Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Waterlord Prequel

Back when I wrote The Waterlord, it was in three parts--and Part 1, the part I ultimately discarded, was Tom's childhood on the ship and how he got his powers. The writing wasn't up to snuff and it didn't fit the book, but I still liked the story. Tom and Nathan are in it, and it introduces the world they live in very effectively. I figured it would be fun to share as a Wednesday Briefs for a while. I hope others agree!

Water: Part 1

            “Are you paying attention?!” The ruler snapped down on Tom's desk, who had been staring at the map on the wall. The boy jumped at the sound, and looked up into the face of the irate navigator.

            “If you ever want to be more than a ship hoveler, you will pay attention!” The navigator shook the ruler once more before turning back to the board, where she had drawn numerous star charts. The class copied them down, all aware that the Ship Lord required them to know at least rudimentary navigation. Compasses were rare and expensive, owned only by the lords themselves, so the ship dwellers had to make do.

               Tom turned to the board, trying to make sense of it. The stars and constellations drawn with kelp powder seemed to swim in his vision, and he frowned. He didn’t want to be a navigator, so why did he have to study this? The maps of islands, real land, were what intrigued him. Most of the children in the classroom with him now had been born on the ship, but not him. When he was four, the captain had brought him here onto the ship. Before that, he imagined he had lived on one of the Ship Lord’s islands, maybe a son of a minor Lord. One day, his parents would come back for him, he hoped, and he would have his own ship to control…

              The ruler hit him squarely between his shoulder blades, and he yelped aloud. “I see threats aren’t enough for you, wave dreamer!” The navigator scowled at him as she wrenched him out of his chair. “Now you will stand in front of the class as I work!”
Grabbing him by the ear, she marched him up to the board, and placed him to the side. “Now stay there, and if you drift off again, I’ll throw you off the ship!”

              A day did not go by when the navigator did not threaten to throw one of them off the ship. In reality, though, no one could be thrown off without being judged by a Ship Lord himself, and rarely did a child do something heinous enough to warrant the ultimate punishment. Tom had been put up in front of the class enough times to know that by now.
             “There are several constellations that can be used for navigation, but single stars can be used as well. The most important of these is the rust star…”

               Tom did not care about the rust star, or any other star, for that matter. The head navigator on the ship had a device that he claimed he could use to see stars with in detail, but Tom had never bothered to try it. He was far more interested in the world they actually lived on. He remembered little of living on land; his memories were filled with days at sea, nothing in any direction but water, the only sound the whistling of wind that he liked to imagine was conjured by the air mages and the cries of albatross. When the ship passed close to one of the islands of the Ship Lords, however, Tom was first on deck, hoping to catch a glimpse of trees in the distance. The only ones invited to the islands were mages and captains, however, and Tom was neither of those. He had not set foot on land for nine years, and couldn’t remember what it was like.

             That would change, he assured himself. If he was discovered to be a mage, then he would get off the ship, and go to an island to be trained. Earth mages were always prized; if you were an earth mage you almost never stayed on a ship. Air mages almost always became co captains, powering the ships for the Ship Lords. And fire mages…That is what Tom wanted to be, a fire mage. They were rare, rarer even then earth mages, but they absolutely could not stay on a ship. Their element would not agree with it, obviously. It was said that fire mages usually went on to become Ship Lords of their own, and that was what Tom wanted more than anything. 

               Mages themselves were rare, though, and the tests for a given ability were never clear. Tom wasn’t sure how they were done, but he felt sure that he would be one. He felt determined to get off the ship, and if that meant developing magic power, he could do that. He had tried manipulating fire before, with no success, but didn’t magic abilities come later in life? He was sure he would be able to do it eventually.

               “Isn’t that right, Tom?” The navigator was speaking to him about something, and he jerked his head up to meet her gaze. He had no clue what she had just asked, so he simply nodded.

               The class burst into laughter, and the teacher sighed. “No, Tom, stars are not made of coral. I knew you weren’t paying attention. What am I going to do with you?”

               The lunch bell rang then, clanging down even to the bowels of the ship where children were instructed. The children ran out of the room, laughing happily, and Tom followed, darting around the navigator. Had he learned anything, it was forgotten in the rush to get their lunch.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Upcoming release: Love Wins!

On December 12th, Love Wins will be released. Love Wins is an anthology of LGBT stories from Dreamspinner press.

