Friday, October 31, 2014


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!

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.


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.

 * * * *

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

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* * * *

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Friday, October 24, 2014


Welcome to installment #8 of my fantasy piece, The Forest Lord. Enjoy your read!


The group found a relatively safe place and set up camp for the night, posting regular watches. In the morning they rose and continued moving further into the Adintana Forest toward the location where Smoke assured T’Riss the first of the thirteen murders took place.

As they traveled deeper into the forest, the foliage never thickened, but the level of light remained a steady low twilight. Ilztafay pranced nervously among the Mechans, tossing her cherry mane. Zak kept one hand on the horse’s neck and glanced up at the canopy of leafy branches above them.

“That makes no sense.”

T’Riss halted the column and turned back to gaze at his mate. “Speak.”

“The sun is shining up above the trees, but down here its gloaming.” Zak twisted around on Ilztafay’s back as if searching for something. “It’s almost like… Yes! There!”

Zak dismounted and cautiously approached a large mangrove tree that was half-dead. A glyph dominated the smooth trunk of the wilting, dying tree, though whether it had been carved or burned into the original tender living flesh Zak couldn’t tell. A raw wound, the glyph radiated evil and malice.

“It’s definitely magical.” Closing his eyes Zak whispered a quick spell to identify the glyph. “And it’s causing the darkness, but I’m not getting any else.” He spun on his heel and came face to face with Iym. Her ruby eyes flashed as she met his gaze.

“It emanates malevolence.”

“Have you ever seen anything like this before?” Zak’s thin black brows drew together as he frowned at Iym, concentration sharpening his small face.

“I’ve studied a great many runes and glyphs, but I don’t remember that one.”

“And the humans thought this was one of our symbols?” Zak directed his question over to Smoke. The human gunfighter had put a fair amount of distance between himself and the decaying mangrove tree.

“Yep.” Smoke looked very uncomfortable.

“I can assure you it is not.” Iym drew her hood closer about her face.

When Zak reached out as if to touch his fingers to the scarred tree, Ilztafay snorted and whinnied, the sound ripping through the air. She pawed at the ground and danced sideways, nervous and clearly agitated. Her burgundy fur stood up in roughened tufts, white flecks of saliva appearing at the edges of her mouth. Her distress was so obvious Zak immediately returned to her side.

Sliding his arms around her thickly muscled neck he embraced her, murmuring softly. His voice rose and fell in the musical language of the wild elves. Zak expected the cadence to soothe his horse. Instead she grew increasingly more distraught, fidgeting and struggling against his hold to move away from everyone, off the path and deeper into the forest.

“What’s wrong with her?” Kala held her scimitar in one hand, her face pinched as she stared at Ilztafay.

“I’m not sure.” Zak continued to pet, stroke, and cuddle the animal. The others examined the glyph and the withering mangrove tree. “This is the kind of thing she usually only does when she’s terrified,”

“Do your best controlling her,” T’Riss said. “We need to move on.”

 Zak nodded, and after one last quick look in the direction of the unknown glyph, he hopped up onto Ilztafay’s back. She shuddered under him, huddling like a child who believed closing her eyes would prevent the monsters from seeing her.

As the group continued on toward the site of the first murder, Iym pointed out several other trees in the distance, all of which bore marks identical to the first tree. The strange shadow glyph, for they had no other name to use for the pictograph, had been burned into each tree at approximately the same height. Like the very first mangrove tree afflicted, each and every other tree similarly marked was diminished, its life force dwindling away.

At what would’ve been late afternoon if they could’ve told based on the sun, Smoke led the party over a small hillock and across a shallow stream. When they reached the other side, he plunged them through multiflora rose bushes thick with brambles to emerge into a moderate clearing.

“It happened – Holy shit…” Smoke’s breath left on a whistled exhalation. Ilztafay screamed and bolted, taking Zak with her. The war mage held on as his horse fled at a flat gallop.

The entire clearing was dead.

