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Black Gate Online Fiction: “The Quintessence of Absence” by Sean McLachlan

Sunday, October 7th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

sean-mclachlan-smallA young wizard in the grip of addiction discovers his drug of choice is at the center of a sorcerous conspiracy in Sean McLachlan’s urban fantasy novella, “The Quintessence of Absence.”

“Herr Eisenbach has a problem,” Francesco said.

“Then fix it yourself. You got me fired, remember?”

“You got yourself fired, smoking that noxious paste… I’ll get straight to the matter at hand. Herr Eisenbach recently discovered Birgit is smoking nepenthe.”

“But she’s just a kid,” Lothar said. He remembered Eisenbach’s daughter, a bright-eyed child who was the joy of the household.

“She’s sixteen now, and arranged to be married to the Margrave of Nordhausen. When Herr Eisenbach found out she was smoking, he locked her in her room. Unfortunately she escaped and hasn’t been seen in a couple of weeks. We’ve been looking all over for her, but we were hoping someone with your… connections… might have better luck.”

“How much is in it for me?”

“A hundred franks, more if you can return her, ah, intact. She’s due to be married, after all.”

“If she’s living on the street, don’t count on it.”

Sean McLachlan is the author of the collection The Night the Nazis Came to Dinner, and Other Dark Tales; A Fine Likeness, a horror novel set in Civil War Missouri; and numerous history books on the Middle Ages, the Civil War, and the Wild West. Author photo courtesy of Leo Stolpe.

You can read the complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including last week’s adventure fantasy novelette “The Duelist” by Jason E. Thummel, here.

“The Quintessence of Absence” is a complete 25,000-word novella of dark fantasy offered at no cost.

Read the complete story here.


  1. I’m looking forward to reading it. 25,000 seems like a long story to put on one webpage, though. Have you considered splitting it into multiple pages?

    Comment by DSCrankshaw - October 7, 2012 8:53 pm

  2. Donald,

    Yes, we tried a number of things, and this seemed to work best for a number of reasons. At least, we thought we’d try it as a single page and see how readers responded. Let me know what you think we you read it.

    Comment by John ONeill - October 7, 2012 10:07 pm

  3. I just finished the story last night. It was a great story; I really enjoyed it. However, I still think it was too long for a single page. I lost my place a number of times, due to switching computers or quirks in my smartphone’s browser.

    Comment by DSCrankshaw - October 10, 2012 9:59 am

  4. Donald,

    Thanks for the feedback. I’m getting votes from both camps on the issue. Overall, I think the next time we do a story of this length, we’ll probably split it up, possibly into multiple posts.

    Much as we’ll split up your upcoming story, which is easily the longest piece of fiction we’ve ever published. :)

    Comment by John ONeill - October 10, 2012 9:48 pm

  5. I enjoyed this story’s inversion of Chekhov’s old dictum about the gun: “If you show a gun in the first act, it must go off in the second.” Granted, Chekhov was speaking about theater, but drama is as drama does. In “Absence,” I knew when and how this particular gun would go off about two sentences before it did, a neat trick of timing that strikes me as being exactly right.

    Comment by markrigney - October 15, 2012 8:46 pm

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  7. […] Quintessence of Absence” was originally published right here at Black Gate. It’s a terrific dark fantasy novella, in which a young wizard in the grip of […]

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