Patreon – The Island

Mark was perfect.  Or nearly, anyway.  He had luscious black hair that contrasted beautifully with his deep blue eyes.  Several years of wrestling, surfing, and rock climbing had given him a wonderful musculature beneath skin that remained pale no matter how much time he spent outdoors.  It was the Irish in him.

He was even a decent guy.  Even though Reggie rarely said yes, Mark generally made an effort to invite him along when going to a concert or other event.  And when Reggie did go, Mark shut down his friends when they tried giving Reggie shit.  Sometimes he’d even take Reggie out, just the two of them, playing the big brother.  The man really only had two glaring flaws.  The first is that he was straight.

Reggie glanced at the door to his room before turning his attention back to the screen.  Mark was in the shower, water dripping from his body as he shook his head under the stream of water.  Mark was straight, and it really wasn’t wise to have a giant crush on his stepbrother.  If the hidden cameras in Mark’s room were found, he’d have a lot of unpleasant explaining to do.

Fortunately, Mark didn’t have a lot of interest in tech.  He supported Reggie’s interest, even showing up to cheer him on at the robot wars.  Reggie turned the feed off as soon as Mark was dressed.  A few minutes later, Mark knocked on the door before sticking his head in.  “Hey, Reggie, I’m heading downtown.  Want to come?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind.”  Reggie reached for his laptop case.  “Could use some out of the house time.”

(more…)

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Primitive: Chapter 17 – The End

“I punched the harbinger of the apocalypse in the face.”  Christophe sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the wall.

“Ragnarok.”  Lykos shrugged.

“I punched the harbinger of the Ragnarok in the face.”  Christophe kept staring at the wall.

“Not the Ragnarok.  Just Ragnarok.”

“I punched Jörmungandr in the face.”

“Was good punch too.”  Lykos grinned at him.

“I punched a dragon, in the face.”

“You know, if was going to punch a dragon, he was right choice.”  Lykos patted his shoulder.  When Christophe slowly turned to look at him, Lykos shrugged.  “He think it funny, respect your guts.  Other dragons?  They just set you on fire.  Or bit off head.”

“Your grandfather is the World Serpent.”  He exhaled.

Lykos shifted to sit next to him, and put an arm around his shoulder before pulling Christophe in.  “You should sleep.  Was big day.  Nearly got brain fried, nearly nuked, punched dragon, rode off on back of dragon…”

“He flew from Colorado to Holland in less than six minutes.  I can’t even…”  Christophe shook his head.  “We should not have been able to survive the G-forces involved with going that fast.”

“You ride dragon, and you worry about g-strings?”  Lykos tilted his head.

“G—”  He turned to stare at Lykos.  “There you go.  Thinking you’re funny.”  He smiled a little.

“I…”  Lykos put a hand on his chest.  “Am hilarious.”

“Yeah…”  Christophe shook his head.  “Like the plague.”

“Bah.”  Lykos lay back on the bed, pulling Christophe down with him.  Christophe shifted so he was laying in Lykos’s arms, his head resting on Lykos’s chest.  Lykos stroked his hair gently.  “Are you okay, my Christophe?”

“Yeah.”  Christophe nodded.  “Strange as…”  He swallowed.  “I am.”

(more…)

Primitive: Chapter 14

“You’re just messing with me, aren’t you?”  Christophe narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“You doubt me?”  Lykos gave him a wide-eyed look of shock, but the corners of his mouth twitched just a little.

“There is no such thing as a were-beagle.”  Christophe folded his arms.

“Just the one.”  When Christophe raised an eyebrow, Lykos shrugged.  “Never gamble with pixie.  Always with the thinking they are funny.”  He looked around the camp.  “Few days, jerky will be dry.”

“Yeah.”  Christophe nodded.  “Any chance we could get some pepper or —”

“We leave in five days.”  Lykos turned back toward Christophe.

Christophe blinked.  “What?”  He stared at Lykos for a moment, then his eyes widened.  “You mean…”

“Go Canada.  Find little town.  Cabin.  Get you television.”  He put a hand on Christophe’s shoulder.  “Maybe violin.”

“I, uh…”  He gave Lykos a hesitant smile.  “I would like to learn to play again.”  It took him several minutes to realize that travel would give him the opportunity for escape.  He could…

“Christophe?”  It took him a moment to realize Lykos was speaking to him again.  “Your eyes went away.”

