Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Wednesday Briefs Unicorn Quests Chapter 8

Well that stung. Not even the tiny fae recognized my magic anymore. I’d muddied the waters of my soul too deep. Not-unicorn. I swallowed hard and looked away from the small fluttering wings that chimed like bells in the breeze they created.


“Have you been following us?” I asked.

“Yes.” The tiny Being didn’t even try to deny it. Fae were capricious, tricky, but they did not lie. Not outright.


“Why not?” So it would not lie but not tell the truth then either.

“Are you alone?”

“You are with me.”

He’d heard more bells than just one tiny fae’s wings could make. There were many. So where were they? Still on the road? Behind us? Before us? What mischief were they planning?

Because that was their whole existence. Mischief. What trouble could they cause, who could they annoy most in their immediate vicinity?

Unfortunately, today that was us. Oh, happy day.

Why did we keep going from the frying pan to the fire then jumping right back into the pan to serve ourselves up to the capricious gods of trouble? Karma, bad energy, pissed off a witch in a past life… I seriously did something wrong somewhere or sometime.

And my loved ones were suffering for it.

“Are you the only ones following us?” Some of the tiny beings were winged. “Or don’t you know because you are only capable of hiding here in the woods?” I hid my smile at the scowl that crossed the miniscule lips, turning them down. His arms crossed.

“Of course we know. We can avoid humans on the road.”

Ahh, so it was humans. That was the sound before the bells. The strike of shoes on stones, horses. The metal ring was different from Londe’s hooves; that must have been what woke me, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

But was it the Duke’s men? Or someone else? There was no way to tell without waiting to see them. Better to just avoid them altogether.

I faded backward through the bushes, making no noise as the branches slid past my body. The fae had disappeared, but as soon as I reached the spot where Londe had hidden, my eyes widened. At least a dozen of the tiny fae were all around him.

They were petting him, two were plaiting his mane and tail, and one was flicking away little burrs from his sides.

“They said they’d help us!” he exclaimed eagerly.

“Shhh.” Several hushed him.

I rushed to his side. “There are humans on the road. We need to go. Your coat and horn is too distinctive.”

“Not a problem.” The same tiny fae, his blue and white wings flapping in the air with rapid beats, hovered near us. “We have protected him.”

The braids in Londe’s mane and tail held small objects; I looked closer. Acorns, amber, Anise… the combined magic urging me away from him nearly made me sneeze. I backed away. Protection against psychic attacks, physical harm, and warding off the evil eye; they were the magical gifts of the fae tied to mortal emblems and freely given. It was powerful magic.

“Why would you help us?” It was outside of their nature to do things without recompense. Or was this a trick? I narrowed my eyes. My magic, compared to theirs, even with Londe’s… it wouldn’t be enough.

“A gift, for this day and night! We travel, make merry, gift those Beings and humans who are our friends. You did not try to harm me, or grow angry when I refused your question.”

I shrugged. “You’re fae.” One could not force the fae, not even one of the tiny Beings.

He grinned and several others cheered, scampering about on the ground, Londe’s back, and in the air. “We’re fae, we’re fae, come to make merry this day!”

It had taken me all this time to realize they were in colors green, red, gold, and silver. Glitter dotted their skin, and some carried branches of evergreen and bright red berries with green leaves tucked into their hair.

“Oh…!” Now it made sense. Time ran differently in the fae realm than it did here, and their magic let them choose. The fae were celebrating their midwinter.

“Merry tidings! Gifts to bless and keep you safe!” One tiny fae woman said, her wings chiming like the highest, purest of bells as she flew up to me and tapped me on the forehead with a branch from her hair.

No. Not just the forehead. I closed my eyes, feeling the aching chasm deep into my soul, the answering twist from the horn sheathed along my back. She’d touched the spot where my horn had been sheared, the magical connection broken. I held in a sob.

Then a nose nuzzled my cheek. I reached up and held onto Londe’s neck, needing to hide my face for a moment. “It’s okay,” Londe soothed me.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered in a broken voice. All this, it was all my fault. Our damaged bond, the missing foals, the magic gone and all that had changed inside me.

