Size / / /

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac #5 of 12

rat icon

In the Year of the Rat, the girl-child Chyou became high priestess of rodents. They made her a cloak from the fur of white mice and wove beaded rat tails into her long black hair. In her hand, she carried a small scepter—a stick, really—adorned with a pair of shrews that danced and mated and danced some more on a small jade platform at the top.

Instead of gold, they brought her great morsels of yak cheese and smaller pieces of ham. Chyou sat long nights and heard her subjects' tales of woe and injustice. With her shrew wand, she cast spells for the rats and the mice. She helped them find food and warm places to sleep when it rained. She gave them cat wards and monkeybane, and taught them the fine art of rodent self-defense. (In which she was already a black belt six times over.)

Her reign was a good one. The rodents celebrated her wisdom and lauded her generosity. They painted pictures for her with their small paws and performed comedies on a small stage built from bamboo and scraps of raw silk.

Only the jealous gerbil was unhappy. He plotted in sewers and under porches and sometimes in the tops of trees. He sowed lies and reaped resentment. The rats joined him—ever ready to display their feelings toward authority—and in their clever heads a plan was formed.

War, dark and bloody, spilled forth from the rodent realms. The dead and dying grew in number until their bodies clogged the roads and hampered the horses in the human streets.

In her cape of white mice and with her scepter, Chyou called upon the spirits of the ancient ones—the great creatures that had hunted long before cities had sprouted and become infected by humanity. Huge and without mercy, these rodents of old destroyed the rats. They wounded the gerbil and Chyou herself crushed it with one of her dainty black sandals.

But even after the last battle had been fought and the dead on both sides counted, the ancient ones refused to return to their rightful place in the underworld. Now even Chyou, who is still high priestess of the rodents, must watch the shadows and run when she sees their glowing golden eyes.

Jenn Reese photo

Jenn Reese has published stories in cool places like Polyphony 4, Flytrap, Strange Horizons, and various anthologies. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she practices martial arts, plays strategy games, and laments the loss of Buffy. You can follow her adventures at her website. To contact her, send her email at Her previous appearances in Strange Horizons can be found in our archive.
Current Issue
18 Nov 2019

I should tell you about the gods, yes? Good setting for it. Here in the desert, hunger and thirst sharpen the soul.
By: Marika Bailey
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Anaea Lay presents Marika Bailey's “Seed Vault.”
because everything in death is both forgetting and remembering, he’s already discovered the dragon’s name
By: Alicia Cole
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Alicia Cole's “The far western regions of the archipelago are where the dragons live.”
Although I enjoyed drawing, I think it’s been a need to express ideas and interpreting my perceptions and experiences.
Friday: After The Flood by Kassandra Montag 
Issue 11 Nov 2019
By: Rivqa Rafael
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Mary McMyne
By: Ugonna-Ora Owoh
Podcast read by: Mary McMyne
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 28 Oct 2019
By: Kelly Stewart
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Kelly Stewart
Monday: Aniara 
Issue 21 Oct 2019
By: Omar William Sow
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Amy H. Robinson
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 14 Oct 2019
By: Kevin Wabaunsee
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Ruben Reyes Jr.
Podcast read by: Ruben Reyes Jr.
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 7 Oct 2019
By: Charles Payseur
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Davian Aw
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 30 Sep 2019
By: Kali de los Santos
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Heitor Zen
Podcast read by: Julia Quandt
By: Sérgio Motta
Podcast read by: Sérgio Motta
By: Isa Prospero
Podcast read by: Solaine Chioro
Monday: 3% 
Issue 23 Sep 2019
By: August Huerta
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 16 Sep 2019
By: Marie Brennan
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Hester J. Rook
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Hester J. Rook
Issue 9 Sep 2019
By: Shiv Ramdas
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Sarah Shirley
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
31 Aug 2019
Brazil Special Issue call for fiction submissions!
Load More
%d bloggers like this: