by Aliette de Bodard
There was a sound on the edge of sleep: Suu Nuoc wasn’t sure if it was a bell and a drum calling for enlightenment, or the tactics-master sounding the call to arms in that breathless instant—hanging like a bead of blood from a sword’s blade—that marked the boundary between the stylized life of the court and the confused, lawless fury of the battlefield.
“Book of Heaven, Book of Heaven.”
The soft, reedy voice echoed under the dome of the ceiling, but the room itself had changed—receding, taking on the shape of the mindship—curved metal corridors with scrolling columns of memorial excerpts, the oily sheen of the Mind’s presence spread over the watercolors of starscapes and the carved longevity character at the head of the bed. For a confused, terrible moment as Suu Nuoc woke up, he wasn’t sure if he was still in his bedroom in the Purple Forbidden City on the First Planet or hanging, weightless, in the void of space.
It wasn’t a dream. It was the mindship: The Turtle’s Golden Claw, the only one addressing Suu Nuoc with that peculiar form of his title, the one that the empress had conferred on him half out of awe, half out of jest.
The Turtle’s Golden Claw wasn’t there in his bedroom, of course: she was a Mind, an artificial intelligence encased in the heartroom of a ship, and she was too heavy to leave orbit. But she was good at things; and one of those was hacking his comms and using the communal network to project new surroundings over his bedroom. READ MORE
by Alan Smale
The stone head grimaced down at them, darkened by shadow and encrusted with the grime of centuries. With its fierce, protruding eyes, and its heavy-toothed mouth forced wide into a snarl by the twin branches of hawthorn and oak that threaded its jaws, it was the face of a wild soul in eternal torment.
Disoriented, Richard gripped the dark wood frame of the box pew. Corinne took the opportunity to place her hand on their guide’s arm. “That’s very . . . striking,” she said.
“Striking indeed,” said the guide, an elderly specimen in a too-large cardigan whose name Richard had forgotten immediately. If they’d been in America, he would have been properly labeled. “Although the connection between foliate faces such as this, found in churches throughout England, and the Jack-in-the-Green of popular folklore is, to say the least, tenuous.”
“Is that right?” asked Corinne, blue eyes wide.
The Green Man was jammed uncomfortably into the corner of the ceiling, squeezed between the oaken roof beams. Glancing away in unease, Richard was startled anew to see another Green Man—foliate head—on the other side of the chancel, directly above the lectern. This one was very different in appearance, with slanted eyes and a pug nose barely visible through the leaves that smothered it. READ MORE