Aphelion Issue 244, Volume 23
October 2019
 
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Morfil

by McCamy Taylor



"There is death in this business of whaling."

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

1. Birth

General Selkirk Sandros had a new tattoo. Below the heart and dagger veve of Erzulie on his left upper arm, a serpent now coiled. In the absolute darkness at the bottom of the ocean, he could not see the metallic ink, but he could feel it, like the first sting of a jellyfish, a nagging itch under the skin. The urge to scratch was almost irresistible. But the tattoo artist would never forgive him if he defaced her work. And Kilydd would mock him. Too manly to wear a white gold armband -- Men don't wear bracelets were his words -- Selkirk had opted for a more permanent symbol of his loyalty to Na Chan and its king, his half brother and calorio, Kilydd.

Had his first tattoo itched so? He could not remember. He was a boy when he had Erzulie's veve inscribed on his arm, on the eve of his first battle. With blood and death to distract him, a few needle pricks were nothing. Now, light sea and dark sea were at peace, and he had so much leisure time that they had set him -- Na Chan's general -- to work harvesting mussels.

The deep sea kingdom of Na Chan was located in the bathyl, a cold world where the sun never shone. Here, the weight of the ocean bore down upon living creatures, slowing their movements, so that even the sharks were placid and drowsy compared to their coral reef cousins. Day and night were much the same in dark sea. Creatures fed when they could find food and slept when they could not. The change in seasons went unnoticed. Here at the bottom of the ocean, there was only endless darkness.

It should have been a bleak, barren world, and yet life flourished here. At the heart of the kingdom was a wide, black, brine lake sacred to the white serpent God Damballah. Enormous albino eels dwelled in the salt rich water. Occasionally, one would lift its head above the lake surface, sniffing for food. Though large enough to kill and devour a man, the eels were gentle creatures, scavengers that fed on carrion. In Na Chan, the sacred lake of Damballah was also a graveyard where the dead were laid to rest. Their rotting corpses became the living flesh of the albino eels, which were, in turn, devoured by the citizens of the kingdom in order to celebrate the rites of death and rebirth which were the basis of all life in the ocean.

The shore of the brine lake was covered with a carpet of golden mussels that stretched for miles. Though no sunlight penetrated these waters, the ocean was fertile thanks to methane and sulfide gases which the earth released, in the same way that mother whales secreted copious amounts of milk to feed their young. In Na Chan, the words for "whale" and "ocean floor" were the same -- morfil. Earth which was not covered with ocean water had a different name. It was called deadland.

The golden bathyl mussels which were nourished by the methane cold seep were the staple of the diet of Na Chan's human inhabitants, the shadow hunters. They were also the source of the kingdom's wealth. Pulverized mussel meat was fermented into a salty paste called wystrys that stayed fresh for months in the cold water of the bathyl. The golden hued mother of pearl was fashioned into buttons and jewelry, as well as the kozane armor for which Na Chan was famous. The remains of the shells were ground to make a medicine which was said to strengthen the teeth and bones more than any other calcium found in the Sea of Three, thanks to its high fluoride content.

As the kingdom grew, the demand for mussels became so great that the fishermen could not harvest enough on their own, and so they hired convict labor. In the beginning, "convict" meant one who had been found guilty of a serious crime. But as the need for labor grew, the list of crimes was expanded to include such minor infractions as vagrancy and debt. Sentences became longer. Eventually, 'convict labor' became a euphemism for slavery.

On the day he was crowned, Kilydd pardoned the criminals, a common practice in dark sea, but in Na Chan it was tantamount to freeing the slaves. In response to the public outcry -- "How will we feed ourselves? How will we get mussels for export?" -- the young king decreed that the work once performed by convicts would be divided between the adult citizens of Na Chan. The only exemptions were for illness. Warriors, nobles, merchants, courtesans, artists, skilled craftsman -- all were required to do their part. That included the young king and his court.

That was how General Selkirk Sandros came to be floating over a field of mussels, a basket strapped to his back, his hands encased in honzame gloves. His red mane was cropped short. The blue biolights under his eyes were glowing. Except for the work gloves, he was naked. Clothing provided no warmth and too much extra weight in the bathyl. His skin was pale. It had been months since he had spent any time in the sun. In size and build, he looked like his light sea mother, but his eyes were huge and dark adapted, like those of his shadow hunter father, and the blood that showed through the delicate membranes of his gills was blue, copper rich, ideally suited for the near freezing temperatures at the bottom of the ocean.

