by David D. Levine
$0.99 (Short Story) ISBN 978-1-61138-222-8
War divides families, friends, lovers. It takes no prisoners and offers no mercy. So when Theophile Nundaemon faces his former lover in thaumaturgical battle between airships and floating cities, he knows the rules of war still apply. But the rules of love still apply as well. Love in the Balance originally appeared in the critically acclaimed anthology All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories.
Praise for Love in the Balance:
“This tale, with its exquisite prose and beautifully imagined details, evokes a very dark Jack Vance.” —Sherwood Smith, SF Site
“The formality of this setting, interhouse warfare with the feel of Dune, and love between a man and an intelligent airship forced to fight make this a truly great SF tale.” —Jason Fischer, Tangent Online
“A few stories here feature zeppelins as living beasts — an idea I find irresistible. … In David D. Levine’s ‘Love in the Balance’, intelligent zeppelins are ships in a war between floating ‘houses,’ involving zombies, a hint of baroque politics, and ex-lovers on opposite sides.” —Rich Horton, Locus
“[T]he anthology is a lot of fun in a sly, sardonic way; the best stories here are by David D. Levine and Benjamin Rosenbaum…” —Gardner Dozois, Locus
Theophile Nundaemon closed the book, shaking his head over the images he’d found therein. So sad, so mad… he closed his eyes and set the book aside, a few maroon particles of the decaying cover dusting the ormolu surface of the table.
Unobserved, a cleaner descended silently and snuffled the debris away. It sniffed at the book as well, but Theo’s scent on the cover indicated this was no discard. The little creature puffed itself up to grapefruit size and drifted off to its nest in the corner of the room. Immature cleaners peeped supersonically and opened wide their jaws.
Theo opened his eyes and stared out the window. Beyond the glass loomed the fog of endless night, and bulbous shapes drifting. Here and there a spotlight picked out the sigil of one or another House on a pennant or tail fin. The red bat of the Unknown Regalia… the silver spoon-and-circle of Theo’s own Guided Musings… and there, the gilded fish of the Pulp Revenants. Angrily Theo twisted the brass and crystal handle beneath the worn sill, and wooden slats snapped shut over the view.
How dare Kyrie summon the zombies again — on this day of all days, and upon the Musings of all Houses? How dare she?
Theo picked up the book and shoved it back on the shelf. That compendium of ancient lore and legends was nearly as useless as the endless mutterings of the House Fathers. He paced before the shuttered window, heedless of the books’ shuffling and muttering as they rearranged themselves alphabetically, and lit his pipe. Then a low familiar foghorn sounded outside the window, and Theo sighed and opened the shutters.
Looming from the dark and fog came the nose of the Grand Edison III — the personal airship of Kyrie Strommond, the flagship of the Revenants, and the long-estranged lover of Theophile Nundaemon.
Theo still felt fondly toward the Edison, and he knew that, despite everything, she still held some warmth in her engines for him. But those cooling ashes of love would be no protection at all from the zombie warriors the Edison now bore within her gravid silver hull. For fluttering from the foremast was Kyrie’s own sigil — Capricorn on a field of stars.
That damnable goat.
A tear gathered in the corner of Theo’s eye. “Zenobia,” he called to his personal servant. “Prepare my zeppelin gun.”