Archaeology 101 – Chapter 1

Khait yanked at the ropes binding him to the stone table.  To his surprise, they failed to give even the slightest amount.  He frowned, then began struggling in earnest.  The last thing he remembered was a woman pouring him wine.  There were a half-dozen black-robed figures moving around the room.  One of them came toward him with a knife.  Khait blinked as the figure began cutting off his clothing.  Then he smirked.  “Ah, it’s going to be like that, is it?”  He licked his lips.  “You know, if you wanted to pl…”  He cut off as a woman came through the door.  “Oh.”

“Tighten the restraints.  He needs to be still.”  She waved a hand at one of the robed figures.

He grunted as the figure obeyed.  “Isis, look, I’m certain this is…”  His eyes widened as she drew a knife of her own, and cut open his arm.  “Isis, you and I go back a long way, and…”  She touched her finger to the blood, then began using it to draw a glyph on his chest.  “Isis.  Isis.”  He started shaking his head.  “This isn’t…”

“You…”  Her eyes gleamed with an unnatural light.  “Were warned.”

What he hoped was a charming smile came to his face.  “Look, I get that you are angry, but why don’t we just —”

“Your antics have jeopardized us all.”  She shook her head.

“I…”  He winced as she worked the blade again to draw more blood.  Though he knew it would do him little good, he tried to summon up his magic anyway.  He felt as though he were trying to get purchase on ice.  “Isis, you don’t want to do this.  You want to just eat me and go one with —”

“Eating you…”  Isis rolled her eyes.  “Would do me little good.”

“Little good?  You’d get a good meal, I’d be out of your hair, you win.”  He tried struggling again, but the restraints prevented him from moving.  They pulled at his joints, straining them until just breathing was painful.  “Isis —”

“I’m well aware killing you is not an option.”  She leaned down until her lips were near his ear.  “Usariel.”

Not good.  Painful or not, he started thrashing.  He even managed to nearly pull his arm free before it was yanked down and secured again.  He opened his mouth.  “Isi—”  Metal was forced between his teeth, both gagging him and holding his head in place.

Isis stood.  Her eyes had left the masquerade of humanity behind, and glowed with green fire.  She set a gemstone on his forehead.  Power seemed to wrap around him, and then it started to tear.

Behind the gag, he screamed.

Continue reading Archaeology 101 – Chapter 1

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Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 16

He managed to get a deep breath before the cage took them beneath the water.  The heavy metal sank quickly, and to his dismay the area they were in was proving to be rather deep.  Yala was still in his amphibious form, and he gave Greg a worried look before trying to bend the bars.  They gave, maybe a half centimeter.  Greg swam over, trying to put what strength he had into helping Yala.  Yala struck the bars in frustration before trying again.

The pressure was starting to make him lightheaded.  The cage hit the bottom, then slid to go just a bit deeper.  He felt his vision starting to go gray as he struggled to hold his breath just a little longer.  Then he felt Yala grab him and pull him close.  The merman’s mouth came down on his, sealing their lips together.  Then he felt Yala force air into his lungs.  Greg nodded when Yala pulled away, then went back to trying to bend the bars.  They managed another couple centimeters, but it was clear that Yala was still weakened from healing him.

Greg caught Yala’s arm, then felt Yala’s mouth on his again, giving precious air.  He tried to push Yala away, but the other man held him tightly.  As long as Yala was focusing his efforts on keeping Greg alive, he wasn’t going to recover enough strength to get free before Xue’s men hauled the cage up.  Greg tried shaking his head, only for Yala to simply grab a handful of his hair and hold him in place almost effortlessly.  The mouth on his became a kiss before going back to providing air.

His own arms went around Yala.  They’d just have to hope the girls could distract them long enough for Yala to recover.

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 16

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 15

Xue paced back and forth on the warehouse dock, looking out over the expanse of water.  Sael was one of the merfolk.  He’d attempted to give orders that the man be taken into custody, only to find said orders immediately countermanded.  The Cabal was sending a representative to look into the matter here.  And somehow, his guards had let one of the prisoners escape.  Everything was falling apart.

He glanced at the large iron cage.  His other captive sat inside, leaning against the bars.  Greg’s skin was pale, and his breathing labored, but he’d been assured that it could still take the man a couple days to die.  The setup was simple.  To heal Greg, the creature would have to enter the cage.  Then both could simply be taken back to the facility and secured.

The guards had tranquilizer guns in addition to their normal firearms.  A small part of him regretted ordering the girls to be killed.  He had rather liked them, before they’d betrayed him.  “People will investigate.”

