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

Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

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

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

Archive for the ‘Women’s Battle College Isle of Skye’ Category

Dr. Fujiwara’s Several Surprises

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Students at the Women’s Battle College had awaited the arrival of Dr. Fujiwara for months. They saw a tiny, wizened old woman in an indigo wrap jacket, sword stuck in her obi—not surprising. But she had short, spiky hair dyed fire engine red and wore jeans instead of hakama—quite surprising.

“Give my regards to your mother, Miss Mountain-root,” she said to Dana Yamamoto. She didn’t say “your mother the General” but all the students heard it.

“Your name isn’t Mountain-root,” pointed out Mirabelle Hayes.

“It is, actually,” replied Dana.

Dr. Fujiwara passed into the school. She (and the contents of her covered cart) disappeared for a week.

Monday morning, Martial Principles Class A arrived at the dojo to find a teahouse built on a cotton pad in the middle of the mat. Dr. Fujiwara waited beside it.

The door to the teahouse stood only three feet high. The students grumbled, finding they had to remove their weapons to avoid knocking them against the door frame; then the low height of the door forced them to bow as they entered. Crowded inside, they looked at each other curiously. Dr. Fujiwara had not become famous for making tea.

“Don’t,” said Dana when she saw Mirabelle gird herself to ask why they were studying tea instead of sword work. Mirabelle looked startled and kept quiet.

“You will wonder why I am teaching you about tea instead of sword work,” said Dr. Fujiwara, looking straight at Mirabelle. “I will tell you.  I teach this for the sake of the dead. When I was young like you, I thought I had a calm mind, and knew how to do honor to my enemy. I thought I had compassion. I understood none of these things: I killed one hundred twenty-one people in duels or in battle against the Chinese before I understood,” she went on, nodding to Bao-Yu Zheng as she spoke. “Since then, I have taken only three lives, those of people who insisted there was no other way.”

No one breathed.

“Make no mistake, you are being taught the art of killing. Yet your teachers also teach compassion here; grammar and arithmetic too. Study only killing, and you will be only killers. Study all that they teach, and you may yet become honorable warriors.”

She did not seem to notice the silence.

“We will begin with the mixing of the tea.”

The Magic Black Belt

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Dana Yamamoto was the worst martial artist in school. When she first stepped on the mat, Mirabelle Hayes jeered, “Are you dead?”

Dana didn’t challenge her to a duel. She just blushed and hunched.

“She means you’ve got your gi on backwards,” Samantha MacKinnon said.  “Left side over right. You put the right side over the left on a dead person.”

Nobody told her that at least one girl a year stepped on the mat dressed as a dead person.

She drove her sparring partners wild, the way her hands shook like the Mars lander.

The day she tore her gi pants for the sixth time, Hepplewater Sensei followed her into the dressing room. She settled across from Dana, who sat mending the gusset with Mars lander hands.

“Must be hard, being the daughter of a general,” said Sensei.

“Yes, Sensei.”

“She expects a great deal of you, I imagine.”

“Yes, Sensei.”

“And what do you want?”

Dana looked up.

“I w-want to be the best student in the school,” she blurted out. “And,” she added, shocking herself further, “I want to th-throw Mirabelle Hayes all the way across the mat.”

“Hurt her, you mean?” Sensei Hepplewater asked.

“No. Just throw her.”

Sensei nodded. Dana thought to herself, this is where Sensei decides to train me in secret, or gives me a magic black belt. Or sends me on a quest to a distant mountain, so I come back able to fight off six attackers and fly over the roofs. She waited.

“You can be the best student in the school, though what that means may change for you. And you can throw Hayes all the way across without hurting her. But you must do one thing.”

“What?” Dana’s hands shook even more than usual.

“Keep training.”

Hepplewater Sensei left the dressing room. Dana stitched and cried, and left an hour later. She lay awake all night thinking and crying, so that the next day she arrived so tired that she broke her wrist taking falls, and had to sit on the bench for three months.

“Do I have to watch class every day, Sensei?” she pleaded.

“Yes,” replied Hepplewater Sensei.

She sat and watched, every day. When she returned to the mat, she threw Samantha MacKinnon halfway across it.

“Your hands don’t shake anymore,” accused Mirabelle Hayes as she came in for the attack.

“Th-they don’t,” agreed Dana.

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