short stories

The Graphology of Hemorrhage

Magician Tepwe Kodai and her aide, Rao Nawong, had not been on the hillside for long. The sky threatened rain on and off, and the air smelled of river poetry, of lakes with their scarves of reeds. Water would make Kodai’s mission here, in the distant shadow of the Spiders’ fortress, more difficult, if not outright impossible. The Empire’s defeat of the upstart Spiders, whose rebellion had sparked a general conflagration in the southwest provinces, depended on the mission’s success. At the moment, Nawong found it hard to care.

Kodai was scowling at the sky as she drew a roll of silk out of a brass tube. She had clever hands, precise in every motion, as good with a brush as she was with the pliers and hammers and snippers that she used for the gadgets that were her hobby. “I still think it’s going to rain,” she muttered. “But this has to be done.”

Nawong hesitated for a long time before he said what he said next. “Does it?” he asked at last.

Military fantasy in Operation Arcana, ed. John Joseph Adams. Thanks to E. Lily Yu, Sonya Taaffe, and Yune Kyung Lee for the beta.

Reprint forthcoming in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, ed. Rich Horton.