HAMMER OF THE WITCHES by Kai Wai Cheah

The terror is daimonic. The sorcery is real.

But enough bullets will kill even the most dangerous supernatural operator.

The Hexenhammer underground has aided the operators of the Nemesis Program in their war against the global supernatural terror campaign, but now Hexenhammer is accused of being the terrorist group responsible for carrying out a spectacular massacre in Greece.

Now Luke Landon must decide if Eve and her fellow underground members should be put down or if they have been set up for destruction by a conspiracy so big and powerful that it may have penetrated Nemesis itself.

HAMMER OF THE WITCHES is the second volume of The Covenant Chronicles, the supernatural Mil-SF series by Kai Wai Cheah, Hugo-nominated author of Flashpoint: Titan.

From the reviews of its predecessor, NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS.

  • This is an excellent fantasy/MilSF book. Fast paced; excellent battle scenes.
  • Cheah does a great job at building this world with lots of details and complexity. It’s a good read and one I had a hard time putting down.
  • Fans of books by Larry Correia and Jim Butcher should find themes in this book that they will enjoy. Character development is stronger than Larry’s earlier but not as strong as his current work.
  • Call of Duty meets Grimnoir Chronicles. If you like Larry Corriea’s Grimnoir series, and the world he has created, you will like the world this book inhabits. 
  • This book came out of nowhere. It’s… very different than anything I’ve read. The author has done some amazing world-building, where magic has been introduced to the ancient world, and changed the course of ancient Persia, Greece and Rome, and the modern world follows from there. 

Appendix N in audio

Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons is a detailed and comprehensive investigation of the various works of science fiction and fantasy that game designer Gary Gygax declared to be the primary influences on his seminal role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. It is a deep intellectual dive into the literature of SF/F’s past that will fascinate any serious role-playing gamer or fan of classic science fiction and fantasy.


Author Jeffro Johnson, an expert role-playing gamer, accomplished dungeon master, and three-time Hugo Award finalist, critically reviews all 43 works and authors listed by Gygax in the famous appendix. In doing so, he draws a series of intelligent conclusions about the literary gap between past and present that is surprisingly relevant to current events, not only in the fantastic world of role-playing, but the real world in which the players live.

Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons is narrated by Brandon Porter and is 10 hours and 22 minutes long. This is a deep and fascinating dive into the fantasy and science fiction literature behind the landmark role-playing game.

Lawdog in audio

LawDog had the honor of representing law and order in the Texas town of Bugscuffle as a sheriff’s deputy, where he became notorious for, among other things, the famous Case of the Pink Gorilla Suit. In The LawDog Files, he chronicles his official encounters with everything from naked bikers, combative eco-warriors, suicidal drunks, respectful methheads, prison tattoo artists, and creepy children to six-foot chickens and lethal chihuahuas.

The LawDog Files range from the bittersweet to the explosively hilarious, as LawDog relates his unforgettable experiences in a laconic, self-deprecating manner that is funny in its own right. The audiobook is more than mere entertainment, it is an education in two English dialects, Police and Texas Country. And underlying the humor is an unmistakable sympathy for society’s less fortunate – and in most cases, significantly less intelligent – whose encounters with the law are an all-too-frequent affair.

Narrated by David. T. Williams, The Lawdog Files are 4 hours and 29 minutes of genuine Texas hilarity. You really have to listen to the audio sample. His voice is just about perfect for Lawdog.


The Ember War comes to Arkhaven

Richard Fox, the Dragon Award-winning author of the bestselling science fiction series THE EMBER WAR SAGA, has an announcement.

Exciting news! The Ember War will come to a comic store near you! The contract with the comic imprint (either Dark Legion or Arkhaven, publisher’s choice) and fellow writer Jon Del Arroz (who’ll do the prose to script work) are signed. 

We’re excited about this, as we’ve wanted to work with Richard for some time now. The first series will be five issues that cover the events of the initial book; there are currently 9 books in the series. We’ll also have another announcement soon about a collaboration for Castalia House that is definitely going to be of serious interest to fans of a certain science fiction series that has already seen graphic adaptation.


Blowing the lid off

An article entitled New Book Blows the Lid Off the Dark World of Child Sex Abuse in Sci-Fi Fandom is now trending on PJ Media.

