Short Stories 366:258 — “A Day at the Inn, a Night at the Palace,” by Catherine Lundoff

coverThis is yet another case of Lundoff’s writing where I would cheerfully read the novel series spun out from the characters, world-building, and events in the story. “A Day at the Inn, a Night at the Palace” is a sword-and-sorcery fantasy setting, with a man and woman, cousins, who are blades-for-hire. She has a reputation of being above-and-beyond skilled, and he has a dash of magic, which is probably why they’re approached by a princess who’d very much like to have her heir-to-the-throne older brother not be alive by the time her father passes. They’re not assassins, though, so they turn that down (even though said prince is going to be a total disaster for the kingdom, and the princess would likely do way better). Then they hit an inn, and carouse and have a good night.

When they wake up, however, the princess is right there in the room with the swordswoman, and that would be confusing enough were the princess also not absolutely insistent that she’s not the princess, she’s the cousin, and something magical and body-swapping has obviously occurred here. It doesn’t take them long to realize the princess might be “borrowing” her cousin’s body to frame him for the murder of the prince, and they find themselves needed to spring into action to try and get the right body back, to make sure they’re not framed for murder in the process, and to survive the princess’s magic-flinging friend, who could just as easily transform them into horse urine as fix all these issues. It’s a lot.

The adventure has a few grant twists and turns in Lundoff’s hands, and the ongoing plots also dovetail nicely with the swordswoman’s thoughts about her own desires, how her freedoms have come from skills, not birth, and how un-free so many others are. The adventure takes the main stage, but it’s her mind that really sucked me into the tale, as I just wanted to stick around with her, especially after the conclusion, to see what came next. But that is, as I’ve said, one of the wonderful draws of Out of this World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories—wanting more.

I asked Lundoff about where this story came from, and here’s what she had to say:

Sometimes, you just gotta write that body swap story that’s kicking around in the back of your head, and you have to make it queer sword and sorcery for reasons…

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