With time comes healing, but Orlando and the LGBT community are still recovering from last June’s tragedy. To show our ongoing support for those affected by the Orlando shooting, our authors, editors, artists, and staff have volunteered their talents to create this second benefit anthology. All proceeds will be donated to LGBT organizations in central Florida. Join us as we reaffirm that no matter the obstacle, love always wins.

This is all the more important considering recent political outcomes.

My story within the anthology is called "The Importance of Pride." Below are brief descriptions of all the stories you can look forward to when the book is released:

Abstract Heart by Lucie Archer
Nick spends nearly every lunch break at the modern art museum, hoping to catch a glimpse of docent Kris. Kris has noticed the cute guy hanging around the exhibits too but never manages to approach him. It will take a matchmaking security guard to bring these two introverts together.

Cats and Christmas Trees: Trouble Waiting to Happen by M.A. Church
What’s a half human to do when Christmas rolls around? Kirk tries ignores it, but his shifter mates Tal and Dolf, being sneaky kitties, persist in finding out what’s troubling him so they can make it better.

A Chance for Hope by Deja Black
In the aftermath of tragedy, freelance writer Brad Truscott is drawn to ease Paul Bachman’s grief. But will Paul ever be ready to take another chance on happiness?

Changing Things by Nicole Dennis
Despite his allergies, Ryan puts up with the two rescue cats his boyfriend, Seth, adores. But when an especially severe asthma attack sends Ryan to the hospital, Seth realizes something has to give—either his relationship with Ryan or his guardianship of Fili and Kili.

Especially in Orlando by Troy Storm
When bighearted mover Dalton is hired to haul away a hot young guy’s belongings after a breakup, he can’t help returning to see how the good-looking older man is dealing with the transition. George is happy to take Dalton up on his offer of solace. But then George’s ex, Peter—aka Mr. Prissy Pout—has second thoughts, and while George isn’t interested in taking him back, he and Dalton are willing to share their experience—and more.

Free to Love by Kris T. Bethke
Henry is tired of hiding their relationship, but Shane is afraid to risk losing his job and his parents by coming out as gay. When his worst fears prove true, Shane finds that life outside his parents’ repressive control is so much better than anything he could have imagined.

Happily Ever After, After All by L.A. Merrill
Once upon a time, Princess Aubergine dreamed of a fairy-tale wedding to the girl of her dreams. Things haven't exactly worked out that way. Locked in a tower for ten years, Aubergine managed to scare off all the princes coming to rescue her. Now it's up to her to do the rescuing—until a band of students from the local Ladies’ Academy happen upon her tower and devise a daring escape plan.

The Importance of Pride by Ravon Silvius
College history professor Patrick Levine is looking for a subject for a research proposal when he discovers his granduncle’s journal. To his shock, not only was Uncle Marty gay, but he’d been at the Stonewall riot in 1969. Will learning more about his uncle’s history help Patrick face his own fears about coming out?

The Insomniac Sommelier by Julie Lynn Hayes
Kirk Westmoreland dreams of owning his own restaurant someday, but for now he fights insomnia while working at family-owned Venezia with his control-freak older brother. After work he tries to de-stress at Sweeties, a small diner run by his sister and her wife. When Kirk meets the diner’s new server, Ashley, he ends up going home with him—to the best sleep he’s had in forever. If he can’t keep his life at Sweeties compartmentalized from his life at Venezia, Kirk will have to decide which one he’s willing to give up.

Looking for George by David C. Dawson
Betty’s innocent crush on actor George Clooney became something more when he saved her from a fall at the hotel she works at in London. When she discovers her Italian holiday trip will take her only a few miles from the actor’s summer villa… well, surely fate means for them to meet again.

Love Over Lotto by Jude Dunn
Craig Batson and Tom Rendelle have plenty of joy together but not so much money. Determined to improve their finances, Craig borrows a library book on the secrets of winning the lottery and empties their rainy-day fund to buy dozens of lottery tickets. Tom explodes when he finds out, leaving Craig to wonder if their love can survive.

More Than His Scars by Jana Denardo
Facing the anniversary of the day he lost his arm while serving in the Middle East, Aaron is understandably depressed. It’s up to his lover, Rhys, to plan a special day to help Aaron see how amazing he really is.

Overcoming Fear by Grace R. Duncan
In the year since a global pandemic ravaged their world, Duncan has done everything he can to ease Mark’s fears of losing him. When a minister and his wife seek out Mark for help, Duncan sees an opportunity to show Mark another level of commitment—if Mark will dare to take it.

