The Doom of Tarek

“Just look around: you’ll find something to laugh about under any rock. The world doesn’t make sense anymore… What else is left for us to do except to drink and laugh away our sorrow… If death is around the corner, then I want to face Him with a tankard in my hand and a smile on my face.” 

By Hristijan Pavlovski

Hristijan Pavlovski is a professor of Philosophy who loves art as much as he loves wisdom. His philosophy is that no other medium can summon the full range of human emotion quite like the literary arts can, and it is his goal to explore the extent of that.


My dearest sister,

I am writing you this final letter to announce my coming home. The months have been hard on me here in the Shey Lands, but I have prospered.

How is everything in Stormvale country? 

Ahh, silly me. I got so used to asking you this question with every letter that I forgot that your reply would not reach me here. Yet, I am not sad at the thought of your reply not reaching me, for I will be elated to hear all that news from you personally. 

The lands here are cold, vicious even. Yet, I was left with no choice after Father died. I had to find prosperity somewhere, for I could no longer bear to look into your eyes anymore. The way the light dimmed each time I had to reveal to you that there would be no food that day. I could not stand it anymore. 

Luckily, Sar’Kata grinned at us. Had that foreman not passed through our village looking for able-bodied men, then I fear what our fates would have been. Father, for all the good he did, was a prideful man. He never wanted to teach me the family craft, because he feared I’d surpass him one day. He was a good carpenter but not a very good father. He was a good husband at least: he never once struck mother. I hope that she is doing well. She couldn’t offer us much, but at least she taught us to read and write the Sailor’s Speech.

The work here is hard, it drives a man to his breaking point. The foreman cares for us; I believe his heart is benevolent, but the master of the land keeps asking for more and more. Each time we manage to chop down 14 timbers, the master demands 15 the next day. We barely have time to mourn those who fall. For we know that, as soon as we bury the body, we’ll have to get back to work. You become unsure which you mourn more: his death, or that you have to continue working without an extra pair of hands to assist you. 

Simeon’s death struck us the most. He was a good kid, came all the way from Timberfalls country. He was experienced at hewing the wood, but we all cherished him for his wit. Especially on the hardest days, he would always manage to cheer us up. Being separated from one’s nest for so long tends to eat at a man’s heart. 

The food, well, it is palatable. On some days we eat good – on others, you get sick from the barley and turnips. On the good days, the hunters might bring in a mountain goat. Sometimes we get hare, or lemmings if the hunter’s dogs manage to dig them up. But on the days that they don’t manage to catch anything, we get that gods-awful barley. I swear, as soon as I come back, we will never, ever, cook barley again in our house. 

Over the months, I have managed to save up two satchels worth of coins. That should last us until next year at least, we just have to be frugal about it. When I come back, I intend to propose to Ignes, my beloved. Please do not spoil the surprise by revealing this news to her! I want to see the smile upon her face. Her smile is what I have missed the most since I came here. In my free time, I play our favorite songs on the flute that I brought along with me. Her favorite was always “Prancing Meadows.” I remember singing it to her last summer as we sat upon the hillside staring down at the meadows. 

“Dancing, prancing meadows / call you today. Dancing, prancing meadows / call you to play. The hare is out, the fox about, the song is in the wind. Will you join us for a dance: a dance until the end…”

I cannot wait to embrace her once more and profess my love to her. The only ones I’ve embraced in the past few months are the stinking lumbermen. You have to. When the wind starts blowing upon our shack in the evening hours, we begin to pray that the whole thing doesn’t come down right on top of us. The creaking of the shingles sends us off to sleep each and every night; after a while, it becomes almost like a melody.

But now, with the winter months soon approaching, we have to deal with the snow as well. The living conditions are becoming unbearable.  Every time it hails, we have to patch up the shack in the morning. I grow tired of plugging holes. And the food is becoming more and more scarce, as most of the animals have begun hibernating. The only thing left are a few roots, some grasses, and that damned barley. 

