Something Wicked This Way Comes

Friday, March 27, 2015

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS - BIRTH DAY PART TWO


Welcome to part two of Birth Day, my homage to future dystopian worlds and their challenges. So, without further delay...

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Birth Day Part Two; by Tucker McCallahan:


Despite my having made it hundreds of times before, my journey out of the city terrified me.

It wasn’t just that we cut the time frame so close to the city’s security burn, or even my failure locating any of what I’d been searching for these last few weeks. No, my fear was all about the very perfect and beautiful boy at my side.

He scampered about with no shoes on his feet, dancing over broken glass as if he couldn’t feel it. And perhaps he couldn’t. I checked several times to make sure he wasn’t leaving a trail for anyone to follow, but he wasn’t bleeding.

Our flight from Old Philly took a little more than an hour. He didn’t speak at all–didn’t even tell me his name. But when I said we’d stop to rest or to get a drink, he obeyed without question. He was a complete enigma, which, admittedly, enthralled me. Since the Rising, though, my penchant for mysteries had nearly gotten me killed more than once.

When we got to the grounds of our destination, I beckoned for him to come to me. As before, he obeyed, his face innocent and blank.

“I need you to stay here while I check the perimeter and tell the guards I’m returning plus one.”

“Why?” As before, he cocked his head to the side.

“I left alone. They’ll assume you mean us harm if I don’t.”

“They are your family.”

“Well…You could say that.”

“This is your home.”

“This is, well– it was, a hospital.”

We gazed up at the four-story red brick structure. During the early days of the Rising, this particular hospital was closed for remodeling. A chance decision by a few executives somewhere else in the country saved the facility as well as most of the equipment and supplies inside it. 

“You live in a hospital?” The boy seemed puzzled by this.

“I told you I was a doctor,” I mumbled, and left him to check the perimeter as quickly as possible.

When I returned he was exactly where I’d left him. I ached all over from the tension of the trip, as well as the rigors of the hike and the physical challenges present in Old Philly. I was ready to relax and go to bed.

Just as the thought of sliding under the covers, warm and naked, flitted through my mind, the boy tripped and fell against me in the gathering darkness. Instinctually my arms went out to catch him and he clutched at me so he wouldn’t hit the ground. His skin felt like brushed velvet against mine, and his scent… How had I missed it before now?

He smelled like fresh citrus, like lime, actually.

My whole body turned into one big erogenous zone. I gingerly extricated myself from his grip and took a slow, deep breath. He stared at me with a strange look on his face.

“How many people are here?”

“You’re going to meet them in just a few minutes.”

That strange look morphed into panic and he all but leapt into my arms. His entire body trembled against me. His scent grew heavier, richer, and his velvety skin slid against mine, that aroma of sweet lime rising up to inundate my senses. It was the most erotic thing I’d ever felt, and I couldn’t control my body’s response to him. Gently stroking my fingers down the side of his panicked face, I tried to soothe him.

“There aren’t that many people here. It’s me plus three more doctors, two nurses, and a pharmacologist.”

He gazed up at me with those huge blue eyes and fire raced through my veins. Whatever this boy was, it was luscious.

“Do I have to see them now?”

I cradled him against my chest. Of course he had to see the group. That was one of our rules. Anybody who came to the hospital, whether it was for shelter or aid, had to meet everybody. That way if some kind of decision had to be made about a scarce resource, the group knew for whom they voted.

“No. No, you don’t have to see anyone.”

I blinked. What the hell just came out of my mouth? I took another slow deep breath, hoping to clear my addled brain. The boy smiled beatifically and nuzzled his sweet face into the crook of my neck. I held him, stroking his back.

“Do you have a name?” I whispered.

“Palon. My name is Palon.” He blinked and frowned. “What do I call you?”

“I’m Van, but everyone here calls me Chief.”

I carried him through the hospital, and had every intention of taking him to one of the rooms we had set up for guests or patients.

Instead, we ended up in my room, and as he artfully sprawled across my bed, I could only think of one thing to do.

I locked my door.

I shed my coat and boots, then took time with the pair of Tec 9 pistols. Leaving them loaded and in their holsters, I hung them on a special hook I’d fashioned over the back of the bed. It let me draw one in an emergency from a flat position. Though staring at the boy sprawled across my bed, my mind was on exactly one loaded weapon and it wasn’t in a holster.

Palon watched me hang up my guns, his huge blue eyes wide. “I didn’t think doctors carried guns.”

“I didn’t think beautiful boys ran around at night without shoes,” I countered. He blushed.

“I’m not beautiful.” He played with the leather cord holding his jeans up.

I undressed, pulling the rest of my clothes off. My rational brain was screaming at me that I was being a complete idiot, and I should put my pants on, take him to meet the team, and get him settled elsewhere before I embarrassed my ancient ass. My not-so-rational brain kicked the almighty fuck out of my rational brain and was already wondering what Palon sounded like in the throes of his orgasm.

