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.

* * * *
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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.



2 comments:

  1. I just got myself caught up on your blog. Sorry to hear of the Feywild publication problems, I love those stories and re-read several times when on Lit. Digging the Forest lords too, excited to have found you again!

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  2. My Beloved King,

    writing anything after such a long time and after reading newer updates doesn’t make sense at all. You should spank me so hard for being such a lazy arse, Tuckerrr, really.

    But what I love about this chapter the most is the dark atmosphere of fear! So thrilling. I can see everything covered in spooky shadows; menacing silence dancing around with anxiety that made me wait, together with your characters, for another attack. Horribly wonderful, if it makes sense.

    Lots of love
    Queen Iza ;-)

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