SHANNON CONNOR WINWARD “Witch’s Hour.” Novelet. First published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June 2017.

   Fantasy stories with pseudo-medieval settings are very common. They usually come with castles and kings and queens, secret alliances and intrigue within the castle and with heads of other kingdoms, often with sons’ and daughters’ hands in marriage, with or without their approval.

   Such is the setting of “Witch’s Hour,” save for the primary protagonist, Esmelda, who heads the kitchen in Castle Lochhunte. She’s the head cook, in other words, and a good one, perhaps the best there is for miles around.

   But she has a problem. The ghost of the former cook, the man who she replaced, the man whose life she took when his groping hands became more than just a minor nuisance, is haunting her. That the king also has his eye on her, and not only for her finesse in the kitchen, is less of a problem — one in fact that she welcomes.

   But fantasy stories with pseudo-medieval settings need not always have happy endings, and this [PLOT ALERT!] is … You’ll have to read this one. The author, Shannon Connor Winward, is also an award-winning poet, and it shows.