Our community Stories
Jinx snapped awake, opening his eyes to a sea of shaded crimson. He shook his black head to clear the strange effect to no avail. The rain had long since ceased to dampen his fur, though the chill wind left his moist body cold to the touch. As the young fox struggled to his feet he could feel a blossoming burn in his chest. Jinx took one step, and then another, and then he screamed. Every inch of his body suddenly burst into white-hot agony, steam rising from his dark fur. He felt as though his veins were full of molten lava.
Struggling against the pain Jinx moved toward the eastern edge of the forest, heading for the small lake nestled among the trees. It only took him a matter of minutes but time seemed to stretch and warp into hours as he crawled along the wet grass of the forest floor.
Finally the still waters fell into view and Jinx pulled himself into a shambling lope. The cold lake HAD to end his suffering. He launched himself head-first into the water, taking a deep breath before his face was submerged. The fire seemed to dim inside him, but he could still feel it attempting to sear his tender flesh. After a few moments of blessed release he came back up, gasping and panting for air.
The air was blanketed with what appeared to be a thick pinkish fog; his world was still bathed in red. A small popping sound from behind him caused the fox to turn wildly, fearful of what he might find. There was nothing there but the water, beginning to pop and churn. Bubbles surfaced as he watched, slowly growing more numerous as the moments rolled past. Finally the surface of the lake was coated in them- the water was boiling. Jinx gasped and bolted, fighting to run back toward the inviting shore.
The fox collapsed on the rough soil, his heart racing within his chest. He leaned over the lip of the water, staring in wonder as the lake grew calm once more. It was then he caught sight of himself for the first time since his meeting with the beautiful purple-skinned woman. Jinx cried in horror as the beast staring back at him followed suit.
His once beautiful brown eyes had warped into hideous red orbs that pulsed with an unnatural light; small sharp horns of rounded bone had torn their way through his snout, tiny pools of his blood coagulated around their bases; every breath he took was accentuated by a small plume of smoke with every exhale. Whatever he had become, it was not from this world. A haunting laugh echoed through the trees behind him, turning his burning blood nearly to ice. It seemed so familiar to him, but he could not place it.
'They yet live, Jinx. Why have you not gone after them? They killed her, they molested her, and they tortured your poor, weak mother. I need you to make them pay, my son. I need you to find them. Only their blood can put me to rest, Jinx. They deserve whatever they get. Can't you see? Don't you want to save me?'
Jinx closed his eyes against the scorching tears welling up in the corners of his eyes.
'I do, mother. I want you to be at peace, but the price you ask is too much for me to pay. I cannot take another's life. These men are sworn to heal, and I cannot do this.'
The voice seemed as though it were right next to his ear. He could almost smell his mother's perfume, although the scent was tainted- Jinx could not put his finger on the underlying smell.
'But I love you, Jinx, and you love me. You owe me this favor, child. You are the only soul in the world that I can turn to. Please, my son, you have talents far beyond any other creature that walks this earth. Without you, I will be trapped in this hell for eternity.'
Jinx turned to look. There was no one sitting by his side. The scent was still strong, however. As he passed his red gaze over the lake, he thought back to the visions that Ylluurieth had shown him. A skeletal fox graced with the barest of flesh reaching toward him, trapped in the tiniest of spaces as maggots wormed their way across her mostly-liquefied eyes...
Rot. The smell was rotting flesh. He could smell his mother's putrefying body near him. Jinx's eyes began to roll as he screamed and began to claw his way back to his feet.
'No, no, you're not here! I buried you! I saw them bury you! You aren't my mother! Whatever you are, leave me alone!'
He tried to run, but a tall figure stepped out to block his path. It lifted its face to his, smiling as its flesh slowly dripped down to ground beneath it. Scant hair covered the little bit of scalp left, showing the slightest hint of curls. A silver locket hung around the corpse's neck.
'I'm afraid you have no choice in this, Jinx.'
The fox fainted.
A strong metallic smell roused the black-furred fox. He opened his eyes slowly, aware of the warmth of his body. He found that he was no longer in the familiar forest he had fainted in, but what appeared to be an alleyway in the neighboring city of Deshan. Jinx's breath was labored and his muscles ached, his panting eerie in the darkness. He felt as though he had strained himself to his physical limits, but he could not fathom how. He had reeled into blackness in the forest, losing consciousness at the awful sight of the rotting creature. Why, then, did he hurt so badly? How had he gotten to the city?
And why was he wet?
A yellow-bulbed security lamp flickered above him, occasionally lighting up the brick street. It was on one such flash that Jinx had to fight the urge to vomit. Even with his tinted vision he could see that there was blood everywhere- it seemed to pulse with an orange aura beneath his demonic vision. Glancing at down at himself, he could see that he was drenched in it. His eyes traced their way down to the ground, afraid of what they might see.
Lying at his feet was what appeared to once be a living creature, its body ripped to literal shreds. Scraps of fur and flesh littered the alley, organs flung haphazardly here and there along the road. The stench of the corpse's voided bowels was overpowered only by the stench of its fresh blood, spilled along the ground and walls of this quiet place. As grisly as it was to see this body, the worst of all could be found a little way above the mess. Painted in the blood of this poor victim was a message, a message to Jinx himself-
Jinx fled, his mind struggling to pierce the blackness shrouding his memories. He could remember nothing after blacking out except for the sound of fevered whispers. What had they been saying? It was impossible for him to pick apart single voices from the throng. As he ran he searched for a place to hide, somewhere to rest for the night, any form of shelter. Sirens rang out from the streets- he needed to pick fast. As though on queue his ears picked up the sound of the buzzing neon sign of a nearby mission. Glancing behind him Jinx could see the flashing blue-and-red lights of a nearby police cruiser. They had found the corpse. He grabbed the handle of the Mission's door and pulled. It was unlocked. With little other choice, Jinx ducked inside.
The sounds of sleeping people calmed his raging heart. He would be safe here; he would leave before the sun rose. He made his way around the cots and sleeping bags, searching for their restroom. He found it tucked behind the eastern wall, complete with a shower and a small rack of cheap toiletries. Locking the door behind him the fox stepped into the shower, turning on the hot water as high as it would go. He scrubbed his fur, massaging the soap in as the water at his feet grew darker and darker with the blood of the creature from the alley. As he leaned back to wash it from his black hair, the water fell against the holes in his snout. He cried in shock at the pain, unable to stay silent. His muzzle flared up in pain, dropping him to his knees. The skin around his horns was amazingly sensitive, almost cripplingly so.
Jinx turned off the water and closed his eyes, concentrating. He could hear no sounds from the sleeping area save for the snores of the unfortunates. This was good. He shook himself dry and exited the restroom, heading to look for a free cot where he could spend the night. As he rounded the corner, he found a small group of people huddled in the corner. He had woken a few people, at least. The eldest among them, a gray-furred mink, muttered prayers beneath her breath. Though she spoke with amazing speed Jinx could feel every word.
'Our father, who art in heaven, protect us from this awful creature. We are your faithful flock, the downtrodden, those who hold you in our hearts. Save us. Deliver us from his evil. Guide us through the night. In God's name we pray, amen.'
Jinx tried to approach them, to tell him he did not mean them any harm, but he found he could not move toward him. As he tried to address them, his voice failed. Their prayers had been answered, apparently. Jinx looked at his hands, graced with wicked claws. What was he that God would protect against him? Was he even the same species he had been born into the world as? Shaking these existential thoughts away he picked a clear spot on the floor and laid down, falling into an uneasy slumber pierced by thoughts of the alluring demon woman who had gotten him into this mess.
As golden light began to fill the small building, Jinx's eyes snapped open. He had been lying curled on his side, dreaming of a river a blood when the warm glow of the sun reached his face. With a groan the twisted-looking fox stretched and yawned, relishing the feel of his straining muscles. As he brought his arms down he glanced around the sleeping quarters. He was alone- sometime before he roused, all the people had left. Everyone. There was not a single living creature in the mission besides himself. Jinx sighed and got to his feet, heading for the exit.
As he stepped out into the bright sunlight, he contemplated his options. After the previous night's blackout, he knew he needed information- what if he was sick? He knew of a library a few blocks to the south, where he might be able to learn about his condition. And if he stumbled across information on his physical changes, well, all the better. With his decision made he set off, keeping to the shadowed alleys and backstreets. He met no people on his path.
Jinx walked through the glass doors into the warmth of the library, his ruby vision drinking in the sight of the towering shelves brimming with books. Reading the signs, he was able to find his way to the Reference section. As he stood pouring over the medical tomes his eyes caught a glimpse of a black leather-bound book inscribed with gold leaf. He walked toward it slowly, his heart beating inexplicably fast within his chest. He could tell the spine was written in Latin, though he could not understand the words. Jinx withdrew the book with a trembling hand, flipping its weathered pages open to the middle. There was a picture of his Ylluurieth, sitting on a gilded onyx throne and surrounded by rotting, engorged corpses. Her silver eyes seemed to dance just as they did in the real world, flames of hunger burning in her skull. The naked creature appeared to be smiling at him knowingly. He read the inscription beneath the image, wondering what it meant.
'Ylluurieth, Cruciatum et Inexplebilis Libido Reginae'.
As he watched the page, lost in the sight of the beautiful creature, he was unaware of the approach of a fellow library patron. A young badger woman drew closer to him, peeking over his shoulder at the Latin tome grasped in his slender hands. His ears caught the sound of her exhalation and he whirled around, claws raised in defense. The young woman held up her hands and took a step back.
"Whoa, there. I'm here to help. You looked troubled. I really don't mean you any harm."
Jinx lowered his claws and blushed.
"I'm sorry, miss, it's just an instinctive reaction. DO you happen to know if there are any more books about this woman?"
He held open the book to the image of Ylluurieth. He could have sworn she had changed positions...
"Ylluurieth? There's some in the New Age section, some in fiction, a few more in the Catholic section of religion... Why do you ask? Are you writing a report?"
He stole a quick glance down at the book in his hand. Ylluurieth had moved. She was moving toward the frame, her naked breasts gleaming with sweat. He saw her tail move, her mouth curl in a smile. She was coming closer. She was coming out of the book. Jinx could not suppress a scream of horror. As her claws began to emerge from the yellowed page Jinx's eyes rolled in his skull. His entire body felt as though it were melting from the force of the fire inside of him. He hit the floor, reeling, as his red world drained to black.
His left side was gummy. Jinx opened his eyes, finding himself lying in crusted pool of blood. With difficulty he was able to extract himself and sit up, fear gnawing at his insides. It was pitch black, but he knew what he would find. He stood and moved toward the wall, feeling for a switch of any sort. After a few moments of nothing his fingers found the hard plastic. He flicked it up.
He was in the Religion section of the library, the body of the badger woman torn in half at the waist. Her blood had turned the soft gray carpet a rigid, deep maroon. Her face had been torn off. Her torso cavity was completely empty save for her ribs, her intestines draped over the Christian texts and shelves like some sort of twisted tinsel. Blood sullied the holy pages. A crown of gore rested above the badger's bare face. A few feet above the body, the rest of her organs rested against the drying ground.
They were a message.
Velvety laughter echoed through the abandoned shelves as Jinx turned to run.
Jinx's feet seemed to move of their own accord, propelling the blood-stained fox down the streets of Deshan. People moved out of his way in horror, revolted by the gore-streaked fur of the warped fox. His black hair fell in his eyes as he hunched his back, trying to hide from their volatile stares. His mind raced. Every time his world faded out, brutal violence happened in his vicinity. He had no memory of doing it, but neither could he find a reason why it was not him. What had happened to him after his meeting with the sensual creature in the forest? Had she caused his transformation? Was she to blame for the deaths? Was he?
Caught up in his private turmoil, he did not see where he was headed. Inside his body something else directed his path, something else tugged subtly at his strings. He was not his own, not until he did what he had been called to do.
When he finally glanced up Jinx found himself in an alley, standing in front of a dark blue door. The red garbage bin to his left was plastered in biohazard warnings. Everything about this place seemed familiar to him, but he could not place it. There was a ghost of a memory writhing around in his mind, something about a gurney and a pristine white sheet... He shook his head and turned back to the door, approaching it cautiously. His hands shook as he reached out for the silver handle. He drew a deep breath as his fingers closed around it.
The door flung itself open, cracking him hard in the skull. The fox collapsed, his vision hazy. He recognized the sound of shouting and something creaking, but his concussed mind could not place where they belonged. Arms reached down and lifted his neck, placing a Styrofoam brace against his spine. Very gently he was lifted and placed on something hard and cold. Shapes swam before his eyes, dark against the red. His last thought was of his mother as he sank under the waves of unconsciousness.
There was a sharp stinging in his arm. He could hear something beeping near the right side of his head. Bright white light burned his eyes even through his closed lids. Where was he? Was he dead? He opened his eyes and hissed against the piercing bulbs above him. He was in a glass cage, quarantined alone with various medical equipment. The sensation in his arm was from a saline drip hooked from a stand to his right. Surrounding his clear prison were many masked figures in white coats, scribbling furiously on clipboards and watching his every moment.
He was being observed.
'They're holding you here like a tragic specimen, Jinx. They want to see your insides.'
Jinx shook his head.
'They're going to cut you open and fill you with formaldehyde. In the basement there is a dank laboratory where they plan to boil the flesh off of your bones. You're going to die if you stay here, Jinx. You need to break free. You need to make them pay.'
Jinx screamed. The doctors surrounding him were lecherous corpses, soulless and rotting, gaping at him with dripping eyes. Their mouths were fanged and covered in blood, much like their red-spattered lab coats. They cackled wickedly and brandished hooked tools toward him. Some of the males were engorged. The women's tattered remnants of breasts were graced with hardened nipples. These demons got off on the torture they inflicted upon the innocent.
He would not be their next victim.
With a howl of rage the black-furred fox tore the IV from his vein, dripping smoking black blood onto the pristine white-tiled floor. He leaped toward the glass, smoke pouring from his nostril as his temperature rose.
Once. The glass cracked.
Twice. The cracks deepened.
Thrice. He was free.
The glass shattered outward as the fox dove through, snarling, burning saliva flying from his parted jowls. He pounced on the closest doctor, a young ermine man who had turned to flee. His jaws closed on the soft flesh of the man's throat, crunching down on brittle bones and tissue and tearing them out with a jerk of his head. Hot blood splashed onto his face as the doctor tried to scream with the last of his energy, unable to do more than send a bubbling froth flowing from his gaping wound.
Jinx leaped again, raking his impossibly sharp claws down the back of an older lynx woman. She fell with a pained cry and he was upon her, tearing her clothes off and grabbing her womanhood with his black talons. He tore her most private of regions to ribbons, slashing and stabbing as her loud screams of agony echoed through the tiny room. He shoved his claws deeper, gouging a path through her womb until he was able to tear his paw out through her stomach cavity, a fistful of organ tissue clutched in his hand triumphantly.
The doctors gathered at the front of the room, screaming, pounding their fists against the study security door in hopes someone would come by to save them. Jinx would not give them the chance.
He tore through the throng of terrified people like a dervish, his claws lacerating every inch of flesh he could find. Blood flowed like a river as he worked, carving faces and veins and limbs. One lucky cut completely eviscerated a rat who had nearly managed to break one of the hinges in his panic. His steaming organs fell in a pile at his feet as he tried to shout. Jinx slashed his throat before he could muster the strength.
Finally the fox stopped, his mouth and claws littered with ruined scraps of flesh and muscle. He panted, smoke furling around his muzzle, and he grinned a bloody grin. His glowing red eyes were wild with glee. He strode toward the security glass and stared through the criss-crossed sliver of glass. A nurse vixen strode past, glancing at the door.
She mustn't be allowed to tell.
Jinx took a fiery breath and threw himself against the door. The study metal caved outward. He crashed against it again and it gave, spilling him out into the anaesthetized hallway. He bounded on all fours toward the now-fleeing nurse, he powerful jaws snapped shut on her ankle. He dragged her to the ground and dug his claws into her ribcage. With a twist he pulled, sending the bones flying from her chest. She howled an unearthly noise as Jinx crushed her windpipe with the heel of his hand. Something began to pull him toward the eastern part of the building. He could feel it, a siren's call beckoning him from his slaughter. Leaving the silver vixen's crumpled body on the ground he turned to the east and began to run, following the beacon burning in his chest.
Red alarm lights flashed in his eyes, accompanying blaring sirens issuing forth from loudspeakers on the walls. Jinx ran, oblivious, determined to reach the place that eagerly pulled him forward. Finally he stopped in front of a brown door. A sign beside the frame marked it as the STAFF ROOM, in no-nonsense capitals. The thing that he longed for was in here.
Jinx kicked in the door with powerful legs, his paws colliding with the plastic and splintering the durable material. Two men were inside, on cell phones, screaming at what sounded like the police.
"You don't understand- So much blood- Please! Help us! We- Oh my god. He's here."
Jinx recognized the men- these were the doctors who worked on his mother. He thought back to the vision Ylluurieth had shown him.
'My mother was not an old bag,' he growled, his voice seeming flowing from two throats at once.
The human man turned to his stoat companion.
"The vixen with cancer. Whatever that thing is now, it used to be her son."
He turned to address Jinx.
"Look, we did all we could. Her cancer had progressed to a stage where removing it would do nothing except straining her already weakened body. Surgery would have killed her. We made her comfortable in her last days, son, which is all we could do. You have to understand, doctors can't fix everything, no matter how hard we try. For what it's worth, we're sorry for your loss. We-"
Jinx cut him off with an outraged snarl.
'Save your pitiful attempts to curb my wrath, Doctor. I am not here to demand you apologize for her murder. I am here for revenge.'
Jinx ran towards them, his claws bared, screaming in glee as blood began to fly.
The black fox stood towering above the desiccated corpses of the two doctors, admiring his work. There was not one inch of the small staff lounge that was not coated in their vile blood. Their heads had been severed and skinned, their blood-streaked skulls staring blankly at their murderer. Their skin had been flayed from their bones and hung over their chairs like twisted floor rugs. Jinx had carved away their muscles and had devoured chunks of them raw, his jagged fangs leaving marks in the tough meat. Their organs and faces had been hung on the walls, run through with shards of their bones. He looked down at his hand to find their eyes crushed within his palm.
The gory mess was missing something, though. Jinx tilted he head at the blank, blood-soaked wall above their disembodied faces. He scooped a bit of their mingled excrement and approached his canvas. He could hear a voice in his mind, translating the phrase he wished to write.
Medice Cura Teipsum.
Physician Heal Thyself.
Pleased with his work, he walked over to the sink and rinsed the disgusting filth from his paws. Once he was sure he had gotten every inch of his fur cleansed, he turned to survey the scene once more. He felt amazing. Their murders seemed to free something inside of him, something dark that he had buried until this point. This thing was equally glad to be free. Jinx howled in exultation. His voice carried a strange echo, as though sounded from two sets of vocal chords. He didn't seem to notice his unnatural voice.
Gunshots rang out loud from the hall, cutting Jinx's celebration short. The door slammed open and six armored police officers entered, their massive pistols trained on the fox. The largest of them, a mastiff, shouted toward the blood-soaked Jinx to surrender or they would fire. Jinx took a step forward.
Before he could pounce, a searing pain shot through his back, dropping him to his knees. He collapsed in a pile guts and twisted his arm back to scratch at the source of his new agony. He dug his talons into his black fur, tearing at his skin to get to the burning spot. Beneath his coat his flesh began to ripple. In their shock the officers lowered their weapons, watching in horror as Jinx's scrambling grew more frantic. The fox began ripping chunks of his flesh and muscle away, sending his boiling black blood spattering the ground beneath him.
As his flayed his own back, two black bones began to jut out of his freshly-opened wounds. They grew larger as they extended. They were oddly jointed, bent double as they sprouted from the fox's back. Once they were free of his flesh they opened, allowing a dark black membrane to being knitting itself between the onyx osseous shards. Jinx screamed as the gouges on his back began to mend themselves around the new growths. The police screamed in horror as these new black wings began to beat madly. Pulling himself together and gritting his teeth through the pain, Jinx saw that his chance for escape was now or never. He turned away from the terrified police officers and dove through the window, his new appendages carrying him safely to the street below.
As the black-furred fox's feet touched the ground, he caught the faint smell of sulfur drifting by. A woman's voice chuckled near his ear- he could feel her exhale.
'You're so much more than I could have hoped for, Jinx,' the voice cooed. 'No other mortal has been so... indulgent. The trail of horror you left behind is something to be admired, my pet. My kind will feed well of their fear.'
In his mind he could almost envision the sensual demoness whispering in his ear, her naked body pressed close to his...
Jinx shook the thought from his head.
'I will do better,' he thought. 'I will do better.'
The wings gracing the fox's back flapped twice before he took off at a run, laying them flat against as he headed back towards the forest. Inside him the fire was raging, no longer searing but bolstering the warped creature. He relished the memory of the way their weak flesh parted at his command, their blood spurting forth to cover his body in its warmth. The sensation was so foreign to him, so unthinkable, but he could not hide how fantastic he felt. Every sense he possessed was heightened, the lava flowing through his body burning eagerly for the next blow. There could be no doubt. Killing felt amazing to him.
Jordyn nudged her car door closed, juggling her groceries precariously in her arms as she made her way to the front door. Her keys jangled as she searched through them, balancing her harvest between her body and the outlying wall. She managed to find the correct once when she heard a bloodcurdling cry from somewhere behind her. She whirled, her food and keys falling to the pavement as her arms relaxed in shock.
There was a blonde-haired human woman on her knees, screaming as a hulking black creature ground a talon against her temple. A small trickle of blood began to bead around the wound, finally gaining the weight to trail down her soft flesh. Jordyn found herself paralyzed with fear, unable to help the poor woman as the monster dug its way into her brain. Finally it roared triumphantly hooked its finger, tearing the phalange out of her weakened skull. Her body slumped to the side, a mask of agony etched upon her face. The monster turned to Jordyn, its red eyes blazing in triumph.
The vixen stared back at him, her mouth moving soundlessly as her mind tried to process what she was seeing.
She knew that face.
It was her brother.
The creature snarled and bounded away, lashing out at any person who happened to be in his way. Bodies began to litter the ground; his claws never seemed to miss their mark.
Jordyn snatched her keys off of the ground and nearly dove into her car, determined to follow the murderous monster that looked so much like Jinx. She had not spoken to him since their grandmother's funeral; as far as she knew, no one had. He had left the burial in a rage, refusing to speak to anyone, and had simply vanished. It had been months. The young fox woman knew that the death of their mother so many years ago had hit poor Jinx the hardest, but she could not understand just how much impact it had on him.
After the loss of their father, they and their younger sister had been taken in by their kind grandparents. They were loved and cared for, but the tormented Jinx had withdrawn further and further from them. Finally, when he came of age, he had left to make it on his own. Until the funeral of their Nan he had remained silent, out of contact with his siblings and the rest of his blood relatives.
It had hurt Jordyn deeply. She loved her brother, and as children they had been nearly inseparable. Jinx had often commented that she was the only person in the world he could confide in, and there were many nights spent between them sneaking into the woods to play Swords or Robbers. What could have twisted her brother's handsome visage so awfully in the few years since they had seen each other?
She pushed the pedal to the floor and drove after the creature, able to follow the trail of gore right to him.
She checked the glove box at the first stop light. It was good.
Her pistol was still inside.
The steel door shattered inward, sending shrapnel flying into the patrons of the small dive far. A woman screamed. Jinx didn't care. He glanced around, his red gaze falling on the startled faces of every patron. His beer forgotten, a young man turned to rush the towering newcomer. He lowered his head and charged towards Jinx, bellowing in a way he seemed to find menacing. Jinx smirked. He rushed forward as well, meeting the fool head on and jamming his snout-horns into the man's face. Crumpling to the floor and clutching his face, the patron cried in pain. Jinx licked the blood from his muzzle and started toward the next closest person, a balding gentleman dressed in dark leather.
This human stared in abject horror as Jinx grabbed him by the throat and hoisted him into the air. The man scratched and gnashed his teeth, struggling against the iron grip of the murderous fox. His fingernail drew black blood, but Jinx didn't seem to notice. He squeezed tighter, watching the man's flesh slowly turning red as he suffocated. When his eyes began to bulge from their sockets Jinx dug his talons through the meat of his neck, severing his artery and gouging the bone of his spine. Blood splashed against Jinx's bare torso as he flung the corpse away, leaving a warm trail as it sailed to the western corner of the building.
The people were panicking now.
A woman, presumably the one who loosed the shriek earlier, was crawling amidst the chaos of stampeding patrons fleeing the bar. She was a white-furred mouse, her pristine coat stained with the blood of the biker. She would be an easy kill.
