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New Release: Winding Paths Anthology

Winding Paths Anthology

Demagogue Press has a new fantasy/horror anthology out that also contains LGBTQ+ stories (bi, lesbian): Winding Paths.

Ready to read? Ready to play?

Adventure awaits the intrepid reader willing to enter Winding Paths, an anthology of game stories and poetry, puzzles and prizes. You can’t get to UR any other way, and UR is where 25 original works by award-winning writers and new voices dwell.

You can read this book in order, but perhaps you are a wanderer. If so, you’re in luck! Choose paths to wind your way throughout, all the while searching for items, earning rewards, and solving puzzles.

And at the end? You can keep playing. The cover is The Royal Game of UR’s game board. The rules, along with a set of game pieces for each story or poem, are provided inside the book. Fictional combat. Author against author. Whom do you favor?

Or maybe you will wish to stay in UR forever.

Let the games begin…

Get It At Amazon | Publisher


From “The Peri’s Gate,” by Marianne Xenos

Ani sat in an alcove near the window at Cosmos Café. The smell of cinnamon and roast lamb warmed the air, freshened by cool bursts of autumn whenever the front door opened.

While Ani waited for Daria, she sipped the last of her coffee, listening to the Café’s usual playlist of Mediterranean fusion. Her wavy black hair was twined in a heavy braid, and she pushed it over her shoulder, where it settled between her hidden wings. She shifted on the soft backless chair and returned her attention to the game on her tablet.

Mrs. Triakis, the elderly owner of Cosmos Café, came over with a pot of coffee. Instead of offering a warm-up, she dropped onto the opposite seat with a dramatic sigh.

“I need to take the loads off my feet,” she said in her heavy accent, putting the pot down on the table. “Where is your woman friend today? I hope you are not fighting.”

Ani smiled at Mrs. Triakis, who also wore her hair in a long heavy braid, but hers sparked with silver and gray.

“Yes,” said Ani. “We’ve been arguing, but she’s coming soon to help playtest my new game.”

“Hmm, then maybe she brings an apology. Apologies from a Daeva are like stars in a daytime sky. Rare, lovely, and a sign of change.”

Ani held her tablet with the new mobile game out to Mrs. Triakis. “Will you take a look? You might recognize the patterns.”

The image on the tablet was a grid, something like an old-fashioned checkerboard, but instead of red and black squares, the blocks alternated with botanical and geometric designs. Ani used the traditional Mesopotamian colors of sand, black, lapis lazuli and red. The style was inspired by the Royal Game of Ur but shaped to fit an ordinary tablet or pad.

Ani said, “The goal of the game is to win three keys. The third key wins the game and opens the gate to the Garden.”

“Garden?” Mrs. Triakis was interested. “Do you mean Paradise? Like our home in Sumer?”

“Yes, that’s what I was thinking—the Garden of Paradise.”

“This is very good.” Mrs. Triakis held the tablet tentatively, as though she was more comfortable with carved stone. “The Garden—it is a true thing. And the Parikanis are like a great tree. Our roots are in the Garden, but we circle the earth, branching and curving.” She paused to see if Ani was following her, and Ani nodded. “Daeva, Peri, Fata, even the Irish Fay. One tree, many branches.”

“That’s what my family taught me. Except my parents weren’t as open-minded. They never included the Daeva. Or even the Irish!”

Mrs. Triakis looked more closely at the tablet and held it near her ear.

“Did you tuck a spell inside? I sense a humming.”

“Just a small one. To make the experience more personal.”

“Be careful. Magic can squeeze into a machine, but it begins to feel restless.”

“I’ll keep an eye on it,” Ani promised, more curious than worried.

A bell chimed as the door opened with a rush of autumn air. Mrs. Triakis smiled and pulled herself to her feet.

“Look, your beautiful woman is here.” She took the coffee pot and walked over to Daria, kissing her once on each cheek, then whispering in her ear. Daria flushed and nodded her head, then came over to Ani’s table and kissed her quickly on the cheek before sitting in the empty seat.

“What did she say to you?”

“Something about stars in the daytime sky.”


[Ani] reached into the pocket of her loose cotton shirt and took out a ring. The ring had a hum of ancient magic, and Daria sat up straight in her chair. It was silver, incised with feathered lines and set with a small amber stone. Ani put it on the table.

“Speaking of wishes. Let’s sweeten the pot with a prize for finishing the game. This is my Auntie’s trysting ring. Ancient Peris didn’t marry because they valued freedom and disliked unbreakable bonds. That’s what my parents have forgotten. Our ancestors didn’t marry, and they didn’t have to ‘come out’—they just loved who they loved. This trysting ring isn’t an engagement ring, nor a pre-engagement, nor even about going steady. It’s just a pretty token of love.”

“Okay?” Daria said. Ani knew she liked things in black and white, and this was very, very gray.

“Rumor has it that each trysting ring has one wish embedded in the ring. And I think,” she picked it up and sniffed the stone, “the wish may be stale, or it could still be viable.” She waved the ring under her nose. “A viable wish smells like cut celery or maybe parsley.”

Ani watched Daria’s wary eyes. They were both Parikanis, and history taught them to be suspicious of magical rings. Ani had introduced another layer to the game, and she expected Daria to be wary.

Daria kept her hands on the table and peered at the ring. “A wish? You’re offering me a magical wishing ring if I finish your game? And all I need is to win the third key, open the third gate, even if you get there first?”


Daria wore her poker face, but Ani knew the challenge captured her attention. Among Parikanis, all games of chance were sacred. And a magic ring was a strong temptation for any Daeva.

Daria said cautiously, “Do you know how absurd that sounds? And besides, the game is a Peri thing. How can I possibly finish?”

“That’s the point. It’s a Peri thing, with a Peri prize at the end. You’ll have to learn.

“You play a deep game, girl.”

Daria relaxed slightly and took the bone dice from her jacket pocket. Ani knew the dice were as old as Byzantium and belonged in a museum. Of course, from what she knew, [Daria’s grandfather] Lucky Nick might have stolen them from a museum himself.

Daria clattered the dice on the table. Double fives. “Nice, an omen of change. Okay, Aniperi Barig,” she said, using Ani’s full name. “We have a wager. We will play for the pretty ring which has no meaning and may or may not have a celery-scented wish attached.”

Ani looked up at Mrs. Triakis who was brewing a fresh pot of coffee, pretending not to listen.

Author Bio

Marianne Xenos is an artist and writer from western Massachusetts. Her stories have been published in magazines and anthologies including The Future Fire, The Fantastic Other, and Orion’s Belt. Recently she was a first-prize winner in the Writers of the Future contest and is a 2023 nominee for the Pushcart Prize. Marianne is working on a collection of stories as well as a novel set in Boston’s queer community in 1983.

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