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Cover
Table of Contents
Editor's Notes
Donations
Submission Guidelines
Website

Stories & Essays
Copy Machine Repair Guy
_
By D.E. Fredd
Corrupted Youth
_ By Kurt Kirchmeier
Dragon's Breath
_ By Lionel Cheng
Even the Damned Deserve to Love
_ By Anna Cortez
Gifts
_ By Jocelyn Johnson
House of Cards
_ By Steven J. Dines
In Doubt
_ By Stephanie Thoma
Lipstick
_ By Michelle Baron
Old Biddy
_ By Claire Nixon
Quinceańera
_ By Hester Young
The Fiddler and the Faerie
_ By Samantha Rae
When Barky Smiles
_ By S.E. Diamond

Poetry
2 A.M. Window Shopping
_ By Chris McGuffin
Alison
_ By Harriet O. Leach
Cloudy New Year's Morning
_ By Richard Fein
Not Easy
_ By Samantha Ogust
On Hearing Li-Young Lee Read His Poetry
_ By Foster Dickson
Prelude and Coda
_ By Richard Fein
Rainy Night Meditation
_ By Harriet O. Leach
Retreat
_ By Richard MacAleese
Silage Team--Machete Thirst
_ By Leland Jamieson
Starlight
_ By Richard MacAleese
Stolen Phone
_ By Jorge Jameson
The Abandoned Playground
_ By Richard MacAleese
Thought Provoking Baked Crescent
_ By Chris McGuffin

Art & Photography
Daniel Bravo
_ Paintings
Tove Hedengren
_ Photography
Peter Huettenrauch
_ Photography
E. Hunting
_ Drawings and Digital Art
Robin McQuay
_ Drawings
Iris Onica
_ Paintings
Pete Revonkorpi
_ Digital Art
Roy Wangsa
_ Photography

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Dragon's Breath
By Lionel Cheng


An Arkonese short

Snow, snow, and more snow. Howling around the trapper in flurries that chilled his fur-clad body to the bone, the snow was his enemy, promising him a slow, numbing death. While the trapper thought himself a fool for venturing so far out on the mountainside today, it was too late to build a snow-house; he would have to find shelter or risk frostbite, or worse, death.

Trudging through the coniferous forest on furred snowshoes, the trapper’s steel-jawed snares weighed heavy upon his back, and the cold was beginning to make him feel faint, despite having lived all his life upon the Northern Ranges. Sending up a prayer to Caine for help, the trapper struggled on and almost as if his desperate prayer had been smiled upon by the Valorous, the pine trees parted to reveal the mouth of a huge cave before him. A last spurt of strength in his legs brought him to the arching entrance, and there he collapsed into a cranny out of the wind’s way.

When he finally awoke, cold and hungry, the ice upon his clothes and beard had melted, soaking his body with chilly water. The trapper knew he must return to his cabin soon. There he could kindle a fire, and in any case, his provisions he had with him were frozen solid and inedible. It would be a pity to escape cold, yet perish from starvation. Blowing into his gloves in an attempt to restore circulation to his hands, the trapper was about to leave the cavern when something caught his eye.

Sculptures of dazzling ice lay strewn along the cavern floor--figurines of men, animals, trees, dwarves, and other things the trapper did not recognize. Scratching his soggy beard in confusion, he could not fathom who could have carved such things and placed them here. Drawn by their pristine allure, the trapper reached out to touch one of the sculptures and cried aloud as he withdrew his gloved hand, for the ice figurine was bitterly, forbiddingly cold, colder than even the blizzard that had forced him into this cave. Deeper into the tunnel, more figurines rested, but the trapper dared not to venture further in; he had no light, and knew dangerous beasts such as snow-cougars and bears sought refuge from snowstorms in caves too.

Instead, amidst the debris and snow, a lump of ice rested, as about one and a half times the size of the trapper’s head. It was brighter than the rest, and there was something even more special about it that made the trapper reach out even more cautiously to grasp it. Unlike the forbidding ice sculptures, this chunk was warm to the touch, and it made the poor man wonder even more, for he was a simple man; the Northern Ranges did not look kindly upon intellectuals upon its slopes. As he held the ice up to the sunlight, a myriad of colours pleasing to the eye shone though it, and the trapper was pleased. It was ice, and yet it did not melt to his touch or breath, a very strange thing indeed.

So the trapper took the lump down to his cabin and set it above his hearth, where the dancing flames of the fire almost made the trapper believe he had chanced upon a huge diamond. Yet although he knew it was ice, there was something about the lump that desired to be something more than a mere decoration, and so he took out his spare knife, some other tools and a whetstone, and set to work. By day the trapper would check the snares on the mountainside, carve the meat and pelts off the caught animals, and store them away, while in the long, bitter nights, he would work the knife and borer against both ice and stone. Even then, the ice was incredibly hard, and it took two spare blades before he finished his work.

Lump turned to rod, and rod turned to flute, and by the start of the autumn, the trapper had music to accompany him through the ever-lengthening nights. He played music of his youth upon the ice flute, music of the village in the valley below him, where his sister and he had grown up. Life had not been easy in the village, but it had been happy, and notes of joyousness rang out from his log cabin into the desolate mountainside, staving off the loneliness that the peaks brought down upon all those who dared stay upon them.

One night, the trapper had settled by his fire and begun to play the ice flute yet again when the earth beneath him began to tremble. Fearing an avalanche, the trapper fled from his house, flute in hand. What met his eyes was far worse than an avalanche--a Great Dragon of the Blue Flight, as large as a small mansion. Freezing mist curled from its snout as the Ice-Wyrm swiveled its head from side to side, seeking out something with its radiant eyes.

Solokar, Solokar, where are you? It cried dolorously. Come back to me... I hear your voice... Lowering its head so the trapper could smell the rankness in its breath and shaggy mane, the Great Dragon snarled at the trapper. You there! Human! Have you seen my mate? I heard her voice!

Terrified, the trapper was trembling, knowing full well the majestic beast could entomb him and his abode in ice with a mere breath. “F-forgive me... I... found this lump of ice and carved an instrument out of it... I... I... didn’t mean any harm...”

Play for me, human. Let me hear the voice of my mate’s breath again. Take my pain away.

So the trapper played the merry tune again, the tune of joyous times gone by. To his surprise, the wyrm joined in the song with its humming, its spiked tail swaying from side to side in time with the music. When the trapper had finished, he looked up to see oily, rainbow tears falling from the dragon’s eyes.

T-thank you, human, it said, and with a beat of its wings, it was gone.

(Turn the page)