A Princess and Her Unicorn : Chapter 2

Zierski proved to be a fair-sized village.  From the looks of things, it was probably big enough to have more than one blacksmith.  She patted Aysi’s neck as they started down the hill.

“Pardon…”

She looked up at the sound of Fadekya’s voice.  “Yes?”

He gestured at Roffe.  “I am uncertain of the reception your companion will receive.  They may mistake him for a wild wolf.”

“Ah.  Right.”  She glanced down at Roffe.  “We should get you pants.”  Roffe rolled his eyes and sneezed.  Just because he could take human form didn’t mean he liked to.  She chuckled as she rummaged through the baskets, eventually settling on a beaded scarf.  The wolf gave her an irritated look, but allowed her to fasten it around his neck.  She looked up at Fadekya.  “Better?”

“Hopefully.”  He slid down from the back of Aysi, then patted the rhinoceros’s neck before giving Veronika a contemplative look.  “You may wish to place your weapons in your pack.  Zierski does not allow strangers to go around armed.”

She scoffed.  “That’s silly.  What if I need to hit something?”

“I believe that is exactly the sort of situation the policy is intended to avoid.”  He gestured at the axe.  “If you wear your weapon, the guards will insist it be peace bonded.  And if the seal on the peace bond is broken, you will be arrested until they can be certain you have not committed any violence within the city.”

Veronika gave him a dubious look before looking down at her axe.  It was clearly a weapon rather than a tool.  Then she looked back up at him.  This was his land and his people, so if he said it was the custom he was probably right.  It just didn’t exactly make sense.  “You’re trying to tell me that nobody in that city is armed?”

“The sheriff and his guardsmen are armed.”  He frowned.  “And there are undoubtedly a few ruffians with concealed weapons on their persons.”

“So, you’re saying I might need my axe.”  She shrugged.  “Good to know.”

“I…”  Fadekya glanced at her as she started walking again.  Then he shrugged and followed.  “Do not think that is what I was implying, no.”

Continue reading A Princess and Her Unicorn : Chapter 2

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A Princess and Her Unicorn : Chapter 1

Her feet made little noise in the ice and snow as she padded lightly up the mountain, Roffe at her heels.  Judging by the marks on the trees, she was in the territory of a girkalon.  Veronika sniffed at one of the marks.  The odor of the bark was acrid.  Fresh then, probably no older than a day or so.

Next to her, Roffe scented the wind.  He sneezed, then sniffed again before glancing up at her.  “Urf?”

“What are you smelling?”

He shook his head and sneezed again before taking the lead.  She followed as he veered slightly westward.  Between the trees ahead she caught a glimpse of firelight.

Veronika emerged to find a dais containing three stone pillars.  The pillars on either side held metal sconces ablaze with flame.  The third pillar had a young man, wrists chained above his head.  He wore nothing but a pair of trousers and a strange glyph painted on his chest.  She frowned.  His head hung and his form was slumped as he shivered in the freezing cold.  “What are you doing out here?”

He made a startled noise at the sound of her voice, and his head came up.  “What are you doing out here?”

She shrugged.  “I asked you first.”  She walked closer.  The dais had been swept clean.  There was a stone altar behind the pillars, containing two baskets filled with various items.  She squinted at the closer of the baskets.  It looked a bit like the handiwork of the river people.

“You should get out of here.”  He shook his head at her.  “The beast will be coming.”

“Why are you chained out here if the beast is coming?”  She raised an eyebrow at him.

“I am chained out here because the beast is coming.”  He straightened, making the chains binding him to the pillar rattle.  She took another look at him.  He was smaller than she was, and standing fully upright the top of his head barely came up to her nose.  His dark hair and the olive tones to his skin marked him as one of the River People.  His lips were blue, and more worrisome was the fact that other parts of his skin were also starting to show signs of exposure.

Roffe made a coughing sound, and lifted his leg on the altar.  She nodded to the wolf.  “This is one of those we feed the monster it doesn’t wipe out our entire village things?”

Continue reading A Princess and Her Unicorn : Chapter 1

Wren and Adam: Chapter 7

Wren glanced at where Adam sat in the corner of the room.  He was human for now.  Renee had been very clear about what would happen if he shifted without permission.  Not that it mattered.  With a single spell, Renee could teleport Adam back into the vicinity of the talisman.  He wasn’t going anywhere, and it was clear he knew it.