“Stop. I’ve never blamed you. We will get the foals back in time, and we will find a way to fix your horn.”

“We can help!” came a chorus of voices.

I looked up, still not sure if we could trust them. They were behaving so oddly for their kind; fae just didn’t offer up magic and help for nothing. Whatever they were getting out of it had to be big, even if I couldn’t figure it out yet.

“Nothing you do can harm me or Londe, or anyone as a consequence,” I warned them. “Agreed?”

“Agreed!” They rose up, dancing and flying around us, the bells growing louder and louder, until I grew dizzy. I closed my eyes, grunting as my stomach churned, and a loud crack broke the air, the concussion knocking me into Londe.

Want more flash?

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Unicorn Quests Chapter 7

“I have never been so happy to see the backside of someone,” Londe muttered. Grif had flown away as soon as we’d finished separating out the goods we’d come out of the city with; she urged us to get moving too.

“Nothing like a pissed off vampire minus a few jewels and a night of hot, sweaty sexing after a meal of full-bodied blood to run you a few leagues and cities over until the heat dies down.” Still, she’d patted the bags she’d stashed in her ruff with a sly smirk. “Got some gambling games to get to anyway.”

“Gonna lose all those jewels in a heartbeat. Then she’ll be back at you to get some more,” Londe complained.

“Not happening. I only stole to save the foals. It’s not something I’m comfortable with doing; she knows that.” Grif’s morals were very flexible; if you were a friend, she’d bend over backward to help you. If you weren’t… you were fair game.

Never let a harpy get you in her sights with a hunt in mind; it would be very painful to either your body, or your coin purse, or maybe both.

“I’m sorry you had to do that.” Londe’s ears flicked back and forth unhappily. I leaned forward, resting against his mane to rub up and down his neck all the way to the base of his horn. I was happy to be back in my own body; it was so much easier to move, to lay against him.

Plus, barring a key into my scent, it would make us harder to track. I’d tried not to leave any evidence behind, touching as little as possible.

“It was the least of what I’ve done.” Which hurt to think about, really. Since I’d lost my horn, lost my unicorn form, I’d fallen so far. I’d failed to protect the young, and had been sullied, and the magic I’d accepted had been to help me get the foals back, not return to my former glory. I wasn’t sure, but that seemed lost to me now.

I didn’t know if I could go back. My mate had an innocence to him that even his time among the humans hadn’t quenched. Londe’s muscles tensed, and I tried to suppress my fear, guilt, and self-loathing. There were times when it hit me, but mostly, I focused on my quests.

We’d come so close and lost the foals before. I’d asked Londe to say behind the last time. This time… this time, we’d succeed. No negotiation, no attack, nothing but trade of like for like.

Red diamonds were nowhere near as precious as our foals, at least to us, but to the trolls they’d be a gleaming reward they couldn’t resist. Like burning coals firing their desires to own, to possess, to win.

But they’d pay first.

Freedom for the foals. I prayed they would be okay.

The rocking of Londe’s smooth trot rocked me to sleep, my fingers of one hand twined in his mane.

The cadence of his pace changed, darting sideways and then twisting left and right.

“Wha— Huh? Whas happening’? I asked groggily.

‘Something or someone was coming up behind us on the road,’ he murmured in my head.

I immediately answered him back the same way. ‘Did they see us?’

“Not sure. I don’t think so. You were snoring.’ His voice sounded slightly accusatory.

“I don’t snore,” I snapped under my breath.

“Uh-huh.” His ears flicked. ‘Hush.’ He switched back to our telepathic link.

We’d moved far enough from the road that hopefully no one would spot his white coat. I slipped from his back and inched through a few shrubs to get closer. My coloring and natural-dyed clothes would hide me so I could see who’d been following.

Humans? The vampire? A glance at the sky disabused me of that notion. I hadn’t been asleep long enough for night to have fallen for her to be free, not unless she was traveling by caravan. Resting a hand on the sheathe of my sword, I hoped that wasn’t the case. Our best hope lay in outrunning her and anyone else I’d pissed off.

