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Posted by Mari Ness

Since it’s October, the month of Hallowe’en, frights, ghouls and horror, I thought it might be fitting to take a look at one of the most horrific of fairy tales, “Girl Without Hands,” which features such fun stuff as dismemberment, the Devil, betrayal, legal separations, and mutilated deer. No pumpkins, admittedly—at least in the best known versions—but even a fairy tale drenched in horror can’t have everything.

I mention the pumpkins not just because of Hallowe’en, but also because “Girl Without Hands” is often associated with “Donkey Skin,” a tale written by Charles Perrault (and others), which in turn is often connected to Cinderella and her pumpkins, yet another tale written by Charles Perrault (and others), which in turn is often connected back to “Girl Without Hands,” thanks to the supernatural assistance found in both. But while some versions of Cinderella, particularly the one told by the ever cheerfully gory Giambattista Basile and the one recorded by the Grimm brothers in Household Tales (1812) have a bit of gore, none quite come close to the gore and brutality of “Girl Without Hands.”

The story that does is, perhaps not surprisingly, Basile’s own version of “Girl Without Hands,” titled “Penta with Maimed Hands,” which includes such fun bits as a princess arranging to have her own hands cut off and sent to her brother stylishly wrapped in silk, as a rather firm way of saying “hell no” to his marriage proposal, a proposal made a little less out of love and a little more out of not wanting to pay her dowry and not wanting to bring a strange woman into the house, continuing with, in classic Basile style, also including people thrown into trunks and then overboard, women accused of giving birth to dogs, betrayal, lots of food and drink, more betrayal and various mutilations. Also a touch of racism, and people responding to the dog birthing slander with, yeah, I can see it. Let’s not be too harsh to the lady, shall we?

Naturally, it all ends with what rather sounds like an incestuous threesome complete with a voyeuristic wizard because, why not? Well, I can think of a number of reasons why not, Penta, starting with the fact that everyone in the group apart from the wizard has been relatively to very awful to you, not to mention the fact that this story started with you arranging to have your own hands cut off in order to escape your brother, so maybe—I’m just spitballing here—caressing him at the end of the story is not your wisest move here. On the other hand, that move does show that you have emotionally healed, or, in this particular case, compared your brother’s initial desire to marry you to the horrific actions of everyone else in this story and decided that, comparatively speaking, the guy wasn’t too bad, so perhaps—perhaps—I shouldn’t judge.

Nah, I’m judging.

The version recorded by the Grimms centuries later is one of the longest, most intricate tales in their collection, in part because, as their notes admit, their tale combines two separate tales, both told in Hesse. The first tale, like “Donkey-Skin” and the Penta tale, starts with the story of a father who wants to sleep with his daughter; when she refuses, he cuts off her hands and breasts and drives her out into the world. This is not the tale that ended up in the main text of Household Tales. Instead, it was buried in the footnotes, with the Grimms instead choosing another beginning.

That beginning, too, can be seen as rather hostile towards fathers, but for a different reason. It echoes a different story, this one stretching back to ancient times, that of a man who promises a supernatural entity the first living thing to greet him upon his return—later deeply regretting that choice. One early version appears in the Bible, in Judges, chapter 11. It tells the story of Jephthah, a general who vowed to sacrifice the first living thing that came to greet him upon his return—which turned out to be his one and only daughter. A similar story, involving a son instead of a daughter, was told about Idomeneus, a character from the Iliad.

In both tales, the fathers honor their promises, and kill their children.

I’ll skip over the theological implications of all of this, and instead just note that both tales seem to have a similar warning: be careful what you promise to strangers or gods. Especially gods.

That inclusion in the Bible and the somewhat less known story from Greek mythology ensured that the story, and variations of it, circulated throughout Europe, with the tale of Jephthah in particular inspiring paintings, plays and oratorios. How familiar Marie Hassenpflug, credited by the Grimms for the original telling of “Girl Without Hands,” was with all of these versions is unclear. The Grimms, however, certainly were, presumably choosing this version in part because of those Biblical echoes—and in part because rather than relating the story of a father wanting to marry his daughter, not exactly the sort of pro-German values the Grimms wanted to promote, this tale, in all its forms, emphasizes piety and obedience—the exact sort of pro-German values the Grimms wanted very much to promote.

The miller who starts off this story is not thinking very much about any of this; indeed, it seems fairly clear that either he has never heard any of these stories, or if he has, he missed their very clear warnings. Struggling with poverty, he heads into the forest to collect some wood. Here, he meets an old man who promises wealth in return for what is standing behind the house. The miller assumes that the old man means his apple tree, and agrees to the bargain.

Standing behind the house is his daughter.

In a twist on the earlier Biblical story, the old man turns out to be the Devil. Which is the sort of the reveal that you would think would make the miller rethink his entire bargain, but not so much. Instead, he enjoys the wealth given by the Devil for three years, essentially telling his daughter, tough luck. The pious girl draws a circle around herself, to protect herself from the Devil, and keeps her hands clean through water and her own tears. The infuriated Devil demands that the miller cut off her hands, or die.

The miller does so.

At this point, the two stories start to merge, with the now-handless girls heading out into the world—one driven out, the second choosing to leave, aware that she cannot stay with a father who chose his life (and quite a bit of money) over her hands. Both arrive in the garden of a king. Starving, they have to try to eat the apples (in one version) or pears (in the published version) without their hands. They find themselves helped by an angel, both to enter the garden, and to eat.

The king finds all of this pretty hot, so, in defiance of the typical political protocols of the time, which would suggest marrying a princess, not a poor girl reduced to stealing fruit, he marries her. (In the earliest published version, the marriage only after helping out by watching the chickens, something else the king apparently finds hot, but let’s move on.) And then he takes off for war, because, war. At this point, one girl—the one lacking hands and breasts—finds herself in the usual fairy tale trouble with her mother-in-law. The other finds that the Devil is still out for revenge, sending forged letters ordering the girl’s death to her mother-in-law, who, horrified, tries to save the girl’s life—MUTILATING A PERFECTLY INNOCENT DEER WHO DID NOT ASK FOR THIS, THANKS, to do so.

(As a sidenote—I realize that eyeglasses were not universally available (though available) in the early 19th century, and therefore many people suffered from eyesight issues, and I also realize that one set of decomposed eyeballs on top of a decomposed heart probably looks pretty much exactly like the next set of decomposed eyeballs sitting on top of a decomposed heart, making it kinda hard to tell whether the eyeballs in question are from humans or deer without a DNA test, also not exactly universally available in the early 19th century, but I am still rather appalled by the number of people in fairy tales who assume that the dead body parts they are staring at or eating must be human.)