Jinx leaped on her from behind, catching a knot of her hair and tearing her head backwards. He could smell the wet stench of her fear, feel the gooseflesh crawling along her skin, hear the frantic beating of her heart. He lowered his muzzle and ran a burning tongue along the nape of her neck. The mouse woman shuddered and sobbed, begging for her life as Jinx contemplated how to end her life. He began to apply pressure against the middle of her spine, where he sat kneeling against her fragile frame. As the weight increased she began to scream. Jinx could feel every knob of her vertebrae, her spine beginning to creak beneath his power. Finally he drove down with all his might, snapping the bone and severing the fragile cord of nerves. Her body went limp beneath him as her pathetic whimpers ceased.
The people had stopped screaming. They were staring at Jinx, hardly daring to breathe as he stood up and began moving towards them. He neared the cowering group, huddled together in fear as they tracked his approach with their wild eyes. The burning in his chest grew. He was close enough to see their perspiration beading against their flesh and fur. He had an idea.
Jinx drew in a deep breath and bellowed, able to feel the burn of the heat he released as a wave of burning air reached the waiting customers. Their flesh began to blister and ripple, melting and bubbling as it began to drip to the floor. Internal organs were set aflame within rapidly-appearing skeletons as the blast destroyed their bodies. The wood behind them began to crack and blacken, but he refused to stop until all of the energy inside him had been released.
The pooling mess of flesh smoked and sputtered as he ceased his roar, the intense heat hanging oppressively in the air as the sounds of weeping reached Jinx's finely-tuned ears. He turned and his pulsing eyes sought the source of the disturbance. It did not take him long to find a vixen woman cowering beneath the bar, her curled brown locks tussled and matted from her attempt to escape. Jinx stared down at her, his joy ebbing away.
He knew that face.
It was his mother's.
Jordyn followed Jinx's not-so-subtle trail to a run-down looking dive bar not too far from the forest where they and their sister had spent most of their youth. She recognized it as the bar their father sometimes frequented on the rare occasions he went out to celebrate with his friends.
She blinked an unbidden tear away.
The door was missing. She left her car idling on the gravel and crept toward the portal leading to the darkness inside.
As she drew near the smell or burning hair and skin met her sensitive nostrils. She covered her face with her hand and stepped inside, terrified of what she might find lurking in the blackness. As her eyes adjusted to darkness, she felt her gorge force its way to her throat. She fell to her knees and vomited, from the stench but also from the gore. There was not much blood, save for a trail leading to a throatless corpse, but there was a mound of black, red, and pink material that smoldered and bubbled ominously near the back exit. She could tell what it was from the foul odor emanating from the disgusting pile- it was flesh, marred here and there by splintered bones and skulls.
Something had melted a large amount of people down to a disgusting sludge.
Across the pile, paw-shaped indents led out of the door and through the damp soil behind the small building. They were accompanied by a deep, even grove, as though something had been drug beside him.
He had a hostage.
As she turned to run back to her car, Jordyn momentarily forgot about the pile of former people behind her. He foot caught on a skull and sent her flying face-first into the warm liquid, filling her mouth with filth and covering her fur in sickly-smelling muck. She screamed and fought to stand, spitting and retching as she struggled to clean her mouth. Shaking, she headed for door, pausing only to grab a glass of wine from an empty table and rinse the bits of charred pelts from the inside of her muzzle.
She had a good idea of where her brother, if that creature could even still be called her brother, was headed.
Perhaps he was still the boy she used to know after all.
Jinx ran, his wings flat against him as he drug the screaming vixen through the thick underbrush of the forestry. Branches cut and scraped against the pair, the black-furred demon oblivious to the tiny wounds while his smaller, red-furred captive shrieked at the sight of her blood. He did not know how long he ran, with her hair gripped tight in his paw, but it felt like a lifetime.
The sun had begun to sink beneath the horizon, casting an ethereal purple glow around the heavily wooded area. The vixen had ceased screaming, resigned to whimpering after her voice gave out. Jinx's feet padded against the soil, carrying him back where it all began.
The crumbling ruins of their former home appeared in a clearing before him, looking almost corpse-like beneath his blood-soaked vision. He slowed as he neared the closest wall, adorned with a large hole where the brick had crumbled. Jinx stepped inside and hoisted his victim through behind him.
A rotting wooden rocking chair sat beside a blackened fireplace long since void of the warmth of burning logs. Nature had begun to reclaim the house they had been taken from so long ago. Vines crept along the walls, entering through the shattered remains of the glass windowpanes, and various weeds had begun to rise between the wooden slats of the floorboard. It was a wild place now, but Jinx could still feel the presence of the happiness he had felt as a child, when their family was thriving. He cast his red eyes towards the empty chair, sinking to his knees- he could almost see here there, singing as she rocked his youngest sister to sleep, Jinx and Jordyn sitting at her feet and following along the best they could.
They had been such a happy family...
Tears of scalding black blood dripped down his face as he began to sob, the photo of him and his mother clutched in his paw. He had not noticed himself retrieving it, but he didn't care- all that mattered was that it remained close to him. The vixen he had brought with him cowered behind him, confused by the monster's suddenly display of such powerful emotions. He seemed to suffer more truly than anyone she had ever known. Quietly she gathered her courage and crawled toward him, reaching out a manicured paw in comfort. When her fur came in contact with his she cried out as though seared with hot iron. Jinx turned, sniffling, the fur beneath his eyes matted from his unusual tears.
She was no longer some nameless woman from a bar; she was his mother adorned in a beautiful, flowing robe. A golden light pierced his red haze, as radiant and dazzling as the woman it enveloped. She stood tall, smiling down at her only son, sparkling tears falling from her luminous eyes.
Jordyn stood in the doorway, watching the warped creature staring mesmerized at the bleeding vixen standing above him. The poor girl was shaking with fear but a look of compassion on her face told the young woman that she would not flee. Jordyn reached into her pocket and gripped the handle of her pistol as she stepped across the threshold.
True, this thing was still Jinx, but the murder... Jinx, no matter how much he brooded, would never do such a thing willingly. She longed to speak to him, to ask him what had happened- maybe she could save him, if she only tried...
The light of the moon sent shafts gleaming through the holes in the roof, throwing Jinx's ghastly visage into relief. Jordyn could see the blood and flesh plastered to her brother's black fur. It was a grim sight indeed- she could not suppress a gasp of horror.
The noise shattered the illusion. Jinx found himself staring at the harlot from the bar, gazing down at him with pity. He felt his anger swell. He did not need pity. He did not need compassion. He was a creature of darkness, not some poor, weak dunce. Outraged by her audacity to feel sorry for him the beast leaped toward her, snarling. He collided with her, knocking her against the wall with the force of his momentum.
He lashed out with his wings, dragging the sharp edge of the membrane against the young woman's bared flesh. She tried to escape, her movements bringing the soft flesh of her chest against the dangerous appendage. IT sliced through the thin material of the dress, cutting through the muscle and tissue of her breasts. She propelled herself forward with the fore of her moment, shriek as it slid up along her torso. Blood and skin dropped to the ground in a heap as the vixen crumpled to the ground, sock setting in as her blood flowed freely.
With her out of the way Jinx set his sights on the intruder in the doorway, trespassing on his most sacred of locations. It was a fox woman, with pixie-cut black hair and like green eyes.
His father's eyes.
'J... Jordyn... Why are you here? Have you been following me?'
His dual voice echoed through the ruined home, chilling his sister to the bone.
"You didn't exactly make it hard to find you. You ran through my street, slaughtering anything that moved. I thought it might have been you, but I wasn't sure until I found the bar. I knew where you were headed. You always used to run away and end up here, remember? You'd sleep in mother's chair. Nan had to carry you to the car..."
She trailed off, unable to speak of the past any longer.
'In case you cannot tell, my beloved sister, I am not exactly the man you used to know. I was, for a time, but I have found my true calling since then. Did you know that living creatures void their bowels when they die? It's a disgusting occurrence, but one that never ceases to be hilarious.'
"But what did this to you? What has changed you so drastically?"
He smirked at her, his bloodstained fangs shining brightly in the moonlight.
'What always changes men, dear sister. A woman. You can meet her, if you like. She's not picky about her lovers. She might find you... interesting. Ylluurieth has a beautiful home. It's very warm. Shall I send you to her? It only hurts for a minute, unless I want it to hurt longer.'
"Where does she hail from, this woman of yours? The festering bowels of hell?"
'As a matter of fact, Jordyn, she does. I will dash your corpse upon the brick and devour your heart. When you make it to her realm, she will rape you and cut you a thousand times over. Would you like that, Joey, an eternity of suffering? I am her chosen, you know. Her favorite. She could reunite you with Nan and Pops and our father. You could be one big, happy family, rotting and writhing in her thrall until the end of time. And I will deliver you to her myself!"
Jordyn drew forth the gun, shaking in fear, aiming at the monster who was once her closest companion.
"I swear on our mother's grave, Jinx, if you come near me I will end whatever life you still have. I loved you! We were best friends! You abandoned us, left us to rot and you dare threaten me? You're vile, Jinx! You've done terrible things to us and to the people you've slain. You're a twisted, horrible monster now. You may have been my brother, but now you are nothing but a blight. I'm so sorry."
She tensed her finger.
Jinx howled and steeled himself to pounce.
'I WILL KILL YOU. I WILL TEAR YOUR LIMBS FROM YOUR BODY AND GRIND YOUR INTESTINE INTO THE STONE. I WILL SPEAR YOUR WOMB WITH A JAGGED SHARD OF BONE TORN CLEAN FROM YOUR CALF. YOU WILL SCREAM FOR RELEASE, BUT THE END WILL NOT COME. I WILL NOT PERMIT YOU THAT. YOU WILL NOT LEAVE HERE WITH YOUR LIFE.'
As he scream the echo in his voice grew to a cacophony of sounds spoken from a myriad of throats, in dead languages and the common English. His words carried power, power older than the earth itself, power that was aching to devour.
He leaped toward the small woman, his face twisted into a cruel caricature of the brother she once loved.
Sobbing, screaming, the vixen pulled the trigger.
The gunshot rang out like thunder, dropping the hulking black beast to the floor. Black blood gushed from the fist-sized hole in his skull. As the vital fluid pooled beneath his body, he turned his dimming eyes to the form of his sister, weeping on her knees as the pain of her actions gripped her heart.
'T... thank... you... J... Joe...'
He fell limp.
A dark purple smoke began to pour from the entry wound, filling the front room quickly. It was noxious, and the deep breaths poor Jordyn took were beginning to take their toll. She began to cough and sputter, the scent of burning lavender thick in her nostrils and she began crawling toward her brother's still form.
She heard a sultry laugh, seeming to fill every square inch of the room at once. Jordyn stared at the smoke, mesmerized as the laughter grew louder and louder. A pair of slanted eyes, filled with flickering silver flames, began to appear in the poison mist.
Suppressing the urge to scream the vixen bolted for the fresh air, gasping for breath as soon as she was clear of the horrible miasma. She ran to her car and threw herself in, Sending dirt and grass flying as she raced away from the strange scene. She felt empty.
The mist coalesced into a feminine form. This strange, evanescent being crouched down over the unmoving body of the demonic fox, running her incorporeal hands over every inch of his gore-streaked corpse. A forked tongue darted out and licked the bullet wound clean. She was smiling.
In the fox's hand he clutched a weathered photograph.
A baby smiled up at the night sky.
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He always meant to do good. Always. Even at the expense of others, he'd make the world better. But for who? Himself? He'd never thought about that before. Silas Wilson stood in front of the plate sized mirror on the back of his door, checking his hair one final time before leaving his room and heading out to the congregate in their church pews. The church wasn't far from the compact home he lived in. The community Silas put together out here was isolated but healthy as they got visitors sometimes and were always open to new members. The nearest town had all but forgotten them though still. They'd been written off as a religious cult and nothing more than a bunch of odd believers. And Father Silas was their priest. He wore a red robe that reached midway down his calves so he could walk in black dress shoes down the church aisle to the podium without tripping. A silver cross hung from a leather cord around his neck. He kept his fur trimmed and his hair cut, wanting to be the perfect vessel for God's love. He was making a church full of god food.
The community hushed as Silas came inside and shook the man who was holding the door's hand graciously. Church was beginning. The session was normal perhaps, nothing special to an outsider besides the fact this man was reading out of a revised Bible, till the end. "And as a sign of our undying love, our pure spirits! We will bleed for you, Lord~ As you did for us. May this precious blood guide you to this Church and even deeper into our hearts. Amen," Silas ended the final prayer and reached behind the podium on the singular shelf to grab what looked like a collection plate except a serrated steak knife was balanced on top the open silver bowl holding just enough holy water to cover the bottom.
The congregate started to line up as if they'd all done this hundreds of times before, making a line that curved through the pews and started in front of the carpeted step that led to the podium. Silas held his hand out for all to see, the knife in a firm grip in his remaining hand. He put the knife to the barely healed up wound on his left palm, closing his fingers around the blade before pulling the knife tightly against his skin and back again in a sawing motion. His breath caught a little at the pain, it always did. As often as he repented for his sins through blood, he never had gotten used to sharp pain. He opened his hand, tentatively wiggling his fingers as he flipped his hand over top the collection plate. A few hearty drops of his bright red blood fell into the water and dissipated in murky swirls. Silas straightened, turning to sit the collection plate on the step in front of him and in front of the first person in line. The woman eagerly held her scarred hands out as if she awaited food or money instead of a cut. Silas put the knife blade across both her palms, not aligning it with her current wounds as they seemed to be scabbed over. She closed her fingers around the blade without question, keeping her grip tight as the priest sawed a nasty cut into her hands. She cried out, head falling as she whimpered but she didn't pull away. An obedient pet like all the rest of the women, men and children here. Innocent lambs for Silas to completely and utterly corrupt without ever realizing it. As the blood sacrifice continued, the God it was for kept watch. A fake Saint, the fallen God fed off the pain and suffering of mortal beings and had been whispering new religious bullshit into Silas' ear for years now. Without this creature's help, Silas wouldn't have anything. He knew that. He worshiped a monster believing it to be his miracle worker. And yet? Time was running out for the community on the Hill. The false Saint grew hungrier and hungrier for more by the day. As the people of Silas' little home cried and bled in the monster's name- it was already wondering just how sweet they'd taste.
Cel had heard so many different prayers, ones from blessings for their families to even blessings for a murder. Of course, Celcius never answered those. But this one was different, one much more wholesome.
“My friend has cancer and I wish for it to be me instead. She doesn’t deserve it and I want her to have a full life. While I, well, I have nothing to offer for this world. No one will miss me. But she has so much to give. Please, Celcius, goddess of our great forest. Please hear my prayer and save her.”
Celcius was taken aback when she had heard this prayer. Never before had she heard such pleading and even desperation. She wondered if this is what true love looked like, and even felt like. She sat near her shrine, tails feathers rustling with the wind as she ran a talon along the concrete that was the foundation. She was thinking, thinking of what to do with this prayer. She wanted to answer it, to fulfill this duty. But a part of her told her that what if this person did not deserve to die? After another brief moment of collecting her plan, she decided that she would pay this mortal a visit. Her great wings spread wide as she walked into the middle of her clearing. They swooped down with great force, the sound like a sonic boom. Now in the air, Celcius let her wings stay spread as she flew towards the village of her followers. It won’t be hard to find them. She just hoped that they hadn’t done anything to themselves yet.
It is a long and solemn walk back to the castle. The rattling of the heavily laden cart and the steady foot falls of the horses are the only sound. Not one word is spoken; none can find it in their hearts to do more than march in sombre silence alongside the sad fare. The soldiers and guards carry their helmets close to their hearts and as the procession passes the first of the houses, they are joined by a steady flow of villagers. No words are needed to explain to the newcomers the contents of the cart. Mourners fall quietly in step – silent and with heads bowed. As word is taken to the castle, a crowd begins to gather outside the gate. Lord Tewdrig stands at the head of the assembly, his kindly face heavy with grief and guilt.
The cart draws to a stop before the crowd and Ralen walks silently across to stand before the elderly Lord. They nod wordlessly to each other and Lord Tewdrig motions for the people to make way. The cart rattles past while the crowd remains outside, their attention fixed upon Ralen and their master.
‘You have done us a great service, My Lord,’ Lord Tewdrig says, after a time, ‘it only grieves me that I was such a fool as to delay seeking your aid. Much might have been different otherwise…’
His voice trails off, the shame of his error weighing heavily on his shoulders.
‘What’s past is past, My Lord,’ Ralen replies, ‘the killer is no more. I only hope that the closure of granting your loved ones the dignity of a proper funeral will bring some peace to you all.’
‘We are grateful to you, My Lord. More than we can express,’ Lord Tewdrig replies, to the muted agreement of those gathered, ‘there is no gift I can give that would truly fulfil my debt to you.’
Ralen shakes his head, ‘I do not come for payment my friend. If you desire to thank me, then grant me just one wish.’
‘Anything my Lord.’ The old man replies without hesitation.
‘I would speak with your son before I take my leave.’
‘My son?’ Lord Tewdrig says, blinking in surprise, ‘Well…if that is what you wish My Lord.’
‘It is.’ Ralen confirms.
‘When would you desire to speak with him? I must warn you, he has not spoken a word since his return.’
‘That is good.’ Ralen replies.
This statement shocks the crowd.
‘Good, my Lord?’ Lord Tewdrig repeats.
‘Yes. It means that there is a chance for some future benefit to come out of this nightmare. If you have no objection my Lord, I would speak with him now.’ Ralen replies calmly.
Amidst a susurrus of confusion, he is lead away into the castle. Lord Tewdrig walks slowly, clearly filled with curiosity as to what he has in mind. Their path leads up two flights of stairs to a large oak door, watched over by a single guard. He lacks the armour typical of his class, but both his burliness and the heavy blade resting against his shoulder make a clear statement as to his purpose. When he recognizes his master, however, he unlocks the door, then stands aside and bows to them both. Before entering, Ralen turns to Lord Tewdrig.
‘I shall need privacy. I must ask both you and your servants to leave us be for some time.’ He says.
Lord Tewdrig bows reluctantly and motions for the guard to come away, leaving Ralen to enter his son’s room alone; shutting the door behind him.
Ralen surveys the room’s lavish furnishings. Gold gilding and gaudy engravings give the furniture a chaotic appearance; almost offensive to his eyes. The window shutters are thrown wide open to let in the fresh air of the early evening. The gentle breezes ruffle the tassels of the linen curtains drawn aside on the oversized four-poster bed. Shoved against the centre of the far right wall, its vastness leaves the bruised and battered young lord looking all the more weak and fragile. He lies propped up on a mound of pillows, his legs covered over with blankets and his chest bare and glistening with salves and ointments to ease the multitude of bruises. His straw coloured hair is slick with moisture and sticks to his forehead in short curls. His swollen eyes appear closed, but Ralen does not sense any rest in him. As he steps forward, the boy reveals his wakefulness – turning his bruised face slightly to towards him. Ralen stands beside the bed, looking impassively at the young man. A weak smile forms on the young lord’s scarred lips.
‘I thought you might come.’ he croaks.
‘And now I have.’ Ralen replies.
‘Come to reproach me for being an impulsive fool?’ he asks.
‘If you still need that of me, then there is no hope.’
The boy chuckles.
‘What of my stupidity; falling for the bitch’s trap as I did?’
‘To my mind, your punishment at her hands seems to have been quite sufficient,’ Ralen says, his face serious, ‘I am glad you do not attempt to deny the fact that you acted impulsively and foolishly.’
The young lord looks down, his smile fading somewhat.
‘I suppose even the most stubborn men reach a point where they can no longer deny that they are wrong.’ He says.
Ralen nods slightly, waiting for the boy to continue. In due course, he does.
‘Forgive me for not recognizing you my Lord,’ He says, ‘I should have known it was you from the start, except that I was convinced that another werewolf could only mean me harm.’
‘I understand,’ Ralen assures him, ‘you were, after all, only a small boy when last I visited your father’s land.’
The young lord nods.
An uncomfortable pause follows as Ralen stands waiting for him to continue.
‘What...’ he begins, faltering out of nervousness before he continues determinedly, ‘why have you come to see me then?’
Ralen holds his gaze.
‘It will soon enough be your responsibility to manage your father’s land and care for the people under his charge.’ he states.
‘What of it?’ the boy asks, his face falling in anticipation of what is to come.
‘Thus far, your life has revolved around your own desires, to the detriment of those around you. You are impulsive; acting without thought or care of the consequences of your actions. Such qualities are intolerable in a leader.’
Ralen pauses to allow the young man time to digest his reproach.
‘You have suffered the absence of your mother. Your father has failed in his responsibility to discipline you and I understand that such a privileged lifestyle makes it difficult for a young child to develop empathy for those less empowered than he. I do not seek to blame or beat you for your shortcomings, but your birth-right will one day make you the master of many and can you honestly say that you have in any way shown yourself fit to be entrusted with such power?’
The boy does not respond, continuing to stare at the sheets of his bed.
‘Whether you like it or not, you will have to choose: either to uphold your responsibility or renounce your claim to the privileged lifestyle which goes with it. If you should choose the latter, know that grave consequences are certain to follow for the people of this land. However, should you choose the former, know also that it is your responsibility to grow into a strong, wise and just man, so that you will be able to serve your people well when the time comes.’
‘But I do not want that responsibility.’ The young Lord protests.
‘Then are you willing to accept the consequences of rejecting it?’ Ralen asks.
‘No, but everywhere I turn there are consequences! A life as a peasant or a life spent serving peasants! What choice is that?!’
‘The freedom of choice is inextricable of the freedom to either accept or complain about the consequences.’ Ralen replies calmly.
‘What kind of advice is that?’ the boy asks, frustrated.
‘Make the right choices.’ Ralen says simply.
‘And suffer for it?’
‘If you so wish.’ Ralen says, shrugging.
Ralen shrugs again,
‘Consequences are inevitable. Whether you suffer them or rise above them is up to you.’
The young Lord stares, momentarily dumbfounded. It seems for an instant that he understands Ralen’s meaning, but a spark of rebellion makes him sneer.
‘Why should I trouble myself with this; how could you understand? You had everything a man could wish for handed to you from birth: strength, stature, a fighter’s instincts and even magic. You are the mighty Ulraek – immortal hero and undefeated warrior. Look at me! The son of a minor country lord, shorter than most women and scarcely strong enough to wield a sword or throw a spear more than ten paces. You know nothing about what it is like!’
After a moment’s pause, he swallows. Ralen’s eyes are fixed upon his own, not glaring or threateningly, but steady enough to make him regret his words. After a time though, Ralen smiles slightly and holds out his hand.
‘Take it.’ He says.
The young lord looks from the proffered hand back to him, wariness plainly evident behind his bruises.
‘Take it,’ Ralen repeats, ‘let me show you my answer.’
Licking his bloodied lips, he tentatively reaches out and grasps Ralen’s hand. His brow creases in nervous anticipation, before his eyes suddenly go wide and stare sightlessly ahead.
Lord Tewdrig reaches the door just before Ralen opens it. The old man stumbles slightly as his hand fails to find the handle and he tries to compose himself, somewhat out of breath from his short run.
‘What happened?!’ he asks sharply, ‘I heard the cry. Where is my son?!’
He pushes his way past Ralen and hurries into the room. He pauses when he sees his son, sitting upright in his bed, his face pale and his eyes staring vacantly at the far wall.
‘Judoc!’ Lord Tewdrig cries, rushing over to his side, ‘My son! Speak to me Judoc!’
Judoc blinks, but does not answer immediately. His lips move silently, as if he were muttering to himself.
‘Good God…’ Lord Tewdrig moans, then turns to Ralen with fire in his eyes, ‘what have you done to my child?!’
Ralen does not answer, his face remaining placid.
‘It’s alright father.’
The old man turns to find his son looking at him, the glassiness leaving his eyes.
‘Judoc?’ he says nervously, ‘Are you alright? Why did you scream?’
‘It was only shock that made me cry out father,’ Judoc replies, glancing briefly at Ralen, ‘the Lord Ulraek…surprised me is all.’
There is a trace of nervousness in his expression, which is not lost on Lord Tewdrig.
‘You sounded as if you were in pain.’ his father persists.
‘It was shock father, nothing more.’ Judoc insists.
‘My Lord,’ Ralen says, ‘I must take my leave of you now. Farewell Judoc.’
‘Goodbye My Lord,’ Judoc replies quietly, then turns to his father, ‘don’t worry about me father, I will be fine. You must see his Lordship on his way.’
Still suspicious, Lord Tewdrig reluctantly gets up from beside his son and silently follows after Ralen. As they leave, a healer enters the room to tend to Judoc and shuts the door behind him. Lord Tewdrig waits until they are out of earshot of the guard before pressing Ralen once again,
‘Come now my Lord, what did you do to leave my son so?’
‘No my Lord, that must remain secret,’ Ralen replies, shaking his head, ‘but suffice it to say that I firmly believe he will be better off for what he has seen.’
‘But why did he scream?’ the old man persists.
‘The truth can hurt, but it heals those who truly embrace it.’ Ralen replies cryptically.
‘My Lord this will not do, I wish to know…’
‘No.’ Ralen interrupts firmly.