“Take your clothes off.” Was that my voice all husky and sexy? Damn.

He undressed without question, and that made me wonder about his background. Once I saw him fully nude, though, my brain shut down. I stood beside the bed and held my hand out to him.

“What?” he asked.

“Shower.”

He took my hand and I led him to my bathroom. I let the water run and then turned the shower on. When Palon put his hand beneath the steaming stream, his eyes almost popped right out of his head.

“It’s warm!”

I laughed, stepped under the spray, and pulled him bodily against me. Once again his tiny frame stumbled and fell into mine. I caught him and before he could say anything, I bent my head and covered his lips with mine.

He sighed, his entire body melting against me. Every ounce of tension I had disappeared with that kiss. Moaning in passion, I held him under the falling water and explored his mouth with mine. Soap and suds came next, slippery hands and giggles as we cleansed each other. Finally I wrapped him in a towel and carried him back to my bed.

“I can walk, Van.”

“I know. I want to carry you.” I laid him gently on the bed and laid him down, then climbed in beside him. Patting him dry, I dropped little kisses along his skin. Those unbelievable blue eyes never left my face.

“Are you going to fuck me now?”

“Wh-What?”

In fact something along those lines had been in the plans, but hearing it described so crassly slammed the brakes on my plans. I oened my mouth to say something, to explain, to make some kind of argument for what I’d done. Instead, a knock at my door froze us both in place.

“Van?”

“Yeah?”

“You gotta come up here and see this. You’re not gonna believe it.”

I exhaled heavily, and offered Palon a smile. “Welcome to a doctor’s life.” I hauled my old bones off the bed and found clean clothes. I leaned down and breathed into his long, tapered ear. “We’ll pick up where we left off when I get back, yeah?”


Then I grabbed my guns and stethoscope, and left to see what had Risen now.

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Be Well ~ Tux

Friday, March 20, 2015

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS -NEW- BIRTH DAY PART ONE


Welcome readers! I'm back after an unplanned break due to an intrusion from my "day job." That's the trouble with those pesky things... Occasionally they take over life. 

I'm choosing to do something this week I usually don't do, but I have a good reason, so I hope you'll all forgive me. Usually, I don't start posting a new story until I've finished the one I'm working on. HOWEVER... my gorgeous, wonderful, incredible, and very new husband turned 26 this week (Happy Birthday, Brandon!!) and this new story is a gift for him. You all will simply have to deal with my romanticism. What can I say? I'm in love.

Once this story has finished, I'll return to The Forest Lord and finish it up.

Without further ado... a gift for my greatest gift.

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BIRTH DAY Part One

By Tucker McCallahan

This is a work of fiction. All rights reserved. © 2015

*

He ran as if chased by demons.

I tracked him as he streaked down the sidewalk. His hair absorbed the moonlight and glistened like new fallen snow. Obstacles in his path seemed to melt out of his way as he ran.

I stood transfixed. I wasn’t sure if he was guided by skill or luck, but he was the kind of beautiful that hurt my heart.

He was tiny, maybe five and a half feet tall though I was a bad judge of height being blessed with such an overabundance of it. Everyone seemed short to me. His dirty bare feet barely whispered as they padded over the broken asphalt and concrete. A ragged pair of baggy jeans held up by a piece of leather cord hung off his narrow hips and even at this distance I could easily count his rib bones pushing against his thin, translucent skin as he fled from something I couldn’t see.

For some reason he enchanted me. As a matter of fact, the longer I stared at the running boy, the more he beguiled me.

I should’ve gone home. I could’ve made a pot of hot, sweet Stygian tea and gone out to my small aeroponic garden to tend a few of my experiments. I had work. I could’ve pretended to do it. More likely I’d end up hunched over a set of pages at my desk, glasses slipping down the bridge of my nose as I searched for some esoteric or strange piece of information from before the Rising that might provide answers.

I glanced at the beat-up satchel slung across my body. My insane trek into the abandoned ruins of Old Philly had been a complete waste; I hadn’t found anything I needed. Looking up, I saw the running boy had finally stopped and was bent at the waist trying to catch his breath. Staring at his petite form bathed in starlight, I couldn’t help but think maybe I’d found exactly what I needed.

I made noise as I approached. As I expected, the boy nearly jumped out of his skin when he looked up and saw me. Terror was etched into his face. One second before he launched into another midnight marathon, I spoke to him.

“It’s OK. I’m not going to hurt you.”

I spoke the words first in Chinean, then in Spantino, and finally in Mericano. Suspicion rippled across his sharply triangular face. His eyes were the most vivid, captivating and extraordinary blue. “Are you hurt?” Once again, I repeated my question in all three languages, unsure of which he actually understood.

