August 2017

Marking the beginning of fledging season and the end of the cold, hard winter, the sparrows venerate Seedsprout over all other holidays. It does not always exactly coincide with the warming of the sun and the plenty of seeds and young shoots to eat, but their arrival is always heralded.

The midsummer celebration of Longday is when the newly fledged chicks take their places as full members of sparrow society. The longest, hottest day of the year, it is also an opportunity to remember that winter has begun its approach and that the halcyon days of summer are fleeting.

The most dour of all sparrow holidays, Flutterleaf is a final feast on the latest-blooming, the cherries and their ilk. One final chance to fatten for the hardships to come, it is also often fledglings’ last chance to seek assistance from their parents before their first winter alone.

The coldest and darkest day of the year, Darkday is a time to remember all those sparrows that have perished in the previous cycle. But it is also a hopeful time, because spring has finally begun its arrival. Darkday Dances are often the place where sparrows meet their mate for the season.

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Before settlers arrived in the area, the closest thing the Wilds had to a government was the great wyrm of the mountains. It went by many names but has become widely known under the monicker it gave to the fist settlers in their own tongue, Highclaw.

The tribes and small nations paid Highclaw tribute in gold, and in return the great dragon would act as an arbiter in disputes and as a defender in times of need. But when the settlers arrived, the tribes were not able to meet Highclaw’s fee to destroy the invaders, and the dragon allowed the newcomers to settle in exchange for tribute.

While Highclaw at first negotiated with the settlers, eventually they became so numerous that they began making demands. Alarmed, the dragon charged into battle against the largest settlement in the area. Its poor judgment returned to pay dividends, though, as its erstwhile tribal allies remembered Highclaw’s earlier refusal to help them. They, in turn, would not aid the ancient wyrm.

A fierce battle raged for two days, but at the end, Highclaw was struck down by cannon fire. Legend has it that, approached by a cautious militiaman, the great serpent whispered one last curse into the ear of a curious militiaman:

“May your greed go forever unslaked and my hoard go forever undisturbed.”

No trace was ever found of the great golden hoard that centuries of tribute must have produced. But in the century since, hundreds of treasure seekers have perished trying to find it.

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“Drop your irons, boys!” the woman said with a confident flash of her teeth. “Calamity Djinn’s got the drop on you!”

The pair of revolvers in the bandit’s hands were quite convincing; the Valley Union men tossed their coach guns to the floorboards.

One of them couldn’t resist tossing a remark out as well. “Who?” he said.

Calamity walked up to him, reaching a little above the man’s belt. “Calamity Djinn, scourage of the valley!” she said. “You’ll have quite the tale to tell of your narrow escape, providing you behave and keep your mitts where I can see ’em!”

“The scourge of what valley?” the guard said. “I’ve never heard of you.”

“Does it matter which valley?” Calamity snapped.

“It certainly does matter which valley,” the Union man said. “If it’s Sagescrub Valley, well, that’s got…seven homesteaders? That sound right to you, Bill?”

“Yeah, John, I think that’s right. Seven or eight, depending on whether Jinny Witchazel had her baby yet.”

“It’s a populous valley!” Calamity said. “Point is, I’m feared, and the thunder of my twin .45s is enough to bring most men to their knees!”

“Well of course it would bring them to their knees,” John said. “They’d be shot. That hurts a lot. It’d bring me to my knees.”

“Maybe even lay me out flat,” Bill agreed. “But that ain’t got nothing to do with being feared. Sissy Hammertoes could shoot me in the gut and I’d be kneed, and I don’t fear her at all.”

“Sweet, sweet little thing,” said John. “Really, if I went in for stonefolk I’d court her in a second.”

“I meant the sound of my guns!” Calamity shouted.

“It’d better be powerful loud for that,” Bill said.

“Powerful loud. Like a cannon in the war.”

“Even then, I never saw a man run from a cannonball.”

“By the time you hear the sound it’s too late to run anyhow, it takes a minute to catch up to you.”

The half-folk grimaced. “Do you want me to bring you to your knees right now?” Calamity said. “Put a little lead in your bellies and see how you feel then?”

“Well, you could do that. Murder us in cold blood, I mean,” John said. “But I’m not sure you want to do that.”

“Oh, I think I do,” said Calamity. “Unless you bit your tongue and start getting real quiet and real fearful.”

“Well, you got a pair of Chesterfield revolvers there, the pocket models,” said Bill. “Three shots each. There’s ten guards on the train. Now I’m no accountant but that just don’t add up.”

