Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Unicorn Quests Chapter 34

My hooves came down, and I landed on my hands and knees on the ground next to Wenn and Tinn. I collapsed onto my face and chest, rolling to cradle my hands. Both palms were burned, the flesh turned white and black in places, blisters open and weeping, raw flesh exposed underneath. I rolled and heaved, my stomach emptying.

“Chasen!” Londe knelt next to me. “Are you all right?”

I shook my head. “Hurts,” I said through clenched teeth. That was… I couldn’t explain how bad it was.

Not my hands. Not that.

Not being alive and the relief of seeing my mate beside me in the real world. Never could I feel pain at being close to Londe.

But, for that brief moment, I’d been whole. I’d had my true form, my horn, my very self back.

Tinn was curled up next to Wenn. Neither moved. No. Oh no. “Are they… are they dead?” I whispered hoarsely.

“No.” Londe nuzzled me. “Resting. Just like you need to do.” He nuzzled me again, his mane caressing my cheeks, the soft skin of his nose and the prickles of the hairs covering it tickling me. “I was so scared,” he admitted. “That I’d lost you for good this time. You disappeared, Chasen. Where did you go?”

“I disappeared?”

“Yes, you just… shimmered, like you were changing form, and then you were gone. Then you came back, and the helm was gone, and you collapsed. It was a second, maybe two, but those were the worst seconds of my life. I thought the warlock put a spell on the helm or something that killed you, destroyed your soul for good.” His voice broke, and his sides shook. “I’m so glad I have you back.”

He didn’t have me. He had this form. This altered magical Being I’d become. But I couldn’t tell him that. Couldn’t tell him the regret I felt coming back and being trapped in a human form after that moment of being a unicorn again. Couldn’t take that love and devotion he just showed me and trample it.

“Give me a second.” I focused on my hands, on altering them. I hissed, the skin shrinking and muscles narrowing along my palms and fingers hurt. But I’d once accidentally gotten burned when a noble came in and had his guards jostle me as I worked at the forge, so I knew if I could reshape my hands, they’d heal faster. Just a little change.

By the time I stopped, I was panting. The burns were far worse this time. Still, I could stand and not whimper in agony when the cloth of my tunic brushed against my thumb and index finger. Mostly.

“We need to get them out of here,” I said, gesturing to Tinn and Wenn. I could probably lift each locus, one at a time, to ride on Londe’s and Marces’ backs. “Can you get the foals?”

Londe trotted off, and I knelt next to Tinn. I nudged him with one forearm. It would help if he would wake up enough to hold on to Marces’ mane. I didn’t think Wenn was going to wake any time soon. His color was still faded and his breaths were shallow.

I wanted him to ride with Londe, just in case. I’d ask Colette to keep an eye on Wenn, just in case. I worried that he wouldn’t get better, that something would prevent from getting better. It couldn’t, not now, not after all he’d done to help me get rid of Balathasar and his pet warlock.

Tinn’s eyes open in the barest of slits, and he shook his head, moaning faintly.

“Are you okay?” I asked. Stupid question. He looked awful, about as well as I felt. Of course he wasn’t okay.

He rolled, his eyes opening wider when he saw Wenn. He grunted, pulling himself close enough to touch. Relief eased the tension in his features and he slumped back to the ground, his head resting on the dirt without any care.

“We’ll be fine,” he said. If I wasn’t bent over him, my arms cradled together to protect my palms, I would have missed what he said.

“I’m glad, but Balasamar got away. We need to move. I want to get both of you up and on Londe and Marces’ backs. I….” I grimaced. “I’ll need whatever help you can give me to get you up.” I showed him my hands.

“The helm?” he asked.

I hadn’t even looked for it. Or maybe he was asking if that was what had happened. “I think it was from when it got hot. You didn’t get burned?”

Tinn shook his head.


“They’ll get better. I already partially healed them by shifting my hands.”

