The Important Stuff

A Beginning

A story has to begin somewhere. If you've ever played a RPG then you know that many stories start in taverns. How else are you to gather...

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

To Hunt A Rogue. Chapter 1

The billboard just said motel with faded numbers that declared the price just beneath it. Only 35 for a night, any room, no discounts. They offered free HBO, though if the TV worked it was a miracle. By the time folks pulled off the highway looking for a place to rest their head they didn’t care as it was at least twenty miles to another exit. The parking lot full of out of state tags, RV’s, and a handful of big rigs. There were more trucks parked behind the 24-hour gas station across the street. Only other establishment at the exit was a Waffle House and it did brisk business at all hours of the day or night.

The booths were full of tired families and even more exhausted truck drivers. The waitresses moved swiftly from table to table to ensure all drinks were full and orders taken. Even the stools at the counter were all occupied though those who sat there looked askance at the end of the counter where the occupant of the last stool looked over a menu as he flipped a battered zippo between his fingers. Words had been etched into the metal long ago, but years of use had worn most of them indecipherable. Only the name emblazoned on the lid was still easily read, Strife.

The waitress assigned the counter took the cash from a customer and wished them a good night. After she tucked her tip into her apron pocket she fished out her order pad and made her way back to the end of the counter. The tall man had ordered a coffee when he first sat down to peruse the menu. A pile of empty creamer container was piled up next to an equally large pile of empty sugar packets, his mug half empty. “You ready honey? This for here or to go?”

“Yeah, ta go.” The man’s voice was a deep rumble with an accent so thick molasses should have dripped off his words. When he looked up from the menu there was something unnatural about his eyes. The waitress hadn’t known that eyes came in that shade of yellow gold. “Two hashbrowns, one large smothered, covered, diced, and capped. Then a triple smothered and chunked. Steak, T-Bone, rare. Three eggs scrambled with cheese. Bacon, n’extra bacon. Two waffles, gimme a lotta them syrup packet things. ‘Nother order of eggs, sunny side up. Two grits with cheese, extra butter. And… ‘nother coffee ta go an’ some OJ.” He set the menu down with a smile that was more of a smirk.

Her pen worked across the page as she wrote down enough food for a table of four. “Sure thing honey. Want a refill while you wait?”

“Yeah, an’ some toast with grape jelly.”

“Coming right up.” Something about the way he looked at her, the way he smiled, made her face heat. She was a married woman with kids half grown and here she was blushing like she had at 16 when an older man smiled at her. She topped off his coffee and left more creamer and sugar within his reach as she put in his order. She made the toast herself and placed it in front of him before she went to check that everyone else in her area was doing okay.

A couple of kids stood at the jukebox before they ran squealing back to their table. Over the diner’s speakers some bubble gum pop song girl was chirping about kissing a girl and liking it. The man at the counter mumbled about crap ass music as he spread butter on his toast followed by the grape jelly he’d been given. As he ate his toast he watched the cook work the grill while others in the diner watched him.

He had the tan of a man who worked outdoors most of his life and was tall with a long-limbed build. The faded black t-shirt he wore did little to hide his muscular physique, or the sleeve of tattoos on his left arm. His hair was long, wild, and just barely contained by the pony tail he’d pulled it back into. He wore jeans that had seen better days with one knee ripped out. The combat boots he wore looked as if they had seen their own share of battles. A black leather jacket hung on the back of his chair. Obviously well cared for as the leather was clean and oiled.

By the time his order was ready he’d finished his toast and coffee and stood by the juke box. He pushed a quarter into the slot and made his own selection. As the waitress called that his order was ready Trent Reznor’s voice was heard over the speakers. While his order was being totaled he pulled his jacket on and tucked the battered zippo into a front jean pocket. From the other he pulled a roll of bills and handed the waitress enough to cover his meal and leave her with a nice tip. “Thanks darlin’.”

“Any time honey.” Her cheeks heated again as she completed the order and stuck the receipt with the others next to the register. She watched him leave with his bags of food and thought that her husband was gonna get lucky when she got off shift. Too bad his ass didn’t look so good in a pair of jeans anymore. With a bit of a sigh she turned away from the register as someone called out to get her attention. It was going to be a long night.

Empire of Shenendril: The Sapphire Chronicles One. Chapter 1

The sun had risen above the horizon only an hour before, but many of the denizens of the House of Sighing Shadows had just found their beds. As the most exclusive brothel in the Capital the courtesans who called the House home kept odd hours. Many of the clients who had spent the night with their favorite courtesan were already on their way home or to whatever other business they might have. The discreet staff of the House knew not to make eye contact with the members of the aristocracy as they exited the rooms that lined the upstairs halls. While they would not speak with the clients they would assure that horses and carriages would be ready to convey them from the estate in the style they were accustomed to.

As the head of housekeeping, Milly Snyder oversaw the large staff who kept the House in impeccable order. From clean sheets to polished floors. There was no part of the brothel which did not receive her attention. Normally the servants used the hidden passages in the walls to move from place to place, but Milly had an important message to deliver and did not have time to delay. As she strode purposefully down the hall on the second floor she marked in her mind what needed to be dusted and mopped. The floor would not be considered fully clean if she could not see her reflection in the dark tiles. Those who partook of the services of the brothel expected the very best. It was Milly’s job to see that they received it.

She pulled her time piece from her apron to glance at the face once more and with a sigh she shook her head. It was much too early to disturb the courtesans, but she had instructions to carry out and it could not wait till the courtesan’s normal wakeful hours. As she arrived at the last door she rapped lightly upon the heavy door, “Master Lucas? Are you within?”

With only a muffled groan as an answer she sighed a second time and tried the latch. As she found the door unlocked she bustled inside and made her way over to the windows that overlooked the gardens below, “Time to awaken, Master Lucas. The day has dawned, and the sun is in the sky.” She pulled the curtains open to flood the room with the bright spring morning sun. From the large four-poster bed, she heard a voice grumble and whine about how early it was.

“No more time to lay about, Master Lucas. You’ve been summoned,” she said cheerily as she made her way around the room to open all the curtains before she threw open the doors that led onto the balcony. “Do you hear that? Even the song birds are calling for you to awaken.”

A pillow flew from the bed, but Milly deftly sidestepped the projectile. “Now that was rude. You know I wouldn’t be in here to wake you if there was not a need.” She picked up the pillow and carried it back to the bed, dropped it on the foot of the bed so it couldn’t be launched at her again. “The Procurer sent me to fetch you and…. Oh, Hameb’s Tits!”

Her exclamation came as she grabbed the blankets to pull them down off the roused form of the courtesan, only he was not alone. Three others shared his bed this morning and now all four complained at the sudden influx of daylight on their rest. Milly stood there with her hands on her hips as she just shook her head, “Out! You, you, and you... out now. Back to your own beds you silly sluts,” her tone was a mix of exasperation with a touch of affection.

The other courtesans rose and grabbed up their discarded clothes as they complained about being driven from their rest. Only when the last of them were gone did Milly turn back to the courtesan she had been sent to awaken. “Didn’t you have a client last night? How did you ever have the energy to bring those three to your bed?”

Lucas Leander stretched, his arms over his head as his back arched and his toes wiggled. With a low groan, he collapsed once more then looked up at her with a sly smile. “My client was… disappointing,” he said as he held up his pinky finger.

Milly rolled her eyes and shook her head. She picked up the pillow he, or one of his bedmates, had tossed at her then she whacked him over the head with it. “So, you consoled yourself with an orgy? Silly boy.”

Lucas laughed as he grabbed the pillow, sat up, and rested it across his naked lap. “Well it didn’t start out that way. It started off with Gabriel and I arguing over who had the best oral technique while we ate a late dinner. Cosette and Adrienne volunteered to judge and since I have the biggest room we came here.”

“Do not tell me who won. I do not need the sordid details.” Milly said as she snatched up his robe from the floor and held it out to him. “You have been summoned so you need to get up and get dressed. You can nap on the way there.”

“Well, you know I won. I’m not the highest earner for nothing.” He said with a grin as he stood and slipped on the robe. “Who? It better not be Viceroy Devonshire. I told him he had to make his appointments at least two weeks in advance.”

“It is not Viceroy Devonshire,” Milly reassured him as she walked into his dressing room. She flung open the door of his wardrobe to look at the racks full of clothes and sighed. “You’ve been summoned by the Mistress. She wishes you to join her at the country estate and by carriage instead of your,” her hand fluttered in the air as she grasped for the word, “popping here and there, it will take you all day to travel. So, the earlier you start the better. The message said to pack light.”

“The Mistress?” The mention of that name was more effective than all the coffee from the Goddess Isles. It banished all thoughts of sleep from his mind. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” He scurried past her into the washroom and left the robe on the floor again in his rush.

“You weren’t awake enough yet,” Milly called over her shoulder as she pulled outfits off the racks to pack. She did not think there was a courtesan in the whole House who had as many clothes as Lucas did. He was on a first name basis with most of the finest tailors in the city. From talented novices to those who served the Imperial family.

“I’m awake now!” Lucas called as hot water filled his tub in the attached washroom. “Did the message say why I am being summoned? Is it for a party? A special client? What?”

“You’ll need to ask the Procurer those questions. He doesn’t share such details with me.” His travel trunk was tugged out of its hiding place in the young man’s expansive dressing room where she opened it at the foot of his bed. Milly carefully selected from his wardrobe of silks, velvets, and lace in every color of the rainbow. She made sure that each shirt had pants, vest, coat to match along with the proper shoes as she folded them neatly into the travel trunk. “Which cologne do you wish to take?”

“Ummm, Summer Passion for daytime and Darkest Midnight for nightwear,” He called as he splashed water in his rushed bath. “Is anyone else being summoned?”

“Just you, love. Which doesn’t surprise me as you are Her favorite.” Milly said as she placed the bottles of cologne in a small carrying case so they wouldn’t spill on the trip. “Anything else you absolutely cannot do without?”

“My ivory comb and new brush… oh, and my new makeup case… It is under the vanity.” He called out once more.

“You are more high maintenance than most of the girls in this House.” Milly chuckled as she retrieved the makeup case.

