Beneath Ceaseless Skies #380, April 20, 2023

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #380, April 20, 2023

“The Cuckoo of Vrežna Mountain” by Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko

“A Witch’s Transition In The City Of Ghosts” by Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe

Reviewed by David Wesley Hill

It’s spring. Love must be in the air. Take “The Cuckoo of Vrežna Mountain” by Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko, the first offering in this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. The story brings us to the city of Vrežna in the shadow of the titular mountain, where the inhabitants worship “the Oracle”—also known as Vrežna. Here Emre, an orphan ward of a society matron, is in love with Ivor, a “scion of the city.” Unfortunately, Emre is not only an impoverished foreigner, he’s also one of the “Godless”—a people who slew two of their own gods and banished a third—and he knows there is little chance of his love being fulfilled. This point is hammered home when Emre is invited to attend Ivor’s ritual audience with the Oracle, when the goddess will reveal to whom the young aristocrat will become betrothed. Waiting outside the temple, Emre notices an unsettling figure within the columns, and he begins to fear that all is not well with Vrežna—particularly when lines of light begin to appear on the skin of his neck, a sort of early-warning system evolved by the Godless to defend against a deadly parasite… A moving fantasy in an interesting magical world, which left this reviewer only a little misty eyed.

The second story is equally romantic. In “A Witch’s Transition In The City Of Ghosts” by Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe, apprentice witch Fela is transitioning into womanhood when they meet a forest sprite, Ewa, and falls in love with the creature. The pair meet secretly by the udala tree in which the spirit resides, since “magic users and forest sprites don’t particularly get along.” Unfortunately, another witch has a vision in which she sees the destruction of the city—and that Surulere’s fall will be caused by a renegade witch in consort with an inhuman creature. Even worse, Fela is selected to lead the expedition delegated to go into the woods to hunt down their other-worldly mistress… A sentimental story of star-crossed lovers set in a culture quite different from the usual fantasy milieu.