Moira Greyland is the daughter of famous authors Marion Bradley Zimmer and Walter Breen. She has written a memoir about growing up in a “queer” family and suffering hideous child abuse. In The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon, Greyland details the horror of being a helpless child trapped in a far left fantasy world. The world constructed by her mother, author of The Mists of Avalon, and her father, author of Greek Love (a book literally detailing why pedophilia is fine and even good) was a dark and frightening world. Unfortunately, though many saw how unhappy Greyland and her siblings were, no one stepped in to stop it and, in fact, turned a blind eye.

Greyland’s description of her family’s philosophy is chilling. “All sex is always right no matter what.” This philosophy forced her to endure being raped by her father at the achingly innocent age of four and molested by her mother throughout her childhood. Both her parents insisted she was gay because they believed that every person is naturally homosexual and will be homosexual if not corrupted by heterosexual experiences. Through the exposure to two gay parents and relatives and their friends, Greyland developed a theory about homosexuality that is very unpopular.

“It is my belief that homosexuality is a matter of IMPRINTING, in the same way that BDSM fantasies are,” she explains in the book. “To the BDSM’er, continued practice of the fantasy is sexually exciting. To the gay person, naturally, the same. However, from what I have seen, neither one creates healing. My mother became a lesbian because she was raped by her father. My father was molested by a priest–and regarded it as being the only love he had ever experienced. There are a vanishingly few people who are exclusively gay, but far more who have relationships with people of BOTH genders, as my parents and other relatives did.”

This, of course, is not allowed to be discussed in the age of the Gaystappo, which must be praised at all times. But do we not owe it to the children raised in these environments to hear their experiences? Does the #MeToo craze include the children of gays who did not have idyllic experiences?

Read the whole thing. It’s a remarkably in-depth article about Moira Greyland’s The Last Closet.


Introducing Arkhaven

Arkhaven is the new Castalia House imprint which will be responsible for publishing comics and graphic novel series like Alt★Hero, Alt★Hero Avalon, QUANTUM MORTIS, and Wodehouse, among others. It will be publishing in both digital and print editions, and we’re pleased to announce that the first Arkhaven digital comic is now available today.

QUANTUM MORTIS A Man Disrupted #1: “By the Book”

Chief Warrant Officer Graven Tower is a ruggedly handsome military policeman who hates aliens. Fortunately, as a member of His Grace’s Military Crimes Investigation Division – Xenocriminology and Alien Relations, he gets to arrest a lot of them. Sometimes he even gets to shoot them.

But while he doesn’t like aliens, Chief Tower does very much like Detector Derin Hildreth of the Trans Paradis Police Department, who is unmistakably human. So when Tower has the chance to investigate the mysterious murder of an alien on the streets of Trans Paradis with her, he’s not about to miss the opportunity. Especially when their mutual investigation just might give him the excuse to shoot an alien or three.

Issue #1 is 28 pages, retails for $2.99 at Amazon, and is available on Kindle Unlimited. If you want to check out the interior artwork, click inside and you can see the first few pages. The style is very retro Dick Tracy, which is decidedly out-of-fashion today, but then, it also lacks transgendered minority deviants, disturbing and inappropriate portrayals of children, and endless social justice advocacy. We did say we were going old school, you may recall.

UPDATE: Thank you all for the enthusiastic support!

  • #1 in Kindle Short Reads > 45 minutes (22-32 pages) > Comics & Graphic Novels
  • #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Comics & Graphic Novels > Military
  • #1 New Release in Kindle eBooks > Comics & Graphic Novels
  • #12 in Comics & Graphic Novels

The first 24-page print edition will be available in February and we’re planning to have Issue #2 out in digital then as well. Since we’re new to producing comics, we’re using the QM series as a point man of sorts in order to avoid making any serious mistakes with Alt★Hero production. But no worries, we are still on track to have three of the first A★H digital editions out to the backers in February.

We also have a new line of Arkhaven t-shirts available at Crypto.Fashion, including both first official Alt★Hero Captain Europa t-shirt and the first official Alt★Hero Rebel t-shirt. Posters and more will be available there soon.


Traffic report 2017

2016 was an absolutely extraordinary year. 2017 was considerably less explosive in terms of traffic growth, and was even a step backwards in several regards, but was nevertheless important due to a number of structural revisions being made behind the scenes that will provide a stronger foundation for future growth in the coming year.