He frowned, those huge blue eyes flicking over me, taking in my worn satchel, boots, coat, and no doubt the bulge of the guns under it. His head cocked to one side like a bird’s, and I realized after he did it that his ear, just visible under his shock of tangled, shaggy, shoulder-length white hair, was slightly elongated. It swiveled, tilting toward me and then back like a long-distance spying device. I swallowed, my pulse kicking into high gear.

He was either Risen, or Altered.

“I’m a doctor. If you’re hurt I can help you.”

 “Not hurt.” He spoke Mericano but with a soft, twangy accent. I’d bet one of my better magnifying lenses it wasn’t his first language.

I nodded and glanced around quickly to check the surrounding streets. I needed to leave. The first patrol would burn through in a matter of minutes. If I didn’t make it out to the safe distance point, I’d end up a pile of ash, and all my work would be in vain. I glanced back at the boy and found him staring holes through me.

Standing to my full height, I extended a hand to him.

“We have to go.”

When he just continued to stare, I took a deep breath and prayed silently for patience. My eyes darted around until I found what I was looking for, and I pointed at it, albeit a bit dramatically.

“Do you see that? If we don’t go, now, we’ll end up just like that.”

The boy’s amazing blue eyes slid the length of my arm and focused on the pile of soft gray ashes about two feet in diameter and one foot high.

“Where is it you wish to go?” he asked.

“My home. You-” My cheeks heated. I couldn’t believe it. I was fifty-four years old. A medical doctor and researcher. Survivor of the Rising. I hadn’t blushed for any reason whatsoever in longer than I could remember. But the notion of having this half-naked boy in my home sent heat flaring through my face. The idea generated heat throughout most of me, actually, it made me stupid.

He cocked his head again in that birdlike pose. “But you did not get that which you came here seeking.”

My hands went to the butts of my Tec 9 submachine pistols. “How did you…?”

His eyelashes fluttered as he lowered his eyes and bowed his head. His entire body took on a pose of contrition, and when he spoke, it was barely a whisper.

“Your bag is empty.”

I let go of my guns, a slightly hysterical giggle escaping my lips. “Yes. You’re right.” The uneasiness of our time crunch struck me again. I began backing up. “Look, we really have to go.”

He nodded and without another word, we left the ruins of Old Philly behind.

***********

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Be Well ~ Tux







Friday, February 13, 2015

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS #14 THE FOREST LORD

Welcome to the 14th installment of my fantasy The Forest Lord. I hope you enjoy it!

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The Forest Lord #14; by Tucker McCallahan:

The first shadow unicorns were the product of an unholy union between a unicorn and the infernal nightmare who corrupted him.

According to the legends, a nightmare who had grown weary of her entrapment in hell sought out the perfect creature to despoil. She found a proud unicorn who had as his requirement for retaining purity the task of guarding a small wood. Since she wasn’t able to leave her hellish imprisonment, the nightmare visited the unicorn in his dreams, masquerading as a black unicorn. She flattered the unicorn, appealing to his sense of vanity and his tremendous ego. When he was smitten by the beautiful ebony-haired unicorn, she told him of a vast, unclaimed forest, desperately in need of a guardian.

Night after night, the nightmare appeared to the unicorn, preying on his sense of self-importance. She assured the unicorn that the denizens of the forest would not only be obedient and respectful should he come to serve as their Forest Lord, they would be thankful as well. After all, any inhabitant of the grand forest would be lucky to have such a magnificent creature as their lord. The nightmare took advantage of the unicorn’s loneliness, a secret which the proud beast had kept hidden from the world. She promised him both her gratitude and her heart if the unicorn would leave his wood and take charge of the forest she offered.

Wooed by the nightmare’s promises and blind to her deception, the unicorn forsook his sacred duty. He abandoned his wood to journey to the vast forest he had seen so many times in his dreams. As he removed the final protective glyph from his borders, a wrenching sensation shook him right down to his hooves. No longer pure, his aura now bore a tarnish.

Though deep down he knew what had happened, the unicorn shook it off. He was convinced of the rightness of his choice and continued to justify it as he journeyed. His wood would survive just fine without him. The forest he traveled to needed his protection. More importantly, he went to join his female. She occupied his every waking thought and his dreams as well. He would gladly suffer a smudge on his soul if it meant he might finally have a mate, foals, and a family.

When he reached the forest, though, all was not as his beloved portrayed. The forest was indeed vast; it was far too large for one unicorn to guard. Its need for protection was far more desperate than had been portrayed. Factions of various monsters had divided the land up into territories. Their violent wars left huge swaths of the forest destroyed. Parts of the forest were nothing more than bloody, churned up, smoking ruins. The forest inhabitants who hadn’t been killed were conscripted into serving in whoever’s army was in their backyard.

Worst of all, the ebony-haired unicorn was nowhere in sight.

