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Thog's Christmas Dinner Special:
Terry Goodkind's Evil Chicken

Hissing, hackles lifting, the chicken's head rose.

Kahlan pulled back.

Its claws digging into stiff dead flesh, the chicken slowly turned to face her. It cocked its head, making its comb flop, its wattles sway.

"Shoo," Kahlan heard herself whisper.

There wasn't enough light, and besides, the side of its beak was covered with gore, so she couldn't tell if it had the dark spot. But she didn't need to see it.

"Dear spirits, help me," she prayed under her breath.

The bird let out a slow chicken cackle. It sounded like a chicken, but in her heart she knew it wasn't. In that instant, she completely understood the concept of a chicken that was not a chicken. This looked like a chicken, like most of the Mud People's chickens. But this was no chicken.

This was evil manifest.


Her power, her magic, was also a weapon of defense. But it would only work on people. It would not work on a chicken. And it would not work on wickedness incarnate.

Her gaze flicked toward the door, checking the distance. The chicken took a single hop toward her. Claws gripping Juni's upper arm, it leaned her way. Her leg muscles tightened till they trembled.

The chicken backed up a step, tensed, and spurted feces onto Juni's face.

It let out the cackle that sounded like a laugh.

She dearly wished she could tell herself she was being silly. Imagining things.

But she knew better.


Kahlan frantically tried to think as the chicken bawk-bawk-bawked.


"Mother," the chicken croaked.

Kahlan flinched with a cry.

[... Kahlan knocks over a candle by mistake, plunging the barn into darkness]

In the dark, the chicken thing let out a low chicken cackle laugh.

It hadn't come from where she expected the chicken to be. It was behind her.

"Please, I mean no harm," she called into the darkness. "I mean no disrespect. I will leave you to your business now, if that's all right with you."

She took another shuffling step toward the door. She moved carefully, slowly, in case the chicken thing was in the way. She didn't want to bump into it and make it angry. She mustn't underestimate it.

Kahlan had on any number of occasions thrown herself with ferocity against seemingly invincible foes. She knew well the value of a resolute violent attack. But she also somehow knew beyond doubt that this adversary could, if it wanted, kill her as easily as she could wring a real chicken's neck. If she forced a fight, this was one she would lose.


The chicken thing let out a whispering cackle.

[... she's trying to find the door, she's crying and panicking, she stubs her toe and falls down.]

With the next flash of lightning, she saw chicken feet standing between her and the crack under the door. The thing wasn't more than a foot from her face.


The beak pinched the vein on the back of her hand over her eyes. The chicken tugged, as if trying to pull a worm from the ground.

It was a command. It wanted her hand away from her eyes.

The beak gave a sharp tug on her skin. There was no mistaking the meaning in that insistent yank. Move the hand, now, it was saying, or you'll be sorry.

If she made it angry, there was no telling what it was capable of doing to her. Juni lay dead above her as a reminder of the possibilities.

She told herself that if it pecked at her eyes, she would have to grab it and try to wring its neck. If she was quick, it could only get in one peck. She would have one eye left. She would have to fight it then. But only if it went for her eyes.

Her instincts screamed that such action would be the most foolish, dangerous thing she could do. Both the Bird Man and Richard said this was not a chicken. She no longer doubted them. But she might have no choice.

If she started, it would be a fight to the death. She held no illusion as to her chances. Nonetheless, she might be forced to fight it. With her last breath, if need be, as her father had taught her.

The chicken snatched a bigger beakful of her skin along with the vein and twisted. Last warning.

Kahlan carefully moved her trembling hand away. The chicken-thing cackled softly with satisfaction.

Terry Goodkind, Soul of the Fire, 1999
[via Paul Barnett]

Letter from Brian Ameringen

The obituary for Ron Bennett in the last Ansible reminded me of this story that he told me at a convention a couple of years ago.

He was on the Continent, in a small town somewhere around the Belgium/Holland borders, and found an old bookshop, with what appeared to be sheets covering the windows on the inside. Undeterred, (the true bookhunter is put off by very little) he tried the door ... and it was a bit stuck, but, with a bit of an effort, it opened....

Inside, the shop had bed-linen covering all the vertical surfaces (bookshelves), but by lifting a corner here and there he found that yes, there were indeed books behind them ... and some very old books too, a hundred and more years old!

He had just started investigating, and heard a noise. A VERY old lady had come to the door at the back of the shop, and was speaking to him in a mixture of Flemish and Dutch (neither of which he understood, much). After a lot of repetition, and the old lady getting quite emphatic, he worked out that she was saying that the books were very old, and sleeping, and they mustn't be disturbed.

He endeavoured to reply in a mixture of French and his few words of Flemish and Dutch, that this was a bookshop and it was here to sell books, but the old lady just got excited and repeated that books weren't for sale, they were sleeping and mustn't be disturbed.

When she got as far as threatening to call for help (or the police, it wasn't clear) he decided that he'd had enough, and left.

And read in the newspapers a few months later that, in that town, a very old lady had died, and when helpers went in to clear her shop they found an original Mercator Atlas, in nice condition....

Letter from Robert Newman

You still have a link to Octarine, they died many years ago. [Removed – Ed.] I understand that there is still a room full of merchandise somewhere. ZZ9 offered to take and sell the merchandise and give the outstanding members ZZ9 newsletters to make up the number of Octarine newsletters owed, but were turned down. More recently there was talk of ZZ9 and Sproutlore giving Octarine space to flog outstanding T-shirts and stuff at the 2005 Worldcon but that didn't happen for reasons unknown to me. But they are definitely very non-existent.

I also understand that the Dublin Sci-Fi Club has changed its name to The Unlikely Society. [Their website currently says "THE UNLIKELY SOCIETY / Formally the Sci-Fi Club": much depends on the webmaster's spelling prowess....]