“Servant of the Black Wind” by Gregory D. Mele
Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf
Three tales of dangerous adventure contrast strongly with a more introspective story in the latest issue of this on-line magazine.
In “Servant of the Black Wind” by Gregory D. Mele, barbarian warriors invade the temple of a death god. They serve an aristocrat who seeks a scroll of powerful magic. After slaying guardians and enslaving women and children, the warriors leave their master alone within the temple, where he meets his fate.
The author creates a vivid setting, making imaginative use of Native American themes. The description of the temple produces an eerie sense of terror. The climax is appropriately gruesome, if unsurprising.
The protagonist of “Tymass by Ring-Light” by Mike Adamson is an ex-soldier, dismissed from his post for dereliction of duty. The story begins years later, after he rescues a princess from captivity. He returns with her to his native land, hoping to clear his name. An old rival tries to prevent him, making use of assassins and trial by combat in an arena inhabited by a deadly beast.
Although there is no doubt that the hero will triumph, the scenes of combat are detailed and convincing. The setting is on another planet, with a set of rings and multiple moons. This touch of science fantasy adds little to the story.
A woman stands accused of witchcraft in “The Merit of One Gold Piece” by Dave D’Alessio. Her father hires the narrator to find proof of her innocence. The only way to do this is to journey to the realm of a demon king. This difficult quest involves encounters with treacherous humans, dangerous animals, sly elves, and supernatural monsters.
The action never stops in this fast-moving story. The protagonist goes through so many different trials that they seem arbitrary. The various battles remind me of the random opponents that often show up in role-playing games.
After a trio of stories full of violent combat, “The Gatekeeper” by Marlane Quade Cook comes as a breath of fresh air. In this brief tale, a man journeys to a place of ancient ruins. A statue comes to life in the form of a creature part feline, part dragon, and part human. Later she transforms into an alluring woman. Neither the terror of her appearance as a monster, nor her seductive wiles as a temptress, dissuade the man from entering the ruins.
The mysterious nature of the gatekeeper seizes the reader’s imagination. The man does not speak until the end, when his words earn entry from the uncanny guardian of the ruins. His speech adds a philosophical meditation on the nature of time to a poetic and evocative story.
Victoria Silverwolf thinks Fritz Leiber was the greatest writer of heroic fantasy of all time.