Tales From the Magician’s Skull No. 4

Sunday , 31, January 2021 Leave a comment

I have been slowly making my way through the issues of Tales of the Magician’s Skull. Most recently, issue number four. 8.5 x 11 inches in dimensions, 72 pages, $14.99, published in 2020. Cover by Doug Kovacs for this issue.

John C. Hocking’s Benhus returns in “Guardian of the Broken Gem.” Benhus is on a mission to retrieve a gem in secret market of forbidden things.

Adrian Cole has written as many or possibly more Elak of Atlantis stories than Henry Kuttner. “On Death Seed Island” has Elak’s ship looking for a source of water. They land on an island with plants controlled by a supernatural entity.

“Masks of Silence” by James Enge features yet again Morlock. The story has a sort of D&D dungeon crawl aspect to it.

“Cage of Honor” by James Stoddard has what appears to be a post-apocalyptic setting with some supernatural elements. It is very short, almost a vignette.

C. L. Werner’s “The Witch’s Hound” has Oba the samurai taking on were-hound sent to deal with the local Yakuza. This is my favorite story in this issue. Great menace, a compelling story.

I think Ryan Harvey’s “Dead Queen’s Triumph” is the first piece of fiction I have read by him. I have known him online for years. A resurrected queen sorceress returns to reclaim her throne.

“Thieves of the Fallen World” by Tom Doyle is a first-person narrative. The unnamed narrator is sent by the king into a hellish city below the city inhabited by demons. Another dungeon crawl.

“Apedamak’s Army” by Milton Davis has a historical setting. Three Makurian soldiers in what is now the Sudan are following a defeated Sassanid army. The menace are were-jackals that guarded a tomb. The Sassanid Persians raided it accidently releasing the guardians. There are historical mistakes. This is a period of history I know well. The Sassanid Persians never attacked Makuria. They fought a 25 year war with the Byzantines during the reign of the Emperors Phocus and then Heraclius. They occupied Egypt. I checked my copy of the book The War of Three Religions on that time period and there is no mention of forays south of Thebes. The Moslem Arabs later attacked Makuria in 642 A.D. at the Battle of Dongola. Davis has the Persians (that is what they would have thought of themselves) crying out to Allah. The Sassanid Persians were Zoroastrians, not Moslems. In the story they are armed with scimitars. Byzantines, Persians, and Arabs were all using straight swords. The Turks in Central Asia had curved sabers. What we think of as the scimitar really did not come into its own until the period of Safavid Persia. Shah Ismail’s Kizil Bashi cavalry would attack slashing away with their shamshirs. If you are going to write fiction with a historical setting, you better research it.

Tales of the Magician’s Skull #4 had a more D&D and Clark Ashton Smith-Jack Vance-Michael Shea orientation to it than hard-boiled barbarian blood & thunder. It has the stable of Hocking, Werner, and Enge. To its merit, the magazine has been coming out on a mostly regular schedule.

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