Mystics in Hell
A Heroes in Hell Anthology
by Janet Morris
Genre: Dark Fantasy Anthology
Join the doomed on their vision quests in eleven stories by the damnedest writers in Perdition: Janet Morris; A.L. Butcher; Joe Bonadonna; Andrew P. Weston; Gustavo Bondoni; Seth Lindberg; Tom Barczak; Michael H. Hanson; Louis Antonelli; Christopher Crosby Morris.
Mystics in Hell is the latest volume in the notorious Heroes in Hell series of anthologies and novels created by Janet Morris.
A Frame of Mind by Janet Morris & Chris Morris
Kit Marlowe treks back from exile, where he has encountered three witches. Carrying a skull which he found on a blasted heath, he arrives at the Globe, where Satan and the angel of death accost him. At their displeasure, he’s banished once more, this time to return instantly via the powers of the Fates. Satan meets him at a cast party and decrees that Kit not only will spy for him, but play Banquo, beheaded in each subsequent performance of Macbeth.
The Come Right Inn by Andrew P. Weston
Where we meet up with one of Satan’s most secretive agents. A charming woman with a finger—and most other body parts—in every pie. She’s bewitching, beguiling, and bedeviled to be sure, but won’t think twice about skinning you alive if you cross her.
Abode of Woe by A.L. Butcher
When the self-proclaimed anti-messiah builds a temple on their doorstep and ruins business, Calchas and Cassandra look to some devious means to bring down the walls. Dueling mystics and misinformation bring mayhem to the underworld.
Fool’s Gold by S.E. Lindberg
A tale of the Egyptian god of mysticism, Thoth, who seeks conspirators to retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone; with it, Thoth could usurp Satan’s control of the realm of Duat. Taking up the charge is Howard Carter, infamous antiquarian and tomb raider, and the disgraced evolutionist Ernst Haeckel. They discover that King Midas’s alchemical ability to transmute flesh into gold relies on the stolen stone, and Midas is producing Hell’s new gastro-currency: buttcoin. They infiltrate the Mortuary Mint and sabotage the currency’s production. Instead of returning the stone to Thoth, the duo uses it to build up their own fortune. The auditors of Hell, namely the First and Second of the Sibitti, police the matter.
The True Believer by Lou Antonelli
Few national leaders of the 20th century had as much of a negative and controversial impact on history as Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, prime minister of South Africa from 1958 to 1966, when he was assassinated. Commonly referred to in South Africa as “Dr.” Verwoerd, he had a PhD in psychology, and went down in history as The Man Who Invented Apartheid. Now in Hell, Dr. Verwoerd refuses to acknowledge his infernal fate and gets a special visit to set him straight.
By Any Means Necessary by Gustavo Bondoni
Umberto Eco knows he’s in Hell; the suffering and multiple deaths that never kill him permanently are more than enough of a clue for a man of his learning. But when he gets forcibly recruited by Nazi Commando Otto Skorzeny to prove the theories of one of history’s greatest charlatans, he thinks things can’t get any worse. He’s wrong. Hell can always get worse.
Excalibur by Tom Barczak
When dealing with the harsh reality of the Afterlife: Hell can be hard. But Rasputin has something even harder, and Lafayette Ronald Hubbard desperately needs it if he is going to pull off the greatest magic trick Hell has ever known.
On The Run by Michael H. Hanson
Tells of Sufi mystic Rumi, Zen Buddhist Dōgen, and Charlatan Spiritualist Mina Crandon using their new-found magics on the grandest of all quests, to find powerful talismans that will allow them to escape Hell itself.
The Sorcerous Apprentice by Andrew P. Weston
Daemon Grim learns new tricks from an old dog. And just as well. There’s a fallen saint to bring to heel, and she’s not known for playing ball . . . crystal or otherwise.
The Colossus of Hell by Joe Bonadonna
Doctor Victor Frankenstein and computer scientist Alan Turing want to build a cyborg. Quasimodo wants to win the hand of the French fortune teller, Marie Anne Lenormand. Rasputin and Cagliostro want to open an exclusive, private club. And a mysterious damned soul, known only as the Orange Ogre, wants revenge against anyone in Hell who ever cheated or betrayed him, laughed at and humiliated him, or even ignored him—especially His Satanic Majesty himself.
Strange Arts by Janet Morris and Chris Morris
In a Tower cell, Marlowe’s head struggles to regain consciousness and rejoin his body. Here he finds his Elizabethan spymaster, Walsingham, waiting with J the Merciful and three mysterious Sisters. After painfully stitching together his body and soul, the five entreat him to join their most secret conspiracy.
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From The Abode of Woe
Paradise’s dim light grew ever dimmer as the hell-lights began to glare with the blue glow of sulfur. It was an unforgiving light for the unforgiven. Word had got around, and crowds had begun to gather for the evening’s entertainment. Calchas had started a book on the outcome of the battle, and the diablos were rolling in.
