- by M. Pax
- Part 2
- copyright 2011 M. Pax, all rights reserved
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Claudette pulled open the door, and the wind pushed, knocking past her in a whirring gust. It rushed in dirt and twigs and moon and night, piling it on the floor.
From the worn and warped boards the heap rose, a restless column reaching and grasping, filling out Emile’s repaired coat. The lantern sputtered and hissed, flailing on its wick, and with a harrowing shrug the thing blew it out.
The summoned night came forth, earth and sorrow and wind and moon, lumbering, stumbling. “I missed you so,” it said, an eerie, misaligned copy of her dear Emile.
Ever so grateful for any bit of him at all, Claudette wept and fell into his loamy embrace, welcoming the icy tendrils stroking her flesh. With him she moved, clutching, swaying, waltzing out into the thicket under the lauding moon. Emile caressed her with cold, with thorns, and with sighs, cherishing her tears and smiles, cradling her heart.
In perfect abandon they reeled in passion until the winds collapsed. Then they rolled and tussled in eternal avowal, fulfilling promises once made… I take thee Claudette… I take thee Emile… J’adore. Je t’aime. Love mended and bridged, knotted and knitted, joined for all time.
In a bundle of sore, requited spirit, Claudette swore her devotion upon his heaving chest. Emile’s new sewn heart beat strong ’til the horizon exhaled a puff of dawn.
Emile faded with the ghostly light. “Au revoir ma petite.”
Moon, grit, and thistle kissed her lips and left her in a void. She grieved into the woolen cloak, empty and wasted, smelling of his spilled blood. The heart she’d stitched lay limp, crumpled and deflated, tattered and ruined.
Three years would pass until the next enchanted night, an eternity to wait on her honeymoon, but the interval would make her cherish their time all the more. “I keep you ’til then, Emile. Keep you ’til then.”
With strands of gold thread Claudette wrapped a tender twig he’d left in her hair and fastened it around her finger. A testament to her fidelity. At last she was wed — to magic and to the blue moon and to the summoned soul of her beloved Emile.
The Quintessence of Absence by Sean McLachlan
Can a drug-addicted sorcerer sober up long enough to save a kidnapped girl and his own Duchy? In an alternate 18th century Germany where magic is real and paganism never died, Lothar is in the bonds of nepenthe, a powerful drug that gives him ecstatic visions. It has also taken his job, his friends, and his self-respect. Now his old employer has rehired Lothar to find the man’s daughter, who is in the grip of her own addiction to nepenthe. As Lothar digs deeper into the girl’s disappearance, he uncovers a plot that threatens the entire Duchy of Anhalt, and finds the only way to stop it is to face his own weakness.
Sean’s latest fantasy novella, The Quintessence of Absence, is out now on Amazon, Amazon UK, Smashwords, and will soon be at other outlets as well. This story originally appeared in Black Gate magazine.