Prevailing Zzz's by Tray Ellis
After eight months together, Greg wants Win to move in with him. But how can Win agree when Greg's snoring leaves him sleep-deprived and miserable?

Pushing Back Oblivion by Alicia Nordwell
Fighting a rapidly growing brain tumor, Cohen promises his partner, Jaime, that he’ll never give up. Through surgeries and setbacks, at times that promise and Jaime’s voice are all Cohen has to cling to.

Reluctant Valentine by Xenia Melzer
A best-selling thriller novelist, Dean writes romances as a relaxing hobby. But when writer’s block strikes, sexy handyman Morgan shows up to provide all the inspiration he needs.

Taking a Chance by Renee Stevens
Gabe and Toby work for the same company, Gabe in the US and Toby in London. After meeting at a convention, they spend nearly every moment of their time together, but when they both have to return home, their only option is to attempt a long-distance relationship.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Interview with Alicia Nordwell!

Today we have an interview with Alicia Nordewell!

Do you eat your fruits and vegetables?
Love them! I consume bananas at a ridiculous rate because otherwise I have muscle spasms. But I live with 2 carnivores who don’t eat anything green if they can help it, so it can be a real challenge for veggies sometimes.

What's your favorite room in your house? Do you plot or write there?
Whichever one my family isn’t? Some days I just want to be all alone, but if the kids don’t follow me around the dog or cats do. My dream house has a suite office with its own bathroom with a jetted tub just for me. I just have to hit it big with a book. Or the lotto. LOL

Do you have a favorite quote?
The imagination is infinite—it can encompass everything you want it to encompass, if you let it. Everything around us, either functional or decorative, once existed in someone’s imagination. Every building, every fixture, every vase, every road, every toaster. In fact, the world we live in is largely a manifestation of individual and collective imaginations applied to the tasks of altering preexisting reality. So the question becomes, How can you position yourself to dream well? ~ Jeff Vandermeer, Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

How much of the story is based on personal experience or is the story primarily research-based?
I’ve been to every place in the story, so that was all personal experience. I also like to hike and am an amateur photographer (each stop in this blog tour has a picture I took in the area) so that was me too. I did extensive research on the firefighters, though, as that’s not a field I’ve ever been in. I have been rescued by them during a car accident, though, so I know how important it is to say thank you for the work they do—often when they never see the people they rescue again. That’s drove Scottie’s character, even after Jax was an ass to him.

Can you sum up this story in one sentence?
I think my editor, Rose, did an excellent job with the end of the eBook blurb: They can’t deny the heat building between them—and this is one fire they don’t want to put out.


Nothing beats getting out of the concrete jungle and into the quiet of the forest. Website
designer Scottie Ness is taking a well-deserved vacation from the grindstone,
and he plans to spend it in the solitude of Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National
Forest around Mt. Adams. He’s prepared for everything—except the lightning
storm that traps him in a wildfire.

The firefighter who rescues him sustains serious injuries and ends up in the hospital. Jax
Quintero might be abrasive, but the guy saved his life, and Scottie wants to
thank him. As they spend time together during Jax’s recovery and exploring the
state’s landmarks when he’s released from the hospital, Scottie discovers
there’s more to Jax than a smart-ass adrenaline junkie. Jax reassesses his
opinion of Scottie as an arrogant city boy who has no business in the
mountains. Though Jax’s wounds prevent them from taking things as far as they’d
like for a while, they can’t deny the heat building between them—and this is
one fire they don’t want to put out.






Chapter One

“WHAT EXOTIC tropical locale are you going to spend your vacation drunk in?” Carter
leaned back in his chair so he could see into Scottie’s cubicle. He smirked.
“Or are you hitting the casinos in Vegas to make your fortune and leave all of
us to toil away in the trenches alone?”

“Neither. Hiking and camping in the Gifford Pinchot around Mt. Adams.” Scottie adjusted a
line of code, and the website header widened. “I’m all set to go in the

“Seriously? You have a week off in August, and you’re going to waste it trudging through
the dirt and pine trees when you could be lounging on the beach somewhere?”
Carter shook his head. “Wouldn’t catch me doing that. Aren’t there bears and
cougars up there?”

Scottie shrugged one shoulder. “I might see a bear, if I’m lucky. Cougars are actually
pretty shy.”

“You want to see a bear?”

“It’d make a great picture.” The website he was working on needed to be visually
appealing on both computers and mobile devices, and he was having a hard time
focusing. “It’s Friday. Don’t you have some reason to duck out and start the
weekend early?”

