This week’s stories are about rescue and saving, gaining freedom and feathers, and the lengths we will go to for the people who are dear to us.

The Ways of Walls and Words by Sabrina Vourvoulias | Tor.com

We are behind these walls because we sweep the house clean on Fridays. Because we light two new candles before sunset, and bless our wine and bread at the table. Because, when we are done, we hide what none but family may see behind locked wardrobe doors.

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When we say DyĂł, we mean one, not three.

Someone took our tale to the Holy Office. That is what my mother thinks. My brother believes it was not a story but success that betrayed us, and my sisters accuse each other’s husbands. In Old World or New, the outcome of attention from Inquisitors is the same. In a plaza full of people, we were ordered into captivity. To renounce and reconcile.

Conversos. New Christians. Judaizers. Marranos. Anusim. There are many names for us. I hardly know myself what name to use. Except family.

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Most spec stories I’ve read about Christianity in the New World limit themselves to the clashes between the spiritual powers of indigenous people and the relentless Christians determined to stamp out the pagan menace. This story brings another dimension to the narrative: that of Jewish people persecuted by the Inquisition. The two girls at the center of it forge a bond that sees neither of them having to give up their own beliefs and core selves in order to understand and help each other. It’s a beautiful story and highly recommended.

Image Credit: Tran Nguyen

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Ocelia, Ocelia by Leena Likitalo | Weird Fiction Review

Ocelia, Ocelia, tell me who has hurt you. Who plucked your wings bare? Who stole your scarlet feathers?

Was it the men I saw launch themselves off the cliff, the ones that hid behind the ashen clouds? What names did they call one another? Describe to me their plumage and whistle patterns.

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Ocelia, my little sister, I will reclaim your feathers.

***

Ocelia, please do not despair. I promise, you will be whole one day. You will sing and you will dance. You will soar across the crimson skies and fly over the snow-capped mountains.

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I may be the featherless daughter, but I am bold beyond fear. I will hunt down the men who hurt you. This I solemnly swear.

What I love about this one is the worldbuilding. There are few explanations and no perfectly detailed picture of the wider world contained within, but what is revealed during the course of story is just enough for grokking but not so much that your imagination can’t run a little free. Another beautifully written story. The ending made me read it again and then again, so be prepared to settle in.

Image Credit: Chris Tse on Flickr

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Trollbooth by Maureen Tanafon | Crossed Genres Magazine

When the little ones went missing in the woods, my invalid stepmother did not know what to do. She tottered out there in her bedroom slippers and wept, and pounded against a tree with her pale fists as she pleaded brokenly, in human language, for her children to be returned.

I was wiser about fairies. I took her into the house and managed to put her to bed, with a spoonful of laudanum to quiet her nerves. Her brother was talking loudly to his friends about search-parties, with the same flush of excitement as he got when discussing the hunt. I would have spoken up to warn them, but I knew what I said about the woods would be dismissed. I was fifteen, mute, hysterical, in want of a man to guide me, of absolutely no consequence to my uncle and his friends.

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Instead, I went out to the woods to begin bargaining.

Hunters with guns may bluster and pretend at boldness, but it’s the quiet women who get shit done.

Image: Brook Ward “Fremont Troll” on Flickr

K. Tempest Bradford is a speculative fiction author and media critic. Follow her on Twitter, G+, Tumblr, or her blog.

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