“Two to One for the Pig Man!” yelled a grifter clad in the sharpest suit of the evening.
“Seven to Four for the Prince!” bellowed another voice, shrill in the crowd.
Kevin the fiend grinned. He was having the time of his unlife; he’d read the small-print.
“Are they ready?” Calchas asked, eying the large and sinister cloth-covered mounds on opposing sides of the temple.
“Yep. Ready for mayhem, master.” A smiling fiend is not something to stir the heart with confidence or joy and Calchas sobered. He wondered if he should feel guilty, but he had enough of that to last a thousand lifetimes and these New Dead had brought it on themselves. At least that is what he told himself and Cassandra.
“Ego fighting ego will bring no good for either. A temple built in haste to honor mere vanity and lies will surely fall to dust.” Cassandra stared at the mounds, hoping these fire-spiting death machines would not bring them all to the Undertaker’s door. Were they too close? She closed her eyes and let her mind wander.
“Will we be punished for this venture?” He’d asked, thinking too late they may have erred and voicing both their fears. He hoped nothing would backfire; plans in hell oft went awry. And he knew that sooner or later he’d pay the price for this deceit.
“This is Hades. Punishment is inherent. But I think not . . . at least not on this day. ‘Rue thy former life, and revel in thy afterlife, for thou art damned.’ Is that not the advice you once gave me? We are the damned. We must survive as we may. But those infernal and wicked weapons of the new-dead — Surely the walls of Ilium would have fallen on the first day.” She paused, “Would we have fought with such demon-weapons of war?”
Calchas gazed over to the two looming cloth-bound shapes. “Probably. Priam and Agamemnon would have found some means to destroy one another, no doubt. Man’s capacity for war outweighs his capacity for reason — and this place is full of the testimonials to that.”
“They will fall in dust as vain men are wont to do.” Cassandra told him.
“They won’t go through with it. It would be suicide. That building will fall down in the next hell-storm,” Calchas replied, doubtful.
They’d watched the crowd assemble from a reasonable distance. “Pack up. In case. And I will try to steer the mayhem from our door to be on the safe side, should the range of those war-weapons be enough to hit us. Make sure you are careful where you stand.
“Look there’s old Assisi. Out for the entertainment, along with everyone else by the looks. Let’s see — drinks are half-price.” Calchas would not let this opportunity pass.
Cassandra nodded, “Where did you get the fire-spitters?”
“Che Guevara owes me a favor. It might be useful to keep one—just in case. How hard can they be to use? Look, come there are our two brave heroes.” Calchas separated himself from Cassandra, still in the guise of the department man, and wandered over to the two Prophets.
“So, gentlemen, are we ready to settle this? Remember the winner gets control of that site, should it still be standing. The loser, or losers . . .will have more immediate issues to deal with.” Calchas motioned to the nearer of the covered shapes. “Who would like Big Bertha?”
The Reverend Henry Prince stared doubtfully at the shape. “That’s not a sword, or a firearm.”
“Give that make a Heck-Cookie!” Kevin chortled. He’d been milling and warming up the onlookers. With a flourish he tugged the cloth away — to reveal a howitzer, pointing towards the Temple of Woe. It was an evil-looking device, as were many man-made machines of death. “Humans, they do like to kill one another in all sorts of inventive ways! Welcome Big Bertha. She’s a friendly girl!”
“And the other?” Smyth-Pigott asked, his voice tremulous.
They walked across to a lower-slung shape. “Gentlemen, meet Roaring Meg, the deadly maiden of the English Roundheads,” Kevin chuckled.
“Not your era, I suppose, but they do the job. They are primed for combat. Meg has helpers: she fires but one ball at a time, yet she’s a fiery lass and one of the more knowledgeable operatives of hell has evened the odds.” Calchas held his palm out, containing dice. “Whoever rolls snake-eyes gets first choice, but Meg is a little slower, and older, and thus she fires first.”
“What happens if we refuse this ridiculous plan?” Henry Prince could not take his eyes from the cannon.
“Refuse? I wasn’t aware that was an option.” Calchas feigned surprise.
Kevin murmured something in Calchas’ ear, “My associate says it is an option but if a refusal is forthcoming then all rights are revoked to build now and for infernity, Sentence will be the six-hundred and sixty-five years of cleaning Perish sewers, and you must publicly affirm your rival as the true Chosen One, the true heir and the ultimate seer. And as both are equally guilty you will have to work together, and your women too, forever. If both refuse, then it must be done at exactly the same time. Whomever speaks first is deemed the greater coward.”
British-born A. L. Butcher is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet, and a dreamer, a lover of science, natural history, history, and monkeys. Her prose has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as ‘evocative’. She writes with a sure and sometimes erotic sensibility of things that might have been, never were, but could be.