I’d pissed off a lot of people and Beings.

Nothing like being angry, aggressive, and having very little to lose.

The first thing I heard was a jingle. Myriad bells with tiny metal balls inside them, joined by metal chains. The cacophony was sweetly singing, mixing with the voices rising and falling. Just who was it? Friend or foe?

Being or human? Or both?

I couldn’t be sure at this distance.

‘Who is it?’

‘Not sure, but there’s bells.’

‘Yes, I heard those. That’s why I left the road.’

‘I’m going close.’

Londe shifted restlessly. ‘No, don’t. It’s not safe.’

“Nothing ever is,” I said softly. Either this was one of the parties we feared, or something else. My heart started to trip so loud it covered the sound of the bells.

“Hello!” a small voice said brightly. “What are you looking for? Can I look too?”

“What in the depths of hell?” I jumped, stumbling over a vine, and fell onto my backside. I dropped a knife, barely held the sword, and I just know my mouth flopped open like a trout captured and thrown upon the bank to gasp in the air.

So attractive.

“What is the not-unicorn doing?” the tiny being asked Londe who was still frozen with one hoof up.

Want more flash?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Unicorn Quests Chapter 6

We moved almost constantly, skulking through the night, watching the sky, our backs, and for anyone who might have followed us instead of scrambling for the glittering coins that Grif had scattered. I was still shocked she’d given up any treasure.

“Bah. Mere trifles, barely worth the metal they were struck on.” She waved away my shock. “I found a whole bag of them. Probably what she gave her staff on holidays.”

I licked my lips. “Still. Did you find the diamonds?” I asked.

“No, but I’m sure it’s in one of the bags we grabbed. I don’t have that itchy feeling.”

Well, that was a good sign. I sighed in relief and licked my lips.

Grif eyed me in the growing daylight. “Why do you keep doing that?”

“What?” I blinked, not sure what I was supposed to be doing. Mostly I was walking around, exhausted. I’d stayed female, but became shorter and stouter, my face rounded and cheeks pudged up to narrow my eyes.

“Lick your lips.”

“He always does that as a female. I think it’s their hormones. Makes him crazy.” Londe was resting with one back leg cocked, shaking the hoof periodically as his tail swished restlessly.

“What? No I don’t! I mean, I’m not crazy. I change my body, not who I am. It’s not like I’m really a woman inside.” They didn’t need to know anything else. “I’m not even a human, people, remember?” Much less a woman. It hurt, aching deep inside myself, to have to remind them of that.

“Did I hurt your feelings?” Londe asked. “I didn’t mean to do that.” He stepped close, draping his head over my shoulder and nudging me with his warm cheek.

“You didn’t,” I said as gruffly as possible. “My feet just hurt, and I’m tired. And hungry. I want out of this damn city.” We’d hid in the Being sections whenever possible, but there were enough humans here that my skin itched. “You have an idea for that, Grif?”

They let me change the subject.

“We walk right out.” Grif rummaged around in her ruff, pulling out a leather bag tied with a black cord. “Invisibility powder, right here.”

“What?” Lorde scoffed. “That doesn’t exist.” He paused, chomping his teeth a few times. “Does it?” he asked me quietly.

Grif cawed out a raucous laugh, way too loud for the hour and the corner of the city we were trying to hide in.

“Shh,” I frantically hushed her. “And, no, it doesn’t. What the devils have you got there, Grif?”

“Oh, just a little Toranian dervish powder. There will be such a commotion going on that we won’t be noticed sneaking out.”

Grif’s prediction was true, though it was a struggle getting her out of the gates when the two nobles who were coming in tangled with a merchant who couldn’t stop jerking and spinning. The resulting spill of goods into the road left many sparklies about for grasping fingers.

And we finally made it to a safe place outside of the city, and the hollow that sheltered us also meant no risk of prying eyes. I didn’t care about Londe and Grif’s, though, and I wasted no time stripping, dropping every bag in a pile at my feet, and ridding myself of both the feminine clothes and form.