“Do it again?” he asked.

“No.” I was too weak. My head was swimming, my stomach empty. I didn’t have the energy. To be honest, I wasn’t sure where I would find it to get us all away from this place so we could find a new hideaway.

‘Chasen!’ Londe screamed through our bond. ‘The young! They’re gone!’

Exhaustion gone, pain forgotten, I was on my feet and running to the depression in the rocks where Londe had hidden the foals while we faced off in battle against Balasamar and his pet warlock.

Londe was pacing frantically in front of the space. I pushed him back. “Stop. Go over there.”


“I need to see.” My entire body, my mind, was focused on finding out what happened. Londe couldn’t keep pacing. I started inside the rocks, staring at the prints on the ground. I stared hard, slowly tracing the path they’d taken out of their hiding spot, around the battle and trap, and then toward the woods.

Londe stayed behind me, but he followed close.

“They left here alone,” I said. “Until they got to here. Then their tracks are on top of his.”

“What does that mean?” Londe demanded.

“Londe and Marces followed Balasamar.”

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Unicorn Quests Chapter 33

The poor locus was writhing on the ground, silent now, but in obvious pain. His claws had raked deep furrows all around him.

“Just get it!” Londe urged.

I skirted the pit, catching a glimpse of the warlock’s bloody body contorted as it was caught on the spikes, and grimaced. My hands shook as I reached for the helm where it lay abandoned in the dirt.

The last thing I wanted to do was touch it which I didn’t understand. If it was my soul, shouldn’t I want to snatch it up and clutch it to close, trying to meld it with myself by pressure alone? My stomach roiled, and I held back bile by sheer force of will the moment I touched it.

Somehow, the metal felt oily. Tainted.


Dark like the darkness that had oozed from the warlock, for all that the helm looked shiny and regal, fitting for a noble to wear in battle and before crowds of adoring peasants. That’s the overwhelming feeling I had upon touching it. Like a slickness covered the shine, invisible to the eyes, but that might seep into my skin if I held it too long.

Rushing around the pit edges again, I ran to Tinn. He crouched beside Wenn, and Londe stood beside them, horn at the ready. But what the brave locus fought, neither of us could help him with. Thrusting the helm toward Tinn, I said, “Take it.” If Wenn needed it to survive, he could have it.

He’d saved my mate.

I would give him anything. Everything.

“No. You hold it. Like calls to like. If we can lure it out, it may help you both. Maybe” Tinn was cryptic as always, but Wenn’s whimpers and movements were slowing. He needed help now. “Dangerous.”

“Whatever you can do, need to, whatever it is, do it now,” I insisted, stumbling over the words, worried and sickened by the thing in my hands and the fear still chilling my core.

Tinn tugged me down, and I dropped to my knees in the dirt. He put one small hand on mine, then placed the other on Wenn’s hands still twisted and thrust into the air. The second their flesh touched, Tinn’s head shot back and his mouth dropped open with a low groan.

My heart raced, and then the sensation of oily metal in my hands changed. The darkness grew thick, sticky, like tar. It clung and… moved, somehow still possessing an independence that exuded a malevolent intent that grew and grew.

Retching, my stomach clenched. I nearly dropped the helm.

“No,” gasped, Tinn. His eyes were bare slits. “Hold on.”

I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. This was a bleakness that sank into me, whispering all the worst thoughts I’d ever had. My mate never wanted me. He’d forsake me. My young would curse my name. I’d die in human form, alone. Unloved. Unnamed.

“Don’t give up, Chasen.” Londe had moved to stand behind me. He’d dropped his head to whisper in my ear, the tip of his horn just in my peripheral vision. So close. He always knew what I needed.

Clenching tighter, I grit my teeth and rode the sickness and despair. I rose above it, refusing to give it purchase. I chained it to that helm as Tinn channeled it from Wenn. His pain grew, even as the shadow fought not to be sucked away. Wenn’s body trembled and he whimpered and cried out, thrashing until his fur was soaked with sweat.

