Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “The Devonshire Arms” is available online at Clarkesworld.

Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

The Queen’s Eyepatch

by AlexM

It was said of the queen’s eyepatch that beaver-bees wove it, meshing the finest and most pliant twigs — more like hair than kindling — and fastening them into that characteristic square with honey.

It was said, occasionally, that a man with an ocean in his belly removed it from a fish’s jaw and delivered it by rainfall into the queen’s private orchid garden.

It was said by many in the city that a lone merchant appeared out of the desert, bearing a stilted house on her back, and from it withdrew all manner of artifacts in the palatial square to woo the young, half-blind queen. The eyepatch, golden-white and strung on minute beads of jade — so small that only close examination revealed that it was not a soft green thread — secured the merchant’s place in the young queen’s bed. Their heirs fluttered out on ruby wings.

One disgruntled suitor commonly muttered that the rear side of the eyepatch, when pressed to the queen’s empty socket, each day showed a different breathtaking panorama from the merchant’s wandering years. In this way the merchant secretly taunted her lover. That barbed foreigner!

The merchant’s name was Lixhi and her eyes, amber-orange, reminded everyone of her unknown origins.
The city loved its queen nonetheless. Eventually, the sensible men said, she would stop knitting ruby bird-girls with her womb and take a man to bed, producing the regular four-limbed boy-children of the land. The merchant-woman would wander again.

It was said that if the queen removed the eyepatch, the merchant-woman would forget their heady lovemaking.

It was said that the queen made it herself, from the wonders gifted to her temple, to woo the exotic visitor unloading fine merchandise in the palatial square.

To speed this along, an attendant was bribed.

The scissors snipped, the string snapped, the tiny jade beads rattled into cracks on the floor. The empty socket, exposed, made the queen cry. She hated the feel of air against it.

“Men are idiots,” the merchant-woman said, kissing that ruined hole, after shouting at guards to capture the fleeing attendant. “I’ll make you a new one, if you want? I found beads made of parrot beaks, fabrics made of seal-silk.”

“And I’ll make a boy-heir for them: seven-winged and beaked, jade-feathered, in love with tigers,” the queen said, embracing her lover. “Can you imagine their faces when we all step out tomorrow?”

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