“Nope. Miranda, Tark, and I are all going out for happy hour at Corrigan’s, but not
until six. Don’t try to change the subject. You know you can take pictures at
the beach, right? White sand, crystal blue water, and palm trees swaying in
front of the setting sun.”

a dozen. I like living in Washington because we have so many places where I can
take beautiful nature photos. Coastline, rivers, lakes, mountains, even the
desert, all within a few hours’ drive. Besides, I’m still paying off my student
loans. I don’t have money for expensive vacations.”

“Two words. Credit cards.”

Of course. Carter wore name-brand shoes with his fancy suits and never brought a
lunch, preferring to order takeout. He’d graduated a year before Scottie, so it
wasn’t like he made that much more money. “One word. Stupid.”

Carter rolled his eyes. “Whatever, man. When I take my week off next month, I’m going
to Hawaii. Hotel on the beach, coconut drinks, and chicks in bikinis. Any women
you come across in the campground will probably be covered in pitch and pine

“I’m not going to stay in the campgrounds. I’m hiking and camping off the trails,
and for the most part, I won’t see any people at all.”

A look of horror crossed Carter’s face. “Seriously?”

He nodded. “I used to go camping with my family all the time growing up. We’d
hike, fish, roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire. It’s peaceful.”

“Whatever, man. When you get munched on by a bear, can I get your chair?”

It was Scottie’s turn to roll his eyes. “I’m not going to get eaten by a bear, and
your chair is the same as mine. Why would you want it?”

“I spilled fish sauce on mine earlier this week, and now it smells funny.”

“Well you can’t have my chair, and I’ll notice if there’s a fish funk on mine when I
get back, so don’t even try to switch them. Don’t you have a project to finish?
I have to get this done before I leave.”

“Fine, fine.” Carter rolled back to his desk. “Have fun communing with wildlife.”

SCOTTIE ROLLED up his backpacking tent with an extra tarp and fastened it to the bottom
of his pack. His sleeping bag, a change of clothes, survival kit, portable
stove, water filter, and food fit inside. The rest of his camping gear was
piled along the wall, taking up most of the living room floor in his postage
stamp of an apartment. He plopped down on the couch with a beer and opened his

Using a red highlighter, he outlined the trails he planned to take and marked his
base camp as well as his possible overnight camping sites before printing out
two copies. Picking up a pen, Scottie scribbled his full name, the dates of his
trip, and what kind of vehicle he was driving on the back of one map. He’d drop
it off at the ranger station before he stopped in Trout Lake for some
sandwiches. No idea what they did to make them taste so great, but they were
way better than anything he could make. He’d have to stop by the ATM on the way
out of Vancouver to pick up some cash.

Now that he had all the nitty-gritty survival stuff out of the way, he had to get
his photography equipment in order. Scottie didn’t spend much money on himself,
but he had a nice Canon camera, lenses, a flexible tripod for his hiking pack,
and a bigger telescoping tripod in its own bag. Using a polishing cloth from
his cleaning kit, Scottie went over every piece of glass in his camera bag,
making sure all the lenses and filters were spotless. Photography might be just
a hobby, but he took pride in getting that one shot that made all the hard work
worth it.

He’d finished his beer by the time he had the last memory card and battery stowed,
and he waffled on what he wanted to do. He’d been up since six, worked a full
day, and finished getting all his camping gear ready to load in the morning,
but he wasn’t tired enough to go to bed. The weather report he checked promised
sunny days and clear nights—though it wouldn’t be nearly as warm around Mt.
Adams as it would be in Portland.

Author Bio:

The number one question folks ask Alicia when she shares she's a MM romance author: "Why
gay fiction? Why write men when you're a woman?" and her answer is:
"Why the hell not!" Alicia Nordwell is one of those not so rare
creatures, a reader turned writer. Striving to find an interesting story one
day, she decided to write what she wanted instead. Then the voices started...
Yep, not only does she talk about herself in the third person for bios, she has
voices in her head constantly clamoring to get out. Fortunately, with the
encouragement of her family and friends, she decided for her own sanity to keep

Now you can find her stories both free and e-published. When she’s not on the computer typing
away, she's a wife and a mom of two in the dreary, yet ideal for her redhead
complexion, Pacific Northwest. Except for when she disappears into one of the
many worlds in her head, of course! She can also be found quite often at her
blog, where she has a lot of free fiction for readers to enjoy or working hard,
or maybe hardly working, as an admin on under her online
nickname, Cia.

