“Card Sharp” — Rajan Khanna

Rajan Khanna is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. His stories have appeared in (or are forthcoming from) Shimmer Magazine, Greatest Uncommon Denominator, Steampunk Tales, Shadows of the Emerald City, and Dreams of Decadence. He also writes about a variety of geeky topics for Tor.com, and about wine, beer, and spirits for FermentedAdventures.com. His writing has received Honorable Mentions in the prestigious anthology series The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, and he is a graduate of the Clarion West Writing Workshop. In addition to writing, he has also narrated stories for the podcasts PodCastle and Starship Sofa. Learn more at www.rajankhanna.com.

Our next story takes us to the American south, a land of riverboats, muddy water, and playing cards.

Whether it’s card tricks and sleight of hand, telling the future or constructing a house of cards—since their invention, playing cards have been put to uses that transcend the simple games they were created for. Once, only the wealthy and powerful owned them—each deck a hand-painted commission, a sign of their status. In Quentin Ketterly’s world, however, it is the possession of a deck of cards that makes a person powerful in the first place.

Quentin is a gambler with a very special deck of cards and an appetite for vengeance. But, as the author says, we all deal with limitations, in whatever worlds we inhabit, and in particular, the choice between serving yourself and serving others can be a struggle. And when you’re caught between love, loyalty, and revenge, making the wrong decision can be a deadly one.

Here we give you a new take on the wizard’s spellbook, in which a single ace can beat a royal flush—if it’s the right ace, played at the right time.