I’d wish I could write more about my situation, but I do not live a very exciting life. The life of the common man has always been constrained to poetry and song. I guess no lord wishes to see upon their walls the “filthy peasants” underneath him going about their day. They prefer to grace their murals and tapestries with prettier sights. 

So, I leave you with a poem I wrote. It helps me accept my fate.  Continue reading “The Doom of Tarek”

The Treeless Tundra Road

A small light coming from behind me catches my attention; getting ever closer, the distinct sound of boots compacting the snow restores some of my hope. A tall cloaked figure approaches me. I can’t see what they look like through the snow, but I focus on the lantern in their hand and what sounds like a bell clinking with every step they take.

“You’re going to die if you stay out here.” A man’s voice calls out to me from behind the shield of falling snow. A harsh voice, an unused voice.

The Treeless Tundra Road

By Kizzie Le Carpentier

Kizzie Le Carpentier is a graduate of Plymouth University in the U.K. She published her first book, “The Walk Back Home” in June of 2021.

I love books, movies and stories that unravel a new world with new creatures. I love it when a writer makes up something completely new and unreal – but I love it even more when a writer can convince me that their fantasy world could be real.

Kizzie Le Carpentier

“Goodnight; sweet dreams.” I lean in to place a kiss on my child’s forehead and tuck the sheets into the bed. My dark hair falls over my shoulders and drapes over the bedsheets. 

“Where are you going, Mummy?” My little girl looks into my eyes and then at my thick fur-lined cloak.

“I’m just going out for a bit. I’ll be back. If you need anything at all, just ask your brother.” I stroke my daughter’s head with my gloved hand.

The wind outside was hitting the hut and making the wooden shutters shake. I stand up and walk over to my son, waiting patiently at the door, and place my hand on his cheek, stroking it with my thumb.

“You make sure to look after your sister while I’m gone.”

“Yes, mother.” His eyes are watery; it is obvious from his clenched jaw that he’s fighting back the tears. His remaining parent is about to leave in the same manner as his negligent father. He coughs into his hand.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon. Make sure you get some sleep too.” I walk over to the bedroom door, which is also the front door, and slide my fur boots on. 

I look over at the countertops, making sure there is food and water on the side and then look to make sure all the shutters are closed and that the key was where my seven-year-old could reach it. The cold made the dampness on the ceiling reek and the air harsh. The fire is raging, but it does little for comfort.

“Make sure to lock the door behind me. And don’t answer for anyone other than me.” I open the door, and a freezing gust of wind blows into the hut as I step outside into the darkness. Continue reading “The Treeless Tundra Road”

The Beast of Saltern

“The Beast,” Owen whispered as his stomach sank like a stone. “…am I right, Alys?”

She nodded and whimpered softly. “Everything happened so fast… Rhys was playing by the gate… Then something roared, and he screamed. When I looked up, this thing held him in its mouth as it bolted for the trees.”

The boy had seemed so full of life when they met on the road to Saltern. So full of questions. And now, just a few hours later, Rhys was… gone. Snuffed out by a creature who didn’t even belong on this Sphere of existence.

The Beast of Saltern

By Austin Worley

A native of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Austin Worley writes speculative fiction and poetry. His published stories include heroic fantasy, Weird Westerns inspired by the rich history of his home state, and genre-bending tales starring the vigilante Whippoorwill. When he isn’t writing, Austin enjoys amateur astronomy and astrophotography, reading, video games, and spending time with his family. You can follow him on Twitter @AMWorley_Writer.

Despite the fly buzzing around his face, Sir Owen Gibbs didn’t move a muscle. Not even when a salty breeze rocked the bough where he perched. Instead, he stared at a crimson stain on the beach below. Glistening blood pooled around the half-eaten goat staked out here as bait, while duller splotches were the only trace of an elderly workman slain on his way to the salterns that lent the nearby village its name.