The loss of the fangs was the biggest relief. I’d pricked my lips so many times I’d had to keep licking them to heal the wounds, but I’d had to shed the teeth and growing new ones would take a few hours. Embarrassing, but I’d just keep my mouth shut as much as possible.

I hated the oddities that came with being able to shift form, but when I’d had my horn removed and stolen, I’d lost my unicorn form. Only the shapeshifter magic gifted to me allowed me to change. If I could ever find a mage strong enough, I hoped to pair the shapeshifting magic and my horn to regain my true form.

Until then, I remained a Being unique in the world. The only anchors I had were Londe and the babies. Someone had stolen them, and I would get them back. Then I’d return to my quest to become whole again.

Plunking down on the cold ground, I shivered. Londe grunted, but he folded his knees and sank down behind me, providing an additional block to the wind and a backrest.

“We’ll split the bags, other than the red diamonds. You have majority share,” I said. Grif was nearly shivering in delight, or maybe cold. She’d already dropped her bags on the same pile.

“Sure, sure, yes, yes, whatever. Sparklies!” she crowed. She started opening things at a frantic rate, spilling out coins and gems.

“Careful,” Londe snapped. “We can’t afford to lose a single diamond.”

Grif scoffed, and the two were off, sniping at each other. I think it was to take Londe’s mind off the fear we hadn’t gotten the diamonds; Grif was just bitchy.

The fourth bag I loosened and spilled into my hand sent a cascade of bright red gemstones to pool in my palm. “Oh thank the spirits!” We had found them. I’d begun to doubt as Grif hurried through the bags.

She scampered around me. “Diamonds, diamonds, small and shiny. Came right out of Earth’s tight hiny.” She cackled and cawed.

“Oh do shut up for once in your life, you shrill harpy!” Londe sniffed. He was pretending like he wasn’t crying in relief, but I wasn’t fooled. Had he really been that afraid that we wouldn’t succeed?

Of course we would; I wouldn’t let anyone keep the babies. Those young were as good as traded back into our arms.

“Shrill? Pfft.” Grif made a gesture with one wing and her beak that was extremely rude. Her breasts heaved, the cloth she’d donned in camp barely covering them. She started separating out bags. “Coins for you, must better. Shiny blues and silvery grays for me… yes, yes,” Grif hummed happily.

Want more flash?

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Unicorn Quests Chapter 5

Please be easy. Please be easy. I had no idea why I thought using that mantra would work, but a fool can hope. I was a big fool. We made our slow way upstairs, and I almost didn’t have to feign the stumbling. It’d been some time since I’d taken a woman’s form.

They were so top heavy!

“Would you care for your usual, madam?” sked the butler, or whoever he was, when he stopped outside a set of thick, double doors at the end of a hall.

“Oh. Yes. Please.” I licked my lips. What the hell was my usual? Her usual, I meant. I couldn’t ask, and if I said no, that might make him suspicious.

“Very good.” He dropped his arm, and I had a moment of panic not knowing what to do with mine. I’m sure I looked awkward as a human—a definite no no for a vampire—but fortunately his back was turned as he opened the doors. “We anticipated your needs.”

Reclining on the bed in a simple loincloth, his bare chest oiled, was a man. His eyes were half-lidded, his arms stretched and tied with silken cords. Red. Matching the bedding.

For all the saints and sinners. I licked my lips, and my servant smiled. “We have pleased you.” He bowed. “Enjoy your night, madam.”

Oh, his madam would not be pleased, not when I left here. But maybe the morsel would help. He seemed willing enough, and a sated vampire female wasn’t looking for more food when she returned. Oh no. She’d have something else in mind.

“You want this?” I ran my hands down my ribs to my hips, the flare strange but growing more familiar as I wore the body.

“Yes, madam.” His husky voice was deep, strained, nearly as strained as the fabric covering the clearly impressive cock between his bent legs. “Whatever you wish from me, I am yours.”

