- Strange Weather by Dean Francis Alfar
- Queen Liwana’s Gambit by Rodello Santos
- Emberwild by Nikki Alfar
- The Just World of Helena Jimenez by Eliza Victoria
- Wildwater by Crystal Koo
- Rite of Passage by Dominique Gerald Cimafranca
- Light by Kate Aton-Osias
- Spelling Normal by Mia Tijam
- They Spoke of Her in Whispers by Bessi Lasala
- Siege of Silence by Paolo V. Chikiamco
- In the Arms of Beishu by Vincent Michael Simbulan
- Brothers in Arms by J. F. Nacino
1. Strange Weather by Dean Francis Alfar
Tenet paused at the ridge, licked the dry dust from her lips and looked at the small settlement that clung to the side of the mountain in the distance. Behind her, the uneven path was an unending brown, broken only by the heavy footprints of her mule.
“Well, Alister,” she said to her mule, “let’s hope that this one is better than the last.” She tugged at the reins, squinted her eyes, and looked for the best way down. “Though I doubt it.”
As she neared the village, Tenet briefly considered passing it completely. The few houses that she could see looked tired and worn down, as if abandoned by the hope of better days. A few fields were marked by erratic stone fences, with only small clusters of greenery managing to break free from the earth’s embrace.
At a nearby well, a man and a woman watched her approach.
“Stranger,” the wiry man in rough homespun nodded in her direction. “Are you passing through?”
2. Queen Liwana’s Gambit by Rodello Santos
As Queen Liwana stood upon her silver tower, she imagined the night sky as a dark ocean anointed with a multitude of twinkling pearls. Her soul was attuned to the firmament, to its celestial tempo and the passing of seconds and seasons. And yet…even with this awareness, the time of reckoning that she’d dreaded so long had stolen upon her.
She briefly considered playing with the stars, stirring them with a finger, and resettling them as she willed. I could fashion a constellation of myself, she thought. The Old Idiot Woman, it would be called. She laughed, a small cackle that crawled into her throat and died.
In all the Countless Isles, the most powerful spirit-talkers, babaylan healers, and mananambal ritualists had bowed to her. In her lifetime, she had achieved much good for her people: slain the Aswang Giant, tamed the moon-eating Bakunawa, vanquished the Undying Wights upon whose skins were written the names of all the children they had devoured. The list of her accomplishments ran long.
3. Emberwild by Nikki Alfar
You must understand that all of this occurred some thirteen years ago, when I was young still and the Empire had but newly begun its campaign to rid the realm of the Wildness.
We were told—and not without foundation—that the Wild represented a threat to the ongoing unification of the realm, dispersed as they were throughout the lands, yet uncontrolled by any form of sanctioned governing body. Moreover, rumor had persisted over a course of decades that certain of the Great Families had been pursuing some sort of complex schema of interbreeding, intended to result in the birth of a child with unprecedented affinity for all aspects of the Wildness. It was therefore generally agreed that reining in the Wild, particularly among the Families, was not merely a judicious course, but a necessary one in order to ensure the continuance of the Empire.
4. The Just World of Helena Jimenez by Eliza Victoria
The skies in that small town remain dark from the past wars.
The smoke of gunfire and shattered bones covers the sun like a veil. All that is left for those still living are the tiny shacks of the dead soldiers and the old church, and a night that doesn’t seem to end.
But they have ways of telling the passing of the hours: heartbeats, the cry of the lizards, bloody tallies on pale skin. And in the mornings, without fail, the Wardens gather in the old church, weaving around the now useless pews, to their Leader standing by the altar, holding her weapon in her hands.
5. Wildwater by Crystal Koo
My name is Huuri Imh. The ladies and gentlemen of the Court may have previously noted the gills around my neck, as I am of pure Sjenese descent from the country of Kuz.
Sjene is a poor, conservative fishing village at the northeastern tip of Kuz. Many patrims live in the flatlands and find their survival in the sea, sending boats of their catch three times a week to the markets in the Kuz mainland in the far south. But my patrim lived on the hills of Yamera, where the orinu breed in the wildwaters. The people of Yamera dove into the wildwaters and caught the orinu for their hides. The orinu have been in Sjene before any of our race; it was the bodies of these reptiles that carved out the three hundred underground channels of the Sjene wildwater complex, the source of our wells. A diver who can wrestle with the orinu and stab its heart without losing his or her life is held in high regard.
6. Rite of Passage by Dominique Gerald Cimafranca
Two hundred thirty eight. Only that could old Abulug sustain. Of that merciless number there was no paltering. Abulug within his cavernous maw gave shelter, gave food, gave water, gave air — in truth, gave life — but to no more than two hundred thirty eight.