The unicorn fell into fitful sleep and thankfully, his beloved appeared in his dreams. The Goblyn King had discovered her call for help, she claimed, and his fear of the unicorn was so great that he captured her and even now held her in the center of the forest in his dark and evil lair.

The unicorn despaired. Alone, he couldn’t possibly reach his beloved and set her free.

For days he stalked the edges of the great forest, despondent, until in mad desperation, he hit upon a solution.

He would forge an alliance with the giant spiders. They were the sworn enemies of the goblyns, and for a small amount of territory they would aid him. A small voice inside his mind rebelled at this notion, screaming at him. We make no alliances with monsters! They are your sworn enemies! But the dream vision of his beloved in the clutches of filthy goblyns was more than he could bear, and the unicorn ignored that voice, ruthlessly shoving it to the furthest reaches of his mind.

Worried that one alliance wouldn’t be sufficient to defeat the goblyns, the unicorn and the Queen of the giant spiders agreed they would need another. To ensure he could free his beloved, the unicorn sought out and secured the gnarigs. Giant two-legged rodents covered in long peppery red hair, the gnarigs had human intelligence, were as physically dexterous as woodland elves, and had the hearty constitutions of dwarves. Their weaknesses lay in their need to move and work as a pack, their extreme sensitivity to light, and their tendency to become easily distracted. Nonetheless, the giant spiders and gnarigs had been allies before and firmly believed in the tried and true saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

As the pact for the dual alliance became final, the unicorn was once again assailed by horrific, wrenching spasms that wracked his entire body. The tarnish that began as a smudge on his soul spread to encompass more than half of its surface area.

The unicorn could not run from the effect its actions had upon it.

Despite that, the unicorn remained determined to rescue his beloved. With an army of giant spiders and gnarigs flowing behind him, the unicorn plunged into the forest and set off for the Goblyn King’s Lair.  When at last the war broke out and the unicorn dealt death with its long, sharp, spiral horn for the very first time in thousands of years, the tarnishing became total.

The nightmare claimed the unicorn’s soul for all eternity, just as she’d planned.

The nightmare trapped the unicorn in bondage, and used him to escape from the infernal pits. Their mating was not the blessing the unicorn had hoped for but a devastating tragedy, an unholy union between two creatures who were never meant to produce offspring.

According to the legend, from that very first mating, the first shadow unicorn twins were born. They destroyed their infernal mother, devouring her as they were born. Once they consumed her flesh, their link to the infernal plane was secured and their reign of gloom and terror began.

Nobody knows what happened to the unicorn. He might’ve perished from the nightmare’s betrayal and subsequent grief over the loss of his purity. More likely he is still wandering the vast forest, hopelessly seeking some way to redeem his progeny as the ghost of his beloved wails on the forest winds and stabs her fiery horn through his cold, cold heart.

 *

The group arrived at the Orespen Bridge, with the Professor’s story still fresh in their minds. A massive structural marvel of both engineering and magic, the Orespen Bridge allowed the Great Eastern Road to pass from the western Adintana Forest to the eastern Adintana Forest while spanning the Mazu River. None of them spoke as they set up camp. Each was lost in thought, images of the Professor’s words swirling through their minds. This foe was unlike any other they had ever faced.

According to the Professor, because Orespen Bridge marked the precise center of the plane it was a convergence point for all sorts of magical, spiritual, and mystical energies. The shadow unicorn wouldn’t be able to use its teleportation ability to ambush them here for the same reason that their group hadn’t been able to teleport directly to the Bridge from the Professor’s Mountain. They wouldn’t be caught unaware.

As night fell and a thick mist rolled up off the Mazu River obscuring sight in every direction, every member of the group including T’Riss wondered just how much of the Professor’s legend was true… and whether being ready for an attack would be enough to keep them all alive.

* * * * * * * *

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Be Well ~ Tux



Friday, February 6, 2015

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS #13 THE FOREST LORD


Welcome to the 13th installment of The Forest Lord. 

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The attack never came.

Instead, the shadow unicorn played with them. It taunted the group using rushing hoof-beats and a sense of impending doom. Even the smaller forest animals seemed to be in league with the dark beast, disappearing entirely when those ghostly galloping sounds echoed off the trees. Several of the weaker human guards – already half-mad from the first attack – became completely unhinged from the atmosphere of foreboding in the Adintana as those eerie noises bore down upon them only to vanish without a trace.

The more time passed, the more likely it became that their true identities would be exposed unless they abandoned the crippled human caravan. T’Riss steadied himself and reached out for Zak with a small bit of messaging magic.

“My mate. Do not return. Meet me at The Professor’s.”


T’Riss didn’t wait for a reply. He motioned for the group to gather around him. Iym had just finished wrapping Kala’s body in a thick blanket and had tied it to the back of her mechanical mount. She led the machine over with Jhulryna at her other side. Smoke had just changed his leathers, and jogged over with his trousers and his boots unlaced, one set of guns slung over his shoulder.

