Rem Wigore has a new queer cli-fi hopepunk book out: Foxhunt.
In a lush solarpunk future, plants have stripped most of the poison from the air and bounty hunters keep resource hoarders in check. Orfeus only wants to be a travelling singer, famed and adored.
She has her share of secrets, but she’s no energy criminal, so why does a bounty hunter want her dead? Not just any bounty hunter but the Wolf, most fearsome of all the Order of the Vengeful Wild. Orfeus will call in every favor she has to find out, seeking answers while clinging to her pride and fending off the hunters of the Wild.
But she isn’t the only one at risk: every misstep endangers the enemies she turns into allies, and the allies she brings into danger. There are worse monsters than the Wolf hiding in this new green world.
Orfeus didn’t care that much about should, not when Primrose had so compact a form, so clever a knack with fabrics, so kissable a mouth.
Bellan could stuff it.
“I clearly don’t want to talk about it,” Primrose said, and shook her head. She pushed her chair the rest of the way back from the table and stood. “We’ve had our drink. Good evening, Orfeus.”
“You said two,” Orfeus blurted, showing too much in her distress, hands clutching the edge of the table. “You agreed to two glasses.” She tried to relax, to not be the clinging vine, the burr to be shaken off. She tried to think of some stratagem that wasn’t trying too hard and came up wildly blank. “Let me get you flowers.”
Primrose looked at her, and it wasn’t her cutting look. She looked at her as though Orfeus were a length of fabric that had come out in quite different colours than she expected.
Orfeus leaned forward to press the advantage. “Flowers like when I first courted you,” she said. “Every type of flower I can find.”
The corner of Primrose’s mouth twitched up. She stayed there, one hand on the chair like she wanted to hold onto it. “I suppose daisies are always in season,” she said.
She remembered the daisies. Orfeus’s heart gave a wild leap in her chest, though she stayed cool-calm-smiling. She refrained from lifting a finger to touch her earring. “Yes,” she said. “Daisies. Flax and foxglove. Anything you like.” She stood up and swept a complicated bow, tucking her cape behind her back. “I won’t be a moment.”
Primrose still hesitated, one hand on her chair.
“Less than the time it’ll take for a second glass,” Orfeus said, and that decided her. Primrose nodded, a little grudging but with that reluctant smile as well. She’d made her smile. Orfeus waved joyously for more juice as she exited. She smiled warmly at their server, a nice-seeming young person, and at the chef, and more generally at everyone in the dining house and indeed all the world, even the pianist.
She stepped out into the evening air. Flowers were easy to find, lining the path in neat boxes, useful cultivars along with wildflowers to encourage pollinators. Orfeus loved this town, overflowing with greenery, abundant with hues.
She wandered down the path, brushing her fingers against stems. Though most of the flowers were closed at the approach of night, the buds were still pretty. No daisies, but Orfeus smiled as she came across a patch of willowherb, sprays of small purple flowers among the dark-leaved stems. Not a perfect match for Prim’s lipstick, but close.
Orfeus picked a careful handful, a few from each plant. She straightened, flowers gathered in her hand, and the sky fell upon her head.
A heavy weight slammed into her back, shoving her into the ground. Orfeus inhaled dirt and twisted reflexively, kicking out and away. The heavy form pushing her down moved back, up and off her.
In the moment’s respite Orfeus pulled herself back with her hands, scooting on the ground like a worm. She stared up at her attacker: a looming shadow, an inescapable monument. They weren’t tall but seemed tall from down here, and slab-solid with muscle. Some kind of helmet or mask on their head gleamed silver in the moonlight.
“You jumped me,” Orfeus said a little numbly. She tasted blood in her mouth as well as dirt. “Why?”
They had leaped down from the roof, she judged, yet stood unfazed and unflinching. They said, “I am a hunter of the Order of the Wild, and you are my prey.”
Their voice was medium-low, low for a woman or average for a man, hard to tell. No time to ask pronouns in the middle of a fight.
If they were who they said they were, it would be no fight at all.
Rem Wigmore is a speculative fiction writer based in Wellington, New Zealand. Their novella Riverwitch was released in 2020 and is a 2021 Sir Julius Vogel Award Finalist for Best Novella, their first novel The Wind City was published in 2013, and their short fiction appears in several places including the Capricious Gender Diverse Pronouns Issue, Baffling Magazine, and the second Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction & Fantasy anthology. Rem’s probably a changeling, but you’re stuck with them now. The coffee here is just too good. Rem can be found on twitter as @faewriter.