Then the locus collapsed, like a marionette whose strings had been cut, and Tinn keened.

“What? What is it?” I whispered, the words a fight to push past the bile in my throat I had to keep swallowing to keep down.

“It’s coming. Hold on. Hold on.” Tinn slapped his free hand directly on the metal of the helm, the one that had held Wenn before he’d fallen. Trembling so quickly he looked as if he was dancing, Tinn began to rock and hum.

Trying to keep still, not vomit, and not let go, I desperately watched for whatever clue he might give to what was happening.

I did not expect the helm to begin to heat.

Hot. Hotter. The metal began to shine. To glow. The darkness withered, drying up, fading away, until all that was left was a helm that shone with white hot fury and scorched my fingers with agony that began to race up my arm and into my chest.

I gasped, crying out. My back arched and my toes dug into the ground, but even if I was willing to let go of that helm, I couldn’t now. It had melded with my flesh.

Part of me.

Pain. Sharp, searing torment lashed by body. I screamed, the cords of my neck distending as my body locked rigid.

The world around me disappeared. I knew nothing but the agony that began at my hand and course through every cell of my being. The breath locked in my chest, my scream piercing my ears….

 Then it all shut off.

Gone. I floated in a sea of white, cut off from my body and the world around it. Had I died? I didn’t want to die. I wanted to stay with my mate, my young. I tried to rub the aching sorrow in my chest, and my hoof pawed the ground.

Bobbing my head, I stared down at my body in shock. Whatever this place was—whatever I was here—I had my true form back. White coat, white hooves, and yes… I ducked my head and twisted it. That felt like my horn.

Bittersweet bliss caressed my senses. To be me again, a battle ready unicorn with cropped mane and razor sharp hooves and horn. I reared back and screamed into the oblivion, my hooves striking at nothing but the memories of my inner self that I’d lost.

Self. Soul. 

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Unicorn Quests Chapter 32

“Ha, ha, ha,” cackled Balasamar. “Perfect!”

Londe was magnificent, was perfect, his white coat shining in the sun, his horn sparkling as he threatened the enemies who dared try to harm me, his mate.

And it was exactly what they wanted. What they needed. “Londe, no!” I shouted, even calling through our bond to get his attention, but his anger was so strong he didn’t hear me, couldn’t, over the pure rage. I had missed how much the attack on me had hurt him, had damaged our bond, when I had been taken from his side.

I’d been so focused on myself, on my loss, I’d missed his. I ached, and now I had a real fear I’d lose what little we had left together if they managed to hurt him. Because if they stripped his horn, and took his magic, they’d not only get the remainder of my soul, they’d get his because we were truly one.

That’s what I’d failed to see for so long. He’d been right all along. They couldn’t take that from me, couldn’t take my name, who I was to him, to our foals, as long as they loved me and wanted me. And I’d be damned if Balasamar and his pet warlock would take any more from us.

I took that realization, that only the pureness of Londe’s love, his willingness to put himself in danger to protect me, could give and poured it into our bond. It overwhelmed his rage and smothered it in an instant. Reaching into the special holster along my spine, I pulled out my horn.

Giving up the pretense, I leapt agilely to my feet and stood side by side with my mate, my everything, and faced off against those who would to tear us apart.

And dared them to try.

“If you want us, come and get us,” I hissed, horn at the ready. I backed a step, and Londe followed. In my peripheral, I saw Wenn had Tinn out the way. Good. I flicked my horn. “This is what you want, right?”

Balasamar waved his warlock forward. “Get them.”

So confident. I sneered, curling my lip.

Shadows once again drained out of the warlock, oozing across the land in a wave. It was sickening, writhing, alive and yet not. “Don’t let it touch your body,” I warned Londe.

“I won’t.” He lowered his horn, ready.