Social media:


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Thrall part 5

The lantern the hunter held in his hand illuminated the planes of his face and the red highlights in his brown hair. It was a gorgeous color in the firelight. “Perhaps I pegged you wrong, servant?” He shifted the lantern from one hand to the other, displaying the long gun he held strapped to his back as he rolled his shoulders. “Have you given up, and are here to hunt?”

            I frowned. “You cannot kill me with that at this range,” I said. “You can’t lift it to fire quickly enough.

            Johann raised both eyebrows. “Smart, for a servant.”

            My eyes narrowed. “Why are you following me? Bothering me, if I am just…mindless. Like the ones you murdered.”

            “I did not murder them. I put them to rest. They didn’t know it, but that was what they wanted.”

            I opened my mouth to protest, but the words stilled on my tongue. Instead I asked “How can you know that?”

            “I’ve killed creatures like you for over a decade.” I reappraised him. He was youthful looking, but his jaw was firm and his eyes held wisdom and a good deal of wariness. Twenty-five, at least. Older than I had been. “I’ve seen more vampires, and more of their servants, than you can imagine. All of the servants are mindless drones, intent on fulfilling their master’s orders and filling their stomachs with blood and nothing else.”

            If he was trying to offend me, it wasn’t working.

            “Now, servant. You came to this village. Why?” He shifted his weight, the wooden bridge creaking. His horse snorted, and I realized that the air was cold enough to make the beast’s breath visible.  “Tell me,” Johann urged, and he met my eyes.

            My gaze instantly shifted away, as it always had when other people had looked at me. I didn’t want them to see my eyes, how colorless they were, or how they had always looked red in the wrong light. Like a demon, they always said. You’ve birthed a demon, they had used to say, to my mother.

            And now I was one.

            “You are not like other servants I have met,” Johann said, breaking the silence. “So depending on your answer, I may not kill you.”

            Wariness, not fear, flashed through me. “You can’t kill me,” I said. “And no, I didn’t come here for blood.” Saying it brought saliva to my mouth, but it was true. “I have fed already. And my master had forbidden it.”

            “Human blood will make you powerful, you know,” Johann said.

            My fangs pricked my bottom lip. His scent blew on the wind, filling my nostrils, and his heart beat loud in my ears.

            I turned and darted into the forest, putting the man and the village at my back. I had fed. It was time to return to my master.

            “I’ll see you again, strange servant,” Johann said. He didn’t raise his voice. He knew I could hear him, no matter how quickly I moved away.


            The farther away I ran from the village, the more the memories and strange sensations they evoked faded. By the time I reached the castle, I once again let my mind wander, letting my senses inform me. Birds flying overhead, the soft gusts of wind against my skin, and the ever present pattering of paws and claws on stone.

            And moaning. My master had found another source of entertainment before retiring for the morning.

            I knew I would not escape the sounds. The woman’s moans, slow and slurred, permeated every inch of the castle. My master, of course, was silent. Or perhaps it was only because his fangs were probably in her neck while he took her.

            She would bleed out before the sun rose, another lady of the evening lost to the night. Perhaps that was why they had sent a hunter.

            It had taken them long enough. My master took a woman nearly every week.

            I navigated the winding halls, passing empty stone. Scuffs marked where a painting had hung once, and in one place letters cursing the King were scrawled near the floor. Dust caked the walls, and had I been human it would have cloyed my nose and lungs.

            The moaning slowed, and then was cut off with a gasp. In my mind, I imagined the form of my master, crouched over a writhing woman, his cock hard and body tense.

            The image became Johann, the hunter’s dark eyes smoldering as he grappled with me. His breath would be hot and warm against my cold skin.

            I stopped, the strongest flash yet of lust going through my body all at once. My cock twitched, and I steadied myself against the wall.

            Fighting confusion, I brought up the image again. Johann, naked, his cock firm and long, thick in my hands. His strong shoulders, his wide, muscular thighs, and how his body would feel against mine.

            Warmth I had not felt since being turned began to fill me once more. My mind, not my senses, began to sharpen with something I wanted, not desire for blood, and not something my master had ordered me to want. My fingers curled against the stone. I replayed the sound of Johann’s voice in my head.

            My cock began to harden, tenting the thin trousers I wore.

            Then my master’s voice boomed in my head, in my being, the way it did every morning. “Sleep.”

            The sun was rising.