In 2017, Vox Popoli had 31,216,357 pageviews and Alpha Game 3,952,482 for a total of 35,168,839 Google pageviews. The two blogs are now running at a average rate of 96,366 daily pageviews, up from an average 85,341 last year. The running annual pageview totals are as follows:

2008: 3,496,757
2009: 4,414,801
2010: 4,827,183
2011: 5,969,066
2012: 7,774,074
2013: 13,111,695
2014: 15,693,622
2015: 20,776,969
2016: 31,149,628
2017: 35,168,839

In August, I stepped away from blogging at Alpha Game, due to a lack of time and a growing lack of interest in the subject. I’ve learned what I wanted to learn and said what I wanted to say about intersexual relations; if I happen to write more on the subject, it will probably be in the form of a book. Lee Jackson has picked up the slack at AG and has already turned it around, so I’m glad to see that the community there will remain active.

The biggest blog news in 2017 was the unexpected magnitude of the success of the Alt★Hero crowdfunding campaign. As a result, we’ll be introducing two comics imprints in 2018, Arkhaven and Dark Legion. Arkhaven will be the comics and graphic novels that we produce ourselves, while Dark Legion will be our vehicle for publishing comics and graphic novels produced by others.

Castalia House expanded from 65 titles to 96, with 38 titles available in print and 24 in audiobook. Book sales increased 40 percent, with print accounting for 16 percent of the total. Infogalactic had some ups and downs as far as stability was concerned, but it is still going strong as we work towards the release of the DONT PANIC engine, while Infogalactic News and Infogalactic Tech were launched and have grown steadily in popularity. On the downside, Brainstorm was essentially shut down midway through the year due to GoToWebinar shenanigans following the sale of the company, which is why we’re going to move it to a different voice-only service this month. And we didn’t quite manage to launch Voxiversity in 2017, but we will do so soon.

I’ve also begun blogging more often at DevGame, since we’ll be launching four games there this year and probably doing one game-related kickstarter this summer that should be of considerable appeal to strategy gamers. For more information about that, be sure to visit DevGame from time to time in the new year. We will also be launching a complete site redesign of Castalia House in 2018, including dedicated forums and wikis.

Thanks to everyone who continues to read VP and to those who support one or more of the various endeavors that have emanated from it. Thanks especially to the Infogalactic Burn Unit, the Alt★Hero backers, the Castalia volunteers, and the Brainstorm crew, all of whom have come together in a spirit of cooperation to make these various projects viable.

2017 was a year for building foundations that should lead to constructive consequences in 2018. Of course, it would not be an annual report without a resort to our old comparable with “the most popular blog in science fiction.” Since I’m no longer the primary blogger at Alpha Game, I have removed it entirely from the equation. Gammas are certainly free to posture as they will, but the facts are the facts, however uncomfortable they might be. As for other metrics such as movies and whatnot, well, we haven’t even begun exploring those arenas. But I expect we will, in time.

And I anticipate that what we will do there will be very similar to what we have done here. The ride never ends.


Why THE LAST CLOSET matters

More young women than you would probably believe were heavily influenced by the twisted psyche of Marion Zimmer Bradley.

I still cannot imagine anything more perfectly aligned with my thirteen-year-old sensibilities than Marion Zimmer Bradley’s masterpiece. Bradley opened my eyes to the idea that, when we look at the past, we are only ever seeing a small part of it — and usually, what we are seeing excludes the experiences of women. Encountering the vain, self-serving, diabolical Morgan le Fay transformed into the priestess Morgaine compelled me to question other received narratives in which women are to blame for the failures of men. The Mists of Avalon also gave me a glimpse of spiritual possibilities beyond male-dominated, male-defined religions. In retrospect, I can see that it gave me ways of seeing that helped me find the feminine even within patriarchal systems while studying religion as an undergrad. The impact of this book lingers in my feminism, certainly, but it also influenced my scholarly interest in folklore, and it still informs my personal spirituality.

But my primary reaction to The Mists of Avalon, when I first read it, wasn’t intellectual; it was emotional. Like The Once and Future King, Bradley’s novel follows its protagonist from childhood into old age. I sympathized with the girl Morgaine, and her adolescent experiences hinted at frustrations I was just beginning to feel. The moment when Morgaine and Lancelet are, finally, about to become lovers — and then Gwenhwyfar, blonde and fair and lithe and helpless, stumbles into Avalon… No matter how many times I revisit this scene, it still crushes me. This isn’t a story about the pretty girl, the princess. It’s the story of the smart girl who becomes a powerful woman. Even so, Bradley brings nuance to these characters. She shows us Morgaine doing foolish, selfish things, and she shows us that Gwenhwyfar’s position is an impossible one. Doom hangs over Arthur’s glorious reign, just as fate rules many a legend and fable. There is no happy ending for anyone at Camelot — there never has been — but Bradley shows us real people struggling against their destiny, and she shows us that it’s not just impersonal fortune to blame for their inevitable downfall. Instead, it’s systems of oppression. By the time I left home for a women’s college in 1989, I’d reread The Mists of Avalon several times. I arrived ready to smash the patriarchy.

