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The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim: Demon

Far away from home, from comfort and sanity, up in the arctic mountains of Spitsbergen Island, the sound vibrates in the frigid air, comes racing toward the sea and enters Edgar’s soul. It is a cry of anguish and it terrifies him. He stands on the little ship amidst the human blood and severed limbs and smashed skulls that the great whale has left in its wake, unable to move. Lucy and Jonathan are on the shore just an arrow shot away, motionless too. Tiger lies beneath them on the hard ground, awfully still.
“That sounds like the devil,” whispers the wounded captain, still on all fours.
“Bring her,” Edgar calls to Jonathan as he motions toward Tiger, a tear rolling down his cheek.
Though his friend is a young man with arms like a strongman, he cannot do it. Instead, he drops to his knees and buries his head in his hands. Lucy bends down and, summoning a strength beyond her physical powers, lifts her fallen companion and then staggers toward the boat with her, Tiger’s limbs limp and extending toward the rocks. Edgar gets to them in an instant, reaches over the railing, and takes his dearest friend from Lucy, shocked to feel how light she is. He stares down at her twice-broken nose and pale face, framed by short, raven-black hair. She is still so beautiful, even in death. Tiger. The indefatigable, the unconquerable, the inimitable Tiger, laid low by the monster they had pursued to this godforsaken place. The tilted boat is jammed against the high, rocky shore. Lucy clambers up and onto it as Edgar walks with Tiger in his arms across the deck, holding her close. He puts his forehead to hers and then sets her down, away from the blood. He presses his finger to the jugular vein on her neck and tries to tell himself that he feels a very slight pulse.
The cry echoes across Spitsbergen again and the captain cowers.
“Do you have binoculars?” asks Edgar in a monotone.
The captain points to them, their straps somehow still holding fast to a hook on a mast, but their lenses smashed. Edgar takes the binoculars in both hands and points them upward into the mountains. The cry comes one more time. Edgar stares through the broken glass, seeing a thousand images, but he focuses on one: a distant figure, only slightly less white than the snow. It is holding its face toward the sky as if it has just let out a howl. Below it lies the broken body of another polar bear, the one the monster had killed with his bare hands less than an hour before. Did the horrific cry come from this looming animal, or from something else?

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The Sisters of War

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Wings of Shadow

Wings of Shadow

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The Call of the Rift: Crest


In the distance, a speck floated on the water, growing larger. It shifted on the left, right, left. Someone was paddling a canoe upriver toward us, but the motion was weirdly off pace.

“Let’s go back,” Onarem said. “I didn’t sign up for getting caught.”

“Nei, wait,” I said. “Are they in trouble?”

Kaid,” Rokiud swore. “They will be if they lose to the current. There’s rapids further down.”

Something yanked in my gut. This felt like a test from our ancestral spirits. A brave person would help, but a responsible person would obey the rules and turn back. Maybe I hadn’t attuned yet because I didn’t know which I was. I thought of the gouge in Rokiud’s canoe, imagining the stranger’s craft hitting a boulder.

“Fuck the rules,” I said. “We’re going to rescue them.”

Onarem dropped his protests when Nili told him to shut up. We paddled hard and soon neared the stray boat. Its prow was uncarved and tall enough to handle ocean swells. A man was slumped inside, clutching a paddle that dragged uselessly through foaming water. I grabbed at his canoe and missed. The current yanked it out of reach.

We’d nearly caught up again when the canoe disappeared around a bend. We rounded it, too, and hit rapids coursing through a ravine. Echoes roared off the rock walls. The stray canoe spun this way and that. Whitecapped waves struck its hull, rocking the man’s limp form.

“I’m going for it,” Rokiud yelled over the thunder of water. “Gonna need your help, Kateiko.” He yanked off his boots, dove into the river, and swam toward the stray canoe.

I kept paddling as I dropped my mind into the current, struggling to restrain it. Nili tossed Rokiud a rope. He looped it around the stray canoe’s prow. She hauled it in while Onarem kept them afloat, but rapids kept pulling the crafts in opposite directions. I called on as much water as I could, sweat running into my eyes, and guided all three canoes forward until the ravine widened to reedy banks.

Nili and Onarem tumbled ashore and pulled in the stray canoe. With a last surge of strength, I ran Rokiud’s canoe aground. The boys lifted the stranger and eased him onto the mud. He sagged, breathing shallowly, gripping his paddle like it was fused to his hands. One leg of his breeches was rolled up, exposing a sticky poultice over a crusted wound. I choked at the stench of infection.

Rokiud drew his fish knife and sliced open the man’s sleeve. Underneath was a kinaru tattoo. The man was Rin like us, yet I’d never seen his face. Neither had my friends, judging by their confused looks. I reached for his sleeve to tear it further and check his family crest.

“Stand back,” a voice commanded.

I whirled. Fendul stood on the riverbank. Birds landed around him and shifted to their human forms — an owl and falcon to Rin warriors, a black-billed swan to my dark-haired, tattooed mother. Rokiud and I backed up, hands raised.

My mother drew forward as if she was in a dream. She dropped to her knees and stroked the man’s hair. My eyes widened. No one in our confederacy would do that to a stranger. Touching someone’s hair, one of the sacred parts of the body along with the heart and blood, was an intimate act saved for relatives and loved ones.

“Yotolein?” she breathed.

Before I could find words, Nili bent over the man’s canoe, pulled back a tarp, and yelped. Huddled in a pool of river water were two shaking children.


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