            I grit my teeth as the heat and pleasure faded, swallowed up by the command. I hoped, as I lay down on the pallet in the windowless room of the castle with four empty pallets next to me, that I would dream this time.

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefs this week!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Thrall part 4

“You don’t remember your name, servant?” Johann said. I frowned, his words cutting. “Others remember you. I know it.”

            I jerked my head up, meeting his eyes. “Tell me,” I snapped. 

            “No,” he said, and I stepped forward. 

            “Tell me!” Something filled me, a need that for once had nothing to do with hunger for blood. Memories of the cat and the old woman wouldn’t leave my head, and there was more, blocked by a haze of alcohol and the image of my master in the alley.

            “You are not human any longer,” Johann said. “Chasing human memories will only hurt you.”

            “Then why did you ask me my name?” I growled. 

            “Because there is a way for you to get them back. To reclaim who you were, in a way.” 

            I backed up, lifting my head as though he had slapped me. 

            “Why are you telling me this?” I growled. “Why would I want that?” The memories began to fade, as they always did, in a haze of indifference, but this time they left edges behind. I should have tried to kill him, back with the others. I probably would have died. Why had I even cared then?

            “Maybe you don’t.” He shrugged, turning to leave. “But if you do, come find me. You have my scent now. If you want something more than to die a mindless, blood crazed servant, that is.” 

            I blinked. “You think you can just go, and I’ll let you?” 

            “If you kill me, you’ll never know.” 

            “I could bring you to my master.” 

            “And he’d kill me.” He began walking away, leaving me alone with only the deer I had killed for company. “It’s your choice, servant. Probably the most important one of your short afterlife.” 

            I could have chased after him. I could overpower him, force him to reveal whatever he knew. 

            My name. Who I had been. Who I was. 

            Instead, I stayed put, until the moon shone directly overhead. I waited for the apathy to return, subsumed by the return of the hunger.

            The hunger returned, but the apathy didn’t.


            I hadn’t been to the village since my master had turned me. 

            The night had turned cold, the cold that permeated the air just before the morning began. I shouldn’t be here, darting through the trees close the to the village borders, just over the river that separated me from them, the bridge mere yards away. The sun would be up soon. 

            The village of Penthorn blended in with the woods, the houses made of the same pale bark. No fires burned in the town square. Winding alleys radiated from the bell in the center of town, framed by thatched houses that looked small and cramped from my spot in the tree above the river. The houses were dim, silent, the only sound the quiet clucking of chickens in the front yard of one of them. Beyond the houses, fields stretched into the distance, and small dots marked sheep that grazed overnight. 

It was familiar. The bell had marked every morning and evening, and even now I could hear the sound every night, wafting even to the castle. No one slept in the alley I had once lain in, though I may just not be able to see them in the various  twists and turns. 

Part of me wanted to enter, immerse myself in a life I had once but could not remember. 

            I also wanted the blood. Hunting in the middle of a village, surrounded by the beating hearts and scents of living people, would be torturous bliss until I sank my fangs into one of them. Then it would be bliss. I licked my lips, the deer forgotten. 

            As I watched, a light flickered to life in the window of one of the houses. I leaned forward in the tree, straining to see. 

            The light traveled, and I realized it was a candle, held by someone inside the house. The window dimmed, and then the front door swung open. 

            “Out you go, Whisk,” a reedy voice spoke. “Out, out. Go and hunt.”    
            That voice struck me hard. 

            “Hey, you boy,” a woman said. She was blurry in my vision, and I stumbled when I tried to stand. “You can’t sleep here. It’s too cold.”

            “I’m fine.” 

            “No. I’ve seen you. You want to freeze to death? Follow me. Sleep on the floor, but I won’t have you sleeping outside in this weather. You’ll catch your death.” Matilda turned on her heel, and like a child, not a twenty-year-old man, I followed. 

            Her house had been warm, and upon laying down on her couch I was asleep in minutes. Her cat had slept on my stomach. I had left in the morning before she woke, my head pounding. 

            I blinked, the memory and sensations of warmth and something deeper fading. This time, though, they left something behind. A hollowness, that had nothing to do with hunger for blood. I watched, unmoving, as the door closed, and Matilda’s cat prowled away into the night, its ears twitching for the sound of rapid heartbeats and tiny feet.

            The sound of wheels on wood made me turn.

