Something Wicked This Way Comes

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.

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


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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.





Friday, December 12, 2014

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS #10 THE FOREST LORD:




Silence dominated the inside of the tent where Zak and T’Riss prepared to catch a few hours of sleep before their turn at watch. Zak felt ill at ease, full of some strange foreboding he couldn’t name but which had him as jumpy as Ilztafay, and just as nervous. Zak wasn’t sure which was worse: darkness born of artifice and magic such as they’d ridden in during the day or this real and present darkness which crept and crawled, pervading everything and everyone with its foul nocturnal chill.

The prickling tingles that meandered across Zakn’yl’s nape and shot down his spine decided the matter. He disliked both.

He gazed at T’Riss, who sat naked at the edge of their sleeping blankets with his armor-plated vest draped over his knees. The repair kit lay open to one side of T’Riss, a candle-powered lantern flickered on his opposite side. A small adamantine hammer dangled from his long elegant fingers, forgotten. T’Riss looked mournful. Zak shed the remainder of his clothing and inched across the ground to press against T’Riss’s side.

“Is it ruined?”

Zak stared at the dented adamantine plate that so totally held T’Riss’s focus. He felt a tremendous amount of guilt over T’Riss agreeing to take on this absurd mission and the arisa position. Ever since they’d left Chasz’Chalolvir shame twisted Zak’s guts at not escaping the four phalanxes of the Azure Veil who’d succeeded in capturing him. Zak turned his emerald eyes up to T’Riss who met them for the briefest instant before returning his attention to the damaged piece.

Holding the misshapen rectangle up so it was fully visible in the candlelight, T’Riss rotated the black plate and then tossed it aside. He met his mate’s beautiful eyes and nodded.

“I can replace it.”

“Then I shall try not to fuss at you for the sheer terror I felt the instant that monster struck you.” Zak laid a gentle hand on T’Riss’s chest and leaned into his mate. Zak’s eyelashes fluttered down over his emerald eyes and his voice dropped to a seductive purr. “Though in truth I would rather witness all of your armor mangled than observe even one bruise form upon your flesh.”

T’Riss covered Zak’s hand with his own, and squeezed Zak’s fingers. He gazed seriously into Zak’s mesmerizing green eyes. “You worry overmuch.”

“How can one worry overmuch about half of their heart?”

T’Riss chuckled then, and hugged Zak close. For a long moment they simply sat in the flickering candlelight, holding each other quietly. Then T’Riss brushed his lips against Zak’s ear and whispered into it.

“We are being stalked.”

“I know; I’ve felt it.” Zak reached out and ran his fingers over the brands on T’Riss’s left shoulder. Ritual scarring done by a drow male’s House when they came of age, the brands stood out in stark relief as raised white scars against the sparkling obsidian of T’Riss’s skin. “You don’t think it’s an elven vampire.”

“Do you?”

“I don’t know.”

“The travelers killed thus far do not match the description of typical victims.” T’Riss drew Zak’s fingers up to his mouth and softly kissed them one by one, his lips gently playing over Zak’s knuckles, nails, and fingertips. “We learned much when we tracked and destroyed Farunan.” For the briefest second T’Riss’s lavender eyes gleamed as he gazed at Zakn’yl. “He desired that every kill have meaning. He transformed his undying pain into the pain each of his prey felt before they perished.” T’Riss’s face grew almost wistful. “Farunan turned murder into an art form.”

“This creature is not like that.”

“No.”

“When the treants attacked…” Zak swallowed, his fingers convulsing around T’Riss’s reflexively. “It was nearby watching the battle. It enjoyed the chaos and relished our terror; I felt it.” Staring at his mate, a haunted look consumed Zak’s face. “Having been raised in House Arken-A’te with females who hungered for identical ends, I am accustomed to recognizing the feeling.”

“That we are being hunted by more than one killer with a taste for maliciousness seems a certainty.” T’Riss’s long pointed ear twitched at a sound from outside their tent. He cocked his head. “I’m just not sure how many of the killers live in the forest, and how many we brought with us.”