For a tense moment, we waited, and then the shadow neared. I swept my horn from right to left, Londe from left to right, tearing through a large section at the front. It broke apart, vaporizing, and the warlock hissed, his fingers trembling.

“That’s it. Keep breaking it up.” We stabbed and slashed the darkness, my arm moving in rapid sweeps while Londe bobbed his head and wove, never far from my side. “That’s it, it’s slowing!” I redoubled my efforts. We were stopping him. Yes!

“Look out!” Tinn shouted.

“Londe!” The sneaky bastard had somehow, through all the pain we were causing him damaging his magical essence, sent out a lone tendril and flanked his main attack, coming at us from the side.

How had he done that? How had I missed it? “Londe, to your right!”

His head picked up, and he reared up on his back legs, but it wasn’t enough. It was going to wrap around his back hooves. I hacked and slashed frantically at the wave of shadows still coming toward us.

Wenn dropped Tinn, and he slumped to the ground. Leaping forward, his fur fluffed out so he resembled a giant ball thrown through the air, Wenn sailed through the air and landed right on top of the thin tendril. He grasped the insubstantial strands and squeaked, contracting tightly.

His body shook, and more sounds poured out of him. Then he started to roll. Wenn rolled along the tendril and then sideways, right into the wave of dark shadows that had continued to advance as I fought my way to my mate.

He slowed, shook violently, and then stopped right in front of us. He sank his claws into the ground, and then he…. I don’t know what it was. His magic? Ability? But he pulled that darkness in.

Faster, and faster, not just absorbing it, but taking it, pulling it, ripping it from the warlock.

The warlock’s face paled, sweat beaded up on his forehead, and he shrieked and jerked. He took a step back, but then was yanked a step forward. Then another.

And another.

“Stop,” he pleaded. Shadows had begun to bleed from more than his hands, leaking from his eyes, his lips, like dark stains on his pallid skin. He jerked another step closer.

Wenn didn’t stop.

The ground collapsed beneath the warlock as he took a final step, and he fell into the pit Tinn and Wenn had dug, and the spikes that lined it. His screams didn’t fade, but then I realized it was Wenn shrieking.

The warlock was dead.

And I’d been so focused on Wenn’s battle with him, the coward Balasamar had fled. “Damn it!” I cursed. I’d have to hunt him down, but now our ally, the Being who’d saved my mate, needed help.

“What’s wrong?” I asked Tinn. He’d crawled over.

“The darkness is killing him.”

“What? No, he can’t die. He just saved us. Can’t we help him?”

“Maybe. And maybe we can help you.” Tinn’s eyes were on something beyond the trap. “There.” He pointed.

I looked up. It was the helm Balasamar had been wearing.

“What do you need that for?”

“It’s you,” he said. “It’s your soul.”

My lips parted, and I stared at it in shock. “My… soul?”

“I can feel it. The magic is binding it to the object, using it as part of a spell.”

“The way Balasamar looked young and handsome, before he took it off,” Londe said. “That must be part of it.”

“But, if my soul is spelled to the helm, how does that help me or Wenn?”

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Unicorn Quests Chapter 31

The last time I’d seen that hand, iron links had held me down, my body forced to the ground and my head bowed. My horn had been severed and so much had been lost to me.

Now it made sense. This human was wanted through many realms. He’d stolen many treasures, ransoming them back to their owners—if he didn’t keep them outright to sell to higher bidders. Or gain power from them himself.

Because that was his goal. Power. In all its forms. The ultimate goal: To be the most powerful singular person in the entire world.

His poisonous words had echoed in my ears as he crowed that he’d stolen my magic… yet I’d failed to remember his name or his face until this moment.

The warlock cackled. “Looks like he just got his memory back. A sadistic little twist of my own. You knew what you lost, that someone had taken it, but there was no way to know for sure who it was. The agony of not knowing was a fine torture.” He grinned, showing his rotted teeth.

