An essay by Raxx Wimcombe, as provided by K. Tracy-Lee
Art by Leigh Legler
Walking amongst the crowds of the main street that ran perpendicular to the rows of outdoor merchants and the Gardens of King Hekkon, under whom I served in one of his battalions, I felt a presence that I had felt before and knew immediately–an avoidable Being of such high power, influence, and benevolence. His presence was like smoke so strong that it turned you around to find the source.
I should say that I was not merely walking in the city square. I was wandering, lost, and when I crossed paths with this Being, there was a beckoning, and I felt calm, which was a feeling that I had not felt in many years since leaving the service and since my life had been upended. I had to give this my full attention.
And so I did.
We had met before, a long time ago, in another city and in another district that the Great Map didn’t accurately capture, a place where the boundaries of what are known and cherished in life disappear, where there were battles and bloodshed and bargains made between the living and the dying. It was a brief and much-needed meeting, and although I stood far from him, amongst my fellow soldiers, who were anxious and ready for the tides of war to change to their favor, I watched him provide supplies for us–in exchange for what, I do not know, but I had a feeling that a gesture such as that did not come free. I survived the war, thanks indirectly to this Being, and I knew that without him I would not be alive today. I never had the chance to thank him personally.
I turned on my boots, the heels nearly falling apart, and I moved my rags-for-clothes out of the way to bow to him. He had an aura of elegance. He had already spun where he stood and tapped the silver end of his cane to the brim of his hat. We did not need to introduce ourselves–our greeting and familiarity was unspoken and understood–yet we did shake hands, out of politeness. His grip was warm, and hungry as I was, I tried to make mine as strong as I could.
I apologized for the dirt collected on my hands and under my fingernails. My farming was not going so well. The Season of Rain had not been kind to my new job after being in the military for so long. It seemed that a soldier could not be anything but that, and I was learning that the hard way.
“Please–” he replied and motioned to me to retract my apology. He understood my sentiment, which relieved me. I had a feeling that he would understand.
He offered drink and food–“Not out of pity,” he clarified, “but out of the goodness of my heart”–and said he was going to a card game and that I should come, if I wanted. His eyes shone like small embers.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2018 collection.
Raxx Wimcombe served during the Long War in the Third Battalion of King Hekkon, was married to a strong woman from the Hollows, and has recently given his soul to a demonic presence that he knew all about and, still, could not avoid in order to play a hand of cards. If you heard his story, it’s because he’s happy where he is and won’t be coming back anytime soon.
K. Tracy-Lee lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.
“The Bet” is Copyright 2018 K. Tracy-Lee
Art accompanying story is © 2018 Leigh Legler