Welcome to day 2 of the Advent Event! Please share this event with your friends. The more anthologies we can sell, the more money we can raise for the National Down Syndrome Society.
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Here’s a look at the next two stories:
“The Good Page”, Part I by Ryan Larsen
“You are sure this is the man?” Strachkvas asked, wiping his brow with an already damp cloth and squinting at the prisoner. It was far cooler in the Prague castle dungeon than it had been above ground, but that was the only blessing for the condemned.
“Yes, Father,” the guard captain said, nodding. “He freely admits his identity.”
“I will have some words with him. Alone.” The priest stuffed the cloth into a pocket sewn inside his robe, and for a long moment the captain stared at Strachkvas, shifting his gaze only when the prisoner moved. The stench was nearly unbearable, and Strachkvas suspected this was part of the reason the man did not argue when he handed the priest his torch and climbed the ladder, pulling it up behind him.
The prisoner, whose long, gray beard was as unkempt as his tattered clothing, regarded Strachkvas with a wary eye. Most of the smell came from the corner of the dungeon, but a good deal of it came from the man being held here.
“Have you come to absolve me of my sins?” the prisoner asked. The laugh that followed was bitter.
Strachkvas responded to the man’s question with one of his own. “You are Podevin, son of Tira?”
Wishing he had thought to bring a stool, the priest shifted his weight. Something about the man’s eyes unnerved him.
“The Good Page”, Part II by Ryan Larsen
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” Podevin said softly, and he thought a sigh escaped the mouth of Father Marcus, the priest beyond the veil.
“What is this, thy sin, my son?”
Podevin searched his memory for everything he had done over the previous seven days and he listed them, from the number of times he had lied to the time he had kissed Agnes, the chamber maid he was courting. It had not been a very decent kiss. For each sin, the priest proscribed a certain number of Hail Marys and Our Fathers. The list drew to an end in about five minutes, and Podevin’s tongue stuck to the top of his mouth in his attempt to continue speaking.
“Son,” Father Marcus said after a long stretch of silence—Podevin was certain he heard a sigh this time. “Have you anything else you would like to confess to me?”
“There is one thing more,” Podevin said, breathless. “But it is too heinous to speak of, Father.”
Coughing, Father Marcus leaned close to the veil and said, “My son, I cannot forgive that which I do not know. I have told you this time and time again, my dear Podevin—” the young man started at hearing his name “—and you must know by now that I will tell no one of your sin. Please, tell me so you may be forgiven. As I have told the duke so many times, there is piety and then there is overzealousness. Do not fret, my child. Please, tell me.”
Podevin could not tell him. After fifteen years, he still could not speak of his involvement in Ludmila’s death and the death of her guards. Fifteen years as the page of her grandson and he had told no one, not even Duke Vaclav himself. Podevin thought yet again of how much his cowardice shamed him.
“I cannot, Father,” Podevin said, shaking. “I cannot.”
And here a look of one of the prizes:
A signed copy of “Dawn Quealy: Tilting at Vending Machines” by Ryan Larsen