In both cases, after almost finding safety, they both flee to the woods, saved by angels again, living in exile for years—seven, in the published version, in classic fairy tale form—until the king, after rather belatedly returning home, and then spending some time wandering around, finds them, realizes their hands are now healed and regrown, and takes them to the palace, this time permanently.

Perhaps because of their disability, the girls are oddly passive, even for heroines of Grimm tales—since the Grimms also published stories of girls who travelled, did housework, or spun to save themselves. The girls in “Girl Without Hands,” in contrast, are almost always responding, rather than doing, and often saved by the actions of others.

Mostly.

Because as the published version makes clear (and the notes confirm) they are saved by their piety—which allows them to fend off devils, summon angels for assistance, and—eventually—have their hands healed. And like the other girls in fairy tales, they leave. They may not be quite as active as Penta, who arranged to have her own hands cut off, before giving them as a gift to her brother, rather than submitting to his whims, and who later becomes an expert at creating expert hair styles with her feet. But unlike Penta, who keeps getting thrown into chests and into the sea, they leave on their own, choosing their own path. And they do not have to return to the homes of the men who abused them—or even see these men again.

Reading these tales again, I was struck by just how many people don’t get their hands returned, and are never healed. Who are not saved by piety and faith, or helped by angels. Who do not have the good fortune to come across orchards laden with fruit, or find those owners willing to marry them. Who do not encounter an empty house in the wood, tended by angels, or trees able to heal them. And that too often, it is easier to blame acts of evil on the Devil than on the choices made by humans, to say that the miller was guilty of nothing more than foolishness in trusting a stranger, not the responsibility of removing his daughter’s hands. That is it easy to sanitize a tale of incest, of defiance, by replacing that section with a tale reiterating the need to submit to authority, that allows a father to survive at the cost of his daughter’s pain.

And I am struck by the combined choice to both sanitize the tale (something that only increased in later editions) while also using it as an example of positive German values, to excuse domestic violence as the work of demons, while upholding submission to that violence as an example of virtue to be followed by young readers.

But at the same time, I must credit this tale with acknowledging some hard truths: that sometimes, piety and obedience is not enough. Indeed, in one version of this tale also recorded by the Grimms in their notes, continuous prayer nearly gets a girl killed. (Though her father’s reaction to that prayer also helps explain why she felt the need to pray so much.) In the version they chose to highlight, the girl’s goodness and prayers save her from the Devil—but do not save her hands.

Credit is also due for acknowledging that trauma is not always healed by love, or a new marriage, and that marriage is not always the end of the tale. And that the scars caused by early family violence may need more that magic and acceptance to heal, or even the sacrifice of a deer, or a helpful mother-in-law. And for offering hope that yes, these wounds can heal, that victims can have a happy ending. Even if this takes time.

Mari Ness lives in central Florida.

PULSE

Oct. 19th, 2017 07:05 pm
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Posted by Mary


ALL IMAGES ALAINA MULLIN PHOTOGRAPHY

There’s something so special about incorporating a new fragrance into my daily routine. While I usually like to keep my jewelry simple, a good perfume is a mainstay accessory. This new scent from Tiffany & Co. couldn’t be more on point. It’s a floral musk with notes of mandarin…romantic yet modern, fresh and mature. It’s truly exhilarating…much like love itself.

What I love most about a scent are the memories that register with it— reminiscing a special place, person, or moment in time. It’s intimate, it’s meaningful, it’s forever.

I couldn’t be more excited to take this new fragrance into fall with me to see what memories are made. It’s truly the perfect addition! xx M

 

The post PULSE appeared first on Happily Grey.

goss: (Rainbow - Paint)
[personal profile] goss
Title: Graceful
Artist: [personal profile] goss
Rating: G
Fandom: Avatar: Legend of Korra
Characters/Pairings: Korra
Content Notes: Created for Inktober - Day 17, word prompt: Graceful. This is my very first attempt at using India Ink with a paintbrush. I found the following video on YouTube to be particularly helpful: How to Draw and Paint Animals with Water: Ink Drip Technique.

The ink drip technique is SO COOL! I only have black ink right now, but would love to get my hands on other colours. So in addition to the original piece, I've also included a digital blue-tinted version below, which I rather like. :)

Preview:


Click here for entire artwork )
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Posted by Beth Elderkin

Lovecraftian horror is something I only really discovered earlier this year. Sure, I’d seen the superhero episodes of South Park, where Cartman teams up with a My Neighbor Totoro-style Cthulhu, but it wasn’t until recently that I started diving into the stories and mythos—as well as the legacy they left behind. One of…

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Text size in comment field

Oct. 19th, 2017 02:42 pm
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
[personal profile] sasha_feather posting in [site community profile] dw_accessibility
I've noticed that while I have text size scaled up (zoomed in) for easy reading and typing, the "comment" field still gives me very small text. The "subject" field is also in small text. The main text entry field is larger, though, confusingly.

Is there any way to change this?

Thanks!
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Not much to report back, really. It was the debrief meeting. It was mostly us examining the things you lot had reported back to us.

I fed back all the things that you folks asked me to feed back in this and this post; pretty much all of them were received loud and clear. Especially popular was [personal profile] hollymath's suggestion that we put "would you benefit from step-free access" rather than "are you a wheelchair user" on Speaker's cards; this is definitely going to be done, hopefully for spring, but if not then for next autumn.

I've been given more work to do, which is mostly my own fault for volunteering to sort shit out. Nick Da Costa and I have to redesign the end of conference survey, so if you have any specific ideas about that do let me know. Is it too long, too short, too fiddly, etc? What questions do you think should be asked, and which ones do you think should be retired? As usual, I can;t promise to act on every suggestion, but I promise to at least read and respond to every suggestion.

Specifically regarding the app, which I know a few of you talked about: there was a feeling that we've sunk a lot of time and effort into the bespoke app, and it gets better every time - which it definitely does - and the developer is very responsive to requests for changes, so Grenadine is not going to fly. The specific comments about line numbers and clock hiding and too much nesting are definitely going to be fed back to the developer, so if those aren't sorted out for Spring you can take me to one side, spank me, and call me Gerald.

