Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 9

“Try this one.”  Natalya pushed another of the foods toward him.

He picked it up.  The scent was sweet, and a little warm and rich.  Tentatively, he took a small taste.  Then his eyes went wide, and he took another.  It had just a bit of crunch in the center, like small bones, and there was some gooey brown stuff as well.  The thing’s blood?  “I like this.”

“That…”  Natalya grinned.  “Is called a Twix.  My favorite candy bar.”  She leaned in.  “Okay, the crunchy bit is cookie, the light brown is caramel, and the coating is chocolate.”

Yalathanil took another bite, savoring the flavor.  “Are these creatures hard to hunt?  Is that why you don’t eat them all the time?”

“It’s uh…”  She blinked.

After a closer look at the inner parts, he raised an eyebrow at her.  “What manner of creature is it?  I see no organs.”

“It’s not…”  She shook her head.  “It’s not a creature or a plant.  It’s a concoction.  Like…”  She lowered her hands.  “I have absolutely no idea how to explain it.  It’s a mix of other things made into this thing and…”  She straightened up.  “And wow your biology is utterly fascinating.  Based on your teeth in your natural form you are clearly a carnivore, yet your body isn’t rejecting anything else you’ve tried so you must be omnivorous on some level.  Or are you mimicking humans on the inside as well as the outside?”

“I…”  He blinked.  “I do not know.  I never took this form before.  I knew I could, but there was never before a reason.”

“But there are different of your kind.  I mean, there must be.”  She sat back, looking over at him curiously.  “How do your lungs even work?  I mean, most can’t go from air to fresh water to salt…”  She exhaled.  “I’m sorry.  I just find you fascinating and want to know how you work, and I know, it’s rude.  I shouldn’t think of you like a specimen.”

“You are helping me learn of you, Natalya.”  He inclined his head.  “I am happy to help you learn of me.”  He shrugged, then blinked as the kitten came over to him, climbed into his lap, and lay down before moving her paws on his leg in a kneading motion.  He stared at it.  “What is she doing?”

“She likes you.”

“I…”  He stared at the creature, then gently stroked it with a finger like Adele had done.  The kitten immediately started vibrating.  “Did I break it?”

“No, they make that noise when they are happy.”  She went quiet.

For a few minutes, he just stared at the tiny being, occasionally stroking it with a finger again.  The kitten responded to the gesture by grabbing his finger in its paws and happily starting to chew on it.  “Natalya…”  He hesitated.  “You said one of my kind took your brother.”

“It wasn’t exactly like you.  I mean…”  She folded her arms.  “You look kind of like a lionfish.  It looked like a squid or an octopus.  It had all these tentacles and moved fast, making this horrific screaming noise.”  She shuddered a little.  “It was on an island.  There was this door with marks on it.  I should have left it alone.”  Tears started falling from her eyes, and she started weeping silently.

Awkwardly, he put his arm around her, as he’d seen Greg do to both girls when they needed comfort.  “Rusalkas.”  When she blinked at him.  “They are rare.  They tend toward…”  He shrugged.  “They are like Xue.”

“Bad guys.”  She leaned into him a little.

“Yes.  Bad.  But not guys.  All Rusalkas are females.  They liked to steal others, and made others mad.  Made war between us and the other…”  He searched for the word.  “Protectors.  Some were sealed away, but too much hurting was done.  When the severing was done, we went deep.”


“Yes, Natalya?”

“After we get you to the ocean, you’ll come visit us, right?”  She straightened, and smiled at him.  “I need to either learn your language or better teach you mine because now I have so many more questions and…”  She took a deep breath.  “I think they will drive me insane.”

“Yes, Natalya.”  He nodded, then touched a finger to her forehead, then smiled.  “I will visit.”



Escapade: Chapter 4

He raised an eyebrow when Laura stopped the car still some distance from the university.  Kravitz shifted uncomfortably in his seat.  He really couldn’t blame the guy for being disturbed.  “Um, Adam…”  Laura turned around to look at him.  “What do we do now?”

“About…?”  He raised an eyebrow.

“Once they learn the files are encrypted they are totally going to come after him again, so we can’t exactly just take him back and drop him off.”  She glanced at Kravitz.  “I mean, unless you’ve got a good place to hide?”

“I teach a class that starts in an hour.”  Kravitz sighed.

