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.”



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.


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.


Primitive: Chapter 3

His head was pounding, and his throat hurt.  Christophe started to reach up to rub at his eyes, but something had hold of his arm.  He tried again, and realized his arms were secured together.  Memories came flooding back, and he began yanking at the restraints.  They failed to budge.  Slowly, he sat up.  He was alone, in what looked like a garage.  It was illuminated by what light came in through a boarded-up window.  And he was alone.

He started to shift position, and there was a tinkering sound.  He looked down to see a length of chain encircled his ankle, secured with a padlock.  The other end was secured around a support pillar.  “Great.”  His boots had been removed, and he saw no sign of them.  He tried to scrap the chain off with his other foot.  Christophe began looking around, trying to see if there was anything he could use to free his wrists from the zip ties.

Some fumbling got him to a nail sticking out of the floor.  He began sawing his wrists over it, wincing when he caught skin.  “Come on.  Come on.”  It took what seemed like ages, but finally a tug succeeded in separating the restraints.  Immediately he leaned forward and began trying to get off the chain.  There was no slack in the chain.

Christophe was trying to pick the lock with a bit of wire he’d found when he heard footsteps.  He quickly hid the wire in his clothes as his captor entered the building.  “Good.  Awake.”  The larger man shrugged.  “Thirsty?”  The man held out a bottle of water, then tilted his head.  “Wrist is bleeding.”  He tossed the water down next to Christophe, then grabbed a small box and tossed that to him as well.

A glance proved it was a first aid kit.  Christophe exhaled, then grabbed the water bottle and opened it.  “What do you want with me?”  He took a long drink.

“Bait.”  The man shrugged.  Somewhere, he’d found clothes.  Christophe frowned when he realized that the man was wearing his boots.  “Your father…”  The man waved a hand, then went back to looking through the bag he’d brought with him.  “Is an asshole.”

“He is not.”  Christophe glared.  Then he blinked.  “You took me as bait for my father.”

The man nodded.  “And to punish your father.”

That part didn’t sound good.  Christophe exhaled.  “I was kind to you.  I—”

“You live.  In one piece.”  The man smiled.  “I am kind to you.  See?  Brought bandages.  Tend your wound, or I will.”  He tilted his head.  “What is wrong with your name?”

“What is…”  Christophe pulled the first aid kit over and opened it.  “What do you mean what is wrong with my name?”

“Is missing letters.  Your parents not love you enough to give you a whole name?”

“Missing…”  Christophe glared.  “It’s French.”

“Thought Americans didn’t like French.  Cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”  The man took a bottle of water for himself.  “Though that does explain your father.”

“You’re a dick.”  He took ointment out of the kit and began putting it on the scratches the nail had made.

“Been called worse.”  He opened the water and drank it.

“So, what do I call you?”  Christophe grabbed a bandage.  “Dick?”  He glared.  “Asshole?”

“Brave now.”  The man smiled.  “Master.”

“What?”  Christophe blinked.

“I am Lykos.”  The man set the half-empty bottle down.  “You will call me Master.”

“I won’t do anything of the —” Christophe cut himself off when the man produced a long bladed knife.  He swallowed.


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.”


Ash : Chapter 9

He still hadn’t spoken.  Magda sighed.  She thought back to what Stephan had said.  He’d been right about the collar.  Maybe he was right about other things.  She stood.  “Ash, come.”

Ash followed her into the bedroom, then climbed up on the bed.  He curled up at the foot of it, as he did every night.  She switched off the overhead light, leaving the one on her nightstand glowing.  Then she laid down.  “Ash, come here.”  She patted the bed next to her.


Ash : Chapter 8

Magda stopped the car, and stared up at the small house.  For the first time in decades, she was grateful she hadn’t been able to bring herself to sell the place.  Twice a year she came up, checked on things, sealed it back up tightly.  She’d missed the last check.  She sighed, then looked over at the young man watching her from the back seat.

He hadn’t spoken since they’d found him.  He’d respond to his name with curious looks or a barking sound, but trying to coax actual words out of him had just resulted in him whimpering and cowering like a beaten dog.  She’d managed to get him to wear a pair of sweat pants, though they were too short for him.  Trying to take the collar off had just made him whimper and cringe.  What the hell had those bitches done to him?

“Ash.”  He looked up at her.  “Ash.”  She gestured to house.  “We’re here.”  He made an inquisitive whining noise.  Magda opened the door and got out.  She’d only gone a couple steps before she heard Ash bark at her.  She frowned, then sighed before going back and opening the door for him.  She wasn’t sure if she felt more frustrated or sick at the fact that he started crawling after her instead of walking.  Stephan had a point.  They’d have taken Ash to the psych ward.  And with his father dead…  She wondered if he even knew.