The sound of Greg’s voice made him turn.  “I’m sure they will.”  He stared down at the younger man.

“Adele’s father…”  Greg swallowed before looking up at him.  “He’s a congressman.  He already knows.”

Adele’s father was a complication, but fortunately…  “My men are even now planting evidence.”  Xue smirked.  “Evidence that will show you lured the girls here with a story and killed them, along with a police officer and several others.”  He crouched down to look Greg in the eye.  “Even if you manage to escape again, all that will happen is you get taken to prison.”  He noted Greg’s glare.  “Where I’ll simply retrieve you, and well…”  He stood again.  “There will be consequences.”

Keeping Greg as a prisoner was simply pragmatic.  He’d bonded with the creature, somehow managing to communicate with it despite observation.  As he’d killed a few of the guards, the others were quite willing to help ‘convince’ him to cooperate.  Xue had already arranged an extra shock collar.

“Sir.”  One of the handlers drew his attention back to the present.  He looked over to see the man indicating a boat approaching.  “That looks like the boat from the garage.”

“Good.”  Xue smiled.  “Be ready.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 15

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 14

She saw Greg fall, red blossoming around his stomach.  Adele started forward, and Phil grabbed her arm, yanking her back.  More gunmen were closing in around Jim and Greg, and she saw Jim put his hands up.  Yala looked up from where he was crouched in the boat just as Natalya pulled onto the road.  He blinked, then looked around before his eyes went to her face.  “Greg…”  No sooner did she nod then Yala was moving toward the edge of the boat.

Phil let her go to grab Yala, and Yala whirled, grabbed Phil by the throat, and lifted him up with one hand.  “Yala, stop.”  Adele grabbed his arm, pulling it down before he could do any damage to Phil.  “Yala, Yala, he’s hurt but he’s alive.  We’ll get him back.  Running in now is just going to get us all killed.”

It took almost a full minute for Yala to nod, but his face was still etched with fury.  “We will call Xue.  I will heal him, fully, if he returns Greg to us.”  Yala’s eyes flickered briefly between his human guise and the sharklike black.  “Alive.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 14

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 13

“I would feel much, much better if we had more guns.”  Adele looked down at the meager offerings.

“Or even just more bullets.”  Natalya sighed.  “Alright, we’ve got the 45 Greg took from the bad guys, and we’ve got Phil’s puny little backup ankle gun and…”  She looked up at Yala and Greg.  “You guys couldn’t have retrieved his sidearm while you were kidnapping him?”

“Bullets are the things that the gun spits out?”  Yala glanced at Greg.

“Yep.”  Greg nodded.

“Also known as ammunition.”  Phil shrugged.  Then he tilted his head at Natalya.  “Puny?”

She held the gun up with the tip of two fingers.  “Puny.”

“You ever tried strapping a bigger gun to your ankle and walked all day?”  He raised an eyebrow at her.

“Honey, I wear high heels.  Don’t even go there.”  She folded her arms.

Phil started to open his mouth, and Greg reached over to put a hand over it.  “Don’t.”  Greg shook his head.  “Just smile and nod.”

“Better if we had more strong outer layers.”  Yala picked up Phil’s bulletproof vest.

“Armor.”  Greg provided the word quietly.

“Armor.  They will not shoot at me, but the rest of you are in harm’s way.”  Yala exhaled.

“Yeah, killing you is pretty much the exact opposite of what they want to do.”  Phil looked down at the crude sketch he’d made of the area.  “We have the element of surprise at least.”

“How do you figure that?”  Natalya stared at him.

“He threw a bed at me.”  Phil gestured at Yala.  “That was definitely a…”  He blinked when the light came on in the small garage they were using for cover.  “Surprise.”

Natalya turned to see a startled looking young man staring at them.  “Uh, hi.”

“Hi…”  He looked at the others, then back at her.  “What are you doing in my shop?”

“Natalya Petrov.”  She held out her hand as she took a step forward, smiling at him.  “Nice to meet you.”

“Uh…”  He accepted her handshake.  “Jim.  That, uh…”  He gave a small head shake.  “Doesn’t answer my question.”  He glanced at them again.  “I’m calling the police.”

“I am the police.”  Phil shrugged.  When Jim looked over at him, Phil held up his badge.  “See?  Come in here.”

“Uh…”  The ginger-haired, freckled young man stepped all the way in.  “Okay.  Officer.  Uh…”  He glanced at the table, then his eyes widened at the sight of the rough map.  “Oh, is this a sting?”