He turns to face Lord Tewdrig, his face set in a kind, but determined expression.
‘If you trust me my friend, then be content in the knowledge that I have done nothing to harm your son in any way. Judoc will tell you of our conversation, but I beg you not to press him for more than that. No good will come of it.’
The elderly lord looks at him hopelessly. Although obviously dissatisfied and disappointed, he daren’t profess not to trust the Lone Wolf’s word. After a long and uncomfortable pause, he at last nods reluctantly.
‘So be it, My Lord.’ He says.
Taking pity on him, Ralen clasps his shoulder reassuringly.
‘Not all knowledge is beneficial my friend. There are times when ignorance should be treasured; like a strong house protecting one from the tempests and storms which rage unseen in the outside world. All will be revealed, as the time becomes right for it.’
Lord Tewdrig smiles weakly and shakes his head.
‘As always my Lord, you speak in riddles beyond my comprehension.’
‘Less so than you might think.’ Ralen replies.
They continue on their way. In moments they reach the courtyard, where the cart still stands bearing its heavy load. Five guards are stationed around it to prevent the sea of onlookers from getting too near the corpses. Already Ralen can hear the sounds of hammers and saws as workers begin to assemble a large pyre outside the castle walls. There are very few voices to be heard, as those not working continue their solemn vigil of the dead. Ralen’s face falls as he passes the grim pile and he pauses to pay his final respects.
‘Will you not stay for the funeral?’ Lord Tewdrig asks.
‘No my Lord. I am neither family nor friend to those who have passed away. I think it best if I leave your people to mourn in privacy. I have in any event another matter to attend to.’
The old man nods in understanding.
‘Then once again, I thank you my Lord, and I wish you well in your future.’ He says.
‘And I you.’ Ralen replies, bowing his head.
‘Go well my Lord.’ Lord Tewdrig says, raising his hand.
Ralen nods once again, then turns to leave. He walks silently past the assembled mourners. Few notice his departure and those that do have not the heart either to speak or to cheer. As he exits the castle gate, he looks for a brief moment towards the massive pyre. The men have worked fast and sweat glistens on their brows in the light of the late afternoon sun. Among their ranks, he recognises some of those who accompanied him into the cave. A few notice him and almost as one man they turn and bow in solemn gratitude. Ralen raises his fist to his chest and bows his head in return, before continuing down the path.
The sun shines in his eyes, causing him to look down at his feet as he makes his way towards the forest path. There are no workers in the fields now, leaving his passage uninterrupted. His steps are slow and unhurried. What reason is there for eagerness? The grim work of this day has not yet drawn to a close.
Passing between the trees, he can already sense the change, however. Birdsong has returned to grace the once silent woods with its bright melodies. Now and again a hare sprints across the path, in a sudden dash of grey and brown fur. With his mind deep in thought, it is only a matter of time before the shadowy ruins of the abandoned quarry come once more into view.
As he nears the entrance to the pit, he begins to transform. Slowly this time, his body grows and his limbs change. His muzzle creeps out from his face and his tunic gradually expands to fit him. His fur emerges slowly, along with his luxurious tail. The claws steadily return to his hands and feet and at long last his lupine body reaches wholeness. Sweeping aside the veil of ivy, he descends along the steep tunnel into the caves. His hands and paws crunch heavily against the gravel, but there is no need for stealth now. Turning the corner of the short passageway, he re-emerges into Auola’s chamber. The fire now merely glows as the embers begin to die. To his eyes, however, the corpse of the defeated vae is still perfectly clear.
Silently, he crosses the chamber. He crouches down beside the body and rolls it over, before scooping her up in his arms as if she weighed nothing at all. Standing to his feet, he advances towards another tunnel beside the entrance to the pit. This tunnel extends down into blackness and as its darkness envelops him, he wordlessly summons a small sphere of light to guide him. It illuminates a narrow passageway, continuing some way into the distance. The floor is uneven and the ceiling rises steadily until it finally escapes his light. He walks solemnly on, carrying the limp body as gently as if it were a sleeping babe. His eyes never stray from the floor ahead and his expression is vacant and sad.
By and by, the passage leads him to a dead end. Here the ground gives way to a natural crevasse. The sides are rough and far apart and the floor is beyond the reach of his light. Just within hearing, however, the quiet whisper of rushing water echoes up from the depths. A bucket sits close to the edge, tied by its handle to a very long rope.
Standing on the edge of the precipice, Ralen looks down at the body in his arms. Her eyes are closed and her head is nestled against his chest, with only the wound between her breasts to show that she is not merely asleep. As he closes his eyes, he can see it once again…
The bones break under his blow with a sickening crack. Auola gasps as her heart is pierced and he feels the warmth of her blood against his skin. Steeling himself against the sickness wrenching at his heart, he opens his eyes to share a final, mournful glance with his defeated opponent. The arrogance and fiery rage have left her eyes and in their place there is genuine fear. She gasps softly, gargling as blood trickles into her lungs. He can feel her heart stuttering and her body begin to shudder and convulse as the life rapidly drains from it.
‘But…Khrail…’ she whispers to him, her voice desperate, ‘…you would not ki…’
The crack of her neck and the sigh of the final breath escaping from Auola’s lungs, seem to him to echo throughout the cavern as he opens his glistening eyes and stares down into the pit.
With Solemn slowness, he raises the body out over the chasm and, without further ceremony, releases it. She seems almost to float for a moment, before rapidly being drawn down into the darkness of the chasm. As her coal black fur ruffles in the rushing air, Ralen’s eyes look one last time upon her fair face. Just as she is about to disappear, he briefly shuts his eyes and breathes deeply.
‘No, Auola,’ he says quietly, clenching his fists as he watches her vanish, ‘Khrail would have done it without hesitation.’
A faint splash echoes from below as her body is claimed by its watery grave. Ralen lingers for a moment, before turning slowly away and beginning the long walk back to the surface.
The ground shakes and a deep rumbling sounds from within the limestone cavern. Ralen stands a short distance from the entrance of the abandoned quarry, with his right hand raised towards the stony hillock. Cracks spread across the stone walls and several of the gnarled trees fall from their perches amongst the rocks. At last a deafening, hollow rumble sounds from within the earth and the quarry caves in on itself. The ground shudders beneath his paws as the massive boulders bounce against one another and slam into the stone beneath. Clouds of pale dust erupt from the broil; the billowing shadows looking dark and ominous against the pale evening sky. Gradually the noise dies down as the last of the boulders settle and the smaller stones trickle down in between them. The clouds of dust spread out and dissipate amongst the trees.
Ralen lowers his arm. The dark secrets which Auola hid here are now lost to the world; none shall lay their hands upon her belongings or her spells.
In his left hand though, he clasps the white robe and golden necklace which had been the vae’s disguise when she left her lair. Turning away from the ruins of the quarry, he sets off between the trees, carefully folding the robe into a tight bundle with the necklace at its heart.
The haunting call of a Tawny owl sounds to his left and he halts. Turning, he spies the mottled brown bird nestled in the fork of a hollow oak tree. Its hooded eyes stare down at him drowsily. It slowly turns its head to the side and calls once again. A faint smile returns to Ralen’s lips. Cupping his free hand around his muzzle, he returns the owl’s call with an excellent impersonation. Its head perks up with interest and it calls out again. He returns the call with the longer trill that the birds sometimes make. The owl twists its head to the opposite side, before ruffling its feathers and hopping to a lower branch. It calls out once again, then opens its wings and leaps from the perch; soaring off in silence down the path ahead.
Ralen watches it go, smiling softly. Soon though, he must continue.
It is a little while before he emerges from the trees. By now, night has fallen completely and the fields and houses of the village are shrouded in darkness. The castle, however, is lit up by the eerie red flames of the funeral pyre. The crackling can be heard even from here – carried on the wind, along with the smell of smoke and burning flesh. Ralen raises his hand to his heart and lowers his head in a final gesture of respect and farewell. After a moment’s silent prayer, he steps out onto the main road and turns his back on this grieving land.
The moonless sky, awash with stars, stretches above him. His keen eyes can see even by their weak light. Auola’s memories of her night-time raids obscure the beauty for a moment though, but he sets his will against them and shuts them from his mind. Far in the distance, the dark silhouettes of the Fayern Valley Mountains rise just above the trees. Eyes set upon his home, the Lone Wolf walks swiftly onwards; a grey silhouette, soon vanishing into the darkness of the night.
One Story Ends. Another Has Begun
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A little story about the dream meadow and how the entity Mr.Prism grew out of people's dreams. Also featuring Stuart Husky.
It was and it thought it always had been. It knew somehow that it was a distinct entity, it had figured out it was an individual. It recognized it had thoughts and feelings and that other beings did as well. The Place that it dwelled had no other beings not even insects but it knew what those things were. It Knew that the things around it and the place it dwelled should not be but they were.
It swept the lanscape with its opalescent eyes and took in the plantlife, wild and fecund now. Sometimes the plants were pale and wilted or missing altogether leaving only sharp black rocks.
It knew that you had to travel for the landscape to change, but it also knew that where ever this was didn't work that way. It had learned from the things it saw from others, the breif visitors who drifted through here and shaped the land around them without thought into things. It also caught the echoes of their thoughts and learned that they lived in a place of rules and consistent nature.
It knew that place wasn't here. Here changed, here could be molded by the beings that faded in and out of this place. It didn't think they knew what they were doing when they were here. It thought they came here by accident.
Most of the times the other things came here they lay still on the ground or moved only a little. It Liked to watch them and smell their emotions and listen to the distorted echoes of their thoughts. Doing so was how it learned that it was itself. It didn't know what it would be called. It sometimes wondered what the visitor's eyes saw during the rare times that they stired and their presence became louder and clear before they winked out. When they winked out and were suddenly gone it knew they were not ceasing to be, they were just ceasing to be here. They, the small things that were all so different but somehow, or it least it thought, all came from the same place. Sometimes it saw the same ones, many times so they went somewhere and they came back. Sometimes it only saw them once. There was that rare sometimes it saw them and they went away to someplace else, somewhere they didn't normally go. When it witnessed this it felt something, a wiff of what some of the other presences gave off but this came from within itself. When things like that happened it realized it had a self, and it was something. It remembered a before when it never knew it was a self. The changes made it realize that things changed in a sequence that it think the visitors thought of as time.
The Land around it used to mostly be nothing, but as it grew in self, and had internal experiences that were not just imprints from without the land had kept shape even when no visitors were around. It had realized that places usually had shapes. It thought again of something that it had wondered before. The land had shapes and the visitors had shapes. What was its shape. How did it find out what its shape was? It knew it looked out on the world away from itself. Was there a way to turn that around and look toward itself?
It was so busy thinking of how to do this it was startled when the world changed, then it was startled that it was startled because it suddenly knew what that was and was feeling it for the first time. From the concept a cascade of connections and concepts slid into place. Startled was when something happened that was not expected and was a response of a mind preparing to react in a set of ways to the world around it and the things in that world. The Knowledge stopped there though it knew that there was more to the underpinning feeling it just had.
The momentary rush of realization was offset by the need to see the new around it. It Looked around out from it self and saw. It saw lots. It had never seen so much at once. Its Mind began working, connecting the fractured things it had collected. There was one thing and other thing that it could see and it realized that they were why things were different when you traveled. The thing that had to be traveled was distance. These things were not in the same place but they in a place that reachable by travel and accessible by sight. It continued make connections to the scattered things it had picked up from the visitors. Far off ( and it was thrilled to know what near a far were now ) it saw tall mountains with peaks swathed in cloud and dotted with snow and near, or nearer were tall plants, trees i think they had been designated by the visitors, in front of the trees were rolling hills covered in waving grass. Why was the grass moving? Answer popped into its head. Wind. Well what was wind? It wanted to get closer to that waving grass. It had to travel.
Well how do you do that? It thought and recalled, it had to do something call walking. Walking was when you moved something called feet. It needed feet. How did it find out if it had feet? It tried to move. It moved forward only slightly but the ground that it knew was some measure below it was suddenly very close. It was somehow pressed against the ground. With a rush of glee it had realized it had fallen down. That meant it had a body of some sort. Feet were parts of bodies. It thought so anyway. It thought about the forms of the visitors it had glimpsed as they briefly. Was its body like that? It tried to move again but with no clear idea of what that meant it just rocked on the ground.
it Felt the world change again, this time slightly. It looked over to where it thought the changed had occurred. There was a large tree there and a visitor was propped up on the roots. It was like the ones it had seen before but this was a different individual. His thoughts were at first dim like all the others, but they became louder and clearer and the visitor's eyes opened. Instead of flailing and then vanishing the visitor just looked at it. It could tell that the visitor was trying to make sense of what he was seeing. The visitor moved, going from slumped against the roots to upright standing. It needed to learn to do that. It went over in its mind what the visitor had done, how the visitors mind had worked when it had done what he done to come upright. It did the same. Eventually it was raised up off the ground and balanced on the 2 appendages farthest from its head. The Visitor moved again one of the lower appendages lifting off the ground and moving nearer then setting back on the ground. The other appendage followed and this was repeated.
WALKING! It realized that is how you walk! It did this and kept doing it, absorbed in the novelty of this action that it previously had no concept of. The notion of drawing closer to the distant moving grass to see why it did so was not forgotten but left to drift into the back of its attention and it continued to explore this new action and the understanding of it.
Stuart Phip had come awake or at least into full awareness under the tree he had been reading about yesterday. It was a tree that grew deep in the forest outside the city and was considered sacred by his mother's tribe but they had refused to go near it out of respect or tradition. He had gone to see it, get close and take pictures and make sketches of its leaves and bark. The tribe had no objections to him studying it on, the fact that he was half Kirfernav had nothing to do with their willingness to let him study it, the Kirfernav just never went near the tree growing atop the pile of stone rubble that had been there since before the tribe could remember. The major problem that presented itself now was that he was among the tree's roots but wasn't on top of a pile of stone rubble. He seemed to be on a hillock in a sunlit meadow that was rather different then the series of ruined stone buildings that should have surrounded the tree. The other more minor but no less puzzling problem was that he was completely naked. All of this was on top of the fact that he was now standing in the shade of the tree watching what looked to be a 8 foot tall androgynous looking person walking around aimlessly in small circles and smiling as if the very notion of bipedal locomotion was the most new and wonderful thing in the world.
Stuart took swift stock of his surroundings. Far off he saw a mountain range but his immediate surroundings seemed to be a pleasantly sunlit series of hills and meadows and the rather odd creature that was walking in various ways in apparent amusement. It was obviously some sort of magical creature, its head didn't stay the same shape from moment to moment, one instant appearing feline the next vulpine only for it to look ursine for a second then become draconic. It was tall and slender but its height and build seemed to vary slightly like its head, and its legs would shift from planargrade to digitagrade in an instant. The one feature that stayed consistent was its fur, which could only be described as being made of diamond, the hairs were lustrous and prismatic as if each hair was a tiny prism. This cause the creature to sparkle as it moved around in the aimless little circles and little reflections of rainbow scattered light danced on the ground around it.
Without thinking Stuart reached for the camera that should have been hanging from his neck to snap a photo he could take back to the wizard's tower downtown. it was only after making the attempt did he remember he was naked. He looked down at his empty hands, at the bare swell of his ample tummy. He wiggled his bare toes into the ground. he had been wearing boots before. He took another look at his hands. They were as bare as the rest of him, he should have had a copper pinky ring on his left hand that bore the clan mark of his mother. He only wore it in Kirfernav territory. But it should have been there and it wasn't. Nor were his jeans, jacket, underwear or the heavy caliber ballistic revolver he sometimes carried when he went into the woods. Mechanical weapons were more reliable then electronic or particle when high amounts of magic are involved. he reached back and felt his hair, it was hanging loose and not bound into a ponytail by the little The fact that he was expecting magic was the entire reason he was remaining so calm at these weird circumstances. Though standing naked in front of an 8 foot unidentified creature would be concerning to most people Stuart was just not upset. It all felt a little unreal. He decided to test reality a bit.
Stuart again looked down at his large midsection and concentrated, his stomach shrank from the sizable belly it was to just a bit of paunch. He stopped concentrating and it returned to its normal size. Then he gripped his left index finger with his right hand and pulled. The finger stretched and remained that way when he let go of it until he stopped paying attention to it. He concentrtated on sensations, he could feel the grass on his toes and smell the scents blown on the wind. His body felt somewhat solid but moldable and not fully real. It felt... that was it, dreamlike.
Ok so he was in a dreamscape of some kind. But one that seemed to have a semblance of coherence and rules. That didn't explain how he got there though or what the creature pacing round was.
The moment his attention returned fully to the creature it stopped its toddeling walk and stared directly at Stuart with a suddenness that made the husky brace for an attack. Instead of springing at him though it opened its mouth and vomited forth an inarticulate set of sounds that could only vaguely could be considered an attempt at speech. It was like something that knew that speaking was a thing but no more details than that and was attempting to perform an action it didn't fully understand. Stuart had an odd feeling that is exactly what was happening and that something else was confirming his impression. The thing with the gleaming fur that danced with luster and shimmered with vivid hues of refracted light that was perhaps the most lovely thing Stuart Phip had seen in a long time opened its mouth again and made another inelegant torrent of sound. Again Stuart got the impression it was trying to figure out what speaking was.
Looking down only slightly from where he stood on the mound of tangled roots of the tree he was under Stuart Phip did something that any experienced Dream walking mage would have scolded him for and he responded to the attention of an unknown entity.
" Are you trying to talk?" He said in a calm deep masculine voice.
The reaction from the creature was instant, its face took on the aspect of deep thought and examination. It couldn't have been reacting to the content of the words could it? If he was right and it didn't fully understand speech as a concept it wouldn't understand his particular language and derive meaning from them. The thing made another sound, this one more speech like but had a character more like that of a cough. But Stuart had another odd sensation that told him the thing was affirming his question. Stuart had another thought. Telepathy. Maybe this thing was a Telepath and thus never evolved to speak. Stuart had never had shown a knack for Telepathy so he surmised the odd feelings he had that were either directing his impressions or affirming his suspicions was this thing attempting to communicate. Not being experienced with telepathy he was reluctant to reach out with his as he had heard some of the telepathically inclined describe.
A series babble like that of baby talk issued from the creature's mouth but this time Stuart had a very clear sense that it was asking about a cascading set of concepts connected to what he had been thinking. It would be articulated as " What is evovled and telepathy, and language and affinity and content and...." in a curious childlike manner. He also felt as if each of these concepts was trying to me brought into his mind and examined like someone rummaging through a Drawer. It was fumbling and almost forceful. Stuart did the one thing he seemed to have a talent for when it came to telepathy. He Closed off his mind and protected it with a shell of his will.
The Creature blinked and let off an aire of confusion. It was as if what ever this thing was had experienced that before, being shut out. Instead of being angry it was Curious. Stuart also realized he was reading its mental state just as well now as he had been before putting up his defenses. He Didn't think he should have been able to. He Tried something else. some thing he was not sure would work. He Formed simple Sentences with the meaning of Concepts embedded in them into a string then let them flow out of his mind in a single burst as he spoke the sentence. Maybe it could start learning what words were more completely. Hopefully it would then be content with what wanted to be said and not try digging through people's minds.
" That isn't nice, People value their privacy. Invading people's minds is not good" Stuart thought he sounded like patronizing, like he was talking to a child, but also considered this thing may be a child.
The thing just sat there and examined him with a look akin to a scientist observing a specimen in a petri dish. The thing's head had stabilized in appearance into the likeness of a wolf or a husky. In fact it looked very much like Stuart's own face minus the roundness his extra weight added. Stuart got another one of those impressions that what he thought was exactly the case. It was mimicking what his face would be like if he were thin. Then it morphed into his face with the extra weight. Then it went farther past the current plumpness of his cheeks. Then it suddenly became completely spherical with flat images of his nose and eyes. Well it seemed the creature was mentally mature enough/ or immature enough to undertake mockery.
Deciding he had had enough of this. Stuart walked sideways down the roots and clumps of grass the mysterious tree was resting on, remaining facing the creature as he descended the hill sideways. He didn't want to turn his back on it. As he descended the hill he noticed that it was floaty like his muscles were barley working to accomplish movement. Being a hefty individual he was usually rather aware of the effort his muscles put in to moving him. Even if he was considered pretty fast and graceful for his size movement should have felt this effortless. He felt almost weightless but it was a feeling rather unlike the few times he had experienced micro-gravity. No wait, that was it. He wasn't weightless. He was Massless.
The whole time he had been moving the thing had been following with its eyes. It watched then it attempted to take a sidestep as Stuart had done. It toppled over sideways and hit the ground in a gentle almost soundless fwump. It didn't let out any cry or indication of pain it just landed in a boneless heap then was suddenly upright again. It repeated this until the creature got the idea of side stepping. It did this and seemed to forget about Stuart again. Stuart seized on this moment to move away from the tree but kept it in mind when he looked around. He had this sense of Deja vu. Like he had seen this place before. He also had a sense that the source of this place was further along toward the mountains. Once he had rounded a hill that blocked his veiw of the glittery Creature he turned and jogged toward the feeling he had picked up when he had put some distance between him and the tree. Jogging was an odd experience here as his strides seemed to carry him farther then they should have, adding to his feel of masslessness but oddly his belly still jiggled with each stride and he felt it but it was more like a memory of a feeling or that he felt it because he expected to. He Stopped jogging and took stock of where he was. There in the distance back the way he came was the tree, it looked to be nearly a mile away.
"Whoa... that was WHOA" he began to consider how far he had gone then cried out in surprise as he suddenly felt hands caress his body. With a suddeness that was somehow swift and fluid there was a woman pressing up against his body.
Stuart pushed away and jumped back as she seemed to do the same. She was a muscular lioness in her mid twenties and was wearing a dress made out of documents.
" WHO ARE YOU AND WHY WAS I GROPING YOU!" she cries out in surprised confusion. She seems to realize what she just said scratches he head. " Um what the fuck is going on?" She asks.
" I am not sure, but i think this is a magic based dreamscape. But as to the other thing i am unable to answer why you were grabbing my ass." Stuart says as he crosses his arms in annoyance.
" Fair enough." The lioness admits. " My apologies" she continues " but my follow up question is why am i dressed in someone's taxes?"
" I don't know the answer to that either." Stuart responds but she doesn't seem to be listening.
" See naked is fine, naked is normal, people are kinda naked by default. but what does being dressed in tax documents mean?" the lioness talks mostly to herself. She Stops and looks over stuart's shoulder
"What is that!" she cries out startled
Stuart turns around to see what she is pointing toward and there speeding their way is a glittering shape. It didn't seem to be running just walking in but growing nearer much more rapidly then the stride would indicate. There was also a sense of intense almost hungry curiosity. Before either knew it the glittering creature was there mere feet away looking down at them curiously. The lioness, her dress of documents crinkling as she backpedals. The Glittering thing Advances toward her.
" Stop" Stuart says gently and puts himself in between it and her.
" It is beautiful, it is like it is made of diamonds it's IT'S TOO CLOSE!" The lioness says as the glittering thing is suddenly right in front of her somehow bypassing the portly husky to stand less than 6 inches from her.. " WAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUP" she pants out in a squeaky paniced mantra. She suddenly fades away leaving no traces.
Unexpectedly the glittering thing flops to the ground and looks dejected. A powerful wave of feeling pulses out from it that could only be articulated as a mixture of " I did something and now feel bad but don't know what i did" and "why are they always leaving."
" You Scared her." Stuart not bothering to shield his mind and practically heaping the cognitive underpinnings of the words in the creature's direction. The husky sits there and looks at the glimmering creature laying on the ground that despite it's rainbow shrouded prismatic fur looks the farthest thing from cheery as it could it like it would be weeping if it knew how. As unknown and possible dangerous as this thing could be it was confused and distressed and didn't understand what was happening. Stuart made a Decision. He Sat on the ground and looked at the creature. The creature looked back at him expectantly. Stuart Started explaining.
" What you are feeling is called guilt, it is what people feel when they accidentally hurt or frighten someone even if they don't mean to. Fear is a reaction people feel when they at risk of being harmed or killed, death is what happens when biological begins cease living and are instinctively driven to preserve their life. In this instance the lady thought you were going to attack her so she woke up..." This continued for quite sometime, Stuart talking and letting the meanings and connections of what he was saying be absorbed by the creature. Eventually he just stopped talking running out of energy to explain things.
In the Stuart had been talking the creature had sat up and assumed a sitting posture that was identical to Stuart's. After Stuart had stopped talking the creature got to its feet and walked away with a sense that it had been given a lot to think about and was going off to do that. In mere moment the glimmering creature was gone.