“I heard that!” Lucas answered with a laugh of his own. When he emerged, he had a towel around his slim waist and a second towel twisted around his blonde hair. “When did the message arrive?”

“Just after dawn I think. I was called to the Procurer’s office for morning reports and then came straight here when I was released to do so.” She held up two different shirts. “Blue or green for the trip?”

“Blue.” Lucas pointed as he sat down at his vanity and pulled the towel from his shoulder length hair so he could comb it out. “So, you’ve no idea what this is about?”

“If I knew, love, I would tell you, but I am just as much in the dark as you are.” She laid out the young man’s clothes. “Are you nervous?”

He laughed though it sounded forced, “Why should I be nervous? It is only the Mistress summoning me out of the blue: the person to whom I owe everything. Why, if not for Her I would still be picking pockets in the back alleys of the Gulch. Instead I am here servicing the high and mighty on the Zenith.”

Milly met his gaze in the mirror, “Master Lucas, you have nothing to worry about. There is no one else in the House who is as beloved by the Mistress as you.”

“I hope you’re right.” He smiled at her then returned to his preparations. With Milly’s help he was dressed in finely tailored clothes and his new blue rose broach was pinned to his coat. It matched his eyes. A jeweled clip was used to pull his golden blonde hair back into a simple tail at the nape of his neck. He stood before his wall-sized mirror to check his appearance. “How do I look?”

“Beautiful as always, my dear.” Milly said with a smile. It was hard not to be jealous of the courtesans, even boys like Lucas were beautiful to look upon. They made Milly feel plain by comparison. “You go on ahead downstairs. I’ll summon one of the lads to come and fetch your trunk.”

Lucas nodded as he gave his silk coat a final tug. “I’ll bring you something back from the countryside, Milly. I promise it won’t be just a clod of dirt.”

“If you bring me back dirt I’ll make you eat it.” She said with fire in her tone. They both shared a laugh before he hurried out the door. When he was gone, Milly shook her head then went to pull the bell cord to summon a porter. Head of housekeeping had its perks. To not have to be the one to carry the heavy travel trunk down the narrow back stairs of the House was one. As she pulled the sheets off the bed the door opened to admit the porter and two more maids. She pointed to the trunk, “Take that to the waiting carriage. And you two, clear everything. The next highest earner is moving up.”

As the maids set to work, they took knick knacks, books, and other personal trinkets that belonged to Lucas off the shelves. Milly walked out onto the balcony to have a moment with her thoughts. As she looked down on the garden she twisted the carved ebony bracelet she wore at her wrist like so many other employees of the Mistress. She did not know why the Procurer seemed so certain that Lucas would not return to the House, but it had been horribly difficult to hide that knowledge from the psionically gifted youth. The House already seemed a darker place without his light and laughter. She hoped whatever the Mistress had planned for the boy it was better than being a high-priced whore. She turned back to the room to see more servants had arrived with crates. It was time to get to work if they were going to have the next highest earner moved into this room by the end of the day.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Trademarks and intellectual property rights or how I learned to love Cock.

I've not been writing much recently. New job saps the creative will most days. But first draft of Lucas's story is done, and I wrote a little over 3k words on something for my werewolf Strife. Finally figured out how to make his story into a trilogy. But other than that, not much writing, but still a good bit of reading. Speaking of which...

Have y'all heard of #CockyGate?

The long and the short of it is that a romance author decided to trademark the word Cocky. She then went about enforcing her trademark by having Amazon take down other romance books with Cocky in the title, even books that pre-dated her series. Other authors were forced to change their titles, redo covers, websites, all of the things that self published authors do to market themselves. All of it had to be changed to remove the word Cocky.

Sounds like an asshole thing to do huh? Yeah, I thought so too. So did the Romance Writers Guild, some lawyers who are also authors, and a whole mass of self published and traditionally published authors. The author who filed the trademark is now being taken to court to have the trademark voided or whatever it is one does when doing away with a trademark. With so many against her it is doubtful the trademark will stand. But it certainly made authors more aware of how much a trademark can be used to screw people over.

I write primarily fantasy, but often with romantic sub plots. As much as I enjoy a thrilling battle scene, I also really get a kick out of romantic angst, drama, and love. I blame my Grandmother for letting me stay up late to watch the over the top dramatic night time soap operas of the 80s. It didn't matter where we were on a Friday night. Grandmother always made sure we were home in time for Dallas. But let's not forget Falcon Crest, Dynasty, Knots Landing, etc. They were also not to be missed TV. Glamour, drama, and steamy romance. Yummy! So I dabble my toes in the romance genre even if I don't consider the stories I want to tell primarily romances. Romance is just one part of the whole.

So while this is something happening in the Romance genre, that doesn't mean that writers of science fiction and fantasy are safe from similar things happening. Tonight I came across information that another author is trying to trademark some common words for the genres: Tamer, Star Justice, The Destroyer, & Dragon Slayer.

I don't know about you, but the only The Destroyer I'm okay with is Conan and he'll hear the lamentations of your women before he takes this lying down.

But y'all see how bad this could get? Those are very common themes in genre literature, themes that have been around for decade upon decade. Now imagine you write your own take on these common tropes and here comes along Mr Trademark Troll getting your hard work erased from Amazon because he got lucky with his Trademark. Now you have to get new cover art done, redo your website, your social media, redo any links you've got out there that led to your original book. You will lose all ranking you had previously so you'd basically be starting over trying to get your book noticed by the reading public. That's fucked up man.

And this is not the only area where Trademark trolls are striking. Just a few weeks before I learned about #cockygate I learned about something happening in the BJD world. BJD = Ball Jointed Doll. Very expensive dolls that can be customized. There's a whole industry. They are gorgeous. I want one made up to look like Lucas someday. Anyways! A person who is already infamous for recasting dolls. Taking dolls already created by the original artist, making a cast of the face and body parts, then selling the recast doll for less than the original artist who put all the work into creating the unique look in the first place. On top of their shitty business model, now they have begun to apply for Trademarks on the names of small time artists and BJD makers.

How could this hurt? With the official trademark he could get the original works taken down from various e-commerce sites, effectively driving the artists away and leaving only his cheap re-casts available to be purchased. And as many of the artists aren't exactly rolling in the cash, they wouldn't be able to fight against it. Which also explains why they wouldn't have applied for their own Trademarks. It takes money to go through the process, something small time artists and authors aren't going to have a lot of.

How do we combat this? Well for one, don't buy their shit. Don't support Trademark trolls with your hard earned dollars.

But Capitalism you say! Fuck Capitalism if this is something that is encouraged. This is about art and integrity. Not the means to pay for Trademarks to squash the competition. You want to prove your good? Then prove it. Don't cheat by taking others out of the running just because you got to the Trademark office first. That's as bad as the people who pay for fake reads on Kindle Unlimited.

Now the question is, would I ever Trademark any of my work? Yes. I won't tm the word Empire, but I will tm the name of MY Empire. I won't tm Lucas, but I will tm Lucas Leander. I won't tm humans, but I will tm the unique races I create. You get it? I'll Trademark that which is unique to my work, not that which is common across numerous authors. There are hundreds of fantasy Empires out there in the great wide world of media. But there is only one Empire of Shenendril. Y'all get where I am going with this?

In other words, if you are going to Trademark, do so the right way. Trademark what is unique about your work, not what is common just to take out the competition. Protect your intellectual property, don't use it just to squash competition. Don't be a bag of dicks.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Story Of Creation

The white-haired priest adjusted his robes as he waited for the children to settle onto their mats. Orphans. Abandoned. Unwanted. Exploited by vile men and women. They were the children of a society that could not contain the rot at its core. The most vulnerable. The ones who suffered first and hardest when times were lean. May the eternal virgin, Rachiel, show mercy upon their innocent souls.

“Are we ready young ones?” He tapped the end of his staff against the floor as all eyes turned to him. “Thank you for your attention. Are you ready for a story? A story of life. Of love. Of betrayal. Of war. The first story. Without this story there would be no others. Good. Now listen well.”

“The Sleeping God awoke and thus reality was born. It was not yet as we know it though. There were no trees. No rivers. Not even so much as a pebble. No crawling insect. No flying bird. No dog nor cat. Reality was an empty place and the Sleeping God was lonely. But he was a God, he did not have to be lonely if he did not want to be, thus he created his first children. From the very essence of magic itself he created the Dragons.”

“They were beautiful the Dragons. Their scales twinkled like stars and sparkled like jewels even before such things existed. As bright as the sun, or as dark as the deepest shadow. They came in every color imaginable. There were Dragons beyond count. From ones small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, to mighty beasts larger than the largest mountains we now know. Each Dragon followers of the laws of Order, Neutrality, or Chaos.”

“The Dragons never knew deprivation for if they hungered they simply created something to hunt. If they found their situation dull, they shaped the reality around them to be entertained. If they needed to feel love, they were surrounded by their many brothers and sisters who would take one to the breast of the other.”

“Their Father watched his children grow and multiply. He was pleased with his creation and knew it would continue long after him. So, it was he resumed his long sleep. With their Father once more asleep the Dragons chose the wisest, strongest, and oldest among them to lead as a council. There were 8 Dragons on that ancient council and even you know their names children.”

“The Dragons of Order voted on who was to lead them. The gold Mage, the silver Scholar, and the copper Alchemist were given three seats. It was said the Dragons of Chaos did battle so that only the strongest would lead them. The red Antagonist, the green Leviathan, and the blue Defiler won their seats. No one knows how the Dragons of Neutrality picked who would sit upon the council from among their number. But in the end, it was the black Passionate and the white Stoic who stepped forth to take their reserved places.”

“You may ask how long the Dragons held dominion over all of reality. But what is time to immortal beings created of pure magic? Only know that it was time beyond mortal reckoning. Then, in the blink of an eye, they were no longer alone. They were no longer the only children of the Sleeping God. The Young Gods were born.”

“But how were they born I see the question in your eyes. There are some who say the Sleeping God dreamed them into existence. Others say they simply appeared out of the ether. And then there are some who believe they are all part of the Sleeping God still, only manifested outside of his divine form. The how does not matter children, we’ll save those theological discussions for when you are older, all that matters is that they appeared.”

“At first the Dragons and the Young Gods lived in peace. Some might even say they were friends. Were they not both children of the Sleeping God? But as you may well know, siblings do not always love one another as they should. And as such did the Dragons and the Young Gods grow distant. You see children, the Dragons were made of the very essence of magic. It was in their blood. They created life with just a thought. The Young Gods did not connect with the essence of magic as easily. Of course, they could touch it. They could channel it. They could create great wonders and often did. But they lacked the Mastery of Magic that the Dragons had.”

“In time, much as the Sleeping God, their Father, did. The Young Gods wanted more. The Emperor of the Young Gods, Anael did cleave to his consort Nalerah, and from their union the first humans were born. This is why you must always respect your fellow humans children for we all carry a touch of the divine within us.”

“Now, where was I? Ah yes, the birth of humanity. The Young Gods loved their creations. They each shared some of their divine knowledge with us. They lived among us to protect us, shelter us. Each of the Young Gods influenced and shaped humans in their unique way. In time the Young Gods realized that there were flaws in their creations. While they were immortal, flawless, powerful. We were weak. Our lives were but brief sparks compared to their eternal flames. We were populous, as the Young Gods had given us the gift of creation within ourselves. But just as we achieved wisdom, our lives ended.”

“The Young Gods wanted their children to live as they did. So it was, that they turned to the Dragons. They went to the Council of Dragons as they were the oldest, wisest, and strongest of all. The Young Gods asked of their elder siblings, teach our children magic. Teach our children how to extend their lives so they could live and love as one with their creators.”

“Now the Dragons had watched from afar since the beginning. They found humans intriguing, but were we interesting enough to make immortal? The Council deliberated for generations of the lives of humans. When they returned the Council was split. The Dragons of Order thought the humans could benefit from their gifts. But the Dragons of Chaos did not. To them humans were little better than the creations they themselves brought into existence when they wished to hunt. The Dragons of Neutrality sided with Chaos in this. Humanity was the creation of the Young Gods, if they wanted humans to be immortal, them let them find the way and means to do so.”

“This angered and vexed Anael. But what could he do? Even though by now humans outnumbered Dragons, they could not simply wrest the power away from the Dragons. Such was impossible. As he puzzled over this problem Anael went away. Where he went no one knows for certain. It is believed he went to the very edge of reality and there he gazed into the void which had been all there was before the Sleeping God awoke. What he saw there. What he learned there, we can only guess. For you see children, when Anael returned he was not alone. With him was the first and most powerful of the demons of vice. We shall not speak their names here today children, to do so would be to call their gaze upon your innocence and I will not have you so corrupted.”

“Anael had learned something from his time away. And one by one he took each of his siblings away to teach them as well. And one by one they returned with another demon. Where once there was only good and innocence, now there was the potential for evil and wickedness. But you ask, why did Anael, Emperor of the Young Gods, bring evil into the world? Well children, because only the demons could teach humans the next lesson they needed to learn. From the demons of vice, we learned how to hate. We learned how to make war. We learned how to kill in anger. Thus, did the first war begin.”

“I do not tell you this to frighten you children. We look to the Young Gods for guidance. We, in our innocence, think them infallible. But I tell you today children, even the Gods themselves can make mistakes.”

The Priest fell silent as he let the weight of his words fall heavy upon the shoulders of the children. He smiled when there were no tears or protests to what he said. They were strong these children who had known the evils of the world so well. There were adults who refused to accept that the Young Gods were not perfect. He cleared his throat before he continued.

“The Dragons were completely unprepared for war. In those first days it was a slaughter as the humans attacked many Dragons who had once been their friends. Humanity swarmed like ants armed with weapons crafted by the god Razot himself. Where we went, only death and destruction was left in our wake. But you ask, didn’t the dragons have magic? Didn’t they know how to hunt? Did they not know how to fight?”

He stroked his long beard, “There are differences in how one fights to feed their belly, and how one fights to take a life in anger. There are differences in fighting for dominance when you know one side will yield once they know they are beaten. But in war children, there is no mercy.”

“No mercy. Every Young God, but one, fought by the side of their children and the Demons of Vice. Sweet Rachiel could not watch so much death. So much destruction. She turned her light away from the war her brothers and sisters fought. She wept for every life lost, from human to Dragon.”

“Their bodies, the bodies of the Dragons fell like meteors from the sky. They piled one atop the other until there were so many you could not tell where one began, and the others ended. As their magic was extinguished their scales went dull. Their bodies created the land you see now. As more fell, the violence of their fall rent chasms into the newly made ground. When the largest of the Dragons were thrown down mountains were formed. Each life lost left a tear in the sky, the magical blood spilled the light of the stars we see now. Rachiel’s tears continued to fall like rain to fill the depressions in the newly formed land. Soon there were lakes, rivers, and oceans.”

“While all this death happened, something strange took place. Amid so much tragedy, life was created. As magic ran like blood from the bodies of the Dragons it met with the Divine Tears of the Eternal Virgin. Grass grew. Trees rose into the heavens. Flowers burst into existence. Soon insects crawled, birds flew, and creatures both predator and prey found their homes in the new world created.”

“The war raged for generations. Humans born, lived, and died knowing only eternal war. Yet even war between gods, man, and dragons cannot last forever. In time only the oldest, strongest, and wisest remained. The Council called for a parlay. It was either that, or the last of them would perish, and possibly magic itself, reality itself would be extinguished. They met with the Young Gods and it was a very different meeting since their last. They were forced to agree to the Young God’s demands and give humans magic. They could not give us immortality, but they were able to awaken the spark within humans that we could learn magic. We could harness and channel magic to a degree, of course we will never be as strong as the Dragons or our creators.”

“In exchange for the gifts the Young Gods allowed the last 8 Dragons to live. They were not to interfere in the lives of humans who had moved to the newly created world and claimed it as their own. It is said as the Dragons agreed to the terms of the surrender, somewhere atop the highest peak of the Sky Slicer Mountains, their tears fell until a new river was created. The very river which runs through the city to this day.”

“The Young Gods had won. Their children had the spark of magic within their breasts. A fresh new world to call their own. But there was one problem. The Demons of Vice. Emperor Anael knew he could not allow the Demons of Vice to roam free among his children. Their evil was too great. Their potential to do harm too great a threat. So it was that Anael conspired with his brother Razot and they prepared a trap. A giant maze deep beneath the ground where the fires of the world burn. A maze that no matter how much they tried. The Demons of Vice could not escape, for there was no escape.”

“Anael invited the Demons of Vice to a feast. A victory feast. They gathered at his table in the Emperor of the God’s own hall. They feasted on the delicacies of the gods, foods the Demons were not allowed at any other time. As they feasted Anael left the room and with Razot’s assistance they dropped a trap over the demons. A puzzle trap, for that is how you trap a demon children. Give them a puzzle and they can do no harm until they have solved it.”

“Razot had crafted giants made of metal and stone. Each giant picked up a cage which held one of the Demons of Vice and they were sent down into the depths of the world. When the last Demon was in the maze, Anael himself closed the gate behind them. It is said that even now he carries the key which would unlock it on his person as he trusts no other to keep the world safe from his folly.”

“This is but part of the story children. We all know there is so much more. We know about how the Antagonist chafed under the laws laid down upon them by the Young Gods. We know how he crafted an army bent on destruction of all of humanity and of life itself. We know that the half human child of the Mage brought the three human kingdoms together into one mighty Empire and defeated the Antagonist and his armies.”

“There is so much more story children. Every day a little more is added to it. Why even one of you may play a part in the story someday. But that is enough for one day. I see the Sister is here to take you all to supper and I think I shall join you for my throat is parched and my stomach growls. Off with you now children. You can’t grow to serve the Young Gods if you don’t get enough to eat.”

The Priest watched with a fond smile as the children ran from the room to follow the Sister of Rachiel to their supper. He could still remember his days in an orphanage very like the one he told his stories in. How he had longed to be a hero, so his name might one day be carved in stone, celebrations of his memory nationwide holidays. But that was a long time ago and he was a very old man now. No better time than to pass on his own youthful hopes to the little ones of today.

With a grunt he pushed to his feet and left the small open-air chapel. Just before he passed through the door he looked to the statue of Rachiel as she held out her hands to accept the souls of the innocent into her care. For a moment he thought he saw a tear track down her weathered stone face. But then it was gone. His eyes often did play tricks on him as he aged.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Let Them Eat Steak and Lobster! pt 2

Before I get into the discussion of SNAP there was another school shooting today. The 18th school shooting so far this year. It is February 14th. There is something broken with this nation. Do we care so little for our fellow humans that when our children are getting killed in their schools we offer useless ‘thoughts & prayers’ then move on with our lives? I’ve got more thoughts on this illness that our nation seems to suffer from. Maybe I’ll work on a gun post next. At least it will be added to the to-do pile. Now back to the matter at hand.

The current administration… I am not a fan. I’ve not been a fan of that Cheeto faced menace since the first time I saw him on my TV screen in the 80s. Why the hell was some New York con man national news? Why should I give two fucks about his infidelities? I still don’t beyond what his lack of morals is doing to my nation. He’s everything I despise. I can’t even listen to his voice without cringing. So yeah, I didn’t vote for him. Have you seen the shit show of a budget proposal they just released?

So, what has me pissed off? There are a lot of things, but let’s focus on how they want to change SNAP. They want to take away choice: low-income Americans who receive at least $90 a month — just over 80 percent of all SNAP recipients — would get about half of their benefits in the form of a "USDA Foods package." The package was described in the budget as consisting of "shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables." The boxes would not include fresh fruits or vegetables.

The administration wants to take away my ability to choose what I feed my family. They want to take away my ability to effectively shop sales and use my coupons. They want to take away my ability to minimize waste by only buying what we eat, by forcing us to accept boxes of food packed with preservatives that may or may not be things we eat. Remember food allergies? Food aversions? Restricted diets? Yeah. These boxes won’t take those things into consideration. Everyone gets the same box.