I'm going to go get a well deserved drink now.
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Posted by James Whitbrook

There are tons of untold Doctor Who stories out there—but none have ever captivated fans quite so much as the almost-aired “Shada.” In the nearly 40 years since it was originally canceled, it has become legendary among Who fans, and a story the BBC has frequently tried to tell, including in a new animated version due…

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white_hart: (Default)
[personal profile] white_hart
I suspect everyone reading this review here is already familiar with this, but for anyone who hasn't come across it before, The Comfortable Courtesan is a serial story set in Regency London, mostly narrated by Madame C-, a very exclusive courtesan, in which we hear of her exploits and those of her circle of friends and acquaintances, which includes artists, actors, political radicals and her upper-class clients. It began as a one-off response to a "post three sentences from a nonexistent novel" challenge in May 2015 and has now grown to more than 700 individual posts, with twelve ebook compendiums of the main story (which is now complete) as well as a number of side-pieces and two novella-length stories taking place some years after the majority of the action. I've been following the blog from the start, but I was browsing through my Kindle in search of comfort reading and when I came across the ebooks I decided it was time to revisit the very early days.

It's an absolutely delightful read. It's written in a pastiche of the style of the period, and as the author is a historian of gender and sexuality it's historically accurate although the subject-matter would never have seen the light of day then. Unsurprisingly, given Madame C-'s profession, it's unabashedly sex-positive, and features numerous LGBTQ+ characters, both male and female, as well as multiple characters of colour. The first volume features intrigue, scandal, matchmaking, female solidarity, epistolary mathematical flirtations and a wombatt, and it really is one of the most charming things I've ever read.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
[personal profile] hawkwing_lb
Most of the time, I'm sufficiently busy that updating the log of books read falls off my radar. But! I want to!

I am going to forget items, I'm sure.

Books 2017: 157-181


157. Jim C. Hines, Terminal Alliance. DAW, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Fun.


158. Elizabeth Bear, The Stone in the Skull. Tor, 2017.

Read for column. Extraordinary fantasy.


159-160. Elizabeth Bonesteel, Remnants of Trust and Breach of Containment. HarperCollins, 2016 and 2017.

Read for column. Space opera. Okay, I guess.


161. Sarah Gailey, Taste of Marrow. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for review for Locus and for column. Novella. Hippos.


162. John Crowley, Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruins of Ymr. Saga, 2017.

Read for review. Baffling.


163. Ausma Zehanat Khan, The Bloodprint. HarperCollins, 2017.

Read for review. Epic fantasy. Meh.


164. Julie Tizard, The Road to Wings. Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

F/F fighter pilot romance. Meh.


165. Melissa Brayden, Eyes Like Those. Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

F/F workplace romance. Meh.


166. Jaycie Morrison, Heart's Orders. Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

F/F historical American WWII women's army corps romance. Meh.


167. Sophia Kell Hagin, Omnipotence Enough. Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

F/F near-future SF romance.


168. Fonda Lee, Jade City. Orbit, 2017.

Read for review. Really good fantasy.


169. K.B. Wagers, Beyond the Empire. Orbit, 2017.

Read for review. Space opera trilogy conclusion.


170. R.E. Stearns, Barbary Station. Saga, 2017.

Read for review. Really good science fiction with pirates and murderous AI.


171. Melissa Caruso, The Tethered Mage. Orbit, 2017.

Read for review. Really good fantasy.


172. K.J. Charles, Think of England. Ebook, 2014.

M/M romance. Sad boys in love. Historical.


173. K.J. Charles, The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal. Ebook, 2015.

Linked stories about sad boys in love. Historical fantasy.


174. K.J. Charles, An Unsuitable Heir. Ebook, 2017.

Historical romance between a man and a genderqueer person. Good.


175. K. Arsenault Rivera, The Tiger's Daughter. Tor, 2017.

Read for review. Excellent epic fantasy debut. Includes epic romance between women.


176. Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole, Hamilton's Battalion. Ebook, 2017.

Three romance novellas set around the American revolutionary war. The first two, a heterosexual romance and a M/M romance, are excellent; the third romance is F/F and is entirely meh.


177. Leena Likitalo, Sisters of the Crescent Empress. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Sequel to The Five Daughters of the Moon. Read for review. Meh.


178. Tade Thompson, The Murders of Molly Southborne. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for review. Strange and peculiar and compelling novella.


179. Nnedi Okorafor, Binti: The Night Masquerade. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for review. Concluding Binti novella. Pretty good.


nonfiction.

180. Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri, The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition: A Compendium of Knowledge from the Classical Islamic World. Penguin Classics. London & New York, 2016. Translated and abridged by Elias Muhanna.

This is Serious Abridgement, one slender Penguin volume for a 33-volume medieval Arabic encyclopaedia. This abridgement and translation gives a flavour of what the original might possibly contain, and makes me deeply regret the lack of proper complete translations of more medieval Arabic literature.

It is really enjoyable, though.


181. Michael Maas (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005.

Cambridge Companions aren't really designed to be read cover-to-cover, but I did. Eventually. It is a quite comprehensive companion, to be fair. An introduction to many things. Worth perusing.

Fic translation!

Oct. 19th, 2017 03:04 pm
sineala: (Avengers: Welcome back Cap)
[personal profile] sineala
My Avengers/Trek fusion Straight on till Morning is now being translated into Chinese, as 冲破黎明 Straight on till Morning, by AkiJune.

I am impressed, not just because they are translating a 100,000-word story (though, I mean, that is impressive), but that they are doing so with footnotes! Footnotes for all the minor characters and the technobabble (including the stuff I made up) and the random obscure comics references!

:)

Oct. 19th, 2017 07:45 pm
lurkingcat: (Default)
[personal profile] lurkingcat
And in this week's episode of [personal profile] lurkingcat visits Starbucks too often...

I was going to take a walk in the park and visit St Nick's market this lunch time. But it was pouring with rain. So I popped into Starbucks instead. There was an enormous queue of people taking shelter from the rain and dithering over drinks choices, insisting that each item was rung through individually on their reward card, stopping to discuss other things with friends while in the middle of ordering and so on. The staff were unfailingly polite and friendly to all of them but somehow found the time to do this to my order as well:

2017-10-19_12-29-49

Apparently I've graduated to art on food bags as well as on my coffee cup :)
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Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I’m trying to decide whether to refer my ex-girlfriend to my previous employer. They are looking for someone with her background and she really needs the job, but I am worried about a few things.