“I was talking to Clem, that big-”

“We’re leaving,” T’Riss said, interrupting Smoke.

No sooner did T’Riss make the announcement than the dreaded sound of the shadow unicorn’s hooves pounding the road return. Terror once again seized the humans as they prepared for attack, but T’Riss motioned his group closer.

“It’s toying with us. Playing with us the way a cat makes sport with a mouse before devouring it.” T’Riss straightened up and tugged his bandoliers down. “We will not make so easy a meal.”

“What about the rest of the guards and the women?” Smoke’s chin came up a fraction of an inch. He slipped his arms through his custom fit leather harness holster and buckled it onto his trousers, eyes glued to T’Riss as his hands moved by memory.

“You must make a choice, gunslinger.” T’Riss kept his voice low enough so that no one else could hear him. “Either you stay and be the hero who saved the caravan from the black unicorn, or you travel with us.”

“How can he stay with us?” Iym gazed at T’Riss, her brows furrowed over her ruby-colored eyes. “We must return Kala’s body to Chasz’Chalolvir.”

“We travel to a scholar.” T’Riss never took his eyes from the human gunslinger. “Are you with us?”

Smoke jerked his chin down once. His eyes shifted from T’Riss to Jhulryna. She looked everywhere but at him. With a soft chuckle Smoke turned and dashed for his great black mechan stallion.

*

“Who is this Professor?”

Smoke’s lips brushed against Jhulryna’s ear as he whispered his question. Iym and her mount separated them from T’Riss and Zak. The two male drow led the group up a treacherous and winding mountain passage towards a cave at the peak. They’d almost reached it.

Jhulryna shrugged. Settling her staff comfortably in the saddle sling, she leaned back against Smoke and turned her head so he could more easily hear her.

“From what I understand, he is some banished member of your race.” She frowned as she met Smoke’s eyes. “Do humans have Unmentionables?”

“Lots of things we don’t mention.”

Jhulryna’s frown persisted. Smoke reached up and rubbed at the furrowed flesh between her eyes. “Female, cease these faces. You’ll get wrinkles.”

The small group moved from the passage onto the plateau and head for the cave mouth. Smoke drew one of his oddly-shaped guns. He guided his big mechan with the reins held loosely in one hand and his knees pressed firmly to the machine’s sides. Jhul gazed around the plateau, hyper-vigilant and on her guard for any sort of attack. When none came she leaned back against Smoke.

“I shall wear the marks of age with pride.”

Smoke snickered. Jhul sat up straight, making sure to elbow him as she moved.

“What do you find humorous?”

“Marks of age. You’ll live for centuries. I’ll be dust before you show any marks of age.”

“You’re the one who said something about me getting wrinkles.”

“Wrinkles have nothing to do with age. My shirt gets wrinkled. S’not because it’s old.”

“Why haven’t you just killed them both? Solve all your problems.”

The voice was surprisingly deep and melodic. Smoke and Jhul both jerked in the saddled at the sound. Their heads snapped up to see a tremendously tall, broad figure in a plain brown monk’s robe appear between T’Riss and Zak. The cavernous hood of the robe was up, obscuring the figure’s face. Amazingly, Ilztafay neither bolted nor made any noises.

“Professor,” T’Riss said, bowing his head.  “Greetings.”

“T’Rissinns Riz-LiNeer. Why have you brought a raiding party to my mountain?”

“We seek knowledge.”

“You do not deny you once again walk as arisa for Alybreena Yas’kah Mel-virr.”

“I have not denied truth to you in over a century.”

The robed and hooded figure of the Professor stood still in silence for a very long while as if contemplating T’Riss’s answer. Then it seemed to reanimate. Spreading its arms wide in welcome, it turned toward the large cave-mouth.

“Enter and be welcome, mate of T’Rissinns Riz-LiNeer and team of the arisa.” Arms held open and aloft in welcome, the tall, broad figure led the group in through the cave mouth. He guided them back into a maze of twists and turns until they emerged into a magical oasis inside the mountain.

Beauty bombarded them from every side. A magical sun of some sort shone from some undefined location, bathing the entire interior in warm golden light. Trees heavy with fruit and flowers burst into bloom and bud all around the valley floor as more ripe fruit fell from vines and bushes and more flowers blossomed across the floor. Thick scrumptiously soft grass grew over every surface except the rock, which had one of two surfaces: smooth, lustrous marble or rough, glittering granite.

With a showy flick, the Professor tossed his hood back and let the robe fall to the floor. Jhulryna managed not to scream, but only because she’d been clinging to Smoke’s arm when the hood fell back in the first place. Her fingers clenched reflexively and cut off the gunslinger’s circulation as she bit back her scream.

