“The Tale of the Scout and the Pachydormu” by Gregory Norman Bossert
Reviewed by Chuck Rothman
Beneath Ceaseless Skies is celebrating its tenth year of publication, an impressive achievement for any magazine with four fantasy stories in this issue that fit right in with what had made them a success.
Gregory Norman Bossert writes about “The Tale of the Scout and the Pachydormu,” a story that is part of a yearly ceremony of the first new moon of winter, where someone dresses up as “Uncle Willow” who seemingly magically appears to tell the tale. A governor suffers from insomnia and the suggested cure the fantastic beast, the Pachydormu. The Scout is sent out to find the creature. It’s hard to describe more without spoiling the story, but the story is a complex one that reflects upon itself in surprising ways. The story actually does things that I usually find fault with, but they turn out to be strengths, and it has a lot to say about the act of storytelling. It really grows on you the more you think about it.
“The Crow Knight” by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam tells the story of Ser Maerwynn, who was the friend and lover of Lady Loreen. Wynn and Loreen attract the attention of a crow that stays with them, sometimes landing on one woman and sometimes another, spreading gloom to the one it touches. Wynn sets out to kill the bird, searching for a magic knife that’s rumored to be the only thing that can pierce its skin. But things take a dark turn. The story is understandably gloomy and nicely constructed and shows plenty of imagination.
Jaymee Goh‘s “Magic Potion Behind-the-Mountains” has the new magistrate of Immen ask Grandmother Seung about a magic potion. The magistrate has seen the results of the magic, as a man lifted a tree that seemed far too big for his size, and makes a deal with Grandmother Seung, who asks him to spend half the day learning. The magistrate slowly learns the ways of the magic and of the village, and of Grandmother Seung. I found the payoff to be telegraphed early on and it was pretty obvious what was going on, so much so that I had a hard time believing the magistrate didn’t catch on to it.
“The Tragedy of Zayred the Splendid” by Grace Seybold starts out in a barroom, where the inhabitants start to talk about the wizard in the title, a woman who has already passed into legend, with different stories of her death. It turns out the stories are being spread by Meriri and Zayred, who are both dead, but had been cursed into a contest to mold her legacy. It’s an interesting contest as the two women vie to find ways to be the one whose version becomes the one people remember. Good characters, and writing that keeps building on the initial concept.