I dated Jane for two years, and we broke up last year. There was a lot of emotional pain in the relationship, but the breakup itself was pretty amicable. She’s reached out a few times since then trying to establish a friendship, but I’ve told her that I’m not interested.

I ran into her at a social event a few weeks ago, and she mentioned that her current employer is reorganizing, she’s going to be laid off in a few months, and this could affect her visa status and mean she needs to leave the country. She’s lived here on-and-off for over a decade, most of her friends are here, and she wants to stay.

Separately, I left a job earlier this year at company X, which is fairly small (< 100 people). I was there for about three years, and I’m still on good terms with many of my old coworkers who I value as friends and professional contacts. Yesterday I learned that they are in severe need of role Y, which is exactly Jane’s experience.

If it were any other company, I wouldn’t hesitate to point Jane in that direction and in fact last week I did send her a different job posting I came across elsewhere for a similar role. She’s in a tough situation and I wish her well in life! And I want the company to fill the role, which would make my old colleagues’ lives easier. But I’m conflicted.

First, I don’t actually know whether Jane is good at her job. She’s smart and generally capable, but she’s been fired or let go a few times, and some of the stories she has told me about her work made me wonder about her performance. I don’t want to refer a bad candidate to work with a bunch of people I know. It might reflect badly on me, and I want my former co-workers (especially the managers doing the hiring) to be ongoing professional contacts who respect my judgment.

Second, I don’t even know how I would make the referral. I worry that it would be unprofessional to introduce her as my ex-girlfriend, which could reflect badly on me but also make them take her application less seriously. But of course if I introduce her as a friend or I know her socially and then she gets hired, the truth will come out eventually which won’t be good either.

Third, even in the “best case scenario” where she gets hired and its a great fit, I don’t know if I’m happy with that outcome. Basically I don’t want my friendships with my former coworkers to involve her at all — I don’t want to see her when I hang out with them, I don’t want to hear stories about her, I don’t want them to know anything about our relationship besides what I choose to tell them.

I know I don’t have any obligation to make the connection, but it would really help out a few people and some of my reasons not to do it feel kind of selfish. What do you think I should do? Are my worries reasonable? And if I decide to go through with it, how do you think I should proceed?

I think the key part of your letter is this:

“I don’t actually know whether Jane is good at her job … She’s been fired or let go a few times, and some of the stories she has told me about her work made me wonder about her performance.”

When you recommend someone for a job, you’re vouching for them, and you’re putting your own professional reputation on the line. At a minimum, you don’t really know if you can vouch for Jane or not, and that means that you can’t recommend her.

But if that weren’t the case, then I’d tell you that this is relevant too:

“I don’t want my friendships with my former coworkers to involve her at all — I don’t want to see her when I hang out with them, I don’t want to hear stories about her, I don’t want them to know anything about our relationship besides what I choose to tell them.”

In general, you’re not obligated to connect an ex to a job if you don’t want the things that will result from that. It would be nice of you to do it, but you’re also entitled to consider your own interests. In this case, it sounds like you’d be inviting something into your life that you don’t particularly want in it. However … when you put her visa situation in the mix, it gets more complicated. Is your interest in keeping your friendships and professional relationships Jane-free more important than her interest in being able to stay in the country? I’d argue no. If the visa situation weren’t in play, I’d tell you that your former company isn’t the only one in the world where she can work and you don’t need to connect her to the one place where you’d rather she not be. But the visa situation changes that a bit, as it makes her need more urgent.

Another factor in play is how often you see or talk to these former coworkers. If you only talk to them once or twice a year, the impact on you of Jane working with them is going to be pretty limited. If you talk to them regularly, it’s more of a legitimate concern. In that case, you’re allowed to decide that no, you don’t want to disrupt those relationships (although again, the visa complicates it).

Of course, all of this is moot since you shouldn’t be recommending her anyway. But there is another option, which would be to connect them but explicitly not vouch for her work. In that case, you’d say something like, “I know you’re looking for people with a background in X. I actually used to date someone with that experience, but I’ve never worked with her and I can’t vouch for her work. With that caveat in place, would you like me to connect you?” (It’s fine to be up-front about the nature of the relationship. It’s not unprofessional to acknowledge you’ve had girlfriends. It would be much weirder if you were cagey about how you know her.)

There’s still a risk to that approach because if she doesn’t work out, they’re still likely to think of her as your ex who you sent their way. And depending on just how badly things go, it could still impact your reputation (and their interest in taking recommendations from you in the future). In theory that shouldn’t happen because you’ll have been clear with them about the limits of your knowledge about her, but in reality people are going to associate you with the situation anyway.

Considering the situation as a whole, I think this is one where you can pass on referring her and feel okay about it.

I don’t want to refer my ex-girlfriend to a previous employer … but I feel guilty about it was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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Posted by Charles Pulliam-Moore

Netflix’s Stranger Things took the world by storm with its canny and effective use of 1980s nostalgia and a story that was more binge-worthy than anyone expected. That story will continue in season two, but according to series creators Matt and Ross Duffer, the series was almost going to be something more like an…

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The City of Brass

Oct. 19th, 2017 06:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed

Posted by S. A. Chakraborty

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing—are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.

The City of Brass, the debut novel from S. A. Chakraborty, is available November 14th from Harper Voyager. Read an excerpt below, and continue with a free download of chapters 1-3 here.

 

 

ALI

“You’re going easy on me.”

Ali glanced across the training-room floor. “What?”

Jamshid e-Pramukh gave him a wry smile. “I’ve seen you spar with a zulfiqar before—you’re going easy on me.”

Ali’s gaze ran down the other man’s attire. Jamshid was dressed in the same sparring uniform as Ali, bleached white to highlight every strike of the fiery sword, but while Ali’s clothes were untouched, the Daeva guard’s uniform was scorched and covered in charcoal smudges. His lip was bleeding and his right cheek swollen from one of the times Ali had sent him crashing to the floor.

Ali raised an eyebrow. “You have an interesting idea of easy.”

“Nah,” Jamshid said in Divasti. Like his father, he retained a slight accent when speaking Djinnistani, a hint of the years they’d spent in outer Daevastana. “I should be in far worse shape. Little burning pieces of Jamshid e-Pramukh all over the floor.”

Ali sighed. “I don’t like fighting a foreigner with a zulfiqar,” he confessed. “Even if we’re just using training blades. It doesn’t feel fair. And Muntadhir won’t be happy if he returns to Daevabad to find his closest friend in little burning pieces.”

