Do Not Look Back, My Lion by Alix E. Harrow
Welcome to Short Fiction Friday! Every Friday, Black Forest Basilisks will be shining a spotlight on a new short story, novelette, or novella in addition to our regular posts. These stories will usually be available for free online, but occasionally stories from published anthologies will also be featured.
This story is available online for free at: Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Click through to read!
Her golden hair braided and coiled beneath a red-leather helm, her shield lashed to her back and her sword raised high in silver salute, the swell of her belly clad in iron-scaled armor. The crowd howls and chants for her. There is gray laced through her hair now and lines gathered like vultures around her eyes—and have her shoulders always bent so wearily? Has there always been something tangled and cutting in her gaze, like anguish?—but she is still their Lion, and they still love her.
Full disclosure: Alix E. Harrow is one of those wonderful authors who you’d just do anything for. I’m entirely biased solely because she’s just such a dang nice person. Having read The Ten Thousand Doors of January a while back, I’ve been meaning to check out her short fiction for quite some time. Finally, I’ve gotten around to it! It lived up to my every expectation, and showcases Harrow’s flexibility and breadth as a writer.
Eefa is husband to one of her culture’s greatest, most celebrated warriors: Talaan, the Lion. She performs all the domestic needs a soldier could have. Eefa raises their children, shines Talaan’s armor, and keeps house for them. She is a safe haven when Talaan comes home from battle. Talaan, herself, is a fierce warrior. She bears the scars of battle, a mark beneath her eye for each and every victory. She has born many children, all of them vaunted warriors as well.
The constant war and bloodshed ultimately becomes too much for Eefa. Her conscience pricks her – she cannot continue to support this endless bloodshed. She cannot support the taking of slaves, the killing of children. She cannot support Talaan bringing yet another child into this war. And so, she runs.
Told in Harrow’s always stunning prose, Do Not Look Back, My Lion tells a heart-wrenching tale of love and sacrifice. She uses gender, title, and reader expectation to create a society that’s both foreign and familiar. Husband has become a role divorced from gender, even as wife has remained a status limited to women. Women are not only the givers of life, but also the takers. Harrow explores motherhood, matriarchy, and gender through the lens of disability and nonconformity.
Past Short Fiction Friday featured stories can be viewed on my archives page.
Have you read this story? What did you think? Do you have any questions about it?
Let me know in the comments below!