Hesper stood in black robes behind a battered travelling table, a map of the battlefield rolled out in front of her. She cast the bones over the map again and again, and every time the omens came up the same.
Of course they did. There was no cheating the future.
The screams and clashing of blades was growing closer.
The tent flap was flung open and General Soraya stormed in, her face smeared with soot, blood dripping dark as tar from her sword. Her armour gleaming red and gold in the candlelight.
“I should cut you down where I stand,” Soraya roared, pointing at Hesper with her blade. “What use is a military astrologer who can’t tell me how to win?”
Hesper took a step back, hands raised. “I did what you told me to. I cast the bones, read the omens, guided you based on what I saw.”
“You told me that our cavalry’s best chance was on the right flank.”
“And that was true. They would have been killed in half the time if you’d put them on the left.”
“You told me to advance, and we walked straight into a hail of arrows!” Soraya slammed her gauntleted fist against the table, making marble counters jump.
“If you had held back, they would have had longer to shoot at you.”
“I pay you to look into the future.” Soraya advanced. Hesper backed away, keeping the table between her and the furious commander. “To tell me how I can win my battles. To ensure victory.”
“And that worked, as long as the other side didn’t have an astrologer of their own.”
Hesper held up the bones.
“With two of us, the outcome became inevitable. Each predicted what the other would advise, how the future would play out, until we reached the optimum battle. They had an unbeatable approach, and all I could do was save us from utter disaster.”
“If I’d known you were leading me to disaster, I would have had your head days ago.” Soraya brought her blade down, smashing the table to pieces.
“That’s why I didn’t tell you. I foresaw how you would respond.”
“Yet here you are.” Soraya stepped over the splintered planks, her face twisted with fury. “And here you will pay the price of failure.”
Hesper shrugged. “If I’d been on the battlefield, you would have killed me there and then. If I’d run, you would have pursued and caught me later. But if I waited here, and if we paused to have this conversation…”
The tent flap burst open and half a dozen soldiers strode in, their armour painted blue and silver.
“General Soraya.” Their leader pointed his sword at the general, and triumph gleamed in green eyes. “We have you. Surrender or die.”
“Death before dishonour!” Soraya swung her sword. There was a clang of steel on steel, then the soldiers moved in to surround her.
Hesper stepped back. In the entrance to the tent, a man stood wearing black robes like her own. He nodded to her, one professional greeting another, while between them the soldiers fought to the death. Hesper nodded back.
She cast her bones across the shattered remains of the table. The omens looked good, all things considered. A good astrologer couldn’t always save their employer, but they could save themself.
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By Sword, Stave or Stylus
A gladiator painting with manticore blood.
A demon detective policing Hell.
A ninja who can turn into shadow.
Prepare to be swept away to worlds beyond our own in these thirteen short fantasy stories.
Action, art and mystery all feature in this collection, available in all ebook formats.
From reader reviews:
‘These fantasy genre stories take wordsmithing and storytelling to great heights.’ – Writerbees Book Reviews
‘There isn’t a single story in here I don’t love. All short and sweet (or dark), all fantasy with history woven through, all a slightly skewed perspective that will make you rethink assumptions. Totally worth a read.’