The Professor was not only seven feet tall, he was covered in gleaming scarlet scales. In place of a mouth and nose, he had a snout. His jaw was filled with several layers of razor-sharp teeth. A heavy brow held a series of spinous processes – spikes – that ran from the top of his head all the way down his spine where they ended in a tail that whipped back and forth in restless motion.

“What are you?” Smoke asked, his voice filled with both disgust and awe.

“The Professor is the smartest creature on the plane.” T’Riss’s voice was cold. “If anyone knows something about a black unicorn, he will.”

“Black unicorn?” The Professor looked interested.

“You’ve no doubt heard about the Adintana attacks. They’re being caused by a black unicorn.”

The professor strode across his tropical paradise. An entire section of illusion melted away to become a bookshelf. The Professor removed a text and flipped through it until he came to a particular page. Approaching T’Riss and Zak excitedly, he thrust the open book under their noses. “By black, did you mean shadow? Like this one?”

Zakn’yl stared in horror at the photograph. “That’s it!

“Indeed,” T’Riss whispered. “This is our foe. Tell us how we might defeat it.”

The leather-bound book was so old it make a crackling sound as Iym leaned down and turned the page. The Professor slammed the ancient tome closed with a thud before Iym could read anything. He gazed at T’Riss, a look of bestial hunger covering his face.

“You know the coin in which I deal.” The Professor’s voice was almost a sibilant whisper.

T’Riss offered the reptilian creature his forearm. The Professor produced a small, very sharp dagger. After a short prayer, he made a series of four shallow slices up the inside of T’Riss’s arm. T’Riss bled into a series of vials which the Professor capped. The Professor held the drow’s blood as if it was more precious than gems. He took it to a bookshelf and made it disappear. T’Riss’s wounds vanished without a trace.

“How can we defeat a black unicorn?” T’Riss asked.

“It is a shadow unicorn.” The Professor strode to another shelf. His tail snaked up and selected a thick, squat book. Flipping it open, he scanned the page.

“Only enchanted weapons will damage the creature.” The Professor gestured to T’Riss’s katana. He motioned to Jhulryna and Iym. “Death magic will backfire; do not use it. This beast is a thing of darkness.”

“Light?” At the blank looks from T’Riss and the others, Zak asked his question directly to the Professor. “Would magical light damage it?”

“A romantic notion, Zakn’yl, but no.”

“What else can you tell us?” Iym asked.

“Who else is willing to render me payment?” The Professor smiled, his sharp teeth gleaming in the artificial magical sunlight.

“What are you?” Iym whispered.

“The only one with the knowledge to save you,” the Professor said. His red scales sparkled. “Are you willing to pay the price?”

The group spent the night in the Professor’s cave. In the morning they used magic to send Kala’s body back to the Azure Palace, and then returned to the Adintana Forest, all of them minus a few vials of blood.

It was time to hunt a shadow unicorn.


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Thanks so much for reading! Comments are, as always, craved and appreciated. 


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Be Well ~ Tux


Friday, January 16, 2015

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS #12 THE FOREST LORD



The Forest Lord #12; by Tucker McCallahan:

A dozen of the armored human guards lay dead in the road. Of the remaining dozen, half of those wouldn’t survive their injuries. The other half were equally divided between being struck dumb and useless with gibbering fear, and being so overwhelmed by the death of their comrades that they were unable to do anything but stare vacantly into space. Only T’Riss, Jhul, Iym, and the three women in the carriage were unharmed, though one of the women’s hair had turned pure white, just like Smoke’s sister Justina before she died.

The lady in question, a girl of no more than fifteen, gasped when she gazed at her reflection in a small square of mirrored silver. Her reaction drew the attention of one of the dazed guards, who was doing his best to drain a damaged wine cask. He gasped as well, and leveled a shaking finger at her with great drama.

“You’re next!” he moaned. “The demon beast has marked you as its next victim!”

The girl blinked and then began to cry hysterically at a volume that shook the trees.

Smoke, weak from being recently healed of a grievous wound, shared a look of pure understanding with T’Riss. Dangerous predators other than their current enemy lived in the Adintana Forest. With the number of dead scattered about the road, the scent of blood weighing heavy on the air, and injured prey still available for easy picking, the last thing they needed was a child crying. Slavering beasts would be upon them before they had time to regroup.

Smoke sighed. He didn’t relish being the bad guy but he’d play the role to save lives. He slowly stood, testing his newly healed leg. But before he could approach the wailing girl, the older woman who had demanded they continue when the fog came up hauled off and slapped the crying girl. Her head snapped back with the force of the blow.

“Stop your wailing!” the older lady hissed. “You’re going to get us all killed.” She straightened her dress and looked at T’Riss. “We’re turning back. Your family is welcome to come with us.”

T’Riss bowed his head to her. “You are very generous, but we cannot. We must continue east.”

