- Virginia Johnson
His Majesty's Elephant by Judith Tarr
The hue and cry outside the royal stables of the Emperor Charlemagne sounded like a battle raging to Rowan. The grooms were trying to push a gigantic elephant into one of the Emperor's old war tents, and Abul Abbas, for so the elephant was called, was having none of it.
Rowan had seen the elephant when it came to her father's court the previous day. He was a gift from the Caliph Haroun al-Rashid to her father, who ruled as Emperor of the West. Princess Theoderada, as Rowan was properly called, had stood beneath her golden canopy with the other princesses and marveled at the elephant, who had been sent all the way to Germany from the East. It was draped in silk and gold, and there were knobs of gold on its tusks. The elephant bowed to the emperor, and the emperor smiled in return.
The Caliph's ambassador had one more present for Charlemagne. When Rowan saw the gift-- a blessed talisman containing a sliver of the True Cross, she had an odd feeling of anxiousness. Rowan often got those feelings. Her mother, although the proper wife of the Emperor, had been a sorceress. All the court whispered about it. She died years ago, but Rowan still talked to her of her dreams and troubles, and she often heard her mother speaking to her, giving advice in the way that mothers will. Sometimes Rowan felt she was trapped in her father's court, and she had to get away if only for a little while.
Today the tumult in the stable yard suggested that the mighty Abul Abbas felt likewise. After bandaging a groom's hand, Rowan watched in amazement as a dark-haired boy in a tattered tunic tamed the great beast with a twist of sweet green grass.
"He stroked the Elephant and talked to it, while everyone stared. After a while he seemed to notice that he was not alone in the world. He said in clear Frankish with a hint of a lilt, 'You may go away now. Abul Abbas is tired of your noise. He says that he will go into his prison, if only he may rest there in peace.'
Rowan found that her mouth was open. She shut it. She was a princess of the Franks, and she had seen a fair lot of arrogant young lordlings. She had never seen anything to match this stableboy in the dusty tunic."
Rowan found out that the proud boy's name was Kerrec. He shared his witch mother's magic gift and must serve as tutor to Rowan-- if she will have him. For all her learning in logic, music, astronomy, and Latin, nothing but magic will save her father from the evil charm wrought by a Byzantine knight. To counter the corruption of the talisman, Rowan will need all of her latent powers and the help of her new friends, Kerrec the witch-boy and the mighty yet gentle Abul Abbas.
Hidden Turnings: A Collection of Stories Through Time and Space edited by Diana Wynne Jones
A new world every dozen pages! Hidden Turnings is a British invasion on the dark corners and light dazzled open spaces of the mind. The masters are here: Tanith Lee, Roger Zelazny, Terry Pratchett, and others, each crafting a different vision and uncovering a hidden truth.
"Fifty-fafty, you're a dafty."
The Friday afternoons of a young boy are spent far away from his comfortable home in the English suburbs. When he travels to visit his Aunt Rose down in the dark of the docks, he sees things that perhaps a young boy has no business in seeing. There are monsters and wizards if you know where to look, and a magic woman, his Nana, who fills him up with all buttery hot buns he can eat and tells him the horrid little story of Fifty-fafty.
Turn to the distant past of Urgeya's Choice. Twins Zoe and Thanos are delighted to celebrate their sixteenth birthdays together. On this most special of nights, when children pass into adulthood, the two are given a great party, just themselves and their friends. At midnight, the friends will go home, leaving Zoe and Thanos to face their ultimate destinies in the form of seven shadowy Sisters of Night. They bar the door, damp down the fires, and blow out the lamps. Finally they go not to their bedrooms, but to their parents' room, the place of their birth, ready to hear the prophecies of their entire lives.
Whether encountering the Master of the werewolf pack, the goddess Ceres, a sky ship, or a dogfaerie gone mean and sour with a century of loneliness, these serpentine stories will delight at every turn.