’t catch the scream this time, though I tried, and he waited until I fell silent again before speaking: “You have two choices, young one. Face me here, unarmed and broken.”

    I would not speak. I could not speak.

    “Or,” he finished, releasing my arm and waving towards the empty parapets. “Go fetch.”

    Either route meant death. But only one meant freedom.

    And if I spread my arms far enough, I could almost believe I was flying.

  17. “Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen! ‘Fetch’ is never going to happen.” –Mean Girls

  18. For all his wealth, I inherited nothing from Uncle Wendell except the ancient coin. I was surprised to receive that much as we despised each other. I was assured the coin would fetch a princely sum at auction, but I’d never heard of the thing. How did everyone else know?

  19. The coin itself was large, about as big around as a hockey puck, but the writing along the rim was at the far edge of legibility, even if I fetched a magnifying glass. What I remember is how heavy it was. One wouldn’t dare carry it in a trouser pocket!

  20. About three days after the coin came into my possession, someone knocked on my front door. It was Taylor, my Aunt Hildegard’s driver. “I’ve been sent to fetch the coin,” he said. Aunt Hildegard’s Lincoln idled in the drive. Something told me I’d best surrender the coin, so I did.

  21. Okay; but I cannot find Maggie Drennon singing it… the best version…

    The Witch of the West-mer-lands

    Pale was the wounded knight
    That bore the rowan shield
    Loud and cruel were the raven’s cries
    That feasted on the field
    Saying, “Beck water cold and clear
    Will never clean your wound
    There’s none but the maid of the winding mere
    Can make thee hale and sound.”

    So course well, my brindled hounds
    And fetch me the mountain hare
    Whose coat is as grey as the Wastwater
    Or as white as the lily fair
    Who says, “Green moss and heathered bands
    Will never staunch the flood
    There’s none but the witch of the west-mer-land
    Can save thy dear life’s blood.

    So turn, turn your stallion’s head
    ‘Til his red mane flies in the wind
    And the rider of the moon goes by
    And the bright star falls behind.”
    And clear was the paly moon
    When his shadow passed him by
    Below the hill were the brightest stars
    When he heard the owlet cry,

    Saying, “Why do you ride this way
    And wherefore came you here?”
    “I seek the witch of the west-mer-lands
    That dwells by the winding mere.”
    “Then fly free your good grey hawk
    To gather the goldenrod
    And face your horse into the clouds
    Among yon gay green woods.”

    And it’s weary by the Ullswater
    And the misty brake-fern way
    ‘Til through the cleft of the Kirkstane Pass
    The winding water lay.

    He said, “Lie down my brindled hounds
    And rest ye, my good grey hawk
    And thee, my steed, may graze thy fill
    For I must dismount and walk
    But come when you hear my horn
    And answer swift the call
    For I fear ‘ere the sun shall rise this morn
    You will serve me best of all.”

    And it’s down to the water’s brim
    He’s borne the rowan shield
    And the goldenrod he has cast in
    To see what the lake might yield
    And wet rose she from the lake
    And fast and fleet gaed she
    One half the form of a maiden fair
    With a jet-black mare’s body

    And loud, long, and shrill he blew
    ‘Til his steed was by his side
    High overhead the grey hawk flew
    And swiftly he did ride,

    Saying, “Course well, my brindled hounds
    And fetch me the jet-black mare
    Stoop and strike, my good grey hawk
    And bring me the maiden fair.”

    She said, “Pray sheath thy silvery sword
    Lay down thy rowan shield
    For I see by the briny blood that flows
    Ye’ve been wounded in the field.”
    And she stood in a gown of the velvet blue
    Bound ’round with a silver chain
    She’s kissed his pale lips once and twice
    And three times ’round again

    And she’s bound his wounds with the goldenrod
    Full fast in her arms he lay
    And he has risen hale and sound
    With the sun high in the day
    She said, “Ride with your brindled hounds at heel
    And your good grey hawk in hand
    There’s no can harm a knight wha’s lain
    With the Witch of the West-mere-land!”

    words and music by Archie Fisher
    © Kettle Music, PRS

    1. I learned the Stan Rogers version. I first heard it sung at a Celtic music/filk concert in Atlanta. The guy did it a capella, and oh, he was good. A baritone. I tracked down the words ASAP and memorized them.

  22. “And?” Hugh’s voice was quizzical. In an oddly open-ended way.

    Almost expectant, somehow.

    “So?” I said, much the same way, bait-trolling hopefully for more data.

    He only flipped his hands, as if to emphasize his point. Whatever it was.

