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Bruises Kilva Exclusive

An illustration of a walled city with a wall and a domed building in the center done in cream, gold, red and purple.

Fragment of the cover of The Bruising of Qilwa.
Image: Publications about tachyons

Debut short story American writer of Persian origin Naseem Jamnia. Kilva bruise follows non-binary a refugee who had just left his homeland where he faced persecution for practicing blood magic. Their promising new life faces its first test when a strange new disease begins to emerge – and blood magic is once again under fire.

Read this brief history, and then full disclosure cover– and excerpt from (some terrible!) part of the book, where her main secret really begins to be revealed.

Firouz-e Jafari is one of those lucky enough to emigrate to the Democratic Free State of Kilwa, fleeing the slaughter of bloodbending practitioners in his homeland. They have a good job at a free clinic and a kind new employer, the healer Kofi. But a strange plague is spreading rapidly across Kilwa, and the local government has been quick to blame the refugees. To survive, Firouz must break the deadly cycle of prejudice by finding a new start for both his blood and his families.

Here is the full cover, designed by Elizabeth Storey, followed by an excerpt from Kilva’s Bruise—a vivid autopsy scene involving an unfortunate victim of some rather sleazy blood magic.

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Image: Publications about tachyons

Undertaker Malika worked closely with Firouz for several weeks, as Kofi’s clinic was the closest clinic “whose healers don’t have asses for brains.” She also once told Firouz that she works with the dead because she doesn’t want to deal with the complaints of the living.

“Malika Khan, what brings you here?” Her attention shifted to them and back, and Firouz followed her gaze to the raised sheet stretched over the examination bed, which was not usually there. “This is a. . . Human?”

“Technically, a corpse.” She crossed her arms. “I hoped the adept could understand that.

“So not another victim of the plague?”

“If that’s the case, then the plague has changed and we’re finished.

Despite the progress made in the last few months: access of people from all parts of the city to clean water; a volunteer group of magic users who walked the streets and destroyed all waste that could contribute to the disease; a recent donation from a wealthy merchant family of much-needed food – the death toll is still rising. If more migrants arrive from Dilmun, the city will have even more problems, especially if the ancient Aziza Kivabi Academy continues to prevent their entry on “public health” grounds.

Firouz grabbed the gloves offered by Kofi even though he wasn’t wearing them. — Kofi Khan?

– We already talked about this. Out of habit, Kofi pointed his chin at Malika, who had her arms crossed. “I passed the preliminary exam and I don’t want to discriminate against either of us. Let’s hear what you see.”

Wearing a mask, they turned the sheet away from the corpse’s face. “I take it I shouldn’t ask what’s unusual about that. It seemed quite normal; they touched the slack jaw, the swollen cheeks, before pulling the sheet even lower.

His stomach, already green with a clear stain of decay, swelled at their touch. Gases are thrown into the air, smelling of sulphurous rotten eggs and sun-warmed garbage. Firuz turned his cheek to them to inhale the aroma of dried herbs in which the mask was covered, and Malika coughed. Kofi waved a hand in front of his face.

Firuz was familiar with decomposed bodies as well as living ones. They didn’t need to access their magic to feel that something about it was very, very wrong.

Under normal conditions, the intestines spilled into the blood, devouring the body from the inside. The bone marrow no longer cranked out a new life, and over time, only bones remained. The brain did here. . . Littlething, although it should have been motionless for a long time.

How long ago did this one die? Firuz took the surgical instruments. Rot – or rather, its absence after the first discharge – bothered them.

Malika hit her thigh with her fist. “One week.”

Firuz’s head snapped up. “Excuse me?”

“That’s why I brought him here.

In a week the body should have been badly decomposed, its smell was a mixture of wet rot, too ripe fruit and rancid meat. The initial flatus was like this bouquet of scents, but there was no real slipping of the skin when Firouz pinched his hand, no obvious yellow spots. It was as if the body began to decompose and then stopped or chose parts of the process to continue in the same way that a farmer picks dates.

Their blade slid into his chest like a ripe mango, skin flexing as the pressure eased. Firouz suppressed the gag. The body is rotten, everything is in order, although the internal mucus was not reflected on the outside. Firuz wiped the flat bone connecting the ribs with a rag before tapping on it, but he did not hear the expected booming ringing.

Kofi had already held out the hacksaw, then pulled back the skin so Firouz could work. — Do you suspect bone marrow?

“Maybe. Something stops the complete decay.” They didn’t elaborate, didn’t want to express the fears pinching their lower backs.

Under normal conditions, bones were home to spongy criss-crossings of red or yellow fibers, the site of hematopoiesis in the marrow. As a person ages, the composition of these fibers also changes. But the ones here were as thick as a newborn baby’s. With a piece of sternum in hand, Firouz walked over to the magnifying lens mounted on the C-pillar, but there was a better way to see what was going on. Standing with their backs to the others, they released the tip of the needle sewn into the sleeve and pressed it to the wrist until a drop of blood came out.

The blood will tell, as always.

Red on white, they used the energy coursing through their veins to examine bone structure even as they pressed their cheekbones against the eyepiece of a lens. Magic allowed them to feel the inner structure, to run invisible hands over the matrix within. The blood that was still present seemed wrong, something was missing, and the bone was too thin, as if it had collapsed. And the brain? Most were silent, but some were buzzing, even now trying to create without the necessary ingredients.

That was . . . impossible. The man was dead, literally cut open by Firuz’s own hands. Nevertheless, the bone whispered its life, its desire to create. No, behind it was something—or someone—playing with bodies with such carelessness or neglect that Firouz’s insides twisted.

Kofi ran a hand over his open chest. The sticky entrails moved in tandem, while the other guided the spinning water wheel in the corner from which it drew its energy. “Viscous, as it should be. No muscle movement. Dead, but not yet decomposed.” He abandoned the move.

“Some kind of conservation spell, perhaps with food as a medium.” The lie slipped out without a second thought as they tossed their tools into a bucket and reached for a mixture of herbs in a bundle for a cleansing solution. “Though I don’t understand why anyone keeps bodies.”

In truth, Firouz thought as they washed their hands, this was the work of the most incompetent blood magic user they had ever seen.

Extract from Kilva bruise Naseem Jamnia reprinted with permission. Copyright Tachyon Publications.

Naseem Jamnia Kilva bruise will be released in augustand you can pre-order a copy here.

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