She glanced over her shoulder to see both Greg and Phil nod, Adel shrug, and Yala give her a confused look.  “Yes, it’s a sting.  We need you to be quiet, okay?”

“It’s the Penskies, isn’t it?”  Jim started grinning.  “I knew they were up to —”

“Jim, do you have a vehicle?”  Greg’s head came up.

“Yeah, I got uh…”  He gestured.  “My bikes.”  He brightened a little before pointing to the door into the work area proper.  “Oh, and the jeep, but it’s hitched up to my boat.”

“You have a boat?”  Yala straightened.

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 13

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 5

He watched as they took blood from the creature.  It never cooperated for this.  At least four handlers were required to strap it down to the operating table for the procedure.  Xue wasn’t sure why it fought this harder than it did the handlers taking turns with it.  “Punish it after this.”  He looked over at Edward.  “Make it clear to the creature that any and all refusals to cooperate will result in reprisal.”

“Understood, boss.”  Edward grinned.

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 5

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 4

The creature watched the room warily.  Natalya and Adele had both wanted to get a closer look, but given Xue’s warning, it had quickly been decided Greg would handle the first couple interactions.  For all Natalya was the biology major, he did have the most hands on experience with wildlife, and unlike both girls, he actually had combat training.  Still, he felt just a little apprehensive.  The creature’s eyes reminded him of a shark.  Just solid black.

“Hello.”  He felt a little awkward speaking, but it seemed polite to offer a greeting.  The creature didn’t react.  Greg took a closer look.  The creature’s skin looked to have the same texture as that of a dolphin, but with greener tones.  There was clearly webbing between the fingers, and the fingers ended in claws.  While he might be able to pass for human in dimmer light or…  Greg frowned as he looked up.  The lights were a bright florescent.  “Can you dim those?”

“They aren’t on a dimmer.”  One of the handlers shook his head.

“Well, turn off the ones on this side of the room then.”  Greg stared at the handler until the man rolled his eyes and obeyed.  When he turned back to look at the creature, he was surprised to realize the creature was now staring at him, his head tilted quizzically.  Greg hesitated a moment, then indicated himself.  “I’m Greg.”

“It doesn’t talk.”  The handler smirked.

“Possible his vocal cords don’t align with anything that can make vocalizations for human language.”  Greg drew a little closer.  The creature’s ears were clearly inhuman, and he could see gill slits behind them that went down to his neck.  “Especially since he doesn’t breathe the same way we do.”  He looked up at the creature, and smiled, careful not to show his teeth.  “Sorry, don’t mean to talk about you like you aren’t here.”  He held out his hand a little.  “Is it alright if I touch you?”

At first he got no response, then the creature moved.  Immediately, the handlers went on alert, their hands reaching for weapons.  Greg quickly gestured for them to get back.  All the creature had done was lift up a hand, mirroring Greg’s own movement.  The lead handler glared at him.  “Kid, you haven’t seen that thing’s teeth yet.”

Greg put his palm up, then extended his hand, moving slowly.  The creature did the same, then allowed their palms to touch.  His skin was cold to the touch, and did indeed feel like the skin of a dolphin, only…  “Dry.  You’re…”  A dolphin shouldn’t be allowed to dry.  It resulted in painful lesions.  “Don’t you have misters?”

“What?”  The handler blinked.

“Misters.  Or a fogger or something to keep moisture in the air.  His skin…”  Greg looked back over his shoulder.  “He’s amphibious, like a frog or dolphin.  Dry skin has got to be uncomfortable.  It could even get infected or blister if allowed to be dry for too long.”  He saw the handler’s eyes widen.  “Get a humidifier in here at least.”

Then he turned back toward the creature and his own eyes went wide.  The creature’s lips had drawn back somewhat, revealing a row of razor-sharp looking shark-like teeth.  He swallowed, and glanced at where his palm was still pressed against that of the creatures.  Then he met the creature’s eyes again.  “Hang on a minute, and we’ll get you more comfortable, alright?”

At first, he thought there was no possible way the creature could understand him.  Maybe it couldn’t even actually hear utterances outside the water or…  Then, so slight he almost missed it, the creature nodded.

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 4

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 3

“Sir…”

Xue turned toward his secretary.  She was holding a piece of paper, and staring at it with a slightly awe-struck expression.  “Yes, my dear?”

“I think you need to take a look at this.”  She held the paper out to him.

