from works of
Fantasy
by various authors

This page:

John Bellairs: The Face in the Frost
Robert Bloch: The Hell-Bound Train
Cleve Cartmill: The Bargain
Lord Dunsany: The Sword of Welleran
Theodore Sturgeon & James H. Beard: The Hag Séleen

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Fantasy

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Robert Bloch
The Hell-Bound Train

Copyright © 1958 by Mercury Press, Inc.

Hugo Award-winning short story, 1959

No sir, he just wasn’t cut out for petty larceny. It was worse than a sin—it was unprofitable, too. Bad enough to do the Devil’s work, but then to get such miserable pay on top of it!

text checked (see note) Mar 2006

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The Face in the Frost
by John Bellairs

Copyright © 1969 by John Bellairs
Copyright © 1969 by The Macmillan Company

Prologue They knew seven different runic alphabets, could sing the Dies Irae all the way through to the end, and knew what a Hand of Glory was. Though they could not make the moon eclipse, they could do some very striking lightning effects and make it look as though it might rain if you waited long enough.

Topic:

Scholarship

Chapter One

“O-over-head the moon is SCREEEEAMING,

  Whi-ite as turnips on the Rhine . . .”

Chapter Eight

“Oh, good heavens! Great elephantine, cloudy, adamant heavens full of thunder stones! Roger! You can’t be serious. Are you?”

Roger was looking around and drumming his forefinger against his teeth. “If I were serious I would never have become a wizard, would I? The fact that it’s been done before doesn’t stop it from happening again.”

“Higgeldy-piggeldy

  Saint Athanasius

  Riffled through volumes

  In unseemly haste;

“Trying to find out if

  (Hagiographically)

  John of Jerusalem

  Liked almond paste.”

Topic:

Silly poetry

“Higgeldy-piggeldy

  John Cantacuzene

  Swaddled in Byzantine

  Pearl-seeded robes

“Put out the eyes of his

  Iconophanical

  Prelate, for piercing his

  Priestly ear lobes.”

Chapter Eleven “The last time it held its breath we got two hours of ‘Overhead the Moon Is Screaming’ and bagpipes playing Gregorian chants.”

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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Cleve Cartmill
The Bargain

Copyright © 1942 by The Condé Nast Publications, Inc., successors to Street and Smith, Inc.

“Man bein’ what he is,” I tell her, “he fights and kills his own kind. Well, now, just suppose he gets to be immortal. Why, ma’am, it would just be war forever, and no happiness anywhere. Way it is, mostly the ones who rule have done more harm than good, what with wars and conquest. If they couldn’t die off and give the human race a breathin’ spell now and then, it would just be stinkin’ awful, beggin’ your pardon.”

But you wouldn’t expect anybody who thinks twice about it to ask to be made immortal.

Reason is there’s nothing that rightly equals the lonesomeness of growin’ older after all your friends die off. Nobody to talk to, lessn it’s little tots, because the grown-ups don’t want to hear about the good old days, and they don’t want to take you with ’em social.

Topic:

Immortality

“The creed of man in general is that life is merely preparation for something beyond. His whole existence is based on the certainty of death and consequent existence on another plane. That is why he endures pain and sorrow, hardship and disappointment, to fit himself better for the next life. That is why he does not take his own life, for by the taking of it he cuts short that necessary training period.”

text checked (see note) Nov 2005

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The Sword of Welleran
by Lord Dunsany

the Honorable Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, eighteenth Baron Dunsany
(1878-1957);
from The Sword of Welleran (1908);
also in The Young Magicians (1969), edited by Lin Carter,
and Beyond the Fields We Know (1972)

Now, beyond the Cyresians the suspicion grew that Merimna’s heroes were dead, and a plan was devised that a man should go by night and come close to the figures upon the ramparts and see whether they were Welleran, Soorenard, Mommolek, Rollory, Akanax, and young Irain. And all were agreed upon the plan, and many names were mentioned of those who should go, and the plan matured for many years. It was during these years that watchers clustered often at sunset upon the mountains, but came no nearer. Finally, a better plan was made, and it was decided that two men who had been by chance condemned to death should be given a pardon if they went down into the plain by night and discovered whether or not Merimna’s heroes lived. At first the two prisoners dared not go, but after a while one of them, Seejar, said to his companion, Sajar-Ho: “See now, when the King’s axeman smites a man upon the neck that man dies.”

And the other said that this was so. Then said Seejar: “And even though Welleran smite a man with his sword, no more befalleth him than death.”

Then Sajar-Ho thought for a while. Presently he said: “Yet the eye of the King’s axeman might err at the moment of his stroke or his arm fail him and the eye of Welleran hath never erred nor his arm failed. It were better to bide here.”

Then said Seejar: “Maybe that Welleran is dead and that some other holds his place upon the ramparts, or even a statue of stone.”

But Sajar-Ho made answer: “How can Welleran be dead when he escaped from two score horsemen with swords that were sworn to slay him and all sworn upon our country’s gods?”

And Seejar said: “This story his father told my grandfather concerning Welleran. On the day that the fight was lost on the plains of Kurlistan he saw a dying horse near to the river, and the horse looked piteously towards the water but could not reach it. And the father of my grandfather saw Welleran go down to the river’s brink and bring water from it with his own hand and give it to the horse. Now we are in as sore a plight as was that horse, and as near to death; it may be that Welleran will pity us, while the King’s axeman cannot, because of the commands of the King.”

Topic:

Capital punishment

“How many valleys must go desolate that might have nursed warm hamlets, because thou has slain long since the men that might have built them? I hear the wind crying against thee, thou sword! It comes from the empty valleys. It comes over the bare fields. There are children’s voices in it. They were never born. Death brings an end to crying for those that had life once, but these must cry for ever. O sword! sword! why did the gods send thee among men?” And the tears of Rold fell down upon the proud sword but could not wash it clean.

Topic:

War

text checked (see note) Feb 2006

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The Hag Séleen
by Theodore Sturgeon and James H. Beard

Copyright © 1942 by The Condé Nast Publications, Inc., successors to Street and Smith, Inc.

I would say something—anything—and she would try to say something that rhymed with it. Then it would be her turn. [...]

I started off with “We’ll go home and eat our dinners.”

“An’ Lord have mercy on us sinners,” she cried. Then, “Let’s see you find a rhyme for ‘month’!”

“I bet I’ll do it . . . jutht thith onth,” I replied. “I guess I did it then, by cracky.”

“Course you did, but then you’re wacky. Top that, mister funny-lookin’!”

I pretended I couldn’t, mainly because I couldn’t, and she soundly kicked my shin as a penance.

Topic:

Rhyming

She is a beautiful woman with infinite faith and infinite patience, the proof of which being that: a—she married me and, b—she stayed married to me.

Topics:

Marriage

Patience

text checked (see note) Nov 2005

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Background graphic copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen
Pattern suggested by a 4th- or 5th-century Syrian mosaic fragment.
To view the original, go to The Minneapolis Institute of Arts collection and search for: Syrian stylized cross
Clicking the thumbnail picture will give you a larger one.