Orion and the Fog

Sunday night Redquarters got just over an inch of rain. Most of that within ten minutes as a massive, oh-my-heavens-paddle-faster squall line slammed into the city. It had already flattened the airport at Dalhart, and the fear was the 80 mph winds would hit Amarillo. With waterlogged ground and big trees… We were lucky. First came the frog-strangler, then the wind. And then the skies cleared. Continue reading

The Blessings of a Soviet Education

That’s the title of this article by Michael Galak in the Australian web-zine Quadrant. He later immigrated to Australia, but here’s a sample of what he learned: “When I was living in the Soviet Union I did not believe the state’s newspapers when they told me Americans were thirsting to conquer the USSR. I did not believe Khrushchev when he said it was the Americans who triggered the Cuban missile crisis. No, I thought, if they are telling me the Americans are to blame then it must have been the Kremlin’s doing because lies were our leaders’ stock in trade. I did not believe Pravda when it said the murder of Israeli athletes in Munich was a legitimate blow against the oppressors of Palestine, which I knew didn’t exist. I did not believe them when I was told Israeli commandos who rescued the Entebbe hostages were instruments of a Zionist plot to take over the world. Most of all I did not believe that the Western proletariat was groaning  in poverty beneath the chains of capitalist bloodsuckers, whereas the Soviet workers lived and worked in freedom and prosperity. That one was a no-brainer. I could look out the window and see it wasn’t true.” Continue reading

New Release: Familiar Tales

In a world where magic is normal, mundane, but never boring…

A place where talking animals—Familiars—drive their humans up trees…

Where the police chaplain and a rabbi compare moonshine suppliers…

And Skunks of Unusual Size can be taken as child care deductions…

Anything can—and probably will—happen to Morgana Lorraine and her friends and relatives.


You hear that?

The kittens were feeling frisky on Monday. They were frisky-ing around in the small hedge outside my office’s front window, rustling and bustling and occasionally hopping onto the ledge, then pouncing down into the shrubbery. Athena was perplexed. Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic Part 8

Tycho’s caravan moves south, and Tycho chews on some ideas as well as road dust.

Chapter Eight – Across the River


“I don’t have a good way to get letters of credit to Milunis,” the Five Cities factor said. He grimaced, although Tycho wasn’t certain if it was because of the complication or because a tanner’s waste wagon had leaked as it passed through town to the river and the nose-stinging stench was still hanging around the building. “Have you traded recently that far south, sir?”

“No. Guill was as far as I went last year. Usually leave the southern cities to Liambruu and Sinmartin and Bushmakk.”

“It’s, well, see.” The round-faced man hunted among rolled maps and documents in the cubbies behind his long counter until he found a map. “We’re here,” he pointed with one thick, dark finger, then put river rocks on the corners of the map to hold it. “River’s here, and the main roads and routes are the top five strips. Bottom two are ship routes on the river.” Tycho peered, looking for names, and found Milunis on the fourth strip down. “Red dashes are county, duchy, city, and Liambruu borders.”

“I see.”

“Because of the problem with the crown’s credit being no good, they started leaning on their merchants. After we,” he pointed at the floor, “and other people got stung last year, no one will take anything from Liambruu except goods for barter and silver coin. Good silver coin, and you can be certain everyone is weighing every single piece of metal with the crown mark on it.”

Tycho snorted. Debasing coinage was a good way to tell the world that you’d ruined your accounts, once everyone found out. “They still mint good silver?”

“Aye. So far,” his mouth twisted a little to one side and he snorted in turn. “But that meant that a lot more businesses are wary of letters of credit, even from the Five Free Cities, unless you personally know and are known to the receiving party, or have an agent in the city already.”

Damn. Tycho had neither, just his contacts through the confraternity. “What about temple letters?”

“Same problem. And without mage-notarization, someone could claim the letter was forged and there would be no way to prove it was good.” The notary took a deep breath. “There is one option, other than hiring a wagon to carry the coin you’ll need. Maartin Corwinda is known and has credit in Milunis as well as here. I can write you a letter of credit through his agent. Fair warning, he’ll want three percent. He’s done this before, and we’ve done it for him.”

Ugh. Tycho felt his lip trying to curl and wanted to spit. Doing business with and through Maartin Corwinda? He’d rather kiss a great-hauler’s tail feathers. He’d rather eat a sea-fat. If Maartin said the sun rose in the east, Tycho would look west for the dawn. The last leather he’d accepted that had Maartin’s seal had rotted before it came off the wagon, almost. But he couldn’t haul three hundredweight of silver along with his goods, assuming he could find that much in Gheelford at a reasonable interest rate. He wondered if this were some sort of test by Maarsrodi. Or perhaps he had irritated the god in some way? Tycho considered his options, swallowed his pride, and took a long, calming breath. Continue reading