Every tree, flower, plant, leaf, thorn and blade of grass had turned black and was rotting away, Jhul, who had been exceptionally quiet all day as she nursed a headache from the treant battle gasped, choking on her own breath. Iym prayed fervently aloud in an effort to provide some kind of comfort, but there was little to be had. Whoever or whatever they faced had turned an entire clearing into nothing more than putrefied blackened mulch.


This picture was the inspiration for the Adintana Forest. I know, I know... it's as mysterious as it is sinister and I for one would want to walk through it. I'm funny like that.

Also, I've been playing around with my blog design. I'm taking part in a couple Blog Hops and wanted the site to have a new look. Let me know if anything looks off. Or, you know, if the new eye candy strikes a yummy note.

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: 

Have an awesome weekend ~ Tux

Friday, October 10, 2014


Thanks for joining me again for the next installment of The Forest Lord. Enjoy!

The Forest Lord #7; by Tucker McCallahan:

The small party, its number increased by one, moved cautiously through the outer boundary of the Adintana Forest. T’Riss rode Nath out in front, the pair of them utterly silent. Further back, Zakn’yl and Iym rode side by side, a dampening spell surrounding them. It served multiple purposes: maintaining stealth, hiding their magic, and preventing Ilzatay’s scent from escaping into the woods. As Jhulryna pointed out before they left Chasz’Chalolvir, the aroma of fresh horse drifting through the Adintana Forest would be like using walking bait.

Whether it was her dislike of that aroma or because she wasn’t speaking to Iym, Jhulryna rode behind the pair, her staff in her hand and her disposition worse than ever. She was steaming mad, mostly because Smoke, the arisa’s new human pet, rode a huge, black, mechan stallion right beside her. Next to a human was the very last place Jhul wanted to be. A strange, cloying scent hung about him and as they rode, he kept up a continual warble in a low, deep baritone.

Suust!” Jhulryna hissed. “You’re going to get us all killed!”

“What was that you spat, darlin’?”

Jhul’s eyes were angry rubies in the forest darkness as she glared at Smoke. “I told you to be quiet,” she whispered.

“You hiss just like a lil’ wet kitten. So angry and small and offended and cute all at once.” Smoke smirked at her and lifted his left hand, wiggling his index finger. A large gold ring sat there, looking perfectly at home on his big hand. “See that beauty? Makes me impossible to track. Wipes out scent, sound, the ol’ girl’s prints…” He patted the side of his mechanical mount.

“That’s fine and good for you, human, but it doesn’t help me.” Jhul managed to maintain her haughty visage as she motioned to the others with a quick jerk of her golden staff. “Or the rest of mine.”

“Sure it does.” Smoke’s smile, very much like a permanent smirk, never wavered. “Ring’s got a radius effect, sugar. You stay nice and tight on me and she’ll protect you, too.”

“Darling? Sugar? Are you incapable of using my name?”

“Don’t know your name.”

When she didn’t respond to that, Smoke went back to singing. This time his low, sweet voice growled out a song about hunting a deadly black hare. During the third verse when the fearless hunter dove under the apron of a young barmaid with his gun drawn to pursue the black hare, Jhul finally realized just what Smoke was singing about. She jerked, her back going ramrod straight in the saddle. As her head swung around toward him, her scarlet eyes nearly shot laser beams through the darkness.

“Foul, filthy beast!”

He broke off singing and nodded sagely, holding her gaze. The force of his dark eyes shocked her. No man had ever dared look her in the eye.

“Black hares can be dangerous. No doubt you know something of that, eh?”

His smirk was back. Without removing his full attention from Jhul, Smoke deliberately checked over his shoulder to find Kala guarding their rear.

“Oh yes,” he murmured, his head still nodding. “Deadly indeed.”

“Males of worth do not speak of such things.”

Smoke’s smile grew wider, but his eyes hardened like black diamonds. “Darlin’, none of us is worth more than the price of the next bullet.”

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about!” But Jhul’s slate-colored skin was flushed and sweat covered the valley between her breasts. Her brows furrowed as she huddled on her mount. Confusing creature! It had to be his scent, an odd, heavy, almost sweet smell of sassafras mixed with the thoroughly chemical odor of his gun powder and solvent. She’d never smelled anything like it before, ever.