    I was even more ready now for another drink of beer, or maybe five. But my glass was as dry as before I’d sought the little house (to borrow a couple words from Scottish); and our pitcher was not just near empty, it was now mysteriously… elsewhere.

    “And, first I told you I was going to the bathroom; and, then I went; and, now I’ve come back,” I said matter-of-factly as I could. (None of us had drunk nearly enough for that to explain anything.)

    “Absent-minded tonight, much?” said Ashley.

    “And no, not having drunk myself under the table this night or any other, on either side of the Atlantic, no forgetfulness involved.” I was trying not to get angry, and succeeding; but quite failing at not getting pretty weirded-out. None of this set off my “someone’s having you on” alarms; it was a “something’s out of sync here, and badly” alert instead.

    “First you said you needed to go to the bathroom, then you went, then you came back,” said Ashley, and held up a finger and paused for emphasis.

    “And then after that, Miles asked you to fetch us some more beer, and you took our empty pitcher and went back to the bar. And after that, just now this past minute, you came back quite unaccountably empty-handed. So it’s easy to see how we’re a bit puzzled. If you didn’t want to take your turn getting the next round, Jess, fine, all you had to do was say so.” She sounded like someone explaining the obvious to a six-year-old. “If you’d done that, we could’ve had somebody else back by now.”

    Which would have been fine if I’d been there for that, instead of spending a quarter-hour dealing with a slight case of the runs, most felicitously coming on while I was already sitting down in the right place.

    “Or maybe,” she said with a faint touch of good-natured malice, “it wasn’t you we saw five minutes ago, but your fetch. Or a changeling, or some such legendary thing, instead of you yourself.” With a faded smile.

    If you’d grown up where I did part-time, you wouldn’t joke about that. Northern-ish Scotland might be very modern in many ways; but it wasn’t nearly so casually dismissive of the… stranger-things of life. I wouldn’t say that out loud here, though. Northern Virginia is a very different place, and getting… weirder by the day. (Not that today’s Scotland isn’t a tad bat-botherin’ insane too, these strange days.)

    Seeing your fetch may be a sign you’re not long for this world. And if you’d heard some of the stories I’ve been hearing much of my life, from the sort who told ’em to me… no joke.

    “More beer you want, more beer you’ll get. Did you guys really have to go and hide the pitcher too, though?” And I turned from still-puzzled, maybe even now faintly irritated expressions, headed again for the back of the room. Not having bothered to keep much exasperation from my own voice, or a hint of Scottish-dialect bite.

    I zeroed in on the bar and its keeper almost without thinking; I’d done it times almost untelling, and I was a fair bit occupied with the whole ‘WTF is that’ with my handful of friends.

    So maybe it took me a little longer to notice the person turning from the bar (where she’d been fiddling with her phone) with a pitcher in her hand and a semi-vacant look on her face. But when she stopped and went a bit wide-eyed, almost a “she just saw a ghost” look and almost but not quite slopping beer out of her pitcher, it got my attention; the more when she (as suddenly) turned right and started walking very fast over toward the bathrooms and the “candlelight sitting area” (makeout spot, mostly, when it wasn’t just empty).

    Still it took a few moments to dawn on me, as I continued to walk over to get the pitcher I seemed (somehow!) to owe already, that her face, before or after her startle, had been — quite accurately my own.

    O-kay, weird now on two different dimensions. But it wasn’t like I was about to chase her.

    “Another round, Mike, in the 2-quart pot. On my tab.” And very like usual he smiled, nodded, and went to it. But once it was “in work” as they say in the space biz, he said something else weird. “A thirsty bunch you are, tonight.” I said nothing, my weird-o-meter a bit… recalibrated, by now. “You know,” he said, handing me the full new pitcher and more quietly than usual, “I could tell only from the earrings. You’re wearing those little gold balls, Jessica, and she has on a pair of matched white pearls. If you and your twin or cousin or whoever are trying to pass for each other, ya gotta hit all the details.”

    I smiled with a merriment I did not feel. “Always good at observation, you were and are, my dear Michael Flynn.” Turned away before my deadpan fell to the floor and broke. Started to speed up, to get this beer back to our table, and my world (I so fervently hoped) back on its rails again too.

    And just then, I heard someone singing in Gaelic. To a tune you may know as “Over the sea to Skye” having heard it about a billion times from that “Outlander” porno-pic version of the book series. (Great and a fine cable production, Gaelic so authentic I couldn’t catch half the words. But not a fan of, ah, “explicit adult content” — guess I’m not as Scottish as some might think?) That would’ve slowed me in my tracks, itself.

    But those words… were not the usual ones. And that voice, it was softly but clearly sung in? It was mine.