Using a pair of long handled tongs, Selkirk pried the shellfish from the sea bed and deposited them into the basket. It was tedious work, but if he rushed, he risked cutting a shin on a razor sharp barnacle, and there were six-gill sharks nearby. The shadow hunters kept them as pets and as watch beasts. Though generally friendly to humans, the scent of blood in the water could drive a hungry shark into a frenzy.

Kilydd had offered to exempt him from fishing duty, on the grounds that "lighters have no stamina." To which Selkirk had replied angrily "Who are you calling a 'lighter'?"

A firefly squid, attracted by Selkirk's blue biolights circled his head. Hard to believe that this small, ephemeral creature was related to the krakens that ruled much of the abyss. Searching for a mate, the tiny cephalopod flashed the bright blue lights which covered its body. The general extinguished his own biolights, and the firefly squid drifted away, propelled by the gentle current that flowed across the ocean floor.

Though Na Chan was a huge kingdom, with a huge appetite for mussels, the fields were so vast that Selkirk rarely encountered another human being when he was harvesting. Therefore, he was startled when someone called his name. He glanced around. His biolights illuminated only a tiny portion of the ocean, but using echolocation -- sonar -- he could see much farther. There, in the distance, a shadow hunter. An adolescent girl, two tiny breasts budding on her broad smooth chest. In her hand, she carried a trident, but that was not her real weapon. Her tail was long and muscular, tipped with a barb. She swam through the cold, dark water of the deep effortlessly, her arms and legs close to her side, propelled by her tail and telekinesis. In her wake, tube worms shivered and were still again.

Selkirk topped off his basket and stripped off his work gloves. His knives were nearby. He strapped them on. The blades were crafted by ancient terrestrials from a titanium alloy that was impervious to salt water. Wielding one in each hand, he was more than a match for any shadow hunter, but he left them sheathed. He recognized the girl. She was one of the cadets, a daughter of a noble house.

"General," she called.

He returned her salute. "Ailis."

"The gwidwith says to tell you that Yam's in labor."

"Labor?" He frowned. "It's too soon." His lover was not due to deliver her baby for two more months.

The big girl shrugged. "I'm just telling you what she told me. You want me to take a message back to her?"

"No. I'll go. Here. Take these to the warehouse." He handed her the basket of mussels. She hardly seemed to feel the weight. At fourteen, she was a head taller than Selkirk and much stronger. By blue biolight, she was smooth and black all over, her eyes so wide that they gave her a deceptively innocent appearance. Her own biolights -- a streak down each cheek -- were crimson.

"Yes, sir. The tower," she added. "They're waiting for you in the tower."

Selkirk kicked off from the ocean floor using a telekinetic burst that sent him shooting up through the water at a dizzying speed. As the pressure lessened and oxygen became more plentiful, his pulse quickened, a natural physiological response, but his mind read his accelerated heartbeat as a sign of anxiety. Could Yam have been wrong about her dates? The midwife -- or gwidwith, as she was called in Na Chan -- said she was too big for seven months. Maybe this was completely ordinary labor. But what if it wasn't? Selkirk's mother ran a hospital in light sea. From her, he had learned everything that could go wrong with a seemingly normal pregnancy, and now his imagination ran wild.

In twilight sea, he caught a current which carried him north, over Na Chan castle and the dwellings which surrounded it. There, in the distance, his sonar revealed a pinnacle too symmetric to be natural. The tower was an ancient oil platform. Its mighty steel legs were firmly embedded in the rock that made up the ocean floor. Fresh concrete was applied from time to time to reinforce the structure which was vulnerable to corrosion, barnacles and storms. It was one of the wonders of the Sea of Three, and Selkirk seldom approached it without feeling a sense of awe -- an emotion that was compounded by the knowledge that such towers were commonplace in the terrestrial era, when air breathing humans ruled the world.

