Teaser From Cathay of Chaos

Abstract image to accompany a fantasy story snippet from speculative fiction writer Cat Rambo.

If you're interested in finding out how to create effective, engaging characters, check out my "Building Characters" class or the Dialogue mini-class. Click "Take an online class with Cat" to find out more about the class.

Lately a couple of stories have arrived in the form of characters. One is Laurel Finch, the little girl in this steampunk snippet, which is tentatively titled “Laurel Finch, Laurel Finch, Where Do You Wander?”. The other is this one, Cathay the Chaos Mage, who is wandering through a city that’s been in my head for a while now, Serendib.

Cathay was a Chaos Mage and didn’t care who knew it. Fear and envy were fine emotions to set someone spinning into a roil, and Cathay could sip from that cup as easily as any other. She dressed sometimes in blue and other times in green or silver or any other color except black. Her sleeves were sewn with opals and moonstones and within their glitter here and there another precious stone, set in no particular order, random as the stars.

A love of gambling was part of Cathay’s definition, and so she often wandered through the doorways of Serendib’s gaming houses, whether they were the high-tech machines of the Southern Quarter or the games of chance and piskie magic played in the alleys across town, in one of the neighborhoods where magic reigned.

Cathay stumbled into Serendib through a one-time doorway, like so many others. She was walking in a wood one moment, and then her foot came down and she was in a city. It made her laugh with delight, the unpredictability of it all, and she soon learned that she had come to the best possible place for a Chaos mage, the city of Serendib, which was made up of odd pockets and uncomfortable niches from other dimensions, a collision of cultures and technologies and economies like no other anywhere.

When she arrived in the city, she had three seeds in her pocket, and so she found an empty lot, precisely between a street where water magic ruled, in constant collision with the road made of fire and iron, so daily fierce sheets of steam arose, driving the delicate indoors and hissing furiously so it sounded as though a swarm of serpents was battling. She dug a hole with her little finger, and then one with her thumb, and a third by staring at the dirt until it moved. Into each she dropped a seed, and covered it up, and sat down to wait.

It was not long till the first inquisitive sprout poked through the dirt, followed by a second. She waited for the third, but it was, by all appearances, uninterested in making an appearance. She shrugged; two were enough for now.

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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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