It’s easy to claim that the book is not the author, because that is true. But in cases such as this, it is impossible to separate the theme, and more importantly, the message, of the book from the beliefs of the author. There are those authors who are intellectually ruthless enough to accurately represent beliefs they do not hold, but there are not very many such others and Marion Zimmer Bradley was certainly not one of them.

Her personal ideosyncracies not only informed, they dictated the nature of her works, which amounted to pure feminist propaganda. This is readily apparent in even her earliest writings. You cannot read The Mists of Avalon without realizing that it stems from the bitterness of a plain little dark-haired woman who cannot attract the handsome warriors and hates the tall pretty blonde girls who do. It’s essentially a medieval female Revenge of the Nerds. No wonder it was popular in feminist and proto-feminist circles.

And it was popular despite its twisted sexuality and its infamous scene of ritualized child abuse, a scene that its fans still defend as “a description of people who have passed beyond the normal world and into the sacred time of a fertility ritual.”

But the abuse of children is no more justifiable in that context than it was at Greyhaven, especially when there is absolutely no anthropological basis for it. And that is why The Last Closet is important, because it exposes the lie behind which so much evil hides itself.


EXCERPT: An Equation of Almost Infinite Complexity

Dean was brilliant, handsome, exotic, and accomplished. He had come from the Wharton school of business to do a doctorate in mathematics, something that was continually interrupted by consulting engagements during which some Fortune 500 company would fly him to an office in Texas or Washington DC or Seattle or Silicon Valley and pay him $75,000 for two months while he figured out some problem that, apparently, no one else could figure out for them. When he was not studying or working, he was a good enough trumpet player to substitute in the opera company orchestra (an aunt was on the board) and sometimes played professionally in theater pit orchestras. He was also the love of Thisbe’s short life.

They had surprised each other. He was not interested in art or aesthetics or greatness, he did not seek the love of women. He was only driven to succeed in all he did. She was not interested in a new boyfriend or business or the second-tier musicians who hung about the edges of professional theater. In some ways, the attraction each held for the other was inexplicable. Yet for two years, they carried on a scorching love affair, Thisbe completely under the domination of this egoist. Dean’s friends and relations said, “A music student? He could do better.” But when they met her, they saw that she was alert and intelligent and lovely and admitted that there was nothing not to like if she was Dean’s choice. “She’s young,” they would say, “but so quick. And so charming.” For their part, Thisbe’s friends—musicians, students, bohemians—were fascinated and appalled by Dean. “Is he nothing but a success machine?” they would ask. Then they would meet him. He would turn his handsome sad-eyed intensity on them and listen carefully to everything they said, returning well-considered and interested replies, and they too found nothing to dislike.

With Dean, Thisbe felt she had found the other half of her own soul, someone who could complete her. Her life before him evaporated like a dream forgotten on waking. She had been living with Julius at the time, and she left all her things in his apartment and never went back for them. Even the friends who had warned her of Julius’s mediocrity and infidelity were surprised at how perfectly Thisbe forgot him. “He’s a nice guy,” they would say in defense of Julius, but someone used the word “irrelevant,” and that stuck too.

While everyone likes their friends to be lucky in love, Thisbe and Dean were too much. Their togetherness, their intensity, their indestructible delight in one another was hard to take. “When they invite me, I feel like they don’t really care if I say yes or no,” said Meghan Evans, and everyone knew what she meant. Abby Bruler, younger but sharper, said the same thing more precisely: “It’s as if no one else is in the world but them.” They were destined for marriage, or, if that was too old-fashioned for such an heroic couple, at least for some lifetime arrangement.

But as the first year waned and second waxed, there was a change. Where before the two had been inseparable, each seemingly made more gloriously themselves by the other, signs of a more ordinary love appeared. This was noted with approval. Thisbe and Dean might bicker; or Dean might decide not to cut his business trip short. He would spend an extra night in Seattle to avoid taking a redeye. Instead of two weeks in Bora Bora for Christmas, they stayed home so that Dean could work on his thesis. Thisbe’s friends began receiving phone calls from her again, sometimes even when Dean was in town. “It’s more realistic,” said Meghan Evans.

