Khiratu Nedira City of Zarachar, Naidjat, Year 1048 Post Downfall Nedira picked her way through the gardens in full court robes, stepping carefully over a curving bank of ferns and some low-growing roses. She hitched her train up over her shoulder to keep it from getting stuck on the thorns. Normally her woman navigated her train through awkward spots, but one didn’t bring company on unauthorized escapades. Nedira glanced over her shoulder—no one was following her, or watching out any of the house’s many windows—and pressed on past the topiaries of courting cranes, toward the men’s wing.
She had talked to her brother through his window plenty of times before. Even though she didn’t think herself especially stealthy, no one had yet caught her. Or perhaps they had, and were too polite to mention it.
This is the first of five short stories by Jessica, set in the world of Madrahar before the events of the Orphaned Gods series. Illustration by Ruth and Birdy! The whole story is available for patrons over on our Patreon.
We challenged ourselves to each draw a phoenix/firebird, and they all came out excitingly different from each other. From left to right, these were created by Amanda Williams (digital), Ruth Lampi (linocut block print), and S.A. Hannon (watercolor pencil). Click on the images to make them bigger! For a video of how Ruth pulled the print of her phoenix, check out our Facebook or Instagram! [gallery link="file" ids="600,601,599"]
"I . . ." Khai swallowed, and pulled a handful of black powder from the pouch at his waist. "I'm here to kill you."
Gailan gave him a long, slow look. "I know."
"You should--" There were words for this sort of thing. Khai felt that he ought to know them, that he'd heard them before in some heroic story. "You should meet your death with courage and honor. For your name and your House. Lynx will reward you and take you up in glory and you'll be reborn as, as . . . as someone great."
Gailan almost smiled. It looked awful, on that ruined face. "Do I have Lynx's blessing, then?"
Khai sucked in his breath, hard. It kept catching in his throat. "Not if you just stand there crying. Come on, fight me!"
Writing by Jessica Van Oort, art by Ruth Lampi.
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