Teaser from The Threadbare Magician

Picture of a tree to illustrate "The Threadbare Magician"Nearly done with this, it’s hovering somewhere between novelette and novella length. Thank you to Mary Robinette Kowal for suggesting the title.

Friendly Village loops and winds, tiny roads scattered among the trailers. Every patch of landscaping is different – cacti surrounded one mobile home, followed by a forest of rhododendrons, then dahlias that might have originated in my own garden.

Up along the creek ran a little road, unlined with homes. It led to a trailer of a peculiar pearly hue that might have been mistaken for grime at first. It was a Nordic style, almost, simulated white pine beams, rough wrought ironwork on the walls. Its landscaping was bare: a line of rocks, two tiny fir trees, one slightly larger than the other.

Outside, a massive rock crouched beside the mailbox.

In Greek mythology, such stones were sacred to Aphrodite. But I didn’t think a Greek God lurked within.

I’d taken the time to change into a shirt with a pattern of sunglasses. Not the most subtle enchantment, but that was deceptive. It hung a little oddly due to the lining I inserted, fashioned entirely from a different shirt, one patterned with shells, and it helped that the artist had depicted them as fragile things made of spines and arcs, but thick white clam shells. There was enough protection that shirt that it felt as heavy as a full suit of plate mail, even altered my gate a little, made it more of a shuffle.

A man stood on the front porch, watching me approach. His attitude was expectant, perhaps even a little impatient, as though my visit was overdue. His gray beard hung down to his belly, woolly as a blanket. His eyes were blue and a few golden strands showed among the silver on his scalp to attest to his Nordic heritage.

I stopped a few feet away, looking at him.

“You’ve come of your own accord,” he said. “It would’ve been easier if you just let them bring you.”

I acted unsurprised, and maybe I was. Occam’s razor again. One) move to a new place. Two) be attacked by a powerful magical adversary. More than time connected that chain.

“I’m Forseti,” he said.

I searched through crumbs of mythology. My knowledge might have only the depth of a Wikipedia article, but it was wide. You learn the names of all the gods, once you realize most still exist and are acting out their own plans, few of which are constructed to advance humanity. Or even take it into account, really.

“Justice, right?” I said.

He dropped a slow nod.

“What justice is there in killing me?” I asked.

He said, “Perhaps you should come inside for tea.”

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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