Short Fiction: Their Courts of Crows

Cover image of "Their Courts of Crows" by K. A. Cook. The top half of the cover shows a black silhouette of a tree branch crossed with a longsword, with three crows taking flight around the branch. The bottom half has the text "their courts of crows" in a white fine sans-serif type in a black box above "k. a. cook" in black text on the cover's white background.Prince Paide ein Iteme has lost his father, his family, his people and his home to a conquering necromancer queen and her armies of the risen dead. A last horrific battle sees him forced to discuss surrender, but that conversation is no small amount complicated when said conquering necromancer is his mother. Who might not have been entirely wrong in her overthrow of Paide’s father… 

Genre: fantasy, short story, queer, free

Length: approximately 5 000 words / 20 pages

Formats: PDF | EPUB | MOBI

Vendors: Smashwords

This is a re-write/edit of a short story I posted to this blog a couple of years ago. It’s also the first thing I’ve published, in the sense of uploading it upon where other people might stumble, since my depression/pain/suicidal ideation worsened over two years ago. Oddly enough, it’s also been about a year since I really started writing and blogging again. I’ve had who knows how many panic attacks over deciding to do this–I don’t know how clear it is to others that writing knowing that other people may read it terrifies me, an anxiety that hasn’t gotten any better over this last year of trying to get back to doing some things again. (You know how psychologists say that if you just try and do something, it gets easier each successive time? I’ve never once experienced this. I’m sure this is a myth. It has to be a myth.) Everything I post on this blog of late is done through a haze of hand-shaking, heart-pounding terror, and while editing something I’ve already posted shouldn’t have been too scary, should is the operative word.

(All I can say is that being a creative with anxiety is an experience I won’t give to my worst enemy.)

But here it is, a book. Well, a short story, packaged like a digital book. I recommend reading this version, if you haven’t read it already, as there’s greater clarity about Paide’s position and–I hope–fewer wonky sentences. I also hope this is the beginning of going back to edit and format the many, many things languishing on my harddrive.

Unlike most things I write these days, this story doesn’t have a trans and autistic protagonist. Paide is pan and he isn’t neurotypical, but this is one of the few stories I’ve written purposefully for cis readers. A trans character is the motivation for both cis protagonists, but this story is really about being a good cis ally. And in one case, a cis ally with a horde of zombies.

Like most things I write these days, there’s no romance.

This is also set in the Kit March universe, and it may have a little something to do with a forthcoming side plot, if we use the word “plot” with a certain degree of looseness.

(File format note: if you prefer PDF files, please use my PDF link and not the Smashwords PDF. Smashwords is great for distribution, but a text document formatted for EPUB conversion makes a horrific PDF. My MOBI file also doesn’t have the awful added/additional TOC at the front, too. Actually, I’d honestly recommend only using Smashwords for their EPUB format. Everything else loses aesthetic as it goes through Meatgrinder.)

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Fiction: Their Courts of Crows

Genre: Fantasy

Word Count: 4, 200 words

Content: The aftermath of and discussion about battle, war, transphobia, murder (it’s complicated), death, familial violence and familial conflict; also modern necromancy, modern zombies, a battered warrior prince and one hell of a mother.

Author’s Note: I don’t know about the habits of non-Australian eagles, so just in case this is a phenomenon that only makes sense to Australian readers: wedge-tail eagles (Aquila audax) are often seen by yours truly (as someone who has travelled around a great deal of mainland Australia) on the ground or perched on a fence/trees/telephone poles surrounded by a few, several or even an entire murder of crows.

This story happened because I was pondering the Evil Necromancer And Her Hordes Of The Risen Dead trope, a la Magic the Gathering’s Liliana Vess. It’s been a while since I’ve written a short story that doesn’t involve Steve and Abe, never mind a short story that’s not fluffy, so I thought I’d post it here in my quest to get back to Doing Things That Scare Me. It’s rather rough and I’ll probably go back and edit it later, but I want to get back into posting things.

Also, I’m well aware that necromancy in its traditional meaning is to tell the future via communing with the dead, and you bet I make a comment on that in my novel-in-progress, but since the archetype I’m playing with is very much Liliana Vess, I’m merely making this comment to be that fantasy writer.

(Although I haven’t been not posting from avoidance as much as I’ve just been sick, hurting and completing the first draft of every way-longer-than-anticipated short story in Three Live Mice. Half of which is even finished to just needing a final line edit. Go me.)

He wriggles up to the ridgeline and peers over. The battlefield stretches across the valley, a mess of trampled earth, broken bodies and rent banners that looks nothing like the gentle farmland of his memory. There should have been paddocks of green wheat and golden canola bordered by post-and-rail fences and sourgrass flourishing on the verge of the road; there should have been brown-and-white cows chewing cud, girls carrying baskets and farmers driving wagons. Now the river runs red and brown around the abandoned bodies of horses and men; arrows and spears, broken and whole, stick up into the sky, forming grave markers and perches for wedge-tail eagles and their courts of crows. Fences sag beside the blackened ruins of farmhouses and sheds, and although Paide is now too far away to hear, the screams and groans of wounded horses and men trying to rise from their muddy graves will haunt his nightmares—do haunt his nightmares.

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