Chuckling, Smoke gave Jhul a tiny bit of space. He couldn’t give her too much, though; he’d been honest about that. The ring wouldn’t protect her if he let her ride off alone. Smile firmly in place and every sense on alert once more, the gunfighter resumed his bawdy song.

The attack came without warning from every side.

The great, massive oak trees came alive. Roots rippled through the soil and snaked over the path. They tangled around the legs of the mechans, bringing the big mechanical beasts down with startling ease. Ilztafay screamed as they tried to ensnare her, rearing up and pawing at the air. She threw Zak from her back and the slight war mage tumbled to the ground in a flurry of her mane and crumpled, dead leaves.

T’Riss in the front and Kala in the rear managed to jump free before their mounts crashed to the forest floor, but Iym and Jhul ended up under their mounts, trying desperately not to be crushed as the wicked tree roots wrapped around legs and necks in an attempt to pull the mechans apart. T’Riss tried valiantly to see through the chaos, to make sense of who was attacking, from where, and how he could best help both his mate and the group when the huge limbs of the oaks came crashing down to deal death upon them from above.

A massive branch caught T’Riss directly across the chest, knocking wind from him and sending him stumbling several steps backward. His sword in hand, T’Riss struggled to breathe and looked down to see one of the adamantine plates of his vest crumpled like parchment. Cold fear flooded his veins as heat and fire lit up the night from the western flank.

Zak stood with Ilztafay at his back at the edge of the trees, fierce determination on his face as liquid flame poured from his hands onto the roots that covered the mechanical mounts. Kala whirled in a deadly semi-circle behind Zak, her tremendous scimitar severing roots and shearing off branches as they came at the mage.

Satisfied his mate was safe, T’Riss waded into the battle to rescue their priestesses. As he began to move forward surrounded by the bizarre rushing leaves and roaring sound of the evil treants, he caught sight of Smoke. A jagged rip in the gunslinger’s leather coat showed where a branch tried to impale him, but the big human was otherwise untouched. Jhulryna hung over one of his broad shoulders and he backed slowly out of the fray with both of his large odd guns firing round after round at the gigantic, swinging branches.

T’Riss’s eyes swept the forest floor. Two of the mechans lay in pieces, gears and parts strewn along the ground mixed with bits of leaf and swiftly rotting tree material. He didn’t see Iym anywhere. A tingle along his neck was T’Riss’s only warning, and on instinct he dove. A fist-sized gnarl slammed into the ground where he’d been, and one of the attached limbs whipped across T’Riss’s face cutting deep into his flesh.


Zak’s frantic psychic cry nearly rent T’Riss in two. He had little choice but to obey, leaping away from the battle area. His heart ached at the idea of losing the only true priestess they had with them, but he couldn’t sacrifice his life for hers. Somersaulting free, the rush of heat swept over T’Riss’s back as Zak poured more fire onto the trees.

“Clear!” Smoke shouted.

T’Riss turned in time to see the human lob a black powder bomb directly into the center of Zak’s magical fire. The heat ignited the powder and the bomb exploded with a concussion that shook the ground. Fire flared out in a wide circle, scorching all the treants.

Silence blanketed the forest once more.

The three remaining mechans returned when summoned. T’Riss glanced around at his companions to assess injury. “We should move off from the battle site before we see to wounds.”

“I can heal you now, arisa.

At the sounds of Iym’s voice, T’Riss whirled around. The mistress/priestess of Lune stood there, no worse for wear, holy symbol in hand.

“I… lost track of you during the battle,” T’Riss said quietly as she placed one hand to the deep slash along his face. A few murmured words and a bit of warmth restored him, and Iym gave him calm, guileless eyes.

“I was trapped under my mount and had to use a spell to free myself. I wasn’t able to do anything else, I’m afraid.”

T’Riss nodded. Smoke walked up leading his mount, Jhul laying over its back. T’Riss nodded towards her. “How badly injured is she?”

“Hit her head. Don’t think it’s too bad, but if we have healing…” Smoke shrugged.