Mah Tax Dollahs! Is a common refrain in discussions of our country’s tattered social safety net. And what makes you think this new program is going to be cheaper? In part 1 I linked to information about the effectiveness of the current SNAP program. SNAP is a multi-billion-dollar government program with only 7% overhead. The rest of that money? Feeding families. Fraud is barely .01 out of every dollar. The IRS can’t even boast of being this effective and good at its job. Do you really believe that boxing up pre-packaged food and somehow delivering it to all the families on SNAP is going to be more cost effective than the current system? Though I am sure it will make some government contractor a tidy profit.

Is that what you want? Do you hate people in poverty so much that you would rather an effective program be dismantled just so some corporate crony of the current administration can increase their profits off the backs of tax payers? And this is just if they can actually implement it at all. They can’t even feed the hungry people in Puerto Rico properly after a natural disaster, what makes you think they can feed the millions of hungry people in the continental US?

I have seen some amazing posts on social media from people who have been in the trenches just like my family. People who know what SNAP is and isn’t. Who know how much it can help people. How it can be the only reason there is any food in the house. It is heartening to see so many others fighting to keep a program that has such a positive effect on so many lives.

We are all one disaster away from ruin. Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Some are lucky enough to have a little savings, but not everyone is that lucky. Not everyone is lucky enough to have family who can take them in if they lose their home. Not everyone can jump from one job to another and come out on top. Not everyone has the health, physical or mental, to deal with the everyday tragedies. When that happens we have the means to take care of our most vulnerable citizens. The SNAP program can do what thousands of charities can’t. Put food on the table of millions.

Now I don’t think this budget has a snowball’s chance in hell of passing Congress. But that doesn’t mean the GOP isn’t watching their base to see how they react as the different parts of the proposal are combed over and translated into layman’s terms. Paul Ryan already wants to cut social programs. They gotta pay for those tax cuts to the wealthy somehow. If they think they can get away with some part of the proposal, just worded a little different. I wouldn’t put it past them to try. Their only goal is to maintain their own wealth and power, often on the backs of their own voters. Not to mention there is probably some CEO somewhere salivating over the thought of that sweet sweet government contract to enact the program. Always follow the money. That didn’t make it into the budget all on its own. Someone saw an opportunity for profit and lobbied for it.

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to buy a politician. I’m just a wanna be author living in poverty with my spouse, kids, and pets. Maybe lightning will strike, and people will like what I write. Maybe I’ll become a world-famous author. But until then I do what I can to take care of my family. They are my one and only priority. The care and safety of my family supersedes all other concerns. They are why I have zero shame in accepting government assistance to keep food on the table. I will never be ashamed to ask for help if it keeps my family healthy. If it keeps my family fed. Clothed. Safe. I don’t see any shame in that.

Thanks for reading. Have a banana.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Let Them Eat Steak and Lobster! pt 1

Don’t say you weren’t warned. Political rant and some old-fashioned education incoming.

Hi! I’m your friendly neighborhood writer and my family is on food stamps. Call it by other names, EBT. SNAP. It is a government program to give food insecure folks the means to acquire food. The means are provided by the funds put on a debit card that is used only for food stuff. You can’t buy beer. You can’t buy cigarettes. You can’t buy toilet paper or medicine. In some places you can purchase seeds to plant a garden. There are very few exceptions to the food rule.

SNAP is a highly efficient program that does its job well. It is much more efficient than the physical paper stamps that were the original program. More efficient than its sister program WIC, Women Infants and Children. WIC is only for pregnant women, infants, breastfeeding women, and children up to age five. Unlike SNAP which uses a debit card you can swipe at the register just like you would a debit card from your bank. WIC is a voucher that much be picked up, usually ever three months. And you can only get what is specified on your voucher. This can lead to some annoyances at the check out line as you must run back to the dairy aisle to swap the cheese you thought was covered for the cheese that is covered. BTDT.

Not to diss on WIC. It is a useful program. But between the paper vouchers, the limited goods you can get, and having to plan an office visit every three months to pick up more vouchers, it is a pain in the ass to use. SNAP is much more convenient and easy to use. Plus, it is beneficial to the economy. How you may ask? Well let’s travel down that rabbit hole.

When the economy is in the dumps and jobs are few and far between SNAP will increase its spending. Cause, no job equals no money, no money equals no way to buy food. SNAP fixes that equation by giving those in poverty, either long or short term, a hand up so they don’t suffer needlessly. According to the USDA’s own figures for every $5 spent in SNAP dollars, it generates as much as $9 in economic activity. But how you ask.

The most obvious source is where the SNAP benefits are used. Grocery stores, some convenience stores, and there are some farmer’s markets that can take SNAP cards to pay for fresh produce. This benefits the user of the funds by giving them access to fresh food, it also benefits the farmer who has a purchaser for their produce. What happens when you put money in the hands of others? They can spend it. Stores need cashiers to run their registers. People to stock their shelves. If there was no demand, then there would be no need to schedule cashiers to work, and fewer people needed to keep the shelves stocked. Create demand, create jobs. And of course, the farmers can pay their bills with maybe even something left over at the end of the day. Trickle down is bullshit. Money trickles up, not down.

I won’t go into the issue of corporations using SNAP to subsidize their low wages which keeps their employees in poverty. That’s a rant for another day. I am here to explain the SNAP program to those who aren’t familiar with it. Still with me? Good.

With SNAP you sign up and if you are approved you must seek renewal of your benefits every 6 months in my state. And if your income changes over a certain amount you must report that change. You are limited in what resources you can have, how much money you can set aside to save, and other things to show you qualify for assistance due to low income. Many of the stereotypes you hear about people on SNAP driving fancy cars, wearing fancy clothes, having fancy phones, and so forth. That is all they are, stereotypes, and often harmful ones. The mythical welfare queen of the 80s does not exist. Reagan's story was a fabrication about one person who never was a representation of the whole of welfare users.

Who uses SNAP? Well, the poor obviously. Most people who receive SNAP benefits are children, the elderly, the disabled, and their caretakers. And yes, you can work and work hard while you still qualify for SNAP. What counts is your income. And if your income is low because your wages are low, you can qualify for SNAP. What about the able-bodied adults you say. Well what about them? Are you saying if someone lost a job they don’t deserve to eat? Or if they live somewhere with high unemployment which makes it even more difficult to find a job, they deserve to starve? If you think that then you have a problem with empathy and I think you might need therapy.

Keep in mind, just because you might have been able to do something. Or you had the resources and the ability to do something does not mean everyone else can do what you did to rise out of poverty. Someone might live in an area with high unemployment because that is where their family lives, and they can’t afford to live anywhere else. Or they don’t have a vehicle at all. Being poor often means either living without a car or having an unreliable one. And when you remember that mass transit is not a priority in many parts of the country, that only further hurts the already vulnerable.

You can be a smart, hard working person and still need SNAP to feed your family. Your intelligence and drive does not always mean your job pays what you deserve. Just look at adjunct professors at many colleges. There can be other factors as well. If you are the caretaker of small children or someone with a disability, or an elderly person, you might need a flexible schedule, so you can make doctor appointments for them. So, you can see to their needs, especially those who can’t be left alone to care for themselves.  Which bring us back around to low wage jobs not paying enough for someone to cover all their expenses.

One of the other good things about SNAP is that it takes into consideration your bills. What are you living expenses? How much is your rent? How much are your utilities? If you have a car do you have payments? Insurance? Medical expenses? All of this is taken into account to see how much you qualify for in benefits.

How do they find this out? Well if you get any money from the federal government, like say Social Security benefits, they know how much you get before you do. And there is also having to turn in pay stubs. If you have a checking account, statements from that. Medical expenses, better keep those receipts. A copy of your lease. Copies of your utility bills. If you share expenses, proof of that. There’s a lot of paperwork involved.

Speaking of paperwork. To receive SNAP benefits, you must prove your identity. They want copies of your state issued ID if you have one. Birth certificate for every member of the family. Social security cards for every member of the family. Marriage certificate if you’re married. You must be documented. Which means, drumroll please…

The American born child of undocumented immigrants may qualify for benefits, but their parents wouldn’t. There are exceptions for certain refugees, victims of abuse/trafficking, and other very limited exceptions. But all of these are documented in some way. You must have your documents in order. You must have proof of your identity. You must be in the country with some legal status.

What other stereotypes should I bust open tonight?  I’ve covered welfare queen. Able bodied adults. Immigrants. I’ve discussed how those receiving SNAP benefits often do work. I’ve discussed the economic impact of SNAP. Oh yes. Drug users.

Unlike what certain media outlets want you to believe, people on SNAP are no more likely to use drugs than those who don’t receive government benefits. Research has shown that those on SNAP use drugs at the same rate as the rest of society. Remember boys and girls, drugs cost money. And if you’re on SNAP it is because you lack money. Let’s drug test CEO’s who receive government contracts before we drug test the working Mom making minimum wage.

Oh, but they sell their benefits you say. Prove it. Fraud by users and vendors of SNAP benefits is .01 cents out of every dollar, and SNAP is a multi-billion-dollar program. Find another government run program with such results. You can’t. When someone says they know someone who sells their benefits I have one answer for them. REPORT IT! If you know someone is committing fraud, can prove it, and care that much about how federal money is spent. Report it. Do your civic duty and report the fraud. Otherwise you’re just spouting anti-poor propaganda.

“But but but! Steaks and lobsters!”

Are you kidding me? Have you priced steak and lobsters recently? Do you know how much people get in SNAP benefits? My family gets $357 a month. That’s it. My family of four gets what amounts to $2.98 per person, per day to use to feed ourselves. When that money is spent, it is gone. No more money until the next month. If I buy meat at all it is cheap ground beef, frozen chicken, and whatever is on sale. Exceptions made at Thanksgiving and Christmas when I find the cheapest turkey breast and ham I can find. There are usually good sales. If there is a steak in my cart, it is because it is my husband’s or son’s birthday. Or it was in the ‘nearly expired so here’s meat cheap’ section of the meat department.

“Oh, but junk food! Soda!”