It took her a couple tries to get the generator started.  Ash followed her though the house as she looked around, crawling after her as she checked each room.  Everything was dusty, but usable.  Better than she’d expected from a place she hadn’t set foot inside in almost year.  She turned the well on, then waited until the water ran clear.  Ash stared quizzically at the glass she offered him, and reluctantly she poured the water into a bowl and set it down.  He drank it before following her into the living room.

When she sat down on the couch, he hesitated before crawling up next to her.  To her surprise, he curled himself into a ball and laid down with his head in her lap.  When she just stared at him, he whined softly, and she could feel him start trembling.  Slowly, she brushed her fingers through his hair.  “It’s alright, Ash.”  She felt him start relaxing.  “You’re safe here.  I won’t let anyone hurt you.”


Ash: Chapter 7

She looked over the rifle Stephan had set on the table, then raised an eyebrow.  “So, when you said elephant gun…”

“I meant my grandfather literally hunted elephants with it.  And rhino, water buffalo, etcetera.”  He shrugged.  “Classic mighty whitey.”  He poked the box of ammo.  “No silver slugs though.”

Magda nodded.  “Can you shoot it with a busted arm?”

“It’s more my shoulder going to be an issue, but yes.”  He nodded.  “I can get off a couple shots, at least, though I might need some stitches replaced afterward.”  Stephan looked up at her.  “Did you get what you need?”

“I did.”  Magda looked away before looking back at him.  No matter how this ended, her life here was over.  She’d already hidden away the things she couldn’t bear to lose.  “You know if you come with me, then even if this works…”

“I know.”  He smiled.  “You’re my partner, Mags.  I’ve got your back.”  He looked down at the gun.  “And you have saved my life twice recently, so I kind of owe you.”

“There are two of them.  Lisa will be stronger and faster.”  She took a deep breath.  “She’ll also be focused on me.  Any idea what the other one looks like?”

“Name was foreign.  Sima, I think Lisa said.  When I asked who Sima was, Lisa said she was her roommate.”  Stephan frowned.  “That’s all I have.”

“She’ll be holding Ash.  So…”


“He’s just a kid, Stephan.”  She shook her head.  “A pup.”

“I know.”  He took a deep breath.  “Just hoping I’m still a decent shot with this thing.”

“Alright.  Let’s go set our trap.”


Ash: Chapter 6

Magda gave a frustrated growl and banged her hand on the steering wheel.  She’d left the paperwork on her desk at him.  Dammit, and Stephan’s girl was bringing him dinner.  She really didn’t want to interrupt her partner’s date.  He’d accepted the restrictions she’d put on him readily enough.  He’d accepted all of it readily enough.  It was nice, having a person she could rely on.  She spun the wheel and started heading to her house.  Maybe she could sneak in and grab it without him even noticing.


Ash: Chapter 5

“They found Sarah.”  Magda sat down heavily next to the hospital bed.

“Not among the living, from the look on your face.”  Stephan gave a small shake of his head.  “You should have gone after her instead of carrying me back to —”

“Yours was the life I could save.”  Her voice was quiet.

“I know.  I’m not being fair, I…”  He banged his head back on the pillow.  “She shot you with my gun, and Sarah died.  I should have trusted you and just let you go do your thing.”

“You did trust me to do my thing, Stephan.  I should have been honest with you sooner.”  She swallowed.  “I knew I’d be putting you in danger by taking you with me.”

Silence fell.  Stephan took a deep breath.  “Talk to me, Mags.”

“I’m not sure how much you will believe.”  She looked away.

“I know what I saw.”  He shrugged.  “And they’ve got me on some really good drugs at the moment, so…”

“Ash was alive and at that location.  I went to his house, took a couple of this things so I’d have his scent.  He was in that vehicle with Sarah and the…”  Magda growled.  “Bitches.”

“They didn’t find him?”  Stephan raised an eyebrow.

“No.  I lost the trail at the campground.  They stole another car.  He was with them then.”

“Any chance he’s…”  Stephan frowned.  “Not sure what I’m asking here…”

“He’s not a werewolf.”  She put a hand on his arm.  “Neither are you.  The stories get that part wrong.  It’s not a contagious thing.”

“That…”  Stephan slowly nodded.  “Is one hell of a relief to know.”  He frowned.  “Then why hold onto him this long?”

“Good question.  I don’t like any of the possible answers.”  She leaned back.  “Vincent bought your story.  Thinks we were going to get the ranger and just happened upon the car.”

