Root Command and Much More


Are you giving thanks for the winter holidays? How about feeding your brainhole with some stimulating fiction to keep it sharp during the cold months? We’ve got your brainfood here… a story from Alexandra Haverská and a comic-book short from Benjamin Davis and Mariam Chagelishvili. And to boot, you’re getting some Space Squid flash fiction contest entries from this year’s Armadillocon!


by Alexandra Haverská

Sin Algalossa Tarmendel Fánirë (Ahezza), a visiting professor at ACFL: First Landing’s Campus of Almadén Alchemical College, clasps her head and growls. The table beneath her fingers cracks and starts to sprout leaves. The handful of students in her course “Advanced Theory of Elemental Magic for Non-Mages” knows better and hurriedly disappears. When the professor gets like this, the only thing that saves their necks is that she specializes in wood shaping and not in, say, fireballs.

COMPLETE STRANGER: The mountains at last! I’m safe!

A flicker of joy, exhaustion, and then nothing. Algalossa’s head throbs.

Every university in any multiverse has a faculty member of this kind. The “absorbed in their own research to the point of developing an eccentricity” kind. And the “not really fit to teach the undergrads (i.e., loathes students)” kind. On top of the “possibly as ancient as the school itself” kind. To make matters worse, this particular professor is just about the last elf left in Miramos.

A lone elf in a world full of humans. And some gods & sundry. But mostly humans. Humans preferring to see only other humans on the face of the world. Oh, the gnomes with firearms are OK, on the account of being partial to selling them firearms, so humans can shoot at each other. Or at, let’s say, elves. One day in the not-so-distant past, there was such a shooting. Then more of it, until the elves sealed themselves off in their Lotus Kingdom by magically raising steep mountains along the frontier. No wonder Prof. Fánirë, who has found herself on the other side of said mountains much more than the rest of her kin, is hardly the quintessence of amiability.

And lately, she’s begun to hear voices.

This is an over-simplification, of course. In exact magic-scientific terms, they are representations of mental patterns that convey a rounded amount of images, information and associated feelings. But if we stuck to the idea of voices, this is how they go:

COMPLETE STRANGER N.2: Oh, the water-lilies are splendid this time of the year!

ORINALA FEANYS (very distant voice): Ouch! This hurts!

ALGALOSSA TARMENDEL FÁNIRË: Orinala! Airinnä be praised, you live! Where are you?

ORINALA FEANYS: Cannot tell… not sure… aaargh… why are you all in my head… so much pain!

CHORUS OF RANDOM VOICES: We know! Stop screaming!


ORINALA FEANYS: … (the connection went silent)

Algalossa’s heart skips several beats. Orinala is alive and about in the world. If Algalossa was to name someone who surely didn’t run back to the Lotus Kingdom, it’d be her once close and intimate friend Orinala.

SIN ALHELLA ESMA ELDIL: Don’t trust anyone… diplomatic career… is a mage’s downfall… better spend your time listening to the songs of the winds… I know that now…


COMPLETE STRANGER N.3: I can hear you through the mists of time, venerable teacher. Now is your chance to tell me what had really transpired on that horrible night you perished in Meseritsch.

CIVIL, STERN VOICE: “You’re trying to access classified information. Be advised that a report on your endeavor has been sent to the Lotus Palace.”

No point asking her long-dead mentor about anything important then.

COMPLETE STRANGER n.4: …mustn’t forget to charge extra extra charge for the express delivery of prime mountain dew. 

ALGALOSSA TARMENDEL FÁNIRË: Airinnä, mother-goddess almighty, why do I have to listen to just about everything? Now I really, really need a drink…

MËANILA IGNIS FÁNIRË: Tarmendel! Manners!


MËANILA IGNIS FÁNIRË: Tarmendel, language!


That is not her first time.

This whole mess means only one thing: the experiment has worked. After all those years, I can hear the voices of my kin. More and more every day. It also seems to be permanent.

Algalossa resorts to filling in her long-abandoned diary pages.

COMPLETE STRANGER N.5: Oh I so wish we could still sell our finest porcelain to Oxbridge.

As she writes, memories flood in.

She remembers the excitement. She was taken aboard the Mass Mental Communication project at the University of Ahezza. She, just a post-grad in wood shaping. In the most cutting-edge inter-disciplinary experiment at the top elvish uni. Boundless joy.