“About half and half, I’d imagine.”

T’Riss’s smile was slow and wide. He pulled Zak against his bare chest, nestling them skin to skin again. Bending his head he gently bit at the point of Zak’s chin, his teeth scraping back and forth before his lips softened the abrasion.

“Danger is so arousing.”

“You speak when your lips are needed elsewhere.” Zak wiggled against his mate and managed to free a hand. He wrapped that deceptively delicate hand around T’Riss’s stiffening cock. With strokes that varied from short to long, hard to gentle, and loose to firm, Zak pleasured his mate, purring as T’Riss growled and writhed against him.

Their mouths came together in a mad, desperate collision of love and flesh,

T’Riss dragged Zakn’yl into the center of the sleeping blankets. His lips fastened to Zak’s hungrily as if he might draw every bit of oxygen from his mate’s lungs. Two moon cycles had passed since he’d been inside Zak, mated with him and shown him body to body how much he was loved. As they moved against each other, hands stroking, backs bowing and arching as they rolled and loved together, T’Riss made a silent vow.

Never again would such a length of time pass without the two of them touching souls.

* * * * * * * *



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

Be Sure To Check Out The Other Stories:

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Be Well ~ Tux



Sunday, November 16, 2014

SEX POSITIVITY BLOG HOP



Jump over to my Wicked blog page for the Sex Positivity Blog Hop and some scintillating sex talk!


Friday, November 14, 2014

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS #9 THE FOREST LORD

Hey everyone! Welcome back to Free Fiction Friday! I'm back to posting installments of my fantasy series, The Forest Lord. Hope everyone enjoys it!

***


The Forest Lord #9; by Tucker McCallahan:

“Only limited information exists in the journals and lore books of the guild.” Kala crouched near the fire, sharpening her blade. “I remember they destroy plant life.”

“True.” Iym’s voice drifted on the night breeze. She sipped wine from a skin and stared at the glowing embers under the flames. “It is both a curse and a source of great pain for them, that they cannot touch or be close to the flowers and trees they so revered in life.” She shuddered and wiped her mouth. “They’re compelled to tree-walk as druids, yet every time they do so the trees they use die.”

 “I am not so full of fear that I’m unable to name that which we face.” Jhul whirled around to face the group who sat around the small fire.

T’Riss gave her a weary look. “If an elven vampire carved those runes, Jhulryna, a bit of fear would be healthy.”

“I put stock in truth, not superstition.” As usual, her chin jutted forward in defiance.

“I watched a male fall down dead in his tracks just by meeting the scarred visage of an elven vampire. Another who locked gazes with the creature was paralyzed, just as if he’d been gored by the claws of a ghoul.” Memories haunted Zak’s green eyes. He pushed into T’Riss’s side, his arm firmly around his mate’s waist. T’Riss held him close, turning to press his lips against Zak’s forehead.

“You battled such a monster?” Kala gazed intently at the pair. T’Riss nodded, still holding Zak.

“We took a bounty on one. Tracked its black thumb. Fought it under the sun for it feared the dark, and blinded it with sap from an iron bark tree.”

“Magic is almost useless against them,” Zak murmured. “Fire, ice, charms, holds, illusions… all worthless. Spells fall away from them as if they’ve never been cast.”

“What works then?” Iym didn’t move any closer but her ruby eyes flashed as they reflected the firelight.

“I had some luck with lightning.” Zak shook his head in resignation. “But make no mistake, it healed almost as fast as I injured it.”

Smoke had been uncharacteristically quiet since they made camp. Jhul strode over to where he cleaned his strange weapons.

“What say you, human?”

In a movement that was as calculated as it was graceful, Smoke tilted his head up and fixed Jhul with a steady, patronizing look.

“S’not any kind of bloodsucker.”

“Elven vampires do not feed on blood.” T’Riss spoke to the fire, but his voice carried to Jhul and Smoke.