“I was…”  Christophe exhaled, then touched the collar.  “A few nights ago, you forgot to lock my chain.”

“Did not forget.”  Lykos met his eyes calmly.

“You…”  He stared.  “You were testing me.  You…”  He took a deep breath, then stepped forward and shoved Lykos hard enough the man actually took a step back.  “You think taunting me with freedom is fucking funny?  In case you forgot, you fucking kidnapped me.  You…”  He felt the anger start to fade, and that pissed him off again.  “Son of a bitch.”

“Hey.”  Lykos poked him in the chest.  “I not insult your mother.”

“I…”

“You can write.  Drop letter in mail on way.  What you tell her is your choice.”  Lykos squeezed his shoulder.  “I will not read letter.  If…”  Lykos hesitated a moment.  “If when time to go, you want to go a different way…”  He met Christophe’s eyes again.  “I will take off chains.”

“You…”  He swallowed.  “You’d let me go?”

“Yes, Christophe.  If you want to go…”  Lykos sighed.  “I will let you go.”

“I…”  It was Christophe’s turn to hesitate.  “But then you’ll go after my father again.  You won’t…”  He looked away.  “You’ll kill people.”

“Is possible.  Is also possible they will leave me alone and I will not have need kill people.”

“Let me think about it.”  Christophe couldn’t believe he’d just said that.  Lykos was offering to…  He gave a small shake of his head.  “Let me think about it.”

“Take all time need.”  Lykos patted his shoulder before heading into the cave.

(more…)

Primitive: Chapter 13

Christophe followed Lykos down the small hill to the stream.  There was a source of water in the caves, but it didn’t have fish.  Lykos kept the leash short, only a few feet, but there was an additional coil of chain in his hand.  His wrist and ankle cuffs, however, weren’t secured together, allowing in freedom of movement otherwise.  Lykos rarely bothered with those chains anymore, but he never removed the leash.  It was no longer even fastened to the collar by a lock.  Lykos had used his power to seal the links to create a ten-foot length of unbroken chain permanently attached to the collar, though longer lengths were often attached.

He sat on a rock, enjoying the sun as Lykos gave the stream one of his critical looks.  “Overhunting.  Fish too small.”  Lykos glared at the water, then sniffed it and wrinkled his nose.  “Fertilizer run off.  Shameful.”

“They’ve been trying to pass laws about the runoff problems, but the corn industry has a powerful lobby.”  Christophe lay back on the rock.  Lykos had secured the leash, giving him about a twenty-foot radius to move around in.  But with living half naked in a cool cave most of the time, the sun felt good and he saw no need to move from where he currently was.  Off in the distance he saw a helicopter heading west.

“Lobbyists.  Should all be drawn and quartered.”  Lykos shook his head as he waded into the river.

“Can’t really argue with that.”  He lifted himself up to rest a hand on his head.  Watching Lykos catch fish with his bare hands remained fascinating.  The man had attempted to teach him and Christophe had even managed it once, but Lykos made it look far easier than it actually was.  Within a few minutes, several fish were on the bank.

Cleaning the fish and game, however, remained his task.  He was getting better at it.  Lykos had caned his feet twice before he’d gotten the hang of properly butchering a deer.  He’d wondered at why the man had brought back so much before realizing that the leaves were falling.  Lykos was stocking up for winter.  “You like chickens?”

It took him a moment to realize Lykos had asked him a question.  “I like chicken.”

“Not chicken.  Chickens.”  Lykos gestured for him to grab the fish.  “I think I steal some.  Eggs.  Meat.  Build little coop.”  He shook his head.  “Cow too big.  Goats better.”

“You…”  He picked up the fish.  “You talk like you intend to stay in the caves forever.”

“Good place.  Secure.”  Lykos nodded.  He frowned when he looked at Christophe, and a couple expressions crossed his face.  “You don’t want to live in cave forever.”

I want you to let me go.  He didn’t say the words aloud.  “I kind of miss television sometimes.  And uh…”  He rubbed the back of his neck.

“Lonely.”  Lykos gave him a look that was surprisingly sympathetic.

“A little.”  He watched Lykos unfasten his leash from the tree for the trip back.

“Perhaps…”  Lykos hesitated before he started back toward the cave.  “We can go north.  Canada.  Find small town where no one will look for us.”

“That uh…”  Christophe nodded.  “Yeah.”

