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Summary

An anthology of short stories by an international collection of science-fiction and fantasy writers, covering a wide range of what is known as ‘speculative fiction’, from slices of fantasy and time travel to steampunk and science-fiction. The tales vary widely, yet are all born from the same drive to create, share ideas and above all to entertain:

TALES OF ERANA: THE BLUE PHIAL by Alexandra Butcher - A short story from the world of ‘The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles’.
THE QRIM CHIEFTAIN by Stan Morris - When a haughty princess scorns a barbarian chieftain, her city pays the price.
ANTIMATTER ME by Steph Bennion - The experiment had not been a success and now time was running out. Or was it running in?
EXPLAIN THAT TO A MARTIAN by Gary Weston - Drinkers sometimes see all kinds of things. But even I wasn't expecting to see a four-eyed Martian in my lounge...
THE IMAGINARY INVASION by Ubiquitous Bubba - When our reality is invaded by extra-dimensional beings, imaginary characters may be humanity’s only hope.
THE GUNS OF NAPOLEON by Peter Lean - A professor of history, a mysterious scientific institute and an impossible painting in a story of time travel.
CAUSALITY by Neil Shooter - A dream of desolation and death. How can this end be a beginning? And how can a dream seem so real?
NECROMANCER by Emma Faragher - Mal is a necromancer. Now her greatest debt is being called in and her skills are needed. On a murder investigation, no less.
KIRA by Ross Harrison - Kira's town has so far survived the destruction wrought by the Government on so many others. But for how much longer?
IN THE LAP OF THE GODS by Steph Bennion - There are those who would stop at nothing to keep certain inventions from becoming a reality.
MONDAY IMPS by Alexandra Butcher - Have you ever wondered about Mondays? Why is it everything seems to go wrong? There is a simple answer...
SEPARATE WARS ON THE SAME STREET by Josh Karaczewski - A new war is being fought on the rooftops and alleyways by men in mech suits.
MESRIN STATION by L. L. Watkin - Jan was never an upstanding citizen, but he was never stupid either; and now they are all in more trouble than they thought...
HALF-BLOOD by Barbara G. Tarn - Giordano discovers he’s a half-blood. His search for his ‘real’ father will take him farther than he thought.

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WYRD WORLDS

[About the Authors] [Contents] [Foreword]

WYRDSTAR BOOKS

www.wyrdstar.co.uk

Copyright Notices:

Tales Of Erana: The Blue Phial (c) Alexandra Butcher 2013

The Qrim Chieftain (c) Stan Morris 2013

Antimatter Me (c) Steph Bennion 2013

Explain That To A Martian (c) Gary Weston 2013

The Imaginary Invasion (c) Ubiquitous Bubba 2013

The Guns Of Napoleon (c) Peter Lean 2013

Causality (c) Neil Shooter 2013

Necromancer (c) Emma Faragher 2013

Kira (c) Ross Harrison 2013

In The Lap Of The Gods (c) Steph Bennion 2013

Monday Imps (c) Alexandra Butcher 2013

Separate Wars On The Same Street (c) Josh Karaczewski 2013

Mesrin Station (c) L. L. Watkin 2013

Half-Blood (c) Barbara G. Tarn 2013

Cover artwork copyright (c) Ross Harrison 2013

www.ross-harrison.com

All rights reserved.

SMASHWORDS EDITION

Smashwords license notes

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. Although this is a free book, it remains the shared copyrighted property of the contributing authors and may not be reproduced, copied and distributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy at Smashwords.com, where they can also discover other works by the authors. Thank you for your support.

Smashwords publishing history

First published September 2013

Revised May 2014 (text corrections and endpaper update)

This short story anthology is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the authors’ imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

* * * * *

WYRD WORLDS

Foreword

[Title Page] [Contents] [Tales Of Erana: The Blue Phial]

WELCOME TO WYRD WORLDS! This anthology is a pure creation of the internet age: the work of an international collection of science-fiction and fantasy writers, all previously self-published authors, who have come together through the book recommendations site Goodreads to produce this very ebook you are now reading.