“What do they eat?” Smoke’s blue-gray eyes traveled over Jhul’s body in a manner that left no doubt about what he was hungry for. Jhul pretended not to notice his blatant admiration of her figure. She would’ve pulled off her feigned indifference, too, save for the continual clenching of her jaw.

“Vitality. Charisma. Your personal magnetism. An attack by an elven vampire leaves you horribly scarred.” T’Riss held Zak tightly and leaned forward staring intently at Smoke. “You said you saw several of the murder victims. Were any of them disfigured?”

For the first time since they powered down the mechanical mounts, Smoke looked interested. He snapped the irregular cylinder back onto the over-sized frame of his revolver. Removing silver bullets from his pocket he packed the cylinder full and with a flick of his wrist nestled it snugly in place between the barrel and the hammer. Snapping his long arm out straight, Smoke sighted down the barrel at some unknown point off in the distance, his eyes cold. Then as quick as he aimed, he relaxed his elbow, spun the awkward weapon, and grinned cheekily at Jhulryna before holstering it low on his hip. He turned a grimly serious face to T’Riss.

“They were savaged. Can’t say if that counts for disfigurin’ or not, mate.”

“An elven vampire’s attack is distinct. The scarring is usually to the face.”

Smoke shook his head. He picked up his second revolver and began reassembling it. “Nothing like that. Although…” He cleared his throat and gazed intently at his weapon as he spoke. “When my sister Justina was found, they thought at first she’d been slain by a ghost.”

“Why?”

“Her hair had turned white.”

 The group sat in silence contemplating the creature they might be facing as the forest whispered around them. Finally Iym stood and drew her cloak tighter around her slender form.

“If it’s undead we face, rest assured our goddess has imbued me with the strength to turn them away.” She bobbed her head at T’Riss and Zak. “As always I shall take second watch with Kala.” Gazing around at the rest of the group, she murmured, “Du’ased v’dre ulu jal.

T’Riss and Zak rose as well, T’Riss’s arm around his mate. The leader of the group turned to the gunfighter who had finished cleaning his weapons and stowed all his cleaning supplies away. Now he sat at the fire’s edge smoking a thin, hand-rolled cigarillo that burned with a pungent, sweet scent unfamiliar to T’Riss.

“Zak and I will take dawn watch if you’re able to remain on guard.”

Smoke slowly nodded. Jhul edged closer to both the fire and the gunfighter. “I’ll remain on watch with him.”

If he was surprised by Jhul’s offer, T’Riss didn’t show it. He simply nodded and led Zak by the hand into their tent.

Several long moments passed before the silence grew unbearable, and Jhulryna edged even closer to Smoke.

“That’s chanan you’re smoking, isn’t it?”

Smoke held the cigarillo – half gone – out to her. “Did you want some?”

“Is it red chanan or white?”

“Red.” Smoke smiled, still holding the smoldering offering. “I’ve no wish to drive anyone mad.”

Jhul took the cigarillo from his fingers and drew on it, pulling the sweet smoke into her lungs. As an herbalist she was trained in the uses of hundreds of herbs and natural medicines. Red chanan was something she’d only had the opportunity to sample once, as it wasn’t native to the drow lands, and it was excessively expensive. Just as she remembered, though, a sense of lassitude blossomed within her, warmth and pleasure spreading slowly through her torso and then out to her limbs.

“Smooth, isn’t it?” Smoke took the cigarillo and laid it on his lips.  

“Perfect.”

They finished it in silence, pausing only to add wood to the small fire so that it wouldn’t die. Smoke spread a thick blanket out and gestured to it. “No reason to be uncomfortable.”

Jhul laid her staff down and settled cross-legged onto the blanket. Staring up at the human gunfighter, she admired the square angle of his jaw, so much broader and heavier than the males of her race. He was so different in so many ways from every male she knew. He sat beside her, the bandolier of bullets he wore clinking against his black powder bombs. He turned his head, and the firelight glinted off his blue-gray eyes.