“Yeah, you should call in a sub or a TA or something cause um…”

“He’s a professor, Laura.  He’s been gone long enough already that questions are going to be asked.”  Adam leaned forward.  “We didn’t exactly give him time to say he was going out.”

“Well, that’s why I’m asking you.”  She waved a hand.  “You’re like, the professional here.”

“Two options.  One, we stash him somewhere —”

“Do I get any input on —”  Kravitz frowned.

“No.”  Laura shook her head at him.  “Option two?”

“We stay with him.  Shadow him.  That’s got complications.”  He nodded to her.  “You stand out in a crowd, and I can be ordered to bring him in.”

“There is Erilon.”  Laura shrugged.

“Who is —”  Kravitz looked from Adam to her and back again.

“She’s a demon.  The one you saw in the mirror.”  Adam leaned back.

“A…”  Kravitz’s eyes widened and he went pale again.

“You know, you could have broken that to him a little nicer.”  Laura glared.  “I mean —”  She cut off when her phone rang, then glanced at it and picked it up.  “Hey Daniel, how is things?”  She listened for a second.  “Nah, I’m in Berkeley right now.”  She listened.  “Well, at first I was just touring colleges then I sort of ended up kidnapping a professor and now we are doing some Indiana Jones shit to find some missing artifacts.”  She listened for a moment, then glared at the phone.  “I am not.  We really did kidnap a professor.”  She held the phone out to Kravitz.  “Tell him we kidnapped you.”

“Oh for the love of…”  Adam banged his head on the back of the chair.

“Ugh.”  Laura put the phone back to her ear.  “Oh, we means Adam.”  She nodded.  “Yeah, that Adam.”  She shook her head.  “Nah, if they find out he’s helping me shit will hit the fan so we are playing it low key right now.”  She glared.  “Kidnapping a professor is too low key.”  She wrinkled her nose.  “I don’t need you to call Michaels.  Daniel…  Daniel…  Daniel if you call Michaels I am going to have Erilon do Monty Python scenes in your head every single time you and Matthias have sex…  Yes, that is fighting dirty so don’t call Michaels…  Ha, Anna wishes she were that good…  We’ve got this.  Adam has a plan.”

“I do?”  Adam blinked.

She just nodded to him, and he sighed.  “Yeah, we’re good.  But hey, we might need Stephan at some point so maybe keep your phone around…  Yeah, you too.  Bye.”  She hung up the phone, then looked up at Adam.  “So, you had a plan?”

Adam sighed, then glanced at Kravitz.  “I am so, so sorry.”


Escapade: Chapter 3

“Professor Kravitz?”  Laura raised an eyebrow.  The man behind the desk looked to be in his forties, with hair just starting to go gray.  His glasses were fashionable rather than spectacles, and he wore a simple t-shirt and jeans rather than what she expected from a history professor.

“Can I help you?”  He smiled, then looked from Adam to her.  “I’m fairly sure I would recall you if you were one of my students.”

“I’m here touring to decide if Berkeley is the school for me.”

“And you’ve an interest in archeology and history, then?”  His smile warmed. “How delightful, though I’ll warn you it’s not quite like Indiana Jones makes it out to be.”

“Oh god, I hope not.  Running from giant boulders 101 sounds like a really tough class.”  Laura grinned.  “But since my name actually is Lara Croft…”  Or so it said on her IDs.

Professor Kravitz laughed.  “Well then.  As I just had a meeting cancel, I’ve a few free minutes.”  He glanced at Adam.  “I didn’t catch your name.”

“I’m Adam Wu.”  Adam glanced at her, then looked back at Professor Kravitz.

“And you’re also interested in history?”

“She’s the prospective student.”  He jerked his head at her.  “I’m just…”

“He’s a hit man.”  Laura shrugged.  “Professional assassin.  It’s pretty boring, so he’s killing time hanging out with me.  So, your focus is European history?  Excalibur and shit?”  She waved at the artwork hanging on his office wall.  Help me out here?  Right.  Try this.  “I read your screed on all the things wrong with that King Arthur movie with Clive Owen that suggested he was a Roman officer.  I didn’t catch that the swords were held together by screws until I read that, and then it was like all I could see every time the camera focused on a weapon.”

“That might have been a forgivable error if they hadn’t also had trebuchets and stirrups.”  The professor nodded.

“Oh, and the whole landing north of the wall instead of, you know, sailing around it?  Though that’s just bad writing rather than an anachronism.”  Laura nodded.  She caught the rather bemused look Adam was giving her.  “But what I’d really like to ask you about is Merlin and Nimue.”