            “You chose to be turned, didn’t you?” The hunter’s voice was loud in my ears after the silence of the river and the village.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Thrall part 3

            I may have survived the hunter, but I knew my new life wouldn’t last long. Once the others had talked to me, weeks into my turning, about a servant who had taken blood from a human from the village to the east without master’s permission. He had been the oldest, according to the female among us, and had finally lost his mind completely. It happened to all of us, eventually, turning into animals.

            Master had killed him. It was fitting, I supposed. He would kill me too, if I didn’t obey.

            A strange fear froze me in place at the thought, and wind scattered the scent of the deer I had been tracking. I wondered if all vampire servants feared death the way I did. The others had rushed to their death without thought. And I had already died once, in a way, hadn’t I?

            I remembered very little of it. My master had stood over me, his blond hair a halo in the light of the streetlamps. The cloying scent of alcohol and my own vomit, and the trash that had littered that alley, still singed my nose in my memory.

            “Do you want to die?” he had asked, his fangs sharp and long. I had thought he was beautiful.

            When I opened my eyes again, it was to the stone wall of the castle and to a hunger that never left.

            The scent of the deer blew with the breeze again, thicker and pungent. Prey was close. My memories scattered like leaves as I broke into a silent, loping run.

            The deer stood out in my enhanced vision, standing like a fool in the light of the stars. I leaped, closing my hands around its neck.

            It’s hooves drew fiery trails down my sides and a lucky kick caught my knee, bone popping. I held on, sharp fingernails digging into the fur of its neck. My jaw clenched, my fangs puncturing the skin of my lip. If I bit now, I would miss the vein and spill precious blood on the leaves.

            Verterbrae cracked, and the animal went limp. My vision fuzzed, drool dripping from my mouth as I leaned down to finally sink my fangs into my prize. It was strange not to have others fighting me for it.

            In a short time, I had sucked the animal dry, my mouth filled with the coppery taste of life. It infused my body, filling me with energy and power. My knee cracked once more as the kneecap slid back into place, and the pain of the torn skin faded as it mended itself.

            I stood, the dark night a little brighter with the energy of the deer’s blood within me.

            “Hold there,” a voice demanded, and I whirled.

            The hunter emerged from the treeline, a crossbow in hand. In his other hand he held a lantern, and it took me only a moment to realize it was another solar flare. He had come prepared.

            “You,” he said. “Servant. Stop right there.”

My muscles thrummed with power from the deer. If he hadn’t been holding two weapons and my stomach wasn’t full, I would have killed him by now.

            He stood upwind of me, and I wished I could scent him. He stood without a trace of fear, his hands steady. I was probably faster, but I couldn’t be sure. Of course, if he wanted me dead he would have fired by now.

            Wind gusted, and the scent of the deer wafted back into my nostrils.
Something flew overhead, the near silence of a hunting owl. I studied the man before me, his well-formed features, tight slacks and short dark hair.

            “You are controlled for a vampire’s servant,” the hunter said. “No desire for human blood?”

            I tensed. “I am not permitted human blood.” Saliva filled my mouth at the thought of it. Of course, if I killed this man, I would have it.

            “Are there others like you?” the hunter asked. He had not moved an inch. “Other servants, aside from the friends of yours I killed?”

            I tilted my head. “You think I’d tell you?”

            “How long have you served your master?”

            I took a step back, some primitive part of my brain firing a warning. I opened my mouth, showing my fangs. “Don’t press your luck, human. You won’t kill me.”

            The hunter did something then that I did not expect in the least.

            He relaxed, dropping his guard. The crossbow lowered, and he took his thumb off of the switch to the flare. He stood straight, facing me like a man. “I am Johann Malire, a hunter of the 5th order. I was sent here to make the vampire lord in this area answer for his crimes in the villages of Timet, Lorash, and Penthorn.”

            I blinked, and for a moment I anticipated killing him. My legs tensed, my mouth opened, and my hands curled into claws.

            Another gust of wind brought his scent. Masculine sweat, pine, a spice that was probably something he chewed, and underneath it all, a tinge of fear.

            He was afraid, and yet still he addressed me like an equal. Not even when I was human had people spoken to me with such respect.

            I relaxed. If he was afraid, then why had he dropped his guard like that, if he didn’t have some sort of trick?

            “So, servant,” Johann said. If he was aware of how close he’d come to death, he didn’t show it.  “Tell me your name.”

            I opened my mouth, then froze.

            My master never referred to me by name. People and places danced through my head of my time as a human, fleeting images of other people taunting me, my time drinking in bars and in alleys, and an old woman’s face.