    I looked right, and a dark-haired face half-hid by the corner doorway of the “candlelight nook” popped into plain view. And it was mine, too.

    “Come here, please if you will, and aid a lost traveller.” (More or less, it’s a pretty idiomatic translation. And I could be sure that despite his name, Mike at the bar would be clueless. Irish and Scottish are different and distinct languages, but closer than say, French and Spanish; still he had about as much of either as the pitcher I was carrying did.)

    I tried really hard not to look as starkly surprised as she’d done, this (might as well say it) seeming-like fetch of mine.

    “Make it quick, thirsty people a-waitin’.” (Scottish does use a preceding ‘a’ like English uses an ‘ing’ ending.) And oh, my dear Lord, seen from up close it was breathtaking, almost like looking in a mirror. I went around the corner to the ‘candlelight area’ (lit by lamps, now), set my pitcher on a table near to hers. “Who are you, exactly?”

    “Not your fetch, not your long-lost twin. Not your” — ‘double’ it would be, “co-immeadh” is something like co-walker. She smiled, almost grimly. “Not a spy, not a Pod Person.” Leaned in. Shuddered.

    “And she walked around the horses,” this almost-me said low, in English.

    And suddenly I was stone-cold sober. Because I believed her, utterly, it was just that obvious. Even if you’d never read the Piper story or the histories or even heard of one Benjamin Bathurst, it was quite literally chilling. Said in exactly the right words for me, too.

    What I said was, “And how do you know?”

    “My cell phone won’t sync, probably clones yours. Can’t log on to some of my services, ditto. Wi-Fi password here fails. And this.” Showed me her Apple phone, same model.

    But mine sure didn’t have a “Mandalyzer, measure the Mandala Effect in your life” app.

    “It’s the Mandela Effect, ah, Rose.” (My/our middle name.)

    She actually smiled brightly. “But that’s a discrimination term, too. Is Mandela dead? When? Same for Mariel Hemmingway. Did the Fruit of the Loom ads ever feature a fruit cornucopia? Even, as you said, is it the Mandela Effect or the Mandala Effect — when one thing shifts, do others change as well?” Again she’d switched off into English, low and intense.

    “This has happened to me, before. But I’ve never yet… met myself.”

    She swallowed, visibly. “I think I’m in bad trouble. Could use a friend.”

    1. Oooh, now that gives me an idea…two alternate versions of the same person meet by chance, spend a few hours talking, find they’re both dissatisfied with their very different lives, but each finds the other’s life much more appealing — so, naturally, they decide to switch places. Just for a month, at first, as an experiment.

      Until a week later, when one of them sits down to dinner and is asked by the other’s spouse: “Who are you?”

      Then it gets complicated… 😛

  23. Nice set of promos today, thanks! I’ve read about half of them already, but I see a couple of new ones there!

  24. I stood outside my older sisters room, the family had gathered. Yes, as much as everyone wished it wasn’t so, it was a death watch. I leaned against the wall, the nurses smiled their weak smiles, they too wished to be anywhere else. Their job for my sister was no longer to provide a path for life, but to ease her path to what was next. My brother exited the room frustrated that there was no enemy he could slay to save her. It was her time, nothing even a mage such as I could do to stop that.
    “Is there nothing that can be done?” my warrior brother asked.
    He is one who always fought for life, just as I have always fought for the light.
    “Nothing” I sadly responded.
    Just than an old foe appeared in the hall, noticing both my brother and I, he, it, whatever you would call the entity of death paused.
    “I am here to fetch her. Do you wish to challenger me?” he asked in a deep unworldly voice.
    “Is it?” my brother asked in a whisper.
    “Yes” I whispered back.
    “No cowl and where is the scythe?” he asked.
    “He updated to Armani a few years back, and the scythe is only used when needed now, it’s actually his tie clasp” I quietly replied.
    “No, challenge, but a simple request for but a moment of time so all can say their goodbyes and start the prayers to guide her on” I answered.
    “And you warrior?” he asked my brother.
    “If but I could, but what of the consequences, what of a world with no death? No I have seen such horrors and do not wish for them here” he replied.
    “You are both wiser than your years, you may have your moment, but only a moment I am behind schedule already. You both have given me enough work that I can justify a moment to those even I answer to” Death replied.
    We hurried inside to say our final goodbyes and start the prayers, her last breath and her soul left her only a moment later.