“Are you fully recovered from the battle?”

She nodded. Her heart hammered against her breast bone. Maybe it was the chanan; she couldn’t believe what she was considering. Then the moment was there, and she took it. Turning to face Smoke, Jhul unfastened her robes and let them slide down her body to pool around her waist. Surprise flickered in his eyes, then amusement, and finally hot lust.

“You saved my life,” she whispered. “By the laws of my kind, you’re entitled to lay with me, to use my body in whatever way you see fit.”

Smoke gazed at her slate-colored skin revealed in the firelight, the shadows playing over every curve and bend. She was formed exquisitely, her breasts perfect mounds of flesh topped by hardened nipples. Her silvery hair cascaded around her shoulders like a royal cloak, wrapping her in decadence and majesty. Smoke had never wanted to touch a female so badly.

Leaning in, he gentled his lips against hers in a kiss so light it was almost no kiss at all, just lips sampling textures and flavors. Jhulryna melted forward, eager for more, to taste this curious human male. But before she could, she realized that he hadn’t put his arms around her to hold her. Rather, he’d reached around her, drawn her robes up, and was fastening them around her neck once more.

It was on her lips to say she didn’t understand, but she was afraid she did.

He didn’t want her.

Shame and embarrassment hotter than lava flooded her veins. She tried to pull away from him but he caught her in a grip so strong she couldn’t escape.

“Let me go,” she hissed. “You’ve made your preference clear.”

“Stop fighting me, kitten.” His lips brushed her ear and sent hot tingles racing down her spine. Damn him! “You don’t get it.”

“I did as I was required by our laws. My duty is fulfilled.”

“And if I’d done what you offered we would’ve had a mess on our hands.” Smoke shook her. “Don’t think I don’t want you, Jhul. I want you stripped bare, belly down, crying out my name like it’s the only word you know. But taking you here? Like that? Not gonna do it.” He crushed Jhul against his body and kissed her until she couldn’t breathe. “When I have you it’ll be on my terms, not some made-up reason so you can feel absolved for letting a human touch you.”

She jerked free of his arms. “It’s not like that.”

“No?”

“No!”


Smoke laughed as Jhul scrambled away from him. He extracted another chanan cigarillo from a slender case in his pack. Lighting it up, he bent his knees and rested his arms on them, gazing out into the forest. Jhul turned her back to him and watched in the opposite direction until Iym and Kala came to relieve them.

* * *

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

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Be Well ~ Tux


Friday, October 31, 2014

FREE FICTION FRIDAYS 7 RAVENS & A SPOOKTACULAR BLOG HOP



Two awesome events in one! First, a free Halloween story as part of the Free Fiction Friday, and then, if you're still feeling frisky, a SPOOKTACULAR blog hop over on my "Wicked Blog Hop" page. Check it out!

7 RAVENS
by Tucker McCallahan


A man and his wife blessed with many acres of land produced bountiful harvests every season of grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. The gods smiled on them further, and year after year the wife gave birth to the most beautiful daughters the country-folk had ever seen. Seven in total and named for the days of the week, the daughters were sweet-natured, kind, loving, graceful, gentle, hard-working, and very fair of face.

The man and his wife were not happy, however. Despite their many blessings, they wished for a son, a male child to inherit their lands and carry on the family name. For surely daughters were wonderful, but they would leave the household to make homes for others. A son would stay on and work the land his father worked, the land handed down from father to son in an endless line.

When they had long since given up hope, the wife became pregnant and once more they dared to dream of having an heir. The birth the long and difficult, but when the babe emerged, it was indeed a boy. Their joy was tremendous but short-lived, for the child was sickly and small. Fearing the child would die, the midwife suggested they hasten to purify, bless and name the boy, for all know bestowing a name grants power.