“I fear there is little historical basis for any of the Merlin myths, though I admit the folklore regarding the character is incredible.  Some of the earliest —”

“Specifically, the Landau expedition.”  Adam’s voice was quiet.  The professor’s head immediately came up, and he stared at Adam.  Adam shifted his position just slightly.  “You worked for Professor Landau’s son, didn’t you, Mr. Adler?”

“I was trying to be subtle.”  Laura glared at him.

“You told him I was a professional assassin.”  Adam glared back.

“I think you are mistaken.”  Professor Kravitz started shaking his head.

“No, he really is a hit man.”  Laura shrugged before turning her full gaze back to the professor.  “The Cabal knows where you are, Professor.  I’m not part of them.  I can help you.”

“I don’t have what you are after.”  His smile had vanished, replaced by no small amount of fear.  “The artifacts were destroyed.”

“We know.”  Laura nodded.  “But they want the files.”

“They burned —”

“You scanned them all.”  Adam clasped his hands behind his back.  “You’re an archaeologist and historian.  You wouldn’t have disposed of that data.”

“This is insanity.”  The professor swallowed.  “People were murdered because some cult believed…”  He shook his head again.  “It’s insanity.  You realize they actually think werewolves and vampires are real?”

“They are real.”  Laura shrugged.  “I got captured by vampires once and a couple good friends are werewolves.”  Maybe she’d leave out that she was regularly possessed by a succubus.  That sort of thing does seem ripe for misunderstanding.  She glanced at Adam.  “Hey, come to think of it, what even are you?”

“Can we…”  Adam sighed.

“That’s it.”  The professor glared.  “I’m calling —”

“Oh, don’t do that.  It would get awkward.”  Erilon’s form rose in the mirror on the back of his office door.  “And I think you’ll find things are both more and less insane than you previously believed.  Also, they weren’t joking about Adam being a hit man.  Please don’t give him a reason to hurt you or anyone else.”


Wren and Adam: Chapter 15

Adam sat on the bus stop bench, a few doors down from the detective’s house.  He’d retrieved his clothes after the older man, Ted, had set his cat form outside the door.  His cell phone showed a couple text messages.  He’d texted back that he was still watching, even though it was a lie.

The young man who’d held him had been Sima’s pet, the one she talked about fondly and claimed had been stolen from her.  The sound of her name had been trauma enough to send him hiding under the bed.  If Sima had her way, that’s all he’d be.

At dinner, Wren had smiled.  She’d laughed and joked, and she’d been his Wren again for a couple precious hours.  Trauma affected different people in different ways.  He couldn’t just abandon her, not when she’d refused to leave him to the mercy of the hag.  She had kept her word, and gotten them both out and…

He looked down at his hands, then stood.  He’d taken two steps back toward the house when the phone rang.  His hands shook, but he managed to keep his voice calm when he answered.  “Wren?”

“Mi corazon…”  Wren’s voice suddenly trailed off.  “No, that’s Spanish.  What’s it in French again?”

“Mon coeur.”  He smiled.

“Ugh, for a romance language that just doesn’t work.  What about German?”

“Mein Herz.”

“No, that’s worse.”

“It’s fy nghalon in Welsh.”

“I bet you a blow job you can’t say that three times without choking.”

“Fy nghalon.  Fy nghalon.  Fy nghalon.”  He smiled.

“Be honest.”  Wren laughed.  “You shape-shifted your tongue for that.”

“Mitt hjärta.  Mogo wangu.  Mijn hart.  Cor meum.”

“How the hell are you even doing that?”

“I have google translate on my phone.”  He smiled.  “It’s toku ngakau in Maori.”

“Anyway…”  He could almost see her rolling her eyes.  “I was calling to see if you’d seen anything yet.”

“I was just about to call you.  Had to sneak back to my phone.”  A thousand options ran through his head.  “They got back.  Sounds like them running across you and Rosa was a complete accident.”  He hesitated.  “They apparently made some silver bullets just in case it happens again.  Wren, I’m not sure this is a good use of our time.”  He crossed his fingers.

She sighed.  “Maybe you’re right.  Alright, check in with your team and see if they learned anything else.”  She was quiet again for a couple seconds.  “Hey, there is a little cafe called ‘Spice of Life’ there on the boardwalk.  Why don’t you meet me there and we can peek in at some of the galleries?”