He took it from her, then turned it around to look at the photograph.  His eyes widened.  “Where…”

“One of the grants you sponsor.”  She gestured toward the other stack of papers.  “They’ve dismissed the photograph as fraudulent and canceled the researcher’s funding, but…”  Her eyes went to the tank.  “Sir…”

“Find the researcher.”  He looked down at the image.  The fins were similar, as were the eyes, the shape of the features, the gills…  He smiled.  “Offer whatever it takes to get them here as soon as possible.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 3

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 2

The doctor let out a low whistle.  “Even if they are only temporary, the effects are rather incredible.”

Xue buttoned his shirt back up.  “What’s the prognosis?”  The fact that the effects were temporary was somewhat disappointing, but he should be able to continue the treatment without difficulty.  At least, as long as he could keep his captive alive.  The creature was remarkably uncooperative.  It was clear it was growing to understand English, yet it had stopped vocalizing entirely.  Two days ago it had succeeded in killing another handler.

“It’s knocking progression back far enough that your organs are showing signs of recovery.  It’s also helped clear up some of the other, minor issues, such as the damage to your joints.  You’ve seen a reduction in the chronic pain.”  Doctor Kovac closed the folder.  “If you can keep the treatments regular, I think you’ll live a normal lifespan.”  He smiled.  “Really like to get my hands on some samples, see if we can synthesize it in any fashion.”

“I have some of my best working on that problem already.”  Xue exhaled.  “Unfortunately, the treatment requires most of what we can safely take from the creature.  And if I kill this one, I’ll likely not be able to get my hands on another.”

“You’ve considered acquiring more?”  Kovac raised an eyebrow.

“Of course.  It’s admittedly difficult when there are few I can trust with knowledge of the thing’s existence.”  Xue stood.  “I told my contact he can name his price if he can acquire me a female.  If I can breed them…”  He smirked.  “Especially if they reproduce like fish…”

“Keep me in the loop.”  Kovac smiled.  “Like to see what this can do to cancer.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 2

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 1

A tentacle shot out of the dark water, wrapping around Viktor’s leg and yanking him off his feet.  Her hand grabbed for his, and she heard him scream as his wrist slipped through her fingers.  Behind him, the water was boiling and frothing as something writhed beneath the surface.  She lunged, trying again to grab her brother before he was dragged beneath the surface.  She screamed his name and then —

“Natalya.  Natalya.”  Someone was shaking her.  Her eyes snapped open.  A moment later, a light came on, and she closed them again against the sudden brightness.  “Natalya?”

She forced herself to take some deep breaths, then slowly sat up.  “I’m alright.”  She exhaled.  “I’m alright.”

Greg nodded, then gently rubbed her back.  “I’ll make some coffee.”  He rose and stepped around Adele.

Adele wheeled herself all the way into the room.  “Sorry, sugar.”  Adele came over and patted her hand.  “I heard you yelling but I couldn’t get into my chair and…”

“Why are you apologizing for…”  She glanced down at herself, then promptly grabbed the covers and yanked them up to hide her breasts.  “Shit.”

“It’s not the first time he’s seen you topless.”  Adele shrugged.  From the kitchen, a few banging sounds could be heard.

“Six years old and playing in the sprinklers doesn’t count.”  Natalya sighed.  She could tell her face was crimson.  “I’m going to buy some pajamas.”  She stuck her tongue out at Adele.  “Just not old lady ones like yours.”

“Hey…”  Adele pointed at her nightshirt.  “Don’t knock Minnie Mouse.”  She guided the wheelchair back, then turned it toward the door.  “I’m going to go rescue Greg from the coffee machine.”

“I’ll be there in a minute to start breakfast.”  Natalya sighed.  “After I commit seppuku from humiliation.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 1

Primitive: Chapter 15

“One would think at some point in the past few centuries you would have learned patience.”  Lykos growled at Jormun, who just rolled his eyes.  Jormun continued, ignoring the growling sound.  “Christophe has been moved back to the military base.  He is still sedated.”

He didn’t miss Jormun’s small frown.  “Why still sedated?  Is no need sedate Christophe.”

“Captain Guerin’s orders.  Christophe is to remain sedated until he can be transported to a secure medical facility.”  Jormun set his cell phone down.  “It is possible —”

“He called out warning to me.”  Lykos started pacing.  When Jormun raised an eyebrow, Lykos sighed.  “Twice.  Yelled warning before first shot, yelled when rocks fell.”

“Stockholm —

“He is mine.”  Lykos shook his head and gave Jormun a furious look.  “He said he would stay with me.”