“Clearly he didn’t remember who or what I was.” Balasamar sniffed. “Otherwise why would he have made those silly traps?”

I clenched my jaw, my knuckles white around the spear. I should have known, remember somehow. How could I have forgotten the man, the human, who’d sheared off my horn? Who’d taken the essence of my very being?

“Whatever foul plans you had this time, I’ve stopped. I released the young you had those trolls captured. You can’t work your magic on them.”

“And yet you brought me exactly what I really needed,” Balasamar rasped. “A locus, two in fact. And don’t think you can hide that mate of yours from me.”

My mate? Wasn’t he after our young? I narrowed my eyes. Why had he mentioned Londe?

“Oh, precious. He has no idea what he has done.” The warlock clapped his hands and swayed. “Those Beings you set free were for me. And yet, in the end, I will have more. So many more.”

“Not if we kill you.”

The warlock danced his fingers together and then spread them apart, and a black, sticky substance oozed between them and then down to the ground. “You can try.” The grass sickened, yellowing instantly and then withered and died. It began to pool, spreading in front of him in a widening circle.

“Now, now,” Balasamar said, “maybe something less lethal, hmm? After all, I’d like my new visage to be a little more permanent.”

“Fine.” The pool sucked backward and reversed course, like a waterfall going backwards. The ground was barren underneath, the ground dark and dry, cracked like it had roasted under the blazing sun through a thousand summers. Insects lay dead, their legs shriveled tight to their bodies.

It would take a very special spell to affect the locuses, because most magic they could funnel. That left me as the weak link. I needed to go on the offensive. Enough with this listening to the bad guys insult me and threaten my family.

They’d seen the ropes and the spikes. But could they see the underground traps Tinn and Wenn had dug under the path? They’d stayed at a distance, several paces beyond the trap.

Time to lure them in and see.

I leapt the fire with a sharp cry, spinning my spear around and forward. I rushed Balasamar and his pet warlock, the spear at the ready. I’d go for the magician first; he was the strongest threat.

Without him, whatever plan Balasamar had would end, and then I’d destroy him. Trampling him would be most satisying, but I would take gutting him and slitting his throat instead.

I feinted straight for Balasamar, then at the last second, pulled the shaft and turned toward the warlock.

His body stretched, swaying to the left so disjointed and unnatural just like the darkness he’d released. I grit my teeth, baring them as I stomped the ground in a calculated risk. I didn’t want the ground to cave, but I had to make them think I was standing my ground, just as I would have as a unicorn guarding our borders.

Just as I had the first time, when I should have run for reinforcements instead. I’d been brave and foolhardy instead of brave and smart.

The warlock uttered a few unintelligible words that sent shivers down my spine. I crouched warily, watching him intently. But instead of the darkness coming from him like before, this time it came from shadows in the trees like coils of inky rope.

I yelped and ducked one going for my head as it hissed in the air but missed the thinner tendril that crept up and caught my ankle completely. It heaved, stronger than it should have been, and yanked me off my feet. I hit the ground on my back, grunting.

The larger rope slapped at the spear in my hand, and the icy fire that emanated from it numbed my fingers and the wood hit the ground and rolled away. I cried out, one hand and one foot now numb.

“No!” Tinn roared. He rushed forward and slashed at the shadows. When his claws hit them, it broke apart. The bits still clinging to me absorbed into his hand. His eyes darkened, but then he held one trembling hand toward Balasamar, and the darkness snapped out to crack like a whip in front of his face.

Balasamar stepped back, not the direction I needed him to go.

“Forward, Tinn,” I whispered. “They have to come to us.”

Tinn gave the tiniest nod. He groaned theatrically and rolled his ears, then collapsed beside me.

Wenn screamed. “No! Tinn!” He rushed up to us as Tinn and I lay vulnerable on the ground. The warlock cackled and raised his hands again.

Londe whinnied and galloped in front of us, his horn bared and hooves raking the soil. I groaned.