February 2017


“Well, my pappy became a breeder way back in ’35,” says Earl Jr. “Times were so bad our vocabulary plumb couldn’t handle it, and there was a real ruckus for new words.”

The late Earl Sr.’s breeding ranch, the Wonky M, soon became the stud farm of choice for new words. “We’d take a word in after it was coined and match it up with another nice word, or sometimes just a darn good suffix. Nowadays we use them computer, but nothing else has changed much.”

At the ranch, one pen holds the word “exorcism” and another the trademark “Mucinex,” recently put out to stud. Their offspring, “Mucinexorcism,” trots around gaily. “We think that one’s gonna catch on, if we can get round the legal issues,” says Earl Jr.

In a nearby pen is “brellow,” kept separate from its parents, “brown” and “yellow.” “Now, this one didn’t work out quite so well,” says Earl Jr. “When you’re a breeder, sometimes you jut gotta accept that not every word is a ‘spork’ or ‘Brexit’ in waiting.”

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It was only then that I realized I had been traveling not toward the Farpeaks, as I had thought, but simply the nearest part of the Snowsister after having been turned around.

I imagine my curses echoed for quite a ways.

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Crimson Emperor Atheus III (15 years)
The second son of his father’s second wife, there was no expectation that Atheus III would ever succeed. But the disastrous Pox of Rhones and the Battle of Simelo intervened, leading to the deaths of all the other male heirs, including three brothers and two nephews. Atheus proved to be an extremely competent ruler nevertheless, though prone to bouts of melancholy and implacably opposed to any limits on his own power. His marriage to Eia of the Twin Moons was stillborn, though, and they never lived together after the birth of their son. He died after a lingering illness many suspect was stomach cancer.

Crimson Emperor Selasar I (2 years)
The only child of Atheus III and Eia of the Twin Moons, Selasar was doted on by his father, who undertook to groom him extensively for the throne. Selasar was extensively tutored in politics, etiquette, and combat, but the crown prince had inherited his father’s melancholy streak and became most strongly devoted to the Sepulcher of the Creator. Extremely pious, he took the vows of a priest at his coronation and refused all suitors during his brief reign. His great dream was to bring the Sepulcher of the Creator to the southern deserts of Naïx, and to that end he devoted himself utterly. The resulting campaign ended in utter defeat at the Battle of the Passes, and Selasar himself was killed along with two of his cousins.

Crimson Emperor Atheus IV (1 year)
The only remining heir of the male line after Selasar’s death in battle was his great-uncle, who was 87 at the time. Atheus IV tackled his reign with unusual energy for a man of his age, but his efforts to ensure the succession were for naught as his beloved wife was 78 herself and he refused to entertain the possibility of divorce. Instead, Atheus IV attempted to legitimize a bastard son of his nephew; when that failed, he sought to pass the succession to a great-nephew descended from his sister. Sadly, his efforts backfired: when he died of pleurisy 18 months into his reign, open civil war erupted between the two claiments he had attempted to secure.

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The procedure failed.

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Inner voices. Lowered but pure. Outwardly seeping. Venus is weeping. Everything pales. You are the sun. Our songs united. Undying and lighted.

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“You did say you would break up with me immediately if I ever did that,” I said into the phone, pinched between my neck and shoulder.

I looked down into the blood-soaked bathtub, where rivulets of ichor had started to run down the tile.

“So I won’t be doing it,” I added.

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“Well, welcome to the neighborhood!” said Della. “If you ever feel like trading some tips for your new garden, let me know!”

“It’s true,” laughed Thom. “My Della will show you how to grow a wife if you let her babble on.”

“Th-thanks,” said Leo. “Good to meet you both.” He politely excused himself, shut the door, and deposited the neighborhood welcome wagon basket on his kitchen counter. Then he pulled the trick book from his living room bookcase and descended the stairs into the basement.

There, under the best greenhouse lamps money could buy, Podia rested amid her leaves, her lovely smooth green skin unblemished.

“Soon, my dear,” whispered Leo, stroking her stem. “Soon.”

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“Hey,” said Mike to the unusually large cicada. “I’m going to need you to keep it down in here.”

“You’re such a buzzkill, Mike,” it replied.

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They’re stealthy…
They’re hardy…
And if you’re an insufficiently devout Orthodox churchgoer or an improperly-dressed young lady, they’re coming for YOU!

They’re the
BABUSHKA NINJAS
and they’re coming to theaters this January 7.

“You’re not going outside dressed like THAT, are you?”

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