Jamshid shrugged. “He’ll know to blame me. I’ve been asking him for years to find a zulfiqari willing to train me.”

Ali frowned. “But why? You’re excellent with a broadsword, even better with a bow. Why learn to use a weapon you can never properly wield?”

“A blade is a blade. I might not be able to summon its poisoned flames like a Geziri man, but if I fight alongside your tribesmen, it stands to reason I should have some familiarity with their weapons.” Jamshid shrugged. “At least enough not to jump away every time they burst into flames.”

“I’m not sure that’s an instinct you should suppress.”

Jamshid laughed. “Fair enough.” He raised his blade. “Shall we continue?”

Ali shrugged. “If you insist.” He swept his zulfiqar through the air. Flames burst between his fingers and licked up the copper blade as he willed them, scorching the forked tip and activating the deadly poisons that coated its sharp edge. Or would have, if the weapon were real. The blade he held had been stripped of its poisons for training purposes, and Ali could smell the difference in the air. Most men couldn’t, but then again most men hadn’t obsessively practiced with the weapon since they were seven.

Jamshid charged forward, and Ali easily ducked, landing a blow on the Daeva’s collar before spinning off his own momentum.

Jamshid whirled to face Ali, trying to block his next parry. “It doesn’t help that you move like a damn hummingbird,” he complained good-naturedly. “Are you sure you aren’t half peri?”

Ali couldn’t help but smile. Strangely enough, he’d been enjoying his time with Jamshid. There was something easy about his demeanor; he behaved as though they were equals—showing neither the subservience most djinn did around a Qahtani prince nor the Daeva tribe’s typical snobbery. It was refreshing—no wonder Muntadhir kept him so close. It was hard to even believe he was Kaveh’s son. He was nothing like the prickly grand wazir.

“Keep your weapon higher,” Ali advised. “The zulfiqar isn’t like most swords; it’s less a thrusting and jabbing motion, more quick slashes and side strikes. Remember the blade is typically poisoned; you only need to inflict a minor injury.” He swung his zulfiqar around his head, the flames soared, and Jamshid veered back as expected. Ali took advantage of the distraction to duck, aiming another blow at his hips.

Jamshid leaped back with a frustrated snort, and Ali easily cornered him against the opposing wall. “How many times would you have killed me by now?” Jamshid asked. “Twenty? Thirty?”

More. A real zulfiqar was one of the deadliest weapons in the world. “Not more than a dozen,” Ali lied.

They continued sparring. Jamshid wasn’t improving much, but Ali was impressed by his grit. The visibly exhausted Daeva man was covered in ash and blood but refused a break.

Ali had his blade at Jamshid’s throat for the third time and was about to insist they stop when the sound of voices drew his attention. He glanced up as Kaveh e-Pramukh, clearly in friendly conversation with someone behind him, stepped into the training room.

The grand wazir froze. His eyes locked on the zulfiqar at his son’s throat, and Ali heard him make a small, strangled noise. “Jamshid?”

Ali immediately lowered his weapon, and Jamshid spun around. “Baba?” He sounded surprised. “What are you doing here?”

“Nothing,” Kaveh said quickly. He stepped back, oddly enough looking more anxious than before as he tried to pull the door shut. “Forgive me. I didn’t—”

The door pushed past his hand, and Darayavahoush e-Afshin strolled into the room.

He entered like it was his own tent, his hands clasped behind his back, and stopped when he noticed them. “Sahzadeh Alizayd,” he greeted Ali calmly in Divasti.

Ali was not calm, he was speechless. He blinked, half expecting to see another man in the Afshin’s place. What in God’s name was Darayavahoush doing here? He was supposed to be in Babili with Muntadhir, far away on the other side of Daevastana!

The Afshin studied the room like a general surveying a battlefield; his green eyes scanned the wall of weapons and swept over the various dummies, targets, and other miscellany cluttering the floor. He glanced back at Ali. “Naeda pouru mejnoas.”

What? “ I… I don’t speak Divasti,” Ali stammered out.

Darayavahoush tilted his head, his eyes brightening with surprise. “You don’t speak the language of the city you rule?” he asked in heavily accented Djinnistani. He turned to Kaveh and jerked a thumb in Ali’s direction, looking amused. “Spa snasatiy nu hyat vaken gezr?”

Jamshid went pale, and Kaveh hurried between Ali and Darayavahoush, open fear on his face. “Forgive our intrusion, Prince Alizayd. I didn’t realize you were the one training Jamshid.” He placed his hand on Darayavahoush’s wrist. “Come, Afshin, we should be leaving.”

Darayavahoush shook free. “Nonsense. That would be rude.” The Afshin wore a sleeveless tunic that revealed the black tattoo swirling around his arm. That he didn’t cover it said a great deal, but perhaps Ali shouldn’t be surprised—the Afshin had been an accomplished murderer long before he had been enslaved by the ifrit.

Ali watched as he ran a hand along the cracked marble lattice lining the windows and gazed at the multicolored paint chips clinging to the ancient stone walls. “Your people have not main- tained our palace very well,” he remarked.

Our palace? Ali’s mouth dropped open, and he gave Kaveh an incredulous glance, but the grand wazir just lifted his shoulders, looking helpless.

“What are you doing here, Afshin?” Ali snapped. “Your expedition was not due back for weeks.”

“I left.” Darayavahoush said simply. “I was eager to return to my lady’s service, and your brother seemed perfectly capable of managing without me.”

“And Emir Muntadhir agreed?”

“I did not ask.” Darayavahoush grinned at Kaveh. “And now here I am, getting a rather informative tour of my old home.”

“The Afshin wished to see the Banu Nahida,” Kaveh said, carefully meeting Ali’s gaze. “I told him that unfortunately her time is occupied with training. And indeed, on that note, Afshin, I fear we must leave. I am due to meet—”

“You should go,” Darayavahoush interrupted. “I can find my way out. I defended the palace for years—I know it like the back of my hand.” He let the words lie for a moment and then turned his attention to Jamshid. His gaze lingered on the young Daeva’s wounds. “You were the one who stopped the riot, yes?”

Jamshid looked positively awed that the Afshin was speaking to him. “I… uh… yes. But I was just—”

“You are an excellent shot.” The Afshin looked the younger man over and clapped him on the back. “You should train with me. I can make you even better.”

“Really?” Jamshid burst out. “That would be wonderful!”