  25. I forgot about this Sunday and was too tired to try yesterday but here’s what I came up with.

    Azahara hadn’t spent much time in Bleidabrik so she decided to get a feel for the area the same way many others did: finding a decent bar and seeing what she could get out of any locals and the bartender. She removed a lot of her signature apparel, like her hair ornament and scarf, dressed plainly for the chilly Baldrazian winter, and did her makeup to emphasize her Yamatai features rather than her Bastetani. Eccentric behavior seemed to be regarded as amusing, if not charming, if coming from Yamatai tourist. Yet she still had a few concealed blades on her and vials of poison if she needed them, whether for self-defense or for the man Director Carmona needed her to dispose of. Ariake wasn’t always the best tool for her job.

    She entered the bar, all smiles. It had a decent crowd for a Saturday night with most of the patrons gathering around the stage. Not surprising, she’d seen advertisements for the singer around town and hoped she actually had the talent to back up the marketing, which clearly relied on her looks. Her gaze moved from the stage to the bar, where she saw a curious sight. A deathly pale young man dressed entirely in black was talking to a middle-aged gentleman behind the bar. The owner, Azahara presumed. There was little doubt who it was; the black leather duster that he wore was as much of a giveaway as anything.

    “Vincent Austin, the Gunblade Emperor.” she thought before she practically skipped over to the seat next to his. “Konnichiwa! Is anyone sitting here?!”

    “Um, no.” the young man stammered, clearly taken aback.

    “Good!” she said, taking the seat before turning to the man behind the bar. “I guess you don’t have sake here, bartender-san?”

    “The name’s Eike, miss,” the man replied, an amused grin on his face. “And why’d you want stuff from back home when you’re in the beer capital of the world?”

    “And I’m Sakura!” Azahara replied, fully getting into the character of the ditzy Yamatai tourist she was playing. “And beer’s nasty! I want one of your…uh….um…mixed drinks?”

    “Sure thing, Sakura-chan,” Eike replied, playing along with a wink. “You keep Vincent here company while I find my best stuff.”

    “Is that your name?! Vincent?!” she asked, her whiskey colored eyes going wide. “What do you do?!”

    “Yeah.” the young man replied, taking a sip of his drink, which looked to be plain old cola to her. “I’m a soldier.”

    “Good. He knows not to give too much away.” Azahara thought, looking him over. She had no doubt that he had his signature weapon on him inside his coat and knew she wouldn’t win a straight-up fight with him even if she had her sword on hand. Yet there was something else that struck her as strange about him. His aura felt off and he seemed to have one foot in this world and the other in the afterlife. She was sure that it wasn’t just the bar’s lighting that made him look almost corpselike.

    “Fu shisha,” she thought somberly, though her smile was still radiant. “His Majesty and Director Carmona will both want to know this.”

    1. I found this one easier to follow, personally. Fewer words-whose-meaning-I-don’t-know piling up, as well as a focus on personal interaction between fewer total people. (Names might fall into the category of words-whose-meaning-I-don’t-know when early in the story.)

      Take that however you will.

      1. Thanks! Heh, I only just realized I got last week’s and this one’s prompt words messed up, though I suppose Eike going to get the booze he needs for “Sakura’s” drink technically qualifies as fetching something. Well, you know other ways to reach me now if you want me to bring you up to speed on anything, including what went into this world and the characters. And wouldn’t you know that Azahara’s been bugging me about other things since then… Also, you can bet that she’s going to mock Vincent for being mean to poor Sakura-chan when they finally meet properly on the battlefield in their mechs!

  26. Let me try again, this one actually including this week’s prompt word! Consider the one above a make-up for last week. 🙂

    “Carys! Pleasepleaseplease tell me you can go to town this evening!”

    The sorceress turned around to find a petite Yamatai girl with neon blue streaks in her black hair bouncing her way. Her face and clothes were covered with grease and her eyes were wide and pleading. Carys offered the girl a small smile of sympathy as she said “There’s no reason I cannot. Do you need a break from your work, Aoi?”

    “You. Have. No. Idea!” the girl exclaimed, emphasizing each word with a stab of her finger. “Professor Blomgren is such a slave driver! ‘Do this!’ ‘Fetch that!’ ‘Where’s my luxury coffee filtered through the fur of virgin mountain goats, Kato?!’ Ugh! How does anyone work with that freak?!”

    “I can scarcely imagine.” Carys muttered, her expression darkening. She wasn’t just worried about her friend working for Anders Blomgren because of how demanding he was. The more she was around him, and his colleague Dr. Walter Dunst, the more sure she was that they were in league with infernal powers. In fact, she strongly suspected that one or both was responsible for Vincent’s current condition. If they were she would see them both in Hell for such abominable actions.

    “A drink sounds lovely to me, actually, Aoi,” she finally said, seeing her friend’s eyes go wide. “Get cleaned up and I’ll see if I can find us a place to go.”

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