(more…)

Primitive: Chapter 12

His fingers found the marks on the collar.  Lykos had added a rune, ensuring the collar did not merely mark Christophe as a possession, but Lykos’s possession.  He slid his fingers a bit further and found the seam, then took his hand away when he heard Lykos stir.  Lykos gave him a slight frown.  “You wake early.”

“I…”  He hesitated.  “I was thinking about my mother.  By now she probably knows I’m…”  He exhaled.

Then he felt Lykos’s hand on his shoulder.  “Can get phone, go where there is signal.  You call, tell her you are alive.”

He smiled.  “You’d let me?”

“I have no grudge against your mother.”  Lykos nodded.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Primitive: Chapter 10

Guerin looked up at the man who’d entered Darin’s office.  He’d been expecting a scientist, not someone built like a linebacker.  Guerin nodded.  “Thank you for coming, Mr. Wōtan.”

“A pleasure.”  Mr. Wōtan accepted Guerin’s handshake.  “I was told there was a sighting.  Would it be possible to speak with the witnesses?”

“I’m afraid it would not.”  Darin stood, and also shook Mr. Wōtan’s hand.  “Given the delicacy of the matter, the situation had to be contained.”

Mr. Wōtan nodded.  “I see.”

“What can you tell us about this creature?”  Darin folded his arms.  “Is he an extraterrestrial?”

“Quite the opposite, really.”  Mr. Wōtan’s spoke with an accent that sounded Russian.  It put Guerin slightly on edge.  “I would require access to the samples you took to confirm, but if I am correct…”  He shrugged.  “Then you may be better off thinking of him as primordial rather than extraterrestrial.”

“You mean what?” Guerin blinked.  “He’s some kind of Neanderthal throwback?”

“That is one way to put it.”  Mr. Wōtan set his briefcase on the table.

“Mr. Wotan…”  Guerin narrowed his eyes.  “That thing has my son.”

“I am aware of the situation.”  Mr. Wōtan gave Guerin a sympathetic look.  “However, if he was going to kill the boy he would have done it already.  Mr. Darin says that the creature took the boy to bait you into a trap?”

“Christophe confirmed it when the thing let me talk to him.”  Guerin swallowed.  He could still hear Christophe’s bitten back cry of pain.  “This thing needs to be neutralized.”

“Contained.”  Mr. Wōtan’s voice was firm and calm.

“It’s —”

“Captain Guerin, I cannot stress this enough, and I have the backing of your superiors on the matter.”  Mr. Wōtan met his eyes.  “The creature is to be taken alive.”

“You have any idea how many people it’s already killed?”  Guerin glared at him.  “This thing, Li-cost or —”

“Lykos.”

“What?”  Guerin blinked.

“His name…”  Mr. Wōtan smiled.  “Is Lykos.”

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Primitive: Chapter 6

He returned to find Christophe once again attempting to escape.  The young man had actually managed to get one of his wrists free of the chains, though his skin was bloody from the effort.  He was frantically working at the other when Lykos stepped into view.  Christophe immediately banged his head against the tree limb and uttered a few mild curses.  “I didn’t run.”

“Obey letter of law.  Hope to escape punish.”  Lykos nodded.  “Teach you that in military?”

“You didn’t tell me to leave the chains alone.”  Christophe tried to give him a defiant look, but the slight cringe in his body language ruined the effect.

“If had removed chains, would you have stayed put?”  Lykos raised an eyebrow.

Christophe glared at him.  Then he summoned up a little bit of nerve.  “No.”

Lykos patted him on the head.  “Good boy.  Honesty is best policy.  Had lied, would have put hot rocks on your feet.”  Christophe paled at the threat.  “You need bandages.  No more damaging self.  You damage self, I punish.  Understand?”  He moved in to undo the lock from Christophe’s other wrist.

“I understand.”  Christophe accepted the first aid kit Lykos handed him, and started cleaning up the abrasions on his wrists.

After watching for a moment, Lykos went back to what he’d brought with him.  He set the pieces of bar stock down, and saw Christophe jump slightly at the clanging sound they’d made.  The bags he brought over and set near his captive.  “Brought sandals.  You may wear.  Feet too soft for hard ground.”  He saw the brief hopeful look.  “Also, lotion for skin, to stop sun from burning.”  The hopeful look faded when Christophe realized clothes weren’t included.  His chest and the front of his thighs were lightly scratched from being pressed against the bark of the tree, and he’d not managed to fully escape getting some scratches on his genitals.

