Swords v. Cthulhu is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and as it shambles toward its summertime publication we’re going to be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Our next teaser is from M.K. Sauer’s swashbuckling “The Thief in the Sand,” and provides Mythos comfort food while blazing its own path through the trackless dunes…
Her execution was not set for dawn, as she had hoped, but rather at midnight—the coolest part of the day. She was to be a spectacle—something she had tried hard to avoid since she was a girl—to keep the denizens of sandy, desert capital occupied with gore and grandeur instead of the scorching heat of the midsummer drought.
The palace, so barren and stark on the morning of her sentencing, was now lavish with expensive silks the color of the clarion sky set against the harsh orange of the surrounding sands. They twisted in the wind; an effusion of fabric that threw shadows across the polished floors. So many torches were lit that she had to blink in the half-light to see her accusers. They stood before her like a row of statues in lavish, serpentine clothes and looked down on her prostrate, ragged form.
Her last sight of this earthly realm would be the faceted jewels inlaid in the stone floor while waiting for a wicked, curved sword to slice through her neck. She wished the shadows didn’t show the silhouette of the executioner quite so clearly. She could feel the greedy eyes of a thousand spectators settling on her back.
“Last words?” the hooded swordsman asked, his black eyes gleaning with the promise of a swift death.
“Mercy,” she responded in a parched voice. Her lips cracked and even the blood dripping from the cuts felt sluggish in the midnight heat.
“Mercy! Mercy!” A few wailing voices took up the chant until her ears rang with their cries.
“Where was your mercy for the victims of your deft fingers? How many lives has your unscrupulous thievery ruined?” The shah’s disinterested voice carved through the sounds of a thousand people rearranging themselves. His large beard and necklaced chin moved with the practiced fluidity of one who had sent many to their deaths. Rings around his fingers tinkled as he fidgeted on his pillowed and perfumed throne. One of his sons yawned as yet another picked at his nails. She was nothing to this mighty ruler, this deity of the desert.
“Mercy! Mercy!” the cries continued until the word no longer made sense to her ears.
“Still,” the shah returned, finally sitting up in his throne to give a proper look to his people, “even a thief deserves a respite as the gods decree…”
For the rest, get Swords v. Cthulhu from Stone Skin Press
MK Sauer lives in Boulder, Colorado where she owns a coffee shop and spends entirely too many hours of the day caffeinated. She received a degree in Russian Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Believing that everyone should have at least one party trick, she has finally decided that hers is talking about Stalin for three hours straight. She has self-published her novel Star-Crossed: The Confounding Calamities of Byron the Cad and Marietta the Zombie; you can find it on her website mksauer.com.