T’Riss’s eyes narrowed, his gaze constantly flicking around the forest. “We need to move. We’ll set up camp in a click and treat her there.” He looked at Iym. “You’re welcome to share my mount, Sister.”

She bowed her head. “You’re too kind, arisa. But I shall share Kala’s mount. There will be more room to maneuver should we be attacked again.”

Without any more wasted words, T’Riss took to Nath’s back and once again led his group deeper into the Adintana Forest, unaware that their presence had already been marked.


So I found the most awesome depiction of the monster that T'Riss and Co. faced in this installment. I need to say first that this image is copyrighted by Thunderstone for the Alderac Entertainment Group. Done by Shane Tyree, this is an evil treant. 

 If you're impressed by Shane's work, you can see his complete portfolio here.

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, October 3, 2014


Welcome once again to my Free Fiction Friday post. Sorry I missed a few weeks. I had a nasty virus invade my laptop - the bane of all writers everywhere! Thankfully I didn't lose much work, and was able to recover almost everything that I'd saved to a flash drive. Moral of the story? Save, save, and save again!!

So without further ado, here's the latest installment of The Forest Lord!


“It’s hideous!

“Where did you find it?”

“Are they all that large? I didn’t know they grew that big.”

The females stood in a semi-circle around the figure Zak and T’Riss had trussed up like a wild hog on the ground in the center of their tent. After leading Ilztafay out and safely stabling her with the mechanical mounts in the other tent, Zak returned and took his place between T’Riss and Kala. He gazed down at the human male with critical eyes.

“He’s not that large.” Zak rested his hand on T’Riss’s wrist. “He’s at least two full inches shorter than our arisa.

Kala took a bold step forward, one hand on her weapon. Frowning, she looked down at the bound and gagged human.

“Is it normal for its kind? It seems… disproportionate. Bigger on the top than it is on the bottom, like an ogre.” Kala turned to T’Riss and Zak, her head cocked to one side. “Does it walk hunched forward as well, the way an ogre does?”

Zak’s hand over his mouth didn’t entirely stifle his laughter. T’Riss shot him a dirty look.

“This human has an overdeveloped upper body, likely the result of hard physical conditioning or labor. We removed several curious weapons from his possession. I’d like you to examine them.”

Her head dipped in submission. “Of course.”

“How might I be of service, arisa?” Iym’s ruby-red eyes shone in the heavy darkness.

“Is there a spell that would compel this male to speak truthfully?” T’Riss glanced between Iym and his mate. Zak had finally recovered from his choking laughter. He and Iym stared at each other before they both nodded, yet neither spoke. T’Riss frowned.

”Why the hesitation? This human has knowledge of our kind. If he has other knowledge, particularly of the Adintana attacks, we must discover it.”

Iym cast her lovely eyes down. Her voluptuous breasts rose and fell as she took a great breath, though no sigh escaped her. Without meeting T’Riss’s eyes, she nodded, and spoke staring at the ground. “As my arisa commands.”

Zak’s face twisted and he bit his lip. T’Riss’s frown deepened. Standing side by side, Zak’s distress dug into T’Riss like a dull dagger. T’Riss turned to his mate and wrapped a cool hand around his nape.

Telanth ulu uns’aa,” T’Riss purred.

Zak tipped his head up. He met T’Riss’s lavender eyes, his small form melting into his mate’s embrace. T’Riss held him, entreating Zak again in their native tongue to speak to him and tell him what was wrong. Zak glanced at Iym. Her ruby eyes flashed, and she minutely shook her head. Zak burrowed into T’Riss’s chest, ignoring the press of the cold, hard adamantine plates of T’Riss’s armor against his face.             

“Place the prisoner in the center of the circle.” Iym threw her cloak off and shook her mane of true platinum hair back behind her shoulders. The cloud of silver and white hair settled down her back, errant strands of purple, red, and black catching the gaslights before fluttering back into the mass.

Kala moved without T’Riss issuing an order. She bent forward and grasped the magically-enhanced rope running between the human’s expertly bound hands and feet. With one easy heft, she lifted the man completely off the ground and hauled him over to where Iym sprinkled powdered silver onto the hard-packed earth.