Today, he was in no mood to admire the view. Though the water was now warm enough for him to swim using only his own strength, he continued to use telekinesis to propel himself forward and up. The dimly lit outline of Na Chan castle disappeared, while overhead, the water lightened from charcoal grey to pale blue shot with ripples of silver. It was a dazzling display of light to eyes that were accustomed to the dark, and for a moment, he was blinded. He darted towards the shaded side of the tower

Na Chan was a kingdom of artisans, and the concrete which was used to reinforce the tower legs also served as a canvas. Filtered sunlight illuminated a mosaic of shadow hunters battling giant squid executed in golden mother of pearl, pink coral and black obsidian. Though the krakens were now Na Chan's allies, in the past there had been bad blood between the Sea of Three's mightiest humans and its mightiest invertebrates. Genetically modified men had dwelled in the earth's oceans for a thousand years, but the colossal squid had been there much longer. For millions of years, their only competitors had been the sperm whales. All that changed when humanity fashioned a version of itself that could breathe underwater and survive the high pressure and cold temperatures of the bathyl.

Another hundred feet brought Selkirk to the summit. Centuries ago, after the first Great Flood caused sea levels to rise, a wealthy oilman converted the submerged oil platform into a residence. Originally, water was pumped out and air was brought in using generators. However, when the oilman left the flooded earth for the moon, there was no one to maintain the machines, and the underwater house was soon abandoned and overrun by corals and other marine creatures. Centuries later, it was claimed by the shadow hunters who settled the fertile methane seep below. They called the palace at the top of the tower Caer Lucea -- Castle of Light.

When it was built, Caer Lucea would have been a towering pyramid of crystal clear acrylic glass, gleaming in the sunlit water like a sapphire. Now, the castle and the surrounding platform were covered by a coral reef which provided food and shelter for fish and crustaceans and the requiem sharks that preyed upon them. As Selkirk swam between green pillar corals, he startled a school of bluestripe snappers. An eight foot tiger shark watched him lazily. A nocturnal hunter, it ignored the fish which swam within inches of its snout. Delicate fronds of sea grass, their tips touched with gold, swayed as he passed. Sea snow swirled lazily. The water here was warm and bright. Though he was miles from his home in light sea, the familiar scents brought back memories of his childhood.

Off to his left, three small children were swimming in circles around a young milk shark. The two boys were pure blood shadow hunters, hairless and black with long barbed tails. The girl was of mixed heritage, with a blue mane, light grey skin and a tiny stub where her tail should have been. As she darted through the sea grass, her skin coloration changed to a striped pattern. Camouflage was common in light sea, where most predators relied on their sense of vision when hunting.

Selkirk swam on, barely avoiding the stinging tentacles of a translucent siphonophore as he veered upward to keep from colliding with the fragile pink sea fans that grew around the base of Caer Lucea. The entrance to the coral and anemone covered castle was well camouflaged. He was cursing by the time he located it. The young guard on duty recognized him and got out of his way in a hurry.

The thick growth of algae, coral and sea grass on the exterior of the building rendered its interior dark and barren. There was little to slow Selkirk as he swam through the maze of tunnels that lead to the pinnacle of the pyramid. An octopus watched him warily from its home on a high shelf. A few luminous jellies bobbed in his wake. Up ahead, he glimpsed light. The lying in room in Caer Lucea was one of the few places were the windows were kept clear of algae and coral. He smelled blood and another scent, one that he associated with newborn babies -- amniotic fluid. Had he missed the delivery? Please, Erzulie, he prayed. Let Yam be all right --

The delivery room was awash in scarlet. Selkirk was a seasoned soldier. He knew that a few ounces of blood could turn water in an enclosed area bright red. And from his mother, he knew that women always bled when they were in labor. But still, it was too much blood. And Yam looked so pale, floating in the center of the room, surrounded by dark skinned attendants, her hair fanned out around her head like a black halo. So pale and so still. He swam towards her. Her skin was warm. She opened her eyes and gave him a feeble smile.

"One down and one to go," she murmured before her face contorted. She was too seasoned a fighter to cry out, but through their telepathic link, Selkirk shared her labor pain. It felt as if he was trying to shit out a sperm whale. His own face went pale.

"If you faint, you'll never live it down," Kilydd whispered in his ear.

In the red tinged light, the shadow hunter looked like an ancient sea monster which Selkirk had seen once in a book. An umibozu, the creature was called. Black as squid ink, its huge, smooth head rose from the ocean to confront frightened, cowering sailors. The umibozu's eyes were large and round and appeared strangely innocent as if to say Do not be afraid. I have only come here to play. The drawing was done hundreds of years before the first aquatic humans left the labs. When the terrestrials created their successors, did they consciously model them upon the monsters of years past? If they meant the shadow hunters to inspire fear, they succeeded.