The stories in this collection cover a wide range of what is known as ‘speculative fiction’, from slices of fantasy and time travel to steampunk and science-fiction. The tales vary widely, yet are all born from the same drive to create, share ideas and above all to entertain:

Tales Of Erana: The Blue Phial by Alexandra Butcher

The Qrim Chieftain by Stan Morris

Antimatter Me by Steph Bennion

Explain That To A Martian by Gary Weston

The Imaginary Invasion by Ubiquitous Bubba

The Guns Of Napoleon by Peter Lean

Causality by Neil Shooter

Necromancer by Emma Faragher

Kira by Ross Harrison

In The Lap Of The Gods by Steph Bennion

Monday Imps by Alexandra Butcher

Separate Wars On The Same Street by Josh Karaczewski

Mesrin Station by L. L. Watkin

Half-Blood by Barbara G. Tarn

This volume is offered free for your reading pleasure and to provide a taster of the world of self publishing. If you like what you have read, further details of other works by the contributing authors can be found at the end of this ebook. In the meantime, enjoy!

Steph Bennion

Editor

September 2013

* * * * *

TALES OF ERANA: THE BLUE PHIAL

Alexandra Butcher

[Foreword] [Contents] [The Qrim Chieftain]

A short story from the world of ‘The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles’.

HELVIRA RELMIS was an elderly woman, but skilled in the profession of herbalist. Her potions were renowned among men and women alike, many of her younger counterparts asked for the secrets she carried only to receive a smile. Even the Order of Witch-Hunters of Erana turned to her from time to time, overlooking her magical ability as it suited them in return for her knowledge. Of course, Helvira should have long ago ended her days in a dungeon, or the Enclave where most elves and half-elves ended up, as slaves and servants to the humans. As she peered in the light of the glowglobe Helvira recounted her blessings and her adventurous life. The book before her was old, even older than she, with a cover of black leather now faded to russet, and many extra pages and scraps of parchment, even velum. The rather wild and unkempt condition of the tome was a stark contrast to drawings of such detail they seemed to leap from the pages and fill every available space, alongside a rather laboriously written but meticulous set of notes.

However, her eyes had grown dim. Even an herbalist and sorceress marks the passing of the years with trepidation, then it becomes the passing of the months and finally each day is precious.

Caterina, my young apprentice, my days grow ever less. You, only of my pupils possess the talents with which the gods chose to grace me and so to you I impart the final lesson of your training. A lesson and a gift before I go to the Other World.

The young woman Caterina drew the blanket about the old woman and shook her head, wishing not to lose her friend and her guide. Mistress, it will be many years. You have strength and a courage few possess. I do not wish to be alone, I am not ready and not worthy.

Helvira chuckled. My girl, this world has seen enough of me. Fortune has been mine, even wealth, and I have counted amongst my customers both rich and poor. I have even the respect of the Witch-Hunters and no other elf or half-elf can have claim of that. But my time is done, my eyes fail, and my body yearns for release. It is time to move on, but you must promise you shall continue what has begun. This world has much darkness, much strife and yet there is love, there is knowledge and there is humour if only one seeks it.

Many have asked of me my secrets and to none have I divulged. Not even you know all. Here, in my last days is the final wisdom. She pushed the journal forward, now tied with a long black ribbon. This must not be opened until I have gone. In the meantime I shall tell you a story.

Caterina felt the tears well in her eyes but she was a dutiful girl and, after stoking the fire to a bright amber blaze, she settled in the offered chair in the small cottage. She had never been allowed to view the journal and more than once had tried to use her cunning to secure its secrets but her mistress guarded it carefully, telling her, One day.

This is a tale which will amuse and which will teach. There are many recipes, as you know. Recipes to provide aid, to suppress pain and potions and poultices to sooth.

