Qilwa’s Bruise Exclusive
The beginnings news by Persian American author Naseem Jamnia, The bruises of Qilwa follows a non binary refugee who has just fled a homeland where he was persecuted for practicing blood magic. Their promising new life faces its first challenge when a strange new disease begins to appear and blood magic comes under fire once again.
Check out this quick description of the story, followed by the full cover reveal—and an excerpt from a (a little awful!) part of the book where its central mystery really begins to reveal itself.
Firuz-e Jafari is one of the lucky ones who migrated to the Democratic Free State of Qilwa, escaping the massacre of blood magick practitioners in their home country. They have a good job at a free clinic and a caring new employer, healer Kofi. But a strange plague is rapidly spreading through Qilwa, and the local government is quick to blame it on the refugees. To survive, Firuz must break a deadly cycle of prejudice while finding a new beginning for their blood and found families.
Here’s a preview of the full cover, designed by Elizabeth Story, followed by an excerpt from The bruises of Qilwa—a vivid autopsy scene involving the unfortunate victim of some rather sloppy blood magic.
Mortician Malika had worked closely with Firuz over the weeks, as Kofi was the closest clinic “whose healers don’t have brain asses”. She also once told Firuz that she worked with the dead because she wanted to avoid dealing with the complaints of the living.
“Malika-khan, what brings you here? His attention turned to them and back, and Firuz followed his gaze to the raised sheet stretched over an exam bed that usually didn’t reside there. “Is that a . . . person?”
“Technically a corpse.” She crossed her arms. “I was hoping a follower could figure this out.”
“Not another plague victim, then?”
“If so, then the plague has changed, and we’re screwed.”
Despite the progress made in recent months – providing residents of all areas of the city with access to drinking water; a group of volunteer magic users who roamed the streets and destroyed any trash that might contribute to disease; a recent donation by one of the much-needed wealthy food merchant families – the death toll is still there. If more migrants arrived from Dilmun, the city would be in even more trouble, especially if the former Aziza Kiwabi Academy continued to oppose their entry on “public health” grounds.
Firuz grabbed the gloves offered by Kofi, although he wasn’t wearing any. “Kofi-khan? »
“We have already talked about that.” As usual, Kofi nodded at Malika, whose arms were crossed. “I did a preliminary review, and I don’t want to bias any of us. Let’s hear what you see.
After putting the mask in place, they folded the sheet away from the corpse’s face. “Guess I shouldn’t ask what’s unusual about this one.” Seemed pretty normal; they felt the sagging jaw, the puffy cheeks, before pulling the sheet lower.
The stomach, already green with a telltale stain of rot, distended at their touch. Gases expelled into the air, the smell of sulphurous rotten eggs and sun-heated garbage. Firuz turned her cheek to inhale the scent of the dried herbs the mask had been nestled in, as Malika coughed. Kofi waved a hand in front of his face.
Firuz knew about decaying bodies as well as the living. They didn’t need to access their magic to feel that something about this one was very, very wrong.
Under normal circumstances, the intestine spilled into the blood, consumed the body from the inside. The marrow no longer produced new life, and over time only the bones remained. The marrow here was doing. . . something, even though it should have been still for a long time.
“How long has this been dead? Firuz retrieved surgical tools. Putridness – or rather the lack thereof, after the initial discharge – concerned them.
Malika bounced a fist against her thigh. “One week.”
Firuz’s head snapped up. “Excuse me?”
“That’s why I brought it here.”
At one week the body should have been well decomposed, its smell was a mixture of wet rot, overripe fruit and rancid meat. The initial gasses had been like this clump of smells, but there was no real slippage of skin as Firuz pinched his arm, no telltale yellow mottles. It was as if the body had started its decomposition and then stopped, or chosen parts of the process to continue like a farmer picking dates.
Their blade slid through the chest like a ripe mango, the skin twisting under the pressure. Firuz suppressed a gag. The body was rotting, okay, even if the outside didn’t reflect the internal goo. Firuz used a rag to wipe the flat bone connecting the ribs before tapping it, but didn’t hear the expected hollow ring.
Kofi has already stretched the handsaw, then turned the skin over so Firuz can work. “Do you suspect the marrow?”
“Maybe. Something is stopping the complete putrefaction. They didn’t elaborate, didn’t want to voice the fears that were nipping at their lower backs.
Under normal circumstances, the bones housed spongy interlacings of red or yellow fibers, the site of the hematopoietic marrow. As we age, the composition of these fibers also changes. Yet these were dense, resembling those of a newborn. Piece of sternum in hand, Firuz walked over to the magnifying glass affixed to the back counter, but there was a more accurate way to figure out what was going on. Turning their backs to the others, they released the point of the needle sewn in their sleeve and pressed it against their wrist until a drop of blood spurted out.
The blood would say it, as it always has.
Red smeared with white, they used the energy surging from their veins to explore the composition of the bone, even as they pressed their cheekbones against the lens’ eyepiece. The magic allowed them to sense the internal structure, to run invisible hands along the matrix within. The blood still there looked bad, missing something, and the bone was too thin, as if it had eroded away. And the marrow? Most of it was quiet, but some of it vibrated, even now trying to create without the prerequisite ingredients.
What was . . . impossible. The person was dead, literally cut open by Firuz’s own hands. However, the bone whispered its life, its desire to create. No, there was something – or someone – behind it all, toying with the bodies with a carelessness or contempt that twisted Firuz’s insides.
Kofi ran a hand over the open chest cavity. The slimy innards moved in tandem as his other steered the spinning waterwheel into the corner, from which he drew his energy. “Squishy as it should be. No muscle twitching. Dead, but not yet rotten. He abandoned the motion.
“Some sort of preservation spell, maybe with food as a support.” The lie escaped without a second thought as they tossed their tools into a bucket and grabbed the bundled herb mixture for a cleaning solution. “Although why anyone preserves bodies is beyond me.”
The truth was, Firuz thought as they washed their hands, this was the work of the most incompetent blood magic user they had ever seen.
Extract The bruises of Qilwa by Naseem Jamnia reprinted with permission. Copyright Tachyon Publications.
At Naseem Jamnia The bruises of Qilwa will be out in august, and you can pre-order a copy here.
Wondering where our RSS feed went? You can grab the new one here.