Alex is the author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chroniclesand theTales of Eranalyrical fantasy series. She also has several short stories in the fantasy, fantasy romance genres with occasional forays into gothic style horror, including the Legacy of the Mask series. With a background in politics, classical studies, ancient history and myth, her affinities bring an eclectic and unique flavour in her work, mixing reality and dream in alchemical proportions that bring her characters and worlds to life.
She also curates speculative fiction themed book bundles on Pubshare – for the most part – the Here Be Series
Alex is also proud to be a writer for Perseid Press where her work features in Heroika: Dragon Eaters, Heroika Skirmishers – where she was editor and cover designer as well as writer – as well as Lovers in Hell and Mystics in Hell – part of the acclaimed Heroes in Hell series. http://www.theperseidpress.com/
An interview with A.L. Butcher
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I’m not sure anyone is ‘unique’, quirky yes but the forces around us, and within us mean we cannot be wholly ‘unique’.
Quirky things about me:
When I was little I wanted to be a squirrel when I grew up.
I’m afraid of dolls, puppets and clowns.
I probably have dyspraxia – I fall over often, walk into things, trip over my own feet, drop things, I have poor spatial awareness, and absolutely no sense of direction.
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I’m British, currently living in the Southwest UK – Bristol, although I grew up in a small town North of London. I write adult fantasy – sword and sorcery with sizzle, historical fantasy, short gothic horror and poetry.
I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember, raised in a household filled with books and stories. I was always the one writing the story or poem for the school event, and I was considered ‘imaginative’ and daydreaming at school. I think a storyteller is what you are, not what you become. Of course you can learn the craft – the technical side of it – but the actual stories – they come (whether you like it or not).
I published the first novel in 2012 – the first of The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles series of dark adult fantasy/fantasy romance. The idea came from an adventure I’d written for a role-playing game (yeah, I am a nerd), which never got used and I adapted it to a world I’d created for a different project. The rest of the series, and the companion series came about from that.
At the time my mother was in the last stages of cancer and I was determined to finish book one so she could see it and she told everyone – and I mean EVERYONE. Writing is therapeutic, it helps one lose oneself in new worlds and new situations, it’s creative (obviously) but it’s a puzzle – what happens next? Who are these people in this story, what is going to happen to them? It gives the brain something to focus on, which is away from the real world.
My Legacy of the Mask series stems from characters from the Phantom of the Opera – one of the enduring loves of my life. I’ve been captivated by that story, it’s tragic antihero and the love and mystery of it for over 35 years.
Who is your hero and why?
Gaston Leroux, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley – for writing some of the great gothic horror tales.
Agatha Christie – because her mystery stories are superb and she’s the best selling author ever.
Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo– because epic novels rock.
Tolkein – because of the world building and the mythic telling. Lord of the Rings is at the heart of much British fantasy.
David Attenborough – because he’s the foremost naturalist of our age and his love of nature inspires me.
Which of your stories/novels can you imagine being made into a movie?
I really hate this question, I actually have no idea. I’d guess my second novel – The Shining Citadel. It’s a fun adventure.
What inspired you to write Abode of Woe?
The main characters are Cassandra – the prophetess of Troy, Calchas – seer of Agamemnon, the Reverend Henry Prince – a Victorian era ‘messiah’ of sorts and his rival/second in command John Hugh Smyth-Piggott. We have two ancient mystics who between them influenced the fall of Troy and two Victorian wannabee messiah who set up the Abode of Love and ‘persuaded’ gullible women to hand over their virtue and worldly possessions to be ‘blessed’. They are fun characters – very different, and there’s a lot of dark humour.
I love ancient mythology, I have a background in Classical Studies and Troy and its fall fascinates me. The two Victorian gentlemen – charismatic and surprisingly successful. They are interesting characters. And I wondered what would happen if they met one another.
Hell is a challenge to write, but it’s an amazing shared world and there’s a lot of scope for mischief.
Convince us why you feel your story is a must read.
There’s dark humour, a fiend called Kevin and a duel – with cannons…. Two ancient mystics, two modern (relatively) would-be messiahs and lots of mischief.
The Heroes in Hell series is a lot of fun – darkly humorous, very dystopian, and where else would you find famous people from history – from ancient to modern – living side by side and having very unusual adventures? Not for the faint hearted or those who like a happy ending – it’s Hell. Mankind’s final and eternal damnation, but it’s clever, and varied and anything happens.
What is your advice to new authors?
1.) Write what you want to write, and what makes you happy.
2.) Before you publish make sure you read all the FAQs and Terms of Service of the site/publisher. Ensure you are clear what is required of you, and if you’re self-publishing ensure you understand what is involved and don’t cut corners.
3.) Success is relative.
4.) Don’t worry about reviews – there will always be someone who doesn’t like your book, but there will be someone else who thinks it’s great. Reviews are one person’s opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.
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