Still feeling the pull of the something that was shaping this world lay closer to the mountains Stuart stood up and strode forward toward it while keeping in mind the tree and where it was. A few Strides later he came to a small lake. Across it's still surface lay a wonderful view. The Remainder of the rolling hills gave way to a dense forest and the forest climbed the mountain sides. On the far shore of the lake a small cabin sat, built partially into the side of a hill. The cabin's door was open and a dim light came from inside. But next to the cabin was a stump of a wide tree that had been neatly fell long ago, leaving the smooth stump as a seat. Sitting on that stump was a figure. It was luminous and translucent like the reverse of a shadow. On the ground sitting and staring up at the figure was a more solid form of a man. He was old and skeletally thin. He was gazing up at the luminous form of the woman.
From across the small lake Stuart could hear her singing. She was singing a haunting song in a lovely but somber sounding language. The Song seemed to echo around the world and run through the soil and water. The world seemed to be singing with her.
Without thinking Stuart stepped closer and with that strange floaty feeling was suddenly right behind to the sitting figure. The figure up close seemed to be that of a grey fox who's prime was long behind him he was dressed only in a hospital gown that hung from his thin frame like a limp sail. He sat staring up in rapture at the translucent shimmering figure as she sang. He sat and basked in the wonder of the song. The figure sitting on the ground spoke without turning away from the singer.
" Enchanting isn't she?" he asks in a reedy but clear voice.
"yes" Stuart responds simply not wanting to spoil the moment.
" She used to sing this song all the time, never learned what the words meant." he said still looking at the Singer. " She is almost done then it will all melt away again... memories are the hardest thing to loose. I only remember here out there it is.... nothing." Just After he finished speaking the song ended.
"nothing..." the old man said again then the world shimmered and melted. It soon molded itself to a vague notion of a snowy field. Not far away, or it could have been miles, sat the glimmering creature looking at were the old man had been sitting. It didn't turn its attention to Stuart. Feeling like he had somehow finished here Stuart turned around and walked toward the tree of in the distance, he seemed to reach it in a few steps. He Claimed the roots and stood staring at the trunk.
Stuart Came awake, really awake with his forehead leaning against the trunk of the Tree. He looked around and it was in the midst of ruined stone walls atop a pile of rubble as it should have been. He patted himself down, he was wearing the camera around his neck and was dressed in jeans, a light jacket and hiking boots. His pinky bore the copper clan ring he had put on before visiting Kirfernav lands. He felt his substantial weight pressing onto solid earth. He was awake but he had the feeling he wasn't finished.
" well there may be no game around but i think i found something better." A flirtatious female voice came from behind him. He turned and saw a pair of hunters, one a doe and the other a husky, both female. The Husky woman was giving him a good look up and down.
Stuart turned away and ignored her as he walked down the rubble and stood looking up at a single flower that had blossomed on the tree. It was glowing a faint blue.
" Oh come on, what do i have to do to get a man too...." the Husky woman trailed off as she noticed the glowing flower.
In a smooth progression the flower opened, then withered and became a fruit, that fruit promptly dropped and Stuart caught it. The Glowing blue fruit peeled and the flesh evaporated away into a shining luminous seed. Stuart Closed his hand around the seed and then promptly walked off toward the exit of the ruins.
" I told you we shouldn't have come to this part of the forest, there is magic shit everywhere here." The Doe hunter scolded her companion as she clutched here shotgun. The Hunters followed Stuart to the exit of the ruins then hurried back from where ever they came. They didn't try to talk to Stuart again. Stuart walked back toward the Tribal center and his body language kept anyone from addressing him. He walked into the main building and then followed the path to the little green house. Inside was a woman tending the plants and an old old woman who was said to be his great great grandmother. She turned her old face to regard him and his faintly glowing palm.
" Give him a pot" The ancient woman commanded the lady gardener In the Kirfernav language. The Gardener rolled her eyes but gave Stuart a pot and some soil. Stuart nodded his thanks as he placed the glowing seed into the soil. It began to slowly but noticeably open and take root. Stuart Picked up the pot and walked out.
" He is usually more cheery and talkative, he must have been through something out there" The Lady gardener says.
When the old woman said nothing but just looked at the door one of her many great great grand kids had walked through.
" Not even our shaman's go near those ancient buildings, your great whatever grandson has some guts, and that ain't a crack at his weight." the Gardener Puts to words what the old woman was thinking. The old woman just scowls toothlessly at the gardener.
3 Days later:
The Muscular lioness accompanied a group of 5 grey foxes 3 men one woman and a young girl, to a hospital room. Today was the day they were disconnected the life support of the very old and very wealthy man who had laid withering away in a hospital bed while the inheritances were taken worked out and squabbled over.
"Finally he will be at peace" one of the number said, but didn't sound like he meant it.
" Finally we will get our money" another said and meant it. The Gathered in the room where a priest was waiting somberly. The Priest had heard the last comment and kept the scowl off his face. He hated when the departed wasn't cared for.
" He wasn't religious so you aren't needed." One of the grey foxes said with a sneer.
" Um yes it was requested that no prayers be spoken on his passing" the lioness put in politely. " You don't have to leave but please remain silent as per the client's wishes."
The family arranged themselves against the back wall. A nod was given and the Doctor, a slender Raccoon female. Disconnected the power to the life support.
The old grey fox in the bed began to breath heavily and heart weaken.
" come on and kick it you old fuck" one of the male foxes said.
Before the priest or doctor could chastise the speaker the door opened abruptly and in Walked a large figure of a Husky wearing a very expensive suit and his long hair pulled back into a ponytail. In one of his meaty hand he held a potted plant.
" Who are...?" the Grown Female fox starts.
" You!" the lioness says recognizing the plump cheeked face of the guy she drempt about accidentally groping before a glittering creature run up to her and frightened her awake a few nights ago. Here was the guy, clothed this time and bearing a rather odd but compelling potted plant.
" I am sorry sir i think you have the wrong room," the Doctor begins to speak and move to show him out.
Ignoring everyone the large figure strides purposefully to the bed and places the potted plant on the chest of the old fox in the bed, he takes the frail hands and wraps them around the plant.
" What are you...?" one of the family begins but a sharp gasp draws their attention The frail figure in the bed has opened his eyes for the first time in months and is staring up at the potted plant and the man holding his hands onto it.
The Large Husky his back to the family and oblivious to their protests begins to sing. His song is deep and clear in a lovely language. The Song was not the one he had heard at the end, but it was the one being sung through him at the beginning. For this was the beginning of the set of songs the old fox remembered when he dreamed.
The Family, the lioness lawyer the doctor and the priest all shrank back, all except the little girl, who was no older than 9. She stepped forward and began to sing along. The large Husky and the little grey fox sang as the old man's eyes began to close gently and a smile lit his face for the first time in a decade. He began to breath deep and easily but his breath grew more shallow as the song progress. As the duet finished and fell silent. The heart monitor let out a solid high tone.
" Now he is at peace" the little grey fox says. They all stand silent amazed at what just happened. The large husky turns and without saying anything left the room.
" The tree is mine" The little girl says confidently. She walks over to the remains of a man she never really knew and picks up the potted plant. " it will be planted where the old apple tree was" She says in a commanding voice. No one attempts to countermand her. They can only stare at her confidently holding a small potted tree that seems to be faintly glowing. She is the first to leave the room. The last is the priest. He is holding back a smile. It seemed someone cared for this one after all.
It was and it thought it always had been. But now it knew it was more then it ever had been. The Brief visitors that came through here were part of a larger different world, and now when they drifted though here it learned more from them, it understood them more and in doing so knew how little it really knew. It would have time to learn, it did not have to draw close and try and drink in all it could, it waited it watched and it grew. It also knew now it was not alone. The landscape that had always been brief and small was now again the rolling hills and meadows. The Vivid dreamer was back, but he seemed here to stay. He was not the frail pitiable thing he had been when large one had come. He was not slender and lithe with youth, but experienced. He sat with it, unafraid and freely told the creature of life. Sometimes the little Grey one that hadn't known the other came to visit.
" You need a name. " the now youthful grey fox told the creature. " A name is what people call themselves to identify themselves to others. "
" What does the little one that visit call me in her mind?" the creature asks.
" I think she calls you Mr. Prism." the Grey visitor to stay says.
" Than that is what i shall be" it says.
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It was a busy night in the club. The DJ’s head bobbed up and down like a nodding dog in the back window of a car, while his hands moved the shiny new records back and forth to an unfathomable rhythm. The dull grey haze created by the smoke machines was set on fire by the disco lights; all tuned to various shades of red and pink for the special evening. Through this veil of colour, dozens of enthusiastic partygoers twisted, twirled and gyrated across the temporary black dance floor that had been laid out before the DJ’s stage. Girls and boys mixed it up, moving together or on their own, some passing from one side of the dance floor to the other in an endless chain of short-lived double acts. The singles moved to their own pace much like the rest, whereas the more serious couples stood out as tightly paired points of co-ordination in the sea of exuberant chaos.
At the moment, the music had drawn most everyone to the dance floor, leaving the bar and the few remaining tables at the opposite end of the room quite empty. Tonight’s DJ was a special treat: White Sox Fox, a legend from the backstreet nightclubs of the city. He could rip up a tune like no other – so they said. The barman didn’t seem overly impressed, thought that was hardly surprising given the number of artists he had seen perform here, but he still bobbed his head in perfect time as he leaned back against the rather empty upright fridge behind the bar. With the current lull in orders, his partner for the night had nipped out for a smoke, leaving him to keep an eye on things.
The other person relaxing at the bar did not move in time with the music. He was seated on the stool at the far corner, out of the way of any of the other partygoers that might come by for drinks.
He was a wolf, with dark ashen grey fur. The collar of fur around his neck and the simple patterns around his eyes were slate grey and contrasted nicely with the rest of his coat. His eyes were a rich brown. He sat alone, sipping lightly from a glass of something dark and cold and casually deleting old messages from his hand-me-down flip open phone. Given the sharpness in his eyes, he obviously hadn’t drunk very much or for very long.
Although he was clearly filling the role of the inevitable wallflower, he didn’t much look the part. Standing up straight, he would clearly be quite tall and he had an admirable build compared to many of the others young males in the club: broad shouldered, lean and appreciably strong without being bulky. He was neatly dressed in a black pair of slim jeans, a black belt and a black short sleeve shirt, but the well-worn brown leather flip-flops on his feet gave him a slightly more casual air.
In addition, he didn’t so much seem disappointed at being left out of the dancing, but rather appeared contentedly disinterested in the whole thing.
The simple truth was that he was. Watching the other partiers throwing themselves about on the dancefloor stirred no desire in him to join them. He was quite content to remain where he was; he only wished that this place would hire actual musicians. A beat was all well and good, but real music had a beat and quite a lot more besides.
He’d come here with a handful of his classmate friends to celebrate having written the final exam of their third year. Passing was still uncertain, but he very much doubted the others had anything to worry about. They were all extremely clever and hard workers to a boy and girl. Three of the girls were straight A students and looked set to cum laude their BSc. He was a hard worker too, but not in the same league as them and definitely not as much of an academic. He felt uneasy about two of the papers, but he wasn’t going to worry over it. He took life as and when it came.
‘You going to be finishing that one anytime soon?’
The barman leant on the counter, his long and floppy ears not quite touching the wood.
‘I will, I will.’ The wolf replied to the brown and white spaniel with a friendly little laugh, picking up the glass and taking another sip.
The barman grinned with mild amusement.
‘You’ve been taking it pretty steady,’ he said and then stuck out his hand, ‘Neil.’
‘Michael,’ the wolf replied, shaking hands with him, ‘pleased to meet you Neil. You might have to remind me once or thrice – I’m really bad with peoples’ names.’
‘No problem.’ The spaniel replied dismissively.
There was a short pause as he waited for the wolf to say something. When he didn’t, the barman asked,
‘Aren’t you going to join in?’
He motioned to the sea of people on the dance floor. The wolf looked over briefly and shook his head.
‘No thanks. I don’t know how to dance properly and I can’t improvise like them.’
‘So what? No one’s judging.’ The barman remarked
The wolf gave a knowing laugh and cracked a half smile.
‘That’s what they always say. The last time I went with that theory and tried “breaking it down”, as they say, someone told me to stop.’
‘Well just tell them to f*ck off.’ The barman remarked.
‘I prefer the Sherlock Holmes phrase “Please disappear” myself, but he was right in that case.’ The wolf replied.
‘Come on,’ the barman encouraged him, ‘there’s nothing to it. Just go out there and be yourself.’
The wolf smiled.
‘That’s exactly what I’m doing.’ He replied.
The barman leant on one elbow and gave him a disapproving look.
‘Well, guess I know why you’re sitting here alone.’ He remarked.
The wolf laughed quietly. He had a feeling that the remark had been an attempt to persuade him to try dancing. It was a silly, and not a little cruel thing to say, but he decided to humour the spaniel.
‘Because I’m too dull to pull a girl?’ he asked rhetorically, ‘If I applied the same reasoning used by less dull people to explain why they don’t fit in with the crowd, I could say that I’m sitting alone because I’m a unique individual and not just some other bloke at a party looking to get sozzled and get lucky.’
‘Well what are you here for then? If this isn’t your scene, then why come at all?’ the barman asked.
‘I’m here with my friends to celebrate finishing our exams.’ The wolf replied, motioning towards the dancers.
‘But you’re just sitting here alone, I don’t call that celebrating with friends.’ The spaniel remarked.
‘Look,’ the wolf replied, with a tactfully suppressed hint of exasperation, ‘I enjoy hanging out with them as far a sitting together and chatting goes, I just don’t have any interest in doing any of the other stuff. They know that – that’s why they’re off dancing and I’m back here waiting until they finish. We’ll have fun together after they’ve got that bit of partying out of their system.’
‘So you’re just going to spend half the evening sitting here doing nothing then?’ the barman asked incredulously.
‘Oh, you mean like you?’ the wolf replied, before finishing his drink.
The spaniel frowned, obviously a bit put out, but the wolf raised his hand in apology.
‘I’m sorry, but you see my point. Besides, I have no intention of spending an hour counting the beer stains on the floor.’
He reached down beside his stool and lifted up a small shoulder carrier bag. From it he took out a square cardboard gift box with pink stripes, a pair of scissors and two pairs of pliers. The spaniel bartender watched in confusion, waiting to see where all this was going. Next the wolf took out a little knee board and set it down on the counter. He then began to unpack the contents of the pink box onto it. There were lots of little tins and zip-lock bags full of beads, shells, gemstones, balls of wire, string, chain and other bits and pieces.
‘What’s all this?’ the barman asked.
‘Jewellery is one of my hobbies. I often take some materials with me if I know I’m going to have to wait around a lot.
‘And the box?’ the spaniel asked.
‘It keeps everything together.’ The wolf replied matter-of-factly.
‘Yeah, but why’d you choose a pink one for that?’
The wolf raised his eyebrows in private amusement.
‘It’s the right size and it’s nice and strong. The colour doesn’t matter…although mind you, if it had had a rainbow and said “LGBT rules” on the top, I would have thought twice.’
The spaniel laughed briefly at this comment and continued to watch as the wolf began sifting through the materials with a thoughtful expression. He finally selected a spiral shell – which had been cut away on either side to expose the spiral centre, leaving a framework of multiple “chambers”. Setting it aside, he then picked through a small pile of little coils of copper and steel wire. He selected two: a roll of thin copper wire and a roll of equally thin galvanised steel wire.
‘Could I have another double brandy and coke please?’ he asked the barman, reaching into his pocket and taking out a leather wallet. It had the images of two elephants stamped into the cover and had been a present years ago from his uncle in Nepal.
‘Sure.’ The spaniel replied, still looking at the shell and wire with puzzled curiosity.
After handing him the money the wolf immediately turned his attention back to his materials. He took the steel wire and pulled it between his thumb and forefinger several times to remove any bends and kinks. Then he held one end against the point of the shell and began threading it through the gaps. He pulled it tight, wrapping it along a groove running through the core of the shell. He hadn’t got far by the time the barman returned with his drink.
‘Thanks.’ He said gratefully, and then went back to what he was doing.
The barman watched him for a while, but pretty soon he lost interest and went back to leaning against the fridge and watching the party.
The wolf sat working on getting the wire wrapped along the entire length of the shell, then repeated the process with the copper wire. He took his time and tweaked the wire with his nails to try and get it just right. Lastly he bent the tips at one end and slipped them into the last tiny chamber at the narrow point of the shell. He tugged on the wire at the mouth of shell and found that it held fast.
A male fox came off the dance floor and made his way to the bar. He was dressed in a loose fitting blue shirt and baggy grey shorts and his fur was snow white. He leant against the counter, slightly out of breath from dancing.
‘Two Ice Blue shots Neil.’ He said to the barman.
‘Sure.’ The spaniel replied and set about getting the glasses and the right bottle from the three long shelves behind him.
The fox glanced sideways at the wolf; who noticed, but kept his eyes on his work. When the barman handed over the two blue glasses, the wolf heard the two of them talking briefly to one another. The fox sidled over, holding the two glasses with absentminded care.
‘Hm, looks pretty cool.’ He remarked.
The wolf looked up and smiled.
‘Thanks,’ he said, ‘it’s still got bit to go.’
The fox nodded offhandedly and then moved back towards the dance floor.
The wolf went back to picking out a cord for the necklace. He settled for a thin leather one, undyed, and took a rough measure by wrapping it around his neck and sliding his fingers down until it reached a length slightly less than what he wanted. A quick snip from the scissors and he began working on attaching the shell pendant to the cord – being very careful to get the pendant as close to the middle as possible. He wrapped the loose ends of the wire around the cord and then twirled the ends into a little spiral, which he pressed flat against the leather.
The last step was to add the clasp and the extender chain to the ends of the cord. This took him just a minute or two as he slipped the pieces in place and crimped them together with a practiced hand.
He gave the final product a once over and then set it aside. His fingers closed around the ice cold glass and he quietly sipped the sweet yet strong drink. He turned his gaze to the dance floor once more and unseen, he lowered his gaze slightly and sagged back against the wall with a little sigh.
“What a strange thing it must be…” he murmured to himself, “…to fit in. Anywhere…”
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It was only about a ten minute walk to the gate to Route 22, and the League Gates. The girls chatted as they walked about movies, music, and books they liked. Anna was excited to learn they both listened to the same rock group, “The Metang Gang.” They were discussing the most recent album when before they knew it the town exit stood before them. Outside the guard station there was an older gentleman speaking with a younger man with wild, bushy curls of hair. The young man was wearing jeans and a dark patterned button up shirt hints of feathers poked through the wrist cuffs, and his eyebrows came to arrowlike points.
“Now you gotta make sure to really aim the ball good. If’n you don’t throw it right, you can’t catch nothing!” The old man shook his cane, which was actually a giant leek at the younger man. “I remember the first ‘mon I ever caught. It was a little orange dinosaur looking fella… named ‘im AGUMAN” He waved the leek again, which the curly haired man dodged.
“Sir please, I’m just trying to get through the gate. I don’t know what you’re talking about!” He looked over at the two approaching women and waved, his dark lined eyes pleading for help behind a pair of glasses. Anna and Emily approached, but before they could say anything the guard stepped around the gate.
“I’m really sorry, Dad gets worked up and he took one to many Confusion attacks back in the day. He rambles on about nonsense sometimes. C’mon Dad, back inside to sit down.” She escorted the older gentlemen to a sitting area. After he was settled she came back and returned to her post. “Okay! Three to pass? May I see your ID?” Emily and Anna presented their information, as did the young man. The guard was about to open the gate when the handheld radio behind her crackled and beeped. She picked it up and listened for a moment, then sighed heavily and turned back to the three travellers.
“Sorry kids, it sounds like a rain storm is coming, which means the Metang in the area get really irritable and start causing problems. We’re going to have to shut down the gate for a while.” She handed them back their information, and turned to make plans on the radio with the other guards. The young man huffed.
“Oh well, I’ll have to see the Indigo Plateau later.” He sent off a quick text and offered his hand “My name’s Edwin. I’ve just started my travels with my friend, who’s going to meet me at Route 2. Want to travel together for a while? It’s easier in larger numbers.” Anna shrugged, but Emily smiled.
“Sure! You can use teams of up to six to take on Gym challenges. Plus it’s always nice to make more friends.” They walked the short distance to the gate to Route 2, where a tall fit woman was standing by the gate looking at her phone. She was wearing a simple pair of workout pants, and a sports top that showed how muscular she was. Small black slashes sat under her red eyes, and she smiled brightly. She turned to them and waved
“Hey Edwin! You make some more friends! Cool!” She put her phone in the duffel bag and tossed it over one shoulder. “I’m Ricky! It’s nice to meet you! You guys got the injection also?” Anna nodded.
“Yeah, I’m Anna. I want to go into rescue work, so I need to train for that! This is Emily, I’m helping her run an errand for her Grandpa, Doctor Oak” Edwin whistled.
“You know Oak? I’ve always wanted to meet him! My mom used to work with him and said he was a great guy.” He smiled, picking at a few of the feathers on his wrist absently. Emily beamed
“Well, if you want to join us we are headed to meet him!” Ricky punched Edwin on the shoulder lightly.
“There you go! Let’s go with these ladies! Oh hey, were you scared to get Dipped?” Emily shook her head. With an indecisive noise Anna replied.
“I mean yeah? Sort of? What if you get something weaker, or it doesn’t take, or any number of things go wrong?” She was interrupted by Emily
“Oh, those happen so incredibly rarely, and thankfully we have ways to separate people from the Ditto cells for a few weeks after injection. What about you Ricky? Were you nervous about it?” Ricky shrugged.
“Not really, it wouldn’t be the first transformation I went through. It was a heck of a lot easier this time though! I got Larvitar, so it’ll be great for my career as a fighter!” they all laughed and chatting happily the four new friends headed back towards Pallet Town.
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[Warning: this chapter contains mature themes. Reader discretion is advised]
Wind howled through the trees. A driving rain battered against them, weighing down their branches and pouring off their leaves. The full moon, veiled as it was by the brooding storm clouds, did little to illuminate the darkness of the woods and valleys, whilst the lighting that danced across the sky only made the shadows more defined. It was a violent night: the kind that inspired evil deeds and instilled fear in the meek.
Above the raging storm, a howl was carried on the winds. The bushes erupted as a black bear tore through the undergrowth, the madness of terror in its eyes. The great beast burst onto the dirt track which cut through the heart of the forest and startled a lone horse. Already terrified by the storm, the creature reared and threw its rider, before galloping off back the way it had come.
The fallen rider leapt unsteadily to her feet. Her thick coat was plastered with mud and her hood had blown away and was now snagged on a branch high up in one of the trees.
Her yellow eyes looked around wildly. Her face protruded in a slender, draconic snout with slightly raised nostrils. She had small triangular ears and a pair of little black horns which protruded upwards from the rear of her skull. Her features were sharp and covered in tight fitting iridescent scales of green and blue hues. The howling rang out once more and she fled into the forest after the bear.
Water poured down upon her. It soaked through to her skin, chilling her to the bone. In the darkness, she struggled to avoid the tree trunks which stood around her like pillars. She didn’t know where she could find shelter, but there was no time to stop and think. She should have kept a watch on the moon! If she had only waited until the following day the roads would have been safe. Tonight was a night for hunters…
The water pouring over the cliff face threatened to dislodge him as he clung desperately to the slippery stone. His chestnut fur was drenched and his ears and nose were numb with cold. His sodden clothes weighed him down terribly, but he dared not loosen his grip to take them off. How long ago did the first howl sound? The last had seemed distant. Would it be safe to climb back up to the ledge?
He squinted through the veil of rain at the little overhang above him. It hid him from sight, but it also obscured his vision of the only level ground within reach. He knew he couldn’t remain here much longer. His fingers were already slackening and his claws would be useless on the smooth granite of the cliff face.
He had thought his cave hideout would be safe. When last had werewolves been heard in these parts? Hadn’t they all been exterminated as far as the East woods? They were vicious creatures, nearly unstoppable at full moon. He had heard enough from the other brigands who had sometimes shared his lodgings to know what the monsters were capable off. If he met one tonight, it would probably be more a question of how long he could evade it, rather than whether or not he could actually escape it…
Damn it! His feet were slipping!
He gritted his teeth and reached up for a handhold to start climbing. He moved carefully. His arms were shaking terribly from the strain and his entire body shivered from being exposed to the wind and rain for so long. His teeth chattered slightly. He groaned as his foot slipped again, but he held on stubbornly.
His floppy ears were stuck flat against his head thanks to the soaking the rain had given them, so he could hardly hear anything except his own heartbeat over the raging storm. He looked up at the ledge, now only three feet above him, and water poured into his nostrils. He sneezed loudly, again and again.
Great. If there was anything looking for him nearby, it certainly knew where he was now.
A final scramble brought him to the edge of the precipice. His snout peaked out over it. There didn’t seem to be anyone there. A lightning bolt lit up the stony mountain slopes and all he could see was rocks and the entrance to his shallow cave. He squinted. A second lightning bolt struck and he could see a little deeper. A third and a forth cut through the sky behind him in quick succession and a dark form was revealed, sitting crouched over the open chest where he kept his takings.