Kilydd grinned, baring sharp black teeth. "Say hello to your daughter."

Confused, Selkirk looked from Yam's swollen belly to the shadow hunter's face. "How can I? She's still -- "

The gwidwith's assistant thrust a squirming bundle into his arms. Selkirk gazed down at a tiny, wrinkled face framed by curly red hair. The infant girl's chest and back were covered with fine down, like that of a newly hatched bird. As she grew, she would shed her body hair while that on her head would grow long and thick -- useful camouflage in a coral reef where it could be mistaken for sea grass. Her unfurled gills were as delicate as a pink sea anemone. She had five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot -- he counted them, just to be sure.

"Push!" said the gwidwith, an ancient female shadow hunter whose skin was mottled black and grey.

Yam gritted her teeth and strained. Selkirk's gut twisted as he felt her pain, so much worse than anything he had ever experienced in battle. The room went dark, and his hands relaxed their grip on the tiny infant, who began to float away.

"What's wrong with Yam?" he whispered to Kilydd after the pain subsided. "She's already had the baby."

"One of the babies. She was carrying twins," explained the young king. His arms encircled Selkirk and the baby both, drawing the two of them back together. His hands, with their tapered fingers, were twice as long as Selkirk's. The newborn girl fit easily into his palm.

Twins? Selkirk prided himself on being a rational man, but he was also a light seaer, and among his people, the number two was associated with the Baron, Lord of the Dead. Twins were considered especially unlucky. Two of his best soldiers, Yagmak and Bulut had been driven from their lobster farming community when they were still boys, because they were born conjoined.

Selkirk struggled to conceal his fear. He searched for a distraction. Through the clear acrylic glass ceiling, he glimpsed a bait ball of sardines being harried by bluefin tuna. Around and around the tiny black fish swirled, like a storm cloud in the water. The light was gradually dimming. The sun would set in another hour, and then they would have to use their biolights to see. He hoped that Yam would deliver soon --

The next contraction was longer and stronger than the ones that had come before. He felt as if he was being pulled inside out. Involuntarily, he dug his fingernails into Kilydd's forearm. The bond between the two men was so strong that he felt the pain shoot up his own arm. It did not ease the ache in his belly, but it distracted him a little. Yam was a fighter, he reminded himself. A warrior skilled in hand to hand combat. She could turn in the water faster than a hammerhead shark. With a body as flexible as hers, delivering two or even three small babies would be nothing --

But if that was true, why was she having to struggle so hard to push the second child out?

"Push!" said the midwife.

Yam clenched her jaw, flexed her neck forward and strained. Blood gushed from between her pale thighs, and then a tail appeared. Long and black with a flexible tip that would eventually harden into a deadly barb, it was a shadow hunter's tail, and it was soon followed by a smooth, dark, hairless infant with webbed fingers and toes and tiny, gleaming teeth. The birth cord was cut. Kilydd held his son to one of Yam's breasts while Selkirk supported his daughter at the other. The boy was twice as large as the girl. The new mother grimaced as the infant shadow hunter sank his teeth into her nipple.

"Never you mind," said the assistant, an attractive young woman of mixed blood. She had the smooth, dark skin of a shadow hunter with a long, white mane. "His teeth will fall out in a few days."

"Aye," said the gwidwith. "Mother's blood mixed with mother's milk is what makes a shadow hunter strong. One more push, dear, to free up the afterbirth, and then you'll be done."

With a soft grunt, Yam delivered the afterbirth -- a single placenta.

"Rare when twins have two different sires," the gwidwith told her assistant as they examined the afterbirth. "It means the babes will be close all their lives. As their fathers are."

The infant shadow hunter was sucking greedily, but the girl took no interest in her mother's breast. Her tiny chest was heaving. "Something's wrong with her," Selkirk said.

The gwidwith was still floating between Yam's legs. A frown marred her smooth brow. "The bleeding won't stop," she told her assistant.

"There's something wrong with the girl," Selkirk repeated, more forcefully.

"My baby," Yam said weakly. "What's wrong with my baby?"

The attendant swam to Selkirk's side. She tapped the sole of the girl's tiny foot. "She just needs to wake up. It was early for her to be born. She thinks she's still inside the womb."

