Speaking of Ken Scholes, you can now read a short story titled "A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon" on tor.com. The short story is set in the same universe as Scholes' series The Psalms of Isaak. The illustration is by Gregory Manchess.
Here's a brief teaser:
Frederico leaned close to smell the poison on his thirteenth wife’s cold, dead lips. It tickled his nose and he resisted the strong desire to kiss her that suddenly overcame him.
That you might lose yourself from sadness by my lips, my husband and Czar, her open, glassy eyes promised him. He looked away, uncomfortable with her empty, inviting stare.
Behind him, the Minister of the Interior cleared his voice and spoke. “The cabinet feels it would be more stabilizing to consider this an assassination. Jazrel was a most popular wife.”
Frederico nodded. She had quite a following among the young girls in Espira, the region she represented, and this was a dance he knew. He’d been in this very room three years ago to watch them cut his ninth wife’s body down.
When Sasha had hung herself with a rope of knotted silk, six thousand young women in Borut had done the same to declare sisterhood with their region’s wife.
“Assassination,” he agreed. For a moment, he felt a stab of guilt when he thought about the young girls who spent their childhoods emulating his wives in the hopes that one day they would be chosen. I’ve robbed them of an ending, he thought.
He turned now to his Minister of Intelligence. “I assume you concur, Pyrus?”
“Yes, Lord Czar,” he answered. Pyrus was a large man, his beard and hair close cropped. He held the Czar and his tears in quiet disdain but Frederico did not fault him for this. Pyrus had climbed the ranks from private to general during the fifty-year war with their bloated southern neighbor, a nation of leftovers from the defunct Engmark Republic. He’d retired into his intelligence role, bringing an edge to it that only a soldier could bring. He was a hard man from hard times. He ran a hand through his hair. “We implicate the Lunar Resurgence,” he said.
Frederico’s eyes wandered back to his dead wife and he sighed. “And then host a Purging?” He looked up now, forcing himself to meet Pyrus’s eyes.
Pyrus nodded. “The black-coats are already lacquering their guns. We could put the Resurgence away quickly enough and be done with their idle mysticism.”
The Czar contemplated this. He glanced back to his dead wife, Jazrel, and sighed again. “I suppose it would be timely,” he finally said.
But not even the thought of a Purging could lift his downcast spirit.
Read the full story here.
And to learn more about the author and his work, check out Scholes' website.