She remembers the fear. One day, all of their human colleagues just… disappeared. The project was stamped classified. She found a “TRAITOR” sign burning in live flames on her and Orinala’s bedroom doors. “Elves from Ambie aren’t true elves!” and “Never trust the islanders!” shouted the crowds in front of Ahezza’s gates.

She remembers the grief. She found Orinala’s room empty. The feeling of loss is still fresh after the years. Orinala Feanys, the princess of Ambie, disappeared like a common thief in the dead of the night, leaving a note containing a single “Farewell”. Her royal highness, like most of ambian nobility, was a half-elf.

ANGRY STRANGER: Ambians are stinkers! 

The civil, stern voice doesn’t interfere.

She remembers the emptiness. She was asked to waive her ambian citizenship if she wanted to remain in the Lotus Kingdom. She sought out Sin Alhella, her only remaining ally, for advice.

“I can put in a good word for you,” replied her mentor. “The dean of Oxbridge in Lockeby is a friend; even in these times, he’ll take you in. I’m sorry for your father in Ambie, Algalossa. I heard your mother chose to repatriate. If you don’t want to do the same, as I suspect, then my advice is: flee to Oxbridge. Humans hold its grounds inviolable.”

Lockeby was half across the world. She packed quickly.

ANGRY STRANGER N.2: Alchemy shouldn’t be university-taught. It’s just a craft!

She remembers the devastation. Sin Alhella perished on a diplomatic mission in Meseritsch. The following day, the dean came to her office, gravely shaking his head, saying: “You should leave now, Algalossa. The public opinion worsens, you know. More anti-elf riots are bound to happen. Here, a ticket to First Landing. I fast-tracked your application for visiting professorship at Almadén College. It’s a provincial establishment and it’d weary me to see you waste your talent there, but it’s for the best. Under the circumstances…”

And just like that, the vaguely planned sabbatical she wanted to spend mastering a third element turned into exile. She was already good at packing quickly.

ANGRY STRANGER N.3: We shouldn’t have stopped fighting! It’s only a matter of time when humans start to think that we’ve grown too weak.

CIVIL, STERN VOICE N.2: You are questioning the official foreign policy of the Lotus Palace. This is strictly forbidden. (Pause) Let this be a warning for everyone.

There is a cry and then an eerie silence.

Tucked away in First Landing for years now, Algalossa half-expected the Mass Communication project had been long scratched. But then, the voices came.

COMPLETE STRANGER N.6: …we must see to summon more rain, otherwise the crop in the west provinces would fail entirely…

At first, I welcomed the idea of not having to rely on Central Miramos Post for the news from my family. Yes, I chose to remain in exile. Yes, I’d do it again. No, don’t ask, personal reasons! Oh my, I’m arguing with Them even in writing now.

COMPLETE STRANGER N.7: Please, Airinnä, let me pass my core class on runic magic!

The result is not what I expected it to be. I sense the presence of others. In my head. All at the same time. At random moments. Not just anyone. All of them. I mean, all of them.  And I have no control over it. I cannot shut them out, I cannot choose whom to contact. Back then, we had all dreamed of telepathy. What the great masters of Ahezza got us is this.

CHORUS OF RANDOM VOICES: We can hear you too!

ALGALOSSA TARMENDEL FÁNIRË: These were private thoughts, damn it!

Every single soul of the Lotus Kingdom. And beyond. Even those in exile who, like me, have chosen to continue living amidst humans against all odds. I hear them too. In the beginning, it made me feel less lonely, but it’s just overwhelming. I hear every single elf on the surface of the world… at least I don’t have to listen to the gibberish of the Dark One’s damned children from the underworld. That has to be something… everyone. Except from Orinala. Somehow, she’s not there, in the system. But I trust she’s still alive.

A whirlwind of images. Roots. Small and large, growing, reaching towards each other, joining to communicate. Minds, some shining like stars or burning like fires, others merely flickering like dancing fireflies, dotting the canvas of communal mentality. Popping in by thousands, some fading away. Buzzing of the hive making one forget where they end and where the others begin, cracking minds wide open.

Too many voices.

Too many thoughts.

I can’t concentrate.

Or teach.

I can just about speak.

Or move.

CIVIL, STERN VOICE N.3: All remaining expatriates are to report to the Homeland or face repercussions.

No, no, no, no! Never! Can you hear me? Never!

I need to find my old notes… to see… so much pain… if, using wood shaping or earth magic could… somehow… reverse the process… I need to… find Orinala and then… get out… soon… and for good. Together. Disconnected. Together, and far, far away.