The young man used the first aid kit on the worst of the scratches without being told.  Lykos gave him an approving nod.  Then he took some of the leftover venison and set it on the cutting board he’d bought.  The pot he hung over the fire and added water to before going back to the bag.  He took out a couple potatoes, celery, and carrots, then set them by the roast.  Then he offered Christophe a knife, hilt first.  Cautiously, Christophe took it, then looked at the food.  “Dinner?”

“Yes.  Make.”  He waited a moment as Christophe considered the knife, then nodded when Christophe clearly realized attacking would be stupid.  Lykos went back to the lengths of metal he’d brought as Christophe began chopping ingredients and adding them to the pot.

(more…)

Primitive: Chapter 4

His captive hadn’t spoken during the last couple miles, but he was starting to flag again.  Despite Lykos intending to continue their trek overland, it was clear Christophe was unable to handle such a journey.  At least, not without assistance and better gear.  Lykos glanced over his shoulder, and Christophe visibly flinched when Lykos’s eyes landed on him.  He lost his footing and fell, grunting in pain when he landed.  Lykos sighed, then walked back toward him.

“Get up.”  He gave a tug of the leash.

Christophe was panting.  He tried to get up again, then winced and cried out.  Lykos sniffed.  He could scent blood.  With another tired sigh, he reached down and grabbed the young man by the front of the shirt and hauled him over to a rock.  He tossed more than set Christophe onto it, then crouched to look at the damage.  The young man’s pants were torn near his left knee, and blood was starting to show through the cloth.  “I can’t keep going.”  Christophe’s voice bordered on a whimper.

He rolled his eyes, then tore the pant leg further to examine the wound.  A jagged shard of rock was still embedded in it.  Christophe yelped as Lykos yanked it out.  He turned the rock over in his hand, then shrugged and tossed it over his shoulder.  The wound was bleeding freely now.  “Leg is not broken.”  Lykos shook his head.  “Get up.”

“It hurts.”  Christophe shook his head.  “I’m losing blood.”

“Soft.”  Lykos shook his head, then looked at the wound again.  It was deep, and it was possible Christophe could lose enough blood to damage him if it wasn’t treated soon.  And perhaps more importantly, the wound may fester or scar.  Neither suited him.  He pulled the knife out.

“What are you doing?”  Christophe cringed away.  When Lykos brought the knife toward him, Christophe started frantically shaking his head.  “Don’t.  Please. I can walk.  I just need a banda—”

Lykos sliced the meat of his own palm, near the thumb.  He let the blood well up, then reached over to put his bloody hand over Christophe’s wound.  Christophe tried to pull away, and Lykos used his other hand to yank the chain, pulling Christophe back into position.  “No move.”

“What…”  Christophe’s face was pale.

“Shut up.”  Lykos gave an irritated grunt.  He focused, feeling the wound as the blood worked.  Then he took his hand away, and held it up for Christophe to see.  The wound on his palm was gone.  “See…”  Lykos gestured at the blood-covered but healed skin of Christophe’s leg, then stood.  He patted Christophe’s cheek with the formerly wounded hand.  “I am kind to you.”

(more…)

The Duchess: Chapter 6

She hadn’t been lying.  Having them removed was indeed more painful than having them placed.  Ruarc bit back the cry of pain every time, and did not indulge in any groaning.  The look of disappointment on her face almost make the suffering worthwhile.  She must have caught a glimpse of that in his face, because she knew exactly how to retaliate.

“Making me into your whore isn’t enough for you?”  He fought to keep his hands from clinching into fists.

“Are you denying having second thoughts about our arrangement?”  She arched an eyebrow as a smug expression danced on her lips.

“Durante holds my brother’s marker.”

“And you cannot call in markers on your lands to pay it off.  You owe more than the lands are worth, and those markers will belong to me.”  She sat languidly in her chair, as though it was a throne.  It might well have been.

“Do as you demand and my family does well.  Walk away and…”  He swallowed.  “My brother dies in debtor’s prison.”

“Let’s be fair, my darling.  I’ll also see to your personal destruction.  You can be a whore or an outlaw.  One of the two will see your family secure.”  She stretched her leg out onto the footstool.  “Kneel.”

Ruarc bowed his head before dropping to his knees.  A small, bitter laugh escaped him.  “How may I serve, mistress?”

