WIGHT KNIGHT





NATHAN CARSON

















SOLONJA RACED BACK TO CAMP, THE STOLEN SWORD STILL FINDING BALANCE IN HER GRIP. SHE WAS CERTAIN HER PURSUERS LOST THE TRAIL WHEN SHE FORDED THE ONYX RIVER THAT SOME SAID CURSED ALL WHO SWAM IT. JUNGLE BRUSH BLED OUT INTO THE STONY FOOTHILLS WHERE HER SAFETY WOULD BE ASSURED. BUT TONES OF BESTIAL DISTRESS STOPPED HER SHORT. SHE CREPT AROUND THE CAMP TO SURVEY WHAT NIGHTMARE INTRUDED.


A brutish, muscled male form stood beside the cold, ashen campfire remains. He gripped a winged wyrm twice his size by the throat. Its tongue lolled from its mouth. Bloodstained saliva oozed from its slackened jaws. Solonja could see debris from the drugged meal scattered at their feet. Her muscles tensed in silent fury, poised to spring.


“Banish your fear,” the brawny figure said, as it turned toward the foliage beneath the mountain coconut palms where Solonja hid. Though his body was muscle and sinew, clad only in boots, fur gauntlets and skirt, his face…its face…held the sickly green-black hue of animated death. Solonja felt her heart constrict at the sight of its inhuman visage.


Nevertheless, she persisted. Solojna stepped forth into the clearing to face the ruined warrior. By now, the stolen sword had acclimated to her hand. She raised it into the air and uttered, “Let her go.”


“Poor lass,” he responded. “You who have been raised in this society. A slave to their kind. You know of no other life. I will show you. I will set you free.”


Solonja couldn’t imagine what its ravings meant, and she said so. “I am a free woman, charged to serve the Goddess of Flame.”


He burst into hideous laughter. “Before my doom, I was a paladin. My service to a higher power was a shackle born from lies. Just as yours.” So, this thing had been a knight. How hard it must have fallen to exist in such a half-life state, creeping into campsites and drugging dragonspawn? “In your world,” he said, “dragons hold all property, social privilege, and authority. You are bred to ride them. Help them fight their wars. Obey their cruel whims.”



Solonja’s mind reeled. What was he carrying on about? She began to strafe to the knight’s left bit by bit, to give his sword arm less chance at a clean arc.


“Long ago,” he continued, “men and dragons were equal.”


The wyrm in the knight’s arms spasmed. Whether it was regaining strength or preparing to die, none will ever know. For when it lurched, the knight swung his fell sword in a swift cut. Solonja gasped at the sight of the beast’s body falling limp, while the head and a length of its neck hung from its killer’s grip. Blood dripped from the blade, soiling the earth.


“Another blow to the Dracriarchy!” cried the Wight Knight. “The fuck?” shrieked Solonja as she leaped toward it, sword raised high. His own weapon clanged against hers with effortless power, flinging her bodily to the ground.


The knight glowered over her. “You participate in your own systemic oppression,” he spat with disgust. Casually, he tossed the dragonhead over his shoulders and offered Solonja an outstretched hand. “Come, we must rid the land of these cold-blooded tyrants who have infringed on your reproductive rights.”


From where she lay, Solonja swung at his bulging calves. The knight lifted his leg with grace to avoid her blow then connected his foot with her chin in the same motion. When the stars cleared, she assumed a sitting position and spat blood. Perhaps this was one foe better defeated by wiles. “You do realize,” she said, “that there are vast biological differences between humans and dragons. Right?” She wiggled a loose tooth with her tongue.


The knight howled. “You raise their young. Everything you do is for their benefit—and to satisfy the Dracriarchal Gaze. You are only reinforcing their control over you. Take back the world where you can be a proud woman.” Solonja let his words hang in the wind. As that gust echoed off the mountain, she heard a wingbeat from afar.


“I was saved by dragons. From men,” she said. “The Queen of Flame gave me dignity, power, purpose. I worship at her talons because I have seen the devastation of all in her path. She comes now, for you have just slain her daughter.”


The knight turned his shriveled face skyward. His whole body was engulfed in shadow. He raised his sword in the air just as Solonja’s own brand tore through his bare torso from behind. She wrenched upward to his throat and back down to split his loins in twain. Then she tore her stolen blade free and dashed from the camp just as a torrent of liquid flame deluged the Wight Knight’s body with the heat of a star and the scorn of a grieving mother.


Dread Solonja survived, bearing her stolen sword, and a burden of troubling doubts. Perhaps the river had been cursed after all…



INTERVIEW: NATHAN CARSON





What music best captures the mood and feel of cosmic horror to you? What do you listen to, while writing?


In high school, I wrote (awful) weird fiction while blasting albums by gothic punk bands like Social Unrest and Rudimentary Peni. These days, I really require silence. In a pinch, I’ll dial up a 12-hour rainstorm video on Youtube. But my life is so full of music and high volume assaults that writing is a respite and I prefer quietude. As for music that conjures that air, I’d point people directly to Heresie by Univers Zero. It’s Belgian chamber-prog from the late '70s, and was long described as “the darkest album of all time.” For something more modern and grim, try Things Viral by Khanate. I also think the microtonalities of Wendy Carlos’ Beauty In The Beast and the barnyard vocal cacophony of Diamanda Galas’ early b-side “Wild Women With Steak Knives” are highly unsettling—in a good way.





An editor once wrote in submission guidelines that he defined a prospective Cthulhu Mythos story by taking out the Mythos element, and if it did not totally collapse when any other supernatural agent was substituted, he rejected it. What unique properties of the Mythos keep you coming back (or is it just the glut of markets looking for Mythos stories)?


Lovecraft is in my DNA. I spent many hours of in-school suspension with a math book dustjacket cloaking my copy of Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre. Luckily I outgrew trying to write remotely like HPL a long, long time ago. But since there is a market, and seemingly unending fascination with new twists on old ideas, I’ve found myself in print in a few tribute anthologies. Generally speaking, I like to update my mythos with all the sex, drugs, and rock & roll that Lovecraft missed out on. Lovecraft wrote often of unearthly, indescribable music––in The Music Of Erich Zann, the daemon pipers in the court of Azathoth, et al.––but attempts to reproduce said musical madness has yielded a mixed bag.





Your book Starr Creek describes an upbringing that would seemingly render one impervious to sanity loss as a result of witnessing supernatural abominations. What would it take, to actually drive you insane?


That’s a good question because I’ve done a pretty remarkable job of steeling myself to the horrors of this privileged first world life I enjoy. I feel like I have more of a solid foundation and grasp on reality than most—something I worked hard on during my development as a highly psychedelic teen. But being a booking agent for thirty bands from around the world is certainly putting me to the test… Essentially all of my stresses are external, mostly a factor of me being den mother/shrink to a bunch of brilliant, crazy artists. I guess the best way to push my buttons and lead me off an emotional cliff is to stand in front of me at a concert and start filming the show with your phone...



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