The father sent the eldest daughter Sunday to race to the well and fetch water for the baptism. Her six sisters ran alongside her, eager to aid their new brother, already so beloved to their parents. When they reached the well, though, an argument broke out. Each girl had an opinion about how the water should be dipped out to best insure its purity for the baptism and wiccaning. The girls squabbled amongst themselves, their bickering growing noisier and nastier. One pushed another, and the next thing they knew all seven scuffled back and forth in a vicious free-for-all of shoving, pinching, slapping and hair-pulling.

Splash!

As one, the girls froze, eyes rounding in horror. They all disengaged and looked to the lip of the well where the jug had been. In their petty fighting, the only container they had that would hold water had gotten pushed or jostled or nudged or had somehow tipped over into the well. The seven sisters stared at each other in petrified terror, and rather than blame each other, each one felt guilt deep in her heart and blamed herself for failing the brother her parents wanted so badly.

Not knowing what else to do, they set off for their farm at a turtle’s pace.

When his daughters did not return as they should’ve, the father grew impatient and angry. “They’ve forgotten what they were sent for, simple girls!”

Fearing his only son would die without being baptized or named, he let his fury take over. “Their heads are always in the clouds! Useless as a flock of birds. I wish they’d all turn into ravens!”

No sooner had the words crossed his lips than he felt the shift in his heart. He pressed a hand to his chest, trying to figure out what had happened and heard the whirring flutter of a multitude of wings. As his eyes shot skyward, his jaw dropped open. Seven large, coal-black ravens flew up and away from the farm overhead.

The father couldn’t take back his curse, and no amount of praying to the gods won the parents any sort of reprieve. However devastated they were by the tragic loss of their seven daughters, they took comfort in their beloved son. Despite his difficult birth he did not perish. He was named North after the great wind that blew down from the mountain, and he grew into a tall, broad-shouldered boy with strong limbs, eyes as blue as the summer skies, and thick, jet-black hair that curled in careless ringlets about his sweetly gentle face.

For many years North didn’t know he had ever had sisters; his parents made certain they never mentioned the girls nor the circumstances surrounding his birth. One day, though, he overhead some of the country-folk talking about him. They said North was handsome enough, strong as any other young man, and brave to be sure, but in truth he was to blame for his seven sisters’ misfortune, and such ill luck would surely haunt him until the end of his days. This troubled North greatly and he confronted his parents. He demanded to know if he had ever had sisters, and if he had, what had happened to them.

No longer able to keep the secret, his parents told North the story of his birth, but spun the tale so it seemed like Fate had turned his seven sisters into ravens. That his birth might have had anything to do with such a loss ate at North’s conscience every day. Unable to work the fields, tend the gardens, or concentrate on any of his chores, North came to believe he would have to redeem his sisters or else go mad.

He had neither rest nor peace until he set forth hoping to find his sisters and set them free, regardless of the cost. He left secretly in the dead of night, knowing if his parents discovered his plan they would try to stop him, for they loved him more than anything else in the world, and he was all the offspring they had left. North was determined in his course of action, though, and set out with nothing in his pack but a loaf of bread for hunger, a flask of water for thirst, a bedroll for weariness, and his hunting blade for protection. On his right hand he wore the ring of his father, given to him when he became a man. The ring bore the symbol of their family, and his sisters, were they still alive somewhere in the world, would surely recognize such a thing.

For days and days North walked on and on – far, far to the end of the world. He realized the glowing ball of brilliant light he wandered toward was not the realm of the gods but the sun, and upon figuring this out, shielded his tender eyes. The sun’s voice filled the skies and shook the ground beneath North’s feet.

“Who approaches so near to me?”

“My name is North.”

“Come closer, little North.”

North inched closer. Flames leapt off the sun’s surface. Scorching hot, they burned everything they touched. North was so near to the sun the tips of his boots blackened. North peered at the sun through slitted eyes, his skin reddening, and swore he saw within the sun a cruelly beautiful demon.

“Come closer, little North. I hunger.”

“No, I shall not!”

North turned and fled, his boots smoking and his skin sunburnt.