“I’d love to.”  He smiled.

“It’s a date.”  She hung up.

For a long moment, he just stared at the phone in his hand.  Then he looked back up at the house.  Technically, nothing he’d said had actually been untruthful.  That should get it past Sima, and from the sound of things the people in the house didn’t need much longer to…  He realized his hands were shaking, and he stuffed the phone back into his pocket before turning and walking away.


Wren and Adam: Chapter 11

Wren paced the hotel room.  It was a nice one, complete with mini-bar, but after Paris it just seemed so mundane.  “Giroux indicated the girl, Ann or whatever, had mental powers.  Could it have been her?”

“I highly doubt that.”  Sima shook her head.  “She’s still young.  Barely in puberty.  Witches don’t come into their full strength until their bodies mature.”  She gave Wren an appraising look.  “You’re young enough you’ve undoubtedly got more strength to develop yourself.”

The idea of getting stronger appealed to her.  She was about to ask another question when the phone rang.  Wren grabbed it and put it on speaker phone.  “Giroux?”

“Ma chere, are you alright?”  His voice sounded concerned.

“We think another party might be at work here.”  Sima clasped her hands behind her back.  “Witches are involved.”

“More witches?”  Giroux sounded shocked.

“Two people made a play for the bartender.  One could stop Wren’s magic, the other one could knock me through a wall.”

“There was a vampire cell operating in that town, but they vanished some months ago.”  Giroux’s voice became brusque.  “We think it was a leadership dispute.  Perhaps some survived.”

“Vampires?”  Wren raised an eyebrow at Sima.

“Give me some credit, Giroux.  You think I don’t know a vampire when I smell one?”  Sima glared at the phone.

“Could have been thralls.”  Giroux sounded apologetic.  “I will send a team to —”

“I want the strong one.”  Sima smiled.  “And I think Wren has an interest in the other.”

Somehow the man had thrown her out of his head.  Once she had a grip, no one should be able to resist her.  Yet he had.  And she wanted to know how, even if that ability meant she was going to have to get the information from him the hard way.  “I do.”

“Wren may have what she likes.  Sima, we’ve indulged you bef —”

“I’ll refund you half my fee.”  Sima smirked.

“He’s all yours.”  Giroux responded quickly.  “Madam Wren, I think you should also know…”  His voice took on an admiring tone.  “Your man, Adam.  I would like to discuss retaining his services for future work.”

“Adam?”  Wren blinked.  “What happened?”

“Captain Miguel screwed up.  Once he realized the alpha I’d sent them after wasn’t the one we sought, he attempted to deploy containment protocols without laying the necessary groundwork.  The pack turned hostile and killed nine of our agents.  Your man rallied the last two surviving agents.  They finished the mission and…”  Giroux let out a low whistle.  “Your man killed an alpha.”

“Guess all that firearm practice paid —”  Sima patted Wren’s shoulder.

“He didn’t use a gun.”  Giroux voice cut her off.  “Or silver.”

From the look on Sima’s face, that was apparently a hell of a thing.  “My Adam is special.”  She resisted the urge to touch the talisman hanging around her neck.  The ring was too big for her fingers, and given it’s nature, taking it in to get resized wasn’t an option.  Still, it made a pretty enough pendant.

“You’ve a gift for understatement.  I will leave this situation in your hands, my dears.  Let me know what you learn.”


Wren and Adam : Chapter 10

The massive werewolf simply picked up one of the cars and tossed it aside as it kept moving toward Stasya.  Stasya was cornered.  In the form of the tiger, Adam leaped down, landing a few feet in front of her and between her and the werewolf.  He roared, startling the werewolf back a step.  Unfortunately, rather than retreat it roared back and kept coming.

He leaped, prepared to rend with tooth and claw.  The werewolf, however, countered with a blow that sent him flying.  He shifted a heartbeat before he would have hit the water, spreading seagull wings to change direction.  Alright, tiger not sufficient.  He switched forms a foot off the ground.  The werewolf turned in time to see the rhino charging straight for him.  It leaped clear.  There was the crack of a rifle as Patrick took that opening to start shooting.

As a human he slid in next to Stasya.  It didn’t seem all that long ago he’d have found being completely naked next to a woman in public in broad daylight rather embarrassing.  Werewolves apparently could shift without losing their clothes, but he had absolutely no idea how they pulled that off.  “Patrick called for extraction.  Let’s get you clear.”