The creature was looking straight at him. It wasn’t a werewolf. It was much, much worse than that. He froze and his dark fur went pale.
Her feet slipped as she tried to stop too suddenly and she found herself sliding down the slippery clay bank of the river. Her eyes went wide as she saw the churning torrent which thundered beneath her, rapidly drawing closer. She scrambled desperately, her short claws digging into the soft earth, searching for something to stop her descent. Her feet hit a rock jutting out of the bank. The impact twisted her left ankle, but she latched onto the foothold in spite of the pain. Now that she was no longer falling, her hands at last found purchase on the slippery roots which hugged the steep bank.
Heart racing, she pulled herself flat against the bank. She shut her eyes tightly and just hung there for a while. The water below her seemed to roar just like the very beast she had been fleeing from. The storm had filled it with debris: whole trees could be seen tossing in the rapids, smacking into the rocks with bone jarring force. The sound was terrifying.
As the rain continued to pour down on her, even though she was already soaked to the bone, she opened her eyes and stared back up the way she had fallen. Her hands sought out the thickest roots and she tested their strength. The clay filled water pouring down the bank made them treacherously slippery, but she could just keep her grip if she was careful.
She stepped off the rock and hooked her right foot in the roots. She did the same with her left foot, moving tentatively for fear of aggravating the injury. The ankle wasn’t sprained, but it was very tender. It could easily slip again. She used her arms as much as possible, hauling herself up the ladder of roots. It was painfully slow going. The waters below beckoned, but she kept her eyes up and her cautiousness paid off as never once did she slip during the climb. The final crawl over the edge of the bank was by far the most nerve wracking part. There were no roots or stones to grip; she had to dig her hands into the soft earth and ease her body gradually onto the level ground of the forest.
She pushed herself away from the drop and lay panting on the bed of sodden pine needles. She had not lain there a minute, however, before the chilling howl drifted through the trees that surrounded her. Her head snapped up and she gazed about fearfully. She looked to her left and to her right, but couldn’t think where she should run. She didn’t even know where she was. All she did know was that the call had been much further off before.
Upstream should lead into the mountains. The prospect of being trapped there with a werewolf on the loose was terrifying, but downstream meant running over flat ground and open fields, with no hope of shelter until she reached the village of Raven’s Hill. That was where she had been heading and so she knew it would have taken more than half a day by horse. On foot, there was no hope of reaching it before the night was over. She could not outrun the werewolf. She would have to find shelter somewhere and the only likely place would be in the mountains. The beasts were very agile and surefooted, but they were also very large. If she could find a crevasse small enough for her to just squeeze through, it wouldn’t be able to reach her. They were weak in daylight. She didn’t have to out run it, she just had to outlast it.
With her mind made up, she took off through the woods, keeping the riverbank in sight. The lightning continued to provide regular bursts of violent illumination and under its harsh light, figures would appear between the trees. She knew they were only illusions created by the shadows, but…at the back of her mind, the thought kept coming back to her that at some point she would be wrong. At some point, one of the ghastly silhouettes would be something that she couldn’t simply shrug off.
A startled pigeon burst out of its cover as she rushed past. She jumped in fright, tripped and fell. Her clothes felt like weights as she pushed herself back up and they clung to her restrictively. She decided to get rid of them – it was not as though they were keeping her warm anymore. The black coat came off with a wet slurping noise. Next she struggled out of her loose white vest, which stubbornly stuck to her scales as she dragged it over her head. Her trousers were the last to go.
She didn’t waste any time before getting back on the move. She felt much lighter and managed to pick up the pace. The howl cut through the storm again. By the bursts of lightning, she saw the trees giving way to rocks up ahead as the steep foothills of the rugged mountains began. She paused as she emerged into the open and looked up at the scramble which lay ahead. There was no shelter here. She had to go up.
The climb was easy enough for her. She wasn’t strong, but she was lithe and nimble and weighed very little for her height. However, there were no caves to be found in the foothills. The steep slopes offered only smooth stone and high crevasses quite out of reach. In the gullies there were several caverns, but all far too large to be of any protection. All the while she was conscious of the ever increasing volume of the werewolf’s calls. It couldn’t be far away by now. Time was running out…
When she reached the summit of a smaller peak, she could see the forest below and all the land around by the light of the storm. She had to brace herself against the buffeting winds, from which she had been shielded by the forest trees. The mountain beside this peak was far taller and it had a sheer South face overlooking the mountainous river valley behind. She peered up at it. There was a cave up there, of some kind. There was also a series of ledges which seemed to form a rough pathway to that area of the cliff face.
She looked back down at the edge of the forest and then over to the other side of the smaller mountain. Her blood froze. Something was moving down below her; a flash of white, which then disappeared. Then it was there again, moving between the rocks.
She ran towards the cliff face.
Just minutes later, she was hauling herself up onto the ledge outside the cave. She sighed in despair at the sight of its wide mouth, but then a lightning bolt struck and she saw a flash of white out of the corner of her eye. She turned suddenly. There was someone hanging on to the ledge across from the cave. She saw the muzzle and was about to duck back down, when she realized that it was a dog’s muzzle, not a wolf’s.
‘Hello!’ she called out over the din.
The canid didn’t respond. He – she thought it was a male at least – was staring at the cave and looked frozen with fright. Immediately her eyes flashed back to it, expecting to see the werewolf inside. There was no one there. Then she noticed a sword lying near the entrance.
She glanced at the dog, then back to the weapon. Werewolves’ couldn’t be killed without silver or fire, but they could be incapacitated just as easily as any creature. If it was inside the cave, she had a chance to ambush it. The only problem was…she had never used a sword before.
Very slowly, she crept out onto the ledge. Immediately she drew herself up against the wall. She inched closer to the sword. When it was within reach, she bent down and very, very carefully picked it up, terrified that the blade might scrape against the stone and give her away. It was quite heavy, but not so much that she couldn’t wield it easily for a while at least. As she wrapped her fingers around the pommel, she was glad of that one night when she had glanced through a text on swordsmanship. It probably wouldn’t do much good beyond helping her to hold it correctly though.
The lightning strikes were still her only source of light, so she peeked carefully around the corner and waited for one to illuminate the cave – ready to pull back in an instant if necessary. Thunder rolled as the last flash died. She waited.
Thunder split the sky as lightning arced directly overhead. She saw into the cave, saw the black skinned creature crouching in the back, and paused. It looked up at her with solid grey eyes and an expressionless face. Her jaw dropped.
It cocked its head to the side.
‘Lyssa?’ it hissed sibilantly.
She stepped into the cave, lowering the sword.
The creature, Sylth, remained where he lay. His body was lizard-like, but with limbs that were longer and positioned slightly more beneath his body than was typical of most of the quadrupedal reptilians. His skin was black, with a leathery appearance, and was drawn tight across his somewhat bony frame. The black claws on his feet and hands were long and thin. His neck was one and a half feet long, strongly muscled and with two inch long flanges of skin down either side of the oesophagus. His face had a draconic snout with an equine bone structure. Fleshy frills grew in a ring around the rear of his skull and smaller frills lined the base of his jaw. His entire body was sixteen feet long from the tip of his snout to the tip of his tail – and a little over half that length was made up by the whip-like appendage.
His face had no musculature and no expression at all, apart from the grey spheres which were his eyes. Even his voice conveyed emotion only very subtly. As she approached him, he watched her with what must have been surprise.
‘What are you doing here?’ she asked, standing in front of him.
‘Hunting a quite persistent quarry.’ He hissed.
‘So you’re still a bounty hunter?’ she asked,
He nodded once.
‘Who is it?’
He motioned past her with his snout. Turning, she realized that he was pointing to the pale canid still clinging to the edge of the cliff. She turned back to her old acquaintance.
‘What did he do?’ she asked.
‘Theft, cheating, aiding and abetting, false testimony. Recently suspected of murder.’
His voice was level, with no hint of feeling as he listed the crimes of his quarry. It was a characteristic which had done little to endear him with most people he met, but she had always found him a calming presence for that reason. It was just a trait of the basilisks to appear cold and unemotional. They had their emotions, but their bodies were not well designed to display them.
She knew that Sylth also did not care much for words, which was why his sentences tended to be very monosyllabic.
‘What will you do now that you’ve caught him?’ she asked, still distracted from her predicament by the surprise of meeting the old basilisk.
‘The larger bounty is in Raven’s Hill, but he caused more damage for the Vale. I will wait for the storm to end and then take him there.’
The past few hours finally came back to her.
‘Have you not heard the werewolf?’ she asked.
He cocked his head and raised a talon to one of the little holes that were his ears. Of course: he had very poor hearing, particularly for low sounds.
‘I did think I heard a howl,’ he replied, ‘but you say it is a werewolf? Is that why you are here?’
She nodded fervently and began to explain…
When she had finished, he seemed nonplussed.
‘You don’t seem very worried.’ She observed.
Sylth made a noise that could have been a snigger.
‘Give me reason to be.’ He hissed.
‘Have you fought a werewolf before?’
He shook his head once.
‘Then how can you be sure your eyes will work? They don’t affect me.’
‘I am certain.’ He replied
Lazily, he rose to his feet and twisted his neck, to the clicking of vertebrae. He clambered effortlessly over the rocks on which he had lain. His body moved with an unnerving degree of stealth and precision – another factor which seldom endeared him with the people he met – while his tail snaked across the stone behind him like a black bull whip. He brushed past her and made his way towards the mouth of the cave.
Lyssa was confused. When she turned round to follow his path, however, realisation dawned. Very suddenly.
The white statue which loomed over her was massively muscular, shaggy, snarling and with claws and fangs bared in preparation for a lunge.
The werewolf’s face was turned to her, but its frozen eyes stared up at where Sylth had lain. Behind the bloodthirsty grimace, there seemed to be an element of surprise in its contorted features.
Frozen in shock, she returned its vacant gaze for some time. Meanwhile, Sylth prowled around the beasts legs. He investigated his victim like a hound, prodding it with his snout. His inexpressive features contrived to look unimpressed.
‘What will you do with it…now that it’s frozen?’ Lyssa asked, when she had regained her senses.
He didn’t reply until he was standing in front of the statue. He cocked his head slightly to one side and was still for the briefest moment. Then he reared up onto his hind legs, bringing his head to the level of the werewolf’s. Lurching unsteadily, he dropped onto the werewolf, clinging to its shoulders with his clawed hands. With a twist of his body, he pulled the statue off balance and sent it crashing into the stone. White shards scattered across the floor as the right arm shattered and the torso, tail and legs broke into chunks. The head snapped free and rolled between Sylth’s legs as he dropped back down.
Lyssa was taken aback.
‘Why did you smash him?’ she asked.
Sylth turned to her with what might have been surprise.
‘It wanted to kill you.’ He replied.
‘But…isn’t it against your code to smash someone?’ she asked
‘A person, yes. Not an animal; I must eat.’
He took a large chunk of stone from the pile and swallowed it for emphasis. It was how basilisks hunted – they petrified their victims and then bit or broke them into manageable chunks. The statues were not so much stone as they were a more solidified form of the creature’s body. Although the basilisk’s ability was voluntary, they could not reverse the process. Only mages could undo their petrification magic.
Sylth left the broken werewolf and walked over to the edge of the cliff. His tail coiled around the hapless canid bandit and hoisted him effortlessly from his perch. Under the pouring rain, Sylth’s tough hide shone like obsidian in the lightning. He carried the statue into the cave and set it down gently beside the fire pit.
‘Stay if you wish,’ he said to Lyssa, ‘I remain till dawn. He stored wood and the coals are hot. There are stolen clothes in that trunk too.’
She had forgotten her nakedness completely. As Sylth curled up on the flat rock in the back of the cave, she routed through the contents of the trunk. Most of the garments were either too small or meant for warmer conditions. She took out a serviceable brown traveller’s robe and slipped it on, carefully ignoring the hole in the left breast and the lingering smell of iron.
She looked at her old acquaintance – already with his eyes closed – looked at the pile of white shards and then looked out at the storm…
A few minutes later, smoke began to trickle out from the cave entrance. Moments after that, there was a small shower of pale stones off the edge of the precipice. The werewolf’s head bounced against the cliff face, broke its lower jaw and finally rolled between the boulders on the lower slope. With broken ears, snapped off fangs and a chipped nose, it looked a sorry sight when it settled amongst the ferns.
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[Warning: this chapter contains mature themes of a sexually suggestive nature. Reader discretion is advised]
A sigh of satisfaction escaped his lips as he set down his first drink of the evening. The droplets of condensation were cool and refreshing against his finger pads, a welcome sensation after a long day in the studio. The club was only half full tonight, but true to its name, it was filled with that same vibe that drew the young and outgoing to places like this the world over, to bathe in the sensations of the driving music while coloured lights shifted from warm pinks to cool blues, on into the dark purples and reds which blended with the smoke of the cigarettes and vapes to create that alluring, illicit atmosphere where it felt like anything was possible.
He could see it as he lifted the glass to his dark lips a second time and sipped deeply from the cool fizzing liquid, feeling the cider rapidly bringing on the mild light-headedness which was at the same time both relaxing and disconcerting. The long wooden counter behind him was stocked with far more potent drinks, a number of which he’d tried before, most of which he couldn’t see the point in drinking. Once you got past the allure of all that was exotic, potent and expensive, at the end of the day he drank for the taste, not the label or the buzz.
His long flowing tail swayed slowly behind him, the tip curling ever so slightly now and then as he sat reclining against the warm wood of the bar, dark brown eyes taking in the scenery of the night.
Truthfully though…tonight, he didn’t really care for the scenery.
Sighing again, this time in mild boredom, he relaxed against the bar and looked casually over the lounge area of the club, seeing a host of other species of both genders moving between couches and tables and generally enjoying themselves in all the ways people did in situations like this. Club Vibez did attract an interesting range of clientele, there was no doubt about that, which was one of the reasons the dark grey wolf had begun to frequent it more regularly. The ever changing menagerie of forms, personalities and styles made for a diverting side show while he relaxed with his evening drink. In addition, it also increased his chances in the game.
His eyes of dark earthy brown flickered casually between the females, lingering on those who presented themselves in the most flirtatious manner, but usually passing them by in the end. Physical beauty was on display in abundance. Sometimes very much so. A young leopardess in particular warranted a second glance as she stepped between the black leather couches; her curving hips swaying alluringly in time with the tapping of her white high-heels upon the wooden floor, while her dark blue dress bared all of her shoulders and every last inch of her long and smooth-furred legs. Now and then a flash of white lace would draw the eye to the space between her thighs, but only just as the fabric of her dress slid back to cover it with the following step.
Damian set his glass aside and watched the open show with the merest hint of a smirk. He could see the attention she was drawing from other males in the club – and several of the females too – with her carefully revealing dress and the subtle yet sensual movements of her body even as she came over to the bar and set her stylish black handbag upon the counter.
Her emerald green eyes finally turned and met his. In the briefest moment he recognized the flicker of a knowing smile and the movement of her eyes over his body, but he simply smiled politely and gave a subtle bow of his head in acknowledgement. The latter seemed to take the leopardess a little by surprise, but she was quickly distracted by the bartender as the lithe and smartly dressed reptile asked casually what she would like to drink.
She even had a beautiful voice, Damian thought, whilst taking an interested look at the brushed gold pendant she wore around her neck and the little crystal studs in her rounded ears.
Then he turned back towards the club and took another sip of his cider.
His own outfit consisted of a pair of neat black skinny jeans and a dark grey long sleeved shirt which he wore with the sleeves rolled up and the chest unbuttoned to the base of his sternum. His medium length fur was neatly kept and ranged from the off-white of his underbelly through various shades of rich grey elsewhere. On his face and muzzle, a mixture of different shades created striking and yet unobtrusive patterns like a natural war-paint.
He was well built and athletic without being overtly muscular or heavily toned and wore his raven black hair in a loose plat, extending down to the small of his back and secured near the end by a broad silver band. His other jewellery consisted of a plain white gold band around his left thumb and an elegant rose gold ring inlaid with a line of fine dark emeralds upon his right middle finger, while around his dark furred neck he wore a snug fitting collar of deep burgundy leather with a fine border of gold thread.
The tap-tap of the high heels didn’t draw his attention again as the leopardess walked back down to join in the crowd, soon to be pulled away by conversation with a handsome looking stallion, to Damian’s mild amusement.
He watched them both casually for some time. Reading the signs with practiced ease, almost idly tallying the drinks and the movement from the bar to the dance floor to the couch as both played the game as if led by some unconscious formula. There were many ways it could go, but Damian recognized the players and before the evening was over, he had little doubt what the outcome would be.
“Would you mind if I join you?”
She looked up with a smile and a casual shrug.
“Sure, no sweat.”
Smiling gratefully, he settled onto the barstool next to her and slid his glass onto the counter as he turned to face her. Her hazel coloured eyes openly glanced over his body and he chuckled as she gave him a knowing look and remarked outright.
“Why? Did your date drop you or something big boy?”
“I never had one to begin with.” He replied honestly.
She was a fennec fox – her short, pale cream-coloured fur partly hidden beneath a long sleeved shirt cut to just below her small breasts and the ripped denim shorts which hugged her waist and her rear tightly. Her outfit was all black, as was the silver studded bracelet she wore around her right wrist and the chunky ring around her left middle finger. The black satin cord around her neck had just one round steel bead as a pendant and she wore a number of small silver rings along the inner edge of her right ear, as well as a pin through her belly button and one through the left side of her upper lip.
“Huh, that’s kinda surprising.” She remarked with some curiosity, to which the wolf simply shrugged in reply.
The bartender came by to set a tall glass of amber in front of the fennec and as she picked it up in her right hand, she rested her left arm back against the counter. Glancing between Damian and the now more crowded floor of the club as she remarked above the noise of the chatter and the beat of the music,
“I’m Amanda by the way. You been here before?”
“Damian, pleased to meet you Amanda,” he replied with a nod and a polite smile, “and I’ve been here a few times over the past year or so. What about you?”
She shook her head and took a sip of her drink.
“It’s a new one on me. Not half as crap as where I used to go though.”
“Where was that?” he asked.
“Place called the ‘The Pit’. Hmph, it sure as hell lived up to the name. I don’t imagine someone like you would have been there.” She answered dismissively.
But he nodded knowingly,
“Oh yes, I’ve been there. Affordable drinks, but that’s about all you can say for the place.”
“Yeah that’s true, you could get drunk on a fiver there easy.” She replied, giving him a slightly more thoughtful look.
“Probably,” he conceded, “I never tried. Only went there twice too, it was rather dull once you got past the madness of the dance floor.”
“What, don’t you dance?” she asked.
“Ballroom dancing yes, freestyling no.” he replied with a slight smile.
He turned away for a moment, looking at nothing very much. The leopardess and the stallion were still sitting on the couch and now the chestnut male had his one arm behind her head and they were leaning in close to one another as the night progressed.
“Well if you’re all alone and not here to dance then why the hell go clubbing?”
Damian glanced back at Amanda. Then he looked out again. Over the friends and the couples. Over the lovers and the players. He motioned with his muzzle towards the scene and replied in a slightly offhand tone,
"Other people do the clubbing, I just come here to relax. To get out of life and routine.”
As he paused for a moment, a slight smile came to his dark lips. Amanda looked at him, her own expression slowly becoming one of greater curiosity, especially as he continued, his deep rich voice soft upon the ears yet seeming to resonate inside of her.
“Sometimes it’s nice to just sit at the bar and simply enjoy a drink. Letting life go on all around you and just...observing. Being part of the show, but also apart from it."
The half empty glass twirled slowly between his fingers on the counter, drawing her eyes to the darkly sparkling emeralds of his exquisitely crafted ring.
Her eyes turned back up to his strong face just as he turned back to her, smiling softly as he continued in a gently alluring tone,
"And sometimes one is lucky enough to meet someone new and interesting. Perhaps only for a moment, perhaps just for the evening. Or perhaps…for more than just a chat."
In the silence that followed, Amanda’s cheeks flushed very slightly beneath her pale fur. She couldn’t bring herself to look away from his eyes. So dark, that by this dim light they appeared almost solid black. Suddenly she jumped, feeling something brush her sandy tail. She glanced down, and saw the wolf’s own long grey tail unfurling from her own and swaying back behind his stool. Looking back up, she saw the gently mischievous smirk upon the male’s muzzle, which turned to a casual smile once more as he turned his back to the bar once more.
She knew what was happening. The signs were as clear as could be and his subtleness only made it show more clearly to someone familiar with the game. As she was.
Was it the voice? The cool, sureness of his appearance and his posture? His manner?
In the back of her mind she knew this was all a game and she knew what he was after. She knew he was playing her.
But somehow…that only made her cheeks flush a little deeper as she smiled softly in return and glanced down a little bit shyly, before turning her lithe body to face his larger frame and curling her tail around his own in a brief caress.
Damian glanced back at her and in an instant he read her expression and smiled warmly, turning to face her once again and leaning his weight against the bar as they both drew a little closer to one another, looking into each other’s eyes more intently now.
“That was almost poetic, Damian. What you just said.”
He gave a slight shrug, smiling as he replied,
“I was never much good at poetry, but every now and then something comes to me.”
“Would that be when you’re working, or when you’re playing?” she asked slyly, earning a gently knowing smirk from Damian as he replied causally,
“Both sometimes. I’m a jeweller by trade, so most of my artistic inspiration and my passion is poured into that. But, there’s usually a little left to spare.”
“Oh?” she remarked, catching the subtle hint in that pause.
His muzzle bobbed slightly as he nodded and then laying his arm upon the counter, he lightly touched the back of her hand with his fingertips. Her blush deepened a little as she felt the touch, so light it was almost like an illusion.
“W-what for?” she asked, when he said nothing.
“Hmm?” he gave her a questioning glance.
“What do you use that…extra passion for?”
His soft smile remained unchanged, as he ran his finger tip along the back of her hand and her middle finger, murmuring in reply,
“A different kind art.”
Her blush deepened yet again. As his fingertip touched the short painted black claw of her middle finger she pulled back just a little, muttering under her breath even as she tried not to smile,
“Guess you were just looking for a girl for the night all along huh?”
Smirking ever so slightly, he turned his muzzle a little to the side and replied as cool and as confident as ever,
“Only if she would like a boy for the evening in turn?”
In the silence that followed he could see her sly little smirk turning into a shy, yet excited smile and soon enough her left hand came to rest on his firm chest and they leaned in to one another, pausing only for her to whisper,
“Mm, I prefer men to boys…but you just might be in luck tonight handsome…”
His gentle smirk faded and his dark lips parted and pressed lightly over her own as the two strangers kissed gently but deeply. Her fingers slipped beneath the fabric of his shirt and moved slowly across his right breast, feeling his toned muscle and the softness of his short grey fur. His right hand traced its fingers down along her side before resting at her waist, just as they both drew back from the kiss and held each other’s gaze for a moment.
“Don’t think I’m easy.” She remarked under her breath.
“If I did, I wouldn’t be taking my time.” He replied, his hand moving slowly up and around her side to press warmly against her shoulder. A gentle touch, which felt as if it held her there close to him possessively, yet still was gentle enough that she could pull away if she wanted to…
But she didn’t want to at all.
His muzzle was so close to hers. She could feel his warm breath, slow and soft, flowing through the sandy fur of her snout. The sweet scent of his drink tickled her nose as they looked into one another’s eyes and kissed softly one more time, her hands pressing into his chest as if to push him back, but at the same time her tail curled itself around his own, keeping him close. For a while they simply looked into each other’s eyes. His hand gently dropped down to her hip and he leaned in and placed a tender kiss upon her cheek.
Then he leant back a little and rested his weight against the bar once more, while his hand came to rest on her soft thigh. There was something about the way he looked at her in their shared silence. Something so subtle in his features that put her at ease and made her feel…not just wanted – she knew what that felt like – this was different. Even as he delicately caressed her inner thigh with the quiet boldness of a lover, the fact that he had been a total stranger not half an hour ago…no longer seemed to matter.
It had to be an act. This couldn’t be real and she made one last effort to break through that cool demeanour as she pressed her fingertip to his dark nose and remarked with a smug grin,
“So what now? Are you just going to stare at me and hope I’ll take the initiative playboy?”
His smile said it all as he curled his tail around her own just a little tighter and murmured deeply,
“Why? Are you getting impatient Amanda?”
Her ears dropped back, but he laughed gently as she opened her mouth to retort and he turned to face her fully once again before grasping her hips firmly and lifting her from her seat and into his lap. She gasped in surprise and her cheeks flushed as he wrapped his left arm behind her. He glanced up into her eyes with a gently playful smile, before lowering his muzzle and pressing his warm lips to her bare chest.
For a brief moment, she was frozen in place. Before she could speak, he drew back ever so slightly and lifted his muzzle up, placing a second kiss right at the base of her neck.
“Whether this goes further is entirely up to you Amanda.” He murmured to her, while the display drew curious and jealous glances from some of the other party goers.