He walked in the opposite direction for many days, on and on – far, far to the other end of the world. Once again he saw a glowing ball of radiant light. This time, though, the light was white, not yellow, and North knew he had walked to the moon. Every bit as bright as the sun, North once again had to shield his eyes as he approached the iridescent glory of the full moon. The moon’s voice filled up the air and pressed in on North as if it consumed all the space around him. Tingles ran along North’s skin and he shivered as the moon spoke.

“Who approaches so near to me?”

“My name is North.”

“Come closer, North.”

North inched closer. His breath formed an icy cloud, and then he felt the frigid chill emanating from the moon. Freezing cold, the wintry blasts froze everything they touched. North was so near to the moon his toes went numb. Peering at the moon through frosted eyelashes, North swore he saw within the moon a wicked lovely demon.

“Come closer, North. I hunger.”

North turned and fled, his toes stinging and his skin raw from the biting cold.

In despair, North looked heavenward. There in the sky he saw a lone raven, its wings spread wide as it rode a thermal. As North watched, it rode the wind, that very same wind he’d been named for, and disappeared from his sight into the stars.

“Then that is who I shall ask,” North thought. “The stars.”

He hurried north and came to the place where the earth met the stars. To his surprise, they were all laid out across the sky with little bedrolls just like his.

“Join us!” they called. “Put down your bed!”

So North unrolled his bedroll among the stars and laid down, resting his read for a time. They were kind and good, gentle and caring. They sang songs and taught North about the eternal chase of the sun and the moon. When he had learned all their lessons, the Morning Star came to lay beside him.

“We know where to find your sisters.”

“Oh please! Tell me!”

“I do not think the knowledge will bring you any joy.”

“But all I want in the world is to have my sisters back.”

“Even if it costs you your father’s love?”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Believe me, North. If I tell you where to find your sisters, it will change your life forever.”

North frowned. He lay on his bedroll and quietly contemplated the morning star’s words. He watched the other stars come out, dance, twinkle and play. Stars had such carefree and easy lives. North envied them for just a moment. Then he remembered how just the knowledge of his sisters’ existence had tormented him. He wouldn’t be able to return home knowing he could’ve saved them. He turned to the morning star.

“Tell me.”

“They are in the glass mountain to the far north.”

“That’s all?”

All the stars had gone quiet and gazed at North. The morning star met his eyes.

“And they are guarded by one who hungers for the flesh of men.”

“A demon? I’ve met the sun and the moon. I know of their hungers.”

“Yes, he is a demon, but he is nothing like the sun or the moon. Their war is never-ending and their hunger is balanced. He has nothing to balance his hunger. It is all consuming.”

Though terror struck at his heart, North concealed it. He rose, packed up his bedroll and gathered his belongings, and went on his way again until he came to the glass mountain. The doors to the mountain were tremendous and as he expected, they were locked tight. His heart thudding frantically against his ribs, North raised his hand and knocked upon the door. The hollow sound reverberated throughout the glass mountain.

A shadow fell across the doorway. North stood a full six feet, yet this shadow dwarfed him. He cast him eyes to the floor and waited, dreading the voice of this new demon. The guardian of the glass mountain sounded like the rumbling of boulders cascading down the mountain.

“Who demands entrance to the glass mountain?”

“My name is North.”

“Look upon my face, North.”

Pulled by both the mesmerizing sound of his voice and his command, North’s eyes flipped up and locked on the demon’s face. His breath caught as he stared at the man. Just a man, but the single most exquisite man North had ever laid eyes upon. His face looked like it had been carved from white marble, pure and flawless, without a single imperfection. He easily stood a full foot taller than North, his body chiseled and roped with muscles. Then he smiled, and it was more dazzling than either the sun or the moon.

“My name is Cliff. I’m the guardian of the glass mountain. Before I allow you inside, I must know why you’ve come.”

It was on the tip of North’s tongue to lie. After all, he’d told the sun and the moon the truth and it had gotten him nowhere. But he’d been raised to tell the truth and he spoke honestly to Cliff.

“I’m searching for my seven sisters, cursed into the form of ravens.”