“And Lima Syndrome.”  Jormun exhaled.  “You developed feelings for your hostage.”

“Is not like that.”  Lykos glared.

“Or perhaps you’ve just become sentimental in your old age.”  Jormun stood.  “Lykos, you need to put this behind you.  If you care about the boy, let him be.  Let him go home to his family and —”

“He knows.”  Lykos clenched his fists.  Then he met Jormun’s eyes.  “He knows his father killed innocent people.  Shot the deputies.  Murdered them.”  Lykos waved a hand.  “Send them after me then kill them for going after me.  Cannon fodder.”

“There are reasons for our rules, Lykos.  And one of those reasons is men like Guerin.”  Jormun sighed.  “Come.  It is time to —”

“No.”  Lykos shook his head.  Then he started for the door.

“Lykos.”  Jormun called after him.  “Lykos, where do you think you are going?”

“To get my Christophe.”  He grabbed the door handle and started to open it.  The door slammed shut again.  He turned toward Jormun.  “He is mine.”

“If you persist in this, Lykos…”  Jormun’s eyes narrowed.  “I may have to take measures.”

“Defending is allowed.”  Lykos glared.

Jormun sighed, then nodded.  “Exercise discretion.”  The door clicked open behind him.  “And good luck.”

Continue reading Primitive: Chapter 15

Primitive: Chapter 11

He woke up with his Christophe in his arms.  The young man slept quietly, his face peaceful.  Lykos traced a finger along the collar.  It was a fairly spartan thing.  He should put a rune on it, make it clear Christophe was his and…  He frowned.  And there were few left who could even read such things.  Still, he would put the mark on anyway.  His Christophe had earned it.  He leaned over and kissed the young man’s shoulder.

Christophe stirred, blinking up at him.  “It’s morning?”

“Yes.”  Lykos sat up.  “I will make your chain longer before I go.  You can sleep more, if want.”

“I can make you breakfast.”  Christophe sat up, blinking bleary eyes.  He glanced at the cave entrance.  “It isn’t light out yet.”

Lykos caught Christophe’s chin and gently kissed his lips.  “Go back to sleep, my Christophe.  I will see you well into the night.”  He pushed Christophe back onto the bed, and the young man resisted only a moment before laying back down.  Then he put the cover over him before fixing the chain.  Christophe was asleep again before he’d finished.  Lykos smiled, and left the cave.

Continue reading Primitive: Chapter 11

Primitive: Chapter 9

The cot Lykos had set up for him was surprisingly comfortable.  Lykos had purchased a pad, and folded a couple blankets atop that.  Despite the fact that his hands had been shackled behind his back and his ankles secured together, he’d have passed a pleasant night if he hadn’t been dreading the events to come with the dawn.  Lykos had gone deeper into the cave before sunrise.  Christophe’s leash was fastened to the old track, meaning he couldn’t have followed even if his hands and legs had been freed.

He heard a sound and his stomach sank a little.  Lifting his head meant he could see the shine of Lykos’s eyes as the man returned.  Lykos had taken no light source with him into the dark.  He didn’t appear to need one, though he left a lantern in the cave that sheltered them for Christophe’s benefit.  He’d also left a flashlight next to the cot.

Lykos had brought with him what looked to be two pieces of metal railroad track.  He also brought several other pieces of metal back with him.  As Christophe watched, Lykos set to work.  The dwarf used his finger to slice one of the track pieces in half, moving through hardened steel as easily as a hot knife moved through butter.  Christophe half expected to see the metal glowing, but however Lykos worked the material didn’t seem to involve heat.  He swallowed.  “How do you do that?”

“How do you move your hand through water?”  Lykos glanced over his shoulder at him.

“Water is a liquid.  Not a solid.”  Christophe sat up.  “The basic state properties are different.  I couldn’t move my hand through ice.”

“Ah.  Science.”  Lykos nodded.  Then he shrugged.  “Don’t think this is science.”  He set one of the bars atop the longer one to make a cross-shape, then used his fingers to smooth the metal and join the pieces.  He then added small circles of metal to each of the ends of the arms of the…

Christophe’s eyes widened.  The arms of the cross.  Lykos was making a steel cross.  “Lykos —”

“It not yet dawn.”  Lykos glanced over his shoulder.  “You beg already?”

“You intend to kill me.”  Christophe shook his head.

“Kill?”  Lykos shook his head.  “No.  Young, healthy.  Can live days on cross.  Perhaps a week or more, if give you water.”