Mistress I know this. Your teaching is thorough.

Helvira chuckled once again. Is that so? You are barely a woman, still a maid and so perhaps my teaching has overlooked one or two matters.

Blushing, Caterina mumbled, I know about babies. I am not foolish.

Ah, of course you do, but let me continue.

When I was a young woman, no older than you are now, I was apprenticed to a half-elven woman. She was witty and beautiful, or so she had been told, and lived life as she chose it. She would entertain men, and sometimes I would wonder what happened, for I was then young and innocent. She sold many mysterious potions, the knowledge of which she kept to herself, simply smiling and saying they were the best she sold and their secrets would be mine one day. As her light dimmed as mine is doing she passed to me a journal, recounting her life, for she had been a courtesan, amongst other professions, and had lived a life of adventure and of passion. Being of an inquiring mind she learned what she could, for she knew that as time passed her looks would fade and men would desire her no longer, and she would have to make her living another way. As she was fading, as I am now, she told me this tale.

Amongst her varied knowledge she held the recipe for two potions; opposites of the same coin, you might say. One would inflame the ardour of a lover, for sometimes lovemaking needs a little help and the other would dampen it, for sometimes it needs quenching. These potions are complex, but with these she could hold a man, or dissuade him and with these she had made much coin. In such a world as ours, women must take all the power they can over the menfolk, for there is little enough granted us. Especially those of elven heritage.

One day, we were at a fair, selling what we could and we saw a richly-dressed human matron standing with two men, one an old man the other a great deal younger. I took the older fellow for husband and the younger for son. He was handsome and carried himself proudly. The old man was not handsome, nor elegant to my young eyes, simply an Elder, much like the rest. In a loud voice the woman announced to her menfolk she wished to buy some tonics and washes for her skin and thus she came to our stall. After some time of browsing and selecting minor concoctions she whispered to my lady, ‘Mistress Herbalist, have you a brew to help me with a problem of an intimate nature? For I have a husband whose attentions are unwanted and unpleasing.’ Looking back briefly she leant forward, ‘When one has a lover at my age I do not wish for a husband demanding his rights. Perhaps you have also something to assist... with you know.’ My lady was trying not to laugh, as the matron had coloured to a bright crimson blush. The menfolk talked together, unknowing of the discussion.

Pointing to an old chest, she motioned Caterina to open it and from a dusty recess a bottle of jade green and another of bright blue appeared.

These are such, although in the case of my old mentor the bottles were of clay and the same hue and the labels were coloured. It is the case that many cannot read, even among the wealthy classes, but glass is costly and thus the labels were coloured. My lady motioned to the bottle which carried the label of green, ‘Do not over use this, such stimulation is not always healthy and for a man to die such in your bed would cause many unanswerable questions. Alendre’s Elixir it is and two drops in wine or ale should suffice for your pleasure and his.’ Wrapping the phial in cloth of green, she motioned to the other. ‘This is Orrman’s Elixir and a similar quantity should be used to dampen the fires of passion. Do not overuse this, lest the effects become unfortunate for the gentleman concerned. Both are marked if you can read and if you cannot read remember the labels.’ Paying the required price plus extra, the matron moved off with her menfolk. Such potions then were beyond my knowledge, as were the pleasures of the bedchamber and I was shocked a respectable woman would take a lover. My lady simply laughed and told me, ‘One day you will use your knowledge to much advantage, one day that may be you, Helvira.’ Of course I blushed and stammered by denial as a respectable young woman should.

Caterina blushed. She was indeed a maiden and although she had looked upon men with curiosity was a modest girl. Helvira chuckled to see the blush and continued her tale.