“As you will.”

“My man and I will assist in turning your carriage.” T’Riss gestured at the mayhem and wreckage. “It is not wise to remain here.”

“My thanks.”

She guided the subdued girl and the other lady back into the carriage. Smoke limped up to T’Riss.

“Do you think they’ll make it?”

“I do not know.” T’Riss beckoned Iym and Jhul to him. “Are any of the guards able to be healed enough to accompany them?”

The two priestesses glanced at each other, confusion and astonishment flickering across their faces.

“I-I… don’t understand.” Iym frowned and stepped closer, lowering her voice so nobody would overhear her speaking to T’Riss. “Arisa, do you mean to have us use our goddess-given abilities to heal… humans?”

“What did Jhulryna just do?” T’Riss gestured angrily at Smoke. His limp lessened as he walked around clearing bodies from the road with several of the uninjured guards who he’d cajoled and bullied into helping him.

“That was different,” Jhul snapped, her arms folded under her breasts.

“How?”

For a moment Jhul had no answer. Her eyes shot from T’Riss to Smoke, and followed the very handsome gunslinger as he ordered the surviving guards around. His newly healed bare leg was on display for all to see as he hadn’t yet changed out of the damaged leathers. His flesh was extraordinarily pale next to the dark leather, his healed thigh muscle bulging with every step he took. Jhul swallowed hard, her eyelashes fluttering wildly, and then her chin came up, her face taking on its classic arrogance.

“I owed him a life debt.”

T’Riss prepared to face off against the two females, but a tingle along his senses stopped him.

“My mate… I’m well. I’ll return to you in a moment. Ilztafay got spooked and teleported us free of the forest. I’ve convinced her to return for you, so be gentle with her. I love you my mate.”

The message spell faded, and Zakn’yl’s voice vanished from the private pathway in T’Riss’s mind reserved only for his mate.

A tremendous sense of relief and gratitude overcame T’Riss. It took every ounce of his prodigious self-control not to sit down in the center of the roadway and simply weep for joy that his mate was alive and unharmed.

Arisa?” Iym frowned, staring at him.

T’Riss ignored her and stalked over to Smoke. “How many guards are able to accompany them?”

“Two, perhaps three.” Smoke fished a rolled cigarillo from a belt pouch and lit it with his flint. “The others have to stay here and guard the wagons and dead until help arrives.”

T’Riss nodded silently as he squinted, gazing around. They had stacked the dead in rows off the side of the road like some kind of morbid display.

Smoke followed his glance. “There’s no time and not enough men to bury them all. Did you want me to order them burned?”

“Think. This many dead? Burning them would smell like the world’s biggest barbeque. We’d have beasts everywhere.” T’Riss couldn’t keep the derision from his voice.

“I don’t see how it could be any worse than the way it smells with blood and shit everywhere!” Smoke growled.

“Don’t test me; I’m not in a teasing mood.”

“And I am? A black unicorn nearly took my leg off less than an hour ago.” Smoke bit the words off and stepped closer to T’Riss. “I’m definitely feeling a need to fight something.” He deliberately looked T’Riss up and down. “You’ll do.”

“Arrogant human.” T’Riss’s katana made no noise as he whipped it clean of its sheath. “You would be dead if not for our healing.” T’Riss bit the words out through clenched teeth.


From off in the distance, hooves pounded the ground. The sound stopped the two males and drew shouts and screams from the rest of the assemblage. Everyone scrambled to prepare for another attack.

* * * *
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Be Well ~ Tux

****
In the original posting of this story, there was an error listing my gunslinger's name as "Storm" instead of "Smoke." This was an editing error left over from my rough draft; I apologize for not catching it, and thank my very good friend, Queen Iza, for pointing it out. Peace.



Friday, January 9, 2015

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS #11 THE FOREST LORD


The Forest Lord #11; by Tucker McCallahan:

“It’s a small caravan. Four wagons of goods, one coach full of passengers, and I counted two dozen armed guards.” Kala crouched beside T’Riss and Zakn’yl in the dark foliage. They gazed out at the Great Eastern Road where a human caravan plodded slowly along. “I didn’t get close enough to overhear specific conversation but they travel to the elven kingdom for commerce.”

T’Riss turned to Zak, his voice low. “Are you able to provide Jhulryna with a disguise while maintaining your own illusion?”

“Not a problem. Just don’t be surprised when she attempts to make my modifications to her personage permanent.” His green eyes twinkled. “I’m the best, after all.”

Kala, who heard him, snorted back a soft laugh. T’Riss covered his small smile with a gloved hand. He met his mate’s eyes in the gloaming light of the forest. “Cast your spells.”

Zak crept away. Kala’s eyes danced with excitement. She fingered her over-sized blade. “This is the plan, then? We join the human caravan east?”

“Can you not sense it?”

“Sense what, arisa?”