Jhul stood off to one side and leaned against her staff. A sour scowl pinched her face. Iym moved around the circle pouring out the pulverized metal, murmuring prayers to the Moon Goddess Lune. As she passed nearby Jhul, the lesser Sister reached out a hand to Iym.

“You don’t have to do this. I have herbs. I can poison it and make it talk.”

“Poisoning doesn’t guarantee truth; it’s no better than torture.” Iym didn’t even pause, her voice dripping with irritation. “Besides, you might very well kill him before we get any answers from him, true or otherwise.”

“But you shouldn’t have to do this! The cost-”

“Is mine to bear.”

“Sister, please…” Jhul again entreated Iym to halt the spell with an out-stretched hand, her face full of abject pleading. This served to only infuriate Iym further. She straightened to her full height and glared at the lesser Sister.

“Mind your place, Jhulryna.”

T’Riss followed the odd exchange, fascinated. The secrecy of the spellcasters annoyed him, but he wasn’t about to beg for details. Zak would say something when he was ready and not before.

Jhul’s scowl deepened and when it became clear Iym had no intention of stopping the spell, Jhul growled audibly. “I refuse to stand here and watch you lessen yourself!” She slammed the butt of her staff into the floor. Purple bolts of electricity shot up in a crackling net around her. Ripping the staff free, she spun, twirled the long golden pole in a dangerous arc around her, and swept from the tent with all the bearing of a Matron Mother.

T’Riss watched her go. His eyes flicked over Zak, who stood tensed, ready even now to form any sort of magic necessary and sling it at his opponent, be they friend or foe. T’Riss passed his mate over, his gaze landing on Kala. With a subtle jerk of his chin, he indicated the flaps through which Jhul had just disappeared. “Guard the perimeter while we question this human.”

Kala again moved without comment, hefting her huge scimitar and vanishing through the tent flaps. Zak moved unconsciously into a more advantageous combat position across from T’Riss as Iym stepped inside the silver circle. It snapped closed behind her with an audible hum.

As the two males watched, energy gathered within Iym forming a halo around her entire body of pure radiance. At the same time, energy built along the ring of powdered silver glowing brighter and brighter. Holy symbol clenched in her hand, Iym stood in the center of the circle beside the bound and gagged human male, ancient Drow falling from her lips in a rhythmic cadence.

The energy within her body and the force contained by the silver circle drew closer and closer together as the power built until it collided within the still form of the bound and gagged human male in an explosion of blinding brilliance. His bounds snapped, his body rising and stretching out like a sacrifice, consumed by unadulterated moonlight. Iym uttered a sharp command word and the light churned, whipping around like a whirlpool. Then as if a hole opened directly under the human’s heart, the light poured inside him with a roar like a waterfall.

As quickly as the spell began, it was over.

The circle of silver was gone, consumed utterly by the spell. The human and Iym both lay insensate on the floor. T’Riss went to the prisoner as Zak saw to Iym.

“Are you well?” Zak helped Iym up and aided her in straightening her robes.

“Weak, but that’s to be expected.” She gently shrugged free of his hands. “Thank you.” She turned and faced T’Riss and the prisoner. “He should freely answer questions now, arisa.

T’Riss gazed down at the human. Iym had seemed twice as affected by the spell as he did, but T’Riss trusted the mistress/priestess. He gazed down at the man.

“What are you called, human?”

“Smoke.” The man answered instantly and without hesitation.

“That’s an odd name for a human.”

“It isn’t my name; it’s what I’m called.”

The corner of T’Riss’s lip curled and he shook his head. He understood how spells of this nature worked. He should’ve expected an answer like that and would have to be more careful of his questions.

“Very well. What is your name, human?”

“Samaris Stonecutter.”

“What is your occupation, Samaris Stonecutter?”

“I’m a gunfighter.”

T’Riss’s eyebrows raised and he glanced at the pile of weapons they’d removed from the human earlier. Now that all made more sense.

“A gunfighter… not a bounty hunter?”

“I occasionally take on bounties if the reward’s good enough.”

