I finally caught up with the May (#16) and June (#17) issues of Curtis Ellet's Swords and Sorcery Magazine the other day and both were good fun with nothing but straight, no chase, swords & sorcery fun. The magazine's upward spiral clearly continues making me a happy reader.
May's issue brought us Robert Mammone's "In the Shadow of the Gibbet". Opening with a blast of carnality new to the magazine's pages, it's a fairly standard tale of a man condemned to an arena for two weeks after cuckolding his emperor. Should he survive that long his freedom will be restored. For all the story's scent of familiarity, the array of fights as the days pass are tense and well told.
The second story of the month, "Demons, Within and Without", is the third (I think) of Steve Goble's Faceless Sons cycle. The first, "The Mask of the Oath", is in Rogue Blades' Return of the Sword collection (which I can't imagine you don't own and if you don't you need to buy it RIGHT NOW!) told of a trio of brothers sword to remain faceless and nameless until they righted the horrible wrong committed by their father. He had foolishly summoned seven demons who in turn slew him and fled out into the world, wreaking havoc and sowing terror.
In "Demons, Within and Without" we learn more of the brothers and their oath. The hero in this story is Tannen, the youngest and least bold of the brothers. Tannen has come to understand he only swore the oath in the heat of a moment that left him "addle-minded" and with hopes of appearing a worthier man in his brothers' eyes. Circumstance arise that force him to confront his fears as well as one of his brothers.
Goble's describes the Faceless Sons stories as pure swords & sorcery. I wouldn't hesitate to agree with him. Good stuff.
"Harvester of Souls" (S&SM #17) by James Lecky records how Ramish Kota and Varish Armeen came to the Black City, Salmu Alu and what befell them there. Though elements of the story are reminiscent of Clark Ashton Smith's "The Charnel God", I liked it well enough.
Aging mercenaries, Kota and Armeen have come to Salmu Alu in hopes of making enough on a final job in order to retire. A chance encounter leaves Armeen dead. Kota quickly learns all the unburned or unburied dead in the Black City are claimed by the Red Priests for their god's provender.
Bound by oath of arms and fellowship, Kota will not allow his comrade's soul to become a god's nourishment. Kota's effort sto discover the whereabouts and gain access to the Red Priests home and rescue his sword brother comprise the bulk of the story.
Frank R. Sjodin's "The Last Saw in Town" (S&S M #17) is a comedy. That it made me chuckle several times is enough for me to consider it successful. Ahzi the swordsman is entranced by a woman he sees from across a crowd. Unfortunately, she's a thief and the crowd is really a mob come to watch her sentencing. Convinced she's looked at him with love in her eyes, Ahzi convinces his friend, Serjio, to help him free her. To rescue the thief from the cage she's imprisoned in atop a high pole in the town square, the duo decide they need a simple hand saw. Of course, nothing goes as planned and nothing is quite as it seemed.