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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #268, January 3, 2019

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #268, January 3, 2019

The Blighted Godling of Company Town H” by Beth Cato

The Beast Weeps with One Eye” by Morgan Al-Moor

Reviewed by Tara Grímravn

This issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies rings in the new year with a pair of fantasy tales by Beth Cato and Morgan Al-Moor. Although vastly different in both style and content, both stories explore themes of betrayal and survival, as well as what could happen when gods don’t play nice.

The Blighted Godling of Company Town H” by Beth Cato

Dreya, a divine being in human form, created by a god-like being called Mother, is tasked with overseeing the well-being of Company Town H. Both Mother and her children, also godlings like Dreya, work for an organization called the Company. For centuries, they had produced weapons and other goods for off-world conflicts. Eventually, however, a truce was called between the various warring factions and the Company collapsed.

The intervening years have taken their toll and the divine power Dreya once possessed is waning. Many of her people have already abandoned Town H, leaving just 100 people. One day, it is brought to her attention that the icons she had made to protect both her people and the town were destroyed. Reaching out to her siblings, she discovers that this is not an isolated incident; other company towns have also disappeared. It’s then Dreya realizes that Mother is coming to unmake her children and their towns, and she must fight what may well be a losing battle.

I quite enjoyed the alien post-apocalyptic feel of Cato’s story. It’s a nice blend of science fiction and fantasy in a relatively well-imagined setting. The only problem area I saw came towards the end when Mother finally arrives and announces her plans. The reasons she gives for her actions in support of her end goal are something of a poor excuse, considering her apparent abilities. But, then again, perhaps it’s just easier to start over from the ground up.

The Beast Weeps with One Eye” by Morgan Al-Moor

An unrelenting swarm of ravens attacked the village of shamaness Nwere, killing most of her people. Driven into the wilderness in an attempt to escape the onslaught, the survivors are harried across the grasslands by the vicious birds. Finally finding shelter in an old temple, Nwere makes a bargain with a forgotten god, the Keeper of Sorrows—a respite from the ravens and a new home in return for three offerings in the form of three sorrows. With each offering, Nwere learns a little more about the god and why he was locked away.

For the most part, Al-Moor’s story was entertaining and well-paced. The narrative flowed quite smoothly although the dialogue in a few places was a bit awkward, mostly due to just an odd choice of words here and there. The ending is where I got a bit lost. It’s just a little too vague. Perhaps Al-Moor wanted to maintain some sense of poetry and mystery here but I found myself wondering who won—Nwere or Babawa-Kunguru? Or perhaps it’s meant to be implied that they both did. The problem is that I’m not sure. Still, these issues aside, it’s well worth reading.