The talisman was more powerful than she’d initially realized.  It had apparently jumped up Adam’s own magical ability.  Whatever gift he’d had initially had been replaced as he’d adapted to the shape-changing.  Renee had dangled the talisman between her fingers as she’d discussed its power.  Then, almost casually, she’d held it over a flame.

Adam’s scream had been so intense he’d damaged his throat.  For nearly two days, he’d been all but unable to speak even after she’d healed him.  He was bound to the glimmering stone.  Unless it was kept by a witch, it’s magic would begin to decay.  Within a few days, it would be rendered inert.  And Adam would die.  Adam himself couldn’t touch the thing without blacking out, and the tiniest trickle of magic through it was enough that he could not disobey a direct order against the one holding it.  He was trapped.

Renee had made such talismans before.  Adam was the first to have not been rendered a drooling wreck by the process.  Wren was certain it was his own gift, the magic that had allowed him to adapt to animal forms, that made the difference more than her own assistance during the process.

She looked down at the talisman in her hand, then back up at Adam.  He stared up at her, his face devoid of expression.  “Focus, girl.”  Renee’s voice came from behind her.

Her will concentrated behind the talisman.  She closed her eyes, and felt Adam’s presence.  Despite his empty expression, she could feel the emotions beneath the surface.  Anger and despair were waring with each other.  Hatred for Renee and…  She swallowed when she realized that while she could sense his love for her, there was hatred now as well.  And fear.  Adam was scared of her.  You don’t have to be afraid.

A moment of confusion in his mind, and then a response. I wish I could believe that.

“Shift him.”  Renee ordered.

In her mind, she formed the picture of a dog.  No, not a dog.  She shifted the picture to that of a wolf.  Then she exerted her will.  Connected to Adam’s mind, she could feel pain course through him, though it was slightly disconnected.  The sensation of it was a heady rush that sent a shiver through her.  When she opened her eyes again, a gray wolf sat where he’d been a moment before.  “Done.”

“Good girl.”  Renee smiled.  “Now turn him back.”

Continue reading Wren and Adam: Chapter 7

Wren and Adam : Chapter 6

Adam shivered in the cage.  The hag had taken Wren to her bed again.  The frightening thing was that it seemed Wren now went willingly, eager for the chance to learn some new spell.  The old witch hadn’t beaten Wren in weeks.

These days, when Wren messed up a lesson, the hag simply dragged him out, changed him back into a human, and ordered Wren to torture him.  It was starting to almost be a relief to be changed back into some form of animal.  At first, Wren had begged not to be made to hurt him.  Now it seemed she just did what she was told, getting it over with to move on with her training.

He’d almost forgotten what it was like to be human and not in pain.  Or at the mercy of another.  He was given to Wren as a reward as well.  Last night she’d held him down while she’d ridden him.  After what had happened at the bar, he’d had no interest in being taken to Wren’s bed.  But his body had responded to her so eagerly he suspected she’d used one of her spells.  He wondered if the hag used such spells on Wren, considering how often the creature fucked his girlfriend.

His girlfriend.  It was difficult thinking of Wren in such terms anymore.  At first she’d tried finding a way to make the shifting not hurt.  Then, at some point, it was like she’d stopped caring and just been concerned herself with finding the limitations of the spell and his own responses to the spell.  Eventually, he’d become so inured to it he just stopped screaming despite the agony.  His mind tried to go back to the events of the previous week, and he pushed the thoughts away.

There was something under the agony when the magic surrounded him.  Something he could almost focus on, touch.  At times he could almost feel it when he wasn’t being changed.  He sought for it, the strange sort of hum inside him.  They’d forgotten to feed him again.  A rabbit was too big to get out of the cage, and…  Adam frowned, and concentrated.

Agony filled him as his bones twisted and bent into other shapes.  He made no sound as his body shifted and…  And as a serpent, he slithered through the bars.  If snakes could have, he’d have laughed.  Immediately, he headed for the door, slipping beneath it.  A snake wasn’t fast enough.  He touched the hum again, concentrating.

