Copyright © by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.
Featured Image: Red Dragon Companion, by Carlos “Kamyu” Díaz Asenjo
My niece holds my hand, and I slip from all that I’ve known in a rainbow of sensation. Consciousness drains, and I pool into a fresh vessel not an invader, but a refugee. I awake a child no older than my niece embracing me. But she will not grow up alone. “They left you tied in the cave, Mama?” She nods to her little daughter. “But Papa saved you?” “This was before I met Papa. I had to rescue myself from the heat of a dragon’s breath.” “How?” She passes a sapphire claw now made a dagger. “By tooth and nail.” She awakened on the floor beside a man she didn’t know. Between them was a note in her handwriting she didn’t remember. “Five drops of forgetfulness removed me from his memory. Five more in my cup will erase my pain. I drink and pray we will fall in love again.” “Tell me of the days before. Of the verve, and of the venom!” “I will not.” “Storyteller, regale me of the age of madness and its monsters!” “No.” “Then whose story will you speak?” “I will sing of the humble and the kind, for they did keep the light alive.” Surrounded by orcs, the halfling cooks and servers of the baggage train seemed doomed separated from their allies. But cookware became “Potvalor” armor, and taking-up skillets and cleavers they charged with their now memorialized cry: “Remember the à la mode!” “I’m surprised you’re still running, now that he’s gone.” “I wasn’t forged to be a tool,” he says, packing his satchel. “I tended the artificer through his final years out of love, not design.” “So, what are you built for?” “To live,” the clockwork man answers. “I suspect the quantum flux experiment ran awry,” she ponders. “How so?” he says. “Typically, I don’t speak or have an advanced physics degree.” The hamsters exchange nods. “Hey, wasn’t I human?” he asks. “You do seem more attractive now, Professor.”