Maguayan, of course, knew this, as he knew the choice that he alone could make. But as ritual demanded, his two bond-companions played his angel and his devil on their journey to the surface of Abulug’s shell.
“Turn back, turn back, Maguayan, return to the comfort of home,” chanted Sinukuan, “the Vastness is cold, she offers nothing but danger and death.”
7. Light by Kate Aton-Osias
I was born in the First Age of Creation, when mountains swam in the oceans and the skies grew unencumbered from earth. Most of the first people took on the burden of unraveling the entangled landscape by giving things their first names, allowing the young world the means to commit into memory what would have been temporal accidents of creation. But even then, there were a few who were unsatisfied with the current profusion of wonders and sought to become gods themselves by creating marvels bound to their spirit and the spoken word.
My creator was one such man. His name was Glatizperal, which meant in the Old Tongue, He Who Speaks and Makes True. And while I, like many of my brethren, would like to believe that we had existed even before our current incarnation – perhaps as demons, or humans, or one of the timeless ones cursed and blessed with the gift of sentience – the truth was that I remember nothing before the moment Glatizperal seduced me into leaving the void.
8. Spelling Normal by Mia Tijam
Faux-hawk-hair streaked with gray and violet, ears wearing six earrings, eyes kohled, lips glossed and usually around a flavored cigarette, she walks in wearing her Astroboy shirt, Levis jeans and black Sisley rubber shoes to the quaking bows of the Knights in Jaguar Armor.
She is called The*whoa* Sorceress and is on her way to see whom the Real Kingdom reverently referred to as The Wizard of the Wonder Web. She enters the Wizard’s Office whenever she pleases but her presence is still announced with a squeak by his unexcitable secretary, Jeeves, even when the Sorceress always pleasantly smiles at him.
9. They Spoke of Her in Whispers by Bessi Lasala
“Do not stray from the path,” mother once said to me. If it were the same warning fathers gave to their sons, I would never know. All I knew was that the path, worn and cobbled and reddish in hue, was always to be followed so you could reach the Beautiful City.
And it was, as promised, beautiful. It glimmered in the moonlight, standing out in the otherwise absolute darkness, seen even from the farthest of distances. The entire city sparkled in the sunlight, promising splendor unchallenged, except perhaps for the sun. There were white castles towering, reaching the sky, and there was music and laughter to be heard, even as you reached the end of the path.
10. Siege of Silence by Paolo V. Chikiamco
Toreol Dinlangen, Antipodean Seer of the Mad Mongrels, stifled a curse as he passed through the body of a particularly large man–or at least seemed to, as far as his Gift could tell.
As soon as he emerged from the brute’s broad back, he scanned the dense crowd quickly in the hopes that he had not lost sight of his quarry. To his relief, he found the King easily–although, had he not witnessed Bropil Arkabel donning the tattered cloak in his royal quarters, Tol would have been hard-pressed to distinguish him from the rest of the crowd.
“What’s wrong?” Tol heard the tension in the voice even if the speaker herself was invisible to his skewed senses. “Did you lose him?”
11. In the Arms of Beishu by Vincent Michael Simbulan
Tien Pu stared at the approaching shores with a mixture of anticipation and nervousness that accompanied the prospect of new beginnings. A salt spray whipped his loose clothes as he steadied himself on the railing of the junk to keep from falling over. His raven locks, tied back in a long ponytail, swung with the rise and fall of the junk as it crashed against the waves. The voyage had been long and taxing, crowded months spent with people like him, dreaming of a brighter future in a new land. A land called Hinirang.
Hinirang. Such an unwieldy name for a land, Tien thought to himself. Quite unlike the comfortable simplicity of Tsin, the homeland he had just left behind. The idle thought became a cascade of memories and Tien smiled. Memories of home always brought a smile to his face, no matter how painful some of them were.
12. Brothers in Arms by J. F. Nacino
Three warriors rode the road to Buckhannah Keep that night.
Dressed in black brigandine leathers and ermine fur as well as half-and-hand swords strapped on their backs, the three ignored the salt-tainted winds off the coast of the Waldamyr Sea. Stitched on the tunic of their left shoulders was the Halnathi sigil, a standing golden lion on a triangular field of blue: the Lions of Alnæthi.
Lludluth ys Faltha, was the first to rein in at the sight of the keep and the surrounding forest. The others halted beside him: Mafanwy ys Cormuir and his twin Gwalmach ys Sundræg. Mafanwy sneezed as the heavy wind blew felled leaves and dust.