Why are you paying so much attention to what is in my cart or how I am paying for my purchases? That $357 has to stretch. That means lots of generic brands. I watch sales. I use coupons. I am not the only person on SNAP who does this. If I get some soda, so? Are you saying your kids can have a coke but mine can’t? We don’t go out to eat. We don’t go to the movies. I can’t remember our last vacation. We stay home. If I want a Mtn Dew to wake myself up in the morning instead of coffee, that is what I will have to wake me up. When they are gone it is back to Kool-Aid and sweet tea until the next month. I’ve gotten more junk food from food banks than I’ve purchased with my SNAP card.

Oh yeah. We don’t have a car. That means if I’m lucky I get two trips to the grocery store a month. I can occasionally get a ride to a convenience store for milk, but I hate doing that as it is .75 more expensive there per gallon. Yes, I pay that much attention to prices of milk. So, two trips per month. That means I pack as much into my cart as I can get as it has to last about two weeks if not longer. You think I buy like that every week? If I could get to the store once a week, my cart would be a lot less crowded. But because without a car of my own I can’t guarantee when I’ll be able to get back to the store, I buy as much as I can afford. My anxiety demands it.

I doubt I am the only other SNAP user who must shop like this. If you don’t know when you are going to be able to make it to the store again, are you buying enough to last a couple of days? Or do you buy enough to feed your family for a couple of weeks? Use your brains people!

I’ve told you what SNAP is and isn’t. If you didn’t already, you now have a base understanding of the program. Please see part two of my post for a continuation of this discussion.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Who am I?

Who am I?
Oh boy. Buckle up kids, we’re in for a ride.

Who am I?
I’m a fancy pants dandy. Obsessed with clothes, hair, and make up. Only the finest things in life will do. To love is easy because I can see who someone is on the inside. I know who is truly beautiful and who is a cancer walking around in lace and silk. I crave moments of intimacy, no matter how fleeting, that were denied me for so long. It is a hunger that will probably never go away.

Who am I?
I’m a brash, violent, angry red neck. Life is shit and everyone leaves. Can’t trust anyone because they all lie. But damnit if I don’t keep trying. I create my own family and hold tight to them with a fierce possessive passion. I’m an asshole, but you fuck with my family and I’ll fuck your day up. You’ll wish your mama had swallowed. Now stop bogarting the weed and pass it over here.

Who am I?
I’m a general. I’m an emperor. I’m a healer. I’m a slave. I’m a criminal. I’m a mother. I’m a father. I’m a child about to die. I’m an immortal who has seen it all and then some. I’ve walked through the jungles of a war zone. I’ve danced in ballrooms. I’ve held the hands of my dying best friend. I’ve cured cancer. I’ve killed my enemies. I’ve betrayed my comrades. I’ve run away from love when it hurt too much. I’ve begged them to stay so I’d not be alone.

I am a writer.
I am god. I am death. I am life. I am all three sisters of fate as I weave the threads of lives into a tapestry for my eyes alone. But if you ask nicely enough I might let you have a peek.

I am a writer.
Life is my inspiration. How many generations of life has the mighty oak seen? Who walked the roads I now walk long before I existed? Say something in my range of hearing, and I might just write a story about it. I follow in the footsteps of the giants who have come before me. Their names need not be spoken, only their initials and all know who they are. I leave the door open in my wake so that others may walk this path after me.

I am a writer.
And yet I suck at writing about myself. You want facts? I write fiction. You want reality? I’ll share my dreams. I am a rolling ball of chaos made up of words, ideas, and pictures that are in vivid technicolor in my mind’s eye until I try to share them. Then they are black on white, constrained by vocabulary and grammar rules.

I am a writer.
My voice is a whisper. I am a shadow in the back of the room, pay me no mind. I am the flower against the wall. I am ‘What’s your name again?’. I am, ‘Oh? You’re still here?’. My throat choked by anxiety when you look at me. Why do you judge? My voice may be a whisper, but my written words are the roll of thunder across the prairie. My written words are the crash of the waves at the bottom of the cliffs. The words I put on paper are the howl of the wolf at the full moon. What I write is the real me. The me that isn’t worried the group laughing over there is laughing at me. The brave me. The fearless me. The strong me.

I am a writer.
I want to be the reason you smile. I want to give you someone to love. I want to give you someone to hate with an all consuming passion. I want to give you a world to dream about. I want to give you a world where, if given the chance to go there you are all the NOPE! That place is scary AF! I want to share rainy days with you. I want to rest on your chest after you fall asleep. I want to be the reason you didn’t get any sleep last night. I want to be the reason you blush when you experience ‘that’ scene on the bus. I want to take you somewhere you’ve never been before, while sharing a story as old as time itself.

Who am I?
To tell you the truth I have no idea. I think that is why I write. I write so I can try on different identities. I can explore different bodies. Different experiences. Different parts of the world I might never get to see in person. I get to be what I will never get a chance to be in real life.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Empire of Shenendril: Payback is a Bitch!

“What Do You Mean You Can’t Take Me Out Of The City?!?” Genevieve Rutledge’s voice rose in volume and pitch as she stood so fast her chair scraped against the dirty plank floor of the disreputable tavern she’d found herself in.

“Sit down ya daft bitch or do ye want to bring the fuckin Watch down on all our heads.” The man hissed as he reached across the table, grabbed the aristocrat’s arm, to yank her back down.

She jerked her arm away from his as she tried to regain her calm while she adjusted her skirts. Stolen from a clothes line the fabric was cotton, not the silks she deserved as due to her station. But to wear silks in a tavern like this would have gotten her throat cut, and her neck was already in danger of the executioner’s axe. “You are supposed to be the best smuggler in the city. Are you saying that claim isn’t true?”

“What I may or may not be is not important. The Watch has the city locked down tighter than a guild virgin’s cunt. Ain’t no way in, nor out. Not for you, not for me, not for no one.” He leaned back once more and picked up his pipe. “They got the chains up in the river. Ain’t a single ship allowed out of the harbor till it’s been inspected by tha college mages.  No one gets in or out of the gates without having ta answer the Watches questions... and they’ve mages that can read yer mind to catch anyone in a lie… Every wagon, cart, and barrow is being searched.”  He puffed on his pipe as he sent clouds of smoke towards the stained rafters. “Even the sewers n’old mine tunnels got Watch patrols in ‘em. So, unless you’ve got magic you’re stuck here with the rest of us.”

“If I had magic I wouldn’t be here consorting with the likes of you.” She sneered.

“Then I suggest you find the deepest darkest hole in the city and hope they don’t shine a light down it.”  He growled around the stem of his pipe.

Genevieve Rutledge glanced over her shoulder at the two men with her.  The only guards she had left. She considered having them kill the insolent man across the table from her but that would only bring the Watch down on their head.  She let her eyes drift over the others in the tavern, too many witnesses, and even her guards could not get them all without the risk of a Watch patrol called to see to the disturbance. She turned back to the smuggler before her as she removed a small pouch from her sleeve and pushed it across the table to him, “For your silence.”

He picked it up and tossed it a few times in his hand as if he could count the coin within just by feeling its weight then tossed it back to her, “Keep it.  I only take payment for a job done… and you’ll be needing this more than I.”

She wanted to slap his insolent face. Just a few days ago she could have had a man like him killed and no one would have questioned her right. But now circumstances trapped her… and he was right.  She had limited coin with no way of getting more. She stood with a rustle of skirts as she pulled up the hood of her cloak to shield her features from view when she turned and walked away.  Her guards quickly fell into step behind her as they left the filthy tavern. Once outside they trailed after her for a while before the elder of the two moved to walk by her side, “My Lady... where do we go from here?”

Her jaw clenched, and teeth ground together at the question. If she knew the answer to that she wouldn’t be on those filthy streets, nor need to dodge gods knew what floated in the puddles. She had thankfully not been in the family manor when the Watch raided the other night.  The Watch had chased her out of three hide outs already, once she barely escaped minutes before the Watch burst through the door. She had tried to do the Empire a favor when she poisoned that useless guild bitch Katherine. They should hail her as a hero... if only her attempt had succeeded. Instead that thrice cursed whore, catamite of the Lord General, had saved the bitch’s life and now she had to run for her life.

Just as she was about to tell her man that they sought new shelter for the night she saw someone step out into the road from a nearby alley. A woman, tall, curvaceous, with golden tan skin, who wore indecently form fitting white leather. Her bright red curls spilled onto the white leather like blood. She must be some sort of mixed breed whore, the Gulch was full of such indecent, low class women. Sailors from the Goddess Isles paid well for mainland women to spread their legs for them only to leave half breed git in their wake. It disgusted a woman of refined breeding such as Genevieve Rutledge. The people of the Gulch bred like rats in the sewers.

The whore walked towards them and Genevieve was fully prepared to ignore the strangely dressed woman. It wasn’t like the woman was a member of the City Watch, not dressed like that. With her guard on her left they went to pass by the girl. There was a sudden flash of light then Genevieve felt something warm and wet splash her face. She heard her second guard cry out in shock as she turned and saw that her man’s head looked ready to fall off his shoulders from the deep slash to the throat. She screamed as she stumbled away from the guard’s body as he slowly dropped to his knees then fell forward to land with a heavy splash in a muddy puddle.

Genevieve looked at the woman again. The woman stood there with crimson blood to match her hair splashed on her neat white leathers, in her hands were what looked like twin daggers made of light. The aristocratic woman backed away in terror as her second guard swept in to defend her. That strange deadly girl ducked under his first swing and caught his second swing on her crossed blades of light, a shower of sparks rained down onto the cobblestone road. He tried to press his advantage of height and weight as he bore down on his sword, to break through her crossed blades. The girl’s lips twisted into a cruel smirk and for a moment it was like her eyes glowed as Genevieve saw what looked like lightning crackle along her guard’s blade and into his arms and all through his body. She watched as the man’s body convulsed before he too fell dead at her feet. The girl then turned on Genevieve.

“The reward they offer… I’ll pay you double to leave me in peace… triple!” She nearly tripped over her own skirts in her effort to get away from that deadly girl.

“I am not here on behalf of the crown.” She stalked right up to Genevieve to back her into a wall. The girl met Genevieve's eyes as if they were equals. There was no deference or respect in her gaze.

“Then why?  Why are you doing this?”

“There is only one ruler you shall see tonight Genevieve Rutledge… The Shadow Empress of Auranapolis.”

