Beneath Ceaseless Skies #370, December 1, 2022

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #370, December 1, 2022

“He Stays Among the Commots” by Christopher Rowe

“By Hand and By Heart” by Tina Connolly

“Forgotten Eyes” by Marie Vibbert

“Her Mother, the Storm” by Marie Croke

“An Offer from the Fivefold God” by Rachel Meresman

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Instead of the usual pair of stories, often of novelette length, this special issue offers five brief tales.

“He Stays Among the Commots” by Christopher Rowe features a nameless hero sent by an equally anonymous sorceress to battle the forces of evil in a distant place. While waiting for the right time to set out on his quest, he becomes involved in the daily lives of local villagers.

This wry variation on common tropes of fantasy adventure fiction plays with the readers’ expectations. The lack of names, along with the fact that the hero’s unseen allies are called the Doughty Companions, makes it clear that the author is dealing with archetypes rather than real characters. Although not openly comic, the story has a light mood that makes for pleasant, if superficial, reading.

In “By Hand and By Heart” by Tina Connolly, priestesses have the choice of remaining in the temple or accepting offers by wealthy patrons to serve as their consorts and directors of their estates. The text consists of a conversation between a priestess about to make such a choice and another who opted to stay.

It seems likely that the story is meant as a parable, with the lesson that a woman can be a completely fulfilled individual without depending on a man. Although a worthy message, this is hardly an original insight. The work’s feminist viewpoint is evident, without being overly blatant.

“Forgotten Eyes” by Marie Vibbert is difficult to summarize in a few words. In brief, the narrator is a member of a minority ethnic group with its own deity, living among a majority who have multiple gods. An encounter with a god leads to insight, as well as further mystery, about the nature of divinity.

The author’s biography states that this story shares the same setting as one of her novels. This may explain why it has a complex background but a vague theme. The work is best appreciated as an example of worldbuilding.

In “Her Mother, the Storm” by Marie Croke, certain individuals have the power to produce sparks from their bodies. A few can supply enough electricity to stimulate trees into producing the fruit needed to feed the populace. When one such person dies, her daughter struggles to find someone to replace her.

The premise is an original and intriguing one. It is used to create a simple fable, the outcome of which the reader may predict. Given the situation, one may wonder why the local people don’t figure out the solution to their problem long before the protagonist does.

In “An Offer from the Fivefold God” by Rachel Meresman, raiders destroy the home of a woman. The deity mentioned in the title visits the woman. In its form as a warrior, it offers her aid in seeking vengeance. The woman has to decide how to react to the multifaceted god, some of whose aspects are more frightening than others.

To say anything else about the story would reveal its theme. Like other works in this issue, it uses a fantasy premise to examine an ethical issue. The author manages the difficult task of avoiding preachiness while still making an important point, mostly through the use of a fully developed character.

Victoria Silverwolf thinks this issue is about as long as a typical issue.