“Kyth liked tiled floors the way other people liked venomous snakes.” With that, we enter the world of Kyth, not a thief, but a taker. She is a mercenary finder of things and solver of problems with an eye for detail and a well-earned experience with traps, like the ones hidden by tiles. Structures talk to Kyth through that experience. She has an almost supernatural ability to divine the creator’s intentions, be he a dying tyrant or bargain-minded priest, and unravel his tomb, tower or temple.
For fans of classic sword and sorcery like Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, or even role-playing gamers with their own hard-won experience, these stories are a delight. The three tales don’t really interconnect aside from Kyth, and we learn little about her. There is a backstory unsaid there that begs more tales. What we do have are “The Beautiful Corridor,” “The Shuttered Temple,” and “The Silent Castle.” Each structure comes with its own purpose and challenges for Kyth to unravel. “The Beautiful Corridor” is the humorous story, but the second two are darker in different ways. “The Shuttered Temple” is as psychologically and philosophically dangerous as it is destructive, and perhaps the most fiendish sort of trap about which I have ever read. “The Silent Castle” is a sort of magical cautionary tale with deadly consequences.
At the end of 112 pages, the reader is left with a Kyth-shaped hole in their life and an urge to urge Jonathan L. Howard for more. This book, like all the books from Air and Nothingness Press, is a jewel-like tiny treasure. They specialize in translations reproduced in hand-made letterpress editions. You will want to share it and handle it, but with a print run limited to just 100 copies, you might be best served locking it away behind fiendish traps. An afterword by the author helps place these stories in context and explain why this is all there is. But rest assured, if Kyth has found Howard before, she may yet be his muse again.