“Especially since it might take more than one .45 to put a man down good,” John added. “Especially if it’s Rags or MacGrothnak, on account of being stonefolk and leader respectively.”

“Respectively,” Bill said.

“I’m not alone,” Calamity sighed. “My gang’s doing its work.”

“Well, a gunshot’d be heard. Even if you’ve got a gang of ten, our boys might not be pushovers if they hear you coming,” said Bill.


“Okay, okay!” said Bill. “No need to shout.”

“Yeah, you got us fair and square,” John agreed. “They don’t pay us enough to be heroes.”

“Good,” said Calamity.

“One thing though,” Bill said. “Just a quick question. Why the ‘djinn?'”

“I’m half djinn,” Calamity said proudly.

“Which half?” Bill said.

“Top half, definitely,” said John. “That’s why she’s all air up there.”

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“I’m just the finder,” sniffed Nalexis. “You know the drill as well as I do. You get a taste, and then if the payment works out, I put you in touch with my rememberance man.”

“I’ve been telling it to people on the docks for tips,” said Pelle. “You know I’ve been saving every kopeck I don’t need to live.”

“Or that you don’t need for that ridiculous pancake makeup,” said Nalexis, her tone haughty. “You’d be quite the dish if you just dispensed with all that. Make more than tips too.”

“You know why I do it,” Pelle said darkly. “Did you just come here to poke fun at me, or is there any real information in that thick skull of yours?”

“That’s another reason it doesn’t suit you,” Nalexis said. “For someone who paints herself up as a clown, you sure aren’t very funny.”

She spun a small crystal sphere across the table at Pelle. A memory sphere, albeit a small one. Anyone could relive the experiences within, but only the original mind could do so without an intense sense of wrongness.

Pelle took the sphere up, held it to her forehead, where a little flake of greasepaint clung to it. The memory was intense, vivid, right.

Pelle was seated in a casual air, slouched against something hard but cool. She wore a uniform, but one she didn’t recognize. When she spoke, it was with the practiced waste of someone who had said it many times before: “Go on. Make me laugh.”

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“We all end up here, sooner or later. Because it’s where the hunters that dredge up lost memories and stolen memories congregate, selling them back for a tidy profit.”

“Is…is that why you wear that clown makeup?”

“No…I woke up wearing this, with my memories gone. I keep touching it up because I think maybe somebody will recognize me.”

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Dash’s Diner
Named for its first owner, Randy Dash, Sr., Dash’s puts the easy in greasy spoon with its menu of low-cost down-home favorites.

Purple Bakery Cafe
Renamed and repainted after a disastrous start as the Burple Bakery Bistro, the Purple is a popular watering hole for locals and tourists alike. Ask about their 1,001 recipes for smothered toast!

Curl Up and Dry Salon
A mainstay for locals looking to take their coifs to the next level, Curl Up and Dry is the home of the famous Thatch Weave, a hair extension that helped defeat Japan in the war.

Elsewhere Echo
Serving the island since 1919, the Elsewhere Echo reports on every facet of island life. Except ducks.

The Sweet Potato Grocery Store
Home of the popular I Yam What I Yam sweet potato pie, this local favorite serves an intriguing mix of small-batch artisan foods and shipped-in LlamaCo GMOs.

Between the Sheets Bookstore
Picking up where the library leaves off, everyone knows that the best place to read a book is Between the Sheets.

Fish Head Hotel
Elsewhere Island’s premiere luxury hotel, the Fish Head offers luxury accommodations to the discerning traveler. The Fish Head: pampering that’s off the scales.

The Pink Flamingo
People may walk funny coming in or going out, and it’s often more comfortable when you’re upside-down. But there’s no reason to get your feathers ruffled: the Pink Flamingo is here to provide a roof over your head for a budget price and a continental breakfast (from Antarctica).

Balls to the Walls Bowling Alley
Though the name may suggest something from the gutter, locals have this place pinned down: it’s the best place to strike up some fun and have a ball with spare change.

Mariner’s Rest
For those sailors who have rowed into the great beyond, and caskets full of bricks representing those lost at sea, Mariner’s Rest is a respectful resting place slowly sinking into Neptune’s embrace.

Museum of Maritime History
If nautical knowledge be something ye wish, drop in on our staff and listen to their pitch!

Elsewhere Elementary School
Go Vampire Squids!