Darayavahoush smiled and then deftly snatched the zulfiqar away from Kaveh’s son. “Certainly. Leave this to the Geziri.” He raised the blade and twisted it, watching as it sparkled in the sunlight. “So this is the famous zulfiqar.” He tested the weight, looking it over with a practiced eye and then glanced at Ali. “Do you mind? I would not wish for the hands of a—what is it you call us? Fire worshipper?—to contaminate something so sacred to your people.”

“Afshin—” Kaveh started, his voice thick with warning.

“You may go, Kaveh,” Darayavahoush said, dismissing him. “Jamshid, why don’t you join him? Let me take your place and spar a bit with Prince Alizayd. I have heard such great talk of his skills.”

Jamshid glanced at Ali, looking apologetic and lost for words. Ali didn’t blame him; if Zaydi al Qahtani came back to life and complimented his skill with a zulfiqar, Ali would also be speechless. Besides, the arrogant gleam in Darayavahoush’s green eyes was fraying his last nerve. If the man wanted to challenge him with a weapon he’d never so much as held, so be it.

“It’s fine, Jamshid. Go with your father.”

“Prince Alizayd, that’s not a—”

“Good day, Grand Wazir,” Ali said sharply. He didn’t take his eyes off Darayavahoush. He heard Kaveh sigh, but there was no disobeying a direct order from one of the Qahtanis. Jamshid reluctantly followed his father out.

The Afshin shot him a much cooler look once the Pramukhs were gone. “You did quite a bit of damage to the grand wazir’s son.”

Ali flushed. “Have you never injured a man while training?”

“Not with a weapon I knew my opponent could never properly use.” Darayavahoush raised the zulfiqar to examine it as he circled Ali. “This is much lighter than I imagined. By the Creator, you would not believe the rumors about these things during the war. My people were terrified of them, said Zaydi stole them from the very angels guarding Paradise.”

“That’s the way of things, isn’t it?” Ali asked. “The legend outweighing the flesh-and-blood figure?”

His meaning was clearly not lost on the Afshin, who looked amused. “You are probably right.”

He charged then at Ali with a hard right strike that, if it had been a broadsword, would have knocked his head off from the force alone. But the zulfiqar was not that, and Ali easily ducked, taking advantage of Darayavahoush’s stumble to sweep the broad side of his blade on his back.

“I’ve wanted to meet you for some time, Prince Alizayd,” Darayavahoush continued, sidestepping Ali’s next thrust. “Your brother’s men were always talking about you; I’ve heard you’re the best zulfiqari in your generation, as talented and as fast as Zaydi himself. Even Muntadhir agreed; he says you move like a dancer and strike like a viper.” He laughed. “He’s so proud. It’s sweet. You rarely hear a man speak of his rival with such affection.”

“I’m not his rival,” Ali snapped.

“No? Then who becomes king after your father if something should happen to Muntadhir?”

Ali drew up. “What? Why?” A briefly irrational fear seized his heart. “Did you—”

“Yes,” Darayavahoush said, his voice thick with sarcasm. “I murdered the emir and then decided to return to Daevabad and crow about it because I always wondered what it would be like to have my head on a spike.”

Ali felt his face grow warm. “Aye, don’t fret, little prince,” the Afshin continued. “I enjoyed your brother’s company. Muntadhir has a taste for life’s pleasures and talks too much when he’s in his cups… what’s not to like about that?”

The comment threw him—as it was presumably meant to— and Ali was unprepared when the Afshin raised his zulfiqar and rushed him again. The Afshin feinted left and then spun—faster than Ali had ever seen a man move—before bringing the blade down hard. Ali blocked him but just barely, his own zulfiqar ringing with the force of the hit. He tried to push back, but the Afshin didn’t budge. He held the zulfiqar with only one hand, not showing a hint of weariness.

Ali held tight, but his hands trembled on the hilt as the Afshin’s blade neared his face. Darayavahoush leaned close, putting his weight into the sword.

Brighten. Ali’s zulfiqar burst into flames, and Darayavahoush instinctively jerked back. But the Afshin recovered quickly, swinging his zulfiqar toward Ali’s neck. Ali ducked, feeling the whiz of the blade as it passed just over his head. He stayed low to aim a fi blow at the backs of the Afshin’s knees. Darayavahoush stumbled, and Ali darted up and away.

He could kill me, Ali realized. One misstep was all it would take; Darayavahoush could claim it was an accident, and who would be able to dispute it? The Pramukhs were the only witnesses, and Kaveh would probably be overjoyed to cover up Ali’s murder.

You’re being paranoid. But when Darayavahoush struck out again, Ali met his advance with a bit more gusto, finally forcing him back across the room.

The Afshin lowered his zulfiqar with a wide grin. “Not bad, Zaydi. You fight very well for a boy your age.”

Ali was getting sick of that smug smile. “My name isn’t Zaydi.”

“Muntadhir calls you that.”

He narrowed his eyes. “You’re not my brother.”

“No,” Darayavahoush agreed. “I am certainly not. But you do remind me of your namesake.”

Considering that the original Zaydi and Darayavahoush had been mortal enemies in a century-long war that wiped out whole swaths of their race, Ali knew that wasn’t a compliment, but took it as such anyway. “Thank you.”

The Afshin studied the zulfiqar again, holding it so that the copper blade gleamed in the sunlight streaming through the windows. “Don’t thank me. The Zaydi al Qahtani I knew was a blood- thirsty rebel fanatic, not the saint your people have turned him into.”

Ali bristled at the insult. “He was bloodthirsty? Your Nahid Council was burning shafit alive in the midan when he rebelled.”

Darayavahoush lifted one of his dark eyebrows. “Do you know so much about the way things were a millennium before your birth?”

“Our records tell us—”

“Your records?” The Afshin laughed, a mirthless sound. “Oh, how I would love to know what those say. Can the Geziri even write? I thought all you did out there in your sandpits was feud and beg for human table scraps.”

Ali’s temper flashed. He opened his mouth to argue and then stopped, realizing just how carefully Darayavahoush was watching him. How intentionally he’d chosen his insults. The Afshin was trying to provoke him, and Ali would be damned if he was going to go along with it. He took a deep breath. “I can go sit in a Daeva tavern if I want to hear my tribe insulted,” he said dismissively. “I thought you wanted to spar.”

Something twinkled in the Afshin’s bright eyes. “Right you are, boy.” He raised his blade.

