First up is the most recent, 'Beneath a Vengeful Sun,' in which the concubine Ránača, despairing over her dead family and status, agonizes when Mother Volhuxa, oldest of Master Hergesto's bed-slaves, informs her that they will be sent out of the main house to live with the other slaves. Ránača fears what this will mean--and wonders whether she wants to live at all:
She stood before a black pit, watching it grow wider and deeper as it caved into itself. She felt the earth beneath her feet giving way, and dreaded the plunge that would follow. As she balanced there on the precipice, a foggy image floated up at her from the void and then came into focus, and she could clearly make out a pale face suspended there in the dark—an unshaven face with half-closed eyes, framed by wet, lank hair. Its mouth did not move, yet somehow it whispered regret to her in a ceaseless chant.
Suddenly she fell and the face rose up towards her, drawing closer and closer. An unvoiced scream itched in her throat for an endless moment.
The eyes sprang open.
Inhaling quickly, Ránača jolted awake from her dream and sat straight up in her cot. Her chest heaved and little beads of sweat glistened on her forehead. Her pale blonde hair and her bedding were damp with it. Even though she had left sleep behind, the nightmare lived in her mind for a few moments. She clenched her jaw and fought off an urge to cry.
The subtle light and sounds of morning tickled her senses. She blinked and let out a soft breath. I’m here. At the Waywoodgate. In my Master’s house. The notion brought her relief, thoughshe did not smile.
Wiping her face, she felt eyes on her. But looking around the Master’s wide chamber,she found none. Master Hergesto and the other women —like Ránača, his harnéhá, concubines—remained in Telos’ land, asleep.
“Damned dream,” she muttered.
Where it had come from she didn’t know, but as terrible as it was, she felt glad it had notbeen the other nightmare. In that midnight torment her sister, Brásela—who had been brought into the main house from the field slaves’ house as a concubine just before Ránača, and then died of a fever—cried, alone in the wild, calling to Ránača.
At least it had not been that nightmare.Sighing, she rose quietly, putting aside the silk bedding—but stopped, finding the eyes she had felt.
Next up is 'Child of Chaos' in which the Birviodish upstart Kenhesho discovers the power of fear:
“There it is,” half-bald Kenhesho with the bear tattoo said, pointing his bent bulus knife. “Thieving among the sacks!” He signaled the spearmen behind him.
In a storehouse made of unfinished logs and butted-up against Kaiyeth’s palisade, a stooping, pointy-eared, long-footed creature crept among the shadows. Bits of wheat grain dribbled from one of its long-fingered fists. As it shrank from the spears, the light gray eyes in its wide face glowed like two lamps. Curling its lips back from rows of sharp, diseased teeth, the creature growled. Dust-filled beams of sunlight rippled across its pale shape as it moved.
As the men cornered the creature, spears jutting firmly, jets of steam poured from their mouths into cool morning air.
Agohserin the Elder pushed through their midst, eyes widening. Brushing Kenhesho aside, he stepped to the front of the bug-eyed, spear-bristling crowd. Gray locks draping a leathery face, he pulled on the glittering sun-pendant at his throat. Waving away the dust, he held it out like a charm toward the interloper. “By the Sun, all is seen, upon the earth, good and green.” He let the pendant fall to his bony chest.Turning to the spearmen, Kenhesho said, his faced screwed up with fear and hate, “Get it out of there!”
And finally, 'A Cheerful Smoke for the Dead,' in which young Nathaiu frets over the journey of his dead parents in the afterlife. When an old man comes to town peddling an incense said to lead the dead straight to the holy father, Orotar, Nathaiu buys a pouch of the stuff. When he burns the incense at his evening prayers, he discovers the nature of the old man's magic:
In the damp, dark cottage three doors from Gergenon’s lone brothel, Nathaiu struggled with the black-haired woman under him, desperate to get what he wanted. Her frantic exhales were visible in the faint light of the hearth, like the fear in her gray eyes. Did she not understand his need? As he gained control of her flailing limbs, and she settled a little, as if out of a fatalistic acceptance, he gripped her harder and pressed closer. He saw one eye fix on him and she trembled as she turned her face away, to escape in some small way, it seemed.
A week and a day before, a bone-chilling March wind blew across Artago plain, lifting a swirl of dry snow. Nathaiu wandered along Gergenon’s main street. Counting stones and jumping over a stinking drain, he made his way to the early market by the temple of Orotar, the Sun God. He narrowed his blue eyes against the sunbeams slanting over the former border-fort’s jagged old walls, which ran parallel to the street. In the shadow of the temple tower, his dazzled eyes found relief, and the market. Looking for a cheap chicken – one his aged Aunt Enselyta could cook with a little thyme, basil, and salt, if he could get it – he made his way through the murmuring throng.