“I’m out of…”  She cursed and pointed at where the werewolf had leaped onto the boat Patrick was using as a position.  “It’s after him.”

“We can —”

“It takes silver to kill an alpha, Baby Bear.”  Stasya got to her feet.  “We can’t do enough damage without —”

“Dammit.  I’m not leaving him.”  Patrick was his friend.  Hell, Patrick was his best friend.  Adam started to stand.  He’d already tried shifting into a werewolf form, but all it had done was shoot agony through him without changing him at all.  Whatever a werewolf was, he couldn’t duplicate it.  “Get moving, I’ll…”  There had to be something he could…  His eyes widened.  “Get it to the other side of the boat.  Close to the water.”

“You have plan?”  She blinked at him.

“I have plan.”

“Go, Baby Bear.”  She nodded and hefted her rifle before running toward the boat.

Adam shifted into a bird and took flight.


Hunting: Chapter 5

He glared.  Ash made a whining sound, then pawed at his leg.  “Mine.”  Ash whimpered.  “You ate your share already.”  Ash stuck out his lower lip, then nuzzled Stephan before whimpering again.  “Fine.”  He handed the rest of the container of fries to Ash, who grabbed them and immediately retreated before Stephan could change his mind.  “Butthead.”

Magda just rolled her eyes.  “Ash, it’s your turn for cleanup duty and puppy eyes are not going to get you out of it.”

“Okay,” he said around a mouth full of curly fries.  “Dibs on the TV.”

“No.  We’ve watched Star Wars three times already this week.”  Stephan shook his head.

“We’ve watched Star Trek five times.”  Ash glared at him.

“There are like eight Star Wars movies.  There are hundreds of Star Trek episodes spanning several different…”  He narrowed his eyes.  “Don’t you growl at me.”

“I’m pulling rank.”  Magda shook her head.  “We’ve got a clear signal, and I’m watching something that does not involve space ships, lasers, or people in rubber masks.”  She laughed as they both turned to growl at her.  Then she picked up the remote and turned on the TV.  The signal from their little satellite wasn’t quite good enough to get every channel, but she was able to find a comedy.

As soon as she sat down on the couch, both men joined her.  Ash curled up with his head in her lap as Stephan sat down next to her on the other side.  She put a hand on Ash and petted his hair.  before leaning against Stephan.  Stephan’s arm went around her shoulder as they settled in for the evening, and it was all she could do not to let out a contented sigh.


Wren and Adam : Chapter 10

Wren sat down on the patio chair, looking out over the view.  Ordinarily she’d call the building a villa, but since they were in France there was probably a French word for it.  Whatever it was called, Sima had excellent taste.  And better yet, she knew how to actually get what she wanted.  Last night the werewolf had taken her to an exclusive club.  She’d actually met two movie stars, even been able to dance with one of them.

She’d felt just a little guilty afterward, though Adam apparently hadn’t minded not getting to come.  He’d gone sky-diving with a couple of the mercenaries.  Considering he was capable of shifting into a bird, she completely failed to understand why he’d found that so entertaining.  Then again, his other hobby involved wandering around old buildings with a camera and a sketch pad.

Sima offered her a glass of wine.  “Pondering your next move?”  She raised an eyebrow.

“Assuming this thing is going to operate on the same timetable as a human infant, it should be born within the next week.”  Wren shrugged.  “Though that also assumes no complication.”

“A risky assumption, considering the host just turned thirteen a short time ago.”  Sima nodded.  “Silly plan.  They could have easily kept the girl properly contained until she reached a healthier age.”  Sima made a vexed noise.  “And that would have given them time to insure she was properly…”  Sima took a sip of her wine.  “Conditioned.”

“Her abilities seem to include some sort of mental magic.  It’s possible they felt conditioning wouldn’t take.”  Wren leaned back.

“It is merely a matter of finding the proper stress points.  The right mix of punishment and reward.”  Sima waved a hand.  “My last pet wiggled with joy at no reward more than my smile.  He was happiest when he pleased me.”

“She and her brother both have power…”  Wren nodded.  “If they can’t be reasoned with, then they will have to be…”  She smiled.  “Convinced.”

“On that, my dear, we agree.”  Sima nodded.  “There are too few gifted to allow any to escape us.”