Ali met his next thrust with a clash of their blades, but the Afshin was good, improving at a frighteningly fast rate, as if he could literally absorb each of Ali’s actions. He moved quicker and struck harder than anyone Ali had ever fought, had ever even imagined possible. The room grew hot. Ali’s brow felt oddly damp—but of course that wasn’t possible. Pureblooded djinn didn’t sweat.

The power behind the Afshin’s blows made it feel like sparring with a statue. Ali’s wrists ached; it was getting difficult to maintain his grip.

Darayavahoush was backing him into a tight corner when he abruptly broke away and lowered his zulfiqar. He sighed as he admired the blade. “Ah, I have missed this… Peacetime may have its virtues, but there’s nothing like the rush and clash of your weapon against the enemy’s.”

Ali took the moment to catch his breath. “I’m not your enemy,” he said through gritted teeth, though he very much disagreed with the sentiment right now. “The war is over.”

“So people keep telling me.” The Afshin turned away, strolling slowly across the room and deliberately leaving his back unprotected. Ali’s fingers twitched on his zulfiqar. He forced himself to push away the strong temptation to attack the other man. Darayavahoush wouldn’t have put himself in such a position if he were not entirely confident he could defend it.

“Was it your father’s idea to keep us separated?” the Afshin asked. “I was surprised by how eager he was to see me gone from Daevabad, even offering up his firstborn as collateral. And yet I’m still blocked from seeing my Banu Nahida. I was told there’s a waiting list for appointments the length of my arm.”

Ali hesitated, thrown by the abrupt change in subject. “Your arrival was unexpected, and she’s busy. Perhaps—”

“That order did not come from Nahri,” Darayavahoush snapped, and in an instant Ali felt the room grow hotter. The torch opposite him flared, but the Afshin didn’t seem to notice, his gaze fixed on the wall. It was where most of the weapons were stored, a hundred varieties of death hanging from hooks and chains.

Ali couldn’t help himself. “Looking for a scourge?”

Darayavahoush turned back around. His green eyes were bright with anger. Too bright. Ali had never seen anything like it, and the Afshin was not the first freed slave he’d met. He glanced again at the blazing torches, watching as they flickered wildly, al- most as though they were reaching for the former slave.

The light faded from the Afshin’s eyes, leaving a calculating expression on his face. “I hear your father intends to marry Banu Nahri to your brother.”

Ali’s mouth fell open. Where had Darayavahoush learned that? He pressed his lips together, trying to hide the surprise in his face. Kaveh, it had to have been. Considering the way those fire worshippers were whispering together when they entered the training room, Kaveh was probably spilling every secret he knew. “Did the grand wazir tell you that?”

“No. You just did.” Darayavahoush paused long enough to enjoy the shock on Ali’s face. “Your father strikes me as a pragmatic man, and marrying them would be a most astute political move. Besides, you are rumored to be some sort of religious fanatic, but according to Kaveh, you’re spending a great deal of time with her. That would hardly be appropriate unless she was meant to join your family.” His eyes lingered on Ali’s body. “And Ghassan clearly doesn’t mind crossing tribal lines himself.”

Ali was speechless, his face warm with embarrassment. His father was going to murder him when he found out that Ali had let slip such information.

He thought fast, trying to come up with a way to undo the damage. “Banu Nahri is a guest in my father’s home, Afshin,” he started. “I’m simply trying to be kind. She wished to learn to read—I would scarcely say there’s anything inappropriate about that.”

The Afshin drew closer, but he wasn’t smiling now. “And what are you teaching her to read? Those same Geziri records that demonize her ancestors?”

“No,” Ali shot back. “She wanted to learn about economics. Though I’m sure you filled her ears with plenty of lies about us.” “I told the truth. She had a right to know how your people stole her birthright and nearly destroyed our world.”

“And what of your part in such things?” Ali challenged. “Did you tell her that, Darayavahoush? Does she know why you’re called the Scourge?”

There was silence. And then—for the first time since the Afshin entered the room with his smug smile and laughing eyes— Ali saw a trace of uncertainty in his face.

She doesn’t know. Ali had suspected as much, though Nahri was always careful not to speak of the Afshin in his presence. Oddly enough, he was relieved. They’d been meeting for a few weeks now, and Ali was enjoying her company. He didn’t like thinking that his future sister-in-law would be loyal to such a monster had she known the truth.

Darayavahoush shrugged, but there was a flash of warning in his bright eyes. “I was just following orders.”

“That is not true.”

The Afshin lifted one of his dark eyebrows. “No? Then tell me what your sand-fly histories say of me.”

Ali could hear his father’s warning in his mind, but he didn’t hold back. “They speak of Qui-zi for one.” The Afshin’s face twitched. “And you were taking no orders once Daevabad fell and the Nahid Council was overthrown. You led the uprising in Daevastana. If you can call such indiscriminate butchery an uprising.”

“Indiscriminate butchery?” Darayavahoush drew himself up, his expression scornful. “Your ancestors slaughtered my family, sacked my city, and tried to exterminate my tribe—you have great nerve to judge my actions.”

“You exaggerate,” Ali said dismissively. “No one tried to exterminate your tribe. The Daevas survived just fine without you around to destroy mixed villages and bury innocent djinn alive.”

The Afshin snorted. “Yes, we survived to become second-class citizens in our own city, forced to bow and scrape to the rest of you.”

“An opinion formed after spending, what, two days in Daevabad?” Ali rolled his eyes. “Your tribe is wealthy and well-connected, and their quarter is the cleanest and most finely run in the city. You know who are second-class citizens? The shafit who—”

Darayavahoush rolled his eyes. “Ah, there it is. It’s not a discussion with a djinn until they start bemoaning the poor, sad shafit they can’t stop creating. Suleiman’s eye, find a goat if you can’t control yourselves. They’re comparable enough to humans.”

Ali’s hands tightened on the zulfiqar. He wanted to hurt this man. “Do you know what else the histories say about you?”

“Enlighten me, djinn.”

“That you could have done it.” Darayavahoush frowned, and Ali continued. “Most scholars believe you could have defended an independent Daevastana for a long time. Long enough to free a few of the surviving Nahids. Perhaps even long enough to retake Daevabad.”

The Afshin went still, and Ali could tell he had struck a nerve. He stared at the prince, and when he spoke his voice was soft, his words intent. “It sounds like your family was very lucky the ifrit killed me when they did, then.”

Ali didn’t break away from the other man’s cold gaze. “God provides.” It was cruel, but he didn’t care. Darayavahoush was a monster.