“And got attacked by someone’s pet bear?”  Stephan shook his head.  “That’s a terrible story.  I was in shock when I came up with that story.”

“The teeth marks in your arm kind of backed it up.”  Magda shrugged.

The silence returned.  Stephan exhaled.  “You’re a werewolf.”


“Magda.”  He looked up at her.  “You’re a werewolf.”

“Yes.”  She nodded.  “Figured that out when I turned sixteen.”  She considered for a moment, and then met his eyes.  “In 1644.”

“Yeah.”  Stephan took a deep breath.  “I’m gonna need more drugs.”


Ash: Chapter 4

Ash shivered a little in the night air.  The temperature outdoors was starting to drop a little at night.  Autumn was coming.  The notion made his stomach twist.  It had been the beginning of summer when he’d been abducted.  It wasn’t outright cold yet, just cool.  And he hadn’t been allowed to put on clothes since his had been taken from him.  Sima might have allowed it, but Carol had objected strongly to the idea of him being allowed any clothing at all.  He shivered again.

“Are you cold, Ash?”  Sima petted him.

He made a small whining noise.  The collar hadn’t been activated in a while, but the last time he’d attempted to speak had netted him another two days in the box.  She unhooked the leash from her chair, and started walking him back to the building.  He started to follow his mist…  Sima.  Her name was Sima.  He was a cop, not a dog.  She led him into her room, and patted the foot of the bed.  He climbed up and curled into a ball.  She laid down and went back to her book.

It was getting cold.  It was past July, then.  He’d missed his father’s birthday.  The big five-oh.  He felt tears prick the back of his eyes, and blinked them back.  His friends were likely going on with their lives, now.  Making plans for the upcoming semester, starting new jobs.  His father had wanted him to meet someone who worked in the filing room.  A nice girl who’d supposedly made the cookies to die for.  Not so subtle hints about settling down and starting a family.  What was his father doing now?

They hadn’t been laying there long when Sima suddenly sat up.  “Oh, I almost forgot.  I got you something in town.”  She went to her dresser and took something out of her purse.  He looked down at what she set in front of him.

A bright blue plastic squeaky bone.  Her hand ruffled his hair.  “A new toy for my good boy.  Do you like it, Ash?”

It was a bright blue plastic squeaky bone.  It was a dog toy.  Her hand tightened in his hair, pulling the strands just a little.  “Do you like it, Ash?”  There was an edge to her voice now, a small note of threat.

The toy squeaked when he bent down and picked it up in his mouth.  He squeaked it again.  Sima smiled, and her grip on his hair once again became a pet.  “I knew you’d like it.”  She settled back down with her book.

His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  He was not her pet.  He was a cop.  He was not a dog.  The box was cramped, and dark, and painful.  He just had to pretend, so she didn’t put him back in the box.  He settled back down on the bed and began chewing on the corner of the bone.  His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  He was not her pet.  He was a cop.  He was not a dog.


Ash : Chapter 3

There was a scent on the wind.  The same as the car.  Magda started to follow, then got whiff of a more familiar scent.  She stopped in her tracks.  “What are you doing here?”

Stephan shrugged.  “You left the station.”

“It’s the weekend.”  She turned toward him.

“We’ve got a missing cop, and you decide to actually take a weekend?”  He shook his head.  “What’s going on, Magda?”

“Needed to clear my head.”  She twitched a shoulder.

“So, you pick the jogging trail that was the recent site of a couple joggers getting mauled by a bear?”  Stephan raised an eyebrow.  “What, are you planning on challenging it to a fistfight or something?”

“Mood I’m in, I could take a bear.”  She hesitated.  The scent was on the wind, but with Stephan here…  If it was what she thought it was, it was more danger than her partner could handle.

“Talk to me, Magda.”  He gave her a concerned look.

And if she didn’t follow the trail now, she risked losing it.  “Walk with me.”

“If you want.”  He nodded.

He didn’t say anything when after a while she led him off the trail, following her nose.  The scent cut across paths, taking shortcuts.  Didn’t comment on how weird she was acting, or why they were going through the woods in the middle of the night.  He just followed, trusting that she knew what she was doing.  And he kept his eyes peeled, watching her back as she followed the scent.

They came out at a parking lot.  Despite the hour, there were two or three cars still there.  She followed the scent to one space, and then nothing.  Whoever it was had gotten in the car and driven away.  She crouched, but the treads all overlapped, rendering any pattern too indistinct to be useful.  With so many vehicles, there was no way to tell for certain which scent was the right car.

