“Cerile and the Journeyer” — Adam-Troy Castro

Adam-Troy Castro’s work has been nominated for several awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Stoker. His novels include Emissaries from the Dead and The Third Claw of God. He has also collaborated on two alphabet books with artist Johnny Atomic: Z Is for Zombie, and V Is for Vampire, which are due to come out next year.  Castro’s short fiction has appeared in such magazines as The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Science Fiction Age, Analog, Cemetery Dance, and in a number of anthologies. I previously included his work in The Living Dead, The Living Dead 2, and in Lightspeed Magazine. His story collections include A Desperate, Decaying Darkness and Tangled Strings.

The oldest and most primal form of storytelling is fantasy—tales of gods and monsters, heroes and magic—and the most fundamental form of fantasy is the quest narrative. In his highly influential work The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell identifies what he calls the “monomyth,” a story that is told and retold in every human society—that of a young man who sets out from his village on a great quest. He faces steadily escalating challenges and acquires magical talismans and helpful companions—often including a talking animal and a wise old man. Finally he faces his greatest fears and returns home to share the wisdom and power he’s acquired. In many quest stories, the hero must also rescue a beautiful princess. Video games frequently evoke this motif, with games like Super Mario and Zelda building long-running franchises around the idea of princess-rescuing. Contemporary fantasies, such as The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines, often turn this idea on its head, featuring princesses who are more than capable of rescuing themselves, if the need arises. Our next tale also features an unconventional take on the idea of a quest to rescue a beautiful woman.