Darayavahoush lifted his chin and then smiled, a sharp smile that reminded Ali more of a snarling dog than a man. “And here we are discussing ancient history again when I promised you a challenge.” He raised the zulfiqar.

It burst into flames, and Ali’s eyes went wide.

No non-Geziri man should have ever been able to do that.

The Afshin looked more intrigued than surprised. He gazed at the flames, the fire reflected in his bright eyes. “Ah… now isn’t that fascinating?”

It was the only warning Ali got.

Darayavahoush charged him, and Ali whirled away, flames licking down his own zulfiqar. Their weapons met with a crash, and Darayavahoush shoved his blade up and along Ali’s until the hilt caught his hands. Then he kicked him hard in the stomach.

Ali fell back, rolling quickly away when Darayavahoush slashed down in a motion that would have sliced his chest open if he hadn’t moved fast enough. Well, I suppose Abba was right, he thought, jumping up as the Afshin swept his zulfiqar at his feet. Darayavahoush and I probably wouldn’t have made very good travel companions.

The Afshin’s calm was gone and with it, much of the reserve Ali now realized the other man had been showing. He was actually an even better fighter than he’d let on.

But the zulfiqar was a Geziri weapon, and Ali would be damned if some Daeva butcher was going to beat him with it. He let the Afshin pursue him across the training room, their fiery blades clashing and sizzling. Though he was taller than Darayavahoush, the other man was probably twice his bulk, and he was hoping his youth and agility would eventually turn the duel in his favor.

And yet that didn’t appear to be happening. Ali dodged blow after blow, becoming increasingly exhausted—and a little afraid. As he blocked another charge, he caught sight of a khanjar glinting on a sunny window shelf across the room. The dagger peeked out among a pile of random supplies—the training room was notoriously messy, overseen by a kindly yet absentminded old Geziri warrior no one had the heart to replace.

An idea sparked in Ali’s head. As they fought, he started letting his fatigue show—along with his fear. He wasn’t acting, and he could see a glimmer of triumph in the Afshin’s eyes. He was clearly enjoying the opportunity to put the stupid young son of a hated enemy in his place.

Darayavahoush’s forceful blows shook his entire body, but Ali kept his zulfiqar up as the Afshin followed his lead toward the windows. Their fiery blades hissed against each other as Ali was pushed hard against the glass. The Afshin smiled. Behind his head, the torches flared and danced against the wall like they’d been doused in oil.

Ali abruptly let go of his zulfiqar.

He snatched the khanjar and dropped to the ground as Darayavahoush stumbled. Ali rolled to his feet and was on the Afshin before the other man recovered. He pressed the dagger to his throat, breathing hard, but went no further. “Are we done?”

The Afshin spat. “Go to hell, sand fly.”

And then every weapon in the room flew at him.

Ali threw himself to the floor as the weapons wall purged itself. A spinning mace whooshed over his head, and a Tukharistani pole arm speared his sleeve to the ground. It was over in a matter of seconds, but before Ali could process what had happened, the Afshin stomped hard on his right wrist.

It took every bit of self-control not to scream as Darayavahoush ground the heel of his boot into the bones of Ali’s wrist. He heard something crack and a searing pain rushed through him. His fingers went numb, and Darayavahoush kicked the khanjar away.

The zulfiqar was at his throat. “Get up,” the Afshin hissed.

Ali did so, cradling his injured wrist through the ripped sleeve. Weapons littered the floor, the chains and hooks that had held them dangling broken on the opposite wall. A chill went down Ali’s back. It was the rare djinn who could summon a single object—and that was with far more focus over a shorter distance. But this? And so soon after drawing flames from the zulfiqar?

He shouldn’t be able to do any of this.

Darayavahoush didn’t seem bothered. Instead, he gave Ali a coolly appraising look. “I wouldn’t have thought such a trick your style.”

Ali gritted his teeth, trying to ignore the pain in his wrist. “I suppose I’m full of surprises.”

Darayavahoush looked at him for a long moment. “No,” he finally said. “You’re not. You’re exactly what I would expect.” He picked up Ali’s zulfiqar and tossed it over; surprised, Ali caught it with his good hand. “Thank you for the lesson, but sadly, the weapon did not live up to its fearsome reputation.”

Ali sheathed his zulfiqar, offended on its behalf. “Sorry to disappoint you,” he said sarcastically.

“I didn’t say I was disappointed.” Darayavahoush ran his hand over a war ax protruding from one of the stone columns. “Your charming and cultured brother, your pragmatic father… I was starting to wonder what happened to the Qahtanis I knew… starting to fear my memories of the zulfiqar-wielding fanatics who destroyed my world were wrong.” He eyed Ali. “Thank you for this reminder.”

“I…” Ali was lost for words, suddenly fearing he’d done far worse than reveal his father’s plans regarding Nahri. “You misunderstand me.”

“Not at all.” The Afshin gave him another sharp smile. “I was also once a young warrior from the ruling tribe. It’s a privileged position. Such utter confidence in the rightness of your people, such unwavering belief in your faith.” His smile faded; he sounded wistful. Regretful. “Enjoy it.”

“I am nothing like you,” Ali shot back. “I would never do the things you did.”

The Afshin pulled open the door. “Pray you’re never asked to, Zaydi.”

Excerpted from The City of Brass, copyright © 2017 by S. A. Chakraborty.

A heron scaring the ducks

Oct. 19th, 2017 01:20 pm
yourlibrarian: Penguin Baby (NAT-PenguinBaby-americangrl69)
[personal profile] yourlibrarian posting in [community profile] common_nature
We recently had a visit from a heron. It was strolling around our end of the lake.

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Posted by Evan Narcisse

Some concepts just grab you right away. Take this one: a family of demonologists operating during the Harlem Renaissance, with a creative team that includes the writer and artist from Marvel’s late, well-loved Power Man and Iron Fist series. You want to know more, right?

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hunningham: Woman peering out from a book (More with Reading)
[personal profile] hunningham
In a spirit of earnest enquiry, I downloaded The Egoist by George Meredith from Gutenburg. I knew that Meredith was much respected & admired at the time (Booker prize winner of the 1840s?) and I was curious. And I then tried reading the book.

Wow. Am stunned. Even gobsmacked.

I had forgotten what the Victorians could be like when they really got going. Our author is bent upon being "uninterruptedly sublime", and it hasn't worn well.

Have a taste )

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