“She’s a myth! A story told to scare the foolish!” She gasped in desperation.

The girl’s lips twisted into a smirk as if she mocked the woman’s denial, “Unfortunately for you... she is very real.” And the girl hauled back and delivered a sharp punch to the aristocratic Genevieve, to send her to the ground in a heap where she moaned. The girl knelt by her victim to lift her up and drape the woman across her shoulders. She left the dead guards behind as she carried her prize into the same alley from which she emerged and disappeared into the shadows.

When Genevieve awoke sometime later she found she lay upon cold rough stone. A single lantern hung from a chain above her that left only a small circle of light where she lay, the rest of the room lost in shadows. With a soft groan, she pushed herself upright. The stolen dress was gone, now clad only in her shift with her hair unbound to fall loose about her shoulders. Other than the slight ache in her jaw from the punch she could feel no other wound upon her body. But that was small comfort when she had no idea where she was and who had sent that strange little bitch after her.

“Is anyone there? Where am I?” She called into the shadows as she got to her feet. The rough stone was cold against her bare feet as she moved to the edge of the light. Something moved in the shadows, just beyond her vision. “What do you want?”

“Did you think it would be that easy?” A distinctly feminine voice purred from the shadows. “Did you think you could kill the Imperial Consort, mother of the future Emperor, and lay the blame elsewhere?”

“Why do you care? You aren’t declared enemy of the crown... you aren’t the one running for your life.  Is it money you want... My family…”  The deep hiss of a shadow viper cut off further words.

“Your family precious… is no more. Perhaps some distant cousin will throw themselves upon the mercy of the throne and the name shall live on... but much diminished.”  Her captor said with a laugh meant to mock her. “You have nothing precious... Not even your life.”

“What! No! Do you not realize what is happening?  What is going to happen? That boy cannot grow to be Emperor! If he’s Emperor, then we all die!  I was trying to save the Empire damnit!”  Tears streaked down her face to fall from her chin onto her chest.

“And you believe the lies the enemy is telling you precious?  Do not look so surprised… We know who has been telling you lies. We know that you think you shall be rewarded when they sweep down from the mountains.  Poor sweet deluded child… the only reward those monsters will give you is a swift death.  Otherwise the best you could hope for are their hordes to rape you to death before they feast upon your flesh.” As she spoke the figure of her captor finally came into view. Tall, pale skin, with hair so dark it looked like midnight personified. She wore a dress that clung to her curves with a deep v neck that reached almost to her navel and a slit up one side all the way to her hip. Draped around her neck was a truly massive shadow viper that had to be at least eight feet long. The woman caressed the deadly serpent as if it were a beloved pet.

Genevieve dropped to her knees, “Please! Whatever I have done to offend you… I take it back.  Whatever you want... I will get for you. If you are the Shadow Empress… Surely, we can come to an agreement. My life is in your hands... what can I do for you to spare it.”

The Shadow Empress stepped into the circle of light to look down at the pathetic human at her feet.  The veil she wore hid her eyes, but not the smirk upon those blood red lips. “It is too late for begging little one. Perhaps if you had the intelligence your gods gave a slug you would have considered the consequences of your actions. There is only one sin which I cannot abide and will not allow to fester in My city… and that is stupidity.  Good bye Genevieve Rutledge, perhaps your death shall serve as a warning to others.”

Genevieve shook her head as the shadow viper which had draped so innocently around the woman’s shoulders reared its head to look at her.  She fell backwards and started to scramble away as the massive snake slithered down its Mistresses body onto the stone floor in pursuit of its prey. The noblewoman screamed as the last image seared into her mind was of the shadow viper as it reared up and struck, its wicked fangs sank deep into the flesh of her thigh. Perhaps luckily for her, she received a full dose of the deadly venom, and her death, while brutal was swift.

The next morning as the sun banished the last shadows of the night the body of Genevieve Rutledge appeared not far from the foot of the Golden Orchid Bridge on the western side.  Pinned to her shift was a note which simply read, “A Gift.”

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Werewolves On The Nile Ch.8

Cain brushed off his hands as he turned away. The crocodiles would do their job. Now he just needed to finish off the one who had pulled the trigger then they could put the whole debacle behind them. As he approached the area where he’d left the injured man he the sound of flesh as it tore reached his ears. The crack of bones as powerful jaws crunched them. Cain slowed, the wind was at his back so he couldn’t tell what predator had done his work for him. But as he drew closer he could see the familiar massive shape of Strife as he savaged what remained of the man Cain had shot.

He stopped and held still. Strife did not have complete control over the beast yet. There was the possibility that the beast would see him as another enemy that he needed to destroy. It was rare that Strife changed that he did not change with him. This was only the third or fourth time that Strife had changed outside of the full moon though. The beast was always wilder when the change happened because of trauma.

The beast paused as it left its meal and stood to its full height once more. He turned slowly to look at Cain, nose worked as the wind brought Cain’s scent to him. Those eyes were like pools of molten gold as he stared at the much smaller man. Then he dropped to all fours as he drew closer to Cain. Cain was still, but not afraid. To show fear would rile the beast.

“Yeah… you know who I am.” He said as Strife’s fur covered head leaned in. His breath smelled like a charnel house, the metallic scent of blood heavy in the air. He nosed at Cain’s chest, sniffing him. Slowly he began to circle the man. Nose at work. When he reached Cain’s back it was clear he found his own scent there as he nearly shoved his nose up under Cain’s shirt to get to it. “You better not be…”

His question answered as he felt Strife’s broad tongue across his lower back, then the back of his neck. The beast gave a growl that wasn’t savage… it was possessive. He’d fucked Strife the beast before. Though it was when he had let his beast out as well. He had woken up many a morning after a full moon with Strife still inside him, snoring and drooling against the back of his neck. He’d not let his lover have him when their forms were so different before. It was an idea that made a cold thread of dread run through him as much as it aroused him. His cock sprang to attention immediately, already it strained against his boxers as his mate continued to take in his scent and taste.

“Cain… you’ve become a perverse mother fucker. Just like him.” He turned slowly to face his mate. From what he saw between his mate’s thighs, Strife already knew what he wanted. A small growl of annoyance from Strife and Cain smirked. “Don’t worry, you greedy asshole… you’ll get what you want.” He grabbed the bottom of his shirt and just pulled it and his undershirt over his head. He tossed both aside as Strife watched him with those predatory eyes that were the same when he was beast or man. When Cain bent to pull his boots off Strife’s snout was in his hair. Then he unbuckled his jeans, shoved them and his boxers down so he could step out of them and kick them away.

As soon as he straightened his mate’s nose was up against his cock. Cain groaned as his lover’s broad tongue lapped over his length from root to tip. “You bite me mother fucker… I’m having you neutered.”

If Strife understood the words it didn’t matter. Those huge hands tipped with deadly wicked claws grabbed Cain’s arms and forced him to the ground. That maw filled with dagger like teeth that had ended at least a dozen lives that night nuzzled and licked at Cain’s cock, balls, and ass. It wasn’t long before Cain trembled with barely suppressed need. Strife had teased and denied him for three days. His fingers dug into the thick fur of Strife’s neck as his hips lifted to meet that eager mouth. “… oh, fuck me fuck me fuck me…”

He didn’t know if Strife knew what he was doing at that moment or just went by instinct. But it was enough to high kick Cain right to the edge as that tongue ran over his sensitive flesh. Those deadly teeth so close to such delicate flesh only enhanced the pleasure. Cain could feel his extremities grow numb. His toes curled as he pulled on Strife’s fur. The pleasure rose higher and higher until it neared painful levels. Everything tight. His body tight like a drawn bow. He trembled beneath his massive mate before with a shout, “STRIFE!” he climaxed hard. It felt like his pleasure rose from his toes and fingers through his veins until everything was fireworks and explosives.

Strife’s tongue continued to lap at Cain’s cock, catching up every drop of his seed before Cain had to shove his head away. “God damnit you son of a bitch… that’s sensitive.” He was shaking from the strength of his climax after those days of teasing and denial. As Cain opened his eyes as he watched his lover. After a few moments pause he shifted and squirmed until he could wrap his hand around his lover’s thick prick. An appreciative sound rumbled out of Strife’s chest.

Cain smirked as he turned around and with Strife on all fours above him he wrapped his lips around his lover’s cock and was glad he’d put both hands around the shaft as well as Strife’s hips had jerked forward to bury his length in that welcome wet warmth. The beast did not control him right then. He was more than just feral instinct and lust… though not by much. Cain wanted his mate so much that as he tasted his lover, inhaled that heavy musk he felt his cock harden once more. Somewhere deep inside he heard a tiny voice tell him he was going to hell. Well at least in hell he’d have good company. He and Strife would rule the damn place.

Warm wet drool ran down Cain’s chin, mixed with what leaked from the head of his mate’s shaft. Above he heard Strife’s grumble growls as he wanted more. He couldn’t blame the man. He wanted more too. When Strife began to lick the back of his legs and ass Cain gave a low groan. He pushed against that tongue as it swiped across his flesh. When he could take no more he reached back to push Strife’s head away.

Cain turned around once more, then propped on one elbow he reached back and guided his lover’s cock until it pressed up against the tight ring of muscles of his ass. He knew it would hurt. Hell… it would be agony. At least he knew any pain would be transitory. Strife shifted above him as if to gain better traction… then his hips jerked forward. The first thrust penetrated and Cain screamed. He could feel his flesh tear, smell the fresh blood.

His hand fell away from Strife’s shaft as the second thrust forced more of that thick prick into his lover’s body. Cain was shaking as sweat beaded on his skin. He panted heavily even as he felt Strife’s tongue lap against the side of his face. A satisfied rumble in his ear. Cain turned his head just enough to make eye contact. “…do it baby… fuck me.”

Strife’s forearms moved until they were right in front of Cain’s shoulders, then with a third thrust he had at least two thirds of his cock in his lover’s body. When Cain looked down at his stomach he could see the bump as it moved under his skin. Strife continued to rumble as he fucked his lover. Those thrusts hard, powerful, and each one pushed Cain up against Strife’s arms.