There was a wolf hunting in her territory.  She took a deep breath, and looked up at Stephan.  He was just watching her.  “At the warehouse —”

“The woman looked like she’d been torn apart by wild animals.”  Stephan nodded.  “You think it’s like one of those weird cartels where they’ve got a pet jaguar or something?”

Relief filled her.  He’d made the connection on his own.  Wrong, but it gave her something to build on.  “The thought crossed my mind, I mean…”  She shrugged.  “When was the last time anyone saw a bear out here?”

“Where’d you learn to track?”  He looked around, frowning as he observed the lot.

“My dad used to take me hunting.”  It was close enough to the truth.  “Not sure I picked up enough of a trail to go on, but…”  She slowly nodded.  “I think the cases are related.”

“Let’s go have a word with the rangers, see if any of them spotted anything odd.”


Ash: Chapter 2

They led him into a different room.  Ash took a quick look around, but once again so no windows or other means of egress than the door itself.  There was a bed in the room.  It was starting to become obvious what they intended, but what he once would have thought of as a pleasant fantasy was quickly unraveling in the face of reality.  Carol pulled him toward the bed.  He started to balk, and felt Sima place the prongs of the prod in the small of his back.  “Be a good boy, Ash.”

He followed Carol, then laid face down as Sima directed.  The prod was handed to Carol, who kept it pressed against him as Sima walked to the foot of the bed.  She unfastened the ankle restraints.  He fought the urge to whimper as she spread his legs across the queen-sized bed, securing his ankles to the posts.  She removed his left wrist from the cuffs and secured it to the bedpost, then secured his right wrist to the remaining post.

Then she started tightening the ropes.  A few moments later he was racked across the bed, the ropes tight enough to strain his joints.  He could barely move.  “Are you comfortable, Ash?”  Sima petted his hair.


Ash : Chapter 1

Lisa smiled as the man on the tattered mattress moved slightly.  She rose, and walked over to look down at her prize.  He shifted again just a little, and then his eyes flew open and he began thrashing at the restraints.  His hands were cuffed behind his back, and a second pair of cuffs secured his ankles.  The third set had been used to fasten the other two sets together.  “You’re going to hurt yourself it you keep that up.”

He shifted to glare angrily in her direction.  Whatever he tried to say was muffled by the rag she’d stuffed into his mouth.  She smirked, then removed his ID from her pocket.  “Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  That’s quite a moniker.”  She ran her thumb over the badge.  “You don’t really look like a Bernie.”  He had a muscular, athletic build from what she could see.  Definitely not the type she’d expect from such a frankly nerdy name.

Muffled grunts were all that answered her as he continued testing the cuffs.  She shrugged.  “Or a Rudy, for that matter.”  His eyes narrowed.  She licked her lips.

“He looks a bit confused.”  Carol chuckled.  The man on the mattress squirmed, trying to look over his shoulder at her.  Carol was leaning near the door, watching with some amusement.  “I’ll bet he’s a Berg.”

“What about it?”  Lisa walked over to crouch near the mattress.  “You a Berg?”  She reached out to touch the collar of his uniform and he managed to pull away.  The sounds he was making were most likely curses, and he was openly glaring at her now.

“So, tell me, what did he pull you over for?”  Carol raised an eyebrow.

“I was doing five over.”  Lisa smirked.  “Couldn’t risk them running my ID and his trainer was going to do it ‘by the book’ instead of just telling me to slow down and go on my way.”

The man on the mattress started making cursing noises and pulling at the cuffs again.  “Hey, now.”  Carol’s voice was sharp.  She sat down on the mattress and grabbed his forearm.  “Knock it off, you’re already bleeding.”  She shook her head and looked up at Lisa.  “You’re going to need better restraints.”

“Wasn’t exactly planning on taking a prisoner.”  Lisa shrugged.  She reached forward to brush her fingers through the man’s dark blond hair.  He immediately pulled away and growled something from behind the gag.  “He was just a bit too pretty to pass up.”

“What happened to the other one?”  Carol examined the prisoner’s abraded wrist.  The prisoner managed to pull his arm away.

“Double tap.”  Lisa shrugged.  “Once I had this one in the trunk the old man had outlived his usefulness.”

More sounds came from the captive.  Carol reached up, grabbed his hair, and yanked his head back.  “I suggest you start considering how to preserve your own life.”

“So, which is it?  Berg, Rudy, or Bernie?”  Lisa leaned forward and yanked the gag out of his mouth.

“Fuck you.”  He spat the words at her.  “You murderous bitch, I —” He struggled, but with Carol holding him by the hair Lisa had no problem shoving the gage back into his mouth.

“He’s not very cooperative.”  Carol made a tsking sound.

“That can be changed.”  Lisa smiled.


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.”