Because Thisbe’s friends believed that, after an initial peak, the love affair was subsiding into something more solid and steady. They had, they told each other, seen it before. The lovers lose the first overwhelming fascination and their relationship dwindles into something more regular. There was a certain satisfaction in this since no one likes to have their middling infatuations exposed to the unforgiving glare of real love. But in predicting for Thisbe and Dean the stability of an average love, they were all wrong.

Over the next months, everything crumbled away. Dean became distant and aloof with Thisbe. He refused to come out when her friends were going to be present. If he did run into her friends, he was openly contemptuous, calling chubby well-meaning Meghan Evans a “fat pinko parasite” and stylish Abby Bruler a “gold watch socialist” who “wouldn’t know a workingman if he raped her.”

Thisbe’s initial promise as a performance major evaporated, in part because the obsessive focus required for musical glory had transferred to Dean. There should have been no shame in this. As Julius had pointed out years before, practicing six or eight or ten hours a day, as violin majors are apt to do, smacks of an unbalanced mind. But as her friends realized, this was a disappointment to Thisbe, who had hoped for greater things and who, such a short time before, had shown promise of achieving them. It was therefore with a particular shivery thrill that they discovered that Dean, arguably the cause of her disappointment, mocked her in her decline. She fell out of the performance program and graduated with the commonplace cum laude in music education. At a party celebrating the end of Thisbe’s four years, Dean referred to her revised major as “the refuge of the talentless.”

Dean’s comments caused a sensation among her friends, who were delighted to think ill of the man who had aroused their suspicion all along. Their gossip, stifled by the perfect love in their midst, now burned up the phone lines. Dean was a control freak. Dean was an egoist. Dean was bipolar. Dean had deep psychological problems that manifested themselves in a desperate will to succeed and an initial charm, which later turned into bitter resentment against regular people for the normal, well-adjusted lives they led and he never could. Dean was a jerk, a goof, a nut, a screwball.

The breakdown came on a stormy night in June, when Thisbe waited two hours for Dean in a restaurant, leaving numerous messages on his cellular telephone. She gave it up and went home in the rain to shower and weep in front of an old movie on television. Dean called.

“Oh my God, I was so worried. Please don’t ever do that again. Don’t let me not know where you are like that…”

He cut her off. “Please don’t call this number again. My cell phone is for work.”

“I know, I know. It’s just that you hadn’t called and I was so worried…”

“I don’t know what you were worried about. I didn’t come because I don’t want to see you anymore. I would appreciate it if you would stop bothering me.”

She could not speak, for despite the difficulties of the previous months, she had not yet admitted that she was to lose him. His words stunned her. She felt a growing panic, but fought against it. She realized that he would hang up if she did not say something, so she quickly said, “Dean, wait.” She was surprised at her tone, which was commonplace and controlled.

She succeeded, because he did not hang up. He said, “Yes, what is it?” He was impatient.

“Are you having a bad day? I don’t want to put any pressure on you, you know that.” Without thinking, she had adopted the tone of a mother speaking to a peevish child. She was pleased, realizing as she spoke that any other tack—emotional appeals, anger, sarcasm—would have ended the conversation immediately. “I just want what’s best.”

“Hm,” he said in a way he had, thoughtful and amused. She felt her words had made an impression. “You may want what’s best, and then again you may not,” he said. She realized that he was mocking her: she wanted what was best, meaning him. “The fact is that I don’t want you. I would appreciate it if you would stop phoning. In fact, I would appreciate it if you left me alone completely.”

“Dean–” and now she could not stop the emotion pouring into her voice. Though the night before she had told Abby Bruler all about Dean’s recent inattentiveness and even cruelties, she realized that she did not care, that she loved him and wanted him no matter how he behaved. “Oh Dean, I–”

Again the brutal interruption. “Please stop this emotional nonsense. That sort of thing never helps. I have no time for you now.”

“Dean!”

“Nothing about you is of any interest to me. Please respect my wishes and leave me alone. Goodbye.”

“Dean!” she fairly shrieked.

He hung up.

When Meghan Evans heard about Dean’s final break with Thisbe, she said, “That man sold his soul to the devil a long time ago.” As we shall see, gentle reader, she was absolutely right.


