The Penitent

The Penitent

A supernatural flash story by Erin Zarro




“I have killed, Master,” The Penitent Agatha said. She sat in a circle of flickering flames.  “See that girl?” She pointed to the limp, pale figure of her latest kill, naked and still bound with rope. “Her screams were a symphony to my ears. Did you enjoy the music she made as she died?”

“And I will enjoy the music your daughter makes when she dies, Penitent,” a voice whispered.

It was him.

She placed her sweaty hands on her lap and bowed her head. “Master, I can’t kill my only daughter.”

The candles snuffed out and Agatha found herself surrounded by darkness. What was happening?

“Penitent,” a voice said, loud and sharp as a blade. “Do you not want your dead husband restored to life?”

Agatha took a deep breath, then let it out. “But she’s my flesh and blood, Master. I’ll kill anyone else, just not my daughter!”

“This was our agreement, Penitent. You are not allowed to change it.” Twin balls of amber flared. She wanted to curl inside herself, get away from his eyes. “You’ll do as I say. Bring me your daughter’s corpse tomorrow. This one will do for now,” her Master said.

She took a deep, cleansing breath and steeled herself for what was to come.

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Sneak Peek for Shards

To celebrate our upcoming release of Shards, coming out of December 1st, we thought we’d give you a peek at the story! This section is from the middle of chapter 3. The story itself is urban fantasy. If you want more, the very beginning of the book is included in the Best of Turtleduck Press, Volume I collection.

A bit of background: Eva has literally run into Michael at college and has felt some sort of odd connection with him. Gabe and Rafe are her bosses, who run an eccentric bookstore just off campus.


It had started drizzling and Eva pulled the hood of her sweatshirt up. Hopefully the rain wouldn’t get any heavier before she made it to work.

“Which way are you heading?” Michael asked, digging an umbrella out of his bag. His was blue with butterflies on it. Eva stared. “It’s my roommate’s,” he explained with a shrug of his shoulders. “Man loves an oddly colored umbrella, and I couldn’t find mine this morning so I just grabbed one of his.” He put it in his pocket. “No sense using it quite yet, but it helps to have it handy, just in case.”

Eva pointed in the general direction of the bookstore.

“I’m going that way too.” Michael offered Eva his arm and she took it, curling her fingers around his warmth. It was oddly comforting.

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Still Waters Run Deep: Part 3

A fantasy serial by Siri Paulson


This is Part 3 of a serial. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. Enjoy!


The overhanging jungle ahead of Payut’s little boat parted, and he saw the Tao Phree River swallow the stream that bore him. His hands trembled on the paddle. Every element in his body cried out for him to turn upstream, away from the city. Even fighting the current would be better, easier.

But there was no-one else to do what needed doing.

His boat reached the river. He clenched his hands, raised the paddle, and swung the boat’s nose downstream.

The current swept him along, too fast, towards the golden spires of the Grand Temple that rose in the distance. A raft loomed up ahead, a whole family huddled on it – father, mother, children, two or three grandparents, several of them with poles out, pushing the whole rickety contraption against the river’s pull. Payut leaned hard on his paddle and barely missed them. He saw their faces, watching as he swept by.

“Not safe!” the father shouted.

Payut thought at first that he meant the near-miss, but then the other man waved, pointed, and Payut understood. The city.

He couldn’t explain that he knew. Couldn’t explain the mix of emotions and needs that roiled in him. So he only called “Thanks!” and …

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Still Waters Run Deep: Part 2

A fantasy serial by Siri Paulson


This is Part 2 of a longer story, but it’s written so that you can start here and go back to read Part 1 afterwards if you prefer. Enjoy!




The shallow waters of the stream, thick with reeds, stretched as far ahead as Payut could see. He sank his paddle into the muddy bottom and pulled. His little boat slid forward along the bottom a few hard-earned handspans and stopped again.

Payut glanced up at the sun, already twinkling in and out of the thick jungle trees as it began to sink, and sighed. He’d lied to himself, thinking he could take his usual back route to the monastery through the waterways at this time of year. The monsoon wasn’t due for days.

And if he hadn’t lied to himself about his supply of earth charms in the first place, he wouldn’t be in this predicament.

Reluctantly he nosed the boat around, back the way he’d come. He would have to take the river, the mighty Tao Phree. A ripple ran through the still waters in his mind, and he smoothed it down. There was nothing to fear, not this time. Not after so many years. The ripple vanished and his mind was clear again.

Little by little the stream grew deeper, until he could …

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Still Waters Run Deep: Part 1

A fantasy serial by Siri Paulson


Another town, another floating market. Payut settled his conical straw hat more firmly on his head and paddled closer, already planning what he would say. The market thronged with narrow boats, hawking fruit and rice, fans and sarongs to the townspeople on the docks. Every town market smelled almost the same, with small variations if one went far enough up the waterways – a different spice mixture here, a different oil there. This one smelled of incense and fresh fish and deep-fried bean curd. His stomach gurgled.

As he brought his boat in to an empty spot on the docks, children were already crowding close. “It’s the charms man!” they shouted, overlapping each other in their excitement. “What did you bring us?”

Payut smiled. “Dolls and toy soldiers, fans and tops. I even have an emperors-and-footmen board for sale.”

A little girl called down, “Don’t you have any charms?”

Payut kept his smile in place. “Of course. Love charms, schoolwork charms, charms to make you faster at martial arts or steady your hand at weaving sarongs.”

An older girl, who looked very like the first, frowned at him. “What about health charms?”

Here it came. “You don’t need any health charms, Little Sister. You’re the very model of the five harmonious elements.”

The little one shook her head vigorously. “It’s not for her. Mama is sick.”

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Introducing Captain’s Boy

Would you believe I wrestled for days with what to write for my blog post? Then I remembered that the reason I was stressed and unprepared was that I have a novel coming out…

This is the first chapter of Captain’s Boy, coming April 1st (Monday, aaah!) from Turtleduck Press. As stated in this handy-dandy timeline, it occurs about two years before the events of Knight Errant.

Warning for some explicit language.


Donte looked at the sagging awning above him, at the straggly hedge separating the restaurant patio from the graffitied wall next to it, and thought about space and how he’d like to be there. Out there he and Jordan would both be safe, and Jordan might actually learn math.

“Yes, Alex is a bully,” he said, interrupting Jordan’s story. “But I’m not fighting him.” Donte shoved his hair back and tapped the notebook. “This answer is wrong,” he said. “Can you see why?”

Jordan didn’t even look at the paper, staring instead at Donte in challenge. “Why not?” he demanded. “You could take him! Alex is big, but he’s just a coward. And it’s not just me that he picks on. He stole Cadie’s bundle last week. You know she thinks it’s her baby what died. She was on her knees begging him to be careful and he held it over his head and laughed.”

“Math.” Donte tapped the paper again. When he started tutoring Jordan, Donte had bent the mentoring rules to …

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