“They don’t let us have internet. We can’t have CDs because they’re too easy to make a shank out of. There’s books in the library, sure, but they’re mostly donations from like churches. Reading that stuff gets real boring.”

“I heard that some use the time to write,” said Greg. “La Morte d’Arthur was written while Thomas More was in prison for armed robbery.”

“They take pencils and pens whenever they feel like it,” Marcus said. “Pages too. I had a hundred pages of a fantasy book wind up in the toilet because the guard thought I was sassing him.”

“As someone who once left the outline of a seven-book cycle of high fantasy novellas on a city bus, I feel you there,” said Greg. “But they’re saying you killed Darius because of something he said about your work?”

Marcus recoiled. “Hmph. Like usual, they didn’t even listen to what I was telling them. Darius might have hated my story but that wasn’t a reason to kill him. No, Darius was…”

The prisoner trailed off.

“Was what?” Greg said. “Listen, from where I’m sitting, prison seems like a leveled-up middle school, my worst nightmare, where the cliques can kill and being a nerd makes you a literal target to be stabbed by literal knives. But they didn’t even want to let me in here at all, and I don’t have much time. So if you know something, tell me. I can’t promise I won’t have to tell them, but I’ll do my best.”

Marcus looked up. “What was it about?” he said. “The outline you lost on that bus.”

“I called it Epic of the Spheres,” said Greg. “Each novella was about someone in the elf-world of Sylvantine who was responsible for singing the song that bound the role together. One of them was even a prisoner who sang his song in secret to the prison sparrows.”

“Heh,” said Marcus. “That’s some geeky stuff, man. Mine was gonna be about a king who rules in secret from a prison, and someone who goes inside to overthrow ’em. All the wardens and guards were going to be elves, all high and mighty.”

“You should keep kicking the idea around,” said Greg. “I’d read it. And you know, I am the general coordinator of Nerdicon, we even get publishers there sometimes. More than one of our attendees has one home with a book deal.”

“Yeah…” Marcus said wistfully. “Yeah.” Then, his face was hard, and all business. “Darius wasn’t a book critic,” he said. “Darius was the dungeon master of a secret group of us that would get together to play Dungeons and Dragons. We made like we were a gan or a crew, but we’d just geek out together. Until last week, anyhow.”

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After all, Dad was an Edward, and Granddad, and so on. I come from a long line of Edwards, each more Edwardian than the last.

So when Dad turned out to be a violent drunk, just like his dad, and so on back down the Edward line…well, it made my silly name a very sensible course of action. And when I finally snuffed the old man out for his crimes, made it look like an accident, there was even more to be afraid of.

I’d seen what Edwards could do.

I’d seen what Edwards were capable of.

I couldn’t let myself be on the receiving end of that. So an Edwardphobe I was, and an Edwardphobe I remain.

They all must die.

And I will be the last.

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“Unfortunately, my lovely Valia Springs are currently…occupied,” said Namidine. “Drow in one pool, githyanki in another, and modrons in a third…and none of them are paying!”

Bearing down on the githyanki that had called her kind ‘accursed winged filth,’ the young strix stove his head in with a well-aimed smack from her warpwood rod, blasting foul ichor into the spring’s clear healing waters.

The springs’ healing magic washed away the crude drow disguise that Celeria had cast; “Womp Rat” no longer looked like the lead from an elfsploitation scroll. Playing it up, he moaned and cried most pitiably, trying to convince the other drow that a terrible curse affected the pool, one that could turn them into scruffy and smelly humans. Alarmed, they quickly vacated the sparkling waters.

“Womp Rat” picked up Brynhildr and tossed her over the traps. She successfully made it as far as the Valia Guildhall’s table, but landed there with a belly flop that rolled the wounded guard, Tinuviel, off the table and onto the Baleful Polymorph trap. She hit the floor as an–admittedly fully healed–French bulldog.

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And then, O Dreamer, you will come to the great and impossible plateau where the slumbering nation of Igasiz meets its neighbors. A steep-cliffed mile high, these Outer Mountains are a refuge for those who find even the dream-worlds too great an imposition. The tiny hamlet of Atogoza-Zož waits there, a refuge for those seeking an enlightened dream even within their very dreams.