The Book of Feasts & Seasons

The animals gathered, one by one, outside the final city of Man, furtive, curious, and afraid.

All was dark. In the west was a blood-red sunset, and in the east a blood-red moonrise of a waning moon. No lamps shined in the towers and minarets, and all the widows of the palaces, mansions, and fanes were empty as the eyes of skulls.

All about the walls of the city were the fields and houses that were empty and still, and all the gates and doors lay open.

Above the fortresses and barracks, black pillars upheld statues of golden eagles, beaks open, unmoving and still. Above the coliseum and circus, where athletes strove and acrobats danced and slaves fought and criminals were fed alive to wild beasts for the diversion of the crowds, and the noise of screams and cries rose up like incense toward heaven, statues of heroes and demigods stood on white pillars, glaring blindly down.

Within other walls were gardens whose trees were naked in the wind, and the silence was broken only by the rustle of the carpet of fallen leaves wallowing along the marble paths and pleasances.
Above the boulevards and paved squares where merchants once bought and sold ivory and incense and purple and gold, or costly fabrics of silks from the east, or ambergris from the seas beyond the Fortunate Isles, and auction houses adorned and painted stood where singing birds and dancing girls were sold to the highest bidder or given to the haughtiest peer. And here were gambling houses where princes and nobles once used gems as counters for cities and walled towns, and the fate of nations might depend upon the turn of a card. And there were pleasure houses where harlots plied their trade, and houses of healing where physicians explained which venereal disease had no cures and arranged for painless suicides, and houses of morticians where disease-raddled bodies were burnt in private, without any ceremony that might attract attention and be bad for business.

And higher on the high hill in the center of the city were the libraries of the learned and the palaces of the emperors adored as gods. But no history was read in the halls of learning and no laws were debated in the halls of power.

Not far outside the city was a mountain that had been cut in two, crown to root, by some great supernatural force. On the slopes of the dark mountain, in a dell overgrown and wild, two dark creatures met, peering cautiously toward the empty city.

A black wolf addressed a black raven sitting in a thorn-bush. “What is the news, eater of carrion? Did you fly over the city and spy out where the corpses are?”

The black raven shrugged indifferently. “I thought it unwise to intrude. What of you, bold corsair against the sheepfolds of men? Man has always feared your kind. Did you not creep into the unwatched and unguarded gates? Surely you were not afraid!”

The wolf was embarrassed and turned away. “Surely I am not a fool,” he growled.

“Who, then, will go into the city?” asked the raven.

“Long ago, Man seduced our cousin the Hound to serve him, and to betray us. The Sons of the Hound are friends of Man, and can pass into the city to discover what has become of Adam’s sons and Enoch’s grandsons. I smell one of my cousins nearby. If Man is truly vanished from the bosom of the Earth, then the old covenant is broken and he and I may speak.”

The raven with a croak and a flutter of wings rose into the air. “Surely Hound will know.”

But it proved not so. When Raven and Wolf came to where Hound and Horse and the slow and solemn Bull were all exchanging whispered eulogies and reminiscences, and put their question to him, the Hound shrugged philosophically. “I cannot tell you what has become of Man, nor what these great lightning-flares and thunders and voices mean. All I can say is that I no longer smell his scent on the air, nor smell the smoke of his bright servant, fire. For the first time since the hour when the prince of the air, Prometheus, taught Cain how to build a sacrificial fire, and taught Tubalcain how to light a forge, there has been the smell of smoke or smokestack somewhere in the world, be it campfire or holocaust or steel mills roaring with glorious flame. Now there is no sign of fire anywhere the rumor of the eight winds carries to me.”

The wolf said, “You are friendly to Man. Go there! If he should still be alive, he will pet and fondle you, and feed you soup bones and slivers of meat.”

The hound shook his shaggy head. “It would be disobedience. I cannot go where Man forbids me go.”

Wolf snarled, “And if he is vanished forever? How long will you obey his NO DOGS ALLOWED signs?”

Hound said, “If my master has gone forever, then will I obey his word forever, and never will I enter the city. The First Hound was the first beast ever to be given a name by Adam, the First Man, and that honor we have never forgotten.”

A sharp laugh came from the bushes nearby. It was Fox, with his bright, cunning eyes and his black fur. “And for your loyalty, yours was the first tribe expelled from Eden with him, O Hound!”

“He needed the company,” said Hound simply.

From THE BOOK OF FEASTS & SEASONS by John C. Wright.