One day, Caterina, you will appreciate the knowledge also. Now where was I? Ah, some days after this the woman returned, for the fair continued a week or so. The old man looked rather subdued and the woman angry. She pointed to my mistress and cried, ‘Witch, you have poisoned my lover and left my husband a randy beast! Those wicked potions you sold me! Evil woman, I shall have the Witch-Hunters on you.’ Of course my mistress was afraid, as was I, for the even then the Order were ruthless and cruel and our kind lived and died at their discretion.

Clapping her hand over her mouth with fear and shock, Caterina paled, for she too knew what could befall a mage. Why had she poisoned them? Had she made a mistake? What happened next?

The old man leant forward and hissed, ‘At my age I need all the help I can get in that department. I do not need to be poisoned with potions. The blue phial, the terrible blue phial it leaves a man incapable, full of shame and without hope. This woman’s husband has been demanding his pleasures day and night for a week! She has not the energy, even if I were able!’

My mistress looked at the old woman and asked, ‘He is your lover? You were meant to give to him the green phial, the green label. See here I have another the same; you may read it or get someone to read it for you. The blue phial was meant for your amorous husband.’ By this point, my mistress was trying not to laugh at the unfortunate couple. For we had both assumed the younger man was a son or lover. The old man looked at his lover and muttered, ‘Foolish woman, you mixed them up! See, I can read even if you cannot. Did you not hear the herbalist correctly? Oh my shame! And we would have called the Order down upon her for your mistake.’ He waved away the Witch-Hunters now paying us too much attention and went to explain a mistake had been made, for it seemed this day fortune was with us and he was man enough to pacify the Order, even if he was not able to do much else.

The woman was supplied with a return of her money, for although it was not our error my lady was cautious to keep her customer and keep her safety. I asked later whether perhaps it had been a ruse, for sometimes folk are not honest and play tricks to gain back money or gain free items from honest vendors. Mistress chuckled and said were it so, it was the most amusing and most brazen ploy in all her years.

Caterina looked upon the old woman with sadness. She saw the lines upon her face, but as they sat together before the fire she saw also the resignation and even perhaps contentment.

So it was, as night passed into day, the old woman passed into the Other World, softly as a mist upon the ground and when Caterina awoke from the doze she had been unable to hold off, her mentor and friend had gone.

Tears running from her eyes, she opened the journal and read aloud, The Journal of Helvira Relmis, herbalist and courtesan, a life well lived is precious indeed.

Softly a scrap of paper fluttered out and she picked it up.

My final lesson, child, now you take my place... Always read the label.

* * *

Alex Butcher is a British writer of dark adult fantasy and fantasy romance. She has written two novels in the ‘Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles’ series, with more to follow.

* * * * *

THE QRIM CHIEFTAIN

Stan Morris

[Tales Of Erana: The Blue Phial] [Contents] [Antimatter Me]

When a haughty princess scorns a barbarian chieftain, her city pays the price.

After the Beginning

WHEN GAYIANA turned the corner, the chatter of the other girls ceased. They stared at her, some with concern on their faces, others with sympathy, one with a barely concealed smirk. She joined the group, and they padded on bare feet along the cool, richly tiled corridor towards the room that had been converted into a classroom.

Are you well, Princess? Peppe, daughter of a formerly high noble whispered. Has he...? I mean... does he...?

Shush, exclaimed one of the other girls, and the rest, including the smirker, glanced nervously up and down the corridor in case one of the barbarians had happened to overhear.

My name is Gaysha now, Peppe, she replied, her words firm. You must never call me by that title again.

I’m sorry, Peppe answered, her eyes downcast.

Come. Say my name.

Gaysha. Your name is Gaysha.

Gay gave her friend a brave smile. It’s a pretty name.

For a barbarian, someone muttered, but they had arrived at their class, so Gay did not reply.

Sia Sterna was already inside waiting along with the rest of the girls, and when they saw their teacher the late group hastily took their places on the grass mats. On the very first day of class, one of the girls had answered Sterna insolently, and the old barbarian crone had hauled the offender by an ear to the front of the class, and had repeatedly struck the poor girl’s bare bottom with a short thin stick as punishment for the offence. Sia Sterna was fond of her stick, and by now all of them, including Gay, had felt the stinging chastisement of that instrument on their tender rear ends.