"Try to get her to nurse," said the gwidwith. "The more they suckle, the faster the mother's bleeding will stop."

"Ma'am, I think you should look at this." The attendant took the infant from Selkirk and showed her to the midwife.

The two women exchanged glances. "Too blue," said the gwidwith. It was true. Even in the blood tinged water of the delivery room, the newborn girl's skin was dusky. And just moments ago, she had been pink all over. "Get that surgeon. Maybe he'll know what to do."

Selkirk was pushed out of the way. Kilydd followed him. From the ceiling of the lying in room, they watched as blood continued to flow from between Yam's legs. The water reeked of iron. The gwidwith tried packing her womb with sponges and sea weed, but the new mother's skin kept getting paler. Meanwhile, the surgeon, Sumpf finished his examination of the newborn infant girl. His expression was grim as he swam to join the two fathers.

"It's not good," he began. "Her heart's deformed. The connection between the right and left side is too small. Her blood's being forced through her lungs. I'll have to take her to the surface to see if she can breathe air. But in a premature infant like -- "

"Just do it," snapped the king.

Selkirk, who never lost his cool, even in the most dangerous battle situations, was too stunned to speak. This was not the way it was supposed to be. He tried to swim to Yam, but Kilydd held him back.

"You'll only get in the way."

"But I have to do something."

"Pray," said his calorio>. "Pray to Erzulie."

Selkirk tried to pray, but he was too distracted. The midwife and her assistant held a whispered conversation. Something about taking the young mother down to the cold water of the bathyl to slow her pulse in hopes of stopping the bleeding. Why hadn't he thought of it himself?

"I'll take her," he said. He reached down for her hands. They were cold. "Yam. Stay with me. Don't die on me."

Her face was relaxed now. Her skin was deathly pale against her black hair. Her gills fluttered one last time and then went flat. Selkirk pushed the infant shadow hunter aside and gathered his lover into his arms. She was limp as seaweed.

Selkirk had seen death many times on the battlefield, but he had never held a loved one in his arms as her gills breathed their last. Through the telepathic link that all deep sea residents shared, he sensed her fear, her regret, her love -- and finally the peace that washed over her, like a warm summer tide, carrying away everything that was Yam, leaving behind a husk of bone and flesh. He was vaguely aware that another woman had entered the lying in room, a shadow hunter with engorged breasts. She took the newborn infant boy into her arms and began to nurse him.

Kilydd was behind him, a warm, familiar presence, inviting him to share his grief, his pain, but Selkirk pushed him away. With Yam's body in his arm, he propelled himself from the room, through the maze of corridors and out of Caer Lucea. Her blood attracted sharks. He drove them off with a telekinetic burst. The coral reef flashed by, and then he was in open ocean, swimming downwards, towards the deep. The evening migration was just beginning. Firefly squid in huge numbers were rising from dark sea. Beneath the light of the moon, they would feed. Larger cephalopods joined them. A giant squid gave Selkirk a curious look before continuing its upward journey. A ten foot long salp colony drifted by, like a rope of stars in the rapidly diminishing light. Luminous jellies spun and swam by --

"Yam," he said into her hair. The deep water soothed him. His racing pulse slowed. His skin cooled until it was the same temperature as his lover's. Here, in the absolute darkness of the bathyl, the dividing line between life and death was so fine that he could almost convince himself that they were still together. Time ceased to matter. He let himself drift. Hours passed…

The cold slowed the process of decay, but it could not stop it altogether. The morfil was covered with animals that survived by feeding upon the dead. A tiny crustacean began to nibble on one of Yam's toes. Black ribbon eels circled, waiting their turn. A six gill shark was approaching. Selkirk sensed the beast with his sonar. He contemplated killing it, but he had seen too much death, today. And how could he justify sacrificing a living creature in order to protect the dead? That was the Baron's game. The ocean survived through the cycle of death and rebirth. Nothing was lost. The sea snow which settled on the ocean's floor and fed the spiny urchins was proof of that.

He gathered Yam's corpse more securely in his arms and then, with a telekinetic burst, he kicked off from the ocean's floor. He swam towards the scent of sulfide, moving so quickly that the six gill shark could not keep up with him. He skirted Na Chan and sailed over the mussel fields. The ache in his chest had settled into a small, hard, cold knot. As he neared the brine lake, he almost turned back, until he detected motion on the shore. His blue biolights illuminated the albino priestess, Gleanda. She was waiting for him. For Yam. He kissed his lover's forehead one last time, and then he surged forward through the cold, dark water. The priestess accepted his burden without comment.

