Something Wicked This Way Comes

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. 


Be Sure To Check Out The Other Stories:

Follow all your favorites and read the first 100 words on the group’s website: 


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.

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


Be Sure To Check Out The Other Stories:

Follow all your favorites and read the first 100 words on the group’s website: 



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. 

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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!

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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. 

Be Sure To Check Out The Other Stories:

Follow all your favorites and read the first 100 words on the group’s website: 


Be Well ~ Tux