I never should’ve waited out that storm in Bredon. Maybe the poor grandfather would still live if he’d braved the driving rain. Maybe he would’ve already bagged the man-eater folk had dubbed the Beast of Saltern.

Teeth grit, Owen fit a bolt into the flight groove of his heavy crossbow. Just one more thing to regret… At least sitting up over a kill offered him a chance to avenge the salter and everyone else who’d fallen victim to the Beast. If the man-eater didn’t think this place was safe, he would’ve dragged the goat somewhere else instead of eating in the same spot where he’d devoured the old man. He’d return for a third meal sooner or later.

Now, now, Owen reminded himself, could be a she. Some ice bear sow or mountain tigress come down from the Tuthei Shey in search of easier prey. Folk did claim the Beast was of a similar size. Then again, he wasn’t sure how much stock he put in those accounts. Nobody with a good look at the man-eater had lived to tell the tale, so eyewitness reports were fleeting and contradictory. Some described it as decidedly feline, others said stout and bulky like a bear, and a few sounded downright demonic.

Personally, he doubted most of them even described the same creature. Sightings ranged from the foothills of the Tuthei Shey all the way down the coast into Tarith, and rumor held the Beast of Saltern responsible for almost two hundred deaths over the past year. Ridiculous. Folk had probably just attributed unrelated attacks and disappearances to a particularly vicious bear or a white Sheyn tiger. Maybe even a lion who’d wandered up from Yeniden or escaped some circus. Over his long career as a royal forester, he’d witnessed stranger things.

Clouds drifted across the face of the brightest moon, and Owen instinctively tensed at the deepening darkness. Was this how humanity spent its nights in ancient days? Huddled up in the trees and caves of primordial Talmenor? Hiding from predators? At least the gods have granted us tools since then…

Resting his crossbow’s stirrup on a fork in the branch, he wrapped his legs around the thick bough and flattened himself against its bark. Perfect! The dead goat lay squarely in his sights from this vantage point. If the Beast of Saltern returned craving leftover chevon, he’d have a clear shot at the unsuspecting man-eater. And with such a heavy draw weight, one shot from this crossbow was enough. More than enough.

 For what felt like an eternity, he sat in silence. Stars wheeled across the partially clouded sky, and anxiety began nibbling at his gut. Did he catch my scent? Ripening aromas from the carcass below should have masked him, but even the slightest whiff of potential danger might drive his prey away from its favorite haunt.

Before worry could swallow him up, Owen heard the sweetest sound anyone hunting man-eaters could ask for: the snorting alarm of a deer. But it sounded…off. Halting. Almost like it didn’t know whether to fear whatever had caught its attention.

Something rustled in the underbrush about a hundred paces to his left, and a silhouette slunk onto the beach. What in damnation…? The shadow moved with the graceful gait of a panther yet stood taller than most bears and carried even more muscle around its shoulders. A short tail swayed as the creature padded over for a second helping of goat. Some sort of injury? After all, its thick mane suggested a male lion.

Then the clouds parted.

Moonlight bathed everything in silver, the spiny quills around its neck glinted like a bristling wall of pikes, and he knew this fiend defied nature simply by setting foot on Talmenor. Gods have mercy!

The Beast of Saltern was a nekru.

Continue reading “The Beast of Saltern”

Saint Bernard Pass

A painting of the dam near the top of the Saint Bernard Pass in the Alps.

The photo underlying this painting I took myself while I was traveling through the Alps in Europe. It shows the dam near the top of the Saint Bernard Pass. I edited this slightly to cover up the evidence of modern day: the paved road, a building, and an antenna tower are gone, and the dam now resembles what could be a wall or a bridge, part of one medieval fortress or another.

The color blotches of this picture had a habit of disappearing into each other until I added the sketch lines that picked out the rocks, snow, and ice. The ice is still done pretty lazily, and if I were to paint this again, I would probably outline each sheet instead of scribbling madly over them.