“When you entered the tent earlier this eve with the elf female and her companion, how did you know there was a third present?”

Smoke’s eyes cleared sharpened momentarily on T’Riss before sliding out of focus again. “I came into the tent looking for traps and illusions. I saw through your shadow shield.”

“How did you know to look for such a thing?”

“I saw through the mage’s illusion in the tavern.”

T’Riss turned to Zak, who looked as shocked by that answer as T’Riss had been. “To the best of your knowledge, has anybody ever seen through one of your illusions?”

Zak thought about the question and then nodded slowly. “Yes, ‘chev. Several of my masters and mistresses at the Crystal Palace were able to see through all illusions. They stated it was a matter of familiarity with magic and the wisdom to recognize it.”

T’Riss gave Smoke his undivided attention again. “Is this how you detected Zakn’yl’s illusions?”


T’Riss frowned, his hands on his hips. “You’d seen a shadow shield before?”


“You’ve fought Drow before.” Since this was said as a statement, Smoke neither confirmed nor denied it, merely sat passive under T’Riss’s glare. “Did you have something to do with getting the Drow blamed for the Adintana attacks?”

“The Drow are to blame for the Adintana murders.” For the first time since the casting of the spell, Smoke showed both personality and emotion.

“I assure you we are not. But perhaps you could share with us why the human and elven populations seem so certain of our guilt.”

Again, the mist cleared from Smoke’s blue-gray eyes. He scrutinized T’Riss for a long moment, and then nodded.

“We ignored the first few people who died. After all, traveling in Adintana isn’t without risk. There are all sorts of natural predators. But then a few elves died and they asked for a summit. When our leaders met, a specific similarity came to light.

“A shadow glyph had been found at or near the scene of every murder. When our authorities tried to investigate, they discovered more of the shadow glyphs spread throughout the forest. Our mages and the Elven High Council identified the glyph as an ancient Drow glyph.

“Before a letter or collective envoy could be assembled, a series of brutal murders occurred one after another, bringing the death toll to thirteen. Our leaders and the Elven King issued the notice that the Drow had violated the Adintana treaty.”

Smoke’s eyes narrowed and suddenly he looked very sober. “You and your party of females will not escape this camp alive. The bounty on your heads is enough to make any man rich for the rest of his days.”

Zak glanced up from where he tended Iym and gazed at Smoke. “Did you see any of these shadow glyphs?”

Smoke shook his head. “No, but I know Adintana as well as any hunter or trapper. I know where each murder took place and where the lone glyphs were found.”

“You have a map?” T’Riss stared at Smoke intently.

Smoke cocked his head and tapped it. “Here.”

Zak looked at his mate. “Several creatures use such symbols. I must see these so-called shadow glyphs.”

Kala and Jhul swept back inside the tent. “We must either leave swiftly or be utterly silent,” Kala said. “The humans are returning in gangs.”

T’Riss nodded. “Silent. Once they’ve passed out we’ll take our leave in the swiftest possible fashion.”

“Can Iym travel?” Jhul’s face was haughty.

“I’ll be fine. I can sit my mount.” Iym sat wrapped tightly in her cloak, sipping from a flask Zak provided.

“And him?” Kala indicated Smoke with a jerk of her head. She fingered her tremendous blade. “When do you want me to dispose of him, arisa?”

T’Riss stared at Smoke, who stared right back. His voice drifted out as a deadly whisper. “Give me one good reason I shouldn’t let Kala gut you from groin to gullet.”

Smoke offered him a cocky smile. “I’ll give you two. My sister was one of the thirteen souls claimed by the Adintana killer, so I have every reason to want justice for her.”

“And the other?” T’Riss asked.

“Your spell didn’t work, and I answered your questions honestly anyway.” Smoke rose fluidly to his feet, aware of the five deadly Drow surrounding him. He ignored everyone but T’Riss. “Can I have my guns back now?”


As always comments are craved and appreciated. I so wanted to put up a pic of Smoke, but I don't have one that looks good enough on the blog, so I'm still looking. As soon as I find one, I will definitely post it up to give you all an idea of my inspiration for my human gunfighter. 

In the meantime:

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