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“Night Falls”

Night falls, and they arrive. They are not welcome, not invited per se, but they arrive regardless, sweeping across the darkening countryside on silent, membranous wings.

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The kobold gazed forlornly at the leering gargoyle faces decorating the titular well at the center of the Well Chamber. The surface of the water was heartbreakingly still.

“She can’t still be alive,” said the kobold, whose name was Hubert. “How long has it been?”

“I dunno,” said the intellect devourer lounging casually nearby. “Feels like years we’ve been waiting here.”

“Check her again?”

The intellect devourer, who had not until recently had a name (but who was now apparently named “Eidey”), gave a deep psionic sigh. “All right, fine.” There was a brief, sharp whine. “There,” he said. “Done. Yep, our high-AC friend is still alive down there.”

“I hardly believe her AC is all that high,” said Hubert. “Did you see that armor she was wearing? That should put her down to at least a three. Maybe even a two!”

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Her name was Lower Fleet Captain Marya Irina Nkmraaou D’Arcangel, and like most of her people, she resembled nothing more or less than a very large, biped-shaped Russian Blue cat. Her ready-room was paneled in synthetic polywood the color of well-stained oak, she kept a decanter of Old Earth brandy on her desk and she always, always, carried an electrolash. And she was unhappy.

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It was yet another glorious rat-filled day for Jayna Stiles, formerly of Dernholm.

Madeline Chesney, Savior of Arcanum, eats her way to Victory.

Reused

I threw away a piece of haunted plastic yesterday, but the ghost has not yet left me.

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Changeling first saw Rake making a slow, ponderous path through the glades of the Summerlands, blowing a jaunty tune on an odd, twisted recorder as he plodded along at the head of an overloaded donkey-cart. The sight was terribly odd to Changeling, who had never seen anyone collect such a huge mass of goods in one place. In Changeling’s experience, when you needed something, you reached for it, and it was there—and when you didn’t need it any more, you put it down and forgot it. Such was the nature of the Summerlands, and if Changeling had ever known a world any different than this, he certainly couldn’t remember it.

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For this month, have a sneak preview of the Kickstarter-exclusive Skin Horse bonus story, “Night Milking,” detailing a rather odd day on the job for Unity during the period she was employed by the government cheese folks.

* * *

Unity was not sure whether or not she believed in God, but the Upper Midwest at night was evidence enough that if He did exist, He certainly enjoyed scaring the crap out of Himself.

For the one thing, it was very quiet. Unnervingly so. Unity had become used to the low-grade diplomatic bustle of McLean, Virginia (the only city Unity could come up with that was named after a kind of disgusting hamburger sammych from the 1990s), so being out in the middle of screw-all silent nowhere was profoundly unsettling to her. There were lots of comforting city-noises whose absence Unity was feeling very keenly at this point. She missed the screams, for one thing. She missed the sounds of tearing metal. She missed the wail of distant emergency sirens that confirmed the authorities were looking in completely the wrong place for whatever it was she had just done to cause the screams and the sounds of tearing metal.

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