His body was started to shake a little.  He clenched his fists to try to make the shaking stop.  “I need a word.”

“Word?”  Lykos blinked, then turned back to him.  “What word?”

“So, you know the begging is real and not just reflex.  Give me a word.  I won’t mean anything I say except that word.”  He dragged his eyes from the cross to meet Lykos’s.  “Please, master.”

The nod Lykos gave him was one of approval.  “Two words.  Give you pause to think.  Snow White.”

“Okay.”  He drew in on himself, and took several deep breaths before watching Lykos finish his work.

Continue reading Primitive: Chapter 9

Primitive: Chapter 8

“What happens to me, after?”

“You soft.  But I think there is potential.”  Lykos shrugged.

“You intend to keep me.”  The manacles had been evidence of that, but hearing the man say it made his stomach sink.  And yet…  “But you intend to kill my father.”

“There was woman…”  Lykos’s gaze became far away.  “Back where I was when they found me.  Kind woman.  Old, wise with years but her body was weakening.  She would cook for me, bake.  Always with the stews and bread.  Good, solid food, stick to ribs.  Snow came, and I cleared it for her.”  Lykos’s hands clenched into fists.  “That is where I was, when your father came.  Clearing snow from old woman sidewalk, while she cooked for me.”  He looked up, his eyes glowing in the dim light as they met Christophe’s.  “She stepped out on her porch, and they fill her with bullets.  Slaughtered a kind old woman, because she saw them when they came for me.”

“I —”  Christophe swallowed.  “My father wouldn’t have —”

“Your father.”  Lykos’s voice was cold.  “Gave order.  No witnesses.”  He gave a small, bitter laugh.  “He hide this from you.  His soft son.  Waste of soldier uniform.”

“He wouldn’t —”

“I not lie.  Neither will you.”  Lykos took a step toward him.  “Not to me, and not to you.”  Then he shook his head, and left the camper.

Slowly, Christophe sank down to sit on the edge of the bed.  He knew his father lied.  His job required it sometimes.  The price of working with classified information.  As sick as he felt, Lykos’s story fit what he had seen.  And yet he still couldn’t believe his father would attack innocent people.  Lykos was vicious.  If they had gone after him, he must have given them a reason.

Continue reading Primitive: Chapter 8

Primitive: Chapter 7

He pulled Christophe into the camper, then pushed him to the bed.  Christophe made a small whimpering sound as Lykos fixed the chains, leaving Christophe spread face down on the mattress.  Then he covered Christophe with a blanket.  Christophe went still at the gesture, and he noted a small trace of surprise on the young man’s face.  Lykos stared down at him for a moment, then laughed.  “You worried I would bed you.”

Christophe flinched.  “No.”

“Lie.”  Lykos shook his head.  “I punish you in morning for that.  You will not lie to you master.”  He petted Christophe’s hair.  “Are pretty man, but weak.  Soft.  Not worthy.”  He stood.  “Get sleep.”  He patted Christophe’s shoulder, then left the camper.

Outside, he crouched down and put his hand flat against the earth.  It hummed at his touch.  He’d searched before, last time he was this far west.  They were in the mountains now, the ones called the Rockies.  Slowly, then with growing intensity, he hunted among the vibrations of the ground.  There was no answering echo.  None of his kind had walked within a hundred miles of this location in the past decade.  The earth would have recalled their passage.  Lykos exhaled.

It had been that absence that had eventually driven him out of his caves.  The silence had grown deafening in his slumber, enough that he had sought out his cousins.  That had brought him in contact with humans.  At first the things they had made from metal had fascinated him.  They mixed and molded it with abandon, shaping it to their will.  There had been a few moments of hope that perhaps they had learned, after all.

From time to time he could smell dragons in their movements.  Governors remained, but no shepherds for a flock grown far too large.  None of the other elemental spirits had left marks of their passage above ground.  If any remained, they were hidden.  Hope had been dashed quickly.  There were far too many humans, and too many knew nothing.  He couldn’t share the truth even with those with whom he’d become friendly.  The first…  Lykos glanced back at the cabin.  The first he’d spoken to of his true nature had been his prisoner.  Christophe was young.  Perhaps when Lykos had avenged the wrong done, he would take Christophe back with him below.  A pet, at least, would be company of sorts.  The alternative was to seek out a dragon.

Lykos snorted.  Better to tie steel to his ankles and drop in on the merfolk than seek out a dragon.

Continue reading Primitive: Chapter 7