It is not a journey for the weak, O Dreamer, nor for a mere dilettante in the ways of the slumbering world. The nearest city in friendly Isašžozi, land of the quiescent indulgents, is quiet and peaceful Žakož. But the cliffs above it are of such a frightening and sheet height, and frequented in those wild dreamlands by such unbound horrors, that none are known to have made the crossing safely. Ozipizo, to the southwest as the great orb rises, is the land of violent nightmares and even those who reach the relative safety of its great fortress of Mes-O find themselves able to push no further against the nameless and hungry teeth of the id that lurk northward. Of those brave, foolhardy souls who have attempted it, O Dreamer, only one is known to have reached the hamlet of Mus-Na, where the hardy inhabitants are nightly besieged by the final nightmares of the dying. Though the cliffs are far more gentle slopes from Ozipizo, none but the mad would attempt that route.

That leaves only Igasiz. A peaceful land, protected from the horrors of Ozipizo by the Outer Mountains, its dangers are mostly the dreamt rocks and ego-winds, harder and more scouring than any the waking would could ever produce. Many seekers begin their trek at the great river-city of Sames, where the mountain streams join to form a navigable river. Atogoza-Zož awaits a mile above and many leagues south, and by following the gullies carved by the waters from above, the bravest and hardiest can make the trek. It is not an easy one, O Dreamer. Many have died from the rocks, the winds, the waters that suck the warmth from a body in an instant. The shock of awakening from such a death is often enough to kill the dreamer, or to permanently eject them from the dreamlands forever after. Even if one survives such a tussle, the possibilities of rescue are slim. While the yowling dreamstalkers of the Outer Mountains will not attack the hale, these twisted shadows that were once sapient beings have no qualms about feasting upon the wounded.

But beyond all these, Atogoza-Zož! It is built like a fortress-monastery of old, as safe from the elements as it is from the cares of the slumbering world. The monks there tend to those few who have successfully made the journey, seeing to what few physical needs dreamers have while allowing their wards the freedom to fall still deeper into slumber. Many never awaken, and others simply fade away–whether into wakefulness or a still-deeper dream none can say. But from those who do return, the monks take the stories and recollections, fleeting though they may be. Their writings, steady and impartial, fill the vast library of Atogoza-Zož with such knowledge as few have the aptitude to even read, much less decipher.

You may ask, O Dreamer, what possesses these monks of Atogoza-Zož to so do, and to tend the dreamers rather than joining them. Their response is recorded thus: “For every gate, a gatekeeper. For every traveler, an ear for the tale. For every bold explorer, one who recognizes they can never go so far.”

Inspired by this.

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My middle name should have been Phoebe, after my grandmother, who died the day before I was born. But thanks to the fifth my dad snuck into the delivery room, it was duly recorded as Phobe.

Edward Phobe.

He who is afraid of Edwards.

And, as an Edward myself, it sort of stood to reason that I’d be terrified of…well, myself.

So wouldn’t you know it, I was. But not for the reason you might expect. I’m terrified of myself because I might kill again.

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When John Mazzello topped out the skyscraper that bore his name in 1906, he insisted that it be connected to the nascent subway system, and he had the pull to make it happen. Officially the Cicero Square station, work began in 1907 and Mazzello, ever the micromanager, insisted on hiring designers and architects to make “his” station a grand statement. His stinging primary election loss to Mayor Robert Van Wyck and Tammany Hall may have contributed to a desire to “outdo” the ornate City Hall station.

Cicero Square Station was never finished. Mazzello died at his desk in 1908, and without his personal influence, Mayor McClellan canceled the project. Himself no friend of Mazzello’s, McClellan ordered the Cicero Street Station sealed. It was further forgotten when, in 1931, the Mazzello Building itself was razed to make way for new construction.

The station remained a closed-off and half-finished oddity, known only among a handful of urban explorers, until the night of October 20, one hundred and eleven years to the day after the first stone had been laid.

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“They glued the Ethernet cable in. Didn’t want to be disconnected. Pretty sure it’s still in there, in the dump.”

“That’s nothing. Someone brought in an iMac for an upgrade in ’07 or so, they’d been chain-smoking for 10 years in front of that thing, and it was black and brown. The office smelled like Pall Mall for to weeks.”

“Let me tell you about this broken iPhone we had…”

“Dude, everyone sees six of those a day. I said ‘horror stories,’ not bore-er stories.”

“Well, this one had a bullet in it.”

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