Cain grabbed at Strife’s wrists. As his own bestial gifts healed his wounds the agony quickly faded, replaced by the pleasure as it grew by the moment. His high-pitched cries replaced by groans. The tears which had run down his face from the pain licked away by the same beast who had just feasted on the flesh of a man. Cain’s knees abraded by the sand and stones beneath him but what was such a mild discomfort compared to the sensation of his lover’s cock deep inside him.

He could feel Strife’s furnace like heat against his back. The stiff guard hairs brushed over Cain’s scars. He could feel the softer fur beneath that as his lover moved against him. Nothing could ever compare to this. He felt completely subsumed by Strife. His mate’s presence. His scent. His sex. Cain’s senses filled with Strife. It left him in a foggy haze. All he knew was his lover. All he knew was Strife’s body against his own. The feel of fur against flesh. The scrape of claws on stone. His pleasure rose higher and higher. That glorious full sensation. The pressure within his body. When Cain peaked again he barely registered another pleased rumble from his mate. But Strife was far from done with him.

Cain felt as if he floated. The physical world just faded away as all he knew was Strife. All he felt was Strife. All he could smell, taste, and hear was Strife. He was vaguely aware when Strife wrapped his arms around Cain to pick him up. To work him on his cock like Cain was nothing more than a cock sleeve. He felt his fingers grip fur even as he felt teeth on the back of his neck. Strife’s jaws nearly engulfed his entire neck. It wouldn’t take much for the beast to behead Cain. But he knew he was safe with Strife.

How long did they fuck? Hours? Days? Years? Cain knew he orgasmed more than once. He could smell it as much as he felt it. Eventually though, even he could give no more. His flesh sticky with sweat, cum, and drool. His head was against Strife’s shoulder as he felt something push against him. Strife tried to force something into him. He was only aware enough to make small protests. Then with a final thrust his mate worked the knot at the base of his cock into Cain’s body. He could feel as Strife’s seed spilled into him, filled him.

Strife slowly lay them both down. He licked the back of Cain’s neck and shoulder. His length buried deep in his mate’s body. Cain managed the strength to smile and stroke one of Strife’s fur covered arms. Then exhaustion claimed him and he passed out.

When consciousness returned the sun was a fresh glimmer on the horizon. Cain’s eyes opened slowly as he tried to suss out his surroundings. A man’s corpse lay not too far off. Half devoured. A couple of vultures were nearby but seemed reluctant to approach. He looked down and saw Strife’s arm around his waist. He could feel the man’s breath against the back of his neck, feel his lover’s cock still inside him. Cain smiled and gently nudged Strife with his elbow, “Wake up, asshole.”

With a snort Strife lifted his head then rubbed at his eyes with the back of one hand. He frowned, then picked something from his teeth to flick away. “That fucker shot me.”

“Yeah… cause you ran your mouth yet again.” Cain let his fingers run along Strife’s forearm.

“Eh.” He looked over at the corpse. “That you or me.”

“All you. You barely left anything for me to kill. Selfish bastard.” Cain sounded amused.

“Well… them fuckers shouldn’t have shot me.” He ran his hand over Cain’s chest then down to his hip. “Now this here… this is a damn nice way ta wake up.”

“Mmm Hmm… and no we don’t have time for seconds. There will be authorities swarming this place soon enough. I’d rather be some distance from the corpses by then. You wanna let me up?” Cain turned his head to look at Strife with a smirk.

“I’d rather fuck ya… but that can wait.” With a wet sound as their bodies parted he rolled onto his back.

Cain groaned, a shiver ran up and down his spine. Slowly though he found his feet then went to gather his clothes. “Hopefully there’s a camel or two that didn’t run for the hills. We’ll find our shit then figure out a way back to Alexandria.” As he pulled on his pants he caught Strife’s gaze on him. “What?”

“Just thinkin’ how much better mah life is with you in it.” Strife finally pushed to his feet. He stretched his arms over his head and rose on his toes. His body well-muscled, his skin tan, he looked like some ancient god that belonged in a place like this. Strife walked over to Cain, cupped his face in both hands. “I love you.”

Cain stood mute. He knew how hard that was for Strife to say, out loud, to his face. They’d spent hours upon hours talking about how fucked up both of their lives had been before they’d found one another. Cain dropped his shirt as he put his hands on top of Strife’s. “I love you too… even when you’re driving me crazy.”

Strife chuckled as he leaned in to claim a brief kiss before he whispered against Cain’s lips, “Especially when I drive you crazy.” His thumbs brushed over Cain’s cheeks before his hands dropped away and he took a step back. “Well don’t just stand there with yer jaw hangin’ gonna catch flies.” With a cocky grin, he turned to head back toward the camp. Naked as a jaybird with a swagger that dared the world to test him. Cain watched him go, his chest tight with emotions he’d never felt for another before. With a final laugh, he grabbed his boots and shirt then jogged to catch up with Strife. They couldn’t stand around forever after all. There was so much more of the world they wanted to see together. Cain could think of no one else he’d rather be with than that tall cocky asshole, Strife.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Werewolves On The Nile Ch.7

Some of the men had flashlights and they set them on the ground to point at Cain and Strife as they stopped in front of the temple complex, their backs to the open pit. The Leader stood there as he seemed to take the measure of the two men before he finally spoke in Slavic accented English, “I am told you are soldiers. Mercenaries. Then perhaps you’ll understand this. Tell me where you hid the merchandise and you will be paid. Continue to thwart my men and I and you will both die. It is that simple.”

“Two thousand.” Strife said with a grin. “That should get us across tha Mediterranean and leave a little change in our pockets.”

The man laughed, some of his men joined in. “Is that all? I expected a much higher number. Very well. Now… tell me where my explosives are.”

 Strife leaned forward as if it were a big secret then he whispered loudly, “I stuck ‘em up a camel’s ass.”

Cain just sighed, “Idiot.”

Strife looked over at him with that same shit eating grin, “That’s why ya…”

His words cut off by the crack of a pistol. The bullet slammed into Strife’s chest. He looked down at the blood as it bloomed across his shirt. His legs shook as he took a wobbly step back. “…fuck me…” And he toppled over backwards into the pit. They could hear the heavy thud of his body as it hit the ground below.

Cain’s eyes were wide, his body shook with barely controlled rage. He looked back at the man who interrogated them as he holstered his weapon, “Now perhaps you will be more honest. Where are my explosives.”

He shook his head, “You shouldn’t have done that. God damn… you shouldn’t have done that.”

“Your friend was a fool. You do not seem to me a fool. If you know where he hid the explosives. Tell me and this will all be over.” He flicked ashes from his cigar onto the ground.

Down in the pit Cain heard the familiar sounds of bones as they snapped, tendons popped, as flesh rearranged. He laughed, “I ain’t the fool here mother fucker. You don’t know what you just did. You… and all these fuckers with you are gonna die.”

The Leader scowled as he pulled his gun from the holster once more, “I ask one last time. We will find my explosives no matter what, your friend did not have enough time to hide them too far from here. I would rather be gone before the sun rose though.” He cocked the gun, “Where are my explosives.”

From deep in the pit a rumbling growl sounded. It was loud enough to cause the sand to vibrate. Cain just laughed. The Leader gestured to one of his men to look in the pit and see what that was. The man didn’t look thrilled but he picked up one of the flash lights as he approached the edge of the pit. When he leaned out to shine the light into the shadows, something grabbed him by the ankle and yanked him down into the darkness with a shout of alarm. A scream of terror shattered the night before the sound cut off abruptly with the wet sound of flesh as it ripped. Moments later something flew up and out of the pit. It hit the ground with a thud before it rolled toward the Leader’s feet. It was the man’s head, his face permanently locked in a fearful scream.

“Told you mother fuckers. You’re all gonna die.” Cain’s laughter finally ceased. When Mr. Smith had tied his hands, he’d made a slip knot and pressed the end into Cain’s palm. As he tugged on the rope something came crawling up out of the pit. The flashlight the first victim had carried was still down in the pit to backlight the monster who crawled out.

Strife was a big man. As a beast, he was massive. He was over eight feet tall, had to weigh nearly five hundred pounds. Muscles rippled under the grey fur that covered his body. Claws meant to slash and tear tipped his fingers and toes. His maw filled with teeth like daggers. As he stood to his full height the beast ROARED!

Men screamed. The scent of piss and shit heavy in the air as terror made men void their bladders and bowels. The Leader stared with mouth agape. His cigar fallen to the ground right next to the severed head of his man. Then as if a spell had broken men began to fire their weapons at the monster in their midst. Bullets slammed into flesh but did little more than to piss the beast off. Without silver on those bullets they wouldn’t do any permanent damage to the beast.

Strife crouched then sprang forward. He crossed nearly twenty feet in what felt like an instant. He snatched the rifle from the hands of one man only to throw it aside. Then he grabbed the second with claws that stabbed into the man’s guts and hooked in his ribs. With the same ease that a wolf might use to savage the lamb he lifted the second man and slammed his body into the first. Bones broke. Flesh ripped. And men screamed in agony before their pain ended at the hands of the monster.

Cain shook free of the ropes which had bound his wrists as he knelt. He pulled up the hem of his jeans to grab the knife he kept strapped there. With blade in hand he ran directly at the Leader. He could have changed. He could have let the beast out to rip and tear alongside Strife. But he didn’t want the beast to take these kills. Cain wanted the blood of these men. The beast would just have to wait.

The man only noticed Cain at the last moment. He brought his gun up, but it was already too late. Cain grabbed the man’s wrist as he pushed his arm up. When the gun sounded it was above Cain’s head as he came in low. He thrust his blade deep into the Leader’s gut as their eyes met. The man cursed Cain as pain filled him. Cain didn’t care. He sawed the blade back and forth until with a wet sound the man’s guts spilled from his belly. The gun fell from nerveless fingers as Cain forced the man to his knees, then onto his back.

“I could give two shits what you bastards were up to. But y’all mother fuckers ruined my god damned vacation.” He pulled the blade free from the man’s stomach, blood up to his elbow. With a feral grin, he slashed across the bastard’s throat and left him to drown in his own blood. Cain picked up the gun, checked the clip, looked back, and turned to crouch and snag the spare clip from the dying man’s belt. As he slapped a new clip into the gun he looked around.

