With no true main character, The Enemy of My Enemy is a glimpse into the world of Robert Adam’s “Horseclans” series from the viewpoint of one of fantasy’s most prolific author. The “Horseclans” world is based on the premise that the U.S. and the Soviet Union bombed each other back to the Stone Age. The radiation led to psychic powers in some humans and a few animals, mainly horses and large cats.
In Mercedes Lackey’s contribution to this universe, we meet what seems to be a mild little village. The mayor of this village, Kevin, also happens to be the blacksmith. It’s his job to check out visitors to the village and make sure problem causers move on quickly. When a family of Romani, also known as Gypsies, park on the outskirts in order to trade, Kevin makes their acquaintance and quickly becomes friends with them.
Among the gypsies is a mute girl named Chali. She is one of those blessed with telepathic abilities, which she uses in place of her broken voice. She is protected and loved by the whole Rom camp, and her mental skills are highly prized. When a local lordling sets his sights on the horses belonging to the Rom, Chali, Kevin, and a young man from the mysterious Horseclans named Daiv must do what they can to save the Rom and the horses they love.
There are places in the this short story that feel like they could benefit from a little elaboration. Some important action scenes are missing, leading to some confusion later on. But overall, it’s an interesting and fast introduction to this alternate universe, and the interactions between the characters, their animals, and their powers is attention grabbing. The idea of radiation leading to mutation that seems to be magical is a favorite topic of mine.
Check out the rest of Lackey’s short stories in Fiddler Fair, and while you’re at it, read Robert Adam’s Horseclans.
The Rending Dark by Emma Bull
Part of the Sword and Sorceress I anthology
Paperback: 255 pages
Publisher: DAW; 1st edition (May 1, 1984)
In another case of strange mutation, we meet Marya Clawfinger and Kit Woodpecker. Kit acts as local Songsmith and Carries News from town to village to hut and back again. Marya acts as something of a companion and bodyguard, keeping Kit and herself safe as they travel through lands populated by dangerous natural animals and strange mutations.
In the village of Sallis, they run into one such mutation, a darkly mutated young man with the mind of a small child and the power to pull the very lifeforce from a person’s body. When Marya discovers a strange connection between herself and the creature, she comes to the realization that she may be looking at a very dark future ahead.
The relationship between Kit and Marya is what really carries this story. They banter easily back and forth, and both are appreciative of the other’s talents. When their trust for each other is tested to the limit, the results are poignant and believable. There are no happy endings in this tale from Emma Bull, only the feeling that there’s more to be learned from the two women. Bull’s ability to build such curiosity into a twenty-page short story is amazing, and I seriously hope she’s written more about Marya and Kit, because I want to read it.
Make sure to check out Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies, including this the first edition. And check out Emma Bull’s other works, including her urban fantasy, War for the Oaks.