(more…)

The Duchess: Chapter 5

He rubbed at his wrists, then exhaled before letting Gian take one to sooth the ointment into it.  His ankles had been left shackled together and secured to the chain on the floor.  Gian gave him a concerned look.  “The ropes are nicer if you don’t fight them, my lord.”

Simply fleeing would do him no good.  He might have gotten away with killing Durante, but there was the duchess to consider.  The king’s niece.  Killing her would make him an outlaw if he wasn’t simply executed, and alive her word was worth far more than his own.  She’d laid the trap clearly, and he’d still stepped inside.  “Fighting them seems to amuse her.”

“Oh, yes, my lord.”  Gian nodded.  “She was praising you at breakfast, telling all who would listen how she had to put you in irons.  She feared you’d break the ropes.”  Gian soothed the ointment into his other wrist.  “She’s instructed special restraints be made for you my lord.  Something that can hold her magnificent beast.”  He gave Ruarc a shy smile.  “You frightened me a little when you threw Durante off the bed.  I thought you were going to break free and I’d be punished for not tying you well enough.”

“If…”  Ruarc took a deep breath.  “You’d be punished if I broke free?”

“Of course, my lord.”  Gian gave him a confused look.  “Or if the ropes injure you.  It means I did not perform my duty adequately.”  Gian stood.  “Do you have other injuries, my lord?”

“I’m fine.”  Ruarc nodded.

Gian shifted from foot to foot.  “Are you certain, my lord?”

Ruarc looked up at him.  “I’m fine.”

“I…”  Gian hesitated.  “Are you certain, my lord?”

“Gian…”  He exhaled.  “What concerns you?”

“My lord, Durante did not prepare you before he took you.”

“Prepare…”  He caught on to what Gian was saying and felt his skin start to burn.  “I’m fine, Gian.”

“If my lord would like, I can prepare you before they wish to use you again.”

“I don’t…”  Ruarc shook his head.  “I don’t even know what you mean by that.”

“Oh.”  Gian started nodding.  “I can put oil on my fingers and —”

“Gian.”  Ruarc stared at him and then started shaking his head.  “No, I don’t want you to —”

“My lord.”  Gian put a hand on Ruarc’s shoulder, then crouched slightly so they were eye level.  “If you are not prepared, you could tear, or…”  Gian took a deep breath.  “It is a very painful injury to have, my lord.”

“I…”  Ruarc frowned.  “You know this from experience.”

“Yes, my lord.”  He nodded.  “I would have to prepare well if I were to take you, my lord.  You are bigger than Durante.”

“I won’t be taking you, Gian.”  Ruarc shook his head.  “I have no interest in either defiling you or doing you harm.”

“I…”  Gian smiled at him.  “I wouldn’t mind, my lord.  I like you.”

“Just…”  Ruarc took a deep breath.  Then another.  He had to take a third before he could speak.  “Tell me if you think I am going to need to be…”  He winced.  “Prepared, and I will consider your offer.”

(more…)

The Woods: Chapter 10

Thomas settled the breastplate over his shoulders, then smiled as Ileana began helping him with the straps.  A memory came to him.  “The last time you did this for me you tied them in knots.”

She laughed.  “I was fourteen, and you managed to win despite them coming loose.”  She straightened, then rose up to kiss him.  “And I’m much better at knots now.”

“Vula teach.”  The goblin was examining one of his gauntlets.  She poked them before wrinkling her nose with disapproval.  “Why have metal fingers if not add claws?”

Considering the time the goblin had bound him had nearly killed him, he couldn’t really deny her expertise.  “Claws make it more difficult to precisely direct the blade.”  He’d seen clawed gauntlets before, even tried them before rejecting them as impractical.  They looked frightening, but their sole use appeared to be intimidation.  Or at least, he’d always thought so until facing Keffer’s claws in a sparring match.  Granted, when Keffer abandoned his human mask his claws were more like talons and on the hands of a creature that was not only inhumanly strong and fast but capable of wielding considerable magic.  It had been a few years since a training match had left him almost too bruised and exhausted to move.

“If had good claws, not need blade.”  She sniffed before handing him the gauntlet.

“The blade allows me a greater range and more maneuverability.”  He put the gauntlet on.  And without that range and maneuverability, Keffer would have little problem tearing him to little bitty shreds.  For that matter, he wasn’t entirely sure Vula and her claws wouldn’t be able to manage the same.  He imagined fighting her would be something akin to battling a rabid wolverine.