She shuddered in his grasp. Her hands which had moved to his sides instinctively to push him away, now moved behind his shoulders to hold him closer as his kiss lingered upon the side of her neck.
“F-fuck...what kind of guy are you?” she stuttered under her breath, confused emotions running through her body as she felt this wolf hold her possessively and move his lips tenderly up her neck at the same time.
“My own kind.” He replied, as his teeth lightly nipped her left ear.
Then drawing back to look up into her eyes once more, he asked simply and with a look that was filled with desire, yet remained gentle and measured,
“May I have this dance tonight?”
She stared down at him in silence. Flustered, stunned, confused and turned on all at once. Finally she felt a smile creeping onto her lips and her mind was made up. Quickly she leaned into him and sealed his lips with an impassioned kiss for a brief moment. Then looking him in the eye with a subtle smirk, she whispered to him,
“I’m gonna head back to my place for the night. So why don’t you come along…and show me what you can do, boy?”
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[Warning: this chapter contains adult material including nudity and graphic sexual intercourse. Reader discretion is advised]
The sky was grey again today. The air was cold enough to give a chill, but not quite cold enough to let you wear a good thick raincoat comfortably. A light drizzle had been falling for the last few days, soaking its way through everything, including the peoples’ mood. Most of them trudged along the sidewalks or crept through the jammed up streets in their slow cars, looking sullen or irritable.
The russet fox smiled at his vague reflection in the window on his left, as he watched the familiar London scene from the warmth of the little Café on King Street. He sat here every afternoon, working on his laptop while he slowly sipped a flat white. The manager even booked the same little booth for him every week day at the same time. He knew the waitress as well; in fact she’d invited him to her wedding a few weeks from now.
He was a handsome looking fellow. A little over five foot nine, he had a slim build with noticeable, but lean muscle. His fur was russet red everywhere, apart from a band of white which ran from his chin down the front of his neck to behind his shirt and the white tip which graced his long and plush tail, currently draped over the edge of the seat. There was also a dark brown edging around the tips of his ears. Currently he was dressed in a black, V-necked long-sleeve top and a pair of champagne coloured long trousers with a plain leather belt and steel buckle. He wore neat black shoes which, like his clothes, had a well-cared-for appearance. All he had with him beside his laptop and its bag, was his leather wallet, his cellphone and a large black umbrella.
The steam from the coffee rose merrily into the air as he tapped away at the keyboard, answering emails and just generally going through his admin. Pausing to read a particularly lengthy message, he lifted the half full mug to his thin lips and smiled a little smile as he heard a familiar sound from outside.
The hiss of the buss door opening and the warning beeps reached the ears of the waitress too and she caught his eye with a wink. He smiled at the sheep and nodded in confirmation. She trotted off to the counter to place his order, flicking the single long lock of dyed red and black hair out of her face. He was pleased to see that she was experimenting with wearing fewer piercings these days – they really hadn’t suited her personality.
The door of the Café opened as he set his mug down. Moments later, a pair of slender arms wrapped around his neck from behind. He smiled happily and clasped the elegant russet furred hands with his own.
“How was the day dear?” he asked without looking around.
“It was boring, until I stepped in.” a feminine voice replied playfully.
His smile broadened and he looked up into the red muzzle and golden eyes of the vixen behind him. She smiled back at him and they kissed briefly. She was dressed much like him, black jeans and a white shirt, only hers was a crop top that bared the white fur of her slim belly. Sensible heels, a black and silver belt and a plain gold chain completed the differences, along with a thick grey fur-lined jacket.
“How was yours bae?” she asked, settling herself down in the seat opposite him.
He chuckled softly,
“Do you remember about a month ago we lost the bid for that contract with one of South Africa’s biggest wine farms?” he asked.
“Oh yes?” she replied, her smile suggesting that she already had an idea where this was going.
“They called around lunch time and they want to use us after all.” he said with satisfaction.
“That’s brilliant bae!” She leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table with a knowing look, “and who will be managing those shipments?”
Returning her look, he turned his laptop around and pointed to a paragraph in the email he had been reading.
She read it quickly and then lifted her hand and they high-fived one another.
“We’ll eat tonight!” he said jokingly.
The neatly shorn waitress trotted up beside them and expertly slid a large cappuccino in front of the vixen.
“Here you go Gwen.” She said brightly.
“Oh, how ever did you know Vicky?” the vixen chuckled, as she eagerly picked up the steaming drink.
The young sheep just giggled in reply, then she tucked her tray under her arm and asked,
“So what was that little celebration about?”
“Oh, just a bit of good news from work.” the fox replied.
“What he means to say, is he’s just been put in charge of managing wine imports from one of the biggest farms in South Africa.” His wife supplied with a look of light hearted reproach.
“But that’s awesome news!” the sheep girl exclaimed.
She grinned at the vixen.
“Why do men downplay everything?” she whispered conspiratorially.
“I have no idea.” Gwen replied with mock despair.
The fox laughed.
“Well I downplay it because I know how much you enjoy sending it up afterwards, my dear.” He responded.
“So what are you going to do to celebrate?” Vicky asked.
The fox shrugged exaggeratedly.
“Oh I don’t think we need to go out of our way to celebrate.” He remarked dismissively.
Vicky and Gwen both opened their mouths to disagree, but he dipped his hand into the pocket of his laptop bag and withdrew a little booklet, which he then set down on the table with a sideways look at the two women. They both leaned forward and Vicky gave a girlish squeal.
“Singing in the Rain! At the New London Theatre!” she exclaimed.
Gwen jumped to her feet and rushed to throw her arms around her husband.
“Oh Jasper, you know me too well.” She said to him, as he softly stroked the fur of her neck, smiling gently.
“Aww…” Vicky remarked, longingness in her eyes as she watched their embrace, “you two are always so sweet together.”
Jasper shut his eyes with a soft little smile as his wife squeezed him tightly.
The wrinkled bulldog in the spotless suit and shining bowtie, nodded apologetically to the pair,
“We are very sorry mam, Sir…you shall of course be refunded, or you may forward your booking to the next showing.”
Gwen’s gasp of dismay faded to a saddened expression as she sighed softly and turned away.
“Thank you.” Jasper replied solemnly, on her behalf as well, before leaving the glass clad building, keeping close behind Gwen.
He called to her to wait and opened his umbrella for the pair of them as the rain was coming down fairly heavily outside.
From the steps of the theatre, the pair looked out on the cold greyness of their city. The roads were soaked and slippery, forcing the taxis and cars to drive even slower than the overcrowded streets usually forced them to. Water gurgled everywhere; spilling off the tall grey buildings, splattering against the dull paving stones, finally churning in the gutters as it swirled out of sight down the many drains that led to the city’s silt laden river.
Gwen huddled up against Jasper as he held the brolly firmly over them, the pair making their way up the street towards the distant bus stop, the nearest one they knew of that would take them close to their street. It was already so crowded, however, that they would probably have to wait for the second bus, or at this time of day, perhaps even the third…and in rain as heavy as this, standing around for the better part of half would hardly be any better than chancing the walk back to their home. The rain had a way of drenching you no matter what and at that moment, the rain drops which skirted the wide brolly were leaping up in splashes of droplets from the pavement to soak their black jeans as they walked on together.
Soon the fabric felt cold and heavy against the fur of their legs, the once cheery couple passing silently through the empty grey back streets, hoping to avoid the cars which sent waves of icy water spraying up from ever larger puddles in the shimmering streets. Jasper rubbed Gwen’s shoulder comfortingly as he did his best to shield her from the rain, glancing with sad eyes into her downcast face, the hopes for their time together dashed and the rain adding insult to injury as they headed home to escape the misery of this sorry evening.
By the time they were just past Brunswick Gardens and paused to let an old lorry trundle turn the corner in front of them, both had begun to shiver in spite of their thick jackets.
But then Jasper held Gwen back, peering down the little side street across the road. Where Handle Street turned away to the left, there was a little grassy park nestled between the buildings. Gwen looked up at her husband in confusion as he led her across the road and paused once more at the entrance to Handle Street, his eyes set on the little green space ahead. As though feeling her searching gaze, Jasper turned to her and smiling, he took her arm and led her on, holding her gaze as he quietly began a merry little tune that Gwen could not help but recognize.
“Do do-do do, do do-do do-do do do.
Do do-do do, do do-do do-do do do.”
And then, as they entered the park, his rich voice rang and he dropped their umbrella and stepped out in front of her, his face warm and smiling back at her as he sang out aloud,
“I’m signing in the rain,
just singing in the rain.
What a glorious feelin’
I’m happy again.
I’m laughing at clouds,
so dark up above.
The sun’s in my heart,
for I’m here…with my love.”
Darting in, he pecked her cheek and then spun away leaving her to watch in amazement with a happy smile coming to her lips, while Jasper peered out from behind a tree and continued with the bright words of the chorus,
“Let the stormy clouds chase,
everyone from the place.
Come on, with the rain!
I’ve a smile on my face!
I walk, down the lane,
With a happy refrain,
Cause’ with you love,
I’ll be singin’…in the rain.”
A thunder clap rumbled above and the rain came down, but as Gwen’s laughter filled the empty park, the two lovers rushed to hold hands and dance through the trees. Smiling as they spun and sang together, the umbrella twirled in wide circles and let the rain fall upon the pair as in time they made their winding way along the streets, leaving the little park behind. The clear notes of their happy song faded back into silence beneath the pleasant pattering of rain upon the trees, while the clear drops filled their pawprints with little puddles, shining like silver beneath the grey skies.
By the time they had made it back to their home in Wharfdale Road, Gwen and Jasper were both soaked to the skin and smiling contentedly as they paused arm in arm before the faded red door of their house. Gwen’s jacket was slung over her arm and she carried her sopping wet shoes in her hand. As she took out her keys and unlocked the door Jasper shook off his umbrella, before they both stepped inside into the warmth of their little home.
The door shut and all was quiet. Jasper slid his black umbrella into the rack behind their door and then turned to follow his wife down the passageway. No sooner had he done so, however, than he paused and smiled softly, his eyes looking into hers as she stood before him. Her hands came up to briefly clasp his sides, before they moved in a loving caress around his back and up to clasp his shoulders and pull him close, their lips meeting as his hands rested upon her waist.
As they kissed, the noise of the rain came as a gentle rustle, a pitter-patter sound that turned the little house with its light wooden floors and stylish red walls with slate grey edgings into a cosy cocoon of warmth and dryness. The double glazing on the windows of the little living room kept out the bustle of life as a bus trundled past, while the cream coloured curtains allowed only the glow of the streetlamps to penetrate their sanctuary from reality. Jasper’s lips left Gwen’s only with the greatest reluctance, but in the wake of their tender kiss, both smiled with contentment and a knowingness that came with familiarity.
With a deft movement and bringing first a laugh and then a gasp from Gwen’s lips, her husband pulled her off her feet and into his arms in an embrace which left her straddling his waist while he supported her back and shoulders with his strong arms. She wrapped her long legs around his hips, elegant hands clasping his shoulders, and with a slow and graceful step, he carried her up the narrow flight of stairs to their bedroom on the first floor. They smiled at each other, while the fingers of her right hand slowly traced along the outline of the muscles of his chest, coming up to stroke the soft fur of his cheek. Jasper’s eyes briefly closed as he stepped onto the landing and then with a broader smile he pulled her close to him and planted deep kiss right between her breasts. Gwen sighed softly, her right hand keeping his head there as she shut her eyes, eager to let him take control.
His tail flicked the switch on the wall to bathe their room’s deep red walls in a light with the warmth of the embers of a fire and the two lovers fell together into the embrace of the soft scarlet covers of their bed. Jasper lay on top, his hands now free to roam over Gwen’s form and caress her soft fur. Hers stayed as they had been, clasping his shoulder and the back of his head as she moaned softly with each kiss that graced her snow white chest. While Jasper worked his lips along her collar bone, his left hand slid beneath her white crop top and finding his prize, he cupped her breast and gave a gentle squeeze, eliciting a soft and sudden gasp from his wife.
“A-always such a tease.” She murmured with a soft smile, stealing a brief look into his green eyes before she bit her lower lip and moaned when his short claws gently raked against the skin of her breast, pulling at her bra.
Jasper smiled softly and easily unclipped her bra to allow him to pull away the offending undergarment and then hitch the hem of her top up over her soft breasts, leaving her chest bared for him to lean in and softly lick the sensitive pink nub of her left nipple. She arched her back slowly beneath him as he sealed his lips around it and swirled his tongue in little circles over the tender flesh, suckling gently. At the same time his right hand crept underneath her, holding her close as he released her nipple and kissed her fur softly.
With impossible patience, he trailed kisses and slow tender licks down the white fur between her breasts and across her belly, sliding his body over her legs and stroking his hands along her sides until he reached her belly button.
‘N-noo…” Gwen whimpered playfully as she knew what was coming.
Jasper chuckled softly and his soft tongue slipped past his lips as he kissed the little dimple in Gwen’s fur, tickling her sensitive nerves and making her squirm beneath him and occasionally give soft little yelps as she struggled in his teasing grasp. Finally her hands grabbed his head while her legs wrapped around his shoulders and she forced him down, giggling femininely and panting with exertion.
“Oh you sly…”
“Fox?” he supplied with a grin, interrupting her and then immediately leaning forward and sealing her lips with a deep kiss.
As he pulled away, his loving eyes sparkled with good natured mischief and he leaned past her muzzle and took her pointed ear between his front teeth, gently nibbling her as he murmured,
“You know I have many more tricks up my sleeve than that, beautiful.”
Gwen blushed softly as she felt his left hand cup the little mound between her thighs. His fingers found their way to the zipper of her black jeans and the gentle sound of the tag being pulled down made her heart beat faster in anticipation.
“Please…let me, love…” she begged him softly, and before he could reply she reached past him, undid her belt and popped the button of her jeans, before shimmying out of them as quickly as she could.
Jasper sat up and caught her hands in his before she could go any further, smiling as he brought them up and pinned her arms either side of her head.
“Mine.” He growled softly, then released her and slipped back down.
Laying down between her thighs, he leaned in and pressed his muzzle against the pure white fabric of her lace panties. Gwen, keeping her arms obediently held back, arched her back again and her lips parted in anxious excitement as Jasper gently nuzzled into her womanhood. He breathed in deeply, his sensitive nose picking up the familiar sweet scent of her most intimate of places and stoking his own desire as he took the thin layer of white fabric between his teeth and pulled firmly, uncovering her at last. Sitting up, he slid her panties down the smooth fur of her legs and as she lifted her dark brown paws for him, he smiled and took hold of one dainty little foot, bringing it to his lips to place a brief kiss on the gentle arch. Gwen’s blush deepened, as did her smile, but neither of them faded as he released her paw and leaned in once more, grasping her thighs and pulling them apart.
With her sex bared to him, Jasper lay down upon the bed, resting on his elbows as his hands clasped and held Gwen’s thighs, and he pressed his lips against the soft white fur that surrounded her entrance. Her eyes shut and she clasped her left breast gently, her fingers tweaking the nipple, as his lips parted and his tongue dragged slowly along the length of the little pink slit. She moved gently beneath him, while he continued to lick slowly and tenderly at her soft folds, his eyes shut as he lost himself once more in the joy of pleasuring his mate. Turning his muzzle to the side, he pressed a little deeper between the folds of her sex, quiet moans escaping her lips as he would slow down to let her feel the texture of his vulpine tongue trailing across her sensitive flesh. Now and then too, a sudden flick would brush across the hard nub placed above her entrance and cause her to gasp and shiver as a spark of pleasure raced along her spine.
If Jasper was exceptional in any way, it was in his self-control. Even as the scent and taste of Gwen’s sex drove his own desires wild, the lustful cries of his own instincts fell on deaf ears. For minute after minute, his only action was to lavish his lover’s sex with ever more intense touches as he worked his tongue deeper and searched out the special places within her. Here and there he paused to press against her soft inner walls, each time bringing a sharp gasp or breathless moan from Gwen’s parted lips as he expertly caressed her most sensitive spots. Until finally she began to lose her own restraint and reached down to grasp his head between her hands, running her fingers through his short fur and stroking his pointed ears as they lay back against his neck.
“Ohhh Jasper…” she moaned softly, her amber eyes shining as she watched his every loving movement, “Ahh…please bae…you know how good this feels for me…but please don’t forget about yourself love. I’m ready for you. I’m always ready for you.”
She smiled softly, cupping his cheek and encouraging him to pull back, which eventually he did, his tongue reluctantly slipping free of her entrance, earning one final sigh of pleasure from Gwen even as it did so.
Cupping her hand gently with his, Jasper sat back on his haunches. He trailed his index finger slowly down the side of her belly and along her inner thigh, causing her to giggle softly and curl her tail.
“And you know that I’m happiest when I’m loving you my girl.” He replied with a gentle smile.
Smiling in return, she gave a slow nod and then sat up in his arms and untucked his shirt from his jeans before pulling it up over his head and tossing it away. Pressing her hands against his toned chest and rubbing them over his fur affectionately, she kissed his belly and murmured in reply,
“Which is exactly what you will be doing now.”
His belt rattled as she unbuckled it, unzipped his jeans and helped him out of them, pulling away his underpants at the same time to free his manhood from the much too tight confines. She smirked softly as she took it in her hand and leaned up to kiss and lick the tip of his shaft, before sinking down onto him and sealing her lips against the soft fur of his sheath. Jasper growled quietly, his hands clenching into fists before running his fingers through the fur of her cheeks as his voice betrayed just how much he was actually needing this by now. Slowly moving her head back and forth, she ran her tongue along his hard member, taking her turn to taste him and breathing in his rich earthy scent. Left to her own devices, she would gladly have continued pleasuring him just as he had her, but after a few minutes, Jasper could wait no longer and he grasped her shoulder to ask her to stop.
Her lips left his shaft as she looked up with a shy smile into his bright eyes. He smiled back and without a word the two moved together.
Rolling over and raising herself onto all fours, Gwen shuddered in anticipation as Jasper knelt behind her and she raised her tail, holding it out of the way for him to penetrate her. He grasped her hips and she felt the first touch of his member as he eased the pointed tip inside her flushed sex, both of them sighing as he pushed forwards and sank the first few inches into the tight embrace of her smooth passage. For a moment they were still, savouring the shared bliss of that moment.
Her body trembled with excitement as she felt her mate lean over her and wrap his left arm around her belly, steadying himself with his right arm as he rocked his hips forward and buried the rest of his length inside of her. She rolled her head back and moaned softly, Jasper sighing with relief from his burning need to take her and placing a loving kiss on the nape of her neck as he started to thrust into her slowly and rhythmically. His skilful touch earlier had left her more than ready for him and his member glided between her soft folds with perfect ease, every movement a blissful wave of pleasure as they shared their love.
Gwen’s eyes stayed shut as she tilted her head to one side, baring her neck to her husband’s lips as he alternated between soft kisses which made her blush with happiness and tender bites that made her gasp with delight. Her breaths came in soft pants of pleasure and desire and as he thrust inside her, she pushed back against him, working his manhood in to the very hilt. Already she could feel his knot spreading her folds just a little wider, the smooth bulge of warm flesh pulsing rhythmically with his heart beat as every passing moment brought him closer, until Jasper paused and held her fast underneath him, lest he reach his climax too soon.
“Ah…p-please love…d-don’t stop…” Gwen begged him, bucking weakly against him even as he nibbled her ear affectionately and murmured to her,
“Let me set the pace Gwen. I want you to come first baby. I want to hear you scream.”
She quivered as he slowly brought his hips forward and sank his shaft between her folds once more. Now he moved slowly yet again, but thrust in harder, withdrawing with agonizing slowness that made Gwen whimper as she was held still, forced to submit herself entirely to her mate’s loving and biting her lip as he pushed her ever closer to her peak. She held back, trying to prolong the pleasure, never wanting the moment to end as she shivered and gasped in her lover’s grip, her senses filled with the warmth and scent of his naked body and the touch of his silken fur.
A breathless gasp told that she was close and as her hand came up to clasp his strong shoulder, Jasper opened his dark lips and bared the small ivory canines within before biting down softly between her neck and sloping shoulder.
Gwen’s scream of bliss turned to a high clear howl as she arched her back in a last shock of pleasure. Her passage tightened its grip on Jasper’s shaft and he growled deeply as he held his mate and gave a last few quick thrusts, before his own orgasm sent a rush through his body; his knot swelled within her blushing folds and the two were locked together in shared ecstasy.
As little beads of clear sweet fluid trickled from her sex, Gwen felt warmth blossom within her as Jasper’s seed flooded her womb and as her howl faded and she knelt panting beneath him, she smiled serenely to feel his warm breaths caressing her neck as he tenderly licked the little dimples left by his love bite. Then he laid her down upon her side, wrapping his arms around her middle and resting with her in the gentle afterglow.
Gwen’s fingers traced slowly along Jasper’s forearm. Her eyes half closed, she smiled softly, feeling his muzzle resting against her neck. Her left hand drifted slowly along the gentle curve of her belly, at last tracing where the snow white fur of Jasper’s sheath kissed the delicate pink lips of her sex.
She felt him stir and warmth blossomed as his lips kissed her softly blushing cheek yet again. She turned her face towards his, the pair sharing a tender smile, their dark noses touching gently and each closing their eyes and cupping the other’s cheek in a loving embrace.
Laid together upon the rippled sea of the scarlet covers, they nuzzled into one another in the warmth and quiet of their little room until darkness fell outside and the light above them faded to a gentle glow under which both soon passed into a blissful slumber. Held in each other’s arms, they stayed there until morning came again and the dawn light, filtering through the scarlet curtains, bathed them once more in the deep, warm glow, of the colour of passion.
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Miorjah had forgotten what it felt like to live in a home. She had spent so long in nature itself, curling under trees or up in branches hiding from the world, sometimes spending days wandering across running clear creeks or hidden in damp caverns. This wasn’t the case anymore, she found herself in an expansive warm stone room. The windows reminded her of home, long and tall on an inner garden and courtyard, it was a contrast of how she remembered seeing the outside of the towering stone stronghold, which nearly melted into the mountains around it. Inside it was far more pretty, and she liked that in a way. It pulled at her delicate heartstrings as she found herself curled up in a bed of soft plush comforters and thick furs. This uncomfortable tangle of uneasiness in her heart and her mind wandering to her history. She never could seem to calm herself, her mind always wandered to “what if”, and never calmed enough to let her sleep properly.
She didn’t always feel like that, steady her little heart. She found comfort in the wolf who found her, a king, so he claimed and quickly proved. The chambermaids were kind, even if they towered over her and doubled the weight she was used too. She felt so small in comparison, and that was a new experience. She was always too tall back home, usually a head over the little dainty pureblood unicorns around her. Now she felt nearly like one of them, compared to the horses, sheep, and wolves she had met in her time here.
They treated her like a little doll, so delicate. She didn’t entirely mind it, never really knowing how to understand her own beauty and appearance; Her mother often playfully joked she was like a willow or a towering birch tree, but she didn’t find that very kind. The prey-bred servants were nothing like she was used too, they towered over her with heavy matronly frames that seemed to be all northern women, they treated her like a little flower, dressed her in fine clothing and brought her meals she was slowly getting used too. She realized the king thought of her similar to a horse, or a doe, he wasn’t entirely wrong, and she didn’t mind the change in diet, but she missed rosewater a bit.
She enjoyed the silent company of the king. He towered over her, a strong body built for battle that matched his deep baritone voice and fearsome visage; scars of war and conflict wandered up what bits of fur she could see under his heavy armor. She found him ruggedly handsome, even the long-healed scar down one of his molten gold eyes added to his charming appearance. She couldn’t look at him for too long before feeling her face warm in a flush and her throat slowly knot. So she rarely did, hiding from his presence at times.
Thankfully he was hard to miss, much less hear approaching as his massive paws always made heavy steps no matter how delicate he was trying to be. Admittedly, she felt his sudden change in demeanor a bit charming, even if it made her feel… strange. She didn’t really know how to place a finger on it, but it made her keep her distance. In the back of her mind she hoped he would tear down the guards she had put up.
It was hard for her to put into anything but wandering thoughts. This massive Dire Wolf made her feel so safe. He had this natural protective air to him, he was a king, after all, and that was his charge to all his people. She tried her best to reason away these feelings, that sudden comfort she felt in his presence that made her way to spill her guts out and stare into his golden eyes. She always shook it away the best she could, even if she started seeing him in her dreams. It was always so vague and soft, and she felt at peace often when she was able to sleep. His very touch made her feel secure and fuzzy in her heart, but she often found herself resisting it. She knew so little about him, the king of the north, this dire wolf who towered over her but treated her like the princess she was.
In a way, she wasn’t used to that. No one in her home court had ever dared deny her title, she was a princess, but she was never properly treated like one. Her mother was lavished and dressed fine and invited to every fancy court ball and meeting looking as divine as her golden coat shimmered. Miorjah was always dressed plainly, whites and the occasional soft pink to blend into the shimmering white and pink marble of the palace. She had to blend in, no one could notice she was truly there, the ghost. She was gifted those fine gowns as a formality from her grandmother but forbidden from wearing them. She’d never get them back, the dragon probably burning them in the fire from that ferocious anger he wore.
