The race of man is growing old, but it’s not yet ready to die – not while there are dragons still to kill! The cross-bred dragon armies of the Men of Aerlith are the most appalling horrors ever to threaten the sanity of our future:
Termagents ~ three hundred reptilian giants with six legs apiece, the most fecund breeders of them all. Jugglers ~ eighteen of them, growling amongst themselves, waiting for an opportunity to snap off a leg from any unwary groom. Murderers (striding and long-horned) ~ eighty-five of each, with scaly tails and eyes like crystals. Fiends ~ fifty-two powerful monsters, their tails tipped with spike steel balls. Blue Horrors, Basics, Spider Dragons… the enemy has no chance.
Lucius Shepard is a grand master of dark fantasy, famed for his baroque yet utterly contemporary visions of existential subversion and hallucinatory collapse. In Dagger Key, his fifth major story collection, Shepard confronts hard-bitten loners and self-deceiving operators with the shadowy emptiness within themselves and the insinuating darkness without, to ends sardonic and terrifying. The stories in this book, including six novellas, are:
“Stars Seen Through Stone” – in a small Pennsylvania town, mediocrity suddenly blossoms into genius; but at what terrible cost?
“Emerald Street Expansions” – in near-future Seattle, echoes of the life of a medieval French poet hint at either reincarnation or a dire conspiracy.
“Limbo” – a retired criminal on the run from the Mafia encounters ghosts, and much worse, on the shores of a haunted lake.
“Liar’s House” – in the grip of the legendary dragon Griaule, destiny is a treacherous and transformative thing.
“Dead Monty” – a small-time New Orleans criminal ventures outside his proper territory, and poker and voudoun conspire to bring him down.
“Dinner at Baldassaro’s” – a gang of immortals debates the future in an Italian resort, only for events to outrun any of their expectations.
“Abimagique” – a glib college loser falls in love with a witch, becoming an involuntary part of a world-saving – or world-destroying – magical ritual.
“The Lepidopertrist” – a small boy on a Caribbean island witnesses the creation of preternatural beings by a Yankee wizard…
“Dagger Key” – off the coast of Belize, the ghost of a famous pirate seems to control a spiral of murder and intrigue; or is someone else responsible?