“Close your eyes,” I whispered as I drew close.

He shuddered, the bed creaking, but the sacrifice did as I said. He never saw me draw back one arm, take careful aim, or the fist that flew at his face and cracked into his jaw. He stiffened, grunting, and then went limp in his bonds.

Well, most of him. They must have dosed him because a certain part of him didn’t flag as I checked to ensure he was out but not in danger. I rushed to the window, eyeing the wards. Thankfully, they were simple. A quick swipe with the knife I’d hidden in my breasts, and poof, no more wards. I unlatched the shutters, then the window, then the outer shutters. Waving, I waited for Grif.

“Ooh, what do we have here?” she crooned.

“Ignore him,” I ordered. “Find the diamonds!”

The room was richly appointed, but jewels? None in sight. Yet Grif’s information said they were here. She’d sniff them out; it was what she did.

“Fine. But he is pretty too, and finding pretties is what I do.” She tapped her talons together and spun while eyeing every wall and corner. “Ahhh, thought you were smart. Nope, not that smart.”

She went to a mirror that was embedded into the stone wall. “What are you doing?” I hissed. “Find the gems, don’t go staring at yourself.”

Grif cast a glare over her shoulder. “Don’t be an ass. Come here.” She stood in front of one spot and I stood behind her. “What do you see?”

“You. Me. The room.” What was she getting at? “We don’t have much time!” My stomach churned, and I was having a hard time breathing. “Quit asking me questions and just find the damn jewels.”

“I did. Look there.” She touched what looked to be a smudge in the mirror, and a whole panel of it clicked open.

“There wasn’t even a seam!” How had they done that? It was amazing craftsmanship.

“Stop thinking about the how and find the jewels.” Grif was pawing through the things on the lower end, and I started higher. There were many bags of different things, but I needed just one. Just the red diamonds. Hopefully they wouldn’t be missed for a while, if we could get them and get out before the vampire arrived home…

The clatter of wheels and an exclamation drifted in through the open window.

Oh shit. “Time’s up.” There were at least ten bags I hadn’t checked. I pulled open the front of my dress and swept all of them in, trusting the panel to hold them in place until later. “Grif, let’s go.”

No telling what she was up to, stuffing things left and right, but she finally clicked the mirror shut.

Already shifting my features, I hooked one hand over the windowsill. Swinging my legs over, I used the increased strength in my fingers and forearms to hold me as I swung myself to one side, then down. My dark cloak would hopefully blend with the exterior and help hide me from casual view if anyone looked up.

Huffing and puffing, glad I was lighter than my blacksmith form, I made my way down the side of the building as fast as I could.

“Hey, you there!” Something whizzed through the air and struck the stone with a sharp clang just spans from my ear. A bow twanged, and another strike hit closer. I yelped, my higher voice breaking the night.

“Jump,” someone said. I knew that voice. Londe had come. I breathed a sigh of relief, glanced down quickly, then pushed off the building and vaulted down and onto his back. He took off, brandishing his horn and hooves to deadly effect.

We were still fighting when Grif dropped something.

Coins! They spilled out on the courtyard and into the road, and even with the late hour, the poor city rats, human and Being, who skulked through the night saw the windfall and came racing.

We made our escape in the mayhem.

Want more flash?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Unicorn Quests Chapter 4

“How long are we waiting?” I was exhausted. Londe was dozing on four feet. Grif’s eyes were focused on the windows of the place with a singular intensity.

She looked at the sky, the moon partially obscured by clouds. The stars, the ones not blocked by the new gas lights on the corners of the streets, blinked in the inky blackness of the near midnight sky. “It might be safe now.”

We’d watched the carriage roll out of the gates a good candle hour before, though it felt like longer. “Just what were we waiting for?”

“She’ll be feeding by now, too busy to notice anyone breaching her wards.”

That woke Londe. “There are wards? Are you trying to get us killed?”

“Red diamonds are not an easy prize. You asked for my help, and I am giving it, but do you want them or not?”