Wren and Adam: Chapter 9

“Your pet is…”  Sima poured wine before offering Wren a glass.  “Fascinating.”  She took a sip of her own wine.  “I had thought such as he was…”  She shrugged.  “Impossible.”

“My Adam is special.”  Wren smiled proudly before taking her own sip.  Even having gone through Renee’s journals, she still wasn’t sure how much of what he could do was him and how much was the talisman.  As long as the talisman was intact, she need not worry for his safety, at least.  A healing spell focused upon it would restore him to as good as new, even if one of the mercenaries had managed to shoot him.  Renee had used such talismans to create near-mindless, unstoppable killing machines utterly subservient to her will.

“I had a pet of my own until he was stolen from me.”  Sima gave a wistful sigh.  “As soon as I learn where he was taken, I intend to get him back.”  She smiled.  “He was such a sweet thing, a rare beauty.”

Giroux came in a moment later, and smiled at Wren.  “Matters are settling, ma chere.”  He took the glass of wine Sima offered.  “Tell me, what else do you know of the, er, project?”

“That what the girl is carrying is not something that can simply be recreated.”  Wren sat.  She had no real idea why, or if it was the girl that was special.

“Sadly true.  Which means it must be recovered at all costs.  I would prefer the children be recovered as well.  They are gifted, and such individuals are precious and rare.”  Giroux nodded to Sima.  “Madam Sima has some skill at convincing individuals to be…”  He smiled.  “Compliant.”

Sima laughed before raising her glass toward Wren.  “Pajari hired me to make you…”  She smirked.  “Compliant.”  She sipped her wine.  “Considering your nature, it would have been an interesting challenge.”

“Not really.”  Wren gave Sima an appraising look.  “You’d look lovely in a silver collar.”

“You…”  Sima laughed again.  “I like.”  She twitched a shoulder.  “I was also hired because I happen to be acquainted with the wolf accompanying the children.”

“We have identified him as a mercenary.  Earliest known identity was Matthias Ahlgren, and he uses the name Matthias often enough that it may actually be his.”  Giroux set a piece of paper on the low table.  It showed a sepia toned photograph of young men in military uniforms.  The largest of the men was circled.

Wren frowned.  The uniforms looked like something out of an old movie.  “When was this taken?”

“World War II.”  Sima smiled at the expression on Wren’s face.  “Matthias and I are fairly close in age.”

“You look good for a century.”  Wren nodded before turning to look at Giroux.  “He is why you needed the silver bullets?”

“You called him the most dangerous werewolf currently alive.”  Giroux took another sip of wine.  “I am not inclined to argue with that assessment.”

“Tell me about this chosen one.”


Wren and Adam : Chapter 8

Wren frowned when she realized the other half of the bed was empty.  She picked up the robe and drew it around her before heading into the next room.  The apartment they’d been given was high up, allowing them a wondrous view of Paris.  From the balcony, she could just make out the Eiffel Tower.

Adam was there.  He’d set up an easel and was making a picture come alive with delicate brush strokes.  Despite his chosen location, the painting wasn’t of the city below.  She swallowed at the image of James and Coraline on the canvas.  His siblings were posed on a porch, both wearing letterman jackets.  James had been wearing his when he’d died.  “Adam?”

“Wren.”  He kept working.

“Couldn’t sleep?”  She smiled as she joined him on the balcony.

“The sounds here are different.”  He shrugged as he added a bit more color to the flowers next to Coraline’s image.  “Smells.  Air tastes…”  He sighed.  “Different.”

“I know.”  She leaned out over the balcony and took a deep breath.  “I like it.  The little cafes and the colors.  Paris is…”  She smiled.  “Everything I dreamed.”  She glanced over her shoulder.  “We could go to the Louvre again tomorrow, have lunch by that pyramid thing.”  Their contact with the cabal, Edward Giroux, had given her a credit card and told her to just charge anything she wanted.  She’d only had to give a small demonstration of her powers.  She turned toward Adam.  “Or we could do Disneyland Paris.  We haven’t done that.”

“You have a meeting tomorrow.”

“Oh.”  She sighed.  And it wasn’t something they could put off.  “That’s right.  After?”

“I…”  He looked out to where the sun was starting to peek over the horizon.  “I wouldn’t mind seeing Notre Dame.”

“Alright.”  She laughed before going over and kissing him.  “After the meeting, we’ll go wander around old buildings.”


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.”


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.


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.


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?”


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.”