“Ah, the raven-girls. Yes, they reside here with me.” Cliff looked North over, and the longer he gazed upon the well-built farm boy, the more he liked what he saw. “I shelter and feed them, keep them safe.”

“Then I am in your debt.”

“You wish them restored to human form?”

“More than anything in the world.”

“I have the power to grant your wish and give you what you want. But you must pay the price for entry into the glass mountain, and pay for your wish as well.”

Nearly overwhelmed with success so close to hand, North found his eyes full of tears. “I have no money, nothing to pay you with. Please…”

“I want nothing so mundane as money, North,” Cliff said. He reached one large hand out and caressed North’s black curls, then his cheek, tracing the edge of his jaw until his hand fell away and landed on North’s broad expanse of chest. Cliff boldly felt the swell of his pectoral muscle, the line of his ribs, and finally curved his hand around North’s waist and drew him close.

“The price for entry is one body part. To pay for your wish, I’ll get to choose the body part, and I get to keep it… forever.”

North stared at him, the morning star’s warning ringing in his ears. So Cliff might look like a man but he was a demon. What could he possibly want? North thought about spending the rest of his life without a hand or a foot, without an arm or a knee. But what was one piece of his body compared to seven sisters? Seven females who could marry and have children? He took a deep breath and met Cliff’s amazing eyes, a shade of blue far deeper than his.

“Very well.”

Cliff lifted North into his arms and carried him into the glass mountain. He took North first to a bathing chamber and washed away the dirt and weariness of North’s many long travels. Once North was clean and well-relaxed, Cliff carried him to the center of the mountain. Laying North out on his bed, Cliff spent long leisurely hours touching, kissing, and caressing his youthful, naked body. This was all new to North, who had up to this point only stolen a few kisses with young girls behind the barn.

Cliff wasn’t about to stop at kisses. He spent hours showing North how the male body worked and helping North learn what aroused him, what touches he liked most and how North might find release alone or with a partner. After several days in Cliff’s bed chamber, North had only to hear his lover approaching from the hallway and he would harden in anticipation of what was to come. He loved the feel of Cliff’s hands and mouth on his body and thrilled in lying beside him. Holding Cliff, North knew a contentment he’d never felt in all the days of his life.

He was so content, he almost forgot why he was in the glass mountain.

On the seventh day, however, as North lay nude and sated beneath his lover, a fluttery whirring filled the air and from high above, the seven ravens entered the glass mountain and spiraled down cawing loudly. Shocked and guilty, North sat up, tears streaming down his face.

“Why do you weep?” Cliff asked, wiping at his tears with one large thumb.

“They have waited long enough,” North said, gesturing at the seven ravens perched around the chamber. “Take the body part you wish to keep and turn them back!”

“North, my simple, foolish, beloved child,” Cliff said with a sigh. He reached down and palmed North’s perfect cock. “This is the part I wish to keep forever, and I find I have no wish to separate you from it.” He leaned down and gently kissed North’s astonished and slightly open mouth.

Rising from their bed, he called on the magic of the mountain and changed North’s sisters back into their human forms again. They crowded around the two men, weeping joyously at being reunited with their brother.

After several days of celebration, they prepared to travel home. Much to the dismay of the seven sisters, North refused to leave.

“My place is with Cliff here in the glass mountain.”

North removed the ring from his finger and gave it to them.

“Take this to our parents and tell them I have found happiness and contentment, even if it is not the life they would’ve chosen for me. Tell them I love them, and I return to them the daughters they would’ve forsaken for love of me.”

The seven sisters returned to the farm with the ring, but their father refused to hear their words. Instead he insisted to all North perished rescuing his sisters from the beast who had kept them captive all those long years. A stone grew in his heart, and the farm slowly withered and failed as the seven sisters married and left.

But as for North and Cliff, they lived together in the glass mountain sustained by their love, magic, and the north wind even as the stars climbed into their bedrolls, zippered them fully, and winked out, leaving the world in darkness.

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