I sighed. “We need them. It’s not about want.” I placed a hand on Londe’s neck, calming him. “It’s a risk I will have to take.” So I just had to shift— “Wait. Did you say she? The vampire is female?”

“That’s right.”

“Damn it.” I pinched the bridge of my nose. I hated rearranging my body into a female’s form. And wearing their clothes? Miserable! “I don’t even have a dress.”

“Stop whining.” Grif pulled a dress out of the pack on her back. “I came prepared. Now get going with the magic and the shift and all that.” She waved a wing.

“It is not that easy.”

“Stop whining,” she cawed. “Just do it.”

“Fine.” Words could not describe how grumpy I was, but that one popped out with all the attitude I could muster. I flushed, embarrassed.

Londe shifted and I went around him to get some privacy. I took off my pack and hung it on the strap on the pack he’d let me attach to his withers. I took a few deep breaths and then focused. Shifting small muscles and fat cells under my skin, altering my skin color, eye shape and color, the outline of my lips, nose, and ears, those were easy. But shrinking down the mass of my body and rearranging my limbs to new sizes, enlarging my breasts, widening my hips while narrowing my waist by altering my ribs and bones…

The sounds were disturbing, and the pain of it left me panting and holding on to Londe as I fought the whimpering. This was not a natural form to me, and the more I deviated, the worse it was. By the time I was done, my clothes didn’t fit right, and I definitely wanted to do nothing more than find a bed.

That’s what I got for assuming the fancy person we’d be stealing from was a man; I should have known the owner of red diamonds would be a woman. I could have shifted a few days ago and gotten used to this form. I groaned as I stretched an arm over Londe’s back. “Give me the dress,” I said in a deep voice. Damn it, I’d forgotten my voice box.

Always the details tripping me up. I squeaked and squawked a few words out until Grif told me my voice was good as I redressed in a velvet number cut low enough to nearly show my navel. It was a good thing I’d made my breasts perky.

“What is this?” I said, waving a hand at the outfit.

“She’s out hunting. Human males are easy to lure with a promise of flesh,” Grif said. Her own form was shapely enough and she used it often, so I guessed she knew what she was talking about.

“The vampire left in a carriage. Why would I just stroll back in without it?” I asked.

“Make something up! Do I have to do all the thinking for you?” Grif asked.

“You are the thief,” Londe said haughtily.

“Just say they will be following and you wish to go rest. Act like you are stuffed and slightly drunk, like you just feasted and want nothing more than to rest. The gems are supposed to be kept in a locked case in her chambers.”

“Fine.” I took a deep breath, instantly regretting it when the edge of a pink nipple popped from the dress.

“Or do that.” Grif laughed. “It will definitely distract the staff.”

“Shut up!” I hissed. I stuffed the offending breast back into the dress and then took off at a stroll. I kept my back straight, shoulders tucked so my breasts lead the way, with my hips swaying as I tried to remember how I’d learned to move the last time I’d taken on a woman’s role in disguise.

At least Grif thought to provide flat-soled shoes, not the atrocious buttoned up boots I’d worn before. Though the heels did make for lovely weapons when someone needed to be stabbed in the throat.

Donning an air of superiority all vampires held, and acting as if I owned the place, I entered the man gate. A guard snapped to attention as soon as he caught sight of my face.

“My lady.” He saluted.

I inclined my head but kept going. A mere guard wouldn’t rate my attention. Going up the wide, flat stairs to the front door, I paused. Someone opened them from inside; they must have someone watching, even if I wasn’t expected back so soon.

Sweeping inside, I settled my skirts as I made it through the narrow door. Hmm, defensive purposes? Most mansions this size would have huge doors.

“Madam, you have returned already?”

“Hmm, yes. Quite done for the night, thank you.” Her purring alto really was soothing and enticing. The humans in the hall both smiled beatifically as I thanked them. “I will retire now.” I swayed, acting drunk as Grif suggested.

“Let me escort you upstairs, madam,” the butler or house manager, whoever he was, said. He held out one arm rigidly.

Lovely. Straight to the prize!

Want more flash?