Strife was having a grand time as he ripped his way through the men who had come in the truck. He had that well in hand. Cain didn’t need to worry about any of them escaping. Strife was too thorough. He turned his steps back toward the camp where the fire still flickered and nervous men watched the shadows as they heard their compatriots scream in terror and die brutally.

Cain ran his tongue over his teeth. He opened himself to the beast just enough to enhance his already sharp senses. His nails lengthened to harden into claws which could rip and tear as easily as Strife’s. With knife in one hand and gun in the other he took off at a run back toward the camp. Strife’s rampage was more than adequate to cover any sound he made. He couldn’t see the two who had traveled with them yet. Either they hid, or had possibly made a run for it. They wouldn’t get far. He would track those fuckers down just to make sure they died a horrible slow death.

The two left to guard looked young. Their facial hair sparse, their eyes scared. They stared out into the darkness as they looked toward the sounds which echoed back to them from the ruins. Cain probably could have just said boo and they would have left a yellow trail in their wake. But they had chosen the wrong people to work for. Their lives were forfeit as much as the others. He paused only long enough to take his knife by the blade before he threw it. For a heartbeat, it disappeared in the darkness, then when it reappeared it had struck the first man in the neck. He gurgled as he dropped his gun so his hands could grab at his neck as his life blood pumped out with each beat of his heart.

The second didn’t get a chance to go after the hostages as Cain put two bullets in his chest. He ran into the light of the fire as the second man crumpled to the ground. He looked at his fellow tourists before he snapped. “All of you… On your feet.”

Cain took the first rifle to hand to Mr. Pierce. The man gave his wife the colt from his waistband. She wiped her tears before she checked the safety and clip. Cain looked at the others, “Who else knows how to handle a damn rifle?”

Mr. Smith slowly lifted his hand, “…boy scout… uhhh… Used to win competitions.”

“Good fucking enough.” was Cain’s terse reply as he handed the second rifle to the car salesman. “Now y’all need to get in that truck over there and get the hell out of here. If they got a map, use it. Otherwise head east to the Nile, then north until you find civilization again. Don’t stop for no damn thing.”

“What about you and your friend?” Mr. Pierce asked as he looked back to where the screams continued to sound.

“We got this handled.” Cain retrieved his knife from the dying man’s throat and wiped it off on the man’s shirt.

“What about the Higginbotham’s?” Mrs. Smith asked as she held her children close to her. The hippies had already run off toward the truck.

“Go. I’ll get this.” As the others left he walked over to Mrs. Higginbotham and her husband. He knelt across from her then reached over to lay his hand atop hers where it held her husband’s. “I know it hurts. But you can’t lay down and die with him. And you know damn well he wouldn’t want you to. You’ve got grandkids back home. They are gonna need you more than ever now.”

At first, she didn’t seem to hear. She used her thumb to wipe away spots of blood from her husband’s face. Slowly her gaze lifted until she met Cain’s eyes. “…he promised me forever.”

Those words hurt. “And someday he’ll be waiting for you on the other side. You know he’s gonna need you to help him find matching socks. Come on. We’ll get him into the truck so you can take him home. You know your kids will want to say their goodbyes.”

Silent tears left tracks down her face. Her hand came up to cup Cain’s cheek. “You’re a good boy.”

Cain smiled as he held her hand against his cheek. Then he let her go, tucked the gun into his waistband before he carefully leveraged Mr. Higginbotham up and across his shoulders. The man had at least six inches in height on Cain and probably 50 pounds if not more. He had mentioned more than once he married his wife for the way she cooked. With a grunt, he stood. The  man’s blood ran down the back of his shirt as he waited for Mrs. Higginbotham to get to her feet, then they headed for the truck as fast as they could go.

When they reached the truck Mr. Pierce and his wife were in the cab while everyone else was in the back. The hippies helped Cain get Mr. Higginbotham into the back one of them gave up his jacket to cover the man’s body, then they helped Mrs. Higginbotham into the truck. Cain moved to where he could see in the side mirror and gave the all clear. The truck kicked up a lot of dust as it took off. He hoped to hell they found their way to civilization. He had no idea where their guides had gone… but as it looked like half the camels were gone as well. He figured they took off during the chaos.

Cain rolled his head on his shoulders. The sounds of carnage were not as loud. Strife must have taken care of all the easy kills. Anyone left probably hoped the beast didn’t find them. Too bad there was no where they could hide where the beast couldn’t find them. Strife didn’t like leaving a job half done. No survivors. All Cain wanted was the two sons of bitches who started all the bullshit. If they hadn’t decided to use the tour group as a cover then Mr. Higginbotham would still be alive. Hell, they could have handed over their merchandise and no one would have been the wiser. But they fucked up Cain’s vacation, and he wasn’t going to take that lying down.

He walked over to what remained of the fire. He kicked dirt over it to smother the coals and the flames sputtered out. Now the only light were the stars, moon, and a handful of flashlights left lying where they fell. Somewhere out in the darkness were the two he held responsible for the shit show. Now all he had to do was flush them out of whatever hole they’d dug themselves into.

Cain moved in silence as began to search. He checked the tents first, those he checked he cut the ropes which held them upright. As each one crumpled it left one less place for the men to hide. A fresh scream ripped through the air, a single shot sounded, the wet sound of flesh as it ripped and tore, then silence. Cain heard pebbles as they clattered over stone. He angled his trajectory in that direction as he kept to the shadows thrown by the light of the moon. Soon enough he caught the scent of his prey. They headed for the river, perhaps in the vain hope that a boat might be there. It would have been better if they’d made for the desert, at least then they wouldn’t have their back to water.

He increased his speed until he could see the pair. The scent of their panic was delicious as Cain’s mouth began to water. The beast clawed at the cage of his ribs. It wanted out. It wanted to tear into those men. But Cain kept the beast at bay. This would be his kill. When the men darted from one shelter to the next Cain called out in Italian. “You should not have ruined my vacation. You should not have killed the innocent.” A pause as he let some of Strife’s drawl into his words. “You boys done fucked up.”

The one with the mustache spun and fired off a single shot. It struck the ground somewhere off to the right of Cain. They scrabbled across stone and sand as they sought to put distance between themselves and the one who hunted them. Ancient columns rose out of the darkness as they fled. One could almost smell the incense that must have once permeated the temples built there. Would the gods of old approve? How much did their hearts weigh in comparison to a feather?

Cain stopped, aimed his Colt, and when he fired the man who had shot Mr. Higginbotham screamed as he fell, his knee shattered by Cain’s bullet. His eyesight was much better than theirs in the dark. As he continued to stalk forward the other man looked back once then continued to run. He gave no care for his friend, only for his own useless hide.

“Don’t go nowhere.” Cain said as he stalked up to the wounded prey. He kicked the man over and put his boot between his shoulder blades as he took the man’s gun and flung it off into the dark. There was still one more. The one shot wouldn’t get far even if he did try to flee. Cain looked over his shoulder as he continued his hunt, “Make peace with your god… while you can.”

He heard the man curse him before he broke down in sobs. Cain snorted in disdain then picked up his pace once more. The mustached man gave no thought to stealth. Flight his only concern. It made him sloppy and easy to track. When Cain caught sight of him once more he stood at the top of a steep embankment. The water below a tributary of the mighty Nile which was still some distance away.

“You gonna jump?” Cain called out as if they were both just out for a Sunday stroll.

The man let out a startled yelp as he spun to face Cain. His gun came up. “What are you?”

“What am I?” Cain laughed. “I’m a man just trying to relax. See some of the wonders of the world. Be a civilian for a while. A tourist. I didn’t come here looking for trouble… but damnit if you didn’t bring some right into my lap.”

He continued to walk toward the man. “But that’s not what you want to know is it. You saw my mate when he crawled up outta that pit didn’t you? You saw a monster and you hauled ass. You are probably questioning everything you thought you knew about the world aren’t ya? How many of the old legends are true?”

The moon reflected off Cain’s eyes as he stopped only a few paces away from his quarry. “I’m here to tell you. They’re all true. Every single one. Mermaids. Vampires. Ghosts. Fairies. They’re all real. Hidden from most folks too dumb to see what they don’t wanna see.”

A howl ripped through the air. Cain smiled, his lips peeled back from his teeth. His canines exposed where the man could see they were much longer than was natural for humans. “And werewolves… yeah. We’re real too.”

He caught the scent of urine as the man’s bladder released, a wet spot spread across the front of his trousers. With a fearful shout, he fired his gun again. The bullet slammed into Cain’s shoulder as he stumbled back a step. With a growl he straightened, pulled his shirt to expose the wound. He let just enough of the beast’s power flow through him that the wound began to close, the bullet fell out and into Cain’s palm as he heard the Libyan start to sob. “And yeah… the bit about silver is true. Too bad you’ll never get the chance to use that knowledge.”

The man pulled the trigger again but heard only a click. And another click. And another. His clip was empty as his knees shook till he collapsed. The gun fell from nerveless fingers as he seemed to pray. Cain rolled his eyes at the absurdity of it all. He stalked forward to grab the man around the neck and pull him up just enough so their eyes met.

“You’re pathetic. Not even worth the bullet it would take to kill you.” He looked down at the water as a smirk spread across his lips. His claws sank into the man’s neck as the bastard screamed. Blood ran down his prey’s neck to stain his shirt. Cain leaned in close to whisper in the man’s ear, “Give Sebek my regards…”

The man who had caused Cain so much grief had just enough time to look at him with confusion before Cain shoved him backwards. With a shriek, he tumbled down the embankment head over heels until he landed in the water with a splash. Cain watched as the shapes he’d seen in the water began to close in. The prey looked over his shoulder and screamed again even as he tried to scramble forward out of the water. The crocodiles were too swift and in their own element. One lunged forward and with a mighty snap its jaws closed on the man’s leg. It dragged him as he screamed and flailed back into deeper water as more crocodiles closed in. Cain heard one final waterlogged scream, then the only sounds were the splashes of the crocs as they death rolled to tear off pieces of their midnight snack.

Chapter 8