Cobb works as a gravedigger on a perfectly habitable Old Mars – the planet being shared by British Empire and some indigenious race called the Merlins. Through his honest eyes, we witness the funeral of heroic Sir John Mawe who was hanged to appease the Merlins. It is only later in the secrecy of the tomb that we learn the background of his deeds. Cobb is astonished on the order of magnitude of Mawe’s sacrifice and works out a plan to honour him the right way.
What a world-building! Old Mars, Victorian British Empire, space traveling aliens in aetherships. All those formalities. The mysterious Charter between humans and Merlins. Brenchley doesn’t reveal lot of details and leaves much to the imagination, but I loved what he built in only 10 pages and would really like to learn more about it.
I loved Cobb’s character and the story’s pacing.
I’ve learned that Brenchley is working on a novel Mars Beneath featuring Imperial Mars: of course, Rudyard Kipling would visit Mars 🙂
There is a second story The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red Red Coal featuring Oscar Wilde on Imperial Mars available @June 2015 Lightspeed.
Meta: isfdb. This Old Mars short story was published April 2014 in Subterranean.