Peabody Public Library
A repository of tomes from the benign to the malevolent, Peabody has all the latest romance novels as well as one of only 6 remaining copies of the Llamanomicon.

Gray Sands Medical Clinic
Just an ordinary small-town clinic. Nothing to see here. Absolutely normal, in every conceivable way, with normal doctors and normal nurses and absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

Magicus Shopicus
Life will never be abracadaboring when you tarot it up to 11 and let fly the doves with the selection of Hogwarts-caliber arcana on sale here every day.

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“Yeah?” said the troll. “Whaddaya want?”

“Hello, friend,” said Leroy, reaching out to shake the oozing, scabrous hand of the green horror from beneath. “My name is John Leroy Jay, but you can call me Leroy. I was wondering if you had a moment to talk about the marvelous product I have for sale.”

The troll regarded him with baleful, rheumy eyes. “Ain’t got nothin’ I need,” it mumbled. “Ain’t got nothin’ to pay with either.”

“But my friend! These selfie sticks have a million and one uses around the home and office! No troll in your position can afford to be without one!”


“Well, you can use them as a back scratcher for one,” said Leroy with a glance at the troll’s boil-ridden backside. “It folds up nice but is whip strong, so you can hide it and then extend for a good smack on your enemies. And forget about dropping anything in a pond–the selfie sticks have got all your fishing-out needs in the bag!”

“And what’s I gonna pay wit?” grunted the troll.

“Easy!” grinned Leroy. “Just give me that glowing sword you’ve got there.”

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“And why should I help you?” the drake said.

“Because we rescued you as a hatchling, protected you against all dangers, and risked our lives to raise you and return you to your rightful kind,” Ecaf said.

Thorn made a disdainful sound. “And did you do it out of that goodness of your heart, or in the knowledge that you might have made yourself a powerful ally?”

“I don’t take your meaning,” said Ecaf.

“Perhaps it was your self-interest all along that made you act as you did, knowing that you’d have something to compel a drake to do your bidding,” Thorn said.

“If you refuse, you refuse,” Ecaf said. “That is your right. But do not try to cast shadows on my past good deeds.”

“So you admit it,” sneered Thorn. “You’re sorry you aren’t able to take advantage of me now that I’m powerful.”

“If I am sorry of anything, it is that anything I had a hand in raising could think such of me.”

The remark drew blood, and Thorn lowered his head. “I am sorry,” he said. “It is in the nature of the drakes to be uncharitable and suspicious.”

“I don’t believe it is in the nature of any being to be thus,” said Ecaf. “It is, perhaps, easily learned, for I know of many men who would take the same position.”

“Perhaps,” said Thorn. “So who are you here as, then, old man? A father? A supplicant? Or something else?”

“I am here simply as myself, and I ask nothing of you that I would not be willing to give of myself.”

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“What can you tell me of the drakes?” Ecaf said. “Practical stuff.”

“There’s nothing practial about them,” laughed Kip. “Intelligent and capable of speech, yes, but also alien and inscrutible. They love wealth but never spend a cent of their hoard. They love conversation yet generally shun one another’s company.”

“You and I have very different meanings of ‘practical,'” said Ecaf.

“Look, what do you want?” Kip said. “All we have to go on are those who have spoken with one and lived, people seeing them from a distance, and the occasional carcass.”

“Well, tell me what each of those things teaches us.”

“People who speak to them find they love the sound of their own voice. They love to seem clever, to seem mysterious, to seem impressive, and they seem to love suddenly turning on someone to whom they have been speaking almost as much. There’s no rhyme or reason to who is unscathed and who is crisped.”

“Seeing them from a distance, then,” said Ecaf.

“They grow their whole lives, and they take a while to get really smart–not unlike kids. But they can live a long time. They’ve also got the Touch about them. Some say they can do everything from change their shape to bewitch to soul, but precious few have ever seen either.”

“And their carcasses?”

“None have ever been found,” said Kip. “Ever. Even when one is killed in front of witnesses, it just…evaporates.”

“Why call it a carcass at all, then?”

“A few things survive. Whatever it had in its stomach, for one.”

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Fear of the planet Mars. Sufferers cannot bear to be under any sky that contains the Red Planet.

Fear of douches. Sufferers cannot be in any college town with active fraternity chapters.

Fear of buttons. Sufferers must use custom all-zipper clothing

Fear of chips. Sufferers cannot eat fried potato slices or use integrated electronics.

Fear of love. Sufferers spend all their time on the internet.

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