Selkirk swallowed the lump in his throat. There. It was done. Yam was dead, and nothing would bring her back. Grief settled over him, darker and heavier than the weight of the ocean. He turned --

And noticed movement. A lump which he had taken for a rock slowly elongated until it became a man. A shadow hunter, only half grown though already seven and a half feet tall. Kilydd, his king, his brother and his calorio. Guiltily, he realized that he was not the only one who had lost a lover that day.

Yam had never objected to being a share wife. Now, Selkirk realized that he had never asked her how she felt about having two husbands. Did he force Kilydd upon her? Did she reluctantly consent to being the shadow hunter's lover, because it meant that she could stay close to the man she really loved? If so, then Selkirk was the one who killed her, because it was Kilydd's child, too large for any ordinary light sea woman to bear, which had torn something inside of her and caused her to bleed to death. It was the growing shadow hunter which forced her to go into labor too early, putting the life of her baby daughter at risk. If only --

"Brother," Kilydd said. He held out his hand. His pet frilled shark circled his legs.

Selkirk hung back. Averting his gaze, he whispered "I'm sorry."

"For what?"

For thinking that it was Kilydd's fault that Yam was dead, but he could not say that. "I left you to take care of everything. How's the boy?"

"Dylan's fine." They had agreed that if the baby was a boy, he would be called Dylan, after Kilydd's father. If a girl, she would be Silphe, because Yam had always liked the name.

He was afraid to ask. "And the girl?"

"Silphe's holding her own. Sumpf says she'll have to breathe air until her heart matures. We've improvised a raft, and tomorrow we'll start building a boat to use as a nursery."

"That's good." He should have been relieved, but he wasn't. He felt cold inside. Cold and dark, like the water around him.

Again, Kilydd offered his hand. When Selkirk hesitated, the young king's crimson biolights flared. In the absolute darkness of the bathyl, only his eyes were visible, two black pools of reflected red and blue light which stared intently at the general's face as if trying to see through the skin and bones to the thoughts hidden beneath. "Why are you shutting me out? Talk to me."

Selkirk shook his head. "I don't know what to say."

"Then let me into your head."

"I can't."

Kilydd inched forward, moving so slowly that his movements were almost imperceptible. "Can't or won't? I'm a big boy. You won't hurt my feelings. Do you think I haven't blamed myself already for Yam's death?"

Selkirk shook his head. "I don't -- "

"Cut the crap. You're no saint and neither am I." He closed the last few feet between them in a sudden rush. With his hands on either side of Selkirk's face, he peered into his eyes. "Let. Me. In."

And so he did. Within his brother, Selkirk found a sorrow as great as his own. The hard, cold knot in his chest swelled and overflowed the boundaries of the thing he called himself. He realized -- through Kilydd -- that he was tired. Exhausted. How long had it been since he had slept or eaten? He could not remember. He had to look after himself -- again, the king's thoughts -- because so many people depended upon him. He had two newborn children to think about. Yam would want him to care for them. And who would keep order among the soldiers of Na Chan if he was not there to kick their butts when they got out of line? Who would tell the young king the things he needed -- but might not want -- to hear?

Behind him, the albino eels were stirring. Selkirk knew what they were doing, but he refused to dwell upon it. It was not Yam that they were devouring. Yam was no longer in that bit of flesh and bone to which he had clung so desperately. Yam was in the ocean, now. She was in the algae and tiny animals and sharks and rays and whales. She was in the morfil and in the water. She was in her two, newborn children and she was in Kilydd and in himself.

"Come, brother," said Kilydd with uncharacteristic gentleness. "Let's go home."

To be continued


© 2011 McCamy Taylor

Bio: McCamy Taylor is, of course, Aphelion's reigning Serials / Novellas (fiction longer than 7,500 words) Editor. She is also the author of many stories and articles that have appeared in Aphelion and various other publications too numerous to list here. Her most recent fiction contribution to Aphelion was the novellette Chatterton Reef. "Morfil" is the first chapter of a longer work set in the world of Chatterton Reef and featuring some of its main characters.

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