Witches, Thieves, and Dead Queens: Tales From the Magician’s Skull #4, edited by Howard Andrew Jones

Witches, Thieves, and Dead Queens: Tales From the Magician’s Skull #4, edited by Howard Andrew Jones

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Cover by Doug Kovacs

My copy of Tales From the Magician’s Skull #4 arrived today, and it is a beautiful thing. Jam-packed with brand new tales of heroic fantasy from its finest modern practitioners, it is a joy to hold. Edited by Black Gate‘s very own Howard Andrew Jones, Tales #4 is filled with names that will be very familiar to BG readers, including James Enge, John C. Hocking, Ryan Harvey, James Stoddard, C. L. Werner, and Milton Davis .

In four short issues Tales of the Magician’s Skull has become the flagship publication for English language adventure fantasy, and it looks the part. It’s an oversized magazine filled with fiction and eye-catching interior art, and it looks and feels like a modern pulp, down to the heavy paper stock, which is a faint yellow color (a nice touch). Designed by Lester B. Portly, it’s easy to read and enjoy.

When I was editing the print version of Black Gate, my readers enjoyed serial fiction the most — and wrote constantly demanding more Morlock stories by James Enge, more Dabit & Asim tales from Howard, and Tales of Brand from John C. Hocking. I’m thrilled to see that Tales has the same love of episodic fiction and larger-than-life characters I do — exciting new sword-and-sorcery series are being born in its pages, mixed in with some familiar names (including Morlock, which should please BG readers enormously).

[Click the images for skull-sized versions.]

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The previous issues. Covers by Jim Pavelec, Diesel LaForce, and Sanjulian

Here’s the complete Table of Contents, with tantalizing story teasers.

“Guardian of the Broken Gem” by John C. Hocking

Benhus wondered what he could expect if they took him alive. Torture and interrogation, probably. They’d pry the fact that he worked for the King from him and that would seal his death warrant. He squeezed the hilt of the white dagger and wondered how many of them he could kill before they took him down.

“On Death Seed Island” by Adrian Cole

The cloud writhed gently, as if shifting in a breeze, though the air in the grove was very still. In a moment it had formed itself into a distinctive shape and the men drew back in alarm. It was a human figure, hunched, its face a blur, save for the eyes and mouth.

“Masks of Silence” by James Enge

The glass cages were full of… things. Not people, but parts of people. They were moving—they were alive: meaty throbbing hearts, shiny pulsating strips of liver, fingers crawling like inchworms, feet flopping like fish. “There is a part of hell that’s supposed to be like this,” Deor remarked.

“Cage of Honor” by James Stoddard

Without hesitation, he sent his knife whistling through the air, striking the witch full in the throat. Ignoring her, he caught the woman in his arms, and she was everything to him all at once, everything he ever wanted.

“The Witch’s Hound” by C. L. Werner

In a burst of supernatural speed, the dog-ape lunged at Oba. It drove its hairy body beneath the sweep of his sword and drove its shoulder into his midriff in a maneuver that was more tackle than pounce. The samurai was knocked back, sent sprawling on the ground.

“The Dead Queen’s Triumph” by Ryan Harvey

“You — don’t yet believe — that I am your queen.” The tongue moved freer as the abomination became used to speaking. “For long, I forgot that I was as well. But I am royal blood still. See?” One of the manipulated arms placed its hand over a flap on the chest cylinder. Fingers gripped the sides and pulled it open.

“Thieves of the Fallen World” by Tom Doyle

We’d taken these unearthly glowing gems and blades of cold flame from beings who (at best) weren’t quite human. These trophies were still puissant for ill, and a captured battle lance twitched at me like a living bug impaled on a pin. You shouldn’t be keeping such things, sire.

“Apedamak’s Army” by Milton Davis

Garang had made a mistake. He crouched as he walked backwards to the hut, hoping the beasts did not see him. He was halfway to the hut when the last beast spotted him and changed directions, shrieking at him as it attacked.

Appendix: Game Statistics by Terry Olson

In each issue, we present an appendix of game statistics for the various creatures, spells, and items described in each issue. All of these stats are for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role-Playing Game system.

The TOC gives you the flavor for the fiction…. but it doesn’t give you a sense of what it’s like to hold this magazine in your hot little hands. To help with that, I snapped a few pics of the interior artwork for four of the stories. Feast your eyes.

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“Guardian of the Broken Gem” by John C. Hocking. Art by Samuel Dillon.


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The Morlock tale “Masks of Silence” by James Enge. Art by Russ Nicholson.


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“Dead Queen’s Triumph” by Ryan Harvey. Art by Randy Broecker


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“Thieves of the Fallen World” by Tom Doyle. Art by Russ Nicholson again.

Our previous coverage of Tales From the Magician’s Skull includes:

Rejoice, Mortals, for Tales from the Magician’s Skull #3 is Here! by SELindberg
Support the Tales From the Magician’s Skull Kickstarter!
In Search of a new Weird Tales: An Interview with Joseph Goodman, Howard Andrew Jones, and the Talking Skull!
The 1001 Treasures of Black Blade Publishing and Goodman Games: Gary Con 2018 Report, Part II
Support an Exciting New Magazine of Sword & Sorcery: Tales From the Magician’s Skull

Tales From the Magician’s Skull is edited Howard Andrew Jones and published roughly twice a year by Goodman Games. It is 70 oversized pages, priced at $14.99 in paper and $8 in PDF format at DriveThruPRG. The cover is by Doug Kovacs; interior illustrations are by Chris Arneson, Randy Broecker, Samuel Dillon, Jennell Jaquays, Doug Kovacs, Brad McDevitt, Russ Nicholson, and Stefan Poag.

Buy copies at the Goodman Games website, and see the original Kickstarter campaign here.

See all our recent magazine coverage here.

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Very happy to see C.L. Return with another Oba story. His were my favorite in the RBE collections.

#4’s Enge story has been my favorite of the four issues so far. Its a sequel to one of the previous.


C.L. Werner*

John R. Fultz

A high-quality mag in every way! So much great art is a rare thing these days in a fiction mag. Skull-tastic!

[…] Wow. Thank you, Blackgate! And be sure to visit their site to read the full review. […]

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