"E ador, zee," Sia Sterna began, and obediently the girls echoed her.

In the language of the barbarian Qrim, the words meant, I love you, master.

Each day the girls attended language class. Gay’s mat was one of four in the third row. She sat on the far right; one of sixteen girls in the class. Her mat’s position was unremarkable, and it was another indication of her diminished status, sitting as it did among girls who had formerly been palace servants, or ladies-in-waiting. They were all the same now; the property of the Qrim invaders. Already this was beginning to seem normal to Gay, and memories of her brief time as ruler of her realm were beginning to fade.

Sometimes at night, she dreamed of the day the chieftain of the Qrim stood before her and asked permission for his people to cross her land to more distant places where the land was uninhabited, and there was plenty of water.

* * *

The Beginning

I will not have herders of sheep and goats fouling the grasses of Prowd. I vow that if even a single one of you places a foot in my realm, even though it be one of your filthy toddlers, I will bind every one of you in chains.

The chieftain held his temper and replied, We will not disturb much, and we will be gone in a short time. The land far beyond is empty, and the rains fill many streams. My people need that land.

The man standing before her was dressed in grey wool trousers and an open vest which did not hide his muscular body. His hair was black; the common color among the Qrim, and his eyes matched his hair. He towered over the Prowd men.

I’ve given you too much of my time, Gayiana exclaimed impatiently. Begone.

Visitors to the city of Prowd were rare and were usually merchants seeking cotton. The land about Prowd was grassland, grain fields, and cotton fields and of little significance in the world. There were herds of cattle, but the breed was known for its tough meat and was only used in stews and hashes. There were no minerals in the ground to be coveted by their neighbors. As far as they knew, they had no neighbors.

Please, the man repeated. We will be gone soon.

Take him, she ordered her men. Toss him into the street.

The man did not resist when her guards grabbed him. Yelling at his insolence toward the Princess, the guards pulled and shoved him out of the palace and down the long set of stone steps. When they reached the bottom step, they shoved him forward. The Qrim chieftain lost his balance and fell onto the rain soak ground. The guards laughed as he struggled to his feet, but they waited in vain for him to rail impotently. Instead, grim faced, he turned and addressed the young ruler who had followed them out of the palace.

You are beautiful but ill-mannered. I will return and teach you manners.

Gay’s fair face reddened almost to the color of her hair. Beat him before you remove him from my city, she ordered.

The Qrim man was immediately set on by the palace guards. They struck him with their fists and even with the sides of their lances. Later, he was still staggering from the blows by the time he passed the city walls. His horse, tied to a nearby water pump, skittered sideways as he approached, smelling the man’s blood. He mounted his steed and used his booted heels to hurry the horse forward. Soon he disappeared behind a low hill, swaying on his horse as they went. But the chieftain was a strong man, and he did not take long to recover his strength. He journeyed to the northeast for three days, and at the end of the third day he reached his people. Their flocks of goats and sheep were immense, yet they possessed almost no horses. He had traveled to the city of Prowd on one of the few steeds his people owned. But they had something else. The Qrim chieftain and his warriors returned to the city of Prowd, riding upon huge, swift running beasts that had wide black wings and sharp purple beaks.

Princess, I have never see beasts such as these, the breathless scout reported. "Though I have heard of them. They are called emusi. They have swept aside General Coquila and his troops."

Impossible, the Princess exclaimed. The General’s troops are our elite. It must have been a trick.

Prudently the scout did not point out that the General’s elite troops were chosen from the sons of the most important city fathers, and that they had never fought anyone other than a few old hill bandits.

He had more to report. "When the rest of the army saw the General’s defeat, and saw the fierce faces of the Qrim, and heard the triumphant roar of the emusi, they fled back to the city."