Instinct guided as much as anything.  Rather than assume a human form, he found himself on all four paws.  A dog.  And then he started to run.  He went north, toward freedom.  He almost lost himself in the joy of it, the canine urge to just run and run.  After having been a prisoner so many months, stretching his legs even to flee was an almost indescribable pleasure.

The road was in view when the world around him suddenly spun.  He howled.

Continue reading Wren and Adam : Chapter 6

Wren and Adam: Chapter 5

Wren was going on about how exciting it must have been to fly.  Adam sighed and shook his head.  “What’s wrong?”  Wren put her hand on his leg.

“Imagine having your body put through a damn woodchipper, Wren.”  Adam met her eyes.  “That’s what it feels like every time she…”

“Oh.”  Wren’s voice was small.  “That’s…”  She looked away.  “That’s why you screamed.”

“Yeah, Wren.  That’s why I screamed.”  He leaned back.  “I’d almost rather she leave me a rabbit than keep…”  He shuddered.

“I figured out how to make the wax stop hurting you.  Maybe I could find a way to…”

“Find a way to get us out of here, Wren.  Please.”  He caught her hand.

“I am, Adam.”  She smiled.

He wished he could believe her, but half the time Renee entered the room Wren looked more excited than afraid.  Adam rubbed his arms.  Since most of the time he was left in animal form, Renee hadn’t bothered to provide him with any clothes.  Half the time it seemed he was lucky if either woman remembered to provide him with food.

“I think I could do it.”

“Wren?”  He looked up at her.

“I was watching, when she was shifting you.  I think I could do it.  It would have to be a dog or a cat, those are the only animals I’ve really been around long enough to be sure of getting it right, but I think I can do it.”

Adam stared at her.  He’d told her how bad it hurt and…  “Wren.”

“I’m going to try a cat, okay?”  She stood up, shaking out her arms.

“Please, don’t…”  He started shaking his head.

She took a deep breath before half closing her eyes and putting a hand on his shoulder.

A scream tore from him as his bones began to break and shift.

Continue reading Wren and Adam: Chapter 5

Wren and Adam : Chapter 4

She concentrated, trying to focus the strange stirring inside her.  Adam’s face was contorted with pain.  His wrists had been bound behind his back, then fastened to a length of chain.  Renee had then tossed the other end of the chain over a tree branch and used it to lift Adam up.  He stood on tiptoes, his entire body taut as he tried to keep his balance and prevent even more strain to his shoulders.

The candle failed to light.  Renee brought the whip down across Adam again.  His scream was muffled by the gag in his mouth as he struggled to regain his balance.  Blood ran down his sides and legs from where the lash had bitten into him.  “Try again.”  Renee narrowed her eyes.  “I don’t stop hurting him until the candle lights.”

Wren took a deep breath, and imagined that the wick was Renee’s head.  The candle lit with enough heat to melt away the first half inch of wax.  “It’s lit.”  She turned toward Renee.  “Let him down.”

Renee hit the lever to release the chain.  Adam fell to his knees, and Wren rushed toward him.  She put her arms around him as she focused the healing magic.  “Adam, are you alright?”

Continue reading Wren and Adam : Chapter 4

Wren and Adam : Chapter 3

She’d held the focus.  He’d screamed anyway, and now he was just lying there.  “What did you do to him?”  Wren looked up at Renee.

Renee was fitting the gemstone into a ring.  “I tore his soul in half, child.”  She slipped the ring onto her finger, then held up her hand.  It sparkled.  “Pretty, isn’t it?”

“Adam?”  She put her hand on the side of his face.  “Oh god, Adam…”  She made a sobbing sound.  “Why?”

“You held your focus.”  Renee smiled.  “I thought for certain it would take you at least two attempts.”  She lowered her hand.  “A small reward, then.”  She touched a finger to the gemstone, and there was a small flash of light.

Adam’s body jerked, and his dark brown eyes opened.  He blinked up at her.  “Wren?”

“Adam.”  She pulled him into her arms, holding him tightly.

“Take him back to your room.”  Renee shrugged.  “You have one hour, then he goes back into the cage.”

