"This Week: “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matthew Hughes
(Originally published in Rogues.)
The thief Raffalon was sleeping away the noon-day heat behind some bracken a short distance from the forest road when the noise of the struggle awakened him. He rolled over onto his stomach, quietly drawing his knife in case of need. Then he lay still and tried to see through the inter-layered branches.
Figures scuffled, voices spoke indistinctly, the syllables both sibilant and guttural. A muffled cry, as of a man with a hand over his mouth, was followed by the sharp crack of hard wood meeting a human cranium.
Raffalon had no intention of offering assistance. The voices he had heard were those of the Vandaayo, whose border was not far away. Vandaayo warriors left their land only for ritual purposes, and then always in groups of six, and never without their hooks and nets and cudgels. Their seasonal festivals centered on the consumption of manflesh, and if Raffalon had attempted to intervene in the harvesting now taking place on the other side of the thicket, the only result would have been to add a bonus to the part-men’s larder.
Matthew Hughes writes fantasy and space opera, often in a Jack Vance mode. Booklist has called him Vance’s “heir apparent.”
His latest works are: A Wizard’s Henchman (novel) and Epiphanies (novella), both from PS Publishing.
His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, F&SF, Postscripts, Lightspeed, and Interzone, and bespoke anthologies including Songs of the Dying Earth, Old Mars, and Old Venus, all edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.
He has won the Canadian equivalent of the Edgar, and been shortlisted for the Aurora, Nebula, Philip K. Dick, Endeavour (twice), A.E. Van Vogt, and Derringer Awards.
He is now self-publishing his backlist as ebooks and POD paperbacks.
He spent more than thirty years as one of Canada’s leading speechwriters for political leaders and corporate executives. Since 2007, he has been traveling the world as an itinerant housesitter, has lived in twelve countries, and has no fixed address. You can find him online at matthewhughes.org, and sign up for his monthly newsletter and receive a free ebook of his space opera novel Template here.
About the Narrator:
Eric Luke is the screenwriter of the Joe Dante film Explorers, which is currently in development as a remake; has written for the comic books Ghost and Wonder Woman; and wrote and directed the Not Quite Human films for Disney TV. His current project, Interference (a meta horror audiobook about an audiobook... that kills), is a bestseller on Audible.com. His website for creative projects is Quillhammer.com."