Every night the monsters hunt.
A city that is the whole world: Theosophy and her companions in the City militia do their best to protect the civilians from the monsters, but they keep crawling from the Rift and there’s nowhere to run. Theosophy knows she’ll die fighting. It’s the best kind of death she’s seen, and at least she can save lives in the meantime.
They say the Scarred carve you up while you’re still alive.
A village in the shadow of a forest: Refugees from the border whisper about the oncoming Scarred, but Briony can’t convince her brother to relocate his children to safety. Briony will do anything to protect them. She owes them that much, even if it means turning to forbidden magic.
When Theosophy and Briony accidentally make contact across the boundaries of their worlds, they realize that solutions might finally be within reach. A world beyond the City would give Theosophy’s people an escape, and the City’s warriors could help Briony protect her family from the Scarred. Each woman sees in the other a strength she lacks—and maybe something more.
All they need to do is find a way across the dimensions to each other before their enemies close in.
Briony closed her eyes. Please, she prayed to the Old Ones, as bad an idea as that might be, please, I just need some magic to save my family.
“What the fuck?” said a voice from behind her. There was an accent to it. When Briony turned, she found herself looking at a strange, ethereal woman who glowed blue in the fading sunlight. Briony’s breath caught in her throat. A spirit, Old Ones, a spirit. She hadn’t even considered spirit talking in her magic list—it was said the spirits couldn’t be trusted, and that people who consorted with them sought forbidden knowledge to sow evil and mayhem—but it was a sign of magic within her somewhere, and maybe she could use that to transition to something the Academy would accept.
The spirit was beautiful, a tall, statuesque woman who had a hard glint in her eyes. Her hair was short, indigo blue through the glow and tightly curled, her skin a lighter shade over wiry muscles. One hand clenched a smallish item made of metal, the other a long tube with some kind of blade on the end. Briony had never seen anyone like her. Though she glanced around and held her body like someone expecting danger, her bearing was proud and strong, and every inch of her spoke of power and competency. A warrior. Briony had heard stories of them, left over from the Great War, but had never seen one herself.
Was that when this woman was from? The War?
“The trio—the monsters—where am I?”
Briony realized she hadn’t responded, and that perhaps this spirit had been looking for someone to talk to for a very long time, and maybe she would assume Briony couldn’t see or hear her either. “Don’t be afraid,” she said.
The spirit’s eyebrows rose. “That’s a…never mind. What is this place?”
“Well,” Briony started, taking a step forward. But her ankle buckled and she stumbled, managing to catch herself before she fell.
“You’re injured,” said the spirit. “Were you attacked?”
“Yes—you see, there was a Fracture back there, and—” Confusion crossed the spirit’s face. Maybe she was even older; maybe she didn’t know about the War. “There was a war, many generations ago, and the Old Ones, though I don’t know if it was ours or theirs or both, created creatures and plants that looked normal but weren’t. Fractures. Because they…fractured some part of the creature. I don’t know.” Briony was aware she was not being clear, though the woman just watched her intently. “Anyway. There were these people—they were supposed to save us. But they abandoned us and left us on our own. And we drove off the other side—the Scarred—eventually, but we couldn’t get rid of the Fractures. If that makes any sense.”
“A Fracture is…a monster?” the spirit asked. The idea seemed to mean something to her, though Briony could not imagine what.
“Yes, you could say that.”
The spirit raised the long tube with the blade, glancing around with hard eyes. “Is it still here?”
“No, no. I outran it. We’re safe now.”
The spirit gave her an odd look. “Safe,” she echoed.
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It is a little known fact that Kit was raised in the wild by a marauding gang of octopuses. It wasn’t until she was 25 that she was discovered by a traveling National Geographic scientist and brought back to civilization. This is sometimes apparent in the way that she attempts to escape through tubes when startled.
Her transition to normalcy has been slow, but scientists predict that she will have mastered basics such as fork use sometime in the next year. More complex skills, such as proper grocery store etiquette, may be forever outside her reach.
Siri Paulson writes all over the fantasy and science fiction spectrum, including (so far) secondary-world fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, Gothic, historical paranormal, and YA with spaceships. She is also the chief editor at Turtleduck Press (http://www.turtleduckpress.com). Siri grew up in Alberta, Canada, but now lives in an old house in Toronto. By day, she edits non-fiction for the government. Her other current passion is contra dance, a social/folk dance done to live Celtic and roots music. Her favourite places in the world are the Canadian Rocky Mountains and a little valley in Norway.