Continue reading Wren and Adam : Chapter 3

Wren and Adam : Chapter 2

Figuring out how to move was difficult.  Every sound in the room seemed to echo loudly, and the various smells assaulted his senses.  The world even looked different, like watching television with the color on the fritz.  The hag was walking in a circle around Wren.  Hearing what the hag intended for her had terrified him.  If he had a voice, he’d have screamed again for Wren just to leave him and run.

Anger filled him, along with dismay at just how helpless he was at the moment.  Bound, he’d at least have had the opportunity to cut himself free or do something.  He looked down at his… paws.  He couldn’t even clench his fists.

Continue reading Wren and Adam : Chapter 2

Wren and Adam : Chapter 1

“You are such a pig.”  Wren shoved Mark away from her and zipped her top back up.  Wearing the thing had clearly been a mistake.  But it had set her back fifty bucks and she wanted to look good for Adam.

“Your girlfriend’s a prude.”  Mark snickered as he looked over her head at Adam.

“Stop being such an ass.”  Adam glared at him.  When Mark reached toward Wren again, Adam caught his wrist.  “I said knock it off.”

“We’re out tonight to have fun.”  Mark rolled his eyes, then sighed and looked up at the driver.  “Why’d you invite the stick in the mud?”

“He’s my brother, jackass.”  James shrugged.

“You’re the one who didn’t want to sit in the back.”  Vince laughed.  He had his arms draped over both Meg and Susan, and they were giggling.

Mark put his hand on Wren’s knee and Adam grabbed it and shoved it back at him.  “James, pull over.”

“What?”  James glanced back at him.

“I’m changing seats with Wren.”  Adam shrugged.  “Hopefully, Mark can keep his hands off me.”

“I’m going to kick your ass.”  Mark flipped him off.

“We’re never going to get there at this rate.”  James growled, but pulled off to the side.

Adam opened the door and slid out.  He turned and offered Wren a hand.  Mark smacked her on the ass as she started climbing out of the van.  “Fuck off, Mark.”  Adam glared as he caught Wren to keep her from falling.

“That fucking hurt, you…”  Wren shook her head.

Mark rolled his eyes, then leaned over and shut the door.  Wren heard it lock and banged on the window.  “Don’t you…”  Adam started cussing as James hit the gas pedal at Mark’s urging.  “Oh, you fucking…”  He ran a hand through his black hair.  “Do you have your cell phone?”

“My purse is still in the van.”  Wren folded her arms.  “Along with my jacket.”  She shook her head.  “Why the hell are you friends with that asshole?”

“Good question.”  Adam stripped off his windbreaker and offered it to her.

“Thank you.”  She sighed down at the strappy sandals she was wearing.  They were going to get ruined.  “Will they come back?”

“Fuck if I know.”  He took a deep breath.  “I think there is a gas station a couple miles up the road.”

Continue reading Wren and Adam : Chapter 1

Primitive : Chapter 1

The bars of the cell were more than just steel.  Captain Oscar Guerin glanced at the creature within.  It stared back at him with irritatingly calm green eyes.  The steel bars of the last cage had been bent, enough that the beast inside had been able to force an escape.  It had killed four good soldiers before they’d managed to hit it with enough sedative darts to drop it again.  The thing only looked human.

He’d been furious when he’d confronted those in charge of the operation.  Bad intel and insufficient preparation got people killed.  Security around the creature had been revamped to his specifications.  The titanium alloy bars of the cage were now set close enough together that the creature could not reach its arm through.  The lock was electronic with a number code.  Entering a different code would cause the floor of the cell to deliver an electric shock to disable the creature.  The floor would deliver the same shock if force were applied to the lock without the code being entered.

Guerin smiled as he crouched a little to look the thing in the eye.  “I know you can understand me.  They are going to vivisect you while you are alive and watching, take you apart to see how you work.”  The creature merely smirked at him.  He thought about activating the shock just to wipe the expression off its face.  Then he shrugged, shifted so the camera couldn’t see him, and opened the front of his trousers.  The stream of piss landed in the thing’s food and water, and it growled at him before lunging forward and knocking both to spill out of the cage.  He gave it a smirk of his own.  “What, not hungry?”

Continue reading Primitive : Chapter 1