by Charlotte Ashley
read by Nadia Niaz
The lead rider was a man dressed head to toe in shiny red leather with a sword on either hip and a grotesque black mask like the face of the devil. He tipped his hat at her as he passed, his demon’s face curling into a smile, flashing sharp, dog-like teeth.
Herlechin. There could be no mistaking the creature. La Héron watched as the party pulled up in front of the inn, dismounted, and entered. When the last of the strange riders had crowded through the door, she continued toward her destination with little more than a shrug.
These were the Black Bouts of Caen, after all. Duelists and mercenaries had come from all over Christendom to compete for the glory and the purse that would be awarded to the winner. It did not matter to La Héron what creatures of the otherworld entered the lists as well. Come they from Hell, fairyland, or anywhere else, she planned to best them and to win as she had so many times before. She only needed a second.
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Originally published in Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Charlotte Ashley is a writer, editor, critic, and bookseller living in Toronto, Canada. She is also an Alexandre Dumas fanatic who won the National Book Collecting Prize for her collection of his work, which includes 18 editions of The Three Musketeers, one of which is a purse.
Nadia Niaz is a writer, academic, language nerd, creative writing teacher and third culture kid who now lives in Melbourne, Australia. She divides what little downtime she has between cooking, knitting, painting, dancing, powerlifting and, now, narrating stories for PodCastle.