She’d never have anything she had before back, and those memories always hit her like as truck, that overwhelming memory of… fire. So much fire, she never escaped it until that day she got away. Her life had been torn asunder, and it was only slowly settling now. This world was so different from the open-air halls of her homeland, but she could hear the boisterous laughter of men and women in the rooms below, the sounds of what she only assumed were noble bloods and servants in these stone and wood halls. She found it relaxing, but she hadn’t dared to explore them without the king at her side.
He worried for her, she felt it. Even with her disguise she was still afraid. She’d wait for him to invite her to what she assumed was the public, like her own home.The Rosehart’s haughty courts bred gossip and rumors and she knew no different. So she’d stick on his word, when he felt it safe. She trusted this king, even if she didn’t fully understand why. Perhaps it was destiny, as all her life seemed to be.
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This story features mentions of self-harm, abuse, neglect, and a couple other triggering subjects. If you are sensitive to that kind of thing, just be aware it's here. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Blue, an air Dranda. She wasn't new to Golden Oak High, a high school on Leafly, but she had noticed someone new. She was upset by the fact that she was sitting alone at lunch. Nobody had even tried to approach her. After about 10 minutes, Blue had to say something to her. She didn't exactly have a friend group either. Perhaps she was shy?
As she got closer to the water Dranda, she took notice of some other details. She was rather attractive, fit-looking, attractive coloring, all that. Her body was light blue, mostly covered by a dark blue jacket and loose blue jeans, but the tail flicking behind her had royal blue rings and a dark blue tip. Her wings had similar coloring, webbed with three segments, a rather rare trait, most webbed wings had two segments, but the top and bottom webbing patch had royal blue with the middle being dark blue. Her cheek fins, as Blue got her attention with a little 'Hey' was now able to see, had the same coloring pattern with the three segments. She raised an eyebrow, which Blue noticed were pale gold,
"Yeah?" She asked.
"I-I uh, I noticed you were new here! A-and I just wanted to ask why you were sitting alone... M-my name's Ammolite, but you can call me Blue!" She said. The water Dranda sighed annoyedly,
"I don't really like other elementals..."
"M-maybe I could help you change your mind? N-not like that, I mean, as friends!" Blue started panicking slightly, which seemed to amuse the water Dranda to some degree.
"I'm... Not looking for friends..." She said, hiding her paws near her stomach. Blue was suspicious of the water Dranda, not in a bad way, more... Concerned for her. Hiding wrists was usually a thing that elementals did after cutting themselves, generally with their own claws.
"A-are you okay...?" Blue asked.
"Why do you care?" She growled. Blue looked shocked, but only for a moment, before regaining her composure to some degree.
"I care because... I don't think there's any good reason to self-harm..." She said.
"I... I don't want to talk to you."
"D-did I do something wrong?"
"Take a guess." She got up and started to walk away, going outside. Blue waited a moment, trying to decide if she should follow or report her self-harm to the counselor. She very quickly decided to follow. She had a better chance of not pissing her off by talking to her herself than having a school counselor talk to her. She was a nice lady, absolutely, Blue talked to her from time to time for her own issues, but... She knew that most preferred to talk to someone they know personally, and not people who are basically paid to pretend to care.
She found the other Dranda sitting outside under a tree in the courtyard, laying back near a small pond they had. Blue smiled slightly. Water elementals generally have an attachment to water. She went over to her again, a little nervous as her ear flicked and her content smile turned to an annoyed scowl, even with her eyes closed.
"Look, I-I get it. You don't want to talk to anyone. I... I used to feel like that. I don't expect your full life story, but... I'd like to help..." Blue said quietly.
"I don't think you really do."
"Really? Anyone who didn't would've left you alone, or not mentioned your wrists... I want to help you... Could you at least tell me your name?"
"I'm Lapis, I was in an abusive relationship with a fire Droggon at the age of fourteen to very recently, my uncle sexually assaulted me when I was five, and finally, I was bullied all throughout elementary and middle school and I'm damn sure it won't stop here. There, ya happy?"
"... I... I'm so sorry..." Blue said, tearing up.
"Don't be. Nobody else has cared..."
"I'm sorry... Can I hug you?"
"Of course not."
"Okay... Uhh... Do you have a shell? C-could I text you after class?" Shells were phones, basically. They look the same, but with a different name.
"We could hang out after school, my mom doesn't give a shit. Maybe I'll make a friend."
"Have you had any real friends before?"
"I thought so. I found out that all of them back in Aquarip just wanted to manipulate me. I got a text from one of them yesterday, basically confessing how they were looking for someone to manipulate and how they were going to cut contact with me."
"I'm so sorry, Lapis! I... I've had people like that before..."
"Not as bad as me..." Lapis said. That really hurt, but Blue tried to ignore it.
"I... I know... I'm just trying to be nice... I want you to know you're not alone..."
"I want to be alone. I want to be dead. I'm useless, worthless! Why do you even care about me?! What do you see in me?!"
"I see someone who's been hurt all her life and deserves a friend..." Blue said softly, trying her hardest to fight the tears. She didn't do too well. Lapis sighed, putting her paws over her face.
"I'm... I'm sorry... I just... Like I said before, not used to genuine kindness..."
"I-I know, it's okay... Do you really want to hang out after school...?"
"Sure..." Lapis said. She felt like she kind of had to now. Give her a chance, why not? if she put up any more than two red flags she was out of there.
"Thank you...! I-I uh... I think lunch is almost over. What's your next class...?"
"Health and Safety."
"Fun... It's mine too..." Blue said.
The lunch bell went off. Lapis got up and started walking away, Blue following closely behind. She heard whispering, and she could see Lapis growing angrier and angrier as they walked. Her tail had slowly begun to get higher off the ground, about a foot in the air, her ears folded back and her wings twitching. Blue felt bad, and walked up next to Lapis, gently grabbing her paw. This was a mistake, as Lapis quickly yanked her paw back and glared at her.
"Sorry..." Blue said, staring down at the ground as they walked. Lapis was given a seat next to Blue, and the rest of the day was relatively uneventful. They had to split up after Health and Safety to go to different classes, but at the end of the day they met up outside the school.
"I've already texted my mom, she's okay with me hanging out with a friend after school. I wasn't specific, I figured you'd like privacy." Blue said as they started walking towards town.
"Thank you..." Lapis said quietly, looking down as they walked.
"Lapis... Can I ask you some personal questions?"
"As long as I'm allowed to not answer all of them..."
"Of course, I don't want you to be too uncomfortable. First one, uh... What did you use to cut yourself?"
"I... I used my claws..."
"Great... Uh, next one! Do you remember when you first did it?"
"... I'll tell you if we manage to get closer..."
"Of course, so for the next one... Do you like reading?"
"I actually write in my spare time... I don't post anywhere, but I keep it saved on my computer at home. It's... Mostly not safe for work..."
"Is it fanfiction or original work?"
"Mostly original work, but... I do have a couple of fandoms... I'd rather not share them right now..."
"What kind of not safe for work are we talking about here? Like... Smut? Or stuff about murder...?"
"Is it for vents?"
"Usually, yes... I... I like to torment my characters... I'd never hurt anyone in real life, of course not, but I kind of like taking it out on them... Knowing they don't actually feel anything... It makes me feel better without consequence... Like other things..." She put her paws over her wrists, and Blue gently put her paw on Lapis' shoulder.
"Hey, it's okay. We all make mistakes. The most we can do is try to make up for them. I think you could do that, if you wanted to, of course. I'd be happy to help you, Lapis. I-I'll give you my phone number! Feel free to call or text anytime, even if you think I'm asleep!" She stopped, turning to Lapis with a small smile.
"Are you sure? I really don't want to mess up your sleep schedule, I know how bad that can be..."
"Lapis, my sleep for a couple of nights is far less important to me than your safety. Nobody should be hurting themselves, especially not someone like you."
"Thank you..." Lapis scanned Blue's phone code so she was in her contacts, and Blue's phone went off with a text from her mother.
"Oh... Oh no, Lapis, I gotta go home."
"Oh, okay... Text me when you're done with whatever?"
"Of course! My house is up in town, but I've gotta fly to get there as soon as I can! I-I'll see you, okay?"
"Okay..." Lapis said. Blue took off running, before jumping into the sky, flying off.
Lapis got home soon after. Her mother was, as usual, passed out on the couch, so Lapis went and hid in her room for the next hour. Blue did eventually text her, and they spent the rest of the day talking about Lapis' writing.
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He stares out across the barren land. His eyes are weary – the icy blue irises half hidden beneath heavy eyelids. The sun is low in the sky once again. Is it truly a full day? Can that even be possible? Yet the memory of that commencement is forever seared into his mind like a brand.
The horns had sounded their deafening chorus and the ranks had given chase. It had been dark before he had reached the mountains and the treacherous climb by moonlight had consumed the short night. The morning had found him stumbling through the rushing river – immersing himself in its icy depths to conceal his passage and mask his scent. The fearful howls of the frustrated hounds had echoed throughout the valley all the day, but none had come close enough to spot him. Now, however, he can only gaze in despair at the open wasteland which is his sole path to freedom.
His weary legs tremble at the prospect of the thirteen mile trudge to the border. All around him the once thick stands of sprawling trees have thinned out to a mere scattering of gnarled shrubs. The once mighty river, having split into several smaller tributaries, blunders into the baking red sand and steadily fades away. As far as the eye can see, there is not a scrap of plant cover. Gently sloping dunes do offer some obscurity, but only at the price of exposing the luckless traveller’s path to all who may pass.
There is nothing for it, except to take his chances and force his tired body to undertake a mad dash across the scorching wasteland in the appending darkness; hoping against hope that he will reach the edge of the beast’s territory unseen. Considering his opposition though, he would almost certainly have to reach the nearest free city to be at all safe – if he could ever truly escape the tyrant’s clutches at all.
A hideous wail rolls across the waters behind him and his body goes rigid. Breaking into a cold sweat, he glances back up the freezing river. At first he can see nothing. The cry sounds once more and the blood in his veins runs cold. His sharp eye’s – weary though they are – peer keenly up the river towards its nearest bend, some three miles away. There he can see a two foot high wave appearing from around the corner and heading down the straight towards him.
With a desperate groan, he throws himself at the water and forces his way through the shallows to the nearest bank. The wet sand sucks at his feet and by the time he has emerged from the ravine, it has claimed what remained of his tattered sandals. He takes little notice, charging towards the vast desert with all the speed he can muster. His feet pound against the still firm ground, ignoring the little pebbles which bite into his soles. No sooner has he passed the last, dying tree, than the chilling cry sounds once more. This time, however, it is tinged with a note of ravenous anticipation.
The last withered bush passes by as he enters the desert true. The baking sand hugs his feet, already sapping his remaining strength. The horn sounds again. The first dune rises up before him and he throws himself against its steep slope. He claws his way up, scrambling madly with his hands and feet, groaning at every slip and slide which undoes his effort.
Through the mists of fatigue, a vague memory surfaces of how this great desert was formed. He recalls his father’s tale of how the dark armies were defeated during the Long War, and how the beast then poisoned the land around his kingdom with his magic, so that none could dwell within sight of his castles or pass unseen across the border. Perhaps those same magics are still at work now, set against him by their master.
The horn sounds again. He shakes off these thoughts as he at last reaches the summit of his first obstacle. Risking a glance back, he observes that same strange wave passing down the river beside him. As yet though, there is still no sign of its creator. He grimaces at the sight of the obvious marks left by his passage.
The dash down the other side of the dune is as much a test for his weary legs as was the ascent. Half way down, his knees buckle and he falls. Sand fills his tattered vest and cakes the inside of his sodden braes, as he tumbles and rolls through the shade of the dune. He lands heavily on the compacted sand of the valley below. Dragging himself upright, he scarcely winces at the new aches caused by the impact; his body is too numb and his mind too shaken to notice a few more pains. He staggers slightly, but keeps his balance and pushes onwards, as the horn sounds once more…
The gibbous moon hangs above the horizon, shining across the desert to the distant plumes of smoke which mark the site of the fortified city of Resolute. Lying only half a mile from the border, it saw both the rise of the beast and his defeat during the Long War. Eighteen years after that historic moment, it remains a heavily guarded fortress of stone and steel. Scarcely a man or woman lives there who has not seen service on the frontline. Its iron-handed leaders command the deadliest army in the free kingdoms; a select force of fierce and determined fighters, trained by the Masters and armed by the greatest elven weapon smiths.
The shadowy form of this hardy city, clothed in smoke and glowing red with the light of many torches, shines like a diamond in the eyes of the weary fugitive. His raw hands dig into the frigid sand as he drags himself towards his goal. The border is only a hundred yards away. He takes a deep, ragged breath and hauls himself onto his knees, but he only manages to crawl a few feet before once again collapsing into the sand. He raises his head and gazes blindly at the city. Moving shakily, he glances back over his shoulder. The moon stares back at him stoically, outlining the dark silhouettes of the last range of dunes which he fought his way across. It has been quiet for some time, but they must still be following. The beast would never relinquish his prey, never…
The bellow of the horn rolls across the silence of the night. He all but cries out in despair, reaching into some last reserves of energy as he desperately scrambles through the sand. He digs his elbows into the cold ground, awkwardly dragging his body forward while his legs weakly push behind him. The horn sounds a second time and then a third and suddenly a chorus of throaty howls erupts into the night. He forces himself onwards with what little speed he can muster. They have spotted him! The hounds have spotted him!
The pack assembles on the summit of the dune; twelve shaggy figures outlined by the moonlight. Their bodies are half as large as a horse and with the sleek, streamlined build of a wolf. Their muzzles are short and stocky, but with an unusually long skull. Large and rounded eyes stare out from beneath a prominent brow. White light comes from within them, making the pupils shine like glowing pearls. Lean muscles ripple beneath a long and flowing coat, while stubby tails twitch with excitement. As one, the creatures break into a run, barking and howling freely now that their quarry is before them.
As he reaches the first border marker, he grabs hold of the painted stone and heaves himself upright. He grits his teeth, groaning loudly at the pain in his legs, but he must hurry! He pushes himself off towards the city, advancing in a lurching jog as his weak legs move in awkward succession. He sways and weaves, but is just able to keep his balance. Now he can feel a change in the ground as his feet begin to tread on patches of grass. The coarse sand is steadily replaced by good honest soil and the very feel of it is enough to make him quicken his pace. The cries of the hounds are now a constant companion and he knows that he only has minutes before they reach him. If he can only make the city gate…
A loud snap sounds to his right and he just manages to throw himself down as a standing mortar detonates in the tree ahead of him. The blast rips through the air at stomach height, cutting through everything in its path and showering him with splinters of wood and bark as it levels the trees and shrubs around him. He groans as he lies there. Fool! How could he have forgotten about the traps!
They were set everywhere along the border, littering the entire landscape within a thirty yard radius.
The hound’s chilling chorus halts for a moment. The blast obviously reached their ears. Despite the danger, he presses on. Every moment counts.
Sure enough, the hounds soon resume the chase. With their master’s command behind them, not even the risk of death will deter them. He stumbles onward as fast as he can, trying to shut out his memories of the kind of traps which had been laid in this area. They had been intended for such monsters as were dreamt up in the beast’s dungeons. Standing mortars were just the beginning.
The hounds must now be only a hundred feet from him. He stares forlornly at the light ahead. He isn’t going to make it…
A deafening groan shakes the ground, followed by an almighty crack. A pitiful wail comes from the pack of hounds, then another and another. He shivers at the sound. To think he could have been caught in that! Now there are nine hounds left. If the traps could at least slow them down, he might still make it.
A hollow thud signals the death of a fourth hound. He must be near the edge of the danger zone now.
An explosion sounds and he automatically throws himself down before it dawns on him that this standing mortar is nowhere near him. Groaning at the wasted time and energy, he drags himself back onto his feet. Just as he steps forwards, however, a rope wraps around his legs and pulls them out from under him.
He crashes face first into the ground. He feels his nose break and as he rolls over his head hits a stone. Although not a hard knock, it is enough to leave him slightly dazed. His hands fumble with the rope for a while, but as the hounds call out once again he sighs and goes limp. There is no hope of escape now. After all that has happened, he finally gives up.
Within a minute, the scraggly bushes are torn aside by one of the surviving hounds. It stops suddenly when it sees him and bares its teeth in excitement. Its pale tongue lolls, dripping saliva, while the creature pants furiously. Its ashen grey coat is matted with sweat and glistens by the moonlight. After a moment, it raises its ugly head and calls out in a long and triumphant howl. Excited barks answer its call and soon the remaining six hounds appear from out of the darkness, trampling the bushes in their path.
He watches them vacantly; beyond care after his ordeal. His only thought is a wish that they would finish him off now. However, though they drool in anticipation, none of them make any move to attack.
‘Come on,’ he rasps, his voice like dry parchment, ‘finish it…’
The hounds draw aside. A bright light shines through the trees behind them, swaying as it draws closer, accompanied by the sound of branches being broken. His eyes go wide. It cannot be him…surely he would never leave his territory…
The last tree topples with a crash as the master of the hounds comes into view. His giant steed raises its scaly head and extends a long purple tongue, tasting the air. A blue light shines from a cage suspended on a chain around the base of its neck, throwing a harsh illumination onto the cruel scene. The creature’s monstrous serpentine body stretches back out of sight, supported by disproportionately small legs. Expressionless eyes lock onto the figure sprawled out before it and it opens its maw and hisses, before turning aside to expose the tall figure seated upon its shoulders.
The beast rises from the saddle and drops effortlessly to the ground beside his lizard mount. A dark-green cloak of fine satin covers him from the neck down to the ground. Even his arms are hidden away. A hood overshadows his face, but by the light of the magical lantern, it is plain to see.
Human-like features, exceptionally elegant, are clothed in soft russet-brown fur. A feline nose sits above thin lips and two green eyes peer intently at his victim. Their slit pupils are open wide and shine from within as they reflect the magical light. Short whiskers twitch with suppressed excitement; the only sign of any feeling at all until a smile spreads across his delicate mouth, revealing two sets of sharp fangs.
The sigh is as gentle as a spring breeze and drips with pure satisfaction.
‘A wonderful chase,’ he says, ‘a far better challenge than I anticipated.’
His victim does not respond, continuing to lie still in exhaustion and resignation while the blood drips from his face. The beast grins.
‘When my hounds failed to track you down before morning, I knew you would be a quarry worth pursuing in person. I must confess though that I never imagined you would make it this far. Your false trails were an ingenious ploy to slow me down.’
The broken figure remains unresponsive.
‘Such spirit,’ the beast smirks, ‘it seems a pity to end it like this. You won’t even make much of a meal.’
The inflection in his voice causes the figure to stir. He raises his head slightly and stares hopelessly at his tormentor. There is deep fear in his eyes, which is not lost on the beast.
‘Yesss,’ the feline hisses darkly, ‘such a fighting spirit would fare well under transformation.’
His victim’s face turns pale and he begins to shiver violently.
The beast laughs at the sight.
‘Did you really think I would just kill one as rare as you?’ he asks tauntingly.
The prisoner shrinks away as best he can, as his tormentor advances towards him.
‘The fire breathers have eluded me thus far,’ the beast muses, ‘your draconic heritage could be just what I need. Coupled with your elven nature…who knows what kind of a monster you might become?’
His eyes sparkle dangerously as he contemplates this and the half-elf desperately tries to shuffle away from him. The hounds draw nearer in mounting excitement as their master extends a clawed hand towards his victim.
A shrill, screeching cry pierces the night. The beast’s head snaps up and he leaps back as a heavy figure crashes into the ground before him, sending up a cloud of dust. The hounds growl and the monstrous lizard hisses as they peer warily through the veil to see what creature it is that has so surprised them.
The newcomer unfurls herself and rises swiftly to her feet. Immediately she turns to face the beast, adopting the defensive posture of a wrestler. Humanoid, with a short and somewhat stocky build, her body is powerfully muscled and covered with thick scales like natural plate-mail. In contrast to her thickset frame, her reptilian face is noticeably feminine, save for the pair of horn-like spikes which stick up on either side of her head. Her three fingered hands are also heavily armoured, making them perfectly suited to boxing. A robust and nimble tail extends behind her, at least as long as her body. She wears only a simple sleeveless top and a kind of loincloth.
‘What is this?’ The beast hisses in displeasure, but his question goes unanswered as another figure bursts through the bushes.
Seven feet tall, he is a mirror image of the beast – save that his fur is black instead of russet. His body is lean, but strong and he moves with typical feline grace. A long and plush tail sways in the breeze behind him. His face is more thickset that that of the beast and his left ear has been pierced with a golden earring. He wears a leather jerkin and a pair of short trousers, with a sturdy baldric slung over his shoulder. His sword is drawn and held at the ready. It is only a simple two-handed greatsword, but with a blade at least five feet long and impossibly sharp.
As he steps forward, another black feline appears behind him; dressed in an identical outfit and wielding an identical sword. This individual, however, is undoubtedly female.
The beast frowns at the unexpected turn of events and turns to his pets, but as he does so he catches sight of several more figures which have appeared in the sky above him.
Their vast wings beat slowly and rhythmically, as they keep themselves well out of reach of the beast’s monstrous lizard. There are six of them in total. Vicious curving beaks gleam dully in the pale light, while their grey and white feathers almost seem to glow where the moonlight strikes their flanks. Their hooves paw the air restlessly as they watch over the scene below. Each carries a cloaked figure whose bearing and metal stave leaves no doubt that he or she is a mage. There are two canids, two elves, an equine and another whose body is completely hidden by a voluminous robe of navy blue.
‘What is this?’ the Beast snarls angrily, ‘You show yourselves now?’
‘I said long ago that your arrogance would be your downfall Laurith.’ A voice rumbles.
The beast and his pets whip around to find the speaker standing behind them. The hounds draw away and the beast hisses in fury.
Twelve feet tall, his powerful body encased within a full suit of heavy plate mail, this behemoth looms over all those present. Gauntleted hands, large enough to wrap around a man’s head, firmly clasp his weapons. His right forearm is strapped to a broad kite shield, which is shaped like a flame and runs in line with his arm rather than perpendicular to it. The sword in his left hand is a subtly curved damask blade; similar to a falcata, but easily eight feet long.
His strong legs end in three toed feet with long talons, over which he has secured even longer steel claws. The long and nimble tail which sprouts from the base of his spine is protected only by sandy scales in patterns of brown and grey. Sharp spines and a tracery of scars towards the tip, suggest that it is used for more than just balance.
His long, bony snout and scaly visage bear little expression. The line of his jaw has a slight curve which turns up at the cheeks, giving him the rigid and unfriendly half-smile typical of the reptilians. Large, staring eyes sit slightly to the sides of his head, but still able to look forwards. Their yellow irises give his gaze a cold, predatory intent. The impression of emotionless is dulled only somewhat by a measure of expression in his brow. At the moment, it is drawn together in a look of steely determination.
‘I knew you would come after him.’ The titan rumbles tauntingly.
Laurith hisses threateningly, but his darting eyes betray his agitation.
‘Curse you Eshkiel, he is mine!’ he shrieks.
His hounds leap forward and charge the giant, while Laurith leaps onto his mount and sets his eyes on the half-breed. The armoured wrestler readies herself and glares at him, daring him to come after his prize.
‘Step aside stone-skin.’ He spits venomously.
Her eyes flash brightly at the familiar insult. Baring her pointed teeth, she tenses her muscles and wordlessly implores him to come at her.
The beast quivers with rage when she does not charge and raises his arms into the air. A shimmering veil of magic blossoms above his head and races down on either side, forming a shield between the mages above and the warriors facing him. Then he whips his lizard mount with a bolt of electricity and it lurches towards his opponents.
The twin blade-masters race forward to protect the half-breed, while the armoured maiden rushes at Laurith and his mount. As she leaps into the air to meet it, Eshkiel’s blade cleaves one of the hounds in two with a sound like tearing silk. It’s brief cry melds with that of the giant lizard as she somersaults and brings her tail slamming down into the dome of its skull. Laurith pulls a fine steel rapier from somewhere within his robe and jabs at her as she passes within reach. She arches herself so that the blade passes beneath her and bats it away with the back of her hand. She swings her tail at him, but he leaps from his saddle and twists through the air to land on the back of his lizard.
Above, the airborne mages have formed a ring around the shimmering dome. Raising their staves, they cry out in unison and each send a bolt of energy toward the dome’s apex. The six blasts meet and tear a hole through the defence, causing the shield to collapse.
Laurith looks up, gritting his teeth in irritation. He raises his arms once again and instantly a new barrier appears.