            But I didn’t have a name anymore.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Thrall part 2

            The hollowness in my gut was the first thing to break the hunger, and it took me a moment to realize that every other servant was dead.

            I hadn’t known them. It shouldn’t matter. We hadn’t even spoken, only interacting when we fought during our nightly hunts for deer or other animal blood. Without them, there would be more for me. I should be glad.

            But emotion faded quickly. I fought to keep running, to ignore the command in my mind that told me to turn back and kill the man I had been ordered to kill. Doing so would be suicide.

            It was only when I entered the castle gates that I wondered if my master would be angry with me.

            The gates soared over my head, carvings of wolves seated atop the iron bars. The castle blocked the view of the mountain that overlooked it and kept it hidden from curious onlookers. Gray stone melded against dead trees.

            Inside, thousands of scents mingled, mold mixing with cold stone and dead leaves and the sharp scent of my master’s dogs. The scent of blood wound through it all, and saliva filled my mouth.

            I followed the scent, my bare feet silent on the cold stones, and found my master where the stone became plush rugs. A skeleton lay by the door to his room, the bones ancient. A shiver went down my spine, but faded quickly, just like every other emotion or feeling I had. The ever-present hunger replaced it.

            “What are you doing here?” My master’s voice chased away everything else.

            The vampire who had made me strode closer. His blond hair was tied back with a blue ribbon, and deep red eyes met mine. He frowned, and I ducked my head, curling in on myself like a cur. I should have attacked the hunter and been done with it.

            “Where are the others?” my master said, his voice fainter, and the presence of his power lessened on my shoulders and chest.

            “Dead,” I managed. “The man was a hunter.”

            “Damn.” My master turned on his heel, striding down the hall. With a whisper of his power, I was compelled to follow. He always paced when he thought.

            My master’s shoes clicked on the stone floors, the sound loud and echoing down the halls. I heard tiny hearts beating from creatures racing along the floor and outside the open windows, the blazing fast pulse of mice and once the slower beat of a cat that must be hunting them.

            “Why did you return?” my master asked. I tore my gaze away from the windows.

            “I…I could not kill him.”

            “I ordered you to kill him.” My master stopped walking, turning on his heel like a girl in the village who danced for pennies. He was far more graceful, though. “I am surprised you returned. Why?”

            I blinked, mind racing. My master stared at me, red eyes steady, his mouth a firm line. His shoulders were thrown back and square. “I thought you might like to know that he is a hunter,” I said, my fangs snapping on the words. “He is likely hunting you.”

            “I feed only on the unwanted, the criminals, and the freaks of the villages. I am a boon to those humans. Why did they send a hunter?”

            The words brought a strange stabbing pain in my chest that it took me a moment to place. Distant, hazy memories, ones that used to matter, played through my mind.

            I had been a freak. A pale freak, with white hair and red eyes who everyone had taunted. I had been almost blind. They said I had been a punishment to my mother for being a whore.

            But not anymore. My master made me strong. Nearly two months ago, he had given me new life.

            “Well?” My master snapped, bringing me back to the present and to the drafty halls of the castle. “Did the hunter speak to you, make demands, or any such thing?”

            “No.” I had not heard his voice. “He killed the others with a solar weapon. He was going to kill me with a stake, but I ran.”

            “A solar weapon.” My master’s words were cold. “He does intend to kill me, then, not just you.”

            I didn’t respond. There were not many things that could kill a vampire lord like my master, but now I knew that a solar weapon was one of them.

            “And now you are my only servant.” My master frowned. “A disobedient servant.” I ducked my head.

            “Go and feed on a deer in the forest. Do not enter the city. And stay very, very far from that hunter.” My master waved a hand. “Dismissed.”

            Before I could move, my master vanished the way he always did when he was done with me. His command thrummed in my brain, and I headed toward the open window we had passed on our walk here.

            The soft wind rushing and the chirps and chitters from the forest quieted the clamoring in my mind that competed with my master’s order. I had every intention of following it—my fangs lengthened, saliva filling my mouth at the thought of a meal, even if it was just animal blood. I had yet to taste a human.

            But another part of me wondered, even as I crouched into a hunter’s stance and listened for my prey, about the hunter and what my master was going to do.  He had used his solar weapon, but tomorrow night it would be charged again.

            Of course, my master was not stupid enough to charge a hunter like we had. He was no mindless servant.

            Then again, I supposed as I picked up the gamey scent of deer, I wasn’t mindless either. I had survived.

            And I felt sure I would see that hunter again.