“Until Vula bite off arm.”  She grinned, her inhumanly wide mouth full of sharp, jagged teeth.  A rabid wolverine with the teeth of a shark.  It was possible she could actually bite his arm off.  Or at least tear enough of it away to render it useless and bleeding out.

“Yes, but wouldn’t you biting off my arm also make claws useless?”  He raised an eyebrow at her.

“It…”  Vula blinked, then frowned.  “Vula need think on it more.”  She scratched her head, then her face brightened.  “Vula bite off leg!”

He exhaled.  Except in tournaments he’d always preferred to wear no more than greaves rather than bog himself down with heavier armor.  But when it came to facing something like Vula, maybe enclosing his entire body behind metal wouldn’t be a bad idea.  “An excellent tactical choice.”  He nodded to her, and she grinned again.  His eyes went to Ileana.  “Speaking of tactics…”

“We discussed this already.”  Ileana shook her head.  “The castle cannot be taken by outside forces.  The only way we can capture it is if we sneak inside.”

“If we enter announced, there may be no need to take the castle.”  He shook his head.

“As much as I hope Nicolas does prove reasonable, I cannot take the chance.”  Her voice was firm as she handed him the sword belt.  “We will use the hidden entrance.”

“And if Nicolas has already found it?”  He attached the sword belt.  Nicolas would undoubtedly have searched for such things his first day inside the castle.  Assuming he hadn’t done so upon previous visits.

“He can’t have found it.”  Ileana laughed.  “It can be revealed only by magic.  Once we are inside, we can activate the castle’s wards and hold it against anyone seeking to take it from us.”  She put her hand on his chest.  “No harm will come to Nicolas’s family, and I will do all I can to prevent harm from coming to Nicolas himself.”

“That is all I can ask.”  He gave her a small bow.

(more…)

The Woods Chapter 8

The Woods: Chapter 8

It took him a moment to realize Ileana had spoken.  She stood, then gestured.  “Clear the hall.”  There was grumbling, but everyone save Keffer obeyed the command.

Thomas remained where he was.  At this point, he wasn’t entirely sure he trusted his legs to hold him anyway.  He focused on controlling his breathing.  Keffer’s hand still rested on the small of his back.  “Ileana?”  Keffer shifted his position just slightly.  “Earlier you seemed rather enthusiastic about this performance.”

He didn’t dare raise his head to look up as she walked over to them.  At least the others were gone.  Whatever Ileana intended now, he would not have to endure their eyes while it happened.  She stood there, silently.  Then her hand touched his hair.  Her fingers seemed almost tender as they caressed him.  “Thomas, look at me.”

Only then did he lift his head, and stare up at her.  She was looking down at him, her face contemplative.  “You told the truth.”

(more…)

The Woods: Chapter 6

He vomited again, and started to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand.  Someone offered him a towel.  He took it, then blinked when he saw the satyr.  His fists clenched.  “What do you want?”

“If you loved her…”  The satyr frowned.  “Why not tell her?  Have her go to her father and convince him?”

Thomas wiped his face.  “I suggested that to my father.  He…”  Thomas sat, leaning his back against the smooth stone column.  “I don’t know.  He was so convincing then, but…”  He looked up at the satyr.  “Why do you care?”

“I could say that the stupidity of humans never ceases to amaze me…”  The satyr shook its head.  “But this is one of those fascinating occasions where nobility and stupidity are all but indistinguishable from each other.  As much as I mock the latter, I do have considerable respect for the former.”  It tilted its head.  “You did something stupid, because your father told you to do it and you were taught all your life that he must be obeyed.  And now you are here, because you are willing to sacrifice yourself to save your family.”

“You’re mocking me.”  He glared.

“If I was mocking you, I would be bringing up just how terrible you are at sucking cock.”  The satyr rolled its eyes.  “If I had known interceding would make her that mad at me I’d have let her strangle you.”

His eyes widened as he stared up at the satyr.  And then, to his own surprise, he started to laugh.  “I hate you.”

“Pity.”  The satyr shrugged.  “I think I rather like you.”  It offered Thomas a hand, and Thomas let it pull him back to his feet.  “I would not protect you from her, even if I could.”  It met Thomas’s eyes.  “But I will ensure she keeps her word.”

(more…)