“Our enemy.” T’Riss rose fluidly and headed for the rest of their group. Kala followed at his heels, a perplexed look on her face.

*

“I don’t understand this ridiculous ruse.” Jhulryna scowled; she despised wearing pastels.

“Women of breeding and culture in the human world do not travel without their families.” Iym, who sat behind Jhul on their mount, tossed her hair over one shoulder and smiled prettily at one of the huge, armored guards riding at the head of the column.

“Quiet.”

T’Riss’s order, growled in a low voice, was obeyed for once without question. The six of them had approached the caravan out in the open when it passed by the open copse of trees where their group had supposedly been camping the night before. Disguised as a family, the caravan leader was more than happy to take their gold and welcome them among the other passengers.

After all, he reminded them, there was safety in numbers.

They rode for more than a league with no trouble, the wagons rolling along the deep ruts in the Great Eastern Road. Then a mist boiled up from the forest floor, thick tendrils of white fog that obscured vision for more than a few feet in any direction. The entire caravan came to a halt while the men had a brief discussion about whether or not to continue, but a woman in the carriage stuck her head out the door and quickly set them straight.

“If you think any of we ladies are going to sit here and breathe this foul dampness you are sadly mistaken. It is at best a miasma floating about full of wretched disease, and at worst it is the minion of some diabolical demon bent on possessing our bodies.” She drew a shallow breath and looked down her exquisite nose at all of them. “Drive on!”

As the guards reassembled, Smoke and T’Riss maneuvered their group to the head of the column. The guards got the caravan moving again, though at a much slower pace. One of the guards rode up beside Smoke, who was riding with one gun drawn.

“Aren’t you worried you’ll shoot one of your ladies in this fog?”

“I could shoot around each of ‘em in the dead of night.”

The guard’s laugh cut off as a shrieking wail pierced the fog. Smoke’s other gun cleared his holster as screams from the human women and shouts from the men joined the awful sound. Beside him, T’Riss held his katana ready, trying to place the eerie sound. Something far back in his memory itched, though he couldn’t grasp just what creature might make such a horrid wail. The thickening mist swirled around the wagons.

“Stay together!” T’Riss shouted.

 The drow females tightened their formation. As the caravan ground to a halt behind them, the eerie, high-pitched cry broke the silence again, this time accompanied by a sound they all recognized: the fast-approaching pounding of hooves.

“What is it?” Kala asked, the panic and fear clear in her voice.

Where is it?” Jhul screamed. She barked a sharp command and the end of her staff burst into brilliant light. Holding it high she gazed down the Great Eastern Road.

“Put that out!” Zak shouted, shielding his eyes. The magical light would ruin his dark vision, and all it was doing was reflecting off the fog anyway. “Put it out!”

The staff winked out, plunging them all back into misty twilight. The noise of the hooves got louder and louder until it sounded like whatever was making it was bearing down on the group. Yet despite all of them searching, no one could see a thing. The women continued to scream and the guards shouted for calm, calling to each other in panic and confusion.

And suddenly it was among them.

T’Riss stared in open-mouthed shock as the creature flickered into existence in the center of the mechans, its front hooves pawing the air as its whinny rent the air again. Bigger than Ilztafay or any of the mechanical mounts, the horse stood a full six feet high at the shoulder and was the deepest coal color. An utterly black mane and tail whipped in the wind and its cloven hooves the color of scorched earth slashed the air like knives. What drew everyone’s attention wasn’t the beast’s size, though. It was the three-foot long black horn protruding from the animal’s forehead, surrounded by a corona of crimson flames.

Battle erupted as the shadow unicorn charged the column of human guards, mowing them down like paper dolls. Screams and pain-filled shrieks filled the air as gouts of flame exploded from the beast’s horn, burning flesh and singing hair. As T’Riss watched the unicorn blinked out of existence and reappeared at the opposite end of the caravan, where it let loose with another ear-splitting whinny before charging the guards and goring the other column.

In less than a quarter hour it was done. The beast vanished and the mist cleared. T’Riss, covered in fear sweat and shaking, dismounted from Nath and immediately went looking for Zak and Ilztafay. They were nowhere to be found in the churned up mess of the roadway and bloody, mangled guards. Jhulryna hunched over Smoke, casting a healing spell. The gunslinger’s leg looked like it had nearly been torn off from a goring.

“Have you seen Zak?”

Jhul shook her head. “Iym needs help.”

T’Riss cast about and saw their other priestess slowly rise from where she’d been kneeling. He ran over, terrified he would find Zak crumpled at her feet. Iym turned to him, her robes and hands covered with blood and her face stained with tears.

“Zak!”

Iym shook her head and looked down. T’Riss’s eyes followed hers.

“There’s nothing I can do. She’s gone.”

Kala lay dead in the road, and Zakn’yl was once again missing.