MËANILA IGNIS FÁNIRË: Tarmendel! Don’t you dare!



by Benjamin Davis and Mariam Chagelishvili


Every year at Armadillocon, we try to run a flash fiction writing contest in the hospitality suite. This high-pressure event gives writers a mere FIVE minutes to put together a cogent tale using their wits and one mandatory common element. This year’s element was fish sauce, and some of our winners went home with mini bottles of sauce.


by Brenda Noiseux
2023 Space Squid Flash Fiction Writing Contest Finalist

Anahlinh froze.
The eight boxes fell from her tentacles, clanking down the walkway as she stared into the merchant window. 
Cartoon shapes of smiling water creatures surrounded bottles marked FISH SAUCE. Squid sauce. Rare space whale sauce. 
“What hell have you brought me to, Teya? Fix the damn ship yourself.”


by Héctor González
2023 Space Squid Flash Fiction Writing Contest Finalist
“FISH SAUCE?!” I exclaimed, incredulous.
“Yup!” Deborah replied.
“You’re kidding??!!” I said, this time much calmer but still baffled. “Do you mean to tell me the secret to Faster Than Light travel, wormhole theory, and star exploration is FREAKING FISH SAUCE?”
“I was as surprised as you,” Deborah said, “it took me decades to find this out. I’m very proud of myself.”
“Huh! Next you’re gonna tell me durian grants eternal life!”
Deborah just looked straight at me and started smiling “Wellll, you’re not gonna believe this…”

About the Creators

Alexandra Haverská is a Czech speculative fiction writer of German origin living in Prague, a city that breathes the fantastic. Her English fiction recently appeared in the Troopers mag, the long con magazine and From the Ashes: An Anthology of Elemental Urban Fantasy for Burn Survivors (Aurelia Leo), among others. She also has stories forthcoming in the Daily Flights of Fantasy (Iron Faerie Publishing) anthology. Her Czech-language fiction is published in various Czech SF&F and horror venues.

You’ve just discovered that you’re a superjucian glass of juice. You have all the powers of a glass of juice, TIMES 1000. A thirsty tween approaches you and you know the time for action is nigh. What is this action?

As a superjucian, I don’t need to resort to lowly tricks such as switching my taste to a lovely mix of fully-ripened durian and wholesomely unripe yuzu with a healthy hint of minced celery… instead, I’d choose to be a super-juicy glass of superjucian juice in another, more welcoming universe.

If you were to write a ten-volume epic fantasy starring a punctuation mark, which would it be and why? What would the one-sentence plot summary be?

As a spec-fic author, I acknowledge that the competition here is steep, with the sword and sorcery genre fully resting upon the epic world-building potential of an apostrophe. Even more so that another fantastic Czech author, Vilma Kadlecková, wrote great sagas starring an ~. In my epic, I’d go for the Spanish-language’s ¿, as it definitely needs more love. Just look at it. Wouldn’t you want to delve into an epic where Maawin – a truth-soaked hero in a world of unstable reality – discovers that the imaginary becomes real beyond imagination?

Read Alexandra Haverská’s Dear Aunty Stanky advice question.

Benjamin Davis is the author of a book of poetry, The King of FU (Nada Blank), a radio play, a few zines, comics, and several short works in BOOTH, Hobart, Maudlin House, Bending Genres, Five of the Fifth, and elsewhere. 

If you were to write a ten-volume epic fantasy starring a punctuation mark, which would it be and why? What would the one-sentence plot summary be?

The story of ” would be the epic tale of a little quotation mark in search of their soul mate, at the other end of a person’s over-explanation of their cat’s rectal surgery, who keeps getting further and further away but is found when the barista finally insists the person finish ordering their goddamn latte. 

If you had a hammer, would you hammer in the morning, and all goddamned day, or just idly as a novelty? What would you hammer?

I would hammer a variety of lunch meats shirtless in the morning and all goddamned day until I became TikTok famous cause, hell, that’s as good an idea as any I’ve seen making people famous these days.

Read Benjamin Davis’ Aunty Stanky advice question.

Mariam Chagelishvili is a Georgian freelance artist based in Tbilisi, Georgia. Besides art, she’s a language enthusiast and an avid lover of coffee, turtles, and ugly-but-cute things. About the Artist

R-region is a visual artist on Pixabay.Our very own D Chang is a designer and game writer from Austin, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Avast, Ye Airships! and the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology, and he has a janky retro JRPG on Steam. He does the Space Squid illustrations, editing, and other squid stuff.


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