Suddenly his mount lurches. He loses his balance and falls to the ground, just managing to land on one knee. Looking up, he is just in time to see the midnight black felines leaping at the lizard’s neck. He glances over to where the half-breed lies, but the armoured wrestler has moved to guard him while her comrades attack. Coming from either side, they make it impossible for the giant creature to focus on both of them at once. It hisses loudly as it is torn between the two threats and finally begins to rear up, but it is too slow. The twin felines bring their swords together and draw them across the thin scales of its neck.
The great lizard’s hisses turn to a gargling scream. As the feline twins land gracefully, its legs give out and its long neck topples to the ground; blood gushing from the two deep gashes, so precisely made that they almost meet in the centre.
Laurith roars furiously and, in his distraction, the mages break through his barrier once again. He quickly forms another, but as long as he sustains it his magic will be limited.
A sharp yelp, abruptly ended, marks the death of the last hound. Eshkiel lowers his shield, letting the limp body fall to the ground. Its crushed skull drags against the coarse bark of the tree, lightly smearing the surface with its dark blood.
Eshkiel turns to Laurith – his face just as stony as ever.
The beast rises to his feet. His shoulders hang low and his hooded face is turned to the ground, as if in defeat.
Without warning, the shimmering barrier vanishes. Immediately one of the elven mages swoops down beside the half-elf and leaps to the ground, her staff held ready to defend against any surprise attack. The beast does not move. The other five mages begin to circle slowly overhead, as they wait to see what he will do. A minute goes by. Another, and then another. Still he stands motionless.
In the stillness of it all, the sound of cloth moving over steel rings out like a bell. The mages and warriors turn to their leader and the beast too looks up.
Eshkiel leans against the nearest tree, casually wiping the blood from his sword with an old rag. Despite his reptilian visage, he manages to convey a feeling of disinterest and even boredom. Laurith gapes is utter disbelief. Eshkiel cleans off the last few specks and then goes on to inspect the blade for scratches and nicks. Not once does he glance up at ether his friends or his opponent.
Laurith’s face clouds with fresh anger. His eyes sparkle dangerously as he raises his right arm towards Eshkiel and flexes his clawed fingers.
‘Burn!’ he screams, sending sapphire blue flame billowing towards the stoic figure.
It finds its mark and spreads out in a wide wave. The dead, rotting trees ignite and crumble into ash within seconds under the intensity of the conflagration. The firestorm lasts only a few moments, but its ferocity levels everything in its path. Yet when the smoke clears, Eshkiel stands unharmed – his armour glowing red from the heat.
‘Flame,’ he rumbles, ‘against a dragon.’
Laurith’s fury at his own mistake is plain to see. He raises his hands once again and twists them in a complicated pattern, summoning a whirlwind of crackling energy around himself. Eshkiel steps towards him, unmoved by the violent display. A single bolt arcs from the melee and strikes him square in the chest, but although his armour sparks, he continues to advance.
Snarling, Laurith sends seven tendrils of energy stabbing at him. They dance across his armour and scales and immediately force him to pause. Grimacing at the pain, he raises his shield and sword. The lightning earths itself on their metal surfaces, drawn together into three stronger bolts.
A bright light shines down from the sky. The six mages have created a sphere of white light, suspended in the air between them. It hums resonantly with power.
Laurith glances up at it and hisses angrily. Feeling a momentary dip in the fury of his assault, Eshkiel pushes forwards once again and gains another few feet. Laurith is quick to sense it, however, and turns his attention back to the giant. The searing bolts suddenly swell with power and Eshkiel groans under the strain and drops to one knee. Laurith grins with satisfaction and feeds still more power into his attack. By now both Eshkiel’s shield and sword are glowing white hot. His groans become louder as the energy coursing through his body begins to burn even him. Dragon-kin can resist much, but they are not immune.
A cry sounds and Laurith turns his head just in time to see the lizard maiden launching herself towards him from behind; where his shield of electricity has faded as its power is fed into the attack. Their eyes meet and he grins darkly. His attack instantly changes direction and the bolts of lighting strike her full in the chest. She opens her mouth in a scream, but her body freezes with the shock and no sound comes.
Laurith quickly breaks the spell and claps his hands together. An explosion sounds. A blast wave erupts from between his fingers and rips through the air towards the wrestler. Then he turns back to Eshkiel and summons the twisting sphere of lightning again. Behind him the blast cuts into her body, splitting the skin open down her chest and throwing her back several feet.
Laurith smiles thinly to see the look in Eshkiel’s eyes.
‘A student for a stude…’ he begins, when he notices the sudden darkness.
White light flashes; tearing through the returning blackness and enveloping the entire battle field. A harsh scream comes from within, followed within seconds by a wet noise and a gentle thud.
The light dies. Darkness falls completely.
With a hissing sound, a small globe of yellow light appears in the blackness of the sky. The mages urge their flying steads towards the earth, drawing the soft light along with them. They land swiftly, and a second elf and the equine leap to the ground and rush over to where the lizard maiden lies bleeding. As they tend to her, the remaining three look at what remains of the Beast, Laurith.
Vacant eyes stare at the sky, locked in a dull expression of shock. The open neck has spilled pints of blood over the dry earth and a trickle still drips from the gash. The body lies sprawled on its back with the head held on by only an inch of flesh. The remnants of his final spell occasionally crackle through his fur as the energy dissipates.
Eshkiel looks down contemptuously at the corpse and finally raises a clawed foot and brings it down on the head. Several of the mages gasp in horror at the stomach turning noise of the skull crushing. When it has been reduced to a bloody mess, Eshkiel grimly twists his foot, smearing the remains into the earth.
‘And now a master for a student.’ He says blackly, finally content with his revenge.
‘Eshkiel…’ the elven mage remarks.
The glare this receives silences any further comment.
‘Be grateful that I do not indulge myself in the battle custom of my kin.’ He growls.
The she elf set to guard the beast’s quarry beckons to the others and they immediately hurry to her side. The half-elf lies still, his eyes closed and his breathing shallow.
‘He will live, but he must be given treatment. His flame is close to failing.’ The she elf supplies.
‘Kal can carry two. Let me take him.’ The equine suggests.
‘Hold.’ Eshkiel commands.
The mages turn to him.
‘Stand aside.’ He instructs.
No sooner have they obeyed, than he takes a huge breath and exhales a wave of fire over the unconscious half-elf. The inferno is short-lived, but within seconds he awakens and leaps to his feet, flesh and long black hair ablaze.
Only, he is not burnt. His flesh glows beneath a layer of pale yellow flame, but no harm comes to it. His worn clothes, however, are quickly reduced to cinders. Beneath, an otherwise elven body is alternately covered by skin and scales. Smooth red plates sit like metal armour over his chest and back, while those on his stomach are a pale cream in colour. The burgundy scales extend down his thighs and across his shoulders and arms, slowly giving way to fair skin.
After a moment’s confusion, clarity returns. He exhales slowly and the flames quickly fade. He staggers, but the she elf quickly comes to his aid and gently helps to steady him.
‘Welcome back Cor-ing.’ She says sincerely.
‘Aye.’ A canid mage agrees, handing him a spare robe.
Cor-ing wordlessly accepts the clothing and swiftly dresses himself. When he is once again decent he looks up at Eshkiel, who towers over him, looking down with some satisfaction.
‘Feeling better?’ the titan rumbles jovially.
‘How did you come to find us?’ Cor-ing asks hoarsely.
‘Our scouts have watched for you day and night ever since you were captured. Laurith taunted all his prisoners thus. Normally he would let his hounds destroy them, but I knew that at the very least he would want to watch your demise.’
Cor-ing listens coldly as Eshkiel casually continues.
‘We could not meet you deep within his territory, but I felt sure you would make it within sight of our borders.’
He turns to the wretched corpse with a sneer.
‘Laurith’s strength lay in the armies he created…but numbers can work against the evil as well as for them.’
‘He knew of my heritage,’ Cor-ing says softly, his voice hoarse, ‘I was to become one of his creatures; to begin a race of fire breathers.’
‘I know.’ Eshkiel replies.
The dragon looks at him impassively.
‘It was not for nothing that we sent you away to Lorelei. There you were out of his reach.’ He replies.
‘Then why did you summon me back?’ Cor-ing asks, noticing a sudden uneasiness about the mages.
‘You are the only one of your kind. I and my kin are strong, but the elven blood which flows through your veins has augmented the already powerful abilities of our race within you.’
‘Which is why the beast sought me out. What of it?’ Cor-ing says shortly.
‘Ael believes that he can give others the same ability,’ Eshkiel replies, oblivious to his growing displeasure, ‘that without changing their appearance, he can give our elves the abilities of a salamander.’
In the silence which follows, the mages look away guiltily. Cor-ing is still. After some time he firmly pushes the elven mage away and draws himself up, shakily. Eshkiel remains oblivious; waiting for Cor-ing’s reply.
‘Of course,’ he says, when none is forthcoming, ‘now the deed is done, there is no urgent need for that.’
Cor-ing nods slowly.
‘Aye.’ He rasps.
A quiet gasp draws the attention of the group and they turn their eyes to where the pair of mages have been tending to the fallen wrestler. She twitches as the equine mage casts a final spell upon her wounded chest, drawing the skin together. Eshkiel quickly walks over to her.
‘Hael, how is she?’
The mage shakes his muzzle stoically.
‘Skin and flesh I can restore, but bone and muscle will take time to strengthen.’
He indicates the still red line running from her left shoulder down to her right knee.
‘Her ribs were badly broken, as was her pelvis. The muscles both here and here were also torn,’ he says, pointing from her stomach to her thigh, ‘which is no small injury in one such as her. I would not let her train at all for at least a month.’
‘Noo…’ the maiden groans, opening her eyes, ‘I am strong enough…’
She tries to raise herself up, but both mages quickly hold her down.
‘Keep still Shaal!’ the elf scolds, ‘Or do you want to spend two months healing from torn muscles?’
Shaal sighs morosely and then notices Eshkiel standing over her.
‘Master…’ she begins, smiling weakly.
‘What have I told you?’ Eshkiel asks flatly.
The smile vanishes from her face.
‘Well?’ he repeats.
‘To control my emotions.’ she replies shamefully.
‘Always.’ He says, nodding severely.
He turns away and walks back to the group.
‘Tomorrow we will begin a new campaign,’ he declares, ‘I shall lead our elite troops into Laurith’s lands to begin eradicating his monsters. Jet, Jasper?’
The twin felines step forward.
‘You will be the scouts.’ He announces.
They nod in perfect unison.
‘Cor-ing, when you have recovered, you shall join us too,’ he continues, ‘you are the only one of Laurith’s prisoners to have escaped. No doubt there is much that you can tell us.’
Then he turns to the group in general.
‘Now it is time we returned. I shall expect to meet all of you in the great hall at sunrise.’
With that, Eshkiel starts on his way back to the city, leaving the others to follow. Cor-ing watches his retreating figure until the darkness swallows him up. The feline twins come up to him and bow silently, before they too vanish into the night, leaving only himself, the mages and the injured Shaal.
He sighs heavily and begins to sway once more, but again the elf maiden catches him. Wordlessly the mages prepare to leave. Shaal is gently strapped to the back of the hippogriff Kal, who’s master just manages to find enough space to sit before her. The blue shrouded mage beckons Cor-ing to its mount and he quietly obliges. When all are seated, the six hippogriffs take to the sky as one, flying swiftly back to Resolute.
Cor-ing remains silent, but then to his surprise, the normally silent mage in front of him speaks
‘How did the beast capture you?’ the figure asks, in an undoubtedly feminine voice.
‘My food was drugged at an inn on the green road,’ he explains, ‘when I came too, I was in a cell in his dungeons. I have no idea how I came to be there.’
‘What of your guard?’ the mage asks.
‘Guard?’ he repeats in confusion.
The mage turns her hooded face towards him.
‘You were unguarded on the roads?’ she asks in disbelief.
‘Master Dale received no instructions to take any precautions. The roads along the coast have always been safe.’
The mage remains silent for a moment.
‘Eshkiel arranged a guard to meet you in Black-Moor,’ she mutters quietly, ‘at least…that is what he said he had done…’
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Chapter 1- To the Surface
Narrator Dog: Welcome to Dreamland! The most wonderful place
in Sofia's mind!
Narrator Raven: But not as wonderful as Dreamland's top area,
Crossover Plaza! A public space with a concert stage, 2 snack bars,
tables of course, and an indestructible glass round wall surrounding
the plaza. Why is it called Crossover Plaza? 'Cause characters from
all movies, TV shows, video games, cartoons, etc. all come to hangout!
Narrator Dog: We are not going there yet. Deep in the Sea of Dreaml-
and, there lives a family of blue tangs and yellow tangs in a house in a
~The Shells Family~ From left to right: Toby Shells(4), Duke Shells(16), Athena Shells(18), Morgana Shells(38), George Shells(40)Toby: Vrrooom! *playing with his toy car*
Duke: *goes upstairs to Athena's room* Hehe >: ) *knocks on Athena's door*
Athena: *reading a book about Dreamland* Go away!
Duke: *opens the door* Boo! >: D
Athena: The frick Duke?! I said go away!
Duke: Ah..nope. Morgana said to come downstairs.
Athena: Ugh. *gets up, pinches Duke's cheek, goes downstairs to her mom*
Morgana: *frying some seaweed*
Athena: What do you want?
Morgana: Ok, so, I want to let you know that one of Sofia's emotions, Anger, is
going to come to this town and only choose one out of all the townspeople here
including us to give out the most magnificent gift of all time for a marine animal.
Athena: ...Which is?
Morgana: The ability to breathe air and underwater. Now, he only does this during
back-to-school shopping season, so it's only once a year. I thought you'll be intere-
sted in this since you're always researching about Dreamland and I feel like you
want to just get out of the water.
George: Honey, l-let's not suggests anything to her.
Morgana: Just stop. She's 18 now. Let her do what she's interested.
Athena: *slightly smiles*
George: Ok. Fine. If she kills you, don't expect me to bury you.
*walks away to the living room*
Athena: *fake laughs*
Morgana: Classic George. Always overreacting. Now, it might not or might be you,
but always remember, there's always next year.
Athena: Yeah. I know.
*The underwater town's clock tower begins to ring*
Morgana: Oh, it's time! Right after we talked about it
George: Let's go, people! *picks up Toby and goes outside to Town Hall*
Morgana: Will he ever be patient? Oh well, let's go. *follows George*
Athena & Duke: *follows them*
Anger: *waiting for everyone to settle down* Jeez, there weren't this many
marine creatures last year.
Joy: Maybe more people knew about this than last year.
Anger: I can't wait 'til this is over.
Joy: Well, I can't wait who will be the chosen one! Wait, but how will we know
who it is?
Anger: With this! >: D *holds up a glowing cyan-colored berry*
Joy: Oooh..a berry?
Anger: Heh, not just a berry, a magical berry! This berry holds the ability of
breathing both air and underwater. When it's time to choose, the berry's glow-
ing light will weaken when I firmly press it once. We will go around the whole
audience and the berry will brighten its light as we get closer to the chosen one.
Joy: Ooo fun!
Anger: Not really. I can't stand a big crowd. Which is why I brought you here. I
don't want to be alone with these people.
Joy: But..but crowds are fun : D!
Anger: For you it is!!
Joy: Ok uh..calm down please! Let's just start the ceremony : O
Anger: Yeah, let's begin. *picks up a french horn and blows it*
*All of underwater townspeople gave all their attention to Anger and Joy
and sat down on the sand floor*
Anger: *puts down the french horn and holds a microphone* Welcome, Sea Of
Dreamland, to the 6th Annual To-The-Surface Ceremony!
*The crowd applause and cheers*
Anger: For those who are new, this ceremony is not about fish, but all aquatic people
who dream of stepping foot..or fin on the dry grounds of Dreamland. This magic berry
right here will give the chosen one the ability to breathe air and underwater. When this
berry is consumed, it will give the chosen one a bit of pain but they'll be fine. Alright,
Joy: Who is ready for the berry?! : D
*The crowd goes wild*
Joy: What do I do now, Anger?
Anger: Pick me up and walk through each section of the crowd while I just hold the berry.
Joy: Oh ok! *picks up Anger*
Anger: *gently presses the berry once and the berry's glowing light disappears*
Settle down people!
*The crowd silences and the intensity rises*
Anger: We will now start with the anthro sharks!
(Narrator Raven: *plays this song on the background*)
Joy: *starts walking through the anthro shark section*
Narrator Dog: As they walk through the anthro sharks, the berry did not glow.
They walked through the sea turtles, dolphins, starfish, orcas, and seahorses
sections, and still..the berry did not glow..
Anger: Well, here's the last one, the fish section..
Joy: *keeps walking*
Anger: You know what? I think this was a waste of ti-
Narrator Raven: Suddenly, the berry slightly starts glowing as they get closer to
The Shells family.
George: Please no..
Morgana: Could it be?..
Anger: *walks to Athena and the berry lightens up the brightest*
*The crowd gasps*
Athena: Holy fuck!
George: Language, young lady!
Anger: Shut up, pops. Congrats, Athena! Come to the front.
Joy: *runs to the front of town hall, holding Anger*
Athena: *follows them, smirking*
Joy: *puts down Anger*
Anger: Behold, this year's chosen one: Athena Shells!
*All the marine creatures cheer for her*
Anger: Here Athena, eat the berry, but you will feel pain in your gills and throat.
Athena: *takes the berry and eats it without hesitation*
Joy: ..Are you feeling any pain?..
Athena: ...GAHH! *pain strikes her gills and throat as the berry gives her the ability*
3 minutes past
Athena: *inhales and exhales* My god. That was new.
Joy: She's fine everyone! : D
Anger: Thank you everyone for coming! You can continue your lives.
*All aquatic creatures went away*
Anger: Alright Athena, go pack up your stuff, we have provided you an
apartment already. We'll catch up to your house.
Athena: *goes to the house with the rest of the family*
Athena: *packing up her luggage* Ah, I can't wait to get outta here.
Morgana: I'm going to miss you..
Athena: I'm...gonna miss you too.
Morgana: *hugs Athena tightly*
Anger: *enters the house*
George: Anger please, don't let her live in Dreamland, she will bring
chaos to all!
Anger: Shush! You're starting to annoying me with your ignorance.
Athena: *walks downstairs to Anger*
Morgana: *crying* I'm gonna be the only blue tang in this household
Athena: *gets a random piece of paper, draws a heart on it, signs it, and
gives it to Morgana*
Anger: Let's go Athena. *goes outside*
Athena: *follows Anger*
Morgana: *goes outside and stays on the front yard*
Athena: Bye Mom!! *waves goodbye*
Narrator Dog: The more Athena walks away from her house, the
less Morgana lose sight of her..
Morgana: *looks at the viewers/fourth wall* She may look like she doesn't
care about almost anyone, but I know deep inside that she does really care.
Maybe one day when she lives on Dreamland, she'll be able to show her
Morgana: *gets on her knees and starts crying on the floor*
Narrator Dog: She sobs on the floor about her daughter, hoping that she'll come back to her soon. See you readers in chapter 2.
=========================================================================*Note: This story will contain action and some cussing.
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Pixie hung up her apron and stretched. Her shift at the coffee shop was over, and she was ready to head home. It had been a fairly slow day, the highlight of which had been Bianco, the fabulously dressed chinchilla who came by often. They had sat in the back corner, sipping their drink for hours. Which was normal for guests, but Bianco had just sat and stared, wide eyed and grinning at everyone, but mostly following Pixie as she worked. Finally one of the other workers asked them to stop and they agreed, leaving the cafe with a wink. That Bianco loved causing trouble, thankfully nothing actually serious.
Pixie adjusted her clothes, making sure the snaps were all done up on the side. Clothing for gliders was tricky, because due to the patagium she and other winged and gliding mammals have make normal clothes a little restricting. So most of her clothes were dresses that worked like a large poncho with snaps or buttons along the side, that could be secured. Though she could always wear normal clothes, that were a little looser if she was certain she wouldn’t need to do any gliding. Waving to the other workers she headed out the door and down the street. It was a nice sunny afternoon and the short glider smiled up at the sky.
“I think I’ll go to the gym before dinner. I could use a little exercise!” she shouldered her purse and started walking. She was lucky to have the apartment she did. It was only a few blocks from the cafe, and the gym was a few blocks from that. There was even a grocery store within walking distance, so besides when classes started up again, she was close to everything she needed. Humming and almost skipping she made her way the few blocks and took the elevator up to her apartment. It only took a few moments to grab her duffel bag, change from her work clothes, grab a bottle of water, and then be back out the door.
About half a hour later she had checked into the gym, changed into her gym clothes and was using the treadmill. She put her earbuds in and was happily jogging along to some upbeat pop music. She eventually slowed down to a brisk walk as the music changed to a less high energy tune. She used this moment to take a look around the place. Some of the regulars were there, including a big snow leopard over at the weights. Over in one corner she saw someone she recognized from the shop. A tal, well built pangolin woman was spotting a younger ocelot man. She was wearing a simple pair of shorts and sports bra, and was encouraging the guy to push harder.
Pixie knew that she worked her, but had never spoken to her. There was NO WAY she could. She’d seen posters around the gym for MMA fights, and the pangolin woman was on some of them, on top of working in the gym as a personal trainer. A strong woman like that? Pixie was far to gay and soft to get more than a few words out before turning into a panicking blushing mess. This was proven true when the woman looked up and made eye contact, smiling and giving a wave. Pixie almost fell off the treadmill as she waved back, trying to turn and hide. She stopped the machine before she fell, then turned and hurried to the changing room. Once inside she splashed some water on her face, and took a deep breath.
“C’mon! You useless lesbian! How are you ever going to get a girlfriend if you can’t even LOOK at a pretty girl!” She sighed, annoyed at her own awkwardness, and turned to her locker to change her clothes. She had just opened it when she heard a voice behind her.
“Hey, are you okay? You looked like you almost fell back there.” Pixie squeaked and jumped, nearly banging her head on the locker door. She turned and there was the woman. “I’m Kaylee by the way. I’ve seen you in here quite a few times. You work at the cafe around the corner, right?” The taller woman walked over to a locker and popped it open. She stretched and began undressing, continuing her conversational tone “It’s always nice to see other young women in here working out. It’s usually just dudebros or people who show up once or twice then vanish” She pulled a small towel from the locker and wiped her face and brow, before draping it over her shoulders and taking a drink of water. “Have you ever thought about signing up for any of the classes?” Pixie busied herself in her locker, keenly aware of Kaylee’s naked body, and standing there in her own simple underwear. She also was suddenly aware that the woman was much taller, and so her chest was right at Pixie's eye level.
“I don’t know how much time I would have for them, Once classes start back up I’ll be busier.” the short glider reached up and made a show of doing something in her bag above her. This had the benefit of using her patagium to hide her blushing face.
“Oh, you’re in school? What are you in school for?” Peeking around her arms Pixie was grateful to see the muscular woman had put her pants on, a pair of black shorts with ripped bottoms. Pixie pulled her sundress out of her duffel and quickly pulled it on. She did up the snaps and stuffed the remaining things in the bag, still avoiding eye contact.
“I’m going for business. I want to open a bakery someday.” She shouldered her bag, not wanting to seem rude, but at the same time being far too anxious and gay to keep talking for long. Her plans were brought to a screeching halt when Kaylee spoke up again
“A bakery? Oh that’s awesome! I love cake and sweets! Do you bake in your spare time then?” Pixie perked up about her hobby.
“Oh yeah! I love baking, especially cupcakes! I also like experimenting with different flavours to make new things! Like the Mango Sweet Onion cake I made on a dare! I could make something for you” Pixie blushed as she realized what she had said. Curse her love of baking for people! Kaylee laughed, a happy sound full of mirth.
“That sounds weird as hell. I’d love to try your cakes sometime!” The pangolin stood up and pulled a piece of paper out of her locker and scribbled a number on it. “Here’s my phone number. Call me up some time! We can hang out, maybe bake something. The only thing that makes cakes better is getting them from a pretty girl.” She winked at Pixie. Pixie froze and began stammering
“Wh… wh.. Wha? I’m… not… I mean. Uh.. You’re the pretty one.!” Kaylee held up her hands.
“Oh geez, I’m sorry. I thought I’d read you right and I kinda come on strong. You can throw that out, Sorry again. I just thought you were cute and wanted to get to know you more.” She pulled a tank top on and turned away. Pixie quickly, and a little too loudly reassured her.
“OH! I’m sorry! I’m really bad at telling when a girl is flirting with me! I would love to go out with you!” She pulled out her phone and quickly entered the number, before sending off a text. “There. Now you have my number and um… we can plan!” She started to back away but bumped into the door frame. She giggled, embarrassed, confused, and happy. Kaylee winked at her and smiled
“Sounds good cutie. Hope to see you soon!” she waved as Pixie hurried out the door before smiling happily and finishing changing her clothes. That poor girl was so easy to push her buttons, and her blush was just adorable. Hopefully they hit it off and she could spend more time with her. She wanted to see more of her smile, and idly wondered how far down that blush went.
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