Yes, we are aware of that, the Princess answered icily. The cowards are safe behind the wall.

For the moment, perhaps, murmured the scout, his eyes downcast.

Soon the barbarians encircled the city. Those Prowd people who were outside entered the city or fled into the surrounding hills. Gay watched from a wide balcony, stunned by the unexpected change in the cities circumstances.

She asked the captain of her guards, Can they breech our wall?

Never, Your Highness, the man answered, but his tone suggested false bravado.

There was a cry from the east, and when Gay turned in that direction, she gasped at the sight of a beast’s head peering over the wall, and she could see the tips of its wings as it labored to lift itself. Though the emusian could fly to only a short height, it was high enough for them to reach the top of the walls where the Qrim could enter the city. The barbarians smashed their way forward, and others of their people followed them. Watching from the balcony on the second story of the palace, Gay trembled when she saw how easily the Qrim took the city. Indeed, within the hour the barbarians had forced the gates, and the Qrim streamed into the city. When her personal guards fled, Gay realized that her reign had ended. Paralyzed from shock she waited, expecting to be slain very soon, and her terror caused her to hope her end would be quick.

There!

One of the invaders was pointing toward her balcony. She threw herself back, but it was too late. The Qrim chieftain and his men surged into the palace, fought off the few remaining guards, and barged into the room where the Princess hid, her body was shaking from fright. The Qrim chieftain spied Gay cowering under the lamé-covered table. The thin copper fabric could not hide the Princess from his sight. Tears were streaming down her face which was covered by her long red hair.

Gay cried for mercy when she felt the barbarian’s rough hand grasp her ankle and pull her from the useless sanctuary, and her screams and sobs increased when she felt him tear at the blue royal robes covering her body. In seconds he stripped Gay naked, and naked he carried her to the balcony’s parapet. His people had streamed into the city, and they had gathered in the square below the palace. The Qrim chieftain lifted Gay by her waist, tossed her into the air, caught her under her shoulders and buttocks, and held the girl over his head for all his people to see. They roared with victory and laughter, and she wailed at the blue cloudless sky, certain that the barbarian was about to throw her to her death on the hard mud-baked ground. She felt her water release, and it trickled down her leg, but she was too terrified to feel embarrassment.

Then he lowered the girl to her bare feet, pulled her over his lap, and spanked the former ruler as he would an unruly child. Gay howled with pain, and the crowd’s laughter grew louder. After what seemed like hours, she was set on her feet again. He reached into a pocket on his brown trousers, and she flinched when his hand approached her face, but he was holding a linen rag, and he used it to wipe her tears, though it was some time before she was able to cease crying. He took her face between his rough hands and waited. Finally, she was able to focus on his Qrim face framed by his long black hair.

Listen carefully. Kay, Sio. Repeat those words.

Kay Sio, she managed to say as she was sucking in breaths.

Good. In your language, those words mean, ‘Yes, Sir.’ Do you understand?

Yes. Yes, I understand, she replied hastily.

Gay wondered when he would kill her. Perhaps he intended to torture her first. Each living minute now seemed precious. Staring into his face, she trembled.

Say the words.

For a moment, she did not understand, but when his visage darkened she exclaimed, Kay Sio.

The expression on his face eased. He nodded. Good. This city, its inhabitants, its treasure, and you. Everything here, now belongs to the Qrim. To me. Do you understand?

It took a long moment for his words to register with the terrified girl, and then her tear-reddened eyes dropped, and she whispered, Kay Sio.

He placed long fingers under Gay’s chin and raised it, so he could look into her eyes. He stared into them for a long time, and perhaps what he saw pleased him, for though his expression was stern, he said, Good. The inflection is wrong, but the words are sincere. For now. I promised to teach you manners, and I will. Understand?

She vigorously shook her head and said, Kay, Sio. Please don’t kill me.

"Better. I will give you to